Nationals pitchers and catchers report to their new spring training home in West Palm Beach in less than a week and Washington’s roster is likely set, barring a minor move or two over the next few days. And with that, let’s take a look at the 2017 PECOTA projections released on Tuesday.
Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) projects an 87-75 record and second-place finish in the National League East behind the 88-win Mets. In that universe, the Nationals would make the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time in their history as the first Wild Card team. The Marlins, Braves, and Phillies round out the projected division standings, in that order.
The Giants, projected to go 86-76, are the second Wild Card team. The defending champion Cubs are projected to win the NL Central with a 91-71 record, but PECOTA likes the Dodgers the most, projecting them to win a league-best 98 games and the NL West title. The Astros’ 93-69 record is tops in the American League and second in the majors.
PECOTA projected the same outcome for the Nationals last year — 87 wins and second place — but Washington went on to win 95 and claim the NL East crown.
The Nationals’ offseason was relatively dormant, but by acquiring Adam Eaton to play center field and trading Danny Espinosa to move Trea Turner to shortstop, they have upgraded at two up-the-middle positions over last season’s Opening Day lineup. Replacing Wilson Ramos with Derek Norris, who was acquired from the Padres, will likely represent a downgrade at catcher. Washington’s two major-league free agent deals were to retain Stephen Drew and Chris Heisey, two bench players, on one-year deals for a combined $4.9 million in guaranteed money.
The Nationals made a minor trade Tuesday, acquiring Enny Romero from the Rays, which isn’t reflected in PECOTA’s projections. Romero is a hard-throwing left-handed reliever who could make the Opening Day bullpen, but the Nationals are still without a clear closer. They may also remain in the market for another bench piece.
FanGraphs’ projection model is more optimistic for Washington, forecasting 90 victories and winning the NL East by six games over the Mets.
The two websites also have different projections for individual players based on different formulas for their Wins Above Replacement measures. Below is the Nationals’ projected starting lineup and starting rotation, and definite (we think) members of the bullpen with their WAR projections. Baseball Prospectus’s WAR is abbreviated as WARP. FanGraphs WAR is recognized as fWAR. The fWAR projections used below are Steamer projections. (For a deeper explanation of those terms, you can read more here.)
We’ve included 2016 totals to provide some context. For further reference, Cubs third baseman/left fielder Kris Bryant (8.99) led position players in WARP and the late Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez (7.72) topped pitchers last season. As for fWAR, Angels center fielder Mike Trout (9.4) tallied the highest among position players and Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard (6.5) led pitchers.
CF Adam Eaton
2016: 7.2 WARP, 6.0 fWAR
2017 projections: 3.2 WARP, 2.4 fWAR
SS Trea Turner
2016: 4.0 WARP, 3.3 fWAR (in 73 games)
2017 projections: 5.7 WARP, 3.5 fWAR
RF Bryce Harper
2016: 4.6 WARP, 3.5 fWAR
2017 projections: 4.0 WARP, 5.7 fWAR
2B Daniel Murphy
2016: 6.8 WARP, 5.5 fWAR
2017 projections: 1.9 WARP, 2.9 fWAR
3B Anthony Rendon
2016: 3.8 WARP, 4.7 fWAR
2017 projections: 2.2 WARP, 4.0 fWAR
LF Jayson Werth
2016: 1.7 WARP, 1.1 fWAR
2017 projections: 0.9 WARP, 0.7 fWAR
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2016: -0.3 WARP, -1.3 fWAR
2017 projections: 0.2 WARP, 0.8 fWAR
C Derek Norris
2016: 0.9 WARP, -0.4 fWAR
2017 projections: 2.0 WARP, 1.2 fWAR
RHP Max Scherzer
2016: 6.0 WARP, 5.6 fWAR
2017 projections: 3.4 WARP, 5.9 fWAR
RHP Stephen Strasburg
2016: 3.8 WARP, 3.9 fWAR
2017 projections: 3.2 WARP, 4.4 fWAR
RHP Tanner Roark
2016: 3.3 WARP, 3.2 fWAR
2017 projections: 1.1 WARP, 2.1 fWAR
LHP Gio Gonzalez
2016: 3.8 WARP, 2.9 fWAR
2017 projections: 2.3 WARP, 2.9 fWAR
RHP Joe Ross
2016: 0.5 WARP, 2.1 fWAR
2017 projections: 1.4 WARP, 2.3 fWAR
RHP Shawn Kelley
2016: 1.4 WARP, 1.1 fWAR
2017 projections: 0.7 WARP, 1.4 fWAR
LHP Sammy Solis
2016: 0.7 WARP, 0.8 fWAR
2017 projections: 0.4 WARP, 0.5 fWAR
RHP Blake Treinen
2016: 0.3 WARP, 0.5 fWAR
2017 projections: 0.4 WARP, 1.0 fWAR
LHP Oliver Perez
2016: 0.3 WARP, 0.1 fWAR
2017 projections: 0.3 WARP, 0.4 fWAR
RHP Koda Glover
2016: 0.1 WARP, -0.1 fWAR
2017 projections: 0.0 WARP, 0.3 fWAR
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the fWAR projections used were FanGraphs’ combination of ZiPS and Steamer projections, it is only Steamer projections.