Highs and Lows of Milwaukee Brewers ZiPS Projections

Dan Szymborski’s  computer-based projections come with some surprises for the Milwaukee Brewers.

FanGraphs released their ZiPS projections for the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this week, and naturally, it came with some surprises. We’ll begin by stating the obvious; projection is an imperfect science.

Sometimes a player will make a projection look foolish, but generally, projections are a useful way to look at a team’s potential quality at a glance.

The incredibly in-depth projections of ZiPS makes for an intriguing read. So with a touch of skepticism, let’s take a look at what ZiPS thinks of the 2017 Brewers.

The Highs

Newcomers:

ZiPS likes Travis Shaw and Eric Thames, both of whom joined the Milwaukee Brewers organization early this off-season.

Shaw is projected to slash .246/.308/.433 with 26 doubles and 20 homers in 542 plate appearances. That’s modest offensive production, but he is also projected as an above-average defender.

That average to above-average play all-around places Shaw third among Brewers position players with a 2.4 zWAR, tied with Ryan Braun.

Meanwhile, projections have Thames slashing a solid .247/.321/.493 with 25 doubles and 26 dingers in 507 plate appearances. ZiPS has Thames stealing 10 bases, a side effect of his baserunning, which is reportedly very good for a first baseman.

Top Prospects:

OF Lewis Brinson and LHP Josh Hader were the top Brewers prospects to reach AAA in 2016. Both have promising ZiPS projections for 2017, particularly given their limited time at the highest level of the minor leagues.

In fact, Brinson is second to only Jonathan Villar in zWAR for next season. He’s projected as just above average offensively (103 OPS+), while earning much of his keep on defense.

ZiPS has Brinson slashing .254/.294/.458 with 48 extra-base hits, including 18 home runs, in 473 plate appearances.

Hader holds his own on the pitching end of things, owning the best projected ERA (3.90) and FIP (3.85) among Brewers with 100+ expected innings pitched.

Projections have the lefty striking out an astonishing 10.9 batters per 9 innings, while walking 3.9 per 9. Walking batters is one of the biggest concerns for Hader’s future in the starting rotation, but even a 3.9 BB/9 can be manageable, especially if offset by huge strikeout totals.

Additionally, prospects Brandon Woodruff (4.27) and Aaron Wilkerson (4.43) garnered ERAs worthy of back-end starters.

The Lows

Starting Rotation:

Sheesh. ZiPS does not care for the 2017 Brewers starting pitchers. Here’s how the top six rotation options (according to the Milwaukee Brewers projected depth chart) will fare according to ZiPS:

Junior Guerra: 4.24 ERA

Zach Davies: 3.99 ERA

Jimmy Nelson: 4.34 ERA

Wily Peralta: 4.81 ERA

Chase Anderson: 4.64 ERA

Matt Garza: 5.04 ERA

According to ZiPS, the Brewers have a few useful, if unspectacular arms, then a whole lot of nothing.

Guerra looks to regress after a great (but lucky) rookie year, while Davies settles in as a middle-of-the-rotation talent who might be the team’s 2017 ‘ace’. Nelson should eat innings, but without a jump in strikeouts, that may be all he brings to the table.

Present Depth Chart Strength:

According to the projections, the Brewers would be better off starting Brinson than Domingo Santana in the outfield. Similarly, the projections say Woodruff and Hader will be better than Garza and Peralta.

However, the Milwaukee Brewers need to be sure of what they have (or don’t have) in players like Peralta and Santana, and Garza’s contract makes him difficult to move.

So while the Brewers clearly have some promising prospects on the way, fans will have to wait to see how the current depth chart performs first.

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