Pittsburgh Pirates: 2020 ZiPS Team Projections
FanGraphs has released their ZiPS projections for each team as the offseason has started. Yesterday, the Pirates became the 30th and final team to be projected.
After finishing with the worst record in baseball in 2020, the Pittsburgh Pirates look to take the field in 2021 without first baseman Josh Bell, who was traded to the Washington Nationals. The team will also likely be without second baseman Adam Frazier and right-handed pitcher Joe Musgrove, two players who seem likely to be traded away before opening day. Left-handed pitcher Steven Brault has also seen his name come up in trade rumors, and could be the fourth player traded away from the 2020 roster.
FanGraphs has released Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections all offseason, with the Pirates being the last team released yesterday afternoon. The system projects the club to lose about 90 games in 2021 because of the pitching staff likely being above replacement. However, as mentioned earlier, this stems from Musgrove (projected 3.1 fWAR and Dan notes that ZiPS views as a number two) and Brault (projected 1.2 fWAR). As those two are dealt, Brubaker and Ponce are forced into the rotation and ZiPS sees these two as depth and compared Brubaker to having a peak Trevor Williams ceiling, though Brubaker comes with better stuff. Former top prospect Mitch Keller projects at a 4.52 ERA and 1.6 fWAR, as Oscar Marin and staff will look to get the right-hander more on track with his prospect pedigree.
Ke’Bryan Hayes will be the team’s starting third baseman and is the best defender and bat on the team. ZiPS projects the Pirates top prospect to a .261/.334/.432 and 3.5 fWAR given his elite glove work. Adam Frazier projects as a league average starter (2.0 fWAR) at a .266/.327/.405 slash. However, with his expected trade, shortstop and second baseman options such as Erik Gonzalez (projected .236/.267/.352), Kevin Newman (.264/.312/.363), and Cole Tucker (.227/.288/.339) don’t project to add much offensively.
After a down year, Bryan Reynolds projects as a .247/.319/.414 hitter and an average contributor to a team. Phillip Evans is a projected .257/.325/.394 and looking to be a league average bat who should see an increase in time with the Bell trade, however that could be limited given Moran’s ability to be a strong side of a platoon with a projected .258/.317/.430. Outfielder Gregory Polanco, who broke his wrist in winter ball, projects at .216/.288/.405 with an 84 OPS+.
While the Pirates project better than Szymborski expected, they still project as one of the worst teams in baseball before they trade away Adam Frazier and Joe Musgrove. What the club needs to see in 2021 is Bryan Reynolds rebound, Mitch Keller to develop, and Ke’Bryan Hayes to continue