Welcome to episode five of the Pirates Playoff Projections series!
If you read my intro to the Bucs Dugout site back in July, you’ll remember that I’m a big fantasy baseball fan, which makes me a bit of a numbers/projections guy at times. I still use the eye test plenty to help me find players I like, and there’s nothing quite like enjoying a Pirates baseball game with the emotional interest of a lifelong fan, but I love the statisical, fantasy side of the game as well.
With that in mind, I thought it might be a worthwhile project to start projecting what key Pirates players will need to do in 2020 if the Bucs are going to shock the league and end up in the playoffs come October. I know, I know, it’s a stretch based on the season we all just witnessed. But with a new manager and staff coming soon, I figured it’s a good time for some optimism.
Each week I’ll pick a player and go through what their 2020 season might look like under the assumption that they’re able to help lead the black and gold to their first playoff appearance since 2015. Let’s go Bucs!
After his call-up on April 20th, which as you probably remember was very much overshadowed by his highly anticipated teammate, Cole Tucker, Bryan Reynolds quickly became a key cog in the Pirates lineup and the team’s best hitter in terms of batting average. Manager Clint Hurdle used him in both corner outfield spots as well as in center field when Starling Marte was absent, and Reynolds’ defense was admiral. After taking over the second spot in the batting order in late-May/early-June, the switch-hitter occupied that spot almost exclusively for the rest of 2019.
When we look forward (opimistically) to 2020, it’s pretty easy to say that Reynolds’ batting average numbers will regress. After all, he took a bit of a tumble to a final number of .314 after jockeying back and forth for the batting title for much of the second half of the season. His .387 BABIP in 546 major league plate appearances is likely to come down, though it’s pretty consistent with his high BABIP numbers in the minors, in which he never hit less than .302 at any level.
Considering how well the Pirates outfielder can handle the bat from both sides of the plate, and how young he still is, it may not be crazy to peg him at a .360ish BABIP for next year, something that Depth Chart and Steamer are never going to do. If we do that, we can safely bump up their projections from .287 to something closer to what he did in 2019.
As for power numbers and run production, it’s very tough to make any guesses with his career so young. If we project his 16 homers in 2019 for a full season, we can put him around 20 for 160 games. His 14.4% HR/FB ratio and 42.6% hard hit rate are promising, and he actually has room to grow with his 29.8% fly ball rate, a number much lower than his rate in the minors the past two seasons. With that, however, would almost certainly come a lower BABIP and batting average as a result. I think 20ish is in the right ballpark with some inflation maybe mixed in to account for a full offseason of major league training, workouts, and instruction now that he’s a key piece in the Bucs’ 2020 offensive plans.
All right let’s get to it. Here’s what I came up with for our nice 2019 surprise, Bryan Reynolds next year. Whatever happens, let’s just hope he brings back the ‘stache.
Bryan Reynolds 2020:
153 games played
645 plate appearances
.308 BA with a .365 OBP
22 home runs, 106 runs, 79 RBI, and 9 stolen bases
What do YOU think? Give me some over, under, or just rights down in the comments below. I’m also always happy to hear your thoughts on more in-depth statistics like HR/FB, Hard Hit Percentage, BABIP, and more. Hope you’re all having a good offseason so far, and I’ll be back next week to tackle another Bucco stat line for 2020. Until then, Let’s go Bucs!