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FanGraphs releases 2021 ZiPS projections

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cleveland Indians Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Each year, FanGraphs releases its ZiPS projections by Dan Szymborski, outlining statistical expectations for individual players and teams as a whole. This year’s edition for the Pittsburgh Pirates is in and, as expected, it isn’t exactly glowing.

These projections take into consideration players within the Pirates’ organization, including minor leaguers who haven’t debuted but could, and that includes players who are viewed as potential trade pieces. That means players like Joe Musgrove and Adam Frazier will figure into the calculations.

As far as individuals go, it’s obvious that Ke’Bryan Hayes was going to get a lot of love from the projections, racking up the highest fWAR total of any player at 3.0. But Hayes is only given an OPS+ of 105, which, while above average, reads a bit low in my opinion.

The next closest fWAR to Hayes would be Musgrove, clocking in at 2.4, 0.1 points above Frazier’s total. From a competitive standpoint, it could be concerning that two of the top three fWAR players are expected to be moved at some point or another (I use the term “competitive” in the is this team interesting to watch? sense).

Phillip Evans, Bryan Reynolds, and Jacob Stallings all were attributed 1.5 fWAR, while Kevin Newman and Colin Moran came in with 1.2. Every other position player falls below the 1.0 mark, and many dip below zero.

Jameson Taillon, who projects to have a shortened season coming off surgery, stills holds second place for pitchers with regard to fWAR with 1.6. Mitch Keller projects to contribute 1.4 wins.

Prospects like Travis Swaggerty and Oneil Cruz don’t appear to figure much into the plans of 2021, although we could certainly see them achieve some playing time. At this point, it’s likely not worth it to attempt to project their value for the upcoming year. During this season, any new players will simply be testing the major league waters. While the front office will “expect” them to contribute — or so they might say — this will really be an acclimation process allowing them to get into a major league groove before 2022.

Unfortunately, there will only be some interesting storylines on the prospect front. How does Hayes come back in 2021? What does Blake Cederlind’s stuff look like? But there are stories to be found, nonetheless, like will Bryan Reynolds rebound in a significant way? What’s Kevin Newman’s future with the organization? How much more Erik Gonzalez do we have to watch? Finally, can the front office drum up fan interest during a season in which we aren’t sure what the playing circumstances will be? Will fans be allowed in? How many? For all that, we’ll have to wait and see.