Route(s) to 70 Wins

The PECOTA projections came out today, signaling the beginning of baseball season for most of America (not in Kansas City, though, we still have a parade to attend). The Royals, unsurprisingly, have some of the worst projections in Major League Baseball. The 62-win (100-loss…) projection for KC this summer is three fewer wins than they even had last year, a season that was undoubtedly one of the more disappointing seasons they’ve had in a few years. If the Royals lose 100 games this year I won’t be shocked, but my goodness that would be rough.

Anyway. 65 wins last year, projected for just 62 this year…how can the Royals build on 2022 and is it possible they could win 70+ games in 2023. Hennething is possible, I guess, but here’s how they’d have to do it…

Step 1: Find two wins in the starting rotation

Here was the Royals fWAR leaderboard among starters last season:

  1. Siner 2.9
  2. Greinke 1.9
  3. Lynch 0.7
  4. Keller 0.7
  5. Bubic 0.5
  6. Hernandez -0.2
  7. Heasley -0.5

I think I’m just now realizing that the Royals were able to make it through much of last season with just six guys making most of their starts…that’s actually kind of cool.

In regard to their performance, way less cool. Here are the projections for 2023:

  1. Singer 3.1
  2. Greinke 1.0
  3. Lyles 0.8
  4. Lynch 0.8
  5. Keller 0.8
  6. Bubic 0.6
  7. Yarbrough 0.6
  8. Heasley 0.1

Among those eight, that is almost exactly two “wins” worth of fWAR more than the 2022 group had. So…Steamer likes the Royals chances…I’m not sure how I feel about the individual projections, but I think 7.8 wins out of that group is a reasonable expectation with a new pitching coach, so we’ll roll with it.

Step 2: Find just one more win in the bullpen

The additions of Aroldis Chapman, Josh Taylor, and Richard Lovelady could legitimately make this bullpen kind of interesting this year. Add in the returns of Dylan Coleman, Amir Garrett, Taylor Clarke, Josh Staumont, and Scott Barlow and they should be serviceable at worst.

2022 fWAR:

  1. Barlow 0.9
  2. Clarke 0.7
  3. Garrett 0.5
  4. Coleman 0.4
  5. Staumont 0.1
  6. Snider -0.1
  7. Cuas -0.1
  8. Bolanos -0.2
  9. Kowar -0.3

2023 Projections:

  1. Barlow 0.5
  2. Chapman 0.5
  3. Coleman 0.3
  4. Taylor 0.3
  5. Lovelady 0.2
  6. Clarke 0.2
  7. Garrett 0.1
  8. Staumont 0.1

Those projections really aren’t terrible, and I think that group will be even better if Chapman shows any semblance of his old self. Just having a bit more depth of quality arms to pull from should make this group infinitely more reliable than they were last season. I don’t know that they can be a full win better without Chapman looking more like the 2021 version of himself, but if anyone wants to bet on Dylan Coleman’s 0.3 projection, I’d love to take you up on that. All-in-all this group should be more consistent than 2022, even if they aren’t heads and shoulders more productive overall.

Step 3: Find the last two wins among your position players

The young hitters got a lot of attention last summer, but even they have some room to improve in 2023.

2022 fWAR Leaders:

  1. Witt 2.3
  2. Benintendi 2.0
  3. MAT 1.5
  4. Vinnie 1.5
  5. Nicky 1.2
  6. Eaton 0.9
  7. Isbel 0.7
  8. Merrifield 0.7
  9. Massey 0.6
  10. Perez 0.5
  11. Waters 0.4
  12. Olivares 0.4
  13. Santana 0.3
  14. Melendez -0.2
  15. Pratto -0.3
  16. Dozier -1.0

2023 Projections:

  1. Witt 3.6
  2. Vinnie 2.6
  3. Perez 1.7
  4. Melendez 1.5
  5. Massey 1.2
  6. Waters 1.0
  7. Nicky 0.9
  8. Olivares 0.9
  9. Isbel 0.8
  10. Pratto 0.4
  11. Dozier 0.3
  12. Eaton 0.3

Benintendi, MAT, Whit, and Santana are all gone headed into this season. With their absence, the Royals position player group is currently projected to finish with roughly four more wins than last year’s group. Now…Dozier being projected for 1.3 more wins than last year feels…generous. I also think the projections on Salvy, Olivares, and Isbel are a bit gracious, so…we’ll see. Given that the projection is four more wins than last year, maybe they really can settle in at a net plus-two for 2023. That would get them close to those five wins we needed to go from 65 wins to 70 wins. Which leads me to this questions…

How can individual projections point up and the team projections point down?

A few reasons:

  1. Marked improvement for the Minnesota Twins within the division.
  2. Different projection systems.
  3. Lack of consideration for how much playing time certain prospects, like Nick Pratto and Maikel Garcia, will have.

Look I really don’t have a great answer for this. The second listed reason is probably the most realistic. Steamer probably just thinks more highly of the Royals this season than PECOTA. That’s why we play the games.

My (Unofficial) Predictions:

  1. Bobby Witt Jr. gets to 4+ wins
    • I think Witt is due for a monster sophomore campaign. Offensively, I think his 99 wRC+ in 2022 is the floor for what we can expect of him. I’d guess Witt goes for something like 25 HR and 25 SB this year on his way to a 115 wRC+ and 4.4 fWAR. This is basically the season Corey Seager had last season.
  2. Daniel Lynch gets to 1.5 fWAR
    • Lynch is too smart and too talented to not find SOME success with this new PD group. Yes, 1.5 wins is nearly double what the projections think of him this year, but I think he takes a massive leap under Brian Sweeney. Something like Charlie Morton’s 2022 campaign. 172 IP, 4.34 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.5 fWAR.
  3. Hunter Dozier is completely unplayable again
    • Dozier had a 90 wRC+ last year, which is not unplayable by itself, but he is some kind of awful defensively. Even if Dozier is a league average hitter, he’s so bad at third base that he’ll be a negative WAR player again in 2023. He’s projected for 0.3 fWAR…I say no shot. I have a feeling Maikel Garcia is up mid-May.
  4. MJ Melendez approaches 2.5 fWAR
    • Melendez’ left field defense is still something of a question mark, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to go from a 99 wRC+ as a rookie to a 120 wRC+ as a sophomore, but I don’t think he’s nearly as bad defensively as FanGraphs rated him last year and I think he’s capable of taking a big step forward at the plate. Melendez wore down a bit as the year went on, but I think we see that mitigated in some capacity this season if he’s not behind the plate as often. In any case, mark me down for big years from Witt and Melendez in 2023.
  5. Royals sneak their way to 72-90
    • I’m a little hesitant here because I want to see where Vegas has KC before I submit an *official* prediction on the record, but I don’t think this team is as bad as they were last year. A full season of Melendez, Vinnie, BWJ, and Salvy at the top of the order should be great for the lineup. Nick Pratto should work his way into the lineup at some point. I cannot believe the young arms continue to be as historically bad as they’ve been. The bullpen actually looks like it could be okay…I don’t know. Surely they don’t approach 100 losses again, right? Let’s see what Vegas thinks first. If they open the Royals win total up at like 66.5, I’ll be a bit concerned.

4 thoughts on “Route(s) to 70 Wins

  1. How much of the fewer projected team wins is because of the more balanced schedule? I know that the numbers used for individual players is how you get the team number, but not facing the Tigers so often has to count for something.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think the new schedule will make much of a difference in the Royals record. They used to play the Tigers 20 games and now that is reduced to 13, but those games are replaced by playing all National League teams. So they play Colorado, Miami, Cincinnati, Chicago Cubs, etc. for 3 games each. Likewise, games against the Twins and Guardians are replaced with games against Atlanta, Philly, New York Mets, LA Dodgers, San Diego, etc. The Royals were 14-24 for a .368 winning percentage against the Twins and Guardians last year, can they manage the same winning percentage against those National League teams? I think it will be similar.

        I checked the MGM Sportsbook and they have the over/under for Royals wins at 68.5.


  2. Similar to what you talked about, if we have one more of our young starting pitchers break out like Singer did last year (and I think our new pitching coaches will be awesome on these young arms!)….AND….our young hitters continue to get better, I’m not against predicting a 80-82 season! I actually have written out an end of season stat sheet on how all of our hitters will finish the season. (4) hitters will end with 25 or more home runs to start.


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