Dan Szymborski released the 2022 Cincinnati Reds ZiPS projections this morning at Fangraphs. Over at Redleg Nation I wrote up some stuff about the big league squad and how the projection suggests if the roster remains, they are sort of a borderline playoff contender. But today I wanted to talk about what the ZiPS projections say about some of the prospects in the organization.
The Position Players
There are five prospects who are projected to have at least 0.5 WAR (2.0 WAR would be that of your league average every day starter, with 4.0 WAR being the rough estimate of an All-Star caliber player). With that said, that’s not entirely accurate, either. ZiPS is not in the projecting playing time game. Some players it’s projecting for that 0.5 or more WAR are incredibly unlikely to rack up the playing time that helped lead to that number. Francisco Urbaez, for example, is projected for 0.6 WAR, but also projected at 423 plate appearances. His projected .270/.329/.365 line is quite intriguing, but the path to that kind of playing time doesn’t seem to be there in 2022 except in a very unlikely scenario. A starting spot isn’t going to be there, and even as a utility player in 2022 he’s quite far down the depth chart and not on the 40-man roster.
At the top of that list is Jose Barrero with a 1.4 projected WAR while hitting .249/.313/.404 in 460 plate appearances. That projection edges out Kyle Farmer by a small amount on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Another infielder is next up as Alejo Lopez comes in at 0.9 WAR with a .274/.332/.357 line.
Two outfielders fill out the five guys we’re looking at today. Lorenzo Cedrola, who hit very well in Double-A in 2021, is projected for a .282/.317/.395 line and 0.8 WAR. Then there’s TJ Friedl, who spent his season in Triple-A before a late season call up to the big leagues in 2021. He’s projected for a .248/.329/.388 line in 2022.
The top projection for prospect pitchers come from one guy that most people have at the top of their mind and then one guy who probably is a bit down the list. Hunter Greene leads the way at 1.7 WAR in 106.2 innings with a 4.47 projected ERA. Tying him at the top, though, is lefty Reiver Sanmartin with a projected 4.46 ERA in 109.0 innings and the same 1.7 projected WAR. Both players project to be better than league average at run prevention, but the lack of a full-season of innings keeps their WAR projection a little lower than it otherwise would be.
Nick Lodolo’s projected WAR is 1.2, but he has the best projected ERA of any of the prospects in the organization at 3.99. His WAR is lower due to the fact that he’s projected at just 56.1 innings. Some of that may be due to how his 2021 season played out with the blisters and late season shutdown limiting how many innings he threw and the system not believing he’s going to be healthy enough, but may also just be the system seeing he didn’t pitch much in Triple-A and thinking he’ll need time there.
Two relievers project to be above-average at run prevention in 2022 as well. Dauri Moreta, who got a taste of big league action in the final week of the year in 2021 is projected for a 4.35 ERA in 51.2 innings pitched. Alexis Diaz, who spent his entire season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2021 and was added to the 40-man roster in November, is projected for a 4.47 ERA in 48.1 innings.
A Hunter Greene Comparison
One of the ways that nearly all projection systems come up with their data is by looking at what the current player has done in their career and comparing that to past players who performed similarly at the same age(s) and seeing how that player performed moving forward. There’s more that gets baked into many of the projection systems today because we have more data, but the past comparisons are a good place to start. ZiPS projections share the top comparison for each player. More often than not when it comes to minor league players their top comparison is for a player that I’ve never even heard of. Even guys who have had a little bit of time in the big leagues are often comped to players that I didn’t know existed.
That, however, is not the case for Hunter Greene. His #1 comparison is of a pitcher that we have all heard of. It’s a pitcher who when you hear his name may still give you nightmares. Roy Oswalt. For over a decade Oswalt dominated the National League, going 159-93 with a 3.21 ERA from 2001-2011. He didn’t reach the big leagues until his age 23 season, which is still another year from where Greene is at currently (2022 will be his age 22 season). The comparison isn’t perfect – it hardly ever will be – but if that’s what the system is spitting out then it thinks very highly of the Reds top prospect.