The fundamental question any projection system is trying to answer is “what will this player look like?” One of my favorite ways to visualize that is through comparable players.
Here is who ZiPS projects to be the most comparable players to the Cardinals starting lineup in 2017:
That is the very picture of the high-floor, low-ceiling lineup Mozeliak has clearly been pursuing. There is not a “superstar” in that bunch. But by the same token, those are all average to slightly-above-average players - at least in the seasons that make for the comp.
Compare this to the Anaheim Angels projected comps, which includes Mickey Mantle and Ernie Banks, and then a whole lot of garbage.
That Phil Nevin comp is actually for Jedd Gyorko, who ZiPS and I both predict to be more valuable than Jhonny Peralta. ZiPS pegs Tim Wallach as the best comp for 35-year-old Peralta.
The Youkilis/Carpenter comp feels pretty on-the-nose.
If you experienced a moment of existential dread when you saw Khalil Greene’s name, you’re not alone. But keep in mind this comp is more about Greene when he was a breakout rookie with the Padres than when he was a falling-off-the-face-of-the-earth Cardinal.
On the bench, Matt Adams pulls a Daryle Ward comp. If you don’t remember Daryle Ward, he was a fat guy who showed early promise but oddly never developed much power, despite his body type.
On the pitching side, here are your projected starting rotation’s 2017 ZiPS comps:
Kevin Brown (Carlos Martinez)
Bob Walk (Adam Wainwright)
Wade Miller (Lance Lynn)
Lary Sorensen (Mike Leake)
Shawn Boskie (Michael Wacha)
Assuming ZiPS is projecting Kevin Brown’s stuff and not his health, that’s an exciting comp for Mr. Martinez. The Bob Walk comp... less exciting. Wade Miller was very good during his short career, which bodes well for Lynn.
If you’re wondering who Alex Reyes’ comp was, it was Kerry Wood. That struck me as accurate a couple weeks ago and poignant now.
In the bullpen, Seung Hwan Oh earned himself a Trevor Hoffman comp. From there, it gets a lot less interesting. Congratulations though to Mike Mayers, whose top comp is Derek Lowe, despite his pretty rough MLB debut last season.
All in all, the names are quite a bit more impressive on the pitching side of the ball. There may be questions about depth and durability, but there’s a lot more upside here as well.
The 2017 Cardinals are built much more for consistency than they are for dominance, but if there were a place they were going to dominate, a playoff rotation anchored by “Kevin Brown” and “Kerry Wood” would have been it. Oh well. We’ll just have to hope for a late career resurgence from “Bob Walk” and a strong bounce-back from injury for “Wade Miller.”
And yes, I realize this whole exercise is a bit of a lark, and a players’ projection is built on more than just his single, closest comp. But quite a few of these feel right on-the-nose to me, and laying them out together paints an interesting picture of what to expect in 2017.