A Few Thoughts Surrounding Dodgers’ 2021 ZiPS Projections

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For those fans of the Dodgers who are huge on projections and predictions, you’ll be happy to know that Dan Szymborski—for the ninth year—released his 2021 ZiPS projections last week. While a full outline of the projections can be seen in detail on Fangraphs, I felt it was worth a few minutes to make note of several highlights.

Unquestionably, I think the biggest surprise was the numbers associated with infielder Gavin Lux. After barely having any traction to the team’s active roster in 2020, Szymborski has Lux having a breakout season in 2021, tallying 23 doubles, seven triples, a whopping 24 homers, and 89 RBI over 556 plate appearances, albeit alongside a mere .249/.311/.464 slash line.

Lux’s projected 556 PA are 21 more than Max Muncy’s, who is predicted to rack up 29 homers and 99 RBI while hitting .242.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is the prospective emergence of Edwin Rios. ZiPS has Rios blasting 24 homers next season, as he’s conceivably one of the favorites to see the bulk of the time at third base. Right behind Rios’ 24 HRs are 23 from catcher Will Smith and 22 from outfielder AJ Pollock.

In all, Szymborski has nine total players from the Dodgers hitting more than 20 bombs next season, including Joc Pederson, should he find a way to return to Los Angeles.

As far as WAR goes, the Big 3 are Mookie Betts at 6.5, Cody Bellinger at 6.0, and Corey Seager at 5.0.

Betts’ personal-best fWAR came during his MVP 2018 season when he finished the year with a ridiculous 10.3 mark.

On the pitching front, one important note to make is that several other relievers are projected to fare better than closer Kenley Jansen, specifically Brusdar Graterol, who is projected to register a 3.35 ERA and a 3.55 FIP over 60 appearances and 53-2/3 innings of work.

The charts show Josiah Gray making his MLB debut in 2021, tallying 28 appearances and an even 125 innings pitched in the process.

Additionally, veteran lefty David Price is projected to make his Dodger debut, collecting 16 starts while putting up a 4.04 ERA and a 4.40 FIP over 89 innings.

Szymborski projects that Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw will remain the stalwarts of the starting rotation, making 27 and 26 starts, respectively. Buehler is predicted to post a 3.11 ERA with a whopping 11.3 K/9, while Kershaw is marked down for a 3.35 ERA and a 9.7 K/9.

The tables also show Dustin May tallying 28 starts and producing an 8.6 K/9.

Curiously, the numbers show Julio Urias making 45 appearances next year, 25 of them in relief.

Victor Gonzalez and Joe Kelly are projected to make 49 appearances apiece.

16 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts Surrounding Dodgers’ 2021 ZiPS Projections

  1. I don’t normally pay any attention to these kind of pre-season stats so I’m wondering if they are any more likely to be accurate than just throwing darts at a dart board (for those who know I tend to joke around a lot this is a serious question. Do these projections actually turn out to be fairly accurate?).

    I find it interesting that he has May making 28 starts but Price only 16. Does that mean he’s expecting Price to have a late start to the season or get injured during the season (or maybe be traded at the deadline)?

    No mention of Gonsolin? Where has Catman gone?

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      1. I continuously catch myself assuming that May, Gonsolin, Graterol and Vgon will perform next year at their best levels from 2020. That’s probably not a reasonable expectation, as young players often tend to regress a bit in their second year, even if they then go on to very good careers. The league has seen them now and will make some adjustments.

        Knowing AF, I imagine he’ll be adding a veteran starter, whether that’s a stud like Bauer or a lottery chance in someone like Kluber, I have no idea.

        What I do wish he would do, because it won’t be all that expensive, is decide what 2 or 3 relievers he wants and go out and pay them and lock them up right now. There will be a ridiculous amount of relievers available in early December once teams non-tender bunches of players, but at the top of the list (the 6-8 best ones) there will be tremendous competition to sign them. Just go out now and pay them before that competition gets into full swing.

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      2. The thing about Gonsolin and May, though, is that their ceilings are incredibly high. All you need to do is look at their respective repertoires and their ridiculous spin rates. It might just be me, but when Gonsolin first came up, he hardly walked anybody. Seems like he’s sacrificed some command, just like May. If these guys can sharpen their control, I think they could be legit No. 1s or No. 2s down the road. Seriously.

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      3. I’m a big fan of both those guys as well. I’m just saying I wouldn’t be totally shocked if one or both took a slight step back next year before finding their way and having excellent careers. Of course, maybe that step back was in the playoffs and they’ll be rarin’ to go for 2021.

        As I’m watching the NBA gyrations (hometown Pelinka in particular) I can’t believe what a difference there is between how Andrew puts his roster together (time wise) and how the Lakers do it. Pelinka has rebuilt half his roster in 48 hours. Granted, it’s a much smaller roster.

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      4. I think Graterol’s the one who might need a little more time. His ceiling’s huge, for sure, but until he develops a trustable secondary pitch, he’s not gonna be much more than an average, 100-MPH fireballer. He’s still very, very raw, which is fine, because he’s still just 22.

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  2. Jeff, I agree about AF getting another veteran pitcher, not sure of the quality we will see ( I did love your idea about Hendricks, a few days ago, very underrated pitcher) but the bullpen is becoming more and more important every season, so I hope he will be willing to invest some meaningful money there. AF has been known to, as bear would say “dumpster dive” with the bullpen before, but to his credit, he did give good money to Treinan last season, and although the results weren’t what we had hoped, he did invest good money in Kelly. I do believe there are going to be some real bargains this off season, the players are going to take some substantial hits on their contracts this year, I’m afraid.

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    1. I think we’ll be finding more players than usual changing agents after this winter. There will be a lot of angry players. Of course none of this is the agents’ fault but the players can’t fire the owners, general managers or Covid.

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  3. I’ve been impressed with Gonsolin, but why do you guys think he got so beat up in the playoffs, I was really shocked to see him do so poorly?

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    1. That, my friend, is an excellent question. It’s not as though he was skittish during the season. I always thought he was unusually cool on the mound for a guy with relatively little MLB experience.

      His playoff performance totally shocked me as well.

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    2. Definitely command. In the 2021 postseason, he allowed 9 walks over 9-1/3 innings. During the regular season, he allowed a 1.4 BB/9. Maybe it was nerves, who knows. But if he’s able to control his splitter moving forward, that alone makes him elite in my eyes.

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      1. Considering how unflappable he was during the season, I’m almost inclined to think that maybe it was a minor injury of some sort that affected his mechanics. Hopefully whatever it was, injury, nerves or whatever, it’s gone by ST and we get the Catman we’ve all come to appreciate once again.

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  4. I think Gonsolin was affected by the long layoffs he experienced. At one point he had not pitched at all in 17 days. As for all the projections, I do not subscribe to thier accuracy. No one has a clue how these guys will perform. Based on the on off on off of his 4 seasons, Belli is due for a huge year. But can they count on that? Who knows.

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  5. So Jeff, got any ideas about predictions this off season the shlemmings can make, we got to do something to get bear fired up about😀

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