Throughout the offseason Dan Szymborski has been rolling out the ZiPS projections for each team in the Major Leagues. The Reds projections came out in mid-January, and things have changed a little bit in the time since then – the team picked up outfielder Nick Castellanos as well as reliever Pedro Strop. Neither player was included within the projections at the time since they weren’t in the organization.
While there is a little more to projecting the total WAR, and record for a team than simply looking at the Depth Chart graphic for the team within each article, it’s a good place to start with that is likely going to hold the majority of the answer for both. Looking only at those Depth Chart graphics we finally can see how the National League Central stacks up, as the Cubs Depth Chart hit twitter on Wednesday night and the entire Chicago projections were published at Fangraphs on Thursday. Let’s take a look at how the division stacks up, according to those Depth Charts cumulative WAR (only for the players listed):
|St. Louis Cardinals||35.9|
These are the numbers from the time they were published, though. The Reds were at 35.3 before they signed both Nick Castellanos and Pedro Strop. We don’t have the projections for Strop, but as a reliever, it’s likely 1.0 WAR or less. We do have a generally good idea of the projection for Castellanos, though. Late last regular season after he had gone on an absolute tear for the Cubs, Szymborski took a look at just how much his run with Chicago had changed his future ZiPS projections, and the change was actually quite dramatic. His WAR went up by 50% for the 2020 season due to what he had been doing with the Cubs.
The projection for the 2020 season for Castellanos was for a .281/.333/.501 line and 2.1 WAR. Combine that with Pedro Strop, and you are looking at somewhere in that +2.5-3.0 WAR territory. But we can’t just add that to the 35.3 total above. Castellanos is going to be replacing Aristides Aquino and or Jesse Winker, or at least part of their production. Strop seems to be replacing Sal Romano, who was designated for assignment as a result of the signing. That seems to be roughly an even swap, as Romano was projected for 0.7 WAR.
You can work the math out on that one if you’d like to, but I’d say that the Castellanos and Strop additions combined with the reduced playing time of the other corner outfielders and Romano being out is worth an addition 1-2 WAR depending on exactly how you feel about the differences available. That’s enough to push the Reds just ahead of the Cardinals, but not quite enough to reach the Brewers in second place.
Even before the Reds signings of Nick Castellanos and Pedro Strop, the top four teams in the division were within about 5.4 WAR of each other. For a team, that’s the margin of rounding errors for it’s players. As we’ve seen with the other early projections and predictions, everyone except the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to be a contender for the National League Central.