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A Way Too Early Look At Red Sox ZiPS Projections

Because what else are we going to talk about?

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

As of this moment, we don’t know what the 2024 Boston Red Sox Opening Day roster will look like. In fact, if we want to get our Bertrand Russell on, we’d have to admit that we can’t even be sure that Opening Day 2024 will happen at all. And if we go Full-Bertrand, we’d probably have to ultimately conclude that we can’t be sure that the Boston Red Sox even exist! But that would kill our page views, so let’s hold off on that for now.

The point is that there’s a lot of uncertainty about next year’s Red Sox team. So you might ask: what’s the point of looking at statistical projections this far out? After all, it seems almost certain that several of the players we’d look at might get traded before Opening Day, or get injured, or decide to retire and drop out of society because philosophical acatalepsy has rocked them to the core of their being.

But the answer is: because it’s fun and we need something to write about.

Last week, Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs released his 2024 ZiPS projections for the Sox. No projection model is perfect, of course, but ZiPS is considered to be one of the most accurate ones out there (feel free to take a look at his 2023 projections as a control). So let’s take a look at what the fWAR model spits out for next year’s Sox (check out his piece for more numbers and analysis):

And here are the standard stat lines:

  • My first thought: wow, the Sox are just completely devoid of any high-end talent right now, huh? I love Raffy Devers —- we all love Raffy Devers — but he’s the closest thing the Sox have to an MVP candidate, and, unfortunately, he’s not all that close. ZiPS is projecting his bat to keep on producing to the tune of 33 homers, a .351 OBP, and a team-leading 133 OPS+. But after an ugly year with the glove, it sees Devers’ defense once again being a major drag on his overall value.
  • Of course one of the important things to keep in mind about projection models is that they are cold, calculating beasts that consider only numbers, refusing to put human performance into a wider context. This is by design, of course, and it’s generally a good thing in that it removes human biases. But having said that, is there anyone who doesn’t think that Devers’ defense suffered last year by being stuck next to the revolving door of suck that plied the shortstop position at Fenway? He’s never going to be a good fielder, but it’s not crazy to think that he could look better with a healthy Trevor Story next to him.
  • Speaking of Story, that’s a decent little bounce back season ZiPS is projecting for Chaim Bloom’s only notable free agent signing. His days of being an offensive force are probably over, and the projected line reflects that: .246/.314/.441, 15 HR, 15 SB, 102 OPS+. But thanks to his elite glove, league-average offensive production is all he needs to be a valuable contributor, not to mention a massive upgrade over Red Sox shortstops last year.
  • If there’s one guy I’m look at to outperform these projections, it’s Triston Casas. As our own Bob Osgood pointed out, Casas was two different players last year: an overmatched rookie from Opening Day through June 3, and a complete stud thereafter. I’d be shocked and disappointed if he hits only 22 homers next season.
  • With respect to Nick Pivetta — who worked hard last year, added a new pitch, and looked dominant for stretches — the Red Sox second-best starter next year simply cannot be someone who was removed from the rotation in May and carries a career ERA+ of 90. Get to work, Craig.