Which team was ranked higher?
Let’s look beyond the two teams to find rankings by other writers. Although rankings were generally close, some writers ranked the Diamondbacks higher. Their rankings follow:
- Sports Talk Atlanta ranked the Diamondbacks higher (18th vs 20th).
- Jake Misener of Cubbies Crib ranked the Diamondbacks higher (19th vs 21st).
- ESPN ranked the Diamondbacks higher (20th vs 22nd).
- Joel Reuter of Bleacher Report ranked the Diamondbacks higher (21st vs 22nd).
On the other hand, a few projection systems ranked the Giants higher.
- Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (PECOTA) showed that the Giants have the higher average of their range of wins (80.5 vs 74.7 wins on 18 March 2023). Because PECOTA emphasizes ranges, either team could end the season with more wins despite a seemingly large 5.8 run difference in averages.
- In February, ZiPS projected that the Diamondbacks would win 81 games and the Giants would win 88 games. Details matter. The text accompanying the projection clearly stated that the Giants’ wins could be significantly lower.
“The Giants seem to have a lower ceiling than their rivals, but like the Braves and Cards, ZiPS sees them eking out a few extra wins simply by having enough depth to reduce the number of downside scenarios in the mystery bucket.” – Dan Szymborski
- FanGraphs’ Depth Charts showed the Giants with only 3 more total WAR than the Diamondbacks. Therefore, I conclude that ZiPS credited the Giants with 4 wins because of depth (7 win difference in ZiPS minus 3 win difference in Depth Charts).
Which team will have more breakout performances?
A breakout performance is a player who has a career best season with performance that significantly exceeds projections.
The Diamondbacks have 4 top prospects who could play in the Majors (Corbin Carroll, Gabriel Moreno, Brandon Pfaadt, and Drey Jameson). At least one of these players could have a breakout performance. In addition, Geraldo Perdomo is 23 years old. Last season when Ahmed was injured, he abruptly stepped up into the shortstop position. Under the circumstances, his performance was praiseworthy. Although starting this season on the bench, he could possibly have a breakout performance.
The Giants do not have any top prospects expected to play in the Majors. Their youngest player who is competing to play in the Majors, Blake Sabol, has hit well in spring training (OPS of 1.380 and 3 home runs in 36 PAs), and is competing for the DH position per Roster Resource. Nevertheless, due to age and injuries to their players, the Giants would not benefit from a young player at DH.
Confirming the talent in Diamondbacks’ young players was a remarkable ranking by Jordan Shusterman of Fox Sports. He looked at players age 26 and younger. He ranked the Diamondbacks 12th in the Majors (the Giants were ranked 29th.) Clearly, the Diamondbacks have more talent in their younger players. Breakout players are likely in that group of younger players. My conclusion is that the Diamondbacks are likely to experience additional wins caused by player performance breakouts.
Which team had more significant injuries?
The Diamondbacks most significant injuries were pitchers Mark Melancon and Corbin Martin. It’s debatable whether Mark Melancon would have made the opening day roster. Corbin Martin will likely be out most or all of the season. Nevertheless, the overall impact was relatively small compared to the Giants.
Last season the Giants had injuries that impacted their season. They fell from 107 wins in 2021 to 81 wins in 2022.
This season, preseason injuries have reduced the depth of the Giants. Two areas that were especially impacted were:
Shortstop for the Giants. On 13 March, Brandon Crawford reinjured his knee. He will sit out baseball activities for a week. His ability to confidently play gold-glove defense (like he did on 2021) may be impaired.
Brandon Crawford’s injury might be significant.
“Crawford, 36, landed on the injured list with the same knee issue twice in 2022 and missed nearly a month of the regular season.” — Maria Guardado
“If Crawford’s knee gives out, or nags him like it did last year, affecting his swing along with his defense, the Giants need to figure out something that does not include an Estrada / Flores middle infield.” — Steven Kennedy, SB Nation
If Crawford starts the season on the injured list, projected second baseman Thairo Estrada (who earned negative 12 DRS at second base in 2022) could move from second base to shortstop. A new issue is who would play second base. Isan Diaz injured his hamstring and he was optioned to AAA. Projected bench player Wilmer Flores earned negative 9 DRS at second base in 2022 (The Fielding Bible). My conclusion is that defense would be very weak at both second base and shortstop.
Outfield for the Giants. Four outfielders have been injured, three in spring training. There is speculation about moving an infielder (such as Estrada) to the outfield. My opinion is that doing that you get a bad outfielder, and it permanently harms the player. Let’s look at the injured outfielders.
Center fielder Austin Slater had an MRI because he injured his calf muscle. He strained his hamstring muscle. He was projected to be the bench outfielder. If he starts the season on the injured list, there will be no backups for primary center fielder Mike Yastrzemski.
“The six-year veteran [Austin Slater] dealt with an elbow ailment earlier in the spring and was beginning to get back into game action before sustaining a calf injury.” — Jeff Young
Luis Gonzalez had back surgery. Last season he was primarily a corner outfielder. His injury could reduce depth in the outfield.
Mitch Haniger injured his oblique. He primarily plays right field. His injury could reduce depth in the outfield.
“The Giants are now down two [it could be three if Austin Slater is seriously injured] outfielders, as offseason signee Mitch Haniger is dealing with a Grade 1 oblique strain that threatens his readiness for Opening Day.” — Steve Adams
Michael Conforto is projected to play in left field (Roster Resource). He has not played left field since 2018. In 2022, he did not play in the Majors or the minors. His performance (batting and fielding) includes uncertainty because of the time away from playing baseball.
“Conforto missed the entire 2022 MLB season after having shoulder surgery in April and is in the final stages of his rehab as the Giants prepare for spring training.” — Taylor Wirth, Feb 2023
Joc Pederson is projected to play right field (Roster Resource). Last season he earned negative 15 DRS in the outfield (The Fielding Bible). Although recently in spring training he played first base, perhaps DH is a better position for him.
Overall, the Giants experienced preseason injuries that significantly reduced their likely performance at second base, shortstop, and the outfield.
Which team will exceed their projected batting?
Spring training results are a window toward the season. FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projected that the Diamondbacks will lead the Giants in batting WAR by 1.4 wins. The Diamondbacks batting lead will likely be higher than the projection. Comparing the teams’ spring training OPS through March 14th at two positions shows that the Diamondbacks will likely compare more favorably than the Depth Charts projection.
- Third Base. The Diamondbacks’ Josh Rojas(OPS .762)/Evan Longoria(OPS .185) are much better than the Giants’ David Villar (OPS .214). Instead of the Diamondbacks being 1 to 2 WAR better, Depth Charts projected them an unlikely 0.3 WAR worse.
- Center Field. The Diamondbacks’ Alek Thomas (OPS .890) is better than Giants’ Mike Yastremski (OPS .464). Instead of the Diamondbacks being 1 to 1.5 WAR better, Depth Charts projected them an unlikely 0.1 WAR better.
In the preseason, several writers ranked the Diamondbacks higher than the Giants despite projections by PECOTA and ZiPS. The ZiPS’ projection included a downside caveat to their projection for the Giants.
The Diamondbacks will likely benefit from at least one breakout performance from a top prospect.
Preseason injuries to the Giants have degraded their defense (and possibly their offense) at shortstop, second base, and the outfield.
Spring training OPS indicated the Diamondbacks might earn more batting WAR than Depth Charts projected, especially at shortstop and center field.
In answer to the question, the Diamondbacks will likely win more games. Two big takeaways:
- Unless things go exactly as they hope despite injuries, the Giants have a lower ceiling than the projected wins by the Diamondbacks.
- The Diamondbacks are likely to win more games than projected.