A couple of weeks ago Jeff Sullivan looked at a quick depth check for all the teams in baseball. Depth is a hard thing to measure, so I would prefer to look at it in another way and see if anything else shows up or if I can corroborate what Jeff saw. This is the result from the AL, as I got in an hour or two and realized I wouldn’t have time for all 30 teams this week, so I will get you the rest next week.
What I did was look at the front-line players for each team and their projected WAR from Steamer. Then I looked at the backups to see theirs. Front line includes all eight position players, DH, five starters and six relievers. Second includes a backup at each position (sometimes one player for a couple), 6th and 7th starter, and three relievers beyond the first six. Here are the outcomes:
From a depth perspective two things can be relevant, total production expected from the second line and the difference between the first and second lines. For the difference I want to talk about the difference as the front line being a multiple of the second to keep from the absolute gap looking bad when it is only relative to a strong first string.
You can see what teams Steamer really likes, like the Mariners, who some might not have expected. They have three high level front line players carrying them in Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Felix Hernandez along with a bunch of 1 to 3 win guys in Hisashi Iwakuma, Austin Jackson, Nelson Cruz, etc. I don’t like Logan Morrison as much as them but they do have a pretty good mix of talent. Their second line is not as strong, but it is still around the middle of the pack but the bulk of that coming from Chris Taylor so maybe slightly misleading.
The Red Sox are the clear winners in the second line and the White Sox, who upgraded the front line considerably in the offseason, are clearly not deep based on Steamer’s assumptions. The Red Sox have Xander Bogaerts backing up shortstop and third, Allen Craig for left and first base, and Ryan Hanigan at catcher. Pitching is not nearly as deep for them, but their rotation is starting from a solid foundation and they have a reasonable front line bullpen.
In Chicago, injuries to front line starters are expected to be crippling. Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, and Jose Quintana make for a good front of the rotation, but beyond them you are looking at John Danks, Hector Noesi, and Erik Johnson who combine for a negative WAR projection. That is what makes their depth look so weak. They are also missing a good backup everywhere except for Emilio Bonifacio who will help out at several positions.
I’m not going through each team, but I do want to match this up with what Jeff found in his. I ranked them by the multiples method I already described, so the most depth would be the lowest multiple for front line over second. Both systems put the Red Sox number one and the White Sox last. Doing an AL ranking they also agree on the Twins (2nd), Orioles (7th), Blue Jays (11th), and Rangers (12th). There are only a couple of teams on which we really disagree.
Jeff had the Yankees’ depth as 5th and my system had them at 14th. They have 15 front liners above the 1 WAR threshold he used, but they have little else to go on so in my system they look pretty shallow. The Royals are the other team on which we disagree. Again, the Royals front line is full of useful players, but only one of their backups is above that level in Jarrod Dyson. That gave them a middle of the pack ranking for Sullivan. In mine Dyson’s rather large number for a second line player along with Erik Kratz, Christian Colon, Kris Medlen and a couple other little guys added up to a pretty decent set of second tier players.
Depth does not make a team good, but for some of the contenders this could become a very big deal. I would be especially concerned as a fan for Detroit or Toronto who I would think are expecting to contend but have very little behind their studs. A good team has more than depth, but a potential good team can be completely derailed without it.