As I sit, staring out the window, hoping for spring, I'm comforted by that day each winter when Dan Szymborski runs down from his mountain and gifts the world with his ZiPS projections.
You can see them in all their glory here, as they give us a chance to talk about baseball for a brief instant before pitchers and catchers report next month.
As a reminder, these projections are not meant to perfectly model how a player will perform in 2016. Think of them as the most likely outcome. If they are on a bell curve, these would be at the very top. Due to unexpected circumstances, players may slide up or down that curve, putting up a 90 percentile season and making an All-Star team or falling to the 25th percentile and pulling a "Lucas Harrell."
Here are five reactions to these projections and what they mean for the Astros next season.
1) Carlos Correa is really, really, really, ridiculously good
Ahh, ZiPS. Thank you for being a friend. You just get us. You really do.
Carlos Correa, the precocious shortstop who won all of our hearts last summer, is projected to take things to the next level in 2016. His line? A .273 average with a .365 wOBA, 25 home runs, 28 doubles, 23 steals, an OPS+ of 128 and a team-leading 5 zWAR.
In the last 50 years, only Justin Upton, Mike Trout and Alex Rodriguez have put up a 20-20 season in an Age 21 season or younger. The last five players to post an OPS+ of 120 or better were Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Miguel Cabrera.
Which is to say, Carlos Correa is really, really good. For a system like ZiPS to be that optimistic about a guy says something. Get excited for 2016.
2) A.J. Reed can mash
ZiPS also seems to like a former Golden Spikes winner. A.J. Reed, he of the prodigious home run output last season in the minors, is projected for 2.6 zWAR with an average of .261 and 26 home runs. As a rookie.
That's good for fifth on the team in wins above replacement, by the way. I'll leave the esteemed Carson Cistulli take it from there:
The power he exhibited as an amateur seems to have translated well to the professional game, however: despite his lack of experience even in the high minors, Reed is projected to record the sixth-best isolated-power figure (.195) on the club and to produced nearly three wins overall.
Bat speed, schmat schmeed. If Reed isn't up by May 1, I'll eat my hat...
...because Jon Singleton is also projected to be just as bad as you remember him. The presumed starter at first base on Opening Day, Singleton has a projected line of .216/.316/.422 with a 33 percent strikeout rate.
I thought they got rid of Chris Carter.
3) The pitching is still pretty deep
ZiPS, being an inanimate object, doesn't listen to your pleas. It doesn't consider your feelings, nor does it recognize how awesome Dallas Keuchel's beard really is.
It only projected The Only Good Dallas with an ERA of 3.28 in 200 innings, good for 4.5 zWAR. Rotation-mate Collin McHugh is similarly pessimistically projected to 3.1 zWAR. The two combined for 7-10 fWAR in each of the last two seasons, so that seems a little off.
But, what's striking is how solid the rest of the rotation may be. In his first full big league season, ZiPS projected Lance McCullers for 2.6 zWAR and Mike Fiers for a shade under 2 zWAR. That gives Houston a pretty strong 1-4 in the rotation. If only Scott Feldman would pretend to be anyone else but Scott Feldman, the rotation could be very strong.
The bullpen, too, is deep. Outside of one of the best relievers in baseball (Ken Giles), the bullpen features five guys with FIP- of 80 or less, another guy at 81 (James Hoyt) and Will Harris bringing up the rear at 91.
4) Houston has a lot of good, but not great, players
Think of this Astros roster as VOLTRON. Individually, it's not much at some spots. You all probably argue third base, left field and catcher as particularly vulnerable spots. No one player stands out in any of the places.
But, add a few players together and Houston has a two or three win player at almost every spot on the field.
For instance, Jake Marisnick is only projected for 1.6 zWAR and is compared to Xavier Paul. Not a ringing endorsement. But, add him with Colby Rasmus at the spot, who is also projected for 1.6 zWAR, and suddenly, you have over three wins in left field.
Matt Duffy should also be a fan of ZiPS, because it's a fan of him. He's projected for 2.0 zWAR, good for eighth on the team. Unfortunately, the presumed starter at third ahead of him is also ahead of him on the zWAR list (Luis Valbuena). Together, though, they should produce at a pretty healthy clip.
Catcher, too, appears weak, but ZiPS likes Jason Castro at 2.2 zWAR and doesn't hate Max Stassi at 1.0 zWAR or even Tyler Heineman at 1.2 zWAR. Pick one of them to back up Castro and you have a solid three wins behind the plate.
Only two players are projected at "All-Star" levels of four or more wins above replacement. But, only two regular spots in the order are projected to bring in less than two wins (DH, 1B). One of those can even be fixed with the promotion of the aforementioned A.J. Reed.
Which is to say that the Astros have a lot of depth on this roster and the offense appears to be in good shape heading into spring training.
5) Alex Bregman could be here sooner than you think
Okay, that may be a reach, but it fits my personal prediction nicely. ZiPS projects prospects and bench players. Bregman is one of the guys ZiPS liked a lot and he's projected for almost 1.5 zWAR in 500 PAs.
Surprising? Probably. The guy was just drafted last summer and hasn't made it to Double-A yet. Still, I feel good about Bregman being a surprise promotion at some point this summer, especially if the infield suffers any injuries.
Will it happen? Probably not. The Astros almost assuredly have their own forecasts for players. They also know what kind of worker Bregman is, how committed he is, what kind of exit velocities he had against high-level competition last year. In short, they have a better feel for how ready he is.
It should also be noted that ZiPS also quite likes Colin Moran and James Hoyt, so it appears ZiPS reads TCB daily.
That's it for me. What stood out to you in these ZiPS projections?