Ah, the best laid plans of mice & men.
For the past two seasons anyone who either follows Major League Baseball closely or is a fan of the New York Yankees heard countless reports of the teams plan to work its way under the magical “luxury tax threshold”, undoubtedly rolling their eyes each time they heard it.
But alas, with the recent signing of Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka to a 7 year/155M dollar deal said plan went right out the proverbial window.
That isn’t to say the team won’t revisit the strategy at some point down the road, doing so certainly has its merits, but for the here & now the Bronx Bombers have decided that protecting the brand by putting a better product on the field was the way to go.
The team also surprised a good deal of people by selling a large chunk of its stake in the Yes Network to 21st Century Fox recently, a move that will yield a reported $150M per year, before they even get around to negotiating their new deal with Time Warner Cable.
In the big scheme of things, what exactly does this mean?
Well, for starters it means the team that is usually flush with cash will have even more chips to play with moving forward.
While that certainly doesn’t guarantee much, it is in all likelihood a fairly safe bet to say that barring another season with a record level of injuries they’ll score quite a few more runs because of the return of Jeter and Teixeira, coupled with recent acquisitions Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran & Brian McCann.
But beyond that not much is certain.
No, winning the off-season doesn’t guarantee much more than owning the headlines for a while.
More to my point, amidst all the talk, all of the yammerin’ about the Yanks newfound purchasing power there hasn’t been a whole lotta solid analysis.
It seems like most folks have just tended to go for the glossy stuff, the easy byline then moved onto the next “flavor of the moment” story.
That being said, there have been a couple of solid observations, most notably from ESPN contributor Buster Olney.
Olney recently pointed out that while the same injury bug that hit the Yankees big league roster also depleted their farm system (not even kidding, it seemed like just about every big time prospect the team had got hit with an injury lasy season) we should look for the Bombers to be big players at the trading deadline this summer.
Simply put, come mid-July you need one of two things to make some moves.
You either better have some Grade A trade chips or you best have the cash to absorb some contracts other teams are looking to unload. And now that the Yankees have both flown right by that luxury tax threshold and increased their revenue stream they fall squarely in that latter category.
An obvious area of concern for the Yankees is there infield.
Jeter, as great as he has been is on his way out. If he stays healthy he’ll continue to be productive, providing a solid bat for his position, but the Yankees do need to think ahead & second base is just a mystery in the post-Robinson Cano era.
So if somehow the Rockies, Phillies, Blue Jays or Brewers find themselves out of the mix and looking to shed some money come late July then Tulo, J-Roll, Jose Reyes or Rickie Weeks could find themselves being made available.
Granted a lot would have to fall into place for one of these scenarios to take place, but as we’ve seen over the years, stranger things have happened.
Another area where both the front office and the fans are both at least mildy concerned is the bullpen.
Let’s face it. One does not simply lose the greatest closer of all time and not see some sort of a regression.
David Robertson may very well be up to the task. He’s been one of MLB‘s premier relievers for a few years now and has all the tools to handle the job.
But in the end, ya just don’t know if he’ll hold up, either physically or mentally.
So once again, this is where the fat pockets come into play.
Come trading deadline if the Phillies are scuffling or the A’s are feeling bold (as they are prone to) one could easily envision Papelbon or the recently acquired Jim Johnson being dangled on the market.
Additionally, right-handed bats like Billy Butler, Michael Cuddyer & Josh Willingham all have the kind of contracts that team could easily absorb in order to provide financial relief to the small market teams that currently hold them.
If either scenario plays itself out you can rest assured that the “Evil Empire” will, at the very least, be keeping a weather eye on things, ready to pounce if need be.
Obviously it’s all just pie in the sky stuff right now, but some times the moves you make at the trade deadline aren’t just the difference between making the playoffs or missing them, but rather play a sizable role in determining who exactly is the last team standing.
This year, more so than the last few, the Yankees seem positioned to be major players at the July 31st deadline and that always makes things a little more interesting.
It’s no state secret that the New York Yankees farm system hasn’t exactly been cranking out top tier talent since around 2000, nor has it slipped everyone’s notice that once they’ve drafted guys a precious few have actually developed into bonafide stars.
Between playing in the post-season virtually every year and ensuring they are drafting at the bottom of every round, sacrificing high draft picks as compensation for free agent signings, injuries to vital prospects and flat out bust the years have not been kind to the Bronx Bombers on this front.
Over the next week I am going to go through the Top 20 or so prospects in the system, offer a little scouting report and try to prognosticate their future.
Without further ado & in no particular order:
Manny Banuelos, LHP, Starter
Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Fastball: 6/7| Curveball: 6/7 | Changeup: 5/6 | Control: 5/7 | Overall: 5/7
Banuelos was on the cusp of making the Yankees back in 2011 as one of the most exciting left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, but when he reached Triple-A in 2011, he lost some of his feel for pitching and his command disappeared. It turns out he had lost some feeling in his arm and eventually needed, and had, Tommy John surgery. He missed the 2013 season as a result, but he’s still young enough to bounce back from this as many pitchers have done in the past.
When he’s healthy and around the plate, Banuelos boasts three above-average-to-plus offerings. The left-hander’s fastball registers in the 89-95 mph range and seemingly explodes out of his hand. His breaking ball features late, downward bite and generates a ton of swing-and-misses. He also features a great changeup that maintains its decpetion and features a nice downward break.
One of the things you heard people say about the young man before the injury was “the kid doesn’t just ‘throw’, he ‘knows how to pitch'”. Because of that he has as good a chance as any to come back from this setback and be a solid major league pitcher.
Michael Pineda, RHP, Starter
Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Fastball: 7/8 | Slider: 7/8 | Changeup: 4/6 | Control: 4/6 | Overall: 6/7
I know, with a year in MLB already under his belt he isn’t a “true prospect” but with him coming off an injury and some significant time back in the minors rehabbing it’s what he kind of feels like.
He is thick, he is quite the physical specimen at 6’6″/255 pounds and his stuff is good.
His fastball, even after injury is sitting at around 92-93, topping out at 95-96 with a natural cut to it and his slider is just absolutely filthy. It is every bit the “wipeout slider” it was advertised to be.
He needs better feel for his offspeed stuff but everything else is so good we’ve already seen he rack up 170 incredibly solid innings at the MLB level in 2011.
His mechanics were sketchy and unrefined, likely leading to the injury he sustained, but he refined his delivery quite a bit over the course of last season in the minors so now it’s a matter of just being consistent with his motion.
His ceiling is through the roof and the only thing that will hold him back will be his health.
Jose Campos, RHP, Starter/Reliever
Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Fastball: 5/6 | Curveball: 5/7 | Changeup: 4/6 | Control: 5/6 | Overall: 5/6
When the New York Yankees traded Jesus Montero & Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda more than a handful of folks, myself included, thought that the best player in the deal might be the “throw in guy” Seattle sprinkled on top, right-hander Jose Campos.
And indeed, for the first six months or so of the deal it appeared so. Montero was the 2d worst catcher in MLB (based on WAR), Noesi was the 3d worst starter in the game and Pineda suffered an injury in spring training, cutting his season short before it even began.
But then, tell me where you heard this before, an injury occurred. He suffred from “elbow irritation” and was shut down for the final four months of 2012.
In 2013 he was able to come back and post a quality season, though the Yankees seemed to keep a close eye on his workload.
His fastball, which once sat around 95 and topped out near 97, now sits comfortably at 91-93, topping out around 94-95 with very good control.
His curveball shows flashes of its former greatness but needs more consistent depth and power, something that will come with an increased workload and the opportunity to use it more often.
He is confident in his changeup but it suffers frm the same inconsistency as his hook. The good news is, he isn’t afraid to throw it which means that given enough innings he can get the feel back for it.
While he’s lost some of his upside Campos remains a very polished young pitcher, as evidenced by the fact he walked on 4% of the batters he faced in 2013. He has a good delivery, keeps his balance and rhythm throughout it and does a great just of repeating his release point.
At 21 he can still regain some of his velocity or polish his other skills even more to reclaim his once lofty status as a top-tier prospect.
Gary Sanchez, Bats: Right/Throws: Right, C
Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Hit: 4/6 | Power: 5/7 | Run: 2/3 | Arm: 7/7 | Field: 4/6 | Overall: 5/6
Sanchez has been described as being “from the same forest as Joe Mauer, maybe even the same tree.”
Stuff like that puts you squarely on the radar and once the Yankees gave him $3 million to sign out of the Dominican Republic the kid was sitting squarely in the spotlight.
He has above-average raw power and his approach at the plate has improved, albeit slower than I like, giving him the chance to be an outstanding all-around hitter.
His catcher skills need some work/refinement but his arm and its accuracy have never been a cause for concern. Simply put: He’s got an accurate cannon.
Given time to learn the craft of handling a staff and calling the games there is absolutely no ceiling on this guy, hence his Number 2 ranking among all MLB catching prospects.
Eric Jagielo, Bats: Left/Throws: Right, 3B
Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Hit: 4/6 | Power: 4/6 | Run: 3/3 | Arm: 5/5 | Field: 5/6 | Overall: 5/6
When the one man carnival act known as
A-fraud A-rod is your 3B you just know that everyone will be keeping an eye on your hot corner prospects. Fortunately for the Yankees they’ve got themselves a good one.
Left-handed hitting third basemen are always a hot commodity in the Bronx, so when Jagielo carried over a strong Cape Cod League season into his junior year at Notre Dame, he became a sure-fire first-rounder, one who could eventually man the hot corner for the Yankees in the not-too-distant future.
He has good pop to all fields and should hit for both average and power in the future.
While some thought his limitations with the leather would force a move to 1B, Jagielo showed good defensive improvement in 2013 and answered some of those questions. The Yankees certainly had no plans to move him and he should fit the profile of a run-producing third baseman very well.
Here’s a sample of what others are saying about him.
- Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com: “Another good looking college bat, Jagielo had a very strong Cape League season, finishing second in the summer circuit in home runs. He has legitimate power from the left side of the plate and as he showed with wood bats over the summer and then into his junior year, it should play just fine at the next level.”
- John Sickels, Minor League Ball: “Scouts seem more comfortable with his glove now, but (teams) could still slot him at first base and he’ll have the bat for the position.”
Look for “Evaluating Yankees Prospects: The Good, The (Not So) Bad & The Ugly (Injuries), Part 2 of 4” tomorrow.
Once it became apparent that Masahiro Tanaka was going to be posted it seemed that merely by default everyone on Earth assumed that the deep-pocketed teams like the New York Yankees & Los Angeles Dodgers would far and away be the most likely landing spots for the Japanese hurler.
But over the last few days it has become more & more clear that the Chicago Cubs were going to be serious players in this thing.
First we had Ken Rosenthal telling us that the Cubbies were “pushing hard” for his services:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 16, 2014
I know, I know. It’s just one guys “vibe”.
But it is Ken Rosenthal, one of the game’s more respected (and often correct) prognosticators so you have to, at the very least, give it due consideration.
Then came news from Jayson Stark at ESPN that not only was this Rosenthal’s vibe, but that many a GM had told him they felt the same way too:
In non-replay news, amazing how many owners in Ariz. were convinced #Cubs are ready to blow away the field & sign Tanaka to a monster deal.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) January 17, 2014
Obviously, the question then becomes “what the heck is a ‘monster deal?'”
Is it $100M? How about $150M?
I personally think that this kid will be a very solid pitcher in MLB, perhaps even a top-of-the-rotation guy.
Fangraphs, in my opinion, hit the nail on the head with its assessment of the guy late last year with this scouting report:
Some people, surely, are being racist when they draw comparisons between Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda. Some other people, surely, are being not racist, but lazy, failing to look much beyond country of origin. But it is neither automatically racist nor automatically lazy to compare the two starters, because it turns out the comparison is a pretty good one. Masahiro Tanaka has a lot in common with Hiroki Kuroda, and Kuroda has been quite good from the get-go…
The comparison between Tanaka and Kuroda goes beyond just the Japanese thing. Both are right-handed starters. Both have fastballs around the low 90s. Both throw a lot of sliders, both are known for their command, and most importantly, both feature a frequent splitter. There just haven’t been that many splitters among big-league starting pitchers lately, which is one reason why the Kuroda comparison isn’t as lazy as it can seem.
Since 2002, just seven starters have thrown at least 20% splitters. Just 11 more have thrown at least 10% splitters. Included are names like Kuroda,Hideo Nomo, Kenshin Kawakami, and Hisashi Iwakuma. The splitter is a popular pitch in Japan, so Japanese pitchers frequently make for easy comparisons for Japanese pitchers.
Ben Badler has referred to Tanaka’s splitter as being one of the best splitters in all of baseball, everywhere, and there are indications that even by just throwing a splitter pretty frequently, Tanaka could have an advantage in the majors.
I couldn’t agree more with that (or the entire piece for that matter), but in the end, you just don’t know.
Yeah he’s 25, so if he ends up being a beast you have him locked up for his prime years, but he also could end up being the next Dice-K and $125-150M is a ton of money to have tied up in a guy who ends up falling somewhere between being “wildly inconsistant” and “a flat out bust”.
Specifically thinking about the team from the Northside of Chicago the move makes total sense from an “on the field” perspective.
The organization is flush with high-end prospects who are, if all goes as planned, likely to start coming up to the big league club over the next two years or so. Most of these guys are position prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Alberto Almora, Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alcantara, but they are very, very thin on standout arms.
They could take a “build from within” approach on the offensive side of things and bring in arms to support Jeff Samardzija via trade or free agency.
So the big question becomes this: Do they think they are on the cusp of being able to compete on a daily basis in a division that is already loaded with quality teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates?
Well, it appears that the team asked itself that very question last night and came up with its answer, because today started off with this bit of news from Twitter:
Wake up tweeters! Cubs made Tanaka a real offer to be there ace and grow with their other talented young players.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) January 18, 2014
If the Cubs fearless leader, former wunderkind Theo Epstein is wrong, this will obviously be a huge setback to his rebuilding plans as he is set to tie up that many resources in this guy.
But if he’s right, he could bring a long-sought-after World Series title to yet another cursed fan base and punch his ticket for Cooperstown in the process.
Mo isn’t out the door yet and now the Derek Jeter haters are trying to push him out while insulting him along the way. I love it when they use phrases like “vastly overrated” to describe him.
Overrated? Probably. He essentially is worshipped in New York and nobody is worthy of tha, even if he is a “biracial angel” lol.
“Vastly” overrated? Lol, not even close.
I am sure that now those haters are going to tell us with an absolute level of certainty that he would barely have 2000 hits if he played in KC his entire career, rather than 3300+.
All of the Jeter haters just need to remove their heads from their collective asses.
Defensively he IS overrated as hell and his Gold Gloves are a farce. But the Gold Gloves in general are a farce so nobody gives three shits. Anybody besides me remember the year the Orioles Rafael Palmeiro won one for 1B despite the small fact he played DH in all but like 3 games?
He wasn’t carried by great teams, he was one of many who helped make teams great.
The biggest knock on him was always that “he wasn’t even the best SS of his era, derp”.
Then alll of the clowns that were named as being superior (Afraud, Tejada, Nomahhh) either came up hot for PEDs, were named by Canseco for using PEDs or just flat out fizzled out while Jete kept on chugging.
Here is “Mr. Overrated’s” resume:
— 9th on all-time hits list, will be 7th if he can just come back and collect 2 hits next season, as high as 5th if he can get 100+ hits next year. But yeah, that means a whole EIGHT guys were better so he HAS to be vastly overrated!!
— RoY 1996 (he comes out swinging, over .300 and nearly 200 hits. But of course he only hit .360 w/ an OBP well over .400 in the playoffs that led to their winning the WS so he was definitely “carried”)
— 13 All-Star appearances (first of which came in 1998 where he hit .324, amassed 200 hits for the first of 8 times in his career while helping the Yankees go an amazing 125-50 when counting their post-season run to yet another WS title in a series win over SD where he hit .353 with an OBP near .500).
— In 2000 he became the only human being ever to win World Series MVP and All-Star MVP in the same calnder year.
— Career batting average well over .300? Check.
— Career OBP near .400? Check.
— Career post-season batting average handly over .300, all done in a sample size that is over 700 ABs…or in other words, an ENTIRE SEASON’S WORTH OF AT-BATS versus ONLY the best competition? Check.
— Career filled with moments where when the lights shined brightest he stepped up and provided the “Mr. November”, “The Flip” kind of moment? Check, check and more checks.
To claim he is vastly overrated throws up the “I’m a fucking douche bag” signal faster than Ed Hardy shirts, “blowouts” & fist pumping in the club.
One of my favorite websites is Yanks Go Yard. I love baseball & I love my Yankees.
Get over it.
Today I stumbled across a piece titled “Why Brett Gardner Is Not Leading Off” and decided to check it out.
Well, there’s a few minutes of my life I won’t ever get back -_-.
I don’t want to be too picky and I don’t want to straight bash the author but it’s a hot mess of “man you couldn’t be more wrong”.
Of Brett Gardner the author laments:
Unfortunately, his promise hasn’t come to fruition. Putting injuries aside, what has held him back? What improvements does he need to make to get him back to the top of the lineup?
The primary area is on- base- percentage. His OBP this year is only .331 for the season and .353 for his MLB career. How could the Yankees offense thrive with such a low percentage? To put it into perspective, Robinson Cano’s batting average this season is .324. So Cano’s likelihood to reach base is almost as high as Gardener’s without even including Cano’s walks and times hit by a pitch.
Let’s put this further in perspective.
Johnny Damon has long been considered one of the premier lead-off hitters in the last couple of decades.
His career OBP? .352. Or in other words, lower than Gardners.
Another vital stat for your lead-off batter is Pitches-Per-Plate-Appearance (PPPA).
Damon’s best season was that magical 2004 campaign for the Boston Red Sox where he posted a 4.12. Gardner’s best season was 2011 where he saw 4.40 PPPA. His career average is 4.28, considerably better than Damon’s.
Later in the article he says:
When Gardener does get on base he has not been particularly effective, either. Opposing catchers have gunned him down twice in six stealing attempts this season. His career numbers are not much better. He has gone down thirty- two times out of one hundred and seventy-three stealing attempts.
Dude, www.baseball-reference.com is your friend. Really.
First things first, in 2011 he started off the season 5 for 11 in SB attempts. Then rattled off over 30 straight steals without being caught, ending the season at 49 SB vs 13 CS. It’s a small sample and not indicative of what he can do (has done).
Secondly, the fact that Girardi is an idiot isn’t helping him.
In the skipper’s infinite wisdom (even saying that sarcastically made me throw up in my mouth) he is batting Robinson Cano 2d most nights.
In other words, he puts a swing early, swing often, notoriously impatient, has one of the lowest PPPA’s in MLB behind the speed guy. There’s no sizing a pitcher up, no getting a read on his delivery…none of that.
If you’re stealing you best go on the first pitch. Not ideal for base-stealers. I mean, why don’t we just tie his shoelaces together and REALLY make sure he won’t get as many steals as he normally would?
This foolish move by the manager has effectively taken the man’s best asset completely out of the equation.
Thirdly, and perhaps most laughable is….he has a BETTER stolen base percentage than Henderson (80.4%), Rivers (72%), Lou Brock (75%), Vince Coleman (79%) and is barely behind Tim Raines (82%)..a.k.a. the Gold Standard for stolen base efficiency.
I have always said people are entitled to their opinions they just aren’t entitled to their own set of facts to back them up.
That realllllly seems to apply to this piece.
AL East: We all know everyone is discounting the Yankees completely and already trying to anoint the Blue Jays as World Series favorites, but for what exactly? I have been saying since December that Reyes and Buehrle didn’t exactly do much to create wins in Miami and Dickey & Johnson give them a nice 1 – 2 at top of the rotation (provided Johnson stays healthy) but this is still a team that needs its previous players to take that next step.
Nope, it is going to be a tight race with all five teams in the mix but I like teams with great starting pitching…and that ain’t Toronto.
1. New York 2. Tampa 3. Toronto 4. Boston 5. Baltimore
AL Central: Tigers – Do I even need to explain this one? Unless the Royals see HUGE leaps forward by three or four guys AND find a legitimate No. 2 & no. 3 starter between now and opening day nobody will come within a half-dozen games of them this year. And don’t be surprised if it is more like 10 games.
1. Detroit 2. Chicago 3. Kansas City 4. Cleveland 5. Minnesota
AL West: The Angels made a big splash this off-season by signing Josh Hamilton away from their division rivals, but none of that is enough to overcome the fact that their pitching is just not good. Weaver is fantastic, though he comes up short versus better teams (his ERA versus Yankees, Rangers, Rays & Tigers is in the mid-4.00’s), but beyond that they have a lot of hopes & dreams. Wilson is a stat compiler who owns an abysmal playoff record and has even worse numbers than Weaver versus the cream-of-the-crop. Blanton & Vargas are cast-offs. Bottom line, this team’s pitching just isn’t good enough.
1. Texas 2. Anaheim (I refuse to call them anything else) 3. Oakland 4. Seattle 5. Houston
AL Wild Card Numero Uno: Rays
AL Wild Card Numero Dos: Angels
AL Champion: It’s a crapshoot but I’ll say Yankees over Rays. It’s all about the pitching and these teams have the deepest staffs from their ace to the closer.
NL East: The Nationals have tons of pitching and just enough offense to get it done. The Braves will keep them honest, but their outfield is so over-rated it hurts. You have a young group full of potential but also full of questions about attitude, work ethic and mental fortitude. Side note: B.J. Upton has his first full blown “idiot” moment by Memorial Day.
1. Washington 2. Atlanta 3. Philadelphia 4. New York 5. Miami
NL Central: It’s hard to bet against the Reds. They have decent pitching, Chapman is a monster as a closer and they can put up runs in bunches. Cardinals will, as always, be in the mix but I don’t think they can hang over a full season.
1. Cincinnati 2. St. Louis 3. Milwaukee 4. Pittsburgh 5. Chicago
NL West: The Dodgers have spent a ton of money but I think they have done little more than line themselves up for a metric truckload of ridicule when it is all said and done. Crawford, League, Eithier, Beckett & even Adrian Gonzalez are all grossly overpaid. Kemp needs to show he is A. healthy and B. the monster of a player he has only been for about one & a half seasons.
1. San Francisco 2. Los Angeles 3. Arizona 4. San Diego 5. Colorado
NL Wild Card Numero Uno: Atlanta
NL Wild Card Numero Dos: St. Louis
NL Champion: Washington over San Francisco in a close NLCS.
World Series: Yankees over the Nationals in a pitching fan’s paradise.
Oh noes…”Joba Chamberlain thinks he can start.”
I saw this one float around the blogosphere and just knew it was going to draw the idiots out of the woodwork.
Sure enough if you do a quick Google search you get anything and everything under the sun trying to either stir up some sort of faux controversy or flat out acting like he’s nuts to think so.
But here’s the thing…
…Dude really could start in this league if he wanted to.
Poll every GM in baseball if they’d like a guy who could give them 175 Innings Pitched of 4.10-ish ERA baseball with nearly nine strikeouts per nine innings pitched and I am willing to say every last one of them would tell you they’d like to have that guy if the price was right.
People just seem to forget how effective the guy could be when toeing the rubber every fifth day when given the chance.
In the 2008 season that saw the Yankees basically treating him like a human yo-yo (“You’re a starter! No…you’re a reliever! No..you’re a ticket rep!”) in June/July he tore off a 9 start run where he was THE guy anchoring the rotation.
That is one hell of a nice stretch for a starter. The most runs he gave up in a start were three (twice) and for every start like that he had one where he gave up nothing.
And that wasn’t the only time in his short career as a starter where he rattled off a solid 10 start run.
The only real hiccups in that stretch was a two game stretch where his defense yielded six unearned runs & forced him to hit high pitch counts well before normal.
Shortly thereafter the rest was, as they say, history. Injuries kicked in and he just wasn’t able to catch much of a break.
So while I don’t think he could ever be the stud at the top of the rotation some once thought he was destined to be, I have no doubt that Mr. Chamberlain could land a job in a starting rotation somewhere if he saw fit to do so.