Author Archives: jimmytoucan

Down on the Farm: An interview with @yankeesource

As a follow up to yesterday’s Top 40 Prospects I did a quick interview with David P, known on the twitterverse as @yankeesource, who has a pretty good handle on the NY farm system and is always glad to answer some questions when he has the time. For the most part I’m right there with him on most of the topics covered. Here’s the Q&A followed by my take on the questions posed:

1.) Do you have any sleeper prospects and/or breakout players for 2013?

Nik Turley is a good pick for having a breakout season in 2013. He had a terrific 2012 campaign but he could become a popular name throughout baseball by the end 2013. Ravel Santana isn’t much of a sleeper but he is another player who could wind up making big strides with superstar potential. Angelo Gumbs could also make big strides this season.

2.) What do you think about the changing of the guard with Connors let go and Contreras switched in favor of Gil Patterson from the A’s as new MiL pitching director?

Considering some of the problems the Yankees have had over the years developing pitchers, this move seemed inevitable. The A’s have had a terrific record of developing young pitchers and you have to hope that Patterson brings some of that knowledge and implements it into the Yankees system. The pitching talent in the system is deep and it is all a matter of development and some luck.

3.) Of those that struggled in 2012, who would be your comeback prospect of the year?

Jose Campos. He has the stuff and the maturity to come back strong and have a huge year in the minors. He looked pretty solid before he went down with an injury last year and I expect him to come back and look like the pitcher the Yankees acquired for Jesus Montero.

4.) Can you name the pitcher(s) you’re most looking forward to in 2013 and what you expect of them in the long run?

As every year, Jose Ramirez tops my list because of the stuff and high ceiling. I think it could be a breakout year for him and he could wind up as the top minor league arm in the system by the end of the year. His ceiling all depends on his durability but his development would also help the Yankees in terms of having valuable trade chips for a Mike Stanton level trade. He’s a front-line starter at best and a solid reliever if injuries derail him. I think he’s a better pitcher to have in the system than Arodys Vizcaino at this point in time.

5.) Can you name the position player(s) you’re most looking forward to in 2013 and what you expect of them in the long run?

I’d usually answer this question by saying Tyler Austin but Slade Heathcott really intrigues me. Heathcott is a scout’s dream and if he can stay on the field he might be the most exciting high level prospect the Yankees have. It’s hard to project his future considering his reckless abandon on the field but if he can stay on the field and stay away from off-field issues he might be the next big outfielder for the Yankees.

6.) What do you expect for the big four (Austin, Sanchez, Heathcott and Williams) this upcoming season?

I wouldn’t be shocked if Heathcott outplays all of these players in 2013. He looked great in the AFL and it could easily carry over into the season. Tyler Austin’s bat looks ready for AA-AAA and I don’t see him having a down year in AA because the bat is simply too consistent. With Gary Sanchez it is all about his defense behind the plate. With major defensive improvements, he could move through the system much faster and with holes at the catching position in the majors this is a great chance for Gary Sanchez to knock on the MLB door and say “hey remember me?” I expect Mason Williams to start off a little slow and turn it up another notch when the weather heats up. It might be wise for him to take it a little slow at the start as well.

Overall, I think all four will have good seasons barring injuries. Don’t forget about Ramon Flores either who should definitely be among the names mentioned with these four prospects.

7.) Slade Heathcott in particular turned some heads to finish off the year and into the AFL, do you feel he’s one of those types that, if healthy he could propel himself up the top 100 prospect lists?

He’s definitely barreling his way to the top 100 lists with the way he’s played. I think Heathcott would be a fan-favorite if he made it to the Yankees because he plays the game like Brett Gardner but with a better skill set. His shoulder is worrisome but his skills make him a dangerous player at any level and with the injuries behind him he is poised to have a big season in AA.

8.) Dellin Betances finally saw bullpen work when in the AFL this year; do you feel that’s where he’s best suited and could thrive or is he destined for life off the diamond?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees tried him in the bullpen in 2013. I would prefer to keep him as a starter and try to build back some value. It seems like a long shot that he ever makes it to the majors with the Yankees so they are better off leaving the starter label on Betances. I don’t think his command is suited for the pen or rotation and maybe some more work can make him into a serviceable back of the rotation arm on a non-contender. That is still more valuable than trying to sell him as a middle reliever with no command.

9.) What’s your overall view of the farm system, both today and moving forward.

The system took a hit last year with the injuries to Banuelos and Campos, the decline of Betances, and the lack of major talent in AA-AAA. Even still they were ranked 11th by BA (preliminary rankings) which does show that the system is still deep in talent. There is a load of pitching talent throughout the system and the Yankees aren’t that far away from having major prospects from A- to AAA. With an aging Jeter and A-Rod, the Yankees do need some more SS/3B/IF depth in the system. Miguel Andujar is good but a long ways away from the majors. The same goes for Christopher Tamarez. Aledmys Diaz would be a great addition to the system and instant depth at SS behind Jeter if the team can sign him.
I see the Yankees being a top 10 system in 2014 and closer to top 5 in 2015. This guesstimate is completely based on the low level talent in the system and expecting them to progress as scheduled (injuries not considered). Obviously many of them will fail but there is plenty of talent to offset a few busts.

Off the bat, I was glad to see him mention Flores, who loses a bit of luster with all of the OF prospects that grab the limelight but the kid can flat out hit, plays decent defense and has done it at a young enough age in each level that there is some projection left there. I also dig the mention of Jose Ramirez, who fell in my list a bit due to durability and repeat-ability issues but is on my radar to have a big year. I’m also looking forward to seeing DePaula face some stiffer competition; he’s got some big time stuff but it remains to be seen if it will translate stateside. David had Campos as his comeback guy of the year, and while I agree, if I had to pick one it would be Dante Bichette Jr. Campos’ bad year was injury related while Dante was busy working out his timing mechanism and didn’t get it figured out until late in the season. Either one qualifies but my nod goes to DBJ. Slade Heathcott once again generates some excitement, and who can blame him? Slade tore up the fall leagues after an impressive season, stayed on the field and even broke on to a top 100 list. He’s got arguably the highest ceiling in the system for position players but has some durability issues that hold him back on the overall rankings. Without a doubt, if he can remain on the field he has the chance to make a real impact on the big league team.

Where David and I were not in agreement was with Dellin Betances. I’m not going to argue that a starter is more valuable than a reliever, but I’m just not sold he can hold it together (at least yet) for the long haul of 6 or 7 innings. What struck me was something that Tony Franklin had mentioned in an interview, saying that Dellin had focus issues which would pop up in the middle of an outing. His walks tend to come in bunches, where he’ll lose his command for an inning, issue a few walks and consequently surrender runs. I’m of the mind that the kid should focus on his two best pitches and concentrate on one inning at a time. There is no saying that once he gets his stuff together and maybe works on his weaker offerings on the side that he can’t move back into the rotation. Previous injury issues are also a concern, and maybe the rigors of 200 inning seasons aren’t the best for him. I also have to disagree with Nik Turley as the sleeper prospect. At this point, at least on this blog many of us are aware of what Nik can do and have some pretty high hopes for the big lefty. That could be our own bias but hey, we’re allowed that right? Anyway, my pick goes to another lefty, Matt Tracy. Tracy was converted from relief to the starting role so he had to make some adjustments but put up solid numbers last year. Now that he’s had a year to acclimate I expect a big step forward in 2013, and some more attention shown his way.

We touched on this yesterday in the comments section, so I’ll do a quick recap on the state of the farm system. Things are looking up, and considering that we don’t have any big time prospects in the AA or higher levels to get ranked in the 10-14 range by various sources is a testament to the depth of the system. We also lost our two best pitching prospects to injury, two guys who also would have made top 100 lists without a doubt, so that took it’s toll on the overall ratings. What they do have is a ton of high ceiling talent, albeit several steps away. There’s strength in numbers though, and even with the rate of attrition of prospects we have a good chance of seeing some of these guys develop into major league players, a couple even stars. I’m with David in that he sees them vaulting to the top 5 in the next two years, assuming we don’t have an all around meltdown of course. For a team that hasn’t seen a top pick in many many years, the Yankees farm is looking pretty solid.

Farm hands & MLB’s top 100

MiLB: JUL 08 Class A Advanced - Tampa Yankees at Dunedin Blue Jays

Last night MLB, led by draft and prospect expert Jonathon Mayo released their top 100 prospects list. Three Yankees made the cut: Gary Sanchez came in at #36, Mason williams at #41 and newcomer to the top 100 Tyler Austin came in at #75. If not for injury setbacks Manny Banuelos and Jose campos were both likely to make the list as well. Here’s MLB.com’s take on the guys from the NY farm system, all of whom will look to take their cuts in Trenton this coming season and propel themselves even further up the rankings:

“Gary Sanchez
Rank: 36
ETA: 2015
Position: C
Age: 20, DOB: 12/02/1992
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6′ 2″, Weight: 220
Signed: July 2, 2009 – NYY
Twitter: @ElGarySanchez
Scouting Grades (present/future): Hit: 3/5 | Power: 5/7 | Run: 2/2 | Arm: 7/7 | Field: 3/5 | Overall: 4/6
Sanchez has been on radars since the Yankees gave him $3 million to sign out of the Dominican Republic. Hitting .353 in his United States debut didn’t hurt and he’s tantalized with his skills since. Sanchez appears to have put some of the attitude issues he had during his full-season debut in 2011 behind him and it should be noted he’ll still be just 20 years old for all of the 2013 season. Sanchez earned a promotion in 2012 and his bat should help him continue to move up the ladder. He has above-average raw power and his approach at the plate has improved, giving him the chance to be an outstanding all-around hitter. He’s always had a plus arm behind the plate, but there had been questions about his ability to handle the defensive rigors of the position in the past. He did seem to make some strides with the glove, though he needs to continue to work on his receiving skills, and the Yankees hope that can continue.

Mason Williams
Rank: 41
ETA: 2015
Position: OF
Age: 21, DOB: 08/21/1991
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6′ 0″, Weight: 150
Drafted: 2010, 4th (145) – NYY
Twitter: @MjordanW9
Scouting Grades (present/future): Hit: 3/5 | Power: 3/4 | Run: 7/7 | Arm: 5/5 | Field: 5/6 | Overall: 5/6
From a raw tools perspective, Williams is one of the more intriguing prospects in baseball. In 2012, he started to really use his skills more consistently on the field and earned a promotion up a level as a result. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury cut his season short. Williams has some definite ability with the bat, with a solid approach and a handsy swing that allows him to cover the plate well. It’s more of a slap/slash approach right now, but some feel there’s power to come as he matures. Williams can go get the ball in center field with good range and a solid arm. As he hones his skills on the basepaths, he should become a more consistent basestealing threat. All he needs is time and he’ll be ready for center field in the big leagues. If the bat develops, he has the chance to be an elite-level player.

Tyler Austin
Rank: 75
ETA: 2014
Position: OF
Age: 21, DOB: 09/06/1991
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6′ 2″, Weight: 200
Drafted: 2010, 13th (415) – NYY
Twitter: @t_austin21
Scouting Grades* (present/future): Hit: 5/6 | Power: 4/5 | Run: 5/5 | Arm: 5/5 | Field: 5/5 | Overall: 5/6
Austin burst on the scene in 2011 when he hit .354 in two short-season stops. Despite missing time with a concussion that forced him out of the Futures Game in 2012, he showed that his previous season was no mirage. He reached Double-A, even homering in the playoffs, while topping the organization in batting average and slugging percentage while finishing second in on-base percentage and third in RBIs. A former infielder, Austin made a smooth transition to right field and should profile well there, though perhaps without the plus power some like to see from the position. Still, he has a very good approach at the plate and a quick swing that should allow him to continue to hit for average. He’s a good baserunner with average speed, and has the arm and range to be a good defensive outfielder. It’s not often 13th-round picks turn into big league regulars, but this one has a chance to do just that.”

Per Mayo, here is his breakdown of the grading system:

“For the first time, there are scouting reports with each player on Prospect Watch. Players are given present and future grades on a 2-8 scale — 2-3 is well below average, 4 is below average, 5 is average, 6 is above average, 7-8 is plus — for each individual tool, along with an overall grade. Obviously subjective, perhaps the most important grade is the future overall grade — this number signifies what each player will ultimately be in the big leagues.

A future “7” is a player who could develop into a perennial All-Star. There are only 10 future 7s on the list. Five of them are right-handers: Bundy, Taijuan Walker, Jose Fernandez, Zack Wheeler and Gerrit Cole. There’s one lefty in Tyler Skaggs, three shortstops (Profar, Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez) and one outfielder (Taveras).”

Trenton Projections

Last month John Norris from Minor Matters wrote up his projections of the 2013 Trenton Thunder roster. John, along with Mike Ashmore serve as beat writers for the Yanks’ AA affiliate and do an excellent job of relaying information to us fans. With the 2013 roster likely to be a pretty exciting one with all four of our top prospects having a shot at making an appearance in Jersey this year I thought an article was in order. It really doesn’t get any better than what these guys do as far as keeping us in tune with Trenton, so I’ll refer to their take on the upcoming season. Below is John’s projected roster:

1 – J.R. Murphy – C
2 – Jeff Farnham – C
3 – Kyle Roller – 1B
4 – Jose Pirela – 2B
5 – Jose Mojica – SS
6 – Kevin Mahoney – 3B
7 – Slade Heathcott – OF
8 – Ramon Flores – OF
9 – Tyler Austin – OF
10 – Rob Segedin – OF
11 – Jose Toussen – IF
12 – Adonis Garcia – OF
13 – Jose Ramirez – SP
14 – Nik Turley – SP
15 – Zach Nuding – SP
16 – Mikey O’Brien – SP
17 – Shane Greene SP
18 – Tommy Kahnle – RP
19 – Branden Pinder – RP
20 – Dan Burawa – RP
21 – Kramer Sneed – RP
22 – Graham Stoneburner – RP
23 – Cory Arbiso – RP
24 – Rigoberto Arrebato – RP
25 – Manny Barreda – RP

I can’t really disagree with much here at all. Aside from some minor issues that are dependant on where the rosters of other teams end up I think he’s pretty spot on. JR Murphy made his way to AA last year and got off to a slow start. This is nothing new for him, so some more time in Trenton could very well see him take a step forward from last years performance. Both Heathcott and Flores are all but sure bets to start the year in Trenton; they both put up very good numbers in 2012 and Heathcott, as everyone is probably aware by now tore it up in the AFL and got people talking about him again. Kyle Roller and Jose Pirela, who had a bit of a breakout last year are also shoo-ins for the right side of the infield. Relievers Kahnle, Pinder and Sneed are a safe bet, along with Barreda and Arrebato. Danny Burawa is coming off a season long injury but should be ready to go come spring, and could join recently converted Graham Stoneburner in the bullpen. The starting five all look to be locked in as well, and it looks pretty good for the Thunder. YFU favorite Nik Turley will take the hill in 2013 after a nice 2012 campaign. He’ll be joined by Jose Ramirez who had a rebound season and with a breaking ball that he’s finally comfortable with and two plus to plus plus pitches they look to be a very good 1-2 combo. Zach Nuding looks to get back on track after a bit of an up and down season, and he’ll be followed by Mikey O’Brien and Shane Greene, who both had their share of inconsistencies but have some upside.

There are a few question marks however; both Rob Segedin and Abe Almonte could end up getting the initial nod in left field pushing Tyler Austin back to Tampa. I’m not really opposed to this, as I don’t think he’d be there long. He held his own in Tampa but was missing a bit of power. He did look good in his limited AB’s at the AA level last season and in the playoffs but getting him going in Tampa and then turning him loose for the Thunder wouldn’t be the worst thing. So long as he’s not wasting away down there I have no problems with that. The shortstop position could also change by the time they hit the field. Walter Ibarra spent a bunch of time on the DL last year and is a MiL FA this year, but if he gets re-signed he’d slot right in at short.

The Thunder made a great run last year, helping manager Tony Franklin win the manager of the year award and making a playoff run. Much like the Charleston and Tampa rosters of 2012 Trenton looks to feature quite a few future major league candidates and take another stab at the post season.

Prospect Profile: RF Tyler Austin

Future right fielder?

Future right fielder?

Tyler Austin

Vitals:
DOB 09/06/1991
6’ 2” 200 lbs. R/R
3B/1B/RF
Drafted 2010, 13th Round

The numbers:

Tyler Austin, originally a catcher, was drafted as the 415th overall pick in the 2010 draft and hit the ground running as a 19 year old. He lasted all of 82 AB’s in the short season GCL, where he put up a 1.060 OPS and another 96 AB’s in the NY Penn League where he put up a quad slash of .323/.402/.542/.944, hitting a trio of home runs in each league. While in short season leagues Tyler was used at both infield corners, which wouldn’t last long. In 2011 Austin was shipped to Charleston, where he took over right field to give way to fellow RoverDog Dante Bichette Jr. at third base. Low A ball proved to be no match for him either; he ripped up the Sally League to the tune of a 1.003 OPS, good for a .442 wOBA, 170 wRC+, 12.3% BB rate and 22% K rate. His 14 HR’s, 22 2B’s and 3 3B’s earned him the best hitting prospect in the SAL award, along with the #4 overall ranking. He punched his own ticket to Tampa, but it was set back a bit when he took a pitch to the helmet and sat for a couple of weeks recovering. It was terrible timing too, as he was set to represent the Dogs in their home park for the SAL All Star game and home run derby. Tyler managed to get 134 AB’s in at the Florida State League, hitting to the tune of a .391 wOBA and 144 wRC+. He did undergo a bit of a power outage however, his ISO dropping from .278 in low A to .157 in Tampa. Both his walk and strikeout rates dropped as well, to 8.1% and 18.9% respectively. Despite the dropoff in power numbers, Tyler was sent to Trenton at the very end of the season, getting himself 7 AB’s in regular season play and a trip to the playoffs with the Thunder where he picked up a few more.

His Swing:

We might as well start here, as this is what is going to carry him to the majors. It all starts with a short stride, a small leg kick and getting his lead foot down quickly. He loads up in a hurry and stays back on the ball, clearing his hips early generating a lot of power through his lower half. His compact swing and easy bat speed allow him to let the ball travel into the zone and choose his pitch to hit. He has extremely strong hands too, which also lends to his ability to wait on his pitch and lay off the junk. Tyler is a line drive hitter that shows power to all fields and has the ability to generate plenty of lift. His swing stays on a single plane, which some say may give him trouble with pitches high or low in the zone but he has plenty of time to work on it. On the other hand it shows consistency in his mechanics, but he’ll still need to be able to make the adjustments during his swing. He looks to go with the pitch, and altered his approach a bit in 2011, aiming for the right of the batters eye. His focus is to stay short, smooth and lethal he says, utilizing the entire field and not fighting the pitch. Like many of his fellow sluggers he looks to punish anything middle outside, but he can also pull the inside stuff with big time power. Pitchers may start to try and beat him in on the hands, but his strength and bat speed should be enough to allow him to turn on them and put the ball in play, if not out of the yard. He’s aggressive early in the count, makes solid contact and can draw his walks, but could put up an even better OBP if he focused on it. His potential is that of a middle of the order hitter that puts up a solid average as well as plenty of power.

On the Field:

Getting moved to the outfield to make room for Bichette was pretty fortunate. It turns out that his defense plays up better in right field than any other position he’s been at. As far as the wheels are concerned, he’s somewhat lacking as his raw speed grades out at a 40 out of 80 which puts him just below average. He’s not going to get any faster and could actually lose a step as he finishes filling out. This does come a bit puzzling however, as he is adept at swiping bags. He’s nabbed 23 bases in 25 attempts, which in part can be attributed to the opposing pitchers and catchers but it also points to his ability to pick his spots and get a good jump. He’s been clocked in the 4.4-4.5 second range to first, but expect his SB numbers to fall as he faces better batteries on the mound and behind the plate. I wouldn’t count him out completely though, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him take advantage of lesser opponents. His agility and athleticism are average and he shows good instincts in the field and a high baseball IQ which makes up for his lack of blazing speed. He gets good reads on the ball from right field and makes the plays you would expect him to along with a few you might be surprised at. His arm is strong and fairly accurate which plays just fine in the right corner. Overall he’s a tick above average at his current position. There have been talks that they could move him back to the hot corner, but the organization agrees that his skills play best in RF.

Makeup:

Like his ability to drive an outside fastball into the cheap seats, his drive and determination does not leave for wanting. Despite his early success Tyler continues to work hard and improve on the previous day. When asked about his 2011 season he had this to say: “I can say I put a lot of extra work in after practices last year, if I wasn’t pleased with my day or past few days. I put in a lot of work….” He is known to be mentally strong and tenacious as well as a leader on the team. He’s willing to put in every bit of work that it takes and so far that work is paying off.

Overall:

There’s really nothing to not like about the guy. He could show a bit more patience at the plate, draw some more walks and strike out less but you can say that about 98% of the guys out there. The good news is that he has the physical tools to allow him to do just that. For him it’s a matter of approach and the ability to make the adjustments as he moves up the levels. Assuming he remains in the OF he grades out as an above average fielder and he certainly has the bat to carry a corner outfield spot. He has the instincts and a high IQ that allows his tools in the field to play up a bit, and that kind of stuff you just can’t teach. A strong makeup has been a focus of the Yankee brass the last couple of years as they feel it allows a player to take things to another level, and Tyler has what they look for. Mike Newman of fangraphs wrote that there is no player in the Yankee system with a higher ceiling, that Austin profiles as a solid average regular with room for a bit more, and that he’s the safest bet to hit for average and power as an every day starter. Despite lacking in certain categories, his acuity and “want” as Jason Parks likes to say, can help carry him to that next level. That big bat he carries doesn’t hurt either. Look for Austin to either start out at or be knocking on the door to Trenton in 2013, on schedule to make an appearance in the majors in 2014.

Saying Goodbye To Boone

Earlier this offseason during a 2013 roster discussion, the subject of the lefties came up, and who we might see during the next campaign. With his last year of arbitration pending, the fate of Boone Logan had become the center of those discussions. These talks have been rekindled, with the Nats filling their roster and the recent availability of Mike Morse, who Washington is said to be looking for a left handed reliever to bring back in a package for Morse. Boone has been a staple in the Yankee bullpen for several years now, and while he’s been the target of fans’ angst at times, he’s served the team fairly well. He hasn’t exactly been a LOOGY when you look at his splits, but he’s posted an ERA in the mid 3’s while posting a solid K/9. He has walked a few too many for most peoples tastes, which is probably the biggest rub on his stat line. One of the reasons his name was brought up in trade talks is that he faced his career high in batters in 2012, and led the league in appearances, which doesn’t take into account all of the times he was warmed up and never made it into the game. I wouldn’t go as far as saying he was Proctor’d, but towards the end of the year I kept thinking I’d get a view of the dugout and see Joe Torre on the bullpen phone calling Boone’s number. Another reason they might look to move Logan is that he’s in his final year of arbitration, and while a few million normally wouldn’t be a hindrance to the front office, these days everything counts. Add in the fact that the Yankees actually have quite a few choices for left handed relief, and you have a recipe for a Logan departure from the BX. Personally, if I’m Washington I’d ask for one of the players to follow, but since Boone has been a topic of discussion for many we’ll stay on that track. Even if Washington is a no go, left handers are a sought after commodity, so if they balk it doesn’t necessarily mean that 2013 will see him in pinstripes.

First on the list is Clay Rapada. He served as the second lefty out of the pen, a luxury we didn’t have the year before. This must have been matchup Joe’s wet dream, and he took every chance he could to utilize them. Clay also took a bit of flak over the course of the year, but it is what it is. Having the greatest ever coming out of the pen for so many years has spoiled the rotten out of Yankee fans for life. Clay isn’t a youngster, he’ll be in his age 32 season and has bounced around the majors for a few years now. What he did in 2012 was pretty impressive though; he posted a 149! ERA+ over 70 appearances (only 38.1 IP) which equated to a 2.82 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and a 4 BB/9, which like Logan is a bit high. Only one of those free passes was labeled as intentional, but I’d be interested in how many of those official walks were right handed hitters that he just stayed off the plate from and didn’t go for the obvious IBB. With all that said, he has a spotty history and a walk rate that you worry about, but he wouldn’t be a bad choice to call on so long as he doesn’t pitch to RHB. In 2012 he only pitched to 33 righties, but got tuned up to an .849 OPS, as opposed to a .518 mark against same handed hitters. LOOGY indeed.

On to the minor leagues there’s a handful of guys that could come north with the team come spring. First off is Cesar Cabral, who was on his way to winning that second spot over Rapada until he ended up getting injured during training camp. Assuming he’s 100% come ST, he could once again make a play for a spot in the pen. Cabral was drafted by the not-much-of-a-rival these days Red sox and had shaky numbers from level to level, but put together a nice spring until the lights went out. He’s another low-cost alternative that would be necessary especially in light of the self imposed budget we all keep dreading. One of our own, Juan Cedeno could be another candidate. Cedeno isn’t a youngster either, he’ll turn 30 this August, and he also had a spotty early career but caught on with NY and pitched in the traveling circus that was the SWB Yankees. Juan threw 64 innings for Scranton, striking out 57 and walking 21 which isn’t too shabby. That was good for 2.81 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. Not exactly blow your house down numbers, but solid none the less.

On to Francisco Rondon, who pitched through three levels with NY this past year, ending with a pair of innings in Scranton. Most of his time was spent in Trenton, where he pitched 63.2 innings, where he struck out 70 but walked 39. His ERA came in just under four in that time, and gave up six home runs, the most of his MiL career. I won’t write the guy off, as he’s not as age advanced as some of these other fellas, but he’s gotta get it figured out soon and get those walks under control. Last but not least is Vidal Nuno, whose performances I looked forward to every week in 2012. He’s not a flashy stuff kinda guy that can mow down hitters with a big FB, he’s not a young top prospect type….he’s a guy who partied a little too hard when he first turned pro, had to turn to the indy leagues, and came back a better, wiser pitcher. He’s got a 4 or 5 pitch mix that he locates well and keeps hitters off balance and controls the plate very well. His FB only sits in the high 80’s (touches maybe 90-91 at times), but he walks very few, 27 BB’s in 114 IP, and struck out 126 in 2012. That’s a K/BB of over 4:1 and an ERA of 2.54 pitching mostly in Trenton. He’s not one that I’d bet on them breaking camp with, but he’ll be in Scranton at some point in 2013 and could be called up if he’s moving along like he has. I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for guys like this. He doesn’t come with the high ceiling tagline, or have dominating stuff but the guy seems like he can just pitch. Being a junkballer you have to be smart to succeed, and I dig that.

In summation, having a cheap bullpen is a great way for them to shed a few million, and with a well stocked farm system in terms of relief they need to get some of these guys some innings before they are forced to. I’d like to see them do that all the way around the roster, partly because I’m looking forward to seeing these kids on the big stage, and partly because I don’t want to see a bunch of shell shocked newbies in 2014 when management no choice but to play them.

The New Wave of Relief

Are relief pitchers the new market efficiency? As new minds and fresh ideas invade traditional, or better put, current baseball sensibility, old customs are tossed aside in favor of statistic driven approaches that are these days less and less taboo. Once oft used batting average has fallen to the wayside in favor of stats that encompass more aspects of offensive production than just “hits”, fielding percentage has been all but forgotten and catchers have been scrutinized recently for their ability (or failure) to create strikes on the fringe of the zone.

This brings us to today’s look at relievers, and a possible trend that could have teams digging through the farm teams, rule 5 draft and even the scrap heap for viable late inning arms. Tampa Bay, who is considered one of the top teams in evaluating and developing pitchers is a great example of executing a low cost revolving door of relievers. We all know Kyle Farnsworth, who fell out of favor in NY only to land down south and give the Rays some quality innings. One of the very best relievers of 2012, 35 year old Fernando Rodney, was by some accounts found in a dumpster somewhere in southern California looking for a job when the Rays pulled him from the abyss and resurrected, nay, created a career for him as a closer. The reigning champion San Francisco Giants lost their 9th inning man to Tommy John surgery, but instead of hitting the panic button they reached from within and rode Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo’s arms all the way to a title.

On to the Yankees, who by every evaluation has had the benefit of having the absolute best closer of all time shutting the door for the last decade and a half. That has, however come at a cost, topping out at 15M per season the last several years. Now I’m not going to make the case that Mariano hasn’t been worth his weight in gold… no one has ever put up the kind of numbers he has over such a period of time, and none of us are likely to see it again. Paying for past performance is not uncommon in MLB, and for quite some time Mo was locking down games for a penance, so coughing up the cash these last few years for both present and past accomplishments is not by any stretch a raw deal. Mo will make at least one last run at a title after taking a small pay cut but still a sizeable amount. Moving forward however, and with a budget minded front office at the helm the team will need to look within to help hit that self imposed mark. Gone will be the days of having 25 million or more tied up in a pair of relievers; when Mo retires, so shall shelling out starter money for one inning thrills. Don’t get me wrong…I’d pay to have another Mariano, but that isn’t going to happen lest Mo Jr. can channel his old man’s greatness. Relievers are the most volatile in the business, and you have to ride the hot hand and know when to fold. With the future of the bullpen in mind let’s take a quick look at who could be sewing up the latter innings over the next few years.

Chase Whitley is probably the closest to landing a job in the Bronx bullpen, as he’s got some significant innings at SWB in 2012 and some solid numbers to go along with it. He started off in Trenton but only hung around for a handful of innings, and then moved on to the traveling circus that was our AAA team. He ended the season with a 3.09 ERA, striking out 66 on the year while walking 25. He held batters to a .207 average as a solid piece to their pen all year. He’s not the flashiest guy in the pen but he’s consistent and can chew up a fair amount of innings. A fairly fast riser, Branden Pinder, skipped Charleston and went right to Tampa in 2012, finishing the year throwing a few innings for Trenton. He threw 69 innings with a 67/29 K/BB, a 2.74 ERA and a .260 average against. Pinder combined with Jose Ramirez for a no hitter earlier this year, and will be looking to push his way to AAA in 2013. He’s another guy that could soak up some middle relief innings if he stays on pace and could be a part of the 2014 bullpen that will no doubt be on a tight budget. Another right handed pitcher that finished his year in Trenton is Tommy Kahnle, who has been reported to light the radar up to triple digits and can rack up the K’s about as well as anyone in the system. He had a bit of a rough go in 2011; while he struck out 112 batters, he walked 49 and got touched up to the tune of a 4.22 ERA. He harnessed a bit more control in 2012 pitching to a 2,37 ERA over 57 innings, walking 24 hitters while striking out 74 and holding them to a .162 average against. Kahnle will be in his age 23 season in 2013 and could well get himself a callup in September and a shot at the ML pen in ’14.

With Boone Logan in his last year of arbitration, now might be the time to sell on him. With a career high in appearances and innings in 2012 and a mix of lefties to choose from for 2013 I’d be looking to include him in any packages that might come up in the coming weeks. Cesar Cabral, impressed in ST earlier this year but ended up on the DL. If he can return to his spring form he might get himself a look. Another option is Juan Cedeno, who has played all over baseball for a number of parent clubs the last ten years put in 64 innings of work and pitched to a 2.81 ERA with a 57/21 K/BB, and a .273 BAA. He got touched up a little during fall/winter leagues dropping to a 3.49 ERA, but to his credit he pitched a lot of innings during the stretch of the year. Last but certainly not least is right hander Mark Montgomery, who has drawn numerous comps to David Robertson. Not only are their K rates both in 14/9 range, but his release point is similar to D-Robs in that his stride brings him closer to the mound, making his low 90’s FB play up a bit in the eyes of the batters. He features a slider that he can change the grip on slightly depending on the handedness of the batter, making it dive away from right handers and sink more like a curveball against lefties. He’s been a fast mover and I know a lot of people are really looking forward to seeing him as soon as possible, but I think he’ll stay stashed away for at least part of 2013. I have Whitley as one of the early callups in case of injury or ineffectiveness, but Montgomery could be soon to follow. This is just a handful of the arms that look to be part of the future NY Yankees bullpen; some will fade and other stars will rise, but the horizon looks pretty good for having the late innings protected, and at a fraction of what we are used to paying.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting

Prospects are like a high school flame…the anticipation of seeing them is almost too much to bear. Some will move away to be coveted by another, once in a while they will turn out to be all that you hoped they would be, and in the end most of them will break your heart. Yankee fans are no stranger to this, having loved and lost a pair of highly touted young players in the last couple of years, watching some fail to reach their potential, and a few that are the object of our new found affection.

Future Hero or Heartbreaker?

Future Hero or Heartbreaker?

What we need to keep in mind is that this isn’t exclusive to the New York Yankees; not every season is going to be like 2010 where there were few injuries and the big names all seemed to take leaps forward. This doesn’t mean that our farm system is without its flaws, its merely a reminder to take a little perspective when viewing our next crop of young players. I recently had a discussion with someone that was unhappy about NY’s first round picks the last ten years or so, which at first thought seemed reasonable. That was, until I pulled up some other teams who by and large are looked at as having great success drafting and developing. What I came up with was a bunch of lists fairly similar to what we’ve seen in the Bronx; aside from the “can’t miss” players that get taken in the first five to ten picks it was a mish mash of reasonable success, outright failures and a whole lot of “what should have beens” that failed to live up to their hype. Again, when taking a look at the big picture and not using Yankee tunnel vision I didn’t see a stark difference between the Yanks’ 1st rounders and the rest of baseball. It’s great to see a players ceiling and start projecting their stat lines their rookie year and beyond, but a ceiling is in now way a guarantee, and in most cases is not likely to be realized.

 One notion that seems to surface often when discussing the current state of our farm system is that it hasn’t produced like the one that fed the glorious dynasty years. There’s no doubt that the system headed by Gene Michael and company turned out some of the greatest Yankees of all time, namely Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera who will likely stroll into the Hall of Fame with much fanfare and little to no doubt that they belong there. Along with two first ballot players that system churned out some others that proved to be the backbone of those teams. Names like Williams, Posada and Pettitte may never see the likes of Cooperstown, but they have certainly made their mark in Yankee lore and cannot go unmentioned. You could argue that one of, if not all three have earned their ticket to the Hall, or maybe have their numbers retired, but that’s a discussion for another day. The point of all this is, while it was fantastic to grow up a Yankee fan watching all of these guys hit the scene and come together to march to victory so many times it has spoiled us a bit and heightened our expectations to unrealistic proportions.

 It comes to no surprise that this next round of prospects, some of which who are climbing the ranks of Baseball America’s top prospect sheets, will be subject to the same lofty and in some cases obscene standards that were set back in the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing better than witnessing the birth of so many illustrious careers, but a little levity needs to be exercised when projecting those same hopes and dreams on the upcoming group of players. With all that said, there are some similarities between the two groups. We have a power hitting offense-first catcher in Sanchez, a pair of lefties in Turley and Banuelos, the former of which has certain comps to Pettitte, a late inning closer with a devastating out pitch in Montgomery, some slick fielding outfielders in Williams and Heathcott and a bat first guy (Austin) that could end up manning a corner spot anywhere on the field. There’s even some serious potential a bit further back in Gumbs who has the potential to shore up another up the middle spot in Yankee Stadium.  

 Despite the lack of players chomping at the bit in Scranton the Yankee farm system has plenty of names to look forward to, but try to gauge your expectations and remember the one that broke your heart back in your grade school days, because it’s bound to happen again….and again, but will inevitably lead to another love affair. This is what makes following these players as they try and make their way to greatness so exciting, and what makes all the heartache worth it in the end.

Filling The Void

With the news of A-Rods latest injury that will keep him on the shelf until midseason at the least, the Yankees find themselves looking to fill yet another void on the field and in the lineup. Without a clear major league ready farmhand ready to step in the team will have to make a choice; roll the dice with a rookie or shop the FA market. Some may point to former pinstriper Brandon Laird, who was let go earlier this year, but with over 100 plate appearances that amounted to an OPS just north of .700 and a glove that was nothing to fawn over I can’t say I’d be kicking myself for letting him walk. The minors aren’t completely barren, and the FA market may provide a player or two that fit the bill so let’s take a look at who could land in the Bronx come next spring.

 Corban Joseph

Of all the players you’ll read about here, Joseph is the least likely to make a stand, but he is the closest minor league player we have in the system. Corban made his way to Scranton in 2012 after playing the first month in Trenton. His average fell off a bit, but his power saw a sizeable increase; his HR total more than doubled his previous season total in only 327 AB’s in AAA while his doubles total stayed on pace. To be fair, Trenton has one of the biggest parks in the league, but with the porch on his side in the Bronx he could continue to flash a bit of pop. He did however, show quite the platoon split for Scranton; his OPS against lefties was a dismal .493 while he absolutely mashed right handers to the tune of a .961 OPS. Of the 40 XBH’s he had in AAA, only five of them came against southpaws, so he’d have to have a platoon partner if he couldn’t get that straightened out. Even so, a left handed bat like that could certainly play in YS3. The big drawback for Joseph, and quite possibly the deal breaker is that it’s been a while since he’s seen time at the hot corner. 2011 was the last time he took the field there, and it was only for a handful of games. The rest of his career has seen him at second or the DH spot, so he’d be an option to fill in for Robbie if the injury bug bites or he needs a day, but the opportunities look to be few and far. I’d put him in the trade bait category, but with Cano’s impending free agency the FO might just want to hold on to him in case the Boras client prices himself right out of the BX.

 David Adams

Once upon a time Adams was on the prospect radar, until he nearly ruined his ankle and spent the better part of two seasons recovering and then getting his game back. Some will recall Adams as the guy that was initially in on the Montero for Lee trade until Seattle pulled the rug out on the deal and ended up taking a package revolved around Justin Smoak of the Rangers system. Adams made his way back to Trenton in 2012 and hit for a .306/.385/.450/.834 slash line while spending the first part of the season manning second and then getting moved to third later in the year. This, coincidentally or not, was right around the time that Alex ended up on the DL again. Adams was then sent to Arizona as part of the Yankee squad to participate in the fall leagues to get some more work in, where he continued to hit and ended his stint in the desert with a .912 OPS. With limited experience at the upper levels, they may not want to put all their money on Adams to run the hot corner in Alex’s place, but he isn’t far away. He hasn’t shown a ton of power in Trenton but he does take his fair share of walks and won’t strike out a ton. He’s also got a decent glove and was said to be making the transition to third well.

 Jeff Keppinger

As I type this, it’s been reported that Keppinger has inked a three year deal with the White Sox. From what I had read the Yanks were willing to go two years, so the third year put them out. Bollocks.

 Kevin Youkilis

It’s difficult not to have an initial emotional reaction when this guys name and the Yankees are mentioned in the same sentence. His incessant whining to the umpires is bad enough, and add in his stupid bat waggle and the fact that I’d be a afraid to see what’s under that goatee and it’s enough to send me running, tearing my hair out at the roots. With that stuff aside and the numbers in front of me, I can’t say that Youk on a one year deal would be a bad thing. He takes his walks, won’t strike out all day and hits for a bit of pop. On the other hand, he fell off quite a bit last year and has been prone to time on the DL, so getting his time at the DH spot and days off might be necessary. He can also man first base, which gives us the backup that we lost in Swisher. If he could get back to an OPS+ in the realm of 120 while fielding a decent glove I’d be in. It might take a daily cocktail of Dramamine, Valium and Makers Mark to get through it, but then again, I’ve done worse.

 Eric Chavez

Chavez has seen limited playing time in pinstripes the last two years, filling the hot corner and standing in as a left handed bat with some pop. We all know Chavez won’t be able to man the position ever day, but he could serve as a solid platoon player that can also play both corners. 2012 was a solid campaign for Chavez that saw him put up a 126 OPS+, hitting 16 HR’s; his hot streak kept the team running down the stretch, and while he did cool off he was a big part of us keeping pace with the pesky Showalters. His playing time increased quite a bit going from 2011-12, and if he could give us 250-300 AB’s I’d sign up for that in a minute. His defense is still very solid and given regular rest he could provide enough of a boost with his bat to run him out there and not sacrifice overall production in a major way.

Fall Leagues Review

The Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game held at the beginning of the month featured three kids from our farm system. Austin Romine, David Adams and Mark Montgomery all made a showing during the AFL’s version of the futures game, and each chipped in in their own way. Adams only had one hit on the night but drove in two on a booming double to start a rally and take the lead in the fourth. He later came around to score in what resulted in a six run outburst by the East. Romine allowed speedster Billy Hamilton to steal second in the opening frame, although he threw a pea that may very well have beaten him to the bag. Hamilton also took third on a delayed steal during the throw back to the mound and would later score, but Romine would even that score by smoking a triple in his first AB and then coming home on a wild pitch.

photo by Jordan Meganhardt

Montgomery came in to pitch the eighth and showed everyone what all the fuss has been about. He did allow a better to reach, although it was on an error at first but aside from that he was perfect. Mark proceeded to strike out the side showing off the devastating slider that has been talked about for many weeks now. He also showed good command of his fastball which he throws to both sides to both lefties and righties. The slider he threw for strikes or buried it off the plate inducing weak contact or embarrassing hacks at thin air. I really can’t see him toiling away in the minors for too much longer looking like this.

Here’s some updates from around the various winter leagues from our more notable prospects:

AFL:

Slade Heathcott – .333/.457/.526/.983  Slade took the player of the week honors after catching on fire and hitting three triples in two games. He then went 6-13 this past week and may possibly take a run at the season MVP. He also showed his tenacity when he went hard into the plate on Saturday for his second collision at home during the fall season.

Austin Romine –  .236/.338/.309/.648 Austin is still shaking the rust off but has shown a bit of patience at the plate, working as many BB’s (9) as K’s.

David Adams – .261/.363/.507/.870 More than half of David’s hits have gone for extra bases thus far, hitting a triple, six doubles and three long balls this fall. He’s spent time playing both second and third.

Mark Montgomery – Has had a couple of fugly games but could be due to his playing time being a bit sporadic. He has a 2.61 ERA over 10.1 IP, has walked 5 and struck out 19, leaving him a WHIP of 0.97

DWL:

Abe Almonte has gotten 15 AB’s but only hit .133/.188/.133/.321 that leaves no extra base hits and one walk. Fellow Almonte Zoilo has only had a single AB having been dogged by injury.
Melky Mesa – .261/.346/.565/.911  A pair of homers, a double and a 3:1 K/BB ratio
Juan Cedeno – Over 13 IP he’s pitched to a 2.08 giving up 4 BB’s while striking out 10.
Kelvin Perez – 5.1 IP 5.06 ERA 0 BB 2 K
Jose Ramirez – 4.50 ERA 8 IP 4 ER, 5 BB, 7 K

VWL:

Ramon Flores – .200/.333/.200/.533  over 10 AB’s
Jose Pirela – .293/.377/.402/.780  over 92 AB’s with a HR, 3B, 5 2B
Vidal Nuno – 1.50 ERA  12 IP, 2 ER, 0 BB, 12 K  0.42 WHIP
Pedro Guerra – 7.50 ERA  6 IP, 5 ER, 6 BB, 3 K

PWL:

Adonis Garcia – .313/.389/.688/.1.076  over 16 AB’s with a pair of home runs
Preston Claiborne – 0 ERA  3 IP, 0ER, 0 BB, 2 K 0 WHIP
Manuel Barreda – 0 ERA  1 IP, 0 ER, BB, k

LMP:

Ronnier Mustelier – .273/.315/.424/.739  4 HR, 3 2B, 13 RBI’s
Jose Figueroa – .278/.350/.278/.628  over 18 AB’s, 2 BB, 5K
Luis Niebla – 2.35 ERA  15.1 IP, 4 ER, 5 BB, 10 K, 1.37 WHIP
Giovanny Gallegos – 6 ERA  3 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1.67 WHIP
Cesar Vargas – 1 ERA  9 IP, 1 ER, 3 BB, 14 K, 1.22 WHIP

2012 Fielding Awards

Last night the Gold Glove awards were announced, and our very own Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano were named to the American League winners. This is Robinson’s 2nd time winning the award (2010) and Tex’s 5th win, previously taking home the trophy in 2005-6 and 2009-10. The Russ bus was nominated for the award, but was bested by Matt Weiters. The full rundown of winners is as follows:
American League:

C-Matt Weiters
1B-Mark Teixera
2B-Robinson Cano
SS-JJ Hardy
3B-Adrian Beltre
P-Jake Peavy, Jeremy Hellickson
LF-Alex Gordon
CF-Adam Jones
RF-Josh Reddick

National League:

C-Yadier Molina
1B-Adam Laroche
2B-Darwin Barney
SS-Jimmy Rollins
3B-Chase Headley
P-Mark Buehrle
LF-Carols Gonzalez
CF-Andrew McCutchen
RF-Jason Heyward

Unlike some previous Gold Glove awards, this list isn’t quite as likely to cause a rash of laptop homicides. Yankee players have been on both sides of the GG travesty; Tino losing out to some guy that barely played the position, Jeter taking top honors two years ago over Asdrubal Cabrera among others and Brett Gardner getting the cold shoulder the previous two seasons come to mind. While there are certainly some snubs here, we’ve seen worse. Most notable on my list would be Mike Trout, but he may have lost some votes for playing another position as well *cough Palmeiro cough*. Brendan Ryan was also overlooked, and lost out to JJ Hardy who put up better dinosaur numbers but fell far short of Ryan’s DRS (27 compared to 18) and UZR (14.7 compared to 11.4). Part of the rub there could well be the hitting component, which somehow seems to creep into the managers and coaches minds when voting in their favorites.

With the GG stuff out of the way, let’s get to what I consider the real defensive player awards, The Fielding Bible Awards, brought to you by Bill James and John Dewan. The FB awards the best nine players, one from each position, regardless of the league they play in using scouting, sabermetrics and their own personal observations to come to their conclusions. The panel consists of  ten experts, including James and Dewan, along with other notables Peter Gammons, Doug Glanville and Joe Posnaski. Below are the winners of the 2012 Fielding Bible Awards, along with some notes pulled from the FB site:

C-Yadier Molina  Yadi lost out last year to the Matt Weiters, but made a comeback to win his fifth FB award. He threw out an outstanding 46% of runners and saved four runs on bunts alone, leaving him with a 16 DRS on the year.

1B-Mark Teixeira  Mark was noted for his superb DRS in both 2003 and 2005; 19 and 13 runs saved respectively. In 2008 he ran up a 21 DRS but lost out to Albert Pujols.

2B-Darwin Barney  In his second year, Barney blew away the field saving 26 runs at second base. Robinson Cano came in second in the voting, postin a 15 DRS on the year to give a little perspective. Barney flat out killed it this year.

SS-Brendan Ryan  This kid is probably one of, if not the best defender in baseball the last few years. His 67 DRS the last three years is the best mark in baseball, and the next highest (Bourn, 51) isn’t even close. As good as that is, had Gardner stayed healthy in 2012 he may have easily beat that.It was Ryan’s .194 average that might have cost him the GG award, but I’d much rather take home the top honor from the FB any day.

3B-Adrian Beltre  This makes Beltre’s fourth FB title, and not without cause. The guy has been amazing for some time now, but 2012 was one of the closest calls with Mike Moustakas nipping at his heels.

P-Mark Buehrle  Still the champ, Mark takes home his fourth consecutive FB award. In nine years, only 42 runners have swiped a base on him, while 48 have been thrown out and another 31 have been picked off by Buehrle. He’s also racked up a 36 DRS in that span. Mark joins Molina and Gordon as unanimous winner in 2012.

LF-Alex Gordon  With the two kings of the LF FB award, Carl Crawford and Brett Gardner out of the mix this year Gordon stepped in to take the title. Similar to Gardner, he lapped the field in 2012 and saved 24 runs on defense with Martin Prado (12) a distant second.

CF-Mike Trout  No snub from the fellas of the FB panel here. Mike Trout would have had a shot at matching Fred Lynn in winning the GG, ROY and MVP in the same year had he not been beat out by Adam Jones. Trout’s incredible range allowed him to make outs on 23 more balls than the average CF’er on plays hit deep. He also robbed four home runs this year, besting Cameron Maybin who swiped three from going over the fence.

RF-Jason Heyward  After coming close to top honors the previous two seasons this is Jason’s first FB award, saving 20 runs on the season. Despite a below overage gun for a right fielder, he’s made between 30 and 40 more plays than average RF’er the last three years.

So there lie the fielding awards for 2012… who are your picks?

Winter Ball Review

Arizona Fall League:
The AFL has been rolling for a couple of weeks now with seven of the requisite Yankees taking part. The AzFL rising stars showcase will feature two of the baby bombers in Mike Adams and hurler Mark Montgomery. The showcase game isn’t so much about the hot hands as it is big names, and the omittion of Slade Heathcott could likely be due to a flush outfield situation.

Dellin Betances, who had fallen from grace earlier this year with a demotion to AA due to a horror show of command may be finding himself pitching into a new role. Dellin was one of those guys who possessed an enormous ceiling, but a low chance of achieving his potential. A move to the pen would put him right where he was pegged to wind up; a lesson for those who set their expectations at the height of possibility and hang from the rafters screaming when it doesn’t happen. Dellin opened the AFL with shades of his MiL performance allowing two runs in 1.2 IP with 2 BB’s and a K, but bounced back in his next two games to pitch 3.2 scoreless innings with 6 K’s while walking only one. If Dellin could find success pitching out of the pen he may just have a future in the BX after all. Fellow right hander Mark Montgomery has continued his dominating of hitters; after allowing a run in his first game Mark has gone on to throw zeroes, totaling 13 K’s in 7.1IP and walking 4. Mark will supposedly get a long look during ST next year and is a strong candidate to join the team at some point in 2013. Zach Nuding and Dan Burawa, who suffered from back issues all year have not fared so well. Zach has allowed 9 runs over 10.2IP, while Burawa has struggled to the tune of a 14+ ERA, allowing 10 runs over 6.1IP. Burawa has some major cobwebs to clear out so maybe this is just a result of not pitching this year.

This brings us to the position players. Both Slade Heathcott and David Adams have gotten off to a rather slow start. Slade is putting up a .200/.364/.200/.564 slash while David a .220/.333/.317/.650 line. The bright points are their defense thus far and the propensity to take their walks; Slade leads the team with 9 free passes (11 K’s) while Adams has taken 7 (4 K’s) so far. Austin Romine has had a nice start to the short season. After missing nearly all of the year for SWB, Romine leads the Scorpions in both OBP and BA (minimum 20 PA) while commiting zero errors along with a 6/7 K/BB rate. We’re talking 41 or fewer AB’s for these guys so the small sample size warning is in full effect.

Quick rundowns of the other action:

Domican Winter League:

Relievers Juan Cedeno and Kelvin Perez have gotten off to a good start in the DR; Cedeno throwing 4.1IP and allowing zero runs on four hits with a pair of K’s and a BB. Perez has gone 2.1IP while giving up zero runs on 2 hits. He also has a pair of K’s and a BB. Jose Ramirez has only gotten into one game pitching 2 scoreless innings giving up two hits with a BB and a K. Lefty Francisco Rondon has recorded two outs thus far yielding a hit with no ER’s, BB’s or K’s. Zoilo Almonte has seen next to no playing time appearing in one game recording a strikeout in one AB. I haven’t seen anything about an injury but I update if anything comes up. Melky Mesa is our other position player in the Dominican, going 6-23 with 5 runs scored, a double, two HR’s, 3 BB’s and 9 K’s. Still hacking away but at least he’s producing.

Mexican League:
This has been, and still is Ramiro Pena’s world for the last few years. The kid always seem to mash down here. Granted it’s generally considered a hitters league, but it’s still a kick to see Pena put up video game numbers. So far he’s 13-36 on the year with 5 doubles, 2 HR, 5 RBI’s with 7 BB’s and a SB, and this is a down year for him. Mustelier joined Ramiro in the Mexi League and has gone 13-50 hitting 3 doubles, a pair of homers and drove in 7. He’s also K’d ten times while walking only twice. Not the average you’d expect but it’s still a small sample we’re looking at here. Walt Ibarra rounds out the bats and has been a bit chilly thus far. He’s 6-28 with a home run and a RBI.

On the pitching side, Gio Gallegos got a scoreless inning in, allowing one hit, striking out one and walking nobody. Felipe Gonzalez has pitched and ugly 3.1 innings allowing 3 runs on 3 hits with 4 BB’s and 2 K’s.  Luis Niebla has gotten the most work; 9 innings of two run ball over 4 games. He’s struck out 4 and walked 3. Cesar Vargas rounds out the arms pitching 3.2 innings allowing zero runs on three hits. He’s racked up 7 K’s while walking only one.

 Venezuelan Winter League:
Utility man Jose Pirela leads the hitters in the VWL, so far he’s at 17-54 scoring 9 runs with 4 doubles and a HR. He’s drawn 9 BB’s and K’d 9 times. He also has a pair of stolen bags and two HBP. Gus Molina has gone 8-37 with 6 runs scored along with a double and five! HR’s, driving in eight. Lot’s of taters. Fellow catcher Jose Gil has played in 6 games hitting a stone cold 3-17 with a run, an RBI and 4K’s. Ramon Flores has also seen a bit of action, playing in 6 games so far going 2-9 with 2 runs scores, a BB, a K and a HBP. Francisco Arcia and Ali Castillo have seen very limited action with a lone hit between them.

Left hander Vidal Nuno has made it to the hill in 5 games, pitching 8.2 innings of 0ER ball on 2 hits with zero walks and nine K’s. Jon Meloan has seen 5.2 innings of work, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, walking a pair and striking out six. Pedro Guerra has 6IP under his belt thus far and allowed 5 runs on 9 hits, walking 6 and striking out only 3, as well as giving up a pair of HR’s. Not exactly characteristic of Guerra.

The Puerto Rican League will be under way in just over a week; it sounds like both Angelo Gumbs, who missed significant time with an elbow injury earlier this year will be joined by Adonis Garcia. We should have some further roster updates by next weeks reviews of the Winter Leagues.

Year in Review: LF/C

It’s come that time time to look back at the club and assess the good, bad and the ugly. Unfortunately we don’t have to put this off until November, but it is what it is. I can however avoid typing this with a heavy heart, as last night the Big Panda wiped the smirk off of Justin Verlander’s face and too-many-homered his way to beating the Tigers in game one of the WS. I’ll admit I carry a bit of bias towards SF after my stint in the Bay Area, and a slice of redemption tasted rather good after watching the Tigers take advantage of my stone cold Yankees and some incompetent umpires. Rant over, on with the show.

We’ll start out in left field, which was a microcosm of the SWB Yankees, in that it was a revolving circus for much of the year. Raul Ibanez’ PS heroics and Andruw Jones’ past gold gloves aside, it was indeed Barnum and Bailey when it came to defense out there. I suppose it doesn’t help when you’re following up a guy who lapped the field in defensive metrics the previous two seasons and ran away with the Fielding Bible Awards, but I digress.  First up is Andruw Jones; a shell of his former glorious self. There was a time that Andruw was one of the absolute best defenders in baseball history at his position. Alas, those days are well behind him, and this year his bat went on hiatus as well. Andruw ended the year with a slash line of .188/.291/.422/.712  Yikes. Granted those numbers were on the back of a .181 BABIP, but when you hit nothing but fly balls and roll over on weak grounders your average on balls in play is going to stink. The only saving grace for Andruw is that when he does get ahold of one it’s a no doubt see ya later bomb. Unfortunately there weren’t many of those and over the course of a full season he would have challenged Kurtis Kranderson for the leader in K’s. It recently came out that he was ailing from a lingering injury to his hand, but please, if he wants to play another four years let it be somewhere else.

On to Raul Ibanez; who was our hero many times over this October. While I will never forget his amazing efforts to keep us in the series’, there were some flaws to his game. To be fair to both Raul and Andruw, these guys weren’t hired to be the platoon LF’er, and it started to look as if the time in the field may have taken it’s toll on them. Raul started to fall off the map in the second half as well until some guy named Ichiro showed up in the Bronx. A second half swoon isn’t all that surprising from a 40 year old that had put up a decent workload, and if we could have kept him off the field his overall numbers might have looked a little better. Either way, a final line of .228/.302/.414/.716 was pretty bleak, but he managed quite a few timely hits both in the beginning of the year and of course to cap it all off. He’ll go down as putting up one of the greatest post-season performances of all time (5th highest in PS history per WPA) and he had the stadium rocking like crazy, but I would call it his swan song in NY.

Last up for the major LF contributors is Ichiro! One of the biggest surprise trades of the year, Ichiro was revived after a long and fruitless career in Seattle. His speed and defense were a breath of fresh air; something we had been certainly missing since the loss of Gardner. His splits in Yankee Stadium had always been strong, and in spite of falling numbers the last two seasons there was some hope that a change of scenery and the hope of October baseball would put a spring back in his step. Ichi did come around, and ended the second half with a .311/.332/.382/.694 slash line. His BABIP did jump over 50 points, so you could chalk his spike in performance up to a bit of luck, but results are results no matter how they come. As far as bringing the rockstar back, my contention is that he’d make a great fourth OF’er; a guy who could sub any OF position, start once in a while and come in for a defensive upgrade assuming the new RF’er was more bat than glove.

Now on to the catcher position. Starting off with the backup Chris Stewart, who came to NY via San Francisco. I’ll admit i’m not much of a fan of trading a viable bullpen arm for a position that we already have filled, but that’s for another day. Even as a mere backup Stewart never really impressed me. By the eye test his defense was OK but nothing spectacular. On the offensive side I swore he was trotting around with a horseshoe in his pocket. Where Martin had given the finger to the BABIP gods, Stewart was apparently sacrificing chickens in the locker room for them. Hit after hit was finding holes and bouncing off of infielders gloves. Occasionally he’d run into one and get it into the OF but those times were few and far between. His final line of .241/.292/.319/.611 is a bit above his limited career totals and not very promising. As far as a return to the BX, I suppose i’d bring him to camp and see what happens. Really it hinges on Romine, who missed most of 2012 with back injuries and is now playing in the AFL to get some work in. If he’s healthy then Stewart should be traded/released. Not sure what, if any return could be had there but I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.

This leaves us with our starting catcher. The Russ bus started out the season chugging along at his usual pace, at one point ranked in the top third of AL catchers in wOBA, but the wheels came off getting deeper into the season and his average plummeted below the Mendoza line. Russ did manage to turn things around down the stretch; at that point recovering his BA was not in the cards but getting some big hits and driving in runs was enough for some of us anyway. In spite of a lack of hits, he still took his walks and hit for a career high HR total. He ended up with a .211/.311/.403/.713 line and an OPS+ of 92, a bit below league average for all hitters. In terms of wOBA ranked against AL catchers only, Martin came in with a .316 mark and a 95 wRC+. That leaves him ranked 10th in the AL, which in spite of slugging over 20 HR’s is still on the worng side of average. The good news is that he’s pretty solid behind the dish, and the Yanks ended up as one of the best teams in terms of actual vs. expected strikes. This all has to do with pitch framing, a subject that Mike Fast first covered and recently Jeff sullivan over at fangraphs expanded on in his article “Getting and not getting the calls”. Getting ten extra strikes per 1000 pitches may not seem like much, but they do add up over the course of a season with ~26K pitches thrown, and when you consider the difference between your pitcher having to get three outs an inning vs. four, it can easily mean the difference between a win and a loss. Overall Martin was underwhelming, but that may allow the Yankees to buy low on a one year deal hoping that Russ will want to try and get his value up fora multi-year contract. It would give the Yankees time to evaluate guys like Romine and even allow JR Murphy another year to adjust to AA and possibly push his way to Scranton. I wouldn’t be opposed to a one year offer that gives us a buffer, but anything more than that is pushing it.

The WWGD Narrative

There are plenty of things to love about New York. Wether it’s real pizza, salt bagels (or biali’s if that’s your style), The Met, Broadway or Bronx baseball, the city that never sleeps can fulfill every vice. Another area that there’s certainly no shortage of is media coverage, for better or for worse. This brings us to the sportswriters of NY and all of their lovely narratives. From the idea that the Yankees can’t hit good pitching or guys-they’ve-never-seen, to too many home runs and various wild observations about the third baseman that everyone loves to hate, our not so freindly neighborhood press box covers it all. Their conconctions aren’t pulled entirely out of thin air; in fact they have their toes dipped in the shallow end of the reality pool which draws just enough blood to attract the sharks. Enter my favorite NY media hustle which almost gaurantees a stir with the fanbase: WWGD or better known as “what would George do?”

This one is by far my favorite. Let’s be clear first; George Steinbrenner is one of my favorite Yankees. His penchant for winning and putting his own money up to do it was what brought our beloved franchise back from the CBS graveyard. He was a major proponent of free agency and did whatever he thought necessary to bring the title back to the Bronx. He was outspoken and ostentacious. He loved his team more than anyone, but let’s be fair; he didn’t always make rational and informed decisions. Alas, over the last couple of years the idea that “George would have fixed this” comes up every time something goes wrong. This my friends, is revisionist history at it’s finest. George’s knee-jerk reactions are hardly a way to build long term and the risidual effect of that might be shadowed onto outbidding yourself on a contract for a guy who just tried to walk away from your club. A move of desperation that was not all that unfamiliar. That’s exactly what George would have done, yet it gets swept under the rug so the narrative can be continued and articles written.

I’ll always be grateful to GWS for saving the team and bringing them back to glory, but it came at a price. The “World Series or bust” attitude is fine for the players…in fact I wouldn’t want it any other way, but as for us fans it’s created a half baked reality that leads to a lot of disappointment, vitriol and all out hatred torwards players and management when the season doesn’t end in a parade. The dynasty of the 90’s does nothing but add more fuel to the fire; any time an argument is made that the playoff structure makes it incredibly difficult to repeat over and over the dynasty is brought in to the fold. Let’s be real folks, what happened back then was incredible and while it’s a great goal to have to expect that to happen every decade is a recipe for a let down. Fans that have reached that level of expectation for each and every season are due for a reality check, and if you are under the impression that if George were here and how a new dynasty would be taking hold of New York, think about where he was when the last one was being molded.

The 2012 Yankees were one of the biggest offensive forces in baseball over the course of 162 games, yet they went cold at the worst possible time. New narratives are being born as I type this aricle and will certainly be the focus of the hot stove season. I really can’t tell you why they sputtered or how (and better yet, if it’s even possible) to go about finding players that are sure fire performers in October. One thing I will bet on is that there will be plenty thrown about this winter, and my money says the ideas that get tossed around the shallow end of the pool will be based more on feeding off the emotions of the fanbase more than ideas born of rational thinkers.

Too Many Homers

Only this time it wasn’t on the diamond….

The TBS booth was something special last night, for an Orioles fan. I get bringing Cal Ripken into the booth seeing as this is the first time the Birds have been in the postseason in many many years, but how about a little balance up there? I don’t think it’s any bit of a stretch that Smoltz is still a little bent about the Yanks sending him packing back in the 90’s, and it shows in the commentary. A little bit of balance would have been nice to hear; how about Tino or Paulie to go back and forth with Rip? Is that too much to ask? The saving grace was that our Yankees came out on top, sparked by Russell Martin, who was greeted with cheers after barely ducking a fastball to the helmet. In that moment when his shot to left went over the fence you could hear a collective sigh both from the broadcast booth and the stadium. Speaking of the stadium… where did all that orange come from? My guess is they bussed a bunch of extras in from the nearest correctional facility, and judging from the applause at the near beanballs to Martin and A-Rod i’d be right. Their silence as Jim Johnson was smacked around by the Bombers in the ninth was deafening and Yankee fans everywhere loved every minute of it.

Speaking of home runs…

The two most homer-happy teams in the league went head to head and launched only one in the hitter friendly Camden Yards in the series opener, courtesy of the guy who had been DFA’d by nearly every Yankee fan at some point this season. Kudos to the Russ-Bus; the guy has had a few tasty hits this year and has accounted for the only two walk-off hits off the year, both of which left the yard. The Yanks put numbers on the scoreboard in a variety of ways; they got hits, they went deep and even sacrificed a man in from third. I love seeing the opposing pitchers head jerk back like a human Pez dispenser, but it’s cool to see them cross home plate in a variety of ways. RISPFail haunted the home dugout last night and the Yankees sailed on to victory.

Not an ace….

The Big Man came through last night and showed everyone why he gets paid the big bucks. 8.2 innings and two runs against a team that has found a way to win for 183 games, and he did it in style. Over the last few starts (4ER 24IP before last night) CC has found his changeup and he and Martin used it effectively last night, working out of some big jams and keeping the O’s lineup off balance and in check. While it may not have seemed like it at the time, his time on the DL may end up being a good thing. CC is in the midst of a low in innings pitched in several years now, and has had just enough time to get sharp for the October run. Buck had a lineup full of righties out there to try and get the best of Sabathia, but with his change and a nasty slider coupled with excellent fastball command, the Birds never stood a chance.

Baby Bombers…

Baseball America has been releasing their top 20 lists for the various MiL levels and there are some familiar faces making the cut. The trio of Sanchez, Austin and Williams all made the cut for the SAL, and Sanchez and Austin both made another appearance on the FSL list along with Slade Heathcott and Nik Turley. Tyler and Gary came in at 8 and 9, while Slade and Nik took the 17th and 18th spots. Jose Fernendez of the Fish and Gerrit Cole took the top honors. Heathcott has drawn praise from opposing managers as an exciting player and a real gamer, his only real drawback being his durability. His go-for-broke style of play should probably be scaled backa bit if he expects to protect that shoulder of his, which has seen two operations thus far. His tools give him a high ceiling, but his health concerns keep his floor somewhat low. He’ll get his cuts in the AFL this year, which starts very shortly.

A Yankee Legend returns to the big stage…

Andy Pettitte‘s return to the mound happened months ago, but let’s be honest… this is what we’ve all been waiting for. Andy will make his first October start since game 3 of the 2010 ALCS and his first against the Birds since 1996. Andrew Eugene has logged more than a full season of innings in playoff action; 263 to be exact, with a 173/72 K/BB ratio and 3.83 ERA. Andy won’t go down as the most dominant pitcher to grace the big stage, but you can count on him to give you his best. Even when he doesn’t have everything working the man will battle and give his team a chance to win the game.  He’ll be battling fellow southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, who has stumbled a bit down the stretch, ending the season with 192.2 IP and a 4.02 ERA, 105 ERA+ and 1.261 WHIP.

Qustions have been raised about wether or not Pettitte will return in 2013, as his year had been cut short by an unfortunate line drive that fractured his ankle and cost him nearly three months of the regular season. Andy went on to say: “I know the competition and the desire to compete is still there, and I don’t feel like I kind of got that itch out from the 70 innings or so that I threw this year. I was expecting to do a little more work than that. But we’ll see. We’ll see how this goes, and then i’ll factor everything probably in”. At this point in the year however, focus is in one place, and that’s on his next start. Tonight Andy will be going for his 20th win in the post season, an MLB record.

Awards: MOY & AL MVP

Chicks dig the long ball

Traditionalists love RBI’s and there are those that believe that Batting Average is king. These are the statistics make up what we know as the lauded triple crown. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get excited about a set of dated, arbitrary numbers. While RBI’s are necessary for a team to put up wins, the key word here is “team”. Driving runs in, while rather important, is dependent on having runners on the bases. Should we knock a player for not having as many opportunities as another? I’m much more interested in a players overall production, and if you want to talk how many runners a player brings across home plate, let’s a least look at it in a runs per opportunity standpoint. Rate stats take counting stats out of the vacuum, and to me are much more valuable. As for batting average, well, I have a hard time putting too much emphasis on a stat that treats a triple the same as a single and ignores the free pass altogether. Granted, a hit isn’t always as good as a walk, but it shouldn’t be discounted altogether. Look, I realize we haven’t seen a triple crown winner since forever and a day, but the aura and mystique of the TC just doesn’t do it for me.

On to the award…. It’s a safe bet that after hitting his way into the history books, Miguel Cabrera is going to take home the MVP.  Even though we’ve seen recently that writers are finally emerging from the dark ages by awarding the CY Young award to the best pitcher, and not the one with the big Win totals, I have little faith that they will be able to overcome the excitement of an accomplishment that is based on archaic achievements. As far as offense is concerned, that shiny triple crown should mean that Miggy was the best offensive producer in the league right? Nope. Enter Mike Trout and some numbers that mean a little more as they take into account a lot more than just how many hits per AB’s or how many times you drove a runner in. Trout, in his first full season as a major leaguer, went ahead and led the league in OPS+ (170), wOBA (.421), wRC+ (174) as well as batting runs contributed (57.2) not to mention adding 6.8 runs in value on the basepaths which in part can be attributed to stealing 48 bags in 48 attempts. His 4 CS matched Miggy’s actual stolen base total, to give some comparison.

I know some of these new-fangled numbers get certain people in a tizzy, but it’s time to get over it. We’re not in the 50’s anymore; hell, even Branch Rickey was ahead of his time and would be smiling right now while we debate the 2012 MVP. It’s time we started to take a closer look at how players produce runs, and how they contribute to their team, not to mention the realization that not every park or division allows an equal opportunity. This is where adjusted statistics come in handy. If you’re facing better overall pitching or playing in a ballpark that supresses runs, you should get credit for it. Plain and simple.

Now on to the other side of the ball, one that some seem to have forgotten about. For any of you that have seen Trout shagging balls in the outfield you know that he’s pretty good. OK, he’s awesome. There’s really no other way to describe it. By UZR he’s 22.5 runs better than Miggy. If that’s not your bag, and I really can’t blame you as even the creators of said statistic caution that the number of plays made in a single year can be skewed by statistical noise, then go with DRS, which has Trout at 29 runs better than his counterpart, good for 3 wins on the year. The rebuttal comes in the form of number of errors and fielding percentage, but please, you can’t commit an error on a ball you couldn’t get to. More archaic stats that should be on their way to the tarpits with the rest of the dinosaurs. In a nutshell, on the defensive side Cabrera couldn’t hold Trouts jock if he drove a dumptruck.

During the melee of debates i’ve been approached with several arguments outside of the numbers so i’d like to address those as well. First we had Jim Leyland talking about how Miggy has done this year after year and how Trout has the flavor of the year vibe going that should be taken with a grain of salt. Hold on there Jimmy; if you want to talk lifetime achievment awards save the speech for five years after he retired. If you want to make up for getting snubbed in the past save the pity party. I’ve been watching two first ballot HOF’ers for years that could have/should have seen an MVP or a CY Young award; that doesn’t mean I think they should get it for coming close years later. I’ve also heard the “he switched positions debate”, which is nice and all but it’s not like he’s never played the hot corner or that he was giving up first base for some schlub. Players do this all the time; it’s not like he saved a child from a burning building or donated a kidney to his dying cousin. Last of all is the playoff argument. This one is the most ludicrous of all. The Tigers won less games than six other teams and still clinched a spot in arguably the weakest division in the American League. Take Detroit and put them in the West, and put LA in the Central and dollars to doughnuts says that LA is in the PS this year while Miggy and company is gearing up for golf. Even better, put Miguel on the Halos and Mike over in Detroit; money says that LA still misses the playoffs while the Tigers not only clinch the Central, but do it a week sooner.

At the end of the day, Mike Trout had an amazing season and deserves to be recognized as the leagues, if not the games most valuable player. He’s put up amazing production backed by elite defense at a premium position. There is no doubt that Miggy is a great hitter. If you want to recognize him for it fine, give him the Hank Aaron Award, throw him a parade, erect a bloated statue in the middle of Motor City for all I care, but he has no business being named the MVP. That belongs to the guy that does it all; he hits, he steals, he robs home runs and breaks hearts. He’s Mike Trout, the deserving candidate for the AL’s Most Valuable Player.

Give Joe a little credit

I wanted to take a hot minute and give some props to Joe G. I have, especially the last couple of weeks been critical of him at times this year. OK, it started in game one when he tried to get cute with the Rays and it bit him in the face. He’s made some head scratchers this year for sure, but I realize that no matter who is in that dugout there will be times when the :facepalm: comes about. In the big picture though I have to hand it to him. The Yankees saw a bunch of injuries and times where the players just weren’t cutting it.

A managers job is to put his team in the best position to win, and after that it’s on the players to take over and do their jobs. They haven’t always done that this year. Sure, we can look back at some games and blame Girardi; he looks like a genius when things work out and an idiot when they don’t. After losing a HOF closer and an all world defensive LF’er for the year, two of the top starters from the rotation for weeks, a setup man, first and third baseman, epic collapse of his MRP and some other bumps and bruises Joe held it together pretty well.

Now i’m not saying he should or will get top honors in the MOY award, but he certainly dserves to be in the fray. Buck and Miley have done an excellent job with their rescpective clubs, but so has Joe. He has the payroll advantage no doubt, but he’s also achieved first place in a tough division amongst a ton of injuries all the while being under the microscope the entire time. Well done on the part of the skipper… no just don’t muck it all up in October 🙂

Prospect Profile: 2B Corban Joseph

Vitals: Born 10/28/1988  Ht/Wt: 6′ 0″  180 lbs.  Bats: Left  Throws: Right  Drafted in the 4th round (140th overall) in 2008 and signed for a $207,000 bonus

Numbers: Corban made his debut in 2008 in the Gulf Coast League and got off to a rocky start, but managed to finish the year with 159 AB’s and hitting to the tune of a .277/.359/.434/.793 line, good for a .359 wOBA and 118 wRC+. His plate discipline was already apparent as he walked 10.9% of the time while striking out at a 13.1% clip. The following year he played for the RiverDogs, and saw his isolated power (ISO) take a slight dip, but increased his batting average to .300. This brought his wOBA up to .368 and his wRC+ up to 130 despite the drop-off in HR’s. After another promotion in 2010 Jospeh maintained his batting line in Tampa which prompted another bump up the ladder, landing him in Trenton at the age of 21. He scuffled a bit in his first 130 PA’s in Trenton, and hit to the tune of .216/.305/.342 with a .298 wOBA and 79 wRC+.

In his first full season playing for the Thunder Corban turned his performance around settling in to hit for a .277/.353/.415/.768 batting line with a .346 wOBA and 113 wRC+. While his average dropped a bit in AA from his previous highs in A-ball, his walk rate remained solid at a 10.5% clip, and his BB/K rate was very similar to his previous season where he walked 58 times and struck out in 107 AB’s. He started out the 2012 season repeating AA, but that didn’t last long; after just 23 games he was sent to AAA where he continued to show off his ability to control the zone as well as realize a spike in power. He put up his best overall numbers, a .374 wOBA and 133 wRC+ along with a 13.7% walk rate and 14.8% K rate. His ISO took a big leap, going from a ~.130 over his previous 4 seasons to a .208, hitting 25 doubles and 13 home runs, both career highs.

Skills: After reviewing the raw data, the thing that jumps out the most is his ability to work the count and look for a pitch to drive. If it’s not there Joseph will gladly take his base. I’ve seen it mentioned that Corban is one of the systems best pure hitters; between his plate discipline and his quick compact swing and his ability to drive the ball to the gaps, the only thing that was missing was a power stroke. That became apparent in his 2012 campaign as he bested his career power numbers. He wasn’t hitting the “just enough” home runs either; this kid can put a hurt on the ball. Earlier this season he recorded one of the longest home runs playing in LeHigh Valley. He also hits a ton of line drives, ranging between 19-22% in his minor league career. The onset of power, his already excellent ability to choose his pitch and make solid contact along with a high line drive rate bode well for a major league career.

On the other side of the plate is where Joseph falls short. While he does have good athleticism and arm strength for the position, he lacks that quick first step and reaction times for a second baseman. He’s spent the majority of his tenure at second, but has also been positioned at 3B, as well as LF, possibly in the hopes that he can be used as a utility player for the big club as second base is currently occupied in the BX. While he may never be an above average defender, his bat could more than make up for an up the middle guy. Corban doesn’t possess incredible speed and will never be a stolen base threat, but he’s good enough on the bags that he isn’t a liability either.

Overall: Drafted as a shortstop and quickly moved to second base, Co-Jo will never amaze anyone with his glove; it’s his bat that will carry him to the majors and from what i’ve seen so far that’s a real possibility. One of the things I noted in researching Corban was his work ethic and his neverending pursuit of improving himself at the plate. It’s one of those “skills” i’ve come to value rather highly; you can’t teach certain things, and #want is one of them. He’s been known to spend hours in the video room looking for ways to improve at the plate, and preparing for his next matchup.

With second base likely locked up for several seasons by some guy named Robinson Joseph will end up a utility player or trade bait in the next year or two, barring injury or the slight chance that the Yankees let Cano walk. If by rare chance Cano does leave the Bronx, Joseph could find himself manning the position alone, or as a dangerous end of a platoon split with David Adams. He absolutely raked against righties this past season, posting a .299/.401/.560/.961 line hitting all of his HR’s (13) against opposite handed pitchers. He also walked more than he struck out (43/38), which is pretty awesome. A five time All Star between the MiL org. lists, EAS, FSL and SAL, Corban made a big step forward by adding power to his already impressive work at the plate. He likely won’t be in line for any Gold Gloves or turning heads over at The Fielding Bible awards, but his stick should be enough to carry him through a big league career. Afull time future in the Bronx would certainly be dictated by what happens with Cano, but a possible utility role is not out of the question. If not the hope is that he could bring a decent return in trade, as his skill set could net him a sarting job elsewhere.