E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He lives and works in Washington, DC.

Author Archives: EJ Fagan

Why I’m Bullish on the Yankee Farm System

Yesterday, I decided to jot down a quick ranking of Yankee prospects. I was trying to think about how good Greg Bird was. Bird is an interesting prospect. People often (overly) fixate on his high on base percentage at Charleston this year, and write his skill set off as a walking machine. But given the ballpark (90 run factor, 92 home run factor), and his age (20, with less than a full season of experience), Bird’s 20 home runs in 127 games is pretty impressive. He is only going to get stronger, and there aren’t a lot of tougher power environments than Charleston. Bird is a very solid prospect with lots of major league potential.

But where is he in the Yankee farm system? Here are the players that I knew clearly ranked above Greg Bird: Sanchez, Heathcott, Austin, Williams, Murphy, Judge, Jagielo, Clarkin, Banuelos and Hensley. On top of them, I could see a case that I’d rather have any of DePaula, Andujar, O’Brien, Ramirez, Katoh and Turley over Greg Bird.…

Read more

Rebuild, Not Reload

All offseason rumors point to a Yankee reload. You know by now: they’ve been connected to Beltran, Tanaka, etc, while also potentially resigning one or all of Cano, Granderson, and Kuroda.

I get it. They’re the Yankees! The solution to every poor-ish season they’ve had since 2001 was the same: go out and buy the best...

Read more

3 Yankee Major Advantages in the Tanaka Bidding

Most baseball sources seem to agree that Masahiro Tanaka is a really good player. He may be Darvish-level, he may not be. But he’s 24 years old, dominant, and headed for the MLB posting process. Every team in baseball would love to have him on their team. A lot of teams, including the Yankees, are planning on bidding on him through the posting process. Instead of a more efficient auction, Japanese teams make sure the bidding is blind, in order to force prices up. Every team interested in Tanaka’s services is right now deciding how much they value exclusive negotiating rights with the young star.

Assuming every team values Tanaka’s talent the same (who knows what each scout is saying), the Yankees should value exclusive negotiating rights higher than any other team. Here’s why:

Higher Value per Marginal Win

In a purely profit-seeking world, teams value marginal wins at the amount of revenue each brings in. So, a team with a smaller revenue base (like, the Rays) gets a smaller revenue increase for each marginal win that they add.…

Read more

The Yankee Farm System Collapse in 1 Chart

When I first started blogging about minor league baseball in 2006, the most common narrative about the Yankee farm system went something like this:

“After the late-dynasty era that produced Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano, the Yankee farm lay barren from 1998-2003. Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang were the first two prospects to break the ceiling, but true change came that same year, when Brian Cashman was handed more control over the Yankee organization. The team started putting large resources into the farm system. The result was that a tremendous amount of talent was infused into the system in 2006, and the Yankees became one of the best farm systems in baseball.”

I think that the perception among a lot of Yankee fans is that people who wrote about the Yankee farm system, like me, were blowing smoke. We either bought into the hype or created hype out of thin air. While I’d argue that the Big 3 (Hughes, Joba, Kennedy) were actually pretty successful as prospects, there is no doubt that there has been quite a lot of disappointment in the Yankee farm system since 2006.…

Read more

There’s Still Hope! (And Not Just For the Yankee Postseason)

The Yankees may or may not make the postseason. The answer is probably not. Right now, I’m much more concerned with my favorite late-season possibility: the three-way tie.

We all remember some of the classic playoff tiebreaker games. But we’ve never had a three-way tiebreaker. That scenario used to be pretty amazing, but the new wildcard system has made it even crazier.

If three teams finish with the same record for the two wild card spots, the following happens:

In a situation where there is a three way tie between non division winners and there is no other non division winner with a better record claiming wild card 1; a tiebreaker eliminating 1 of the 3 teams will follow. Based on a group head to head record. Teams A, B and C will be created. Team B will travel to team A. The winner wins wild card one. The loser will go to team C. The winner of that game wins wild card two.

Read more

Comprehensive 30-Team Farm System Hitting Environment Rankings: Yankees Dead Last

Yesterday, I posted about the top-12 pivotal Yankee prospects for 2014. One of my observations was that a lot of Yankee hitting prospects are underrated due to the harsh hitting environments that they play in. This prompted Norm to comment,

I’ve read this several times here, that many of the ballparks the farm teams play in are “bad hitting environments”. Charleston has been mentioned several times. Can someone explain what that means, and why these parks aren’t conducive to hitting?

The difficulty of Yankee minor league hitting environments is something that I’ve been asserting for awhile, but without a whole lot of perspective. It may be bad, but how bad? I didn’t really know the answer. So, I decided to find out.

Using Statcorner’s minor league park factors for left and right-handed batters and Baseball Reference’s data for runs allowed per game in each 2013 full-season minor league, I created an index. Half of the index is weight based on home ballpark factors, the other half is weighted for average number of runs scored in each league, compared with the other leagues at the same minor league level.…

Read more

The 12 Pivotal Yankee Minor League Players of 2014

Under every possible interpretation of the events of the past season, 2013 was a huge disappointment for the Yankee farm system. The organization ended the 2012 with four bang-out awesome hitting prospects, lots of interesting supporting players, and a few star pitching prospects. Several disappointing-but-not-busted performances, two surgeries, three breakouts, and an influx of new talent add up to a lot of potential inflection points in 2014.

Few relative good bets alongside as much raw talent as the Yankee system has ever held broadens the range of possibilities for the Yankee farm system. A fortunate year could vault the Yankees into a top-5 organizational ranking, and start to generate the next cohort of Yankee stars. An unfortunate year could doom the MLB team to years of declining veteran production without reinforcements.

I’m calling these guys the top 15 pivotal Yankee farm hands for next season. In my head, I’m defining these guys as the 12 guys who could end up as top-100 prospects in all of baseball by the end of 2014.…

Read more

Seriously, now the Yankees decide to spend money?

The Yankees are about to acquire Alfonso Soriano. They will pay some significant portion of the $25 million remaining on his contract, but will structure the deal so the deal costs them nothing in luxury tax next season. Great! The Yankees need bats, and being right-handed doesn’t hurt. Alfonso will immediately become the 2nd or 3rd best hitter in the Yankee lineup, even though he’s basically an average MLB hitter right now.

But god damn, this makes me angry. The Yankees are already spending $11.5 million on Vernon Wells this season. They are now deciding to open the piggy bank again to take on another salary dump, and spend likely about the same money on Alfonso Soriano. Let’s use a round number and say that the Yankees are spending $20 million on both.

If Hal Steinbrenner knew nine months ago that he was willing to open up and spend an additional $20 million on one horrible baseball player and one deeply flawed baseball player, how the hell was he not able to spend a little bit of money on Russell Martin, Nate Schierholtz, Eric Chavez, or whomever?…

Read more

Mason Williams Hasn’t Been Bad This Season

It’s safe to say that 2013 has been a poor season for the Yankee farm system. They’ve had a few muted breakouts (Rafael DePaula, JR Murphy, O’Brien) coupled with quite a lot of stalled momentum from the 2012 season (Williams, Austin, Heathcott, Sanchez, Montgomery), and some decent work down low.

Depending on who you talked to, Mason Williams was the top Yankee outfield prospect entering this season. After two strong showings in short season ball in 2011 and Low-A in the first half of 2012, Williams was on top of the world. He was promoted to High-A to finish out the 2012 season, and did passably well enough (104 wRC+, 16.3 K%, 3.5 BB%, .303 BABIP, .145 ISO, .277/.302/.422) there to merit articles like these. People were justifiably comparing him to top Yankee outfield prospects like Austin Jackson, and celebrating the performance of the other members of his prospect trio.

And then, the bad news started to hit. In front of the backdrop of the 2013 MLB Yankee season, all of the above minor league disappointment followed.…

Read more