E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

Author Archives: EJ Fagan

Breakout Candidate: Miguel Andujar

Andujar 2014

Courtesy of Shane Roper/MiLB.com

If I had to pick one prospect to have a break out (defined as being rated a top-50 prospect in all of baseball a year from now) 2015 season, it would be Miguel Andujar.

Andujar was one of the most notable Yankee July 2nd signings in 2011. He spent most of his age 17 and 18 seasons working out at the Yankee facility in Tampa. Some success the second time around with the GCL Yankees (.323/.368/.496 batting line in a small sample) earned him an aggressive promotion to Charleston to start 2014, where he was the 4th youngest player in the South Atlantic League.

At first glance, the numbers don’t look great: .267/.318/.397 with a solid 15.7% strikeout rate. But I think a deeper dive reveals a lot of good news. Here are his splits and park-adjusted rates:

  • Park adjusted batting line: .279/.328/.420 (.362 wOBA)
  • Vs. LHP: .188/.211/.250 Vs. RHP: .295/.355/.449
  • Home: .250/.296/.362 Away: .281/.337/.427
  • First Half: .212/.267/.335 19.4 K% Second Half: .319/.367/.456 14.9 K%

Those splits should be music to all of our ears.…

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Chart: Where the Yankees Position Players Stack Up

The Yankees have made a lot of moves to improve their hitting and defense during this offseason. You know about all of those. But what cumulative effect have these moves produced?

The following chart shows three different numbers by position: the fWAR produced by Yankees playing that position in 2014, the fWAR produced by the average major league team, and the Steamer projections for the Yankees at the position in 2015:

YankeesWARPositionsThe Yankees project to add about 7 WAR over last year. And that’s assuming they get 0 WAR out of designated hitter, which I think they can beat.

You can see that the Yankees project to improve in right field, shortstop, designated hitter and second base, stand pat at catcher, 1st base, center and left, and decline at third base. That all sounds reasonable to me.

You can really see how Derek Jeter and Brendan Ryan at short and Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro in right and DH killed the Yankees last year.…

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Yankees Sign Stephen Drew to 1-Year Deal

The Yankees have signed Stephen Drew to a 1-year deal:

We can relegate the Refsnyder/Pirela spring training competition to Bubba Crosby territory.

Some quick thoughts:

  • This should make Brendan Ryan expendable. Drew gives the Yankees a second MLB-caliber shortstop on the roster. If Gregorius gets hurt, Drew plays. Jose Pirela is potentially much more useful as a bench player than Ryan.
  • I think Drew gets a pass for 2014, for reasons we should all be familiar with. He was a pretty good player in 2013. If he can play a solid 2nd base, I think he’s a 1.5+ win player. If he fails to hit well, Refsnyder can take his place while Drew becomes a bench player.
  • There is going to be a lot of yelling about how the Yankees didn’t give Refsnyder a chance.
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A Better Bullpen Part 1: Why Baseball Accidentally Made Up the Closer Position

Why did major league teams evolve to designate their best relief pitcher as the closer, who enters the game only in save situations? It began in the 1950s, when relief pitchers started to pitch more innings than starting pitchers:

Teams carried fewer relief pitchers before the 1980s. Generally, they had just one or two “firemen”, who are ace relief pitchers, and a few mop up guys for low-leverage situations. They almost always entered the game before the 9th inning with men on base. Bruce Sutter was the first relief pitcher to start more than 20% of his career games in the 9th inning. John Franco was the first pitcher to hit 50% in 1987, and Lee Smith broke 75% in 1994. As far as baseball history goes, the modern closer is a very new thing.

Up until the late 1960s, relief pitchers posted worse ERAs than starting pitchers. But that changed as, and relief pitchers now post lower ERAs than starting pitchers:

Why are ERAs lower?…

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Fangraphs Projection: Yankees 3rd Best Defense in MLB for 2015

Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan posted their 2015 UZR projections by team. The Yankees, who were an average defensive team last year, project as the 3rd best team in the majors in 2015 at +29 runs, in large part thanks to the additions of Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley.

Of course, that +29 number is highly regressed. The 3rd best team in 2014 ended up at +49 runs, or just over +6 wins above average. If the Yankees are that good defensively, they could make a lot of contact pitchers look pretty good next year. It might even make the team good enough to be a stealth contender for a wild card spot.

The full rankings:

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Nathan Eovaldi, Domingo German and the Rebuildingish Yankees

The Yankees made a trade today:

Pitching prospect Domingo German was also included.

My initial reaction–which I think is representative of a lot of Yankee fans–was disgust. Martin Prado was in a lot of ways the perfect player for the 2015 Yankee thanks to his ability to play lots of positions and Eovaldi posted a below-average ERA in 199 innings in 2014. But the more I think about the trade, the more I like it. Why? Because the Yankees are finally starting to rebuild their roster.

Eovaldi had for years shown a ton of promise, but took a huge step forward in 2014. He’s always had one of the best fastballs in the league, but finally improved his control enough to post a 3.37 FIP and 3.0 fWAR. He’s only 24 years old, so there is definitely room for improvement.…

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Putting This Year’s IFA Haul in Perspective

Much has been written about the Yankees signing ten of the top thirty international free agents this season. But how much talent have the Yankees landed, really?

I’m not going to pretend to know more about the specific players that the Yankees signed than what I’ve read on MLB.com and Baseball America. I did, however, go back and look at Baseball America’s top international free agent list five years ago, and checked in on the status of the top-25 players. The result:

2 really great signings (Sano and Profar), 6 players with varying prospect potential (including Gary Sanchez, probably the bet of the group), and 17 busts. If the Yankee haul follows the same pattern, they’ll emerge five years from now with roughly half that–a top-10 prospect, two or so top-100 prospects, and a fringey player or two.

Not bad, huh? Obviously, we’re looking at a sample of one year, but a quick glance at 2008 and 2010 show similar bust rates.…

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Chart: MLB Run Scoring Continues to Fall

When I last wrote about run scoring in late May, the early returns were a little mixed. Thanks in part to a relatively strong April for MLB hitters, the decline in MLB run scoring had stabilized, and even ticked up a little bit. That did not hold up this season, and MLB run scoring continued to decline:

So what is happening? We know that the decline can’t be blamed on increasing use of specialized bullpens. Batted ball types haven’t changed much:

Strikeout rates, on the other hand, have ballooned:

That strikeout trend is pretty insane. But it should also be noted that MLB BB% tied its record low in 2014.

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