Prospect Musings A Few Days Away From IIATMS Prospect Week

Dustin Fowler 2015

Courtesy of Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com

It’s been a busy week preparing for Prospect Week 2016.  There’s wild stuff going on behind the scenes that you guys don’t even know about.  I’m talking serious spreadsheet action.  The festivities kick off on Monday and there will be some more details on the whole schedule for the week coming later, but to get the prospect juices flowing I thought I’d touch on some of the trends I’ve noticed as we’ve worked on the list and some of the individual players I’m higher on and lower on than most.  It’s like a free look into the Brad Vietrogoski IIATMS Top 30 war room.

– The first thing that stands out to me after putting together this year’s list is how much upper-level talent the Yankees have right now.  It feels like they’ve got more legit future potential MLB guys in Triple-A and Double-A than they’ve had in a long time, and that’s without Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, and Jake Cave, who all would have been top 20 guys in our rankings.  … Click here to read the rest

Worrying About Chase Headley

Headley vs SEA 2015

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Less than three weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting and I continue to feel good about the 2016 Yankees.  Despite avoiding the MLB free agent pool like the plague, Cash managed to improve major areas of need on the roster and added youth and depth of talent to supplement the aging core.  There’s still one player left for him to snag to complete the roster, but I don’t actually expect that signing to happen.  The Yankees appear to be set with what they’ve got to open the year and once again they are going to face a ton of questions.

As far as the questions about the lineup go, I feel good about most of the answers.  I don’t expect Jacoby Ellsbury to be as bad as he was in 2015, and the addition of Aaron Hicks should help keep both Ellsbury and Brett Gardner fresher for the later months of the season.  Despite the obvious and measurable signs of permanent decline, I still expect Brian McCann to pop 20+ homers and drive in runs this season.  … Click here to read the rest

It’s Not a Blip: McCann is Old and Declining

McCann HBP 2015

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Every off-season, you get emptily hopeful pieces like this one that must’ve taken Newsday reporter Steven Marcus several minutes to write:

McCann wasn’t satisfied with his .232 batting average. “I don’t like looking up there and seeing I’m hitting around .230,’’ he said Friday from Orlando, Florida, where he was participating in a charity golf tournament. “I’ve got to get better. I’d like to hit .300 with 30 [homers].

Don’t scoff yet at an “article” from a 5-minute call Brian McCann returned in a slow golf moment: maybe Marcus got a scoop on McCann’s new contact-hitting strategy after years of .230, .256, .232, & .232? Here’s McCann’s big quote: “‘I think Tex says it the best: walk more and hit for extra-base hits. The game today is about getting on base and driving runs in.’” So we’re told McCann will raise his batting average by improving the non-batting-average OPS components: walks and extra-base hits. Relatedly, I plan to lose weight by putting lifts in my shoes.… Click here to read the rest

Should the Yankees Consider Justin Upton?

Justin Upton

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(Editor’s Note- This post originally appeared on ESPN’s SweetSpot yesterday evening.  Thanks to the mothership for giving us a shout out)

The New York Yankees have yet to add any unrestricted free agents of note this offseason and have made it known that they are waiting until their big contracts come off the books until they go back into the high-priced free agent pool. They have managed to improve through trades for Starlin Castro and Aroldis Chapman, but not spending any money has left the team still weak in a few areas and with many questions.

There is, however, a free agent out there in his prime who could be exactly what the Yankees need to make another playoff push in 2016.

The top areas of concern may be the middle of the order and right-handed power. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran all turned back the clock in 2015 and were extremely productive when healthy.… Click here to read the rest

Can The Yankees Just Sign Juan Uribe Already?

It’s been about a month since I mapped out the projected Opening Day roster, and not much has changed since then despite the recent acquisition of Aroldis Chapman.  He simply slots into the top third of the bullpen, bumping everybody beneath him down a spot and bumping Jacob Lindgren back to Triple-A to open the season, which probably wouldn’t be a bad thing for him coming off elbow surgery and a lot of missed time.

At this point the roster is basically set with the exception of the final bench spot.  Looking at the makeup and positional depth, there is a need for a backup at third base.  The talk right now is that Starlin Castro could be a possibility if he’s willing to play the position and the Yankees are willing to use him there.  But Castro hasn’t played the hot corner since his early MiL days and only recently converted to playing second base regularly.  Somehow I don’t think the Yankees envisioned trading for him to turn him into a super utility infielder, but the point remains that there needs to be a reliable backup behind Chase Headley and filling that need would be the best use of that final bench spot.… Click here to read the rest

Why Sell Low on Nova?

Nova vs TOR 2015

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I had a four year-old Chevy Tahoe with a lot of life left, but a fender-bender left it dinged, scratched, and missing a side window. The needed series of cosmetic repairs would’ve cost maybe $3K over a few months, and by using it over those months, I could’ve verified that nothing structural was wrong. But I was kind of sick of it, so I left it looking like a Sanford & Son junkyard prop, and I sold it for $9K less than bluebook value.

OK, I made that up. I just envy the southern/midwestern trial lawyers who sell their points with homespun anecdotes about good ol’ American cars, horses, and cheese grits. I was really talking about Ivan Nova: I don’t understand the sell-low strategy of trying to trade a potentially useful player exactly when his value is at a low point.

The problem isn’t just trading him after a bad half-year. The bigger problem is that we don’t know whether his 2015 performance (1) was just bad because he’s bad now or (2) was suppressed by injury recovery and rust that he could get past in 2016.… Click here to read the rest

Mason Williams is a Top-10 Yankee Prospect

Mason Williams

Baseball America’s new top-10 prospect list is out. Mason Williams is nowhere to be seen.

I wrote last June that Mason Williams still had the potential to be a top prospect. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury just a few weeks later. All told, Williams hit .318/.397/.398 in 54 minor league games and .286/.318/.571 in a brief 8-game stint in the majors.

The short version of the case for Williams is this: he’s a young (just 24 in 2016), former top prospect, speedy outfielder who can play defense, rarely strike out, hit for some power, and is MLB-ready. The short version case against Williams is: he was really bad in 2013 an 2014, is somewhat injury prone (though not as bad as Slade Heathcott), and has had makeup issues when he struggles.

There is some probability that Williams is Slade Heathcott, and the cumulative injuries that he has suffered will prevent him from ever playing a substantial number of games at the major league level.… Click here to read the rest

New Kids on the Block: Offensive Prospects’ Likely 2016 Impact

Baseball America’s new top prospect list for the Yankees isn’t inspiring, but that’s partly because many 2015 prospects (Severino, Bird, Williams, Heathcott…) no longer qualify as “prospects”; they’ve arrived. While Severino is definitely a rotation starter, a bunch of offensive prospects have less clear 2016 roles. So here’s my take on the likely role, or lack of role, of the Yankees’ ready(ish) offensive prospects. Feel free to disagree in the comments! This is all more art than science, but it’s interesting and fun to think through who’s ready, and who has an actual opening, to be part of the team for the next 5-10 years.

First, an easy one: Gary Sanchez’s strong AAA performance, and the Murphy trade, make his 2016 role obvious. Absent a February 2016 DWI in Tampa that dislocates his throwing shoulder, he’ll back up Brian McCann. McCann’s second-half fade in 2015 (.802 OPS, then .701) may be bad luck, or a sign that it’s not bright to expect more than 120ish games out of a 32 year-old catcher, even if he suffers no DL-stint injury.… Click here to read the rest

Thoughts On The Starlin Castro Trade

Castro vs STL

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Guess they proved me wrong.  After spending the first day and a half of the Winter Meetings doing a lot of nothing, the Yankees decided to take their sandals off and jump in the pool yesterday, sending Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan to the Chicago Cubs for second baseman Starlin Castro.  Castro has been on and off the trade block for a while in Chicago and the Yankees were trying to trade for him at the deadline this past season.  When the Cubs landed Ben Zobrist last night, things sped up quickly on the Castro trade front and the Yankees were able to make a deal.  For the fifth time in the last calendar year plus the Yankees have acquired a young MLB player with upside to fuel their non-rebuild rebuild.

It’s hard to really say what the Yankees are getting in Castro.  His .281/.321/.404 career slash line makes him look like a pretty good player, but his low walk rate (4.9%), wildly inconsistent year-to-year results, and reported previous attitude and discipline problems are all causes for concern and surely contributed to the Cubs deciding he was the odd man out in their crowded middle infield.  … Click here to read the rest