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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Can CC Sabathia Have a Renaissance?

CC

The 2015 New York Yankees rotation is mostly a giant question mark right now, with CC Sabathia being the perhaps the biggest one.

Nobody is expecting much from Sabathia in 2015 because he hasn’t given anybody a reason to expect much since 2012. Sabathia went 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA after eight starts last season before missing the rest of the year with a knee injury. His struggles began in 2013 when he had a notable loss of velocity on his fastball and finished with a 4.78 ERA.

Obviously, he is never getting his 95 MPH fastball back, but plenty of pitchers have been successful with fastballs that average around 90 MPH. Despite all the negativity surrounding Sabathia, there are some signs that he can be one of those pitchers.

A scout told ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand that he believes Sabathia’s pitching smarts can help him reinvent himself as he turns 35 next season.

“When a guy gets into their 30s, they have to have a second career,” the scout said.…

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Wednesday Morning Food For Thought: Consider These Options

Player A 2015 Steamer Projection- .274/.326/.402, 2.6 fWAR
Player B 2015 Steamer Projection- .262/.328/.390, 1.7 fWAR
Player C 2015 Steamer Projection- .259/.307/.381, 0.7 fWAR
Player D 2015 Steamer Projection- .262/.349/.400, 3.9 fWAR

Player A is Martin Prado, the originally scheduled programming at second base.  Players B and C are Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela, the rookie tandem now tasked with replacing him.  Player D is Ben Zobrist, newly available second baseman/really, really good utility guy.  Just wanted to toss this up here to try to push my pro-Zobrist agenda a little more.

Think about it.  Prado was written into the starting second base job very lightly in pencil when the roster plans for next year starting coming together.  The safe assumption was that he’d play there as much as injuries allowed him to, with third base and right field both looking like they were going to be most in need of his services at some point.  That plan got scaled down by the signing of Chase Headley, but the opportunity was always there for Prado to be the floating everyday utility guy and for the injuries that proceeded his floating to open up a spot in the lineup for Refsnyder.…

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We’ll Miss Hiroki, But Let’s Be Glad We Won’t Suffer His Imminent Decline

Kuroda vs BAL II

Courtesy of the AP

I’ll definitely miss Hiroki Kuroda. Pitchers are notoriously inconsistent, but not Kuroda: in seven MLB years, all his annual ERAs were 3.3-3.7ish, except one 3.07 that seemed lucky (his FIP was a more Kurodalike 3.78). He rang up 12 WAR over his three Yankee years, so his $41m was a real bargain, about half the $6-7m/WAR free agent going rate. And he was fun to watch; I’m a sucker for graceful mechanics like Kuroda’s, and also for the badassness of swings and misses at sinkers barely above the dirt.

But I’m only a little, not a lot, sad he’s leaving. He turns 40 in February; almost no non-juicing/non-superstar pitcher remains any good at 40-41; and Kuroda has already started suffering decline.

Kuroda impressively defied the odds by throwing in the 90s while pushing 40, but his hard sinker has definitely slowed, modestly but steadily: from 92.3-92.4 at ages 33-34, to 91.7-92.0 at 35-37, then to 91.5 at 38, and then, last year, to 91.0 at 39.…

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Don’t Discount The Defensive Upgrade In The Infield

2013 Projected Opening Day Infield: Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis
2013 Actual Opening Day Infield: Kevin Youkilis, Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix

2014 Projected & Actual Opening Day Infield: Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts, Derek Jeter, Kelly Johnson

2015 Project Opening Day Infield: Mark Teixeira, Martin Prado, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley

I didn’t crunch any numbers to show it, but nobody needs to see them to know that the Yankee infield has been a disaster area for the last 2 seasons.  The names above tell the whole story.  A combination of aging core players, major injuries, lack of organizational depth, flawed budget plans, and head-scratching free agent strategies took what had been the greatest strength of the roster for a while and turned it into a glaring, gaping, broken beyond repair weakness.

After slogging through another season of below-average offensive and defensive output from the starting infield 2014, the Yankees had to do something to upgrade the unit this offseason and they appear to have done that, from a defensive standpoint if nothing else.  …

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Considering A-Rod As The Regular DH

A-Rod-HR-Celebration-vs-BOS

Still the best home run celebration ever.

Yesterday was proof that Alex Rodriguez still matters in MLB, even if he is a broken down, disgraced former great who might not even be physically capable of playing anymore.  I actually found it humorous that Cash’s comments about A-Rod’s role next year were such a big deal.  I mean, in Yankee media circles it makes sense.  He still plays for the Yankees.  But to see it mentioned on the ESPN scroll like it was actual news was ridiculous.  Like anybody else was holding out hope that he would be the starter at third even after they signed Chase Headley.

So love him or hate him, people still want to know what’s up with A-Rod and now we know how the Yankees are planning to utilize him next season.  With all the mileage on his body and multiple years remaining on his contract, the best way to get max on-field value out of him is from his bat.  …

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Monday Morning Food For Thought: Didi Gregorius Vs. Left-Handed Pitching

Gregorius Spray Chart vs LHP Career

Courtesy of Texas Leaguers

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Didi Gregorius‘ spray chart against left-handed pitching for his MLB career to date.  You’ll recall that Gregorius, a lefty hitter, has been mostly underwhelming with the bat in his 724 career plate appearances.  A big reason for that has been his performance against lefties, which has been very, very bad (.184/.257/.233, 0 HR, 25.0% K rate in 180 PA).

That spray chart shows all the balls he put in play in those 180 PA, and to be honest, it’s not as bad looking as I thought it would be.  There’s not an overwhelming over-distribution of grounders to one side of the infield, there’s balls being hit to all parts of the outfield at a relatively even rate, and there’s balls being hit for hits to all parts of the outfield.  The BIP distribution is very indicative of the type of hitter Gregorius has been in his short MLB career: high contact, not much power, can hit to all fields.  …

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D-Rob Is Absolutely Worth Papelbon Money

D-Rob vs CIN

Courtesy of Getty Images

The silence remains deafening on the David Robertson front.  Since he rejected the Yankees’ qualifying offer there has been little to no reported activity on the 2 sides working on a new deal, and there hasn’t been much chatter on him on the rest of the hot stove rumor mill.  It appears as though the attachment of draft pick compensation has slowed the pace of pursuit for this offseason’s top free agent reliever.

The one bit of worthwhile (depending on how you look at it) information to come out on D-Rob was the recent report that he is seeking “Papelbon money” on the open market.  You’ll remember the record 4-year/$50 million deal Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies during the 2011-2012 offseason, a deal that could vest into a 5-year/$63 mil one when all is said and done.

The general reaction I saw online to this report was that D-Rob was crazy for wanting that much and he would never get it.  …

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