Yankees’ Prospect Scouting Report: Peter O’Brien

Peter O’Brien

Bats: Right, Throws: Right

Height: 6′ 3″, Weight: 215 lb.

Age: 23

High School: Braddock HS (Miami, FL)

College: Bethune-Cookman College, University of Miami

Background: O’Brien was originally drafted by the Rockies in the 3rd round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft, but he decided not to sign. Instead, he waited a year and played ball at the University of Miami where he hit 10 home runs in his senior season. Before he transferred to Miami, O’Brien hit 38 home runs at Bethune-Cookman College. His home run totals caught the eye of the Yankees and they selected him in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB June Amateur draft.

O’Brien has played well in his two years in the Yankees minor league system. The highest level he has reached is high A ball, but he should move a little faster than most prospects due to the fact that he played college ball and is already 23 years old. In his first year as a Yankee prospect, O’Brien hit 10 home runs. All 10 of those home runs were hit while he played in the New York-Penn League. In 2013, O’Brien divided his 22 home runs evenly between Charleston (A) and Tampa (A+).

Continue reading Yankees’ Prospect Scouting Report: Peter O’Brien

Happy Birthday, Mariano Rivera!

Mariano Rivera

Today is Mariano Rivera‘s 44th birthday.

Last year on this date, he signed a one-year deal for the 2013 season and at the time, most of us didn’t realize that it would be his last season. It wasn’t totally out of the question but we all believed Mo could pitch until he was 50. Alas, he made the decision to retire and we got to see his farewell tour in 2013.

Now, it didn’t end the way Yankee fans would have hoped – with a World Series Championship – but we still watched some pretty special moments unfold this past season. And while it will be odd to see someone else is jogging out of the bullpen in the ninth inning next season as with everything else, life does go on.

So happy birthday to Mo and thanks for the memories! Continue reading Happy Birthday, Mariano Rivera!

What About Third Base?

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

Regardless of you how you feel about how they’re prioritizing this offseason and who they’re going after, the Yankees have to be commended for the proactive approach they’ve taken.  Recognizing that this past season’s penny pinching/washed up veteran reclamation project approach was not the right way to contend on a budget, they’ve wasted no time in identifying their primary and secondary free agent targets and appear to be making a strong effort to upgrade every major area of need on their roster.

Every area, that is, except for third base.  The Yankees used 9 different players at the hot corner in 2013, best among them Alex Rodriguez.  While they’ve stated that they are planning on having him around and at third next season, there’s a very, very good chance that he ends up suspended for at least 50-100 games.  Even if he beats the odds and is free to play for the whole season, A-Rod no longer has the ability to be an everyday third baseman after years of injury problems and surgeries to both his hips.  Yet third base remains the one position the Yankees don’t have a clear plan to address, at least not when compared to catcher, right field, and the starting rotation.

So what’s the deal?  What do Cash and the rest of the front office have in mind to address this seemingly under-considered roster hole? Continue reading What About Third Base?

Beltran or Choo or Ellsbury or Granderson? Or Maybe Matt Kemp?

The Yankees have four outfielders as it is, Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells, and Ichiro Suzuki, yet the team looks focused to not only add a fifth outfielder, but add an offensively-minded bat in right or left field. There’s been mixed reports about who they like the most, but Carlos Beltran seems to be their number one target, followed by Shin-Soo Choo, and then Jacoby Ellsbury. It was reported last week that the team was still interested in Granderson, and that “he’s a serious part” of their offseason plan. The team wants to land at least one of these free agents, but what about Matt Kemp?

Each of these free agents has their own issues. Beltran is older, looks like he’ll require a three year deal, and is slowing down in the field. Choo will require a long contract, and although he’s young and extremely OBP-minded, he doesn’t exactly have the power trackrecord the team usually looks for. Granderson has that power, but he’s also older, and I believe it’ll take a longer commitment than just three years to keep him around. Also, he’s got that low average and high strike out rate to worry about. Finally, Ellsbury seems to be the most popular free agent this winter. Although he’s had his fair share of injury problems, he’s maintained his speed on the bases. Projections have him earning anywhere from $112 million over 6 years to $150 million over 7 years.

For a guy that’s hardly been an average hitter over the last couple of years, Ellsbury’s contract projections seem ridiculous. Over his last 959 plate appearances, or the last 2 seasons, the outfielder has been riddled with injuries, and he’s hit just .289/.341/.407 with a 104 OPS+. He does offer speed in the outfield and on the bases, and that’s his best trait at the moment, but it’s a difficult tool to project going forward. If his power ever returns, he’ll be well worth the money, but keep in mind that he’s hit just 13 home runs since his 2011 MVP run.

I personally believe that Ellsbury’s contract projections have been overhyped by the advanced data, which is basing a lot of that money on his defense and base running. In the real world, home runs and on base percentage sell, and no matter how many wins above replacement you accumulate by saving runs, a guy that’s struggles to hit will not make $150 million.

So this leads me back to Kemp. If you happen to be an Ellsbury fan this winter, or you want your favorite team to sign him, why wouldn’t you at least consider trading for Matt Kemp? Kemp, a year younger than Ellsbury, has a much longer history of hitting. He’s owed $128 million over the next 6 years, which is right in the middle of those two lofty Ellsbury projections. Despite this, I see so many people saying that the Dodgers would have to eat a good amount of money to get rid of him.

The big question between Ellsbury and Kemp is whether or not to trust their injuries. The consensus about the two is that Kemp’s problems stem from wear and tear, while Ellsbury’s are from fluke incidents. Kemp has indeed faced a recurring strained hamstring, but between 2012 and 2013, the problem actually switched between two different legs. The big injury hit in 2013 was a sprained ankle, similar to the injury that Jeter played through in 2012. Ellsbury injuries history is much more severe than strains and sprains. In 2010, he went on the DL three times with fractured ribs. In 2012, Ellsbury dislocated his right shoulder on the base paths and missed 79 games. Perhaps these aren’t injuries you’d expect to keep recurring, but they do hint at where he gets his value. The way he plays the game is running hard, perhaps even recklessly, and broken bones and dislocated joints will happen when you’re running into other players so frequently.

Ever since Ellsbury’s shoulder dislocation, he has grown dependent on his legs to contribute. With all the injury history, if something awful happened to either one of these two outfielders, I think it’s Kemp’s style of play that would hold up the best. His power and ability to hit for average should hold up fairly well, even if he keeps straining his hamstrings. My signing preference is still with the resolved Shin-Soo Choo, but for those fans of Ellsbury, I’m not quite sure why you wouldn’t first consider Kemp. If the Dodgers are willing to eat money, he could be a huge buy-low opportunity. Continue reading Beltran or Choo or Ellsbury or Granderson? Or Maybe Matt Kemp?

Two for the Price of One

Heading into this offseason, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Robinson Cano would remain in pinstripes for the foreseeable future, and that sense of optimism has only grown (perhaps to the point of pragmatism). The Red Sox extended Dustin Pedroia. The Tigers traded for Ian Kinsler. The Rangers ostensibly dealt Kinsler to give the starting gig to Jurickson Profar. The Dodgers and Mets have said “no thanks,” and the former invested $28 MM in what they hope is Yasiel Puig 2.0. And the Angels have over $60 MM per season invested in four players with the most question marks West of the Bronx.

And now we’re here, where the Yankees realized that bidding against themselves is a fool’s errand, leaving Cano in the fortunate position of deciding between having enough money to purchase a personal jet, or holding out for a small island. The prevailing assumption remains that Cano will cave, and accept the richest contract ever given to a second baseman – somewhere between the 7-year, $161 MM offer purportedly floated by the Yankees, and the 9-year, $234 MM deal suggested by MLBTR.

All that being said … if Cano were to find his millions elsewhere, what could the Yankees do with the leftover funds? Continue reading Two for the Price of One

Project 189: Dingers, Dingers….and more Dingers

1- CBrian McCann (5/$85MM) $17.000MM
2- 1B: Mark Teixeira (8/$180MM) $22.500MM
3- 2BRobinson Cano (8/$180MM) $22.500MM
4- 3BJuan Uribe (2/$12MM) $6.000MM
5- SS: Brendan Ryan (1/$2MM) $2.000MM
6- LF: Alfonso Soriano (8/$136MM) $17.000MM
7- CF: Brett Gardner (Arb 3) $4.000MM
8- RF: Nelson Cruz (3/$39MM) $13.000MM
9- DH: Derek Jeter (1/$12.81MM) $12.810MM + $7.000MM Bonuses
10- BN: Vernon Wells (7/$126MM) $18.000MM
11- BN: Eduardo Nunez (Min) $0.511MM
12- BN: Ichiro Suzuki (2/$13MM) $6.500MM
13- BN: Francisco Cervelli (Arb 1) $1.000MM
14- SP1: CC Sabathia (5/$122MM) $24.400MM
15- SP2: Ivan Nova (Arb 1) $2.800MM
16- SP3Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM) $9.334MM
17- SP4: David Phelps (Min) $0.511MM
18- SP5: Michael Pineda (Min) $0.511MM
19- CL: David Robertson (Arb 3) $5.500MM
20- RP: Shawn Kelley (Arb 2) $1.500MM
21- RP: Preston Claiborne (Min) $0.511MM
22- RP: Dellin Betances (Min) $0.511MM
23- RP: Adam Warren (Min) $0.511MM
24- RP: Vidal Nuno (Min) $0.511MM
25- RP: Jesse Crain (3/$3.5MM) $3.500MM

Total: $199.921MM

40-Man Roster

26- SP: Manny Banuelos (Min) $0.040MM
27- SP: Nik Turley (Min) $0.040MM
28- SP: Brett Marshall (Min+) $0.080MM
29- SP: Jose Ramirez (Min) $0.040MM
30- SP: Shane Greene (Min) $0.040MM
31- SP Jose Campos (Min) $0.040MM
32- RP:  Cesar Cabral (Min+) $0.080MM
33- RP: Matt Daley (Min+) $0.080MM
34- RP: David Huff (Min+) $0.080MM
35- C: Austin Romine (Min+) $0.080MM
36- C: Gary Sanchez (Min) $0.040MM
37- C: J.R. Murphy (Min) $0.080MM
38- IF: Dean Anna (Min) $0.040MM
39- OF: Zoilo Almonte (Min+) $0.080MM
40- OF: Slade Heathcott* (Min) $0.040MM

Total:  $0.88MM

Final Calculations
Total Roster Owed– $200.801MM
Salary Relief– -$13MM (From Cubs for Soriano), -$18MM (From Angels for Wells)
Player Benefits– $12MM
Cushion For Non-25-Man Players– $3.5MM

Current Budget Owed– $185.301MM

Current Budget Remaining– $3.699MM

The Brian McCann signing ruined the original plans I had for Project 189. As you can see, those of us who put McCann on the roster previous to the signing had an AAV of 16, but now it’s 17. That one extra million threw a wrench in my plans to build a solid rotation, but I tried to be creative anyway.

A few quick thoughts about Brian McCann before I get into my off-season plans. McCann will dramatically increase the level of play that we saw from the catchers position in 2013. The team probably overpaid, but anyone who’s a Yankees fan should be happy with the fact that he’ll out-produce all the catchers that the team used last year.

In my original plans I had Scott Kazmir as the fourth starter in my rotation. After the McCann signing, I was over the self-imposed payroll cap and decided to drop Kazmir from my plans. This freed up $8MM for the 2014 season, so I decided to upgrade Alex Rodriguez’s replacement at third, as well as add some help in the bullpen.

For an extra million or two, Juan Uribe was worth the upgrade over Mark Reynolds (my original fill-in). He provides improved defense, along with some pop in his bat. Reynolds does have his power streaks, but he comes with an incredibly high K% (30.6% in 2013). Uribe didn’t hit as many home runs as Reynolds, but he struck out a lot less. On top of that, Uribe is a better overall hitter with a 116 wRC+, compared to Reynolds below average 96 wRC+. Uribe’s wOBA was also higher than Reynolds at .334, compared to .310. Surprisingly, Uribe was worth 5.1 Wins Above Replacement last season. If he produces a little more than half of that, he’ll be a steal for the Yankees.

Then, with the remaining money, I looked at possible starting pitchers. Paul Maholm looked interesting for a one year $7MM deal, but after looking at the numbers, David Phelps was worth more, (1.1 WAR to .7 of Maholm) for a much cheaper salary. I noticed the bullpen looked a bit weak, especially with Mariano Rivera as the team’s closer this season. So I dipped into the remaining money to sign Jesse Crain. Crain was worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement level last year. That was higher than Rivera’s WAR, but the stat doesn’t do justice to the high leverage situations Rivera has as closer. If he’s able to stay on the field, Crain should be a great piece of bullpen depth for the Yankees. Assuming he can put up that value in nearly 37 innings, he can be an asset in the bullpen.

As for the bench, Cervelli should be a serviceable backup to McCann, who will likely need some days off. Wells is useless, but hopefully they won’t need to play him that often, he’s essentially free anyway. Ichiro is a nice player to have come off the bench, as he still has some left in the tank as a defender, but not as an everyday starter.

As Michael Eder pointed out in his Project 189, the Yankees will have a run saving defense. Add that with three sinker ball pitchers at the top of the rotation and the Yankees have a recipe for success. We can only hope Tanaka is a younger version of Kuroda, but that the long term contract keeps him successful in the pinstripes for a longer time. I also see CC Sabathia bouncing back from a tough year. He lost a lot of weight fast. It takes the body a while to regain strength once that happens. A full off-season should get him back on track. Phelps and Pineda round out the rotation. I’m optimistic that Pineda is able to get back to where he was during his rookie year in Seattle. Just in case, Jose Campos sits on the 40-man to salvage any attempt at the Yankees winning that trade.

One of my unique signings was in right field. Nelson Cruz was suspended last season for testing positives to PEDs, but should still produce big power numbers. He’s a right handed power bat, something the Yankees need in my opinion. He has a smooth swing, similar to Napoli in a way, (reason I like these players for YS3) that projects to translate well in Yankee Stadium. Cruz has hit at least 24 home runs in each of the last three years. If he can play a large majority of the season, I see Cruz approaching 30 homes runs or more in 2014.

Here is my projected 2014 lineup.

1. Brett Gardner

2. Alfonso Soriano

3. Robinson Cano

4. Nelson Cruz

5. Brian McCann

6. Mark Teixeira

7. Derek Jeter

8. Juan Uribe

9. Brendan Ryan

I see a lot of potential power threats and probably the scariest 2-6 in baseball. Soriano, Cano, Cruz, McCann, and Teixeira are all capable of hitting 30 home runs. Brett Gardner should be able to spark the offense by getting on base a ton. Then, even the bottom of the order can be productive with Jeter in front of Uribe at 7-8. Ryan isn’t exactly a good hitter, but 1-8 is good enough to manage with a lesser bat at the bottom of the order. Compared to what we saw at the bottom of the order last season, one Brendan Ryan in the 9 spot will be a relief.

Continue reading Project 189: Dingers, Dingers….and more Dingers

Here’s An Idea, Trade Corban Joseph

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

Since the acquisition of Dean Anna a few days ago last week, there’s been a lot of talk about what other roster moves might be coming.  I’ve seen more than a few people suggest trading Eduardo Nunez, but let’s be realistic here.  Teams aren’t lining up to trade for a utility infielder who can’t field or hit, no matter what his age and upside may be.  Nunez’s trade value has all but expired and if they aren’t going to DFA him, the best thing the Yankees can do is hold onto him and hope he can provide some value in limited work.

A better idea if they’re looking to move an infielder for something might be to trade Corban Joseph.  He was excommunicated from the 40-man roster to open up a spot for Anna, a pretty damning statement about where he stands in the organizational pecking order these days, but in terms of trade value he still has to have more than Nunez.  Think about it.  He’s 25 years old, he can at least play a competent second base, and he’s a lefty hitter who’s shown more than a fair amount of contact skills and plate discipline in his MiL career.  He’s coming off a down year in 2013 (.239/.329/.383) that was mostly due to a shoulder injury, but he’s only 1 year removed from posting a .380 wOBA and hitting 15 HR between Double-A and Triple-A. Continue reading Here’s An Idea, Trade Corban Joseph

Quick hit: Mussina is on the Hall of Fame ballot

So the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot came out today and righty Mike Mussina made his first appearance.

Mussina, who retired after the 2008 season, pitched for 18 seasons with the Orioles and Yankees and finished with a lifetime record of 270-153 and an ERA of 3.68.

Some more Mussina cool facts:

  • He was a five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner who pitched his entire career in the American League East. Even more impressive was that he did this during “steroid era.” Mussina was able to win at least 15 games in 11 seasons.
  • He finished in this top five in voting for the AL Cy Young Award six times. He finished second behind Pedro Martinez in 1999. His 270 wins are tied with Burleigh Grimes for 33rd place on baseball’s all-time list, and he retired as the oldest pitcher to record a 20-win season for the first time (2008).
  • Only five pitchers in the game’s history have had as many wins as Mussina while matching his .638 career winning percentage: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove and Randy Johnson.

Mussina probably won’t make it in on his first ballot but he should make it eventually. Continue reading Quick hit: Mussina is on the Hall of Fame ballot

History Repeating Itself

It’s late 2007. The Yankees have developed a formidable lineup, one that features the MVP of the league, Alex Rodriguez, a 24 year old Robinson Cano, and an extremely productive core of Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter. After Alex Rodriguez was re-signed to a mammoth 10-year $275 million deal, and Posada reached his own new contract, the team still had a good amount of work to be done in the rotation. Chien-Ming Wang was the lone starter below a 4.00 ERA, but after allowing 12 runs in 6.0 innings during two ALDS starts, the Yankees were no longer confident in their ace. Mike Mussina and Kei Igawa were busts, and the team didn’t want to hand a 45 year old Roger Clemens $20 million. Andy Pettitte was re-signed for the 2008 season, but the biggest starting pitcher free agent that year was Carlos Silva.

The Yankees were in a desperate position where their only real shot-term answer in the rotation was to trade their top pitching prospects for Johan Santana. But the organization rolled the dice with their pitching prospects, thrusting a 22 year old Phil Hughes, a 23 year old Ian Kennedy, and 22 year old Joba Chamberlain into the rotation. They also played with a ton of depth, hoping to catch lightening in a bottle, between Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner, Dan Giese, Carl Pavano, Igawa, and Alfredo Aceves. In the end, it didn’t work. The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since the strike in 1994.

What followed was a string of moves that looked like a poorly planned reactionary response to their awful season. The team signed CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and traded for Nick Swisher. In the end, the team admitted that this wasn’t just luck that they landed in a strong 2008-2009 free agent class with so much money. The team gambled on Sabathia being their future left-handed ace, and knew that the they could replenish other needs with all the money coming off the books. The risk of putting so many young players on the field in 2008 didn’t work out, but it certainly paid off the following season. Obviously the team would go on to win the 2009 World Series, and then reach the playoffs for three more years before this dreadful 2013 season.

I remember a few times, reading NY beat writers say that the Yankees would not pull a 2008-2009 spending spree this offseason. In fact, I might have said it myself a few times. Even if the club had some money to spend, the Alex Rodriguez situation would prevent them from striking early. On top of that, they wouldn’t have enough money to re-sign Cano and add other pieces due to the constrictive budget. After the Brian McCann signing, I feel quite different.

The team needs a starting pitcher, and the team needs a second baseman, but they didn’t need a catcher. The backstop position was probably the area where they had the most depth. If the organization was going to roll out another team where they would again roll the dice with young players, the group of Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli, and J.R. Murphy could have worked. Would it have been good enough for a “championship caliber team”? That’s doubtful, but someone out of that group would have been an upgrade over the mess that was Chris Stewart. The move to sign Brian McCann so early this offseason not only proves that the organization wants to return to the playoffs immediately, but that the budget is indeed secondary. This was not luck running into so many free agents with so much money to spend, it was the plan all along.

Like when the Yankees rolled out Rasner and Ponson for 35 games in 2008, the team rolled out Stewart and Romine behind the plate in 2013. Like when the Yankees gambled that Sabathia would be waiting in the 2008 offseason, it looks like the team made that same gamble with McCann this winter. He’s a perfect fit, a left-handed slugger, a pitch framing expert, and a guy with a ton of positive experience catching young and inexperienced pitchers.

Though the team could still fly under the $189 million budget, the organization has taken a risk. If Rodriguez is suspended, the budget is doable, but if he’s not, well, who cares, they’re the Yankees. But it looks like the team will indeed go all out. This signing was a confirmation that they aren’t just blindly trying to get below the $189 million luxury tax threshold, but that there is indeed a plan. The 2013 season really was a bummer, but perhaps it’ll all be worth it for the spending spree that the organization is about to go on. If it is indeed history repeating itself, fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.
Continue reading History Repeating Itself