Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Top 10 Prospect List

After all the dust has settles from the Winter and GM Meetings and all the big time free agents have signed, well except for Prince Fielder, the Yankees blog world usually goes prospect crazy. The Winter Leagues and Dominican leagues and Arizona Fall Leagues are all wrapping up and the Yankees blogs and experts put together their top prospect lists, and here is mine.

With the recent trade of super prospect Jesus Montero that opens the door for everyone to slide up a spot. Let the debate begin.

1. Manny Banuelos
2. Dellin Betances
3. Gary Sanchez
4. Austin Romine
5. Mason Williams
6. Jose Campos
7. Dante Bichette Jr
8. David Phelps
9. Adam Warren
10. JR Murphy

Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances is more of a #1 and #1A type situation here. You could put either at #1 and the other at #2 and no one would complain too loudly. Banuelos gets the edge on my list because he is younger, more durable, and is left handed. The stats are a wash basically with both of them in AAA Scranton.

Gary Sanchez is the replacement for Jesus Montero, the problem is he is so far away. He does project, even with a down year last year, to be better offensively and defensively then both Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. Projections mean little when your in A Ball though...

Austin Romine is this high on my list for one reason, major league readiness. He is major league ready now and is already on the 40 man roster. His bat is a little deficient when you look at what Montero has done in the minors but he more then makes up for it with his defense. I am personally a bigger fan of a Jose Molina type catcher then a Javy Lopez or Mike Piazza type catcher. We had enough years of Posada, as much as I love him and am glad he was a Yankee, not being able to throw runners out and call a game that Russell Martin and Romine will be a sight for sore eyes this season.

What can I say about Mason Williams that hasnt already been said? He showed lots of pop, fundamentals, tools, etc etc etc... in a short season in the New York Penn League. He is the farthest thing from a sure thing and is extremely far from the majors but the Yankees have seemingly donned him "untouchable" which should speak volumes.

Jose Campos is the 19 yr. old RHP we got in the Montero and Noesi for Pineda trade. He easily touches 95 mph, sometimes as high as 98. Again only in A ball and again only in a short season but he already has 2 plus plus pitches and 2 more potential plus pitches. 4 plus pitches , especially with the strike out numbers he puts up, always projects to be a top of the rotation starter. He may be the best pitching prospect in the system not named a "Killer B".

Dante Bichette's biggest thing is if he can stay at the 3B position. He proved above and beyond that the bat was there but the defense was always the suspect. When you have that kind of a special bat like this young man can, see Jesus Montero, you find a way to hide the defense. He was horrendous defensively though which gives you some hope. Much like a lot of these Top 10 guys, he is in a short season (GCL) and is far away.

Adam Warren and David Phelps could be flip flopped here. Both are in AAA Scranton and both are starting pitchers. Both, in my opinion, are also major league ready although it wouldnt hurt Phelps to spend some more time in AAA to work on a few things. Phelps is the better pitcher , projection wise, in my opinion. I could see him as a 4th or 5th starter type where I could easily see Adam Warren having to move into the bullpen to lengthen his career.

I wanted to put Slade Heathcott here but I decided not to since he cant seem to stay healthy for a full season. JR Murphy is yet another catching prospect that the Yankees like and yet another prospect on my list in A Ball. He could make it as high as AA Trenton this season with no one but maybe Jose Gil standing in his way and Gary Sanchez needing full playing time in A Ball.

Thats my list.... whats yours?

How about Raul?

Is he looking at the ball? That could be the problem.

Earlier I mentioned that Ken Davidoff tweeted about representatives for Vladimir Guerrero and Raul Ibanez contacting the Yankees. I went on to discuss Vlad, coming to the conclusion that if the money is right then bringing Guerrero in would be a good thing. Now it's time to look at Mr. Ibanez.

Raul saw a significant drop in numbers last season, compared to 2010. In 2010 his triple-slash was .275/.349/.444, and the following season it dropped to .245/.289/.419. Even before 2009 he was able to maintain a good to great batting average, along with a nice OBP, so what we saw last year out of him was most definitely not the norm. And on the surface you'd expect to see his numbers rebound. But I can't leave it at that... right?

I like to look at a player's ratios first when looking for differences. To start, Raul's HR% actually went up a bit from 2.5% to 3.5%, so I'm not sure he's lost any power which would attribute to the drop in SLG. That doesn't really surprise me, but what did surprise me was that Ibanez's XBH% didn't really change either, as it went from 9.1% to 9.0%. So he hit more HR, and hit just as many extra base hits (per plate appearance, of course). So where did that 25 point drop come from? The only thing I could see a big enough difference in, to account for those lost 25 points, came from his drop in triples. He had 5 triples in 2010, and only 1 last season. But honestly I don't think that could make that big a difference. Although I could be wrong about that. I have to move on to get my head to stop spinning.

Raul's OBP dropped 60 points. Where did those points go? This wasn't so hard to figure out, as the first thing I checked... walk percentage... told quite a story. In 2010 Ibanez walked in 10.7% of his plate appearances, while in 2011 that went down to 5.7%. Now, that 10.7% was a career high, but in the previous 5 seasons (2005-2009) his average walk percentage was over 9%, so it's clear that last seasons' 5.7% was definitely not the norm. So I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here, and say that he'd be able to raise that OBP to respectable levels again.

What about the batting average? We certainly don't want to pay a guy to come in and hit .245, so can we expect something better out of him there too? I think so. To start with he put a few more balls into play than he did the year before, as his IP% (Balls in-play percentage) went up from 70% to 72%. And FYI, that percentage has been pretty regular his entire career, so I see no reason to expect that to drop much... if any. I believe the true story here lies in Raul's Line Drive percentage, that dropped from 21% in 2010 (right around his career average of 20%) to 16% in 2011. To put it bluntly, he just wasn't hitting the ball as hard. Which led to career low BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .268, which is far lower than his career BABIP of .303... which is right in line with the average player's BABIP. So I would expect his batting average to come back up to a fairly good level as well.

The only question I have with Ibanez, which is not a small one mind you, is that he'll turn 40 in June. He's been pretty healthy his entire career, and last season he missed only 4 games due to a sore groin. But it's hard enough to be accepting of a guy in his upper 30s, so seeing "40" next to a player's age is not comforting.

Ibanez is also coming off of a 3 year contract of $31.5 million ($10.5m AAV), and even though he was below average last season, I'm not sure he'd accept a contract for 1 year at around $2 million. So like with Vlad, this entire post could be pointless.


After looking at the latest two options for the DH position, Guerrero and Ibanez, I'm still thinking that the Yankees are better off with Andruw Jones against left-handed pitchers, while they give guys like Jorge Vazquez a shot against right-handers. Not that Jorge is ideal, but the options at $2 million a year aren't that much better... or they aren't better at all.

More Options for DH

He's seen many HR fly off his bat in his career.

Ken Davidoff tweeted that representatives of Vladimir Guerrero and Raul Ibanez contacted the Yankees. I've already looked at Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Carlos Pena. So are Vlad or Raul good options, or is this another rumor that should be tossed into the wastebasket? Well I'm going to take a look at them separately, starting with Mr. Guerrero.

Last season Vlad Guerrero hit a line of .290/.317/.416, with 13 HR, for the Orioles. A bit different from the .300/.345/.496, with 29 HR, he put up the year before in Texas. Rangers Ballpark at Arlington is a homer haven, as there were a MLB-high 1.5 HR/game hit there last season (Yankee Stadium was 4th in MLB, seeing 1.267 HR/Gm), so that could have had a lot to do with the power drop after leaving the Rangers. But it's not as though Orioles Park is that much worse, as last year it was 8th in MLB in HR/Gm with 1.144. Vlad did play in 7 less games, but that doesn't make up the difference either. Looking further you'll see that his HR% dropped dramatically, from a career average of 5% to 2.2%, and his FB% did go down a bit from a career 36.3% to 32.4%. But the biggest change I see his his HR/FB, which went from a career mark of 13.4% to a career low of 5.9%. He did suffer a hairline fracture in his right hand in July, but looking at his game logs he wasn't hitting home runs any more before the injury than after, so that was really a non-factor. Lastly, his Line Drive percentage was exactly the same as his career average... 20%. So I really don't think the days of Vlad hitting around 25 HR are behind him.

Vladimir's batting average still lookes pretty good, but what about Guerrero's OBP? The reason for this seems to be in his walk percentage. Now, Vlad has never drawn a ton of walks, as he's a hacker. But like Robinson Cano, the guy makes more than enough contact to make up for not seeing a ton of pitches. However, even though he doesn't walk much anyway (8.1% for his career, while Nick Swisher's walk-rate is 13.5%), Vlad's walk-rate went down to 2.9%.

Here's my guess as to what happened... Baltimore did not have a strong lineup at all. The O's scored only 708 runs, which was 1 less than the worst offense in the AL East... the Rays (although the Rays run prevention was easily the best in the AL). I'm certainly not the biggest proponent of the idea of lineup protection, but in this case it's hard to ignore. I'm guessing that Vlad saw very few strikes, as there was really no reason to give him pitches to hit. I wasn't able to find hard stats to back that up, but I did find that he saw a lot more curveballs last season (10.4% of pitches to him were curveballs, as opposed to 7.1% in 2010).

To go along with righty-lefty splits that aren't that far off (career vs. RHP .316/.372/.546, career vs. LHP .322/.400/.572), while believing he'd see a rebound in his power numbers in Yankee Stadium (and with that lineup), I think he'd be a pretty good pick-up. The only obstacle may be salary, as he made $8 million with Baltimore last season, and although he was far from great (for comparison, Carlos Pena does not really deserve a salary drop at all), I don't see him going anywhere for around $2 million. Making all that work above possibly worthless.

I wanted to note that all stats were gathered from Baseball Reference and Fangraphs. Not sure what I'd do without those great websites, which is why SOPA really scares me.