Saturday, November 28, 2015

Potential Rookie Impacts in 2016

Many people including myself have referred to the 2015 season as the Year of the Rookie. Now in years past there have been the Year of the Pitcher and the year of the this and the year of the that but the Yankees tend to not get involved in many of these. New York was very much involved with the Year of the Rookie as they set the Major League record for the team with the most Major League debut's in 2015(18). Most notably the Yankees watched as their development, hard work and patience was rewarded by Luis Severino, Greg Bird and others. What Yankees farm hands could potentially make their impact in 2016?

Believe it or not Bryan Mitchell is still considered to be a rookie so like I have each of the past two offseasons I will start with him. Mitchell has not made me look like I know very much about baseball last year as I have predicted him to be the breakout player for the team in each of the past two years. You know what? Third time is the charm. Mitchell is 24 years old and has struggled with his command due to an insane amount of movement on all of his pitches. Whether the line drive to the face had much to do with his confidence or not last season, and coming from a person who has been hit in the face with a baseball in a game trust me when I say that it does, remains to be seen but I truly think he can put it behind him and finish his development in 2016.

Mitchell contains a mid-to-high 90's fastball with what is considered to be a plus curveball and a developing cutter. The time is now for the right-hander. It almost has to be. Prospect Fatigue will be setting in soon.

The Yankees need a right-handed power bat to balance out their lineup and unfortunately, without a bit of maneuvering by GM Brian Cashman, there doesn't look like there is a roster spot for an impact position player this season. Between Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner an injury is going to happen and the clamoring for the Yankees top prospect, Aaron Judge, will begin.

Judge is a former first round draft pick in the 2013 draft and finished the season struggling a bit in Triple-A this season. Beltran did a fine job leading the Yankees offense in 2015 but his defense left much to be desired, Judge can give you that. Remember, Judge played center field a bit in Scranton to increase his versatility (or maybe it was his trade value at the time) and would be an immediate impact in right. He has a cannon for an arm and can mash at the plate. Judge won't win a job out of Spring Training, much like Greg Bird in 2015, but by mid-season you have to think if the Yankees need an outfielder or some DH help that Judge is coming, and coming fast. 

Ask me in a month and this opinion might change but right now Robert Refsnyder is your starting second baseman on Opening Day 2016. The Yankees seem like they are comfortable enough with a platoon of Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley to get by in 2016 and with a left-handed starting pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, on the mound on Opening Day Refsnyder likely gets the call.

Refsnyder had a down season in Scranton in 2015 hitting "just" .271 after posting an impressive .318 total in 2014 and his defense was once again on full display. As "bad" of a defender as Refsnyder is and as "down" as his bat has been that doesn't mean the Yankees should go out and sign a second base, a 2B like Daniel Murphy who Refsnyder has been compared to often as a rookie. Ask any scout about Murphy's bat and defense at 25-years old and compare it to Refsnyder's. Refsnyder has a comparable bat at their same age and is far better defensively than Murphy was. Refsnyder was drafted as an outfielder and moved to second base by the Yankees. He's still learning the position, patience is the key here.
Gary Sanchez is the final piece that could make an immediate impact in 2016. After John Ryan Murphy was traded to the Minnesota Twins the back up catcher job was left wide open for the Yankees and the rest of their roster. While immediately after the trade many handed the job to Sanchez but I don't see it going down like that, not after 35 games in Triple-A in his career, but Sanchez, like Judge, should be ready by mid-season.

Sanchez was having yet another Sanchez type season in Double-A hitting .270 with 12 home runs before an injury forced what was meant to be a temporary call-up to Triple-A. Sanchez made the most of the new opportunity hitting .294 with six home runs making it impossible to send him back down to Trenton. Sanchez made his MLB debut in 2015 and turned enough heads to warrant a trip to the Arizona Fall League with the Surprise Saguaros. Let this sink in. Sanchez is just 22-years old and hit 18 home runs. How much more progression and development does he have left? Plus he's right-handed, a huge need for the Yankees lineup.

Why Would We Want Ian Kinsler?

The latest and “greatest” trade rumor surrounding the New York Yankees and their second base situation suggests that the team pull off a trade with the Detroit Tigers for their second baseman Ian Kinsler. The longtime Texas Rangers second baseman was sent to Detroit in the deal that sent first baseman Prince Fielder back to Arlington and has quietly continued his strong career both offensively and defensively in the Motor City. Kinsler is solid but why would the New York Yankees truly want Kinsler over what they already have in Robert Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley?

Kinsler is solid but is 33 years old, something the Yankees are trying to get away from, and comes attached to a $9.65 million AAV over the next three seasons if you include his 2018 team option. On paper the Yankees probably get an upgrade during the 2016 season, although that is not set in stone as Kinsler slips another year past 30 while the fans get a full season glimpse of Refsnyder and Ackley, but in the long term I cannot see a trade being beneficial for New York.

First and foremost the second base position, especially for offensive minded second baseman, is anemic meaning the Tigers are going to want a substantial amount for Kinsler. Again, why give up prospects for a guy that is only going to block your prospects and give you a boost for a season at best? If at all. Why is everyone, and when I say everyone I mean the beat writers, bloggers and journalist that have the Yankees down as “interested” in every middle infielder on the market this offseason, so down on Refsnyder anyway? Give the kid a shot!

So in closing the Yankees need to hold onto their prospects and hold onto the plan they have right now. Platoon Ackley and Refsnyder and see it through until at least June or July before doing anything drastic. There may be better available at the deadline, the only way you’re going to know is if you’re patient. So be patient and don’t go shopping for any Ian Kinsler’s. 

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Kenta Maeda Wants to Come to MLB... Again

Kenta Maeda attempted to come over to the Major Leagues before the 2015 season and ended up spending the entire season back in Japan with the Hiroshima Carp. Maeda used his additional Japanese League season to post a 15-8 season and 2.09 ERA in 206.1 innings pitched and now wants to make a second run at the big leagues. There was talks last year that Maeda would warrant a $20 million AAV over five or six seasons and had multiple teams interested, if he comes stateside he may get more than that this time around.

Maeda's stats in Japan are good, but not overwhelming, and in no way should warrant that sort of contract. Maeda has thrown 1,509 IP in eight seasons in Japan and totaled under 175 IP just once in his career, his rookie season. Maeda tops out at 92 MPH on his fastball and like most Japanese pitchers offers multiple off speed and breaking pitches. Maeda went 11-8 for the Hiroshima Carp this season posting a 2.56 ERA with 154 K's in 179 IP. Maeda sounds like a right handed present day CC Sabathia, less velocity and more need for pinpoint control and pitching... not throwing.

Maeda's only saving grace is that he will be just 28-years old for the majority of 2016 and could be entering his prime just in the nick of time. I'm not saying I wouldn't take Maeda but he wouldn't be my Plan A or even my Plan D. He would rank behind David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto and many others at least.

Starlin Castro vs. the Robert Refsnyder/Dustin Ackley Platoon

I tend to make it a habit of staying out of trade rumors and such that I find to be 100% fabricated, made up and generated to simply get you to click on an article. I’m not about that and honestly it hurts the site overall. Clicks are down overall, and maybe that’s just because it’s the offseason and none of the big name free agents aren’t signing yet, but I’m not going to sell my soul to get a few clicks. I don’t hold any ill will towards those who do it because it’s their job, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with it, but it’s just a personal preference of mine to not do it. With that said you now know why I have yet to touch on the reported “Starlin Castro for Brett Gardner” rumors that were on again, and then off again and then never truly on at all. Well, not until now.

Let’s just have a little fun and say that the Yankees were indeed talking to the Chicago Cubs about acquiring Starlin Castro and let’s just assume that it would cost the Yankees left fielder straight up in the deal. No money thrown in and no prospects. Would the trade be worth it to New York and would Castro really put up better numbers in New York than the current platoon option the Yankees have at second base in Robert Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley?

The stats don’t lie. Starlin Castro is a career .281 hitter but has hit .265, .292 and .245 in each of the last three seasons in Chicago. Castro is a shortstop by trade but has fallen out of grace due to his defense in Chicago and moved to second base in an effort to try to recoup at least some value out of that contract. Speaking of that contract, the eight years and $60.57 million deal, Castro has four years and roughly $30 million left on the deal while both Refsnyder and Ackley are either pre-arbitration eligible or still arbitration eligible. Refsnyder will make the Major League minimum of $525,500 this season while MLB Trade Rumors has Ackley projected to earn $3.1 million. Based on salary alone this discussion is over, especially for a team that is trying to get under the luxury tax threshold in an offseason or two, but if the production is there to warrant it than who am I to judge?

That’s the issue, the production. We touched on Castro’s batting average but what about his WAR over the last three seasons? Castro has a WAR, according to Baseball Reference, of 2.7 over the last three seasons including a 0.6 WAR in 2015. Combined, albeit in an extremely small sample size, Refsnyder and Ackley combined for a 0.5 WAR using Ackley's Yankees tenure only. The difference here is Castro played in 151 games and took 578 at bats while the combination of Refsnyder and Ackley played in just 124 games and took just 313 plate appearances combined. If you look at just their Yankees numbers, specifically for Ackley, those numbers drop to 39 games and 104 at bats. So how do you work around an extremely small sample size? Projections?

Again a hat tip to Baseball Reference for their projections for the 2016 season.

2016 Proj. 546 510 53 138 26 12 57 5 28 95 .271 .313 .400 .713
2016 Proj. 224 202 24 54 11 7 25 4 17 43 .267 .329 .436 .764
2016 Proj. 386 351 43 87 18 10 42 4 27 68 .248 .303 .402 .705
As you can see the Yankees would get much more bang for their buck with the platoon of Ackley and Refsnyder over having just Castro alone. New York can optimize their lineup every single night depending on the opposing team’s starting pitcher while not sacrificing much, if anything at all, on the defensive side. If this trade was being talked about three years ago you make it 10 times out of 10. The bad news for the Cubs, Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman if these “rumors” are true is that this is the year 2015 and we’re talking about playing Major League Baseball in the year 2016. It would take much more than a Starlin Castro to take away Brett Gardner if I’m in charge of these trades.

What say you? Leave a comment in the comments section!

Top Rookie Disappointments in 2015

Major League Baseball's 2015 season was quickly donned as the Year of the Rookie and the rookies that were called up did not disappoint. From Carlos Correa to Kris Bryant down to the 18 rookies that made their Major League debut in 2015 for the New York Yankees every rookie had an impact, some impacts a ton bigger than others. This is great for baseball, the future of the brand and the future of the game. Not every prospect made the immediate impact that they would have hoped and not every prospect, especially in the Yankees system, had a great 2015 season. The most disappointing prospect seasons are detailed here below.

Tyler Austin had the biggest disappointing season. Austin was thought to be knocking on the door to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and instead ended the season being demoted to Double-A with the Trenton Thunder. Austin did turn heads back in his direction with a strong Arizona Fall League showing but that all came after he was designated for assignment and went unclaimed after being sent off the 4 man roster.

Dante Bichette Jr. was another big draft signing for the New York Yankees and the team has not been rewarded for their patience with Bichette Jr. as of yet. Bichette finished with a .226 batting average and just three home runs in 112 games. Bichette finished in Trenton alongside Austin.

Angel Aguilar (SS) had a great 2014 season with the club hitting .311 with seven home runs in the GCL but injuries hampered much of his 2015 season. Aguilar did not make his debut until April and was forced to learn new positions, second base and third base specifically, which along with the injuries may have led to his .229 batting average in 2015.

Juan De Leon was one of those big international free agent signings out of the Dominican Republic and he did not immediately live up to the hype. It was his first professional season but he did hit just .226 in the Dominican Summer League. De Leon was signed as a "polished" hitter and looked anything but that in 2015. The good news for him though, and the Yankees, is that he's just 18-years old.

This Day in New York Yankees History 11/28: Steinbrenner Suspended

Just one short tidbit of news on this day in Yankees history as on this day in 1974 George Steinbrenner was suspended from Major League Baseball for two years. Then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn made the controversial decision after Steinbrenner was caught and convicted of making illegal contributions to the re-elect Nixon campaign. Whoops.