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Wednesday, March 31, 2004
 
TWO GAMES IN I decided to sleep through the first game and the Yankees lost. Upset by this development, I watched the second game and the Yankees won. Clearly, I am the key to this Yankee season and must now adjust my life to fit the Yankees' schedule. I won't comment too much on the first game as I did not watch it, but the second game showed several key things. One was the pitching of Kevin Brown. I do not have the statistics readily available to back this up, but it seemed as though every ball in play was on the ground. This quickly left Brown trailing in the game and having a 2 hit every innings rate. However, after this Brown started giving up more pop outs and the more the D-Rays got the ball in the air, the more successful Brown was. This may just be selective memory, but it would fall in line with the general logic about the Yankees infield defense not being a strength to say the least. Speaking of infield defense, there was one play today that I found very amusing. Brown threw a pitch, and it was grounded to the left side of the infield. As Derek Jeter "moved" towards the ball, Alex Rodriguez came across the screen and scooped the ball up, but was unable to get the runner. Despite that this play was a demonstration of the guy's ability in the field. The look on Jeter's face in the replay resembled one of shock, and you just have to figure that there will be a point where occasions like this are so commonplace that the Yankees have to consider switching the two. As demonstrated by their putting 12 runs on the board, the Yankees were swinging the bats well today. Hideki Matsui in particular impressed me, not so much for his results though. My speculation from spring training has been confirmed as Hideki Matsui has slightly altered his stance. He hold the bat higher and tucked in tighter to his chest, it is not a major difference, but still noticeable. He has been getting the ball in the air with much more frequency and this seems to make sense as Posada had last year tried to correct this problem with Matsui's swing during the Cincinnati series. In addition it seems Matsui has added a little more of an uppercut to his swing. If all of this holds true then, I repeat, this offense goes from very good to incredible. Giambi being the DH due to slight knee problems made me realize something I had never really thought about before. When he is the DH, the Yankees will have to choose between Kenny Lofton's defense and Bernie Williams' offense. I am not sure, which way to go with this one as you also have to factor in how much production you would get out of Lee and Clark. Best-case scenario would probably be to give Giambi a day off in the field whenever Brown starts, place Lee/Clark at 1B, and Williams in CF. That way Williams shouldn't hurt you too much. Overall, Posada, Giambi, Sheffield, and Matsui look locked in. Jeter and A-Rod need to switch positions and then trade A-Rod, he stinks. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Monday, March 29, 2004
 
STATE OF THE YANKEES: MARCH '04 (PART 4) Here is the fourth and final part of my New York Yankees 2004 season preview. I'm not going to lie, right now I'm running on fumes, haven't slept in 24 hours, and supposed to be getting ready to go back to school (as you can tell by the dates, this took a lot longer than originally thought). However, I care too much to leave you guys hanging, so here goes nothing, literally. BENCH: This morning Joe Torre made the final decisions about who would be on his bench to open the season, the chosen ones are Tony Clark, Miguel Cairo, John Flaherty, Ruben Sierra, and Bubba Crosby. Yes, that's right, Bubba Crosby, a relatively young and inexperienced outfielder made the team over Darren Bragg, a trusted veteran who has played for Torre before. This is a huge step in the proper direction for Joe Torre. While I'm praising Joe Torre, I would also like to commend him for not only creating a good batting order (for now), but also including Jorge DePaula on the team. Donovan Osborne's fast start and veteran left hander status probably kept him safe, but choosing De Paula demonstrates Torre's acknowledgment that Osborne is shaky at best. He could have gone with Scott Proctor, who had a more statistically impressive spring, but De Paula can start in addition to coming out of the bullpen, and when, not if, Osborne fails he will be needed. Now, back to the bench, I have two strong gripes with it. One is that Miguel Cairo should be in the starting line-up and not on the bench and I don't think Ruben Sierra deserves a roster spot. At the very least he should go when Travis Lee returns. He, statistically, is not a good enough hitter from either side to claim some form of immunity from roster decisions. In addition, watching Sierra this spring made it clear why he is so unsuccessful at the plate. He pulls everything. Including foul balls there was one time this spring where I saw Sierra go to the opposite field, everything else was pulled. His strategy at the plate is only effective at rally killing ground ball double plays, probably the last thing you want from a pinch hitter, which is all Sierra is. Sierra's numbers verify this as he has a high ground ball to fly ball ratio. I think the Yankee bullpen will be pretty good this year. Mo will be excellent, Gordon should be very good, and Quantrill could be a decent innings eating middle reliever. Everyone else is a question mark. I never thought Gabe White was great and his tumbling K rates trouble me, Felix Heredia is bad, and Karsay will never come back...ever. However, this is still better than last year when in Torre's eyes it was Mo and a bunch of crap. *** AWARD PREDICTIONS: Brian Giles, NL MVP Carlos Beltran, AL MVP Kerry Wood, NL Cy Young Javier Vazquez, AL Cy Young James Loney, NL ROY Bobby Crosby, AL ROY PLAYOFF TEAMS: Yankees Red Sox Royals A's Phillies Astros Padres Cubs and then... Yankees vs. Athletics Cubs vs. Astros and then... Yankees vs. Cubs and then... Yankees win and then... That's it, I'm done. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Sunday, March 28, 2004
 
STATE OF THE YANKEES: MARCH '04 (PART 3) Here is part 3 of my look at the Yankees system, both the majors and minors. SP: Cause for concern amongst many prognosticators this offseason has been the Yankees starting pitching, simply put, there are a myriad of question marks. Let's start with the surest aspect, which of course would be Mike Mussina. Mussina is about as consistent as starting pitchers come. What you will get from him is an ERA in the mid to low 3's, about 8 Ks per nine innings, less than a hit per inning, a homer every 10 innings, and a walk every 5 innings. Don't believe that is a fair assessment? Check out his stats since coming to the Yankees: '01: 3.15/8.42/7.95/0.79/1.65 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) '02: 4.05/7.60/8.68/1.13/2.01 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) '03: 3.40/8.18/8.05/0.88/1.68 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) So 2 out of 3 years Mussina has pitched essentially the same. The outlier in all this was his 2002. The sources of problems for Mussina in 2002 were an increased walk and home run rate. In regards to being a starting pitcher on the Yankees, something that helps Mussina is that he is not much of a groundball pitcher, his ground ball to fly ball ratios the past 3 years are 1.02, 1.08, and 1.13, respectively. There's a slight increasing trend and perhaps this is just a regression to the norm of his career rate of 1.14. If Mussina continues to produce slightly more groundballs, this should not affect him too much. While it is encouraging that Mussina has been consistent, this is not as great as it may seem. Since 2001, the American League composite ERAs have been 4.48, 4.38, and 4.39. While it is only a slight decline in league offensive performance it does make Mussina seem a little less impressive, but he should still continue being one of the American League's better pitchers. Javier Vazquez worries me. Performance-wise I think he will be fine, but that's only if he is healthy. According to Baseball Prospectus' pitcher abuse points system, Vazquez was the second most abused pitcher in baseball last season. This could catch up to him, but then again it may not, here's hoping that it doesn't because a healthy Vazquez is potentially the staff ace for the Yankees. Based on scouting reports and what I have seen of him in spring training, he is like a younger Mussina, with improved velocity. Here are his numbers over the past 3 years: '01: 3.42/8.37/7.92/0.97/1.77 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) '02: 3.91/6.99/9.49/1.09/1.92 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) '03: 3.24/9.40/7.73/1.09/2.22 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) Overall, his production is similar to Mussina but his ERAs may be a bit more impressive as the National League composite ERAs in this 3 year span are 4.62, 4.16, and 4.97 respectively. There are two somewhat alarming signs in Vazquez's stats though, and they are the rising home run and walk rates. Right now I doubt this has much significance as he still has very good control and there is an explanation for his increased homer rates. The reason Vazquez has been giving up more long flies is that he has been giving up more fly balls. His groundball to fly ball ratios the last 3 years go 1.28, 0.94, and 0.83. That is the type of trend and ratio you like to see on this Yankee team, and part of the reason why I think a healthy Vazquez will be the Yankees best pitcher and a potential Cy Young candidate. Kevin Brown was a Cy Young candidate in the National League last season. I would be shocked if he comes anywhere near those type of statistics this season, a Roger Clemens 2003, in terms of ERA, is about where I would expect Brown to be. The reason for my general lack of optimism in Brown's upcoming season is that IF he is healthy, and that is a big if, Brown is an extreme groundball pitcher. If you want to look at the glass as being half-full, then the Yankees have an average infield defense, in LA, Brown had an excellent one. For his career, Brown has a groundball to fly ball ratio of 2.75. His ratio cannot be that high for him to have a very successful season in New York. Look for Brown to give up more than a hit per inning, in addition, you heard it here first, the Twins will destroy him in the Metrodome. One thing that he does have going for him though is that he still strikes out a decent enough amount of guys, which should help ease some of the pressure on New York's defense. There isn't too much statistical data to go on for Contreras, but what is there, is encouraging: '03: 3.30/9.13/6.59/0.51/3.80 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) In 2004, Jose Contreras will be great, or Jose Contreras will be good. Those are the only ways I see his season playing out. He strikes out too many guys in addition to his stuff being too good, for him to just have an ordinary season. On the other hand, he walks enough men to hinder his performance, and this could potentially be a long-term problem. Some have expressed concern over his health, but I think that Contreras is a good bet for 180+ innings this season. Jon Lieber on the other hand, will almost surely not reach that mark as he begins the season incapacitated. Rather than the arm trouble some had feared re-occurring, Lieber has suffered from a groin injury. Both from personal experience and observation, groin injuries, while not the most painful or severe, tend to linger. This could delay Lieber's return dramatically as coming back early could lead to compensation for the injury and that could result in more arm problems, the Yankees do not want or need that. So what can be expected of a healthy Lieber? '00: 4.41/6.88/8.90/1.29/1.93 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) '01: 3.80/5.73/8.75/0.97/1.59 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) '02: 3.71/5.55/9.77/0.96/0.77 (ERA/Kper9/Hper9/HRper9/BBper9) The league ERA for these 3 years was 4.27, 4.23, and 4.03, respectively. While one can look at this and say that Lieber was actually getting better, the prognosis is not as bright now that he is on the Yankees. The most glaring danger is that Lieber is coming off of Tommy John Surgery, and while he has been ready to go for quite some time, there is no telling how he will react to the surgery now that the season is underway. The other danger is that while Lieber's walk rate has declined, which is encouraging, it is a double-edged sword. As Lieber has walked less men, he has struck out less, thereby allowing more balls in play, with the current Yankee defense it is best to minimize the amount of balls in play. On a positive note, while Lieber is allowing less and less home runs, his groundball to fly ball ratio has actually decreased. I don't know how much weight should be put on the declining groundball to fly ball ratio however as a quick glance at the stats shows that it may only be a regression to the norm. In that case I would guess Lieber's ratio for this season would be around 1.3 and that combined with his other peripherals would most likely make him a slightly above league average pitcher. That may not seem like much, but it is good production from a number 5 starter, especially when considering the bulk of the number 5 starter innings were logged by Jeff Weaver last year and he had an ERA+ of 73. On the farm, the Yankees have three types of pitching prospects; those who are close to the majors and have made it readily clear that they will be about league average pitchers, those who have an interesting upside, but easily evident risks, and those who are so far away that it is difficult to say anything conclusive about them. Members of the average to above average, still not great, group that have previously been covered on the website are Brad Halsey and Ramon Ramirez. Another member of this group is Jorge/Julio De Paula, De Paula may or may not be the Yankees 5th starter to open the 2004 season, at this point that decision is still up in the air. What is not up in the air is what De Paula is, a less talented Ramon Ramirez. At this point De Paula is more established than Ramirez, but they are similar in that De Paula is slightly less of a strikeout pitcher, walks more guys, and has a tiny bit less juice on the fastball. Both guys need to work on getting a consistent third pitch, and both have been labeled as future bullpen fodder. Alex Graman, likely candidate for the AAA rotation, is of the De Paula mode, but left-handed. Moving down to AA Trenton, we find our first interesting Yankee pitching prospect. He is a left-hander formerly of the San Diego Padres organization, and his name is Mark Phillips. When the Yankees received Phillips in the Rondell White trade I remember being ecstatic, partly because White was leaving, and partly because I thought Phillips would give the Yankees a legitimate top prospect. I thought he would rip through the Yankee minor leagues in no time. I thought wrong. As a 20-year-old member of the 2002 Lake Elsinore Storm in the A+ California League, Phillips demonstrated two things: 7.46/5.70/9.47/0.55/1.66:1 (Hper9/BBper9/Kper9/HRper9/K:BB) The first, accounted for by his home run, hit, and strikeout rates, was that he had phenomenal potential. The scouting reports coincided with this. The second, accounted for by his walk rate, was that he was a huge risk. Nonetheless, getting him in the Rondell White deal was seen as a prospect coup. The Yankees seemingly realized that while Phillips had certainly done well in A+, all things considered, he could stand to benefit from beginning 2003 there, but this time in the Florida State League. Unfortunately, things fell apart: 8.06/6.53/6.40/0.26/0.98:1 (Hper9/BBper9/Kper9/HRper9/K:BB) While Phillips' home run rate went down, this was probably league enhanced, his walk rate went up, as did his hit rate and his strikeout rate went way down. Phillips had come to camp out of shape, something that supposedly he had already been notorious for in San Diego, and was forced to start the season late. When he finally got underway there were reports that Phillips' mechanics were out of whack and his velocity was down from its usual low to mid 90s. Hopefully, last year can be chalked up to these problems, because if so they are correctable, and if Phillips can correct them then he could get back onto the path to stardom as he is still only 22 years old and will be so for the duration of this season. Jeremy King originally caught my eye as a member of the 2002 A- Greensboro Bats, he and Dioner Navarro to be exact. What I noticed about King then was that he was somewhat young for his level and holding his own, only to tire near season's end. Since then King has progressed slowly through the Yankees system and is now slated to begin 2004 in A+ Tampa. For whatever reason, I cannot place King firmly into one category. Statistically, he's done well, he's kept the ball in the park, hasn't walked too many, hasn't given up too many hits, and has struck out his fair share of batters. The problem lies with his being too old to declare him a good prospect, but not old enough to give up on him, this year will go a long way towards deciding his fate. If he does what the Yankees have had him do in the past and spend the majority of the season at A+ with a late promotion to AA, then he becomes another fill in starter type, if he can log significant and successful time at both A+ and AA, he becomes a decent prospect. 8.89/2.83/5.12/0.94/1.81:1 (Hper9/BBper9/Kper9/HRper9/K:BB) If I saw the preceding line from a pitching prospect I would be very mildly interested, but in the end disappointed due to the low K rate. Letting me know that a 20-year-old put up those numbers in their first taste of full season baseball would further heighten interest though. If I was then told that the pitcher in question "regularly touches 97 mph and has added a devastating splitter" to his arsenal, I would try not to get too excited and sit back and wait. Wait until everything "clicks" for Jose Valdez and he begins to tap into his potential. Until then, I can always look at the low K rate to temper my expectations, and just hope that he begins to figure things out this summer on the A+ Tampa team. The Yankees too far away to say something conclusive about, but still interesting enough to keep an eye on are Elvys Quezada, Tyler Clippard (previously covered), Sean Henn (previously covered), Jason Stephens, Chase Wright, Abel Gomez, Toni Lara, and Edgar Soto. (To be continued...) *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Saturday, March 27, 2004
 
STATE OF THE YANKEES: MARCH '04 (PART 2) Here is part 2 of my look at the Yankees system, both the majors and minors. OF: The Yankees' outfield situation, despite being mostly comprised of veterans with established track records, is filled with question marks. The one position where there are no question marks on the major league level is RF, the home of Gary Sheffield. Barring injury, which is always a risk with a 35-year-old player, Sheffield will be the second best hitter on the Yankees team. There, I said it, and I know it's a risky statement to make. The guy simply does everything you want from a hitter, he hits for average, he hits for power, he takes a walk, and for those who hate the strikeout, he is one of the better contact hitters in baseball. Though I initially wanted Vlad, I won't have too much of a problem sitting back and enjoying Sheffield put together a .315/.415/.575/.331. Defensively, Sheffield will be slightly below average, but won't hurt the team too much, and as he has already shown in Spring Training, his arm should come in handy. Moving over to CF, the Yankees' question marks begin to crop up. The first is Kenny Lofton. From the beginning of the 2000 season to about the middle of the 2002 season, Kenny Lofton was a below average offensive player. His OBP was decent overall, but he had no power, he was then traded to the San Francisco Giants. His performance was essentially the same as his 1st half performance with the White Sox, but he was in a league with a lower offensive standard so in comparison he did a better job. Staying in that same league, but now playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kenny Lofton put together some more league average baseball. He was once again traded around mid-season, but this time to the Chicago Cubs. Once again, Kenny Lofton was revived, or so it seemed. More likely this was a prime example of fluke performance as the greatest difference between what Lofton did with the Chicago Cubs, line 2, and what he did with the Pirates, line 1, was batting average: .277/.333/.437/.259 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 34.0/12.1/1:1.04 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) .327/.381/.471/.289 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 29.4/11.6/1:1.22 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) Batting average is a statistic prone to fluctuation, this would be Exhibit A. Kenny Lofton hit .296 overall last season. That was the first time he had been above the .280 mark since 1999. In addition Lofton's once excellent walk rate has declined dramatically and he cannot be counted on to walk in more than 10% of his at bats. With all this in mind, the best the Yankees can expect from their leadoff hitter is .280/.340/.420/.258. So why did the Yankees even pick up Lofton? To get Soriano out of the leadoff spot, which is questionable as I actually like Soriano better in said position, and even with Sori gone, Jeter would be the best leadoff hitter in the majors, but he runs the team so that can't happen. The Yankees also wanted to get Bernie Williams out of CF. This is understandable, Kenny Lofton is currently an average to slightly above average CF, and meanwhile, Bernie Williams is a pretty pathetic one. Because of this Bernie will be spending time in CF and at DH, but mostly DH. Bernie Williams is a player who generally has two sorts of sentiments directed towards him in regards to his performance this upcoming season. There are those who completely disregard his 2003 and feel that he will return to the level he established before that, and those who feel 2003 was a fair indicator of his current level of play. The truth is probably somewhere between those two. While not completely washed up, Bernie is beginning to break down: '01: .307/.395/.522/.308 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 38.6/6.92/1:.86 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) '02: .333/.415/.493/.310 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 28.4/7.37/1:1.17 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) '03: .263/.367/.411/.268 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 29.9/6.27/1:.86 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) His power has taken the largest step back and Bernie probably won't exceed the 30% mark for extra base hit percentage. Bernie should still be able to produce a .300 batting average, but now that average will not be as productive due to the loss of power, at the very least, his walk rates have been very consistent. In 2004, Bernie Williams should hit .300/.390/.460/.291, the only way this could be a problem is if Torre hits him somewhere behind Rodriguez and in front of Jorge Posada, for example. The final major outfielder on the Yankee roster is Hideki Matsui. More than one fellow Yankee fan has accused me of hating Matsui. I don't. Do I think he is horribly overpaid and a potential detriment? Yes. Do I hate him? No. I think Matsui will go one of two ways this year. The first way, which is the one I felt would happen for much of the offseason, is that he would tank. I was envisioning a line of .275/.345/.425/.262, which would be slightly worse than how he performed last year when he was about a league average corner outfielder. His spring has me a bit more optimistic and now I see a potential second scenario, which is .300/.390/.490/.298, the Bernie Williams numbers that were originally predicted for Matsui. If Matsui hits like that, or close to it, the Yankees lineup will indeed be as scary as many mainstream reporters predict it should be, otherwise they will have to settle for simply great. In the minor leagues, the Yankees have some decent substitutes readily available, in the form of Mike Vento and/or Bubba Crosby at the AAA level if neither makes the team. Crosby, has previously been addressed, Vento not so much. Vento has not had nearly as much Spring Training success as Crosby, but I feel he is a very similar player. Both are speedy guys who do a decent job getting on base and have a little pop in their bat, here is what they did for Columbus last year, 63 at bats for Crosby and 184 for Vento: .302/.366/.460/.280 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 26.3/10.5/1:2 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) .304/.363/.473/.282 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 35.7/13.1/1:2.57 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) The first line is Crosby's and the second is Vento. Vento hit for more power, Crosby did a better job controlling the strike zone, and in Vento's favor is his being a year younger. Of course, the small sample size caveat definitely applies to this situation, but fears stemming from this are somewhat lessened by their career minor league lines: .285/.346/.428/.263 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 31.1/10.9/1:1.86 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) .278/.342/.435/.263 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 33.4/10.3/1:2.21 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) In general I think they are very comparable players and as such can provide value as backup outfielders or part-time players. The Yankees cadre of potential backup OF continues with Kevin Thompson and John Rodriguez. Rodriguez has some pop and a good defensive reputation, but struggles to hit for decent average and his less than spectacular walk rate combined with his walk to strikeout ratio of the same nature place doubts as to whether he will ever be able to do this. Thompson is a speedy on base guy with decent pop, after destroying the A+ Florida State League as a 23 year old, he struggled in the AA Easter League, which is cause for serious concern as that was a much better hitting league in 2003 and he is getting up there in age. He will start this year at AA, where he finished last, and attempt to get over the hump. Rodriguez' starting point is less clear. As for Yankee minor league outfielders that may eventually develop into regulars, Rudy Guillen is the cream of that crop. Included in that crop and previously mentioned on this website are Estee Harris and Melky Cabrera. While Guillen should begin the season in A+, Harris and Cabrera should be members of the A- Battle Creek Yankees. Guillen's likely outfield teammate in Tampa will be Eric Verbryke. Verbryke was drafted by the Yankees in 2002 and in 2003, his first full season, he posted the following line: .271/.373/.430/.275 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 36.1/7.02/1:1.24 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) For a 21 year old his numbers were decent, though it would have been nice to see him dominate rather than just do well. The key for him this year at Tampa will be to get off to a fast start and log some substantial time at AA Trenton by season's end. Other Yankee OF prospects to keep an eye on are Erold Andrus, Anderson Amador, Jose Perez, and Tim Battle. Battle is a tools guy who was having trouble in his first taste of pro ball last summer, but it turned out that some of the trouble was a result of rib cage pain he was feeling and this pain was cancerous. He is reportedly ready to go this year though. Amador is another toolsy outfielder, thus far he has demonstrated no knowledge of the strike zone and this will probably be his downfall, but his physical tools warrant keeping an eye on him. Erold Andrus is a switch hitter that could be special, but just like Amador, needs to command the strike zone; in addition he has to be able to stay healthy. Perez is the "weird" one of this group. He has strong physical skills and is very patient, but his Gulf Coast League strikeout numbers. Andrus, Perez, and Battle should be at A- Battle Creek this year, with Amador possibly playing short season ball. However, this is subject to change and the only one guaranteed to play in full season baseball of the four is Andrus. (To be continued...this weekend) *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
 
DISCLAIMER After posting the beginning of my season preview, I checked out Baseball America and realized they are in the process of publishing theirs too. I would just like to make it clear that I did not check this feature out and I will not look at it as I complete my preview. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Friday, March 26, 2004
 
STATE OF THE YANKEES: MARCH '04 (PART 1) With the 2004 minor league season about to get underway in two weeks time, and the major league one in a few days, I've decided to take an overlook at what the Yankees have going on down on the farm in addition to at the major league level. In general, the Yankees' system is seen as one of the poorest by all prospect prognosticators, this would be the opposite of their major league, which is in constant title contention and that is no different this year. Their one prospect to get universal acclaim, and this acclaim is very much tempered, is Dioner Navarro. The overview will begin with his position, catcher. C: In the major leagues, the Yankees have Jorge Posada and John Flaherty to take care of the catching situation. Last year, at the age of 31, Jorge Posada had the finest year of his major league career, as he put together a line of .281/.405/.518/.312 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA). The biggest difference for Posada this season was that he did not suffer a major drop-off after the All Star Break, in a way; he actually became a different hitter. The first half saw Posada hit .252/.402/.482/.301, in the second half Posada hit .320/.409/.567/.326. So when the season began Jorge Posada was a patient slugger, but as the second half went on Posada became more impatient, but generated more productive results. There are two ways to look at this. One is to just dismiss it as a fluke, the second is to take this as evidence that the extra weight that Posada carried on him entering the 2003 season actually served its purpose of maintaining his effectiveness. I think the weight may have made a difference in keeping up his overall numbers, but at the same time, Posada hitting for a .320 batting average is a fluke, he has never been such a high average hitter in the majors or minors. This upcoming season I expect Posada to regress somewhat from his 2003, but still remain one of the best offensive players at his position with a line in the vicinity of .280/.380/.490/.294. Flaherty's overall line of .267/.297/.457/.248 seems decent enough when coming from a backup catcher, however, excitement over his line, compiled in 105 at bats, should be tempered as much of the value came from a single 2-homer game in Baltimore. Flaherty was a bad hitter last year and should be one again. His career line is a fair indication of the .250/.290/.370/.223 season he should be expected to have at this point. As long as he remains good enough, in Joe Torre's eyes to allow Posada to miss the occasional game, Flaherty will have a role. On the minor league level, the Yankees are decent at catcher. 20-year-old Dioner Navarro headlines this group, of course. Navarro's stance and approach at the plate reminds scouts of a young Roberto Alomar and thus far his results have been similar. Here is what they did in AA at age 19: Alomar: .319/.383/.478/.292 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 33.3/10.9/1:1.5 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) Navarro: .341/.388/.471/.292 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 26.7/11.6/1:1.4 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) The overall AA results were similar, but Alomar's season was more promising as he hit for more power with a higher walk rate, but what if we combined Navarro's A+ numbers? If that was done, his line becomes: Navarro: .321/.374/.469/.286 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 32.3/11.6/1:1.5 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) So yes, Navarro's age 19 season was very comparable to Roberto Alomar's with the exception that Alomar demonstrated a stronger walk rate. However, on the other hand Navarro's career minor league walk rate is higher than Alomar's, while Alomar's career minor league walk to strikeout ratio being better. Alomar has hit for higher average, and Navarro more power. In summation, their minor league careers are very similar thus far. Were Navarro to have an offensive career similar to Alomar's, it would be in line with the Pierzynski with patience comparison I made in one of my first posts. The Yankees are set to start Navarro off at AA Trenton, the same league in which he ended last season. I think this is a function of two things. One is the Yankees general reluctance to do anything close to rushing most prospects, Drew Henson being the exception, and two the Yankees perhaps wanting to slow down Navarro's ascension to the big leagues. While it might not make sense from an outside perspective there are merits to the Yankees slowing down a prospect. Because they have Jorge Posada at the major league level, and his contract does not end until after the 2006 season at the earliest, the Yankees are set for some time. The plan right now seems to be for Navarro to spend 2004 at AA, with a potential late season promotion to AAA, then 2005 in AAA with potential big league time, and look for him to become a semi regular in 2006, playing the Jorge Posada to Jorge Posada's Joe Girardi. Of course, even with the most blue chip of Yankee prospects, the question of whether or not they will be traded has to be addressed, right now I think Navarro is safe...or at least safe in comparison to other Yankee prospects. The reason being that switch hitting offensive minded catchers with good defensive skills are hard to come by and there is no current big leaguer that will be able to replace or come close to replacing Posada's production once his time has run out. The catcher below Navarro on the Yankee prospect depth charts is Jon-Mark Sprowl. Sprowl was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Raul Mondesi deal last summer. Sprowl is too old for true prospect status, he was a 22 year old playing in A- ball last year, lacks any major tools to get excited about, but does have on redeeming quality. No matter what level he has played, Sprowl has managed to maintain a good walk rate and hitters who can get on base are always valuable. This is what he did last year: Sprowl: .321/.422/.443/.301 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 28.3/5.89/1:.55 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) In most organizations, considering that Sprowl is now in his age 23 season, he would be looking to start the season at AA, or at the least be on the fast track. However, Dioner Navarro's being a better prospect and developmentally one level ahead of Sprowl is impeding Sprowl's current progress. Regardless Sprowl could potentially develop into a useful backup catcher, but probably not much more. Two more names to keep an eye on this upcoming season are Luis Romero and Edinson De Los Santos. 1B: Jason Giambi was not himself in 2003. He got off to a slow start, but this time it was even slower than in 2002. In addition, his strikeouts were up. Around mid to late May it became public knowledge that Giambi had a pretty bad eye infection and was basically hitting blind, he got this fixed, went on a month and a half tear, and then his knee started bothering him. This offseason Giambi got knee surgery to correct the problem, but the damage to his overall numbers had been done as a result of his ailments: 2000: .333/.476/.647/.376 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 3.72/1:.70 (ABperBB/BB:K) 2001: .342/.477/.660/.380 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 4.03/1:.64 (ABperBB/BB:K) 2002: .314/.435/.598/.345 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 5.14/1:1.03 (ABperBB/BB:K) 2003: .250/.412/.527/.317 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 4.15/1:1.09 (ABperBB/BB:K) From his last two years with the Athletics to his first two with the Yankees the overall raw offensive output rises and then begins to fall. At first glance this would seem like a clear decline. The drop-off is not as clear as it may initially seem though. 2001 is clearly the finest season of Giambi's career, with 2000 coming in second. The major difference between Giambi's 2000 and 2002 when corrected for league offensive context is batting average. The difference between Giambi's 2000 and 2003 when corrected for league offensive context is once again barring average. The question now becomes whether or not the loss of batting average points is correctable or a symptom of Giambi's inevitable offensive decline. I think it is a little of both, Giambi's average suffered so much in 2003 because of injuries, injuries tend to occur more frequently to older players, despite this I expect Giambi to rebound somewhat this year. A line around .290/.430/.570/.336 should be what Giambi produces this year. On the farm the Yankees have nothing when it comes to established 1B prospects. This is a result of the Yankees currently having a poor farm system in general and because many times players are allowed to play at more skilled positions in the minors in order to increase prospect value before finally moving to 1B. An example of this would be Giambi or Thome who were initially 3B. One name to keep an eye on though is Raul Dominguez from last season's Dominican Summer League Yankees team, he has scouts excited and turned in a good offensive performance. 2B: The Yankees were once really strong at 2B at the major league level. That time has passed. Now Yankee fans must settle for a consistent serving of Migrique Cailson. I have already addressed this issue enough and I'm going to avoid spending more words on the major league 2B situation. At the minor league level the Yankees top 2B prospect is their second closest to the major league level, Robinson Cano. When the A-Rod deal first went through part of what bothered me about it was that the part of that is purely just a fan lamented the loss of another homegrown Yankee. I like my homegrown guys. It wasn't until recently that this deal, aside from enhancing the major league club, actually cleared the path for Cano. If he performs like he did as a 19 year old in A-, Cano could see the Stadium by season's end, especially if the two headed 2B monster performs as they usually have and the Yankees are not able to appropriate anyone better. For now, however, he will just being this season where he ended last, AA Trenton. The most likely scenario for Cano is that he is trade bait for said 2B replacement. If not, the "poor man's Soriano" could have a shot at holding down the keystone position for the Yankees, then again, they could just sign Vidro. Developmentally ahead of Cano, but with a considerably lower ceiling, is Andy Phillips. If the 2B situation fails miserably, expect Phillips to get first shot at salvaging the situation. I am not sure about his defensive ability as he is a failed 3B, but offensively Cano has demonstrated good power and decent walk rates throughout his career while maintaining a strong average as evidenced by his career line of .288/.355/.488/.282. Phillips would probably be exposed at the ML level if depended on for too long, but this being his age 27 season he may be able to string together a couple decent months for the Yankees if needed and he will be immediately on hand at AAA Columbus. Next and last in the line of legitimate 2B prospects in the organization is Enrique Cruz. Cruz is the brother of the Devil Rays Jose Cruz Jr., so there is the hope that he received some of the family talent, though that was not apparent in his numbers while serving as the 2B for Rice University. Much like his older brother on the big league level, Cruz's game never came together in college, his sophomore season he hit with a lot of power but had a low average and not too great walk rate, and then in his junior year he hit for average, got on base, but lost much of his power. At the very least, he has demonstrated both of these tools at some point and now the deciding factor in his prospect status will be whether or not he can ever put them together in one season. That seems highly unlikely, because if it was likely that this would happen, Cruz, coming off a national championship season, probably would not have lasted until the 14th round, however, stranger things have happened. Cruz got off to a solid start to his minor league career, hitting .285/.363/.385/.260 in 130 at bats for the short season A ball Staten Island Yankees. He will likely start 2004 at A+ Tampa, but if not, look for him to be a member of the A- Battle Creek Yankees. 3B: Ah, 3B, the position that Derek Jeter should be manning, however, that is a story for another day. For now, the Yankees are "stuck" with Alex Rodriguez there. I addressed A-Rod in my post on the trade, but would still like to take the chance to officially predict his batting line: .310/.400/.570/.323. Defensively, I think Rodriguez will be good, but not spectacular...until the Yankees can no longer deny destiny, and force The Rangeless One to move from his post, pun intended. 3B is currently the home of 3 Yankee prospects. The most prominent is last year's first round draft pick, Eric Duncan. Duncan has also gotten some previous hype on this site so I won't go too much into analyzing him, but I do think he is a potential superstar hitter. If the Yankees follow their typical developmental protocol, Duncan can be looked for as a member of the A- Battle Creek Yankees, however, there have been rumors from the Yankee organization that Duncan could end the season as high as AA and begin in A+. I hope that doesn't happen, because the last time the Yankees had a high potential 3B prospect and he was put on the accelerated path...yeah, that didn't work out too well. Duncan should start in A- and if he excels, end in A+. Bronson Sardinha is second in line amongst 3B prospects within the Yankee organization and has been an enigma thus far. He is another player I have addressed in the past, but the general problem with him has been that he has struggled initially when promoted. If he can avoid another slow start, Sardinha could place himself back onto the overall prospect radar as he is still young and has good tools in addition to holding a strong sense of the strike zone. At this point, the Yankees have not made it clear whether or not they will keep Sardinha progressing normally, placing him on the A+ Tampa Yankees team, or skip a level and put him on the AA Trenton Thunder. Since Sardinha is still relatively young I would be pleased to see him begin at A+ and once he has some consistent success then a promotion to AA would be perfectly in line. Hector Zamora is the final 3B prospect of note in the Yankee system. He has thus far been stuck in short season A ball and shown solid plate patience, walking once every 7.1 at bats, but has struck out much more than you would like to see an older player in short season ball strike out, once every 3.81 at bats. His power indicators are decent judging from his 33% extra base hit rate last year. Zamora looked shaky when in the field when I saw him play, and he also committed a lot of errors last year, so questions about his defense may be appropriate. Zamora is already a pretty big guy, and his future may be across the diamond at 1B, but for now, he is still at the hot corner. Zamora's presence within the organization should assist in keeping Duncan from being too rushed as he should start off at A+ Tampa, keeping Duncan at A- Battle Creek for a short time. SS: Derek Jeter, another player I have already addressed this offseason is the Yankee major league shortstop. He will not move, for anyone, or anything, EVER. He will be the Yankee SS until the day he dies and thus the prospects at SS for the Yankees have a less than 5% chance of staying at that position, but I will address them nonetheless. Deivi Mendez was once compared to Alex Rodriguez by a major sports publication. That was a long time ago and since then Mendez has been ineffective and unhealthy. Now in his age 21 season Mendez will have to prove he can hit, something he has not done in some time, if ever. Despite my disdain for Mendez's performance thus far he could still become a solid backup as he is reportedly strong defensively and does have solid tools, though the same could be said for Ruben Rivera, and he turned out to be a...steal. Where Mendez starts this season is probably dependent on the next prospect, one will start at one level and the other will handle what is left. With Joaquin Arias gone in the Soriano-Rodriguez deal, the title of best Yankee SS prospect now falls, somewhat unfortunately, to Ferdin Tejeda. By all accounts he is an excellent defender, his hitting on the other hand...leaves something to be desired. Tejeda has thus far hit for a high average in his relatively short minor league career, but suffered from the problems of inconsistent plate patience and a lack of power. The inconsistency in Tejeda's plate patience has been that outside of the Gulf Coast League he has not walked much at all. Because the good walk rates were in the Gulf Coast League I am not sure whether the ability to walk was ever a legitimate one. For his career, Tejeda's extra base hit percentage has hovered right around the 20% mark and this is not very encouraging. Normally there could be hope for Tejeda to fill out, but he is not very tall, giving him less room to put weight on so the chances of his power making substantial gains are slim to none and he also solely subsides on fish, which may or may not have an effect on his potential weight gain. Right now Tejeda looks like a solid backup infielder, if he regains his plate patience, a decent starter. Hopefully, he can do this whether he starts the season at A+ Tampa, where I feel he belongs, or AA Trenton, where the Yankees may start him out of necessity and a false feeling that he has "conquered" A+. The final preseason Yankee SS prospect to keep an eye on is Hector Made. As an 18 year old playing in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, Made did not hit for a high average, but demonstrated great enough plate patience, plate discipline, and power potential to make himself notable: Made: .236/.314/.376/.235 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 30.1/8.9/1:1.05 (XBH%/ABperBB/BB:K) Aside from a decent offensive debut, Made is also very projectable at 6'1'' 154 pounds. If he can begin the season with the A- Battle Creek Yankees, playing in an easier environment hitting wise should allow Made's prospect star to rise. (To be continued...this weekend) *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Thursday, March 25, 2004
 
YAWN Mike Lamb was traded, guess there wasn't much chance that he could make the team. Anyway, he goes to the Astros in return for Juan De Leon. To me, if you don't start and you don't put up phenomenal numbers, then you are not a pitching prospect. Juan De Leon is not a prospect, looks like organizational fodder to me. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
 
A-ROD IN, SPIDER-MAN OUT And after weeks of rampant media speculation, meaning the occasional blurb, the Yankees have completed the deal. In its final form it is Alex Rodriguez and cash considerations for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias. In terms of tools, Arias is often compared to Soriano, who sometimes finds himself compared to Rodriguez. Just as the greatest difference between Rodriguez and Soriano is plate discipline and patience, Soriano's lack of it as compared to Rodriguez' grasp of the concepts, so is it between Soriano and Arias. Soriano: 15.5/1:2.16 (ABperBB/BB:K) Arias: 18/1:1.58 (ABperBB/BB:K) The above stats are the plate discipline and patience numbers for the two while in the minors. Soriano walked more than Arias in the minors. Yes, that's right, Alfonso Soriano walks more than someone else. While Soriano walks more, that should be expected, as he was considerably older and more experienced than Arias, who has been one of the youngest players at every level he's played. Even so, while Soriano had a higher walk rate than Joaquin Arias, Arias has had exceptionally low strikeout rates, an impressive feat. Arias' offensive game is promising at this point as he has demonstrated that while he most likely won't walk much, he probably has a fair enough understanding of the strike zone as evidenced by his low K rates. Power is supposed to be the final tool to develop so I am not too worried with Arias' apparent lack thereof. Playing in the same league as Arias, but a year earlier and a year older, my favorite prospect from another team to mention, Joe Mauer, had an extra base hit on 22.6% of his hits. Arias' percentage was 18. So yeah, I am not too worried about Arias' power potential. The scouting reports on Arias also say that he is a good defender right now, and projects to stay that way as he develops. The final decision for the Rangers on completing the package reportedly came down to Arias or Guillen. Though I like Arias as a potential impact prospect down the road, the Yankees are probably better off without Arias than they are without Guillen. Because Guillen is an OF prospect who probably needs 2 to 3 years to develop, just in time for Matsui, Sheffield, Bernie, and Lofton to be gone, he is more valuable than Arias, a SS in the Yankee system when they have Jeter and Rodriguez at the major league level and Tejeda and Made as other SS prospects. *** In yesterday's spring start, Contreras looked good again, maybe it's just the Red Sox, either way, he is going to have to find a way to tone down his walks, which is really the only fault you can find in his game at this point. *** Just to put it out there, I will probably be posting more randomly from now throughout the season so check for updates more than once a day. In addition, I will probably post through the weekend if I get certain information I am looking for. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
 
NEW AND IMPROVED I have to thank Larry Mahnken for the millionth time, he helped me set up the trackers you can now see on the right hand side of the blog. They are there just to keep track of some players who were lost or gained in deals this past year, players who I have a keen interest in, that is why there is no Marcus Thames over there. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
 
A-ROD DEAL DONE Arias is gone. I'll analyze it some more tomorrow.
 
 
MCNALLY WRITES, RIVERA SIGNS I have my first post up at Some Calzone For Derek if anyone would like to check it out. Also, without thinking about it too much, the Yankees seem to have done a good job with the Rivera signing. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
 
MORE SPRING FUN It's been nearly a week since I brought him up on this blog, and Bubba Crosby has just kept on hitting. He even managed to draw his first walk of the spring! In 34 at bats, his spring training line now looks like this: .412/.429/.824/.399 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) Obviously, very good numbers. Though my reaction to these numbers is somewhat tempered because it STILL is only spring training, it is encouraging to see that there has yet to be a noticeable drop-off of any kind despite most of the minor leaguers being farmed out at this point. To be clear, when I last focused on Bubba, I was against him being "a great prospect" or someone who could be "a major league player...for a long time". This does not mean Bubba cannot be a serviceable back up, which is what his spring training should be building towards. Crosby's main competition for the final backup outfielder spot is Darren Bragg. Bragg has also had a good spring, hitting: .346/.414/.538/.321 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) That's not a Bubba Crosby line, but it's still decent. While Crosby is entering his age 27 season and basically unknown at the major league level, making his spring training and minor league record more important in gauging expectations, Bragg has had extensive major league experience. In 2360 major league at bats over the course of 10 years, Bragg has compiled the following line: .258/.343/.382/.250 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) Much less impressive than his spring training stats. Throughout his career, Bragg's greatest strength has been that he will take the occasional walk so he has an acceptable on base percentage. On the other hand, Crosby has never had a very good walk rate. Neither should be expected to hit for much power at this point, as they have never really shown that skill to date. What this means is that from a general standpoint, Bragg in a slump is more valuable than Crosby in a slump, as much of Crosby's value is tied up in maintaining a high batting average. Looking at a more recent stretch, Bragg's offensive value becomes more questionable: .257/.328/.354/.236 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) .241/.305/.284/.208 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) The first line was compiled over the course of 435 at bats from 2001 to 2003, it shows an obvious decline from Bragg's overall career offensive value. The second line was from the 2003 season and included 162 at bats. What is clear from the 3 year split is that Bragg has slipped offensively, what the 2003 numbers alone cannot show is just how much, as he had a decent year in 2002 and was bad in 2001. However, this does not matter as much since the backup OF on the Yankees will most likely be a late inning defensive replacement or pinch runner. With that as the job description, I may in fact be more pleased to have Bubba Crosby on the team than I initially thought. So while I would not endorse a Hubba over Bubba campaign, I would be fine with a Free Bubba campaign, as long as his freedom comes in the form of backup OF for the The Evil Empire. After all, Bragg's greatest asset at this point is that he used to attend my high school. While this is incredibly compelling information, Torre choosing him over Crosby at this point would just be further evidence for the case against him as a manager of talent. *** When Enrique Wilson went down with an injury last week, my initial thought as I read about this on a message board was "Yes! Hopefully, Enrique is not seriously injured, but takes a TON of time to get better, which would force Torre to make the right decision and go with Cairo". Shortly after, I was told that Cairo was also a casualty of that game. I think it is safe to say that Enrique Wilson is destined to be the Yankees starting 2B this season, at least until George gets fed up with him for collecting 15 total hits in April. *** Player A: .324/.356/.515/.289 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) Player B: .278/.391/.639/.336 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) Player A: 22.7%/17/11.3 (XBH%/ABperBB/ABperK) Player B: 50.0%/4.5/5.14 (XBH%/ABperBB/ABperK) Player A and Player B seem completely different. Player A hits for high average with marginal power and plate patience, Player B hits for a lower average, but is more productive because he is a slugger who waits for his pitch and gets a ton of walks. Last year, Hideki Matsui hit for a good average with marginal power and plate patience. Coming over from Japan, we were told that Hideki Matsui was a slugger who waits for his pitch and gets a ton of walks. Player A is Hideki Matsui in spring training 2003. Player B is Hideki Matsui in spring training 2004. Same player, vastly different results. Watching him in the Yankee games I have managed to catch, I had not picked up on anything different about Matsui this year, but clearly, the results are different. If this "new Matsui" is indeed the real one, the one we were supposed to get last year, then two things happen. One is that I will no longer be dissatisfied with him. Two is that the Yankee lineup will be mind blowingly good. *** Kevin Brown has pitched 13.2 innings for the Yankees this spring. Kevin Brown has given up 21 hits. Kevin Brown has a BAA of .382 and a WHIP of 1.76. Kevin Brown has an ERA of 2.63. Pitchers giving up almost 2 hits or base runners per nine innings don't keep their ERA's under 3, they're actually pretty awful, to be truthful. While it is ONLY spring training, and you should take everything with a grain of salt, this is still worrisome. When the Yankees got Kevin Brown, bloggers such as Larry Mahnken voiced their concerns due to Brown being an extreme groundball pitcher and the Yankees having a terrible infield defense. These concerns were potentially lessened with the arrivals of Travis Lee, Miguel Cairo, and Alex Rodriguez. However, Miguel Cairo is not going to get to start, Alex Rodriguez is not going to get to play SS, and Travis Lee is injured, so the infield defense is horrible at SS, unknown at 3B, bad to average at 2B, and bad to average at 1B. I don't want to take spring training stats too happily or too sadly, but the outlook for Kevin Brown at this point is not great. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Friday, March 19, 2004
 
MY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT Unlike Larry and Aaron I didn't get to hype my announcement because it all happened so quickly, but I still have one. I'm now a part of the Some Calzone For Derek team, an MLB blog, so when I feel the need to write about issues that don't directly affect the Yankees I will do so over there. For those of you who would still like to check those types of entries out, I will post a link on this site. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
 
WHY PROSPECTS ARE NEVER TRULY "SURE THINGS" All the talent in the world doesn't guarantee anything. *** For those of you who don't already, check out Some Calzone for Derek. *** Nice fluff article on Posada, the only problem is with the last line, the time arrived the moment Posada set foot on the scene, Joe Torre just doesn't like him. *** Rumor has it, and I'm trying to find the link, that the Rangers are choosing between Joaquin Arias and Rudy Guillen for the player to be named later. I like both of these guys so I can't really decide who I'd rather see go. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Thursday, March 18, 2004
 
"THE TRAVIS LEE THING" (UPDATED) Cliff, thanks for the plug, and for lead in to something I planned on writing about anyway, the way in which I evaluate prospects. Some such as Baseball America, evaluate prospects placing a huge emphasis on a player's tools. The tools most often referenced for everyday players are the ability to hit for average, the ability to hit for power, arm strength, steady defense, and some speed. Pitchers are a less exact science in this regard as the tools they are judged by include size, velocity, movement, and pitching motion. On the other hand, some people who rate prospects go performance heavy in their analysis, I try to strike a middle ground, and if anything, lean towards performance. While tools can easily be gleamed by simply reading several scouting reports (my favorite method) on a player, or even checking them out for yourself, analyzing performance is even more difficult. When analyzing a minor leaguers' performance there are several things I have learned to look for. In terms of general performance there are two things that I notice right away, ability to hit for power and the ability to get on base as demonstrated by statistical performance. These are huge to me because this is what I like hitters to do at the major league level, so why not be enthused by them doing it at the minor league level. Unfortunately, they are not judged as simply as they are at the major league level where you can understand them by quickly checking OBP and SLG, or if you feel a little fancier, isolated power and patience. The best way to judge power at the minor league level is through extra base hit percentage. Many of the players in the minors are new draftees or signees who have yet to either physically mature or utilize a gym, and as such won't hit THAT many home runs. In addition, these players are still fine-tuning their swings, learning to get the most out of them, which also has a negative output on home run total. However, they should still be able to drive the ball enough to pick up their share of doubles and triples. By simply adding up a player's extra base hits and dividing it by their total hits, you can arrive at their extra base hit percentage, which is an excellent indicator of power both in the present and future. For the present, it obviously shows you how much a player is driving, and for the future, players who hit a high percentage of extra base hits tend to hit for power in the majors, the higher the extra base hit percentage, the more the eventual power. While a general rule of thumb, it does not always work this way. Many of the doubles and triples involved in the creation of the extra base hit percentage, eventually become home runs, once again; this is not universal, but generally applicable. In addition, once home runs exceed doubles over an extended period of time, there's not much "potential" left. For example, Mike Piazza in his age 20 and 21 seasons sent a combined 37% of his hits for extra bases, while hitting "only" 14 homeruns. The next minor league season, he hit 29. This general trend is also why I seriously distrust the reports of Joe Mauer's eventual power. I'm not asking Mauer to hit home runs, home runs at the minor league level are not important to me, but for some of the billing the guy is getting about eventually hitting for serious power, you would think the guy had sent serious signs. To me, his career mark of 21.5% says that he will have trouble getting more than 20 balls out of the park each year, not that he won't be a very productive major leaguer. He will, but for another reason. Mauer's productivity will hinge on the continued development of his plate discipline and patience. While Mauer hasn't displayed overwhelming patience in the minor leagues, walking every 8 at bats, he has evidenced great discipline with a strong BB:K ratio and small K rates, 1.27:1 and 1 every 10.2 at bats respectively. Usually, if a player can do this effectively, it stands to reason they will not be overwhelmed and become an out making machine in the majors. After observing a player's performance one must have a context within which to place the performance. To do this, you must recognize that certain leagues, such as the Eastern League in 2003, are hitters' leagues, and others, such as the Florida State League in every year ever, are pitchers' leagues. Judge hitting and pitching stats accordingly. The other great contextual measure is the age of the player, given equal numbers, playing environments, tools, etc., you generally want to go with the younger player, especially if it is a hitter. Pitchers are a little different. We can get to them some other time. So by weighting performance, in the aforementioned ways, with scouting reports from publications such as Baseball America, I come to my conclusions about Yankee prospects. All this brings me to Travest...er, Travis Lee. To respond to Cliff wondering out loud about "the Travis Lee thing", I think the infatuation with Lee, from a Yankee or baseball team front office perspective comes from his former prospect status. What you have is a bunch of baseball decision makers hoping they can trigger the release of the player who did this in his sole minor league season: .363/.473/.690/.385 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 22/AA/226 (Age/Lvl/AB) .300/.384/.573/.316 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 22/AA/227 (Age/Lvl/AB) In addition, Travis sent 45% of his hits for extra bases at AA, and 47% at AAA. He walked once every 4.8 at bats in AA and once every 7.3 at bats in AAA. His AA BB:K ratio was 1.3:1, and his AAA ratio was .67:1. To put it lightly, Travis Lee looked like a future superstar. Here are the numbers for another first baseman: .291/.425/.470/.309 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 22/A+/313 (Age/Lvl/AB) This first baseman sent 33% of his hits for extra bases, walked once every 4.3 at bats and had a BB:K ratio of 1.55:1. This first baseman is Jason Giambi. So, what went wrong for Lee and right for Giambi? Other than a few lost singles, the greatest variance between Travis Lee's numbers from AA to AAA is the attrition of his plate patience and discipline. This should have been a sign for the Diamondbacks that Lee was not truly ready, but they went ahead and placed him into the regular lineup. As Cliff demonstrated, Lee performed all right, demonstrating satisfactory power and on base ability for a rookie. The next couple years, Lee's on base ability returned, but his batting averages were through the floor, since then Lee has not shown the ability to draw walks at a strong rate or hit for proper corner fielder power, making him a mediocre offensive player. Mediocre offensive players do not belong manning the corner on championship caliber clubs, unless they play great defense. If that great defense is at 1B...then they just don't belong. So no matter how tempting it is for teams to think they can find Travis Lee circa 1997, it probably will not happen because of his rushing and as a result, he is not worth a roster spot for the Yankees. Jason Giambi meanwhile, was allowed to develop slowly, and while there was some attrition in his BB rates and BB:K ratio as he advanced, they never took a complete turn as Lee's did and by the time he reached AAA at age 24, he was walking once every 5.6 at bats and had a BB:K ratio of 1.3:1. Clearly, what went right for Giambi was that he was allowed to develop and not rushed, as Lee was. *** CLIFF NOTES VERSION: Looking back, I kind of rambled, but the basic point is that Lee was once great, teams want that Lee back so they take the chance, hence "the Travis Lee thing" and prospects can be easily evaluated by looking for statistical indicators combined with scouting reports. *** On the whole Bubba Crosby issue, don't get me wrong, I think Bubba could be a viable pinch runner or late inning defensive replacement, anything more than that, I'm not so sure. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
 
UPDATE Looks like I'm jinxing Ramon Ramirez, outside of his first appearance he has not been that impressive this spring. On the other hand, Groundzilla hit a homer and walked again, if he can walk consistenly, even if he hits for the same "power" he did last year, he would make himself a lot more valuable. Now if only Contreras could pitch like this against the Red Sox. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
 
LOOKING AT THE STATS THAT DON'T MATTER Lately, there seems to be a growing wave of Bubba Crosby fans in the New York area media and general Yankee fan base. Why has this occurred? Well, Bernie Williams went down early with an injury and as a result Bubba Crosby got more playing time. In that time Bubba Crosby has hit .364/.364/.682/.334 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA). That line is SOMEWHAT impressive, but a lot less so when you factor in that it includes no walks and took place in the course of 22 at bats. 22 somewhat impressive at bats, however, have apparently been enough for him to get his own article in the New York Daily News, about the "Hubba over Yanks new Bubba". In said article, Don Mattingly insinuates, rather, states, that "[Bubba Crosby] can run, throw and hit". Mattingly further goes on to say, "that [Bubba Crosby] is a major league player in my opinion, and could be one for a long time". Well, there are a lot of relative terms at play here. I don't really know what Mattingly feels is a long time, but seeing as Bubba Crosby is 27 and has not yet established himself as a major league regular, pinch hitter, pinch runner, defensive sub, or anything else, I can't foresee him having a long major league career. What Mattingly means by "major league player" is also up for debate. If he means that Bubba Crosby may see playing time at the major league level on a sporadic basis if things work out for him, then sure, he's right. Anything more would involve Bubba beating some incredible odds. Why are the odds against Bubba? Well, because unlike Mattingly seems to think, Bubba can't really hit: .216/.278/.281/.195 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 21/A+/199 (Age/Lvl/AB) .296/.368/.377/.260 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 22/A+/371 (Age/Lvl/AB) .266/.341/.460/.268 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 23/A+/274 (Age/Lvl/AB) .250/.250/.250/.175 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 23/A+/12 (Age/Lvl/AB) .302/.363/.432/.271 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 24/AA/384 (Age/Lvl/AB) .214/.233/.310/.182 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 24/AAA/42 (Age/Lvl/AB) .260/.317/.367/.234 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 25/AA/150 (Age/Lvl/AB) .262/.312/.409/.243 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 25/AAA/279 (Age/Lvl/AB) .361/.410/.635/.343 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 26/AAA/277 (Age/Lvl/AB) .302/.366/.460/.280 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 26/AAA/63 (Age/Lvl/AB) Just looking at his minor league career from a purely statistical point of view, Crosby has proven several things. One, he cannot hit for average consistently. Two, he cannot get on base at a consistent rate as he lacks strong walk rates. Three, he has no power. The job of a major league hitter is to avoid outs while advancing runners; Crosby excels at neither. The one time he showed great offensive performance for an extended period of time was as a 26 year old playing in the AAA version of Coors Field, needless to say, that performance means nothing. So, while being way too old for his leagues to be considered a prospect, Crosby has not excelled, yet his spring training performance is creating a stir. A spring training performance that has not even been overly amazing, spanning 22 at bats, is beginning to take precedence over 2000+ mediocre minor league plate appearances. This is why spring training stats don't/shouldn't matter, Crosby has never before proven himself to be a good hitter so what you see over this small sample size has a 99.9% chance of being a fluke. Yankee fans and writers, don't get your hopes high. When Bill Madden tells you that "Yankee GM Brian Cashman got a .300 hitting outfielder in Crosby", don't just nod, smile, and accept his theories, research it. You will realize that in 10 minor league stops Crosby has hit .300 or above thrice. To clarify, I actually planned to write about Crosby earlier because of the comment made during one of the Yankees' first spring training games. The reason Crosby lacks prospect status is not so much his performance; it is his age. Had Crosby had the same performances he has had over the course of his career, but been a 5 or 6 years younger, he WOULD be a prospect, but because he is so old he must perform at an even higher level to certify his prospect status. Age versus level competition is one of the most important things in evaluating prospects and must always be taken into consideration. *** Also of note to me when I was perusing "the stats that don't matter" were those of Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi. I found Matsui's line interesting as he has walked 5 times in 23 at bats, a much-improved rate over what he did last season. However, I must temper my expectations, as it is only spring training. The other thing I noticed was that while Matsui had sent 50% of his hits for extra bases, he only had 4 hits. Now, I'm not saying this is a definite sign of anything, but for those who have said that Matsui will improve in his sophomore season, I would like to take this opportunity to say that I strongly disagree with this. Also, despite the improved extra base hit percentage in a ridiculously small sample size, when I have seen Matsui this spring, he has actually been pounding the ball into the dirt even harder than last year. I have to give the spring training stat disclaimer again, but Jason Giambi's spring has me somewhat alarmed. From what I've seen and what the stats show, he is still not hitting the fastball up as he has a K:BB ratio of 5:1 in 22 at bats. I badly want the Yankees to get Jason Giambi, the turn of the century model, but it is becoming increasingly clear that he won't be able to perform at that level again. *** For those of you that are prospect fans or Devil Ray supporters (yeah, both of you), I would just like to take this opportunity to officially say you are very lucky. In 5 years time, at the most, you will have the best shortstop in baseball. Average the numbers The Rangeless One put up from 1998 through 2000, and that is what BJ Upton will be giving you on a yearly basis. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
 
FIRST "EMERGENCY" The Yankees have their first "emergency" of the spring. Their fifth starter, Jon Lieber has gone down due to a groin problem so they need someone to fill in. A lack of rotation depth is something that many baseball analysts have been saying was a weakness of the Yanks, but if it is, it won't come into play too much in this situation. As a result of the overseas opener, the Yankees will only need their fifth starter once through the first half of April, which should be enough time for Lieber to recover. So the question becomes, who should take Lieber's spot? All signs indicate that the Yankees have already settled on Donovan Osborne, but is that the right decision? In the eyes of Yankee management, it is probably the only decision; Osborne has several things going for him. Donovan Osborne is left-handed; the Yankees have no left-handers in their rotation. While both left-handers who were in their rotation last year are reverse split lefties, the media pressure to have that token left-hander may play a role. For those that feel media pressure plays no role in the management decision you need know more than Torre's acknowledgment that part of the reason he has trouble dropping Matsui in the order is due to the potential media reaction (looks like the madness will never end). The other major thing that Osborne has in his favor is that he used to play for Joe Torre. This is another thing that may seem trivial to some, but trust me, Torre is loyal to the point of stupidity. Now, were the Yankees to look at the players at their would be a clear choice. The Official Sixth Starter of the Minor Yankee Blog, Ramon Ramirez, deserves to hold Lieber's spot. Last time I devoted a ton of writing to Ramirez, I looked at his numbers for this past season combining the A+, AA, AAA and AFL performances. Well, Ramirez pitched some more after that as he played in the Dominican Winter League, by glancing at the stats it seems as though it is a league that favors hitters and I would say the competition is about AA level, so similar to that of the AFL. Here is how Ramirez's entire last minor league season looks now: 159.2 IP 65 ER H/9IP: 8.96 BB/9IP: 2.31 K/9IP: 8.68 HR/9IP: .68 K/BB: 3.76 I find ERA to be near useless when evaluating pitching prospects, but if you care for that sort of thing, his ERA in the 159 and 2/3 innings pitched is 3.66. Ramirez did everything you could want him to do well in his age 21 season. Coincidentally, he outperformed De Paula when both were in the Dominican Winter League. I find Ramirez's season to be especially encouraging since a tad more than half of it took place against upper level competition, what he did is impressive enough, in my opinion, to give him the inside track on the 5th spot. Unfortunately, he has not gotten that, and unless Osbourne falls apart, and he sets the world on fire over the course of the next 9 games, Ramirez will have to settle for being the Yankees top upper level pitching prospect, but at some point this year, he WILL have his due. Watching Ramirez pitch this spring has also calmed my fears about him falling victim to the small pitchers must be relievers stereotype as Ramirez while not a huge guy, is also not overly short and has some weight on him. The time I saw him pitch, he was also very impressive. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
 
LANGUAGE BARRIER I would really love to read this site, unfortunately I can't because of the language barrier. For those of you who can, check it out, it seems pretty interesting, plus there's a link for me on the page so it can't be bad. Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Monday, March 15, 2004
 
IT STOPS HERE AND NOW "They're good second basemen", that is John Sterling's evaluation of Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo. Sterling felt the need to say this because people doubted Enrique and Cairo's ability to play a serviceable 2B for the Yankees in the absence of Alfonso Soriano. I would like to go and further clarify what this statement is intimating, "Enrique Wilson is a good second baseman". This seems to be a common notion amongst the Yankee media types this spring. There is however one problem with this theory, spring training stats don't matter. Or more accurately, spring training stats don't matter when you have years of more conclusive data from which to base your opinions. .253/.296/.358/.223 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) That is Enrique Wilson's career offensive production rate, in a sampling of well over 1200 plate appearances. In the process of accumulating these plate appearances, which span 7 seasons, Enrique Wilson has not hit for average. Enrique Wilson has not gotten on base at an acceptable rate. Enrique Wilson has not hit for power. Well, if his offensive "contribution" is pitiful, maybe he plays great defense, and can thus contribute something to the Yankees. In fact, "Defense has always been Enrique Wilson's forte", I mean, he has "a career fielding percentage of .990 in 96 games at second base". While it's great that Enrique Wilson will most likely not make an error once he gets to the ball, how often does he get to the ball? Infrequently. He has had a range factor above league average once in his illustrious career. Enrique Wilson's Rate2 also supports the idea of his not being a great defensive second baseman since it is 97, which would put him at 4.9 runs below average over the course of 162 games. So is Enrique Wilson a horrible defensive 2B? Probably not, but defense is also not "something in which [Enrique Wilson] excels". Thus far we know that Enrique Wilson is awful offensively and no great shakes defensively, however, he has "had to always wait his turn", he's never gotten a real shot in the majors. That may be, but let's see what DID happen when he was give his chance to play full time. Let's see what happened when Enrique Wilson was a minor leaguer: .341/.396/.364/.269 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) .289/.336/.569/.293 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) .279/.336/.439/.261 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) .267/.305/.388/.234 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) .304/.346/.390/.253 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) .500/.556/.625/.406 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) .306/.365/.437/.274 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) .281/.338/.394/.251 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) Now, let's eliminate his stats that took place in less than 200 plate appearances and add the effect of his age and level: .289/.336/.569/.293 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 20 R .279/.336/.439/.261 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 21 A- .267/.305/.388/.234 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 22 A+ .304/.346/.390/.253 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 23 AA .306/.365/.437/.274 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 24 AAA .281/.338/.394/.251 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) 25 AAA So while advancing through the minor leagues, Enrique Wilson put up very pedestrian numbers, outside of one stop on the ladder, while consistently being old for his league. Not a formula for future success. Well, Enrique was bad in the minors, IS bad in the majors, but perhaps he has shown signs of getting better: 35 43 70 And there we have it, Enrique Wilson's OPS+ numbers for the last 3 years show that the 30 year old second baseman has CLEARLY been improving these past few years. In fact, Alfonso Soriano may have been holding him back. In fact, Enrique is confident enough in his ability to make the statement that he will "score a lot of runs", which he plans on doing by "[getting] on base to create chances for those guys to hit with a lot of people on base". This all depends on what Enrique considers a lot of runs. Last year, Yankee 9 hitters scored a total of 81 runs while hitting .250/.302/.424/.242 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA), this was while Alfonso Soriano hit behind them. This year Enrique Wilson, he of the career hitting line of .253/.296/.358/.223 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA), plans on scoring a lot of runs with Kenny Lofton batting behind him. I don't consider 81 runs a lot, and I doubt Enrique Wilson will exceed that total. *** The other side of the Enrique Wilson issue is Miguel Cairo. Miguel Cairo's career hitting line of .269/.317/.361/.233 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) is nothing impressive, it's actually pretty bad, however, it is better than Enrique Wilson's. While his past 3 years OPS+'s of 105, 78, and 75, aren't improving in the manner of Enrique Wilson's, they still show him to be a better hero. Therefore, the reason Joe Torre must be going with the inferior hitter is that said hitter is a better fielder: 97 to 104 Since fielding statistics are a source of controversy, you almost never want to go with only one, however, this is the only one I have at my disposal as both players have not played too much. The 97 is Enrique Wilson, the 104 is Cairo's, over their careers Miguel Cairo is 11.34 runs better on defense according to Rate2. Cairo's Rate2 was an alarming 89 last year, though that was still equal to Enrique Wilson. Worst-case scenario, they are equal defenders. So what this leaves us with is one player who is superior offensively while being otherwise equal to another player, yet he will be sitting. Why is this? Only The Saint knows. For those that would like to say that this is actually a competition for the position and that the spring is not yet over, and therefore the competition is continuing, I would like to say phooey. This was never a competition; Joe Torre wanted Enrique there from the start and had no intentions of going otherwise, especially now that he knows "he's capable". *** For those of you that did go the Pinstriped Bible Pizza Feed, you probably realized I wasn't there as I had intended to be. While I wanted to go, something came up. Yeah, I know, it's pitiful, but what can I say. Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
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    Alfonso Soriano

    Batting Average:.279
    On-Base Percentage:.322
    Slugging Percentage:.464
    Gross Production Avg:.261

    Alex Rodriguez

    Batting Average:.284
    On-Base Percentage:.372
    Slugging Percentage:.536
    Gross Production Avg:.301

    Nick Johnson

    Batting Average:.258
    On-Base Percentage:.365
    Slugging Percentage:.404
    Gross Production Avg:.265

    Javier Vazquez

    Earned Run Average:4.16
    Strikeouts:111
    Walks:37
    Home Runs:23

    Brandon Claussen

    Earned Run Average:4.02
    Strikeouts:9
    Walks:7
    Home Runs:2