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Feb 082011

A couple of weeks ago we looked what CAIRO, the projection system, had to say about the Yankees bench. Now we’ll take a look at PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus’s projection system. Keep in mind that these numbers ARE park adjusted.

LASTNAME FIRSTNAME BATS POS PA HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
Jones Andruw R CF 455 21 55 7 0.224 0.326 0.431
Cervelli Francisco R C 450 5 40 3 0.257 0.325 0.354
Maxwell Justin R CF 450 13 45 23 0.222 0.318 0.377
Laird Brandon R 3B 539 20 67 1 0.25 0.293 0.421
Russo Kevin R 2B 450 4 37 10 0.25 0.314 0.334
Belliard Ronnie R 2B 450 9 45 4 0.249 0.311 0.371
Nunez Eduardo S SS 496 7 49 15 0.268 0.299 0.365
Pena Ramiro S SS 450 5 38 9 0.241 0.287 0.326
Chavez Eric L 3B 450 10 43 2 0.223 0.293 0.353
Curtis Colin L LF 486 8 46 3 0.239 0.299 0.353
Golson Gregory R CF 480 9 47 15 0.24 0.281 0.354

The Yankees will almost certainly break camp with Andruw Jones and Frankie Cervelli. They’ll also want one backup SS which would be either Nunez or Pena. So the last spot could be up for grabs in a sense. Brandon Laird would be an interesting option but he hasn’t really shown the ability to hit in AAA much less the majors. It’s best for him to get regular at bats. Russo, Belliard and Chavez are interesting cases. Chavez can hit when he’s healthy, but that hasn’t happened for about half a decade. Belliard has a lot of positional utility and can kind of hit while the same can be said of Kevin Russo.  I think the smart money is probably on Ronnie Belliard.

For giggles, I put together this graph of positional players who are somewhat close to the Yankees 25 man roster. True average is on the X axis while fielding runs above average is on the Y.

Easy to get excited about Montero, no? I thought the Justin Snyder projection was interesting. He’s more of an organizational guy who does two things well- reach base and play defense. He’ll be at AAA in 2010 as he only has 6 ABs so far in Scranton. PECOTA also has Cervelli as better than Romine right now which I think is totally correct. While a lot of fans are chattering about Romine taking over for Cervelli this season, I think that’s getting a little too crazy. He’s not major league ready yet. I Ditto on Jorge Vazquez. I know a lot of people think he’s a hot commodity right now because of his Caribbean series exploits but I wouldn’t get carried away with that, or him for that matter.

Jan 252011

CAIRO is the projection system set up by SG, the man behind the curtain over at Replacement Level Yankee Weblog. Since it’s pretty dead out there right now, I figured we could take a look at some bench candidates and how they might project in 2011.

Now to be fair, projecting players who have yet to play in the majors is extremely difficult. In the past I have tried to take a “rolling average” concept to these projections and come up with a ballpark number for each prospect. It’s just too difficult to tell exactly how someone will transition to the major leagues. So keep that in mind as we look ahead.

NAME POS PA SB HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA BRAR
Montero C 508 1 18 .261 .326 .446 .337 24
Adams 2B 386 6 6 .240 .314 .373 .306 6
Nunez SS 528 19 7 .257 .296 .350 .286 6
Romine C 502 4 10 .238 .281 .362 .283 6
Pena SS/3B 324 7 3 .244 .290 .324 .274 1
Cervelli C 292 3 2 .255 .326 .347 .303 5
Russo 2B 419 9 4 .243 .305 .328 .286 0
Curtis OF 483 4 9 .242 .303 .361 .295 -1

BRAR- Position adjusted Batting Runs Above Replacement

Much to the chagrin of Yankee fans everywhere, we know Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Pena will probably make the team out of spring training. In lieu of the Yankees signing another utility player though, this might make the most sense.

Montero would obviously be an upgrade over Cervelli and I don’t think anyone would question that. However it would be smart for the Yankees to see how he looks in spring training and get him some more seasoning in AAA. As for Austin Romine, I don’t think there is any doubt he needs more development time. He should get regular at bats in Scranton to continue his progress.

It’s so very easy to hate on Ramiro Pena because he is so very bad at baseball. However his ability to play SS, 2B and 3B is a skill unmatched at this point by anyone aside from Eduardo Nunez. Is the difference in hitting ability from Eduardo Nunez to Ramiro Pena really big enough to make up for Nunez’s poor defense though? Probably not. And while I’d love to see David Adams in the majors this year, his broken ankle needs to be rehabbed prudently. Had he gone uninjured, he may have seen some AAA time and thus be primed for a stint in the Bronx this year. Obviously that never happened. So it would be best for him to continue to play every day and get healthy. He is a solid defender but doesn’t have the positional utility that Nunez or Pena does. Ultimately I think Adams could be a really nice piece so I hope he continues to develop and can stay healthy.

Russo looked overmatched at the plate in his brief stint in New York but I thought he held his own in the field. I don’t think he’s as bad as he played last season but WOW, is a .470 OPS scary as hell. As for Colin Curtis, I don’t really have a firm grasp on what his role would be with the Yankees. As Mike Axisa broke down, the last two spots on the roster will be filled by one positional player who can play SS (read Nunez/Pena) and the last probably with some ability in the outfield. I agree with Mike that there are probably better options for that last spot on the market.

I think in the best case scenario, Eduardo Nunez and David Adams eventually turn into players the Yankees can depend on off the bench. Nunez would be able to play SS, 2B and 3B and if Adams goes the super utility route, he’ll play 2B, 3B and some outfield. Eventually, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine will take over the catching duties full time for the Yankees, squeezing out Frankie Cervelli and Russell Martin. That’s obviously not a scenario in play for 2011 though. In the future the Yankees should have some nice assets able to compliment their starting 9. In 2010 though, we should expect to see more of Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli.

Jan 202011

The Yankees are on the cusp of signing veteran outfielder Andruw Jones to be the team’s first OF off of the bench. They signed Russell Martin to be the starting catcher for now, with Francisco Cervelli as the back up, and Jesus Montero on the way up. Jorge Posada will be the primary DH and could probably catch every once in a while. The team will also (likely) have Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez to man the extra infield spots. Just so we can see it lined up:

OF–Andruw Jones
C–Francisco Cervelli
IF–Eduardo Nunez
IF–Ramiro Pena

Having two back up infielders may seem excessive, but the way the Yankees’ OF will be structured, I think it’s okay. All three starters are good enough both offensively and defensively that they won’t need many days off. Jones can spell one of Curtis Granderson or Brett Gardner against tough lefties and is also a balanced enough player that he wouldn’t need a replacement fielder after batting for one of those guys. The outfield is also, generally, younger than the infielders. Those guys–especially the guys on the left side–will need more days off for regular rest than Gradnerson, Gardner, or Nick Swisher will.

The big thing Joe Girardi will need to avoid is having the three weaker backups–Cervelli, Nunez, and Pena–in the lineup all at the same time. I’m sure at some point this will happen, likely because of late inning defensive replacement (LIDR) moves. I doubt that Girardi will ever put all three of them into the starting lineup in a game that matters.

The catching rotation will depend on two things: How Russell Martin and Jesus Montero start the season. For arbitration/free agency reasons, I’m sure the Yankees will look to keep Montero in Scranton-Wilkes Barre for at least the first month or two of the season. If Martin falters, though, and Montero mashes, we could see the Montero Era start sooner rather than later. That would do one of two things: send Francisco Cervelli back to the minor leagues or mean the end of Russell Martin as a Yankee.

Where we could see some interesting maneuvering is with Jorge Posada. Obviously, he can catch. He won’t be doing it much considering his spot as a full time DH, but he can do it. Perhaps some rest will do him well when he does get a chance to catch. Posada could also be called upon to play first when Mark Teixeira needs a day off, though I imagine that duty would fall to Nick Swisher first, with Andruw Jones taking RF for the day.

Aside from the eventual call up of Jesus Montero, the performance of Brandon Laird could also shape the bench as the season moves along. Laird’s been a third basemen for his entire minor league career, but played outfield in the Arizona Fall League this past season. If he can keep up the bat that’s advanced him through the minors, while playing non-statue defense at third and in the outfield in early 2011, we could see him swapped out for one of Pena or Nunez. Greg Golson could also make a play as an LIDR and we could easily see Colin Curtis get some playing time, too.

The Yankee bench may not be sparkling, but what team has a sparkling bench? No matter what, the bench in the Bronx will feature either young or cheap parts that will not be heard to replace. This, like the bullpen-building strategy, is one that has a lot of advantages, especially for a team like the Yankees.

Aug 312010

Those who watch Yankees games on YES know that Michael Kay will often mention Homer Bush’s role on the 1998 Yankees whenever discussing how important good baserunning and stolen bases are, particularly from bench players. He tends to pontificate on the topic for a while, suggesting Bush was the consummate bench player and was a key cog on the 1998 Yankees. Yet a close look at the numbers suggest that Kay is misremembering the importance of Homer Bush.

Bush did hit well in his limited appearances, with a gaudy .380/.421/.465 line. However, despite being with the team all year, those numbers came in just 78 plate appearances, and he had just 4 extra base hits and 5 RBI on the season. More importantly, his baserunning was adequate at best. He was just one run better than average as a baserunner in 1998, and had just 6 stolen bases to go with 3 CS’s. In total, he was worth 0.8 wins above replacement over the regular season. The postseason was even less eventful. Over 3 series, he had no at-bats, stole 2 bases, and scored one run. In all, he had a limited impact on the basepaths, in the field, and although he performed well when given a chance, at the plate as well.

The next time Michael Kay brings up Homer Bush’s stellar 1998 season on the basepaths, just tune him out. Bush was an adequate bench piece, and nothing more.


Stephen made a comment in his post from this morning that piqued my interest. He said the following about Randy Winn:

It seems mean-spirited to hate on the backup outfielder. He is probably a very nice guy with a very nice family, and I’m sure he’s trying his best to help the team win. He might even be excited to play on the Yankees, the World Series champion Yankees, in the hopes of winning a title after toiling in obscurity for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Mariners, and most recently the Giants. It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for him; it’s certainly enough to blunt the edge of my disdain for his recent play and hope that he can turn it around soon. But Randy, could you meet us halfway? An OBP above .300 would be a nice start.

This is a refrain that I have heard more of lately, probably because the Yankees are playing so many people who would usually be backups. The idea is that when bench players are pressed into regular duty, it is only natural that they will be exposed as non-starting caliber players. In a way, it is not their fault that they are not providing adequate performance, and it is silly to blame these guys for the struggles of the team. They are working hard and doing their best, but they simply do not have the talent to provide the sort of performance that Yankee fans have come to expect from position players. I agree with this sentiment to an extent.

On the other hand, there is a level of performance that you expect even from your bench players, and I think Winn has failed to come near that standard. He has been awful at the plate, as his bat speed has clearly disappeared and he cannot catch up with even the most meager of fastballs. His saving grace was supposed to have been his defense, but he looks awkward in left field, has been turned around on a number of balls over his head, and made an atrocious error in last night’s game. In all, he has been an abysmal failure here, and I am not so sure that it is mean-spirited to rip a bench guy for failing to meet the standards required for a bench player, let alone a starter in the American League East.

What do you think? Is it fair to strongly criticize bench players who are pressed into everyday duty?

I have long advocated that the Yankees give Elijah Dukes a shot on their bench. With Curtis Granderson hurt, Randy Winn struggling, and Marcus Thames occupying the DH slot, the time is right for the addition of another bat. Yes, I know the offense is just fine and that the Yankees are a playoff team without Dukes. But the difference between Dukes and Winn could make a difference in October, and unlike other external bench options, it will not cost the Yankees any players to obtain Dukes.

I outlined the pros and cons during the offseason:

PROS

1) He has plenty of talent: He had a poor 2009 that was marred by injury and a strange loss of power, but his 2008 was fantastic and suggested that he was a star in the making. I am not really sure why he fell of a cliff in 2009, but it is clear that he has the skills and athleticism to be an above average player with the bat and adequate with the glove.

2) He projects to be better than the Yankees current options at 4th and 5th outfielder. His projected wOBA based on an average of four projection systems is .346, significantly better than that of Marcus Thames and Randy Winn.

3) This is a good fit for Dukes: While he may not start right away, New York is likely his best shot to play in a winning environment for the first time while also affording him a reasonable chance of grabbing a starting spot. Being that Dukes has played for two awful franchises thus far, it might be a strong motivator for him to play with regularity for a winner.

4) He’s cheap, you can cut ties immediately if there is a problem, and he gives them options next offseason: Dukes will likely require less than a million dollars to sign, and can be stashed in the minors if he does not make the team immediately. Furthermore, there is no real downside here. If he acts up or plays poorly, he can simply be cut or traded without any repercussions.

CONS

1) His performance dropped in 2009, and he cannot stay healthy: His performance in 2009 was fairly shoddy, and he gained a reputation amongst National fans for having poor baseball instincts in the field and on the basepaths. Furthermore, Dukes has had trouble staying on the field, with 4 stints on the DL over the last 2 seasons. Then again, if he gets hurt, the Yankees would simply be right back where they are right now.

2) There are some very serious behavioral issues. I do not want to sweep these under the rug, because Elijah has had some serious issues that include multiple arrests and prompted the Nationals to hire someone to follow him around and keep him out of trouble. Furthermore, dropping that a player with that sort of history into the shark tank that is the NY media frenzy may not be the brightest of ideas.

Ultimately, I think it is worth a shot. As I noted above, if Dukes does not work out, the club is right back where they started and can go look for other options. If he succeeds, the Yankees will have obtained a young power bat for practically nothing. Why not give him a shot?

From Joel Sherman:

Joe Girardi made a bunch of controversial decisions last year (such as three starters in the postseason, Derek Jeter at leadoff, the newest edition of the Joba Rules) and ended up a championship manager. I think this will embolden him further to go with his beliefs, and I think one of those will be to have a flexible outfield. I could see Winn, among others, being moved around the outfield and defense – especially in the late innings with a lead – emphasized……

The Yanks moved up to get the top pick in the Rule 5 draft to obtain Jamie Hoffman and recently traded for Greg Golson. They view both as above-average defenders. The think the same about Reid Gorecki, who they signed to a minor league deal. Barring injuries, Golson and Gorecki are expected to begin the year at Triple-A….

The Yankees have bought even further into the notion that we are entering a phase when defense will be more valued than in the recent juiced past. And because of that I can see times this season when the Yankees are, say, leading 3-2 in the ninth inning when Girardi boldly pulls Granderson and Nick Swisher off the field and goes with a defense of Winn in left, Gardner in center and Hoffman in right.

I do not believe that Joe would go so far as to pull both Swisher and Granderson from a game for defensive purposes, as the Yankees would then be in a bind should the game happen to go to extra innings. The marginal value that you get from one inning of improved defense may not be worth the loss of offense that you would have should the game extend, especially considering that both Swish and Grandy are solid defenders.

However, I do thing the general point holds true: the bench that the Yankees currently have is built around defense, with much of the current value of players like Hoffmann and Winn tied up in their defensive abilities. With 8 starters that you will rarely pinch hit for, this is an efficient use of roster spots for the Yankees. However, one power bat off the bench would be welcome, and I could see the Yankees extending a non-roster invite to a Johnny Gomes type of player. Other than that, the Yankee bench will likely be all about defense and speed.

Jan 292010

With yesterday’s acquisition of Randy Winn, the Yankees’ bench seems to be set. Let’s examine the implications this could have for the 2010 team.

First off, the fact that Johnny Damon is not returning should give current left fielder Brett Gardner a big confidence boost. By not re-signing Damon, instead opting for a cheaper player who isn’t likely to take a starting job from the “incumbent” Gardner, the Yankees are telling the young outfielder that they believe he can hold the position competently. I don’t have much faith in Gardner getting much better than he was in 2009, but there is still room to grow. With plus defense, a decent OBP (.340-.350?), and his speed, Gardner could be a net positive in left field for the Yankees.

Next we come to the “order of operations,” if you will (excuse me, I’m interning at a middle school and doing a little bit of work in math classes) for the outfield. Barring anything unforeseen between now and the beginning of the season, the regular OF alignment will be Gardner–Granderson–Swisher. Defensively, this outfield is pretty solid. Offensively, two-thirds of it is above average. The first man off the bench will obviously be Winn. As I discussed last night, he’s a good option at each of the outfield positions and can at least handle himself at the plate. Signing another bench outfielder will likely have a double-edged-sword type of effect on Rule V pick Jamie Hoffmann.

On the one hand, it will allow Hoffmann to develop at a slower pace. He will no longer be the first option off the bench, nor will he be an injury away from being a full time starter. On the other hand, though, it does mean fewer at bats for Hoffmann and the only way to grow as a major leaguer is with consistent trips the plate.

Frankie Cervelli will assume the back-up catcher’s duties and I don’t think we should expect anything from him that we didn’t expect frohttp://www.theyankeeu.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpm Jose Molina. Cervelli will likely bring a relatively weak bat to the plate, but should play above average defense behind the plate. I wonder, though, if he’ll be paired with any one pitcher. Perhaps Joe Girardi will pair Cervelli with A.J. Burnett as he did with the latter and Jose Molina in 2009. Another route that could be taken is pairing Joba Chamberlain with Cervelli. It seems as though Posada and Chamberlain never really got themselves on the same page, so maybe Joba would work better with Cervelli.

The last spot is the utility infielder’s spot which will most likely be either Ramiro Pena or Kevin Russo. If it’s Pena, I’ll expect the same thing as Cervelli: good defense with an almost anemic bat. If it’s Russo, I’d expect a little more of the bat with a little less defense.

So, as of now, I’m willing to bet that the Yankee bench will be made up of outfielders Randy Winn and Jamie Hoffmann, with Francisco Cervelli doing the back up catching, and one of Ramiro Pena or Kevin Russo playing all over the infield; let’s also not forget that Nick Johnson and/or Nick Swisher could play first base in a pinch. This bench may not have a ton of power, but it’s versatile and the parts are more or less replaceable if they do not perform.

In 2009, with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, the Yankees – or should I say the Nationals – ultimately chose Jamie Hoffmann, a well-regarded defensive outfielder from the Dodgers organization. Prior to that pick, though, it was rumored by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo that the Yankees could acquire touted outfield prospect, John Raynor, from the Marlins. The Yankees, of course, did not pick Raynor, opting for Hoffman instead and, with this post, I ask, “Why?”

Here are Jamie Hoffman’s career minor-league numbers via Baseball-Reference:

Here are John Raynor’s career minor-league numbers via Baseball-Reference:

Comparing the two is a fairly straightforward exercise. With regards to Hoffmann-over-Raynor, Hoffmann, at 25, is about eight months younger than Raynor. More substantively, however, Hoffmann’s previous two seasons in Triple-A have been very good offensively whereas Raynor’s one season in Triple-A was an extremely weak campaign. Also, furthering Hoffmann’s cause, from what I can tell, he is a better defender than Raynor, although he does not appear to be significantly better based on scouting reports for both players as well as their respective TotalZone ratings. Thus is the case for choosing Hoffmann over Raynor. He’s a bit younger (it’s barely noteworthy), has had more success at an advanced level (Triple-A), and wields a better glove, yet Raynor’s glove is still pretty good.

Now, with regards to Raynor, who was selected second in the Rule 5 by the Pirates, though Hoffmann has had more recent offensive success, Raynor’s career numbers appear to be better than Hoffmann’s. He has more power – not much more, but more – and is a more patient hitter, although, he does strike out more than Hoffmann does by a considerable margin. Raynor’s stolen base success rate (83%), as compared to Hoffmann’s (68%), suggests that the former Marlin is a better base runner and a better base stealer, as well. In fact, he has been referred to as one of the fastest players in the minor leagues by Project Prospect. Raynor, in a sense, is similar to Hoffmann in that their tools are comparable, however, if one were to select Raynor over Hoffmann, they would basically argue that he is a more well-rounded hitter – despite the poor showing in New Orleans – and is a better runner.

When considering the aforementioned pros and cons for both players, it could be a tossup, really, with regards to who seems like a better fit for the Yankees, especially if the team is merely looking for a bench outfielder. However, the Yankees’ needs this season extend beyond that. As stated by Chad Jennings, the Yankees, in part, acquired Hoffmann because they were in search of a “right-handed outfielder who could hit lefties.” But, after glancing over Hoffmann’s and Raynor’s stats, it appears as though Hoffmann does not really fit that description.

His minor-league career line against lefties is .287/.362/.390. Conversely, Raynor’s is a robust .327/.392/.475. Given that the Yankees, in preparation of losing Johnny Damon, seemingly selected Hoffman to be a right-handed outfield option to compliment Brett Gardner and even Curtis Granderson, I wonder, why didn’t they go with Raynor, instead? Granted, Raynor didn’t do much against southpaws in 2009 – .653 OPS in Triple-A – while Hoffmann mashed against them – .974 OPS – nonetheless, Raynor’s poor season and Hoffmann’s exceptional season versus left-handed pitching both appear to be aberrations with Raynor likely to rebound. And, frankly, if the Yankees actually believed in Hoffmann’s abilities against lefties, they would not entertain signing a player like Reed Johnson, as they are now.

Basically, I’m not sure why the Yankees chose Hoffmann over Raynor, who they were rumored to have interest in just prior to the Rule 5. Raynor seems like he would have been a better fit for the team given their immediate needs.

Photo via the Daily News

From Josh Thomson:

Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner had the cast removed from his broken left thumb on Monday and will now have the finger supported by a splint until he is examined again this coming Monday.

If all goes well, Gardner may return soon after.

“I hope to be back playing in two weeks,” he said.

Gardner has been on the disabled list since he broke the thumb trying to break up a double play on July 25 against the A’s. He had worn a hard cast ever since.

Gardner needs to be on the roster prior to September 1st to be available for the postseason. If he starts playing two weeks from Monday and plays in 4-5 rehab games, I would expect him to return to the Yankees in the last few days of August. While the Jerry Hairston acquisition softened the blow of losing Gardner, the Yankees have missed his ability to steal a base, most notably in the 9th inning of Monday’s loss to Toronto. A bench of Gardner, Hinske, Hairston, and Molina gives Joe Girardi incredible flexibility late in games, as well as allowing him to rest some of his older players. I spent a lot of April complaining about Brian Cashman’s inability to build a quality bench. The emergence of Melky Cabrera as a starter, coupled with the trades for Hinske and Hairston, have lead to an incredible turnaround in that area. I tip my cap to you, Mr. Cashman.

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