The final word on Melky

Yanks hope to honor Bernie
Delgado injury could impact the Yanks

Commenter Rob brought up a point in our post about Melky. The quote was that we are “setting [ourselves] up for an embarrassing fall should Melky prove to be legit.” I considered responding directly to that comment, but I wanted to clear the air with everyone.

We don’t wish Melky ill. He wears pinstripes; therefore, we hope for the best. But from what we’ve seen, it doesn’t appear that he’ll live up to those PECOTA comparisons to Bernie Williams and Carlos Beltran.

This is the entire point of our posts on Melky. Mike, Ben, and I have come to a consensus that Melky is likely best served as a fourth outfielder. Many decry this position, citing his defense (which we’re not completely sold on, though there’s no denying his arm) and relative success at a young age as an indication that he’ll improve and become an average or above-average center fielder.

I will not argue with that position. If we think it’s likely that Melky is a 4th outfielder in a long-term sense, then it’s entirely possible that he ends up being a bit better than that and can serve as a league-average centerfielder.

I’ve made clear my position that the Yankees should be focusing on superior talent at the premium positions. That is, second base, shortstop, catcher, and center field. I don’t think Melky represents superior talent, hence I’m not so hot on him. But he does have some value as a league average CFer.

So, in short, we believe that Melky will be a slightly below average center fielder. Some people think he can be average or slightly above, and I’m not going to argue with them. It’s possible, but I like seeing superior talent in those premium positions, hence my dislike of Melky. At this point, I think that seeing Melky as the next Bernie or Beltran is seeing things with rose-colored glasses.

And that really encompasses at least my position on Melky. Until something happens — that is, we see the results on the field — I don’t think there’s much more to say on the issue.

Yanks hope to honor Bernie
Delgado injury could impact the Yanks
  • nolan11

    What about Melky as a left fielder? LF in yankee stadium is essentially like playing centerfield except that we can afford to have less production there. If Melky can turn himself into a 300 hitter, with 15 +HR power and can produce an OBP somewhere around .400 (which I believe he can do) then I think he’ll end up being a productive starter for the yanks. You have to believe that Austin Jackson will take over in CF either in 2009 or 10…and that Tabata will be playing RF in 2010. So thats a very good, young, fast outfield with strong arms in all positionn (i think it will be the best outfield in the majors) My only question is about Gardner. I love the idea of having a speedy leadoff guy who gets on base and puts pressure on the pitchers. Is Gardener that guy? If so should he be playing LF instead of Melky?

    • Rob

      Honestly, i can see them continuing to find a place for Melky for the next few years. At times, he might be treated as a 4th OF. Other times he could be a starter in LF, CF, and RF.

      I guess under that scenario, everybody wins!

      Still, I’d like to see him hit enough to claim RF next year (to avoid signing Burrell or Dunn). An .800 OPS would do it. And I think he’s capable of that as his body matures and gets stronger for the long season.

  • Rob

    Well, don’t leave out the fact that I also said you guys are being courageous to put your necks on the line!

    I think the overall resistance you’re getting is with this line:

    “This is the entire point of our posts on Melky. Mike, Ben, and I have come to a consensus that Melky is likely best served as a fourth outfielder.”

    I think most of the dissension is best summed as: “It’s too early to say that, especially for a 23 year old with 1000 MLB abs’s.”

    I don’t think many think Melky WILL be Bernie or Beltran. Just that’s something to say he’ll be better than a 4th OF.

    Who knows what will happen? But you will get a lot of sheet if you’re wrong and very few pats if you’re right.

    Me, personally, I’ve analyzed Melky every which way. I think he’ll be more than a 4th OF but not a fantastic starting CF. What that means for his Yankee future I have no idea. It just depends if someone else displaces him to another position or team.

  • CB

    Everyone would like to have superior players at premium up the middle spots. But that’s why they are at such a premium – they are very, very difficult to find.

    If Melky could only play a corner spot, the volume of criticism you guys at RAB have for him would be more than warranted. He could in no way be a long term solution.

    But only 7 everyday centerfielders had an OPS of more than .800. So sure, it would be great to find that kind of talent. Hopefully Austin Jackson can do that (Brett Gardner never, ever will) but that’s far from certain.

    And when you look at those 7 centerfielders there are serious criticisms you can level at all of them. Even the “superstars” who play centerfield aren’t that comparable to the stars that play other positions. Their production is much less. That’s just the way it goes, because it is a premium position defensively.

    This is part of the reason why a guy like Justin Upton is considered such a special prospect.

    What you guys are really saying is that you won’t be happy until the yankees have 8 all star caliber players on the field.

    I agree, in theory, that’s is the optimum state of the team (as long as its not from long term free agent signings). But that’s really only a line of thinking that a yankee fan or red sox fan would take. Teams win the world series more often than not with centerfielders who aren’t that great.

    Again, I don’t love melky – I agree that he’s going to be somewhere between below average to slightly above average (more likelly slightly above average, IMO). To me that’s just not that big an issue on a team that has few problems scoring runs.

    If Jackson proves to be better by all means trade melky. If not I wouldn’t actively go out and sign a free agent CF or make a trade to upgrade (to get an .800 OPS centerfielder would be very expensive).

    Look at how the Angels paid through the nose to get Hunter. If Jackson doesn’t pan out I’d rather keep Melky than make a Hunter type move – which is what you’d need to do if you want to make a significant upgrade over a league average CF.

    • Rob

      Very well said, CB.

  • Count Zero

    On the whole, I agree.

    On a personal level (if there is such a thing with a person I’ve never met in person) — I like Melky a lot. His enthusiasm, his infectious grin, his penchant for big plays (Sorry Manny – that’s mine!).

    But when I look at his body type and his swing; when I look at the bad routes he takes in CF — I see a borderline MLB starter. When I look at the Yankees and the prospects in the system, I see a fourth OF.

    I can’t see him as a starting corner OF unless we have a team that is so stacked we can cover that reduced production, or unless he develops 20 HR power. He can quite easily manage replacement production in CF — he’s a long ways from replacement production in RF.

    Only time will tell though. I would love to be wrong about this and many other things: Bruney, Igawa, Farnsworth…

  • Rob_in_CT

    If Melky hits enough to not kill you at a corner, he should stay in CF, don’t you think? Because at that point, he’ll be well above-average for a CFer with the bat.

    I think Melky will be better than the RAB guys think (4th OF), but the odds of him becoming a Bernie or Beltran type do indeed seem long.

  • Mark McCray

    melky just nailed a double

    • Guiseppe Franco

      Melky was also slow coming out of the box on that double because he was watching the ball sail instead of running.

      Via Mark Feinsand:

      “Melky Cabrera doubles to left. Looked like he thought it was out of the park and he may have taken his time out of the box. You can’t be doing that when you’re 23.”

      That’s the kind of thing that drives me crazy about Melky. His sliding into first base makes me want to beat my head against a brick wall.

      • Rob_in_CT

        That is irritating. I hate it when *any* player does that. But a 23 year old who was just put on notice that his job isn’t secure? Foolish. He’s not so talented that he can get away with stuff like that and just be “Melky being Melky” or someshit.

        On the other hand… it’s spring training. ;)

        • Mike P

          Give the guy a break. Everyone here scrutinises every moment and every detail. I’m sure Paul O’neill once was slow out of the batters box in spring training in his life.

          • Guiseppe Franco


            But as Rob in CT said, it’s not a good sign when the GM just called him about not getting comfortable in CF and he responds a day later by not hustling. It doesn’t take a genius to know that he should be running as soon as the bat makes contact with the ball.

            The problem with Melky is that this is a pattern for him – not really the exception. Way too many mental errors.

            I can’t stand to see Cano get lazy either, but he has far more talent to make up for it.

  • Jeff

    Yep – right on CB.

    Our rotation is a much bigger deal to me.

  • Mike P

    I think the RAB guys are talking about 4th outfielder for the Yankees. For a Yankee team that would like an All Star at every position, Melky probably best projects as 4th OF. But as CB says, there realistically only 6-7 All Star caliber CF in baseball. For anybody but 2-3 teams, Melky would be a nice asset as a slightly above average CF.

    That’s what’s so great about Melky. He’s essentially already an average CF at the moment, young and cheap. Look at Mathews Jr., how much value does Melky have in that context?

    Melky is an asset for a Yankee team with amazing bats. Later, we may need a better CF, which is hopefully coming with Jackson. In the mean time, keep Melky, hope he improves. If that happens, all the better when he eventually gets traded. They will always be a few teams who would love to have a Melky Cabrera.

    • Joseph P.


  • Link

    CB I think said it best but over all some great responses and a well positioned post by Joseph P. Beltran had already driven in 100 runs by Melky’s age but Bernie’s break out year was year 25. I don’t think any honestly believes Melky will develop into an elite player but I believe he will be solid and the Yankees could certainly do worse in CF (Womack, anyone?). It does kind of set up an excuse but remember that Melky is still…23! And also remember that he wasn’t handed the CF job, he took it. And he took from someone the Yankees paid $52 million to play it. Not to mention the difference in the Yankees win-loss record with or without him.

    Having said that if A-Jax is indeed the real deal then it would stand to reason Melky could play left. Let’s hope his plate discipline comes back he swung at some crazy pitches last year when he was struggling.

  • Curramba

    I think Melky will hit for average and more power as he matures. He’ll definately not be the CF for too much longer because there are better options in the minors but I do think the kid will hit enough that he’ll go either to LF or RF depending on the need.

  • Bo

    I dont think anyone is putting their necks on the line in saying Melky is a solid 4th OF’er.

    Luckily for the Yanks in 08 and in the future, their success isnt tied to whether Melky is an All Star.

  • Mike Plugh

    Melky has zero future with the Yankees. I like Melky and I have no problem with him as our starting CFer right now. The problem is, Austin Jackson is knocking at the door. Tabata is a couple of seasons away, but he has to be considered to be walking up to the front door. Brett Gardner has some tools that seem to be a threat to Melky.

    The way I look at it. Jackson and Tabata (at the least) have a future in the Yankees outfield. Provided one of those guys develops good home run power the Yankees will have 2 young, inexpensive outfielders and some money to spend on an All Star. In my opinion, the upside of both Jackson and Tabata squeezes out Melky.

    • RollignWave

      I could agree with Jackson knocking Cabrera off in the future, though I think that most people feel that its going to happen in the next two year or something, which looking at realistic comparasons is almost just as impossible as Cabrera turning into Beltran or Brett Gardner being a better player.

  • brad k

    I will never understand why some fans are so obsessed with the cost of players. I’m a consumer and I will continue to consume the game, as did 75 million fans around the league last year, until it is priced beyond my ability to pay. I don’t see that happening anytime soon. That being said I am shocked at how much space has been devoted to Melky. Melky is a lot of fun to watch when he isn’t hacking his way to another strike out but Melky is no All Star. At best he looks like a nice 4th OF or, dare I say, I nice pickup as utility OF. The Yanks do have the money to have All Stars at ALL positions if they so desire. The problem has been in some of the choices they have made. Melky might have won the CF job over a guy we gave 52 million to but that’s because that was a very bad decision by the Yankees. Everyone knew Damon had no arm and his offensive skills had already take a turn…..downhill. That doesn’t mean that Melky is a better CF. If the right option comes along in the form of Jackson , Tabata, or some other free agent/trade, Melky is toast.

  • pete

    melky had a weak 1st two months (when he was the 4th outfielder), where his average was in the low .200s. However, from june through august he batted over .300, then struggled in september. I thought it was pretty obvious that he went from being an offensive liability to being a pretty good offensive player with excellent defense (if you take the arm into account), decent baserunning ability, and lots of “little things” capability that you love to see in a #9 hitter. Plus, don’t undervalue an arm like that in centerfield. Pitchers love that kind of insurance.

  • JB

    although I’m not “obsessed” with the cost of players, I don’t want to have a $300M payroll which is twice as high as anyone else. I do prefer a “somewhat” level playing field, and I don’t want to hear about payroll when we win.

    Melky is bargain. The minor leagues are great to talk about, but haven’t proven a thing yet, and to count on them this early is silly. Melky has gotten better each year, both offensively and defensively. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to pay out the nose for a Tori Hunter, who in my mind, is only marginally better than Melky, and certainly doesn’t have the upside that Melky has.

    • Joseph P.

      Melky was definitely worse at the plate in 2007 than he was in 2006.

  • Jon W.

    As the RAB guys have said, they simply have an opinion that Melky will never be an all-star caliber player. Nothing wrong with having an opinion. Like everyone else, I hope Melky proves us all wrong, but I’m also skeptical. Let’s see how the season plays out and decide then.

  • Phil McCracken

    Problem with Melky is he doesn’t have much bat speed for a young guy. Thats not gonna get better. He’s a decent fielder, but so are Gardner and Austin Jackson.

    Cashman’s biggest fault right now is not being able to manage his inventory. After the 2006 season Melky’s value was at its highest. He could have gotten us a pretty good return. They were talking about shipping him off for bullpen help for a while. Then we had a chance to package him for Santana. Next season, Cashman is just going to dump him for a bag of balls when we either sign an outfielder or bring up Jackson.

    Cashman doesn’t know when to sell high. He always waits til its too late and gets nothing for his players. Contreras, Weaver, soon to be Igawa and Melky.

    • RollignWave

      that’s a very weak argument

      a. bat speed is about the hardest thing to seriously see on TV unless the difference is Richie Sexson vs Gary Sheffield.

      b. it’s also pretty overrated. you need to actually drive the bat through the zone first and have a firm lower body support on it for it to have any real use. the first two is actually much more important than actually generating the speed itself. unless your suggesting that he’s speed is so low that he couldn’t catch up to pitches. which is clearly not true considering that he had one of the highets contact rate on the team.

  • Pingback: » Blog Archive » Pride of the Yankees 3/04/08 - The Bloggers

  • Link

    Hate to sound like a blind Melky supporter but someone said about him striking out…68 in 589 PA doesn’t sound like someone who misses alot…SIXTEEN assists last year and yes he did significantly worse in 07 than he was projected to but I still say lets see what happens…there is time so no need to bash on Melky. Hopefully Jones, Hunter and Santana all suck this year to make everyone feel better about him still being in pinstripes.

  • David

    What did you guys think of Bernie after his first two seasons? Was it rose colored to think he’d have the career he did. Now I don’t know that Melky will have that kind of career, but its way too early to pass definitive judgment on what type of player he will be in his prime.

  • Matthew Raphaelson

    If you believe that even the Yankees have some limit to their payroll, then I disagree with your premise. If you can get league average production at major league minimum salary – that’s extremely valuable. It doesn’t matter if it is at a premium position. That’s what allows you to pay top salaries for top production. Melky helps pay for A-Rod’s exhorbitant salary, his out-of-this-world VORP (notwithstanding his non-premium position).

    Even the Yankees will need to have a few ML minimum guys on their roster, and what a bonus to get better than replacement level production. If Melky does not improve, his salary will go up along with his service time, and his relative value will decline. Replace him then.

  • RollignWave

    Can anyone that actually saw Steve Finely and Kirby Puckett in their early days actually say with a strait face that you think they’d be great sluggers for that matter.

  • VD

    “setting [ourselves] up for an embarrassing fall should Melky prove to be legit.”.. haha… as much as I love this blog and follow it 12000 miles away from the US, I wish that it happens for once. As a character and personality, Melky is great for the team. He covers his weaknesses (range) on the field with his strengths (arm). All I hope is that he develops a legit bat this season to dispel all the clouds on his position and role with the team. That would keep him on the team till the ostensibly superior talent in the minors is ready and maybe provide Yankees with the best 4th outfielder in the game once someone better takes his spot. Ultimately thats what is best for the Yankees as a team. Think about what the team would be when the 15 mil that needs to be spent these days for acquiring a top CF is spent on a top pitcher.

  • Joe D.

    I agree that there are much better offensive CFs to be had before Melky, but with Jackson and Gardner waiting in the wings, I think a trade anytime in the next calendar year would be a mistake unless we have the chance to really handle somebody. Plus, there’s no one out there who’s really worthy of a trade……..

    Hunter Pence, staying put.
    David DeJesus, same as Melky +++money +++age
    Randy Winn = compost
    Dave Roberts = quickly-rotting compost
    Rocco Baldelli, maybe, only in a junk trade
    Chris Young (ARI), interesting but low OBP and high trade return
    need I go on?

  • Chris

    I think a much better comparison for Melky than Beltran or Bernie is Alex Rios. Here are Rios OPS for his age 23-26 seasons (2004-2007): .721/.703/.865/.852 with 1/10/17/24 HR in those seasons. This seems like a reasonable ceiling for Melky – a very good, but not great center fielder.

    As for the other prospects, why would you give up on Melky for someone with 0 AB above A ball (Austin Jackson) or a prospect who is older and has a .755 OPS in the minors (Brett Gardner)? Melky is clearly the best choice for centerfield in 2008 and most likely in 2009. Beyond that, we’ll have to see how some of the young kids develop…

  • Pingback: River Avenue Blues | What Went Wrong: Starts with an M, ends with -elky