Peña optioned to become super-sub

Pettitte solid as Yanks roll past M's
Unnecessarily pigeonholing relievers

Eric Hinske finally escaped Pittsburgh yesterday and made it to the Bronx in time for the Yanks’ evening affair against the Mariners. When Hinkse donned number 14 and was activated, the Yankees optioned Ramiro Peña to Scranton for his AAA debut. This is, though, a demotion with a purpose.

Peña, a little guy at 5’11” and 165 lbs., is not your typical middle infielder and doesn’t yet profile to be one. He’s a scrawny glove man with no power and little on-base ability. In 2008, playing his age 22 season, he experienced a second stint at AA. During an injury-free season after making it through just 52 games in 2007, he OPS’d .687, a good .050 points higher than his Minor League average. A hitter he is not.

Peña’s value lies on the other side of the ball. Not really a highly-regarded Yankee prospect, he is a glove man who can play second, third and short at a high level. During his three-month stint on the Yankee bench, he displayed his aptitude in the field, and the Yankees walked away impressed.

He may have hit .267/.308/.349 with 17 strike outs in 92 plate appearances, but the Yankees don’t mind. They want him for his glove. To that end, they have sent him down to AAA to become a super-utility player. “They told me I have a chance to be here for a long time,” Peña said to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo on Wednesday.

What then do the Yankees expect from Peña, who will play some center for Scranton? In an ideal world, the Yankees are looking for their own version of a Felipe Lopez. They want a guy who can come off the bench, handle the bat, run a bit and, more importantly, play anywhere on the field.

It sounds like a great idea, but can it work? Lopez made his Major League debut at 21 and has played for five different teams. He owns a career OPS+ of 90. For what he is, he’s not terrible. Yet, he’s not a comp for Peña. In similar Minor League experience, Lopez turned in an OPS of .771. He’s a vastly superior offensive player than Peña is and a seemingly better base runner also.

I don’t mean to knock Peña. He certainly filled in admirably after both A-Rod and Cody Ransom went down. He can bunt; he can run; he can field. As Joe Girardi said, with more than a little hyperbole behind it, “He did more than what we expected. He was great.”

Yet, without the final component — that ability to hit just a little bit more, to get on base a little more frequently — the Yankees might be chasing something that doesn’t exist. Ramiro Peña is a glove man backup infielder. Maybe they should just keep him that way.

Pettitte solid as Yanks roll past M's
Unnecessarily pigeonholing relievers
  • jsbrendog

    14?11!?!!?! they gave hinske 14??1!?!!

    how dare they give away pat kelly’s number?!1!?!!

    boo him!1!

    \stupid yankee fan outrage’d

    • BklynJT

      Thank goodness they did not give away Steve Sax’s number 6. phew~!

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Eddie: (reading Steve Sax’s license) Well, well, Steve Sax, from New York City.
        Lou: I heard some guy got killed in New York City and they never solved the case. But you wouldn’t know anything about that now, would you, Steve?
        (Lou and Eddie laugh)
        Steve Sax: But there are hundreds of unsolved murders in New York City.
        Lou: You don’t know when to keep your mouth shut, do you, Saxxy Boy?

        • aaron empty

          best reference ever

  • http://? Scialabba

    His bat and swing are better than advertised. he can be a contributor and he showed he has the guts to hit in pressure situations.

    I hope they use him just in the infield and he develops into a solid utility player.

    I’d settle for Luis Sojo with speed.

    • Tank Foster

      “he showed he has the guts to hit in pressure situations.”

      Ouch. Prepare for the anschluss…

      I happen to agree with you that he’s better than advertised. Maybe some players can improve significantly and do better than what they “project” in one minor league season. There was a time when weal hitting, great fielding shortstops were MLB regulars, on good teams.

    • Glen L

      Dude … what? his batting line is atrocious .. of course that’s not what the yanks want him for, but his bat is better than advertised? its pretty much been exactly as advertised … bad

      • V

        As bad as his bat is, it IS better than advertised.

        Baseball Prospectus forecast: .238/.295./.323

        .267/.308/.349, while not good, is better than that.

  • V

    I think every team has a place for a Ramiro Pena. The 25th man, if you will. By ‘super utility man’ I hope they mean a guy that can fill in at a moment’s notice in any position, and not a guy who you actually plan on starting a significant number of games.

    My comp? The secret weapon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Oquendo

    I’d much rather pay him league minimum than fork over $1-2M for a Miguel Cairo.

    • AndrewYF

      Unfortunately, the Yankees have about 3 25th-men.

      With the bullpen shaping up rather nicely, why not DFA Tomko now and bring up Melancon to pick up the garbage time innings? He needs to log innings in the majors at some point.

      • Michael

        You want to bring up a kid with Melancon’s talent for garbage innings? Please. Melancon should stay in AAA until NYY can give him regular work at the major league level. Garbage innings for a garbage pitcher.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Eh, Jose Oquendo still had a career big league OBP of .346.

      I don’t think Peña can get on base that often.

      • V

        Do they put OBP on the scoreboard?

        /Francouer’d

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Ramiro Peña is a glove man backup infielder. Maybe they should just keep him that way.

    Yeah, but while an all-glove/no-hit guy who can play 2B/3B/SS only has a little bit of value, an all-glove/no-hit guy who can play 2B/3B/SS/LF/CF/RF does have more value. Peña’s contribution to the team is the ability to replace guys defensively and give regulars the occasional breather. If he can do that for more positions, it gives the team much more flexibility. If Peña could truly be both a backup infielder AND a backup outfielder, maybe we could clear a backup outfielder spot (like, say, Melky) and add a bat that had no position (like, say, Miranda) and have a little more offense.

    It doesn’t hurt.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      That’s true. It doesn’t hurt at all. Overall, I just don’t think he’s going to amount to much. He does feed this Yankee obsession with light-hitting back-up infielders though. Everyone loves Luis Sojo despite the 62 OPS+ he managed over 791 PAs in the Bronx.

      • V

        Heck, when 0 is replacement level (is that right?) then 62 OPS+ is more than adequate for a backup guy who shouldn’t get more than 150 ABs a year.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

          A 0 OPS+ is not replacement-level. That’s not hitting at all. Based on the current VORP scale, Ramiro Pena is pretty much replacement level. So in that sense, he’s fine if unimpressive at the bat.

          • V

            Ah, gotcha.

            But I’d be perfectly fine with a 0 VORP offensively with his glove. Again, as the 25th man on the roster.

            • Jake K.

              I believe 80 OPS+ is replacement level.

    • A.D.

      Exactly, there’s nothing to lose, worse case he’s the same bat he’s always been, but he can go out and play a serviceable LF, then he’s a homegrown Miguel Cairo.

    • http://161stStreet.wordpress.com Chris A

      Why does everyone dislike Melky?

      • V

        Honestly, I’m not a Melky hater. I do like him, and I think his improvements this year are VERY promising. Ignoring the results, his approach at the plate is MUCH better than last year.

        The only problem is that the Yankees have two CFs and a third on the way (who has the highest ceiling).

        As long as Melky’s a CF, he has value. His bat doesn’t play, and probably never plays, in the corner spots. Ditto Gardner. So if/when Austin Jackson is ready, you either have a CF and two fourth outfielders, or you play a weak corner OF every day.

        That definitely warrants trading either Melky or Gardner, and Gardner offers the plus speed off the bench, and Melky’s power, while a positive, isn’t strong enough to be the vaunted PH-homerun guy.

        So Melky’s probably the odd one out.

        • V

          OTOH, just look at Seattle’s OF defense before Endy Chavez got hurt. Three CFs in the outfield = very happy pitchers.

          • Jake K.

            Yeah, but the Mariners are also one of only two teams in baseball with fewer than 300 runs scored.

            • V

              True. Playing Melky/AJax/Gardner over Damon/Melky/Swisher would not be a good idea.

          • Chris

            Also consider that the Safeco outfield is about three times the size of the Yankee stadium outfield.

      • Tank Foster

        Because he doesn’t look like a baseball player? That’s what my brother says, and it makes as much sense as anything. Melky is out-wOBA-ing several star players this season, FWIW.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        I don’t dislike Melky. I like Melky. I like all our players.

        All our players are expendable, though, depending on the situation. If I could find a way to make the team better that involved whacking Melky, I’d do it.

        • V

          d00d, keep your personal fantasies to yourself.

          Pansy.

          /Ironhorse’d

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona

          But Melky is the only one on this team that can play all 3 outfield positions well. He may be a fringe starter, but he is a valuable 4th outfielder.

    • Jamal G.

      This.

    • JRVJ

      You want to replace Melky? The same Melky with an OPS of .800 and OPS+ of 111?

      Right.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Did I say I wanted to replace Melky? No.

        Did I say that if Ramiro Peña offered more flexibility it might make it more possible to replace Melky? Yes.

        • JRVJ

          You wrote: “If Peña could truly be both a backup infielder AND a backup outfielder, maybe we could clear a backup outfielder spot (like, say, Melky)”

  • clee

    why not have him play defense only? the dh isn’t just for pitchers. lol! a guy like cc can hit. so during the games that cc pitches, he can fill in for a guy like…arod/jeter/cano…and the dh (swish/matsui/posada) can hit for peña.

    • Rick in Boston

      Umm…no:

      MLB Rule 6.10(b):
      “A hitter may be designated to bat for the starting pitcher and allsubsequent pitchers in any game without otherwise affecting the status of the pitcher(s) in the game.”

      • V

        Hmm. Didn’t know you needed to be officially named the pitcher to throw pitches (like when Swisher went from RF to pitch, did the Yankees lose the DH? Or did Swisher come out of the lineup?).

        • Rick in Boston

          Probably lost the DH (I’d have to look it up to double-check). Once you’re in the lineup, I don’t believe you can be taken out unless you’re removed from the game.

          • whozat

            Hm. Did he hit after that? I would think that the DH could have continued to hit, as long as Swisher did not come to the plate while he was the pitcher.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/TBA/TBA200904130.shtml

              When Swisher moved from 1B to the pitcher’s spot, Molina replaced Matsui in the DH spot and batted, as the catcher. All those were defensive substitutions in the bottom of the 8th. In the top of the ninth, in the DH’s spot in the order (7th), Molina batted. As the catcher.

              I think we technically did lose the DH position, as Swisher would have then been the pitcher hitting in his spot in the order (3rd), although the game didn’t last long enough for him to come back up.

      • clee

        no kidding! i didn’t know that rule. nice find.

  • Am I the only Kevin?

    I see no harm in having him play OF in AAA. It is not like he needs more time to work on the glove. He just needs regular ABs, and moving him around the diamond in AAA is not going to erode his ability to play IF.

    • chriskeo

      Isn’t Austin Jackson playing CF in AAA?

      • A.D.

        He plays CF & LF, so then can switch is around if they want Pena getting reps in center

    • Chris

      Why does he need regular at bats? He’s never going to be an everyday player, so what he really needs is to learn how to hit while only playing a couple days a week.

  • Bo

    God forbid they try him there and see what he’s got. Why can’t a 23 yr old that is still maturing develop with the stick? They know hes not a starter so why not try to develop someone who can play 7 positions and help off the bench? Whats the downside here?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      Can you close the barn door after the horse escapes while you’re at it?

  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    It can’t hurt, right?

    • http://phabfour.blogspot.com/ Double-J

      That’s what she said.

  • Steve Varholy

    Wow, how time flies. When I became a Yankees fan, No. 14 was worn by left fielder Gene Woodling!

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Other greats to don #14:

      Bill “Moose” Skowron
      Louis “Sweet Lou” Pinella
      Hideki “Fat Toad” Irabu
      Pat “I was Adam Everett before it was cool” Kelly
      Bobby “No, I wouldn’t have/shouldn’t have traded my #3 starter for an elite reliever” Cox
      Luis “Replacement Level Utility Infielder” Sojo
      Miguel “Replacement Level Utility Infielder” Cairo
      Enrique “Replacement Level Utility Infielder” Wilson
      Wilson “Replacement Level Utility Infielder” Delgado
      Wilson “Replacement Level Utility Infielder” Betemit
      Angel “Replacement Level Utility Infielder who once won Rookie of the Year” Berroa
      Andy “I bang pornstars” Phillips
      Robinson “Yeah, I wore that number too once” Canó

      http://yankeenumbers.com/playerslist.asp?x_Number=14&z_Number=%3D%2C%2C

  • e mills

    the kid’s young, he has yet to develop his “man” muscles. I kind of like the idea.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      He’s not that young. He’s going to be 24 in 16 days. He’s older than Evan Longoria. I think your expectations may be a tad bit on the high side.

    • Say Hey Willie

      I am not sure this is appropriate for a family blog.

  • theyankeewarrior

    Pena needs to put on 20 lbs of muscle and watch his weak liners turn into doubles. It’s not too late to make this kid into a hitter. You don’t need roids to develop things called muscles. Without his hoddie on, it’s hard to even see the kid.

    I’m not saying he’s gonna be above average with the stick. But he can still learn to hit .275 and play D like Omar Viz

    • A.D.

      You don’t need roids to develop things called muscles.

      Depending on your body type, you do.

      • theyankeewarrior

        He doesn’t need to win a body-building comp. He needs to not weigh 165 lbs. All human beings who have the ability to run around in the big leagues also have the ability to put on 20 lbs on muscle.

        Will it be easy? No. Because that Bud guy is testing for the needle candy now. But there’s no reason he can’t get big. It might not turn him into an all-star but it can only help his OPS

        • whozat

          or it could make him less mobile and agile, still not really improve his contact skills or plate discipline, and be a total waste.

          Either way.

    • Tank Foster

      I like this. The Brian Downing metamorphosis, infielder-style. Why can’t it happen?

      • Say Hey Willie

        Wow – old school reference.

        I remember watching Downing play. I recall watching him run to first on a close play that got slow moed several times. He looked like he was going to rip out of his uniform like the incredible hulk.

  • TC

    If Pena can hit a little better, he can eventually be the next starting shortstop.

    • jsbrendog

      disagree. he will have to improve at least 3 fold in order to even have a chance to become the next starting ss.

      a little better is a ginormous understatement

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      “A little better” does not begin to touch by how much Pena needs to improve to be the next starting short stop.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      If Pena can hit a little better, he can eventually be the next starting shortstop

      I concede your point. If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.

      • Tank Foster

        That’s a little snarky. Ozzie Smith’s OPS+ averaged about 75, his first 7 seasons in the majors, age 23-29. His next 7 seasons he averaged about 100 OPS+. Was Ozzie a “replacement” player? Pena isn’t Ozzie Smith, but it isn’t impossible that he could improve alot and contribute. He might be able to start for a second tier MLB team.

  • andrew

    he wasnt terrible with the bat. he did hit a few doubles. i mean he would be a sub. if he could hit better he’d be a regular. that said there are better options out there and probably within our own farm system but for now, it doesnt hurt does it?

  • http://deleted RollingWave

    God forbid the day when a .800 OPS above average CF is our 25th man on the roster.

    FWIW, I would be highly surprised in Ajax does better than what Melky is currently doing in the first few years of his career. the tools and skillset just doesn’t appear to be there. He’s got good tools. but not AWESOME good tools. there are also some flaws in his skillset that worries me.

    Let’s just look at what he is, a toolsy CF who has a whiff problem. look at the current succesful major leaguers and you come up with the comps of Granderson, Sizemore , Cameron.

    That’s 3 very good ocmp. but is he really Granderson? (I’m pretty sure we can just rule out Sizemore right there) I harbor my doubts. I think in the best best case he’s Mike Cameron. that’s great … but know that Cameron had a solid age 24 season in the majors. then was sub 08 Melky level his age 25 season (63 OPS+ .. over 400+ PA.. yikes) before becomming a consistently solid player. (and for all the moans and goans Melky got, if he actually finish this year at a .800 OPS or a high .780+ OPS level. that’s better than Cameron’s career average.)

    • http://deleted RollingWave

      having said that, Melky is guilty until proven innocent thanks to last year. he needs to put up this level of play for this year and the next for me to be truely convince that this isn’t just a fluke.

    • Say Hey Willie

      I think the big mistake of this assertion is that you are projecting Melky as a .800 OPS player for the future. He has not even sniffed .800 OPS for a full season in his career. I want Melky to succeed but logic tells me that if he continues to get regular playing time he will continue his current slide to his career average OPS or lower. The slide I am referring to is his April OPS of .971, followed by his May OPS of .777, and his June OPS of .687.

      • JRVJ

        Melky was cold for the first 15 days of June, but he was pretty solid during the second half of the month, hitting .290/.378/.581/.959 (though that’s probably off a hair, since I think Baseball Reference is including yesterday’s game, where Melky homered).

    • V

      The reason people are high on AJax is because of how quickly he learned how to play, when he didn’t start playing seriously until 18 years old, when his competition started playing seriously at, say, 12.

      21, at AAA: .287/.360/.438

      That’s Grady Sizemore.

      22, at AAA: .320/.386/.444

      That’s AJax, so far.

      Btw: Melky, 21, at AAA: .385/.430/.566. Damn.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

        The problem with those Melky AAA numbers is that they are April numbers. He seems to hit well in April no matter the level. AJax and Sizemore did that over the course of a longer period of time.

  • P O’neil

    Just please get rid of cody ransom.

    • Tank Foster

      I like Pena better than Ransom. Maybe it’s an option thing where they either have to have Cody on the MLB team or waive him. Or maybe they really want Pena getting regular play.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Yeah, there’s no reason to have a guy around like Ransom. Championship teams never have old, marginal utility players like him as the 25th man on their bench.

      Sincerely,
      Clay Bellinger

      • jsbrendog

        with ransom and bellinger there’s a chance they layinto one.

        ransom laying into one = pop out to shallow OF

        • Tank Foster

          Well ya gotta point there. You meant Pena popping out, not Ransom, tho.

          • jsbrendog

            i saw with my own eyes ransom crush a ball in the first cubs exhibition game form the outfield “rich ppl seats”

            therefore, since i seens it with my own eyes it is true.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

              And if anyone disagrees they obviously don’t know baseball.

  • Charlie

    Sorry, but this was a strange and confusing post. Why not give him a shot to try the outfield?? Maybe he’ll become a better hitter. I don’t get all the negativity here.