Nov
12

Mailbag: Wood, Cano, Pena, Montero, Sanchez

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It’s Friday morning, so that means it’s time for yet another edition of the RAB Mailbag. This week we field questions about setup relievers, second base prospects, Carlos Pena, and of course, Jesus Montero. You can send your questions in any time using the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

Dan asks: Has there been any information on negotiations with Kerry Wood? Assuming he decides to close for a mediocre team as opposed to setting up for the Yanks, who would be the best in-house and free agent options to take over as the bridge to Mo?

Nope, there hasn’t been any mention of Wood at all this offseason, other than a little blurb saying the Cubs would welcome him back. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the Yankees haven’t had any negotiations with him and his agent all. Hell, they haven’t even started really negotiating with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera yet.

Assuming he heads elsewhere for a higher profile job and/or more money, the in-house candidates to take over that all important eighth inning job are obvious: Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson, not necessarily in that order. Boone Logan will likely see some late inning action against left-handers as well. I think the Yanks want to see Joba grab a hold of that setup job and run with it, but I don’t think they’ll just give it him like they did last year. D-Rob’s a damn fine backup plan, so Joba’s going to have to earn it. I do love Robertson in that fireman role though, he’s much more valuable that way.

Arad asks: Two parter, 1) Do the Yanks have any good second basemen prospects in their minor leagues? 2) If so, what do you think of eventually, when Jeter retires to move Cano to short…I mean he has a great arm and is a very good fielder?

The two most notable second base prospects in the Yanks’ system are David Adams and Corban Joseph. I guess we could lump Eduardo Nunez in there as well, but meh. Adams is the best prospect of the bunch and is also the much safer bet to stick at second long-term because he’s considerably better defensively than CoJo, who is probably going to wind up at third base down the road. Most believe that Adams will develop into a rock solid everyday second baseman in the big leagues, though not necessarily a star. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in fact it’s tremendously valuable while he’s in his cost control years.

As for Cano, he played short in the minors until sliding over to second in Single-A because he couldn’t cut it defensively. He’s since improved and is obvious a very good defender now, and it certainly seems like he has the equipment – hands, arm, range – to be no worse than average at short. That said, I’m at the point where I wouldn’t screw with Cano at all. He’s peaking now and is one of the game’s truly elite players, so I wouldn’t mess around with that. Let him be himself and find a new shortstop. No need to fix what ain’t broke, especially with a guy as talented as Cano.

Kevin asks: Is Carlos Pena worth a look on a one year deal? He credited Kevin Long with his turnaround with the Rays so he could do well with a second go around. Also, I believe he is a Type B free agent (correct me if I’m wrong) so he wouldn’t cost a draft pick. His on base skills combined with the short porch would look good batting sixth.

Yep, Pena’s a Type-B. He’s also a Scott Boras client, so I would be stunned if he took just a one year deal even with his down 2010. A big chunk of his value stems from his defensive skills, and Boras knows that. So even if you plan on signing him to be the designated hitter, they’ll still want you to pay for his defense even if you aren’t using it. Pena could probably hit 40+ homers in Yankee Stadium, and he did credit Kevin Long with helping him fix his swing when he was with Triple-A Columbus in 2006, but chances are he’ll find a starting first baseman’s job elsewhere.

Remember, the Yankees have all but announced that Jorge Posada will be the full-time DH next season, so I don’t expect them to try to acquire another DH this offseason. Someone would have to fall into their laps dirt cheap in February, which of course is very possible.

Hmmm asks: Yankee fans are impatient. They want to win now. They want you to be an allstar now and aren’t in the business of re-building or waiting around for the next title. With that said, do you see Jesus Montero struggling in the majors and fan getting on his case? What can we realistically expect his numbers to be next year? I can all but see the know it all fans saying what a bum and bust he is if he struggles even a little bit. Your take?

Yankee fans as a group are impatient, probably to a ridiculous degree. Montero will get a chance to produce, but if the calendar flips to June and he’s barely able to crack a .300 wOBA, the natives will start to get restless. I can guarantee the bust label will be thrown around rather quickly, probably the first time he strikes out with men in scoring position, it’s just the nature of the beast. Thankfully the Yankees aren’t as impatient as the fans, and they’ll give Montero a chance to struggle and learn from those struggles and adjust. It’s what he did in Triple-A this season and the smart money is on him doing it again when he breaks into the bigs.

Since 1961, the expansion era, there have been just four players who have qualified for the batting title at age 21 (which Montero will be in 2011) while playing at least 50% of their games at catcher: Johnny Bench, Ted Simmons, Pudge Rodriguez, and Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Butch Wynegar. Wynegar was the worst of the bunch offensively, putting up a still rock solid 98 OPS+ in 1977. If we lessen our criteria to just 400 plate appearances, the list adds two players: Darrell Porter and none other than Tim McCarver. Again, Wynegar remains the low man on the offensive totem pole.

Montero is clearly venturing into some rarefied air next season. If he’s a league average offensive player and manages to whack a dozen or so homers, we have to consider that a major win. The kid is supremely talented, but adjusting to life in the AL East as a young backstop is a tough gig. Just ask Matt Wieters, who is every bit as talented as the Yanks’ top prospect, if not more.

Rebecca asks: What do you think about BA saying that Maquinito has a higher ceiling than Jesus Montero?

That struck me as a surprise, but then again they’re talking about pure ceiling. You can dream on almost anyone and project them to be a superstar, but I guess they feel Gary Sanchez has a higher ceiling than Montero because he’s a safer bet to remain behind the plate. Remember, higher ceiling does not equal better prospect. Montero is considerably closer to reaching his ceiling given where he is and what he’s accomplished already, Sanchez is just a pup with 196 professional plate appearances to his credit.

I thought ranking him the second best prospect in the system was a tad aggressive, especially considering some of arms the Yanks’ have in Doublee-A, but the Yankees didn’t give the kid $3M for nothing. They think he can be something special, and the ranking backs that up.

Categories : Mailbag

59 Comments»

  1. The Three Amigos says:

    Mike, based on your comment about not messing with Cano and Adams being a rock solid 2B, is there any chance the Yanks move Adams to SS with both he and Corbin Joseph in AA this year. I know he is coming off the broken ankle, but…?

    • Greg says:

      Adams moved to 2b so a hot shot recruit could play SS if my memory serves me.

      I think you overrate Adams though Mike, I see nothing more then a utility player.

      • pat says:

        Why is it that you only see him as a utility player? What have you seen in his play to produce that opinion?

        • Greg says:

          I admit to only seeing him a few times in Trenton as it is hard for me to get to games.

          In the field, its a solid but unspectacular, reminds me a bit of Russo, seems like he’ll be able to field whatever position he gets put at, but will never be an ace with the glove anywhere.

          At the plate he keeps his balance well, and is quick through the zone, which will lead to good contact and so-so power numbers. Didn’t really get a feel for his plate discipline, but everything I’ve read seems to say average.

          Nothing wrong with these utility players, I just don’t see a player that can last as a 162 game starter.

          • pat says:

            Well he’s only ever played 14 games outside of 2B in the minors so if he’s solid there then I don’t see where the UTIL comparisons come from. No offense, but it’s your opinion versus that of all the scouts and team officials who have said he will remain at 2b. He’s projected to have a well above average bat, so he doesn’t have to be Bill Mazeroski with the glove to be a valuable second baseman.

            • Greg says:

              Obviously none taken, we will all have our biases and opinions on each player. But just because he hasn’t played anything other then 2b yet doesn’t mean he won’t.

              The utility infielder comparison comes from two things.

              1. I believe he enough athleticism to at least be average at each position.
              2. I don’t believe he’ll have the bat to be an every day big leaguer, which means he’ll have to have some versatility to stick around the majors.

              I don’t really see too many scouts saying he’ll have an above average bat in the majors. Making the most out of his tools pretty much equals league average in the majors. Of course he could develop more, no one saw Gardner hitting like he has, but I try not to project as much as others do. He had a good start to the year, it is unfortunate he went down when he did, as we fall victim to SSS by making any claims off that start.

              • Ted Nelson says:

                He’s got a isoD of .090 on his minor league career… not sure that’s average discipline. For the Yankees’ system maybe it is.

                I think you’d be wise to also look at his production and not just a few games in which you’ve seen him.

                “as we fall victim to SSS by making any claims off that start.”

                Not really… He has 1000 MiLB PAs and an OPS of .809.

                If your average ML 2B is Robinson Cano, no Adams is not that. If you use any sort of rational context, though, Adams has a good shot to be a ML starting 2B. He’s a good 2B prospect.

                • Greg says:

                  I’ll confirm that I weigh my few times seeing him more heavily then anything else, but I believe that other opinions, and other video I’ve seen also factor into my opinions as well.

                  The start I was referring to was his AA start, where I believe production can start to be weighed more then in lower levels.

                  Your last point hits the nail, not directly on the head, but still a nice blow :) When I say utility player, there is a difference between that player on the Yankees and Royals. Is it a stretch to say on a worse team they would be happy with Nunez (biases aside) starting at SS to see what they have with him? I don’t believe so, but on the Yankees, the idea isn’t even discussed.

                  This is a player I see as valuable to the Yankees because of a well rounded skill set, but will never start for this team. I personally don’t feel his tools will translate success into more then a bit role as whole, not just the Yankees, but that is obviously up for debate. I’d love for him to come out hot again, and get a maximum return on a trade, but I just don’t see it yet.

                  • Ted Nelson says:

                    The AA start was insanely good, though. .900 OPS. At that point you’re looking at a very attractive 2B prospect. He could lose 100 points back to his career MiLB OPS of around .800 and still be a solid 2B prospect (and I doubt he keeps up the .900… but would be awesome if he could).
                    Obviously every prospect develops differently, some guys can hit MiLB pitching but don’t adjust to MLB pitching, and Adams was a refined college guy entering the minors… but an OPS above .800 on his MiLB career which more or less rises as he advances through the system would actually match right up with the **elite** offensive 2B in the majors. The Cano’s, Uggla’s, Kelly Johnson’s, Pedroia’s, Utley’s…

                    Yeah, the big point is Yankees v. league average. It’s not just the Royals and the bottom feeders, though. The *average* starting middle IF can’t hit. I think there is a chance Adams develops into a Yankee starter-caliber player given his MiLB success compared to other 2B around baseball. However, the odds are against him. Short of that, though, line up all the starting 2B in baseball…

      • CountryClub says:

        I take all of these scouting reports with a grain of salt (whether positive or negative); but most things I’ve read on Adams agreed with Mike. People think he’s a future legit starter at 2nd base.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Yeah, there is a great deal of variability with the returns you’re going to get from any prospect… but as a *prospect* Adams is a solid looking 2B prospect.

          If he fails there, then Greg is right that the next logical step is UT. You look around the league, though, and at an OPS of .700-.750 you’re not going to have a hard time finding a starting 2B job. As Mike says, you’re not going to be an All-Star. You’re probably not going to start for the Yankees.

  2. pat says:

    I know he’s not even on the radar prospects wise, but the Yanks have been playing Gumbs at 2b at instructs. That adds another high ceiling guy to the 2b mix in coming years.

  3. Bob says:

    Perhaps Yankee fans should try to believe in Jesus…even if he starts off slowly, as he did in AAA.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      They won’t. If he takes a first pitch strike I’m expecting boos.

    • You know… I know Yankee fans are fickle and demanding (trying to find relatively inoffensive words), but I don’t think they’ll be as hard on Montero as we worry they will be. I think Yankee fans actually tend to really want the guys who come up through the system to do well, and really get behind them. I mean… Melky? That guy got a disproportional amount of support, just to point out one example. Guys who come up through the system get a massively longer leash from the fans than do imports. I’d be a little surprised if the fans got on Montero for starting slowly.

      • Thomas says:

        As bizarre as it sounds, funny/unique names are endearing to fans especially if the player is funny/energetic. Just looking at Yankees, players the fans loved Melky, Shelley Duncan, Joba Chamberlain and even Colter Bean had fans despite the fact other than Joba none of them were very good or expected to be everyday players.

        Hopefully, the fans find the name Jesus endearing.

      • Jimmy McNulty says:

        I think their treatment of Hughes will be a good comparison.

      • MikeD says:

        Agreed. Frankly, I think we here at RAB are overestimating just what other Yankee fans will expect from Montero. A very large percentage of fans still have never heard of him, and while that will change by opening day, their expectations of him as a hitter will be lower than ours.

        • Zack says:

          IMO, expectations don’t matter. The first time he goes 0-5 with a PB it’s going to be – “Trade the bum, play Cervelli”

          • The people you think will say “trade the bum, play Cervelli,” still like Cervelli, even though he kinda sucks.

            They’re not nearly as quick to turn on homegrown players as we tend to think they are.

            • Zack says:

              How quick did they turn on Joba? How many bad starts did it take them to boo him off the mound last year and say he’s a bum?

              Those fans we talk about like the ‘scrappy’ player who make one or two big plays that stick out in their mind and they defend them forever. Russo had that 1 hit against the Mets and people were still calling for him to play a month later even though he went 7-42 after that game.

              • I guess this is a little subjective, but I think the fans gave Joba a relatively long leash.

                I just think fans tend to feel differently about homegrown players (especially very young ones), perhaps subconsciously, than they do about imports. I think with young homegrown guys fans are more apt to just inherently be behind the guy, while with imports there are immediate expectations and if the player doesn’t meet those expectations, he’s a bum. With the younger homegrown guys, there’s a more personal connection.

    • Tom Swift says:

      That could be a new meme, which could be used for T shirts:
      “I believe in Jesus.”

  4. Monteroisdinero says:

    Jesus will hit and hit well. He hits righties/lefties, hits to all fields with power, has a lightning quick bat through the zone and is patient. We should be too.

  5. kenthadley says:

    I think Posada’s first years for the Yanks would be the bar for Montero’s rookie season….and I also think Cashman will sign a veteran catcher who can back him up. JP will be the third string catcher and first string DH. Ultimately, as we all hope, Montero’s impact will dwarf Posada’s, but not necessarily behind the plate.

  6. Mister Delaware says:

    The Joba vs. D-Rob thing just highlights why Joba in the pen is such a bad decision. Joba is by far the better overall pitcher (deeper repetoire, better stamina) but on a one inning basis, the gap shrinks measurably.

  7. Ted Nelson says:

    Pena is kind of an unsung moment in recent Yankees history… The season he was in AAA, Andy Phillips and Craig Wilson split the 1B duties. Might have at least been a nice trade chip down the line for the Yankees (if/once they signed Teixiera).

  8. vin says:

    Down the line, I think the more likely scenario would be to keep Robby at 2nd, move Jeter to 3rd, Alex to DH, and try to acquire a SS (perhaps using guys like Adams or CoJo as part of a trade).

    Tulo and Hanley will be FA’s in 2014. Maybe Jeter for 3 more years at SS, then a 1 year stop-gap, then try to get one of those guys (if they can’t be acquired via trade before then).

    Of course that’s pretty much an eternity away. The Yanks don’t have many other holes to fill in the coming years – so acquiring a SS shouldn’t be impossible.

  9. Hey Its Franklin says:

    If Pettitte retires would there be any chance we take a flier on CMW? He reportedly looked healthy in the fall instructional league and we could use a 5th starter with the most likely rotation being CC, Lee, AJ and Hughes.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Since he’s probably looking at a minor league deal, why not?

    • Greg says:

      I’d say a flyer on Webb, or Duke would be much more valuable then CMW.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Yeah, on a minor league deal you can’t really complain about any of them though. And if Pettitte doesn’t retire or the Yankees bring in another starter some other way, they’re not a particularly attractive option for those guys. The history with Wang maybe works for them, or maybe against them if he’s salty they never signed him long-term.

    • bexarama says:

      Not unless he’s dirt cheap. I’m expecting the Yankees to know his medicals better than anyone. Supposedly he looked good at various points last year, and was supposed to come back in June, then July, then maybe he’d come back to be on the 40-man roster in September…

      Also, I guess you don’t think Andy’s coming back?

      • Ted Nelson says:

        That poster started their comment with “If Pettitte retires…”

        And I’m pretty sure Wang will be dirt cheap.

        • bexarama says:

          That poster started their comment with “If Pettitte retires…”

          Deerrrrrp.

          I have been very out of it lately, apologies.

          (Obligatory “this is what happens when girls try to talk about sports on the internet” ponytail joke)

          • While I agree ponytails are a very nice hairstyle, I think Andy is likely to play one more year. His injury, while concerning that it took so long to heal, forced his arm/shoulder to rest an additional 2 months so I’m sure he feels strong enough to pitch another year.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              No one is saying he will or won’t, so I don’t know why you felt the need to express your opinion on the subject.

              ***If***

              There is a possibility he retires or signs elsewhere, and the question revolved around contingency plans ***if*** he retires.

  10. Ted Nelson says:

    I think the Cano to SS question is a very interesting one. Who knows what situations will arise between now and whenever Jeter moves off SS for the Yankees… but, if you assume that it is harder/more expensive to find a good offensive SS than 2B it makes a lot of sense to consider. Again who knows what happens, but if the Yankees do have a strong 2B prospect knocking on the door and no obvious options at SS this might make more sense than bringing in a sub-par SS.

    • I’d rather live with a sub-par shortstop than messing with Cano and possibly spoiling a good thing. We know what Cano is – likely the best all-around second baseman in the league (Utley a close 2nd depending on his health) so.. why mess with that? The Yankees can win with a light-hitting shortstop.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Why do you assume that moving positions would “mess with” him, though? Plenty of guys move positions in the IF. In the Yankees own IF A-Rod and Tex have moved positions. Mike Young has moved from 2B to SS to 3B, and I don’t think the variations in his season-to-season production can be tied to those moves. I think it’s hocus pocus to suggest moving positions is going to impact a player’s offensive performance.

        The Yankees might win with a light hitting SS, but wouldn’t you rather have great players at both spots given the opportunity?

        • Tex has been a 1B his entire MLB career, other than a handful of games he started in the outfield and 3rd base early on, so I’m not sure what your point is. He was a 3B in the minors but I don’t see how you can compare a position change then to what you’d be asking Cano to do.

          Yes, A-rod did it, but that was a once in a lifetime player making a once in a lifetime decision.

          What if Cano completely bombs at shortstop? Are you really suggesting that frustration can’t carry over to his offensive game?

          Obviously, yes I would rather have impact players at both SS and 2B. But how many great second basemen are there? Is it really worth making Cano move for CoJo or Adams? It’d only be worth if they brought in a guaranteed star, in which case why bother moving Cano? I just don’t see the point.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            There are tons of examples, I listed a few prominent ones.

            Why would it throw off a veteran to switch positions and not a young prospect? Just as good a chance that it would mess with a young prospect.

            Is Mike Young a once in a lifetime player?

            “What if Cano completely bombs at shortstop?”

            A. I’m not suggesting the Yankees never put him at SS in spring training or winter ball to get a look before making the decision. I’m suggesting examining the possibility. If he doesn’t look like he’ll hack it at SS and isn’t enjoying the transition, call it off.
            B. Call it off. Adjust. At some point if someone stops hitting you can blame it on things like this, but correlation isn’t causation and even when it is the player has to get over it. If Cano is so mentally weak that he can’t handle a position switch I sort of doubt he’s be a 2 time Silver Slugger.

            ” It’d only be worth if they brought in a guaranteed star, in which case why bother moving Cano? I just don’t see the point.”

            If you bring in a star 2B, why bother moving Cano? What are you even talking about?

            The point is that in such a situation where the Yankees 2B options are significantly better than their SS options they might be better off moving Cano to SS rather than worrying about hocus pocus he’s going to forget how to hit BS. No one is saying “write it in stone, move Cano to SS ASAP.” It’s a hypothetical idea contingent upon circumstances.

            • Not. Worth. It. Simple as that. “If their 2B options are significantly better than their SS options” is a hell of a hypothetical, and flawed logic. Not only does the 2B options have to be significantly better, they have to be so good that you’re essentially forcing Cano to change positions to make room for said player. I just cannot see that happening for an internal option.

              • Ted Nelson says:

                They simply have to be good enough that the Yankees are better with 2BX and SSCano than they are with 2BCano and SSY. It’s a really simple concept.

                A. It doesn’t just have to be an internal option.

                B. I don’t really care what you foresee. We’re talking about a hypothetical. ***If*** If David Adams picks up where he left off and OPS’s .900 across AA and AAA this season… If no SS are available at reasonable prices and a great 2B is… If Angelo Gumbs tears his way through the system as a 2B and Jeter sticks at SS a few more years… ***If***

                C. I still don’t understand why you have this stigma about changing positions… ***If*** Cano can field the position, I see no problem moving him to SS.

              • Mister Delaware says:

                Its atleast worth mentioning that the lifespan of an SS is typically longer than a 2B so there would be a benefit beyond lineup shaping. Not saying it is or isn’t doable, but for people who don’t truly know if Robbie has the necessary range (a relative term in yankee land), its not preposterous to consider.

  11. Sal says:

    What number is Montero going to wear?

  12. YankeesJunkie says:

    I was honestly surprised when looking at Adam’s numbers throughout his career. He has had a better wOBA every year each at a higher level, gets quite a few walks and a respectable .200 ISO over the last two years. To me that projects to be more of an everyday player than just UT. However, considering how locked the Yankees IF he will most likely end up being traded.

  13. Not Tank the Frank says:

    Does anyone have any ideas about where Montero will bat in the order? Do you think they bat him 8th or 9th to take the pressure off of him then move him up slightly when he starts to hit? This leads to a lot of questions about the batting order. I can’t put my finger on one particular instance, but I get the feeling from things Girardi and Cashman have said that Jeter probably won’t be batting leadoff next year. If I had my way, the only question would be whether to bat Montero and Jeter 8th or 9th.

    Gardner
    Swish/Granderson
    Teix – don’t mess with it
    Alex
    Cano
    Posada
    Swish/Granderson
    Montero
    Jeter

    You can’t bat Jeter 2nd…you just can’t. I think the Yankees know that now. The only issue would be the instant media and fan frenzy of what an “insult” it is to move Jeter to 9th…or even 8th for that matter. I say put him down there, weather the storm, and keep him there.

    • Zack says:

      I would flip Posada and Swish when Swish is down in the order.

      But I’ll believe Jeter isn’t 1/2 until I see it in regular season games.

    • Mattchu12 says:

      Jeter will probably bat lead-off for the better part of the first half, and his performance over this stretch will decide whether or not he stays there for the rest of the season.

      vs RHP:
      Jeter
      Granderson
      Teixeira
      A-Rod
      Cano
      Swisher
      Posada
      Montero
      Gardner

      vs LHP
      Jeter
      Swisher
      Teixeira
      A-Rod
      Cano
      Posada
      Granderson
      Montero
      Gardner

      I’d expect to see Montero move up past Posada (and Granderson vs LHP) as the season goes on, and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Granderson continues to be solid against lefties and stays in the two-hole against lefties as the season goes on, making the RHP lineup more of an everyday lineup than a situational lineup.

  14. cranky says:

    Worth noting about “prospect rankings” that they’re all subjective to a large degree, have never been shown to have any validity, and should be viewed only as entertainment.
    Worth noting about Baseball America, in particular, that they’ve never been even remotely fair or reasonable with regard to Yankees’ prospects.
    Jesus Montero’s offensive potential has been likened to that of Frank Thomas and Miguel Cabrera, based on his performances, thus far, his swing, his tendencies. Hitters don’t come a whole lot better than guys like that. It shouldn’t make any difference at all what his “ranking” is. He’s the best hitting prospect the Yankees have had in decades.

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