Jul
11

The Brandon Laird Option

By

(Photo Credit: Flickr user paul.hadsall via Creative Commons license)

Alex Rodriguez will miss the next month or so after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee today, leaving the Yankees will a huge hole in their lineup. Even though he hasn’t been hitting for power, A-Rod was still very productive from the cleanup spot, hitting .333/.387/.417 in 93 plate appearances since his last homerun. The Yankees can replace his stats (they may luck out and find someone to match that production but the odds are against it), though they won’t replace the way his presence impacts the game. Alex is one of those rare players that changes the game from the on-deck circle, and no backup infield does that.

Reports over the weekend indicated that the Yankees prefer to replace A-Rod from within, but they’ll at least kick the tires on outside options. The most popular trade candidate seems to be Aramis Ramirez, but he’s a complete non-option. He can definitely hit, no doubt (.298/.346/.497), but his contract says his $16M club option for 2012 turns into a player option if he’s traded. That’s a total deal breaker, there’s no reason for the Yankees to take that on for a six-week stopgap. More realistic options include Melvin Mora and Kevin Kouzmanoff, but they’re not guaranteed to outperform the guys already have in the organization.

The obvious in-house replacement is Eduardo Nunez, who did a fine job filling in for Derek Jeter a few weeks ago. The team has already indicated that he’ll get the bulk of the playing time in A-Rod’s absence, but there is one other option: Brandon Laird. Gerald’s little brother is already on the 40-man roster and is having an okay but not great season at Triple-A. He’s hitting .268/.297/.418 overall with ten homers, though it’s worth noting that he’s been playing better of late: .299/.325/.470 in his last 243 plate appearances, .292/.320/.503 in his last 153 plate appearances, and .311/.321/.584 in his last 78 plate appearances. No, he’s doesn’t walk much, but that’s life.

Laird does his best work against southpaws, tagging them for a .300/.337/.525 line this year (.258/.284/.383 vs. RHP) with a similar platoon split through his career. Not only does have a plethora of experience at third base, but he’s also played plenty of first base and the Yankees have had him dabble in left field over the last ten months or so. It’s probably not a coincidence that his first career game in right field came two days ago. Laird won’t win any Gold Gloves, but he won’t embarrass himself and should make all the routine plays, just not the spectacular onces. My guess is that with a full season’s worth of playing time, he’d probably be 5-10 runs below average with the glove. Not awful, but his bat is good enough that he should be better than replacement level.

For all intents and purposes, this is why the Yankees protected Laird from the Rule 5 Draft last winter. He’ll never ever ever be a starter on this team (barring disaster, anyway), so he serves two purposes: trade bait and an injury fill-in. If he performs well enough at the latter, maybe he snags a bench job for a while. There’s no doubt he’s better than Ramiro Pena, especially offensively, so the Yankees could swap the two and use Laird two or three times a week, primarily against lefties. That way Nunez could spell Jeter and Robinson Cano (or even get a day off himself) without completely sacrificing offense. He’d also be the fifth outfielder and backup first baseman as well.

This is exactly the kind of situation teams carry players like Laird, to fill a temporary hole on the big league roster. ZiPS projected a .250/.297/.424 batting line at big league level before the season, which would be a minor miracle in my eyes. The minor league equivalency of his Triple-A performance is .234/.261/.355 overall and .268/.285/.398 over his last 243 plate appearances. That’s a .295 wOBA or so, and maybe optimal usage (i.e. limited exposure to righties) gets him up to a .310-.315 wOBA, basically league average. I’d rather give Laird a chance to do that than stick with Pena, who we all know will be awful. Sorry Ramiro, nothing personal.

This isn’t quite a long-term fill-in situation but it’s not short-term either, let’s call it medium-term. It’s the perfect chance to try Laird out and see what the kid can do. If he flops, then fine, the Yankees will have essentially lost nothing because his replacement (Pena) is also terrible. If mean really, if not now, then when? Come Thursday (when the games start back up), there are two moves I want to see: Pena down and A-Rod to the disabled list, replaced by Laird and (I guess) Chris Dickerson. Nunez gets the majority of the playing time but Laird sees semi-regular at-bats against lefties. The bench would be the non-useless quartet of Laird/Nunez, Dickerson, Andruw Jones, and Frankie Cervelli. This is why they put Laird on the 40-man during the offseason, to use him in spots like this.

Categories : Bench

93 Comments»

  1. EMc says:

    Couldnt they move Martin to 3rd and call up Montero?

  2. Drew says:

    See this move makes a ton of sence, which is why I think the Yankees won’t do it. The reluctance of using their own prospects all year has me to believe Girardi will make a statement like ” Well we think Laird needs to play everyday so he’s staying in AAA” sigh

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Did you not notice all the former Yankees prospects they are using this year, or what? Do you not realize that Nunez will be playing 3B and is a rookie from within their system? That his back-up Pena is also a Yankee prospect? That 2 of the 3 guys they back-up (Jeter and Cano) are former Yankee prospects? Do you not realize how ignorant that makes you look?

  3. Avi Atkin says:

    I’m all for giving Laird this opportunity. In addition to all the reasons mentioned, there’s a possibility we could catch lightning in a bottle.

    He could also have some usage down the road even once Alex comes back – Andruw Jones isn’t exactly blowing anyone away. Laird doesn’t need to be handled with kid gloves, let’s give the man a shot.

  4. More realistic options include Melvin Mora and Kevin Kouzmanoff, but they’re not guaranteed to outperform the guys already have in the organization.

    Wilson Betemit?

  5. Adam says:

    Gregg Dobbs is a Marlin that wouldn’t cost too much. He’s hitting over .290. Kouzmanoff is such horrible hitter that we’d be giving up an out for free. I really hope they don’t go there. Mora is too old. Betemit is a good option. He’s playing very well this year.

  6. Monteroisdinero says:

    Laird is a guy I’d like to see playing in 2011 if we were out of it in September (those days just never happen anymore thankfully). He is in his first year at AAA and I don’t think he should be put in meaningful pennant race games. I’ve seen him play in ST and Scranton. He has some pop but little speed and nothing great on D. Nunez everyday is best right now.

  7. vin says:

    Where’s Marcus Thames when you really need him?

  8. mt says:

    I like Betemit or Wigginton – cost should hopefully not be too high.

    Without AROD and Chavez, not too thrilled with just Nunez/Laird/Pena as available to start at third base and back-up shortstop/3rd base/2nd base. I want a little bit more certainty.

    • mt says:

      In this thinking I have to assume Chavez is not coming back so we already had a hole there even if AROD did not get hurt – not comfortable with Andruw Jones as only major league tested “bat” on bench.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      It’s one month to six weeks. I don’t think it’s worth giving up anything of value to get one of those guys instead of Nunez. There’s no guarantee they do any better than Nunez. Wiggington has been hot this season, but the past two he’s wOBA’d in the .310s. Betemit’s wOBA is no higher than Nunez’s this season.

      If they’re being given away? Sure. Even then I might rather see what Laird can do. There’s still 20 days till the deadline, so the Yankees can give him a try-out till then.

  9. Joe says:

    If we thing Laird should stay in AAA to get AB’s and it’s his first uear what about Russo? He was DFA in May but with Gordon leaving I believe we have 39 on the 40. Russo is hitting .278 in AAA before going on the DL but he is due off now. He can play 3B,2B,LF,CF so he would be versatile and could sit the bench and allow Nunez to start. He deserves abother shot he only had 49AB last year and everyone is writing him off.

    • He deserves abother shot he only had 49AB last year and everyone is writing him off.

      Meh, the writing off is less about Russo’s 54 big league plate appearances and more about the fairly pedestrian .289/.351/.383 he’s put up in his 1955 minor league plate appearances. Lines like that don’t correlate well with big league success.

      Russo is a decent kid with versatility and usefulness, but he’s probably a downgrade from Nuñez or Peña, he’s not going to hit much. I’d rather give Laird a shot and gamble on the hit tool upside.

      JMHO.

  10. Joe says:

    sorry about the typos just noticed them now!

  11. Monteroisdinero says:

    That pic of Laird brings up a pet peeve of mine. Why do guys hold the bottom hand on the bat with the small finger off the bat? Why not just use a little heavier/longer bat? I don’t see a mechanical advantage with a pinky off the bat. 10 fingers on the bat>>>>9

    And the all-time HR leader choked up.

    • Dan Marino: Hey Ace, got anymore of that gum?
      Ace Ventura: That’s none of your damn business and I’ll thank you to stay out of my personal affairs.
      Dan Marino: You’re a weird guy, Ace! Weird guy.

    • nsalem says:

      You wouldn’t have liked Gil McDougald or Dick McAuliffe either.

    • CS Yankee says:

      As long as he hits with nine i don’t care if he has the tenth one removed.

      FWIW, a friend in the construction business that deals with injuries told me that a finger is worth $4,000 if “lost”, the second finger on the same hand, another $4,000. The thumb is worth $70,000 and the third finger “lost” goes up big time as well. The rational was that a hand needs only three fingers (with one being a thumb) to perform almost any fuction as well.

      I know some players that wrap the bottom to almost the same size as the knob and they feel its the best solution to staying with a lighter bat while covering the outside pitch versus jumping up a size.

      Choices, you gotta love living in America.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      He’s released the bat with his right hand, so I would say it stands to reason the bat’s momentum is the reason his hand slid on the bat.

      • Monteroisdinero says:

        Almost all players who do this set their hands before they swing. I wasn’t talking about sliding after contact.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          You’re looking at a picture after contact… Unless you have a picture of Laird before his swing you’re judging him after he’s released the right hand.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            Your logic is flawed anyway, though. The all-time HR leader did X. That doesn’t mean every hitter will be better off doing X. Even among HOF players there are going to be varying mechanics.

    • Rick in Boston says:

      It’s a personal feel thing. Some hitters think it allows for better control. If it works for them, why not?

    • The Humongous says:

      Because it increases your leverage. Increased leverage is increased bat speed and increased power.

      The drawback is decreased bat control.

      You see the technique suggested quite often in slow-pitch softball power hitting training/videos, where the loss of control is less relevant …

  12. Will (the other one) says:

    I don’t think there’s any reason Laird shouldn’t be on the 25-man while A-Rod is out. Pena has been below replacement level and apparently isn’t the fielder we thought he would be, so there’s no reason for him to be taking up a bench spot. Laird, on the other hand, is an unproven commodity who might provide some value to the organization–both as a stand-in Yankee and as a potential piece of a trade package if he shows something at the major league level. If the team isn’t ready to call up Montero to take that spot, what’s the real downside to using it on Laird?

    • The only real excuse earlier in the year is that Laird wasn’t hitting, and you generally like to call up prospects while they’re hot and confident.

      Laird is hitting well recently, though, so it makes the most sense.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        He’s hitting in AAA, though, not MLB. If the Yankees don’t feel that AAA success will translate to MLB, there’s plenty of reason not to call him up.

        The downside to calling Laird up could be the guy who lost a roster spot. Right now that’s only Pena… so not much downside outside of positional flexibility.

  13. BigTimeBartolo says:

    You know this won’t happen Mike…it makes too much sense for the yankees front office.

  14. Adam Parker says:

    Can Teix play 3rd? Bring up Montero for C/1B.

  15. CS Yankee says:

    I thought for sure Pena’s time was up once Jete & Nunez looked healthy but the Arod deal may make Joe think of keeping Pena around (ala Cerv’).

    Pena down, Liard up with an Arod 30-day DL out with a Dickerson/Golson/Parraz (pick one)call up works for me.

  16. infernoscurse says:

    trade for aramis ramirez, let him play, hile he sleeps inyect him with steroids, hes busted for steroids once arods back and out of shame hes force to retire for ever and ever thus far helping us get away from that player option

    or you renegotiate the player option defering his contract giving him 1 million a year till 2086

  17. CMP says:

    I think Laird/Nunez would be a reasonable replacement for Arod over the next month with Girardi playing the hot hand.

    They should be similar defensively, Laird has more power but I like Nunez speed on the bases.

    Too bad Chavez is made of glass or he’d be a nice fit against righties.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      How do you determine who has the hot hand?

      And though Laird theoretically has more power, there’s no guarantee he hits better than Nunez. Nunez’ MLB wOBA has been about .330 in small samples both last season and this season. I know he started cold, but Laird’s AAA wOBA this season is .316.

  18. steve (different one) says:

    I will laugh when they call up Mike Lamb

  19. Jorge says:

    It would have really helped Brandon Laird’s case here if you had picked a picture in which he doesn’t look seven years old.

    Play Nunez. Petition MLB to institute special “arena baseball” rule for him in which a net is installed behind Mark Teixeira and throws to first caught off that net counts. Bingo.

  20. Tom says:

    How about Casey Blake as a fill-in at third?

  21. MannyGeee says:

    I would love to see laird called up for a shot. Best case scenario he is a healthy Chavez and hits like he has proven he can in AA/AAA. A month goes by, and he’s not only a valid chip for trade, but better from his experience.

    worse case, he’s shitty and all it cost this team was a player option. He goes back down to SWB and you are no worse off than you are today with Nunez looking to be the full time fill in for A-Rod. The only other loss here is the opportunity to trade for someone who at best is marginally better than Nunez.(or Aramis Ramirez… )

    the truth lies somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios and the Yankees have NOTHING to lose from calling up Laird.

    • Jorge says:

      I don’t think Laird should supplant Nunez right off the bat as the fill in, but I’ve love for him to be brought up and given a chance to hit his away into the lineup. Laird probably isn’t the guy the team is trying to keep nice and shiny to either bring him up or trade him for the starting pitcher that does not yet exist. Perhaps there’s less of a fear of him looking lost?

      I miss the old days when a very young Melky Cabrera would wander around Monument Park thinking it was centerfield.

    • worse case, he’s shitty and all it cost this team was a player option.

      Laird’s option was already burned when he was sent to minor league camp in Spring Training, so that part is moot. His option for 2011 is already used whether he comes up or stays down.

  22. MannyGeee says:

    please note the intended sarcasm for the Aramis Ramirez portion… HORRIBLE idea. Only King George would approve.

  23. nycsportzfan says:

    If not for a Bad April, Laird would have a real solid batting line.. As was said, he dosen’t walk alot, but so what, he can hit, and has been over 300 in 2of the last 3months, and hes been driving a solid amount of runs in, outside of April…

    APRIL- 184BA 1hr 5rbi 12k 3bb 213OBP

    May- 307BA 1hr 10rbi 13k 5bb 343OBP

    June- 270BA 4hr 17rbi 21k 5bb 308OBP

    July- 325BA 4hr 15rbi 5k 0bb 310OBP

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Driving runs in is a team stat, not really an individual one. You can hit a nice, slow grounder at the SS and drive a run in.

      And a .300 OBP in AAA is not impressive.

      I don’t think Laird is awful, I just don’t really see your reasoning.

  24. Phil says:

    Why isn’t Tiffee being mentioned? He seems like the perfect platoon to Nunez. I mean, I know it’s a small sample size but he is absolutely raking in Scranton. He has a .362/.373/.638 line against righties. Use him against righties and Golson against Lefties.

  25. Preston says:

    The problem with using Laird against lefties to spell Nunez/Jeter is that Jeter and Nunez are both RHB as well and both have significant platoon splits this season. It would be nice if Chavez’s back could not flare up for the next month.

  26. MikeD says:

    Seriously, man, that picture of Brandon Laird. I thought for some reason you were showing him from when he appeared in the Little League World Series, or something. Does he really look that young?!

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