Hoping For A Homegrown Outfielder In 2013

Fan Confidence Poll: December 19th, 2011
How good has Nick Swisher been compared to previous Yankee right-fielders?
(Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)

The Yankees are still dealing with their pitching questions this offseason, but as fans we can’t help but look ahead to future roster problems and wonder how they’ll be addressed. The outfield figures to be a hot topic next winter, when Nick Swisher becomes a free agent and the rest of the open market is pretty unappealing. If the Yankees intend to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold by 2014, a homegrown Swisher replacement would be the best way to go.

Unfortunately, the Yankees don’t have any high-end outfield prospects close to the big leagues capable of replacing their current right fielder. Mason Williams is a potential star but is also four levels away from the show. Slade Heathcott hasn’t had a full, healthy season since turning pro, and Kelvin DeLeon inches closer to being a $1.1M bust with each swing and miss. Of course the Yankees don’t need to replace Swisher with a star prospect; they’ve shown you can win the World Series with guys like Ricky Ledee and Chad Curtis and Gerald Williams roaming an outfield corner.

Perhaps the best hope for a homegrown outfielder in 2013 is a prospect that gets little hype, at least compared to Williams and Heathcott. The Yankees added Zoilo Almonte to the 40-man roster after the season, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft but also showing confidence in his ability to contribute in some capacity down the line. He posted a .402 wOBA with High-A Tampa during the first half of 2011 before producing a .308 wOBA with Double-A Trenton in the second half. Like Brett Gardner in his prospect days, Almonte has struggled at a new level each time he’s been promoted at midseason before hitting his stride the next time around.

A switch-hitter, Almonte is almost a poor man’s version of Swisher at the plate. He draws a decent number of walks (9.1% at High-A and above) and hits for okay power (.155 ISO at High-A and above), though most of his pop is into the gaps rather than over the fence at age 22. He performed better against left-handed pitchers both last year and throughout his career, but that’s not terribly surprising for the natural right-handed hitter. Add in solid but unspectacular defense and 15+ stolen base ability, you’ve got someone with the potential to develop into a big league regular down the line. The Yankees obviously believe he can do it sooner rather than later, otherwise they wouldn’t have protected him from the Rule 5 Draft.

The last two times the Yankees worked a homegrown outfielder into the regular lineup, they went about it in very different ways. Injuries to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield pressed Melky Cabrera into everyday duty whether the team liked it or not, but Gardner got broken in slowly during the 2008 and 2009 seasons before getting a full-time job in 2010. The latter is obviously preferred if you’re talking about someone less than a star prospect (a Mike Trout or Desmond Jennings), so the Yankees would still need to invest in a solid fourth outfielder or platoon partner if they decide Swisher is too rich for their taste and intend to see what they have in Almonte.

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Fan Confidence Poll: December 19th, 2011
How good has Nick Swisher been compared to previous Yankee right-fielders?
  • CJ

    Nah maybe 2015 mason Williams if we hug him long and hard.

  • Plank

    It would be awesome. Seems like a long shot though.

  • Rey22

    Swisher for 3/36 and hope for the best

    • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

      i just threw up in my mouth

      • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

        Why?

    • Peter North

      Yup, I’d be very happy with that. Get the remainder of Swish’s best years and by then Williams should be ready to take over.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    .308 wOBA in AA? The guy is intriguing as a prospect but at this rate it’s another half year of AA, then struggle in AAA then throw him into the fire?

    I like that we have to get creative instead of throwing money at our problems but I don’t like this. I’ll be glad with someone on the scrap heap with a great glove.

    • vin

      With the Kubel signing, maybe Gerardo Parra could be had (not exactly scrap heap, but better than a 4th OFer).

  • CJ

    Pagan or delmon young would be cheaper alternatives to swisher. Dimitri young, even cheaper.

    • Mister Delaware

      Delmon Young stinks.

      • FIPster Doofus

        So does Pagan. Shoot me if either is ever starting for the Yankees.

        • Mister Delaware

          I’d be fine with Pagan as a do-all 4th OF. Atleast he has his skills (defense, baserunning). Delmon Young is just a pile of suck that compiles some ok counting stats because teams keep letting him hit 500 times per year. Basically the better pedigreed OF version of Yuniesky Betancourt.

      • MannyGeee

        tell Ivan Nova that…

  • http://- JFish

    I’m on board w/ 3/36 for Swisher

    • Plank

      Is Swisher?

      • Tom

        Yup, that seems possibly on the low side

        Cuddyer just got 3/31.5.

        Maybe Swisher loves NY, but I think he’s getting at 3/39…. and would think he might get some 4 year or 4th yr vesting offers.

        Unless he has another year where he struggles from the left side (.763 vs rightes, .957 vs lefties, the 3 years prior virtually no platoon split), he could get get even more than 13mil per

    • JobaWockeeZ

      *Looks at Crawford’s contract
      *Looks at Werth’s contract
      *Laughs

      • Need Pitching

        in fairness, I would think Cuddyer and Willingham would be closer comps for Swish than Crawford or Werth, in which case 3/36 isn’t completely unreasonable (though probably still a bit low)

      • Mike HC

        I don’t really see Swisher landing some huge deal. He is a corner outfielder with a career batting triple slash of .254/.360/.466 and slugged over .500 only once in his career. And he will be 32 in the first year of his free agent contract. He is mediocre in the field and on the bases. Short of a monster, career type year this year, I think 3 for 36 sounds about right if not too much.

        But he could have a monster year, or their could be a bidding war considering the weak outfield market next off season, so you may be right as well.

      • Peter North

        I don’t think the Red Sox or Nats are laughing. The other 28 clubs probably aren’t envious, either.

  • Peter R

    I see what you meant in the podcast last friday…that did come out of left field (haha) for me. Hadn’t even given that guy 2 seconds of thought.

    So he will start in double-A this year, hopefully excel and be in Scranton (or wherever they are playing at the time that is not Newark) by year end?

  • CJ

    Mike, on the 4th outfielder for 2012, what about Vladimir Guerrero or magglio ordonez over andruw jones. They are probably 4th OF/DH types at this point with better bat less glove than andruw. Thoughts?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I thought Magglio was retiring after his latest ankle problem? And hell no on Vlad, that man has no business playing the field. I’m no convinced either has a better bat than Andruw at this point either. Just looking at wOBA, he’s outhit both guys over the last two years.

    • FIPster Doofus

      1. Jones > both of those guys offensively.

      2. That gif of Guerrero trying to play outfield during the 2010 World Series would come in handy right now.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I’m guessing we go for either one or both of Soler and Cespedes due to the upcoming free agencies of Granderson and Swisher. Not resigning Granderson and Swisher could save us around 30 million. 15 to 17 for Granderson and 12 plus for Swisher.

    • Plank

      Soler is 19. Highly doubtful he would be ready in time. Centipedes makes a lot of sense to me, if he’s the real deal. Even if it creates a logjam for a year.

      • I Live In My Mom’s Basement

        I seriously doubt Cespedes would be a factor at the major league level in his first year, and it would be utterly amazing if he were a major league regular even in his second year. I just cannot see a Cuban hitter being able to immediately handle major league pitching.

    • viridiana

      Choice, I believe, will be between Grandy and Cano. Hate to think what sort of (10 year?) deal Boras will try to get for Cano. We might be better off re-signing Grandy. That would relieve OF problem but we’d have to find someone for 2B.

  • Monteroisdinero

    For frog jumping on the beach, we can’t beat Cespedes.

    • Peter R

      Or for tightness of shirt. Pretty sure I could see every pore of his skin through that thing.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    I’m on board with a 5/30 for Cespedes.

    • Plank

      Aren’t the rumors saying it will be much higher than that?

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        There’s been al kinds of crazy numbers, but he probably doesn’t get a lot more than that.

  • Mike HC

    3 year deal for Beltran and trade Swisher this off season? Might not be a horrible idea. Get a right fielder locked up for the next three years and get something in return for Swisher.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I have a hard time seeing Beltran playing the field for another three years, or even another two years.

      • Mike HC

        True. I haven’t really seen Beltran all that much since he was playing on the West Coast. I assumed he looked ok in a corner spot kind of like Andruw Jones, but I guess those knee problems took their toll.

        • Art Vandelay

          why are you saying give him a 3 year deal if you haven’t even seen him play the field in years ? just because of his name ? this is the problem with the commenting on the internet people just say things without doing research

          • Mike HC

            I said it with a question mark, as a possible thought. I have not extensively scouted the guy and looked at his medical records.

            And I saw him play last year with the Mets. He looked ok to me in the corner outfield spot. But maybe the knees don’t hold up? I don’t know. Sorry that I can’t perfectly predict the condition of a guys knees for you, before commenting on the internet.

          • Mike HC

            He played in over 140 games last year at corner outfield and had an ops of over .900 playing in pitchers parks. He seems really good to me, and taking a risk on his knees did not seem like the worst idea. But maybe the knees are worse than I thought and can’t hold up.

            That is all I was saying.

    • Need Pitching

      and who plays RF when Beltran is on the DL for most of the next 3 years?

      • Mike HC

        Zoilo.

    • CJ

      No way. Beltran has a glass knee.

      • Mike HC

        I was looking at Beltran a little closer after I made the comment, and I agree it is a not a great move to make. He is getting old and has been hurt. He may not be worth all that much more than one of those one year deal DH types.

  • well you know

    I guess we’ve given up on being the “clear frontrunners” for Cespedes. I never believed that anyway. My take from the latest Carig article is that the scouts are high on Cespedes but Cashman won’t recommend him to ownership.

    Passing on Cespedes won’t really save money over Swisher either. Swish would sink on the open market but Cashman will take care of his boy.

  • Monteroisdinero

    if Babe Ruth could go out to right field with a glove, put Montero out there for 15 years starting in 2013. You ever see the Babe move? With that stomach?

    /partially kidding

    • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      You ever see the Babe shuffle around the bases in those old films? Dude was fleet of foot.

      • Peter R

        Old film = slow framerate. They prob sped it up so he looks fleet of foot lol.

        • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          My mind = blown.

  • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

    Ah, so this is the mystery outfielder you were teasing us about in Friday’s podcast, huh Mike?

    Here’s to Almonte having a big year in 2012. It’d surely be nice to have some extra depth at the position.

  • LeftyLarry

    I think Abe Almonte is the better Almonte.

    • Plank

      I prefer Danny Almonte. He peaked early, but he was quite the pitcher.

      • viridiana

        Then there’s Erik Almonte

      • Plank

        And he’s from the Bronx!!!

  • Bronx Byte

    In other news, Burnett is working his ass off in his Maryland barn with thoughts of being the No. 1 starter and pushing C.C. to No. 2.

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Good.

    • Peter R

      That’s fine with me. More props to him. Lets get that ERA/FIP under 4 next year OK buddy?

      • 28 this year

        screw FIP, I would rather he pull rabbits out of his ass and have a super low ERA even if his FIP is higher. At this point, for Burnett, I could care less about sustained success, just have a year or two where he i serviceable.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Yeah seriously, I said this about Freddy last year. I couldn’t care less about the underlying performance or sustainability at this point with Burnett, just keep runs off the board however you can.

        • Tom

          Exactly…. the guy is not exactly a cornerstone piece who you need to project out 3 years.

          If he has an 80% line drive rate and they are all hit right to people, I’m good with that.

          If this was year 1 of the deal, I’d care about FIP…. the Yankees need to get one serviceable year; this would have the added bonus of possibly increasing the chances at a salary dump trade next year if they want to go that route

    • Alfredo

      Were did u here that?

      • Mike HC

        I’m pretty sure he was just cracking a joke.

  • Dan

    Mike, how come you haven’t done a prospect profile on Almonte?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      No particular reason.

    • No Pants ‘lendelton’ for YU !!

      Well I can see why he hasn’t yet. Before this year he was pretty much message board (paid subscription) toolsy hype.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        I do tend to focus on recent draftees. If you look back through the archives, most of the IFA prospect profiles were guys that were either a) mega-prospects (Gary Sanchez), or B) basically in Triple-A already.

  • Steve (different one)

    I letting swisher walk gets them under the “cap” and allows them to sign a starter, they will survive. They could come up with a platoon of they had to. How much could a David Murphy/Andruw Jones platoon (just an example) cost?

  • vin

    JD Drew?

    • ADam

      Joking right?

    • vin

      Damn, my snide remark didn’t get nested in the right spot.

  • CJ

    Bj upton Ethier Quentin victorino are also free agents competing for 3-5 year $30-50 million contracts. I doubt teams will be bidding up swisher’s contract.

    • Plank

      I’d much rather have BJ Upton. Am I unrealistically high on him? That would be awesome. I wonder if he would be willing to play a corner.

      He’ll probably want too many years.

      We could have 3 CFs in our outfield.

  • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

    Anyone that believes the Yanks would pay Swisher $36M for three years after next year is a grade-A moron.

    And, no, that’s not an overstatement. That is understated by a wide margin.

    • CMP

      I was hoping they’d replace Swisher with someone better but if it comes down to Zoilo Almonte who’s probably at best a 4th or 5th outfielder, I’d just as soon keep Swisher.

      I’d consider sending Montero out there and let him at least try.

    • Need Pitching

      well that was a productive comment
      Nice of you to provide better reasonable alternatives, or any logical argument at all to back that up
      $12M/year for a consistently 3-4 WAR player is not at all unreasonable, personal preferences aside

    • Jim Is Bored

      So if a grade-A moron is a understatement by a wide margin, what would you call them that would be an accurate statement?

      I was unaware grades above A/A+ were given out.

  • MannyGeee

    “though most of his pop is into the gaps rather than over the fence at age 22″

    wait, I thought HRs were bad? /Confused

  • Reggie C.

    Can’t we just get Tabata back at some point?

    In all seriousness, the situation in house doesn’t look good in the short term. It’s that reason why I believe Cespedes will draw a competitive offer from the Yanks. Even if Swisher re-signs in the BX, cespedes may end up displacing BG.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    I think Cespedes will be in RF in 2013 and beyond for us, but I’m not sure what we do this season with him. He needs regular playing time but I’m it’s a heck of a risk to trade Swisher or Gardner and assume he could match their production right away.