May
18

Mailbag: Robertson, Nunez, Banuelos, Lefties

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Five questions and four answers this week, and I tried to keep it short but mostly failed. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Shaun asks: Do you guys think David Robertson will automatically get the closer’s job when he returns? I hope Rafael Soriano flourishes in the role he is most comfortable and we can have Robertson back to Houdini!

That’s exactly what I hope happens. I want Soriano to pitch well regardless of inning, but I hope he really takes to the closer role and dominates so they can use Robertson a little more liberally in the seventh and eighth innings. The Yankees did bump Soriano back to the seventh inning following his DL stint last season because Robertson was dominant, so I hope history kinda sorta repeats itself.

Jay asks: What team has a need for 2nd base? I would think Eduardo Nunez could start on a lot of teams and contribute; just as the Yankees are thinking, putting him in one position could help his defense.

Middle infielders around baseball are just awful these days, so I’m sure a number of clubs would have interest in Nunez as an everyday guy despite his complete lack of defensive value. I know I’d rather take a chance on him than sign someone like the recently released Orlando Hudson.

Nunez has a 95 wRC+ in 450 career big league plate appearances, so he’s fallen just short of league average offensive production. His career Triple-A performance is similar and that’s basically the guy you’re going to get. Nunez will hit for a average but not power, make a ton of contact, and steal a bunch of bases. That’s what most middle infielders do, though at least he offers a chance at improvement at 25 years old. He’s still two years why of his peak, in theory.

The problem with trading Nunez right now is that his value is way down. The Yankees had to send him down because his defense was unplayable and that dropped his stock. We know other clubs — specifically the Mariners and Braves — have had interest in him in the past and I’m sure they’ve love to buy low now. Unless we’re talking about a multi-player package to acquire a star-caliber player, the Yankees are probably better off holding on to Nunez rather than take whatever uninteresting prospects clubs offer in a trade.

(Danny Wild/MLB.com)

Tim asks: Chances or what do you think of the inconsistent Ivan Nova being sent down and Banuelos put in the NYY rotation in his place?

Jeff asks: Is it insane to think that Manny Banuelos can pitch his way into the big league rotation sometime this year?

Gonna lump these two together and will start with the Banuelos part. Yes, I think he could pitch his way into the rotation later this season. I thought there was a chance he would do it last year, but then he had to pull a Dellin Betances impression with the walk rate. Banuelos’ performance has been very encouraging following his return from the lat injury — 15 strikeouts an zero walks in 14.2 IP — but he’s not out of the woods yet. Three starts don’t erase the last year’s worth of command problems. He’s got to continue to show improvement and if he keeps looking like the Banuelos of old (meaning 2008-2010), then I could definitely see him cracking the rotation in the second half.

As for Nova, I also think there’s a chance he could be sent down at some point. Heck, they send him down for less last summer. Obviously this right foot and ankle injury complicates things a bit, but he had a very obvious problem leaving pitches up and thus getting hammered for extra-base hits before the injury. Nova leads the league extra-base hits allowed (32) and has allowed eleven (!) more than any other pitcher who’s made no more than seven starts. Hopefully he shakes off the ankle problem and starts getting pitches down, but if he doesn’t improve and we’re in the middle of June or something, an assignment to Triple-A has to be a consideration. If Banuelos happens to keep pitching well and shows improved command, he’d be the obvious candidate to take Nova’s spot.

Shai asks: Why are good lefty starters worth more than good righty starters? Aren’t there more (good) righty hitters in baseball? I understand the value of a LOOGY but shouldn’t righty starters be worth more?

It’s just a supply and demand thing. There’s roughly a 75-25 split between righties and lefties around the league these days (both starters and reliever), so there are just fewer quality left-handers to be had. Lefties are an even higher prior for the Yankees than other teams because of the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. That’s really all there is to it. There are fewer great lefties around than great righties, so the southpaws are more valuable. Same reason great shortstops are more valuable than great first baseman.

Categories : Mailbag
  • Lord Tywin

    Soriano has proven that he can handle the closers role. Robertson can stay in that 7th and 8th inning role where he’s comfortable. All of this is null and void though because we never have any leads in the late innings. Starting pitching and and aging offense has been our achilles heel this season.

  • DF

    With all due respect, I think the answer to the question about the value of lefties is a little incomplete. You see every batter who can switch to the left-hand hitting side doing so, because the preponderance of right-handed pitchers gives lefty swingers an advantage. The thinking is that left-handed pitchers neutralize left-handed hitters by removing that platoon advantage. There are more “good” righty hitters because there are more righties, and since they have spent their entire lives facing mostly right-handed pitching, righties tend to be less fazed by the platoon disadvantage. You also have to factor in that a lot of lefty-swinging hitters are not actually left-handed, but are rather righties who have switched over, and so that small gap in the “naturalness” of their left-handed swing can be exploited by a left-handed pitcher negating their platoon advantage.

    For the Yankees, the short porch privileges lefty swingers (assuming they like to pull the ball for power), so lefty pitchers, by limiting the success of lefty swingers, reduce the damage done in a lefty-hitting-privileged environment.

    • Guest

      This. Well said.

    • Ted Nelson

      I think Mike’s answer was a lot better. If you get all the way to MLB hitting LH… you’re LH.

  • Guest

    Best case scenario for a cheap staff next year:

    CC, Pineda, Nova, Hughes, Banuelos?

    I think it’s time to realize Dellin is what he is at this point. He’s 24. He just can’t repeat his motion consistently enough to trust him as a starter. Put him in the pen.

    Tell him to focus on gaining command of his fastball and one other pitch (curveball?), and watch him dominate in that role. Now, if the Yankees disagree with my brilliant analysis and choose to keep Dellin a starter and he figures it out and turns into a righty Randy Johnson, I will ecstaticly eat crow on this one!

    • Reggie C.

      Well if the AAA manager decides to abuse Betances in another 3.2 inning, 100 plus pitch performance, there wont be much of a conundrum to figure out. Betances will find himself on the DL if he’s given that long a leash.

      • Ted Nelson

        Everyone complains the Yankees don’t let their pitchers throw enough pitches… now you’re complaining that he threw 25 pitches per inning? He’ll live.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      Yes. CC, Nova, Hughes and Banuelos. Hughes is a scary proposition but we have to stick with him. Banuelos is the great hope with the great upside. Pineda is also scary as a hard thrower coming back from surgery with maturity/work ethic issues and never having pitched in NY-could be a bust for sure.

      Phelps is the guy to pick up for Pineda as the backup solutuon to our cheap staff plans.

      • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

        solution

      • A.D.

        Feel like a bunch of people have just written Pienda off since he got hurt, which might help him fly under the radar next year (at least media wise)

      • Ted Nelson

        I would say that’s pretty harsh on Pineda. He’s definitely a big question mark on the health, but if he’s healthy I see no reason to think he won’t succeed.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I guess the question is whether Pineda is ready for Spring Training. Other than that, I could easily see this happening.

      Something like this working out for the team would be a very good thing. However, that’s a lot of chips needing to go the right way. I could see Phelps/Mitchell/Warren, of course, in the mix, but that’s what we would hope for without dipping into the FA Hammmmarket.

      Would love to see Dellin as a starter. However, I’d like to see him as an effective MLB pitcher even more, no matter the role.

  • https://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    Is below average offense and horrific defense really in that much demand?

    Are middle infielders *that* bad?

    • forensic

      Well, in his defense, he played much better both defensively and offensively when in one position and playing everyday.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Everyone thinks they can fix a guy better than the last guy could.

      I agree with holding on to him, though. I still have hope in the bastard’s defense.

      • Dale Mohorcic

        Do you have any evidence that he was conceived out of wedlock?

        • Brian

          Haha

    • Ted Nelson

      Yes.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    Go with the cheap rotation and go HAM on offense.

    Gardner
    Jeter
    Cano
    Hamilton (I know right!)
    Rodriguez
    Granderson
    Tiexiera
    Romine
    Nunez/Laird (When Jeter or Alex DH)