Mailbag: Catcher, Dickerson, Nunez, Austin

Thoughts following the latest worst loss of the year
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We were running light on questions this week, so I opened the floor to the Twitter public yesterday afternoon and got a bunch of responses that way. Feel free to send us questions via Twitter in the future, but I can’t promise I’ll catch them all. You’re much better off using the Submit A Tip box for mailbag questions or anything else.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

From @DanFoolery: What’s the Near/Not-so-Near yet still-pretty-near plan for a MLB catcher for the Yanks? Romine? Sanchez? (Gulp) Martin?

This is the million dollar question right here and there’s no obvious answer. Austin Romine effectively lost a season due to his back injury, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a viable big league option next spring. It just means that he might not be ready for the job full-time. Gary Sanchez is still years away and is not a 2013 factor, and J.R. Murphy probably won’t enter his name into the race for another year as well. Frankie Cervelli is just a backup.

The free agent catching market boils down to Russell Martin, Mike Napoli (hasn’t started more than 70 games behind the plate since 2009), Kelly Shoppach (pretty good option on a one-year deal), and contract year A.J. Pierzynski (someone will overpay based on this season). Trade targets could include Nick Hundley (Yasmani Grandal took his job) and John Buck (no way). I want to think that Martin’s poor season has lowered his value to the point where the Yankees could bring him back on a one-year, $6-8M pact to serve as a stopgap, but I just don’t see it happening. Sanchez is the clear long-term solution here, but what happens between now and then is a total mystery to me. That’s not a good thing.

From @adakannayr: Small sample size, but could Dickerson be a suitable replacement assuming we aren’t bringing back Swisher?

I like Chris Dickerson probably more than anyone should, but I don’t see him as an everyday outfielder for a contending team. He’s always had a significant platoon split (this year in Triple-A notwithstanding) but the good news for him is that he’s the more often used left-handed half of the platoon. Dickerson can run well and play very good defense, so that’s not a problem. The Yankees would just need a platoon partner, and that means they’ll be using two roster spots to replace the production as one. If they don’t bring Nick Swisher back, I would hope they’d look for a legitimate everyday solution and use a Dickerson-based platoon as just a fall back. Not even Plan B, like Plan C or D.

From @TomHasOpinions: Wonder if Nunez could be a CF answer-Lower bar on offense, fast w/arm strength, bad accuracy could be masked in OF..thoughts?

Center field is interesting. I’ve always thought that if Eduardo Nunez was going to play one position on an everyday basis, the best bet is probably second thanks to the short throw, but center would make much better use of his speed. Now obviously the transition from the infield to center is not an easy one and something you want him to go through in Triple-A, but it’s definitely doable at his age. Nunez isn’t a great hitter but he makes a ton of contact, steals bases, and has just enough pop to be dangerous, so maybe there’s a chance he develops into a .280/.330/.390 guy who steals 25+ bases in center. That’s not a star but it is a pretty useful player if he can figure the defense thing out. Consider me intrigued.

From @rickhindle: If he continues to hit, will Tyler Austin be the Yankees everyday RF in 2014

I always tend to think conservatively when it comes to prospects having big league impact, but I do think that’s a very real possibility. Austin has done nothing but hit since the day he turned pro, and I mean hit for both average and power. His bat will have to carry him because he isn’t a great defender, but the kid can hit. Despite this late season call-up to Double-A Trenton, I think Austin will open next year back with High-A Tampa before earning a quick promotion back up to Trenton in May or June. If he continues to mash there and gets in a few Triple-A games late in the summer, he’d be right where he needs to be as far as being a big league option. Does that mean he’ll produce in the Bronx right away? No, he probably won’t, but I think there’s a good chance Austin will hit his way into consideration for a big league job by Spring Training 2014.

(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

From @HyShai: Is there another pitcher (in history, other than Mo) that had success only throwing FBs and cutters, with no off speed?

I have no idea how to look this up for all of baseball history, but we can make this work for the PitchFX era (2008-present). Looking at the 111 starters who have thrown at least 500 IP since 2008, here are the ten most fastball-heavy pitchers…

  1. Kyle Kendrick — 77.8%
  2. Aaron Cook — 77.6%
  3. Justin Masterson — 76.6%
  4. Jon Niese — 76.4%
  5. Cliff Lee — 74.6%
  6. Jon Lester — 74.0%
  7. Matt Harrison — 73.3%
  8. David Price — 72.9%
  9. Mike Pelfrey — 72.5%
  10. Chad Billingsley — 72.0%

That includes four-seamers, two-seamers, cutters and sinkers, but not splitters, which are an offspeed pitch. Kendrick, Cook, Masterson, Harrison, and Pelfrey are all sinker-ballers while Niese, Lee, Lester, and Billingsley mix it up and throw four-seamers, two-seamers, and cutters regularly. Price is just a BAMF and pumps the heat all the time. Andy Pettitte is 12th on the list at 71.3% while CC Sabathia is way further down at 68th (59.9%). He’s actually right behind Hiroki Kuroda (60.1%).

Other than Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, the least used fastball(s) belongs to Bronson Arroyo (27.9%). The most used individual pitch by a starter since 2008 is Clayton Kershaw’s four-seamer at 67.7%. Seems like two out of every three pitches being a fastball is the closest we’ll get to a one-pitch starter. The most used offspeed pitch is Armando Galarraga’s slider (36.0%), but among MLB-caliber pitchers it’s the sliders of Ervin Santana and Bud Norris (both 35.6%). Here are the fastball-heavy relievers (min. 100 IP for 244 qualifiers)…

  1. Mariano Rivera — 99.4%
  2. Jason Motte — 90.6%
  3. Kenley Jansen — 89.7%
  4. Ronald Belisario — 86.7%
  5. Andrew Bailey — 85.2%
  6. Matt Thornton — 85.0%
  7. Octavio Dotel — 83.6%
  8. Neftali Feliz — 81.8%
  9. Danys Baez — 81.8%
  10. David Aardsma — 80.9%

That missing 0.6% for Mo are just pitches the system was unable to classify for whatever reason. PitchFX ain’t perfect. Aroldis Chapman (80.1%) is right behind Aardsma while David Robertson (74.6%), Rafael Soriano (70.2%), Joba Chamberlain (63.0%), and Boone Logan (55.3%) rank 34th, 61st, 140th, and 192nd, respectively. The most used pitch by a reliever since 2008 is Thornton’s four-seamer (82.6%) while the most used offspeed pitch is Luke Gregerson’s slider (57.8%). This shouldn’t be a surprise, but relievers have far more success relying on what amounts to one type of pitch than starters. Mo just takes it to the extreme.

Thoughts following the latest worst loss of the year
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  • Leg-End

    I like Martin and I don’t think his line this season is his true talent level but there is no way I’m offering him anything more than a 1 year deal at a reasonable price.

    Go trade for someone or grab a Shoppach and take your chances on Romine being ready for 2013 whilst seeing how the prospects pan out if you have to.

  • Syrio Forel

    Mo had a chat with Soriano which straightened him out. He needs to have one with Robertson. I know DRob wants to emulate Mariano but he has to be his own man and throw his curveball more. Especially to power hitters who are susceptible to the breaking ball. Would he throw Adam Dunn 92 mph fastballs or curveballs in the dirt?

  • Curtis

    What you outlined for Tyler Austin, isn’t that the same with Slade? There’s a good chance one of them is MLB ready in 2014, right?

    • IWannaBeAHirokstar


    • Buhner’s barber

      I think you could throw Ramon Flores on that list as well. That’s the reason I lean toward signing Swisher and letting Granderson go, I’m confident that we’ll have an MLB ready outfielder by 2014 but we have nothing for next season.

      • Preston

        I agree, we need Swisher now. But with Gardner’s ability to play center and Austin, Flores, Heathcott, Williams and even guys like Mesa and Almonte ready in the system, Granderson will probably be expendable in 2014 and beyond, even if we need a stopgap in the interim.

    • Nick

      I think that is more true for Slade. Since he is older I expect the Yankees to be more aggressive promoting him. However he has to stay healthy, which is far from guaranteed.

  • rEc

    I’m sure there are more trade targets out there than just John Buck and Nick Hundley. How many of them are worthwhile, I don’t know.

    Martin’s CS% dipped this year, but he’s had other seasons where it was in his present range. I’m not really bothering to look up how many of his home runs might be cheap ones, but I guess it’s a positive he’s still hitting them. He’s really a pretty bad hitter, but it’s catcher so I guess you just hope the guy does at least one thing well offensively and hope the defense is good.

  • Matt DiBari

    I just never saw Eduardo Nunez as this guy you have to find a position, any position for.

    Like he’s Manny Ramirez or something.

    • Preston

      I don’t think anyone sees him that way. But at 3b or a corner OF spot his bats probably not good enough, at SS he’s struggled with the throw and 2b isn’t an option for him with Cano there. He’s a good enough athlete and if he could be a plus glove in CF he could be an above average player.

      • Matt DiBari

        Is there any reason to think a man who has shown no aptitude for the five previous positions we’ve tried him in would be a “plus glove” in centerfield?

        Like I asked, why is it so important that we find *somewhere* for him? If his bat doesn’t play at the corners and his glove doesn’t play anywhere, isn’t it time to move on?

        • thenamestsam

          Why would you ever throw away a potentially valuable piece? Nunez has about a full season’s worth of playing time and has been almost average offensively. Project a little growth there and you could have a slightly above-average major league hitter. Nothing amazing, but you don’t just throw that guy away until you’ve exhausted your options. You should never “give up” on any player until the day they’re no longer part of the organization.

  • Matt :: Sec110

    Read my mind with Kelly Shoppach if Martin doesn’t resign. Who do you pair him with though? Cervi or Romine, assuming he has a great spring.

    I wouldn’t pay martin anymore than 5 million next season.

  • Rocky Road Redemption

    The Shoppach idea is interesting. Pierzynski might be a rat bastard but if he’s not overpaid I’d be really happy with him.

  • JohnC

    Shoppach can hit. Not bad behind the dish either. I’d be happy with him and Romine as a platoon while grooming Romine to eventually be a full time catcher. I think Slade could be included as part of a package in a Justin Upton trade.

    • Bo Knows

      Except D-backs want/need middle infielders, the yankees aren’t exactly swimming in SS

  • JohnC

    He’s been hurt an awful lot, but maybe getting Grady Sizemore on a 1 year deal next year might not be a bad idea, provided he’s healthy. Guy will want to resurrect his career and could be lightning in a bottle

    • rEc

      Not opposed, but it would have to be pretty favorable terms. He actually had a decent showing power-wise this year, but his knees are really not in good shape at all.

      • Laz

        Sizemore hasn’t played at all this year because of surgery.

        • rEc

          You’re right. I was looking at the B-REF page and just assumed the latest one was 2012.

          In this case, I wouldn’t bother.

    • Ted Nelson

      I think he would be a great risk on a minor league deal… but he might get an MLB deal elsewhere.

  • Omerta

    Austin and Flores will start in Trenton next year,Slade will not.Zoilo will move up to AAA and so will Adams and prob Murton.Segedin and Austin can play the infield as well as outfield.Players such as Sublett,Pope,Arbiso,Pena,Russo will prob be released.They have spent to much time in the minors and are going no where.

    • Laz

      I wouldn’t be surprised if pena stays around in AAA. He is not a ML player, but you still need someone to play shortstop everyday in AAA.

    • Laz

      Slade should start in Trenton or join the team shortly thereafter. He had a very good year in Tampa, he has shown he can handle A+ pitching.

    • JohnC

      Slade has a better chance of starting at AA than Austin. Flores should be at AA as well.

    • Ted Nelson

      Where do you suppose Slade will start?

  • Robert

    Next year will be a transition year to 2014,Many questions should be answered regarding player health Pineda,Banuelos and Gardy to name a few as we wait for the class of 2014. Yankees have to wake up the league is getting younger and they have to stop babying all there players in the Minors!!!!!!!The Trenton Thunder should have all the Prospects from Charleston as well as Tampa come openning day next year!!!!

    • Buhner’s barber

      Needs more !

    • Ted Nelson

      What you call “babying” is what most people call “developing.”

      • Herby

        Yankees develop them right onto other teams…they “baby,” their players until they’re 30…I still think if healthy, give Romine a shot at catcher and pair him with a back-up veteran…is it really going to be much worse than what we’ve got now…I’m sure he can hit better than .200, and he’s supposed to be known for his defense.
        I’d be happier with a young team that misses the playoffs while it grows, then a team of dinosaurs that misses the playoffs while they become extinct. Look at how the team in the 90’s is viewed…all growing up together. It’s the return to the 80’s philosophy that we’re seeing now.

  • Ted Nelson

    “what happens between now and then is a total mystery to me. That’s not a good thing.”

    I would rather have a great young C under team control for years, sure, but can’t you say the same thing about several positions? I don’t know who will be in the rotation or bullpen or RF or DH next year, CF the year after, etc. And some of the positions that do have short-term security have no long-term options who have demonstrated themselves to be on par with Sanchez, Murphy, or Romine.

    It’s also an opportunity. I mean, did you know a year or so out that the Yankees would make most of the moves that they have made? There’s going to be roster turnover we can’t predict, and you just hope the good outweighs the bad.

    And, of course, Martin’s overall offensive production is right in-line with his last two years on the Dodgers. Not miles below last season, either. Sure they were hoping for a resurgence, but the Yankees knew there was a good chance this was what they were getting when they signed Martin. The disbelief among fans who obsess over BA is beyond me…

  • LiterallyFigurative

    I’d bring back Martin and pair him with Romine. Like a 60/40 split of the catcher duties.

    With the remaining Salary dollars under the 189M ceiling, the Yanks have to decide whether to spend it on 1 impact, high-dollar FA (like Hamilton), or spread it around on 2 good, solid guys (Swisher, Grandy, etc). Obviously there are risks both ways.

    I would rather the top heavy team that supplements the other positions with younger players or a platoon (and we’re only really talking about 1 outfield position).

    For example:
    An outfield of Hamilton, Gardner, and a Dickerson/Mustelier/Almonte/platoon player.
    With the current infield.
    And Martin/Shoppach with Romine.
    Find a DH (which we do like every year).

    Would be just fine to me. The lineup might not be as long, but a Hamilton/Cano/Tiexiera 3-4-5 would be destructive as hell.

    • G

      Yeah, that’s great until Hamilton gets hurt and we suddenly have a barren lineup.

      I won’t complain if we get Hamilton (we won’t) because it’s not my money and he’s a great player, but I sure as hell wouldn’t advise it.