Jan
10

The Obligatory Ronnie Mustelier Post

By

(Rudy C. Jones/MiLB.com)

The bench, particularly a right-handed hitting outfielder, and the DH spot have been the Yankees’ primary areas of focus these last few weeks and that will probably continue until pitchers and catchers report in five weeks. The free agent market still has several DH-type players available and the club does have Matt Diaz, Russ Canzler, and Melky Mesa in-house as candidates for that right-handed outfield bat role. They also have a fourth internal option in Ronnie Mustelier, who Michael Eder at The Yankee Analysts wrote about this week and a number of people have emailed me about these last few months. I figured it was time to chime in.

First things first, we have to understand that we know very little about Mustelier. We do know that he defected from Cuba in late-2009 and signed with the Yankees in June 2011 thanks to Matt Eddy at Baseball America. We also know that he turned 28 this past August, hitĀ .301/.407/.517 in Cuba from 2007-2009, and is a career .324/.378/.497 hitter across four minor league levels because that’s what Baseball-Reference tells us. He doesn’t have a platoon split according to Minor League Central, and his overall strikeout rate (13.0%) is pretty great in 656 minor league plate appearances. We have to remember that he was old for every level, however. Mustelier’s a right-handed hitter who has played second and third bases as well as both outfield corners since signing with New York. The vast majority of his 2012 season was spent in left. If MiLB.com’s bio information is to be trusted, we also know he’s a little portly at 5-foot-10 and 210 lbs.

That’s pretty much it. The closest thing we have to an actually scouting report on Mustelier is this collection of quotes from VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman back in early-October (Baseball America subs. req’d)…

“He has a very short strokeĀ and pretty good balance … He strikes out once in every seven at-bats. His walks are below-average but he puts the ball in play … He played third, second, left and right … We are trying to find out where his best defensive position is and what our needs are … He can run and cover ground … He can also play right. He improved defensively over the course of the season.”

Within that same link we learn the Yankees signed Mustelier for just $50k, a pittance compared to most Cuban defectors. You have to take an organization’s quotes on its own players with a big grain of salt because of course they’re going to talk the guy up. Newman’s stuff on Mustelier isn’t outrageous though, it’s not like he called him a plus defender with elite bat speed or something. That would have been a little weird given the modest signing bonus, which indicates little interest from around the league.

Baseball America’s John Manuel offered up his take on Mustelier during the publication’s Top 20 Triple-A International League Prospects chat back in early-October (subs. req’d)…

I see him as a player for a potential Cuban ex-pat team in the WBC. I do not see him as an MLB option. Guys like Mustelier and Barbaro Canizares and Leslie Anderson and other Cuban ex-pats can make a good living in professional baseball outside of the major leagues, but he doesn’t strike me as a player with a position outside of the batter’s box. He does have bat speed and he can hit a good fastball. Maybe that gets him a chance.

So that’s pretty much it. Those last few paragraphs are basically all we know about Mustelier at this point. He’s performed very well since signing but has been old for the level each time. He offers some defensive versatility, but he probably fits best in left field based on how the organization used him. The fact that the Yankees did not stick Mustelier back at third base — they did move David Adams over to third, remember — following Alex Rodriguez‘s hand injury in the second half tells me they don’t think he can handle the position in the big leagues, even on a temporary basis. It’s not like the team had a real prospect at the hot corner in Triple-A at the time, it was basically Brandon Laird and Kevin Russo. Actions always speak louder than words.

(Photo via Syracuse Chiefs)

Now, that said, the Yankees should obviously give Mustelier a long look in Spring Training in a few weeks. He received all of two plate appearances in big league camp last year, one fewer than Austin Krum and half as many as Walt Ibarra. Mustelier just wrapped up a strong winter ball showing — .284/.345/.471 with nine homers and nine steals in 55 games down in Mexico — and finished the 2012 calendar year with a combined .304/.364/.482 batting line in over 700 plate appearances in three different leagues (Double-A, Triple-A, winter ball). When a guy that close to the big leagues hits like that, he deserves a look in camp. I definitely expect the Yankees to invite him to Major League Spring Training, for what it’s worth.

At the same time, a guy like Mustelier should not stop the team from pursuing solutions for those openings on the bench and at DH. It obviously hasn’t given the Matt Diaz and Russ Canzler pickups, but I’m talking about legitimate upgrades like Mike Morse or Scott Hairston. The Yankees should give him a look in camp to see what he can do, maybe he lost some weight and improved defensively during the offseason and made himself a viable option at second and third bases. Who knows. He’s earned the look though. Mustelier is not on the 40-man roster right now and the club won’t have to add him for another few years, so there’s no pressing roster issue that will force their hand. At the moment, Mustelier is an intriguing Plan B or C to keep in the minors. I wouldn’t want him to be Plan A for anything heading into 2013.

Aside: For what it’s worth, SG’s extremely early CAIRO projections have Mustelier as a .268/.321/.420 hitter in the big leagues next season. That’s really good for a bench player but not for a DH, which is where he’s slotted into the lineup in the projections.

Categories : Minors

50 Comments»

  1. Drew says:

    Lost some wait, holy grammatical errors Batman!

  2. Robinson Tilapia says:

    I think the fact that the BBWAA chose to not vote him into the HOF yesterday speaks volumes as well. If Jack Morris goes in before Ronnie Mustellier, there will be a revolt.

    Otherwise, hard to argue with anything here. I think it puts his performance in perspective while not selling him short. He absolutely should get a look in Spring Training. There will be a place for someone who can hit a baseball well, if that, in fact, is him. I look for him to surprise me. I don’t look to write his name in permanent ink anywhere.

  3. iYankees says:

    Nice read, Mike.

  4. SRB says:

    The article seems to sum up very well what I saw from him at AAA last year- Portly, yes- Good hustle- Seemed to struggle at 3B (though Laird was there most of the games I saw) but decent in LF- Did seem to K a fair amount against some of the better AAA pitchers hes faced when I saw him

  5. emac2 says:

    We don’t know anything about him?

    We have almost 700 at bats at 3 levels and several people have expressed opinions.

    I’m not sure we need 100 opinions from a bunch of English majors to know how well a player plays ball or if a .300 hitter should get a chance in the majors.

    Sometimes we need to learn with our eyes instead of having to have the raw info digested by someone else and confirmed by the masses.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      I’m guessing you mean sometimes we should learn with someone else’s eyes.

      Because I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen all 700 of those at bats.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      He’s a .300 hitter across 3-levels of the minors. This only gives a slight indication of what he might do against the better pitching that exists in the majors. Which in all likelyhood, would not match what he did playing against much younger, less experienced and, likely, less talented, pitching in the minors. He deserves a look in ST, but should not necessarily “get a chance in the majors.” It all depends on how he looks against some of the tougher competition he may face during ST. If there’s a better, MLB proven option within the Yankees budget, I would be all for them pulling the trigger and signing that option.

    • jjyank says:

      But those 700 at bats came against players who were almost all younger and less experienced than him. So they tell a lot less than what they would for, say, a 22 year old draftee.

    • MannyGeee says:

      Also, Shelly Duncan hit all levels of the minors pretty well too. Just so happened that AAAA is his ceiling.

  6. thenamestsam says:

    Sounds like he basically is what we thought he was…a tweener. Not enough glove/versatility to really be a helpful bench player, but not enough bat to find a regular home at DH/LF.

    With the numbers he has put up his CAIRO projection seems pretty reasonable, and if could actually play all the positions he’s gotten a shot at in the minors, he could be a very useful bench player backing up 2nd base, maybe 3rd until ARod gets back, giving the OFers days off against tough lefties, maybe even the occasional start at 1B.

    But when your own organization is saying things about your defense like “We are trying to find out where his best defensive position is” and “He improved defensively over the course of the season” I think reading between the lines it sounds like there are some real issues there.

  7. John C says:

    Mike:

    Does Adonis Garcia have a higher ceiling than Musteiler?

  8. LarryM., Fl. says:

    If he deserves a look then we must play him in regular ST games and inter squad games against competitive major league level pitching. Any second baseman that I have seen standing 5’10 and 210 was in slow pitch softball. I’m sure the physical makeup doesn’t equate to that picture I just presented but OF might be the way to go.

    Guys with the short stroke get their bat on the ball put it in play. IMHO he is older than most guys getting a shot at the big leagues but his minor league career is far from a failure or unable to produce. Let him have some big league AB’s.

  9. Jersey Joe says:

    Hmmmm. If he does well in ST he’s trade bait.

  10. Greg says:

    we’re assuming that there is budget room in 2013 for a guy like Morse ($7M) or Hairston ($5M?). I don’t believe so. I believe that we’re already at $210M, which is probably close to the limit, and that all of this talk about other guys is just talk. So I expect Mostelier to make the team, along with Nunez, Nix, Stewart and Cevilli. The last 10 guys are all going to be as close to minimum as possible.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      You mispelled Newnez, Nicks, and Stuart.

      I also disagree. I don’t see anything stopping the team from adding someone on a one-year deal here. This isn’t exactly adding the Pujols contract we are talking about.

    • Jersey Joe says:

      I don’t know, I think Morse would be a really good addition, and I don’t think that the budget is going to be that big of an issue at this trade deadline. But I’d like to see those league minimum guys get some experience for 2014 when we need them.

  11. Phil says:

    This offseason blows

  12. Granderslam says:

    Trade for Morse – the better option.
    Use Nova/Pehlps to hopefully land catcher in some sort of deal – possibly Ramos?
    Sign Marcum.

  13. TheManchine says:

    Phelps, Logan, Mustelier for Morse & Ramos.
    YES/NO

    • Jersey Joe says:

      Why would the Nationals be in a position to give up Ramos now? His value is at all-time low; no way they trade him coming off a 5+ month injury. Logan and Phelps is a bit too much for Morse alone, however, I could see Logan and Warren as more likely.

  14. Philm says:

    Phelps, Logan, Mustelier for Morse & Ramos?

    Nats might do Morse & Susuki! Considering Ramos is coming off knee surgery they probably keep both!

  15. Notatroll says:

    Mustelier is 28, he’s too old, this means he is guaranteed to suck in the big leagues and shouldn’t be given a look. His numbers are rendered completely irrelevant solely because of his age. Minor league numbers only mean anything if the players are under 25. In fact, the Yankees should outright release him he’s so bad.

    They should trade Nova, Phelps, and Logan for Mike Morse. He has shown to be a durable player and an excellent fielder and since the Yankees are right on the cusp of winning the WS this year, he might just be the one who pushes them over the top! They don’t need any more pitching for 2014, there are always 37 year old veterans to sign for minimum contracts. If they can’t pry Morse away from the Nats, they should beat the Mets and give Hairston a 3 year deal. He’s exactly the type of impact bat the team needs for now and the future!

    If only they had signed the thunderous bat that is Nate Schierholtz the Yankees would undoubtedly be looking at 20+ more bombs from the outfield but Morse or Hairston will have to do.

    Oh, and Ichiro is going to suck and bat .220/.230/.300 with 12 steals. It’s going to happen because I said so.

  16. Jacob says:

    Free Ronnie

  17. karlovau says:

    So forget the minor league performance and compare him with similar defectors of similar age when hitting against the average Cuban league pitcher:

    Mustelier (now age 28, defected at age 26) .301/.407/.517 in Cuba
    Yunel Escobar (now age 29, defected at age 23) .271/.380/.358 in Cuba .282/.353/.390 in MLB
    Leonys Martin (now age 25, defected at age 23) .311/.491/.492 in Cuba
    Yoenis Cespesdis (now age 27, defected at age 25) approximately .250/.310/.450 in Cuba (see http://claydavenport.com/?p=97)

    Remember all the hype about Cespedes? Mustelier is almost exactly the same age and has a much better triple slash against the same pitchers as Cespedis. These comparables suggest a nice major league career. Escobar’s Cuban and MLB numbers track pretty well. A utility player who bests Escobar (or at least equals him age adjusted) seems like a reasonable shot at a useful cog to me

    • Notatroll says:

      Hey, get out of here with your objective presentation of statistical evidence!

    • wily mo says:

      uh i think those numbers for cespedes were after davenport did the davenport translations to them to estimate what he would have done in the majors. his raw cuban career numbers were something more like .320/.400/.580

      • karlovau says:

        Cleaning up after not being on for a while. Just to set the record straight, wily mo is right. That puts Cespedes right about the same as CAIRO’s Mustelier projections. Still looks useful

  18. John23 says:

    Hopefully he can play all positions but with martins homers and swisher ops. This one step towards losing Martin and production and to figure out what position he is best suited for. At the league min.

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