Wanted: Right-handed bat. No position necessary

4/22-4/24 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
Update: MLB investigating Robinson Cano for potential ties to Biogenesis

Following a disappointing off-season and a 1-4 start, everyone has to be pleased with the Yankees’ 10-7 record. For the past 12 games they’ve shown plenty of life and have received contributions from newcomers and holdovers alike, even unlikely holdovers like Francisco Cervelli. The team has, in short, been incredibly fun to watch — against right-handed pitching, at least.

Given the roster composition, along with the absences of Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez, we expected the Yankees to struggle against left-handed pitching. But in the early goings it’s been especially painful:

Against RHP: .303/.369/.540 – .908 OPS in 449 PA
Against LHP: .210/.279/.318 – .596 OPS in 221 PA

The only two regulars hitting lefties remotely well are Vernon Wells and Brett Gardner. Two guys expected to contribute against left-handers, Kevin Youkilis and Ben Francisco, have a combined 4 hits in 35 AB, with a Youkilis double as the lone extra base hit. Ichiro — Ichiro! — has out-hit every non-Wells RHB against lefties, and he’s just 4 for 14 with a double. Perhaps most sadly, Robinson Cano is just 4 for 26 with 10 strikeouts against lefties.

The good news is that some of this will likely even out. Youkilis in particular has hit lefties well in the past, a .918 OPS in more than 1,200 career PA. But even if he, Cano, and even Eduardo Nunez improve against left-handed pitching, the Yankees still have issues. In particular, they’re starting Ben Francisco as the designated hitter. Little good has come of this, and little good may come in the future.

For the first few years of his career Francisco was an average hitter, but in the last few he’s taken a nosedive into mediocrity. He’s certainly not as bad as his .111./238/.111 line suggests, but he might not be any better than his .242/.317/.373 line from the past two years. There’s also the issue of his history, which suggests almost no platoon split. In fact, he has hit for similar averages and OBPs against righties and lefties in the past, but with less power against lefties. He’s certainly not someone you think of when searching for a platoon DH.

The question facing the Yankees is, what are the alternatives? They brought Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz into camp as potential threats against left-handed pitching, and they cut both in favor of Francisco. Diaz was scooped up by the Marlins but Rivera remains on the free agent market, but he seems an unlikely target; if the Yankees thought they could perform in the role of platoon DH they would have kept one of them over Francisco.

That leaves slim pickings for an upgrade. Few, if any, teams are willing to make deals at this point. Even the worst teams (non-Houston division) fancy themselves contenders. Even if an eventual non-contender has a right-handed bat that the Yankees could use, a deal remains unlikely for at least a month or two. The good news, if it counts as any, is that any Francisco replacement does not need to actually play a position in the field. Francisco has logged all of three innings in the outfield this year. They just need someone who can swing a bat.

While the pickings are slim, they aren’t nonexistent. Three names stand out as players who could actually help this team against left-handed pitching.

Zoilo Almonte

If the Yankees prefer a player who can also stand in the outfield, Almonte might be their man. After a quality season in AA last year, which included 21 homers and 23 doubles in a pitcher-friendly park, he has gotten off to a torrid start in AAA, .275/.424/.412. Impressively, he has walked 14 times to just 9 strikeouts after walking just 25 times with 103 strikeouts last year. It’s still early, so we don’t know if Zoilo has improved his approach or has just had a hot couple of weeks. But he’s a switch hitter who can play defense, meaning he might have some value to the major league club.

David Adams

When an injury prone player is healthy and producing, the time might be ripe for promotion. Adams has always possessed talent, but ever since an ankle injury in 2010 he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Although he did accumulate 383 PA last year, he had one day off and one day at DH per week. It kept him healthy, but also kept him off the field for a good deal of time. Still, he produced. And in the early goings this year he’s producing even more, .342/.444/.500 in 45 PA. Might it be time to eke out anything they can get at the major league level? It would be a shame to see them DFA Francisco in a few weeks, only to see Adams also succumb to injury. Might as well call him up now while he’s actually playing.

Ronnier Mustelier

A strong spring had people wondering if Mustelier could contribute to the big league club, but a bone bruise on his knee in late spring has kept him on the shelf. I haven’t read anything about a potential return date, so for the time being Mustelier is not an option. But when he returns it’s difficult to see him as being a worse option than Francisco. He makes contact and has decent power, and perhaps he won’t be overmatched by MLB pitching. But for now that’s something in the distance.

Casper Wells

I wrote a whole paragraph about Casper Wells and his quality numbers against left-handed pitching — which could become even better on a non-Seattle team. Unfortunately, between composition and publication the A’s acquired Wells from the Blue Jays. So there goes that idea. I have to think, given Wells’s superiority over Francisco, that the Yankees would loved to have acquired Wells. He might be the last decent RHB available until June.

Later in the year the Yankees will have more opportunities to improve against left-handed pitching. A Mark Teixeira return will be a start. If Curtis Granderson can show some power against LHP that will help some more. An Alex Rodriguez return is too far into the future, and too uncertain, to consider at this point. The Yanks will have some decent trade chips in July, but for now they’ll have to go with lesser options to fill the void. Almonte or Wells could make a positive impact on a team that is just reeling against left-handed pitching.

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4/22-4/24 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
Update: MLB investigating Robinson Cano for potential ties to Biogenesis
  • Robinson Tilapia

    Wells went to Oakland earlier today, so he’s not technically on the markey, although who knows. He may be DFA fodder again soon.

    I’d rather Zoilo actually complete for regular at-bats. This would be an ideal situation for a slightly older guy like Adams or, especially, if he were healthy, Mustelier. You’re not going to necessarily worry about whether they’re playing once a week or not than a younger player.

    Francisco’s been a pretty big zero so far, so I’m not particularly concerned as to whether alternatives are actually better.

    • trr

      what exactly is going on with Musty?
      I’m not reading anything

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Don’t understand the apathy towards Casper Wells. The Yankees could have easily acquired him for next to nothing and he’s relatively young, good defensively and hits very well against lefties. He’s certainly a much better option than Ben Fransisco as Mike mentioned who’s done absolutely nothing this year.

    • Jim Is Bored

      There’s always the possibility that Wells wants more playing time, and the Yankees weren’t willing to offer him that.

      I know it was a trade, but the Yankees recent MO has been to acquire character guys who want to play here; that may have had something to do with it.

    • jsbrendog

      joe, not mike

    • trr

      yes for Wells over Francisco!

  • Jeety

    I’d like to see Adams move up in place of Francisco, and Segedin move up to Adams spot in AAA… perhaps Refsnyder will push for a AA spot soon as well. But Adams and Segedin are performing and are older players that should be moving up soon.

  • steves

    Jesus Montero is the guy for righty DH (nothwithstanding his LH numbers this years (SSS)). Since he’s fallen into much disfavor with Mariners can’t imagine the cost would be prohibitive.

    • jjyank

      Yeah, not happening.

      • Deathstroke Heathcott

        I wonder who says no in a Nova-Jesus trade proposal?

        • jjyank

          The Mariners. Why would they do that? Montero has more years of team control and more upside in terms of impact.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Because we could TRICK them. TALL DOMINICANZ.

            I don’t think he’s fallen THAT out of favor yet. I think he still costs you a couple of the A/AA guys.

            • Preston

              Plus Nova’s value is pretty low right now, and the Mariner’s have little need for pitching, their farm is stocked.

            • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

              If you are talking about a couple of; Williams, Austin, Heatcott(?), Sanchez or Flores, that’s crazy.

              The Mariners wouldn’t (and probably shouldn’t) do it, but Nova+Campos himself for Montero would be fair right now, IMO.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                A year removed fom being one of the top prospects in baseball. You wouldn’t ask for a couple of Top 100 guys for him if you were Seattle?

                He hasn’t hit the cut-out bin just yet.

                • jjyank

                  This. It’s way, way too soon to be talking about Montero like he’s some first round draft pick that flamed out. He had a bad rookie campaign, but he was (according to BA) the #6 prospect in all of baseball a year ago. He’s got plenty of that shine left to warrant a legit package.

                  • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

                    Yeah, he is not cooked yet, has age on his side, but this: “He’s got plenty of that shine left to warrant a legit package.”, this is just not the case right now, I’ve read some Dave Cameron’s and Jeff Sullivan’s stuff and surprised me how low they (among others) are on JM; even doubting if he’s ever gonna be a ML regular, mentioning horrible plate aproach, and stuff like that, and the fact that he has lost playing time to Shopach somehow proves it in the early going… For the line you wrote to be true, JM has to start hittin’ pretty darn soon.

                    • jjyank

                      I disagree, I don’t think you can lose all that prospect shine in 1 year, baring career threatening injury. If you think the Mariners would trade him for Nova, that’s crazy to me. Someone else said Nova + Campos, and I still wouldn’t do that if I were the Mariners.

                    • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

                      I was the one who said Nova+Campos, and again I didn’t say the Mariners would do it, I said it would be fair, IMO.

                      Anyway, it’s not happening, so cheers.

                • steves

                  Don’t disagree with most of the analysis above but no one fits “Right Handed Bat. No Position Necessary.” better than JM.

                • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

                  Of course this is under the asumption that the Mariners are looking to trade Montero, wich isn’t the case, so far.

                  If they were in fact wanting to trade Montero, they could ask for whatever they want, but nobody is giving them two top 100 for Jesus right now.

  • CountryClub

    If it were me, I’d give Adams a shot. Of course, a roster move would have to be made since he’s no longer on the 40 man.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The question is do you do this before Francisco becomes truly expendable due to injured players returning.

      Unless he continues to be a Randy Winn-like zero, I could see a scenario in which the team options Boesch down in favor of Francisco just because i’d maintain depth at the position. It’s not what I would do personally, but it wouldn’t surprise me too much.

      • CountryClub

        I think this is what they’ll do too.

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        While I agree with the concept of preserving depth, the problem with that scenario is that it doesn’t open up a 40 man spot. Have to cut someone if you add Adams.

  • mitch

    I mentioned an Adams for Francisco swap a couple days ago, so i’m certainly in favor of that move. I think his ability to play a passable 3rd and 2nd would be helpful as well. They really don’t need a 5th outfielder…especially when Nix can play OF in a pinch.

  • LK

    I get that Zoilo is showing an improved approach, but I have a hard time buying a .412 SLG as a “torrid start.”

    • jjyank

      Torrid doesn’t have to mean “power”, though. Or maybe it does, and it’s just a less than ideal word choice. I’d certainly classify a .424 OBP as a pretty awesome start.

      • LK

        He’s having a very solid start to the season. If he keeps it up all year it will certainly be encouraging. However, he’s 19th in a 14-team league in OBP and not hitting for power. That doesn’t say “torrid” to me.

        • greg

          he hit 21 homers and missed close to a month last year. i think the power is gonna show up at some point

        • jjyank

          Fair enough. I pay pretty close attention to any OBP north of .400, personally. Whether or not the word “torrid” fits is really just a matter of semantics for me.

          • LK

            Well technically any debate over whether a word fits is a matter of semantics. ;)

            Anyway, all I was really trying to say is that in sample sizes this small, it’s hard for numbers to be eye-catching unless a guy is truly mashing. Zoilo’s been good, but no so good that I think we should be re-evaluating what his eventual outcome is.

            • jjyank

              I agree with that. I’m not trying to imply that he’s raised his future ceiling based on a handful of games. His hot start might make him a pretty decent Ben Francisco replacement, though.

              • LK

                I’m not sure what’s up with Francisco. He was truly awful in 2012, and obviously he hasn’t done shit this year. He’s not so old where he should be in steep decline though. Part of me thinks the best course is to have patience and wait for him to come around, but the LHP lineup is just awful, especially with Youkilis currently hurting.

                • jjyank

                  I have faith that Youk will come around, but yeah, it still is pretty bad. You’re right that Francisco isn’t that old, but it’s really hard for me to be positive about a turn around for him. I’m sure he’l get hot enough to climb over the Mendoza Line at some point, but I’d like to find someone better.

                  • LK

                    Couldn’t agree more on that. If Wells is going to play every day (and at this point, even if he comes back to earth I’d rather see him out there than Ichiro), they’ll need a RH hitter even after the injured guys get back, assuming they’re not stupid enough to wait on A-Rod.

  • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

    Hey guys any help against LHP would be nice, and should play over Ichiro so we don’t have to watch him do this;

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs.....-swings-3/

    look at the brightside, he actually was #1 at something this past week, and it was a good thing I didn’t watch that live or my TV would’ve been in serious danger.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      We’re talking about an upgrade over Francisco here. I’m not replacing Ichiro just yet with any of the options mentioned above.

      Ichiro’s playing time decreases when Curtis comes back, and that’s if Wells continues to produce as he is.

      I’m not joining in just yet in killing Ichiro off.

      • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

        Yeah, I know it wasn’t about replacing Ichiro, I just wanted an excuse to post the link. :)

  • greg

    its not just the dh spot its the fact that nix is our 3rd baseman vs LHP but i guess there is nothing we can do about that.

  • emac2

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Adams and Joseph come up for Francisco and Nix as long as Cano spent some time at SS.

    I’m not to worried about things at this point but no production and no upside means there is no reason for Nix and Francisco to take up roster spots.

    I think that once Ronnier was out of public view he was put into an induced coma and hidden away until they find someone to block his progress.

    • jsbrendog

      cano will never ever play ss

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’m shocked he even did for that one inning. I’m also still shocked that inning even happened.

        Corban Joseph did not look good in Spring Training playing third at all. At least Nix can field the position adequately.

        I don’t think the upgrade to Nix exists in the organization.

        • jjyank

          Agreed. Joseph isn’t the answer at third, and Cano is not the answer at SS. If the Yankees want a Nix upgrade (and I hope they do), they’re gonna have to look outside the organization.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            I’d be willing to entertain the idea of Mustelier, if he were healthy, but that’s an offensive upgrade and doesn’t fit at all defensively. He’s certainly not playing short.

            If you’re looking within the org, it’s Nix.

            Perhaps there’s fodder that’d be an upgrade over Velazquez as Option D.

            • Travis L.

              Andrew Romine!!! Hahahaha. Had to bring this up since I was murdered in the offseason for suggesting the Yankees acquire him. He DOES, however, play a pretty good SS and 3B, its just his hitting never caught up. He had a good SSS last year, but that was it. He is Nunez-esque in AAA.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Hey, maybe it’s him. I don’t know enough about him to murder you on it. That’s for sure.

                • Travis L.

                  Nothing like getting the brothers into the same organization! LOL. I got hammered for it. Was told that I had a man-crush on Romine. HAHA. It was kinda funny. It was back before the Youk signing when we all wanted a utility infielder who could play passable defense at both SS and 3B. He can do both and from what I’ve seen, pretty well. But he has like a total of 150 PA or something in MLB over 3-4 years. Which lets people think that he isn’t anything special, as opposed to just not getting the opportunity. But he is their UTIL guy now and hitting under .100. LOL.

      • trr

        correct, it’s not even part of the equation (E= groundball handled by Nunez)

  • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

    At what point in the season does the “we don’t cut a sucky player in order to not lose depth” philosophy ends?

    I say this because anytime I, or somebody else, proposes something like;

    “Cut the veteran (in this case Francisco) and play Melky, or Musty, or Almonte or whatever”,

    somebody always answers;

    “No they shouldn’t do that ’cause you have to release, or pass trough waivers, the veteran, and then if the youngster shits the bed, or gets hurt you are 2 players down, so keep the veteran in the ML roster and send the youngster, who has options, to the minors and you get to keep both in case something happens”.

    Gotta say this is a solid answer, it has it’s merits ans reasoning behind it, but when does this ends?

    May? June? July?

    • jjyank

      It’s hard to come up with a universal cap for that. The Yankees have been hit so hard by injuries that they are probably in a situation that requires to keep that depth longer than other teams may be. If Granderson comes back and is healthy and hitting, keeping some scrub depth option isn’t a priority. The problem is that we have no idea if one of those prospects will even be as good as Francisco. When dealing with unknowns, I err on the side of quantity.

      So I guess my answer is that it depends on what Granderson and Teixeira do, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Jeter and A-Rod. If I had to pick one though, I’d say June 1. If we still need a hitter by then and Francisco is still shitting the bed, then roll the Musty/Mesa/Almonte dice.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      A couple of things:

      1. I don’t see anyone saying that’s what they should do. What I hear people, including myself, saying that it’s a possible scenario, and one that would be in line with how the franchise has functioned before. Then again, if the player truly looks like his goose is cooked like, for example, Randy Winn, the team’s cut bait with the vet anyway.

      2. You can find another Ben Francisco type, if needed. They’ll be released by other teams. Like Joe said, Juan Rivera is sitting at home right now, and he was actually hitting somewhat-to-good this spring. I don’t think anyone will actually be hugging Ben Francisco too tightly.

      3. Francisco’s in a pretty limited role at the moment, and that slot really is only open for a small window of time, so I’m wary of doing anything with a developing young player like Zoilo Almonte there. I don’t care if Mesa or, if healthy, Mustelier took the role. I also don’t know whether the best course of action is just to wait for Curtis Granderson and have Francisco exit stage left then.

    • mitch

      I think it depends on the player getting promoted. If Melky Mesa started out his AAA season mashing the ball, he’d probably be up now. The obvious AAA replacement isn’t really out there.

  • heismanziel

    We could just let Brennan Boesch play…

  • tl;dr

    One of the ball boys would be just as competent with a bat in his hand as Francisco.

    What G.M. in his right mind thinks to himself, “You know what this team needs? Ben Francisco!”

    If you don’t have a better bat than his in your system you’ve failed at your job.

    • jjyank

      Well that’s overly simplistic.

      • jsbrendog

        boversimplified

      • tl;dr

        How so? There is literally nothing in his track record to suggest that he’s capable of some sort of break-out season.

        He’s a soft bat, no glove kind of guy. He always has been, and he always will be.

        I understand Cashman was simply rolling with the punches, but if you can’t pull a RH bat from your system who is inherently better than Ben Francisco then it is seriously time for re-evaluation.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Two words: Injury replacement.

          This is why Ben Francisco exists. This is why DeWayne Wise exists. This is why Jayson Nix exists. This is why players like this, at some point during the season, are on every fucking major league roster.

          • jjyank

            Yup. Let’s not pretend that the Yankees are the only team to have ever employed Ben Francisco. Not counting the Yankees, he’s played for 5 other teams. Are all of them incompetent because they didn’t have anyone better than Ben Francisco?

            He wouldn’t even be on the team if they didn’t get hit with a bunch of injuries. Not having a slightly better 25th man on the roster doesn’t mean anybody has failed at their job. That’s insanely over simplistic.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              WHY THE HELL DID THEY RELEASE DEWAYNE WISE, they said.

              Cashman failed.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      In the past few systems, those “failures” have included the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies. He came up with Cleveland, and we’ll skip over the Astros for obvious reasons.

      If you don’t understand why players like Ben Francisco exist, and what their role is, then you don’t understand Major League Baseball.

  • Travis L.

    Doesn’t Boesch have an opposite platoon split? Why cant he play against LHP instead of Francisco?

    • Travis L.

      He is playing instead of Ichiro today…nevermind.

  • monterowasdinero

    Just play/ rotate Stewie and Cerv as catcher and DH in every game against lefties.

    Gotta keep both of those big sticks in there every game.

    Problem solved.

    Oh that’s right-we can’t do that either.

    Damn.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Just send them Ivan Nova, apparently.

      • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

        Don’t get simplistic.

        I said it would be fair, not that it would get it done.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I wasn’t serious. I also had no idea who said it.

          I don’t think it’s fair value, though.

          • jjyank

            Neither do I.

          • Luis Castillo (Not the one who dropped the ball)

            We disagree, it happens.
            Cheers.

  • Mike HC

    Well done article. I’m in the anyone but Francisco boat.