Mailbag: Kazmir, Johnson, Bichette, Soriano

GCL season comes to an end with a win and a loss
Badler: MLB slowing down signing process for Cuban players

Just four questions this week but they’re really good ones. The best way to send us anything is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Travis asks: Should the Yankees look to sign Scott Kazmir for 2014?

It’s hard to believe Kazmir is still only 29 years old. He won’t even turn 30 until January. Kazmir missed essentially all of 2011 and 2012 due to shoulder and back injuries before showcasing himself in an independent league. He turned a non-roster invite from the Indians into a rotation spot in Spring Training, beating out Daisuke Matsuzaka. Kazmir has pitched to a 4.25 ERA and 4.00 FIP in 125 innings across 23 starts this year, his best season since 2009 and a very impressive comeback. He deserves some major props for sticking with it.

Kazmir hasn’t gotten many ground balls (40.3%) and he has been homer prone (1.22 HR/9 and 12.2% HR/FB) this summer, but his strikeout (8.28 K/9 and 21.6 K%) and walk (2.95 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%) rates are really good. He’s handled left-handed batters very well (.242 wOBA and 2.22 FIP), righties not so much (.361 wOBA and 4.80 FIP). After all the injuries, the thing you worry about most is the quality of his stuff. He uses his two-seam fastball far more than four-seamer at this point and the velocity has been fine all year:

Kazmir Two-Seamer

It’s not the blazing upper-90s heat he had back in the (Devil) Rays days, but that will work. His trademark slider averages 82.8 mph and more importantly, PitchFX says it’s averaging 4.6 inches of movement overall. That’s in line with 2007-2009 (the first years of PitchFX) and better than what he showed in 2010. Having seen him pitch a few times this year, I’m comfortable saying it isn’t the same wipeout slider that helped him lead the AL in strikeouts at age 23. The pitch is more effective than it has been in years, however. Kazmir also works with an upper-70s/low-80s changeup.

When I first read the question, my initial reaction was “no way.” I mean, c’mon. It’s Scott Kazmir. He hasn’t been effective in like forever. But, when I saw that he was missing bats, limiting walks, sustaining his fastball velocity, and getting more break on his slider, I have to say that I’m intrigued. I would be very skeptical about giving him a multi-year contract though. Yes, he is only 29, but he’s got an ugly (arm) injury history and he is still a homer/fly ball prone lefty with a massive platoon split. Lots of red flags. There’s a non-zero chance he could turn back into a top shelf starter, but I think you have to consider him more of a back-end guy at this point. The Yankees will need starters this winter and while Kazmir might not be the most ideal solution, he’s someone worth considering.

Damix asks: Josh Johnson was both terrible and injured this year, but given the budget and rotation uncertainty, is he worth a shot for next year?

Johnson, who turns 30 in January like Kazmir, was indeed awful (6.20 ERA and 4.61 FIP) in 81.1 innings across 16 starts for the Blue Jays this year. He missed a little more than a month with a triceps issue earlier this season and is now done for the year with a forearm strain. Johnson had Tommy John surgery way back in 2007 (has it really been that long already? geez) and missed most of 2011 with shoulder inflammation. He had a 3.81 ERA and 3.41 FIP in 191.1 innings with the Marlins last summer, and that’s the guy Toronto was hoping they’d get in 2013.

Unlike Kazmir, Johnson is injured right now and will head into the free agent market as an unknown. There’s still time for Kazmir to break down, but that’s besides the point. It’s been three years since Johnson was truly dominant in a full season of work, but he did miss bats (9.18 K/9 and 21.6 K%) and get ground balls (45.1%) for the Blue Jays this year. He also gave up a ton of homers (1.66 HR/9 and 18.5% HR/FB) and got slaughtered by right-handed batters (.441 wOBA). If they could get him on a one-year contract with a low base salary and bunch of incentives, great. The Yankees won’t have a ton of money to spend under the $189M luxury tax threshold and they can’t afford to spend $10M or so on a reclamation project pitcher. They need some more certainty.

(The Orlando Sentinel)
(The Orlando Sentinel)

Michael asks: Please give me a statistical reason to think that Dante Bichette Jr. is not done as a prospect.

First things first: statistics are just a small part of the prospect pie. The further you get away from the big leagues, the less meaningful the stats become. The scouting report should always come first in my opinion.

That said, it’s tough to defend DBJ at this point. He hit .248/.322/.331 (84 wRC+) with three homers in 522 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston last season, was sent back there this year, and responded by hitting .210/.291/.322 (80 wRC+) with ten homers in 470 plate appearances. The increase in power (.083 vs. .112 ISO) comes with an increase in strikeouts (18.0 vs. 24.0 K%). Bichette, a righty bat who turns 21 next month, managed a .250/.319/.440 line in 94 plate appearances against lefties this year, so I guess that’s the reason to think he’s still a prospect.  He was productive against southpaws. Things are looking grim, but I wouldn’t write him off yet at this age.

Stephen asks: Half-embarrassed to admit this, but I had no idea Alfonso Soriano was close to 400 homeruns. I figured at the end of his career he may be closing in on that, but at this point, he is close to making 500 a real possibility. Is Soriano a Hall of Famer? I have honestly never even considered the possibility because he has only had two really good years, but his career numbers are pretty solid. He’ll also probably get his 300th stolen base in the next year or two as well.

Soriano hit his 400th career homer on Tuesday night, making him only the 43rd player in history with 2,000 career hits and 400 homers. He’s only the sixth with those two milestones plus 250 career steals. Only 24 of those 43 players are in the Hall of Fame, but I count ten more who will be or should be enshrined at some point: Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Piazza. A few others are on the bubble. Obviously guys like Bonds, A-Rod, and Manny have no prayer of getting into the Hall at this point, but their bodies of work are Hall of Fame worthy.

Anyway, out of those 43 players in the 2,000-hit/400-homer club, Soriano’s career 28.2 WAR ranks … 43rd. I guess that makes sense since he just joined the club, but it goes to show how much of his offensive value was squandered on defense over the year. Soriano should zoom passed Paul Konerko (28.7 WAR) at some point, but the next guy on the list is Carlos Delgado (44.4 WAR). That would be very hard to do at age 37 (38 in January). He hasn’t hit fewer than 20 homers since his rookie year in 2001 and even though he’s about to have his second consecutive 30+ homer season, it will probably take him at least four and possibly five seasons to get to 500 career. Even if he does, I don’t think 500 homers is an automatic ticket into the Hall of Fame anymore.

I remember being so enthralled by Soriano when he first broke into the league because he was this rail-thin guy who huge power and big speed. He was so exciting. It’s hard to believe his career is coming to an end now and even harder to believe how much he’s accomplished. Four-hundred homers? Two-thousand hits? Almost 300 steals? Did anyone realistically think that was possible when he was a rookie? Crazy. Soriano is a career .272/.321/.504 (113 OPS+) hitter who’s had a brilliant career. A brilliant career at is just short of Cooperstown worthy in my eyes.

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GCL season comes to an end with a win and a loss
Badler: MLB slowing down signing process for Cuban players
  • KD

    I remember being at the Stadium for a game shortly after Fonzie came up and listening in on some grizzled baseball dudes sitting in front of me. They all agreed that this Soriano guy was the “real deal” and that Jeet was a “pretty boy” and “soft”. Never really cared much for Soriano after that. And then there was that horrible discipline at the plate, most cringe-worthy in the post season. I do appreciate him now for the excitement he’s brought to this dismal season but, no, he is not HOF material.

    • JLC 776

      I remember him drawing a walk in August of 2001 (his first full year) and it may have literally been his third career walk at that point.

      He got a standing ovation.

  • b-rar

    If he’d stayed at second base those numbers would get him into the Hall on first ballot, easily.

  • JLC 776

    Soriano was way up there on my list of Favorite Yankees a decade ago, but I have to admit I also had no clue how solid his career numbers have been. When he wound up in the NL, his career fell mostly off my radar but I always had this (mis)conception that he was grossly under performing his big contract.

    With 2014 looking bleak for interesting story lines, I’m starting to redevelop a slight man-crush on Sori. I love seeing him in pinstripes again.

  • Eddard

    Kazmir – Hell no

    Josh Johnson – Hell no

    Bichette – He’s done. Another bust from Cashman.

    Soriano – Not a HOFer. If he had stayed a Yankee he’d have a better shot.

  • trr

    I uhhh…agree 100% with Eddard

    • Robinson Tilapia

      There’s solid meds out there for your condition.

      • I’m a looser baby so why don’t you kill me?

        Also, booze.

  • Robert

    Saw Bichette play not impressive,Saw Jaigilo play very impressive.
    My question is who starts the season at Tampa and who starts the season in Charleston at 3B next year?

  • YankeeFan

    I would definitely take a flier on Josh Johnson if he’s willing to come here on an incentive-laden deal to regain some FA status. Big power righty, still averages 93 on the gun and had success, albeit small sample size, vs. the AL before this season (114IP 3.24ERA). Plus Joe has a history with him back in Florida. He has never been this homer-prone either.

  • Frank

    I’d certainly consider Kazmir. What better options do they have in the minors who are ML ready?

  • nsalem

    Soriano had 3 years in which he had 92 XBH 89 XBH and 87 XBH . Mickey Mantle never had more that 80 XBH in a season his top being his MVP in 1956 when he had 79. DiMaggio only topped 89 once with 96. Soriano’s lying about his age was a big turn off for many. We thought he was 21 coming up with all these great offensive tools when he was really 24 or 25.

    • jsbrendog
      • nsalem

        isc

    • OldYanksFan

      While these stats may be true, comparing Soriano to the Mick is sacrilege! It should be a banning offense!

      Soriano has a career 113 OPS+. (557th All-time)
      Mantle has a career 172 OPS+. (6th All-time)
      Do you understand how far apart those 2 numbers are?

      Soriano has a career OBP of .321
      Mantle has a career OBP of .421
      (An OBP of .512(!!!!!!!) in 1957
      Do you understand how far apart those 2 numbers are?

      Dude! Banning offense!

      • nsalem

        I wasn’t comparing their overall performance. It would be silly to think Alfosno was a more complete player than Mantle. I was just comparing their ability to produce XBH. Soriano produced an XBH in 9.039 PA over his career while Mantle did so in 10.406 PA’s. Yes I am very aware of the statistics you presented. One of the things that did make Mantle the much greater weapon was his K/BB rate was 1/1 as opposed to Soriano’s 3.6/1

  • Vern Sneaker

    Why not put Kazmir in the mix on a one-year contract? Cleveland paid him just $1 million. We aren’t exactly drowning in back-end starters (or front-end, for that matter). Possibly Phelps, Warren, Nuno, who else? Not Hughes, I hope. Pineda a big question mark. Kazmir worth at least a serious thought.

  • Kosmo

    If only Soriano didn´t chase so many pitches low and away.
    I´ll always remember the 2001 WS when his HR put NY ahead and stunned the D-Back crowd. I thought the 2-1 lead was money in the bank but alas as it turned out it just wasn´t meant to be.

  • John C

    Another one worth taking a shot at is Roy Halladay. Looked pretty good in his first start last SUn day since coming back from shoulder surgery even despite the diminished velocity. SHould be alot stronger next year.

    • Captain

      I don’t know if Halladay will want to join a new team late in his career after his injury but I think he’d be a great signing if he can be had for a cheap contract with incentives. Has experience in the AL East and I feel like he will be able to adjust to pitching with diminished velocity.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I think that easily could go either way. We’ve seen guys in his position make the move to a new team many times before. He’s spent his entire career in the “northeast.” This isn’t moving to California or anything.

        There’s a part of me who’d even love to see an againg Halladay in pinstripes. There’s an even bigger part of me who would be concerned about the risk if he were signed as a Kuroda/Andy replacement.

  • Kosmo

    Around MLB good SP is thin to say the least. I´d like NY in addition to resigning Kuroda pursue Tanaka and see what kind of deal Arroyo is looking for. I´d also look to see if the White Sox would trade Danks while eating part of his contract.

  • Mike HC

    I think with Soriano there is a bit of “if it didn’t happen in New York, it doesn’t matter” kind of feeling. Because there is no reason that Soriano’s great career numbers should have snuck up on us (I’m guilty of it as well). Soriano has been great from the get go and hasn’t stopped hitting since.

    • I’m a looser baby so why don’t you kill me?

      Or striking out ;)

  • YankeeGrunt

    One of the other posts above alludes to the problem, but as regards DBJ the big issue he’s going to have going forward is that the system suddenly has a number of very good 3B prospects. O’Brien’s defense is pretty terrible at least right now, but the power is certainly there. Figure him for Trenton. Jagielo is a good candidate to go to Tampa. And Andujar, who has had a great soph season repeating GCL and is only 19 next season, is a good candidate to skip SI and go straight to Charleston. If that’s the case what happens to DBJ? His status is such that he’s not going to take serious reps away from any of those guys. Do they DH him or give him reps elsewhere?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      DH or give him reps elsewhere, I think.

      This is on him at this point. He hits well, AB’s will happen.

      • YankeeGrunt

        I saw him about six weeks ago at Greensboro and he looked terrible. Swinging from the heels, toe tap, not quite enough power to get the ball out when he did connect. Culver, Cave, Bird and Nunez all looked promising, DBJ looked awful.

        • Preston

          That’s the problem, the scouting supports the poor numbers. He just isn’t the same guy people saw in HS and in the GCL, he’s regressed big time.

  • Captain

    for all his postseason issues, Soriano had a game winning hit in the 2001 WS and hit a homer off Schilling (pitching like Cy Young that postseason) that should’ve been the deciding run in that series, aka his only two RBIs that series.

    Complied the stats which will definitely put him in great company but falls short of the HOF and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I don’t mind an MLB deal for someone like Kazmir as someone you bring in with no guarantee of a starting spot, especially if we continue with the 189 plan, and especially if the Alex savings evaporate. I’d love to see a run at Garza instead if the Alex savings actually do happen and Andy doesn’t return.

    I’m not confident in Johnson right now. MiLB deal, or very low-base MLB deal with zero guarantees of anything. Sucks to see him fall apart like this, as I do like him a lot.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    So is Kazmir better than Hughes? Or is he Hughes, without Hughes’ baggage?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Depends on price and expectation. I can’t speak for their taste in luggage.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Manny, Arod, Bonds…why won’t they get their own exhibit in the hall of fame?

    • Gonzo

      Would be great to see them pull a John Daly and open up shop down the street from a HoF induction ceremony.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        have Pete Rose signing autographs

  • NapLajoieOnSteroids

    Does Soriano look better because of the steroid scandal? We know that there was an age discrepancy, but I can’t think of anyone accusing Soriano of steroid use. He’s the only (assumed) clean member of the 40/40 club. He’s the 5th (?) player with 2000+ Hits/400+ Hr/250+ Sb, and again, with two of those members accused of using steroids. He also compiled these numbers in a much shorter time than other players.

    I think he compares with Andre Dawson who is a hall of famer. Add the steroid scandal, and maybe he looks good enough to get in?