Mailbag: Rollins, Perkins, Kahnle, Nuno, 80 Tools

3/20 Camp Notes: Rotation, Ryan, Ellsbury
2014 Season Preview: Defensive Wizards

Huge mailbag this week. Nine questions and nearly 2,000 words. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Terry asks: With Jimmy Rollins seeming fallen out of favor with Ryne Sandberg and the Phillies, do you think it would make sense to see if the Yankees to put together some sort of trade package together with Ichiro Suzuki being the centerpiece? Do you think he would be open to playing 2B? He’d have to be an upgrade over Brian Roberts and would allow him to become a role player. They could be held relatively healthy by splitting 2B and now there is a SS back up that can hit.

Rollins and Sandberg had a bit of a falling out earlier this spring — Sandberg benched him for four straight Spring Training games to send a message, believe it or not — and there has been some talk that the team may try to trade him. Rollins told Todd Zolecki the rumors don’t bother him though; he has 10-and-5 rights and can veto any trade. Maybe he’d be willing to accept a trade to join the veteran-laden Yankees, who knows. He wouldn’t be the first long-term someotherteam to do it (Ichiro and Lance Berkman).

There are four problems with the 35-year-old Rollins. One, he just isn’t that good of a hitter anymore, putting up a .252/.318/.348 (84 wRC+) line last season. Two, he has 0.1 career innings at second base (in 2002) and would have to learn the position on the fly. Three, he’s owed $11M this year and his $11M option for 2015 vests with only 434 plate appearances this season. Four, he’s kind of a jerk with a tendency to run his mouth (remember this?). The Yankees seem to actively avoid those players. Would he be an upgrade over Roberts? Probably. Is he worth the headache? Probably not.

Dan asks: What does the Glen Perkins extension mean for David Robertson? Also, why would the Twins sign him to that? They already had him for this season, next season, and a team option for 2016. Now they not only raised his salaries for the next three years, they guaranteed the team option and one additional year for $6.5m each.

That Perkins contract (four years, $22.175M with a club option) is a freakin’ steal. He’s a local guy from just outside the Twin Cities, so it definitely seems like he took a hometown discount. Perkins is an elite reliever and probably the second best lefty bullpener in the game behind Aroldis Chapman. Even if he slips and he becomes just a lefty specialist down the line, his highest annual salary during the life of this deal is $6.5M in both 2017 and 2018. That’s just about Boone Logan money.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Because he took such a big discount, Perkins’ extension doesn’t mean anything for Robertson. Robertson will make more this season ($5.125M) as a third year arbitration-eligible setup man than Perkins will as an All-Star closer both this year ($4.025M) and next ($4.65M). Perkins would have been a free agent this past offseason had he not signed his previous extension, and I’m guessing he would have gotten three or four years at $10-12M annually on the open market, even at age 31. Basically double his extension. The Twins did it because it was simply too good to pass up.

Chris asks: When will we know if the Yankees are going to get Tommy Kahnle back via the Rule 5 Draft process? I am hopeful that we will get him back, as he would seem to be a strong asset to have.

There is no set date for Rule 5 Draft players, they can be returned at any point between now (really the first day of Spring Training) and the final game of the regular season. I wrote our Rockies season preview at CBS (shameless plug) and their bullpen is pretty stacked. There’s no room for Kahnle unless someone else gets hurt or traded. He’s thrown 6.1 good innings this spring but nothing that leads you to believe he’s forcing his way into the team’s plans. If Kahnle doesn’t make the Rockies, he’ll have to clear waivers before being offered back to the Yankees. I’m not sure he’ll ever be anything more than an up-and-down arm without a big improvement in his command.

Mickey asks: Assuming things play out with Michael Pineda in the fifth spot and Vidal Nuno stretched out in AAA as the sixth starter, how many times could he be called up without passing through waivers this season and who would/could be sent down to accommodate such a move?

As many times as the team wants. Minor league options really refer to option years. Players get three of them (sometimes four for weird reasons), meaning they go back and forth between MLB and the minors in three different seasons without having to pass through waivers. The Yankees burned one of Nuno’s options last season but can still send him (or any of the other fifth starter candidates for that matter, they have at least one option left) up and down as much as they want in 2014. I suspect that last open bullpen spot will be a revolving door this year. It always is.

Bill asks: Is Francisco Cervelli more valuable to the team being their backup catcher to start the season, or as trade-bait for an upgrade elsewhere?

I think he’s more valuable to the Yankees. A week or two ago when we heard teams are scouting him, we also heard the likely return would be another out of options player. Nothing great. They won’t be able to flip him for Derek Jeter‘s long-term replacement at shortstop or anything. Cervelli has hit this spring and he hit last year before getting hurt. With his trade value down, I think you take him into the season and see what happens. His trade value couldn’t drop much further, but if the bat is legit, it could go up quite a bit. Unless someone blows the team away with an offer (Chris Owings? Please? Maybe?), I’d hang onto Frankie.

(NY Times)
(NY Times)

Stephen asks: I noticed in your latest post on Jorge Mateo you mentioned he is an 80 runner on the 20-80 scale (that dude must be fast!). Is this common? Are there any (recent or not) Yankee prospects that rank 80 out of 80 on any tools? Was Randy Johnson’s slider an 80? Pedro Martinez’s change up? Etc?

There are a bunch of good primers on the 20-80 scouting scale out there, but here’s a good one from Prospect Insider. Long story short: 20 is terrible, 80 is elite, and 50 is average. Sometimes you’ll see half-grades like a 55 or 75 of whatever. 80s are very rare though and are not thrown around all that often.

Baseball America started including 20-80 grades for individual tools in their Prospect Handbook back in 2011, but for each organization’s top prospect only. Here are all the 80s:

  • 2014: Rockies RHP Jonathan Gray’s fastball, Twins OF Byron Buxton’s speed and defense, Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito’s fastball
  • 2013: Reds OF Billy Hamilton’s speed, Twins 3B Miguel Sano’s power, Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole’s fastball
  • 2012: Angels OF Mike Trout’s speed, Giants OF Gary Brown’s speed, Cole’s fastball
  • 2011: Reds LHP Aroldis Chapman’s fastball, Nationals OF Bryce Harper’s power and arm, Trout’s speed

The Yankees drafted both Gray (2011 tenth round) and Cole (2008 first round) but did not sign them, in case you forgot. /sobs

Anyway, that’s it. Fourteen 80 tools in four years worth of top prospects. Five tools per prospect and 30 prospects per year gives us 600 tools total, meaning 2.3% graded out at 80s. Sounds about right. Like I said, 80s are rare and saved for the truly elite. Also, I think it’s interesting that ten of those 14 tools above are speed or fastball, things that can be quantified with a stop watch and radar gun. Saying someone has an 80 hit tool or 80 changeup is much more subjective.

I can’t think of any recent Yankees farmhand with an 80 tool, except for Mateo, I guess. Baseball America had Jesus Montero with both 70 power and 70 hit in 2011, which is pretty close. Brett Gardner is much closer to 65-70 speed than 80. As for big leaguers, I think both Mariano Rivera and Greg Maddux had 80 command, though I am no scout. Barry Bonds had 80 power, Tony Gwynn had an 80 hit tool, Pedro’s changeup was probably an 80, ditto Randy Johnson’s slider. I remember reading a Keith Law post (or maybe it was one of his chats, I forget) saying Justin Verlander had an 80 fastball and 80 curveball during his peak.

I don’t believe there’s an 80 tool on the Yankees right now. Ichiro Suzuki used to be an 80 hitter, no doubt about that. Jacoby Ellsbury is more of a 70 runner than a true 80. Maybe Brian McCann‘s pitch-framing is an 80? He’s excellent at it according to the various metrics, but those are still works in progress.

Frank asks: I see Bryan Mitchell is on the Scranton AAA roster. Seems somewhat surprising, so is he closer to the show than we were led to believe? Is it true that his “new” cutter has possibly propelled him to the top of the pitching prospect class?

I gotten a few questions like this. Don’t read anything into the level a player is assigned when he’s cut from big league camp. That’s only their Spring Training work group. They can be assigned to different levels before the start of the season and most of them well. Mitchell pitched well in camp and he does indeed have a new cutter, but he made only three starts at Double-A Trenton last season. That’s where he’ll head for the start of 2014.

(Norm Hall/Getty)
(Norm Hall/Getty)

Eric asks: Mason Williams for Wilmer Flores?

I think both teams would say no, actually. The Mets need infielders and Flores is their top MLB-ready youngster — they have him working out at short this spring, something he hasn’t done since 2011 — so I’m not sure they would give him up for a Double-A outfielder coming off a bad season, even if said outfielder’s ceiling is high. I think the Yankees would say no because it’s an underwhelming return for a guy who was arguably their top prospect 12 months ago. I’m skeptical of Flores because he spent parts of six seasons trying to get out of Single-A, and it wasn’t until he got to ultra-hitter friendly Triple-A Last Vegas last summer that he re-established himself as a prospect. Trading an outfield prospect for a young infielder makes sense, but I don’t think Flores would be the guy to target.

Jack asks: I don’t understand why Pineda is considered to have more “upside” than David Phelps inasmuch as at this point Phelps’ fastball is probably a couple ticks higher and his control is markedly better. While Pineda supposed has a better breaking pitch does that one factor offset Phelps’ advantages in velocity and control? At best/worst, their upsides are probably similar.

I disagree that Phelps’ fastball is a couple ticks higher — it definitely isn’t based on this spring alone — and that his control is better. What separated Pineda from most young pitchers was his ability to pound the zone and his throw strikes, something he’s done this spring following shoulder surgery. Their minor league walk rates are identical (2.1 vs. 2.2 BB/9) and Pineda has the advantage at the MLB level (2.9 vs. 3.5 BB/9), for what it’s worth. Pineda has more upside because he’s 28 months younger and because his slider is far better than anything Phelps throws. The shoulder injury might have knocked Pineda’s ultimate ceiling down a notch or three, but Phelps pretty much is what he is. That’s not to say he’s bad, just that he might not be anything more than a back-end arm. Just watch the two, the difference in upside is obvious. You can really dream on Pineda.

3/20 Camp Notes: Rotation, Ryan, Ellsbury
2014 Season Preview: Defensive Wizards
  • @rational_sports

    The final problem with Rollins is that he has said multiple times that he does not want to be traded. If the Yankees are going to give up assets for Rollins in addition to paying him $11 million (though I’m guessing Phillies would pay a portion), they might as well just sign Stephen Drew.

    • Mister D

      ESPN (I think) article points out he’s less than 100 hits from the Phillies all-time record, so he’s sticking around atleast through that.

    • ALZ

      Rollins would probably still insist on leading off as he does in Philly. I don’t like the guy and I really don’t want him. Shef was actually still really good, Rollins is just delusional into thinking he is a much better player than he actually is.

  • Dan

    With Pineda, if his fastball continues to tick up (and the signs so far are encouraging), he really starts to look like he could still have a number 1/2 SP ceiling. Phelps’ best case is a number 4 SP. Which is definitely still valuable.

  • Mister D

    Mark Teixeira’s wife is an 80 cuteness.

  • Dropped Third

    Always loved watching Rollins play and would love to have him on the yanks. Maybe a deal like Ichiro and warren for Rollins with Philly keeping 4 million a year will work?

    • Mister D

      You need to watch current Rollins. He’s not former Rollins.

      • ALZ

        He still thinks he is the best player on the Phillies.

        • Dropped Third

          He would be the best middle IF on the Yankees.

          • Mr. Roth

            The best at being an egotistical asshole.

  • OB/GYN Kenobi

    Just say NO to Rollins.

  • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

    Heh. I graded Ells as a 70 Speed tool last week, so glad we agree ;)

  • The Other Matt

    With Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury locked up for the foreseeable future, along with Slade Heathcott seeming to be further along at this point, does Mason Williams ever make it to the big leagues with the Yankees? Thats a pretty interesting question.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Injuries? Set-backs? Guys who just flame out? You can’t predict baseball, Suzyn…

    • Mandy Stankiewicz

      POssibly, but Brett Gardner is signed to a very tradable contract without any NTC

    • pat

      Slade is faaaaaaaaaaaaaar from a sure thing. Dude hasn’t even played an injury free season yet.

      • LK

        Yeah, if anything I’d say Williams is more likely to eventually make the majors than Heathcott.

        • Ed

          I’d say Heathcott is more likely to make it to the majors. Heathcott’s probably going to AAA this year while Williams likely headed to AA. The AAA guy already on the 40 man roster is a much, much safer bet than the AA guy not on the roster. If nothing else, Heathcott is probably getting a September call up if he’s healthy (yeah, that’s a big if).

          That said, Williams is the safer bet for having a long career.

      • The Other Matt

        Not say anything he is a sure thing. Neither one is in my opinion, but thats the beauty of being a prospect. For all the potential a prospect possesses, is equally matched by the uncertainty of what they may or may not become. My whole thought process is: Heathcott’s struggles are more injury-related, and Williams really just struggled for the large majority of last year. With that being said, I do hope that both have a successful season this year.

  • TopChuckie

    How about Zach Walters as a trade target? He’s pissed he’s not going to make the big league club after his great spring and WAS has plenty of other MI options, plus Walters can play 3B. Cervelli is probably more attractive than Lobaton, and WAS has Storen and other pitchers the Yanks could use to make a package.

  • Cheval Anonyme

    “Barry Bonds had 80 power”. Actually, I think Barry managed to crank that up to 90. :)

    • Dalek Jeter

      No, but see, it goes up to 11!

      • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

        How much more black can it be? None. None more black.

        • W.B. Mason Williams

          “It’s like space without the stars.”

          “That’s beautiful!”

  • jjyank

    Are we sure that last question wasn’t posed by Eddard? Seriously. Not sure how someone can think Phelps has higher upside than Pineda.

    • The Great Gonzo

      I swear on my children’s lives I only clicked the comments button to make this EXACT SAME COMMENT.

      #JackisEddard #FinkleisEinhorn

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Eddard would have tied in Nova in some way.

    • BFDeal

      Maybe Jack is secretly from Lookout Landing?

  • Dalek Jeter

    As for the first part of the last question (right now Phelps’ fastball is a few ticks better than Pineda’s) I watched the game last night and Phelps was sitting anywhere from 88 to MAYBE 1 or 2 92’s. Pineda was sitting at 92/93 and getting it up to 94 at times on Tuesday.

    • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

      I wish. He was sitting 90 and 91 here and there, got it up to 93 a few times and then hit 94 once IIRC.

  • The Other Matt


  • Bronze Bomber

    Brett Gardner is an 80 speed tool. That’s how he was graded when he was a prospect.

    • Lukaszek

      His base stealing abilities were stolen by fairies after the first half of 2010

      • Bronze Bomber

        That’s true unfortunately. However the speed tool is supposed to be based off of home to first time and 60 yard dash time, not number of stolen bases. Speed impacts the game in a lot more ways than base-stealing- beating out ground balls, going first to third, range in the field.

  • Dave

    Sometimes I wonder about Mike. Brett Gardner was definitely an 80 guy in speed. He was graded that as a prospect. He was actually timed as the fastest guy from home plate to first by scouts till Billy Hamilton. Come one Mike. You are slipping.

    • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

      Gardner was by most accounts a 70 Speed Tool as a minor leaguer. Mike got it right.

  • Gonzo

    I remember reading that 80 speed is sometimes more common in the lower minors than in the upper minors. Some teams draft speedsters and hope they can teach them to hit and play awesome defense. It usually doesn’t work and they never get to the upper minors.

    I remember when the Yankees drafted Judd Golsan. Cash was saying he had that type of speed. I don’t think he was even able to put it into game speed, but guys like that are drafted because they are fast as heck all the time. I bet there are a lot of Judd Golsan types with awesome speed.

  • Gonzo

    Here’s something that sounds weird. Wilmer Flores is ONLY 15 days older than Mason Williams.

    Seems like Wilmer has been around for much longer.