Mailbag: Prospects, All-Stars, Castro, Samardzija

Yankees take series with 14-5 blowout win over Red Sox
4/25-4/27 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels

Got a dozen questions for you this week, including a bunch about prospects. We’re starting to get an overwhelming amount of questions each week — I had over 50 marked for consideration this week — and I’m trying to answer as many as I can each Friday. Don’t take it personally if yours is not included. Keep sending them in.

Aaron Judge and Michael O'Neill. (Moultrie News)
Aaron Judge and Michael O’Neill. O’Neill is 6-foot-1. (Moultrie News)

Brendan asks: If some of these prospects stay hot (Aaron Judge), when is the earliest we could expect a call up?

Judge is the one guy who I think will get moved up sooner rather than later. The Yankees said they started him with Low-A Charleston because he didn’t play at all after signing last year and they wanted to take it slow, but now that he’s showing no rust and is raking, a quick move up to High-A Tampa is in order. As for other everyone else, I think we’re still a good two months or so away. The season is young and most promotions don’t come until midseason, after each league’s All-Star Game.

Toki asks: Now that Dante Bichette Jr. is hitting (SSS), who has the higher ceiling among Bichette and Eric Jagielo?

Jagielo, no doubt. It would still be Jagielo for me even if Bichette had hit well these last two years. I have less questions about Jagielo’s all-around offensive game as well as his defense. Maybe Bichette will have a higher offensive peak if it all works out, but I think Jagielo projects to be the better all-around player and it really isn’t all that close. Bichette’s been great this year, but three weeks do not erase the last two years.

Upstate Yanks asks: When are we going to see Mark Montgomery come up? Could be a future late-inning guy no?

Probably in the second half and yes. I actually think I ranked him too high in my Preseason Top 30Danny Burawa jumped him on the depth chart before getting hurt — and I’m not quite as bullish as I was last year at this time. The slider still misses bats though, and has long as that continues to happen, he’ll project to be a late-inning arm.

Glenn asks: I know he’s only been in the system a short time but it always seems like Caleb Smith is putting up nice numbers. Is there potential in him for the future?

Oh yes, absolutely. Smith might be the best sleeper in the organization right now. The Yankees grabbed him out of Sam Houston State with their 14th round pick last year, gave him $100k, and he has a 1.78 ERA (~2.24 FIP) with a 26.7% strikeout rate in 65.2 pro innings. That was before yesterday’s 13-strikeout performance. The walks are a bit high (9.2%) but Smith is a big lefty (listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs.) with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and two legit offspeed pitches (low-80s slider and changeup). Is he the next Randy Johnson? No, but there’s legit MLB potential there.

Dan asks: Peter O’Brien is hitting the cover off the ball, what are the chances he gets called up to AA this year? Since he seems to be completely blocked at C, do you see the Yankees moving his position? Same questions for Gary Sanchez: if his bat can make an impact in the next couple of years, is there any chance they try him out at a different position, because he’s blocked by McCann? Do you see him being promoted to AAA this year?

O'Brien. (Presswire)
O’Brien. (Presswire)

O’Brien to Double-A will definitely happen at some point. That will be one of the midseason promotions I mentioned earlier. He’ll eventually move off catcher because he’s a pretty bad catcher, not because he’s blocked. O’Brien worked out at third base last year but that didn’t work. They’re giving right field a try early this year. I assume first base is next. As for Gary Sanchez, he should stay behind the plate as long as possible regardless of Brian McCann and whoever else is ahead of him on the depth chart. He’s way more valuable there. Let him develop behind the plate and worry about where he fits into the MLB roster when the time comes. If nothing else, staying behind the plate makes him more attractive to other teams in trades. As for the promotion to Triple-A Scranton, yeah I think that will happen later this summer.

Jack asks: Among the following 4: a) would you rank the most likely (if any) to succeed as a major league regular, and b) has the ability to stick at 3B at the majors: Jagielo, DBJ, Andujar, Austin.

To answer the first question, I’d rank them Jagielo, Tyler Austin, Miguel Andujar, and Bichette. I had Austin over Jagielo in my Preseason Top 30 but they were right next too each other (almost interchangeable) and Austin has dealt with some injury problems in recent weeks. As for sticking at third base, I’d have them Jagielo, Andujar, Austin, and Bichette. I’m not married to the order of the last two and I wouldn’t argue Bichette over Austin. Jagielo and Andujar are legit third baseman. The other guys are maybes at the position who are better off elsewhere.

Paul asks: Too early, I know, but so far the only Yankees worthy of All-Star berths are Masahiro Tanaka and maybe Jacoby Ellsbury, right? Nobody else is standing out to me. Who do you think the fans will vote for? Derek Jeter seems like a good shot considering he’s Jeter and has avoided falling on his face. Anyone else?

I think Jeter will win the fan vote by a mile at shortstop. Who will take votes from him? Jose Reyes? That’s the only other reasonable candidate and he’s hurt all the time. The current AL shortstop landscape is a wasteland. Jeter has hit well this year and I think he’ll go to the All-Star Game. Tanaka and Ellsbury are both worthy right now — Ellsbury’s not a maybe for me, he’s been too good to be on the bubble — and I think Carlos Beltran will get some consideration, though there are always a ton of qualified outfielders. McCann also has a shot, especially if his recent offensive surge is a sign he’s getting back to being himself at the plate. The AL catching crop is weak, though Jason Castro and Matt Wieters are legitimate alternatives.

Matt asks: Could the Yankees look to make a deal with the Cubs for Starlin Castro, being that he had sort of a rocky season last year with the organization, and the presence of their prospect Javier Baez (though he is struggling now) seemingly on the way? Obviously depending on how he performs, what do you think it would take to get a deal done for Castro at the end of the season?

Yes, I think so. Obviously it depends how he rebounds from that disaster last year. Castro isn’t a shortstop — I don’t know what he is, really. Maybe a second baseman? — and he’s a hacker at the plate, but he has some power and speed. He also just turned 24, so he’s still very young with the potential for improvement. The contract is scary if you don’t think he’ll rebound (owed $49M through 2019), but that’s the Cubs’ problem. I’m interested but I want to see what happens this year. There haven’t been many players like Castro traded over the years, so figuring out what it would take to get him is mighty tough. How do you value him? As a future star or just an okay infielder?

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Samardzija. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

New Guy asks: Now that Ivan Nova is out for a while, what would it take to make Jeff Samardzija a Yankee? I’ve always liked him and he is always liked to trade rumors. Are you interested?

I was about a year ago, but Samardzija didn’t improve much (if at all) last season and this year is more of the same. His strikeout rate this year is actually way, way down, but it is still very early. Samardzija strikes me as a classic “whole is less than the sum of the parts” guy, like Edwin Jackson and A.J. Burnett. The stuff says he should be an ace and you keep waiting for him to turn into an ace, but he leaves you waiting and waiting. All while he’ll show enough flashes to keep you interested. Samardzija is affordable ($5.345M in 2014, free agent after 2015) and he’s a fine mid-rotation horse, but he’s already 29 and I’m not sure how much longer you can wait for him to live up to the potential. The Cubs are marketing him as an ace and he just isn’t that.

Josh asks: You just did a piece of the Yanks trying to make a move for Cliff Lee. What do you think about Kyle Kendrick. Younger, and would come a lot cheaper. Hasn’t had a great start, but maybe they could buy low.

I’m not a fan of Kendrick. He’s a solid back of the rotation type who limits walks and gets grounders, but he is surprisingly expensive ($7.675M this year) and I’m not sure an upper-80s sinker/low-80s changeup righty is someone I trust in the AL East. I’d rather give David Phelps a try before giving up prospects for Kendrick. Lee is (still) an elite pitcher and I’m not a fan of cutting corners when it comes to those guys. Play the price and add a true difference maker. No one gets upset over traded prospects in October.

Joe asks: Watching the Yankees so far this season, they are definitely going 1st to 3rd and 2nd to home A LOT more than previous years. Was wondering if you could do a comparison between this year and previous years.

Sure can. These numbers do not include last night’s game (couldn’t wait around for Baseball Reference to update overnight), but here are the team’s first-to-third numbers (small sample size, yadda yadda yadda):

1st to 3rd Opps. 1st to 3rds 1st to 3rd % Overall XB%
2014 40 16 40% 48%
2013 275 65 24% 35%
2012 280 78 28% 37%
2011 287 71 25% 38%
2010 328 87 27% 38%

Joe is correct, the Yankees have absolutely been going first-to-third more often this season. They’ve been taking the extra-base in general — score from second on a single, score from first on a double, etc. — more often as well. The league average for taking the extra-base is around 40% and the Yankees were a bit below that the last few years. This year they are well above-average.

The reason for the improvement is pretty obvious. Ellsbury, Yangervis Solarte, Kelly Johnson, and Brian Roberts are quicker than the guys they replaced, and both Jeter and Beltran are very smart base-runners who make up for their lack of speed with instincts. I think their first-to-third and overall extra-base rate will come down a bit as the season progresses just because guys will start to get tired and stuff like that, but they should still be quite a bit better than the last few years. Between all the defensive shifts and better base-running, this is a new breed of Yankees baseball.

Yankees take series with 14-5 blowout win over Red Sox
4/25-4/27 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels
  • Kosmo

    In fairness to Samardzija he´s only been a SP for 2 seasons and he´s had a really bad team supporting(not) him. This season he´s off to a great start. Yanks could pursue him at the trade deadline.

    O´Brien doesn´t get alot of love but he can develop into a servicable defensive C these next 2 years or so.

    Segundin could be promoted to Scranton at mid-season. he doesn´t get alot of attention but he´s one of my sleeper prospects.

    On another note anyone think Hundley gets traded to NY?

    • Kosmo


    • Bavarian Yankee

      why would they trade for Hundley when you have JR Murphy and Romine? Cervelli will be back in some weeks too. No need to spend another 4 million + prospect(s) for another backup catcher when you already have 3 of those.

      • Kosmo

        Murphy is not ready. Romine would probably be included in the deal. Rumor has it SD wants to move Hundley and is willing to eat a portion of his contract. It would give NY an experienced backup in case McCann is DLed. Cervelli is gone until around the all-star or after.

      • jjyank

        Agreed. Don’t see the need to trade for a catcher.

        • Cool Lester Smooth

          Especially when we consider that Hundley is awful.

    • JMK

      The Shark, as Mike wrote, underwhelms in his performances despite his pitching arsenal. His K-9 this year is down considerably (6.88 when it should be around 9) though his walks are down from 3.29 to 2.29 per 9. But he’s not going to sustain a 3.4% HR/FB rate this year, and I would expect his 82.9 strand rate to drop considerably as the year goes on. So don’t get too enamored by the ERA and FIP. End of the day, he hasn’t come close to proving he’s an ace. No reason to pay that bounty.

      Re the other points: The scouting reports don’t suggest O’Brien has a chance to stay at catcher long-term. Could he improve enough to be serviceable? Sure. That would be great. He has a strong arm but his actions behind the plate are rough and his pop times aren’t very good.

      Hopefully you’re right about Segedin. He’s a really nice guy and flashes a good bat while displaying patience. Hopefully the raw power translates. He’s not very good defensively at third, though he’s improved his footwork this year from what I’ve seen. I expect he’ll be up in Scranton fairly soon since he’s already 25 and has been hitting well.

      I’m assume you mean Headley and not Hundley, because despite Cervelli’s injury, the Yankees really don’t need catchers. If you mean Headley, it depends on the price. He’s been awful so far this year and he did nothing to impress last year.

      • Kosmo

        no I meant Hundley who the Pads are willing to move. If McCann is injured who backs him up for a length of time Murphy? pads are rumored to be willing to eat contract.

        • Cool Lester Smooth

          Murphy is a better hitter than Hundley.

      • Kosmo

        I wouldn´t give up the farm for the “Shark“. I don´t think he´s a front end of a rotation SP but would fit in nicely as a #4. He´ll be moved to a contending team by August 1st.

  • CountryClub

    I sure hope one of these high ceiling hitting prospects actually fulfills their promise.

    I don’t care which one either. I just want to see another young, home grown All Star on the team.

  • Yan Solo

    Samardzija as a replacement for Nova seems to be…Nova?! All the talent in the world, can’t seem to put it altogether and move to the next level. Not sure that’s the guy we want to trade prospects for if you’re not going to fill Nova’s position from within the organization. Does it mean cashing in our top prospects for a proven, still really good, but also aging Cliff Lee? That I’m not 100% sold on either. But, not sold on Samardzija as the right direction to replace Nova with essentially Nova. I’m only putting this out there because that’s how I interpreted Mike’s answer to the question.

  • Aims

    “no one cares about traded prospects in october”

    Biggest lie on this site. If there is a prospect, there are people hugging him.

  • Prussian General Jordan Brink

    Boy, would it be fun to have Judge, Jagielo, Sanchez & Refsnyder on tje 2016 lineup.

    Fingers, toes and eyes crossed.

    • Bavarian Yankee

      I’d be happy to just have one of those guys on the 25-man by 2016. Sanchez is the safest bet obviously but we know that players can get injured, traded, whatever.

  • John Duci

    The shark is an ace and he would be the second best pitcher on the yanks behind only Tanaka

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      “The shark is an ace”

      Nope, he isn’t.

      “he would be the second best pitcher on the yanks behind only Tanaka”


      • Dalek Jeter

        Who is “The Shark?” Is that a nickname for Samardzija? Because if that’s the case, Kuroda and Pinetareda I mean Pineda would like words.

    • D$1184

      Why do they call him the shark?

  • JCK

    what would it take to make Jeff Samardzija a Yankee?

    A haircut.

  • John C

    Quietly, Matt Tracy is 3-0 at AA going for his 4th win tonight. Another under the radar guy is Ben Gamel, also off to a good start at Trenton. Not a guy with alot of power, but has a nice approach and short compact swing. Seems to know aht he’s doing up at the plate

  • Dalek Jeter

    “No one cares about trading prospects in October.” I know that was in relation to the Lee question…but if they were to give up legit prospects (Judge, Williams, Sanchez, Jageilo) for him I’d be pretty steamed unless he was a legit ace.

    • Dalek Jeter

      Dur…him was clearly meant to mean Samardzija and I forgot to inlcude his name. The post should read:

      “No one cares about trading prospects in October.” I know that was in relation to the Lee question and not Samardzija…but if they were to give up legit prospects for him I’d be pretty steamed unless he was a legit ace.

      Lee is a legit ace and I would probably trade at least 1, if not two of the guys I mentioned for him in a heart beat.

  • CashmanNinja

    1.) I am absolutely loving Aaron Judge so far. The power hasn’t really come around yet, but it will eventually. I think that he’s done as well as we could have hoped for so far and I hope he gets a promotion ASAP.

    2.) The stats for the Yankees taking the extra base is better than I thought. From the naked eye you could tell that they were much better than in recent years, but I didn’t realize it was that high. I hope they can sustain it for the rest of the year because it really is making a difference. The team just looks…faster…than in the past, even with older players.