Yankees have internal options if they want to shakeup the offense

Update: Yanks will give Padres permission to interview Eppler for GM job
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The Yankees are averaging only 3.48 runs per game over the last calendar month. They’ve been held to two runs or less ten times in 27 games during that stretch. Even if Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann start hitting as expected, the Yankees would still be running out a lineup that includes Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, Ichiro Suzuki/Alfonso Soriano, and Kelly Johnson/Yangervis Solarte on a regular basis. That’s way too many soft spots. The Bombers need to add some thump to the lineup before the trade deadline even if McCann and Beltran show up to the park and start raking tomorrow.

The Yankees are locked into players at catcher, first base, shortstop, left field, center field, and designated hitter either by contract status or iconic status. There is nothing they can do at those positions other than hope for more production, so, the only spots they can make real changes are second base, third base, and right field. The trade market has yet to develop but the Yankees do actually have some internal options if they want to shake things up. They aren’t future stars or the sexiest names, but they might be upgrades. Here are those internal options with their 2014 PECOTA projections because why not? No one knows what to expect from them at the MLB level and this gives us a point of reference.

Pirela in winter ball. (v)
Pirela in winter ball. (zonadeportiva.net)

UTIL Jose Pirela (PECOTA: .254/.307/.394)
The 24-year-old Pirela has been in the farm system so long that he became a six-year minor league free agent this past winter. The Yankees re-signed him and he is now hitting .320/.361/.466 (130 wRC+) with seven homers and ten steals in 304 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton, his first extended stint at the level after spending most of 2011-13 with Double-A Trenton. He hit .281/.355/.430 (~120 wRC+) with Trenton while repeating the level from 2012-13.

Pirela is a classic stats over scouting report guy. He didn’t hit much in the lower minors but broke out during the 2012 season (123 wRC+). It seemed fishy at the time because he was repeating the level, but he has continued to hit this summer at Triple-A, where he has only five games of prior experience. Pirela has always had an interesting enough bat but he is a poor defender. Eduardo Nunez bad. Well, maybe not that bad, but bad. He moved off shortstop for good in 2012 and has spent most of his time at second base and left field since.

After starting the season as the RailRiders’ everyday second baseman, Pirela has spent just about this entire month in left field while mixing in the occasional start at first base, a position he had never played before this year. (The move off second was prompted by Rob Refsnyder‘s arrival.) Unless the Yankees are going to stick Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury in right field — Gardner played one game there earlier this season and it was ugly — Pirela only fits at second base. Either that or move him to right for the first time in his life.

2B Rob Refsnyder (PECOTA: .235/.319/.344)
I’ve written about Refsnyder on more than one occasion this season, so I’m going to keep this short. The 23-year-old has hit .292/.404/.458 (145 wRC+) in his first 14 Triple-A games after tearing the cover off the ball at Double-A and really his entire pro career before that. Refsnyder might not be the team’s best hope for a long-term Robinson Cano replacement (Gosuke Katoh and Angelo Gumbs are among those in the system with higher ceilings), but he is the closest to the show and will get the first crack at the job. His defense is the issue; Refsnyder still needs to improve at second after playing the outfield in college.

UTIL Zelous Wheeler (PECOTA: .245/.316/.390)
The Yankees signed the 27-year-old Wheeler as a minor league free agent over the winter, mostly because they had a need at third base and he has a ton of experience there. Plus it didn’t hurt that he put up decent numbers at the Double-A and Triple-A levels the last few seasons (~106 wRC+). Bring him to Spring Training then see what happens in Triple-A type of deal.

Wheeler. (AP)
Wheeler. (AP)

Wheeler has put up an impressive .308/.365/.469 (134 wRC+) batting line with six homers in 59 games with Triple-A Scranton while playing all over the field — he’s played at least ten games each at third base, shortstop, and right field. He’s also spent time at second base throughout the years. Wheeler was never a top prospect — he failed to crack Baseball America’s top 30 lists in some pretty bad Brewers’ systems a few years ago, for what it’s worth — but he’s versatile and he’s hitting well at the highest level of the minors. That could be enough to get him a call-up given the current state of the roster.

OF Zoilo Almonte (PECOTA: .252/.300/.419)
Almonte, 25, has had two cups of coffee with the Yankees since last year and they haven’t been particularly impressive (50 wRC+), but he continues to hit at Triple-A, putting up a .268/.314/.455 (111 wRC+) line with ten homers in 223 plate appearances this year. Zoilo absolutely can not hit lefties (.394 OPS vs. LHP at Triple-A this year) despite being a switch-hitter, so his only value comes as the left-handed half of a right field platoon. The Yankees already have Ichiro doing on okay job in that role, but Ichiro hits lefties better than righties and Almonte could give them more power from the position.

IF Scott Sizemore (PECOTA: .245/.330/.392)
Like Almonte, the 29-year-old Sizemore has been up and down a few times this year, going 5-for-16 (.313) in pinstripes while hitting .265/.327/.387 (99 wRC+) with three homers in 226 Triple-A plate appearances. He has had to shake off the rust after missing nearly two full years with a pair of knee surgeries. Sizemore has destroyed minor league lefties in a limited sample this year (.880 OPS), which matches up with his career 122 wRC+ against MLB southpaws before the knee problems. He could serve as a right-handed platoon option at either second or third.

* * *

I don’t think the Yankees will cut ties with Roberts. He’s hit well enough over the last week or so and they seem to appreciate his long at-bats and veteran presence*. I don’t believe Soriano is safe though, and Solarte could always be optioned to Triple-A to clear another roster spot. It’s not like he’s done much with the bat over the last month anyway. Johnson has received some more playing time of late but could still go. Ichiro? Forget it. He’s on the roster until he decides to retire.

If the Yankees do decide to cut bait with Soriano, I think Pirela or Wheeler would be the best bests to replace him, preferably Pirela because he’s younger and might actually have a future with the team. Refsnyder needs more time to work on his defense and doesn’t offer the same kind of versatility. If they kick an infielder to the curb as well, I’d go with Pirela/Wheeler or Sizemore. That’s just my opinion. I’m not sure there’s a wrong answer here other than calling up Refsnyder and playing him twice a week. None of these guys are going to save the offense, but they could be an upgrade over what the team is running out there right now. The tricky part is figuring out which one will help the most.

* I resisted the “veteran presents” joke, but only this time!

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Update: Yanks will give Padres permission to interview Eppler for GM job
Minor League Injury Updates: Bailey, Jagielo, Flores, Avelino, Montgomery
  • Nick

    What about Kyle Roller? I realize that as long as Beltran is the DH he doesn’t have a position-but if Beltran is getting close to returning to the field, he makes sense. Good numbers in AAA, but I’d be a little concerned with his k-rate.

    • JR

      Unfortunately, Beltran had a little setback yesterday and won’t be playing the field anytime soon. Just DH’ing for him for a while longer, which is a problem.

      • Nick

        Dang-missed that. Of the internal options, only roller and ref give me much hope, and both are defensively challenged

        • nycsportzfan

          As long as Ref sticks at 2nd , he’ll be ok. Hes still learning the position.

  • TWTR

    I hope they make some of these moves by tomorrow. At least young guys have a chance to get better.

  • JoeyA

    Mike,
    Does Refsnyder really have a lower ceiling than Angelo Gumbs? I was very surprised to read that since they are only a year apart and Refsnyder put up better #’s at a higher level than Gumbs has.

    • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

      The older and closer to the majors players get their ceiling usually falls.

    • Preston

      It is an arguable point, to me Gumbs has completely stalled. Gumbs has more tools, but Refsnyder has actually converted his tools into on field production. The fact is that even in 2011-12 when Gumbs was showing signs of his talent he didn’t make contact like RR, didn’t hit for average like RR, he didn’t hit for power like RR, and he didn’t take walks like RR. Also, I like Katoh, but he’s on his way to repeating Low A barring serious improvement, so let’s not compare him to a guy who’s hitting at AAA.

      • nycsportzfan

        On top of that, RR has been blazing a trail since college. Were talking about WS Winning MVP in College here.

      • JoeyA

        Exactly!

        We are saying a guy who has worse perepherals at a lower level has a higher ceiling than a guy whose hit at every level he’s been promoted to and has maintained better peripherals doing it.

        Youth and tools should only go so far when comparing ceilings to a guy whose actually seeing the fruits of his ability play out at every level.

        Again, maybe i’m just nitpicking the post, but i dont understand how Gumbs has a higher ceiling than Refsnyder considering where each currently play and what they each have produced.

  • Robert

    Gumbs like Slade very injury prone there windows are closing!

  • W.B. Mason Williams

    What if we agree to give the other team an automatic out if we’re allowed to have Sizemore and Almonte stand in opposite batters’ boxes at the same time and count it as one at-bat?

    No need to thank me, Yankee Universe.

  • gbyanks

    I get that almonte hasnt hit lefites but the dude is still crushing RHP 314/348/562. Give him 100 at bats vs righties and see what happens. We need a option for right field in 2015. ether that or we go after another stopgap former good veteran. Play Ichiro vs LHP, Almonte Vs RHP and we might get real production out of Right field

    • TWTR

      I agree with this.

    • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

      He has hit .231/.271/.341 vs rhp in the majors.

      • TWTR

        In 96 PA. So what?

        • The Great Gonzo

          How many PA is the 314/348/562 vs RHP mentioned above?

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

            TWTR: Minor Leaguer Whisperer

          • gbyanks

            its 158 AB. and since I posted this comment hes brought the stat line up to .323/355/563 vs RHP.

          • gbyanks

            He’s hit .296/.355/.502 against righties in the minors since 2011

            stats from mikes article called “After 62 games, an offensive shakeup is in order”

  • FIPster Doofus

    Angelo Gumbs is still relevant? He doesn’t hit for average, power or draw walks, and he strikes out a lot.

    • nycsportzfan

      Still has Youth on his side.

    • Preston

      He’s also had injury problems, so in short, no.

  • Gerry

    After watching the Yankees since Mantle was a rookie I can only say that this group of Yankees has taken an easy game to a new level of ineptitude. Tanaka throws too many pitches. Maybe he’s too accustomed to shorter Japanese batters, but too many of his pitches are low. I also don’t know why a young man over 6 feet tall and over 240 lb. can’t be used in relief more than two innings. I saw Sphann and Marical go 16. Innings with no relief. Satchel Paige pitched three games in one day. The game today is a bore to watch,

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      No one who claims to have sat through several areas which make this look like the dynasty years can possibly claim this. Sorry.

      • Old Man Time

        He was probably in comas during 1965-1973 and 1989-1992.

        • trr

          I know I was!

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Don’t blame you a bit for it, although I want born yet for the first era of suck.

            • kenthadley

              This Yankee team is murderers row compared to the teams of 1966-1970, and forget about 89-92. These were all pretty much non competitive teams. Today’s NYY are frustrating but nothing like back then.

    • Steve (different one)

      Yes, Tanaka is clearly inept. Excellent point.

    • Paisa

      “an easy game” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • willie w

      Tanaka is awesome
      are you senile ?

    • ron

      get off my lawn!!!!

    • The Great Gonzo

      No one that is REALLY that age can REALLY troll this hard. You fail the Internets today, Not Old Man.

    • http://Riveravenueblues Marty l

      And Spahn won that 16 inning game 1-0! Didn t he also win 20 games in his 40’s. Greatest left handler ever considering length of career. Koufax was great for 5 seasons.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    This is missing a Pat Venditte reference. Then we can win the WS with probable AAAA, at best, players markedly worse than last year’s crew.

    Such a Pollyanna…..

    • Darren

      Sign me up (with either hand) for Venditte. It’s been far too long since we had a player on the Major league roster whose last name ended with itte.

      • Wolfgang’s Fault

        No changing hands in mid-sign, & wasn’t Joe Peppititte at old-timers day just this past weekend?

  • wallypip

    Soriano is awful right now, but that is what he does. He swings hard and swings at too many pitches off of the plate, so he goes in awful slumps. He’s done this before and come back and slugged over .500. Unless there is something that the Yankees see in his bat speed that indicates that 38 is where he fell off of the cliff, there is a much better chance that he will be an offensive contributor this year than a bunch of guys who are too old to be in AAA.

    Before the season started, Refsnyder was projected as a possible everyday player in 2016. if he’s ready, then there’s no reason for Roberts to hold him up, but you might want to see him play more than a handful of games before you cut ties with Roberts.

    The answer to the Yankees offensive problems is Beltran, Tex and McCann to hit like middle of the order hitters.

    • Kenny

      Teixeira is doing reasonably well. Beltran and McCann are, to this point, duds. It’s possible Beltran’s elbow is the problem, but it’s equally likely that he’s just another old-timer who has come to the end of the trail.

      I have no idea what to say about McCann. I didn’t follow his free agency at all. Did the Braves make any effort to keep him?

      • Ap

        No

        • Old Man Time

          Wrong. Obviously, they made him a qualifying offer, but they also continued negotiations to resign him until the Yankees and other teams made offers the Braves were not willing to top.

      • wallypip

        I’m optimistic on McCann. He is switching leagues and is handling a brand new pitching staff. On top of that, 3 out of 5 of his ST starters are out, so he’s had to handle a lot of new pitchers this year. That’s a lot of adjustment to make. I think once he goes through the AL rotations a few times, he will start hitting. I’m worried that Beltran’s elbow is going to be an ongoing problem.

  • Pinedamaybegreata (formerly Monterowasdinero)

    Zelous and Zoilo. Got to have those two names in the lineup. Oh Z marketing opportunities! Zelous has got that Gates Brown/Willie Horton look. Too bad he doesn’t have the power to go with it.

  • Yankee$

    So, really, there are no significant difference maker internal options to improve the team from within. Certainly no “no brainers” and so, barring a significant trade overpay now, or getting into a bidding war with one of the many other teams in the hunt at the Trade Deadline, this is it. What we see is what we got.

  • Capt. Obvious

    “Even if Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann start hitting as expected”

    Not going to happen.

    • TWTR

      I think McCann might. Beltran may not be physically able.

  • Paisa

    Zoilo should definitely be the left vs right handed side of any platoon in RF, whether it’s Alfonse or Ichiro as the other half doesn’t really matter (although I would prefer Soriano). I really don’t understand why this hasn’t happened already.

  • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

    Pirela and Sizemore are the only two I’d be interested in seeing. I’m hoping this team will be fine. If Beltran/McCann can get going that will spark the lineup way more than any other piece.

    Isn’t worth rushing RR if he truly isn’t ready. Let him learn in the minors.

    • Preston

      I don’t see Pirela or Sizemore being a meaningful upgrade over what we have in the majors. I’d like to see RR get at least 200 ABs at AAA before we consider him a big league option (and obviously positive reports on his D).

      • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

        Which is probably why they haven’t made the move yet.

  • Deddard Jeter

    They can’t keep trotting Jeter out there in that 2 hole. Roberts has got to go. Soriano/Ichiro have to go. They need some pop and Cashman just hasn’t given it to them. He doesn’t draft well and his FA signings have been busts.

    Had a chance to get a big bopper like Nelson Cruz, swing and a miss. Had a chance to keep Grandy who hit 2 HR’s against us in YS, swing and a miss. Had a chance to keep Melky, Nuney, Hughesy, Reynolds, Steve Pearce who all beat us, swing and a miss.

    • The Great Gonzo

      I miss your retirement

      • Old Man Time

        He pulled a Breddard Favre.

  • Preston

    I am slightly amused at how quickly the play the kids crowd has jumped off the Solarte bandwagon. The throw out a mediocre prospect and see what he can do strategy finally worked. The guy has one bad month and then everybody wants to send him down in favor of the new mediocre prospect who will obviously be better.

    • TWTR

      If anyone has jumped off the bandwagon, it’s Girardi given his reduced PT in June. I can’t say I blame him. When you were in the minor leagues as long as he was, and become a free agent, you are basically not a prospect anymore, let along a mediocre one.

      Having said that, I wouldn’t give up on him must yet, but it’s hard not to be skeptical of what he can be.

      • Preston

        Wheeler and Pirela have both hit minor league FA. Whatever you want to call them, they are the same as Solarte minus the two months of MLB production.

  • OldYanksFan

    Frankly, I don’t see any meaningful options there.
    The best option would be for McCann, Beltran and Sori to start hitting, and for CC and Pineda to get healthy.

    • Farewell Mo

      Exactly this.

      If the Yankees are counting on any of these guys, they’re in deep shit. Only Refsynder has the potential to be more than a bottom of the roster reserve type player and by nearly all accounts, isn’t ready for the majors yet especially defensively.

  • mywifesmellslikecheese

    Perhaps Pete O’Brien ‘s home run potential could help the Yankees during the 2nd half of the season?

  • ariel

    If that’s all that’s “ready” on the farm, we’re in trouble. I would dig deeper and move up some of the signees from the last few years (e.g., Judge) and push the envelop. As to this year, a break here and there and the post-season may be in sight since the division is weak, but certainly not with what’s at S-W and Trenton. If there is nothing forthcoming at the deadline, and zilch in the pipeline it’s 1965 et seq all over again. Tampa should wake-up and re-assess the GM and farm system overseers and make some changes….George certainly would be doing it based on the post-09 travails.