Tyler Austin, Greg Bird, and the future of first base

Thoughts following Tuesday's rainout
Update: Tanaka throws ten fastballs as part of throwing program
Austin. (New York Daily News)
Austin. (New York Daily News)

First base is a weird position. Teams expect huge offensive production from first base and it’s at the bottom of the defensive spectrum despite being involved in more total plays than any position other than pitcher and catcher. You can’t just stick anyone there either. We’ve seen enough of that firsthand this year. You need offense from first but defense isn’t a huge deal, except for all those times the first baseman handles the ball.

You also rarely hear people talk about a team’s “first baseman of the future” too. There’s plenty of “this guy will be our shortstop for the next ten years,” but first base? Nope. The history of first base prospects is pretty awful as well. Baseball America ranked 37 full-time first baseman among their top 100 prospects from 1995-2005 and only five became bonafide stars: Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Todd Helton, Paul Konerko, and David Ortiz, who made his name at DH.

More recent elite first base prospects like Eric Hosmer and Justin Smoak have been disappointments. Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo are the best of the top first base prospect crop since Fielder while others like Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt were never top prospects. It has historically been a tough position to project and I think that’s because it’s so offense-focused. Hitting is generally considered to be tougher to scout and evaluate than pitching because there is no “textbook” swing. A fastball is a fastball and a slider is a slider. But a swing? Good luck cracking that code.

Anyway, the Yankees are at a point now where the future of first base in the Bronx is up in the air. Mark Teixeira is under contract for another two seasons but he is becoming more and more injury prone with each passing year. His playing time at first base will only go down through injuries and time spent at DH in an effort to keep him healthy. The Yankees have gotten by (barely) with fill-in first basemen during Teixeira’s injuries this season, though I hope that isn’t the plan going forward. To just wing it whenever Teixeira gets hurt.

The Yankees currently have two first base prospect at Double-A Trenton … well, one first base and one kinda sorta first base prospect. The true first base prospect is Greg Bird, who was just promoted and has gone 9-for-30 (.300) with three doubles and three homers during his first week with the Thunder. He had a monster 2013 season (170 wRC+) with Low-A Charleston and offers the kind of left-handed power and patience the Yankees crave. Bird is a recently converted catcher though, so his defense at first can be generously described as a work in progress.

The kinda sorta first base prospect is Tyler Austin, another ex-catcher who has bounced from third to first to right field over the years. He’s spent most of this year playing right in deference to Peter O’Brien and now to Bird. Austin had an outstanding 2012 campaign (~160 wRC+) before a wrist injury marred his 2013 season (103 wRC+). The wrist problem lingered into this season and caused him to miss the start of the year, and after a few slow weeks, he’s hit .319/.362/.518 with six homers since July 1st. It appears 2012 Austin is starting to return as he gets further away from the wrist injury.

Bird. (Newsday)
Bird. (Newsday)

Neither Bird nor Austin is a top first base prospect like Hosmer or Fielder — Austin did rank 77th on Baseball America’s top 100 in 2013 — though they are solid prospects expected to be average or better contributors at the MLB level, assuming things work out. League average is valuable, especially when the players are making close to the league minimum in their pre-arbitration years. Austin in particular fits the roster very well as a right-handed hitter with some power who can play both right and first. Bird, as a pure first baseman, is a less perfect fit.

It’s clear at this point the Yankees will need some kind of viable backup for Teixeira going forward just because he gets hurt all the time. It’s not necessarily the 15-day DL stuff either. He’s shown a knack for those 6-7 day injuries, the ones that are short enough to avoid the DL but long enough to force the team to play a man short. The problem is that “backup first baseman” really isn’t a position anymore. No team carries a player specifically for that. They tend to carry, well, someone like Austin, who can play first in addition to the corner outfield, third base, or even catch. Think Mike Carp or Steve Pearce or Scott Van Slyke.

The assumption has been that Brian McCann will eventually have to move to first base, though continues to rate very well defensively in terms of pitching framing, throwing out runners, and blocking balls in the dirt. His bat has been a huge disappointment this season but there is no reason to move him out from behind the plate yet. Since Austin is further along in his development thank Bird and figures to start next season at Triple-A Scranton, he’ll be in position to help the Yankees as soon as next season, perhaps getting his opportunity when Teixeira gets hurt. Bird is still a year or two away and his lack of flexibility hurts his chances. If Austin hits, the Yankees will have some different ways to get him into the lineup. They can’t really do that with Bird.

Until his contract is off the books, Teixeira will be New York’s primary first baseman and that’s just the way it’s going to be. There is no reason to think they’ll bench him or relegate him to DH duty on a regular basis. It would be a drastic change from the way they’ve done business for the last, I dunno, 15-20 years. Teixeira’s injuries will give Austin and later Bird a chance to get into the big league lineup — assuming they’re worth calling up, of course — though staying there is the hard part. The Yankees have had four primary first baseman over the last 30 years and they usually go for stars at the position. The opportunity will come for both Austin and Bird in the next two years, but being a good but not great prospect with the Yankees is a not ideal. They may only be stopgaps until the next big name comes along.

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Thoughts following Tuesday's rainout
Update: Tanaka throws ten fastballs as part of throwing program
  • TWTR

    As unreliable as Tex is in terms of being fit to play, when they have a credible replacement, he should be put in place at 1B, irrespective of Tex’s contract because it is in the best interests of the franchise.

  • JoeyA

    How has austin’s D ranked over the years in RF?
    I know he hasnt had many reps at 1B, but I’ve never heard anything regarding his ability to play the field, which telkls me he’s basically an avergae fielder?

  • Drew

    One can dream of having a lineup of with Sanchez Bird Refsnyder Jageilo Judge Austin in it. Will never happen but it seems like the farm system has been having a very good year thus far. Reading DOTF has helped me get through some of the mukkier moments from the big league club.

  • Robert

    I ve gone to at least 10 Trenton games a year. Tyler Austin’s bat over the last 2 months has looked Major League. Greg Bird I have seen in Charleston and last week in Trenton. His glove is above average and he has a great stroke and good eye at the plate.All round Bird will be a better 1B.

  • ACX

    I feel like it is the same story with guys who could be huge stars one day, but the Yankees look down on for one reason or another. A player SHOULD focus on one position. This article makes it sound like Bird is going to be harmed because he can only play 1B. Don’t we WANT players who play a position and master it to the best of their abilities?

    Instead they have Austin all over the place, moved Rensnyder between 2B (where he will play) and RF, (where he used to play).

    Then they throw players away because they just arent good enough at any one position.

    Here’s a thought…..
    1. Move Austin to 3B and let him play there (since we need a 3B)
    2. Already realized how ridiculous it was to move Refs to RF instead of getting as much time at 2B as possible.
    3. Let Bird continue to grow at 1B so when Tex is gone, he is ready to step in as the everyday 1B.

    Let the cheaper veterans be the guys who play the utility roles.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      The Yankees aren’t the only team in baseball emphasizing some positional versatility, if you can even call this doing that.

      • ACX

        Doesn’t mean its right and i am sorry, but those teams have probably done a better job developing players over the last 15 years….

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I was thinking of the Bridgeport Bluefish, actually.

    • RetroRob

      Happens all the time with all teams. Posada was a 2B’man. Cano a SS. Tex was originally a 3B’man, and not all that good defensively. Players get shifted in the minors toward a position they can handle best. Add in the positive versatility that teams needs nowadays, so a player like Austin who could play OF and 1B could have more value. That was a good thing about Swisher. If the 1B’man went down, he could do a more than credible job at first.

  • JimmyEatsHotDogs

    Yankees inability to develop young players is a ongoing concern, trying to replace Teixeira will be difficult. McCann as a replacement is not the answer either. Cashman and company have a real problem in this regard. Lets see RF, 1B,2B,SS and 3B. Enuf said.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Yet this article was about two young options who potentially would step in for him as his contract comes to an end.

    • ACX

      You can read this article and see why the Yankees are so bad at developing players in the Cashman era. Look at the few that actually had success. Cano: Played 2B. Not 2B and RF, Not 2B and 3B and CF. JUST 2B. Gardner didnt play CF, LF and 1B. Just the OF. There are the two players the yankees have fully developed since the Jeter/Posada/Bernie days…..

      Even with them, Jeter didnt play rf and ss, bernie didnt try his luck at 1B, Posada was put behind the plate and stayed there until he came up.

      • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

        Cano also played 3B and SS in the minors.
        Gardner wouldn’t really fit anywhere but OF with his abilities.

        • Too_Many_Idiots

          Or handedness.

          • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

            That too.

      • Rick

        Haha, yes. Cano was only successful because he exclusively played 2B. Same with Jeter and SS. That’s definitely it. I wonder how the hell that Ben Zobrist fellow ever made it.

        • Kevin Wrong

          Cano wasnt even that good in the minors…In fact Arizona rejected him in the Randy Johnson trade. They Chose Dioneer Navarro over Cano…

          • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

            And Rangers chose Arias over Cano as PTBNL in ARod trade, iirc.

      • Kevin Wrong

        For the Record the yankees converted Posada from 2B to catcher

      • Chip

        I would love to see little Brett Gardner play first base

  • RetroRob

    The Yankees have gone for stars at 1B, although in fairness, Mattingly was hardly a star, and Tino’s star rose in NY. Mattingly became a star in NY. He was an OF/1B in the minors without great power, sort of like Austin. I don’t say that with much seriousness because looking at Mattingly’s minor league numbers it’s quite clear the man could flat out hit and did so everywhere, with the power developing in the majors. Austin in nowhere near that level. Perhaps Austin, however, can do similar developing a little more pop as he hits the majors.

    • Bigdan

      Yes, Mattingly was a pure hitter in the minors. Virtually no one though thought he would develop the power that he did before he got to the majors. Even when he got there, Earl Weaver called him a glorified singles hitter. An excellent example that it is folly to try to predict a prospect’s “ceiling” in the major leagues until he actually gets to the majors and plays awhile.

  • Dos Luises

    The last time I remember a Yankee called first baseman of the future he was named Steve Balboni (Messer would hype him all the time) and all the while an under the radar Outfielder/First Baseman was quietly hitting his way up the ladder in Balboni’s prospect shadow…

    • Mayan Brickann

      Seem to remember Nick Johnson being thought of as the NYY 1B of the future maybe a decade or so ago.

      • RetroRob

        Johnson was viewed that way, but turned out to be, well, brittle.

        • Mayan Brickann

          Yep. Quite unfortunate because he was an OBP machine. Career OBP of .399 over 10 years, but he only averaged about 330 PA’s per season.

          • RetroRob

            What could have been.

        • Dos Luises

          I believe the Yanks traded Johnson prior to it becoming known he was going to be injury prone.

          • Too_Many_Idiots

            If they didn’t know, reason to be suspicious was obviously there.

            2000: Missed the entire season with a strained muscle in his right hand, suffered on a check swing in spring training.

            2001: Technically, he wasn’t on the big-league DL this year, staying healthy for all of 23 games after his Aug. 21 debut. But he was on the minor-league DL, with a strained left thumb.

            2002: Went on the DL with a strained left wrist.

            2003: On the DL with a broken bone in his right hand.

          • RetroRob

            They did. I was just commenting on why someone who was an excellent prospect never quite lived up to the hype. Of course, everyone knows that, but thought I’d throw it into the stream.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      The way my dad spoke of Balboni, you’d think he was the worst player who ever lived at the time.

      • The Folly Floater

        Balboni was like Pete O’Brien, he’d either knock it out of the park or (more likely) strike out. Didn’t have a bad career. Won the WS in ’85 with KC and had two stints with the Yanks.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Didn’t have a bad career at all. My dad would constantly yell at him, though. as a Yankee.

  • Bigdan

    I could be wrong but it seems to me since Austin has started hitting again he’s seen more time in RF. I think if he continues to hit that’s going to be his focus as a prospect. If his hitting slips again, then maybe you’ll see him moved around more.

    I think Bird is the Yanks clear top 1b prospect right now. There’s also a possibility Jagielo and Bichette get looks there as well since scouts have always questioned their gloves at 3b.

    Nothing could be finer than Austin returning to his pre-wrist type of offensive production. Lord knows the Yanks need corner OF bats in a big way. Wonder if we’ll see him in the AFL this year. Dropped out last year due to injury.

  • RetroRob

    McCann should stay behind the plate, especially as his strength right now is on the defense, pitch framing, etc. Even at his best, he didn’t quite have enough bat for first. Since there is no clear replacement for McCann at catcher (Sanchez is still a couple years off from being a fulltime MLB catcher, if ever, and Murphy will need to show more than he has this year), I wouldn’t be in too much of a rush to replace him with non-replacements.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Austin was a Top 100 prospect, pre-injury. There’s more pedigree than we think there, even though he’s been said to be a solid-but-not-high-ceiling/higher-probability guy.

    Hopefully we actually do get Austin in AAA next season. It’ll be real interesting to see what the call is if/when Tex hits the DL.

    • ACX

      I think we all know what the call will be when tex sneezes next time and ends up on the 60 day DL…… Martin Prado, Brian McCann, Francisco Cervelli, and anyone else who has no business playing first base.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        No, we don’t know that. One of those may be the first line of defense, but it doesn’t end there.

    • RetroRob

      Bingo.

  • This Year

    I know Kyle Roller is 26 and not a “prospect”, but he has been hitting all year, and with power. What do you do with him? If/when they drop out of contention, why not see what he can do at the show?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Probably too much a 40-man jam as is already without working him into the mix.

      • ACX

        And this is the other issue besides bad development. Bad 40 man roster management. We have a good replacement for Tex currently hitting in AAA (all year basically), but because of 40 man roster issues, in AAA he sits while we watch non 1B after non 1B struggle out there.

        • http://riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Roller is in no way a good replacement for Teixeira. Can’t ignore the massive holes in his swing.

          • Rick

            I nominated you for the Ice Bucket Challenge. Don’t dissapoint.

            • RetroRob

              There needs to be a variation of the ice-bucket challenge. If someone nominates you, then you get to dump the bucket on that person. My father died from ALS, so I take it seriously and have made contributions, but no ice bucket falls on me.

              • Rick

                I’m sorry to hear that about your father. I do like the twist you suggested – but it would be much more difficult, practically speaking, to get the celebrity involvement and having it go viral. I’m so happy to see how much it has increased awareness for ALS and the money it’s raised for research.

          • Chip

            Roller’s problem isn’t the bat Mike. It’s that if Tex is playing and Beltran’s DHing you don’t have a place for him and if you’re only carrying two bench guys other than your BUC you can’t just have a 1b/DH be one of those guys.

            • Chip

              Wrong Bizzaro Chip, there are tons of guys who hit like Kyle Roller in AAA and it doesn’t mean they’re going to be future MLB stars. See Duncan, Shelley

              • Chip

                Right – but the point is that you don’t know whether or not he’s going to hit at this level unless you play him at this level. That being said, it isn’t the holes in his swing that are keeping him at AAA. It is the fact that the Yankees need players who can do more than play 1b and DH on their bench right now.

                Their current bench is Ichiro, Romine and Ryan – you need a 4th OF and a guy who can back up the middle infield more than you need a DH/1b

                • Chip

                  If that were the case, Kyle Roller will be up when rosters expand in September. I highly doubt this will happen. Seriously, it’s the holes in his swing

        • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

          Not sure how good a replacement he really is. Haven’t seen him rated anywhere as a legit MLB player.

          Not that that means he can’t be.

          • RetroRob

            He’s the new Juan Miranda, or the other 1B’man that replaced Miranda from the Mexican Leagues, whose name totally escapes me right now, which says it all. People wanted to believe they could hit in the Majors and were angry the Yankees wouldn’t give them MLB jobs. They couldn’t hit MLB pitching. The Yankees knew that, other teams know that. They know that about Roller. He’s there in case a bus accident wipes out numerous other players, or to help fill out the roster so games can be played. Hey, there are worse ways to make a living!

            • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

              El Chato

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                Jorgiiiiiito Vazquez.

            • Scott

              Jorge Vazquez

              • ACX

                When exactly did Jorge Vazquez get a chance to prove he could or couldnt hit major leaguers?

                • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

                  He didn’t. That should be a pretty good hint that every team saw something seriously concerning for not a single team to give him any shot at all.

                  Certainly possible they all could have been wrong though.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I’m not a huge fan of some of the 40-man moves this team’s made in recent years (hello, Jose Campos), but I also don’t think Kyle Roller’s necessarily the guy to push the issue.

      • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

        Not really. There are certainly some moves that can be made for this season. As for after that, it really doesn’t much matter. Either he’s good enough to be worth protecting on the 40-man roster anyways, or he’s not, and will probably be easily outrighted.

        The biggest barrier would probably be whether there are other non-40 man roster guys that they’d rather get a look at.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Your second sentence/paragraph is more along the lines of what I was thinking. I do agree with the first part. Perhaps a spot is best used on Lindgren or Webb or Refsnyder.

          • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

            Though they do have several potential roster spots to play with, especially in this hypothetical scenario where they would have already fallen out of the race. Possibilities:
            Campos, Capuano, Claiborne, Daley, Hill, Huff, Leroux, Rogers, Wheeler, Ichiro, Heathcott.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              Not a small number for sure, even if some are less likely to go there than others. It does seem like there would be room if the team decided they wanted to give him a look.

            • RetroRob

              Can they remove Campos from the 40-man after this season, or is he locked in now? His surgery is done, so I’m hoping they can activate him and then ship him off the 40 man. I don’t see any team claiming him for another year. I suspect they can’t, and for understandable reasons, but once the season ends I wonder if they can if their goal is simply to reassign him.

              • John in Forest

                He can be removed from the 40-man after the season, but other teams can claim him since he’d have to clear waivers.
                I’m not sure (and I’m hoping someone will read this and correct me if I’m wrong) but I think he could be removed from the 40-man right now — it would require promoting him to the majors roster and then placing him on the 60-day DL (which takes him off the 40-man), but he’d be paid a major league salary while on the 60-day instead of the minors salary he’s earning now.

                • Jorge Steinbrenner

                  I’d gladly risk losing him if there was a roster crunch.

                  • Chip

                    I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just 60 day him? I mean, unless he’s a top prospect you shouldn’t be messing up your current team to save a little money and a year of control down the line

                    • Rob Mayerat

                      because it starts their service clock. same reason manny wasn’t moved to the 60 day. headscratching they protected campos in the first place, but it is what it is.

      • Chip

        The 40 man jam is easy enough to clean up. Figure right now there are a couple of guys they can move to the 60 day DL (Jose Ramirez, and possibly Tanaka) and a couple of others that they can outright DFA (Leroux – though he will likely go tonight to make room for Pineda, Hill, Wheeler, Daley, Claiborne, Romine). There are some guys who will have to be added to keep them out of the Rule 5 draft (Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Danny Burawa, Nick Goody I think).

        Anyway, my point is that I think they could put Roller and Pirela on the 40 and use them as September call-ups and then deal with the resulting roster issues this winter by making a couple of 2-for-1 deals or DFAing players like Heathcott and/or Campos

        • Travis Lincoln

          Rule 5 guys will be Montgomery and Austin for sure. They will probably protect Williams, which is a mistake as he could not stick on a 40 man all year. Borderline guys like Turley, Tracy, Wooten, Burawa, Pinder, Vargas, Gamel and Nuding are eligible as well.

          • Chip

            I don’t think Turley has to be protected since he signed a new deal. I doubt they protect Montgomery. If this was a couple of years ago – yes, but he’s regressed pretty badly the last two seasons.

            Williams is interesting – I think they’ll probably protect him this year but they’ll try to deal him to clear him off the 40 after they do. They didn’t protect Burawa this past year but they may do it this coming year and Pinder too.

            Gamel doubtful which is a shame because he’s finally starting to produce.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              Has to be protected. Settled in a thread yesterday.

          • Yanks

            Not sure why Montgomery is a lock for a 40 man spot… his fastball is nothing special and he has no command. If the slider isn’t 70 grade anymore, he’s just an average reliever. Williams can play major league defense at a premier level, so even if he can’t hit a lick, he’s a stud defensively, which would help him a ton.

    • ACX

      Answer: You trade him claiming there is no ‘position’ for him.

    • Kenneth Celelli

      Striking out at a 27.5% clip, he is nothing more than a AAAA player

      • ACX

        I think we read too much into these numbers. Cervelli was hitting .190 in AA when they first called him up. While no Babe Ruth, he has been able to hit in the majors…..

        • Stevie Sacs

          Yeah minor league numbers don’t mean much to me. There’s like a checklist for each position and you want a guy to meet most of those. The numbers are kinda secondary.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Yay. One example.

      • Travis Lincoln

        Does the strikeout percentage matter as much if he still puts up a .395 OBP and a .547 SLG? With an AVG that hovers around .275-.300?

        • Kenneth Celelli

          Yes because the difference between AAA pitching and MLB pitching is quite large.

          • Travis Lincoln

            Granted. But until we know whether he can do it in MLB or not, how is it fair to judge him now?

            • YakaTanaka

              You can’t pass final judgement, but if you’re actually watching the games and have access to detailed stats… then you can look for signs that the success is more or less likely to continue at the MLB level. Teams aren’t always right on this and sometimes a Steve Pearce finally puts it together (though those runs are often flashes in the pan that don’t last more than a season) or some other guy just does better than anyone expected… but they have a decent track record of AAAA-designating the right guys.

              I think people are being a little harsh in completely writing Roller off. He’s got a chance. He’s forced the Yankees hand to this point and just might force it again as he figures out more advanced pitchers. He’s not that much of a prospect, though, either.

              • YakaTanaka

                Basically… if you don’t believe he’s better than what you’ve got on your roster with all available evidence, then it’s tough to give a guy a large enough sample size at MLB to see what he can really do.

                For anyone in AAA, though, they are always an injury and/or fall off a cliff away from being better than what’s on the roster. Roller would probably have to be their best alternative when Tex or Beltran of someone goes down and take advantage of that opportunity.

        • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

          If they think he can do anything like that in MLB, then no.
          If he’s only able to post good numbers despite the high K-rate because he’s facing minor league pitching, then yes, it does matter.

      • JoeyA

        Maybe someone can explain this to me, but why is Javier Baez this touted prospect when he put up 260/323/510 in AAA with a 30% (!) and 109 wRC+
        I feel like if this guy was in NYY system, all we’d be talking about is how he doesnt translate to ML because of “holes in his swing” and whatnot.

        • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

          Much younger, premium defensive position, projects better.

          • Pkyankfan69

            Lets do this… Roller for Baez… I’ll even drive Roller to the airport and throw in an HJ if that helps make that happen.

            • RetroRob

              Thank you for taking one for team.

              • dkidd

                in this case, giving one for the team

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              I’ve got the baseball bat to subdue him with ready.

        • Rick

          Maybe because he’s 5 years younger at the same level and already has more power than Roller?

          • Rick

            It’s also not insignificant that Baez, at worst, will likely stick at 2B and possibly even SS … Power hitting shortstops and second basemen don’t come around all that often.

          • JoeyA

            And yet, he’s in the majors now. But what happens if he sucks and his value goes down? I thought you are supposed to let these type of guys figure everything out in minors and only call them up when they are a sure thing?
            And I’m not comparing to Roller, just simply showing that sometimes, you need to just see what you’ve got instead of waiting until the perfect time to call someone up.

            • Rick

              Who ever said you’re supposed to leave them in the minors to figure everything out? Baez forced the team’s hand. Might be a little early, but the Yankees are also not the Cubs – the Cubs can afford to let players develop in the bigs, they don’t win games regardless.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              See “Bradley, Jackie,” “Profar, Jurickson,””Montero, Jesus” and about 6,000 other players.

        • Kenneth Celelli

          Because Baez is 21, young for the level, and plays a premier position. You’re comparing a top prospect with a 26 year old organizational player

          I will say though that I personally think they brought up Baez a little early. I know he has hit a couple bombs and his power to all fields is great (Seriously read the fangraphs article if you haven’t). He is hitting .243, striking out in more than a third of his at bats, and hasn’t taken a walk. But the Cubs can afford to play a shiny new rookie in their current circumstances. Make no mistake though, Baez is going to be really really good.

          http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs.....us-dinger/

          • Rick

            Baez could also be a bust … the k% is huge. He’s one of the most boom or bust high end prospects in a long time.

            • Chip

              That’s very true and I wonder if the Cubs are hoping he puts up a giant September before trading him for a Hamels type starter in the offseason?

        • RetroRob

          Bat speed among other things. Professional evaluators can see things in a players swing that can be fixed. Some can not. That’s why there are AAAA players. They can’t handle MLB pitching and their weaknesses can recognized while still in the minors. Not in all cases as players can make adjustments, but that’s not the case with the 26-year-old Roller. George Springer strikes out a lot, too, but he has other parts that compensate.

        • Chip

          Have you seen Javier Baez swing the bat? Dude has prime time Soriano bat speed. Sure, we’d talk about holes in his swing but he actually does take an occasional walk and plays an up the middle defensive position. I’ll take the 21 year old who hit 23 homers in half a season of AAA on my team any day and I would be willing to bet he’d be the starting second baseman on the Yankees right now if he were in the system.

          Remember, Ref’s big problem is defense and that’s why they’re holding him back

          • JoeyA

            Sure, the organization that played Nunez all over the diamond has an issue with a 2B propsect who can actually hit but isn’t great at D.
            At least the guy we signed in the offseason who didnt hit a lick for us played stellar D at 2B.

            • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

              Ref has had less than a full season above A ball.
              Maybe they are just being patient and giving him a chance to work out his issues outside of the glare of playing for the Yankees.
              Maybe, just maybe, that is best for his long-term development.

              Or maybe the Yankees are just a bunch of idiots. That’s always a possibility.

              • Chip

                Yep, Nunez had 1,000 plate appearances between AA and AAA before getting called up

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                About fifty guys read nothing but your second-to-last sentence.

                • Chip

                  It’s like guys who get paid millions of dollars a year get hired for no reason and have no idea what they’re doing. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t have all the information that goes into their evaluations and nitpick at the times they were wrong and ignore the relievers that we pine for every year yet eventually prove they have no business being in the majors

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              You just ignored 3/4 of what he said to you in order to get a dig at the org at Nunez’s expense.

        • YakaTanaka

          It’s because development isn’t just about results. And because the jump from AAA to MLB is ***HUGE*** and unpredictable.

          For starters, Baez is 21 years old and has way more defensive value. Still… there are questions about whether Baez will succeed in MLB.

          Roller has some chance at succeeding, but he’s 5 years older and a sort of plodding 1B.

          • YakaTanaka

            With prospects it’s all about probabilities. No prospect is a sure thing and most productive minor leaguers have some chance to earn their way into an MLB role.

            You just have to estimate the expected return a player will provide based on the likelihood of different future outcomes.

            (Intro level college stats theory… obviously infinitely harder to actually apply.)

    • YakaTanaka

      I would guess that he might be more of an option for an injury call-up next season if he continues to develop and Austin/Bird/Flores/whoever isn’t ready.

      Maybe he’ll get the call this September if they think he’s got long-term potential, though.

  • Rick

    Huge Tyler Austin fan. I think if he was competent enough to at least be given a try at 3B, he would likely be able to handle 1B. Regardless, if more power continues to come back as he gets further away from injury, the team will find a position for him.

  • Chip

    With teams now only carrying 3 bench players (aside from the BUC) the players who occupy those roles need to be versatile defensively. That’s why there’s no room for someone like Kyle Roller on the bench, but there is room for a Zealous Wheeler.

    My guess is that next year’s Yankee bench will have Cervelli, Ryan, Zoilo Almonte and then one spot up for grabs for a player who can back up at all four corners. Right now my guess would be Jose Pirela but if Austin puts together a strong finish to the year and follows that up with a strong Spring Training he could be in line for that as well. Whether that’s the best place for him is an open question. Personally I would rather see him play on a regular basis.

    The fact is that the Yankees will enter next year with fragility at 3b, 1b, CF, LF and RF/DH (and that’s assuming either Castillo or Refsnyder at 2b and not knowing who will be at SS) so having a ready crop of viable position players at the highest level of the minors would be a great thing and avoid the line of guys like Dean Anna, Scott Sizemore and Kelly Johnsons from running through here.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Very well put with that first paragraph.

      • Chip

        Yeah, it’s also the reason why there was no push made to re-sign Lyle Overbay.

    • dkidd

      patience will be rewarded. i’ll watch prado play RF/2B and mccann butcher first base if it means letting bird, austin and refsnyder develop

  • dkidd

    bird is the word
    hoping austin ends up at 3rd and/or RF

  • Stevie Sacs

    I thought Austin was considered a pretty big prospect? In any case he’s not a true first baseman as pointed out.

    • RetroRob

      He was, got injured, seems to be restoring his prospect status again. I don’t know what a “true” first baseman is. Almost all first basemen convert from other positions in the minors, unless you’re referring to his power potential.

      • Stevie Sacs

        I meant in the sense that he is not necessarily evaluated strictly or mostly as a first baseman, compared to Bird for instance.

    • YakaTanaka

      The difference between being in the back-end of the top 100 and somewhere between 100-150 or 100-200 is pretty marginal. Fans make a big deal of it because the lists generally end at 100. In reality, though, when divided by the 30 team it’s the same at being ranked 3rd in a system vs. 4th, 5th, 6th… which fans wouldn’t usually see as a major difference.

      I don’t think Austin is or was much better a prospect than Bird. Both good prospects, but not elite.

      Some people don’t think Austin is a true RF prospect, either, which is why he may be a 1B prospect by default.

  • 449JPK

    I hope Ramon Flores gets a shot at a bench spot next year, he has a little bit of 1b time and can at least fake it at all 3 Of spots

    • YakaTanaka

      Good point. Certainly should get a chance to earn a spot, assuming he makes it through the winter with the team.

  • Kevin Wrong

    I am extremely excited about Greg Bird…I honestly see a lot of Joey Votto in this prospect and i think he will be a great replacement for Teix in 2 years. If Bird can remain healthy i actually think its a no brainer that he becomes at the very least a solid offensive first basemen with the yankees… Of course it would also help if i am not here to ruin him by that time…

    • Stevie Sacs

      Like him too but has a long swing. That can be tricky to fix/hide. It’s not impossible. But some guys make it work despite the long swings and have decent careers.

      • Chip

        He has a great eye though which could help him. If he can identify pitches early and get him into counts where he can guess fastball, he could do some serious damage

  • captainmike

    I think 7 or 8 year long term contracts are more trouble than they are worth

    • Chip

      2009 made all of these contracts just fine in my book

      • Septhinox

        Well, CC’s 2009 contract wasn’t the problem. His 2012 contract was.

    • blake

      I think it very much depends on who you’re giving them to…..a 10 year old contract to a 26 year old Derek Jeter isn’t bad at all. Mainly the PED era inflated older guys production and led to the idea of giving 30+ year old players 8+ year contracts……the tide still hasn’t turned on that but it’s finally starting to as more and more of these things turn into terrible investments.

  • OldYanksFan

    ARod would make a FINE BU1B. While he is losing mobility, he is still a great athlete, with good hands and a strong arm. He has 3 years left, and his time at 3B over the next 3 years will be limited. Obviously he will get plenty of DH time, but if he can fill in at 1B, that makes him a LOT more valuable. It also means when Teix is out of the lineup, he is replaced by (hopefully) a decent bat.

    • Chip

      The thing is, will A-Rod hit enough to even justify being on the roster? Dude has been out nearly two full years and was injured before that so who knows. If he can hit, sure I would see him spending some time at first

      • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

        One of many major, major questions for next year’s team.

      • RhapsodyInBlue

        He’ll be ok if he hooks up with Papi’s chemist.

      • OldYanksFan

        If he can’t hit, he is off the team.
        But frankly, that decision won’t be arrived at until half way thru the season…. so you might as well buy him a 1Bman’s glove and have him help the team where he is needed. At this point, it’s either McCann/Cervelli or ARod/McCann (when Teix is out).
        However….
        while he will be very rusty, he will also be well rested. His hips should be 100% healed. ARod is a driven guy and will make adjustments. If he can post a .725 – .750 OPS, he will be a well above average BU.
        And I believe he can do that.
        You can BET ARod is eyeing 714 HRs.

  • OldYanksFan

    Here’s another thought. Would it be worth seeing if ARod could be a BURF’er? If so, ARod and Prado would really give us great flexibility, and allow us to design a better bench.

    • Chip

      I’ve been arguing that they should make him the starting right fielder and resign Headley

  • YakaTanaka

    I disagree that Tex is their 1B until his contract is over. He has no legend status attached to him, and his frequent injuries should allow a deserving prospect to get an MLB look to steal the job… so I only think he’s their 1B as long as he’s their best option at the spot (which certainly seems to be the case this season).
    If they have a 1B prospect/bench guy capable of putting up serious 1B offensive production while Tex is putting up a ~110-115 wRC+… I think they’re smart enough to go with the better player.

    What was the hit rate for “stars” among BA top 100 prospects at other positions? 5/37 doesn’t really provide any context.

    • OldYanksFan

      Let’s not forget that his 110-115 wRC+ goes will an above average glove. We have all seen his value on defense.

      • YakaTanaka

        Fair point (though his D may be overrated by fans at this point).

        Just meant to say that if they have an obvious overall upgrade available.

        • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

          The D looks a lot better when it’s intermixed with bouts of Kelly Johnson and Brian McCann at 1B.

    • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

      I don’t imagine there will be anybody that would come along in the next 2 years that they’d be comfortable enough with to be convinced that they’d exceed a 110-115 wRC+, especially right from the beginning. I’d imagine as long as Tex is hitting at or near that level, and he’s physically able to play, it’s going to be his job.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I think it’s much more likely that, if one of these guys pushes the issue, you see them begin to caddy him as we get closer to the end of his deal.

        • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

          Possible, but with Beltran and ARod likely still on the roster and likely needing a lot of DH time, it might be a tough fit to carry one of them on the roster.
          Austin would have a much better chance with his positional flexibility in that scenario.

          • YakaTanaka

            A lot of variables in play trying to project the roster a year or two into the future. Especially when literally all 5 players in question have significant injury risks. Chances that all these guys are healthy and productive at any one time are fairly slim.

            If the Yankees have a truly elite MLB bat sitting in AAA, though… and that’s what it takes to be a true starting 1B offensively… I think they’ll find a way to get him some PAs. If that means cutting a big money guy who isn’t performing… so be it.

        • YakaTanaka

          Exactly.

      • YakaTanaka

        We’ll have to see. Point was just that even in a pretty-good-case outcome for Tex, he could be replaced. If he’s not performing, all the easier. Axisa’s point seemed to be that he was in a Derek Jeter situation.

        I don’t think getting someone capable of really crushing MLB pitching up will be a problem. Tex is a good bet to miss ~200 PAs in any season, opening up a window. While they’d prefer a rotating DH, the chances of that working out better than than a really productive full-time DH are also slim.

        So, if Bird or Austin is mashing in AAA and appears ready… I think there will be daylight they can potentially grab and get through the hole.

        I think Bird and Austin both have a decent shot at exceeding 115 wRC+ if healthy. Again, though, they don’t have to be handed the starting job over Tex on day one. It would probably be a process. He might get Pipp’d or Womack’d or just slowly lose playing time or move to DH.

        And… hopefully Teixeira does enough with the bat to where the Yankees don’t have to fully replace him and can at least use him as a DH/1B option is they have a better starting 1B.

        • Big Game Thames

          Getting someone crushing MLB pitching won’t be a problem? Are you high? The last guy they developed who did that was Cano. One guy in ten years. That is exactly the problem.

          • YakaTanaka

            What’s your issue?

            I said getting someone who can crush MLB pitching playing time won’t be hard. Nothing at all to do with what you’re talking about.

    • Big Game Thames

      Seriously dude, how long have you been watching the Yankees? Prospects never usurp contracts. The last time was Tony Womack and Tex won’t be that bad.

      • YakaTanaka

        Please stop embarrassing yourself. Tony Womack was on a tiny contract.

        This contradicts your point that they don’t develop players, smart guy.

  • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

    I think, or maybe hope is the right word, that the timeline works out well here. Teix is under contract for 2 more years. I don’t think that either Austin or Bird would be ready for 2 more years anyway. I’m guessing both start at AA next year, and hopefully at least Austin is at AAA by midseason. I wouldn’t be opposed to having Bird spend all of next year at AA if need be. Then in 2016, both are at AAA, Austin with the potential to earn a spot in the outfield if need be, and then maybe both are fully ML ready in 2017.

    But that’s probably just wishful thinking.

    • http://yankees.lhblogs.com/ Need Pitching & Hitting

      Austin has had a lot of time in AA. I’d imagine as long as he finishes the season relatively strong and healthy, he’ll be in AAA to start next year.

      • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

        Stupid me for not looking up his stats. Didn’t realize he’d already had so many AB’s at AA. I said that more out of a health concern, but he’s starting to show signs of life again anyway.

        • JimmyToucan

          to be fair a lot of those AB’s came with a bunk wrist, although he’s been a hell of a lot better since the AS break. barring injury he should e starting in scranton with half a foot in the BX door.

    • YakaTanaka

      I would expect Austin to start 2015 in AAA. He’s got about 800 AA PAs, and both results and reports seem to indicate that he’s mastered the level recently.

      Hard to predict development curves. It certainly might work out nicely for the Yankees though, and that could include getting the prospect(s)’ feet wet in MLB off the bench or some kind of cameo in 2015/16.

      • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

        Yea, just realized that. Dummy on me.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Dummy. :)

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Austin may have been in AAA already if not for recurrence of injury. I really think there’s a strong chance he opens the season in AAA and actually becomes a legit option by mid-season.

      Note: This is EXACTLY what I said Austin at this point last year, of course.

      2016 for Bird? Timetable’s his to push up, I guess, but I think that’s not too far off of an estimate.

      • Chip

        Exactly, if Bird hits like .330/.470/.700 over like 400 PAs between AA and AAA I would imagine he is probably at least the starting DH

        • Chip

          If he’s putting up those numbers next year – then hopefully yes, he would displace either Beltran or Tex.

        • JimmyToucan

          if he slugs 700 you kinda have to give him a shot, no?

      • Chip

        Let’s live the dream for a minute and say that Austin and Bird both progress. Austin could open the year in Scranton and be the first man up when Tex has to go on the DL – He has to be on the 40 anyway so why not?

        By 2016 he could be the regular RF replacing Prado with Beltran at DH. Bird could then be at AAA and, if he’s strong enough, possibly push Tex or Beltran into a bench role in their last season.

        By 2017 (bear in mind this is the Yankees so it is highly unlikely they will commit to this kind of youth movement)

        McCann – C
        Bird – 1b
        Refsnyder – 2b
        Jags – 3b
        a short stop not currently in the system
        Gardner – LF
        Ellsbury – CF
        Judge – RF
        Austin – DH

        • YakaTanaka

          Possible. Sanchez/Murphy could be your back-up C. And the SS might not be that far behind. Wade and/or Avelino could be around AAA by that point, with a bunch of talent right behind them. There are some bench OF options in the system, too, like Flores, Dugas, Williams, Cave, Gamel, Almonte…

          Not to mention all the arms…

          I don’t think it’s just a matter of the Yankees committing to the youth. It’s just a matter of the youth working out. There’s probably a 5% chance or something that all that works out well enough that they’re solid MLB starters… meaning like a 95% chance it doesn’t (made that up totally… but I doubt chances are high). I guess a team like the Royals will just commit to the youth, even if it’s to their own detriment, because they can’t afford another route. Whereas the Yankees will only commit to the youth if they’re producing. And, I’d argue, rightly so in their situation.

          • Chip

            The fact is though that the Yankees are not a team that traditionally commits to youth. They do it out of necessity more than anything else and unless they’re willing to accept the changing paradigm in baseball that you can’t just fix your problems via free agency anymore – it won’t happen. They have a manager who is committed to playing veteran players because he likes track records (unless you’re telling me that you believe Jose Pirela couldn’t do what Martin Prado is doing).

            The other thing is that there’s virtually zero chance that all the players I listed above are going to make it to the majors in any sort of meaningful way – the attrition rate for minor leaguers dictates that some of them will hit a development wall and never get by it.

            • YakaTanaka

              This is utter nonesense. Cashman committed to youth 7 or 8 years ago.

              Remember when he didn’t trade Hughes or Joba despite them being top 5 prospects in the game and having the chance to get a Cy Young candidate? Remember when he traded his other top 5 in MLB prospect for a young SP with 5 years of control instead of a vet? That is what we call commiting to youth.

              Commiting to youth doesn’t mean all the young players work out or you force undeserving young players playing time.

              No way Pirela is as good as Prado. Looking at a tiny sample doesn’t change that. That you still haven’t realized Cashman makes macro playing time decisions is a good indication you don’t follow the team closely.

              Uh… Yeah, the attrition rate is the reason your other points
              make no sense whatsoever.

  • 449JPK

    Ideal scenario in my mind for 1B is a combination of mostly tex, with McCann once or twice a week plus another player on the bench with a decent handle on playing the position.

  • Chip

    Like I said below, a roster that has Beltran, Tex and Alex on it will have plenty of opportunities for a corner player/DH to come up from the minors and play. My hope is that Austin makes himself that guy. He has enough defensive versatility to do it and make himself sort of a Jose Bautista type of guy who can play in all four corners for you and be in the lineup every day at a different position. But he’s going to need some time at AAA for the bat to move up.

    • Big Game Thames

      Plenty opportunities? No. They’ll get a few starts here and there, no consistent time to get into a groove, and be moved all over the field. The Yankee Way!

  • Bronx_Boy

    It made a huge difference to the Yankees defensively when Tex showed up. In his prime he was like a vacuum cleaner over there. Beautiful. The infielders picked and threw looser, seemed confident that all they had to do was get the ball near first base and Tex would snag it. I learned a lesson – never undervalue the defensive skills of 1b. I remember Giambi.

    • Big Game Thames

      Defense at 1b is overrated. Giambi was a far better player and a net positive on his contract. Tex will have cost them tens of millions in spite of his defense.

      • RetroRob

        Defense at first is actually underrated.

  • Big Game Thames

    Of course many here keep assuming the best case scenarios for Bird and Austin even as that wasn’t the conclusion of the post. In this win now org, both are trade bait. Sad but true. Austin is a tweener. Bird is blocked and there is no such thing as a backup 1b, not with Tex and McCann signed for dumb contracts.

    • 449JPK

      I was personally shocked that Austin was not traded at the deadline… His value must be so low among other teams at that moment that he didn’t get moved. There is several players ahead of him and behind him that can fill similar roles in the team within a few years if not already.

      • selftitled85

        Actually no one on the depth chart offers what Austin has. The guys “above” him are not MLB lifers and are AAAA players. The only one with even a smidgen of a shot of being in the show for good is Flores and even he is a tweener. No one offers Austin’s blend of power and OBP. He is coming back from a bad wrist injury. It takes time. It would be stupid of the Yanks to part with him for little to nothing. He is their best OF prospect outside of Judge and it is not close at all.

        • 449JPK

          Slade’s tools make him better prospect hands down…. If Slade’s is healthy and productive in camp.. I know those are big ifs, I be surprised if he didn’t make the 25 man

          • selftitled85

            Slade’s “tools” makes him one of the best prospects in the country. Slade’s health makes him someone no one can count on or expect to make any type of splash.

    • selftitled85

      This comment is not at all based on reality. Can you show me one good Yankee prospect who has been traded over the past few years? The Yankees are at an interesting point. To win now it might make the most sense to go from within. Bird’s 2013 numbers put him in line with only a select few players. He had a top 10 OPS for all minor leaguers and more importantly, other players who have put up similar numbers tend to make the big leagues.
      That said, Bird is not blocked in the long term. That is ridiculous. McCann is not going to usurp 1b from Tex. Backup 1b will be up for grabs next year. My gut tells me Bird will be there if he stays healthy. Since RF is also wide open, I expect Austin to become a viable 4th of option because the slew of AAAA players we keep throwing out there obviously can’t hack it.
      Both of those guys will likely don pinstripes by mid 2015 at the latest.