Before the Yankees can think about Harper or Machado, the farm system has to come through

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Next year, as in 2018, the Yankees hope to get their payroll under the $197M luxury tax threshold. They’ve been hoping to get under for years, and 2018 will be the best opportunity to do it because CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez will be off the books, maybe Masahiro Tanaka too. That’s a lot of big dollar contracts going away, and the Yankees are poised to replace those expensive veterans with cheap kids.

Once the Yankees get under the luxury tax threshold and reset their tax rate, the assumption seems to be they’ll dive back into free agency and make some big deals. Coincidentally enough, if the team does reset their tax rate in 2018, it’ll happen just in time for the epiphany free agent class of the 2018-19 offseason. That’s the Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, et al class. Possibly the best free agent class ever.

Last week Brian Cashman was asked about that 2018-19 free agent class during the team’s town hall event. Cashman can’t talk about players under contract with other teams, like Harper and Machado — “You trying to get me suspended?” he joked — but he did speak about the possibility of the Yankees becoming big spenders in the near future. Here’s what Cashman said at the town hall. His full answer was quite long (video link):

“First and foremost, as you seeing we’re transitioning from contracts that we vested heavily in — and it did pay off for us in ’09, and you rob Peter to pay Paul — so at the end of the day we are going to be in a position to do a number of things, and maybe turn the clock back to be big-game hunters that we — and you — have been accustomed to being.

“But our hope is, in the meantime, that some of the high-end ceiling position players like you see in a Gary Sanchez — I know the talk of the big free agent class of 2018 already had been discussed before the 2016 season started like, ‘Oh, the Yankees are going to wait and reset the clock and go after these guys’ — and since this time, you saw one of our golden nuggets pop out of our system and establish himself as potentially one of the high-end young players in the game.

“If we could have a few more of those, it’ll allow us to have a lot of different choices to see what’s on the open market at the time. And who’s to say the rumors out there are the necessary ones? We all want what we have in that system to become what the younger guys in this game are as they’re approaching free agency and had their success and established themselves. We want our guys to be those guys six years from now. And hopefully this crew, and some of those guys in this crew, can become those guys.

“Therefore, you’re not having to rely on going to marketplace and pay a steep price regardless of what their talent level is. Out of respect for the other team’s talent, I can’t speak to those guys that are potentially future free agents, but I can tell you this: our hope is that the young guys that we have in our system become some of the young great players in the game going forward. That’s what we’re doing.”

There’s a lot going on there. Cashman’s good at saying a lot of words without revealing too much. In a nutshell, Cashman said they hope all the prospects in the system develop into productive big leaguers so they don’t have to go out and spend big to sign Harper or Machado or whoever. They want to develop their own Harper or Machado, or at least approximations of Harper and Machado.

That’s all well and good, but we all know not every prospect will work. It would be cool if they all did. That’s just not how baseball works though. The Yankees have accumulated a ton of prospect depth over the last year or so, so even when a few players inevitably flame out, they have others who could step in to fill those shoes. Aaron Judge doesn’t work out as the right fielder of the future? Well there’s Clint Frazier. Gleyber Torres isn’t all he’s cracked up to be? There’s still Jorge Mateo.

Realistically, the Yankees will need to dip back into free agency at some point to address a need. That applies to every team. The hope is in a few years, as in the 2018-19 offseason, the Yankees will be in position to spend big on a Harper or a Machado, because that will mean each the following statements are true:

  1. Multiple prospects have panned out and become cheap, productive big leaguers.
  2. The Yankees will have gotten under the luxury tax threshold in 2018 and reset their rate.
  3. The Yankees are good enough to consider a big free agent the missing piece of the puzzle.

The first point is important for obvious reasons. The Yankees want this robust farm system to become their next championship core in one form or another. If it doesn’t happen, they’re in trouble. The second point is important because guess what? If the Yankees don’t get under the luxury tax threshold in 2018, they’re going to try again in 2019, and that likely means no big free agent contracts.

We can’t forget about the third point too. The Yankees passed on Edwin Encarnacion (and Chris Sale) this offseason because Cashman & Co. didn’t believe the time was right. And I empathize with that. Spend big and give up a draft pick to sign a 34-year-old DH when you’re ready to win right now. Gut the farm system and trade for a no-doubt ace when you have a chance to go to the World Series, not when you’re realistically a year or two away from contention, as the Yankees probably are at the moment.

My hope is the Yankees are able to develop a new young core during these next two seasons, at which point they can add Harper (or Machado, I guess) and make the jump from team on the rise to World Series contender. I’m not entirely convinced the free-spending Yankees will ever truly return, but for a 20-something elite talent like Harper (or Machado), I think they’ll be all-in, as long as the farm system comes through and the luxury tax rate is reset.

Fan Confidence Poll: January 23rd, 2017

2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab on the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results

Weekend Open Thread

An update on the new writer(s) search: we’ve made our picks! Or at least I have. I’m waiting for everyone else here at RAB to give the thumbs up as well. Once that happens, I’ll get in touch with the folks we’d like to bring aboard and make an announcement on the site. I hope to do that next week. (Nudges Ben and Joe.) Thanks again to all who applied, especially for being so patient. There were a ton of quality submissions to dig through. Whittling the list of candidates down was not easy at all.

Friday: Here is tonight’s open thread. The Devils and Nets are the only local teams in action, and my goodness, that sounds awful. No college basketball tonight either. Geez. Anyway, talk about whatever here, just not politics or religion. Please please please no politics or religion. Thanks in advance.

Saturday: This is the open thread again. There are no NFL playoff games today — did they always play both conference championship games on Sunday? I could have sworn they used to play one on Saturday and one on Sunday — but the Knicks, Nets, Devils, and Islanders are all playing, and there’s more college basketball on than any human could watch. You know what to do here, so do it.

Sunday: For the final time, this is the open thread. The NFL playoffs resume today with Packers-Falcons (3pm ET on FOX) and Steelers-Patriots (6:30pm ET on CBS). The two winners advance to the Super Bowl. The Rangers are playing right now, so if you flip over to NBC, you can catch the end of the game. The Islanders are playing later tonight, and that’s pretty much it. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Yankees rank second in Keith Law’s farm system rankings

Andujar. (Presswire)
Andujar. (Presswire)

It’s that time of year again. Prospect ranking season. Individual team prospect lists have been hitting the internet for weeks now, and in the coming days and weeks, all the major scouting publications will release their top 100 lists and farm system rankings.

Earlier this week, Keith Law released his annual farm system rankings in three subscriber-only pieces: 1-10, 11-20, 21-30. The Diamondbacks currently have baseball’s worst farm system, according to Law. The Braves, on the other hand, have the game’s best system. They’ve been hard tanking for a good two years now, so I’d hope so.

The Yankees are second in Law’s farm system rankings, sandwiched between the Braves and Padres. Law applauds the “enormous packages” the Yankees received for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman at the deadline last year, as well as their recent drafts. Here’s a snippet of his write-up:

The system just keeps on going, with tons of pitching depth, a passel of natural shortstops — we need a better collective noun for that; a “belanger” of shortstops, perhaps -– who will end up playing all over the diamond, and a lot of outfielders who rake. Even Dermis Garcia, who isn’t among their 20 best prospects, has 80 raw power and finished second in the advanced-rookie Appalachian League in homers as an 18-year-old.

There’s no weakness here. They will trot out teams full of prospects at every level, and several of them will show up in the Bronx this year. I don’t know if Gleyber Torres is the new Jeter or James Kaprielian the new Pettitte, but I’ll take that bet.

Law mentioned New York’s top six prospects were either a recent first round pick or acquired at last year’s trade deadline. That means Torres, Kaprielian, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Aaron Judge, and Blake Rutherford are his top six in some order. Either that or Law really likes J.P. Feyereisen. I assume Jorge Mateo is seventh.

I love top prospects as much as anyone, having a guy like Mateo as your seventh best prospect is pretty wild, but the thing that stands out most to me about the farm system right now is the depth. The Yankees are loaded with players who project to be average big league players. There are about 50 prospects in the system now who would make the top 30 most years. Maybe 60.

As Law said, the Yankees are going to have prospects at every level of the farm system in 2017. We’re still weeks away from official minor league assignments, but right now, these guys figure to be the headliners at each level:

  • Triple-A Scranton: Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Tyler Wade, Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams
  • Double-A Trenton: Torres, Sheffield, Miguel Andujar, Billy McKinney, Ian Clarkin
  • High-A Tampa: Mateo, Kaprielian, Dillon Tate, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo
  • Low-A Charleston: Rutherford, Garcia, Estevan Florial, Hoy Jun Park

There’s some wiggle room there — Mateo could start with Trenton, for example — but generally speaking, those figure to be the Opening Day assignments. And that doesn’t include rookie ball kids like Wilkerman Garcia, Diego Castillo, Nelson Gomez, Drew Finley, and Nolan Martinez. Josh Rogers is a three-pitch lefty who had a 2.50 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 147.1 innings at two levels last year and no one talks about him. The system is stacked.

Whether the Yankees can turn this impressive farm system into a consistent contender in the years to come remains to be seen. The fact they have so many prospects, both high-end prospects and depth, bodes very well. Not everyone is going to work out. We know that. The system’s sheer volume of talent gives the Yankees many options all around the diamond going forward, and that’s exciting.

Cashman confirms the Yankees will go to an arbitration hearing with Dellin Betances

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

According to Brendan Kuty, yesterday afternoon Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees and Dellin Betances are indeed heading to an arbitration hearing. Betances filed a $5M salary prior to last week’s deadline and the team countered with $3M. Cashman says the $2M gap is simply too big to bridge, so they’ll let the arbitration panel make the decision.

“We’re not going to reach a resolution with Dellin,” said Cashman to Kuty. “The conversations we had with our representatives were if we file, we trial. Based on all of our discussions, it was clear that the different perspectives were such a wide bridge. We’ll go out and just basically have a polite discussion about market value and history of where the marketplace sits versus attempts for new market creation. We’re going to wind up in an arbitration hearing with Dellin.”

Arbitration hearings usually take place in early-to-mid February and the two sides could still negotiate a contract of any size prior to a hearing (and even after), though Cashman indicated that won’t happen. At the hearing, each side will state their case and the three-person panel will chose either the $5M or $3M for Dellin’s 2017 salary. Nothing in-between. I have some quick thoughts on this.

1. Dellin’s case is very unique. Arbitration salaries are based on the salaries of similar players at similar service time levels, so Betances is referencing other top relievers when they went through arbitration the first time. The problem? He has very few peers in terms of performance, and those that have been this good are closers. When a pitcher comes up and dominates like Betances has, he tends to wind up in the ninth inning. That hasn’t happened with Dellin because the Yankees have always had multiple high-end relievers, and the veteran got the ninth inning. Saves matter in arbitration and Betances doesn’t have many.

2. The Yankees seem to have an easier case. I broke this down earlier this week, but it’s worth repeating: the Yankees are offering Betances what sure seems to be a record salary for a first year arbitration-eligible non-closing reliever. I can’t find another setup man at $2M in their first arbitration year, nevermind $3M. That $5M ask by Dellin’s camp says he wants to be paid like a top closer. The Yankees are instead offering an unprecedented salary for a setup man. Because of that and Betances’ general lack of saves, I think the team has an easier salary to defend. Dellin’s camp will have some convincing to do at the hearing.

3. Arbitration hearings can be ugly. Maybe uncomfortable is a better word than ugly. Like I said earlier, during the hearing itself, the two sides will state their case to the arbitration panel. For the team, that means detailing the player’s shortcomings and explaining why he deserves the lower salary while he sits in the room. Awkward! Cashman said they’ll have a “polite discussion,” but who knows.

Here’s what Vinnie Pestano, former Yankees non-roster invitee to Spring Training, told Jordan Bastian following his arbitration hearing with the Indians a few years ago:

“You’re being honest and accountable and saying the right things and being there,” Pestano said, “and then later you find your own words in the paper, and somebody is trying to use your words against you to drive your value down. Whether that played a big role in the decision, I don’t know.

“That was the only thing that I didn’t care for. I definitely think it’ll affect how I see things going forward. I don’t really know if I can be as honest and up-front anymore. I’ve got three more years of arbitration left. I don’t know what they’ll pick to use against me next year or two years from now.”

At the end of the day, this is a business, and the player is making the decision to go to a hearing by not agreeing to a contract beforehand. Betances knows what he’s getting into, just like last year, when he rejected the team’s modest raise to $540,000 and instead had his contract renewed for the $507,500 league minimum. He knew that was a possibility and he accepted it. Same with the hearing.

4. A hearing doesn’t have to ruin a relationship, though. I can understand why Yankees fans would worry an arbitration hearing would damage the team’s relationship with Betances, one of their best and most popular players. And you know what? I’m sure it’s happened in the past, a team going to a hearing and their relationship with the player never quite being the same afterward.

It doesn’t have to be that way, however. The Yankees haven’t been to an arbitration hearing since 2008, when they beat Chien-Ming Wang and saved $600,000 ($4M vs. $4.6M). The team’s last arbitration hearing before that? Mariano Rivera in 2000. The last two before that? Rivera and Derek Jeter, both in 1999. The Yankees and those players went on to live happily ever after following the hearings. (Injuries ruined Wang’s career, not an arbitration hearing.)

Point is, even though avoiding an arbitration hearing is always preferred, sometimes they are necessary because the two sides value the player very differently. It doesn’t have ruin relationships. The Yankees offered Betances a record first year arbitration salary for a setup man as best I can tell, but he wants to be paid like a closer, and that’s his right. He’ll allowed to try to get it. And because salaries carry over from year to year and affect raises, there’s a lot more on the line here than $2M in 2017. It adds up in future years.

Mailbag: Depth Chart, German, Bird, Farm System, Straily

Only five more weeks until the first Grapefruit League game. Almost there, folks. Anyway, we’ve got eleven questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send us any questions.

Torreyes is set to back up a few positions in 2017. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Torreyes is set to back up a few positions in 2017. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Michael asks: Injuries always happen. Seems like there are a few places we’re vulnerable. What’s your opinion of what will happen if injuries happen in spring training this year – a DL stint, not out for the season – to, Chase Headley, Gary Sanchez or more than one member of our three ‘for-sure’ starters in the rotation (seems like one always gets hurt)? (re; possible Sanchez injury, would Higashioka back up for a month?)

I think the Yankees would respond to any short-term injury — in this case, I’m thinking six weeks or less qualifies as short-term — by going with internal options. Long-term injuries are another matter. The Yankees might pounce and sign Luis Valbuena should Headley blow out his knee during an offseason workout, for example.

Since we’re on the subject, let’s lay out the Yankees’ depth chart at each position and go four deep. This pretty much answers the “who would play if _________ gets hurt?” question. There’s quite a bit of overlap at some positions.

Starter Backup Third String Fourth String
Catcher Gary Sanchez Austin Romine Kyle Higashioka Wilkin Castillo?
First Base Greg Bird Tyler Austin Rob Refsnyder Ji-Man Choi
Second Base Starlin Castro Ronald Torreyes Ruben Tejada Donovan Solano
Shortstop Didi Gregorius Ronald Torreyes Ruben Tejada Donovan Solano
Third Base Chase Headley Ronald Torreyes Ruben Tejada Donovan Solano
Left Field Brett Gardner Aaron Hicks Tyler Austin Rob Refsnyder
Center Field Jacoby Ellsbury Aaron Hicks Brett Gardner* Mason Williams
Right Field Aaron Judge Aaron Hicks Tyler Austin Rob Refsnyder

* Last year Joe Girardi showed he’d prefer to keep Gardner in left field whenever possible, so if Ellsbury were to go down with an injury, I think Hicks would take over in center field.

I’m leaving out designated hitter because that’s a unique position. Should Matt Holliday get hurt — or worse, play the outfield regularly — I think the Yankees would rotate players in and out at DH, with Austin and Hicks seeing increased playing time. Otherwise the depth chart is pretty straight forward until you get the fourth string, and I don’t think anyone has a great fourth string option at any position.

As for the rotation, well, you just start going down the depth chart and calling up kids. There are the three veterans (Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda), the four kids (Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Chad Green), the two Triple-A top prospects (Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams), and two Triple-A non-top prospects (Ronald Herrera, Dietrich Enns). I don’t think the Yankees will put Adam Warren in their Opening Day rotation, but he’s an option too. Whenever there’s an injury to a starter, you just go right down the list and pick the next in line.

Chase asks: My question is a bit morbid, but does a Tanaka elbow pop early in the season completely change the season goals for the yanks. I think it makes a wildcard unattainable, which allows full attention on young player development and could signal a sell off of everything not nailed down. I guess the short version is Tanaka is the yanks MVP.

Yes, absolutely. Tanaka is the Yankees’ best and most important player. Any realistic path to the 2017 postseason involves him having another ace-caliber season. Without that, it’ll take a minor miracle for the Yankees to contend. So yes, if Tanaka’s elbow gives out in Spring Training, it changes the season outlook dramatically. I can’t speak for everyone, but my focus going into the season is on the kids anyway. Should Tanaka go down, I’m guessing more than a few folks will shift gears from “can they win?” to “let’s see how the kids develop.” Tanaka is far and away the team MVP. No doubt about it.

Sal asks: Domingo Acevedo gets a lot of the press, but what about Domingo German? Any news on him? He was old for his level, but decent results first 50 innings back from TJ.

German was the prospect the Yankees received in the ill-fated Nathan EovaldiMartin Prado trade. He blew out his elbow in Spring Training 2015, so it wasn’t until June 2016 that he took the mound for the Yankees in an official game. German, 24, had a 3.29 ERA (3.82 FIP) with 19.6% strikeouts and 5.9% walks in 54.2 innings split between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa. Baseball America says he hit 100 mph with his fastball, so that’s encouraging.

Last offseason the Yankees non-tendered German and re-signed him to a minor league contract while he rehabbed from his Tommy John surgery. They were impressed enough with what they saw in those 54.2 innings last season that they re-added him to the 40-man roster to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent. German has two great pitches in his fastball and changeup, though his slider is a work in progress.

It’s entirely possible German will never figure out a reliable breaking ball, and if that happens, he’s likely headed for the bullpen full-time. He still has two minor league options remaining, so the Yankees can afford to be patient and let German work as a starter both this coming season and next. My guess is he’ll start back with High-A Tampa and receive a quick promotion to Double-A Trenton. German is kind of a forgotten arm in the system. Kid can bring it.

German. (Presswire)
German. (Presswire)

John asks: With the Yankee farm system being highly regarded these days it got me wondering about the success of other clubs with high ranking systems in the past. Do teams that have the best farm systems generally turn out to be winning teams? And how long does it historically take for a stacked farm system to pay dividends at the MLB level on a wins basis?

There have been several studies about this over the years — Sky Andrechek’s is one of the best, though it’s a bit old now (Matt Swartz did one too) — and they’ve almost all found top farm systems correlate extremely well to big league success in subsequent seasons. A great farm system doesn’t guarantee success because there are other factors at play, like veterans on the roster and whatnot, but generally speaking, a top tier farm system bodes extremely well going forward. The top systems tend to have top prospects and depth, so the odds of producing several quality big leaguers are quite good. That frees up to money to do other things and improve the roster even more. Farm system rankings are completely subjective, remember. The consensus says the Yankees have one of the best systems in the game though, if not the best, which suggests they’re in great shape moving forward.

Chip asks: Looking at the list of MLB Free Agents, who do you think could be this year’s Eric Chavez? The once really good player who just randomly appears on the list of Yankees non-roster players at Spring Training. It can’t be Ruben Tejada, because he was never really that good. I’m thinking someone like Ryan Howard or maybe CJ Wilson would qualify.

The first year the Yankees signed Chavez, he basically just showed up to camp. There were no rumors at all, and on the day position players reported to Spring Training, the team announced he was in camp as a non-roster player. It was a complete surprise. I remember thinking Jimmy Rollins would be that player last year, but then the White Sox signed him in late-February.

This year, if the Yankees pull a stealth signing like that, I think it’ll be a pitcher. C.J. Wilson is a good candidate, though I think the Yankees would go after a healthy pitcher who could step on the mound right away. Wilson is coming off elbow and shoulder surgeries. I keep coming back to this name, but Jorge De La Rosa seems like the guy to me. The Yankees were connected to him numerous times over the years, and a veteran lefty used to pitching in a tough environment (Coors Field) seems like a solid bet for a minor league deal. Edwin Jackson, Chris Johnson, and (gasp!) Stephen Drew could be other candidates.

Ross asks: Given that Greg Bird might need more time to get his timing back, it had me wondering, how long would he need to be in the minors next season for the Yankees to get that year of service time back?

Bird picked up 53 days of service time in 2015 — and a full year of service time last year while on the big league disabled list, but that’s besides the point — which means he’ll need to spend about 65 days in the minors to delay free agency another year. Two months, basically. It might be worthwhile, you know. If Bird still looks rusty in Spring Training, sending him down until June to “buy back” the year the team lost to the injury last season wouldn’t be a terrible idea. It gives Austin two months of regular at-bats in the big leagues and allows Bird to get back on track in a low-pressure environment.

The Yankees kept Severino in the minors just long enough to delay his free agency last year, though they had to send him down at midseason because he stunk. Bird is coming off an injury, and sending him down on Opening Day to regain his timing may be their only opportunity to send him to the minors. If he’s healthy and rakes, they can’t send him down. I mean, they could, but it would look fishy. The Yankees have the money to pay Bird when the time comes, so maybe this isn’t a big deal. But, if he winds up in the minors again for whatever reason, 65 days is the magic number.

Michael asks: Gary Sanchez for Jose Quintana straight up. Who says no?

Both teams. I think the Yankees would sooner trade minor league prospects like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres than Sanchez, who plays an extremely valuable position and has had big league success, albeit in a limited sample. At the same time, the White Sox are not wrong to demand more for Quintana than just Sanchez. How much more? Well, that depends. But I don’t think asking for more is unreasonable. I think both teams would pass on this one. The Yankees want to keep the high-end catcher and the White Sox want more than one player for by far the best available starting pitcher on the trade market.

Craig asks: How is it that the White Sox can get 2 top 20 pitching prospects for Adam Eaton? I like him as much as the next guy, but he doesn’t seem like a game changer. I know Gardner is older and more expensive, but they seem like very comparable players. If we threw in money could we have landed even one of these guys for Brett Gardner?

Nah, Eaton is quite a bit better than Gardner. It’s not just the age and production, it’s the contract too. Here are their stats over the last two years (this makes Gardner look better and Eaton look worse):

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ XBH HR SB-CS fWAR bWAR
Eaton 1,395 .286/.362/.430 117 103 28 32-13 +9.7 +10.2
Gardner 1,290 .260/.347/.381 102 80 23 36-9 +5.1 +6.7

Gardner turns 34 in August and is owed $23M over the next two seasons with a $12.5M club option for a third year. Eaton turned 28 last month and is owed $18.4M over the next three seasons with $9.5M and $10.5M club options for an additional two seasons. Pretty huge difference there, especially when you consider their on-field performance.

Personally, I think the White Sox did extremely well for Eaton, and I’m not a big Lucas Giolito fan. They sold as high as possible on Eaton — his WAR jumped last year because he moved to right field, and now that he’s going back to center, his good but not great glove will cost him some — and turned him into three good arms. If the Yankees could have one of those young arms for Gardner, I’m sure they would have jumped all over it.

Paul asks: I asked a version of this in last week’s chat. I keep hearing that the Yankees have a very deep farm, but I don’t know how deep that is. There are 30 teams, and let’s talk about each team’s top 30 prospects. That’s 900 total prospects. How many of the top 900 prospects in baseball are in the Yankees’ system? Anything over 30 is good. Is it 35? 45?

I’m not sure I can answer this, though keep in mind the top 30 prospects in each system do not automatically equal the top 900 prospects in baseball. Right now players like Ben Heller and the Holders (Jonathan and Kyle) are just outside my top 30 Yankees prospects — that’s subject to change before I post the final list, I always go through multiple iterations — but I’m certain they’d be in the top 30 for most other teams.

Look at the Angels, for example. MLB.com says Nate Smith, their fifth best prospect, has a ceiling of a fourth or fifth starter. That’s their fifth best prospect. Smith might not crack New York’s top 30. This is nothing more than a guess, but ballpark figure, I’d bet something like 50-55 of the top 900 prospects in baseball are Yankees right now. Maybe even a little more. The system is crazy deep with players who project to be average or better big leaguers, and those types of dudes are more valuable than they great credit for.

Stan Draily. (John Sommers II/Getty)
Stan Draily. (John Sommers II/Getty)

Joe asks: For months was hoping Yankees would pursue Straily from Cincinnati. Now he’s been traded to Miami. What would’ve been a similar comp trade wise that cash could’ve put together? Thoughts on him as a pitcher?

I both can and can not believe the Marlins gave up that much — three of their top ten prospects, per MLB.com! — to get Dan Straily. Dan Straily! I can believe it because Miami always seems to pay big in trades. I can’t believe it because, well, it’s Dan Straily. He was bouncing around waivers last offseason.

Straily, who turned 28 last month and comes with four years of team control, had a fine season for the rebuilding Reds last year, pitching to a 3.76 ERA (4.88 FIP) in 191.1 innings. Look under the hood and you’ve got a pitcher who:

  1. Averaged 89.2 mph with his fastball.
  2. Walked 9.2% of batters faced last season and 9.3% in his career.
  3. Doesn’t keep the ball on the ground or in the park (32.0 GB% and 1.46 HR/9 in 2016).

That is not someone I would be looking to bring to Yankee Stadium and the AL East. If he were on waivers again, fine, scoop him up as depth. But trade three legitimate prospects for him? Not a chance. Luis Castillo and Austin Brice, the two best prospects going to Cincinnati, are on par with Acevedo and Heller, I’d say.

The goal should be finding the next Dan Straily via waivers or free agency or whatever, not trade actual prospects for the real Dan Straily. The Marlins have a history of doing that, paying big to acquire some other team’s random older breakout player. It’s too bad Miami has like no prospects left. The Yankees could hook them up with a shiny new Austin Romine or Ronald Torreyes or something.

Rich asks: To me, Tyler Austin looks like he is physically built and has the offensive profile to play third base. Do you think a) you could agree with that analysis and b) Girardi would give him some reps in the hot corner this spring if they’re still not comfortable with Castro as the back up 3B?

He has the offensive profile for third base, for sure, but he can’t play third. Teams, especially the Yankees, do not hesitate to move prospects to more valuable positions if they think the player can handle it. That’s why Refsnyder was moved from right field to second base, and why Adams went from reliever to starter. Heck, they even tried Peter O’Brien at third base. If they think it’s possible, they’ll try it in the minors.

Austin did play some third base in the minors. Thirty-five total games, in fact, with 24 of the 35 coming back in 2011, when he was in rookie ball. He played three games at the hot corner in Triple-A last year because the roster was thinned out due to injuries and promotions, and they really didn’t have anyone else. Austin doesn’t have the defensive tools for third. His reactions aren’t quick enough and his arm isn’t accurate enough. The Yankees could stick Austin at third in an emergency, but as far as playing there regularly, it won’t happen. He doesn’t have the tools for it.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Alex Rodriguez‘s post-playing career is alive and well. A-Rod is going to host a reality show pilot in which former athletes who run into financial trouble after they retire are paired with mentors who help them get back on track. The working title is “Back in the Game” and Michael Strahan is one of the executive producers. It’ll air on CNBC at some point. Business is booming for A-Rod Corp., eh? He’s not a businessman. He’s a business, man.

This is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks, Rangers, and Islanders are all playing, and there’s a ton of college hoops on the schedule too. Talk about those games, A-Rod’s new show, Brian Cashman loving RAB, or anything else right here.