Mailbag: Nunez, Arneson, Cards, Venditte, IFAs

Five questions this week, and four are farm system-related in one way or another. You can use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar whenever you want to send in a question.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Matt asks: Would you agree that an off-season strategy could be to include E. Nunez in a package for something the Yankees want, while giving his role for 2012 to Corban Joseph?

I would not agree with that, mainly because Joseph can’t play shortstop. I assume he played it in high school, but he’s been a second baseman almost exclusively as a pro. I’m willing to bet that CoJo could fake short in an emergency, but Derek Jeter‘s getting up there in age, and the Yankees need someone capable of playing there for an extended period of time without embarrassing themselves. Nunez can do that, Ramiro Pena can maybe do that, but I’m not sure Joseph can. I think if anything, he could step into Eric Chavez‘s shoes as the lefty bat/corner infielder, but I can understand wanting a veteran in that role.

The CoJo situation will be interesting to watch, because I’m not really sure where he fits in. He’s obviously not going to unseat Robinson Cano at second, so maybe it’s best to turn into some kind of utility guy that can play first, second, third, and maybe left. Of course, they could always use him as trade bait. I would have no trouble trading Nunez in the right package, but I wouldn’t count on Joseph replacing him, at least not in 2012.

Jeff asks: Hey Mike, I read that Zachary Arneson signed for a 20k bonus. Any idea why it was so low compared to other picks before and after his round? Cheers.

Arneson, this year’s ninth rounder, was a college senior out of Lewis-Clark State, and college seniors don’t have much leverage at all. Their options are either sign or go back to school as a fifth year senior and come out next year with even less leverage. Very rarely do they improve their stock. Seniors definitely get the shaft in the draft game, but that’s life. Some other notable college seniors the Yankees have drafted in recent years: Adam Warren ($195k), Tim Norton ($85k), Kyle Roller ($45k), Sam Elam ($40k), T.J. Beam ($20k), and Chris Malec ($1k). Yep, Malec got a grand, that’s it.

Update: One thing I forgot to mention … the signing deadline does not apply to college seniors. They are free to sign at any point before the next year’s draft.

Sean asks: With St. Louis about to (presumably) tie up a lot of money in Pujols, do you think there is a chance to snag a piece of their rotation in the off-season? Assuming they do not exercise their options for Wainwright or Carpenter, can you see the Yankees pursuing either of them or Edwin Jackson? And if so, what kind of contract would Wainwright be looking for?

Despite the Tommy John surgery, I can’t see why the Cardinals would decline Adam Wainwright’s options after the season. The team has to pick up both at the same time, and they’ll pay him $9M next season and $12M the season after. Even if he comes back and is two-thirds of what he was before (so 4+ WAR instead of 6+ WAR), that’s a bargain. They’d be foolish not to pick them up, but if they didn’t for whatever reason, I’d want the Yankees to be all over him. Wainwright’s a legit ace when healthy, with a fastball-curveball combo that will play anywhere, NL Central or AL East. There’s no real precedent for an ace-caliber pitcher hitting the open market after missing the year due to injury, so I have no idea what kind of contract would be appropriate. Maybe one-year, $10M plus incentives and a huge option for 2012 ($18M?) to let him rebuild his value than cash in shortly thereafter? I have no idea, just spitballin’.

Chris Carpenter is a much different story. We’ve written about him a number of times here, and his option is for $15M next year. That’s pricey for a 36-year-old who’s still very good (3.10 FIP), but maybe not truly elite anymore. He’d be an ideal stopgap number two type for the Yankees, allowing them to avoid the C.J. Wilsons of the world before going nuts on the 2012 free agent class (Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, all of them and more will be free agents after next season). Edwin Jackson … meh. I loved him as a rental for this year, but signing him to a multi-year deal as a free agent? I’d rather pass on that.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

JCK asks: Pat Venditte has been great since mid-June in Trenton. Everyone says his stuff doesn’t play to major league hitters, but he’s adjusted to every level so far. Do you think the Yankees protect him this winter?

Venditte’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, and no, I don’t think the Yankees will protect him. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, and George Kontos are all going to have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season, and there’s only so much room for pitchers on that thing. Venditte’s done a great job in the minors, but he doesn’t really have an out pitch from either side and it shows in his strikeout rate this year (8.74 K/9 this year vs. 11+ in previous years). He’s a great org arm, but there wouldn’t be much attention paid to Venditte if he only threw with one arm.  I’m pretty sure some team will grab him in the Rule 5 just to give him a look in Spring Training, the novelty is too tempting, but I can’t imagine him sticking in the big leagues for all of 2012. I have to think he’d be offered back at some point.

Alex asks: How involved have the Yankees been in IFA this year? What have been their major signings? It seems as though they’ve been more quiet on this front than in years past.

The Yankees have only signed one player so far (that we know of), Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar for $750k. The top guys (Victor Sanchez, Elier Hernandez, and Ronald Guzman) have all signed somewhere, but there is still plenty of talent out there for taking, namely Roberto Osuna, who the Yankees have their eyes on. The entire international market seems to have slowed down recently because MLB has really stepped up their age and identity verification process, but remember that the signing period never ends. There’s no deadline, but a new crop of players is added every July 2nd. In fact, the Yankees’ two biggest signings last year – Rafael DePaula and Juan Carlos Paniagua – didn’t agree to terms until December and March, respectively. You can question their drafting strategies, but there’s no way to question the work the Yankees do in Latin America. They consistently produce quality players and prospects year after year, and I see no reason to believe this year will be any different.

IFA: Yankees signed Miguel Andujar for $750,000

Via Pedro J. Briceño, the Yankees have signed Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar for $750,000. The 16-year-old was considered one of their top targets during this international free agent signing period, and is said to have “good bat speed, an advanced righthanded swing and has shown the ability to hit both fastballs and offspeed pitches.” Here’s some video.

July 2nd International Signing Period Begins

It feels like the draft was just yesterday, but the July 2nd International Signing Period begins today. Ben Badler posted a list of the top 40 prospects with links to video, ranking the kids by their expected signing bonus and not necessarily talent. There is certainly some correlation between signing bonus and prospect-ness, though. That link is free for all, but you’ll need a Baseball America subscription to see scouting reports and team-by-team breakdowns. As usual, the Yankees are expected to be among the biggest spenders in Latin American this year.

We’ve already heard about their interest in Luis Reynoso, Manny Marcos, Roberto Osuna, and Miguel Andujar, but the new name is Adalberto Mondesi, Raul’s son. He’s a rare shortstop that projects to stay at the position, with speed, soft hands, and a strong arm. Badler notes that some scouts like his swing from both sides of the plate, though he doesn’t figure to have much power. The Yankees haven’t signed anyone yet (other teams have), but don’t worry, they will soon.

IFA News: Andujar, Marcos, DePaula, Paniagua

Teams can begin signing newly-eligible international free agents this Saturday, and Ben Badler of Baseball America brings us up to speed with who might be going where (subs. req’d). One of the Yankees’ top targets is Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar, who is said to have “good bat speed, an advanced righthanded swing and has shown the ability to hit both fastballs and offspeed pitches.” They’ve also been connected to Dominican center fielder Manny Marcos, who you can read about here.

Badler also provides an update on Rafael DePaula, who signed with the Yankees for six-figures over the winter. DePaula had an interview with the U.S. Consolate last month and is awaiting a visa after being suspended for age and identity fraud. Juan Carlos Paniagua, who signed for $1.1M, is also awaiting a visa. Neither player’s contract will become official until they actually get the okay to come to the United States.

Yankees interested in Roberto Osuna

Via Roberto Espinoza (link in Spanish), the Yankees are one of several teams with serious interest in 15-year-old Mexican right-hander Roberto Osuna, who they watched throw last week. He will turn 16 on July 2nd, so he will be eligible to sign this year. Osuna is the nephew of former Yankee Antonio Osuna and a 6-foot-0, 198 lb. hurler with an idea of how to use three pitches: a low-90’s fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. He’s currently pitching in the Mexican League (5.49 ERA in 19.2 IP), which is somewhere between Double-A and Triple-A in terms of competition.

Osuna is one of the top pitching prospects available on the international market this year, and he’s expected to command a seven-figure bonus. The Yankees have never given an international pitcher seven-figures (not counting vets Jose Contreras or Hideki Irabu), but they tried to with Michael Ynoa. Because he is property of a Mexican League club, Osuna will only receive 25% of his bonus. The rest goes to his team. The Yankees have a very strong presence in Mexico thanks to scout Lee Sigman, who helped broker deals for Manny Banuelos and Al Aceves in the not too distant past.

International Free Agency Preview

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Although the draft gets most of the attention and rightfully so, the lifeblood of the Yankees’ farm system has long been international free agency, particularly Latin America. The top three and six of the top ten players on my preseason top 30 prospects list were acquired via international free agency, a talent market the Yankees can dominate with just money and not have to worry about draft position or slot recommendations. Ben Badler of Baseball America covers the IFA market like no one else, and this week he rolled out his early coverage of the International Signing Period, which officially begins on July 2nd each year. All of his preview content is behind the subscriber wall and can be found here: top talents, outfielders, shortstops, and pitchers.

Three Dominican outfielders highlight this year’s crop of talent, which is headlined by Ronald Guzman. He’s the best pure hitter and top offensive talent on the market this season but is likely to be relegated to left field down the line. Elier Hernandez is the tools freak with big time foot speed and huge batting practice power. Nomar Mazara also puts on displays in batting practice, but he doesn’t carry the same swing into games and is prone to swinging and missing, always a red flag with amateurs. Guzman has been connected to the Rangers, Red Sox and Blue Jays, Hernandez to the Royals. All three are expected to command seven figure signing bonuses.

The top two arms are righties Victor Sanchez (Venezuela) and Roberto Osuna (Mexico). Sanchez stands 6-foot-1 and has run his fastball as high as 94 while showing decent offspeed stuff, but the concern is that he doesn’t miss as many bats as someone with his stuff should against the competition he’s been facing. Osuna is the nephew of former Yankee Antonio Osuna, and he’ll offer low-90’s fastballs with a curveball and changeup. He turns 16 on July 2nd (so he just made the cut off), but he’s already pitching in the Mexican League and holding his own as a 15-year-old playing against guys ten years his senior. Sanchez could command as much as $3.5M, Osuna less than that but still seven figures.

We’ll hear much more about the Yankees and specific players in the coming weeks, but here’s a quick recap of the guys connected to the Yankees according to Badler. Also check out the Dominican Prospect League’s site for more info on way more players…

Manny Marcos, OF, Dominican Republic
A center fielder with a wiry strong 6-foot-0, 175 lb. frame, Marcos figures to stay at the position long-term and has good speed. He does have some power, but it’s more to the gaps than over the fence right now.

Yairo Munoz, SS, Dominican Republic
Munoz is a “shortstop” more than a shortstop, meaning he’s likely to wind up at another position down the road. Perez trains with former Yankees’ infield coach Rafael Perez, and he’s a switch hitter that has shown power from both sides of the plate, though his best tools are above-average speed and arm strength. Here’s video.

Luis Reynoso, SS, Dominican Republic
Another “shortstop,” Reynoso doesn’t have one true standout tool according to Badler and is instead solid at everything. He has some athleticism and projection, and his offensive game relies more on contact from the right side than power. Here’s video.

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I recommend clicking through and watching the videos for no other reason to see how young and physically immature these kids are. They’re just babies, and yet scouts and teams are trying to project who will grow into a big league body and develop big league tools. Much respect to all the scouts out there.