Friday Links: Offseason Outlook, 2015 Draft, Park, Platoons


Looking to kill some time before the start of the weekend? I have some stray links to pass along that might help you out. Enjoy.

MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook

Last week the gang at MLBTR covered the Yankees as part of their annual Offseason Outlook series. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a look ahead to the offseason. It’s a really great overview of the team’s situation in general — the big obstacle this offseason: getting younger and better despite limited flexibility — and touches on all the major points. We’ll dissect everything from every possible angle this winter here at RAB, but MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook post is a good primer as we wait for the offseason to really get underway. Check it out.

Baseball America’s Draft Report Card

Baseball America just wrapped up their 2015 Draft Report Card series, in which they break down each team’s draft class. They aren’t grading anything, just looking at the top tools. OF Jhalan Jackson (7th round) is said to have the most power potential among 2015 Yankees draftees, for example. The position player section is free but the pitchers and odds and ends are behind the paywall.

Interestingly, the write-up says RHP James Kaprielian (1st) was working at 92-94 and touching 96 this summer, which is a bit higher than the college scouting reports. Also, both his slider and changeup received 65 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale, which is pretty damn awesome. RHP Chance Adams (5th), who had a 1.78 ERA (1.75 FIP) with a 31.7% strikeout rate in 35.1 relief innings at three levels after signing, touched 99 mph this summer. He could start next season at Double-A and reach MLB soon.

Park. (Yonhap)
Park. (Yonhap)

Nexen Heroes to post Byung-Ho Park

The Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization will post power hitting first baseman Byung-Ho Park this coming Monday, according to a Yonhap report. The Yankees were reportedly one of 20 teams to scout Park this season. The right-handed hitting first baseman hit .343/.436/.714 with 53 homers in 140 games this year. Daniel Kim, a former scout and current Korean baseball analyst, told Travis Sawchik Park is the “best pure hitter in the history of KBO.”

The posting process starts Monday, which means teams then have until 5pm ET next Friday to submit a blind bid. The Heroes then have until the following Monday to accept or reject the bid. If they accept, the high bidder and Park have 30 days to negotiate a contract. The team only pays the posting fee if they manage to sign Park. Kim told Sawchik he expects Park to double the $5M posting fee the Pirates paid for Jung-Ho Kang last year.

Park is a first baseman and first baseman only, apparently, so I’m not sure what the Yankees would do with him. Another first baseman/DH is pretty much the last thing they need. They have Mark Teixeira for one more season, a bonafide first baseman of the future in Greg Bird, plus other potential first base candidates in Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, and the aging Brian McCann. I dunno. We’ll see what happens.

Yankees dominated platoons in 2015

According to Baseball Reference, the Yankees led baseball by having the platoon advantage in 73% of their plate appearances this past season. The Indians were second at 71%. The Tigers, Nationals, and Diamondbacks were tied for last at a mere 43%. The Yankees have rated highly in the percentage of at-bats with the platoon advantage for the last few seasons now. Joe Girardi is really meticulous with his platoons, after all. There is definitely an advantage to be gained with platoon matchups, but, of course, it all comes down to the hitters. You have to have good hitters to platoon in the first place.

Reports: Cuban RHP Yasiel Sierra impresses in showcase, will begin visiting interesting teams

Cuban right-hander Yasiel Sierra shined during a recent showcase event in front of approximately 350 scouts and executives, reports Jesse Sanchez. It’s unclear which teams attended the workout in Jupiter, Florida, but if there were 350 of them there, I’m guessing the Yankees had eyeballs on him.

Sierra, 24, has been throwing for scouts for weeks, but this was his first time facing hitters — he retired all nine batters he faced during the showcase, but it was a bunch of high school kids — and pitching in front of a very large crowd. He must still wait for MLB’s clearance before he can actually sign, but Sanchez says Sierra will begin visiting the cities of interested teams soon.

Prior to defecting, Sierra spent parts of four seasons pitching in Cuba and participated in a bunch of international tournaments as well. He’s not a total unknown to scouts but they haven’t had a ton of looks at him at him either. Here are Sierra’s stats from Cuba, via Baseball Reference:

2010 19 -5.7 Holguin 12.00 4 0 3.0 5 4 4 1 4 0 19 3.000 15.0 3.0 12.0 0.0 0.00
2011 20 -4.9 Holguin 5.33 25 3 52.1 58 34 31 5 26 30 231 1.605 10.0 0.9 4.5 5.2 1.15
2012 21 2 Teams 2.20 41 4 81.2 69 22 20 1 41 57 350 1.347 7.6 0.1 4.5 6.3 1.39
2013 22 -3.5 Holguin 3.92 25 18 101.0 79 47 44 3 64 79 448 1.416 7.0 0.3 5.7 7.0 1.23
All Levels (4 Seasons) 3.74 95 25 238.0 211 107 99 10 135 166 1048 1.454 8.0 0.4 5.1 6.3 1.23

Much more important than the stats is the scouting report. Teddy Cahill says Sierra sat in the mid-90s with his heater and around 87 mph with his slider during the showcase. He also threw a changeup. Here’s more from Cahill:

Thursday was Sierra’s first game action in a couple of months, but he overmatched the Chilidogs. While wearing a Cuban national team jersey, he threw three perfect innings, striking out four batters. His fastball sat in the mid 90s, peaking at 96 mph. He used his slider as his out pitch. All four of his strikeouts came on his slider, and a particularly tough 87 mph slider led to a broken bat groundout to end the second inning. He also showed one changeup.

Sierra said he is particularly pleased with the progress of his secondary pitches over the last few months.

“I worked 24/7 for my slider and changeup,” he said through translator and former big leaguer Alex Sanchez. “I was very excited to throw my slider and changeup because they don’t throw that kind of pitch in Cuba.”

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) ranked Sanchez as the 13th best prospect in Cuba before he defected earlier this year. “When Sierra is at his best, he has the look of a mid-rotation starter,” wrote Badler. “Like a lot of Cuban pitchers, Sierra intentionally throws from multiple arm slots, usually throwing from a three-quarters angle but frequently dropping down to a lower slot and at times going up to high three-quarters.”

Because of his age, Sierra is not subject to the international spending restrictions and can sign a big league contract worth any amount. That means the Yankees can sign him — they are limited to bonuses of $300,000 or less for international amateurs as a result of last year’s spending spree, but Sierra is exempt from those restrictions. The $300,000 limit doesn’t apply to him.

Sanchez says scouts believe Sierra can help at the Major League level next season and says the seven-year, $27M contract the Reds gave Cuban righty Raisel Iglesias last winter is comparable to what Sierra can expect. Iglesias spent part of 2015 in the minors but was serviceable in the big leagues, pitching to a 4.15 ERA (3.55 FIP) in 95.1 innings spread across 16 starts and two relief appearances.

The Yankees seem to scout every Cuban player these days — as they should, if only for due diligence — but they haven’t signed a big money Cuban player since Jose Contreras more than a decade ago. Sierra doesn’t seem like a budding star or anything, but pitching is pitching, and the Yankees could decide he’s worth an investment.

After a strong 2015 season, Gary Sanchez is back in the Yankees’ long-term plans


At this time last year, Gary Sanchez‘s prospect stock was down. He had just wrapped up a good but not great season with Double-A Trenton — Sanchez hit .270/.338/.406 (108 wRC+) with 13 homers in 110 games for the Thunder in 2014 — which left people still waiting for that huge breakout season. A 2009 Jesus Montero season, basically.

I argued prospect fatigue was setting in. Although he was still only 21 at the time, it felt like Sanchez had been around forever. We’ve been hearing about him since 2009 and looking at his stats since 2010. Prospects are like toys. We love them, then toss them aside when the next flashy one arrives. Sanchez fell behind others like Aaron Judge and Greg Bird.

This year though, Sanchez finally had a dominant year at the plate, hitting .287/.340/.516 (140 wRC+) with 18 home runs in 93 games split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He made his MLB debut in September and went 0-for-2 in two garbage time at-bats, and actually made the wildcard game roster as the third catcher and extra righty bat.

Sanchez, now 22, is currently annihilating the Arizona Fall League. He has gone 17-for-40 (.429) with five home runs and 36 total bases (and 15 RBI, if that’s your thing) in nine games for the Surprise Saguaros. Bird was named AzFL MVP last year after going 31-for-99 (.313) with six homers and 55 total bases in 26 games. Sanchez was recently named AzFL Player of the Week, because duh.

The numbers are nice, but, more importantly, Sanchez grew as a person and matured this year. He’s had some attitude issues over the years, most notably getting suspended a few years ago because he refused to catch a bullpen session. “Everything has improved all around. I don’t care where you come from. When you are 21 or 22, everyone grows,” said departed assistant GM Billy Eppler to George King (subs. req’d) in September.

Sanchez did a little growing up, his defense continues to make incremental progress — a scout recently told Therron Brockish Sanchez has “soft hands and showed good blocking skills,” and rated his future defense a 50 on the 20-80 scouting scale, meaning MLB average — and he had a big year at the plate. Plus he made his MLB debut. The 2015 season was a smashing success for Sanchez.

So now what? Where do the Yankees and Sanchez go from here? Sanchez is saying all the right things — “As a kid, you always dream to have that call, and I thank God that it happened this year. But I feel that it is not over yet. I want to continue to improve to where one day, I can play in the big leagues every single day,” he said to Antonio Cannavaro earlier this week — and the Yankees haven’t said anything, which isn’t surprising. The way I see it, the Yankees have three options with Sanchez this offseason.

Option 1: Trade Him!

Over the last few years the Yankees have prioritized catcher defense. The only bad defensive catcher they’ve had since 2007 or so was Jorge Posada. Sanchez has definitely improved behind the plate, but even if he lives up to that scout’s projection and becomes a 50 defender, is that good enough for the Yankees? Maybe! But they seem to look for elite glovemen, not average defenders. Sanchez’s trade value might not get any higher than it is right now, with him destroying the AzFL.

Option 2: Keep Him You Idiot!

Sanchez has played only 35 games at Triple-A, so hanging on to him and sending him back to the RailRiders to start next season is perfectly reasonable. In fact, I’d say it’s the most likely outcome. Sanchez still has work to do behind the plate and at this point of his career, he’s better off playing everyday in the minors than sitting on the big league bench as a backup. John Ryan Murphy was big league ready defensively last year. Using him as the backup made sense. Sanchez? Nah, he needs more reps and lots of them. Triple-A is always an option.

Option 3: Trade Someone Else

This seems unlikely, but it is possible, I guess. The Yankees could move Murphy to fill another position — plenty of teams needing catching help and the dirt cheap Murphy would be quite attractive — and go with Sanchez as Brian McCann‘s backup. Or they could try to move McCann and accelerate the youth movement with a Murphy/Sanchez catching tandem. That would be something else. Of course, McCann’s contract and no-trade clause would be quite the obstacle.

A few months ago I would have expected Sanchez to be traded this offseason because his defense isn’t up to the team’s apparent standards. Right now I think they’re likely to hold onto him, see what steps forward he takes next season, then make a decision. The bat is too promising to move right now. Next season will be Sanchez’s last minor league option year — he could qualify for a fourth option I suppose, that stuff always confuses me — which means it’s big leagues or bust come 2017.

That’s not necessarily a problem. If Sanchez continues to hit well — 22-year-old catchers who hit 18 home runs in the upper minors are exceedingly rare, you know — the Yankees can make room for him, even if they have to shoehorn him into the lineup at DH or even first base. Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran will be gone after 2016, after all. The roster logjam will clear up a bit.

A year ago at this time Sanchez appeared to be fading as a prospect, a guy who was more hype than tools and production. That wasn’t completely undeserved. Either way, it’s no longer the case now. Sanchez made big strikes this year, especially with his maturity, and he put himself in position to help the Yankees as soon as next year. Surely he noticed the team turned to Bird and Luis Severino when they needed help this summer. That’s some nice motivation.

I would never rule out a trade. Can’t do it. At this point though, I think the Yankees will keep Sanchez and he’ll head into next season as the third catcher on the depth chart. It’s not often a team goes through an entire season with their top two catchers staying healthy — the Yankees got lucky and did that this past season — so Sanchez figures to start in Triple-A and come up whenever help is needed.

Development rarely goes smoothly and according to plan. Sanchez hit some bumps in the road, overcame them, and put himself in position to be discussed as a serious part of the Yankees’ future. Where does he fit exactly? That remains to be seen.

Report: Korean third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang asks to be posted this offseason

(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)
(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

Third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang has asked his club, the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization, to make him available to MLB teams via the posting process this offseason, reports Yonhap. The two sides were set to continue talking in recent days and weeks.

“Any baseball player would dream of playing in the majors,” said Hwang to Yonhap. “And I have been working hard to realize that dream myself. I’ve already signed on with an American management company … I wanted to keep a low profile, but when articles on (teammate Ah-Seop Son) mentioned my name, I decided to go public, too.”

Hwang, 28, is a right-handed hitting third baseman who is known for his power and bat flips. Here is one of his better bat flips (skip to the 0:46 mark if you’re impatient):

Oh yeah, that’s the good stuff. Hwang spent time with three teams earlier in his career — there are ten teams in KBO now but there were only seven when Hwang first broke in — before finally finding a home with the Giants in 2010. Here are his career stats, via Baseball Reference:

2007 19 -9.5 Hyundai 63 171 19 48 6 0 2 12 2 2 5 33 .300 .323 .375 .698
2008 20 -8.2 Woori 117 333 27 73 10 1 1 18 10 7 16 56 .239 .279 .288 .567
2009 21 -7.3 Woori 133 608 86 152 27 5 18 63 30 15 55 100 .284 .349 .453 .802
2010 22 -6.0 2 Teams 94 352 41 69 14 3 6 40 18 7 32 73 .225 .303 .350 .653
2011 23 -5.4 Lotte 117 458 62 115 18 4 12 68 12 6 40 78 .289 .360 .445 .805
2012 24 -4.3 Lotte 133 504 42 122 19 1 4 51 26 8 38 81 .272 .335 .346 .681
2013 25 -3.5 Lotte 128 559 70 134 29 3 7 56 22 11 49 78 .274 .350 .389 .738
2014 26 -2.9 Lotte 128 550 66 156 33 3 12 76 17 10 53 86 .321 .388 .475 .864
2015 27 Lotte 144 596 95 155 41 2 26 97 11 10 48 122 .290 .350 .521 .870
All Levels (9 Seasons) 1057 4131 508 1024 197 22 88 481 148 76 336 707 .280 .343 .417 .761

So far Hwang has only had one big power season, and he attributes his 2015 power spike to a new offseason training regime designed to add muscle. It’s worth noting his strikeout rate jumped from 15.0% from 2012-14 to 20.5% in 2015. That suggests some approach changes as well. It seems Hwang is swinging for the fences more often.

Inevitably, Hwang will be compared to Jung-Ho Kang, who was a smashing success for the Pirates this year. Kang was a consistent 20+ homer guy in Korea and he swatted 40 dingers in 2014. He struck out in 21.2% of his plate appearances in his final season in KBO, so his strikeout rate was in line with Hwang’s. Of course, he also hit way more homers too.

Our Sung-Min Kim tells me Hwang is considered a natural third baseman with a strong arm. He has played some shortstop in the past but works exclusively at the hot corner these days. Plenty of teams have scouted Hwang this year and the consensus is his plate discipline and approach are a bit worrisome, though that seems to be the case for all foreign position players.

The Giants do not have to post Hwang this offseason — MLB’s posting agreement with KBO is like the old posting system with NPB, meaning a blind bid and then a 30-day negotiating window — but they have incentive to do so because he will qualify for international free agency next offseason. They could either post him now and get gobs of money or lose him for nothing next year.

Kang is the first Korean position player to successfully transition to MLB through the posting system, and because of his success, I’m sure teams will spend some extra time evaluating Korean position players. There are 29 clubs right now who wish they had pursued Kang more aggressively. Hwang could benefit from Kang’s success simply because there figures to be more attention paid to position players in KBO now.

The best third baseman on the free agent market this offseason is David Freese, so yeah. Hwang figures to generate some interest. The Yankees have Chase Headley at third base, though they are said to be seeking a right-handed bat, so I suppose it’s not impossible they could trade Headley and bring in Hwang to play third. Unlikely? Oh sure. But not impossible. The Yankees will surely explore every option.

Given the lack of alternatives, I doubt the Yankees would have much trouble finding a taker for Headley, especially with only three years and $39M left on his contract. That’s nothing these days. I doubt the Yankees pursue Hwang this offseason, but he is an option that exists.

Ian Clarkin throws 4 innings in Arizona Fall League debut

( screen grab)
( screen grab)

For the first time in 2015, left-hander Ian Clarkin pitched in an official game this afternoon. Clarkin threw four innings for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League, allowing one run on three singles, one double, and three walks. He struck out two, got six ground outs, no fly outs, and threw 37 of 64 pitches for strikes (58%). Here’s the box score.

“I thought I pitched pretty well,” said Clarkin to William Boor. “It’s really good for me to have a starting point to make adjustments into my next start … It felt great. It was hard for them to take me out of today’s game. Obviously when they tell me I’m done, I’m done, but I wanted to go back out there”

Clarkin, 21, came into the season as the Yankees’ fourth best prospect. He then came down with a mysterious elbow injury and missed the season. It was originally called inflammation back in Spring Training. Clarkin was on a throwing program in August and September and has been pitching in Instructional League the last few weeks.

Keith Law was at this afternoon’s game and said Clarkin was sitting 90-92 mph with “that same good curveball he’s always had,” so that’s good news. His fastball/curveball combination has returned to where it was before the injury. Clarkin also throws a changeup and picked up a cutter last season. Here’s video of him warming up in the bullpen today.

“I think he threw the ball well, worked ahead in the count,” said Saguaros and Double-A Trenton pitching coach Jose Rosado to Boor. “It’s fun to watch a lefty so young in this league. It’s fun, especially when he’s able to work ahead in the count.”

The 2015 season is a lost season at this point, but at least the AzFL stint will allow Clarkin to get some competitive innings under his belt before going home for the winter. The AzFL season ends in about a month, so with any luck, Clarkin will throw another 25-30 innings this year.

“All I’m worried about is going out and dominating,” added Clarkin. “I have a lot more left in the tank. I’m happy that I have a starting point, but I can do a lot more. I expect a lot more.”

DotF: Gary Sanchez off to great start in Arizona Fall League

Sanchez. (Presswire)
Sanchez. (Presswire)

Before we get to the first fall/winter ball update of the season, here are a bunch of minor league notes and links to pass along:

  • LHP Ian Clarkin, who did not pitch in official games at all this season due to ongoing elbow trouble, will make his first Arizona Fall League start on Monday, reports Josh Norris. Clarkin did pitch in Instructional League the last few weeks.
  • Baseball America posted a Scout’s Take piece on C Gary Sanchez. (It’s free. You don’t need a subscription.) The scout likes Sanchez as a potential middle of the order bat and also sees him as an average defender, which is nice improvement from where he was earlier in his career.
  • Based on the Twitter feeds of various players, the Yankees had Alfonso Soriano and Scott Rolen working with their minor leaguers during Instructional League. Rolen and farm system head Gary Denbo know each other from their days with the Blue Jays.
  • Know that giant Ferris wheel they’re building in Staten Island? It’s creating headaches for Short Season Staten Island, writes Everett Merrill. Construction has limited parking and led to traffic delays, and even knocked the team’s phone lines out for a few days. Attendance took a hit this year and the team is trying to come up with aggressive marketing strategies for next season.
  • And finally, with 1B Greg Bird and RHP Luis Severino graduating to MLB, OF Ben Gamel and SS Thairo Estrada jumped on’s top 30 Yankees prospects list, according to High-A Tampa. Here’s the full list.

Now let’s get to the fall ball action, starting with the Arizona Fall League.

AzFL Surprise (6-5 loss to Peoria) Tuesday’s season-opener

  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 PB — hit the first home run of the AzFL season … the linked scouting report above says the passed ball was a cross-up, remember most of these pitchers and catchers haven’t worked together before
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 2-4, 1 2B — he’s here in place of 3B Eric Jagielo, who is still recovering from his knee surgery … it’s an infielder for infielder replacement, so Austin has to play first (or third I guess, but he hasn’t done that in a while)
  • SS Tyler Wade: 2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI — the AzFL will be a good test for him since he’ll be facing a bunch of older pitchers

AzFL Surprise (5-4 win over Peoria in ten innings, walk-off style) Wednesday’s game

  • DH Gary Sanchez: 3-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • LF Dustin Fowler: 0-3, 1 K
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 23 of 35 pitches were strikes (66%) … first game action since late-June … he missed the end of the regular season due to a tendon issue in his hand

AzFL Surprise (3-0 win over Mesa) Thursday’s game

  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 K — started and batted cleanup in each of their first three games, so it appears he’s going to play a lot these next few weeks
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 2B Tyler Wade: 0-2, 1 K
  • RHP Domingo Acevedo: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 20 of 27 pitches were strikes (74%) … he hit 99 mph according to Josh Norris, who also posted video

AzFL Surprise (20-6 win over Mesa) Friday’s game … no Yankees prospects played

The various Caribbean Winter Leagues have either just started their seasons or will do so relatively soon. Here are the assignments so far.

Dominican Summer League: RHP Andury Acevedo, UTIL Jose Rosario

Mexican Pacific League: RHP Gio Gallegos, RHP Luis Niebla, RHP Cesar Vargas

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico): No rosters yet

Venezuelan Winter League: C Francisco Arcia, IF Ali Castillo, RHP Luis Cedeno, OF Ben Gamel, C Juan Graterol, OF Ericson Leonora, RHP Jaron Long, RHP Mark Montgomery, OF Teodoro Martinez, RHP Diego Moreno, and IF Jose Pirela.

Keep in mind that just because a player is on a winter ball roster, it does not necessary mean he’ll play. It just means that team holds the player’s winter ball rights. Also, more players can still be — and inevitably will be — added to winter ball rosters in the coming days and weeks. Right now it sure looks like the VWL is the one to watch.

2016 Draft: Yankees hold 22nd overall pick

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Now that the 2015 regular season is over, the order for the 2016 amateur draft it set. The Phillies have the first overall pick for the second time in franchise history — they took Pat Burrell first overall in 1998 — and they’ll be followed by the Reds, Braves, Rockies, and Brewers. Here is the full draft order.

The Yankees had the ninth best record in baseball this season at 87-75, so they hold the 22nd overall pick in next June’s draft. That will be their second highest pick since taking Ian Kennedy with the 21st overall selection in 2006. The Yankees took UCLA RHP James Kaprielian with the 16th overall pick earlier this year.

Obviously the draft order is not final and won’t be for a while. Draft picks can and inevitably will move around as free agent compensation this offseason. I think the only free agent the Yankees would be willing to surrender their first rounder to sign is Jason Heyward, and that’s only because he’s so young. Here’s my qualifying offer primer for CBS.

It’s a bit too early to discuss who the Yankees may target with that 22nd pick. Heck, it’s not even clear who the favorite to go first overall is right now. Kiley McDaniel, who recently joined the Braves front office, put together a 2016 draft board at FanGraphs with notable prospects. He also wrote up some draft notes as well, so check those out.

The Yankees have leaned towards college players in recent years because they simply haven’t had a ton of luck developing high school kids into big league players. Maybe they’ll change course now that Greg Bird and Luis Severino, two teenagers they developed successfully, had MLB success. We’ll see.

I’ll put together our annual Draft Order Tracker page in a few weeks, once we get closer to the offseason and see who receives a qualifying offer.