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According to Nick Cafardo, the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization will make star shortstop Jung-Ho Kang available to MLB teams via the posting process this offseason. The posting agreement with KBO is different than the posting agreement with Nippon Pro Baseball in Japan. The posting system for Korean players is the same as the old posting system for Japanese players, meaning MLB teams will make blind bids for the right to negotiate with the player for 30 days.

Kang, 27, had a monster season this year, hitting .360/.463/.756 with 33 doubles, 38 homers, 62 walks, and 98 strikeouts in only 107 games. He’s had other very good years for the Heroes but nothing like this. Here are his stats since becoming a regular:

Year Age AgeDif Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 21 -7.2 Woori 116 408 36 98 18 1 8 47 3 1 31 65 .271 .334 .392 .726
2009 22 -6.3 Woori 133 538 73 136 33 2 23 81 3 2 45 81 .286 .349 .508 .857
2010 23 -5.0 Nexen 133 522 60 135 30 2 12 58 2 2 61 87 .301 .391 .457 .848
2011 24 -4.5 Nexen 123 504 53 125 22 2 9 63 4 6 43 62 .282 .353 .401 .754
2012 25 -3.4 Nexen 124 519 77 137 32 0 25 82 21 5 71 78 .314 .413 .560 .973
2013 26 -2.5 Nexen 126 532 67 131 21 1 22 96 15 8 68 109 .291 .387 .489 .876
2014 27 Nexen 107 458 98 137 33 2 38 107 3 3 62 98 .360 .463 .756 1.219
9 Seasons 892 3517 465 904 190 10 137 535 51 28 381 593 .298 .382 .503 .885
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/19/2014.

After a monster season like that, Kang’s value is unlikely to get any higher. I doubt he’ll improve on that performance at any point in the future. Kang is two years away from international free agency, so it makes sense for Nexen to post him now, when his value is at its absolutely highest. Otherwise they’ll loose him for nothing after the 2016 season or get stuck with a smaller posting fee next winter.

Cafardo says there is “some pushback from scouts who have seen (Kang) play on whether he translates to major league baseball,” mostly because of a very high leg kick that may leave him vulnerable against better than KBO pitching. Here’s more on Kang from one of my recent mailbags:

Kang is said to be a true shortstop with strong defense, and his best offensive tool is his big power from the right side. Supposedly he’s a dead fastball hitter who struggles against good breaking pitches, which would be a major concern if true. Remember, Kang is playing in Korea, where the level of competition is even lower than Japan.

I remember reading something a few years ago that pointed it almost all the successful position players to come over from Asia were outfielders because the game on the infield is simply too fast and too big of an adjustment. Akinori Iwamura is the most notable recent Asian import to make it work on the infield in MLB, and he was nothing more than a league average player for two and a half years. Others like Kaz Matsui and Tsuyoshi Nishioka flopped despite being high-profile pickups and stars in Japan. That doesn’t mean Kang will be a bust, but it’s something to keep in mind.

The only Korean-born position players in MLB history are Hee-Seop Choi and Shin-Soo Choo, both of whom signed as amateurs and came up through the minors like every other player. Kang will be the first position player to come over from KBO via the posting system and second star player overall, joining Dodgers southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu. Los Angeles bid $25.7M for Ryu and signed him to a six-year deal worth $36M.

The Yankees need both a short and long-term shortstop after Derek Jeter‘s retirement, and with J.J. Hardy recently signing an extension with the Orioles, Stephen Drew is the only true shortstop set to hit free agency this offseason. Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera are all second or third basemen masquerading as shortstops. I’m not sure how many people are eager to see Drew back in pinstripes, even on a cheap one-year contract.

There have not yet been any reports saying the Yankees or any other team has interest in Kang, though it’s probably a little too early for that. I’m sure it’ll pick up after the World Series. I don’t know enough about Kang to say whether the Yankees should look into signing him. All I know is they need a shortstop and he’ll be available this offseason. This isn’t a Masahiro Tanaka situation though, where every report indicates he will be an impact player right away. Not even close, really.

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The video above, which comes courtesy of Kiley McDaniel, is OF Juan De Leon at Instructional League a few weeks go. The Yankees signed the 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic for $2M back in July and he’s arguably the best prospect they signed during their international spending spree. The video isn’t much, but it’s more than we get to see from many of these guys. Here are some more minor league notes before the weekly fall/winter ball recaps:

  • Keith Law (subs. req’d) recently saw several Yankees farmhands in the Arizona Fall League. He said 1B Greg Bird‘s “swing is very short to the ball, with great hand acceleration to produce that hard contact,” but notes Bird has issues defensively. OF Tyler Austin “looks better in BP than he has in a while” due to his nagging wrist injury while 3B Dante Bichette Jr. “looks the same as ever: He possesses a huge, out-of-control swing with a big backside collapse, and poor defense at third.”
  • Jeff Moore (subs. req’d) provided a firsthand scouting report on OF Aaron Judge recently. “While others his size tend to sell out for the power that is expected of them, Judge employs an up-the-middle approach, using the whole field and looking for line drives … His bat stays through the strike zone for a long time, giving him good plate coverage and the ability to handle pitches on the outer half that selling out for power would leave him exposed to,” he wrote.
  • Zeke Fine recently wrote up a firsthand scouting report on SS Jorge Mateo. “His projectable frame, elite speed, and natural hitting ability suggest that he could become an above average shortstop at the major league level. How he develops physically will help to determine his ultimate ceiling,” he said.
  • John Manuel went back and handed out grades for the 2009 draft. The Angels, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and Nationals all received A’s while the Dodgers, Orioles, and Rays received F’s. The Yankees received a C. With of OF Slade Heathcott unable to stay healthy, this class boils down to RHP Adam Warren, RHP Shane Greene, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and C John Ryan Murphy.

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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According to Jon Morosi, 26-year-old Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez has defected and will soon look to sign a big league contract. He must first establish residency in another country, be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and be declared a free agent by MLB before that can happen. That’s usually a lengthy process and it figures to carry over in early-2015, if not next summer.

Fernandez, who is not related to the Marlins pitcher of the same name, hit .315/.415/.426 in 65 plate appearances in the Cuban league this season before defecting last week, according to Ben Badler. He hit .326/.482/.456 in 314 plate appearances last year. Fernandez is a left-handed hitter who Badler says has “excellent bat control and plate discipline with occasional power.”

In another piece, Badler (subs. req’d) ranked Fernandez as the third best prospect left in Cuba and called him a below-average fielder at second. He’s played some third base but is best suited for second because of his weak arm. Point is, Fernandez’s value will come mostly from his offense, specifically his on-base skills.

Out of curiosity, I ran a Play Index search for second basemen who qualified for the batting title with a .350+ OBP, ten or fewer homers, and negative defensive WAR in a single season, which is what it sounds like Fernandez will become. It spit out names like Luis Castillo, Skip Schumaker, Jeff Keppinger, and late-career Craig Biggio. It’s definitely a unique profile.

The Yankees do need a long-term second baseman, but they have Martin Prado at the MLB and Rob Refsnyder knocking on the door at Triple-A. Prado could play elsewhere because he’s so versatile but Fernandez (and Refsnyder, really) can’t. Yasmany Tomas fits the Yankees better because he’s a power hitter and is still only 23. I don’t think a one-tool guy like Fernandez makes much sense for New York. Not with Refsnyder so close and deserving of a look.

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Via Kyodo: The Hiroshima Carp are still undecided whether they will post ace right-hander Kenta Maeda this offseason. “We have the right. We would like to let him go, but based on his production this year it will be difficult,” said owner Hajime Matsuda, referring to Maeda’s disappointing year. Maeda recently told reporters in  Japan that he would prefer to play for the Yankees or Red Sox next year.

Maeda, 26, had a 2.56 ERA and a 154/40 K/BB in 179 innings this past season, and all reports indicate he is not on par with guys like Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish. He’s more of a mid-to-back of the rotation arm. This could be posturing on Matsuda’s part — remember, the Rakuten Golden Eagles said they were unsure they would post Tanaka last winter — though I’m not sure what they’ll gain. The maximum release fee is $20M and it seems they’ll get that easily despite Maeda’s substandard year. Either way, I don’t expect the Yankees to get involved if the bidding reaches $100M to $120M as speculated.

Baseball America’s look at the top prospects in each minor league continued on Wednesday with the Triple-A Intentional League, the last list relevant to the Yankees. The list is free, the scouting reports are not. Pirates OF Gregory Polanco, Red Sox IF/OF Mookie Betts, and Indians SS Francisco Lindor fill the top three spots. Triple-A Scranton didn’t have a ton of top prospects this year, though 2B Rob Refsnyder did made the list at No. 13.

“Refsnyder’s short, powerful stroke from the right side is polished, and when combined with a keen batting eye, he projects to hit for average and get on base at a high rate,” said the write-up while noting Refsnyder “lacks fluidity and must improve his double-play pivot skills.” One scout said he is “a work in progress, but the bottom line is he can hit.” The 23-year-old Refsnyder hit .300/.389/.456 (137 wRC+) with 19 doubles and eight homers in 77 games for the RailRiders after a midseason promotion from Double-A Trenton. I’m pretty confident we’ll see him at second base sometime next year.

Other League Top 20s: Double-A Eastern League, High-A Florida State League, Low-A South Atlantic League, Short Season NY-Penn League, Rookie Gulf Coast League.

Categories : Asides, Minors
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Refsnyder. (MiLB.com)

Refsnyder. (MiLB.com)

Baseball America continued their breakdown of the top 20 prospects in each minor league with the Double-A Eastern League today. As usual, the list is free but the scouting reports are subscriber only. Nationals OF Michael Taylor, Red Sox IF/OF Mookie Betts, and Indians SS Francisco Lindor claim the top three spots. C Gary Sanchez (No. 11) and 2B Rob Refsnyder (No. 13) represent the Yankees. RHP Luis Severino didn’t throw enough innings with Double-A Trenton to qualify for the list.

“On the field, Sanchez still draws raves for his bat, which shows the potential for both a high average and lots of power. He can get his hands in and turn on the inside pitch with power, but evaluators did note that he struggled with both breaking pitches and changeups this season,” said the scouting report, which also noted Sanchez has a top notch arm but still has a lot of work to do defensively. They also say his maturity continues to be an issue. Sanchez, 21, hit .270/.338/.406 (108 wRC+) with 13 homers in 110 games for Double-A Trenton this summer.

The 23-year-old Refsnyder hit .342/.385/.548 (159 wRC+) with 19 doubles and six homers in 60 games with the Thunder this year before being promoted to Triple-A Scranton. “Refsnyder drew raves from evaluators for his ability to hit line drives to all sectors and also for possessing premium bat speed. He’s got pop, but it’s more of the gap-to-gap, doubles variety than true home run power,” said the scouting report. It also says Refsnyder is “still crude technically” in the field but he has improved at second base.

The Eastern League list is probably the most impressive list I’ve seen so far. There was a ton of top talent in the league this summer. Severino didn’t qualify for the list and others like OF Tyler Austin, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and LHP Manny Banuelos simply didn’t make the cut. The last list relevant to the Yankees is the Triple-A International League, which is due out tomorrow or the next day. The RailRiders were devoid of prospects for most of the summer. Refsnyder should make the list but others like RHP Shane Greene and C John Ryan Murphy will probably fall short.

Other League Top 20s: High-A Florida State League, Low-A South Atlantic League, Short Season NY-Penn League, Rookie Gulf Coast League.

Categories : Minors
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The video above, courtesy of Kiley McDaniel, is SS Jorge Mateo running down the line a few times in Instructional League. McDaniel says he clocked him at 4.0 seconds down the line from the right side of the plate, which is basically 80 speed. Kid’s fast.

In other video news, Josh Norris posted some Arizona Fall League footage the other day. It’s not embeddable, but just click the link to watch. It includes clips of both OF Tyler Austin (2:17 to 2:36) and 1B Greg Bird (2:36 to 3:27). The video is from the first game of the AzFL season, when Bird hit two doubles and a homer. Austin singled twice. Check it out.

AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (6-3 loss to Salt River) Wednesday’s game

  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 15 of 28 pitches were strikes (54%) … looks like he replaced RHP Branden Pinder on the roster for whatever reason … Norris says Haynes sat 93-95 mph with a hard slider and changeup both in the mid-80s … he’s the guy they got from the PirateS for Chris Stewart last winter
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 2/0 GB/FB — 17 of 29 pitches were strikes (59%) … both hits were solo homers
  • RHP Alex Smith: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 1/0 GB/FB — 16 of 32 pitches were strikes (50%) … he plunked ex-battery mate Peter O’Brien

AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (11-2 loss to Peoria) Thursday’s game

  • 1B Greg Bird: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 E (fielding) — replaced 3B Eric Jagielo on the roster after Jagielo had his face broken by an errant pitch in Instructional League a few weeks back

AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (6-5 win over Glendale) Friday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — got picked off first … 7-for-16 (.438) with three doubles in a dinger in his first three games out in the desert
  • DH Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 K — got picked off second … Judge, Bird, and DBJ hit 3-4-5 in the lineup
  • RHP Alex Smith: 1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 18 of 29 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — nine pitches, six strikes

AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (7-6 win over Surprise in ten innings) Saturday’s game

  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-5, 1 R, 2 K
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 CS — 2-for-11 (.182) in the early going
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 BB
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 3-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
  • RHO Caleb Cotham: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 18 of 28 pitches were strikes (64%)

The Dominican Winter League season begins next Friday. The rosters have not yet been released but don’t worry, there will be more than a few Yankees’ farmhands playing here this winter.

The Mexican Pacific League just started Friday and no one’s gotten into a game yet. RHP Luis Niebla, RHP Gio Gallegos, and OF Jose Figueroa are all listed on rosters.

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) doesn’t begin play until October 30th. No rosters yet.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • C Francisco Arcia: 3 G, 3-11, 1 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 K (.273/.273/.455)
  • UTIL Ali Castillo: 3 G, 2-9, 1 R, 2 K, 1 CS (.222/.222/.222)
  • OF Ramon Flores: 2 G, 2-6, 2 R, 1 K (.333/.333/.333)
  • UTIL Adonis Garcia: 3 G, 3-12, 2 R (.250/.250/.250)
  • C Jose Gil: 1 G, 0-2, 1 BB, 1 K (.000/.333/.000)
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 2 G, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HB (0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP)

The VWL season just started Thursday, so obviously there hasn’t been much action. In addition to the six guys who have already appeared in games, OF Ericson Leonora, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Wilking Rodriguez, SS Angel Aguilar, and C Frankie Cervelli are all listed on rosters. Remember, just because a player is listed on a roster, it doesn’t mean he will play. That just means the team controls his winter ball rights.

Categories : Down on the Farm
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Via Nick Cafardo: Hiroshima Carp right-hander Kenta Maeda told the media in Japan he would prefer to play for either the Yankees or the Red Sox next season. He is expected to be posted this offseason and early speculation has him in line for a five or six-year contract in the $100-120M neighborhood. The 26-year-old had a 2.56 ERA with a 154 strikeouts in 179 innings this season. Here are his career stats.

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) recently gave a scouting report on Maeda, saying he “doesn’t have overpowering stuff of a frontline starter like we’ve seen from fellow Japanese righthanders Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish, (but his) ability to command his fastball and mix his pitches allows him to keep hitters off-balance.” Badler said Maeda sits anywhere from 87-94 with his fastball and his go-to pitch in a low-80s slider. He also throws a mid-80s changeup, an upper-80s cutter, and a slow low-70s curveball. Here’s video. The Yankees need pitching and I’ll sure they’ll kick the tires on Maeda, but I think they’d go after a known commodity like Jon Lester or James Shields if the price is $20M+ per year.

(Martin Griff/The Times of Trenton)

(Martin Griff/The Times of Trenton)

Jacob Lindgren | LHP

Background
Lindgren, who will turn 22 in March, is from Bay St. Louis in Mississippi, which is about 50 miles outside New Orleans. He played both football and baseball at St. Stanislaus High School and won state championships in both sports. Lindgren had a 1.26 ERA with 197 strikeouts in 107.1 innings as a junior and senior while earning All-State honors. The Cubs selected him in the 12th round of the 2011 draft, but he did not sign and instead followed through on his commitment to Mississippi State.

As a freshman with the Bulldogs, Lindgren was a middle reliever who eventually worked his way into the rotation and made two starts late in the year. He finished the season with a 3.18 ERA and a 24/7 K/BB in 28.1 innings across 14 appearances, including the two starts. Lindgren was named to the Conference Freshman Academic Honor Roll and played summer ball with the East Texas Pump Jacks of the Texas Collegiate League.

The late season audition didn’t just earn Lindgren a rotation spot as a sophomore, he started on Opening Day and was the team’s Friday night starter for much of the year. Lindgren had a 4.18 ERA in 56 innings spread across 14 starts, striking out 65 and walking 18. He was again named to the Conference Academic Honor Roll. After the season, Lindgren pitched for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Code, posting a 4.15 ERA with six strikeouts and one walk in 4.2 relief innings.

Lindgren moved back into the bullpen full-time his junior year once it was decided the whole starting thing wasn’t going to work out. He quickly emerged as one of the top relievers in the country, pitching to a 0.81 ERA with 100 strikeouts and 25 walks in 55.1 innings. He was used as a multi-inning high-leverage reliever rather, not as the closer. Lindgren was a candidate for both the Stopper of the Year Award (top reliever) and Gregg Olson Award (breakout player) in addition to being named to the Conference Academic Honor Roll a third time.

Prior to the 2014 draft, Baseball America and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Lindgren as the 50th and 67th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Baseball America had him as the second best prospect in the state of Mississippi. The Yankees selected Lindgren in the second round (55th overall) of this June’s draft, which was their top pick. He signed within about a week of the draft for the full slot $1,018,700 bonus.

Pro Debut
Lindgren made his pro debut two weeks after signing and it was nothing more than a tune-up appearance with the rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees. He struck out two in a scoreless inning. The Yankees bumped Lindgren up to Low-A Charleston (5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K), then to High-A Tampa (7.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 17 K), then to Double-A Trenton (11.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 9 BB, 18 K). All told, Lindgren struck out 48 batters and walked 13 in 25 pro innings after signing (2.16 ERA).

Scouting Report
Listed at 5-foot-11 and anywhere from 180-205 lbs., Lindgren is a short little lefty who regularly sits in the 92-95 mph range his fastball, which runs back inside on lefties. His moneymaker is a vicious low-to-mid-80s slider with hard and late break that chews up righties and lefties alike. Lindgren turns his back to hitters during his delivery and the deception helps his fastball-slider combo play up. Here’s some video:

Lindgren does not have a changeup nor will he need one going forward because he’s a full-time reliever — both Brian Cashman and amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer confirmed he will remain in the bullpen going forward. His fastball sits in the upper-80s as a starter and his command is just okay overall, so there isn’t enough upside to make it worth trying him in the rotation. Lindgren played against top competition in the SEC throughout his college career and his makeup is said to be well-suited for a late-inning role.

2015 Outlook
The Yankees will invite Lindgren to big league Spring Training next year and the expectation is that he will be given every opportunity to win a bullpen job. If he doesn’t, he’ll go to Triple-A Scranton and bide his time. The Yankees didn’t draft Lindgren with their top pick — even if it was in the second round — to coddle him in the minors for several years. They aggressively moved him up the ladder this summer and he’ll make his MLB debut at some point next season, likely sooner rather than later. If he doesn’t, then something went very wrong.

My Take
I don’t love the idea of taking a reliever with your top pick, though the Yankees did not have a first rounder and these days the talent comes off the board fairly linearly. The best players go first. Their options with the 55th overall selection were some raw high schoolers — the kind of players they haven’t had much success developing lately — or a near-MLB-ready reliever. They opted for a reliever and Lindgren will help him in some capacity this season. I like that Lindgren has an elite put-away pitch in his slider and that he isn’t just a specialist; he’s an Andrew Miller-esque southpaw who will be able to pitch full innings against both lefties and righties. It’ll be nice to see a top draft pick pay some immediate dividends after these last few years.

Categories : Prospect Profiles
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Via George King: The Yankees do not appear to have serious interest in free agent Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who is expected to receive a nine-figure contract. “He is a good player, but for $100M? I don’t know. He is better than [Rusney Castillo], but that doesn’t mean he is worth $100M,” said one evaluator to King.

Tomas, who turns 24 next month, worked out for scouts two weeks ago and King says the Yankees attended the showcase. He’s been traveling around for private workouts these last two weeks though it’s unclear if the Yankees invited him to Tampa for one. I’ve been saying this the whole time: if Tomas truly looks to be a middle of the order right-handed hitter with power, the Yankees should be all over him. Guys with that skillset at age (almost) 24 don’t come around all that often.

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