Jorge Mateo tops Baseball America’s top ten Yankees prospects list

Mateo. (Main St. Rock)
Mateo. (Main St. Rock)

Baseball America’s annual look at the top ten prospects in each organization continued today with the Yankees and their improving farm system that figures to take a hit in the rankings. As always, the list and intro essay are free, but the individual scouting reports are not. You need a subscription for those. Here’s the top ten, as ranked by Josh Norris:

  1. SS Jorge Mateo
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. OF Aaron Judge
  4. RHP James Kaprielian
  5. RHP Domingo Acevedo
  6. RHP Rookie Davis
  7. SS Tyler Wade
  8. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  9. SS Wilkerman Garcia
  10. OF Dustin Fowler

As a reminder, neither RHP Luis Severino nor 1B Greg Bird are prospect eligible. They both exceeded the rookie playing time limits — 130 at-bats for position players and 50 innings for pitchers — this past season. Severino threw 62.1 innings and Bird had 167 at-bats in the big leagues.

I wouldn’t say Mateo moving into the top spot is surprising, though I don’t necessarily agree with it. Moving him ahead of Sanchez and especially Judge means fully buying into his projection. The scouting reports say Mateo “could be an above-average shortstop” while Sanchez “profiles as a front-line catcher,” yet the shortstop in Single-A is ranked above the catcher in Triple-A (or MLB). Eh, whatevs. I’m guessing the gap between No. 1 and No. 3 is pretty small anyway.

The team’s top four prospects — in whatever order — are pretty obvious. If you have anyone other than Mateo, Sanchez, Judge, and Kaprielian in the top four, you’re overthinking it. After the top four is where it gets interesting and I honestly have no idea who New York’s fifth best prospect is right now. Norris slots Acevedo in at No. 5 and he’s the next great divisive Yankees prospect. Some see him as an ace in the making and others see a big guy with a big fastball and not much else.

Davis and Wade both made nice strides this past season and Refsnyder is Refsnyder. We know all about him by now. Garcia had the best debut from the team’s massive 2014-15 international haul and the scouting report says he “has the potential to be a five-tool player, with some scouts even giving him future average power.” Fowler, a 2013 draftee, was a two-sport guy in high school who is starting to figure out this baseball thing now that he’s playing it full-time.

LHP Ian Clarkin and 3B Eric Jagielo stand out as the most notable omissions. Clarkin (elbow) was hurt all season before getting some innings in the Arizona Fall League, so it’s understandable to drop him. I’m not sure I’d drop him all the way out of the top ten, but to each his own. Jagielo probably isn’t a third baseman long-term, though he mashed at Double-A this summer before jamming his knee sliding into home plate and having surgery. I like Wade, but give me Clarkin and Jagielo before him.

The Yankees actually got some help from their farm system this past season, and the graduations of Severino and Bird all but guarantee the team will place lower in the various organizational rankings in 2016 than they did in 2015. Losing two high-end talents like Severino and Bird hurts. Then again, the farm system lost them for the right reason, not because they stalled out in the minors. Sanchez, Judge, Refsnyder and possibly Davis are the top ten prospects in position to help the Yankees in 2016.

Fan Confidence Poll: December 21st, 2015

2015 Season Record: 87-75 (764 RS, 698 RA, 88-74 pythag. record), lost wildcard game

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 in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Weekend Open Thread

Happy Friday, folks. Sorry I didn’t have time to chat today. Had some other stuff on my plate. There hasn’t been a whole lot going on lately anyway, so there wasn’t much to chat about. Maybe next week. Here are the weekend links:

  • Baseball’s next market inefficiency? Health. My press box neighbor Joe Lemire wrote about injury prevention and the different ways teams are trying to gain a competitive advantage by keeping their best players on the field. They’re using real time biomechanical data to measure fatigue and are looking for ways to optimize recovery, among other things. Every player is different though. What works for one guy might not work for anyone else.
  • MLB currently has a contingent of players and officials in Cuba for a goodwill tour. Clayton Kershaw and Jose Abreu are among those on the trip, as is journeyman catcher Brayan Pena. Pena defected in 1999, and as Derrick Goold writes, this trip has allowed him to reunite with family, some of whom he hasn’t seen in 17 years. Abreu will also reunite with his son, who was still an infant when he defected in 2013. Good stuff.
  • I enjoyed Andy Martino’s overview of the Winter Meetings, both the general experience and this year’s event. I’m pretty lucky. Even with CBS, my focus is analysis and not so much breaking news. For the reporters who cover teams and are trying to dig up scoops, the Winter Meetings are pure chaos. They’re all friendly with each other but are in direct competition. It’s something to behold.
  • And finally, this is a brutal read from former NHL player Patrick O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan opened up about his abusive father — “He would throw punches. Not like he was hitting a small child — but like he was in a bar fight with a grown man,” he wrote — who beat him daily from ages 5-16. People can be just awful.

Friday: Here is tonight’s ope thread. The Rangers, Knicks, and Nets are all playing. There’s no college basketball on the schedule though. Talk about those games, any of the links or anything else right here.

Saturday: This is the open thread again. The Devils, Islanders, and Knicks are all in action, and there’s some college hoops on the schedule as well. Apparently the Jets are playing too. Have at it.

Sunday: For one last time, this is the open thread. You’ve got the afternoon football action plus the Eagles and Cardinals in the late game. The (hockey) Rangers, Devils, and Nets are all playing too. Enjoy.

The Most Awfully Wonderful Time of the Year

No use for the podium this year. (Photo via WLWT Cincinnati)
(Photo via WLWT Cincinnati)

If you’re like me, then when you see your career portrayed in movies or television, you get hyper-critical and pick apart every detail. Nothing is ever right. No one would ever act that way in that situation, no matter how much it fits the plot or the character. So you wave your hand, roll your eyes, rant, rave, and absolutely refuse to throw in the towel and let the fight die. The worst part is that you know better. You know it’s being dramatized for the sake of the show or film, but something inside of you just won’t let you not care. This messy thought process also applies to me when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

I know that I should know better. I know that I shouldn’t care that much. Whether or not a player gets into the Hall of Fame does not and should not matter all that much to me as a baseball fan. That fact will not change how much I enjoyed watching someone play or how much I’ve marveled at his statistics on his Baseball Reference page. But I just can’t help myself.

I’m an educator in the real world and my day is dedicated to helping others learn and grow. Perhaps this is at the root of why I can’t stop caring about the Hall of Fame. I want to see others achieve things even more than I want that for myself and, true or not, the Hall of Fame seems like the ultimate end-place for a baseball player and I want to see players I rooted for or players I thought were exceptional get there. But that’s projecting. How do I know if players want it or don’t want it? It doesn’t change how I viewed the player and maybe it doesn’t change how he viewed his own career.

Alternatively, I’m a person who likes to talk, think, discuss, and analyze–hell, that’s why I got into blogging in the first place. Debates about a player’s induction into Cooperstown involve those things and given that they take place after a player’s career, there’s a large sample size; there’s a chance to be objective; there’s a pretty solid standard to compare against. Those things should combine to make solid, reasonable, rational arguments. Of course, that doesn’t happen. The arguments around the Hall of Fame get clouded by steroid suspicion, narrative-driven nostalgia, and all sorts of other hindrances that make rational debate damn near impossible. Invariably, there are articles written with flimsy defenses of indefensible ballots that I try to ignore, but sometimes, I can’t help it. Every year, I know this is going to happen, but it hasn’t stopped me from fighting on Bert Blyleven Hill and probably won’t stop me from doing the same for Mike Mussina when the time comes.

Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame are great places to visit. In fact, the first trip away my (now) wife and I took was to Cooperstown in February of 2012 and we had a great time. The Hall of Fame itself is an undeniably cool museum with lots of cool artifacts and exciting exhibitions. What I need to do is join the ranks of so many of you reading this who’ve realized that’s all the Hall of Fame needs to be. It isn’t necessarily Baseball Valhalla and that’s okay. Whatever official history the Hall purports to promote or sponsor or whatever isn’t the history of the game that lives in my mind or yours. Ultimately, that history is much more important to us and it’s what I should learn to cherish most. My Hall of Fame…your Hall of Fame….those are the ones that matter more than any building in Cooperstown ever should.

The Good, the Bad, and the Funny of 2016 ZiPS Projections

2016 ZiPS

Yesterday morning, 2016 ZiPS projections for the Yankees were released over at FanGraphs. There are an awful lot projection systems out there but ZiPS has emerged as the most reliable — especially when it comes to translating minor league or overseas performance — of the bunch. Dan Szymborski’s system is pretty rad.

Anyway, projections are always fun to look at, though you have to take them with a grain of salt. (Those are the WAR projections in the image above.) Remember, projections are not predictions of what the player will do next season. They’re just an attempt to estimate the player’s current talent level. Got it? Good. Here are some Yankees projections that caught my eye for one reason or another.

Aaron Judge

Judge has maybe the most LOL worthy projection, and I mean that in a nice way, not a ZiPS is stupid way. The system him pegs him for 30 home runs … and a 35.0% strikeout rate. That’s just perfect. Judge still has some work to do to combat soft stuff away and I think if the Yankees did stick him in the show right now, he would strike out 30% of the time or more. Then again, 30 dingers! That’s fun. No other Yankee projects for 30 homers.

Greg Bird

In terms of OPS+, Bird projects as the best hitter in the organization right now. ZiPS has him at .252/.324/.486 (122 OPS+) with 26 dingers in 2016. Mark Teixeira (119 OPS+) and Alex Rodriguez (115 OPS+) are the only other players close to Bird. I can buy this. Bird showed a lot of Yankee Stadium friendly pull power in his cameo this year (eleven homers in 46 games) though I do worry teams will LOOGY the hell out of him. Then again, the only non-Yankee lefty starters in the AL East right now are David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Drew Smyly, and Matt Moore. Not exactly Murderer’s Row of southpaws there aside from Price.

Starlin Castro vs. Rob Refsnyder

Projection for Castro: .274/.310/.405 (98 OPS+) with 2.2 WAR. Projection for Refsnyder: .248/.318/.395 (98 OPS+) with 1.9 WAR. That’s basically the same! I’m not sure if I buy that though. I’d bet on Castro outproducing Refsnyder by a pretty decent margin if given the same playing time. There’s also the “they acquired Castro because they think he’s going to get a lot better” thing. Either way, the objective projection system sees Castro and Refsnyder as basically equal.

Oh, and by the way, ZiPS projects a .253/.310/.415 (100 OPS+) batting line for Dustin Ackley next season. Am I the only one who would sign up for that right now, no questions asked? Ackley’s hit .238/.298/.365 (89 OPS+) in his last 1,900 plate appearances.

No Innings

ZiPS projects Masahiro Tanaka to lead the Yankees in innings with … 157.7. Yikes. Luis Severino is second with 154 innings. That just reflects the rotation’s health concerns — injury history is baked into the ZiPS algorithm — which are significant. After all, CC Sabathia led the team with only 167.1 innings this past season, so having no one reach even 160 innings next year would not be the most surprising thing in the world.

The Yankees need some arms. We’ve known this for weeks. This starting staff is risky as hell. Lots of upside and lots of downside, and when four of the five projected 2016 starters missed time with injuries in 2015, the downside outweighs the upside.

The Bullpen Shuttle

In terms of FIP, the best projection among the various bullpen shuttle relievers belongs to … Nick Goody at 3.68. Jacob Lindgren (3.73 FIP) is right there with him. Everyone else is at a 4.00-ish FIP or above. Lindgren and Goody lead the way with 29.5% and 27.3% projected strikeout rates, respectively. We all know about Lindgren, he was the top draft pick who zoomed to MLB, but Goody had a ridiculous 2015 season in the minors (1.59 ERA and 2.06 FIP with 33.2 K%). He might be getting overlooked as a potential bullpen factor in 2016.

The Comps

ZiPS works by comparing players to others with similar statistical profiles, so it spits out a list of comps for each player. The No. 1 comp is included in the FanGraphs post and I always enjoy these because they have a way of knocking you back down to Earth. Take Severino, for example. His No. 1 comp? Kris Benson. Benson was the first overall pick in the 1996 draft and a pretty big prospect back in the day.

Glancing at the list, Dellin Betances is the only Yankee to get a Hall of Famer as his No. 1 comp (Goose Gossage). Well, Pete Kozma drew a Leo Durocher comp, but that’s Leo Durocher the light-hitting infielder and not Leo Durocher the Hall of Fame manager. Andrew Miller drew a Billy Wagner comp and you could argue Wagner’s a Hall of Famer. Bird got a Roberto Petagine comp. Judge? He got Jesse Barfield. Gary Sanchez drew Todd Zeile and Eric Jagielo drew Mark Reynolds. Matt Nokes as the No. 1 comp for Brian McCann gave me a good laugh.

Update: Yankees announce Spring Training schedule; pitchers and catchers report February 18th

Can't come soon enough. (Presswire)
Can’t come soon enough. (Presswire)

December 18th: The Yankees announced some minor changes to their Spring Training schedule. Instead of what’s listed on the calendar below, they’ll play the Tigers at home on March 28th (6:35pm ET), split squad games against the Pirates (home) and Phillies (road) on March 29th (both 1:05pm ET), and then play the Braves on the road on March 30th (1:05pm ET). Those are the only changes. Just in case, you know, you have tickets or something.

November 13th: Mark your calendars, folks. The 2016 Spring Training schedule has been announced. Earlier today the Yankees announced pitchers and catchers will report to camp on Thursday, February 18th to begin the new season. Position players report Wednesday, February 24th, and the first full squad workout is scheduled for February 25th.

The Yankees will play their first Grapefruit League game at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on Wednesday, March 2nd. That’s a 1pm ET start against the Tigers. The Yankees are playing a total of 33 exhibition games next spring, including 16 at home at GMS Field. The spring schedule concludes with a pair of exhibition games against Don Mattingly and the Marlins at Marlins Park on April 1st and 2nd. That’s a Friday and Saturday.

Here is the complete Grapefruit League schedule from the team’s official site:

Spring Training schedule

Something like 28 of 34 exhibition games were broadcast this past spring, either on YES or MLB Network or or wherever. I’m sure the same will be true next spring. Remember when watching Grapefruit League games was unthinkable? Spring Training games are meaningless but they’re still fun to watch in their own way. Technology is a wonderful thing.

Anyway, now we all have a date we can look forward to. Pitchers and catchers report February 18th and the first Spring Training game follows two weeks later. Now we just have to ride out the rest of the offseason.

The Yankees open the 2016 regular season at home against the Astros on Monday, April 4th.

Hot Stove Links: Frazier, Chen, Cishek, Outfield Market

Frazier. (Joe Robbins/Getty)
Frazier. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Free agent pitchers are making a lot of money this offseason and CC Sabathia loves it. “I think it’s fantastic. I mean, what can you say? Opt-out clauses and all that. I think it’s part of the game. These guys are working hard and throwing a lot of innings. I hope it kind of stays where it is, or gets better,” he said to Ryan Hatch recently. I’m pro player. I hope they all get all the dollars. Anyway, here are some Yankees-related hot stove links.

Yankees did not pursue Frazier

Before he was traded to the White Sox earlier this week, the Yankees never did seriously pursue third baseman Todd Frazier, reports Brendan Kuty. Frazier’s days of playing second base and left field have been over for a while now — he hasn’t played left field since 2013 or second since 2011 — and the Yankees are set at third base and first base. Yes, Frazier is better than Chase Headley, but giving up prospects for Frazier then eating money to move Headley just isn’t a thing that was going to happen.

Frazier, 29, hit .255/.309/.498 (114 wRC+) with 35 home runs this past season despite really struggling in the second half (75 wRC+), though that didn’t seem to scare teams away. He’s also a good hot corner defender and under team control through 2017. The consensus is the Reds traded Frazier for very little, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees could have swooped him and acquired him at a discounted rate. Cincinnati obviously likes Jose Peraza more than everyone else. That was the guy they wanted.

Chen seeking five years, $100M

According to Roch Kubatko, free agent left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and agent Scott Boras are seeking a five-year contract worth $100M. You know what? In a world where Jeff Samardzija received five years and $90M, I don’t think a five and a hundred is an outrageous ask by Chen/Boras. They’re comparable pitchers. I don’t think Chen will actually get five years and $100M, but asking for it isn’t crazy.

Anyway, the Yankees are said to be monitoring the market for Chen — they were reportedly doing the same with Samardzija — in case his price tag drops and they decide to spend some money. Here’s our Scouting the Market post. I don’t think Chen’s market will fall into New York’s comfort level. Even with a number of quality free agent arms still on the board (Chen, Mike Leake, Scott Kazmir, etc.), there are still plenty of teams in need of pitching. He’ll get his.

Yankees did not pursue Cishek

Soon after the non-tender deadline, I mentioned ex-Marlins closer Steve Cishek as an interesting new free agent who may interest the Yankees. They talked to Miami about bullpen help last offseason, and presumably Cishek’s name came up. He signed a two-year deal worth $10M with the Mariners last week — incentives can push the total value to $17M — and Dan Martin says the Yankees never seriously pursued him.

Cishek, 29, had a 2.70 ERA (2.59 FIP) in 253.1 innings with Miami from 2011-14 before falling apart this past season and pitching to a 3.58 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 55.1 innings for the Marlins and Cardinals. I like Cishek. At his best he racks up strikeouts and ground balls while managing to avoid a significant platoon split despite a funky low arm slot. I never would have given him two years and $10M though. Forget that. I was thinking a one-year prove yourself deal at $2M or $3M or so. (Cishek would have remained under control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2017.)

Yankees not active in outfield market

Yoenis the Menace. (Elsa/Getty)
Yoenis the Menace. (Elsa/Getty)

This is not a surprise. Buster Olney (subs. req’d) reports the Yankees are not active in the free agent outfield market even though big names like Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alex Gordon remain available. Forget about the not spending money thing. The Yankees have enough outfield depth at both the MLB and Triple-A levels right now that they could trade Brett Gardner and replace him internally.

Adding a non-elite big money outfielder doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given the current roster. I felt Jason Heyward was an exception because he’s so young and so good at everything, but that didn’t happen. He was a special case. Upton? Cespedes? Gordon? I don’t see the need for the Yankees to spend big on any of those guys given the current roster. The outfield is the one part of the roster they don’t need to worry about.

Updated arbitration projections

Now that the non-tender deadline has passed and a bunch of trades have gone down, the crew at MLBTR updated their arbitration projections. The Yankees only have five arbitration-eligible players (Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley, Nathan Eovaldi, Didi Gregorius) and they’re projected to earn a combined $19.9M in 2016. The deadline for players and teams to submit salary arbitration figures is January 15th. The Yankees have signed all of their eligible players before the deadline every year since 2009.

The Yankees started the offseason with nine arbitration-eligible players. Andrew Bailey ($900,000 projected 2016 salary) and Sergio Santos ($900,000) were dropped from the 40-man roster and elected free agency, as expected. Adam Warren ($1.5M) was traded for Starlin Castro, then Justin Wilson ($1.3M) was traded for two Triple-A arms. So the total savings there is only $2.6M or so — that’s $4.6M in projected salary, but someone has to take their spots on the roster, and four spots at the league minimum will cost $2M or so. Castro added $7.9M to the 2016 payroll. Got it? Good.