Kevin Goldstein’s Top 50 Midseason Prospects

Kevin Goldstein posted his midseason list of the top 50 prospects in baseball over at Baseball Prospectus today (subs. req’d), and Rangers SS Jurickson Profar predictably claimed the top spot. Royals OF Wil Myers and Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy round out the top three.

Two Yankees farmhands made the list, C Gary Sanchez at #23 and OF Mason Williams at #36. They ranked #40 and #99 on his preseason list, respectively. LHP Manny Banuelos was #29 on KG’s preseason list but predictably dropped out due to the elbow injury. OF Tyler Austin cracked the midseason top 50 lists of Baseball America and Keith Law, but Goldstein wasn’t having any of it.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

I’ve said this a bunch of times through the years but it’s still true: off days always feel better coming off a win. The Yankees wrecked the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon, ending the four-game losing streak and temporarily halting this little stretch of crummy play. Joba Chamberlain also pitched today (not well), and it was good to see him back out there. I like that Joe Girardi used him for more than one inning too, gotta get him back into the swing of things.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the evening. The Tigers and Red Sox will be on ESPN at 7pm ET (Porcello vs. Cook) and the Mets are out in San Francisco to play the Giants a little later on (Niese vs. Cain). Talk about those games or anything else your heart desires right here. Have at it.

The trade deadline and the AL playoff picture

(Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

The trade deadline passed yesterday, and as usual there were a number of deals. While blockbuster trades for the likes of Justin Upton, Cliff Lee, or Matt Garza never happened, there were still a number of impact players that changed teams  Contending teams looked to bolster their squads for the stretch run, while the teams who are out of the playoff hunt dumped assets to save salary and strengthen the farm.  In this post, I will take a look at the moves made by the Yankees and their competition, both within the division and within the AL, to see how these deals will impact the 2012 playoff picture.

Yankees

As has become customary for the Yankees this time of year, Brian Cashman and crew did not make any big, splashy moves, citing the excessive costs demanded in prospects and players.  However, they did make a few moves to improve the team’s depth, fill holes created by injuries, and set the Yankees up for a deep run in October.

The Ichiro Suzuki acquisition was one where the hype and excitement is probably disproportionate to the expected impact of the player.  Nonetheless, it was an important acquisition, giving the Yankees speed and defensive prowess that they have missed because Brett Gardner has missed most of the season, and shows no signs of returning anytime soon.  While Ichiro had had a disappointing 2012 so far, anything the Yankees can get from him offensively is gravy.  I think he still has something left in the tank, especially against right-handed pitchers, and he can be an effective table-setting presence from the bottom of the order.

The swap of Chad Qualls for Casey McGehee served two purposes.  Not only did the trade rid the Yankees of an ineffective bullpen arm to clear a spot for the return of Joba Chamberlain, it also brought in a backup corner infielder with some right-handed pop who can fill in for the injured Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, and give the notably fragile Eric Chavez some extra rest.

Red Sox

While Boston is 7.5 games out and just 2 games over .500, the team is too talented to count out.  However, they didn’t do very much at the deadline in terms of either buying or selling.  They re-acquired lefty reliever Craig Breslow, but they didn’t make any moves to deal underachieving pitchers Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, as some speculated they might.  Rob Bradford of WEEI reported that they did discuss a blockbuster deal with the Rangers that included Josh Beckett, Kelly Shoppach, and Jacoby Ellsbury, but nothing ever emerged from those talks.  While the Red Sox did not wave the white flag by selling off any impact players, they didn’t exactly do anything significant to improve their team.  This indicates that they think that they will improve naturally as their players get healthy and start playing better, or consider them too worthwhile to give up long-term assets to increase the small likelihood that they make the playoffs (though they are only 3.5 games out in the Wild Card).

Rays and Orioles

The Rays are 6.5 games behind the Yankees in the division and 2.5 games back in the Wild Card standings, and the Orioles are a game ahead of the Rays.  Nonetheless, neither team showed a sense of urgency, as they didn’t make any trades that would increase their likelihood of winning the Wild Card or catching the Yankees.

Angels

The traditional thorn in the Yankees’ side made one of the biggest moves of the trading period, acquiring RHP Zack Greinke for Baseball America’s #55 prospect Jean Segura and 2 others.  Greinke, who was having a strong season with the Brewers, adds another frontline-caliber pitcher to an Angels rotation that already includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Dan Haren.  With Greinke in the fold, the Angels’ deep rotation becomes even deeper, and that quartet of starters could prove formidable come playoff time.  As a Yankee fan, it’s hard not to be nervous about a Weaver-Greinke-Wilson-Haren rotation come playoff time, especially when paired with Yankee-killer Mark Trumbo and 20 year-old superman Mike Trout.

Rangers

The Rangers, the current AL West leaders, made two moves to improve their team in expectation of a trip to October.  They acquired RHP Ryan Dempster, who was also connected to the Yankees, Dodgers, and Braves in trade rumors.  Dempster is currently #2 in the majors in ERA, and while few expect him to finish that well after moving to the AL and Texas’ hitter-friendly park, Dempster should be a big addition to a pitching staff with some injuries and question marks. They also added catcher Geovany Soto, who will improve the Rangers’ defense behind the plate and allow them to use Mike Napoli at DH or 1st base more often. These two moves strengthened an already-formidable team, and while the Rangers still have questions in the rotation due to injuries, adding Dempster will provide some important stability.

White Sox

The White Sox own a 2.5 game lead in the AL Central and made some additions at or around the deadline. While GM Kenny Williams reportedly tried and failed to acquire Zack Greinke, he did make a cheaper addition to the rotation in the form of Francisco Liriano. While Liriano has had an uneven season and injuries have kept him from fulfilling his incredible potential, he is talented enough that if he figures things out, he could be a major force in the Chicago rotation. Although the deal happened well before the deadline, the Kevin Youkilis acquisition has already paid dividends for Sox.  He provides their lineup with some power and patience, and can adequately fill the 3rd base slot that was causing the Sox problems earlier in the year.

As we can see, almost all of the Yankees’ playoff competitors made significant improvements this trade season.  The Angels adding Greinke is the move that scares me the most, but Texas’s acquisition of Ryan Dempster also provides a major upgrade to an already-strong team.  The Yankees’ divisional competition didn’t do much to improve, which bodes well for their chances to win the division.  While the Yankees failed to make any flashy trades, they filled some holes and should be well-positioned to win the AL East and enter the playoffs as a World Series contender.  Healthy and effective returns by Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte will be of utmost importance here.

Update: Yankees release Dewayne Wise

August 1st: The Yankees have given Wise his release. His final contribution to the 2012 team was a 123 wRC+ in 63 plate appearances, good for 0.8 fWAR and 0.5 bWAR. Pretty solid.

July 30th: Via Feinsand, Wise has refused the outright assignment. The Yankees have until Wednesday to either trade or (more likely) release him. Your bunt will not be forgotten, Dewayne.

July 26th: Via Mark Feinsand, outfielder Dewayne Wise has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Empire State. The Yankees designated him for assignment when they acquired Ichiro Suzuki earlier this week. Because he’s been outrighted a number of times before, Wise can refuse the assignment and instead become a free agent. If another team offers him a Triple-A gig, he might take that instead of rejoining the traveling circus in Triple-A. Hopefully he stays though, Wise is a pretty awesome piece of outfield depth. Plus his bunt turned the season around.

Game 104: Just Win

The AARP All-Stars. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Only four times in the history of the new Yankee Stadium have the Yankees lost four straight games at home, and only twice have they lost five straight: May 11th-May 15th of last season and May 2nd to May 7th of 2009. The Bombers are riding a four-game losing streak, all at home, and are playing as poorly as they have at any point this season. They’ve lost nine of their last 12 despite being outscored by just three runs total. All those one-run losses — six during this recent stretch — will wreck a run differential. Here’s today’s lineup as the Yankees look to salvage a win against the Orioles…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
RF Andruw Jones
Russell Martin
1B Casey McGehee
LF Ichiro Suzukifirst time in left
3B Jayson Nix

RHP Phil Hughes

This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start at 1:05pm ET, but there is rain in the forecast. A delay or two is very possible. The game can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally once it begins.

Casey McGehee and the Opposite Field

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Yankees apparently had very real interest in acquiring Ryan Dempster prior to yesterday’s trade deadline (according to Joel Sherman), but they instead walked away having made just one minor move, sending Chad Qualls to the Pirates for corner infielder Casey McGehee. Considering that Qualls was on his way out once Joba Chamberlain was ready to come off the DL, give Brian Cashman credit for turning a completely disposable piece into a potentially useful one. Alex Rodriguez‘s hand injury created a need for some infield depth, and that’s exactly what they got.

McGehee, 29, is a classic right-handed platoon bat who can hold down both first and third base. He’s hitting .250/.344/.463 (119 wRC+) against southpaws this season and owns a .259/.327/.427 (100 wRC+) line for his career against pitchers of the opposite hand. McGehee had an excellent rookie campaign as a part-time player in 2009 (124 wRC+) and was solid in full-time duty in 2010 (114 wRC+), but he started to get exposed a bit with more playing time these last two seasons…

Year Age Tm G PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP HBP IBB
2008 25 CHC 9 25 4 1 0 0 0 8 .167 .160 .208 .368 -7 1 0 0
2009 26 MIL 116 394 107 20 1 16 34 67 .301 .360 .499 .859 126 13 1 2
2010 27 MIL 157 670 174 38 1 23 50 102 .285 .337 .464 .801 114 18 2 5
2011 28 MIL 155 600 122 24 2 13 45 104 .223 .280 .346 .626 69 19 1 4
2012 29 PIT 92 293 61 13 1 8 24 60 .230 .297 .377 .674 88 7 2 0
5 Yrs 529 1982 468 96 5 60 153 341 .260 .316 .419 .735 97 58 6 11
162 Game Avg. 162 607 143 29 2 18 47 104 .260 .316 .419 .735 97 18 2 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/31/2012.

The Yankees aren’t going to ask McGehee to play regularly, not unless something goes horribly wrong or he just hits the snot out of the ball and forces his way into the lineup. They acquired him specifically to combat lefties and provide some right-handed pop while A-Rod is on the shelf, presumably from the bottom third of the order. Don’t count on him being a savior.

One thing that McGehee really has going for him is his opposite field stroke (here’s some video), something he’s maintained even during his two subpar seasons. During his career he’s hit .336 with a .199 ISO on balls hit to right field, good for a 128 wRC+. The numbers since the start of 2011 are essentially identical, a .328 average with a .199 ISO and a 128 wRC+ that ranks 17th out of all right-handed batters with at least 100 balls in play to the opposite field. The 16 guys ahead of him are basically the best right-handed hitters in the world, I’m talking Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Miguel Cabrera … pretty great hitters. McGehee’s opposite field production is a notch below those guys but still very good.

Thanks to the magic of Texas Leaguers, we can take a quick look at his spray chart over these last two seasons…

Remember, the dots show where the ball was fielded by the defender, not where it landed. McGehee has hit 21 homers since the start of 2011 and I unofficially count 15 that have been hit out to right and right-center. Given the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium, he has a chance to be surprisingly productive if he just maintains his natural stroke and is platooned properly. Only half of that is under his control, it’s up to Joe Girardi to take care of the other half.

Once Mark Teixeira‘s wrist heals up and he’s back at first base full-time, I suspect we’ll see McGehee play third base against southpaws regularly while Andruw Jones starts at DH and Jayson Nix roams left field. He could make his Yankees debut as soon as this afternoon with the left-handed Zach Britton on the mound, though that depends on his travel schedule and what not. The Yankees aren’t going to be able to replace all that A-Rod gives them but they do have some solid substitutes. McGehee might work out or he might not (when the cost is Chad Qualls, the team is playing with house money), but he has the skillset to be productive in the role he’s being asked to fill.

Orioles pound Nova as Yanks lose fourth straight

I suppose the good news is that the Yankees didn’t lose by one run. All those close losses were getting to be a little too infuriating. Instead they lost by six runs after blowing a five-run first inning lead. Hey, if you’re going to stink, you might as well go all out and get booed off the field.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Remember A Friend

One of Ivan Nova‘s best friends on the team last year was A.J. Burnett, and apparently he’s decided to honor his traded friend by pitching just like him. Not the good Pirates version of Burnett, the bad version that polluted the Yankee Stadium mound for the last two years. After allowing a career-high nine runs in five innings to the Orioles — he said after the game that this start was a product of bad luck — Nova owns a 4.53 ERA (4.44 FIP) that is far too close to the 5.20 ERA (4.80 FIP) that A.J. posted from 2010-2011 for my liking. Ivan has allowed at least six runs for the third time in his last six starts and raised his July ERA to 5.97. June is the only month of the season in which he’s had a sub-5.00 ERA (1.26).

The worst part of it all is that all seven runs in that second inning scored with two outs. Nova had noted whiffed machine Mark Reynolds in an 0-2 hole with men on the corners and a chance to escape the inning unscathed when he hung a slider that was ripped just fair for a ground rule double. It just snowballed into a disaster inning from that. That “hung a slider” part was a common theme all night — Nova consistently made mistakes out over the plate…

Nova looks nothing like the pitcher we saw in the second half last season and really hasn’t for most of the season. He’s kinda lucky that Andy Pettitte is injured and David Phelps has been shoe-horned into a relief role — in part because the Yankees never bothered to add a non-matchup reliever over these last few weeks — because otherwise he’d be back in Triple-A. The trip to the minors did him a world of good last year, but now he’s got to figure it out at the big league level where the hitters are less forgiving. The sooner Nova stops pitching like crap, the better.

Cheap Suit

The Yankees exploded for those five runs in the first inning and it was glorious. They hit homers, had regular old base hits with runners in scoring position, they scored on an out, the defense made an error, there was something for everyone in that inning. New York’s offense folded right up after that, recording just five hits — including two infield singles by Derek Jeter — the rest of the way. Only two Yankees made it as far as second base after that first inning. I really don’t have the motivation to write about this, they’ve been stinking the place up with the bats since the start of the West Coast trip.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Leftovers

Since the start of the Red Sox series, the Yankees’ cleanup hitters are a combined 1-for-20. This lineup is just so much different without Alex Rodriguez, he changes everything. Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson have a combined two hits in their last 33 at-bats, both of which came in that first inning (single by Grandy, homer by Robbie)

The Yankees have drawn one walk in these two games, which is very un-Yankee-like. You can tell when this offense is in a funk because they aren’t racking up big pitch counts and drawing those base-on-balls. They’re all trying to force something that isn’t there. On the other hand, every starter had at least one hit, but most of them came in that first inning. Jeter had three and was the only guy with multiple knocks.

For a guy with a great arm, it sure seems like a lot of base-runners have taken the extra-base on Ichiro Suzuki since he came to New York, no? Maybe my expectations were too high. Either way, he slapped a ground ball single back up the middle to extend his streak of exactly one hit in every game with the Yankees to eight.

Clay Rapada allowed a two-run homer to Nick Markakis, pretty much a no-no for a left-handed specialist. Boone Logan and Cody Eppley otherwise pitched well after Nova bit the bullet for five innings. The bullpen was short with Chad Qualls on his way to Pittsburgh and David Phelps unavailable after throwing nearly 40 pitches on Monday.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are still six games up in the loss column in the division.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees will look to salvage this pathetic excuse of the series on Wednesday afternoon, when Phil Hughes gets the ball against Zach Britton. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the matinee.