It’s behind the pay wall, but Matt Meyers of ESPN the Magazine has a nice write-up about the tetragon of infield prospects in the Angels system back in 2005. You probably recognize the names: Brandon Wood, Erik Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales. They were the next wave of the Los Angels Angels of Anaheim, a force that would power them, and keep them cheap, for years to come. That is, if all four worked out. As we’ve seen over the years, that is rarely the case.

The Angels now face a situation where two might be regulars this season, but might not be adequate. The most prominent of the group is Howie Kendrick, who holds a .306 major league batting average over the past three seasons. Problems are that 1) his high for plate appearances is 361, meaning he’s been hurt a good deal, 2) his career OBP is .333, meaning he’s not wont to take a walk, and 3) he doesn’t have a ton of pop.

Aybar got into 98 games at short last year and put up a .277/.314/.384 line. He’s mainly known for his defense, so if he can show a bit of improvement at the plate during his age 25 season, he could become a solid regular. He’ll be no Hanley Ramirez, of course, but the idea is that he’ll save enough runs with his glove to make up for some of his offensive shortcomings. The shortstop job looks like his to lose this spring.

The other two, however, don’t look as promising. Brandon Wood has seen time in 68 major league games, racking up 157 plate appearances and striking out in 55 of them. I know we’ve discussed the overvaluation of strikeouts by some fans, but when it comes along with a .212 OBP, it’s never good. He is only 24, though, and he had a solid year in AAA — but that’s in the Pacific Coast League. You know, the one in which Bubba Crosby slugged .635 in 2003. Same goes for Morales, who slugged .543 in the PCL last season. He did have a somewhat successful stint with the Angels in 2007, though.

The Yankees face a similar issue right now, though theirs is with pitching. The troika of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy has been touted much like the Angels’ crew of prospects. They’re the ones who were supposed to bring in a new generation. Instead, both groups are falling victim to the reality that even can’t-miss prospects can miss.

I have mixed feeling of Meyers’s concluding sentence: “However, this is looking more like a cautionary tale of what happens when you overvalue your own talent, and hold onto it too long.” The process is a bit more complex than simply overvaluing talent on hand. It’s difficult to ascertain who will cut it in the majors and who will bust. General managers have to make that call, and clearly it’s not always the right one. That doesn’t mean that it’s always them overvaluing their talent on hand.

Another Meyers line I take issue with: “This problem has been compounded by the fact that all four of them were once heavily coveted in trade talks, and the Angels refused to part with any of them.” Again, I don’t think this is necessarily a case of overvaluing your own prospects. The Angels had a plan and they stuck to it. Perhaps there were flaws in the process, but that doesn’t mean that there were flaws in the evaluation of their own talent. The problem is that he doesn’t go into any of the trade proposals. You can only make decisions based on the information you have at the time, and at the time these supposed trade opportunities came and went, the Angels still had four top-flight infield prospects. They weren’t going to move them for just anyone, nor should they have.

It’s easy to talk about overvaluing prospects when you’re writing in hindsight. Player A was highly touted but busted? Blame it on management; they should have known their own players better. It’s never that simple, though. So many other factors have to come into consideration when evaluating a veteran for prospect trade that it’s impossible to get it right every time. As Meyer notes, some guys — he cites a great example in John Schuerholz — seem to have a knack for it. Even he has had his stumbles, though, thanks to the wonderfully unpredictable world of major league prospects.

Categories : Minors
Comments (76)

bobby-crosbyOrlando Cabrera, one of the last remaining Type-A free agents, signed a one year deal with the Oakland A’s today, taking the starting shortstop job from the incumbent Bobby Crosby. O-Cab gets $4M for the season, and the ChiSox get the A’s second rounder and a sandwich pick for their loss (here’s the updated draft order). It seems like whenever a team signs an infielder, the natural reaction is for Yankee fans to say “they should trade for [insert displaced player here] to be the utility infielder,” but when it comes to Crosby, not so fast I say.

Once a darling amongst baseball insider types (remember when Peter Gammons & Buster Olney touted him as an MVP candidate?), Crosby’s career has basically fallen off a cliff. Over the last three years, his wOBP has settled into the .278-.288 range, and his aggregate batting line is .232-.291-.349, simply attrocious for an everyday player. He hit just .210-.269-.313 from July on last year, so there’s no second half surge to get excited about, and his BABIP’s have been in line with his career average. So yeah, don’t hold your breath expecting a rebound.

Defensively, Crosby’s okay, but nothing special. He’s spent his entire career at shortstop (minors included), so expecting him to play second or third would be based on nothing but hopes and dreams. His UZR sits around 2.0 these days, obviously better than Derek Jeter but not enough to make up for his offense. Then, of course there’s his contract, which pays him $5.25M in 2009 before sending him off to the free agent pastures after the season. Yikes.

So just say no. Fight the urge to think that every team’s displaced players would be an upgrade for the Yanks’ bench, because the only thing Crosby brings to the Yanks is additional payroll. There’s no reason to give this guy a 40-man roster spot, or trade literally anything for him.

Photo Credit: Reuters via NYT

Categories : Hot Stove League
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Only in Spring Training and game five of the World Series do teams tie. When two teams reach that ninth inning with no end in sight and no more pitchers ready, the managers generally call off the exhibition. Today, in Kissimmee, that is exactly what happened between the Astros and Yanks.

In March, the scores don’t matter. It’s all about getting a tune up, getting in swings, getting in pitches. For the 2009 Yankees, then, today’s tie was a big day. Chien-Ming Wang made his return to the mound after his freak Lisfranc injury last summer. While his sinker was up a bit — normal for this time of year, he said after the game — he held the Astros to two hits and no runs over two innings.

Offensively, the Yanks plated five runs but in unspectacular fashion. Angel Berroa, playing with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez joining their respective WBC teams, homered and doubled; Melky Cabrera tripled in his bid to keep a job; and Jorge Posada went 1 for 3 as the DH, returning to play after a few days off due to shoulder soreness.

Beyond that, a bunch of guys who won’t make the team — George Kontos and Steven Jackson — blew the game in the 8th. Brett Tomko pitched two good enough innings, and two hours and 46 minutes after the first pitch, it was all tied up with nowhere to go.

Tomorrow, Phil Hughes will face Team USA in a game televised on YES, the MLB Network and I believe for free on MLB.tv. That should be a good one.

Comments (31)

During the slow time of year that is early Spring Training, pieces like this fromWFAN’s Sweeny Murti are open thread gold. Sweeny posted a bunch of interesting/weird facts from the Yanks’ 2009 Media Guide, which always makes for a fun read. Here’s some of my favorites:

Hank Steinbrenner (General Partner/Co-Chairperson) was “directly involved” in the free agent signings and managerial hiring after the 2007 season, but was “part of the collaborative front office effort” this past off-season (page 8).

Translation: Hank, we’re putting the training wheels back on.

Joe Girardi was ejected twice in 2008. The Yankees won both games with “walk-off” hits (page 38).

I think this is a big enough sample for us to draw serious conclusions from. Joe, get in the umps face more often this year.

Nick Markakis (38) and Michael Cuddyer (37) are the only American Leaguers with more outfield assists than Melky Cabrera (35) since 2006 (page 76).

Elsewhere in the world of interesting stats, Melky’s totaled 2.1 WAR since 2006. Nick Markakis was a 6.1 WAR player last year alone.

Hideki Matsui acts as a foster parent for 10 kids in Vietnam and worked with Japan’s Eco-Safety Drive campaign in 2008, encouraging Japanese citizens to decrease their car pollution (page 164).

Very awesome of Hit-deki.

In 1991, Jorge Posada led New York-Penn League second basemen in double plays turned with 42 (page 200).

Holy crap, 42 double plays turned? They play like, 70 games in the NY-Penn League. That seems ridiculously high. Anyway, make sure you give it a read, there’s a ton of interesting stuff in there. Otherwise, here’s your open thread for the night. The Islanders are the only local team in action tonight, taking on the Avs at home. Anything goes, just be nice.

Oh, and if you haven’t voted in this week’s Fan Confidence Poll, make sure you do so.


Categories : Open Thread
Comments (115)
  • YES, WFAN re-up simulcast deal
    By

    Every day from 1 until 6:30 on YES, you can watch Mike Francessa talk to himself. It’s part of YES’s simulcast deal with WFAN, which allows the Yankees-backed station to broadcast Mike and The Mad Dog, now Mike’D Up. This gives YES content throughout the day so they don’t have to re-air the same Yankees Classics and Yankeeographies every afternoon. You can expect to see Francessa and his ego for years to come, as the two parties have agreed to a new multi-year deal. Also simulcast on YES: The NFL Now, also hosted by Francessa. · (33) ·

We spend a lot of time here at RAB being optimistic. In fact, as the 8.2 weighted average (as of 1 p.m.) from the team confidence poll suggest, we’re not alone in our rosy outlook for 2009.

But we can’t put the Yankee blinders on and assume that everything will go according to plan for the 2009 season. To that end, The Artist Formerly Know as “The” Steve wrote in with a question for me this morning:

The Yanks are not without question marks as they enter the 2009 campaign. What’s our worst case scenario? And more importantly, how are the Yanks prepared to deal with it?

So let’s put on our doom-and-gloom hats while we tackle Steve’s concerns. Mo willing, that worst-case scenario won’t come to pass, but we can’t ignore the obvious concerns. Today, we’ll tackle the pitchers.

First up is the big name and latest Yankee ace CC Sabathi. Asks Steve, “Will the innings load from last year affect him this year?” Josh Kalk at The Hardball Times tackled just this very question in September and concluded that Sabathia, so far, has been a horse. We don’t know how Sabathia will respond following two seasons and over 500 innings, but the Yanks will attempt to keep his innings down. Experts seem to agree that his easy, repetitive motion shouldn’t expose him to a greater-than-normal injury risk for a pitcher in his late 20s.

If Sabathia goes down, the Yanks will have to bump everyone up a slot while turning to a rookie. To that end, Steve’s next three questions are all related.

  • On A.J. Burnett, coming off of a career-high 221.1 innings: “If/when he misses a month or two due to a minor injury, what can we reasonably expect from Hughes/Aceves/IPK?”
  • On Andy Pettitte: “Is he starting to break down with age and no longer able to effectively hold up through an entire season? At 36 and never a hard thrower, what does he have left?”
  • On Joba Chamberlain: “[He] has never pitched more than 120 innings at any point in his career, and some analysts like BA’s Bill Callis have always felt he won’t hold up to a full season.”

Remember too that Chien-Ming Wang is coming off of a serious injury as well.

That said, every team faces health questions about pitchers; it’s just the nature of the beast. I believe, though, that the Yanks could weather the storm of losing one pitcher. Right now, Burnett is slotted third in the rotation and Pettitte fourth. Clearly, the Yanks would rather not lose either, but to lose one would probably not crush the team’s playoff hopes. Here, the Yanks would have deploy their depth and turn to Phil Hughes, Al Aceves or Ian Kennedy probably in that order.

For Hughes, it’s really a matter of which pitcher shows up. In September and October in his career, he is 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA in 41.2 innings. He has struck out 28 and walked 12. In 65 MLB innings in other moths, Hughes has good strike out numbers but a 6.78 ERA and is 2-7. If Hughes has to fill in, the Yanks need the late-season Hughes to show up.

Kennedy, meanwhile, is one of the more polarizing figures in the Yanks’ system right now, as the comments to Joe’s IPK post show. Many fans don’t want to see Kennedy again because of some media-constructed story about his supposedly bad attitude; others are rightfully willing to him the benefit of the doubt. After his 2008 effort in the Bronx though, he’s third on the Minor League depth chart.

Al Aceves would fill in if Hughes can’t. The Mexican Gangster threw 30 decent innings last year, but his 16:10 K:BB ratio doesn’t scream future success. He does a good job of keeping the ball low though and limited the number of opposing baserunners.

Because all three are young and have limited MLB epxerience, it’s hard to project how they’ll do. Rather, with Burnett and Pettitte on board, the Yankees have the depth in the minors to weather the storm of a pitching injury. Last year, the Yanks were counting on Hughes and Kennedy to be effective Major Leaguers from Opening Day. This year, they’re the reserved, developing further at AAA until they are summoned. If a member of the starting five goes down, someone or a few someone’s should be able to piece together a league-average effort, and with this team’s offense, that’s all they need.

Of course, the Yankees, because of Joba, are going to need better than league-average performance from some pitchers not in their starting five. To that end, Hughes or Kennedy or Aceves will have to step in at some point (unless Mike Mussina is in shape and can be coaxed back). But the Yanks have a fallback plan for Joba too. He is adept at getting outs out of the bullpen. If he fails as a starting pitcher, the Yanks will slot him in as the heir-apparent to Mariano Rivera. While the B-Jobbers would be happy with that move, the Yanks are going to run Joba out there every five days or so until they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can’t do it. That’s a future we don’t have to contemplate yet.

As with any team, the Yankees are not without their question marks. By bolstering their big league staff, though, the Yanks have ensured themselves the potential to exploit their depth should the need arise. Tomorrow, we’ll tackle the questions surrounding the lineup and the bullpen, but the 2009 injury scenarios are much less dire than they were a year ago.

Categories : Analysis
Comments (71)
  • CC tosses simulated game
    By

    As Mike mentioned yesterday, CC Sabathia’s scheduled simulated game was postponed until today. That happened a bit earlier, and CC threw 28 pitches in two “innings” to Hideki Matsui and Kevin Cash. He’s working on his cutter, which he says takes a while to get into a groove. Other than that, it’s just Spring Training business as usual. CC will make his spring debut on Friday night, which unfortunately will not be broadcast on YES. The following day’s game, featuring Chien-Ming Wang, will air on the network, as will tomorrow’s Phil Hughes start. · (12) ·

On January 3, 2008, the White Sox acquired Nick Swisher from the Oakland A’s for Ryan Sweeney, Gio Gonzalez, and Fautino De Los Santos. This seemed like a pretty good trade for the Sox. They had seen Swisher play center field more than any other position with Oakland in 2007, and thought adding his bat to their lineup would make the team better. As we know, things didn’t work out all too well there. Says his former manager Ozzie Guillen:

“When you have a bad season like that, a lot of people can be blamed if you want to be negative,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recalled on Sunday. “(Swisher) did do some good things for us, playing out of position all season long. But when he started having trouble and was struggling, he couldn’t get control of that.

Part of the problem, I think, is that not only was Swisher playing a relatively new position for him — he hadn’t really played any center except for in 2007 — but also that he hit atop the batting order. Before 2008 he had hit leadoff a total of zero times in his major league career.

Ozzie is right in saying that “a lot of people can be blamed,” but it’s not only if you want to be negative. Swish definitely hit better when placed lower in the lineup, though “better” is a relative term here. In his 215 plate appearances from the seventh spot, Swish OPS’d a decent .779. That was a better OPS than what Ken Griffey Jr. mustered from center field in the second half.

Established players and rising stars stood in Swisher’s way. If the White Sox weren’t happy with Swish as a center fielder, they were stuck. Carlos Quentin, acquired exactly one month before Swisher, was in the midst of a breakout year, and established right fielder Jermaine Dye was having a good season. At first base, where Swisher did get reps, Paul Konerko was going to get every chance to prove that he could still hit. He did in the second half, posting a line of .270/.374/.535. In other words, there was no place to play Swish regularly if he wasn’t going to play center.

When the Sox traded him to the Yanks in November, it seemed like he’d finally have a starter’s role at one position: first base. Then, of course, the Yanks went out and got Mark Teixeira, complicating matters further. Where would Swisher play? That seemed to be a big question following the Teixeira acquisition.

Despite being displaced at one position, Swisher has a real chance for playing time with the Yanks, a chance he couldn’t get in Chicago unless he flourished in center field. All three outfield positions are open in one way or another. Swish could win the starting right fielder job over Xavier Nady, which is probably his best bet for playing time. He could take a good number of reps in center field if the Yanks so chose to do that, since there’s no budding superstar or established vet in that spot. Even at DH and left field, Swish could see some reps. Matsui and Damon are both 35 years old this year and could use days off here and there to stay fresh.

Had the White Sox hung onto him, Ozzie believes that Swish “would be in the same position he was last year — a fourth outfielder.” That’s the situation he could face on the Yankees too, but given the construction of each team, it looks like he’ll get a far better shot at significant playing time in New York. Which, I believe, will be Chicago’s loss and New York’s gain.

Categories : Players
Comments (64)

By nature, we Yankee fans are an arrogant bunch. It’s the New York in us, and we can’t help it. However, being arrogant and being confident are two different things, and I wanted to try to get an idea of how confident fans are in the general direction of their team.

Stealing an idea Taking a page from MetsBlog and Rays Index, I’m going to hold a weekly poll asking how confident you guys are in the team. I was originally thinking of conducting the poll once a month, but then we won’t be able to get a sense of how things like big wins, crippling losses, short term injuries, and the “honeymoon effect” of player acquisitions changes the perception of the team’s fan base. So from now on, every Monday morning you’ll find a poll like this, asking you to rate your confidence in the team.

Once we have a big enough sample (let’s call it two months), I’ll set up a permanent link somewhere on the site directing you to a graph showing how everyone’s confidence in the team has changed over time. But for now, please take a second to answer the poll question below. Thanks in advance.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results
Comments (32)

With Opening Day 35 days and 16 hours (as of midnight) away, tickets are on everyone’s mind. The Yankees are trying to fill up the new Stadium, and over the last few weeks, they’ve faced a lot of criticism for their ticket polices.

Most notable was the brouhaha last week over the relocation policies. Many long-time season-ticket holders have been feeling slighted by the team, and the Yanks faced some flak over the obstructed views in the bleachers as well. While the team hasn’t been able to placate the rightfully disgruntled season-ticket holders, the Yanks dropped the bleacher prices $5.

Today, we have a few more ticket stories. First, Neil deMause reports that the Yankees are charging $8 more for standing room only tickets than they are for bleacher seats. DeMause sees this as a clear sign of things to come for the bleacher creature.

“The reason, obviously,” he writes, “has to do with the fact the Yanks held bleacher ticket prices at $12 from last year for PR reasons, but have no problem with charging through the nose for standing room, since there were no standing-room seats at the old stadium to compare prices with. Take it as a sign that bleacher prices will likely rise fast to meet market levels in the next year or two.”

If — or when — the Yanks raise their bleacher prices, the Creature will not take kindly to it. But as is often the case, ticket prices are about market economy. If the Yanks feel they can charge $20 for bleacher sets and sell out, they will do so, fans’ feelings or not. Ross at New Stadium Insider has a different take: He likes to roam the ballpark and sees SRO ticketing as a different way to enjoy the Yankee Experience.

* * *

On the scalping front, WasWatching finds an analysis of the impact the high price of Yankee tickets may have on scalping.

Basically, Paul Mulshine at The Star-Ledger posits that because prices for many seats at the new Stadium are priced prohibitively expensive, scalpers won’t be able to turn a profit on them. The Yankees may then attempt to sell them through a so-called Dutch Auction on the day of game if they can’t package them to season-ticket buyers. That is, the Yanks will start the ticket off with a high price and lower it as the game draws closer. Scalpers can’t cash in if the seats are too expensive to sell.

It’s an interesting theory, but it doesn’t quite work that way. The high-priced tickets have earned headlines, but the vast majority of tickets in Yankee Stadium are closer to affordable. Scalpers will have no problem getting their hands on those tickets to sell at a significant mark-up this year.

Steve Lombardi does wonder though who’s really going to pay even $500 a ticket to see the Nationals face the Yanks in a Thursday day in June. That’s a good question.

* * *

Finally, while we don’t have a set date yet for single-game tickets, Ross is eying sometime around March 17 for the big day. The Yanks are going to be offering a single-game pre-sale to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees season-ticket holders that day, and the general public should get a crack at whatever remains a few days later. We’ll update this info as we get a more concrete sense of the date.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
Comments (21)