2014 Season Review: 12 charts that explain Carlos Beltran’s season

Carlos Beltran Season Review
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

This season review could be a simple two-paragraph summary of Beltran’s debut in pinstripes. Or it could be a monster tome like Mike’s review of Brian McCann.

Instead we’ll do this Vox Media style: 12 charts that explain Carlos Beltran‘s season. Because what’s more fun than looking at a bunch of depressing charts?

But first, an encouraging one.

(Charts from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.)

Platoon split

Carlos Beltran 2014 Platoon Split

While Beltran’s elbow injury did seem to affect his overall numbers, perhaps it only really bothered him while batting right handed. His left-handed numbers aren’t all that bad.

Perhaps he could be useful in a platoon role next year? The Yankees did just bring Chris Young back to serve as their right-hand hitting fourth outfielder.

This trend seemingly started in 2013:

Carlos Beltran 2013 Platoon Split

Because his splits in 2011 and 2012 were much more even:

Carlos Beltran 2012 Platoon Split

Carlos Beltran 2011 Platoon Split

The loss of power against LHP is a huge dent in Beltran’s game. It appears that a platoon role might be the best case scenario for the future, although it’s difficult to see the Yankees sitting him against left-handed pitchers.

Another chart that illustrates his complete lack of power against left-handed pitching:

Carlos Beltran ISO Split

At the same time…

Beltran’s plate coverage as a left-handed batter declined quite a bit in 2014. Here’s his batting average heat map for 2012 and then 2013:

Beltran Left Handed Heat Map 12

Beltran Left-Handed Heat Map 13

And now 2014:

Beltran Left-Handed Heat Map 2014

That can’t bode well for his future productivity. Hopefully the elbow injury was mostly to blame and he can regain some of his plate coverage in 2015. Because if he’s going to decline further as a left-handed hitter, it’s hard to see his remaining value.

He’s not walking

Beltran 2014 Walk Rate

He might have improved on his 2013 rate, but in 2014 he still walked about league average. The Yanks clearly need him to get on base more often.

And there’s not much pop left

Beltran 2014 Batted Balls

Rising ground balls isn’t a problem, but if they’re coming at the cost of line drives, well, I don’t need to tell you that’s not good.

Remember when we were like, yeah Beltran?

Beltran April 2014

Derp

BeltranLater

There were brief periods of awesomeness for Beltran in 2014. He started off hot, and hit a hot streak coming out of the All-Star Break and into early July. But those streaks were short-lived. Most of the season Beltran played ineffectively. If it was due to injury, there is some hope for 2015. But for a 38-year-old, most of these charts portend trouble.

Teixeira’s injuries, eventually expiring contract create clear path for Greg Bird

No. 20? That's messed up dude. (Presswire)
No. 20? That’s messed up dude. (Presswire)

Three years ago, the Yankee caught some grief for selecting Florida high school third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. with their top pick in the draft, the 51st overall selection. There were concerns about his swing and ability to hit pro pitching (not to mention his defense), and those concerns still exist today. Bichette is a career .255/.337/.373 (106 wRC+) hitter in nearly 1,800 minor league plate appearances, which is fine but not anything that will turn people in believers.

Bichette did not receive the largest bonus among New York’s draftees in 2011, however. They gave Colorado high school catcher Greg Bird a $1.1M bonus in the fifth round to buy him out of a commitment to Arkansas, and he has since zoomed by Bichette in the prospect rankings. That happened even though he moved out from behind the plate and over to the less glamorous first base, partially due to back problems and partially as a way to get him up the ladder quicker.

“We just agreed (first base) was going to be the best thing going forward. I think it was more about my tools than anything. It was basically, ‘Why spend time catching when we could progress forward faster playing first base?’” said Bird to David Laurila last week. “People ask that a lot – does (not catching) help me as a hitter? – and I think maybe it does, but I’m more of a cerebral hitter anyway. As far as, ‘Is he going to throw this or is he going to throw that,’ I was that way growing up, so I’ve kind of always had that mindset. I don’t really sit on pitches, but if you’re not thinking along with what’s going on, you’re not playing the game.”

Bird, who turned 22 yesterday, is a career .283/.407/.488 (141 wRC+) hitter in a bit more than 1,100 minor league plate appearances, and he’s currently hitting .318/.392/.568 (159 wRC+) in 23 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. (Bichette has a 65 wRC+ as his teammate.) That performance, as well as his massive dead center homer in the AzFL Fall Stars Game, has put Bird in the spotlight, especially with the big league Yankees in need of offense.

“I think he is a legit middle-of-the-order bat. He has lift and really drives the ball with big-time power,” said one scout to Joel Sherman. “If you go middle out on him, he will go the other way with power. He still had some problems with off-speed pitches, but you cannot throw a fastball by this guy. I see him in the majors hitting .260-to-.280 with 20-homer-plus power.”

The Yankees could obviously use a hitter like that, even at first base, where Mark Teixeira is signed for another two years. It’s not hard to connect the dots and see Bird’s timetable lines up pretty well with the expiration of Teixeira’s contract. Bird figures to open the 2015 season back at Double-A, and since he’ll be Rule 5 Draft eligible next winter, the Yankees could get a head start on things by adding him to the 40-man roster and calling him up in September.

With Teixeira getting more and more injury prone each year, Bird could be his up-and-down replacement in 2016 while getting regular at-bats in Triple-A. That doesn’t sound all that exciting, but the Yankees got 678 plate appearances from their first baseman this past season, and only 487 of them went to Teixeira (72%). There were 200 or so plate appearances for someone like Bird in 2014. It might be 300-400 in two years, when Teixeira is 36.

Most young players get their first extended big league opportunity thanks to an injury. That’s what happened with Melky Cabrera back in 2006, remember. He helped fill in for Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield. Brett Gardner got his first chance when Johnny Damon got hurt in 2008. Heck, Derek Jeter was the shortstop in 1996 because Tony Fernandez got hurt. That’s just how it works in baseball and especially with the Yankees, who are hesitant to hand starting jobs over to young players. Teixeira’s injuries work in Bird’s favor.

The 2015 season is going to be very important for Bird. He’s created some hype with his performance these last two years and especially in Arizona these last few weeks, but next year will be his first extended stint at Double-A, a level that is usually a separator between prospects and suspects. If he continues to hit there, being the long-term replacement for Teixeira will go from nice idea to real possibility. Huge free agent first base contracts are among the worst investments in the game (Teixeira, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, etc.) and it’s something New York may be able to avoid thanks to Bird in two years.

The Yankees have only had four regular first baseman dating back to 1984 and it’s both unrealistic and incredibly unfair to expect Bird to continue that run. For now, let’s just hope his success continues in 2015 and he puts himself in position to be a big league option in 2016. That alone would be a big help to the Yankees, who seem to an employ a “we’ll play anyone at first” approach to backing up Teixeira. Bird is not the team’s best prospect but he is one of their most important prospects because he has a clear path to MLB playing time, both in the short and long-term.

Fan Confidence Poll: November 10th, 2014

2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), did not qualify for postseason

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

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Weekend Open Thread

As promised, the weekly link dump returns this weekend. I had been putting it off the last few weeks because of the postseason and a bunch of other reasons. Anywho, here’s a bunch of random stuff I read these last few days. Hopefully you enjoy one or two of ‘em:

  • Here’s a really great post from Ken Arneson about ten baseball things he believes without any evidence. It’s very (very) science-y, so it’s not for everyone. I really enjoyed it though, because I am a giant nerd.
  • In wake of the death of Oscar Taveras, Jorge Arangure wrote about the dangers young players face in Latin American countries. Driving is a big part of it due to poor road conditions and the general stupidity of young, inexperienced drivers.
  • Ken Doctor examined the development and economics of MLB and MLB.com’s mobile experience. The MLB At-Bat app towers above similar apps for other sports. It’s $150 total for At-Bat and MLB.tv for the year, and if they doubled the price, I’d still buy it. It’s that good.
  • My pal Jack Moore says the Wall Street mentality of front offices has sucked the joy and innovation out of what amounts to “public sabermetics,” namely fans coming up with cool stuff. I don’t necessarily agree, but it’s an interesting read. Neil Weinberg wrote a response.
  • And finally, Alex Pavlovic spoke to basically the entire Giants pitching staff and asked them what Buster Posey’s best trait is as a catcher. All of them cite an intangible, not a physical skill like blocking pitches in the dirt or framing borderline strikes.

Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Devils are in action and the Knicks and Nets are playing (each other). Talk about anything and everything right here. Except politics and religion. This ain’t the place for that.

Saturday: Once again, this is your open thread. The (hockey) Rangers, Islanders, and Knicks are all playing, plus there’s a bunch of college football on as well. Talk about whatever here.

Sunday: Here is the open thread one more time. The late NFL game is the Bears and Packers, plus the Nets and Rangers are playing. You folks know the deal already, so have at it.

DotF: Austin carted off the field following outfield collision in Arizona Fall League

In case you missed it Friday, 13 players became minor league free agents, including SwP Pat Venditte, LHP Jeremy Bleich, LHP Nik Turley, 3B Scott Sizemore, SS Carmen Angelini, and OF Zoilo Almonte.

AzFL Scottsdale (6-5 loss to Peoria) Monday’s game

AzFL Scottsdale (5-2 loss to Peoria) Tuesday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-5, 1 K
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 1 IP, zeroes, 2/1 GB/FB — ten pitches, nine strikes

AzFL Scottsdale (8-4 loss to Salt River) Wednesday’s game

  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R
  • 1B Greg Bird: 0-2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 1 IP, zeroes, 2/0 GB/FB — eleven of 19 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Alex Smith: 1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten of 18 pitches were strikes (56%)

AzFL Scottsdale (5-3 loss to Peoria) Thursday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-4, 2 K
  • DH Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K

AzFL Scottsdale (1-0 win over Glendale) Friday’s game

  • LF Tyler Austin: 0-2, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 CS – threw a runner out at the plate … hitting .304/.392/.449 in 19 games
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-4, 1 K — threw a runner out at third
  • 1B Greg Bird: 0-4, 2 K
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-3

AzFL Scottsdale (5-1 loss to Glendale) Saturday’s game

  • DH Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — he’s hitting .297/.404/.500 with four homers in 20 games
  • 1B Greg Bird: 0-2, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — hitting .318/.392/.568 in 23 games, and he still leads the league with six homers
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-1 — had to be carted off the field after colliding the wall trying to catch a fly ball according to Dennis Waters … no update on his status, hopefully the cart was just a precaution
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 0-3, 2 K — hitting .250/.315/.266 in 18 games
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-3, 1 2B — hitting .421/.476/.684 in only five games
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2/0 GB/FB — ten of 17 pitches were strikes (59%)

Dominican Winter League

  • OF Eury Perez: 8 G, 9-37, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 8 K, 2 CS (.243/.243/.378)
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR (0.00 ERA, 1.80 WHIP)

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Jose Figueroa: 16 G, 5-15, 5 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 SB (.333/.412/.600)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 9 G, 8.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 1 HB (1.04 ERA, 1.04 WHIP)
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 5 G, 5 GS, 18.2 IP, 17 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 8 BB, 16 K, 1 HR, 1 HB (4.34 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) started play last week. SS Vince Conde, 2B Angelo Gumbs, and OF Carlos Beltran are all listed on rosters but have not yet played. Beltran hasn’t played winter ball in years and won’t this year because of his recent elbow surgery.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • C Francisco Arcia: 14 G, 12-57, 3 R, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 14 K (.211/.237/.263)
  • UTIL Ali Castillo: 24 G, 34-103, 24 R, 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 3 BB, 17 K, 10 SB, 3 CS, 2 HBP (.330/.358/.447) — nice winter for him
  • OF Ramon Flores: 19 G, 24-63, 9 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 4 RBI, 7 BB, 9 K, 1 CS (.381/.443/.476) – he went 6-for-6 with a double on Wednesday
  • OF Adonis Garcia: 21 G, 26-88, 9 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 11 K, 3 SB, 1 CS, 3 HBP (.295/.344/.352)
  • OF Ericson Leonora: 5 G, 3-11, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 K (.273/.273/.545)
  • UTIL Jose Pirela: 12 G, 16-50, 13 R, 2 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K, 1 CS, 1 HBP (.320/.382/.660) — have to think he’ll come to camp next year with a legit chance to win a bench job, assuming the second base gig isn’t up for grabs
  • C Jackson Valera: 1 G, 0-0
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 11 G, 9.1 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 1 HB (4.82 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Wilking Rodriguez, SS Angel Aguilar, and C Frankie Cervelli are all listed on rosters but have not yet played. They probably won’t at this point.