KLaw’s Top 100 Prospects

Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list came out today (1-25, 26-50, 51-75, 76-100), and unsurprisingly the Yankees are well represented (I believe all but the top 25 are Insider only). Jesus Montero comes in at number four, trailing only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Domonic Brown. “[Montero’s] going to hit. And by that, I mean he’s going to hit for average, get on base and have huge power — the type of offensive profile that plays anywhere on the field and in the lineup,” said KLaw, though he adds the obvious caveat about his defense. “Montero could solve the Yankees’ DH problem for the next 10 years if they commit to it, a move they are unlikely to ever regret.”

Manny Banuelos wasn’t too far behind Montero at number 12, and according to KLaw he’s the fourth best pitching prospect in baseball behind Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, and Zach Britton. “[He’s] a 19-year-old on the cusp of the majors with a three-pitch mix where all three pitches will at least flash above-average … he’s just a few refinements away from being able to help the big league club.” Law is probably the high man on Banuelos, I was surprised to see him ranked so far up there. Gary Sanchez is 68th (“youth and distance from the majors are the only things keeping him out of the top echelon of this list”), Dellin Betances is 73rd (“[there’s] No. 1 starter potential here, but the probability isn’t there yet”), and Andrew Brackman makes five Yankee farmhands at number 88 (“[he] may be a bullpen guy, but at least now that’s his floor”).

Austin Romine make Law’s list of ten prospects that just missed the top 100, and he notes that Romine “can throw and hit for power, but has struggled with basic receiving tasks every time I’ve seen him in the past six months.” His list of each organization’s top ten prospects came out as well, and the Yankee list is pretty standard with one exception: he’s got Graham Stoneburner all that way at number seven. Hooray for a strong farm system.

Determining Joba’s Trade Value (Part I)

Earlier this week Brian Cashman acknowledged that Joba Chamberlain hasn’t been the same since his 2008 shoulder injury, something that was pretty obvious to all. For whatever reason, that was followed by a lot of “trade him now” discussion, a logic jump I’m not quite sure I understand. Anyway, I wanted to take a stab at determining his trade value since given all the opinions out there.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

We’re going to do this two ways. In this post I’ll bust out my slide rule and figure it Joba’s trade value the ol’ sabermetric way, and in another post later today I’ll dig up some similar players and see what they were traded for and use that as a comparison. Not terribly accurate, no, but that’s never stopped us before.

Last season Joba was worth 1.4 fWAR because his strong strikeout (9.67 K/9), walk (2.76 BB/9, 2.51 uIBB/9), and homerun (0.75 HR/9) rates led to a 2.98 FIP, 35th best among the 124 relievers that through at least 50 IP. Some unfortunate luck on the BABIP (.327) and strand rate (66.6%) fronts made his ERA (4.40) a lot worse than the underlying performance says it should have been.

You might disagree, but I think it’s fair to say that those strikeout, walk, and homer rates are indicative of Joba’s true talent level, or at least serve as a rough approximation of it. Even if he regresses some and is a 3.30 FIP reliever, that’s still a valuable piece. The problem going forward is that he can only be so valuable as a middle reliever, especially since Mariano Rivera will be sticking around as closer. Joba’s average Leverage Index last year was 1.22, but he was an eighth inning for half the season. With Rafael Soriano on board, Joba figures to work the six and/or seventh innings.

Going forward, I think 1.4 fWAR might be the upper bound of Joba’s value because of his reduced role. There’s also the potential for improved performance since he spent last season at just 24 years old, so 1.4 fWAR might be underselling his future worth. To be slightly conservative, I’m going to keep it constant going forward, assuming he doesn’t have a big contract push in store for 2013. Teams have gone back to paying about $5M per win this offseason, so a 1.4 fWAR reliever would theoretically fetch $7M per year on the open market. Since Joba’s under team control for the next three seasons, his total value is $21M given our assumptions.

Now we have to consider the money being paid to him, since that decreases his value. Joba will earn $1.7M in 2011 before getting raises in both 2012 and 2013, assuming he isn’t non-tendered. Arbitration salaries are typically estimated with a 40/60/80 breakdown, meaning 40% of value in year one, 60% in year two, and 80% in year three. That $1.7MM salary means Joba is starting at just 25% of expected value in year one though, so perhaps 50% in year two and 70% in year three would be more accurate. That would put his next three salaries at just $1.7M (fixed), $3.5M, and $4.9M, respectively. They sound reasonable, so let’s go with them.

All we have to do to figure out Joba’s trade value is subtract his salary from his production, so that’s…

$21M – ($1.7M + $3.5M + $4.9M) = $10.9M

Let’s call it $11M just to make it a nice round number. We’re not splitting atoms here, we can fudge a little.

According to Victor Wang’s research, Joba would be able to fetch a pitching prospect that you’d find towards the back of the top 100 list in a trade, which is someone below the Manny Banuelos/Andrew Brackman/Dellin Betances level but above the Hector Noesi/David Phelps/Adam Warren level. He could also get you a full year of Edwin Jackson, assuming Jackson sustains last year’s 3.8 fWAR pace ($10.5M surplus value). If you want to shoot for the moon, you could couple Joba with a Grade-B position player prospect ($5.5M value according to Wang) like Brandon Laird and get Dan Haren, as long as you believe Haren can maintain last year’s 4.5 fWAR pace over the last two guaranteed years of his contract. That’s a reasonable expectation, and would generate $16M in surplus value. We can play this game all day if we want, but that gives you can idea of where his value stands.

Joba’s trade value looks great in a spreadsheet, but that’s not where this stuff actually happens. That’s why were going to look at comparable trades later today, and I have a feeling that will get a little closer to reality.

A roar from Hank but a looser Front Office

The Yankee ownership has spent the winter on ice, in a sense. They had to wait for Cliff Lee to return to Philadelphia as the Red Sox made moves to bolster their immediate prospects. They’re waiting for Andy Pettitte to decide he wants to come back. They’re waiting for some starting pitching to materialize, and they’re waiting to see how an aging core of players performs. From what I’ve heard, they waited almost too long to re-sign Mariano Rivera, but all’s well that ends.

With all of this waiting, though, Hank Steinbrenner is growing impatient. In an extensive talk with Kevin Kernan, the Yanks’ General Partner and Co-Chairperson had some choice words for his team. “We will do what we have to do to win. We have the highest payroll and the reason is we are committed to our fans to win,” he said. “We just have to (bleeping) win.” Of course, he didn’t really say bleeping, but I’ll let you use your imagination.

Hank went on about the Yanks’ off-season. He’s excited about the bullpen and thinks Joba Chamberlain will have a bounce-back year. He’s not happy about Cliff Lee’s decision though. “The fans pay the bills, we owe it to ourselves and to them to put the best product out there,” he said. “If we couldn’t get Cliff Lee, I’m really happy about getting Soriano. I just wish Lee would have given Brian the chance to meet with him, but he was on a hunting trip. He’s got his own reasons.”

Channeling his dad, he spoke about the Yanks’ youngsters and the club’s high hopes for them. “We got those kids coming too, Nova more as a starter, and the others,” he said. “You never know, one or two of them may join the team,” Steinbrenner said. “I know some of our baseball people don’t agree with our other baseball people a lot of the time, but they all like Nova.”

In parts I’m not going to quote here, Steinbrenner spoke about having faith in A-Rod and not regretting the 10-year deal he handed out. He speaks about re-upping with Jeter — “We do have a budget and we’ve got to be somewhat careful. We’ve made all our players rich. Our guys do deserve it.” — and he talks about staying healthy. Ultimately, he has faith: “I say we have one of the top four teams in baseball, whether we end up being the best or not, we’ll see.”

As Hank breaks his silence, another member of the Yankee Front Office spoke about his own relationship with his bosses this week. After a strained press conference with Rafael Soriano, the New York media wondered about Brian Cashman‘s comments, and during his Tuesday appearance on The Michael Kay Show, Cashman spoke about his reaction. He had, he said, “full authority from Hal” to dissent from ownership during the Soriano presser and did so for a reason.

“For me to be able to do my job, I have to be able to communicate with GMs, agents and media, and part of those conversations are very, very important,” he said. If he’s talking to other relief options such as J.J. Putz, Kerry Wood or Bobby Jenks, he can’t tell them that the Yanks won’t pay $7-$8 million per year for a set-up man if the team is going to sign Soriano for even more. “During those conversations,” he said, “your credibility comes into play when you make statements.”

By talking about at the press conference, he sent the message that he did not lie to other clubs and players. He was simply out-voted by those in charge of him. “It’s not the first time I’ve been overruled,” he said, “and it won’t be the last.”

Cashman respects his bosses. He says he lines everything that he says up with ownership first to make sure they’re on board, but every now and then, they’re not on board. It happens to everyone. These days, Cashman has been preaching patience, but those above him on the pecking order seem to be chomping at the bit. Even as the off-season of Andruw Jones, Russell Martin and Rafael Soriano drags toward Tampa, things are rarely quiet for the Yankees.

MLB.com’s Top 50 Prospects List

Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com posted his list of the game’s top 50 prospects yesterday, and apparently I somehow missed it. Jesus Montero placed ninth, which is probably the lowest you’ll see him on any prospect list this spring. Mike Trout, Jeremy Hellickson, and Bryce Harper rank one through three. Gary Sanchez pops up at number 32, and Manny Banuelos places not far behind him at 35. Each player comes with a minute or so long video with a scouting report, so make sure you click through to check it out.

Matthews: Aceves out for all ’11 (UPDATE: Nope)

Update by Mike (9:31pm): Matthews backed off the report, saying he may have been misinformed. He’s unsure of Aceves’ status for 2011.

Original Post (8:46pm): Here’s an interesting tidbit from today’s Wallace Matthews chat: When asked why the Yanks have yet to bring back Alfredo Aceves, Matthews said the right-hander is out for all of 2011. Apparently, Aceves’ back injury is “much more serious than [originally] assumed,” and the pitcher will miss “much if not all of 2011.” This is the first we’ve heard of this rumor, and we haven’t yet corroborated the news. Considering, however, that disc injuries often require surgery, this isn’t a very big surprise. Maybe Aceves can come back in 2012, but if not, we’ll always have his 14-1 big league career.

Open Thread: Greg Golson

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Earlier today we discussed the two-year anniversary of Andy Pettitte re-signing with the Yankees (well, one of those anniversaries anyway), but today is also the one-year anniversary of the deal that brought Greg Golson to New York. DotF Hall of Famer Mitch Hilligoss headed to Texas in the deal, and he went on to post a .335 wOBA in 275 plate appearances last year. I can’t find anything about an injury, so I’m not sure why he only made it into 69 games. Anyway, Golson spent most of the year with Triple-A Scranton (.325 wOBA), but he came up in September and made regular appearances as a defensive replacement, including the biggest defensive play of the year. He also found his way onto the playoff roster. Golson didn’t and most likely won’t have a big impact during his time with the Yankees, but they turned a replaceable minor league into some depth and a marginal late season upgrade. Hard to complain about the move.

So here’s your open thread for the night. The Devils, Isles, and Nets are all in action, but talk about whatever your heart desires. Go nuts.

Food For Thought: AL East Attendance

That graphic comes courtesy of Beyond The Box Scores’ Justin Bopp, and it shows AL East attendance figures over the last ten seasons. The Yankees have dominated in this department, accounting for no less than 25% of the division’s total attendance during the last decade. Keep in mind that Fenway Park has a capacity of 37,000 (give or take), while the new Yankee Stadium can accommodate just over 50,000. The ballpark in the Bronx at 85.2% capacity still boasts more people than a sold out Fenway.

Attendance is the root of the money making machine known as the Yankees, because it allows them to sell ad space at ridiculous prices and reap the benefits of the YES Network cash cow. As long as the team remains competitive, attendance will be strong and so will the revenue streams.