Mailbag: Hughes, Parraz, Kershaw, Banuelos

I cut back on the trade deadline stuff this morning, we’ve spent enough time discussing it already this week so I tried to mix things up a bit. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in your questions.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Anthony asks: Would you hesitate to trade Phil Hughes? He’s been on the Yankees since 2007 and hasn’t really been the starting pitcher that was hyped to be the next Roger Clemens.

Wasn’t it Jorge Posada that called him the next Clemens? Maybe it was Jason Giambi. Whoever it was, it wasn’t me. Just kinda reaffirms my stance that players generally have no clue what the hell they’re talking about, they’re terrible when it comes to analysis.

Anyway, no I wouldn’t hesitate trade Hughes but I wouldn’t just give him away. He’s struggling and just doesn’t look right physically, but I wouldn’t cut bait entirely out of frustration. That’s how you wind up with a bunch of middle relievers and two months of Edwin Jackson. The problem is that Hughes’ value is down, way down, so you’d be selling low on him. He’s not cheap ($2.7M salary this year) and he’s only under team control for two more years, so all that stuff that made him so desirable two or three years ago doesn’t really apply anymore. I’d trade anyone, but I’m generally opposed to selling low on young players.

Matt asks: What’s the deal with Jordan Parraz? Is he a legitimate prospect? He seems to be having a good year. What puts him behind Dickerson and Golson?

Parraz is a legitimate prospect, though he’s not any kind of future star. He’s the kind of guy you’ll find just outside a typical top 30 list. When Baseball America ranked him as the Royals’ 19th best prospect before last season, they said he was a “gap-to-gap hitter with below-average usable power, even though he shows above-average power in batting practice.” They lauded his defense, citing his 70 arm and ability to play center fielder. He’s having a very nice year with Triple-A Scranton, a .367 wOBA with 8.6% walks and a .146 ISO, showing that he can more than hold his own against upper level pitching.

Chris Dickerson and Greg Golson are ahead of him on the depth chart right now only because they’re on the 40-man roster. Both of those guys (as well as Justin Maxwell) will be out-of-options next year and likely gone, so I figure Parraz will step in as the up-and-down outfielder. He’s fringy, but he’s on par with Dan Brewer and a useful piece in moderation.

Anonymous asks: How legit of a prospect is Mark Montgomery, the “K” machine?

The Yankees’ 11th round pick this year, Montgomery is a righty reliever from Longwood University in Virginia. He struck out 48 in 30.1 IP for the Lancers this spring, and so far as a pro he has 28 strikeouts in 14.1 IP. Although he’s just 5-foot-11 and 205 lbs., Montgomery misses bats with two power pitches: a 91-92 mph fastball that has touched 94 in the past, and a low-to-mid-80’s slider that’s allergic to bats. That’s the pitch he uses to rack up all those whiffs.

The best case scenario, I mean if you really squint your eyes and dream, Montgomery does have some David Robertson in him as a short power reliever, though his slider is unlikely to be as effective against lefties as Robertson’s curve. Relievers with power stuff that have a history of missing bats are prospects, for sure, but we’re not going to know much about him until he gets to Double-A. Single-A hitters have no chance against a college reliever with that kind of stuff.

Louis asks: Given the fact that Clayton Kershaw is younger than Felix Hernandez and a lefty, would he theoretically be worth more in a trade? His peripherals this year are insane and even in the past have been pretty comparable to King Felix.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user SD Dirk via Creative Commons license)

Yeah, I think Kershaw has more trade value than Felix right now. He’s considerably cheaper at the moment since he has yet to hit his arbitration-eligible years, and he’s under team control through 2014 compared to 2015 for Hernandez. The lower cost (Felix gets $18M+ starting next year) pretty much offsets the one fewer year of team control.

A case can be made that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball right now, especially since he’s chopped his walk rate from 4.79 BB/9 in 2009 to just 2.36 this year. He’s just 23 years old and strikes out more than ten men per nine innings with two elite pitches (mid-90’s fastball and power curve) and two other very good offerings (slider and changeup). If I’m building my rotation from scratch right now, he’d be the guy I’d build it around. And no, the Dodgers aren’t going to trade him. Even with their uncertain ownership and financial situation, Kershaw is still so cheap that’ll be able to afford him for at least another year or two.

Reggie asks: Jon Heyman played mouth piece for Boras again Tuesday morning by reporting that Carlos Pena will almost assuredly get traded.  Do you think the NYY are a fit for a clear salary dump? Posada hasn’t hit for power or contact, and though Pena has contact issues, he does hit for power.  Pena could hit 10-12 homers down the stretch. But that Montero guy…

Pena had a brutal start to the season, missed some time with a hand injury, and since May 3rd he’s hit .236/.346/.516 with 20 homers. That’s pretty much the guy we’ve seen over the last few years, a dead pull hitter that will draw a lot walks and hit the ball out of the park while failing to hit for average. He’s legitimately a platoon guy, with a .371 wOBA against righties this year but just .247 against lefties. That split is pretty typical of his entire career.

I’m certain the Cubs would love to unload him and whatever money is left on his $10M salary, and he’s definitely an upgrade over Jorge Posada. I highly doubt anything will happen though, and as you alluded too, the Yankees do have a big bat waiting in Triple-A if they want a change at DH. Jesus Montero isn’t a lefty like Pena, but he might as well be with the way he drives the ball to right field. The Yankees need to focus on pitching, the offense will score plenty of runs.

Robbie asks: With Manny Banuelos struggling with his command this year, is it reasonable to assume that he won’t be in the starting rotation in 2012? I remember reading a while back that you had hoped him to come into the ML rotation next year.

Assuming he finishes out the year the way he’s been pitching all season, I still think we’ll see him at some point in 2012. Without having the slightest idea of what the starting rotation will look like eight months from now, I assume Banuelos (and Dellin Betances) will get long looks in Spring Training like Chien-Ming Wang did in 2005. They’ll probably head to Triple-A to start the year, but like Wang back then, they’ll be first in line for a call-up whenever a starter is needed. That’s assuming neither one is traded between now and then.

Banuelos hasn’t had a great year but his situation is like Montero’s, he’s basically a victim of his own talent. He was so good last year and the year before that when he didn’t perform to that level this year, it was considered a disappointment. Remember, Banuelos is still just 20 years old, and he’s striking out a batter an inning in Double-A. If he had been born in the U.S. and had gone to college, he’d be a sophomore and draft-eligible next summer. He’s way ahead of the development curve, and the “down” year doesn’t change much as far as expectations going forward. Maybe it just slows the fast track slightly, but that’s it.

Scouting the Market: Rich Harden

There was a time when I’d have been greatly excited at the thought of Rich Harden in pinstripes. He absolutely dazzled earlier in his career, though injuries held him back considerably. He’s been a bit more healthful in the last two years, though he did miss significant time this year with a lat muscle injury. So far he’s thrown five starts with middling results, and the Yankees were in attendance for the latest one. It was an OK start, as he went six innings and allowed two runs, striking out seven and walking just two, against the Rays. They were also in attendance for his last start, when he held the Yankees themselves to two runs in 5.1 innings.

Pros

  • It’s impossible to hear the name Rich Harden and not salivate over his ability to strike out batters. Even as he’s scrapped the devastating splitter in favor of a changeup, he’s still fanned his share of batters. This year he’s struck out more than a batter per inning in his five starts.
  • Unadjusted Pitch f/x has him returning to the splitter this year. That’s a little scary from an injury perspective, but tantalizing from a stuff perspective. Baseball Info Solutions is still classifying it as a changeup, though, so I’m not sure what to make of it.
  • SIERA, FanGraphs’ new ERA estimator, has liked him quite well in the past few years. The exception was last year, when he was apparently pitching hurt. That’s always a risk with Harden, but when he’s healthy he has the potential.
  • He’s gotten a good amount of swings and misses this year. Not to the level he previously attained, but it’s still over 9 percent. The Yanks could definitely use another swing and miss arm.
  • Remember the second half of 2008. That’s the year he got healthy with Oakland and then got traded to Chicago for the second half. In 12 starts there he absolutely obliterated the competition, striking out 89 in 71 innings and posting a 1.77 ERA.

Cons

  • The Yanks couldn’t make any real plans with Harden, because of the injury risk. He might be healthy now, but who knows how long that will last?
  • He’s had something of a home run problem this year, allowing six already in 29.1 innings. He also hasn’t gone a single start without allowing at least one homer. At least his only multi-homer game came on the road; allowing homers at the Coliseum is not a good sign.
  • He’s always had a propensity to walk guys, which does not mesh well at all if he’s going to surrender long balls.
  • Swinging a trade might be risky, in that it’d be tough to give up a pitcher near the majors. Rich Harden is not a guy you can sacrifice depth to acquire. They can’t really trade Adam Warren or Ivan Nova (not that they’d necessarily want to), because a Harden injury might mean the Yanks need those guys.

Until the day he retires, Rich Harden will remain a tantalizing name who frequently disappoints. He can go on an absolute tear, as we’ve seen on occasion in the past few years. But to give up anything of actual value for him is a folly, since he’s always one pitch away from a DL stint. Without receiving anything of value, Oakland has little motivation to deal him. I don’t see anything getting done. But if it’s 3:55 on Sunday and the Yanks haven’t done anything, and Beane is willing to take a B- prospect, well, even then that’s a stretch. But it’s about the only way I can see Harden in pinstripes this year.

Two Quick Thoughts: Kuroda & Handedness

Two things crossed my mind earlier on Thursday, and since they kinda go together I’m going to mash them up into one post…

(Photo Credit: Flickr user aaron haedt via Creative Commons license)

The Price For Kuroda

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Hiroki Kuroda and whether or not he’d be a worthy add at the deadline, but we haven’t really tried to figure out what it would take to acquire him. The Dodgers say they want a young player, preferably a starting pitcher, but what they want and what they’ll ultimately get are not necessarily the same thing. It’s tough for us to figure out a far price from where we sit, which is why I try to look at what comparable players returned when they were dealt. As luck would have it, a comparable player was traded yesterday, when Edwin Jackson went from the White Sox to the Blue Jays.

Although Jackson is younger and cheaper, both he and Kuroda will be free agents at season’s end and have performed at a similar level since the start of last season. Just check out the table on the right for that info. In order to acquire Jackson, Toronto had to take on Mark Teahen’s terrible contract (another ~$2M this year plus $5.5M next year) and give up a serviceable middle reliever (Jason Frasor) plus their sixth best prospect coming into the year, non-top 100 guy Zach Stewart. Frasor can become a free agent after this season and projects to be a Type-B, so that’s a draft pick we should consider.

A Kuroda trade doesn’t have to follow that exact blueprint, but a serviceable, spare part big leaguer and a good but not great prospect appear to be the bare minimum asking price. Frankie Cervelli plus one of the Triple-A arms? Brandon Laird instead of Cervelli? Chris Dickerson? Greg Golson? The bad contract part (the Teahen equivalent) might not be a factor because Kuroda still has a lot of money on his deal ($6.8M) and will apparently require some compensation to waive his no-trade clause. The Jackson trade isn’t a perfect match for Kuroda, but it’s in the ballpark.

Left-Handed vs. Right-Handed

The Yankees really aren’t in a position to be all that picky when it comes to starting pitching help, but in a perfect world they’d prefer a left-hander to a right-hander. Yankee Stadium is pretty close to neutral for right-handed batters according to StatCorner’s park factors, but it obviously boosts the performance by lefties quite a bit. That’s pretty much the only reason the Yankees should favor a lefty over a righty, but even then we have to be talking about choosing between two similar pitchers. How often does that happen?

The idea of adding a lefty to matchup against the Red Sox sounds great in theory, but Boston actually hits left-handed pitchers (slightly) better than they do right-handers. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis annihilate southpaws, enough to counteract the drop in production that Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury experience against same-side batters (David Ortiz actually has a reverse split this year). The Yankees could very well run into the Rangers again in the postseason, and aside from Josh Hamilton, that lineup is significantly right-handed. Even if the Angels manage to make a run and sneak into the postseason, they’re very right-handed.

Given what’s available on the market, the Yankees don’t really have the option to add a lefty to their rotation. There’s Erik Bedard, but he’s the only one of note. The important thing is for them to get a quality pitcher first and foremost, handedness is secondary. It would be nice to add a southpaw, but only because of Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox have next to nothing to do with it.

Betances struggles in Trenton loss

Update: The High-A Tampa game is finally over and has been added to the post.

Keith Law gave some big time love to Mason Williams in his chat this afternoon

I think Williams has a chance to be … actually, the player I think Colby Rasmus will be. Hits for average, runs well, plays good D in CF, hits maybe 20-25 HR.

I didn’t think he had that kind of power potential, but obvious he’s talking about a best case scenario. That kind of player is a star. Law also mentioned that a scout he spoke to raved about Angelo Gumbs’ bat speed but was generally down on Cito Culver.

Triple-A Scranton (6-3 win to Buffalo)
Kevin Russo, LF: 0 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K – threw a runner out at second
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 4, 1 BB, 1 K, 2 SB
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 4, 1 BB – .000/.111/.000 in his last nine plate appearances … bust!
Jorge Vazquez, DH: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K – third homer in four games
Brandon Laird, 3B: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B – I see the lack of at-bats in the big leagues didn’t bother him
Jordan Parraz, RF: 2 for 3, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 HBP – 12 for his last 31 (.387) with four doubles, a triple, and a homer
Mike Lamb, 1B: 0 for 3, 1 K, 1 HBP
Luis Nunez, 2B: 3 for 4, 2 2B, 2 RBI
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Greg Smith, LHP: 6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 5-2 GB/FB – 53 of 79 pitches were strikes (67.1%) … picked a runner off first, which isn’t surprising since he has a great move
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0-3 GB/FB – 13 of 20 pitches were strikes
Randy Flores, LHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – nine of 12 pitches were strikes

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Open Thread: Derek Jeter 3K

The HBO special DEREK JETER 3K premieres tonight, and that above is the extended trailer. The feature will chronicle Jeter’s entire career and his pursuit of 3,000 career hits, and will feature interviews with teammates, the Steinbrenners, Minka Kelly, Billy Crystal, and plenty of others. You can read more about it here. It will air at 9pm ET tonight on HBO, so set your DVR.

Until that comes on, use this as tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is showing a game tonight, but the teams will depend on where you live. If you’re in or around New York, you’ll likely get to see Carlos Beltran‘s first game as a Giant in Philadelphia. Talk about that or whatever else your heart desires. Have at it.