After a quick tour through the Yankees fall instructional league, seventh-round pick Kyle Higashioka is heading back to his home in southern California. The team has high hopes for the prep school catcher who, like most high school draftees, is a raw product now. He’ll begin his first full season in pro ball next year, likely starting out at Low-A Charleston, which saw two excellent catching prospects pass through this year in Austin Romine and Jesus Montero. So a once barren system in terms of catching talent is starting to fill out. MLB.com writer Jonathan Mayo has some info on Higashioka up at the official site.
In the quotes department, Higashioka is a lot like catching brother Crash Davis. He comes off as positive, eager, yet unoffensive, which is basically the formula for speaking to the press these days.
“A bunch of people told me how hard it’s going to be once I get into full-season ball,” he said. “I’ll try to get as strong as I can, and keep working on my hitting and catching, maintaining quickness as well as strength. I want to come to Spring Training in really great shape and impress all the coaches and staff, so hopefully they put me in the full-season level.”
“There are certain things that are different in professional baseball that I wasn’t accustomed to,” Higashioka said. “This minicamp helped me adjust to the lifestyle of playing professional baseball.”
Known mostly for his slick defense, he could still be a force with the bat. It’s tough to tell when they’re still 18 years old and not fully developed physically. The Yanks paid $500,000 to keep him away from Cal, so clearly they see something in him. He’ll definitely be one to watch in the 2009 edition of DotF.
On the eve of the NLCS between the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers, FOX broadcaster extraordinaire Tim McCarver ripped into Manny Ramirez. Said the former player, “Some of the things he did were simply despicable, despicable – like not playing, refusing to play. Forgetting what knee to limp on. And now it’s washed, it’s gone.”
Update: Joe Sheehan takes McCarver to task for these comments. While McCarver is certainly free to hold his opinions on Ramirez, some of the facts he asserts in the Inquirer interview are flat-out wrong. · (28) ·
Can a player be too devoted to a team? Can a player’s devotion to a team and his willingness to play through an injury no matter how severe be a detriment? Of course, it can, and this year, the Yanks learned that the hard way.
By his standards, Derek Jeter got off to a slow start. Through May 18, Jeter had been to the 167, and while he was hitting .314, his OBP was just .349 and he was slugging just .429. With just 11 extra-base hits to his name, Jeter was not having the MVP season his teammates had predicted in Spring Training.
Then, on May 20, in a game in which a Jeter error led to six unearned runs, disaster in the form of a Daniel Cabrera fastball struck. Jeter had to leave the game in the third inning, and while X-Rays were negative, the next few weeks were not kind to the Yankee short stop. Between May 20 and June 14 — a span of 111 plate appearances — Jeter hit .198/.291/.292 with 14 runs scored, five extra-base hits and seven RBIs. It would be a brutal 25 games for the Yankee Captain.
After June 14, Jeter turned it all around. He hit .323/.390/.430 over his last 390 plate appearances, and while another HBP against the Orioles ended his season a few days early, he pulled down a .300/.363/.408 line on the year. But Jeter those numbers pale in comparison with his .316/.387/.458 mark. He didn’t score 100 runs for the first time since his injury-shortened 2003 campaign, and he notched full-season career lows in doubles, home runs and hits.
Sabermetrically, Jeter’s numbers were down this year as well. His runs created per game dipped from 6.3 to 5.0. His VORP dropped from 53.3 to 37.5, and his win shares declined from 24 to 18. Overall, his subpar season didn’t impact the team that much; his contributions declined by about two wins over the course of a full season. But if we assume that Jeter was indeed hurt by Cabrera’s fastball, his decision to play through the pain did not help the Yankees this year.
Of course, Jeter’s bad 25 games could have just been that. Perhaps, he just hit a slump, and the HBP was merely coincidental. And perhaps Jeter’s delince, at age 34, isn’t to be unexpected. He’s on the downside of what has been a very productive career. Over the next few seasons, the Yanks will have to grapple with a lot of Derek Jeter-related questions. He’s not really fit for short stop, and his contract will soon end. The team is still relying on him to be that linchpin out of the two hole, and soon we’ll see if that decision may not be the best for the future of the team.
RAB live chat tomorrow, I’m thinking 2pm EDT so our west coast friends can get in on the action. Here’s our past chats.
AzFL Peoria (8-7 win over Surprise)
Austin Jackson: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K – in addition to driving in the Javelinas’ seventh run, he was at the plate when a wild pitch allowed the game winning run to score
Jeff Marquez: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-3 GB/FB – 18 of 28 pitches were strikes (64.3%) … don’t read too much into him pitching in relief, the team is carrying 21 pitchers, they all can’t start
HWB Waikiki (3-1 loss to Honolulu in 7 innings) not sure why they played only 7 innings again, as radnom suggested yesterday, maybe it was a volcano?
Damon Sublett: 1 for 3, 2 K – still hasn’t gone hitless in a game
Austin Romine: 0 for 2
While it’s nice and trendy to blame the pitching for the Yanks’ woes this year, the fact is they did score nearly 200 fewer runs this year than last (179 to be exact). We’re used to powerhouse offenses that feature multiple 100 RBI guys (they had two this year) and about five or six 20 homerun hitters (three), but it just wasn’t meant to be this year. Injuries, subpar years and general suckiness were the main culprits.
While it’s clear the Yanks will look to make a splash on the pitching front, their offense will need a pretty significant upgrade, especially if Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu are allowed to take their stout OPS+’s elsewhere as free agents.
Enter: Mark Teixeria. And … uh … Manny Ramirez.
Both players offer what the Yanks need – the ability to hit for average, hit for power, and get on base like it’s going out of style – but best of all they’ll come at the cost of just money, no other players need to get involved. Manny’s Hall of Fame caliber resume leaves no question that he’ll be an impact player, and Teixeira’s just entering what should be the best years of his career. Neither guy will come cheaply, and even the Yanks have their financial limits, so it’ll come down to one or the other.
So what would you prefer: Tex on a 7 yrs, $154M deal, or Manny at 4/88? Your call, play nice.
While most people know Robert Goulet as a successful Broadway star, most youngsters know him from a rather hilarious Super Bowl commercial. Now, Goulet, posthumously, has lent his name to an American Mustache Institute award, and, well, Jason Giambi’s ‘stache is one of the finalists for Mustache of the Year. The competition is fierce; Goose Gossage, Don LaFontaine and Keith Hernandez are among the nominees. But head on over to AMI’s site and vote for Giambi. After all, no one else’s ‘stache had a 130 OPS+. · (8) ·
The MLBPA is the most powerful union in sports. For the most part, they get what they want. Could that influence play a part in CC Sabathia donning pinstripes this winter? Ken Davidoff ponders the question, and reflects back to the 2002-2003 off-season. Jim Thome, a newly-minted free agent, got a huge offer from the Phillies, and a decent one from the Indians, with whom he had played since being drafted in 1989. Davidoff’s source said Thome was considering the Tribe’s offer because he loved playing in the Midwest. However, the players’ union leaned on him, and he ended up taking the big bucks with Philly.
If we’re to believe the current crop of rumors, the Yankees seem poised to be the high bidder in the CC Sweepstakes. While CC might not necessarily value the dollar over all else, how will the union feel about that? What if the best offer out there is five years and $100 million, and the Yanks are going six and $125? Clearly, it’s tough to speculate on a situation like this, seeing as none of us (as far as I know) works for the union. It’s just something else to think about as we near the beginning of free agency. · (37) ·
Via RAB commenter Tim Dierkes comes a Jon Heyman column with Yankee rumors galore. The Yanks want to sign two of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe. Sabathia is clearly the best choice, and signing two of them would probably mean that either Andy Pettitte or Mike Mussina will not be coming back next season. Of course, all of this is contingent on these players’ accepting the Yanks offers. In other news, Heyman does not believe that the current state of the U.S. economy will impact the Yanks’ spending. · (122) ·
Robinson Cano was one of the Yanks’ great disappointments this year. Coming off of two strong campaigns in 2006 and 2007, Cano had a terrible start to the year and ended up hitting just. 271/.305/.410. As Joe explored earlier this week, Cano’s troubles were a key factor in the Yanks’ missing the playoffs.
Of course, as is the norm in New York, as soon as a player struggles, they are automatically the subject of multiple trade rumors, no matter how ludicrous. While the Yanks have shown no indication that they would shop Cano and while 29 other teams are gleefully wondering if the Yanks are stupid enough to sell low on Cano, this reality isn’t stopping anyone from thinking out loud about trading Robinson Cano.
Today’s backhanded efforts at slamming Cano come to us from RAB whipping boy and New York Post scribe Joel Sherman. He seemingly questions why the Yanks are valuing Cano not at 2008 but at 2006-2007 levels:
The more I talk to Yankee officials the more I become convinced that Robinson Cano Robinson Cano will not be dealt. That is because the Yanks plan on valuing him as the 2006-7 Cano and not last year’s discouraging version. As I canvas executives from other teams, however, they all say something like this: “Cano still has value, but not the same as last year.”
So unless this is a leverage play the Yankees New York Yankees are not going to be able to turn Cano into either the top-end starter or center fielder they crave. Essentially outside teams want to hedge the risk that Cano is not a serious enough person to ever consistently maximize his talent. So what would be most possible would be a risk-for-risk trade, and the Yanks don’t want to take that risk. Enough of their top decision makers continue to believe Cano is going to be a .300-plus hitter who hits between 20-30 HRs and approaches Gold Glove defense to give him up for a project.
Why this would be a surprise to Sherman or any nameless executives is beyond me.
For all of his perceived struggles in 2008, Cano’s numbers break down nicely, in a way. On May 3, Cano bottomed out at .150/.213/.230. Over the rest of this season, his numbers were nearly in line with his 2007 level. From May 4 until the end of the year, Cano came to bat 512 times and hit .300/.327/.452 with 12 home runs, 32 doubles, three triples and 65 RBI. Much as we look at Melky Cabrera‘s last four months for a better indication of his overall failures in 2008 so can we look at those numbers for Cano.
Furthremore, some of Cano’s numbers indicate that he was woefully unlucky this year. According to The Hardball Times, Cano’s line drive percentage was actually higher in 2008 than it was in 2007, and he cut his groundball rate at the same time. His BABIP, however, dropped a stunning .050 points. For all his troubles, Cano could have just been unlucky this year.
Now, there are some warning signs, and I could see why the Yanks’ potential trading partners would be wary of Cano. As with Cabrera, Cano’s rate stats have declined in each of the last three seasons. He hasn’t developed the batting eye or patience at the plate that the Yanks would like to see him develop. But he is far from a lost cause as a mid-September adjustment to his batting stance seemed to deliver promising results.
Right now, the Yanks have no real reason to trade Robinson Cano. The youngest of the Yankees’ every-day players, he fills an important position and has the potential to be one of the AL’s best hitters. He’s cost-controlled and can play solid defense. With only Orlando Hudson as a viable free agent alternative, the Yanks, in trading Cano, would be opening up one hole while potentially filling another, if they could even land a premier Major League center fielder or pitcher.
As is often the case, this focus on Cano and his supposed tradeability is all about the media. They see something they don’t like — Cano’s .271 average, in this case — and this all of a sudden means he can’t make it in New York. Let’s not lose perspective here.