2011 Draft: Yankees sign 13th rounder Justin James

Via K. Levine-Flandrup, the Yankees have signed 13th round pick Justin James to an unknown signing bonus (most likely above slot). He took his physical today. James, an outfielder from a Sacramento JuCo, is Dion‘s son and one of the higher upside prospects the Yankees drafted this year. He shows huge power in batting practice and high-end speed, though he’s very raw because he quit baseball in high school to focus on basketball. James is super intriguing, but there’s a lot of work to be done here. If he moves quickly, I’ll be surprised.

Meanwhile, KL-F also notes that second rounder Sam Stafford is in the middle of taking physicals and whatnot, so a deal could be announced shortly.

Game 77: Could of had

There was a point in time this winter when the Yankees could have of had Zack Greinke, or at least it appeared that way. The righty met with Brian Cashman during the winter meetings to try to convince him he wanted to be a Yankee, but the GM voted against it and off to Milwaukee he went. Now they’ve got Freddy Garcia instead, who will face Greinke tonight. Sweaty Freddy has gotten the job done at a low cost, but he certainly doesn’t strike fear in opponents. It’ll be a while before we know if passing on the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner was a smart move, but what’s done is done. Here’s the starting nine…

Brett Gardner, LF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, SS

Freddy Garcia, SP

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

NoMaas interviews Mark Newman

The honorable Sensei John Kreese of NoMaas interviewed Yankees VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman, and it goes without saying that you should head over and read it. He asked some very tough questions, although Newman didn’t always give a direct answer. He did note that Hector Noesi is in the big league bullpen (and not starting for Triple-A Scranton) because winning in the majors is priority number one, and he welcomes the criticism. Newman also mentioned that Jesus Montero‘s focus on improving his defense may be hindering his offense. There’s also stuff about Andrew Brackman, J.R. Murphy, Gary Sanchez (“We have to discipline him on occasion, just like in any family.”), Tyler Clippard (“The mistake we made was not seeing what [he] looked like in the pen.”), and lots more. It gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so make sure you give it a read. Well worth your time.

Injury Updates: Jeter, Colon, Soriano, Prior

Time for your daily dose of injury news, courtesy of George King and Joe Auriemma

  • Derek Jeter ran the bases today for the first time since suffering his calf strain. He went from home to first (four times), first to second (three times), and first to third (once). “Running is probably the most important,” said the Cap’n. “It feels good. I’m sure we will pick it up in the next couple of days. It’s a step in the right direction.” Jeter also fielding about three dozen ground balls and took 50 or so swings in batting practice. There’s no set timetable for his return.
  • Bartolo Colon did some sprints and agility drills following Monday’s 60-pitch simulated game, but the most interesting news from Tampa is that he practiced some bunting. Colon lines up to pitch the same day as Brian Gordon, and the bunting could mean that they’re ready to give Bartolo that start against the Mets in CitiField. He is on his way to New York for “evaluation.”
  • Rafael Soriano is throwing long toss and so far everything feels good.
  • Mark Prior threw a bullpen session, his second in four days. If he feels fine tomorrow, there’s a chance he’ll throw to live hitters in batting practice later this week.

Are Gardner and Swisher equals at the plate?

The season started slowly for both Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher, but both have managed to turn it around. Gardner got an earlier start, hitting his stride in late April and continuing through the present. It took Swisher another month to get into a groove, but now he’s resembling the player we saw the last two years. Right now Gardner and Swisher share an OPS, both at .779. That might make them appear equal in production, but they’ve gotten there in different ways.

Gardner, as it’s easy to imagine, has produced his numbers mostly one base at a time. Of his 91 times on base, 72 have been a walk, hit by pitch, or single. This gives him a .281/.360/.420 line, which is excellent for a guy with Gardner’s speed. Swisher, on the other hand, has used his normal combination of walks and extra base hits to accumulate his line. He has been on base 111 times, which includes 23 extra base hits, 48 walks, and three hit by pitches.

Is the fact that they share an OPS and indicator that they’ve been equals at the plate? Yesterday at FanGraphs Matt Klaassen examined the usefulness of AVG/OBP/SLG when we have better stats. OPS was fine for its time, but there are other measures, such as wOBA or Baseball Prospectus’s True Average, that put offensive events into better context. To that they’re also essential equals, with just one point of wOBA separating them.

So done deal, right? At this point they’ve produced nearly equal value at the plate according to both OPS and wOBA. But for the moment I’m not exactly satisfied with the answer, because wOBA does take stolen bases and caught stealings into account. That is not production at the plate (and I desperately wish for FanGraphs to move SB/CS to their baserunning stat next year and leave wOBA to plate production only). Stripping out baserunning, Gardner has a wOBA of about .341, while Swisher is at .348. Why the difference? Because at a time when offense is on the decline, Swisher’s power — a .167 ISO to Gardner’s .138 — has rendered him the superior hitter to this point, even though he slumped for the first two months.

At this point it might seem as though Gardner has been the better producer at the plate, since he turned around his season at an earlier point. But Swisher’s skill set has allowed him to make up the difference rapidly. It reveals a truth that we all know: Swisher is more valuable at the plate than Gardner. But it also reveals the further value in Gardner’s skill set. When we take stolen bases and caught stealings into account, Gardner’s wOBA is nearly equal to Swisher’s. When we add in UBR, FanGraphs’ base running stat, it becomes even more apparent that Gardner can compete with Swisher on an complete offensive level. Taking his batting and base running totals (from here), he’s four runs better than Swisher overall, 7.1 to 3.1.

Going forward, Swisher’s OPS figures to rise a bit, while Gardner might be near his peak. Maybe he adds some OBP, but Swisher has plenty of room to grow, given the skills he’s shown throughout his career. From an at-the-dish standpoint, by season’s end Swisher will almost certainly be the better hitter. But when we take into consideration the other part of offense, the bases, Gardner will make up some, if not all, of the difference. Different player provide value in different ways. The Yankees are lucky to have a good balance in this regard among their outfielders.

(And that doesn’t even mention defense, which is a completely different animal.)