2010 Draft: Baseball America’s Early Projection

As part of their Early Draft Preview, Baseball America posted the first of what will be many projected first rounds today (subs. req’d). They have Las Vegas wunderkind Bryce Harper going first overall, and the Yanks taking Southern California high school outfielder Austin Wilson 32nd overall. They say that “he might have the best body in the draft,” but as a Stanford commit, he’s going to be a very tough sign. Keith Law sheds some more light on Wilson at ESPN’s MLB Draft Blog (sorry, another subs. req’d), saying that he’s a “below-average runner and showed only an average arm with below-average accuracy, so he’s primarily a bat who should profile in an outfield corner.”

Projections this early do nothing more than provide entertainment value. Trying to slot players with teams this far in advance is practically impossible, so don’t get to attached to Wilson. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that BA has Rice shortstop Rick Hague going 16th overall. Why do you care? Because three years ago I used my fourth round pick (#154 overall) to take Hague in John Sickels’ mock draft. I’m not normally one to toot my own horn, but toot toot.

Who has options left?

At MLB Trade Rumors, Tim runs down his list of players who are out of options. My only issue is that it covers players not on the 40-man roster. The only way option status affects those players is if they make the team out of spring training, and then the team later wants to option the player. Since we’re not thinking quite that far ahead yet, we can just look at the 40-man and determine who has options and who does not. Remember, too, that a player who was added to the 25-man roster three years ago must clear waivers before being sent on an optional assignment.

For the Yankees, Tim lists Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre as optionless players. Edwar Ramirez also appears to be out of options, but he might have one left. The Yankees certainly used options in 2007 and 2009. In 2008 they optioned him to AAA Scranton to start the season, but recalled him on April 18, sent him down the next day, and recalled him for good on April 29. Boone Logan is another case to examine a bit further. The Yankees were granted a fourth option for Juan Miranda, so he can start the season in Scranton as well.

Cervelli reveals Winter Ball injury

Sometime around third or fourth grade, one of my friends at a baseball after-school program had a rather unfortunate meeting with a baseball bat. He wasn’t paying close attention to the guy on deck, and the backswing clocked him squarely in the mouth. He lost his two front teeth but lived to tell the tale. Today, we find out that something similar happened to Frankie Cervelli. In a piece that cover some familiar ground — lost eight pounds; best shape of his life; yadda, yadda, yadda — Anthony McCarron reports that Cervelli sat out a month of winter ball after getting hit in the head with a bat.

Cervelli said he was hit while behind the plate by another player’s backswing, and although he did not suffer a concussion, the Yanks asked him to sit out the rest of the Venezuelan winter ball season. “Nothing bad,” Cervelli said of the accident. “No concussion. I came here to check my head and the doctors said no action for a month. The Yankees said no more and you pay attention, that’s it.” The de facto back-up catcher is back up to full speed and is practicing at the Yanks’ minor league complex in Tampa. All’s well that ends well.

Out of left field: When the Yanks acquired A-Rod

A-Rod greets the New York press on February 17, 2004. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Do you remember Valentine’s Day 2004? For many, it was just another Valentine’s Day, a Saturday in February, but for Yankee fans, it was a big day for that was the day we first heard about the Yankees’ interest in Alex Rodriguez. I remember hearing the rumors and being completely unsurprised by them. The Yanks gave up Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias for A-Rod. It was a steal.

Today — February 15 — marks the six-year anniversary of the trade. The rumors erupted on Valentine’s Day, and by the next day, A-Rod was a Yankee, pending approval by the Commissioner. What struck me about the trade at the time was just how under-the-table it was. The Yanks targeted their guy and landed him before anyone really knew what was going on. In a way, it was similar to this year’s acquisition of Javier Vazquez in that no one knew it was happening or who was involved until the trade was complete.

For A-Rod, though, it wasn’t the first time that winter his name had come up. After the 2003 World Series ended and the Yankees and Red Sox looked to reload in anticipation of an October rematch, the early stories focused around A-Rod. Boston had grown tired of Manny Ramirez’s act and had placed him on waivers. The team later had a deal in place to acquire A-Rod for Manny Ramirez. The superstar short stop would have to give up some money, but the Red Sox had their guy. Boston then would have shipped Nomar Garciaparra to the White Sox in exchange for Magglio Ordoñez to replace Manny.

The Players Union, however, didn’t see things the Red Sox’s way. The union quashed the deal over the restructuring of A-Rod’s contract. They didn’t want their marquee earner to give up guaranteed money, and so that deal was dead in the water. A-Rod would remain with Texas.

And then, February arrived and with it came a trade Jack Curry described as a “surprise move.” The Yankees would acquire A-Rod and all that came with him. He had his obsession with New York, his chilly relationship with Derek Jeter, his contract, his desire for attention and his prodigious ability and power. He would slide over to third base, and the Yankees would have two future Hall of Famers on the left side of the infield.

As the trade stories unfolded, it appeared as though the February move was a second chance for the Yanks. Tyler Kepner and Murray Chass reported of a phone call between the Rangers and Yankees just hours after the Marlins won the World Series. “On Oct. 26, about 12 hours after the Yankees lost the World Series to the Florida Marlins, Rangers officials called Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman to gauge his interest in trading for Rodriguez,” the two wrote. “Irritated by the timing and confident in his own star shortstop, Derek Jeter, Cashman passed.”

In Boston, fans were disappointed by the Yanks’ moves, and Mets’ fans felt jilted too. A-Rod was the one who got away. For his part, A-Rod said all the right things. ”To me, it was a very easy decision,” he said. ”To me, this came down to winning. Over the last three years, I’ve come to understand that winning is something I respect a lot. It was an easy decision. Hopefully, after today, it will be a dead issue. Derek Jeter is the captain of this team, and I’m going to follow his leadership.”

But the Yankees’ fans were less accepting. Words uttered by Reggie Jackson came back to haunt us all. ‘I’m taking for granted that A-Rod is a performer in the month of October,” Mr. October said in February. Of course, from Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS through the 2007 playoffs, A-Rod would come to symbolize not the Yanks’ successes in October but their high-price failures.

It would, in a way, take until 2009 for Yankee fans to truly embrace A-Rod. He suffered through an ill-timed decision to opt out of his contract, steroid allegations and a bad injury. But by the end of this past year, he was a playoff hero, the guy the Yanks wanted up every time. It all started six years ago today when the A-Rod Era kicked off.

Phil Hughes and his waivers problem

One of the popular themes during this slow time of the offseason is trying to figure out what happens to the loser of the fifth starter competition. Since most assume that Joba Chamberlain is going to win the job, it means the Yankees must decide what to do with their other young righty, Phil Hughes. I would prefer to see him sent to the bullpen so he can continue to develop against big leaguers while improving the team’s relief corps, but others want him sent to the minors so he can work as a starter and build up his innings. Either way, there’s going to be a point during the season that sending Hughes down to Triple-A Scranton to work on things isn’t going to be as easy as it seems.

As best as I can tell, Hughes still has one of his three option years remaining. He didn’t use one in 2007 because he was on the Major League disabled list after popping his hammy in Texas, and the handful of rehab appearances he made before rejoining the team in August don’t count as an optional assignment. However, the Yanks did burn an option on Hughes in 2008 when they kept him in the minors for about a month after he came back from his rib injury, and they burned another last year when they sent him to Triple-A to start the season. That’s all well and good, but there comes a time in a player’s career when time in the Majors trumps option years.

Whether he has that one option left, or even two or three, at a point early in the 2010 season, the Yankees will be unable to send him to the minors without first passing him through waivers. From Keith Law’s guest post at Baseball Analysts

There is a rule rarely invoked in baseball that creates a situation where a player who has options remaining still has to clear waivers to be sent on an optional assignment. If the assignment is to begin at least three full calendar years from the date of the player’s first appearance on a 25-man roster, then the player can not be sent on an optional assignment without first clearing major league waivers.

Obviously, KLaw’s article is more than three years old, but I checked the current Collective Bargaining Agreement and the rule is unchanged. As for Hughes, he first appeared on the Yankees’ 25-man roster on April 26th, 2007, the day he made his first big league start against a current teammate at home. So according to this rule, if the Yanks wanted to send Hughes to minors at any point after April 26th of this year, he would first have to clear waivers.

The good news is that these waivers are revocable, so if a team were to claim Hughes, the Yanks could pull him back without a problem. However, Hughes wouldn’t be able to go to the minors since he didn’t clear waivers, and if the Yanks were to place him on waivers again, well those are irrevocable. It’s the same deal as trade waivers in August. First time a player is put on waivers, they’re revocable, but the second time, not so much. So if someone puts in a claim that first time through, the Yankees wouldn’t be able to send Hughes down to the minors the rest of the season because he would surely be plucked off irrevocable waivers, likely by the team with the highest waiver priority. No one in their right mind would risk losing a 23-year-old pitcher like that.

KLaw mentions in the article that players usually clear these revocable waivers without incident, which is good. However the same could be said about trade waivers in August, yet the Yankees went ahead and screwed with the Red Sox (and Mets) by claiming Chris Carter last year. That move forced the Sox to designate another player for assignment a week later, something they surely didn’t want to do. After that episode last year, perhaps the Red Sox brass would look to return the favor (so to speak) by claiming Hughes and ensuring that he’s stuck in the bigs the rest of the year.

The Yanks will face the same issue with Joba Chamberlain this year as well, except his target date is August 7th. In the end, this probably isn’t really a big deal, because chances are the Yanks won’t be sending Hughes or Joba down at any point during the season. But it’s something to keep in mind, because once these two reach their three-year anniversaries, sending them to the minors isn’t going to be as easy as everyone thinks. Like it or not, Phil Hughes is probably in the big leagues to stay after April 26th.

Photo Credit: Tony Dejak, AP

Fan Confidence Poll: February 15th, 2010

2009 Season Record: 103-59 (915 RS, 753 RA), won AL East by 8 games, finished with the best record in MLB by 6 games, won 27th World Series

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The best Yankee hitters to each field

We now know, thanks to FanGraphs splits, that Derek Jeter posted better power numbers to right than Albert Pujols. In fact, he posted better numbers to right field than almost any right handed hitter I could find. Jeter’s prolificacy stems not only from what happens when he does hit a ball to right field, but also that he does it so frequently. It made me wonder how the other nine regulars fared when hitting the ball to each field. Who were the best Yankee hitters to right, left, and center? In addition to their rate stats, I’ll also factor in overall production, using linear weights based on BaseRuns.

To left field

Best hitter for average: Nick Swisher, .401
Best hitter for power: Nick Swisher, .402 ISO
Best overall contribution: Alex Rodriguez, 49.252

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

The Yankees didn’t hit that well to left field. In The Stadium that makes a degree of sense. Balls fly out of the park to right, and the Yankees built their team with that in mind. They did stock up on switch hitters, though, and two of them, Swisher and Mark Teixeira, did fare well when hitting the ball to left. That .402 ISO on Swisher is just insane. Most of it came from the right side of the plate, of course, where he posted a .493 ISO in 67 AB.

Yet Swisher couldn’t match A-Rod‘s overall production while hitting to left. A-Rod hit 22 more balls to left field than Swisher, which accounted for much of the difference in their linear weights numbers. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano also added more than 40 BaseRuns, both because they hit the ball in that direction so often. It might seem odd to see Jeter on the list, but pitchers aren’t going to feed him outside pitches all day. He has to do something with those inside ones if he’s going to succeed, and he did that well in 2009.

Overall the Yankees hit .345 to left field with a .210 ISO and 313.780 BaseRuns.

To center field

Best hitter for average: Brett Gardner, .425
Best hitter for power: Alex Rodriguez, .315
Best overall contribution: Robinson Cano, 52.429

Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson

It makes sense that team power isn’t as high to center field. It’s the deepest part of the park, and some fields have ridiculously long fences. Still, the Yankees hit well for average that way, led by Brett Gardner. He was at his best hitting to center. In fact, he didn’t hit over .300 to either of the corners, but was up at .425 to center. A-Rod came close at .405, and Jeter hit .398.

Power-wise it was A-Rod with a decent amount of space between him and the second best slugger to center, Nick Swisher. A-Rod hit a ridiculous nine home runs to center field, which is even more remarkable because, again, he missed the first month of the season. Swisher showed good power to center, though his average dropped off markedly. Still, five homers and 10 doubles on 105 balls in play (plus homers) is damn fine production.

People call Robinson Cano a pure hitter. If being a pure hitter means taking the ball back up the middle, then Cano fit the definition. His .373 AVG ranked fourth on the team, and his .151 ISO ranked fifth. But, as with A-Rod to left, Cano benefitted by putting so many balls in play to center field. Derek Jeter put in play the next most, with 198, but after them it was a long way to No. 3, Mark Teixeira with 168.

Overall the Yankees hit .344 to center field with a .162 ISO and 317.191 BaseRuns.

To right field

Best hitter for average: Jorge Posada, .425
Best hitter for power: Jorge Posada, .473
Best overall contribution: Johnny Damon, 77.029

Credit: AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams

Before assembling the list, I expected to see Johnny Damon’s name atop the average mark and Mark Teixeira with the best power numbers. I didn’t realize that Jorge Posada hits the ball to right like Nick Swisher hits it to left. That .473 ISo is the best mark of any Yankee to any field. Jorge also tied for the top batting average to any field. Best of all, he did it from both sides of the plate, hitting .427 from the left side and .423 from the right, with a .539 ISO from the left side and .231 from the right.

Of Damon’s 24 home runs, 23 sailed over a right field wall, and the majority of those came at Yankee Stadium. Yet he had only the fourth highest ISO on the team, as Hideki Matsui ranked second at .461 and Mark Teixeira ranked third at .459. Damon, at .450, added the most overall because he really tailored his swing to the short porch, putting 220 balls in play to right field. Swisher also finished well here, with a .377 ISO mark. The lowest non-Gardner ISO: Alex Rodriguez, with .233. I think we’ll see that increase a little bit this season.

Overall the Yankees hit .364 to right field with a .368 ISO and 445.068 BaseRuns. It pays, it seems, to build your team around your stadium.

In case you’re interested, here’s the whole spreadsheet. You know. For the nerds among us.