Fan Confidence Poll: November 23rd, 2009

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

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Could Miranda be the full-time DH in 2010?

Juan Miranda reminding Kyle Farnsworth that he's Kyle FarnsworthThe Yankees have three main holes to fill this offseason: leftfield, designated hitter, and number three starter. Sure, they can – and probably will – look to upgrade some other positions as well, but the team is generally in good shape there. The Bombers seem pretty intent on bringing Johnny Damon back to play left, and I think everyone believes the Andy Pettitte situation will work itself out and solidify the rotation.

That leaves DH as the biggest question mark. It’ll be tough to replace Hideki Matsui‘s 2009 production, even if they bring Godzilla himself back. The popular thought is that the Yanks can use the DH spot to rest Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, etc. on a rotating basis, but I can’t see the team actually going through with that. If they did, that means more at-bats for the Ramiro Penas and Brett Gardners and Frankie Cervellis of the world, and that’s not a formula that will win the cut-throat AL East.

There are always more DH types available than DH spots open, so the Yanks certainly have options. However, the team is said to be looking to scale back the payroll a bit, and if they can’t retain Matsui on favorable terms, the team might be better off filling the DH spot from within rather than dropping seven figures on a guy in the decline phase of his career. I’m not talking about that silly rotating DH thing when I say filling the spot from within, I’m talking about Juan Miranda.

The Yanks signed Miranda back in 2006 after he defected from Cuba and gained citizenship in the Dominican. He signed a four year Major League contract worth $2M, and the idea was that he’d take over first base on an everyday basis near the end of Jason Giambi‘s tenure. After splitting 2007 between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, Miranda’s spent the past two seasons with Triple-A Scranton. In 2008 he hit .287-.384-.449 with 12 homers, and his .371 wOBA ranked 14th in the league (min. 400 plate appearances). One problem was that Miranda couldn’t hit lefties, like at all. In 125 PA against southpaws, he hit just .200-.264-.287 with a grand total of six extra base hits. The second problem is that the Yanks brought in Mark Teixeira in the offseason, putting Miranda in baseball purgatory.

Sent back to Triple-A in 2009 because there was no spot on the big league roster for him, Miranda improved in almost every way. He hit for a higher average (.290) and more power (.498 SLG, IsoP jumped from .163 to .208) in his second stint in the International League, but most importantly, Miranda improved considerably against lefthanders. In 169 PA against southpaws, he hit .291-.367-.507 with 18 extra base hits. It’s an amazing turn around in just one year, but you have to be a little careful because it’s not a huge sample and it could very easily be a fluke. For what it’s worth, he was pretty bad against lefties in 2007 (.216-.293-.371, 12 XBH in 133 PA).

Even though he used his three option years in 2007-2009, Miranda qualifies for a fourth option because he still hasn’t played in his fifth pro season. Brian Cashman confirmed it. That means the Yanks could easily stash him away in Triple-A for a third straight year if they so choose, there won’t be any consequence. That also gives them some flexibility, because if Miranda starts the year in bigs but needs to be demoted because he isn’t performing, they can do it without worrying about losing him on waivers.

Not that the sample size is meaningful (23 PA), but Miranda’s actually hit big league pitching pretty well: .368-.435-.579. He collected a walk-off single off old buddy Kyle Farnsworth on Sept. 29th of this year, then three days later he took Dale Thayer way deep (someone he’s surely faced numerous times in Triple-A over the last two years) for his first career homer. In limited action, Miranda’s certainly been productive at the Major League level.

Using the wonderful MLE Calculator, we can see that Miranda’s Triple-A batting line this year would have translated to .249-.318-.412 with 15 homers in the big leagues, though I don’t think the MLEc has been updated to reflect the homer happy New Yankee Stadium yet. For the sake of context, that’s basically what Aaron Rowand hit this year. The same Aaron Rowand whose .323 wOBA ranked 68th among all outfielders with at least 400 PA in 2009. Need more context? Melky Cabrera was 63rd with a .331 wOBA. So yeah, it’s not very good.

Of course that’s just one look at it. Part of me is curious to see what Miranda could do with a full season of at-bats in the big leagues, but at the same time I don’t think the Yanks can afford to experiment at such a crucial offensive position. I don’t think his massive improvement against lefties is sustainable, nor do I think he’s as bad against them as he was in 2008. In reality, he’s probably somewhere in the middle, which means the Yanks would need to pair him with a righthanded caddy (tying up another roster spot) for all the lefty starters in the division (Lester, Price, Matusz, Cecil, Romero).

So, getting back to the original question about Miranda possibly being the full-time DH in 2010, I’m going to say no. Not for a team trying to win a championship. Lefty hitting first base/DH types that have historically struggled against lefthanders aren’t exactly a rare commodity, and given the Yanks’ current roster construction and needs, Miranda doesn’t really have a place. He’s a better fit for a rebuilding team or an NL club that can live with below average defense at first or needs a bat off the bench. With all due respect to Mr. Miranda, I hope the Yankees look elsewhere for a DH should Matsui move on.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Open Thread: Scott Boras listens to me

Here’s the latest from MLBTR:

Ken Rosenthal’s latest entry in the offseason blog at FOX Sports says that he believes Scott Boras will likely use Bobby Abreu‘s two-year, $19MM contract as a baseline for fellow 36-year-old outfielder Johnny Damon.

Here’s me from two-and-a-half weeks ago:

Yesterday afternoon, word got out that Bobby Abreu had agreed to a contract extension with the Angels, signing on for two more years in Anaheim. After having to wait until damn near Spring Training to find a job last year, Abreu jumped all over the $19M the Halos offered him. The deal even includes a vesting option for 2012 worth $9M, when Abreu will be 38. I mentioned this yesterday, but in two years I’m sure we’ll be hearing about ways the Angels can prevent that option from vesting.

Anyway, the entire reason I brought this up is because it indirectly affects the Yankees. Now we have a blueprint for what a new contract for Johnny Damon might look like, something we didn’t have before.

I am so smart. I am so smart. S-M-R-T. I mean S-M-A-R-T.

As you can tell, it’s a slow night, so use this as your open thread: The Knicks already lost today, so the Eagles and Bears are your only sports action of the night. Talk about whatever you want, just be cool.

Wrapping up the AzFL

The Arizona Fall League season ended yesterday, when the Peoria Javelinas beat the Phoenix Desert Dogs 5-4 in the Championship Game yesterday afternoon thanks to C.J. Retherford’s (White Sox) two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning. Phoenix had been the five-time defending champs. Dodgers prospect Russ Mitchell took home the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award.

Here’s a roundup of how the Yanks’ prospects performed out in the desert:

Colin Curtis: 20 G, 31 for 78 (.397), 19 R, 7 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 11 BB, 14 K, 3 SB, 2 CS – dude led the league with a 1.203 OPS, and not by a small margin either (44 pts)
Brandon Laird: 22 G, 30 for 90 (.333), 18 R, 9 2B, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 10 BB, 20 K, 1 CS – he finished seventh in the least with a 1.039 OPS
Austin Romine: 4 G, 6 for 15 (.400), 2 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K – left the league after suffering a minor finger injury … it’s nothing serious, he’ll be fine
Grant Duff: 10 G, 9.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 4 K – really? more BB than K?
Mike Dunn: 10 G, 10.1 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 10 BB, 20 K - love the K/9, but not the BB/9
Ian Kennedy: 7 G, 7 GS, 29.2 IP, 30 H, 16 R, 14 ER, 5 BB, 28 K - led the league in IP … 2.26 FIP is fantastic
Zach Kroenke: 11 G, 15.1 IP, 15 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 14 K

Here’s the rest of the winter ball wrap up:

Dominican Winter League
Abe Almonte: 10 G, 3 for 11 (.273), 6 R, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 SB
Juan Miranda: 8 G, 15 for 28 (.536), 7 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 SB – I’m starting to warm up to the idea of him being the everyday (or at least the LHB portion of a platoon) DH in 2010
Eduardo Nunez: 2 G, 1 for 4 (.250), 1 R, 1 BB
Wilkins Arias: 15 G, 12 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 12 K
Ivan Nova: 5 G, 4 GS, 25.2 IP, 17 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 17 K – love it
Jon Ortiz: 6 G, 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

Mexican Pacific League
Walt Ibarra: 22 G, 12 for 41 (.293), 8 R, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 13 K, 1 SB
Jorge Vazquez: 9 G, 9 for 31 (.290), 4 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K

Venezuelan Winter League
Frankie Cervelli: 4 G, 3 for 9 (.333), 3 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 2 K – nice early showing
Reegie Corona: 21 G, 18 for 51 (.353), 14 R, 7 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 10 BB, 11 K, 2 SB – late push for that 40-man spot
Jesus Montero: 9 G, 3 for 26 (.115), 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K – hasn’t played in a month
Luis Nunez: 12 G, 9 for 36 (.250), 1 R, 1 2B, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K
Romulo Sanchez: 16 G, 19 IP, 15 H, 14 R, 11 ER, 8 BB, 9 K
Josh Schmidt: 9 G, 7 GS, 33.1 IP, 35 H, 23 R, 16 ER, 11 BB, 28 K – he’s also plunked five batters
Pat Venditte: 7 G, 9.1 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
Eric Wordekemper: 4 G, 1 GS, 5.1 IP, 11 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 1 K

Puerto Rican League
Amaury Sanit: 3 G, 2 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

Football Open Thread

The Giants are taking on the Falcons at home at 1pm ET today, while the Jets are in New England later on at 4pm ET. Chat all you want about the games here, just make sure you keep your football comments in this thread. Thanks, enjoy the games.

A player’s view of free agency

In a piece for the Times, former big league outfielder Doug Glanville writes about the experience of free agency from a player’s point of view. Do you go for the money? consider your family’s wants? In reality, it’s a mix of both. It’s a great and interesting read, so check it out.

Open Thread: It was 75 years ago today…

On November 21, 1934, the Yankees purchased the contract of Joe DiMaggio from San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League. He’d debut two year later, posting a .323/.352/.576 line in the cavernous Yankee Stadium. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sorry for the shortness, but the RABbis are out and about this evening. So, have fun with the open thread. I’m sure there are some good college football games on tonight.