Weekend Open Thread

Friday: Hooray for the weekend. The World Series is back tonight with Game Three at Wrigley Field. This is the first World Series game at Wrigley in 71 years. The place will be a madhouse, I’m sure. Josh Tomlin and Kyle Hendricks, a pair of finesse righties who struggle to crack 90 mph, are tonight’s starters. Should be fun. Game Three will begin at 8pm ET and you can watch on FOX.

Here’s the open thread for the night. In addition to the World Series, both the (hockey) Rangers and Devils are playing, as are the Nets. Talk about those games or whatever else right here.

Saturday: Ex-Yankee news: Hiroki Kuroda‘s career is over. His team, the Hiroshima Carp, lost the Japan Series in six games to the Nippon Ham Fighters last night. Had there been a Game Seven, it would have been Kuroda vs. Shohei Otani. Kuroda announced he will retire following the Japan Series, win or lose, earlier this month. He never won a championship in his career. Not in NPB and not in MLB. Sucks. He deserved one. Enjoy retirement, Hiroki.

This is the open thread again. Corey Kluber (on short rest) and John Lackey will be on the mound in Game Four of the World Series (8pm ET on FOX). There’s also college football, plus the Knicks, Nets, and Devils are in action. You folks know what to do here, so do it.

Sunday: For the final time, here is your open thread. Trevor Bauer and Jon Lester will be on the mound in Game Five of the World Series tonight (8pm ET on FOX), plus you have all the day’s NFL action. The (hockey) Rangers and Islanders are both playing as well. Talk about those games and more here.

A Spectrum of Expectations

This year's rookie hazing theme: Baby Bombers! (@Yankees)
This year’s rookie hazing theme: Baby Bombers! (@Yankees)

If you’re reading this site, then it you would probably find it superfluous for me to rehash the success the Yankees had when it came to integrating young talent into the Major League team or adding it to the minor league system. And it would also be repetitive to parrot the lines about excitement going forward, 2017 and beyond. Of those two things, though, I’d rather do the latter. When it comes to young players, talking about the future is always more fun than talking about the past, however recent.

Two players in particular are going to have quite lofty expectations thrown on them on 2017. In the minors, there’s Gleyber Torres, who more than held his own in a league in which he was almost four years younger than the average age. People are going to expect big things from him going forward, and I suppose I can’t blame them. He’ll be, however, just 20 years old for all of next season. On the Major League side of things, there’s Gary Sanchez.

Rookie of the Decade. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Rookie of the Decade. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Whatever adjectives you want to use to describe El Gary’s 2016 are fine with me and likely don’t even do it justice. To an even greater degree than Torres, Sanchez tore up a league he wasn’t supposed to yet, forcing himself into AL Rookie of the Year talks despite just two months of playing time. I’m worried that a segment of fans–not the ones who read this site, really–will be disappointed in Sanchez unless he puts up some ridiculous, Mike Piazza-like year. In reality, if Sanchez just repeats what he did this year over a full year, that would be pretty remarkable in and of itself. Offense like that doesn’t come from a catcher too often.

When it comes to players like Aaron Judge, Luis Cessa, and Chad Green, improvement ought to be the expectation. For Cessa and Green, that improvement needs to come in the form of pitching well enough for their roles to be defined. This does and should leave some wiggle room for them to be considered successful in 2017, whether that’s as starters or relievers. For Judge, the improvement needed is obvious: he has to make more contact and cut down on the strikeouts.

Then there’s Luis Severino. I have no earthly idea what to expect from this guy going forward. Were he to bounce back and show his 2015 form more often, I wouldn’t be shocked. Were he to repeat 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised either. But in my gut of guts, heart of hearts, whatever you want to call it, I’m expecting Severino to turn into a reliever by the end of 2017. Maybe that’s overly pessimistic, but…what else can I expect after a year of no consistent third pitch?

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The young players in the Yankee organization are the ones that will determine its success in the coming years. With a team less reliant on old talent as those players age out, the performances of the relatively inexperienced will matter all that much more. It’s never easy to set expectations for players and there’s always a range of possibilities; hopefully, they come up more positive than negative.

DotF: Jorge Mateo begins stint in winter ball

MLB.com streamed an Arizona Fall League game the other night and both SS Gleyber Torres and 1B Greg Bird went deep, so that was cool. The videos are above. 3B Miguel Andujar also drove in a run with a single in that game (video). Jim Callis has an article with some Yankees-related AzFL updates, so make sure you check that out. Here are the week’s notes before we get to the game action:

  • Baseball America posted their top ten Yankees prospects list yesterday. I’ll post some thoughts on it next week, but there’s the list for now. Also check out their companion post and chat for even more info. You need a subscription to read the scouting reports for prospects 2-10, otherwise everything is free.
  • Eric Longenhagen spoke about RHP James Kaprielian on the FanGraphs podcast earlier this week. The Kaprielian stuff starts at the 23:52 mark. Longenhagen said everything looked the same out of Kaprielian’s hand during a recent AzFL outing, making it really tough for the hitter to differentiate his pitches. Pretty neat stuff. Check it out.
  • Ex-Phillies scout Therron Brockish wrote about RHP Dillon Tate for Baseball America (no subs. req’d). The report is pretty glowing in general and indicates he can start, though Brockish wonders if Tate will eventually settle in as a high-strikeout late-inning reliever.
  • The Yankees signed RHP Matt Wivinis out of the independent Frontier League, reports Matt Eddy. He went undrafted out of Eastern Illinois last year, then struck out 43 in 39.2 innings with the Evansville Otters. Teams don’t sign indy ball kids to fill out minor league rosters at this time of the year. The Yankees must see Wivinis as an actual prospect.
  • The Yankees have also re-signed RHP Jose Pena, reports Eddy. Pena has great numbers, having pitched to a 2.66 ERA (2.38 FIP) with 29.6% strikeouts and 5.6% walks in 199.1 minor league innings. He’s also battled injuries, which is why he’s yet to make it out of rookie ball at age 25.
  • And finally, Torres was named the AzFL Player of the Week last week. Also, Andujar placed ninth on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, and fans voted RHP Jonathan Holder the top reliever in the minors this year. Pretty cool.

Arizona Fall League

  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 11 G, 13-35, 7 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 7 BB, 4 K (.371/.465/.457) — seven walks and four strikeouts, eh? nice
  • 1B Greg Bird: 10 G, 9-37, 5 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 6 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP (.243/.378/.486) — if you’re in interested in such things, the home run in the video above had an exit velocity of 104.4 mph, according to Daren Willman … glad to see Bird seems to be back to being himself after shoulder surgery
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 9 G, 10-32, 6 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 6 BB, 5 K, 2 SB, 2 CS (.313/.421/.656) — wonder what the Sterling call will be?
  • IF Tyler Wade: 6 G, 3-21, 5 R, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K, 4 SB (.143/.308/.143) — he’s played one game at second, two in left, and three in center … he’s also played four innings at third base, so Wade is on the path to being the Yankees’ next utility man
  • LHP Nestor Cortes: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K (21.60 ERA and 4.20 WHIP) — he was added to the AzFL roster late as an injury replacement for a pitcher in another organization
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 6 G, 8 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 9 K (4.50 ERA and 1.88 WHIP) — four innings, four baserunners, six strikeouts, no runs in his last three outings
  • RHP James Kaprielian: 3 G, 3 GS, 9.1 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 12 K (4.82 ERA and 1.29 WHIP) — his three starts have each gotten progressively worse, but who cares? he’s healthy, and that’s most important
  • RHP Brody Koerner: 3 G, 1 GS, 7.1 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 1 HR (11.05 ERA and 2.05 WHIP) — he moved into the rotation to replace whoever got hurt that allowed Cortes to join the roster
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 5 G, 8 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 1 HB (4.50 ERA and 1.13 WHIP)

Dominican Winter League

  • IF Abi Avelino: 2 G, 0-3, 1 R — these leagues are super competitive, so Avelino might not play much … whoever gives the team the best chance to win will be in the lineup
  • IF Jorge Mateo: 5 G, 2-14, 1 R, 1 B, 2 K, 1 HBP (.142/.250/.143) — good to see him playing down here … he didn’t have a great season this year, so anything work he can put in to get better next year is a positive
  • OF Cesar Puello: 4 G, 3-9, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 4 BB (.333/.538/.444) — he had a real nice season and will be a minor league free agent in a few weeks … I imagine he’ll look for the best opportunity to get to MLB, and given the Yankees’ outfield depth, it’s hard to think that opportunity exists here
  • RHP Adonis Rosa: 1 G, 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (0.00 ERA and 0.50 WHIP) — Rosa, 21, quietly had himself a nice little season: 2.19 ERA and 3.03 ERA in 78 innings between Short Season Staten Island and Low-A Charleston … he signed back in 2013 and was relatively new to pitching at the time
  • UTIL Jose Rosario and RHP Anyelo Gomez are both listed on rosters as well, but they haven’t appeared in a game yet.

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Tito Polo: 10 G, 9-37, 9 R, 3 2B, 4 BB, 12 K, 6 SB, 3 HBP (.243/.364/.324) — he came over from the Pirates in the Ivan Nova trade … Polo’s not a future star or anything, but his skill set makes him a really good bet to be a big leaguer, even if he’s only a fourth outfielder
  • C Sebastian Valle: 10 G, 5-34, 2 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 13 K, 1 HBP (.147/.256/.176) — another guy due to become a minor league free agent soon

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) started their season just a few days ago. IF Cito Culver, IF Vince Conde, and OF Aaron Judge are all listed on rosters, though they haven’t played yet.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • IF Angel Aguilar: 4 G, 2-7, 1 R, 3 K (.286/.286/.286)
  • C Francisco Diaz: 12 G, 9-35, 2 R, 1 2B, 3 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 9 K, 1 CS (.257/.316/.400) — depth catcher re-signed on a minor league deal a week or two ago
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 2 G, 4.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 HR (3.86 ERA and 1.07 WHIP)
  • RHP David Kubiak: 3 G, 2 G, 7.1 IP, 12 H, 13 R, 11 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP (13.50 ERA and 2.18 WHIP)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 5 G, 3.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K (7.36 ERA and 1.91 WHIP)
  • LHP Miguel Sulbaran, RHP Daniel Alvarez, 3B Daniel Barrios, RHP Alex Mejias, 3B Andres Chaparro, OF Andres Fernandez, and C David Vergel are all listed on rosters as well.

The Wait For Aaron Hicks To Take A Step Forward [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two years ago the Yankees started their youth movement with an interesting strategy. They targeted talented young players who had fallen out of favor with their current organizations, and bought low on them in trades. That’s how they landed Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi. Dustin Ackley too. You win some, you lose some.

The Yankees employed a similar strategy last offseason — you could argue the Aroldis Chapman deal falls under that umbrella, though he was an established veteran at the time of the trade — and it landed them switch-hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks in a trade with the Twins. John Ryan Murphy went to Minnesota. Hicks was slated to serve as New York’s heavily used fourth outfielder. He would rotate around the three outfield spots and given the veterans rest. It never worked out.

Stuck On The Bench

The Yankees stunk in April. They were bad. Really bad. They won only eight of their first 24 games, mostly because they couldn’t generate offense. The Yankees scored only 82 runs in those 24 games, or 3.42 per. Yikes. Because runs were so hard to come by, Joe Girardi stuck with his veteran outfielders. The trio of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran started 15 of those first 24 games. Hicks started eight of them.

In those eight games, the now-27-year-old Hicks went 2-for-26 (.077) with no extra-base hits and only two walks. I guess the good news is he only struck out three times, so he was putting the ball in play. It was only a matter of time until the hits dropped in, right? Right??? Well, I guess so. From May 4th through May 25th, Hicks hit .258/.319/.403 (91 wRC+) with two homers in 73 plate appearances and 21 games. His first homer as a Yankee was kind of a big one.

Hicks was able to get regular playing time during that three-week stretch thanks to injuries to Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) and Ellsbury (hip). Beltran shifted to DH and Hicks took over in the outfield. When he wasn’t playing regularly — I mean doing more than replacing Beltran for defense in the late innings — he didn’t hit. When he played regularly, he did hit. Coincidence? Eh, maybe. I don’t think so.

Once Ellsbury and A-Rod returned, Hicks went right back to the bench. From May 26th through July 22nd, the final day of the “Alex Rodriguez, Everyday Player” era, Hicks started 27 of the team’s 50 games, so he was basically a half-time player. Beltran’s hamstring injury in June helped open some playing time there, so it stands to reason that if Beltran had stayed healthy, Hicks would have played even less.

Hicks hit only .197/.261/.301 (48 wRC+) in the first half and Girardi pretty clearly grew frustrated with his lack of production. “Hicks needs to relax, too, I think, to get going. He’s a kid that’s used to playing every day. He’s played a lot but he hasn’t played every day,” said the manager in June. It was a Catch-22. Hicks wasn’t playing because he didn’t hit and he wasn’t hitting because he didn’t play, in theory.

Finally, A Chance To Play

After the Yankees traded away Beltran at the deadline, Girardi made an effort to get Hicks into the lineup more often, even after Aaron Judge had been recalled. Hicks started 23 of the team’s 28 games in August while playing all three outfield spots. Gardner’s sore ankle opened up some playing time as did the club’s sudden willingness to sit veterans for younger players. Gardner and Ellsbury both saw time on the bench in August.

Hicks went down with a hamstring injury of his own in late-August and was unable to return until late-September, when he season was nearly over. He played every day down the stretch because Beltran was gone and Judge went down with his oblique injury. Following the trade deadline, Hicks was very close to an everyday player, and during that time he hit .271/.333/.424 (105 wRC+) with five homers in 129 plate appearances and 37 games around the hamstring injury.

One of those five homers was a thoroughly satisfying go-ahead two-run homer against the Blue Jays on September 26th, the final road game of the season. Benches cleared (twice!) earlier in the game because of the J.A. Happ/Luis Severino retaliation silliness, and Mark Teixeira had just tied the game with a ninth inning blast against Jason Grilli. Hicks went deep a few batters later to give New York the lead. He crushed a hanger, clapped loudly because he knew it was gone, then trotted around the bases.

Teixeira and Hicks pimping clutch ninth inning homers against the Blue Jays. What a time to be alive.

That strong finish in August and September brought Hicks’ final season batting line to .217/.281/.336 (64 wRC+) in 361 plate appearances, which is still bad. Really bad. I’m one of those folks who thinks Hicks would thrive with more playing time, but still. You can’t do that, dude.

Take a look at Hicks’ offensive production as the season progressed. It’s easy to see when he got regular at-bats (May, then August and September) and when he was used sparingly off the bench (the rest of the season):

Aaron Hicks wRC+

Hicks came to the Yankees as a switch-hitter with a reputation for being better against left-handed pitchers. The exact opposite was true in 2016. He hit .249/.318/.373 (86 wRC+) against righties, which is barely adequate, and .161/.213/.271 (25 wRC+) against lefties, which is terrible. Hicks didn’t hit his first home run against a southpaw until June 24th, the team’s 72nd game of the season, and he didn’t get his second until August 5th, their 109th game. Yikes.

There is no other way to slice it: Hicks was awful this past season. Inexcusably so, really. He was primed for a breakout season and instead fell flat on his face. The only thing keeping the trade from being a disaster is Murphy somehow being worse than Hicks this year (4 wRC+!). Maybe regular playing time would have helped. I think it would have. But that’s not an excuse. Hicks had his role and didn’t adapt to it. He would have received more playing time had he earned it, but he didn’t.

A Good Defender Who Looks Bad

Back during his days as a prospect — Hicks was a really good prospect once upon a time, he was on Baseball America’s annual top 100 list four times and peaked as high as 19th — the scouting reports said Hicks was an exceptional defensive player. Baseball America called him a “gliding runner” who “possesses plenty of range” and is capable of “providing premium defense in center” in 2013, the last time he was prospect eligible. Everyone loved his glove.

This year we saw a player who took some circuitous routes in the outfield but generally made every catch. There were a few instances in which he broke back instead of breaking forward (and vice versa), but again, he made the catch. DRS (+4), UZR (+4.8), Total Zone (+9), and FRAA (+1.6) all rated him as above-average in the field. And yet, those bad first steps are unsettling. Even if he makes the catch, they just look bad, you know?

There is one aspect of Hicks’ defense that is an undeniable strength: his arm. It’s one of the best in baseball, easily. In fact, Hicks uncorked the fastest outfield throw in the Statcast era back in April. To the action footage:

Hicks had only three outfield assists this season, two fewer than Ellsbury (!), but that’s terribly misleading. Runners rarely tested his arm. It’s a Yadier Molina arm in the outfield. Runners don’t bother trying to stealing against Molina because his arm is so strong. This year runners didn’t even bother to try to run on Hicks because they know he has a cannon. He shut the running game down without even making throws.

Hicks in RF: 62.1% hold rate (47.0% league average)
Hicks in CF: 53.6% hold rate (44.3% league average)
Hicks in LF: 69.2% hold rate (63.5% league average)

Hold rate is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the rate at which runners stayed put despite having the opportunity to take the extra base on a ball hit to the outfield. Like a runner on second not moving to third on a fly ball. Or a runner not going first-to-third on a single to right. That sort of thing. Hicks held runners at a rate far better than the league average at all three outfield positions. His arm is so great he rarely has to use it. It’s the ultimate compliment. Runners don’t even challenge him.

Outlook for 2017

Gosh, I don’t know. I could see any one of a number of things happening with Hicks next season. I could see him starting the year as the fourth outfielder again. I could see him starting in left field if Gardner is traded. I could see him starting in right if Judge struggles in camp. I could see him in a platoon. I could see him getting traded. The possibilities are endless.

I wouldn’t necessarily call 2017 a make or break year for Hicks, but he’s entering a very critical phase of his career. He just turned 27 and it’s time to turn his obvious natural gifts into consistent production. The Yankees hope it happens it with them. It might not. Either way, Hicks has played parts of four seasons in the show now and he has close to 1,300 big league plate appearances under his belt. It’s time to take that next step.

Mailbag: Ellsbury, Heyward, Pujols, Bedrosian, Schwarber

I’ve got ten questions in the mailbag this week, which I guess makes this a small mailbag. Any and all questions should be directed to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. Fire away.

I'm no hitting coach, but this looks all wrong. (Jason Miller/Getty)
I’m no hitting coach, but this looks all wrong. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Chris asks: I know My Trade Proposal Sucks, but I’m wondering with the World Series starting and Jason Heyward getting benched Game 1, would the Cubs and Yankees swap Heyward for Ellsbury? I know Heyward is much younger, but we’ll need a big contract swap or eat a ton of money to get away from Jacoby.

I wanted the Yankees to sign Heyward last offseason. I really did. I thought his offensive production would get better in his age 26 season, not take such a huge step back that he was one of the worst hitters in baseball. Heyward and Ellsbury are very similar players, right? Below average hitters and above-average glovemen. Heyward’s better than above-average in the field, but the shape of their production is similar. Glove before bat. Heyward is much younger, but he was also worse this year and is owed more money.

This trade would be four years of Ellsbury for six of Heyward. I’d rather have Heyward’s next six years than Ellsbury’s next four, but yeesh, I don’t say that with much confidence. Both teams would love to get out from under these contracts right now whether they’re willing to admit it or not. I’d rather just keep the guy who comes off the books sooner than try to get cute and buy low on a dude who had a 72 wRC+ this year and has another $162M coming too him.

Andrew asks: Any interest in an Ellsbury for Pujols bad contract swap? Would fill a hole on both sides, giving us some power and a backup option for Bird while giving the Angels an actual outfielder to play LF. Or would you be scared off by the extra year, money, and injury risk that comes with Pujols?

This one is an easy no for me. Ellsbury for Heyward is at least worth thinking about given Heyward’s age and athleticism. Pujols can still sock dingers, but that’s about it. He doesn’t hit for much average or get on base anymore. He’s going to be 37 in January, he can’t run or play the field, and he’s owed (gulp) $140M over the next five years. The Yankees owe Ellsbury $90M over the next four years. We’ve seen more than enough ex-star sluggers over the age of 35 lose it in pinstripes, haven’t we? There aren’t many players I would not trade Ellsbury and contract for at this point. Pujols is one of them. It’s the worst contract in baseball, hands down.

Michael asks: It’s easy to see the Yankees in the market for a top reliever, but what about the trade market? This winter, guys like Greg Holland (actually a FA, my bad), Wade Davis, David Robertson might be available. Are there any pieces that stand out as interesting for NYY? (Personally, a possible buy-low on Davis intrigues me.)

Davis is going to be the big name on the bullpen trade market. He’ll be a free agent next offseason and the Royals probably won’t re-sign him — Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are going to break the bullpen salary scale this offseason — so they figure to make him available in trades. His name was out there at the deadline before he got hurt, so this isn’t coming out of nowhere.

I don’t think it would be wise for the Yankees to trade a big package of prospects for one year of a reliever, even one as good as Davis. That’s a move you make when you’re a World Series contender, not a team in transition. (The Chapman trade was an exception because he came so cheap.) Robertson is signed for two more years and there were some red flags in his performance this year. Would the Marlins make A.J. Ramos available given Kyle Barraclough’s emergence? Tyler Thornburg and Tom Watson are trade candidates too.

Like every other team, the Yankees should explore every possible avenue to get better this season. Trade, free agency, waivers, whatever. When it comes to the elite reliever market, it would make more sense to just spend the money and sign Chapman and/or Jansen rather than trade away top prospects for someone like Davis or Ramos or whoever. The Yankees have money. Spend it and keep the prospects. Best of both worlds.

Bedrosian. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Bedrosian. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

Chris asks: Assuming Chapman and Jensen’s services are coveted by many teams this off-season and the Yankees are no lock on any free agent lately, what do you think of the Angels Cam Bedrosian as a possible late inning bullpen piece to set up for Dellin?

For some reason I thought Bedrosian had Tommy John surgery this year, but apparently not. I guess I got him confused with all the other Angels pitchers who had their elbows rebuilt. Bedrosian — yes, he’s Steve’s kid — did have surgery in September to remove a blood clot from his arm pit, and he’s expected to be ready to go for Spring Training. Blood clots are scary, but by all accounts he’ll make a full recovery.

The 25-year-old Bedrosian had a phenomenal year in 2016, pitching to a 1.12 ERA (2.13 FIP) with 31.5% strikeouts and 49.5% grounders in 40.1 innings. He walked a few too many (8.5%), but not a ridiculous amount. Bedrosian has really good stuff too. He lives in the mid-to-upper-90s with his heater and backs it up with a wipeout slider. Not a whole lot went right for the Angels this year. This guy was a positive before the blood clot got in the way.

The Halos need basically everything. Well, except a center fielder. They won 74 games. There’s plenty of room for improvement on the roster. I wonder if Billy Eppler would be willing to cash Bedrosian in as a trade chip to plug other roster holes. Maybe the Justin Wilson trade is a good benchmark? Two good but not great prospects? Say, Chad Green and Rob Refsnyder for Bedrosian? I know, I know. My trade proposal sucks.

Paul asks: What are the average woba or wrc+ for each position? Does it vary year to year?

Yep, it varies year to year the same way the league batting average and slugging percentage and ERA and everything else varies. It all fluctuates. Generally speaking though, the league average offensive production from each position stays the same relative to each other. First basemen outhit shortstops, etc. Here are the 2016 averages:

Catcher: .242/.310/.391 (.304 wOBA and 87 wRC+)
First Base: .255/.344/.447 (.334 wOBA and 108 wRC+)
Second Base: .270/.329/.425 (.324 wOBA and 101 wRC+)
Shortstop: .262/.319/.407 (.312 wOBA and 92 wRC+)
Third Base: .264/.331/.442 (.331 wOBA and 106 wRC+)
Left Field: .251/.321/.417 (.318 wOBA and 97 wRC+)
Center Field: .259/.324/.407 (.316 wOBA and 96 wRC+)
Right Field: .257/.327/.425 (.324 wOBA and 101 wRC+)
Designated Hitter: .258/.330/.480 (.343 wOBA and 115 wRC+)
Pitchers: .133/.165/.172 (.152 wOBA and -15 wRC+)

Boo pitchers, hooray DHs. I mean, seriously. Pitchers totaled over 5,300 (!) plate appearances in 2016. Imagine how many more runs would be scored around baseball if we replaced pitchers with DHs. It would be so much more exciting. You won’t even notice double switches are gone.

Anyway, I’m surprised to see left field production was so low this year. Teams historically stash a masher out in left, but not any more. Think about it. How many truly great left fielders are there in baseball today? I count three: Yoenis Cespedes, Christian Yelich, and Starling Marte. That’s it. I guess Ryan Braun is still great too. And healthy Michael Brantley, but he’s not healthy. These are dark times for left field.

Liam asks: My question is: With the possibility that Tanaka could opt out of his contract after next season, would it be smart to put him on the trade block this offseason? Who would be realistic trade partners?

Yes and pretty much every contender. Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, Giants, Nationals, Cardinals … all of ’em. Even the smaller market teams like the Indians and Pirates could swing it for a year, not that I think they’d actually go through with it. Masahiro Tanaka is an ace. He is. It’s weird people try to downplay his performance. He’s an ace and any team with a realistic chance to win the World Series should want him. Tanaka makes every rotation better. It would be foolish not to listen to offers for Tanaka given the impending opt-out, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees should give him away. They need high-end arms too.

Kenny asks: Mike, could the Yankees bring back Pat Venditte to serve as an innings eating long man? I know he hasn’t exactly dominated the big leagues, but it’s essentially a day off for the bullpen in blowout games. And does he have any options remaining?

No. Come on. Does this question get asked about a non-switch pitcher? Anyone eager to bring Preston Claiborne back? Venditte is 31 and he has a 4.97 ERA (5.02 FIP) in 50.2 career big league innings, including a 5.73 ERA (6.15 FIP) in 22 innings this year. No offense to the guy, but he doesn’t have the stuff to get Major League hitters out. Never really did. PitchFX says his fastball averaged 85.4 mph from the right side and 83.3 mph from the left side in 2016. Nope. Nope nope nope. I think there’s value in having a veteran long man you can run into the ground in blowouts and things like that, but the Yankees can do better than Venditte. They have enough bullpen arms. There’s a competent long man among them.

Venditte. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Venditte. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Brock asks: Better trade: the proposed Miller for Schwarber or the actual Chapman for Warren, Torres, McKinney, Crawford? From my biased point of view, the Yanks gave up less to get more. I don’t recall who balked at the Miller/Schwarber deal, but if you’re Theo, how do you rationalize accepting one but not the other? Is it simply that the Cubs didn’t want to give up ML-talent?

Chapman for that package, hands down. The Cubs supposedly made Kyle Schwarber completely off limits anyway, so this is a moot point. Could you imagine trading Andrew Miller for a guy who is essentially a platoon DH coming off a major knee surgery though? Yeesh. Schwarber’s good! But he’s not some generational talent or anything. The guy hit two singles the other night and people are acting like it he pulled a Willis Reed.

What are the odds Schwarber is an appreciably more valuable player than Greg Bird going forward? Pretty small, I think. Give me the high-end shortstop prospect, the big league swingman, and two others for the rental reliever. Easy call. Chapman for Schwarber would maybe be a different story, but Miller for Schwarber? Not a chance. Anyone thinking the Yankees are better off with a (still not 100% healthy!) Schwarber instead of the package they received for Miller is getting too caught up in the moment.

George asks: Instead of a separate Int. draft, where poor teams get protected picks, early slots, etc. would it be possible to include international players in the regular draft, and maybe add 2-3 rounds. The money/slot might also have to change. That would seem to add talent for teams with lower picks, and not penalize teams with good records twice.

Have one amateur talent draft that combines high school, college, and international kids would be the best way to go, if an international draft is unavoidable. I don’t see why the crummiest teams should get first dibs on the best draft and international prospects. That’s too much of a reward for being bad. They wouldn’t even need to add rounds to the draft. Forty rounds is plenty. Teams can fill out their minor league rosters with undrafted free agents.

MLB is said to be pushing for an international draft — they have been for years, really — and part of the current proposal includes making kids wait until they’re 18 to sign. If they do that, it would make it easier to combine the talent pools. Lumping 16-year-old kids from Latin America in with high school and college kids from the U.S. would have been a little weird. I don’t like the idea of two separate drafts at all. Combining the two talent pools into one draft is the lesser of two evils.

Daryl asks: I know when discussing closers and this off season, many think Chapman will be back, including you. Each time you mention it, you don’t think it’s the right move. Why? Besides just “relievers are volatile”? Where would you prefer 15mil x 4yr go?

For me, it’s mostly off the field stuff with Chapman. I know a lot of people don’t care about that and that’s cool. You’re welcome to feel however you want. He’s a great pitcher. There’s no doubt about that. I do wonder what happens when he inevitably loses a little velocity — for a guy who throws that hard, he gives up an awful lot of foul balls, doesn’t he? — but that might not happen for a few years. He’s still only 28.

Four years and $15M annually seems like Chapman’s floor to me. That’s only $3M more per season than Jonathan Papelbon’s record contract for relievers, which was signed five years ago now. Salaries have increased a ton since then. That extra $3M might not even cover general league-wide inflation. In this market, Chapman is probably worth something like $17M a year for four or five years. I just don’t like the off-field stuff. This isn’t performance-enhancing drugs here. This is much more serious.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Today is a travel day for the World Series, but don’t worry, there’s still baseball tonight. MLB.com is streaming an Arizona Fall League game at 9:30pm ET. Here’s the stream link. Gleyber Torres, Greg Bird, and Miguel Andujar are all the in the starting lineup. Greg Bird! Miss that dude. Let’s all watch it together and overreact to three or four at-bats, shall we?

Here is tonight’s open thread. In addition to the AzFL game, you’ve also the Thursday NFL game (Jaguars and Titans), and the Islanders are playing as well. Talk about those games or whatever else here.

Brett Gardner among Gold Glove finalists, again

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

For the second straight year, Brett Gardner is among the three finalists for the AL Gold Glove award in left field, MLB announced. He was a finalist back in 2011 as well. Gardner is up against Alex Gordon and Colby Rasmus. No other Yankees are among the Gold Glove finalists, which isn’t surprising. You can see all of this year’s finalists right here.

Gardner had a typical Brett Gardner season in left field this year, I thought. Both DRS (+12) and UZR (+3.5) liked his work out there, for what it’s worth. Gardner did make his fair share of highlight reel catches throughout the summer as well. These are the two most notable, I’d say:

Gardner has yet to win a Gold Glove, mostly because Gordon has been hogging it the last few years. Gordon has won four of the last five AL Gold Gloves in left field, with the only exception being last year, when Yoenis Cespedes won it despite splitting the season between the Tigers and Mets.

Gold Gloves are voted on by managers and coaches around the league — they’re not able to vote for their own players — plus there’s now a statistical component as well. Gordon missed some time with an injury, so if he gets dinged for that, Gardner just might sneak in and win himself a Gold Glove.

The Gold Glove winners will be announced Tuesday, November 8th. I’m pretty sure they’re announced during a live television broadcast these days. The other major awards (MVP, Cy Young, etc.) will be announced the following week.