Yankees rank 13th in Keith Law’s farm system rankings

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Earlier today at ESPN (subs. req’d), Keith Law published his annual farm system rankings. The rebuilding Braves take the top spot with the Dodgers and Twins rounding out the top thee. The Angels rank 30th, and Law says they have “by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Poor Billy Eppler.

The Yankees rank 13th, which is pretty good considering they graduated Greg Bird and Luis Severino to the big leagues last season. Here is Law’s blurb on the Yankees:

The Aroldis Chapman deal didn’t make much of a dent in the system; the Yankees bought the troubled reliever with quantity rather than quality, and a strong draft in 2015 helped make up for some recent promotions.

Based on his chats in recent weeks and months, Law is pretty high on James Kaprielian, last year’s first round pick. Kaprielian plus Jorge Mateo and Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez is a really strong top prospect core. The Yankees also have a nice group of MLB ready talent in Rob Refsnyder, Bryan Mitchell, and all the relievers and outfielders.

Last year Law ranked the Yankees’ system 20th, so jumping up to 13th while graduating Severino and Bird (and trading Eric Jagielo) is pretty good. I’m pleasantly surprised. I figured the Yankees would find themselves in the 18-22 range somewhere this spring. That could still happen with the other rankings, of course, but Law likes the system.

Prospect Profile: Chance Adams

(Dallas Baptist)
(Dallas Baptist)

Chance Adams | RHP

Adams grew up in Scottsdale and attended Chaparral High School, where he both pitched and played third base. He helped the Firebirds to back-to-back state championships in 2011 and 2012, his junior and senior years. Adams was not much of a pro prospect at the time — Baseball America did not rank him among the top 500 prospects for the 2012 draft — so he went undrafted out of high school.

As a freshman at Yavapai College, Adams focused on pitching full-time and had a 5.40 ERA in 16 2/3 relief innings. He struck out 18 and walked eleven. He was draft-eligible again in 2013 since Yavapai is a two-year school, but he was still not much of a pro prospect, so he went undrafted. Baseball America (subs. req’d) did not rank Adams among the top 500 draft prospects overall or the top 45 prospects in Arizona.

The second year at Yavapai went much better. Adams moved into the rotation and had a 2.88 ERA in 56 1/3 innings with 62 strikeouts and 19 walks. He also managed four complete games. Baseball America (subs. req’d) again did not rank Adams among the top 500 prospects for the 2014 draft and again he went undrafted.

Adams transferred to Dallas Baptist for his junior season and moved into a full-time bullpen role. He had a 1.98 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 13 walks in 59 innings for the Patriots. Baseball America ranked Adams as the 245th best prospect in the 2015 draft class, and the Yankees selected him with their fifth round pick, No. 153 overall. He signed for a $330,000 bonus, just below the $342,000 slot value.

Pro Debut
The Yankees did not screw around with Adams. He signed quickly and they sent him to Short Season Staten Island. After four appearances with the Baby Bombers, the Yankees moved him up to Low-A Charleston. After five appearances with the RiverDogs, Adams was bumped up to High-A Tampa. All told, Adams threw 35.1 relief innings at three levels after signing last year. He had a 1.78 ERA (1.75 FIP) with 45 strikeouts (31.7%) and nine walks (6.3%).

Scouting Report
Last spring at Dallas Baptist, the 21-year-old Adams was a low-90s fastball guy with an inconsistent cutter as his primary secondary pitch. His velocity jumped into the 93-96 mph range in pro ball — he reportedly ran his fastball up to 99 mph with Staten Island — and the Yankees helped him turn the cutter into a true slider. Here’s some video:

Adams made some progress with his changeup after signing, so much so the Yankees will apparently give him a chance to start next season. He’s not particularly tall — listed at 6-foot-0 and 215 lbs. — and getting downward plane on his fastball has been challenge. There’s a decent chance he’ll be fly ball prone going forward, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Adams, who as best I can tell has never had any injury issues, uses a full windup in relief and his control is fine. After spending the spring as a low-90s fastball/cutter pitcher at Dallas Baptist, Adams finished the 2015 pro season as a mid-90s fastball/slider guy with an okay changeup.

2016 Outlook
The Yankees do have a recent history of moving college relievers into the rotation — they did it last year with 2014 sixth rounder Jonathan Holder, for example — so I don’t doubt they’re planning to try Adams as a starter in 2016. Either way, starter or bullpen, he seems likely to begin the 2016 season back with High-A Tampa. Adams might stay there all season if he remains in the rotation. If he works as a reliever, he could zoom up the ladder and possibly even make his MLB debut late in the season. That’s the very best case scenario though.

My Take
I like Adams as a prospect and kinda wish the Yankees would just leave him in the bullpen, but I suppose they do have a ton of upper level relievers, so they have the depth to try him as a starter. Now’s the time to do it, early in his career. I’m interested to see if the mid-90s velocity sticks going forward — probably not as a starter, but who knows — because if it does, it changes his outlook considerably. At 91-93 mph he was interesting. At 94-96 mph he was dominant. The Yankees know how to get power arms to MLB quickly and Adams could be next in line.

The Bryce Harper Endgame

Right ballpark, wrong uniform. (Presswire)
Right ballpark, wrong uniform. (Presswire)

As you know, the Yankees are the only team in baseball that has not yet signed a Major League free agent this offseason. They have taken on some money in the Starlin Castro and Aroldis Chapman trades — about $23.5M for luxury tax purposes in 2016 — but otherwise they’ve limited their spending. Once again the team focused on trades.

Next offseason the Yankees are going to start to shed some of their expensive long-term contracts. Mark Teixeira ($22.5M per year) and Carlos Beltran ($15M) will come off the books next offseason, then CC Sabathia ($23.4M) and Alex Rodriguez ($27.5M) will join them the following year. Possibly Masahiro Tanaka ($22.1M) as well if he stays healthy and opts out of his contract.

We know Hal Steinbrenner & Co. want to get under the luxury tax in the near future, and those expiring deals will help the Yankees accomplish that goal. Doing so would reset the team’s tax rate and entitle the Yankees to some revenue sharing rebates. Getting under the tax threshold potentially equals tens of millions of dollars saved. It’s a substantial sum. Last week Jeff Passan had some details on New York’s financial situation:

Now, we’ll get to that, though first it’s imperative to understand how and why the Yankees are looking years down the road when deciding to sit out this offseason. And it’s best to start with two numbers: $508 million and $8.1 million. The Yankees’ yearly revenues in the most recent franchise valuations by Forbes were $508 million, and their operation income – money in the black – was $8.1 million. That is not a lot, not when New York’s revenues exceed the second-place Dodgers’ by more than $100 million.

If reason No. 1 (to pass on free agents) was minimal profit, No. 2 is every bit as important: the fear of the unknown. And with baseball ready to begin negotiating a new collective-bargaining agreement soon, the unknown is palpable. New York has no idea what percentage of its revenue it will be sharing with lower-revenue teams. Currently, the tax rate assessed to every team is 34 percent of local revenue, and that pool is split evenly among the 30 teams. High-earning teams pay what amounts to another 14 percent on top of that. The Yankees give more in revenue-sharing dollars than every other team, and it’s not particularly close. With the gap between the richest and poorest teams as significant as ever, they could give even more, something they’ll surely resist.

The expectation is the Yankees will go back to spending big on free agents in a few years, once some of the big contracts are off the books, the luxury tax rate has been reset, and the terms of the next CBA are known. I don’t know when the Yankees will spend big or exactly how much they’re planning to spend, but I’m sure it’ll happen. They’re not going let all that money come off the books and save all that cash on luxury tax and not put at least a big chunk of it back into the team.

That brings us to Bryce Harper, the just-turned-23-year-old wunderkind of the Washington Nationals. Harper silenced all of his critics last season with a historic .330/.460/.649 (195 OPS+) batting line and 42 homers. Here is the full list of players who had a 180 OPS+ or better season at age 22 or younger: Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, and Bryce Harper. That’s it. Harper’s 42 dingers are the most of the trio. People ripped Harper when he hit “only” .272/.351/.465 (121 OPS+) from 2012-14, but that’s not possible anymore. He’s a megastar.

Harper is now three years from free agency and he is a Scott Boras client, so it’s a damn near certainty he will hit the open market. If the Nationals want to approach him about a long-term extension, they’d have to start their offer at Giancarlo Stanton’s massive 13-year, $325M contract. That’s the starting point. Stanton is awesome, but Harper is younger and better than Giancarlo was at the time of his deal. More than likely it’ll take something closer to $400M to get Harper and Boras to the negotiating table.

There are still three years between now and then, but Harper is the odds on favorite to become the first $40M a year player in baseball history. Whatever we think it’ll take to sign him is probably too low. In all seriousness, I expect Boras to ask for something like 15 years and $600M in three years. He’s going to want to smash records with Harper, not beat them by $1M or $2M. Remember when A-Rod was a free agent way back when? His ten-year, $252M deal was exactly double the richest sports contract at the time (Kevin Garnett’s $126M deal). Boras brokered that deal for Alex and he’ll want to do something similar with Harper.

It’s impossible to ignore the timing of all this. The Yankees have all these contracts coming off the books and are very likely to get under the luxury tax at some point in the next two or three years, right as Harper hits the open market. The club will have this huge financial windfall at the same time a generational talent becomes available for nothing but cash (and presumably a draft pick). Not just a generational talent, a generational talent in the prime of his career; Harper will turn 26 the October of the offseason of his free agency.

Personally, I do not believe the decision to get under the luxury tax and have enormous future payroll flexibility is tied to Harper’s free agency. It’s a coincidence. Hal has been talking about getting under the luxury tax for years now (the original plan was to do it in 2014, remember), long before it was clear Harper was a superstar of the first order. I do, however, believe the Yankees are very aware Harper is likely to become a free agent in three years, and that they’re going to be in a better place financially at the time, putting them in position to sign a marquee free to what will surely be a record contract.

That said, planning for a free agent three years into the future is foolish. Yes, teams do need to plan ahead, but you can’t plan that far ahead with any sort of certainty. Way too much can and will change between now and then. The Yankees can have their eye on Harper down the line and also understand it’s unlikely to happen. Realistically, what are the chances Harper will be a Yankee come the 2019 season? 25%? Even that seems high. Maybe 50% is the absolute best case scenario right now?

“You can’t predict free agency multiple years out,” said Brian Cashman to Chad Jennings earlier this offseason. “I can’t project availability. Obviously if you turn the clock back and look at projecting (David) Price’s availability, (it was impossible to know), would he be healthy? He’s been with three teams since. It’s such a guessing game when you go through that process that far out to forecast.”

Assuming the Yankees do achieve this goal of financial flexibility and Harper remains a star, going after Harper in three years is a total no-brainer. The Yankees brand is built on stars and winning, and a player as good and as young as Harper is someone you absolutely go all-out to acquire. They don’t come along very often at all. He’s the guy you make a $400M+ offer on day one of free agency to let other teams know you aren’t screwing around. Just drop the hammer the first day and let two-thirds of the league know they shouldn’t even bother making a phone call to Boras.

Those are two pretty big assumptions though, right? The financial flexibility and Harper hitting free agency as a megastar stuff. It’s have financial flexibility AND Harper becomes a free agent AND Harper is still a star. All of that has to happen, and it very well might. But it goes to show how much can change between now and then. It wouldn’t take much to derail this plan. I hope the Yankees get Harper in three years, but the Yankees can’t plan on him being the endgame for this financial flexibility. He’s not the driving force behind the team’s austerity, but man, the timing sure does work out well.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks are playing their first game with their new coach, and both the Devils and Islanders are in action too. There’s also some college hoops on the schedule as well. You folks know how these things work by now, so have at it.

Kuty: Yanks have reached out to free agent Carlos Torres

(Hunter Martin/Getty)
(Hunter Martin/Getty)

According to Brendan Kuty, the Yankees have reached out to former Mets reliever and free agent right-hander Carlos Torres. Torres elected free agency last week after being designated for assignment when the Amazin’s needed a 40-man spot for Yoenis Cespedes. Roughly 20 teams have contacted him already, including clubs in Asia.

Torres, 33, has spent the last three seasons working mostly as a swingman with the Mets. He has a 3.59 ERA (3.94 FIP) with a 21.9% strikeout rate and a 7.3% walk rate in 241 innings during that time. Last year Torres had both the highest ERA (4.68) and lowest FIP (3.53) of his three seasons in Flushing, weirdly.

The Yankees traded swingman Adam Warren earlier this offseason and they’ll head into Spring Training with three open bullpen spots. (Maybe four depending on Aroldis Chapman‘s suspension.) They do have a ton of internal candidates though. I count 20 bullpen candidates between the 40-man roster and non-roster invitees.

Right now the Yankees have six starters and Brian Cashman confirmed whichever one doesn’t make the rotation will likely be the long man, assuming everyone stays healthy. Torres has a rubber arm — it seemed like the Mets were bringing him out of the bullpen for multiple innings every other day — and he would add swingman depth in case a starter gets hurt.

The Yankees have not yet signed a Major League free agent this offseason and I don’t think that will change now. If they wanted Torres on the 40-man roster, they could have simply claimed him off waivers. It’s not like he’s making a ton of money. (He agreed to a $1.05M salary to avoid arbitration before being designated.) Chances are the Yankees want him on a minor league deal.

Beyond the top six starters, the Yankees have Bryan Mitchell and journeymen Anthony Swarzak and Tyler Cloyd as rotation depth. Luis Cessa, Chad Green, and Brady Lail are in that mix as well. If the Yankees can bring in Torres on a minor league deal, great. Never a bad idea to bring in more depth. He’s not a sexy name but he’s a capable last guy in the bullpen.

Sherman: Yankees fielded calls about Dustin Ackley this offseason

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees fielded calls from teams looking to acquire Dustin Ackley earlier this offseason. Interestingly, Sherman says teams wanted Ackley to play first base. That seems … weird. A lot of his value is tied to his ability to play several different positions.

The Yankees acquired Ackley from the Mariners for Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez at the trade deadline last year. Flores and Ramirez were essentially role players, not cornerstones, and both will be out of minor league options this coming season. Point is, they didn’t have much trade value. The Yankees got Ackley relatively cheap.

Ackley, 28 later this month, hit very well in his limited time with the Yankees (161 wRC+), though I have a hard time thinking his value increased substantially during his two months in pinstripes. (One month really, since he was hurt in August.) Ackley’s been around a while and he has a track record, and it’s mostly not good.

It makes sense to listen to offers for Ackley the same way it makes sense to listen to offers for any player. You never know when a team will really love a guy and make a shockingly big offer. Realistically, the Yankees weren’t going to get anything better than Flores and Ramirez types. They still have plenty of those too.

Ackley is more valuable to the Yankees on the roster than anything they could have probably gotten in a trade this offseason. Greg Bird‘s recent injury makes Ackley the only backup first baseman now, so he’s pretty important, especially since Mark Teixeira is known to visit the DL from time to time.

Three notable 2016 Spring Training invitees and three notable omissions

Kaprielian. (Staten Island Advance)
Kaprielian. (Staten Island Advance)

Spring Training is now a little more than one week away, and late last week the Yankees announced their list of non-roster invitees. A total of 25 non-roster players will be in camp this year. Some are top prospects (Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo), some are depth players (Pete Kozma, Donovan Solano), and some are simply there to catch bullpens (Kyle Higashioka, Francisco Diaz).

As always, some non-roster invitees are more notable than others. There are also some notable omissions are well; players who were not invited to camp even though it appears they may be in position to help the big league team in the near future. Non-roster invites can give us a glimpse into how the Yankees value certain players in the organization. Here are three notable invitees and three notable omissions.

Three Notable Invitees

RHP James Kaprielian: Last year’s first round pick comes billed as a quick-moving college starter, and the invitation to Spring Training indicates the Yankees plan to put Kaprielian on the fast track. It’s not often the Yankees bring their top pick to camp in his first pro season. They did it last year with Jacob Lindgren, though that was a special case because he’s a pure reliever.

Aside from Lindgren, I can’t find the last time the Yankees did bring their top pick to big league camp in his first full pro season. Not even Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain were Spring Training invitees in 2007. The Yankees have committed to getting younger and building from within over the last year or so, and inviting Kaprielian to big league camp in his first season after the draft shows he’s a big part of that plan. They want to get him to MLB in a hurry.

RHP Brady Lail: The argument can be made Lail is as high as seventh on the Yankees’ rotation depth chart. He reached Triple-A last season, and with Adam Warren now in Chicago, Lail could soon be in position to soak up long man innings. It’s not a sexy job but that’s how many pitchers get their foot in the big league door. The Yankees are inevitably going to need to dip into their system for spot starts at some point in 2016. Lail’s more of a command guy than a stuff guy, and this spring he’ll have a chance to show the MLB coaching staff what he can do. It’s an opportunity for Lail to put himself on the map for an early season call-up.

LHP Tyler Webb: Webb was actually in big league camp last year, and there’s a chance he may have been called up as part of the bullpen shuttle last summer had he not suffered a season-ending finger injury in late-June. He’s healthy now though, and last season the Yankees showed everyone is a candidate for the shuttle. They added players like Diego Moreno, Kyle Davies, Matt Tracy, Joel De La Cruz, Caleb Cotham, and Nick Goody to the 40-man roster at midseason so they could serve as a fresh arm. Webb figures to be in that mix in 2016. The Yankees have no shortage of bullpen candidates. Leaving Webb in minor league camp after the injury and giving his spring innings to someone else would have been easily justifiable. The Yankees are bringing him to Spring Training because they want to see if he can help in 2016. They didn’t forget about him following the injury.

Three Notable Omissions

Austin. (Presswire)
Austin. (Presswire)

OF Tyler Austin: Yeesh. What a fall for Austin. He was in big league camp every year from 2013-15 — 2013-14 as a non-roster player and 2015 as a member of the 40-man roster — but he was dropped from the 40-man last September, slipped through waivers unclaimed, and was not selected in December’s Rule 5 Draft. And last week, when Greg Bird went down with his shoulder injury, Brian Cashman said Austin was not a candidate to play first base in Triple-A.

Injuries and a lack of production — the two are surely related to some extent — have caused Austin’s stock to plummet the last few seasons. It wasn’t too long ago that he was a top 100 prospect (No. 77 in 2013 per Baseball America) and any team could have had him and his two option years last September for nothing more than the $50,000 waiver fee, yet they all passed. Now Austin wasn’t even invited to big league camp.

RHP Cale Coshow: I guess Coshow not getting an invite makes sense. The Yankees have a ton of relievers in camp already — I count 20 bullpen candidates, including 15 righties — and there are only so many innings to go around. Coshow had a fantastic 2015 season though (2.45 ERA and 2.80 FIP in 114 innings) and is one of the hardest throwers in the organization, so I thought it was likely he would get an invite to camp so the big league coaches could get a look at him. Even with those 20 bullpen candidates in camp, there’s a non-zero chance Coshow makes his MLB debut at some point this summer as part of the bullpen shuttle.

LHP Chaz Hebert: Last year was a breakout season for Hebert, who had a 2.55 ERA (3.11 FIP) in 133 innings and reached Triple-A. Then again, the Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League for extra innings and a longer look, didn’t add him to the 40-man roster in November, and he slipped through the Rule 5 Draft unclaimed. Still, a young lefty who can start is a nice piece to have in the organization, and given his proximity to MLB, there’s always a chance Hebert could get the call in an emergency at some point in 2016. The Yankees felt they didn’t need to get a look at him in big league Spring Training first, however.