Mailbag: Outfield, Draft, Overbay, Sim. Games

Got seven questions and six answers this week, so the answers aren’t crazy long. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us whatever, whenever.

Paul: Kevin Youkilis to the OF? He’s played there before (albeit only 22 games and not really recently). Any chance David Adams has been shagging fly balls during BP recently?

Oh hell no on Youkilis. Aside from what will very likely be awful defense — as you can see above, he has played left field in Yankee Stadium before, rather lolingly at that —  I’m not sure I want a 34-year-old with a history of back problems running around the outfield day after day. Stick him at third base and be done with it, no need to needlessly complicate things.

Adams has zero outfield experience as a pro and from what I can tell, he never played it in college either. I’m guessing he didn’t play it in high school as well because of the unspoken “best player plays shortstop unless he throws left-handed” rule. I haven’t seen any reports of him shagging fly balls lately — he has taken ground balls at shortstop, but that’s not unusual — so I’m guessing the Yankees don’t consider him much of an option out there. I don’t see any outfield help coming until Curtis Granderson‘s pinky heals up.

Jeb asks: As unlikely as this is to happen, suppose that draft day is rather chaotic and there is a top-15 talent available for each of the Yankees’ first round picks (e.g. Ryan Stanek, Austin Meadows, etc.). Would you select each of these high-caliber guys and not worry about how to sign them, or would you perhaps take two and then go for some guys who likely would have lower demands to ensure that you can sign your top two picks?

This is very unlikely as you said, but this is where the new draft pool system would really screw a team over. The top 15 picks are all slotted at over $2.2M apiece, so those guys were expecting large bonuses. The Yankees have a touch less than $7.96M to spend this year, which probably isn’t enough to sign three top-15 guys even going super cheap with $10k senior seniors in rounds two through ten.

Given the team’s need to add impact talent to the system, I’d hope they would just blow through the draft pool number and get the three players signed. It’s an extreme circumstance and you can’t pass up a haul like that. The Yankees can spend up to $8,753,140 before forfeiting a future first round pick (that would come with a $596,805 tax) and up to $9,151,010 before forfeiting a future first and second round pick ($1,193,610 tax). If they could add three legit top-15 guys, they’d have to grab them and get them signed. It it costs a pick next year, so be it. They never have access to those guys.

Mike asks: What could the Yankees get in a trade for Lyle Overbay when Mark Teixeira returns? Who would be a potential trading partner? The draft is on my mind, what about a competitive balance pick?

Ryan asks: With Teixeira going on a rehab assignment and very close, what teams may have a need/interest in Overbay? They will likely keep him for a little bit to make sure Tex is healthy, but what might a trade look like, what kind of a return might they get?

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Might as well lump these two together. I do think the Yankees will hold onto Overbay for at least a few weeks while they make sure Teixeira’s wrist is healthy and he’s in the clear. He’d be a bench bat/part-time starter at first and DH, basically.

As good as he’s been, Overbay is still just a 98 wRC+ first baseman who can’t hit lefties. There usually isn’t a huge market for those guys, but I could see clubs like the Marlins, Mets, Brewers, and Rockies having some interest. Obviously injuries could create more openings, and that includes the Yankees. If they could get one of those competitive balance picks — #34-39 and #69-73, and they are tradeable between now and the draft — I’d take it and run. Otherwise I think the Yankees would be lucky to get a C-prospect out of Overbay in a trade. He’s been better than expected but still below-average overall. The demand just isn’t that great.

Matt asks: Which Yankees FA from last offseason (Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez) would you most like to have back, given their current performances and the injuries/general awfulness of their replacements?

All of the above? If I had to pick one, I’d go Swisher over Martin even though he plays the less important position because the Yankees really need offense and he’s the better offensive player. I think the difference between Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki is greater than the difference between Martin and Chris Stewart. Chavez has quietly been awesome by the way (153 wRC+) — he did leave yesterday’s game hurt — and I didn’t think he’d do it again. Good for him.

Michael asks: Could you write a post where you explain exactly how a simulated game “plays?” For instance, are there nine fielders? Are they playing at 100% or is it simply a way for the pitcher and hitter to do their work? Are there two discrete sides playing and changing between batting and fielding? Is the pitching coach calling balls and strikes? And so on … Thanks.

It’s glorified batting practice, basically. There’s a pitcher (with no L-screen) and usually two batters (one lefty and one righty) alternating at-bats in simulated “innings.” No fielders, and a coach will call balls and strikes and declare balls in play hits or outs or whatever. The pitcher will sit down for 15 minutes after getting three “outs” before going out for the next inning. The players are supposed to play at 100%, but you can’t truly simulate the adrenaline levels of a big league game. It’s just a way to get work in.

Bernie asks: How many wins do the Yankees have when trailing in the 7th or later and how many did they have all of last year? Has to be close?

I’ve spent more time on Baseball-Reference than I care to admit over the years, yet I always seem to be finding stats and info I didn’t know they had. Win-loss records when leading after a specific inning are one of those things I discovered within the last few weeks, so I can actually this question.

The Yankees are just 3-19 (.136) when trailing after seven innings this year, which is better than the league average winning percentage (.104). Small sample size, yadda yadda yadda. Last season they went 9-58 (.134) when trailing after seven, so a negligible difference. It’s basically the same pace. This year’s team does, however, already have more wins when trailing after eight innings (two) than last year’s team (one).

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Tempering expectations for David Adams

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

Chris Nelson‘s brief tenure in pinstripes has come to a rather unceremonious end. Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez continue their respective paths to recovery. All of this adds up to a golden opportunity for rookie third baseman David Adams to showcase his skills for fans and scouts alike.

Adams, who was drafted in the third round by the Yankees back in 2008, has had some positive moments during his time in the minors. In 2012 he hit .306/.385/.450 (.377 wOBA, 133 wRC+) over 383 plate appearances with the Yankees AA affiliate after missing substantial time during the couple years prior. Up until a few nights ago when he got the call from the Yankees, he was hitting a fairly gaudy .316/.407/.490 (.407 wOBA, 153 wRC+) over 113 plate appearances in AAA. What’s more, the kid managed to get a hit during his big league debut and doubled in a run in his second game. Unfortunately, as I alluded too in Thursday’s RAB Live Chat and in the post’s title, my expectations for Adams are fairly tempered. Here’s why I think yours should be too.

1. It’s really hard to succeed in the Major Leagues in general. It’s really, really hard to sustain success once you do succeed. It’s especially hard for a young (and in this case, non-elite) prospect to join a MLB franchise and immediately have an impact with sustained success — especially when said player knows he’s probably a stopgap (though with Youk and A-Rod, the timetable may prove more substantial). This first point is kind of obvious, but I feel as though it’s still a point we fail to remember all too often regardless of the player’s pedigree.

2. Offensively, Adams displayed an advanced approach at the plate with good gap power during his time in the minors. He won’t be facing minor league pitchers anymore though. He’ll be facing experienced arms, and he’ll have to make the necessary adjustments as his weaknesses get exposed. This is not to say he can’t or won’t have an effective bat, just that we shouldn’t be overly surprised if his production deflates. One need only remember Jesus Montero for an example of an offensively potent minor leaguer who has been unable to adjust. Small mechanical flaws become big points of vulnerability. It happens, and it happens more often than not.

3. Adams was recruited as an above-average second baseman defensively. The ankle injuries have robbed him of his mobility, so much so the team moved him to third (although that may have also been partially influenced by A-Rod’s injury), where’s he’s also viewed as defensively mediocre if not substandard. If Adams struggles at the plate, his defense will be that much more important, and unfortunately for him, that much more scrutinized. The Yankees cannot afford to have a black hole in the line up — they’ll need Adams to prove himself capable at least in this department.

Note by Mike: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Adams’ defense so far. He’s no Adrian Beltre, but he’s been rock solid. At this point he’s probably the best defensive third baseman in the organization.

4. The injuries scare the crap out of me, quite frankly. Basically, since joining the organization, Adams has had a hell of a time staying on the field. Aside from showing dubious durability, he’s missed valuable developmental time — so much so the Yankees released him altogether to make room on the roster for Vernon Wells. In fact, at one point, he was playing four games in a row with a day off on the fifth during his time in the minors. The daily grind won’t get any easier with the Yankees. If he’s going to obtain a contract with a Major League team, he’s going to need prove himself capable of staying on the field — a trait often underappreciated.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to come across as completely bearish on Adams. As I noted above, he does have a solid approach at the plate, and the team will give him every opportunity to succeed. Plus he seems like a fun player to root for. Frankly, I hope he proves me dead wrong and thrives because that’d be awesome; it’d give the team options to consider on a lot of different levels. The point I’m trying to make here is that we shouldn’t endorse one of our home grown kids too heartily until he has some time to establish himself — honestly, the same should probably be said about all prospects in general.

Yankees call up David Adams, designated Chris Nelson for assignment

3:59pm: Yep, Nelson has been designated for assignment. He had a nice little two weeks in pinstripes, specifically going 8-for-26 (.308) at the plate in the last seven games. Nelson was always just a stopgap until Adams could be called up.

3:45pm: The Yankees have officially called up infielder David Adams, the team announced. No word on the corresponding roster move just yet — they need to make both a 25-man and 40-man move — but I’m guessing it’ll involve Chris Nelson. They’re completely redundant.

Adams, who turns 26 today, hit .316/.407/.490 (155 wRC+) with three homers in 26 games for Triple-A Scranton this year. They Yankees couldn’t call him up any sooner because of some silly roster rules, but he is expected to get a chance to play everyday with Kevin Youkilis on the DL. Adams started his career as a second baseman but shifted over to third in the second half last year, exactly when Alex Rodriguez had his hand broken by a pitch.

Feinsand: Yankees plan to call up David Adams on Wednesday

Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees are planning to call up infielder David Adams this coming Wednesday, the first day he is eligible to be added to the big league roster after being released and re-signing to a minor league contract last month. The team will give him a chance to play third base everyday.

Adams, 25, is hitting .314/.404/.477 (153 wRC+) with two homers and 99 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton this year. He’s been a full-time third baseman since last July, but he came up as a second baseman and even spent some time at first this year. Although Ben Francisco seems like the obvious candidate to lose his roster spot, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees cut Chris Nelson in favor of Adams instead. Kevin Youkilis has just started working out in Tampa according to Chad Jennings, so he isn’t close to returning. Pretty great opportunity for Adams, who I ranked as the team’s 18th best prospect before the season.

Kevin Youkilis, Corban Joseph, and bad timing

The play that re-injured Youkilis' back. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Yankees have dealt with more than their fair share of injuries already this year, but Kevin Youkilis‘ recent back trouble takes an especially big bite out of the team’s roster. After all, he was originally signed as the replacement for another injured player, Alex Rodriguez. New York placed Youkilis on the DL yesterday, meaning they will be without their replacement third baseman for at least the next two weeks.

Because of the timing of the injury, the Yankees were left without a suitable roster fill-in. Corban Joseph got the call, but Brian Cashman made it clear they view him as a right-side infielder and emergency option at the hot corner only. Since Robinson Cano never takes a day off, it’s unclear how exactly the left-handed hitting Joseph helps the team right now. He’s one notch above a dead spot on the roster at the moment, a square peg forced into a round bench hole.

In a perfect world, the Yankees would have called up David Adams instead of Joseph. The 25-year-old would have given the team a legitimate option at third base and because he’s a right-handed hitter, he also would’ve helped with their struggles against southpaws. Theoretically, anyway. Unfortunately Adams can not be called up to the show until May 15th because he signed a minor league deal with the club after they released him last month. For whatever reason, those guys are forced to wait 30 days before returning to the show. Clay Rapada is in the same boat. The injury-prone Adams is perfectly healthy, but the rulebook keeps him in Triple-A.

Adams wasn’t the only right-handed option though, the Yankees also could have gone with 28-year-old Ronnie Mustelier instead of Joseph. He plays third base and left field, meaning he would have added some usable versatility and been an option to replace Ben Francisco once Youkilis did return. Mustelier is out with an injury though, specifically some kind of bruise suffered right at the very end of Spring Training. He was scheduled to play in his first minor league rehab game with High-A Tampa last night, but Mother Nature got in the way and the game was rained out.

There is never a good time for an injury, especially one to a player as important as Youkilis. The timing of this injury was particularly bad because the team’s best internal replacements are non-options. Adams is still two weeks away from being big league eligible and Mustelier still has an entire rehab assignment ahead of him before being ready for meaningful games. By the time Adams or Mustelier become legitimate options for the big league team, Youkilis will hopefully be ready to come off the DL. Given the way things have gone for the team health-wise this year, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised the latest injury comes at a time when the team’s best replacements aren’t even truly available.