Saturday Links: Otani, Minor League Free Agents, 2018 ZiPS

(Getty)
(Getty)

The offseason has been slow-moving so far, so here are some bits of news and notes to help you pass the time. Hopefully something exciting happens soon.

Otani will be posted this offseason

Yesterday the Nippon Ham Fighters announced they will indeed post Shohei Otani for MLB teams this offseason, according to the Japan Times and the Kyodo News. It’s important to note the (Ham) Fighters have only announced their intention to post Otani. He hasn’t actually been posted yet. MLB, MLBPA, and NPB are still haggling over the posting agreement. From the Kyodo News:

“Everyone in our ballclub accepts his thoughts,” said Hideki Kuriyama, manager of the (Ham) Fighters, at a press conference yesterday. “It’s not just me, but everyone in the ballclub believed in what he can do. I never lost doubt and I was sure he can do it. I spent the past five years just believing in that.”

Otani recently hired Nez Balelo of CAA, an MLBPA certified agent, which could help settle the posting squabble between MLB, MLBPA, and NPB. The union knows Otani is in good hands now — Balelo is a veteran agent who has experience representing Japanese players (Nori Aoki, Junichi Tazawa) as well as big name players (Ryan Braun, Adam Jones) — and can be sure he is completely aware of the situation. Once the posting stuff if sorted out, Otani will be posted. Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later.

16 Yankees become minor league free agents

Earlier this week a whopping 572 players became minor league free agents across baseball, according to Matt Eddy. Sixteen of those 572 players are Yankees. Or were Yankees, anyway. Here are the 16.

  • Pitchers (8): RHP Colten Brewer, LHP Daniel Camarena, RHP Juan Jimenez, RHP Tyler Jones, LHP Joe Mantiply, RHP Jose Pena, RHP Eduardo Rivera, LHP Eric Wooten
  • Catchers (4): Wilkin Castillo, Kellin Deglan, Eddy Rodriguez, Wes Wilson
  • Infielders (3): 3B Dante Bichette Jr., IF Cito Culver, IF Donovan Solano
  • Outfielders (1): Mason Williams

Bichette and Culver are the most notable names here as former high draft picks, and Williams was once among the organization’s very best prospects. Brewer and Camarena are the best prospects right now, though neither comes particularly close to cracking the organization’s top 30 prospects list. Or even the top 40 list. Solano and Williams are the only two of those 16 players who played in the big leagues with the Yankees.

Also, according to Eddy, the Yankees have re-signed LHP Chaz Hebert, who was due to become a minor league free agent this winter. The 25-year-old southpaw had a breakout 2015 season, throwing 134 innings with a 2.55 ERA (3.11 FIP) at three levels. Then he blew out his elbow and missed the entire 2016 season and the first half of 2017 with Tommy John surgery. Hebert got back on the mound late this year and will back in the fold next year.

Yankees top 2018 AL ZiPS projections

A few days ago Dan Szymborski used his ZiPS system to put together way-too-early 2018 projected standings. ZiPS right now pegs the Yankees for 92 wins and first place in the AL East next year. In fact, those 92 wins are the most among all AL teams — the 90-win Astros are second — and second most in MLB overall behind the 96-win Dodgers.

New York of course had a gigantic payroll in 2017 as it typically does, but what people haven’t completely noticed about this team is that it got far more of its wins from inexpensive, young talent than the good Yankees teams typically do. The last time the team won a World Series, it got 9.7 WAR (17 percent) from players making less than a million bucks. In 2017, that number was 25.9 WAR (49 percent).

Of course, there is still an entire offseason to go, so every team’s roster can and will change before Opening Day. As things stand right now though, the Yankees are set up well going into next year thanks to their young core and some nice veteran complementary players. It’s entirely possible they could go into next season even bigger favorites to win the AL East depending how the offseason plays out.

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.