Yankee Hotstove

Some Thoughts On The Farm

Steven Goldman has railed for years that the Yankees ought to be more productive with their minor league system so that they are not beholden to big expenditures on Free Agents. Of course he also supported the all-out move of signing both CC Sabathia AND Mark Teixeira, so clearly it’s  relative thing in his mind. I’ve always been a fan of the idea of growing the talent within. After all, the much discussed hallmark of the late ’90s Yankee dynasty was that the core talent came up through the Yankee system. Since then, it’s been argued they haven’t produced much of note.

For one thing it’s hard to draft top talent in the later rounds, so that has impacted the Yankees, no doubt. The scarcity of pitching in the Free Agent market hs also skewed the preference of the Front Office to target power pitching righties over position players on the whole. They deny, but it’s in the numbers when you track their drafts.

It’s also not true that the Yankees haven’t come up with Major League position players from their farm system in th last decade. There’s Alfonso Soriano, Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, Marcus Thames, Robinson Cano and if you include just the good moments, even Melky Cabrera. Of course Soriano got traded for A-Rod; Thames for Ruben Sierra; Johnson and Rivera for Javier Vazquez who then got traded for Randy Johnson who then got traded for Ross Ohlendorf, Luis Vizcaino, Steve Jackson and Alberto Gonzales; which leaves us with Cano and Melky.

In any case, the position player development hasn’t been as bad as critiqued. It’s even likely Jose Tabata, who got traded for Xavier Nady will turn into something useful down the track. All the same, it’s been a while since the Yankees have debuted a star-class position player apart from Cano – and that’s assuming Cano goes back to being his 2007 version rather than his 2008 version.

The part that really gets me is the case of Eric Duncan. Consider the fact that Duncan, a High School 3B was drafted as the Yankees’ top pick in 2003, ironically the very year Teixeira made his debut with the Rangers. back then Teixeira was nowhere near pat of the Yankees’ plans. There was  however a strong perceived need for a 3B for the future, as the Yankees cast about and traded for Aaron Boone that year.

Within a year Duncan moved across the diamond partly due to his defense, but mostly because A-Rod arrived through a trade. The move was made with the alleged hope that he would grow into a 1B. They rushed him through the system and he has now stalled at AAA. With his abject failure in 2008, the Yankees simply signed the elite hitter Teixeira to be the 1B instead of wait out Duncan to develop. It’s the right call, because who knows if Duncan ever will fulfill his promise?  Now Duncan is slated to be the DH at SWB. At the end of this year, Duncan would have served his 6 seasons so presumably he’s going to be a minor league free agent.

One begins to wonder if any of the best-laid plans can come to fruition with the Yankees’ farm.

The Alleged Pitching Depth

Going into the Off season, the Yankees shed Mussina, and Pettitte (as well as Carl Bloody Pavano), only to replace them with Sabathia and Burnett. The starting depth goes through to about No. 7 or 8 without bringing Pettitte back, but it doesn’t really take into accoun the limited innings that are likely from Joba, Hughes and Kennedy.

A quick guesstimation gives me about 1000 innings across the 6 guys, but it’s only a guess. Injuries to any could easily result in digging deeper into the depth and somewhere down there is Kei Igawa, so you shudder a little. Even so, I do wonder if the Yankees really ought to try and bring Andy Pettitte back. The guy is good for 200 innings, of most likely league average pitching, which makes him a kind of very good No. 3. But it also means that they’d be closing the No.5 spot to trying out the trio of Hughes Kennedy and Aceves.

For reasons that similarly irk me about the Eric Duncan saga, I’d be bummed if they did sign Pettitte and Hughes, Kennedy and Aceves all started out in the bullpen and AAA.

What Outfield Logjam?

There is the thinking going on that the Yankees have some kind of logjam in the outfield now that they have Teixeira for 1B, pushing Swisher out of the slot back into the outfield.

The dialogue seems to be whether it is 6 OFs into 3OF slots and the DH so 2 are redundant, but I think there are enough at-bats to be shared around, if all of the OF spots are seen as pairs (and not strict platoons).

  • RF can easily be shared between Nady and Swisher.
  • CF is unsettled, but Gardner might likely stick out there. If not it’s Melky, but Damon could fill in here and there. Even Swisher could fill in in an emergency. In any case, the main CF candidate will likely relegate the other off the team.
  • LF belongs to Damon, but he can be given a day off in favor of Swisher. If Wang pitches, you could even put Matsui out there.
  • DH Is Matsui, but he can be given days off in favor of any of the other OFs.

In any case, the 2 extra guys become bench depth that the Yankees haven’t had much of in some years. I really don’t think they should trade Nady or Swisher unless they get a catching uber-propsect who could step into the Big League squad as Posada’s backup. Short of that, don’t trade them.

Angel Berroa?

Bench depth is excatly where it gets a little hairy. Angel Berroa was signed to a minor league contract and it’s making my head spin.

Cody Ransom and Angel Berroa are the candidates to be the inflielders on the bench. The fall-off from A-Rod and Jeter to these guys is a pecipitous drop. Still, you wonder just who might be out there.

Here are Berroa’s graphs from Fangraphs.

As a hitter, it’s clear that the 2003 season he won the ROY was a BABIP fluke. It’s also clear that he had a spike in his ISO that he has never repeated. Year after year, he’s been striking out more and more, walking less and less, and miraculously made a league average K/BB ratio in 2008. Even compared to Cody Ransom he’s terrible.

Obituary

One of the Bloggers at Bronx Banter, Todd Drew passed away from cancer. Todd was the passionate writer whoused to write the Yankees for Justice blog.

He last reported he was diagnosed with cancer, not that long ago. The immensely sad news of his passing comes as a great surprise. He was 41.

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