The general consensus on Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka is that he’ll be a solid #2 or #3 starter, but at least a notch or two below ace level. Few think he’ll be a truly dominant force in the Yankees’ rotation — not this year, at least. According to a poll of both fans and industry insiders done by Baseball Prospectus, the consensus on Tanaka is that he’ll be about as good as Homer Bailey in 2014, who’s projected for about 2 or 3 WAR.
The logic behind this conclusion is sound — as dominant as Tanaka was in the Nippon Baseball League last year, Major League Baseball is a completely different animal. Even Yu Darvish, who was the more dominant pitcher in Japan, didn’t immediately set the world on fire when he made the leap in 2012.
To be fair though, Tanaka and Darvish are very different pitchers. Using a deadly fastball/slider combo, Darvish struck out 30% of the hitters he’s faced in the majors after fanning 31% in his final year in Japan. Tanaka, on the other hand, does things a little differently. While he does strike out his fair share of batters (21% in Japan last year), his real skill is inducing ground balls — something he does with his split finger fastball, which has looked all sorts of nasty this spring. Continue reading →
Derek and I ranked catching prospect Gary Sanchez as our #1 prospect this offseason and gave him an anticipated MLB ETA of 2015. Here’s what we had to say about him:
Sanchez may be the only Yankee prospect to land on any top 100 lists this year. With the addition of Brian McCann, Sanchez is blocked and may serve as trade bait in the not so distant future. He should be ready for the majors before the time McCann needs to move to first base.
Using only Sanchez’ 2013 stat line, I compiled a list of comps — players who put up similar numbers (BB%, K%, and ISO) in the Florida State League at a similar age.
This analysis cuts right to the bottom line — it considers what a player did in his most recent year and churns out a list of players who performed similarly. There are some obvious limitations to this approach. For one thing, it only considers a hitter’s offensive performance and completely ignores defensive position and ability, so some of the comps will have very different defensive profiles. Additionally, this analysis only considers 2013 stats and does not take into account a player’s performance from previous seasons. Finally, in no way does it take into account things like scouting reports, which provide insight into a player’s future performance. Still, this gives us some living, breathing examples of players with similar offensive track records and hopefully gives us an idea of some possible career trajectories.
Six seasons have passed since Baseball America ranked the Yankees’ farm system fifth-best in baseball in 2008. It was the second straight year the publication pegged the Yankees as such, displaying confidence in the system despite a key graduate in Phil Hughes. The Yankees clearly have struggled to select and develop amateur talent since then, but what did they harvest when the system was at its peak?
Partially based on Sam Miller’s piece on the Angels over at Baseball Prospectus, I tracked the performance of the Baseball America’s 2008 top 30 Yankees prospects through 2013. Each season, I took a look at how many prospects remained in the organization at year’s end, and how much WAR accumulated.
First, a look at the top 30 list:
Not many of these guys look like anything special today, but at the time, the system was pretty deep. In the top ten, Joba Chamberlain and Andrew Brackman both had ace ceilings. Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata, and Brett Gardner all were projected to be above-average regulars. Sinkerballers Jeff Marquez and Ross Ohlendorf had back-end rotation expectations, while the other pitcher in the top 10, Alan Horne, was more of an X-factor with his extensive health issues. Last but not least in the upper third was Jesus Montero, whose top prospect status was just budding at the time. It was a very projectable top 10, with a variety of other good prospects rounding out following 20. What happened? Continue reading →
Derek and I ranked third base prospect Eric Jagielo as our #2 prospect this offseason and gave him an anticipated MLB ETA of 2016. Here’s what we had to say about him:
This season’s first-round pick made a nice debut at Short-Season Staten Island, posting a 153 wRC+ in 218 plate appearances. As a polished college bat out of Notre Dame, Jagielo could move quickly and beat our 2016 ETA.
Using only Jagielo’s 2013 stat line, I compiled a list of comps — players who put up similar numbers (BB%, K%, and ISO) in the New York Penn league at a similar age.
This analysis cuts right to the bottom line — it considers what a player did in his most recent year and churns out a list of players who performed similarly. There are some obvious limitations to this approach. For one thing, it only considers a hitter’s offensive performance and completely ignores defensive position and ability, so some of the comps will have very different defensive profiles. Additionally, this analysis only considers 2013 stats and does not take into account a player’s performance from previous seasons. Finally, in no way does it take into account things like scouting reports, which provide insight into a player’s future performance. Still, this gives us some living, breathing examples of players with similar offensive track records and hopefully gives us an idea of some possible career trajectories. Continue reading →
Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus unveiled a new model for quantifying the value of catcher defense. Unlike previous framing stats, this new methodology incorporates pitch-types, count, and umpire tendencies. They also released a stat that quantifies a catcher’s ability to block pitches.
According to the data, the Yankees have had more than their share of good framers in recent years. It’s hard to say how much of it has to do with advanced analytics and how much is simply listening to Tony Pena, who’s been drilling framing skills into the team’s catchers since 2006. In any case, it’s pretty clear the Yankees have been ahead of the curve in recognizing pitch framing as an undervalued skill. They’ve been targeting plus-plus framers for seven or eight years now, going back to the days of Sal Fasano – who’s now a pitch-framing guru with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Here’s the breakdown of the Yankees’ catchers graded out in 2013 by these new metrics. “Total Receiving Runs” takes into account all facets of a catcher’s defensive game, including framing, blocking, and “traditional” stats like throwing out baserunners. One win is worth approximately 9.5 runs, so Brian McCann‘s defense alone was worth about two wins last year — roughly one due to framing and another due to blocking. Continue reading →
Prior to reaching free agency, the Yankees have had a knack of locking up their home grown talent. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, and most recently Brett Gardner all signed extensions during their arbitration years. Next in line might be David Robertson. 2014 is the final season he will be under team control, meaning he’ll be a free agent after the year. Robertson and the Yankees avoided arbitration this year for $5.2M, but could work on something that keeps him 2015 and beyond. There doesn’t appear to be much traction yet, but what might be a fair price for the new closer?
First, let’s take a look at D-Rob’s projection for 2014, and try to get an idea of how he might age. ZiPS, Steamer, and the FANS have him pegged at 1.2, 0.9, and 1.3 WAR in 63, 65, and 65 innings respectively for the coming year. This results in an average of a tad over 1.1 WAR per 65 innings pitched. Next is to estimate how Robertson will age.
Each season after 2014, I assumed a yearly 10% decline in innings pitched. For WAR, I prorated the prior season’s WAR total to the following season’s innings projection, and then shaved off 10%. This isn’t a particularly nuanced estimate, but a way to get a general idea of how the future of Robertson’s career might shake out. Continue reading →
Derek and I ranked outfield prospect Mason Williams as our #3 prospect this offseason and gave him an anticipated MLB ETA of 2015. Here’s what we had to say about him:
Mason was disappointing with the bat this year, posting a 95 wRC+ in 461 High-A plate appearances. He was overmatched after a promotion to Double-A, hitting .154/.164/.264 in 76 plate appearances. Yet, the highly athletic Williams already plays superb defense in center and probably will at worst be a fourth outfielder in the big leagues.
I also wrote Williams’ prospect profile for Pinstripe Alley this winter. My conclusion:
Even though Williams has started to sputter offensively, he’s still a top-flight defender in center field by all accounts, which keeps him very much on the prospect radar. Yet despite his defensive prowess, Williams will need to take some steps forward offensively to be an impact player in the majors. Williams is only 22, so he could obviously still improve, but he’s starting to look more like a light-hitting fourth outfielder than the center fielder of the future. Frankly, it’s hard to look at his 2013 stats without thinking “Endy Chavez” — hopefully that’s not the case this time next year.
Using only Williams’ 2013 stat line, I compiled a list of comps — players who put up similar numbers (BB%, K%, and ISO) in the Florida State League at a similar age. Continue reading →
Last week, the Yankees locked up their third outfielder of the winter when they signed Brett Gardner to a four year, $52 million dollar contract extension. The deal covers 2015-2018, Gardner’s age 31-34 seasons. So far, Gardner’s tenure with the Yankees has been a productive one. Since he broke in in 2008, he’s been worth 17.8 WAR per Fangraphs, and even eclipsed the six win mark with his excellent 2010 campaign. Gardner’s a decent hitter — roughly league average over his career, but most of his value comes from his legs. He’s amassed 65 runs above average in defense (UZR + positional adjustment) and has added 30 more with his work on the base paths. No doubt, his speed has been a weapon these past few years, but there’s reason to question whether it will continue as Gardner enters into his thirties.
Defensive value tends to peak very early in a player’s career. At age 30, it’s probably safe to say that Gardner will never again be as good of a defender as he is right now. In fact, the days of Gardner playing elite defense may have already passed us by.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, last year’s stats indicate he may be slowing down. His defensive metrics, base running metrics, and plain old stolen base totals all trended in the wrong direction last season. None of these stats are incredibly meaningful in just a one year sample, but it’s concerning that they all tell the same story. It’s even more concerning when you consider that Gardner missed all of 2012. That means it’s been three years now since he’s stolen more than 24 bases or logged a gaudy defensive metric. Still, even if he is no longer elite, he’s at least very good in the outfield and on the bases. But can we expect it continue? Continue reading →
Following the departure of Robinson Cano, the Yankees signed Brian Roberts to an incentive-laden deal to be their primary second baseman in 2014. Once a star player, Roberts has fallen on hard times in recent years, mainly due to his inability to stay on the field — the 36-year-old hasn’t played a full season since 2009. It’s been years since Roberts has been a productive player, but the Yankees seem to think there’s at least a small chance that he can recapture some of his former glory. The projection systems don’t agree — all peg him for close to a replacement level performance in 2014.
Fangraphs hosts a crowdsourcing platform that allows fans to fill out ballots predicting how players will perform statistically in 2014. All of the projections they receive are aggregated to create the FANS projections you see on individual player pages. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend you do so. It’s a lot of fun (well, at least I think so) and forms the basis for a set of player projections that could theoretically provide some insight not captured by the algorithm-based projection systems.
My projections for the 2014 Yankees are below. I have the team’s hitters totaling 18.5 WAR and their pitchers with 16.4. Last season, these totals would have ranked 19th and 12th in baseball, respectively. This works out to about 83 wins, which jives with what PECOTA (82) and Davenport (85) are forecasting this season. The Yankees are clearly good enough to be in the playoff hunt, but at this early hour, it’s not clear if they’ll have the talent to keep up with the Rays and Red Sox. Plenty can change between now and October, though. Continue reading →