The Yankees signed Luis Torrens as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2012. Torrens was one of the most highly-regarded international players at the time, which netted him s signing bonus of $1.3 million from the Yankees. At the time of the signing, Torrens was a raw hitter who had only recently converted to catcher, but the Yankees still opted to bring him stateside in his first season as a pro. He spent 2013 as a 17-year-old with the Gulf Coast League Yankees, where he hit an unexciting .241/.348/.299.Continue reading →
Jacoby Ellsbury had a fine debut in pinstripes last season. It wasn’t quite as good as his walk-year from Boston, but he certainly didn’t fail to reach expectations. His defense was superb, as expected. He stood out on the basepaths, as expected. He hit well, as expected, just not quite as well as he did in his walk-year with Boston. That year, 2013, Jacoby batted .298/.355/.426 (113 wRC+). In 2014, his triple-slash fell to .271/.328/.419, although his performance relative to the league (107 wRC+) didn’t dip quite as much thanks to a power surge (16 home runs, 7 more than prior year). All told, Jacoby accumulated 3.6 fWAR. That’s very good, but perhaps it was the type of performance we expected in year two or three of his seven year contract. Should we be worried that Ellsbury’s decline has begun?
Speed is obviously integral to Jacoby’s game, and the narrative is that players who rely on their legs fall off quickly as they slow down. It seems logical that a player’s defense and baserunning might take a hit as he slows down. One might lose some infield hits or be unable to take the extra base, too. Yet, there are indications that speedy players age better than others, and Ellsbury has additional evidence from late last season that makes his offensive statistics look deceiving in retrospect.
Following an excellent three years at Notre Dame, the Yankees took Eric Jagielo with the 26th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He started off his pro career with the Staten Island Yankees, where he hit a powerful .266/.376/.451 in 51 games. Jagielo’s pro debut was impressive, but dominance was somewhat expected from a college bat in the New York Penn League.Continue reading →
Back in October, longtime Yankees scout Gordon Blakely — the scout who signed Robinson Cano — left the organization to take a job with the Atlanta Braves as a special assistant to their general manager. Understandably, the move didn’t receive much press. Front office personnel bounce from team to team all the time. Plus, the Yankees were facing a few more pressing personnel decisions at the time, following the firings of hitting coach Kevin Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher. Continue reading →
Figuring out how to rediscover his pre-2013 mojo has been CC Sabathia‘s greatest challenge the past two seasons. It was jarring to see his performance take such a tumble from his first four seasons in pinstripes, so naturally, there were attempts to understand why it happened so suddenly. Of the plethora of reasons used to explain way Sabathia’s struggles, his weight became one of the most bantered about topics. This wasn’t the typical concern about a player’s fitness, though. Rather than complaining about a player being out of shape, the discussion was if a trimmed down Sabathia was one of the causes of his downfall.
The weight loss has created a balance problem for him. He’s all over the place. He’s learning how to pitch in that body, a body he’s really never had. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him other than that. Sometimes you pitch at a certain weight all your life and then someone has the brilliant idea that you should lose weight because it’s putting stress on your knees, you do it, and then you’re dealing with something else.
A 5th round pick in 2012, Rob Refsnyder broke out in a big way in 2013, when he slashed an impressive .293/.413/.413 between Low-A and High-A. But as promising as an .826 OPS from a second baseman sounds, there was reason to be skeptical of Redsnyder’s future. Not only was his defense sketchy, but his batting line was largely driven by walks, which don’t always carry over to the high-minors.
What he did in 2014:
Refsnyder proved his skeptics wrong in Double-A last year by hitting even better than he did in 2013. The 23-year-old was dominant from the get-go in 2014, and never really fell back to earth. After hitting .342/.385/.548 in two months with the Thunder, he finally earned a promotion to Triple-A Scranton, where he didn’t hit quite as well, but still managed a .300/.389/.456 batting line. Refsnyder played mostly second base last year, but also got a few reps in right field, where he played exclusively in his college days. Continue reading →
Accustomed to leading off for the majority of his career, Ellsbury actually spent roughly two-thirds of his time in the three-hole last season. He was misfit for that lineup spot, but performed well anyway. Ellsbury posted a triple-slash of .271/.328/.419, which doesn’t sound great on the outset, but layer in the baserunning and you have a 107 wRC+. Indeed, the wRC+ a bit underwhelming for a three-hitter, but it can’t be considered a disappointment for Ellsbury — that’s simply the type of hitter he is. It’s impossible to know what Joe Girardi plans for the lineup at this point, but I have a feeling they’ll give Carlos Beltran a chance to redeem himself before returning Jacoby to third.
In the field, Ellsbury’s one of the best in center, seemingly able to track down anything in the air. His arm is below average, but his speed more than makes up for that pitfall. For the second straight season, he’ll be aligned next to Brett Gardner, which will give the Yankees one of the top defensive outfield alignments in the league.
At 31 years-old, Ellsbury’s best days are likely behind him. His monster 2011 was undoubtedly a blip on the radar (9.1 WAR), but it’s probably safe to say that he won’t repeat his 2013 either (5.8 WAR). Nonetheless, we shouldn’t expect any sort of steep decline in 2015. ZiPS projects 3.8 WAR, which is actually a slight jump from 3.6 last season. The forecast believes Ellsbury’s offensive talent is a tad better than what he exhibited in 2014, calling for a .281/.337/.424 line in 2015. That seems reasonable. Continue reading →
The Yankees signed Miguel Andujar for a $700,000 bonus out of the Dominican back in 2011, and immediately put him on the fast track. While most international signees spend their first professional season in one of the foreign rookie leagues, the Yankees brought Andujar stateside as a 17-year-old, assigning him to the Gulf Coast League Yankees. Andujar predictably struggled in 2012 his first go-around in the GCL, but seemed to find his power stroke while repeating the level in 2013. In 34 games, he belted four homers and 11 doubles, while also cutting down on his strikeouts.Continue reading →
The Yankees selected Ian Clarkin out of high school in the sandwich round (33rd overall) of the 2013 amateur draft. The lefty reported to the Gulf Coast League Yankees, where he pitched terribly in three starts (10.80 ERA, 10.06 FIP) before it was all said and done.
What he did in 2014 (as a pro):
Although he hot off to a rocky start in his draft year, Clarkin was everything the Yankees could have hoped for in his first full year as a pro. After opening the year in extended spring training, he joined Class-A Charleston in early May, and pitched to an impressive 3.12 ERA, striking out 25% of opposing batters and walking just 8%. He missed a few weeks with some minor injuries — a twisted ankle in July and an undisclosed injury in August — but neither seems likely to be a problem going forward.Continue reading →
All or nothing. That seems to be the Yankees’ motto in free agency since the 2008-2009 offseason. Of course, I’m being a tad hyperbolic in that there weren’t years the team signed nobody — there was always at least one fairly significant signing each winter, whether it be Rafael Soriano for the 2011 season, Hiroki Kuroda pre-2012, or Kevin Youkilis entering 2013. The point is, though, that the 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 offseasons make it seem like nothing happened in the years between. What can we glean from those two outlying winters?
Aside from the availability of very good players capable of filling the team’s needs, the Yankees had a good chunk of money coming off the books after the 2008 and 2013 campaigns. So even when the club spent big, total payroll remained relatively stagnant. Below, a simplistic look at how the Yankees kept overall payroll pretty stable while still going big in free agency.