Trade Analysis: Yankees acquire another rebound candidate in Headley

Chase Headley, perhaps the most mentioned name in trade rumors in recent years, is the latest Yankee acquisition in this summer’s trade season. In exchange for a good but not great pitching prospect (Rafael de Paula) and a winter scrap heap pickup (Yangervis Solarte), the Yankees bolstered their outlook at the hot corner for the next couple of months.

Pre-trade, Headley’s rest of season ZiPS projection stood at .247/.328/.395 (.723 OPS, .321 wOBA). After the deal, accounting for park and league adjustments, the forecast is up to .253/.331/.426 (.757 OPS). That’s not a big jump in on-base ability, but a nice boost in pop. The other internal candidates projected OPS for the remainder of the season? Certainly worse:

Kelly Johnson .713
Scott Sizemore .700
Yangervis Solarte .690
Zelous Wheeler .679

Headley, 30, is an upgrade defensively at third, too. You don’t need any advanced metrics to see that the Yankees’ infield defense has been pitiful. Yankees’ scouts have Headley as an average defender, while advanced metrics peg him to be above average at the position. Either way, it’s an upgrade. Continue reading

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Using High-A Stats to Predict Future Performance

Last week, I looked into how a player’s low-A stats — along with his age and prospect status at the time — can be used to predict whether he’ll ever play in the majors. I used a methodology that I named KATOH (after Yankees prospect Gosuke Katoh), which consists of running a probit regression analysis. In a nutshell, a probit regression tells us how a variety of inputs can predict the probability of an event that has two possible outcomes — such as whether or not a player will make it to the majors. While KATOH technically predicts the likelihood that a player will reach the majors, I’d argue it can also serve as a decent proxy for major league success. If something makes a player more likely to make the majors, there’s a good chance it also makes him more likely to succeed there. Continue reading

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Using Low-A Stats to Predict Future Performance

In a piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I used historical minor league stats to to construct a model that predicts how likely it is that a teenager in A-ball will make it to the major leagues. While this method produced some interesting results, it also had some flaws, most notably that it didn’t take scouting or defense into account. This basically meant that a great defensive player — or a raw, toolsy player — could easily get an undeserving low rating if he had a poor year at the plate. Another drawback was that it only applied to teenaged players in low-A, who represent a pretty small portion of players at the level, and just a sliver of the prospect population. 

With these shortcomings in mind, I’ve taken another stab at predicting which players from the South Atlantic and Midwest leagues are most and least likely to make it to the show. Like last time, I ran a probit regression, which tells us how a variety of inputs can predict the probability of an event that has two possible outcomes — such as whether or not a player will make it to the majors. But instead of limiting my analysis to players under the age of 20, I considered all players and included age as a variable in my model. I also attempted to quantify scouting by taking into account whether or not a player made Baseball America’s pre-season prospect rankings. The model still relies heavily on offensive performance, but isn’t entirely guilty of “scouting the stat line.” Continue reading

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The change in approach behind Brett Gardner’s new-found power

Brett Gardner is having a very good year at the plate in 2014. Through 91 games, the 30-year-old outfielder is hitting .279/.353/.424, good enough for a career-best 116 wRC+. The most exciting — and most uncharacteristic — part of Gardner’s offensive performance has been his power output. Historically a punchless slap hitter, Gardner’s hitting for above-average power this year: His .424 SLG and .145 ISO are both well above his career norms and he’s already set a new career-high nine home runs.
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Trade Target: Jorge De La Rosa

With their rotation decimated by injuries, the Yankees need starting pitching help. This was true last week, but is even more true now that Masahiro Tanaka will be out of commission for at least the next six weeks — and possibly much, much longer. Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy, and even David Phelps are serviceable starting pitchers, but the back end of the rotation — currently occupied Shane Greene and Chase Whitley — leaves a lot to be desired. Throw in the glaring lack of starting pitchers in the Triple-A pipeline and the need for an upgrade is pretty clear.

At 40-55, the Rockies are are 13 games out of first place and 12 games back in the wild card chase, and Fangraphs puts their playoff odds at a meager 0.1%. It’s pretty clear that the Rockies are going nowhere this year, and its only a matter of time before they start selling off their useful assets and start rebuilding for the future. One of those assets is Jorge De La Rosa, a 33-year-old starting pitcher whose contract is up at the end of the season.  De La Rosa’s far from the biggest name out there, but he’s one of just a few starting pitchers left on the trading block now that Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are in Oakland and Justin Masterson‘s on the DL. He could also be had for a much smaller prospect haul than the David Price‘s and Cliff Lee‘s of the world. De La Rosa could be a useful three-month rental for somebody and the Yankees seem like as good a landing spot as any. Continue reading

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PRP might not help Masahiro Tanaka avoid surgery, but it’s worth trying

We’ve all heard the news by now. Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka has a small tear in his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL), and although the dreaded Tommy John Surgery is still a possibility, he’s going to try to rehab the injury first. Tanaka will undergo a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow before embarking on a 6-week throwing program. If he doesn’t show signs of improvement during this time, he’ll need to have the ligament surgically repaired, which would likely sideline him until the 2016 season. Continue reading

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Tanaka out at least six weeks — now what?

The Yankees didn’t receive the worst possible news for Masahiro Tanaka tonight — but they certainly didn’t get good news, either. Tommy John Surgery isn’t necessary, at least not yet, as Tanaka will attempt to rehab the small tear in his UCL. Nonetheless, the team is without its best player for a minimum of six weeks, which will be the biggest challenge yet for a team already struggling to perform and stay healthy.

There’s no doubt that this will impinge the Yankees chance of playing October baseball, but they shouldn’t give up on the season now. Selling shouldn’t be an option with the division so mediocre. Best case scenario, the Yankees add a bat and another starter, remain in the hunt as September approaches, and a healthy Tanaka returns for the final stretch. Wishful thinking, I know, but as long as the Yankees are within striking distance of the division, they cannot justify selling off guys like Hiroki Kuroda or David Robertson.

As for Tanaka, we’ll just have to hope he bucks the notion that it’s next to impossible to rehab this injury and avoid surgery. Matt Harvey, for example, took that route to no avail. If Tanaka eventually has to go under the knife, the Yankees most likely wouldn’t see him again until 2016. Yuck. That is a long time from now.

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Trade Target: Alex Rios

Three weeks and one day remain for the Yankees to make any non-waiver trades to improve the Major League roster. During that period, Chris and I will be discussing possible acquisitions from clubs likely to be selling. Brian Cashman has already made one move to bolster the rotation, but there are still other needs: the infield, outfield, and yes, still the rotation. Today, let’s take a look at Alex Rios as a potential acquisition. Continue reading

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What do the Yankees have in Shane Greene?

With the rotation in flux following the Vidal NunoBrandon McCarthy trade, the Yankees gave the ball to rookie Shane Greene last night. Greene pitched pretty well in his first big league start, allowing two runs while striking out two over 6 innings. Still, his immediate future is unclear, and he might be replaced by Chase Whitley next time through the rotation. But even if he is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton, he’ll almost certainly be back in pinstripes sooner rather than later.

With a career 4.39 ERA, Greene’s minor league numbers have been nothing to write home about. However, his stuff is pretty legit, which is why the Yankees opted to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft last winter. He throws multiple types of fastballs — including a few that nearly touched 96 last night — and his slider was regularly clocked in the upper-80′s. He stuck to the fastball-slider combo almost exclusively, but also mixed in some token curveballs and a changeup.

To find comps for the 25-year-old, I looked for seasons from right-handers (200 pitch minimum) since 2008 where at least 95% of pitches thrown were either a fastball, slider, changeup, or curveball. Then I turned to PITCHf/x to find out how often these pitcher’s fastballs and sliders fell within one standard deviation of Greene’s average velocity, break length, break angle, and spin for those two pitches. These are the pitchers who threw the highest ratio of pitches comparable to what Greene threw in his first big league start.
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Trade Analysis: Vidal Nuno for Brandon McCarthy

With CC Sabathia‘s season likely over, Michael Pineda‘s uncertain return date, and Ivan Nova gone until 2015, the rotation has been in need of depth over the past couple of months. This morning, Brian Cashman and Arizona’s Kevin Towers swapped two struggling starting pitchers: Vidal Nuno and Brandon McCarthy. Financially, the Yankees are paying $1M of McCarthy’s assignment bonus and $2.05M of the $4.1M remaining in the last year of his deal (Buster Olney). Just by the names involved, this trade looks like a no-brainer for the Yankees.

Nuno, 26, was signed out of the Independent Frontier League in 2011. He had a cup of coffee with the Yankees last season, and has made 14 starts with the Yanks this year. In his 98 career innings, it’s probably fair to call him a replacement level starter (0.4 fWAR, 0.3 rWAR). Perhaps he gets a slight bump with the move to the National League, but that’s not of importance for the Yankees. What the Yankees receive in McCarthy is a solid starter with much more experience than Nuno. Turning 31 tomorrow, he’s had an unimpressive season in terms of ERA (5.01), but there are reasons to believe he can improve.

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