Sunday, January 26, 2014

Position Assessment: Second Base

For the first time in almost a decade, the second base position is a question mark as the Yankees are less than one month away from beginning Spring Training games in Florida. Robinson Cano, the most talented second baseman in the league now plays for the Seattle Mariners and will be there for the rest of his career, which will extend for 10 years. Whether the Mariners will regret the contract is to be seen but no ten year deal ends up benefiting the team in the latter portion of the contract. In my opinion, the Yankees lost out on having Cano be a Yankee for life, but the aura of Cano staying in pinstripes for the rest of his career not happening will be something that Robbie will regret after realizing Logan Morrison is his protection in the lineup. The main reason for the Yankees not willing to break the bank for Cano's contract demands was because during the 2013 season, with Jeter and A-Rod out for almost the entire year, Cano's presence in the lineup was not enough to get fans into the Stadium or tuned into YES Network to watch the games. Cano is a quiet presence in personality, and he will not attract people to the Yankees based on talents alone. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are what people come to see and what they turn their televisions on for.

Moving forward, the Yankees have a few internal options for second base after a couple of off-season additions. First, the Yankees recently signed Brian Roberts to play second base, however Roberts has not played a full season since 2009, with a notebook of injuries derailing him from staying in the game as he has not played in more than 77 games in any season since 2009, averaging only 48 games per season in that span. If the Yankees can get the Brian Roberts of 2009 and earlier, they will forget about Cano and the horror show that would have ensued toward the end of that contract. Brian Roberts was a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Yankees and if he is anything close to what he was before injuries began derailing his career, the Yankees will look like the smartest guys in the room. Roberts has the ability to hit 50 doubles and to steal 40-50 bases over the course of a full season. He will be 36 years old in 2014, which doesnt help those ambitions.'

Kelly Johnson was signed earlier in the off-season but he was looked at as more of an Alex Rodriguez replacement in 2014. He has experience at second base, but Brian Cashman has made it clear that as of now Johnson will play third base, that is until Roberts faces another inevitable injury. Finally, the Yankees have Eduardo Nunez, who they still view as a shortstop but he has proven in almost every game that he cannot handle the position on an everyday basis. Nunez would be a serviceable second baseman mainly because of the throws not having to go as far as they would from short or third. 

The Yankees will miss Robinson Cano's ability at the plate and even more so in the field, but given their several options they will find a way, much like they did in their injury-plagued 2013 season when Cano was the only reliable bat in the lineup.

My prediction for Yankees second basemen in 2014: .260 AVG, .320 OBP, 35 Steals, 50 RBI, 12 HR

Friday, January 24, 2014

Player Analysis: Mark Teixeira and First Base

One of the few non-questions surrounding the Yankees infield is about their first base situation. Mark Teixeira will, without question be the Yankees opening day first baseman. Teixeira missed almost all of the 2013 season due to a wrist injury that eventually required surgery which benched Teixeira for the remainder of the season. He tried to come back briefly in June and hit three big home runs for the Yankees in 15 games, however he did little else besides that. Coming back prematurely from his initial wrist injury which he sustained while training for the World Baseball Classic in March actually hurt Mark even more than it would have if he just waited for the injury to heal entirely. Instead, Teixeira was eager to play and came back too soon, which ended up going more harm than good for the Yankees, and for Mark Teixeira. Luckily for the Yankees they had Lyle Overbay who proved to be a huge player for them while providing stellar first base defense. Overbay hit in the clutch and made Yankee fans forget about Teixeira's absence.

In 2014, Teixeira will come to Tampa in hopes of not re-aggravating his surgically repaired wrist. With the technology surrounded by the Yankees as well as their doctors being so educated with these types of injuries, Teixeira will likely be the Mark Teixeira that he was before he was injured and forced to miss the entire 2013 season. 

Mark Teixeira is without a doubt the best defensive first baseman in the game, and if you created a highlight reel, Teixeira's would take hours to watch. He makes plays at the first base position that other players at the position wouldn't even dream of making. His pitching staffs love him because of the defense and the other infielders love him even more for saving them each about five errors per season, especially Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. He makes all the tough plays look easy and makes the routine plays look like a cake-walk. He has earned himself four gold gloves at the position and has a career .997 fielding percentage. In 2012, his last full season, Teixeira saved 17 runs defensively, which helped him earn a 3.9 WAR that season.

Teixeira's bat will never be the same that it was in his early days with the Rangers and Braves. The switch-hitter used to hit for average and power, but since coming to the Yankees he has admittedly fallen in love with the short porch in left field which has significantly lowered his batting average through the years. He seems content with that part of his game diminishing, and being a dead pull hitter from the left side, which is where he hits most of his home runs. In 2012, he hit .251 with 24 home runs and only a .332 OBP. His on-base percentage is far too low for a player of his caliber and that is the one area that Mark needs to work on in his return in 2014; pitch selection is everything in baseball and Teixeira needs to lay off balls at his knees that he thinks he can hit out of the park only to pop them up high in the air due to his big upper-cut swing as a left handed batter.

My 2014 predictions for a healthy Teixeira: .255 AVG, .340 OBP, 35 HR, 105 RBI

Player Assessment: Catcher

The Yankees prized new catcher will have to acclimate to the Bronx climate, where he will call Yankee Stadium his home for the next five seasons. Brian McCann made his debut with the Atlanta Braves at the young age of 21 and played nine seasons for Atlanta. This year, the Yankees had their eye on the most sought after free agent catcher and made their plea, and McCann decided that he would call the Bronx his new home, in part because of how he described the Yankees as being all-in and that they wanted him more than any other team did. Brian McCann is a gritty player who has certainly gotten into a couple of incidents on the field due to his competitive personality, most prominently displayed when he got into the face of Marlins rookie star pitcher Jose Fernandez after he trotted around the bases following his first Major League home run. With Jeter's time in pinstripes soon coming to an end, McCann is the perfect player to have in the clubhouse who will assume the role of leader. If this will be Jeter's last season, McCann has some homework to do on Jeter and how he captures the minds of young players.

On the field, McCann is a power-hitting lefty who should have fun at Yankee Stadium, as Turner Field was not as home run friendly to lefties. McCann's career high in homers is 24, which he did twice in his career with Atlanta. He is a run producer and his power will translate to the short porch at Yankee Stadium. McCann however, has had trouble staying on the field over the last three seasons. He missed a combined 135 games going back to the 2011 season, and has had several visits on the disabled list. This may all change upon coming to New York, as his manager and bench coach are both former Major League catchers and Girardi is very good with resting guys, and to McCann's advantage he has the opportunity to DH some games, likely in day games after a night game. McCann's bat is definitely a bonus to his framing ability, which is among the highest in baseball.

Defensively, McCann is league average, or slightly below average. However, he can frame pitches well and gets along with his pitchers. McCann threw out only 24% of would-be base stealers in 2013, which is also his career average of caught stealing. Even so, his defense behind the plate has improved dramatically since his rookie days.

The Yankees newest catcher, who signed with the Yankees in November for 5 years and $85 million will be a great addition to the clubhouse, as well as on the field. McCann has a high ceiling and I believe that he will be rejuvenated and will perform best under the pressure of the screaming Bronx fans, who will learn to love his New York-like personality on the field.

My predictions for Brian McCann in 2014: .285 AVG, .350 OBP, 25 HR, 80 RBI

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

BREAKING: Masahiro Tanaka Signs with Yankees

Once again, as they normally do, the Yankees went hard after their man and they nabbed him to the tune of seven years and $155 million on top of the $20 million posting fee which granted the Yankees a right to make a formal offer to the Japanese super-star. The Yankees will Pay Tanaka $22 million per year for years 1-6 and will pay him $23 million in year seven of the deal if the contract goes that far. Tanaka's agent, Casey Close, also negotiated an opt-out clause after year four of the contract which will doubtfully be exercised by Tanaka given his already enormous salary along with the uncertainty that he brings, being that he has never thrown a pitch for a Major League team. The Yankees are making a huge gamble on Tanaka working out for them. An ace in Japan, Masahiro went 24-0 with an almost unheard of 1.27 ERA for his team. The Yankees are hoping he can be a solid number two starter in their rotation behind CC Sabathia, who has lost a ton of weight this off-season.

The only thing that is of concern to me is the stress that Tanaka placed on his arm over his Japanese career. He has pitched a ton of innings and thrown in excess of 150 pitches in a game many times and gone back out the following day to pitch. Scouts say that the right-handed pitcher is durable, which should play in the Yankees favor. Another thing that can help the Yankees with having Tanaka adjust is the presence of Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team. The pair are icons in Japan and having them welcome 25 year old Tanaka into the fold will certainly make this a smooth transition into the United States for the newly aqcuired pitcher.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

BREAKING: A-Rod Suspension Announced

After months of hearings and deliberations, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz has announced a 162 game suspension for Alex Rodriguez, which will exclude A-Rod from playing at all in the 2014 season. The suspension is reduced from the original 211 game ban that A-Rod faced during the 2013 season that originally had him miss the remainder of 2013 and all of 2014. He sought an injunction and played in late August and September of 2013, ultimately ending in the Yankees not making the postseason for the first time since 2008. He will also be ineligible for the postseason if the Yankees go that far with their reloaded roster. The MLB Player's Association has announced that although they disagree with the penalty, the MLB PA respects the decision, which will not fare well for Rodriguez, who is planning to take the decision to federal court. The details of the decision by Horowitz will not made public, but if A-Rod indeed brings the matter to federal court, the details will almost definitely be made public.

The Yankees front office have to be doing cartwheels right now in their offices. They benefit from the suspension by saving $27.5 million for the 2014 season, which makes it easier to go hard after Japanese pitcher Tanaka who will demand a hefty contract. The Yankees have stuff competition from the Los Angeles Dodgers who are said to be going hard after Tanaka. Sources say that Brian Cashman is consumed with Tanaka and is putting everything else to the side right now, including starters who have approached the Yankees for discussions.

A-Rod's statement:
“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one. This is one man’s decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable. This injustice is MLB’s first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review. 

I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players’ contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me. 

I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship. I want to sincerely thank my family, all of my friends, and of course the fans and many of my fellow MLB players for the incredible support I received throughout this entire ordeal."

Let the circus continue...