Ten questions in this week’s mailbag. Just two more of these until pitchers and catchers report and Spring Training begins. Fun fun fun. Send your questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.
Julian asks: Looks like Pettitte is going to fall off the HOF ballot in his first year. Do you think the lack of support is because of the PEDs or do writers really not think he’s worthy?
Andy Pettitte was able to avoid falling off the Hall of Fame ballot this year. He received 42 votes from the 425 voters, or 9.9%. Five percent is needed to remain on the ballot, so Pettitte will be up for the Hall of Fame again next year. Clearly though, there is a decided lack of support here. I think there are three reasons Pettitte did not receive more support this year and I’d rank them in this order:
- Voters don’t think he had a Hall of Fame caliber career.
- Voters ran out of room on their ten-spot ballots.
- The human growth hormone admission.
Performance-enhancing drug outrage is selective. Pettitte is well-liked and I don’t think the HGH admission will hurt him as much as, say, Manny Ramirez’s two suspensions. Derek Jeter is the only slam dunk Hall of Famer joining the ballot in the next two years, meaning voters will have more spots available for other players, and inevitably some of those spots will go to Pettitte. Enough to get him to 75%? Almost certainly not.
It seems to me the biggest thing working against Pettitte is his lack of Hall of Fame numbers. He had a great career, no doubt, but Andy was more about longevity than top of the rotation dominance. Mike Mussina, an objectively better pitcher than Pettitte, received only 20.3% of the vote in his first year on the ballot. Pettitte coming in under that in his first year makes sense to me. My guess is Pettitte will gain support in the coming years but probably not enough to get into Cooperstown.
Ross asks: Does Greg Bird have options left? and if so, how much time would he have to spend in the minors for an extra year of team control?
Bird has all three minor league options remaining. The Yankees called him up in August 2015 and haven’t sent him down for anything other than a rehab assignment since, and rehab assignments do not count as an option. Bird has three years and 53 days of service time (3.053). There are 186 days in the season but only 172 days are needed to receive credit for a full year of service time. Keep a player in the minors at least 15 days and you buy that extra year of team control (186 – 172 = 14, then add one extra day). Add those 15 days to the 53 days of service time Bird already has and you get 68 days. That’s how long he has to stay in the minors to push his free agency back year. Two months plus one week, give or two. Seems worthwhile, no? Giving Bird ten weeks in the minors to show he’s back while Luke Voit gets ten weeks to show he’s legit seems believable. Teams are increasingly unapologetic about their service time manipulation. They don’t even try to hide it. In Bird’s case, sending him down would be justifiable, so it wouldn’t look that obvious.
Rob asks: Which team do you think would be more effective over a season? A pitching staff made entirely of relievers that can pitch at least two innings a game or a staff full of starters that can go five innings each?
The reliever staff. They’d rarely go through the lineup a second time and they would be able to air it out more than someone who has to pace himself for five innings. This is the where baseball is heading now, right? Using pitchers less and less to avoid the third (and sometimes second) time through the order penalty, and to allow them to go max effort. Short bursts are almost always more effective than pacing yourself for the long haul.
Jeff asks: Dodgers shopping Joc Pederson, 3 years of team control, lefty power bat, can play left, could arguably hit well enough to break up Judge and Stanton, make sense for the Yankees to at least check in on the asking price?
Worth checking in, for sure. Pederson’s done a great job cutting down on strikeouts and he’s a legitimate 25-homer lefty bat. The Yankees could use one of those. The downside is he needs a platoon partner (career 61 wRC+ vs. LHP) and he probably shouldn’t play center field any longer. I don’t know what the Dodgers are seeking in return (a reliever, maybe?) but, if the Yankees are not going to pursue Bryce Harper, Pederson would be a fine fallback plan. Mashes righties, two years of control, great clubhouse guy. The Yankees could stick him in left field against righties and move Brett Gardner to the bench. I’d rather the Yankees just sign Harper. Since that’s off the table, Pederson is a good alternative. He’s a quality player and the Yankees have room for him.
Alex asks: The Yankees have traded quite a few highly regarded prospects in the past few years (Rutherford, Mateo, Kaprelian, Fowler, Widener, Solak, Carroll, Tate, Sheffield, etc) which always causes some hand wringing; however, none of them seem to have particularly broken out. How do former Yankee prospects rank today? I would guess Widener or Sheffield lead the way?
Justus Sheffield is far and away the best prospect the Yankees have traded within the last two years or so. In fact, he’s the only former Yankees prospect to appear on the recent Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus top 100 lists. Baseball America ranked him 27th and Baseball Prospectus ranked him 50th. I’d rank the traded prospects like so:
- LHP Justus Sheffield
- OF Blake Rutherford
- OF Dustin Fowler
- RHP Dillon Tate
- 2B Nick Solak
- SS Jorge Mateo
- RHP James Kaprielian
- RHP Taylor Widener
- OF Billy McKinney
- RHP Cody Carroll
That’s not every prospect the Yankees have traded but it is the notables. Also, just to be clear, that’s how I’d rank them based on the players they are today, not the players they were when the Yankees traded them. Not counting Sheffield, Solak and Widener are the only players on that list who’ve raised their stock since the trade and neither is the type of prospect worth getting upset over. The Yankees have better infielders than Solak and a small army of Wideners in the system. They’ve done a good job picking which prospects to keep and which prospects to trade.
Bill asks: MLB.com ranked Stowers as our #23 prospect right after the trade, and Long as Seattle’s #8 prospect. Given, our farm is better than Seattle’s, and Stowers would probably rank higher than 23rd in their system. It seems like we got a Good deal for Gray, then messed it up by immediately trading him for a lesser prospect to go with the draft pick. Would you agree?
My preference would’ve been keeping Shed Long because he’s close to MLB ready and because, all other things being equal, the infielder is more valuable than the outfielder. It’s much easier to move an infielder to the outfield than vice versa. Moving to the infield, where the ball comes at you fast, is a tough adjustment for long-time outfielders. Very few have done it. Infield to outfield is the usual transition, not the other way around.
MLB.com has not yet released their updated 2019 rankings, so I wouldn’t look at their lists to compare Long to Stowers. Before the trade Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Stowers as the tenth best prospect in Seattle’s system. Now they rank Long ninth. The difference between the ninth and tenth best prospect in a farm system is nothing. It’s a matter of personal preference at that point. Based on Baseball America’s 2019 rankings, it was a fair value trade. Long and Stowers are similarly ranked.
Ross asks: If you were going to build an 8-man bullpen, and could use all relievers in the AL East to do it, who would be in that bullpen?
A case can be made the four best relievers in the AL East play for the Yankees. The Orioles have two solid relievers in Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier. Jose Alvarado is excellent with Tampa and Ryne Stanek is very good as well. Current Blue Jay Ken Giles has his moments. Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes just helped the Red Sox to the World Series. This is my eight-man all-AL East bullpen:
Closer: LHP Aroldis Chapman
Setup: RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Jose Alvarado
Middle: LHP Zach Britton, RHP Chad Green, RHP Adam Ottavino, RHP Ryne Stanek
Long: RHP Matt Barnes
Don’t sleep on my dude Tanner Scott. The Orioles will probably screw him up, but a lefty with an upper-90s fastball and an upper-80s slider is no joke. I think he’ll be in position to crack the eight-man all-AL East bullpen by midseason. Anyway, for fun, let’s use Steamer projections to compare the Yankees’ bullpen to the best eight-man bullpen the other four AL East teams could put together:
|Yankees||Other AL East Teams|
|Aroldis Chapman (+1.3 WAR)||Diego Castillo, TB (+1.0 WAR)|
|Dellin Betances (+1.1 WAR)||Matt Barnes, BOS (+0.8 WAR)|
|Chad Green (+0.7 WAR)||Ken Giles, TOR (+0.7 WAR)|
|Zach Britton (+0.7 WAR)||Jose Alvarado, TB (+0.6 WAR)|
|Adam Ottavino (+0.5 WAR)||Ryne Stanek, TB (+0.6 WAR)|
|Luis Cessa (+0.2 WAR)||Mychal Givens, BAL (+0.3 WAR)|
|Jonathan Holder (+0.2 WAR)||Ryan Tepera, TOR (+0.3 WAR)|
|Tommy Kahnle (+0.2 WAR)||Tanner Scott, BAL (+0.3 WAR)|
|Total: +4.9 WAR||Total: +4.6 WAR|
I assumed Cessa and Kahnle will get the final two bullpen spots and, for the other AL East teams, all I did was pick the top eight relievers by projected WAR. (There are a bunch of dudes at +0.3 WAR. I just grabbed three.) According to Steamer, the Yankees have the two best and four of the seven best relievers in the division. Seems good.
Andrew asks: I have three questions related to draft pick the Yanks got for Gray. 1) ESPN says the pick is worth about 10 Million dollars. Do you agree? 2) Would the Yanks lose this pick if they signed Harper? It would be their 2nd highest pick. 3) If the Yanks lose the pick, would they also lose the slot money?
Let’s go one by one. 1) Right now the pick in the Sonny Gray trade sits at No. 36 overall. It could still move a little bit as the last few qualified free agents sign. Matt Murphy’s research a few years ago found the 36th pick is worth about $18.6M, which is quite a bit more than the ESPN number. That $18.6M seems awfully high to me, but who am I to argue? 2) Yes, the Gray pick is the pick they’d lose to sign Harper or any other qualified free agent. 3) Yes, they’d lose the slot money if they forfeit that pick to sign a free agent. That pick and the bonus money would just disappear if the Yankees sign a qualified free agent. It doesn’t go to the team that lost the free agent like the old days.
Matt asks: Aaron Judge is due to hit his 100th career HR at some point in the first half of ‘19. (Knock on wood for health) What players in history have reached the 100 home run plateau the fastest and where would Judge fall in line? (The halfway point of the season would bring Judge to 375 games played.)
Judge is sitting on 83 career home runs and he’s averaged one home run every 3.54 games in his career. At that pace he’d hit his 100th career home run in his 61st game this season, or the 345th game of his career. The Yankees will play their 61st game on June 4th this year, when Judge will be 27 years and 39 days old. I’m sure there will be off-days and hot streaks and cold streaks during those first 61 games, but that’s the ballpark number. Here are the quickest players to 100 career home runs:
|By Age||By Games|
|1. Mel Ott (22 years, 132 days)||1. Ryan Howard (325 games)|
|2. Tony Conigliaro (22 years, 197 days)||2. Ralph Kiner (385 games)|
|3. Eddie Mathews (22 years, 292 days)||3. Chuck Klein (390 games)|
|4. Alex Rodriguez (23 years, 16 days)||4. Bob Horner (390 games)|
|5. Johnny Bench (23 years, 161 days)||5. Mark McGwire (393 games)|
|6. Albert Pujols (23 years, 185 days)||6. Joe DiMaggio (395 games)|
|7. Hank Aaron (23 years, 191 days)||7. Eddie Mathews (397 games)|
|8. Ken Griffey Jr. (23 years, 206 days||8. Ryan Braun (400 games)|
|9. Frank Robinson (23 years, 230 days)||9. Giancarlo Stanton (400 games)|
Judge won’t make the youngest players list, obviously. He didn’t play his first full big league season until age 25. He has a very real chance to hit 100 homers in fewer games than anyone except Ryan Howard though. Can he hit 17 homers in 30 games to break Howard’s record? Probably not, but the fact it’s not completely impossible is pretty insane.
Andrew asks: When can the Yanks put Didi and Jordan Montgomery on the 60-Day, to open up a couple of 40-man spots? I would think the Yanks would want to put them on there as soon as they can.
I’m not sure about the exact date and it seems to move around each year. I think it might be the mandatory reporting date per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the day everyone has to be in camp. It’s sometime in late-February. (Teams set their individual reporting dates well in advance of the mandatory reporting date.) I know the disabled list day is early in Spring Training, before Cactus League and Grapefruit League games begin.
Two things to keep in mind about the 60-day DL. One, teams can only use it when they need a 40-man roster spot. Someone has to be added to the 40-man roster right away whenever the Yankees put Didi Gregorius or Jordan Montgomery on the 60-day DL. And two, the 60-day DL isn’t retroactive in Spring Training. Put a player on the 60-day DL at any point in the spring and he has to miss the first 60 days of the regular season. That’s something that has to be considered. If the Yankees think Gregorius could return in May, they might not 60-day DL him.