clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Yankees Prospect Dilemma: Part 2

New, comments

We left off yesterday talking about prospects who were traded away. We'll start with prospects that were held onto today.

Phil Hughes, RHP

Rated the best pitching prospect in baseball entering 2007, he has pretty much equaled expectations. He was the main name brought up in trade talks for Johan Santana following the '08 season. It seemed like the 'Tampa Contingent' wanted to part with him while Cashman did not.

Hughes was the Yankees' best set-up man in 2009 and has become the third best starter, only fronted by two potential Hall of Famers.

Verdict: keeping him was correct.

Joba Chamberlain, RHP

Skyrocketed through the system in 2007 and threw 24 innings of one-run ball to cement his place in many fans' minds as Mo's successor. Joba was thought more highly of than even Hughes and was taken 'off the table' in talks for Johan Santana before the '08 season. It wouldn't have taken much more than him even to acquire Roy Halladay. Unfortunately, he's taken a step back in every successive year. Should he have been traded when his value was higher? Were the Yankees right to have kept him? At the very least, he has the ceiling of a superstar, unlike other prospects such as Ian Kennedy or Melky Cabrera.

Verdict: jury's still out.

Brett Gardner, OF

Compared to Hughes and Joba, GGBG was never considered a major part of the Yankees' future plans. Fate has taken a hand and he is now one of the most valuable players on the club (second in OBP, first in steals, excellent defense). It was really trust in him that led Cashman to feel comfortable trading Melky, even though a number of teams asked for Gardner, and it's worked out great so far.

Verdict: keeping him was correct.

Brian Cashman has been pretty dead-on knowing when to keep prospects. Only a few trades, like Mike Lowell and maybe Ted Lilly can we definitely say were wrong in hindsight. The following list of current prospects range from solid to potential superstars, and will give Cashman some late nights deciding their futures.

Eduardo Nunez (23, SS, Triple-A) was just called the best defensive shortstop in the International League and credited with the best infield arm. His defense has improved wildly since last year when he made 30 errors. He can hit for average somewhat (.274 career, .288 this year) and steal bases (113 career, 23 this year), but doesn't draw walks or hit for much power. He'll never hit as much as Derek Jeter, but his defense may make up for it, especially if 2010 is the beginning of Jeter's decline. He's good enough to play SS for a bunch of ML teams right now, and reportedly is asked for consistently in trades. The Yankees think he's good enough to be an everyday player (which is why he's in Scranton playing everyday rather than getting a few AB a week as the Yankees' utitliy infielder). With Jeter almost a certainty to re-sign next year, what should be done with Nunez? Remember, prospects don't age like wine - once they pass their mid-20's, they start to lose value. Should they trade him in the off-season, use him as the 2011 UIF, start him in '11 over Jeter, or keep him in Triple-A in case he's needed? He'll be 24, so it's getting to that time when they'll have to decide on a course of action.

Trading him in the off-season would probably be cashing in at his highest value (assuming he doesn't become an All-Star), but he strikes me as potentially Ajax 2.0. His triple slash is very close to Jackson's last year, while his baserunning and defense are plus tools (just like A-Jax), only that Jackson is a bit younger and has a better track record.

Keeping him in Triple-A could help the most because it gives far more insurance for a serious injury to A-Rod, Jeter or Cano. Nunez is the most ready to step in, and he is the organization's best shortstop prospect (not counting Cito Culver who was drafted only in June). It's nice to have the insurance, but a 24-year old in his second go-round in Triple-A won't excite trade partners.

If the Yankees somehow didn't re-sign Jeter (it would never happen - he'll be the first Yankee to reach 3000 hits, which is worth its weight in gold in publicity), Nunez would immediately step in and play superior defense. Let's face it, D is not why Jeter's going to the Hall of Fame. He's never been a great fielder at a position where defense is the primary responsibility. He's been an above-average SS in three of 16 seasons, costing the Yankees an average of 8 runs a year. If Nunez could hit around .270/.320/.370, and play great D, his contributions would be roughly equivalent to Jeter's this year, and at a fraction of the price. Of course, there's a chance DJ will bounce back in 2011... but there's also a chance he continues slipping, and then the Yankees are stuck with a 37-year old SS signed to a multi-year deal.

- Several others prospects are blocked as well. Brandon Laird (22, 3B, Triple-A) is having a breakout season (.289/.350/.513), but there's a future Hall of Famer manning third for the next seven years. Should he be traded this offseason when his value will likely be at its highest?

- What about all the catchers? Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, JR Murphy and Gary Sanchez give the Yankees the most stocked catching system in baseball. They'll keep Montero if they think he can legitimately stick at catcher or A-Rod can passably play thirdbase for the rest of his contract. Those are two big 'ifs' though. If Montero doesn't start 2011 with the Yankees, and Romine is promoted (as he should/will be), it will stunt the growth of both players.

- David Adams (23, Double-A) and Corban Joseph (21, Double-A) are two promising second-basemen. Unfortunately, Adams (.900 OPS in 39 games) broke his foot so he'll have a second go-round in Trenton next year. Joseph was the MVP of the Tampa Yankees before a promotion a couple weeks ago. Either way, they're both blocked by 27-year old Robinson Cano.

- 23-year old Ivan Nova leads the Scranton Yankees in wins (11), innings (138) and strikeouts (108). For a pitcher who reaches the mid-90s, his peripheral stats don't really pop-out: 1.26 WHIP, 7 K/9, 3 BB/9, .7 HR/9. What's to be done with him? Another season at Triple-A will diminish his value, as would a move to the bullpen.

- Juan Miranda could've been a good first-baseman on some ML ballclubs, but he's stuck behind some guy named Mark Teixeira, who's signed through 2016. He'll be 28 in 2011, entering his fourth year in Triple-A, and won't entice many other clubs. His value peaked sometime around '08-'09. Now he's kept around as insurance for Tex.

So... what should be done with them?

I'll give my opinion, then I want to hear yours.

Nunez - I'm really torn on this one. On one hand, I'd love to see a slick-fielding SS getting to play everyday at the league minimum. The money saved on Nunez vs. Jeter could be used to acquire someone like Lee or Crawford. On the other hand, Jeter may very well bounce back next season and make 2010 look like an aberration. It's not his BA that concerns me though; it's his OBP and SLG, which are both at career lows.

Laird - keep him around, at least through next year. A-Rod looks more injury prone by the day, and it would be great to give Laird a full year at Triple-A. If A-Rod went down for an extended period, which doesn't look far-fetched nowadays, Laid would be a great, cheap option.

The catchers - Montero starts 2011 with the Yankees as the DH/BUC. He catches about three times a week with the veteran starters that know exactly what they're doing (Sabathia, Pettitte, Lee?), while Posada can help the young'ns and head-cases like Hughes and Burnett. Romine plays the year at Triple-A and starts 2012 with the Yankees as the primary catcher (as Posada's contract has run out). I'll worry about Murphy and Sanchez when they force me too - Murphy's in Low-A, Sanchez is in the GCL. They're both at least three years away.

Adams and Joseph - probably one of them should be traded. There's really no need for a 2B anytime in the near future for the Yankees. It's good to have one for insurance, but why two? Might as well get something more needed via a trade.

Nova - if the Yanks need a fifth starter in ST, give Nova a serious look. If not (the more likely scenario), he should go to the bullpen after about a month in Scranton, getting used to coming in mid-inning with runners on base, etc. His peripherals as a starter are far from mind-blowing and he could potentially help the big club immensely in the pen (where his mid 90's FB could reach the high 90's).

Miranda - unfortunately, it's too late for him to bring back much of value in return. They might as well keep him in Triple-A as insurance for Tex, as there's no other good 1B prospects in the high minors.