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Ask Pinstripe Alley 3/21/17: Dellin Betances, Billy McKinney, and the starting lineup

More answers from last week’s Ask PSA.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

Last week, we put out a call for questions in our Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag. We received plenty of responses and tried to answer all of them, but there were still some questions left unanswered. Today we have more answers for you.

Kristian Quackenbush asked: If the Yankees decide to sell at the deadline again and Dellin Betances is having another Betancesesque season, do you think they would trade him? If so, what do you think they could get for him?

I don’t believe the Yankees would trade Dellin Betances at the deadline, considering he is so good and still so cheap. At the same time, they just had a very public dispute with him over money where the president of the team trashed him in the media. In my opinion, it would be short-sighted to trade him right now, considering this team isn’t in a full rebuild, only a partial one. They still need some good players to maintain a certain level of respectability, especially with the team’s entire rotation expected to leave in free agency next offseason.

If they were to put Dellin on the trading block, you can expect them to get a good haul in return. Despite being relegated to the role of setup man, Betances is better than most closers are right now. When you consider his ability to strike a ton of people out and pitch multiple innings, he becomes incredibly valuable for a team looking to extend the backend of their bullpen. You can definitely use the Andrew Miller trade as a baseline for him.

Unfortunately, because most MLB teams still value counting stats too much and are married to antiquated reliever roles, Dellin doesn’t have the numbers to “prove” he’s an elite player. Since he’s spent most of his career as a setup man, the return won’t be as high because teams will use his lack of saves against him. If Miller got the Yankees Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen, expect Dellin to net less than that. Maybe one elite talent with a good prospect and a reliever? The same process the Yankees are using to suppress Dellin’s paycheck is the same thing that is suppressing his value on the open market.

AJSMind asked: There was a lot of speculation whether Billy McKinney was even a prospect anymore or just another faltering former prospect. With the type of spring he has had, where does he now factor into Yankee plans for the future? Also, in the second half of ST, could we see him getting some reps against MLB pitching instead of coming in during the late innings against the other teams AAA pitchers to get a better feel for where he is actually at?

Billy McKinney is a complicated prospect to evaluate at this particular time. His problem is that he’s kind of an in-betweener with very little hope of turning things around. He has always had an excellent hit tool, which led to him being the 24th overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, but everything else about him is in question. The power output is just not there and may never manifest, and he’s not athletic enough to make up for it in the field. He’s a right fielder with no arm, no power, and no glove.

That being said, he has impressed with nine hits in 17 games this spring when he wasn’t even expected to be in big league camp to begin with. He’s also showing some power output with two doubles and three home runs. It’s hard to say that spring training performances mean something, but this really can’t be flat out dismissed. McKinney fractured his knee in 2015 and it’s believed that he hasn’t fully recovered from the injury yet. He’ll be in Double-A at the age of 22, but as a high school pick he’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next winter. If he’s finally healthy again, the Yankees need to take a long look at him and evaluate what they have and what he is capable of becoming.

Don’t expect McKinney to get much more playing time than he is getting now. The later into spring it gets, the more regulars play to get ready for the season. He isn’t on the 40-man roster and not expected to be much of a factor right now. McKinney has certainly been one of the winners of the spring, though, so keep an eye on him going forward.

Turn2intampa asked: The Yanks have a problem with Gardner and Ellsbury both being left handed batters and batting one-two. Putting Sanchez batting second slows down the batting order with Bird, Sanchez, Holliday and Carter being slow runners. What we need is a true number two, someone who can work the count and bat right-handed. Is their any solution to this issue besides a trade?

The Yankees certainly do have an issue when it comes to the top of their batting order. Neither Brett Gardner nor Jacoby Ellsbury are an ideal solution in the leadoff spot at this point in their respective careers. Neither are going to steal as much as they should or hit for power, but I personally would prefer Gardner in the role. I trust his ability to get on base more often, and you know he’s going to see a lot more pitches each at-bat.

If Joe Girardi plans to separate Gardner and Ellsbury, the latter should be batting seventh in the lineup because he’s really not that good anymore. However, since the team doesn’t have much in the way of speedy, high-OBP players, it won’t be as easy finding his replacement.

The Yankees don’t actually need another right-handed hitter in 2017. The starting lineup will include Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro, Gary Sanchez, and likely Aaron Judge. Then there is switch-hitters Chase Headley and Aaron Hicks (who is mostly a righty). The bench will have Chris Carter, Ronald Torreyes, and Austin Romine. I know conventional wisdom calls to split the first two players in the lineup, but I’d rather have the better player in there over the “right” handedness.

It’s obvious the Yankees won’t have a replacement that they will feel confident in over Jacoby Ellsbury. They will be far more concerned with the middle of the order this year. Gary Sanchez, Matt Holliday, Chris Carter, and Greg Bird will all be in the conversation, but they won’t be able to play them all in the same game. My guess is this will take priority and Ellsbury will be staying where he has been.

Looking to the minor leagues, Gleyber Torres might be the perfect candidate for hitting in the two hole. He has shown a propensity to get on base, he can steal bases, and there is evidence that his power is improving as he continues to mature. It’s just a matter of how long it might take for him to get up there, since he still hasn’t played above A-ball.