Happy Friday, everyone. The mailbag is back after a little hiatus. We have a bunch of good questions to answer this week. As always, please send your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com for a chance to be included in future editions. Without further ado, let’s jump in:
Bryan asks: Is Hoy Jun Park’s performance in Triple-A for real?
Sam asks: I understand there is some Luxury Tax weirdness that makes Odor appealing to the big club, but doesn’t Park just make a ton more sense than Odor? Does he seem like the kind of player who can ultimately rid us of Wade as a backup middle infielder?
Grouping these two questions since they both relate to Hoy Jun Park, who’s on a tear in Scranton.
First question: no, Park’s absurd .357/.496/.633 (198 wRC+) with 6 homers and equal 20.2 percent strikeout and walk rates in 129 plate appearances is most certainly not for real. I think that’s pretty obvious. But that also doesn’t mean he’s not a viable major league option!
Park’s been tabbed as a “realistic bench piece” as recently as this February, before this breakout. And the Yankees certainly had high hopes for Park when he signed as an IFA in 2014 for $1.1 million. Plus, before COVID-19, Park had come off a solid season with Double-A Trenton. Though he lacked power, the then 23-year old hit .272/.363/.370 (120 wRC+), walked a good amount (11.7%), didn’t strike out too much (18.7%), and stole 20 bases in 30 attempts. He posted a very similar line at High-A Tampa the year prior (122 wRC+). So, it’s not as if he’s never performed before 2021. It’s just never been eye-popping like this. He’s a legitimate prospect, albeit a fringy one without big upside.
Now, regarding Park vs. Odor. The Luxury Tax weirdness Sam is referring to is the fact that Odor is “free” for luxury tax purposes. The Yankees are paying him the minimum in raw dollars, but due to the structure of the trade with Texas, the Yankees’ luxury tax payroll is unaltered with Odor aboard. Sadly, that is a big part of his appeal to the Yankees. Odor has been mostly awful, save for a handful of big hits (including just two days ago). Yet, he somehow still has a 95 wRC+ (it was 78 two days ago and had been 51 for the month of June). Anyway, the fact that he saves ownership money and that he has power from the left side seemingly will keep him here all season. Especially if he continues to get big hits from time to time.
As for Wade: I don’t think Park will replace him either. At least, not this year. I know we’re not big fans of Wade at this here blog, but there’s no certainty that Park would come up here and be a better option. Things can always be worse. Next year is a different story, though. Wade will be arbitration eligible (barring a significant amount of time in the minors) for the first time this winter, and though he won’t get a huge raise, giving Park his role in 2022 will cut costs for the Yankees. So that’s certainly a possibility.
All that said, I think Park’s best bet make the show this year is an injury to an infielder. For instance, if Gio Urshela’s shin gets worse, I think we may actually see Park. The Yankees probably aren’t comfortable with Miguel Andújar at third base defensively. DJ LeMahieu could slide over there with Park at second.
Aaron Boone said today that Hoy Jun Park playing CF in AAA is a way to keep his versatility in play:— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) June 23, 2021
“That’s been in his toolbox for the last couple years, he has worked a little bit out there. So that’s part of his skill set. Obviously he’s doing very well down there…”
I know that the Yankees have tried him in center field in recent days, and that the skipper noted he’s worked out there before, but he’s actually never played a professional game there until this week. I’m really not so sure the Yankees would try him in the outfield in the majors this year. It certainly helps his case, but ultimately, I think he’s just the next infielder up in case of injury. Like it or not, Odor appears entrenched in the Bronx and there’s no guarantee Park is a boost over Wade.
Sam also asks: When will we start seeing Jasson Dominguez start playing some real professional games this season? Do you think the Yankees will move him relatively quickly given the lost season last year?
The GCL starts in just four days, and I expect we’ll see Dominguez then. I don’t expect the team moving him up the ladder quickly, though. What’s the rush? He’s still just 18 years-old. Let him get his bearings in rookie ball this season, and maybe next year the organization can be more aggressive if he forces the issue. For now, enjoy the Instagram highlights.
Jack asks: How concerned are you about how the removal of “sticky stuff” will impact Gerrit Cole’s performance short and long-term?
There’s no reason to be concerned at this time. There are things we should expect, like fewer whiffs on fastballs upstairs, but he’s not going to lose his status as an ace overnight. And for what it’s worth, he’s been fine in the two starts since he stopped using whatever foreign substances he preferred. The results certainly look good (2.40 ERA in 15 innings), though I also wouldn’t say he’s been dominant in terms of racking up strikeouts (just 10) and limiting home runs (3).
Now, it’s fool’s errand to make much of two starts — sticky stuff or not. But if you are worried, perhaps the following will put you at ease:
All this means is that there are multiple instances of Cole going two consecutive starts similar or worse whiff, strikeout, and walk rates. With foreign substances, of course. So again, no reason to fret about anything you saw in his last two starts. We need to see a larger body of work.
Moreover, I thought there were a couple of encouraging signs in his last two games. He’s made adjustments already knowing that his old spin rates have dissipated. In his start against Toronto, he went fastball-changeup heavy, including a number of fastballs down in the zone, which is a different look. This week against the Royals, he was fastball-slider dominant and virtually eschewed his changeup. His slider has remained absolutely filthy, by the way. He’s picked up 16 whiffs on 33 swings in his last two starts (48.5 percent).
Iron Mike asks: With a trade for a CF seeming inevitable, how do the Yanks address the roster crunch with Andújar and Frazier?
I’m not so sure this is actually a roster crunch, especially if Clint Frazier doesn’t turn things around soon. He and Andújar both have a minor league option remaining, so the Yankees can send them up-and-down as much as they like this year.
Of course, this assumes the decision would actually come down to removing one of those two from the 26-man roster. This sort of thing could always sort itself out thanks to an injury, you know. Or, maybe they’re both raking and the team decides to option Tyler Wade. They ran with Gio Urshela as the backup shortstop earlier this season, after all.
As for the 40-man roster: there’s actually an open spot right now. So, bringing in someone like Starling Marte wouldn’t force the Yankees to DFA someone. However, that’s only if the trade were to happen in short order, which seems doubtful. The Yankees have a few 60-day IL players (Corey Kluber, Clarke Schmidt and Luis Severino) who could return by the trade deadline and take up that open 40-man spot. I’m sure the Yankees would be fine with dumping someone like Nestor Cortes, Brooks Kriske, or even Wandy Peralta to make room, however.