Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees won a series but couldn’t complete a sweep. Shocking, right? Still, I’m choosing to be positive. They needed to win that series and they did. That’s a good start. Now they’re on to Houston.
Before that, though, let’s answer some mailbag questions. As always, send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll answer our favorites each Friday.
Iron Mike Asks: Locastro is obviously the shiny new toy, but could he actually provide better value than Gardner at this point?
This is a tougher question to answer than you’d initially think. Gardner is having what is obviously his worst season as a professional in 2021, batting just .189/.306/.300 (74 wRC+). His patience is still there – he has a 92nd percentile walk rate and 97th percentile chase rate – but the overall quality of contact and power are not. It’s definitely a big concern, even if his defense and speed are still above-average.
On the other hand, Gardner has been better lately. He’s been horrible in July, but he did hit .226/.394/.491 (142 wRC+) in about 70 plate appearances in June. That, as they say, will do. And, as one of Brett Gardner’s biggest fans, I’ve always said that there’s no use counting him out until he’s completely shown he deserves to be counted out.
That said, it’s also obvious why Locastro is the shiny new toy. He is so, so fast. That was on display this week in Seattle, when he turned a routine single into a double. Make no mistake: Locastro is one of the fastest players in baseball. In fact, his sprint speed – 30.7 feet per second – is the second-fastest in the league this year. And that’s true year over year. He is also a very proficient base stealer, stealing 31 bases while only being caught 3 times in his pro career. All 3 of those times were this year, by the way.
This is an important skill, and it’s one that the Yankees don’t really have on their roster. It makes sense why he’s on the team. That said, it’s hard to utilize those skills if you can’t get on base. Locastro is a .235/.338/.327 (85 wRC+) lifetime hitter, which would do the trick, but he’s not performing like that this year. He is hitting just .186/.274/.240 (48 wRC+) in 2021.
This is all a long way of saying that Locastro can be more valuable to the 2021 Yankees if he returns to that normal, slightly-below league-average offensive production he had prior to 2021. His speed is that good. And, of course, he can be a useful pinch-runner if the Yanks ever get to the postseason. Until we see that, though, I’m not so sure.
Richard Asks: Which Yankee prospects are Rule 5 eligible this year, and which ones do you think will be protected?
There are quite a few. This is an interesting question mostly because the Yanks have not really done a good job of protecting the fringes of the 40-man roster lately. We’ve all heard this repeatedly lately with the success of Garrett Whitlock in Boston. Not breaking any new ground here. This year will be especially challenging too, I think. Here is a list of some notable players who are Rule 5 eligible at the conclusion of the season:
- Previously Rule 5 Eligible: Janson Junk, Glenn Otto, Oswaldo Cabrera, Diego Castillo, Trey Amburgey, Hoy-Jun Park
- Rule 5 Eligible for the First Time: Matt Sauer, Josh Breaux, Ezequiel Duran, Matt Sauer, Everson Pereira
Given that it’s 2021, nearly all of those guys are having good-to-great seasons. These are going to be tough decisions to make. Most of the first-time eligible players are a bit far away – Pereira especially – and I think it’s a bit too early to predict which, if any, of those will get protected.
The first list is pretty interesting, particularly Castillo, Amburgey, and Park. These guys have all been very good in 2021 – we’ve heard clamoring to get both Amburgey and Park to the bigs – but either: A) don’t seem to be good fits, or B) the Yankees don’t seem to like them much. It will be interesting to see what they do with them. What this suggests to me is that the Yankees will need to consider making some trades in the coming weeks, or right after the season ends, to clear this logjam. Once that happens, or if it doesn’t, it will be much easier to make predictions on this.
James Asks: Let’s assume that the Yankees have decided that one of the pitchers at the top of this draft could be in the majors quickly and become a 10+ year mainstay in the rotation and that pick trading is possible. The front office fully supports trading up to the number one pick. If it was up to you, what would you offer in the attempt to move up from 20 to 1?
Oof. This is a really tough question and not one I’m sure I can answer…but why the hell not. It’s a fun one! It’s probably something that looks like this:
- Yankees Send: #20 pick, 2021 second round pick, & Deivi Garcia
- Yankees Get: 2021 #1 pick
That feels like a lot, right? But I’m not so sure that it is. The question implies that the Yankees feel either Rocker or Leiter are going to quickly become a 10-year mainstay in the rotation. That’s about as valuable a piece as you can possibly acquire in baseball. It also feels somewhat realistic, because the question does not imply that the other team feels the same about the pitcher. This is not a Stephen Strasburg situation, in other words. This is the Yankees jumping on a player they really, really believe in.
The draft collateral is a given. So let’s talk about Deivi for a second. He’s in Triple-A now – and he’s only 22, so he’s one of the youngest at that level – and clearly has some development to go. You’re selling a little low on him, sure, but the other team is getting a young, cost-controlled arm with high upside and MLB experience. It could work.
Not to mention, it’s a fair swap in terms of age. Deivi is 22. Kumar Rocker is 21, and so is Jack Leiter. I’m not sure if this is a fair deal, or if it’s completely laughable. But it feels like a reasonable starting point in fairly uncharted waters.
Sam Asks: If the Yankees miss the playoffs, is this the most disappointing Yankees season in my lifetime (I was born in 1991)? What if they are eliminated in the Wild Card round?
To answer both of these in one word: yes. Absolutely. It’s not even really a question. It’s also very possible! Look at this:
That is not pretty. The Yankees are most likely not going to make the playoffs right now. Given the expectations, it’s pretty clearly the worst season in recent memory. I thought they were going to win the World Series, and now they’re clawing with the Mariners for the second Wild Card slot. It is impossible to consider that anything other than a massive, massive disappointment.
And, if they lost in the Wild Card Round, their last three seasons would look like this:
- 2019: Lost in Game 6 of ALCS
- 2020: Lost in Game 5 of ALDS
- 2021: Lost in Wild Card
That’s not what you want! Placed in that context, I don’t think it’s even close. The only seasons that are even in the discussion would be 1997, 2002, and 2016. But even those pale in comparison to this season. The Yankees will need to go on a serious run to salvage it, and they can’t lose in the Wild Card round. They can’t go backwards. There’s still time, but it’s definitely getting late.