Category: Mailbag Page 1 of 9

Mailbag: Shortened Season, MiLB Treatment, Best NYY Athlete, Finances

Yesterday should have been Opening Day. Instead, it was the first day the baseball shutdown really hit me. There’s just something about Opening Day that’s special and I felt really empty without it. I love to watch Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS – I’ll watch that bad boy every time it’s on – but it’s not the same. It just isn’t. Oh well.

On to today’s mailbag, I guess. It’s the best we can do! There are four good questions today. As always, please feel free to reach out to us by email at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com with your questions. We answer our favorites each week.

Joseph Asks: Does a shortened season World Series victory mean as much in the history of the sport as a regular-length season World Series victory?

Photo by Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

We covered this on this week’s podcast, but I wanted to touch on it again here because it’s been an ongoing discussion in baseball-land these days. This seems to have all started when Mariano Rivera got his best Goose Gossage on, saying that a 60-game regular season wouldn’t produce a “real” champion because that isn’t long enough for a baseball season. I understand this sentiment – the marathon season is one of baseball’s distinguishing characteristics – but I don’t agree with it.

To me, a “real” baseball season is any season in which baseball is played. I don’t care about anything else. We collectively spend too much time worrying about things like this. These are sports. They’re basically all fake anyway and just exist to entertain us. This is all to say that if the Yankees win the World Series in 2020, if a season even happens, I will lose my damn mind with joy. I don’t care how it happens, just bring me number 28.

To really drive this point home, I want to bring up a historic example. I’m sure every reader here remembers the 1918 World Series. That Fall Classic is seared in baseball’s collective memory, especially for Yankee and Red Sox fans. (At least it used to be.) Obviously, the Red Sox won the World Series in 1918, traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees after it, and did not win again for 86 years. Did you know that Major League Baseball shortened that season due to the First World War? Do you think that stripped any meaning from the title? Reader, I posit to you that it did not. (Yes, I know they still played 140 games, but still. The point holds. It didn’t even come up as a taunt by Yankee fans.)

Jamie Asks: The Yankees are one of the richest sports clubs in the world. Does anyone know if they’re taking care of their minor Leaguers during these troubling times? (I mean from a salary standpoint. I know they’re delivering food to the quarantined kids.)

This is a bit of a complicated question, so let’s start with the basics. Last week, Major League Baseball announced that teams would support MiLB players with a “level of uniform compensation” in a lump sum. The total is equivalent to what the players would have earned through April 8, which comes to $400 a week ($57 per day). It doesn’t apply to players who are receiving housing, food, or other services from their teams, which is unfortunate. The full release is here:

The Yankees are a unique case because two players in their system tested positive for COVID-19. Of course, that meant that players were quarantined for two weeks per the CDC’s recommendation. The Yankees, to their credit, provided a lot of support to those players (who I imagine represented a sizable portion of the system).

Per James Wagner’s reporting in The New York Times, the Yanks hired a local catering company which prepared three meals a day for each player. (They’d drive to a team hotel to pick up their meals.) The team also increased the daily meal stipend from the usual $25 to $75 for the mental burden of the quarantine. It was a good gesture from the Yankees and it should not go unnoticed. Now that the quarantine is over, qualified players will receive the $400 a week like everyone else.

I’m on record here as saying that I don’t think this shutdown is going to be over anytime soon, let alone by April 9. Let’s all hope that the teams take this decent first step even further and provide even more support for MiLB players, who often live paycheck-to-paycheck as it is. (I’ll have more thoughts on this later when I write something up about last night’s new agreement between MLB and MLBPA.)

George Asks: Getting cabin fever, so here’s an off the field  ( or off the wall) question. Who was the Yankee who was the best overall athlete?  Dave Winfield comes to mind. 

This is a tough question but a fun one. Winfield fits the bill to me from everything I’ve read about him, but I never saw him play. So those are going to be my rules: if I didn’t see a player play, he doesn’t count for me. That leaves mostly players from the mid-90s onward, where there are still a ton of options.

Alex Rodriguez comes to mind first. Obviously one of the most talented players in baseball history, A-Rod was also a superstar quarterback in high school. He was so good that Miami University offered him a scholarship to play quarterback. Here’s what Miami’s head of recruitment told Ken Rosenthal: “He had size, he had speed, he had smarts. They were recruiting him for baseball, but we were recruiting him for football, too.” Not bad!

Another option is also obvious: Mariano Rivera. Teammates often referred to him as an incredibly understated athlete and he was a fixture in center field during batting practice. (I’m sure we all remember his devastating 2012 injury.) Rivera even wanted to play center field in a game before retiring. I think he’s certainly a contender for this unofficial crown.

I’m not sure the answer, really, since baseball doesn’t highlight athleticism in the same way that, say, basketball does. I imagine that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, for example, would come across much differently in a different sport. So, while this is a bit of a cop out, it’s a fun question. All that really matters is that they’re all much better athletes than you and I are. That’s for sure.

Brian Asks: There is some evidence that the Marlins are run on a shoestring budget (apparently they have looked for additional funding, slashing payroll, etc.).  Do you have any reason to think that a prolonged shutdown could systemically endanger their ability to operate?

Rumors about the Marlins have been going around since the new ownership group, which includes Derek Jeter, purchased the team back in 2017. As Jon Tayler noted at Sports Illustrated, Miami missed out on the regional sports network bonanza that floods the game with cash. Barely anyone goes to the games, so they’re not making that up at the gate. These issues are compounded by the fact that the ownership group is either unwilling or unable to fund a competitive payroll.

When the Miami Herald reported that the team was planning to strip payroll after the 2017 season, which it then did by selling off Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, ownership was on record as saying that it had “little liquid capital” to put into payroll. Worse, MLB knew this before approving the sale.

The group sought additional investment just months after purchasing the team, after all, and there was a legal dispute with Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and the Marlins over profit-sharing from the sale of the team. (That’s because off clever offshore registration.) You could make a compelling argument that the league should never have approved this deal in the first place. For what it’s worth, the team did recently commit $1 million to help support ballpark workers during the shutdown.

As for what the shutdown will do to the ownership group, I could not even fathom a guess. I’d hope that the team’s finances are stable enough to withstand this, but who knows? Certainly not me. It’s worth watching though, for sure.


Mailbag: Shutdown Impact on Free Agency, Labor Strife, CBT Impact

Please come back soon.

Sigh. We are about one week into post-COVID America and it’s starting to really hit me how much it sucks baseball isn’t coming. In normal America, Gerrit Cole would be preparing to take the hill against the Orioles this Thursday. It sucks that this is not happening! To hold us over, check out the highlights from last year:

It feels like a century ago, doesn’t it? Oh well. What can we do. This is the right move for a host of reasons – as much as it pains me to say, there are more important things out there than the Yankees! – but I’m still going to whine about it. Next week we’ll have more content up on the site now that this is becoming the new normal. Took some time to adjust.

In the meantime…mailbag! Three good questions in today’s post. As always, please reach out to us at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com with your questions, as we’ll continue to answer them amid all this craziness.

Manuel Asks: The last work stoppage in the MLB was almost 25 years ago, and the free agent landscape was a very different world back then. How could this year’s stoppage in play (either partial or complete) impact free agency? Like, Mookie and Kluber will still get paid…that’s easy. But what about guys who were playing for a their life this season?  Also, how about contract year Yankees? DJ jumps to mind…

Delayed free agency? Say it ain’t so!

This is a real problem and it is not one that will be easily solved. Let’s start with the basics. This is a basic question of service time, which is how free agency eligibility is determined. A player reaches free agency after accruing 6 years of service time, with a year being 172 days of service time. As you can imagine, this is a thorny issue amid the shutdown – and it is one that will likely be a fierce battle between the union and management.

In fact, it already is: a report earlier this week from Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic (subs req’d) revealed that service time is ” most contentious of the issues under discussion.” This all seems right to me. The union, as it should, will be pushing for a relaxation of these rules – especially in the event of a complete cancellation of the season. Management will resist this, as it should.

Let’s travel across the coast for an easy thought experiment to see why this is such an issue. When the Dodgers traded for Mookie Betts, they did so under the assumption that he would actually play for them. That’s obvious! But say the season doesn’t happen and service time is accrued anyway. Betts will reach free agency without ever stepping between the lines for the Dodgers, who gave up a package to acquire him. Unfair to the Dodgers, of course. So what happens if he has to stay another year? That’s unfair to Betts, too, who wants to cash in on his huge payday that he has earned over the last several years.

It’s a thorny situation to say the least. It will not be easily resolved. For the Yankees, DJ is the obvious person, but it also impacts Paxton and even Judge. The big fella is already hitting free agency late in his career, remember. This could make it even later. This outbreak will have downstream impacts for years to come. It is going to be fascinating to see how it all gets handled.

Dan Asks: Do you think that games being missed due to the coronavirus situations lessens the chances of a strike or lock out after the CBA expires?  Which side is more likely to move due to the huge missed revenue in 2020?

Unfortunately, I don’t. As I highlighted above, this outbreak is exposing pre-existing fault lines, much like it is across our political, medical, and economic systems. We’ve all known for some time now that service time is a contentious issue. Now, though, it’s really at the forefront of everyone’s minds. We could go on and on. Both sides are going to want to get theirs and that makes sense. That’s how these things go.

The lost revenue will further entrench both sides into their positions. At least for the time being. Teams are not paying players in the shutdown, remember, thanks to the national emergency declaration. Players are not poor by any means, of course, but no salary is no salary. They’ll be feeling the squeeze and will likely be more motivated than ever to right the economic ship in baseball.

Teams, too, will feel the hit. I know the teams are all fabulously wealthy and all but there’s no use pretending this won’t be a massive, massive financial blow. They, too, will be motivated to get things back working in their favor. See the problem? (It’s also worth pointing out that ownership is significantly wealthier than the players. The owners are better positioned to handle future labor strife, so even this favors the owners.)

On the other hand…there is more time to work this stuff out now. Maybe the shutdown will help get some of these issues across the finish line before the CBA expires. I am doubtful, though. But who knows? I really want to be wrong here and very well might be. All I know is that from my vantage point, there are serious pre-existing issues here and this new wrinkle exacerbates them all. Fun times to be a baseball fan.

Asher Asks: In reading about the new NFL CBA, my understanding is that benefits don’t factor into the salary cap. Why does MLB factor them in? It seems to limit teams’ spending when trying to avoid the luxury tax.

My last few answers are wordy, so I’m going to keep this one short. You’re right, Asher. The reason is to limit teams spending. Remember what I said about a ton of pre-existing issues?

Let’s end on a happier note, though. Here is a fun video:

Mailbag: Season Delay, Happ’s Vesting Contract, Gleyber’s Defense, New Rules

Come back soon, baseball. (Via Bryan Hoch)

Happy Friday, everyone. Or, maybe not so much. Day 1 of the post-sports reality is going to be interesting to say the least. There’s a lot to unpack about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the baseball world, and I’m sure we’re all collectively working through our thoughts about all of this. I know I am. It’s weird and it puts this site in a bit of a bizarre place, but we’re going to keep plugging ahead. Season previews, thoughts, updates on the ever-changing reality, the like. It will keep some sense of normalcy and hopefully serve as a good distraction (As an aside, the podcast is TBD – it probably does not make sense for us to travel to the studio to record Monday night, but we’ll announce something either way).

To that end, we’re doing a mailbag this week and each week going forward. We’ve got four good questions today. As always, send your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We’ll answer our favorites each week.

Chris Asks: What teams benefit the most the most and least from the delayed season start? My thoughts: With less strain on the bullpen and a higher percentage of games played by Paxton, Hicks, Stanton, and Judge now, it has to be the Yankees, right? I would think the 2nd and 3rd best teams in each division would also benefit a lot – with a smaller sample size of games, there should be more variation.

I have to be honest: the impact on the Yankees’ health was the first baseball-related thought I had about all of this. It’s pretty clear that, when considering only the on-field impact, this is a huge boon to the Yankees. That would be true even if this was only a two week delay. (That’s the plan right now.) I think we should all accept a dose of cold hard reality, though: this is going to be much longer than two weeks. We should not expect to see Major League Baseball until May at the earliest, in my opinion. Maybe even June. That is just how things are trending right now, although it’s an obviously fluid situation.

So, with that in mind, that’s good news for Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton, and Aaron Hicks. They were slated to return in April, May, and June, respectively. I think they should all be healthy – or close to it, barring setbacks – right around the time games get going again, in the best-case scenario. (As for Judge, let’s just hope he doesn’t exacerbate his injury since the guy doesn’t know how to take it easy for one day, apparently.) A fully-healthy Yankees roster is the best in the league, in my opinion, and this should make that a more likely possibility come Opening Day. That’s good news (I guess).

There are other downstream impacts, too. The higher rate of variance in the shortened season is a real one. It benefits the Astros in a meaningful way, I think. Do we really think fans are going to care about the sign-stealing stuff in a few months? I think it’s possible that the fervor has died down and people will want to just get back to normal. Then again, maybe fans will redouble their efforts when games come back, to get to normal? This is really uncharted territory. Nobody knows what is going to happen or when.

Iron Mike Asks: Lets say the season gets shortened to 130 games. How do you think this would affect vesting contracts? For example Happ needs to pitch something like 165 innings (don’t quote me on that number) this season in order for his 2021 contract to be activated?

Second confession: I also thought about this almost immediately. Happ’s contract vests for 2021 in one of two ways: 1) he throws 165 innings or 2) he makes 27 starts. Neither of those outcomes feels very likely right now. They did feel likely a few days ago. If he reaches either of those milestones, he will be back in pinstripes for 2021.

I really have no idea what the hell to make of this. I’m not an expert in contract law. I do wonder if his agent would try to renegotiate the terms of the vest once we hear more about the plans for the season. That’s what I would do. There may even be some clauses in there for catastrophes or other unforeseen events. Again, though, I have absolutely no idea. I can’t wait to hear more about this once things get back to normal, because I do think this is an interesting baseball implication.

Rafi Asks: I know that spring training stats are meaningless, but at what point should we worry about Gleyber’s error total (5 errors through 10 games so far)? Haven’t been watching the games, so not sure if he’s been making routine plays etc.; worth a deep dive/analysis?

No, not yet. I wrote about this the other day in a thoughts post, but I don’t think we’re there yet. I don’t feel good about it by any means. But we don’t have enough information yet. All I’m going off is tweets, and we all know how reliable that can be. (Not very reliable.) Only a few of these errors have been in televised games. That really matters! Seeing the errors, obviously, allows us to determine what kind of errors they are and how worried we should be.

Anyway, here is one of those tweets:

Those seem bad? I don’t know. Gleyber has a penchant for making mistakes defensively, even on otherwise routine plays. It’s been that way since he was a rookie. I always make excuses – he’s a rookie, it’s a new position, etc. – but maybe time is running out? For what it’s worth, as I noted the other day, the advanced stats rate him a better shortstop than second baseman. I think that’s true, too. I’m not worried but we should all be monitoring this again, as soon as we can. I’m sure the Yankees are.

Bob Asks: I was thinking about the new rule regarding having a relief pitcher face at least three batters which, as I understand it, is a pace-of-play thing. However, it seems that if a pitcher comes in and has an off-day (or night) there is the potential for a big inning, which then could lead to a longer game, defeating the purpose of the rule. Or is the rule just designed to reduce trips to the mound and game length is not a factor?

It’s all about pace-of-play. That’s what Rob Manfred is all about these days: making baseball games end faster. I don’t get it, but maybe I’m just in the .001% of baseball fans? I actually like the sport, after all. It’s true that this plan is dumb and poorly thought out. I don’t think a player getting smacked around changes much though. It’s only three batters. It should not add that much time. (As for the mound visits, they should have handled sign-stealing better. That was definitely why teams were visiting the mound so much.)

I gotta say, though, I just wish there were baseball games on. Who cares if they take 4 hours? It was the right decision to suspend the league for now. It really was and I think it’s foolish to pretend otherwise. But even a 4 hour game is better than no game. Even baseball fans who have whined about pace of play for the last decade would surely agree with that.

Mailbag: Mike Tauchman, Aaron Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mound Changes

Happy Friday! It’s almost starting to feel like spring in New York City. I really start feeling the baseball itch when that happens. It’s almost time to bundle up and head over to 161st and River. Almost. For now we get to watch the Yanks enjoy the warm weather in Tampa. It’s better than nothing at least. And we also got this incredible tweet:

Amazing. Anyway, there are four questions in today’s mailbag. As always, please send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We choose our favorites each week and answer them in this slot on Fridays.

Patrick Asks: There has been virtually no talk about Tauchman this spring. I see he has played (in the stats) but no mention here or any broadcast I’ve seen. What’s up with him?

Mr. Underrated himself.

This is true! It does feel like nobody is talking about Mike Tauchman these days, which is especially weird: the guy figures to be a major part of the Yankee outfield configuration come Opening Day. The injuries to Stanton and Judge make it almost a certainty. It was probably a certainty anyway, but he will now likely be in the Opening Day lineup in right or left field. What a world.

This spring, Tauchman has played in five games with a .091/.313/.091 slash line in 11 at-bats. That probably explains why we haven’t heard much about him. Spring Training stats are of course meaningless, but you do tend to hear about guys when they’re hitting .500 even in a limited sample. Cough, Rosell Herrera, cough. The combination of his relative struggles and his guaranteed spot on the roster explain the silence in my opinion.

On another note, I’m really curious to see what he does in 2020. Tauchman was a real surprise in 2019. He hit .277/.361/.504 (128 wRC+) in almost 300 at-bats, for crying out loud. He also played great defense. The underlying peripherals were mostly there, too. It was weird and unexpected. On the other hand, the Yanks are great at identifying these types, so who knows? Maybe it’s not weird at all!

I’m convinced he’s an ideal fourth outfielder type – great defense, speed, and the ability to hit a bit – but it’s a possibility he’s more than that. Luke Voit certainly was! It’ll take more than 300 at-bats to know for sure, though.

Peter Asks: I love Aaron Judge and believe he’s one of the absolute best players in the game.  He’s a leader in the clubhouse, seems like a great guy, and handles the media well, while not being at the Jeter boring level. Anyway, my concern is his inability to stay healthy. So, my question to you is….should the Yankees just hold out on signing Judge and just let him play through until Free Agency?  Or should they sign him long term and roll the dice on his non prime years, where his durability will likely be much worse rather than better (and knowing many other “fragile” players will have to play DH/1st Base).

Come back soon, Aaron.

We’ve covered this a bit already, so I’ll keep this brief. There are two ways to look at this: from our perspective as fan’s and from a rational front office point-of-view. Which perspective we choose to take matters a lot. Let’s go through both of them quickly.

From the fans’ perspective, who cares if he gets hurt a lot? He’s the face of the team, a leader, and the best offensive player the Yanks have developed since Robinson Canó. His surge maps perfectly with the resurrection of the franchise. He avoids drama, has a penchant for the big moment, and is a generally affable, likable guy. He’s the guy you want to keep as a fan. Judge is a Yankee, though and through, and it would be weird to imagine him playing elsewhere. Just look at the reaction to the Mookie Betts trade for a parallel. It’s not 1:1, of course, but it’s similar enough for a thought exercise. Lock him up and keep him in the Bronx, please and thanks.

On the other hand, baseball is not run by the fans. It’s a business and there are models at play here. I would extend Judge myself, but I think the quote-unquote rational move is to not. He’s a late bloomer, which means the Yanks are already getting his prime years. Not only are they getting those prime years, but they’re getting them at a steep discount. This is the first year he’s making over $1,000,000. Even if he were perfectly healthy all of the time, there’s no changing that economic calculus. Extensions happen more for guys like Gleyber Torres, who come up early and will hit free agency before or during their prime. The team wants to reap the benefits of those prime years, so they come to an agreement early.

That won’t happen with Judge just because of the economics of the sport. He has less leverage and will likely never collect the huge payday his production and talent would otherwise earn him. It’s a cold, calculating method, but it is what it is. Negotiations on the next CBA can help change that system, but until then, this is how it is. In other words, I think they “should” sign him but that they won’t. There are good reasons not to given the structure of the sport, unfortunately.

JJ Asks: Have you heard any word about the grievance Jacoby filed to get paid his salary for last season? I imagine that has large luxury tax implications for 2020 – potentially motivating the team to squeeze in someone like Arenado – but there’s been surprisingly little about it. Thanks!

Happier days.

We have not heard anything. That may be frustrating – you’re right that it has major financial implications – but this stuff is complicated. It takes time. The best parallel is the Mets/Céspedes situation. That dispute took a full calendar year to resolve and the Ellsbury one is even more complicated, I think. There are $70 million at stake, remember. The language of these contracts is very technical. There are MLB Player’s Association interests at stake. And on and on. There’s going to be a lot to discuss. This is going to take time.

Also, it’s worth remembering that we don’t really have much information. Ellsbury is saying one thing and the Yankees are saying a different thing entirely. It’s true that the money is significant for CBA purposes and could be the difference between another move or not, but it shouldn’t factor in your mind at all. I’d be very surprised if this resolved itself before the 2020 season ended, let alone before the Trade Deadline.

George Asks: Let’s say MLB decided it wanted to inject more offense into the game. What might work better for batters, moving the mound back a foot or so, or lowering it?

This is a fun corollary to the question two weeks ago about metal bats. The difference here is that baseball is actually experimenting both with moving the mound back and is potentially considering lowering the hill. The good news it that there’s a bit of research out there about this, so let’s get into that.

The league lowered the mound after 1968’s Year of the Pitcher, remember. So we do have some real evidence to examine. The results were pretty immediate. The average score increased by 1.2 runs a game in 1969, with hits and walks also up. Home runs and batting average on balls in play also increased. Those are real, immediate, and tangible changes – or so they may seem.

The reality is that this is all very, very complicated. Hardball Times research showed that the way balls and strikes were called in 1969 also changed quite a bit, which could impact the rate of strikeouts and walks, obviously. There are tons of extraneous factors that contribute to the run scoring environment, down to the ball itself. It is really difficult to pinpoint causality without rigorous analysis. That correlation does not imply causation should be a familiar refrain to anyone familiar with the basic social sciences. The maxim is also true in baseball, but there was definitely a change from 1968 to 1969. That much is undeniable. We just don’t necessarily know the mound changes caused those changes.

Moving the mound back is a bit more theoretical. Baseball America (subs req’d) spoke to Driveline’s Kyle Boddy about this a few weeks ago and the conversation was fascinating. Boddy believes that moving the mound back would actually benefit pitchers more than hitters. He says his research shows that the the move wouldn’t really change the velocity/reaction time calculus much and that it may increase the effectiveness of breaking balls. Pretty counterintuitive but also makes sense to me.

We’ll know more after the Atlantic League experiment, but I’d have to say lowering the mound just because we do have some evidence that it works. But again, these things are never as they seem. Baseball is a very complicated game. It’s one of the things I love most about it.

Mailbag: Miguel Andújar, Giancarlo Stanton, Jasson Dominguez, 15-Day IL, Streaming

Miggy in the Outfield! (Bryan Hoch)

Happy Friday, everyone. It is a freezing morning here in New York City, which is bad. What’s good is that we are another day closer to Opening Day. It’s less than a month away! And there are plenty of Spring Training games happening. Deivi Garcia is even starting one tonight, but it isn’t being broadcast. Oh well. Let’s just hope nobody else gets hurt and I’m considering it a win anyway.

While we didn’t post yesterday – sometimes life gets in the way even for fanatics like us – it’s time for another mailbag. We have five great questions today. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We choose our favorites each week.

Jeremy Asks: I love Miggy as much as anyone and would imagine his hit tool is like a 70 on the 20-80 scale. As everyone knows, to reach his ceiling offensively he must increase his walk rate to drive his OBP. Canó is the natural comp there, as Canó came up with a similarly elite hit tool (they both hit .297 in their rookies years) and an even worse BB% than Andújar’s 4.1% in 2018 when he walked 2.9% of the time in 2005. However, Canó’s BB% slowly crept up and his BB% since 2010 is 7.7%. Can you dig a bit deeper to compare the adjustments Canó had to make/did make in his plate discipline/swinging profile vs the adjustments Andújar may benefit from?

Let’s start by comparing their rookie seasons, shall we? Canó came up in 2005 as a 22-year-old while Andújar debuted as a 23-year-old in 2018. Here’s how they did:

Canó, ’05.297.320.4582.9%12.3%3.0587.2%
Andújar, ’18.297.328.5274.1%16.0%3.5280.3%

For what it’s worth, Andújar was a better hitter (116 wRC+ to 103) and more valuable by WAR. He was obviously a more powerful hitter, too. (He had 50 more ABs.) I really do think people forget how good he was in 2018. It’s going to be nice to have him back in the lineup again. Now, in the interest of fairness, Canó’s big leap came in 2006, when he hit .342 (!) as a 23-year-old. (Regular readers of this blog will know that I love Robinson Canó.) So it’s not exactly apples-to-apples, but this is a good reminder of how good Andújar was.

Anyway, it’s true that they’re fairly similar in offensive profiles. They’re both well-above-average at making contact – those rates are insane – and very, very aggressive at the plate. While Canó is more patient now, much closer to league average in walk rate, it took him nearly six years to get there. His best years in terms of walk rate came with a chase rate closer to league average, but it’s important to remember that he was a monster even when he wasn’t walking much. Not to mention, Canó still swings way more than normal. It’s just who he is as a hitter. I suspect the same will be true for Miggy, too.

This is not a knock! The SABR-school of baseball analysis loves on-base-percentage and walks. That’s for good reason: for generations, these were undervalued skills, “market inefficiencies”, if you will. A way to identify under-appreciated talent. Now it’s all the rage. There’s something to be said for a player who makes contact at a high rate and puts the ball in play, though. If Miggy is consistently doing that and puts up years like he did in 2018, he will be plenty valuable. It would be nice if he walked more, sure. But his offensive profile is just fine. As we all know, the best way for him to add value is by improving his defense anyway.

Brad Asks: With Stanton possibly out for opening day do you think the Yankees should start the year with Frazier at DH and Andújar in the Minors working on defense flexibility?

I think it’s safe to say Stanton will miss Opening Day. While a Grade 1 strain isn’t that bad as these things go, there’s no reason to rush. I have no problem with this approach. Opening Day is a big deal in that it’s ceremonial and exciting, but that’s about it. Having Giancarlo around for the vast majority of the season is much more important than rushing him back for a bunch of games that will get rained out anyway. Getting him right is better than re-aggravating the injury and suffering setbacks. Remember how infuriating that was last year?

So, with that in mind, let’s get to the roster construction. There should be room for both Frazier and Andújar on the MLB roster come March 26. Before camp, I predicted four outfielders plus Andújar. Stanton, of course, was one of those outfielders. I had Frazier back in Triple-A. With this injury, I think there’s a pretty good chance we’ll see Frazier in Baltimore next month. He hit a monster home run just yesterday:

As for Andújar, I don’t think there’s any chance he starts the year in Scranton. As highlighted above, he has a special bat. That’s one you keep around and figure out where to play later. If he’s healthy, he’ll be in the Bronx, where he should be. Here’s some video of him playing outfield in a game for good measure:

Jonathan Asks: I have never heard of such hype about a Yankee prospect since Brien Taylor. The talk about the “Martian” is nuts and he hasn’t even played a professional game. If he performs up to expectations and kills it this year in the minors, how much will he shoot up the prospect rankings? Are we talking top 10? Top 5?

Brien Taylor is a good comp in some ways. He was named Baseball America’s top overall prospect before ever playing in a professional game! That’s nuts. The Yanks drafted him with the first overall pick in the 1991 Draft, when he was 19-years-old. That understandably brings a lot of hype, as do the rankings.

However, Jasson is a different beast altogether, I think. Jasson, at age 16, drew comparisons to both Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle in an ESPN piece that dubbed him “The Martian.” Scouts and analysts are in love with him. Danny Rowland, who heads the Yanks’ international scouting division, said that Jasson has “possibly the best combination of tools, athleticism, and performance” he’s ever seen. That’s quite the on-the-record quote. It speaks to Jasson’s potential and how much everyone believes in him. The tools are obvious to everyone, I think.

Given the wave of young international stars breaking onto the scene – Acuña was 20, Soto was 19, etc. – it’s fair to think Jasson will skyrocket up the rankings with a good year. He is not a decade away. He could start helping the Yankees in 2022 or 2023, when he’d be 19 or 20 respectively. A long hinges on his stateside performance, obviously. Most people have never seen him play themselves! How he responds to professional pitching is essential, so we can’t get ahead of ourselves. Yet.

Robert Asks: With the reintroduction of the 15-day IL, will that limit teams from using the Opener and the doing bullpen shuffle via phantom injuries? Did the Yankee take advantage of the 10-day IL more than the average team? If so, the bullpen may get taxed more now that the 15-day IL is in place.

It’s true that the 10-day IL helped teams utilize the Triple-A shuttle. Teams placed 563 players on the then-DL in 2016, the year before the 10-day then-DL was implemented. The next year, it shot up to 702. Last year, it was 737. (Though the Yankees surely played a role in that!) The trend is clear. The Dodgers famously used the system to give their pitchers extra rest in 2017. The data is clear. It was happening and honestly, it was pretty obvious it would happen.

In fact, that’s all why the league made this change. It wanted to limit the Triple-A shuttle and figured that changing the rule would help. (It also comes with a related rule that changes the amount of time optioned players must spend in MiLB before they can return from 10 to 15.) These changes, while opaque, will probably have impacts all season – especially coupled with the three-batter minimum rule.

I’m not sure that the Yankees abused the system more than anyone else, honestly. And last year is a tough case since the Yankees had so many damn injuries. But the Scranton Shuttle was certainly real. It won’t be as easy to send relievers to/from Scranton in 2020, and that will probably impact roster construction in some small but meaningful ways.

Daryll Asks: Just wondering what the future holds to stream the Yankee games.  I know that Amazon has a stake in the game now but I haven’t heard much since that deal broke.

This is a timely question, unfortunately. Just yesterday, YouTube TV announced that it will no longer carry YES Network – along with other RSNs in the FOX family – on the platform, effective February 29 (tomorrow). YouTube TV was negotiating with Sinclair Broadcast Group for the rights, presumably because Sinclair now owns a 20% stake in the network. That the two parties couldn’t reach an agreement is a big blow for fans who want to cut the cord and stream games.

There are other options, though. Both Hulu Live and AT&T TV Now carry YES, so those are your best bets for streaming. It is true that Amazon has a plan in place to stream Yankee games, but there hasn’t been any news on this since it was initially reported back in December. The early reports said that the platform may be in place by the 2020 season, so I guess we’ll have to keep our eyes out. There is also MLB.TV, which carries every single regular season game – provided you’re not blacked out, of course. If you’re in New York – or neighboring areas considered the home market – you won’t be able to stream live Yankee games.

Cable is probably the best bet. I know it’s not streaming, but it is reliable for Yankees games. Spectrum, FiOS, Comcast, and DirecTV all carry YES. I know cord-cutting is all the rage, but the reality is that good ol’ fashioned cable is probably the most reliable way to watch Yankees games in the region.

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