Yankees Update: Bad News On El Capitan While The Team Keeps Winning
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By Nicholas Rossoletti (Yankees Correspondent/Trade Correspondent): Follow @nross56
Transitions are rarely easy. People, generally, are creatures of habit and routine. Change is almost always seen as a scary thing for most. Yankee fans are no different. The transition from the old guard is an overwhelming theme to this season for the Yankees.
As Week Three of the Major League season moved along, the Yankees received more bad injury news on their shortstop, Derek Jeter. The Yankee captain suffered a significant setback in his recovery from a broken ankle when it was reported that a small crack had emerged in the same location as the injury.
Reports had indicated that Jeter’s surgery would prevent such a re-occurrence. Obviously, this is not the case, and now, the Yankees will be without their shortstop until at the very least the All-Star break.
Yankee fans’ reaction was obvious as the news broke. For the better part of two decades, Jeter has been the constant in the Yankee lineup, and this injury reminds Yankee fans, again, that the times, they are a changing.
It will be a sad day when the Yankee Captain announces his retirement. For now, DJ has told the world that he will return when he is able. Obviously, from this point until then, Eduardo Nunez has become a much larger part of the Yankee Universe.
Nunnie, as Yankees fans are want to call Nunez, has been an enigma to the fan base for several years. While he seems to have a rare combination of athleticism and has shown brief glimpses of offensive competency, there has also been a wild variation in his actual performance.
Defensively, Nunez is disturbingly inconsistent. He has the ability to turn a simple play into an adventure. It is clear that he needs to do a lot of work to be a consistent serviceable, professional shortstop.
On offense, Nunnie shows similar inconsistency. His low Batting Average early in the season is part reality and part bad luck. Eduardo’s .226 BABIP is on the lower end especially considering his speed.
A regression on that BABIP number to closer to his career mean should provide Nunez with a higher Batting Average then he has currently, but his issues are clear. The Yankees should be careful examining their options to replace Jeter. Both in the short term and the long term
While the former Red Sox Third baseman Kevin Youkilis‘ has performed at an amazing level, there are statistical reasons to be very concerned about his long term consistency. Youkilis was once famously nicknamed the “Greek God of Walks” in the best selling novel (and feature film), Moneyball. This season has been the antithesis to that nickname.
Youk is walking at a career low 4.4% through 68 Plate Appearances to date. This is a career low and a substantial decrease from even a disappoint 2012 when he walked at a 10% rate. This is a concerning number for a player, who derives a good deal of his value from his ability to work counts and get on base.
Another incredibly disconcerting stat is a .381 BABIP for Youkilis. That number is over 20 points higher than Youk’s career high – and substantially higher than either of the last two years.
The expectation given these numbers is that the Yankee’s replacement for Alex Rodriguez will regress in his offensive play. Yankee fans need to keep an eye on the walks from Kevin. If that number does not improve, the offense statistics will quickly digress into a far less spectacular player.
The good news for the lineup is that despite these concerns the Yankees have found good production from unexpected sources like Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells, which we discussed in the Week Two post.
In the rotation, Phil Hughes finally came out of his funk against the D’Backs during the Yankees first taste of the new year round inter-league play. The biggest problem with Hughes’ start against Arizona was the continuation of his inability to keep the ball inside the park. Over the course of the season Hughes will perhaps be the “swing” member of this rotation.
The older pitchers are steady but in need of protection in order to get to 32-34 starts. Ivan Nova and David Phelps have done their best to convince just about everyone that neither of them deserves the fifth spot. That leaves Hughes as the glue to hold together the Yankee rotation.
I’m going to take a week off my ranting on the Ivan Nova situation. If you want to see my thoughts, read any one of the multiple articles I’ve written this season.
After Week Three, one thing is clear. The Yankees have the talent to keep themselves around the division until several pieces start to return. The Pinstripes have won four consecutive series since their Opening Week nightmare – including series against in division rivals the Blue Jays and O’s. It has been a far better April than anyone thought to this point.
This week DOWN ON THE FARM….
In Scranton, Vidal Nuno was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Week. Vidal was a player we focused on for a bit during the first “Down on the Farm” post about two weeks ago. Since then, Nuno has continued to dominate the International League. Through four starts, the left hander has pitched to a 26 to 2 K/BB ratio and a spectacular 30.6% K rate.
His BABIP of .200 is not supported by his career rates though which means some of the batted balls that are turning into outs will probably start falling for hits. Even with that said, it is very nice to see Nuno dictating to hitters and not walking many batters.
If this continues, there could be room for a promotion for Nuno this season. Certainly, Ivan the Terrible as I have taken to calling him, has done little to inspire confidence to this point.
A good friend of mine recently preached the problems with “scouting” minor league stat lines. Several experts have given the same warnings, and to a certain extent I agree with all of them. Minor League numbers are difficult to translate to Major League success for a variety of reasons.
Most Minor League hitting environments are different, and competition can be of a lesser caliber. Certain Minor League environments are so terrible that organizations will actually avoid promoting prospects to those levels for fear of the park/leagues effect on the player.
With all that being said, I think you can learn things from stat lines such as the ability to command the Strike Zone from both a pitcher and hitter’s prospective is something that can be seen through numbers.
As this is what we have to go on (and as you know I’m a numbers guy), I will continue to “scout” stat lines to form my opinions, but it doesn’t take away from the scout who sees something I don’t.
At Double-A Trenton, after a fast offensive start to the season, the Yankees’ two key prospects at that level, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin, have both struggled. It is too early to be alarmed, but neither player has hit for much power this season.
Both guys are walking at increased rates from the previous season, which is encouraging considering the increased competition from High-A. Power is something that tends to develop with age so it is not overly concerning that the guys aren’t driving the ball just yet.
Developing high ceiling prospects is a slow process. For now, with each guy it is a wait and see situation. It would be nice to see them continue with the advanced strike zone recognition.
At High-A Tampa, the three best players continue to be Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams and Ben Gamel. Williams has shown more plate patience than the other two Tampa Yankees, but both Sanchez and Gamel have shown more early power. Sanchez has been hitting the ball very well, and should be in line for promotion to Double-A in the very near future given his pedigree and position.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***
A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Trade and Yankees Correspondent’ Nicholas Rossoletti for preparing today’s featured article. Nicholas is a young professional living in downtown Miami. He is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid Yankee supporter.
Having grown up during the last two decades, he counts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as his favorite ball players of all time. He believes in sabermetrics and that new stats have already changed the way the baseball industry sees players.
He was for Trout over Cabrera, he thinks RBIs tell you a lot more about a team than a player and that defense and pitching, ultimately, win championships. Rational thought and introspective analysis over the narrative is how we come to understand the game we love.
The narrative is just a way to keep those who don’t really love the game watching. Feel free to follow Nicholas on twitter and talk the game of baseball Follow @NRoss56
“There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.” ~ Al Gallagher, 1971
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Posted on April 24, 2013, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged @nross56, @nross56 twitter, alex rodriguez, arizona, arizona diamondbacks, baltimore, baltimore orioles, ben gamel, david phelps, derek jeter, eduardo nunez, gary sanchez, international league, ivan nova, kevin youkilis, mason williams, new York, new york yankees, nicholas rossoletti, phil hughes, scranton wilkes barre, slade heathcott, tampa bay yankees, toronto, toronto blue jays, travis hafner, trenton thunder, tyler austin, vernon wells, Vidal Nuno. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Yankees Update: Bad News On El Capitan While The Team Keeps Winning.