SS Analysis

Posted by Baseball Bob at 11:12
Mar 242017

No, this isn’t a comparison between Hitler’s die-hard supporters and Trump’s, though that might be interesting, too.

This is my 2 cents about the Yankees and Didi Gregorius’ injury while playing for the Netherlands in the WBC (again, I DON’T blame the WBC, injuries happen). Current word is he will be out at LEAST until May 1, which by Yankee standards means that May 15 is probable, and June 1 is possible. So 1/6 to 1/4 of the season with no MLB shortstop is a frightening prospect (Didi is a 3-4 WAR guy, so we are talking 0.5 wins (1/6 of 3) to 1 win (1/4 of 4) if the replacement is, well, replacement level.

Apparently teams with a SS to spare are circling like vultures, eyeing the Yankees top-2 farm system: the Tigers have floated their walk-year, starting SS Jose Iglesias (and fresh off a down year, to boot), and other bad options have been offered, as well. 26-year-old Arizona SS is a slick-fielding semi-regular (459 PAs in 2015, injured for part of 2016) but his bat is REALLY bad (career OPS+ 58). He is an option ONLY IF 1) he has a minor-league option left, so you could stash him at AAA after Didi returns and 2) The cost is minimal. On the latter subject, the D-Backs have a rule 5 pick from the Yankees, which means they have to keep him on the 25-man all year (I don’t remember his name): if the trade was to outright him to Arizona, removing the rule 5 restriction, and possibly a mid-level, low-minors lottery ticket, it might be worth pursuing.

Internally, the Yankees have a number of not-good options, one of which they are almost sure to take:

1) Ronald Torreyes – Yankee utility player in 2016, worth 0.5 WAR for the year. He is an OK hitter for a bench guy (81 OPS+ in 2016, he is young (24 this year) and a marginal glove at SS (he played more 3B than Short). He is a true utility player, have logged time last year at every IF position except 1B, and both corner outfield positions as well. This SEEMS like the most probable option, but as a starter he is likely not much more than a replacement level player.

2) Ruben Tejada – 27-year-old former Met, who played SS for them (and some 2B) for parts of 6 seasons (!) from age 20 to 25. His career OPS+ is 83, his career fWAR 3.0. But he was cut loose (non-tendered?), and played a bit last year for St. Louis and San Francisco and was truly awful: bad defensively, OPS+ 35 (!) and was below replacement. And he hasn’t exactly dazzled this year in spring training, where he is on a minor league contract. I doubt that he has options left, but he could play out the injury at ML minimum and be released. Ugh.

3) Pete Kozma – a poor man’s Ruben Tejada, Pete Kozma, also on a minor-league contract, has had exactly ONE real season in the majors (2013 with STL, OPS+ 53) but at least he can field the position. While Tejada’s .258 with one extra-base hit has kind of underwhelmed this spring, he is a MONSTER compared to Kosma’s stellar .179 in essentially the same playing time. Likely BELOW replacement (and 28 years old). Double Ugh.

4) Donovan Solano – not really a SS, he has played more than 10 games in a season there only once, and the Yankees would feel LUCKY if he were replacement-level (0.0 WAR).

5) Tyler Wade – NOW we’re talking! 22-year-old prospect, training to be Ben Zobrist (super-utility man) he played last year at AA and manned 2B, 3B and all the OF positions (NO SS though). In 2015 SS was his main position – the problem is that the Yankees have TOO MANY SS prospects, and they are beginning to sort them out by training them at other positions. So far this spring Wade has again not manned SS, but he HAS hit .351 (13/32 with 3 doubles) and played all over the diamond (but not SS). The buzz is that he was a solid if unspectacular glove at SS, and was open to learning new positions because he looked up and saw Didi Gregorius only a few years older than he is, and BOTH Jorge Mateo AND Gleyber Torres a year or two younger, and all solid shortstops, and said SURE. With NO AAA experience and a year removed from his last fielding chance at SS he seems a long-shot, but I personally LOVE this option, sort of (see Castro, below)

6) Jorge Mateo – he is a better prospect than Wade (who is pretty good) but even farther down the ladder, as he played in 2016 in High A. He was not in Major League camp, but he can play. He is likely to move off SS though, and he missed 2016 altogether due to injury. Not really an option, though it could be fun. He is 21.but (sort of) a 6-year veteran (soon 22).

7) Gleyber Torres – (what kind of a name is Gleyber??? He says he doesn’t know, and neither does his dad!) THIS is what the fans want, and IT ISN’T HAPPENING. He is the Yankees top prospect, acquired for 1/3 of a year of Aroldis Chapman, and he plays a pretty good shortstop (though not as good as Didi). Invited to ML camp after playing 2016 at High A, he has 13 hits in 29 at bats, and those 13 hits include 6 doubles, a triple and 2 HRs, which works out to a SLG of 1.000 (BA .448) for an ISO of .502. He already has a couple of errors, and has been reassigned to Minor-league camp and to AA to start the season. I suppose the danger of asking him to do too much too early (see: Melky Cabrera) is real, but he would add EXCITEMENT, FAN INTEREST, etc. and it COULD launch a HOF career, becoming to SS what Manny Machado was to 1B (20-year-old sensation). Do it, Cashman. I dare you. He won’t, though. Sigh.

8) Starlin Castro – the 8th option could be the first. Castro is the Yankees’ 2B, and he wasn’t great there with the glove nor (despite 21 HRs) with the bat. A two-time (!) all-star SS with the Cubs and still only 27, he has a league-average glove and a career OPS+ of 97, pretty good for a SS (93 last year). But the real point is that if you move Castro, THEN you can play (say) Wade at 2B, or possibly Refsnyder (not a SS so not in this analysis, but a bat-first utility guy who can sort-of play 2B). Refsnyder is 26 and no longer really a prospect, but while his brief stints with the Yankees have not been fruitful he HAS hit in the Minors (career OPS 807) and he is not awful at 2B.

MY WISH LIST: 1) Torres, 2) Wade 3) Castro/Wade 4) Castro/Refsnyder

MY ACTUAL PREFERENCE: 1) Castro/Refsnyder

MY PREDICTION: 1) Torreyes 2) Tejada 3) Castro/Refsnyder

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