In George We Trust
A(nother) blog about the most storied franchise in sports
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I plan on working on another prospect profile (like the recent one I did for J. Brent Cox) sometime soon, is there any prospect in particular you would like to see profiled? If so, let me know via the comment section. Thanks for the suggestion, as well as helping get this blog off the ground.
Too much depth?
Pitching depth is a good thing to have, a great thing to have in fact. But is there such a thing as too much depth? Maybe.

As of this moment, the Yanks are looking at an 8-man bullpen for most of the season(once Octavio Dotel returns from Tommy John surgery around May, maybe sooner), meaning they'll have a 13-man pitching staff. So doing the math: 25 roster spots - 13 pitchers = 12 position players. Given that 8 position players and 1 DH are written into the starting lineup most days of the season (not counting away interleague games of course), the Yanks are left with a 3 player bench. Three! One has to be a catcher (Kelly Stinnett), so that leaves 2 players that have to be capable of playing the other 7 positions. Miguel Cairo can handle all the infield duties as well as the corner outfield spots to some degree, so his versatility (and $1M price tag) are all but guaranteed a spot. That leaves 1 roster spot left, who's going to get it?

With the way Brian Cashman and Joe Torre have been talking this winter, it would seem as if Andy Phillips is the front-runner for the spot. He's relatively versatile, and in an emergency situation he could play just about any position except pitcher, catcher and centerfield. He's a good hitter, sporting a career minor league BA and SLG of .296 and .516 respectively, although he hasn't yet translated it into big league production (.559 OPS in 48 career ML ABs). Then again, giving the spot to Phillips leaves Torre with no viable pinch running options (Cairo has 17 career SBs in 10 ML seasons, Phillips has 21 in 7 minor league seasons).

There's always cult hero Bubba Crosby, who started in centerfield for the $200M Yankees in the playoffs. The former first round pick can play any outfield position in a cinch, he's got some speed, and he's well liked by teammates. His bat isn't very lethal (.221 BA in ML career, .281 in the minors), but he's capable of hitting his pitch a long way, evidenced by the walkoff bomb he hit against the Orioles last September 19th.

And of course, there's always a Felix Escalona or Melky Cabrera or Kevin Reese available at a moments whim.

Situations like this have a way of working themselves out, either by injury, someone performing poorly, etc. But what happens if it doesn't? What if Kyle Farnsworth and Tanyon Sturtze are lights out in front of Mo, Aaron Small starts the season 5-0 out of the pen, and Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and Chien-Ming Wang are all healthy and throwing well. Who gets the axe when Dotel becomes available? Mike Mussina, who's showing serious signs of decline? I doubt it, as Moose is still pretty consistent from start to start.

The best bet may be a trade, particularly one involving Carl Pavano. He's relatively young (just turned 30), still only 1 year removed from an 18 win 220+ IP campaign, and the most marketable name on the staff (besides Wang). Perhaps a deal could be worked out with the pitching starved Phillies (who are so pitching handicapped that they signed Ryan Frankin to be their number 4 starter), who could give up pitching prospects like Gio Gonzalez and Dan Haigwood (both came over in the Jim Thome deal) in return. A team like the Devil Rays could be interesting too; if they're in the thick of the wildcard race come July, would they give up one of their young outfielders for Pavano? Would Cashman deal Pavano within the division? Who knows. All I know is that this situation could lead to some serious spring training competition, making things in the Bronx even more interesting.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Bucking the Trend
Everyone tries to predict the future, from stockbrokers to meteorologists to baseball people. There is no way to accurately predict what next season will bring, but there are certainly ways to guesstimate what's in store. One of the best ways to get an idea of what to expect is the "3-yr trend", made popular by Bill James' annual handbook. So without further ado, here's some interesting trends I've dug up for the Yankees (I also made use of Excel's "forecast" function to see what 2006 may bring. Of course, it's almost entirely inaccurate for this sort of application, but entertaining anyway):

The Good
Stat2003200420052006 Forecast
Bubba CrosbyOPS.166.498.631.894
Jason Giambi*BB/PA.
Hideki MatsuiPA/XBH11.6310.259.758.66
Mike MyersBAA vs LH.
Carl PavanoK/BB2.712.843.113.29
Mariano RiveraSLGA.300.280.230.200
Tanyon SturtzeOPSA.858.776.744.679
Ron VilloneSLGA vs LH.475.287.256.120

The Bad
Stat2003200420052006 Forecast
Shawn Chacon**GB/FB1.
Randy Johnson***#P/GS114.2103.8100.895.6
Carl PavanoKper95.965.635.044.62
Jorge Posada#P/PA3.943.883.813.77
Mariano Rivera#P/IP14.114.415.115.53
Alex Rodriguez3B621-2

The Ugly
Stat2003200420052006 Forecast
Johnny DamonSB attempts36271910.33
Octavio Dotel****OPSA.511.552.707.884
Randy Johnson***Kper911.5710.638.427.95
Mike MussinaK/BB4.883.303.021.87
Jorge PosadaOPS.923.881.782.721
Gary SheffieldOPS1.023.927.891.815
Jaret WrightKper97.997.684.813.65
Bernie WilliamsBB/SO1.

* Trend is for 2002, 2003 & 2005: Giambi was "injured" in 2004.
** Trend is for 2002, 2003 & 2005: Chacon wasn't a starter in 2004.
*** Trend is for 2002, 2004 & 2005: Johnson was injured for most of 2003 (<100IP)
**** Trend is for 2002, 2003 & 2004: Dotel was injured for most of 2005.

3-yr trends are accurate in the sense that you can see which direction a player's career is heading, but just to prove there is exceptions (as there always is), look at A-Rod's 2002 to 2004 trend, then check out what he did in 2005:


What to make of all this? Well, we could be in for a surprise from Bubba Crosby, as well as a MVP caliber season from Hideki Matsui. On the other hand, this could be the end of the road for Moose, the Unit, Posada and Sheffield (did you see his trends? eek). Who knows what will happen this year, but it'll certainly be interesting to see which of these guys bucks the trend and who doesn't (FYI: NL MVP Albert Pujols has seen his OPS decline the last 3 years: 1.106-1.072-1.039).

Saturday, January 28, 2006
Prospect Profile: J. Brent Cox
Name: James Brent Cox
Position: RHP
Vitals: 6’3”, 200 lbs
Born: May 13, 1984
Hometown: Bay City, Texas
Drafted: 2nd round (63rd overall) in 2005 (Yankees second selection), received a $550,000 bonus

Background: Cox (who prefers to go by JB) spent his freshman and sophomore years at Texas serving as a bridge to incumbent closer (and 2005 AL Rookie of the Year) Huston Street before stepping into the closer’s shoes his junior year. Cox shined in his year as closer, recording an NCAA high 19 saves, while sporting a stellar 1.73 ERA in 78 IP. Cox has excelled on the biggest amateur stage around, the College World Series. He’s seen CWS action during all 3 years of his college career, capped off by closing out Texas’ 2 wins in 2005 final (Texas swept Florida in the best of 3 series) to give his team the CWS title. Cox dominated in those 2 games, nailing down multi-inning saves on back-to-back days while allowing only 2 baserunners total (1 hit and 1 walk). He came into Game 1 in the 8th inning with 2 runners on and no one out, and then proceeded to strike out all 6 batters he faced. He came on for another 1.2 innings in Game 2 the next day, striking out 2, including the final batter of the event. Cox has also excelled internationally, saving 4 games last summer as the closer for the USA Baseball National Team.

Strengths: Cox has a filthy slider that he’s able to throw for strikes at any time, in any count. It features a late and hard break down-and-in to LH hitters and down-and-away to RH hitters, often ending up in the dirt. He’s very adept at getting groundballs, as evidenced by the small number of HRs (4) he gave up during his Texas career. He adds good deception to pitches with an unorthodox, almost sidearm delivery. Despite his somewhat violent delivery, Cox has proved to be durable throughout his college career, thanks to his large frame and muscular build. He’s an intimidating presence on the mound and a fiery competitor who, like Street, throws strikes with relative ease.

Weaknesses: Cox has a tendency to rely too heavily on his slider, primarily because his secondary pitches lag behind it. His fastball can reach the low 90s, but it’s more effective at 88-89 because it features greater movement and sink, however it is still inconsistent. He has a feel for a changeup, but it doesn’t figure to improve much. Like most young pitchers, Cox has to tendency to just reach back and throw harder when he’s in a bind, a correctable flaw.

Comparison: Much was made of the Yankees passing on St. John’s closer Craig Hansen with the 23rd pick in the 2005 draft; however they have gotten the next best thing in Cox 40 picks later and $3.55M cheaper. Here’s a brief comparison of their career college stats (I also threw in Joey Devine, the former NC State closer who was drafted number 27 overall in 2005 by the Braves):

Hper9Kper9BBper9WHIPCWS Appearances

With the exception of strikeouts (although 9.21 Kper9 is outstanding), Cox’s stats compare favorably to those of Hansen and Devine, both of whom were more highly regarded coming out of school. It’s hard to ignore Cox’s substantial experience in the CWS (his 13 CWS appearances is an NCAA record), which is a result of Texas’ continued appearances in the event, as well as Head Coach Augie Garrido’s faith in Cox.

Outlook: Of all the pitchers in the Yankees’ system, Cox is the most polished, and subsequently he’s also the closest to the majors. It’s possible Cox could have seen time in the Bronx as soon as 2006, however, because of the bullpen depth the Yankees have added this offseason, Cox figures to spend a full season in the minors, allowing him to improve his fastball and changeup. He’ll most likely return to High Class-A Tampa to begin the year, but figures to move very quickly and should see Triple-A Columbus before season’s end. His stuff may be lacking compared to traditional closers, leaving Cox to profile better as a set-up man. Cox certainly has the moxie to close out games and says he wants to, so the door will remain open for him to take over once Mariano Rivera calls it a career.

Update: You can view Cox's scouting view here, simply scroll down until you find his name (2nh from the bottom), then click on your connection speed on the far right of his vitals line.
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