Thursday, April 1, 2010

Predictions of Players

2010 predictions – My apologies for not getting this out earlier. If you would like to view this throughout the year it will be tagged as 2010 Predictions in the labels or Predictions of Players and you can find it in the archive section. I will be adding to this as I get them done.

Jorge Posada – Last year Jorge had an OPS of .885, a little above his career OPS of .860. For a catcher that is an outstanding number because of all the bruises you accumulate throughout the year at the most physically demanding position in baseball (spoken like a catcher). Jorge has been one of the best hitting catchers in MLB history. That being said, I would expect father time to wear Jorge down a little and expect a reduction in OPS of somewhere around 40 points. He is still a very productive hitting catcher, but there is a reason why catchers don’t stay behind home plate that long and hit well. Jorge’s defense has slipped as his throwing since his surgery is not as good as his prime (he actually was very good at throwing runners out for most of his career and was much better than Girardi at it). Jorge also calls a very good game. His major weakness is his receiving ability as he is not smooth at catching the ball as he fights it frequently. He blocks balls about average when he moves his feet, but he has been getting lazy of late (Molina was lazy) and because of that his blocking ability is below average. He is also below average at plays at the plate. Overall, he is still an above average catcher because of his excellent offense out of the catcher’s position. At this age, Posada is a similar player to Victor Martinez for Boston.

Mark Texiera – Mark is very consistent and I would expect that to continue for us this year. He had a .948 OPS last year and I would expect an OPS in the same neighborhood, possibly a tick lower (.940), but he could just as easily be a little above. He also is part of the guys who can wear down the pitchers. His defense is really good, but I don’t think it is in the Mattingly/Hernandez area that many talk like it is. He makes plays look a little harder than they are by swinging his arms and over playing it a little (I guess the opposite of Cano), but he is still one of the better defensive 1st basemen in the league. Mark also throws well for a 1st baseman. The only part of his game that is below average is his speed. Who cares, he has locked down our 1st base situation until his contract is up!

Robinson Cano – As many of the loyal readers know, I am a huge fan of Cano’s. When there was talk about Cano being traded I was against it. Last year I put my entire reputation on the line as I predicted an enormous increase of over 100 points in his OPS and he came through with an increase of an amazing 152 points. Cano has some of the quickest wrists in baseball. He also has great hand eye coordination. His biggest issue is his plate discipline and his plan at the plate. This off season this was the training for him and I expect Cano to take his game to an even higher level this year. Cano has a career OPS of .820 and I expect him to go over .900 this year and I would not be surprised if he is right there with ARod and Texiera either. Cano has that much ability; he just needs to mature as a hitter. My prediction will be .910 and if this wasn’t already almost 100 points above his career mark I would probably make it higher. Plate discipline is all he needs! Robbie’s defense is silky smooth and graceful. His hands around the bag are extremely quick and I have mentioned numerous times that we would get more outs at 2nd base if Cano took the throws instead of Jeter; the difference in quickness is dramatic. Cano also turns 2 much faster than Jeter. Robbie finishes off his game with a very strong arm. He runs pretty well, but he is not a great base stealer.

Alex Rodriguez – Arod has been persecuted by the fans and media unfairly and I have been one of the few that was steadfast in stating the lack of being clutch was a bunch of crap. Well, he finally showed up in the postseason and was enormous for us, being the key cog in carrying us to the title! I hope people will use him as an example of the mistake people make when they label people on a small sample size. ARod has hit 30 homers and 100+ RBI’s for the past 12 years. Even last year, while missing 38 games he still hit those numbers. ARod is a fantastic all around player who has excellent base running instincts. His contract makes him a target, but let’s remember that he wanted to play for us and I like that about players (read that Greg Maddux). I think his contract will be an albatross by the end, but hopefully we will have 3 more titles by that time. I am going to say ARod will be right at his career OPS of .965. ARod’s defense is still good even though he was very stiff last year. He is a solid defender with a strong arm; I would expect his defense to be a little better this year.

Nick Johnson DH – As you read in my free agent analysis previously, I thought the Yankees screwed up letting both Matsui and Damon go. My main point was Matsui would pay for himself in Japanese money and he would still be productive. I stated that I was fine with Damon being let go, but I would have kept Matsui and at the time I stated we will regret this decision. That being said, the Yankees reacted very well in signing Nick Johnson. He fits into the wearing out philosophy we have as a team and I expect he will be a big part of us knocking out pitchers early and then creaming their middle relief. I also expect a little more power than he had the last 2 years as he had a combined 13 homers in the last 2 years. I would expect him to hit that total if he gets 500 AB’s. Health is always a concern with Nick and he did have some back stiffness in spring training, but hopefully he will be fine come the regular season. Assuming reasonable health an OPS near his career OPS of .844 seems a good guess. His ability to get on base at above a .400 clip in front of Texiera and ARod will be very valuable in the 2 spot…and yes that is where I would bat him. People have said he is too slow, but you don’t need to run too fast when Texiera and ARod are hitting 80 homers behind you.

Brett Gardner LF – Again, I will be repeating myself in items that I wrote defending my position that Gardner is as valuable as Damon as an overall player (I took a lot of abuse about this). I also want to point out that Gardner is really only replacing Melky and Granderson is replacing Damon, but because the Yankees have decided that Gardner will be playing LF I am using this comparison. I also want to state that I felt Gardner should be in CF and Granderson should be in LF, but it is not that big a deal to me. Defensively, Gardner’s arm is better than Damon’s worst in the league and Gardner will get to about 2 balls that Damon could not reach. Conservatively I will assume that between the arm and the balls Damon could not get to, the difference in bases is 1.75 a week with Gardner. Assuming Damon has an OPS of .820 (a little above his career of .794 and a little below what he did for us last year) and adjusting it to include SB’s to .835 and we assume that Gardner’s OPS will be about the same as last years with a small bump (.724 last year) up to .735 with a SB adjustment to .795. I used 60 SB’s with 15 caught (the CS is a little high but I am trying to be conservative). Once the 1.75 bases a week for defense is added into the equation you can add another 75 points to the OPS which puts Gardner as a more valuable player than Damon overall…or at least close if you don’t like my math. Gardner is not a great ballplayer at 26, but his skills have a lot more value than people account for and defense is one large part of that. He can save a double with his feet and this is the same thing I used to say about Melky in that Melky was just too slow to be a CF’r. Bottom line is that if Gardner can give us an OPS of .735 and steal bases and play good defense this will work great. I expect Gardner to give up some AB’s to Thames or a platoon partner, but I also expect the same from Granderson and I would not be surprised if he will hit lefties better than Granderson, although neither will be a great option. As many of you know, I think Gardner will do the above and be a good part of our team. If he were in CF his lack of traditional OPS would not be seen as big a deal, but in LF where OPS is usually higher people will be a little more critical.

Curtis Granderson CF – Outside of the comments I stated in the write-up about Curtis, I am very happy with his pickup. I don’t see why so many people think he will all of a sudden become a good hitter let alone an average hitter against lefties, but he is a legitimate stud against righties and playing solid defense makes him very valuable and more valuable than Damon IMO. Over the last 3 years Granderson has an OPS against righties of .940 and an OPS against lefties of .570. I am not sure why I would expect much of a change off of that and in fact, I would be fine with that. Add in SB’s of approximately 20 while getting caught at a reasonable 5 times and he should do just fine. His defense is very solid in CF and while many say he has a weak arm, I think his arm is fine for CF or LF. I would still put Gardner in CF to take advantage of his elite speed, but I am not going to get crazy about the decision as Granderson is still an upgrade over Melky.

Nick Swisher RF – The crazy Nick brings some personality to the team, but also is a pretty good fundamental player. He can sacrifice and while is not a great tracker of balls gets a very good jump on balls. His weakness in RF is mostly his arm as it is not strong for a RF. He played CF at times with Chicago to show you that he is not a bad fielder, but he is not a great defender overall either. One of the extra OF’rs that play good defense could be used as a defensive replacement if needed. As an offensive player Swisher is part of our wearing down of pitchers philosophy and this is a good thing. We got about as much as one could expect form Swisher last year as he finished with an OPS that was barely his best at .869. His career OPS of .817 represents a fair number if you were going to make predictions. I would expect an OPS somewhere in the middle at about .840 or so, but just as important is that he will see a lot of pitches and does know how to sac if needed. Expect high K’s and low batting average to go along with 25+ homer power and 90 walks. He is a productive hitter and player overall.

Randy Winn – I was not a fan of this pickup as it just didn’t seem to be in line with our philosophy of getting younger. Winn may have upside compared to last year’s terrible performance, but after the Yanks traded away Bruney for Hoffman (since released) and Hoffman was supposed to be an excellent defender, the deal just didn’t make sense. The Yanks also have a guy like Golston in the minors who should be able to do what Winn does. Now, I could be wrong on Winn as I have not watched him play very much, but from a few pre season AB’s he has a little hitch in his swing and I don’t see a player that will be that helpful. He did have 2 years in a row with an OPS of .795, but then in 2009 at the age of 35 he had the worst OPS he has had in 10 years when he finished with a .671 OPS. That could be an aberration, but becoming a part time player it is hard to see Winn get much more than a .725 OPS. His defense is solid so that has value, but I just don’t the signing…hopefully he won’t be pushed into duty. I would not be surprised if he is released in the 2nd half of the year

Marcus Thames – Thames is in line with what the Yanks need and that is some OF’rs who can hit lefties. This is especially important when we have 2 potential guys who are in need pinch hitters against lefties late in the game. Thames can hit lefties and this is more in line with what I was looking for out instead of the Winn signing. Don’t expect Thames to do too much; he is 33 so the upside is limited and he will strike out a lot and he will not play well defensively. However, if you just let him play against lefties he will be a productive player in the mid .850’s in OPS. This would represent a huge upgrade over Granderson or Gardner against lefties. Thames also is not an auto out against righties, with an OPS of .742 over the last 3 years. Most of his OPS comes from very good power. Over the last 3 years in 843 AB’s he has hit 56 homers. This is roughly 40 homer power in a 600 AB season. This was a smart pickup as one could expect him to be enough of a threat against a lefty specialist or a platoon starter at DH or LF. He also was signed for less than a mil.

Francisco Cervelli – Cervelli played well in limited time last year and as I said before he is at least as good as Molina all around, with upside. Molina threw extremely well and framed pitches well, he also called a decent game, but he was slow with is footwork and lazy in blocking balls. Molina also could not hit at all as he had a putrid OPS of .560 last year. Cervelli did not show any walking ability and also did not show much power, but he did show the ability to make contact and actually hit a weak .298. With some improvement of more playing time I would expect him to increase his .681 OPS to the low .720 range and hopefully he can be better. His plate discipline will have to get better, but he could make a jump. His defense is pretty solid all around so this is an upgrade over Molina.

Ramiro Pena – I like Pena and I stated I liked him better than Hairston last year. Obviously, I am glad Hairston was not kept around. Pena is a very slick defender so he can play any infield position except first and play it well. His best position is at SS and he is a better defender than Jeter. Hard to say if he is better at 3rd or 2nd base than ARod or Cano, but I would guess no to Cano and maybe to ARod. Either way he is a good utility infielder who can give you good AB’s from the left side of the plate when you need a hit. He is not an OPS machine, but his .700 OPS last year was respectable. He also had an OPS of .818 against righties! That is very impressive but also shows you how weak he was against lefties (.274 OPS). Basically he should play against righties to give Jeter and ARod a day off and probably against righties to give Cano a day off as well. He is also 24 so maybe he develops a little more power, although his frame and swing does not lend itself to too much power. Either way, he is a very good utility guy and may be our future at SS?


CC Sabathia – I am a big fan of CC’s. He was the prize a year ago and he will anchor our staff. He is not as dominating as Halladay, but CC is an absolute ace. His ERA of 3.37 last year was in line with what you could expect from him. I would expect and ERA of just under 3.50 from him again and getting his 230 innings we should expect him to win in the same area of wins he had the last few year…about 18 give or take a few. His changeup allows him to get through games when everything else is out of kilter. He also is a good athlete (and hitter) for a huge man who is probably close to 300 pounds.

AJ Burnett – Burnett really has dynamite stuff. Sometimes throwing upper 90’s with sick movement. He also has a plus breaking ball. The issue is he falls apart many times and can’t control that great stuff and teams get big innings off of him. He is one of those guys that you hope one day he could put it all together, but surprisingly has only won more than 13 games once in his career. Last year his ERA was a respectable 4.04, but he was only able to win 13 games and I would like to see him get that ERA below 4. This may not be some crazy prediction, but I think Burnett will do what he has only done once in his career and he will break that 13 barrier again. I am hoping he will give us that around 4 ERA and win 16+ games. He may be maturing as a pitcher…I hope so.

Andy Pettitte – Talk about the guy who seems to be getting better with age. Andy was one of the more surprising stories for me last year. I never predicted him to be so solid and consistent because he seemed like he wanted to retire. He is not 40 years old, but at 37 one would expect to see some more issues with him. However, he has learned to be a lot more than just a cutter pitcher as he throws his breaking ball at 2 different speeds, turns over his fastball and now throws a change once in awhile. His velocity is still around 90 which is enough. He had an ERA of 4.16 last year and a 4.54 the year before. As long as Andy can keep his shoulder healthy, I think he can give us an ERA in that 4.25 range which would be very good with our offense.

Javier Vazquez – Let me first say that I was for this trade. Mostly because I think Gardner will be able to do what Austin Jackson may be able to do. Let me also say that anyone expecting an ERA below 3.00 from him is really wishing. Yes, he was great last year with a 2.87 ERA and yes he might have learned how to be an amazingly craft righty, but in the AL you can’t get away from mistakes as easy. His ERA in the AL has been about 4.50, but I am hopeful that he might have learned something last year and he can take that and better that 4.50 ERA and get it down to a 4.30 or so. He has always been a streaky pitcher so hopefully he will be going well for the postseason.

Phil Hughes – I have received more questions about the Hughes Joba situation than any other (Gardner was close). I was in favor of getting both players ready to be starters last year. However, in the postseason I felt better about Joba in the pen and felt that Hughes was better suited to start. Joba has the mentality of a short reliever and I think Hughes has the makeup and pitches as a starter. Hughes is still only 23 and I believe will pitch very well this year and will be backing CC before within the next year or 2. He will run into some speed bumps, but I am really looking forward to watching him this year.

Mariano Rivera (The Genius Maker) - What can you say about the greatest closer the game has ever seen? Every year you think this is the year you expect to see him be ineffective and over the last 2 regular seasons he has blown only 3 saves while saving 83 games! One chink in the armor was that last year he allowed 7 homers, outside of his rookie year when he started 10 games; he has not allowed more than 5 in any year. I expect, sadly, that this is the type of fall from grace we will see. I don’t think he will just lose it, but I expect more inconsistency as the age of 40 starts to wear him down some. I still think he will be good for us, but every year with him will be one where we hope he can hold on and give us just enough. His great motion and incredible cutter will still be effective, but his control and his arm need to hold up as well…I guess I am hoping for 2 more effective years; not as great as the last 2 but good years where we can count on him…The best of all time deserves a nice ride off into the sunset!

Joba Chamberlain – Perhaps he will be the heir to the job? His stuff is not what it used to be and that is alarming, but I am hopeful he can get to 95+ where his excellent breaking stuff will be more effective. I had goose bumps watching him throw 98+ before he hurt his arm; I can only hope his mental game, his work ethic and his arm can get back on track. There is still a lot unknown from him, but I do think being in the pen is the right thing.

Damarso Marte – I like Marte better than most people, in fact I was pimping him hard all year last year and was going crazy when there was a question whether he would make the post season roster. Well thank God he did as he was outstanding in the postseason. He can get righties out as well, but he has not been as consistent as I would like and has struggled with shoulder issues since we got him. When healthy he can be nasty with a low to mid 90’s fastball and a sharp slider. As our only real lefty he is very important to the bullpen.

Aceves – I am a big fan of his as well. I think he could step in and be a solid starter, but right now he is a guy who could work the 8th, or be middle relief. He is another crafty righty where the ball moves all the time and he can throw strikes with any pitch. I also think he has a good mental approach to the game…Very good guy to have on the team.

Robertson – Robertson showed some ability last year and if he can continue to work on his cutter and more importantly throw strikes, he can be a huge boost as well to the team. He has an excellent curve, but doesn’t have that 3rd pitch and this is why the cutter is so important for him.

Chan Ho Park – The Yankees were impressed with him last year, but I usually like guys who have some more success in the AL. CHP is pretty good against righties and mediocre against lefties, although as a reliever he did a good job. Hopefully he can take it over with us, but this talk about him being the setup guy scares me…I hope he surprises me because I expect a guy who can be helpful but is not a guy who you count on every game.

We will make the playoffs again unless we get barraged with injuries; we are deep and talented.

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