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Yankees organizational depth: Outfield corners

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Jan 27, 2012 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

It’s a curious time for the Yankees outfield corners. They have a young, cheap, homegrown left fielder — but he’s getting more expensive by the year. They have a productive, affordable right fielder — but he’s in the final year of his contract. Behind them, the organization offers no obvious replacements.

In the big leagues
Plate discipline is one of the few things that connect Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher as players. They’re close and friendly teammates, but as outfielders, they’re very different. They both take their walks, but Gardner’s best tool is his speed, Swisher’s is his power. Although Gardner remains an untraditional corner outfielder — a center fielder playing left — he’s perhaps the best defensive left fielder in the game, and although he didn’t repeat his 2010 numbers, Gardner remained a dangerous presence at the bottom of the order. Swisher, meanwhile, bounced back from a slow first half to finish with 23 home runs and 85 RBI (only four fewer than the year before). Swisher’s contract expires at the end of this season, Gardner is headed for a second year of arbitration, and backup Andruw Jones is on a one-year deal. The Yankees have to decide whether to lock up Swisher, whether to commit big money to Gardner and whether one of their veterans — Derek Jeter? — might eventually need to move into the outfield.

On the verge
In spring training, Chris Dickerson and Justin Maxwell will provide corner outfield depth, but those two are out of options, so sending them to Triple-A might not be an option. Instead, the Yankees immediate corner outfield depth will come from Colin Curtis and Cole Garner, two toolsy outfielders with limited big league experience. Third baseman Brandon Laird also has some outfield experience and could help as a four-corners utility man. The most significant upper-level upside might be in Double-A right fielder Zoilo Almonte, a 22-year-old added to the 40-man this winter after he hit .276/.345/.459 between Tampa and Trenton last season. He’ll join a wild card outfield with Abe Almonte and Melky Mesa, each of whom has intriguing talent without consistently encouraging results.

Deep in the system
Most of the Yankees outfield depth is currently playing center field, and that’s probably the way the organization likes it. It’s much easier to move a center fielder to a corner than to do the opposite. But the low-level corner outfielders aren’t to be dismissed completely, especially not Ramon Flores, a left fielder who put up a modest .265/.353/.400 slash line in Charleston last season but draws raves for his plate discipline. Not yet 20 years old, he’s a legitimate prospect in the mold of former Yankees prospect Jose Tabata (thought not nearly as touted). Ben Gamel played well in Staten Island last year, and the Yankees are curious to see what last year’s sixth-round pick, Jake Cave, can do in his first real taste of pro ball. Ultimately, though, a third baseman like Rob Segedin, a catcher like J.R. Murphy and a center fielder like Ravel Santana might eventually factor into the corner outfield conversation more than anyone previously mentioned. That’s the nature of the outfield corners.

Organizational depth chart
My rough guess. It’s too early for the Yankees to decide who will be where next season.
New York: Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher
Scranton/WB: Colin Curtis and Cole Garner
Trenton: Abe Almonte and Zoilo Almonte
Tampa: Ramon Flores and Eduardo Sosa
Charleston: Ben Gamel and Shane Brown

Honestly, beyond Triple-A and Double-A, the outfield corners are tough to predict. Some of it depends on where some multi-position guys end up — what level and position will Ronnier Mustelier play? — and which players are deemed ready for full-season ball out of spring training. At some points, the outfield corners will be used to give players at bats and to add some defensive versatility.

Associated Press photo of Swisher, headshots of Gardner, Zoilo Almonte and Flores

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45 Responses to “Yankees organizational depth: Outfield corners”

  1. Jerkface January 27th, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs.....hing-less/

    Very interesting article about reliever usage. The amount of batters faced by relievers per game has gone down every year for the last 20 years while showing little to no benefit in terms of the results gained by the increasingly specialized usage.

  2. Nick in SF January 27th, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I was very supportive of the highly specialized usage of reliever Chad Gaudin in the 2009 World Series.

  3. Pat M. January 27th, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Nick in SF……Iona laying 1.5 is my get well game tonight….No Melo, Knicks getting 12, what do you think ????

  4. raymagnetic January 27th, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Gardner would be better suited as a 4th outfielder.

    Hope Cashman uses some of his “excess” pitching on upgrading the outfield.

  5. Tom in N.J. January 27th, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I always thought Joba was best suited to be “fireman” in the style of Gossage…

  6. Joe from Long Island January 27th, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    you know what caught my eye in the review chad posted above? how ramon flores was described as having plate discipline. that’s the same thing that was noted about jorge posada as a young prospect, in the link from the last thread.

    not saying he’ll be another jorge, not at all. just, it caught my eye as someone to watch. plate discipline at an early age is something to keep an eye on, i think.

  7. Joe from Long Island January 27th, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    ray – if the cards want young pitching, i’d be happy to take matt holliday and his salary off their hands. after all, they don’t need to look good for albert any longer.

  8. raymagnetic January 27th, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Joe,

    I’d be happy to have Matt Holliday myself. I doubt Cashman would be willing to give up what it took to get him and pay his salary unfortunatly.

  9. Joe from Long Island January 27th, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    honestly – i think that, absent a real old-fashioned blockbuster trade, we’re looking at either eric chavez or raul ibanez. which might not be so bad. not great, a la prince fielder, but not bad.

  10. Nick in SF January 27th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Pat M, I missed out on the Iona game, good luck.

    No strong feeling on the Knicks, haven’t even seen them play this season. But I would rather take the 12 points than give them.

  11. Jerkface January 27th, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    you know what caught my eye in the review chad posted above? how ramon flores was described as having plate discipline. that’s the same thing that was noted about jorge posada as a young prospect, in the link from the last thread.

    Ramon Flores is cool, I hope he can improve and climb the ranks. He had a near 1:1 BB:K in the GCL and is still pretty close in Low A. 11% BB to 17%K. I’ll check him out in Tampa as well.

  12. MTU January 27th, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Is Ravel Santana a CF ?

  13. m January 27th, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I don’t think you give Swisher a big contract. I don’t think you need to committ big $$ to Gardner.

    And I doubt that Jeter plays an inning in the OF. Alex will just have have to move off DH to accommodate Jeter. :P

    Any good OF due to hit the market soon?

  14. YankeeRay January 27th, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Im thinking 25 man will look like this:
    Tex
    Cano
    Jeter
    Arod
    Gardner
    Grandy
    Swisher
    Martin
    _____
    7 pitchers in pen – Mo, Rob, Sori, Logan, Joba (later), Garcia, Okajima or whoever
    5 starters – CC, Pineda, Nova, Kuroda, Hughes
    ______
    Cervelli
    Nunez
    Jones
    Chavez
    Ibanez

    Lots of flexibility with bench and still have the ability to rotate starters through DH spot. Ibanez can play OF and 1B along with DH. Nunez can play IF and OF, Chavez 3B and 1B, Jones DH and OF.

  15. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    raymag,

    Had they just kept Jesus, Gardner’s lack of slug would not have been an issue. He goes from a different look, dynamic weapon that gives the lineup versatility (with Montero in the lineup), to now being a guy without pop who now becomes a limited platoon guy.

    Trying to carry both Martin and Gardner in the lineup with no Jesus is risky at best. If they had inked Holliday, then having him and Montero would just have made for a giddy offense. If they had Holliday and Martin, then Martin becomes more carry-able.

    But I can’t believe they’re going to call it a day with this lineup.

  16. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I have never seen Ravel play, MTU, but by all accounts he has a CFer’s defensive profile plus a big arm. He’s still working on his reads and stuff like that, but people gush over this guy’s skillset.

    They could slide him over so Williams can play in the middle. I envy anyone who gets to watch those two deer in the Charleston outfield this season.

  17. MTU January 27th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Ray-

    What happened to AJ ?

  18. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Jerkface, you can think out loud in here about what you see in Tampa. That’s one park I’m not getting to anytime soon.

  19. MTU January 27th, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    JAP-

    Thanks. I was wondering if he might have been included in this category.

  20. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Chad, I’m hoping Nunez continues to get time in the OF. His bat now becomes more important than it was on January 12th.

  21. RadioKev January 27th, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    J Alfredo Prurock,

    Normally I respect your opinion but, “had they just kept Jesus, Gardner’s lack of slug would not have been an issue. He goes from a different look, dynamic weapon that gives the lineup versatility (with Montero in the lineup), to now being a guy without pop who now becomes a limited platoon guy.

    Trying to carry both Martin and Gardner in the lineup with no Jesus is risky at best.”

    Is just silly. Not having a rookie Montero destroys our line up? Come on now. It’s the same line up as last year, one of the best in baseball. It also seems reasonable to expect A-Rod to have a better year, and I’d be surprised if Teixiera doesn’t turn it around.

  22. Tar January 27th, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    “But I can’t believe they’re going to call it a day with this lineup.”

    Maybe we are in the midst of Cashman’s “run prevention” phase. :sad:

  23. Jerkface January 27th, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Jerkface, you can think out loud in here about what you see in Tampa. That’s one park I’m not getting to anytime soon.

    Thinking about the loudest thing I saw was Jesus Montero flying out 410 feet dead up against the wall in Lakeland against the tigers A+ team. 410 foot out and he didnt even get all of it.

  24. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    MTU, think he was pretty much strictly a CF in GCL. Hopefully, the ankle is back to normal now.

  25. MTU January 27th, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    JAP-

    Hope so. It sounded like a very severe injury.

  26. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Here’s a report on Ravel I found from an email I sent someone. No attribution on it, so I don’t know whose it is, but it’s consistent with what you hear about this kid:

    “We haven’t touched “toolsy young position player” territory since opening with Tyler Austin, and players don’t get much more toolsy than Santana. Signed as an international free agent in 2009 at age 17, Santana tore up the Dominican Summer League in 2010 to the tune of a .322/.440/.533 tripleslash, .493 wOBA, 21 XBH, and 22 SB in 244 plate appearances. He was doing similar things in 2011 for the GCL Yankees (.296/.361/.568, .423 wOBA, 23 XBH, 10 SB) until his season was ended by a brutal ankle injury suffered on a stolen base attempt. Still only 19, Santana is long and lean at 6’2″ and 160 pounds, but has plenty of time to add some weight as he advances.

    Santana’s hitting approach for such a young player is very mature, evidenced by his solid BB rates, and he has good bat speed and power for such a thin frame. He complements his hitting skill with tremendous speed and a great arm that make him a plus defender in center field and a constant threat on the basepaths. In a short time, Santana has already flashed the makings of an outstanding 5-tool player, and was ranked as the 7th best prospect in the Yankee system by Baseball America last week after being ranked as the #2 prospect in the GCL in 2011 behind another Yankee teammate. But his injury was a serious one, and it’s still unknown how that will affect him in 2012. Early reports have him on schedule to start the season, but I expect the Yankees to err on the side of caution and ease Santana back into things in Staten Island. If he shows he’s fully recovered, expect a quick promotion.”

  27. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Jerkface January 27th, 2012 at 8:18 pm
    Jerkface, you can think out loud in here about what you see in Tampa. That’s one park I’m not getting to anytime soon.

    Thinking about the loudest thing I saw was Jesus Montero flying out 410 feet dead up against the wall in Lakeland against the tigers A+ team. 410 foot out and he didnt even get all of it.
    ///

    sigh

  28. MTU January 27th, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    JAP-

    Much appreciated.

  29. stuckey January 27th, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    “Very interesting article about reliever usage. The amount of batters faced by relievers per game has gone down every year for the last 20 years while showing little to no benefit in terms of the results gained by the increasingly specialized usage.”

    What I think HAS changed is managers naturally tend to gravitate toward moves that won’t lead to second guessing by the media/fans.

    And I don’t necessarily think it’s a conscious thought process, it’s just become engrained that you:

    - Don’t let that big lefty bat beat you when you have an effective LOOGY in the pen.

    - Don’t let a reliever give up a string of hits when you have a fresh arm warmed up.

    - Don’t NOT play the match-up that shows X pitcher has has Y success vs Z hitter.

    - Leaving your closer in the pen in a “save situation”.

    Managers are going to play the “percentages” even when the percentages really don’t mean much, because they play everyday under the microscope, and if the don’t, their decision making becomes a distraction that maybe carries over to the next day/game/radio talk show appearance.

  30. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Not having a rookie Montero destroys our line up? Come on now. It’s the same line up as last year, one of the best in baseball. It also seems reasonable to expect A-Rod to have a better year, and I’d be surprised if Teixiera doesn’t turn it around.
    ///.

    Destroys, no. It makes it much more vulnerable to age, platoon issues, and just removes a guy who could have shared to load with Cano of carrying the offense, this season and in the next couple of years. He was very important.

    Alex HAS to be healthy, but there’s no guarantee of that. I expect Tex to have a better year, but to anticipate a return to 2009 numbers may not be realistic, yet that’s kind of what the Yankees need to hope from him. That’s the thing: we have to hope this and this go well, and much of that hope is tied to a former superstar being able to be healthy all season after hip and ankle surgery and who will turn 37 in July. With Montero here, Alex wouldn’t have had to be the heavy with Cano. He could have fallen back into a more complementary place. I think people are caught in a time warp about the lineup. It’s not 2009 any more. Posada’s not behind the plate any more. Their plan was to overload on pitching and hope that carries the day. It better.

  31. yankeefeminista January 27th, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    The 80 arm and the potential for more power than either Mason or Heathcott might give Ravel a shot at playing RF if need be, depending on the makeup of the team/OF when Ravel makes it to the show.

    Everyone throughout the org seems to think Ravel will be 100% fine after the injury, but may start at SI only because he may not yet be ready to start the long season.

  32. Joe from Long Island January 27th, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    stuckey – i really wonder about that. and don’t take this as something against you, but i really wonder. do managers really read the papers, or listen to radio squawk?

    if they do, then what you’re saying makes sense. if they dont’, then we have to look for another reason for that kind of behavior.

    jus wondering.

  33. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    MTU, my pleasure. Too bad he’s not ready now. Bat speed, pop, great arm….

    If he does get a warmup in Staten Island, I’ll get myself there.

  34. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    yankeefeminista January 27th, 2012 at 8:38 pm
    The 80 arm and the potential for more power than either Mason or Heathcott might give Ravel a shot at playing RF if need be, depending on the makeup of the team/OF when Ravel makes it to the show.

    Everyone throughout the org seems to think Ravel will be 100% fine after the injury, but may start at SI only because he may not yet be ready to start the long season.
    ///

    Be there or be square ;)

  35. stuckey January 27th, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Brett Gardner had the 11st highest OPS among qualifier LF’s last season and 4 among PS teams, this after have a poor end to the season.

    Russell Martin has he 9th highest OPS among catchers with over 400 ABs and 4th among teams who qualified for the post season.

    At worst, their production was better than league average at both positions.

    Perspective, how we miss you.

  36. yankeefeminista January 27th, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Pruf, Definitely the former, and that SI generally should be loaded; GCL had a heckuva team in 2011.

  37. CompassRosy January 27th, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    I know many of you are NY Giants fans but, you gotta give it up for this young Niners fan, no?

    http://tinyurl.com/75qvj6m

  38. stuckey January 27th, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Joe, never get offended by being disagreed with. I could be wrong.

    But my opinion is media relations is just an ingrained part of the position now, that it can’t help but have an effect.

    But I should also say I think it more than just media driven. It’s just the general nature of the increased, pitch-to-pitch scrutiny managers face these days, maybe even from their own organizations who have their own “binders”.

    And I’m not defending managers. I below to the brigade who would like to see mgrs use closers to put out fires in the 7th, if such opportunities present themselves.

  39. stuckey January 27th, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Post all-start break 2011 the NY Yankees led the major leagues in runs scored.

    Punch the Dorlean up to 88 and…

    It’s just a jump to the left.

    AND THEN A STEP TO THE RIIIIIIIIIIIGHT.

    Put your hands on your hips.

    YOU BRING YOUR KNEES IN TIIIIIIIIIIGHT

    But it’s the pelvic thrust
    That really drives you insaaaaaaaannnnneee…

    LET’S DO THE TIME-WARP AGAIN.
    LET’S DO THE TIME-WARP AGAIN.

  40. RadioKev January 27th, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Destroys, no. It makes it much more vulnerable to age, platoon issues, and just removes a guy who could have shared to load with Cano of carrying the offense, this season and in the next couple of years. He was very important.
    ———–

    I’d certainly agree that Montero was important to the Yankees future, but I really don’t think he makes or breaks us next season. I also don’t think he makes Gardner worse.

  41. lounge lizard January 27th, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Re Gardner’s OPS status among LF’s on post-season teams:

    On a quick consult of Baseball Reference, I have him seventh out of eight (that’s going by starters getting most games and Jennings instead of Fuld for Tampa).

    He’s way behind just about everybody. The one LF he beats out by a few OPS points is (drum roll) future Yankee Raul Ibanez.

    As for Montero’s departure making Gardner worse, no it doesn’t do that. But the Opening Day lineup against David Price was going to be Montero at DH and Jones in LF. Now it will be Jones at DH and Gardner in LF. The difference in team production against a left-hand pitcher isn’t between Montero and Jones but between Montero and Gardner.

  42. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Radio, by no means. Montero would have made Gardner better. He would have made the whole lineup better.

    But the genie is out of the bottle. Now we get to sit back and see who exits the farm to reel in an offensive player to be his replacement.

    GN, all.

  43. J. Alfred Prufrock January 27th, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    He’s way behind just about everybody. The one LF he beats out by a few OPS points is (drum roll) future Yankee Raul Ibanez.
    ///

    let’s hope that doesn’t come to pass.

    ‘night.

  44. tomingeorgia January 27th, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    JAP,
    From our previous chats, I know you’re an educated and spiritual person. I would like to see all our prospects come up and succeed too. But sometimes, the world intrudes. Money, personalities, who knows? I hope Jesus does what you think he will, and that the pitchers we got for him do the same. That would be good karma, no?

  45. Tom in N.J. January 27th, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    “Any good OF due to hit the market soon?”

    Next offseason:

    Josh Hamilton
    Shane Victorino
    B.J. Upton
    Andre Ethier

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