SSTN Mailbag: Catcher, Next Year's Rotation, And 40-Man Considerations!
It's been a trying season to be a Yankee fan. It's been an even more trying season to write about the Yankees. There's an extent to which all of us just want to turn the page on 2023 and forget this season ever happened. That said, despite those perfectly valid feelings, I find myself sad as we come into the final weekend of the season. At the end of the day, my bio on this site is as true as any you'll read on the internet: I am a misplaced baseball rat, who spends an inordinate amount of time and energy thinking about the game. As frustrating as the Yankees have been this season, I'll still miss the boys of summer when they're gone. I'm going to write them, but I can't say I'm looking forward to a variety of postmortems that are coming in early October.
However, I do look forward to roster building, scouting, and prospect writing I get to publish in the off-season, and this year in particular, I've generated a lot of work in those departments, so hopefully all of you will enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed putting in the background work on it. I've been able to get a close in-person look at multiple prospects we care about (and some that I think deserve more attention than they're getting). I also will have a lot of writing about where the roster stands post-2023 and where it should go for the next couple of seasons. All of this is to say that while I'm sad to see the end of baseball season, there will be plenty to read here at SSTN, both from my own pen and from my esteemed colleagues. On some level, this will be the most interesting off-season in quite some time, so it creates a silver lining to seeing the end of baseball season.
As always, thanks for the great questions, and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll talk about the catching situation again, project next year's rotation, and evaluate some 40-man considerations! Let's get at it:
Steven Z. asks: I believe the yanks should trade Trevino keep higgy and wells Trevino can’t hit his way out of a paper bag.
This is a really tricky situation. The Yankees are clearly going to try Wells as a catcher at least through next season. I have already expressed my concerns with what I've seen from Wells defensively (poor blocker, bad arm, bad hands, lots of large levers to move behind the plate), but I also think Wells has a strong work ethic and pitchers have publicly given him rave reviews for how he works with them in game-planning and in-game, so maybe he can surprise me. At the very least, I think his bat will play at the big league level, so I think it makes sense to let Wells catch at least half of the time next year while squeezing his bat in at DH and possibly another position the other 1-3 times per week he plays. If Wells is at least half of the catching solution, the other half needs to be strong defensively, but preferably not be a zero at the plate.
I have concerns about both Higgy and Trevino at the plate. We know what Higgy is now. With significant playing time, Higgy is going to be 15-20% worse than the average hitter offensively, though he will occasionally provide some pop from the bottom of the order. Trevino makes a lot more contact than Higgy, but most of it is weak contact, and he's coming back from a significant wrist injury, which makes it unlikely his bat will be any more impactful next season. However, given that he's one year removed from an All-Star selection and his prowess as a pitch framer and pitch caller, it is possible that Trevino has some value on the trade market even returning from injury. Before I really thought about it, I was inclined to agree with Steven's suggestion, particularly given Higgy's role as Wells' mentor.
However, deeper analysis gives me pause. Higashioka just posted his worst defensive season as a Major League player, and all of the advanced metrics are in lockstep, and those metrics match what my eye sees. Higashioka has never had a good arm (at least not since Tommy John Surgery early in his minor league career), and both his pop times and average velocity dropped below playable levels this year. Higgy's framing remained solid, but his pitch blocking, which had always been one of the strengths of his game, took a serious tumble this year; in fact, according to both Statcast and Baseball Prospectus, Higashioka was one of the worst pitch blockers in all of baseball this year. We could consider these drop-offs mere aberrations in an otherwise positive defensive record, but the reality is that Higgy is getting longer in the tooth. Next season will be his age-34 season; I have real concerns that defensive decline is here to stay for Higgy. I hope I'm wrong, because I've always loved him as a backup, but I'm not sure he's the guy I want to split time with Wells next season.
Jose Trevino is a flawed player, but he remains one of the best pitch framers and blockers in the game. He also received rave reviews for his game calling and ability to work with pitchers. Maybe we can hope for some BABIP fueled hot streaks on occasion from Trevino, and he comes with one additional year of team control.
Salaries for Trevino and Higashioka should be relatively negligible in 2024. I'd float both in trade talks and see what comes back, though I think I'm more comfortable with Trevino behind the plate than Higashioka.
Marcos asks: And would you think Will be out of the rotation, Andy?
That would be my guess if in fact they're signing Yamamoto, and Cortez been ok, what happens to Schmidt? There yo have it another scenario, for next week
Marcos initially pointed out that I made a major omission in discussing the rotation last week: Carlos Rodon. I will freely admit, I had a sick kid at home last week when I wrote my response to next year's rotation, so I completely blanked on Rodon...my bad.
In response to Marcos' question, yes, that is exactly what my ideal Yankee rotation would look like next year. Most of you know that I tend to be skeptical of pitchers coming from NPB to the MLB ball. I don't feel that way at all about Yamamoto. I'll have a separate post about him entirely, but I'll sum it up here: he's the real deal, and I think he's one of the best handful of starting pitchers in the world right now. The Yankees should make him an offer he can't refuse when he's posted this off-season.
That gives the Yankees a two-headed monster at the top of the rotation. I think King has proven to be the real deal as a starter, and based on his innings this season, I'd expect him to be able to throw 150-160 innings in the regular season next year. Rodon and Nestor were banged up this year, no question, but I think both are still capable of dominance when healthy. I actually have more concerns about Nestor being healthy next year (shoulders are brutally tough beasts...I know from experience), and Rodon has shown flashes of rounding back into form, enough so that with a good off-season, I think he can shake off the stink from 2023 next season.
The reality is that it takes more than five starters to get through a season. I expect Schmidt, Vasquez, Brito, Beeter, Mitch Spence, and Richard Fitts to all be possible options to slot into the rotation in a pinch next year. However, I would come into the 2024 season with Schmidt as a fireman reliever. He held up over a full season starting for the first time ever, not just in his professional career, but dating back to his college career as well. I think the Yanks are playing with fire letting him throw 140+ innings again with his injury history. I also just think his stuff and delivery are far better suited to 1-3 inning outings. Let him mix and match 2-seam, 4-seam, cutter, and slider/curve while nearly emptying the tank. All of his pitches will play up by at least half a grade, and he'll go from being a barely passable starter to an integral part of the pitching staff.
I've thought Schmidt would be a fantastic reliever since he was a prospect in the Yankee system; nothing I've seen this season has changed my opinion.
Alan B. asks: I think Clay Beeter, Jared Serna, & Augustin Ramirez are locks to be added to the 40 man this November. What about Ryan Anderson, Edgar Barclay & Jesus Rodriguez? Does Nelson Medina have a chance to be added if he has a good AFL season? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Chapparo, Sauer, & Narvaez are all minor league free agents if they so choose.
Here's how I'll handicap this:
Very Little Shot:
Nelson Medina, OF
Here's my issue: I am struggling to find anything reliable about what MLB is doing about service time as it relates to the lost minor league season in 2020. I think teams get an extra year, but I'm just not sure. So, I'm hedging my bets by assuming we don't have an extra year. If someone knows the answer, please let me know!
I really like Agustin Ramirez, and I was disappointed that I missed seeing him in person both times I tried to see him this season. He's just barely close enough to the Majors that I worry about him being picked in the Rule 5 Draft, so I'd add him in addition to Beeter, who is getting close to MLB ready.
Sauer could pitch out of an MLB bullpen as soon as next year were he to abandon starting. Someone would take him in the Rule 5 Draft, and given the Yankees' lack of relief depth, I think he's an option back there. The Yankees have always liked Chapparo's bat, which is why I put him in my toss-up category, but I see a position-less AAAA player. I also like Narvaez, who quietly had a good season at the top level of the minors, and the Yanks need catching, so I could see him getting protected.
Serna was much more ordinary after a call-up to a more age-appropriate level. Even if he were picked in the Rule 5 Draft, he'd never stick. Ryan Anderson is a good minor league reliever, but they're a dime a dozen. Again, the Yanks need relievers, and he's a good lefty, so maybe, but it's an uphill climb in any organization once you're pegged as a reliever in the low minors. Rodriguez is a very interesting prospect who is far enough away that I don't think he'll be protected.
Barclay and Medina are organizational filler; I don't see either making the 40-man. Medina going to the AZFL has more to do with replacing at-bats this season than anything else.