SSTN Mailbag: Rizzo, Sell/Buy, And Best Pitching Prospect!
I have a confession to make: this is the most depressed I've felt as a Yankee fan in my 33+ years on this planet. Sure, 2014-2016 were reloading years, but there was light at the end of the tunnel, because a fresh batch of kids would soon be ready all over the diamond. We can argue about what happened to the Baby Bombers (and don't worry, I will either later this season or during the off-season, because I think the common narrative gets a lot wrong), but the simple fact as this: relative to expectations, the group with the potential to be part of the next great Yankee dynasty has underachieved.
That lack of achievement plays a part in my current mood regarding the team, but it's also the fact that this team is borderline unwatchable right now. In comparing the Yankees and the Mets this off-season, I said that both rosters were very risky, but that the Yankees had a higher floor because even in the scenario where everyone got hurt, the pitching would be good enough to keep the team at .500 or better. What's sad is that I've been right about what the 20th percentile outcome would be for both teams...even sadder is what it's like for a fan to watch either of them on a nightly basis. Everyone with management responsibility, from the owner, to the GM, down to the coaching staff, bears responsibility for all of the things that have gone wrong this season.
Regardless, it wouldn't be all bad if the team at least pretended to play like they care occasionally. It's what made the teams in 2014-2016 watchable. That goes back to coaching and getting guys ready to play everyday, something this coaching staff has proven incapable of doing, over and over again. Talk about the use of analytical methods all you want, but Joe "The Binder" Girardi had his guys ready to play everyday, even if he wore out his welcome in the clubhouse.
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 Anthony Rizzo's struggles, the dichotomy of buying and selling, and I'll give my take on the best pitching prospect in the system right now! Let's get at it:
Michael G. says: It's been reported over and over again how he hasn't hit a homer in x games and how badly he's preforming. His last homer was on 5/28 the same day he got whacked in the head. It's time to sit the man down and put him on IL he's clearly playing hurt.
Alan B. says: Anthony Rizzo's numbers at the day of getting his neck stepped on with full force and with spikes to boot, were: batting average .304, slugging % .505. with 11HRs, 8 2Bs. In 204 ABs. Since the spike: 128 ABs: 5 2Bs, 0HR, .156 BA, & a SLG% of .195.
When does someone actually point this out and the fact no matter what Rizzo or the team says, Rizzo is nowhere near 100% healthy. You may be able to do most things, but at times not bend down or stretch for a ball or swing the bat with as much power, ease, or torque as he can?
It's no secret that I have never been the biggest Anthony Rizzo fan out there, though I have previously acknowledged that I had far undervalued the role of a good defender at 1B, and Rizzo did that quite well, while also providing some left-handed pop. The piece that I stuck to was that I thought his back was a ticking time bomb.
This year, yes, he took quite a shot at first base, but I can't help but think those issues are exacerbated by the fact that he already has spine issues. Alan and Michael are exactly right: the numbers are shocking to look at post-impact. What's worse, over that span of time, the Yankees have 3 of the bottom-10 hitters in baseball over that span of time by wRC+. Unfortunately, one of those hitters is DJ LeMahieu, the only legitimate MLB-caliber player who could fill in for Rizzo at 1B (other than Jake Bauers, who is hurt), which I think is part of our answer.
Were DJLM healthy, I have a hunch that Rizzo would have been forced to the IL weeks ago. However, he keeps telling the team he can play, and there's no one legitimate to replace him.
If it were up to me, I still agree with Michael and Alan: find a scrap heap first baseman and give Rizzo some forced IL time to feel a bit better. Going out there and slamming baseballs into the ground everyday isn't helping Rizzo or the Yankees. The Yankees lost the benefit of the doubt long ago when it comes to injuries, so it doesn't surprise me that they've bungled this one too.
Mike asks: You said in the comments that you wanted to wait until the last week of July to determine whether the Yankees should buy or sell. It's earlier than that, but if you had to make a decision today, what would it be?
I think buying vs. selling is actually a false dichotomy, given what the market looks like today. I do think it's time for the Yankees to shake the roster up, and that includes selling some pieces with either expiring or near-expiring contracts. That said, I think that there are opportunities on the trade market to buy pieces both from teams that have fallen out of contention and teams looking to bolster a run at playoff glory.
I have been developing a plan for exactly this scenario, one I would call "re-loading" as opposed to selling or buying. I think the Yankees have the potential to restore some upper-level pitching depth with good prospects who are close to MLB relevance while also ridding themselves of some ill-fitting parts. I'll have much more on this between this weekend and the beginning of next week. If you want a head start, start looking at the Cardinals (as Ethan Semendinger has done already), Reds, and Diamondbacks for potential trade fits.
David asks: There's so much negativity around the Yankees right now that I want to think about something positive. Who is the best pitching prospect in the farm system right now? Anyone worth getting excited about?
Yes, the Yanks have a few pitchers worth talking about, but one stands above the rest right now. I've loved Drew Thorpe since he was drafted, but he hasn't had the velocity jump I hoped for...yet. When/if that happens, I love Thorpe, but I'll look to another prospect who has received far less fanfare: Chase Hampton.
His fastball has jumped since his college years at Texas Tech, living in the 92-94 MPH range, peaking at 97 MPH, with an athletic delivery and a good curveball that Hampton has shown some ability to command both in and out of the strike zone. Stop me if you've heard this before though: he needs to find a third pitch for lefties. He's been mixing and matching a slider and a cutter to use against lefties because his change-up isn't very good. Those pitches show promise, but they don't have the consistency of his fastball and curveball. If his command continues to grow as expected and one of the slider or cutter becomes usable against lefties, I think he could debut between the end of next season and 2025 as a low-end 3 starter, high-end 4 starter.
That may not sound exciting, but very few pitchers actually achieve that level of talent, and Hampton has a body and delivery that lends itself to starting for a long time.