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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Vasquez/Brito, Hal's Role, And Looking Ahead!

For the first time since May, I'm having fun watching Yankee baseball. If that sounds a bit odd for someone who writes for a die-hard Yankee blog, understand that just because you love something, it doesn't mean that you have to like what you see. The Yankees were almost unwatchable from the moment Aaron Judge ran through the wall in LA, but since the kids came up on September 1st, Yankee baseball has energy and is fun even in losses. This season has brought great frustration, but it has also brought a glimmer of hope for the future. However, I think the challenge for observers of the Yankees is to parse fact from fiction.

I generally subscribe to the idea that most things are neither as dire as they seem when times are at their worst nor are they as good as they seem when they are at their best. As such, as much as I would advise anyone who is excited by what they see on the field right now to evaluate the role of recency bias in their evaluation, I would also caution those who wanted to burn the organization down to the studs to think as critically about their evaluations. I was overly optimistic as the ship started sinking, thinking that Judge's return in combination with very modest bounce-backs from even 2 of the vets would help save the season and bide time until some of the kids were ready. I was wrong, totally. However, I also predicted (in writing) prior to the beginning of the season that Jasson Dominguez would arrive in the Majors by August/September and make some impact. I was right about that one, and the genesis of my middle-ground take on the Yankees' future has been buoyed by the idea that the Baby Bombers, Take II are actually really good. I think it is entirely likely that there is at least 1 star and multiple championship-quality role players in the group, and potential mid-rotation and good bullpen arms.

I think these facts also play into my feelings about the organization more generally. For those of you who have skewered Brian Cashman (in many cases, rightfully so!), it is hard to fault him on the quality of talent he has worked to acquire down on the farm despite picking in the bottom-third of the draft every year. Multiple signings from Latin America have had good years, and the farm system appears ready to produce good big leaguers and solid trade pieces. Would I part ways with Cashman were I Hal Steinbrenner? I'd strongly consider it, but that's not happening. However, I think the real problems that do exist within the organization can be fixed with Cashman at the helm. New leadership in the dugout, a different team managing statistical analysis (including possibly a new Assistant GM), and a total gutting of the team's training and medical staff can bring enough change to turn the organization around if A.) Hal finds the stomach to make real personnel changes and B.) If Cashman is open to change. I feel relatively confident in B, but I'm not as sure about A, which will make all of the difference when we look back years from now.

As always, thanks for the great questions, and keep them coming to In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll discuss Vasquez and Brito's ultimate roles, Hal's day-to-day role, and an early look at next season's roster! Let's get at it:

John asks: With the Yankees short on rotation help, instead of letting the kids start every fifth day, the Yankees have stuck Vasquez and Brito in the bullpen for September. Both look good there. Is this an indication that their roles will be in the bullpen from now on?

Coming into the season, most scouts and talent evaluators viewed Brito as a spare arm without put-away stuff and Vasquez as a guy that would most likely lack the command to start consistently at the MLB level. I am a bit more optimistic about Vasquez, just because the pure stuff is there to start, though I think his delivery is inconsistent enough that his best role might be as a multi-inning reliever. Brito is the guy that has surprised me. His stuff has ticked up a bit out of the bullpen, and it allows both his slider and change-up to play up enough to get more consistent outs.

Given the Yankees' thin rotation situation next year, I think it would be smart to keep at least one of Brito or Vasquez in the MIke King role. Vasquez is the guy I feel most confident about there. Vasquez's stuff is so good that if you asked him to air it out for 1-3 innings and train for it in the off-season, I think he could be really valuable. Despite the uptick in stuff, I'm not as confident in Brito.

I can't help but think that Brito might have peaked this season, and I wonder if a good September could boost his trade value just enough to be a meaningful second or third piece in a larger trade this off-season.

Based on the Yankees' history, I'd bet that both Vasquez and Brito stay stretched out as starters coming into Spring Training, but I think it's entirely likely that one of them ends up in the 2024 bullpen. In that case, I'd bet on Vasquez.

Frank G. asks: Michael Kay made it sound like Hal stepped over Cashman to call-up The Martian. Do you believe it and if so, what does this mean for Cashman's job?

I listened back to the clip from the Michael Kay Show that Frank references, and I've received multiple emails about it. Kay was very cagey in his phrasing, and I can't help but think that he was trying to slip salacious rumors into his show without attaching his name to it directly.

Here's what I do believe: that the Yankee staff working in statistical analysis had more conservative opinions regarding Dominguez, Wells, etc. and their potential impact this season. Given Hal's open questioning of the Yankees' approach to statistical analysis, I think it's entirely likely that Cashman leaned more heavily on his scouting staff to make this particular decision.

Another word of caution: Cashman himself brought in Omar Minaya and Brian Sabean into the organization as advisers this off-season, as he has done countless times over the years with talented former executives. I opined that Cashman wanted those voices around to get outside opinions regarding the next wave of Baby Bombers, given that both have widely been regarded as good evaluators of young talent. If the analytics staff was overruled in this instance, I actually believe that it is in keeping with a movement that began well before this season went sour. Frankly, I don't think it has any impact at all on Cashman's job, nor do I believe that Hal ordered Dominguez called up that directly.

Brian asks: Which of the rookies called up do you think have the greatest chance of playing for the Yankees on Opening Day in 2024?

I'll list them in order of likelihood:

  1. Jasson Dominguez. The guy looks like he's ready for the challenge, even if he endures long slumps like Volpe did this season.

  2. Randy Vasquez. The Yankees are going to need pitching help next year, and his stuff is good enough that they might just make him part of the bullpen to begin the year next year.

  3. Matt Krook. I know this doesn't excite anyone, but he strikes guys out at an absurd rate down in AAA, and never got a fair shake this year in anything other than bad scenarios. His slider is truly exceptional from the left side, and I think he's the lefty out of the bullpen next year when Wandy Peralta departs.

  4. Austin Wells. I think he's got a great swing, and is showing just enough behind the plate to earn a chance to split time with one of Trevino/Higgy/Rortvedt next year. It will really depend on how he finishes September, but I think he's got a chance to squeeze his way into regular playing time as a C/DH/1B.

  5. Oswald Peraza. I can't shake the feeling that he's going to wind up elsewhere this off-season, but he's got great hands defensively and I think there's more potential in his bat than we've seen this year.

  6. Everson Pereira. The guy has tools, for sure, but he also has some pitch recognition issues (not as significant as Estevan Florial, but they are apparent). Another guy I wonder if the Yankees trade this off-season for pitching help.

I think the top-4 on this list have a reasonably good chance to receive an Opening Day nod in 2024 (let's say better than 50-50). It's really early, though, to be making projections so take what I've written with a grain of salt.

1 Comment

Alan B.
Alan B.
Sep 08, 2023

My comments here will be all over the place, but here I go.

I believe Dominguez has even a decent September, he will be penciled in as the CF.

I believe that either Torres or Peraza will be starting alongside Volpe in the middle of the infield. Further, the one that isn't, I believe gets traded away.

One of Brito or Vasquez will be traded. The other should start the year as the proverbial long man. NOT so fast on counting on Trevino being ready for the start of 2024. This is the Yankees medical team after all that's in charge of his rehab.

I can see where Wells starts 2024 back in AAA, even if Rortvedt is non tendered…

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