Weekly Mailbag: Andujar, LeMahieu, Urshela, and German!
A lot of good stuff in this week’s mailbag. We’ll talk about Andujar’s trade value, LeMahieu’s batted ball profile, and German’s performance. Oh, and I hold back a bit on a response to Urshela’s performance. Read on for the questions and answers in this week’s mailbag!
Lionel asks: What would be a fair return if the Yankees were to trade Andujar?
First, a disclaimer: I would not trade Andujar. Trading him now means selling low, given the fact that he has a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and I am not yet convinced that it will not affect his ability to make the bullet throw across the diamond. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, this is a fun thought experiment.
Andujar entered 2019 as a highly-regarded, near-blue chip prospect that hit to expectations right away. However, there are real questions about his ability to stay at 3B, so he may be a 1B/DH by his age-25 season. In all likelihood, he is a 2-3 WAR player at 3B if his defense does not improve, or a 3-5 WAR player if his defense is merely below-average as opposed to atrocious. Add in the 5 years of team control (translation: he’s cheap, and so are MLB teams), and Andujar is super valuable on the trade market. The Yankees have resisted moving Andujar in some pretty big deals over the last couple of seasons because they believe that strongly in his talent. Big talent + years of control = big return.
Looking at the Yankee roster, I think we all agree that the target of a trade involving young big league talent on a team looking to contend would need to return an impact MLB player that could put the Yankees’ championship chances over the top. Right now, the thinnest spot on the roster is on the pitching staff. To trade Andujar, I want a mid-rotation starter, and a good reliever. Generally, a non-1B infielder would be more valuable in a trade than a starting pitcher (if the players are of equivalent skill and value) due to the durability concerns for pitchers.
For this trade, let’s look at the Indians, who do not have a true 3B (or 1B, for that matter) on the roster. I actually have a trade in mind for Andujar that would not be crazy for either side. Shane Bieber is a young, mid-rotation starter with multiple years of team control. Brad Hand is a good, established bullpen arm nearing the end of his prime. I would offer the Indians Andujar for Bieber and Hand. The Indians are still in contention, and have injuries to their pitching staff, so they would probably say no right now, although I think all bets would be off in the off-season if a trade like that were offered. Those core pieces as the basis of a larger trade, I think, would be a possibility.
Both teams would be risking a lot by making a move like that. Remember Cashman’s comments when he traded Montero for Pineda? Trading a guy like Andujar would induce panic attacks precisely because of his talent. Trading Andujar right now is hard, but he is definitely a valuable piece that could net a very good return.
Mark asks: DJ LeMahieu really seems to be the professional hitter Yankees had hoped to acquire in the offseason. We haven’t seen the flashes of power he had with Colorado. How much of the lack of home runs is due to the difference in altitude?
LeMahieu’s ISO this season (at the time of writing) is .107. While his ISO was .152 last season and .147 in 2016, those numbers represent random spikes (yes, probably related to playing in Colorado) more than any norm for LeMahieu. For his career, LeMahieu’s ISO is .108, so his power numbers are right in line with LeMahieu’s standards.
More interestingly, he is actually under-performing based on the quality of his contact thus far, at least according to Statcast. Thus far, LeMahieu is hitting the ball harder than ever, with an average exit velocity of 92 MPH. Additionally, his launch angle is up a touch, as is his hard hit percentage (up 5%). Based on the quality of contact, Statcast says that LeMahieu’s XSLG (expected slugging percentage) is .442, with an XBA (expected batting average) of .309, so Statcast agrees with your eye: LeMahieu’s contact quality implies that he may be due for a bit more power as the season wears on.
That said, I’m fine with LeMahieu hitting exactly like this all year – high contact, good walk rate, and premium defense all over the diamond? Yes, please!
Jeff asks: Is Gio Urshela for real?
I’m actually writing a longer post on Gio (set to publish on Monday), so I’m going to withhold a bit on this answer (sorry, Jeff). What I can tell you is that the Urshela story has been a lot of fun so far, particularly given just how surprising his performance has been.
In a nutshell, we are still talking about some very small sample sizes, statistically. In order to have some degree of trust in the stats, we really need a couple hundred at-bats to speak with some confidence. However, there are some very interesting points of note (and not necessarily what you would expect) with regards to Urshela’s launch angle, exit velocity, and batted ball profile. While he may not hit quite like this for the entire season, I think that he is a better hitter than he has been in his previous professional seasons.
Despite the fact that the defensive metrics are inconsistent with regards to Urshela this season (again, super small sample size, even more-so for defensive metrics), the eye test tells me that Urshela is at least an above-average defender. If Urshela is even an average bat, he is likely a 2+ WAR, everyday 3B. That’s a valuable player!
I don’t want to give away too much from my article (again, check it out Monday), but all I can say is that I am very intrigued.
Mark asks: Domingo Germán has 6 wins and it’s only early May. Does he have a realistic chance of 20 wins? Should we assume he will be a starter the rest of the year, even if everyone gets healthy? Who was the last Yankee with 20 wins?
The last Yankee to hit the 20 win plateau was Mike Mussina in 2008, his first time finishing a season with 20+ wins in his final season. 20 wins is becoming almost impossible to achieve, particularly for young pitchers, due to innings limits, lower pitch count limits, and time off due to either injury or health management.
German has broken out in a big way early this season. He has always had the stuff to be a good starter, but injuries led to short windows of development in the minors. In fact, German has only ever eclipsed 100 innings in 2 professional seasons: 2014 and 2017. On the flip side, German is 26 now, so the Yankees may be more willing to push him a little further than one might expect so that they can get everything they can out of him. Even still, I don’t think German will be pushed to 180+ regular season innings this year. I think an innings limit, even if one is never announced, of 165-ish innings sounds about right in my head. German may even manage to make 30 starts if the innings limit is that high! That said, achieving 20 wins would be something in just 30 starts. I just don’t think it’s likely.
German is an exciting pitcher, but he will cool off at least a little. The competition that German has faced has not yet been the highest caliber. There will be slumps. Most importantly, German’s track record for durability is not strong, so not only will the Yankees look to find ways to give him some rest, but statistically speaking, an IL stint is likely at some point.
Even with some of those negatives, German is definitely a starter, if he can stay healthy. Right now, it’s too early to think about what the rotation could look like with everyone healthy. We won’t see Montgomery or Sevy until July/August at the earliest, and a lot can happen between now and then. If German has a sub-3.00 ERA in August, and his innings are in check, it will be tough to take him out of the rotation, but who knows what the rotation will look like then with regards to health. Remember: pitcher is a Greek word for “breaks often.”
That’s all for this week! Tune in next Friday for another mailbag, and remember: write your questions to SSTNreadermail@gmail.com by Thursday evening for consideration. Have a good weekend, everyone!