By Andy Singer
I sincerely hope that everyone had a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving. I know that for many of us, this holiday was very different than in years’ past, but if yours was anything like mine, we made the best of it. One thing that hasn’t changed is that I feel plenty lethargic today after eating my weight in food, so go easy on me with some of my answers today!
I just wanted to let you all know how thankful I am for all of you who read the blog and pose questions for our Weekly Mailbag. It’s a joy to see the questions come in at all hours of the day, so thank you.
In today’s mailbag, we’ll talk a little more about the players protected by the Yankees ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, dream about a trade for Blake Snell, and my favorite Thanksgiving food! As always, send in your mailbag questions to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com, and I’ll answer a handful each week. Without any further ado, let’s get at it:
Gary asks: Of the players who were protected from the Rule V by the Yankees last week, which one is the best prospect?
This is a really hard question to answer because there are so many things we just don’t know about these guys after a lost minor league season. Additionally, it was difficult even for scouts to gain access to onsite access to minor league camps to perform in-person evaluations of prospects, so even opposing teams are flying semi-blind when it comes to the Rule 5 Draft this year.
As a refresher, the Yankees protected RHP Roansy Contreras, RHP Yoendrys Gomez, SS Oswald Peraza, and RHP Alexander Vizcaino. To highlight just how difficult it is to evaluate these guys right now, all but one of these players have yet to play above Low-A, and even Vizcaino has only reached High-A. Peraza, Gomez, and Contreras are all younger than 21 years old, and have significant amounts of even physical development left before we even talk about the baseball experience factor.
Gomez was a teenager who threw in the high-80s with some feel for a slider prior to adding significant velocity in the Yankee system in 2019, transforming him into a projectable righty with a mid-high 90s fastball and a high-spin slider. We don’t know to what extent that scouting report remains true today – does Gomez throw harder? Did the velocity stick around? Did he add weight? We just don’t know. Contreras is in a similar boat, as a velocity/spin monster with a projectable body and promise for a starter’s profile if the command comes around. While it is unlikely that either could start in the Majors in 2020 (or maybe even 2021), it is entirely likely that a rebuilding team could have hid either on the back-end of a bullpen in short outing prior to sending them back to the minors to finish their development. Both are likely Top-10 Prospects in the Yankee system today (Gomez ranked #10 on the pre-season SSTN Top 15 Prospects list while Contreras just missed inclusion).
Vizcaino is different in that he doesn’t wow you with stuff, but he has 3 solid pitches and emerging command. You can’t dream on him in the same way as Gomez or Contreras, but he will likely fill out the back-end of a rotation in the not-distant future.
However, I think the guy with the highest ceiling on this list is Oswald Peraza (#6 on the pre-season SSTN Top-15 Prospects list). As a 19 year old prospect, he held his own at the plate in Low-A with good bat control and plate discipline, and he now projects as a good defender at SS. Rumor has it that Peraza has posted plus exit velocities that will likely continue to improve as he fills out. Peraza is likely someone who would be included in a Francisco Lindor trade, but if the Yankees hang on to him, he could be a fast riser through the system in 2021.
Ethan asks: Now that He Has Been Stated as ‘Available’, Could (and Should) the Yankees Trade for Blake Snell?
Snell is a fascinating case. The perception is that Snell is a frontline starter, and at his best, Snell is certainly among the best left-handed starters in baseball, winning a Cy Young in 2018. Snell has 3 years of team control remaining (through his age-30 season), and projects to make between $11 and $16 million per year over those years. The Rays are among the teams that are likely to shed salary this offseason, so every team that wants to compete in 2021 will likely check-in on Snell. To be clear, the Yankees should be one of those teams. Again, at his best, Snell is a frontline starter.
The question though, is what the Yankees should be willing to pay for Snell’s services? In Snell’s Cy Young season, he was worth 7.1 bWAR/4.8fWAR which every team would want. However, his career WAR totals are just 11.3 bWAR/11.6 fWAR over 5 years, so Snell’s big 2018 looks more like an aberration than the norm. Snell is a modern pitcher in ever sense. He is not an innings eater, having thrown a maximum of 180 innings in 2018, but he strikes out a ton of batters, striking out more than 31% of batters in every year since 2018. However, he also loses the plate, walking batters at a barely acceptable rate around 9% over the same period of time. Much like James Paxton, Snell is a very good pitcher with some very real drawbacks.
The problem is that I think the Rays are going to look for a return package that treats Snell like an ace with 3 years of team control as opposed to a good, but flawed pitcher with 3 years of team control. The Yankees should absolutely check-in with the Rays, as they have a prospect pool to get a deal done. Snell, though flawed, is a win-now pitcher for a team looking to get over the hump. We can only hope that Clarke Schmidt, for instance, becomes Blake Snell. Yes, the Yanks should put an offer together, but I’m not sure how far I’m willing to go to get there yet. I would start with Schmidt and one of the high-octane young guns in the low minors as the core of a package and go from there. It won’t be enough in all likelihood, but it gets the conversation started.
Kevin: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?
A good way to end this week! It’s tough to choose – between my mother and mother-in-law’s house, there’s no shortage of fantastic food. If I’m forced to choose one though, stuffing is often overlooked, yet it consistently outperforms its FIP, so I’m going to go with stuffing today.