Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Rookies and Young Players to Watch: New York Yankees

posted by Jon Williams
(man, did I mess up on this one...)

The Yankees aren't often a team you to for rookies or young guys. The New York roster is usually filled with superstars like Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson. Last year two young players had a huge impact on the Yankees: Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang. The one obvious spot where a Yankees prospect could have gotten a huge opportunity was center field but the Yankees filled that hole with yet another superstar, Johnny Damon. There don't appear to be any obvious openings for a youngster to win a starting position or even a rotation spot. The Yankees should however make good use of young players on their bench and in the bullpen. For those of you drafting farm players the Yankee farm system is improving and players like Philip Hughes and Jose Tabata could rise quickly thru the ranks. The depth at AAA and AA is not great but Brian Cashman made moves that should provide reasonable insurance in case of injuries. The players listed below probably won't be fantasy superstars (although the potential is there) but should make solid late round picks or end-game acquisitions.

Andy Phillips:
Phillips probably won't be a great hitter in the majors but he does have power. He's primarily a first baseman but he has spent time at second and third. Right now it looks pretty good that Phillips will play first when Giambi is at DH. Giambi will do his best to avoid too many at-bats as the DH because for some reason he can't focus at the plate when he doesn't also play the field at least thats what the stats tell us. Some have speculated that Bernie Williams will get at-bats at firstbase but I think thats pretty unlikely. Williams will get the majority of DH at-bats and the occassional appearance as a pinch hitter but very little time in the field. Just taking a guess at how much Giambi will be able to play the field suggests to me that Phillips will be good for 200-300 at-bats assuming he doesn't completely suck. In mixed leagues that probably won't be worth much but deep AL-only leagues will probably find the 8-12 homers (if he stays on the roster all year) very useful.

Kevin Thompson:
Will the Yankees carry 11 or 12 pitchers in 2006? I'm hoping that Thompson makes the team either way. Thompson should be the Yankees forth outfielder this year but if the Yankees carry 12 pitchers Joe Torre's warpped sense of loyalty may convince him to carryy Bubba Crosby instead (with 11 pitchers they both make the team). Thompson is younger and a superior hitter to Crosby and a better fielder as well. He can play all three outfield positions. He had 64 extra-base hits between AAA Columbus and AA Trenton in 2005. He also stole 43 bases. Sounds a lot more useful than Bubba Crosby to me and i think the Yankees agree.

Tyler Clippard
and Jose Veras:There isn't room for this pair on the projected 25-man roster. Clippard is a legit Yankee prospect. He throws hard and has decent control. He is a very good strikeout pitcher. Clippard will likely be the first Yankee prospect called up in case of an injury. Jose Veras isn't really a prospect but he was the closer for AAA Oklahoma in 2005 and the closer for Escogido Lions in the Dominican Winter League where he pitched well. He strikesout a lot of batters his main problem is the base on balls but he could fill a hole in a lot of major league bullpens.

Chien-Ming Wang:
Wang made quite an impact on Yankee fans last year and apparently on the Yankee brass as well. The Yankees refused to include Wang in their many different trade discussions this winter but his name came up often. Some forecasters may be frightened off by his extremely low strikout rate in the majors in 2005. I'm not. His strikoue rate has been consistently around 6/9IP in the minors and at times has been higher. My real concern is his lack of experience as a professional. The Yankees and most fans seem to see him as a starter but I think he'd be larger asset in the bullpen. His ability to limit homeruns and get groundballs is perfect for a set-up man. I don't see it happening. The real reason I list him here is to caution against paying too much for him. He should be a decent pitcher but drafting him as if he'll win 20 games in the New York Yankee rotation would be a serious error. Just like everyone else on these lists he's better drafted in the late rounds or bought during the end-game of your auction.

Robinson Cano: I'm conflicted on Cano's potential. I've read enough comparisons to Soriano to be hopeful but I honestly don't see it. Cano hit a lot of doubles last year and since he doesn't really have spectacular speed I have to assume that shows he does have some legit power potential. He doesn't have much in the way of plate discipline but Soriano has greater power and speed to help compensate for his own lack. He also seems resistent to accepting the Yankee (Joe Torre) way of doing things. Robinson Cano has already had a few negative stories written about him. This more than my lack of faith in his potential is why I was one of the few Yankee writers willing to move him for a quality center fielder. Draft Cano looking for a repeat of 2005 and you may be disappointed. I'd expect him to hit around .270/.320/.425 with around ten homeruns. That isn't a terrible prediction for him but the thing to remember is he's more likely to decline than improve in 2006.

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