Heading for Thanksgiving, the industry consensus is that the Alex Cobb showdown will come down to Cubs v. Yankees.
Alex Cobb, who will be 30-years-old next season, had a 3.66 ERA and a 113 ERA+ with a 6.4 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 179.1 innings pitched last season. In his career, he has a 3.50 ERA, and a 111 ERA+. He had a 47.8 percent groundball rate in 2017 (19th in MLB among qualified starters), although he used to be more of a groundball pitcher and has a career mark of 54.0 percent.
MLBtradeRumors.com has Cobb ranked as the 11th best free agent this offseason and expects him to land a deal in the four-year and $48 million range. Seems likely to me that he’ll earn at least slightly more than that with a number of teams interested in him including the Baltimore Orioles.
Cobb would add decent depth to the Yankees rotation, but is certainly not a big name you want to see on the mound during a playoff game. This isn’t about going after the best talent on the free agent market because that would be Jake Arrieta. This is about saving money — either by getting a relatively cheaper starting pitcher, or by giving the Yankees some leverage in negotiations with CC Sabathia.
The Yankees are flush with talent throughout their whole system. They have plenty of talent ready to contribute as soon as next season in the upper minors as well. This is an exciting time to be a Yankees’ fan. They just made it to within one game of the world series, and the fun has just begun! Here are the guys to look out for next season.
Gleyber Torres – SS, 6-foot-1, 175-pounds, RHB, 20-years-old – There aren’t many 20-year-olds in Triple-A. The list is short. Taking it a step further, there are few, if any of those 20-year-olds who have already had the level of success as Torres has at the level. This year, between Double-A and Triple-A Torres managed to hit .287/.383/.480/.863 with seven homeruns, 14 doubles, and two triples. He struck out 47 times in 55 games. He showed in a short period of time that he is already a superstar. This coming season he will almost certainly get a shot in the MLB. If/when he does, he is the perfect guy to potentially take them over the edge and become a world series caliber team. If the Yankees move him to third base, he will be a major improvement from last season without having to spend any additional money or sacrifice any prospects. His time is rapidly approaching.
Prediction: 120 games, .292/.338/.456/.790 with 12 homeruns, 28 doubles.
Clint Frazier – LF, 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, RHB, 23-years-old – Frazier is another guy who appears ready to help the team now. If the Yankees are somehow able to shed the Jacoby Ellsbury salary, he could step in immediately as the starter in left field. This year he played well after an initial adjustment period to Triple-A, and then made some noise in the majors although his numbers are mediocre in 39 games. He hit .256/.344/.473/.815 in Triple-A with 12 homeruns in 74 games, and hit .231/.268/.448/.715 with four homeruns in the majors.
Prediction: 140 games, .260/.325/.475/.800 with 25 homeruns, 33 doubles, 10 SB.
Chance Adams – RHP, SP, 6-foot-1, 210-pounds, 23-years-old – Adams is as ready as anyone in the system to contribute in the majors. He has a mid to upper 90’s fastball that lasts late into games, plus curveball, plus slider, and plus changeup. The only thing holding him back at this point is his command. He dominated in Double-A and Triple-A this year, with 135 K : 58 BB and a 2.45 ERA in 150.1 innings. Batters hit .193 against him. At this point in his career, there is only one level left to dominate, the majors leagues. The Yankees currently don’t have a fifth starter, and he fits the bill. If they don’t sign CC or Otani, I’d expect him to be the opening day fifth starter. Even if they do, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t make some starts this season.
Prediction: 12 starts, 66 innings, 3.9 ERA, 60 K, 24 BB assuming they sign a 5th starter.
Miguel Andujar – 3B, 6-foot-0, 215-pounds, 22-years-old – Andujar has slowly but surely built himself into a guy who is in the conversation for a top 100 prospect. He hit .315/.352/.498/.850 this season with 16 homeruns, 36 doubles, and two triples. He is in elite company in terms of players who have great contact skills and power. He is one of the best hitting third basemen in the minors. The main question marks with him come with his defense. Few question his long-term prospects at the position, because he has all of the tools needed. The only question with him is decision making and accuracy of his throws. He has a cannon but tends to make bad throws or try to make plays that he shouldn’t. If he can correct these things he’s a surefire starting third baseman, maybe even an all-star down the road. This season it may be tough to get playing time in the majors for him because Headley is still here, and Torres will be competing for playing time as well. An injury or ineffective play by virtually anyone in the infield could lead to extended playing time for him though.
Prediction: 60 games, .305/.340/.460/.800 with 10 homeruns, 20 doubles.
Domingo German – RHP, SP/RP, 6-foot-2, 175-pounds, 25-years-old – German was effective in 12.2 relief innings this season with the Yankees, striking out 15 and sporting at 2.84 ERA. He did walk eight batters, but that could have just been jitters. They sent him back down to the minors to get more innings and he was quite successful down there. He has an upper-90’s fastball, a good changeup, and a good slider. The slider is a bit inconsistent but if he is able to tighten that up he will be a force. He will compete out of spring training for a rotation spot and could see time out of the bullpen or the rotation throughout the season. He has a lot of role versatility. I expect him to become a fixture in the bullpen this season.
Tyler Wade – SS, 6-foot-1, 185-pounds, 22-years-old – Wade was spectacular in Triple-A this past season, hitting .310/.382/.460/.842 with a career-high seven homeruns, 22 doubles, and four triples. He played in 85 games but a need arose in the majors and he was called up. There he struggled mightily, hitting just .155/.222/.224/.446. He did prove he could fill in capably in the middle infield though, which is nothing to scoff at. This year he will have a tough time finding playing time with all of the competition he faces. It will be even tougher this year now that Torres and Andujar will be in the mix. That said, if he does get in there he could carve out a role as a utility infielder, especially if Torreyes gets moved.
Prediction: 50 games, .250/.350/.370/.720 with 3 homeruns, 15 doubles, three triples, and 10 SB.
Justus Sheffield – LHP, SP, 5-foot-11, 200-pounds, 21-years-old – Sheffield had a great season in 2017 before succumbing to injury. He threw 98 innings and struck out 88 while walking 34 with a 3.12 ERA. He threw another 20.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League and struck out 22 while walking just three. He finished with a 3.1 ERA. The command seems to be coming along and he definitely garnered some attention in the AFL this year. A lot would have to happen for him to pitch in the majors this season, but he has the talent to force the issue if he is at the top of his game. He should be ready for 160 innings in 2018.
Domingo Acevedo – RHP, SP, 6-foot-7, 250-pounds, 23-years-old – Acevedo is one of the most underrated players in the Yankees’ minor leagues right now in my opinion. He had a great season in mostly Double-A, finishing with a 3.25 ERA and 152 K: 34 BB in 133 innings over three levels. The walks and control are not so much a problem. The command of the strike zone has been his major bugaboo. He is a massive man who sits 95-97 and has been known to hit triple-digits. He holds his velocity and has a plus changeup. The slider is above average and is the main pitch that needs to improve to make him a potential front end major league starter. Even if he can’t crack it as a starter, he will almost certainly be a top shelf reliever at this point, of the Dellin Betances ilk. He could contribute to the Yankees this year, but I’d say it’s more likely he spends a full year in Triple-A for some more seasoning. If he does play in the majors though, I’d expect that it’s because he took a major step forward and he will make a big splash.
Jake Cave – CF, 6-foot-0, 200-pounds, 24-years-old – Cave had exactly the type of season he needed heading into minor league free agency. He his .305/.351/.542/.893 with 20 homeruns, 26 doubles and five triples. He did most of his damage in Triple-A, where he had an OPS of .921 in 72 games. He has the ability to hold down centerfield and has now proven he can hit for both average and power. His strikeout numbers could use a bit of work, but the Yankees chose to protect him recently because otherwise they most certainly would have lost him. He has too much competition this year for playing time in the outfield, but a couple of injuries could result in an opportunity for him, much like Fowler and Frazier got last season. His best opportunity might be a trade, but I’d be more than happy if the Yankees keep him.
Prediction: 30 games, .275/.335/.449/.784 with five homeruns and 10 doubles.
Billy McKinney – OF, 6-foot-1, 205-pounds, 23-years-old – Mckinney is on the same page as Cave as a guy who revitalized his career in 2017. He has his best season ever, hittins .277/.338/.483/.821 between Double-A and Triple-A. He had a .877 OPS in Triple-A. He had 16 homeruns on the season, and struck out just 94 times in 124 games. The only thing that Jake Cave has going for him over Mckinney is that he can play centerfield. Both guys appear to be future major league outfielders at this point. Just like Cave though, there will have to be some injuries for Mckinney to get a shot. Judge, Gardner, Hicks, Ellsbury, and Frazier are all ahead of him. If he does get some playing time though, here is my prediction.
Prediction: 30 game, .255/.310/.415/.725 with three homeruns and eight doubles.
Thairo Estrada – SS, 5-foot-10, 185-pounds, 21-years-old – Estrada might very well be the best hitter in the Yankees’ system. He has consistently hit for average, gotten on base, and limited strikeouts throughout his career. In 2017, he hit .301/.353/.392/.745 with six homeruns and 19 doubles in 122 games. He did all of this as a 21-year-old in Double-A. He has surprising pop for his size and he still has time to develop his man strength. There are those in the Yankees’ brass who are huge believers in this kid. Some even think he is not far off in talent from Gleyber Torres. I’d fall short of that comparison, but I do think he can be more than just a utility guy in the future. With an injury or two he could easily see some time in the majors, especially now that he will be added to the forty man roster.
Prediction: 30 games, .320/.360/.380/.740 with one homerun, seven doubles, and a triple.
Cody Carroll – RHP, RP, 6-foot-5, 210-pounds, 24-years-old – Carroll had a breakout year in 2016 and topped it this year. He finished the year with 67.1 innings, an 89:30 K:BB ratio, and a 2.54 ERA between High-A and Double-A. He had a .191 average against. He throws a mid-90’s fastball which touches 98 mph, and has a curveball and changeup as well. He also pitched 11.2 innings in the AFL where he did not let up a run, and struck out 18 while walking five. The stuff is nasty, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t play in the majors at some point in 2018.
Raynel Espinal – RHP, RP, 6-foot-3, 199-pounds, 25-years-old – Espinal ascended three minor league levels this year, finishing in Triple-A. He was dominant at every level, with 93 K : 15 BB and a 1.09 ERA in 74.1 innings. If the Yankees are able to keep him after the rule five draft, he should see some time in the majors as a guy who has a mid-90’s fastball with tremendous movement.
Jose Mesa Jr. – RHP, SP/RP, 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, 24-years-old – Mesa finished the season on a tear as a starter. He ended up throwing 84 innings, striking out 101, while walking 32, and pitching to a 1.93 ERA on the season between High-A and Double-A. Most of his starts were in Double-A. He had a .166 average against him. Mesa can sit in the 95-98 mph range in relief and has a slider, changeup, and curveball. I don’t see him breaking in as a starter this season, but if a need arises the Yankees’ might turn to him in a relief role, which is where his father thrived. As a starter his velocity played down a bit, but he was still getting a ton of strikeouts.
Anyelo Gomez – RHP, RP, 6-foot-1, 185-pounds, 24-years-old – Similar to Espinal, Gomez ascended all the way from the low minors to Triple-A in one season. He too dominated along the way. He finished with a 1.92 ERA, 87 K : 21 BB, and a .199 average against in 70.1 innings. He also has a mid-90’s fastball and secondary offerings that are getting the job done. If they can keep him in the rule five draft coming up, he could also be useful in the major league bullpen this year.
Cashman said Chad Green will be brought to ST as a starter with “the reliever situation as a fallback. But nothing certain yet. U can’t disregard how exceptional he was in the role he had but at the same time he didn’t find himself in that role because he was a failed starter.”
Remember that this is the guy that said Bubba Crosby was going to be the Yankees starting center fielder, and then turned around and signed Johnny Damon. This is the plan…for now. Trades can and will change these things.