Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Jackson Report: 5/27

(Picture via Chad Jennings)

After Melky Cabrera was taken out in the first inning of last night's game, Matt and I pondered the implications of a DL stay for Melky. Obviously, one of the first courses of action that we discussed was whether or not the Yankees should call up Austin Jackson.

(Click to enlarge) 

Jackson has had a great deal of success against AAA pitching this year. His BA, OPB, and SLG are all higher than his minor league career numbers (which all of, save for one game, were accumulated at AA or lower). He's hit safely in 34 of 41 games, had 15 multi-hit efforts and is currently riding an 8 game hitting streak.  Since we last checked in, Jackson has raised each of his slash stats and tacked on 5 more doubles and 5 more RBIs. His numbers are better with men on base than with the bases empty, and better yet with runners in scoring position.

There are some glaring holes in his game, however. During that stretch, he struck out 11 times (more than once per game on the year) and still has yet to register a home run at AAA. Both of those weaknesses project to be exacerbated by a jump to the Bigs. 

Being that a couple weeks without Melky would leave Brett Gardner as the only competent defensive CF on the roster it seems as though Jackson would at least have to be considered for a promotion. Matt and I agreed on this assessment but differed on the course of action. 


Jay says: I'm favor of the promotion, provided that it would only last until Melky was able to come back. Just in terms of a roster move, the alternative would be keeping only one capable CF on the 25 man roster, thus hamstringing Joe Girardi pretty severely. Damon or Swisher could play center in a pinch, but neither have manned the position at all this year and represent significant defensive downgrades. Jackson's offensive numbers project to be better than Gardner's at the MLB level and it would be had to imagine someone this side of Little League hitting worse that Swish is right now. 

In terms of Jackson's development, I feel like in most aspects of life, taking on a challenge is usually a positive thing. I wouldn't want him to languish on the bench, but one would assume that making his debut on the big stage and getting some at bats against major league pitching would probably make AAA seem a little easier by comparison when he went back down. 

Matt Says: I'm opposed to a promotion. There's no question Austin Jackson has been playing well at AAA. He's 4th in the IL in AVG and 2nd in OBP. However, he has not yet accomplished what he needs to in AAA in order to move on. While his slugging percentage is good, he's yet to homer. He's shown continued improvement with his BB rate (up to 11%), but his K rate has also jumped up to 28.4% after being under 22% each of the last two years.

I agree with Jay in that you need to challenge players, but Jackson is already being challenged. He's been fast-tracked through the system. This is only his fourth year of full-season pro ball and he is one of the youngest players in the IL. Give him the full year in AAA and don't make another ill-advised knee-jerk reaction.

Further, 40 man roster spots are in short supply right now (more on that later). I'd hate to DFA another player to add AJax for a quick fix. If a CFer is needed in Melky's absence, add Todd Linden. AJax needs to play everyday; Linden could be a usable bench piece. If he isn't, there's no harm in cutting him loose and adding someone else. Once AJax is added though he isn't going anywhere. And once he's called up that arbitration clock starts ticking.

In Melky Cabrera, the Yankees already have a CFer whose development may have been stunted by rushing him to the Big Leagues. I hope they don't repeat that mistake with AJax. 

The commenters say: (...leave your thoughts below)


  1. I'd like to see what Jackson could do at the major league level. Melky has been hot and Gardner's speed is exciting, but I judt don't see them factoring into the Yanks' long term plans. Maybe it's just impatience, but it would be cool to see him up for a couple of weeks.

  2. I agree with Matt. Jackson has had success at AAA but hasn't proven he can hit for power or avoid striking out. By taking him out of an everyday line up for two weeks and having him sit on the bench (at least for a portion of the time) is probably not going to help his development a whole lot, even if he is facing better competition.

  3. Anon - I'm pretty confident that by some point in 2010, you will see what AJax can do in the Bigs. Right now it appears that AJax has more long-term potential than either of the two current CF options, but we'll have to see how that plays out.

    Steve - For a guy with no HRs, his slugging isn't too bad, but it is buoyed by his high AVG. His IsoP is poor, even for a CFer. If he does get called up at some point, I can't see anyway he's not playing everyday. The organization may be shortsited enough to rush him up, but not to the point where they wouldn't play him.

  4. I agree with Jay and disagree with Matt that Melky's progress was stunted by going to the big leagues. I think it only helped him become the player he is today.

  5. Dimaggio played with a 3 inch bone spur. Melky can't handle playing with a bruised shoulder on his non-throwing arm?

    I understand ball players are delicate, but jesus christ. MRI=Negative, Melky=Playing.

  6. Anon: Only 3 inches? I thought it was the curse of the Irish, not the Italians.

    Melky's a switch hitter. He needs both shoulders.

    And DiMaggio played all of 76 games the year he had the bone spur problems.

  7. Gripp - I didn't state definitively that Melky's growth was stunted, only suggested that it may have been.

    He was a disaster during a brief stay in 2005 and was called up in an emergency after both Matsui and Sheffield went down in 2006. He put up a good year for a 21 year old rookie and then got progressively worse each of the last two years. I hope he can keep up what he's currently doing, but I'm not convinced he can.

    When Melky came up for good in 2006 he was 21, had played 1 season in the Dominican Summer League, 1 in short A, 1 split between A- and A+, and 1 split between AA and AAA. He was 30 games into a full season at AAA when he got called up.

    AJax is 22. He's played 1 season in Rookie Ball, 1 full at A-, 1 split between A- and A+, 1 at AA, and is now 40 games into his first season at AAA.

    AJax is at almost exactly the same point now that Melky was 3 years ago. If bringing him up now means he's Melky 2007-8 for the next two years I say no thanks. I'll wait.

  8. You can't compare one player to one other player and assume that everything will play out in exactly the same way. You can use numbers to make any point if you use them like that.

    Anyway, Melky 2007 was good enough for me. If AJax comes up and is that at his age, I'd be ecstatic.

  9. I could use a Bernie Williams comparison. Look at Bernie's stats ages 22-24.

  10. Of course things won't play out the same. But I think Melky could be a cautionary tale against rushing AJax. Historical evidence suggests that Melky should have done well after posting a good age 21 season. Look at his age 22 comps on Instead he regressed for two straight years. What's the reason for that? I don't know for sure; no one does. But it seems to me that his forced early arrival could be the cause.

    If you're pleased with Melky putting up a .273/.327/.391 line in 2007 with an OPS+ of 89, that's your perogative. But that doesn't cut it for me.

    Bernie only played partial MLB seasons at age 22 and 23, splitting time between MLB and AAA. He didn't become an MLB regular until age 24. When Bernie was 21 he played the whole year in AA, completing his 5th minor league season. At that same point, Melky was an MLB regular.

    With the partial seasons Bernie had in AAA at age 22 and 23, he ran his AAA game total to 223 games. Including his demotion last year, Melky has played only 72 games in AAA. Not even a full season, less than a third of Bernie's total. He was given far less time to develop than Bernie and that may or may not have a bearing on their respective career arcs.

    I'd much prefer that AJax be given a full year at AAA if it puts him closer to the Bernie path than the Melky one.

  11. Wow. I guess I look at Bernie's development as coming in the majors. You see it as he developed in the AAA games. I see it as he developed in the big leagues. Even so, after all those games in AAA Bernie's numbers at 24 years of age were still nothing better than Melky's have been. So I argue that Bernie's games in the AAA when he was 22 and 23 was not what really made him a better player. I see Melky actually being on Bernie's path, so from my perspective that is a great path to be on.

    I guess it is a philosophical difference. I believe that the best way to learn is to play in the highest league possible. For me, guys that get opportunities at younger ages are much better off in the long run. That isn't to say that they will become better players because it doesn't factor in the most important part of what makes a player a player...their talent level. So the way, I look at it, Melky might be mirroring Bernie's career path BECAUSE he has been in the big leagues and had a great opportunity to learn at a young age, but most likely his lack of "Bernie Williams" talent will prevent him from ever becoming Bernie Williams. More than likely if Melky stayed in AAA all this time, he would not be a better player, to the contrary, he would probably be more of an after thought. Again, that is my philosophy.

  12. Another factor that I think is much more important besides talent level is health. So if Melky drops off this season, I would probably look to the health of his shoulder rather than think about the lack of games he had at AAA.

  13. We're going to have to agree to disagree, because we're going in complete circles here.

    Bernie and any other player does develop in the Majors, at least until they peak. But there's got to be a baseline level of minor league development before a guy is Big League ready. Even Strasburg isn't projected to go straight to the Majors.

    The partial age 22 and 23 seasons Bernie spent in the Majors were 1991 and 1992. Those Yankee teams were bad. They weren't playing for anything. Yet even at that, the organization didn't see fit to play young Bernie regularly over the likes of Mel Hall, instead allowing him to develop at his own pace.

    Yet 15 years later, when the Yankees were a contending team that could less afford on the job training, they threw Melky out there on a regular basis and left him there even when it was apparent he was lost.

    I'm all for allowing players to play at the highest level, but only at the highest level they can handle. That's why no one suggested shooting Montero or Romine up from A+ when Posada and Molina went down.

    It's often said that the biggest jump to make is from AAA to MLB. Bernie was given three half seasons in AAA to get ready. Melky was essentially asked to jump from AA to MLB. That was a disservice to his development.

    I don't expect Melky to be Bernie Williams, and I don't think anyone should. So far Melky is having a great age 24 season and I hope he keeps it up. But to start prematurely blaming any regression to the mean on a shoulder injury of which the full extent is as-of-yet-unknown is giving yourself a golden parachute.

    FWIW, Bernie hit .268/.333/.400 with an OPS+ of 100 at age 24. If Melky put up that line this year, two of the numbers would represent career highs, and the other two would be right in line with his career averages entering the year.

  14. Definitely agree to disagree. My opinion is that the Yankees did not do a disservice to his development. I think they accelerated his development. Not everyone needs the same amount of time in the minor leagues. Perhaps Bernie needed more time to develop. He was always mentally fragile. Some college players breeze through the minors in 1-2 seasons. I think what you are doing is trying to draw conclusions when all these things are just opinions. A statement like "That was a disservice to his development" makes it seem like it is a fact, not simply your opinion. I think that we have to remember that there is no right or wrong here. No one here can really say we know what is best for these players. We are just sharing opinions.

  15. Oh and I must respond to your accusation that I provided myself with a "golden parachute" with the shoulder. I can easily say your "golden parachute" is that Melky simply never projected to be a much better player than he already has shown anyway.

  16. It isn't a fact; it is my opinion. But I'm presenting evidence to support why I hold that opinion.

    Melky did project to be better at one point. His rookie season suggested he could have a very good career. His next two were a terrible regression and suggested that he might not be good at all. The difference is that I'm basing my opinion on what's already happened. You're speculating at what might happen based on an injury that may or may not be of any concern beyond the next few days.

    And it completely ignores the fact that on May 1st last year Melky was at .299/.370/.494, very similar to where he is now. For the rest of the year, he hit .235/.281/.300 or roughly what Kevin Cash is hitting right now. If Melky nosedives again this year, which I hope he does not, I'll be inclined to think it's the same thing we saw last year.

  17. And all of that is because the Yankees rushed him? I think that is nothing more than a wild guess.

  18. Gentlemen, gentlemen, please...

    This is more a roster management question than it is a baseball development question, isn't it? I mean we're talking about, tops, 15 days, and at the least 3-4? Why would you burn an option year on a guy like Jackson to "see what he can do" in the majors? Heck, we saw him in spring training, right? Once he's on the 40 man, you start the clock ticking toward arbitration, etc.

    If AJax were a beast who was expected to have a rookie year like the other Cabrera (Miguel) or Hanley Ramirez, then yeah, maybe you bring him up...because maybe you'd be thinking he was ready to be a regular player. At this point, he has promise but doesn't project to be a huge impact player.

    I don't think you burn options on a guy like this. There are plenty of other options to fill the roster, and it's only for a couple of days.