Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yankees Take Hoffmann In Rule V Draft, Lose Two Pitchers

As Joel Sherman indicated shortly before the draft began, the Yankees (by way of the Nationals) have selected OF Jamie Hoffmann with the first pick of the Rule V Draft from the Dodgers.

Chosen by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 8th round of the 2003 NHL Draft (which Matt appreciates), Hoffmann is an athletic 6'3", 235 lbs. He has spent the bulk of his minor league career playing the corners of the outfield but started 32 games in CF at AAA in 2009. Baseball America considered him the best defensive outfielder in the Dodger's system coming to this year, so he should be able to make a positive contribution where ever he's positioned.

He's a right handed batter whose career minor league line is .283/.355/.401, but was better last year, hitting .291/.360/.466 between AA and AAA. The Dodgers called him up for a short stint in May and June of last year where he went 4-22 with two doubles and a home run.
Greg Fertel at Pending Pinstripes takes a closer look at Hoffmann and notes that he had a good year against lefties in'09, although in only 120 ABs.

Here is a FanGraphs piece on him as well, written back in May.

Our buddy Craig sums up some of the lukewarm buzz at the meetings about him.

Cliff fron Bonx Banter doesn't like the move one bit.
The Yankees lost both Zack Kroenke and Kanekoa Texeira (who was part of the Nick Swisher deal) to Arizona and Seattle respectively. Matt took a closer look at both of them earlier this morning and reminded us that the Yankees eventually had all 4 players they lost last year returned to them. Kroenke could have been a useful bullpen piece for the Yanks this year and had they known they were going to lose Phil Coke, they probably would have protected him. But those are the breaks.

Rule 5 Draft: Who Could Be Going?

While the Yankees are sitting in the driver's seat with the top pick in today's Rule 5 Draft, they also have several unprotected players who are good bets to be drafted by other teams. In theory, the Rule 5 is designed to target talent rich organizations like the Yankees, or more specifically, it's designed to protect their minor league prospects from getting buried.

With the Yankees having rebuilt their system over the past few years and not having the luxury of breaking in more than a few young players at a time, the Yankees are ripe to lose guys through the Rule 5. Last year they had four players taken: Reegie Corona (second overall), Zach Kroenke (12), Jason Jones (14), and Ivan Nova (20). All four were returned, but the Yankees then promptly traded Jones, who had some unflattering comments about the Yankees' organization, back to Minnesota.

The point is even if the Yankees lose some players today, they may well be back. Twenty one players were selected in last year's Rule5 Draft. Fifteen were returned to their clubs before the start of the season. Of the six to see Major League service time, only three lasted the season with their new club.

Corona and Nova are protected this year, Kroenke is available again, but as we explored earlier, there's a chance the Yankees use their pick on him. If they don't, he's almost assured to be selected by another club. We touched on Colin Curtis earlier as well, who may make a good reserve OFer on a lower tier team. Here are some other Yankees ripe for the taking today:

  • Grant Duff RHP: Probably a goner. He saw a major jump in velocity this year and did well in the Arizona Fall League. Like most potential Rule 5 guys he has warts. His K rate doesn't measure up to his velocity and his control is spotty.

  • George Kontos RHP: Was having a great season last year until an elbow injury derailed his season and required Tommy John Surgery. Someone could take a flier on him and stash him on the DL, but I believe they'd still have to fill the Rule 5 roster requirement the next year, and no one can afford to have a guy work his way back from TJS like that. Very, very longshot to be selected.

  • Josh Schmidt RHP: Had a great year out of the Trenton bullpen and made five starts as well. He's currently doing well in Winter Ball, predominantly as a starter. This increases his versatility and as a 27 year old who hasn't been above AA, this may be Schmidt's best, and only, shot at reaching the Bigs.

  • Kanekoa Texeira RHP: A throw in from the White Sox in last year's Nick Swisher deal, he too had a great year in AA, making 35 relief appearance and 6 emergency starts. He put up just over a hundred innings at a 2.84 ERA, had decent control, and gave up just 0.6 HR/9.

  • Kevin Whelan RHP: Part of the haul for Gary Sheffield after the 2006 season, Whelan is ripe for the picking. He'll be 26 next year, and unlike the pitchers above (save for the injured Kontos) Whelan has pitched at AAA. He's not just a good bet to get picked, he's a good bet to stick wherever he goes. If he doesn't, his lack of control (career 5.4 BB/9) will be his undoing. In his defense though, he K's a ton of batters (11.4 per 9) and gives up very few home runs (0.3 per 9).

  • Alan Horne RHP: The 2007 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, injuries have limited him to just 100.2 IP over the last two seasons combined, and they haven't been pretty. I can't imagine anyone taking a flyer on him.

  • J.B. Cox, RHP: Similar to Horne, Cox looked ticketed for the Bronx three years ago. Injuries have derailed his career since, and while he hasn't officially retired, he went home mid-season last year to ponder his future. Another guy who isn't going anywhere - and likely isn't coming back for that matter.

My prediction: Duff, Schmidt, Texeira, and Whelan all get selected; Duff and Texeira get returned at some point. If the Yankees don't use their pick on either Curtis or Kroenke they're both gone too, but I don't think Curtis will stick.

Rule 5 Draft: Who Could Be Coming?

Good morning Fackers. Today is the final day of the Winter Meetings, culminating with the Rule 5 Draft. As we know by now, the Yankees have wrangled the top overall pick from the Nationals as their return from Monday's Brian Bruney trade.

As we mentioned earlier this week, this is unique territory for the Yankees. They've made just two Rule 5 picks since 1995. Their roster isn't usually constructed in a manner where they can afford to fulfill the Rule 5 requirement and carry a fringe player on their Major League roster all year. For that reason, I'm inclined to think there's some validity to the rumors that the Yankees may in turn flip whoever they have the Nationals choose for them today.

That said, it's not inconceivable that the Yankees could find a usable part for themselves. While it's nice to dream about finding the next Johan Santana, Joakim Soria, Dan Uggla, or Shane Victorino - all former Rule 5 picks - the reality is that finding such diamonds in the rough are few and far between. A Rule 5 pick is generally left unprotected for a reason, and the best a club can realistically hope for is a nice complimentary piece.

To that end, several folks have parsed the hundreds of available players and put together short lists of potential Yankee picks: Mike Axisa at River Ave. Blues, Greg Fertel at Pending Pinstripes, Steven Schwartz at Bronx Baseball Daily, and Chad Jennings at the LoHud Yankees Blog. I won't pretend to know much about fringe minor leaguers from other organizations, but I will share a few thoughts on the possibilities.

First, I think it would be a major, major mistake to use the pick on Arquimedes Caminero unless the Yankees are going to flip him. Fanhouse's Frankie Piliere, a former scout, is big on Caminero, and I respect his opinion. Caminero's career K/9 of 10.4 is enticing, but his career BB/9 of 5.1 is very off putting. For my liking, that's far too similar to the guy the Yankees traded just to get this Rule 5 pick. The fact of the matter is Caminero will be 23 next year, has thrown just 138 innings in four professional seasons and has topped out with just 2.1 IP in A+ ball. To think he can make what amounts to a four level jump, overcome his obvious control problems, and last a full season in the Major Leagues - let alone in the AL East - is a monumental leap of faith.

There are a few OF/1B types who can also catch in Chad Tracy, Matt McBride, and Brian Jeroloman. I'm not necessarily advocating that any of them be the pick, but I am intrigued by the prospect of adding another player to the roster who can catch. I have the utmost confidence that Francisco Cervelli will be a capable back-up, but if Jorge Posada is going to see semi-regular time at DH, or if Posada or Cervelli gets dinged up, it would be very valuable, if not necessary, to have another catching option at hand. And as we saw with the Kevin Cash debacle last year, it will likely be difficult for the Yankees to convince a capable veteran to take a AAA deal - especially with Jesus Montero and Austin Romine charging up the ladder. The Buck Showalter era Yankees had success with a catching triumvirate of Mike Stanley, Matt Nokes, and Jim Leyritz, aided by the fact that all three were capable of DHing or subbing elsewhere in the field.

There are several rumors that the Yankees may use the pick on one of their own eligible players. This would virtually ensure they keep the player, because if he doesn't stick on the Major League roster the Yankees would be returning the player to themselves. Both Zach Kroenke and Colin Curtis have been mentioned. I like Kroenke and given my doubts about Mike Dunn, I'd like to keep Kroenke all the more with Phil Coke gone. Curtis is virtually a non-prospect, but he had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League and would provide AAA OF depth, something the Yankees are virtually devoid of with Austin Jackson now gone.

Despite all that, I find it very unlikely that the Yankees swung such a deal just to take one of their own players, who they chose not to protect just two weeks ago - unless that was part of the plan. That is, knowing they were going to have to include Coke as they negotiated the Granderson trade, they made the Bruney trade as a way to retain Zach Kroenke, who is far less expendable with fellow lefty Coke now gone.

That's what the Yankees stand to gain. We'll be back shortly with a look at who the Yankees stand to lose today.