I've always thought that the Bill James projections were wildly optimistic, but they're still interesting to look at. I wanted to see what this system has to say about the players on the Yankees who haven't quite established their talent level yet.
Let's start with a topic I've drilled home too many times, the options in center field.
Brett Gardner: .277/.368/.375 with a .338 wOBA; 4.1 RAA per 600 PA.
Melky Cabrera: .278/.341/.407 with a .332 wOBA; 1 RAA per 600 PA.
Austin Jackson: .294/.356/.411 with a .341 wOBA; 5.8 RAA per 600 PA.
If we start with the assumption that these projections are accurate, then it is very debatable who the starting center fielder should be.
These projections say that Austin Jackson is Major League ready, so you wouldn't want to have him repeat Triple-A. Still, Jackson is known as an average defensive center fielder, and Gardner projects to more than make up those two offensive runs with defense.
As I said earlier, Bill James' projections are quite optimistic, and I don't know how they can project Jackson to hit so well. These projections expect a .371 BABIP from Jackson, which is truly improbable. They also project him to cut down on the strikeouts while moving from AAA to the majors.
Expecting a .341 wOBA out of Austin Jackson in 2010 is putting too much pressure on him, as it's very unlikely he'd hit that well in 2010. The guy needs more seasoning in Triple-A, and it seems the Yanks agree.
Melky is what he is at this point. He's close to a league average hitter and plays average defense in center field. That has good value, especially when he's making the league minimum. He'll be worth his arbitration salaries, but not much more.
Gardner and Melky are practically equals as hitters. Gardner gets on base a little more, and Melky hits for a bit more power. That's not where the difference between the two players lies. It lies in other facets of the game: defense and base running.
Gardner's defense is what makes him stand out, and it's good enough that he should be the Yankees' starting center fielder. I've been campaigning for him to be the starter for a while now. I'd like to see him start in the playoffs, but that seems unlikely.
At this point, I'm just hoping that if these are the options for center in 2010, Gardner is the guy.
The system also projects a few prospects who figure to play a role on the team as backups in 2010.
Ramiro Pena: .252/.313/.340 with a .294 wOBA; -18.7 RAA per 600 PA.
Francisco Cervelli: .280/.326/.385 with a .316 wOBA; -7.5 RAA per 600 PA.
I think that this system does a decent job projecting these two players. Ramiro Pena really just can't hit. The only thing that makes him a bench player instead of a replacement player is his outstanding glove.
Cervelli will take over the backup catcher role in 2010 and should see plenty of playing time. If he can muster up a .316 wOBA, that would be great. Over the past two seasons, Molina has put up wOBAs of .260 and .257, so that would be a huge improvement.
Cervelli also ranked as a much better defensive catcher this season, living up to the defensive whiz reputation he earned in the minors.
It's a foregone conclusion that Cervelli will be the backup next season, so why is Molina getting starts in the playoffs? It's clear that Cervelli is superior, so I'd much rather see him behind the plate than Molina.
Obviously, Posada is superior to both, but Girardi loves his backup catchers.
Anyway, I'm pumped for Game Five of the ALCS tonight. Hopefully the Yankees can close it out.