Early Returns on Some Former Yankees

Delving into the production of ex-Yankees is something of a tradition - both for fans of the team, and for myself in my time with The Yankee Analysts and It's About the Money. We cannot help but wonder what the departed players are doing; not in a creepy ex-significant other sort of way (I hope). Rather, we use it a form of hope. Generally speaking, it is hope that the Yankees made the right move by letting the player walk or, alternatively, sending the guy back. Although, to be fair, sometimes it's fun to play the hindsight game from the other perspective, as well ... I still miss Never Nervous Yangervis. With that in mind, I figured I would look into a dozen players that have headed elsewhere over the last two seasons, focusing on those that had some semblance of a role with the Yankees.

Chris Capuano, Milwaukee Brewers 17.0 IP, 17 H, 13 BB, 17 K, 3.71 ERA, 6.42 FIP, -0.3 fWAR

Capuano was something of a punching bag last year - both on the field, and among fans (particularly here). He has been less awful this year, based solely on run prevention, but his peripherals suggest that he's a strong breeze away from being just as bad in 2016. He's a serviceable mop-up pitcher (a role that most any pitcher in Triple-A or the Majors could fill) ... so ... there's that.

Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates .296/.408/.347, 11 R, 0 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB, 114 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR (120 PA)

Cervelli has been the second-best catcher in baseball since the beginning of 2016 by both wRC+ and fWAR (behind only Buster Posey in both categories). He showed flashes of this when he was with the Yankees (he hit .278/.348/.381 in pinstripes, after all), but he never put it all together. The most important aspect of his rise may be the simple fact that he has been able to stay healthy since heading to Pittsburgh.

Stephen Drew, Washington Nationals .143/.167/.257, 3 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, 9 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR (36 PA)

We were angry last season when Drew blocked Rob Refsnyder. Imagine the vitriol that he is facing in Nationals fans circles, as he (and the similarly inept Danny Espinosa) block Trea Turner - a legitimate top-20 prospect.

Ramon Flores, Milwaukee Brewers .188/.288/.219, 5 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, 39 wRC+, -0.1 (73 PA)

Flores may have never earned a real shot in pinstripes, much to the chagrin of our very own Brad Vietrogoski, but he's still just 23. The rebuilding Brewers are allowing him to play in some capacity nearly every day, so it bears watching to see if he can earn his keep.

Garrett Jones, Yomiuri Giants (NPB) .217/.329/.400, 12 R, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 0 SB (140 PA)

Jones seemed poised to contribute as a back-up option at 1B, LF, RF, and DH last season, but the opportunity never really came to pass. Perhaps the Yankees saw something, though, as Jones didn't earn another shot in the Majors after the team initially cut him loose. His base salary this year is $2.8 MM, so I'm guessing that he's not complaining.

John Ryan Murphy, Minnesota Twins .075/.119/.100, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, -52 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR (44 PA)

As Aaron Hicks shows flashes of turning it around, Murphy finds himself in Triple-A trying to figure things out (he's batting .111/.182/.111 in three games since the demotion). He's a few days shy of his 25th birthday, and he was quite good in 2014 and 2015, so this feels like a prolonged slump. I still think that he can be a solid-average big league catcher.

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox 14.2 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 17 K, 1.23 ERA, 1.98 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

By bWAR, 2015 was Robertson's worst full season. His 3.41 ERA and 115 ERA+ were his highest since 2010, even as he posted career-best marks in BB/9 and K/BB, without becoming much more hittable. Sometimes that's just the way it goes. Robertson was still very effective, though, and he's been quite good thus far in 2016. Fun fact: he's tied for 3rd among all relievers in fWAR since coming up for good in 2009.

Brendan Ryan, Syracuse Chiefs (Triple-A) .263/.305/.382, 7 R, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB, 99 wRC+ (83 PA)

If Ryan could hit like this in the Majors, he might be an everyday player, even with his defense regressing to the slightly above-average range. Unfortunately, he can't.

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End of the Season Returns on Some Former Yankees

Early returns.Mid-season returns.

Manny Banuelos, Atlanta Braves 26.1 IP, 30 H, 12 BB, 19 K, 5.13 ERA, 5.37 FIP, -0.2 fWAR

It seems as though an eternity has passed since Banuelos was the Golden Goose to be of the Yankees farm system. Since being ranked as the 29th best prospect by Baseball America heading into the 2012 season, Banuelos missed half a season with a lat strain, had Tommy John Surgery, was dealt to the Braves for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve, made his Major League debut, missed time with elbow soreness, and eventually had his rookie season cut short due to surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow (he will be ready for Spring Training). And yet it is somehow still only 24. He struggled mightily this season, and his fastball sat around 89 MPH across six starts, but he's young enough and the Braves are bad enough that he should be in the mix to see plenty of action next season.

Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners .287/.334/.446, 82 R, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 2 SB, 116 wRC+, 2.3 fWAR (674 PA)

When we last checked in on Cano, he was slashing .253/.292/.373, with an 86 wRC+, making him one of the worst everyday players in the American League. From that point on, however, he batted .325/.381/.529, good for a 152 wRC+. In short, he was Bizarro Jacoby Ellsbury. While his final numbers remain a far cry from the player the Mariners hoped to be signing, his turnaround does represent a silver lining, at the very least. And, considering the horror show that has been the team's offense for what seems like forever, perhaps the change in administration will help Cano, as well.

Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates .295/.370/.401, 56 R, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB, 119 wRC+, 3.9 fWAR (510 PA)

Cervelli had a 119 wRC+ and 3.9 fWAR. Russell Martin posted a 114 wRC+ and 3.5 fWAR. And Brian McCann struggled in the second-half, and finished the year with a 109 wRC+ and 2.9 fWAR. Ain't life grand?

Curtis Granderson, New York Mets .259/.364/.457, 98 R, 26 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB, 132 wRC+, 5.1 fWAR (682 PA)

2015 represents Granderson's best season since 2011 (by both wRC+ and fWAR), and the third best season of his career. And he was a big part of the Mets' resurgence, hitting .266/.386/.488 (147 wRC+) after the trade deadline. Perhaps some of his turnaround is due to growing more comfortable in a new league and at a new position - his defense improved markedly, by both DRS (0 to 12) and UZR (-8.1 to 5.1).

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers 83.2 IP, 103 H, 27 BB, 50 K, 6.88 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 0.1 fWAR

In 2015, 159 starting pitcher threw at least 80 IP. Greene's 6.88 ERA ranked dead last among those starters, and his FIP ranked 155th - to call it a disastrous season would be an understatement.

David Huff, Los Angeles Dodgers 6.0 IP, 11 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 9.00 ERA, 7.08 FIP, -0.2 fWAR

Huff spent the majority of the season in Triple-A, having last pitched for the Dodgers on June 2. He last pitched on August 30, when he allowed 7 H and 4 ER in 3.2 IP against the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins 155.1 IP, 184 H, 16 BB, 94 K, 4.40 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 1.0 fWAR

Hughes missed about a month late in the Summer, due to back issues that would require at least one epidural (it was said to be the same injury that kept him out of action for a couple of months back in 2011). He backslid significantly in 2015, posting career-worst marks in K/9, HR/9, FIP, HR/FB, and H/9, and was extremely limited after returning from injury. That being said, he did post a 3.27 ERA in September (albeit in 11 IP), and reportedly looked more like the Hughes of 2014.

Shawn Kelley, San Diego Padres 51.1 IP, 41 H, 15 BB, 63 K, 2.45 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 0.9 fWAR

Kelley was excellent this season, but particularly so after his stint on the DL in late April/early May. From May 12 forward, he posted a 1.57 ERA, with 11.2 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. He did spend more time on the DL in September, with a forearm issue, but otherwise this season was nothing less than a revelation for Kelley.

Hiroki Kuroda, Hiroshima Karp 169.2 IP, 158 H, 29 BB, 106 K, 2.55 ERA

By ERA, Kuroda had the second-best season of his career in Japan, at the ripe old age of 40. He became just the sixth pitcher in NPB to win double-digit games at 40 or older, as well. I wonder what he's doing in 2016...

Brandon McCarthy, Los Angeles Dodgers 23.0 IP, 24 H, 4 BB, 29 K, 5.87 ERA, 6.23 FIP, -0.3 fWAR

It was a lost season for McCarthy - but on the bright side, he did this excellent podcast with Lana Berry.

David Phelps, Miami Marlins 112 IP, 119 H, 33 BB, 77 K, 4.50 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 1.0 fWAR

Phelps was essentially the definitive league-average pitcher in the first half of the season, serving as the nominal ace of the subpar Marlins squad. Unfortunately, he fell off a cliff after the All-Star break, pitching to a 6.94 ERA and allowing a slash-line of .337/.389/.505. His season ended early due to a stress fracture in his right forearm, which may explain his struggles.

Martin Prado, Miami Marlins .288/.338/.394, 52 R, 9 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB, 100 wRC+, 3.1 fWAR (551 PA)

An excellent September (.352/.417/.489, 145 wRC+) pushed Prado's final line up to his career norms, allowing him to continue his trend of being Mr. Average. Defensive metrics loved his play at third base this season, as well, with his 11.0 UZR/150 placing fourth among third baseman - ahead of Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, and Nolan Arenado, among others. While those metrics are notoriously volatile, it seems clear that he is still a reliable player.

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox 63.1 IP, 46 H, 13 BB, 86 K, 3.41 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 1.9 fWAR

Despite posting career-bests in BB/9, BB%, K/BB, K-BB%, and BABIP, Robertson posted his worst ERA since 2010. The White Sox spotty defense has garnered some of the blame, but Robertson also allowed a career-worst 0.99 HR/9, as well as the worst FB% and second-worst LOB% of his career. Most of the damage came in September, where he allowed 3 HR and a 7.15 ERA in 11.1 IP. Robertson's ERA was a tidier 2.60 through the end of August.

Ichiro Suzuki, Miami Marlins .229/.282/.279, 45 R, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 11 SB, 53 wRC+, -0.7 fWAR (438 PA) 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K, 9.00 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 0.0 fWAR

Forget the fact that this was Ichiro's worst season by a comfortable margin. Instead, embrace the fact that he remains one of the most aggressive base-runners in the game, and pray that we get to see him throw a few more wicked sliders.

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Against David Ortiz, Hall of Famer

[caption id="attachment_77232" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Ortiz 2015 Courtesy of the AP[/caption] Before Pedro Martinez's ceremony at Fenway Park last night, the Red Sox introduced David Ortiz as, "David Ortiz, future Hall of Famer." By any reasonable standard, David Ortiz is not a Hall of Famer.

Here's Ortiz's case:

  • 48.3 career bWAR. Hit .283/.377/.543
  • Best 5 seasons by bWAR: 6.4, 5.7, 5.3, 4.4, 4.2
  • 3 World Series rings, .295/.409/.553 in the postseason, lots of big clutch hits
  • 273 career games at 1b. 1,837 at DH.

Very good player. By today's standard, not even close to a Hall of Fame player. Let's compare Ortiz to some contemporaries:

Edgar Martinez

  • 68.3 career bWAR. Hit .312/.418/.515
  • Best 5 seasons by bWAR: 7.0, 6.5, 6.5, 6.2, 6.1
  • 0 World Series rings. Hit .266/.365/.508 in limited postseason time, mostly late in his career
  • 564 career games at 3b. 1403 at DH. Handful at 1b
  • Comparison to Ortiz: More bWAR in fewer games. Twice as much time in the field. No postseason accomplishments.
  • HOF Case: Probably should be in, but probably won't break 50% in the voting

Jim Thome

  • 72.9 career bWAR. Hit .276/.402/.515,
  • Best 5 seasons by bWAR: 7.5, 7.4, 5.9, 5.6, 5.4
  • 0 World Series rings. Hit .211/.312/.448
  • 1106 career games at 1b. 493 at 3b. 818 at DH.
  • Comparison to Ortiz: Much better overall player. Solidly in the HOF by bWAR. Played most of his career in the field. No postseason accomplishments
  • HOF Case: Hits the ballot in 2018. We'll see, but I bet he gets in after several ballots.
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Sandy Koufax is Criminally Overrated

Last night, MLB announced the result of its effort to name the best four living baseball players. They came up with: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench and Sandy Koufax. Koufax may be the most overrated player in baseball history. He began his career with 5 forgettable seasons from a young player trying to find his game. Then, from 1962 to 1966, he was the best pitcher in baseball. He led the league in ERA each year, and posted the following bWAR:

  • 1962: 4.4 bWAR
  • 1963: 10.7 bWAR
  • 1964: 7.4 bWAR
  • 1965: 8.1 bWAR,
  • 1966: 10.3 bWAR

He then retired due to an arm injury at the age of 30.

Sandy Koufax is the ultimate "peak value" Hall of Fame player. Or at least, he is the most-cited example of a peak value HOFer. In reality, his peak was excellent, but not unique. Let's look at some of the best seasons from other players with a claim to being one of the best living pitchers:

Randy Johnson:

  • 2002: 10.9 bWAR
  • 2001: 10.0 bWAR
  • 1999: 9.2 bWAR
  • 1995: 8.6 bWAR
  • 2004: 8.5 bWAR

Pedro Martinez:

  • 2000: 11.7 bWAR
  • 1999: 9.7 bWAR
  • 1997: 9.0 bWAR
  • 2003: 8.0 bWAR
  • 1998: 7.2 bWAR

Greg Maddux:

  • 1995: 9.7 bWAR
  • 1992: 9.2 bWAR
  • 1994: 8.5 bWAR
  • 1997: 7.8 bWAR
  • 1996: 7.1 bWAR

Roger Clemens:

  • 1997: 11.9 bWAR
  • 1990: 10.6 bWAR
  • 1987: 9.4 bWAR
  • 1986: 8.9 bWAR
  • 1992: 8.8 bWAR

All of these guys had comparable peaks to Sandy Koufax. You can nitpick and say that Maddux never hit 10 bWAR or something, but the difference between Koufax's run and these guys is negligible. The reason why they are all better pitchers than Sandy Koufax is that each pitcher has a long record of excellence beyond their top-5 seasons, while Koufax was out of baseball immediately following them.

And here's the crazy part: all of the above 5 guys were contemporaries. They were putting up these crazy good peaks roughly simultaneously. Their accomplishments are extraordinary, but by no means are they unique. It just isn't all that uncommon for Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers to peak like Koufax did.

We can add in all sorts of long-career players with similar peaks as well: Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson had similar peaks. All are still alive.

Koufax's career is much more comparable to guys like Doc Gooden (peaked with an insane 12.1 WAR season in 1985, highest in modern history, but was pretty much done being very good by 29) and Juan Marichal (10.3 and 9.1 WAR in 1965-1966, some very solid years before and after) than the all-time greats.

Great player? Absolutely. I'd take him on the Yankees. But Sandy Koufax is not one of the four best living baseball players. He's not even close.

Responses to the nitpicking arguments before anyone makes them:

Yes, bWAR is a perfectly fine statistic to measure single-season value. Baseball Reference uses ERA, rather than FIP, to calculate wins above replacement. It essentially becomes a function of innings, ERA, and a league and park factor. Unless you prefer FIP (the rankings are similar), the calculation is essentially just basic math, and very difficult to dispute. If you have a preferred way of measuring how good a season is, run the numbers and see Koufax sticks out. If you want to be Chris Russo and just yell and say, "BUT KOUFAX WAS BETTER", be my guest.

Koufax pitched a lot of innings in his final two seasons. He led the league with 335 and 323 innings. But that wasn't all that uncommon back in the day. It was the dead ball era with a raised mound. No one is calling Wilber Wood the best pitcher of all time. Randy Johnson pitching 271 in the 90s is arguably more impressive.

No, I am not saying Koufax was a bad pitcher. I'm just saying that his peak was in line with these other guys, but the other guys had an extra decade of awesome in their career.

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Mid-Season Returns on Some Former Yankees

Just under two months ago, I checked-in on ex-Yankees that had packed their bags and headed for greener pastures over the winter. Many of the numbers at that point were best viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism, given how long it takes certain metrics to stabilize. At this point, however, we have reached the halfway point between the actual middle of the season (81 games) and the artificial mark (the All-Star break) - and that means that we can begin to trust integral numbers like strikeout, walk, and home run rates. This time around, I decided to take a gander at a few players that left the Bronx the previous off-season, as well. And, no, I did not do so strictly to make fun of Robinson Cano - that merely played a significant role in my decision.

Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners .253/.292/.373, 36 R, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 2 SB, 86 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR (346 PA)*

Ouch. Cano has been awful thus far, with the low baseline of second base production and his still solid defense keeping him (barely) above replacement-level. For a more detailed look into his struggles, I recommend Jonah Keri's most recent installment of The 30.

Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates .297/.373/.401, 26 R, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 1 SB, 123 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR (252 PA)

With half of 2015 in the bank, Cervelli has made good on the promise that he showed in limited duty between injuries in 2013 and 2014. When healthy, he has been a well above-average hitter (and not just for a catcher), and his defense has improved dramatically. His BABIP is relatively high (.365), but he's hitting plenty of line drives and making precious little soft contact.

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Catching up with the RailRiders

refWhen I first started covering the minor leagues for IIATMS about four or five years ago, the truly exciting prospects were in the lower levels and, in some cases, weren't even stateside. It often felt like Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was stocked with players who were either desperately trying to make it back to the majors, even though their prospects looked bleak, and those who had once been greatly touted, but were never able to breakthrough (see Eric Duncan). This is one of the many reasons I have gotten such a kick out of seeing players like Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores and Mason Williams all make their debuts this year. It's been pretty exciting for me to watch some of these guys as they move along. I've been pleasantly surprised by some (Chase Whitley wasn't off my radar, but I didn't expect much from him) and disappointed by many (Graham Stoneburner - who just seemed destined to put on pinstripes with a name that translates to Steinbrenner, Dante Bichette, Jr., Jesus Montero, and so on). Despite most of the prospect talent having been lower in the farm system, the RailRiders had some surprisingly successful seasons, but they struggled quite a bit the last couple seasons. This year so far seems to be a different beast entirely.

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Adam Warren v. Dave LaPoint (and Starter v. Reliever Velocity)

[caption id="attachment_75036" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Warren vs BAL II Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption] Ever have a job you were performing decently, but that still left you wondering every day if a demotion is coming? Adam Warren does. While he's not killing it, or pitching deep into games, his average of just under 5.5 IP/start isn't awful, and not many teams have both 4th and 5th starters beating Warren's 4.50 ERA / 4.15 FIP. But Chris Capuano's return was sure to cost the rotation spot of one guy a decade younger – either Warren or, it turned out, TJ patient Chase Whitley.

Old Man Capuano versus The Kids reminds me of my favorite obscure baseball quote: rookie Sterling Hitchcock's too-bold yet dead-on blasting of the Yankees' impatience with trusting young starters over crappy vets. Hitchcock is a Yankee immortal to me, but for this quote, not his forgettable pitching:

You hear a lot about our young guys, but then there's no slot for us … It's, "Go back to [AAA] and have a great year, and thanks for coming." It's frustrating because you look at other teams ... and you see you pitched against them in the minors. You say to yourself, "Geez, how does this guy have this job?" … "It's going to take dedication from this ballclub to be willing to give a guy 20-25-30 starts to realize what they've got. I mean, Tom Glavine wasn't a stud his first year. … But it takes dedication to be willing to stay with that guy. From past history, I doubt that will ever happen. As far as I can remember, it's been give a guy six-seven starts, and if he doesn't do anything, then get him out of here and bring in Dave LaPoint.

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Jorge Posada Belatedly Declares Jorge Posada the 2003 MVP!

[caption id="attachment_74862" align="aligncenter" width="420"]CBS Sports CBS Sports[/caption] Did a steroid-addled pre-redemption Alex Rodriguez steal Jorge Posada's 2003 MVP award? Jorge said so, or at least implied it in a rambling tirade:

"The only thing that I can think is 2003. You know, I was close to the MVP. Didn't happen. Alex won the MVP and, you know, I think second, either Carlos Delgado or David Ortiz, I don't remember. But you know, I was almost there," Posada said. "You know what could have happened if, you know it's tough."

All respect to Jorge, whom I still like a lot - but there's no way he was the best in the league in 2003, with or without A-Rod's pharmaceutical adventures.

Posada had a great 2003, his best year by WAR – 5.9, a level that's usually not best-in-league, and was fifth among position players, but is as good as that of many MVPs. Posada's offensive WAR was actually 0.4 better in 2007 than 2003, but the defensive WAR stats comport with what we all remember: by age 35, his defense had declined badly. WAR actually sees Posada's defense as a plus his first six full years -- through 2003. If 2003 Posada was the league's fifth-best hitter, and he was a plus defensive catcher, and most guys ahead of him were on steroids... well, that's a decent MVP case.

Except Posada likely was always a bad defensive catcher – because his pitch-framing was awful. I think full pitch-framing data extends back only to 2007 (unless my research fell short, which is possible), so we don't know Posada's exact 2003 framing. But framing doesn't decline with age as quickly as pure strength-and-speed skills (Brad Ausmus and Jose Molina remained top framers through their late 30s), so Posada's 2007-10 framing stats are a decent gauge of his career-long ability. And his framing was terrible:

the difference between the best and worst catchers at framing pitches in any given season is something on the order of four to five wins. And not surprisingly, Posada has been among the worst, if not the worst, during most of the seasons for which we have data. From 2007-2011, Posada cost the Yankees an average of almost .003 runs per called pitch. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but catchers catch a lot of pitches, and all those fractional losses add up. For Posada, they added up to 50 runs.

Due to injury and moving to DH, Posada caught only about three seasons' worth of games (352 games) from 2007-2011, so his -50 framing runs amounts to about -17 runs per full season. So, roughly speaking, subtract about a win and a half from his WAR per full-time catching season. That would take his 2003 WAR down from 5.9 to 4.4 – still an excellent year, but far from MVP-caliber.

Don't believe this article? Believe the quants the Yankees employed in 2009, who found Posada's pitch-framing vastly decreased his value:

"[Alex] Rubin and fellow Yankees quants Dave Grabiner and Jim Logue produced a report that summed up the statistical evidence in a sentence that would have strained belief if not for the inarguable numbers that went with it. 'Jorge Posada could hit like Albert Pujols and Jose Molina could hit like Jose Molina, and Molina would still be better.'"

Even before you penalize him for his framing, Posada wasn't 2003's best "clean" American Leaguer. Three of the four ahead of him in WAR were proven or likely roiders: A-Rod, Manny Ramirez, and Bret Boone. But the fourth is Carlos Delgado, whom nobody has credibly accused of juicing; Tom Verducci may be overstating, but not by much, in calling him "the best 'clean' power hitter of the Steroid Era." If you exclude juicers, Delgado still bested Posada by 0.6 WAR (6.5 to 5.9), and was better by a wider margin if you penalize Posada for his framing. And if the question isn't "who was better" but "who actually would have won," it's still Delgado: he was second in the voting, behind A-Rod but ahead of Posada.

I don't mean to criticize Posada, either as a player or as a retired autobiographer looking back with a little bitterness. Even if he wasn't ever an MVP, he was a great player; being one of the maybe dozen best players in the league in his three best years, and a core star of a regularly championship team, is a career to be proud of. I also don't fault his indulging in some justifiable bitterness here: I played clean and hard, Jorge thinks, while a bunch of others cheated and won awards. So, no disrespect to Jorge's skill or upset here; he's just not right in closing his eyes and seeing a no-steroid alternate reality in which there's an MVP trophy on the Posada family mantlepiece.

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Early Returns on Some Former Yankees

With a tick over twenty-percent of the season in the bag, many important statistics are beginning to stabilize. So while it is still very early in the season, the snap judgments that we all love to make are every so gradually shifting from inane to informed. That does not, of course, mean that the ending of this season has been written - each team still has in the neighborhood of 130 games remaining, and it would be foolish to assume that even stabilized analytics are not flukish (consider, for example, Dee Gordon being the second-best position player in baseball). As we toe the line between ludicrously small sample size and semi-meaningful-but-still-small sample size, we can try to get a picture of what the Yankees will do going forward. And we have done that in spades. Instead, I will focus on those ex-Yankees that played a not-insignificant role on the team last season, and ended up donning another uniform in 2015.

Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates .267/.323/.337, 6 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 87 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR, 94 PA

Cervelli was dealt for Justin Wilson this off-season, acquired by the Pirates to take over for former Yankee Russell Martin, and to be backed-up by former Yankee Chris Stewart. It seems that Neil Huntington has a thing for Yankees backstops.

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers 42.0 IP, 39 H, 11 BB, 24 K, 4.71 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 0.8 fWAR

Remember when Greene made countless fans and media members lament the Didi Gregorius deal by spinning three gems to open the season? Well he followed that up by allowing 20 earned runs in his next three starts (11 IP), before dominating the Royals this past weekend. The lesson, always: small sample sizes are not to be trusted. Yes, even these larger small sample sizes.

David Huff, Los Angeles Dodgers 4.0 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 9.00 ERA, 10.15 FIP, -0.2 fWAR

Huff went from something of a fixture in the Yankees bullpen to up-and-down guy with the Dodgers in relatively short order. That's ... unsurprising.

Shawn Kelley, San Diego Padres 6.2 IP, 13 H, 5 BB, 7 K, 10.80 ERA, 7.21 FIP, -0.2 fWAR

Kelley has spread his awfulness out fairly well, allowing three runs in two separate appearances, two in another (last night, in fact, after returning from a brief stint on the DL), and allowing another run and a couple of inherited runners to score in another. He always felt akin to a wannabe Robertson, in that he often found himself in self-made disaster situations ... but he rarely found his way out of said jams.

Hiroki Kuroda, Hiroshima Karp 39.0 IP, 41 H, 9 BB, 24 K, 3.46 ERA

We miss you, #HIROK.

Brandon McCarthy, Los Angeles Dodgers 23.0 IP, 24 H, 4 BB, 29 K, 5.87 ERA, 6.23 FIP, -0.3 fWAR

In news that surprised no one, yet remained wholly devastating nonetheless, McCarthy got injured and had to undergo Tommy John Surgery. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for one of the most interesting guys in the game.

David Phelps, Miami Marlins 31.0 IP, 27 H, 11 BB, 19 K, 2.90 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 0.8 fWAR

Like Greene, Phelps seems poise for a trip to Regression City. Despite allowing one of the highest line drive rates in the league, as well as a great deal of medium and hard contact, he has yet to surrender a home run, while holding batters to a .273 BABIP. All this while striking out over two-plus fewer batters per nine versus his career norms, without appreciably improving his walk rate.

Martin Prado, Miami Marlins .292/.331/.385, 14 R, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 97 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR, 140 PA

As I remarked this off-season, Prado is always a safe bet to put up league-average production, and this year has been no exception. Well, his power numbers are a bit off (.092 ISO against a career rate of .136), but he's hitting the crap out of the ball as the Marlins' everyday third baseman.

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox 14.0 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 25 K, 0.64 ERA, -0.20 FIP, 0.8 fWAR

No, that FIP isn't a typo - Robertson's FIP is indeed negative. He allowed his first run of the season on Sunday, and has otherwise been absolutely dominant for the struggling White Sox. And as much as I do love the Betances/Miller combo at the back of the bullpen (better known as Deldrew Millances), it's difficult to not miss Houdini and the High Socks.

Ichiro Suzuki, Miami Marlins .267/.323/.322, 11 R, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 80 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR, 99 PA

Well ... it only took him until April 29 to match last year's home run total. And he has chipped in three steals ... in six attempts.

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Prospect Week 2015: Those We've Lost

[caption id="attachment_71848" align="aligncenter" width="553"]Murphy Dugout That's "John Ryan" to you. Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption] Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this year's top 30 list, I think it's only appropriate that we take a minute to recognize some of those prospects who are no longer with the Yankees.  The prospect world is a volatile one year-to-year.  One year a guy's a blue chipper at the top of your system, the next he's out of all rankings and/or out of your organization completely.

There's a pretty good-sized list of former prospects who are elsewhere heading into 2015.  That'll happen when you make a lot of trades.  Some of these guys were big names in the system as recently as the start of last season, some are late bloomers, some are players who, for whatever reasons, were never able to break in and earn a regular role with the Major League club.  At least the first one's still in the system though.  Gotta have one good graduation in every former prospect class, right?  Presented together for the first time ever, the 2014 class of former Yankee prospects.

John Ryan Murphy- A fast riser on the prospect circuit after a strong year with the bat at 2 levels in 2013, Murphy came back down to earth a bit last year with a .246/.292/.397 slash line in his return trip to SWB.  Once again, injuries at the Major League level forced him into action and he ended up accumulating enough roster time to no longer qualify as a rookie in 2015 despite only getting 85 big league PA.  Barring any bad injury luck, he's the shoo-in to win the Major League backup job this year and the team has high hopes for him.  He's received very positive reviews for his defensive work and he still projects to hit enough to be an above-average backup and even a capable starting catcher.

Slade Heathcott- A consensus top 5 Yankee prospect 2 years ago and a consensus top 10 prospect in 2014, Heathcott's injury problems finally did his stock in this past year.  He played in a mere 9 games coming back from knee surgery before further knee issues shut him down and forced him to undergo another surgery.  He's had a plethora of knee and shoulder problems since he was drafted, and at age 24 it's hard to see those going away.  He's no longer on the 40-man roster and was re-signed recently to a MiL deal.  He may open the season in the Triple-A outfield, and if he does there's always a chance his natural tools could click and force him back into the outfield picture.  The Yankees don't appear to be too confident in that happening, however, and that's a belief I share.

Shane Greene- The latest homegrown pitcher to be overrated by the hometown fan base, Greene was shipped off to Detroit as part of the Didi Gregorius trade earlier this offseason.  To his credit, he turned what looked like a middling MiL career into a burgeoning Major League one by tightening up his control in 2013.  But at 26 and with a season-long BB rate in the mid-8.0s last year, there's a chance we may have already seen the best of Greene pitching in the American League.  A move to the back end of the Tiger rotation ensures we'll see him again at some point, and I genuinely hope he continues to have success.

Rafael De Paula- Briefly considered a potential ace in the making when his pro career started in 2012, De Paula battled command and home run problems upon reaching High-A in 2013 and returning there in 2014.  He was still striking plenty of batters out (26.4% K rate in 89.0 IP), but his ceiling was coming down quickly when the Yankees traded him to San Diego for Chase Headley.  In 8 starts for the Padres' High-A affiliate, De Paula pitched to a 6.54 ERA and 5.36 FIP with 41 K and 17 BB in 42.2 IP.  He turns 24 in 2 months and has yet to make any noticeable improvements to his game.  He could end up being a reliever long-term.  We'll always be left to wonder what could have been if he didn't have that long delay in coming stateside.

Vidal Nuno- He was never considered much of a prospect due to his age and lack of velocity, but Nuno was a great undervalued find for the Yankees and served a purpose as a warm body in the rotation for 14 starts.  He was shipped out and replaced for the remainder of 2014 by Brandon McCarthy, which is a pretty good total return for a soft thrower who was plucked off the MiL free agent wire.  Nuno predictably pitched better in AZ post-trade (3.90 FIP, more Ks, fewer BB in 83.2 IP) and he'll be in competition for a spot in the D'back rotation this season.

Peter O'Brien- His power made him very attractive to a lot of Yankee fans last year, but his lack of position and high strikeout totals didn't project good things for the future.  Like Nuno, O'Brien was traded to Arizona prior to the deadline and now he finds himself there trying to nail down a permanent home in the field.  The D'backs reportedly like him more as a catcher than the Yanks did and they are planning on keeping him there in 2015.  It's worth noting that O'Brien was pretty good in the AZFL (.256/.393/.512, 5 HR, 22.4% K rate in 107 PA).

Zoilo Almonte- 2014 was Zoilo's last chance to carve out a meaningful role on the Yankee bench and he couldn't do it.  He hit a measly .139/.139/.222 with 14 strikeouts in 36 Major League PA, and overall his offensive performance in his return trip to SWB wasn't as good as his 2013 production (103 wRC+ compared to 122).  There was never the question of tools with Zoilo.  It was a matter of whether or not he could put them together to become a good enough Major League hitter.  His time under Yankee control ended at the end of last season, and Almonte signed a 1-year deal with the Braves to try to break in there.

Mark Montgomery- Once the crown jewel of the Yankee relief prospect crop, Montgomery has seemingly never recovered from the shoulder problems that hindered him in 2013.  His velocity isn't nearly what it was, nor is his command, and now he might not even crack the top 5-8 best relief prospects in the system.  He wasn't all that bad in 2014 (3.03/3.96, 34 K in 29.2 Triple-A IP), but with other guys leaping over him onto the 40-man roster and a host of up-and-coming relief arms in Trenton and SWB, Montgomery finds himself lost in the shuffle.  He's in need of both a major performance rebound and a lot of injury help to get himself back in the mix for a Major League bullpen spot.

** Coming up tomorrow- the guys who just missed the cut for this year's top 30. **

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