Monday, September 29, 2008

Grades are in for 2008 New York Yankees

With the 2008 season in the books I thought I’d evaluate our Bronx Bombers. Beginning today with the positional players, I’ve given every New York Yankees’ player (from Alex Rodriguez to Francisco Cervelli) a letter grade. Tomorrow I’ll follow up with the pitchers.


Johnny Damon, New York YankeesJonny Damon – A
Despite battling a shoulder injury, Johnny Damon posted easily the best season of his three in The Bronx. The 34-year-old left fielder hit .303, had 17 home runs and 71 runs batted in. Damon set the table with a .375 on base percentage. He scored 95 runs and stole 29 bases (his highest total since 2003). On July 6, the Yankees placed Damon on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his Major League career.

Alex Rodriguez – A-
Although his numbers were down across the board from his 2007 MVP campaign, Alex Rodriguez nonetheless had another fine season. Rodriguez, 33, finished among the American League leaders in slugging percentage (1st - .573), on base plus slugging (2nd - .965), home runs (3rd – 35), runs (5th – 104), on base percentage (5th - .392), and runs batted in (8th – 103). These numbers are particularly impressive considering he spent time on the disabled list during May. Still criticisms over A-Rod’s ability to perform in the clutch linger as he struggled with both runners in scoring position (.262) and in close and late situations (.257).

Bobby Abreu – A-
Bobby Abreu’s offensive consistency has been a hallmark of his career. With 20 home runs and 22 stolen bases, Abreu became just the third player in MLB history to record eight 20-20 seasons, joining Bobby and Barry Bonds. He appeared in 156 games (he’s appeared in at least 150 games in 11 straight seasons) and joins Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols as the only players to post at least 100 RBIs in each of the past six seasons. Furthermore, Abreu distanced himself from his Yankee peers by actually hitting in the clutch (.296 AVG, .372 OBP with runners in scoring position). The only knock? His inability to conquer the fear that should he come within 10 feet of the right field wall, the foul pole will topple over and crush him.

Jason Giambi, New York YankeesJason Giambi – B+
Relegated to predominately designated hitter for much of the Joe Torre era, Jason Giambi recovered from a horrible start (.164 batting average in April) to post strong numbers in what will likely be his final season with the Yankees. In Spring Training, new Yankees manager Joe Girardi promised Giambi increased time at first base. True to his word, the skipper penciled Giambi into first base 113 times this season – the most he’s appeared in the field since 2001 with Oakland. Although he’ll never be mistaken for Don Mattingly (9 Gold Gloves), Giambi committed just nine errors. He improved on his 2007 stats across the board and finished among the team leaders in home runs (2nd - 32), OPS (2nd - .876) and RBIs (96).

Xavier Nady, New York YankeesXavier Nady – B+
Acquired alongside LHP Damaso Marte on July 26th for Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens and Dan McCutchen, Xavier Nady struggled in September but performed reasonably well appearing in 59 games for the Yankees. Nady finished with a .268 average in pinstripes, hit 12 home runs and drove in 40. More importantly, his acquisition allowed Jorge Posada to shut it down and undergo season-ending surgery with an eye on 2009. Nady is signed through next season and could be an option at either corner outfield spot or a first base.

Derek Jeter – B
2008 was a sub-par offensive year for Derek Jeter. Although the captain finished with a .300 batting average (16 points below his career average), his .308 slugging percentage was his lowest since 1997. Whether or not Jeter’s struggles are connected to being hit on the wrist on May 20th, can never be proven but before the injury Jeter was hitting .324 with a .774 OPS. A strong May (and his popularity) earned Jeter his ninth All-Star selection. On September 14th, Jeter passed Lou Gehrig for most career hits at Yankees Stadium. His tribute to the fans after Yankee Stadium’s final game was a season highlight. After that game Jeter was shut down for the season, having been struck on the left hand by Daniel Cabrera back on May 21st.

Hideki Matsui – B
Limited by inflammation in his left knee, Hideki Matsui hit .294 with nine homers and 45 RBIs in 93 games. Matsui missed all of July and wasn’t the same when he returned posting a sub-par August (.186 AVG) and September (.233). Matsui is signed through 2009 and has missed significant time with injuries two of the last three years.

Cody Ransom – C+
Signed to a minor-league contract in the offseason, Cody Ransom was assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre despite a strong Spring Training. He was called up to the Yankees on August 17th and subsequently homered in both his first and second at bats. Over an admittedly small sampling, Ransom hit .302 with four homers and eight runs batted in. Ransom posted a .400 on base percentage and played all four infield positions. Should Ransom return in 2009, he figures to battle Wilson Betemit for a utility infield spot.

Jose Molina, New York YankeesJose Molina – C
With Jorge Posada out or rendered ineffective as a result of his shoulder injury, Jose Molina was asked to play more than expected. Molina more than delivered defensively catching 33 base runners over the year. Furthermore, Molina earned the respect of the Yankees rotation and was the preferred option even after Brian Cashman brought in future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. Offensively, Molina performed as should-be expected with a .216 batting average and three home runs. Obviously Molina is better suited to be a backup.

Brett Gardner – C
With Melky Cabrera struggling, Brett Gardner was given the reigns to the Yankees’ centerfield position. On July 6th, Gardner singled up the middle off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to lift New York to victory. Sent down following the acquisition of Xavier Nady, Gardner rejoined the big club on August 15. Although he often looked overmatched during his first stay in New York, Gardner showed signs of life hitting .294 over his last 68 at bats. Gardner utilized his best tool (his speed) effectively, stealing 13 of 14 bases while playing well defensively.

Chad Moeller – C -
Chad Moeller performed admirably as the team’s third backstop. The Yankees purchased his minor-league contract on April 14th after injuries to both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina. Moeller bounced back and forth between Scranton and New York several times during the season and finished with a .231 batting average in 41 games.

Wilson Betemit – C-
Early in his minor league career Wilson Betemit was touted as a multi-talented hitter and infielder with star potential. In 2000, Baseball America ranked Betemit the top prospect in the Atlanta Braves system. Yet in his third full major league season, Betemit has yet to prove he’s anything more than a versatile defender with some pop. Betemit played in 87 games (often as a defensive replacement at first base) for the Yankees this year and hit .265 with six homers. His .289 on base percentage was awful and the holes in his game were exposed when he played too much.

Melky Cabrera, New York YankeesMelky Cabrera – D-
Granted, Melky Cabrera’s disappointing statistics were only exacerbated as a result of the lineup’s inconsistency. And granted, a team with a $200+ million payroll shouldn’t have to rely on the Cabreras of the world but still, the Melk Man’s 2008 was an unmitigated failure. Given license to roam the most hollowed patch of grass during Yankee Stadium’s final season (think DiMaggio, Mantle, Williams), Cabrera flopped so completely he earned a late season demotion and appears to have removed himself from the organizational plans. The 24-year-old Cabrera had his numbers drop across the board in 2008 and handed the keys to centerfield (for now) over to Brett Gardner.

Jorge Posada – D-
After a fantastic 2007 (.338 AVG, 20 HRs and 90 RBIs), Jorge Posada was rewarded with a four-year, $52 million contract. Unfortunately, injuries and age limited the 37-year-old Posada to just 51 games (only 30 as a catcher). A faulty glenoid labrum in his throwing shoulder gave opposing base runners the green light (34 SB, 7 CS) while Posada failed to deliver at the plate. He hit just .268 with three home runs and 22 RBIs. After toying with the idea of using Posada as a 1B/DH, the Yankees instead acquired Xavier Nady and Posada underwent season-ending surgery.

Justin Christian – D-
Justin Christian was promoted to the major league roster on June 24 prior to their interleague series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He started the same day and went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Christian finished with a .250 batting average in 24 games. He stole seven bases in eight attempts.

Richie Sexson – D-
On July 18th, the New York Yankees took a flyer on former Mariners’ slugger Richie Sexson. After 22 games in pinstripes (.250 AVG, 1 HR), Sexson was released on August 24th.

Alberto Gonzalez – D-
Having debuted last season, the slick-fielding Alberto Gonzalez was called up in early April to back-up Derek Jeter. Gonzalez appeared in 28 games for the Yankees and hit a paltry .173. At the trade deadline, Gonzalez was jettisoned to the Washington Nationals in exchange for minor-league right-hander Jhonny Nunez.

Robinson Cano, New York YankeesRobinson Cano – F
To categorize Robinson Cano’s 2008 season as a disappointment would be a gross understatement. Lauded as a future batting champion (and once compared by Joe Torre to Hall of Famer Rod Carew), posted easily the worst numbers of his four-year career. An abysmal April (.151 batting average) set the tone for the season as Cano finished with a .271 batting average, a horrible .305 on base percentage, and 72 runs batted in. Many New York beat writers predicted a disappointing season following the departure of Larry Bowa. True to form, Cano coasted through the year until Girardi finally benched him in September for not hustling.

Shelley Duncan – F
After breaking camp with the major league club, Shelley Duncan’s season quickly turned sour. Despite being praised often for his “fire,” Duncan did little to warrant his inclusion on the 25-man roster. He hit .175 with one homer before being demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That Duncan was not recalled when the rosters expanded in September seems to indicate his shaky footing within the organization.

Ivan Rodriguez, New York YankeesIvan Rodriguez – F
Acquired from the similarly disappointing Detroit Tigers in exchange for fan-favorite Kyle Farnsworth, Ivan Rodriguez’ tenure in The Bronx was disappointing. Although acquiring a future Hall of Famer to replace Jorge Posada appeared wise at the time,
Rodriguez failed to hit with the Yankees (.219 AVG, .257 OBP, 2 HRs) and couldn’t get on the same page as most of the pitching staff. Despite his acquisition Jose Molina still received the majority of starts at backstop.

Morgan Ensberg – F
Seeking to add a right-handed hitting firstbase option, the Yankees inked Morgan Ensberg to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. After winning the job out of camp, Ensberg was ineffective. He hit just .235 with a home run and four runs batted in. He was designated for assignment on June 1st.

Juan Miranda – INCOMPLETE
After paying his dues at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (.287 AVG, .384 OBP, 12 HRs), Juan Miranda earned a September call up. Down the stretch the 25-year-old Cuban appeared in five games. He had four hits in ten major league at bats.

Francisco Cervelli, New York YankeesFrancisco Cervelli – INCOMPLETE
Francisco Cervelli, the New York Yankees’ 22nd highest ranked prospect entering 2008 (according to Baseball America), had an eventful season beginning with controversy in Spring Training. On March 8, Cervelli fractured his wrist when Tampa Bay Rays infielder Elliot Johnson collided with him at home plate. The injury, which Joe Girardi called “uncalled for” kept Cervelli out of action until June. As a result of the injury, Cervelli missed an opportunity to help fill the void left by Jorge Posada. After hitting .308 at three minor league levels upon his return, he appeared in three major league contests, had five at bats and struck out three times.

Chris Stewart – INCOMPLETE
Chris Stewart was called up following the injury to Jorge Posada on April 28. He was sent down, having appeared in one game, after Chad Moeller cleared waivers and re-joined the team. Stewart was designated for assignment on June 30th and later outrighted to the minors to make room on the roster for Brett Gardner.


Anonymous said...

jose molina deserved worse than a "c"

is there anything lower than "f" to give robbie cano?

Jeff said...

My "C" ranking of Jose Molina had a lot to do with expectation. Offensively, yes his numbers were poor but they were on target for a backup (which he should have been). He was excellent defensively and did a fine job with handling the pitching staff. Mike Mussina can attest to that.

Boston said...

Remember when people argued that Cano was better than Pedroia? Hahahahahaha.