You guys, I’m worried about Dan Shulman.

On to the box score!

A.

Mike Napoli.

A couple months ago, I did a list for the Orange County Register of the best players in the Baseball America era who never made a BA Top 100. Fun list.

  • 10. Mike Young, 24.9 WAR
  • 9. Kevin Youkilis, 25.4
  • 8. Melvin Mora, 27.4
  • 7. Matt Holliday, 27.4
  • 6. Brian Giles, 42.7
  • 5. Jorge Posada, 46.0
  • 4. Luis Gonzalez, 46.3
  • 3. Jason Giambi, 52.8
  • 2. Jeff Kent, 59.4
  • 1. Jim Edmonds, 68.3

It seems pretty clear that nobody on that list is likely to make a surge and knock Jim Edmonds from the top. Holliday is 31, and would have to average 4 Wins Above Replacement* until he’s 42 to do it. Posada, Mora, Young and Giambi have no chance.

Looking at the young players who aren’t yet on this list, Edmonds still looks mostly safe. For each age, here is the active WAR leader among non-BA-endorsed players:

  • 24 years old: Pablo Sandoval, 6.4 WAR
  • 25. Asdrubal Cabrera, 8.3
  • 26. Chris Coghlan, 2.8
  • 27. Mark Reynolds, 5.9
  • 28. XXXXXXXX XXXX
  • 29. Mike Napoli, 10.9
  • 30. Shane Victorino, 13.1 (Nelson Cruz 8.6)
  • 31. Holliday
  • 32. Kevin Youkilis, 25.4
  • 33. Brian Roberts, 21.9

Much as I love Mike Napoli, he’s probably not putting up 58 WAR in the next decade. So Edmonds is safe, huh?

Twist! This item was never about Mike Napoli. It was about Robinson Cano, who is the age 28 leader and the only player with a realistic shot at catching Edmonds. He’s at 24.2 WAR, and has been worth at least 5 WAR in three of the past four seasons. If we’re optimistic and say he’ll play until he’s 40 — admittedly, a challenge for any second baseman, but whoever beats Edmonds is by definition going to have to do some unexpected — he needs to average 3.4 WAR per season until then. He basically needs to be Lou Whitaker. He needs to be a borderline Hall of Famer. I could see it.

How did BA miss on Cano? Well, they didn’t miss entirely. He never made a top 100, but he was well liked.

In 2003, he was the Yankees’ No. 8 prospect, after hitting .276/.319/.437 as a shortstop in Low-A.

Cano’s father Jose signed with the Yankees in 1980 and reached the big leagues with the Astros in 1989. Robinson played baseball and basketball at his Dominican high school, and from the first time he worked out for the Yankees has shown an advanced approach. Like Bronson Sardinha, he went to Staten Island after opening the 2002 season at Class A Greensboro. Cano’s bat is his greatest strength. He generates plus bat speed and has a knack for making adjustments with his hands to put the barrel of the bat on balls in different zones. He covers the plate well with a good idea of the strike zone, makes consistent hard contact and projects to hit for power. Defensively, Cano offers versatility, though he’ll likely end up at second or third base or even right field with Ferdin Tejada and Joaquin Arias in the system. Cano has the actions, above-average arm and quick hands to play shortstop, and most of his errors were due to inexperience. He’s a below-average runner. Cano finished third in the system in RBIs and should make the jump to high Class A in 2003.

In 2004, he was No. 6, after putting up a .695 OPS at age 20 in High-A and Double-A.

The Yankees’ willingness to move prospects quickly under former player personnel chief Gordon Blakeley is illustrated by Cano’s progress in 2003. His father Jose reached the majors briefly in 1989. One of the most confident hitters in the system, Cano can sting hard line drives to right field with an easy, level swing. He’s capable of producing more power than he did last year because he has plus bat speed and natural strength, but he needs to learn to lift the ball. As Cano has filled out, especially in his lower half, he has lost his quickness. He doesn’t get down the line well and on defense, his range is lacking at second base, which could prompt a move to third. Cano has the arm strength and projects to hit for enough power to justify a move to the hot corner. For now he’ll remain at second base and return to Double-A.

And in 2005, he was No. 2, behind No. 86 prospect Eric Duncan.

Cano’s name was tossed around in trade rumors when the Yankees unsuccessfully tried to acquire Randy Johnson at the July 31 deadline, but he was not part of the deal when New York finally got Johnson over the winter. A confident player, Cano plays as if he belongs in the majors. His father Jose pitched briefly in the big leagues. Cano’s arm is his best tool and rates as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. More important, he can hit. He has good bat speed and a fluid swing, allowing him to catch up to good fastballs. His improving plate discipline helped his power numbers increase; he set career highs in walks and slugging in 2004. Cano hasn’t handled lefthanders well, with just seven extra-base hits in 130 at-bats against southpaws above Class A. He’s a below-average runner for an infielder, and his lower half figures to get thicker as he gets older. He has solid infield actions and the Yankees refute reports that he has below-average range. Cano could be a bench option in New York for 2005, but he’ll likely head back to Columbus for a full season in Triple-A after the Yankees signed free agent Tony Womack.

I’m sort of optimistic. You probably never want to bet on any player to put up 45 more WAR at any point in his career, ever. But Cano might be the best player in the American League right now, and he ain’t getting worse. Home run in this game.

B.

Mariano Rivera, save, 7 for 7

Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera leads all non-BA pitchers in career WAR. One of Tim Hudson, Johan Santana, Mark Buehrle or Dan Haren should pass Rivera at some point, though I don’t think anybody would argue that Rivera won’t still be the greatest baseballer that BA left off its lists.

Five things you may not know about Mariano Rivera, almost-prospect:

• 1. When Buck Showalter was hired in 1992, Mariano Rivera — not the more heralded Mark Hutton, Sterling Hitchcock or Russ Springer — was his favorite pitching prospect in the Yankees system, “based strictly on numbers.”

“Mariano Rivera,” Showalter said at the time, sitting in his small office in Fort Lauderdale. “I’ve been asking a lot about this kid.”

• 2. For most of his minor league career, it seemed Rivera would be most famous for discovering the next Mickey Mantle. After Mo signed with the Yankees for $3,000 in February 1990, he tipped his signing scout off to his 17-year-old cousin, Ruben Rivera. Ruben signed for $3,000, too, and went on to be ranked 76th, 40th, 9th, 3rd and 2nd on BA’s annual list. Asked about being touted (repeatedly!) as the next Mantle, Rivera replied: ”I don’t know anything about Mantle or DiMaggio. Were they as good as Ken Griffey Jr.?” (He was also compared to Clemente and Mays.)

• 3.  Mariano Rivera’s line in his first year in the minors, with the Yankees’ rookie-ball team:
52 innings, 58 strikeouts, seven walks, 17 hits allowed, one run allowed, 0.462 WHIP, no home runs, 0.17 ERA. It was all relief except for one start, which is listed in Baseball-Reference as a complete-game shutout. The Yankees converted him to starter the next year, after which he didn’t pitch in relief again until he reached the majors.

• 4. Rivera wasn’t a very good starter in the majors, but he had one dominant start against the White Sox in 1995. He struck out 11 and allowed two hits in eight shutout innings. After the game, the White Sox blamed their scouts.

The Sox claimed they got bad information about him from their scouts, and that only made the task more difficult.

“I hear our guys were looking for something else,” said Sox starter Alex Fernandez, who dropped to 4-5. “Our scouting report wasn’t too good today . . . unfortunately for me.”

Rivera allowed only two singles, both off the bat of Frank Thomas. And he didn’t allow a hit to the seven left-handers in the lineup, striking out Warren Newson and Dave Martinez three times each.

“Reports we had said he pitched outside a lot,” Newson said. “But in the game, he kept coming inside.

“He had a sneaky fastball and had one of those days where he could do nothing wrong.”

• 5. None of the above was the Rivera we know now, though. He was throwing a mid-90s fastball, a slider that he had a tendency to tip, and a developing change-up. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemeyer taught him the cutter around April 1996. Almost immediately, he ran off a string of 15 consecutive hitless innings.

“He has a closer’s velocity,”said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who said he would not use Rivera as a set-up man, a role reserved for Bob Wickman and Jeff Nelson, or a closer, which is the role of John Wetteland or Steve Howe.

C.

Elvis Andrus, 1 for 5.

When Elvis Andrus doubles, he does a crotch chop.

Not sure if he does it every time, but he’s done it multiple times, both this year and last.

I would say “think of the children,” but Elvis Andrus almost never doubles. Or gets on base at all?

D.

Alexi Ogando, five runs allowed.

Alexi Ogando’s ERA went from 1.24 to 1.46 last night. Not for the season. FOR HIS LIFE.

He had a 1.37 ERA in his minor league career. He had a 0.99 ERA in his major league career. He had previously allowed four home runs in 166 professional innings, before allowing three on Sunday.

E.

Yorvit Torrealba, hit.

You have to be absolutely kidding me.

That’s Yorvit Torrealba beating out an infield single against Jeter. Yorvit Torrealba, who has 18 steals and 11 triples in 11 seasons.

So sorry, Derek, but I’m going to have to fire up the time machine and switch out that Gold Glove you won last year.

*I used Baseball-Reference’s model for WAR. And I relied on Stephen C. Smith of FutureAngels.com for the Robinson Cano scouting reports. And, duh, Ruben Rivera was mentioned so it’s required I post this:



Sam Miller is a baseball writer who covers the Angels for the Orange County Register. He’s on Twitter.

Comments (18)

  1. The best part of the Rivera video is the look on Alou’s face. And you think Jeter doesn’t already have an ARod centaur painting?

    Excellent work.

  2. I’m not sure where I heard this – I think it was during a game on TV once – but apparently in the Alex Rodriguez trade, the Yankees gave the Rangers a list of minor-leaguers to choose from, and Robinson Cano was one of them. The Rangers picked Andres Blanco. Hindsight is 20/20, sure, but still… ouch.

    • Awesome, it looks like you’re right. Ben Kabak wrote at River Avenue Blues:

      I found a Jim Callis piece from 2004. The Baseball America scribe wrote, “Though initial speculation was that New York would give up a pitching prospect, baseball sources say the five-man list contains four hitters, including outfielder Rudy Guillen, shortstop Joaquin Arias and second baseman Robinson Cano, as well as righthander Ramon Ramirez.”

  3. Which sort of means the Rangers are still paying for ARod.

  4. Hailing from the other side of the pond, I’d never seen that Ruben Rivera clip before, so thank you. I laughed and laughed.

  5. wouldn’t mind a gif of ruben running around second base in a figure-8

  6. While you’re at it, get rid of the other undeserved GGs too. 3 out of 4 players in one of the worst defensive infields in baseball won GGs. A-Rod must really suck in order to drag that infield down so much.

  7. @Tom….
    Not sure if serious….

    Jeter is terrible at short. This is a fact; any knowing Yankee fan will tell you it is true, and then cry in frustration because he can’t field balls hit three feet away from him.
    But Cano is among the best at second, and Teixeira is a stud at first.
    The problem is that there is no definitive metric for defence, because you’re saying what runs are saved. It’s like saying how many cars didn’t crash this week. You can’t really do it without going over it in a case-by-case analysis.
    Also, A-Rod doesn’t suck, and he’s a hell-lot better this year now that he’s healthy.

  8. Yep, I’m serious. I don’t think Cano was better than Hill, Hudson (Minn last year), Ellis, or Pedroia to name four in no particular order. Daric Barton ripped it up pretty good at 1B last year too. Then again the problem with the metrics we have right now is that you need about a three year sample to get an accurate reading on the player’s abilities. Unfortunately when awarding GGs, you don’t have that luxury. By whatever measure you care to look at for 2010, Barton was the man at 1B last year, and the Fielding Bible folks (whose judgment I’ll take over the GG voters any day) agree with me.

  9. Fantastic post! Please don’t stop. This has become a substantial part of what I live for. Granted, I have a tiny life.

  10. For Jeter’s sake… they call it the gold glove, not the gold arm.

  11. Jeter had no chance as soon as he ran around the ball to get it on the forehand. If he backhands the ball, Yorvit is probably out.

  12. If my memory serves me correctly(and at 58 who knows), Mo’s “complete game shutout” in rookie league was a no hitter. I believe he threw another no-hitter in AAA prior to his first callup.

  13. Just checked, and Art is right. No-hitter, seven-innings, on the last day of the season.

  14. Tom,

    Saying the Yankees have one of the worst defensive infields in baseball is different from saying there are a few players better defensively than a few of the Yankee infielders. You said you stuck by your original statement, then completely changed it. Which one do you think?

    You named 5 players better than the right half of the Yankee infield. Assuming you are right, that they are better, I don’t think the 5th best 2B and 2nd best 1B makes it “one of the worst defensive infields in baseball.”

    I would say the Yankees team defense is just about average, maybe a bit above, and most advanced defensive metrics agree with that assessment.

  15. In the featured play, Jeter’s mistake was to go for that ball. Chavez was much closer and would probably have made a routine play, but he didn’t move seeing Jeter go for it.

  16. S-seriously…what’s wrong with Dan Shulman. IT’S OKAY DAN!!

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