TDG’S TRIPLE PLAY: NEW YORK YANKEES!
The Triple Play is back for a third season! This regular feature is broken down by staff writers Bob Osgood and Paul Monte and a rotating panel of third writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure! Follow Bob (@BobOsgood15), Paul (@3cardmonte13), Joe Drake (@JDrake349), and Keaton DeRocher (@TheSpokenKeats) on twitter and read their analysis here at the site!
James Paxton, SP, Age: 31
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round, Paxton instead opted to attend the University of Kentucky. Once eligible to be drafted again, Paxton was scooped up by the Seattle Mariners in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. Now a more polished college product, Paxton dominated the low minors and cruised to an MLB debut within two seasons. 2014 was Paxton’s first full season and that’s when the injuries started to mount;w he was only able to muster 74 innings around a lat strain. Injuries would continue to mount for him but between stints on the IL, Paxton showed why he was once drafted so high.
James Packing Heat
Early in his career, Paxton wasn’t the strikeout monster we’ve seen the past couple seasons. In fact, his first four seasons in the majors he never recorded a strikeout per nine above 9. The last three seasons he posted career bests in strikeouts and it’s clear his focus on spin rate has had a very positive effect.
Paxton has increased his spin rate on just about all his pitches season over season. The result was a massive jump in the horizontal break of his pitches, giving way to an uptick in strikeouts from 7.18 K/9 to 11.11 K/9 last season.
With jumps in strikeouts and an impressive arsenal of pitches, Paxton would have been in the conversation of top pitchers in the game if not for his injury issues. When Paxton is on the mound he dominates; however, he’s only topped 140 innings pitched twice in his career. The good news is that the two seasons he did top it was the last two seasons. This hopefully indicates he’s built up strength and the worst of his injuries are behind him. He did require back surgery last year, though, so that is certainly something to keep an eye on.
The Total Pax-age
The Yankees tend to find guys that come out of nowhere and over-perform expectations, particularly starting pitchers, and so far Paxton’s Yankees career has been impressive. Coming off of a couple of very encouraging last couple seasons, Paxton is poised to join the ranks of very productive pitchers over 30 in the game right now. While his most recent injury is something to watch very closely, if there are no lasting effects from his surgery, Paxton is sure to dominate. Although betting on his health isn’t the safest risk given his history, the results he gets when he is on the mound is worth the price to acquire.
Hitter: Luke Voit, Age: 29, Position: 1B
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
Driving Luke Voit’s Car
Drafted in the 22nd round in 2013 by the St. Louis Cardinals, Luke Voit flew under the radar in prospect circles. Upon hitting double-A and triple-A, Voit began to flash more serious power year over year, and was called up in 2017 for an uneventful stint in the majors at the age of 26. In July of 2018, the Cardinals sent Luke Voit and international bonus money to New York in exchange for Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve. It marked the most relevant news involving a Voit in New York City since 1994 when Jon Voight bit Cosmo Kramer’s arm in a taxi.
In the subsequent season-and-a-half, Voit put the disastrous Greg Bird experience into the rearview for Yankees fans. He came out of the gate firing upon arrival to New York, at one point hitting 14 home runs in 32 games, but he still has a lot to prove in most people’s eyes.
Core Part of the Lineup
Let’s pretend I’m writing this piece approximately one year ago. Luke Voit’s core muscles are intact, he’s 4-for-4 with three doubles in London against the Red Sox at the exact halfway point of the 2019 season, bringing his average up to .280 and his OBP up to .393, 11th in MLB. The clear starting first baseman, Voit has played in 78 of his team’s 81 games, including 77 starts. He’s on pace for 34 HRs, 104 RBI and 100 Runs, with a wRC+ of 140, and is barreling balls at a top-10 percent rate.
“Let’s see it for a full season,” would be the reply. Well, I can’t do that for you. But, what I can do, is list off Voit’s career numbers which totaled 550 at-bats to that point, approximately a full season for a starter.
Luke Voit first 550 ABs (Career Thru 6/29/19)
An injury to the core muscles resulted in two separate trips to the IL, and eventually a sports hernia surgery this offseason. Attempting to play through it even into the playoffs, Voit struggled to the finish line in the second half. In the 40 games after the injury, he hit .228 with 4 home runs and 12 RBI. Despite this down stretch, Voit’s full season still resulted in a Barrel Rate (per batted ball) of 13.2%, in the top 9% of the league and an average exit velocity of 89.7 MPH. He walked 13.9% of the time, in the top 6% of the league, giving Voit a huge boost in OBP leagues.
Filling the Voit at 1B
With apologies about the tired “best shape of my life” angle, Voit knows that his defense is the biggest barrier to being a long-term answer at first base. An improvement in the career 27.2% strikeout rate might help as well. After the offseason surgery and training regimen, Voit said in February, “I can finally run again. I’m not saying I’m going to steal 20 bases this year, but when I’m swinging, I’m staying in my lower-half now. Last year, I didn’t have my legs. My legs are everything when I’m hitting, so I didn’t have any power. I don’t want to make excuses because I’m not that type of guy, but it definitely wasn’t there. I want to be there for my team, especially around playoff time.” Receiving a vote of confidence from Boone as the starting first baseman is a good sign as well. Voit has reportedly lost 13 pounds from Spring Training version 1 to version 2.
Even at 29 years old, I’m buying in on Luke Voit in redraft and dynasty leagues alike, specifically those with OBP as he can contribute in four categories at a cost that is barely inside of the Top 200, going as the 18th first baseman overall. Those that are still drafting, if you miss out on a top ten first baseman inside the top 100, I’m willing to wait 70-80 picks and take Voit as my starter.
Prospect: Estevan Florial, Age: 22, Position: OF, Level: High-A
Analysis by: Joe Drake
Florial for One
In the baseball prospect world, it always feels like we’re debating between the athletic prospect who doesn’t have an advanced feel to hit or the prospect with a developed hit tool who doesn’t have the athleticism to do much with it. Mr. Estevan Florial falls into the former camp. His story is the age-old tale of “if he hits, watch out”. Florial boasts a tantalizing combination of plus raw power and double-plus speed (and not to mention, an absolute rocket for a right arm).
Florial signed with the New York Yankees out of the Dominican Republic back in 2015 at 17 years old and immediately jumped into pro ball in the Dominican Summer League. He torched DSL pitching to the tune of a .313/.394/.527 line with 7 homers in 266 plate appearances and punched his ticket to a stateside debut in 2016. Since then, it’s been a bit of a bumpy road for Estevan, really only excelling during his stint in the Sally League in 2017 (.855 OPS in 389 PAs).
One of the biggest issues for Florial in the last 2 seasons has been health. He’s missed significant time due to injury in each season (fractured hamate in 2018, fractured wrist in 2019), barely cracking 300 plate appearances year. For a player who needs reps to work on that hit tool, that’s not ideal. Couple that with the lost season that has become 2020 and you might be considering cutting bait in your dynasty leagues.
To borrow a line from my old buddy Lee: Not so fast, my friend. I am actually looking to roster Mr. Florial in more leagues going forward.
Florial the Way Up
No, it hasn’t exactly been a picture-perfect timeline for Estevan Florial so far, and no, the enigma that is the year 2020 is not doing him any favors, but it’s too soon to give up. There are a few things we need to keep in mind here when we look at his numbers: A) Florial has been young for the level at each of his minor league stops, despite it seeming like he’s been around for a long time. Yes, prospect fatigue is real, but, no, it should not weigh into your evaluation of the player. B) he’s still just 22 years old. We’re not talking about a 25-year old trying to find his way.
Next, we dive into his stats at High-A Tampa. The Florida State League is notorious for being very pitcher-friendly, so you need to keep that in mind when simply reading the stat line. Obviously, .246/.325/.371 over 640 plate appearances doesn’t stand out when taken at face value. But, if we take a gander at the wRC+, Florial was above average in both 2018 (110) and 2019 (101) — so his offensive production was better than the average FSL hitter in each year. So, he’s been a little better than a quick glance at the triple slash may lead you to believe. Despite being injured and young for the level, Florial has still been able to be an above-average hitter in a tough league.
Before I sign off, there are a few notes from Eric Longenhagen’s 2020 write-up that I think are important and want to highlight. Eric notes that Florial has a revamped swing that “enables him to get around pitches better” and that his groundball rate has dropped in 2 consecutive seasons and his power returned after his wrist injury per the TrackMan data. These are notes are important because the new swing could lead to better bat-to-ball skills and the TrackMan data indicates that he was likely able to fully recover from the wrist injury.
One for Florial
There are definitely some flaws in his profile, like the high rate of swing and miss, but I think there’s plenty here to love about Estevan Florial as a fantasy prospect still. Not to mention, it might be easier than ever to acquire his services in your dynasty league.
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