Tag: Travis Hafner

The Yankees Need to Trust Their Young Guys Rather Than Pick from the Scrap Heap

This week’s acquisition of outfielders Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco, recently released from their respective squads, means only one thing concerning the New York Yankees‘ attempts to improve their roster: They continue to be content with picking from the scrap heap rather than trusting  their young upcoming prospects. 

In the offseason, starting catcher Russell Martin and starting right-fielder Nick Swisher, along with important bench pieces in Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez all left to free agency. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson have all suffered injuries and will be out for at least a month and a half (In A-Rod’s case, perhaps the entire year). 

With no ML starting catcher, no regular CF (Brett Gardner will switch from LF to the 8 spot for Grandy), and half the infield gone, the Yankees are in dire straits, and have done a very poor job to replace them.

With Teixeira and Rodriguez out, former Red Sox nemesis Kevin Youkilis looks to carry the load at 1B and 3B along with Eduardo Nunez and returning Yankee Juan Rivera. Rivera, Matt Diaz, and the recently signed Boesch and Ben Francisco will compete for the fourth outfielder spot. The catching duties will be apparently shared between Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.

I don’t think I have to pull up any numbers to make it clear that all these guys are mediocre at best. Even Youkilis struggled in 2012 with both Sox squads, hitting .235 with a 99 OPS+, both career lows. Injury plagued for the last couple of years, he could still be a good pickup if healthy

But the fact is, the Yankees could have simply brought some youth up to help deal with these injuries rather than waste what little money they allowed themselves to spend this past winter. 

Keith Law’s 2013 edition of his annual Top 100 prospects has four Yankees prospects on it. Catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott could have helped the Yankees in their situation if they were ready, but they all seem to be another year or two or perhaps three away. 

As a result, the Yankees should look for help from less touted players, preferably right-handed to off-set the likes of Ichiro, Granderson, and Hafner. There are a few players in Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that can easily fill the empty spots on the Yankees’ major league roster in the Bronx until those injured can return. 

Of course, the favorite to help fill in the holes the Yankees have is Eduardo Nunez, a lazy choice at best. His 88 OPS+ is not nearly enough to make up for his atrocious, Chuck Knoblauchian defense. He is not the answer at third base with both Teixeira and A-Rod out. 

One guy that can fill some holes in both the OF and 3B is Ronnier Mustelier, a 28-year-old Cuban defector with just 150 games and 595 at-bats under his belt. However, he has impressed with the bat, putting up an impressive .324/.378/.488/.859 line with 18 HR, 96 RBI and 19 stolen bases in those games climbing up the system.

Despite being mediocre or average at best with the glove, Mustelier can still play both 3B and LF, so Brett Gardner can take over CF with Ichiro in right. Mustelier‘s hitting skills are too solid to ignore, and he more than deserves to come up with the big league club in April, especially over Nunez.

A guy who deserves a chance to become the Yankees’ fourth outfielder is Melky Mesa. Yes, that’s right. Another Melky. He is just 26 years old and broke out in 2012 at Double-A and Triple-A, hitting 23 HR, slugging .480, stealing 22 bags, and putting up an .805 OPS. What you also get with him, however, is a long swing causing a lot of strikeouts and not a lot of walks. Still, he’s still a very good option as a fourth OF and should win the job over the likes of Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, Boesch or Francisco.

Another OF option is Zolio Almonte, 23. He hit 21 HR in 2012 at Trenton and could find his way to the big leagues if he continues to improve. He has played all three OF positions regularly, primarily right, but should have no problem if asked to play left at Yankee Stadium, as difficult as it surprisingly is. Like Mesa, however, he strikes out a lot and walks very sparingly. 

If Nunez is not the answer (most likely) at utility infielder, another kid may be a better option. Corban Joseph, just 24 years old, could eventually find himself as the starting second baseman for the New York Yankees if Robinson Cano leaves after this year. Joseph has only played second in recent years but improved with the bat in 2012

If he ever (that is, EVER) gets healthy, a potential dark horse option for the infield eventually could be David Adams. He has been plagued by injuries for much of his professional career, which caused a potential Yankee trade for Cliff Lee in 2010 to be killed. 

Lastly, and most unlikely is the catcher’s spot. The job looks as if it will be shared by Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, two seriously flawed and poor at best MLB players. Both have absolutely no business starting for the New York Yankees. They’re both backups at ABSOLUTE BEST. 

The best option the Yankees have right now at catcher may be another minor leaguer, 24-year-old Austin Romine. He was limited last year due to back problems, and so far hasn’t fully developed his hitting skills. But between him, Cervelli and Stewart, Romine may be the best option defensively, so it makes sense after dealing with Jorge Posada starting for over 14 years.

Sadly, it’s likely that these guys won’t be able to get a chance to help the club, as the Yankees continue to go with the scrap heap to fill their holes. Worked out sometimes and sometimes not. They basically replaced Johnny Damon with the likes of Randy Winn and Austin Kearns in 2010. Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon somehow managed to replace Andy Pettitte’s production in 2011. Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez did well as bench pieces last two years. 

But now should be the time for that to end, with the core players of this team aging and getting ready for the end of their careers (Mariano Rivera). The Yankees can’t plug their leaky holes with old vets anymore. There needs to be a youth movement in the organization, eventually centering around the likes of Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams and Tyler Austin.

But with those three two years away, less touted guys need to step in and help. Who knows? Ivan Nova did well in 2011 and David Phelps looks to make his mark now. There could be guys just like them waiting for their chance, but the Yanks need to give it to them. 

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Travis Hafner Signing: Yankees Best Offseason Move for 2013?

In November, as the Yankees celebrate their 28th World Series championship with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes, remember the date February 1, 2013. That is the date the Yankees announced the signing of Travis Hafner—and their 2013 starting lineup officially became stacked.

Although the acquisition of Hafner managed to fly beneath the radar, it was a signature stealth maneuver by savvy GM Brian Cashman that bolsters a 2013 Yankees batting order already bursting with firepower.

Hafner’s career numbers come at righty hurlers like Popeye after eating a can of spinach (2,619 at bats, 152 homers, .534 slugging percentage, .925 OPS). Even during an injury-shortened 2012 campaign, he managed to drill eight homers against them in only 158 at bats (one per 19.75 at bats).

His best season came in 2006. The muscular Hafner launched 42 homers to go with a .308 batting average and 117 RBI. Perhaps even more eye-popping are those totals were produced in only 454 at bats. His .659 slugging average and .1097 OPS led the league.

Along with Hafner’s tremendous power comes a brilliant batting-eye. His career .381 on-base average and uncanny ability to draw walks (twice drawing 100 or more) paints pitchers into a corner while lengthening the lineup.   

For those questioning Hafner’s power entering the season at age 35, one looks no further than the shot he hit on April 15, 2012. Off Kansas City Royals starter Luis Mendoza, Hafner hit a blast estimated at 456 feet. It was the longest home run hit at Kauffman Stadium since 2001.

Cashman‘s slick decision to bring Hafner on board comes with minimal risk, considering the explosive upside. Hafner signed a one-year deal for $2 million.

If healthy, expect Hafner’s market value to shoot through the roof, following a championship season at Yankee Stadium—where even one of his chip-shots could easily find the short porch in right field.   

Adding to the beauty of the Hafner signing is that he enters the 2013 season with something to prove. He’s a man on a mission to reestablish himself as one of MLB‘s most potent power threats.

As a member of a Yankees lineup loaded with talent, Hafner will have more than ample protection to achieve big-time numbers once again. His presence can rocket the numbers of his teammates, as well.

With the addition of a rejuvenated Hafner, it is difficult to imagine opposing pitchers making it through the Yankees lineup without getting marked up consistently.

Added to a lineup that already includes Jeter, Cano, Suzuki, Teixeira, Granderson and Youkilis, Hafner makes it nearly impossible for pitchers to escape unscathed. And then, there is still A-Rod looming come June.

Considering risk and reward, Cashman’s signing of Travis Hafner could be this offseason’s best move towards another New York Yankees championship season in 2013.

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Breaking Down the 4 DH Candidates for the New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have chosen to fill their designated hitter slot in the lineup with a combination of several low cost options in 2013, and who gets the bulk of at-bats will likely be decided in spring training.

General manager Brian Cashman brought in two left-handed bats—Travis Hafner and Dan Johnson—as well as two right-handed bats—Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz—to compete for at-bats.

A platoon of one left-handed hitter and one right-handed hitter seems like the most likely scenario at this point, as either right-handed bat will also be the fourth outfielder.

Cashman has succeeded in the past with low-risk, high-reward contracts (Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon first come to mind). With an entire spring to prove themselves, the Yankees and manager Joe Girardi are sure to find at this one diamond in the rough.

The four candidates haven’t exactly had the most success in the majors over the past few seasons, so it’s a near guarantee that it will be a fierce battle for a role on the team.

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MLB: Cleveland Indians Players Who May Have an Increased Role in 2013

While Jeff Loria and the Miami Marlins have shed incredible amounts of payroll with a firesale that makes your local merchandise liquidation retailer look like a Nordstrom, other teams around the majors seem to be taking the offseason slowly to this point.

After finishing 68-94 in 2012 and doing nothing at the deadline to establish themselves as buyers or sellers, it is anyone’s guess as to what the Cleveland Indians will be doing with the current roster. While there have been rumors related to Asdrubal Cabrera or Shin-Soo Choo being traded, it is quite possible that the Tribe does nothing and focuses on trying to compete with the roster that they currently have.

While the pitching staff struggled in 2012, the Indians will still be led by Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Zach McAllister, if the club stands pat, fans will see some interesting names toeing the rubber at Progressive Field in 2013.

With Travis Hafner finally reaching free agency, the Indians will officially move away from anyone associated with the last generation of Indians’ success. Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Choo and Carlos Santana provide a little bit of hope, albeit with a lot of question marks around the rest of the field.

So, who will the Indians count on in 2013 if they don’t start making any moves? Surprisingly, there is a little bit of hope in the existing names. What can you expect from the players who fill up the remaining 25-man roster?

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Ranking the 8 Indians That Cleveland Must Get Rid of Before 2013

At 64-91 (.413), the Cleveland Indians are the worst team in the American League, sharing the exciting title with in-division rival Minnesota after Cleveland beat the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. With just seven games remaining, the Tribe is set to finish a season with fewer than 70 wins in a season for the fourth time since 2000.

There are and have been a lot of issues for the Indians throughout the 2012 season. Some of these included: The bullpen, the left-handed lineup, the inability to find a powerful right-handed bat, the unwillingness of ownership and management to make a move to help the team contend, the inability to find leadership to get out of their excessive losing streaks and the inconsistency from players the team was counting on for big things in 2012.

Now, heading into another rebuilding session, the Cleveland Indians have to do some things to shake up the roster. The 40-man roster has a lot of useful names and many more useless names. Highlighted by players set for tremendous pay increases, the Indians have a lot of decisions to make before Opening Day of 2013.

Depending on the direction that management and ownership takes, you could argue with many, many names. I’m taking the path of a complete rebuild, developing talent by acquiring near-ready prospects and making a drastic change to the every-day roster.

While some names could shock you, so has the 20-50 record in the second half. If that hasn’t done the trick, how about the 27-58 record since losing control of first place in the AL Central on June 23 for the final time of the 2012 season.

The fall from grace demands change.

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6 Reasons Cleveland Indians Fans Should Still Watch Them over the Browns

We all know that 2012 is now a lost season, but it isn’t over yet. The Cleveland Indians are two games up on the Minnesota Twins for the worst record in the American League going into Tuesday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

Having now compiled a 20-45 record since losing first place on June 24, the Indians’ struggles are enough to make even the biggest, most devoted fans question their relationship with the club. After all, even the oldest Indians fans who were there or remember the 1948 championship are few and far between in the 64 years that they have patiently or angrily waited.

So, with the NFL season officially starting Wednesday night and the Cleveland Browns playing their first game on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles in Cleveland, what is there that can still make Cleveland Indians fans hang around at Progressive Field, watch eagerly on Sports Time Ohio or listen in to Tom Hamilton on the radio?

Surprisingly, there are several reasons why Cleveland sports fans should still be a part of the remaining 27 games in the MLB season for the Indians. There are even similarities between the Browns and Indians that will surprise you.

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Cleveland Indians: Whose Return to the Lineup Is More Important?

This could be the strangest article that I have ever written. Two recently returned players for the Cleveland Indians, neither of which have produced tremendously due to their own inability to do so, or due to injuries are the primary focus. Welcome back, Jack Hannahan and Travis Hafner.

Travis Hafner has been pretty solid in limited time this season. He missed 38 games due to a troublesome right knee, which he had surgery on at the end of May.

Outside of the time lost, Hafner has been somewhat productive, posting a .799 OPS, which has dropped significantly since he has hit .133/.235/.333 in four games since his return.

While he has struggled with an overall .231/.370/.429 line, the fact that he does possess some power and he has great on-base skills creates a lasting value to the aging slugger.

Jack Hannahan was fantastic in April, posting a .290/.375/.403 with 14 RBI in 62 at-bats. Since then, Hannahan is hitting just .215/.277/.323 with four doubles, two home runs and six RBI in 93 at-bats.

His defense, which is supposed to be top of the line, is 10th in MLB among third baseman, just below Toronto Blue Jays youngster Brett Lawrie, with a .949 fielding percentage.

Hannahan has done a great job against right-handed pitchers this season, posting a .288/.342/.413 line in 104 at-bats, but has hit just .157/.271/.235 in 51 at-bats against left-handed pitchers.

Both players present solid skills. Hafner was once a top-notch performer, but has struggled to stay healthy since 2007, missing a total of 237 games since the start of the 2008 season. Hannahan, a defensive specialist, has missed 88 games since September of 2008 due to injury. He may struggle to produce due to his inability to stay on the field, as well.

The Indians have to be excited to have both players back, as they provide solid, veteran presence, if nothing else. With the injury to Lonnie Chisenhall, the need to have Hannahan on the 25-man roster was very necessary, but you have to wonder if he could have been the odd man out when Hafner returned, had Chisenhall not suffered the broken bone near his wrist.

For my money, Hafner is the more important return for the Indians. I would have cut Hannahan when Hafner came off of the disabled list if Lonnie Chisenhall was healthy. Hannahan’s defensive skills are solid, but highly overrated when you factor in his hitting inefficiencies.

Hafner is not going to hit 42 home runs and drive in 117 runs ever again, like he did in 2007, but he has hit .265/.367/.443 with 22 doubles, one triple, 20 home runs and 81 RBI in 472 at-bats since the start of the 2011 season.

Even if Hannhan saved 20 runs per season, he can’t produce the number of runs that Hafner can.

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5 Creative Ways for the Cleveland Indians to Increase Attendance

Though they have been competitive in 2012, holding first place in the AL Central for 43 days this season, the Cleveland Indians have struggled to get fans to buy tickets for games at Progressive Field. The Indians rank 30th (that is last for newbies) in Major League Baseball in attendance, averaging 18,298 fans over 36 home dates as the team heads into the last two games against the Cincinnati Reds at Progressive Field on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Those 18,298 fans are 1,100 fans per game fewer than the 29th ranked Oakland A’s. Based on the average ticket price, the Indians have the seventh lowest average ticket price, $20.42, in MLB. Along with that, the Indians provide the ninth lowest fan cost index (FCI) in baseball, $173.66, which is comprised of four adult average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular size hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two of the least expensive, adult-sized caps (via Team Marketing Report).

While the FCI is up just 1.6 percent (the league average was up 2.4 percent), the Indians average ticket price went up 10.4 percent, (the league average was 0.0 percent since it went up just one cent). This isn’t to say that the lack of attendance has anything to do with the prices or the play on the field, but whatever the reasons are for Progressive Field to be filled just 42.1 percent of each home game in 2012, the Indians need to find ways to fix it.

Attendance leads the revenue of a small-market team, and if the gates aren’t churning, it is very unlikely that the Indians will be able to “improve” through free agency.  Here, we’ll take a look at ways the Indians can increase attendance over the remainder of the 2012 season.

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Cleveland Indians’ Travis Hafner: Will Slugger Be Inducted into Hall of Fame?

As a devoted Detroit Tigers fan and follower, I probably should not be discussing the Cleveland Indians. But sometimes my love for the greater game of baseball takes precedence over my own biases.

I sure am going to miss watching Cleveland Indians slugger Travis Hafner play once he decides to retire, because Hafner has been one of my favorite ballplayers to watch over the past decade.

This 34-year-old North Dakota native did not attend a major college baseball pipeline, he attended Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas.  

But do not tell that to opposing big-league pitchers who swallow hard fear whenever Hafner swaggers to the plate amidst heavy rock music.

At 6’3”, 240 pounds, Hafner is built as if he is the spiritual being sparking fear in bulls darting through the streets of Pamplona.

Sometimes when I watch Hafner, it seems more like a WWE wrestler just entered the ballpark.

Like John Cena meets Hack Wilson.  

When Hafner makes contact, you almost feel sorry for the baseball, as if he just knocked the wind out of the poor mass with stitches. I wonder how different major league record books would look if Hafner could have stayed healthy.  

Hafner achieved a stretch from 2004-2007 where no big-league pitcher wanted anything to do with him. This was because he averaged 32 home runs and 109 RBI during this time.

In Hafner’s best season (2006), his stats were beyond ridiculous. Hafner had 42 homers, 117 RBI to go with a .308 average, .659 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.098. It is no wonder pitchers walked him 100 times that season.

As Hafner made his way from ballpark to ballpark, many fans grew convinced this behemoth figure was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.  

But darn Mother Nature—since 2007 Hafner just could not remain healthy. The most on-field appearances Hafner has been able to muster in a single season the past four years are 118 games. Looking at Hafner’s complete body of work, he has averaged just 97 games a season in his 10-year career.

Career-wise, Hafner has hit 194 home runs and 875 RBI. His slugging percentage is .508. This is good for 70th all-time, right behind Ty Cobb.

Eerily, give Hafner a few more of years of baseball and his career numbers will look strikingly similar to Hack Wilson’s.

For the record, Wilson is a Hall of Famer.

Not to say Hafner will muster enough healthy seasons to achieve the same, but it would be nice to see.

But as a Tigers fan, I would humbly ask Hafner be traded out of the AL Central before he does.

I am sure Cleveland Indians fans would have something to say about this.

Join us on Basebook!

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Cleveland Indians: Is Travis Hafner Back, or Are We Set for a 2009 Redux?

If there was one thing that I was fairly sure about heading into the 2011 season, it’s that Travis Hafner would never be the same player that he was before he signed his large contract, became injury prone and seemingly lost all his power and worth to a rebuilding club like the Cleveland Indians.

I know it’s early, but boy does it seem like I was wrong.

Tribe manager Manny Acta indicated early in spring training that Hafner was going to play more this season, was 100 percent for the first time in a long time and that there was no need to worry about the surgically repaired shoulder.

These comments weren’t all that surprising, since we’ve been hearing the same thing since the days of Eric Wedge. What was surprising was the fact that other than Acta’s brief bro-mance with the 34-year-old DH, there hadn’t (hasn’t) been all that much discussion about the shoulder from the Indians’ camp.

As a matter of fact, it’s been a non-factor.

Hafner has currently played in 11 of the Tribe’s first 14 games, and has done his best to imitate his former self. Hafner is currently hitting .293, with three homers, eight RBI and an .884 OPS.

Last season, Hafner didn’t hit his third homer until May 5th, and never hit above .281.

Certainly, the season is still early, but Hafner is clearly hitting the ball harder than he has in the past few seasons. Still, what I still can’t get out of my mind is the 2009 season, in which Hafner came out of the gate like the Pronk of old. After the sixth game of the season, Hafner had three homers and six RBI, and his slugging would ultimately reach a peak of .714 in those early days of the season.

I was already to re-dub Hafner to his old Pronk self. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit, and Hafner was placed on the DL for soreness and fatigue to that wonderful shoulder.

Nobody thought it was all that serious, including Eric Wedge, but it turned out that Hafner had to miss over a month. He would return and wouldn’t have a horrid season, but Pronk was seemingly gone.

Enter 2011. The Indians are playing outstanding baseball, and find themselves at 10-4 early on. Every card is lining up for the Tribe so far, including Hafner. Is it a false sense of security for the Tribe slugger? Is he just getting some extra protection because of a slew of hot bats, or is the shoulder finally as strong as it was five years ago, prior to the injury bug?

If it is, that false sense of security I just mentioned, just got a little less false.

Welcome back Pronk, we’ll take it as long as we can get it.


Jim Pete also writes for Indians Prospect Insider and Bringing Back Boudreau

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