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March 14, 2007

Looking Ahead to 2007: The Bench
by SG

I'll wrap up my Looking Ahead pieces for the position players with the Yankee bench. I already looked at the backup catcher candidates here, as well as Melky Cabrera here, so let's finish it off with a look at Miguel Cairo, Andy Phillips, and Josh Phelps.

Here are their offensive projections. Anyone who can't see the embedded Google spreadsheets below can use this link instead.

And here are their defensive projections.

I know Cairo is a horrible hitter, but I still like him. He makes up for an awful bat with decent defense all around the infield. The Yankees didn't have a lot of options in the utility infielder market this offseason, so I was fine with bringing him back. Now we just have to hope he doesn't play a lot.

The last spot on the bench is going come down to one of Andy Phillips or Rule 5 pick Josh Phelps. Phillips brings a good glove at first and some good AAA numbers to the battle, whereas Phelps brings his former top prospect billing and lead glove. Phelps has a better major league track record than Phillips, and projects to be a better hitter. He also gives the heavily left-handed Yankee lineup an option to rest one of their lefties, as he's hit .293/.357/.500 vs. lefties in his career, compared to .257/.325/.460.

Phillips's glove is superfluous with Doug Mientkiewicz around. I championed Phillips getting a chance last season, and he got it. He disappointed, and unless the Yankees are willing to carry 11 pitches, either he or Phelps has to go. The smart move is keeping Phelps, who is younger, projects to hit better, and who has shown more talent at the major league level. I think Brian Cashman knows this, or they wouldn't have taken Phelps in the Rule 5 draft.

That wraps up the position players. What does it all add up to? This.

I used some rough playing time projections, then filled in the gaps with replacement level play on both offense and defense. The Yankees project to score 142 runs above average using linear weights. The average AL team scored 804 last year, so adding 142 to that, I get a team that projects to score around 950 runs. We should probably knock that down a bit since Yankee Stadium tends to play as a slight pitchers' park, but 940 or so seems eminently reachable, and with some health and performances that exceed projections, 1000 has an outside chance.

The defense is ugly, but no worse than it's been in the recent past.

I'm pretty happy to see the position players projecting so well. Now they just have to say healthy and meet or exceed their expectations. Next up, the pitchers...