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March 6, 2009

Replacing A-Rod

Putting People in Pinstripes

by Baseball Prospectus

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If the Yankees decide to go hunting for something better than the non-answers they have in their own system in their quest to find someone to fill A-Rod's cleats, however temporarily, there are a couple of ways they could go if they so chose, shopping for journeymen or second-tier prospects blocked in their current organizations, or perhaps gunning for something a little more exotic as international action gets underway in the WBC tournament.

Jeff Baisley, Athletics: Known more for his pitching exploits in college, Baisely was the Midwest League MVP two years ago, but he's slowed down some at the upper levels. Still, he's an above-average defender with a little bit of pop and some on-base skills, and the Nomar Garciaparra signing likely means another year at Triple-A for him.-Kevin Goldstein

Matt Brown, Angels: An eight-year veteran of the Angels system, Brown has racked up 111 home runs in his minor league career, including 21 last year as part of a .320/.373/.580 line at Triple-A Salt Lake. He's not a good defender, is ready as he'll ever be at 26 years old, and is absolutely buried on the Angels' depth chart, so he could be a cheap pick up.-KG

Kory Casto, Nationals: Seemingly a prospect in the Nats' system for eons, Casto was moved to the outfield in 2007 simply because he was never going to supplant All-Star Ryan Zimmerman. Now he's 27 years old and stuck behind a younger, more talented group of outfielders. Ignore his poor big-league performance from last year-he has enough offensive ability to be a solid, unspectacular temporary replacement.-KG

The Cubans: If anyone was going to defect from the WBC to don pinstripes, it's worth noting that Cuba actually has a position battle going on at third base, one that's rather like choosing between A-Rod and David Wright. The established third baseman for the Cuban national team is Michel Enriquez. He's 30 years old, and translates to a .299 Equivalent Average (.299/.383/.490) over the past four years; he had a batting average of .447 (translated .344) in Cuba two years ago. He also has over twice as many walks as strikeouts over the last four years; even translated, that's still better than 1:1. He missed part of the last two seasons due to a one-year suspension for attacking an umpire.

Yulieski Gourriel is 25 years old, bigger than Enriquez, and more of a power hitter. His performance in Cuba translates as .269/.333/.506 and a .284 EqA from 2005-2009, with 35 home runs per 650 PA. He was one of the most hoped-for defectors three years ago, when he was 22 and playing second base. He continued to play second for the national teams until Enriquez' suspension, though he played third for his regular team. If there was a worldwide draft for every player not already affiliated with MLB, he'd be a top-five pick, and very possibly the first pick overall.-Clay Davenport

Esteban German, Royals: Designated for assignment last weekend when Kansas City signed Juan Cruz, he's readily available. The high-on-base percentage utilityman (career .358 OBP) has long been a minor hero in the sabermetrics pantheon; more properly a second baseman than a hot corner regular, he's also handy enough in the outfield and on the bases. Projected to get on base at a .330 clip in his age-31 season, if the Yankees made a move and deposited him at the bottom of the order to give the top a baserunner to drive in, he'd be an asset in A-Rod's absence, and then a quality reserve once the star comes back.-Christina Kahrl

Jack Hannahan, Athletics: As a quality defender and a lefty bat to put into the Yankees' new home, Hannahan would have his uses. He's been stretched when pressed into full-time play filling in for the oft-injured Eric Chavez in Oakland, but signing Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra crowds the infield. As a temp filler who might not cost more than a nondescript A-ball arm to acquire at the end of the month, the Yankees could do worse, and that's assuming Brian Cashman doesn't decide to wait and see if he winds up on waivers, a la German.-CK

Dallas McPherson, Marlins: The former Angels prospect has struggled with problems with a knee, the strike zone, and playing third, but if you want a poor man's Russell Branyan for lefty power, McPherson might fill the bill as a short-term temp after leading the minor leagues with 42 home runs while slugging .642 against right-handers for the Albuquerque Isotopes last season. Adjust to his age and park and boil it down, however, and it only translates to a .249 Equivalent Average. We project him to hit a homer every 22 plate appearances in the majors, but strike out once every 2.8.-CK

Shuichi Murata: Japan's starting third baseman in the WBC, Murata plays third for Yokohama. His overall translated stat line is an unimpressive .252/.319/.453 and a .264 EqA, but that hides a trajectory of .228-.251-.270-.301 in his Equivalent Averages in the last four years. Now 28 years old, he's only 5'9", but he led the Japanese leagues with 46 home runs this past year, and was third in RBI (time off for the Olympics might have cost him the lead). He also led the Central League in home runs in 2007 as well. The bad news (beyond his unavailability) is that his defense is poor.-CD

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