Introducing Brandon Laird and Corban Joseph

*Originally posted on Pinstripe Alley as a fanpost*

Yesterday the Yankees promoted 1b/3b Brandon Laird to AAA Scranton and 2b/3b Corban Joseph to AA Trenton Thunder. These are two of the more interesting positional prospects in the Yankees system, which is a system lacking many top flight positional prospects at the higher levels. I haven’t done a prospect analysis in a long while so I may be rusty, but I figured I’ll give it a shot.

Brandon Laird

Age: 22

Bats/Throws: R/R

Position: 1b/3b

Brandon Laird was drafted by the Yankees in the 27th round of the 2007 draft, and is the brother of Tigers catcher, Gerald Laird. Fortunately, Brandon looks to be a better player than his brother. The year he was drafted Laird reported to the GCL for 45 games, where he was able to hit .339/.367/.577 in 168 PA. In 2008 he reported to Charleston in the Sally League, where he showed good pop in his bat. He posted a line of .274/.335/.499 with a .398 park-adjusted wOBA.

After a promotion to Tampa, Laird had a down year because of a loss in power. His BA and OBP fell a little bit, his SLG dropped from .449 to .415. His ISO fell from .225 to .149. That could be due to the fact his LD% dipped from 19.7% to a career low 14.7%. However, his line wasn’t so bad as he played in a pitcher’s park and his park-adjusted wOBA was .346.

This season Laird got things back on track and is having a breakout season. His line is .292/.356/.527 with a .408 park-adjusted wOBA and a .235 ISO.

Laird has a lot of pop in his bat, which profiles well for third base- and first base if he is eventually moved there. From 2007-2010 he has posted an ISO above .200 every season except for that one year in 2009 and his career ISO is .206. However, he doesn’t bring much discipline to the dish. His uIBB% the past three seasons in order has been 7.9%, 7.2%, and 7.8%. Those are average marks, and one would assume that will translate to a below average or mediocre BB rate in the majors. At least he’s been consistent at each level, which makes projecting him easier. Just going down the line looking at BA, OBP, SLG, BABIP, BB%, K% you notice there isn’t much deviation season to season. His hitting WAR* the past three seasons has been 3.9, 2.5, and 4.4 in 2010. So the dood can hit.

*From statcorner. I don’t know your feelings on MiLB WAR numbers, so take it or leave it.

Defensively, he isn’t Evan Longoria, but looking at B-R’s prospect Total Zone, he seems capable enough with the glove to stick at the position. In 251 career games at third before 2010 he has a +4 TZ and in 127 games at first he has a +3 TZ.

So going forward I would say he can be an above average bat. He has average on base skills with solid power. Best case scenario I think he can be a solid player and his most likely scenario is semi-regular starter. Laird has never repeated a level in the minors and has had success at each stop. Many doubt his future potential, but eventually you have to give the kid credit. If he can continue to hit in AAA, it might just be time to consider the kid a top prospect. I doubt he will ever be a star player, but he could be a sleeper prospect to make decent contributions on a big league ball club.

Big league comparison: Depending on whether you’re a Laird fan or not, I see him somewhere between Casey Blake and Jorge Cantu.

Corban Joseph

Age: 21

Bats: L/R

Position: 2b/3b

The Yankees took Corban Joseph in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, and his older brother Caleb was selected by the Orioles the same draft. Right away Corban became one of my favorite prospects because of his high potential (some said Chase Utley) and offensive praise.

Following the same route as Laird, Joseph signed fasted and went to the GCL for 49 games. In 159 PA he had a line of .277/.359/.434. His BB% was a solid 10.9% and his ISO was .157, showing signs that he could potentially harness some power in his bat. The next year in Charleston Joseph showed why his bat received high praise the year before. He hit .300/.381/.418 with a .375 park-adjusted wOBA. He posted an 11.0% uIBB% which nearly matched his 2008 mark. However, his ISO fell to .118. As a result, there was some concern about his power potential because if he moves to third full time in the future, the bat will not play well there.

So his power was something to keep an eye on this year in Tampa. His line is .301/.376/.427 with a .365 park-adjusted wOBA. So his ISO is .126. They say power can be the last thing to emerge for a prospect and that could be the case with Joseph. He does have 27 doubles though, which leads the FSL I believe. So hopefully as he develops physically those doubles start turning into home runs. If that happens, Joseph could potentially be a 15-20 home run a year guy, which would be pretty darn good.

A positive to Joseph’s bat is his on base skills. He posted double digit walks rates in his first two seasons and although it’s fallen to 8.9% this season, it’s still a solid mark. He also had a LD% of 25.1% in 2009 and it’s currently 22.8% this season. So he’s a line drive hitter who can get on base. Sounds pretty good to me. And as I already mentioned, those line drives are landing for doubles right now, but could soon be going for homers. As a result, his already strong wOBA could jump to top prospect status.

The one troubling aspect to Jospeh is defense. Many scouts say that he has to stay at second, because as his power currently stands, he does not project well at third. According to a very SSS in Charleston he struggled at second base and some scouts do not believe he has the range to be a good second baseman.

I think Corban Joseph could be a nice little player for the Yankees in the future. I love his bat and I do think his power will come around. Although we haven’t seen in yet and may not see it in the pitcher’s park at Trenton, I just feel it will show up soon. He hits the ball hard and is a doubles machine. I just can’t help but think that as he matures so will the strength and power. If he can be a 15-20 HR guy like I believe, he could be a real good player. His hitting WAR in 2009 was 3.3 and it’s 3.1 so far this season. He is a good hitter, so now it’s just a matter of whether or not he can the make necessary defensive improvements to stay at second.

Big league comparison: I read that a comp is Bill Mueller and I have to agree. Mueller had a fulfilling ML career, amassing 1216 games and a 27.0 WAR. He was a solid on base guy with occasional pop. Joseph profiles the same way.

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