Category Archives: Player Analysis
Player analysis, speculation, statistical analysis, etc.
The Yankees have lost a lot of familiar names: Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Francisco Cervelli, Ivan Nova and possibly Kevin Youkilis. With a lineup that won’t feature most of these names for a while, you would think the Yankees would lie down and take the beating, not fight at all and prove every non-believer right. The Yankees have done the opposite. Going into today’s game, the Yankees are 13-9, 12-5 since April 7. In a team that’s bruised and beat up, there’s a shining light, where veterans stepped up and are producing for the Yanks.
No one expected Travis Hafner to be such a big catalyst in the Yankees lineup vs. right handed pitching. And no one would have thought that Vernon Wells would come out of the gate swinging. Well, that’s the case for the Yankees. The veterans are taking over the lineup for the Yanks, and they intend on milking out every opportunity possible to prove their worth to the ball-club. Here are some Yankees that surprised us so far in the season, making their cause known to the team.
Brett Gardner: If you told me on April 1st that Brett Gardner was going to have 3 HR’s and have the second most RBI’s (12) on the team behind Robinson Cano, I’d say you were a dreamer. I’d call you crazy as well, but mostly a dreamer. Well, Brett Gardner has been opening some eyes, proving that he deserves to be in the lineup vs. left handed pitching as well as right handed pitching. Out of Gardner’s 3 HR’s this season, two are of significant importance: Gardner hit them vs. left handed pitching. Before his first HR, the last time Gardner hit a HR vs. left handed pitching was on July 3, 2010 vs. Ricky Romero of the Blue Jays. Gardner has been showing strength, and although he’s paid to run and steal bases, we’ll excuse him for not stealing bases as of yet since he’s doing a great job in bringing runners in scoring position to the plate.
Robinson Cano: Robinson Cano had an odd start to his 2013 campaign. He was struggling just like Brett Gardner and just like Ichiro Suzuki. However like Gardner, Cano quickly turned it around and started providing offense for the team. With no Curtis Granderson, no Mark Teixeira and no Derek Jeter, there is a loss in home runs for the Yankees meaning that Cano has to carry the team on his back every single game. After a putrid first week, Cano has done just that. He’s carried the team on his back. Does 7 HR’s and 17 RBI’s prove my point? It should.
Travis Hafner: Pronk has become a pleasant surprise to the Yankees, showing his power and is dubbed the “2013 version of Raul Ibanez“. Pronk is easily one of my favorite acquisitions, since he comes up in the clutch in the playing time he’s had. He has 5 HR’s, (one of them was so dramatic, it won the game). He also made Cleveland Indians fans remember why they loved him so much…although he hit home runs AGAINST his former team, leaving the fans unhappy. Anyway, Pronk is a player that I wish could hit vs. left handed pitching…but I’ll take him as he is. He’s been a great player so far and we hope he stays healthy.
Vernon Wells: Who would have thought that out of all people, Vernon Wells would be the player he was before he signed the gigantic contract that caused him to get traded to two different teams? Vernon Wells is second for team batting average, home runs and is third in RBI’s. It might have helped that the Yankees faced the Blue Jays twice, once on their recent road-trip and on their current home-stand. Vernon Wells has no trouble showing the Blue Jays fans what they were missing, and the Yankees love it.
The RailRiders ended up with four straight rainouts, but caught up a bit with a doubleheader on Sunday and finished up at 4-2 the last seven days. David Adams led the charge this week for Scranton, going 8-16 with a HR and an RBI. He raised his season batting average top .355 and his OPS to .976. With a lack of right handed bats and the news of Jeter being out until after the All Star break, there may be an opening for David to get some cuts in the majors. Corban Joseph got things rolling in the last few days, getting 8 hits in the last 26 AB’s including a pair of doubles and a homer. He drove in three while walking once and striking out three times. Zoilo Almonte also had a strong showing, going 10-21 with three doubles and a home run. The standout part of his performance this week was his lone strikeout while taking six free passes. That’s been his achilles heel, and if he can show some plate discipline while still hitting for power and not sacrificing hits he’ll make a much better case for getting himself a job with the big club. Melky Mesa went just the opposite, taking only one walk while striking out six times.
On the pitching front, Nuno continued his excellent work on the mound tossing 6 scoreless. He allowed just four hits, walked one and struck out eight. Nuno would be number one on my AAA depth chart right now as Brett Marshall (4.1 IP, 6H, 5R, 4BB, 3K) has been getting knocked around a bit while returning Chien Ming Wang will make his AAA debut tonight, and it’s yet to be seen how he will fare. Chris Bootcheck chipped in another solid stand-in performance throwing six scoreless of his own. Graham Stoneburner stepped in with a spot start and had his own scoreless outing of six innings, allowing just four hits while walking none and striking out a pair. Dellin Betances made two starts this week, opening with a pathetic outing that lasted just .2 IP, allowing six earned on four hits and two walks. His next outing wasn’t much better, although he managed to last four innings while allowing five earned runs. This is Dellin’s last chance to make something of himself before he becomes a FA, and so far it’s more of the same. Here’s to hoping that the change in his stride eventually pays off, because his time is running out. On the relief end Mark Montgomery continues to throw zeroes, going two innings, allowing a single hit, zero walks while striking out three. Codey Eppley and Craig Claiborne combined with 5.1 scoreless innings of their own while lefty Juan Cedeno tossed 2.1 innings of scoreless ball on three hits. He walked one and struck out a pair.
The Thunder offense had a heyday this week, finishing up at 4-3. Their record could have been a lot better if it were not for the pitching. JR Murphy continued to raise his line, going 10-21 with a pair of doubles and a three home run performance last night that should have been the nail in the coffin were it not for ten earned runs given up by Matt Tracy. Murphy got his average up to .375 and his OPS to 1.097 after his own personal derby. Rob Segedin chipped in a pair of bombs of his own, and together drove in 18 runs on the week. Tyler Austin may be coming around a bit, as he went 8-27 with a double and 7 RBI’s. He also took 6 walks to go with 7 strikeouts. Ramon Flores pulled off nine hits of his own, including three doubles and a triple while driving in seven. He walked and struck out three times each. Slade Heathcott made his way back from a stiff neck, but is in limbo still, chipping in just a single hit in eleven AB’s. His OPS stands at .573, a far cry from his fall league performance.
As mentioned earlier, Matt Tracy got lit up in his last performance, allowing ten runs over three innings. His previous start was far better, as he went 5 scoreless on three hits. He struck out four and walked four in that appearance. Nik Turley made some more steps to a solid performance tossing 4 innings of 2 run ball, allowing three free passes while striking out seven. He’s gotten a bit better each time out, so here’s to a quality start next time around. Francisco Rondon as a starter experiment continued as he had two outings combining for 9 innings of five run ball. Walks are a bit of an issue and the righties are eating him alive… in fact he’s yet to allow an earned run to a left handed hitter yet. If anything this gives him plenty of innings to pitch and a move to the pen won’t require any stretching out, so if/when they decide to ditch this idea he could step in and help the big club rather soon if needed. Tommy Kahnle came out of the pen to pitch three scoreless on two hits, allowing three walks and racing up six K’s. Zach Nuding worked four innings resulting in 5 runs, two of them earned. Danny Burawa was Jeckyl and Hyde, tossing 2 scoreless and then getting tuned up for four runs in just a single inning. While there were a couple of highlights and things to look forward to, the pitching overall was the downfall this week. With all the runs scored they could have gone 7-0.
Tampa had it’s share of offense this week as well. Gary Sanchez turned on the lights knocking three over the wall along with a double to go 8-23 on the week driving in ten runs and working his OPS up to 1.113. Mason Williams also went 8-23 including a pair of doubles and a triple. He got his batting average up to .289 on the season and his OPS to .860. Ben Gamel continues to spray the ball all over the field, going 9-28 with a pair of doubles and a pair of triples that he knocked in just last night. He’s yet to go deep, but 9 of his 20 hits thus far have gone for extras. The long ball power could be just around the corner. Carmen Angelini… yes… that guy, is hitting .308 on the year. In fairness he’s 24 so don’t take this as being a late bloomer, just way too old for his level. Matt Snyder is in the dark so far, posting a .088/.139/.147/.286 line. Yikes. Angelo Gumbs was placed on the DL and replaced on the roster with Robert Refsnyder. I have an unconfirmed report that he’s suffering from a strained tendon, and I wonder if it had any effect on his performance thus far, which has been pretty dismal.
Bryan Mitchell got straightened around his last time out, throwing 5 innings of 4 hit ball. He walked two but also only struck out two. With his kind of stuff you’d think we see more knockouts. Shane Greene made two starts; his first he gave up 5 runs over six innings, walking one and striking out four. In his second outing he went 6.1 IP and allowed a pair of runs, giving away zero free passes and struck out six. Corey Black made another start this past week, going 5 innings while allowing 4 earned. He walked a pair and struck out eight. The thing to watch with him is his velocity, as last year in his first go around in the pros he tended to lose his FB in the latter innings. He’s a guy that can run it up to triple digits, but falls considerably as he tires. Manuel Barreda appeared in two games and pitched four innings of one hit ball. He walked a pair and struck out five.
Robert Refsnyder led the Dogs this week to go 3-3 before getting promoted to the Tampa club. He parted with a .370/.452/.481/.933 slash line, and went 1-6 in his high-A debut. That was about it for the highlights of the greater known prospects. Greg Bird has been in a major funk as of late. He went 4-22 with zero XBH’s this past week, although he did drive in three. Dante Bichette Jr. also drove in three but had one fewer hit. Cito culver, after starting out on a good note, had just three hits himself including a double. He’s making K Law’s limited look at him earlier this week appear pretty spot on. As noted earlier, Gumbs was sent to the DL with what is supposedly a strained tendon after posting an anemic .286 OPS. Pretty fugly all the way around, save for Refsnyder who is now in Tampa, and Peter O’Brien who went 6-18 with 5! doubles and a HR. He struck out five times, walked twice and has his OPS up to 1.041 on the year.
The pitching end was a bit brighter, led by Gabe Encinas who tossed 11 innings of one run ball. He allowed six hits, three walks and struck out eleven in the process. He’s sporting a sub one ERA right now and is the unsung star of the show. Rafael DePaula took another trip to the mound and tossed six innings of 3 run ball. He had some yips his previous start and couldn’t find the zone but bounced back a bit this time out, allowing just a single walk while striking out seven. For those of you interested, he’s leading the SAL with a K/9 north of 18. Jose Campos made his third start after spending most of last year on the DL. He was limited to just three innings again, allowing one earned run while walking three and striking out five. His command and control should continue to come around as he works his way back and continues to build his arm strength. Looks like they’re taking it easy on the younger guys; wondering if it’s the Patterson effect in play. Ceasar Vargas chipped in 5.1 innings of two run ball, striking out four and allowing three free passes. Daniel Camarena continued to struggle, throwing three unfortunate innings of five run ball. He struck out two and walked two.
Following a long awaited start to major league games that count, the minor leagues kicked off last week with opening series against the Red Sox affiliates. Over the past months we at YFU have brought you numerous prospect profiles along with our top 40 in the system list, so many of you will be familiar with the names thrown around here in the regularly scheduled recaps. Each week we’ll highlight performances and keep you updated on some of the bigger names in the system, along with some who should be on the radar soon. Without further ado, let’s get rolling.
The newly coined RailRiders kicked off the season with a thud, losing 4 straight and going 1-5 in what was a dismal, rainy start to the season. Like the parent club, SWB missed their last two games due to inclement weather, and luckily so. There’s been a bit of good news though, and that starts with budding catcher Austin Romine who went 7/18 with 3BB’s and 8K’s. No extra base hits yet, but it’s ggod to see him out there and making a bit of contact. Addison Maruszak stepped in at short and drew 5 walks to one strikeout while going 4/11. Melky Mesa is busy doing his best windmill impression, hitting .250 while whiffing 13! times. Newly re-signed Mike Adams is struggling to get going with just three hits in 15 AB’s, but has walked as many times as he’s struck out (4). 2B Corban Joseph is also off to a sluggish start going 5/23 with 5BB’s and 4K’s. Good to see at the least his plate discipline is holding fast.
On the pitching end Vidal Nuno continues to shine. He went from an impressive 2012 campaign to shining in winter ball, carried that opver to major league spring training and he still hasn’t stopped. The soft tosser didn’t pick up a win, but threw 11.2 IP of 3 run ball on 6 hits, walking none and striking out twelve. Aside from the guys already in the BX, Nuno is making a strong case to be the next in line for a spot in the rotation or that of long man. I iamgine he could serve as a lefty reliever, but he shouldn’t be limited to short bursts and lefties only. Dellin Betances also made his debut and threw 4 innings of 2 run ball on three hits and two walks, striking out four. He started off a bit shaky and then settled in. Normally a stat line like this wouldn’t be much to speak of, but considering the drubbing he took last year this is actually a good sign. Sinkerballer Brett Marshall was toasted in his outing, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits over 3.2 innings. He walked and struck out four. Mark Montgomery got in five innings of work and gave up a home run….the second of his professional career spanning over 100 innings. I suppose he’s allowed. He conceded only one run and four hits, walking none and knocking out nine. Left Juan Cedeno has been solid, going 3.1 innings, allowing a lone run on one walk and four K’s. Craig Claiborne also had a good week, throwing 3.1 innings of two hit ball, walking none and striking out four.
The Thunder have quite a team this year, sporting several players in the top 20 of the system, with a few more likely to join them later this year. They ended the week 4-3 backed by Neil Medchill, who went 9/23 with three 2B’s and 2 HR’s, driving in 8 runs. Catcher JR Muprphy is focusing more on his bat this year now that his defense is well on it’s way, going 6/23 with a HR, driving in 4, taking 4 walks and striking out 4 times. Ramon Flores is sputtering a bit with only 8 hits in 33 AB’s including a double and three RBI’s. The notable part of his line is that he’s only taken 2 walks while striking out 9 times. He’s considered one of the better disciplined hitters in the system so let’s hope he gets himself adjusted to AA ball. Fellow outfielders Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin are having their struggles getting used to a new level as well. Slade has gone 7/29, albeit with a pair of doubles and a triple, but had some early strikeout woes ending the week with 8 K’s and 3 BB’s. Austin went 6/31 with three doubles and a HR, driving in three while striking out 11 times. Let’s hope he can get his feet under him as he adjusts to life in Trenton. 1B Kyle Roller chipped in 6 RBI’s this week including a HR.
The Thunder pitching has gotten knocked around a bit, namely southpaw Nik Turley who made two starts this week, going 8.2 innings, allowing 9 runs on 14 hits. He walked four and struck out 6. Matt Tracy made his brief debut, recording a single out before getting yanked for giving up 5 runs. He walked the park (4) and recorded a K in his only out. Zach Nuding had the best debut, allowing just a single run in his two starts totaling 9.2 innings and 11 hits. He walked four and struck out eight. Newly converted starter Francisco Rondon threw 5 innings of 3 run ball, all on HR’s, and all to right handers. We’ll see how long this experiment lasts, as he could be a very effective guy out of the bullpen for the Bombers. Kelvin Perez, who may be a victim of the numbers game finds himself back in Trenton after making his way to AAA last year, went 5 IP, allowing just two hits while striking out five. Branden Pinder has gotten kicked around thus far, allowing 8ER over just 4.2IP. Tommy Kahnle is also off to a shaky start, albeit not as ugly as Pinder’s. He’s allowed a pair of runs to cross the plate in his two innings pitched, walking two and striking out a pair. Jeremy Bleich….yep, that Jeremy Bleich has returned to the fray pitching in relief. He’s tossed 5.1 scoreless innings on 5 hits, walking three and striking out four.
Tampa sports the other half of our top four prospects in Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams. Gary has picked up where he left off, going 11/30 with four 2B’s and four RBI’s. He’s taken one free pass and struck out four times. Mason is getting back into the swing of things after having season ending shoulder surgery last year. He went 7/27 with a pair of doubles, walking 6 times and striking out 7. New to the Tampa club is Angelo Gumbs, who is struggling as of now in a 3/30 slump, a triple his only XBH. He’s walked once while striking out five times and swiping a pair of bases. Another outfielder to keep an eye on is Ben Gamel, who I spoke with Matt about earlier in the offseason, regarding why he was left off the top 40 list. It was for the most part a matter of too many players and not enough chairs, and at that point in the list you could re-write it a dozen times and make a case for a myriad of endings. Gamel is one to watch though, and from all accounts he added some mass to his frame over the winter and should see a power spike this year. If that comes to fruition he’ll be making his way up the best of sheets in no time. The kid can hit, but for a corner outfielder he’s going to have to add some pop. He’s had a nice start to the year showing some gap power with 5 of his 11 hits going for doubles. He’s walked twice, struck out four times and stolen two bases.
Bryan Mitchell led the team in innings this week, tossing 12 while allowing 4 runs on 8 hits. He walked five and struck out ten. Corey Black added 11 innings of his own, giving up 3 runs on 9 hits. He walked four and struck out ten. He was also noted to be in the low to mid 90′s, touching 96 at times. He has no problem getting it up there, but maintaining that velocity through the latter innings has been his issue. He’ll need to show he can build up some stamina or he could be off to the pen. Nothing wrong wit ha late inning guy that can dial it up to triple digits, but you can’t blame them for trying to get as many innings out of him as they can. Scottie Allen and Shane Green combined for 11 innings of two run ball, Mikey O’brien pitched 4.2 innings allowing 3 runs on five hits. He walked none and struck out four. Nick Goody, who was invited to big league camp but missed most of it due to a sprained ankle as the result of a car accident returned to action, pitching 3 innings of one run ball on two hits. He walked two and struck out three. Once he gets rolling he could be a quick mover, and a trip to Trenton is not out of the question later this season. Manny Barreda chipped in 2 innings of one hit ball while Sean Black added 3 innings of 3 hit ball.
Cito Culver is the big news this week for the RiverDogs. Over the winter he decided to ditch the whole swithc hitting thing and go solely as a right hander. He also gave up the high leg kick for one more abbreviated and so far the results have been outstanding. He kicked off opening week going 11/37, which included three 2B’s, a 3B, and 2 HR’s. No…that’s not a typo. Cito went deep twice in the same game and has amassed about a third as many XBH/s in the first 8 games as he did all of last year. Small sample size admitted, but he looks damn good at the plate. Robert Refsnyder rolled in with nine hits of his own, including three doubles. He drove in one, took four walks, struck out five times and stole four bags. He’s getting used to life at second base and could give Gumbs a run for his money as best in the system at that spot. Greg Bird, who is now a 1B after back problems moved him away from catcher, started off the year going 10/30 with a double a HR and 4 RBI’s. He’s walked eight times while striking out ten. Taylor Dugas is also off to a good start, going 9/26 with a double. He’s driven in a pair, walked four times, struck out twice and stolen two bases. Dante Bichette was getting it going later in the week and finished 6/33 with a pair of HR’s (one a grandy) and 11 RBI’s. He also adjusted his swing over the winter, so keep an eye on him even if last year soured you on his future.
Two of our more interesting pitching prospects currently reside here, first in Jose Campos, the other piece in “The Trade” who went down with elbow inflammation early last year. He made his first start in 11 months, and was a little rusty, He allowed 4 ER on 4 hits including a HR, while walking one and striking out three. Cobwebs i’m sure…he has great stuff and is pretty polished for his age. Expect a lot more from him moving forward. Rafael DePaula was the big story this week. He rang in his stateside debut with a bang…er, K. Eleven of them actually. He went about 70 pitches in his opener and knocked out eleven of the nineteen batters he faced. He made another start later in the week and was a little wild, giving up four free passes. He finished off with 6.1 IP, 6H, 4ER, 5BB, 16K and 2 HB. There’s a lot to look forward to with this guy as he has some great stuff coming from a good sized frame and free and easy delivery. Gabe Encinas had a nice little game of his own, going 6 innings and allowing just one hit. He walked three and struck out four. Even Rutckyj pitched five shutout innings of his own, allowing 3 hits and two walks against one K. Daniel Camarena had a rough first week, allowing 5ER on 11H, walking one and recording not a single strikeout. Charlie Short, Ben Paullus and Alex Smith pitched a combined 13.2 innings of eight hit ball, striking out 20 while walking just five.
That’s it for our first week in review, tune in every Friday for the rundowns of all our minor league action, and keep an eye out for more prospect profiles, as well as some articles detailing the upcoming 2013 first year player draft.
The Yankees bullpen was supposed to be a strength this year, just like it has been throughout the Joe Girardi era. One of Girardi’s biggest strengths as a manager has been his bullpen management, as he usually never overworks anybody. Bad starting pitching has forced his hand this year, and other than David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, the bullpen has been terrible.
The Yankees bullpen has allowed 21 runs and 52 base runners over 25.2 innings this season. Yesterday, they turned a painless game into an annoying one, as they made closing out a 11-3 game a lot harder than it should have been. Shawn Kelley was awful, as he allowed three runs, three hits and a walk, over 1.1 innings. Kelley was selected to be on the roster over David Aardsma for his ability to pitch multiple innings, but in the second inning of his last two appearances he has allowed two and three runs respectively. His career fly ball percentage of 51.3% may not play well in Yankee Stadium, and his fastball has been down two MPH this year (90.4).
Also, contributing to yesterdays and this season’s poor bullpen performance was Joba Chamberlain. He did not allow a run yesterday, but he did walk two batters in the ninth inning of a 11-6 game, which is brutal. Chamberlain was throwing full count sliders with that 11-6 lead, which just made no sense. This is when he gets into trouble. He over thinks things and does not attack hitters enough. He has great stuff, yet is still always nibbling at the corners, as he has six walks already this year in only 2.2 innings. The Yankees desperately need Chamberlain to get consistent and become a reliable pitcher in the seventh inning.
Boone Logan has not looked good for the Yankees either, which is a big problem since he is their only lefty. Clay Rapada got released because he was injured and the Yankees had a tight squeeze on the 40 man roster. Logan allowed a big three-run home run to Prince Fielder on Friday that blew the game open and could not retire him again on Saturday either, allowing a single. He threw 80 innings last year, which you might think could be the reason for his struggles now, but his velocity is essentially the same as last year, so it might just be a slow start. Logan was very good last year, as lefties only hit .231/.293/.372/.665 against him, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt. If he continues to struggle the Yankees could call up Vidal Nuno, who lit it up spring training, but he is not on the 40 man roster.
Chamberlain and Logan are the two most important players that have to get going because they are the most proven and have the talent. The Yankees have often gotten in-season reinforcements in the bullpen that nobody saw coming, so that is always possible. David Phelps, who has also been bad, Adam Warren and Kelley all have minor league options available. The Yankees might want to consider sending Phelps or Warren down to be stretched out as a sixth starter if one of the starters gets injured.
Obviously, we are dealing with a small sample size, so this is nothing to go crazy over yet, but it is something to keep a close eye on. On some level everybody team’s middle relief is bad, since they are always the worst pitchers on a baseball team. Also, the starting pitchers pitching at least six innings is a good way to improve your middle relief, which has not been happening for the Yankees. This is a much better problem to have than having late inning issues or starting rotation issues because it is less important. However, if Rivera or Robertson were ever to get hurt than it would become a huge problem. The bullpen was supposed the be the biggest strength on the team and it needs to get turned around.
With spring training under way and a pretty good view of what’s to come, let’s get into a little fortune telling for the 2013 season. I’ve singled out a few categories to focus on concerning our young up and comers and have chosen a position player and pitcher to highlight in each one, so without further nonsense let’s get started….
Returning from Injury:
Here’s the obvious choice for a rebound season after spending much of 2012 on the DL. The sometimes referred to “spare part” in The Trade, Campos broke out of the gate and did exactly what he was projected to have done. Through his first four starts consisting of 22 innings, he allowed three earned runs, walked five and struck out 23. In spite of only allowing 2 runs in that fourth start, he allowed twice as many hits (8) as he had in any other game, indicating a bit of an issue. In his following outing the wheels came off and he gave up a staggering 8 earned in just 2.2 innings. He was pulled from that game and shut down for what ended up being the remainder of the season. It later came out that he was experiencing some elbow discomfort, and not just the usual aches and pains that pitchers go through but something more serious. He admitted that he tried to look past the pain in order to stay on the mound, not wanting to disappoint his new team. Armed with some plus stuff, excellent command and polish not usually found in players his age, Jose has an excellent chance to make his way up the prospect lists. His health is obviously a question mark right now, but if he can stay off the DL he will be an important part of the depth of pitchers in the system.
Santana made his way back to the diamond last year, but it was on the tail of a devastating ankle injury, much like that suffered by David Adams. Reports were that he was not operating at full tilt, and was tentative in many respects. It wasn’t surprising to see as the injury was fairly severe and a full recovery wasn’t expected to come in his first year back. After a stint in the DSL, Ravel made his stateside debut in the GCL in 2011 and put up a .929 OPS. His season ended in ugly fashion, and he spent the winter and into the following summer rehabbing his way back to the field. Before the injury, Santana was a five tool player that was one of the most exciting in the system. Since his recovery he’s held back in the field and on the bases, as well as getting antsy at the plate. He also experienced some issues seeing the ball in his first ever night games, which was addressed and supposedly he began to adjust to. It remains to be seen how he’s going to come back once he’s had a full recovery and he gains his confidence back, so this prediction has a few caveats but I’ll take the gamble. Ravel has major upside to his game and can make an impact in a number of ways; the kind of player you’d love to dream on.
Dante Bichette Jr.
Dante’s first year of full season ball was well, a disaster on paper. A former first round pick, DBJ tore up his debut in short season leagues hitting to the tune of a .947 OPS across both the GCL and NYPL. Dante earned a promotion to play in low A at Charleston and that’s when he hit a wall. Both his power and patience at the plate took a hiatus, and his average fell nearly a hundred points, bringing his OPS down to .653. What you won’t find on any of the stat sheets are the things behind the scenes; mainly the changes in his approach that he went through in his quest to make it to the big leagues. While Dante has always been a bat first guy, there were some things about his swing that concerned the team with him moving forward. While it wasn’t something that would hinder him in the lower levels, his swing was a bit long and would be subject to exposure against advanced pitching. Better to address it now then to wait until he was already over his head. DBJ went through a few different approaches at the plate, making slight alterations to his mechanics throughout the year. He finally settled in to something that was comfortable to him, and reports were that it finally paid off, although it was quite late in the season for it to make any significant change in his overall numbers. With his swing working the way they want it to, look for Dante to bounce back in 2013 and show the prowess at the plate we saw in his debut.
Mitchell is regarded as having some of the best raw stuff in the system, but has yet to put it all together in a consistent season long run. He has the strike out numbers you want to see, knocking out a batter per inning, but his walk totals tell the story of his inconsistencies around the zone. Looking at his game logs you’ll see him go from one run games to an ERA north of 9, further exemplifying his issues with staying on track. He’ll be heading into his age 22 season and a trip to Tampa this year, so he’s not exactly behind the curve, but with his raw stuff and pitchability you want to see better results. He did end the season on a high note, throwing two scoreless 6 inning outings to cap off an up and down year. If he can stay within himself and not revert to the max-effort approach on every pitch he might just start to live up to his potential. When he’s free and easy he’s a force to be reckoned with, it’s a matter of getting that guy on the mound each night.
I did a profile on Jose last year, as I really liked what I was seeing out of him and his finally putting it all together. The rub with Jose was his issues in staying on the field, and is still a concern but the questions about his stuff have been put to rest. He’s always had potential as a reliever, with two offerings that are easily a plus grade if not higher. He throws a heavy FB with good arm side run to it that sits in the mid 90′s and gains a few ticks as he gets warmed up. He was reported to have hit a legit 100 mph last year and can get just below that with regularity. His changeup is one of the two or three best in the system beside Banuelos and Kahnle giving him a great jump-off point. What he struggled with for so long was his breaking ball, changing it numerous times trying to find something he was comfortable with. He eventually settled on a slider, which shows being anywhere from average to plus depending on the outing. It’s this third pitch that will help keep him in the rotation and keep his value at a maximum. We’ve gotten to see him a few times during this years spring training, and so far he’s showing that potential. He’s garnered some praise from the staff and stood out on the mound flashing his plus pitches. One area that was questionable about him, his poise and makeup, has been put to the test thus far as he’s gotten himself in a few jams but managed to work his way out of them. A good sign for sure, and hopefully he’ll continue in that vein. He’ll be part of a pretty solid rotation in Trenton and with a solid year could make a play for time in the BX in 2014.
Bird could have been also fit into the bounce back from injury category, just Ravel could have been pegged into this one, but so be it. Bird is all bat; he started out as a catcher but injury concerns have pushed him to first base. He has plenty of stick to remain there though, as he displays plus power to the pull side and above average to the opposite field. A short stroke, tremendous bat speed and an eye for the plate could easily have him hitting for average as well. He’s also showed to have above average defense playing first base. A healthy season in Charleston could have him putting his middle of the order potential on display for us all in 2013.
I’ve mentioned Nuno in the past, and probably have a bit of bias towards the guy but he’s earned a mention here as a dark horse candidate. Vidal went through some growing pains as a young player and ended up getting cut from Cleveland’s system and looking for work in the Indy Leagues. Through all that he’s come a long way as both a person and a player, committing himself to his craft and further developing his repertoire. He worked on his changeup and cleaned up his mechanics, giving him a nice pitch mix and a consistent solid delivery that saw him handing out very few free passes and leading the system in K’s last year. He’s not an overpowering pitcher, sitting around 88-91 with his FB, but he has a fair amount of deception to his delivery and very good command of the zone. He’ll always have to rely on his accuracy as he won’t be able to simply muscle his way through a lineup, but being left handed and keeping runners off the basepaths is a good thing in YS. He will come to SWB to start the year, and likely sits behind Warren in the pecking order but i’d really like to see him get his shot in the BX, wether it’s for a few spot starts or as a left handed long man in the event that Phelps gets bumped up to the rotation. Nuno is a bit of an underdog here, and I like that about him.
Gamel got the snub on our prospect list this year, but when you consider how close those guys are at the bottom of that list it’s not as bad as it first seems. When you get to that point, you could exchange several of them and they all could make a claim for making the cut. Gamel, like Flores a year ago gets lost in the fray a bit with all of the big name OF prospects that have made their way to center stage the last two years. Flying under the radar isn’t a bad thing though, but it may not be for long. Gamel can flat out hit, showing excellent plate recognition, the ability to hit to all fields and get the barrel on the ball. Right now his power is mainly to the gaps, but from what we’ve heard he’s packed on a bit of muscle this past winter and that gap power could translate into over the fence power. Gamel can cover any spot in the OF, playing up a bit more to the plus side in the corners. In a system wrought with center fielders his best chance to make a name for himself may be a corner spot, so his power will have to evolve as he moves along. If he did indeed bulk up and it carries over to game time Ben could make his bones as a regular corner guy. Everything else is there, it’s all about the long ball now.
The baseball world is no doubt abuzz today with the news that one Mariano Rivera will announce his retirement upon the conclusion of the 2013 season in a press conference being held tomorrow. I just want to take a quick moment to tip my cap to not just the greatest closer the game has ever seen, but one of the greatest pitchers, mentors, role models and all around human beings to ever grace the diamond. It’s been nothing short of a thrill to have spent the better part of the last two decades watching him confound hitters, breaking their bats and sending them on their way. He is as ageless as he is beguiling, and I look forward in relishing every last time he takes the stage this final season. Thanks for all of the great memories Mo… words that hardly seem adequate.
Height: 6′ 0″ Weight: 195
Signed 1st Round 2009 Draft
Slade made his very brief debut in the GCL for a handful of AB’s, and then moved on to SI in 2010 where he put up a .258/.359/.352/.712 quad slash over 298 AB’s, good for a .335 wOBA and 108 wRC+. He worked 42 walks, struck out 101 times and stole 15 bases in 25 attempts. He also assaulted a catcher after a HBP, a move that sparked the blogosphere to revisit his past. Slade injured his shoulder that year and underwent his first of two shoulder surgeries to repair the damage. He returned to Charleston in 2011 and hit .271/.342/.419/.761 (.346 wOBA, 110 wRC+) working 19 walks and striking out 57 times. His base stealing sunk even further, getting caught in 7 of 13 attempts. Slade saw a promotion to Tampa mid season, but played one game and ended up back under the knife for his shoulder. After two years of injury laden baseball, Slade broke out in 2012. After a delayed start to the season due to a cautious bout of rehab, Slade appeared in the FSL and hit .307/.378/.470/.848, a .389 wOBA and 142 wRC+. He worked 20 walks and struck out 66 times. His base stealing improved dramatically, stealing 17 of 21 bags. After an abbreviated stint in regular season ball the Yanks sent Slade to Arizona to play in the Fall Leagues. Slade went postal, putting up a .388/.494/.612/.1.106 quad slash, good for a .499 wOBA and 192 wRC+ over 67 AB’s. Not only did he tear the cover off the ball, but he put up a near 1:1 K/BB ratio (14/12) and stole 5 bags in 8 attempts. The performance got him ranked 6th best in the league, with at least one evaluator giving him top honors.
Slade has quick strong hands and exceptional bat speed. He’s able to pull his hands in on inside pitches and hit them with authority. He can also extend on outside pitches, covering the outer half of the plate. Line drive hitter that can spray the ball to all fields. Has had a tendency to press in the batters box, possibly due to his lost time from injuries and tries to make up for it by rushing himself at the plate. He can also get overly aggressive making his swing longer than it needs to be. Pitch recognition needs work as well, and his K rate north of 22% indicates just that. His numbers in the AFL saw a bit of a turnaround in the patience department; Slade spoke about his altered approach in the fall leagues during a YES interview, and if he can keep it up it will mean a big step forward in his hitting.
Slade’s hitting all around has come around and that includes the power department. He has the strength to turn on the inside pitch and drive the ball, and what has been power to the gaps could lead to balls leaving the park. Some of that will depend on him being able to pick his pitch and let his swing do the rest. He shows power to all fields and the ability to get under the ball and get some lift to it. Being a left hander in Yankee Stadium never hurts either. Overall he grades out as above average power to all fields and some plus power to the pull side. Baseball America gives Slade a 60 potential on the 20-80 scale, putting him in the ~25+ range on the high end.
On defense Heathcott shines. Plus defender whose speed takes him gap to gap with ease. An aggressive all out style of play in the field, he foes back on the ball well and will charge hard on the plays in front of him laying out to make the big play. He shows some good instincts reading balls, gives max effort and his incredible athleticism carries him in spite of some loopy routes on certain plays. Despite a pair of shoulder surgeries, his arm is still a plus tool which will allow him to play any position in the OF. Accuracy an issue on occasion as he let’s the ball get away from him from time to time, but easily corrected through repetition. He’s shown some decent improvement in the short time he’s spent in the pro’s and could compete for a fielding award so long as he doesn’t run through the OF wall chasing down a fly ball. Slade’s plus speed has him launching out of the batters box and gives him a chance to steal 20-25 bases. His reads on the paths were worlds better after returning from his last surgery which should keep his SB% at an acceptable clip.
As many are aware, Heathcott had a bit of a rough upbringing; he bounced around a bit, lived in his car at one point and turned to alcohol as an escape/coping mechanism. This manifested while Slade was a new prospect and the Yankees nipped it in the bud, giving him a mentor that helped him get back on track. No one could ever accuse the kid of not giving it his all, and from what I can gather from various interviews, he’s focused on baseball and improving on his craft every day. His max effort approach to the sport will serve him well and take him far as long as his body holds up.
An outstanding athlete; physically gifted with explosive athletic ability. Tools are incredible and the ones that aren’t there yet have the potential to be a plus grade. Has the tools to stay in center field in spite of the shoulder injuries. His defense is already enough for the position but is still improving. His hit tool has the potential to be a plus grade if he can get his patience at the plate under wraps. If what we saw in the AFL is for real, the hit tool has taken a big step forward. Plenty of pop to both gaps, and has the bat speed and enough projected power to play at a corner spot with plenty of glove to field it. There’s no lack of hustle to his game; Keith Law described him as “playing like his hair is on fire”. This could actually be a bit of a drawback for him, as he holds nothing back on the diamond which has led to his injuries and sending him to the DL. Toning it down by just a bit wouldn’t be a bad thing.
It’s really up to him. He ended the year knocking on the door to Trenton and then tore up the AFL. With that said things could move even more quickly….he’ve heard comments from Mark Newman about how he might make his way up later this year, and Cashman just yesterday indicated that he could be in the Bronx shortly. His biggest obstacle is staying healthy, so if he can do just that we’ll be seeing him sooner than later. In summation, Slade is a balls to the wall do or die type of player that is full of tools and ambition. He’s the kind of guy that brings people to the ballpark. He has one of the highest ceilings in the entire system, but at the same time due to the aforementioned high risk profile, also has a pretty low floor. He could end up a perennial All Star, or broken down and out of baseball entirely. He’s the kind of guy you want to root for because he’s going to leave it all on the field trying to win.
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 165
2010 4th Round, W Orange HS
Mason made a short debut back in the Gulf Coast League after being taken in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. He then moved on to Staten Island in 2011 where he hit for a .349/.395/.468/.863 quad slash, with 20 walks and 41 strikeouts in 269 AB’s. That works out to a .404 wOBA and 148 wRC+. He swiped 28 bags while getting caught a dozen times. 2012 found Mason in Charleston with several other of NY’s big prospects. Before getting promoted to Tampa Williams logged 276 AB’s, sporting a .304/.359/.489/.848 line, (.381 wOBA, 131 wRC+) with 21 walks and 33 K’s. His SB% fell a bit, getting caught 9 times while stealing 19 bases. His power started to come around though, going deep 8 times as opposed to only 3 in SI in a similar number of AB’s. His doubles power increased as well, from 11 in 2011 to 19. Mason, along with Sanchez and Austin earned himself a mid season promotion to High A Tampa. His stint in the FSL was short lived however, as Mason injured an already aggravated left shoulder and ended up having a torn labrum repaired, ending his 2012 campaign. He finished up in Tampa with 83 AB’s in which he hit .277/.302/.422/.724, a .331 wOBa and 104 wRC+. He suffered from a bit of a reverse platoon split in the second half, so those numbers and the smallish sample size, combined with him adjusting to a new level are likely a poor representation. In his roughly two years in the minors Williams was named to the SAL AS team, the MiL Org AS team, a Topps short season/rookie AS, BA short season AS, NYPL AS as well as a couple of player of the week awards.
Mason’s hit tool is easily his best asset. Strong forearms and wrists, simple swing that can get a little long at times but generally consistent. To this point he’s shown an innate ability to make contact, which has cut into his walks some. He’ll be challenged more as he sees better and better pitching and guys start to tempt him out of the zone, so he’ll have to adjust. He has a smooth swing with plus bat speed that he can keep in the zone, but can take a nit to get there. He does on occasion get an uppercut path going, possibly selling out in attempts to go deep. He can sometimes get ahead of himself at the plate, pulling his head and front shoulder off the ball as well as well as getting a little aggressive early in counts and going after some ugly pitches, but his flaws are easily correctable. All in all he has a nice loose easy swing and a great ability to barrel up the ball. He can hit line drives to all fields, as well as lay down a bunt for an infield single. Can handle breaking and offspeed pitches as well the fastball.
Power has been the question when referring to Mason’s bat, but that appears to be becoming less of an issue these days. When he was first brought in to the system, he was a rail thin kid that didn’t have much projection in him in the slugging department. That’s changed over the last season and rolling in to 2013, as he’s reportedly added about 30 pounds over that time and could add a bit more muscle yet. Combine some added raw strength with his bat speed and contact ability and you can see those power numbers going up as he moves along. Ultimately his potential lies in him getting stronger and refining his pitch selection, and from what we hear that’s beginning to unfold. Evaluators have him pegged anywhere from a 10-15 HR guy, to one that could top 20+ every year. As far as center fielders go that would be a nice addition to the lineup.
Williams shows plus to plus-plus speed in the outfield and on the bases, although his instincts and ability to get good jumps need a bit of refinement. On some plays in the field he’ll look like he’s knocking on the door of a fielding bible award, but he’ll sprinkle in a blooper reel play as well. Mason has excellent range and the ability to track balls, but is hampered by some inconsistent routes and trouble with balls hit straight over him. He also tends to go all out on plays that can lead to either a visit to the highlight reel or unnecessary extra bases. Over time his decision making should sharpen up, but I can’t say I don’t like a guy that will lay out to make the big play, so long as he’s not completely reckless in doing it. His baserunning is under aggressive at times and he needs to work on his jumps, but with work he could see SB totals in the 25-30 range at the ML level. Of all his tools, his arm is the least impressive. It currently grades out as average, having a long release, a ball that doesn’t carry well and throwing from a lower arm slot that tends to impart a natural run on his throws. Accuracy is not an issue, and adding some strength and getting on top of the ball more will help to correct that and get him into the above average realm. As it is he’s got enough for to play center, anything more is just gravy. Both his base stealing and defense rely more on his raw speed right now than technique, but he shows the plus side and simply needs to be more consistent. He has the potential to become a plus plus defender at a premium position and the ability to steal 25+ bags a year. The arm could use some improvement, but it not detrimental to him staying in center.
While Mason is advanced for his level, he still has some maturing to do. In scouring various articles and reports on him I ran into an account of him being cocky. Being the only source this came from i’m not sure if I buy it. What I have seen repeated by various sources is Mason’s tendency to get down on himself when things aren’t going well. Wether it’s acting out over frustration or failing to run out a routine pop out behind the plate, it’s something he needs to address. Being his own worst critic is one thing, but if it causes any sort of distraction or derails his focus then it becomes an issue. Again, we’re talking about a 19-20 year old, but the sooner he gets his emotions under wraps the better. He worked hard to get back in line following his surgery last year and is supposedly ready to start the season on time in the FSL, so his work ethic isn’t in question. He certainly has a good group of prospects around him, and a few who he’s come up through the system with so there’s the whole camaraderie and familiarity element with his teammates and some friendly competition amongst the teams best prospects that doesn’t hurt either.
Impressive young player. His combination of athleticism and advanced skills at a young age profile well. The fact that he has certain drawbacks yet still performs at the level he does is a good thing as it leaves ample room for further projection. A natural contact hitter that uses the whole field, hits for average and decent power while fielding an award capable glove at a premium position is something any club would sign up for. While he has some mechanical and maturity issues to correct, all of them are attainable fixes. Something along the lines of hitting .290-.300 with 20 HR’s and 40 doubles seems fair. With impressive contact skills but a yet to realize walk rate he may not be a top of the order high OBP guy, but might profile as a #2 or #5 type when all is said and done.
OK so any time anyone mentions comps it opens up the flood gates for scrutiny, but let’s go there anyway. At his best Mason could wind up being in Andrew McCutchen territory. If his body catches up to his physical skills it’s not insane to see him as that toolsy centerfield guy that can hit for average, has pop, can steal bases and play outstanding defense. On the low end you’re looking at a Brett Gardner type profile albeit with more power. Mason has a while to go, but has a pretty good chance to contribute to a major league ball club. His ceiling may fall a bit short of fellow CF’er Slade Heathcott, but his chances of achieving that potential are greater. If all goes well and Mason stays on the field, you could expect him to make a play for Trenton later this year, a cup of coffee in 2014, and a regular on the big club some time in 2015.
DOB 8/30/1990 Williamsburg, VA
School: Longwood University
5’ 11” 205 lbs.
Drafted in 11th round of the 2011 draft by NYY
The Numbers: Montgomery has put up outstanding numbers since making his debut in Staten Island back in 2011. He pitched a total of 28.1IP between SI and Charleston to he tune of a 1.91 ERA and 1.165 WHIP. He racked up 15 saves while allowing 6.4 H/9, 4.1 BB/9, a .185 batting average against and struck out 16.2 per 9 innings, which resulted in 13 BB’s and 51 K’s on the season. In his first game in Charleston he proceeded to strike out five batters in one inning due to a couple of errant pitches. Mark continued his success in the 2012 season and even cut his walks down a little in the process. He started out the year with a promotion to Tampa and after 40.1 innings got his ticket to Trenton. His season totals resulted in 64.1 IP, good for a 1.54 ERA and .886 WHIP. Once again he saved 15 games, and in the process allowed 4.9 H/9, cut his walks down to 3.1/9, and a .157 average against. His 13.8 K/9 dropped slightly, but his K/BB improved to 4.5 in 2012. After a stellar 2012 regular season, Mark was ticketed to Scottsdale to pitch in the AFL. In what is generally considered a hitters league he continued to pitch well, throwing 10.1 innings of 2.61 ERA baseball. He allowed 5 hits and 3 earned runs in his 9 appearances, of which in his last outing he allowed 3 hits and 2 of those runs. He allowed his only other run and two hits in his first two games, the rest were zeroes. His trip to the fall leagues is a pretty good hint that he is not long for the minor leagues. That, and his numbers that rival that of fellow Yankee David Robertson and 2011 ROY Craig Kimbrel. Pretty good company I’d say.
Montgomery, like the two aforementioned pitchers, doesn’t have the stature of a big power pitcher, but uses a combination of a long stride and deceptive delivery to allow his FB to play up a bit. He generally sits in the low 90’s with it, and can hit 95-96 at times and it has a bit of late movement to it when he’s on. He delivers from a low three-quarter arm slot and has a bit of whipping action to it that keeps hitters off guard. Like Robertson, his FB gets in on batters quicker than his velocity suggests. In his second season of pro ball his command of the fastball got decidedly better, boosting his K/BB ratio and kept more runners off the bases. He can move his FB around the plate a bit setting up his best offering.
Mark’s knockout pitch, as most are aware of at this point is his slider. Mark spoke on YES network with Mark Curry about how he toyed with numerous different grips during catch and long toss before he settled in to what he’s throwing now and it’s paid off. It’s already been described as a major league ready pitch and is the reason he can strike out a batter and a half per inning. It’s a plus-plus pitch that is flat out nasty to right handers, who have a difficult time even getting the barrel on the ball and seldom lay off the pitch to begin with. Experimenting with all those different grips also lends to his ability to throw his slider a couple of different ways depending on the situation and which side of the plate the batter hits from. He can throw a hard late breaking ball for strikes in the mid 80’s as well as a more looping pitch with a more sweeping break that he can place out of the zone in an attempt to get hitters to chase. He also sports a changeup which is more of a show me pitch, but it does gives hitters one more thing to think about in the box. His focus fell away from the change as he moved to Trenton and into the playoffs, which is understandable. At that point it’s about getting outs and winning games. He hasn’t shelved it completely though and will continue to work on it, as it will only make him more dangerous.
Montgomery straight up attacks hitters. They have no choice but to stay back and wait for the slider which lets him get early calls with the four seam. His improved command gets him ahead in counts which allows him to go to one of his two sliders. It really isn’t fair; once he gets two strikes on a hitter they don’t stand much of a chance as he can take them out of the zone or hit the corners with a slider or come right back at them with a fastball. Having the changeup tossed in there every once in a while only adds to his effectiveness. Add to his pure stuff a deceptive delivery that keeps hitters off his fastball and an aggressive approach gives you a guy that could push his way to the back of the bullpen in a hurry. He may not be the 6’ 4” power pitcher that hits the high nineties all day, but his newly improved command, possession of a plus-plus pitch and feel for variations on his breaking ball and you have elite potential. From floor to ceiling you have a guy that gets injured and flames out to one who closes out All Star games. Such is the life of a ML pitcher, but who wouldn’t want that kind of chance?
Already named a FSL All Star, a MiL Organizational All Star and an AFL Rising Star Montgomery is on his way up, and quickly. He’s another one of Oppenheimer’s middle of the draft picks that has shined and it won’t be long before he’s striking out batters in the majors. Despite all his recent successes, Mark stays humble and while a ML debut is imminent, he continues to work hard every day to improve on his already impressive skill set. His confidence right now is at an all time high and he’s ready to take it to the next level. As much as I’m excited to see him in the BX, I wouldn’t mind seeing him get some AAA guys out before making his way up, and hey, keeping him in the minors for a few weeks keeps that service clock from ticking away and would give the Yanks a few more months of cost controlled time out of him. There are a couple of guys (Whitley, Perez) that could get a callup before him, but none so far have his potential.
With Blizzard Nemo coming down on us it seems like baseball is a million years away. However, that is not the case, as pitchers and catchers for the Yankees will report to Tampa on Tuesday. There will be more competition for roster spots this year than there normally are, which should make Spring Training more interesting. Here is my projection for the Yankees Opening Day Roster:
I have been screaming about this position all offseason, but unfortunately this is what we are stuck with. If it was my decision I would give Romine a chance over Cervelli because I would rather see what the unknown is rather than see the known bad player. Don’t let Cervelli’s .271 career batting average fool you. It is an incredibly empty .271 and represents why batting average is just not a very useful stat anymore. Cervelli’s career OPS is an egregious .692 and I don’t think with regular AB’s Cervelli would hit close to .271 anyways. Also, Cervelli is terrible behind the plate, so I really don’t know what the Yankees see in him. I actually don’t mind Stewart as the backup, as his defense is pretty good.
The infield remains intact from last year except for Kevin Youkilis replacing Alex Rodriguez. I really expect that to be pretty much a wash. On a terrible year for him Youkilis’s OPS was only eight points lower than Rodriguez’s last season. Youkilis has already been working with Kevin Long on changing his stance and I look for him to have a bounce back season. Nobody knows quite what to expect from Jeter coming off a broken ankle. It is doubtful that he will lead the AL in hits again, but hopefully he can hit around .300 again. Cano is in his walk year, so you can expect him to put up his normal MVP type numbers. The Yankees will need Teixeira to be the elite player he used to be to make up for some lost offensive production on the team. Nunez will likely resume his role as the utility man again and he should be the DH against lefties. I gave Nix the last roster spot because of his versatility. Dan Johnson could make it over him because the Yankees don’t really have a backup first baseman, but Youkilis could always play over there if necessary.
DH: Travis Hafner
Hafner will be the DH against righties. Hafner’s line last year was .228/.346/.438/.784 and he hit 12 home runs and 34 RBI. The short left field porch should be inviting for Hafner and the Yankees hope he can replace the production Raul Ibanez gave them last year.
I still don’t understand givng Ichiro a two-year contract and having an all lefty outdield, but there is nothing that can be done about that now. Gardner is one of the most important players on the team this year, as the Yankees will need him to be consistent on offense. Despite his postseason struggles, Nick Swisher will be sorely missed and Ichiro will not be able to replace his productivity. What Ichiro has to do is hit like he did for the Yankees after the trade (.322/.340/.454/.794) and create havoc on the bases with Gardner. Granderson will need to get back to his 2011 form after his down season. Despite another 40 homerun season Granderson was dreadful in the second half of the season (.212/.278/.480/.767)/ I think Diaz will win the last outfield spot over Juan Rivera, as he has a career .863 OPS vs. lefties. One thing this group has going for them is that their defense as a whole should be outstanding.
Not too much drama here, as the first four are locks and form a very solid starting rotation. There are age issues with Kuroda and Pettitte, but if they are healthy they should be just fine. I was very bullish on Kuroda last year and I see no reason why he can’t repeat his success this season. If you have seen pictures of Sabathia lately you probably noticed that he has lost a ton of weight this offseason. It will be interesting to see what effect that has on him this season. Hughes is in a contract year and he can cash in next offseason if he has a solid year. I think Nova will win the fifth spot, as he has more potential than David Phelps, and Phelps has had experience in the bullpen.
This group is probably the strongest on the team, especially if Chamberlain and Aardsma pitch to their potential. Chamberlain was outstanding in September after struggling to find his command after returning in August. He had a 2.03 ERA in September and a .90 WHIP. Rivera’s health and productivity will be the key because if he is injured of ineffective than the pen is much less deep. Rapada and Logan are two solid lefties, as Rapada is a LOOGY only, and Logan can pitch to a lefty or righty. Robertson should be one of the best setup guys in MLB again.
The Yankees Minor league system had an up and down year in 2012. Several of their older and upper-tier prospects had injuries (Banuelos, Romine, Campos) or setbacks (Betances). Add to that the trade of #1 prospect Jesus Montero and it left the upper levels of the system without much impact talent ready to help in the Bronx. However, it wasn’t all bad news as the organization saw the continued positive development from a wave of strong young players who began the year at the A-ball level. What the system loses in not having much in the way of near MLB-ready talent, it makes up for with a deep well of quality players in the lower rungs. These players, led by M.Williams, Sanchez, Austin & Heathcott, will start in High A or AA this year and could make this a Top 5 system by next year. Most of the main Prospect Writers have the Yankee system rated in the #10-14 range right now.
As we have seen this offseason, Yankees ownership is serious about cutting payroll to get below the Competitive Balance Tax Threshold in 2014 and beyond. The only way the team can remain a playoff contender is to start getting major contributions from their Farm System. Unfortunately, the high-end talent likely won’t be ready to make a major impact until 2015-2016 but some of these guys may get an opportunity to play in the majors sooner rather than later. And for the first time in years, the team may start to give legitimate opportunities to their prospects in New York.
Following is a breakdown of the organizations Top 40 prospects as chosen by myself (Jamie or Fish) and fellow-writer Rob (jimmytoucan). We tried to talk to some minor-lg coaches and writers to get their input on certain players and have included some quotes from those we have spoken to personally.
1) Mason Williams – CF, 21 – AA, 2015
Mason has literally grown into the team’s best prospect. No one questioned his amazing defense in CF, plus speed or quality hitting & bunting skills but many wondered if he’d ever be more than a slap-hitting singles hitter. He responded by adding 30 pounds last offseason and delivering 11 HRs with a .474 SLG% in 359 ABs before shoulder surgery cut his season short in July.
Fish: I ranked him 1st because I think he’ll continue to gain strength and become a solid 2-way CF. I see his floor as no worse than a Brett Gardner-type player in the majors. He doesn’t walk as much as Gardner but he has great contact skills and could very well develop into a much stronger offensive player.
Rob: Toolsy CF’er with tremendous contact ability. Hits for average with room to add some power. Potential plus defender and 30 SB capability. I had him ranked #2 on my list simply because I value the catcher position a bit more in a system with three outfielders in the top 4.
2) Gary Sanchez – C, 20 – HiA, 2015
Sanchez earned a reputation as an immature kid with questionable work ethic in 2011 and his ability to remain a Catcher was in question as he had 26 Passed Balls in just 60 games. But he was a new man in 2012, showcasing much improved defensive skills and the leadership required to guide a pitching staff. His ability to crush a baseball was never in question and his plus power to all fields makes him one of the top Catching prospects in the game.
Fish: 2011 was his first full season in the U.S. so I give him a pass for his struggles as an 18 year old kid. I love Sanchez’ bat and I think it will be MLB-ready well before his ability to catch is. With the Yanks’ preference for defense at the Catcher spot, I wonder if Sanchez will want to make the sacrifices needed to become a Catcher, but worse case scenario I think he’ll hit enough to support a switch to 1B down the road.
Rob: My number one overall pick, due to playing a more difficult position. Defense was in question rolling into 2012 but from various accounts has taken steps forward. Rated best power hitter in the system, plus arm and hit tool. Ranked the #3 catching prospect in baseball.
Kiley McDaniel: We asked him if Sanchez has the ability to catch for the Yankees with their emphasis on defense, “Could. Will take lots of work, up to him.”
3) Slade Heathcott – CF 22 – AA, 2014
Slade has the most ability in the entire system and is the closest thing they have to a 5-tool player. His short career has been filled with shoulder injuries and some character questions but he was finally healthy and put it all together last year. Hit .307/.378/.470 in Tampa and then hit .388 with 10 XBH’s in 18 games in the Arizona Fall Lg where he was ranked as the #6 prospect.
Fish: Slade jumps out at you when you watch a game. His immense talent is obvious and he plays the game with a fervor and intensity that is a joy to watch. Because of that zeal and aggressiveness, he may be more prone to injuries but if he can stay healthy, he could be a star and fan favorite in NY. He’ll need to turn it down a notch to withstand the rigors of a 162-game season.
Rob: Had people buzzing after his performance in the AFL this year. Potential five tool player in spite of his second shoulder surgery. Brings a level of intensity to the field that could actually be his downfall. Huge ceiling with a pretty low floor.
Former Charleston Hitting Coach & current Boston Red Sox Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn : “He has ability to adjust his swing, we call it “Adjustability” with his swing – he can be fooled and still get the bat head to the ball. He definitely has the power, has the bat speed, can run, put the ball in play, get on base…..so he has all the things you look for in a Major League player”
Taken from ESPN.com…..Keith Law: “I do think he has star potential if he stays healthy, which is a huge if. He plays like his hair’s on fire (and) that’s not a great thing for a player who’s injury-prone … the star potential is from the athleticism – plus runner, really good swing, strong hands. Just needs to dial it down one notch.”
4) Tyler Austin – RF, 21 – AA, 2014
No Yankee prospect was more productive in 2012. He has hit at every level and his .322/.400/.559/.960 season vaulted him from a #13th round pick in 2010 to a Top 100 prospect who was chosen to play in the Futures Game. He changed positions with ease from 3B to RF and shows ability to be an above-average OF.
Fish: I’ve always admired Austin’s baseball instincts and smarts. He’s solid in all aspects and despite being an average runner, he has stolen 41 of 43 bases the last 2 years by picking the right pitches and situations. He’s a gamer and will rise quickly – don’t be surprised to see him in the Bronx next year.
Rob: Solid defender that whose bat should play well in RF. High baseball IQ, high floor. Solid bet to be a slightly above average everyday player with room for a bit more.
5) Manny Banuelos – LHP, 22, AAA/INJ – 2014
The elbow injury essentially sets Manny back 2 years in his development but it is not a death sentence by any means. He’ll still be only 23 in 2014 and recovered from TJS. He was the #13 prospect in all of MLB this time last year and showed command improvements in May before he was shutdown. He has great makeup & pitchability to go along with a plus Changeup, plus low to mid-90s FB and average or better Curve.
Fish: I really like Banuelos for his poise and confidence on the mound. That mound presence from a lefty with 3 plus piches make him an attractive starter. The big question with him will be his durability.
Rob: Manny is still my top pitching prospect due to him being a left hander that can get into the mid 90’s, the best changeup in the system and two more secondary offerings that give him #2 potential. His size is the biggest knock against him but he has an easy delivery that does not require max effort every pitch.
6) Jose Campos – RHP, 20, HiA – 2015
Was extremley impressive in his first 4 starts at Charleston but missed almost the entire year with elbow problems. It didn’t require surgery and he’s healthy and throwing now. Campos is 6’4″ with long arms and has front of the rotation potential. Could be a very fast mover up the ladder if 100% as he has both the stuff and the pitchability to succeed.
Rob: Tremendous polish for a pitcher his age, he throws in the mid 90’s with solid command. Secondary stuff needs work but he has plenty of time to get it under wraps. Great projectable frame with upper rotation potential. For me he was a real coup in “The Trade” and could swing it handily in the Yankees’ favor.
Fish: I agree with Rob, Campos is the guy who could salvage the Montero trade but it will take a few years to see. When I spoke to his pitching coach in Charleston, Danny Borrell, he raved about him.
Danny Borrell, Charleston RiverDogs Pitching Coach: “Kid really knows how to pitch and to back it up he has plus stuff across the board. His intangibles are very impressive. He pitches in well, the pace of the game in which he pitches makes hitters uncomfortable, he can pitch his way through a lineup. For someone his age to know how to do that is impressive.”
“He was 90-95, a Curveball he can throw for a strike in any count and a Change up that is developing – but something that will be a very good pitch for him as he gets older. He’s been throwing and by all accounts he’s healthy now.”
7) Angelo Gumbs – 2B, 20 – HiA – 2015
Tremendous athlete with incredible bat speed. Stole 26 bases and hit 7 HRs in just 67 games before his season ended with a triceps injury. He plays hard and has had complements on his work ethic. Reviews are mixed on his defense but he has a strong arm and great athleticism so could move to the OF down the road if needed.
Rob: Incredible bat speed out of Gumbs, he’ll be a bat first second baseman. While Cano has us fans spoiled a guy like Gumbs could make losing Robbie to FA sting a bit less, although he’s a couple of years away yet. His defense isn’t quite as flashy as our current 2B, but it’s plenty good that his bat could bridge some of that gap. Overall he’s got above average potential that’s 3 years away.
Fish: Reminds me a little of Austin Jackson. They were both drafted for their incredible athletic ability knowing it would take them a while to develop their baseball skills. It worked with Jackson and Gumbs is coming along nicely. He gets overshadowed by mason Williams but Gumbs was drafted 2 rounds before him and he is every bit as talented as Mason.
8) Brett Marshall – RHP – 23, AAA - 2014
Marshall doesn’t have the upside of the guys in front of him but falls in the Top 10 because he’s looks like a lock to be a back-end of the rotation MLB starter. Showed potential in Yankee Spring Training then went 13-7 with a 3.52 ERA in AA so he’s on the doorstep of NY. He’s got a big time Changeup and features a hard sinking Fastball that sits 91-93 MPH. His Slider was more of a show-me pitch last year until something clicked in the 2nd Half and he began unleashing a nasty one. His K per 9 went from 6.0 in the 1st half to 9.0 with the improved Slider.
Fish: Marshall reminds me of David Phelps with his poise and the way he attacks hitters. His Change is a weapon vs LH hitters and if his Slider is for real he now has an equal weapon vs RH hitters. Eats innings because he keeps his pitch counts low by challenging hitters and getting easy outs with his Sinker.
Rob: Steady Eddie. Mentioning his name might not raise too many eyebrows, but he continues to move along at a steady pace and chew up innings. He’s got a heavy sinker/slider combo that may not miss a ton of bats but he induces enough weak contact to make up for it. I like any guy that can keep the ball down, especially pitching in YS3.
9) Ramon Flores – OF, 21 HiA/AA - 2015
Flores is overshadowed by the big 3 OF’s in the system but he is a quality prospect in his own right. Has perhaps the sweetest, most natural swing in the system and his strikezone awarness his excellent. Hit .303/.370/.425 in Tampa and homered in his one game in AA. He’s solid defensively and has average speed, the only question mark is will he hit for power. He’s getting stronger each year and many think his power will develop later similar to Cano.
Rob: I had him slightly lower on my list, and I’ll admit it has something to do with the positional plethora in the OF, and his slightly lower ceiling than those that outranked him. He makes great contact, has hit everywhere he goes and can hold his own in the field. Amongst a group filled with the likes of Williams, Heathcott and Austin he looks more like the odd man out/4th outfielder
Fish: His swing is a hitting coach’s dream and has been compared to Cano when he was in the minors. His stroke and great patience/strikezone recognition remind me more of fellow Venezuelan Bobby Abreu. Flores hits breaking balls well and may be a guy who hits better against stronger pitching at higher levels.
Former Charleston Hitting Coach & current Boston Red Sox Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn: “He picks up pitches as well as anyone I’ve seen come through here. He picks up pitches right out of the pitcher’s hands and has real good strike zone discipline and pitch recognition – and he recognizes it real early. The biggest thing with him was getting him to be more aggressive in counts where he could take advantage of it and let some of his natural ability take off more. He has one of the most natural swings we’ve had come through here. And he does have some power. The difference between 2 years ago when I first saw him and last year when his body filled out and the strength he had was big.”
10) Ty Hensley – RHP, 19 LoA – 2017
2012′s 1st round pick is a big (6’5 215 pounds) kid with a power repertoire and huge ceiling. He’s been sitting at 92-95 with a knee-buckling 12-6 Curve. has makings of a good Change too but only has 12 pro innings so far so he has a lon way to go. MRI after Draft found a shoulder “abnormality” but he continues to pitch without pain or limitations.
Fish: Difficult to rank a kid just drafted who I’ve never seen but he makes but he has the pedigree, size and arm you look for in the 1st round.
Rob: Like many pitchers his age he’s got work to do on his secondary stuff, but he’s got upper rotation potential and seems very driven to get to the BX as soon as possible.
Ty Hensley in interview with Fish in July: “The picture (MRI) has nothing to do with ability and until something hurts or there are symptoms or until there is instability there is no reason to be concerned. I’m healthy, I’m gonna be healthy and will keep working to stay healthy.” Read the rest of this entry
Are relief pitchers the new market efficiency? As new minds and fresh ideas invade traditional, or better put, current baseball sensibility, old customs are tossed aside in favor of statistic driven approaches that are these days less and less taboo. Once oft used batting average has fallen to the wayside in favor of stats that encompass more aspects of offensive production than just “hits”, fielding percentage has been all but forgotten and catchers have been scrutinized recently for their ability (or failure) to create strikes on the fringe of the zone.
This brings us to today’s look at relievers, and a possible trend that could have teams digging through the farm teams, rule 5 draft and even the scrap heap for viable late inning arms. Tampa Bay, who is considered one of the top teams in evaluating and developing pitchers is a great example of executing a low cost revolving door of relievers. We all know Kyle Farnsworth, who fell out of favor in NY only to land down south and give the Rays some quality innings. One of the very best relievers of 2012, 35 year old Fernando Rodney, was by some accounts found in a dumpster somewhere in southern California looking for a job when the Rays pulled him from the abyss and resurrected, nay, created a career for him as a closer. The reigning champion San Francisco Giants lost their 9th inning man to Tommy John surgery, but instead of hitting the panic button they reached from within and rode Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo’s arms all the way to a title.
On to the Yankees, who by every evaluation has had the benefit of having the absolute best closer of all time shutting the door for the last decade and a half. That has, however come at a cost, topping out at 15M per season the last several years. Now I’m not going to make the case that Mariano hasn’t been worth his weight in gold… no one has ever put up the kind of numbers he has over such a period of time, and none of us are likely to see it again. Paying for past performance is not uncommon in MLB, and for quite some time Mo was locking down games for a penance, so coughing up the cash these last few years for both present and past accomplishments is not by any stretch a raw deal. Mo will make at least one last run at a title after taking a small pay cut but still a sizeable amount. Moving forward however, and with a budget minded front office at the helm the team will need to look within to help hit that self imposed mark. Gone will be the days of having 25 million or more tied up in a pair of relievers; when Mo retires, so shall shelling out starter money for one inning thrills. Don’t get me wrong…I’d pay to have another Mariano, but that isn’t going to happen lest Mo Jr. can channel his old man’s greatness. Relievers are the most volatile in the business, and you have to ride the hot hand and know when to fold. With the future of the bullpen in mind let’s take a quick look at who could be sewing up the latter innings over the next few years.
Chase Whitley is probably the closest to landing a job in the Bronx bullpen, as he’s got some significant innings at SWB in 2012 and some solid numbers to go along with it. He started off in Trenton but only hung around for a handful of innings, and then moved on to the traveling circus that was our AAA team. He ended the season with a 3.09 ERA, striking out 66 on the year while walking 25. He held batters to a .207 average as a solid piece to their pen all year. He’s not the flashiest guy in the pen but he’s consistent and can chew up a fair amount of innings. A fairly fast riser, Branden Pinder, skipped Charleston and went right to Tampa in 2012, finishing the year throwing a few innings for Trenton. He threw 69 innings with a 67/29 K/BB, a 2.74 ERA and a .260 average against. Pinder combined with Jose Ramirez for a no hitter earlier this year, and will be looking to push his way to AAA in 2013. He’s another guy that could soak up some middle relief innings if he stays on pace and could be a part of the 2014 bullpen that will no doubt be on a tight budget. Another right handed pitcher that finished his year in Trenton is Tommy Kahnle, who has been reported to light the radar up to triple digits and can rack up the K’s about as well as anyone in the system. He had a bit of a rough go in 2011; while he struck out 112 batters, he walked 49 and got touched up to the tune of a 4.22 ERA. He harnessed a bit more control in 2012 pitching to a 2,37 ERA over 57 innings, walking 24 hitters while striking out 74 and holding them to a .162 average against. Kahnle will be in his age 23 season in 2013 and could well get himself a callup in September and a shot at the ML pen in ’14.
With Boone Logan in his last year of arbitration, now might be the time to sell on him. With a career high in appearances and innings in 2012 and a mix of lefties to choose from for 2013 I’d be looking to include him in any packages that might come up in the coming weeks. Cesar Cabral, impressed in ST earlier this year but ended up on the DL. If he can return to his spring form he might get himself a look. Another option is Juan Cedeno, who has played all over baseball for a number of parent clubs the last ten years put in 64 innings of work and pitched to a 2.81 ERA with a 57/21 K/BB, and a .273 BAA. He got touched up a little during fall/winter leagues dropping to a 3.49 ERA, but to his credit he pitched a lot of innings during the stretch of the year. Last but certainly not least is right hander Mark Montgomery, who has drawn numerous comps to David Robertson. Not only are their K rates both in 14/9 range, but his release point is similar to D-Robs in that his stride brings him closer to the mound, making his low 90’s FB play up a bit in the eyes of the batters. He features a slider that he can change the grip on slightly depending on the handedness of the batter, making it dive away from right handers and sink more like a curveball against lefties. He’s been a fast mover and I know a lot of people are really looking forward to seeing him as soon as possible, but I think he’ll stay stashed away for at least part of 2013. I have Whitley as one of the early callups in case of injury or ineffectiveness, but Montgomery could be soon to follow. This is just a handful of the arms that look to be part of the future NY Yankees bullpen; some will fade and other stars will rise, but the horizon looks pretty good for having the late innings protected, and at a fraction of what we are used to paying.
With the news of A-Rods latest injury that will keep him on the shelf until midseason at the least, the Yankees find themselves looking to fill yet another void on the field and in the lineup. Without a clear major league ready farmhand ready to step in the team will have to make a choice; roll the dice with a rookie or shop the FA market. Some may point to former pinstriper Brandon Laird, who was let go earlier this year, but with over 100 plate appearances that amounted to an OPS just north of .700 and a glove that was nothing to fawn over I can’t say I’d be kicking myself for letting him walk. The minors aren’t completely barren, and the FA market may provide a player or two that fit the bill so let’s take a look at who could land in the Bronx come next spring.
Of all the players you’ll read about here, Joseph is the least likely to make a stand, but he is the closest minor league player we have in the system. Corban made his way to Scranton in 2012 after playing the first month in Trenton. His average fell off a bit, but his power saw a sizeable increase; his HR total more than doubled his previous season total in only 327 AB’s in AAA while his doubles total stayed on pace. To be fair, Trenton has one of the biggest parks in the league, but with the porch on his side in the Bronx he could continue to flash a bit of pop. He did however, show quite the platoon split for Scranton; his OPS against lefties was a dismal .493 while he absolutely mashed right handers to the tune of a .961 OPS. Of the 40 XBH’s he had in AAA, only five of them came against southpaws, so he’d have to have a platoon partner if he couldn’t get that straightened out. Even so, a left handed bat like that could certainly play in YS3. The big drawback for Joseph, and quite possibly the deal breaker is that it’s been a while since he’s seen time at the hot corner. 2011 was the last time he took the field there, and it was only for a handful of games. The rest of his career has seen him at second or the DH spot, so he’d be an option to fill in for Robbie if the injury bug bites or he needs a day, but the opportunities look to be few and far. I’d put him in the trade bait category, but with Cano’s impending free agency the FO might just want to hold on to him in case the Boras client prices himself right out of the BX.
Once upon a time Adams was on the prospect radar, until he nearly ruined his ankle and spent the better part of two seasons recovering and then getting his game back. Some will recall Adams as the guy that was initially in on the Montero for Lee trade until Seattle pulled the rug out on the deal and ended up taking a package revolved around Justin Smoak of the Rangers system. Adams made his way back to Trenton in 2012 and hit for a .306/.385/.450/.834 slash line while spending the first part of the season manning second and then getting moved to third later in the year. This, coincidentally or not, was right around the time that Alex ended up on the DL again. Adams was then sent to Arizona as part of the Yankee squad to participate in the fall leagues to get some more work in, where he continued to hit and ended his stint in the desert with a .912 OPS. With limited experience at the upper levels, they may not want to put all their money on Adams to run the hot corner in Alex’s place, but he isn’t far away. He hasn’t shown a ton of power in Trenton but he does take his fair share of walks and won’t strike out a ton. He’s also got a decent glove and was said to be making the transition to third well.
As I type this, it’s been reported that Keppinger has inked a three year deal with the White Sox. From what I had read the Yanks were willing to go two years, so the third year put them out. Bollocks.
It’s difficult not to have an initial emotional reaction when this guys name and the Yankees are mentioned in the same sentence. His incessant whining to the umpires is bad enough, and add in his stupid bat waggle and the fact that I’d be a afraid to see what’s under that goatee and it’s enough to send me running, tearing my hair out at the roots. With that stuff aside and the numbers in front of me, I can’t say that Youk on a one year deal would be a bad thing. He takes his walks, won’t strike out all day and hits for a bit of pop. On the other hand, he fell off quite a bit last year and has been prone to time on the DL, so getting his time at the DH spot and days off might be necessary. He can also man first base, which gives us the backup that we lost in Swisher. If he could get back to an OPS+ in the realm of 120 while fielding a decent glove I’d be in. It might take a daily cocktail of Dramamine, Valium and Makers Mark to get through it, but then again, I’ve done worse.
Chavez has seen limited playing time in pinstripes the last two years, filling the hot corner and standing in as a left handed bat with some pop. We all know Chavez won’t be able to man the position ever day, but he could serve as a solid platoon player that can also play both corners. 2012 was a solid campaign for Chavez that saw him put up a 126 OPS+, hitting 16 HR’s; his hot streak kept the team running down the stretch, and while he did cool off he was a big part of us keeping pace with the pesky Showalters. His playing time increased quite a bit going from 2011-12, and if he could give us 250-300 AB’s I’d sign up for that in a minute. His defense is still very solid and given regular rest he could provide enough of a boost with his bat to run him out there and not sacrifice overall production in a major way.
Although both Cashman & Girardi have stated that Alex is the Yankees 3B in 2013 and they have no plans to pursue a trade, they would be foolish to not explore every opportunity to move him. We all know the obstacles in place to move Alex, the 5 yrs @ $114 Million remaining on his deal, the no-trade clause and his decline at the age of 37. However, if anything has been proven over the last year in MLB, it’s that any player can be traded regardless of the obstacles.
This is not meant to be a typical, blame all of the Yankees problems on ARod piece. Alex is still an above average player in the regular season and has value going forward. So why should the Yankees trade him? Well, there are 3 major motivations for the Yankees to pursue a trade:
- The Money - In years past, it really wouldn’t matter what ARod made as the Yankee payroll was routinely $210-225 Million. However, with Hal dead serious about reducing the payroll to get under the $189M Luxury Tax threshold, the ARod deal is the biggest albatross. Although he will make less in the latter years of the deal, he will still count $27.5M towards the Cap every year due to the Annual Average Value and that amount will balloon to $33.5M in the years he hits his milestones. That first milestone is likely to be hit in 2013 as he needs 13 HRs to tie Willie Mays.
- Derek Jeter - We don’t know how Jeter will recover from his broken ankle or how it will affect his already declining range at SS. I’m not one who thinks Jeters range kills the team but the facts are he will have to play fewer games at SS in 2013 and beyond. With Derek needing more time at DH in coming years, can the team really afford to have 2 players in their late 30′s that need extensive DH time?
- The Post-season - I really thought Alex lifted an enormous monkey off his back with his performance in the 2009 Playoffs when he helped lead the team to the WS. However, since then he has been totally invisible in the post-season for the last 3 years. Since 2009, he is 12 for 75 (.160 BA) with 0 HRs and only 2 Doubles for an anemic .448 OPS and 24 StrikeOuts. In his Yankee career, he has had 2 good post-seasons, 1 meh and 5 complete debacles. For a team that goes to the post-season nearly every yr, they need better than that and it is clear that Alex presses during the post-season.
With the above demerits, why would any team want to trade for ARod? Well, let’s look at the motivations for a team like Miami. The money is definitely an issue and the Yanks would have to take back a big salary, eat money and perhaps sweeten the pot with another good player. But Miami wouldn’t have the same financial issues as the Yankees do. For starters, the Luxury Tax is not an issue for them so the fact that Alex’ AAV is higher than his actual paycheck is meaningless to them. The fact that his salary drops to $20-21M the final 3 years is advantageous to Florida. The other big detriment to the Yankees is also meaningless to Miami – the post-season performance. Miami was in last place in 2012 and they would be happy just to make it to the post-season in the next few years.
The 3 major reasons Miami would be interested in Alex are the following:
- Attendance/Exposure - Miami just opened their new stadium in 2012 and have been looking for Latino box office draws to create a buzz and fill seats. If anything, Alex is interesting and always creates a huge media buzz. Miami would definitely benefit from the added exposure and the fact that Alex is aa Miami-native with deep ties to the community is a huge factor for them. Miami tried to sign Albert Pujols in FA as a big Latin draw but failed, they signed Jose Reyes for the same reason. Alex could play the role Pujols was intended to play in the community. Chasing down some HR landmarks may also create a buzz in Miami where it’s almost hum-drum in drama-filled NY.
- Leadership - Despite his flaws, Alex has become a solid leader for younger players and youn Latin players specifically. With Florida building with a young club, ARod could be an important force in the clubhouse to show the young players how to work hard and what is required to succeed. In NY, he’s always in the shadow of Jeter but in Miami – his town, his home – he could be in charge.
- Performance - Like Cashman said, Alex is still an above-average 3B. Although his #s are in decline, he still had a 112 OPS+ in his worse season of his career in 2012. If healthy and rejuvenated in a new setting, he could be a good complement in their lineup to young stud Giancarlo Stanton.
Miami has 2 high-priced, long-term commitments on their books after trading Heath Bell. Both players have heavily back-loaded contracts. The first – Jose Reyes – is highly unlikely to be moved as he’s still young, productive and dynamic. the 2nd player is Mark Buehrle who may be a candidate for the Yanks to take back in an ARod deal. Buehrle made just $6M in 2012 but his salary jumps to $11M in 2013 , then to $18 & $19M in the final 2 seasons. To me, that means Miami intends to trade him in those latter years. He has 3 yrs @ $48M left on his deal and he’s still a solid starter with proven success in the A.L. The Yanks could take him back, eat some money and maybe throw Miami a player to make the deal even. It could be done.
The last impediment of such a deal is ARod and his no-trade clause. But after being embarrassed by the club in the Playoffs and having lukewarm at best support from the NY fans, I think Alex would jump at the chance to go to Miami – his hometown, with a chance to start over and without the glaring spotlight of the NY media and constant post-season pressure.
What do you think? Is a trade possible and should the Yankees pursue it or just sit back and listen like Cashman says? Cashman has always been a very stealth operator who feeds the media a lot of mis-information. I have to believe he will explore every option to deal ARod this Winter because of the reasons above.
The plan for the New York Yankees this season was for some young pitchers step up, so they didn’t have to pay big money on the free agent market for starting pitching. While that didn’t happen in the minors, the pitching on the big league club was excellent. The Yankees pitching ranked fifth in the AL and second in strikeouts during the regular season and it was absolutely championship quality during the postseason. We continue with our grades and evaluation of the season with the starting and relief pitching.
CC Sabathia: The reports of CC Sabathia’s demise this season were greatly exaggerated. He shut up all the fans who were claiming that Sabathia was not an ace on Twitter. While Sabathia’s ERA was up slightly, and he spent some time on the DL, he was really the same pitcher. Even during Sabathia’s bad stretch in early September, he wasn’t as bad as he was being perceived to be, he just wasn’t pitching to his ability. Sabathia’s 8.87 K/9 was the best of his career, so he struck out plenty of batters. His 48.2 GB% was above his 45.4% career average, and his 30.7 FB% was the lowest of his career, so Sabathia ran into bad luck as well, seeing as his 12.5 HR/FB% was a career high. Also, his xFIP was a very good 3.20. He came up big when the Yankees needed him the most down the stretch and in the playoffs. Sabathia carried the Yankees on his back in the Game 5 win over Baltimore. Hopefully his visit to Dr. Andrews goes well and there is nothing wrong with his elbow.
Hiroki Kuroda: Hiroki Kuroda’s signing brought along a lot of doubts by many Yankees fans. Not only did Kuroda prove those doubters wrong, he was also one of the best signings Brian Cashman has ever had. Kuroda went 16-11, with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He was everything the Yankees could have asked for and more. He was the stabilizing force in the Yankees rotation when Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were on the DL. Kuroda kept hitters off balance with a combination of his sinker, slider, splitter, curve and fastball. Hitters were caught chasing his splitters in the dirt and were caught looking at his two seam fastball that froze lefties, as it would come back to catch the inside corner of the plate. The Yankees should prioritize getting Kuroda back this offseason.
Andy Pettitte: Nobody quite knew what to expect once Andy Pettitte announced his return to the Yankees. However, I know there is no way too many people could have predicted him to be as good as he was. Somehow, Pettitte continued to look as good as he did in his prime. The only thing that could stop him this season was a ball that hit him in the ankle in late June. That ball fractured Pettitte’s ankle and caused him to miss over two months. Once Pettitte came back, he did not miss a beat, and performed very well down the stretch. He lost both of his playoff starts, but it was due to lousy run support and not his pitching. He stranded over 80% of base runners this season, which is simply remarkable. Pettitte remains unflappable on the mound and the Yankees should hope he returns next season.
Grade: A –
Very soon Brian Cashman will bring all of his lieutenants together to go over the team’s players and formulate an off-season plan. We will do the same thing here, position by position to see what assets the team has, what is available in the upper minor leagues as an option and evaluate if it’s an area of need moving forward. Today we’ll start with the left side of the infield.
First base – Mark Teixeira
Tex had the worst season of his career in 2012 as he had his streak of 8 straight seasons of 30-100 snapped. He missed basically all of September due to a calf strain which is part of the reason his HR & RBI totals were down. However, he also had career lows in SLG (.475) & OPS (.807) and had his 3rd straight season with a BA below .256. Whether it’s his heavy pull tendencies, the severe defensive shifts, his uppercut swing or a combination of them all, Tex just isn’t the same hitter from the left side that Yankees signed for $180 Million.
After his great initial season with the Yanks he’s been a .252/.347/.484/.831 over the past 3 years and I have little hope he’ll ever return to the .290-.300 hitter he was through 2009. Last offseason he vowed to work on using the whole field more as a LH hitter but after his typical slow start in April, he quickly scrapped it and went back into pulling everything. In addition to the declining BA, he’s also been walking less (just 10.3%) the last few yrs which doesn’t make him a good #3/#4 hitter anymore. Grade: C-
2013 Outlook: With 4 years @ $90M left on his contract, he is going nowhere. Unfortunately, it looks like Tex is what he is at this point in his career and there’s little hope he changes. He’s going to be about a .250 hitter with around 30 HRs-100 RBIs who plays very good defense. With his diminished BA & OBP, he’s no longer a viable #3/4 hitter but he’s still capable of impacting any game with his power and defense. With Tex signed til 2016, the organization hasn’t looked to develop a 1B in the upper minors and with Swisher likely gone they may look for a veteran who can play some 1B and OF or get someone like Nix, Joseph or Adams to work on 1B.
Second Base – Robinson Cano
Cano had a career year in the regular season with personal highs in HRs, 2Bs, Walks, Runs, SLG, OPS, WOBA & RC+. He was patient at the plate for much of the regular season which is the key for him at the plate. When he’s patient and using the entire field, he’s as dangerous as any hitter in the league. Unfortunately he has lapses where he loses discipline and looks to drive everything like he did in the playoffs. He also has lapses in concentration on the bases and the field at times but his bat usually makes up for those. All told, he was one of the best hitters in baseball with a .929 OPS and a very good defensive second basemen who loses some luster because of his terrible post-season. Grade: A-
2013 Outlook: Cano has a no-brainer $15M option that the Yankees will definitely exercise. There is a possibility that Cashman and Boras could discuss an extension this Winter to see if Free Agency can be avoided but I think that ship has sailed. I believe last yr was the time to talk extension and there is little to gain for either side to come to an agreement this yr. Cano is coming off a career yr and Boras is already flapping his gums about a 10-yr deal. So while it would help for the team to have an idea of what Cano is looking for, I wouldn’t expect anything to happen until he’s a FA. There is the option to trade Cano since the Yankees have 2 promising young 2B ready to make their MLB-debuts in 2013. However, that seems very unlikely since Cano is their only legitimate offensive threat and Cashman doesn’t usually operate like that.
Although Cano is almost definitely going to be at 2B in 2013, the team needs to give a role to Adams and/or Joseph as they are their 2 most MLB-ready bats. Joseph is a soon-to-be 24 yr old lefty hitter who hit .276/.375/.465/.840 between AA & AAA. He makes good solid contact and had an impressive 68/70 Walk to K rate. Adams is a 25 yr-old RH hitter who hit .306/.385/.450/.834 in AA and is finally healthy after 2 years. Adams is also a line-drive hitter with good strike zone recognition. He played 3B for the final month of 2012 and could be an option there as well.
The TBS booth was something special last night, for an Orioles fan. I get bringing Cal Ripken into the booth seeing as this is the first time the Birds have been in the postseason in many many years, but how about a little balance up there? I don’t think it’s any bit of a stretch that Smoltz is still a little bent about the Yanks sending him packing back in the 90′s, and it shows in the commentary. A little bit of balance would have been nice to hear; how about Tino or Paulie to go back and forth with Rip? Is that too much to ask? The saving grace was that our Yankees came out on top, sparked by Russell Martin, who was greeted with cheers after barely ducking a fastball to the helmet. In that moment when his shot to left went over the fence you could hear a collective sigh both from the broadcast booth and the stadium. Speaking of the stadium… where did all that orange come from? My guess is they bussed a bunch of extras in from the nearest correctional facility, and judging from the applause at the near beanballs to Martin and A-Rod i’d be right. Their silence as Jim Johnson was smacked around by the Bombers in the ninth was deafening and Yankee fans everywhere loved every minute of it.
Speaking of home runs…
The two most homer-happy teams in the league went head to head and launched only one in the hitter friendly Camden Yards in the series opener, courtesy of the guy who had been DFA’d by nearly every Yankee fan at some point this season. Kudos to the Russ-Bus; the guy has had a few tasty hits this year and has accounted for the only two walk-off hits off the year, both of which left the yard. The Yanks put numbers on the scoreboard in a variety of ways; they got hits, they went deep and even sacrificed a man in from third. I love seeing the opposing pitchers head jerk back like a human Pez dispenser, but it’s cool to see them cross home plate in a variety of ways. RISPFail haunted the home dugout last night and the Yankees sailed on to victory.
Not an ace….
The Big Man came through last night and showed everyone why he gets paid the big bucks. 8.2 innings and two runs against a team that has found a way to win for 183 games, and he did it in style. Over the last few starts (4ER 24IP before last night) CC has found his changeup and he and Martin used it effectively last night, working out of some big jams and keeping the O’s lineup off balance and in check. While it may not have seemed like it at the time, his time on the DL may end up being a good thing. CC is in the midst of a low in innings pitched in several years now, and has had just enough time to get sharp for the October run. Buck had a lineup full of righties out there to try and get the best of Sabathia, but with his change and a nasty slider coupled with excellent fastball command, the Birds never stood a chance.
Baseball America has been releasing their top 20 lists for the various MiL levels and there are some familiar faces making the cut. The trio of Sanchez, Austin and Williams all made the cut for the SAL, and Sanchez and Austin both made another appearance on the FSL list along with Slade Heathcott and Nik Turley. Tyler and Gary came in at 8 and 9, while Slade and Nik took the 17th and 18th spots. Jose Fernendez of the Fish and Gerrit Cole took the top honors. Heathcott has drawn praise from opposing managers as an exciting player and a real gamer, his only real drawback being his durability. His go-for-broke style of play should probably be scaled backa bit if he expects to protect that shoulder of his, which has seen two operations thus far. His tools give him a high ceiling, but his health concerns keep his floor somewhat low. He’ll get his cuts in the AFL this year, which starts very shortly.
A Yankee Legend returns to the big stage…
Andy Pettitte‘s return to the mound happened months ago, but let’s be honest… this is what we’ve all been waiting for. Andy will make his first October start since game 3 of the 2010 ALCS and his first against the Birds since 1996. Andrew Eugene has logged more than a full season of innings in playoff action; 263 to be exact, with a 173/72 K/BB ratio and 3.83 ERA. Andy won’t go down as the most dominant pitcher to grace the big stage, but you can count on him to give you his best. Even when he doesn’t have everything working the man will battle and give his team a chance to win the game. He’ll be battling fellow southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, who has stumbled a bit down the stretch, ending the season with 192.2 IP and a 4.02 ERA, 105 ERA+ and 1.261 WHIP.
Qustions have been raised about wether or not Pettitte will return in 2013, as his year had been cut short by an unfortunate line drive that fractured his ankle and cost him nearly three months of the regular season. Andy went on to say: “I know the competition and the desire to compete is still there, and I don’t feel like I kind of got that itch out from the 70 innings or so that I threw this year. I was expecting to do a little more work than that. But we’ll see. We’ll see how this goes, and then i’ll factor everything probably in”. At this point in the year however, focus is in one place, and that’s on his next start. Tonight Andy will be going for his 20th win in the post season, an MLB record.