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Three years later, George’s death looms large over the Yankees

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’
A
nd the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

The last verse of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” can perfectly be applied to the current state of baseball’s most championed franchise, the New York Yankees.

Yes, the team has continued to make the playoffs and be perennial contenders, but things haven’t been the same and the times surely began to change when the “dynasty” era of Yankees baseball came to a crashing end on July 13th, 2010.

New Yorik Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner speaks at a new

This of course was when George Steinbrenner passed away due to a massive heart attack at the age of 80. His death came just two days after long-time public address announcer Bob Sheppard, known as “The Voice of God”, passed on as well at the ripe old age of 99. Two seemingly immortal figures of the organization were gone in a flash.

Admittedly, both legendary men had disappeared from the public years prior. Due to deteriorating health, Sheppard could no longer muster the strength needed to do his job, as he announced his last game in person on September 5th, 2007. He would later officially retire in November of 2009.

The Boss, on the other hand, made the decision himself to step down as the day-to-day operator of the team. On November 20th, 2008, his sons Hal and Hank Steinbrenner officially became the co-owners of the Yankees, with Hal becoming the managing general partner as well.

George had faith in them, so everyone else did too. And Hal gave no reason to think otherwise when he went out and signed CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixiera all to huge free agent contracts during his first winter as the owner of his dad’s most prized possession. Spending in excess of $400 million, the phrase “like father, like son” held true when he put the Yankees in a position win the World Series in 2009.

Which they did on November 4th, 2009, with George Steinbrenner watching from his home in Tampa, Florida. The Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in six games to capture, what seemed like, an elusive 27th championship since losing the 2001 Fall Classic to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

100_0806Sitting high up in the grandstands that night, I can recall, “Boss, this is for you!” displayed across the Yankee Stadium jumbo-tron. And it was true – the Yanks had won this for George. They sensed his morality and Hal wanted to ensure that if his dad’s life was coming to an end, one of his last memories could be watching his Yankees win the World Series, as George once said that breathing is the only thing better than winning.

So, when The Boss did pass on eight months later, the Bombers were the defending champions and in first place, which was probably the only way he could envision leaving the earth.

And it was that day, as I said, when times really started to change. The Yankees lost control of the AL East and settled for the Wild Card in 2010, losing in the ALCS to the Texas Rangers. Of course, the Yankees had far worse seasons under The Boss’ reign, but you really felt his absence, especially in the following offseason. The Yanks attempted to sign lefty ace Cliff Lee to a contract similar to the one Sabathia received, yet they couldn’t quite close the deal as Lee went back to the Phillies.

Once Cliff spurned the Yankees, the team didn’t know what to do, and most probably were looking back on some foolish moves made once The Boss stepped down as the team’s owner. On December 9th, 2009, the Yankees traded two of their most highly touted prospects, Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, in a three-team deal to get Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson. New York had decided to sacrifice its future for immediate success, something that George had been turned away from doing for years.

Now, there is no denying that The Boss had looked into, and nearly pulled the trigger on, trading the Core Four and other players such as Bernie Williams and Robinson Cano early in each of their respective careers. But when George felt the need to upgrade the team for a particular season, there were guys like Buck Showalter and Gene “Stick” Michael to convince him to hold onto the future stars.

Buck was, of course, fired by George after 1995, and Stick left his position as vice president of the team in 2002. It can be argued that with their departures, went the genius scouting of the Yanks that they had lacked for decades, and once again are in need of. As mentioned, with the Granderson trade, the Yankees mindlessly dealt top prospects for what will turn out to be a three-year rental of a potent, yet strike-out prone outfield bat. Meanwhile, Jackson has become one of the best lead-off men in the game with the Tigers, and Kennedy was an N.L. Cy Young candidate in 2011 with Arizona.

That trade, along with the one for Javier Vazquez weeks later, are moves that wouldn’t have happened if The Boss and his “cabinet”, if you will, were still here. They had the guts to stand up to George and tell him he was wrong, and he had the trust in his advisors to realize that and pull back or prevent any franchise-altering moves to go down. In the three years since he died, there’s already been a slew of those types of trades, and not for the better. Don’t even remind me of the Montero-Pineda deal, which, while we can’t judge quite yet, certainly hasn’t benefited the Yankees at all.

At the same time, while trading away and failing to develop solid prospects, the Yankees haven’t dipped back into the free agent market for any impactful players either. This has left them to piecemeal together their roster over the past few years, signing players off the scrap-heap and simply getting lucky that they actually perform well. The Yanks ran out of such luck towards the end of 2011, resulting in a disappointing ALDS loss, and in 2012 Derek Jeter broke his ankle and the team was subsequently swept out of the ALCS.

While consistently making it into October is universally considered a successful streak of seasons, every year since George Steinbrenner died, it just feels like the franchise is pushing itself farther and farther away from a championship. Although 2013 can perhaps be considered a fluke season considering all the injuries, the Yankees are in a dire situation for the future. Their top prospects are either just drafted or still in the lower levels of the minor league system, and their lone star is Robinson Cano, who is an impending free agent. Their headlining talent of the past such as Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia, are all either injured, aging, and past their primes, or perhaps a combination of all three. Relying on them to be key contributors at this point is downright foolish, and won’t garner the results the team may hope for as far as October appearances are concerned.

A reluctancy to spend, coupled with an ignorance to focus on developing the farm system, the Yankees have little to offer their fans that would make them, first of all, return to Yankee Stadium and turn their TVs back on to the YES Network. And second, sense a 28th world championship soon to be won.

You may blame it on the scouting. You may blame it on the front office. Heck, you may blame it on the baseball gods giving the Yankees hell for the first time in decades. But the fact remains that since The Boss passed away three years ago today, things haven’t, and probably never will be the same.

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Morning Bits: Noesi, Mariners, Nunez, Montero

Good morning Yankees fans and happy Saturday to you all! Phil Hughes will take the mound versus Seattle’s Hector Noesi. Here are the morning links

– ESPN New York breaks down Hector Noesi’s last couple of starts for the Mariners. Being a former Yankee, it shouldn’t be hard to get runs off him, right?

– Seattle Mariners GM says that he feels ‘bad for the Yankees’ after the Montero & Pineda trade. Oh, so they originally tried to con us to get Montero?

– As we all know by now the Yankees have sent Eduardo Nunez to Triple-A to work on being a shortstop. Not sure, but to me this sounds like he might become trade bait…

– The Daily News talks about how Jesus Montero envisioned hitting the ball over the right field wall--and then does it anyway with a 6th inning solo shot. I know it was for the good of the team so that we could get starting pitching, but Montero is really hitting–for Seattle.

Don’t jump the gun on the Montero-Pineda trade just yet

Shortly after Michael Pineda ended his miserable 2.2 innings against the Phillies, Yankees fans were horrified to learn that he had been pitching with a sore right shoulder. After taking an MRI yesterday morning, Pineda has been diagnosed with tendinitis and is now on the 15-Day DL. This unfortunate turn of events eliminates Pineda’s chances of starting the regular season in the Yankees’ MLB rotation. The Yankees will now fill the rotation with Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Freddy Garcia behind C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. This injury comes on the heels of a substantial amount of scrutiny over Pineda’s low velocity, and many share the opinion that Pineda just hasn’t looked right all spring.

Although the team is yet to play one game of regular season ball, the trade of Montero for Pineda is already being called a disaster by some. The Yankees undoubtedly gave up quite a lot for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, losing an absolute stud of a hitter in Montero and a nice pitching piece in Hector Noesi. Montero has looked excellent thus far for the Mariners with a .306/.366/.556 line in Spring Training to this point. In 5 IP, Noesi has a 1.80 ERA and has held opponents to a .176 BAA. Meanwhile, Michael Pineda’s has an ERA of 5.68 and a .324 BAA, and both his velocity and control have been sub-par (4.74 BB/9).

As grim as it looks for Pineda heading into the 2012 regular season, is it really already time to abandon all hopes for the trade to be a success? Some fans think the answer to that question is yes.

However, by already describing the trade with words like “disaster” and “apocalyptic” based on the very short time Michael Pineda has been a Yankee, I think many fans are jumping the gun much too soon. When evaluating a trade, it is extremely important to remember that every deal is a two-sided deal. While it is certainly a possibility that Michael Pineda might not live up to expectations placed on him, the same is just as true with Jesus Montero. When Brian Cashman and Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik agreed to the blockbuster trade, they both accepted a substantial amount of risk. Pineda might never become the #1 starter that many think he can be, and Montero might never become the Miguel Cabrera-like hitter that he is supposed to become. While this is merely looking at hypotheticals, there is one thing that is known for sure in the case of both players. There is a tremendous amount of time for each player to proove the trade good or bad for his respective team.

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The Good and Bad of Spring Training

Joe Girardi (l.) & Brett Gardner (r.) during Yankees Spring Training

During the last couple of weeks, the Yankees have done what the other 29 teams in the league have done; prepare for the regular season in Spring Training. We’ve gotten a sense as to what the pitchers have, what the hitters are bringing to the table and the moves that the Yankees are making as the course of Spring Training goes on. So far in Spring Training, the Yankees have made improvements, but at the same time we are questioning some of the moves that were made.

The Good

1. Andy Pettitte has returned to the Yankees

When Jack Curry of YES Network first reported the Andy Pettitte signing, I thought it had to be an early April Fools joke. As he continued on, I realized that it wasn’t a joke, that it was actually real. Another core part of the Yankees had returned. While Pettitte may not be ready until May, this was a good signing by the Yankees during Spring Training, as now they have more depth to the rotation in case someone gets injured or if Michael Pineda gets sent to Triple-A (since he still has options). The question is, will we be able to see Pettitte in the Bronx for his first game of the 2012 season or will he decide that pitching wasn’t what he really wanted and re-retire?

2. Alex Rodriguez‘s offense has returned

Yankees fans were pretty iffy, wondering if Alex Rodriguez was going to be able to come back after he posted not so stellar numbers in the 2011 season due to injury. In Alex Rodriguez’s first at-bat, he silenced my doubts. So far in the Spring, Alex Rodriguez has hit 2 HR, 6 RBI’s and is hitting over .300. Not that Spring Training means anything, but so far, Alex Rodriguez is looking good! It would be nice to see Alex keep up the pace when the Yankees play the Rays in 2 1/2 weeks.

3. Phil Hughes keeps having good outings

Phil Hughes is certainly doing all he can to claim a spot in the rotation, and so far he’s doing a really great job. Hughes has 1 loss in Spring Training but other than that, his ERA, his HR number & his BB are pretty sparkling: 1.08 ERA, 0 HR allowed & 1 BB. If Hughes continues pitching the way he’s pitching then there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be in the rotation. Again, I know that Spring Training means absolutely nothing (although it means something to Phil Hughes). In 2010, Hughes was 0-4 with a 4.35 ERA. Who walked away with 18 wins in 2010?

4. Bill Hall has impressed

When the Yankees signed Bill Hall to a minor league contract with the invitation to Spring Training, I was pretty excited to watch him fight for a bench spot on the 25 man roster. If I were Girardi, he would get one of the spots on the roster. So far, Hall has played amazing defense, almost looking like Robinson Cano when he plays 2nd base. His bat is coming along as well, having 3 RBI’s under his belt as well as a HR. Hall also has a desire to play baseball and he looks like he’s having fun out there while doing it. That’s the type of player that the Yankees could use on the bench.

5. Gardner aims to be consistent

During Spring Training, Brett Gardner had one thing in mind that he would like to do this season; he would like to be more consistent. The good news with that is Gardner has done multiple things to work on his game. He has seen Kevin Long where the both of them had worked on his swing, he was spotted trying to bunt baseballs into a white bucket by the second baseline after practice & he likes to lead the Yankees in running drills. Can you blame him? The man loves to run. When this translates into a game, Gardner’s defense is still consistent. He has flashed the leather over the last couple of games and has shown arm strength. He also seems to start to get his hitting together and getting on base more often. Yep, Gardner is looking in great shape coming into Spring Training this year, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s 100% healthy coming into the Spring unlike in 2011 when he was coming off of wrist surgery.

The Bad

1. The injury list

No manager wants to go into the clubhouse early in the morning to ask his players how they are feeling and the answer he gets is something that he wouldn’t expect. That’s the kind of spring Joe Girardi has had so far. Girardi has had to deal with injuries from Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Eduardo Nunez, David Robertson…the list goes on and on. Luckily all of the players that I listed, don’t have serious injuries. But still as a manager it’s frustrating to go through the spring trying to get your guys healthy and because they are a bit rusty, something hurts. Hopefully the Yankees won’t have a lot of injuries to deal with this season.

2. Was the Pineda for Noesi/Montero deal a mistake?

During the offseason, Brian Cashman made a big splash by trading away #1 prospect Jesus Montero & Hector Noesi for Michael Pineda. Now as we are watching in Spring Training we are wondering if the trade was such a big splash after all. Along with Russell Martin, Michael Pineda has been working on his change up which isn’t the problem; it’s his fastball. Pineda’s fastball’s velocity last year was 95-98 MPH. This year when he came into camp he would hit 94 MPH on the radar gun occasionally but would periodically hit 91-92 MPH. That’s a dip in velocity, the same issue that Phil Hughes had last year. Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi aren’t concerned about it, but should we really be concerned?

3. Raul Ibanez‘s horrid Spring

The Yankees signed Raul Ibanez in the offseason to be their DH after Jorge Posada retired this past offseason. So far, we aren’t seeing what we paid for. Raul Ibanez is hitting .071 this Spring with only 2 hits and 7 K’s. Couldn’t the Yankees have just paid Jorge Posada to come back 1 more year and he would’ve  hit better in the Spring? I’m not going to give up on Ibanez just yet, but he isn’t getting off on the right foot with Yankees fans.

4. Ivan Nova‘s poor outings

Coming into Spring Training, Ivan Nova looked as if he was to be the favorite to get a spot in the rotation. At first when Nova wasn’t pitching all that great, we assumed that it was just some rust. But as time went by, we realized that it wasn’t exactly rust, and that Ivan Nova was having trouble on the mound. Nova so far this Spring is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA. He’s pitched in 8.2 innings and allowed 7 runs on 9 hits. Girardi said that he was going to start observing the pitchers in the rotation around this time, so this should be where Ivan Nova picks his game up. If he keeps having outings like this in Spring Training & the regular season then he’ll get a one way bus ticket to Scranton.

Can Pineda Handle New York?

When the New York Yankees sent Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda, the reactions from fans ranged from euphoria to anger and everything in between.  It’s never easy for fans to see a highly anticipated player like Montero traded away.  Montero had been with the Yankee organization from day one of his professional career.  There is an extra special place that fans reserve for the guys that have been Yankees from day one.

Since the signings of Catfish Hunter and Reginald Martinez Jackson that helped propel the Yankees to two championships in the late seventies, critics of George Steinbrenner’s free spending ways and fans of opposing teams had labeled the Yankees the best team that money could buy.  When the Yankees ended the long drought between titles in 1996 and established a dynasty, the success was extra sweet because players named Jeter, Williams, Posada, Petitte and Rivera lead the way. These were home-grown Yankees that forced the critics of the Yankees’ spending to admit that players developed in the Yankee system were the key to the incredible success that the Yankees enjoyed during their dynasty reign.

Jesus Montero was the most anticipated Yankee prospect to come along since that dynasty era.  Montero’s spectacular performance last September looked like a coming attractions preview for the next decade and Yankee fans were looking forward to the career of another potential home-grown Yankee star. It wasn’t to be and if Montero is to become a star he will be doing it wearing a Seattle Mariners uniform.

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with being traded to or signed by the Yankees.  Just ask A.J. Burnett, one of the two most recent high-profile Yankee pitching acquisitions.  Signed after the 2008 season to a big money contract along with C.C. Sabathia and Mark Texeira, Burnett had a good 2009 regular season for the Yankees. Burnett then won a pivotal and crucial game of the 2009 World Series with a spectacular and gritty performance.  Faced with the alarming prospect of heading to Philadelphia down two games to none, Burnett outdueled Pedro Martinez in game two of that World Series.  The Yankees went on to win their first title since the 2000 season and Burnett had earned his money and was on his way into being accepted as a true Yankee, or so we thought.

Burnett’s struggles in 2010 quickly turned the media and fans against him. Burnett felt the pressure in 2011 and had an even more miserable regular season.  By the end of 2011 even a heroic effort in game four of the 2011 ALDS that staved off elimination for another day couldn’t save him. He had failed to pitch to his contract in the regular season and the Yankees felt the pressure on Burnett was too much for him to succeed  in New York.  Two weeks ago the Yankees basically gave him away to the Pirates, eating twenty million dollars in the process.

Life isn’t fair in New York as an athlete.  Burnett will not be remembered not for his two great postseason performances, one of which played a huge part in winning a championship.  Burnett will be remembered as a guy who came to New York and simply couldn’t handle the pressure.

One of the biggest questions that Michael Pineda has to answer is if he can pitch in the pressure cooker that is New York. Does Pineda have the mental makeup to succeed where others like A.J. Burnett and Kevin Brown have failed? Early indications are cause for quite a bit of concern.

While Pineda has always been big, his size upon showing up at training camp was alarming.  Pineda showed up at camp admitting to weighing 280 pounds and one of the first things he acknowledged was the need to lose weight. Others like Buster Olney of ESPN have said that Pineda came in at 290 pounds. http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/yankees/post/_/id/27547/olney-pineda-is-a-huge-addition-literally

I find it more than a little bit alarming that a young pitcher who was traded to a franchise as illustrious as the Yankees took it so “seriously” that he showed up to camp so heavy.  Pineda is only twenty-three years old and to make that sort of initial impression is troublesome.

As if his lack of physical conditioning wasn’t alarming enough? This report came from Yankee camp from Wallace Matthews on Monday about an incident involving Pineda and what was supposed to be a press conference after a throwing session.  http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/yankees/post/_/id/28066/michael-youre-not-in-seattle-anymore

Are these minor incidents to be expected from a young player making his initial forray into big market exposure with all of its hype and coverage?  Or are these the actions of a young pitcher clearly unready to handle the pressure and scrutiny he is about to face in New York?

It would be wise to keep in mind that fans and media turned on A.J. Burnett as badly as they did while he only cost the team money, not players.  With Jesus Montero a frontrunner to win the AL Rookie Of  The Year Award, Pineda will be judged by fans and media vs. Montero’s performance this year as well as his own. There is no way that can be avoided no matter how much Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi try to downplay what to expect from Pineda this season.   

Cashman and Girardi can emphasize that this was a trade made for the future all they want, but New York is a win now town that isn’t interested in hearing about next year until next year.  The Yankees have an aging core whose window of opportunity may be shrinking.  That became even more apparent when the incredible Mariano Rivera hinted strongly upon arriving at training camp that 2012 will be his final season.  There is a growing feeling that if the Yankees are going to win with their current core of players that they need to win now.

If Pineda doesn’t pitch in a manner that justifies the decision to trade a fan favorite  for him, things could get very messy, very quickly for him.  If anyone thinks that the fans and media won’t be keeping an eye on Montero’s performance in Seattle this year and comparing it to Pineda’s performance they are kidding themselves. The Montero watch will be underway from game one of the season and won’t stop until Pineda gives everyone a reason not to watch anymore.

Michael Pineda is under pressure to perform on the biggest stage in the biggest town in sports.  It’s the kind of pressure that few people would wish upon even their worst enemy.  Getting himself in proper shape and adjusting to the increased responsibilities with the media would be good ways to start himself on the right path for the scrutiny he will receive.  Even successful completion of those tasks won’t guarantee anything for Pineda.  Pineda is going to have to pitch successfully in 2012 and justify the trade that brought him to New York and nothing less will do. It may not be fair, it may not be realistic, but that’s New York.

A Bat Before The Deadline?

Conversation about the Yankees this spring has been dominated by pitching.  Bolstered by the acquisitions of pitchers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, the 2012 rotation appears to be the strongest that the Yankees have possessed since the championship season of 2009. In addition to the strengthened rotation the Yankees possess one of the best, if not the best, bullpens in baseball.  There is plenty to be optimistic about in regards to the arms the Yankees will rely upon this season.

With all of the pitching talk there has been less discussion of the Yankee lineup. Part of the reason for that is that there isn’t much new to discuss about this veteran lineup where the youngest player will be twenty-eight year old Brett Gardner. The only other Yankee in the starting lineup under the age of thirty will be Robinson Cano.  Jorge Posada’s retirement in January lead to last week’s signing of Raul Ibanez, who will be part of a platoon at DH.  Ibanez is expected to be in the lineup at DH vs left-handed starters. Andruw Jones is expected to be in the lineup vs. right-handed starters along with some appearances in the DH slot by Alex Rodriguez when he gets rest from playing the field.  Other than the change at DH, the Yankee lineup will be same as it was in 2011.

2011 was a good offensive season for Yankees. They finished second in the AL in runs scored with 867, fifth in the AL in batting average at .263, second in the AL in OBP at .343, and third in the AL in slugging percentage and OPS at .444 and .788 respectively.  A similar performance by the Yankee offense this year would figure to make them tough to beat with their improved rotation.  So why does it feel like something is missing in the Yankee lineup?

Although Jesus Montero only appeared in 18 games last season, his absence from the Yankee lineup  feels bigger than that of the loss of a player who only appeared in September. Montero displayed opposite field power and vast potential while hitting .328/.406 last September.  His power/BA/OBP blend was expected to give the 2012 Yankee lineup a big boost and an injection of youth this season.  With Montero now a member of the Seattle Mariners after being the centerpiece of the Pineda deal, the Yankees will have to look for stability and improvement in the lineup from the same group as last year.  This has some folks nervous, as this lineup has failed to get the job done in the postseason the last two years and is now a year older.

Do the Yankees have enough firepower in the lineup to win it all this year or will GM Brian Cashman look to make a deadline deal for a bat?

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Interview with Charleston Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn

Charleston RiverDogs Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn

I had a great opportunity to interview Greg Colbrunn yesterday and he provided a lot of feedback on the hitters in the Yankees organization.  Colbrunn played 13 seasons in the Major Leagues as a career .289/.336/.460 hitter and was part of the World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks team that beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2001 season.

He has been with the Yankees since 2007, serving as Hitting Coach of the Charleston RiverDogs every season except for 2010 when he stepped in as Manager.  This will be his 6th season with the team so he has worked with nearly every hitter in the Yankee system above the Rookie ball level.  With his knowledge and experience I thought he’d be a great resource to find out more about the hitters in the Yankee chain.  My questions are in BLUE.

How did you get into coaching for the Yankees and do you prefer Managing or coaching hitting?

I live here in Charleston, we moved her in 1999/2000 when I was still playing. I took a year off after I stopped playing but I knew I wanted to get into coaching. I met Gary Denbo (Yankee organization hitting coordinator), and we had some of the same beliefs about hitting. It seemed like a great fit and great opportunity to coach for the RiverDogs and the Yanks have been a very good organization.

I enjoyed Managing but I prefer Hitting Coach more. I have more impact on the kids and I really enjoy working in the cage. I relate well to hitters.

Between Kevin Long, Gary Denbo, Butch Wynegar, yourself, etc., a young hitter progressing through the system will work with different hitting coaches all the time. How much communication is there between you and the other hitting instructors talking about individual players, tendencies and areas to work on?

Its kind of the same philosophy. We have good communication. When one guy moves from one level to another, we talk about him and what type of drills he’s doing. When you have different coaches that are on the same page but may go about it in different ways , you can find out what works with certain hitters.

It seems the Yankees at the MLB-level, stress the importance of going deep into counts and wearing down pitchers. Is that an organizational philosophy they try to instill early on?

When kids are starting out you want to see what a kid can do first. See what they do well, see what they can and can’t hit so we can develop a program from there. The main thing we stress is to get a good pitch and hit it hard somewhere. Learn how to recognize a curve ball from a Fastball. We talk about the importance of OBP.

During their 1st or 2nd year, the kids are still developing so you don’t want to tell them they can’t hit a certain way or that’s not gonna work. When you watch the big leagues, you see a lot of different styles, different stances – hands up, hands down. There are a lot of different ways to hit. We kind of let them go and just put them in a good position where they can have some success and be able to repeat their swing. If we see something that’s getting in the way of having success I’ll make an adjustment. I might alter hand position or something like that. But for most part in the 1st or 2nd year, I kind of let them go and make some suggestions here and there. If they’re struggling I might step in and tell them what I think but as far as any big mechanical adjustments, I try to stay away from that for the most part.

You’ve been in the organization sine 2007 and have worked with most of the highly thought of hitters. If I were to list some specific characteristics, tell me who comes to mind as the prospect in the organization that best epitomizes these skills/strengths. (NOTE: Greg hasn’t seen the hitters below the Charleston level yet)

Strike zone Recognition

Ramon Flores gets rave reviews from Colbrunn

Ramon Flores. It’s something we work on but for some reason he’s always had a real good sense. 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.

Pure bat speed

JR (Murphy) has some bat speed…….Kyle Roller, big 1B – he’s got some unbelievable bat speed coming through the zone and that’s something you cant really teach. Of course Montero.

Pull Power

Montero, Gary Sanchez. Melky Mesa hit some balls a long way when he was here but Montero had the most pure power.

Power to All Fields

Gary Sanchez, Kyle Roller had some tremendous power, he hit some balls that were unbelievable. Great all around power, oppo power. Gary, being only 18 is impressive and has ability to drive the ball the other way.

Hits for Average

Rob Segedin, he was 22 but he kind of dominated, he uses the whole field and I could see him hitting for a high average throughout the system as he gets acclimated and gets his feet on the ground. Also David Adams and Corban Joseph too.

Uses the Whole Field

Segedin, Corban Joseph. Gary (Sanchez) does a good job when we convince him to use the whole field. He’s still only 18 and gonna be real good.

Best Fastball Hitter

Brandon Laird. Romine was a good fastball hitter.

Best Breaking Ball Hitter

(Ramon)Flores does a real good job, Laird was good at hitting the hanging breaking balls, Montero, Sanchez

When I watched Slade Heathcott play this year, his physique and immense natural talent really stood out. What are his strengths as a hitter and how do you see his shoulder injuries effecting his development?

He’s got all the talent in the world. His first year here, he was 19 yrs old and we just let him go. This year he was able to make adjustments and apply them early on until his shoulder started bothering him. Hopefully the shoulder thing he can put it past him and go out there and get enough ABs so he can move up through the system. 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

Gary Sanchez has been getting some high praise as one of the best hitters in all of the Minors. Talk about Gary’s strengths and what you see for him down the road.

Gary Sanchez is the top hitter in the system

I see a bright future. He has a cannon for an arm, he’s got power, he’s got bat speed, uses the whole field, has good pitch recognition – all the things you look for in a good young hitter The praise is justifiable. He’s still learning how to play. This was the first year he played every day and was just getting the feel for it and it took him until the last 3 or 4 weeks of the season to really get going and put it all together before he got hurt. He just needs repetitions, getting games behind the plate and playing baseball.

JR Murphy looked like he was hitting everything hard with Charleston in 2011. Do you see him developing his gap to gap line drives into HRs as he progresses?

Yes, I do. He’s still 20/21. He swung the bat real well the first half of last year where he was hitting 3 or 4 balls hard per game. He ran into a little lull before he was promoted. In Charleston, the wind blows in 80% of the time, it’s not a big HR park, so power numbers might be down when you look at Charleston hitters. I think he’s gonna hit some HRs since he does hit the ball hard. As he gets bigger and stronger, when he learns to sit on pitches and take advantage of some pitches he can really handle the HRs will come.

Ramon Flores has a pretty swing for a 19-yr old. Do you see him developing enough power to be a Corner OF in the Bigs?

I do. He has one of the most natural swings we’ve had come through here. And he does have some power. Last year he took advantage, he hit 11 HRs which is pretty good for a 19 year old in Charleston. 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 and hopefully he’ll continue to make that progress. I’m looking forward to see him in the spring to see what kind of shape he comes in. He hit some balls well, has a great swing, a natural swing, and a real great feel. Definitely one of the best natural hitters I’ve seen come through here.

Austin Romine seems like his Catching skills will lead to a long MLB career. Do you see him being a good hitter once comfortable in the Majors?

Yes, especially for a catcher. He had a real high leg kick when he was here 3 years ago – kind of out of control with it. The time he spent here we calmed it down some, got it under control some. In the bigs, the more he gets accustomed to better pitching, he’ll hit. He has characteristics of a big league hitter – real good feel for the barrel, power, power to all fields and ability to use the whole field too. That’s something he did show as a young hitter. I think he will be an above-average hitter.

Corban Joseph and David Adams have shown ability to hit at every level. What is your opinion of them as hitters?

Colbrunn called David Adams a poor man's Jeff Kent

They are hitters. We’re fortunate that the Yanks do a great job in the amateur scouting department to bring in pure hitters. They are natural hitters. David went through some changes at Virginia (in college), when he came to us we simplified some things and he just took off, took right to it. He’s gonna hit wherever he goes, a line drive hitter who works hard. If there’s one guy I could compare him to probably a poor mans Jeff Kent, that type of hitter.

Corban is natural, gets bigger & stronger every year, ball comes off the bat a little crisper. He has an uncanny ability to get the barrel to the ball. He can be fooled, he can be beaten by a fastball and still be able to get the barrel to the ball. Great set of hands on him, he can go out and flick some things or jump on some things. Corban’s going to hit wherever he goes.

How does it feel to work with a kid, watch him progress up the ladder, then see him traded to another club right when he’s ready to make an impact in the Majors a la Montero?

I’m happy for him. I’m glad he’s going to get the chance. When I came up through the Montreal system, that was one thing they always told us – there are 27 (now 29) other teams out there. Working for the Yankees you want to see a young player come up and play for the Yankees but you have to be realistic. We try to get them better whether they are gonna help us out or help another team out.

Bobby Valentine Not Surprised By Jesus Montero Trade

Bobby Valentine Not Surprised By Jesus Montero Trade

By Delia E.

Bobby Valentine had more to say about the Yankees trade that sent Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Michael Pineda according to ESPN New York.

“I thought that it was kind of in their plans.” Valentine spoke to the press on Sunday while he was at Rippowam Middle School. “He helped their plans come to fruition by the way he played the last month of the season. I didn’t really ever think he was going to be their catcher in the future but maybe.”

Well Bobby Valentine, for a Red Sox manager you sure like to comment a lot about the Yankees.

Morning Bits: Pineda, Montero, AL East, Posada

Good morning all let’s get right to the links….

* Sports Illustrated has the finalized deal of Jesus Montero for Pineda.

* From the Seattle Times here is what they had to say about finalized deal.

* ESPN’s Wallace Matthews says the trade is Cashman’s riskiest move yet.

* Wall Street Journal says the AL East is Armed and Dangerous.

* Posada to make it official today that he is he done with baseball.

Pineda allows Yanks to spend on offense in future

Pineda gripping the changeup he must develop (used via creative commons license)

By now, the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade has been dissected from every angle.  But lost in the aftermath of Friday’s atom-bomb dropped by Brian Cashman is the effect this deal will have on the Yankees future beyond the upcoming 2012 season and the change in philosophy it signifies. The popular belief prior to the deal was that the team would try to get through this season with the pitching they had, maybe adding a veteran on a 1-year deal, then try to play their hand in the big 2013 market for Free Agent Pitching.  Is that still a viable strategy?

I believe the trade of Montero for Pineda denotes a change in Cashman’s philosophy of paying top dollar for FA pitchers.  He sees the trend in MLB with teams locking up their good young starters – and he knows his own track record of signing FA pitchers has been dubious with the one exception being the $161M deal for CC Sabathia. But Cash knows he doesn’t have the long-term flexibility to risk $100M+ deals on pitchers even if they do reach the open market.

Whether Pineda instantly becomes a formidable pitcher or struggles in his sophomore year, the Yankees are invested in him for the long haul.  The nucleus of CC, Nova & Pineda will be what they build around with Banuelos & Betances ready to contribute in 2013. Barring trades, they will also have 1 more year of AJ Burnett & Phil Hughes next season so unless there is a major breakdown, I don’t see the Yankees allocating their resources on a high-priced Free Agent starter.

With the emphasis on pitching and the search for a viable frontline starter for the last 2 years, the future of the offense has been neglected.  The core of the team is aging and they will have to endure some lean years with an old ARod & Jeter in the lineup.  Jesus Montero was supposed to be the one to equalize that.  We all saw him as an eventual middle of the order bat that would hit for average and power.  With virtually no potential impact bats in the system above A-ball, there is little help from within coming in the next 2-3 years.  That is where Cashman will spend his money in the coming years.

So where will the Yankees have openings and what will be on the market?  After 2012, Swisher and Russell Martin will be Free Agents, so there will likely be openings at C, RF & DH.  There is also the possibility that ARod takes over a good chunk of the DH duties so the team may look at potential 3B.

With Austin Romine MLB-ready and JR Murphy & Gary Sanchez right behind him, I doubt the Yanks will be in the market for a Catcher.  Martin could be brought back but if Romine shows he’s ready, I think they’ll go with him and let Martin walk.  There will be one very attractive FA Catcher available in lefty swinging , 28-yr old Miquel Montero. Miquel hit .282/.351/.469/.820 in 2011 and led an impressive Arizona pitching staff.

There is also an older version of Jesus Montero on the market.  Mike Napoli crushed the AL in 2011 to the tune of a .320/.414/.631/1.045 clip while catching 65 games and playing 1B/DH for 50 games.  He’ll only be 30 in 2013 and could play the role that Jesus was going to play as back-up Catcher, primary DH and middle of the order run producer.  This would leave the DH spot open for 50-65 games for ARod while Napoli caught and might be the perfect way to break in a young Austin Romine at Catcher in 2013.  We’ll soon find out whether Texas will add Yu Darvish and/or Prince Fielder to the mix but even if they don’t they have the FA of Josh Hamilton in 2013 so they may not attempt to re-sign Napoli.  It’s difficult to determine what he’d cost in FA without seeing if he’ll repeat his dominating 2011 but I’d say he best profiles with Victor Martinez who signed a 4yr-$50M deal prior to 2011.  If Napoli has a another big year and can show some durability, he may be a player for the Yanks to consider.

The options in RF include Josh Hamilton (32), Andre Ethier (31), Carlos Quentin (30), Delmon Young (27), Melky Cabrera (28), Nick Swisher (32) & Ichiro Suzuki (39).  While Hamilton is the elite player of the group, I don’t think the Yanks will lay out the big money needed for a 32-yr old that has played more than 133 games only once (2008).  I like Ethier as a lefty hitter who hits for average and power and a 4 year deal would only put him at 34 in the final year.  He’d be looking at similar money as Swisher (3-4 yrs @$11-12M)

However, with the goal to get under the Luxury Tax threshold in 2014, I don’t see Cashman giving out a long-term deal unless he really likes a player and he has a lot of prime years left.   The DH possibilities are plentiful every year and it’s easy to find all types of DH’s on 1-yr deals.  David Ortiz will be on the market again next year at age 38 so maybe the Yanks put in a big 1-yr offer to steal him.

Next years FA third base crop has absolutely nothing to offer so if ARod needs to DH they will have to find a 3B from within (Laird or Nunez?) or trade for one.  I like lefty hitters Chase Headley & Daniel Murphy.  Both are young players in their primes who hit for average and would be a good compliment to the rest of the lineup.  They have both also been discussed in trade rumors this Winter. Headley will be in his final arbitration year in 2013 so it’s likely SD will look to move his salary with several promising young 3B behind him.  The Mets have David Wright at 3B and have Murphy playing out of position at 2B.  Both players also offer the flexibility to play other positions, 1B, corner OF and in Murphy’s case 2B.

It’s futile to look at who is available beyond 2013 since so many teams sign their young players to extensions nowadays.  But one thing is clear, with the impressive young pitching the Yanks have assembled behind CC, they no longer have to lay down huge chunks of money on risky FA pitching.  More often than not, big money FA contracts for pitchers do not work out.  By Cashman trading his big young offensive chip for a big young pitcher, he is electing to spend his future money on offense – which is generally far less risky and easier to project.  When I first heard of the trade I didn’t like it.  Montero is going to be a big hitter but it will be easier to find a bat of his caliber on the FA/trade market than it will be to find a pitcher of Pineda’s ilk.  The last 2-3 years of searching for pitching has taught him that.

So going into 2013, Cashman should have room for one significant contract. Anymore than that and there’d be no chance to stay under $189M with Cano & Granderson as FAs in 2014.  Who would you look to sign for the offense in 2013?

Brian Cashman Strikes Gold

Brian Cashman recently proved why he is not just one of the best GM’s in baseball because of his checkbook. He made the shrewdest move of the offseason and fixed the Yankees rotation problems in one night. On Friday night, Cashman traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to Seattle for Michael Pineda and prospect Jorge Campos. Cashman also signed Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a 1 yr deal for 10 million dollars. This was a trade you don’t see very often. Money was not involved; it was just a deal where studs were traded for each other to help each team’s needs.  There was some risk involved of course, but this was the right move for Cashman to make.

Cashman, amazingly enough, was able to accomplish two huge things in this trade. He greatly improved the team in 2012 and for the future without raising the payroll. You do not often see 23 year old studs like Pineda available on the market often, especially when they are under contract until 2017. Funny thing is- nobody even knew he was. Cashman swooped and stole him, leaving  the rest of MLB in shock. I say stole him because when you look at the trades made for aces Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos this offseason, that is exactly what it was. The Reds and Nationals gave up more talent in their farm systems for lesser pitchers then Pineda in my opinion. The Yankees also did not have to kill their farm system to get him. I am not saying Jesus Montero will not be an elite hitter for years to come because in all likely hood he will be. However, you always take the elite pitcher over the position player, especially when the position might end up being DH. Also, do not underestimate getting Jose Campos in this deal. He is a guy scouts are loving and is probably already a top 10 Yankees prospect. His upside is better than Hecor Noesi, whom the Yankees traded to Seattle.

Pineda had a great rookie year going 9-10, with a 3.74 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9 (2nd in the AL).  At 6-7 260 lb., Pineda is an intimidating force with a great arsenal of stuff.  Pineda has a terrific fastball that averaged 94.7 mph, which was the fourth fastest fastball in MLB. Pineda can get it up to almost triple digits when need be. Pineda also has a devastating slider that righties cannot touch. Righties only batted .184 off of Pineda, which leads the AL, and whiffed at a ridiculous 41% of his sliders. Pineda does need to develop a better changeup in order to deal with lefty hitters. I would say that is his biggest weakness right now. Developing that 3rd pitch is a big key for him. Pineda showed the capability to eventually be a number one starter, but right now he will be just fine as their number 2.

The two knocks on Pineda last season are that he pitched in a pitchers park and that he fell off in the 2nd half last season. A 9.1 K/9 translates to any ballpark. His 2.89 BB/9 is not elite per say, but very good for a rookie who struck out all the guys that he did.  Pineda will have to improve his fly ball% (44.8%) because more of those fly balls will turn into home runs at Yankee Stadium.

Many people are using the argument that Pineda had a very poor second half of 2011. However, his ERA of 5.12 during that time does not tell the whole story. His peripherals were much better than that ERA suggests.

Split

BB%

K%

GB%

HR/FB

BABIP

LOB%

FIP

xFIP

Mar/Apr

9.5%

23.8%

30.9%

0.0%

0.262

76.5%

2.26

3.90

May

5.6%

28.6%

36.6%

10.8%

0.231

82.0%

3.15

2.98

Jun

8.3%

21.2%

26.5%

7.5%

0.243

76.1%

3.90

4.28

Jul

9.3%

28.8%

40.6%

14.3%

0.294

46.1%

3.74

3.14

Aug

7.4%

24.2%

46.8%

19.0%

0.262

65.4%

4.20

3.09

Sept/Oct

6.7%

22.7%

45.3%

9.5%

0.275

71.4%

3.41

3.44

Graph by Dave Cameron- Fan Graphs

Looking at this chart suggests that the reason for Pineda’s high second half ERA was because he had a higher BABIP. However, his FIP and xFIP  in the second half were not really bad at all. In July, Pineda’s ERA was 6.75, while his xFIP was an excellent 3.14. Besides, it is common for a young pitcher to wear down a little bit as his innings go up to where they have never gone before.

Pineda makes the Yankees a better team in 2012 and in the future.  A rotation of CC Sabathia, Pineda, Kuroda, Ivan Nova, and a TBA 5th starter is much better then they had last year. Barring a trade, A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, and Phil Hughes will battle it out for the 5th spot, and give the Yankees great rotation depth. This also gives Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances another year to develop in the minors.  Even without Montero the Yankees will still boast one of the games best offenses around Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez. As for replacing Montero at DH, my choices in order would be Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees have reportedly been in contact with all of them.

Brian Cashman has once again set up the Yankees to be a championship caliber team.

Spanning the Yankee Blogs: Montero, Pineda, DH, Prospects

Hello all I go through all the Yankee Blogs and put together the weeks best articles and bring them to you. A lot has happened in a week with the trade and signing of Kuroda.   So let’s get right to it.

* An A-Blog for A-Rod has a farewell to Jesus Montero.

* Bleeding Yankee Blue has the race for DH.

* Mike Silva of NYBD is managing the expectations of Pineda.

* NoMaas says not to sleep on the Kuroda signing.

* NYYUNIVERSE is asking if the Yankees made the right move in the trade of Montero for Pineda.

* Pinstripe Alley approves of the trade for Pineda.

* River Ave Blues is looking at the long term catching situation.

* Road to Yankee Stadium has an updated 2012 Prospect list.

* The Captain’s Blog is asking if the Yankees are playing good cop bad cop.

* The Yankee Analysts is against a rotating DH.

* Yanks Go Yard is talking the trade as well.

Morning Bits: Montero-Pineda Trade, Kuroda, Pena

Good morning everyone. It’s mind-blowing how much a team can change in a mere couple of hours. Well, that’s exactly what happened last evening. The Yankees traded top-prospect Jesus Montero, and RHP Hector Noesi, for Seattle RHSP Michael Pineda, and RHP Jose Campos. Pineda will slot in after C.C. Sabathia in the pitching rotation, while Campos is an extremely high-upside pitching prospect. The Yankees also signed Hiroki Kuroda to a 1 yr / $10MM. Kuroda and Ivan Nova figure to fill in the 3-4 slots in the rotation.

Here are your morning links…

Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com analyzes the Montero, Noesi — Pineda, Campos deal from both sides of the trade.

Scott Miller of CBSSports believes the additions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda make the Yankees the AL East favorites.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports writes that Carlos Pena is now on the Yankees’ radar to be the 2012 DH.

With Montero gone, the Yankees now have a number of different options to fill the DH. They simply do a platoon of designated hitters, including veterans- A-Rod, Teixeira, and Jeter. They could make A-Rod the full-time DH, and either: put Nunez at 3B, or look for outside 3B help. Or, they could sign a DH, like Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, Vlad Guerrero, or Hideki Matsui. And of course, there are more options than the ones I listed.

Here is one last article on the Pineda-Montero trade:

David Waldstein of the NY Times writes about how the Yankees have bolstered their rotation.

Pineda & Kuroda now Yankees

Kuroda a Yankee as well pending a physical details to come…..

Jack Curry of YES Network reports that the Yankees have signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth between $10-11 million, pending a physical. The 37-year-old Kuroda has very quietly posted a quality 3.45 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over four seasons stateside, averaging 6.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. He’ll join a rotation which is set to include some combination of CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia.

Pineda to the Yankees and Montero to the Mariners

by Matt S.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Mariners have acquired Jesus Montero from the Yankees for right-hander Michael Pineda. Greg Johns of MLB.com was told by a team source that the Mariners will acquire Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi from the Yankees for Pineda and prospect right-hander Jose Campos. It’s a stunning deal in many respects, but the Mariners needed an impact bat in the worst way. It will be interesting to see whether he is used at designated hitter or whether the club tries to stick him behind the plate. Pineda turns 23 next week and posted a 3.74 ERA and 173/55 K/BB ratio over 171 innings as a rookie last season. He should fit quite nicely behind C.C. Sabathia in the rotation for the next few years.

Will Curtis Granderson Regress?

A hot end to Curtis Granderson’s 2010 season gave Yankee fans a lot to look forward to for his 2011 season. However, even the most optimistic Yankee fan could not have predicted how good Granderson would be in 2011. Granderson, who finished 4th in the A.L. MVP voting, finished 2011 batting .262, hitting 42 homers, knocking in 119 RBI, scoring 136 runs, and fishing with an .916 OPS. It was a testament to Kevin Long and Granderson’s work ethic that he could change so drastically after a miserable 2010 season. After having a career year last year a little regression probably should be expected for Granderson in 2012. How big of a regression and how it will affect the Yankees are the real questions.

I think Granderson will have a slight regression, but it’s probably one of the last things the Yankees need to worry about this year. I think that we will see improved years from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Also, having Jesus Montero be the full time DH will be a major upgrade over the multitude of players the Yankees had at DH last year.  This all would help even out a potential Granderson slippage. Granderson certainly will not regress back into his 2010 numbers. Ever since Long has revamped Granderson’s swing he has been a different player. Long cut out all of Granderson’s pre swing movements to take advantage of Granderson’s quick hands. This lead to a quicker and more compact swing. Also, Long had had Granderson keep both hands on the bat throughout the whole swing, which has also helped him. While Granderson’s power numbers are likely to come down he can offset that by being a more selective hitter.

Granderson’s only issue last year was that he stuck out a little too much. Granderson stuck out 169 times last year, and had a 24.5 K rate.  Granderson got a little impatient because pitchers stopped throwing him a lot of fastballs. Word got around quick that Granderson was crushing fastballs, and pitchers only threw him fastballs 51.1% of the time in 2011. A more patient approach would force pitchers to throw him more fastballs and Granderson could increase his career high walk rate of 12.3% last year.  Granderson swung at pitches outside the strike zone at a 25.7% clip and made contact with pitches outside the strike zone at a 60.8% clip. Both of those numbers were career high’s for Granderson. The fact that he is making better contact with pitches shows how he is improving as a hitter. However, it also leads to a lower BABIP (.295 last year for Granderson) and a lower regular batting average.  This shows that while Granderson had an MVP caliber year improving his plate discipline can help him even further.

Bill James predicts Granderson to go .348/.494/.842, with a .260 average, 31 homeruns, and 84 RBI. If he did that the Yankees would be fine, but I do expect him to do slightly better then that anyway. The Yankees are loaded offensively from the top of their lineup to the bottom. If Teixeira and Rodriguez hit to their potential, Montero hits anywhere close to what he did in Spetember, and Robinson Cano does his thing the Yankees can take a slight regression from Granderson.  Granderson is also one of the most well spoken guys and one of the best clubhouse guys on the Yankees, so he contributes in more ways than just on the field. Curtis Granderson is not in the least bit a concern for the Yankees this year and should have another stellar year.

Baseball America’s 2012 Top Yankee Prospects

Baseball America came out with their Top Prospects and of course they did one for the Yankees as well. The three lists include the top ten prospects, Best Tools (my favorite one to look at) and what the projected lineup will be in 2015 (pretty cool as well).  Below is all the information.  Enjoy and discuss what you agree and disagree with in the comments section.

TOP TEN PROSPECTS

1. Jesus Montero, c
2. Manny Banuelos, lhp
3. Dellin Betances, rhp
4. Gary Sanchez, c
5. Mason Williams, of
6. Dante Bichette, 3b
7. Ravel Santana, of
8. Austin Romine, c
9. J.R. Murphy, c/3b
10. Slade Heathcott, of

BEST TOOLS

Best Hitter for Average Jesus Montero
Best Power Hitter Jesus Montero
Best Strike Zone Discipline Ramon Flores
Fastest Baserunner Mason Williams
Best Athlete Mason Williams
Best Fastball Dellin Betances
Best Curveball Dellin Betances
Best Slider Mark Montgomery
Best Changup Manny Banuelos
Best Control Nik Turley
Best Defensive Catcher Austin Romine
Best Defensive Infielder Cito Culver
Best Infield Arm Cito Culver
Best Defensive OF Mason Williams
Best Outfield Arm Ravel Santana

PROJECTED 2015 LINEUP

Catcher Austin Romine
First Base Mark Teixeira
Second Base Robinson Cano
Third Base Alex Rodriguez
Shortstop Eduardo Nunez
Left Field Brett Gardner
Center Field Mason Williams
Right Field Curtis Granderson
Designated Hitter Jesus Montero
No. 1 Starter CC Sabathia
No. 2 Starter Manny Banuelos
No. 3 Starter Ivan Nova
No. 4 Starter Dellin Betances
No. 5 Starter Phil Hughes
Closer David Robertson
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