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Rodriguez hits an all time low as he faces suspension

250px-Alex_Rodriguez_2008-04-19

Alex Rodriguez isn’t the most popular choice for a Yankees fan. Heck, who could blame them? A-Rod’s career isn’t as glorious as half the women that he publicly has dated over the years. When the Yankees signed A-Rod, they knew what they were bargaining for. Rodriguez publicly revealed that he used steroids during his years with the Texas Rangers, causing Yankees fans to become uncertain with their newest 3B addition. Rodriguez has done some good for the Yankees; he helped win the World Series for the Yankees in 2009 (though most of the World Series heroics came from Hideki Matsui) but some good came with a price for the Yankees. A-Rod has struggled in the postseason every year aside from 2009, he’s been riddled with injuries and his antics on the field have caused uproars (going back to last postseason when A-Rod asked for a female fans phone number on a baseball). However, what could possibly come next for A-Rod overshadows the good and the upsetting things that he’s done in the past.

In Spring Training, there were reports that Alex Rodriguez was tied to the Biogensis reports, reports that said high profile ball players received illegal substances from a Miami clinic. Other names were mentioned such as Robinson Cano (who I’ve been told is not going to be suspended since his spokeswoman was the one tied, not him), Francisco Cervelli (who is in danger of being suspended 50-games), Ryan Braun (who on a technicality had his ruling overturned after he was suspected of using steroids during the offseason), Melky Cabrera (who already faced a suspension last season), Nelson Cruz and so many others. MLB agreed to look into the reports, leaving fans to wonder what could happen to some of these players.

Yesterday, MLB announced that they were planning on suspending players such as A-Rod, Ryan Braun and about 20 other players that were tied to the Biogensis reports. Rodriguez and Braun would face 100-game suspensions since they had used illegal substances in the past. With 20+ names on the Biogensis reports, why does A-Rod’s stick out like a sore thumb? Because of his 10-year contract with the New York Yankees that makes him one of the highest paid players in baseball.

If Rodriguez is proven guilty and MLB suspends him, this would be the ultimate all-time-low for A-R0d, tainting his career to the point of no return, and making him a disgrace to baseball. It’s easy for us to automatically assume that A-Rod is guilty given his past, but A-Rod’s fate could lie in the hands of the Biogensis reports and Major League Baseball.

I took to Twitter yesterday during the Yankees game, asking fans that if A-Rod was suspended if it would be the end to his career in Yankees pinstripes. Here’s what some tweeters had to say:

170px-Alex_Rodriguez_2008-05-28A-Rod is a player that has too much baggage, but the Yankees can’t easily get rid of him if he is guilty of using illegal substances once again. As some of the tweets mentioned, A-Rod is under contract and his contract is pretty ironclad to prevent him from losing everything if he decided on cheating again. The Yankees may be stuck with A-Rod’s contract for the next four years, but Major League Baseball can decide if A-Rod’s contract should be null and void. A-Rod’s fate is no longer in the hands of the Yankees, but in the hands of Major League Baseball, meaning that his future and possibly his career is on the line.

Major League Baseball will release more information in the coming days, elaborating on which players will be suspended and which players are off the hook. Looking from the business standpoint and the fan standpoint, both teams are feeling the exact same way when they look at A-Rod; disappointment. They can only hope that A-Rod doesn’t fall into a deeper hole.

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Yankees Offseason Notes: Yankees sign Dan Johnson; And then there was one; Game times for season

The Signing of Dan Johnson

The Yankees are still being quiet in the Major League department, but the Yankees have another player that they signed for a minor league job. The Yankees signed 1B/3B/DH Dan Johnson to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Now, those of you may know Johnson as the player who hit the game tying HR for the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 162 in 2011 against the Yankees (which allowed Tampa to make it to the playoffs and the Red Sox to go home). He played for the Chicago White Sox Triple-A affiliate last season batting .267 with 28 HR’s and 85 RBI’s. He also got a spot in the Triple-A All Star Game and placed second in the Home Run Derby.

Now, I know that Dan Johnson could be a good signing for the minor leagues, but the Yankees main focus should be the Major Leagues. They are basically without a catcher and they don’t have depth on their bench. Spring Training is in less than three weeks and this is the team that the Steinbrenner’s and Cashman want to put on the field?

Johnson has a slight chance to make the 25-man roster as the Yankees DH if he does well in Spring Training, but he could start the season in Triple-A which will once again, leave the Yankees with a thin roster.

Only One Left in Arbitration

I know I didn’t update about this since I was on vacation, but now I can officially report that almost all of the Yankees that were arbitration eligible have signed through the 2013 season–except for one. While Brett Gardner, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan don pinstripes for the season, David Robertson will go to an arbitrator with the Yankees if they don’t reach a deal before then. Robertson is the lone Yankee in arbitration and it’s puzzling why the Yankees haven’t worked out a deal with him as of yet. Just give Robertson what he’s asking for since he actually deserves it.

Yankees announce Game Times for 2013 season 

MLB announced today the times for the upcoming season for the Yankees. Now, while the Yankees calendar hasn’t been fully updated, here are some dates and times that have been updated.

April 5-7 (vs. Tigers): 1:05pm, 4:05pm, 1:05pm
April 8-11 (vs. Indians): 4:05pm, 7:05pm, 7:05pm, 7:05pm
May 10-12 (vs. Royals): 7:10pm, 6:10pm, 1:10pm
May 25 (vs. Rays): 4:10pm
June 16 (vs. Angels): 3:35pm
August 2-4 (vs. Padres): 7:10pm, 5:40pm, 1:10pm (All Eastern Time)
Final Series of Year (vs. Astros): 7:10pm, 6:10pm, 1:10pm

Yankees Offseason Notes: No one gets elected into the Hall of Fame

For the first time since 1996, no player had been elected into the Hall of Fame. The results were announced on MLB Network at around 2pm and while Craig Biggio got the most votes, he didn’t get enough in order to get elected. The player would need 75% of the votes in order to get elected. Here were the results from today’s Hall of Fame ballots.

Craig Biggio – 388 votes (68.2%)
Jack Morris — 385 votes (67.7%)
Jeff Bagwell — 339 votes (59.6%)
Mike Piazza — 329 votes (57.8%)
Tim Raines — 297 votes (52.2%)
Lee Smith — 272 votes (47.8%)
Curt Schilling — 221 votes (38.8%)
Roger Clemens — 214 votes (37.6%)
Barry Bonds — 206 votes (36.2%)
Edgar Martinez — 204 votes (35.9%)
Alan Trammell — 191 votes (33.6%)
Larry Walker — 123 votes (21.6%)
Fred McGriff — 118 votes (20.7%)
Dale Murphy — 106 votes (18.6%)
Mark McGwire — 96 votes (16.9%)
Don Mattingly — 75 votes (13.2%)
Sammy Sosa — 71 votes (12.5%)
Rafael Palmeiro — 50 votes (8.8%)
Bernie Williams — 19 votes (3.3%)

Now, after the results came out, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association director had some comments about today’s HOF shutout. Here was what each of them had to say.

MLB: “Major League Baseball recognizes that election to the Hall of Fame is our game’s most extraordinary individual honor. Achieving enshrinement in Cooperstown is difficult, as it should be, and there have been seven other years when no one was elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. While this year did not produce an electee, there are many worthy candidates who will merit consideration in the future. We respect both the longstanding process that the Hall of Fame has in place and the role of the BBWAA, whose members have voted in the Hall of Fame’s elections since 1936.”

MLBPA: “Today’s news that those members of the BBWAA afforded the privilege of casting ballots failed to elect even a single player to the Hall of Fame is unfortunate, if not sad. Those empowered to help the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum document the history of the game failed to recognize the contributions of several Hall of Fame worthy players. To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings — and others never even implicated — is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting.”

So now that we’ve had the first shutout in more than ten years, what is your reaction to no one getting in the HOF. Do you think the writers based the voting strictly on the steroid issue and went a little too far? Write your thoughts in the comments below.

The pro’s and cons of the new replay cameras

Hopefully the new replay cameras should they come into effect could prevent ejections as ugly as Joe Girardi’s in Detroit.

While baseball can be an exciting game, it can also be frustrating when an umpire you dislike makes a wrong call on a play and it is not reviewed. Moments like the Armando Galarraga blown perfect game would not exist if Major League Baseball had better replay sort of like football. After hearing constant (and overdue) pleas and cries from baseball fans, Bud Selig will finally test out some new replay cameras that could go into effect next season. However, the main question everyone has on their minds is where will they test the cameras to make sure that they get a fair share? That is where the New York Yankees and the New York Mets come in. Next week, the cameras will be placed in Yankee Stadium and they will test them to see if they work. The Yankees will not be around to see the cameras in action, as they will be on the road. Let us go over the ground rules about the cameras and what they would do, should they put the cameras into effect next season.

  1. The cameras will be either a radar camera or the cameras that they use in Tennis. MLB has not disclosed which cameras they would use if it goes through for the next season.
  2. The cameras are for the fair/foul balls down the line. (Sort of like when Joe Girardi was ejected during the Tigers series. It had to do with the fair/foul lines.)

Now, what could this mean for the Yankees and the rest of Major League Baseball? It means that not only fair/foul HR calls, so can base hits that are down the line that are questionable. This could come in handy for the Yankees but the only issue I see with the replays down the line is that the opposing team might question every ball that’s either fair or foul which could take away from play. A game is roughly 3 hours as it is. You would not want to prolong the game because a team wants to challenge multiple plays. A way that the teams could do that sort of replay is like in football, they get only three challenges. If there are three plays that are questionable for each team, then they could challenge it.

The cameras could be a great thing for Major League Baseball—and it might help when it comes to Joe Girardi having to avoid the umpires when the Yankees play in Detroit and a play goes wrong. Now, it is up to Major League Baseball to test the cameras and see if they could help enhance baseball next season because if there is one thing that Yankees fans do not like, it is when the Yankees are at the short end of the stick, because the umpires think they have the power.

Is Selig’s “New Deal” Working?

Maybe people haven’t been thinking about it much with the postseason still about two months away, but boy is change coming this October. The playoff format included in the new collective-bargaining agreement adds another wild card team to each league and a one-game playoff between the two wild cards to decide who plays in the ALDS.

If that’s not enough for you, the ALDS itself is going to run in a 2-3 format, like it did during the 1995-1997 seasons. Which means, the wild card team will have home-field for the first two games, and the higher-seeded, division winning club will have the remaining three, if necessary. Next year, it will go back to the 2-2-1 in place since 1998.

Maybe that was just a waste of web space, because most MLB fans are aware of what’s to come. And even though many of them, including myself, are opposed to it – in a way, Bud Selig’s original idea for this plan is being realized.

If the playoffs started today, 7 of 11 (three-way tie in AL Wild Card right now) teams would be in the playoffs for the first time since at least before last season. Selig’s hope for more first-time contenders (or first time in a long time – looking at you Baltimore and Pittsburgh) was one of his big reasons for adding the extra wild cards.

As much as it pains be to say this, there’s no doubt Selig knew what he was doing – at least for this season. It’s been exciting to this point, with a lot of teams contending who simply have been horrible in recent years. If those clubs keep it up and make it a tense, epic finish to the season come September, it might change my view – only slightly – on the new playoff system.

Of course the actual postseason need to be played, but I really have to hand it so Mr. Selig – you really hit the nail on the head for this one. You’ve crushed your fingers with mostly everything else though.

Major League Baseball unveils play-off schedule

The 2012 post season schedule had been released by Major League baseball, making October a postseason can’t miss event. Here is how it will work this season.

1. The 2012 postseason will begin on October 5, with the Wildcard games held on that date. The American League and National League Division series will begin on October 6 with the second and third seeded division winners from October 6-11 and the series with the top seed and the Wildcard winners on October 7-12 if necessary.

2. The ALCS will begin on October 13 and will run through October 21 while the NLCS will begin on October 14 and will run through October 22 if there is a Game 7.

3. After one day off, the World Series will take place on October 24 at the home of the National League Champion with Game 7 (if there is so) to be played at the same stadium on November 1.

There are somewhat a new format this year. Here are the new rules.

1. For the 2012 season only, the Division series will begin with two games in the lower seed’s ballpark and will end with up to three in the higher seed’s ballpark.

2. Although the format for the Champion series and the World series will be the same, there will only be two days off in each series: One between Game 2 and 3 and one between Game 5 and 6.

Broadcasting: TBS will broadcast the Wildcard games and up to 18 of the possible 20 games in the Division series round. MLB Network will have one Division series to be determined on October 7 and another on October 10. TBS will also broadcast the American League Championship series while FOX will broadcast the National League Championship series as well as the World Series.

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.

Yankees Top 40 Prospects for 2012

Could Mason Williams be #1 on this list next year?

Based on their recent actions and remarks, it seems the Yankees are serious about sticking to a smaller payroll now and at least through the 2014 season in an attempt to get under the $189 Million Luxury Tax threshold.  In order to do so, the club will need to look  to fill important positions from within and develop both impact and role players.

The Yankees system became known in recent years as being deep in Pitchers and Catchers but lacking in strong position prospects.  This was definitely a weakness identified by Mark Newman & Damon Oppenheimer and they addressed it by adding several solid up the middle athletes and corner players who can rake in the last 2 years.  Now, the system is more well-rounded although there is definitely a lack of upper-echelon hitters in the higher levels of the organization.

The system is still strong in upper level pitching. Even with Nova & Noesi graduating to NY, they still have 5 potential MLB starters in AAA (Banuelos, Betances, Warren, Phelps, DJ Mitchell).  The next level of pitching is led by Brett Marshall and several guys that need to take a step forward in 2012.  Oppenheimer has a history of drafting good college relievers and there are many strong-armed righties in the pipeline who could advance quickly.

Today, I will list the Top 40 with a quick blurb, then will follow-up with more in-depth on the Top 20 or so players in the coming weeks.  Each player has their position, Opening Day 2012 Age & expected level to start season.

1) Jesus Montero - C/DH, 22 – MLB

Has an elite bat that will make him a middle of the order MLB hitter for the next decade+. Rare blend of natural power to all fields with ability to make adjustments and take what pitcher gives him.   Only question is whether he will be anything more than a DH but a .300 hitter with 30 HR power will always find a spot even if he’s eventually a full-time DH.

2) Manny Banuelos- LHSP, 21 – AAA

Manny Banuelos

Had control issues in AA/AAA but most believe it’s just a matter of trying to be too fine as he has solid mechanics and repeats his delivery well.  Threw a career-high 130 innings so will be in line for 150-160 this year and could be ready to pitch for NY in 2nd half.

3) Gary Sanchez - C, 19 – HiA

Has big-time raw power and still growing into his 6’2″ frame.  His defense has been poor but I think he has the athleticism to convert to corner OF or 1B down the line and his bat is definitely strong enough to support such a switch.

4) Dellin Betances - RHSP, 24 - AAA

This is a big year for Betances. At 24, he needs to have a good year in AAA to prove he can pitch in a MLB rotation. Has plus, swing-and-miss stuff but most improve his control to cut down his pitch counts.

5) Mason Williams – CF, 20 – LoA

Dynamic player with plus-plus MLB speed and defense already. He put on a show in rookie ball and if he shows his offensive skills are for real this year in full-season ball, he may vault to #1 on this list next year.

6)  Dante Bichette, Jr. - 3B, 19 – LoA

Drafted for his plus power, he’s shown better defense than was thought. He’s really impressed the organization with his intangibles & makeup - namely his work ethic, advanced approach, knowledge of the game & leadership. Baseball America named him top prospect in Gulf Coast League and VP of baseball operations Mark Newman calls him “a special player and person.”

7) Austin Romine- C, 23 – AAA

His defense behind the plate is MLB-ready now.  His bat isn’t special but will be good enough for him to have a long career as a starting catcher in the bigs.

Phelps is a winner.

8) David Phelps - RHSP, 25 – AAA

Phelps is a winner who knows how to pitch. He’s 38-15 with a 2.61 ERA in his 4 years in the organization. He’s maintained the same solid numbers at every level including a 7.4 K/9 & 2.0 BB/9. Reminds me a little of Ian Kennedy. Missed time with shoulder issue but came back strong in August and was solid in AFL also.

9) Ravel Santana – OF, 19 – LoA

Tremendous physical skill set with power & speed. BA rated the wiry 6’2″ 160 pounder  right behind Bichette as best in the Gulf Coast League after he put up a .425 wOBA. Will have to overcome the broken ankle & torn ligaments he suffered last season so will likely start in extended ST this year.

10) Tyler Austin- 3B, 20 – LoA

Tyler Austin can hit for average and power.

I seem to be in the minority but I  really like this guy. He made his debut in the Gulf Coast and smashed to a .517 wOBA in 20 games, then followed up with .448 wOBA  in Staten Island. Has power to all fields and an advanced approach that helps him drive off-speed pitches. How many 20-year olds can you say that about? BA ranked him 8th best prospect in NY Penn League. Only question mark is his defense at 3B but he’s athletic enough to play the OF if need be. He even stole 18 of 18 bases in just 47 games which tells me he has good instincts and a feel for the game.

11) J.R. Murphy - C/3B, 20 – HiA

Improved his game offensively & defensively before ending season early with leg injury. Rips line drives to all fields and scouts now believe he has the ability to remain as a catcher while also showing the athleticism to play 3B and OF. Could become a very versatile asset in the Majors.

12) Slade Heathcott - CF, 21 – HiA

He’s Gardner-like in the OF right now and has more offensive potential. However, I’m a little concerned with his constant injuries and questionable makeup. To have his speed and get thrown out stealing 17 times in 38 attempts is baffling. But, if he matures and stays healthy, he could be special.

13) Brett Marshall- RHSP, 22 – AA

Brett Marshall

Now fully recovered from his 2009 Tommy John Surgery, he threw career high 140 IP with 3.24 FIP. Has good low 90s sinker and makings of a plus slider. Has flashed mid 90s velocity at times and will be interesting how he does in AA this year.

14) Adam Warren- RHSP,  24 – AAA

Warren is next in a succession of Yankee right handers, behind Nova and Noesi, ready to advance to the majors. He threw 152 IP in AAA with a 3.60 ERA and on a lesser team without depth, he’d have a great chance to make the rotation.

15) Corban Joseph - 2B, 23 – AAA

Has patient approach and nice lefty stroke that generates hard line drives but there are concerns about his defense at 2B and 3B. He had .346 wOBA in Trenton with 38 doubles and 8 triples but doesn’t get the lift and backspin to hit HRs.

16) Zoilo Almonte – OF, 22 – AA

Solid all-around skills. Good defense, speed and power that has improved the last 2 years. Yanks added the switch-hitter to their 40-man to protect him from Rule 5 draft and he could be a candidate to make the team in 2013.

17) Graham Stoneburner - RHSP, 24 – AA

Season was marred by a neck injury that kept him out 2 months and he was never quite effective as excellent debut in 2010. But he still has a great sinking fastball that gets tons of grounders.

18) David Adams - 2B, 24 – AA

The ankle injury he suffered in 2010 lingered all season and the Yankees were very careful with Adams. He played sparingly in only 29 games.  If he’s finally healthy this season he could progress quickly as he has an excellent bat that rips line drives to all fields.

19) Angelo Gumbs- 2B, 19 – LoA

Great up the middle athlete shows lightning quick bat speed and raw power to go with strong arm and nice speed. BA rated him 14th best prospect in NY Penn League where he had .341 wOBA, 4 triples & 11 SB in 220 PAs.

Nik Turley has that Andy Pettitte look down pat.

20) Nik Turley - LHSP. 22 – HiA

6’7″ lefty reminds me a litle of Andy Pettitte.  Took a step forward with 2.51 ERA and 8.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 82 IP in Charleston til a broken hand ended his season after being promoted to Tampa.

21) DJ Mitchell - RHSP, 24 – AAA

Similar to David Phelps, Mitchell is someone who just keeps pitching well and winning. Sinker/slider pitcher with solid change-up could be another back end starter/long-relief candidate.

22) Mark Montgomery - RHRP, 21 – HiA

Overwhelmed hitters with low-mid 90s Fastball and an unhittable slider leading to a 16.4 K/9 and 1.91 ERA as closer in Charleston.  His slider is just unfair to young hitters and he needs to be tested against more advanced hitters to see how quick he can advance.

23) Brandon Laird - 3B, 24 – AAA

Strong defensive 3B with good power but he doesn’t take many walks or hit for much average.  Has also played some 1B & LF so could be a backup candidate in NY.

24) Cito Culver- SS, 19 – LoA

Showed strong arm with smoothness in the field and compact swing from both sides of the plate. BA rated him 6th best prospect in NYPenn League where he hit .250/.323/.337.  He’s a project that will take time to develop his offensive game.

25) Ramon Flores - OF, 20 – HiA

Sweet lefty stroke and patient approach at plate, had .350 wOBA in Charleston. Good OF with strong arm and solid all-around tools. Only 5’10″ 160 so should get stronger and develop some pop.

26) George Kontos - RHRP, 26 – MLB

Standard FB/Slider reliever, held RH hitters to a .182 BAA in AAA.  Averages about a strikeout per inning but is a fly-ball pitcher who is prone to HRs.

27) Claudio Custodio - 2B, 21 – LoA

Talented 2B/SS with very good speed.  Hit ball well in GCL and  showed willingness to take a walk.  Hit .325 with .433 OBP and 26 SB in 28 attempts.

28) Tommy Kahnle - RHRP, 22 – HiA

Power reliever had 2.45 FIP in 81 IP with 12.4 K/9 but also 5.4 BB/9. Sits around 93-95 and can dial it up to 96-97 with a developing slider.  Needs to improve his command and secondary pitches.

29) Isias Tejada – C, 20 – LoA

Next in line of promising Yankee catcher prospects, Tejada showed his ability to make good, hard contact with a .971 OPS in the GCL with only a 12% strike out rate.

30) Brandon Pinder - RHRP, 23 – LoA

Dominated mostly younger hitters as closer in Staten Island with 11.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and 1.16 ERA.  Has great command of 94-95 mph Fastball but has no quality secondary pitch yet.

31) Bryan MitchellRHSP, 20 – LoA

Plus stuff but still very raw. Put things together by end of year and shows strikeout (8.6 K/9) and ground-ball stuff (2.19 GO/AO rate)

32) Jose Rosario- SS/2B, 20 – LoA

Hit just as well as teammate Bichette with .331 average and .529 SLG%.  He’s a hacker with a 3.2% Walk rate but he’s caught the attention of the organization and earned a late season promotion to Charleston. Mark Newman stated, “He can run (11 SB in 43 games) and throw. He hit 6 HRs, so he has some ability to impact the ball.  By diligence, he’s turning himself into a quality prospect.”

33) Taylor Morton - RHSP, 20 – LoA

Made impressive debut in GCL. The 6’3″ righty should get stronger and he already possesses a plus change, low 90′s FB and good command.

34) Rob Segedin - 3B, 23 – HiA

Big 3B/OF with strong hitting skills. Earned promotion with .395wOBA at Charleston but struggled some in Tampa. Yanks put him in AFL this Fall where he went .250/.367/.407.

35) Daniel Lopez – CF, 20 – LoA

Another emerging all-around athlete with good speed. Showed power potential this year hitting .327/.413/.490 with 27 SB in 61 games across 3 levels.

36) Jose Ramirez - RHSP, 22 – HiA

Promising arm took a step back this year but still notched strong K rates so stuff is still there.

37) Evan Rutckyj- LHSP, 20 – LoA

Big strong 6’5″ lefty got stronger as the season progressed and generates a lot of ground-balls.

38) Cesar Cabral - LHRP, 23 – MLB

Rule 5 pick from Red Sox system, he’ll have chance to make team in ST as second lefty in pen. Gets a lot of Ks with good Fastball and plus Changeup.

39) Pat Venditte SWRP, 26 – AAA

Doesn’t have dominating stuff but continues to post good overall numbers and solid K rates at every level.  Biggest drawback is he’s a heavy flyball pitcher.

40) Abe Almonte – OF, 22 – AA

Plus defender and baserunner but wildly inconsistent at the plate. Switch-hitter had huge 2nd half, riding a 30-game hitting streak and showing off good extra base hit power.  Needs to prove 2nd half surge was real at AA this year.

Other NotablesWalter Ibarra, Kyle Roller, Zach Nuding, Dan Burawa, Chase Whitley, Ronnie Mustlier, Yeicock Calderon, Robert Lyerly, Melky Mesa, Dan Brewer, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Ben Gamel, Gabe  Encinas, Matt Tracy, Zach Wilson, Evan DeLuca, Mikey O’Brien

New Additions to Watch in 2012: Greg Bird, Jake Cave, Matt Duran, Jordan Cote, Justin James, Dan Camarena, Hayden Sharp, Rookie Davis, Miquel Andujar

Hot Stove Targeting: Yu Darvish

Yanks finally get a shot at

After re-signing CC Sabathia in early November, Brian Cashman announced his OffSeason goal was “Pitching, pitching, pitching.”  Yet he has remained very patient and constantly said that the price for starting pitchers in Free Agency and the trade market was unreasonably high.  Although that is very true, could it be that Cashman has stalled so he can first take a shot at his most coveted target …….Yu Darvish?

By now, everyone has read a ton about Yu but let’s analyze his pros & cons to see if he’s worth the high cash commitment it will take to get him.

Positives

Yu Darvish is the most dominating pitcher in Japanese baseball with 5 straight seasons of sub-2.00 ERAs. It’s very difficult to translate NPB stats to MLB, but to give an idea of his dominance, Yu is 76-28 with a 1.73 ERA.  This season was his best as he went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA , 10.7 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and a miniscule 0.83 WHIP over 232 IP.

Once again, stats in Japan don’t translate well in the U.S. so it’s best to look at Yu from a scouting standpoint. From the videos I’ve seen and the scouting reports I’ve read, this is what I would say about him:

  • He’s a 25-year-old who really matured physically in the last 2 yrs. Films from early in his career were of a tall, lanky kid but it’s obvious he’s worked hard to add strength and he’s now a solid built 6’5″ 220 pounder with long arms & legs, a strong base and trunk – really an ideal pitcher’s body.
  • His solid base gives him good balance which he uses to maintain his delivery.  He has a fluid throwing motion with a slight pause that adds deception.
  • Darvish has a Plus-Fastball that sits in the 93-95 range and gets it up to 96-97.  He also throws a nice 2-seamer which is only about 1 MPH slower and gets good movement down and in on righties. Darvish also Cuts his Fastball away from righties in the 89-92 range
  • His Slider is his best pitch and a true out-pitch. He seems to change speeds on it, sometimes throwing a slower Slurve in the 79 to 82 range but its most effective when thrown harder with 2-plane break in the 83-86 range.
  • Yu throws both a Forkball and a standard ChangeUp that appear to be above average offerings as well
  • His balance and repeatable mechanics give him good command of his pitches and he attacks hitters.  Scouts have raved about his knowledge of pitching, pitchability and his competitiveness. All great attributes.

Negatives

There are really no negatives to his game.  All of the questions surrounding him are the typical ones that face any pitcher looking to make the jump from japan to the U.S.  How will he adjust to the different baseball, the 5-day rotation, the MLB hitters and the American culture.

While these are all legitimate concerns, I believe Yu is the best prepared of any Japanese pitcher to come to the U.S. ever. For one, he is still young enough to be able to adapt his routines and game as needed.  Secondly, he is a big, strong power pitcher with command who’s stuff should translate nicely to MLB.  Unlike DiceK who relied on deception and multiple off-speed pitches to get hitters to chase, Darvish comes right at hitters with stuff that will give any hitter a hard time.  He’s also been much more dominating in Japan than DiceK ever was.

Year Age Team W L SV ERA G IP SO
2005 18 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 5 5 0 3.53 14 94.1 52
2006 19 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 12 5 0 2.89 25 149.2 115
2007 20 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 15 5 0 1.82 26 207.2 210
2008 21 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 16 4 0 1.88 25 200.2 208
2009 22 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 15 5 0 1.73 23 182.0 167
2010 23 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 12 8 0 1.78 26 202.0 222
2011 24 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 18 6 0 1.44 28 232.0 276

Expectations

Of course he won’t dominate MLB hitters with a 1.44 ERA but I expect Darvish to have success right away and fall in as a solid #2 starter with ace potential when he reaches his prime. He’s still only 25 and growing as a pitcher so we still haven’t seen his best yet.  While the change to a 5-day rotation will take getting used to, I see Darvish as an eventual horse who could be a durable 200+ IP per year starter.

Fit for the Yankees?

Darvish is just what the Yankees need.  A big, strong, young, smart starter to slot in behind C.C. for the next 5-6 years.  The Yankee brass has been watching Yu for at least 3 years that we know of and everyone from scout Rick Williams to Director of Pro Scouting Billy Eppler to VP of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer have watched him pitch in Japan.  While Cashman is rightfully downplaying his interest in Darvish, he has conceded that he learned from his mistakes with Kei Igawa and made sure to get a full picture this time with numerous scouting reports and many different sets of eyes on him.  “I think with anything else, you learn over time.  I think we’re more prepared today than we have been in the past”, Cashman remarked when asked about Darvish.

Cost to Acquire

The bidding process is an archaic concept and a total crapshoot.  So as much as the Yankees may want him, there is no guarantee some team like the Marlins or Nationals doesn’t make a ridiculous bid that the Yanks will never have an opportunity to beat.  You get one shot at it.  It’s very difficult to estimate but I think the winning bid is going to be somewhere around the Matsuzaka bid and will be in the $40-60 Million range.

Once the posting fee is paid, Arn Tellem & Don Nomura will look to negotiate the best deal for him and I’d estimate it being a 5 or 6 year deal worth about $10-13 Million per yr. So I’d say the total outlay will be in the neighborhood of $100-130M.  When you consider that the posting fee doesn’t count towards the Luxury tax, it would seem that the total cost of signing Darvish would be the same or less than signing C.J. Wilson to a 6 yr – $100M+ deal.  Athough CJ has MLB experience, he’s also 6 full years older than Darvish and about to enter the downside of his career while the Yanks would be getting the 6 most prime seasons in a pitcher’s career from Yu.

The other obvious advantages of obtaining Darvish, is Cashman won’t have to give up any draft picks like he would for a FA or any prospects like he’d have to ship off in a trade. Also, the fact that Darvish’ salary will be significantly lower than a prime FA like CJ Wilson, it gives the team at least a chance to get the payroll under $189M for the 2014 season.  While this will be an extremely difficult chore and will preclude any other big-ticket signings for the next 3 years, it’s still a possibility.

And last but not least, there is the WOW factor and the instant media attention any team who gets Darvish will get.  Yu Darvish is an icon in Japan much like Hideki Matsui & Ichiro were so his new team will see added attendance and attention from Japanese fans and advertisers.  This is definitely important for any team.

Prediction?

I think Darvish is worth the risk since the Yanks potentially get the #2 they desperately need while keeping all their prospects, picks and keeping the total salary under control.  The big risk is the large posting fee but money is the Yankees #1 asset so why not use it?  They won’t be able to use it in the Draft or International Amateur market any longer so this is the chance to flex the financial muscle they have.  How much would they pay to acquire a Matt Cain, Josh Johnson, Stephen Strasburg or Felix Hernandez? Darvish compares favorably with those guys from a size, scouting and age standpoint – the only thing he lacks is the proof that he can succeed in MLB.

I think the Yanks will bid highly for Darvish as I think he’s their #1 target this yr.  However, teams like Texas, Washington, Toronto & Florida have also been linked as front-runners.  I wouldn’t rule out any team here. What about the Red Sox? Bobby Valentine coached in Japan for years and he said on a broadcast this year that Yu Darvish was the BEST pitcher in the WORLD! So if Bobby V. feels that strongly, you know he’s trying to lobby Boston to bid heavily. Then you have teams like Toronto, Texas & Florida who all are said to be raising payroll significantly this yr. And how about Epstein in Chicago? Or maybe the Angels if they miss on CJ….the possibilities are endless and the process gives any team a chance.

If you were the Yanks, what would be your bid and what will the winning bid be? I’d bid……$55,000,055 if I were Cashman but I have a feeling some crazy team will bid over $60 Million.

Selig, Players sign new player deal; New changes to season

Selig , Players sign new deal; New changes to season

By Delia E. 

Earlier today, Commissioner of Major League Baseball Bud Selig released the new collective bargaining agreement which was signed by players and managers. This deal prevented an MLB lockout, but it also brings some hefty new rules. Here are some key important notes that will be changed in the 2012-2013 seasons:

  • Beginning no later than in 2013, Postseason play will be expanded for the first time since 1995. A second Wild Card will be awarded to the club in each division with the second best overall record among Clubs that do not win a division. The two Wild Card clubs will play a single Postseason game, the winner of which will advance to the Division Series. A decision on adding 2 Wild Card teams will be made no later than March 1, 2012
  • The Houston Astros will move to the American League West starting in 2013, creating two leagues of 15 clubs each.
  • Starting in 2013, Interleague games will be played throughout the entire schedule, rather than exclusively in specific inter-league segments.
  • Active roster limits will be expanded to 26 for certain regular or split doubleheaders.
  • Players, managers, and coaches will be prohibited from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews and club appearances. In addition, any time when fans are permitted in the ballpark, players, managers and coaches must conceal tobacco products in their uniforms or on their bodies. Individuals who violate the policy will be subject to discipline.
  • Commencing on Spring Training 2012, all players will be subject to HGH blood testing for reasonable cause at all times during the year. In addition, all players will be tested during Spring Training each year.
  • Participation in the All-Star Game is MANDATORY unless the player is unable to play due to injury or is otherwise excused by the Office of the Commissioner. Player’s trust will receive an increased contribution and players will receive additional benefits.

For the FULL agreement click here.

Morning Bits: Offseason Pace, Danks brothers

Sorry folks for the lack of links, but if you type in “Yankees” to Google, you won’t find much at the moment.

Anyway, here is your morning Yankees link:

— Dan Martin of the NY Post talks about how slow the offseason is moving for the Yankees.

Involving the MLB:

— Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com opines that with the new labor deal, Bud Selig has made the MLB the model for pro sports.

And here is something that caught my eye on MLBTR:

— The White Sox did not add Jordan Danks, the younger brother of John Danks, to their 40-Man Roster. A White Sox blogger, Jim Margalus, speculated that this possible signifies that the Sox are preparing to part ways with the elder brother, John. How so? Well you’ll just have to read it.

If the White Sox are indeed shopping John Danks, I’m all for the Yankees pursuing him.

New Labor Agreement Reached

New Labor Agreement Reached

by Matt S.

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, a new labor agreement has been officially agreed upon.

Full details of the new CBA will be announced Monday. The expectation is that hard slotting for the amateur draft will not be implemented, but that some form of an overall draft spending cap might be enforced on teams beginning next June. There will also be significant changes to free agent compensation, with some reports saying that Type B statuses could be completely thrown out. We’ll have to wait until Monday to sort it all out.

Open Thread

Not much news tonight in yankee land so let’s take a look around the MLB.   Enjoy and have a good night

According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, Bobby Valentine has met with at least one Red Sox owner and will meet with more.

Valentine wouldn’t comment on the situation to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe earlier in the day Thursday, but now multiple sources are reporting that the Red Sox have reached out to him about their vacant managerial position. When Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington began his search, he was targeting candidates without major league managerial experience, but it’s safe to say they have shifted in a radically different direction.

Clayton Kershaw was named the National League Cy Young Award winner Thursday.

Kershaw, 23, is the youngest Cy Young winner since Dwight Gooden won the award as a 20-year-old in 1985. It was hard to go wrong with this excellent field of candidates, but Kershaw was the clear favorite after leading the National League this season with a 2.28 ERA, 248 strikeouts and (tied) 21 wins. The southpaw took home 27 of 32 first-place votes while Roy Halladay received four and Ian Kennedy got one. Halladay finished second in the balloting and Cliff Lee placed third.

Source: BBWAA.com

According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, C.J. Wilson will visit the Angels on Monday.

It should be the first of several stops for Wilson, who is the most coveted pitcher on the free agent market. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto hasn’t been shy about his interest thus far, holding a lengthy meeting Wilson’s agent, Bob Garber, at the general managers’ meetings Monday in Milwaukee. It’s believed that Wilson is looking for a six-year contract in excess of $100 million.

World Series Game 5 (Open Thread)

The series is now tied at 2 games a piece. The Cardinals’ bats went silent last night.   I would find it hard to believe that they could go silent two games in a row.  We might be seeing a soon-to-be Yankee pitching tonight. Enjoy the game everyone.

TEAMS TIME (ET) NAT TV PITCHERS
St. Louis at Texas 8:05 PM FOX Chris Carpenter vs. CJ Wilson

World Series Game 4 (Open Thread)

Can he hit another homerun tonight?

Hello all.  I hope you all had an amazing weekend like i did.  Great time with great family and friends.  Tonight is Game 4 of the world series.  After all of those runs scored last night thanks to Albert Pujols, I would guess tonight could be a pitching duel.   Me personally– bring on the more runs.  Sit back and enjoy.

TEAMS TIME (ET) NAT TV PITCHERS
St. Louis at Texas 8:05 PM FOX Edwin Jackson vs Derek Holland

Open Thread | Evening Notes

A day off today, but Game 3 is tomorrow at 8:05 ET.

Good evening everyone. Hardly anything going on in the Yankee realm today, but here are some notes / links for this open thread.

— If you have MLB Network, tune in at 8pm ET. Bob Costas will be interviewing MLB commissioner, Bud Selig, in a 30 minute taped interview. It will cover: “Selig’s thoughts on the 2012 All-Star Game, expanding the use of instant replay, adding a Postseason Wild Card team in each league, and divisional realignment.” (Lohud)

— According to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNY, the Yankees will meet the Mets in the 2012 Spring Training. The last time the two teams met in Spring Training was in 1996.

— The World Series will recommence tomorrow in Game 3, in Texas. A quick fact: The winner of Game 3 has gone on to win 10 of the past 11 World Series’. (MLB)

— The Yankees like Yu Darvish quite a lot. They see him as a his powerful young arm, in addition to his ability to throw his secondary pitches for strikes as well. The overall consensus is that Darvish has been scouted by the Yanks’ over the past 3 years, with positive reports, but unidentifiable interest. (Marc Carig)

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