Sep
01

Jonathan Albaladejo’s big chance

By

Today’s September 1st, so that means dozens of prospects, former big leaguers, has-beens, never will-bes, and more will join the 30 big league teams as they expand their rosters down the stretch. For most of the clubs, it’s a time to give some youngsters a look or back off their young starting pitchers, stuff like that. For a guy like Jon Albaladejo, who the Yankees will activate before tonight’s game, it’s an audition for a future job.

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Albaladejo, the portly 27-year-old righthanded reliever, failed to make the Yanks’ Opening Day this season for the first time since joining the organization following the 2007 campaign, and that’s because he was simply atrocious in Spring Training. He appeared in five games, recorded just eight outs, and allowed 16 (!!!) hits and 11 runs. He walked a pair and struck out just one. With last year’s stellar relief corps intact (plus some new additions), it was going to be tough enough for Albie to crack the bullpen to start with, but his performance in camp cemented his trip to Triple-A Scranton.

With his sinker-slider approach apparently no longer doing the trick, Albaladejo decided to reinvent himself as a more traditional power pitcher. The sinker was replaced with a more traditional four-seamer that has registered in the mid-90′s, the slider with a 12-to-6 curveball. Well, he still throws the sinker and slider on occasion, but they’re nothing more than his third and fourth pitches right now. That’s pretty good for a reliever.

The results of the change were staggering. Albaladejo struck out 82 batters and walked just 18 in 63.1 innings this season, and opponents hit just .170 off him. A mere 22 of the 113 righthanded batters he faced with Scranton this year reached base, and exactly double that number went down on strike three. Along the way he saved 43 games, setting franchise and International League records. Clearly, the new Jon Albaladejo was a force to be reckoned with, and it’s just a matter of proving himself against big league competition now.

Albie showed off his new approach in a brief late-July call-up, when he allowed a run and struck out three in 2.2 innings of work spread across a pair of appearances. Basically a one inning pitcher all season, he appeared to fatigue in the second inning of his first appearance, when he allowed a single (the baserunner was then erased on a caught stealing) and a walk before giving way to Chan Ho Park, who of course allowed the inherited runner to score when he served up a homerun ball on the second pitch he threw. It wasn’t much to judge the new Albaladejo by, but it was obvious that all the talk of his new fastball-curveball combo was more than just talk, it was reality.

September, like Spring Training, isn’t the best time to evaluate players because of the diluted talent pool, but sometimes we’re forced to do it. That’s what the Yankees are going to have to do with Albaladejo, who’s going to be out of options next season. He’s either going to have to stick with the big league club out of Spring Training in 2011 or be placed on waivers before going to the minor leagues. Given the dearth of quality relievers and Albie’s kick-ass Triple-A performance, there’s a pretty good chance someone will give him a whirl. Hell, someone claimed Chan Ho freaking Park off waivers, Albaladejo’s not making it through.

David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Kerry Wood figure to remain Joe Girardi‘s primary righthanded setup relievers down the stretch and rightfully so, which means Albaladejo’s going to have to make the most of whatever playing time he gets. That’s probably going to be sixth and seventh inning work in close but probably still trailing games or blowouts. And remember, Albie’s not just pitching for a job with the Yankees next year, he’s basically auditioning himself for the other 29 clubs as well. Perhaps the Yanks could net something in a trade after the season than risk losing him for no return off waivers.

Jon Albaladejo’s reemergence this year was just one of several pleasant pitching surprises in the farm system this season, but unlike the rest of the guys down there, the Yanks don’t have the luxury of time in this case. Surely they’ve been evaluating him all season long, but this month they’re going to get a crash course look at what he can do against Major League hitters and use that to make a decision on his future with the organization. Hopefully he takes advantage of it.

Categories : Pitching
  • BadaBling

    With the way Joba and Robertson pitched to start the season I’m surprised Albie spent almost the entire season in AAA. He wasn’t just good, his numbers were great. Hopefully the continued success in AAA translates into a sub 3 ERA, low walk totals, a K per IP in the real league and a solid option for Giardi down the stretch, I’m really rooting for the kid!

  • Kevin M.

    What’s really funny about Alby is that when he stunk the last 2 years they would give him chance after chance to succeed. Now that he actually might be really good they have thus far refused to give him any real chances at all. Very odd.

    Wishing him he best of luck (and hoping he gets an actualy chance to show what he’s got).

    • FachoinaNYY

      Exactly what i was thinking (in regards to you point about him previously getting loads of chances).

      I am wondering if the yanks know something that we don’t about him… they certainly seem to have doubts about him with all the struggles of the bullpen throughout the year.

      Im rooting for him too, obviously, but its very curious how the yanks handles him this year.

      • FachoinaNYY

        …and by my second sentence I meant with all the struggles of the bullpen, they had to have some reason not to call him up when he looked to be much improved.

  • jsbrendog (returns)

    so let’s say for arguments sake he is the real deal. next year that gives you Mo, Robertson, Aceves, Albie, Logan, Marte, and Joba under contract right? with mitre, gaudin, wood all being gone. assuming marte is healthy that sounds like a pretty damn solid bullpen. Then, if Joba goes to the rotation you can add a long reliever (i know, pipe dreams.) even so it seems that if albie is the real deal there is no reason not to keep him and have a stellar bullpen next year

    disclaimer: relievers are volatile and every single guy on this list could end up sucking epically next year (non mo division)

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    Leaving him in the minors, while frustrating at times, was a good problem to have. I really hope he gets a solid shot this month and next year. Great points above by both Kevin M. and the brendog too.

  • LeftyLarry

    Exactly, Kevin.He certainly deserved to be up here earlier.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    2011 Bridge to Mowhere?

    You’ve gotta figure that 4 of the 6 non-Mo relievers on the 2011 Opening Day team will be DRob, Aceves, Logan, and Marte. Joba would be the 5th if Andy comes back and there’s no room for Mr. Grunt and Fart in the rotation.

    That leaves one spot open for Albaladejo, Romulo Sanchez (who’s gotta be out of options at this point, no?), and whatever veteran flotsam/jetsam we either bring back for another year (Moseley, Mitre, Gaudin, etc.) or sign out of the non-Type-A reliever FA grab-bag, CHoP-style (Joaquin Benoit? J.J. Putz? Randy Choate? Jesse Crain? Koji Uehara? Chad Qualls? Pedro Feliciano? Joe Beimel? Will Ohman? Scot Shields? Ron Mahay?)

    Or, Kerry Wood could love NYC and being the heir apparent to Mo and re-up at a reduced rate… but I’m not holding my breath. If that happens, we’ve got to either dump Albie or trade a vet to open a spot for him (Marte?)

    ————-

    Or, we could make Ivan Nova the 7th member of the pen as the longman and thus kick Albie out of the bullpen again. So many options.

    I’d really like to give the 8th to a DRob/Ace/Logan/Albie or Wood combo to free Joba up to be a situational reliever who can be the designated 6th starter and longman, to keep Nova in the minors for flexibility.

    • Kevin G.

      Man, this team is really deep… and thick.

      • jsbrendog (returns)

        that’s what sh….oh forget it

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      1. the names in the non type a reliever fa grab bag make me queasy

      2. no one will trade for marte at $4+ mil a yr after having missed basically 2 entire seasons

      other than that sure. yeah.

      ———–

      i think if nova isnt in the rotation he should be in aaa further honing his craft awaiting the 6th starter spot we all know is so necessary. and joba should be in the rotation. unfortunately, this drum has had balls rubbed on it and been broken most likely

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        the names in the non type a reliever fa grab bag make me queasy

        Depending on price, I’d be all over J.J. Putz like white on Boston rice. Outside of his lost year with the Mets (which probably was just MetStank rubbing off on him), he’s been a 160 ERA+ reliever for the past 6 years.

        Jesse Crain has been a very good reliever for the Twinkies for a while now.

        And all of those lefty hurlers are quite effective against lefties. Those relievers are all better than you’re making them seem.

    • Total Dominication

      Tremendous Depth.

  • vin

    The emergence of Albaladejo really took the sting off Melancon’s awful season and subsequent departure. Fastball/curveball single inning reliever who has dominated AAA? That was Melancon up until his demotion this year.

  • Ross in Jersey

    I just have a sinking feeling that Albie won’t get a fair shake, and that he won’t get enough credit for what he’s done at AAA. I could see the Yankees just letting him go, and him ending up being a valuable piece of someone else’s pen. Here’s hoping he gets in a bunch of games so he isn’t a victim of the SSS.

    • Tank Foster

      How cool that he’s succeeding with a new approach. But I fear Ross is right. As good as he was all season, and as bad as the Yankee bullpen was at times, you wonder why Alby wasn’t with the major league club more this season. You get the feeling they’ve sort of given up on him as being a viable option on the MLB level. But I hope not. Can you imagine what a difference he could make for the postseason roster? Having a guy with an effective power arm, who hasn’t been seen by the MLB hitters all season makes me burst into fits of maniacal laughter.

      • Mariano’s Pimp Hand

        If can do what David Price did in 2008 I’ll join you in your maniacal laughing.

  • larryf

    Albie the first to tell you that dejo has a unique stretch. He tows the rubber and shakes/taps his BACK leg and foot before delivering to the plate. We all know Mo taps his front foot down a few times before coming set to deliver. I have never seen what Alby does but he has been successful so who cares. Watch for it.

  • Gmat

    I wouldn’t say that he *should* have been called up earlier. He had a chance to refine his new approach on a more consistent basis in AAA than he would’ve at the ML level. If he was lower on the bullpen depth chart, he wouldn’t pitch as often and probably would be just as ineffective as his first few stints. Melancon came up and was lost deep in the bullpen, we never saw him.
    This way, he was able to pitch enough where it’s no longer a small sample size in the minors. He was able to work and build on his arsenal, and now they have a better idea of how it will translate to the ML level.

  • Matt :: Sec105

    no video of him going bat-shit crazy from the other night?

  • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

    Heres to hoping Albie gets his shot.

    After the year he has had, I do not see how you can just let this guy walk out of your organization (aka placing him on waivers). We had guys like Chan Ho, Mitre, Gaudin and Moseley on this team ALL SEASON, and we can’t make room for Albie?

    • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

      Another point…

      Look at the lack of quality relievers available at this year’s deadline. If Albie can at least stick with the team for the 1st half of the season or so, he would certainly net a valuable piece or 2.

  • larryf

    I like the potential of a “Dejo” cheer with his name…

  • MikeD

    One of the great strengths of the Yankees since Torre left is how the team has extended the bullpen down to AAA, and build their pen, almost on the fly, every season. It’s worked well for three straight years, so kudos to Cashman and Girardi for taking the approach and making it work.

    If Albie looks good, he’ll be in Spring Training.

    BTW Did Albie also lose weight? He looks thinner. Or have I gotten used to CC and everyone else now looks thin?