Mailbag: Hughes, Wang, Prospects, Farm Teams

The Montero Era begins with comeback win
Series Preview: Blue Jays at Yankees

Four questions on this Friday morning, one about a current Yankees’ pitcher, one about a former Yankees’ pitcher, and a pair about the farm system. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Shai asks: Is Hughes a candidate for fall/winter ball? Given his few innings this year and his obvious need for secondary pitch development maybe it would be good for winter ball participation.

Yeah, I definitely think so. The Arizona Fall League eligibility rules have apparently changed since I last looked at them, but Phil Hughes is ineligible anyway because he has more than a year of service time. They could send him to Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, but I can’t ever remember the Yankees sending a pitcher to a Latin America winter league. I know Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera used to play in the DSL every year, but they’re obviously not pitchers. Hughes needs innings one way or the other, whether the Yankees consider him part of their future or not. Another handful of starts in winter ball.

RCK asks: Do you know what the incentives are on Chien Ming Wang’s contract? I can only find articles saying they’re worth $4MM total, but nothing about what the milestones are. Speaking of Wang, where do you think he’ll land next year?

Wanger signed a one-year deal with the Nationals worth $1M guaranteed this offseason after they paid him $3M last season. There’s another $4M worth of incentives in his contract, and Mark Zuckerman says they’re based on the number of games he started. I have no idea what the breakdown is, though he’s made six starts this season and might already be banking some of that extra cash.

It’s great that Wang is back in the big leagues, I’m legitimately happy for him, but he’s having a very odd season so far. He’s walked 13 and struck out just nine, and his ground ball rate is merely very good at 54.5%. In his heyday (2006 and 2007), he was at 60.8% grounders. After spending all that money and waiting all that time for him rehab, I have to imagine the Nationals will re-sign him after the season, when he’ll become a free agent by virtue of having six-plus years of service time. Wang still has a long way to go in his comeback, but he’s off to a nice little start.

Will asks: Which Yankee prospects have seen their stock rise and which have seen their stock tumble? Can you see any players make the BA Top 100 list for the first time and can you see anyone drop in their ranking?

(Tom Priddy/

The two biggest risers for me are Mason Williams and J.R. Murphy, and I really liked Murphy coming into the season. His improved defense behind the plate increases his stock considerably, it’s just a shame that his season ended prematurely with that leg injury. I remember seeing someone mention that it happened on a foul ball, but I haven’t seen that confirmed anywhere. Williams obvious had the huge season with Short Season Staten Island, but apparently he has way more power potential than I realized. I thought he was a 10-12 homer guy at his peak, but apparently he’s got a shot at 20+. That would be amazing given the rest of his skill set and athleticism.

As far as droppers … I mean obviously the big one is Andrew Brackman. Yes, he has pitched much better of late (since that nine walk, 3.1 IP disaster), but it doesn’t erase what happened earlier in the year. He’s not young (in prospect years) and he still has a ways to go before proving that the improvement is real. Slade Heathcott‘s third shoulder injury in four years really puts a damper on things for me, because it’s the same body part over and over. You have to worry if it’ll become (or already has become) a chronic problem. All the time Graham Stoneburner missed because of the neck certainly isn’t a positive, same deal with David Adams and his never-ending injury troubles. Ryan Pope had a chance to see big league bullpen time this year but wound up hurt, back in Double-A, and eventually DFA’d. Melky Mesa and Jose Ramirez didn’t help their causes either.

The Yankees landed six players on Baseball America’s Top 100 List and five on Keith Law’s Top 100 List before the season. Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances are locks for the list next year, and I think Gary Sanchez has a decent shot of making it again as well. It’s not set in stone though. I have to imagine Brackman will drop off the list, and Austin Romine was barely sneaking on in the first place. Williams is the only serious candidate to jump into the list, and if he does so it’ll be in the back half somewhere, 75-100 or so. There will be many guys closer to the majors ahead of him. So what’s that, three shoo-ins and three others with a legit chance to make it? Not bad at all.

Melvin asks: For the next mailbag, what (if anything) does it mean that most of the Yankees farm teams aren’t making the playoffs? The farm system is well regarded in terms of prospects, is it maybe just a matter of the non-prospects not performing? So in short, does this even matter?

Winning in the minors is always secondary to development, but everyone wants to win. It’s good for business (for the affiliates), and you don’t want your young players getting familiar with a losing atmosphere. The Yankees’ four full-season minor league affiliates are likely to miss the postseason this year for the first time (as a group) in basically forever, but I don’t think it means anything at all. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an anomaly.

New York’s affiliates have been making the postseason and winning league championships for years now, so this is way out of the ordinary. At least one of the full season squads has won a championship every year from 2007 through 2010, and that doesn’t count the five titles won by Short Season Staten Island since 2000, or the four the GCL Yankees have won since 2004. Yankees affiliates have finished the season with a combined over-.500 record in each of the last 28 years, and the streak is likely to continue in 2011. If none of the four full season teams make the playoffs again next year, and then against the year after that, and it starts to become a trend, then I’ll wonder what’s up. But one year? Nah, I’m just chalking it up to being a total fluke.

The Montero Era begins with comeback win
Series Preview: Blue Jays at Yankees
  • JohnC

    Even though for the most part Brackman has had a horrible year, its still good to see him bounce back and have a strong finish. Certainly bodes well for his confidence heading into next season. I hope he goes to the Fall Instructional League and continues to work on things with the coaches.

    • bottom line

      Brackman has twice recovered from awful wildness in starting roles to pitch well out of the pen. Minor league wildness often reflects nothing more than pitchers being asked to use secondary pitches that are not yet fully developed. This winds up affecting even established pitches. At some point, Yanks may decide Brackman is a two-pitch guy who could do very well in relief. I’m hoping he gets some innings out of pen on big league club this month.

      • Ted Nelson

        “Minor league wildness often reflects nothing more than pitchers being asked to use secondary pitches that are not yet fully developed.”

        Often maybe, but we are talking about one particular case of a guy who could not locate his FB to save his life… not what often happens to the average prospect.

        • Ed

          We’re also talking about a freakishly tall pitcher. Those guys are known to take much longer to develop their mechanics.

          We also know that the team had him change his mechanics this year, and his improvement corresponded with when he reverted back to his previous mechanics.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    In addition to developing another pitch, Hughes really needs better conditioning this off season. He really looked fat and out of shape going into this season.

    • A random poster

      Hughes is Larry Holmes status… Flabby and sick.

  • Ted Nelson

    My concern with Hughes is still that his shoulder isn’t right. Not that I know anything about his health, but I would have been more comfortable with them just shutting him down for the year than giving him a cortisone shot for an unknown shoulder injury he claimed didn’t hurt and change his mechanics so that he’s short-arming the hell out of the ball.

    So… I would really rather see him rest this offseason than throw more innings. Not that I think my opinion is worth much on the subject.

    • JimIsBored (Jim S)

      He maintained 92 all the way through his start yesterday.

      I know you’re not basing it on anything concrete, but that’s still an odd time to bring up his shoulder issues.

      That being said, I think I’d be on the side of more rest too.

      • Ted Nelson

        Yeah, I’m not saying this is something that’s come into my head recently.

  • DERP

    Klaw said we should call Brackman up. Would be nice to see.

  • a.hinds

    the yankees broke phil hughes right? i mean he pitched 90 more innings than the year before. i mean, wtf.
    its the reason he started sucking the second half, and the reason he broke out the gate with a “dead arm” that seems really obvious to me, but no one in the media seems to be screaming this. and its really annoying because the blame seems to be put on phil, he sucks, he’s out of shape…. how about he’s fucking hurt because the yankees blew his god damn arm out.

    im very political and progressive and i think the media(4th estate) is obsessed with access to the rich and power full, this is why corporate media does not ask tough questions, ever! unless its a sex scandal…..
    is this whats going on wit phil hughes and the yankees? a reporters not saying this because it might piss the yankees off? i dont really think so honestly its just something that crossed my mind. but its the most obvious thing ever. the guy got pitched into the ground!!

    even in the article about scott procter’s right arm there was the obligatory mentioning of death by bullpen. why isnt this brought up every time phil goes out their and sucks….

    imagine if he needed tommy john…. their would have been no ragging on him like you see now, he would have been left alone/forgotten because he was legitimately injured. i feel right now phil hughes is legitimately damaged if not injured because of his 2010 workload.

    The yankees broke phil hughes.

    • Jorge

      I think there are many chapters left in the story of Phil Hughes. I am far more interested in seeing how he looks in 2012 right now, an extra off-season removed from the Verducci-eyebrow-raising innings spike.

      The last thing I want is for him to put it all together again while wearing another uniform.

      • NJ_Andy

        I would, honestly, rather see that than have him shelved in the bullpen.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        The Verducci effect is 30 innings from your career high. Hughes’ career high prior to 2010 was 150.

        • Ed

          Verducci’s claim was strictly comparing year-to-year, not career. In his own words:

          Pitchers not yet fully conditioned and physically matured were at risk if clubs asked them to pitch far more innings than they did the previous season — like asking a 10K runner to crank out a marathon. The task wasn’t impossible, but the after-effects were debilitating. I defined an at-risk pitcher as any 25-and-under pitcher who increased his innings log by more than 30 in a year in which he pitched in the big leagues.


    • Jerome S.

      Yeah, I think everyone’s acknowledging that, though. It’s not as awful/diabolical as you are perceiving. It’s not that bad – it shouldn’t happen – but it did. Oh well.

      • a.hinds

        i think it is that bad. maybe not as diabolical(most lefties think like this) and i dont think we(fans) acknowledge it enough.

        like i think i said, every article should begin with… “the yankees pitched phil hughes into the ground in 2010, and he is still, obviously hurt…

        the flippant “oh well” is how i would feel too, if phil hughes was not being blamed for his general suckieness. i just feel like baseball media, old and new… are not telling the entire story

        • The Big City of Dreams

          Why do you think that is? Why do you think they aren’t mentioning how he was handled as much as they should? Ppl always brought up how Joba wasn’t handled the proper way.

          • a.hinds

            well, i think because with joba, it was not an injury issue people were complaining about, it was the way the yankees handled him, they were saying he needed to be moved to the starting rotation, where he would have more value or what not. with hughes the issue is his overall health and how his use and abuse effected his health.

            its a more damning accusation to say the THE YANKEES RUINED PHIL HUGHES(even if for a season) than to complain about HOW a pitcher should be used.

            i do think beat writers and the papers dont report this because i would piss the yankees off and if you piss of the yankees you might ruin you access to the yankees… no one wants to do this, everybody needs to get paid. people have got famblees to feed, and in the grand scheme of things, pretending hughes has a “mystery ailment” instead of saying the yankees were reckless with his golden arm does not matter…. but if your a lefty, media matters sorta guy like myself, when the media does not say the obvious… it pisses you off.

            and i do think phil will bounce back next year… im hoping like cole hamels did following that phillieee world series run.

            • The Big City of Dreams

              I hear what you’re saying but there are members of the media like Sherman and Lupica who have been very critical of the Yankees over the yrs. In many cases they have gone out of their way to trash them. Why would two guys like them not take a chance and bring to light how “the Yankees ran Hughes into the ground”

              • a.hinds

                man… i dont know. i have my conspiracy theories… but these things are not as sinister usually. maybe they just have never thought of it.?? idk… this is not a big deal tho.

                but looking back at the way they handled PEDS and their collective silence about players using them when it got out of control, (BARY BONDS) and the way the entire baseball media for at least 100 years did not mention that players were on amphetamines(GREENIES) it…. makes me not really trust them sometimes

                the hughes thing is complicated maybe people dont want to make excuses for him… but if you read what some of the comments here go on to say… no one takes into account that he could be seriously worn down…

                and i kinda noticed with joba, people didnt talk much about how he completely lost his slider… when he came up that thing was the nastiest thing i had ever seen…. it would just fall off the table at 92 mph. it was like eric gagne’s. then he got hurt. went on the dl, came back, still thowing a 94-96 mph fastball but the slider was not the same. it just was not the same. but NO ONE mentioned it. and you would see headlines about how much joba sucked but the writers would never specifically mention his diminished stuff.

                it was so god damned obvious, maybe thats why people didnt mention it.?? idk, but i know after he came back from the dl and in 2008-2011, and it was an 0-2 count. it was not the same slider he featured in 2007.

                i have no idea why when people are talking about joba to the pen, or joba to the rotation they dont ask “hey what happened to that 07′ slider”

    • Staten Island

      Hughes will be OK long term. He’s just having a down year, and yes, it’s due to throwing too many innings last year. But he’ll recover, and win many more games in the big leagues.

    • jsbrendog

      see: justin verlander’s 2007-2009

      lots of playoff innings in 2007, dead arm bad year in 2008 rebound in 2009

  • Staten Island

    I hope we stick with Brackman for a few more seasons. Big pitchers can take a while to develop. Randy Johnson didn’t really come together until he was 29.

    • Mike HC

      I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for him to turn into Randy Johnson.

      • Mike HC

        But point well taken that some bigger pitchers took a while before they could get their all their moving parts in sync.

  • rapael hughmungus

    Hey Mike, How come you never answer my question about Golden Retrievers?

  • ángel

    Noesi its going to pitch as SP this winter season with Tigres del Licey….

  • Teal’c

    I might be wrong but I do recall Ian Kennedy pitching in Winter Ball once either 08 or 09.

  • Kosmo

    many many pitchers make IP jumps and are not affected long term. Unbelievable the excuses for Hughes´ performance. He´s in his 6th professional season ! Oh it´s his mechanics .Oh it´s his IP. Oh he´s injured again. Oh he´s got a dead arm but he´ll rebound . Oh he´s short arming the ball. Oh he can´t locate his fastball. Oh he has to develop his secondary pitches.
    It´s possible he isn´t cut out to be a MLB SP. Alot of high profile draftees don´t pan out. He´ll turn 26 next season and outside of very occasional flashes, Hughes isn´t cutting it. He may be better suited as a setup dude or closer if his arm is sound.

    • Alibaba

      Some pitchers pan out, some do not. Among those who pan out, some pan out quickly, others take a few years. I don’t think anyone has an idea which category Phil Hughes belong to. It will take at least a couple of more years before we have a better idea. To put things in perspective, I am not saying that Phil is the next ‘Doc’, but Halladay was 4-7 with an ERA of 10.64 in his third season.

      On pitchers development, I wish that the Yankees assess how TB developed their pitchers. Very few of their highly rated pitching prospects have been busts. They must be doing something right, which might be worth copying.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        Very few of their highly rated pitching prospects have been busts.


        When it comes to Tampa the belief is they get a a good number of high picks that the Yankees don’t get so therefore they have a better chance at producing high end arms.

      • Mike Axisa

        I think part of it is how the Yankees can rush their prospects. Hughes threw 344 IP in the minors. Here’s Tampa’s guys in the minors…

        Hellickson: 580.1 IP
        Davis: 767.1 IP
        Shields: 554.1 IP
        Moore: 491.1 IP (and counting)

        Price is obviously the big exception, but I consider him a special case since he’s a rare talent. Niemann didn’t throw many minor league innings either, but he threw a freaking ton for Rice, a top notch college program.

        • Ted Nelson

          Davis isn’t good, and Hellickson’s 24 year old FIP matches Hughes’ in a stadium were it’s very difficult to hit a HR… Moore hasn’t thrown an MLB IP that I’m aware of.

          Hughes and Joba both had about as much prospect hype as Price, so I find it odd to consider Price “special” and not those two with the benefit of hind-sight.

          Finally… you’ve been beating the drum about how dumb the Yankees are for leaving Montero down… how about Desmond Jennings?

          You have literally told me that you don’t think Tampa makes mistakes in the past. I think you go a little beyond objective analysis with regard to their organization.

      • Ted Nelson

        I certainly think Tampa has a quality organization, but I wouldn’t heap quite so much praise on them.

        Some of those Tampa guys were high picks. It’s not rare for the Yankees to have no picks in the top 30, top 50 of a draft. Price was the #1 overall pick. Niemann was the #4 overall pick. Wade Davis was the #75 overall pick, which doesn’t sound all that high but is often before the Yankees have had a chance to pick more than one or two guys.

        At the same time not every Tampa pitcher has been a success. First consider that they play their home games in one of the AL’s most pitcher friendly parks. Then consider results. Neimann has one less career fWAR than Hughes. Hellickson’s 24 year old FIP is almost identical to Hughes’. Wade Davis is not necessarily any better than AJ Burnett. Outside of James Shields, their starters are either high picks (Price) or not all that successful yet. Hellickson, Cobb, Moore, Torres, McGee, etc. all have potential… but so do Hughes, Nova, Banuelos, Betances, Noesi, etc.

        I think a whole lot of it is overhyping TB pitchers based on Shields’ and Price’s results and overblowing Yankees’ starters struggles. Guys like Neimann and Davis would probably draw a lot of crap in NY with their performance, especially since their performance might decline as RHP in YS.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          I don’t think it’s over hyping though because Price and Shields have performed very well over their careers. All it takes is one guy to and you would never hear a peep about the Yankees and developing starters.

    • Jerome S.

      many many pitchers make IP jumps and are not affected long term.

      And many more are, which is why this is not an excuse, but science.

      • Kosmo

        I doubt you can call developing MLB pitchers a science, there are far to many variables to throw the word “science“ around.

        • Jerome S.

          That’s irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that many pitchers who experience huge jumps in innings also experience a negative effect on their pitching in ensuing years. That kind of correlation can be touted as “Scientific”. I’m well aware that all pitchers need to be handled on a case-by-case basis, but that doesn’t mean that they all share some general qualities.

          • Kosmo

            Who are these pitchers that have ´´experienced a negative effect“? You can not find a consistent correlation and or otherwise prove it. It´s not possible , like I said to many variables.

            • Jerome S.

              I can’t give you one, you wouldn’t take it. I could say Justin Verlander, for example, as he did experience the problem, and you’d come up with a reason why not.

              • Kosmo

                Let´s look at Verlander . In 2006 and 2007 he pitched alot of innings and pitched well. In 2008 he went 11-17 with a high ERA BUT all the while pitching 201 innings. The Tigers didn´t shut him down. In 2009 he threw 240 innings and now he´s firmly established as one of the games best RHP.
                I don´t think Verlander is a legit example, certainly doesn´t apply to Hughes.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      You have a point he does get the benefit of the doubt when he pitches poorly. I didn’t go crazy over his second to last start because he was improving but in the Red Sox he seemed to just lose it. He started off hot and then ran into trouble.

      • Kosmo

        Good observation, Hughes just doesn´t pitch well against the Sawx . I think he´s 2-5 lifetime with a rather bloated ERA.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          That’s not good at all especially since we face Boston 19 times a yr and over the next couple of seasons he’ll match up against them 2-3 times a yr.

          • Kosmo

            Precisely ! He´s not competitive vs. a team he needs to pitch well against.
            Right now I´m of the belief Noesi brings more to the table than Hughes.

            • The Big City of Dreams

              Hard to tell since he was used in certain times and sometimes didn’t see the mound for days. I did like what I see though. I’m guessing he’ll be in the mix for a starting role next yr but will probably end up in AAA or as a long man in the pen.

              • The Big City of Dreams

                used at certain moments*

                what I saw*

    • The Big City of Dreams

      many many pitchers make IP jumps and are not affected long term. Unbelievable the excuses for Hughes´ performance. He´s in his 6th professional season ! Oh it´s his mechanics .Oh it´s his IP. Oh he´s injured again. Oh he´s got a dead arm but he´ll rebound . Oh he´s short arming the ball. Oh he can´t locate his fastball. Oh he has to develop his secondary pitches.


      lol you just upset a lot of ppl you better head for the hills

      • Kosmo

        I live on a different continent, so I have a massive body of water to protect me ! LOL

        • The Big City of Dreams

          Well then you’ll be safe. The Hughes supporters are a strong bunch. They don’t take any prisoners.

  • a.hinds

    i think the guy is still dealing with issues from 2010. its 2011. its not long term… a year later is very short term.

    i think this year is a wash, i hope he recovers next year. im not mad at him… i dont think he’s a spoiled brat. he’s just a guy like you are me. he just happens to have an arm of gold.

  • Oscar Gamble’s Fro

    Hughes’ body language is awful. He mopes around on the mound like a loser. The only time I’ve ever seen any confidence in his demeanor was when he was getting things done out of the pen.

    Yeah, the jury is still out, but rumor has it that just two or three jurors need to be swayed to come back with a unanimous verdict that Phil Hughes sucks a D.

  • Yankees fan in SC

    I missed the chat today and not sure if this is the place to post but is there any major injuries to the minor league guys (especially the new draftees) the Yankees put on the 60 day DL? According to the weekly transactions on Baseball America, the were RHP Jordan Cote, RHP Dawerd Cruz, RHP Rookie Davis, RHP Joe Maher, LHP Andy Cave, and SS Claudio Custodio.