Feb
26

Thoughts on a random Tuesday

By
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa two weeks ago today, and during that time the Yankees have lost Phil Hughes to a bulging disk in his back and Curtis Granderson to a broken forearm. Hughes is working his way back slowly but could be back on a mound within a few days while Granderson will be sidelined until at least early-May. Considering that those two are among the youngest regulars on the projected roster, these last two weeks have certainly been disheartening. Here’s a collection of random thoughts…

1. A few hours before Granderson got hurt on Sunday, I wrote a nice big post for Monday afternoon explaining why moving him to left field wasn’t a slam dunk upgrade. It was absolutely worth trying of course, but factors like his inexperience — hasn’t played left regularly since 2003 and remember, left is the infamous “sun field” at Yankee Stadium during day games — and the potential for his bat to suffer could take away from the defensive upgrade. The inexperience is a very real thing while possible offensive decline is more theoretical than anything, but it is something the Yankees would have had to monitor in camp. Confidence was another thing; being “demoted” to left in his walk year couldn’t have been an easy thing for Curtis to take. Maybe he would have used that as motivation to kick ass and prove everyone wrong, but who knows. I think Granderson is likely to return as a center fielder when he’s healthy because the Yankees will emphasize getting his bat is ready as soon as possible rather than saving a few runs on defense. We’ll see.

2. My darkhorse/never-gonna-happen left field candidate? Corban Joseph. He can hit because he has an idea at the plate — his recent comments to Chad Jennings were encouraging — with some pop from the left side, but his defense has always been a question. Joseph isn’t quick enough to play an average second base and he doesn’t really have the arm for third, so a corner outfield spot might be his best long-term position. Baseball America said “he has taken fly balls in the outfield during pregame drills” in their 2013 Prospect Handbook, so at least he has a tiny bit of experience tracking a fly ball. Thirty-two Grapefruit League games wouldn’t be enough to fully transition Joseph from the infield to the outfield — right field might be better since it’s the smallest part of Yankee Stadium — but it’s probably worth a shot. Like I said, however, it’s never going to happen. Would be interesting to see though.

(Star-Ledger)

(Star-Ledger)

3. Since Chris Stewart and Frankie Cervelli are both out of options, an injury is pretty much the only way Austin Romine could make the team. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, he could use the regular playing time in Triple-A, but I doubt the Yankees would put one of those guys on waivers and sacrifice depth at this point. One thing I will be keeping an eye on in camp is Cervelli’s throwing, which was downright awful from 2010-2011 despite a very good minor league track record. Surely you remember all those errant throws into center field. Frankie threw a runner out at second trying to steal on Saturday and made a nice throw on a steal attempt yesterday even though the runner was safe. Cervelli told Jennings that he was “rushing” his throws and developed some bad habits from 2010-2011, but he corrected them last year and threw out 30% of attempted base-stealers in Triple-A. If he has in fact gotten over those bad habits and is able to contribute more defensively, he’d be the clear starter for me. None of these guys can hit much, but Cervelli is right in his prime years (27 next week) with a tolerable career .339 OBP. The lesser of two evils, I suppose.

4. By no means am I calling Ivan Nova a slacker, but I do think David Phelps has a bit of a leg up in the fifth starter’s competition because he is so far ahead in camp. He had already thrown a few bullpens by the time pitchers and catchers reported, and he was the first projected big leaguer to a) face hitters, and b) actually get into a Grapefruit League game. Phelps told Jennings he “pushed (himself) a little more in the offseason … because (he’s) trying to make an impression,” which is exactly what he did last year. As you probably remember, Phelps opened some eyes in camp last spring by showing some serious competitiveness and more velocity than he had in the past, and it helped him win that final bullpen spot. Talent always reigns supreme, but the Yankees have emphasized makeup and work ethic in recent years in an effort to get as much as they can out of that talent. Phelps is making one hell of an impression.

Categories : Musings

118 Comments»

  1. Jay D says:

    I loved watching Phelps last year. Not sure he’ll ever develop into anything big, but I would like to follow him as a starter in the show.

    • GT Yankee says:

      X2. While he might not develop into an “Ace” I do think he could end up bringing a lot to the table. Because of his propensity for difficulty in his first innings pitched, I hope he makes the rotation. Coming out of the pen with men on I don’t think is his strong suit. But love his dedication and bulldog mentality. Go DP!

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        I think he’s a backend/swingman type for sure, but we too often talk about that like it’s a bad thing.

        If Phelps wins the slot, I do believe Nova should start in AAA in order to get his consistency back and be ready when something, inevitably, opens up. I do wonder where that leaves the last bullpen/long man slot. Possibility there for someone not currently with the org at all, I would imagine.

        • Jersey Joe says:

          Does anyone think it would make sense to extend Phelps at a very team friendly deal? Maybe give him 4 years @ 16 mil and have him secure through 2017?

          • jjyank says:

            He’s still pre-arb though. I would see what he does this year before considering an extension.

          • Govin says:

            I wouldn’t have any problems with a deal like that.

          • Preston says:

            You have one full season of big league data from him. He’s pre arb so you’d be giving him a big raise next year and he’s controlled through 2017 anyways. I very much doubt he’d make 16 million through the three year arbitration process, and if he did I’d gladly pay it as it would mean he’s exceeded all expectations. If you’re going to sign him to an extension you would want to get to some FA years. But considering that he’s already 26, I doubt that would be attractive to him or the team. The team would be buying years for a guy at age 30 who has one successful year in the bigs, and Phelps would be giving away his one chance at a real pay day.

            • Govin says:

              Dang, I forgot to look up how many years of arbitration Phelps had left, I guess signing him to a contract like that would be counter productive. Unless he suddenly turned in to an ace like pitcher. Which I’m guessing won’t happen.

              • Robinson Tilapia says:

                I don’t exactly think we’re out of the woods with “he disappears to AAA and is never seen again” either.

                I get the sentiment, but it does seem like running in the complete opposite direction from the issue it’s a reaction to.

                • Govin says:

                  I sure hope he doesn’t disappear into triple A. I think he is very solid fifth starter, or long reliever, and if given the opportunity will help the team.

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            WAY too early to think about that.

    • Govin says:

      I liked what I saw from Phelps last year. My guess is that whether or not he makes the rotation depends mostly on how Nova looks.

  2. mick taylor says:

    gil patterson will help all the young pitchers including phelps if he is sent down. yanks should sign grady sizemore on a one year deal with a club option.

  3. Robinson Tilapia says:

    I…..agree with every single bit of this post, actually.

  4. Jersey Joe says:

    One possibility. If Dan Johnson can play third base for a microscopic amount of games, would he be able to be a below-average left fielder without completely being a butcher?

  5. TomH says:

    About this:

    the Yankees have lost Phil Hughes to a bulging disk in his back

    What exactly is this ailment? It sounds terrible, and yet they talk about a couple of weeks of rest–which makes it sound not-terrible.

    • Mike K says:

      Sounds worse than it is. I think it’s essentially equivalent to a strained bicep. The “bulging disk” means the tissue around the disk is swollen. Anti-inflammatories and rest to get rid of the swelling, and then exercise (starting with the pool) to build strength back up.

  6. Vern Sneaker says:

    As good as Gardner is, on balance Granderson should play center, I think. The runs saved by Gardner running down balls in center will be outweighed by Granderson’s lower-quality play in left (he’ll be okay, but Gardner is totally excellent in left), especially on balls ricocheting around in the corner, throws to second, plays at the plate on tag-ups, sun issues, etc. Also the risk of messing up Granderson’s head for hitting, though perhaps not major, is probably real and not worth taking.

  7. jjyank says:

    Corban Joseph in left, eh? Interesting. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. Versatility would be nice.

    • Jersey Joe says:

      If that happens, then maybe a Corban Joseph/Ronnie Musteiler platoon in 2014-2015 could work out. And if it works out, that would just be amazing.

      • Jersey Joe says:

        They would be a versatile platoon machine of sorts at second, third, left – not playing anything necessarily well, but CoJo drawing walks and Ronnie providing the power, they could be successful in giving Cano and ARod days off.

    • Govin says:

      I was wondering about that. IF his arm isn’t good enough to play third, what would make it good enough to play the outfield. Other then that, I would love to give Corban some playing time. It wouldn’t do any harm to at least test him out there.

      • jjyank says:

        I don’t know enough about Joseph’s arm to really compare it to other players’ throwing arms, but a lot of left fielders have noodles for arms. We won a World Series with Damon’s arm in LF.

        • Govin says:

          True,the whole arm strength thing is not one of my strong points, when it comes to baseball knowledge.

          • jjyank says:

            And it’s also considered the least important of the “tools” by many. If Joseph can hit a bit and not be a total butcher in LF, I could live with a weak arm. Of course, we can’t assume that he can hit and won’t be a butcher, but I’d be real curious to give him some reps out there and see what happens.

          • toad says:

            Arm is much more important in RF than LF, because of runners trying to go first-third. Indeed, RF’ers are sometimes celebrated for their arms. Carl Furillo, RF on the 50′s Dodgers, was said to be able to “throw a lamb chop past a wolf.”

            It’s also important in CF because that’s generally the deepest part of the field.

            A weak arm in CF or RF can be costly.

      • Preston says:

        Being able to make the throw from third and throwing from the OF are two different things. I’m not saying he has a strong enough arm to play the OF but most guys can’t consistently and accurately make the throw from third well enough to be in the big leagues. Doesn’t mean they can’t make an OF throw.

  8. mt says:

    I thought Cashman already said that “the experiment” with Grandy was over – actually before it started. Also when grandy was asked about coming back to left field when he returns he said something about – do you want to have someone worrying about that at the same time he is trying to get his swing for the first time? The obvious answer wa to leave it alone.

    As I said in a prior thread no matter how great Gardy plays center or Diaz/Almonte/Rivera/Mustellier is mediocre in left during these first 30 or so games, Yanks will put Grandy back in center when he returns. They probably will be most in need of his power when he is about to return and they will not want anything to mess with that.

    Grandy seems to be all about the team in his walk year but even he must wonder about his fee agency coming off an injury and his lost ABs – a defensive switch on top of it is probably something he will quietly lobby against.

  9. A bulging disc typically means a herniated intervertebral disc, usually in the lumbar (lower back) spine. This is a chronic condition, meaning that it does not go away. When particularly bad, it can require surgery. Generally, the preference is to manage it medically, which usually means anti inflammatory and analgesic (pain killers) medications, rest and physical therapy. I am amazed at how professional athletes are able to perform with this problem since it can be very painful. It is what ended Don Mattingly’s career. It was disheartening to watch Mattingly, probably the second greatest 1B in NYY history, so disabled by his back pain. That being said, I don’t get the impression that Hughes has as much disability, although he has had this problem before and will have it again.

    • TomH says:

      Thanks for the response. I had forgotten about the Mattingly issue. At one point in his career, I thought he might put up Dimaggio type numbers, and then….

    • Govin says:

      Thanks doc, I tried to look up what a bulged disk was, all I figured out was that DRs. are smart people who know a lot of long words.

    • Bo Knows says:

      Hughes’ back issue isn’t even in that area, it’s higher up on his back below just below his shoulder. It is also in a different area than his previous back issue

  10. voiceofirrationalrationale says:

    Jersey Joe, locking these guys up 1, preferably 2 years prior to FA, is crucial to fielding a quality team, and simultaneously keeping players cost controlled. Might be an over-reaction due to the Cano debacle. Yes, DEBACLE !

    • MannyGeee says:

      Locking up players 1-2 yrs before FA could end up burning you. There is inherent risk there. And god forbid David Phelps gets signed long term and falls off a cliff.

  11. JohnC says:

    Doesn’t look like they’ll be a game today as it is raining in Clearwater where the Yanks are today with more in the forecast

  12. Barry's Gift Basket says:

    See, now is when Dickerson comes in handy…

    I don’t consider myself a troll or amething like that, and I’m not a Cashman hater, but he screwed up that one.

    Dickerson+Rivera/Diaz would’ve a better option than what the yankees have right now

    Hell, may be it was a better option than Ichiro at 2 years, plus they could’ve kept Martin.

    • Barry's Gift Basket says:

      I say this because I find the Joseph-to-left thing very… unnecesary if C-Dick was still around.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Chris Dickerson grows on trees.

        • Vern Sneaker says:

          Yes, but in this winter of our discontent the trees seem bare.

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            Look at how many non-roster OF options the team has in camp right now, and how many guys, like Russ Canzler, passed through the team.

            Fringy OF guys are always going to pass through multiple MLB rosters. This is, as usual, overpraising Chris Dickerson. I like him, as I also like DeWayne Wise, but they are who they are.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              By “this,” I don’t necessarily mean you.

              • Barry's Gift Basket says:

                May be we are overpraising him, but that’s because he played very good last year in AAA and carried it over to his short stint with the big club.

                • Robinson Tilapia says:

                  So do a lot of guys passing through multiple MLB rosters (which I initially spelled as “roosters” and should have left intact for comedic value.)

                  What has happened the multiple times the Yanks DFA’d Dickerson? Were the phones ringing off the hook?

                  • Barry's Gift Basket says:

                    No, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t fill a need to the actual team in a better fashion than FHFRM or Corban Joseph.

                    • Robinson Tilapia says:

                      Maybe. Maybe not. You can’t hoard all these guys just in case. Roster crunches happen. Sometimes, these guys have to go because there’s a need in another area. Maybe Thomas Neal makes you forget about Dickerson – who knows.

                      Can you imagine if C-Dick were to find himself back with the team through simple waiver claims? It’s not probably, but it’s certainly possible.

              • Vern Sneaker says:

                No problem, I actually agree with you about the reserves. I just liked Dickerson, that’s all, for his occasional pop from the left side.

          • trr says:

            “Made glorious summer by this son of (fill in blank)”

          • TomH says:

            This board is getting very high-brow. Yesterday a T.S. Eliot parody. Today an allusion to Shakespeare.

            Who’s willing to try his luck with Homer?

        • MannyGeee says:

          hehehe dicks on trees.

    • steve (different one) says:

      I am seeing this a lot, and I have to ask the question: was the argument ever about keeping BOTH Dickerson and Ichiro? Because that is not how I remember it. I remember it being about keeping Dickerson INSTEAD of Ichiro because he is younger and cheaper.

      I don’t recall a big appetite for having 4 left handed OFers on the roster.

      So if that is the case, the Yankees would be in the SAME exact situation they are in now, except they’d have Dickerson and Gardner instead of Ichiro and Gardner.

      It would be nice if the Yankees were able to keep depth guys like Dickerson but the roster rules are designed exactly to prevent that type of behavior, so players get more chances.

      There is a decent chance that a player like Dickerson (maybe even Dickerson himself) becomes available at the end of ST as players who don’t make teams but have no options remaining are cut loose.

  13. trr says:

    CJ in LF is an absolutely intriguing proposition.
    Make it so!

  14. mitch says:

    I don’t think the options should be a big factor in choosing the catchers. If Stewart or Cervelli aren’t good enough to crack this lineup on their own merit, who would claim them anyway? And if they did get claimed, who cares? If Romine or Wilson are deserving of one of two spots, they should get it.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      “If Stewart or Cervelli aren’t good enough to crack this lineup on their own merit, who would claim them anyway?”

      One of the reasons why this team is where they are catcher-wise is a shortage of quality options across baseball. You bet your sweet ass you’d see Frankie or Stewart on another team in a heartbeat.

      They absolutely should have a leg up for this reason. It’s one of their jobs to lose right now.

      • mitch says:

        I really would not care about losing any of the three career backups to another team. I don’t think it’d be that hard to find another decent defending/terrible hitting catcher to stash in AAA.

        If Romine can give them the best production at the major league level, he should get the chance immediately.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          And it’s highly debatable whether Romine can do that.

          Let’s also not make the general unhappiness with Cervelli/Stewart lead us to confuse them with Jose Gil. There’s a difference between a bad MLB starter/good MLB backup and MiLB catching depth.

          • mitch says:

            I agree that it’s unlikely Romine is able to step in right away as a significantly better option. If all things are equal i’d definitely go with Stewvelli.

            I just think this team needs every edge it can get at the major league level, and if Romine can give them an edge, he should get the reps. Minor league depth is a luxury at this point.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              I don’t think the risk of losing one of them is MiLB depth. It’s MLB depth.

              If Romine clearly shows he’s the best option, he should get the job. I’m not sure that can be decided by spring alone.

      • trr says:

        I agree, but as starters? I think not, unless that team is as desperate as we are

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          They certainly may be, or are one thing going wrong away from starting one of them.

          We’re not thrilled with them. They’re not useless. That’s all I’m saying.

  15. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    If CoJo doesn’t have the arm for 3rd, would he have the arm for RF?

  16. mt says:

    When it rains it pours – now Youklis out with a cramped oblique – “couple of days” – sign! -

    Our “depth” may get tested earlier than we thought.

  17. Dirty mike and the boys says:

    Cashman better go get a youklessness replacement.

    • Govin says:

      If you actually read what was said, you will figure out that Youk is fine, and Joe is just being cautious. Which considering its spring training, makes perfect sense.

  18. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Just listening to the choice soundbytes from the Johnny Damon interview with Kay yesterday. Was it just a chosen soundbyte meant to sound that way, or was Damon really implying that he didn’t know what possibly could have gone wrong that the Yankees aren’t contacting him?

    • trr says:

      I think he just wants enough AB’s to get to 3,000 hits

    • RetroRob says:

      I’m sure his belief in himself is such that he can’t understand why he’s not being contacted. Cashman and Co. and decided, no doubt correctly, that he’s done.

      I still don’t think there’s an issue if they want to invite him to camp. He wouldn’t be the first player to bounceback. There were very active discussions on this board a year ago on why he would be the better option than Ibanez. I suppose if there was the danger he’d just be awarded the job, then I’d say no; otherwise, bring him in.

  19. Mike HC says:

    Points 1 and 2 seem to slightly contradict each other. If a veteran center fielder like Granderson has the potential to struggle both defensively and offensively by switching to left field, I would think the potential struggles of Corban Joseph, an inexperienced minor league infielder, would be exponentially even greater. Moving Joseph to a corner outfield spot is definitely worth it if he can’t hack it at either third or second, but I wouldn’t want him trying that out for the first time at the big league level.

    I still think that if Gardner is dominating in center while Granderson is out, Granderson should prepare to come back as the left fielder. If during his rehab games it is an obvious disaster or he can’t focus enough on his hitting, then scrap it, but I would at least attempt it.

    Point 3 on the catchers I couldn’t agree with more. And thanks for the Phelps update on point 4. Guy is a bulldog. I also love Nova’s demeanor on the mound though as well. Either way, both of them are going to get plenty of innings this year no matter where they start out.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Granderson is an important part of the lineup though, losing some of his offense is much more harmful than losing some of Joseph’s.

      • Mike HC says:

        Definitely true, which is why I went with “slightly” contradictory. Your points are definitely well taken though, and I might not have taken into account enough the time and energy of making a defensive switch like that directly takes away from working on other parts of your game. I would still try the switch, but it is something Cash and Girardi are obviously not taking lightly.

  20. Chip Off the Ol'Knoblauch says:

    I think I might be thinking of one of the other processes, but if you’re DFA’d and claimed, can’t you pull them back off waivers?

    For instance if Romine were to outperform Stewart by a large margin and Stewart was DFA’d and was claimed, couldn’t the Yankees pull him back and option Romine instead?

  21. ML says:

    phelps reminds me a little of ian kennedy; not overpowering, but seems to have a good presence out there.

  22. So with Granderson out the lineup will look like:

    Ichiro
    Jeter
    Cano
    Teixeira
    Hafner
    Youkilis
    Rivera
    Stewart
    Gardner

    Yikes

    Would really like to see Soriano in between Teix and Hafner.

    • TomH says:

      For a month? at what cost?

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Yeah. I just don’t think you suddenly jump and get a name to fill in. Go with what you’ve got.

        Can the research team take a look at whether there’s any sort of significant correlation between “let the kids play” and “please get Soriano to fill in” commenters? Research team? Are you there? *knock* *knock*

  23. Tom from England says:

    For what it’s worth, Phelps minor league numbers are superior to Nova’s:

    Phelps: 40 wins 15 losses 2.51 ERA, 551 innings, 488 hits, 1.17 WHIP

    Nova: 36 wins 34 losses 3.79 ERA, 591 innings, 613 hits, 1.36 WHIP

    Both are 26 years of age

    • Bo Knows says:

      Nova was and still is a heavy GB pitcher who only learned how to punch guys out in the past two years. That alone is going to skew his hit rates rates dramatically, considering minor leaguers are inherently iffy fielders.

    • RetroRob says:

      Minor league numbers means something, but not as much as you might think when dealing with pitchers. Nova clearly has the better arm, offering a much higher ceiling.

      That said, I’ve been a supporter of Phelps, as I was IPK. Being able to throw strikes and miss bats (something both can do, despite limited velocity) means I can see them at least being back-end rotation guys.

      Now I find myself sometimes talking Phelps down simply because people think he might be even better. He is what he is. He can help them team at the back end or as a swing guy. I don’t expect more, but that’s worth something.

  24. ClusterDuck says:

    Yes, Cervelli’s throwing stat history is interesting.

    I would add that Cervelli’s numbers as a Yank in 2009 were 43% CS (10-23).

    • RetroRob says:

      He had the reputation of a solid defender with a good arm in the minors. He appeared to be just that in 2009 when he was called up to the big club, with the team making the decision to bring him up from AA while Stewart was in system at AAA. His throwing regressed thereafter. Hopefully he can figure it out. His ability to put the bat on the ball, draw walks, work counts are all things Stewart lacks. Yet I don’t know how much it matters. Even if one is declared the “starting catcher,” the loser may end up catching 40% of the games regardless.

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