Mailbag: Beltran, Sabathia, Relievers, Jeter

The River Avenue Blues Podcast: Episode 5
2014 Draft: Baseball America's Mock Draft v1.0

Big mailbag this week. Ten questions, so I tried my best to keep the answers short. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything and everything at anytime.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Daniel asks: I know the whole spiel about him being a smart, patient hitter with postseason experience and success as a clutch hitter. But, are you honestly at all worried about the way Carlos Beltran has looked thus far? This is year one.

I’m not worried yet, but I would be lying if I said Beltran’s age and the potential for a rapid decline wasn’t in the back of my mind. His slump can be traced almost exactly to the day he flipped over the wall in Tampa. He went into that game hitting .327/.368/.673 (176 wRC+) in 57 plate appearances, flipped over the wall, sat out a game after having an MRI on his shoulder and wrist (came back clean), and has hit .172/.229/.266 (33 wRC+) in 70 plate appearances since. Maybe the fall fouled him up and his shoulder isn’t 100% even though there’s no structural damage. At least then we’d have an explanation for the slump. I’m not worried yet but I am monitoring the situation. That’s probably the best way to put it.

Uke asks: Assuming the Yankees let Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano walk after this season and make Beltran the semi-permanent DH, who could take over the RF AB’s? Do Adonis Garcia and Ramon Flores have a role on this team next year?

These are the Yankees, so we can’t rule out a free agent signing as Plan A. This offseason’s crop of free agent outfielders includes Melky Cabrera, Seth Smith, Colby Rasmus, Norichika Aoki, Nelson Cruz, Michael Cuddyer, and Nate Schierholtz, among others. I don’t think re-signing Soriano will be off the table either. Among internal candidates, I would think Zoilo Almonte is first in line for regular playing time. Slade Heathcott and maybe Tyler Austin could be factors if they get healthy, stay healthy, and play well the rest of the season. Flores has been dynamite in Triple-A — it’s interesting he’s spending time at first base again, they might be letting him get re-familiar with the position before a potential big league role later this year — and he’d be in the mix as well. I’m not really buying Garcia as an MLB option, but that’s just my opinion. Because we’re talking about the Yankees, I’d bet on those right field at-bats going to player acquired from outside the organization.

Anthony asks: Do you think that the Yankees would ever demote CC Sabathia to the bullpen if he continues to struggle? Mike Mussina, borderline Hall of Famer, was once demoted to the bullpen in an effort to figure stuff out. If Sabathia continues to pitch poorly, is it crazy to think he could be in the bullpen for a week or two?

I do think they would send Sabathia to the bullpen — Mussina got clobbered in three straight starts (20 runs in 9.2 combined) and was sent to the bullpen for exactly one appearance before rejoining the rotation back in late-August/early-September in 2007 — but I don’t think they’re there yet, not even after last season. For starters, they don’t really have anyone to take his rotation spot right now. They’d have to wait until Michael Pineda returns. Sabathia’s also four years younger than Moose was in 2007 and I think there’s less of a “holy cow he might be done forever” panic. I think we might see him skip a start first, then a stint in the bullpen. Sabathia’s made adjustments and has had stretches when he’s looked pretty damn good this year (usually four or five innings within a game), but nothing seems to be working.

Shep asks: If you had to pick one player on an MLB roster to be a player-manager, now or in the future, who would it be?

(Jeff Curry/Getty)
(Jeff Curry/Getty)

Pete Rose was the last player-manager (1984-86 Reds) and I don’t think we’ll ever seen another one again. There’s too much that goes into managing these days between running Spring Training, keeping tabs on workloads, looking up splits, shift data, the whole nine. Doing all of that and preparing to play seems like too much for one person, even with an excellent coaching staff. That said, if I had to pick someone to do it today, I’d probably go with Yadier Molina. That is based on nothing in particular, he just seems like a good candidate. Justin Verlander maybe? A starting pitcher-manager might work best since he’s sitting on the bench doing nothing four out of every five games anyway. I could maybe see the Mets trying it with David Wright. Maybe. Fun to think about.

Kristofer asks: Given both the uncertainty of the 3B position in the years to come and the fact that the Yankees are willing to extend big money to international players still in their 20s, is Jeong Choi a possibility for them this offseason? How does he project?

Choi, 27, was recently dubbed the “David Wright of Korea,” and Jon Heyman reported that he intends to come to MLB as a free agent next year. No posting system nonsense or anything, he’s a true free agent. Choi is hitting only .268/.343/.383 with three homers in 32 games this season, but it’s early and last year he put up a .316/.429/.551 batting line with 28 homers. He’s hit along those lines since 2010. Keith Law was on our podcast recently and said he heard the David Wright comparisons aren’t accurate at all, and that Choi is more of a utility infielder than anything in MLB. That’s just one opinion and it’s pretty much all we have on the guy. I do think the Yankees will check in on him just because he plays a position of need, but I would expect them to target a known quantity (Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, etc.) if they’re going to drop decent money on help at the hot corner.

Joe asks: Which prospect has come from nowhere to turn heads so far this year?

I don’t think the Yankees have had one of those guys this year, someone like 2006 Edwar Ramirez or 2008 Al Aceves, who just showed up in a box score one day and dominated right away. 1B Mike Ford with Low-A Charleston might fit the bill. He was an undrafted free agent out of Princeton and is hitting .327/.400/.475 so far. Maybe RHP Jaron Long, hitting coach Kevin Long’s son? He’s got a 3.33 ERA (2.61 FIP) with a 20/5 K/BB in 24.1 innings for the River Dogs this year. He’ll probably wind up with High-A Tampa later this year after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State.

nycsportzfan asks: Hey Mike, was wondering what kinda heater Tyler Webb has, and who has more promise between Webb and Dietrich Enns?

Enns, the team’s 19th round pick in 2012, had that ridiculous first half with Low-A Charleston last season (0.61 ERA and 1.52 FIP in 44.1 innings) before coming back to Earth in the second half, and he’s a low-90s fastball guy with both a curveball and a changeup. Webb has been solid since being the club’s tenth rounder last year, pitching to a 3.62 ERA (~2.25 FIP) in 49.2 innings. He’s another low-90s guy with a slider, plus he supposedly hides the ball well with his delivery. I’m not sure who has more potential between the two — they are both fringy prospects, to be sure — but I think Webb’s two-pitch mix might help him get to the show as a lefty specialist.

Jack asks: Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, Danny Burawa, Mark Montgomery, Diego Moreno, Branden Pinder. Can you offer your assessment of any of them ever making any significant impact (to the extent that a reliever is able) in the bigs? They all seem to be pretty good prospects (and actually putting up good numbers).

Moreno’s not a prospect. He’ll turn 27 in July and is a pure arm strength guy. The other guys are prospects and you could almost pick names out a hat if you want to rank them. Montgomery’s prospect shine has dimmed following last year’s shoulder trouble, and of course Goody just came back from Tommy John surgery. Burawa has had some non-arm injuries and probably has the nastiest pure stuff of the group — he was pumping 97-98 with a 90 mph slider in camp — though Montgomery’s slider is the best individual pitch, if that makes sense. Rumbelow has mid-90s heat and a good curveball, and so far this year he has 18 strikeouts in nine innings with Low-A Charleston. Pinder’s a fastball/slider pitcher who lags behind the other non-Moreno guys for me. Goody, Burawa, Montgomery, and Rumbelow can definitely be late-inning relievers at the MLB level if everything comes together. They’re not quite what David Robertson was during his prospect days but they’re not far off either.

(Harry How/Getty)
(Harry How/Getty)

Drew asks: When was the last time that Derek Jeter batted not in a top 3 lineup spot? Rookie season? Mid-90s?

The last time Jeter started a game in a lineup spot lower than third was July 10th, 1999, when he batted cleanup against the Mets. Here’s the box score. That was a one-game thing. He batted third or higher every other game that season. Before that, you have to go back to the second to last game of the 1997 season, when he batted seventh. Here’s that box score. And finally, the last time Jeter started a game as a nine-hole hitter was the final game of the 1996 season. Here is that box score. My hunch is no, we won’t see Jeter bat lower than third this season.

Liz asks: Given Jeter’s retirement at the end of the season, who do you see stepping in (and up) to fill the Captain’s shoes?

Do you mean the next captain of the team? The Yankees went eight years between Don Mattingly’s retirement and naming Jeter captain, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there was a similar (or even longer) wait this time. I don’t see an obvious captain on the roster right now — what the hell do I know about what goes on in the clubhouse anyway? — and that’s not a knock on the guys on the roster. I just don’t think the Yankees will rush into naming another captain. They’ll want it to be someone who will be around for a while and I’m sure they’re prefer a homegrown player. That’s not a must, just a preference. My bold next captain prediction: John Ryan Murphy. Boom.

The River Avenue Blues Podcast: Episode 5
2014 Draft: Baseball America's Mock Draft v1.0
  • Rational Sports

    The correct answer to the player/manager question is Jason Giambi! He’s loved in the clubhouse, he’s already interviewed for a managerial position that he would have taken if it were offered, he doesn’t play everyday so he can give the managerial responsibilities enough focus while taking enough BP to stay ready for pinch hit opportunities and the occasional spot start.

    Choosing a catcher, Molina or anyone else, is crazy because they are already managing the pitching stuff which is a heavy burden on top of the regular everyday requirements of a manager. The ideal candidate is a veteran bench player. Beyond Giambi, Paul Konerko is another option. He was actually considered for the White Sox managerial position a couple years ago.

    • Deep Thoughts

      Yes. Jason is the Juwan Howard of MLB.

  • Nick

    Murphy as Captain would be controversial given that he grew up a Red Sox fan: Kinda dims the homegrown prospect shine!

    In terms of players on the current roster, I think CC is seen as a natural leader and could be an option.

    • pat

      Not really.

    • Mattingly’s Sideburns

      I think you have to go with a position player for captain.

    • ALZ

      I don’t think so. Do you think every great Yankee player grew up a Yankees fan?

      • Yan Solo

        Everyone’s a Yankee fan. It’s just that so many are suffering from some form of amnesia or another and don’t know they are Yankee fans. I thought everyone knew that.

  • Yangeddard Solarte

    The next Captain has to be a True Yankee, meaning he came up through the Yankee farm. I know guys like CC and McCann have been suggested but they aren’t True Yankees damnit. I don’t think there’s a ready heir apparent.

    In other news, not worried one bit about Carlos. Zolio deserves a shot to play next season. CC can and should be demoted to the pen, I’ve been saying that for weeks. Best Player-manager would have been Jeter. It has to be someone that has respect.

  • Kiko Jones

    – Beltrán is streaky and hopefully we’re just seeing the low end of that.

    – You left A-Rod out of the 2015 DH mix. Unless you know something we don’t.

    – I could see Wright as a player manager with the Mets. Just like Joe Torre was with them.

    – It would be a sad thing to see Jeter retire as Captain Groundout while batting second in the lineup.

    – And speaking of captain, the correct answer is…Cervelli! (Hey, there was a time when that wasn’t as crazy as it sounds.) Actually, if he sticks around and continues to be successful it would likely be David Robertson. And before anyone points out his position, remember that Guidry was captain once, too. (Co-captain with Willie Randolph, of course.)

  • j6takish

    Wasn’t there talk of making Paul Konerko a player/manager before the Ventura hiring?

  • FLYER7

    They go the no captain route until such time as an obvious candidate emerges…

  • TWTR

    I have thought that either Beltran is still sore, or that the original injury initially affected his mechanics and that has lasted longer than any pain or soreness. In any case, giving him three years now when they reportedly thought giving him two years after the 2011 season was too long because of his injury issues, was a head scratcher.

  • John Cee

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Beltran’s flip rattled him more than we think. Each time I saw the replay, I was amazed he wasn’t out for a month.

    I like Greinke as the next player/manager. He’s an early adopter of advanced metrics and has an in depth knowledge of the game. I love his no BS approach when talking to the media.

    Plus, he’s a pitcher. I mean, he has four days off where he does nothing. Hahaha…

    • John Cee

      Another thing with Beltran, I recall reading an article last year that included data to show a different, more aggressive approach at the plate for him. For example, he was swinging at more out of the zone pitches which occurs as a player ages.

    • Yan Solo

      I am not sure a person with known anxiety issues is the best candidate for player/manager. But then again, many people have overcome issues like this to be leaders, so if he’s got the resume and is willing to give it a try…. why not!

      • John Cee

        I thought of that, too. The meltdowns could provide for good viewing, haha.

        Now that I think of it…

        I bet most players thought Earl the Pearl had some issues, but he was a great manager.

        As we know, Billy Martin definitely had some…ahem…issues, but he did some great, albeit schizophrenic managerial work.


    “In any case, giving him three years now when they reportedly thought giving him two years after the 2011 season was too long because of his injury issues, was a head scratcher.”

    Big names/big signings in an attempt to fill seats fill seats.

  • fred robbins

    if Nuno can repeat his success, and CC continues to allow 5 plus runs a game, I would like to see Nuno replace him in the rotation. He is a streak killer at this point. I know it’ hard to do without knowing what Pineda will bring to the mound once he is back in the rotation. I think the worst part of it all, is the continued disgusting excuses both CC and Girardi give to the media… I got frustrated- i had a bad inning but I feel great— I really don’t care how great he feels.. who would not feel great getting paid 23 million a year.

  • Looser trader droids FotD™

    The next captain of the Yankees is either currently down on the farm, or an as yet unsigned/undrafted kid.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Jeter should be Honorary Captain For Life with the responsibility of sitting in the dugout every game making wisecracks then putting out meaningless bland postgame comments to the media while reminding us that winning is all that counts.

    • TWTR

      I would bump him up to Captain/Part-Owner

  • Cuso

    I have this conversation with my Cardinals-fan friend, and Yadier Molina is probably one of the LEAST likely catchers in the big leagues to become a manager. He knows more about whats going on in the field than everyone else, yes. But he’s extremely surly and outright refuses to talk to media according to my friend.

    David Ross and AJ Ellis strike me as future coaching fodder.

    • vicki

      i really like the aj ellis pick. mine was joey votto.

  • Darren (TM)

    When George named Jeter as the Captain it felt more like a publicity move than the right thing to do. Obviously Jeter’s status and performance makes him more than Captain-worthy but he never struck me as a Captain in the way Mattingly and especially Thurman seemed so clearly Captain-esque.

    • Yan Solo

      I disagree. I assume he’s a pretty strong leader in the clubhouse based on what past and present players have said about him as a teammate. On top of that, a captain is often a captain not because of firey speeches or rally cries or because they will get in people’s faces and call them out. What matters most is that a captain leads by example on and off the field. Playing the game the right way and always giving everything you have. Respecting the rules and the umpires, while demonstrating that one can dissent on a call in an appropriate fashion without having to blow up. I’ve never seen Jeter show up another player, manager, or ump and I think that speaks volumes as to why he was chosen Captain (whether Big Stein knew it fully at the time or not). It’s just one man’s opinion, but as a coach that was always how I picked a captain for my teams.

    • vicki

      jeter did his job in front of a bank of microphones. by many accounts, jorgie was the true captain in the clubhouse.

  • nsalem

    Dietrich Enns did not have it easy after his Tampa callup last year he has returned there strong in 2014 with a 0.98 ERA after 16 or 17 IP. His K rate is down dramatically though from his Charleston stint last year.

  • ALZ

    Don’t think it matters naming a captain. If someone steps up and you want to honor them like that, then do it. If nobody just leave it like that, you don’t need a captain, many teams don’t have one, actually only 3 currently do, and 2 probably are retiring(Jeter/Konerko), and frankly it’s just a title, not really all that important. Years ago it had a purpose, but now it is just a title. Good way to honor Jeter, and Mattingly. Don’t wash it away because you feel you have to have one, we will be fine with no captain for the next 10+ years.

  • Mike HC

    My bold next captain pick: Masahiro Tanaka!

    • vicki

      bolder: dbj.

      • W.B. Mason Williams

        Nick. Johnson.

  • Algernon Blackwood

    The serial killer as captain????

  • Paco Dooley

    I read the question about the next captain and thought Murphy before I read Mike’s answer. Not sure why, especially with a top quality catcher on the roster ahead of him, but if he is not traded he looks like a guy that can slowly take over and become that established every day guy in NY, and he appears to have the leadership potential there for some reason.