Got some interesting minor league stuff to pass along, so check it out while you wait for tonight’s game…
A-Rod on Montero
“We came in here and had a good session, talked a little bit about the mental side of hitting, the little bit about the mechanics,” said Alex Rodriguez to Kristie Ackert yesterday, referring to the time he’s spent with Jesus Montero this week. “We talked about hopefully getting together this winter in Miami, working out with Kevin Long and [Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Butch Wynegar] and whoever wants to come down to Miami and have a little bit of a winter hitting camp. Obviously he’s a guy we expect big things from and what saw tonight and the past few nights, he’s not going to disappoint.”
A-Rod spent time with all the players in Scranton, but Wynegar says he really took Montero under his wing. “He is trying to show him the work it takes at the major league level. And Monty is just absorbing it all … I hate to say this, but I think Monty’s getting a little bored in the minor leagues, he’s ready for that next challenge. I told Brian Cashman I think he needs that next challenge, and I hope he gets it next month.”
Who is Jose Quintana?
High-A Tampa left-baller Jose Quintana has opened some eyes in DotF this year, pitching to a 3.08 FIP with 8.26 K/9 and 2.75 BB/9 in 85 IP. He was an unknown coming into 2011, just making a handful of appearances in rookie ball last season. In a piece for Baseball America (subs. req’d), George King digs into the 22-year-old’s story. Apparently the Yankees signed him three years ago after the Mets cut him loose with just three career appearances to his credit.
“We gave him a second opportunity,” said VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman. “Pat McMahon, who leads our Latin America player development, had him in the program and he liked him. He kept telling us there was more there.” Newman adds that Quintana sits 89-91 mph with his fastball and also throws a curveball and changeup. “There is some deception and a lot of swings and misses.”
Ranking The Minor League Markets
The Sports Business Journal (no subs. req’d, I believe) published a final ranking of minor league markets today. Charleston, home of the Yankees Low-A affiliate, placed seventh behind Hershey/Harrisburg, San Bernardino, Providence/Pawtucket, Reading, Portland (Maine, not Oregon), and Syracuse. Trenton ranks 42nd (between Kingsport, TN and Roanoke/Salem, VA), Staten Island ranks 56th (between Durham and Hagerstown), and Scranton/Wilkes-Barres ranks 139th (between Williamsport and Greeneville, TN). The ranks are based on more sports than just baseball, and factors include team attendance, the local economy, venues, etc. The Yankee brand is very important to the various minor league affiliates, that alone draws significant attendance.
Lunchtime linkage for those of you that prefer a later meal, like myself…
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
The Jorge Posada Hypocrisy
I swear, I wrote the first half of his great Jack Curry article on the train this morning. I mean, granted it wasn’t word for word, the premise was the same: the Yankees are coming off as extremely hypocritical for taking Jorge Posada out of the lineup because it’s best for the team while continuing to give A.J. Burnett starts every five days (or every six days, really). Jack’s a far better writer than I am, so go read his article to get the gist of what I was trying to say.
American League Best Tools
Every year, Baseball America surveys managers, coaches, and scouts about the best tools in both the American League and National League (no subs. req’d). I usually find these pieces interesting, but this year’s effort is a bit … wonky. Those surveyed voted Brett Gardner as the best bunter in the AL, which is most certainly not the case. He’s gotten a lot better recently, a lot better, but I’m not convinced that he’s even the best bunter on the team.
Derek Jeter was dubbed the best hit-and-run artist, while Gardner took home fastest baserunner honors but was named just the third best overall baserunner (behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Elvis Andrus). CC Sabathia the was voted the third best pitcher (behind Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver) and as having the second best slider (Felix Hernandez). Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano were named the best defensive players at their position, and Alex Rodriguez was third at the hot corner (Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria). And finally Mariano Rivera was named the top reliever, just ahead of … Kyle Farnsworth. Yep.
Austin Romine‘s Achy Back
Double-A Trenton backstop Austin Romine was placed on the disabled list a few days ago with a back strain, something that required an MRI but apparently isn’t serious enough to end his season. The club is hopeful he’ll be back by next week. How did he injure his back? As Mike Ashmore explains, it was just a case of minor league life…
“My back was tight after the long bus ride after the 7 o’clock game in Akron,” Romine said.
“We had to drive and get back really early in the morning, and I fell asleep with my legs up in a bad position. I got up and my back was a little sore, and I thought it was just regular soreness. I usually have soreness at this time of the year. I played through it and woke up in the morning with a little pinch in my back, so I let them know. It stayed sore for a little while, so they thought that sitting on the bus for four hours and going to Altoona would probably be a bad thing with the back thing going, so I stayed back and got treatment done.”
Romine said his back is “really good” right now but they’re just being cautious. You’d think he’d have the whole sleeping on a bus thing down after three plus years in the bush leagues. Of course, it could just be a cover story.
The Circle of Reliever Life
In case you haven’t heard, the Braves have released Scott Proctor today and replaced him on the roster with Arodys Vizcaino. It’s one former Yankees reliever for a former Yankees prospect, one pitcher they overworked for another they never had the chance to overwork. Arodys’ call-up is similar to Joba Chamberlain‘s in 2007; he’s been starting in the minors but they moved him to the bullpen to maximize his innings limit on the year. The only difference is that Atlanta doesn’t need Vizcaino right now, at least not like the Yankees needed Joba. The second (really third) Javy Vazquez trade didn’t work out for the Yankees, at all, but that’s life. Look ahead, not back.
Never was a fan of 8pm ET starts on Sundays, but what can you do. Here’s a few links to help pass the time this afternoon…
“Kick ass. Pop champagne. And get some ho’s.”
The Post published an exclusive article by Luis Castillo today, not the player but the former Yankees’ bat boy. He worked for the team from 1998-2005, and was part of the last group of bat boys that did not have to sign confidentiality agreements. He’s got a memoir called “Clubhouse Confidential” coming out, but revealed some of his favorite moments in the linked article. Castillo wrote about Derek Jeter‘s nicknaming habits, being Alex Rodriguez‘s personal assistant, Hideki Matsui‘s battle cry before Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS, and lots more. Check it out, it’s a must read.
Yankees aggressively blocking players on waivers
The trade deadline has passed but teams can still make deals once they go through the trade waiver process. It’s usually not much of an obstacle, but it’s part of the process. Peter Gammons says the Yankees have been the “heaviest on blocking claims,” starting pitchers in particular, meaning they’re claiming players off trade waivers to prevent them from going to other teams. Teams can pull a player back if they’re claimed on trade waivers, but the risk is that they can award you the player and his contract (see Rios, Alex). The Yankees definitely aren’t putting claims in on players with bad contracts (like Carlos Zambrano), but they’re probably gobbling up everyone else. Whether or not they make a trade for one of the guys they’re claiming is a different matter all together.
A-Rod unlikely to be suspended for poker allegations
Surprise! MLB will not suspend A-Rod for this latest round of poker allegations according to Todd Venezia. No wait, that’s not a surprise at all. Instead, Alex “will be warned again and not lightly” according to one of Venezia’s sources. I’m sure that will teach him a lesson.
I have a bunch of browser tabs open with various miscellaneous Yankee news. Time to share.
- From the “It’s Never Too Early To Plan Ahead” Department comes some information about the 2012 schedules. The details on the Yanks’ slate hasn’t hit the wires yet, but the Red Sox’s season schedule is out. Per Gordon Edes at ESPN Boston, the Yankees will be in Beantown on Friday, April 20, the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park’s opening. The two clubs then do not meet again until July 6-8 also in Boston. The Red Sox visit the Bronx for three game sets from July 27-29, August 17-19 and October 1-3. Essentially, the two clubs will play 12 games against each other over the final two months of the season.
- Earlier today, during an appearance on MLB Radio on SiriusXM, Brian Cashman said Iva Nova would likely start on of the games of the July 30 doubleheader against the Orioles. However, he has been placed on the AAA 7-Day disabled list after rolling his ankle during his start last night. The Yankees still believe he will be ready for the doubleheader, and this trip to the DL shouldn’t impact his standing as a potential trade chip.
- Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated says the 1998 Yankees were the best team he ever covered.
- Watching the Yankees at home is akin to a baseball symphony, writes Times music critic Anthony Tomassini.
- Finally, here’s one that’s been making the rounds lately: Light eyed players — including the Yanks’ own Brett Gardner — have trouble fielding the ball during day games.
The Yankees are still playing the Brewers, but here are some links for those of you that can’t watch the game…
(Photo Credit: Flickr user EDorf81 via Creative Commons license)
David Robertson, Life Saver (Not Literally)
The Yankees bullpen was supposed to be a strength coming into the season, and it has been for the most part. Just not the way we expected. Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain went down long-term elbow injuries, forcing David Robertson to step up his game and bridge the gap between starter and Mariano Rivera. His performance (1.58 FIP and 1.4 fWAR, third highest among all relievers) earned him a spot on Jerry Crasnick’s list of life savers, which focuses on players who thrived after injuries forced them into more prominent roles. “He’s always had that great curveball,” said a scout that Crasnick spoke too. “And [Joe Girardi] really likes him and trusts him.” Well, duh.
Joba Documents Life After Tommy John Surgery
If you follow Joba on Twitter, then you’re already aware that he’s been posting near-daily updates of his status following his Tommy John surgery, and Marc Carig asked him why. “I’ll document good days and bad days when we really start getting after it,” said Joba yesterday. “It’s good. It obviously gives you a non-baseball outlet. A lot of people don’t know really what Tommy John is, and the process. They’re basically going through the process with me. I appreciate all the support that they have given me. I think it’s fun for them to see what’s happening.”
Joba posted some gnarly photos of his scars after the surgery, and continues to write about how he’s feeling and how the latest doctor appointment went. I’ve been following along and I think it’s a pretty cool way for him to not only keep everyone updated about how he’s doing, but also interact with readers. Rehab from TJS is no joke, but now we’ll get a closer look at it then every before.
All-Star Game Voting Ends Tonight
Fan voting for the 2011 All-Star Game ends at midnight, so make sure you head over and stuff the ballots while you still can. Five Yankees are in line to start the game at the moment: Russell Martin, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson. Mark Teixeira is about a million voted behind Adrian Gonzalez at first base, and both Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner are about a million and a half votes out of an outfield spot. I haven’t voted yet myself, but if I do, here’s my ballot…
AL: Alex Avila, Adrian, Howie Kendrick, Asdrubal Cabrera, A-Rod, Granderson, Bautista, Carlos Quentin, David Ortiz
NL: Brian McCann, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Jose Reyes, Placido Polanco, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun
With Mike’s live-chat and the draft just 90 minutes away, let’s jump in with some links. Thanks to David for the new name for this semi-regular section.
We’re trying out a new feature around these parts today. Every day — or every few days — I’m going to bullet point a few stories related to baseball and the Yankees that are floating around the Internet. These are stories we either didn’t have time to write up for a full post or thought were worth a mention but not the full treatment. We’re happy to take submissions via the box at right, e-mail or through our Twitter account, and props to anyone who comes up with a catchier title than “Pinstriped Links.” On with the stories:
- MLB sources said they were investigating after Yuri Sucart, A-Rod‘s infamous cousin, was spotted hanging around the Yankees… [Daily News]
- …but the Commissioner’s Office absolved the Yanks’ third baseman of any wrong-doing. [ESPN NY]
- If Curtis Granderson is voted onto the 2011 All Star team, his 2013 option will increase from $13 million to $14 million. [Cot's via @ClintHolzner]
- Nearly 23 months since last throwing a pitch in the Major Leagues, Chien Ming Wang is almost ready for a rehab assignment. [Nats Insider]
- Ralph Gardner Jr. offers up some high praise for John Sterling and Suzy Waldman. [Wall Street Journal]
- Joba, meanwhile, has confided in his stuffed animals that he wants to be a starting pitcher.
The Yankees are done playing and the workday isn’t quite over, so here’s some links to help you pass the time…
Man of the people. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Granderson Steps Up
New York City banned the use of aluminum bats in high school leagues about four years ago, making the game safer but much more expensive to play. Curtis Granderson stepped in to help out last week, donating 300 Louisville Slugger bats to baseball and softball programs in the Public Schools Athletic League according to Mitch Abramson of The Daily News. The contribution is valued $50,000 or so, which means those are some seriously expensive bats. Good job by the Grandyman, we need to hear more about this stuff.
Aside: If you’re feeling charitable, consider participating in our pledge drive.
Reviewing The 2008 Draft
It’s already been three years since the Yankees drafted and failed to sign not only Gerrit Cole, but second rounder Scott Bittle as well. Cole is in the mix for the first overall pick this season, but concerns about Bittle’s shoulder proved prophetic as the right-hander missed all of last season after blowing out his shoulder. The Yankees turned the compensation picks for the failed signings into Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy the next year, which is better than nothing.
But what about the rest of the draft? Marc Hulet at FanGraphs reviews the 2008 AL East draft haul, noting that the Yankees added depth to their farm system with David Adams, Corban Joseph, David Phelps, Brett Marshall, and D.J. Mitchell among others. Mikey O’Brien is starting to make a name for himself at the lower levels, though Jeremy Bleich (the team’s highest signed pick) blew out his shoulder and over-slot signing Garrison Lassiter has fizzled. The jury is still out on Matt Richardson, another over-slot guy. Failing to sign two of your top three picks is a recipe for a disaster draft, though Phelps, Adams, etc. could still salvage the class if they prove useful in some way, even as trade bait.
What’s Dave Eiland Up To?
It’s not quite a case of Where Are They Now?, because we already know that former Yankees pitching coach hooked on with the Rays over the winter in some front office capacity. This is more like: What’s He Doing Exactly? Buster Olney has an update on Eiland today (Insider req’d), reporting that he is cross-checking amateur pitchers for the Rays in advance of their should-be ridiculous draft.
The Next Joe DiMaggio Rocco Baldelli is cross-checking position players. A cross-checker is essentially one level up from an area scout, they go in a little later in the spring just to verify previous reports and get a second set of eyes on a player, stuff like that. Tampa holds 12 of the first 89 picks in this June’s draft, so I’m sure those two have been keeping busy.
Yankees Daily Briefing
Just a heads up, friend of RAB Rebecca Glass is doing some work with ESPN New York this summer, posting a daily recap of news and notes from around the Yankees. Here’s today’s entry. There’s no dedicated RSS feed as far as can tell, so you’ll have to schlep though the blog each day, but it’s worth it.
More links as we anxiously await tonight’s game…
"Dude, we both suck." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Phil Hughes‘ Velocity Location
We’ve heard more than we care to hear about Hughes’ missing velocity this season/month, but what’s going on with his location? A pitcher could survive throwing 88-90 if he locates properly, but Phil hasn’t been doing that either. Jonathan Scippa at Baseball Analytics looked at Hughes pitches this year and shows that the right-hander is a) leaving everything up (I do mean mean everything), and b) is coming right in on left-handed batters. Last season he went after lefties away, away, away. A lot of that has to do with the cutter, which he’s relied on heavily without his normal heater in his two starts. The velocity is obviously the biggest concern, but damn kid, get that ball down.
Baseball America’s Updated Top 50 Draft Prospects
The college baseball season is halfway over and the draft is now less than two full months away, so Baseball America posted their updated rankings of the top 50 prospects. This one’s free for all, no subscription is required. They still have Rice 3B Anthony Rendon in the top spot, though they can be pretty stubborn about their rankings at times (see: Alvarez, Pedro). UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole is almost certainly the best talent in the draft class right now, especially since Rendon’s shoulder problems have gotten so bad that he’ll only be able to DH the rest of the season.
There’s a number of interesting players falling down the board, particularly TCU RHP Matt Purke and Indiana OF Alex Dickerson. I’m still a sucker for big high school arms, but the Yankees have shied away from that demographic early in the draft in recent years (Cole being a big exception).
Larry Bernandez! (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Today’s Competing GM Idea
Anonymous quotes are the backbone of the MSM. You can’t name a source because then they won’t give you the information they’re not supposed to be giving you in the first place. That’s cool, it’s part of the business, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to make fun of them from time to time. From Jon Heyman today, a “competing GM” said “if he were in charge in Seattle he’d take young pitchers Ivan Nova, Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos plus catching prospect Jesus Montero from the Yankees for reigning AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez.” Oh, is that all? I thought they’d ask for Robinson Cano too.
In all seriousness, it would take a frickin’ ton to acquire Felix, and the Mariners wouldn’t be crazy to ask for that. Would it hurt to deal two of the three Killer B’s plus Montero in the same package? Of course, but if you’re going to do it for someone, F-Her is the guy. I’d try to swap out Banuelos for Andrew Brackman, or at least Nova for D.J. Mitchell or something, but I think I would pull the trigger on that one. You?
Some random linkage on a rainy afternoon in the Tri-State…
Prior's still in Tampa, working his way back. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A brief Mark Prior scouting report
Right-hander Mark Prior was the feel good story of Spring Training this year, striking out a dozen batters and allowing just one run in 8.2 innings. He was clearly a shell of his former self, but his stuff was good enough to get guys out. Baseball America’s Jim Callis passed along an updated scouting report on the former phenom in this week’s Ask BA: “Prior’s fastball usually ran from 87-91 mph, his breaking ball and changeup were nothing special, and neither was his control (five walks) … Prior will need more fastball and a quality second pitch if he’s going to help New York in a relief role later in the year. I’m rooting for him, but I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The Yankees have until mid-June before Prior’s opt-out clause becomes an issue, so there’s no rush to make a decision. He recently appeared in back-to-back games for High-A Tampa and came out of that okay, but he’s obviously got a long, long way to go.
Even more on oblique issues
We’ve heard quite a bit about oblique injuries early in the season, as a number of Yankees missed time in Spring Training because of them. They’re not alone though, oblique issues have become an epidemic around the league. Fourteen players have already hit the disabled list with oblique injuries this season, and Michael Schmidt of The New York Times is trying to figure out why. We’ve heard about imbalanced training already, and another theory is that players are going from offseason training to game conditions too quickly. The Yankees were playing Grapefruit League games less than a week after position players reported. It could also be a classification issue since a lot of these injuries were just called abdominal or ribcage strains in the past. Whatever it is, there’s a lot of money being wasted on the disabled list, and you can be sure teams will get to the bottom of it.
Update projected standings
Before the season, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS system projected the Yankees to finish third in the AL East with an 87-75 record. The Red Sox occupied the top spot at 93-69 while the Rays trailed at 88-74, but because of their 2-8 starts, the playoff odds for Boston and Tampa Bay have taken a significant hit. In an ESPN Insider piece, Szymborski shows that updated ZiPS projections call for the Sox to finish 86-76 now, one game back of the Yankees in the division. The Rays are now projected to finish third at 85-77. A 2-8 start certainly isn’t the end of the world, but that’s ten games each team won’t get back, and that absolutely takes a bite out of their playoff hopes.
If nothing else, look at it this way: the Sox came into the season as the favorite in the division and understandably so, but the tangible benefit of being four wins better than New York in terms of roster construction is gone, if it ever existed in the first place.
The wannabe lefty
Earlier today we learned what makes David Robertson so effective: his extension. But did you know he’s ambidextrous? No, he’s not Pat Venditte, who will throw with both hands in game, but as Dan Barbarisi explains, Robertson shags fly balls every day using a glove on his right hand, firing balls back to the infield with his left. He’s even worked out an arrangement with Brett Gardner, who gives D-Rob his gloves to break in during batting practice. No, Robertson isn’t close to throwing left-handed in a game, he’s just working on it as a hobby. “If I can do it with my right hand, I can do it with my left hand. Why not?” said David. “I’m pretty ambidextrous. I just can’t write left-handed. That’s my only problem.”