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.”
Random Moose sighting. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Some afternoon news, notes, links, minutiae…
Yankees line up Sabathia for Red Sox
The Yankees have manipulated their rotation ever so slightly to allow CC Sabathia to start against the Red Sox next weekend. Ivan Nova will start tonight as scheduled, then CC will go tomorrow instead of Freddy Garcia. Don’t worry, he’ll be on regular rest. Garcia will then pitch on Wednesday and A.J. Burnett will follow on Thursday. The Yankees will roll into Boston next weekend with Phil Hughes (Friday), Nova (Saturday), and Sabathia (Sunday, regular rest). Not ideal, but whatever. It’s April.
The Twins are throwing Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, Carl Pavano, and Francisco Liriano this series, in that order. You have to figure that Andruw Jones will make his season debut against Duensing on Tuesday, and also play against Liriano on Thursday. Given the way Brett Gardner swung the bat over the weekend, two days off this week won’t kill him.
Triple-A Scranton Rotation Set
Speaking of lining up rotations, Donnie Collins spoke to Triple-A Scranton manager Dave Miley, who confirmed that his starting rotation is set. David Phelps will start the opener on Thursday, and will be followed by Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, D.J. Mitchell, and Andrew Brackman, in that order. Hooray for an all-prospect rotation. Kevin Millwood will presumably remain in Extended Spring Training for a while to build up arm strength and get stretched out, you know, Spring Training kind of stuff.
Manny Banuelos and Brett Marshall are on track to start Opening Day for Double-A Trenton and High-A Tampa, respectively, according to Josh Norris. Those are unconfirmed though, the days just happen to line up.
Three True Outcomes Weekend
I was screwed around with some data at B-Ref and came across something only the nerdy will love. The Yankees came to plate exactly 100 times against right-handed pitching in the Tigers’ series, and in those 100 PA they hit seven homers, walked a dozen times, and struck out 20. Thirty-nine of their 100 PA vs. RHP ended in a walk, strikeout, or homer, otherwise know as the three true outcomes. For perspective: Mark Reynolds saw 41.9% of his plate appearances end in the three true outcomes last season, by far the most in the bigs. The second most was Adam Dunn at 38.1%, and third was Colby Rasmus at 33.7%. So yeah, that’s quite a gap. The Yankees really brought the power and patience (and whiffs) against the righties this weekend, eh?
MLB making a push to contract the Rays?
From the I don’t believe it for a second department, Mike Ozanian of Forbes reports that Major League Baseball is making a “strong push” to the contract the Rays. If true, that would be a major leak and one hell of a scoop, but it doesn’t add up. Does it suck that the Rays have such a crappy stadium (in an even crappier location) and low revenue? Of course, but baseball as a whole is incredibly profitably and Tampa is one of the best teams in the game. And besides, they couldn’t contract just one franchise (unless they plan to have one team be idle every day of the season, something the owners would hate), it would have to be two. The union would also put up a major, major fight if MLB tried to eliminate 50 jobs like that (really 80 when you count 40-man rosters). So yeah, cool story bro, I just don’t buy it.
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Here’s some links for you night owls…
Surviving the Media
The New York media can be something else, to put it kindly, so Dan Barbarisi of The Wall Street Journal took a look at what the Yankees are doing to help their players cope with all the attention. It wasn’t until 2007 that the team put some sort of media training in place, when Brian Cashman sat down with media relations guru Jason Zillo to hammer out a plan of attack. Now the club has mandatory training that includes mock interviews, guest speakers, and more, and young players (three or fewer years of service time) are stuck with even more intense training. I recommend giving it a read, stuff like that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
Yankees win 2011 Bobby Murcer Award
Two years ago, the Baseball Assistance Team announced the creation of The Bobby Murcer Award, which is given annually to the team whose players contribute the most to B.A.T. through MLB’s payroll deduction program. The Yankees announced yesterday that they have won this year’s award, just like they did in 2010 as well as in 2009. B.A.T. gives aid and support to members of the “baseball family” who are unable to help themselves, and this is an award I hope the Yankees win every year.
MLBTR’s Offseason In Review
We’ve written countless words about the Yankees and their less than stellar offseason here at RAB, but sometimes it’s good to see an outsider’s opinion. Tim Dierkes tackled the subject at MLBTR yesterday, and started out by stating the obvious: “Only the Yankees can spend $130MM on free agents and have it seem like they didn’t do much during the offseason.” He gave the team credit for landing Pedro Feliciano on a two-year deal when inferior relievers were getting three years, but in the end, Tim draws an all too common conclusion: “The main goal may be to wring a couple of good months out of the rotation candidates.” Hopefully the trade market takes shape sooner rather than later.
FanGraphs Top 100 Prospects
Marc Hulet at FanGraphs finally got around to posting his list of the game’s top 100 prospects on Monday, and Jesus Montero came in at number five overall. He trails only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Jeremy Hellickson, and Domonic Brown. Manny Banuelos placed 18th, Gary Sanchez was 40th, Dellin Betances was 57th, and Austin Romine just made the cut at number 100. Five top 100 prospects seems to be the consensus this offseason, even if it hasn’t always been the same five names in the same order.
Here’s a few links to check out as you wait for today’s edition of the RAB Radio Show…
Even more on Banuelos
Didn’t get enough talk about why Manny Banuelos shouldn’t start the season in the big league rotation this morning? Luckily for you, Kevin Goldstein tackled the same topic today (subs. req’d), but did so a lot better than I did. “Twenty-year-old starting pitchers in the big leagues are rarities, but having a player like Banuelos, who has made just three starts above Class-A ball, in the big leagues would be nearly unprecedented,” said KG. “Make no mistake about it, Banuelos could at the very least hold his own in the big leagues right now, but the real question revolves around how long he could do it.”
It’s essentially the long-term gain vs. short-term pain argument, but I recommend reading the whole thing.
BA’s Top 20 Rookies
The gang at Baseball America compiled their list of the top 20 rookies for the 2011 season (subs. req’d), led by Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays. This isn’t a top prospect list, it’s a list of players poised to make the greatest contribution to their big league team this year. Hellickson has himself a guaranteed rotation spot, so it’s easy to see why he edged Freddie Freeman of the Braves. Jesus Montero came in at number ten, noting that in the best case scenario he’d “push his way into the catcher and DH slots for 300-400 productive at-bats.” In the worst case, Hey-Zeus could end up back in Triple-A. Big whoop.
No other Yankees farmhands made the cut, though I’m sure Ivan Nova at least garnered some consideration. The fact that Montero is ahead of guys with guaranteed Opening Day jobs like Brent Morel, Michael Pineda, Jake McGee, and Jordan Walden says a lot.
The Soriano Contract
We’ve ripped Rafael Soriano‘s contract to shreds on this corner of the interweb, but what about an objective opinion? Tim Dierkes of MLBTR examined the contract this afternoon, explaining why it’s not guaranteed that Soriano will opt out of his contract even if he has an excellent 2011 season. “A strong 2011 might allow Soriano to find a three-year deal for around $25MM,” said Tim, “but that’s not a big enough improvement over the two years and $23.5MM that would remain on his current deal. Getting three years as opposed to one after the ’12 season has added appeal, but the Yankees backloaded Soriano’s contract so that it’ll still be a tough choice for him.”
There are a ton of closer-types scheduled to become free agents after the season, so Soriano would have to compete with several other viable alternatives on the open market next summer should he choose to go that route. Then again, when’s the last time a player had an opt-out clause and didn’t use it?
How a suspension screwed the D’Backs and helped the Yankees
When the Yankees signed Juan Carlos Paniagua for $1.1M last week , most of us thought “cool” and moved on. Not the Diamondbacks though. Both Ben Badler and Nick Piecoro explain that Paniagua was originally known as Juan Carlos Collado, and had signed with Arizona for $17,000 back in 2009. MLB later suspended him because he falsified his name (but not his age) and then voided the contract for that same reason. The problem is that Paniagua went from throwing 88-90 to the mid-to-upper 90′s during the suspension, raising his prospect status considerably. Hence the seven figure payout.
“[Paniagua] was probably working out with the Diamondbacks [during the suspension], getting instruction, eating better and then they lost the rights,” said a scout to Badler. “It’s crazy.” It’s messed up and completely unfair, especially if Paniagua really was working out at Arizona’s facility during the suspension. Then again … go Yanks!
Earlier today we pointed you in the direction of John Sickels’ interview with Mark Newman, but here’s a few more minor league links to pass along…
Goldstein’s Organizational Rankings
A few days after releasing his top 101 prospects list, Kevin Goldstein released his farm system rankings today, placing the Yankees fourth overall behind the Royals, Rays, and Braves. You don’t need a subscription to view the whole thing. Instead of posting a generic paragraph on each system, KG added a haiku, and I give him points for originality. His Yankees’ offering: “Slugger with no glove. The B’s need to prove themselves. Yankees or trade bait?” Pretty much everything you need to know right there.
International Free Agent Clearing House
Baseball America posted a trio of great charts regarding international free agency today, one looking at the top 30 signing bonuses from 2010, another with each team’s spending in 2010, and the last with the top 20 bonuses of all-time. None of them require a subscription. The Yankees gave Wilmer Romero and Christopher Tamarez $656,500 and $650,000, respectively, the 19th and 20th largest bonuses of the year. Rafael DePaula got just $500,000 (26th), and some kid named Eduardo Rivera got $475,000 (30th). The $5.27M they spent overall was the second most by any team, so everyone complaining that the team wasn’t spending enough internationally, just stop.
As for the all-time records, Gary Sanchez‘s $3M is the third largest ever, behind Michael Ynoa and Miguel Sano. Wily Mo Pena ($2.44MM) is the ninth largest of all time, and for a while was a record. I still can’t believe the Yankees gave Wify Mo a big league contract as a teenager.
KLaw on Sanchez
Jesus Montero is the cream of the Yankees’ position player prospect crop and rightfully so, but further down the later resides Sanchez, who has to potential to be every bit as good as Hey-Zeus. Keith Law looked at six prospects yesterday (Insider req’d), six guys with the potential to jump into the top ten prospects in all of baseball next year, and Sanchez was among them. “Sanchez can hit, and looks like he’ll hit for power,” said KLaw. “A full year behind the plate and another year of physical development will go a long way toward answering the question of his defensive future, but there aren’t many questions about his offensive potential.”
Law says he believes Sanchez can catch long-term, and at the very least he has a better chance to do so than Montero. It’s unfair to compare Sanchez to Montero but it’ll inevitably happen. If he’s 75% of Jesus, that would be amazing.
Yankees sign Nick Ebert
The Yankees have signed former South Carolina first baseman Nick Ebert as an undrafted free agent, reports Matt Eddy. The 23-year-old hit .302/.448/.638 with 30 homers in 440 plate appearances with the Game Cocks over the last two years, before which he was at a junior college. Baseball America ranked Ebert as the 36th best prospect in the state before last year’s draft, just saying that he was a solid college senior with some power. The right-handed hitter is probably nothing more than minor league depth, a guy that can mash Single-A pitching and help keep the pressure off the youngsters.
The following a guest post from long-time RAB reader and commenter Rich Iurilli (@richardiurilli on the Twitters), highlighting another great Kickstarter project that benefits a wonderful cause.
Last week, Hannah wrote about the Eephus League Baseball Scorebook Revival Project, which, at the time, was trying to raise $10,000 to produce a simple, easy-to-use scorebook in an attempt to rekindle interest in the dying art of baseball scorekeeping. Early Thursday morning, that project reached its $10,000 goal, and as I write this, it has raised $11,636, in part due to the generosity of River Ave. Blues readers.
Today, I would like to bring to your attention another baseball-related project on Kickstarter. Ed Lucas, a blind sports writer who used to cover the Yankees, is trying to raise $15,000 in pledges to produce a professional-quality oral history of baseball, as told through the 292 plaques at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. As wonderful as these plaques are, there are countless baseball fans who are unable to experience them due to blindness and other visual impairments, which are expected to affect almost one third of the American population within the next decade, according to the project description. This project seeks to remedy this by providing descriptions of every plaque in the Hall of Fame.
For Yankee fans, there is more to this project than just the ties to baseball history. Lucas has covered New York-area sports, particularly the Yankees, since 1964, despite losing his vision at just twelve years of age to retinal detachments suffered while playing baseball. After this unfortunate event, Lucas befriended Phil Rizzuto and developed a good relationship with the Yankees organization. In 2006, Lucas was the first person to be married at home plate in Yankee Stadium, and George Steinbrenner covered the entire cost of the ceremony. In a 2007 interview with the New York Times, Lucas said, “Baseball took my sight away, but it gave me a life.”
Now, Lucas is trying to give that life to an entire generation of blind or visually-impaired baseball fans. If the project meets its fundraising goal, it will be produced as both a CD and an app for mobile devices, both of which will be made freely available to anyone who wants them. In addition to the obvious benefits for blind or visually-impaired fans, the project could also be used by visitors to the Hall of Fame, which does not currently have an audio tour available. For the project to be produced, Lucas is looking to raise $15,000 by April 7, 2011, of which $3,005 has been pledged at the time of this writing.
As is the case with most Kickstarter projects, there are a number of rewards for backers to choose from depending on the amount of their pledge. These rewards range from an official non-autographed baseball souvenir and a CD copy of the project for a pledge of $10 to lunch or dinner with a Hall of Famer and a day at the ballpark with Lucas for a pledge of $5,000. Of course, pledges of any amount are welcome and bring this wonderful project a little bit closer to fruition.
To learn more about the project or to make a pledge, you can visit the project page on Kickstarter, or to learn more about Ed Lucas, you can visit his website.
Need some help getting through the rest of the work day? I’ve gotcha covered…
Mauer on Montero
While we discussed the merits of using Jesus Montero as the backup catcher this morning, Joe Brescia of The Times was busy talking to Joe Mauer about the Yankees’ uber-prospect and the perils of being a big catcher. “Too big. Not quick enough. I heard everything under the sun,” said Mauer, who stands 6-foot-5, two inches taller than Montero. “My advice to him is try and learn as much as you can. He’s lucky he has Jorge Posada, a pretty good catcher to learn from. And he has Russell Martin there now, too, another good one to help him. Those two guys that have been around the block. He should follow those guys around and learn as much as he can.”
The former AL MVP also emphasized the importance of getting to “know your customers,” meaning the pitching staff. “Know your staff and the little things that they respond to. You have to learn the pitchers and what they are capable of doing and not doing. Try to put your pitchers in the best situations they can to succeed.”
The Pitch to Damon
Before he signed on with the Rays, we heard that the Yankees had expressed some interest in bringing Johnny Damon back to the Bronx, presumably as a part-time outfielder and part-time designated hitter. RAB fave Ken Davidoff spoke to Johnny recently, who informed him that the Yankees pitched the idea of using him twice a week in the outfield and once a week at DH. Damon just wasn’t ready to commit to being a glorified bench player yet, so to Tampa he went.
The Yanks still would have needed a right-handed power bat for the bench if they had signed Damon, but not necessarily an outfielder. If Johnny had agreed to that arrangement, perhaps it would have opened the door for Montero to break camp with the team even more. Who knows.
BA’s Top 150 Prospects & More
The crew at Baseball America published their annual list of the top 100 prospects in the game last week, and a whopping six Yankees prospects made the cut. But you knew that already. What you may not know is how the list is compiled, which is what Jim Callis explained in this week’s Ask BA. Their six editors each put together a personal top 150 prospects list, then they mash ‘em all together in a spreadsheet and talk out the individual rankings. In addition to the guys that cracked the top 100, three other Yankees farmhands appeared in the personal top 150′s: Slade Heathcott (two ballots, peaking at number 133), Hector Noesi (4, 92), and Eduardo Nunez (4, 109).
Within the same piece, Callis says the Yankees have the best group of catching prospects in baseball, and that’s even if Montero ends up having to move off the position. That’s some hefty praise right there.
I know I’m not usually allowed out of my cage on a Monday, but I thought I oughta drop in a little plug for something that caught my eye. Eephus League, a sort-of-blog (more like a collection of cool graphics and general baseball miscellanea with a side of blogging), has created a baseball scorecard book that I personally think is the most amazing thing around. It is, as they said in the 90′s, the bomb. The shizznit. The cat’s meow. You get the point.
I’ve personally been unable to find a scorecard book that I actually like (I’m about two web shopping trips from printing something out, going to Kinko’s with it, and making my own) and have instead been growing a messy, unwieldy pile of scorecards from baseball programs. This scorebook totally appeals to me, and it should appeal to you too, if you love baseball scorekeeping. It’s a nerd thing, but hey, I’ve spent Saturday nights compiling spreadsheets.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Kickstarter, but the basic gist is is that the owner of a project posts a brief, hand-made video and text synopsis, then says they need X money in Y days. People pledge money to the project. If enough money is pledged, the project goes through. If not enough money is put in before time is up, no money is paid out at all. The more money you donate, the cooler gifts you get (I went for the pins). Sadly, no Paypal allowed.
You should all put in five bucks because baseball scoring is awesome. $15 nets you a scorecard and a feel-good vibe in your gut. Click here for the Kickstarter page.
Walking away on your own terms is something few players get to do. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
It’s Andy Pettitte day, so let’s round up some links…
The official statement
Chad Jennings posted the team’s official press release about Andy’s retirement. “According to the Elias Sports Bureau,” says the release, “Pettitte, a three-time All-Star (1996, 2001, ’10) and 2001 ALCS MVP, holds the distinction of being the only pitcher in Major League history to post a record of .500 or better while making at least 15 starts in each of the first 16 seasons of his career.”
The press conference is tomorrow morning at 10:30am ET and can be seen on YES, mlb.com, and yankees.com. We’ll liveblog it one way or another.
Andy’s place in recent history
I don’t think any of us really considers Pettitte to be one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, but he’s certainly one of the best in recent history. Joe tackled that very topic at FanGraphs, finding that just a dozen pitchers can lay claim to a better career than Andy over the last 30 years. When it comes to recent Yankee history, no starting pitcher is even in the same ballpark.
The Hall of Fame?
Over at his new digs, Rob Neyer broke down Andy’s case for the Hall of Fame, which is borderline at best. I don’t think he should get in, but Rob states his case and shows that if nothing else, Pettitte will probably stick around on the ballot for a number of years. Maybe the Veteran’s Committee voted him in eventually, but sheesh, that’s two decades away.