2012 Draft: Hensley headed to Tampa for physical

According to his Twitter feed, first rounder Ty Hensley is heading to Tampa for a few days to take his physical. That’s a pretty good indication that the two sides are very close to an agreement if one isn’t already in place. Slot money for the 30th overall pick is $1.6M and I’m guessing his bonus will come very close to that. Maybe a little over, maybe a little under.

Hensley told reporters shortly after the draft that he hopes to sign quickly and reach the big leagues by age 21. The signing deadline was moved up a full month to July 13th this year, so he should be able to throw some rookie ball innings once he officially joins the organization. Everything you need to know about the kid is right here.

6/08-6/10 Series Preview: New York Mets

(photo c/o Getty Images)

The Yankees welcome the Mets to the Bronx this weekend for the first of two home-and-homes they’ve played against each other every season since 1999 — though there are rumblings that the annual six games against the Mets could be a thing of the past with Houston moving to the American League next year. The Yankees are 49-35 all time against the Mets during Interleague Play, though despite this relative dominance I certainly won’t miss playing the Metropolitans six times a year if changes do come to pass.

The Bombers went 4-2 last season against a bruised and battered Mets team, winning both series and marking only the 7th time in 15 seasons that the Yankees won the season series (the teams have split the season series six times). This year’s Mets team entered the season with almost no expectations — though I told anyone who would listen during the offseason that I thought their starting pitching would be very good, and while it hasn’t been lights-out it’s still been plenty effective (top seven NL in K/9, BB/9, ERA and FIP) — and to the surprise of everyone, have considerably outplayed expectations to the point of being 32-26 and only 1.5 games out of first place. I’d wager most Mets fans would’ve looked at you as if you were crazy if you told them they’d not only have a winning record on the morning of June 8 but also be within shouting distance of first place.

The staff has been led by a resurgent Johan Santana — still riding high after authoring one of the most important moments in franchise history last Friday after finally breaking the team’s 51-year no-hitter drought — who has come back from shoulder surgery looking every bit the pitcher the Mets gave one of the richest pitching contracts in history to, putting up a 2.38 ERA/2.72 FIP, striking out 9.0 per nine and as usual, limiting the walks, all contributing to him currently residing in the top 10 most valuable starters in the NL by fWAR.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has continued what has to be one of the quietest runs of sustained success in the Majors — he actually has the 11th-lowest ERA of all qualified starters in MLB since joining the Mets in 2010. If that weren’t enough, Dickey also has — believe it or not — the lowest ERA against the Yankees, minimum two starts, of every starter the Bombers have faced since the beginning of 2010. Granted, it’s only across two starts, but the Yankees should be very happy they don’t have to see Dickey this weekend. Saturday’s starter Dillon Gee has also been effective if a bit unlucky on the season (4.48 ERA/3.59 FIP, 8.32 K/9), while Sunday’s starter Jonathon Niese has probably been the least-effective hurler in the Mets’ rotation thus far but that’s not saying much, as Niese boasts a 4.11 ERA/4.26 FIP and 8.95 K/9.

However, the pitching hasn’t been the entire story for the 2012 New York Mets. The offense currently ranks 5th in the NL with a .318 wOBA/99 wRC+, and much of that is due to David Wright, currently perhaps the hottest hitter in all of baseball, with a .438 wOBA and 182 wRC+ that both clock in at 2nd-best in the NL. That said, if you can navigate around Wright there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of firepower surrounding him. Lucas Duda (122 wRC+) is a threat at cleanup; recently called up journeyman shortstop Omar Quintanilla (141) has hit well above his head in limited duty which means he’ll almost certainly get a key hit or two this weekend; and rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis (110) and even constantly injured Jason Bay (108) are also providing above-average production, so the Mets aren’t without their weapons, although none of these names instill the level of fear that Wright does.

Unfortunately it hasn’t been all champagne wishes and caviar dreams for the Mets, as their bullpen has been the team’s worst-performing unit, with a worst-in-the-NL 5.38 collective ERA. Righties Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch set up closer Frank Francisco, while Tim Byrdak and Miguel Batista hold down the fort in the middle innings.

The Pitching Match-Ups

Friday, June 8, 2012 at 7:10 p.m. LHP Johan Santana vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda

You already know about Santana’s season — who had his most recent start pushed back to this game in the aftermath of his career-high 134 pitches used to secure the no-no — and stuff-wise he’ll attack hitters with his 89mph four-seamer 46% of the time and knock them out with one of the best changeups (2.38 wCH/C) in the game. Santana also chucks an 81mph slider 18% of the time and a sinker 14% of the time. Despite a career 4.18 ERA vs. the Yanks, Johan has always been a tough assignment for the Bombers, who haven’t seen him since they beat him behind a Mark Teixeira grand slam on Father’s Day in 2010.

HIROK! has historically fared rather poorly against the Mets, pitching to a 5.75 ERA in 36 innings across seven career starts.

Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 7:15 p.m. RHP Dillon Gee vs. RHP Phil Hughes

The groundballing (54.6%) Gee throws a 90mph sinker 28% of the time, four-seamer 26%, 83mph changeup 23% and 74mph curve 10% of the time. Though he primarily relies on the sinker, his changeup is actually one of the better weapons on the team, as it currently ranks 11th-most effective by wCH/C in the National League. Gee has one career start against the Yankees which came last July 2, and he started out strong before they rallied for four runs in the 6th inning en route to a 5-2 victory.

Hughes missed the subway series last year, and has two career starts against the Mets, both coming in 2010. In the first, he got hit around at Citi Field for four runs in 5.2 innings, and was much better a month later, holding the Mets to three runs over seven at Yankee Stadium.

Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 1:05 p.m. LHP Jonathon Niese vs. LHP Andy Pettitte

Niese is a fastball-heavy lefty, with a 91mph four-seamer (42%), 87mph cutter (21%) and 90mph sinker (13%). He also has a 75mph curve that he’ll throw roughly one-fifth of the time to both righties and lefties. Like Gee, Niese has also only faced the Yankees once, and held them to three runs in 6 innings last July.

The Prediction

The Mets always seem to find ways to win games they shouldn’t when playing the Yankees, even during their bad seasons, and so with the Mets currently playing very good ball this is a fairly tough call.

It’ll be interesting to see if Johan shows any ill effects from the career-high pitch count from last Friday — if he’s anything close to the guy that threw the no-hitter, he’ll be a tough match-up. The Gee-Hughes game seems like a complete wild card, as who knows whether Hughes will come out roaring like he did against the Tigers or follow up a superb outing with a clunker for seemingly the 1,000th time in his career. I also don’t know how I feel about the Niese-Pettitte game, as the Mets’ starters of recent seasons seem to be very good at bending slightly against the Yankees but not breaking. Of course, Pettitte’s been mostly ageless thus far in his comeback, and it’s hard to pick against him right now.

I think the Yankees probably lose the Santana-Kuroda game (although in one of those random scheduling quirks, the Yankees are actually 8-1 on Friday this season, with their one loss coming back on Opening Day) and then bounce back to take the Saturday and Sunday games behind continued strong performances from Hughes and Pettitte.

RAB Tickets

As always, RAB Tickets has your connection for seats, and this weekend, we have a special offer from TiqIQ. With the Mets coming to town, here is the rundown for deal info on each of this weekend’s games. Click on the image above to make a purchase.

Game 1:

  • 1900+ tickets starting at $34.
  • 15+ instant delivery eTickets ranging from $44-$283.
  • 400+ tickets available for less than $55, including some in TiqZone Field OF for 50% below face price.
  • Grandstand seats behind the dugouts or home plate start at $47.
  • 150+ Bleacher Seats available for less than $60. These tickets range from 23%-32% below market average.
  • 70+ seats available on the main level behind the dugouts for $57-$90. These seats range from 17%-31% below face price.
  • Prices for 100-Level Field seats start @ $97 (22% below face price).

Game 2:

  • 3200+ tickets starting at $25
  • 140 instant delivery eTIckets ranging from $57-$95.
  • 90+ tickets available for $50 or less.
  • Bleacher seats start @ $50 and there are over 300 available for less than $70, some for up to 33% below market value .
  • Grandstand seats behind the dugouts or home plate start at $40 and there are 100+ available for less than $60.
  • Main level behind the dugouts start at $70 (22% below face value.
  • Prices for Field level seats start @ $74 (18% below face price) in the outfield and $111 (11% below face price) behind the dugouts.

Game 3:

  • 2000+ tickets starting at $40
  • 15+ instant delivery eTickets available from $47-$212.
  • 150+ tickets available for less than $60.
  • Tickets in the Bleachers start at $53 and there are over 140 available for less than $70. These seats range from 15%-34% below market average.
  • Grandstand seats start at $47 (36% below market average) behind the dugouts and $56 (30% below market avg) behind home plate.
  • Main Level seats start at $55 (43% below market avg) and there are 60+ available for less than $100.
  • Prices for Field level seats start @ $74 (18% below face price).

Chat reminder – no podcast

Mike’s off to an event at Yankee Stadium, so that means two things. First, it means I’ll be doing the chat today. It’ll start at — Update: Running behind, so we’ll start at 2:30 — instead of the normal 1:30. This also means, unfortunately, that we’ll have no podcast this week. Perhaps we’ll do one on Monday following the Subway Series.

Mailbag: Willingham, Soriano, Betances, CoJo

I’ve got five questions for you this week and I was able to keep the answers to four of them reasonably short. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up mailbag questions or anything else.

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Daniel asks: Is Josh Willingham a possible trade target at the trade deadline? He’s having a good year, signed to a reasonable mid-term deal, and the Twins are awful. Any idea what sort of return he would command?

Willingham is having an insane year with the Twins — 173 wRC+ and eleven homers — after signing a three-year, $27M deal this offseason. Given Minnesota’s terribleness — 22-34 with a -70 run differential — and the fact that his value is at its apex at age 33, it would make sense for them to shop him around before he comes back to Earth. Kinda like what the Pirates did with Xavier Nady in 2008. Because he signed as a free agent this winter, the Twinkies can not trade him without his consent until one week from today. In other words, it’s no big deal.

Anyway, the Yankees don’t really have anywhere to play Willingham this season unless Brett Gardner‘s elbow injury lingers. He’s supposed to play in his first minor league rehab game tonight, so we’ll find out how well he’s recovering soon enough. The Yankees will presumably need a corner outfielder to replace Nick Swisher after the season however, and Willingham is affordable enough. His defense is terrible though and his best position is DH. Still, right-handed power is in short supply.

I usually try to think of comparable players when thinking up trade scenarios, but I can’t come up with anyone like Willingham. Older guy who’s still productive with two full seasons left on his market rate free agent contract? Does Miguel Tejada to the Astros work? Scott Rolen to the Reds? Those two got traded for quantity over quality packages. I’m sure the Yankees could cull something together in that case, but this isn’t a vacuum. Willingham would help any team but he really doesn’t fit New York’s roster.

A different Daniel asks: If Rafael Soriano can put together an above average statistical season, what would you say the odds are that he hits the road after this season?

Zero percent. Soriano is owed $14M next season and there’s no chance he’ll match that on the open market. No one wanted to sign him two offseasons ago coming off the best season of his life and I doubt the sentiment has changed this time around. Heck, Ryan Madson is flat out better than Soriano and there was no market for him last winter. I’m sure every club will have Heath Bell in the back of their mind whenever they think about signing a free agent reliever going forward, and that won’t help his case. Considering that he’s a health risk and is very good but not dominant, I can’t imagine any number of saves will have Soriano thinking about opting out of his current deal.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Jacob asks: Do you think Dellin Betances needs a mechanical change to help with his walks? Maybe more of a sidearm or 3/4 delivery (Randy Johnson-esque) could possibly allow him to harness his abilities?

Dellin needs something to help with the walks and a mechanical change seems like an obvious solution. I’m not pitching coach or anything, so I have no idea if changing his arm slot or something like that will have a positive impact. I’ve always gotten the impression that it’s difficult to throw strikes with anything below a three-quarters slot, especially if there’s anything more an average velocity involved. Johnson was just a freak of nature and an extreme outlier, I wouldn’t use that guy as blueprint for anything.

At some point the Yankees need to do something about Betances, I can’t imagine an 8.1 BB/9 (19.0 BB%) is good for his confidence. I don’t know if it’s a move to the bullpen or a change in mechanics or a stern talking to, but this can’t go on forever.

Andrew asks: Why is nobody giving more attention to Corban Joseph? I know Single-A is the future, but he seems to have real pinstripes potential if he switches to the left side of the infield.

That’s the problem, he can’t switch to the left side of the infield. Joseph’s defense basically meets the minimum standards at second base and isn’t nearly good enough for short. He hasn’t even played one inning at shortstop in the minors and that’s not an accident. If he had a chance to play the position, they would have tried him there at some point. Joseph can handle third but not well, plus he’s unlikely to provide enough to play the position for a meaningful amount of time.

I don’t really know what Joseph is long-term. He makes good contact from the left side and draws some walks, so he has offensive value. Do they pigeon-hole him into a bench role and hope to hide his defense? Do they try him in an outfield corner and hope he can play second base as well as left and maybe right? I don’t really know. Joseph is on the 40-man though, so the Yankees see something they like in him.

J.R. asks: Mike, with all of the pre-draft deals that apparently took place this year, do you expect MLB to try and crack down on these next year?

They can try, but I’m not quite sure what they can do about it. I doubt the teams are getting these agreements in writing, so they’d basically have to look over the shoulder of every area scout to make sure he isn’t taking money with a player before the draft. I’m sure MLB would love to crack down on pre-draft arrangements, but it just might not be possible. Teams will always find a workaround.

Yanks can’t complete sweep, fall to Rays


Source: FanGraphs

Two out of three against the division rival isn’t bad, but I think all of us wanted the Yankees to get a little greedy and finish off the sweep of the Rays with CC Sabathia on the mound Thursday night. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Let’s recap…

  • On The Ropes: The Yankees had David Price right where they wanted him in the fifth inning. The bases were loaded with one out, the middle of the order was due up, and his pitch count was approaching the century mark. Alex Rodriguez saw seven curveballs as part of an 11-pitch at-bat before striking out, then Robinson Cano grounded out to end the threat. Pretty much every time the Yankees lose, you can point to a hideous RISPFAIL situation like this. Then again, you can say that about any team losing just about any game ever.
  • Not Good Enough: Sabathia allowed five runs (three earned) in his seven innings of work, with the big blow being a two-run Drew Sutton double on a pretty good slider down in the zone. He hooked it into the left field corner and some bobbles by Jayson Nix and the relay man allowed the second run to score. It didn’t help that A-Rod threw a ball into the stands to start a rally in the third either. Sabathia did strike out a season-high 12 though, walking just one. Just wasn’t good enough.
  • Leftovers: Ugly night for Curtis Granderson, who struck out four times and grounded out to the pitcher in his five trips to the plate … Russell Martin‘s garbage time opposite field homer was their only extra-base hit, plus he’s now hitting .324/.432/.595 since the start of the Royals series before the West Coast trip … Cory Wade allowed a pair of extra-base hits and has been struggling of late, though he hasn’t worked all that much either … Clay Rapada walked Matt Joyce in the ninth and now has more walks (seven) than strikeouts (six) against left-handed batters … the defense was quite ugly in this one, the Yankees did themselves zero favors in the field … 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position brought them to 5-for-26 in the series, and this RISPFAIL nonsense is getting old fast.

I don’t think there’s much more you can say about this one. The Yankees have been playing well of late but it just wasn’t happening. Get back on the horse tomorrow. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The Subway Series starts on Friday night with Hiroki Kuroda giving it a go against Johan Santana, who is coming off his no-hitter. If you want to catch the game, check out RAB Tickets for some deals.

Austin hurt in Charleston loss

Make sure you check out this OF Mason Williams interview with Next Level Ballplayer. He talks about adjusting to life in pro ball, the improvements he’s made to his swing and approach, and lots more. Well worth your time.

Also, RHP Kevin Whelan has been placed on the DL for an unknown reason, hopefully it’s nothing serious. The Yankees signed OF Billy Hart and immediately placed him on the DL. I’m assuming this is him, though that’s not the most uncommon name in the world.

Triple-A Empire State (6-2 win over Durham)
CF Chris Dickerson: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K —
LF Kevin Russo & 2B Corban Joseph: both 1-5 — Russo doubled, scored twice, and struck out twice
DH Jack Cust: 1-3,1 RBI, 1 K
1B Russell Branyan: 1-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — five hits in his last ten at-bats, including three dingers
3B Brandon Laird & C Gus Molina: both 1-4, 1 R — Laird struck out … Molina drove in a run and struck out three times
RF Colin Curtis: 2-4, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI
SS Doug Bernier: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
RHP Nelson Figueroa: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HB, 5/4 GB/FB — 57 of 91 pitches were strikes (62.6%) … he started five days ago and came out of the bullpen two days ago, which I’m sure contributed to the 86 mph heater he was working with
LHP Justin Thomas: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 21 of 33 pitches were strikes (63.6%)
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 15 of 26 pitches were strikes (57.7%)
LHP Mike O’Connor: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 12 of 19 pitches were strikes (63.2%)

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New Feature: 2012 Draft Pool Tracker

Just a heads up, I created a new 2012 Draft Pool Tracker page that we’ll use to keep tabs of the Yankees’ draft spending in the coming weeks. It’s a work in progress, but all the draft spending rules and penalties are there, ditto the team’s draft picks in the top ten rounds. I’ll add post-tenth round picks as they impact the draft pool. The page is available via the Resources tab (under the street sign in the banner) at all times.