Yanks place three on Baseball America’s Top 20 Sally League Prospects list

From left to right: Williams, Austin, Sanchez. (MiLB.com)

After getting shut out of the Gulf Coast League and NY-Penn League lists, the Yankees finally landed some prospects on one of Baseball America’s league top 20 lists. The Low-A South Atlantic League list was released today, with hard-throwing Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez claiming the top spot. OF Tyler Austin and C Gary Sanchez placed fourth and fifth, respectively, behind Fernandez, SS Trevor Story (Rockies), and OF Gregory Polanco (Pirates). OF Mason Williams was a little further down at nine. The list is free for all, no subscription is required.

“(Austin) has a great approach at the plate. He’s a gamer. This is the kind of kid you want on your team. He has the ability and the desire, and that’s a great combination,” said an opposing manager in the subscriber-only scouting report. Baseball America lauds the 21-year-old’s offensive skills — “a balanced approach, terrific hand-eye coordination and good strength … makes hard contact with solid power to all fields” — while noting his improved defensive skills in right field. My Minor League Player of the Year posted a 175 wRC+ with 14 homers in 309 plate appearances for the River Dogs this season.

Sanchez, 19, ranked 14th on the Sally League list a year ago and the offensive scouting report is relatively unchanged. The publication lauds hit ability to square up pitches and hit for big power — “You see the power he possesses and you say, ‘You got to be kidding me,'” said an opposing manager — but knocks him for his defense. Sanchez has a strong arm and can thrown out base-stealers, but he struggles with his receiving and there are concerns about his work ethic. He produced a 137 wRC+ with 13 homers in 289 plate appearances for Charleston this summer.

The 20-year-old Williams was further down the list than I expected, as Baseball America knocked him for his makeup. “He reportedly caused a few headaches for the Charleston staff and turned off observers with the way he carried himself on the field,” they wrote, while one NL scout said he has “got tools but needs to be humbled.” At the same time, he was praised for his “plus-plus speed and center-field defense,” as well as his “quick bat and average power.” Williams hit to a 129 wRC+ with eight homers and 19 steals in 311 plate appearances for the River Dogs before being promoted.

Here is the full top 20 schedule. The next list of interest to Yankees fans is the High-A Florida State League, which will be released next Monday. Sanchez, Austin, and Williams likely did not spend enough time with High-A Tampa to qualify for the list, but OF Ramon Flores, LHP Nik Turley, and RHP Jose Ramirez sure did. I’m not sure that any will make the top 20, but they should have at least garnered consideration. OF Slade Heathcott and RHP Mark Montgomery are right on the playing time bubble and should make it if eligible.

Update: MLB announces new broadcasting deals with FOX and TBS

Oct. 3rd: MLB announced both agreements, which take effect in 2014. For us fans, the biggest piece of news is that the blackout rules for nationally broadcast FOX Saturday games will be lifted. If you live outside of the Tri-State area, you’ll now be able to click on MLB.tv to watch the Yankees on Saturdays regardless of who FOX is broadcasting locally. That’s awesome. Richard Sandomir has some more details as well.

Sept. 20th, 7:05pm: Maury Brown has the actual figures. Each club currently gets $23.72M annually in nationally television money, and that will increase to $50M with the new deals. So the revenue more than doubled just like that. Wow.

5:30pm: Via the AP, MLB is nearing new eight-year broadcasting contracts with FOX and TBS that will run through 2021. The new deals are expected to approximately double the revenue the league receives from the networks to about $800M. FOX gets to keep exclusive World Series rights while the two stations split the other postseason rounds.

At the moment, each of the 30 clubs gets something like $10-15M annually from the league’s broadcasting deals, but that figures to go up considerably with the new contracts. Not all $800M goes to the teams, but a huge chunk of it does. The Yankees already have more money than everyone else, so the extra revenue doesn’t really help them, but it will help direct competitors like the Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles.

Thoughts following the extra innings win over the Red Sox

(Al Bello/Getty)

Man, I still can’t believe Raul Ibanez. That guy has been unbelievable this season, all after everyone wanted him released during Spring Training. Remember that? He was so bad during exhibition games that we were wondering how in the world the Yankees could open the season with him as the regular DH against righties. Ibanez has basically become the left-handed version of 2010 Marcus Thames, the platoon bat who unexpectedly became an important part of the offense because all he did was pile up big hits.

1. We all love our prospects and young players, but I think there’s definitely value in veteran experience. We joke all the time about veteran presents but I’m actually being serious right now — veteran presence has value, especially in big late-season games like the ones the Yankees have been playing. The whole “been there, done that” thing. Like Melky Mesa missing third base, that’s a mistake I have a hard time seeing a veteran guy like Ichiro Suzuki or even Brett Gardner making. I don’t know how much tangible value that veteran experience has, it’s probably small, but every little bit counts and it could win ballgames.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

2. We’re all focused on the Yankees obviously, but do you realize that the Rangers blew a 13-game lead in the AL West? They were up a baker’s dozen on the then-third place Athletics on June 30th and were five up as late as September 24th. Now they’re tied. That’s kinda ridiculous, especially since Texas was considered the best team in baseball for most of the season. Their collapse out of first will get all of the attention, but the real story is the Cinderella A’s. That team sure is fun, and I have little interest in seeing the Yankees make a trip out west to Oakland at some point in the postseason. The Athletics aren’t the scariest team in the league, but they’re damn good.

3. I still very much dislike the whole winner-take-all wildcard play-in game, but the new playoff system is more fun than I expected. There were a lot of races that came down to the final week this season, and hell, we still have two division titles on the line in Game 162(s) today. It’s been a while since the Yankees were playing truly meaningful games this late in the season, usually they’re resting regulars and lining up the playoff rotation by now. That said, under the old playoff season we would have come into today with the Orioles, Rangers, and Athletics in what amounts to a three-way tie for the wildcard. Now that would have been really fun.

4. I absolutely want the Yankees to clinch the best record in the league today. Part of it is just a status “hey look at us we had the best record in the AL” thing, but I’d also rather see the Yankees play the winner of the wildcard game in the ALDS than the Tigers, who have already started resting their regulars. How in the world is that fair? Detroit has the seventh best record in the league yet was the first team to clinch a division before the other teams in the AL Central stink. The system is broken in that regard. Taking the best record in the AL, facing the wildcard play-in winner in the ALDS, and potentially having home field advantage in the ALCS is the way I want to go. A win today clinches all of that, and it’s worth way more to me than getting an extra day to game plan for the Tigers.

5. When was the last time the Yankees had such an up-and-down, roller coaster season? Between the RISPFAIL bonanza in April and May, the untouchable rotation in June and July, the collapse month of August, the race of September … I mean sheesh, they’ve gone from one extreme to the other on what feels like a weekly basis. All the injuries only made it even more of a roller coaster. It felt like every time someone got healthy, someone else went down. Big important players too, not just complementary guys. Regardless of what happens today or in the playoffs, it sure was a fun year. More than enough great moments to offset the heartbreak.

Ibanez carries Yankees to extra innings win over Red Sox; Yanks maintain sole possession of first

I think this is the third time in the last two weeks that I’ve called a game the best win of the season, but I’m doing it again anyway: Tuesday’s walk-off win over the Red Sox was the best win of the season. These last few weeks sure have been fun.

(Al Bello/Getty)

Raul Ibanez, True Yankee™

Ibanez has had a number of big hits for the Yankees this season, most notably his recent two-homer game off the bench against the Athletics. That game featured his first pinch-hit homer of the season, and this game featured his second. Eduardo Nunez had gone 2-for-3 with a double earlier in the game, but Joe Girardi called him back to the bench with a man on first and no outs in the ninth, opting to use Ibanez against the right-handed Andrew Bailey. The skipper was going for the kill.

Bailey went all fastball against Ibanez, throwing a first pitch four-seamer for a called strike and a second pitch cutter for a called ball. Raul fouled off the third pitch cutter to set up the unfavorable 1-2 count, but Bailey made a mistake and … well … bailed him out. Ibanez turned on the thigh-high 93 mph four-seamer on the outer half, the same pitch he took for strike one, for a line drive, game-tying, two-run homer to right. It was probably a Yankee Stadium cheapie but it wasn’t a wall-scraper, landing two or three rows back. The true line drive blast was just another big hit in a season full of ’em. Ho hum.

(Al Bello/Getty)

Straight To Monument Park

Oh but way, Ibanez was not done. The Yankees and Red Sox traded zeroes for a few extra innings, and it looked like the two clubs were headed to the 13th when Andrew Miller got an 0-2 count on Frankie Cervelli with two outs in the 12th. Instead of just bowing out, Cervelli — in his first plate appearance of the season — worked Miller hard and drew a big two-out walk. Seriously, going 0-2 to a walk is no easy task and Frankie deserves a ton of credit. The Yankees don’t win the game without him.

Curtis Granderson, the kind if hitter that Miller should eat alive with his slider, followed Cervelli’s walk with one of his own. His came on four pitches, however. That brought Ibanez to the plate, and again you’d expect Miller to put him away with his slider. Instead, he got cute with an 0-1 fastball that was down in the zone but caught a little too much of the plate. The result? Well, look…

Nothing fancy, just a ground ball through the hole the other way off a tough left-hander to win the game. It’s exactly the type of hit you would not expect Ibanez to get. The dude has been unbelievable this season. FanGraphs says Raul has been worth just 0.1 WAR this year, but by my count he’s been worth at least two wins these last two weeks. (h/t @MichaelMase)

Phelps Does His Part

(Al Bello/Getty)

David Phelps made this start because Ivan Nova pitched his way out of the rotation, and he gave the team what they needed by allowing just two runs in 5.1 innings. Both runs scored in the very first inning as Dustin Pedroia doubled in Jacoby Ellsbury and Cody Ross plated Pedroia with a sacrifice fly. All of that happened within the first four batters of the game, then Phelps went on to retire 15 of the next 17 and 16 of the next 19 men he faced. He settled in very nicely before exiting the game with a man on first and one out.

The 25-year-old Phelps finished the season at 99.2 innings, so he was one measly out shy of become the first true first-year pitcher — so not counting Nova last season — to throw at least 100 innings for the Yankees since Chien-Ming Wang in 2005. Prior to Wang you have to go back to Orlando Hernandez in 1998 and Andy Pettitte in 1995. Phelps was rock solid in whatever role he was used and certainly took advantage of the opportunity he was given out of Spring Training. Remember, if Michael Pineda hadn’t gotten hurt, Freddy Garcia would have been the long man and Phelps would have started the year back in Triple-A.


Bullpen On Parade

Once Phelps exited the game, Girardi predictably and rightfully went to his core relievers. Boone Logan escaped the sixth inning jam with a fly ball and a strikeout before giving way to Joba Chamberlain. Joba allowed a single to immortal Pedro Ciriaco with one out, and he immediately stole second. A line out to right and a big, big strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury followed. David Robertson struck out two in a perfect eighth, and then came Rafael Soriano for the ninth.

The Yankees were down 2-1 when the closer entered the game, and the first batter he faced — the awful James Loney — launched a solo homer to right for an important insurance run. Soriano has now allowed five homers in his last 15 appearances (16 innings), which is a concern. He recovered to complete the inning and then tacked on a scoreless tenth for good measure. It was Rafi’s first outing of more than four outs of the season, and his 43 pitches were his most since back in 2005. Given all that’s on the line in Game 162, I’m sure he’ll be available. Maybe not for two innings, but available.

Once Ibanez knotted the game up at three and Soriano threw his second inning, Girardi gave the ball to Derek Lowe, who has very obviously climbed the bullpen pecking order. I think he may be in the Circle of Trust™ at this point. Lowe put men on-base in both the 11th and 12th innings, but rebounded both times to escape the inning. All told, the bullpen allowed just the one run (Loney’s homer) in 6.2 innings of work, giving the offense a chance to both tie and win the game. They’ve been leaky at times this year, but the relief corps has really stepped it up in crunch time.

The Goat, And I Don’t Mean “Greatest Of All-Time”

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

Batting Mark Teixeira ahead of the molten hot Robinson Cano after he’d spent the last six weeks injured was not go down as one of Girardi’s brightest ideas, and it came back to bite him multiple times. Jon Lester was teetering on the brink of disaster all night — just like his last start against the Yankees — but yet again the Yankees couldn’t cash the check he was writing. They had the leadoff man on-base in three of his five innings and at least two men on-base in four of those five innings, yet only scored one run.

Teixeira gets the majority of the blame because he ended three of those five innings, including two with double plays with men on the corners. All three of those outs were identical as well, weak little ground balls tapped right to the shortstop. The icing on the cake was the ninth inning pop-up with the bases loaded, a 2-1 fastball right out over the plate that somehow broke Teixeira’s bat. I know Mark Melancon has pretty good stuff, but I’m not sure how that happens. At -.618 WPA (!), this was the second worst game of the season (among all player in MLB) and the worst of Teixeira’s ten-year career. Insanity.

(Al Bello/Getty)


Underrated moment of the game: Brett Gardner getting picked off first to end the eighth. It was a big play not necessarily because it ended the inning and a potential rally, but because it allowed Granderson to leadoff the ninth against a right-hander instead of batting against the lefty Craig Breslow. Granderson has greatly improved against southpaws these last few years, but you’d still rather have him facing a righty. Curtis singled to open the ninth and one batter later, Ibanez tied it up with his homer.

The Yankees almost won the game in the 11th inning when Alex Rodriguez hit a deep drive to left-center that Ellsbury hauled in on the warning track for the final out. It was the best ball Alex has hit in a while and frankly, it’s a ball he puts in the seats two or three years ago. Nick Swisher was on first and would have scored the winning run even if the ball clanked off the wall for a double. Other than that, A-Rod went 2-for-5 with a walk in the game, and both hits came with men in scoring position and didn’t score a run. I think the Yankees lead the league in those.

Derek Jeter went 2-for-6, extending his on-base streak to 33 games. That is the second longest single-season streak of his career following a 42-gamer back in 2000. Cano also went 2-for-6, extending his multi-hit game streak to eight. Both hits came during the first nine innings, so he didn’t need the benefit of extra innings to keep the streak alive. Bernie Williamsten games in 2002 — has the longest multi-hit game streak in franchise history. Teixeira was the only starter with out a hit while Russell Martin (1-for-4) and Ichiro (1-for-5) were the only other starters without multiple hits. Sixteen hits and five walks in 12 offensive innings is quite a bit of baserunners.

Logan made his 80th appearances of the season, setting a new franchise record for a left-handed pitcher. He got two outs to clean up the sixth inning in relief of Phelps. The only other relievers in team history to appear in 80+ games in one season are Tom Gordon (2004), Paul Quantrill (2004), and Scott Proctor (2006). That doesn’t exactly portend good things for Boone’s left arm going forward.

The Yankees came into the game sporting an 0-58 record when trailing after eight innings, so they picked a good time for their first win. I mean, it really should be two wins following the extra innings comeback against the Athletics two weeks ago. Coming back from four down in the 13th qualifies as a big comeback in my book.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Now that is a fun graph. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. Jamie Shields threw the game of his career (9 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 15 K) against the Orioles but still lost 1-0 because his teammates are terrible. The Yankees still lead the AL East by one game though, and they’ll clinch the division crown on Wednesday with a win or an Orioles loss. A win also clinches the best record in the league regardless of what anyone else does. Pretty awesome to control your own destiny.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

It’s the final game of the regular season. Kinda hard to believe, no? Hiroki Kuroda and Daisuke Matsuzaka will square off in what I unofficially count as the ninth game featuring two Japanese-born starters in big league history. Don’t quote me on that. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the Wednesday night game.

Zoilo Almonte headed to Dominican Republic for winter ball

Via George King (subs. req’d), outfielder Zoilo Almonte is headed home to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball in a few weeks. He played there last year, but only got into eleven games and hit .171/.216/.200 in 35 at-bats. The various winter leagues start in a few weeks, so more assignments should trickle out soon.

Almonte, 23, is on the 40-man roster and produced a 123 wRC+ with 21 homers in 450 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton this year. The switch-hitter has hit righties better than lefties throughout his career, though he only drew 23 unintentional walks in those 450 plate appearances this summer (102 strikeouts). Almonte figures to move up to Triple-A Scranton next year, but I suppose there’s an outside chance he’ll audition for the right field job if Nick Swisher is allowed to walk and the Yankees don’t bring in a viable replacement.

Game 161: Rain drops and division titles

(Photo via CookAndSonBats.MLBlogs.com)

The Yankees can clinch the AL East crown tonight, but they’ll need some help. The postseason eliminated Rays will first need to beat the Orioles again, and then Mother Nature will have to chill out with all this rain. It hasn’t been pouring in New York, but it’s been raining on-and-off since about noon and the forecast says it’ll stop sometime Thursday morning. With two important games to play between now and then, expect the Yankees and Red Sox to wait this one out as long as possible. Here’s the starting nine…

SS Derek Jeter
RF Nick Swisher
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Robinson Cano
Russell Martin
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Eduardo Nunez
LF Ichiro Suzuki

RHP David Phelps

Tonight’s game is schedule to start a little after 7pm ET, but who knows with the weather. The game can be seen on YES.

Yankees outright Justin Thomas to Triple-A

The Yankees have outrighted left-hander Justin Thomas to Triple-A Scranton after he cleared waivers. He was designated for assignment last week to clear room on the 40-man roster for David Aardsma. The 28-year-old Thomas allowed three runs while striking out three and walking one in three innings for the big league team in September after spending most of the season in Triple-A. The Yankees originally claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox back in May.