From the looks of it, the Yankees went into Day Two of the 2009 Draft with the very clear intention of adding power to the system. Power, regardless if it was at the plate or on the mound, it didn’t matter. Sixth rounder Rob Lyerly’s (3B, UNC-Charlotte) .725 slugging percentage led the Atlantic 10 Conference by nearly 50 points, and over the last two years he’s racked up a .333 IsoP with more extra base hits (73) than strikeouts (68). Outfielder and 11th round pick Neil Medchill has put up a .281 IsoP in two seasons with Oklahoma State, while 13th rounder DeAngelo Mack brings a .249 IsoP from South Carolina’s outfield. All three players project to hit for average or better pop with wood bats, and it’s no accident all three players do their work from the left side of the plate (coughNewYankeeStadiumcough).
While the three power bats are a nice addition to a system devoid of any thump outside of top prospect Jesus Montero, the Yankees also added several big arms to their cache of pitching. Their 7th, 8th, and 9th round picks were all spent on guys who have shown the ability to dial up to the mid-90′s in the past. Righty Sean Black (7th round, Seton Hall) and southpaw Gavin Brooks (9th round, UCLA) were both top prospects out of high school in the 2006 Draft who ended up in college, while righties Caleb Cotham (4th round, Vanderbilt) and Graham Stoneburner (14th round, Clemson) were draft eligible sophomores likely to go in the early rounds next year.
In addition to the power arms and power bats, Damon Oppenheimer & Co. added plenty of depth to the organization. Fourth rounder Adam Warren is a grizzled ACC and College World Series veteran that pounds the zone and should have no trouble carving up hitters in the low minors. He could develop in a high leverage groundball reliever down the road. Nineteenth rounder Luke Murton (Matt’s younger brother) hit behind Matt Wieters and spent four years anchoring the Georgia Tech lineup. Southpaw and 10th round pick Tyler Lyons has been a Friday night starter in the Big 12 for the past two years with Oklahoma State and should climb the ladder quickly.
But that’s not all. The Yanks also took some high upside high school players who fell for various reasons. Righty Brett Gerritse (12th round) brings three quality offers to the table, while fellow righthander Chad Thompson (17th round) has a big projectable frame and a low-90′s fastball but is out after having Tommy John surgery. Local kid and shortstop Stephen Bruno (26th round) doesn’t bring flashy tools to the table, but he’s a top notch makeup guy with the grinder game people seem to love. Kyle McKenzie (30th round) is a small righty with good stuff and strong command. There’s no guarantee the Yanks will sign any of these four, but if they do they’ll receive tremendous value from a low draft selection.
Today’s conclusion of the draft won’t be very exciting. Mostly players to fill out low level rosters and maybe one or two fliers on guys who have fallen for whatever reason. The more important thing to watch for is how many of these players the Yankees end up actually signing, because selecting guys is only half the battle.
Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP
When Chien-Ming Wang went on the DL in April, he had put up some epically bad numbers. He was 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA. He had allowed 23 earned runs on 23 hits and 6 walks in just 6 innings of work, and opponents were hitting .622/.667/1.027.
Since coming back from his injured whatever it was that hurt, he has been better. Unfortunately, “better” is a relative term. In five appearances spanning two starts and three relief stints, Chien-Ming Wang has thrown 15.1 innings, giving up only 11 earned runs on 22 hits and 6 walks. While he’s struck out 12, he has allowed 23 baserunners in those 15.1 innings.
The simple truth is that Chien-Ming Wang as a starting pitcher — now 0-4 in starts with a 25.14 ERA — is not giving the Yankees a chance to win baseball games. He’s not the best man for the job right now, and when his turn in the rotation comes around on Tuesday in New York against the Nationals, he should not be starting.
Tonight, Wang took the loss in a game the Yankees could have won. He lasted just 2.2 innings, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks. The damage could have been worse, and the damage could have been less. But in the end, Wang had nothing on his pitches after the first inning, and the Red Sox just pounded out line drive after line drive against the erstwhile sinker ball specialist.
For Wang, the game actually started off on the right foot. It took him 29 pitches to get through the first, and while he had no control of his sinker, it was sinking. He gave up a few signature ground ball hits and got into trouble when he walked a few Red Sox. He was, however, hitting the mid-90s on the gun and seemed to be throwing with downward movement.
In the second and third, though, nothing. It was all gone. His pitches in the zone were belt high, and his pitches out of the zone weren’t generating any swings. The Red Sox went to town, and while we can’t underestimate the impact of Nick Swisher‘s terrible play in the right field corner, Wang did not do his part. He was gone in the middle of the third.
At that point, the bullpen pitched about as well as could be expected. Phil Hughes threw one mistake, and Kevin Youkilis deposited it into the seats. It would end up being the difference in the game. Outside of that pitch, Hughes threw 3.2 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5. If I am giving the ball to someone on Tuesday, it is Phil Hughes.
On the other side of the ball, the Yankees couldn’t get it done. They blasted three home runs, and Mark Teixeira went 4 for 5. However, A-Rod, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano were a combined 0 for 13. The team was just 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position and left ten runners on base. They had the tying run in scoring position in both the 8th and 9th innings but couldn’t push it across. It seemed as though they couldn’t recover from a base running error by Swisher in the 2nd. It was just one of those nights.
After the game, the Yankees were at a loss for words. Joe Girardi said that he saw “bad counts” from Chien-Ming Wang, and with the Wanger throwing hard but with no control or ability, the Yankees are gasping at straws. When Kim Jones asked Jorge Posada what he saw from Wang tonight, he simply repeated, “I don’t know.” That’s how I feel.
Joe Girardi had David Robertson warming up in the first inning and yanked Wang as soon as the game started to slip away. It was too late, and after the game, Girardi wouldn’t commit either way to Wang. “I’m not ready to make that decision right now,” he said.
Yankee fans will spend the next few days debating this one. Mark Feinsand thinks skipping Wang would be the equivalent of throwing in the towel on him, and Marc Carig puts the odds of another Wang start at 50-50. Much like Jorge, I just don’t know.
Game Notes: The Yankees are now 0-7 against the Red Sox and haven’t beaten Boston since Mike Mussina notched his 20th win in September. If it’s any consolation, the Yankees are 34-18 against everyone else while Boston is just 28-24 against everyone else. There’s a double-edged sword here. When the Yanks’ luck changes, they could really pull away from the pack, but if the Yankees had managed to go just 3-4, they would have a comfortable lead over the Sox. Them’s the breaks.
- The Trenton game got a late start, so as of this writing it’s still going. Chris Garcia had his real rough outing of the year, walking six in just three and a third innings. Jesus Montero made his return behind the plate.
- Austin Romine went deep for Tampa and Humberto Sanchez made his season debut with a scoreless inning of relief.
- David Phelps twirled a gem for Charleston, allowing just three hits in eight scoreless innings for Charleston. David Adams picked up two hits, including a double.
This thread is feared.
The Yankees will bring the winning run to the plate in this game.
There aren’t many instances when you should swing at the first pitch from Wakefield…
According to Carig, Chien-Ming Wang‘s wife is due to give birth any time now, and that might mean the erstwhile ace* could bolt from Fenway prematurely. That could be good or bad news, of course. Wang doesn’t have the greatest track record against the Red Sox, and considering his 2009 woes he might might leave the game early anyway.
* We’ve used the term “erstwhile ace” a few times. I quite like it. Do you?
Tim Wakefield has pitched basically a season’s worth of innings against the Yankees in his career. In those 223.2 frames he has a 5.03 ERA. As we saw with Josh Beckett last night, though, that means very little. He can give the Sox a scoreless outing, as he did on September 28 last year. He can pitch a quality start, as he did on July 6 (6.1 IP, 3 ER). Or he can get totally freaking tagged, as he did on June 1, 2007 (I quite enjoyed being in the bleachers for that one). You never know what you’re going to get from Wakefield until the game starts.
In his career Chien-Ming Wang has tossed 84 innings against the Sox to a 4.82 ERA. Last year was a Jekyll and Hyde one for Wang against the Sox. On April 11 he tossed a complete game two-hitter, allowing just one run (the homer by J.D. Drew that Bobby Abreu might have been able to catch if the feared wall hadn’t impeded his leap). Then, five days later, the Sox tattooed him for eight runs in four innings. It was a mixed bag in 2007, too. Wang gave up four runs in six innings, three runs in 5.2 innings, zero runs in seven innings, and five runs in 5.2 innings. Given this and his performance this season, it’s understandable if Yankees fans are apprehensive about his appearance tonight.
Still, the Yanks had to get Chien-Ming Wang back into the rotation. It’s unfortunate that his second start back comes against the Red Sox. That’s baseball, though. You want your five best pitchers tossing the most innings, and when he’s right Wang is one of the Yanks’ best five. Ben and I have been vocal in our displeasure with how the Yanks handled his situation, but what’s done is done. They had/have to figure out of Wang is one of their five best, so getting him into the rotation was the only thing they could do. The good news: he’ll get a good test tonight. The bad news: failure means the Yanks could be out of first place and yet another game in the hole to the Sox.
Some pre-game note:
- From PeteAbe: Bruney will throw a simulated game tomorrow. The Yanks will then determine the next step, which could mean a rehab assignment starting Saturday. The sooner he gets back, the better — but obviously not at the cost of losing him again.
- Xavier Nady is headed to New York on Friday to workout. Sounds like he’ll also get into rehab games. Having him as a DH alternative to Matsui will be good. That would make for an inflexible bench, but said bench currently features Angel Berroa, so on the whole it’s a big, big net gain.
- Melky Cabrera, Opening Day 2008 through May 5th: .291/.359/.505. Melky Cabrera, Opening Day 2009 through May 5th: .344/.408/.563. Melky Cabrera, May 6th, 2008, through June 9th: .250/.286/.277. Melky Cabrera, May 6th, 2009, through June 9th: .258/.298/.371. We can speculate forever on why this happens, but it’s not at all encouraging.
And on the mound, number forty, Chien-Ming Wang.
In a couple of hours, the Red Sox and Yankees will again square off in Fenway Park. While the Yanks are 0-6 against Boston this season, the two teams are tied for first atop the AL East, and the pennant race promises to be a good one this summer.
Despite the Red Sox’s on-field triumphs over the Yanks this season, New York walked away from the off-season the big winner when they seemingly stole Mark Teixeira out from under Boston’s Christmas tree. Six months later, Teixeira is one of the main reasons why the Yanks are fighting for first place. He’s hitting .284/.391/.615 with 18 HR and 51 RBI. “We definitely wouldn’t be where we are right now without him,” Johnny Damon said to The Times’ Jack Curry today.
In a good “What If?” piece, Curry explores what Teixeira means to the Yanks and would could have been had the Red Sox signed their top target. He writes:
The Red Sox positioned their off-season around signing Teixeira, a player who would have fit snugly into their desire for shrewd, patient hitters who play stellar defense. If the Red Sox were assigned the task of building the perfect player, they would have constructed someone who hit, fielded, walked and talked like Teixeira.
The Red Sox were the favorites to sign Teixeira, but they bolted from a meeting with him and Scott Boras, his agent, in December because Boras said their offer was not competitive enough. Johnny Damon of the Yankees never spoke to Teixeira during the negotiations because he assumed it “was a done deal” with Boston. But it was not. The Red Sox soon learned Boras was not bluffing.
Eleven days after the aborted meeting, the Yankees, who had focused on signing pitchers C. C. Sabathia and A. J. Burnett, swooped in and signed Teixeira to an eight-year, $180 million deal. The Red Sox lost a superb first baseman over a gap of about $10 million. Even worse, they lost him to the hated Yankees.
A-Rod, in talking to Curry summed it up. “Wow is as much as I can say,” the Yanks’ third baseman said. “I was thinking about that this week. He’s a switch-hitter, he’s young and he’s got world-class makeup. You can write a whole chapter on the difference.”
While neither Red Sox GM Theo Epstein nor Boston owner John Henry would comment for the story, the AL East would look a lot different had the Red Sox landed their prey. It’s a good thing for us they did not.
Note: I stand by the premise of the post, but I’ve chosen a poor example to illustrate it.
When baseball players talk, journalists listen. This is especially true when a ballplayer accuses another of an impropriety. Unfortunately, because of baseball’s walled-garden nature, most of those anecdotes reach the public anonymously. It’s the only condition under which journalists can print the accusations. Ballplayers simply do not want their names attached to criticism of fellow players, especially teammates.
Mark Feinsand relates an example involving ESPN broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe:
Sutcliffe said on the air that A-Rod had been feeding Teixeira verbal signs from the on-deck circle, giving his teammate a heads-up on the catcher’s location before the pitch was delivered.
While Feinsand didn’t reveal how Sutcliffe became privy to this controversy, it really comes down to one of two ways. He either made the observation himself, or he heard it from a player. Since he’s a broadcaster for a national network and hasn’t covered more than a handful of Yanks games this year, the former is unlikely. It’s fairly safe to say — though I’ll avoid making the concrete connection — that he got the information from a player.
Which player? We’ll never know. It’s the same as the pitch-tipping accusation in Selena Roberts’s book. An anonymous player made an accusation, and the journalist ran with it. This, I think, is a mistake. Journalists shouldn’t feed the public accusations from anonymous sources.
A glance through the comments section of RAB reveals the problems with anonymity. When people don’t attach their own names, and thereby their own reputations, to a comment, they’ll say things they would never, ever say if their integrity was on the line. But, because in many instances there is no way to connect the commenter and his real-life personage, the commenter is free to say whatever he or she likes, without any repercussions.
This can be applied to baseball players. Since their names will never be attached to the comment, they can say what they like. They could have a personal vendetta against the player and say something in a moment of frustration. They might relay a suspicion, grounded in nothing but a single observation. It could be any number of things, but since the player doesn’t have his name attached to the comment, it won’t harm his reputation. He’s free to say whatever he wants, really.
Please be clear: this is not to say that A-Rod didn’t tip pitches, nor is it to say that A-Rod doesn’t give Teixeira a verbal sign from the on-deck circle. The point is that if players are going to levy these accusations, they should either attach their name, and thereby reputation, to the comment, or not say it at all. How can the public determine the validity of the accusation if we don’t even know the source?
Anonymous sources are important for journalists. Through anonymous sources journalists can find out information that they otherwise would not have. However, there’s a point of abuse. If a player isn’t willing to attach his reputation to a comment, why should a journalist deign it worthy to print? The short answer, in my opinion, is that he or she shouldn’t. Leave the grenade-lobbing gossip in the clubhouse. If a player feels strongly enough about the accusation — both its accuracy and its gravity — he will put his name on the accusation. Otherwise, it should be left in the clubhouse, like just about everything else in baseball.