Yankees scouted Ben Sheets recently

Via MLBTR, the Yankees were one of several teams that recently watched Ben Sheets throw at his home in Louisiana. He hopes to help some team down the stretch. The Phillies, Braves, and Angels were also in attendance.

Sheets, 34 next month, hasn’t been an effective pitcher since 2008. He missed all of 2009 and 2011 with various elbow surgeries — Tommy John and flexor tendon stuff — and pitched to a 4.71 FIP in 119.1 IP for the Athletics in 2010. Sheets is one of the most underappreciated great pitchers of his generation, but it’s hard to think he has something to offer a big league team at this point. I’m sure the Yankees were just doing their due diligence.

Heyman: Yanks don’t see Carlos Quentin as a fit

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees don’t see Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin as a fit should Brett Gardner‘s elbow injury turn out to be a long-term thing. He says they would likely seek a speedy outfielder similar to Brett should they explore the trade market.

Quentin, 29, is off to a monster start with San Diego — .591 wOBA and 291 wRC+ — after missing the first six weeks of the season with a knee problem. It was his fifth DL stint and third surgery since 2007. Quentin can straight mash from the right side, but he’s a defensive liability and obviously a health risk. He’s also scheduled to become a free agent after the season. I like him but there are obvious reasons to be skeptical.

Another Update: RAB Goes To Washington Drink Up 6/16/2012

(Photo via billy-ball.com)

Hello all!  Just wanted to give you a quick update on our plans for Saturday’s Drink Up!

I have received word from The Big Hunt that they will be open Saturday at 5 p.m.  So, let’s shoot for about that time or after (barring the game doesn’t go 22 innings).  We do not have anything too organized there, but I have asked them to save a table or two for us, so it’s all pretty informal.

If using WMATA’s Metro from Nationals Park, you can take the Green line to L’Enfant Plaza, transfer to the Yellow or Blue lines to Farragut West and then walk. Or you can take the Green line to Gallery Place then transfer to the Red Line to Dupont Circle and walk.  The walk from Dupont is slightly shorter, but because of the WMATA’s weekend work, the ride on the Red Line may take much longer.

Hope to see you all there!  Even Mike!

The Trade Deadline and the Rule 5 Draft

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

I still feel like the season has just started, but we’re already fewer than seven weeks away from the non-waiver trade deadline. We’ve already taken a very brief look at what the Yankees could be in the market for prior to July 31st, though the shopping list has changed somewhat because the starting rotation has sorted itself out and David Robertson is one day from returning. Brett Gardner‘s elbow injury continues to linger though.

Anyway, rather than talking about needs, I want to spend some time talking about what the Yankees have to offer in trades. Specifically, I want to discuss three young right-handed pitchers: Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, and Mikey O’Brien. All three are having solid years and are pitching at the Double-A level or above, which is when you can really start to get serious about thinking a guy may be able to help your big league roster at some point relatively soon. More importantly, all three guys share one thing in common that is beyond their control: they’re all eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this coming offseason.

The renewed emphasis on the farm system in the mid-aughts resulted in a lot of players being protected or left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in recent years. The Yankees famously lost Ivan Nova to the Padres for about three weeks in 2008, and over the years we’ve seen guys like George Kontos and Lance Pendleton get selected in the Rule 5 Draft before being returned. Zack Kroenke was selected and returned in 2008 before being retained by the Diamondbacks in 2009.

At the same time, the Yankees have protected hordes of players from the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. Right now they’re carrying Brandon Laird, D.J. Mitchell, Austin Romine, Corban Joseph, and Zoilo Almonte on the 40-man for that very reason. In the past it’s been guys like Ryan Pope and Reegie Corona, Anthony Claggett and Kevin Russo, Romulo Sanchez and Chris Garcia. Some saw time in the big leagues after being added to the 40-man, some didn’t. None of them had any kind of impact and were all eventually cut off the roster.

Now obviously protecting a player and possibly getting some mileage out of him is preferable to losing him for $50k in the Rule 5 Draft, but it’s not an either/or situation. The Yankees could also use some of those borderline players in trades before they become Rule 5 eligible to clear up the 40-man roster crunch before it even happens. The Red Sox did this to a certain extent last summer when they acquired Erik Bedard in exchange for four miscellaneous prospects, two of whom — Stephen Fife and Chih-Hsien Chiang — were Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season.

That’s kinda where O’Brien, Marshall, and to a much lesser extent Warren fit in. They’re right on that protect/expose bubble and the question becomes: are they more valuable on the 40-man roster in the coming years or as trade bait? How necessary are these three with similar pitchers like David Phelps and Mitchell already on the 40-man? The answer could very easily be yes, there’s always going to be a need for pitching. That’s not always a given though, not every prospect is going to make it. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean the Bombers should they go around shopping these guys, but perhaps they should be among the first offered when it does come time to talk trade.

The Yankees are carrying 48 players on their 40-man roster right now thanks to the eight 60-day DL guys, but at least three of the 40 healthy players — Dellin Betances, Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa — are unable to help the big league team right now if needed. They just aren’t ready for it. A case can be made that Corban Joseph and Matt Antonelli belong in that group as well. There are going to be bubble players every year with regards to the Rule 5 Draft, and many times the best way to maximize what you get out of those guys is by trading them before they’re even eligible.

Winning streaks, close games, and hoping for a blowout

(Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Yankees have won six straight games and outside of the series opener against the Mets, they all have one thing in common: they were close games. Three of the last four games were decided by one run and four of the last five were decided by two runs or less. The one exception was a game separated by three runs. The bullpen has been worked hard but they continue to get the job done, preserving all those small leads. Joe Girardi is pushing all the right buttons right now.

David Robertson‘s expected return tomorrow will be a huge boost to the relief corps, especially if all this close game nonsense continues. The Yankees have played just 11 games decided by four of more runs in the last calendar month, a span that covers 28 games. They’re 8-6 in one-run games and 14-9 in two-run games overall, which means more than one-third of their contests this season have been separated by no more than a bloop and a blast. That’s a lot of tight baseball and with Mariano Rivera out for the season, a lot of stressful late innings.

The offense has continued to struggle with men in scoring position, particularly with the bases loaded, but the Yankees are averaging 5.2 runs per game during this 16-4 stretch. It’s not like they’re scratching and clawing for every run, they’ve just happened to score almost exactly five runs per game and not ten in one game and one in the next. The pitching staff has been doing its job and the timing has just worked out that every night features a close game that could go either way. It happens from time to time, and right now everything is breaking New York’s way.

Wins are wins and I’ll take them in any shape or form, but all the close games of late have been quite nerve racking. A few blowout wins in Washington this weekend — which won’t happen because their pitching staff is insane — would be very much appreciated just so every game doesn’t have me on the edge of my seat. A stress-free win would be appreciated at some point. Get Freddy Garcia some garbage time innings, ease Robertson back into things, maybe get Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano off their feet for a few innings … we could all use a little of that.

Granderson’s late homer helps Yanks finish off sweep of Braves

It wasn’t the longest game of the season, it only felt like it. The Yankees finished off a three-game sweep of the Braves with a 3-2 win on Wednesday, their sixth straight win.

(Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Quick Strike
There are few things in baseball I appreciate more than when the Yankees score in the first inning on the road. Just something about taking the lead before the other team gets to hit is comforting. Derek Jeter led off the game with a line drove double into the right-field gap and came around to score on Alex Rodriguez‘s single back up the middle two batters later. Just like that, a dozen pitches into Tim Hudson’s night, the Yankees had a much appreciated one-zip lead.

REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Kuroda Hangs On
This was not one of Hiroki Kuroda‘s finer starts, and you know that because the game took for-frickin’-ever. Kuroda is one of the slowest workers in baseball when men are on-base — PitchFX says he averages 22.6 seconds between pitches, 19th slowest among 115 qualified starters — and the Braves were threatening every inning. Hiroki stranded a man on first in the first, the bases loaded in the second, a man on second in the third, and men on second and third in the fourth before finally making a mistake in the fifth. Brian McCann clobbered a two-run homer to right after Martin Prado reached on a leadoff broken bat blooper, turning New York’s one-run lead into a one-run deficit.

Kuroda struck out a season-high eight, including strikeouts to escape jams in the first, third, and fourth innings. Sixteen of his 18 outs were recorded on the infield, including the first 13 in a row. He also threw a season high 110 pitches and was pitching in the rain basically all night. It was an ugly outing in the sense that Kuroda labored all night, but two runs in six innings is a result you’ll take every five days no questions asked.

Answer Back
McCann’s homer gave the Braves the lead for all of two batters. The Yankees answered right back in the sixth thanks to another Jeter leadoff hit, this one a flare single to right. Curtis Granderson followed up with his third homer of the month, a big fly ball that hung in the air for quite some time before sneaking around the right field foul pole and landing a few row backs. It was a 1-1 pitch after Jeter singled on a 1-0 pitch, so in reality Atlanta’s lead lasted for five defensive pitches. The Yankees have been doing a great job of responding and not letting games get away from them lately and is part of the reason why they’ve been so successful.

Ground Ball Machine
Cody Eppley might not have a place in the bullpen come Friday because David Robertson is set to be activated off the disabled list, and if does get sent down to Triple-A, he sure went out with a bang. Charged with working the eighth inning with a one-run lead because the primary setup guys have been worked hard of late, Eppley pitched around two singles — one an infield job from Michael Bourn — and a sacrifice bunt by coaxing a rally-killing and inning-ending double play ball from Prado, a play that would have tied the game had it not been turned perfectly. All four batters Eppley faced hit the ball on the ground, raising his season ground ball rate to a staggering 70.5%. That’s what he does, that sinker from the low arm slot isn’t easy to hit in the air. Bravo kid, I hope you stick around beyond Friday.

Two hands, Curtis. (REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Every bullpen move Joe Girardi makes these days works like a charm. Obviously Eppley was the headliner in relief, but Boone Logan navigated a scoreless seventh while Rafael Soriano did his thing and shut the door in the ninth. The Braves had a runner on-base in literally every inning, but the relief corps followed Kuroda’s lead and kept pitching around danger. Atlanta went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and one of the two was Bourn’s infield single. It’s nice to be on the other end of the RISPFAIL for once, eh?

Outside of the first and sixth innings, the Yankees did a whole lotta nothing offensively. Hudson retired 13 of 15 between A-Rod‘s first inning knock and Jeter’s leadoff single in the sixth, and the Atlanta bullpen allowed just two unintentional baserunners in three innings. One of those two came when Nick Swisher reached base on a wild pitch following a strikeout. Jeter was the only guy in the lineup with two hits while Granderson, A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Swisher, and Dewayne Wise had one each. The Yankees struck out 14 times and didn’t draw a single unintentional walk. Hudson’s eight strikeouts were a season-high.

Bit of a curious decision to send the runner when Russell Martin had a full count with one out in the second — Martin struck out and Swisher was thrown out at second to end the inning — only because the pitcher was on deck and you’d prefer to clear that spot in the order. Then again, Hudson’s an extreme ground ball pitcher and Russ is a double play candidate, so it makes some sense. That’s NL baseball for ya.

As I said, the Yankees have now won six straight games. They’ve also won nine of ten, 11 of 13, and 16 of 20. R.A. Dickey and the Mets completely wrecked the Rays though the Orioles topped the Pirates, so the Bombers remain in sole possession of first place in the AL East by one game.

And just for the record, at three hours and 36 minutes, this was the fifth longest nine-inning game of the season and seventh longest overall.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are off on Thursday and will open a three-game series in Washington against the Nationals on Friday night. Phil Hughes gets the ball against Gio Gonzalez. If you’re going to be in the nation’s capitol this weekend, you should come to our meet-up on Saturday.

Sanchez homers again in Charleston loss

Double-A Trenton Game One (10-2 win over Altoona in seven innings) makeup of yesterday’s rain out
LF Abe Almonte: 1-4, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K
3B Jose Pirela: 1-3, 1 SB — left the game after popping up in the sixth for an unknown reason … Addison Maruszak took his place and did not come to bat
2B David Adams: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
DH Cody Johnson: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K — in a 4-for-37 (.108) with 21 strikeouts rut
RF Zoilo Almonte: 2-4, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — hasn’t drawn a walk in 13 games, which is a little unusual for him
CF Melky Mesa: 1-3, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K,2 SB
1B Luke Murton & SS Yadil Mujica: both 1-4, 1 R, 1 K — Mujica homered and drove in a pair
C Jose Gil: 3-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB — had been in a 2-for-19 skid (.105)
RHP Mikey O’Brien: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 WP, 5/2 GB/FB — 56 of 88 pitches were strikes (63.6%), plus he picked a runner off first
RHP Preston Claiborne: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — eight of 11 pitches were strikes
RHP Michael Dubee: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 11 of 16 pitches were strikes

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