All-Star Game Links: Voting & Homerun Derby

The Yankees hit the one-third point of their season last night, which means we’re not far off from the halfway point. The All-Star Game is actually like, the 52.4% mark of the season, but who’s counting. Here’s some Yankees-related news on the Midsummer Classic, the glorified exhibition that determines home field advantage in the World Series. Boo that.

Jeter, Granderson among early vote leaders

Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson are currently among the top vote-getters at their respective positions for next month’s All-Star Game in Kansas City. Jeter leads all shortstops with 1,698,777 votes, more than 600,000 more than second place Elvis Andrus. Granderson (1,406,128 votes) is second among AL outfielders behind leading vote-getter Josh Hamilton (2,587,991). Nelson Cruz (992,992) is also in line to start in the outfield. Jose Bautista is a close fourth, Adam Jones a close fifth.

Robinson Cano (1,164,448) ranks second among AL second baseman behind Ian Kinsler (1,447,171) while Mark Teixeira (697,602) is second to Prince Fielder (1,027,070) among first baseman. I’m surprise Albert Pujols isn’t leading at first despite his early-season slump. Alex Rodriguez lags at third base behind Adrian Beltre (1,179,864) and Miguel Cabrera (886,365). Here’s the ballot, you can vote up to 25 times per email address until Thursday, June 28th. The leading vote-getters at each position start the game, as you know.

Cano to captain AL Homerun Derby squad

Thanks to his winning performance last year, Cano will serve as captain for this year’s AL Homerun Derby team. Matt Kemp will do the honors for the so-called Senior Circuit. Cano said he will again take his father Jose to pitch to him, and that he also plans to ask Granderson to participate. In addition to selecting the participants, Robbie and Kemp will also choose the charities they’ll be backing.

David Ortiz was the AL captain last year and I suspect Cano will invite him as a way to return the favor, so to speak. Assuming those two headline the squad, I’m hoping Yoenis Cespedes and Adam Dunn join them. It’s time to start bringing homerun hitters to the Homerun Derby, we want moonshots. Kemp said he’ll consider extending an invitation to Giancarlo Stanton, which is a no-brainer in my opinion. The Derby has gotten a little stale over the years, but it would be interesting to see guys like Cespedes and Stanton taking their hacks.

2012 Draft: Day Three LiveBlog

There’s only one day and 25 rounds left to go in the 2012 amateur. Thankfully today will just be an old school rapid fire conference call, not the long drawn out pick-by-pick analysis stuff we sat through yesterday. The Yankees added a diverse group of players to first rounder Ty Hensley on Day Two, leaving themselves plenty of draft pool money for potential upside picks on Day Three by grabbing five college seniors in the first ten rounds. All of the team’s picks can be seen at Baseball America and the best remaining available players are right here. Here are the MLB.com links to Draft Tracker and the audio feed.

Use this thread and liveblog to talk about all things draft today. Please keep the draft talk in the draft threads and be mindful of our Commenting Guidelines. Thanks in advance.

2012 Draft: Reviewing Day Two

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has changed the draft. A few weeks ago we had a pretty good idea that the Yankees would take some college seniors in the top ten rounds in order to save draft pool money and reallocate it elsewhere, but they took it to the extreme and so did a number of other clubs. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the four teams who took the most college seniors in the top ten rounds — Yankees (five), Rangers (five), Red Sox (five), and Blue Jays (seven) — are four of the smartest run organizations in baseball.

By saving all that draft pool money, the Yankees are in a position to take some serious high-upside plays on Day Three. Since we’re beyond the tenth round — the draft resumes with the 16th round at noon ET — there is no penalty for failing to sign a player. If you don’t sign a player in the top ten rounds, you lose the draft pool money. Any money spent in excess of $100k on a post-tenth rounder counts towards the draft pool, so think of any player taken from the 11th round on down as coming with a $100k draft pool discount. It’s a pretty smart strategy and I kinda feel stupid for not realizing it earlier.

The Yankees have selected 16 players through 15 rounds so far, highlighted of course by first rounder Ty Hensley. It sounds like he’s going to sign very soon, so that’s pretty cool. You can see all of New York’s selections at Baseball America, and as expected, they’re a diverse group.

Aune. (David Minton/Denton Record-Chronicle)

High School Upside
Although they went college senior heavy on Day Two, the Yankees still picked a number of prep players with big tools. The headliner is outfielder Austin Aune (2nd rounder), who has actually already agreed to sign. Hailing from Texas with a dual-sport (baseball and football) scholarship to TCU in place, Aune is said to offer big raw power from the left side with arm strength and speed in center field. Like most Yankees’ draftees, his makeup is considered a plus as well. The team acted so quickly to sign him that I have to think a pre-draft agreement was in place, or least the two sides were on the same page.

First baseman Nathan Mikolas (3) is another left-handed hitter with big raw power and an above average hit tool. He has consistently produced with wood bats against top competition in showcase events, though it remains to be seen if he can stick in an outfield corner or has to be relegated to first base. Canadian right-hander Dayton Dawe (15) is a projectable 6-foot-2, 180 lb. hurler with the ability to command two low-90s fastballs (two and four-seamer). His soft curveball and changeup need work, as does his delivery. Because he hasn’t played as much baseball as his peers, Dawe needs quite a bit of refinement. The present package is intriguing though, especially in round 15.

The Yankees value depth behind the plate and added to it with Chris Breen (12) out of Florida. He’s a pure hitter from the right side, having shown the ability to hit breaking balls and with wood in showcase events. Breen, like most of New York’s selections, is lauded for his makeup and leadership skills. He’s athletic but at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs., remaining behind the plate long-term is far from guaranteed.

O'Brien. (Photo via InsideTheU.com)

Cheap Value
College seniors may come with small price tags due to a lack of leverage, but that doesn’t mean they’re short on ability. Miami catcher Peter O’Brien (2) was one of the best seniors in the draft, a right-handed hitter with power to all fields and strong knowledge of the strike zone. Because he stands 6-foot-5 and 225 lbs., it’s unclear if he can remain behind the plate long-term despite a strong throwing arm. O’Brien is bilingual and has been lauded for his leadership skills all throughout his time with the Hurricanes. It’s worth noting that he’s currently out with hairline fracture in his left wrist.

Right-hander Taylor Garrison (7) is an accomplished college closer at Fresno State thanks to his low-to-mid-90s fastball and above average cutter. He also mixes in a curveball and changeup, but expect him to focus on his two best pitches as a pro. Ole Miss first baseman Matt Snyder (10) is just a masher, a brute strength hitter from the left side. He has raw power, hitting smarts, no defensive value, no speed, and big league bloodlines — his brother Brandon was a long-time Orioles’ prospect and is currently coming off the Rangers’ bench. Power is hard to find, but Snyder has a ton of it.

Power Arms
In addition to Garrison, the Yankees added a pair of hard-throwing right-handers in Faulkner University’s Corey Black (4) and LSU’s Nick Goody (6). Black, a redshirt junior, missed most of last season with Tommy John surgery but returned to throw 88 innings this spring. His long-term future may be in the bullpen but he at least has a chance to start with a legit mid-90s fastball and a reliable changeup. Black’s ability to remain in the rotation depends on the development of his inconsistent breaking ball. He told A. Stacy Long that he intends to sign quickly.

The Yankees like Goody so much they drafted him twice, in the sixth round this year and in the 11th round last year. He’s strictly a bullpen guy with two power offerings — a fastball in the 90-94 range with a sharp slider in the low-80s. Goody is an extreme strike-thrower evidenced by his 45/3 K/BB in 32.2 IP for the Tigers this spring. He’s not Mark Montgomery, but he has a chance to climb the minor league ladder quickly as a strikeout reliever.

Left-hander James Pazos (13) is one of only two southpaws the Yankees have drafted in the first 15 rounds. The San Diego junior is big — listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 lbs. — and aggressive with a low-90s fastball. His slider has improved greatly this spring, though he’ll probably scrap his nascent changeup as a pro and focus on his two best pitches as a reliever. Pazos has been a workhorse for the Toreros, showing the ability to work consecutive days and multiple innings. The Yankees have a lot of interesting power bullpen arms in their farm system, but most of them are right-handed. Pazos adds some much needed left-handedness.

Refsnyder. (Kim Hartman/TucsonSentinel.com)

The Conversion Candidate
New York selected Rob Refsnyder (5) as a second baseman out of Arizona even though he’s been an outfielder for the Wildcats. Born in South Korea before being adopted by an American family as an infant, Refsnyder has the compact frame (6-foot-0 and 200 lbs.) and first step quickness to handle the middle infield, where he played in high school. His bat is his calling card, with a level right-handed swing geared for hard contact to all fields. If the conversion takes, the Yankees will have nabbed an offense-first second baseman in the middle rounds of the draft.

The Long-Term Project
Almost no one is a finished project at the time of the draft but some need more development time than others. Lots more. Prep left-hander Caleb Frare (11) is as raw as it gets, hailing from Montana where they don’t even play high school baseball. He’s been pitching for an independent travel team, sitting in the mid-80s with his fastball and in the low-70s/sometimes mid-60s with his curveball. The hope is that pro instruction and training programs will add some strength to his 6-foot-2, 195 lb. frame and turn an athletic kid with an idea of how to pitch in a bonafide pitching prospect with good stuff.

Organizational Depth
Outfielder Taylor Dugas (8) is a speedy leadoff type out of Alabama, and in fact I wrote him up as a potential cost-saving senior sign option back in March. That’s exactly the reason why New York took him, to save some draft pool space for other players. Right-handers Derek Varnadore (7) and Andrew Benak (14) are classic college pitchers with nondescript stuff who have shown the ability to handle big workloads at major college programs, Auburn and Rice respectively. None of the three are strong prospects, but they add depth to soak up the leftover at-bats and innings in the minors. Organizational players are important but not necessarily exciting.

Day Two Overview
Thanks to the new CBA, we’ve reached a point where rounds 11+ are more interesting than 6-10. The Yankees added a few interesting prospects in Aune, O’Brien, Black, Goody, Pazos, Refsnyder, Dawe, and Breen on Day Two but their draft is obviously incomplete. How they use the savings from the five college seniors — total of $1.031M worth of draft pool money is tied up in those five picks — in Day Three today will really shape the draft overall. Expect to see them take a number of higher upside players late in hopes of signing one or two or three of them with that excess draft pool money. Day Two was the inside fastball to Day Three’s outside slider, it was a setup pitch.

2012 Draft: Best Available on Day Three

Although 15 of 40 rounds are in the bag, there are still plenty of talented players left on the board for Day Three of the amateur draft. Three of Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects are still available and although their rankings aren’t the be-all end-all, they’re a pretty great reference. The Yankees selected five low-cost college seniors in the top ten rounds by design, leaving plenty of draft pool roof for late round rolls of the dice.

Yanks pummel Rays to take series opener

There’s nothing quite like beating the tar out of the first place team in the division, is there? It’s games like this that make me appreciate how fans of other teams feel when they whoop the Yankees. Despite their sometimes sluggish play during the first third of the season, the Yanks are just a half game back of first place and not that far back (either 1 or 1.5 games, depending on the outcome of the Texas-Oakland game) of the best record in the AL. Good times are ahead.

Age don’t mean a thing

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Ten days from his 40th birthday, Andy Pettitte threw was what debatably his best start of the season. He used 103 pitches to retire 22 Rays, striking out 10 of them and allowing just two hits. Of those two hits, only one reached the outfield. At no point during the game did Pettitte make us feel uncomfortable. In fact, there were times when I’d glance down to read a paragraph or two, and look up to see he’d retired a batter and was two strikes deep on the next one.

There was certainly an uneasy feeling surrounding Pettitte’s return in May. I was excited as anyone — it’s Andy freaking Pettitte, after all, my absolute favorite Yankee of my lifetime — but there were legitimate questions about his ability to succeed at age 40 after a year away from the game. Add to that the Yankees’ absolute need for starting pitching at the time, and it seemed like a tall task. Yet Pettitte has shown he’s up to it. Even his rough starts haven’t seemed all that bad.

RISP when they need it

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

With eight hits and four walks, the Yankees inevitably saw plenty of situations with runners in scoring position. While they did manage to raise their season average, they did so only slightly, going 3 for 12. Yet they got the one hit they needed, exactly when they needed it. With one out in the fourth they loaded the bases off James Shields, bringing Russell Martin to the plate. And oh boy did Russell deliver.

He went up there looking for a pitch to hit, taking aggressive swings at the first two pitches and pulling them foul. After going inside with the first two pitches Shields worked away from Martin on the 0-2 pitch, but it got enough of the plate that Martin put the fat part of the bat on it. Away it went, clearing the fence in right for a much-needed grand slam. Believe it or not, despite their horrific overall results with the bases loaded, the Yankees are tied for the league lead in grand slams.

Finally figuring out Shields

For the past two seasons, James Shields has gotten the best of the Yankees. Sure, he’s 4-4, but many of those losses came on the strength of the Yankees pitching staff. In 76.1 innings from 2010 to 2011 Shields pitched to a 2.83 ERA, striking out 71 and walking just 22. This year, though, it seems they have him figured out.

Even with the two unearned runs in the first inning, Shields still yielded five runs in five innings, bringing his total to 14 earned runs in 16 innings this season (7.88 ERA). He has struck out just nine while walking 10 and surrendering four homers. Shields hasn’t been performing well overall this year, but he’s been at his worst when facing the Yankees. Given his previous results, it’s quite satisfying.

Leftovers

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Russell Martin raised his average 17 points with his 3 for 4 performance, taking the exit off the interstate and landing at .211.

After terrorizing the Yankees in the season opening series (6 for 12 with two homers and a double), Carlos Pena has gone 2 for 15 with no extra base hits against them.

Raul Ibanez drew two walks, after having not drawn one since May 17th in Toronto, a 51-PA walkless stretch. (Yet he managed seven extra base hits in that span.)

Freddy Garcia lives! He got into his first game since May 21st, when he gave up two runs in 2.1 innings against Kansas City. Last night he allowed two hits but allowed no runs in 1.2 innings of relief. Since his ouster from the rotation he has allowed two earned runs in 9.1 innings, though he has struck out four and walked three. That’s mop-up duty for you.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

You know the drill: MLB.com for basic box score and video highlights, FanGraphs for all the nerdery you can handle, and Mike likes ESPN for the standings and I’m not going to interrupt his usual thing.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Game 2 of this three-game set pits Ivan Nova against Alex Cobb. Maybe the ball stays inside the ballpark this time, hmmmm, Ivan?

X-rays negative after Cano gets hit by pitch

Via Meredith Marakovits, second baseman Robinson Cano is sore but hopes to play on Wednesday after getting hit by a pitch in what looked like his left forearm by Cesar Ramos in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game. X-rays were negative. Cano remained in the game for another inning before being lifted in the ninth with a big lead. A day off wouldn’t be the end of the world, no reason not to play it safe.

Branyan homers twice in Triple-A win

As expected, the Yankees will be well represented in the Low-A South Atlantic League All-Star Game. OF Tyler Austin, C Gary Sanchez, C Francisco Arcia, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and RHP Pedro Guerra were all selected for the game, which will be played in Charleston. I’m kinda surprised OF Mason Williams didn’t make the cut, but what can you do. The River Dogs coaching staff will be calling the shots for the Southern Division club as well. In case you missed it a few weeks ago, the Homerun Derby will take place on the deck of an aircraft carrier. I have to think Austin will take his hacks and hopefully dent some F-16s.

Here’s your bullet point minor league update for Tuesday night…

  • Triple-A Empire State (win): 1B Russell Branyan led the way with two homers and six runs driven in, though CF Kevin Russo (double), LF Ronnie Mustelier, RF Colin Curtis, and SS Ramiro Pena all had two hits apiece. DH Jack Cust (double) and 2B Corban Joseph both had a hit and two walks. RHP D.J. Mitchell got rocked, I’m talking eight runs and 12 hits in 5.2 IP. RHP Chase Whitely and RHP Jason Bulger came out of the bullpen to allow nothing the rest of the way.
  • Double-A Trenton (loss): IF Jose Pirela continued his hot hitting with two singles, half the team’s hit total. RHP Brett Marshall got hit around a bit, allowing four runs in six innings. LHP Francisco Rondon allowed one run in two innings of relief in an otherwise uneventful game.
  • Low-A Charleston (win): CF Mason Williams hit a solo homer while RF Tyler Austin had two hits (including a double) and 3B Dante Bichette Jr. had three hits (including a double). C Gary Sanchez singled, ditto SS Cito Culver. The latter stole home (!!!) and former drew two more walks. LHP Evan Rutckyj allowed one unearned run in four innings before giving way to a parade of relievers.

High-A Tampa was rained out. They’re going to play a pair tomorrow.