Cervelli homers in AAA win

Going to take the easy way out at the end of the long weekend. High-A Tampa had a scheduled day off, so here are the notables…

  • Triple-A Empire State (win): Frankie Cervelli hit a homer and the trio of Matt Antonelli, Brandon Laird, and Ramiro Pena each doubled once. Jack Cust drew two more walks and Nelson Figueroa allowed just one run in seven innings. Chase Whitley closed it out by allowing two runs in two innings.
  • Double-A Trenton (win): David Adams, Luke Murton, and Kevin Mahoney each had two hits, including a double by Adams and a homer by Murton. Mikey O’Brien threw 6.1 scoreless innings, but he walked as many as he struck out (four). The usually reliable Ryan Flannery nearly blew the lead by allowing three runs in the ninth, but Preston Claiborne bailed him out.
  • Low-A Charleston (loss): The River Dogs scored 12 runs and still managed to lose. Blame Scottie Allen and his eight runs in his four innings, plus various ineffective relievers. Gary Sanchez hit a three-run homer and Dante Bichette Jr. had four hits, including a double. Cito Culver (two), Tyler Austin (two), and Ben Gamel (three) all had multiple singles. Mason Williams did not play. I recommend clicking the link to see the full offensive carnage.

Game 48: Connected

(Weaver via AP, Hughes via Getty)

Tonight’s starters — Phil Hughes and Jered Weaver — have a bit of a connection dating back to 2004. Weaver was the consensus top pitching prospect in the country prior to the draft that year, fresh off winning the Dick Howser Trophy (Collegiate Player of the Year) and Roger Clemens Award (Collegiate Pitcher of the Year) at Long Beach State. Hughes was considered the top high school pitcher in California that spring, a top 15 talent for the draft.

Weaver was advised by Scott Boras, who let teams know he was seeking Mark Prior money ($10.5M). The Angels had been connected to Hughes all spring long, but when Boras’ asking price cause Weaver to fall out of the top three picks and into Anaheim’s lap with the 12th overall pick, they pounced. That left Hughes on the board for the Yankees, who took him 23rd overall with the Astros’ first round pick. They received that when Andy Pettitte signed with him hometown team.

Eight years later, the 25-year-old Hughes and 29-year-old Weaver will square off tonight in their native Southern California. Weaver is a legitimate Cy Young candidate and clearly the better pitcher, but I’m pretty sure he’s jealous of Phil’s World Series ring. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
LF Raul Ibanez
RF Nick Swisher
DH Eric Chavez
Russell Martin

RHP Phil Hughes

Tonight’s game starts a little after 9pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Memorial Day Open Thread

Three-way bro hug. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The Yankees open their three-game series with the Angels in a few hours (at 9pm ET to be precise), so here’s your open thread for the meantime. There will be some NBA playoff stuff going on a little later and although there’s no baseball on the national networks, there’s a few games going on if you have MLB.tv or Extra Innings or something. Talk about whatever you like here, go nuts.

2012 Draft: Mitch Gueller

The 2012 amateur draft is exactly one week away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.

Mitch Gueller | OF/RHP

Background
Raised just outside of Olympia in Chehalis, Washington, Gueller is a two-way star at West High School. He’s committed to Washington State.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-3 and 205 lbs., Gueller is the best athlete from the Northwest in the draft class. He’s a legitimate prospect both on the mound and as an outfielder, and the Cougars will allow him to do both if he makes it to school. On the mound, Gueller runs his fastball up to 94 with an advanced changeup and a slurvy breaking ball that is likely to settle in as a slider. As an outfielder, he offers a well-rounded game and all five tools. Gueller has the speed to steal bases and enough raw power from the right side to hit the ball out of the park, plus his arm is obviously strong. He is considered more advanced as a pitcher.

Miscellany
Gueller has quite a bit of helium at the moment. Keith Law ranked him as the 39th best prospect in the draft (as an outfielder) while Baseball America ranked him 107th (as a pitcher), and it’s definitely worth noting that the Yankees have been connected to him with their first rounder (#30 overall) by both Law and BA recently. New York selected a similar two-way prospect in Jake Cave last season, but Gueller has more athleticism and louder tools. Gueller could be surprise pick in the back-half of the first round.

5/28-5/30 Series Preview: Anaheim Angels

(Photo Credit: Flickr user redheaded_pirate via Creative Commons license)

Things have gotten better in recent years, but Angels Stadium in Anaheim still isn’t a comfortable place for the Yankees. Not like Oakland, where they just took care of business by sweeping the Athletics. The Yankees took two of three from the Halos at Yankee Stadium in their home-opening series back in April.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Angels have been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball this season, but they’ve started to turn things around. They just swept a four-game series in Seattle and have won six straight overall. Anaheim is still one game below .500 at 24-25, but they’re now in second place in the AL West.

Offense

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

At 3.67 runs per game, the Angels are a bottom five offense. Ironically enough, they were scoring 3.71 runs per game before firing hitting coach Mickey Hatcher. They’ve dropped down 3.55 runs per game since. Turns out scapegoating the hitting coach doesn’t actual improve things.

Anyway, Albert Pujols (77 wRC+) has turned his season around just in time for the Yankees. He didn’t hit a lick for the 35 games but has clubbed six homers in 14 games since, including four in his last six games. Pujols isn’t walking as much these days (5.8 BB%), continuing a trend that started way back in 2009. Still, he’s incredibly dangerous and the Yankees would have had to be careful with him even if he hadn’t broken out of his slump these last two weeks or so.

Aside from Pujols, the biggest threats are rookie Mike Trout (141 wRC+) and second-year man Mark Trumbo (160 wRC+). Trumbo is the power guy but Trout does everything, include steal bases and hit the ball out of the park. Kendrys Morales (105 wRC+) has been okay but hasn’t returned to his previous level of production following the leg injury. Howie Kendrick (81 wRC+) is in a season-long funk, plus Chris Iannetta (94 wRC+) and Vernon Wells (95 wRC+) are hurt. Torii Hunter (107 wRC+) is away from the team dealing with his son’s legal problems.

The rest of the position player crop is just bad. Infielders Erick Aybar (44 wRC+), Alberto Callaspo (63 wRC+), and Maicer Izturis (88 wRC+) haven’t hit, ditto outfielder Peter Bourjos (50 wRC+). Rookie Kole Calhoun (110 wRC+ in very limited action) is up to help fill out the outfield during the injuries. Catching duties belong to Bobby Wilson (11 wRC+) and John Hester (81 wRC+ in limited time) with Iannetta out. Infielder Andrew Romine — Austin’s brother — is on the roster due to the injuries and has yet to appear in a game.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Jered Weaver
The Yankees are going to see the best of the Angels’ staff this week. Weaver has a 2.61 ERA and a 2.94 FIP with peripherals that are almost identical to last season — 7.43 K/9 (21.6 K%), 1.96 BB/9 (5.7 BB%), and 37.2% grounders. Jeff’s little brother throws six distinct pitches but uses four heavily: upper-80s two and four-seamers, low-80s slider, and upper-70s changeup. He’ll also throw the occasional upper-80s cutter and a low-70s curveball. The Yankees have hit Weaver kinda hard in the past, but I wouldn’t put much stock in that.

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Dan Haren
Haren may have a higher ERA than usual (3.76), but his underlying performance is still stellar (3.28 FIP). He’s striking guys out (8.21 K/9 and 22.2 K%), isn’t walking anyone (1.95 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%), and is giving up a bunch of easy-to-catch fly balls (40.8% grounders). Haren uses two different upper-80s fastballs (two and four-seamer) and two different mid-80s fastballs (cutter and splitter) almost exclusively. A mid-70s curveball is his rarely seen fifth pitch. Like Weaver, the Yankees did not see Haren at Yankee Stadium earlier this season.

Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Ervin Santana
Santana drew some attention for getting zero run support a few weeks ago, and I mean literally zero run support; the Angels were shut out in five of his first six starts. He hasn’t pitched all that well though, with a 4.45 ERA and a 5.52 FIP. His strikeouts are down (6.68 K/9 and 17.3 K%), his walks are up (3.76 BB/9 and 9.8 BB%), and he’s giving up a ton of homers (1.81 HR/9) despite a career-best ground ball rate (53.0%). Santana is primarily a two-pitch pitcher, living off his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and low-80s slider. He’ll occasionally throw a mid-80s changeup to lefties, but it’s a distant third pitch. The Yankees have historically crushed Santana whenever they’ve faced him.

(REUTERS/Alex Gallardo)

Bullpen Status
The bullpen has been a big weakness for the Angels this season, but they got some big time help by acquiring the unheralded Ernesto Frieri (2.51 FIP) from the Padres. The right-hander has thrown eleven hitless innings for the Halos with 22 strikeouts and seven walks. Yeah, he’s been quite good and that’s why the Yankees are lucky he’s appeared in each of the last two games. They won’t see him more than twice in this series, so consider that a win.

Left-hander Scott Downs (2.50 FIP) shares eighth and ninth inning duties with Frieri depending on the matchups. He’s appeared in three straight and is unlikely to pitch tonight. Ex-closer Jordan Walden (3.54 FIP) has appeared in two straight and is the seventh inning guy nowadays. Jason Isringhausen (4.14 FIP) is still around and kicking, ditto the left-hander Hisanori Takahashi (3.75 FIP). Youngsters Bobby Cassevah (3.66 FIP) and David Carpenter (2.55 FIP in limited action) fill out the bullpen. The Yankees are in pretty good shape after getting eight innings out of Hiroki Kuroda yesterday and seven innings each out CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova the previous two games. Check our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 28th, 2012

Record Last Week: 5-1 (28 RS, 16 RA)
Season Record: 26-21 (217 RS, 198 RA, 26-21 pythag. record), 2.5 games back in AL East
Opponents This Week: @ Angels (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Tigers (three games, Thurs. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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Kuroda dominates A’s, Yanks win fifth straight


Source: FanGraphs

For the first time this season, the Yankees have won five games in a row. They finished up a three-game sweep of the Athletics with a 2-0 win on Sunday and are now just two back of first place in the AL East in the loss column. Let’s recap…

  • My Kuroda: Bartolo Colon threw a complete game shutout in Oakland on Memorial Day last season, and Hiroki Kuroda nearly matched him on Sunday. He threw eight shutout innings (104 pitches) on Memorial Day eve, allowing just four singles and one walk. Things got a little hairy with men on corners and one out in the seven, but Kuroda escaped the jam (strikeout, fly out) and didn’t face another stressful situation all afternoon. I know the Athletics can’t hit, but a great start is a great start. Go Hiroki.
  • Andruw & Tex: The Yankees only needed one run but got two. Andruw Jones launched a mammoth homer to left-center on the first pitch of the second inning, then Mark Teixeira doubled in Curtis Granderson from first for an insurance run in the seventh. It was Teixeira’s second double of the afternoon and his seventh extra-base hit in the last six games. He’s suddenly hitting .254/.312/.467 on the season, and that ain’t half bad.
  • RISPFAIL: Despite the win, the Yankees went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and couldn’t push a run across despite having the bases loaded with one out in the first. Five of the first eight hitters they sent to the plate reached base, but just five of the final 29 reached after that. Everyone in the starting lineup had exactly one hit except for Teixeira (two doubles), Robinson Cano (a walk), and Chris Stewart (nothing). Granderson drew a walk in addition to his single.
  • Leftovers: Rafael Soriano struck out two in a scoreless ninth for the save, but we’re still awaiting that first 1-2-3 inning of the season … Teixeira turned a sweet 3-6 double play following a leadoff single in the fifth … Andruw was left in to face a righty in the late innings, so it’s not just Raul Ibanez being left in to face lefties. Both platoon DHs are being left in the game to face pitchers of the same hand in the late innings. In a two-run game, I think you’ve got to give Raul a chance to run into one in that spot.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are headed down to Anaheim for a three-game set with the Angels starting Monday night, when Phil Hughes matches up against Jered Weaver.