Mustelier & Ortiz lead Triple-A team to win

Another day, another round of injury updates…

  • RHP Jose Campos is still dealing with his “elbow discomfort” and doesn’t appear to be close to returning. An MRI showed no structural damage earlier this month. [Josh Norris]
  • RHP Dellin Betances has been pitching with a cracked fingernail and it is has contributed in part to his control problems. I’m not sure we would have been able to tell anyway given his usual walk problems. [Norris]
  • LHP Jeremy Bleich has resumed pitching in Extended Spring Training and is likely to come back as a reliever. The team’s highest signed draft pick in 2008 hasn’t pitched since mid-2010 due to major shoulder surgery. [Norris]
  • RHP Conor Mullee threw live batting practice today for the first since having Tommy John surgery last June and everything went well. Mullee has thrown just 22 IP since being the club’s 24th round pick in 2010, but he’s one of the hardest throwers in the organization and is part of that relief pipeline the Yankees have built out of late-round draft picks in recent years. [Mullee’s Twitter]
  • RHP Danny Burawa was scheduled to appear in an ExST game today, his first game action since suffering an oblique tear in camp. He impressed this spring and should head to Double-A Trenton once fully rehabbed. [Burawa’s Twitter]
  • In case you missed it earlier, LHP Manny Banuelos‘ had an MRI on his sore elbow and it came back clean. The DL stint is precautionary.

Triple-A Empire State (6-2 win over Columbus)
CF Kevin Russo: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 SB — five straight two-hit games
2B Matt Antonelli: 0-5
1B Steve Pearce & RF Brandon Laird: both 2-4, 1 R — Pearce drew a walk … Laird doubled
3B Ronnie Mustelier: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI — .337/.387/.568 in 42 games this year
C Frankie Cervelli & LF Cole Garner: both 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 K — Cervelli walked twice and got hit by a pitch … Garner walked once
DH Gus Molina & SS Ramiro Pena: both 1-4, 1 RBI — Molina doubled and struck out twice … Pena whiffed once
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 7/4 GB/FB — 66 of 91 pitches were strikes (72.5%) … two runs or less in three of his last four starts
LHP Juan Cedeno: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 11 of 21 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 43: A Friendly Face

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Yankees have scored double-digit runs just three times in 42 games this season (7.1%), down from 11.1% last season and 11.7% the year before. The first time was the win over the Angels on Sunday Night Baseball (when Raul Ibanez nearly hit a ball into the upper deck), the second time was the huge Fenway Park comeback win over the Red Sox, and the third time was in Kansas City against Luke Hochevar two weeks ago. Hochevar is on the mound again tonight, and boy if there was ever a time for him to repeat that 2.2 IP, 7 R showing, it’s right now. Here’s the lineup…

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

RHP Phil Hughes

The weather in New York isn’t great again but it looks like they’ll get a full nine innings in tonight. The game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Update: Banuelos’ sore elbow not considered serious

5:01pm: Via Norris, Banuelos did go for an MRI and it came back clean. It’s more of a “tired arm” than actual soreness, apparently.

2:30pm: Via Josh Norris, left-hander Manny Banuelos was placed on the Triple-A disabled list for precautionary reasons and his sore left elbow is not considered serious. Banuelos and Eduardo Nunez (sore thumb) both hit the shelf just yesterday. It’s been a pretty brutal season for pitching injuries, so this is welcome news. Hopefully it remains nothing serious and Manny can get back on the mound relatively soon.

Still no date for Mariano Rivera’s knee surgery

Via Bryan Hoch, there is still no date set for Mariano Rivera‘s knee surgery. He’s still getting treatment and therapy for the blood clot in his right calf, and doctors want him to strengthen the knee before going in and repairing his torn right ACL. For what it’s worth, Mat Gamel of the Brewers torn his ACL a few days before Rivera but did not have surgery until today. Apparently waiting a few weeks for the swelling to go down and stuff is common with this kind of injury. Hopefully they can get Mo fixed up within a month so he can begin the rehab process.

2012 Draft: Daniel Robertson

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

Daniel Robertson | SS/3B

Background
A California kid from the Los Angeles suburbs, Robertson (no relation to David as far as I know) stars at Upland High School and is committed to UCLA. He was also heavily recruited by Georgia and Arizona, so some of the biggest baseball programs in the country had their eye on him.

Scouting Report
Robertson is listed at 6-foot-0 and 190 lbs. and although the consensus is that he won’t have the mobility to remain at shortstop, he has all the tools to develop into a standout defender at the hot corner thanks to his arm, instincts, and soft hands. He’s projected to be a high-average hitter from the right side thanks to his quick bat and innate ability to get the barrel on the ball. Most of his power is into the gaps but Robertson has hinted at future power potential, so there’s a chance he’ll turn into a complete all-around hitter. He’s earned the “gamer” tag for his all-out style of play and has drawn raves for his advanced approach, baseball acumen, and polish.

Miscellany
Both Baseball America (35th overall) and Keith Law (38th) recently ranked Robertson and a fringe first round talent while MLB.com has him a little further down the list at #58 overall. Chances are someone will like him enough to grab him before the Yankees’ two second round picks (#89 and #94 overall) come around, so they’d have to grab Robertson in the first round (#30 overall) if they want him. The Yankees have had no trouble bucking the consensus and reaching for players the last few years, and Robertson fits their mold as a polished high school player with strong makeup and two-way skills.

Baseball America’s Int’l Free Agency Preview

$80k in 2004. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The amateur draft begins in less than two weeks and a few weeks after that, the international signing period will open on July 2nd. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement limits each team to $2.9M in international spending this summer, though clubs can exceed that amount if they’re willing to deal with the harsh penalties. Start next season, international spending restrictions will be on a sliding scale based on winning percentage. The more you win, the less you have to spend.

The very best prospect on the international market this summer is Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, who still has yet to establish residency outside of Cuba and be declared a free agent by MLB. He will be subject to the spending restrictions come July 2nd but can sign for any amount prior to that date, so he better hope they speed up the process. The kid is looking at a bonus in the $20M range at the moment and will get maybe one-tenth of that after July 2nd.

Baseball America’s Ben Badler previewed this summer market today (subs. req’d), looking at nine non-Soler players who are among the best prospects available. Two of the nine have been connected to the Yankees…

Luis Torrens, C, Venezuela (video)
A former shortstop and third baseman, the 6-foot-0, 170 lbs. Torrens is rough behind the plate because of his inexperience. He has the athleticism and tools and stick at catcher, though his right-handed bat is the main attraction. Torrens has doubles power to all fields and figures to start driving balls over the fence as he matures, and his approach is very advanced for a kid who turned 16 just three weeks ago. He trains with and is represented by Carlos Rios, the Yankees’ former director of international scouting, and Badler says New York is the club “most strongly linked” to Torrens at the moment.

Alex Palma, OF, Venezuela (video)
One of the most advanced hitters in this year’s international class, Palma has a right-handed swing geared for hard contact. He’s hit high-quality pitching in showcase events but like everyone else his age, he’s still developing his power stroke. Palma is listed at 6-foot-0 and 200 lbs. and is limited to a corner outfield spot because he’s not the best runner in the world. He does have an arm suited for right field, however. Badler says the Yankees are “making the strongest push” to sign Palma, and his bonus could approach seven figures.

Other top prospects include Venezuelan SS/OF Franklin Barreto (linked to Blue Jays), Dominican OF Gustavo Cabrera (Royals), Venezuelan LHP Jose Castillo (Padres and Red Sox), Venezuelan SS Luis Castro (Rockies), Brazilian LHP Luiz Gohara (Mariners), Venezuelan RHP Jose Mujica (Jays), and Dominican SS Amed Rosario (no team). Seems like a pretty strong year for Venezuela.

Earlier this month Badler speculated about some ways teams could essentially circumvent the spending limitations this summer, including shady under-the-table deals. The Yankees spent just about $3M on international players last summer — or what they gave Gary Sanchez alone a few years ago — but have historically been among the biggest spenders in Latin America. Every team is on an even playing field now, so it’s going to come down to scouting ability. Hopefully the lure of the Yankees brand helps as well.

The Yankees and pitches in the strike zone

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Yesterday I wrote about the Yankees and their increasingly impatient offense, showing that they haven’t been working the count this season like we’ve seen in the past. It’s unlikely that seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance is the root cause of the team’s recent offensive woes, but I do think it’s a contributing factor. Not getting in favorable counts and swinging at the pitches pitchers want you to swing at will drag down anyone’s numbers.

Plate discipline isn’t just swinging at strikes and laying off balls though, it’s also about swinging at quality strikes. Not every strike is one you can drive. Here’s a PitchFX breakdown of the team’s plate discipline tendencies — swing and contact rates on pitches both in and out of the strike zone — over the last four seasons…

Notice the in-zone stats I’ve highlighted in yellow. Starting with 2009, the Yankees have swung at more pitches in the strike zone each season but have made less contact. We’re talking about a three percentage point difference in each category over a four-year span so it’s not a huge change, but it is a change for the worse. The Yankees have become more aggressive within the strike zone in recent years but have less to show for it. Simply put, their swing-and-miss rate within the zone is climbing.

As a whole, pitchers around the league have not changed their overall approach against the Yankees since 2009…

Other than the expected year-to-year fluctuations, the Yankees have seen the same percentage of fastballs and offspeed pitches over the last few years. They’ve also seen the exact same number of first pitch strikes, so it’s not like they’re falling behind in the count more often. Pitchers may be pitching them differently in different counts and in specific situations (men on base, etc.), but that’s beyond my PitchFX capabilities at the moment. That would help explain the in-zone plate discipline issues, however.

The Yankees are anything but an offensive powerhouse these days and there are many reasons why. Missing more hittable pitches in the strike zone could be one of those reasons, though the little bit of data above hardly confirms that. The team is trending in the wrong direction when it comes to making contact on pitches in the strike zone, and some of those misses very likely came on pitches they should have hit hard somewhere.