Prospects on parade in Charleston win

I didn’t get to post this last night, but the Yankees were well represented in this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Jesus Montero and Slade Heathcott ranked as the eighth and ninth hottest prospects in the minors over the last week, while Ramon Flores got some love under the Helium Watch. Montero is certainly no stranger to the Hot Sheet, but this was the first time for Slade and Flores, who have been fantastic in the early going.

Apparently the Yankees signed some teenage Australian outfielder named Adam Silva over the winter. The article describes him as a “strapping lad and hard-working athlete who has made a tremendous impression on scouts and baseball officials over the past few years.” So there’s your scouting report, he’s strapping.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out, though I’m not sure when they’re going to make this one up. Mark Prior will be joining their bullpen tomorrow.

Double-A Trenton was rained out as well. They’re going to play a doubleheader tomorrow. Kevin Millwood gets the ball in game one, Craig Heyer in game two.

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Hughes’ Throwing Program

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

As you know by now, the Yankees placed Phil Hughes on the disabled list yesterday so he could deal with what’s being called a “dead arm phase.” He’ll begin a throwing program tomorrow according to Ian Begley, who reports that Hughes will throw long-toss on Sunday and Monday before resting on Tuesday. He’s going to throw the ball on a line rather than up in the air, and Larry Rothschild is going to pay attention to his arm speed. The soonest he would throw off a mound is Wednesday, but that’s not guaranteed. I don’t care what they do, as long it gets Hughes right.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Mets and Braves are playing the second game of their doubleheader, and the MLB Network will be carrying a game as well. Who you see depends on where you live. You’ve also got NBA and NHL playoff action all over the place, so there’s enough to keep you occupied on a rather miserable (weather-wise) night. You all know what to do, so have at it.

Long: Gardner needs to use his lower half more

Via George King, hitting coach Kevin Long found a mechanical flaw in Brett Gardner‘s swing during a recent video session. “He is not trying to lift the ball at all, it has more to do with what he is not doing with the lower half,” said K-Long. “He isn’t using the lower half. And he is looking at pitches and expanding the zone more than usual. He has been feeling for his swing.” For what it’s worth, I noticed that Gardner had abandoned the two-handed follow through during his at-bat today. OF course, it was just one at-bat. Hannah wondered if he should hit ninth, but me? I say absolutely, let him work out the kinks in a non-premium lineup spot.

Recommended: Check out this FanGraphs Community post about Gardner’s propensity to take strikes. Very interesting stuff.

Shockingly, Kevin Millwood looks “terrible”

Via Jayson Stark, an unnamed source (scout? GM? fan? he didn’t specify) gave a not so glowing review of Kevin Millwood from Extended Spring Training: “He looks terrible. Here’s a guy who used to throw 94-95. Now he’s throwing 86.” PitchFX only goes back so far, but Baseball Info Solutions says he hasn’t sat anywhere near 94-95 in the last ten years, but I guess I’m just nitpicking.

Millwood will make a start for Double-A Trenton on Sunday, and he told Mike Ashmore that he threw 75 pitches last time out and should be able to get it up to 90 this weekend. “My whole thing was trying to build up arm strength and trying to get my pitch count up [in Extended Spring Training],” said the righty. “And I did that. It still probably has a little ways to go, but it’s definitely closer than it was when I got here.”

A-Rod lifted with back and oblique stiffness

Update (3:18pm): The Yankees say that Alex left the game with “lower back and oblique stiffness,” and there are no tests planned at this time. Fingers crossed.

Original Post (2:55pm): Alex Rodriguez was lifted from today’s game in the seventh inning for an unknown reason. Eric Chavez replaced him defensively. It’s been raining pretty much all game, but there was nothing obvious that made it look like he got hurt. We’ll update this post with more info once we find out why he was lifted, but in the meantime I recommend full blown panic. Okay, not really.

Game 13: More rain for Gus & Freddy

"Bored during the delay? Go spend $55 on a porterhouse at NYY Steak." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The weather in New York isn’t good right now. It’s cold and rainy and windy and it’s expected to remain that way pretty much all day, though there’s a chance they’ll be able to play this afternoon’s game. It just won’t be pretty. Both Freddy Garcia and Gustavo Molina have had scheduled starts interrupted by the weather already once this year, so perhaps they’re just cursed. The Yankees had a real quick hook when it came to announcing their first two postponements, and I wonder if they will again today. The Rangers do come back to New York in mid-June, so they could take advantage and skip both Gus and Freddy once again. It’s not fair, but that’s life. Here’s the lineup, should they actually play…

Derek Jeter, SS
Nick Swisher, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Andruw Jones, LF
Jorge Posada, DH
Curtis Granderson, CF
Gustavo Molina, C

Freddy Garcia, SP

Hooray for the first non-FOX Saturday broadcast of the season. The game is scheduled to begin shortly after 1pm ET, but then again who knows with the weather. YES will carry this one. Enjoy.

Would Batting Ninth Help Gardner?

Have to hit before you can run. (AP/Kathy Willens)

No two ways about it: Brett Gardner is in the midst of an awful slump. He was given the coveted leadoff spot in the order and has thanked the Yankees for the present by batting a miserable .150/.227/.225 to start the season. In a lineup where the 7-8-9 hitters are no joke, Gardner appears to be trying to put a hole in the Yankees lineup right at the top. There’s no way he sticks there if he keeps up with this performance. He doesn’t have to be amazing – just get on base and steal a lot of bases and avoid the double plays with a certain shortstop and noted new groundball machine coming up behind him. But it’s not happening at the moment.

It doesn’t really matter to the Yankees whether Gardner bats first or ninth in the long run – according to David Pinto’s lineup analysis, they gain just 0.045 runs with Gardner’s 2010 numbers leading off over him batting ninth, which comes out to about seven runs all season. For a team that’s showing as much offensive power as this one is, seven runs over 162 games is a drop in the bucket. But maybe it matters to Brett Gardner. The leadoff spot in an order, while perhaps not as important in the giant scheme of all things baseball, does have a certain prestige about it. Certain players like to hit leadoff. Certain players don’t. Whatever that intangible is, maybe it’s bogging Gardy down. Let’s see.

Admittedly, we’re still dealing with fairly small sample sizes when we look at his plate appearances in only these two spots. It’s odd to think that this is only Gardy’s third year as anything other than a September call-up, and only his second year where he’ll be showing up in, ideally, more than 110 games. Additionally, no one really knows if Gardner’s poor second-half 2010 was all wrist injury or pitchers adjusting to him but I’m willing to bet it was some combination of both. Halfway through the year, scouting reports are coming in on a guy. Gardner’s must have looked something like, ‘throw strikes.’ We’ll do what we can with the number we have and take the results with a grain of salt.

Gardner has 264 plate appearances leading off in 59 games, all but two of which he started. In those games, he’s batted a mediocre .256/.338/.348, with a tOPS+ (OPS+ relative to total OPS+) of 92. In comparison, he’s started 116 games in the nine-hole, giving him 419 plate appearances and a slightly worse line of .240/.333/.312 and a tOPS+ of 81. There’s good news and bad news here. Good news: the numbers are better for the leadoff spot. Bad news: the numbers go down with the increased PA, so the second line is probably closer to what we might see over a larger sample. However, the numbers are so close that it honestly doesn’t matter. Not surprisingly, there’s also a change in the stolen base approach: Gardy only stole five more bases in those additional 155 PA batting ninth, and was also caught an extra five times. And if the sizes were equal, he would also have more walks from the leadoff spot as well: 48 BBs in 419 PA batting ninth vs. 25 BB in 264 PAs leading off.

One interesting thing to note is that that Gardner’s BABIP batting ninth is .286, which is a little lower than average. Bat him leadoff, however, and his BABIP shoots up to .337. I’m not sure why this is: could be luck, could be a different approach at the plate, could be the pitchers throwing him balls he can get better hits off of. Either way, that leadoff number is much, much closer to his career .321 BABIP than the nine-hole one. While we’re on this topic, Gardner’s 2010 BABIP of .340 and makes his current 2011 BABIP of .222 look pretty depressing.

There’s a lot of different elements to take into account here, but even with the small samples it seems like batting leadoff doesn’t bother Gardner, which is definitely a good thing for the Yankees and for the speedster. Let’s hope that we can all look back in a few years and have much larger samples that prove he is an amazing leadoff hitter and should never leave that spot. Then we can all roll our eyes at his 2011 April slump and talk about how unlike him that was. For now, all we know is that Gardner’s not doing too well and it probably doesn’t have anything to do with where he’s batting. Let’s hope his new approach figures itself out or he returns to whatever was working in 2010.