2012 Draft: Yankees sign 24th rounder Jose Mesa Jr.

Twenty-fourth round pick Jose Mesa Jr. has officially signed with the Yankees according to his Twitter feed. The team still has $615,910 worth of draft pool space to work with after signing first rounder Ty Hensley to below slot deal last night, and I suspect Mesa will get some of it.

A high school right-hander out of Florida, Mesa is the son of the long-time big league closer. He’s already maxed out physically — listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 lbs. — and lives off a power fastball that he can cut in on lefties and bore in on righties. The bloodlines are a plus as well. You can see all of the team’s picks at Baseball America and keep tabs on the draft pool situation with our Draft Pool page. The deadline to sign picks is 5pm ET today.

The RAB Radio Show: July 13th, 2012

After taking three of four at Fenway the Yankees had some downtime this week during the All-Star break. Still, there are plenty of goings on.

The Yankees did sign first rounder Ty Hensley. Mike and I talk about all the different implications of his shoulder injury and signing below slot. Given the changes to the draft system this year it’s interesting to compare this situation to what might have happened a year ago.

We have plenty of questions, too, including a bit of speculation (thanks, Peter Gammons!) involving Cliff Lee.

Podcast run time 1:01:54

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:


Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

7/13-7/15 Series Preview: Anaheim Angels

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Hooray for not playing in Anaheim. The Yankees and Angels have played twice already this season, with New York taking two of three in the Bronx back in April before the Halos responded by taking two of three in SoCal in May. They’ll wrap up the season series this weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?

Prior to the All-Star break, the Angels took three of four from the Orioles but are just 5-5 in their last ten games. At 48-38 with a +44 run differential, they have the third best record and fourth best run differential in the league.


(AP/Fred Thornhill)

Mike Scioscia’s club has one of the better offenses in the league, with a team 104 wRC+ and an average of 4.4 runs per game. It all starts at the top of surefire Rookie of the Year and legit MVP candidate Mike Trout, who owns a 172 wRC+ and leads the league with 4.8 fWAR. He can beat you with his legs (26 steals) or his power (12 homers).

The other big bats belong to Albert Pujols (duh) and Mark Trumbo, who have a 114 and 160 wRC+, respectively. Between those two and Trout, the Halos have some serious right-handed thump. Torii Hunter (111 wRC+) and Kendrys Morales (107 wRC+) are the only other regulars who have been above average producers with the stick, though you and I both know Howie Kendrick (86 wRC+) kills the Yankees. That’s the meat of the order right there, those five guys.

The rest of the lineup is filled out by various annoying bit players, like Alberto Callaspo (95 wRC+), Erick Aybar (80 wRC+), Maicer Izturis (75 wRC+), and Peter Bourjos (75 wRC+). Catching duties belong to Bobby Wilson (31 wRC+) and John Hester (80 wRC+) while the backup infielder is Andrew Romine (285 wRC+ in six plate appearances), brother of Austin. It’s a very good but top-heavy offense, one with a few breaks towards the bottom of the lineup.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
One of the few free agent pitchers who has lived up to his contract (so far, anyway), Wilson has pitched to a 2.43 ERA (3.63 FIP) during his first season with the Angels and was a deserving All-Star. His strikeout rate (7.11 K/9 and 19.4 K%) is down slightly and his walk rate (3.96 BB/9 and 10.8 BB%) has shot back up to its pre-2011 levels, but at least he still gets a ton of grounders (51.6%). Wilson is a true six-pitch guy, using each offering at least 10% of the time. His primary weapons are his three fastballs, low-90s two and four-seamers plus an upper-80s cutter. A mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball are the three offspeed pitchers. The Yankees have seen Wilson plenty of times with the Rangers over the last few seasons as well as once this April.

Saturday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Jerome Williams
Williams resurrected his career last season, five years after he last pitched in the big leagues. The 30-year-old right-hander has pitched to a 4.46 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 82.2 innings this year with a weak strikeout rate (6.10 K/9 and 15.8 K%) but strong walk (2.83 BB/9 and 7.3 BB%) and ground ball (55.6%) numbers. Williams is a bit unorthodox in the sense that he’s a low-90s sinker/upper-80s cutter guy who will mix in the occasional low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball. The Yankee tagged Williams for five runs in just 2.2 innings earlier this year, that ESPN Sunday Night game when Raul Ibanez hit a ball nearly into the upper deck.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Sunday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jered Weaver
Owner of baseball’s very best ERA (1.96), Weaver threw an inning in the All-Star Game on Tuesday and brings a massive home/road split to the Bronx this weekend: 0.58 ERA (2.04 FIP) at home compared to a 3.24 ERA (3.78 FIP) on the road. He does it by limiting walks (2.05 BB/9 and 6.0 BB%) and homers (0.47 HR/9), not by striking guys out (6.80 K/9 and 19.7 K%) or getting ground balls (38.2%). A kitchen sink guy with six pitches, Jeff’s younger brother sits in the upper-80s with his two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter. Weaver’s top offspeed offering is a low-80s slider but he’ll also throw an upper-70s changeup and a low-70s curveball. He’s a tough assignment, just not as tough when he’s on the road and hitters don’t have to try to pick up the ball in the rockpile.

Bullpen Status
Both teams have had the last four days off, so everyone’s fresh in the bullpen. The Angels have a co-closer thing going, with Ernesto Frieri (2.04 FIP) handling the righties and Scott Downs (2.40 FIP) taking care of the lefties. The hard-throwing Jordan Walden (3.42 FIP) is also in the late-game mix, ditto former Yankee LaTroy Hawkins (3.06 FIP) and former Met Jason Isringhausen (4.40 FIP). Hisanori Takahashi (4.05 FIP) is the middle innings lefty specialist while right-handers David Carpenter (3.52 FIP) and Kevin Jepsen (4.16 FIP) handle the garbage time innings.

Joe Girardi‘s relief crew really needed the time off after the grueling series with the Red Sox before the break. Hopefully the lack of lefties in Anaheim’s lineup means Boone Logan and his league-leading 43 appearances will get a few more days of rest. There aren’t many Angels blogs out there, not good ones anyway, so I have nowhere to send you for the latest and greatest news on the team. I’d rather read nothing.

Mailbag: Balfour, Pitchers, Upton, Andrus

Got four questions for you this week, and remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us future mailbag questions.

(Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Mark asks: I know the Yankees have liked him in the past, since Oakland appears to be in sell mode – how does Grant Balfour look as Joba Chamberlain insurance?

Balfour, 34 had a rough start to the season but has settled down and pitched to a 3.14 ERA (3.74 FIP) overall. He’s making $4M this season with a $4.25M club option for next season ($350k buyout), so he’s a rental. There are three big red flags here. One, his strikeout rate (6.70 K/9 and 18.8 K%) is way down compared to the last few years (8.82 K/9 and 24.8 K% from ’10-’11). Two, his walk rate (3.77 BB/9 and 10.6 BB%) is way up (2.84 K/9 and 8.0 BB% from ’10-’11), and three, his fastball velocity is down into the low-90s and has been trending the wrong way for a few years now. That’s like the red flag trifecta right there.

Brian Cashman tried to work out a sign-and-trade deal for Balfour last offseason, before ownership stepped in and signed Rafael Soriano. I’m not sure if they still like him given this year’s decline, but the price shouldn’t be high at all. The Athletics could save some cash and get maybe a Grade-C prospect in return as part of a trade, which is better than holding on to him for another two months and losing him for nothing after the season. Balfour has AL East experience and that’s always nice, but that won’t save him if the fastball and ability to miss bats is gone. If the Yankees can get him real cheap, sure try him out. Low risk move. I wouldn’t expect a ton out of him, however.

Travis asks: Considering the depth of pitching the Yankees have, do you see them making a big free agent signing? They have CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, David Phelps already in the rotation next year and in AAA, they will have D.J. Mitchell, Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, Vidal Nuno, Mikey O’Brien, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos. That’s a lot of fourth and fifth starters (and some second and third) in the minors. Hard to see giving multiple years to pitchers this year and coming years.

That’s the problem, the vast majority of those minor league guys you mentioned are back-end starters. You don’t really make room for those guys, especially if you’re the Yankees. You let them come up and fill-in if someone gets hurt and you need a spot starter. I mean, if the choice is adding a Cole Hamels or leaving a spot open for someone like Brett Marshall … that seems like an easy call to me.

That said, the 2014 payroll plan is going to impact the team’s free agent decisions more than anything. They’ll need a few of those guys for depth reasons but I wouldn’t let them stand in the way of adding an impact arm. Heck, I wouldn’t let them stand in the way of re-signing Hiroki Kuroda. We’ve written this before, but the Yankees can add a guy like Hamels on a huge contract and still get under the luxury tax threshold in a few years, but it will take some serious creativity. Perhaps it involves dealing a few of those arms for a cheap outfielder or two as a way to offset the cost. I love prospects as much as anyone, but the Yankees don’t have anyone in their system right now that you can point to as a surefire impact pitcher.

Nick asks: So I know there is speculation about a Justin Upton trade. You had mentioned that to get him you would open up the farm system for him. Is there anyway the Yankees can get him AND hold onto Mason Williams or Gary Sanchez? If so, who would you prefer to keep?

(Christian Petersen/Getty)

I suppose there’s a way to do it, I just don’t know how they could. The Yankees and Diamondbacks don’t matchup well in a trade because Arizona has a ton of pitching and needs a third baseman and a shortstop. Maybe they really, really like Brandon Laird and Eduardo Nunez, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I can’t imagine a lower level guy like Dante Bichette Jr. would work; if you’re trading a franchise-type player like Upton, you can’t accept A-ballers in return, especially if you’re as close to contending as the D’Backs are.

As far as Williams and Sanchez, I’d prefer to keep Mason but honestly I wouldn’t let either guy stand in the way of a potential trade. Williams has a much more well-rounded game and while Sanchez has serious impact potential, I do still worry about his strikeouts a bit (27.1 K% last year, 23.2 K% this year). Love both guys though and would be willing to move one or the other in a package for a guy like Upton no questions asked. Hell, if those two were going to be the centerpieces of a trade with some miscellaneous pieces added, go for it. I’d have no problem giving up Single-A kids — even super high-ceiling ones like Williams and Sanchez — for a player of Upton’s caliber and potential.

Daniel asks: If the time comes when Elvis Andrus hits the free agent market, can you see the Yankees being major players for him? I believe he’d hit the market at age 25 or 26.

Oh yes, definitely. Andrus is the guy I’m hoping the Yankees will grab to replace Derek Jeter when the time comes. He’ll become a free agent right as the Cap’n’s deal is up and Texas has Jurickson Profar coming. Andrus is still only 23 (!) and will hit the open market at 26, so you’re getting all of his peak years. This is a guy that is already an elite defender at short who gets on-base (.368 OBP this year, .345 career), doesn’t strikeout (12.3 K% this year, 13.0 K% career), steals bases (30+ in each of the last three years plus he’ll get this year again), and stays on the field (145+ games played every year of his career). He also has World Series experience and that’s certainly not a negative.

Now obviously a lot can change between now and then, but Andrus makes a ton of sense for New York if they’re looking for a Jeter replacement in two years. I suspect Texas will either a) trade him, or b) trade Profar and extend Andrus before then, however. If he does hit the open market though, the bidding will be out of control. Middle infielders that productive and that young just don’t become free agents these days. I don’t think a deal worth $20M annually across 8-10 years is out of the question if he keeps this up.

Quick Update: Andrus is a Scott Boras client, so the odds of him signing an extension with Texas are small while the odds of him signing a megadeal as a free agent are huge.

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2012 Draft: First rounder Ty Hensley to sign with Yankees

11:38pm: Via Callis, Hensley signed for a below-slot $1.2M. Chase Parham has some more on the MRI and shoulder issue, saying the right-hander was (and remains) completely asymptomatic and without pain. The Yankees have $615,910 of draft pool money — plus the $100k exemption for players drafted after the tenth round — left to spend before Friday’s deadline.

11:01pm: Via Jim Callis, the two sides had agreed to a slot bonus before a pre-signing MRI showed “abnormalities” in Hensley’s shoulder. Still no word on his bonus or said abnormalities.

10:44pm: Via K. Levine-Flandrup, first rounder Ty Hensley has decided to sign with the Yankees. No word on his bonus yet, but he was slotted for $1.6M and the team was able to pay him up to $1,815,910 without forfeiting a future draft pick. Earlier this week we heard that the two sides had already completed negotiations, but Hensley was still debating whether to turn pro or follow through on his commitment to Ole Miss. Hensley confirmed the deal on Twitter.

A high school right-hander from Oklahoma, Hensley was set to wind up with the Rockies as the tenth overall pick until RHP Mark Appel fell to the Pirates with the sixth pick, leaving OF David Dahl on the board for Colorado. Everything you need to know about the kid is right here. Hopefully Hensley will get a few Rookie ball innings in over the next few weeks, that would be neat. All of the team’s draft picks can be seen at Baseball America, and you can keep track of the draft pool situation with our Draft Pool page. The deadline to sign picks is 5pm ET on Friday.