2012 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects

Had I been blogging back then, I'm sure Graman would have been a Not Top 30 Prospect. (Photo via Baseball-Almanac.com)

Prospect lists are all over the interweb this time of year, and tomorrow my annual Top 30 Prospects List will go live. The Yankees have a solid and particularly deep farm system, so naturally a few players didn’t make the cut even though they’re each worth knowing about. Rather than leave them on the cutting room floor for next year (or never), we’ll look at them here in what has become my annual Not Top 30 Prospects List.

These aren’t prospects 31 through 35. They’re five guys on the outside of this year’s Top 30 who I think have a chance to climb into next year’s Top 30 with strong seasons, both developmentally and performance-wise. Two of last year’s Not Top 30 Prospects jumped into the Top 30 this year — Angelo Gumbs and Chase Whitley — and I think a 40% success rate is pretty good for this kind of stuff. Scottie Allen had a disaster season — an 82 runs and 179 baserunners in 93.1 IP kind of disaster season — while Dan Burawa was merely okay, so they’re still on the outside of the Top 30 looking in. The other guy, Rafael DePaula, technically isn’t even in the organization yet because he still hasn’t secured a visa. Maybe I should just put him in the Not Top 30 every year until he makes it stateside.

The five players are listed alphabetically by last name, so don’t bother reading anything into the order. The ages listed are as of April 1st, approximately Opening Day.

(Photo via Jake Cave on Twitter)

Jake Cave, OF, 19
A legitimate prospect on the mound, the Yankees drafted Cave as an outfielder last year and that’s where he has the greatest long-term potential. His $800k signing bonus as the team’s sixth round pick was the second largest bonus the Yankees gave to a drafted player in 2011, and he went on to be named the top prospect in Coastal Plains League last summer despite playing with a bunch of college kids. Cave is an excellent athlete that runs well, enough that he could stick in center field for the time being. His arm is obviously above average, so he’d fit perfectly in right field down the line. The Virginia kid has quick hands but a long left-handed swing that produces better than average power. He needs to improve his pitch recognition and overall discipline to carry that power over from batting practice into games. There’s a lot of potential here, but also a lot of progress that needs to be made. Cave will start next year in Extended Spring Training and find himself in one of the short season leagues come June.

(Joe Souza/The Citizen of Laconia)

Jordan Cote, RHSP, 19
The Yankees’ third round pick in 2011 and the recipient of a $725k bonus, Cote signed too late to get into any games last summer. The New Hampshire native is the classic “close your eyes and dream” type of pitching prospect. He checks in at 6-foot-5 and 205 lbs., and can already hit 92 with his fastball. Neither his curveball or slider have really distinguished themselves yet, but he’s shown the ability to make the ball spin. His changeup is in the very early stages of its development. The Yankees have Cote on a strict throwing and conditioning program, and he spent the winter working out at Cressey Performance in Massachusetts. His arm speed is top notch but his delivery is very inconsistent, so he’ll have to put in a lot of work to iron out his mechanics. If he adds some muscle and streamlines his delivery, there’s scary upside here. Cote will start the season in Extended Spring Training before joining the rookie level Gulf Coast League Yankees.

(Mike Ashmore)

Ben Gamel, OF, 19
The younger brother of long-time Brewers farmhand Mat Gamel, Ben broke a strong commitment to Florida State to sign with the Yankees for $500k as their tenth rounder in 2010. He hit in the middle of the lineup for Short Season Staten Island’s league championship team last season, producing a .380 wOBA with a 10.9% walk rate and seven steals. Like his brother, Gamel’s bat is going to have to carry him because none of his other tools stand out. He has a smooth left-handed swing with present pull power and the potential for a lot more, plus he has a solid understanding of the strike zone. Chances are he’ll be relegated to left field long-term because he doesn’t run or throw well, so like I said, the bat’s going to have to carry him. Gamel will be part of the prospect-laden Low-A Charleston club this summer.

(Robert Pimpsner)

Tommy Kahnle, RHRP, 22
I might be cheating here, because Kahnle was in the back end of last year’s top 30. I guess I just wanted to let everyone know that he’s still a prospect, just that some others moved ahead of him. Anyway, Kahnle finished last season with the fifth most strikeouts in the organization (112) despite being a reliever and throwing the 27th most innings (81). Unfortunately, he also finished seventh in walks (49). The Yankees’ fifth round pick in 2010 is a pure power reliever, living at 92-94 with a few 96s. His changeup is his second best offering, and he also throws a slider. Kahnle’s biggest problem has been his ongoing struggle with control, though he only walked six batters in his final ten appearances and 21 IP last year. He’ll move up to High-A Tampa after spending all of last season with Low-A Charleston, and if he shows that his improved control down the stretch wasn’t a fluke, he could move up to Double-A Trenton very quickly.

(Mike Ashmore)

Matt Tracy, LHSP, 23
Primarily an outfielder at Ole Miss, the Yankees selected Tracy in the 24th round last year and stuck him on the mound full-time. He spent the summer pitching for Short Season Staten Island — first out of the bullpen and later as a starter — throwing six shutout innings in Game One of their first round playoff series and then again in the league championship clincher. All told, he struck out 48 (9.13 K/9 and 24.5 K%) and walked 16 (3.14 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%) in his 47.1 IP pro debut, allowing just one homer thanks to a 62% ground ball rate. The 6-foot-3, 212 lb. Tracy sits at 94-95 with his two-seamer in relief and 90-92 as a starter, backing up the heater with a downer curveball and solid changeup. His arm is fresh after throwing just 118.1 IP during his four years in school. Tracy has the repertoire to start but not the pitching experience to rocket up the ladder despite being a senior sign. He could start 2012 at Low-A Charleston and move up to High-A Tampa at midseason. There is no better sleeper in the system.

The best pitches in the Yankee bullpen

(Mo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty; Soriano by Gregory Shamus/Getty; D-Rob by Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Several of you asked for a bullpen version of the “best pitches in the rotation” post, and so here you go. Instead of just the 2011 season I’ve gone back and corralled the last two seasons worth of data for this post. The columns headed by “w” and “w/100″ are the pitch type’s linear weights (representing the total runs that a pitcher has saved using that pitch) and linear weights per 100 pitches (the amount of runs that pitcher saved with that pitch type for every 100 thrown), which provide some level of insight into a pitch’s relative level of effectiveness but should not be analyzed in isolation, as they are subject to the whims of both sequencing and BABIP. I’ve ranked the hurlers by their respective Whiff rates, as the ability to generate a swing-and-miss is probably the most transparent indication of pure stuff.

(Note: This post was researched and written prior to the release of the reclassified PITCHf/x data at Brooks Baseball — which I’ll be chiming in on next weekand the numbers are from TexasLeaguers.com and Fangraphs. Given that relievers typically have less variation in their repertoires than starters, I feel comfortable that the data presented below is mostly accurate.)

Four-Seamer

Rafael Soriano‘s generated the highest whiff percentage on the four-seamer out of the six primary members of the Yankee bullpen, though that is probably partially propped up by his excellent 2010. As far as pitch type linear weights go, David Robertson‘s four-seamer has been the most effective at 12 runs above average, while Cory Wade’s was most effective on a per-100-pitch basis, at 2.17 runs above average.

Cutter

Without looking at the numbers I’d have assumed that Mariano Rivera would easily lead in cutter Whiff%, but he actually lags both Soriano and D-Rob. Of course, having even an 8.1% whiff rate on a pitch you throw 86% of the time is still absurd.

Slider

For all the crap Boone Logan gets, his slider’s actually pretty outstanding, generating a whiff nearly one out of every four times he throws it. Joba Chamberlain also has a big-boy slider, though at times (cough cough full count cough) he’s fallen a bit too in love with it, occasionally making it painfully predictable.

Curveball

David Robertson has the best curveball in the ‘pen by a pretty substantial margin, though Cory Wade’s isn’t terrible. Joba’s had a decent amount of success with his curve though he throws it pretty infrequently.

Changeup

It’s Cory Wade by a landslide here, though he wins by default as no one else in the ‘pen really throws a changeup. It hasn’t been an outstanding pitch by linear weights, but it was his bread-and-butter in a terrific season for the Yankees in 2011.

Open Thread: Spring Training Broadcasts

Good ol' GMS Field.

It was a pretty slow day in Tampa, with the only thing resembling news being Frankie Cervelli‘s arrival. That’s only notable because he finished last season on the DL thanks to his fourth concussion in seven seasons, so it’s good to hear he’s in Tampa read to do some baseballing. In other good news, we now know which Yankees Spring Training games will be broadcast on television, with the first game being just 19 days away. It’s still a long ways off, but at least now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Here are the games that will broadcast this spring, all on YES unless otherwise noted (all times Eastern)…

  • Sunday, March 4th: 1:05pm vs. Phillies
  • Wednesday, March 7th: 1:05pm vs. Rays
  • Friday, March 9th: 1:05pm vs. Braves – split squad
  • Sunday, March 11th: 1:05pm vs. Phillies – split squad
  • Tuesday, March 13th: 7:05pm @ Red Sox
  • Friday, March 16th: 1:05pm vs. Nationals
  • Saturday, March 17th: 1:05pm vs. Astros
  • Tuesday, March 20th: 7:05pm vs. Pirates
  • Wednesday, March 21st: 1:05pm @ Rays – on ESPN only
  • Thursday, March 22nd: 7:05pm @ Red Sox – also on ESPN
  • Friday, March 23rd: 1:05pm vs. Twins – split squad
  • Sunday, March 25th: 1:05pm vs. Tigers – split squad
  • Tuesday, March 27th: 7:05pm vs. Blue Jays
  • Wednesday, March 28th: 1:05pm @ Braves – on ESPN only
  • Thursday, March 29th: 7:05pm vs. Orioles
  • Friday, March 30th: 7:05pm vs. Phillies
  • Sunday, April 1st: 1:10pm @ Marlins – at Marlins new stadium
  • Tuesday, April 3rd: 2:10pm @ Mets – also on SNY
  • Wednesday, April 4th: 12:05pm vs. Mets

MLB Network hasn’t released their broadcast schedule yet, but since they just pick up the local feeds, a few of the Yankees games they show will be road games not broadcast on YES. We’ll get to see something like 20-25 of the team’s 34 exhibition games, and that’s pretty cool. Remember when Spring Training games on television was a pipe dream? Good times, good times.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing tonight, but talk about whatever you like. Enjoy.

(Photo via the Yankees)

Minors Links: Mattingly, Pilittere, Paniagua, More

Got some random minor league notes cluttering up with browser with extraneous tabs, so let’s dump them all here…

  • The Yankees signed Preston Mattingly (Don’s son) earlier this offseason, and yesterday he spoke to Kevin Kernan about his father, his upbringing, stuff like that. Preston isn’t much of a prospect despite being a first round pick back in the day, so he’ll just fill out the High-A Tampa roster this summer.
  • Long-time organizational catcher P.J. Pilittere will be part of the coaching staff for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees this year. The move isn’t much of a surprise if you read Mike Ashmore’s piece on Pilittere last August.
  • Remember Juan Carlos Paniagua? The Yankees signed him for $1.1M last spring, but he was later suspended and had his contract voided due to falsified documents. He’s now trying out for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, so I guess MLB isn’t planning on reinstating him anytime soon.
  • The Yankees signed right-hander Andury Acevedo and catcher David Remedios. Acevedo spent 2007-2010 in the Pirates’ farm system as an infielder, but apparently the Yankees are putting him on the mound. Remedios is a Cuban defector and is most notable for having an 85-minute at-bat on Christmas Eve a few years ago.

Raiding the A’s

The Oakland A’s had eyes bigger than their stomachs this off-season. They had needs to fill for sure, seeing as all three of their 2011 starting outfielders hit free agency. But in refilling those spots they overextended themselves. Along with re-signing Coco Crisp, they also signed Jonny Gomes and traded for Josh Reddick, Collin Cowgill, and Seth Smith. Then came the big move this week, when they signed Yoenis Cespedes. That leaves them with something of an outfield logjam.

AL teams have an advantage here, since they can slide extra players into the DH spot. Yet with the A’s it’s not that simple. In addition to their five MLB-ready outfielders (plus Jermaine Mitchell and Michael Taylor on the 40-man, neither of whom is exactly young), they have four — four! — first basemen: Brandon Allen, Daric Barton, Chris Carter, and Kila Ka’aihue. While Barton and Carter appear to have options remaining, they both seem to be past the point where AAA does them any good. The A’s probably have to make a move here.

Granted, there isn’t much quality there on the A’s roster. That is usually a problem, seeing as they are the Oakland A’s. But with the Yankees currently choosing from a not so impressive list of free agent DH types, perhaps they can find something more to their liking on the A’s roster.

Seth Smith

Just after the Michael Pineda trade, I had planned to write about Smith as a possible trade target. The Rockies had him on the block most of the winter, and he fit in many ways. Of course, just as I opened a document he got traded to the A’s. It seemed odd at the time, since the A’s already had a pretty full outfield. But they got Smith pretty cheaply; Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso aren’t guys on whom championship teams are built.

While Smith has produced above-average numbers in two of the last three seasons, his primary virtue is production against right-handed pitching. Indeed, he holds one of the most stark platoon splits in baseball, producing a 125 wRC+ against righties and just 47 against lefties. That seems to fit in well with the Yankees’ current setup. That he can play the outfield helps a bit more.

The only issue with Smith is that the Yanks would still need someone to DH on days when Andruw Jones plays left field. Smith clearly cannot fill that role, so they’d have to do something like play Eduardo Nunez at 3B and use A-Rod as the DH. Since they pretty clearly want to use Nunez more, and want to get Alex more half-days at DH, that could actually prove a worthy solution.

Brandon Allen

I wrote about Brandon Allen’s case last month, so not much has changed. According to MLBTR’s latest list, however, Allen is indeed out of options. That both helps and hurts his trade case. It helps, because Oakland has to either play him or waive him. It hurts, because the same goes for any team to which they’d trade him. If Allen comes to camp and doesn’t impress, there’s not much the Yanks can do other than cut him. It’d be a shame to trade someone for him, then.

There’s definitely potential there, but Allen’s window of opportunity seems to be closing. Trading a living body for him doesn’t seem to be a wise idea right now. While he might get dished before then, if the Yanks are interested they’d be better off just waiting until the end of camp to see how the A’s manager their roster.

Less enticing and likely players

Sure, the A’s could turn around and trade Josh Reddick, whom they recently acquired from the Red Sox. But Reddick is the youngest of their current outfield crop, and has a bit of upside. It’s tough to see any motivation to trade him unless they get some overwhelming offers. Other teams might like Smith more, too, because he’s more of a proven talent.

Kila Ka’aihue has been hyped, at least by Royals bloggers, for a while. Problem is, he’s done nothing at the major league level. He also has just one position, first base, meaning he’d only occupy the DH spot for the Yankees. If he had shown some semblance of an ability to hit at the major league level then he’d be an intriguing option. But now he can likely be had for cheap after the A’s inevitably DFA him.

Daric Barton is another possibility. Trading him would help the A’s, because it would open up first base for Chris Carter, who has a bit more potential (at least in terms of power). He impressed in 2010, producing a 126 wRC+, mostly based on his .393 OBP. But he stumbled considerably in 2011, and didn’t even produce once sent down to AAA. He’s a reclamation project at best, and one who hasn’t produced much power — even in the PCL.

The A’s will make several roster moves between now and Opening Day, thanks to a logjam in the outfield and at 1B and DH. Problem is, they’re perpetually short of useful players. That makes it less likely that they’ll trade the player most enticing to the Yankees, Seth Smith. While the A’s have a number of players at the same position, Smith is the most proven of them. It’s nice to think about, since Smith does fit what the Yankees need, and will likely outproduce the current DH options they’re mulling. It’d be nice to raid the A’s roster, but the chances just don’t seem that strong.

Prospect Profile: Phil Wetherell

(Photo via Mike Ashmore)

Phil Wetherell | RHP

Background
A graduate of Stewardson-Strasburg High School outside of Champaign, Illinois, Wetherell starred as both a pitcher and position player for the Comets. He lettered all four years and was thrice named to the All-Conference Team, plus he played basketball and made the honor roll all four years. Wetherell wasn’t much of a pro prospect however, so he went undrafted in 2008 and ended up at Kaskaskia College, a two-year school. He threw 55.2 IP and led the Hilltoppers to the Great Rivers Athletic Conference Championship, posting a 4.04 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 18 walks. After again going undrafted, he transferred to Western Kentucky.

[Read more…]

Michael Pineda’s First Day

(Ron Antonelli/New York Daily News)

Pitchers and catchers officially report for duty this Sunday, but a number of players are already in Tampa preparing themselves for the upcoming season. One of those players is Michael Pineda, and yesterday would have been a typical pre-Spring Training day had he not been involved in the Yankees’ biggest transaction in more than two years.

“It’s my first day and I’m excited because it’s my first time practicing with the New York Yankees,” said the right-hander, who was all smiles on Day One. “It’s my first time living in Tampa and I don’t know [the area], so I wanted to come early and get in a couple practices before Spring Training starts. I like to come in early.”

Pineda insisted on speaking English to the media, and both Kevin Kernan and Anthony McCarron provided a recap of his first day on the job. He played some light catch in the bullpen — “About 65,” he joked when asked how hard he was throwing — and ran sprints, pretty standard stuff. Like everyone else, Pineda wants to works on some things in camp, specifically his changeup and two-seamer. He also acknowledged that his second half fade last year was the result of fatigue.

“First half, my arm was strong and I was feeling great and the second half, I’m feeling a little tired,” admitted Pineda. “The other teams know me. It’s a long season.”

The Mariners took care of Pineda down the stretch, having him make just three starts during the final 31 games of their season. He threw only 287 pitches after August 27th, and his workload increased by just 31.2 innings from the year before. Of course big league innings are more stressful than minor league innings, but he said he feels fine now and is ready to go. It’s worth noting that while his ERA spiked in the second half, his strikeout and walk rates never wavered.

Pineda also spoke briefly about his relationship with Robinson Cano, who he first met last year when the Yankees were in Seattle and again at the All-Star Game. “My head is (spinning) because I’ve never stayed in New York,” he remembers telling Cano after the trade. “He said, ‘Don’t worry man, I’ll take care of you’ … I love this guy. He’s my friend.” Pineda is also looking forward to picking CC Sabathia‘s brain, and not just because they share the same height (both listed at 6-foot-7). “I want to learn from him and I want to say hi because he’s a great pitcher.”

No player in camp will be under a more watchful eye this spring than Pineda, just like Jesus Montero will be out in Arizona with the Mariners. Fair or not, being the Yankees’ big offseason move comes with pressure in all forms; the pressure to perform, the pressure to say the right thing, the pressure to be perfect in as many ways possible. Pineda’s first day at camp was uneventful in the grand scheme of things, which is perfectly fine. There will be plenty time for scrutiny later whether he (or you) likes it or not. It’s the nature of the beast.