In his first minor league rehab game with Triple-A Scranton, Curtis Granderson went 1-for-3 with an infield single and two ground ball outs. He played seven innings in right field and only had to make two plays — retrieve a double from the corner and reel in a single hit in front of him. The seven innings thing was planned according to Donnie Collins, and it’ll probably be a few days before Granderson plays a full nine innings. I suspect he’ll see time in all three outfield spots as well.
I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised the Yankees have only allowed four runs through the first two games of this series. It helps that Troy Tulowitzki has been out with a nagging injury, but four runs in 17 defensive innings is pretty damn awesome for Coors Field. Now that I’ve sufficiently jinxed things, here is the lineup that will face left-hander Jeff Francis this afternoon…
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Jayson Nix
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- RF Ben Francisco
- 3B Chris Nelson
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- C Chris Stewart
- SP CC Sabathia
The forecast says it will be another rainy game, maybe even to the point of a delay. I really hope that’s not the case. The game is scheduled to start at 3:10pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Eduardo Nunez Update: Nunez (ribcage) won’t hit until tomorrow, but he went through some fielding drills and is available in an emergency.
Jim Callis of Baseball America posted his first mock draft today, and the link is free for all. You don’t need a subscription. He has the Astros and Cubs taking Stanford RHP Mark Appel and former Yankees draft pick/Oklahoma RHP Jonathan Gray first and second overall, respectively, which is no surprise. Those two are the clear top two prospects this spring.
The Yankees have three first round picks, and Callis has them taking Notre Dame 3B Eric Jagielo (#26), New Jersey HS LHP Rom Kaminsky (#32), and Oklahoma HS C Jon Denney (#33) with those picks. I wrote up profiles on Jagielo and Kaminsky, and Denney is the classic offensive-minded catcher the Yankees always crave. He’s a right-handed bat who projects to hit for both power and average, but although he has a strong arm and quick release, his defense needs work overall. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer has drafted just one college bat higher than the third round during his tenure, so Jagielo would be bucking the trend with that 26th pick.
Via George King (subs. req’d): Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer wants baseball to begin giving pre-draft physicals to draft prospects every year. “Baseball is in the dark ages,” he said. “We are the only sport that doesn’t do pre-draft physicals … We go into this thing blind. Without the physical, you make an assumption.”
The Yankees, of course, have gotten burned in recent years by drafting players who turned out to be injured. A pre-signing physical showed an “abnormality” in first rounder Ty Hensley’s pitching shoulder last year, and you can also go back to recent second rounders Sam Stafford (2011, shoulder) and Scott Bittle (2008, shoulder). Yeah, I think every scouting director of every club would love pre-draft physicals. Examining the 1,500+ draft eligible players every year is not feasible, but the top 200 prospects (according to MLB’s Scouting Bureau) are drug tested before the draft. Those guys should undergo a physical as well.
Yesterday’s news that right-hander Ty Hensley is likely to miss the rest of the season following hip surgery kinda got me thinking about the team’s first round draft picks in recent years. Before we get into it, let’s look at the actual picks…
|Year||Rd||Pck||Pos||WAR||Drafted Out of|
|2012||1||30||Ty Hensley (minors)||RHP||Edmond Santa Fe HS (Edmond, OK)|
|2011||1s||51||Dante Bichette (minors)||3B||Orangewood Christian HS (Orlando, FL)|
|2010||1||32||Cito Culver (minors)||RHP||Irondequoit HS (Rochester, NY)|
|2009||1s||29||Slade Heathcott (minors)||CF||Texas HS (Texarkana, TX)|
|2008||1||28||Gerrit Cole (minors)||RHP||Orange Lutheran HS (Orange, CA)|
|2008||1s||44||Jeremy Bleich (minors)||LHP||Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)|
|2007||1||30||Andrew Brackman (minors)||RHP||0.1||North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)|
|2006||1||21||Ian Kennedy (minors)||RHP||10.4||University of Southern California (L.A., CA)|
|2006||1s||41||Joba Chamberlain (minors)||RHP||7.2||University of Nebraska at Lincoln (Lincoln, NE)|
Those are the team’s first and supplemental first round selections during the Damon Oppenheimer era. He replaced long-time amateur scouting director Lin Garrett after Brian Cashman got his supposed autonomy following the 2005 season. Garrett was one of George Steinbrenner’s guys and his drafts were amazingly unproductive in the early-2000s.
Anyway, the Yankees have done a miserable job of turning their early picks into big league players. This dates back a long way too, basically all the way back to when they drafted Derek Jeter in 1992. Only three of their first and supplemental first round picks since then — Eric Milton (1996), Mark Prior (1999), and Kennedy (2006) — have accumulated even 10+ WAR in the show. All three did so with other teams. Their most productive first rounders other than those three are Phil Hughes (7.6 WAR) and Joba. That’s it.
More recently, their top picks under Oppenheimer have been a mess of … everything. He had a brilliant first draft in 2006, a draft that probably set expectations unrealistically high. They selected 50 players that year, signed 36, and ten reached the big leagues. Six of them are mainstays around the league (Kennedy, Joba, Zach McAllister, George Kontos, Mark Melancon, David Robertson). That’s a pretty tough act to following.
Brackman in 2007 was a classic “good pick that didn’t work out.” It happens. He was the highest-ceiling prospect on the board but also maybe the riskiest, especially when you consider his asking price and all that. Looks silly in hindsight, but the Yankees really shot for the moon with that pick. New York was lucky Cole slipped to them the following year, but unlucky when he decided three years at UCLA was preferable to turning pro. New York offered the prep right-hander a well-above-slot $4M bonus, so they certainly made a huge offer.
The last few years have been a little more questionable. Their top selections from 2009-2011 were all considered reaches by the publicly available consensus rankings, and so far only Heathcott has made the team look smart. He’s had injury problems but is regarded as one of baseball’s top 100 prospective big leaguers. Cito Culver and Dante Bichette Jr., their top picks in 2010 and 2011, have been unmitigated disasters so far. The picks were widely panned at the time of the draft and it’s easy to see why. Those two haven’t developed in the pro ranks and don’t even have trade value at this point.
Hensley’s career is just getting started, so we can’t pass judgement on him yet. We definitely know what the Yankees have in their top selections from 2007-2011, and that’s very little. It’s Heathcott, that’s it. Brackman has since been released, Cole went to school and was drafted first overall by the Pirates two years ago, and then there’s Culver and Bichette trying to figure things out by repeating Low-A Charleston. Whole bunch of nothing, really.
The Yankees have three first round picks this year — three of the first 33 picks in the entire draft, the first time they can say that since 1978 — and nearly $8M worth of draft pool money at their disposal, and I think it’s absolutely imperative they improve their first round results. It’s not easy to do, especially when you’re always picking in the back half of the first round, but this first round talent drought is nearly two decades old. They aren’t even turning these picks into trade chips these days and that needs to change, especially given the club’s self-imposed austerity.
I think — and this is just my opinion here — the Yankees have made some very questionable early picks the last three or four years. I think they got a little gun shy after Brackman blew up and Cole walked away, causing them to go a little more conservative with their top selections. They targeted players they knew they could sign, and while that is important, it shouldn’t trump talent. These three picks this year are a golden opportunity to inject some life and impact talent into the farm system, and simply maintaining the status quo and doing what they’ve been doing in recent years obviously isn’t good enough. There was a shift in strategy following Brackman and Cole, and now there needs to be another one after these last few drafts.
The Yankees are undefeated when the pitcher bats eighth this year. Joe Girardi is a genius. They used a ninth inning rally to beat the Rockies by the score of 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Boesch Comes Through
It seems silly now, but batting the pitcher eighth actually played a pretty big role in this win. The Yankees and Rockies were knotted at two in the top of the ninth when New York loaded the bases with one out — the rally started with an infield single and a stolen base where the infielder dropped a perfect throw that would have had the runner by a mile — allowing Girardi to go for the kill with his two top pinch-hitters.
First, Travis Hafner came to the plate in place of third baseman Chris Nelson even though Eduardo Nunez is injured and the team doesn’t have a backup infielder at the moment. Hafner has the highest OBP on the team and a walk is as good as a hit in that situation, but he struck out on five pitches to set the stage for Brennan Boesch. Boesch, by the way, was pinch-hitting for the pitcher. Had the pitcher batted ninth, it would have been Austin Romine at the plate and maybe Girardi doesn’t pinch-hit. Who knows.
Anyway, Boesch managed to beat out an infield single to plate the go-ahead run, sliding (flopping?) feet-first into first base to beat third baseman Nolan Arenado’s throw. It was a bang-bang play and Todd Helton tried to sell it by starting towards the dugout, but the umpire ruled safe and the Yankees had the lead. Jayson Nix was thrown out at second base on the plate, so they didn’t get a chance to add to the lead, but they got a run and that was the most important thing.
Phelps’ One Mistake
Hiroki Kuroda made one mistake on Tuesday night, which is exactly what David Phelps did on Wednesday. Helton hit a 3-1 fastball like he knew it was coming in the second inning, driving the pitch out to right for a two-run homer. It was gone off the bat, total no-doubter. Those two runs were the only runs Phelps allowed on the night, as he held the Rockies to just three hits and one walk in his six innings of work. He struck out four despite throwing a first pitch to strike to only seven of 19 hitters faced.
The biggest at-bat of his outing was his last, when Carlos Gonzalez batted with a man on first and two outs in the sixth. It was pretty much the same situation Kuroda got burned on the day before — Josh Rutledge singled with outs to get CarGo to the plate in a tie game — but Phelps used two fastballs and two filthy changeups to retire the former batting champ. First pitch fastball for a whiff, second pitch changeup for a whiff, third pitch inside fastball to straighten him up, fourth pitch changeup for a whiff and the end of the inning. Textbook. Phelps held up his end of the bargain. Nice job.
The Vernon Wells Show
So apparently any time a Yankee slumps, all I have to do to wake them up is write a post. A few hours after saying Wells’ recently slump came at a terrible time for the team, he broke out by going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in the first and the infield single that started the ninth inning rally. He also stole that base in the ninth, but it looked like a botched hit-and-run — Lyle Overbay never bothered to swing, so maybe someone missed a sign. If that wasn’t enough, Wells took over at third base (!) for Nelson in the bottom half of the inning and made a splendid play on the only ball hit his way. Well done, Vern.
I was hoping Girardi would pinch-hit Hafner for the pitcher when there was a man on third and two outs in the seventh inning, but he opted for the right-handed Ben Francisco against the lefty Josh Outman. Needless to say, it didn’t work. Can’t complain though, Girardi went for the kill two innings later by using Pronk with the bases loaded and one out in the tie game.
The Yankees had six hits total, three by Wells. Boesch (infield single to score the go-ahead run), Nelson (single that turned into a triple thanks to Dexter Fowler’s error), and Brett Gardner (regular old single) had the others. They drew three walks, including an intentional walk to Nix (!) to load the bases in the ninth. You won’t see that very often.
Preston Claiborne will get to tell all his buddies at the yacht club about the way he retired the first nine big league batters he faced. He pitched a perfect seventh, which included his first career strikeout — a four-pitch number against Helton to end the inning. David Robertson hit a batter in an otherwise uneventful eighth — it was his first appearance in a week due to the hamstring issue, and the rust was evident — and Mariano Rivera closed things out in the ninth. Solid work by the boys in the ‘pen.
The Yankees have been shutout three times this year, and each time they rebounded with a win in the next game. Love to see them bounceback like that, though not getting shutout would be preferred.
The Yankees and Rockies will wrap-up this three game series with a Thursday afternoon matinee. CC Sabathia will get the ball against fellow left-hander Jeff Francis.