Injuries change Yanks bullpen outlook

(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Coming into spring training, the Yankees had a pretty solid plan for their bullpen. With Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, and Corey Wade already in place, they needed to fill just two spots. Given the number of pitchers they brought to camp, finding worthy candidates didn’t seem like a difficult task — especially given that Freddy Garcia was a favorite to slide into a bullpen spot due to the starting pitching surplus. Yet as we see nearly every spring, injuries have altered the picture.

While a few relievers suffered injuries of varying degrees this spring, the staff remained mostly in tact and ready for Opening Day. That is, until last Friday. That’s when Michael Pineda revealed soreness in his shoulder that turned out to be tendinitis. It’s also the same day that Cesar Cabral suffered a stress fracture in his elbow, shelving him indefinitely. Today we learned of another bullpen casualty: Boone Logan will visit a doctor to examine his aching back. Backs ailments are never to be taken lightly. Losing Logan for an extended period could seriously alter the Yankees bullpen outlook.

Pineda’s injury already had the Yankees pulling from their pitching depth. Instead of having Garcia in the bullpen as the long man, it appears that they’ll now use David Phelps. Now with Logan’s injury they’ll have to choose yet another pitcher who they did not plan to carry. That could be George Kontos if Logan’s injury is serious enough to warrant a DL trip, but not serious enough to worry about long-term. If Logan will miss significant time, the Yanks might look at other lefty options — Mike Gonzalez is still unemployed, and has been working out for teams.

The Yankees, of course, will be just fine with however this situation plays out. They did, after all, survive a stretch last year in which they carried both Amaury Sanit and Pants Lendleton in the bullpen. But their outlook has certainly changed in the past week. The Logan injury could potentially cause a few significant roster changes. Thankfully, the Yankees have enough options to fill the void.

2012 Draft: Cape Cod League Standouts

Play well in the CCBL and the Yankees will notice. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Yankees have shown a bit of a drafting pattern under scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, favoring college pitchers and high school position players over the alternatives. They also prefer strong makeup and — more tangibly — a strong track record in wood bat leagues. That’s why they’ve targeted so many Cape Cod League standouts over the years, drafting players like Andrew Brackman, Adam Warren, David Adams, and D.J. Mitchell after stellar showings on the cape.

The CCBL is the best college summer league out there, drawing the very best talent from all around the country. It’s still a pitcher’s league but not as extreme as it was a few years ago. The Yankees don’t figure to change their target demographic in this summer’s draft despite the new spending restrictions implemented by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, so here’s a look at five guys who performed well on the cape last summer and could find themselves on the team’s draft board.

Dylan Floro, RHP, Cal State Fullerton (video)
After two years as a swingman type, Floro assumed a spot in Fullerton’s rotation this spring after a dominant showing with Hyannis last summer. The 6-foot-2, 180 lbs. right-hander is a classic sinker-slider type, sitting 89-91 with the heat and in the upper-70s with the breaking ball. He also throws a low-80s changeup and adds deception with a whippy arm action. Floro is an extreme strike-thrower — four walks in 52 IP this spring and 28 walks in 198 IP during his college career (1.27 BB/9) — and probably to a fault. He’s hit prone because he’s around the zone with less than stellar stuff, though at least most of the balls in play are on the ground. For what it’s worth, Floro also draws raves for his competitiveness and makeup, which the Yankees love. He’s more of 5th-10th round guy at the moment.

(Photo via BigEast.org)

Kyle Hansen, RHP, St. John’s (video)
A starter for the Red Storm who closed for Yarmouth-Dennis last summer, Kyle is the younger brother of former future Red Sox closer Craig Hansen. He’s built off his CCBL success and has struck out 43 while walking just 11 in 34.2 IP this spring. Brian Cashman recently said he’s a “crack addict for size and power,” so he’ll surely like the 6-foot-8, 215 lb. Hansen. He sits 91-93 as a starter while running the heat up to 96 as a reliever, and he can miss bats with a low-80s slider that isn’t nearly as good as his brother’s. It occasionally morphs into more of a curveball, so he’s got some work to do. The changeup isn’t anything special and the delivery qualifies as funky. Hansen is likely a reliever long-term, and he’s currently expected to come off the board in the third or fourth round.

Dane Phillips, UTIL, Oklahoma City University (video)
A Chatham alum, Phillips had to transfer to OCU because the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2012 season after he tried to transfer from Oklahoma State to Arkansas. Baseball is like football now, meaning if you transfer from one Division I school to another you have to sit out a year for whatever reason. Phillips is completely annihilating the competition (.423/.507/.854 in 34 games) and has settled in well behind the plate. He’s a left-handed hitter with a nice swing and strong plate discipline, plus he hangs in well against same-side pitchers. Phillips shows big power to the pull side during batting practice, but he uses the entire field during games and doesn’t really tap into his pop as much as he should. If catching doesn’t work out long-term, he has the experience and athleticism to handle a corner outfield spot or first base. Phillips is a personal fave, and right now he’s expected to come off the board in that 5th-10th round range.

(Glenn Beil/The Tallahassee Democrat)

James Ramsey, OF, Florida State
The top college senior in the draft class, Ramsey had a big summer with Yarmouth-Dennis and won the MVP award at the CCBL All-Star Game after homering into the Fenway Park bullpen. He’s a left-handed swinger with some power and an all-fields approach, plus he can also run well. Strong plate discipline helps him get the most of his offensive ability. Ramsey has ‘tweener potential because he might not stick in center field long-term or have enough power for a corner, but he plays very hard and offers a little of everything with no glaring weakness. A huge spring (.426/.556/862) has Ramsey climbing up draft boards after the Twins took him in the 22nd round last year. He’s a top three rounds guy after dominant performance with wood bats on the cape last summer.

Adam Brett Walker, 1B/OF, Jacksonville (video)
Walker is the son of former Minnesota Vikings running back Adam Walker, and his athletic bloodlines are obvious in his 6-foot-5, 220 lb. frame. The right-handed batter has some of the biggest raw power in the country, launching absolute moonshots with wood bats last summer. Walker is a Grade-A hacker though, susceptible to breaking balls and quality elevated fastballs. There is big time upside here, but also a lot of risk given his propensity to make poor contact and swing and miss. Walker is a 3rd-5th round type based on his physical tools, which still haven’t translated all the way into baseball skills.

The RAB Bracket Challenge Winner

After a long hard fight, a victor has emerged. By correctly picking Kansas and Kentucky to meet in the final game, and then picking Kentucky over Kansas, the appropriately named RightPicks has won the RAB Bracket Challenge with a score of 1460. RightPicks didn’t pick very many upsets, but he had a very strong showing in the first four days of the tournament and picked the final two teams and the winner correctly. It was an all around great performance, and it goes to show you that the most important picks you make in a bracket are the last three.

Finishing immediately behind RightPicks were cplatt2003 and awp1990. Interestingly, both of them correctly picked Ohio State to advance to the Final Four, whereas RightPicks incorrectly had Kansas State. Despite this, RightPicks had built up just enough of a lead to withstand their challenge. Congratulations to the three of you on your great brackets. You’ve won something greater than any national championship: free gear from the RAB shop. Please get in touch with josephp at riveraveblues dot com to claim your prize. Thanks to all of you who participated, I hope you enjoyed yourselves. Except for Moshe Mandel, who may or may not have beaten me. The world may never know.

Open Thread: 4/3 Camp Notes

The Yankees lost to the Mets on an Ike Davis walk-off homer this afternoon. Ivan Nova was simply awful, with no command of his fastball and lots of hard hit balls. Not even reduced-velocity Michael Pineda was giving up that much hard contact. Nova allowed five runs on eight hits in 2.2 IP and now has two bullpen sessions to figure things out before his first regular season against the Orioles next Monday.

David Phelps only threw 1.1 IP while D.J. Mitchell threw three full innings, making me wonder if Mitchell is the front-runner for the long man spot. Nick Swisher had two hits (double and homer), Eduardo Nunez had another hit, Doug Bernier had two hits, and a bunch of other guys had one knock each. Here’s the box score and here’s the rest from Spring Training

  • Both Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise will start the year in Triple-A. They had out clauses in their contracts, but could have only used them if another team offered a 25-man roster spot today. That didn’t happen. Bill Hall doesn’t have an out and will head to Triple-A. [Marc Carig & Jack Curry]
  • Both Cesar Cabral (elbow) and Brad Meyers (shoulder) will start the season on the DL. The two Rule 5 Draft picks can not be placed on waivers or returned to their original teams unless they are 100% healthy. [Chad Jennings]
  • The roster has to be set by 5pm ET tomorrow, though the last two bullpen spots are really the only positions up for grabs. Clay Rapada is a virtual lock for one. [Carig]

Here is your open thread for the night. All five hockey and basketball locals are playing tonight, plus MLB Network will have a pair of games on later tonight. You folks know how this works by now, so have at it.

[Spanish version of Cano’s commercial is available here]

Pettitte to pitch against Mets tomorrow

Yesterday we heard that Andy Pettitte might appear in a minor league game this Thursday, but it turns out we’ll see him a little sooner. The Yankees announced today that Pettitte will thrown an inning against the Mets in Tampa tomorrow, the Yankees’ final exhibition game. Facing hitters is a significant step in Pettitte’s comeback attempt, and I am selfishly happy we’ll actually get to see it.

2012 Season Preview: The Senior Circuit

We’ve just about wrapped up our 2012 Season Preview. We’ve covered various aspects of the Yankees as a team, and have even examined the competition. There’s only one thing left: the National League. Of course, since the Yankees play just 18 games against Senior Circuit competition, we needn’t go into great detail. But, since we always look forward to the Yankees making a World Series trip — especially now that Kentucky has won the NCAA basketball title — a little closer look at the NL is warranted.

Cincinnati Reds

New member of the super-rich (AP Photo)

Every year MLB has one stray interleague series in May. This usually pits geographic against one another: Giants vs. A’s, Dodgers vs. Angels, Cubs vs. White Sox, and of course Yankees vs. Mets. This year, however, things have changed a bit. The Yanks will still play two series against the Mets, but they’ll bookend the 5-series interleague run in June. For the stray May series, they’ll face the Cincinnati Reds at The Stadium.

Last year the Yanks traveled to Cincinnati for a three game series, including a rainout and a doubleheader. The Yanks took the first two contests, but got demolished in the nightcap of the doubleheader. That was, if you’ll remember, Brian Gordon’s final start in pinstripes. The Reds have changed a bit after their disappointing 2011 season. They’ll prove formidable in 2012.

Their offense is headed by the fabulously wealthy Joey Votto, who just signed a 10-year contract extension, which will keep him in Cincinnati through 2023. It will cost the Reds a total of more than $250 million, but they apparently consider Votto, a perennial MVP candidate, worthy of the cost. He’ll also have Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips to provide some production around him. If secondary guys such as Drew Stubbs, Zack Cozart, and Chris Heisey step up, the Reds will be in fine shape offensively.

On the mound the Reds have added a potential ace to go along with Johnny Cueto. They sent a huge package of players to San Diego this winter, and in return got Mat Latos. They’ll also have Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, and Homer Bailey to round out the rotation. In the bullpen the Reds are strong, despite the loss of Ryan Madson before he threw a pitch for them. Sean Marshall is one of the league’s best relievers, and he has Aroldis Chapman, Jose Arredondo, and Bill Bray setting up for him. With both the Brewers and the Cardinals losing a bit this off-season, the Reds could certainly step up in 2012.

Atlanta Braves

(AP Photo)

While the Yankees got to break in the new Marlins ballpark this week, they won’t face the Fish during the regular season. Instead, they’ll play two series against the Braves. Despite their late-season collapse out of what was thought to be a sure playoff spot in 2011, the Braves come back with few changes on the surface. They essentially signed no significant players during the off-season, leaving them with an older version of last year’s team. Considering the ages of some of their most important parts, however, that might not be a bad thing.

Their biggest issue is the loss of Chipper Jones, though he could be back by mid-April following surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. Once he’s back the Braves offense will be solid at worst. Along with Jones in the heart of the lineup, they’ll have Brian McCann and Dan Uggla. Freddie Freeman could continue making strides this year. If Jason Heyward fixes his swing and starts to fulfill his promise, the Braves should have few problems scoring runs at an above-average clip.

On the mound they’re missing Tim Hudson, who will miss at least April following back surgery. The Braves do have plenty of depth in the minors, though, and they’ll start to exercise that at season’s start by slotting Randall Delgado into the fifth starter spot. He’ll be joined by fellow youngster Mike Minor. The other three starters — Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and Brandon Beachy — are also young. In fact, no Braves starter in April will be above age 26. Mix that with a powerful bullpen built on 2011 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner Craig Kimbrel, and you have a young and exciting pitching staff.

Washington Nationals

(AP Photo)

One of the bigger series this year for Yankees fans takes place from June 15th through the 17th in Washington, D.C. The Yanks make a trip to the nation’s capital to play a strengthened Nationals team. After finishing at .500 in their first year since moving from Montreal, the Nationals have failed to reach that mark for the last six seasons. This year figures to be different for a number of reasons, not least of which is their revamped pitching staff.

Last year the Nationals starters allowed 3.99 runs per game, which was a tick better than the league average. This year, however, only two pitchers who started more than 15 games will return to the rotation. Jordan Zimmermann enters his age-26 season with plenty of potential, especially after his 3.18 ERA in 2011 — which included a phenomenal 1.7 per nine walk rate. The other is John Lannan, though he’s just keeping a seat warm while Chien-Ming Wang recovers from yet another injury.

Taking the spots of retreads such as Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez are Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Edwin Jackson. All three should certainly produce above-average numbers, and all three could conceivably rank among the NL’s top 15 or 20 starters. That will give them an immediate boost. Add in their relatively strong bullpen, and you have a much-improved pitching staff in a pitching-heavy division.

On offense they might struggle to score runs. They lack a true leadoff hitter, and stand to get below-average performances from two key up-the-middle spots, shortstop and center field. That could change when Bryce Harper makes his debut, though. Missing Mike Morse at the start of the season will also hurt a bit. But if they really do have something in Danny Espinosa, he could eventually take over at short and strengthen that position. Ryan Zimmerman’s steady production will certainly help as well. There’s certainly potential there, though not everything seems to be in place right now.

New York Mets

(AP Photo)

As they have since the start of interleague play, the Yanks and Mets will square off twice in 2012. It’s too easy to rip the Mets at this point. They have owners with documented financial issues. They lost their star shortstop this past off-season. Their pitching staff is pieced together with superglue and duct tape. Yet there might be a glimmer of hope for the Mets; their season might not be all terrible.

They need a lot to break their way. Jonathon Niese needs to take a step forward in terms of results, though his peripherals signal positive developments. Andres Torres needs to be more 2010 than 2011. David Wright needs to stay healthy and make more consistent contact than he has since CitiField opened. Jason Bay needs to bounce back. Ike Davis needs to prove that his 2011 injury and his bout of Valley Fever are behind him. Johan Santana needs to figure out how to succeed with diminished stuff. Mike Pelfrey needs to avoid being a punching bag.

While there are a lot of big question marks in there, every one is do-able to some extent. The chances of all them breaking right, however, are slim to nil, which means the Mets will likely struggle at many points throughout the season. But they do have some upside. It might not be division-winning upside, but it definitely includes a non-disaster season.

Arizona Diamondbacks

That one is probably landing in Timbuktu right now. (via Getty Images)

No, the Yankees don’t play the Diamondbacks in 2012. They are, however, my pre-season pick to make the World Series. In a division full of highly flawed teams, they’re the clear favorites. While the Reds, Phillies, and Braves could do some serious damage, I still like the Diamondbacks for their well-rounded approach. They have weapons on both sides of the ball that could propel them to their first pennant since winning the World Series in 2001.

Justin Upton leads an offense that, while probably not leading the league in runs scored, will provide a balanced attack. They have Chris Young and Willie Bloomquist to provide some speed. Miguel Montero is a pro hitter that adds some power at a mostly powerless position. Paul Goldschmidt can also add some power to the fold, as can Jason Kubel. Aaron Hill performed better once he left Toronto, and could be in for a big 2012. If Ryan Roberts’s breakout season is remotely for real, the Diamondbacks should have little trouble scoring at an above average clip.

In the rotation former Yankee Ian Kennedy looks to repeat his breakout 2011. He might not do quite as well — that’s a high bar he set — but he figures to produce above-average numbers at least. Daniel Hudson pitches behind him, and should also produce above average marks. The bottom three in the rotation are decent if unspectacular. Trevor Cahill has a lot to prove now that he doesn’t pitch in an enormous ballpark. Josh Collmenter had a decent 2011, and could build on it. Joe Saunders is nothing but filler. But it’s the reinforcements that could push the Diamondbacks over the top.

At some point during the season we could see pitchers Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs, both of whom come with plenty of hype. They’re the kind of pitchers who have the potential to make an immediate impact. This goes especially for Bauer, who seems major-league ready in terms of stuff and makeup. It might be a little while, but they could turn a good rotation into a very good one.

* * *

The Yanks get an interesting bag of interleague opponents in 2012. There has been much talk about the NL East starting to rival the AL East in terms of divisional dominance. I don’t quite buy that; the AL East features three of the best teams in the AL, with a fourth that would fare pretty well in another division. The NL East has some new talent, but they’re not quite to the point where they have four teams of the AL East’s caliber. Still, it makes for some good match-ups, especially the dual series against the Braves.

Overall, it’s hard to see how the AL isn’t the superior league again in 2012. True, they’ve been the better league for many years now. Maybe it’s a matter of sending a more worthy representative than Texas to the World Series. In 2012, the Yankees could be just that team.

Yankees release Jorge Vazquez

Via Chad Jennings, the Yankees have released Triple-A masher Jorge Vazquez. They prefer the recently signed Steve Pearce at first base for their top minor league affiliate. Of course, JoVa’s days in the organization were numbered after word got out that he was fed up with being stuck in Triple-A and wanted to play in the big leagues. That just wasn’t going to happen with the Yankees.