Fan Confidence Poll: March 14th, 2011

Record Last Week: 4-5-1 (28 RS, 45 RA)
Spring Training Record: 7-10-2 (59 RS, 90 RA)
Schedule This Week: @ Red Sox (Mon. on ESPN), Tues. OFF, @ Orioles (Weds. on YES), vs. Rays (Thurs.), @ Blue Jays (Fri.), vs. Blue Jays (Sat. on YES/MLBN), @ Phillies (Sun. on MLBN)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.


Report: Yanks scouting Carlos Silva

Carlos Silva looks sad as he delivers a pitch. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

At a certain level, the Yankees’ scouts are always going to be looking at someone somewhere. That’s just the nature of their job, and the team wouldn’t be prepared for its opponents or trade contingencies if the scouts didn’t stop looking. But on another level, with pitching at a premium and the Big League club’s hope that scotch tape and rope will hold the back end of the rotation together, the scouts are scouring the league trying to find a pitcher.

As Brian Cashman has repeated said during Spring Training, he has nothing doing right now, and this does seem to be the rare time of the year when he’s not hiding the truth. March is a tough time to make a big trade, and teams aren’t looking to do many favors for the Yankees right now. That said, the scouts are out there, and right now, they seem to be keeping half an eye on Carlos Silva.

Per Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, the Yankees have been scouting Silva this spring as he competes for a job in the crowded Cubs’ rotation. Silva is one of many vying for a rotation spot with the Northsiders, and as he is owed $11.5 million this year, Chicago would prefer to ship him out for cheaper options. So should the Yanks be interested?

To put it nicely, Silva is an interesting character. At 6’4″/250, he’s another huge pitcher, and he has a temper. Already this spring, he and Aramis Ramirez went at it in the dugout, and Carlos Zambrano had to calm down the large righty. When Zambrano is the anger management specialist, eyebrows across the world should go up a bit.

On the field, his results have been decidedly mixed. Overall, he is 70-70 with a 4.68 ERA and a 93 ERA+. His career K mark sits at a very low 4.0 per 9 IP, but he is the active leader in keeping his walk rate down. He issues just 1.7 BB/9 IP, and outside of one very disastrous season in Minneapolis, he isn’t prone to the longball. In a sense, he gets by as Chien-Ming Wang with ground balls and few extraneous baserunners.

Despite his less-than-impressive career numbers, he has enjoyed success in bits and spurts. In 2004, 2005 and 2007, he posted WAR totals above 3 while pitching with the Twins, and despite struggling badly in Seattle, he rebounded with a 2.1 WAR last year. He might not be worth the $11.5 million owed to him, but he could get more than halfway there. The problem with Silva, though, is also one of durability. He hasn’t reached 200 IP since 2007.

Also raising a red flag are Silva’s Spring Training numbers. He’s been absolutely lit up in this March. After 8.1 innings, he has allowed 15 earned runs on four home runs and 18 base hits. He’s issued just one free pass but has just two strike outs as well. Even if we don’t put much stock into Cactus League stats, those are some scary, scary numbers.

So Silva lurks in the background. The Yanks will, as they should, kick the tires. They’ll watch his Spring Training starts and find out if they can land him for nothing more than a wing and a prayer. If they can’t, they’ll move on to someone better. That’s the Front Office doing its job.

Open Thread: A loss and more cuts

Pretty swing. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The race for the Yanks’ rotation grew more interesting after the club lost an ugly game to the Twins this afternoon. The final was 9-2, and it was never really close. Freddy Garcia needed 28 pitches to escape the first inning, and he lasted just 2.2 innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits and two walks. It was by far the worst outing of the Grapefruit League for a Yankee starter, but Joe Girardi still spoke during the game as though Garcia will be around come Opening Day.

Meanwhile, after Freddy’s short outing, the wheels fell off. Derek Jeter lost a pop-up in the bright Florida sun, and the Twins plated four unearned runs in the fourth. A-Rod hit a towering home run to center field for the lone Yankee offensive highlight, and he’s now at .440 on the spring with two round-trippers. Also of note was Mariano Rivera‘s spring debut. He said he wanted to throw 12 pitches, and he did. Nine of them were strikes, and he K’d the side in his one frame of work.

After the game, the Yanks announced another round of cuts. Daniel Brewer, Bradley Suttle and Austin Krum were all sent back to the Minor League camp while Rule 5 Daniel Turpen has been returned to the Red Sox. Fellow Rule 5er Robert Fish landed in Kansas City earlier in the day. Turpen had made five appearances and was awful. In 3.2 innings, he had allowed 3 earned runs on six hits and four walks. That ain’t gonna cut in a big league pen.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the evening. The NCAA brackets are out, and we’ll probably set up a RAB group soon enough. The Knicks and Pacers started play an hour ago.

Predicting the Next Round of Cuts

The first Spring Training cuts of the season have come out, but it’s also good to see that no one has been cut off the roster, just sent off to their respective minor league camps. Today, we bring you some expert analysis (heh, heh) over who will be next to go. Keep in mind that I am not a member of the Yankees organization, and some other excellent predictions from this blog include Yankees will be unable to draft Andrew Brackman (from Mike) and, more recently, they won’t sign Eric Chavez (from yours truly). Five guys were cut this time, I’ll round down and make it an even four: two hitters and two pitchers.

Pretty fierce for a minor leaguer. (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Jose Gil

The 24-year-old Venezuelan has seven at-bats in seven games and has nothing to show for it besides a walk. To his credit, though, he doesn’t have any strikeouts, either. The other thing working against him is that he’s a catcher, and the Yankees are absolutely set there. They’ve got an everyday catcher in Russell Martin and ambitious super-prospect Jesus Montero waiting in the wings. If that’s not enough, there’s also Francisco Cervelli, who’s most likely itching to get out of the boot cast and back into the catcher’s gear. Even if none of these work out (which seems unlikely), I’m willing to say Austin Romine is higher up in the depth chart than Gil. If Montero makes the bigs and Romine is in AAA, we might see him in Trenton. He played a lot of first base in Spring Training this year, though there’s a lot blocking him from that angle too.

Doug Bernier

(AP/Brian Blanco)

Doug Bernier signed first with the Rockies as an amateur free agent in 2002 and has showed up in two big league games since then. He’s spent the past four seasons in AAA for three ballclubs: Colorado, Pittsburgh, and the Yankees twice. He shown up in twelve Spring Training ballgames this year. He’s scored a run and gotten two walks, but he’s also struck out in nearly half his plate appearances (6Ks in 13 ABs) for an unimpressive batting average of .154. To make his Bronx chances worse, he plays shortstop, and is blocked by Derek Jeter, Ramiro Pena, and Eduardo Nunez. He’ll likely head to AAA again if he’s in the system.

Daniel Turpen
(Originally this paragraph was about Robert Fish, but at the time of writing this article, he was picked up off waivers by the Royals.)

Daniel Turpen is quickly proving why Boston left him unprotected for the Yankees to pick up as a Rule 5 pick. His numbers are unimpressive – to say the least – in the 3.2 IP he’s pitched this spring. He’s given up three hits and three earned runs along with four walks  and four strikeouts. Although it doesn’t mean much, he’s blown both save opportunities that have been given to him. I wonder if the Red Sox will want him back? If so, he’ll most likely start in AA, where he was last year. Also, I couldn’t find a decent picture of him in Yankees attire with proper attribution, so that might say something – I just don’t know what it is yet.

(Edited to add: Turpen is going back to Boston, from the Star Ledger.)

Steve Garrison

(AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Garrison hasn’t necessarily been the worst this Spring Training, but he certainly hasn’t impressed anyone, giving up ten hits and 5 ER in six IP. On the bright side, he’s only walked one, but he’s also only struck out one. He’ll only be 24 this year, so he’s got some time to work on his stuff before clubs begin to see him as ‘too old.’ Garrison has pitched up and down the ranks in the Padres’ minor league system, and it’s difficult to say where he’ll get planted in the Yankees system if they decide to keep him. He’ll most likely be headed to A ball if he stays, simply because the Yankees have so much good pitching floating around already.

Minor Moves: A Fish out of water

Robert Fish has been claimed off of outright waivers by Kansas City, the Royals’ director of media relations announced via Twitter a few minutes ago. Fish, a 23-year-old lefty, had bounced around the Angels’ system for five years before the Yanks took a flyer on him in the Rule 5 draft in December. (Mike wrote up a bit on Fish at the time.)

In Spring Training, the southpaw was utterly unmemorable. He threw 4.2 innings over five appearances and gave up five earned runs on six hits, three walks and a hit batter. He struck out three and seemed destined to be cut. He’ll have a chance to make the Royals out of camp before he must be offered back to the Angels. Robert Fish, we hardly knew ye.

ST Game Thread: Some pitchers cut as Mo debuts

This is the face of determination. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Happy first day of cuts! As the U.S. lost an hour last night, the Yankees lost six players from the Big League camp as well. Per the team’s press release, Hector Noesi has been optioned back to AAA while Adam Warren, David Phelps, Brian Anderson, Buddy Carlyle and Andy Sisco were reassigned to the Minor League camp. Some of those guys will stick around while others may leave the organization before the end of Spring Training.

With that slate of six sent down, the Yankees say they now have 26 pitchers, eight catchers, 13 infielders and 11 outfielders remaining in camp. Of the pitchers still around, those intriguing ones include birthday boy Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and the feel-good story of the spring Mark Prior. Soon, however, the club will send down their heralded arms. As the Major League hurlers throw more innings, it’s harder to find the frames for the young kids in Grapefruit League game action. Many of them will be back.

So as camp thins out, the Yanks are set to take on the Minnesota Twins today in Tampa. Freddy Garcia, making his third appearance today, will continue his bid for a spot in the rotation. In five innings so far, he’s allowed just two hits while striking out three. Following him at some point will be Mariano Rivera, who is making his spring bid while competing for a spot in the Yanks’ bullpen. Joba and Rafael Soriano may get the ball today as well.

The lineup looks pretty good this afternoon.

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

Freddy Garcia P

First pitch is at 1:05 p.m., and this one’s on YES where Bob Lorenz and Kenny Singleton will have the game.

Holding Banuelos loosely

He is the greatest pitching prospect you’ve ever seen. He is more polished than Clayton Kershaw was at this age. He is composed. He is poised. He has plus velocity. He harnesses and controls that velocity like it’s no thing. He is not afraid to pitch inside. You think he’s afraid to pitch inside? Child please. He has a major league fastball. He has a major league curveball. He reminds you of Johan Santana. He is nineteen years old.

He is the new hotness, and his name is Manny Banuelos. Due to a velocity jump, a superb 44.1 inning showing at High A Tampa, and a very good, very brief (15.1 innings) stint at Double A, Manny Banuelos rocketed up prospect lists this winter and shot into the forefront of national baseball consciousness. A year ago, many didn’t have the slightest idea who he was, and now many Yankee fans view him as an untouchable commodity. Who can blame them, the fans that wouldn’t part with Banuelos any easier than they’d part with their own checking accounts? Who wants to lose six years of team control of the next Johan Santana for a lesser specimen?

The only thing is the risk. With any asset comes risk. With a home it’s the risk of a housing market decline, of the neighborhood going to pot, or the market turning illiquid. With a car it’s the risk that you could own a lemon and be forced to shell out big bucks for repairs. With stocks there is greater risk. Anything could derail a stock’s upward climb: rumors of illiquidity, or the CEO getting sick or dying, or the latest product turning out to be a bust, or of good old-fashioned fraud.  Yet compared to pitching prospects, houses and cars and stocks look like the most stable index fund your investment manager has ever laid eyes on: pitching prospects blow up in your face more frequently than cars in a  Michael Bay flick.

Manny Banuelos is no different, of course. He’s not any less risky per se than Casey Kelly or Julio Teheran or Zach Britton or Stephen Strasburg. It’s funny how the constructed meaning of Strasburg’s name has changed over time. Last year he was the sure thing, the next Roger Clemens incarnate. Now he’s rehabbing his new elbow ligaments and hoping for an August or September return. This is a roundabout way of saying that Manny Banuelos’ value could plummet at any time without any prior warning. Sure, there are reasons to be optimistic about his long-term future. Scouts love his easy delivery and the way the ball jumps out of his hand without any apparent effort. But it doesn’t change the fact that the next time Manny Banuelos takes the mound could be a game-changer. All it takes is one occasion of him injuring his shoulder to forever change the way fans, analysts, rival teams and talent evaluators perceive his value. He’s no longer Manny Banuelos, the kid with the poise beyond his years and the command of a man ten years his senior. No, now he’s Manny Banuelos, the prospect who impressed in A-ball but found his ascent to the majors marred by injury concerns.

It’s easy to ignore this, particularly because of the way the Internet has changed the way that fans perceive the value of their own prospects. More casual fans are aware of the ups and downs of prospects than ever. Thus when Keith Law says in a chat that Banuelos could start the season in the rotation, his perceived value in the minds of fans goes up. Ten years ago this never would have happened, but digital technology allows fans to become hyper-aware of the goings on of their favorite prospects. Yet the risk is the same right now as it’s always been. The big difference is that the Banuelos looks more like a bird in the hand than ever. He’s our prospect, he’s our DotF darling, he’s our guy. Yet Banuelos is the same guy whether or not fans have any concept of who he is, and he’s just as likely to go bust as he always has been.

This is easy to ignore, beause no one wants to think about the fact that a prospect’s value could be destroyed overnight. It’s far more fun to think about Banuelos and Betances joining Hughes and Sabathia to win 80 games combined and multiple World Series championships. Yet all it takes is one measly bad outing on the bump followed by one very rapid right hand to the left shoulder or left elbow for Manny Banuelos to become the one that got away, the new Brien Taylor or Joba Chamberlain, the new “why didn’t that idiot Cashman trade him when his value was high”. Manny Banuelos is the hotness now. But this is the way it goes with assets: there’s risk involved. Anyone who sells you a big guaranteed return for your assets with no risk is probably playing you. This is precisely why the temptation to sell high is so strong, and this is why we should temper our expectations even if the team doesn’t succumb to that temptation. It’s our natural tendency to expect things never to blow up in our faces, but it doesn’t take much for our best hopes and dreams to vanish in a second. Appreciate Banuelos’ rise now; he may turn out to be that ace in the hole that we’re all dreaming about. But hold him loosely. There’s a lot of runway between now and his first Cy Young award.