Mailbag: Aceves, Farm System, Texeira, Maholm

Six questions today, covering topics from the farm system to potential draft picks to trade targets. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to go if you want to send in any questions…

Aceves is the good looking one. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Matthew asks: The success of Al Aceves in Boston got me thinking about how he got away from the Yanks. Shouldn’t he have had an option left? Did the Yanks let him go simply for the sake of a 40-man slot? Thanks!

Aceves had two minor league options left. He’s been good but not great for the Red Sox (2.60 ERA but a 5.34 FIP), though the longer he stays healthy, the more his non-tender looks like a total blunder on the Yankees’ part. Maybe the medical staff didn’t evaluate his back properly, maybe Brian Cashman misread his willingness to sign a minor league deal, maybe Randy Levine stepped in, we don’t know. I do know that it wasn’t a 40-man roster issue, he was non-tendered in early December when the Yankees had something like eight spots open.

Mo asks: What would you rate the farm system up to this point this year? I feel like its sucking in comparison to last year’s great run…

It was going to be tough to repeat last year’s success, almost everything went right in 2010. This year is much more normal, in that some things are going right (Ramon Flores, pre-brawl Slade Heathcott, J.R. Murphy), some are going wrong (Adam Warren‘s walks, Jesus Montero‘s lack of power, High-A Tampa’s everything), and some guys have gotten hurt (Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances with the blisters, Graham Stoneburner’s neck). It feels like a down year compared to last season, but there isn’t an overwhelming amount of injuries or guys have down years, so overall it’s been pretty positive. An average year, really. That said, we’re seven weeks into the minor league season, so it’s tough for things to change much in one direction or the other. It’s still a top ten system.

Drew asks: Now that Kanekoa Texeira has been DFA’d, I think the Yankees should pick him up, I know the K/9 is down and his BB/9 are up but man does he throw hard. I think Rothschild could fix him. Agree?

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Heh, to say the strikeout rate is down would be an understatement, he hasn’t struck out any of 35 batters he’s faced this season. Texeira doesn’t throw that hard, PitchFX has him at 89-91 this year, which is down a little from last year. I’m sure most of you remember that he was in the Yankees organization for a while, coming over from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade before the Mariners took him in last year’s Rule 5 Draft. He ended up in Kansas City on a waiver claim last summer.

Anyway, he’s a sinker-slider guy that gets ground balls but not an absurd amount of them (51.9% career), and lefties hit him pretty hard. Texeira’s a fine up-and-down kind of reliever, better use of a 40-man roster spot than Amaury Sanit, but he’s not much more than that. Maybe Rothschild could fix him, but I’m not sure what he could do.

Matt asks: I was just wondering what you thought about Kyle Winkler. Most mock drafts and draft boards I’ve seen him at about 40, and he is probably rising. He’s so close to the Yankees that it’s possible that he drops, so what do you think?

Winkler, a right-hander at Texas Christian, has stepped in as the staff ace following Matt Purke’s struggles, and has struck out 96 while walking just 13 in 85.1 IP this year (1.48 ERA). The stuff is legit (sits 91-94 with the fastball, low-80’s slider, and a changeup) and he commands it well, and pretty much the only knock is his size (listed at 5-foot-11, 205 lbs.). Winkler is expected to go somewhere in the sandwich round or early second round, and he seems like Damon Oppenheimer’s kind of guy because he’s got command and pitched well in the Cape Cod League a few summers ago. He wouldn’t be a bad pick for the Yankees with their first selection (51st overall), but I’m not much of a college righty kind of guy unless we’re talking about the truly elite.

Matt asks: Andrew Brackman is not off to the best of starts down in Scranton. He’s already 25 so isn’t this almost a make or break year for him? Can you see him in a relief role?

I wouldn’t call it a make or break year, not at all. At the end of the day, who really cares how old a guy is when he debuts as long as he’s contributing positively? They don’t check I.D.’s on the mound, as the old saying goes. Brackman’s struggled this year (6.00 FIP), no doubt about it, but if he keeps struggling then they can option him back to the minors next year and keep working on it. He won’t run out of options until 2013 at the earliest. There would have be a lot of improvement over the next month or two for Brackman to be a relief option at this point, he’s got to show he’s move beyond the struggles and there are also some guys ahead of him on the relief pitcher call-up depth chart.

Yeah, Maholm is the guy that struck out Billy Crystal a few years ago. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Bryan asks: What are the chances the Yanks pursue Paul Maholm if the Pirates make him available? He’s got a pretty good ground ball rate at 52% and also has a good xFIP at 3.77. Would he be worth a crack for the right price?

I’ve never really been much of a Maholm fan at all because he doesn’t miss any bats (6.23 K/9 this year is a career high by a decent margin) and his walk rates aren’t anything special (3.67 BB/9 this year, 3.08 career). Starting pitchers with sub-2.00 K/BB ratios in the American League have a hard time being anything better than average, historically. Then again, average doesn’t mean bad and he could probably help the Yankees. Maholm is in the last year of his contract ($5.75M salary with a $9.75M option for 2012 will be bought out for $750,000) and could give some innings, but I would hope the Yankees don’t bend over backwards to acquire him. They need another high-end pitcher, not another back-end filler type.

Also, while ground balls are preferable because they don’t turn into homeruns, we have to remember that the Yankees’ infield defense isn’t all that great. Mark Teixeira is fine at first, but Derek Jeter has the range of a potted plant, Alex Rodriguez is comfortably below average, and Robinson Cano has been playing with his defensive head up his ass this year.

Stephan asks: Tim Norton-seems like he’s legit. I’ve seen a little about him and his rehab around the web, but what are your thoughts? He’s gotta get a promotion soon(ish) right?

He’s legit in that he’s a potential relief option, but he’s no future closer or anything great like that. Norton’s an older guy (turns 28 on Monday) that was slowed by some major arm issues, but he’s obviously healthy now and doing a fine job of missing bats (14.5 K/9) and throwing strikes (2.9 BB/9) in Double-A. NoMaas interviewed him a few weeks ago, and I recommend reading for info about his stuff, back story, etc. It’s going to take more than 51 dominant innings (dating back to last season) for Norton to really start forcing the organization’s hand, but he’s definitely put himself on the map. A promotion to Triple-A will certainly be in the cards at some point this summer.

Yankees pummel O’s, win third straight

Boy did the Yankees need a game like this. The bullpen was taxed, the offense was pressing, and the fans were frustrated, but a plethora of early runs and eight easy innings from CC Sabathia led a stress-free blowout win. The Orioles’ are the best medicine apparently, and New York has now won three in a row.

Swish got in on the fun. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Offense Offense Offense

After scoring four runs in 15 innings the night before, the Yankees came out of the gate on Thursday and scored five runs in the first inning. The inning went double, triple (run scores), ground out (run scores), strikeout, hit by pitch, walk, wild pitch (runners move up), walk, double (three runs score), strikeout. Nick Swisher‘s three-run opposite field double just out of the reach of Felix Pie was the big blow, his first hit with two outs and runners in scoring position all season.

The Yankees didn’t get their first single of the night until Robinson Cano led off the fifth with a shot back up the middle, when the score was already nine-zip and the game was essentially over. Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter hit back-to-back triples, two of three three-baggers on the night. Even Eduardo Nunez chipped in a two-run homer, a sure sign that the rapture is coming this weekend.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Cruise Control

Am I the only one that kinda wishes the Yankees didn’t “waste” a Sabathia start in a game in which they scored 13 runs? Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely appreciative of the big guy’s eight scoreless innings (seven hits, season-high nine strikeouts), but in a perfect world some scrubby pitcher would have started this game while CC went tomorrow, when the Yankees are unlikely to score so many runs. Ah well, I guess I shouldn’t look a gift (work)horse in the mouth.

Sabathia cruised right along all game long, retiring ten of eleven early on and only twice allowing the Orioles to have two men on base at the same time. One of those instances was the first, after he intentionally plunked Nick Markakis in retaliation for Cano getting hit in the knee in the top of the frame. One hundred and nine pitches (84 strikes!), 18 of 24 outs either on the ground or via strike three, and a bullpen spared. Vintage CC, exactly what they needed.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Leftovers

Both benches were warned after Sabathia hit Markakis, but there was no further incident the rest of the game. Cano was seen with an icepack on his knee in the dugout pretty much all game long, but he looked fine at the plate and stayed in until garbage time. I figure the beanball matter is settled, hitting their best-ish player and kicking the crap out of them on the scoreboard works for me.

Amaury Sanit has to be on his way back to Triple-A Scranton, right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful for his bullpen saving effort against the Royals last week, but he’s pretty awful, has been for two years now. Get Ryan Pope up here for tomorrow, please.

Every starter had a hit except for Alex Rodriguez, who instead walked. Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, Swisher, and Gardner all had multiple hits, and both Cano and Jorge Posada walked and picked up a hit. Mark Teixeira had just one hit, but it was a doozy, a two-run homer in the middle innings. Posada looked fine at first base defensively, but he wasn’t tested with any tough plays, so he gets an incomplete grade for tonight’s effort.

That’s pretty much all there is to say about this game. Funny how the more runs they score and the better Sabathia is, the less there is to write. Yankees gonna Yankee, I guess.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Heh, it’s funny Baltimore’s little ninth inning rally wasn’t even a blip on the radar. MLB.com has the box and video, FanGraphs the nerd.

Up Next

The Yankees head back home to Bronx to kick off the 2011 edition of the Subway Series on Friday night. The Mets come across town and will start R.A. Dickey against Freddy Garcia.

Trenton comes out on top after 16 innings

Update: The Low-A Charleston game is over and has been added to the post.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. Apparently they made the announcement on Twitter and Facebook, but didn’t bother to tell the people in the stands or those waiting in line to get into the park until later. Brutal. Anyway, they’re going to make this up as part of a July 5th doubleheader.

Double-A Trenton (9-6 win over Erie in 16 freaking innings)
Austin Krum, LF: 3 for 7, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB – 26 K, 25 BB in 39 games
Corban Joseph, 2B & Ray Kruml, RF: 1 for 6, 1 R, 1 K – CoJo walked and swiped a bag … Kruml doubled and drove in a run
Austin Romine, C: 2 for 7, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K – 16 innings behind the plate is pretty rough
Bradley Suttle, 3B: 1 for 6, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 K – still just three for his last 39 (.077)
Cody Johnson, DH: 1 for 7, 1 R, 1 2B, 4 K – 56 K in 29 games
Melky Mesa, CF: 2 for 7, 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 K, 1 SB – 15 for his last 37 (.405) with five doubles, a triple, and a homer
Jose Pirela, SS: 2 for 6, 1 2B, 3 K
Addison Maruszak, 1B: 1 for 7, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 K
Shaeffer Hall, LHP: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 2 K, 5-5 GB/FB – picked a runner off first … he’d walked four batters in 42 IP all year coming into this game
Pat Venditte, SHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Tim Norton, RHP: 2 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 1-0 GB/FB
Cory Arbiso, RHP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-2 GB/FB
The Ghost of Kei Igawa, LHP: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 3-6 GB/FB – I think he was scheduled to start on Saturday, so we’ll have to see what happens now
Fernando Hernandez, RHP: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 0-1 GB/FB

[Read more…]

2011 Draft: MLB.com’s Top 50 Prospects

MLB.com released their list of the top 50 draft prospects yesterday, and the list is free to see as always. You get detailed scouting reports for all players and video for most, which is why MLB.com’s list has always been my favorite. No offense to Baseball America or Keith Law or Perfect Game or whoever else, but free scouting reports and video won’t be topped at this time of year. Make sure you click on through, great way to lose an hour.

Game 42: Posada at 1B

Eye on the ball, Jorge. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

With Eric Chavez on the shelf and Mark Teixeira in need of some rest, Jorge Posada is starting at first base for the first time since 2008. He has 15 career starts at the position in his career, though eight of them came way back in 2000. Jorge worked out a bunch at first this spring, but it’s still going to be a big defensive step down for the Yankees. Such is life. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, DH
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Russell Martin, C – surprised he’s back in there, he didn’t really get yesterday off
Jorge Posada, 1B
Nick Swisher, RF
Brett Gardner, LF

CC Sabathia, SP – I sure hope he’s ready to eat some serious innings

You can watch tonight’s game on YES locally or MLB Network nationally when it begins shortly after 7pm ET. Enjoy.

Update: We are officially in a delay. No word on a start time yet, but use this as an open thread in the meantime.

Update Part Deux: The game is expected to begin at 7:50pm ET.

Dickerson day-to-day after CT scan comes back normal

Update (6:04pm): Feinsand says Dickerson is day-to-day and Joe Girardi is unlikely to use him tonight. Good news.

Original Post (4:00pm): Via Mark Feinsand, Chris Dickerson’s CT scan came back normal, though the team has not yet confirmed what’s next for him. Dickerson left last night’s game after being hit by the head with a Mike Gonzalez pitch in the 15th inning. Hopefully he can avoid the new seven-day concussion disabled list, but they won’t screw around with a head injury. More details to come, at some point.

Sunday Trivia and more with RAB at the Delta Dugout

As the Yankees and Mets gear up for yet another installment of the Subway Series, River Ave. Blues is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a Fan Flair challenge and New York baseball trivia contest at the Delta Dugout in Madison Square Park this Sunday afternoon.

The Delta Dugout, sponsored as you might have guessed by Delta Airlines, is becoming an annual happening around the time of the Subway Series. Open from 11 a.m. on Friday through the end of Sunday afternoon’s game, events include a Saturday night pre-game concert by Bernie Williams, an appearance by Joba Chamberlain on Saturday at noon, and an auction to benefit Harlem RBI that will begin with a Mark Teixeira appearance. (In fact, he spilled the beans via Twitter earlier this week.)

Our role in the event comes on Sunday for the Fan Flair Challenge and a subsequent pre-game trivia contest. At 11 a.m., Chris Carlin from SNY and I will be judging fans’ outfits. The Mets fan and Yankee fan with the most team-spirited based outfit will win a giveaway package to one of their favorite’s teams upcoming games. At noon, I’ll then be hosting a special edition of dugout trivia for the Fan Flair runners up with a chance to win tickets to Yankees and Mets games.

The rest of the weekend should be pretty fun too. The games will be shown on a big screen in the park with numerous food vendors. Some other famous New York baseball folk will be making some guest appearances, and batting cages and the like will be set up in the park. Stop by if you’re jonesing for some baseball before the games this weekend. For a full schedule, check out the event’s Facebook page or find out more on Delta’s website.