Mailbag: The Triple-A Scranton Roster

Kevin Russo will find himself back in Triple-A in 2011. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

I know the roster isn’t being close to set right now, but if the season started today, what would the AAA rotation and starting position players look like?

Let’s start out with the obvious qualifier: a lot can change between now and the start of the season, so don’t take this to heart. Players can get traded, hurt, unexpectedly win a spot on the big league roster, all sorts of stuff. We still have a general idea of who will be there, so this isn’t an entirely useless exercise. Let’s break it down into four categories…

Mortal Locks
A big chunk of the pitching staff falls into this group. Andrew Brackman is the headliner after a fine (and just about full) season in Double-A, and he’ll be joined by Hector Noesi, David Phelps, and D.J. Mitchell, all of whom got a brief taste of the Scranton life last year. We also can’t forget about the winningest pitcher in franchise history, Kei Igawa, who figures to do the swingman thing again. Minor league free agent signings Mark Prior, Andy Sisco, and Neal Cotts will get bullpen gigs. Remember though, Cotts is rehabbing from hip surgery and might not be ready to start the season.

The offense will be highlighted once again by Jesus Montero, who will return to Triple-A to start the season after the Russell Martin signing. He’ll be backed up by minor league free agent signing Gustavo Molina. Colin Curtis and waiver pickup Jordan Parraz will hold down the two corner outfield spots while Brandon Laird and Jorge Vazquez get the corner infield spots. Unless he gets released to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Reegie Corona will be with Scranton in some capacity, ditto Kevin Russo, who has nothing more than an outside chance to win a bench job with the big league team. Minor league free agent signing and 2009 Scranton Yankee Doug Bernier will come off the bench.

Probables
Eduardo Nunez and Greg Golson have halfway decent chances to start the season in the Bronx in reserve roles, but if not they’ll play everyday in Scranton. Ryan Pope is in the same situation, just out of the bullpen. If he’s with Triple-A, he’s the odds on favorite to replace the departed Jon Albaladejo as closer. Kevin Whelan, the last remaining piece of the Gary Sheffield trade, has a leg up on one of the few remaining bullpen spots. Amaury Sanit’s biggest threat for a roster spot is being released.

On The Fence
The non-prospect bullpen filler resides here. That means J.B. Cox, Grant Duff, Josh Schmidt, and Eric Wordekemper. Those guys will only end up in Triple-A if warm bodies are needed. Justin Snyder did his thing as a bench player for Double-A Trenton the last two years and could move up, especially if Nunez makes the big league roster.

Unlike those last few guys, Adam Warren is an actual prospect but one with limited Double-A experience. He’s likely to start back with Trenton after making just ten starts there last season, but we could always be surprised. Dan Brewer had a fine season in Double-A in 2010 (.345 wOBA), but he could get squeezed out of the Triple-A mix in a numbers crunch, especially if Laird will continue working in left field. Buddy Carlyle is a candidate to be released in Spring Training (might even have an escape clause in his contract), and Brian Anderson could start back in Extended Spring Training since he’s so new to pitching (converted just this year).

Long Shots
David Adams destroyed the Double-A level this past year (.403 wOBA), but an ankle injury ended his season after just 173 plate appearances. He’ll be back there in April. Damon Sublett is in a similar situation after injury, and Austin Romine should start with Trenton after his poor second half. Plus Montero squeezes him out. Romulo Sanchez is out of options and will need to clear waivers to go back to the minors, but he’s also been outrighted before (by the Pirates) and can elect free agency. I expect him to be a goner one way or the other.

Both Manny Banuelos (15.1 IP) and Dellin Betances (14.1 IP) got limited experience at Double-A in 2010, and it would be extremely aggressive to move them up already, maybe even downright reckless (with regards to their development). It took Pat Venditte a really long time to get out of High-A Tampa (109.1 IP over two seasons), so don’t expect him to get moved to Triple-A so quickly. Cory Arbiso is going to end up back in Trenton just because of sheer numbers. Austin Krum spent all of 2010 in Double-A but didn’t do enough (.298 wOBA) to get promoted.

So after all that, here’s my stupid early projection for the Triple-A roster. Remember that Triple-A rosters are only 24 players deep, not 25. Let me know what you think and whether or not I missed someone obvious (possible if not likely) in the comments.

C: Montero
1B: Vazquez
2B: Corona
SS: Nunez
3B: Russo
LF: Laird
CF: Golson
RF: Parraz/Curtis/
DH: Parraz/Curtis/rotating spot

Bench: Molina (C), Bernier (IF), Snyder (UTIL), last spot goes to a utility guy on a minor league deal

Rotation: Brackman, Noesi, Mitchell, Phelps, Igawa/Sisco

Bullpen: Pope, Prior, Wordekemper, Schmidt, Whelan, Igawa/Sisco

DL/Rehab: Cotts

Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

(Update, 10:31am): Turns out the Royals are getting a player to be named later, not Jeffress. The bigger news is that the Royals had a trade worked out with the Nationals, but Greinke told them he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to go there, presumably because they aren’t a contender. Jon Heyman says Greinke also told the KC braintrust that he wouldn’t mind coming to New York, but it was his family members that had reservations. A deal was never close with the Yankees anyway.

(Original Post, 9:02am): Is this a crazy offseason or what? Late last night a blog by the name of Bernie’s Crew reported that the Royals and Brewers had agreed to a trade involving former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, but everyone was understandably skeptical. When I woke up this morning, Buster Olney had already confirmed it, so Greinke is in fact joining the Brewers. Kansas City will receive SS Alcides Escober, CF Lorenzo Cain, and pitching prospects Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. Milwaukee will reportedly receive Yuniesky Betancourt and $2M as well.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the trade, I want to congratulate Jim Breen at Bernie’s Crew for getting the scoop. Independent bloggers get written off all the time because some schmucks out there throw out bad information as an attention grab, and it reflects poorly on all of us. Breen’s scoop gives him some big time credibility, and I’m genuinely happy for him. This blogging stuff ain’t easy if you want to be taken even remotely seriously.

As for the actual move, it really puts the Brewers right in the mix of NL Central contention. They picked up Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays earlier this year and just added a bonafide number one guy that they run out there every five days. Yovani Gallardo drops back into the number two spot, a job he’s overqualified for, and Randy Wolf becomes one of the better fourth starters in the game. They’ll have that rotation for the next two years (before Greinke hits free agency), but I suspect they’ll make some moves to really go all-in this season before Prince Fielder becomes a free agent next offseason.

Kansas City gets a young everyday shortstop and centerfield with five years of team control left each, plus one huge power arm in Jeffress (legitimately can touch 100, especially in relief) and one of the game’s better pitching prospects in Odorizzi. Their farm system was the best in the game before the trade, but it was lacking when it came to up-the-middle players close to the big leagues. Escobar and Cain help correct that, and dumping the Yuni-Bomber is a net positive as well.

The Yankees were never really a serious contender for Greinke’s services, even after Cliff Lee headed to the Phillies. They were concerned about his ability to handle New York, and while I don’t necessarily buy those concerns, the team had them and acted appropriately. I’m not sure the Yanks could have matched that package anyway since they don’t have a big league ready shortstop to send to the Royals (sorry, Eduardo Nunez fans). If the Yanks weren’t going to get Greinke, the next best thing would be for him go to the National League, and that’s what happened.

I was really hoping that Greinke would get traded to a big market just so he could put this “can’t handle the pressure” stuff to bed, so now I’ll hope for the Brewers to make it to the postseason and for Greinke to wreck the Phillies. Twice.

Open Thread: Andy Phillips

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

You guys remember Andy Phillips, right? He was the quintessential AAAA player, destroying Triple-A (.371 wOBA in over 1,800 plate appearances) but getting overmatched in the big leagues (.293 wOBA in 604 plate appearances). I can’t even come up with a signature Andy Phillips moment, can you? All I know is that after the Yankees released him in 2007 he bounced from the Reds to the Mets to the Pirates to the White Sox to the Hiroshima Carp before signing with the Rakuten Golden Eagles for the 2010 season. Phillips hit .198/.283/.296 in 92 plate appearances this year, so who knows what his next move is. Whatever it is, I wish him luck.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Rangers already lost, but the Isles, Devils, and Knicks are all in action tonight. I’m sure there’s some college something or other on as well. The thread’s yours, treat it as you wish.

Mailbag: Marcus Thames

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

So the Yankees have extra cash, and need a 2011 Marcus Thames. I love the case for Scott Hairston, but what about … Marcus Thames?

(Here’s my case for Scott Hairston in case you missed it)

I don’t think you’ll be able to find a Yankee fan that doesn’t appreciate the job Thames did for the Yankees in 2010. He did what he was brought in to do against lefties (.354 wOBA) while far exceeding expectations against righties (.382 wOBA) and providing big hit after big hit after big hit. Plus he was extremely easy to like, at least based on his interviews and stuff. Sure, his defense was so bad that Joe Girardi simply refused to play him in the outfield in the second half (understandably), but the man hit, and that’s what he was hired in to do.

Now, as good as Thames was this season, let’s not forget that it was the second best offensive season of his career, behind his age-29 season in 2006. His wOBA and OPS+ in 2010 were just .005 and 1 off from his career highs, respectively, and if you go by wRC+ this season was actually the best year of his career. Either way you look at it, the point stands. Thames’ 2010 season was not a level of performance we should expect him to repeat going forward, especially against right-handers and especially when you consider that he’ll turn 34 in Spring Training.

That’s not to say that Thames can’t be a valuable contributor off the bench, because he certainly could be if his exposure to righties is limited. His 2010 performance against southpaws is almost dead even with his career average (.358 wOBA career), so we can expect that skill to remain. No so much against righties however, he outperformed his career average against same-side pitchers by more than 50 wOBA points. There’s no reason to believe that at his age, the light bulb just came on. There’s also the issue of defense. Thames is basically a platoon DH, so the Yankees would be wasting one of their bench spots on a guy that can’t play the field.

I like Thames and he’d be a fine choice to fill a similar role next season, but preferably he’d be a fall back option. Guys like Hairston and Reed Johnson can also play the field, giving the team that much more flexibility, and will probably cost less coming off down years. Thames did fine work for the Yankees, but are there are players available that could be even better next season.

Mo will try to convince Pettitte to return

Via Erik Boland, Mariano Rivera indicated that he will soon try to reach out to Andy Pettitte and attempt to convince him to return for another year. “I might try to reach him soon,” said Rivera. “I want to hear what he’s doing, what he wants to do. If he wants to continue playing, then I think we will have a good shot.” Mo stressed that this was Andy’s decision, but he’ll certainly do his part to help bring his long-time teammate back for another year.

Open Thread: Fonsy

(AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

Alfonso Soriano was one of my most favorite players back in the day. The first thing I and I think a lot of people noticed about him was how damn skinny he was. The dude was built like Ramiro Pena, but he could launch some absolute bombs. Soriano hit what could have been one of the biggest homeruns in Yankee history in 2001, when he took Curt Schilling deep to lead off the eighth inning of Game Seven of the World Series to break a 1-1 tie. Had those final six outs gone as planned, we’d be sitting here talking about Fonsy as a Yankee legend and a clutch machine. The baseball gods had different plans, and after flirting with 40-40 in both 2002 and 2003 he was traded to Texas for Alex Rodriguez. I was sad to see Soriano go but that’s a deal you don’t pass up. It’s been a long time since the Yankees have had a player that exciting, who could wow you with his power and speed. It sure was fun to watch, even if he’d swing at sliders off the plate until the cows came home.

Anyways, here is tonight’s open thread. The Devils, Nets, and Knicks (against the Heat!) are all playing tonight, but it is Friday night you know. Not a bad night to go out and do something you’ll regret in the morning. Talk about whatever, enjoy.