Yankees cut three more from Major League camp

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have reassigned Steve Garrison, Ryan Pope, and Eric Wordekemper to minor league camp. The first two are on the 40-man roster, so they were optioned down. I could be wrong, but I believe there are now 36 players left in big league camp, not counting the injured Frankie Cervelli, Reegie Corona, and Colin Curtis. Manny Banuelos is still there, which is kinda surprising.

MRI reveals oblique strain for Granderson

Update (8:18pm): Apparently Granderson did have an MRI after all. Marc Carig reports that it revealed an oblique strain, which is obviously some pretty crummy news. Grandy downplayed the injury, comparing it to Joba Chamberlain‘s recent oblique strain, but even that kept the right-hander on he shelf for ten days. It’s possible the Yankees won’t have their center fielder for Opening Day, but hopefully he won’t miss much more than that.

4:30pm: Via Chad Jennings, it sounds like Joe Girardi is cautiously optimistic about Curtis Granderson‘s oblique injury. “I believe there’s a chance he’s going to play Opening Day,” said the skipper. ‘Now, I haven’t talked to [Gene Monahan] yet about all the tests he’s been through, but I believe he’s got a chance to play Opening Day.” Grandy went through a series of tests today but not an MRI, so the full extent of the injury is being determined.

Opening Day is next Thursday but is just an arbitrary deadline. If Grandy isn’t healthy by then and misses the first three or five or ten games of the season, so be it. A handful of games now is better than a lot of games later should he rush back and re-aggravate it somehow.

ST Game Thread: A Familiar Lineup

Joe Biden offered advice about leveraging relief pitchers, foreign policy. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

As the Yankees run on the clock on their Grapefruit League schedule, Joe Girardi has been tinkering with the lineup somewhat, most notably hitting Brett Gardner leadoff. He’s done that the last few days, but Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher are back in the one-two slot today. Why? Because there’s a lefty on the mound; the Blue Jays are throwing Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo Jo-Jo Reyes. I’ll talk more about this setup tomorrow, but tonight we’ll get to see it in action. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Nick Swisher, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robbie Cano, 2B
Jorge Posada, DH
Andruw Jones, LF
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, CF

Available Pitchers: Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan, Luis Ayala, Steve Garrison, Eric Wordekemper, Ryan Pope, Buddy Carlyle, and Josh Schmidt.

Available Position Players: Gustavo Molina (C), Brandon Laird (1B), Ronnie Belliard (2B), Ramiro Pena (SS), Eduardo Nunez (3B), Jordan Parraz (LF), Melky Mesa (CF), and Greg Golson (RF).

Tonight’s game will be aired on MLB Network in all markets, they confirmed that the game will not be blacked out in the Tri-State Area via Twitter. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, so enjoy.

Roster Notes: Laird, Golson, Parraz, Jose Gil, Jorge Vazquez, and Kevin Russo have all been reassigned to minor league camp. Golson being sent probably means that Justin Maxwell beat him out for the potential fifth outfielder’s job, should one be needed.

Yankees claim Jose Ortegano

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have claimed left-hander Jose Ortegano off waivers from the Braves and optioned him to Triple-A Scranton. The 23-year-old from Venezuela made 20 starts for Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate last year, pitching to a 4.56 FIP in 103 IP. He was not among their top 30 prospects in the 2011 edition of Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook, but he ranked 25th in 2010. “His fastball sits 86-88 mph and occasionally touched 90,” they said. “He also has a plus curveball and locates his changeup with precision … his ultimate role may be as a crafty left-handed reliever.”

Given Pedro Feliciano’s bothersome triceps and Boone Logan‘s nagging injury filled camp, it doesn’t hurt to have another lefty around to stash in Triple-A. Ortegano’s nothing special, but certainly not useless.

The RAB Radio Show: March 23, 2011

Today we’re talking Jorge Posada. Earlier this afternoon I wrote about what it would take for the Yankees to bring back Posada in 2012. But for the podcast we’re taking a look at expectations. Posada faces many changes this season, which makes it tough to project how he’ll perform in his new role.

Podcast run time 25:26

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

What would it take to bring back Jorge?

(Kathy Willens/AP)

At the time it seemed like a horrible but necessary contract. Following the 2007 season, during which he hit .338/.426/.543, the Yankees had little choice but to re-sign Jorge Posada. It was going to be a risk move no matter how many years they gave him. Catchers don’t age well, and Posada had turned 36 in August of 2007. But he had again shown that he ranked among the league’s best offensive catchers, and the Yankees had few alternatives. Add in a little pressure from the Mets, and it becomes a four-year, $52.4 million contract that would run through Posada’s age-39 season.

In many ways the contract worked out, at least in relative terms. Posada’s offense helped power the 2009 Yankees to a World Series title, and he provided above average offensive numbers in 2010. He didn’t require a move to DH until the final year of the deal, which, at the time he signed the contract, would have been considered a positive outcome. At the same time there are plenty of negatives. After voiding the DL for his entire career Posada missed most of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury, and then missed time in both 2009 and 2010. His offensive numbers also took a dip in 2010, not a good sign for any older player, let alone a catcher.

Now entering the final year of his contract, Jorge has something else to prove. As he told the New York Post’s Kevin Kernan, he wants to play next year. That won’t happen, of course, without a solid performance in 2011. Yet even with a solid performance I’m not sure the Yankees would want Posada back in a full-time capacity. It’s not just based on him, but rather is based on the team’s plans for the DH spot down the road. There just might not be room for a permanent DH — well, a 40-year-old one, at least.

In discussing the relationship between David Ortiz and the Red Sox, Fox Sports’s Ken Rosenthal makes a point about the Yankees. “The Sox, like the Yankees, are itching to abandon a full-time DH and initiate a rotation at that position, the better to keep older veterans fresh,” he writes. We’ve heard this line for years, but in 2012 it could become a greater necessity. Alex Rodriguez specifically might need more time at DH. And then there’s that 21-year-old phenom who might or might not have a position.

Montero indeed will dictate what the Yankees do with the DH spot in 2012. They continue to insist that he can catch — at an above-average level, no less — in the majors. Yet they continue to be the only entity that professes this belief. If things don’t work out and indeed Montero is not capable of catching every day at the major league level, they Yankees will have to find some spot for his bat. That could very well be at DH, perhaps with him also serving as the backup catcher. That would provide spots for A-Rod to DH, both on Montero’s catching days and on his days off.

All of this assumes, of course, that Posada produces during his first season of offense-only duty. It stands to reason that he could. Previously his bat was never a question. It was only his defense, both in terms of his skill behind the plate and the toll constant squatting took on his body. Now that he is afforded the opportunity to focus on his greatest strength, his bat, he might prove he has more left in the tank. To the argument that he has poor career numbers as a DH, remember that he often takes a turn at DH when he’s banged up and cannot catch. That factors in heavily to any drop-off when he doesn’t play defense.

The Yankees thankfully have an entire year to determine whether they’d like to keep Posada around. But given their future team needs, the match doesn’t seem likely. If the Yankees need the DH spot for A-Rod and Montero, they simply might not have enough at-bats for Posada. It would be odd to see him in another uniform, but if he wants to keep playing beyond this season it might become a reality.

2011 Season Preview: The Farm System

Forgive me if I sound like a broken record, but pretty much everything went right for the Yankees’ farm system last year, which is why they jumped from 22nd to fifth in Baseball America’s organization rankings. For the most part, the key prospects stayed healthy and performed well while others came back from injury to reclaim to past prospect glory. It was a boost the Yankees needed, because now the team has a solid mix of near-MLB ready talent at the upper levels combined with upside guys a little further down the chain.

Is everything going to break right again? Almost certainly not, but each of the full season affiliates will offer plenty of reasons to follow along this summer.

Triple-A Scranton

Just like every other year, the Yankees are going to rely heavily on the reinforcements they have stashed away in Triple-A this season. In fact, they’ll probably rely on these guys even more than usual given the current situation of the back of the big league rotation. Assuming Ivan Nova starts the year in the Bronx, the Scranton staff will be led by three guys who finished last season there: Hector Noesi, David Phelps, and D.J. Mitchell. Andrew Brackman and Adam Warren will jump up from Double-A to round out the rotation, and it seems like a foregone conclusion that two or three of those guys will make their big league debut this summer.

The lineup was going to be anchored by Jesus Montero, but Frankie Cervelli‘s fractured foot makes him Russell Martin‘s likely backup to at least start the season. Manager Dave Miley will instead have to rely on 2010 Eastern League MVP Brandon Laird to make the offense go, and he’ll have help from Justin Maxwell, Jordan Parraz, Dan Brewer, and big ol’ Jorge Vazquez. Mark Prior highlights the bullpen corps, which will also feature big lefty Andy Sisco and a pair or righty prospects in Ryan Pope and George Kontos. Many of these guys will see big league time this year, but the Yankees have enough upper level depth that a sixth consecutive division title is a very possible for Scranton.

Double-A Trenton

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

This is where the action will be this year. Brian Cashman has said (repeatedly) that both Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances will start the season with Trenton, the same place they finished last season. Graham Stoneburner, the best pitching prospect in the system that no one ever seems to talk about, will play the role of third wheel. All three feature power, strikeout stuff but do it in different ways: Banuelos is fastball-changeup, Betances fastball-curveball, and Stoneburner with primarily a sinker. It would be surprising if all three spent the entire year in Double-A.

The offense will be led by the returning David Adams and likely Austin Romine despite his place in the backup catcher’s competition. Florida State League MVP Melky Mesa will join the fray, and Corban Joseph will stick after spending most of last season in Single-A. A case can be made that those two are the best five-tool prospect and pure hitter in the system, respectively. Craig Heyer will bring his beastly strike zone skills (95/15 K/BB in Single-A over the last two years) to the pitching staff in some capacity, and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte will give the fans something to enjoy and opposing batters something to dread out of the bullpen. Trenton has won the division in four of the last five years, and with that pitching staff, they’ll certainly make a run at another.

High-A Tampa

Luis Sojo’s squad figures to be a little short on position player talent this year, with college vets Luke Murton, Neil Medchill, and Rob Lyerly doing most of the heavy lifting. Sojo will have two of the very best arms in the system working out of his rotation in Jose Ramirez and Brett Marshall, and sleeper Scottie Allen (acquired from the D’Backs for Juan Miranda) will get a look as well. Flamethrowers Tommy Kahnle, Dan Burawa, and Conor Mullee will likely join the sneaky good Chase Whitley in a lock-down bullpen. A third straight Florida State League championship will be tough to pull off, but not impossible.

Low-A Charleston

Want to see two first picks play for the same team? Head to Charleston, where Slade Heathcott (2009) will roam center field and Cito Culver (2010) will probably man shortstop. Second rounder J.R. Murphy (2009) figures to give it another go behind the plate, where he’ll likely do the DH-catcher thing with Gary Sanchez, arguably the best non-Montero prospect in the system. Eduardo Sosa, Ramon Flores, and Kelvin DeLeon will round out one of the most tooled up outfields in all of minor league baseball, though Flores will likely see time at first.

The rotation is a little more uncertain, but there’s no shortage of talent. Mikey O’Brien, Nick Turley, Evan DeLuca, Bryan Mitchell, Gabe Encinas, Taylor Morton, Evan Rutckyj, Matt Richardson, Brett Gerritse … all of those guys are solid candidates for the River Dogs’ rotation, and in no way is that be lame.

Short Season Leagues

The vast majority of the short season Staten Island and rookie level Gulf Coast League rosters will be supplied by the 2011 draft, but 2010 picks Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, and Angelo Gumbs are likely to be pop up here. If the Yankees decide to take it slow with Culver, he’ll fit in here as well. Whatever pitchers do not make the Low-A roster will play in SI or the GCL, and the stateside debuts of Yeicok Calderon and (especially) Ravel Santana should be highly anticipated.

* * *

My top 30 prospects list will give you some more detailed information about most of the players in this post, but the upper level arms clearly highly the crop with Montero presumably in the big leagues. Whether they help the big league club on the mound or in a trade remains to be seen, but it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that they’ll have some kind of impact in 2011.