Ah draft day. One of the most fun and exciting days of the baseball year. While the actual draft doesn’t start until 2pm, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of stuff going on. BA’s Jim Callis posted a mock first round this morning, and has the Yanks taking prep SS Casey Kelly, son of former big leaguer Pat. KLaw has the latest gossip, and milb.com has a predraft show online. Gotta love the draft.
Update: MLB.com is reporting that the Rays will go with HS SS Tim Beckham with the first overall pick. That probably sets up Pedro Alvarez to the Pirates at 2, Buster Posey to the Royals at 3, Brian Matusz to the O’s at 4, and Justin Smoak to the Giants at 5. After that, all hell breaks loose.
Update Part II: Law also has a projected first round up now. He still has Gerrit Cole dropping to the Yanks. · (46) ·
I know I’m preempting Mike’s wall-to-wall draft day coverage right now. But before we fall into the trap of unbridled optimism over the future of MLB prospects, draw your attention to a recent Steve Goldman in the New York Sun. The man behind YES’ Pinstripe Bible rehashes the recent drafting history of the Yanks and Mets, and it ain’t pretty. He wonders, for example, if “Eric Duncan [failed] the Yankees, or did the Yankees fail him?” The piece serves as an excellent counterpoint to the stock that we all tend to put in prospects now that the Internet allows us unfettered access to stuff that, ten or fifteen years ago, only Baseball America subscribers and scouts knew. · (21) ·
In Yankee-land, Wednesday, September 12, 2007, was a fairly unremarkable today. The Yanks, riding a six-game winning streak, were in Toronto pushing hard for the Wild Card while the Blue Jays were looking to avoid slipping under .500. The Yankees won that game 4-1 despite mustering four hits, and Mike Mussina would emerge the winner, picking up his ninth win of the season. It was the Yankees’ 145th game of the season.
Flash forward nearly nine months to another Wednesday night, June 4, 2008. Again, the Yankees would be playing the Blue Jays. Only, this time, the Yanks would be looking to inch closer to .500 while the Blue Jays were looking to close the gap in the AL East. Again, Mike Mussina would take the mound, and again, he would win his ninth game of the season. It was the Yankees’ 59th game of the year.
What a difference a year makes. Tonight, sitting in the Upper Deck behind the plate, I saw a completely different Mike Mussina than the one I watched slog his way through 5.2 innings in Toronto in September. Rather, this Mike Mussina, throwing many more strikes than the 2007 version, relied on a well-placed fastball and devastatingly slow off-speed pitches to keep the Blue Jays hitters guessing all night long.
Tonight, Moose was again the stopper for the Yankees. He twirled six innings of five-hit ball, allowing one run on one walk and six strike outs. He finished to a standing ovation and lowered his ERA to 4.01. It was just a few weeks ago that I was lambasting Moose for poor pitching against the Red Sox while hoping he could limit the damage to 4.50-4.75 runs per 9 innings.
Well, he’s done that and more basically by becoming a completely different pitcher. No longer sporting a mid- to low-90s fastball, Mussina mixes and matches. He drops in 65-mph curveballs after 88-mph fastballs. He is relentless in pounding the strike zone, allowing just 11 walks in 67.1 innings this season, and he has mastered a new craft at an old age.
So here we sit with 103 games left in the year, and Mike Mussina has a shot at 20 wins for what would be the first time in his career. I ran into an old friend from high school today at the stadium, sitting in the row in front of me. As the game ended, we said our good byes and pondered Moose’s season. Neither of us could believe that Mike Mussina would be the de facto ace of the Yankee staff come June 4.
In parting, we both wondered if this would be the year Mussina finally reached that magically 20 plateau. He needs to win just three games a month here on out, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Just ask Chien-Ming Wang. In baseball, they say anything is possible. Let’s see this one unfold with a happy ending.
Game Notes: Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter. That’s some rarefied company on the all-time Yankee hit list…The ball really flies off Wilson Betemit’s bat when he makes contact…Nice work by the pen tonight. Mariano Rivera is truly in a league of his own this year…Johnny Damon is 26 for his last 53. That’s a mighty fine .310/.378/.498 line he’s sporting this year.
Another bullet pointer tonight, resting up during the calm before the draft storm tomorrow. Make sure you keep checking in tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to be live blogging the Yanks’ picks, with analysis and links to all sorts of good stuff. Here’s the box scores for AAA, AA and A-. High-A Tampa’s game was postponed because of wet grounds.
- Jason Lane hit a homer, Eric Duncan took an 0-fer. Ben Broussard hit another double.
- Danny McCutchen was hit around again, allowing 11 baserunners (2 homers) and 4 runs in 6 IP.
- Jose Tabata was MIA after leaving yesterday’s game in the 1st following a HBP.
- Austin Jackson had a one base hit.
- George Kontos killed it for 7 IP, allowing 3 hits against 7 K.
- Mark Melancon picked up the win in extras, Check the TJ Rehab Watch for his stat line.
- Bradley Suttle, Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Carmen Angleini all singled. Abe Almonte picked up a pair.
- Jason Stephens had his worst outing of the year, giving up 5 runs in 5 IP.
- Craig Heyer and Ryan Zink put up 4 innings of 1 hit, scoreless relief.
Just a couple of notes on the lineup. Posada has been activated, replacing Dan Giese on the roster. Which is a shame, considering LaTroy Hawkins is still around (and yeah, a bunch of other guys in the bullpen who could have been optioned out — at least it wasn’t Chris Britton.
Giambi tweaked his foot last night — not a good sign, considering the time he missed and was ineffective with plantar fasciitis. Apparently, he’s undergoing treatment, and it’s not clear whether he’ll be available to pinch hit tonight.
We’re counting on Moose for some innings tonight, mostly because it’s not advisable to go deep into the bullpen. It’s scary out there.
MLB.com’s Draft Tracker is finally up and running for the 2008 Draft. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the Tracker is usually up in mid-May. Anywho, as usual it has the full complement of scouting videos, which are a great way to kill a slow and hot (the a/c is still on the fritz here) afternoon at work. You can find Gerrit Cole’s video here, Nick Maronde’s here, Tanner Scheppers’ here, and Ike Davis’ here. Those are just some names that have been bandied about in Yankee land recently. · (16) ·
When Jorge Posada returns to the lineup tomorrow, the Yankees will in all likelihood field what would have been their starting nine all along. It will be a good day for a Yankee fanbase growing sick of Jose Molina and Chad Moeller. But for how long will it last? Posada admitted today to Ed Price that he will need surgery this year. I just hope he doesn’t make his shoulder worse by playing now instead of getting the surgery over and done with. · (6) ·
During my post-game analysis of Joba’s start, I noted that the Ed Hickox’s strike zone was something a little less than generous. However, Jonathan Hale’s pitch f/x analysis of the start disagrees with me. By and large, Joba wasn’t throwing strikes. He was victimized by three bad ball calls and one borderline call that was negated by a generous strike call. Perhaps it was just nerves; I expect better results on Sunday.
Update: In the discussion below, Keith alerts us to a different pitch f/x graph that shows Joba was clearly getting squeezed by Hickox. Seven pitches in the zone were called balls. I report; you decide. · (25) ·
The third point of the season isn’t the best time to take stock and assess how the prospects in the minors are doing, but that’s not going to stop me. There’s been a decent amount of movement at the top, which is the result of just about everything: graduation, injuries, ineffectiveness, hissy fits and domination.
Here’s my updated look at the Yanks’ top 30 prospects, as they stand the day before some fresh blood is infused into the system. You can check out my preseason list for comparisons sake.
- Joba Chamberlain, RHP – right at 50 IP for his career, so he hasn’t passed the rookie limit yet … i think we’re all looking forward to seeing him in the rotation for the rest of the year (or at the least the smart ones are)
- Jesus Montero, C – surpassed all expectations for this year, there’s no one in the draft class that can knock him from this spot
- Austin Jackson, CF – improved his plate discipline, hitting for power, playing good D … there’s a lot to like here
- JB Cox, RHP – came back from TJ like a champ, much better than I expected
- Mark Melancon, RHP – see above
- Zach McAllister, RHP – went from sleeper to stud thanks to his lights out first half
- Dellin Betances, RHP – the walks are high, and the tired shoulder is a minor concern, but he’s doing about all you could ask him to do in his first attempt at full-season ball
- Ross Ohlendorf, RHP – yep, he’s technically still a prospect, and he’s better than his numbers suggest
- Alan Horne, RHP - if it wasn’t for the biceps injury, he would probably be in the bigs
- Andrew Brackman, RHP – too much talent to ignore, TJ or not
- Jose Tabata, RF – if you want to act like a baby I’ll rank you like one … lucky for him he’s just 19
- Brett Gardner, CF – hitting for enough power to keep pitchers honest, and that’s all he needs
- Jeff Marquez, RHP – finding out that Triple-A hitters make you pay when you don’t get the ball down
- Carmen Angelini, SS – not the best start to the year, but he’s young for his league and has loads of ability
- David Robertson, RHP – just keeps mowing guys down
- Dan McCutchen, RHP – is he the guy that dominated Double-A, or the guy that’s scuffling in Triple-A?
- Abe Almonte, CF – flashing all 5 tools and putting up the numbers … stud
- Austin Romine, C – having an impressive year at the dish and behind it, which is more than you can ask from a teenage catcher in full season ball
- Chris Garcia, RHP – getting back into game action was step 1, step 2 is putting in the work needed to be great, because he’s got all the talent he’d ever need
- Colin Curtis, LF – not flashy, but he does everything just good enough
- Jairo Heredia, RHP – too bad I don’t know what the “upper body injury” was
- Humberto Sanchez, RHP – still MIA
- Bradley Suttle, 3B – mashed his way into the top 20 between injuries this year after a brutal debut last year
- Juan Miranda, 1B – shoulder issues have sapped his power, but it was already clear that he’s a classic platoon first baseman/DH
- Kevin Whelan, RHP – almost a forgotten man in the system
- Ryan Pope, RHP – enigmatic isn’t the right word, but he’s … unique
- Frankie Cervelli, C – holding down a spot based on reputation after the injury
- Mike Dunn, LHP – hopefully he won’t be the top ranked lefty when I do the post-draft list, no offense to Mike
- Edwar Ramirez, RHP – still prospect eligible, and still striking out almost 2 batters an inning
- Justin Snyder, 2B – all he does is get on base and score runs
Just wanted to quickly pass along that Keith Law and BA’s Jim Callis will be chatting over at ESPN at 1 and 2pm today, respectively. It’s safe to assume the draft will be the main focus. You follow the chats free while they’re live, but once they end they hide behind the Insider wall. John Manuel has some of the latest buzz. Just about 24 hours away…
Update: Looks like they pushed KLaw’s chat back to 2. Apparently Steve Phillips is having a groundbreaking chat. · (12) ·