The Yankees don’t open their three-game weekend series with the Athletics for another few hours, so use this open thread to bide your time. The regular game thread will be along a little closer to first pitch. The Mets are playing the Padres (Dillon Gee vs. Anthony Bass) and MLB Network will be airing a game as well (teams depend on where you live), but the biggest game of the night is the Rangers vs. Devil (8pm ET on NBC Sports). If the Devils win, they move on to the Stanley Cup Finals. If the Rangers win, they’ll play a Game Seven. Talk about whatever you like here.
Baseball America posted their second mock draft this afternoon (subs. req’d), and they again have the Astros taking Stanford RHP Mark Appel with the first pick. They have the Yankees selecting high school SS Addison Russell with their first rounder (#30 overall), who I profiled last week. He’s a power-hitting infielder with strong defensive tools who may outgrow short and wind up at third.
It’s worth noting that Baseball America says if “any team takes fast-rising Washington prep right-hander Mitchell Gueller in the first round, it could be New York.” Keith Law had the Yankees taking Russell in his first mock draft while also mentioning their interest in Gueller, but as an outfielder. Baseball America had the Yankees taking high school catcher Stryker Trahan in their first mock draft.
The 2012 amateur draft is less than two weeks away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.
Clint Coulter | C
A former state wrestling champion, Coulter hails from Union High School in Camas, Washington, which is right on the Oregon border and practically a suburb of Portland. His coach is former big leaguer Tom Lampkin, who spent parts of 13 seasons in the show and started over 400 games behind the plate. Coulter is committed to Arizona State.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs. with a wrestler’s build, Coulter has some of the best power in the high school crop this summer. He hammers mistakes and has shown the ability to adjust to offspeed stuff and drive the ball to all fields from the right side. Although he has the arm and athleticism to catch, Coulter has a long way to go with his receiving and footwork before becoming a solid defensive backstop. He runs like a catcher but is a heady baserunner with strong instincts. Coulter is very coachable and an intense competitor who plays really hard, earning high grades for his intangibles.
Keith Law (35th), Baseball America (48th), and MLB.com (48th) all consider Coulter a fringy first round/firm supplemental round talent based on their most recent rankings. The Yankees pick 30th overall in the first round but do not have a sandwich round pick, so Coulter is one of those ‘tweener types who might not be worth a first rounder but won’t last into the second round. As I wrote two days ago, the Yankees prioritize offensive catchers in the minors and Coulter fits the mold to a tee.
Via Evan Drellich, the Yankees have signed John Maine to a minor league contract. The 31-year-old right-hander signed with the Red Sox this offseason but did not pitch a game for them before being released earlier this month. Maine hasn’t appeared in the big leagues since 2010 and has battled significant shoulder injuries through the years. He owns a 4.35 ERA and a 4.68 FIP in 585.2 career innings, most coming with the Mets. I guess the Yankees are going to stash him in Triple-A for a few weeks and see what happens, which will most likely be nothing substantial.
The Yankees are kicking off their first of two trips to Oakland and the West Coast this weekend. They’ve won 22 of 28 games against the Athletics over the last three seasons, including 10 of 12 on the road in California.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Athletics are flirting with .500 at 22-23, though their -20 run differential is the third worst in the AL. They just lost two straight to the Angels but had won two straight before that. They lost two straight before that and … well you get the idea. Teams sitting near .500 tend to alternate wins and losses.
At 3.40 runs per game, the A’s are the lowest scoring team in the AL this season. Their 77 wRC+ is the second worst in baseball to the Pirates, ditto their .287 team OBP. Former Red Sox Josh Reddick has been their best offensive player by far, with a 143 wRC+ and 11 homers to his credit. Yoenis Cespedes is on the DL with a hand injury and his 112 wRC+ is sorely missed. Seth Smith (106 wRC+) is the only other player on the club with at least 120 plate appearances and above league average production to his credit.
Leadoff man Jemile Weeks (75 wRC+) is off to a terrible start just like his brother, and the number two spot in the lineup has rotated between Coco Crisp (28 wRC+) and Cliff Pennington (64 wRC+) for the most part. With Cespedes out, cleanup duties behind Reddick belong to Smith and Jonny Gomes, who is destroying left-handers (147 wRC+) and holding his own against righties (109 wRC+). Brandon Inge has hit well since being released by Detroit (126 wRC+) but no one really expects him to keep that up. First baseman Daric Barton (86 wRC+) and catcher Kurt Suzuki (48 wRC+) have just stalled out after promising starts to their careers.
Oakland’s bench is just unfathomably bad. Part-time DH/first baseman Kile Ka’aihue is the bright spot with an 89 wRC+, but backup catcher Anthony Recker (26 wRC+), extra outfielder Colin Cowgill (-1 wRC+), and corner infielder Josh Donaldson (-11 wRC+) have been inexcusably bad. I have no idea how you can carry two guys with negative production like that on your bench. Infielder Adam Rosales has one single and four walks in his eight plate appearances. I know the Yankees have been dreadful offensively, but sheesh. This is what a below average lineup really looks like, folks.
Friday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Tyson Ross
With three starters — Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson — on the DL, the Athletics’ rotation is patchwork at the moment. Ross has pitched to a 5.73 ERA (4.07 FIP) in seven starts with few strikeouts (4.54 K/9 and 11.2 K%) and too many walks (3.82 BB/9 and 9.4 BB%). He does get a healthy amount of ground balls though (55%). Ross has a very funky, upright delivery that adds deception to his low-90s two and four-seamers and mid-80s slider. He doesn’t have much of a changeup, so it’s basically the two fastballs and one breaking ball. The Yankees briefly saw him out of the bullpen a year or two ago.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Bartolo Colon
Colon threw a complete game shutout for the Yankees in Oakland on Memorial Day last season, and now he’s looking to turn the tides this Memorial Day weekend. The hefty right-hander has a 4.09 ERA and a 3.95 FIP through ten starts, right in line with what he did last season (4.00 ERA and 3.83 FIP) despite the move out of Yankee Stadium and the AL East. Colon’s strikeouts are way down (5.55 K/9 and 14.6 K%) but so are his walks (1.46 BB/9 and 3.8 BB%). His ground ball rate (44.1%) is identical to last season. He’s still primarily an all-fastball guy, though he now sits right around 90 with the four-seamer and in the upper-80s with the two-seamer. His velocity this year is consistent with his second half fade last year (four-seamer and two-seamer). Colon has a slider and changeup, but as you know he rarely uses them.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Tom Milone
Part of the Gio Gonzalez trade, Milone is another low strikeout (4.99 K/9 and 13.9 K%), low walk (2.18 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), moderate ground ball (44.2%) type. It’s like the Twins are spreading. Anyway, Milone is a classic finesse lefty. He sits in the mid-to-upper-80s with two and four-seamers and uses an upper-70s changeup as his go-to offspeed pitch. A mid-80s cutter and a mid-70s curveball are rarely used fourth and fifth offerings. Soft-tossing rookie left-handers usually give the Yankees fits, especially if they’ve never seen them before, but they did take care of business against Will Smith on Wednesday night.
With a 2.57 ERA and a 3.74 FIP, the Athletics boast one of the game’s most effective bullpens. Setup man Ryan Cook (2.69 FIP) is the only pitcher in baseball who has spent the entire season on the active 25-man roster and not allowed run. His scoreless streak is up to 22.2 IP. Brian Fuentes (2.79 FIP) replaced Grant Balfour (4.28 FIP) at closer after he had some rough outings a few weeks ago. Those three are manager Bob Melvin’s go-to relievers in the late innings.
Travis Blackley (1.63 FIP in six innings), Jerry Blevins (4.61 FIP), and Jordan Norberto (3.00 FIP) give Oakland three more lefties in addition to Fuentes. Blevins is a specialist but Norberto has the stuff to face both righties and lefties, which he’s been doing all season. Blackley had been out of baseball and playing all over the world until resurfacing this season, so his role hasn’t really been defined yet. Jim Miller (3.99 FIP) is the only other right-hander in their bullpen. Like the Yankees, the Athletics had yesterday off so their entire bullpen is fresh. For the latest and greatest from Oakland, we recommend Athletics Nation and Beaneball.
Got a massive mailbag for you this week. I dunno, I just couldn’t stop once I got going. Blame yesterday’s day off. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us stuff, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Nathan asks: What’s up with A-Rod and the lack of power? Is he not fully healthy, losing bat speed, or just getting old?
This came in before Alex Rodriguez hit those two homers on Wednesday night, somewhat obviously. Anyway, I think it’s all of the above. He’s going to turn 37 next month and not many players maintain 30+ homerun power into their late-30s. Only 34 players age 36 or older hitt 30+ dingers in a single season (49 total instances), and the vast majority of them took place during the offense-crazy late-1990s/early-2000s. The power decline has been a gradual thing for Alex, look at his ISO through the years…
That looks an awful lot like normal age-related decline. That monster 2007 season (.331 ISO) came at age 31, right at the end of his prime years. On top of getting old, he also had the torn labrum in his hip. Players need their lower halves to generate power and Alex’s was compromised a bit. Lots of people will blame the past PED usage and hey, they might be right, but I don’t think there’s anything that unusual about a player on the wrong side of 35 losing his power, even a historically great player like A-Rod.