Fan Confidence Poll: June 21st, 2010

Record Last Week: 3-3 (21 RS, 23 RA)
Season Record: 43-26 (376 RS, 275 RA, 45-24 Pythag. record), one game up
Schedule This Week: @ Diamondbacks (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thursday OFF, @ Dodgers (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Yanks pick up finale from Mets

The Yankees needed this one. Not only to take the series, or to tie the season series, but to get on some kind of roll. They ran like a blitzkrieg through the light portion of their schedule before the offense sputtered against the Phillies. It has come alive a bit more over the last couple of days. Maybe the Yanks can use this to rally through their remaining NL schedule.

Biggest Hit: The only big hit of the game

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Though the Yankees managed nine hits yesterday, the onle ones that amounted to runs were the four in the third. Brett Gardner led off with a liner to left, which Jeter followed with a tapper that turned into an infield single. I’m not sure why Nick Swisher decided to bunt in that situation, but it caught the Mets off guard. He pushed it past Johan Santana all the way to Ike Davis. Ruben Tejada ran to cover first, but Santana didn’t see him there. They collided and the ball fell to the dirt. The Yanks had bases loaded and none out.

Looking for a strikeout or a groundball, Santana started working Teixeira with a pair of changeups low. He missed on the first and got Tex to swing over the second. On the 1-1 pitch Santana went to his fastball, trying to run it in on Teixeira. He succeeded, but Tex had enough time to get around on the 91 mph pitch. Just as Michael Kay told us that Santana had allowed two grand slams this year and four in his career, Teixeira made it three and five. The ball went over the scoreboard in left and gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead.

“If it’s 94, 95 he doesn’t come close to doing what he did,” said catcher Rod Barajas after the game.

We’re still waiting for Teixeira to hit consistently. He’s shown signs like this all year long, which means he’s been productive at times. Once he gets in a groove — and yes, I’m still confident he will — we should see much of the same production we did last summer.

Biggest Pitch: Sabathia induces the 5-4-3 double play

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

For his second straight start CC Sabathia was involved in a marquee matchup. He pitched very well on Monday, allowing just three runs through seven innings. Even those came in just one inning, after he took a comebacker off the pitching hand. After that he seemed fine, much better than the starts in which he struggled in May. This time he faced Johan Santana, which of course brings a bit of history. Santana had defeated Sabathia in their Sunday matchup earlier in the year, but he would not complete the sweep.

Before the seventh inning CC had allowed no more than one baserunner per inning. He had walked the leadoff man in the fifth and allowed a leadoff double in the sixth, but both times he stranded him. Then, in the seventh he finally faced a situation with two runners on. It started with an Ike Davis single to lead off the inning and continued when Jason Bay drew a walk. CC alternated fastball and changeup to get Rod Barajas swinging, but the Mets still had two more outs to go.

Fernando Tatis took care of both of them. CC dropped a slider over the outside half for strike one, and then threw a changeup in the dirt. He came back with a changeup on the next pitch, and it actually looked like a decent pitch. But Tatis got on top of it, grounding it to A-Rod, who flipped the ball to Cano, who flipped in turn to Teixeira to complete the 5-4-3 double play and end the inning.

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

CC ended with an excellent line: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K, 66 of 100 pitches for strikes. Had it not been for the rain delay I have to think he’d have come out for the ninth. But there’s no complaining when Mo comes in and works his magic.

Miscellany

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Brett Gardner continues to impress both in the field and at the plate. He led off the rally that led to Tex’s slam with a single, a liner the opposite way on a belt high fastball. He also made an excellent catch on a Rod Barajas fly ball out by the wall in left. His .378 wOBA is not only right around what Johnny Damon posted last year, but is also .001 ahead of Carl Crawford. UZR doesn’t rate his defense particularly well right now, -2.0, but according to John Dewan’s +/- system Gardner has saved five defensive runs.

Teixeira since the five-strikeout game: 13 for 47 with three doubles, four homers, and nine walks. That puts his triple slash at .276/.414/.596.

Posada since the grand slam game: 8 for 22 (.364) with a double and three jacks. That’s an .818 SLG, homes.

Granderson since returning from the DL: .257/.333/.514. Power’s there for sure, but he could stand to get on base a little more frequently.

On a less optimistic note, A-Rod since leaving the Orioles game: 2 for 18 with a double and just two walks.

The only Yankee starters without a hit were Cano and Rodriguez. Cano was hit by a pitch.

Graph, box, highlights

Yeah, I could use a graph like this right about now.

More at FanGraphs. Also check the box score and highlights.

Up Next

They’re flying out to Arizona, where A.J. Burnett will look to right the ship against Rodrigo Lopez. Game, unfortunately, starts at 10.

Open Thread: Happy Dad’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. It took a whole lot of growing up before I realized how important and how much my old man did for me, so the least you can do is tell yours you love him and thank you.

Here’s your open thread for the evening. The ESPN Sunday Night Game features the Red Sox and Dodgers (Buchholz vs. Kuroda), and you’ve also got the College World Series on ESPN2. I suppose the former directly impacts the Yanks somewhat, though it is only June. After you’re done chillin’ with dad, talk about whatever you want here.

O’Brien leads Staten Island to first win of 2010

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Lehigh Valley)
Reid Gorecki, LF, Eduardo Nunez, SS, Colin Curtis, RF & P.J. Pilittere, DH: all 1 for 4 – Gorecki doubled & K’ed
Eric Bruntlett, 3B & Jesus Montero, C: both 0 for 4 – Montero K’ed, but he’s still 14 for his last 38 (.368) with six doubles, two triples & a homer
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K
Reegie Corona, 2B: 2 for 31 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI – he’s already up to four homers after hitting just six last year
Greg Golson, CF: 0 for 2
Romulo Sanchez: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 5-5 GB/FB – 58 of 103 pitches were strikes (56.3%) … always good when a pitcher eclipses the 100 pitch plateau in the 4th inning
Jason Hirsh: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 30 of his45 pitches were strikes … he’s enrolled in the Romulo Sanchez School of Pitch Efficiency
Eric Wordekemper: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 14 of his 20 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Low-A prospects: a status report

Charleston lacks the pitching prowess of Tampa’s sparkling rotation, but they certainly have quite a few promising players in their own right. Charleston features the top draft picks of ’09 — center fielder Slade Heathcott and catcher J.R. Murphy — and arguably the top pitching prospect in the organization, right-handed Jose Ramirez. As we’ve done for AAA, AA and Hi-A, let’s take a longer look at some of the top players’ overall seasons and how they’ve performed of late.

Pitchers:

Jose Ramirez, SP:

Jose Ramirez.

Low-A Season: 33.0 IP, 4.36 ERA, 37 hits, 21 runs, 8 BB, 26 K, 1.38 GO/AO

Last three starts: 14.2 IP, 6.75 ERA, 14 hits, 11 runs, 10 BB, 10 K

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Ramirez made his professional debut in 2009, where all he did was earn Pitcher of the Year honors out of the GCL. Yeah, his stock definitely rose. Armed with a fastball known to hit 96 and a very developed changeup, Ramirez has again largely impressed, if a bit inconsistent. The one thing that jumps out at you is that he has yet to give up a home run this year. Like, not even one. His K/BB rate is quite nice at 2.83 and the K/9 is close to 9. As I mentioned, consistency is key. He’s really struggled in June, posting an ERA of 6.75 with 14 hits and 10 walks in a shade under 15 innings. I’m not all that concerned, but it sure would be nice to see him hit his early season performance and possibly hit Tampa later in the year.

Jairo Heredia, SP

Low-A Season: 70.2 IP, 3.44 ERA, 61 hits, 33 runs, 23 BB, 65 K, 0.86 GO/AO

Last three starts: 16.1 IP, 2.44 ERA, 10 hits, 4 runs, 3 BB, 16 K

Heredia has the talent. There’s no doubt about that. The question is his durability and how he progresses given his setbacks. He probably hung out a lot with Christian Garcia in the Yankee Minor League Infirmary over the past few years. He’s had shoulder injuries galore, losing large chunks of the 2007 and 2009 season. But when healthy he suffocates hitters with a heavy fastball, a very good curveball and a pretty decent changeup as a third offering. Development of the changeup stalled with 2009’s dead year and he struggled at Tampa in his brief time there. 2010 again was looking bleak. He’d been brutalized in Tampa, getting lit up for an ERA of 6.93 and 37 hits in 24 innings with only 14 strikeouts. Ouch.

He was demoted to Charleston again in May and he’s looked better, though he hasn’t wowed. There may be some light at the end of the tunnel for Jairo. His GB rate is almost 50% in Charleston, he’s giving up less line drives and walking half as many batters. He’s still fairly young at just 20 years of age, has an advanced feel and despite his obstacles, has shut out the opposition in his last two starts.

Hitters:

Slade Heathcott, CF

Slade Heathcott.

Low-A Season: .313/.384/.391

Last ten games: .275/.348/.325, 2 XBH, 5 steals

Heathcott oozes tools. While his power isn’t developed per se, he has a muscular frame (look at his ams!) and surprising agility with a plus-arm in center field. Few have such raw athleticism. Heathcott spent three games in the GCL last year and was given the green light to jump to Charleston in 2010. Outside of Jesus Montero, this is the most exciting prospect in the system, so expectations are high.

How’s he done so far? Well, good and bad. Hard not to get excited about a guy who’s gotten a hit in all but one of his 15 games on the season. On the other hand, 15 strikeouts in 64 appearances is a bit much, though six walks isn’t too bad. Slade’s been largely –at least according to MiL Splits– hitting ground balls, at clip of 49%. His line drives are a bit low at 9.8%. Still, I’m not going to complain about an 19-year-old in A-ball hitting .313/.384/.391. Hopefully he’ll show some signs of better discipline and a flash of power, but there’s no reason to rush it. It’s only been 15 games. He’s also added six steals to the pot of goodies.

J.R. Murphy, C

Low-A Season: .242/.296/.309

Last ten games: .275/.348/.300, 1 XBH, 1:1 BB/SO rate

The other of the toolsy top picks of 2009, Murphy was touted as a a pure hitter with the athleticism and feel to be a catcher down the road. I haven’t seen reports on how his defense has progressed, but his bat was slow in May down in historic Charleston. The catcher from Florida hit .222/.259/.315 that month. The beginning of June wasn’t terribly peachy either, but he’s turned it on of late, hitting a nicer .275 with a 1:1 SO/BB ratio. He’s really struggled against southpaws, hitting .231/.244/.308 against them. Again, as with Slade, there’s no concern at this point in the year. Neither were considered super-polished players that would jump the levels. It’s going to require patience but both are players with nice potential.

Zoilo Almonte, OF

Low-A season: .278/.343/.491

Last ten games: .333/.415/.722 with 4 home runs and a 1:1 SO/BB rate.

You don’t hear much talk about Zoilo on the Yankee prospect chatter, but he’s quietly putting up a really nice season in South Carolina. Maybe people are jaded that he’s underperformed until last year, despite being a switch-hitter with seemingly good tools. I figured it was a fluke myself, but he might be putting himself in the picture as a legit prospect. He might be partially aided by a BABip of .351, but it’s hard to argue with the power emerging (10 home runs in 57 games). So while his batting average is likely inflated, the parks have bellied a bit of his power (neutralizing park and luck factors show a line of .260/.327/.507 with 13 home runs). The strikeouts are still concerning (65 in 224 AB’s – a 29% rate) and his overall on-base skills seem worse than last year, but there’s a lot to like about Zolio’s season. A guy with power/speed tools are worth watching. Hopefully he doesn’t hang out with Melky Mesa during his time in the Yankee farm system. Don’t want that rubbing off on you.

Kyle Higashioka, C

Low-A season: .192/.277/.291

Last ten games: .179/.256/.231, 2 XBH

Often thought of a Japanese import (at least to me anyway, due to the name), the man known as “Higgy” is actually a young catcher drafted by the Yankees for an over-the-slot bonus in 2008 out of California. Supposedly, he’s American and a solid defensive catcher. Anyway, he disappointed a bit with the bat in 2009, hitting .253/.333/.332 in Staten Island. On the other hand, he had a pretty good batting eye, striking out 31 times and walking 26 times in 217 PA’s. It’s rare to see such a young player with such a good approach. Still, it didn’t translate into results in 2009 and it hasn’t yet in 2010. He’s hitting below the Mendoza line, getting on base less than 28% of the time and hitting for Ramiro Pena-like power. With a glut of catchers up and down the ladder – from Montero to Romine to Murphy to Sanchez – Higgy may get lost in the shuffle pretty quickly if he can’t show some measure of progress. Worse yet, he’s striking out more and walking less. It may be he just hasn’t gotten into a rhythm yet.

Carmen Angelini, SS

Low-A season: N/A

Carmen Angelini is currently hitting .354/.442/.549 for my team in MLB The Show 2010, largely because deluding myself into thinking that is better than the outrageously high expectations I had for him, only to see him mimic my baseball aptitude as a Little Leaguer. Anyway, Angelini is on the DL roster of the Charleston Riverdogs. Hitting a cool .200 with trouble in the field will sour pretty much anyone on you, especially if you do it for a few years consecutive (don’t tell the Royals – they seem to actively seek players like that) so the expectations for Angelini are at an all-time low. I, for one, am really, really excited to see him. Please succeed, Carmen!

Other guys of note:

Rob Lyerly, 3B is hitting .314/.367/.411 with 1 home run. The errors are high, as are the strikeouts. The power, on the other hand, is low.

Luke Murton, 1B is hitting .291/.375/.498 with 8 homers. Murton is a bit old for the level (he’s 24), but he’s throwing together a nice season.

Taylor Grote, OF has posted a line of .242/.342/.387. His batting eye seems to have improved, but he’s still struggling in his third professional season. His power has improved, though.

DeAngelo Mack, OF has some good tools, but is like an NBA tweener. Probably not athletic enough to play CF, but lacks the strength and bat to play the corners. He’s disappointed this year, hitting .243/.340/.390 with four home runs, mostly playing right field.

Sean Black, SP likely a relief pitcher, Black, out of Seton Hall, has power stuff but erratic results. Not much has changed, as on the year he’s actually limited walks (good) but been hit around the park (not good), especially by right-handers, who have torched him for an ERA over 6.00. On the other hand, he’s kept lefties in check for the most part.

A-Rod, Posada will be day-to-day next week

Both Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are still slowly coming back from hip and foot injuries, respectively, so Joe Girardi has tentatively declared both players to be day-to-day next week. The Yankees will be playing the Diamondbacks and Dodgers on the road, so they can’t hide either player as the designated hitter. I suspect we’ll see Jorge Posada catch every other game, which means he could start the first and last game of each series because of Thursday’s off day. I’m not so sure about A-Rod, maybe he’ll do that same thing.

Game 69: Ace vs. ace, redux

Photo Credit: Seth Wenig, AP

CC vs. Johan. Lefty vs. lefty. YES vs. SNY. Big brother vs. little brother. Bronx vs. Queens. Good vs. evil. North vs. South. Humanity vs. vuvuzelas. It’s all on the line today … well, maybe not. Should be a fun game though. Here’s the lineup…

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robbie Cano, 2B
6. Jorge Posada, DH
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Frankie Cervelli, C
9. Brett Gardner, LF

And on the mound, the best pitcher in New York, CC Sabathia.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET, and can be seen on either YES or WPIX locally, or TBS nationally. Enjoy.