2011 Draft: High School Arms

CC's done pretty well for himself without a college education. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

If you’re not new to the site, then you’re probably aware of my infatuation with high school pitchers come draft day. I like seeing them get into the organization and under professional training programs, instructions, diets, the whole nine, as soon as possible. Most college coaches aren’t concerned with long-term development, so pitchers can fall into a lot of bad habits in school (like not pitching inside because of aluminum bats), not to mention the insane workloads. UCLA righty Trevor Bauer is expected to be a first round pick this year, but he’s averaging over 120 pitches per start this year. Texas righty Taylor Jungmann, another expected first rounder, has thrown 89.2 IP in eleven starts this year, or 8.1 innings per start. That’s crazy.

The best college-drafted pitcher in baseball right now is probably Tim Lincecum, though Justin Verlander, Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, and Jered Weaver have a case as well. But the high school draftees, you’re talking Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, Josh Johnson, Clayton Kershaw, John Danks, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Chad Billingsley, the list goes on and on. Even international signees like Felix Hernandez and Ubaldo Jimenez fall into the “weren’t ruined by a college coaches” category. Anyway, that’s just my two cents. Here’s a few high school arms I’ve got my eye on…

Ricky Jacquez, RHP, Franklin HS (Texas)
Jacquez doesn’t necessarily pass the eye test at first glance, since he’s listed at just 5-foot-9 and 155 lbs. The best right-hander to stand no taller than 5-foot-10 in expansion era is Tom Gordon (by far), so the recent history of guys that size isn’t great. Of course Jacquez is still just a teenager and could easily tack on a few inches and pounds, so there’s no sense in writing his baseball obituary just yet. His stuff is very real though, he’ll sit in the low-90’s and touch 94 on most days, getting swings and misses with a hammer curveball that’s allergic to bats. Jacquez challenges hitters and pitches aggressively, and he’s expected to be a third to sixth round selection. If he doesn’t sign, he’ll head to Texas.

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Tigers rough up CC, take game two of the series

The Yankees have pounded Brad Penny time after time, including once already this year. Since he was on the mound for the Tigers and CC Sabathia was starting for New York, we all felt pretty good about this one on Tuesday afternoon. I guess it’s not easy to foresee the reverse jinx when your team is involved. The Yankees’ bats were silent for much of the night, and Detroit ended its seven game losing streak.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

No Good CC

It was bad from the start. Austin Jackson doubled on the first pitch Sabathia threw, then Scott Sizemore did the same two pitches later. The first run came around to score on a Magglio Ordonez ground out, the second on a Miguel Cabrera sac fly. The Yankees finally wised up later in the game and intentionally walked Miggy with a base open, and sure enough they escaped that jam unscathed. The whole “don’t pitch to one of the best hitters in the world if you don’t have to” thing took a game-and-a-half to sink in I guess. But I digress.

Tells you what kind of pitcher Sabathia is when seven innings and four runs is a bad start, but the Yankees probably win that game six or seven times out of ten. He threw a season high 119 pitches (76 strikes, 63.9%) and really just got burned by the top of the order. Jackson and Sizemore combined to go 5-for-6 with two doubles and a triple before Sabathia struck each out the last time he faced them. The rest of Detroit’s lineup went 5-for-21 (.238) off the Yankees’ ace. Oh well, CC’s allowed a stinker every once in a while, and this wasn’t even that bad.

Too Much RISPFAIL

Although the box score says they only had five at-bats with men in scoring position (Russell Martin had the only hit, a double), the Yankees left two men on base in the first, two in the second, and one in the fourth. They had chances (plural) to get to Penny early but just couldn’t capitalize. The right-hander allowed six hits and walked two in six innings, striking out just one with an unspectacular 8-6 GB/FB ratio. I mean come on, he should have been begging for mercy after three.

Almost Andruw. Well, not really. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Three, Three Outs On The Bases

There’s nothing quite like giving away a full inning’s worth of outs on stupid baserunning plays. Andruw Jones, representing the tying run, got thrown out at the plate on a would-be sac fly to end the fourth inning, not even making it to the plate. If the bases were 75-feet apart, he would have juuust made it in under the tag. Then in the sixth inning you had not one, but two runners get caught in rundowns between first and second. Three Yankees reached base in the inning, but they somehow managed to not score a run and leave the bases empty. I don’t know what Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada were thinking there, but yeah, stupid. Lesson for the kids out there: if you ever get caught in a spot like that, just keep running to second. Don’t stop. At least you have a chance that way.

Leftovers

Oh yeah, Tex hit a garbage time homer. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Brett Gardner is the hottest hitter on the team right now, and it’s not all that close. He went 1-for-2 with a walk in this game, and has now reached base safely in eight of his last ten and in 16 of his last 19 plate appearances. He went from .145/.197/.306 to .219/.337/.411 in six games. Is it time to give him another shot leading off? I say no, not yet, but it’s good news that we’re even discussing the possibility. Right behind Gardner is Posada, who went 2-for-4 on Tuesday and now has five hits in his last 11 trips to the plate (plus another taken away on a great defensive play). Good stuff from those two.

The four-five hitters combined for one hit (a ten-hopper through the left side) in eight at-bats, which isn’t exactly middle of the order production. Despite that single, Alex Rodriguez is in a definite slump, has been since he left that game with a stiff back/oblique. Is he playing hurt maybe?

I’m not sure that David Robertson is comfortable pitching without a runner in scoring position. He gave up a double on the first pitch he threw, then escaped the inning like he always days. I guess D-Rob is just a fireman at heart, it’s what he does.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score and no highlights for you!

Up Next

Alright, that’s it. Frustrating loss, but that’s baseball. Move on and focus on Wednesday night’s game, which will feature Freddy Garcia and Max Scherzer. ‘Til then…

Garrison hurt in Trenton loss

Keith Law has an Insider-only post up with updates on the statuses of some top prospects around the league. Here’s what he had to say about Jesus Montero

“Montero didn’t draw his first walk of the season until May 1st, when he drew two, but he’s hit for plenty of average with a .373/.384/.470 line. I’m not concerned about the walk rate, since he has a history of getting on base and showing good plate discipline, but the modest power output is a little more surprising. He’s probably not coming up any time soon unless he’s traded or Jorge Posada gets hurt.”

That about sums up the first four weeks of his season, though the injury of which we shall not speak shouldn’t be forgotten. Speaking of injuries, Greg Golson was placed on the disabled list due to a hamstring issue. Luis Nunez was activated off the phantom DL to take his place on the roster.

Triple-A Scranton got rained out. They don’t go to Gwinnett again this season, so they’re going to play a road game at home the next time these two teams meet in August.

Double-A Trenton (5-2 loss to Portland)
Austin Krum, CF & Dan Brewer, LF: both 1 for 4 – Krum struck out … Brewer scored a run and struck out twice
Jose Pirela, 2B & Cody Johnson, DH: both 0 for 4 – Johnson whiffed to the umpteenth time this year (actually the 37th)
Bradley Suttle, 3B: 2 for 3, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – seven for his last 14 with two doubles, a triple, and a homer
Jose Gil, C: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Ray Kruml, RF & Yadil Mujica, SS: both 0 for 3, 1 K – Mujica committed a throwing error
Addison Maruszak, 1B: 0 for 2, 1 BB
Steve Garrison, LHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB – left the game with a groin pull after throwing 30 pitches in the inning
Cory Arbiso, RHP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 2-3 GB/FB
The Ghost of Kei Igawa, LHP: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-3 GB/FB – the trainer came out to see him, but he stayed in the game
Wilkins Arias, LHP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-3 GB/FB
Pat Venditte, SHB: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – already 13 runs and seven walks in 14 IP this year, he allowed 19 runs and 15 walks 74.2 IP last season

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Game 27: Swish gets a day

None of this tonight, pls. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Yankees had two players on their roster that had played every inning of every game this season, at least until Robinson Cano bruised his hand on Sunday. That left Nick Swisher as the lone iron man, but that will change tonight: the right fielder is getting the day off after driving in the go-ahead run in yesterday’s game. If you’re going to sacrifice offense (not that Nick has been hitting especially well), CC Sabathia starts are a good time to do it. You just don’t expect the big guy to give up many runs. Here’s the lineup…

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

CC Sabathia, SP

This game starts shortly after 7pm ET, and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium set for August

For the third year in a row, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation will be hosting a fundraising race at Yankee Stadium in August. On Sunday, August 7, 4000 participants will gather at the stadium to run or walk the concourses and ramps, climb stairs between levels or take laps around the warning track to raise money for a charity with close and long-standing ties to the New York Yankees.

Last year’s race raised over $400,000 for the foundation, and the organization’s heads expect this year’s to be just as successful. “You can’t win the World Series without the best team, and we can’t strike out cancer without supporting the most brilliant minds of our time,” Lorraine W. Egan, Executive Director of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, said. “This is a great opportunity for fans to enjoy the Stadium, and – most importantly – for every participant to make a real impact on cancer.” For more information and to register, check out the Runyon Center’s website.

The Yankees’ offense by inning

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the Yankees have done a lot of scoring early in games this season, but not so much later in the game. They’ve put 65 runs on the board in innings 1-3 through the first 26 games of the year, but just 79 runs in innings 4+ (including extra innings). Given the team’s modus operandi of “work the starter then go to town on the bullpen,” you’d expect that to be a little more balanced out.

The graph above (which you can click for a larger view) shows two things in relation to each other. The first vertical axis (the blue line with dashed trendline) is the team’s wOBA while the second (the red line with dashed trendline) is the team’s left-on-base percentage, both by inning. I left extra innings out of it because the Yankees just haven’t played many of those, thankfully. The peaks and valleys in the wOBA line have to do with the batting order; the peaks are when Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano are typically at the plate, the valleys are basically everyone else. I’m not sure why it drops off so much in the 8th and 9th innings, but a .350-ish wOBA is still well-above average. The Yankees are still producing with the bats in the late innings, there’s no doubt about that.

It makes sense that the LOB% line would be the opposite of the wOBA line, the more offense the team is producing, the fewer runners they’ll strand. So that should be down when the wOBA is up, and vice versa. But at the end of the game, from the sixth inning on, the strand rate has plateaued at more than 80% for some mysterious reason. The league average strand rate is 72.1% and has been right around that number for the last few years, so the Yankees are running into some bad luck here. Stranding runners is not a repeatable skill (unless you have a pitcher with a 1.0 batters faced-to-strikeout ratio), so this is something that should even out as the season progresses. More late inning rallies are the way … at some point.

Miguel Cabrera, Yankee Killer

Bet you'll never guess where that ball landed. (Kathy Willens/AP)

When Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate with a runner on second and two outs in the third inning last night, we all knew he was going to get a hit and drive in the run. Maybe some were in denial, rationalizing that Colon had been money and would retire him. But deep down in our bones we all knew it. That’s just what Miguel does. Since he arrived in the AL for the 2008 season he has the second highest wOBA in the league, .405, just five points behind Kevin Youkilis. It seems like he’s that much better against the Yankees.

Even when Cabrera wasn’t killing the Yankees, he was still killing the Yankees. While he was just 5 for 24 in the 2003 World Series, his one extra base hit put the Yanks in a hole. They had everything set up. Up two games to one, they had Roger Clemens on the mound to set up the Marlins for defeat. But Cabrera hit a two-out, two-run homer that sent the Marlins to an early lead. While the Yanks did come back, they lost in extra innings, and didn’t win a game the rest of the series. While we all remember that game for Alex Gonzalez’s 11th inning homer, it might have been Cabrera’s that turned the series.

Because he played in the NL, Cabrera didn’t get many chances to wreak havoc on the Yankees from 2004 through 2007. The Yanks and Marlins did do battle in 2006, though, and in that series Cabrera went 5 for 10 with a double, a homer, and two walks. No one was sad to see he and the Marlins leave Yankee Stadium that June, but the possibility still hung out there. The Marlins, renown for their cheapness, would find Cabrera’s salary unpalatable at some point. There was a decent chance he would be AL bound.

In fact, there was something of a chance that he would be headed to the Yankees. After the 2007 season it became clear that the Marlins would deal Cabrera during the off-season. For the previous two seasons he had been the Marlins third baseman, and the Yankees suddenly had an opening at the position. Alex Rodriguez had opted out of his contract, and Brian Cashman had been on record saying that the Yankees would not re-sign their superstar. With Wilson Betemit as the only in-house option, the connection to Cabrera was immediate. But the Yankees had bigger problems — pitching problems — and probably weren’t going to meet the Marlins asking price. It’s doubtful that they could have matched Detroit’s package of Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, two of the top prospects in the game.

In the first two years of his Detroit tenure Cabrera caused the Yankees headaches. He went 15 for 46 with a triple, two homers, and three walks, good for a .326/.380/.500 line. Of course, Cabrera hit .308/.373/.542 during that span, so while he nicked a few more singles he didn’t unleash his full fury. That didn’t start until last year, when he went 10 for 27 with three doubles and five homers. That has continued into this year, when he’s gone 8 for 15 with a double and two homers. In his 49 PA against the Yankees during the last two seasons, his total line is .429/.490/1.024. A Yankee killer he has been.

Thankfully, the rest of the Detroit team has taken mercy on the Yankees in the past two years. Without Cabrera they’ve hit .233/.279/.369 in 391 PA against the Yankees. But every time Miguel steps to the plate, it induces fear in my heart. I know that even if he’s not going to get a hit, he’s going to hit it hard somewhere. That fits the bill for a Yankee killer. Welcome to the club, Miguel.