A reader has a pair of tickets available for Wednesday night’s A.J. Burnett-Kyle Kendrick matchup. The seats are located in Section 136, Row 17, which is the section right next to the opponent’s bullpen and in front of the bleachers. Face value is $85 each, so $170 for the pair. Email me if interested, and I’ll put you in contact with the seller.
Now that the actual draft is over, all of our attention turns to the August 16th signing deadline (the 15th falls on a Sunday this year, so the league pushed the deadline back a day). As we already know, the Yankees selected several “signability” types in the later rounds of the draft, players that fell not because of talent, but because their willingness to sign came into question. The team drafted some of these players with every intention of paying of them, others were chosen as backup plays should the higher picks reverse course and decide not to sign, Gerrit Cole style.
It’s hard to say which of these players are the most important signs, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway. I’m leaving first rounder Cito Culver and second rounder Angelo Gumbs out for three reasons. One, and probably most importantly, they’re not big overslot guys. Two, I assume the Yanks have the intention of paying them if they were willing to use such I high draft pick on them. Three, those picks are protected, so if even if they don’t sign, the Yanks will receive the same pick plus one next year. Granted, the player now is worth more than the pick next year, but at least there’s some kind of fallback option.
Teams typically sign 30-35 of the 50 or so players they draft each year, so it’s inevitable that some talent will walk away. Knowing which ones to let what is what’s important. You’re inevitably going to disagree with me on this list, and I encourage that. I’ve never tried to do anything like this, and frankly rating players based on how important it is to sign them is a bit … odd. On to the list…
1. Kevin Jordan, OF, 19th round
Perhaps the best prospect the Yankees drafted this year, Jordan is a special athlete with good bloodlines and the raw tools to be an above average player on both sides of the ball. He fell in the draft for a few reasons, but mostly because he battled a flu-like illness in the spring that cost him some weight off his already lanky 6-foot-0, 190 lb. frame and prevented him from played at 100% in front of scouts. Jordan has a strong commitment to Wake Forest, where he’d play centerfield every day as a freshman.
It may not been a matter of simple money here, because Jordan’s father Brian had a long and productive big league career that netted him more than $51M in earnings (according to B-Ref). The Yanks are not only going to have to pay him handsomely, but also sell him on the idea of being a Yankee. Not always as easy as it sounds.
2. Tayler Morton, RHP, 9th round
The Yankees shoot for the moon with high upside athletes in this draft, but they also backed that strategy up by grabbing power arms in the later rounds. Morton has a big and projectable frame at 6-foot-3, 190 lbs., and he’s already shown flashes of sitting at 93-95 mph with his fastball in the past. He also throws a very good changeup and a developing curveball, so the tools are there for him to become a big league starter. Committed to Tennessee, there’s a chance Morton could instead opt for the JuCo ranks and re-enter the draft next year after dominating the circuit.
3. Rob Segedin, 3B/OF, 3rd round
One of the very few established college bats the Yankees drafted, Segedin has a low maintainence swing geared for hard contact from the right side. His position is a little up in the air, though he has the tools to stay at the hot corner but may profile better in a corner outfield spot. Segedin’s draft stock dropped because of an old back injury and his added leverage as a draft eligible sophomore. The Yankees lack polished, impact bats in the low minors, so the current Tulane Wave would be a welcome addition to the farm system.
If the Yankees are unable to sign Segedin, they would receive a supplemental third round pick as compensation, which would come between the third and fourth rounds.
4. Gabe Encinas, RHP, 6th round
Like Morton, Encinas is a classic projectable high schooler at 6-foot-4, 190 lbs. with a low-90’s heater, but he has a feel for changing speeds and setting hitters up. His appeal lies in his simple delivery and clean mechanics, plus his polish and advanced feel for his craft. Encinas is committed to Loyola Marymount, which has proven to be a tough school to buy kids away from in the past. He’s better than a sixth round talent, so it would be a nice coup if the Yanks were able to add an arm like Encinas to the system.
5. Mason Williams, OF, 4th round
The Yankees drafted many raw, toolsy athletic types this year, and Williams embodies that demographic. He’s a 6-foot-1, 160 lb. fast-twitch athlete with a sound swing and top of the line defensive abilities in center. Power will never be part of his game, so he’s more of a four-tool guy than a true five-tooler. Williams is committed to South Carolina and is reportedly seeking $2M to skip out on school, which is top ten money. Williams isn’t a top ten talent, but he is a damn good one. The Yankees have overpaid for a fourth rounder before, and I’m sure they’d be willing to do it again if they like the player enough.
My gut feeling is that the Yankees will sign one of Williams or Jordan, but not both.
6. Evan Rutckyj, LHP, 16th round
Big lefthanders are always a hot commodity, especially when they’re young and have started to refine their mechanics and smooth out their delivery. Rutckyj (pronounced root-ski) stands 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 210 lbs., and he already sits in the low-90’s with a fringy breaking ball. He’s a project, no doubt about it, but a project with enormous upside if it all comes together. He recently signed on with St. Petersburg College in Florida, a junior college that will allow him to re-enter the draft in each of the next two years. Reports indicate that Rutckyj is seeking first round money to sign despite being a consensus fourth or so round talent this spring.
7. Martin Viramontes, RHP, 27th round
An all talent, no results pick, Viramontes flashes premium arm strength (peaking at 96 mph) with a power curveball and a split-change hybrid, but he’s inconsistent with his mechanics and often doesn’t achieve the desired result. A Scott Boras client, Viramontes is a little old for a project, but it’s worth a shot with this kind of electric arm.
8. Kevin Jacob, RHP, 18th round
Another Boras client, Jacob is more refined than Viramontes but still has work to do. His delivery is unorthodox but extremely deceptive, as he leans all the way back and nearly touches the ground with the ball before moving his 6-foot-6, 225 lb. body towards the plate. Jacob’s fastball sits in the mid-90’s and has touched 98 in the past, and his slider is a legit put away pitch in the upper-80’s. A college reliever at a big time program in Georgia Tech, he’d fill the same role as a pro and be expected to move quickly.
9. Dan Burawa, RHP, 12th round
Similar to Jacob, Burawa is a power college reliever with unorthodox mechanics. He’s not quite as big at 6-foot-3, 190 lbs., but he’ll sit in the mid-90’s with an average breaking ball and the makings of a changeup. Burawa has a limited track record at St. John’s and teams will always be cautious of a guy with a nontraditional delivery, but different doesn’t always mean bad. Another long-term reliever, Burawa should move quickly.
10. Tommy Kahnle, RHP, 5th round
I feel like I should have just lumped Jacob, Burawa, and Kahnle all together as one player, Jacurawahnle, or something like that. Kahnle is another power armed reliever that sits in the mid-90’s and has flirted with 97, also offering a changeup and a slurvy breaking ball. Command and keeping his big and intimidating 6-foot-0, 220 lb. body in check isn’t always easy, but Kahnle has a track record of chewing up wood bats. He’s at Division II Lynn University, and will be the easiest sign of the four college arms at the back of my list.
One other player to keep in mind is tenth rounder Ben Gamel, the younger brother of Brewers’ prospect Mat Gamel. Like his brother, Ben is all bat, with a pure swing that gets some loft on the ball, but his fringy tools limit his value outside of the batter’s box. If you can hit you can hit, there will always be a place for you somewhere, but the game is rapidly gravitating away from the one-dimensional slugger in favor of player who can contribute more than just offensive. Mat was a good but not great prospect out of high school, but went to college and saw his stock soar. Ben could do the exact same thing in Florida State’s hitter friend park, which might be too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Throughout most of the mid- to late-00s we grew used to the Yankees having mediocre pitching staffs. Some of those staffs had promise — 2007 comes to mind, when we dreamed of a rotation that included Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Phil Hughes. That year, as was the case for all years from 2004 through 2008, the hopes never manifested. Something always went wrong, as we should have expected given the pitchers on the staff. That changed in 2009 with the additions of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The Yankees ranked third in the AL in ERA and fourth in FIP. Finally, a pitching staff we could be proud of.
The rotation seems to be even better this year. The Yanks are still third in ERA (though they are sixth in FIP), but this time it feels different. It feels like that one poor stretch in mid-May has put a dent in the record. Outside that blip, the staff has kept the score close for an offense that has, at times, sputtered. That’s the biggest difference, at least as I can remember, between this year and last. The staff seems a bit more dominant, and I think that will really show up in the numbers once we get closer to season’s end.
The last two turns through the rotation have put this on display. The Yankees are 7-3 in that stretch and the rotation, outside a couple of iffy starts from A.J. Burnett, has been stellar. One particular aspect I noticed these times around: the offense and the starters have kept the high-leverage situations away from the middle relievers. In fact, during this stretch only Joba, Mo, and the starter has faced a Leverage Index of above 2.00 — in regulation, that is. That’s not good bullpen management. That’s the starter pitching deep into games and the offense keeping the pressure off.
6/3 vs. Baltimore: CC Sabathia – 7 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
The Leverage Index got above 2.00 just twice. Both came in the ninth inning when Mo allowed the first two batters to reach safely. The Orioles then got three chances with the tying run at the plate, but couldn’t bring anyone home.
Credit this one to the offense, which scored five runs by the third. Combined with a solid effort from Sabathia, the Yanks never let this turn into a high-leverage affair.
6/4 @ Toronto: A.J. Burnett – 6 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 2 K
Burnett got off to a poor start, surrendering a pair of homers to Jose Bautista and one to Edwin Encarnacion. The Jays were up 3-0 in the fourth and 4-0 in the fifth, so we didn’t see many high leverage situations. The only one above 2.00 came during A-Rod‘s at-bat in the fourth. The Jays were up only 1-0, and the Yanks had first and second with none out. A-Rod grounded into a double play, which was the illustrative moment of this game.
6/5 @ Toronto: Andy Pettitte – 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 10 K
Andy was great, the offense was not. They somehow gave him a 2-1 lead, but he allowed a home run late which put the game into extra innings. That meant there were plenty of high-leverage situations. This is the only time during this stretch in which a middle reliever pitched in a high leverage situation. During regulation, however, the only pitchers who faced situations with a LI over 2.00 were Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain. Chan Ho Park faced the highest leverage situation overall. That came in the 13th, when the Jays had runners on first and second with two outs. He got John Buck to ground out to shortstop.
6/6 @ Toronto: Javy Vazquez – 7 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 9 K
As we knew he could do, Javy carved up the Jays’ heavy swinging offense, using a mix of breaking and off-speed pitches to keep them from turning on an inside fastball. The game was close, thanks to another poor offensive performance, so we saw a few LI situations above 2.00. The only Yankees pitchers to face these situations were Joba and Mo. Joba allowed the only run there, but on the next hitter he induced a double play. That brought the LI down to 1.27, which made Tony Pena’s decision to go with Damaso Marte over Mo a bit more justifiable.
6/8 @ Baltimore: Phil Hughes – 6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Hughes had a bit of trouble facing the Orioles for the third time this season, though it came mostly on dinks and dunks that found holes. The Yanks offense came alive for this one, scoring 12 runs. There were only two situations where the LI rose above 2.00. The first came in the second inning, when the Orioles were down 2-0 but had runners on first and second with one out. Phil Hughes induced an inning-ending double play. All those singles came when there wasn’t much at stake. The zero walks was also encouraging.
The other? That came in the third, when Curtis Granderson came up with the bases loaded and two outs. That situation ended just a bit differently than Hughes’s just a half inning before.
6/9 @ Baltimore: CC Sabathia – 7 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
Once again the Orioles got hits, but they didn’t hit for many extra bases and they didn’t bring around many to score. The offense wasn’t quite as good in this one, scoring just four runs, which means a few higher leverage situations. Sabathia himself faced five batters with the LI above 2.00, but he allowed no runs in those situations. In the highest leverage situation, when the Orioles had bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Sabathia delivered by striking out Luke Scott. Joba and Mo each faced LI situations above 2.00 as well.
6/10 @ Baltimore: A.J. Burnett – 6.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
A decent but not great, or even really good, start by A.J. Burnett, in which he was wild early, settled down, but couldn’t finish the job in the seventh. He faced just one situation with the LI over 2.00, and that came in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled to put the O’s ahead.
Orioles pitchers faced nine situations with the LI above 2.00 and three with it above 3.00. They recorded seven outs and two walks, one intentional.
6/11 vs. Houston: Andy Pettitte – 7.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
It is unbelievable how good Pettitte has been this year. The Yanks needed him in this one, as the offense scored just four runs. He faced two situations with the LI above 2.00 and pretty much succeeded both times. With a runner on first and no outs in the eighth he induced a double play ball that Derek Jeter botched. The next hitter, Michael Bourn, sacrificed, which Pettitte couldn’t do much about. Joba came in and faced two high leverage situations, above 3.00, and recorded outs in both. Mo also faced two high leverage situations in the ninth, retiring the hitter both times.
6/12 vs. Houston: Javy Vazquez – 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
Other than a couple of home runs, both solo shots, this was an excellent outing for Javy. He’s really come around lately. He pitched so well, and the offense picked up so many runs so early, that there were no situations where the LI crept above 2.00. There was one situation where it hit 1.99. Jorge Posada, however, is a high-leverage kinda guy.
6/13 vs. Houston: Phil Hughes – 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Maybe he tired down the stretch — he was over the 100 pitch mark and he’s been at or above that for plenty of starts this season. Remember, too, that in 2006 Hughes rarely pitched more than five innings, and he didn’t throw too many innings in any of the following years. So fatigue is a concern. That’s a topic for another post, though.
Hughes faced two situations where the LI got above 2.00, and he recorded outs in both, a strikeout and a fielder’s choice groundout. Again, score this one for the offense, which scored enough runs to cover for almost anything, including Hughes’s sixth-inning meltdown.
Record Last Week: 5-1 (41 RS, 24 RA)
Season Record: 40-23 (355 RS, 252 RA, 42-21 Pythag. record), tied for first in AL East
Schedule This Week: Monday OFF, vs. Phillies (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Mets (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The week started with an date followed by a date with the last place Orioles, and the bats overcame an uncharacteristically shaky outing from Phil Hughes to take the opener. Robbie Cano led the way in a come from behind win on Wednesday, but unfortunately they weren’t able to complete the sweep the next day.
- The Yanks returned home to kick off the second leg of interleague play on Friday, and Andy Pettitte kicked off the series with a win against his old team. Jorge Posada‘s grand slam and 250th career homer clinched the series win on Saturday, but he decided to follow that up with another salami to clinch the sweep.
- Injury Zone: Brett Gardner‘s thumb is sore and he’s day-to-day. Alex Rodriguez left Thursday’s game with a stiff groin and isn’t expected to be back in the lineup before Tuesday. Marcus Thames hit the disabled list on Saturday with a sprained hamstring, and was replaced on the roster by Chad Huffman. Al Aceves threw off flat ground for the first time since hurting his back.
- The Yanks selected high school shortstop Cito Culver with their first round pick in Monday’s draft. They aimed for high upside athletes and arm strength this year, and new prospects bring new excitement.
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.
Following a down stretch in May, everyone associated with the team was looking forward to this 16-game stretch that just ended today. All but three of those 16 games were played against teams with sub-.500 records, and the Yanks capitalized by going 12-4. They started that stretch with a 4.5 game deficit in the AL East, and ended it Sunday tied for first with the Rays. Sweeping the Astros was merely the second best part of the win.
Ain’t Life Grand?
Prior to yesterday’s game, Jorge Posada had just four singles in 37 plate appearances since returning from the disabled list, but Wandy Rodriguez was able to cure what ailed him. He reached base three times in four plate appearances, including a 3rd inning grand slam that seemed to lift the weight of Posada’s struggles off everyone’s shoulders. Starting behind the plate for the first time in just about a month, Posada put on an encore performance every bit as grand as the day before.
The Yankees had already staked themselves to a two run lead with a Robbie Cano solo shot and a Ramiro Pena (Ramiro Pena!) two run single in the 4th, erasing Carlos Lee’s 1st inning sac fly that temporarily gave the Astros the lead. Houston starter Brian Moehler looked very much deserving of the 6.12 ERA he started the day with, walking the second batter of the 5th inning before giving way to Gustavo Chacin, who walked two more guys to load the bases. Posada stepped to the plate with a chance to break things open, and new pitcher Casey Daigle promptly started him off with two straight balls.
It’s easy to see why the Astros have the third worst record and run differential in baseball; their pitchers just keep working themselves into trouble. After putting nine men on base via a walk or hit by pitch in the first two games of the series, Houston’s pitchers walked ten Yankees on Sunday and hit another, and that doesn’t include the non-call on Mark Teixeira‘s hit by pitch in the 1st inning. When you give anyone – but especially good teams – free baserunners, you’re going to lose. End of story.
Daigle’s third pitch to Posada was an absolute meatball, an 87 mph fastball right out over the plate in a 2-0 count. It was such a terrible pitch, I decided to screen cap it:
They might as well have put the ball on a tee. Daigle had last appeared in the big leagues back in 2006 before the Astros summoned him from the minors a few weeks ago, and it’s no surprise why. It was a terrible pitch in a terrible location to a great hitter in a terrible situation. Posada put the ball into the people for his second salami in as many days, making him just the third player in franchise history to hit four run homers in back-to-back games. Babe Ruth did it twice, Bill Dickey once. It’s been that long.
A single or even another walk would have sufficed, but a grand slam is always appreciated. It put the Yankees up by six, and showed everyone that the demise of Jorge Posada has been greatly exaggerated. He again reached base three times in four plate appearances today, and his season batting line is an amazing .288-.395-.544.
Hughes Can’t Finish The 6th
With a steady rain coming down, Phil Hughes stood on the mound with two outs in the 6th with a man on first and his pitch count at a very manageable 92. Geoff Blum, he of the 56 OPS+, represented the final out of the frame, but Hughes fell behind in the count before Blum doubled to center. He had battled back to even the count at 2-2, but the Astros’ first baseman (of the day) spoiled a 92 mph high fastball before picking up the hit. Granderson dove for the ball and made a valiant effort, but it was just off the end of his glove and the inning continued.
That’s okay, the ground was wet and Granderson probably catches that standing up in friendlier conditions. It happens. The next batter was shortstop Tommy Manzella and his 47 OPS+, so Hughes was hardly in trouble. Manzella managed to foul off five fastballs as part of a ten pitch at-bat before slapping a ground ball off Derek Jeter‘s glove in the 5.5 hole for a single. Two runs came across to score, cutting the lead to a still comfortable four.
Former Yankee Kevin Cash, another guy with a terrible OPS+ (39) was up next, and he jumped all over a hanging 0-1 cutter and sent it into the leftfield corner for a two run homer to bring the Astros into two. Three below average hitters, each progressively worse than the guy before him, but Hughes couldn’t get any of them out and for all intents and purposes let Houston back in the game. Yes, the homer was the only ball more well-struck than well-placed, but it’s shouldn’t take ten pitches to put away guys Tommy Manzella.
Hughes threw just 18 curveballs today, only seven for strikes, so it’s clear the pitch wasn’t cooperating. If he manages to put either Blum or Manzella away, we’re talking about a stellar 6 IP, 1 R outing as opposed to a mediocre 5.2 IP, 5 R outing, but such is the life of a young starter. The Yanks’ phenom has now allowed 40 baserunners and 20 runs (4.95 ERA) in his last six starts (36.1 IP), with four of those starts coming against sub-.500 teams.
Phil Hughes probably wasn’t going to maintain a sub-3.00 ERA in the AL East all season, we understand that, but he’s noticeably had trouble putting guys away lately. The season is old enough for the book to get out, and throwing fastballs and cutters 85% of the time doesn’t seem to be as effective as it was a month or so ago.
Big ups to Chad Huffman (right) on many career firsts. With his family in the stands, he recorded his first hit (a pure hustle infield single after working the count from 0-2 to 3-2), his first walk (again with the count full), and his first strikeout (but he reached when the ball got away from the catcher) in his first start in his first game. Huffman saw 23 pitches on the day, more than Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, or Nick Swisher. Congrats, yo.
Cano’s homer was the 100th of his career, but I’m more impressed by his two walks. They were his 18th and 19th free passes this year, putting him on pace for 49. His career high is 39 (back in 2007), and last year he drew just 30 walks. Maturation is a wonderful thing.
How about Ramiro Pena’s bases loaded, two out single? It’s a line drive in the box score, but it was simply a well-placed blooper between the charging rightfielder and the retreating second baseman. The kid is now six-for-nine with the bases juiced in his career, and if you’ve learned anything from this site, it’s that there’s no such thing as too small a sample size (I may or may not be kidding).
Home plate ump Ted Barrett was simply atrocious in this game. First there was Teixeira’s hit by pitch non-call in the first, then there was this sorry excuse for a strike zone. Swisher struck out on pitches in the other batter’s box twice. Robots, people. Robots.
Tex committed his first error of the season on a hard hit ground ball by Michael Bourn, and his first since last October. It was a play we’ve seen Tex make literally hundreds of times, but I thought he rushed it a bit, perhaps trying to turn two with the speedy Bourn running.
Damaso Marte struck out the only batter he faced to end the 6th. Bet you didn’t know that since April 25th, Marte’s allowed a grand total of two singles and two doubles. Six total bases allowed in the last 49 days. Six.
Remember when it looked like Mariano Rivera was toast last month? Me neither.
WPA Graph & Box Score
The first place Yankees will enjoy a scheduled off day tomorrow before welcoming the team they beat in the 2009 World Series to the Bronx for a three game set starting Tuesday. The Phillies are sending Roy Halladay to the mound (just can’t get away from that guy, huh?), the Yanks CC Sabathia. That should be a blast.
Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Indianapolis)
Reid Gorecki, RF: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K – threw a runner out at third
Colin Curtis, DH: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K – still just five for his last 37 (.135)
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 3 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 SB – eight for his last 15 (.533)
Juan Miranda, 1B: 2 for 4
Jorge Vazquez, 3B: 0 for 3, 1 RBI - drove in a run with a GIDP in his first Triple-A at-bat
Jesus Montero, C, David Winfree, LF & Reegie Corona, 2B: all 0 for 3, 1 K – Winfree threw a runner out at first
Greg Golson, CF: 0 for 3, 2 K
Tim Redding: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 5-7 GB/FB – 59 of his 92 pitches were strikes (64.1%)
Royce Ring: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HB – 12 of his 18 pitches were strikes
Mark Melancon: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-1 GB/FB – just eight of his 15 pitches were strikes (53.3%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB - all six pitches he threw were strikes
I don’t think we’ve ever seen Mark Teixeira get as fired up as he did during the first inning today, on that hit by pitch non-call in the 1st. It doesn’t matter though, because the Yankees won the game and wrapped up a stretch of 16 games in which they went 12-4. That’s exactly what they had to do, and because the Rays lost to the Marlins, the Yanks are now tied for first in the AL East. Good times.
Here’s your open thread for the evening. The White Sox take on the Cubs in the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Gavin Floyd vs. Ted Lilly), and you’ve also got Game Five of NBA Finals as well. That series is tied at two. Chat about whatever you want here, just be cool.