Culver debuts, but Montero is the star of the day

First of all, make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread. Secondly, here’s some notes…

  • Baseball America dubbed Jose Ramirez the system’s big climber (sub. req’d), noting that with “a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a quality changeup, Ramirez has the stuff and the command to breeze through the Class A levels.”
  • Meanwhile, Dellin Betances made his third consecutive appearance on the Prospect Hot Sheet. Brandon Laird gets some love In The Team Photo section.
  • David Adams suffered a setback in his return from an ankle injury, and there’s no timetable for his return. For shame.
  • John-Ford Griffin retired. He was the Yanks’ first round pick in 2001 (23rd overall, $2.2M bonus) before being traded to Oakland in the big Ted Lilly-Jeff Weaver-Jeremy Bonderman trade in 2002, and he eventually reached the bigs with Toronto in 2005. JFG had a monster junior season at Florida State, hitting .450/.542/.797 with 50 BB (23 K), 11 SB, and 19 HR in 65 games.

Triple-A Scranton (9-0 beat down of Rochester)
Justin Christian, LF & Reid Gorecki, CF: both 2 for 5, 1 K – Christian drove in two & scored another … Gorecki went deep, drove in three scored another run
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Rene Rivera, DH: both 0 for 4 – Nunez drew a walk, stole a base & K’ed
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 5, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 1 K – he also threw out the only runner that attempted to steal base
Reegie Corona, 2B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 K
Eric Bruntlett, 3B: 2 for 3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB – after an 0-for-23 start to his Yankee career, he’s four for his last ten
Greg Golson, RF: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K – three for his last 29 (.103)
Romulo Sanchez: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 3-5 GB/FB – 65 of his 99 pitches were strikes … he retired the last 20 men he faced … helluva outing right there
Mark Melancon: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB – six of his 11 pitches were strikes
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 12 of his 17 pitches were strikes (70.6%)

[Read more…]

Game 73: Then & Now

Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello, AP

Yeah yeah yeah. Joe Torre, Don Mattingly, blah blah blah. I know all about that stuff. You know what I like least about this series? Manny frickin’ Ramirez. I just stopped having nightmares about the guy, and even though my therapist thinks I should avoid this series because it might cancel out all the progress I’ve made since he was traded to the NL in mid-2008, I’m going to gut it out anyway. Friggin’ Manny, just can’t get away from that guy.

Here’s the starting nine…

Jeter, SS
Granderson, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Swisher, RF
Gardner, LF
Sabathia, SP

First pitch is scheduled for 10:10pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Open Thread: The RAB Mailbag

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin, AP

We’re going to try something new here, the RAB Mailbag. It’s exactly what you think it is. Send us questions either via email or through the Submit the Tip box under The Montero Watch, and we’ll pick the best and answer them once a week or whatever it ends up being. It’s a trial and error thing, we’ll figure it out as we go. If some questions require a longer, in-depth post, we can certainly do that too.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing the Twins, and there’s another game on MLB Network, but who you see depends on where you live. Clemson and South Carolina play at 9pm ET (on ESPN2) in the College World Series; it’s an elimination game for USC, and if Clemson wins they advance to the finals. UCLA and TCU are finishing up their game (on ESPN2 as well) as we speak. If UCLA wins, they go to the finals. The regular game thread will be up later, so kick it here until then.

Olney: Non-Cliff Lee pieces are a good fit for the Yankees

The trade rumor circuit is starting to pick up the pace, but as much as we might want to see Cliff Lee in pinstripes, Buster Olney says the Yankees just aren’t focusing on him right now. Despite Javy Vazquez‘s early season suckiness and A.J. Burnett‘s more recent suckiness, the Yanks’ starters have still pitched to a 4.22 xFIP this season, the third best mark in the league. Their ERA is even shinier at 3.82. At this point, Lee is nothing more than a luxury. Another bullpen arm and some bench help should be higher up on the priority list.

Link Dump: Yanks-Dodgers, Hughes, Torre

Just a few things to get you by while Mike chats the afternoon away.

More Yanks-Dodgers World Series

As we highlighted yesterday, Matt Bouffard at Fack Youk is running down the Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchups. He continues that today, picking up with the 1953 series. He then continues to 1955, and 1956. All are excellent reads.

Phil Hughes working in favorable counts

Moshe points to a Hardball Times article that breaks down counts into ones that favor the hitter and ones that favor the pitcher. They’re all pretty intuitive, and they pass the numbers test too. While the first pitch remains neutral, pitchers have 0-2, 1-2, 2-2, 0-1, and 1-1, while hitters have 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 2-0, 3-1, and 3-0. It turns out that while Cliff Lee has seen the most favorable counts this year, Phil Hughes comes in right behind him. He’s had the count in his favor in 53.9 percent of his plate appearances. It’s no wonder he’s pitching so well.

Torre moments and the divorce

At SI.com, Bronx Banter’s Cliff Corcoran lists 10 signature Torre moments. The last three are not pretty, I’ll warn you, though the first few make up for them. Meanwhile, over at the four-letter, Buster Olney explains the Yankees’ rift with Torre. It comes down to the book, it seems. The Yankees think he’s a hypocrite. It seems like no reunion is forthcoming, but we know that can change. This front office won’t be in place forever, and chances are when regimes change so will the organizational stance towards Torre. He meant too much to the organization over the years for them to forever snub him.

RAB Live Chat

Possible trade target: David DeJesus

The Yankees boast a .361 OBP and a .355 wOBA as a team, the best and second best marks in baseball, respectively, but they still seem to be one bat short. Part of the problem is the underperforming Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, but Nick Johnson‘s absence (.388 OBP before getting hurt) hurts as well. There have been rumors that the Yanks will look to acquire another hitter before next month’s trade deadline, and that it could be a versatile outfielder. We’ve already looked at a pair of possible bench options in Jeff Keppinger and Ty Wigginton, and now it’s time to look at a potential every day player: David DeJesus.

Photo Credit: Nick Wass, AP

Over the last two seasons, perhaps no player has been linked to the Yankees in speculative rumors more than DeJesus, and I’ve never quite figured out why. He was born in Brooklyn but raised in New Jersey, and I remember him having a pretty big series in the Bronx a few seasons back, but that’s pretty much the only connection I can find. Then again, the Yankees were in need of a young and productive outfielder for quite a few years there, so he made sense.

The 30-year-old DeJesus is enjoying the finest season of his career this year, already racking up 2.3 WAR in the team’s first 73 games (five win pace). His .325/.394/.482 batting line (.383 wOBA) represents career highs across the board and not not by small margins either, though a BABIP 41 points over his established career baseline is certainly helping things out. DeJesus has shown a pretty significant platoon split in his career (.319 wOBA vs. LHP, .358 vs. RHP), though it’s not as pronounced as say, Curtis Granderson‘s. For what it’s worth, ZiPS rest of the projection calls for a .297/.369/.451 batting line (.360 wOBA) the rest of the way, which represents a career year.

Defensively, DeJesus can play all three outfield spots, though he’s at his best in left (+18.9 UZR/150 career) and is basically average in center (-1.2) and right (+0.1). This year is the first time he’s played right on basically an every day basis, though he doesn’t really have the arm strength typically associated with the position. Regardless, he’s no worst than a league average defensive outfielder on a full-time basis.

Baserunning is a different matter, because DeJesus is a shockingly bad basestealer. He’s not Robbie Cano bad, but bad enough. He’s just 18-for-38 in stolen base attempts over the last three years, which is an unacceptable 47.4% success rate. I know some people don’t like the word unacceptable, but I think it absolutely applies in this situation. If you aren’t a good basestealer, you simply stop trying to steal bases. Easy fix, end of story. The good news is that DeJesus is a very good baserunner in all other baserunning situations (moving up on grounders, going first-to-third, etc.), having been worth 8.34 runs above average in those spots since 2008.

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga, AP

As for the cash money, DeJesus is owed about $2.6M the rest of this season, and there’s a $6M option for his services in 2011 with a $500,000 buyout. He’s currently projected to be a Type-B free agent, but he’s very close to Type-A status (exactly one point away) and could conceivably play his way there in the second half. Remember that every dollar the Yankees spend is actually $1.40 because of the luxury tax, so the $3.1M he’s guaranteed becomes a $4.34M expense for the Yanks. If they pick up the option, it becomes more than a $12M expense. Hal Steinbrenner put his foot down with the budget last year, refusing to approve a trade for Mike Cameron because it would have added $5M to the payroll, and so far there hasn’t been any indication that he will budge this year.

The problem with DeJesus isn’t production, far from it. The money is an issue that the brain trust will have to consider, but there’s also the question of where exactly does he fit with the team? The Yankees already boast a tremendously productive starting outfield in Brett Gardner (2.0 WAR), Nick Swisher (2.3), and Granderson (1.4), so it’s not like DeJesus is going to come in and take one of those guys’ job. The designated hitter’s spot is, for all intents and purposes, open for the rest of the year because you can’t count on Johnson a) returning anytime soon, and b) staying healthy when he does return. I suppose a five headed outfield/designated hitter platoon monster of Gardner, Granderson, Swisher, DeJesus, and Marcus Thames could be employed, but when is the last time a team tried something crazy like that and it actually worked?

We still don’t know what the Royals will ask for in exchange their best outfielder, but they’re not going to just give him away given his age, production, and salary. Assuming the option is picked up, Sky Kalkman’s trade value calculator pegs DeJesus’ trade value at $26.5M, which Victor Wang’s research says is basically equivalent to a top hitting prospect, or a top pitching prospect and a lesser prospect. If you want to start piecing together Grade-B and C prospects, you’re talking three players minimum. If Kansas City were to kick in any money in the deal, that’s just more you’d have to surrender in terms of young players.

This post isn’t intended to say whether or not the Yankees should look to go out and acquire DeJesus, I’m just presenting the information and explaining what the situation is. There’s no denying that he’s an above average every day player, but there are very real cost issues – in terms of both money and players – that need to be addressed, plus the entire playing time situation.