(Damon Oppenheimer pic via NoMaas’ PhotoBucket album)
Yankee fans disagree about a lot of things: Melky Cabrera‘s potential, the Johan Santana non-trade, Joe Torre’s dismissal, Brian Cashman‘s body of work, and Phil Hughes‘ fastball are just the tip of the iceberg. However, one thing we can all agree on is that Damon Oppenheimer has done a superb job since taking over as the Yanks’ Vice President of Scouting back in 2005. With the Yanks’ newfound philosophy of shunning overpriced, underachieving and over-the-hill free agents in favor of cheap, young players developed from within, Oppenheimer’s work has received more attention that any of his predecessors, and the man has delivered.
Baseball America recognized his potential way back in 2003 when they called him a “rising star in [the Yankees'] Tampa office,” and ESPN’s Keith Law recently said “[Oppenheimer] is freaking smart, doesn’t get enough credit … definitely among my top 10 GM candidates.” His drafts have already produced two big leaguers in Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, and he’s mixed high ceiling talent (Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Austin Jackson) with high probability talent (JB Cox, Zach McAllister, Colin Curtis) while adding depth (Justin Snyder, Alan Horne, Mitch Hilligoss). A whopping 17 players on my preseason Top 30 Prospects list were drafted during his tenure. It’s a rather impressive resume.
While we focus on players who are with the organization for obvious reasons, what often gets overlooked are the quality players that Oppenheimer has drafted, but was unable to sign. The Yanks are flexing their financial muscle in the draft more and more these days, but there’s plenty of signability guys that they’ve missed out on. Here’s the best of the unsigned, eight talented players that Oppenheimer & Co. have selected, but couldn’t add to the organization. The good stuff starts after the jump.
George Steinbrenner’s Yankees sure have seen their fair share of heir apparents pass through the Front Office. A few weeks after Kat O’Brien checked in on Steve Swindal, Kieran Darcy, the editor of ESPN.com’s Page 2, spent some quality time with Joe Molloy, Jessica Steinbrenner’s ex-husband and one of the key Front Office players behind the signing of Derek Jeter and the construction of the 1990s Yankee Dynasty. For all the young’uns out there who don’t remember Molloy or the folks like me who never realized the impact he had on the organization, Darcy’s piece is a fascinating glimpse at some of the behind-the-scenes history from the most recent great Yankee dynasty. Check it out. · (5) ·
Let’s get this part of the recap out of the way right now: Had Andy Pettitte not blown three leads tonight, Kyle Farnsworth would not have been pitching in a tie game in the eighth inning. Michael Kay can bloviate about Joba Chamberlain all he wants, but starting pitching — good starting pitching — is what wins games. The Yankees didn’t get good starting pitching tonight, and it cost them later on.
That said, the only person surprised by Kyle Farnsworth’s eighth inning meltdown tonight seems to be Joe Girardi who continues to go to Farnsworth in high-leverage situations. Anyone else could see this one coming from a mile way, and when the dust settled and Farnsworth ended with a strong K, Yankee fans just weren’t surprised by the outcome.
This result — another bad performance by the consistently bad Farnsworth — brings me to a conclusion that a few RAB commenters voiced tonight as well: Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland did not handle Joba Chamberlain’s transition out of the bullpen as well as they should have. When Chamberlain moved out of the setup role, we knew that the Yankees would have a little bit of trouble finding someone to fill that role. We knew what we were getting with Kyle Farnsworth, and the idea, I thought, was to try various combinations of pitchers in the eighth innings. It’s not like the Yanks don’t have choice.
First, the Yankees have Edwar Ramirez. The rail-thin righty has thrown exceptionally well this season. In 16 innings spanning 14 Big League performances, Edwar has allowed just one run on 11 hits and six walks while striking out 15. While Ramirez has pitched mostly in low leverage situations — 11 of his 14 appearances have come with the Yanks either up by four or more or down by three or more — his numbers warrant a look in the eighth inning.
Then, we have the inexplicably underused Chris Britton. Of all the Yankee relievers outside of Farnsworth and Hawkins, Britton actually has a track record of MLB success. In 2006, he kept runners off-base and threw to a 3.35 ERA in 53.2 innings. This year, he’s allowed one hit over six innings in three appearances while, oddly enough, walking four and striking out none. He too deserves more high-leverage appearances.
It wouldn’t be too hard to make the case for Jose Veras or Ross Ohlendorf either. But the point remains: The Yankees have to recognize that this is a team in progress right now, and they have to be willing to break the mold. We’ve seen Kyle Farnsworth fail at this job for parts of three seasons now. At what point with Joe Girardi realize that and try some of the other pieces in his pen?
- Not the best day for Derek Jeter again, eh? He made a costly non-error that lead to a few Twins runs and then got thrown out at second late in the game.
- When A-Rod reached first to lead off the ninth, the obvious move was to have him steal as soon as possible. Hideki Matsui hasn’t struck out since May 21; a hit-and-run would have been ideal, and a straight steal would have been fine. I know Kenny Singleton and Michael Kay were talking about how, on the road, you play for the win, but you can’t win until you tie.
- Robinson Cano last walked on May 25. Since then, he’s had 32 plate appearances, and he’s seen 88 pitches. That’s 2.75 pitches per plate appearance, and that is utterly terrible. He’s five for 31 (.161) with a sac fly over that stretch, and I think perhaps a day off — or an order to take a pitch — would not be the worst thing for Cano.
- In Red Sox news, David Ortiz is out at least a month and could need season-ending wrist surgery after damaging some ligaments. As Nick Johnson can tell you, that’s not a good injury. I wonder if the Red Sox would consider this guy to fill in Ortiz’s big shoes. The fit, as Buster Olney would say, is perfect.
Update: Made some alterations to the TJ Rehab Watch. Check it out.
Five Charleston River Dogs were named to the Sally League All-Star team: 2B Justin Snyder, C Jesus Montero, RHP Jason Stephens, RHP Jon Ortiz and … manager Torre Tyson. Congrats all around.
Triple-A Scranton (10-6 win over Rochester) Chad Jennings says Jason Lane is with the team and just had a day off … he had to be in the bigs today, or he could have opted out of his deal and became a free agent
Brett Gardner: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 SB – on base 93 times in 54 games
Alberto Gonzalez: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB
Ben Broussard: for 3, 1 R, 2 BB
Cody Ransom: 3 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Eric Duncan: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB - 9 XBH in his last 10 games
Justin Christian: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 SB
Greg Porter: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K
Chris Stewart: 3 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI – hit a homer off the douchebag that’s married to her
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 7 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 5-10 GB/FB, 1 WP – 66 of 92 pitches were strikes (71.7%)
Scott Strickland: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 WP
The .500 refrain is getting old. Let’s just start a winning streak and break this stranglehold on that .500 plateau. The Yanks are 28-28 on the season and 3-3 on their current mini-road trip. They face Roy Halladay tomorrow, and a win today would be fantastic.
Other than that now-daily refrain, there’s not much to say. Andy Pettitte, coming off a strong start, faces Livan Hernandez who’s been better than expected for the Twins this year. Livan faced the Yanks last year and got lit up. A repeat of that performance would be great.
Expect a lot of roster moves this week and a win tonight. I hope. Game starts at 7 p.m. Apparently, the Twins can’t start two consecutive games at the same time.
Mariano River just pulled down AL Player of the Week honors, and I’m beginning to wonder if this is The Year for Rivera. During his career, Rivera has finished in the top three in the Cy Young voting four times. In 2005, he came in second. But this year, his numbers are other-worldly. Through the first two months of the year, Rivera has thrown 25 innings and has given up 11 hits and two walks. He’s allowed one run and struck out 24. His ERA is 0.36, and he’s converted 15 of 15 save opportunities. Sure, it’s early in the season, but it’s tough to find a better AL pitcher right now. · (28) ·
Considering his site is the most comprehensive college baseball site on the planet, it only made sense to ask Brian to answer some draft related questions about some of the best collegiate players. He was kind enough to do it last year, and even kinder to do it this year considering I fed him endless “dude, I’ve been really busy, I’ll email you the questions next week” lines the past few weeks.
Make sure you head on over Brian’s site to keep up with all the NCAA postseason action. There’s already been some big upsets and surprising developments, and there’s bound to be more in the coming weeks.
Okay, I’ll shut up now.
There isn’t a clear top talent in this draft class, instead there’s a collection of players that have distinguished themselves as the best of the mediocre. Which of Pedro Alvarez (3B, Vanderbilt), Buster Posey (C, Florida State), Aaron Crow (RHP, Missouri) and Brian Matusz (LHP, San Diego) do you like best, and why?
I think the CAN’T miss player of out that bunch is Buster Posey but he will never be a perennial All-Star. Pedro Alvarez needs to find a solid position at the next level as he struggles in the field. Crow has a hitch in his motion which might cause some injury issues in the coming years; the kid can throw over 95 MPH but needs to get coached on his motion. Matusz just doesn’t dominate the game with his fastball, which scares me as he lives off his breaking ball and changeup.
Just wanted to mention that I was on Drunk Jays Fans’ most recent podast, filling in the “Blogger’s Spotlight” segment. The segment starts at about the 30 minute mark, so listen in as I try to get a work in edgewise with those three drunken hosers, covering topics such as: how we came up with name River Ave. Blues, whether or not the Yanks have another comeback in them, and my general hatred towards fans with a sense of entitlement. · (10) ·
Good ol’ MLBTR points us to another Tony E. Renck-generated non-rumor: “Keep an eye,” Renck writes, “on the Yankees’ interest in Brian Fuentes.” The Yanks have long been interested in Fuentes, and Tim at MLBTR speculates that the Yanks could pursue Fuentes to fill in the role vacated by Joba Chamberlain. If not Fuentes, then perhaps the Yanks will revisit Damaso Marte whom the Yanks once traded for Enrique Wilson. · (67) ·
Yankee fans witnessed a rare occurrence yesterday afternoon when Number 47 ambled out of the bullpen to throw the last two innings of a seemingly lost cause. For Chris Britton, it was just his third (!) appearance of this season, and it became increasingly clear that, for whatever reason, Britton is the very last man out of the pen. He didn’t pitch in Saturday’s extra-inning affair, and Scott Patterson got to make his Major League debut in a three-run game before Britton was called upon to pitch. At the end of last week, we learned that Yanks GM Brian Cashman doesn’t understand the Yanks’ manager’s reluctance in using Britton (second item). One day, perhaps, we’ll understand the origins of Britton-gate. · (48) ·