2010 Draft: Rumored Targets

Now that we’re less than two weeks away from the draft (the Yanks will be represented by Roy White and Gene Michael), we’ve started to see some scattered reports about players the Yankees are scouting heavily. This far into the game, that indicates strong interest on the team’s part. Sometimes these reports are just a small comment at the bottom of a notebook or a stray tweet somewhere, but the info’s out there, and I try to get as much of it up here as possible.

Here’s a little more information on a few players the Yanks have been linked to recently, plus two more that I included because they have a very real chance of dropping into the Yanks’ lap.

Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Henderson HS (Texas) (video)

Photo Credit: Hughes Ellis, Henderson Daily News

The Yankees have been in on Jenkins for quite some time according to Keith Law, and he certainly fits the Damon Oppenheimer mold as a supreme athlete with tremendous upside. With a live arm and a fluid delivery, he pumps fastballs in the 91-93 mph range and has touched 95. There’s lots of room to fill out in his 6-foot-4, 180 lb. frame, so he should add velocity. Jenkins has also flashed the ability to spin two kinds of breaking balls as well as maintain arm speed on his changeup, but he’s inexperienced on the mound and it’s all a work in progress.

A four sport star at Henderson (baseball, football, basketball, track), Jenkins is also Baylor’s top quarterback recruit in addition to being a legitimate first round talent. That commitment is going to land him an above-slot bonus, though he’s considered signable. Jenkins is both a very raw and very risky player, but the upside is considerable. There’s no such thing a a high ceiling, high probability player at the back of the first round, those guys go in the top five. He’d be a fantastic selection at #32 overall; the Yankees don’t have anyone like him in the system at all.

Photo Credit: University of Michigan

Ryan LaMarre, CF, Michigan (video)

Another superathlete with tools to spare, the Yanks have shown some interest in LaMarre in recent weeks according to KLaw, however it’s possible that they’re looking at him for their second round pick. The 6-foot-2, 205 pounder has top of the line speed and is a legit long-term asset in centerfield with very good defense, and he’s shown enough bat speed to project decent pop down the road. LaMarre has displayed a patient approach in the past, but it’s completely deteriorated this season – just three walks in 134 PA.

For a college player, LaMarre has some questions to answer with the bat, particularly his poor track record with wood. He also hasn’t faced the best competition playing in the Big Ten, so he’s a risky player. To his credit, LaMarre hasĀ  outstanding work ethic and plays with an all-out style, so effort won’t be an issue. There’s just too many question marks to draft him in the first round, in my completely amateur opinion.

Zach Lee, RHP, McKinney HS (Texas) (video)

Photo Credit: USA Youth National Team

There haven’t been any reports of the Yankees scouting and/or having interest in Lee, but he’s considering one of the draft class’ toughest signs. It’s only a matter of time before the two parties find themselves connected at some point, regardless of the team’s actual level of interest. Lee is an elite quarterback prospect with NFL potential that’s committed to a major program in LSU, so someone’s going to have to back up the Brinks’ truck to sign him.

On the mound, the 6-foot-4, 195 pounder sits in the low-90’s right now, but certainly has room to add more. His power slider is a true out pitch, and his changeup is good for a high schooler, but still below average overall. As you can imagine, Lee is an elite athlete, and it allows him to repeat a simple delivery. His stuff plays up because he has great pitching acumen and polish, very rare for a teenager who splits his time between two sports.

Rumors swirl about a bonus demand in excess of $3M, but those are unconfirmed. In terms of talent, Lee would be a great selection at #32, but it’s entirely possible that he falls all the way into the double digit rounds. Whoever drafts him will have to have done their homework on what it’s going to take to sign him. The Yanks can ill afford another Gerrit Cole incident.

Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU (video)

The Yanks have been on Ranaudo for much of the spring according to Frankie Piliere, and it only makes sense since he’s a top talent likely to fall. The 6-foot-7, 230 lb. righthander started the year as the number two talent behind Bryce Harper, but a sore elbow cost him a month of the season and he simply hasn’t been the same since. It’s the second elbow problem of his collegiate career, so there’s a bit of a history here.

At his best, Ranaudo offers a 92-93 mph fastball with a very good changeup-curveball combo and very good command. Since the injury he’s sat around 90 and his offspeed pitches have flattened out as he seemingly lost his delivery. Perhaps he’s just scared of turning it loose following the injury. There’s not enough time for him to rebuild his stock, and when you factor in that he’s a Scott Boras client, well you have a recipe for falling. Even before the injury, Ranaudo’s ultimate ceiling wasn’t a frontline starter, but a high probability rock solid workhorse because of his lack of a true out pitch. At least Andrew Brackman had shown ace stuff prior to being drafted. There’s better ways to use a first round pick, but once you get past that, he’s makes a bit more sense.

Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, The Citadel (video)

Photo Credit: Southern Conference

The Yankees are sending the head honchos to scout the 6-foot-4, 230 lb. Wojciechowski at the Southern Conference Tournament today, so their interest is sincere. His fastball is electric at 93-94 mph, topping out at 96 consistently. His slurvy breaking ball is hard on righties, but he still needs to further develop his changeup to battle lefties. Wojciechowski’s build screams workhorse, and at worst his fastball will allow him to fall back on being a power late-game reliever.

College righthanders who won’t command huge over-slot bonuses come off the board early, so if Wojciechowski falls to the Yanks at #32 overall, it would be a pretty considerable coup. Just for comparison’s sake, Chad Jenkins is a very similar prospect (a little less fastball), and he went 20th overall to the Blue Jays last year. He’d really have to lay an egg in his next two starts to get to the Yanks.

In case you’re wondering, The Citadel has no post-graduation military obligation, so Wojciechowski is in the clear there.

Yankees bring back Chad Gaudin

Via Mark Feinsand, the Yankees have signed Chad Gaudin for bullpen depth, and he’s expected to be added to roster in time for tonight’s game. The Yanks released him at the end of Spring Training in favor of Sergio Mitre, a move that was greatly ridiculed around these parts. They only had to pay Gaudin $737,000 of termination pay (rather than his full $2.95M salary), and now they only have to pay him the pro-rated minimum from here on out since Oakland is on the hook for his 2010 contract after designating him for assignment. Gaudin posted an 8.83 ERA (but a 3.92 xFIP) in 17.1 IP for the A’s.

Feinsand mentions that Gaudin is being brought back to serve as the long man, so it’s possible that Mitre will be moved into a more leverage relief role, which Joe advocated yesterday. Both a 40-man and 25-man roster move are needed to accommodate his return. Bye bye Boone Logan?

Burnett adjusts with the curveball

Photo credit: Andy King/AP

In his rain-shortened start last night, A.J. Burnett threw 75 pitches. He ran into trouble a couple of times, thanks to three hits and two walks, but each time was able to work out of it without incurring any damage. The only thing that came close was Justin Morneau’s warning track shot, which I thought was long gone when it leapt off the bat. At the end of five the game remained scoreless.

Burnett’s night came to a premature end after those five innings, thanks to the first rain delay, and first game suspension, the Twins have endured at their new stadium. The book is all but closed on him, with only the possibility of a win still looming. Given his limited exposure in the game — he probably could have pitched into the seventh once again — it’s tough not to like what we saw from Burnett. He had troubles at times, but where last year he would have let the game get way from him, this time he kept things under control.

One thing that leaps out last night is that he threw his curveball 23 times out of 75 pitches. Burnett has cut back on the curve this year, throwing it just 23.5 percent of the time. It doesn’t appear that his decreased curve usage has been an anomaly in a short sample. Even he has admitted several times this season that he’s just not feeling the curveball. His increased use of a two-seam fastball has led to higher groundball rates, a positive, but as David Golebiewski of FanGraphs notes, it has been a detriment to his strikeout rate.

It was clear in the first inning last night that Burnett did not have a good feel for his curve. He missed badly with it a couple of times, and didn’t hit the strike zone with the five he threw in the first. He went back to it a few times later, only to find similar results. The nasty curve on which Burnett has made his reputation would not help him very much. Yet, as I mentioned above, he didn’t abandon it completely. Instead it appeared he took a bit off it, using it more as an off-speed pitch than a breaking pitch. It worked fairly well, generating three swinging strikeouts and another called one.

If Burnett can continue to adjust in-game when his best curveball isn’t working, he might be able to avoid the meltdowns with which we became familiar last year. It’s pretty clear that he’s not comfortable throwing his changeup — he did only once last night, and that was on the ball I thought Morneau had hit into the St. Croix river. If he can keep batters off-balance with that pitch and induce grounders with his two-seamer (eight of the 12 balls in play were on the ground), he can be and effective pitcher even when he’s not feeling his best. He demonstrated that last night, and he has put the Yankees in an excellent position to pick up a win.

The problems with a popularity contest that counts

Every year since I started blogging about baseball in 2004, I’ve taken up the topic of the stupidity of the All Star Game. I have no problem with the game itself, and when I had the opportunity to attend the 15-inning affair at Yankee Stadium in 2008, I had a blast. But no matter how thrilling that Mid-Summer Classic was, I can’t get past the fact that the All Star Game counts for something.

To recap, the problem arose in 2002 when the AL and NL both ran out of pitchers after 11 innings with the score still tied at 7. Because there are no ties in baseball, Bud Selig came off looking the fool when he announced that the game would end without a victor. Heaven forbid a glorified exhibition game end with no winner. To combat this problem, Selig announced that the All Star Game, of all things, would determine home-field advantage in the World Series. A pre-season coin toss would be just as arbitrary.

With the decision to make the All Star game count quickly becoming an engrained part of this July affair, MLB hasn’t addressed the problems with the way the teams are selected. The fans — those who drive ratings and the game’s success — still choose who gets to start, but they aren’t very good at it. Instead of picking the best players at each position, the fans just vote for the most popular, and the leagues aren’t represented, at least at first, by the real All Stars.

This year’s voting is no exception and, in fact, serves to highlight the problem. Let’s take first base in the AL. When MLB unveiled the early voting results, the lead vote-getter at first base was Mark Teixeira. I don’t know many Yankee fans who think number 25 is off to an All Star start. On the season, Teixeira is hitting .209/.327/.378 with 7 home runs, 30 RBIs and 37 strike outs. At this pace, he’ll strike out a career-high 133 times. The AL WAR leaderboard shows seven first basemen better than Teixeira, and Justin Morneau, the AL’s top first baseman, has received nearly 140,000 fewer votes than Teixeira.

At short stop, the same absurdity repeats itself. Derek Jeter — .276/.320/.396 with declining defensive numbers — leads the entire American League in votes. The WAR leader at short in the junior circuit is Elvis Andrus, and he has received 400,000 fewer votes than DJ.

Around the horn, the voting makes more or less sense. Robinson Cano should be leading at second base, and few will question Joe Mauer or Evan Longoria as All Stars at their respective positions. Of the Ichiro-Nelson Cruz-Carl Crawford outfield trio, only Crawford truly deserves to be there, but Cruz and Ichiro ain’t chopped liver.

On a personal level, I’d love to see Jeter and Teixeira start the All Star Game (and I’d love it even more as a Yankee fan if they could put up numbers to deserve it). But as a supporter of a team that has a legitimate shot at playing in the World Series and one who understands the benefits of home field advantage, I’d rather see the best players at their positions earn that Mid-Summer Classic starting berth.

The All Star Game should count or it should be a popularity contest. As long as it remains parts of both, the voting system will be as flawed as Bud Selig’s misguided concept. This time, it counts, and yet, it shouldn’t.

Yanks & Twins suspended due to rain

Photo Credit: Andy King, AP

For the first time in who knows how long, a Minnesota Twins home game was delayed by rain. That delay turned into a suspended game after the Yanks and Twins played through about four innings of steady downpour. It was just too much by time the 6th inning rolled around, so the umpires called for the tarp. The rain just never let up.

Early on, it looked like the Yankees were stuck with the bad version of A.J. Burnett. He put two men on base in both the 1st and 2nd innings, but managed to escape unscathed thanks to some well placed ground balls. Burnett settled down very nicely after that, retiring nine of the final ten batters he faced with a well-placed bunt single by Denard Span representing the only blemish. He threw just 75 pitches in five innings work, getting seven ground outs to just two fly outs, and he gave the team exactly what they having been getting of late.

As for the offense, well it still looked pretty stagnant. Brett Gardner slapped a single in the 1st only to be erased on Mark Teixeira‘s double play ball two pitches later. Alex Rodriguez led off the 2nd with a single, but was taken off the basepaths when Robbie Cano grounded into a double play immediately after he reached. After a Derek Jeter single and a four pitch walk to Gardner to kick off the 4th, Teixeira swung at the first pitch (first damn pitch!) and popped out to foul territory. A-Rod stuck out on a pitch at his eyes, and Cano flied out harmlessly to center to end the threat.

It truly was a microcosm of the last week for the Yankees. They had opportunities to make something happen, but just didn’t capitalize. They’re stuck in some kind of rut and it’s the ugliest, most frustrating brand of baseball I can imagine. Scott Baker threw just 50 pitches in his five innings of work because 11 of the 17 men he faced saw no more than three pitches in their at-bat. The Yankees don’t roll like that. They’re supposed to work the count and grind away at-bats, not give in on pitcher’s pitches. Until they get back to doing that, they’re going to continue to be inept offensively.

The game will be resumed tomorrow after at 5:05pm ET, and my guess is that Sergio Mitre will be on the bump unless the Yanks open up a lead in the top half of the 6th. The regularly scheduled game will then start at 7:10pm ET, or a 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game, whichever comes later. Nothing like using the bullpen twice in one day.

Tampa has no answer for Furbush

In what could easily be the final minor league start of his career, Stephen Strasburg will face the SWB Yanks this Saturday. Let’s all hope that Jesus Montero does something amazing that day.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 loss to Louisville)
Greg Golson, LF-CF: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K
Curtis Granderson, CF: 0 for 3, 1 K – played seven innings in the field by design …. the plan is to have him take tomorrow off, play Thursday, then rejoin the big league team on Friday
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4 – threw out two of three baserunners
Jon Weber, DH & Reegie Corona, 2B: both 1 for 3
Chad Huffman, 1B-LF, Reid Gorecki, RF & Matt Cusick, 3B: all 0 for 3
Ivan Nova: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 7-5 GB/FB – 44 of his 81 pitches were strike (54.3%) … he left his last start after getting hit by a comebacker, so it’s good to see he wasn’t hurt too bad
Zack Segovia: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2-2 GB/FB – 27 of 38 pitches were strikes (71.1%)

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Game 45: No More Dome

Photo Credit: Craig Lassig, AP

At long last, the eyesore known as the Metrodome is long gone (for baseball purposes, anyway), replaced with brand spankin’ new Target Field. It’s still extremely early, but so far the park is playing almost exactly neutral with regards to total offense (1.011 park factor), but it’s greatly suppressed homers so far (0.623 HR factor). Of course, there have only been 21 games played there, so who knows.

On the mound for the Yanks will be acupuncture aficionado A.J. Burnett, who’s put 37 men on base and allowed 18 runs in his last three starts (17.2 IP) after being so strong in his first half-dozen outings. He’ll be opposed by Scott Baker, who the Yanks smacked around pretty good eleven days ago. The last time the Bombers won back-to-back games was against these same Twins a little more than a week ago. They’ve got to win one before they can worry about winning two, so let’s start that streak tonight.

Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Brett Gardner, CF – sigh
Mark Teixeira, DH
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robbie Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Juan Miranda, 1B
Frankie Cervelli, C
Kevin Russo, LF

And on the mound, Allen Burnett.

Because of those silly Midwestern states, first pitch tonight is scheduled for 8:10pm ET. It’s a My9 broadcast tonight, not YES. Enjoy.

Update: And we’re in a rain delay. No word when, or if they’re going to resume.

Update II: Game’s been suspended. They’re going to resume this sucker tomorrow at 5:05pm ET, then play the regularly scheduled game at 8:05pm ET.