Via Ben Badler, soon-to-be 21-year-old right-hander Rafael DePaula is still in the Dominican Republic waiting for a visa, which would make his $500k contract with the Yankees become official. The two sides agreed to terms in November of 2010, but DePaula has been stuck in visa limbo because he’d previously lied about his age and identity. He spent last year working out at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic, and I suspect he’ll do the same this summer if he doesn’t get a visa anytime soon. DePaula has a great arm and could still become one of the team’s better pitching prospects, but he’s lost a lot of development time with all these delays.
From most accounts, the Yankees are about to trim a bit from the payroll. Whether the Yankees ship A.J. Burnett to the Pirates or to a mystery team, it appears that he’s headed somewhere. Their main reward will come in the form of salary relief; Jon Heyman’s latest has the Yankees saving $13 million between this year and next, effectively netting them an extra $6.5 million this season.
Chances are they’ll put that money to use quickly. With the Burnett deal behind them they could snap up Raul Ibanez or Johnny Damon (or even Vlad Guerrero), and then perhaps Eric Chavez. That will probably cost them in the neighborhood of $3 million. The smart best is that they save the rest of the money for a mid-season acquisition. It might not seem like a lot, but $3 million gets you a $6 to $7 million per-year player in July.
Still, the Yankees could look to make one more move with that saved money. For years they’ve pursued lefty relievers on the free agent market. That has left them with some sub-optimal contracts. Damaso Marte threw just 21 regular season innings during his three-year, $12 million deal. The Yankees will pay Pedro Feliciano $4 million this year to throw zero pitches, after doing the same last year. That leaves Boone Logan as their only left option in the pen. Might the Yankees use those freshly available dollars to ink the one prominent lefty still available?
The Yankees having interest in Mike Gonzalez would be nothing new. Five years ago they were interested in the then-Pirates closer, and were rumored to be offering Melky Cabrera in exchange for him. That never materialized, though, and the Pirates sent Gonzalez to the Braves. After just 17 innings Gonzalez tore his UCL and missed the rest of the 2007 season, followed by a good portion of the 2008 season. He came back strong in 2009, sharing closer duties with Rafael Soriano, before both hit free agency.
Gonzalez’s deal with the Orioles didn’t go as smoothly as either party planned. Gonzalez got hurt in 2010 and was limited to just 24.2 innings, in which he produced a 4.01 ERA. His peripherals were a bit better, particularly his 11.31 K/9. But he walked far, far too many batters, which has been a problem for him his entire career. Last year he managed to stay healthy, but was downright terrible at times. That came mostly at the beginning, however. As the season rolled along he did show signs of improvement — he walked zero of the 33 batters he faced in August, while striking out nearly half of them. His playoff run, the first of his career, was also halfway decent, excepting the lone home run he surrendered.
There is a chance that Gonzalez, 34, can still be an effective reliever. He’s done it throughout his career, and he did round into shape as the 2011 season wore on. That he did his best work when pitching for a contender could also bode well for his performance as a Yankee. Furthermore, he could fit in the bullpen as mostly a LOOGY. While he walked 21 of the 230 batters he faced last year, only six of those were lefties. Overall he walked only 5.5 percent of lefties, while striking out nearly a quarter of them. A quick look at his splits page shows that he still has something in the tank when facing same-handed pitchers. His continued ability to strike out righties furthers his value, since he can conceivably face two lefties with a righty sandwiched in the middle.
Still, it’s tough to imagine that signing Gonzalez constitutes the best use of the Yankees’ saved dollars. They already have five of seven bullpen spots filed: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, and Cory Wade. They also have minor league invitee Hideki Okajima, who probably has an inside track to that second lefty spot. Beyond him, there are a couple of players on the 40-man who could win a bullpen spot: George Kontos and D.J. Mitchell. Using one of these guys might be a necessity, since the team needs to retain some level of flexibility; Joba Chamberlain returns in June and will need a bullpen spot as well.
Given the Yankees’ M.O. in recent years, it’s in some ways easy to see them signing Gonzalez. He’s still there for the taking, with little serious interest in his services. He throws with his left hand, can handle same-handed pitchers well, and isn’t a total disaster against righties. But given the Yankees’ current roster structure, which includes hosting two Rule 5 picks on the 40-man, they might be better off pocketing those Burnett dollars with an eye towards the deadline. Right now $3 mil might not buy a lot, but at the deadline dollars stretch a little further.
The A.J. Burnett trade saga continues to move along uneventfully, as the Pirates and Yankees are reportedly still haggling over just how much each side will contribute towards the $33M left on the right-hander’s contract. It seems inevitable that A.J. will be traded before pitchers and catchers report on Sunday, it’s only a question of how much will the team save and what nondescript minor leaguer(s) will they get in return.
Something about all this trade talk just doesn’t feel right, however. The Yankees keep all their potential moves very, very close to the chest, but these talks have been about as public as possible. We’ve been getting hourly “updates” for a week now, which just isn’t typical of the current Brian Cashman regime. Perhaps it’s the Pittsburgh side with all the leaks, it does take two to tango, but again Yankees trade talks never seem to be this public. It’s very out of the ordinary.
Buster Olney reported this morning that a Mystery Team submitted a trade proposal to the Yankees yesterday, though the Buccos are apparently still in the lead. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I get the sense that the Pirates are just being used as leverage. Usually the Mystery Team is a manufactured rumor to create leverage, but we’ve seen both Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols sign with surprise clubs this offseason after Cliff Lee did it last winter. The Mystery Team has a pretty strong roster these days.
We know the Angels and Indians have interest in Burnett in addition to the Pirates, but we did originally hear that four teams were in the running. We still don’t know who that fourth team is — Royals? Orioles? White Sox? your guess is as good as mine — but they do seem to be lurking. Maybe I’ve just got a case of hot stove dementia and am trying to reach for something that’s not there, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Burnett winds up with a team not previously reported and that none of us expect.
Prospect lists are all over the interweb this time of year, and tomorrow my annual Top 30 Prospects List will go live. The Yankees have a solid and particularly deep farm system, so naturally a few players didn’t make the cut even though they’re each worth knowing about. Rather than leave them on the cutting room floor for next year (or never), we’ll look at them here in what has become my annual Not Top 30 Prospects List.
These aren’t prospects 31 through 35. They’re five guys on the outside of this year’s Top 30 who I think have a chance to climb into next year’s Top 30 with strong seasons, both developmentally and performance-wise. Two of last year’s Not Top 30 Prospects jumped into the Top 30 this year — Angelo Gumbs and Chase Whitley — and I think a 40% success rate is pretty good for this kind of stuff. Scottie Allen had a disaster season — an 82 runs and 179 baserunners in 93.1 IP kind of disaster season — while Dan Burawa was merely okay, so they’re still on the outside of the Top 30 looking in. The other guy, Rafael DePaula, technically isn’t even in the organization yet because he still hasn’t secured a visa. Maybe I should just put him in the Not Top 30 every year until he makes it stateside.
The five players are listed alphabetically by last name, so don’t bother reading anything into the order. The ages listed are as of April 1st, approximately Opening Day.
Jake Cave, OF, 19
A legitimate prospect on the mound, the Yankees drafted Cave as an outfielder last year and that’s where he has the greatest long-term potential. His $800k signing bonus as the team’s sixth round pick was the second largest bonus the Yankees gave to a drafted player in 2011, and he went on to be named the top prospect in Coastal Plains League last summer despite playing with a bunch of college kids. Cave is an excellent athlete that runs well, enough that he could stick in center field for the time being. His arm is obviously above average, so he’d fit perfectly in right field down the line. The Virginia kid has quick hands but a long left-handed swing that produces better than average power. He needs to improve his pitch recognition and overall discipline to carry that power over from batting practice into games. There’s a lot of potential here, but also a lot of progress that needs to be made. Cave will start next year in Extended Spring Training and find himself in one of the short season leagues come June.
Jordan Cote, RHSP, 19
The Yankees’ third round pick in 2011 and the recipient of a $725k bonus, Cote signed too late to get into any games last summer. The New Hampshire native is the classic “close your eyes and dream” type of pitching prospect. He checks in at 6-foot-5 and 205 lbs., and can already hit 92 with his fastball. Neither his curveball or slider have really distinguished themselves yet, but he’s shown the ability to make the ball spin. His changeup is in the very early stages of its development. The Yankees have Cote on a strict throwing and conditioning program, and he spent the winter working out at Cressey Performance in Massachusetts. His arm speed is top notch but his delivery is very inconsistent, so he’ll have to put in a lot of work to iron out his mechanics. If he adds some muscle and streamlines his delivery, there’s scary upside here. Cote will start the season in Extended Spring Training before joining the rookie level Gulf Coast League Yankees.
Ben Gamel, OF, 19
The younger brother of long-time Brewers farmhand Mat Gamel, Ben broke a strong commitment to Florida State to sign with the Yankees for $500k as their tenth rounder in 2010. He hit in the middle of the lineup for Short Season Staten Island’s league championship team last season, producing a .380 wOBA with a 10.9% walk rate and seven steals. Like his brother, Gamel’s bat is going to have to carry him because none of his other tools stand out. He has a smooth left-handed swing with present pull power and the potential for a lot more, plus he has a solid understanding of the strike zone. Chances are he’ll be relegated to left field long-term because he doesn’t run or throw well, so like I said, the bat’s going to have to carry him. Gamel will be part of the prospect-laden Low-A Charleston club this summer.
Tommy Kahnle, RHRP, 22
I might be cheating here, because Kahnle was in the back end of last year’s top 30. I guess I just wanted to let everyone know that he’s still a prospect, just that some others moved ahead of him. Anyway, Kahnle finished last season with the fifth most strikeouts in the organization (112) despite being a reliever and throwing the 27th most innings (81). Unfortunately, he also finished seventh in walks (49). The Yankees’ fifth round pick in 2010 is a pure power reliever, living at 92-94 with a few 96s. His changeup is his second best offering, and he also throws a slider. Kahnle’s biggest problem has been his ongoing struggle with control, though he only walked six batters in his final ten appearances and 21 IP last year. He’ll move up to High-A Tampa after spending all of last season with Low-A Charleston, and if he shows that his improved control down the stretch wasn’t a fluke, he could move up to Double-A Trenton very quickly.
Matt Tracy, LHSP, 23
Primarily an outfielder at Ole Miss, the Yankees selected Tracy in the 24th round last year and stuck him on the mound full-time. He spent the summer pitching for Short Season Staten Island — first out of the bullpen and later as a starter — throwing six shutout innings in Game One of their first round playoff series and then again in the league championship clincher. All told, he struck out 48 (9.13 K/9 and 24.5 K%) and walked 16 (3.14 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%) in his 47.1 IP pro debut, allowing just one homer thanks to a 62% ground ball rate. The 6-foot-3, 212 lb. Tracy sits at 94-95 with his two-seamer in relief and 90-92 as a starter, backing up the heater with a downer curveball and solid changeup. His arm is fresh after throwing just 118.1 IP during his four years in school. Tracy has the repertoire to start but not the pitching experience to rocket up the ladder despite being a senior sign. He could start 2012 at Low-A Charleston and move up to High-A Tampa at midseason. There is no better sleeper in the system.
Several of you asked for a bullpen version of the “best pitches in the rotation” post, and so here you go. Instead of just the 2011 season I’ve gone back and corralled the last two seasons worth of data for this post. The columns headed by “w” and “w/100″ are the pitch type’s linear weights (representing the total runs that a pitcher has saved using that pitch) and linear weights per 100 pitches (the amount of runs that pitcher saved with that pitch type for every 100 thrown), which provide some level of insight into a pitch’s relative level of effectiveness but should not be analyzed in isolation, as they are subject to the whims of both sequencing and BABIP. I’ve ranked the hurlers by their respective Whiff rates, as the ability to generate a swing-and-miss is probably the most transparent indication of pure stuff.
(Note: This post was researched and written prior to the release of the reclassified PITCHf/x data at Brooks Baseball — which I’ll be chiming in on next week — and the numbers are from TexasLeaguers.com and Fangraphs. Given that relievers typically have less variation in their repertoires than starters, I feel comfortable that the data presented below is mostly accurate.)
Rafael Soriano’s generated the highest whiff percentage on the four-seamer out of the six primary members of the Yankee bullpen, though that is probably partially propped up by his excellent 2010. As far as pitch type linear weights go, David Robertson’s four-seamer has been the most effective at 12 runs above average, while Cory Wade’s was most effective on a per-100-pitch basis, at 2.17 runs above average.
Without looking at the numbers I’d have assumed that Mariano Rivera would easily lead in cutter Whiff%, but he actually lags both Soriano and D-Rob. Of course, having even an 8.1% whiff rate on a pitch you throw 86% of the time is still absurd.
For all the crap Boone Logan gets, his slider’s actually pretty outstanding, generating a whiff nearly one out of every four times he throws it. Joba Chamberlain also has a big-boy slider, though at times (cough cough full count cough) he’s fallen a bit too in love with it, occasionally making it painfully predictable.
David Robertson has the best curveball in the ‘pen by a pretty substantial margin, though Cory Wade’s isn’t terrible. Joba’s had a decent amount of success with his curve though he throws it pretty infrequently.
It’s Cory Wade by a landslide here, though he wins by default as no one else in the ‘pen really throws a changeup. It hasn’t been an outstanding pitch by linear weights, but it was his bread-and-butter in a terrific season for the Yankees in 2011.
It was a pretty slow day in Tampa, with the only thing resembling news being Frankie Cervelli’s arrival. That’s only notable because he finished last season on the DL thanks to his fourth concussion in seven seasons, so it’s good to hear he’s in Tampa read to do some baseballing. In other good news, we now know which Yankees Spring Training games will be broadcast on television, with the first game being just 19 days away. It’s still a long ways off, but at least now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Here are the games that will broadcast this spring, all on YES unless otherwise noted (all times Eastern)…
- Sunday, March 4th: 1:05pm vs. Phillies
- Wednesday, March 7th: 1:05pm vs. Rays
- Friday, March 9th: 1:05pm vs. Braves – split squad
- Sunday, March 11th: 1:05pm vs. Phillies – split squad
- Tuesday, March 13th: 7:05pm @ Red Sox
- Friday, March 16th: 1:05pm vs. Nationals
- Saturday, March 17th: 1:05pm vs. Astros
- Tuesday, March 20th: 7:05pm vs. Pirates
- Wednesday, March 21st: 1:05pm @ Rays – on ESPN only
- Thursday, March 22nd: 7:05pm @ Red Sox – also on ESPN
- Friday, March 23rd: 1:05pm vs. Twins – split squad
- Sunday, March 25th: 1:05pm vs. Tigers – split squad
- Tuesday, March 27th: 7:05pm vs. Blue Jays
- Wednesday, March 28th: 1:05pm @ Braves – on ESPN only
- Thursday, March 29th: 7:05pm vs. Orioles
- Friday, March 30th: 7:05pm vs. Phillies
- Sunday, April 1st: 1:10pm @ Marlins – at Marlins new stadium
- Tuesday, April 3rd: 2:10pm @ Mets – also on SNY
- Wednesday, April 4th: 12:05pm vs. Mets
MLB Network hasn’t released their broadcast schedule yet, but since they just pick up the local feeds, a few of the Yankees games they show will be road games not broadcast on YES. We’ll get to see something like 20-25 of the team’s 34 exhibition games, and that’s pretty cool. Remember when Spring Training games on television was a pipe dream? Good times, good times.
Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing tonight, but talk about whatever you like. Enjoy.
(Photo via the Yankees)
Got some random minor league notes cluttering up with browser with extraneous tabs, so let’s dump them all here…
- The Yankees signed Preston Mattingly (Don’s son) earlier this offseason, and yesterday he spoke to Kevin Kernan about his father, his upbringing, stuff like that. Preston isn’t much of a prospect despite being a first round pick back in the day, so he’ll just fill out the High-A Tampa roster this summer.
- Long-time organizational catcher P.J. Pilittere will be part of the coaching staff for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees this year. The move isn’t much of a surprise if you read Mike Ashmore’s piece on Pilittere last August.
- Remember Juan Carlos Paniagua? The Yankees signed him for $1.1M last spring, but he was later suspended and had his contract voided due to falsified documents. He’s now trying out for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, so I guess MLB isn’t planning on reinstating him anytime soon.
- The Yankees signed right-hander Andury Acevedo and catcher David Remedios. Acevedo spent 2007-2010 in the Pirates’ farm system as an infielder, but apparently the Yankees are putting him on the mound. Remedios is a Cuban defector and is most notable for having an 85-minute at-bat on Christmas Eve a few years ago.