Keith Law’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects

Keith Law posted a midseason ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball (Insider req’d), and he has Manny Banuelos as the Yankees top prospect at number 18 overall. “He struggled with his command early after looking so good in the fall and spring,” said KLaw. “He has four walks against 24 strikeouts in his last four outings (19 2/3 IP), and that’s a positive sign.”

Jesus Montero dropped from number four in the preseason rankings to number 21, mostly because “[for] a guy who projects as a first baseman or DH … .289/.346/.418 isn’t an inspiring offensive performance given his history.” Law does mention that “I have to believe the power and patience are all still in there.” Dellin Betances jumped all the way from number 73 to 34 because he’s “a physical monster who doesn’t repeat his delivery well because he’s not that athletic but is missing bats this year on raw stuff.” Three top 34 prospects is pretty damn good even if Montero dropped, the Rays (three top eight guys, yikes) and Twins are the only other teams that can make that claim.

Game 89: Back at it

(Photo Credit: Flickr user udo.d via Creative Commons license)

Did you enjoy the All-Star break? Three days off from meaningful baseball isn’t a bad thing, I kinda enjoy the downtime after 80-something games. That said, I’m ready for the second half, which is going to be a combination of awesome, awful, frustrating, exciting, boring … the usual array of emotions. Seventy-four games left, the rest of the season starts tonight. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Russell Martin, C
Andruw Jones, DH
Eduardo Nunez, 3B
Brett Gardner, LF

Bartolo Colon, SP

Tonight’s game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Doc: Stems cell treatment would have had A-Rod back in a few days

Alex Rodriguez will miss 4-6 weeks after having surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus in his right knee earlier this week, but one of the doctors that treated Bartolo Colon says that a stem cell procedure would have had Alex back much sooner. Pedro Briceno of Listin Diario has the report (here’s the translated version). Dr. Sergio Guzman said the entire procedure, which would involve extracting live stem cells and fatty tissue from A-Rod‘s body and injecting them into the knee, would have taken about three hours and had him back on the field in two days. Two days!

Stem cells aren’t illegal and they’re used every day all around the world. I’m all in favor of anything that can help get people (not just athletes) healthy as soon as possibly. Either way, I think we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stem cell treatment in sports.

Comparing the Yankees to their peers: The bullpen

For the final installment of our mid-season review, we’ll turn to the bullpen. It’s far tougher to compare the relievers to their peers on an individual level, since there are 139 qualified relievers and likely many more when we set the bar lower to include LOOGYs and the like. There are often only granular difference between relievers as well, making it harder to rank them on that list of 139. Really, only Craig Kimbrel, at 2.0 WAR, stands out from the pack. But the Yankees have a few guys at the top of the list, so let’s take a look at them, and then look at the bullpen as a hole.

Mariano Rivera

(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

He might be 41, but that didn’t stop Rivera from commanding a two-year contract this winter. He’s shown few, if any, signs of slowing down lately. It seems that every year since about 2007 he’s had a few more small injuries than in the past, but that doesn’t stop him from pitching between 60 and 70 innings while leaving the competition beholden. This year he’s getting it done in typical Mariano fashion.

ERA: 1.85, 14th. He might have blown a few saves this year, but overall he’s held opponents mostly scoreless. This is right around the range of his ERA from the past few seasons, too, which is all the more encouraging.

FIP: 2.08, 7th. This is a surprise, because Rivera defies FIP. He is one of the rare pitchers who can always limit his BABIP, since opponents consistently make poor contact. But this year his BABIP is .295, which is a good 30 points above his career average, and about 70 points higher than last year. STill, he’s managed to keep his walks way down and the ball in the park, which goes a long way.

WAR: 1.3, 5th. Even with just 34 innings, Rivera has still provided immense value. Remember, leverage gets factored into WAR for relievers, so that’s where he gets much of his edge. Yet, he hasn’t been the best relief pitcher on the Yankees this year. That would be…

David Robertson

Photo credit: Paul Sancya/AP

For the past few years Robertson has established himself as a mainstay in the bullpen. He might walk a few too many batters, but he has a knack for figuring out how to get a strikeout when he needs one the most. Then again, he just gets a lot of strikeouts in general. All in all, as you’ll see, he’s been the most valuable member of the Yankees bullpen this season.

ERA: 1.27, 4th. Robertson might put men on base with frequency — he does have a 5.86 BB/9 — but he doesn’t typically let them come around to score. His strikeouts help fuel his superb ERA.

FIP: 1.74, 3rd. Typically we see FIP favor those who don’t allow many walks. How, then, has Robertson managed the third lowest FIP in the league, with 20 points separating him and the 4th ranked reliever? By not allowing homers. As in, any. Guys just aren’t making good contact off him this year, and it has made him all the more valuable. I can only wonder, though, if it’s sustainable throughout the whole season.

WAR: 1.4, 3rd. As with Rivera, this is all the more impressive because of his low innings total. While it might seem like he warms up in every game and gets into every other, he has just 35.1 innings this year. That’s 20 fewer than Jonny Venters, who is in 2nd with a 1.4 WAR (he wins on fractions). Robertson has been an absolute revelation this year. It goes to show that the Yankees didn’t necessarily need a bridge to Mo in the form of an 8th inning man. They just needed someone who could get big strikeouts in big spots.

The bullpen as a whole

There have been plenty of other top performers in the bullpen, and they’ve added up to one of the better units in the league. Best of all, as we saw in this morning’s starting pitching post, they haven’t had to work overly hard, either.

ERA: 3.11, 5th. Thanks to unexpected contributions from guys such as Luis Ayala and Cory Wade, the Yankees have kept their bullpen ERA low. As we discussed this morning, that likely has something to do with the above average defense. But that shouldn’t take away from what they’ve accomplished.

FIP: 3.44, 7th. Even when we remove fielders from the equation, the bullpen has done a fine job in its own right. Perhaps not quite as well as the ERA indicates, but it’s still good nonetheless. The could stand to walk fewer batters as a group, but then again a lot of that is directly attributable to Robertson.

WAR: 3.5, 4th. It’s tough not to love this ranking, especially given where the starting pitchers grade out. They’re sopping up tons of innings, and the bullpen has done a great job filling in the rest. Even better, they’ll stand to improve greatly if Rafael Soriano comes back as something resembling even his 2009 self. A lefty might be an area of nominal need, but really the Yankees have everything they need with the current bullpen.

Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Photo Credit: Flickr user James D. Schwartz via Creative Commons license)

Fun’s over, time to get back to work. The Yankees enjoyed their three days off for the All-Star break and now head to Toronto for a four-game weekend series against a team that always seems to play them tough. Will they be fresh, energized, and ready to go after the rest? Or slow and lethargic because of the downtime? One of those two will be your narrative for the weekend.

What Have The Blue Jays Done Lately?

Toronto went into the break with a 45-47 record, good for fourth in the AL East. Their +10 run differential is sixth best in the league, behind the three division powers, the Rangers, and the Angels. The Jays won their final three games before the break, clinching a four-game series win over the Indians. They’ve been hovering right around .500 all season, which reflects their true talent level.

Blue Jays On Offense

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

It’s all about Jose Bautista (who’s playing third base now), the world’s best player. He’s at .334/.468/.702 with an MLB leading 31 homers and 74 walks, and in ten July games he’s hit .395/.455/1.000. If he failed to reach base in his next 48 plate appearances, Bautista would still have a higher OBP and SLG than Adrian Gonzalez does right now. Dude is on a completely different level. This is a four-game series in his home park, so he’s going to hit two or three or four homeruns. Just accept it and move on, nothing anyone can do.

Bautista’s season has overshadowed his teammates and rightfully so, but Adam Lind might be baseball’s best kept secret right now. He’s at .300/.349/.515 with 16 homers right now, but since the end of April he’s hit .331/.383/.606. He’s legit protection behind Joey Bats. Yunel Escobar has been one of the game’s best leadoff hitters at .291/.365/.438, and he’s been molten hot since early-May: .317/.397/.490 with seven homers, 26 walks, and 22 strikeouts. Rookie Eric Thames (no relation to Marcus) allowed them to cut ties with Juan Rivera thanks to his .308/.357/.519 batting line (just 28 games though), and Travis Snider has seven extra base hits (six doubles and a homer) in seven games since coming back up from Triple-A. Those last two fill in the blanks around Bautista, Lind, and Yunel.

The rest of the lineup consists of a bunch of low-OBP guys that may or may not run into a fastball. Aaron Hill (.234/.279/.328) just keeps on getting worse and worse. J.P. Arencibia (.222/.287/.427) is doing exactly what everyone expected him to do, low OBP and some pop. Edwin Encarnacion (.255/.283/.405) and Rajai Davis (.240/.264/.357) pretty much suck. Corey Patterson is somehow keeping the dream alive at .258/.292/.393. The top four guys are legit, but the rest of the lineup can definitely be pitched too.

Blue Jays On The Mound

Thursday, LHP Jo-Jo Reyes (vs. Bartolo Colon): Joey Jo-Jo has been decidedly mediocre this season, with a low strikeout rate (5.29 K/9) and a low ground ball rate (39.4%). He does limit walks (2.96 B/9), so all those homers (0.99 HR/9) don’t sting as much. Reyes lives off his low-90’s four and two-seamers, and he’ll mix in a wide array of offspeed stuff (changeup, slider, and curve). The Yankees saw him in May and hammered him (five runs in three innings), so that was one of those rare instances in which they didn’t falter against a pitcher they haven’t seen before.

Friday, RHP Brandon Morrow (vs. Freddy Garcia): My breakout pick started the season on the disabled list, but he’s been back for 15 starts and his crazy ERA-FIP split has carried over from last year. He’s got a 2.70 FIP and a 4.60 ERA this year after 3.16 and 4.49 last season, respectively. Morrow’s strikeouts are again sky high (10.64 K/9), but the walk rate is nothing special (3.58 BB/9) and the ground ball rate is kind scary (34.2%). He’s been primarily a two-pitch pitcher this year, but they’re two very good pitches: a legit mid-90’s fastball and a high-80’s slider. Last year he threw a low-80’s curveball and a high-80’s changeup regularly (combined 20.2%), but not to much this year (3.5%). The Yankees tear two-pitch, non-changeup pitchers to shreds (eventually, might not be until the third time through the order though). If Morrow comes out with just the fastball and slider, that’s good news.

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Saturday, LHP Ricky Romero (vs. CC Sabathia): This will be a fun matchup, because these two pitchers are very similar aside from the obvious physical differences. Their strikeout (7.78 vs. 7.43 K/9) and ground ball (48.4% vs. 52.6%) rates are close, but Sabathia separates himself by limiting ball four (2.16 vs. 3.31 BB/9) and also with some homerun luck (3.9 vs. 11.4% HR/FB). We’ve seen Romero enough over the two-plus years to know that he’s fastball-changeup heavy with the occasional curveball, and he’s done a nice job of keeping the Yankees in check this year (three runs in 14 IP) after they roughed him up last year.

Sunday, RHP Carlos Villanueva (vs. Phil Hughes): The transition to the rotation has gone swimmingly for Villaneuva, who has a 3.67 ERA (~3.40 FIP) in nine starts (54 IP). The first of those starts came against the Yankees, when he stymied them for five innings (one run). Hopefully that won’t happen again the second time around. Villanueva is very offspeed heavy, throwing his high-80’s fastball justs 45.7% of the time. Low-80’s sliders and changeups are his go-to offspeed offerings, though he’ll also use a low-70’s curve. Dude’s very unpredictable, he’s throw anything in any count.

Bullpen: Toronto has some major problems at the end-game, because Frank Francisco (4.44 FIP) and Jon Rauch (4.67) are both pretty bad. They’ve been having a blown save contest for the last six weeks or so and are two of the three sub-replacement relievers in the Jays’ bullpen. Kinda funny, actually. No lead is safe with that tandem. The other sub-replacement level guy is Octavio Dotel (4.44 FIP), but righties Shawn Camp (3.84) and Jason Frasor (3.90) plus lefties Luis Perez (4.32) and Marc Rzepczynski (3.49) have been anywhere from good to okay. Lots of different looks, got some fastball-slider guys, some fastball-changeup guys, fastball-curveball as well.

Recommended Blue Jays Reading: Drunk Jays Fan and Tao of Stieb.

Yankees calling up Golson to replace A-Rod

Via George King, the Yankees will call up and activate Greg Golson prior to tonight’s game against the Blue Jays. He’s taking Alex Rodriguez‘s spot on the roster. Golson missed some time with a hamstring injury this year and he’s hit well with Triple-A Scranton (.348 wOBA), but he has a massive reverse split (.582 OPS vs. LHP, .838 vs. RHP, SSS warning). He can defend and run and throw the snot out of the ball, for sure, but otherwise I’m not exactly sure what he was brought here to do.

Update (2:44pm): For what it’s worth, Kevin Goldstein just wrote this: “Funny, just talked to a scout last week who saw Greg Golson and noted real progress in hitting skill, upgraded him to solid 4th OF type.”

Updated: Yankees sign J.C. Romero

The Yankees intend to sign J.C. Romero if the Nationals do not call him up to the big leagues by Friday, so says Buster Olney. Romero’s minor league pact with Washington has a July 15th opt-out, and right now his intention is to secure his release and sign a minor league deal with New York. I’m all for it, especially on a minors deal. Romero is fantastic when used properly, which means as a true lefty specialist and not at all against righties. And now we play the waiting game.

Update (12:17 a.m.): Ken Davidoff reports that this is all but a done deal. The Yankees, he said a few minutes ago, will complete a minor league deal with Romero on Thursday. The club is “looking hard for LH relief options.”

Update (1:15 p.m.): The Nationals have released Romero and he has officially signed with the Yankees according to Olney. There’s a chance he could pitch for Triple-A Scranton tonight.