Baseball America’s Top 20 GCL Prospects

Baseball America started their annual look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league yesterday, and it continued today with the rookie level Gulf Coast League. Three Yankee farmhands made the cut (no subs. req’d), including Gary Sanchez who ranked as the circuit’s number one prospect. 2010 first rounder Cito Culver placed tenth and Ramon Flores 13th. If you’re a subscriber, you can read the scouting reports here.

Sanchez was noted as having “above-average power to all fields, and with a good approach for a young player, he projects to hit for average as well.” They also wrote the best report of his defense that I’ve seen, saying he “consistently generates 1.8-second pop times [that’s really good] and has the tools to be a solid receiver, but he’s still a work in progress defensively.” Culver projects as  a shortstop long-term thanks to “good instincts, plus range to both sides and an above-average arm.” Offensively, they say “he does have a knack for squaring up balls from both sides of the plate” with speed and a little bit of power. Flores is lauded for his sweet lefty swing and his developing power. Despite playing both corner outfield spots and first base this year, they project him best in right because of his “average speed and range to go with a strong, accurate arm.”

The series continues tomorrow, but the next list you have to worry about is the Short Season New York-Penn League one that comes out next Tuesday. The only Yankee prospects with a chance to make that list are Eduardo Sosa, Kelvin DeLeon, and Mikey O’Brien, but don’t be shocked if they get shut out. That team was an uninteresting as it gets this season.

The battle no one wants to win

Who wants to join D-Rob in the bullpen this October? (Photo Credit: Flickr user notladj)

With a lineup of All Stars (plus Brett Gardner) and the starting rotation all but set (not necessarily the order), the Yankees don’t have too many decisions to make before the the playoffs begin. The core setup crew is set, so the only thing left to sort out is the spare relievers and the bench. The bench isn’t too big of a deal since those regulars will (should) play every inning in October, but the bullpen isn’t necessarily that easy.

Jack Curry tweeted last night that the team intends to carry an 11-man pitching staff in the playoffs, which is fine. They could probably get away with ten, but there’s certainly no need for a dozen in a short series. Nine of those 11 spots are accounted for: CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera, Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Boone Logan. That leaves five guys fighting for those final two spots: Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Ivan Nova, Javy Vazquez, and Dustin Moseley. We should probably throw Royce Ring into that mix as well since a second lefty specialist would be far more useful than a second longman.

Joe Girardi‘s been riding Gaudin really hard the last two weeks (he’s appeared in six of the last twelve games), so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the righty is getting every opportunity to win one of those spots. Mitre has pitched twice in the past 26 days and as far as I know he didn’t even warm up in last night’s rainy game (in fairness, I suppose Girardi was holding him back in case he needs a longman tonight). One of those two times he pitched came in the last Sabathia-David Price game, and that was only after all the other bullpen options were used up. Moseley is far too hittable (10.7 H/9 career) and doesn’t miss nearly enough bats (4.3 K/9 this year) to warrant any kind of action in a playoff spot, so there’s no sense in even carrying him on the roster.

Javy, well at this point he shouldn’t be pitching any kind of meaningful innings. It’s not that he can’t handle the pressure or anything stupid like that, it’s just that his stuff has deteriorated so much that you can’t trust him to get outs with it. I know he’s pitched well in his few long relief outings late in the year, but I think there’s also too much of a stigma there to take him. That’s probably not fair to him, but it is what it is. The nothingball will be the scapegoat.

Given how well he’s pitched early in his outings, Nova’s going to get one of those last two bullpen spots almost by default, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s been extremely effective early in his outings (.563 OPS against the first time through the order, .731 the second, .952 the third) which suggests he could be effective in one or two inning relief stints. Perhaps he takes over the job as that trusty righty outside of the normal setup crew that Girardi is trying to force feed Gaudin. World Championship teams always have an unexpected reliever step up big in October (hellooo Damaso Marte), so maybe Nova’s that guy this year. We can dream.

In the end, I’d expect Nova and Gaudin to get those final two spots, though a case could be made for Ring as a second lefty (assuming he gets in some more games and pitches well over the next week-and-a-half, of course). Once the Yanks clinch a playoff spot, which will hopefully happen before everyone returns to work on Monday, don’t be surprised if they lift Nova from the rotation and have him pitch out of the bullpen two or three times in the final week of the season just to get acclimated to the role.

So far no one has really stepped up and grabbed one of those spots by the horns. They’re trying their best to give it to Gaudin, but he doesn’t seem to want it (13 baserunners, six runs, three homers in his last 5.2 IP). Mitre can’t even get into a regular season game, never mind a playoff spot, and every time Moseley pitches he shows why the Angels non-tendered him last season. In reality, whoever the Yanks ends up taking probably won’t see much action in the postseason and will be of little consequence, but stranger things have happened.

The importance of clinching this weekend

Last night, for what seems like the first time in a while, the Yankees’ magic number did not budge. It remains at a Ruthian three, and with Boston taking the night off it can only move down one tonight. It might not seem like a bit deal either way; there will be three more Yankees’ wins or Red Sox losses this season. But a win tonight does give the team an advantage heading into the final 10 days of the season. It means that just one win this weekend seals the playoff spot.

Winning the AL East does hold some significance. It means not only facing a theoretically weaker opponent in the ALDS, but it also means home field advantage in the first two rounds. Girardi has gone on record saying they want to win the East. As well they should. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of the big postseason picture. While home field advantage is nice, it’s not as nice as having a well rested crew.

Once the team clinches a playoff spot, Girardi can ease off his relievers for a bit. The top guys have been pressed into duty frequently in the past few weeks and have often been unavailable. Once they clinch up Girardi can throw them a couple of times to keep them sharp, but can generally give them a breather heading into what promises to be an intense month. The same goes for the starters. Clinching over the weekend means that they can rearrange the rotation to fit the playoff schematic. It also means that the playoff starters can go a short five in their final starts.

On offense, the assurance of a playoff spot means that banged up players can take a quick breather. This isn’t to say that the starters should sit regularly, but rather that they could get a day or two where they wouldn’t otherwise. The 29th in Toronto presents an opportunity, since there’s an off-day the next day. Sitting Swisher, Teixeira, and Posada that day makes sense, since it essentially gives them two straight days off. They’ll then have a three-game tune-up in Boston to get back into the swing of things before the ALDS begins.

Before they can think of any of this, they need to get that magic number from three to zero. With a series against Boston this weekend that moment should come soon enough. But a win tonight will go a long way. It means that just one win puts the playoff spot in the bag and allows the Yanks to maneuver as they see best fit in the season’s final week. That seems like a perfect interval. It’s not too long, but it’s still ample time to let some wounds heal and line up the rotation. That might cost the team the East, but at this point I’d far rather the Yanks head into the playoffs a healthy and rested team without home field than an exhausted one that gets an extra home game per series.

Yanks fall to Tampa after lengthy rain delay

After two somewhat tense but otherwise gratifying wins in the first two games of the series, Wednesday’s game against the Rays was a complete let down in pretty much every way. Tampa jumped out to an early lead, then a two hour and 11 minute rain delay interrupted the bottom of the third inning. Once the game resumed the Yanks just couldn’t seem to dig themselves out of a hole the bullpen kept digging, and the end result was just their second loss in the last six games.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Back-To-Back And There Goes The Ballgame

More than anything else, the most annoying part of this game was that every time the Yanks scored, the bullpen immediately gave back the runs if not more. Chad Gaudin came into the game for reasons unknown in the seventh inning after the Yanks closed the gap to 3-2, and he actually managed to get two quick ground outs from John Jaso and Ben Zobrist. Three pitches later, the Rays had two more runs thanks to back-to-back solo homers from Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria. Ho hum, as if we should have expected otherwise.

Crawford’s homer was the biggest WPA swing of the game for Tampa at +.139.

Fat Elvis Has Left The Building

About the only bright spot for the Yanks in this game was Lance Berkman getting his first homerun in pinstripes. Jeremy Hellickson left a 1-2 changeup up a bit, Berkman put a good swing on it and hit it out to right-center. It wasn’t a total cheapie, a few rows back, but it’s certainly not a ball that would have left all 30 parks. Anyway, I’m glad Lance got that out of the way. Hopefully a few more start to follow.

Garbage Pitchers In Non-Garbage Time

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

I understand that when the weather causes a delay, especially early in the game, it can be rather tough to navigate all those innings with the bullpen. That’s true even in September when there’s plenty of extra arms around. Joe Girardi turned to the southpaw Royce Ring after the delay because a bunch of lefties were due up, and he chipped in five rather uneventful outs before walking John Jaso. Not bad for a guy making his first big league appearance since August 1st, 2008.

Dustin Moseley relieved Ring and naturally got smacked around, his first action in ten days. Five of the first six men he faced picked up a hit (Ring’s inherited runner scored), and the only reason he escaped the sixth inning with just one run crossing the plate is because Mark Teixeira put on a nice little clinic at first. He threw a runner out at the plate on the groundout before turning a nifty 3-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Gaudin replaced Moseley, pitching for the sixth time in the last twelve games, and he of course gave up those two homers. His line in those six games: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 3 HR. He doesn’t deserve to be on the postseason roster, but I bet you he is anyway. Jon Albaladejo relieved Gaudin and immediately walked the first two men he faced, the second of which he forced in a run. He then allowed another run in the ninth. I’m guessing the ten days’ worth of rust was an issue.

It’s not so much that they pitched poorly as a group (aside from Ring, really), you have to expect that with these guys, it’s that this game was still very winnable. It was 1-0 coming out of the rain delay and still just a one run game when Gaudin entered in the seventh. It just makes Girardi seem hypocritical to go with the garbage time relievers in a close game after he said “Our goal is to win the division” that afternoon. I have no trouble with him resting guys before the postseason, none at all, but the walk and the talk don’t match right now.


(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

A.J. Burnett was generally okay in his three innings of work before the rain. The first inning run scored on a ground ball single between Robbie Cano and Mark Teixeira, a walk to move the runner into scoring position, a ground out to move the runner to third, and then a sac fly. He allowed a single in the second (another grounder) and a walk in the third, but that’s pretty much it. A.J. threw 51 pitches total, 33 for strikes. It was his second rain shortened outing in his last three starts and at least his third this season.

Aside from Berkman’s homer, the offense did a whole bunch of nothing. Alex Rodriguez drove in the other run with a bloop single to left and Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a 2-for-4 effort. Tex took yet another 0-fer and is now seven for his last 57 (.129) with 14 strikeouts. I get that he’s nursing a broken toe and bruised hand (and he got hit by pitch in the back of the leg in this game), but there’s been way, way too many cold streaks from him this year. Hopefully he finishes strong and mashes in the playoffs.

The Red Sox managed to beat the Orioles, so the magic number to clinch the division remains at three. The division lead shrunk to one-and-a-half games with the loss.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Look at that thing, the game was so close until frickin’ Gaudin showed up. Sigh. Anyway, has the box score, FanGraphs some other stuff.

Up Next

Series finale tomorrow night is a rematch of last week’s pitching duel. CC Sabathia takes on David Price at 7pm ET, except this time the Yanks’ bullpen is rested and ready to go. I think.

Robertson out with back spasms after MRI

When Chad Gaudin came in for the 7th inning against the top of the 7th inning, I assumed the Yanks were either not going to try to hard to win tonight or someone was hurt. The true story seems to be a combination of both. According to Bryan Hoch, David Robertson was unavailable tonight with back spasms. The Yanks’ key set-up man had gone for an MRI earlier in the day, but the results showed no structural damage. He is considered day-to-day.

Robertson, who had a late-season MRI on his throwing elbow in 2009, has made 59 appearances this year, but lately, Girardi had been leaning heavily on the right-hander. He made seven appearances over 11 games from Sept. 8-Sept. 20 and had warmed up a few times before pitching. Hopefully, the Yanks have enough time to rest Robertson and get him ready for the playoffs, but with ten games left in the regular season, time’s a-wastin’.

Game 152: Twisting the knife

Credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

No matter what happens tonight and tomorrow, the Tampa Bay Rays will leave the Bronx in second place. By winning the first two games, the Yankees assured that, in the even of a series split, they’ll have a 0.5-game lead in the AL East. Based on their remaining schedules, a split would probably give the division edge to the Rays, and that’s not good enough for the Yankees. “Our goal,” manager Joe Girardi said this afternoon, “is to win the division.”

To put some distance between them and the Rays, the Yanks are going to have to win one, if not both, of the remaining contests this week, and tonight, the Yanks will turn the ball over to A.J. Burnett. After struggling through a terrible summer, Burnett has been better but still mediocre of late. He isn’t Bad A.J., but he’s not Good A.J. either. During his last four outings spanning 24 innings, he’s allowed 23 hits and 10 walks for an ERA Of 4.50. After striking out just 113 in his first 150 innings, he has K’d 24 batters over his last 24 innings pitched.

Countering A.J. will be one of the Rays’ better pitchers. While Tampa Bay’s rotation is in shambles, Wade Davis hasn’t lost a start since June 27 against the Diamondbacks. His 3.62 ERA over a span of 69.2 innings seems impressive, but he’ll still give up his fair share of home runs — 10 — while his K rate remains low — 6.07 per 9 IP. His FIP is a less impressive 4.47. The Yanks beat Davis on April 10 and lost on May 19 and July 30. For what it’s worth, only Brett Cecil and Felix Hernandez have beaten the Yanks three times this season.

Game time’s 7:05 p.m.

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B – Having a terrible September. Girardi said Teixeira will rest his broken toe after the Yanks clinch.
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Lance Berkman DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Francisco Cervelli C

A.J. Burnett P

Interestingly, Tampa Bay is going with a different lineup tonight too. Joe Maddon said he wanted to give Carlos Peña the rest of the series off to “clear his head.” That a tough lefty is going tomorrow night makes that move easier. Check out the Rays’ starting nine:

John Jaso DH
Ben Zobrist CF
Carl Crawford LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Dan Johnson 1B
Matt Joyce RF
Jason Bartlett SS
Reid Brignac 2B
Dioner Navarro C

Update (9:55 p.m.): The Yankees have announced that the game will resume at approximately 10:05 p.m. It’s the bottom of the third, and the Yankees are down 1-0. Both Wade Davis and A.J. Burnett will not be returning to the mound. Royce Ring is warming up for the Yankees, and Jeremy Hellickson will come in to pitch for Tampa Bay.

On the Pinstriped Podcast with Craig Mahoney

If you haven’t checked out Craig Mahoney’s Pinstriped Podcast, well, now is the week to start. I’m his guest this week, and we run down a number of issues, both serious and light-hearted, from the past few weeks. We’re on the Steinbrenner monument, Burnett’s black eye, Ivan Nova, plus some Jeter and some Mo. As Craig says, the podcast may contain naughty language and ribald humor, so I wouldn’t recommend letting the young’uns listen to this one. But if that’s up your alley, check out this week’s edition of the Pinstriped Podcast.