Ramirez outduels Vizcaino in Charleston win

The Scranton Yankees are going to get a shot at Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday. Trenton isn’t scheduled to play Harrisburg until July, so it’s unlikely they’ll get to step in against Stephen Strasburg. Scranton plays Columbus from May 10th to the 12th, so there’s a chance they could see Strasburg then if the Nationals decide to bump him up. They won’t play again until August, so that’s really they’re only chance to face last year’s top overall pick.

Corban Joseph was named the Florida State League Offensive Player of the Week while Graham Stoneburner took home South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week honors. Congrats to both.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. They’re going to make this one up as part of a July 10th doubleheader. Meanwhile, both Double-A Trenton and High-A Tampa had scheduled off days.

Low-A Charleston (5-0 win over Rome)
Zoilo Almonte, CF: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
DeAngelo Mack, LF: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS, 1 HBP
Jimmy Paredes, 2B, Kyle Higashioka, C, Taylor Grote, RF & Garrison Lassiter, DH: all 0 for 3 – Paredes drew a walk, scored a run & K’ed … Higashioka walked & K’ed … Grote & Lassiter each K’ed twice
Luke Murton, 1B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HBP – 12 for his last 33 (.364) with six doubles & two jacks
Rob Lyerly, 3B: 1 for 4, 2 RBI, 2 K, 1 CS
Jose Ramirez: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 3-5 GB/FB – matched up against Arodys Vizcaino, who you surely know the Yanks traded to Atlanta in the Javy Vazquez deal … Arodys went 3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, serving up Almonte’s homer … Ramirez now has a 29-6 K/BB ratio in 23.1 IP … he’s crushing this league
Michael Solbach: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-3 GB/FB
Ronny Marte: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB

Open Thread: Slow-Rod

With some help from Larry at Wezen-Ball, the Wall Street Journal took a look at how quickly seven of the Yankees’ regulars rounded the bases after whacking the ball out of the park last year (h/t Neyer). As you can see, Alex Rodriguez is the slowest, at nearly 25 seconds to go 360 feet (roughly 9.8 mph). A-Rod is three seconds slower than the league average, which will give some more reason to the hate guy, but in reality it isn’t much of anything. Give the guy a break, he’s got a bad hip.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s open thread. There’s both NBA and NHL playoff action on, but I’ll be watching the new episodes of House and 24. Chat about whatever you like, just be cool.

2010 Draft: KLaw’s Top 100 Prospects

Keith Law posted his updated list of the top 100 draft prospects this afternoon (subs. req’d), topped of course by Bryce Harper. He’s followed by prep shortstop Manny Machado, Ole Miss lefty Drew Pomeranz, and high school righties Jameson Taillon and Karsten Whitson. “It’s a strong draft for right-handed pitching and for catching, and weak in the middle infield and in college bats,” says Klaw. “It’s a good year to draft in the top 5, but not a great year to draft 6-20 unless some more top players pop up between now and the draft.”

The 32nd player (when the Yanks pick) on the list is Georgia high school outfielder Chevez Clarke, which is who Baseball America had 32nd overall in their latest set of rankings. The Yanks’ second pick is 82nd overall, and that’s where KLaw ranks Georgia Tech shortstop Derek Dietrich. A third round pick of the Astros in 2007, Dietrich is expected to move to the hot corner as a pro, but he’s hitting .356-.469-.731 with 14 homers this year. I’m not a fan, there seems to be a lot of questions about his ability to hit with wood.

Subway ridership down for Yankee Stadium in 2009

New York City Transit has released its annual survey of ridership data, and the agency found that, despite two new stadiums, subway ridership at the two stops serving the city’s ballparks declined from 2008 to 2009. In Queens, the Mets/Willets Point station saw just 1.826 million swipes down from 2.036 million in 2008 while in the Bronx, 161st St./Yankee Stadium saw traffic drop from 8.576 million rides to 8.41 million. The Times speculated this morning that the decline at Citi Field was due to the Mets’ poor play while the Yanks saw their numbers stay relatively constant despite an overall 2.7 percent drop in ridership due to the eight playoff games in the Bronx. I posited at Second Ave. Sagas that smaller capacity ballparks were to blame. After all, Citi Field and new Yankee Stadium hold 20 and 10 percent fewer fans, respectively, than the two parks they’ve replaced. The raw data, for those who enjoy this information, is available here on the MTA’s website.

A classy spokesman exploiting his niche

When Canali, the Italian clothing manufacturer, announced that Mariano Rivera would be their new spokesman, we noted how it seemed to be a perfect match. Rivera carries himself gracefully, and the pinstriped suit in which Canali outfitted Mo just seemed to fit. What other Yankee would we associate with an fine Italian suit anyway?

Today, Harvey Araton profiles Rivera in The Times. In one sense, the story offers up more details about the Mariano Rivera we have come to know and love. He is a soft-spoken, religious guy who does his job with ruthless efficiency. He has the respect of his teammates and opponents and is, in the words of Araton, one of “the most understated superstars in the history of American team sports.”

The part of the article that most intrigued me, though, was Araton’s recounting how Rivera and Canali teamed up:

The courtship, Rivera said, was no superficial whirlwind. Shopping in a Westchester store five years ago, he found a Canali jacket he liked but not in his size. He was directed to Lisa Ranieri-Emanuel, an executive in the company’s New York office and a Yankees fan. Canali has outfitted Rivera ever since.

In December, Rivera flew to Milan for the shoot, his first visit to the city and the country. On the day he landed, he worked half a day, striking Elisabetta Canali as “an uncommon celebrity.” She said the campaign, which began in the United States in March, would expand to other baseball-loving countries in the Americas and Asia.

Click on the English language section of the Canali Web site, and a smiling Rivera appears in a Yankees blue pinstriped blazer and a striped shirt with an open collar. The design and color are a coincidence, according to Elisabetta Canali. “He just looked so good in the pinstripes,” she said, an observation that could double as a baseball career epitaph.

[Yankee adviser Ray] Negron said Rivera as a male model was a stroke of marketing genius. “If I had to go with one guy in here for something like a clothing campaign, it would be him, without question,” he said.

His teammates, meanwhile, took a similar approach. Instead of subjecting Rivera to the hazing that often comes with new endorsement deals — and male modeling – Rivera’s fellow Yankees offered nothing but praise for him. We’ve seen the ads in the magazines, but he’s such a great guy, man, you don’t even want to try to get on him, Nick Swisher, not the most serious of Yankees, said. I mean, I don’t think there’s one bad thing I can say about him. Educated man, family man, dresses nice all the time, carries himself with class.

In essence, this is what Rivera’s greatness is all about. We love Mariano around here, and he’s certainly been a key cog for the Yankees over the last 16 years. But what is often overlooked is his professionalism. In an age of ostentatious relievers, Rivera quietly and confidently destroys his opponents. He knows he’s the best and doesn’t have to remind anyone of it off the field. The suit just makes him look even better.

Bullpens prove the difference in weekend series

The Yankees executed the game plan well this weekend. They continued their penchant for taking pitches, which prevented each Angels’ starter from pitching the seventh inning. They knocked out Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro after six, and tagged Scott Kazmir during that inning. The overall line for the Angels’ staters didn’t look too pretty:

17.1 IP, 22 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 6 BB, 8 K, 3 HR, 297 pitches (just over 17 per inning)

Photo credit: Christine Cotter/AP

That left the Angels bullpen to cover 9.2 innings during those three days, which usually means success for the Yankees. They take pitches not only to work favorable counts, but also to tire out the starting pitcher. This means more innings for the bullpen, and since most bullpens feature pitchers weaker than the team’s starters the Yankees typically feast. At least, that’s the idea. Over the weekend the Angels’ bullpen pitched very well, allowing just one run in those 9.1 innings. Their final combined line:

9.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, 0 HR

Even with the five walks the Angels relievers allowed less than a base runner per inning, an excellent feat against a lineup like the Yankees. All three hits came during Saturday’s affair, a game which the Yankees had well at hand before Scot Shields relieved Joel Pineiro to start the seventh. In the two close games, Friday and Sunday, the Angels relievers held the Yankees to no hits and just three walks while striking out five in 6.2 IP.

This stands in contrast to what the Yankees bullpen accomplished over the weekend. While the Angels relievers were busy keeping the Yankees off the base paths, the Yankees relievers proceeded to blow two close games. That’s not an indictment of the entire staff, of course. David Robertson pitched very well in his two-out stint on Friday, retiring both batters he faced. Instead, it was just two relievers who performed poorly for the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte.

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

On Friday night Joba opened the inning by allowing a single and a homer. He continued his shakiness, allowing a single and a deep fly ball to the next two batters before settling down a bit and retiring the side on two easy fly balls. On Sunday Marte clearly didn’t have it, as he walked a guy and hit a guy before falling behind on Kendry Morales 3-0. There were plenty of questions to ask afterwards, including why Girardi let Marte throw that pitch to Morales. It was also questionable to remove Aceves after his 1.2 perfect innings. No matter the management, though, those two losses are on the relievers who allowed the runs (though Sunday’s loss is much easier to pin on Vazquez).

Other than those two performances, the Yankees’ bullpen did just as well as its Angels counterpart. Boone Logan, Sergio Mitre, Al Aceves, David Robertson, and Saturday’s Damaso Marte combined for the following line:

5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

The Angels just happen to run into a couple of bad performances. On another weekend perhaps the Yanks take better advantage of Fernando Rodney’s wildness, maybe they mount a rally against Brian Fuentes, maybe they can hit Jason Bulger and Scot Shields like the rest of the league has to this point. This weekend, though, the Angels bullpen won. The Yanks bullpen made a valiant effort, but two poor performances from otherwise good relievers were the differences in two games. That will happen.

2010 Draft: Day Two High School Arms

Back before MLB tried to increase interest and monetize it’s amateur draft (there’s nothing wrong with that), the event lasted just two days, with rounds 1-10 coming on the first day. Now it’s spread out over three days, with the first three rounds on the first day, the next 17 the next day, and the final 30 on the third day. Now when you call a player a “Day One” or “Day Two” talent, it’s much easier to pin down what exactly we have on our hands.

The Yankees have done a nice job of grabbing some very talented high school arms in the so-called middle rounds of the draft (a.k.a. Day Two) in recent years. Bryan Mitchell (16th round, 2009) highlights that crop, but it also includes Brett Marshall (6th, 2008) and Dellin Betances (8th, 2006). Obviously none of those guys have yet to pay dividends, but the chances they develop into impact big leaguers far exceeds that of a player normally drafted in those rounds.

Here’s a breakdown of some similar high school arms guys who are expected to come off the board in Day Two …

Photo Credit: BartlettHighSchoolBaseball.com

Taylor Morton, RHP, Bartlett HS (Tenn.)
Morton made a bit of a name for himself during last summer’s Tournament of Stars showcase event by striking out Bryce Harper, but he was an interesting prospect long before that garnered him some attention. Listed at a sturdy 6-foot-2, 190 lbs, Morton sits in the low-90’s with his fastball and has dialed it up as high as 95 on occasion, and there’s reason to believe he’ll add more velocity as he fills out. Unlike most high schoolers, his best secondary pitch is circle change that comes in around the high-70’s and fades away from lefties, and he also offers a loopy low-70’s curveball that he’ll need to tightened up.

Morton’s strength is his strong command, which stems from his athleticism and ability to repeat a sound delivery. He’s unique considering that most prep pitchers have nothing that resembles a changeup when they turn pro, so that hurdle has already been cleared. Given the Yanks historical success with teaching their prospects curveballs, there’s hope for his third pitch. Committed to Tennessee, Morton is expected to hear his named called somewhere in the 5th or 6th round.

Photo Credit: Daniel Boyette, The Press-Register

Daryl Norris, RHP, Fairhope HS (Alabama)
Similar to Brett Marshall, Norris has spent most of his high school career as a shortstop and really didn’t commit to pitching full-time until late in his prep career. He can definitely hit – he launched 13 homers as a junior – but his future is on the mound thanks to a fastball that is buzzing in at 94 this spring and a pair of solid secondary offerings. Both his low-80’s slurve and low-80’s changeup need work, but Norris has demonstrated the ability to spin the ball and should improve with more experience.

One of the best quarterbacks in Alabama throughout his high school career, the 6-foot-1, 210 lb Norris is an outstanding athlete and one of the top two-way recruits in the country. He’s committed to Mississippi State, where he’ll play the field and pitch but not venture out onto the football field, and is considered one of the tougher signs out there this year. The biggest downside is that there’s no projection left in Norris’ frame, so what you see if what you’re going to get. He’s a 6th to 8th round kind of talent.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Evan Rutckyj, LHP, St. Joseph’s HS (Ontario) (video)
First of all, it’s pronounced Root-skee. Secondly, along with fellow lefty Evan Grills of Sinclair HS in Ontario, Rutckyj is arguably the best Canadian pitching prospect available in this draft. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 190 lbs, he brings a 89-90 mph fastball that should gain another foot or so and he fills out and irons out his rough delivery. He also throws a wipeout slider from his low three-quarters arm slot, but his changeup is non-existent at this point.

Like most hosers, Rutckyj is also a hockey player, but he gave it up recently to focus on baseball, where he has more pro potential. There’s considerable upside here given his massive frame and easy velocity, but he’s a project that is going to require a lot of time and a lot of patience. Rutckyj has yet to commit to a college yet, which could mean that he’s eying a JuCo like Jake Eliopoulos, the top Canadian lefty in last year’s class, who declined to sign with the Blue Jays as a second round pick and headed to Chipola College in Florida. Rutckyj is expected to be a 6th or 7th rounder this June.

Photo Credit: RoswellBaseball.or

Andrew Smith, RHP, Roswell HS (Georgia)
Smith is an easy guy to notice on the baseball field because he’s very polished for a high schooler, and because he pitches with a confidence that borders on arrogance. Working primarily with a fastball that registers 89-91 and has touched 93, Smith pounds the zone relentless and works deep into games. He high-70’s curveball is solid but not overwhelming, and he has the makings a nice changeup. The delivery has a little funk to it, something that pro instruction will help clean up.

I’ve generally seen Smith ranked in the 6th to 8th round range, but the scouting report strikes me as someone a little better than that. I love the polish and the the aggressiveness, and you can dream on his 6-foot-2, 180 lb frame. Committed to a major program in UNC, Smith isn’t going to be an easy sign.