Yanks place five on BA’s Top 20 NYPL prospects list

(David Schofield/MiLB.com)

Baseball America’s look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league continued with the Short Season NY-Penn League today, and the Yankees are very well represented. Mason Williams unsurprisingly topped the list, and in the subsciber-only scouting report, they say he “stays through the ball well with a simple lefthanded swing.” His “quick hands generate surprising bat speed,” which should allow for average power down the road. “Williams has plus to plus-plus speed that plays on the bases and in center field, though he’s still refining his basestealing ability and his outfield routes,” they added. “He has a solid-average arm and projects as a plus defender in center fielder.”

Cito Culver, the team’s first round pick last year, placed sixth. “He stood out most with his defense, showing smooth actions, average range and a well above-average arm at shortstop,” said the write-up, which also backed up previous reports that he’s a switch-hitter but better from the right side. Tyler Austin was two spots behind Culver at number eight, and is lauded for his plate discipline and ability to handle offspeed stuff. “He has above-average raw power and is capable of hitting balls out of the park to all fields,” said BA. The move to third base (from behind the plate) has been successful so far, but they note that Austin has to improve his footwork and become more aggressive.

Ranking 14th is Angelo Gumbs, last year’s second rounder. “[An] athletic, high-energy player with electric bat speed and a quality all-around toolset,” Gumbs has the bat speed and strength to hit for good power. A former shortstop and centerfielder, he’s working on learning second base, though some think he’d be better off in the outfield because his strong arm is a waste on the right side of the infield. The fifth and final Yankee farmhand on the list is Branden Pinder, a 16th rounder this year that ranked 19th on the list. “He streamlined his repertoire in a relief role, attacking hitters with a lively 93-94 mph fastball that topped out at 96.” Pinder is also said to have a sharp slider and a long delivery with good deception.

Very nice showing for the Baby Bombers, who won their league title this year. The next top 20 list of interest to the Yankees is the Low-A South Atlantic League, which will be  revealed on Wednesday. I’m not sure if Slade Heathcott, Rob Segedin, and J.R. Murphy spend enough time with Charleston to qualify for the list, but Gary Sanchez, Ramon Flores, Nik Turley, and Tommy Kahnle all have a chance to make an appearance.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 26th, 2011

Record Last Week: 6-2 (46 RS, 33 RA)
Season Record:
97-62 (855 RS, 639 RA, 102-57 pythag. record), clinched AL East and homefield advantage
Regular Season Opponents This Week:
@ Rays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF
Playoff Opponents This Week: ALDS Game One vs. TBD (Fri.)

Top stories from last week:

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Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Yanks split doubleheader against Red Sox

Two recaps for the  price of  one, eh? Some deal. Let’s start with the afternoon game…

  • The story of game one was clearly A.J. Burnett. The perpetually shaky right-hander struck out six and allowed five hits across 7.2 IP, giving up just two runs on a pair of Jacoby Ellsbury solo homers. His game score of 65 tied his best since June 18th, a span of 18 starts (the other 65 came in Seattle two weeks ago). I still don’t think they should give him a playoff start,  but it was good to see A.J. finish his season on a  high   note. David Robertson relieved him, and recorded the final four outs of the game without incident (three strikeouts).
  • After bunting and running their way to two runs off  Tim Wakefield in the first, the highlight of the  scoring was Jorge Posada clubbing a  no-doubt two-run homer in the third. Joe Girardi did a classy thing by batting Jorge cleanup in his last regular  season start at Yankee Stadium, and he responded with the bomb that made it 4-0. Pretty awesome  stuff.
  • Here’s the box score and  FanGraphs stuff.

That about sums it up for the first game, so let’s dive into  the second game…

  • Once upon a time, many innings before the game ended, Mark Teixeira gave the  Yankees a quick three-zip lead when his double off the top of  the wall turned into a makeshift inside the park homer. A throwing error by the catcher sure helped out as well. That was basically it for the offense though, they scored another run in the seventh on a sac fly, but they had just two hits in eleven innings after the second inning.
  • Ivan Nova started strong, but really gave up some rockets the second and third time through the order. The end result was four runs in 6.1 IP, coming on eight hits. The bullpen behind him was really good (Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, Mariano Rivera, Raul Valdes, Cory Wade, and Aaron Laffey combined for seven scoreless innings), at least until Scott Proctor came in and promptly put two guys on base and served up a three-run homer to Ellsbury in the 14th inning. You just knew it was over as when Proctor came in.
  • The Yankees had their chances to win, of course. Austin Romine struck out with the bases loaded to end the ninth, and Brett Gardner struck out to end the 13th with men on second and third. Oh well. Alex Rodriguez, Russell Martin, and Derek Jeter remained glued to bench after playing the day game, understandably.
  • Here’s the box score, FanGraphs stuff, and updated standings.

The home portion of the regular season is over, and it’s off  to Tampa for the final three games of the 2011 season. Hector Noesi will start against Jamie Shields on Monday night.

Game 159: Bury them

The Rays did what they had to do this afternoon. If the Yankees win tonight, the Sox will have official blown their enormous lead and will be tied with Tampa with three games to go. Consider the Yankees a good samaritan, the innocent bystander that jumps in to help. Here’s the lineup…

Eduardo Nunez, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Jesus Montero, DH
Chris Dickerson, LF
Austin Romine, C

Ivan Nova, SP

The second game of the doubleheader starts at 6:30pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Game 158: All wrapped up

That's how I feel about Boston's collapse too. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Yankees have accomplished everything they set out to accomplish. They won their division on Wednesday and clinched homefield advantage (with some help from the Orioles) last night. There’s nothing left for them to do over the final five games of the season, other than to make sure no one gets hurt, anyway. I supposed they could focus on passing the Phillies for the best record in baseball (one back in the loss column), but that won’t benefit them at all. It’s a bragging rights thing, and frankly I couldn’t care less. Beating the Red Sox today would just be iciing on the 2011 season cake. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jorge Posada, DH
Andruw Jones, LF
Russell Martin, C
Chris Dickerson, RF
Brandon Laird, 1B
Ramiro Pena, 2B

A.J. Burnett, SP

Game one of today’s doubleheader starts at 1pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or TBS nationally. Game two is scheduled to start at 6:30pm ET. Enjoy.

CC Sabathia Update: Sabathia threw his simulated game this morning, throwing 65 pitches across four “innings.” He faced Greg Golson and Pena (batting lefty), and all went well. His next start will be Game One of the ALDS on Friday.

Reminder: Our get together with FanGraphs at Amity Hall is today. All the details are here. Stop by if you can, it’ll be a blast.

Comparing the bullpens of AL contenders

Starting pitching goes a long way towards determining how a team does in the playoffs, but having a strong bullpen can mitigate weakness in the rotation. As the Yankees move towards the ALDS and a matchup with Detroit or Texas, I thought it might be useful to see how their bullpen compares to the bullpens of other contenders around the league. I’ve tried to pick out each team’s best relievers, since the playoffs are an “all hands on deck” time in which the big guns get used early and often. Judge for yourself which team has the strongest bullpen. I’ll provide the numbers and note an interesting fact about an individual reliever or the bullpen as a whole.

Yankees bullpen

Since July 30th when he came off the disabled list, Rafael Soriano has thrown 22.1 innings, allowed 6 earned runs, walked 5 and struck out 25. That’s a 2.69 FIP and a 5:1 K/BB ratio. He’s finally looking like the guy the Yankees expected to get when they signed him to his big contract, and if this level of performance holds it doesn’t seem unreasonable to argue that the Yankees have the best trio of relief arms in the American League.

Red Sox bullpen

Matt Albers has the kind of arm that scouts dream on. He throws very hard, and he gets ground balls at a good clip. Early in the year, it looked like Boston had picked up a nice cheap middle innings arm, and at the end of June he had pitched to a 3.03 ERA in 29.2 innings with 12 walks and 27 strikeouts. For whatever reason, the bloom came off the rose. Since the first of July he has a 6.21 ERA in 33.1 innings. While he has struck out 38 batters over this span, he’s walked more than a batter every other inning. He’s no longer a reliable option for Francona, which means the Sox will be leaning heavily on Papelbon and Bard in the postseason.

Rays bullpen

As mentioned yesterday, the Rays have one of the weaker bullpens in recent memory. Farnsworth has great numbers for the Rays this year, but he’s currently trying to overcome elbow soreness. He did appear last night for Tampa, so his troubles may be behind him for now. Peralta has been more than solid, but that’s really where the strength ends. Cruz, Ramos and Howell all have walk rates over 5 per 9 innings, and Gomes is over 4. It’s true that Maddon uses these guys as situational relievers, but the fact is that the Rays middle relief is simply soft. This is why it’s important for the Rays to get length out of their starters, and this is why Matt Moore could be such a huge factor for them in the next week.

Rangers bullpen

*Edit: Adams’ ERA and FIP are 1.51 and 2.48, respectively.

If anyone is going to give the Yankees a run for their money out of the bullpen, it’s the Rangers. Texas made two fantastic moves at the trade deadline this year, adding Mike Adams from San Diego and Koji Uehara from Baltimore. Both relievers strike out loads of batters, and both relievers are stingy with the free passes. They’re exactly what you’d want from your relief pitchers. The weakness here is like Neftali Feliz. While his ERA is close to his 2010 number, his peripherals have deteriorated significantly. He’s striking out fewer guys and struggling with the walks.  He’s been better since the start of August, but he’s still handed out 10 walks in 21 innings.

Tigers bullpen

Provided Valverde doesn’t blow a save over the next few days, a lot is going to be made by various analysts and TV announcers of the fact that Valverde’s save record is perfect this year. As someone who resents his mound antics, I can only say with the upmost sarcasm: “good for him”. Fortunately, Valverde’s peripherals don’t suggest that he’s the type of reliever who could maintain such a level of dominance. He hands out more walks than the reliever who precedes him in the eighth inning and he’s not exactly a groundball machine like Alburqurque. It’s true that he has a nice arsenal of pitches and a tremendous fastball, but if I had to wager on a closer blowing a game in the playoffs this year, I’d go with Feliz first and Valverde second. Fingers crossed!

Yanks blowout Sox, clinch homefield advantage

It’s always fun beating the Red Sox, especially in blowout fashion, but it’s even better when the game means a whole lot more to Boston because they’re fighting for a playoff spot while the Yankees have already taken care of business. Let’s recap…

  • The offensive explosion will get the headlines, but in my opinion the biggest story of the game was Freddy Garcia. He’d been struggling of late, no question about it, so six shutout innings against a great offense is very encouraging. It was a typical Garcia outing too, lots of weak pop-ups, about a baserunner an inning, a few ugly swings. At this point, he has to be considered the favorite to start the third game of the ALDS next week. That’s subject to change by the day, though.
  • Okay, now we can talk about the offense. Jesus Montero was the star of the day, going 3-for-4 with a double to the wall in left-center and solo homer to right. He also saw 19 total pitches in those four at-bats, the most on the team. It’s  obviously a small sample (58 plate appearances), but the kid is hitting .346/.414/.635, and that’s pretty cool.
  • Russell Martin chipped in a two-run single on a ball that Carl Crawford should have caught, and one batter later, Derek Jeter made the Red Sox pay with a three-run homer to right. Nick Swisher had a hit and two walks, Andruw Jones two hits. The trio of  Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez combined to go 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, but everyone else went a combined 9-for-21. The joys of having a  deep lineup.
  • The bullpen after Freddy was pretty good, though Raul Valdes and Cory Wade managed to allow a run in two-thirds of an inning.  Boone Logan, Luis Ayala, and George Kontos retired the final seven Red Sox batters of the game. Kontos has looked pretty good in his limited action, no? He struck out two and showed a nice little slider. Gotta figure we’ll see a little more of him next season.
  • This game set a regular season attendance record for New Yankee Stadium at 49,556 fans. The previous record was 49,555, so they beat it by one fan. Anyway, this win coupled with the Tigers loss to the Orioles means the Yankees have clinched the best record in the AL and homefield advantage in the playoffs. Since the Mets swept their doubleheader against Phillies, the Yanks are just one loss back of their 2009 World Series  opponent for the best record in baseball. Here’s the box score, here’s the FanGraphs stuff, and here’s the standings.

The Yankees and Red Sox will play a day-night doubleheader on Sunday,  wrapping up their season series. Ivan Nova and John Lackey A.J. Burnett and Tim Wakefield will start at 1pm ET and be followed by A.J. Burnett and Tim Wakefield Ivan Nova and John Lackey at 6:30pm ET. RAB Tickets can help get you into the Stadium if you want to catch one or both of the games, or you could come to Amity Hall and hang out with us at the FanGraphs event. Details here.