• Cashman confirms Yankees will move Jose Ramirez to the bullpen
    By

    During a recent interview (video link), Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees are moving Jose Ramirez to the bullpen full-time. “Jose Ramirez is a power right-hander that’s been a starter throughout his minor league career, but because of injuries we’re going to stick him in the bullpen,” said the GM. “He has a chance to move very fast.”

    Ramirez, 24, has not pitched this spring due to a lingering oblique injury. He has thrown 100+ innings only twice in his career (2010-11) because of elbow, shoulder, lat, and oblique problems. Ramirez pitched to a 3.67 ERA (4.62 FIP) with a 78/36 K/BB in 73.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season. I think his mid-90s fastball/changeup/slider combo could be devastating in relief, and I’m glad to see they’ve pulled the plug on him as a starter due to the continued injuries. I ranked Ramirez as the team’s 12th best prospect last month and we could see him at some point this summer, health permitting.
    · (31) ·

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Prior to yesterday’s game, Joe Girardi said there’s a chance he will announce his rotation for the start of the season on Tuesday. The fifth starter competition is technically still alive, though it seems both Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren have already been ruled out. It’s down to David Phelps and Michael Pineda, and based on how he’s thrown this spring, it’s hard to think Pineda won’t be the rotation if he stays healthy over the next ten days or so.

Pineda is making his third start and fourth appearance of Grapefruit League play this afternoon. The first three outings were pretty good overall, and the most important thing is that his fastball velocity has gradually crept upwards each time out. He topped out at 92 mph in his first game, then topped out at 93 mph in his second game, and in his last outing he hit 94 mph. I don’t know if Pineda will ever throw as he hard as he did with the Mariners a few years ago, but what we’ve seen so far is encouraging. He’s probably scheduled for something like 75-80 pitches this afternoon.

The Blue Jays made the short trip across the causeway from Dunedin for this afternoon’s game. Most of their regulars made the trip, including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, and former Yankee Melky Cabrera. Should be a nice test for Pineda. Mark Buehrle will be on the bump. Here is the Yankees’ starting lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Alfonso Soriano
  7. 2B Brian Roberts
  8. 3B Eduardo Nunez
  9. CF Ichiro Suzuki
    SP Michael Pineda

Available Pitchers: RHP Chris Leroux, RHP Matt Daley, RHP Preston Claiborne, RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Cesar Cabral, RHP Jim Miller, RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Shane Greene, LHP Fred Lewis, RHP Manny Burawa, and RHP Branden Pinder.

Available Position Players: C Jose Gil, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Zelous Wheeler, SS Yangervis Solarte, 3B Scott Sizemore, LF Zoilo Almonte, CF Antoan Richardson, RF Adonis Garcia, C Austin Romine, C John Ryan Murphy, and IF Dean Anna.

It’s cloudy but warm in Tampa, temperatures in the mid-to-high-70s with no threat of rain. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start a little after 1pm ET, and you can watch live on YES, MLB Network, and MLB.tv. Enjoy.

Comments (121)

The Grapefruit League winning streak is up to seven after the Yankees beat the Twins 5-4 on Saturday afternoon. Masahiro Tanaka had his worst start of the spring, allowing three runs on five hits, one walk, and one hit batsman in 5.2 innings before hitting his pitch count. He struck out six, got six ground ball outs, and four fly ball outs. Tanaka got burned by the shaky infield defense a few times but he was also behind in the count quite a bit early. He wasn’t sharp but it was hardly a disaster.

Zoilo Almonte and Zelous Wheeler both had a pair of hits, including a double. Scott Sizemore singled in two runs. Brett Gardner went 0-for-3 and both Eduardo Nunez and Kelly Johnson went 1-for-4 with a run scored. Frankie Cervelli had a rough day physically, getting hit by a pitch in the left hand and also getting hit by a few foul tips. He remained in the game through it all, so I guess he’s fine. Cervelli went 0-for-2 with a run scored and the hit-by-pitch at the plate. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest from camp.

This is your open thread for the evening. This afternoon’s game will not be replayed anywhere, but MLB Network will show the Dodgers and Diamondbacks live from Australia at 10pm ET (Ryu vs. Cahill). That’s a regular season game and the second of the two-game series — the Dodgers won the first game of the year this morning. The Devils and Rangers are playing (each other) as well, so talk about these games or anything else here.

Comments (40)
  • Spring Training Game Thread: Yankees @ Twins
    By

    Two days after traveling to Fort Myers to play the Red Sox, the Yankees are back in town this afternoon to play the Twins. Masahiro Tanaka is making his third “real” start of the spring and his fifth overall appearance. He’s scheduled to throw 90 pitches, so this will basically be a full start. As you might expect, the Bombers did not send many of their regulars on the 2+ hour bus trip after playing last night. Here are the Yankees and Twins lineups. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET and the game can be seen on MLB.tv. There is no live YES or MLB Network broadcast. Enjoy the game if you’re watching.

    Update: Whoops, apparently the game is live on MLB Network. My bad.
    · (25) ·

Another day, another win. The Yankees won their sixth consecutive Grapefruit League game on Friday night, shutting out the Pirates four-zip. CC Sabathia was in midseason form, holding the Bucs to four hits and one walk in seven innings of work. He struck out seven and got ten ground ball outs compared to just two in the air. Vintage. The television gun had Sabathia mostly at 88-89 mph but there were a bunch of 90s and 91s mixed in throughout the outing. That’s encouraging. His offspeed stuff was dynamite.

Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira all went 0-for-3, though the first two drove in runs with ground balls. Jeter fouled two pitches off his left foot/ankle, but told Bryan Hoch he’s fine after the game. He was not scheduled to play Saturday, so Jeter will get a day to rest anyway. Brian McCann doubled in a run and the trio of Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, and Brian Roberts went 1-for-3. McCann also threw out two attempted base-stealers. Matt Thornton (two outs), Shawn Kelley (one), and David Robertson (three) retired all six batters faced. I hope every game goes this smoothly. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest from Tampa.

  • Before the game, Shane Greene and Greg Bird were named the 2013 Kevin Lawn Award winners as the organization’s minor league pitcher and hitter of the year, respectively. Congrats to them.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) took batting practice and did some conditioning drills today. Everything went fine, as far as I can tell. Brian Cashman said he’s “not worried” about the injury and Joe Girardi said Ellsbury will likely play in a game either Sunday or Tuesday (they’re off on Monday). I’d put my money on Tuesday. [Jorge Castillo, David Waldstein]
  • In case you missed it earlier, an MRI revealed a pinched nerve in Brendan Ryan‘s back and he is likely to open the season on the DL. Cashman said “all the answers are here in camp” when asked about replacing Ryan, just in case you were hoping they’d make a trade or sign someone. [Bryan Hoch]
  • Ivan Nova will indeed pitch in a minor league game on Monday. That’s how the rotation lines up. Both Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren threw 80+ pitches in a minor league game on Thursday, so they’re staying stretched out. Nova and Michael Pineda threw their scheduled bullpen sessions. [Chad Jennings, Castillo]
  • Thornton will pitch again tomorrow night because Larry Rothschild wants to get him in a set of back-to-back games before the end of camp. [Castillo]
  • One last thing: Friday was the first day teams can place players on the 15-day DL (of backdate the DL stint) if they intend to activate them right when the 15 days are up. Could come into play with Ryan. [Evan Drellich]

The Yankees are on the road to play the Twins in Fort Myers tomorrow afternoon, when Masahiro Tanaka will make his fourth start of the spring (really fifth if you count his simulated game). We’re approaching the point of the spring when the regular start playing two or three days in a row, but I’m not sure how many will make the 2+ hour bus trip south after playing tonight.

Categories : Spring Training
Comments (36)
(Presswire)

(Presswire)

This has been a weird spring for CC Sabathia, this evening’s starter. His fastball continues to sit in the upper-80s and that remains a concern, but he has been excellent in two of three outings, including retiring 15 of 16 batters faced in his last start. (The one was an error by the third baseman.) Baseball Reference’s opponent quality stat says Sabathia has been facing almost all big leaguers too. I’d like to see more velocity, but at the end of the day outs are outs. If he gets them throwing 88 mph, who am I to complain?

The Pirates are in Tampa for tonight’s game. Even though it’s a night game and they had to make an hour bus trip up from Bradenton, they did bring a few of their regulars, including Neil Walker, reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, and former Yankees farmhand Jose Tanaka. Edinson Volquez will be on the mound. I have no idea why the Pirates a) gave him $5M, and b) are expecting him to be in their rotation. That’s a move the pre-2013 Pirates would make. Whatever. Here’s the starting lineup, which looks an awful lot like what we figure to see come Opening Day:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. LF Alfonso Soriano
  7. 3B Kelly Johnson
  8. 2B Brian Roberts
  9. DH Ichiro Suzuki
    LHP CC Sabathia

Available Pitchers: RHP David Herndon, LHP Matt Thornton, RHP Shawn Kelley, and RHP David Robertson are all scheduled to pitch. RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Shane Greene, and LHP Fred Lewis are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Yangervis Solarte, SS Dean Anna, 3B Zelous Wheeler, LF Zoilo Almonte, CF Antoan Richardson, and RF Adonis Garcia will be the second string off the bench. C Austin Romine, C/1B Jose Gil, C Peter O’Brien, and UTIL Casey Stevenson are also available.

The weather is fine in Tampa. Some clouds and temperatures in the mid-to-highs-70, but no threat of rain. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch live on both MLB Network and MLB.tv. There is no YES broadcast even though it’s a home game. Enjoy.

Comments (50)
  • MRI shows pinched nerve in Brendan Ryan’s back
    By

    Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon that an MRI revealed a pinched nerve in Brendan Ryan’s back. He will receive a cortisone shot and is likely to start the season on the DL. Ryan was dealing with an oblique injury earlier in camp, but this new back issue popped up last night. At this point it seems like a very safe bet that Eduardo Nunez and either Dean Anna or Yangervis Solarte will be on the Opening Day roster. · (19) ·

(Charleston River Dogs)

(Charleston River Dogs)

Two years ago, 3B Dante Bichette Jr. was one of the top prospects in the Yankees’ system. They selected him with the 51st overall pick in the 2011 draft (the compensation pick for Javier Vazquez) and he hit .335/.440/.507 with 17 doubles and four homers in 54 games with the Rookie GCL Yankees after turning pro, a performance that earned him the league MVP award. The Yankees were widely panned for the pick but the early returns were great.

The last two seasons have not gone as well, however. Bichette, now 21, hit .248/.322/.331 with only three homers in 122 games for Low-A Charleston in 2012, then followed it up with a .214/.292/.331 batting line in 114 games for the River Dogs last year. Repeating a level and performing worse in the second year is as bad as it gets. Bichette dropped off prospect lists this spring and understandable so.

In a free article at Baseball Prospectus — all of their content is free today, by the way — the staff compiled some miscellaneous scouting notes from the Spring Training backfields. Here’s the write-up on Bichette, from Steffan Segui:

Bichette looks like he might be turning the corner this spring. While still rotational, everything in his swing has been simplified, and his good natural power hasn’t been depleted. His swing is now rock, identify pitch, and roll. Short and quick, don’t ask questions, just hit the ball. Previously, he was doing too much: It used to be huge rock, never identify pitch, enormous Javier Baez-type leg lift, front shoulder bails, hands drop and then roll. This new approach should definitely help Bichette and might allow him to recapture the prospect status he once had, assuming his issues with off-speed stuff stemmed from his swing rather than his approach. At third, he isn’t very good, his hands lack softness and he really doesn’t have any fluidity. He might make strides there at some point, but if not the arm is good enough for right field.

The knock on Bichette was always his complicated setup and hitch-y swing. The Yankees actually did a good job of quieting him soon after the draft in 2011, but it didn’t stick and Bichette has been his old self these last two years. Those numbers aren’t an accident.

A simplified swing and a new approach could help Bichette regain some prospect luster, but I want to see some improvement before I believe it. Baseball Prospectus has been bullish on Bichette over the years and so far he has yet to reward their faith. Maybe this is the start of him turning his career around. I hope it is. I don’t think Bichette has earned the benefit of the doubt though. Let’s see the new swing and approach produce some results first.

There’s also a write-up on Aaron Judge in the BP article, though there isn’t any new information in there.

Categories : Minors
Comments (18)
(Presswire)

(Presswire)

The more deeply you examine the 2013 New York Yankees, the more unbelievable their win total seems. On the whole they did nothing well. The putrid offense, which ranked 28th in wRC+, was on display daily. Pitching? They ranked 18th in the league in ERA.

You’d think that if they couldn’t put together a decent offense that they’d compensate with a solid defense. You’d be wrong. They ranked 24th in team defensive efficiency. The guys who couldn’t hit apparently also couldn’t field well.

The 2014 Yankees figure to perform a bit better on defense. They not only brought in an upgrade in Jacoby Ellsbury, but they get back Mark Teixeira. There are a couple of other subtle upgrades, too, that could add up to at least an average defense.

Derek Jeter and Brendan Ryan

Derek Jeter as a defensive upgrade? Surely I’m just pulling your chain. Sadly, I’m not. Jeter did improve his defense for a few years starting in 2008, but by 2012 it had again declined. How can we expect he’ll provide any value in 2014, at age 40?

Defensive statistics have enough shortcomings that they’re hardly worth bringing into serious discussions. In fact, once the new fielding system becomes public, I think we’ll look back at UZR and laugh. Yet it’s troubling when not just UZR, but essentially every publicly available defensive metric says that Eduardo Nunez absolutely killed the Yankees at SS.

DRS: -28
UZR: -20.6 (-40.7/150!)
TZ: -17
FRAA: -11.4*

* This includes all defense, while the others are at SS only

Given Nunez’s deficiencies, Jeter could actually be an upgrade. Furthering the upgrade is a full year of Brendan Ryan on the bench. He’ll provide value as a late-inning defensive replacement and as an occasional starter when Jeter needs a day off. His high level of play could even offset Jeter’s to an extent, even in a fraction of the time.

There is little doubt that the 2014 Yankees will provide better defense at short than the 2013 Yankees. It’s no wonder the Yankees moved quickly to get Ryan into the fold.

Mark Teixeira

To be fair, the Yankees did find an adequate defensive first baseman in Lyle Overbay. He came nowhere near Teixeira’s offensive production, even if you erase his late-season slump. But on defense he held his own.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

At the same time, Mark Teixeira is on another level. If we could precisely quantify everything a first baseman does on defense, I have to imagine Teixeira would consistently rank among the league’s top five. He might not be the quickest or most athletic guy on the diamond, but his instincts and reflexes at first more than compensate.

Just because first base is all the way at the end of the defensive spectrum does not mean it lacks importance. Sure, plenty of big lumbering power hitters can stand at first base, but few play the position well. As Ron Washington so aptly put it, “It’s incredibly hard.”

Teixeira handles it with agility and grace. It’s easy to forget the days of Jason Giambi playing first.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner

In the last few years Ellsbury has improved his game in center field. A few years ago the Red Sox signed Mike Cameron and moved Ellsbury to left. Perhaps that was the kick in the ass he needed. Whatever the case, he tracks balls well and has plenty of speed, making him a high quality center fielder.

The Yankees had a very good center fielder last year in Brett Gardner. Speed takes center stage in Gardner’s game. He doesn’t always get the best read, nor does he always take the best route. But he makes a lot of plays, because he can compensate with his legs. This year he’ll play center a bit, but not on a day-to-day basis. This helps the Yankees outfield tremendously.

Again taking defensive metrics with a grain of salt (to the point where I won’t quote actual numbers), Gardner produced insane numbers playing left field in 2010 and 2011. Yes, he’s good, but multiple wins good? Here’s the thing with defensive numbers: they compare players at the same position. Since left field is reserved for those lumbering sluggers who don’t have much of an arm, they typically don’t play high-caliber defense. Gardner runs laps around them.

So the Yankees marginally upgrade in center, going from Gardner to Ellsbury. But they upgrade insanely in left field, relative to the league, because Gardner will track down so many more fly balls than his peers.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Ichiro

His bat might not have much left in it, but Ichiro can still run down balls in the outfield. This will come in handy at various points during the 2014 season. He’s the obvious defensive replacement on the bench, giving the Yankees a lockdown outfield in later innings. But that’s not his only role.

If everyone stays healthy – and given Ellsbury’s current injury that’s far from a given – Ichiro wouldn’t get many starts. But guys get bumps and bruises. Carlos Beltran could need days off to rest his knees. Ellsbury and Gardner will need days off here and there even if they do stay healthy. In each instance, playing Ichiro in right makes a degree of sense.

In the the case of longer-term injuries I’d like to see them call up Zoilo Almonte to take more reps, since he still has at least a modicum of big league potential. Ichiro is almost certainly gone after this season, and could be gone before that under the right circumstances. But as long as he’s on the roster, he’ll provide a good defensive option in right field when the Yankees need it.

Categories : Defense
Comments (16)

Huge mailbag this week. Nine questions and nearly 2,000 words. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Terry asks: With Jimmy Rollins seeming fallen out of favor with Ryne Sandberg and the Phillies, do you think it would make sense to see if the Yankees to put together some sort of trade package together with Ichiro Suzuki being the centerpiece? Do you think he would be open to playing 2B? He’d have to be an upgrade over Brian Roberts and would allow him to become a role player. They could be held relatively healthy by splitting 2B and now there is a SS back up that can hit.

Rollins and Sandberg had a bit of a falling out earlier this spring — Sandberg benched him for four straight Spring Training games to send a message, believe it or not — and there has been some talk that the team may try to trade him. Rollins told Todd Zolecki the rumors don’t bother him though; he has 10-and-5 rights and can veto any trade. Maybe he’d be willing to accept a trade to join the veteran-laden Yankees, who knows. He wouldn’t be the first long-term someotherteam to do it (Ichiro and Lance Berkman).

There are four problems with the 35-year-old Rollins. One, he just isn’t that good of a hitter anymore, putting up a .252/.318/.348 (84 wRC+) line last season. Two, he has 0.1 career innings at second base (in 2002) and would have to learn the position on the fly. Three, he’s owed $11M this year and his $11M option for 2015 vests with only 434 plate appearances this season. Four, he’s kind of a jerk with a tendency to run his mouth (remember this?). The Yankees seem to actively avoid those players. Would he be an upgrade over Roberts? Probably. Is he worth the headache? Probably not.

Dan asks: What does the Glen Perkins extension mean for David Robertson? Also, why would the Twins sign him to that? They already had him for this season, next season, and a team option for 2016. Now they not only raised his salaries for the next three years, they guaranteed the team option and one additional year for $6.5m each.

That Perkins contract (four years, $22.175M with a club option) is a freakin’ steal. He’s a local guy from just outside the Twin Cities, so it definitely seems like he took a hometown discount. Perkins is an elite reliever and probably the second best lefty bullpener in the game behind Aroldis Chapman. Even if he slips and he becomes just a lefty specialist down the line, his highest annual salary during the life of this deal is $6.5M in both 2017 and 2018. That’s just about Boone Logan money.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Because he took such a big discount, Perkins’ extension doesn’t mean anything for Robertson. Robertson will make more this season ($5.125M) as a third year arbitration-eligible setup man than Perkins will as an All-Star closer both this year ($4.025M) and next ($4.65M). Perkins would have been a free agent this past offseason had he not signed his previous extension, and I’m guessing he would have gotten three or four years at $10-12M annually on the open market, even at age 31. Basically double his extension. The Twins did it because it was simply too good to pass up.

Chris asks: When will we know if the Yankees are going to get Tommy Kahnle back via the Rule 5 Draft process? I am hopeful that we will get him back, as he would seem to be a strong asset to have.

There is no set date for Rule 5 Draft players, they can be returned at any point between now (really the first day of Spring Training) and the final game of the regular season. I wrote our Rockies season preview at CBS (shameless plug) and their bullpen is pretty stacked. There’s no room for Kahnle unless someone else gets hurt or traded. He’s thrown 6.1 good innings this spring but nothing that leads you to believe he’s forcing his way into the team’s plans. If Kahnle doesn’t make the Rockies, he’ll have to clear waivers before being offered back to the Yankees. I’m not sure he’ll ever be anything more than an up-and-down arm without a big improvement in his command.

Mickey asks: Assuming things play out with Michael Pineda in the fifth spot and Vidal Nuno stretched out in AAA as the sixth starter, how many times could he be called up without passing through waivers this season and who would/could be sent down to accommodate such a move?

As many times as the team wants. Minor league options really refer to option years. Players get three of them (sometimes four for weird reasons), meaning they go back and forth between MLB and the minors in three different seasons without having to pass through waivers. The Yankees burned one of Nuno’s options last season but can still send him (or any of the other fifth starter candidates for that matter, they have at least one option left) up and down as much as they want in 2014. I suspect that last open bullpen spot will be a revolving door this year. It always is.

Bill asks: Is Francisco Cervelli more valuable to the team being their backup catcher to start the season, or as trade-bait for an upgrade elsewhere?

I think he’s more valuable to the Yankees. A week or two ago when we heard teams are scouting him, we also heard the likely return would be another out of options player. Nothing great. They won’t be able to flip him for Derek Jeter‘s long-term replacement at shortstop or anything. Cervelli has hit this spring and he hit last year before getting hurt. With his trade value down, I think you take him into the season and see what happens. His trade value couldn’t drop much further, but if the bat is legit, it could go up quite a bit. Unless someone blows the team away with an offer (Chris Owings? Please? Maybe?), I’d hang onto Frankie.

(NY Times)

(NY Times)

Stephen asks: I noticed in your latest post on Jorge Mateo you mentioned he is an 80 runner on the 20-80 scale (that dude must be fast!). Is this common? Are there any (recent or not) Yankee prospects that rank 80 out of 80 on any tools? Was Randy Johnson’s slider an 80? Pedro Martinez’s change up? Etc?

There are a bunch of good primers on the 20-80 scouting scale out there, but here’s a good one from Prospect Insider. Long story short: 20 is terrible, 80 is elite, and 50 is average. Sometimes you’ll see half-grades like a 55 or 75 of whatever. 80s are very rare though and are not thrown around all that often.

Baseball America started including 20-80 grades for individual tools in their Prospect Handbook back in 2011, but for each organization’s top prospect only. Here are all the 80s:

  • 2014: Rockies RHP Jonathan Gray’s fastball, Twins OF Byron Buxton’s speed and defense, Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito’s fastball
  • 2013: Reds OF Billy Hamilton’s speed, Twins 3B Miguel Sano’s power, Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole’s fastball
  • 2012: Angels OF Mike Trout’s speed, Giants OF Gary Brown’s speed, Cole’s fastball
  • 2011: Reds LHP Aroldis Chapman’s fastball, Nationals OF Bryce Harper’s power and arm, Trout’s speed

The Yankees drafted both Gray (2011 tenth round) and Cole (2008 first round) but did not sign them, in case you forgot. /sobs

Anyway, that’s it. Fourteen 80 tools in four years worth of top prospects. Five tools per prospect and 30 prospects per year gives us 600 tools total, meaning 2.3% graded out at 80s. Sounds about right. Like I said, 80s are rare and saved for the truly elite. Also, I think it’s interesting that ten of those 14 tools above are speed or fastball, things that can be quantified with a stop watch and radar gun. Saying someone has an 80 hit tool or 80 changeup is much more subjective.

I can’t think of any recent Yankees farmhand with an 80 tool, except for Mateo, I guess. Baseball America had Jesus Montero with both 70 power and 70 hit in 2011, which is pretty close. Brett Gardner is much closer to 65-70 speed than 80. As for big leaguers, I think both Mariano Rivera and Greg Maddux had 80 command, though I am no scout. Barry Bonds had 80 power, Tony Gwynn had an 80 hit tool, Pedro’s changeup was probably an 80, ditto Randy Johnson’s slider. I remember reading a Keith Law post (or maybe it was one of his chats, I forget) saying Justin Verlander had an 80 fastball and 80 curveball during his peak.

I don’t believe there’s an 80 tool on the Yankees right now. Ichiro Suzuki used to be an 80 hitter, no doubt about that. Jacoby Ellsbury is more of a 70 runner than a true 80. Maybe Brian McCann‘s pitch-framing is an 80? He’s excellent at it according to the various metrics, but those are still works in progress.

Frank asks: I see Bryan Mitchell is on the Scranton AAA roster. Seems somewhat surprising, so is he closer to the show than we were led to believe? Is it true that his “new” cutter has possibly propelled him to the top of the pitching prospect class?

I gotten a few questions like this. Don’t read anything into the level a player is assigned when he’s cut from big league camp. That’s only their Spring Training work group. They can be assigned to different levels before the start of the season and most of them well. Mitchell pitched well in camp and he does indeed have a new cutter, but he made only three starts at Double-A Trenton last season. That’s where he’ll head for the start of 2014.

(Norm Hall/Getty)

(Norm Hall/Getty)

Eric asks: Mason Williams for Wilmer Flores?

I think both teams would say no, actually. The Mets need infielders and Flores is their top MLB-ready youngster — they have him working out at short this spring, something he hasn’t done since 2011 — so I’m not sure they would give him up for a Double-A outfielder coming off a bad season, even if said outfielder’s ceiling is high. I think the Yankees would say no because it’s an underwhelming return for a guy who was arguably their top prospect 12 months ago. I’m skeptical of Flores because he spent parts of six seasons trying to get out of Single-A, and it wasn’t until he got to ultra-hitter friendly Triple-A Last Vegas last summer that he re-established himself as a prospect. Trading an outfield prospect for a young infielder makes sense, but I don’t think Flores would be the guy to target.

Jack asks: I don’t understand why Pineda is considered to have more “upside” than David Phelps inasmuch as at this point Phelps’ fastball is probably a couple ticks higher and his control is markedly better. While Pineda supposed has a better breaking pitch does that one factor offset Phelps’ advantages in velocity and control? At best/worst, their upsides are probably similar.

I disagree that Phelps’ fastball is a couple ticks higher — it definitely isn’t based on this spring alone — and that his control is better. What separated Pineda from most young pitchers was his ability to pound the zone and his throw strikes, something he’s done this spring following shoulder surgery. Their minor league walk rates are identical (2.1 vs. 2.2 BB/9) and Pineda has the advantage at the MLB level (2.9 vs. 3.5 BB/9), for what it’s worth. Pineda has more upside because he’s 28 months younger and because his slider is far better than anything Phelps throws. The shoulder injury might have knocked Pineda’s ultimate ceiling down a notch or three, but Phelps pretty much is what he is. That’s not to say he’s bad, just that he might not be anything more than a back-end arm. Just watch the two, the difference in upside is obvious. You can really dream on Pineda.

Categories : Mailbag
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