Ugly night on the mound at all levels

Now that we’re into June, it’s worth mentioning that the Short Season Staten Island and Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees start their seasons on June 17th and 20th, respectively. Extended Spring Training ends next week, then everyone heads to their new affiliate if they’re not released. There will also be a ton of 2011 draftees on both the SI and GCL rosters as well.

Oh, and it turns out that Carlos Silva does not have an opt-out clause on his contract (confirmed by Brian Cashman). That’s surprising and pretty good news, though Ivan Nova should still be looking over his shoulder.

Triple-A Scranton (13-2 loss to Indianapolis)
Kevin Russo, 2B: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 K – 14 for his last 37 (.378)
Ramiro Pena, SS, Dan Brewer, LF & Luis Nunez, 2B: all 0 for 4 – Pena drew a walk and scored … Brewer and Nunez each whiffed
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Jorge Vazquez, 3B: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K – 16 K in his last 32 at-bats
Brandon Laird, 1B & Austin Krum, CF: both 2 for 4 – Laird drove in a run … Krum stole a bag
Jordan Parraz, RF: 1 for 4, 1 K
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 1 IP, 0 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 1-1 GB/FB – just 17 of 39 pitches were strikes (43.6%) … sigh
Ryan Pope, RHP: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 1-4 GB/FB – 31 of 56 pitches were strikes (55.4%) … did Brackman no favors by allowing all three inherited runners to score
George Kontos, RHP: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 0-1 GB/FB – 31 of 48 pitches were strikes (64.6%)
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2-1 GB/FB – eight of 11 pitches were strikes (72.7%) … 8 K in 23 IP (3.13 K/9)
Kanekoa Texeira, RHP: 1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 24 of 42 pitches were strikes (57.1%) … ten hits and eight runs in 2.1 IP back

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Pinstriped Links: 6/2/11

We’re trying out a new feature around these parts today. Every day — or every few days — I’m going to bullet point a few stories related to baseball and the Yankees that are floating around the Internet. These are stories we either didn’t have time to write up for a full post or thought were worth a mention but not the full treatment. We’re happy to take submissions via the box at right, e-mail or through our Twitter account, and props to anyone who comes up with a catchier title than “Pinstriped Links.” On with the stories:

  • MLB sources said they were investigating after Yuri Sucart, A-Rod‘s infamous cousin, was spotted hanging around the Yankees… [Daily News]
  • …but the Commissioner’s Office absolved the Yanks’ third baseman of any wrong-doing. [ESPN NY]
  • If Curtis Granderson is voted onto the 2011 All Star team, his 2013 option will increase from $13 million to $14 million. [Cot’s via @ClintHolzner]
  • Nearly 23 months since last throwing a pitch in the Major Leagues, Chien Ming Wang is almost ready for a rehab assignment. [Nats Insider]
  • Ralph Gardner Jr. offers up some high praise for John Sterling and Suzy Waldman. [Wall Street Journal]
  • Joba, meanwhile, has confided in his stuffed animals that he wants to be a starting pitcher.

Open Thread: Even Stomper loves RAB

Even the Oakland A’s mascot loves us. That’s a picture of RAB’s own Hannah Ehrlich (left) and friend of the blog Amanda Rykoff (right) with Stomper, the A’s mascot. Notice that Hannah is wearing our sweet Evolution design, available on shirts and a bunch of other stuff at the RAB Shop. I just thought it was pretty cool that someone actually bought something from us, that’s all. Make sure you check out the rest of Amanda’s photos from the three game series on her Flickr page, some of which you’ve seen here over the last few days.

Anyways, here is your open thread for the night. Light schedule for baseball, but MLB Network will carry a game. The teams depend on where you live. Game Two of the NBA Finals will be on at 9pm ET (ABC), and that’s pretty much it. You know what to do, so have at it.

What to do with Posada?

Did you know that the Yankees are getting less from the DH spot than any other team in the AL — and that it’s not particularly close? It’s one area where the Yankees stand to significantly upgrade at the deadline. Posada still has some time to turn it around, but it appears less and less likely with each 0-for. Today at FanGraphs I looked at the problem and possible solutions. There are practical issues in the way, of course, so we might not see a speedy resolution. But when the Yankees are ready to take action, they can take their greatest offensive liability and perhaps turn it into an asset.

2011 Draft: Derek Fisher

The draft is just four days away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some players individually rather than lump a few together in one post.

Derek Fisher | OF

Background
Stuck in the baseball wasteland known as Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Fisher did not get much exposure with Cedar Crest High School this spring because the weather did not cooperate. He is committed to Virginia.

Scouting Report
Fisher’s calling card is his huge power from the left side, which stems from a lightning quick bat and good leverage. It’s the kind of power that you just don’t find anymore, the kind that can put the ball out of any part of every park. Fisher is also extremely patient at the plate, perhaps to a fault as he often lets hittable pitches go by early in the count. There’s a difference between patient and passive, and he’s passive. Fisher has a problem with breaking balls and is prone to chasing such pitches out of the zone, an obvious obstacle that he will have to overcome. He’s a left fielder long-term because he’s not a great runner and will only slow down as he fills out his 6-foot-3, 205 lb. frame, plus his arm is no weapon. Fisher won’t be a statue on defense, he’s just not fast enough for center and doesn’t have the arm for right.

Miscellany
Figuring out how to hit breaking balls is always a tough adjustment, maybe the toughest part of a hitter’s development, but Fisher’s upside is crazy high given his immense power. It’s from the left side too, which plays right to Yankee Stadium‘s strengths. That said, Fisher is obviously very risky and will be a slow mover, but the sudden decrease in power around the game makes his oh so desirable. Both Keith Law and Baseball America listed Fisher as the 66th best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, and KLaw said he was floating a $2M+ price tag in today’s chat.

Scouting The Trade Market: Jose Reyes

(Photo Credit: Flickr user MissChatter via Creative Commons license)

It’s been a long, long time since the Yankees had to worry about finding a shortstop. Derek Jeter played the position brilliantly for a decade and a half, but his offense continues to decline as he approaches his 37th birthday (less than four weeks away) and his defense has never been highly regarded. They just signed him to a three-year contract that is essentially a four-year contract because of the player option, so finding a new shortstop less than four months into the contract is less than ideal. Then again, it’s not completely impossible.

The Mets are not in contention and several of their players figure to be up for grabs at the trade deadline. We’ve already looked at Carlos Beltran as a possible trade target, but now lets turn our attention to Jose Reyes. They may not have the money to sign him long-term, and cashing him in as a trade chip could be preferable to the two draft picks they’d receive if he left as a free agent. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the Mets’ shortstop…

The Pros

  • Still just 27, Reyes is in the prime of his career. He’s in the middle of the best season of his career, hitting .335/.382/.493 at a time when the average MLB shortstop is hitting .261/.318/.372, and his 19 steals are the second most in baseball. Reyes is a switch hitter with little to no platoon split both this year and for his career.
  • Both UZR and John Dewan’s +/- system rate Reyes as just about league average defensively over the last three-plus seasons. Above-average offense and average defense at short is a tremendously valuable player. In fact, he leads all big league shortstops in fWAR (2.9) and is seventh in bWAR (1.7).
  • Reyes is scheduled to become a free agent after the season, which should limit the return. Position players in their walk years usually don’t require huge packages in midseason trades, just look at the recent Mark Teixeira (Braves to Angels) and Matt Holliday (A’s to Cardinals) deals.
  • There have been indications from Reyes that he would like to stay in New York long-term, particularly because his kids are in school where he lives out on Long Island, and because the flights to the Dominican Republic are easy. That could make it easier to sign him to a contract extension this winter (the Yankees don’t negotiate new deals in season).

The Cons

  • Reyes has a bit of injury history, spending time on the disabled list for a thyroid imbalance (16 days) in 2010, a knee strain (137 days) in 2009, a stress fracture in his left leg (43 days) in 2004, a a thigh strain (77 days) also in 2004, and an ankle sprain (28 days) in 2003. Non-DL ailments include an oblique issue (2010) and tendinitis in his left leg (2009). The leg issues are the most concerning since his game is built on speed.
  • Derek Jeter. The Yankees will have to deal with the fallout of moving Jeter off shortstop and almost certainly out of the leadoff spot. Given the recent Jorge Posada spat, it figures to get hella ugly. If the Cap’n becomes a full-time designated hitter, what happens to Posada? There’s not an easy answer.
  • As I mentioned in the Beltran post, the Yankees and Mets simply don’t get together and make trades very often, especially not when it involves players of this caliber. Then again, Sandy Alderson is pretty ruthless and probably won’t care about the negative PR if the deal helps his team.

There’s a lot to like about the possibility of Jose Reyes in a Yankees’ uniform, even if it only ends up being a rental (they’d get draft picks if he signs elsewhere). On paper, it’s an easy to displace Jeter from shortstop and the leadoff spot, but you know it won’t be that way in real life. This is one of those situations where the team would have to approach him beforehand to explain what they were doing rather than just drop it on him after the media is made aware of it and what not. I think a Reyes trade is extremely unlikely, at least one that brings him to the Bronx, but it never hurts to explore the possibility to see if the pieces fits. It’s quite obvious they do, and the Yankees have the prospects to get it done for a Holliday-esque package.

The key to the winning streak

Like a boss. (Photo Credit: Amanda Rykoff)

At long last, the Yankees have finally put together their first four game winning streak of 2011. Yesterday’s game was the first non-blowout of the stretch, a 4-2 game after the Yankees outscored the Athletics and Mariners 22-4 in the first three games. They hit homers, strung together extended rallies with base hits and walks, capitalized on errors, stole home, you name it and the Yankees did it offensively during these last four games. There has been one constant in those four games though, and that’s been the starting pitching.

It all started Sunday afternoon with the guy that’s supposed to get things started for this team. CC Sabathia took the ball in the series finale against Seattle, fresh off a disappointing extra innings loss on Saturday. While his offense went to work against Jason Vargas, Sabathia gave his team 118 stress-free pitches and eight effective innings. Eighteen of his 24 outs were recorded either on the ground or via strike three, and it was exactly the kind of effort a team needs from their ace when they’re reeling from two come-from-behind losses.

Bartolo Colon followed that up with the best pitched game of the winning streak, throwing his first complete game shutout in half-a-decade against the A’s on Monday afternoon. It was glorious, he went at the hitters with fastball after fastball, surrendering just four hits (and no walks) against six strikeouts in those nine innings. Freddy Garcia chipped in seven innings of three run ball on Tuesday, innings that were hardly spectacular but obviously effective. A.J. Burnett made it four in row yesterday with seven innings of two run ball, allowing just one hit following a first inning two run homer.

All told, Yankees’ starters combined to pitch 31 of 36 possible innings during the winning streak, holding opponents to just 21 hits and eight walks. It was exactly the kind of stretch we almost didn’t expect to see out of the rotation this season given how the staff looked (on paper) back in January and February and March. Through 54 games, exactly one-third of the season, Yankees’ starters own a 3.83 ERA (6th in the AL), a 4.04 FIP (9th), and a 3.85 xFIP (4th). By no means great, but I think it’s better than we expected.

The Yankees have only used six different starting pitchers this year, which is pretty good at this point of the season. Ivan Nova‘s spot is a little bit in question right now, but the Yankees appear to be sticking with him for the time being. They’re still going to have to go out and get someone before the trade deadline, if no other reason than to add depth (remember the “they have enough pitching” talk during the Cliff Lee rumors last July? yeah, right), but through the first third of the season, I think we can safely say that the starting staff (the scrap heap guys in particular) have exceeded even our most optimistic of expectations.