Bullpen Injury Updates: Mitre, Joba, Feliciano, Logan

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

We’re inching closer and closer to Opening Day, so minor injuries are starting to become a little bit more of a concern. Here’s the latest on what’s going on with the walking wounded out in the bullpen, courtesy of Marc Carig and Chad Jennings

  • Sergio Mitre is scheduled or three or four innings this afternoon, so it’s safe to say his oblique issue is a thing of the past.
  • Joba Chamberlain‘s strained oblique was well enough that he threw long-toss yesterday, and tomorrow he’s scheduled to throw a bullpen session. Assuming that goes well, he should get back into a game sometime next week.
  • Pedro Feliciano is dealing with a dead arm, but Joe Girardi downplayed the extent of the fatigue and just called it “extra rest.” The only reason this is a concern is because Feliciano is 34 years old and has made like 900 appearances in each of the last four years, but dead arms are pretty common this time of year.
  • Boone Logan went through a dead arm phase of his own recently, but now he’s dealing with back spasms. He did pitch in last night’s game, so the back stuff is pretty fresh. “As long as they’re just back spasms, it’s usually four or five days,”  said Girardi. “They’re no fun, I know that.”

Wouldn’t that be something; more than $9M tied up between three lefty relievers, and they all start the season on the disabled list? Yikes. Hopefully that won’t come to fruition.

Mailbag: Chapman, Figueroa, Lil’ Lefties

A pitching heavy mailbag this week, and none of the guys are currently on the Yankees’ 40-man roster. Go figure. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Emilio asks: In your article [a few weeks ago], you explain that the Yankees rank high up there in international signings. Yet, they didn’t sign Chapman. It is inconceivable that a franchise that values pitching and must consider a replacement for the great Mariano would let this powerful young pitcher go to the Reds. Much of the money that Cincinnati gave Chapman was deferred. Given your knowledge of these signings and what goes on within Yankee management, please explain why the Yankees didn’t go after Chapman. He would be on the major league roster right now. He is better than Feliciano and Logan.

Inconceivable? I hate the use of strong language with stuff like this, when we have no idea what happened behind the scenes. I mean really, is it that inconceivable that they might have watched him throw, didn’t fall in love with the 100+ mph heat because they saw an arm and body unable to handle the long-term stress and didn’t want to gamble upwards of $30M on it? Come on, it’s not that far-fetched.

Anyway, based on what we know, sure they should have gone after him, but not as a replacement for Mariano Rivera, who cares about that. Saying he’s better than Feliciano and Logan doesn’t really do anything for me either, if you’re looking to spend that much money on a LOOGY, you’re doing it wrong. You don’t waste an arm like that in the bullpen, they could have had Aroldis competing for a rotation spot right now. Brian Cashman denied the report of a $54M+ offer (unsurprisingly), but I also don’t believe him when he says they never made an offer.

There’s no point in dwelling on it now, they can’t go back in time to sign him.

MattG asks: How’s this for a better-than-Mitre­™ trade target? Nelson Figueroa. As a swingman that won’t hurt you in the bullpen or the rotation, Figueroa could be nice insurance, and should become available if Jordan Lyles breaks camp with the Astros.

(AP Photo/Ed Betz)

I have an irrational love for Figueroa, mostly because I had him for a while in The Show a few years back and he was awesome for me. Something about his delivery in the game made it extremely easy to be accurate with the pitching meter.

Anywho, Figueroa’s a pretty generic finesse right-hander, sitting 87-89 with the fastball and throwing five pitches – four-seamer (35.2%), cutter (13.3%), changeup (13.1%), slider (21.8%), and curveball (15.4%) – pretty regularly. He’s been surprisingly solid over the last three years (3.84 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 4.52 xFIP), though he’s thrown no more than 93 innings in any of those seasons. Figueroa’s not really a ground ball guy (41.3%) nor is he a fly ball guy (39.4%) or a strikeout guy (6.13 K/9). He’s a classic ‘tweener, a Four-A type that doesn’t do anything well but has survived this long because he’s just good enough. I’m not sure he’s better than any of the Yankees’ fourth and fifth starter candidates right now, and at 36 years old (soon to be 37), the guy is a grenade with the pin pulled.

Tom in Georgia asks: Who were the best “little” left handers to pitch for the Yankees? My picks (and I saw them all) are Bobby Schantz, who once pitched 279 innings for the Phillies at 5’6″ and 130 pounds, and was pretty damned good for the Yankees in the ’50s, Whitey Ford, 5’10”, 178 pounds, and Ron Guidry, 5’1″1, 161 pounds. In these days of 6’7″, 250 pounds+, would any scout ever even look at these guys, much less sign them, or would they just tell them to take up soccer?

This is where the B-Ref Play Index comes in handy. The ten best left-handers no taller than 6-foot-0 in Yankees history (by bWAR) are…

  1. Whitey Ford, 5-foot-10 (55.3 WAR)
  2. Ron Guidry, 5-foot-11 (44.4 WAR)
  3. Herb Pennock, 6-foot-0 (29.2 WAR)
  4. Eddie Lopat, 5-foot-10 (21.5 WAR)
  5. Fritz Peterson, 6-foot-0 (17.4 WAR)
  6. Al Downing, 5-foot-11 (13.5 WAR)
  7. Bobby Shantz, 5-foot-6 (5.9 WAR)
  8. Shane Rawley, 6-foot-0 (4.8 WAR)
  9. Ray Fontenot, 6-foot-0 (4.0WAR)
  10. Hank Thormahlen, 6-foot-0 (3.8 WAR)

Unsurprisingly, just one of these guys pitched for the Yankees after 1985, and that was nothing more than the twilight of Guidry’s career. As for the best 6-foot-and-under left-handed starters in baseball history…

  1. Warren Spahn, 6-foot-0 (93.4 WAR)
  2. Eddie Plank, 5-foot-11 (76.3 WAR)
  3. Tom Glavine, 6-foot-0 (67.0 WAR)
  4. Carl Hubbell, 6-foot-0 (64.4 WAR)
  5. Ford

Scouts like size for many reasons, most famously because it (theoretically) portends strong future durability and stamina. Whether or not that’s true is not for me to decide, but at least it sounds reasonable. Taller pitchers also make it tougher on the batter, since they throw the ball on more of a downhill plane. Short lefties aren’t as scrutinized as much just because there’s a premium on southpaws. If you’re a short righty like Ian Kennedy or Pedro Martinez, you better have some skills.

The Yankees have their own little lefty coming up the pipeline in Manny Banuelos, but history is not on his side. Just 56 left-handers have accumulated at least 20 career WAR while standing less than 6-feet tall (a decidedly arbitrary criteria), and only seven of them (Mike Hampton, John Franco, Teddy Higuera, Billy Wagner, Jamie Moyer, Johan Santana, and Glavine) started their careers after 1980. Randy Wolf should join them in a season or three, and Fernando Valenzuela missed the cutoff by a year. That’s not to say Banuelos can’t do it, because he’s obviously very good and every pitcher is their own individual person with their own individual career paths, but it just goes to show that it’s not easy.

Once more unto the Millwood breach

For the Yankees as they prepare for the 2011 season, Kevin Millwood is akin to that thing on the bottom of your shoe that you just can’t get off. He’s not on the Yanks; he’s not very good; and yet the rumors just won’t go away. Now, according to recent reports, the Yanks are still kicking the tires on this one.

After the Yanks watched him throw yesterday, Millwood remains on the club’s radar. In fact, according to Jon Heyman, the Yanks have offered him a contract. The Sports Illustrated scribe reports:

The Yankees went to scout Kevin Millwood Wednesday at UC-Irvine and are offering a contract in the low seven figures while Millwood has been seeking about $4 million on a major league deal. While he’d be a help, the Yankees may not need him as much as they once did after Ivan Nova threw six no-hit innings in the 10-0 win over the Orioles. Freddy Garcia has pitched well in two of three outings, and he and Nova look likely to be the Yankees’ No. 4 and 5 starters.

That short paragraph contains quite a few assumptions and a few red flags. First, the idea that Freddy Garcia has a lock on the fifth starter spot is largely unfounded. Through the first few weeks of Spring Training, the Yankees have been far more impressed with Bartolo Colon than with Garcia, and if Girardi had to make a decision tomorrow, Colon would likely have a rotation edge. Second, the premise that the team may not need him is a matter of interpretation.

The problem with Millwood is that his value and impact are both tough to assess, and while he thinks he’s worth $4 million a season, the Yankees seem to disagree. From a traditional point of view, Millwood was terrible last year. He went 4-16 with an ERA over 5.00 in 190 innings. He gave up 33 more hits than innings pitched and 30 long balls while striking out 132 and sporting a 2:1 K:BB ratio. His WAR though came in at 1.3, and absent a significant decline, he’ll be worth the $4 million. Whether he can out-pitch Garcia or Colon is up for debate.

Yet, talent evaluators are lukewarm on Millwood. As Joe noted highlighted last month, no one is that impressed with Millwood. “Millwood is not a help,” one scout said in February. “He’s just a name people know.” In January, Joe offered even lesser praise: Kevin Millwood is better than Sergio Mitre. Nothing has changed.

For the Yankees, Millwood would simply be another piece for the depth charts and another placeholder. If someone goes down and Millwood is still out there, he would be potentially a better and more reliable choice than an unknown AAA kid. He won’t blow the world away, and he won’t throw quality innings. He will though throw innings. Maybe there’s something to be said for that right now, but if the Yanks are willing to offer Millwood seven figures, I have to wonder what that says of the faith they have in the current rotation options than anything else. It’s not a huge vote of confidence really.

Joe Torre to attend Old Timer’s Day

Via Bryan Hoch, former manager Joe Torre has accepted an invitation to attend the 2011 edition of Old Timer’s Day. He was at GMS Field for the first time since leaving the Yankees today, presumably taking care of some stuff given his new position as MLB’s VP of Baseball Operations. Torre returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time late last year, when the team unveiled the George Steinbrenner monument in Monument Park. After a somewhat ugly divorce, it appears the two sides are mending fences, and I’m glad to see it.

Open Thread: March 17th Camp Notes

Uh, they're not that desperate for pitching, right? (AP Photo)

Notes from Tampa…

  • The Yankees are playing the Rays this evening, but the game is not being televised. Brett Gardner is leading off with Derek Jeter hitting second, Nick Swisher hitting sixth, Curtis Granderson eighth, and Jesus Montero ninth. Phil Hughes is on the bump, and Pat Venditte is scheduled to pitch at some point. (Yankees PR Dept. & Jim Baumbach)
  • Boone Logan had been shut down for a while with slight elbow fatigue, but he’s scheduled to pitch against the Rays tonight. He did look kinda crappy early on, throwing mostly 87-89 from what I saw on television, so hopefully this explains it. (Chad Jennings)
  • Joba Chamberlain threw off flat ground as expected. There’s still no word about what’s next for him following that oblique issue. (Brian Costello)
  • Rafael Soriano received permission to skip last night’s game so he wouldn’t have to face a division rival, and instead threw in a minor league game this afternoon. (Marc Carig & Wally Matthews)
  • Russell Martin‘s surgically repaired knee feels fine, and is well enough that he stopped wearing that light-weight brace he’d been using earlier in camp. (Carig)
  • Austin Romine left camp to attend to a personal matter and should be back by Saturday. Hopefully everything is okay. (Dan Barbarisi)

Here’s your open thread. The Nats-Braves game is airing on MLB Network, though the Devils, Knicks, and Nets are playing meaningful games on various other networks. Feel free to talk about whatever your heart desires, just don’t be a dick.

Food For Thought: First League Average Season

After breaking down Baseball America’s top 100 prospects lists by determining the value of each spot, Scott McKinney of Beyond The Box Score looked at how long it took prospects to have their first league average season (defined at 2+ WAR) in the majors. The majority of both pitchers and position players have that first average season in their sophomore campaigns, though a significant amount of players (27.3%) reach that level in their third season, and another 27.7% reach it in their fourth season or later.

The average call-up age for both position players and pitchers is just 22.7 years of age, which surprised me. I thought it would be a little higher, maybe 23-24. It turns out that age isn’t an important variable either, a player will still have his first league average season two years after he debuts regardless of how old he was when he got to the show. Unsurprisingly, high-end prospects (ranked 1-40 on BA’s lists) tend to contribute a little earlier than lesser guys, but not by a whole lot.

The Yankees have a few high-end prospects on the cusp of the big leagues, most notably Jesus Montero. Recent history suggests that his coming out party might not occur until 2012 though, and I can’t help but wonder how many Yankees fans are willing to be that patient. My guess: fewer than you think.

Baseball America’s Top 20 Latin Summer League Prospects

I’m not one to spend much time researching Dominican Summer League and international prospects because the information on those guys is extremely unreliable (to put it nicely), so I just wait until they reach the states and go from there. Today, however, Baseball America’s Ben Badler put together a list of the 20 best prospects that played in Latin America last summer (subs. req’d), and two Yankees farmhands made the cut: Yeicok Calderon and Ravel Santana. It’s not a ranked list, Badler just listed the guys alphabetically.

Calderon, a 19-year-old Dominican outfielder, hit .339/.439/.551 with 16 doubles and eight homers in the DSL last year, leading the league in SLG while finishing third in OBP, fifth in AVG, and second in homers. “Calderon’s bat is advanced, he controls the strike zone well and he has above-average power,” said Badler. “His defense was crude after his first season in the DSL, but he made some progress last year with his routes and reads off the bat in right field. His bat, though, is what will have to carry him.” The 2008 international signee ($650,000 bonus) is expected to join the rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2010.

Santana, a Dominican outfielder like Calderon but a year younger, hit .332/.440/.533 with a league leading ten homers plus 22 steals. “He’s an advanced hitter for his age, has good plate discipline and shows above-average power,” adds Badler. “He has above-average speed and could play center or right field. Even with as much success as he had at the plate, Santana’s best tool is his plus-plus arm.” Santana signed for just $145,000 in 2009, and could debut in the U.S. this summer.