Rosenthal: Yankees pursued Franklin Morales

Via Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees pursued a trade for lefty reliever Franklin Morales before he was dealt to the Red Sox last week. Boston got him for peanuts, just a player to be named later or cash. Morales, 25, was considered the eighth best prospect in the game by Baseball America just three years ago, one spot behind Clayton Kershaw and two spots ahead of David Price. He’s got a big fastball and a knockout curve, but he’s battled extreme control issues (6.0 BB/9 since 2008) and is a big time fly ball guy (just 33.6% grounders since 2009), so I’m not sure he was a good fit for Yankee Stadium. That said, you take chances on arms like this, but missing out on Morales isn’t the end of the world.

Soriano out at least six weeks with inflamed elbow ligament

Update (4:36pm): They just showed Cashman speaking on YES, and he clarified that Soriano would begin throwing to hitters in four-to-six weeks following the two weeks of rest, so two months sounds like a decent estimate of how long he’ll be out. Dr. James Andrews diagnosed an inflamed elbow ligament and is optimistic that the rest and rehab approach will knock this out. Andrews did Soriano’s Tommy John surgery back in the day, by the way.

Original Post (4:16pm): Via Conor Orr, Rafael Soriano will be out at least four-to-six weeks with an elbow issue. No word if it’s a ligament, tendon, muscle, or something else entirely. Brian Cashman confirmed that the right-hander will rest for two weeks before he can begin a “conservative” throwing program, which will lead to a four-to-six week rehab program. Sounds like he’ll be out for two months, essentially.

Yankees bring back Kanekoa Texeira

The Yankees have claimed Kanekoa Texeira off waivers according to the Royals, but credit Mike Ashmore for first having it. Conor Orr says Phil Hughes has been placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster. Texeira came to the Yankees in the Nick Swisher trade three winters ago, but he went to Seattle in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft before bouncing to Kansas City. I wrote about him in last week’s mailbag, and the short version is that it’s a fine depth move but one that will hardly have much impact. Welcome back, Kanekoa.

2011 Draft: Baseball America’s Top 200 Prospects

At this time in two weeks, the 2011 draft will be coming to an end. Hard to believe it’s so close. Baseball America posted their list of the top 200 prospects today, and it’s free for all to see. You do need a subscription to see the scouting reports, however (1-50, 51-100, 101-150, 151-200). Rice 3B Anthony Rendon still ranks number one, but high school RHP Dylan Bundy has jumped everyone and claimed the number two spot. UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole, Virginia LHP Danny Hultzen, and UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer round out the top five. The free list gives you each player’s statistics, so that’s cool.

Game 48: Gettin’ Away

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

This 16 games in 16 days stretch has been interesting, to say the least. Six straight losses early on, six wins in eight games with some cameback fun mixed in at the end, it certainly hasn’t been the easiest two weeks on the old blood pressure. A win this afternoon, heading into the off day and west coast trip, would be a fine finish to a decidedly un-Yankees-like stretch of baseball. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Russell Martin, C
Nick Swisher, RF
Andruw Jones, LF
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

Freddy Garcia, SP

The game starts a little after 1pm ET, and you can watch on YES or listen on WCBS 880 if you’re stuck at the office. Enjoy.

2011 Draft: Bryan Brickhouse

The draft is just 12 days away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some players individually rather than lump a few together in one post.

(Photo Credit: The Woodlands Villager)

Bryan Brickhouse | RHP

Background
Brickhouse attends The Woodlands High School in Texas, which produced flamethrowing righties Kyle Drabek (18th overall in 2006) and Jameson Taillon (second overall in 2010) in recent years. Brickhouse isn’t the same level of prospect as those two, but he certainly fits the power arm profile. A strong commitment to North Carolina might make him unsignable unless he gets that Drabek/Taillon kind of money though.

Scouting Report
Big and strong at 6-foot-2 and 190 lbs., Brickhouse routinely sits at 91-93 mph with his fastball and will run it up as high as 95 on occasion. He also throws a power curveball that can be unhittable when it’s on, but there are times when he doesn’t get on top of the pitch enough and it flattens out into more of a sweepy slider. His changeup is in its infancy stages. Brickhouse struggles with his mechanics and has yet to find consistency with his delivery, leading to arm slot and command problems. He’s some video from last summer.

Miscellany
The UNC commitment is the wildcard here. The talent and everything else adds up to a second round selection, but if Brickhouse throws a big number out there I could easily see him falling into the later rounds, I’m talking double digit rounds similar to Alex Meyer in 2008 (first round arm, unsigned 20th round pick because he wanted multi-millions). The command and mechanical issues are what’s keeping Brickhouse from being one of the top high school arms in the draft class, so he’s a nice high-upside project for a team with money and patience.

Keith Law ranked Brickhouse as the 90th best prospect in the draft in his latest rankings while Baseball America left him off their latest top 60.

Hector Noesi’s Big Chance

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Prior to last night’s game against the Blue Jays, the Yankees got some troubling news about their $35M setup man. Rafael Soriano continued to feel soreness in his twice-surgically repaired elbow, and a third MRI “showed enough” that he’ll see Dr. James Andrew today. It’s not often that a pitcher comes back from Andrews’ office with good news, especially not guys with a history of elbow trouble and a problem that has lingered for two weeks now. Regardless of what Andrews says, the Yankees will likely be without Soriano for the foreseeable future.

David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain will now have that much more responsibility heaved onto their shoulders, and they’re Joe Girardi‘s key late-inning right-handers ahead of Mariano Rivera. Luis Ayala has been surprisingly effective in a limited amount of work, and chances are he’ll be pressed into some tight spots in the coming weeks. He has setup man experience (with the ExpoNats), but that was several years ago. If he maintains this level of performance, it would be a pleasant surprise to all. The Yankees are going to need someone to step up and solidify the middle innings in Soriano’s absence, and they have someone on the roster that just might be able to do that. His name? Hector Noesi.

Although he’s been in the big leagues for (a total of) three weeks now, Noesi has just two appearances to his credit. The first was his heroic (but not exactly picture perfect) four innings of relief in extra innings against the Orioles, the second some garbage time innings earlier this week. The seven innings of work featured four strikeouts, three intentional walks, and just four ground balls, but those numbers don’t really tell us anything. The kid was nervous, and 30 batters faced just isn’t all that meaningful.

There are three things that make Noesi seem (operative word here) like a good candidate for short, possibly even leveraged relief work. First is his fastball command, which has long been his calling card. It’s not just about strikes, it’s about quality strikes, and Noesi’s track record and scouting report have long touted his ability to provide them. The second thing is a swing-and-miss changeup to battle lefties and a slider for righties. Okay, that’s probably two things, but let’s combine them anyway. Noesi has gotten 14 swings-and-misses out of his 101 big league pitches (13.9%) so far whereas Ivan Nova has gotten 15 whiffs all month (481 pitches, 3.1%), for comparison’s sake. The third thing is his demeanor, which we can’t really quantify. He came off as very poised in that Baltimore game, making pitch after pitch when he needed too. If nothing else, it looked good.

The Yankees and Noesi would be sacrificing some development time in this arrangement, yes, but we’re not talking about someone that projects to be a frontline starter. Noesi’s profile has always been more back-end starter because his stuff is good but not great, and if he proves capable in one-inning bursts, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they kept him there indefinitely. I know we’re all scarred by the Yankees’ recently handling of some of their top pitching prospects, but Noesi’s exactly the kind of guy that ends up a reliever or trade fodder for New York.

In a perfect world, Noesi would transform into the 2009 version of Phil Hughes, the long-time starter that shifted to the bullpen in part because he didn’t want to go back to the minors, but also because the team needed him there. Is he going to be as dominant as Phil was two years ago? Almost certainly not, that would be a tough act to follow, but all the team needs Noesi to do right now is settle in as a capable middle reliever and give Girardi another option for sixth and seventh inning work. He doesn’t have to step right in for Soriano, the Yankees have people for that. Just be somebody that can lighten the load on the three right-handers on the end of the game, that’s it. And if it doesn’t work, well at least it was low risk.