Montero, McAllister among EL’s best

After ranking as the second best prospect in the High-A Florida State League, Jesus Montero followed that up by placing fifth in the Double-A Eastern League, according to Baseball America. Zach McAllister came in at #19, while old pal Jose Tabata checked in at #15. In the subscriber only report, one AL scout said of Montero: “When he shows up to play, it’s pretty good. I don’t think he’ll get away with showing up every other night in the big leagues, especially behind the plate, but it could just be youthful mistakes.” This is the first I’ve heard of him “taking days off,” but if he hit .317-.370-.539 as a 19-yr old in the EL playing every other day, imagine what he could do if he actually applied himself.

As for McAllister, one EL manager said he “competed and threw four pitches for strikes, and both the breaking balls were tough to handle.” It also notes that he’s mostly upper-80’s with the fastball, knocking his ceiling down to a back-end starter. Such is life.

Link Dump: Joba, Posada, Jeter, Oliver, A-Rod

We’re all waiting anxiously for Game Two of the ALDS tonight, so here’s some links to hold you over.

  • Alex Eisenberg at Baseball Intellect took a look at Joba Chamberlain‘s mechanics (with .gif’s!), hoping to find what’s wrong with his command and velocity. He determines that Joba has a bit of a timing issue, and essentially it’s causing his arm to drag a bit. Eisenberg advises Joba to “sit down a little more, keep your hands low, [and] aggressively step-over into foot plant” to solve the problem. What he said.
  • Scott Ham at The Bronx View took a look at all this Jorge Posada-Jose Molina nonsense, showing that it may have been “a rash decision on Girardi’s part” to stop letting Posada catch AJ Burnett after the rough patch late in the year. I wrote something similar back in August. This backup catcher in the playoffs stuff isn’t unprecedented. Paul Bako was Greg Maddux’s personal catcher in 2000, and started behind the plate in Game One of the NLDS over Javy Lopez, who hit .287-.337-.484 with 24 homers that year. The result? Maddux gave up six runs in the first and Bako was pinch hit for in the second inning. Then there was the whole John Flaherty-Randy Johnson mess in 2005.
  • The Legacy of Derek Jeter, in picture form.
  • Remember all that noise about Andy Oliver winning his case against the NCAA, essentially eliminating the “no agent rule” for amateurs? Well, the two sides reached a settlement that a) sends $750,000 of the NCAA’s money to Oliver, and b) reinstates the “no agent rule.” So much for that. Apparently kids fresh out of high school are supposed to negotiate multi-million contracts on their own. Oliver was the Tigers’ second round pick (#58 overall) last year and signed for a well-over-slot $1.495M bonus.
  • This isn’t Yankee related, but it’s a great read from a very, very frustrated Royals fan.
  • Finally, via Ed Price on Twitter, Dr. Marc Philippon does not believe A-Rod will need a second surgery on his hip this off-season. The original procedure in March was supposed to be a stop-gap, but A-Rod has responded very well to the treatment. We’ll have more on this over the weekend, but it is definitely good news.

RAB Live Chat

Montero, Romulo Sanchez among those to play winter ball

For the third straight year, megaprospect Jesus Montero will be playing winter ball in his home country of Venezuela. This year he’s going to suit up for the Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League, were he’ll be teammates with fellow countrymen and fellow Yankee prospects Reegie Corona and Marcos Vechionacci. Big bad Romulo Sanchez will also be playing in the VWL, except for Leones del Caracas.

At the moment, the only other Yankees farmhands listed on a winter ball roster are Danny Gil and Walt Ibarra, who will both play for Naranjeros de Hermosillo of the Mexican Winter League. At least half of the clubs in the various Caribbean leagues still haven’t released their roster, so make sure you check back to see who else is playing ball this winter. I promise you, there will be plenty more.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Fall League season starts on Tuesday, so DotF will return in an abbreviated format. Here’s the Surprise Rafters roster in case you forgot who the Yanks are sending. The Caribbean leagues don’t start until later this winter.

Dissent in the ranks over Molina-gate

For 12 years, the stories about Derek Jeter and Joe Torre told a tale of deference. Jeter, a rookie during Torre’s first year in the Bronx, had a special bond with his manager. He would call him Mr. Torre and rarely, if ever, questioned his decisions in public.

While Torre was managing the Yanks, Jeter played with a back-up catcher named Joe Girardi. Jeter and Girardi captured three rings together, but for Derek, Girardi’s presence on the team and his amount of playing time must have raised an eyebrow or two. After all, the Yankees had Derek’s very good friend Jorge Posada, a far superior offensive catcher to Joe Girardi. In the end, of course, it mattered little, as the Yanks plowed through the opposition during the latter half of the 1990s.

Today, Joe Girardi is Derek’s manager, and for the first time in a while, Jeter is publicly questioning the man who holds the Yanks’ reins. When asked about Girardi’s decision to start Jose Molina in A.J. Burnett‘s starts, Jeter had a diplomatically loaded answer. As Jim Baumbach first reported yesterday, Jeter called the situation strange. “It will be kind of awkward not having Jorge in the lineup,” he said.

For Derek, the Yanks’ loyal solider and all around good guy at handling the media, that statement amounts to sheer mutiny. As Baumbach and others have pointed out, Jeter’s statement is also a bit hyperbolic. Posada wasn’t the only catcher during the Yanks’ World Series years, and as recently as 2005, Joe Torre used John Flaherty to catch the ornery Randy Johnson. The Unit lasted just three innings in a disastrous Game 3 start, and Jorge quickly entered the game in the 4th.

I have to wonder then if Joe Girardi is risking his respect by making an unpopular and questionable decision. Does Derek Jeter think Girardi is off his rocker? What about the other younger players who look to Jeter for leadership? Ken Davidoff claims all was calm at Yankee camp yesterday and offers us some translations of the players’ sound bites. Derek, he claims, is just trying to keep Jorge happy while not offending his manager, and Jorge has accepted it.

In a way, then, this move is certainly an experiment. If Burnett comes out and dominates the Twins and the Yanks handily win as they did on Wednesday, Joe Girardi will look good — or at least he won’t be subject to rampant first- and second-guessing. But if Burnett struggles through a start, those around the club — those whose respect Girardi needs — may wonder about the decision. Ken Davidoff doesn’t expect Molina-gate to “blow up these Yankees.” Here’s to hoping.

Why don’t they have a straight-on center field camera?

When we’re watching a baseball game from home, for the most part it’s from a center field camera. The only problem is that it’s not quite dead center. Instead the camera comes in at an angle, skewing our view of the action. It’s the main reason why so many fans at home get upset over ball and strike calls.

Why is the camera offset rather than dead center? I’ll let this nifty video explain.

I have nothing to add, other than a vocal desire to see the Yankees implement a dead center primary camera next year.

Joba will be just fine in the bullpen

When word leaked that Joba Chamberlain would stay in the bullpen for the remainder of the season, we deemed it big enough news to get an instant post. Ben briefly discussed the decision yesterday evening, but left it as mostly a report. There’s a lot more to say about this move, and while regular RAB readers might think we’re against it, I’ll take a stand and say it’s the right move.

This isn’t the regular season. The Yankees cannot afford to hand Chamberlain the ball and hope for the best, as they did in September. During the regular season teams have a margin for error. The Yanks were able to use Joba every fifth day because there were four other starters to help cover up his bad starts. If the Yanks were facing another team’s fourth or fifth starter (or, really, any of their non-ace guys), they might have even been able to put up more runs than Joba allowed. This is not the case in the playoffs.

There is no covering up for mistakes in the playoffs. If Joba has a bad game, as he did for almost the entire months of August and September, it puts the Yankees one loss closer to elimination. That’s something no team can afford, even for one game in the playoffs. Given how Chamberlain pitched in August and September — 39 earned runs in 46.2 innings with a 36:26 K/BB ratio and a .913 OPS against — the Yanks are wise to seek alternatives in the ALCS.

The only place to turn is to Chad Gaudin, the team’s fifth starter down the stretch. In five September starts he pitched 26.2 innings, allowing 11 runs on 27 hits, walking 10 to 18 strikeouts. Those aren’t sterling numbers, but they’re far better than Joba’s. Gaudin shouldn’t be starting for a playoff team, but the Yankees find themselves in dire circumstances. Their fourth starter has proven ineffective, so the fifth starter must take over if he’s pitching better.

There is, of course, a chance Gaudin pitches poorly and puts the Yankees out of a game early. Given how he pitched compared to Joba, though, it would appear that the Yanks’ chances are better with Gaudin. There is also an issue of stamina — Gaudin pitched six or more innings only twice, and once was against the Royals. I would guess that when the Yankees say Gaudin will start in the ALCS, they mean that Gaudin will start and Aceves will act as his caddy, as he did for Joba in August and September. It’s not an ideal solution, but the Gaudin-Aceves combo, while wasting a roster spot, puts the Yankees in a better position.

On top of all that is the issue of Joba’s innings. Between college and the Hawaiian Winter League in 2006, Joba threw just under 130 innings. He is now three years removed from that total, and he pitched just under 160 innings this year. In addition, he has pitched just 370 innings as a professional. The Yankees worked Joba plenty in the regular season, and while he’d get only two starts, those are two starts in which he’d be well past his high water mark, and way, way beyond his 100 inning total from 2008.

The decision is not perfect. The Yankees surely don’t want to have Chad Gaudin pitch in the ALCS and World Series. (Though, again, if they pitch CC once on three days’ rest in the ALCS, they won’t need a fourth starter.) Given the alternatives, it is the only decision. Forget about how Joba can play a big role in multiple games out of the pen. The decision is based on performance, and Gaudin clearly outperformed Joba down the stretch.

As to Joba’s future, I wouldn’t read anything into this decision. Maybe Joba shines in the playoffs and the Yankees deem him a future closer — though I doubt they’d base a major decision on a small stretch of games. They have a long-term plan, and I assume they’ll stick to it. But when it comes to the playoffs, long-term thinking goes out the window. The Yanks want to win this now, and given how they’ve pitched, going with Gaudin (or, really, Gaudin and Aceves) is the right call.