The 2013 amateur draft will be held from June 6-8 this year, and between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.
Sean Manaea | LHP
Undrafted out of an Indiana high school in 2010, Manaea didn’t establish himself as a prospect until he dominated the Cape Cod League last summer. The Indiana State southpaw owns a 1.47 ERA with a 93/27 K/BB in 73.1 innings this year after posting a 3.78 ERA with a 197/85 K/BB in 188 innings during his first two years on campus. Manaea rolled his ankle earlier this spring and that led to hip problems, and he had to skip yesterday’s scheduled start due to shoulder stiffness and continued hip problems according to Jonathan Mayo. He’ll try to start Saturday instead.
A big and physical left-hander listed at 6-foot-5 and 235 lbs., Manaea overpowered hitters with a 94-96 mph fastball and a wipeout mid-80s slider on the Cape last summer. He hasn’t shown the same caliber of stuff this spring, instead throwing his fastball in the 88-91 mph range with a few 94s. His slider has sat in the low-80s. Manaea’s third pitch is a split-changeup hybrid in the upper-70s/low-80s that doesn’t do much of anything. No fade, no drop off the table, it just kinda goes. He employs a low Madison Bumgarner-esque arm slot and his command has been just okay this spring. A high leg kick and an especially long stride add deception. There are plenty of videos on YouTube.
Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America ranked Manaea as the eighth and tenth best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, respectively, but that was before yesterday’s shoulder and hip problems. The Yankees have three first round picks (26th, 32nd, 33rd), and for what it’s worth, Law said he’s gotten “the sense that they’d love to get one good college arm out of their three first-round selections” in his latest mock draft. He’ll have to fall quite a bit due to the injury concerns to be available when New York picks. Regardless of who drafts Manaea, they’ll be banking on their development staff turning him back into the guy he was on the Cape last summer.
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve really enjoyed watching Travis Hafner in pinstripes this season. Quite frankly, he’s already surpassed my expectations in terms of production (and durability), and he has done a really good job of fitting in with the organization’s preferred style of play — that is to say, power and patience.
Over 128 plate appearances, the man they call Pronk has batted .275/.383/.550 (.397 wOBA, 149 wRC+) with the Yankees. As indicated by the spray chart below (provided by Texas Leaguers), he’s been willing to hit to all parts of the field, though most of his home runs have landed in right, as to be expected given his handedness. He’s done a great job of crushing right-handed pitching (though he really hasn’t been bad against lefties either).
What’s more, it appears as though his bat speed really hasn’t declined very much; he’s listed at 6.6 wFB (fastball runs generated above average). This is especially comforting given his age and the number of high velocity arms in the league. In terms of plate discipline, according to PitchF/X, Pronk’s swung at 64.9% of the pitches thrown in the strike zone, and only 22.9% outside of the strike zone — resulting in am excellent 13.3 BB%. Meanwhile his 22.7 K% is basically in line with his career norms.
And then there are the hits. Pronk’s .275 ISO is not an accident. Most of his home runs are not Yankee Stadium cheapies either. In other words, his power is most certainly as advertised. As of this point, he has the third most home runs on the team (8), despite having about 60 fewer at-bats than both Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells (who lead him with 13 and 10 HR respectively). Much to our delight, we’ve also seen that several of hits have been timely — he most recently victimized Orioles All-Star closer, Jim Johnson.
While I typically do not like to spend much time focusing on a player’s intangibles, in this instance, I think it worth a quick mention. We never hear anything negative about this guy in the club house. More importantly, Hafner has completely embraced his role with the team. There were no surprises when he was signed for a one-year, $2 million dollar pact. Both he and the organization were in agreement that his job was to be a designated hitter — and a platoon bat more often than not. Unlike many players who dread the DH part time role, Pronk welcomed it from moment one and has thrived because of it. Anecdotally, all to often it seems that a club’s expectations do not align with that of the player. Fortunately, that is not the case here.
Unlike players such as Jason Giambi who have vocalized their preference to remain on the field throughout the game (as it apparently helps them remain focused), Hafner seems to relish sticking by his rituals in-between at bats and disappears afterward (which incidentally, helps the team on the field defensively quite a bit too). While the rotating DH has proved itself a convenient method of resting veterans during the Joe Girardi era, it has simaltaneously resulted in some mediocre results occasionally from the designated hitter slot over the past few seasons. For the first time in a long time, the Yankees have a guy optimally suited for the role.
Will he wind up being the 5+ fWAR player that he was with the Indians back in the 2005-2006 circuits? Probably not; but as long as he stays healthy, he’ll absolutely remain an effective offensive threat for the Yankees. In other words, keep those cortisone shots coming because Pronk is just what the Yankees need at DH.
Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are one of several teams with interest in Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. Danny Knobler recently reported the Rakuten Golden Eagles are expected to make their ace available via the posting system following this season.
Tanaka, 24, has pitched to a 2.08 ERA with a 45/9 K/BB in 52 innings across seven starts this year. Since the start of the 2010 season, he owns a 1.57 ERA with 9.1 K/9 (25.6 K%) and 2.0 BB/9 (3.1 BB%). One scout told Knobler that Tanaka has “a wipeout split-finger fastball” and “a good slider” to go with solid velocity, though it’s unclear if he can remain a starter long-term. He has missed time with shoulder issues (strains and inflammation, mostly) over the years.
The Yankees have shunned the Japanese pitching market since the Kei Igawa fiasco, and Brian Cashman explained why in a recent interview with Index Universe. They’re concerned about difference in pitching routines as well as the cultural adjustment. Tanaka is not Yu Darvish and frankly he’s not even Daisuke Matsuzaka, but he’s still someone worth keeping an eye on over the next several months. The Yankees can’t ignore Japanese pitchers forever. · (47) ·
I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but at some point recently the Baseball Hall of Fame partnered with the Scout of the Year Foundation to create a free and searchable online database of old scouting reports. The data is very incomplete — it doesn’t include every player and it only goes back so far — and the database itself can be slow and a bit of a pain, but those are minor nuisances compared to the wealth of information available.
Thanks to the database, we can look back at what professional talent evaluators — people who do this for a living — had to say about our favorite players once upon a time. For example, here are some bits and pieces of reports from various teams about a young high school senior from Michigan named Derek Jeter back in 1992:
You can click every image in those post for a larger view, and I highly recommend you do just that.
Within those report snippets, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is described as having:
- a good face
- a hi butt
- an impact both offensively and defensively
- makeup 2b a star
- some hot dog in him
Once upon a time, Jeter was a showoff. Wrap your head around that. All of the reports agreed he was a future star though, and in the end that is what was most important.
After the jump — lots of images and I don’t want to cripple anyone’s computer — are some opinions on Alex Rodriguez back from 1993, when he was a high school senior:
For the first time this season, the Yankees lost despite scoring first. The Orioles snapped their six-game losing streak with a tenth inning walk-off win on Wednesday night, taking the second game of the series 3-2.
I’d call two runs in six innings a successful rebound from last week’s seven-run, two-out disaster for Phil Hughes. There was nowhere he could go but up after that nightmare, really. Tuesday’s start against Baltimore featured two solo homers by former Yankee Chris Dickerson — I didn’t think the decision to cut him in favor of Ichiro Suzuki would look stupid this quickly, but here we are — and five strikeouts in six innings, including 70 strikes out of 102 pitches. Of the 25 men he faced, 19 saw a first pitch strike.
For the most part, this was a typical Hughes outing. Some solo homers, some jams escaped, aggressive early in the count, stuff like that. That return to normalcy is a net positive, because it showed there wasn’t something seriously wrong following that last start. No underlying injury or major mechanical flaw. Phil gave the Yankees an opportunity to win; two runs in six innings from the fourth starter is plenty good enough.
Death By Line Drive
Maybe it was just me, but it sure seemed like the Yankees hit a lot of balls right at people, no? The play-by-play says there were only four line drive outs, but that only includes the infielders. There were a few hard-hit balls right at outfielders or close enough for them to make a play. Nick Markakis did make a diving catch in the seventh that may have saved a run. If nothing else, it at least saved a first and third situation.
Anyway, the Yankees scored their two runs thanks to Travis Hafner, who plated Brett Gardner with a single in the first and Vernon Wells with a single in the fourth. Gardner was on third following a double and a fly ball, Wells was on second following a double. Both of Hafner’s hits were ground balls to the right side that probably would have been scooped up for outs had the Orioles employed the shift. Instead, one snuck through and the other bounced off the second baseman’s glove.
Miguel Gonzalez, as he tends to do, kept the Yankees off balance and held them to just those two runs in six innings in his first start off the DL. He dominated them last year, and this was more of the same. The Bombers didn’t have a single runner make it beyond first base after Hafner drove in Wells, and 21 of the final 22 men they sent to the plate made outs. When this offense is bad, man is it ugly.
The bottom five hitters in the lineup went a combined 1-for-19 with four strikeouts, the one being a solid David Adams single to center. Pronk was the last line of defense in the cleanup spot. Robinson Cano took an 0-for-4 and is stuck in a 13-for-60 (.217) slump. He ain’t getting no record-breaking contract like that. Oh who am I kidding, yes he is.
I don’t know what it is about the first base umps and Camden Yards, but they really suck there. There was the Jerry Meals episode last year, the two blown calls on Monday, and another on Tuesday. This time first base ump Paul Scrieber incorrectly ruled Jayson Nix out on a would-be infield single. Replays showed he cleared beat the relay throw, by alas. Oh well, Yankees weren’t winning if they got that call anyway.
Outside of Vidal Nuno, who needed all of three pitches to serve up the walk-off solo homer to Nate McLouth, the bullpen was pretty nasty once again. Boone Logan recorded two outs, Shawn Kelley retired the only man he faced, David Robertson struck out the side — he threw nine curveballs and got seven (!!!) swings and misses — and Preston Claiborne tossed a scoreless ninth. They gave the offense a chance to re-take the lead.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Red Sox lost to the White Sox again, so they remain two games back in the loss column. The O’s and Rays climbed to within four back. I hate that I’m keeping track of the standings in May. I guess that’s a function of lowered expectations.
These same two teams will wrap up this three-game series on Wednesday night. Hiroki Kuroda gets the ball against Jason Hammel in the rubber match.
The Yankees have outrighted Alberto Gonzalez to Triple-A. They designated the infielder for assignment after acquiring Reid Brignac over the weekend. He remains in the organization, just not as a 40-man roster player.
Gonzalez, 30, went 3-for-9 in three games with the Yankees last week. They acquired him in a minor trade with the Cubs a little less than two weeks ago to add some minor league infield depth, but they wound up calling him up right away due to Eduardo Nunez’s ribcage injury. Gonzalez, who can play all three non-first base infield positions, will likely to play shortstop everyday for Triple-A Scranton. · (1) ·
Triple-A Scranton (5-1 loss to Columbus)
- CF Melky Mesa: 2-5, 1 K
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 2-5, 1 SB — four hits in his last nine at-bats after an 0-for-14 stretch
- 3B Ronnie Mustelier: 3-5, 1 R, 1 SB — 11 hits in his last 31 at-bats (.355)
- RHP Chien-Ming Wang: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 9/2 GB/FB — 62 of 102 pitches were strikes (61%)
- RHP Chase Whitley: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2 WP, 2/2 GB/FB — only ten of 23 pitches were strikes (43%)
Phil Hughes didn’t just have the worst start of his career last time out, he had one of the worst starts by a Yankee this century. I guess the good news is there’s nowhere to go but up from a seven-run, two-out disaster like that. Hughes talked about getting on top of the ball and needing to better his fastball command these last four days, but the time for talking is over. Phil gets his shot at redemption against the division rival Orioles tonight, for a team that has won three straight against a team that has lost six straight. Here’s the lineup that will face fresh off the DL Miguel Gonzalez…
- CF Brett Gardner
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- DH Travis Hafner
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- RF Curtis Granderson
- 3B David Adams
- SS Jayson Nix
- C Austin Romine
And on the mound is the only Yankee to earn a win during the 2007 ALDS, right-hander Phil Hughes.
Summer’s coming. It’s warm and kinda humid in New York, so typical baseball weather. The game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET and be seen on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: Kevin Youkilis (back) had three at-bats today — I assume in a simulated game — and actually took some swings. He had been just standing in the box and tracking pitches until today … Joba Chamberlain (oblique) will pitch in a minor league game tomorrow, and the team plans on having him make two appearances before activating him off the DL … Mark Teixeira (wrist) got four more at-bats in a simulated game … Ivan Nova (triceps, back) threw several innings in a simulated game or Extended Spring Training game yesterday.
The 2013 amateur draft will be held from June 6-8 this year, and between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.
Austin Wilson | OF
Wilson was a potential first round pick out of a Southern California high school in 2010, but signability concerns dropped him to the Cardinals in the 12th round. He followed through on his commitment to Stanford and has hit .314/.417/.529 with five homers in 27 games this spring while battling a bone bruise and stress reaction in his elbow. Wilson was also hindered by an oblique issue during a stint in the Cape Cod League last summer. During his first two years with the Cardinal, he produced a .296/.371/.460 line with 15 homers in 112 games.
Wilson is a physical freak with a chiseled 6-foot-4, 245 lb. frame and high-end athleticism. His best tool is his right-handed power — the ball explodes off his bat and carries to all fields — but excess pre-swing movement and poor pitch recognition limits how much he can tap into it. During his three years on campus, he’s struck out 115 times in 585 plate appearances (19.7%), which is way too much for the top college prospect. The athleticism gives Wilson above-average speed and a rocket arm, arguably the best outfield arm in the class, so he has more than enough tools for center field. He is expected to move to right field down the road, where he could play Gold Glove level defense. Wilson is a bit of a project but the raw ability and pure upside are outrageous. There are many, many more videos on YouTube.
Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America ranked Wilson as the 15th and 29th best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, respectively. Law said the Yankees have “scouted Wilson heavily” in his latest mock draft, for what it’s worth. Stanford has a reputation of turning top position player prospects into mediocre ones due to their one-size-fits-all coaching philosophy, which turns everyone into a short-swinger geared to hit the ball the other way. Wilson is not that type of player, so any team that drafts him will be banking on their development personnel’s ability to unlock his potential. The Yankees have three first round picks (26th, 32nd, 33rd) and Wilson is the kind of super-high-upside prospect that is worth gambling on with extra picks.
For the first few weeks of the season, the Yankees bullpen was a bit of a mess. Specifically, the non-David Robertson and Mariano Rivera part of the bullpen was a mess. The trio of Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and Shawn Kelley combined to allow 31 base-runners and 13 runs in 17.1 innings during the first 15 games of the season, so the bridge from starter to Robertson was rather adventurous for a while. It was also a problem given the team’s low-caliber offense.
The middle relief issues lasted until mid-to-late-April, when Joba hit the DL and some of his bullpeners improved their performance. Over the last 30 days, the Yankees have the best bullpen ERA (2.49) and second best bullpen FIP (3.35) in the league. Their season ERA is down to 3.32 (3.47 FIP), the fifth best mark the AL. Any conversation about New York’s bullpen starts with Robertson and Rivera, but the other guys have really picked up the slack of late.
One of those other guys is a new face who wasn’t around for the early season struggles, right-hander Preston Claiborne. The 25-year-old was called up when Joba was placed on the DL, and he’s since struck out five while walking zero in eight scoreless innings across six appearances. Joe Girardi apparently has enough faith in him that he used him in the seventh inning or later of a two or fewer run game three times in those six appearances, including three of the first four. Talk about being thrown into the fire.
“We were impressed with him in Spring Training, and we left thinking he could help us at some point this year, and he’s doing that right now,” said Brian Cashman about Claiborne recently. “You never know how a guy is going to act when he gets here, but he’s the same guy he was in Spring Training, and he’s probably gaining confidence every day.”
In addition to adding Claiborne, the Yankees have benefited from Kelley settling down after a nightmarish first few weeks in pinstripes. Over his last ten appearances, the 29-year-old owns a 3.18 ERA (~0.90 FIP) (!)) and has struck out exactly half of the 44 batters he faced. He’s struck out 15 of the last 21 (!) men he’s faced across his last four appearances. Kelley leads all of baseball with a 43.4% strikeout rate (min. 10 IP) after coming into the year with a career 22.6% strikeout rate. He’s throwing his low-80s slider more than ever before, basically half the time these days, which is the likely explanation for all the whiffs.
Thanks to all of those strikeouts, Kelley is pitching like the best-case Mark Montgomery scenario right now. We all expected Montgomery to bring his vicious slider to the show and pile up the strikeouts at some point, yet Kelley is the one doing that job right now. He isn’t walking anyone either (just four unintentional walks). Kelley’s homer-prone ways — five homers in 18.1 innings (2.45 HR/9 and 27.8% HR/FB) — will hold him back from being a true high-leverage option, but a reliever who can miss bats like that is a very valuable weapon in the middle innings. The ability to snuff out a rally without having to rely on the defense is huge, we’ve seen that from Robertson in recent years.
“I’ve never been on a team that has the expectations of just winning and thinking World Series as their only goal,” said Kelley to Chad Jennings recently. “To have that feeling every night, even if I go in and just get some outs in a win, it feels really good to just help the club win. I’m having a lot of fun on this team … It’s a fun way to win.”
With Adam Warren emerging as a long-man extraordinaire, Claiborne and Kelley have stepped up to solidify the middle relief ahead of Robertson and Rivera. Logan needs to settle down and start getting lefties out — they’re hitting .296/.296/.444 (.320 wOBA) against him so far — but otherwise the bullpen has fallen into place. The Yankees play an awful lot of close games these days, so having a bullpen that can consistently shut the other team down and preserve leads/keep the deficit small is a big reason why they sit atop the AL East at the moment.