• Yankees drop to 13th in ESPN’s Future Power Rankings

    In an Insider-only piece, ESPN ranked all 30 teams based on what amounts to the health of the franchise going forward. Strength of the Major League roster and farm system were considered, ditto the team’s finances, management, and roster flexibility. The Red Sox top the rankings with a score of 89.1 (out of 100) while the Marlins bring up the rear at 20.4. The Cardinals (82.3) are the only other team over 76.

    The Yankees dropped to 13th with a score of 51.6. They have progressively fallen from second (79.6) before the 2012 season to fifth (65.9) before last season to 11th (53.8) after last season. From what I see, the Yankees held steady in the Major League talent, financial, and management categories while dropping in farm system and roster flexibility. Makes sense. These rankings don’t really mean anything, but by far the easiest way for New York to climb will be improving their minor league system.
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This afternoon’s game is going to be one of the most Spring Training-iest games we may ever see. The Yankees are on the road in more ways than one — half the team is in Panama and the other half is supposed to travel to Sarasota to play the Orioles. Except most of the regulars who stayed in Florida will not made the hour-long bus trip south. The travel roster for today’s game is as diluted as it can possibly get.

On the mound is left-hander Vidal Nuno, who is making his first Grapefruit League appearance in about two weeks. He’s been throwing simulated games and bullpen sessions, but other pitchers have been drawing the Spring Training starts. It’s pretty obvious at this point Nuno is at best a long shot for the fifth starter’s spot. He could still win a bullpen job, sure, but I think an assignment to Triple-A Scranton to serve as the designated sixth (or seventh) starter is in the cards.

The Orioles’ lineup isn’t much better this afternoon. In fact, their outfield alignment from left to right is former Yankee Steve Pearce, Nelson Cruz, and Delmon Young. Yes, Nelson Cruz is playing center field. That’s as bad a defensive outfield as you’ll ever see. Korean right-hander Suk-Min Yoon is scheduled to throw an inning in today’s game after having his spring debut delayed by visa trouble. The Yankees had some interest in him over the winter. Here’s the lineup acting manager Rob Thomson is sending out there:

  1. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  2. 2B Brian Roberts
  3. 3B Kelly Johnson
  4. C Austin Romine
  5. LF Ramon Flores
  6. CF Mason Williams
  7. DH Kyle Roller
  8. SS Carmen Angelini
  9. 1B Francisco Arcia

That is some lineup. As bad as some of last season’s lineup were, they were never that bad. Nuno will be on the bump and he’s scheduled for four innings or 60 pitches, whichever comes first.

Available Pitchers: RHP Brian Gordon, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Diego Moreno, and RHP Joel De La Cruz are all scheduled to pitch. Moreno was part of the A.J. Burnett trade and De La Cruz was reported the pitcher Brian Cashman wanted to send to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano instead of Corey Black. RHP Shane Greene, RHP Manny Barreda, RHP Graham Stoneburner, RHP Branden Pinder, and RHP Charley Short are also available if needed.

Available Position Players: C Peter O’Brien, 1B Zach Wilson, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cito Culver, 3B Rob Segedin, LF Ben Gamel, CF Jake Cave, and RF Taylor Dugas will be the second string off the bench. C Wes Wilson, UTIL Ali Castillo, and IF Dan Fiorito also made the trip.

The weather in New York is just gorgeous today, as is the weather in Sarasota. No clouds, temperatures in the low-70s, no threat of rain. Perfect day, pretty much. The game is scheduled to begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on MLB Network and MLB.tv, or MASN if you’re in the Baltimore area. There is no YES Network broadcast. Enjoy the game.

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The Yankees blew an early three-run lead and lost to the Twins by the score of 7-3 this afternoon. Jacoby Ellsbury (double), Brian Roberts (double), and Mark Teixeira (single) start the games off with hits, then Minnesota’s staff retired 26 of the final 29 batters they faced. The only exceptions were walks to Teixeira (one) and Ramon Flores (two). The final eleven Yankees to bat made outs.

David Phelps was alright, allowed two runs on five hits and one walk in four innings. He struck out four and was both up in the zone and running deep counts a little too much. Not the most efficient outing. Manny Banuelos was all over the place, walking two and allowing two (bloop) hits in one-third of an inning. He was charged with four runs to raise his spring ERA to 63.00. Dellin Betances was excellent again, inheriting a bases loaded, one-out jam and escaping with a strikeout and ground out. He then tacked on another scoreless inning and retired all five batters he faced. Here’s the box score and the video highlights, and here’s the rest from camp.

  • The Yankees contingent in Panama took a tour of the Panama Canal today. George King has a story on the tour with a bunch of photos. The Yankees will play a pair of exhibition games against the Marlins at Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City this weekend, though I still have no idea of those games will be on television anywhere.
  • Hiroki Kuroda and Shawn Kelley threw their scheduled bullpen sessions. Tyler Austin (wrist) took regular batting practice for the first time and Brendan Ryan (oblique) both hit and fielded grounders. [Chad Jennings]
  • Eduardo Nunez got spiked on a take-out slide but told Jack Curry he is fine during an in-game interview. He said he should be able to play tomorrow.

This is your nightly open thread. This afternoon’s game will be replayed at 7pm ET on YES, plus MLB Network will air some different games later tonight. All three of the local hockey clubs are playing as well. Talk about anything you like right here.

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I can’t think of another high-profile trade that went as bad as quickly as the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda blockbuster two years ago. Both teams have gotten nothing from the deal — an especially painful nothing considering the opportunity cost of trading a top prospect or then-23-year-old starter — as all four players involved have either disappointed or gotten hurt. Some have done both. The trade has gone so wrong for both sides that it’s actually kinda fascinating.

That is all about to change, knock on wood. Michael Pineda, who showed up to his first camp with the Yankees overweight and was arrested to DUI soon thereafter, is finally healthy following a May 2012 procedure to repair a torn labrum, the kind of injury that can derail a promising career. The now-25-year-old made his first Spring Training start of 2014 yesterday and looked very much like an effective pitcher, striking out five of eleven batters faced in 2.2 scoreless innings. He also looked pretty rusty, but that is to be expected after such a long layoff.

“The best thing is, my shoulder is feeling great. When my shoulder is feeling good, I can pitch, I can compete. I’m happy with that,” said Pineda to Mark Didtler following yesterday’s start. His fastball velocity is more upper-80s/low-90s right now, a far cry from the mid-to-high-90s he showed with the Mariners three years ago, but it is only March and he should add a few ticks as the season progresses. That he is already touching 93 is promising. As a fastball-slider pitcher, velocity is pretty important to Pineda.

Now for the kicker: we have no idea what to expect out of Pineda this summer. He looks good now, but how will he look facing actual big leaguers every fifth day? What happens once he get 50 or 100 or 150 innings under his belt? Can he hold his stuff for 100+ pitches per start? These are all questions we can’t answer. Remember, the Yankees said they expected Pineda back last June. That didn’t work out. They can’t count on him for anything. Whatever he provides has to be treated as gravy.

And yet, if the season started today, I’m pretty sure Pineda would be the fifth starter. He’d have to be, right? He’s healthy and throwing well enough, plus he has the highest ceiling of the fifth starter candidates by frickin’ far. Actually, forget about ceiling. Pineda might be the best pitcher for the 2014 season out of the lot, nevermind 2015 and beyond. I also think there’s a “let’s finally get something out of this trade” line of thinking as well. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but I do think that mentality exists.

Even though he’s on a staff with an unknown in Masahiro Tanaka and the enigmatic Ivan Nova, Pineda is the biggest wildcard in the rotation heading into 2014. Probably on the entire roster, really. He could be a non-factor like the last two seasons or he could be their best pitcher. Well, maybe not. That’s probably a stretch. Pineda could wind up being their second best starter though, legitimately too. Not in a “everyone else fell apart so he’s number two by default” way. That ability is there. It’s just unclear if we will actually see it this summer.

The Yankees sunk a ton of money into Tanaka this winter to be the future of their rotation, but that does not lessen Pineda’s importance to the franchise going forward. It would be a big blow to the organization if he is unable to re-establish himself this season. The farm system doesn’t have much impact pitching on the immediate horizon and free agency is becoming a less effective to build a roster with each passing year. Pineda can still be rotation solution in both the short and long-term, but until he shows he’s up to the task, the Yankees can’t count on him.

Categories : Players
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If it feels like we’ve seen a lot of David Phelps this spring, it’s because we have. Every one of his starts has been broadcast on YES so far, and that will continue today. He’ll be making his fourth start of Grapefruit League play this afternoon as he tries to win a fifth starter’s competition that, frankly, feels like it has already been decided as long as Michael Pineda stays healthy. Phelps is still going to be a big part of the pitching staff this summer though. I’m sure of it.

Half the Yankees are in Panama, but there is still a representative group left in Tampa. Mark Teixeira is playing back-to-back games at first base for the first time this spring, and Brian McCann is playing back-to-back games behind the plate as well. I think he’s done that before though. Russ Canzler, who has an outside chance of winning that last bench job, was supposed to make his first start at third, but was a late scratch with hip stiffness.

The Twins are up from Fort Myers for this afternoon’s game. Ex-Yankee Phil Hughes started yesterday, so we missed him by just a day. Oh well. Kyle Gibson is on the bump for Minnesota and will be backed by a skeleton crew lineup. Here is the lineup third base coach/acting manager Rob Thomson is sending out there (Joe Girardi is in Panama):

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 2B Brian Roberts
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. SS Eduardo Nunez
  6. LF Ramon Flores
  7. DH Peter O’Brien
  8. RF Mason Williams
  9. 3B Rob Segedin

Available Pitchers: LHP Manny Banuelos, RHP David Herndon, LHP Fred Lewis, and RHP Dellin Betances are all scheduled to come out of the bullpen. RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Mark Montgomery, LHP Aaron Dott, LHP James Pazos, and RHP Branden Pinder are also available if needed.

Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Carmen Angelini, LF Ben Gamel, CF Jake Cave, and RF Taylor Dugas will be the second string off the bench. C Wes Wilson and UTIL Ali Castillo are also available.

It’s nice and sunny in Tampa with temperatures in the 70s and no threat of rain. Wonderful day for baseball. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start a little after 1pm ET and you can watch live on YES and MLB.tv. Enjoy.

Comments (32)

Got eight questions for you this week, so most of the answers are short. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions, comments, links, whatever.

(Stacy Revere/Getty)

(Stacy Revere/Getty)

Matt asks: There has been much made, so far this spring and in the past, about CC Sabathia‘s decrease in velocity, which got me to thinking: What kind of contract do you think he would have received, had he been on the open market this past off-season?

This question came in a few days ago, so I’ve been mulling it over for a while, and … I have no idea. On one hand, Sabathia’s velocity is down and the chances of him being in a permanent decline are rather high. On the other hand, the dude is still a workhorse of the first order and his track record is as good as it gets. Sabathia is also super accountable and good in the community, making him the type of person teams want on their roster.

Given his age and workload and all that, I think Sabathia would have wound up with a shorter term deal for big dollars this winter. Not a four or five-year contract or anything like that. Something more along the lines of how the Giants handled Tim Lincecum. Would two years and $40M with a vesting option for a third year have worked? There are three years (plus a vesting option) and $71M left on Sabathia’s contract right now, so 2/40 wouldn’t be a huge step down. Just a pretty big one.

Brad asks: Most analysis at this point indicates that Michael Pineda (if healthy) will win the 5th starter job, while David Phelps and Adam Warren are favorites for bullpen spots. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to keep one of the latter two candidates stretched out in the AAA rotation?

I think that will be Vidal Nuno‘s role, the sixth starter in Triple-A. If both Warren and Phelps are in the bullpen, I assume one would be a traditional long reliever (likely Warren), and going from long relief to a starter isn’t too tough. Considering the state of the bullpen, I think the Yankees have to focus on taking the best arms north at the end of camp. Nuno will be in Triple-A as the extra starter, giving the team some freedom with Phelps and Warren.

Paul asks: What is the market for Stephen Drew at this point? Am I being a typical unrealistic greedy Yankee fan when I’m hoping/expecting him to join us soon?

There have not been many updates on Drew recently, other than his former Red Sox teammates speculating he wishes he had accepted the qualifying offer. The Yankees could obviously still use him on the infield, but the longer he goes unsigned, the less likely it is I think the Yankees will sign him. Drew would have to change positions — I’m guessed he’d move to third, not second — and that’s something he’d need to work on in Spring Training since he’s never played anywhere other than short. There is only about two weeks left in camp, so he’s running out of time to prepare for the position change. I’d love to see the Yankees sign him, but it’s clear it’s a long shot at this point.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Warren asks: So I was wondering how lead size effects base stealing. I feel like Brett Gardner in particular takes enormous leads compared to people of equal or lesser speed who steal more. I was wondering if there was a way to measure if he was taking such a large lead that it results in too much attention. He almost has to constantly be leaning back towards first. Is there any way to measure if other base stealers like Jacoby Ellsbury have more success by giving up a foot or two of lead to get a better jump?

Lead size definitely affects base-stealing. The bigger the lead, the more likely it is the pitcher will throw over. The more the pitcher throws over, the more the runner has to hurry back to the bag. The more he does that, the more tired he gets. The more tired he gets, the less likely he is to steal or steal successfully. The size of a player’s lead definitely plays a role in his base-stealing success.

How can we measure this? Other than going back and watching video of everytime a player was on base and taking a lead, I’m not sure. Hopefully this is something that MLBAM’s new player’s tracker system will cover because it is definitely a part of the game we don’t know a whole lot about. What’s the relationship between lead size and likelihood of a pickoff attempt? Is there such a thing as an optimal lead? Probably, I just have no idea what it is.

Eric asks: You can either have a starting pitcher who is guaranteed to strike everyone out once every five days, or a hitter who is guaranteed to hit a home run every time up. Which one would you choose?

I’ll take the hitter, no doubt about it. You can bat him as low as third and still guarantee he’d get no fewer than four at-bats in every game, so that’s at least four runs right there. I think that, over the course of the 162-game season, you would win more games scoring at least four runs every time out than you would by getting a guaranteed shutout (perfect game, really) every fifth day. Just my opinion. Not sure if there’s a way to test this mathematically.

Andrew asks: Do you think MLB will ever make and enforce a rule requiring identical field dimensions across baseball?

I do not think MLB would do it and I sure hope they don’t. One of my favorite things about baseball are the unique parks and dimensions. No other sport has that. MLB has minimum standards and things like that, but otherwise the shape and size of the field is up to the individual teams. It’s great, I love it.

Tucker asks: How strong of a push do you the think the Yankees will make next winter to sign Chase Headley? It seems inevitable to me.

Headley would be a really good fit as a switch-hitter with power, patience, and good defense at third base, there’s no doubt about it. I wonder if the Yankees will be open to signing another huge contract so soon though. Maybe if they somehow get rid of Alex Rodriguez and the money he’s owed, but otherwise if they were to sign Headley to something along the lines of six years and $108M (total guess), they’d have seven players making at least $17M in both 2015 and 2016. It works out to $146M for seven players each year. Unless the team increases payroll by quite a bit or their farm system suddenly starts cranking out players, I’m not sure if they would go for that. On paper, yeah Headley makes a ton of sense.

Jon asks: Given the relatively small contract for which he signed, do you think Aledmys Diaz would have been worth taking a flier on? The Yankees certainly have a bigger need for a young middle-infielder than the Cards. Maybe the guy isn’t that great but I’ll place my faith in the Cards scouting over the Yanks.

It seems pretty obvious Diaz just isn’t all that good, or at least teams don’t expect him to be all that good given his contract. The scouting reports said he might end up a utility infielder and that’s what he wound up with, utility man dollars. Just $2M annually. The Cardinals are obviously very well run by they aren’t infallible. The Yankees had him in for a workout and that’s more than they’ve done for any international player in a long time. It’s not like they didn’t do their homework.

Categories : Mailbag
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Right-hander Michael Pineda made his first start and second appearance of Spring Training this afternoon, throwing 2.2 scoreless innings against the Orioles before hitting his pitch count. He struck out five, walked one, and allowed three hits (one bloop, one grounder with eyes, one infield single) while throwing 27 of 48 pitches for strikes. His fastball was anywhere from 88-92 on the YES Network gun and he was almost decapitated by a Delmon Young line drive (GIF). That was kinda close.

Pineda was good but I thought he was obviously rusty. David Cone noted during the broadcast that Pineda’s fastball would cut every so often, meaning his mechanics were a little off. When he missed, he missed down in the dirt rather than up in the zone or over the plate, so that was good. Most importantly, it looked everything was coming free and easy. Pineda wasn’t laboring or overthrowing or anything like that. He was just letting it fly. The rust was obvious and hopefully he shakes that off as camp progresses. Considered he missed nearly two full years following shoulder surgery, Pineda looked strong today.

There are more GIFs after the jump. If the mouse-over feature isn’t working for whatever reason, you can see each GIF here: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.

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The Yankees split their two games this afternoon, losing 6-2 to the Phillies and beating the Orioles 5-0. Michael Pineda started against Baltimore and looked good, striking out five in 2.2 scoreless innings before hitting his pitch count. I’ll have some more on him later tonight. Brett Gardner (2-for-4 with a double), Carlos Beltran (1-for-3), Brian McCann (0-for-1 with two walks), Alfonso Soriano (1-for-2 with a walk), and Zoilo Almonte (2-for-3 with a double) all had nice days. Derek Jeter went 0-for-4. Here’s the box score and video highlights for that game.

Meanwhile, against the Phillies, Ivan Nova got knocked around a bit, surrendering three runs on nine hits and no walks (six strikeouts) in five innings. He was getting dinked and dunked early but gave up a few hard hits near the end of his outing. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a homer (!), Kelly Johnson doubled, and both Scott Sizemore and Frankie Cervelli singled. Ichiro Suzuki and Mark Teixeira both went 0-for-3. Preston Claiborne got knocked around for three runs on four hits in 0.2 innings. Here’s the box score and video highlights for this game, now here’s the rest from Tampa.

  • The upcoming rotation: David Phelps (Friday), Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren (Saturday), Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia (Sunday), Hiroki Kuroda (Monday), Pineda (Tuesday), Nova (Wednesday), Phelps (Thursday), and Sabathia (Friday). No surprise here, but Joe Girardi confirmed Pineda will have an innings limit this season. [Chad Jennings]
  • McCann will not travel to Panama as planned, instead staying behind to catch Tanaka on Sunday. Does that mean Cervelli, who looked like he was being groomed to be be Tanaka’s personal catcher, is about to be traded? Eh, maybe. Cervelli is going to Panama instead of McCann though. Jennings has the full roster for the trip. [Jack Curry]
  • Another two roster cuts: Bryan Mitchell and Jose Campos have been optioned to Triple-A Scranton and High-A Tampa, respectively, the team announced. There are still 59 player in big league camp by my unofficial count.

Here is your open thread for the night. The game against the Orioles will be replayed at 7pm ET on YES, if you missed Pineda earlier today. MLB Network will air a non-Yankees game later tonight, plus the (hockey) Rangers are playing as well. Talk about whatever here.

Comments (40)
  • Sherman: Yankees sign remaining pre-arbitration players

    Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees have signed all of their remaining pre-arbitration-eligible players. I unofficially count 18 of them. Some notables include Eduardo Nunez ($576,900), David Phelps ($541,425), and Michael Pineda ($538,475). The league minimum is $500,000 this season. All of these guys sign split contracts, meaning they earn a different salary in the minors.

    The Yankees had previously signed John Ryan Murphy ($502,700), Vidal Nuno ($504,500), and Dean Anna ($500,000). This all procedural stuff. All of these pre-arbitration players are under team control for several more years, so they aren’t coming up on free agency anytime soon. They just needed contracts to cover this coming season and now they have them. A loose end that is tied up.
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