(Photo via @YankeesPR)

(Photo via @YankeesPR)

Pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa today, and a few hours later Joe Girardi showed up to camp. His flight from New York was delayed because of all the snow. My goodness there is so much snow. Anyway, here is a not at all complete recap of Girardi’s annual start-of-Spring Training press conference, culled together from the Twitter accounts of reporters in attendance.

On Derek Jeter

  • Girardi had “no inkling” Jeter was planning to retire after the season until the announcement was made. “We are going to miss him,” he said. “You want a guy like that to play forever.”
  • Jeter’s playing time both in the field and at DH against left-handers is going to be based on how he feels on a daily basis. They won’t put a firm plan in place at this point.
  • As for batting Jeter second, Girardi said “we’ll have to see,” but indicated he would like to split up the left-handed hitters. I wonder if that means Brett Gardner will bat leadoff and Jacoby Ellsbury will bat third. Or maybe Ellsbury at leadoff with Brian McCann batting third. We’ll see.

On the new players

  • “It is the biggest transition I’ve been through … I think its important I get to know these guys,” said the skipper.
  • Girardi believes Masahiro Tanaka loves the spotlight and will handle the move to MLB well.
  • Kelly Johnson is the backup first baseman for the time being. They have not discussed playing McCann at first.

On the fifth starter competition

  • Girardi plans to tell David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda, and everyone else to make sure they take it easy early in camp and gradually build themselves up. They don’t want anyone getting hurt by doing too much too soon.
  • “Anything is possible,” said Girardi when asked if they would be willing to use Pineda out of the bullpen. “When we traded for him, we expected him to be in our rotation,” he added. “We envision him as a starter.”
Categories : Spring Training
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(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The 2011-12 seasons were not particularly kind to Austin Romine, who was limited to only 108 games due to concussion and back problems. Sure, he made his big league debut in September 2011, but it wasn’t until last April that he returned to the show, and that was only because a foul pitch broke Frankie Cervelli‘s hand. Romine spent last season as Chris Stewart‘s backup and, aside from a few weeks in July, he wasn’t very impressive.

Stewart was traded away this winter but the Yankees replaced him in a big way, committing $85M to free agent Brian McCann. Cervelli’s hand (and elbow) is healed and his 50-game Biogenesis suspension is over, plus J.R. Murphy jumped up the organizational depth chart with a breakout season. Romine was arguably the best catcher in the organization for much of last year, but now, just an offseason later, he is widely considered no better than the fourth best backstop on the team.

“First of all, it’s a business. Second of all, I thought it was awesome,” said Romine to Adam Berry earlier this week when asked about the McCann signing. “I get a chance to study and be under a guy that’s been an All-Star forever. You’d be stupid not to pick his brain and learn something. I see it as a great opportunity to learn more about this game from a guy that’s been around for a long time. I’m actually really excited.”

There’s no doubt Romine can learn a lot from a veteran guy like McCann, but he might not get that opportunity. At least not after Spring Training. Cervelli, who is out of options and can’t go to the minors without passing through waivers, is expected to backup McCann with Romine and Murphy opening the year in Triple-A. Considering that the 25-year-old Romine has hit .258/.321/.355 with 12 homers combined over the last three years, the 22-year-old Murphy figures to get playing time priority with the RailRiders.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Now, there is no such thing as too much catching depth, but right now Romine is in a weird spot. It wasn’t all that long ago that he was the best catching prospect in the organization yet now he’s an afterthought behind McCann, Murphy, and Cervelli. All it takes is one injury to move him up the pecking order and catchers sure do get hurt a lot, but there is no obvious place for him at the moment. Romine will essentially be the Triple-A backup this coming year because he hasn’t forced the Yankees to consider him anything more.

“Anyone that told you that they didn’t want to be a starting catcher is lying to you,” he added. “That’s my goal. That’s been my goal since I was a little kid. Everybody wants to be a starting catcher. Right now, the backup job’s open, so that’s what you focus on. You get to be behind a guy that’s done it all and learn some stuff, and maybe they’ll give you a chance … I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in a while. I’m just looking for some time to show them I can still do it. It’s going to be a fight.”

I’m inclined to think this situation will work itself out. Someone will get hurt somewhere along the line and Romine will assume a more important role, even if that role is nothing more than the starter with Triple-A Scranton. Trading him is always an option but his stock isn’t all that high and I don’t think the return would be great. Having the extra young catcher around would be more beneficial than whatever he could fetch in a trade. Romine’s long-term role with the Yankees may not be clear now, but that doesnt’t mean he isn’t worth keeping around.

Categories : Players
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I’ve got six questions for you this week. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything, as you probably know.

(Photo via Dodgers Nation)

Diaz. (Photo via Dodgers Nation)

Many people asked: What about Aledmys Diaz?

Diaz, 23, will be eligible to sign next Wednesday after being suspended for a year because he lied about his age. Believe it or not, he tried to pass himself off as older than his actual age so the international spending restrictions wouldn’t apply to him, allowing him to receive a much larger bonus. How about that? A Cuban player trying to trick people into thinking he was older than he really is.

Anyway, the suspension ends next week and he can indeed sign for any amount now that he is 23. The Yankees had a “large presence” at one of his workouts last year and they were among the teams to scout him just yesterday, says Jon Morosi. Their interest level is unknown but if they’re still on him, they probably like him. Here’s a scouting report from Ben Badler, dated last January:

Age questions and unblocking issues aside, scouting reports on Diaz’s talent remain modest. Though Diaz has played shortstop in Cuba, scouts have said he doesn’t have the lateral range, quickness or footwork to stay at the position. Diaz has shown some ability with the bat, hitting .315/.404/.500 in 313 plate appearances for Villa Clara in his final season in Cuba, albeit in a high-offensive environment in which he ranked 30th in the league in OBP and tied for 20th in slugging.

That’s everything I know about Diaz right there. I don’t know if he is ready to step right into the big leagues but I assume he will need some time in the minors. Most guys do. (Yoenis Cespedes is the only big name Cuban player to jump straight into MLB in recent years). The Yankees need long-term help at both second base and shortstop, and Diaz is as good a candidate to plug one of those holes as anyone. As always, his asking price will be a factor.

Jamie asks: 5th starter competition: of Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, David Phelps and Michael Pineda, none of these guys threw more than 86 IP last year. Can we really expect 150 innings out of any of these guys in 2014? Isn’t that kind of an IP jump from one season to the next a big stretch?

Pineda is the one I worry about the most because of his injury. The Yankees will have to watch him very carefully. I’m not worried about the other guys at all though. For starters, they aren’t particularly young. Warren is the youngest and he’ll turn 27 in August, so these aren’t 22 or 23-year-old kids. Secondly, all three threw at least 120 innings (postseason included) in both 2011 and 2012, plus both Warren (2011, 2012) and Phelps (2009, 2010) have multiple 150+ inning seasons to their credit. I don’t know if the Yankees can run these guys out there for 200+ innings this summer, but I wouldn’t sweat 150 innings at all.

Dominik asks: Now that Alex Rodriguez has been suspended, will he be drug tested during his suspension? Are there still increased testing protocols for once he gets reinstated and do they apply during the suspension if he is tested? Thanks!

Oh yes, he will absolutely continue to be drug tested. In fact, he will be tested even more now that he’s been suspended for violating the Joint Drug Agreement. That continues even after he is reinstated. Even if the Yankees plan to release A-Rod at some point, they won’t do it during the suspension because he could potentially fail a test and be suspended again, saving them an even bigger chunk of his contract.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Christopher asks: Should the Yankees pass on Stephen Drew this year and look to replace Derek Jeter with next year’s bountiful crop of Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera?

They could do that but it would be really risky, not to mention it doesn’t help the 2014 team at all. There is no guarantee those guys will actually hit free agency, and Hardy is the only true shortstop of the bunch. The other three are terrible defenders and that figures to be even more evident after another season. Hanley’s bat makes his defense less of an issue, but he recently said he wants to be a Dodger for life. The Yankees could, conceivably, sign Drew now and still add Ramirez (third base) or Lowrie (second) next winter. (Asdrubal is pretty bad and has been trending down for several years now.)

Gilbert asks: Instead of just basing how good of a contact hitter someone is by their batting average, is there a stat like keeps track of the percentage of pitches a batter sees that he makes contact with (in play or foul)? This way we can say “He makes contact 47.1% of the time.”

Definitely. Thanks to PitchFX we have all sorts of neat information and most of it is easily available. Here is the contact rate leaderboard from 2011-13, courtesy of FanGraphs:

Contact Rate Leaderboard 2011-13

So, over the last three years, Marco Scutaro has made contact on 95.2% of his swings, the most in baseball. O-Contact% is contact rate on pitches out of the zone, Z-Contact% is contact rate on pitches in the zone. Pretty simple, right?

Ichiro is 15th in baseball with a 89.6% contact rate since 2011 while Brett Gardner is 18th at 88.9%. On the other end of the spectrum, Mark Reynolds is dead last with a 66.7% contact rate over the last three years. Ryan Howard (67.0%) and Giancarlo Stanton (67.3%) are second and third worst. Batting average can fluctuate wildly from year-to-year — Robinson Cano is a career .309 hitter, but he hit .342 one year and .271 another — but contact rates tend to be very steady. It is important to remember that not all contact is created equal though. Some guys simply hit the ball harder than others.

Matt asks: If teams usually sign Japanese players from the posting system for six years, since they would be under team control for six years anyway, and would be only arbitration eligible at the end of the contract if they only signed for say, four years. Why is this working differently for Masahiro Tanaka‘s opt-out clause? It seems if he opts out, of the contract, he should still be under team control for the remainder of the six years.

This is just a courtesy MLB extends to veterans of the Japanese leagues. Rather than maintain the full six years of team control, they’re treated as regular free agents, guys who have already accrued that much service time. Hideki Matsui became a free agent when his original three year contract expired following the 2006 season, for example. Yu Darvish’s contract works the same way as Tanaka’s. He can opt-out after the fifth year and become a free agent. I think it’s fair and a good thing. Those guys have served their time.

Categories : Mailbag
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  • Yankees announce single-game tickets go on sale Feb. 24th
    By

    Just a heads up, the Yankees announced individual game tickets will go on sale on Monday, February 24th at 10am ET. The Mastercard pre-sale runs from February 19th though February 23rd. Here is the press release with all the information. Derek Jeter’s final regular season home game is scheduled for Thursday, September 25th, though I suspect they’ll have his big going away ceremony the prior weekend like they did with Mariano Rivera. · (10) ·

Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow, so this is officially the last open thread of the offseason. Thank goodness for that. The camp notes start tomorrow but there is already some news worth passing along now, specifically Masahiro Tanaka throwing his first bullpen session this morning. Erik Boland says he threw 23 pitches to Frankie Cervelli. Tanaka and pitching coach Larry Rothschild spent time hashing out a Spring Training program yesterday, according to Dan Martin. Baseball … it’s a comin’.

Here is your nightly open thread. The Nets are playing tonight plus the Olympics are still going on, so talk about any of that stuff and more right here. Have at it.

Categories : Open Thread
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  • Update: MLB announces Yankees-Marlins exhibition games in Panama
    By

    Feb. 13th: MLB has finally announced the two-game series. Here’s the press release. The Yankees and Marlins will indeed play in Panama on March 15th and 16th in what is being called the Legends Series. The games will be played at Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City and Rivera will be a promoter. This will be the first time MLB teams will play in Panama since 1947.

    Nov. 12th: The Yankees and Marlins will play a pair of exhibition games in Panama City on March 15-16th next spring, according to Mark Feinsand. An official announcement is still a few weeks away. Neato.

    Sept. 27th: Via Carl Campanile: The Yankees are considering playing an exhibition game in Panama to honor Mariano Rivera at some point in the future. “It’s not a done deal, but everyone wants it to happen,” said a source to Campanile.  “It would be a powerful tribute to Mariano in his home country. Can you imagine the reaction in Panama?” Talks between Yankees officials, MLB officials, the players’ union, and the Panamanian government are underway. Rivera is “said to be thrilled” over the possibility, though it’s unclear if he would actually pitch in the game. I assume it would be played in Spring Training at some point, probably towards the end before the team heads to Houston for the series of the regular season. Needless to say, this would be extremely cool. Hopefully it happens.
    · (19) ·

I haven’t seen too many of them, but from what I have seen, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is rather excellent. The latest (or one of the latest, anyway) entry looks at the Alex Rodriguez trade, specifically the failed trade with the Red Sox. The Yankees swooped in after that and acquired him rather stealthily. I found out about the deal by catching a glance at a television showing ESPN while hanging out with some friends in college. That was pretty fun.

Obviously things with A-Rod are disastrous these days, but the trade itself was marvelous. Alex was a beast from 2004-07, winning two MVPs along the way. The new contract, the one they gave him after he opted out, that’s a nightmare. Anyway, the video is 22 minutes long and includes first-person accounts from Brian Cashman, Theo Epstein, and several others. Check it out. It’s really well done.

Categories : Videos/Photos/GIFs
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Feb
13

RAB Live Chat

By in Chats. · Comments (6) ·
Categories : Chats
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Romine is no longer prospect eligible. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Romine is no longer prospect eligible. (AP)

By the Yankees’ own admission, last season was a terrible year for the farm system. Many top prospects either got hurt or underperformed (some did both), so much so that the Yankees’ drafting and development strategy and personnel were re-evaluated. No one was fired, but several new instructors were added to the staff, including former big league managers Trey Hillman and Mike Quade. Procedural changes were made as well.

As a result of that down year, the Yankees have a lean system with almost no immediate help on the way. No impact players, anyway. Having three first round picks in last summer’s draft helped keep them from the bottom of the various organizational rankings, plus the team is said to be planning a huge international spending spree this summer, so there figures to be a lot of talent added to the system during this 12-13 month span. They need it, that’s for sure.

This is my eighth Preseason Top 30 Prospects List and the other seven can be found right here. As a reminder, this is my personal list and I am not an expert. I’m just a dude with a blog and some opinions. I have my own preferences and therefore I’m high on some players and low on others, compared to consensus. You’re welcome to disagree with my rankings. We all value certain things (upside, performance, probability, etc.) differently and that’s why there is no right way to rank prospects.

I use the rookie limits (50 innings or 130 at-bats) to determine prospect eligibility without any regard for service time because that’s easiest. Service time is too much of a hassle to track. Preston Claiborne threw 50.1 innings last season, so he wasn’t eligible. There has been a ton of turnover from last year’s list, with seven players either graduating to the big leagues (Austin Romine, Adam Warren), leaving the organization (Brett Marshall, Corey Black, Melky Mesa, Ravel Santana), or both (David Adams). Another nine players dropped off the list due to injury, poor performance, or the numbers crunch as well. That means 16 players (!) on this year’s Top 30 were not on last year’s. Ridiculous.

As for sources, it’s pretty much everything. Baseball America, Keith Law, and Baseball Prospectus, of course, plus smaller profiles from hometown newspapers and stuff like that. You can learn quite a bit about a pitcher from a random interview since they tend to talk about their repertoires and all that. There’s also video as well. I’m no scout, but it doesn’t take a genius to see if a guy has a long swing or a nasty slider. The list starts after the jump. Enjoy.
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Categories : Minors
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Jeter_Trend

Earlier on Wednesday, Derek Jeter announced the 2014 season will be his last with the Yankees. He is planning to retire after the coming season and that means fans only have a few short months to say goodbye. With some help from our friends at TiqIQ, here’s how Jeter’s announcement is affecting the prices of New York Yankees tickets:

  • The current average ticket price for Jeter’s last game is $1,153.01, which is up 43.49% since 3:17pm EST ($803.54), up 176.08% since 2:46pm EST ($417.64), up 278.20% since 2:08pm EST ($304.87).
  • The current get in price is $278 which is up 348.39% since 2:46pm EST ($62)  and 969.23% since 2:08 PM ($26).
  • In the same time period above the Yankees home average ticket price increased from $206.97 to $224.94.
  •  The Yankees’ 12-game pack with the home finale sold out shortly after the announcement.  They also have a single game presale on 2/18.
  • By about 2:55pm most tickets had been bought or pulled down by brokers and have since been relisted at higher prices.

Below is the price movement for the last game of the Yankees regular season in Boston, which might be his final game of his career:

  • The current average ticket price is $509.90, which is up 104.25% since the time of announcement ($249.65).
  • The current get in price is $265, which is up 159.80% since announcement ($102).

Below is some price data on Mariano Rivera‘s final home game last season:

  • At its peak average price on 3/9/13 tickets for his final home game were $467.06 and fell to a final average of $237.89 on the day of game (-49.07%).
  • At its peak get in price on 3/11/13 ticket for his final home game were $143 and fell to a final get in of $59 (-58.74%).
Categories : Guest Columns
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