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.
Jon Denney | C
A star at Yukon High School in the suburbs of Oklahoma City, Denney created a ton of buzz and stood out during various showcase events last summer. He is committed to Arkansas.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 lbs, Denney has one of those rare pretty right-handed swings. He has a simple setup and a balanced swing through the zone, showing more than enough bat speed and strength to hit for both average and power. Denney is an aggressive hitter and will need to show more patience against better pitching. Behind the plate, he offers a strong and accurate arm but not much in terms of receiving and footwork. He’s a good but not great athlete, and Denney’s bat is good enough to carry him if he winds up moving to first base or left field. There are a bunch more video on YouTube.
Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America ranked Denney as the 22nd and 23rd best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, so they’re in agreement that he’s a back-half of the first round guy right now. Denney had a chance to play his way into top-ten consideration before struggling in front of some serious heat during an event in Arizona in March. The Yankees have been connected to the backstop recently and he fits their profile to a tee as an offense-minded catcher. They hoard those guys.
The Yankees were hit hard by injuries and setbacks in Spring Training, forcing them to mine the scrap heap for stopgap solutions in the weeks and days leading up to Opening Day. One position that needed to be addressed since the end of last season was a right-handed hitting complement for their three-lefty outfield. Andruw Jones played his way out of New York in the second half and finding a replacement was near the top of the offseason agenda.
Brian Cashman & Co. flirted with pretty much all available options during the winter, including free agent Scott Hairston and trade target Vernon Wells. The team eventually acquired Wells from the Angels, but not until the very end of camp, when injuries left the team without a left fielder and the lineup devoid of power. It wasn’t until the very end of the offseason that the Yankees imported Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz on minor league contracts to compete for Andruw’s role.
Neither guy made the cut as New York instead opted to take Ben Francisco north after he was released by the Indians. Since youngsters like Melky Mesa, Thomas Neal, and Zoilo Almonte had little chance of making the veteran-loving Yankees, Francisco’s relative youth and defensive competence won him the job over Rivera and Diaz.
So far this year, the 31-year-old Francisco has hit just .114/.220/.182 (12 wRC+) overall, including a measly 3-for-34 (16 wRC+) against left-handers. Three-for-34! A southpaw-heavy schedule allowed the Yankees to start Francisco in eight of 12 games at one point last month, and he responded with three singles in 25 at-bats. Worst of all, he batted either second or fifth in seven of those eight games.
“He’s struggled,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand two weeks ago. “He’s had some good at-bats, and he’s struggled somewhat. You don’t want a guy to feel like every at-bat is the end of the world. Just go out and play and take care of what you can take care of, and that’s really all you can do. Go out and have good at-bats … Just go out and have good at-bats.”
Are 40 plate appearances against lefties and 50 plate appearances against all pitchers a big, meaningful sample? No, but players on the right-handed half of a platoon aren’t privy to big samples. They get 200, maybe 250 plate appearances in a given season. There’s no guarantee Francisco will get enough playing time to see his .125 BABIP (.080 vs. LHP) return to his career .287 (.267 vs. LHP) average. Girardi is loyal to his players and has given Francisco every opportunity to bust out of this slump so far, but he has shown zero signs of snapping out of it.
“Just in terms of your fan comments section, just say I’m holding onto him to piss everybody off,” said Brian Cashman to reporters over the weekend before going on to acknowledge the team always looks for upgrades and will pounce if a better right-handed hitting outfielder becomes available. Cashman is a great quote and he has an 80 troll tool, but he’s no idiot. He knows Francisco and the lack of a quality right-handed bat — the Yankees are hitting .228/.299/.359 (75 wRC+) against lefties this year — is a major issue right now.
None of the team’s righty bats in Triple-A are distinguishing themselves right now — Mesa is striking out in over 40% of his plate appearances while Neal and Zoilo own .739 and .623 OPSes against lefties, respectively — so any solution will likely have to come from outside the organization. The trade market should start to heat up with June on the horizon, but Francisco’s time has come. We’ve seen enough to know a replacement is needed regardless of who is on the DL and when they’re scheduled to be activated.
3:48pm: It was a simulated game against some minor league pitchers, not an Extended Spring Training game. Teixeira’s still not ready for a full blown game, apparently.
1:30pm: According to the man himself, Mark Teixeira went 1-for-2 with a double and a walk this afternoon in what I assume was an Extended Spring Training game. No idea if he played first base or simply DH’ed. It was his first game action and it does not start his 30-day rehab clock. That will happen when he joins one of the four full-season minor league affiliate.
Teixeira, 33, has been sidelined since early-March with a tendon sheath injury to his right wrist. He suffered the injury while prepping for the World Baseball Classic with Team USA, so the WBC is paying his salary while he’s on the DL. Lyle Overbay (102 wRC+) has filled in admirably at first base, so the Yankees can afford be patient with Teixeira. Wrist injuries tend to linger and no one wants a setback, especially considering how much they need his right-handed bat. Plus the longer they keep him on the DL, the more money they save. · (25) ·
Once upon a time, mid-May games against the Orioles were relatively meaningless, at least in terms of the AL East race. Baltimore was irrelevant for more than a decade until last season’s surprise 93-win effort, which forces us to take them seriously these days. Such is life.
What Have They Done Lately?
Quite a bit of losing, actually. The O’s got swept by the Rays this weekend, and they’ve now lost five straight, six of seven, and seven of nine. The Yankees took two of three from Baltimore back in mid-April, their fourth series of the year. Buck Showalter’s team is 23-20 with a +18 run differential, tied with Tampa for third place in the division.
Thanks to an average of 5.0 runs per game and a team 102 wRC+, the Orioles have one of the top offenses in the game. They rank sixth in homers (52) and third in steals (33) in all of baseball, so it’s a diverse attack. B’more has a number of position players on the DL, including 2B Brian Roberts (150 wRC+), OF Nolan Reimold (49 wRC+), C Taylor Teagarden (-100 wRC+ in very limited time), and UTIL Wilson Betemit (has not played this year).
The top seven spots of Showalter’s lineup usually do not change regardless of who is on the mound. LF Nate McLouth (114 wRC+) leads off, budding star 3B Manny Machado (138 wRC+) bats second, RF Nick Markakis (96 wRC+) bats third, CF Adam Jones (129 wRC+) cleans up, 1B Chris Davis (178 wRC+) bats fifth, C Matt Wieters (93 wRC+) bats sixth, and SS J.J. Hardy (80 wRC+) bats seventh. Pretty straight forward.
Baltimore has received some of the worst DH production in baseball (72 wRC+), and their latest attempt at a solution is IF Danny Valencia (1-for-3 in his debut yesterday). Former Yankee OF Chris Dickerson (118 wRC+ in limited time) and 1B/OF Steve Pearce (95 wRC+) rotate in as well. IF Yamaico Navarro (154 wRC+ in limited time) is getting a shot to place second everyday while IF Alexi Casilla (32 wRC+) backs him up. C Chris Snyder (8 wRC+ in very limited time) backs up Wieters. Those top seven spots of the lineup are the ones New York has to worry about, the rest of the hitters are trivial.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Freddy Garcia
The Embedded Yankee takes on the Yankees. The 36-year-old Garcia owns a 5.51 ERA (6.21 FIP) through three starts with Baltimore, and they limit him to only 75-80 pitches. Sweaty Freddy has missed no bats (3.31 K/9 and 9.1 K%) nor has he gotten a ton of grounders (40.0%), but he does limit walks (2.20 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%). Homers are an issue (2.20 HR/9 and 20.0% HR/FB), as always. As you know, Garcia is a soft-tossing kitchen sink guy, living in the mid-to-upper-80s with his sinker. An upper-70s splitter is his go-to pitch, though he’ll also throw upper-70s sliders and changeups in addition to low-70s curveball. We’ve seen enough of Freddy these last two years to know what to expect.
Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
Gonzalez, 28, is currently on the DL with a blister on his thumb, but he threw a 55-pitch simulated game on Friday and is expected to be activated for this start. They could activate him for tonight’s game, but apparently they’re giving him an extra day. The minor league journeyman was not very good before the blister, pitching to a 4.58 ERA (5.34 FIP) in six starts. Obviously the blister and poor performance could be related. Gonzalez has seen his strikeout (5.60 K/9 and 14.6 K%) and walk (3.57 BB/9 and 9.3 BB%) numbers take a step back following his breakout 2012 campaign, plus his homer rate (1.53 HR/9 and 13.3$ HR/FB) has jumped despite an increase in ground balls (46.4%). Low-90s two- and four-seamers set up a knockout low-80s splitter-changeup hybrid that gave the Yankees fits last year. A mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball round out his repertoire. Gonzalez held New York to three runs in six innings earlier this year after dominating them last year: 2.36 ERA (~3.05 FIP) with 28 strikeouts and six walks in four starts, including the ALDS.
Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Jason Hammel
Hammel started on Opening Day for the Orioles following his strong but injury-shortened 2012 season, but he hasn’t been able to repeat that success so far. The 30-year-old owns a 5.72 ERA (4.83 FIP) in nine starts this year, and his peripheral stats have declined across the board: 6.44 K/9 (15.7 K%), 3.58 BB/9 (8.7 BB%), 1.25 HR/9 (10.9% HR/FB), and 42.8% grounders. He looks more like the guy he was from 2008-2011 rather than the guy he was last summer. Hammel’s pitch selection did change substantially when he got to Baltimore and he’s stuck with his new low-90s two-seam fastball-heavy approach. He’ll still throw a few low-to-mid-90s four-seamers. A mid-80s slider is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in a mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball.
The Rays did the Yankees a solid by working the Orioles’ bullpen pretty hard this weekend. Rule 5 Draft LHP T.J. McFarland (2.55 FIP) threw 2.1 innings and 43 pitches yesterday, taking him out of commission for at least one game and probably two. The fewer lefties at Showalter’s disposal, the better. RHP Pedro Strop (4.71 FIP) also pitched yesterday and has appeared in three of the last five games.
Closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.82 FIP) threw 32 pitches and recorded one out while blowing the save on Saturday, his second blown save in as many appearances. He’s not in danger of losing his job or anything, but he is in the middle of a rough stretch. Setup men RHP Darren O’Day (3.79 FIP) and LHP Brian Matusz (3.27 FIP) are hell on same-side hitters. RHP Tommy Hunter (4.36 FIP) is the multi-inning middle relief guy, but he threw 2.2 innings and 37 pitches on Saturday. Might not be available tonight. LHP Troy Patton (5.29 FIP) and long man RHP Jake Arrieta (4.45 FIP) round out the 13-man bullpen, which will likely be whittled down to 12 when Gonzalez is activated.
The Yankees were rained out on Sunday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be this time of the season. Left-hander Vidal Nuno will be available in relief this series since his start in place of the injured Andy Pettitte has been pushed back. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage details. Now that Camden Crazies is close to defunct, I guess Camden Chat is the best Orioles blog by default.
Record Last Week: 4-3 (27 RS, 21 RA)
Season Record: 27-16 (184 RS, 159 RA, 25-18 pythag. record), 0.5 games up in AL East
Opponents This Week: @ Orioles (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF @ Rays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The week opened with a doubleheader against the Indians, and the teams split the two games even though the Yankees allowed one run total on the day.
- Following the two games in Cleveland, the Yankees returned home for three games against the Mariners. A late comeback led to a win over Felix Hernandez on Tuesday, but Phil Hughes got rocked in the following day’s loss. Seattle completed the series win on Thursday.
- The Blue Jays came to town for a three-game weekend set, and Hiroki Kuroda dominated in the series-opening win. Robinson Cano hit a pair of homers in Saturday’s win before yesterday’s game was rained out. No makeup date has been announced and the Yankees juggled their rotation.
- Injury News: Curtis Granderson (forearm) was activated off the DL. Andy Pettitte (trap) has been placed on the DL with a strain. Chris Stewart (groin) is day-to-day. Eduardo Nunez (ribcage) is expected to start hitting in the batting cage in a few days. Joba Chamberlain (oblique) will head to Tampa to continue his rehab. Travis Hafner (shoulder) received a cortisone shot and missed a few games with tendinitis, but he has since returned to the lineup. Cesar Cabral (elbow) officially started a minor league rehab assignment. Prospect Gabe Encinas (elbow) has been placed on the DL.
- The Yankees added two new infielders this week, calling up David Adams and acquiring Reid Brignac from the Rockies. Chris Nelson and Alberto Gonzalez were both designated for assignment to clear room on the roster. Nelson was claimed off waivers by the Angels. Both Brett Marshall and Dellin Betances were recalled for bullpen depth at various points during the week.
- Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the team has had contract talks with Robinson Cano’s new representatives. Talks about new contracts for Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have yet to begin, however.
- Both the NHL and the Yankees officially announced two hockey games will be played at Yankee Stadium next January.
- The Yankees are the “most likely landing spot” for Dominican outfielder prospect Leonardo Molina.
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Triple-A Scranton (10-4 loss to Columbus)
- 2B Corban Joseph: 1-4, 1 BB
- RF Brennan Boesch: 1-2, 1 R, 3 BB – five walks and four strikeouts in four games here
- CF Zoilo Almonte: 0-5, 2 K — stuck in a 12-for-57 rut (.211)
- 3B Ronnie Mustelier: 1-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 SB, 1 E (fielding)
- RHP Caleb Cotham: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 62 of 94 pitches were strikes (66%) … allowed four homers, so he’s up to seven in 13 innings at this level
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 1.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1/3 GB/FB — 25 of 39 pitches were strikes (64%) … seven walks and seven strikeouts in his last 8.1 innings
The Yankees didn’t get a chance to complete the three-game sweep over the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon because of the weather, but the rainout did allow the team to juggle their Andy Pettitte-less rotation. Following the postponement, Joe Girardi announced the team will skip Vidal Nuno‘s upcoming start and instead throw CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and Hiroki Kuroda against the Orioles next week. Nuno will be available out of the bullpen.
Having a second left-handed reliever will be a big help next week against Baltimore, who has lefty-heavy lineup featuring Nate McLouth, Nick Markakis, Chris Davis, and former Yankee Chris Dickerson. Those middle two are the big concerns, so having a second southpaw won’t be insignificant for at least three games. There can be some serious mixing and matching later in the game if need be.
Girardi indicated they will slot Nuno back into the rotation following the series with the O’s. The Yankees are off on Thursday, so they can push the Nuno/Pettitte rotation spot all the way back to May 28th, nine days from today, when they’ll be across town playing the Mets. Pettitte is eligible to come off the DL on June 1st, so it’s possible he will only miss one start with his left trap strain. With all due respect to Nuno, that would be ideal.
It’s also worth noting Austin Romine will benefit from the rainout. He’s started the last two games and played in each of the last four, and there still isn’t a firm timetable for Chris Stewart’s return from a day-to-day left groin problem. Romine gets a little break and will be able to catch all three games in Baltimore without much of a problem. Without the rainout, he might have started six straight games behind the plate heading into the off-day. That could be a dangerous for a young catcher with a history of back problems.
The three game series in Camden Yards opens on Monday night, when Sabathia starts against former teammate Freddy Garcia. The Orioles lost to the Rays on Sunday afternoon and will enter the series four games back in the division.
The Yankees were rained out this afternoon, so I figured I would post the open thread a little earlier than usual. The Braves and Dodgers are on TBS and the Mets are playing the Cubs right now, plus you’ve got NHL (Rangers!) and NBA playoff action going on this afternoon. No sense in waiting when everyone wants to talk about those games now. Later tonight, the ESPN game will feature the Tigers at the Rangers (Fister vs. Holland). That should be fun. Talk about any of that stuff and more right here. Go nuts.
Right-hander Joba Chamberlain is heading to Tampa to continue rehabbing from the oblique strain that has sidelined him for more than three weeks now. He’ll throw a bullpen and make a minor league rehab appearance with High-A Tampa next week, and there’s a chance he could be activated when the Yankees are in town to play the Rays next weekend.
Joba, 27, pitched to a 3.86 ERA and 3.46 FIP in 9.1 innings before the injury. He walked (six) nearly as many men as he struck out (seven), though all six walks came in his first three appearances — he struck out three and allowed six hits in his first seven appearances, all scoreless. Preston Claiborne has been awesome and Shawn Kelley has the third highest strikeout rate in baseball at 41.7% (min. 10 IP), but there’s always room for another quality reliever. If nothing else, the Yankees don’t have to worry about rushing Joba back right now. · (2) ·
Mother Nature might have mercy on the Blue Jays today. After losing the first two games of this series and eight of their first nine games against the Yankees this year, Toronto might be able to weasel out of Sunday’s game thanks to a steady but not heavy rain. Here’s the lineup they’re sending out there against knuckleballing right-hander and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey…
- CF Curtis Granderson
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- DH Travis Hafner
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- 3B Jayson Nix
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- SS Reid Brignac
- C Austin Romine
And on the mound is the 2009 ALCS MVP, left-hander CC Sabathia.
This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start a little at 1pm ET, but that seems unlikely based on what’s going on outside my window. If/when they do play, you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
Update (12:33pm): The game has been postponed with no makeup date announced. The Jays come back to the Bronx just one more time this year, from August 20-22. Both teams are off on the 19th, so that might work for a makeup date.