(Presswire)

(Presswire)

When pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Friday, the Yankees will have more than a few jobs up for grabs. The last bench spot is up in the air, ditto about four bullpen spots. The fifth starter’s spot is wide open as well, since the team opted to go internal rather than add a low-cost veteran like … I dunno. Paul Maholm or Jason Hammel, I guess. David Phelps is among those who will compete for that last rotation spot these next few weeks.

“It’s good to have somebody pushing you,” said Phelps to Anthony McCarron last week. “We’re not going to root against each other, because if we all do well, our team does better … I would obviously love to be a starter. I think I’m capable. I just have to go out and show what I’m capable of. If it’s not that, I don’t have a problem pitching out of the bullpen. But at the same time, I do want to start. It’s what I’ve done my whole career up until the last couple years.”

Adam Warren, who was solid as the team’s swingman last summer, will also be in that fifth starter’s competition. So will Vidal Nuno, who has the least big league experience of the candidates but is also left-handed, and lefty starters are always nice to have given Yankee Stadium’s short right field. Barring some suprise late additions, Michael Pineda will be the fourth and only other starter competing for a spot in camp, nearly two full years after having surgery to repair a torn labrum.

“I don’t know what we are going to get from him, but we have hope,” said Brian Cashman to Kevin Kernan last week, talking about Pineda. “This just has to play itself out. He has to perform April through September, and it has to be in New York and not in Trenton. The reports are good now, but he has to continue to progress and do it in a Major League setting. We certainly would love to get him back.”

The Yankees have held some rigged Spring Training competitions in the past (fifth starter in 2010, catcher in 2013) but I honestly don’t think anyone has a leg up in this year’s rotation race. Phelps has the most big league experience of the bunch but he’s only been in the league two seasons. Pineda was an All-Star in 2011 but he hasn’t thrown an MLB pitch in two years now. Nuno is a finesse lefty without a big league out pitch and Warren really seemed to find a niche in the bullpen last summer. Any of those four guys could walk away with the job and I wouldn’t be surprised. For what it’s worth, ZiPS doesn’t see much of a difference between these guys anyway:

Projected K/BB Projected ERA Projected FIP
Nuno 2.76 5.20 5.24
Phelps 2.41 4.54 4.56
Pineda 2.48 4.65 4.65
Warren 1.98 4.64 4.74

Projections don’t really mean much of anything, though I do think the ZiPS numbers do a good job of showing just how tight this race is. There is no obvious favorite for the fifth starter spot given what he know right now and that makes it kinda fun in my opinion. Rigged competitions ruin the surprise.

Now, that said, would it be better for the Yankees if Pineda shows up to camp and looks like the guy he was with the Mariners before the trade? Absolutely. With all due respect to the other three rotation candidates, Pineda has (by far) the highest ceiling of the bunch and a strong rebound from shoulder surgery would be an amazingly positive development for both the 2014 Yankees as well as the 2015-17 teams. He is the only pitcher in history to post a 9+ K/9 with a sub-3 BB/9 in his rookie season, so his ability to control the strike zone while missing bats is especially rare.

The other three fifth starter candidates all have the ability to help at the big league level — they all have already, to some degree — but I think we can all agree none of those guys offers the impact potential of Pineda. That potential may have disappeared with the shoulder surgery, we won’t know what he can do until he gets out there, but Spring Training should give us a decent idea of what he is capable of nearly two years removed from the procedure. There is no clear favorite for that last rotation spot, but the no doubt best case scenario is Pineda showing up to camp and looking like the guy he was before the shoulder surgery.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (80)

2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Categories : Polls
Comments (48)
Feb
09

Weekend Open Thread

By in Links, Open Thread. · Comments (91) ·

With pitchers and catchers due to report one week from today, this was the last Yankees baseball-less Friday until hopefully sometime in late-October/early-November. No, the actual games are still more than two weeks away, but camp starts in a week and that’s good enough for me. This time of the year is always exciting. Here are the weekly links:

  • Stephanie Storm at the Beacon Journal wrote a feature about the Indians’ analytics department, which includes ex-bloggers Sky Andrecheck (SI.com) and Keith Woolner (Baseball Prospectus). They discussed their roles with the team and how they turned a hobby into a career, among other things.
  • Jeff Zimmerman at the Hardball Times explained that all fly balls are not created equal, which is something I think a lot of us forget from time to time. Fly balls, especially those hit high in the air, tend to be easy outs. There’s a reason fly ballers like Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander tend to have low BABIPs. Yankee Stadium and Phil Hughes have scarred us, but being a fly ball pitcher doesn’t automatically mean being a bad pitcher.
  • Jason Lukehart at Let’s Go Tribe looked at how the game’s best players were ranked as prospects by Baseball America. Eight of the top 30 pitchers and six of the top 30 position players in bWAR from 2011-13 never appeared on a top 100 list, including Doug Fister, James Shields and, of course, Robinson Cano.
  • I have not read this yet but I am going to pass it along anyway: Kate McSurley and Greg Rybarczyk put together an introduction to the FieldFX system, which is basically PitchFX for defense. I’m not sure if FieldFX data will ever be made available to the public (it’s supposed to be proprietary to the 30 clubs), but either way it will be an information goldmine.

This will be your open thread for Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night. The Winter Olympics have started, so you’ve got that in addition to the various local hockey and basketball teams for entertainment. Talk about anything and everything right here.

Categories : Links, Open Thread
Comments (91)
(Photo via Colwill Engineering)

The Tampa complex, several years ago. (Photo via Colwill Engineering)

After auditing their unproductive player development system, the Yankees implemented some procedural changes earlier this offseason but did not make any significant personnel changes to their minor league staff. Long-time VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman was one of those expected to come under fire if changes were made. Anthony McCarron spoke to Newman and got some details about those procedural changes. Here’s the skinny:

  • A new building has been added to the minor league complex in Tampa. It houses meeting rooms and a cafeteria, which I assume will help players with nutrition. A dormitory for prospects is currently being discussed and may be added as well.
  • The four diamonds at the minor league complex are all being refurbished. “These fields have been here since Johnny Bench was an 18-year-old,” said Newman, referring back to when the Reds owned the complex.
  • The Yankees have added a statistical analyst to work exclusively with the player development staff. Newman called that person a “PhD in advanced math and statistics” and said they have “some bright dudes here … (the system) is going to go back up, odds are.”
  • Among the other staff additions are former Cubs manager Mike Quade, who will serve as an outfield/base-running coordinator, something Newman says they haven’t had “in a while.” Ex-minor league coach Jody Reed has rejoined the organization and will handle individual development plans for prospects.
  • And finally, after fielding two teams in the Rookie Gulf Coast League last summer, the Yankees will again field two teams in the league in 2014. Nothing but good can come from that.
Categories : Minors
Comments (125)
(J. Meric/Getty)

(J. Meric/Getty)

We’re only six days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training. Here are some injury updates in the meantime, courtesy of Kevin Kernan, Andrew Marchand, Wally Matthews, Matt Ehalt, and the Associated Press.

  • So far, so good for Derek Jeter (leg). He just completed his third week of baseball activities and everything is holding up well. “I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been working hard, and I’ve had a complete offseason to work out and strengthen everything … It’s been fun, but it’s been difficult because you’re starting over from scratch.”
  • Mark Teixeira (wrist) has started taking batting practice against live pitching. He has gradually worked his way back from surgery, first by taking dry swings and then by hitting off a tee and soft toss. “There’s plenty of guys that come back from injuries come back way too fast and get reinjured,” he said. “That’s not in my plans this year.”
  • Scott Sizemore (knee)  feels good as he works his way back from his second torn left ACL in the last two years. “I’m feeling pretty good, getting back on the field feels great and I haven’t had any issues with the knee,” he said. “Obviously, two serious knee injuries, doubts crept into my mind if I was ever going to be able to play again. Nothing’s given.”
  • Manny Banuelos (elbow) is completely rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and on a normal throwing program right now. “[The elbow] feels normal, just like before surgery. I feel ready to go,” he said.
Categories : Injuries
Comments (31)
  • Rubin: Drew wants multi-year deal with opt-out after first year
    By

    Via Adam Rubin: Stephen Drew and agent Scott Boras are currently seeking a multi-year contract that includes an opt-out clause after the first season. The Mets are not willing to do a deal like that and it’s unclear if the Red Sox, his only other apparent suitor at this point, would be open to the opt-out.

    The Yankees have not been pursuing Drew in recent weeks but their infield is a mess and he is by far the best available infielder. He’s a really good fit, especially since Boras has already said he’s open to playing positions other than shortstop. Since the Bombers would only have to give up their second rounder to sign Drew, they could conceivably wind up with a better draft pick next year if he has a strong Yankee Stadium-aided season and opts out. I dunno, this seems like one of those moves that won’t happen because it makes too much sense.
    · (143) ·

  • Eddy: Yankees sign Cole Kimball to minor league deal
    By

    Via Matt Eddy: The Yankees have signed right-hander Cole Kimball to a minor league contract. I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training as well, meaning there will now be 27 non-roster players in camp this year.

    Kimball, 28, is a local guy who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Hackettstown. He picked up eleven innings of big league experience with the Nationals in early 2011, but he had rotator cuff surgery that July and has only thrown 49 innings since. Last season he had an 8.06 ERA and 4.91 FIP in 25.2 relief innings for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate, striking out 25 and walking 14.

    “Before he got hurt, Kimball attacked hitters with a heavy 93-97 mph fastball, a swing-and-miss splitter in the mid-80s and a power curveball in the low 80s. He can throw the curve for strikes or bury it as a chase pitch,” wrote Baseball America (subs. req’d) in their 2012 Prospect Handbook. The Yankees are clearly hoping Kimball gets back to his pre-surgery form as he gets further away from the procedure.
    · (20) ·

  • Masahiro Tanaka press conference scheduled for Tuesday
    By

    Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will be introduced at a 1pm ET press conference at Yankee Stadium next Tuesday, the Yankees announced. It will be broadcast live on YES. Tanaka recently secured his visa (thanks to Senator Schumer) and the team wanted to hold a press conference in New York before everyone went down to Tampa for the start of Spring Training late next week.

    In other news, Joel Sherman reports that Tanaka’s contract stipulates that he can not be sent to the minors without his permission. It’s not really a big deal but obviously we should all hope the Yankees don’t even have to think about sending Tanaka to the minors at some point. They’ve basically given him all the rights of a player with 6+ years of service time, which is the norm these days. Japanese veterans are treated as Major League veterans as a courtesy even though they are technically rookies.
    · (47) ·

Got five questions this week, basically half of the last few mailbags. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything and everything.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Jamie asks: Rather than the six-man rotation idea that always gets floated but never implemented, would the Yankees be best served limiting CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda‘s workloads to 6-7 IP per start max and giving them a middle relief caddy like David Phelps?

Yes, I think so. Sabathia and Kuroda have averaged 6.93 and 6.48 innings per start with the Yankees, respectively, which is rather high. The Yankees have talked about reducing the workload on both guys recently and the easiest way to do that might be to treat them as six inning starters rather than seven inning starters. Phelps and Adam Warren would be obvious caddy candidates since they could throw two or three innings at a time out of the bullpen as middle/setup relievers rather than true long men. Sorta like mini-1996 Mariano Riveras. They could be kept on a somewhat regular schedule to make life a little easier as well.

The caddy system sounds great in theory but it would be tough to pull off if the other five relievers are regular one-inning guys. The Yankees would also need another veteran starter so they could stash Phelps and Warren in the bullpen full-time, and it doesn’t seem like they’re eager to add one. I really like the idea of having middle relievers who are used for multiple innings at a time, but no one ever does it though. The 2009 version of Al Aceves is a rarity these days.

Bill asks: Why has there been so little speculation about moving Derek Jeter to third base? It seems like the perfect answer to the third base problem and gets Ryan to short stop where his defensive skills would shine.

The snarky answer is that Jeter is Jeter and he’ll play shortstop for the Yankees until he says he doesn’t want to do it anymore, but I do think there are legitimate reasons for not making the move right now. He is coming back from some rather serious leg injuries and just starting taking ground balls on the dirt this week, so he is not particularly close to being in game shape right now. Jeter has never played a position other than shortstop in 22 professional seasons and third base would be an entirely new experience because the ball gets on you so quick at the hot corner. There would be a learning curve, perhaps a steep one, and asking him to change positions as he works his way back from major leg injuries might be too much for a 39-year-old. If he was perfectly healthy and able to start working out at third early in the offseason, it would make sense. Asking Jeter to go through a crash course at a different position following those injuries probably isn’t realistic.

Pedro asks: What do you think about Oliver Perez?

Time for the Pitcher A vs. Pitcher B game. Everyone loves this, right? Good. Here we go:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/FB RHB wOBA LHB wOBA
Pitcher A 53.0 3.74 3.26 32.3% 11.4% 30.6% 9.8% 0.335 0.304
Pitcher B 53.1 4.39 3.63 31.3% 10.1% 33.1% 13.1% 0.308 0.329

You’re smart, you know one of those guys is Perez. He’s Pitcher A. But what about Pitcher B? He is Perez’s former Mariners teammate and current Yankees setup man Shawn Kelley. Perez and Kelley had almost identical seasons in 2013 — kinda freaky, no? — with the only differences being handedness and ballpark-effected homerun rates (which is why Kelley had a higher ERA and FIP). Could the Yankees use a left-handed version of Kelley? Sure. It wouldn’t hurt given the current state of the bullpen. I don’t know what an appropriate contract would be though. Scott Downs got a one-year deal worth $4M and I’m not sure I’d go any higher than that for Perez.

Mark asks: Do you have an overlay of the new Stadium on top of the old Stadium to see the subtle differences? Also, I know the minor league stadium in Tampa has the same dimensions as Yankee Stadium, but do the AA and AAA ballparks have them too? Wouldn’t it just make sense?

I thought I would be able to create the overlay at Hit Tracker, but they only have the new Yankee Stadium. Here’s an overlay I found on something called The Illuminatus Observor via Google Images:

Yankee Stadium Overlay

As you know, the biggest difference is in straight-away right field, where the new wall is as much as nine feet closer than the old one at some points. George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa has the same dimensions as the old Stadium, not the new one. It hasn’t been modified since the new park went up. The various minor league affiliate ballparks all have their own unique dimensions:

Level Ballpark LF L-CF CF R-CF RF
Triple-A PNC Field 330 371 408 371 330
Double-A Arm & Hammer Park 330 ? 407 ? 330
High-A George M. Steinbrenner Field 318 399 408 385 314
Low-A Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park 305 356 398 366 337
Short Season Richmond County Bank Ballpark 320 ? 390 ? 318

I wrote about the four full season ballparks back in June 2011. They’re all slight pitcher’s parks overall except for GMS Field in Tampa, which is neutral compared to the rest of the Florida State League. All of those parks suppress homeruns though, extremely so in some cases. Arm & Hammer Park is right on the Delaware River and the wind makes it very tough to hit the ball out of the park to right field.

The Yankees don’t actually own any of the minor league parks — they operate GMS Field but it is owned by the Tampa Sports Authority — so modifying the dimensions to match the new Yankee Stadium isn’t a simple *snaps fingers* “okay let’s do this” thing. The Triple-A, Double-A, and Low-A ballparks were all built long before those franchises became affiliated with the Yankees. It would be neat if every minor league park matched the big league park’s dimensions, but it’s not realistic or even essential as far as I’m concerned.

David asks: Which Yankees have no-trade clauses in their deal? Am I right that it’s more than any other team? How big a problem do you think this obviously less than ideal practice is?

Here’s the full list of Yankees with some kind of no-trade clause:

I haven’t seen anything about Kuroda having a no-trade clause in his current contract, but he had one in his last two deals and I assume he has one again. That’s ten 40-man roster players and nine who are expected to be on the Opening Day roster who can’t be traded without their permissions. That’s a lot. The Yankees are pretty liberal with no-trade clauses and I wonder how often that has given them an advantage in free agent talks when the offers are similar financially. Some other teams completely refuse to give out no-trade clauses.

Obviously no-trade clauses hinder flexibility and it would be awesome if no player had one, but the Yankees are in a different situation than most teams. They always try to contend and add big name players, not trade them away. How bad would things have to get for them to even consider dealing Ellsbury or Tanaka, for example? It’s not like some team is going to offer a cheap, young superstar for either of those guys, so the no-trade clause rarely comes into play anyway.

Categories : Mailbag
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