Mailbag: Ventura, Beltran, Profar, Sanchez, Duvall, Ellsbury

Got a dozen questions for you in the mailbag this week. Yeah, I know it’s Thursday, but tomorrow is going to be pretty busy with the draft and the series preview and Yankeemetrics and all that. The options were either post the mailbag a day or early or not post it all this week. The mailbag will go back to its usual Friday morning slot next week. Send any questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

Ventura. (Patrick McDermott/Getty)
Ventura. (Patrick McDermott/Getty)

Joe asks: Any chance the Yankees make a run at Yordano Ventura? Sure he’s been bad this season, he’s a hot head and he’s likely facing a suspension after the Machado disaster, but he’s only 25 and had been good the prior two years. Plus he obviously has October experience. This feels like it could be a classic Cashman buy low move.

It seems Ventura wants to be Pedro Martinez, but he’s more like Carlos Zambrano. It’s clear he’s a big time hot head — Tuesday’s brawl with the Orioles was the fourth benches clearing incident he’s incited since the start of last season — and according to Jeff Passan, his act is starting to wear thin on his teammates as well as the Royals coaching staff and front office. Passan says they’ve been trying to trade him.

Ventura was pretty good from 2014-15, pitching to a 3.61 ERA (3.59 FIP) in 346.1 innings, and yeah he does have a lot of postseason experience. That never hurts. This season has been a different story though. Check out his ranks among the 106 qualified starters heading into last night’s game:

ERA: 5.32 (94th)
FIP: 5.29 (97th)
K%: 14.7 (96th)
BB%: 11.7 (100th)

The only thing is keeping this guy on the roster right now is his age, his contract (owed $21.7M through 2019), and the fact that he throws 99 mph regularly. I’m all for taking chances on young pitchers with live arms who might be able to be had on the cheap. That’s never bad business.

There is a difference between Ventura and, say, Nathan Eovaldi though. Ventura might be a crazy person. I think there’s a decent chance his ineffectiveness this season is a hangover from two long postseason runs the last two years, but, at the same time, you can’t help but wonder if his immaturity is going to prevent him from taking that next step. Fair or not, there are plenty of folks asking that question. I have long been anti-crazy players. They always seem to be more trouble than they’re worth.

Michael asks: Assuming Beltran maintains his current performance, what do you think he could fetch at the deadline? Trading him seems like a no-brainer if (dear god I hope they do) they decide to sell from both the team and Carlos’s perspective.

It is really tough to gauge Carlos Beltran‘s trade value. He’s obviously still very productive and he has a reputation for being a clutch hitter and a big game performer. Teams are going to look at him as an impact hitter who can help get them over the hump. At the same time, he’s a major defensive liability and a bit of an injury risk. Plus he’s not young and you have to worry about him wearing down.

The Giants traded Zack Wheeler for a half-season of Beltran a few years ago — Wheeler was in High Class-A at the time and still a few years away from MLB — and holy cow, that would be the dream scenario. Beltran’s a few years older now though, and he’s a worse defender. Using the Yankees as a reference point, could they get a Bryan Mitchell caliber arm for Beltran? Maybe a Mitchell and a Ben Gamel? I don’t think they’ll get a top prospect. Two useful pieces seems much more likely.

Zac asks: The Rangers need to find playing time for Profar and the Yankees need a first baseman. Does a Mitch Moreland trade make sense?

I don’t think so. Moreland is having an awful season (64 wRC+) and he’ll be a free agent this winter. I’d rather see the Yankees keep running Rob Refsnyder out there at first base to see what they have while Mark Teixeira is out injured. Moreland figures to come cheap and yeah, he’s probably better than Chris Parmelee, but taking on a player making decent money to be a band-aid at first base isn’t all that appealing. Roll with Refsnyder. Let’s see what the kid can do, finally.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Lonnie asks: What about a Miller for Profar trade? Rangers need relief pitching more than any other contender and even though Profar doesn’t fit a position of need, he is still a top talent. Get him and then figure out what to do, maybe move Castro to 3b for the time-being?

That’s the kind of talent the Yankees should be targeting. Andrew Miller is unbelievably valuable. He’s no worse than the fourth best reliever in baseball right now and he’s signed for another two years at a salary well below what he’d get as a free agent nowadays. Everyone’s going to want him and the Yankees should set a very high price. An elite young player feels like a must get in any trade.

It’s early, but Jurickson Profar has bounced back well after missing the entire 2014-15 seasons with a shoulder injury. He hit in the Arizona Fall League last year (115 wRC+), hit in Triple-A this year (113 wRC+), and he’s hit since being called up about two weeks ago (170 wRC+). The Rangers might be willing to move him since their infield is full too. They’re locked into Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus on the left side, and Rougned Odor is quite productive at second.

The Yankees have inquired about Profar before, but the Rangers understandably did not want to move him when his value was down due to the shoulder problems. He’s healthy now and he’s rebuilt value. Profar is exactly the type of player the Yankees lack as a true potential franchise cornerstone. Right now all they have is a bunch of complementary players (at least in my opinion). Get him and figure out where he plays later.

Andrew asks: With Marlon Byrd now suspended for the whole year and the Indians needing an outfielder. Any chance we can flip Beltran or Gardner there for some pitching? (Obviously Gardner brings the better haul back).

Not only is Byrd suspended, Michael Brantley might miss an extended period of time with his shoulder injury too. The Indians have needed an outfielder since the offseason — these days their starting outfield is Jose Ramirez, Rajai Davis, and Lonnie Chisenhall — and that need has only grown with the Byrd suspension and Brantley’s recent setback.

The problem with Brett Gardner is his salary, which we discussed over the winter. The Indians have a very tight budget and they simply can’t afford a $13M a year outfielder. The Yankees could always pay down some of Gardner’s salary to facilitate a trade, but would the Indians be willing to kick in more to make it happen? Beltran might be the better fit here because he’s a pure rental. I definitely think there will be interest there.

Randy asks: When healthy, should the Yanks call up Sanchez and move McCann to first?

You know what, that really wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. Brian McCann is 32 now and he’s been beat up pretty good this year. He took that foul tip to the toe in Toronto (I think it was Toronto, anyway) and more recently hyper-extended his elbow. The Yankees want to keep him healthy and productive, and if Teixeira ends up missing the rest of the season, putting McCann at first base in the second half wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Now, that said, I don’t think there’s any chance this will actually happen. The Yankees seem to love McCann’s leadership and the way he works with pitchers. The only way I could see something like this happening is if they crash hard and really fall out of the postseason race. Otherwise I can’t see them trusting Sanchez as their everyday catcher right out of the gate. They seem wary of giving their young catchers too much responsibility too soon.

Steve asks: Do you know why the Yankees don’t play Beltran at First Base?

Teams usually don’t ask regulars to change positions in the middle of the season. Beltran played a few innings at first base two years ago in an emergency and I remember him saying he wasn’t comfortable there at all. I believe the word he used was “terrifying.” He might not be up for it. I mean, it makes sense on paper, but I don’t think the team wants to put Beltran in that position though. First base is not as easy as it looks. The ball comes at you pretty fast, especially when you’ve been playing the outfield your entire life.

(Joe Sargent/Getty)
(Joe Sargent/Getty)

Rhett asks: What about looking into trading for Adam Duvall?. Ya he had a career month and his strikeout + BB %’s are terrible… BUT he is a righty power bat that could play some first if Tex is out for the year. Not to mention, long term, he profiles as an excellent defensive left fielder should Gardner get moved. Righty power bat with the ability to play multiple positions no? Worst case scenario he’s turns into Mark Reynolds.

Heading into last night’s game Duvall ranked fourth in MLB in homers (17), second in SLG (.628), and second in ISO (.351). The power hasn’t come out of nowhere. He’s hit 30 homers in the minors before, and he whacked 53 homers in 191 Triple-A games from 2014-15. The Reds got Duvall from the Giants in the Mike Leake trade and he’s finally getting a chance to play everyday.

Duvall is 27 and he’s much more Shelley Duncan than Chris Davis. His strikeout (29.6%) and walk (3.6%) rates are awful, he doesn’t steal bases, and scouting reports indicate he’s a first baseman who can handle left field if necessary. The Yankees will need a right-handed caddy for Greg Bird next season at the very least, and sure, Duvall would make sense in that role. (He can also be an emergency third baseman. He’s played there before.) I just feel like his value is at an all-time high right now, so you’d be playing everyday player prices for someone who figures to settle in as a role player long-term. Duvall is someone to revisit down a road a bit.

Michael asks: Dave Cameron wrote an article this week about how Jacoby Ellsbury – other than the second half last year – has actually been pretty good as a Yankee. He concluded with the notion that there might even be a market for him this summer, especially with how well he’s been hitting lately. Could you speculate on such a trade – Ellsbury seems like a very Cardinals type of player, the Cubs have the FO connection, the Nats could use somebody, the Tigers, White Sox…your thoughts?

I can’t say I’m optimistic a trade market will develop for Ellsbury, at least not if the Yankees aren’t willing to eat a bunch of cash. The blueprint here might be Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler. Big name player with a big contract for a big name player with a big contract, each team dealing from a surplus to fill a need, and a willingness to make the money work. (The Tigers ate some of Fielder’s salary.)

Kinsler for Fielder was kind of a perfect storm because the two teams matched up so well. What contending teams need a center fielder and a leadoff hitter? The Cardinals and Nationals jump to find. Maybe the Giants too, with Denard Span not looking so hot and Angel Pagan a free agent after the season. I guess maybe the Tigers, White Sox, and Rangers? That seems like it. Now what big contract can those teams give up? I’ve looked at this already and didn’t find much.

Ellsbury was legitimately awful last season and he’s been able to rebuild value this year. If a team comes along and wants him, the Yankees should be all ears, especially if it means saving money and adding young talent. If it’s a bad contract for bad contract deal, then they should still listen, because that other player may be a better fit. I have zero expectation of the Yankees ever trading Ellsbury though. I think he’ll wear pinstripes for the entire seven years of the contract.

Vidhath: I’ve heard rumblings that Chapman could get Erick Fedde in a trade withe the Nationals. Is this plausible? I think I’d prefer to get AJ Cole & Austin Voth; possible or does my trade proposal suck?

I haven’t heard any such rumblings but that seems realistic for sure. Fedde was Washington’s first round pick in 2014 even though he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the time. The team picked him, signed him, and rehabbed him. Fedde’s stuff has come back well enough, though even when healthy before the draft, he needed to improve his slider and changeup, and that is still the case today. He’s at least a year away from the big leagues, maybe more. I’m personally pretty high on Austin Voth and would prefer him over Fedde as part of a package for Chapman.

Ken asks: Do you think the Yankees would and/or should add a second Low-A minor league affiliate? The four short season teams they have is more than most other organizations, and it seems like there is a bit of a choke point at this level in the minor league development chain.

I get these questions often and they’re worth answering from time to time. Minor league baseball is a zero sum game. There are only so many teams to go around. For the Yankees to add another Low-A affiliate, another team would have to drop their Low-A affiliate, and that doesn’t happen very often, especially in the full season leagues. The Yankees grabbed their second Gulf Coast League team a few years ago when the Mets dropped out of the league to save money. They picked up Pulaski when the Mariners pulled out of the Appalachian League. The Yankees have actually been pretty aggressive picking up extra affiliates whenever possible. They just don’t become available very often. The more affiliates the better in my book. If a Low-A franchise becomes available, I fully expect the Yankees to show interest.

Gene asks: Would you rather be a 25th man type 150 AB bench player for the Cubs, or an everyday starter for the Braves? I absolutely hate losing, but I think I’d rather play everyday.

I’d rather play everyday personally, but I think the answer depends on your situation. Are you a rookie looking to prove yourself in the big leagues? Then playing everyday for the Braves is absolutely the better situation. On the other hand, if you’re a vet who’s already made a ton of money but are still looking for a World Series ring, then accepting a reduced role with the Cubs makes more sense. That’s essentially how the Yankees got Tim Raines back in the day. He wanted to win and was okay with having his playing time cut in half.

Yanks blow out Angels 12-6 thanks to Beltran & Parmelee

Can the Yankees change divisions? Between that Athletics series a few weeks ago and this Angels series, I think the AL West agrees with the Yankees. They blew the Angels out 12-6 Wednesday night for their third straight win. I asked for a blowout in the game thread and the Yankees delivered. Pretty cool. This was only their sixth win by five or more runs this season, by the way. Only the Athletics (four) and Twins (two!) have fewer.


Back & Forth Early
Wednesday night, power pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and finesse pitcher Jered Weaver showed you can allow runs in many different ways in baseball, and early on this game went back and forth. The Angels grabbed a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Mike Trout singled in Kole Calhoun. Calhoun had ground-rule doubled into the right-center field gap. The Yankees answered right back in the bottom half thanks to back-to-back doubles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and a run-scoring single by Alex Rodriguez. That gave them a 2-1 lead.

The Halos retook the lead the next half inning. Rafael Ortega slashed a double to left and ex-Yankee Gregorio Petit ambushed a first pitch curveball for a two-run homer. Greg Petit! He’s gone 6-for-10 with two doubles and a homer in the series so far. Good grief. Then again, maybe don’t throw this pitch …

Nathan Eovaldi Gregorio Petit

… to any hitter, even someone like Gregorio Petit. That two-run homer gave the Angels a 3-2 lead in the second. They extended that lead with a Jefry Marte solo homer into the second deck in left field. Petit and Marte, eh? Not exactly the guys who want to let beat you, Nate. Marte’s dinger gave the Halos a 4-2 lead in the third. It was all Yankees from there on out.

Chip Away
The Yankees started their comeback in the bottom of the third with an Ellsbury solo homer to right field. At 151 feet, it was the highest home run in all of baseball this season. That’s … obscure. But hey, whatever. It was the best at something. That homer cut the deficit to 4-3, then, one inning later, the Yankees tied the game thanks to yet another catcher’s interference by Ellsbury. Seriously.

Chris Parmelee doubled with one out in that fourth inning, then Ellsbury came up with two outs and Parmelee still on second. He hit a hard line drive to the right fielder for what should have been the final out, but the catcher’s interference extended the inning. Gardner made the Angels pay with a single to left to score Ellsbury and tie the game. The Yankees actually went on to load the bases that inning, though they couldn’t tack on any more runs. Alas. Didn’t matter at the end of the day though.

The Halos took a 5-4 lead in the next half-inning on back-to-back doubles by Trout and Albert Pujols. Blah. It always sucks when you rally to tie the game and the other team immediately retakes the lead. It was that kind of night for Eovaldi though. Five runs on ten hits and a walk in 5.1 innings. It was a pre-splitter Eovaldi start, basically. He couldn’t locate much of anything and paid for it.


The Parm of the Yankees
After falling behind 5-4, the Yankees blew this game open and made it a laugher with back-to-back four-run innings in the sixth and seventh. The tying run? A Chris Parmelee solo homer, of course. He was making his first start with the Yankees because he has pretty good career numbers against Jered Weaver, and, sure enough, he took Weaver deep to knot things up 5-5. [insert binder joke]

New York took the lead later in the inning because, once again, Ellsbury and Gardner reached base. Those two reached base times seven on the night. Ellsbury walked, Gardner singled, then Carlos Beltran gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead with a double into the left field corner. Brian McCann stretched the lead to 8-5 with a two-run single to left. It was a real nice piece of hitting, as broadcasters like to say. (That means he went the other way.)

The onslaught continued the next inning with a Didi Gregorius leadoff single and yet another Parmelee homer, this one a two-run shot off lefty Greg Mahle. Parmelee actually squared around to bunt earlier in the at-bat before Mahle fell behind in the count 2-1. Look at the location of the pitch he hit out:

Chris Parmelee Home Run

That’s a total golf shot. Angels catcher Carlos Perez was getting ready to pick that one out of the dirt. Not a bad pitch at all by Mahle. Parmelee just reached down and golfed it to right field. Remember the Nick Green Game in 2006? Green had a few big hits and made a few nice defensive plays in one random game and that was pretty much all he did in pinstripes. This might go down as the Chris Parmelee Game. Two dingers, including a game-tying shot? Bravo.

Parmelee’s second homer gave the Yankees a 10-5 lead. Beltran stretched it to 12-5 with a two-run homer later in that seventh inning. That’s three straight games with a dinger for Carlos. He’s gone deep 12 times in his last 29 games overall. Beltran now has 16 homers on the season after hitting 19 all of last year. He was pretty good last year! Beltran’s been unreal this year. It’s been a long time since he’s hit for power like this.

Bullpen Work
Solid work by Anthony Swarzak. He inherited a runner on first with one out from Eovaldi in the sixth, allowed a single to put two men on base, then retired the next five batters he faced. Swarzak was stretched out to 40-something pitches in Triple-A so I thought he would go back out for the eighth once the lead swelled to 12-5, but nope. Kirby Yates tossed the eighth and Nick Goody tossed the ninth. Trout took Goody deep for a monster solo shot into the right field bleachers. That’s opposite field. Whatever. Eh, no big deal given the big lead.

Who you gonna call? Chris Parmelee! (Presswire)
Who you gonna call? Chris Parmelee! (Presswire)

Parmelee did indeed get a chance to hit his third home run of the game in the eighth inning, but he struck out. Alas. Two homers and a double in five at-bats is a pretty damn good first impression though. I know everyone loves Rob Refsnyder, but if this game doesn’t earn Parmelee another start tomorrow, nothing will.

The top four hitters in the lineup: 10-for-17 (.588) with three doubles, two homers, eight runs scored, seven runs driven in, two walks, and one strikeout. That will do just fine, thanks. Gardner and Beltran each had three hits while Ellsbury and A-Rod each had two hits. Ellsbury and Beltran drew the walks, and Ellsbury had the catcher’s interference.

Gregorius also had two hits from the bottom of the lineup. The Yankees had 17 hits total, tying their season high. They had 17 in that 16-6 win over the Astros in the second game of the season. (I know I said 16 hits was the season high the other day. My bad.) Eight of those 17 hits were for extra bases. The Angels bullpen allowed six runs on eight hits in 2.2 innings.

Ellsbury’s catcher’s interference was already his sixth of the season. He actually had another one the other day, but he declined it because he had a base hit on the swing. The all-time single-season record is eight catcher’s interferences by Roberto Kelly with the 1992 Yankees. Ellsbury has 103 games to beat that. (He’s on pace for 16!)

And finally, Wednesday’s HOPE Week event involved an organization called Harlem Grown, which helps children “live healthy and ambitious lives through hands-on education in urban farming, sustainability and nutrition.” A bunch of Yankees helped the kids tend to their gardens and stuff. Pretty neat.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score, for the video highlights, then back to ESPN for the updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees will go for the four-game sweep (!) Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Ivan Nova and Jhoulys Chacin are the scheduled starters. We’ll have to watch the game and Day One of the 2016 amateur draft at the same time.

DotF: Austin stays hot, Severino dominates in Triple-A win

Two quick notes to pass along:

  • C Gary Sanchez (thumb) went for his two-week checkup and was cleared to resume baseball activities, according to Chad Jennings. He’s been taking ground balls at first base, but the Yankees have made it clear he’s still a catcher, because duh.
  • RHP Gio Gallegos was bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, so says Shane Hennigan. They’re a little short on arms with RHP Anthony Swarzak called up and LHP Tyler Olson in DFA limbo.

Triple-A Scranton (6-0 win over Charlotte)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 2 K
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — 10-for-22 (.455) during his little six-game hitting streak
  • DH Nick Swisher: 0-4, 2 K
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — 8-for-18 (.444) with three doubles and two homers in five games since the promotion
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-4, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 K — his 28 extra-base hits lead the farm system by a mile … Sanchez and 1B Chris Gittens are second with 20 each
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Luis Severino: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 4/4 GB/FB — 51 of 75 pitches were strikes (68%) … vintage Severino performance
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • LHP James Pazos: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2/0 GB/FB — half of his 32 pitches were strikes … 29/19 K/BB in 22 innings

[Read more…]

2016 Draft: Bryan Reynolds

Bryan Reynolds | OF

Reynolds, 21, was undrafted out of high school, but he’s been a three-year starter at a powerhouse program in Vanderbilt. This spring Reynolds put up a .330/.461/.603 batting line with 13 homers, 49 walks, and 58 strikeouts in 62 games. He also performed well in the Cape Cod League last summer.

Scouting Report
Reynolds is one of those guys who does a little of everything but nothing exceptionally well. His weakest tool is his below-average throwing arm, which relegates him to left field long-term. Reynolds has good speed and instincts in the outfield, so he should be able to hold down center for the foreseeable future. At the plate, he’s a switch-hitter with good power from both sides, and his advanced approach allows him to hit for average too. No player is a lock to do anything, but Reynolds is as good a bet as any player in the draft to become at least an average big league hitter. Swing-and-miss issues are a concern — he had a 20.4% strikeout rate this spring, which is awful high for a top college hitter — especially since he’s not a hacker who will chase off the plate.

In their latest rankings Keith Law (subs. req’d),, and Baseball America ranked Reynolds as the 16th, 23rd, and 31st best prospect in the draft class, respectively. The Yankees pick 18th. They’ve been connected to college bats in mock drafts recently, and outside of the elite top of the draft guys, Reynolds figures to be the best all-around college position player available when New York’s pick rolls around.

Game 59: How About A Blowout Win?


The Yankees have won two straight and four of their last six, and boy, they’ve had to tax their end-game relievers to do so. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman have each pitched four of the last six days, and Miller actually warmed up in the two games he didn’t pitch as well. (Chapman warmed up in one of his two off-days.)

That’s an awful lot of work. A blowout tonight would be really cool for more than one reason, but especially because it will give those three a full day of rest. No warming up, nothing. How about, say, 15 runs and a couple mop-up innings from Anthony Swarzak? That would be pretty rad. Here is the Angels’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 1B Chris Parmelee
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It was raining in New York for much of the afternoon. Pretty heavily at times too. The rain has stopped though, and it’s supposed to stay stopped the rest of the night. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

2016 Draft: Kyle Muller

Kyle Muller | LHP

The 18-year-old old Muller had a record breaking spring with Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas. He set a national high school record by striking out 24 consecutive batters across two starts, including the first 18 batters of the game as part of an eight-inning, 21-strikeout performance. Muller also set a record by recording 36 consecutive outs on strikeouts at one point. He had a 0.46 ERA with 133 strikeouts and 15 walks in 76 innings this spring and is committed to Texas.

Scouting Report
Muller has the most big league ready frame among high school players in the 2016 draft class. He’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 lbs., though despite that build, he generally only sits in the 89-92 mph range with his fastball. That’s up from 85-88 mph last year. Muller’s climbed draft boards quickly this spring thanks to the velocity spike. That said, he doesn’t offer much projection physically, so it’s tough to expect more velocity down the road. Muller also throws a curveball and a changeup, though neither is even an average offering at this point. His delivery is sound for such a big guy, though he is pretty deliberate and slow to the plate. He often focuses more on repeating his mechanics than executing the pitch. It’s worth noting Muller is also a legitimate prospect as a power-hitting first baseman — he’ll get a chance to be a two-way player in college — though his upside is much greater on the mound.

Both and Baseball America consider Muller a first round talent; they rank him as the 24th and 25th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Keith Law (subs. req’d) is a little lower on Muller and ranks him 58th. The Yankees hold the 18th pick. We’ve heard New York is targeting high school arms this year, and while Muller is not one of this draft’s elite prep pitchers, he could very well be the best one still on the board when their pick comes around.

Yankees smart to stop putting Luis Cessa’s development on the back burner

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Out of all the trades the Yankees made over the last two offseasons, I’m not sure any of them was more surprising than the Justin Wilson trade. We know no one is truly untouchable, but Wilson was very good last year and he was an important part of the bullpen, which is the team’s greatest strength. He seemed like someone who would wear pinstripes for a while.

Instead, the Yankees shipped Wilson to the Tigers for two Triple-A starters during the Winter Meetings. The combination of the general volatility of relievers — Wilson was a year removed from a 4.20 ERA and an 11.7% walk rate, after all — and the team’s lack of upper level rotation depth led to the trade. It didn’t help that guys like Mike Leake and Ian Kennedy were signing $70M+ contracts either. Pitching is getting harder and harder to acquire.

The two pitchers the Yankees acquired for Wilson, Chad Green and Luis Cessa, have both spent time in the big leagues this season. Green made a spot start a few weeks back and is probably next in line whenever the club needs another starter. Cessa made the Opening Day roster as a reliever, made one appearance, then was shipped down to Triple-A Scranton to continue his development as a starter.

The Yankees called Cessa back up three weeks ago, though I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t realized he was on the roster before he was sent down yesterday. Cessa barely pitched after being recalled. He threw an inning on May 24th, and, in his most notable MLB appearance to date, he threw four innings against the Rays on May 28th. Cessa allowed one run and struck out three in those four innings.

Beyond that, Cessa has been something of a forgotten man in the bullpen. He did warm up three times (!) Sunday afternoon and again Monday night, but never did get into either game. Richard Bleier has made three appearances since Cessa last pitched, if you can believe that. Joe Girardi clearly doesn’t want to thrust the kid into high (or even medium) leverage work and that’s understandable. The problem is Cessa was not pitching.

Over the last three weeks and four days, Cessa has made two appearances and thrown a total of 68 pitches. That’s all. It’s not enough for a 24-year-old kid who still could use some innings in the minors to work on his secondary pitches and overall refinement. That’s why the Yankees sent Cessa down yesterday and replaced him with Anthony Swarzak. It wasn’t because they feel Swarzak is an upgrade over Cessa as the last guy in the bullpen.

The goal here was not necessarily improving the bullpen. I’m willing to bet Cessa would out-pitch Bleier and Swarzak if given the same opportunity. No, the goal is to continue Cessa’s development and put him in a position to really help the Yankees down the road. He needs innings and he’s not getting them. It’s pretty simple. I have a really hard time thinking all this inactivity is a good thing for Cessa’s development.

The Yankees have been saying since Spring Training that they view Cessa as a starter long-term and that’s wonderful, but how are they helping him prepare for that role? They weren’t by letting him sit in the bullpen. He was sitting around waiting for blowouts, which rarely happen nowadays because the Yankees don’t score and their starters have been pretty good the last month or so. That’s why Cessa’s pitched twice in the last three weeks and three days.

We have no idea what Cessa will be long-term. He might fade away into oblivion as Hector Noesi 2.0 and make the Wilson trade a miserable failure. Or he might be the next Adam Warren and provide valuable innings. We’ll find out eventually, and the only way to find out is to let him pitch, either in MLB or Triple-A. Yesterday’s move was made because it was time for the Yankees to make Cessa’s development a priority.