Cano, Mo, Pettitte, Gardner make Baseball America’s Best Tools survey

Baseball America published their annual best tools survey today (no subs. req’d), and four Yankees placed among the various AL categories. Mariano Rivera was voted best reliever, Brett Gardner the best bunter (!), Robinson Cano the second best defensive second baseman (behind Dustin Pedroia), and Andy Pettitte as having the best pickoff move.  I’m pretty sure Gardner isn’t even if the best bunter in the team’s outfield, let alone the entire AL. That gives you an idea of the validity of the survey, I suppose.

The minor league best tools surveys are here: Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Low-A. The Yankees did not place a single prospect in any category at any level. Completely shutout. That hasn’t happened as long as I’ve been following prospects. Josh Norris did the legwork and found the Yankees were the only team to be completely unrepresented at all four minor league levels. I’m … uh … sure they had a lot of guys who ranked fourth and fifth in the various categories. Yeah, that’s it.

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2013 Midseason Review: Grade C’s

No, it’s not the literal midway point of the season, but we’re going to use the four-day All-Star break to review the Yankees’ performance to date. We’re handing out letter grades, A through F. We’ve already tackled the A’s and the B’s, now it’s time for the C’s.

(Jeff Gross/Getty)
(Jeff Gross/Getty)

I guess that, by definition, a grade C is average, right? It is right in the middle of the A through F scale, but I’m not sure that really applies to baseball though. For every A there are a hundred F’s and for every B there are a couple dozen D’s. Grade C is closer to the top than the bottom, I think, slightly better than average.

Anyway, the Yankees sit in fourth place and three games out of a playoff spot at the All-Star break because they’ve gotten a lot of mediocre performances and very few really good ones. Some guys have wound up C’s because they’re disappointments, but others are here because they’re doing pretty much exactly what’s expected. Heck, some are even here because they’ve been surprisingly good. I’m trying to keep this objective and not look at performance vs. expectations, however. Easier said than done, obviously.

Enough rambling, onto the grade C’s.

Preston Claiborne
It happens almost every year. A known but not necessarily highly-touted young arm comes up from the farm system and impresses in relief for the Yankees. Claiborne has followed in the footsteps of David Phelps (2012) and Hector Noesi (2011) by posting a 2.43 ERA and 3.03 FIP in 29.2 innings. He was excellent early on but has faltered a bit of late, which is not atypical of young relievers. Claiborne stepped in when Joba Chamberlain hit the DL and didn’t just temporarily fill the hole, he upgraded the bullpen.

Ivan Nova
This has been a tale of two seasons for Nova, who owns a very good 3.63 ERA and an excellent 3.00 FIP in 52 overall innings. He was awful before going down with a triceps issue (6.48 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 16.2 innings), good in two brief relief appearances after getting healthy (one run in six innings), and outstanding since coming back up from the minors (2.45 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 29.1 innings). Which Nova will the Yankees get going forward? Who knows. He’s gone from excellent to awful and back again so many times in the last two years. Right now he has a rotation spot thanks to the Phelps’ injury and will get an opportunity to show this latest version is the real Ivan Nova.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Andy Pettitte
Emotions are a tricky thing. They make you say things that aren’t true just because they once were and you want to believe they still are. “Andy Pettitte is still a reliable mid-rotation starter” is one of those things. Pettitte, who has a 4.39 ERA and 3.75 FIP in 16 starts, has had a season very appropriate for baseball’s oldest starting pitcher. The 41-year-old battled nagging back and lat problems early in the year and has been pretty hittable of late, pitching to a 4.96 ERA and 3.28 FIP in eight starts since coming off the DL. Older finesse pitchers are exactly the kind of guys who underperform their peripherals. Andy has been a dandy number four or five starter, but he hasn’t been particularly reliable or durable this year.

Ichiro Suzuki
Supposedly team ownership — or at least someone above the baseball operations level — brought Ichiro back on a two-year deal this past winter, a definite head-scratcher of a move. A recent hot streak has raised his season line to .283/.320/.393 (92 wRC+), which is almost identical to the .283/.307/.390 (91 wRC+) line he put up last season. He’s no longer a true burner (on pace for 22 steals) or an elite defender (especially considering how he wastes his arm strength by taking forever to get rid of the ball), but he’s an above-average contributor both on the bases and in the field. A below-average offensive player and above-average defender in right field is a serviceable player, but not exactly a world-burner. Ichiro didn’t completely fall off a cliff this year, and that’s about the best thing you can say about his 2013.

Adam Warren
Warren was in a weird place coming into this season, mostly because he appeared to be ticketed for a third trip to Triple-A Scranton since there was no big league opening for him. That’s how careers stall. Phil Hughes started the year on the DL with a back problem though, opening the long-man role for Warren. When Nova went down, that spot stayed open. Warren took advantage of that opportunity and has pitched to a 3.09 ERA and 3.84 FIP while averaging more than 2.2 innings per appearance. He’s had some real bullpen savers this year, including 5.1 innings on April 3rd (one run), four scoreless innings on both May 13th and May 22th, and six scoreless innings in the 18-inning marathon against the Athletics on June 13th. Long reliever is a mostly thankless job, but Warren has excelled in that role and put himself in position to be considered for a starting job next season, or maybe even in the second half of this year.

Keeping Pettitte healthy a must for rest of 2013

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees welcomed Andy Pettitte back to the rotation last night after he missed 18 days with a strained trap muscle. It was the first time he had to be placed on the DL this year but the second time he had to miss starts — a stiff lower back sidelined him for more than a week back in April. Rainouts and off-days allowed the Yankees to skip his turn without much of a problem early in the season.

Less than two weeks away from his 41st birthday, Pettitte is the oldest regular starter in the big leagues by almost one full year — former Yankee Bartolo Colon won’t turn 41 until next May. With age comes injury concerns, and not just the increased risk of getting hurt. It takes older players a longer time to recover as well. In an effort to stay healthier, Andy has considered modifying his between-starts routine a bit.

“He’s talked about backing off a little bit,” said Joe Girardi to Dan Martin over the weekend. “But it’s hard when you’re a creature of habit. When you’ve had as much success as he’s had, it’s hard to change what you do, but I think it’s important that he does it.”

Pettitte usually throws two bullpen sessions between starts, which is something he would look to change. That said, he is concerned about how it would affect him on the mound every five days. He might feel stronger physically, but it could come at the expense of losing rhythm and feel for pitches. That would be very bad since he’s a finesse pitcher.

“Truthfully, I don’t know,” said Andy when asked how he would react to changing his routine. “I’m used to doing two bullpens. We’ll just how it goes … I know what I’ve got to do mentally to prepare for this game and I understand where they’re coming from, of course, because of my age and how much time it takes and the adjustments you have to make as you get older.”

Regardless of how they do it, one of the Yankees’ top priorities for the rest of the season should be keeping Pettitte healthy and in the rotation. If that means cutting back to one bullpen between starts or even limiting him to 90-100 pitches per start instead of 100-110, so be it. The team lives and dies with its pitching, and Andy is one of their three best at worst. Obviously keeping him on the field is much easier said than done regardless of his age.

Hiroki Kuroda, the third oldest starter in the big leagues at 38, modified his offseason routine in an effort to stay fresh deeper into the season after hitting a wall last September. I don’t know if Pettitte did anything differently this winter, but he’s clearly thinking about doing something differently during the season. As good as Vidal Nuno looked in his three spot starts, Andy is the guy the Yankees want in their rotation right now and they need him to stop missing starts every month. He’s too vital to the team’s success to be a 20-22 start guy than a 30-32 start guy.

Yankees activate Andy Pettitte, send Brennan Boesch to Triple-A

As expected, the Yankees have activated Andy Pettitte (trap) off the DL. He will start tonight’s game. To clear room on the roster, Brennan Boesch was send down to Triple-A. The Bombers are now carrying a normal 12-man pitching staff and four-man bench.

Oh, and Lyle Overbay is starting in right field against the Indians tonight. So that’s where the Yankees are at right now.

Andy Pettitte scheduled to start Monday

Joe Girardi announced this afternoon that Andy Pettitte will rejoin the rotation on Monday against the Indians. He’s been on the DL with a trap strain for about two weeks now, and he threw a 75-pitch simulated game earlier this week. I’m guessing Vidal Nuno, tonight’s starter, will be sent down tomorrow to clear one spot for Mark Teixeira/Kevin Youkilis, with Pettitte then stepping into the rotation spot next time around.

Going back in time with old scouting reports

I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but at some point recently the Baseball Hall of Fame partnered with the Scout of the Year Foundation to create a free and searchable online database of old scouting reports. The data is very incomplete — it doesn’t include every player and it only goes back so far — and the database itself can be slow and a bit of a pain, but those are minor nuisances compared to the wealth of information available.

Thanks to the database, we can look back at what professional talent evaluators — people who do this for a living — had to say about our favorite players once upon a time. For example, here are some bits and pieces of reports from various teams about a young high school senior from Michigan named Derek Jeter back in 1992:

Derek Jeter Scouting Reports

You can click every image in those post for a larger view, and I highly recommend you do just that.

Within those report snippets, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is described as having:

  • a good face
  • a hi butt
  • an impact both offensively and defensively
  • makeup 2b a star
  • some hot dog in him

Once upon a time, Jeter was a showoff. Wrap your head around that. All of the reports agreed he was a future star though, and in the end that is what was most important.

After the jump — lots of images and I don’t want to cripple anyone’s computer — are some opinions on Alex Rodriguez back from 1993, when he was a high school senior:

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Yankees place Andy Pettitte on the DL, recall Vidal Nuno

The Yankees have placed left-hander Andy Pettitte on the 15-day DL with a strained left trap. He left last night’s start with what was described as tightness. Fellow southpaw Vidal Nuno has been recalled from Triple-A to take the roster spot.

Pettitte, 40, was “pretty spasmed up” according to Brian Cashman. He’s pitched to 3.83 ERA and 4.12 FIP in 49.1 innings so far, numbers that are basically vintage Andy. He missed a start with lower back tightness a few weeks ago, but the trap is up higher, between the neck and shoulder blade. The 25-year-old Nuno has throw eight shutout innings with the big league team his year, include five in a spot start against the Indians earlier this week.