The Bench Takes Shape

Update (5:43pm): Lots and lots of updates via Bryan Hoch and Ben Shpigel. First of all, that Sanchez trade? Forget it. He’s being sold to a team in Japan, where I assume he’ll have a much greater opportunity. Good luck to him. Fat Sanchezes 4 life.

We also have ourselves a bench now. Jesus Montero, Ramiro Pena, Justin Maxwell, and Doug Bernier were all sent to Triple-A this afternoon while Austin Romine went back to Double-A Trenton. Ronnie Belliard was released (nice knowin’ ya), and Mark Prior is going to hang around in Tampa for a while, which I assume means Extended Spring Training. Based on all that, the big league bench will consist of Chavez, Andruw Jones, Eduardo Nunez, and Gustavo Molina. Curtis Granderson‘s replacement is still TBD, if one is even needed.

Original Post (4:30pm): As Spring Training nears an end, the Yanks’ Opening Day roster and 40-man are starting to take shape. We have a few afternoon updates including news of a new addition to the Yanks. As they announced in their game notes release this afternoon, the Yankees have signed Eric Chavez to a Major League contract and have added him to the 25-man roster. Chavez had been in camp on a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, and he has impressed everyone this spring. He hit .405/.432/.571 in 42 at bats and will spell A-Rod and Mark Teixeira at the corners this year.

Via Mark Feinsand, we learn that Romulo Sanchez was seen shaking hands and saying his goodbyes in the clubhouse, indicating that the out-of-options right-hander has been traded or released. Problem is the Yankees haven’t announced where to or for what yet, so stay tuned. We first heard that something was up with Romulo yesterday.

Via Bryan Hoch and Ben Shpigel, lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano will stay behind in Tampa when the team heads north for Opening Day and begin the season on the disabled list. He expected to be there “for a few weeks,” which doesn’t sound good but could easily mean the 15-day minimum. Feliciano’s been dealing with a triceps issue and hasn’t appear in the game in about two weeks now. That’s a shame.

Open Thread: Good journalism vs. bad journalism

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

I tend to have very little interest in players’ personal lives. It adds zero value to my life, all I worry about is what happens on the field. So when Austin Romine left camp for a few days last week for a personal reason, I thought nothing of it. Stuff comes up, who cares, none of my business. Jack Curry wrote about Romine today, and it turns out the young backstop had to leave camp to attend the funeral of his younger cousin, who was killed while participating in a combat operation in Afghanistan. “At this point in time,” said Romine, who remained in camp for ten days after learning of his cousin’s death, “I have no more tears.” It’s a great and heartfelt article that gets RAB’s highest recommendation.

Unfortunately, that side of journalism, the good side, is generally overshadowed by garbage. Instead of more columns like Curry’s, we get stuff like this complete assassination of Marcus Thames by T.J. Simers of The LA Times, a hatchet job that went so far as to attack the pronunciation of the guy’s name. Based on what we read and saw last year, Marcus was as nice a guy as they come, and if you needed any reason to root harder for him, well Simers provided it. I’m glad Thames took the high road and refused to stoop to that level, a level unfit for the hackiest of hacks.

Anyways, here is your open thread for the night. YES is playing an encore of this afternoon’s Yankees-Orioles game, and MLB Network will be doing the same with Mets-Tigers. All three hockey locals are in action as well. Talk about whatever, go nuts.

Yanks land six prospects on BA’s Top 100

Baseball America released their annual list of the top 100 prospects in baseball today, which you can find here: 1-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-80, 81-100. Jesus Montero was ranked as the third best prospect in the game, trailing only Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Domonic Brown and Julio Teheran round out the top five. Gary Sanchez came in at number 30, Manny Banuelos number 41, Dellin Betances number 43, and Andrew Brackman at number 78. Austin Romine snuck in as number 98. I’m pleasantly surprised that Romine made the cut, and that’s really quite a showing for the Yankees. Damn impressive.

This is only the second time in the 21-year history of BA’s top 100 that the Yankees have had six guys appear on the list. The other came back was 1999, with Nick Johnson (18), Ryan Bradley (25), Alfonso Soriano (39), Ricky Ledee (70), Jackson Melian (72), and Drew Henson (100). Only three of those guys made the top 50, though.

KLaw’s Top 100 Prospects

Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list came out today (1-25, 26-50, 51-75, 76-100), and unsurprisingly the Yankees are well represented (I believe all but the top 25 are Insider only). Jesus Montero comes in at number four, trailing only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Domonic Brown. “[Montero’s] going to hit. And by that, I mean he’s going to hit for average, get on base and have huge power — the type of offensive profile that plays anywhere on the field and in the lineup,” said KLaw, though he adds the obvious caveat about his defense. “Montero could solve the Yankees’ DH problem for the next 10 years if they commit to it, a move they are unlikely to ever regret.”

Manny Banuelos wasn’t too far behind Montero at number 12, and according to KLaw he’s the fourth best pitching prospect in baseball behind Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, and Zach Britton. “[He’s] a 19-year-old on the cusp of the majors with a three-pitch mix where all three pitches will at least flash above-average … he’s just a few refinements away from being able to help the big league club.” Law is probably the high man on Banuelos, I was surprised to see him ranked so far up there. Gary Sanchez is 68th (“youth and distance from the majors are the only things keeping him out of the top echelon of this list”), Dellin Betances is 73rd (“[there’s] No. 1 starter potential here, but the probability isn’t there yet”), and Andrew Brackman makes five Yankee farmhands at number 88 (“[he] may be a bullpen guy, but at least now that’s his floor”).

Austin Romine make Law’s list of ten prospects that just missed the top 100, and he notes that Romine “can throw and hit for power, but has struggled with basic receiving tasks every time I’ve seen him in the past six months.” His list of each organization’s top ten prospects came out as well, and the Yankee list is pretty standard with one exception: he’s got Graham Stoneburner all that way at number seven. Hooray for a strong farm system.

Mailbag: Romine, Bush, Gardner, Posada

Time for another edition of the RAB Mailbag, and this one is free of Rafael Soriano/Joba Chamberlain vitriol. We’ve got questions about Dave Bush as a rotation candidate, Austin Romine as the catcher of the future, Brett Gardner‘s long-term outlook, and what happens with Jorge Posada after the upcoming season. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Arad asks: What about Dave Bush as a 4th or 5th starter?

Once upon a time, Bush was arguably the most dominant closer in college baseball history. The Blue Jays have done a great job in recent years of turning college relievers into starters (Shaun Marcum and Brett Cecil among them), which is what they did with Bush before trading him to the Brewers in the Lyle Overbay deal. But that is neither here nor there.

Bush’s last three seasons have been pretty damn awful. He had a 4.93 FIP in 2008, a 5.07 FIP in 2009, and a 5.13 FIP in 2010, so he’s bad and getting worse as he enters into his 30’s. Although his walk rate is solid (2.64 uIBB/9 in the last three years), his strikeout rate is below average (5.80 K/9) and so is his ground ball rate (38.9%). Oh, and he’s amazingly homer prone. Over the last three seasons he’s surrendered one homerun for fewer than every 6.1 IP. And this is in the NL Central, stick him in the AL East in Yankee Stadium and we could start taking bets on which sections of the bleachers will get souvenirs on the nights he pitches.

As I always say, there’s nothing wrong with a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, but there are enough red flags here to keep me away.

Ashley asks: If the Yankees were to use Jesus Montero as trade bait sometime throughout the season, how much will the drop off be from Jesus to Austin Romine? Is there any benefit to having Romine as the “catcher of the future” or will we trade for a big name catcher (if he exist)? Basically, assess the Yanks catching situation.

Romine was always a much safer bet to remain at catcher long-term, but questions popped up about his catching ability last season. Keith Law didn’t like what he saw out of him blocking balls in the dirt and what not in the Arizona Fall League, though in fairness Romine was probably fatigued after his first full season as an everyday catcher. His bat also dropped off considerably in the second half. Romine is still a quality catching prospect though, a borderline top 100 guy with the tools to catch in the show. He just has to continue developing those tools into baseball skills. It’ll definitely be a big hit though, Montero is going to be a star because of his bat. Romine will just a solid backstop.

The wildcard here is Russell Martin. If he plays well and the Yankees like what they’re getting out of him over the next two years, there’s always a chance they’ll re-sign him when he’s due to become a free agent in two seasons. IF not, and they trade Montero for a starter, I suspect Romine will get the first crack at that vaunted “catcher of the future” job. If he can’t handle it, they’ll either have to go out and get someone or hope Gary Sanchez doesn’t flame out. This isn’t an immediate concern though, we’re at least two seasons away before we have to really worry about who will do the catching long-term.

Anonymous asks: Gardner. Lead off guy? Centerfielder? Big time contributor or eventual fourth outfielder/pinch runner?

That was a pretty awesome catch. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

If he continues to play like he did last year, he’s a legit leadoff hitter that can play center full-time. He’s just masquerading as a leftfielder now because of Curtis Granderson. The wrist injury and subsequent offseason surgery is a bit of a problem and we don’t know if or how it will effect Gardner in the long run, so that’s something we’re just going to have to wait and see about.

Remember, Gardner is already 27, so this is pretty much what he’s going to be going forward. He won’t suddenly develop power, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He absolutely needs to get better at bunting, but the overall skill set is there to be a legit big league leadoff man for a few seasons. I believe in his ability to be at least an average regular a whole lot more now than I did twelve months ago, and at the absolute worst he’s a good reserve outfielder.

Mark asks: How many games will Jorge Posada have to play and what offensive #’s will he have to put up in 2011 to obtain a contract for 2012? Or due to his age and inability to play defense are we simply counting down the time until we say goodbye to yet another of the all-time Yankee greats to wear the pinstripes later this fall?

I’m in the camp that thinks (hopes) Jorge will retire after the season. Even if he doesn’t, any contract he gets for 2012 would absolutely have to be a one-year deal. That’s imperative. But in order for him to get a new deal after the season, Posada would need to a) handle the move to DH with ease, and b) hit at an above average rate for the position. Offense around the league sucked last season, and AL DH’s (not counting NL DH’s in interleague play) hit just .252/.336/.426 in 2010. Posada easily cleared that playing mostly catcher (.248/.357/.454) and over the last three seasons he’s hit .267/.361/.474, so being an above average DH shouldn’t be much of an issue. Moving to the new position can be, since we’ve seen some playing in the past having trouble dealing with all the down time between at-bats. Becoming a full-time DH after playing the field for two decades isn’t as easy as it seems.

To be perfectly honest, I had never even considered the possibility that Posada could be back in 2012. I don’t think that either A-Rod or Jeter will erode so much next summer that they’ll be relegated to full-time DH duties in 2012, so it seems like the opportunity will be there if Jorge wants to come back for another season. But like I said, one-year contract, nothing more. They already gave him his legacy contract.

Link Dump: Maddux, Romine, Farm System

It’s raining cats and dogs in the Tri-State Area, but at least it’s better than what’s going on in Minnesota. Here are a few links to check out before the Jets kick off…

The Last Time The Yankees Didn’t Get Their Man

As the Cliff Lee circus continues to play out, it’s tough for many young fans to remember the last time the Yankees failed to sign a free agent they coveted. Ben Shpigel recapped the courtship of Greg Maddux, in which then-GM Gene Michael went above and beyond the normal call of duty only to be left in the dark. It’s also easy to forget that the Yanks were turned down by David Cone, Doug Drabek, and Barry Bonds that offseason, instead settling for Jimmy Key and Wade Boggs. Given how the late-90’s played out (especially against Maddux’s Braves), I’d say things worked out in the end.

Romine Trying To Keep The Family Business Alive

The Romine family is a baseball family, with father Kevin playing for the Red Sox back in the day and son Andrew suiting up for the Angels this past September. Austin is still trying to work his way up the minor league ladder, but Anthony McCarron caught up with the Yankee catching prospect about his upbringing. It’s a really interesting read, little did we know that Austin’s first steps came wearing a Red Sox shirt on the field in Fenway Park. Make sure you check it out.

Farm System Discussion

John Sickels at Minor League Ball is hosting a discussion thread about the Yankees farm system, part of his annual look at each team’s top twenty prospects. The comments can be both informative and borderline insane, but it’s worth a scroll through.

Oh, and Nick Swisher got married yesterday. Congrats, Swish.

Baseball America’s Eastern League Top 20 Prospects

Baseball America posted their list of the top 20 prospects in the Double-A Eastern League today, and four Yankee farmhands made the list: Andrew Brackman at #5, Brandon Laird at #11, Hector Noesi at #16, and Austin Romine at #20. Brackman trailed only Domonic Brown (Phillies), Zach Britton (Orioles), Kyle Drabek (Blue Jays), and Brandon Belt (Giants). Manny Banuelos didn’t have enough innings to qualify, and David Adams’ injury took him out of contention.

In the subscriber only scouting reports, they note that Brackman got better as the season went along, with his fastball going “from 89-92 mph to 93-95 in the middle innings of August starts.” They also say he can drop his curve in for strikes or bury it in the dirt for swings-and-misses, but the changeup needs work. Laird is said to have a knack for getting the fat part of the bat on the ball, an aggressive approach, and good power. He’s “adequate at third, with enough arm and solid hands but below-average range and speed,” and could end up at first.

Noesi’s best pitch is the old number one, a fastball that he manipulates by “adding and subtracting velocity from it, putting it where he wants despite its solid life and showing the ability to pitch to both sides of the plate.” They have his two-seamer at 88-92, and the four seamer up to 96. His changeup is a fringe pitch, but he also throws a slider and curve, with the latter showing more promise. As for Romine, whose stock took a hit after a rough second half, “he still has four average or better tools and the chance to succeed Jorge Posada as the Yankees’ catcher.” He has a strong but slightly inaccurate arm and overall profiles as a strong defender. Offensively, they say his “swing gets long and he’s not selective to fully tap into his plus raw power, but scouts project him as an average home run hitter.” They do note his ability to use the entire field.

The last list Yankee fans have to worry about is the Triple-A International League, which comes out on Tuesday. Jesus Montero is a lock for a top three or four spot, and chances are Ivan Nova will make the cut as well. Personal fave Eduardo Nunez will likely make an appearance as well.