Minor Moves: Betances, Laird, Pope, Johnson

Don’t the Yankees know that 4pm ET on a Friday is no time to break news? After announcing that Larry Rothschild will be the new pitching coach, the following minor league news made the rounds…

  • Dellin Betances, Brandon Laird, and Ryan Pope were all added to the 40-man roster, protecting them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. I thought that George Kontos would get protected as well, but the Yankees must feel that he isn’t capable of sticking on a big league team’s 25-man roster for a full season yet. He, along with Craig Heyer and Lance Pendleton, are candidates to be selected.
  • The Yanks acquired minor league outfielder Cody Johnson from the Braves in exchange for cash considerations. Johnson, 22, was the 24th overall pick in the 2006 draft but it hasn’t clicked yet. He’s got big time power (career .233 ISO) but is a whiff machine (39.0% strikeout rate), and in fact 49.9% of his 1,813 career plate appearances have ended with a homer, walk, or strikeout. Three true outcomes FTW. Johnson is likely to begin 2011 with Double-A Trenton.

The Killer B’s: Who is coming first?

Thankfully the Yankees have the Killer B's, not Killer Bees

Bobby (NY)

What is a realistic path for Banuelos to the majors? He is still young for AA right?

Klaw
Yes, but I’ve talked to multiple scouts about him (and I think he’ll be here next week) and it sounds like he’s not very far off.

Picked up this question in Klaw’s chat at ESPN on Thursday and thought it was pretty interesting.  I look forward to seeing Law do an actual prospect profile on Banuelos next year.  He hasn’t seen him yet, but noted on twitter that several scouts told him Banuelos was the best pitcher they had seen all year. Considering Law says he’s not far off, could Banuelos be the first of the Killer B’s to make an impact in the Bronx?

Banuelos is by far the youngest of the three, as Betances has 3 years on him and Brackman has more than 5.  At the same time, both Brackman and Betances have struggled with injuries and neither have much more minor league experience than Banuelos does.  Brackman and Betances also are expected to take longer to develop due to their big frames.  While their length should give them an advantage down the road it can lead to struggles with repeating their deliveries and being consistent.  Banuelos on the other hand checks in at just 5’10”, which while concerning (not many sub 6 feet starters out there), also is helpful in his development as he has less to worry about in his delivery.  Without the extra length, it’s easier for him to be consistent.

Obviously Brackman has the biggest advantage in already being on the 40 man roster.  If he’s healthy and continues to progress, I would be very surprised if we didn’t see him in the bigs in 2011, even if he comes up in the pen (to be moved back the rotation, right?).  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Banuelos before Betances though.  Because the Yankees are always competing for the World Series, they often aren’t in a hurry to get young pitchers in the major leagues, and Banuelos will still be barely 20 on Opening Day next year.  If he dominates at AA (no sure thing) and Betances struggles or gets hurt, why wouldn’t Banuelos get the first crack at the majors, other than his age?  The biggest X factor in this is that they are all trade bait and there’s no guarantee any or all of them will ever throw a pitch for the Yankees, but I think it’s interesting that in the scouting community, Banuelos is closer than I would have expected.

Baseball America’s Florida State League Top 20 Prospects

Baseball America posted their list of the top 20 prospects in the High-A Florida State League today, and four Yankees made the cut: Dellin Betances at #4, Adam Warren at #13, Melky Mesa at #19, and Andrew Brackman at #20. Matt Moore (Rays), Chris Archer (Cubs), and Jacob Turner (Tigers) were the only players ahead of Betances. Manny Banuelos didn’t have enough innings to qualify.

In the subscriber only scouting reports they noted that Betances’ delivery is improved but there are still some concerns because of a head jerk and a stiff landing. The latter is pretty easy correct and is not uncommon at all. As for his stuff, they call it a “93-95 mph fastball and a power curveball” and a work-in-progress changeup. BA lauded Warren’s deep repertoire, which features “heavy 90-93 mph fastball”, a slow curveball, and a cutter/slider kind of breaking pitch. They also mention that his 6-foot-1, 200 lb. frame is maxed out, and there’s a chance he’ll end up as more of a setup man than a starter.

Mesa was said to have the best set of tools in the league behind Phillie turned Astros turned Blue Jay Anthony Gose. He “showed true four-tool ability” because he has “excellent raw power that already makes its presence felt in games, runs well, covers a lot of ground in center field and owns a strong, accurate arm.” His ability to make consistent contact and handle breaking balls is, as it always was, a concern. Brackman “showed an 89-94 mph fastball and a power curveball … giving him a pair of plus pitches on his best days.” They note that he uses his height to his advantage and that his changeup is improved, but his command can still waver from time to time.

The Double-A Eastern League list comes out on Friday, and the Yankees should be well represented once again. Brackman is again eligible for that list, and you’ve also got Hector Noesi, Austin Romine, and even Brandon Laird. David Adams is a long shot given his injury, and if Banuelos didn’t have enough innings to qualify for the FSL list, he definitely won’t have enough for the EL. For shame.

Clarification on Andrew Brackman’s call-up

Late last night we got word that the Yankees had recalled 2007 first round pick Andrew Brackman, but the report turned out to be slightly incorrect. Yes, the team is summoning Brackman to the big leagues, but he will not be activated and will instead work out with the team and the coaches. Dellin Betances will be doing the same thing as well.

The Yanks have been doing this for years, with guys like Phil Hughes and Tyler Clippard going through the same thing. It just gives the kids a brief taste of the big league life before getting called up to pitch, whenever that may be. Good chance for Betances to Brackman to get their feet wet and get familiar with how things are done. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Update: Jesus Montero will be there as well. Awesome.

Mailbag: Killer B’s, Garcia, Wood, Bad Contracts

Time for another edition of the RAB mailbag, which I hope will one day be as awesome as KSK’s Sex/Fantasy Football Mailbag. Yes, I like to dream big. These week will discuss the futures of two prominent pitching prospects and one former prominent pitching prospect, whether or not Kerry Wood will be with the Yankees beyond this season, and my personal favorite, ugly contracts.

If you ever have a question you want answered, send it in to us via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar under The Montero Watch.

Anonymous asks: Who do you like more, Betances or Banuelos on reaching their ceilings?

I like Manny Banuelos‘ chances of reaching his ceiling because he’s got a much better track record when it comes to the health of his arm. Yeah, he missed a big chunk of this season with an appendectomy, but that kinda stuff happens. Other than that, he’s had no arm problems during his time with the Yankees.

Betances, meanwhile, dealt with some nagging elbow issues before finally having reconstructive elbow surgery last year, and he also missed over a month with a sore shoulder back in 2008. He has yet to have a full, healthy season starting in April and finishing in September in his three-plus year career while Banuelos did it just last year. If you can’t stay healthy, you can’t stay on the field and develop into the best player you can be, so that’s why my pick is on ManBan.

Mike asks: Whats the latest on Christian Garcia? Is he back from injury and are the Yankees looking to re-signing him to a minor league deal?

In his interview with NoMaas this week, Mark Newman said they “haven’t had a discussion with (Garcia) or his agents about (rejoining the organization on a minor league deal). He’s got a ton of rehabbing to do.” It doesn’t get more reliable or up-to-date than that.

Anonymous asks: We all know about how poorly (predictably) Cashman’s moves have gone this year, and you’ve already talked about Kearns, but what are the chances of Kerry Wood staying with us? He seems completely revitalized by a playoff hunt and is throwing well. Will his closing experience put him out of our price range? Will we go cheap in the pen to sign Lee/Crawford/Werth etc?

Why is it predictable that his moves failed? So typical.

Anyway, the Yankees have gone cheap on the bullpen for three years now, and I really don’t expect that to change. Taking a one year, $1.2M flier on Chan Ho Park is a lot different than committing multiple years and big bucks to someone like Wood. Cashman has built the bullpen around cheap strikeout pitchers with enough depth that anyone who’s ineffective can be replaced with someone from Triple-A. It really is the best way to build a relief corps, having plenty of cheap and interchangeable options rather than putting all your eggs in one basket.

However, when I first read this question, something popped into my mind. Given his injury history and the current market, there’s zero chance Wood will get another multi-year deal worth $10M+ annually this winter. What if the Yanks could woo him with say, a one year deal worth $3M and incentives that could put another $5M or so in his pocket with the promise that if Mariano Rivera decides to call it a career after 2011, Wood gets the closer’s job as long as he’s healthy?

Obviously that’s a bit of a reach, because a guy with Wood’s pedigree should be able to find a closer’s job on the open market, and saves equals money the next time his contract is up. Maybe the lure of being Mo’s heir apparent is enough to keep him in pinstripes, but I’m sure his number one goal is to secure as much money in his next deal as possible to make sure he, his kids, and his kid’s kids never have to worry about a thing financially.

Kevin asks: If it was decided that every team could clear one contract from their payroll with no penalty, who do you think the Yankees would choose? A-Rod is such a vital part of the team, but they couldn’t blink on getting rid of those last seven years could they?

It has to be Alex Rodriguez. I love the guy, he’s a great player, the best I’ve seen in a Yankee uniform, but that contract is just awful. There’s still $174M and seven years left on that sucker after this season, and that doesn’t include the extra $30M he could earn thanks to the historic homerun milestones. There’s basically no chance of A-Rod retiring before the contract is up and forfeiting whatever is left on it because we’re talking generational wealth here. And you know what? If I was in the same boat as him, I’d do the same thing.

I love the guy, but I’m sorry, I’d shed him and his contract in a cocaine heartbeat if given the opportunity. I think A.J. Burnett‘s would be a close second, or maybe I could preemptively say whatever Derek Jeter gets after the season, which is almost assured of being too much for too long.

Yanks’ Killer Bs movin’ on up

We heard the rumblings late last night, and now it’s official: Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have been promoted to AA Trenton. The two young phenoms, both subjects of recent glowing scouting reports by Frankie Piliere, join Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi and Adam Warren in a power-packed rotation just a train ride away from New York City. Here’s to hoping the Yanks’ pitching future is now one step closer.

Learning from Dellin Betances

Four years ago, I urged the Yankees to take a tall, hard-throwing local kid from Brooklyn named Dellin Betances with their first pick of the 2006 draft. Proving again that they’re smarter than me, the Yanks did in fact take Betances, but not until the 8th round. Despite all his promise, Betances hasn’t been able to stay healthy and has yet to make it out of A-ball in three-plus professional seasons.

Moshe at the brand spankin’ new TYU says that we need to learn a lesson from Betances, that these kid pitchers in the minors are just prospects and far from sure things. Arodys Vizcaino has all the potential in the world, but he’s so young and far away that he would have just graduated high school last spring. Moving him as the centerpiece of a package for a pitcher of Javy Vazquez‘s quality shouldn’t be an issue.