Archive for Dellin Betances
The Arizona Fall League season begins next Tuesday while the various Caribbean winter leagues start a few weeks later. Until then, here are some minor league notes:
- Chad Jennings reports RHP Dellin Betances has asked the Yankees for permission to pitch in winter ball in the Dominican Republic. He wants to stay sharp and continue throwing following a very successful transition to the bullpen. Betances will be out of minor league options next season and is a super-early favorite for the Opening Day bullpen, so his workload is worth monitoring. You don’t want the kid pitching ten months out of the year.
- RHP Ty Hensley is done with physical therapy, according to his Twitter feed. He started a throwing program last month but probably hasn’t progressed to the point of throwing off a mound yet. I imagine the Yankees are taking it slow with last summer’s first rounder. Hensley missed the entire season after having surgery to correct an impingement in his right hip.
- According to Sanspo (translate article), 2B Gosuke Katoh recently tore a finger ligament during Instructional League in Tampa. He saw a specialist in New York and the recovery time is four weeks, but he can continue taking batting practice with his finger taped. The article says Katoh may head to Instructional League at the Dominican Republic complex later this month if the finger is healed.
- RHP Mark Montgomery has recently started throwing off a mound, according to his Twitter feed. His season ended in mid-August due to continued shoulder problems. The team’s top relief prospect coming into the season had a 3.38 ERA (4.00 FIP) with a lot of strikeouts (11.03 K/9 and 28.0 K%) and a lot of walks (5.63 BB/9 and 14.3 BB%) in 40 innings for Triple-A Scranton this summer. I wonder if Montgomery will play winter ball.
- Ben Badler (subs. req’d) named Cuban LHP Omar Luis one of ten sleepers from the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League. “Luis didn’t pick up a baseball for eight months in Haiti [because of visa problems], which led to considerable rust … He showed swing-and-miss stuff with his 89-95 mph fastball, slider and changeup,” wrote Badler of the $4M southpaw. Luis had a 5.68 ERA (~3.08 FIP) with a good strikeout rate (12.22 K/9 and 26.2 K%) and an awful lot of walks (8.24 BB/9 and 17.7 BB%) in 31.2 innings.
12:05pm: Mesa was giving his unconditional release, not designated for assignment. So even if he were to clear waivers, he is done with the organization. Mesa had tools, just sucks he never figured out how to make even halfway consistent contact.
11:16am: Nix was transferred to the 60-day DL and Mesa was designated for assignment to clear the two 40-man spots. Melky2.0 will be out of options next year and would have been a DFA candidate this winter. At least now he might sneak through waivers due to the injury.
10:22am: The Yankees have called up five players from Triple-A Scranton: IF David Adams, RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Cesar Cabral, RHP Brett Marshall, and C J.R. Murphy. RHP Preston Claiborne is expected to rejoin the club tomorrow, but OF Melky Mesa has a significant hamstring injury and will not be called up this month. Teams can carry up to 40 players on their active rosters as of today. It’s unclear if the Yankees are planning any more call-ups after Claiborne unless there’s an injury or something.
Adams, Betances, and Marshall were all up with New York earlier this season, so it’s no surprise they were brought back. The Adams and Betances call-ups are pretty straight forward — they’ll provide infield and bullpen depth. I wouldn’t expect Betances to see any kind of high or even medium leverage innings right out of the gate. Marshall is stretched out as a starter and since he’s now available as a long man, David Huff could move into a more traditional lefty specialist role alongside Boone Logan. That would be helpful down the stretch.
Cabral, 24, nearly made the team as a Rule 5 Draft pick out of Spring Training last year before fracturing his elbow. The job went to Clay Rapada instead. He has a 5.40 ERA (3.61 FIP) overall in 36.2 innings across various minor league levels since returning from the injury, but he has been better against same-side hitters (2.36 FIP and 34.7% strikeout rate) in a small sample. Cabral figures to see time as the third lefty specialist behind Logan and Huff. With Logan due to become a free agent this winter, Cabral could also be auditioning for a spot in next year’s bullpen a la 2008 Phil Coke.
The 22-year-old Murphy has hit .269/.346/.426 (~118 wRC+) with 12 homers in 468 plate appearances split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year. He’s also thrown out 50 of 136 attempted base-stealers (37%). Yesterday we heard it was “very likely” he would be called up. Murphy, the team’s second round pick in the 2009 draft, will serve as the third catcher and doesn’t figure to play much as long as the Yankees remain in the wildcard race. He’ll catch bullpens on the side and soak up the whole MLB experience instead.
No word yet on how the team opened 40-man roster spots for Murphy and Cabral, but the Yankees have 60-day DL candidates in Jayson Nix (hand), Zoilo Almonte (ankle), and Travis Hafner (shoulder). Both Murphy and Cabral would have been Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, so the Yankees simply sped up the process and added them to the 40-man a few weeks early. All five call-ups are with the team and will be available for this afternoon’s game.
As expected, the Yankees have called up left-hander David Huff. Dellin Betances was sent to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot, and David Phelps was transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. Phelps is out with a forearm strain that was expected to be season-ending, and this pretty much confirms it.
Huff, 28, has a 3.84 ERA (2.79 FIP) in 68 innings for Triple-A Scranton this year, and he threw 105 pitches on Sunday. I’m guessing the Yankees called him up a) to have a second lefty reliever for this weekend’s Red Sox series, and b) spot start during Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays. They’ll need a spot starter at some point, either Tuesday or four days later, so I suppose Huff’s workload this weekend could determine when he makes the start. We’ll see.
The Yankees have called up right-hander Dellin Betances from Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. Seldom used infielder David Adams was sent down in a corresponding move. Betances has pitched very well since moving to the bullpen earlier this year (1.46 ERA and ~2.05 FIP in 49.1 IP), but this is about adding a fresh arm to the bullpen more than anything else. Don’t be surprised if he gets sent back down in a few days.
Another six questions this week, so I tried to keep the answers relatively short. If you want to send us anything throughout the week, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Andrew asks: How long do you think J.R. Murphy has to continue tearing the cover off the ball before he gets a shot? He can’t be worse than Austin Romine or Chris Stewart. Seriously, I think it’s statistically impossible.
Oh, it’s possible. David Adams tore the cover off the ball in Triple-A but has been worse than Jayson Nix. Thomas Neal was worse than Vernon Wells after his big Triple-A performance. The “he can’t be worse” idea is a terrible reason to make a move. They can almost always be worse.
With that said, I don’t think the Yankees should replace Murphy with Romine, not right now. The kid just got to Triple-A and is having his first real standout season since turning pro, and I wouldn’t risk screwing that up for the sake of upgrading the backup catcher spot. Not when Ramon Hernandez and Kelly Shoppach are freely available. Joe Girardi‘s not going to not play Chris Stewart, so I don’t see the point of calling him up to play twice a week. Let Murphy work on his catching and continue to rake in Triple-A. Rushing a prospect to plug a big league hole would only compound the problem.
Mitchell asks: MLBTR says Aramis Ramirez and maybe Jonathan Lucroy are available. Does one or both make sense for the Yanks? And what would it take, do you think, to get him/them?
Matt wrote about Ramirez the other day, so all I’m going to add to that is that I don’t like the idea of adding another aging veteran on the wrote side of 35 who is under contract through 2014. The Yankees have met their quota already. Ramirez would certainly help the team right now, but he’s battling continued knee problems while his strikeouts are up and his power is down. Classic signs of decline in a slugger, otherwise known as “The Kevin Youkilis.” Not a fan.
Lucroy, on the other hand, would be great for the Yankees. The 27-year-old has hit .274/.321/.443 (108 wRC+) this year and .285/.333/.443 (111 wRC+) since becoming the full-time catcher in 2011, plus he’s signed affordably ($9M through 2016 with a $5.25M club option for 2017). Lucroy isn’t all that good at throwing out attempted base-stealers but he grades out okay in the other defensive aspects of catching. Given his age and contract, I imagine it’ll take quite a haul to get him. At least two very good prospects, probably two plus a third piece.
Paul asks: Joe Girardi has stacked lefties recently. The criticism is that late in games you are likely to have the platoon disadvantage as the opposing manager will deploy a lefty reliever. My question is this: isn’t that a little negated by having the platoon advantage for the first 5-7 innings? What about neutralizing their righty relievers, or, better yet having them use a righty closer against your lefties?
Stacking the lefties isn’t ideal because of those late game matchups, but given the current Yankees roster, I’m perfectly fine with it. They don’t have many good hitters as it is, so the ones they do have need to bunched together if they want to generate any kind of rally. Breaking up Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano with Nix defeats the purpose, really. Those mid-to-late-inning lefty specialists are problematic, but stacking the left-handers is a net positive for New York right now given their personnel.
Ted asks: Can you guys please clarify injuries and insurance? If the Yankees are getting money back from insurance for Mark Teixeira‘s recent DL stint, then shouldn’t they also have boatloads of money if they have insurance policies on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (not to mention all the other injuries)? Thanks!
From what I understand, team don’t purchase insurance for everyone, nor do they fully insure the contract either. A lot of times teams will only get coverage for what is morbidly referred to as “total loss or death” because the premium are so damn high. For pitchers with huge contracts with CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, the premiums could wind up costing more than the actual contract. In that case, they just pass. The Yankees are apparently getting 80% of Teixeira’s salary back for this injury, but I have no idea what the case is for the other injured guys. I assume there’s some protection in place, but who knows how much.
Brad asks: Next season, as everyone moves up a rung in the bullpen, do you think Dellin Betances gets a shot in the show?
It depends entirely on how well he pitches the rest of the season. If he continues this strong run, then yeah I think they would find room for him in the bullpen next year. Not as a setup man or anything like that, just as the last arm for blowout games or whatever. At least at first, he could always pitch his way into more responsibility.
If Betances starts pitching like he did as a starter, he’d be a candidate to get taken off the 40-man roster over the winter. There would be no value there. Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and Mariano Rivera will all hit free agency after the season, so there figures to be some bullpen competition in Spring Training even if the Yankees sign a free agent reliever or two.
Steve asks: Any reason the Yanks wouldn’t go after Eric Thames?
Not really. I mean, he isn’t all that good. He’s a career .250/.296/.431 (97 wRC+) hitter in 684 career big league plate appearances with awful, awful defense, yet he continues to put up very good numbers at Triple-A (124 wRC+ before being designated for assignment last week). Thames hasn’t been resigned to Quad-A status yet, but he’s getting there.
That said, he’s 26 and a left-handed hitting outfielder with minor league options remaining. The Yankees also drafted Thames in the 39th round of the 2007 draft back in the day, so they liked him once upon a time. They have an open 40-man roster spot — Youkilis is prime 60-day DL bait as well — and an open outfield spot in Triple-A (for the time being), so it’s close to a no risk move. I don’t think it would be some great travesty if they passed, however.
It has been seven years (seven years!) since the Yankees bought local right-hander Dellin Betances away from Vanderbilt with a $1M signing bonus as their eighth round pick. He was a consensus first round talent who fell due to signability concerns, and the Bombers took advantage under the old system. It was a great get at the time.
Unfortunately, the now 25-year-old Betances has made very little improvement in those seven years. The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder still struggles to repeat his delivery because he isn’t a great athlete, and the result has been just awful strike-throwing ability. In almost 600 career minor league innings, he owns a 4.9 BB/9 and 12.4 BB%. Last season it was 6.8 BB/9 and 15.7 BB%, which is why he was demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton at midseason.
During the first month of this season, there was still no improvement. Betances walked 16 batters in 24 innings across his first six starts (6.0 BB/9 and 15.0 BB), which prompted the team to move him to the bullpen full-time. Brian Cashman admitted the move had as much to do with Betances’ lack of minor league options — he used his final option this year, meaning he will not be able to go to Triple-A without first passing through waivers starting in 2014 — as it did his poor performance.
“This is the problem with the development clock,” said the GM. “If he had two or three more options, we would keep working with him as a starter. But with him being out of options after this year, it is becoming more obvious that if he is going to help us, it is going to be out of the ‘pen … Every reliever is a failed starter. Mariano Rivera is a failed starter. He is going to the Hall of Fame, but he is a failed starter. We will see what we have here.”
Relieving isn’t completely foreign to Betances, who did it in the Arizona Fall League last year. That led me to believe he would open this season in the bullpen, but the team decided to give him that one last chance as a starter. He’s been doing the relief thing for a little more than five weeks now — he did spend eight days with the big league team as an extra arm, but he didn’t pitch and I don’t even remember him warming up — and the early results are positive:
Yesterday’s outing — his first on less than two days of rest — was pretty rough, which uglifies the overall pitching line a bit. Otherwise Betances has thrown an acceptable amount of strikes (58% compared to 55% last year) and gotten plenty of swings and misses (12%). He had walked only six batters before yesterday, including just two during one 12-inning stretch, which is substantially better than his career norm. Of course, we’re talking about 19.0 innings. Given his history, it’s impossible to trust that walk rate at this point.
According to Donnie Collins, Betances was sitting 93-95 mph with his fastball while topping out at 98 in his last outing over the weekend. That is a tick better that his velocity as a starter but not a huge spike. Besides, raw stuff was never the question here. Betances always threw hard and missed bats. The problem was staying around the plate, like basic strike-throwing. I’m not even talking about being pinpoint and dotting the corners, just getting around the general area of the zone was an issue.
I do wonder about the mental aspect of going from starter to reliever as well. Perhaps Betances has a hard time focusing and pacing himself as a starter — Tim Lincecum said that was the case for him a few weeks ago — and the bullpen makes life easier. He can focus on his two best pitches and adopt a simple grip it and rip it mentality without worrying about being efficient or having to turn a lineup over multiple times. I have no idea if this is the case, I’m just spit-balling here. There is a mental aspect to this that has to be considered though.
Relievers can survive with below-average command, especially when they can pump mid-to-high-90s heat with a swing-and-miss breaking ball. They aren’t ideal late-inning guys, but the middle innings need love too. Betances has another two and a half months to get acclimated to the bullpen and show the Yankees — and the other 29 teams, for that matter — he is worth keeping on the 40-man roster over the winter and carrying as a sixth or seventh reliever at the outset of 2014. The odds are against it working, but Betances has shown some improvement as a reliever. He’s gone from no-shot to long-shot.
The Yankees have activated Ivan Nova off the DL, the team announced. Dellin Betances has been returned to Triple-A Scranton to clear a roster spot. Nova will pitch out of the bullpen for the time being.
Nova, 26, missed nearly a month with a triceps issue and back soreness. He pitched to a 6.48 ERA (3.64 FIP) in 16.2 innings spread across four starts before the injury. Nova has never pitched out of the bullpen for an extended period of time in his career, so it will be a new experience for him. There hasn’t been any indication about how Joe Girardi will use him, but I doubt he’ll be given high-leverage work or anything like that. Probably mop-up duty at first.
The Yankees have recalled right-hander Dellin Betances from Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. Brett Marshall was sent down in a corresponding roster move. Joba Chamberlain and his strained oblique must not be ready to come off the DL just yet.
Betances, 25, has pitched to a 5.40 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 28.1 innings this year. He recently moved to the bullpen and has allowed one run in 4.1 innings spread across two appearances since. This will be his first big league stint since September 2011, when he made two appearances. Marshall took one on the chin last night, throwing 108 pitches across 5.2 innings of bullpen-sparing relief in his big league debut.
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees are permanently shifting Dellin Betances to the bullpen. “This is the problem with the development clock,” said Brian Cashman. “If he had two or three more (minor league) options, we would keep working with him as a starter. But with him being out of options after this year, it is becoming more obvious that if he is going to help us, it is going to be out of the pen.”
Betances, 25, has pitched to a 6.00 ERA (3.91 FIP) with 9.38 K/9 (23.4 K%) and 6.00 BB/9 (15.0 BB%) in 24 innings for Triple-A Scranton this year. He still throws hard and his curveball gets swings and misses, but he’s made zero progress refining and repeating his delivery since signing for $1M as the team’s eighth round pick in 2006. Relievers have a much better chance of surviving with bad command than starters, so hopefully something clicks. Moving Betances to the bullpen is both completely unsurprising and probably a few weeks overdue.
Our season preview series continues this week with the starting rotation, though the format will change just slightly. Since there’s no clear starter/backup/depth lineage when it comes to starting pitchers, we’ll instead look at each type of pitcher — ace, number two, back-end, etc. — at different levels.
The term “ace” gets thrown around far too liberally these days. Technically every team has an ace in the sense that someone has to start Opening Day, but very few pitchers are true, bonafide number one starters. Those are the guys who provide both quality and quantity — they take the ball every five days and pitch deep into the game. Just as importantly, they do it every single year. It’s possible for a pitcher to have an ace-like year in any given season (coughEstebanLoiazacough), but the guys who do it year after year stand out from the pack. Those are the true aces.
CC Sabathia is a true ace. Despite two DL stints — including the first arm injury of his career — the 32-year-old still rattled off his sixth consecutive year of 200+ innings with a sub-3.40 ERA in 2012. The number of other big leaguers who have done that: zero. Raise the bar to a sub-3.60 ERA and it’s still zero. Sabathia was the difference in the ALDS against the Orioles, allowing just three runs in an LDS round record 17.2 innings. That’s an 8.2-inning start in Game One and a complete-game in Game Five. The Yankees and Orioles played five very tight games, but the difference was Sabathia shoving it in the first and last games of the series.
Going into 2013, CC is more of a question mark than he has been at any other point as a Yankee. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow in late-October, which slowed his pace in Spring Training ever so slightly. The good news is Sabathia has been throwing with no complications or pain or even unexpected soreness in recent weeks, so he remains on target to start Opening Day. That said, his fastball velocity did drop more than one mile an hour from 2012 to 2013. It’s a concern because of his age and all the mileage on his arm, if nothing else.
Despite the DL stints and reduced fastball, Sabathia was excellent last season — 3.38 ERA and 3.31 FIP — so excellent that his strikeout (8.87 K/9 and 23.7 K%) and walk (1.98 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%) rates were the second best of his career behind his monster 2008 campaign with the Indians and Brewers. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild came to New York with a reputation for increasing strikeout rates and reducing walk rates, and sure enough Sabathia has posted a 8.79 K/9 (23.5 K%) and a 2.16 BB/9 (5.8 BB%) during his two years under Rothschild after managing a 7.59 K/9 (20.6 K%) and 2.71 BB/9 (7.4 BB%) during his first two years in pinstripes. One year is a fluke but two years are a trend, as they say.
The Yankees have internally discussed scaling back Sabathia’s workload going forward in an effort to keep him healthy and just fresher late into the season. That could mean treating him as a 200-inning pitcher rather than a 230-inning pitcher — one fewer inning per start, basically — but that’s much easier said than done. Sabathia is, by his own admission, a rhythm pitcher who is at his best with more work, not less. Finding the balance between lightening the overall workload and remaining super-effective will be difficult.
Either way, Sabathia is a benefit of the doubt guy. I assume he’ll remain a workhorse of the first order and highly effective until he isn’t. The elbow surgery and reduced velocity are red flags, but they have yet to manifest themselves in a meaningful way. I still expect CC to strike out a ton of batters in his 200-something innings while keeping his ERA under 3.50. He’s been doing it nearly a decade now and I’m not going to doubt him. At some point Sabathia will decline, but I don’t expect it to happen just yet.
Knocking on the Door
There are only a handful of minor league prospects who project as future aces — don’t confuse ace stuff with being a projected ace — and the Yankees don’t have any of them, especially not at the Triple-A level. The only pitcher who is slated to open the season in the Triple-A Scranton rotation with ace-caliber stuff is Dellin Betances, who lacks everything else a pitcher needs to be an ace: command, durability, etc. Brian Cashman already acknowledged the club will start the 24-year-old Betances in the Triple-A rotation despite his miserable season a year ago, but this is his final minor league option year and I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to move the big right-hander into the bullpen if he doesn’t show improvement within the first few weeks of the season.
The Top Prospect
The Bombers have a farm system that is top heavy in position players — the top five prospects on my preseason top 30 list were all position players — especially since their best pitching prospects all seem to be coming off injury. The best combination of ace-caliber stuff and command in the system belongs to 22-year-old Manny Banuelos, who will miss the season due to Tommy John surgery. His command started to waver in 2011 though, maybe due to the elbow problem.
Right-hander Jose Campos lacks a defined breaking ball while right-hander Ty Hensley lacks command in addition to having basically zero professional experience. Righty Bryan Mitchell has nasty stuff, missing bats with a mid-90s fastballs and a knockout curveball, but he lacks command as well. Perhaps the best current ace package in the system belongs to 23-year-old Jose Ramirez, who is organization’s consistently hardest thrower with a swing-and-miss changeup and a promising slider. That said, he’s battled arm injuries and command throughout his five-year career. The Yankees don’t have a minor league pitcher who clear projects as an ace, but Ramirez is probably the closest. He’s a long way from that ceiling, however. A very long way.
The Deep Sleeper
The Yankees were very, very patient when it came to signing soon-to-be 22-year-old Rafael DePaula. They originally agreed to sign him for $500k back in November 2010, but it wasn’t until March 2012 that the right-hander was approved for a visa and the contract became official. Because he wasn’t allowed to play in actual games while waiting for his visa, DePaula lost a lot of crucial development time these last two years. With command of a mid-90s fastball and low-80s curveball, he’s the best bet in the organization to emerge with the “future ace” label over the next 12 months. DePaula figures to start with High-A Tampa this year, but the Yankees could opt to hold him back with Low-A Charleston given the lack of experience.
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Sabathia is one of the game’s ten best pitchers and pretty clearly the second most important Yankee heading into the 2013 season. He’s truly irreplaceable. The Bombers don’t have any clear-cut ace-caliber pitching prospects in the minors — just a collection of guys with good stuff or good command or good health, but not all three. It’s a problem going going forward given the team’s plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014 (and beyond), so they’ll have to get creative to pull it off. Either that or hope for good luck.