Golson, Noesi, Pena and Kontos heading to New York

The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees finished up their season with a win today, and Donnie Collins reports that the quartet of Greg Golson, Hector Noesi, Ramiro Pena and George Kontos are heading to New York to join the big league team. We’ve seen Golson, Pena and Noesi before, but Kontos will be the new face. The righty reliever struck out 91 and unintentionally walked just 25 in 89.1 IP this year, his first full season in the bullpen following Tommy John surgery. Kontos would have been Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, and the Yankees will have to make room for him on the 40-man roster.

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Yankees activate Freddy Garcia, demote Hector Noesi

In a move that should surprise no one, the Yankees have activated Freddy Garcia off the disabled list in time for tonight’s start against the Orioles. Hector Noesi was sent to Triple-A Scranton to make room on the roster. September call-ups are three days away, but the ten-day rule does apply so Noesi won’t be able to come back until next week. There are some loopholes though, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he was back with the big league team on Thursday. Anyway, tonight will be Sweaty Freddy’s first start in 22 days because of that cut on his right index finger. He’s held the O’s to two runs in a dozen innings this season.

Noesi’s long-term value

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Hector Noesi is not long for the Yankees roster. As we discussed yesterday, the Yankees will have to demote a pitcher when Alex Rodriguez returns this weekend, and considering Joe Girardi‘s bullpen usage and the available options, Noesi is a near lock to ride the shuttle to Scranton. It won’t be a long stay; if he’s demoted on Friday he’ll be eligible to return when rosters expand on September 1. Even if he stays through the end of Scranton’s season, it won’t keep him down for much longer than that. He figures to play a role in the bullpen for the stretch run, but more importantly, he could be setting himself up for a long run with the Yankees.

Noesi came up this season in something of an emergency situation. The Yankees needed another pitcher when Luis Ayala went on the DL, and Noesi was the easiest to recall, since he was already on the 40-man roster. That happened on April 13th, but Noesi didn’t make his major league debut until May 18th (he was demoted before making an appearance). When he finally got his shot he shined, allowing just three runs in his first 18 innings, including six innings of two-run ball against the Red Sox. Outside of his drubbing against the Reds he’s been excellent this season, and has certainly opened some eyes.

One of the biggest remaining questions with Noesi is whether he’ll land in the rotation or the bullpen. It’s a familiar question, since we hear it asked of almost every Yankees back-end starting prospect. They have a handful of pitchers comparable to Noesi, including the major-league-ready Adam Warren and the already-doing-it Ivan Nova. Since they don’t have room for multiple No. 4 starters, they have to pare down the list and either ship the surplus elsewhere or else move them to the bullpen. Where does Noesi stand in that process?

In his limited time this year he’s certainly proven a lot to the Yankees. He’s made some longer appearances, seven times going at least three innings in an appearance. He’s also come in for a number of shorter appearances, and has excelled in those, too. Really, the only blemishes on his record are the 1.2-inning, six-run performance against the Reds and a one-inning, three-run affair against the Sox on a day that they rocked CC Sabathia for seven runs. In other words, he could probably hack it in either the rotation or the bullpen. That leaves the Yankees in a favorable position, whatever way they decide to play this.

His presence should leave the Yankees in a flexible position this winter. They’ll return three starters and five relievers (with Joba’s return looming), so they could have an opening in either place for Noesi. In fact, with these openings, combined with the weak market, it appears fairly certain that Noesi will start the season on the major league roster. Given his performance this year, the Yankees should feel comfortable putting him in whatever role remains free.

The only thing that could prevent Noesi from playing a prominent role on the 2012 team is a trade. But, because he has experienced success in multiple roles already this year, chances are the Yankees would hold off on trading him, just as they’ve held off on trading Nova. It’s doubtful that Noesi would get in the way of a significant trade, but they’re not going to flip him for a bench player or a back-end starter. They likely already have a back-end starter in him, as well as a decent reliever who could move into a more prominent bullpen role next year. I imagine the Yankees would much refer to trade a guy like Warren, who might be as good but hasn’t yet pitched in the majors.

He might have appeared sporadically, and he might not have filled a designated role during his time with the club, but Hector Noesi has certainly opened eyes this year. It’s tough to prove anything substantial in 40 innings, but Noesi has at least shown that he can handle major league hitters. His versatility will make the Yanks’ winter a bit easier, since they can slot him into one of many roles for 2012, when he should remain with the big league club full-time. He might never be an ace or a dominant reliever, but the Yankees have certainly found a useful pitcher in Noesi. May his stay in Scranton be short and his time in New York last for years.

Mailbag: Matsui, Noesi, Montero, Banuelos

Just a heads up, we’re getting lots and lots of Joba Chamberlain-related questions into the inbox. So much so that I might do a Joba-specific mailbag on Monday, once the dust settles and we’re all thinking clearly. Plus I just didn’t have enough time to do one for today. So anyway, here is this week’s mailbag. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions, as always.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user rburtzel via Creative Commons license)

Daniel asks: Do you think Matsui has anything left as bench bat and part-time DH? By the trade deadline, the A’s should be even further back and might want to shed the remaining ~ $2M or so on his deal. With his current level of production, can’t imagine it’d take much more than a C level prospect no?

You have to remove the name when talking about guys like this, because Hideki Matsui‘s status as a True Yankee™ will certainly create biases and cloud judgment. Do the Yankees have a need for a left-handed hitting, part-time designated hitter/bench bat? Not, not really. They already have one in Jorge Posada. Here, look…

Posada in 2011: .203/.311/.366, .303 wOBA, 87 wRC+
Nameless Player: .215/.265/.337, .264 wOBA, 65 wRC+

Posada vs. RHP in 2011: .234/.331/.435, .342 wOBA, 114 wRC+
Nameless Player vs. RHP: .210/.267/.297, .249 wOBA, 55 wRC+

Posada with RISP in 2011: .171/.356/.257, .290 wOBA, 78 wRC+
Nameless Player with RISP: .209/.280/.302, .243 wOBA, 51 wRC+

The triple-slash and wOBA numbers are FYI more than anything, wRC+ is the most important number there because it’s park adjusted. There’s an obvious difference between Yankee Stadium and Whatever They’re Calling It These Days Coliseum. I don’t put much stock in performance with runners with scoring position, so that’s there for those that do more than anything.

In addition to just the overall offense, at least Posada is a switch-hitter, and there’s a tiny bit of value in that even though he’s been brutal (-16 wRC+ … -16!) against lefties this year. He can also play catcher in an emergency, which is more defensive value that Nameless Player provides. In reality, neither of these players should be on the Yankees’ roster, but one is and apparently it’s going to take a minor miracle to get him off it. Adding a second player like that doesn’t make sense to me, regardless of how little he makes or how easy it would be to acquire or what he did in the past.

Dan asks: I thought Hector Noesi was supposed to be a fastball-changeup guy? (“He backs [the fastball] up with quality changeup, his second best offering, and he also throws both a slider and a curveball.” From Mike’s prospect profile) So far in the majors he’s throwing a ton of sliders, and a decent amount of curveballs. Only 6 changeups in 71 pitches Tuesday night, and about 7% coming into the night. What’s the dealio?

Hey, I’m not the only one that said that. From Baseball America’s write-up of the Yankees’ top ten prospects before the season (subs. req’d)…

He pounds the zone with an 89-93 mph fastball, reaching as high as 96. His maintains his velocity deep into games, and his fastball has some run and tail. Noesi’s No. 2 pitch is a changeup with similar action, though he doesn’t quite command it like his fastball. His curveball and slider remain below-average offerings, but he flashes the ability to spin the ball.

Remember, we’re talking about a ridiculously small sample size. Noesi’s faced 58 batters and thrown 204 pitches in the big leagues, which is nothing. Here’s the breakdown of those 204 pitches: 107 fastballs, 61 sliders, 14 curves, and 14 changeups. That adds up to 196, and the missing eight pitches were part of intentional walks. He’s faced 29 righties and 29 righties, so it’s not a platoon thing (changeups are used primarily against batters of the opposite hand).

I honestly don’t know what the deal is, but I suspect it’s more of a fluke than anything given the number of batters faced and overall pitches we’re talking about. Pitchers typical go with their two best offerings in relief, maybe he felt the slider was a better swing-and-miss pitch at the time? Maybe Russell Martin (who’s caught all 204 of those pitches) just hasn’t called it enough and Noesi’s too rookie-ish to shake him off?

Ross asks: When will we get to see Montero in the Bronx? This Cervelli experiment has run its course. If we’re going to accept mediocre defense, we can at least have a bat in the lineup for when the bottom half of the order gets on base. Would there be any takers on the trade market for Cervelli?

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

I think we’ve reached the point where Jesus Montero could be called up literally any day now. If it happened today, I would not be surprised. It’s bad enough that Frankie Cervelli can’t throw anyone out (he’s gunned down 11 of the last 84 that have tried to steal off him, 13.1%), but now he’s gotten into the habit of throwing the ball into center field and giving runners an extra base. It’s not just some annoying problem anymore, it’s in the scouting report and teams are exploiting it.

Despite his general awfulness, I’m certain that Cervelli has some value on the trade market. He’s cheap and young, and the position itself is pretty much a wasteland these days. The Giants are looking for catching help following Buster Posey’s injury, the Pirates are as well with Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder on the shelf. I’m not saying there’s a trade match between the Yankees and either of those clubs, but there are teams out there looking for catching.

J.R. asks: I know that Banuelos has had control problems in the minors, but I’m wondering how he has done against lefties. With both an innings cap coming up (not sure what you would guess it is) and the need for a LOOGY, would it make sense to put him in the pen for August and September (maybe even October)? It wouldn’t really hurt his development and would give him major league experience.

I’m glad someone asked this because Banuelos is not exactly an ideal LOOGY candidate. Here’s the numbers, first…

vs. LHB in 2011: 14.1 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 7 BB, 15 K, 1.22 GB/FB
vs. RHB in 2011: 36.1 IP, 37 H, 17 R, 15 ER, 22 BB, 30 K, 1.27 GB/FB

vs. LHB in 2009-2010: 34.1 IP, 27 H, 12 BB, 30 K, 4.15 FIP, 5.04 xFIP
vs. RHB in 2009-2010: 139.33, 116 H, 40 BB, 151 K, 2.54 FIP, 3.99 xFIP

The 2009-2010 numbers are park adjusted, courtesy of the minor league splits database at Driveline Mechanics. The numbers from this year come right from his milb.com player page. First of all, this does a great job of showing you just how relatively inexperienced Banuelos is. He’s faced a total of 485 batters in the last 32 months. For some perspective, CC Sabathia has faced 424 batters this year alone.

Secondly, Banuelos has a reverse split. Not necessarily this year, but from 2009-2010 and as a whole from 2009 through today. Why? Because he’s a fastball-changeup pitcher (with a great changeup), and changeups (as I said earlier) are used primarily against batters of the opposite hand. Banuelos’ best pitch doesn’t help him at all against lefties; he’s got to use his fastball and curveball (easily his third best pitch) to get those guys out.

Just because a pitcher throws left-handed doesn’t mean he’s a LOOGY candidate. Banuelos projects as a starter long-term because he can neutralize right-handed batters with that changeup, but he’s still got to work on improving the rest of his repertoire and his command, especially this year. The Yankees have other LOOGY options in house, namely Randy Flores, and there are always guys like Jerry Blevins and David Purcey on waivers. Given the complete debacle of Joba Chamberlain’s development, I’d rather not see the team turn another high-end pitching prospect into a reliever for the big league club then try to turn him back into a starter long-term. I honestly have very little faith in it being done in a way that won’t hurt Banuelos’ long-term development/future.

Hector Noesi’s Big Chance

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Prior to last night’s game against the Blue Jays, the Yankees got some troubling news about their $35M setup man. Rafael Soriano continued to feel soreness in his twice-surgically repaired elbow, and a third MRI “showed enough” that he’ll see Dr. James Andrew today. It’s not often that a pitcher comes back from Andrews’ office with good news, especially not guys with a history of elbow trouble and a problem that has lingered for two weeks now. Regardless of what Andrews says, the Yankees will likely be without Soriano for the foreseeable future.

David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain will now have that much more responsibility heaved onto their shoulders, and they’re Joe Girardi‘s key late-inning right-handers ahead of Mariano Rivera. Luis Ayala has been surprisingly effective in a limited amount of work, and chances are he’ll be pressed into some tight spots in the coming weeks. He has setup man experience (with the ExpoNats), but that was several years ago. If he maintains this level of performance, it would be a pleasant surprise to all. The Yankees are going to need someone to step up and solidify the middle innings in Soriano’s absence, and they have someone on the roster that just might be able to do that. His name? Hector Noesi.

Although he’s been in the big leagues for (a total of) three weeks now, Noesi has just two appearances to his credit. The first was his heroic (but not exactly picture perfect) four innings of relief in extra innings against the Orioles, the second some garbage time innings earlier this week. The seven innings of work featured four strikeouts, three intentional walks, and just four ground balls, but those numbers don’t really tell us anything. The kid was nervous, and 30 batters faced just isn’t all that meaningful.

There are three things that make Noesi seem (operative word here) like a good candidate for short, possibly even leveraged relief work. First is his fastball command, which has long been his calling card. It’s not just about strikes, it’s about quality strikes, and Noesi’s track record and scouting report have long touted his ability to provide them. The second thing is a swing-and-miss changeup to battle lefties and a slider for righties. Okay, that’s probably two things, but let’s combine them anyway. Noesi has gotten 14 swings-and-misses out of his 101 big league pitches (13.9%) so far whereas Ivan Nova has gotten 15 whiffs all month (481 pitches, 3.1%), for comparison’s sake. The third thing is his demeanor, which we can’t really quantify. He came off as very poised in that Baltimore game, making pitch after pitch when he needed too. If nothing else, it looked good.

The Yankees and Noesi would be sacrificing some development time in this arrangement, yes, but we’re not talking about someone that projects to be a frontline starter. Noesi’s profile has always been more back-end starter because his stuff is good but not great, and if he proves capable in one-inning bursts, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they kept him there indefinitely. I know we’re all scarred by the Yankees’ recently handling of some of their top pitching prospects, but Noesi’s exactly the kind of guy that ends up a reliever or trade fodder for New York.

In a perfect world, Noesi would transform into the 2009 version of Phil Hughes, the long-time starter that shifted to the bullpen in part because he didn’t want to go back to the minors, but also because the team needed him there. Is he going to be as dominant as Phil was two years ago? Almost certainly not, that would be a tough act to follow, but all the team needs Noesi to do right now is settle in as a capable middle reliever and give Girardi another option for sixth and seventh inning work. He doesn’t have to step right in for Soriano, the Yankees have people for that. Just be somebody that can lighten the load on the three right-handers on the end of the game, that’s it. And if it doesn’t work, well at least it was low risk.

Noesi up, Carlyle sent down

In a completely unsurprising move, the Yankees have shored up their bullpen by calling up Hector Noesi. He was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton today, so he’s good for 100 pitches if needed. Buddy Carlyle was send down in the corresponding move, and I’m pretty surprised that he has options left after all these years. I figured that Amaury Sanit would be the guy since he threw 80-something pitches yesterday and won’t be available for a few days. Anyway, perhaps we’ll actually get to see Noesi pitch this time, preferably in a blowout win.