Minors Notes: Heathcott, Hensley, Banuelos

Heathcott before he ran into something, I assume. (Presswire)
Heathcott before he ran into something, most likely. (Presswire)

Pitchers and catchers are not due to report for another 27 days, but pre-spring workouts are already underway at the team’s minor league complex in Tampa. Based on their Twitter feeds, a whole bunch of prospects are already in Florida preparing for the upcoming season. Here are some minor league notes courtesy of Chad Jennings. These are the major points, so make sure you click the link for all the info.

  • OF Slade Heathcott had minor knee surgery earlier this offseason and may not be ready for the start of Spring Training. It has not yet been decided if he will return to Double-A Trenton or move up to Triple-A Scranton this year.
  • Two of last year’s first rounders, 3B Eric Jagielo and OF Aaron Judge, could start the year with High-A Tampa or Low-A Charleston. No decision has been made yet. 2B Gosuke Katoh will be held back in Extended Spring Training before joining Short Season Staten Island in June.
  • RHP Ty Hensley (hips) and LHP Manny Banuelos (elbow) are both healthy and ready for Spring Training. They were on normal throwing programs this winter. It is undecided where Hensley and LHP Ian Clarkin will open the season.
  • C J.R. Murphy is staying behind the plate and will not see time at third base this year. “He’s a high caliber defender at a premium position … he’s turned out to be a very good catcher,” said VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman.
  • OF Tyler Austin, meanwhile, will spend time at both infield corners in addition to his usual right field this season. “We’re going to maintain some of that flexibility with him,” said Newman.
  • C/3B Peter O’Brien is considered a catcher and will remain there. He played third base quite a bit last year, but that was experiment that didn’t really work.
  • All of the minor league affiliates announced their coaching staffs in recent weeks. Rather than repeat them all here, I’ll just link you to the press releases: Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, Low-A. If you’ve been following the farm system long enough, some names will be familiar. Lots of ex-prospects are coaches now.
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Cashman’s Press Conference Recap: Girardi, Cano, A-Rod, Sabathia, Luxury Tax, More

Not from today. Presswire)
Not from today. (Presswire)

Brian Cashman held his annual end-of-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon and, unsurprisingly, there were no announcements made. Not even a minor one. He fielded questions for about an hour and in typical YankeeSpeak, the GM said a lot of words that had little substance. The team’s higher-ups have a knack for dodging questions and giving vague answers while talking a whole bunch. Anyway, let’s recap the presser:

On Joe Girardi

  • Cashman confirmed he met with Girardi “for a while” yesterday and will meet with agent Steve Mandell tomorrow to continue talks. “After tomorrow, I think I’ll get a real good feel for where we’re at,” he said. “I think he likes it here. We’re going to give [Girardi] a real good reason to stay.”
  • “His effort and his efforts in pre-game preparation for each series and how he runs Major League Spring Training … he’s been consistently tremendously at it,” said the GM while also crediting Girardi for working with such a poor roster this season. “[His] job as a manager is to make sure these guys compete on a daily basis … I thought he did a great job, him and his staff.”
  • Cashman would not comment when asked if the Cubs (or any other team, for that matter) had contacted the team to ask for permission to speak to Girardi. His contract expires November 1st.
  • Cashman closed the press conference with a preemptive “no comment” about how things go (went?) with Mandell tomorrow. He told the media not to bother to reach out for an update because he won’t give one. It was kinda funny.

[Read more…]

Minors Notes: Hensley, Katoh, Montgomery

Montgomery. (Presswire)
Montgomery. (Presswire)

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.

Injury Updates: Jeter, Youkilis, Nuno, Hensley

Tired of using Jeter photos for injury update posts. (J. Meric/Getty)
Tired of using Jeter photos for injury update posts. (J. Meric/Getty)

Got a bunch of injury updates courtesy of George King, Zach Braziller, Howie Rumberg, and Vince Mercogliano:

  • Derek Jeter (calf) played catch over the weekend and will hit off a tee and soft toss today. The Cap’n is still a few days away from running, however. Joe Girardi said he expects Jeter to go down to Tampa to continue his rehab when the Yankees start their quick little three-game road trip on Friday.
  • Kevin Youkilis (back) has “been rehabbing away, nothing fun, no baseball things yet.” He is roughly eight weeks out from surgery and was originally expected to start taking dry swings after 8-10 weeks. Youkilis remains unlikely to return this year.
  • Travis Hafner (shoulder) is not yet ready to start baseball activities, according to Girardi. “He feels better,” said the skipper while also making it sound like the team’s rehab DH is unlikely to return this season.
  • Vidal Nuno (groin) started a throwing program according to his Twitter feed. Brian Cashman recently said they don’t expect him back this year, but I wonder if he’ll progress enough to come back as a short reliever when rosters expand in September.
  • Ty Hensley (hip) also started a throwing program according to his Twitter feed. He’s coming off hip surgery and is expected to miss the entire season. Obviously the Yankees will be very conservative with last year’s first round pick. Hensley is unlikely to see a real game until next season.

Newman: Ty Hensley expected to miss all of 2013

Via Chad Jennings: VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed right-hander Ty Hensley is likely to miss the entire 2013 season after having surgery to repair labrum damage in his hip. “Spring Training,” said Newman when asked about a target return date.

Hensley, 19, was the team’s first round pick (30th overall) last summer. He agreed to a $1.6M bonus shortly after the draft, but a pre-signing physical revealed a shoulder “abnormality” and the bonus was adjusted down to $1.2M. I can’t say this is the most surprising news in the world — hip surgery is always pretty serious and when Yankees’ pitching prospects get hurt, they usually stay hurt for a while. I think we’re beyond the point of calling all these minor league pitching injuries bad luck.

Mailbag: Qualifying Offers, Extensions, Hensley

Four questions for you this week, the first mailbag of the new season. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us any questions or comments or links throughout the week.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Evan asks: How many Yankees do you see getting qualifying offers after this season? I would think Phil Hughes, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, and outside chance of Kevin Youkilis if he continues to hit the ball like he has this spring (unlikely but a possibility). Is it worth getting excited that between this year and next year the Yanks could really build a top-five farm system?

The qualifying offers were worth $13.3M last winter but they will go up this coming offseason. They’re based on the average of the previous year’s top 125 salaries, and salaries are only going up. Estimates for qualifying offers this winter are in the $15M range and that’s a big chunk of change.

Cano is the only no-brainer of the group. He could hit like .270/.330/.430 this year and they would still make him a qualifying offer because of his track record (and the fact that it’s only a one-year deal). I’m of the belief that they’ll sign him to an extension before that times comes, rendering the qualifying offer idea moot, and I thought that even before the recent agent change.

Assuming the other four guys play as expected — league average year from Hughes, 35+ homer pace from Granderson, sub-4.00 ERA from Kuroda, .360 OBP and 20 or so homers from Youkilis — I don’t think any of them would get qualifying offers. Kuroda probably has the best chance, but he would need to repeat last year’s effort again. I do think Hughes will get a nice big free agent contract (four years, $56M?), but teams tend to be risk-averse in these situation. I think the Yankees would pass.

Granderson, assuming he looks like 2012 first half Curtis and not 2012 second half Curtis once healthy, would be awesome on a one-year, ~$15M contract. That’s in a vacuum though, not for a team trying to cut payroll. Given that plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold by 2014, I think the Yankees will play it very safe with the qualifying offers and not risk any huge (and unwanted) one-year contracts. Cano’s the only qualifying offer lock if he makes it to free agency.

Mark asks: Should the Yanks start to rethink their austerity plan in light of the recent extensions just signed by Justin Verlander and Elvis Andrus? Once/if Clayton Kershaw signs an extension with the Dodgers, I’m not sure who the Yanks will be targeting with all their unspent salary dollars after they reach their magical $189 million limit next year.

Yeah, same here. The Yankees are cutting back on spending at a time when the game is flush with cash and other teams are spending more than ever. It’s a poorly timed, poorly conceived, and (to date) poorly executed plan on their part. The Yankees have a natural advantage over the competition because of their market and they’re choosing to ignore it. That’s fine, ownership can do whatever they want, but fans don’t have to like it.

Free agency as we know it is changing due to these extensions, but I do think someone like Scott Boras will see this as an opportunity. He could be the only guy with star players in free agency the next few years, creating a quasi-monopoly on high-end talent. Teams will still want to acquire star players every winter and if only one or two are available in free agency, the bidding war will be fierce.

If the Yankees do decide to reinvest some of the saved cash in the team down the line, I’m not sure where they could spend it outside of really overpaying free agents or their own players. Then  again, I don’t expect the Yankees to reinvest that cash anytime soon. This strikes me as a pure money-saving move on the team’s part.

Jeff asks: Assuming he has no setbacks, what’s a best case scenario for Ty Hensley in regards to innings pitched this year?

(Photo via Bronx Pinstripes)
(Photo via Bronx Pinstripes)

Well, the Yankees are Team Setback, so I’m not sure that’s a safe assumption. Hensley had surgery to repair an impingement in his right hip earlier this week — that means the head of his femur was misshaped (I learned that thanks to Alex Rodriguez) — and his reportedly timetable is 2-3 months. Given his age and prospect status, I’d bet lots of money on the Yankees being conservative with his rehab.

So, let’s say he takes the full three months and returns to the mound in early-July. Hensley would likely join either Short Season Staten Island or Low-A Charleston, who would then have about ten weeks left in their season. Starting every fifth day with an average of five innings a start puts him in line for 60-70 innings this year. Add in a playoff start or two and maybe he gets up to 75. That’s not too bad, but I’ll take the under just because I expect the Yankees to be conservative. If Hensley can get 50 innings under his belt after surgery this summer, I’ll consider it a win.

Travis asks: Do you think the Yankees are gun shy about bringing prospects up (position player prospects)? I feel that ever since the Melky Cabrera promotion, they have been hesitant.

Yes and no. I say no because the Yankees haven’t had too many position player prospects worth calling up — every club has Melky Mesa and Corban Josephs, they aren’t special — in recent years. The only real egregious example was Jesus Montero in 2011, when it was obvious the team needed a new DH by like, mid-May. Obviously Jorge Posada was a legacy player that situation was more complicated that the typical call-up.

That said, I do agree they are gun shy about promoting prospects to the big leagues in general. I think there’s a fear of failure on the team’s part, which might stem from the Ian Kennedy/Phil Hughes disaster in 2008. That seems like the traumatic event that scarred the team, so to speak. I’m not saying they should have used Adam Warren instead of signing Hiroki Kuroda or anything like that, but for a team that has preached player development and austerity in recent years, they sure do have a knack for not giving young players a chance unless it’s an absolute emergency.

King: Ty Hensley out 2-3 months following hip surgery

Via George King: Right-hander Ty Hensley will miss 2-3 months after having surgery to repair a bone impingement in his right hip today. “He had a pulled abdominal and it turned out this was the cause,” said VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman. Dr. Bryan Kelly, who performed Alex Rodriguez‘s recent hip surgery, will do the procedure.

Hensley, 19, was the Yankees’ first round pick (30th overall) last summer. He agreed to a $1.6M bonus shortly after the draft, but a pre-signing physical revealed a shoulder “abnormality” and the bonus was adjusted down to $1.2M. The Oklahoma native allowed four earned runs with 14 strikeouts in 12 innings for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees after signing. Hensley ranked eighth on my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List and it sounds like he might be healthy in time for the short season leagues in June. Who knows with hips though.