- 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
- IF David Adams took at-bats against Phil Hughes during yesterday’s simulated game and “should” be playing in games later this week according to VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman. He missed big league camp due to a back issue that required an epidural.
- OF Tyler Austin was hit by a pitch in the hand recently, but thankfully x-rays were negative. It’s not anything serious. Austin had his right wrist broken by a pitch back in 2010.
- RHP Ty Hensley is nursing a pulled abdominal muscle and will miss a few weeks. It’s nothing serious but it will likely delay the start of his season. Hensley was the team’s first round pick last year and figures to open 2013 with Low-A Charleston.
- OF Ravel Santana is not playing right now due to stiffness in his right ankle. That’s the same ankle that was basically destroyed when he caught a spike sliding into second base two seasons ago. No word on when he might return to action.
- IF Rob Lyerly has decided to retire and finish his degree. He’s had two shoulder surgeries and just isn’t up for the grind anymore. Lyerly hit .292/.336/.416 with 17 homers in 288 minor league games after being the team’s sixth round pick in 2009. He topped out at Double-A.
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.
Number two starters don’t garner the attention of aces nor generate the same kind of rosterbation as back-end guys, but they’re obviously very important to a team’s success. The Yankees are lucky to have two pitchers who would qualify as a number two in most rotations, though the club figures to slot in a right-hander behind CC Sabathia to break up the lefties.
It’s funny to look back and remember that at this time last year, Hiroki Kuroda was considered a question mark. He was an older pitcher moving from a big park in the NL to a small park in the AL, and that is usually the recipe for a disaster. Instead, the 38-year-old right-hander was the team’s most consistently excellent starter from Opening Day through the postseason, pitching to a 3.32 ERA (3.86 FIP) in a career-high 219.2 innings. Kuroda liked his time in New York so much that he turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs this winter to take a one-year deal worth $15M from the Yankees.
Despite that performance, the combination of age and career-high workload — 236.2 innings between the regular season and postseason — make Kuroda a bit of a question mark going into the season. He battled fatigue last September, so much so that he had to stop throwing his regular between-starts bullpen to stay fresh. Kuroda modified his offseason routine in an effort to stay fresher later into the season, but it remains to be seen how much good that will actually do. Heck, it might even do bad for all we know.
One thing we do know is Kuroda is tough as nails — this story is still mind-blowing — and incredibly savvy on the mound. He battles every time out and his dud starts have nothing to do with a lack of effort of preparation. I do wonder how being away from Russell Martin will impact Kuroda — his worst full season in terms of ground ball and homer rate came the year Martin didn’t catch him, which could just be a coincidence but is obviously something no one wants to repeat — given all the time the two worked together both last year and with the Dodgers. There will have to be some adjustments there on both the pitcher’s and catcher’s part, hopefully a seamless one.
As was the case last summer, the Yankees are going to rely on Kuroda as their number two starter behind Sabathia and will expect the same kind of reliable, consistent performances. He’s a year older with a few more miles on the arm, but he’s not carrying those NL-to-AL, big park-to-small park transition questions. Frankly I think the transition stuff is a greater concern than age, but that’s just me. Kuroda’s smarts and deep arsenal make me feel really good about his chances to repeat last season’s success.
Knocking on the Door
Just like with the ace-caliber guys yesterday, the Yankees won’t have a projected future number two starter in Triple-A this summer. Left-hander Manny Banuelos would have been that guy had he not blown out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery, but he won’t be a factor until 2014 at the earliest. Then again, durability is one of the things keeping from that frontline starter ceiling. I guess that means if he was healthy, Banuelos wouldn’t have projected as a number two, but instead something more. Anyway, the Yankees definitely have some future number twos in the system, but none of them are in the upper minors. Bummer.
The Top Prospect
New York’s top number two starter prospect outside of the injured Banuelos is last summer’s first rounder, righty Ty Hensley. He ranked eighth on my preseason top 30 prospects list. The 19-year-old from Oklahoma has a dominant fastball-curveball mix and the size — listed at 6-foor-4 and 220 lbs. — that suggests future durability, but he lacks command and a third pitch. He needs the latter more than the former to reach his ceiling, both figuring out both in the next few seasons would give him true ace potential. For now he’s someone you close your eyes and see a future number two starter without having to try real hard.
The Deep Sleeper
I’m a big fan of right-hander Gio Gallegos, who didn’t crack my preseason top 30 but did make the not top 30 list as a prospect who could jump into next year’s top 30. His top atrribute is his command and control of a solid fastball-curveball mix, but he needs to work on his third pitch and show he can hold up while starting every five days across a full season. I might be stretching a bit with the “future number two starter” stuff here, but like I said, I’m a big fan of Gallegos. Forgive me for being a little extra optimistic.
* * *
Kuroda is among the best number two starters in the game, a proven veteran with a great package of stuff, savvy, and command. His importance to the Yankees is easy to understate given the bigger names on the roster, but the club needs him to be as strong and reliable as he was a year ago. It’s imperative thanks to the depleted offense. The minor league system offers a few prospects who project as number two type starters down the road, but none at the upper levels of the minors or capable of making an immediate impact.
Keith Law published his list of baseball’s top 110 prospects yesterday, and he followed up today by releasing individual top ten prospects lists for each American League club (subs. req’d). The top five prospects are the same guys from the top 110 yesterday (in the same order), and numbers six through ten are RHP Ty Hensley, LHP Manny Banuelos, RHP Jose Campos, RHP Mark Montgomery, and 2B Angelo Gumbs.
Within the write-up, Law notes the system is top-heavy with high-end guys, and their only real impact prospects for 2013 are Montgomery and RHP Dellin Betances if he takes to the bullpen. He lists Hensley as the organization’s sleeper, saying the shoulder abnormality hasn’t stopped him from running his fastball up to 98, and “if he can just show that kind of stuff and last for a 120-140 inning season in 2013, he’s a likely top-100 guy.” Interestingly enough, he notes the Yankees love OF Ben Gamel, and they expect him to show more power this summer after bulking up thanks to his offseason conditioning program.