Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How many games will Jeter play at shortstop this year?

Derek Jeter is in decline. Not so much at the plate - he probably has at least one more .300 season in him - but in the field.

During his career, he has only "started" at DH in 29 games - pretty incredible if you think about it. However, he has been the DH 20 times in the past three years, including 10 times last season.

I get it, Derek Jeter will always be a shortstop. However, if he wants to be an everyday player, he may have to sacrifice some time in the field.

Derek played in 122 games last year and was injured at times last year. Assuming he stays healthy (no major injuries), and plays about 140 games, I could see him only DH'ing 15 times.

Here is why:

1) Shortstop takes a toll on your body. Other than catcher and pitcher, no position requires more movement in the field than shortstop.

2) DH is thin. After Jesus Montero was traded to Seattle, it left a hole at DH. As of right now, it looks like DH will be a "by-committee" approach featuring A-Rod and Derek as leading candidates to split some time there.

3) Derek's contract. Jeter will turn 38 in June and is in the middle of a 3 year deal (with an option for a 4th season). Do the Yankees want to overuse him this year, of take a more conservative approach and go for longevity. For a guy who most likely wants to play past his contract, I'm starting Jeter at DH more than a few times!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Yanks Ink Manny Delcarmen to a MiLB Deal

Per Joel Sherman, the Yankees have signed relief pitcher Manny Delcarmen to a minor league deal. You may remember him from his days in the Red Sox pen (when he was actually not that bad) before he was shipped to the Rockies. In 2011, he spent time with the Triple A affiliates of the Rangers and Mariners. He put up some good strikeout numbers, some decent walk numbers, but got hit around quite a bit. Let's not overreact to this because it is just a milb deal and it's only for depth purposes. I'll take practically anyone on that type of deal since there's so little risk.

Bounce Back Candidate: Alex Rodriguez

He's easily the most criticized player on the Yankees. Maybe it's because of the contract, maybe it's because of how good he was at such a young age, or maybe it's something else. Whatever the reason may be, he's the one fans love to hate and the one that all of the team's troubles fall on. If you ask me, it got absolutely ridiculous during the playoffs last season when he wasn't hitting and everyone wanted his head; as if he were the sole reason the Yankees were losing. But that's not what this is about and that's another topic for another day.

(The Cardboard Connection)
Because of the knee injury Alex suffered in July and the poor end to his season, people forget that he was almost a .300 hitter through the first three months of the year. Right before he went under the knife he was hitting .295/.366/.485 with 13 homers, which if you ask me, is pretty darn good. Maybe it's not what we've come to expect out of A-Rod power-wise, but he was still hitting and the loss of power could easily be attributed to the partially torn meniscus in his right knee.

Sure he wasn't the same hitter when he came back (.196/.369/.353 in September), but at least he was still getting on base. It's not like he completely lost his ability at the plate. A lot of this can be put on the shoulders of rust and not being 100%. Remember, only a few days after he came back from injury, he hurt his thumb and had to be sidelined for about another week. It's not like he had plenty of reps heading into October.

Another reason I feel Alex can easily bounce back is because he still looks like he can move pretty well. Despite his bat going cold in the ALDS, he still looked very good at third base. He moved laterally and forward and back pretty well for a guy who had knee surgery just a few months prior. It may not be something that's objective, but it's definitely worth noting. As old as he is, he still has ability left; we shouldn't be saying that he has nothing left because that is absolutely not true.

Obviously the big issue with Alex is his health, and maybe he won't be able to stay healthy, but he has entire off-season to rest up and prepare for Spring Training. The Yankees aren't exactly set at designated hitter so with some flexibility there, they could use him there which could help keep him stay on the field. Say what you want about Alex and his contract, but he can still produce for the middle of this order and I think he can have a big year in 2012. Do I think he's still that 30 homers/100 RBI guy? No, but he can still be a big piece of this offense.

Yanks In Serious Talks With Bill Hall

Per MLB Trade Rumors, the Yankees are in serious talks with Bill Hall. When I first saw this, I just thought, "Why?" But after a little more thinking, it can't be a bad thing to take him in on a minor league deal. Hall does have some value in the fact that he can play all over the diamond and that he's a veteran (if you're into that sort of thing).

In 2011, Hall hit .211/.261/.314 in 62 games with the Astros and Giants and also spent some time in Triple A. Once again, as long as this winds up being a MiLB, I really don't mind.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Curtis Granderson's 2012 season will upset Yankee fans

Last year, Curtis Granderson had a career year. He finished 4th in A.L. MVP voting with 41 home runs, and 25 stolen bases. Other than Robinson Cano, he was probably the most consistent Yankee hitter.

Despite all of this, I expect Granderson to disappoint us in 2012.

Here is why:

1) Regression to the mean. For all of you statistics fans out there, you know that anytime there is an outlier, the next result should deviate toward the mean. For Granderson, who is coming off the best year in his 8 MLB seasons, there is no reason to expect otherwise.

Sure, some may say Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has done wonders for Granderson and helped him "rediscover" his hitting prowess. I say otherwise. For a player that hit 41 homeruns (per season average of 28) and drove in 119 (per season average of 81), it is unreasonable to think "The Grandy Man" can put up similar numbers.

2) The Yankees lineup is older and weaker. Last season, Granderson was often batting anywhere between 1 and 7 in the Yankees batting order. This season, I expect him to remain in the 1-5 range (if you think the order will be Jeter, Granderson, Cano, Tex, and A-Rod). In my opinion, this is as good of a top five as any team will put out right now. However, Tex and A-Rod are not as good as they used to be, and batting in front of Cano means that pitchers are going to pitch safely (more walks?) so that Cano has less of a chance to drive in runs. I cannot see 119 RBI's for a guy batting second.

3) Not as much to prove. Granderson is not in a contract year and has not been for a few seasons. That said, he is in the 2nd to last year of a deal that has an option for next year and will be making $10 million this season. Curtis has already shown the ability to play in New York, so what does he have to worry? After all, he doesn't have to show the same ability he did last season because he does not have as much to prove.

I hope that Granderson puts up 2011-like numbers this season. I just cannot see it happening.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yankees Grade "C" Prospects to Watch in 2012

I was reading this article by John Sickels over at Minor League Ball and it got me thinking about the grade “C” of the Yankees who I really like for 2012 and think could have potential breakouts, or in other words some pretty deep sleepers to keep an eye on.

1. Claudio Custodio, SS/2B: .325/.433/.414, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 22:40 BB:K (GCL)

Custodio has tremendous speed as displayed by his swiping of 26 bags in just 39 games. I am not sure if I would classify it as game changing speed, but it is very close. It is kind of strange that he struck out so much because the scouting report says he has a good eye, and he did walk a lot, so I don't know what to make of that just yet. I love his ability to get on base and create runs, the only questions I have are about his defense. He posted solid to slight above-average range factors at both shortstop and second, but was VERY error prone at short because of his arm. Still, even at second base he could be an extremely valuable piece.

2. Jose Rosario, SS: .311/.354/.492, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 7:22 BB:K (GCL/Charleston)

The diminutive shortstop does a little bit of everything and showed some surprising power this year. If you take out his five games in Charleston his stat line looks phenomenal, .331/.372/.529. He doesn't strike out a lot (but doesn't walk a lot either), has shown the ability to swipe bags (13 in 48 games), hit for average, and hit for power (18 extra base hits in 48 games). The stats on his defense are a bit odd, but with his size and the numbers he has posted it looks like he has a good chance at sticking at the shortstop position.

Hasn't received a whole lot of love from anyone, but my eye will be on him very, very closely in 2012.

3. Gabe Encinas, RHP: 3-0, 5.08 ERA, 51.1 IP, 18/46 BB/K (GCL)

Not the prettiest ERA in the world, but Encinas showed that he could do some things well in 2011. He has a nice low-90's fastball, a solid curveball, and a pretty good changeup considering his age. He definitely pitched better than his ERA shows and could post some pretty nice numbers if he spends 2012 in Staten Island.

He seems to be a bit behind the development curve of the other top high school guys the Yankees took in 2010, which could possibly have been because the Yankees wanted to take extra time to help him work on his mechanics that were shoddy coming out of high school. Note: this is complete speculation on my part.

Isaias Tejeda
4. Isaias Tejeda, C: .331/.402/.563, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 11:20 BB:K (GCL/Staten Island)

Another catching prospect with some pop is exactly what the Yankees needed. It doesn't sound like he will have close to the power of Jesus Montero or Gary Sanchez, but it should eclipse that of J.R. Murphy. His pitch recognition is also very advanced for someone is the lower levels, which is something I like in my catchers. He has a lot of things working for him offensively.

Tejada's defensive reports say he has good receiving skills and footwork behind the plate with an average arm, but he threw out just 14% of runners so I can't buy that just yet. He did throw out 34% in the DSL in 2010 so hopefully this year can show us which of the two was a better representation of his defensive ability.

5. Bryan Mithcell, RHP: 1-3, 4.09 ERA, 61.2 IP, 31/59 BB/K (Staten Island)

Mitchell has been okay over the last two years, but has been held back because of his command. There is no doubting his stuff and the reports even say his fastball has improved a tick since signing and I just have a gut feeling the overall package will improve in 2012. He is probably the most well known "sleeper" on this list, but he is also the one who has the biggest chance to take a major leap in the prospect world.

P.S. I wanted to include Vidal Nuno because of his WHIP, but I know absolutely nothing else about him (sorry inside joke).

Bounce Back Candidate: Phil Hughes

Last week, Nick brought up AJ Burnett as a possible bounce back candidate and for the next couple of weeks leading up to Spring Training and the season, we will highlight a few more of these guys. These are players that had a down year last season that have a good chance of rebounding. I'm gonna stay in the starting rotation for this one and talk about Phil Hughes.

To say that Hughes' 2011 was a disappointment would be a pretty big understatement. Once ranked as the best pitching prospect in baseball, he had something of a break out year in 2010 pitching to a 4.19 ERA while striking out about seven and a half per nine innings and walking less than three per nine. A lot of people slated him to be the Bombers number two starter in 2011. Many thought he was going to finally realize his potential and take that next step forward and represent young Yankees starting pitching. He would finally be the guy that the Yanks 'developed correctly.'

There was one problem however. Hughes threw around 90 more innings in 2010 than he did in 2009, which is quite an increase to put on him. As luck would have it, he would have a case of dead arm early in the season. Instead of resting him right away, they decided to keep pitching him and hopefully as the weather warmed up, so would his arm. This was not the case. Not only did Phil lose a couple of mph off his fastball, but he also lost his command. Also, without the extra velocity, his cutter became essentially useless making him a two-pitch pitcher. It was a recipe for disaster from the beginning.

So they DLed him and gave him a ton of rest to get the inflammation down in his arm. When he came back, he was better, but the same. It is clear that Hughes wasn't healthy last year so we can't expect him to be that bad going forward. That being said, we also can't expect him to return to 2010 form. His fastball and cutter should be back along with a much tighter curveball. A pitcher doesn't just lose two strikeouts per nine innings in a year.

(Click to enlarge)

You can also make the point that if he is given the number five starter job, he won't have much pressure on him due to the new front-line depth that the team has acquired this off-season. I'm sure if this will actually have an effect on him, but it definitely won't hurt. There is also the point that Hughes was a bit out of shape when he reported to camp last Spring. That definitely couldn't have helped his performance and he has reportedly been working out all Winter long which should give him an edge right from the get-go.

Of course, the one thing I haven't mentioned is the fact that a lot of this hinges on the fact that he will be the number five starter in the upcoming season. He has the most upside of any of them candidates and can be a part of the rotation for years to come. There is a chance that he does wind up in the pen and if so, it will be harder to consider him a bounce back candidate.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yanks DFA Kevin Whelan

Per Jon Heyman, the Yankees have designated relief pitcher Kevin Whelan for assignment to make room for Hiroki Kuroda on the 40-man roster. The Kuroda signing was made official today. This isn't that much of a surprise as Whelan seemed like an obvious candidate to get the axe. He saved 23 games for Triple A Scranton while striking out more than nine per innings and a little more than two per nine. Control has always been the issue with the 27 year old as he walked five in 1.2 big league innings.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Number Five Starter Conundrum

The dust of this off-season is starting to settle with the hot stove stuff all but done, most arbitration cases being settled, and everyone looking forward to Spring Training. The most exciting thing to watch this Spring will be who will wind up getting the number five starter job. With the first four slots in the starting rotation essentially locked up, three guys will be fighting for one spot. Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, and AJ Burnett will most likely be pinned up against each other to see who will get it.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
If you listened to this weekend's podcast, you heard me and Nick talk a little bit about this. I feel that AJ Burnett will get the starting job, Hughes will be shifted into the bullpen, and Garcia will be traded. Brian Cashman did say that he was going to look to see if he could move one of his extra pitchers for a bat before testing free agency. Garcia makes sense because he could fill in the back end of a rotation for a contender and give them quality innings. I feel like Burnett's contract in not movable unless the Yanks are willing to eat a substantial amount of it, which doesn't look to be the case and Hughes doesn't have much value at this point.

Many Yankee fans want Phil Hughes to be the starter just because so much has been invested in him and they want to see him live up to the hype. However, that is no reason to give him the job. He has his fastball velocity and command of all his pitches back, then that's another thing, but that should be the only reason he should get a rotation spot. If he does not get his stuff back though, he will probably be banished to bullpen where he had success in 2009. If put there, hopefully, he can re-capture that magic and contribute.

That leaves AJ Burnett. And I know all of you think you have seen this show before, but this time it has a different cast. In the past, AJ has been relied on as a front line starter and hasn't lived up to it. However, with the acquisitions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, he doesn't need to to be that guy. He can just be the durable guy he has been the last three years who has given the team 30+ starts and 185+ innings each season in Pinstripes.

Sure the walks and homers are a problem, but he doesn't need to be great. Over the weekend, Nick wrote him up as a bounce back candidate and one of the things he brought up was his HR/FB rate and how it skyrocketed in 2011 from around 11% (about his career % to 17%). This probably isn't sustainable and should regress which should help him out quite a bit.

If no moves are made and Garcia stays with the team, an interesting decision will have to be made. Freddy's stuff doesn't project well to the bullpen and he has the track record for the job. These things do, however, have a way of working themselves out on their own so let's not complain about having a surplus of pitching.

Recapping the Yankee Career of A.J. Burnett and why this season may be his best in Pinstripes

A.J. Burnett's three seasons in the Bronx have been interesting. He signed a 5 year, $82.5 million dollar deal prior to the 2009 season. You may remember that offseason because the Bombers also inked C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira to mega deals and then proceeded to win the World Series that year.

When the Yankees signed Burnett, he was considered a safe signing because of his experience in the A.L. East (Toronto) and also because he would never be expected to carry the load as a top 2 starter (at the time, the rotation was C.C., Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, and even Joba Chamberlain).

When Wang was sent down to the minors after starting the 2009 season about as badly as any pitcher in MLB history, and Joba did not meet high expectations the Yankees moved Burnett into the top 2. He performed well, but not much better than the season before (similar innings pitched, similar era, similar WHIP, strikeouts close to 200, close to the same number of walks). In many ways, the Yankees got what they wanted out of A.J.

What happened after 2009? Well, for one, the Yankees re-acquired Javier Vasquez (which was a disaster - again). Joba showed he was not able to start (but his rotation spot was eventually taken by Phil Hughes), Andy Pettitte got hurt (after starting the year 11-3) and then retired.

In other words, the Yankees started to rely more heavily on A.J. going into 2010. It's no surprise that a 33 year old pitcher who never won has more than 18 games (only did that once, in 2008) did not perform up to the high standards. In fact, A.J. had an awful year - He went 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA (more than 1 run above his career average).

Going into 2011, it was obvious the Yankees needed to make some upgrades at pitcher. They did not sign anyone of note during the offseason (though Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, the two Yankee signings, pitched very well during the season). Phil Hughes pitched well in 2010, but after having a terrible start to 2011, A.J. was still expected to be the number 2 starter.

You may be wondering why I am making such a big deal about a pitcher's place in a rotation. In my opinion, a pitcher's state of mind is most important to his performance. Well, in the case of Burnett, who has high expectations and often puts too much pressure on himself, being 2nd in the rotation behind C.C. was not a good situation for him. It is no surprise that A.J. did not have a good 2011 (ERA over 5.00 again).

The past two seasons have led much of baseball to doubt A.J. In my opinion, going into this season, A.J. has the least amount of pressure of any Yankee pitcher. Why? Because nobody expects much of him. He was in a similar mind-set going into 2009. Sure, he had just signed a big contract with the Yankees, but he was still the 4th starter (and was even considered a 5th by many pro-Joba Chamberlain fans). As the 2012 season approaches, the Yankees rotation will most likely be: C.C., Pineda, Kuroda, Nova, and then either A.J., Phil Hughes, or Freddy Garcia. I caution the Yankees to not give up on A.J. in the coming weeks. They have been rumored to be in trade talks for a DH, and most Yankee fans would like to see A.J. out of the Bronx before spring training. Why not trade A.J.? If history repeats, this may be A.J.'s opportunity to regain the form that has escaped him over the past two seasons.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yankees Avoid Arbitration With Russell Martin

After the Yankees said farewell to one catcher, they locked up another for one more year. Russell Martin has decided to avoid arbitration by agreeing to a one year deal. He is expected to be the full-time catcher. He settled at $7.5MM and can make up to $100K more with incentives, according to David Waldstein.

The Yankees have settled with Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Brett Gardner already. Boone Logan is the last remaining player that negotiations need to be finalized with.

John Sickels Ranks Yankees Farm System 16th

For the first time ever, John Sickels of Minor League Ball has released a formal ranking of the 30 minor league systems. He put the Yankees right in the middle of the pack as the 16th best system saying this:
16) New York YankeesYou can make a case to rank them as high as 12 or 13. Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are strong Grade B prospects for me and there is a nice balance between hitting and pitching.
Matt won't agree with this, but it is hard to argue the Yankees should be any higher than this looking at the teams ahead. Bryce Harper alone has the Washington Nationals ahead of the Yankees (not bothering to even count Anthony Rendon or the rest of that terrific 2011 draft cast), the Colorado Rockies would probably be below the Yankees had they not snagged Drew Pomeranz from the Cleveland Indians, the Mets top to pitchers edge out the Yankees top two and then I think the Mets just have a bit more upside which is what got them the edge, and then in my opinion the Pittsburgh Pirates begin a new tear of top level talent.

I was actually a bit surprised Sickels put the Mets above the Yankees, but that would have definitely been different had Jesus Montero still been apart of the farm. 

Sickels links to two rankings of farm systems that fans of the site formulated using Sickels's grades and they had the Yankees 8th (counting Montero) and 16th (not counting Montero).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Yanks Will Try Trading For A Bat First

Per Marc Carig, the Yankees are going to be checking the trade market for a bat before anything else. Brian Cashman was quoted in the article as saying that he might use his excess pitching to acquire someone. To me, it could be anyone of AJ Burnett, Freddy Garcia, or Phil Hughes. Let the speculation begin. Who do you think gets the axe if anyone?

Joba Chamberlain: It's Now Or Never

Last week, the New York Yankees avoided arbitration with relievers David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain. If there is any year for Chamberlain to prove his value at the back end of the bullpen, 2012 is his last chance.

He missed the majority of the 2011 campaign due to a elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Before he was put on the disabled list, the Yankees would never know which reliever would come out of the bullpen. There would be very few appearances made by the ace reliever seen when he first came into the majors and other times games would quickly turn around in favor of the opposition.

Consistency is the key for Chamberlain and should be at the heart of his focus entering Spring Training. When the "Joba Rules" were put in order in 2007, he appeared to be a more relaxed pitcher. Then the rules were put aside and his arm was never the same.

The blame game can be played and put on Joe Torre for having a history of blowing out reliever's arms and making the "Joba Rules" public to the media or even Chamberlain himself for being in a rockstar mentality after his stellar debut.

Mental mistakes can get to you and so can gaining weight. Chamberlain entering 2011 Spring Training noticeably overweight and was annoyed by the questions as opposed to being open about getting back into the workout swing of things. His demise and fall from the graceful start in 2007 can be attributed to many things.

The Yankees have Chamberlain on the payroll for 2012 and 2013, before he hits the free agent market. This is the same pitcher that the front office refused to package in previous blockbuster deals. He still has some value and the front office still has hope he can pan out the way they wanted him to. A trade will definitely be imminent by July or next winter, if his performance is subpar to "Bridge to Mariano" standards.

Crazed fans would go out on a limb and say that the rotation is still an option for the right-handed pitcher. Bouncing him back and forth again will only do more damage than good for his mental game. Sure, his numbers are similar to Gio Gonzalez as a starter. Coming off Tommy John surgery, the last thing needed is to push him for more innings.

Early on in his career, Mariano Rivera returned strong after his Tommy John surgery and now stands as the all-time saves leader in Major League Baseball history. If Chamberlain can turn himself around, the Yankees could be in for a treat they haven't tasted since 2007.

I'm not sold on Nova

A pitcher with a 16-4 record is often considered dominant - when he takes the mound, his team has a better chance to win than with an average pitcher.

However, if I told you this pitcher, on average, received 4.42 runs to work with per game (through mid-September of last season) and only went 4-4 in games he received less than 4.42 runs per game from his teammates, would you still believe he was a star?

The pitcher I am talking about is Ivan Nova. And, quite frankly (to quote Stephen A. Smith), I am a little bit sick of hearing what an great year he had in 2011. Statistically, Ivan Nova's year was, at best, good.

I know what you're thinking: Any 24 year old who wins 16 games is destined for stardom. I am not one of these people. Here are the facts about Ivan Nova's 2011 season:
1) He struck out less than 100 batters last season (98 to be exact).
2) He, on average, pitched only slightly over 6 innings per game in games he started.
3) He walked about 3 runners per game last season.
4) He threw 11 wild pitches, 9th worst in the AL (at least he wasn't A.J. Burnett, who led the league with 25 - yikes!).

In my opinion, these are not the stats of a bonafide ace, or even a number 2 starter. In my mind, these stats are befitting of a good rookie pitcher.

To be fair, here are some of the bright spots of Nova's 2011.

1) He only allowed 13 home runs in 165.1 innings pitched
2) He allowed slightly less than 1 hit per inning.
3) He had a 3.70 ERA, which is very good for the AL.

Nova is not the guy whose stats jump out at you. He is a good control pitcher with a lot of room for improvement. I hate to make this comparison, but his stats are very similar to Chien Ming during the 2006 and 2007 season. Wang posted a 3.63 and 3.70 ERA (compared with Nova's 3.70) respectively and won 19 games both years. When a pitcher posts this types of ERA and wins 19 games, it is obvious his team is scoring (and scoring early in the game) to give the pitcher a chance to pick up a win.

There is a particular word that scouts and fans so endearingly tag to players whom they expect to succeed, or improve, eventually. That word is "potential". In my opinion, potential is an empty word because it only tags expectations to players. It is clear Nova has potential. It's just up to him to prove whether he lives up to his reputation as the "Super Nova".

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Yankees Interested in Gerardo Concepcion

Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that Cuban defector Gerardo Concepcion has officially declared for free agency and the Yankees are one of the five teams expressing the most interest in the 18-year-old left handed pitcher.
Rojas also says  Concepcion will put on a training session Thursday at the Yankees facility in the Dominican Republic.

The 64,000 dollar question is who is Gerardo Concepcion?

There is not much out there about him so I am guessing we will find out a lot more come Thursday, but what we do know as of now is he is being described as a finesse lefty. His fastball is reportedly at 89-91 mph, which if true is actually pretty good considering his age and his 6'1", 175 lbs frame, that leaves some room for projection.

According to this article Concepcion described his best tool as control and goes on to say that he has a good curve and efficient slider. His stats as seen below don't necessarily back this claim 100%.

18 10 3 3.36 21 16 101.2 103 42 38 6 43 53 9.1 3.8 4.7

For someone who is supposed to have great command and a great curveball he walks a fair amount of batters and doesn't really strike out anyone. Granted he is extremely young so he does get the benefit of the doubt, but I would hope the Yankees don't commit too much if they choose to go after him. He definitely has potential winning the Rookie of the Year award in Cuba, however, I am not getting ready to jump all aboard the Concepcion bandwagon just yet.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bounce Back Candidate: A.J. Burnett

Earlier in the podcast Matt and I briefly talked about who was going to ultimately win the Yankees No. 5 starter job. We both pretty much agreed that A.J. Burnett would win by default, but a deeper look shows that Burnett is actually poised for a nice bounce back year.

I mentioned that Burnett’s 17% HR/FB rate last year looked extremely fluky and was way off his career average. A deeper look shows that was the highest home run rate in Major League Baseball since 2007 when who else, but A.J. Burnett posted a 17.7% HR/FB. Burnett followed that year up by going 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA over 221.1 innings. The year was fueled by a much, much better 9.6% HR/9.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
A big difference since that 2008 season, however, is the fact his fastball has dipped 1.6 mph and the decreased velocity has seemed to really have an affect Burnett. He tried to adjust by throwing his fastball an astonishing 10% less than average and rely more on his changeup.  He attempted to become a three-pitch guy for the first time and it failed. If he gets back to throwing primarily fastball and curveballs he could return to being a decent pitcher.

The reason I actually see him having the bounce back is because his peripherals where no different last year than normal. His 8.18 K/P and 3.92 BB/9 were a little worse than his average, but not by much. The hits allowed were also no different; the only major change was the home runs. A inch here or an inch there and things could look very different.

I am not trying to say Burnett will be a miracle and carry the Yankees, but there is every chance he performs like a No. 3 starter in the No. 5 slot. That is something that cannot be taken lightly. His FIP last year was 4.77 and his xFIP was even better at 3.86. Assuming he is healthy I don’t see why he can’t win 10+ games and throw a 190+ innings with an ERA in the low-to-mid 4’s.

Pineda/Montero, Number Five Starter, DH

This was our second podcast and I think it went a little better than the first time. This time we talked about the MLB team and we had a lot to discuss. Nick and I talked about the Montero/Pineda trade, the Hiroki Kuroda signing, what we think will happen with the number five starter, and what we think will happen with the designated hitter situation. Give it a listen and feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Or download it here.

Or you can download (and subscribe to) the podcast iTunes here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

News and Notes: Posada, Gardner, Pena

Here are just some Yankees notes from today:

  • Mark Hale reports that Jorge Posada will announce his retirement on Tuesday. We had heard rumors that it was going to happen and it finally has. Thanks for a great career, Jorgie.
  • Brett Gardner and the team were able to avoid arbitration today with a one year deal worth $2.8 million. He originally filed for $3.2 million, which I didn't think he was gonna get. It's always nice to avoid the arbitration process. (Link)
  • Carlos Pena was signed to a one year deal worth $7.25 million. This was pretty far out of the Yanks range so I'm surprised they didn't wind up with him. Johnny Damon is looking more and more likely. (Link)

A Small Look At The Budget And The Next Few Winters

A few weeks ago, I wrote a response to a post written by our own Matt Guilder and an article written by the NY Times Tyler Kepner. Both said that the Yankees were gonna stand pat for the rest of the winter and wait to punce on next year's abundance of free agent starters. I decided to attack the topic from the other side. I said that the Yanks should get someone now so they weren't forced to next off-season and possibly closed out like they were with Cliff Lee. As we all know, they traded for Michael Pineda last week, which gives them a little more flexibility for next year.

With what should be a pretty strong rotation coming out of 2012, the front office won't need to sign a Cole Hamels or a Matt Cain. The one point I forgot to bring up was how this effected the budget. Bringing in a guy like Pineda who is going to be very cheap for a long time, allows the Bombers to have a realistic chance to stay below the $189 million payroll threshold that we've heard so much about. If they didn't get him and they had to sign a Hamels to $20 million annual contract, they would have had virtually no chance to get below the cut off. 

Rafael Soriano and AJ Burnett coming off the books will help, but we also know they're going to have to re-sign Robinson Cano and possibly Curtis Granderson. This allows them to be a little more liberal about paying them and therefore helps them keep them. 

When I first saw that the Yankees wanted to cut payroll by this much in only a few years I scoffed at the idea and thought there would be no way. But this trade shows me that they are taking this very seriously. The amount of money they can save by getting under this amount is a lot and I'm sure they'll be able to inject it back into the team. I hope I can see the day when the Yankees are no longer paying a ton of money in luxury taxes.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pineda's Future

You can find several types of reaction to the Jesus Montero/Michael Pineda swap on the internet. Whether it says that the trade is good or bad, or whether it looks at it through a different view point, you can read just about anything about it. What most seem to focus on is how the Yankees have re-vamped their rotation for the 2012 season with the acquisitions of Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. But what about the future?

There's no doubt that Pineda was a great move for the future of the rotation because he is cheap and can slide right behind CC Sabathia, but also because he still has some room for improvement. A lot of people have been talking about how he doesn't get enough ground balls (36.3% in 2011) and how he gives up too many fly balls (44.8% in 2011), but not about the good he has done. His 2011 home/road splits, his numbers against the AL East, and 2011 second half aren't the only things that should be looked at when looking at this trade.

As a 22 year old rookie in the big leagues, he struck out more than nine per nine innings while walking a little more than two per nine in 171 innings. Those are some sick inputs for someone so young and with his mid 90's fastball and knock out slider, there's no reason to doubt that it's sustainable. 

On Jim Bowden's XM radio show, Brian Cashman said that if Pineda doesn't develop into a number one, the trade would not have been worth it. While I can see his point, I don't think this is necessarily true. If Pineda thrives as a number two behind CC over the next five years, I think it will be a successful move. However, there is one thing in particular I think he can do to take his game to the next level and that is improving his change up.

As I said before, Pineda features two very good pitches in his fastball and slider, but a third pitch will be necessary if he wants to be an ace. He threw a change up last season only 6.3% of the time as a show me pitch at 87-88 mph. He's gonna have to take it up a level in 2012 and beyond. I'm not saying it has to be a plus pitch, but it needs to be average and it needs to be able to make a few bats miss. It could turn out to be a nice weapon against lefties (since he already has the slider for righties) and since change ups are usually thrown down in the zone, it could help raise that ground ball rate in the smaller confines of Yankee Stadium.

At age 23, Pineda isn't what he's gonna be yet. He had a very good year in 2011 and hopefully he can build off of the K/BB ratio and work on his change up. As excited as I was to see Jesus Montero develop into a great hitter, I'm just as excited to see what this new front end of the rotation can do.

Top 5 Artists That Should Perform At Yankee Stadium Other Than Roger Waters

In September of 2010, Yankee Stadium opened its doors for its first ever concert by bringing Jay-Z and Eminem to River Avenue for an epic rap concert that featured more than 30 chart toppers in the genre. The Yankees did it again in 2011 with a rock concert featuring Metallica, Megadeath, Anthrax, and Slayer to the likes of heavy metal fans. Today, it was announced that Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, will be performing "The Wall" in the Bronx over the Summer.

Yet another alternative concert? I think it is time to pitch a few ideas for next fall's concert in the Bronx to rebound after a not-so great choice for this summer concert.

5. Lady GaGa or Adele
Where's the love for the female Yankee fans with these concerts. Lady GaGa would rake in so much money, because of her following. Adele tops the iTunes charts with so many of her songs. The Yankees love their money and it would not be a bad show, since the audience will be filled with so many of GaGa's "monster" followers.

4. Wu-Tang Clan
Why not?

3. Lil Wayne, Drake, Tyga & Young Money Entertainment
Alright, it's another rap concert. Drake and Nicki Minaj are among the members of YMCMB that performed at the last Yankee Stadium concert. Lil Wayne was in jail. Had he been present for a performance of "Drop the World" with Eminem, the Yankees' home would be in shambles after fans would have gone nuts. This concert would draw the same audience or even bigger from the Jay-Z/Eminem Home & Home tour.

2. Avicci & David Guetta
Dance and techno music has become one of the most popular genres in 2011 and 2012. These artists are at the forefront of that. Yankee Stadium would be one heck of a party if they were to attend. With Guetta, the audience is in for surprise guests as most of his hits feature other pop stars.

1. Bernie Williams & Bruce Springsteen
You have a New York Yankees fan favorite and the Boss. Springsteen has sold out Madison Square Garden before, which means he can fill up Yankee Stadium with ease. You also have the home town factor to add into this equation. He's from Hoboken, New Jersey which will have some of his most devoted followers hopping on the PATH train and then the New York City subway to see him live. This sounds like a dream for many Yankee fans.

Worst Idea Ever: DayGlow at Yankee Stadium. The field will never be in the same condition ever again. Don't know what it is?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reps Contacting Yanks About DH Spot

Per Ken Davidoff, the representatives os Vladimir Guerrero, Raul Ibanez, and Jack Cust have contacted the Yankees about their now vacant DH spot. These three names aren't that attractive, I didn't mention any of them in my post about possible solutions. Cust just signed a deal with the Astros last night, which leaves the older guys. I'm not a huge fan of either at this point, but if I had to pick one, I would go with Ibanez.

Hiroki Kuroda: A decent fit for the middle of the Yankees' rotation

When I heard Hiroki Kuroda had been signed to a one year, ten million dollar contract by the New York Yankees, the first thing I thought was "That old guy from the Dodgers? Why?".

However, I now realize my initial thinking of Kuroda was wrong. Here's why:

1) Rotation Flexibility. Prior to signing Kuroda, the Yankees' most likely starting pitchers were C.C., Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and two of the following three: A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, and Phil Hughes. Not too impressive. C.C. and Pineda are solid, but I am still not convinced Nova will be as dependable as he was last season. I would like to see Nova play an entire season and be a regular in the rotation before I make conclusions.

Now, with Kuroda, the Yankees will most likely start C.C., Pineda, Kuroda, Nova, and then either Burnett, Garcia, or Hughes. Can you say depth?

2) Playoff depth. In the postseason, having three or four solid pitchers is important. Signing Kuroda allows Girardi, depending on how the rotation's regular season success, to choose whether he wants to use a three man or four man rotation.

3) Postseason experience. Though Kuroda has only pitched in three postseason games (1-2 record in those games), having pitched in the playoffs is always important for if you play for the Yankees.

4) Expendibility. When a team signs a 36 year old pitcher (37 when the season begins) to a one year deal, both parties are not exactly expecting a long term solution. In all likelihood, if Kuroda is unhappy in New York, the Yankees will not regret his signing because he is very tradeable (with only a one year deal) and also brings a veteran presence.

Though I am not expecting anything special from Kuroda (moving from the pitcher-friendly N.L. West to the home run-happy A.L. East is never easy), I, like any Yankee fan, hopes he provides the depth and stability needed to lead the Yankees to a 28th World Championship.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The 2012 Designated Hitter

When the Jesus Montero-for-Michael Pineda deal went down on Friday night, most people started to talk about the long term implication and how the Yanks had a pitcher who controlled for the next five or so years while the Mariners received a big bat for the future. However, it initially seemed to slip through the cracks that the Yankees now had a hole to fill. They need a new designated hitter.

This spot in the lineup combined to hit .256/.336/.450 for the team last year, which is respectable, but there is room for improvement. With only a $1-2 million budget to add a piece they will probably wind up going for a platoon guy. The already re-signed Andruw Jones has proven that he can mash lefties, posting a .400 wOBA against them last year, so all they need is someone who can hit righties well. Let's take a look at who's out there.

Reunion? (New York Magazine)
We know by now that the Bombers have been linked to Johnny Damon, who has been essentially a DH only over the last two seasons. In 2011, he hit .261/.326/.418 and logged a 109 wRC+ for the Rays. Damon, 38, was able to play in 150 games for Tampa last season, but at his age a big decline is just waiting to happen. Of course, he does have the old 'True Yankee' thing to his credit which is why fans want to see him come back, but I'm not sure if he's the best option out there.

(Franklin Baseball)
Hideki Matsui is the other guy that's beloved by Yankees fans on this list. For Oakland last season, he only posted a .306 wOBA and a 93 wRC+. At 37, he would be risk for any team  with such fall off from last season, but if he can be had on a minor league deal, it would definitely be worth considering. Maybe decreasing his at bats and only letting him face righties would help him out a bit.

Next and my favorite option is Carlos Pena. Pena has gotten a bad rep from fans because he doesn't hit for a high average, but the guy is very productive. Last year for the Cubs he had a .354 OBP and a .237 ISO. He draws a lot of walks and as we know from his days with the Rays, he can hit the ball far. The short porch in right field would probably only help the power production. The problem is that he will probably cost more than $2 million and that's all the Yanks are willing to spend. He's definitely someone to keep your eye on though.

Another guy who is attractive because of his power is Russell Branyan. He had an awful year in 2011, splitting time between the Diamondbacks and Angels which yielded him 146 plate appearances. He is only one year removed from a very good season in 2010 in which he had a .250 ISO. His splits also show that he has killed righties for his entire career as he has a .259 ISO and .360 wOBA against them for his career.

Buster Olney tweeted the other day about the Yankees possibly using the in-house Jorge Vazquez to fill the vacancy. While Vazquez has shown he can rake in his few years with the organizations (63 homers in three seasons) he strikes out a ton (33.2 % in 2011) and doesn't get on base enough (.314 OBP in 2011). I'm sure he'll been given a chance to fight for the job, but in the end, he is your stereotypical Quad-A hitter. I can only seem him being effective in the big leagues in a small sample before pitchers figure him out.

There are other options that I have omitted such as Casey Kotchman, JD Drew, and even Nick Johnson, but the above handful are the ones that I see as the most likely. I like Branyan and Pena the best just because of the power they can bring to the table. If one of them can come cheaply, that would be my choice. Whatever the front office does, this needs to be a small, low-risk contract.

Latest from the Stove: Yankees Avoiding Arbitration & Looking at DH Candidates

  • Monday night the New York Yankees agreed to terms on a deal worth $3.2MM with pitcher Phil Hughes. He could earn more based on performance bonuses, yet it has still not been decided whether he will be starting or coming out of the bullpen in 2012. 2011 was a season plagued with time on the disabled list, but he will be ready to compete for the fifth starter's role in Spring Training.
  • Two pitchers that will be a part of the bridge to Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson, avoided arbitration by accepting similar deals. Chamberlain will receive $1.675MM. After a stellar season, Robertson will make $1.6MM with $25K in incentives.
  • The Yankees have been speaking to Hideki Matsui about possibly offering him a deal to come back as designated hitter. There is very limited money left for the Bronx Bombers to use, which leaves them out of contention for hitters like Johnny Damon or Carlos Pena. After the Jesus Montero trade, it looks like the Yankees are going back to their old ways of being in action in the winter. The only difference is that, for once, the Yankees are watching their spending.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Prospects are overvalued in trades

Two years ago, the Yankees could have acquired Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners. The trade bait? Jesus Montero.

In 2007, the Yankees almost snagged Johan Santana from the Twins. The trade bait? Phil Hughes.

If the these two scenarios have not suggested that general managers overrate their prospects in trades, it will be tough to convince you otherwise. In the first possible trade, the Yankees almost acquired reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee for a catcher who had never played an inning of big league baseball. In the second possible trade, the Yankees nearly acquired a pitcher who, at the time, was in his prime and a top-five pitcher of his generation.

Now, I get it, people get older, and guys like Johan Santana are not sure-fire bets to stay healthy and produce at high levels throughout the durations of their careers (as the old saying goes, trade high, buy low). Same goes for prospects who are dealt almost every season for an all stars. That's how trades work - one team may be trading a guy who they believe is on the decline, while the other team may be giving up the next "sure fire" thing who turns out to be nothing special. It's the hype that is placed on guys that makes their value higher.

For a team like the Yankees, who are driven to win a world championship every season, proven commodities are the future. Yes, it is important to have a farm system, but the chance to acquire guys who could hit 40 home runs, or pitch 200 innings may be a better choice then waiting 3 years for a player to crack the big leagues. It's all about knowing your prospects. In my opinion, the Yankees strong organizational depth at catcher, and now designated hitter (Jeter and A-Rod --- that's the truth people!), drove them to acquire Michael Pineda.

Let's just hope the Pineda trade works out for the best. After all, he could be better than Cliff Lee.

Startin' to Sizzle: The Latest On the Yankees' Hotsove

Quiet is a word that is not in the dictionary for the Yankees front office. Ever since they decided to package Jesus Montero to Seattle and sign Hiroki Kuroda, the wheels have started moving this offseason in the Bronx. Here's the latest:
  • With the opening at designated hitter now, there are questions as to who will replace Montero in the line-up. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Johnny Damon has been in talks with the Yankees of a possible return to the pinstripes he wore from 2006 to 2009. (Anyone else miss that smile, seen on the left, in a Yankees uniform?)
UPDATE: Heyman says that the Yankees don't see too much money left to make a high priced deal for a designated hitter, so Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon could be back in pinstripes for next year. It will be entertaining to see who they decide to go with. Stay tuned.
  • Jorge Posada's name has also surfaced, but the catcher still intends to retire within the upcoming days. Heyman says his chances of returning are "1 percent".
  • Starting pitcher Bartolo Colon saw his chances of returning to the Bronx vanish with the flurry of moves made this past weekend. He has decided to sign a one year deal with the Oakland Athletics. Jayson Starks first reported the deal on ESPN.
  • Brian Cashman is really sticking by his trade of Montero by speaking out on Jim Bowden's radio show, saying that the deal is a mistake if Michael Pineda never develops into a No. 1 starter and develops his fastball.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Musings On Trading Montero

It was the last thing any of us expected. Even in our first podcast, when Nick and I talked about how the Yanks would have to deal at least one of their young catcher, we totally threw out the possibility of trading Jesus Montero. But six days later, he was going to Seattle and not for the guy every Yankee fan has been hoping for, but for their number two starter. So the question becomes, did the Yankees pull the trigger at the right time?

At first glance, I wasn't a real big fan of this deal. This is when I thought it was Pineda for Montero straight up. The one thing that I've noticed about the Yankees farm, despite it being very good, is that they lack impact hitters in the upper levels. Sure they have Mason Williams and Dante Bichette Jr., but both of them still have a ways to go. Montero represented the Yankees top notch hitting prospects. He is one of the best, young hitters in the game and was able to make an impact in the upcoming season.

Montero was not only a young hitter, which is a breathe of fresh air on a rather old team, but he was also cost controlled through 2017. He was gonna be making practically nothing over the next couple of years and a right impact bat is something they could have used in this time. Alex Rodriguez is becoming older and more fragile, Derek Jeter is not what he used to be, and Andruw Jones is a platoon guy. Monty could have stepped into an aging Yankees lineup and picked up some of the slack. This lineup is not going to be as potent as it has been for much longer if they don't have guys willing to step in and what better than someone that's very young cost-controlled.

This was what I felt when I first saw the news. However, after a little more thought I warmed up to it. The Bombers got a young, cost-controlled, front-line starter back, something that is very rare. It's easier to find an impact bat than it is to find an impact arm. Also, the Yanks have three other catchers down the pipeline in Austin Romine, JR Murphy, and Gary Sanchez. They traded from abundance and got something they needed in return. They had a very good trade chip and used it well, something that other teams have trouble with. All in all, I think I'm gonna be able to live with this.

Yankees and Angels Make A Perfect Pair

Earlier this week the Angels and Kendrys Morales avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 1 year, $3 million dollar deal that solidified the logjam at the Angels first base position. With Albert Pujols signed for the next decade, one of Morales or Mark Trumbo will have to go sooner rather than later. There were some reports the Angels were going to try Trumbo at different positions, but that is just not going to happen. He does not have the athleticism to move somewhere else, and neither does Morales, meaning someone is going to have to go.

The Yankees just got a glaring hole in there designated hitter position with their mega deal to acquire Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero, so who better to turn to than a team with a lot of surplus power.

Morales hasn't played a game in over a year and a half, but last time he saw the field he was in the midst of being on pace for a second consecutive 30+ homerun 100+ RBI season. He is signed cheap and could  be gotten for far less than what he is capable of producing, he just comes with a ton of risk. No one knows how his ankle is going to hold up over the course of the season. He would be a boom or bust pickup, but if he is able to hold up he would put the Yankees over the top.

The other, and likely more available, option is the 26 year old slugger Mark Trubmo. Trumbo showed some excellent power last year belting 29 homeruns with 31 doubles in his rookie season. He doesn't walk nearly enough, but with the lose of Montero's power from the right side of the plate Trumbo would fill that void. I really wouldn't expect his average to ever get above .270, but then again he is a power guy.

If trading is the course the Yankees decide to take a deal with the Angels for one of these players could easily be done. Because these are the Yankees, however, there is always the chance they try and make a much bigger splash by dipping into the free agent market for a big bat. Stay tuned on the DH situation.

Yanks Interested In Carlos Pena

Per Jon Heyman, the Yankees are interested in first baseman Carlos Pena. Yankee fans should be familiar with him from his days with the Rays and he is actually is pretty good fit. He's a power lefty who can play good first base if need be and can platoon at designated hitter with Andruw Jones. This isn't totally unexpected and if he can be had at a cheap price.

Yanks Trade Montero For Pineda

Update (7:56pm): It looks like it's a four player deal. Montero and Noesi for Pineda and Jose Campos. Have fun with it.

Original (7:45pm): Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees have traded catcher and top prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners for 23 year old starting pitcher Michael Pineda. This is very shocking and most of us thought Montero was not going to be touched this off-season. Pineda is a very good pitcher and is under control through 2016, I believe. The one thing that is scary about him is that he has a very high fly ball rate and doesn't get many grounders and in Yankees Stadium that could be a problem.

This trade presents as many questions as it answers. First of all, why? Secondly, who is going to be the Yankees designated hitter? And lastly, who gets bounced from the rotation? Have some fun with it. Here's the excitement everyone has been waiting for.

Added by Nicholas Pugliese: I love how with all the "rumors" that are thrown out there these trades always manage to come out of thin air.

I must admit Cashman is one of the first GM's I've seen get the better of Zduriencik. Unless you think Montero is a catcher long term (and there aren't many people who believe that) you have to be ecstatic about this deal from the Yankees perspective. 

As good of a prospect as Jesus Montero is, Pineda was just as good of a prospect and has shown his stuff translates to the Major League level over a full season. He gives up fly balls, sure, but he K's batters at an unreal rate finishing third in the league in percentage of batters K'ed. And remember that was in his rookie season of just 22 years old. Even if Montero turns out as well as expected he will be equal to what the Yankees already have in Pineda. And with the Yankees' seemingly constant struggle to lock up a solid rotation, Pineda will help anchor this staff for at least the next five years.

Then if we briefly get into Jose Campos, this kid has the chance to be an absolute stud. He instantly ranks in the Yankees top 5 prospects and has the chance to really rise to the top this year. He used a fastball that gets into the mid-90's and superior command for such a young pitcher to dominant the lower levels in 2011. Considering the present command and fastball his ceiling is through the roof. Like most young pitchers the reports have long been that his off-speed pitches are what is holding him back, but the most recent updates said he saw tremendous improvement by the end of the season. A great sign.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Yanks Sign Hiroki Kuroda

Per Jack Curry, the Yankees have now signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one year deal worth between $10-11 million. This came as shocking news because they have just traded for Michael Pineda. I have been endorsing signing Kuroda for a while now so I'm pretty happy. So how about this new rotation?

Asking Prices For SP Coming Down

Per Buster Olney, the asking prices for the three big starting pitchers left on the market have come down. Roy Oswalt is down to $8 million and Edwin Jackson and Hiroki Kuroda are down in the $10-11 range. He didn't specify if Jackson came down in years also, but I would imagine he did. Out of these three guys, I want Kuroda the most, then Jackson, and then Oswalt, taking into account the they all want one year. Kuroda and Jackson aren't separated by much for me, so if either gets signed to one year, I wouldn't mind. Who do you want?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Yanks Eye One Year Deal For Starter

Per Joel Sherman, the Yankees are only looking to sign a starting pitcher if they can get them on a one year deal. He says this goes for Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson, and Bartolo Colon and makes sense because a long term deal would only hurt their chances of keeping the budget under $189 million by 2014. He said that Hal Steinbrenner did meet with Scott Boras (Jackson's agent last night), but they aren't close to anything. Sherman does believe that they will wind up signing one of the pitchers mentioned above to a one year deal or nothing..

I've made it clear that I like Kuroda the best out of any pitcher left on the market, but the Yanks seem unwilling to shell out the extra cash. In his last tweet, Sherman wonders who will get bounced from the rotation. There's no point in really wondering this because it shouldn't stop them from getting a starter nor is  it a bad problem.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Last Spot In The Pen

A few days ago, I wrote about the long man in the bullpen and the candidates who could possibly wind up with the role. However, with reports of the Yankees being interested in bringing back Luis Ayala, I figured now would a nice time to talk about it. With an otherwise strong pen, this is not a spot that should cause too much concern, but we saw last season, that it could be a very useful arm.

(Getty Images)
Ayala is definitely worth considering since he had a very good 2011. Of course, he didn't pitch many high leverage innings, but he did the job he had to do. He latched on to the team in the latter part of last off-season on a minor league deal and with injuries during camp, he pitched his way on to the Opening Day roster. He wound up sticking throughout the entire year, including the playoffs. In 56 innings, he pitched to a 2.09 ERA while striking out ore than six per nine innings and posting a LOB% of 85.7%. However, he also logged at 4.19 FIP and walked more than three per nine. These peripherals aren't exactly great.

Because of the ERA, a lot of people thought Ayala was having a better year than he was, but it was really because of how Joe Girardi was using him. Taking all of this into account, we can't really trust him going forward. He could probably fake it again in the same role, but he can't be relied in anything more and shouldn't be brought back with a raise from 2011.

The other option I see is currently in the organization and I actually mentioned him in my piece from a few days ago, George Kontos. I like Kontos a lot and he had a very good year down in Scranton. He used to be a starter and has the ability to go three innings or so, but he's seen as a one inning guy long term. In 89.1 innings he struck out more than nine per nine innings while walking less than three per nine. He did prove to be vulnerable to the homerun, but everything else looked good. Brian Cashman could take the empty spot in the pen as a chance to break him in.

I like Kontos a lot in this spot since he's rather young (26) and cheap. It would be nice to see what he can do with some more time in the bigs. I also wouldn't be shocked if the front office brought in a few low risk bullpen arms similar to Ayala last year to fight for the job. It doesn't hurt to have more depth and more pitchers battling for a spot.

Humor: Scott Proctor Signs In Korea - Headlines to Watch For

News surfaced this morning that Scott Proctor has signed a deal with the Noosan Bears of Korea. He will always be remembered as Joe Torre's go-to pitcher during his tenure in the Bronx, that resulted in Proctor's arm getting blown out. Most recently, he was the pitcher that suffered the loss in the final game of the regular season that sent the Tampa Rays to the playoffs as oppose to the despised Red Sox. Here are a few story lines that we could see now that he is gone.

5. Proctor Tops Yao Ming As Biggest Star In Asia
4. HBO Reveals Season 4 of East Bound & Down to Follow Scott Proctor
2. Joe Torre Buys Bears; Plans To Pitch Proctor Every Day
1. Proctor Blows Game; US Braces For Nuclear Retaliation

Top New York Yankees tabloid posts (some comic relief)

The New York tabloid papers are clever, humorous, and sometimes excessive. Here are some of the most memorable as they relate to our Bronx Bombers.

Jorge Posada: My Favorite Player

Growing up a Yankees fan I had to make a very tough decision, who would be my favorite player? When I finally came to a decision my answer was Jorge Posada. I knew my favorite had to be a true Yankee and it couldn't be Derek Jeter, well because he was already the most well known player on the team, and he was already everyone else's favorite. The other choices I had were the other members of the core four Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. For some reason I decided that it had to be an everyday player and my decision then became easy, from that day until now Jorge Posada has always been my favorite player on the Yankees.
From that day on I followed Jorge Posada's career very closely and throughout the years I knew that I had made the right choice. Not only was (seems weird to be seeing was instead of is) he an incredible ball player, with career numbers ranking among the Yankee greats, including 1,829 games played 275 home runs, 5 all star games played, 5 silver slugger awards, and 4 World Series championships. As well Posada leads all Yankee catchers in doubles and walks, and only ranks behind Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra in runs, hits, and RBI. Posada is truly one of the greatest Yankees of all time, and although I have a biased opinion I believe Posada will end up in Cooperstown.

As great as Posada was on the field, what he has accomplished off the field may be better. Jorge Posada's son Jorge Luis suffers from crainosynstosis, which is a condition where one's skull cannot grow properly. He has had numerous surgeries to ensure he can live a healthy life, the final coming in June 2011, and according to Jorge Posada his son is doing well. What is remarkable about Jorge Luis's story is that it inspired his father to create the Jorge Posada Foundation, whose goal is help spread awareness and to provide surgeries for those who are in need.  His charitable work shows that Posada was not only a incredible talent on the field, but a man who had his priorities in check and made sure that he used his influence to help others.

Jorge Posada has been a tremendous Yankee and will be remembered for years to come. He will have plenty of opportunities in the future, either as a coach, analyst or whatever he decides to do. That said it will not be the same come april when Posada's name is not announced on opening day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stirring Straw Live Chat

Live Chat At 1:30

Last week we had our first ever live chat and it went pretty well so I figured why not try it again? So today at 1:30 we'll have another one. The topics will be Yankees, Yankees, and more Yankees. I'll see you all there.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Jorge Posada Retirement: Where Does No. 20 Rank Among The Best Yankee Catchers?

Within the next two weeks, Jorge Posada will be set to announce his retirement from baseball. In his 17 year Major League career, he only played for the New York Yankees. There was buzz around the rumor mill that several other Major League teams could be willing to sign him, but he decided to hang up the cleats and ride off into the sunset. He was truly a class act in Yankee pinstripes, but where does he fall in the list of some all-time greats?

The Yankee have had several catchers on the team like Mike Stanley and Jim Leyritz that have had brief stints behind the plate at Yankee Stadium. When you put together a list of greats, only five deserve to be mentioned in the history of the Yankees franchise.

5. Jorge Posada: Thought you wouldn't see Posada this early on the list? Think again. Sure, he won four World Series with the Yankees and appeared in five All-Star Games. His offense is what carried him to stardom with the team. Defense was never his strength with the team. He ranks high in offensive categories for the All-Time Yankee lists, but if he was a lot better on defense he would be close to the top of this list. Posada was a great Yankee in his era. Should and will his No. 20 get retired? Yes. Will he make the Hall of Fame? For now, I'm saying no.

4. Thurman Munson: A plane crash ended the career of a player that could have been the Yankees' best at the position. He won the MVP award in 1976 before the tragedy, but had already complied a resume to send him to Cooperstown. To go along with his MVP award, two World Championship rings and a Rookie of the Year trophy doesn't sound too bad. He takes the No. 4 spot over Posada, because of his strength behind the plate with four Gold Glove awards.

3. Elston Howard: No. 32 for the New York Yankees broke the color barrier in the Bronx. He donned the pinstripes from 1955 to 1967. Howard was no stranger to the hardware. He brought home six World Series championships, played in 12 All-Star games, and won the 1963 Most Valuable Player award. His jersey number is retired in Memorial Park and there is no question that he is deserving of so.

2. Bill Dickey: This Yankee catcher played so long ago that many times he is forgotten on the list of Yankee greats. 11 All-Star games and eight World Championships! Think Posada, but twice as good. Dickey at the top of the list for some offensive categories in the Yankee statistic leaders charts. His statue in Memorial Park reads, "First in the line of great Yankee catchers."

1. Yogi Berra: Whether you're old or young, you have to love Yogi Berra if you're a fan of the Yankees. 358 home-runs, 1,430 RBI's, 2,148 hits are the highlights on the back of his baseball card. But the one thing that nobody can forget about him is the fact that he has one World Series ring for each finger. That's right he was on 10 World Series winning teams and played in 14 Fall Classics.

Jesus Montero is going to need to start getting to work quick on those World Series in order to try and dethrone, Yogi Berra at the top of this list.

The Long Relief Man

There's not much left to be done this off-season. The lineup didn't require any change, the bench has basically been assembled with the exception of Eric Chavez, the bullpen didn't need much work, and despite the lack of top tier talent, the rotation has five starters. With almost everything being settled, we can start to look ahead to when camp begins and anticipate battles for roster spots. The one that I'm interested to see work itself out is the long man out of the pen.

(John C. Whitehead)
There's a few guys I can see fighting for this spot. Hector Noesi was the guy who took on this role last season, but Brian Cashman already said that Noesi is going to be starting whether it be in the big leagues or Triple A so that rules him out. Another option is former starter George Kontos who tossed 89.1 innings in relief for Scranton. At times, he was able to throw three innings, but he is unlikely to be the long man because he is seen as a one inning guy long term. I could see him taking over Luis Ayala's 2011 role as the last guy back there.

Two other reasonable options are David Phelps and Adam Warren. Both started for Scranton last year and had pretty good seasons. They each profile to be back end of the rotation guys and Cashman may want to break one of them in through the pen like he did with Noesi. However, with the Yanks thinking about a trade at the deadline both Phelps and Warren could prove to be valuable trade chips. Keeping them in Scranton and allowing them to start will maximize their value. This course of action also allows them to have the most depth for their spotty MLB rotation.

This leaves the Yanks with three options. The first Brad Meyers. Meyers was a Rule 5 selection taken from the Nationals organization and a guy that Nick is a very big fan of. He spoke a little bit about him in the podcast. Anyway, for Triple A Syracuse, he walked 1.41 per nine innings while striking out almost seven per nine. A guy with this good of control is the type of guy you want in the long man spot just because you don't want a guy coming in to a tight situation and walking a bunch of guys. Meyers also does have the fact that he's a Rule 5 guy on his side. If he doesn't make the team out of camp he needs to be offered back to the Nats so if it is a close battle, they may give him the spot just to keep him. He's definitely a solid option.

The second option is DJ Mitchell. Mitchell, 24, was a starter for Scranton last year and actually logged a solid year. He struck out more than six per nine while walking less than four per nine in 161.1 innings. Since many people inside the organization see him as a reliever long term, it would make sense for him to take on this role since he has the stamina to do so. If Mitchell has a strong showing in Spring Training, don't be surprised if he's on the Opening Day roster.

The last option isn't even signed at the moment that could probably be arranged pretty easily. It's Bartolo Colon. Bart obviously had a great year as a starter for the Bombers last season, but had a major drop off in the later months and with his injury history and age, he's not likely to receive many offers. He could possibly be had on a minor league deal if this is the case and could be thrown into this competition as well. Maybe if he doesn't have to pace himself, he can re-capture what he did in the early part of 2011. Bart is certainly an interesting option and if he can be bought with a minor league deal with very little risk, I would take him.

Obviously, this isn't the first thing that should be on our minds, but I figured it was worth bringing up. As I said before Kontos is a solid option for the last spot in the bullpen along with Hideki Okajima, Cesar Cabral, and Mike O'Connor. Although it's not gonna be as fun as last year, Spring Training is still gonna have it's battles and is still gonna be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we're still about six weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting.

My favorite Posada memory

Jorge Posada will most likely retire from the MLB at some point this week. I wanted to share my favorite "Posada memory".

The 2003 ALCS - 8th inning, one out, runners on 2nd and 3rd, 2-2 count. Yankees trail 5-3 vs. Boston Red Sox.

This moment was memorable for so many reasons - the "comeback" versus Pedro, the Curse of the Bambino, Grady Little's decision to keep Pedro in the game instead of opting for Alan Embree to face the Yankees left handed hitters (Matsui).

We all know what happens on the fifth pitch of the at bat: Posada hits what Joe Buck describes as a "flare" into center. The ball falls in as a bloop single, 2 runs score, and Posada is able to hustle into second because no Red Sox player covers the base. The game is tied at 5, which sets the stage for one of the greatest moments in postseason history - Aaron Boone's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th that sends the Yankees to the 2003 Fall Classic.

In preparing to write this post, I went back and watched the bottom of the 8th again. Comebacks in sports are magical to watch, and to this day I still get goosebumps watching Jorge, in celebration, pump his fists as he reaches second base (see picture above). To me, this was Jorge's proudest moment as a Bronx bomber - in typical Jorge fashion, he was batting near the end of the order (6th in the lineup that day), yet managed to take on the underdog role like he had for his entire career and turn it into something positive. Jorge is a great player that played through the end of the steroid era (or at least until baseball took notice and enacted rules to stop the juicing) and he was often left out of the "best MLB players" conversation because he was overshadowed by those that were higher run producers, better home run hitters, and more approachable and marketable figures (Derek Jeter comes to mind).

In my view, during Jorge's career, he symbolized the heart and hustle the New York Yankees strive to embody. Don't believe me? Tell Jorge that as he took second base in the 8th inning.


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More