Ir seems to me that things aren’t turning out the way the Yankees planned during Spring Training. However, we have to remember a couple of things before we get crazy about the standings (which we shouldn’t be doing).
1. The Yankees Major League starting pitchers haven’t even been in a game so far.
2. The Yankees hitters have only went about 5-6 innings before getting taken out.
3. It’s Spring Training. Almost everyone’s rusty.
However, it would be nice to see the Yankees win a game or two. Let’s break down the good (and bad) that came out of each game. That seems like an easier way to recap the split-squad games.
Blue Jays vs. Yankees
Gardner & Ichiro are locked in: If the season started today, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki wouldn’t mind. At all. Both of them as of right now are easily the best hitters on the team, with both of their batting averages over .500. Gardner went 1-for-3 today, now successfully hitting in four-straight games. Ichiro also had a 1-for-3 day, extending his hitting streak. It’s nice to know that out of the gate the two speedsters are ready for the 2013 season. Now if everyone else behind them can catch up, that would be great.
Clay Rapada is unstoppable (and undefeated): Clay Rapada had the quickest 1-2-3 inning, that if you went to the kitchen to get a glass of water and come back, the inning would be over due to his sheer brilliance on the mound. There’s also an interesting fact that YES gave about Rapada: He’s been in 148 games and his overall record is 8-0 in the Majors. That means that Clay Rapada has never lost a game in his Major League career. Never. Ever. Just judging by today’s game, I would already have a nice roster spot for Mr. Rapada. He looked in mid-season form.
Chris Stewart ejected: Chris Stewart only had one at-bat. And that one-at bat would be the last at-bat that he would have on the day. He hit into a bang-bang play at first base. YES instant replay showed Stewart’s foot touched the bag before the ball went into the first baseman’s glove. However, Marty Foster called him out. Stewart said something and then was ejected from the game, making him the first ejection of the Spring. Just so you know, Spring Training ejections don’t happen very often, so that must mean Marty Foster in in mid-season form.
David Phelps pitches strong: David Phelps had another strong outing, going 3 innings, giving up 2 hits, 1 walk and 1 strikeout. Phelps’ future with the Yankees could be either one of two things at this point: he could either be in the rotation, taking the 5th spot from Ivan Nova, or he could be in the bullpen, helping out in later innings. I don’t see him going back to the minor leagues, at all.
Yankees vs. Astros:
Melky Mesa has great game: The young CF looks to be in the front running of who could take Curtis Granderson‘s job for the next 4-6 weeks after the big day he had at the plate. The young CF went 2-for-3 with 3 RBI’s on the day. I wonder what John Sterling’s HR call would be for the young OF if he ever had a chance to play on the big league club–and if he homered.
Nunez helmet won’t stay on: Another day, another chance to see Eduardo Nunez‘s helmet fall off his head. Just as I had hoped that Nunez would be able to keep the helmet on while running down the first baseline, it came off when he hit a lead-off single in the first inning. Maybe someone should add a chin strap or get him a helmet like Francisco Cervelli‘s. That way it can’t come off.
Cervelli’s strong day behind the plate: Speaking of the young catcher, Cervelli had a great day behind the plate, throwing out two runners who were attempting to steal. Offensively, he went 0-for-3. Maybe it didn’t help that Chris Stewart was ejected because judging by what happened today, it looks like Cervelli took the lead in the catching competition.
Marshall has a good start: Another Brett on the Yankees ball-club had a great day as well, and his name is Brett Marshall. Through three innings, he struck out three and only allowed one hit. Now that is some impressive numbers from the young starter, who is one of the few players actually impressing this Spring Training.
— The Phillies will take the drive from Clearwater to Tampa in order to play the Yankees at GMS Field tomorrow. Robinson Cano is expected to be in the lineup tomorrow and Saturday before leaving on Sunday for the World Baseball Classic. The game will be at 1:05 p.m. on the YES Network.
Earlier this week, it was looking as if Hiroki Kuroda‘s chances of coming back to the Yankees were slim. The LA Dodgers were in the race as well as the LA Angels. Well, on Tuesday evening, a source claimed that the Dodgers were no longer in the mix for Kuroda. The Angels soon followed the Dodgers lead and weren’t interested in Kuroda. Now Kuroda has one of two choices–the Yankees or Japan. If Kuroda wants to pitch in the states, he could choose the Yankees. If he wants to go to Japan, he can sign there. This is relatively good news for the Yankees–and bad news for the Dodgers and the Angels. Now all Brian Cashman has to do is make Kuroda an offer he can’t refuse.
BREAKING NEWS: The New York Yankees have signed Hiroki Kuroda to a 1 year, $15 Million contract for the 2013 season. The Yankees prevented one of their worst fears from happening. Now, Yankees need Pettitte.
In Other News:
— The New York Yankees claimed RHP Mickey Storey off waivers from the Houston Astros.
— RHP Dave Herndon elected for free agency instead of being outrighted to Triple-A Scranton thus making the 40-man roster a 39-man roster.
— There’s still no word about if Andy Pettitte will return next year. Although Pettitte could most likely return, it’s not guaranteed.
Sure Michael Pineda gave up 2 runs. What pitcher doesn’t give up 2 runs and makes mistakes. Besides of the 2 runs, Michael Pineda looked sharp as the Yankees defeated the Nationals 8-5 in the first game of a 2 game set. The Yankees were facing their former teammate Chien-Ming Wang who looked sharp until a Russell Martin collison at 1st forced him to leave the game with a left hamstring injury.
Pineda’s line was pretty good. He went 3.2 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 base hits while striking out 4. Clay Rapada is making his case to be the second lefty in the bullpen by going 1.1 innings and giving up only 2 walks. Juan Cedeno went 0.2 innings while giving up 1 run on 1, Brett Marshall went 2.2 innings giving up 2 runs on 2 base hits while striking out 3. Michael O’Connor pitched 0.2 innings giving up 1 hit and Adam Warren ended the Nationals threat by getting out the only batter he faced.
The Good: Bill Hall made his case for a spot on the 25 man roster today, having 2 base hits and driving in 2 runs.Russell Martin also had a base hit for the Yankees. He came out of the Chien-Ming Wang collision unscathed so that was also good news.
The Bad: Brett Gardner had a very tough game, striking out all three times he was at the plate. I know this is Spring Training, but his performance is beginning to worry me (along with Robinson Cano‘s who didn’t play today.)
WHAT’S NEXT: The Nationals will travel down to Tampa and face the Yankees on their turf this time. CC Sabathia is slated to start for the Yankees.
Based on their recent actions and remarks, it seems the Yankees are serious about sticking to a smaller payroll now and at least through the 2014 season in an attempt to get under the $189 Million Luxury Tax threshold. In order to do so, the club will need to look to fill important positions from within and develop both impact and role players.
The Yankees system became known in recent years as being deep in Pitchers and Catchers but lacking in strong position prospects. This was definitely a weakness identified by Mark Newman & Damon Oppenheimer and they addressed it by adding several solid up the middle athletes and corner players who can rake in the last 2 years. Now, the system is more well-rounded although there is definitely a lack of upper-echelon hitters in the higher levels of the organization.
The system is still strong in upper level pitching. Even with Nova & Noesi graduating to NY, they still have 5 potential MLB starters in AAA (Banuelos, Betances, Warren, Phelps, DJ Mitchell). The next level of pitching is led by Brett Marshall and several guys that need to take a step forward in 2012. Oppenheimer has a history of drafting good college relievers and there are many strong-armed righties in the pipeline who could advance quickly.
Today, I will list the Top 40 with a quick blurb, then will follow-up with more in-depth on the Top 20 or so players in the coming weeks. Each player has their position, Opening Day 2012 Age & expected level to start season.
1) Jesus Montero – C/DH, 22 – MLB
Has an elite bat that will make him a middle of the order MLB hitter for the next decade+. Rare blend of natural power to all fields with ability to make adjustments and take what pitcher gives him. Only question is whether he will be anything more than a DH but a .300 hitter with 30 HR power will always find a spot even if he’s eventually a full-time DH.
2) Manny Banuelos– LHSP, 21 – AAA
Had control issues in AA/AAA but most believe it’s just a matter of trying to be too fine as he has solid mechanics and repeats his delivery well. Threw a career-high 130 innings so will be in line for 150-160 this year and could be ready to pitch for NY in 2nd half.
3) Gary Sanchez – C, 19 – HiA
Has big-time raw power and still growing into his 6’2″ frame. His defense has been poor but I think he has the athleticism to convert to corner OF or 1B down the line and his bat is definitely strong enough to support such a switch.
4) Dellin Betances – RHSP, 24 – AAA
This is a big year for Betances. At 24, he needs to have a good year in AAA to prove he can pitch in a MLB rotation. Has plus, swing-and-miss stuff but most improve his control to cut down his pitch counts.
5) Mason Williams – CF, 20 – LoA
Dynamic player with plus-plus MLB speed and defense already. He put on a show in rookie ball and if he shows his offensive skills are for real this year in full-season ball, he may vault to #1 on this list next year.
6) Dante Bichette, Jr. – 3B, 19 – LoA
Drafted for his plus power, he’s shown better defense than was thought. He’s really impressed the organization with his intangibles & makeup – namely his work ethic, advanced approach, knowledge of the game & leadership. Baseball America named him top prospect in Gulf Coast League and VP of baseball operations Mark Newman calls him “a special player and person.”
7) Austin Romine– C, 23 – AAA
His defense behind the plate is MLB-ready now. His bat isn’t special but will be good enough for him to have a long career as a starting catcher in the bigs.
8) David Phelps – RHSP, 25 – AAA
Phelps is a winner who knows how to pitch. He’s 38-15 with a 2.61 ERA in his 4 years in the organization. He’s maintained the same solid numbers at every level including a 7.4 K/9 & 2.0 BB/9. Reminds me a little of Ian Kennedy. Missed time with shoulder issue but came back strong in August and was solid in AFL also.
9) Ravel Santana – OF, 19 – LoA
Tremendous physical skill set with power & speed. BA rated the wiry 6’2″ 160 pounder right behind Bichette as best in the Gulf Coast League after he put up a .425 wOBA. Will have to overcome the broken ankle & torn ligaments he suffered last season so will likely start in extended ST this year.
10) Tyler Austin– 3B, 20 – LoA
I seem to be in the minority but I really like this guy. He made his debut in the Gulf Coast and smashed to a .517 wOBA in 20 games, then followed up with .448 wOBA in Staten Island. Has power to all fields and an advanced approach that helps him drive off-speed pitches. How many 20-year olds can you say that about? BA ranked him 8th best prospect in NY Penn League. Only question mark is his defense at 3B but he’s athletic enough to play the OF if need be. He even stole 18 of 18 bases in just 47 games which tells me he has good instincts and a feel for the game.
11) J.R. Murphy – C/3B, 20 – HiA
Improved his game offensively & defensively before ending season early with leg injury. Rips line drives to all fields and scouts now believe he has the ability to remain as a catcher while also showing the athleticism to play 3B and OF. Could become a very versatile asset in the Majors.
12) Slade Heathcott – CF, 21 – HiA
He’s Gardner-like in the OF right now and has more offensive potential. However, I’m a little concerned with his constant injuries and questionable makeup. To have his speed and get thrown out stealing 17 times in 38 attempts is baffling. But, if he matures and stays healthy, he could be special.
13) Brett Marshall– RHSP, 22 – AA
Now fully recovered from his 2009 Tommy John Surgery, he threw career high 140 IP with 3.24 FIP. Has good low 90s sinker and makings of a plus slider. Has flashed mid 90s velocity at times and will be interesting how he does in AA this year.
14) Adam Warren– RHSP, 24 – AAA
Warren is next in a succession of Yankee right handers, behind Nova and Noesi, ready to advance to the majors. He threw 152 IP in AAA with a 3.60 ERA and on a lesser team without depth, he’d have a great chance to make the rotation.
15) Corban Joseph – 2B, 23 – AAA
Has patient approach and nice lefty stroke that generates hard line drives but there are concerns about his defense at 2B and 3B. He had .346 wOBA in Trenton with 38 doubles and 8 triples but doesn’t get the lift and backspin to hit HRs.
16) Zoilo Almonte – OF, 22 – AA
Solid all-around skills. Good defense, speed and power that has improved the last 2 years. Yanks added the switch-hitter to their 40-man to protect him from Rule 5 draft and he could be a candidate to make the team in 2013.
17) Graham Stoneburner – RHSP, 24 – AA
Season was marred by a neck injury that kept him out 2 months and he was never quite effective as excellent debut in 2010. But he still has a great sinking fastball that gets tons of grounders.
18) David Adams – 2B, 24 – AA
The ankle injury he suffered in 2010 lingered all season and the Yankees were very careful with Adams. He played sparingly in only 29 games. If he’s finally healthy this season he could progress quickly as he has an excellent bat that rips line drives to all fields.
19) Angelo Gumbs– 2B, 19 – LoA
Great up the middle athlete shows lightning quick bat speed and raw power to go with strong arm and nice speed. BA rated him 14th best prospect in NY Penn League where he had .341 wOBA, 4 triples & 11 SB in 220 PAs.
20) Nik Turley – LHSP. 22 – HiA
6’7″ lefty reminds me a litle of Andy Pettitte. Took a step forward with 2.51 ERA and 8.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 82 IP in Charleston til a broken hand ended his season after being promoted to Tampa.
21) DJ Mitchell – RHSP, 24 – AAA
Similar to David Phelps, Mitchell is someone who just keeps pitching well and winning. Sinker/slider pitcher with solid change-up could be another back end starter/long-relief candidate.
22) Mark Montgomery – RHRP, 21 – HiA
Overwhelmed hitters with low-mid 90s Fastball and an unhittable slider leading to a 16.4 K/9 and 1.91 ERA as closer in Charleston. His slider is just unfair to young hitters and he needs to be tested against more advanced hitters to see how quick he can advance.
23) Brandon Laird – 3B, 24 – AAA
Strong defensive 3B with good power but he doesn’t take many walks or hit for much average. Has also played some 1B & LF so could be a backup candidate in NY.
24) Cito Culver– SS, 19 – LoA
Showed strong arm with smoothness in the field and compact swing from both sides of the plate. BA rated him 6th best prospect in NYPenn League where he hit .250/.323/.337. He’s a project that will take time to develop his offensive game.
25) Ramon Flores – OF, 20 – HiA
Sweet lefty stroke and patient approach at plate, had .350 wOBA in Charleston. Good OF with strong arm and solid all-around tools. Only 5’10” 160 so should get stronger and develop some pop.
26) George Kontos – RHRP, 26 – MLB
Standard FB/Slider reliever, held RH hitters to a .182 BAA in AAA. Averages about a strikeout per inning but is a fly-ball pitcher who is prone to HRs.
27) Claudio Custodio – 2B, 21 – LoA
Talented 2B/SS with very good speed. Hit ball well in GCL and showed willingness to take a walk. Hit .325 with .433 OBP and 26 SB in 28 attempts.
28) Tommy Kahnle – RHRP, 22 – HiA
Power reliever had 2.45 FIP in 81 IP with 12.4 K/9 but also 5.4 BB/9. Sits around 93-95 and can dial it up to 96-97 with a developing slider. Needs to improve his command and secondary pitches.
29) Isias Tejada – C, 20 – LoA
Next in line of promising Yankee catcher prospects, Tejada showed his ability to make good, hard contact with a .971 OPS in the GCL with only a 12% strike out rate.
30) Brandon Pinder – RHRP, 23 – LoA
Dominated mostly younger hitters as closer in Staten Island with 11.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and 1.16 ERA. Has great command of 94-95 mph Fastball but has no quality secondary pitch yet.
31) Bryan Mitchell – RHSP, 20 – LoA
Plus stuff but still very raw. Put things together by end of year and shows strikeout (8.6 K/9) and ground-ball stuff (2.19 GO/AO rate)
32) Jose Rosario– SS/2B, 20 – LoA
Hit just as well as teammate Bichette with .331 average and .529 SLG%. He’s a hacker with a 3.2% Walk rate but he’s caught the attention of the organization and earned a late season promotion to Charleston. Mark Newman stated, “He can run (11 SB in 43 games) and throw. He hit 6 HRs, so he has some ability to impact the ball. By diligence, he’s turning himself into a quality prospect.”
33) Taylor Morton – RHSP, 20 – LoA
Made impressive debut in GCL. The 6’3″ righty should get stronger and he already possesses a plus change, low 90’s FB and good command.
34) Rob Segedin – 3B, 23 – HiA
Big 3B/OF with strong hitting skills. Earned promotion with .395wOBA at Charleston but struggled some in Tampa. Yanks put him in AFL this Fall where he went .250/.367/.407.
35) Daniel Lopez – CF, 20 – LoA
Another emerging all-around athlete with good speed. Showed power potential this year hitting .327/.413/.490 with 27 SB in 61 games across 3 levels.
36) Jose Ramirez – RHSP, 22 – HiA
Promising arm took a step back this year but still notched strong K rates so stuff is still there.
37) Evan Rutckyj– LHSP, 20 – LoA
Big strong 6’5″ lefty got stronger as the season progressed and generates a lot of ground-balls.
38) Cesar Cabral – LHRP, 23 – MLB
Rule 5 pick from Red Sox system, he’ll have chance to make team in ST as second lefty in pen. Gets a lot of Ks with good Fastball and plus Changeup.
39) Pat Venditte SWRP, 26 – AAA
Doesn’t have dominating stuff but continues to post good overall numbers and solid K rates at every level. Biggest drawback is he’s a heavy flyball pitcher.
40) Abe Almonte – OF, 22 – AA
Plus defender and baserunner but wildly inconsistent at the plate. Switch-hitter had huge 2nd half, riding a 30-game hitting streak and showing off good extra base hit power. Needs to prove 2nd half surge was real at AA this year.
Other Notables: Walter Ibarra, Kyle Roller, Zach Nuding, Dan Burawa, Chase Whitley, Ronnie Mustlier, Yeicock Calderon, Robert Lyerly, Melky Mesa, Dan Brewer, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Ben Gamel, Gabe Encinas, Matt Tracy, Zach Wilson, Evan DeLuca, Mikey O’Brien
As with many A – ball teams, the Tampa Yankees saw a lot of turnover on their roster throughout the season. Despite all the changes they finished 74-64 in the 12-team Florida State League. They were led by an offense that finished 3rd in Runs scored & 2nd in Batting Average. Tampa’s pitching staff finished 10th with a 3.98 team ERA.
The team went through a lot of changes during June. It’s three top hitters, 3B Robert Lyerly, OF Deangelo Mack and CF Zoilo Almonte were promoted to AA Trenton and were eventually replaced by Kyle Roller, Rob Segedin, Slade Heathcott & JR Murphy from Low A Charleston. Unfortunately, Slade & Murph had there seasons cut short by injury and Roller and Segedin had some trouble adapting to the more advanced pitchers.
Abraham Almonte – CF, 22, 5’9″ 205
Almonte is a well-built switch-hitter who finished the season on fire with a 30-game hitting streak. He was hitting a pathetic .218/.294/.280 with 12 XBH at the midpoint of the season but was .314/.369/.475 with 30XBH in the 2nd half to finish at .268 with 30 sbs. Almonte has a plus glove and great speed and shows flashes of being a dynamic offensive player but he’s been wildly inconsistent throughout his career so it remains to be seen if he can build on his huge 2nd half.
Kyle Roller – 1B, 23, 6’1″ 235
Roller’s a big lefty hitter drafted in the 8th rd in 2010 because he can stroke and he did just that in 2011. He was roping in Charleston to start the season with a .925 OPS that got him promoted after 50 games. He held his own against better pitching to finish the season at .284/.371//482/.854 with 31 doubles & 16 HRs in 110 games.
Rob Segedin – 3B, 22, 6’3″ 220
Like Roller, Segedin was drafted in the 3rd rd of 2010 for his stick. He began mashing in CHS with an .878 OPS but he did not hit in Tampa after his promotion with a .245/.311/.309 slash in 52 games. It doesn’t damper his upside as a productive hitting corner IF or OF. His season total was a respectable .287/.358/.403.
Deangelo Mack – LF, 24, 5’10” 190
Mack had a solid year for Charleston and even played 40 games for Trenton from May to July when Melky Mesa was injured. He hit .248/.357/.388 for Trenton but was a .300 hitter in his 59 games for CHS. Overall, he hit .280/.361/.436 with 8 HRs among his 31 xtra base hits. Mack has a good feel for the strike zone and a nice lefty stroke but doesn’t have good power or speed for a corner OF which may hurt his future value.
Walter Ibarra – 2B, 23, 5’11” 180
Ibarra is in his 6th season in the organization and he repeated the FSL despite hitting .301 last yr. This yr he had his best season hitting .297-.333-.421 with 10 sbs and 33 xbh. The Yanks have a lot of talented 2B in the system rated higher than Ibarra so his future may be as a utility player.
Brett Marshall – RHP, 21, 6’0″ 195
Marshall was given an $850,000 signing bonus as a 6th rounder in 2008 but underwent Tommy John Surgery in July 2009. He came back to throw 84 innings last yr and looked good. He got off to a poor start in April this season but rebounded to have a great yr as he got stronger in his 2nd year from TJ surgery. Since May1, he went 8-4 2.87 with 100 Ks in 119 IP and saw a big uptick in his stuff and Ks in the 2nd half.
Brett threw a career high 140.1 IP this season which is big having never thrown more than 87. He proved his arm is healthy. Overall, he was 9-7 with a 3.78 ERA , 3.24 FIP, 7.3 K/9 & 3.1 BB/9. He has a good 2-seam fastball he used to post a 1.88 GO/AO ratio. His FB is in the low 90s with ability to throw in the mid 90s and he also features the makings of a plus slider. The organization has to be pleased with his season and they will likely have him begin in AA Trenton next yr. Look for Marshall to be a highly rated prospect in upcoming rankings.
Jairo Heredia – RHP, 21, 6’1″ 190
Heredia has been a highly ranked prospect for years but is terribly injury prone. Many had given up on him but he returned this season and showed the talent by going 8-2 3.29 with 9.0 k/9 & 2.1 bb/9 through June. However, he was then placed on the DL never to return. He’s still only 21 and has excellent command to go along with a plus Curveball and low 90s fastball with movement but he has not shown any durability.
Ryan Flannery – RHP, 25, 6’4 245
Dominating yr as the team’s closer going 3-1 with 19 saves and a 1.24 ERA. Had a 7 to 1 K to BB rate and 2.30 Ground Out to Air Out ratio but at 25, he’s very old for this league and needs to prove himself at AA where he didn’t fare well allowing 16 baserunners in 5 IP.
Jose Quintana – LHP, 22, 6’0″ 170
Quintana began the season as a reliever and did so well they made him a starter in July. Overall, he finished with a 10-2 record, 2.91 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 7.8 k/9, 2.5 bb/9 and 1.16 GO/AO rate. His strikeout ad groundball numbers were better as a reliever but that is true for most pitchers. Jose is a bit of an unknown not getting a lot of coverage prior to this season. He sits n the 89-91 range and throws a curve & change.
Michael O’Brien – RHP, 21, 5’11” 185
O’Brien pitched well in Low A so was brought up in late June and continued his success in Tampa. Combined he finished 7-7 with a 3.16 ERA with 99 Ks in 119 IP. He saw a big drop in his Ks after his promotion and was shut down for the season in mid-August