It is creeping up on us very quickly. In a little over two weeks Yankees pitchers and catchers will report to Tampa, Florida. The Giants deep run in the playoffs has probably made the time go by quicker for everybody (not me of course as I am a Packers fan). The offseason storylines have picked up of late and they should lead to an intriguing spring training. I will breakdown my top five storylines going into camp. Feel free to add more that you guys think are important in the comments.
1) The 5th starter competition
This spot would seem to be the only one up for competition this spring, other then the usual few bullpen spots, unless an injury crops up. It will probably come down to how Freddy Garcia. A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes pitch in the spring. The Yankees have a lot more invested in Hughes and Burnett, which is why I do not give Garcia much of a shot, despite his solid year last year. I do think Garcia would be a successful long man and can fill in the rotation at a moments notice, like Bartolo Colon did last year. I do not see Burnett or Hughes being traded. Nobody want’s Burnett’s contract, even if the Yankees would pick-up a large portion of it. As with Hughes, I don’t think the Yankees should trade him until they get his value back up. Why trade somebody when their value is way down, like it is now? So I do see it coming down to how Hughes and Burnett perform in their spring starts. Hughes needs to come into camp in much better shape than last year. There was no excuse for him coming in the shape that he did and it probably was not a coincidence that he got hurt. We all know Burnett’s issues, but maybe having to pitch for his job will light a fire under him.
2) Who will DH?
I am not in favor of rotating the DH spot. Obviously you have to give Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter DH AB’s, but when they are in the field the Yankees should sign or trade for somebody to DH. Andruw Jones will get most of the DH AB’s against lefties, but the Yankees need to find somebody to face righties. Also, if Brett Gardner hits lefties like he did last year it would not be a bad idea for Jones to play left and have a DH. Gardner only hit .233, with 0 homers, 6 RBI, a .272 slugging percentage, and a .616 OPS against lefties last year. Those are not acceptable numbers. Obviously Gardner is not a power guy, but if you are only going to have a .272 slugging percentage against lefties your average must be higher than .233.
I thought Carlos Pena was an ideal option to DH vs. righties, but he is no longer available. Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez, Vladimir Guerrero, and Hideki Matsui are all options. I do not see Jorge Vazquez as a legit option because of his high Triple-A strikeout numbers. If they do not sign anybody I would let Jones or even Nunez DH against righties before the 29 year old journeyman.
3) Mark Teixeira Bunting
This is a new story that has crept up and I find it very interesting. Wally Matthews wrote about it on ESPN New York.com. Texeira has said he will work on bunting in spring training and may try to get bunt hits against the shift. I will believe that when I see it. I am not opposed to him dropping a few bunts down against the shift in certain spots, but the Yankees do not pay Teixeira to lay down bunts. The Yankees pay him to hit home runs, knock runners in, play gold glove defense, and perform in the playoffs. He did 3 out of 4 of those things last year. The Yankee Analysts wrote a great article on Teixeira that everybody should take time to read. I was surprised to learn that Teixeira batted .337 and slugged .837 when pulling the ball against righties. When going the other way against righties Teixeira batted .086 and slugged .103. Those numbers suggest that if Texeira can’t fix his swing going the other way against righties that he should just continue to pull everything. He did do well going the other way hitting right handed so hopefully it can translate to the left side.
4) The Health of Alex Rodriguez
Everybody will be watching Alex Rodriguez this spring to see what his health is. Of course, just because he is healthy in the spring does not mean he will stay healthy the whole year. Last spring A-Rod was hitting the cover off the ball and a lot of people thought he could compete for the MVP again. Unfortunately, that was not the case and he had an injury plagued season. I am optimistic about the results of the knee therapy that A-Rod had in Germany, that Kobe Bryant suggested to him. It is called platelet-rich plasma therapy and is becoming more popular among athletes. Anybody that has watched Kobe in the NBA this year knows he got a lot of explosion back and looks a lot more spry after this surgery. The Yankees need A-Rod back healthy and producing.
5) Which Young Guy Will Shine?
Every spring training a young player will make a splash. That splash usually does not put them on the major league roster, but they do catch the eyes of the Yankees brass and the fans. Last year Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos had great springs and gave Yankee fans a glimpse of the future. It will be interesting to see them again, but it also will be interesting who else steps up.
Our friends over at Seedlings 2 Stars were kind enough to answer a couple questions about the 2012 Prospect list they put out. The questions were sent out before the trade but I think the answers are still interesting to hear.
For a bio on both the writers who answered these questions click the below links.
Q1: Tell us what you feel about the projections of Jesus Montero. You ranked him pretty low, in my opinion, on your 2012 Prospect list at #42. I feel that will be the lowest ranking we will see of him all year from any source.
Nathaniel: Montero is likely to be a very good major league DH. The reason he’s ranked 42nd on the list is because he’s not going to provide any value aside from his bat, so he’s going to have to be one of the top dozen or so hitters in the game if he’s going to attain true stardom. He’s not going to grow much more, and his statistics got worse as he advanced through the minors, so it would seem to be awfully difficult to be confident that he’s going to be a top-15/20 hitter. That said, he’s still just 22 and has a very good track record. He should be a very good hitter. The thing is, there’s a significant chance his offensive production is closer to Billy Butler‘s than Miguel Cabrera‘s.
Q2: A prospect that won’t make many lists is Jorge Vazquez. While he can mash the ball, he tends to strike out quite a bit and doesn’t seem to take many walks. I feel he could be a MLB player (like a Shelly Duncan) but he is blocked by Mark Teixeira at 1B and DH by Montero. Could you see a team wanting him in a trade? Or is he a career minor leaguer?
Wally: Jorge Vazquez is 29-years old and has a dreadful career SO-to-BB of 710-to-173. In 2011 with Triple-A he drew just 30 BB to 166 SO in 118 games. If you’re a fan of percentages his K% was a whopping 33.2 and that’s just not major league material, especially coupled with a 6.0 BB%. The other thing that limits his value on the market is that there are no shortage of younger 1B/DH type guys with better plate discipline and a better track record scattered around the minor leagues. Off the top of my head we have; Clint Robinson (26) – Royals, Bryan LaHair (29) – Cubs, Kila Ka’aihue (27) – Athletics, Brandon Allen (25) – Athletics, Chris Davis (25) – Baltimore. Then you have guys that may be a little older but have a better profile like Luis Terrero (31) – Mexican League. Vazquez may get a look as a bench bat at some point but he’s awfully long in the tooth and with his issues on the plate discipline front, the presence of Teixeira really doesn’t impact his chances of getting major league at bats. The Yankees could be starting Travis Ishikawa at 1B and Vazquez would still be blocked. Bottom line, he has little trade value and is most likely a career minor leaguer who may get a cup of coffee at some point.
Q3: You have Gary Sanchez #17 ranked ahead of Manny Banuelos #26. The majority of Yankees projections will have Banuelos ahead of Sanchez. Can you explain to our readers why you have your rankings this way and how you see Sanchez and Banuelos as MLB players?
Nathaniel: Sanchez has more upside than Banuelos does, and, being a position player, he also has less of a chance of suffering a career-altering injury. His track record, at least on offense, has also been excellent thus far, whereas Banuelos hit some serious speed bumps in the upper minors with his command. I absolutely love Banuelos–he was top-10 on my list last year–but he’s not physically projectable, so his stuff probably “is what it is,” so to speak. Therefore, it could be a couple of years before he refines things enough to get his walk rate back down, and he’s almost certainly not an ace in the end–more of a #2/#3 starter. Sanchez, on the other hand, could be the best catcher in the American League if he can figure out the defensive side of the game. Of course, the same could be said for Montero, but while there’s skepticism surrounding Sanchez’s defensive capabilities, I don’t think it’s quite at the level of the disregard for Montero’s catching.
Wally: I believe in the value of having major league bloodlines and selecting a player of his profile 51st overall was far from head scratching to me. In fact I was surprised he didn’t go earlier. That said, I was surprised by how quickly he transitioned his game to affiliated ball. He was one of a select few players to hit better than 0.300/.400/.500 in 2011 and he did so at 18 years old. I don’t think there is any question that if he puts forth another strong season in 2012 he will land in the 51-100 range of the vast majority of Top-100 lists. He’s got the bat, the projectable power, a strong throwing arm, decent speed and a strong work ethic. In short he’s an outstanding prospect that just needs to show what he did in rookie ball will translate to A-ball and beyond.
Nathaniel: Tough to say. Betances has very good stuff, so there’s always the chance that he figures out his mechanics, gets the ball down and in the zone more, and takes off. At this point, though, he looks more like an eternal frustration a la A.J. Burnett. He could be a Burnett-type starter with his fastball/curve mix, but probably fits better as a power reliever. If he doesn’t get things together in 2012, he won’t be on the list again.
Wally: For Baltimore there just aren’t a lot of options close to the majors that are likely to have an impact. In fact there’s really just one and that is 2B-turned-outfielder L.J. Hoes. He doesn’t have any standout tool but he is coming off of hitting 0.305/.379/.413 for Bowie (AA) in 2011 with his typically strong SO-to-BB rates. While he lacks the pop you’d like to see in a corner OF, his bat is legit and he should hit for average in the majors. He will likely get on-base at an above average rate and bring good speed to the table.
Like the Orioles much of Boston’s top tier talent is further down in the system but there is one player in particular that will most likely make an impact for the Sox in 2012. C Ryan Lavarnway made his major league debut in 2011 after hitting 32 HR between AA and AAA. Once in the majors he didn’t shrink from the spotlight and handled himself well hitting 0.231/.302/.436. He should push for playing time in Spring Training and have a chance to become a “Napoli-esque player” (to borrow a phrase from Nathaniel’s lexicon).
Tampa Bay has the top-pitching prospect in all of baseball and there is no player I am looking forward to watching more in 2012 than LHP Matt Moore. Everyone knows about him by now but he’s going to make a loaded Rays rotation even better. I may be over the top but I consider Moore a serious threat to win the AL Cy Young Award this year.
Toronto has the best farm system in the division and Brett Lawrie and J.P. Arencibia have already made their presence felt in the majors. There is more impact talent on the way. C Travis d’Arnaud and OF Anthony Gose will likely both start in Triple-A and be just a step away from making an impact on the major league roster. Gose will likely take a little more time to round out his game but d’Arnaud could advance quickly and make Arencibia a tradeable commodity in short order.
Q7: Based on the recent trades of Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos, could the Yankees have come up with a prospect package to match what Washington & Cinncinati gave up WITHOUT including Montero and Banuelos?
Wally: Well to recap. For Washington it took RHP A.J. Cole, C Derek Norris, LHP Tom Milone and RHP Brad Peacock to get Gio and Robert Gilliam from the Athletics. Cincinnati needed to give up C Yasmani Grandal, 1B Yonder Alonso, RHP Brad Boxberger and RHP Edinson Volquez to pry Mat Latos away from the Padres. Those are 2 serious prospect hauls that the Nationals and Reds surrendered respectively and it’s hard to imagine that the Yankees could have gotten a deal done without including one, if not both, of Montero and Banuelos. If they had packaged Banuelos with Gary Sanchez and probably two other guys a bit further away I think they could have pulled it off for either starting pitcher. Likewise a package fronted by Jesus and Betances and some other guys further away may have worked but Montero’s value to the Padres was significantly less due to the uncertainty surrounding his ability to play catcher.
To put it more bluntly, no. I don’t think they could not have pulled off either deal without giving up either Montero or Banuelos.
Q8: Would a package of Betances, one of Romine or Sanchez, one of Warren or Phelps and another C-level prospect be enough for the Cubs to trade Matt Garza?
Wally: Ah, see now were getting to a more realistic target as Matt Garza isn’t on the same level as Mat Latos or Gio Gonzalez. He’s several years older and closer to free agency which makes him a less valuable trade commodity. If the Yankees were to step up with a Betances, Sanchez package and maybe another C+ prospect I have to believe the Cubs would jump at the chance. If they opted to try and move Romine instead of Sanchez than I think Phelps, Betances and another piece would have to be involved.
Q9: I love Tyler Austin as a sleeper prospect. I think he possesses the same skill set of Dante Bichette but doesn’t get near the publicity. Have you seen him play? What do you think of him? And is there a sleeper or two you like in the Yankee organization that might not get a lot of press?
Nathaniel: I’ve seen a bit of video of Austin. I agree that he’s definitely worthy of being talked about along with Bichette and Williams–they form a formidable trio of short-season guys you don’t find in many organizations. I think Nik Turley and David Phelps are two good sleepers. I see both as capable fourth starters in the big leagues.
Q10: With most of their top pitching prospects in the upper levels (AA and above), what young pitchers in the Yankee system do you like to step forward in the coming years to replace Banuelos, Betances, Noesi, Nova, Phelps, Warren, etc…
Wally: Of the guys pitching below AA the two I think have the best chance to step forward are RHP Brett Marshall (21) and LHP Nik Turley (22). Both have now reached High-A and both could develop into mid-rotation guys. Outside of those two there’s not a whole lot else to dream on right now in the lower levels.
Q11: I expect to see Mason Williams crack a lot of Top 100 lists this yr. BA rated him the top prospect in the NY Penn Lg and he’s got all kind of tools in his shed. Was he considered for your top 100 and what is your overall opinion on him?
Nathaniel: Yes, Williams was considered for the top 100. He was around the 110s on my list, and that’s no insult. I was very hesitant with a lot of short-season guys on the list this year, sort of as a reaction to going too crazy with them on the list the year before. I do think he was the top prospect in that league, he has a very good skillset, and he’s certainly a prospect to watch. He, Austin, and Bichette will all rise up my rankings next year if they continue to hit in A-ball.
2011 Yankee Minor League HITTING LEADERS
SWB Yankees scored early and often they first scored when Parraz doubled and scored Laird in the bottom of the 2nd. Russo then singled driving in Parraz. Brewer then singled driving in Russo. In the bottom of the 4th Jorge Vazquez homered for the twentieth time scoring Ramiro Pena. Vazquez then doubled in the bottom of the 6th scoring Pena again. Warren pitched the complete game striking out seven and giving up only six hits.
Trenton L 4-1
Trenton scored there lone run in the top of the 3rd when Yadil Mujica doubled scoring Deangelo Mack. Yankee future star Betances pitched six innings striking out 8 in the ND. Taking the loss is switch pitcher Venditte who moves to 0-2 on the season and blowing his first save.
Tampa W 4-3
Tampa scored early in the first inning when Zoilo Almonte singled in Abraham Almonte. Tampa then put up 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th on a bunch of bloop hits. Allen went 6 innings in the ND. Solbach picked up the win in relief moving his record to 3-3.
Charleston L 5-4 10innings
Charleston put up a run in the bottom of third when Jose Mojica singled in Anderson Feliz. In the bottom of the 8th Charleston tacked on two more runs when Anderson Feliz doubled scoring Gary Sanchez and Eduardo Sosa. Taking the loss in relief was Perez.
SWB W 5-1
HR: Vazquez, Jo (17, 1st inning off Gallagher, 1 on, 2 out). Leads all of AAA
TB: Krum, A; Pena, R; Montero, J; Vazquez, Jo 4; Maxwell 2; Laird; Russo 2; Brewer.
RBI: Vazquez, Jo 2 (43), Laird 2 (12), Russo (11).
2-out RBI: Vazquez, Jo 2.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Pena, R 3; Molina.
Team RISP: 4-for-12.
Team LOB: 7.
SB: Russo (4, 2nd base off Gallagher/Toregas), Brewer (4, 3rd base off Boyer/Toregas).
PO: Krum, A (1st base by Toregas).
E: Russo (2, throw).
|Warren (W, 3-1)||8.0||3||1||1||1||4||0||3.57|
Trenton W 5-2
2B: Mesa 2 (12, Kissock, Ellis), Johnson, C (7, Ellis).
HR: Johnson, C (6, 3rd inning off Hyatt, 2 on, 2 out).
TB: Kruml 2; Joseph, Co; Romine; Johnson, C 6; Mesa 5.
RBI: Johnson, C 3 (16), Romine (25), Mesa (13).
2-out RBI: Johnson, C 3.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Maruszak; Sublett.
Team RISP: 2-for-8.
Team LOB: 6.
SB: Mesa (8, 2nd base off Hyatt/Gosewisch).
CS: Kruml 2 (5, 2nd base by Hyatt/Gosewisch, 2nd base by Diekman/Gosewisch).
Tampa L 5-4
2B: Higashioka 3 (8, Schuld, Stillings, Pugh).
3B: Almonte, A (2, Schuld).
TB: Almonte, A 4; Murton; Higashioka 6; Grote.
RBI: Grote (14), Almonte, A 3 (16).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Medchill; Lyerly; Ibarra, W 3.
SAC: Castro, K.
SF: Almonte, A.
Team RISP: 2-for-11.
Team LOB: 7.
E: Ibarra, W 2 (4, fielding, fielding), Murton (9, throw), Medchill (1, fielding), Castro, K (2, fielding).
Outfield assists: Grote (Romero at home).
Charleston – Off Day
SWB L 7-3
HR: Vazquez, Jo 2 (16, 1st inning off Worley, 1 on, 2 out; 3rd inning off Worley, 0 on, 0 out). (he is making his value very high as piece for a trade)
TB: Brewer 3; Montero, J; Vazquez, Jo 8; Maxwell; Laird; Pena, R.
RBI: Vazquez, Jo 3 (41).
2-out RBI: Vazquez, Jo 2.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Parraz; Montero, J; Nunez, L; Maxwell 2.
Team RISP: 0-for-7.
Team LOB: 11.
E: Montero, J (1, catcher interference).
PB: Montero, J (2).
Outfield assists: Maxwell (Brown, D at 2nd base).