Thursday, August 31, 2006

25 to 40

Tomorrow, the rosters expand. The Yankees will have an unusually large and adept group of young players helping them out, and the first of them are on their way.

Darrell Rasner is up and getting ready to start on Sunday against the young Matt Garza. The Yankees should have the edge there. We also put Lidle and Karstens against Silva and Baker, making for one relatively easy set of matchups against a dangerous team.

Wil Nieves gives us an extra catcher (something that Columbus has quite the surplus of) and T.J. Beam should help ease the pain of a short bullpen.

We should also see Jose Veras in a few days, and maybe Thompson and Reese. Mitch Jones has an outside (though unlikely) shot, as does Sean Henn.

They should be welcome additions, especially Veras and Beam. We have the advantage that the season should pretty much be locked up after the 4 game set with the Red Sox. Beam, Veras, and the newly bullpennified Rasner (Mussina will take his spot) should provide some much needed rest to Mo, Proctor, and Villone.

Wouldn't mind seeing what Henn has as a reliever.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In Depth: The 2006 Draft part 2

The Foreigner (Jesus Montero)

Not all blue chip prospects come from the draft. The Yankees beat out the competition to sign 16 year old catcher Jesus Montero. Montero was widely considered the top international free agent coming in to this year, and the best prospect out of Venezuela since Miguel Cabrera. He was too young to immediately play in the minor leagues, but will report to Charleston next year.

There are some concerns that the 6'2 230 lb Montero might be too bulky to remain at catcher, but his hitting ability is not questioned. He has power, plate coverage, discipline, and maturity.

Montero will participate in the Yankee's mini-camp after the minor league season ends. Right now he is working out in Tampa and working on his catching skills. Although a lot of amateur scouts worry about his ability to stay at the catcher position, the Yankees don't seem to be worried.

The Kid (Zach McAllister)

With their first 18 picks of the draft, the Yankees picked up a grand total of two high school pitchers (and only one high school position player). Standing out among them is McAllister, a polished right handed starting pitcher. McAllister's body type reminds the Yankees a lot of Phil Hughes at 6'5" 230 lbs.

He throws hard with impressive control. He's impressed this year in the GCL, going 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 35 innings. He struck out 28, allowed 12 walks and 35 hits. He's set to impress in Charleston next year.

The Gamble (George Kontos)

George Kontos was not a good pitcher in college. He had a lot of trouble on the inner third of the plate, becoming very gun shy. His stuff and control were always good, but he got hit like crazy.

Scouts maintained that Kontos would tear up wooden bats, and they were right. Kontos has cut his ERA in half, going 7-2 with a 2.49 ERA in 72 innings for Statan Island.

Want to know how wicked his stuff is? Kontos throws a 93-94 mph 2 seamer as his primary pitch, with a mid 80s slider as his strikeout pitch. His heavy fastball results in a lot of groundball outs, which is deadly considering his plus control. He can throw a change and a curveball, and although they are not bad pitches neither really stands out.

Kontos has serious potential. Excellent control. Groundballs. Strikeouts. Thats a major formula for success.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rained Out

For the third time this year, the Yankees are playing a day/night double header due to rain.

Unlike last time, we're throwing out the right pitchers tomorrow. After 21 games in 20 days, the Yankees will enjoy their two days off. Chien-Ming Wang and Randy Johnson are much more likely to take the game into the 7th and 8th innings, unlike the rest of the rotation (sans Mussina).

Also, both pitchers work efficiently and quickly. The team isn't going to be out on the field for 9 hours total. Detroit is exactly the kind of team - free swinging and relying on power - that Wang destroys. He got beat up in Detroit, but I'd wager that Wang pitches well tomorrow. d

Some interesting Wang facts, for the bored:

Wang had an excellent July, pitching 35 innings in 5 games (over 7 per), for 4 wins and a 3.03 ERA. He went 4-1, getting 71 ground outs and 26 air outs. He did all of this despite striking out just seven. Seven? Thats like three innings of Eric Gagne.

Wang is unique among pitchers. Never in the history of the game has a player with so few strikeouts performed so well. Wang still leaves a lot to be determined by luck however. Take a look at Wang's May and June.

In May, Wang pitched 40 innings in 6 starts to a 4.28 ERA. He induced 83 groundouts, 27 fly outs and 9 strikeouts. He allowed 2 home runs and walked only 8. He allowed 38 hits.

In June, Wang pitched 42 innings in 5 starts and 1 relief appearance. His ERA was over a full run lower at 3.19. He induced 82 groundouts, 28 air outs, and 13 strikeouts. He walked 9 and gave up 3 home runs. He allowed 45 hits.

Despite nearly identical peripheral stat lines. Wang was significantly better in June than May. In fact, he gave up slightly more hits, home runs, walks, and fly balls. However, as luck would have it, a few more ground balls squeaked through at the wrong times in May.

Wang will forever, unless his strikeouts inch up, be vunerable to the whims of luck and defense. Still, he's been better than any pitcher in history with strikeout rates as low as his.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Great Problem to Have

It's an off day, so I figure that I will write about the Yankee minor league pitching situation.

The Yankees have one hell of a pitching pipeline. They focused almost all of their drafting efforts this season toward college pitchers. As a result, they actually might have too many starting pitchers at many levels of their minor league system.

AAA - Columbus (one of these may end up on the big league roster)

1. Phil Hughes
2. Jeff Karstens
3. Tyler Clippard
4. Steve White
5. Darrel Rasner
Extra: Kris Wilson

Notes: The Yankees have no space for Matt DeSalvo (who is pitching poorly at AA, so no worries there), Sean Henn (who will stay in the bullpen), bad veterans (*cough* Small), or any minor league free agents. That is one hell of a rotation. T.J. Beam, J.B. Cox, Jeff Kennard, Justin Pope, Charlie Manning, and Scott Patterson could all be in the stacked bullpen)

AA - Trenton (Where the Yankees don't have a ton of pitching... at least compared to the others)

1. Matt DeSalvo
2. Jason Jones (A college player who had a very solid 2006, could be a fringe MLB prospect next year)
3. Brett Smith (Barely a prospect, but had a decent year at Tampa.)
4. Chase Wright (Darkhorse to become a real solid prospect. Lefty)
5. Jeff Marquez (They might keep him at Tampa for a month)

Notes: Only Marquez is really a solid prospect here, although all four others (maybe with the exception of Smith) could see their stock rise dramatically with good performances next year.

A+ - Tampa (Holy Crap!)

1. Ian Kennedy (Who could move up quickly)
2. Joba Chamberlain (Still waiting to sign)
3. Christian Garcia (Underrated Pick, finally found his control in 2006 following injury)
4. Angel Reyes (Could wind up in Charleston... if Charleston wasn't loaded. Major, major stuff on this kid)
5. Tim Norton (Also could wind up in Charleston)

Notes - What a group of prospects. Some serious potential on this list. Both Kennedy and Chamberlain are capable of making it to AA very quickly. Mark Melancon, Dave Robertson, and Erik Abreu will also be in the powerful Tampa bullpen)

A - Charleston (Real solid set of pitchers)

1. Dellin Betances (Who made the Gulf Coast League look silly with a 1.16 ERA and 27 Ks in 23 innings)
2. Zach McAllister (Had an awesome start to his pro career. Been described as very polished.
3. Francisco Castillo (Stellar 19 year old from the D.R)
4. Rolando Japa (All the stuff in the world, still trying to put it together)
5. George Kontos (Underrated, could put a lot together)

A lot of lower-quality guys are going to find their jobs taken next year. With the exception of Kris Wilson and maybe Brett Smith, there is not a single non-prospect listed here.

That much depth is unheard of in baseball.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

August 27 @ Anaheim

Today was a clear example of Joe Torre screwing up our bullpen. Jeff Karstens was cruising with a big lead and only 83 pitches under his belt. Instead of allowing the rookie to pitch the 7th inning, Torre decided that Scott Proctor needed to loosen his arm up. Farnsworth then decided to make the game interesting, and all of the sudden Mariano needs to throw two innings.

And we all wonder why our bullpen is so tired.

Nick Green had a bad day. Hell, he's been poor defensively at 2b for awhile now. I never thought that I'd say this, but we miss Miguel Cairo.

A day off! Finally.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

August 26th @ Anaheim

The Yankees need a day off.

The team put up an admirable fight today. However, our biggest (and perhaps only) weakness was exposed by Anaheim: the inability of our 4-5 starters of going more than 5 innings.

For two days in a row, our starter hasn't pitched half a game. It's the kind of thing that has been killing Scott Proctor and Ron Villone all year.

But hey, let's talk positives. Octavio Dotel, ignoring the stat line, tossed the ball pretty well today. Mariano Rivera and Kyle Farnsworth are rested. Alex Rodriguez... managed one good at bat to finish the game.

Let's go Gil Meche!

New Lineup

Damon CF
Arod 3b (Hey, it worked in 2004)
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Giambi 1b
Cano 2b
Williams DH (a .260/.296/.396 hitter vs righties)
Cabrera LF
Fasano C

This is where we really miss Gary Sheffield. Abreu-Giambi-Cano are all left handed bats.

August 25th @ Anaheim

It was a tough loss, but not a tragic one. Octavio Dotel looks to be improving, if not ready for prime time yet. But real issue at hand is Jaret Wright.

Jaret Wright is no longer a useful major league pitcher for the Yankees. He simply requires too many pitches to make each out. Luckily, we have reinforcements waiting in the wings, namely Carl Pavano.

Pavano is ready to go. He might require one rehab start, but besides that he's pretty much there. Torre should consider putting him in the rotation asap.

Luckily, the bullpen was rested tonight. But tonight illustrated a big problem that Joe Torre has to deal with right now.
  • 1. Mike Myers is mostly a 1 out guy (unless we have a considerable lead)
  • 2. Scott Proctor is overworked.
  • 3. Ron Villone is both overworked and playing over his head.
  • 4. Kyle Farnsworth for some reason is unable to go back to back days or multiple innings.
  • 5. Mariano Rivera, being the closer, cannot help the rest before the 8th or 9th inning.
  • 6. Octavio Dotel is still an unknown commodity.
  • 7. Brian Bruney is too eratic to trust in close games.

The result? We're feeling shortstaffed with 7 pitchers. Dotel and Bruney aren't too useful right now. Farnsworth and Rivera are used only in select circumstances. Myers may get one out a game. That leaves too much of a burden upon Villone and Proctor.

Torre either needs to get Dotel into shape, use Farnsworth more, or swap Bruney for someone he can trust (Veras).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jeff Karstens

I wrote here awhile ago that Jeff Karstens screams out "Replacement player!" to me. At the time, I was looking at his not-so-great-but-not-bad stat line. He was a career 4.00 ERA player at every part of the minor leagues. He struck out a decent amount, and walked a fairly low number. He seemed to me a decidely average pitcher.

The Yankees added him to the 40 man roster prior to the Rule V draft. A pitcher who could potentially post a sub-5.00 ERA in the major leagues is a pretty valueable commodity, and the Yankees rightfully prefered to see Karstens start for Columbus this year instead of Kansas City.

Karstens started the year off rocky. He earned himself a demotion, and quickly responded. The 23 year old tossed 74 innings to a 2.31 ERA. His strikeouts rose and his walks declined. After a promotion to AAA, Karstens dazzled the international league.

He shot up on the Yankee's depth charts, and now is on the major league roster. He pitched successfully - if rocky - against the Mariners. Torre's quick hook prevented him from attaining a quality start, but Karstens gave the Yankees a chance to win.

I have no confidence in Karstens right now. He threaded the needle against the Mariners. In Yankee stadium, he would have allowed two more home runs. In Fenway, he would have allowed yet another. Karstens allowed way too many very high fly balls. His changeup kept hitters off balance, but not enough.

Jeff Karstens will be an average major league pitcher one day. He'll be an innings workhorse, and a very good 4th or 5th starter. But he's not there yet. Jeff Karstens may rattle together a few good starts, and position himself for a roster spot next year. That is all well and good - but that is next year. He needs more AAA experience under his belt.

He'll be a part of quite a rotation at Columbus next year. Phil Hughes. Tyler Clippard. Steve White. Darrel Rasner. Kris Wilson.

Wait... that is five starters. Maybe Jeff Karstens is not intended to be at Columbus at all next year. My bet? He's being showcased. Check back in November.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In Depth: The 2006 draft, part 1

I covered what little I knew about the 2006 draft in June, but now that a little more information exists, I'm going to return to the issue.

We had one hell of a draft. Cashman showed off his financial muscle by drafting every tough sign in the book. The result? Some serious pitching.

The Top (Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, 1st round)

The Yankees used their top two picks like they are supposed to. Ian Kennedy, the craft college junior who comes about as polished as they get, recently signed for over 2 million. Chamberlain has yet to sign, but is expected to quickly come for about 1 million.

Kennedy left his three years at U SoCal with a 3.09 ERA in 311 innings, striking out 380 while walking 105. He allowed just 271 hits during that time. Chamberlain spent his three years pitching 260 innings, with a 3.84 ERA and 280 strikeouts. He walked 93.

These two guys are legit 1st round pitchers. They will both start in Tampa, although Trenton remains a distant possibility. Without a doubt, both will be in AA by the middle of next year, in line for major league jobs. Good picks, safe picks. ETA: Spring Training 2008 (Kennedy), All Star Break 2008 (Chamberlain)

The Tough Signs (Dellin Betances, Dave Robertson, and Mark Melancon)

Money is a good thing. The Yankees may not have the scouting department of the Diamondbacks or the analysts of the Dodgers, but they have one hell of a check book. These days, signing prospects can be expensive things and teams will often shy away from expensive prospects. The Yankees are not one of those teams.

Dellin Betances (High School Starting Pitcher) signed for a seven figure bonus fairly quickly after the draft. He promptly went to work on the Gulf Coast League, throwing 17 innings in 6 starts (GCL pitchers are limited in innings significantly), allowing only two runs. He has struck out 19 and walked 6. Amazingly, Betances has allowed only 8 hits. It's pretty clear that rookie ball hitters are overmatched by the Randy Johnson-like proportions of Betances. With any luck, he'll be in High A ball by the end of next year. ETA: 2009 and beyond

Mark Melancon (College Closer) signed last week. He fell to the 9th round for the Yankees due to a combination of injury and signability concerns. The Yankees tossed a 2nd round type bonus at Melancon, and he signed. Melancon was considered the top relief pitcher coming out of college into this draft. The Yankees got him, signed him, and are getting him ready for Tampa as I write this. He should follow a similar track to J.B. Cox, who quickly was promoted to AA. Having taken this long to sign however, Melancon may be a little slower to progress.
ETA: Mid-2008

Dave Robertson was also considered one of the top relief prospects coming into this year, but he was never expected to sign. Robertson pitched in the Cape Code league playoffs this year, tossing 7.1 innings without giving up a hit or walk. He struck out 15, including his final 6 batters for the league championship. He'll end up in Tampa next year.
ETA: Spring Training 2009

Money is a good thing, but good scouting helps too. Tomorrow I'll be taking a look at the mere mortal signings that the Yankees made, including 3rd rounder Zach McAllister, college outfielder Colin Curtis, shortstop Mitch Hilligross, and some other pitchers that the Yankees drafted. In addition, we'll talk about the power hitting catcher Jesus Montero, signed for 2 million out of Venezuela.

It's good to be back.

I'm back!

A few days ago, I arrived home from my long hiatus in the woods. I enjoyed my summer thoroughly, and now it's time to get back to baseball.

Shortly after returning, I was given the opportunity to take my first trip to Fenway Park for a baseball game. The game? A 10 inning classic where Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina faced off for the division. It was worth every second of the 5-hour drive back to New Jersey at 2 AM.

I left on June 20th. On that date, the Yankees were 2.0 games behind. Steve Goldman was about to write how slim the Yankee's chances were. gave us a sub-50% chance of making the playoffs. Today? The Yankees are 7 games up in the loss column with a 95% chance of making the playoffs. Damn straight.

It's hard to be the one who criticizes a 1st place manager. Joe Torre's team has fought it's way through hardship and injury. Still, the decisions and choices that Torre makes on a daily basis still have long-term (and short term) consequences.

You are going to see me write quite a bit about non-Torre matters here. The Yankees have an exciting and expansive farm system for which I have a genuine passion about.

I'm ready for a run at #27. How about you guys?