David Phelps Should NOT Be Just a Short Term Solution

May 1, 2012

I was in the midst of writing a “Girardi Needs to Yank Garcia from the Rotation” piece when the Yankees announced Sunday that Freddy Garcia is being removed from the rotation. He will not make his next scheduled start and will remain as the mop up guy* in the bullpen.

  • As opposed to the 9th inning guy (Rivera), the 8th inning guy (Robertson), the 7th inning guy (Soriano), the 6th inning guy (Wade/Logan), the LOOGY (Rapada), and multi-inning guy (Logan/Wade).

In a related transaction, Triple-A starting pitcher D.J. Mitchell, who many feel could be a good, multi-inning reliever, has been promoted with Cody Eppley, who has thrown well since he was recalled last week, was sent down to make room for Mitchell. Since Eppley threw 3 innings yesterday, he was likely not available today or tomorrow, and with Phelps also not likely available due to his three inning stint yesterday, he wasn’t available either.

They still have 13 pitchers on their 25 man roster. That is at least one too many.

With Cory Wade and now Garcia in the bullpen, why the need for Mitchell right now? Did Girardi expect CC Sabathia to get knocked around early today?

The bringing up of Mitchell told me that he will not be the starting pitcher the next Thursday (Garcia’s next scheduled start). And after the game we hear that Phelps will indeed start in Garcia’s stead.

That is a great move, with Phelps GETTING a role in the Yankees starting rotation is long overdue.

I say getting because the way the Yankees have developed their own starting pitching (not good) with ways most other successful teams do develop starting pitching (pretty good) is completely different.

The Yankees force their young pitchers to pitch well in the minor leagues, and then pitch extremely well in spring training to “earn” your spot. After you “earn” your spot, then a Yankee pitching prospect needs to pitch like an ace right off the bat to keep that rotation spot. Then that kid has to pitch well again the NEXT spring training to keep that spot.

What other team (besides the Yank-Mees) in their right mind would force a 16 game winner in the prior season to have to EARN a spot in the rotation for the next season the way the Yankees made Ivan Nova do this spring training. There was serious talk in late March of Nova being sent to minor leagues after his sub-par spring training. The minor leagues! Ship out a kid who won 16 games last year, with an ERA well below 4.00.

And all that might not even get you a sniff of the major leagues, since the Yankees are always seeking to “improve” their rotation each year with the biggest name free agent available.

Teams like the Tampa Bay Rays develop their pitchers. Each of their current starting pitchers were brought up in the middle (or end) of their first major league season to start games when the Rays needed them.  Then that guy was inserted into the starting rotation for the next season, and in several instances veteran starters were traded away to allow these kids that opportunity. Guys like Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel (who seems to have turned his career around) were shipped out to allow new starters an opportunity.

Same thing has been done in San Francisco and Texas.

So after a career minor league record of 38-15, 2.61 ERA, Phelps has now been granted an opportunity to start a major league baseball game, AFTER he had to “earn” that spot this spring training to get on the major league roster. I have written about Phelps many times before, most recently here but now people are finally realizing this kid is pretty good.

http://nybaseballdigest.com/2012/03/05/david-phelps-impresses-on-the-mound-what-else-is-new/

He throws strikes with four pitches, moves the ball nicely around the zone and can blow the ball by hitters when he needs to.

However, despite his four quality appearances out of the bullpen, he also had two outings where he allowed three earned runs in each. It was in these two games which Phelps has given up three of his four home runs allowed. In fact, five of his seven runs allowed have been caused by the four long balls.

I am sure that has really destroyed that precious xFIP.

It is these two outings which has many in the blogosphere very nervous. Let me break down these two appearances.

In the Boston game on April 21st, Phelps allowed six hits, three ERs while walking one in four innings. His ERA for that game (6.75) is less than Phil Hughes ERA of 7.88 this season and well below Garcia’s. This game saw Phelps give up a bunch of ground ball singles, a double and a two-run home run to Cody Ross, who he had whiffed in a prior at bat. He also retired Adrian Gonzalez twice including getting him to hit into a double play.

I guess Phelps was just lucky on that grounder.

Anyway, he was ahead of most of the hitters that game as he was in the Texas game. But in the Texas game, Phelps allowed two solo home runs, three walks (2 IBB) in 2.1 innings. He threw good pitches which were hit out, a 1-1 up and in fastball to Mitch Moreland, and a 0-2 low and away fastball to Mike Napoli. Both pitches weren’t exactly where they were supposed to be, but weren’t great fat pitches to hit either. I actually thought he should have bounced a curve ball to Napoli 0-2 after getting ahead on two straight fastballs.

There are times when a pitcher can make the most perfect pitch (and up and in and low and away fastballs are two great pitches), but if a hitter is looking for a particular pitch they can still hit it very hard. That is why it is imperative to get ahead (which Phelps consistently does), which forces many hitters to expand the strike zone.

I am not making excuses for Phelps, but despite two “bad” outings, he didn’t pitch as bad as the numbers suggest.

I saw Phelps throw in his last outing. He moved the ball in and out; throwing the ball very well against a pretty good lineup. Just ask Garcia, he’ll agree. Phelps jammed Miguel Cabrera on and inside fastball on the black and had Prince Fielder pout in front on an outside curveball, which induced the slugger to bounce into a double play. He threw a 3-1 changeup to get Phelps also set up Austin Jackson like he was a little leaguer, striking AJax out on three pitches, finishing him off with a high fastball which Jackson swung through.

It is not practical for the Yankees to not have another young arm in the rotation. Most successful teams continue to produce solid starting pitching, many of whom are not even first round pick. And if the Yankees feel they will sign Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke next year for contracts well over $100 million (the way Hamels is throwing, he might command near $200 million), then they are nuts. As a west coast guy, if Hamels did become a free agent, he will never sign with the Yankees. And after the crap Michael Pineda endured this spring training, Greinke will run far away from the Bronx.

Who else is a possible free agent? A Joe Blanton, Kyle Lohse or Brandon McCarthy? Please.

And what type of Mat Latos or Gio Gonzalez deal are you going to swing now since your biggest trade chip, Jesus Montero, was shipped out to Seattle?

There is a great strong chance Hiroki Kuroda and/or Andy Pettitte will not be around next season due to cost (Kuroda) and effectiveness (Pettitte). And will Phil Hughes begin to fulfill all his promise as a starting pitcher and become a fixture in the Yankee rotation?

The best situation for the Yankees is to develop and use another pitcher from their system in their starting rotation. And that doesn’t include a rehash of the 40 year old Andy Pettitte. Ivan Nova has proven he belongs, and it is time for the Yankees to allow Phelps a similar opportunity. He has been their best minor league starting pitcher since he has entered their system. 

If the choice is between a 25 year old David Phelps with a four pitch arsenal to both sides of the plate or a 40 year old Andy Pettitte who can barely break 86 MPH, and from what I have seen and heard throws many his pitches over the middle of the plate, the choice is very easy.

Phelps has shown he can get out many of the game’s best hitters, and has the composure, confidence and repertoire to succeed at this level. There is no reason why he shouldn’t be GIVEN the balance of starts this season.

David Phelps needs to not be a short term stop gap and become part of the long term solution.


Javier Vazquez Back Into The Yankees Starting Rotation, But Why?

September 1, 2010

Back in 2007, the Yankees had a starting pitcher in the minors who blew through several levels of play. He regularly hit the gun at 95-97, even as late as the 7th inning inone game for the Trenton Thunder.

He was good starting pitching prospect, but the Yankees needed his power arm in their bullpen. So Joba Chamberlain was in the bullpen for the 2007 post season.

He was tried as a starting pitcher and despite not being Wes Ferrell right off the bat, he still did well considering he was restricted in more ways that Stephen Strasburg laughs at him.

But Joba was perceived to be a better pitcher as a reliever (where he was needed) and the numbers appeared to show this fact. Even before this inconsistent season from the pen, Joba has a lower ERA, WHIP, and higher strikeout and K/BB rates as a reliever.

Despite only starting 43 games, Joba was better in the pen than as a starter. The debate was fierce and everyone had an opinion.

However, the Yankees are going in a different direction with another pitcher who gets much better results when he comes out of the bullpen.

Manager Joe Girardi said today that Javier Vazquez will move back into the rotation on Saturday, replacing Dustin Moseley. This comes on the heels of Vazquez’ two really good relief appearances over the past week.

In the first one on August 25th, Vazquez came in the middle of the 4th inning to replace Phil Hughes. Javy completed the game, going 4.1 innings, allowing two hits, one earned run, while walking one. He struck out two.

The second appearance was on August 30th, where Vazquez replaced the increasingly ineffective Moseley. Once again, Javy finished the game, cruising through almsot five very effective innings. He finished with 4.2 IP, allowing two hits, one earned run, walked one hitter while striking out six batters.

In his last two appearances, both in relief of ineffective starting pitchers, and totaled nine innings of two run ball. He kept the Yankees in the first game (an eventual loss to Toronto) and got the win in relief of Moseley.

He also got the win in the May 17th game versus Boston, when he came in relief and struck out Kevin Youkilis in a big late inning situation. That was the game which Marcus Thames homered off of Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the 9th inning.

As a reliever, Vazquez has a 1.93 ERA, 0.643 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 4.5 SO/BB and a .125 BAA. All those numbers are considerably better than the 5.07 ERA, 1.366 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 1.9 SO/BB, and .257 BAA.

So then why put Vazquez back into the rotation? He pitches so much better out of the pen in his long-man role. At the point when Vazquez enteres games, either the Yankees are behind a few runs or the game is close and the Yankees have scored a bunch of runs already.

The game is already in its groove, and the big pressure of starting is off. Does Vazquez relish this lack of pressure role, where he is being used to give the Yankees innings?

Probably. Although he is a veteran pitcher, the pressure of New York was the reason why many people thought he wouldn’t pitch well this year after the off season trade with the Atlanta Braves.

With Ivan Nova, Moseley’s spot, and Phil Hughes commanding three straight starts in the current rotation, that is a lot of possible innings for the bullpen to pitch. You need a long man to maybe keep the Yankees in the game if one of those guys hit the showers early.

Like Hughes did on August 25th, and Moseley did two days ago.

Vazquez and Chad Gaudin (unbelievably surprising!) have formed a nice, recent one-two middle relief punch. Gaudin pitched well last night, throwing three innings in relief of another short Hughes outing.

But Moseley is not a very good pitcher, and should not start this Saturday. He is 2-1 but averages fewer than five innings a start. He’s walked 13 and struck out 11 while allowing five home runs, resulting in a 6.41 ERA.

But who to start on Saturday? You can always go the Sergio Mitre route, but that doesn’t excite me.

Nova has done well in his recall from Triple A so why not got down that well once again? While Moseley ws blowing up Monday night in the Bronx, David Phelps was throwing five innings of opne run ball in Triple A.

Phelps has a 3.23 ERA in 11 appearances. While he does allow a fair share of hits, Phelps is similar to Nova in that he does not walk many hitters (13 in 62 AAA innings). You can give up hits or walks, just don’t be good at allowing both in the same game.

Phelps doesn’t need to be on the Yankees 40 man roster until after next season, I can not see him spending all his time in AAA all next year. He will pitch in the majors sometime in 2011.  

The Yankees have too many wasted spots on their 40 man roster, such as Chad Huffman, Wilkin De La Rosa, Reegie Corona and even Mitre is expendable. He will never get a post season roster spot.

So I say lets go with Phelps and see what he can do. It won’t be for long since Andy Pettitte will be back in two weeks.

Vazquez needs to stay in the bullpen now. He is performing well in that role.

Let Phelps pitch and if he does well, you might have an idea for next years rotation with two guys (Nova and Phelps) who could challenge for a 2011 rotation spot. At the very least, it will increase his trade value in the off season.


The New York Yankees Should NOT Include Manuel Banuelos for Dan Haren

July 25, 2010

The Dan Haren trade has been discussed for a couple of days with the Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher coming to the Yankees in exchange for Joba Chamberlain and Triple A starting pitchers Zach McAllister (22 years old) and Ivan Nova, who is 23 years of age.

The last place Diamondbacks are also insisting that the Yankees pay all of the remaining salary for Haren, but also taking on either unreliable Chad Qualls or catcher Chris Snyder, both of whom have money let on their contracts. Qualls has about $750K left on his one year deal, while Snyder’s contract runs through next year to which he would be owed around $7 million total.

Paying Haren’s contract is fine, and teams which trade for a player should assume the contract. But asking for the trading team to assume the big contract and then to tell them they also must take another bad player or bad contract is a little greedy.

Especially when you are getting three talented arms, two of which the Diamondbacks can plug into their current pitching staff.

The Yankees rightfully declined that offer, insisting that while they will take on Haren’s contract, they are supposedly not interested in trading Joba or taking back another player.

Now the Diamondbacks are asking the Yankees for another pitcher, High A left-handed ace Manuel Banuelos. I have seen Banuelos pitch several times this season in Tampa, and reported on Banuelos a few weeks ago. Unless the Yankees are getting absolute top talent back, they should never trade Banuelos.

He will be a star.  

Although I believe the Yankees should make the three-for-one trade, I believe the Yankees are holding off on trading Joba to try to get the Diamondbacks to pay a portion of Haren’s salary. Any money the Yankees can get back on the Haren deal could be used next year for a run at potential free agent Cliff Lee.

If Haren becomes a Yankee, they will have about $58 million tied up in their four starting pitchers of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Phil Hughes (eligible for arbitration) and Haren. Based upon what he does this year in the post season for the Texas Rangers, Lee would want at least $20 million per season.

Either way the Yankees decide to go, Manuel Banuelos should never be included in a deal for Haren.

Banuelos is just too good.


Young Kids Propel NY Yankees to Comeback over LA Dodgers

June 28, 2010

In the top of the 9th inning Sunday night, the New York Yankees scored four runs to turn a 6-2 deficit into a 6-6 tie game.

In the middle of the rally were Chad Huffman, acquired off the waiver wire in May, and Colin Curtis, a 2006 Yankee draftee who made his major league debut this past week. I repeatedly contend that the Yankees 2006 draft will go down as the greatest draft class of all time.

Both outfielders, Huffman was brought up from Triple A two weeks ago, and Curtis was promoted for the inter-league games in National League parks where the DH is not used. Curtis has yet to start a game, but has appeared as the primary left-handed bat off the Yankee bench (at least when Jorge Posada is catching.)

Huffman came through last night with a big two-run single, and was followed by Curtis who hit the score tying ground ball to first base.  Before plating the tying run, Curtis had a tremendous at bat, fouling off four two-strike pitches from Jonathan Broxton, one of baseball’s hardest throwing closers.

Huffman and Curtis made their major league debuts this season, as has utility man Kevin Russo, and right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova. Two other players, OF Greg Golson and RHP Romulo Sanchez, had cups of coffee for other teams, but until this year, both had not played in the majors in basically two seasons.

The four Yankee position players all connected for their first major league hits this season, and have helped the Yankees win games this year. Nova and Sanchez were each brought up in May to give an overworked bullpen some fresh arms. In fact, Nova’s promotion was to replace Sanchez.

That is four guys getting their first hits, and four guys making their major league debuts.

Joe Girardi has no issues in using his young players.

But this would not have happened if Joe Torre were still managing the Yankees. Torre was more of a veteran player type manager, continuously using veteran players, guys he trusted to do certain jobs. That is why Torre always used the same guys out of the bullpen. He didn’t really trust certain players, especially youngsters.

That makes last night’s game so ironic in that two rookies knocked in three runs in that last inning, helping to tie the game which Robinson Cano won with a two-run homer in the top of the 10th.

With the exception of Ivan Nova, probably all of the young players mentioned here will not have a impact during future seasons, but in 2010 they have all a little something to help win games for the Yankees.

The turnaround in organizational philosophy towards using their younger farm system talent is getting better all the time. Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli, David Robertson and Ramiro Pena have greatly contributed in recent seasons.

There are even more young players “down on the farm” who will continue to get their shots at the major leagues in a Yankee uniform.

And that is a good thing to see, as the precedent set by their predecessors has been quality, winning baseball.


New York Yankee 40 man roster needs this off season

August 20, 2009

Every year right after the World Series, the various major league teams need to update their 40 man roster. Sometime in November new names are added and mnay players are designated for assignment and released. The new 40 man roster attendees are usually young players (unless your the Mets, then you need to be over 40) who have impressed and moved up the ranks.

Most are in AA and AAA, but a few needing protecting could be in A ball, especially if the player has just come back from injury. In fact, the Yankees do have one pitcher who fits that description.

If a player not on a 40-man roster has spent four years with a minor-league contract originally signed when 19 or older or five years when signed before the age of 19, he is eligible to be chosen by any team in the rule 5 draft during the off-season. Usually when college players are drafted and they spend three seasons within organization, they are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. High school players (or underage free agents) need to spend four seasons before needing 40 man protection.

The 40 man roster was devised to keep deep teams from hoarding talent within their system.

The Yankees are very fond of keeping young pitchers on the 40 man, exposing injured players and generally have been pretty good about keeping their good talent within. No, I won’t get into the Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady deal for Ross Ohlendorf and Daniel McCutchen. By the way, Ohlendorf now is 11-8 with a 4.15 ERA (sorry no FIP numbers available) for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But the Yankees will need to make significant changes to their 40 man roster this off season. There are good things and bad things about having a tremendous draft (like the Yankees did in 2006) is that all the great college players they took in that draft need to be on the 40 man roster this November. Or they could be drafted elsewhere.

Also, all the high school talent taken prior to 2006 need to be added, too. This group includes future Yankee fan whipping boy Austin Jackson, taken in the 8th round in 2005.

I have identified 11 Yankee farmhands who need to be protected this off season, some household names to those who follow the Yankees, and some which are not.

Those I would ABSOLUTELY protect at Triple A include Jackson, UT Kevin Russo, LHP Zach Kroenke (who will likely be called up anyway in September) and RHP Ivan Nova. Interestingly, both Kroenke and Nova were left unprotected last season, were selected by the Marlins and Padres, respectively, then offered back to the Yankees.

I was shocked both of those guys did not stick with the drafting teams.

Russo is a former college hitting star who can multiple positions including third, second and short. Similar to Ramiro Pena, but with more pop, but less of a glove. He will stick with another team if taken, but his history of injuries might scare off teams.

At Double A Trenton, I would ABSOLUTELY keep RHP Kanekoa Texeira, SS Eduardo Nunez and RHP Lance Pendleton. Little Tex was obtained from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal, and Nunez surprised many people in spring training with his hitting exploits (which have carried over into this season). Pendleton is interesting because while he is 26, he finally has been healthy.

Also starting the season at High A Tampa was RHP Tim Norton, a 26 year old taken out of college in that great 2006 draft. I would protect him, too, unless his recent 7 day DL is related to his shoulder surgery he had over a year ago. He is a beast on the mound with a little bit of a mean streak which would serve him well in the bullpen.

That is eight guys, but there are a few tweeners, too. Guys like OF Colin Curtis and George Kontos at AAA plus RHP Jason Stephens, who has bounced around the entire minor league system and is currently at High A Tampa.

Curtis likely won’t stick with another team if taken, but he is a sparkplug type of guy. A little pop, good defense, some speed. Kontos had Tommy John surgery on July 7th and should be out May/June of next season, so he might slip through. But he was performing extremely well before the surgery and I might not take on chance on him. The Yankees are very high on him, and if he didn’t not hurt his arm, he would likely be the #5 starter right now.

Jason Stephens is still only 24 and has been in the Yankee system since age 18, when he was a third round pick out of high school. He has appeared in High A, AA and AAA this season. He had really good success in the early part of his career before elbow surgery, and has pitched effectively this year despite the bouncing around, both with the levels and as a starter and reliever.

I feel if the Yankees left Stephens alone as a starter at Double A this season, he would have better numbers all around. I would protect Stephens because a lesser team could just stick him away as the last guy in the bullpen, and at age 24, he still has loads of potential. 

Of the maybe tweeners, I would keep both Kontos and Stephens, but let Curtis dangle. Yankees might feel otherwise as Curtis is destined for the Arizona Fall League. Maybe an audition for Colin to make the 40 this year? Kevin Russo did the same last year. He was a surprise pick for th AFL, but really blossomed out west and worked his way into the Yankees plans. And that is probably what the Yankees will do, too, as they love to hold young pitching.

Good deal for Curtis, who is a very likable guy, cancer survivor and all. He also played his college baseball at Arizona State. I remember last year after the Trenton Thunder won the Eastern League title, I asked Curtis if that title was bigger than starring in the College World Series his junior season. He smiled, took a few seconds, and said “the College World Series was awesome.”

He actually faced Joba Chamberlain and Zach Kroenke of Nebraska in Game 2, doubling off Kroenke in the 8th.

But since we are adding 10 guys to the 40 man roster, there needs to be some people released off the current 40.

On the current Yankees 40 man roster are marginal players not likely to have an impact on the Yankees major league team such as Jonathan Albaladejo, Wilkin De La Rosa, Christian Garcia (he’s hurt AGAIN!), Edwar Ramirez, Kevin Cash, Shelley Duncan and Xavier Nady.  

That’s seven guys right there – gone, released, see ya’. No way they ever get a shot with the parent club, and many could be re-signed after the release. Yankees just need to clear room for the new blood.

Everyone expects Francisco Cervelli to become the full time backup next season, so that eliminates Jose Molina. Hideki Matsui, as I have written previously, will not be retained. And that is even more true now that he recently had his knee drained, the second time this season he has had that procedure.

That’s nine.

And now the big decisions. Despite how they pitch this season, I can’t see Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre being part of the team for next season, but the Yankees could keep one (if not both) on the roster for depth. Even more so if what I believe should happen, will happen.

That gets us down to the last two possibilities.

Chien-Ming Wang had surgery on his shoulder in July and no one knows how that capsule tear will respond to the stress of throwing. If the Yankees release Wang, will another team claim him? If the Yankees offer Wang arbitration (they have tow more years left on Wang control), he will definitely get no less than $4 million. MLB limits salary reduction at 20%.

The Yankees likely will no-tender Wang, and try to sign him to a minor league deal where he can rehab at his own pace. But if another team signs him to a major league deal, Wang will get major league money, and that it is a possibility of Wang pitching in late 2010 or even 2011 with say…the Dodgers.

The other possibility is Andrew Brackman. Is there anybody out there in Yankee land who thinks this guy is ever going to make it to the big leagues, let alone any higher than Double A? He can’t even throw the ball into the strike zone – at Low A Charleston! Imagine him trying to throw into the miniscule strike zones of major league umpires?

The most important aspect in pitching is control, more important than velocity of “stuff.” Very few pitchers succeed with velocity and stuff but no control, but many succeed with great control and normal velocity.

But no way the Yankees (ie: Brian Cashman) releases Brackman off the 40 man roster, at least not until he gets another year under his belt.

If it comes down to making a decision on one more player to be released to fill out the 40 man roster, I would probably release Wang, try and sign him to a minor league deal then hope for the best that he doesn’t still feel too perturbed about being taken to arbitration a few years ago, losing, and having the Yankees brag about it to the press.

The Yankees would then likely need both Gaudin and Mitre on the roster if Wang goes somewhere else on a major league deal.

That’s what I would do with the 40 man roster this off season. Ten men in, ten men out.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.