Why the New York Mets Jenrry Mejia was always ticketed for the 2010 Bullpen

March 27, 2010

This spring has brought us more stories of the Joba Rules. It has also created more pitchers likely to go under similar rules and talked about in “Is he (pick your guy) best suited as a starter or a reliever?”

Most relievers are failed starting pitchers. The New York Yankees closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera is one such example. At 25 years of age, Rivera started 10 games in 1995 (the season before Joe Torre became manager), producing a 3-3 record, 5.94 ERA and 1.680 WHIP.

While their were flashes of brilliance, such as this July 4th (George’s Birthday) eight inning, 11 strikeout, zero run gem*, their were obvious duds, too, like three of his first four career starts when he gave up more earned runs than innings pitched in each of those contests.

*It is interesting to see that during that game, Rivera threw eight solid innings and was pulled after 129 pitches. His ninth inning replacement was John Wetteland, the first of many times the Rivera-Wetteland combination would help win a game for the Yankees.

We will never know if Rivera would have developed into a starting pitcher, as potential starters need more than 10 career major league starts to have a proper evaluation.

Besides the perpetual Joba starter/reliever story this 2010 spring training, the biggest starter/reliever conflict has occurred with the other New York team, the Mets.

Their 20 year old flame thrower Jenrry Mejia has been talked about as a top Mets pitching prospect for at least two seasons now. In his brief professional career, Mejia has been in 47 games, starting 40 of them. The only seven relief appearances for Mejia came in 2007, his first pro season as a 17 year old, when the Mets were slowly breaking him in.

Over the last two seasons Mejia has appeared in 33 games, and started all 33.

But at lest for this season, the Mets envision Mejia as a relief pitcher due to some dominant outings this spring.

They are making Mejia a relief pitcher despite the Mets lack of adequate starting pitchers in their organization, and seeing what happened to Joba over the last two seasons, as he was jerked around by the Yankees.

Many Met fans do not like it, and they are staged a protest to support keeping Mejia a starting pitcher.

As mentioned earlier, Mejia has only been a starter the last two seasons. In year one he advanced from Rookie Ball in the Gulf Coast League up to Short Season ball in Brooklyn, where he faced mainly recent college draftees.

Mejia fared pretty well that year producing a 2-0 record, 0.60 ERA, 0.800 WHIP in Rookie ball and a 3-2 record, 3.49 ERA, 1.147 WHIP in Brooklyn. Really good as he was still only 18!

In 2009, the Mets jumped Mejia to High A St. Lucie in the perennially pitching rich Florida State League (FSL), and Jenrry did not disappoint. He went 4-1 in 9 starts, with a 1.97 ERA and 1.132 WHIP.

At a tougher level, Mejia significantly improved his pitching numbers from one season to the next, just what an organization wants to see out of a young player.

After the great start in the FSL, Mejia was moved to Double A Binghamton, where he went 0-5, 4.47 ERA, 1.511 WHIP in 10 starts. In 44 innings, Mejia (still only 19!) struck out 47 hitters.

That Double A jump is the biggest a minor league player will make. If you can make it their (Double A) you can make it anywhere, meaning the majors.

After the successful adjustment Mejia made from his A ball stint in 2008 to 2009, the biggest no-brainer then is to see how your best #1 starting candidate pitching prospect (sorry Jonathan Niese), will fare starting his 2010 season in Double A Binghamton.

Will Mejia again adjust to the Double A hitters, and begin to pitch well early on? And with the annual terrible April weather in the Northeast, Mejia has the elements on his side, too, as pitchers usually fare better in early season nasty weather, especially when all hitters have been used to the Florida sunshine.

Wouldn’t this advantage allow him to gain confidence early and give the Mets another potentially major league ready starting pitcher if not later in 2010, but the following season?

We may never find out due to the inabilities of Mets General Manager Omar Minaya*. Coming off the debacle that was September 2008, and last season’s full-year disaster, the GM and manager Jerry Manuel NEED TO WIN NOW.

*Remember that Minaya was given his first GM job by MLB to be the GM of the Montreal Expos. He pretty much ruined that organization (now the Washington Nationals), but they are showing sign of getting things together, seven years after Minaya took the helm. Ironic that the Nats are now showing some young promise, and the Mets now being run by Minaya are starting to crumble.

That is why they signed Jason Bay in the off season instead of shoring up the starting pitching, and why Mejia will be in the Mets bullpen to begin the 2010 season. Minaya would have been better served to protect the franchise by saving the money spent on Bay, allowing all the kids Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Jonathan Niese, Josh Thole, etc. to play and develop instead of trying to win a very tough NL East in 2010.

But Minaya and Manuel (the lousy version of the M&M boys) need to win now to save their jobs. If the Mets get off to a slow start in 2010, they both could be fired by June 1. If that happens, neither one will ever get another chance at their current roles with any other organization.

This is it for both of them. Last chance.

There is an old sports cliché which states a team never wants to face a desperate opponent, because that opponent will do anything to win. Manuel and Minaya are desperate people. When asked by a reported if he was desperate and crazy to bring Mejia north as a reliever, the very honest Manuel has said he “Yeah, I am both of those.”

The Wilpon ownership never should have allowed their GM and field manager to come back for 2010 for the same reason. The Mets M&M boys will do anything to win this season, and that includes ruin the Mets for the future.

The game of baseball is about starting pitching. The teams with the best starters will usually win.

Mejia in the bullpen gives the Mets the best chance to win in 2010, but his bullpen gig in 2010 will hamper the Mets development in future years.

With the injuries last season Minaya did not have good enough replacements in the minors to make the necessary moves to improve a bad situation. He continually spent for free agents trying to win now, and it pushed the Mets into a bad overall organization, similar to a Ponzi scheme.

Like Bernie Madoff** in pulling in more investors to pay older investors, the Mets constantly needed to replenish their older resources (Delgado) with more expensive resources (Bay), in order to win now.

**Ironic how the Mets ownership was moved to keep Minaya and his Ponzi player scheme due to his guaranteed salary in order to save money, when much of their family fortune was lost to the same Ponzi type scheme run by Madoff.

Back in early March when Manuel said that Mejia reminded him of Rivera, with a sharp cutter, people took that as Mejia was going to be the Mets 8th inning guy. With the entire talk surrounding starter vs. reliever, it appears Manuel began to listen (and believe) to all that talk.

The primary reason why starters fail is that they have a limited amount of pitches in their repertoire. Guys like Rivera (and all time saves leader Trevor Hoffman) can become good relief pitchers is they have a master of one or two pitches which translates well to shorter stints in a game. Has Mejia mastered his pitches yet?

Often the second or third time through a lineup as a starter, the lack of different pitches leads to getting hit hard. Mejia has four pitches, including an exploding mid-90’s fastball, and has a cutter, curve and change up. He also can sink the fastball as a fifth pitch.

In seeing him pitch this spring, Mejia needs to get more command of the off speed pitches, and he doesn’t seem to use his curve that much. That shows a lack of feel for the pitch, and is something that can be worked on down in the minors.

Mets starting catcher Rod Barajas said “You’d like to get him more seasoning down there, make him use those pitches. I think he could get major-league hitters out on a regular basis. With that fastball, he definitely can have success. But the second and third time he faces clubs, if they can just sit on one pitch, it’s going to be tough for him.”

Mejia has made hitters look bad this spring, but has faced mostly non starters so far. Up until this past week, Mejia has faced only six hitters who have had over 300 at bats in the major leagues. But the last week or two of spring training is when the regulars are going to play most of the games.

Mejia did not do well yesterday in the Mets game against the Florida Marlins when he faced seven hitters, allowing three hits and a run. That appearance was against the Marlins regulars.

That 1.1 inning appearance is another telling sign that the Mets are going to take Mejia north with them as a reliever. If teams were going to use a pitcher as a starter, they would allow him to throw more innings in each appearance to get him ready for the season.

In developing a starter for the season, a team extends the innings each appearance to allow him to throw at least 5-6 innings in the first regular season start.

However, Mejia has not been extended out, never pitching more than into a second innings in any appearance this spring. He also has been used back to back days this past week, something the Mets would not do unless they were going to use him in the bullpen.

The Mets are in a difficult division, with Philadelphia, Atlanta and Florida all capable of winning the division. While I am not saying the Mets are not in the hunt, they have a lot more questions than the other three teams. Plus, after Johan Santana, their starting pitching stinks.

And when the starting pitching is terrible, you need better starters. No amount of capable relief pitchers will help you win many games. That is why Mejia needs to start the season in Double A to continue his development as a starter. To see if he can replicate the advancements he made the prior season.

While Mejia did well early in the week throwing in back to back games, they were in front of about 6,000 vacationing sunbathers. How will Mejia react to a situation in front of 45,000 serious baseball fans? If Mejia does wilt under the major league New York pressure, will the Mets send him down to Double A and convert him back as a starter?

We shall see. But it would be better for the Mets if Mejia made his major league debut later in 2010 as a called up starting pitcher who dominated Double A, or in 2011 when he is informed by new Mets manager Bobby Valentine that he made the team.

But it shouldn’t be at the beginning of this season as a reliever.

New York Mets Pitcher John Maine’s Thursday Start Typical of Pitcher

March 26, 2010

On Thursday, March 25, 2010, John Maine may have taken his biggest step forward from the shoulder surgery he required 18 months ago.

According to this report, Mets manager Jerry Manuel was impressed by Maine in his third start this spring:

“He gave up a couple home runs, one early. I thought he had a good slider. But there was some life on that fastball, when starts to get all those foul balls back. I’m really excited that his arm is bouncing back. I thought today, even though you might not call that a ‘wow’ performance, I felt it was a competitive performance against a good-hitting lineup. That’s very, very serviceable for us compared to what we’ve been getting.”
Manuel said “when starts to get all those foul balls back.” If Manuel means when hitters are fouling back those fastballs, that is actually not a good sign as it shows that hitters are on his velocity, and are not fooled by the pitch. When hitters foul the ball off to the opposite side of the field (right handed hitters fouling balls off to the first base side), is when hitters are late on a fastball.

However, Maine threw five innings, allowing three hits and only the two runs from the homers.

That is all well and good, but I saw some typical Maineisms in the performance.

Maine was not in command. While he only walked two, he hit a batter and later threw a wild pitch. Command likely will not “you know… come back around,” for Maine as Manuel put it after the game.

It is not Maine’s history to have great command.

Manuel said that Maine had “some life on the fastball” and “had a good slider,” but he only struck out one Cardinal hitter. Not good for a pitcher who historically has issues with wildness.

The problem with Maine was never his arm strength (even after the surgery) or ability to have low hit performances. The biggest problem with Maine was consistently throwing strikes, hitting his spots and the propensity for allowing the big inning.

Maine has walked six batters, and also hit two in 11.1 spring innings thus far.

In allowing Pujols’ home run, Maine got behind Albert 2-0, then threw a “belt high 2-0 fastball.”

That is typical of Maine’s issues, not throwing strikes then pumping one in down the middle. With his career walk rates of 4 batters per 9 innings, and his reduced strikeout rates (8.5 per 9 in 2007, 7.8 in 2008, 6.1 in 2009), Maine can not afford to dance around the strike zone anymore.

Until he begins to strike out more hitters (only six in 11 spring innings), Maine needs to attack hitters, throwing strike one, and pitching more to contact.

If that does not happen, John Maine and the Mets are in for a long season on the hill…and in the standings.

Both Joba and Hughes Need to be Future Yankees Starters

March 21, 2010

After Alfredo Aceves gave up five runs in four-plus innings yesterday, the Yankees hierarchy was secretly giddy. Phil Hughes, the darling prospect of the team since being drafted in 2004, is now back in the lead!

Headlines in Sunday’s papers shouted, “Aceves’ Bad Outing Could Cost Him in Yankees Contest ,” and “Aceves Puts Himself In Hole With Poor Start .”

Unless Aceves had a completely dominant spring training, he never had a chance, and the Yankees couldn’t be happier. While Hughes and Joba Chamberlain alternated early on between starting and relieving, facing mostly minor leaguers, Aceves and Sergio Mitre were usually starting, facing the oppositions’ starters two or even three times.

In his next outing against the Philadelphia Phillies, Hughes is in relief of starter AJ Burnett. It was supposed to be on his normal rest, and if Hughes goes his four or five innings, he will likely face minor leaguers for a turn through the lineup.

Aceves faced the Astros starters the entire time, and was on a full week break from live pitching.

Advantage Hughes.

GM Brian Cashman and others want Phil Hughes to be fifth starter. Despite what they said about all five guys (Hughes, Joba, Aceves, Mitre, Chad Gaudin) having a shot to win the job, unless Hughes imploded, he (or Joba) was going to get the job. It’s funny, but a rotation of all five of the fifth stater candidates is probably better than Pittsburgh’s current rotation.

Even though Joba is not on an innings limit for this season, Cashman made the decision not to follow his 2008 plan and have two young pitchers in the rotation at the same time. But a more mature 2010 Hughes and Joba are better than a younger Hughes and Ian Kennedy in 2008.

However, Cashman needs to keep up with Boston and does not want to miss out on the playoffs again after a great 2009 season.

That is why Cashman traded for Javier Vazquez, and left only one spot for Hughes or Joba. Aceves is well regarded as a rubber armed swingman, and Mitre and Gaudin are really trade bait.

But while the Vazquez deal is good for the Yankees this season, unless another young pitcher is given the opportunity to make the rotation next season, the Yankees will again have to fork over big dollars for a free agent pitcher. 

That free agent could be Vazquez (likely), Josh Beckett (if he does not re-sign with Boston, but less likely) or even Cliff Lee (highly likely). But while Lee would be the favorite*, based upon his performance this year he would require at least a five-year deal at $15-20 million a year beginning with his age 32 season.

*Lee would be the favorite because he would want that type of contract and the Yankees are one of the few teams with the resources. If Boston re-signs Beckett before next year, they are likely out of the Lee market since they will have multi-year deals with Beckett, Jon Lester, Dice-K, and John Lackey already on the books.

With Beckett seeking Lackey type money of about $17 million a season, the Red Sox would have $50 million between the current four. I do not believe they would be able to afford Lee.

Also, Lee is a great friend with current Yankees CC Sabathia as they played together in Cleveland and Burnett, who like Lee is from Arkansas and shares the same agent, Darek Braunecker .

Cashman has often said his goal was to draft and develop starting pitchers because of the high price tag for starters in free agency . Despite all that hyperbole, Cashman is still building the rotation from outside the organization.

The Vazquez trade goes against what Cashman has always talked about. So does signing Sabathia and Burnett before last season and possibly going after Lee next year.

And that is why the Yankees want Hughes to get the 2010 fifth starter job; to keep the Yankees moving down the development path.

And beginning in 2011, they will need more homegrown kids to produce.

The Yankees are anticipating the end of Andy Pettitte, who might be in his final season on the hill. Pettitte is now in his 16th season as a major leaguer, plus another full season on his arm via the playoffs.

Currently, he is on a year-to-year basis. At the age of 38 this season, Pettitte is better than 50-50 to hang ’em up after this year, especially if the 2010 season is injury plagued or less than Pettitte standards.

If Pettitte is no longer around next season, and with Vazquez being a free agent after 2010, that would be two new spots to fill in the 2011 rotation. If Vazquez has a good year, he will likely have more suitors in the offseason than the Yankees.

Also, if CC keeps throwing the ball well, he has the ability to opt out of his Yankee contract after the 2011 season, and could elect to become a free agent. That would be another starting role for the Yankees to fill.

That is why it is imperative for Hughes to get the fifth spot, to gain full season stamina in 2010 to be better next season. He is expected to be on an innings limit of about 160-170, prepping him for a no-holds barred 2011.

With Hughes firmly entrenched as the fifth starter, the Yankees are expected to go with Aceves as the swingman and Joba as back end bullpen guy. While that Joba debate has been discussed ad nauseum, since the Yankees probably would need starters next season, and since he still has options, it would be best long term to have Joba get regular work down in Triple-A as a starting pitcher.

In fact, since the Yankees do not need a fifth starter until the end of April, it would not surprise me if both Hughes and Joba start the year in Scranton. The Yankees do not play on a Monday at all in April, and have five days off that first month. I find it unusual that MLB gives extra off days early in the season, when these off days would be more welcome in August, during the dog days of summer.

With both young guys in Triple-A to start the season, the Yankees could then keep Mitre around as another two to three inning middle guy if he isn’t traded by then. Despite what the Yankees say about how much they like Gaudin, he stinks . He never has had a decent season in the majors and with a sub-.500 career record (34-35), 4.50 ERA, and a WHIP over 1.500, I am surprised the Yankees re-signed him for 2010.

Any of the proposed Triple-A starters, such as Zach McAllister, Ivan Nova, Romulo Sanchez, Dustin Moseley, or Jason Hirsch could probably give the Yankees similar production as Gaudin. 

With Joba and Hughes getting regular starts and innings, the Yankees would have an extra spot in the bullpen to maybe give to Boone Logan, who appears to be a Joe Girardi favorite. Although I am not in the Yankees need a second lefty in camp , Logan has pitched well enough this spring to garner a spot. Mark Melancon deserves a spot, too.

Starting in 2010, the Yankees are going to probably need two (if not three) new starting pitchers over the next few seasons.

To avoid going the free-agent route next offseason, the Yankees need Hughes to have that fifth spot this season. First reason is to validate the draft and develop the idea set down by Cashman, especially with the golden child Hughes. Second, to save the Yankees possibly about $20-30 million a year by having to sign up to two free agents for 2011.

Keeping Hughes and Joba in starting roles will be better for the Yankees in the long run, with the program of developing a mostly homegrown rotation, but especially financially so they can use these saved resources on other areas of need.

Joe Mauer Signs Eight-Year Extension with the Minnesota Twins

March 21, 2010

On the day that the Minnesota Twin fans received terrible news about their closer Joe Nathan, they have good news from the receiving end of the battery, Joe Mauer.

According to many sources , the Twins have re-signed their 2009 American League MVP and three-time batting champion catcher to an 8-year deal for $184 million. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and keeps the homegrown (and hometown) All-Star with the team through the 2018 season. 

A press conference is scheduled for Monday evening.

Mauer is a Minnesota Twin for life.

There was much speculation that the small market Twins would never be able to afford Mauer, and he would go to the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees via free agency. But what these speculators did not realize is that the Twins ownership, the Pohlad family, is one of the wealthiest ownership groups in all of sports, with a net worth of $2 billion. 

The fact that the patriarch, Carl Pohlad, was a tightwad should not have reflected negatively on his sons who now run the team after his father’s death.

Jim Pohlad correctly knew that the Twins needed to sign their hometown son to be a Twins for his entire career.

That is the way baseball should be. The Twins drafted and developed a three-time batting champ/MVP, and he stays a Minnesota Twin forever.

I said this in a post to a Mauer to the Yankees article on Bleacher Report :

Mauer will sign an extension before the 2010 season begins, and the Twins fans will be happy .”

Even as a Yankee fan, I did not want Mauer to leave Minnesota. With all the catching prospects in the Yankee system, they didn’t need, and shouldn’t have wanted, Joe Mauer. 

Also, the Twins are no longer a small market team. (The term “small market team” is such a stupid term anyway because all the owners are filthy rich, and they can afford to sign their own players.) According to a report, the new Target Field and the Twins’ subsequent new TV and radio deals will give the Twins Top 10 ranking for outside revenue in MLB.

That fact, and the Pohlad’s vast fortunes, made the Twins signing Joe Mauer to a long-term deal to keep him a Twin for life a no-brainer. The Mauer deal, signing Justin Morneau long term, and having the smarts to draft and develop well (and actually play their young players), will make the Twins contenders in the American League for the foreseeable future.  

And that is good for baseball.

2010 Yankee Spring Training: Five Most Impressive Baby Bombers

March 16, 2010

The New York Yankees are usually one of the teams where most (if not all) the 25 man roster spots are already accounted.

But, as is the case with a team based in New York, the hype does follow the younger players. Many times this hype is unwarranted.

In the case of these young Yankee players, it might be justified.

This list is not predicated on which Yankee farmhand is the best prospect or will make the most impact on the major leagues.

Jesus Montero is the best prospect and will make the most impact.

But he is NOT on this list. He just has not played enough so far this spring, plus everybody knows of his vast hitting talents.

This list represents the players who may or may not be impact guys down the road, but who General Manager Brian Cashman and field manager Joe Girardi feel can help the 2010 team and could get a taste of the Bronx sometime this season:

1) Mark Melancon

As I have written before, Melancon deserves a spot in the 2010 bullpen.

However, the signing of Chan Ho Park likely eliminates the youngster’s spot to begin the season. Melancon has not let the player numbers game affect his spring pitching numbers. He has only pitched 3.2 innings this spring, but has allowed no runs on three hits while striking out five.

In his first appearance he stranded the Phillies’ Jayson Werth with a man in scoring position, then two days later cleaned up Jonathan Albaladejo’s fifth inning mess against Toronto.

Most importantly, Melancon’s impeccable control is back as he has yet to walk a batter.

While I feel he should make the squad out of the spring, Melancon will be the first call up when the pen needs a new arm.

2) Colin Curtis

While he will not be an impact type player, with timely hitting and solid defense, Curtis has shown this spring why the Yankees have kept him in the system for four years.

 Thus far this spring, Curtis has been 4 for 8 at the plate with a double and walk off grand slam in the first spring game.

Over four minor league seasons, Curtis has put up a line of .264/.334/.375/.709 OPS with only 27 home runs and 182 RBI’s; they are solid numbers but not great. 

With a dearth of upper level talent in the Yankee minor league system, Curtis could get a major league opportunity in 2010.

Let’s hope he gets that chance as Curtis is one of my favorite Yankee minor league players.

3) Zach McAllister

I remember watching Zach Attack in his first pro season at Staten Island. He already had good pop on his fastball, but the sinker was already a force.

Ironically, that first year in split season baseball was his worst as a pro going 4-6, with a 5.17 ERA and 1.514 WHIP. With a completely inadequate defense, all those ground balls found holes and he began to nibble, walking 3.5 batters per 9 IP.

As he moved up the ladder against better hitters, McAllister has been 26-16 with a 2.26 ERA and 1.042 WHIP at three levels, walking only 1.5 batters per 9 IP.

He moved up last season to pitch in the Triple A playoffs and got the win for Scranton, and has been unfazed in major league camp, hurling three no hit innings while allowing a single walk.

With the expectation of Sergie Mitre being traded and Chad Gaudin thus far not impressing, with a good showing early in the AAA season, McAllister could get the first call to the Bronx.

4) Kevin Russo

Kevin Russo has always been able to hit the baseball, just with not much power.

He sprays line drives all over the field, and thus far has continued to show that ability in his first major league camp, producing a line of .385/.500/.538. Russo is 5-13 with two doubles and an RBI.

Russo is likely competing with Ramiro Pena for the utility infield bench spot, but the Yankees do not need another stick. Pena’s superior fielding ability will land him in the majors, and Russo will likely start the season in Scranton.

In the equivalent two full seasons worth of at bats, the former 20th round pick is a career .300/.360/.403 hitter. That lack of power will hurt his opportunity to stay as a major leaguer.

But Russo has shown he will not hurt the major league squad in a brief call up and if an injury occurs, Russo will get a call to the Bronx.

5) Brandon Laird

The Yankees did not let an offseason scuffle with the law affect their commitment to Brandon Laird.

This guy can flat out hit.

In two full minor league seasons (and part of a third), Laird has mashed 44 home runs, knocked in 190 runs, and was named a Florida State League All-Star in 2009.

He has always started off slow but comes on late in the season. It might be the pressure he puts upon himself or in just getting acclimated to the new level and league.

In hitting 23 homers for Low A Charleston in 2008, 11 of them came in August. In 2009, Laird pounded out seven home runs and hit 47 points higher AFTER the 2009 FSL All-Star break. He has tremendous power to right center and his bat would fit very favorably in Yankee Stadium one day.

This spring, Brandon has gone 7-18 with a double and only one strikeout. As a power hitter, Laird has always made good contact and shown the ability to consistently put the ball in play.

While his defense has been suspect at times, he has played very well at third base this spring, and can also play first base. His desire is there, as he appears to have slimmed down considerably from last season.

While he realistically will not get moved up to the Bronx this year or next, the still 22-year-old Laird (his birthday is 9/11) will begin the season in AA Trenton.

Except for my honorable mention No.6 pick, there are really no other right-handed corner infielders this high at the Yankee level. If Laird stays slimmed down and keeps his newer quickness, it would not surprise me if the Yankees play him some in the outfield in Trenton to develop some defensive versatility.

No matter where he plays in the field, I expect Laird to continue to rake at AA and make a push for Triple-A late in the season.

6) Jorge Vazquez   HONORABLE MENTION

My sleeper pick for a 2010 Bronx call up is Mexican League import Jorge Vazquez.

After seven stellar, full seasons in the Mexican League, Vazquez was signed by the Yankees last season. He made his debut at AA Trenton and was ripping apart the league with a .329/357/.578/.935 OPS with 15 doubles, 13 homers and 56 RBI’s through 225 AB before getting hurt and missing the remained of the season.

While his defensive ability is a question mark, his hitting is not. He was very consistent in his Mexico playing days and in the equivalent of four full AAA seasons Vazquez hit .321/370/.595/.965 OPS with 103 doubles, 143 HR’s and 486 RBI’s.

It doesn’t matter where you are hitting, those are legit numbers.

Vazquez has been given adequate playing time this spring and while only 2-13 with four strikeouts, he has banged out two doubles and knocked in three runs. A few of his outs were screaming liners right at fielders, including a laser beam to LF in Game 2 against the Phillies which John Mayberry, Jr. made a sliding catch to rob Vazquez.

Vazquez is the wild card right handed Yankee power bat, which could allow them to give Jesus Montero a full season in Triple A, and send the overrated Marcus Thames packing. 

That saves the Yankees some time with Montero and about a million dollars with Thames.

Vazquez will begin the year in Triple A Scranton but do not be surprised if he is called up to the Bronx sometime this season.

Jose Reyes Illness Not a Big Concern

March 5, 2010

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and was sent back to New York for more tests. His thyroid, a gland which surrounds the windpipe and produces hormones for the metabolism of cells, produces too much of these hormones.

This is not a condition which will cause Reyes to miss much time during the season.

Thyroid disease is very common, and in good hands, the diseases that cause an excess of thyroid hormones can be easily treated.

Most people with this condition (about 80%) are cured via a radioactive iodine treatment.

Once again, this will have no problems with Reyes’ ability to play baseball. It is my contention that the Met team doctors are being overly cautious because of the last year and a half from being severely scrutinized in other medical mishaps.

Reyes may miss time this year, and the Met doctors probably will be involved, but it will not be because of Jose’s hyperthyroid.

Yankees Do Not Need a Second Left Hander in the Bullpen

March 5, 2010

Last week New York Yankee manager Joe Girardi said he prefers to have a second left handed relief pitcher in the bullpen. His reasoning is simple: Girardi does not want to be without a LOOGY in case David Ortiz, Carlos Pena, Justin Morneau or God forbid, Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon comes up in an important situation late in a game.

Shouldn’t that LOOGY role be for Damaso Marte?

With his multi-year, multi-million dollar contract through 2011, Damaso Marte is about as good a lock for the Yankees bullpen as Mariano Rivera. After being injured for most of the 2009 season, Marte was ineffective during the regular season when he was pitching.  Resurrecting his best Graeme Lloyd impression, Marte eventually earned every dollar he made last year with a superb post season.

Girardi wants to add to the Marte perfection, but why would Girardi choose another lefty for the pen? A lefty who will throw maybe 25 innings total, one batter per game over about 75 appearances?

The two main candidates for this second LOOGY role are Boone Logan and Royce Ring.

Are the Yankees and Girardi serious? Boone Logan? Royce Ring?

Ring has not pitched in the majors since 2008 and did not have success last year in AAA against that level of talent. How would anyone think he can still get out lefties in the major leagues?

And Logan is really not much better.

In fact, the Yankees have several pitchers projected to be in their 2010 bullpen who have better numbers against lefties than either Ring or Logan.

Alfredo Aceves and David Robertson both had better numbers than the two journeymen left handed relievers under consideration. Two guys who did not even make the Yankees roster out of spring training last season finished as aces out of the pen, key contributors to a World Series title.

What K-Rob and Aceves did was mix in their secondary pitches well. K-Rob used his devastating curveball and Aceves used his amazing change of speeds to continuously fool left handed hitters. Aceves is amazing in that he is not afraid to throw any of five pitches in any count.

Here are the numbers against left handed hitters for the fantastic four:

Aceves   161 PA, 32 H, 5 2B, 3 HR, 8 BB, 33 SO, 4.13 K/BB, .212/.255/.305/.559 OPS

K-Rob     83  PA, 14 H, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 BB, 30 SO, 3.33 K/BB, .189/.277/.324/.601 OPS

Logan        44 PA,  9 H,  3 2B, 0 HR,  4 BB,  7 SO, 1.75 K/BB, .231/.318/.308/.626 OPS

Ring (08)  61 PA, 14 H, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 BB, 13 SO, 2.60 K/BB, .264/.339/.396/.735 OPS

Eyre          67 PA, 13 H, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 BB, 12 SO, 2.40 K/BB, .210/.269/.355/.623 OPS

I added Scott Eyre, another lefty specialist who pitched last season for the Philadelphia Phillies, who is supposedly retired, but has been mentioned by some as another lefty option.

Why would anyone even think that a Boone Logan or Royce Ring is a better option than Aceves or Robertson? Both of those RHP Yankees had better numbers last season against LH hitters than the LOOGY guys written about in this piece.

And both guys can get out RH hitters, too. It eliminates the need for extra pitching changes. I would do what the Yankees with their relievers in the minor leagues. Go with one of your guys (Ace, K-Rob, Chan-Ho Park, Melancon) and leave them in for 1+ to 2 IP an appearance (unless of course they start getting hit).

In the minor leagues, the Yankees have developed the multiple inning reliever. That saves pitchers in times they have to get up and throw, saving overall wear and tear, spreading the appearances out. Once a reliever is in the game and being effective, leave them in.

The 2010 Yankee starters (CC, AJ, Andy and Javy) went at least 6 innings in 80% of their starts last season. They went at least six full and one out into the 7th in 62.5% of the starts.

Lets just say some guys get their wish and Joba goes to the pen for most of the year, and is crowned the 8th inning guy.

You men to tell me that Robertson, Aceves, Park, Melancon and Joba can’t get 4 or 5 outs (mixing in Marte for a batter) in the games they need to be in there for 2+ innings during the 37.5% of the games that the starter only goes 6+?

There is your supposed bridge to Mariano.

Even though Ring and Logan each have had a really good appearance so far this spring, they were mostly facing AAA and AA guys. Guys hitting in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings of the spring are far different from the major league All-Stars in the American League lineups during the regular season.