Most Intriguing Yankee Prospects for 2012

January 22, 2012

This is not a “Top 20” or even a Top 10 list of New York Yankee prospects, as most of those lists include players who might never play in a major league game, let alone one for the Yankees. I even saw a lsit one time of T0p 50 Yankee prospects. Fifty? I believe that was three years ago, where one guy listed at #48 was a 27-year-old still in High A!  

However, the Yankees are notorious for not giving many of their prospects an opportunity.

One area that the Yankees do use their young guys is in the bullpen. But it takes them awhile to have trust in guys.

This is a piece on guys who could make their mark on the Yankee landscape in a big way this 2012 season.

One of the first things Brian Cashman changed when he gained control of the entire New York Yankees baseball organization in 2005 was to improve the draft and development program. While the first draft provided nothing, the second year in 2006 likely is the best draft of any team in recent memory.

No fewer than 10 players from that Yankees draft have reached the majors, and the one I thought would have one of the greatest impacts, Tim Norton, would also have reached the majors but has been beset by various injuries.

Norton was a college starter who the Yankees converted to short reliever, who began to dominate even up to his latest injury last season.

As mentioned earlier, the Yankees have been very good in developing relief pitchers during Cashman’s regime. They have produced Joba Chamberlain (insert argument here) and David Robertson, both college pitchers who progressed very quickly through the Yankee system.

With the known uncertainty with relief pitchers year to year, it is imperative for organizations to produce their own homegrown relief talent before the major league team spends $35 million on a reliever the team really does not need.

That is why two of my five most intriguing Yankee prospects for 2012 are current relievers in their system.

With Chamberlain and Phil Hughes (I am not fully convinced Hughes can be a full time starting pitcher) becoming free agents after 2013, it is imperative the Yankees develop a few more major league quality middle relievers to both replace Joba and Phil, who both will leave to become starters elsewhere, and to help keep a lower payroll to add flexibility when the team needs to add salary.

The Yankees also need to find if their recent surge in starting pitching prospects will turn beneficial for the franchise. The Tampa Bay Rays have continuously developed starting pitching which have kept their payroll low and their potential for winning the AL East high.

Here are my five most intriguing Yankees prospects for 2012:

1) Mark Montgomery – RHP

This guy possesses the same type of repertoire as David Robertson, with a big fastball and dynamic breaking ball, although M&Ms out pitch is a wicked slider. With only four appearances, Montgomery blew through the NY-Penn League last year and dominated an overmatched Sally League upon his quick promotion. In both leagues, Montgomery has double digit strikeout rates per 9 innings.

Similar to Robertson in 2007, who pitched at three levels his first full year in the system, look for Montgomery to start 2012 in High A Tampa, but don’t be surprised if he ends up in Triple-A  or higher.

The Yankees need more strikeout reliever types in the higher levels.

2) Manny Banuelos – LHP

Over the last three seasons, the Yankees system has begun to produce high level starting pitching talent, with the 20-year old Banuelos the cream of the crop. With a very easy mid-90s fastball and plus changeup, Banuelos reminds me of a young Johan Santana. However, Banuelos has a much better delivery than Santana, which should keep his arm healthy in the future.

Manny dominated the lower levels, but even though he still was only 20 and in his first full year at the higher levels, he struggled with his control a little during his brief time in Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. While seeing Banuelos in person many times, he tends to nibble, but his stuff is good enough to throw the ball over the plate and get away with minimal contact.

Now that he has a few innings at the higher levels, this season is important for Banuelos and the Yankees, who thus far have resisted the need the trade their prized left handed prospect for a mediocre veteran starting pitcher.  He needs to improve his control and confidence in his pitches, and show the Yankees their patience will be rewarded.

3) Mason Williams – OF

In only his first full (semi-full actually) season in pro ball, Williams also dominated the NY-Penn League with a .349 BA/.395 OBP/.468 SLG slash line, including 3 HRs. He used his speed to register 11 doubles and 6 triples, while swiping 28 stolen bases. With the dearth of Yankee outfield prospects in the high minors, I want the Yankees to challenge the 20-year old. I look for Williams to skip Charleston and move directly from Staten Island to High-A Tampa, close to his Florida home.

This move is not without precedent as another Yankees speedster, Brett Gardner, skipped Charleston on his run to the majors.

How Williams performs will go a long way as to whether the Yankees need to begin signing free agent outfielders to long term deals (and thus crippling their payroll) or going the year-by-year route until guys like Williams become major league ready by the 2014 season.

4) Branden Pinder – RHP

SI’s Tom Verducci wrote this piece about the Yankees’ David Robertson which indicated the diminutive reliever gets more “hop” on his fastball because of his long stride and extension to home plate. Well, Branden Pinder, closer for the Staten Island Yankees in 2011 after M&M was promoted, has that same long extension and “hop”.

Bringing the heat at 93-95 all year for the Baby Bombers, his fastball was actually registering to hitters at 96-98. Although the pitch was consistently up in the zone, he was able to get away with it at this level. His slider was sharp on occasion, but not consistent and he does throw slightly across his body.

These are very minor and correctable faults.

I don’t expect the Yankees to put both Pinder and Montgomery at High-A Tampa, so Pinder will likely start in Charleston and move up quickly as his strikeouts progress and how well Montgomery performs early on in Tampa. The Yankees normally do not work with kids much until they reach High-A Tampa, and this should provide the Yankees with a reason to move Pinder quickly through the system. Get him to Tampa and have the Tampa staff work on improving that slider and delivery.

As with Montgomery, the Yankees want to continue their development with high impact relief arms and Pinder fits that profile very well.

5) Gary Sanchez – C

I had a few others considered for this spot including J. R. Murphy and David Adams, two kids who are always hurt.

However, depending how he improves, Sanchez gives the Yankees flexibility and options. Even with the trade of Jesus Montero, the Yankees are still heavy in catching prospects, and Sanchez, with his power arm and bat is likely the brightest of the bunch.

While hitting .256/.335/.485 as an 18 year old in Low-A Charleston, Sanchez produced 17 home runs in only 343 PA, the same HR total as Jesus Montero at this level, in 220 LESS PAs! He is less refined as a hitter than Montero but has typical catcher bat qualities; that is, a solid .270-290 batting average projection with immense power.

I saw him play several times and he looked lackluster in the field and in the box, almost appearing “entitled” and “bored” at the same time. If Sanchez improves his mental approach to the game, which he should in Tampa with all the brass watching, this talented kid could push the Yankees to move Austin Romine (who I feel is overrated) out of a potential starting job.

Honorable Mentions

J.R. Murphy (great plate discipline), Chase Whitley (rapidly moving reliever), Slade Heathcott (health) and David Adams (health).

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New York Yankees Looking At Cliff Lee & Carl Crawford; Pujols and Fielder Next?

December 3, 2010

Well, they are not really looking at Albert Pujols yet, as he is not a free agent until after this season.

But the Yankees have said all along their priority is Cliff Lee with GM Brian Cashman already meeting with the Lee family at their home in Arkansas. And yesterday Hank Steinbrenner said, “It’s no secret we want Cliff and we will do whatever it takes to get him. That’s the bottom line.”

That kind of statement doesn’t sound like the Yankees are trying to drive up the price for the Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels for the right to the left-handed hurler.

Lee, who lost his last two starts of the season during the 2010 World Series to the aggressive San Francisco Giants, appears to be guaranteed at least $23 million per season for six or seven years. Hank’s statement above indicates they are willing to go longer.

This has been quite the week for the Yankees.

They have re-signed Mariano Rivera to a two-year deal for $30 million. Talks with Derek Jeter’s agent Casey Close began again on Tuesday with the Yankees supposedly upping their offer. Both sides met again on Friday, and things appear even better.

As I have said many times, Jeter will be re-signed by the Yankees before the Winter Meetings. Cashman wants to concentrate solely on the free agent possibilities without hordes of Jeter questions.

And the Yankees almost pulled off a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in a swap of catchers. Francisco Cervelli was headed to LA-LA land for the overrated Russell Martin, a guy whose OPS has rapidly declined each of the last several seasons.

All for the privilege of paying Martin a few million bucks while playing bad baseball. Now that Martin is essentially a free agent after being non-tendered, they maybe can get him much cheaper, maybe Sergio Mitre money—double what Cervelli earns.

Did you even know that while Cervelli will be cheaper for the Yankees this season and the pitchers like working with him, the Kid had an even higher OPS than Martin each of the last two seasons? Cervelli even slugged higher than Martin did each season.

Look it up, I’ll wait.

Now the Yankees have inquired with OF Carl Crawford’s representatives and both sides could meet at the Winter Meetings next week.

Why not? The expensive seats in the New-New Yankees Stadium were almost full for the playoffs. They have the cash.

But even if you have the cash, why is there a hole burning in the Yankees pocket to spend it on other teams players?

They don’t need Carl Crawford, especially at about $17-20 million per year. Brett Gardner is fine out in LF; he gets on base, plays great defense and will probably be the full time lead off hitter in 2011.

Yankees don’t need Crawford, but it sure looks like they want him.

I drive a Toyota Avalon. It is a nice car and gets me around the block and to the ball fields in Scranton, Trenton and Staten Island. It is not what I want. I want a Ferrari (black by the way), but I can’t afford a Ferrari.

And the Yankees can’t afford Crawford and Lee after signing Mariano for $15 million per year and Jeter for a minimum of $17 million per year. After the two first ballot HOFers are in the stable, that would give the Yankees an existing payroll of $176 million, not including Andy Pettitte, not including the arbitration-eligible guys.

After the Mitre deal, arb-eligible players includes Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan. Predictions run as high as $8 million for those three.

If the Yankees sign both Lee and Crawford, it would add around $40 million per season, probably a few dollars more. That gives the Yankees $224 million before Pettitte.

That is $224 million plus about $20-$30 million in luxury tax.

In 2012, the Yankees would have eliminated Jorge Posada from the payroll but will still have $107 million plus Jeter, Mo, Lee and Crawford and raises for Granderson and a Swisher option for 2012.  

Trade somebody? Who? Swisher? What are you going to get for him? Well, maybe the Yanks can buyout Swisher’s contract for the million bucks after 2012. They could waive AJ and hope someone takes him, saving a zillion dollars and a bunch of future blow ups.

Then what about when Cano’s deal comes up in his age 30 year after his 2013 option? How much will he deserve when he has a few more seasons like 2010?

Maybe $20 million, how about $25 million per? Then after Hughes has another 18-win season, what is he going to earn?

Isn’t this getting out of hand? When does this end for the Yankees? Does every player on their starting nine have to have eight figure salaries?

Why not sign Pujols next season for a 1B/3B/DH guy as a rover? They can trade all their young prospects for Prince Fielder to be a power lefty off the bench. The team doesn’t need all the prospects since they are not promoting their own but signing other teams best players.

I know all these free agent signings (and highly unlikely trades mentioned above) will get Doug Rush’s tighty-whities at half staff, but signing Lee and Crawford would force the Yankees into a terrible financial bind through the next decade.  

And, in a young man’s game, more than half their roster will be in their mid-30s.

Yeah, I am sure that Lee’s couple of back issues over the last few years are nothing. And Crawford running and playing all those games on the carpeted concrete in the Trop in Tampa won’t affect his speed or quality of play in 2013 and beyond.

I find it very hard to root against guys like Crawford and Lee, then have to turn around and have to root for them (for the benefit of my favorite team) over the next half decade.

I appreciate the work that CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira put in as Yankee players, but they are not nearly as big fans of theirs as I am for Jeter, Cano, Pettitte, Posada, Gardner, Hughes and Mariano.

AJ Burnett I could care less about and actually root against him.  

I frankly don’t want the Yankees to sign Lee or Crawford, the Yankees do not need them. They won 95 games last season without either one and will not have to go up against Crawford 19 times a year when the Angels sign him.

I believe (hope?) the Yankees are just blowing smoke on Crawford. They like to play the cloak and dagger stuff to the hilt and it seems are trying to bankrupt the Boston Red Sox.

The idea in spending big money on contracts is to re-sign your own players you want to keep (Rivera and Jeter). Or you extend even younger guys beyond their arbitration seasons and perhaps a few free agent years (Cano, Hughes?). It is not to sign other teams best players every other season.

Except if Albert Pujols becomes available, then the Yanks can move Alex to DH, Tex to third and leave Pujols at first or maybe let Albert play 3B.

Until Evan Longoria becomes available in 2017.


New York Yankees: Can They Pry Away Zack Greinke From the Kansas City Royals?

October 11, 2010

I want to preface this by saying that I heard from a friend who was at several of the Kansas City Royals instructional league games/practices/workouts last week. All the general talk amongst Royals people was Zack Greinke and if he will be traded this offseason.

Greinke has a contract which runs through 2012, when he will be all of 29 when he reaches free agency.

But general consensus of those associated Royals employees was NO, Greinke would not be traded this offseason. The most likely scenario is he could be moved during the 2011 or even 2012 trade deadline.

And the Royals would want top dollar in trade value if and when he might be traded.

The same questions arise when a pitcher of Greinke’s caliber (and prime age) might become available via trade:

1) What teams have the financial capability to pony up the type of money to bring on $26 million over the next two seasons and possible demands via an extension?

2) What team has the type of prospects, especially Major League-ready pitching prospects, which a team like the Royals would want back in trade?

There are the typical teams which have the dollars, such as the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves and both Chicago teams. But none of those teams has anywhere near the prospects that several other teams do.

The Mets’ and Red Sox’s systems are not that deep, the Angels just traded for Dan Haren and like their top system guys and the White Sox appeared to have traded their entire farm system for Jake Peavy and Manny Ramirez.

The Braves have quaite a few young pitching prospects, but they are at lower levels, and the Royals want at least one arm with Major League ready talent. The Florida Marlins have tons of good top level and Major League prospect players, but they are in the same boat as the Royals.

They keep their young guys to replenish the Major League team with good, young and cheap talent. In fact, the Marlins followed the Royals’ lead by signing their top pitching stud, Josh Johnson, to a multi-year deal. Guys like Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan, and Chris Volstad are not going to be moved to take on more payroll.

The Cardinals have a few good young pitchers in their system and also have the somewhat disgruntled Colby Rasmus possibly available. If Tony LaRussa returns to St. Louis, could Rasmus be part of a deal for Greinke? 

Probably not. The Cardinals might not have enough money for their own guys. They need to re-sign Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter (at least one of the two) and Albert Pujols to longer deals in the next year or two.

The Tampa Bay Rays inquired about Greinke this past trading deadline, and would have done a deal if available. They have the prospects and were willing to handle the current salary structure.

But I believe they were looking for in-season help, and while not looking to trade this offseason, the Rays could possibly try and work something out next season if the need arises. Tampa seems pretty satisfied with what they have now. 

David Price, Matt Garza, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and probably Jeremy Hellickson taking over for James Shields, who also could be traded, provide Tampa with a formidable rotation for 2011.

There are just not that many teams which have the financial and prospect capabilities to pull off this type of trade.

Well, except one.  

The New York Yankees have the money. And with the player development side built up behind General Manager Brian Cashman, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer and Senior V.P. Mark Newman, they now have one of the top farm systems in all of baseball.

I don’t care what Baseball America says or how they rank the Yankees. The pinstripe parade of young talent has already produced quality Major League talent, and is strong at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, especially in the area of pitching.

Good arms like Manny Banuelos, Adam Warren, David Phelps, Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Hector Noesi, D.J. Mitchell, and Ivan Nova not only provide the Yankees with multiple arms ready to contribute in the Bronx, but also valuable trade bait to obtain top major league talent.

There are only so many spots open in a Major League starting rotation, and the Yankees, with their penchant in spending money on Major League arms, are not going to keep all this talent in house.

It is just not possible. They can keep several of these kids in the Minor Leagues for a few more seasons, but most need to be brought up or moved. No way they all get their Yankee chance.

They already tried to trade Warren as part of the Cliff Lee deal this past July, adding him when Seattle balked at the injured David Adams. And I still believe the Mariners made a terrible decision by taking the Rangers deal over that of the Yankees.  

I have seen most of the above Yankee farm hands pitch several times and while many are keepers, most are trade chips.

I love Banuelos, Warren, and Phelps, and with his power fastball and knee bucking breaking pitch, I believe Brackman is more suited to a late inning relief role. Betances is good, with great strikeout capabilites, but I do not believe he has the strike zone command yet to be the top of the rotation starter most others believe.

Most guys look at the size and wow factor and deem them “high ceiling” guys. Power guys get all the attention, but guys who get hitters out with an array of pitches are better suited in the majors. I like my starting pitchers who can throw consistent strikes to both sides of the plate and have command within the strike zone.

Like Banuelos, Warren and Phelps.

I have seen Dellin pitch several times, he is a nice kid, but throws too many fat pitches over the middle of the plate. He does not have that great command right now, and I don’t believe he can get that down the road.

But he can be one of the key chips to get Greinke from the Royals. Why? Because many others believe he is a top of the rotation starter. 

He had a good season coming back from Tommy John surgery, and with Cashman coming out saying he was possibly “the best pitching prospect we have ever had,” his value might be highest right now, especially with the history of arm injuries.

And since Brackman is better suited for the pen, and ready for the Majors sometimes in 2011, that makes Joba Chamberlain expendable, too. The Royals want two top pitching guys and the Yankees have that in Betances and Joba.  

And Phil Hughes isn’t going anywhere.

I would package those two right handers and and any positional prospect not named Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy, or Gary Sanchez. While I am not enamored with Romine, I do believe that the young catcher would be more valuable traded for a need sometime next season.  

But will the Royals trade their ace?

The Royals have several young pitchers who are very highly rated in Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Christopher Dwyer, and John Lamb, all left-handed and all who did well at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, a very tough park to pitch. Will Smith and former top pick Aaron Crow are also in the mix.

Throw in former top picks Mike Moustakas at third base and Eric Hosmer at first base, and the Royals have pitching and sluggers to anchor what looks like a solid core of young players, ready to all contribute in 2012.

And that is the rub. Do the Royals keep Greinke around to provide mentorship (and a right handed arm) for all the youngsters or do they trade him an help replenish with more Major League ready talent?

They will never be able to pay Greinke that type of big time money he will be due in 2013, and will save about $26 million over the next two seasons.

The trade would benefit the Royals. They would definitely allow the somewhat local product Joba to be a starter again, and he and Betances would add two right-handed power arms to the flurry of lefty pitching talent on the rise. As the Minnesota Twins proved all year, Joba would fare much better in the weaker A.L. Central.

The Royals will not really be a good team with Greinke now, they will not be able to afford him in two years, and they could get two power arms and a position player in return. If I were the Royals, I would shoot for the versatile Eduardo Nunez.

Besides recent first round pick shortstop Christian Colon, the Royals do not have another top middle infield prospect in the system. But if the Royals really want a catcher, then Romine is also expendable, maybe in addition to the two pitchers and Nunez. 

The Royals would be best suited to trade Greinke and the Yankees have the prospects to make the trade.


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.


Joe Girardi Continues to Display Ineptness Regarding The Bullpen

July 11, 2010

On the west coast road trip to Oakland and Seattle which saw the Yankees go 6-1, could have possibly been 7-0. Then the Yankees would have a three game lead over Tampa Bay instead of just a two game lead.

But in a great pitching matchup between the New York Yankees Javier Vazquez and the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, Girardi pulled his usual stunt.

The game was 1-0 Yankees and Vazquez had a NO-HITTER through the first 5.2 innings, finally allowing an infield single to Ichiro. At one point Vazquez retired 15 straight batters. He loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, but got out of his only jam by retiring Milton Bradley.

Then with a three-hit shutout going, Girardi removes Vazquez after seven innings. “You did your job Javy,” Girardi likely told the 34-year-old, 13-year veteran.

Are you kidding me? Did his job? What job was that? Getting pulled from a great pitchers duel because the manager has no concept of how to manage a pitching staff?

Vazquez was pulled because his pitch count (here we go again!) was at 117. So lets leave the balance of the game in the hands of Joba Chamberlain, a pitcher who has struggled mightily with his control, command and concentration.

And Joba did not disappoint by loading the bases very quickly and allowing a home run on a pitch way up in the zone, and even further away from his targeted location.

So why not leave Vazquez in? It’s his game. He had been outdueling the great King Felix all night.

Because Vazquez was at 117 pitches and Joba is the Yankees 8th inning guy. 

The real reason is that Girardi is playing the games based upon the “new book,” the one which states you must bring in your setup, 8th (or 7th) inning guy if your starter is over 100 pitches. No matter what the situation, no matter what the score, no matter how effective your starting pitcher is doing.

That is similar to the prevent defense in football. When your team has a decent lead in the fourth quarter, you play a soft defense allowing the other team to gain yardage, but not to hit the big play.

What the prevent defense usually does in football is prevent a win in the game for the preventing team.

Vazquez needs to be in that game for the 8th inning, pitching until he is no longer effective. It is his game, not Joba’s, and if there is a thought that the pitch count was too high, than baseball has just about stopped being a man’s game.

I thought the pitch count fiasco was only for younger pitchers who have not yet built up their arms to the rigors of professional baseball?  

Why are we then worried about Javier’s pitch count? He is a 13-year veteran who has not ever been injured. Vazquez was even rumored to be traded during that series against Seattle, and probably will not even be a Yankee next year!

And even after seven innings and 117 pitches, right now Vazquez is a much better pitcher than Joba Chamberlain and anyone else in that bullpen not named Mariano.

That loss at Seattle was not a Joba problem or a bullpen problem. It is a Joe Girardi problem.

Pitch counts should not be a reason to bring in a new guy, but Girardi abides by the new book. Hell, my son threw five innings the other day, and the threw 200 pitches of wiffle ball later on that same day. And his arm is still attached.

After the grand slam and the Yankees were behind 4-1, the 24-year-old, six-year veteran King Felix went back out on the mound and shut down the Yankees in 9th inning, throwing a total of 126 pitches. It was his fourth complete game in his last five starts.

Hernandez did not need anybody to finish his game.


Joe Girardi: New York Yankee Manager Makes Huge Gaffe in Pulling Starter

June 19, 2010

After seven brilliant innings by New York Yankee starting pitcher Javier Vazquez in Friday night’s game versus the New York Mets, Joe Girardi did his usual routine.

He pulled out of the game a very effective pitcher who was cruising through a lineup all night long, giving up one very soft run in the top of the 1st inning.

Why did Girardi pull Vazquez?

Well, by God, Javier was over the magical 100 pitch count threshhold! Vazquez threw 109 pitches before being pulled.

Oh my goodness! The Yankees best starting pitcher over the last month was pulled out of the game during a very critical moment. The game was 1-0 Mets, and Vazquez was cruising, having not allowed a hit for five and a third innings!

And this was after Vazquez quieted the Mets bats earlier this season on one hit over six innings.

That mistake of pulling Vazquez based upon pitch count by Girardi COST the Yankees an opportunity to win that game.

And to make matters worse, Girardi brought in perhaps his most inconsistent pre-8th inning guy Chan Ho Park to start the inning. He put Park in the game ONE NIGHT after Park gave up two hits in a third of an inning in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

In that game, Park relieved another reliever, Joba Chamberlain, who had replaced an effective starter in Andy Pettitte. Pettitte was relieved after throwing a whopping 105 pitches!

According the Michael Kay on the broadcast, Andy’s pitch count was high.

Take him out!

Is that why Girardi took Pettitte out yesterday after 105 pitches? Pettitte could have AND SHOULD HAVE gone out for the 8th inning against Philadelphia.

AND VAZQUEZ SHOULD HAVE GONE OUT FOR THE 8TH INNING FRIDAY NIGHT.

Are 109 pitches really too much for one of the most durable pitchers (besides Roy Halladay and Mark Buerhle) in the entire sport? A guy in the 34 year old Vazquez, who has averaged 217 innings and 33 starts in each of his 10 full seasons in the majors?

That is flat out retarded. Girardi is not a good manager when it comes to pitching. That is surprising Girardi was a pretty good catcher. He is the same as every other manager in baseball, making the same moves with pitchers and trying to lose ballgames.

They do not follow the most basic rule in pitching.

It is also DelGrippo’s Baseball Rule No. 1 to win games :

In a close game, if your starting pitcher is throwing well (and especially dominating the opposition) NEVER, EVER take him out due to an innings limit or pitch count.

WHY?

Because as a manager, you know how your current pitcher is throwing, but you have no idea how your relief pitcher will throw. Is it a good day, or a bad day for them?

We don’t know, but we do know our starting pitcher (who is usually at least 30 years old if they are throwing for the Yankees).

*This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George is going to get married to Susan. Kramer then tells Jerry all about the horrors of marriage, including the following exchange:

Kramer: Yeah, and you can forget about watching TV while you’re eating.
Jerry: I can?
Kramer: Oh, yeah! You know why? Because it’s dinner time. And you know what you do at dinner?
Jerry: What?
Kramer: You talk about your day! “How was your day today? Did you have a good day today or a bad day today ? Well, what kind of day was it? I don’t know, how ’bout you, how was your day?”
Jerry: Boy!
Kramer: It’s sad, Jerry. It’s a sad state of affairs.

The same exchange can be used in the sad state of pitching affairs in major league baseball. All around you see how young pitchers are doing well , and that more have sub 3.00 ERA’s. But many of these hurlers are being conditioned to look over their shoulders towards the bailout bullpen at every hint of trouble from the fifth inning on.

But the sad state is when managers think that after 100 pitches, it is time to take your starter out of the game, and never go above 120. This is because some guy who never played the game suggests that pitchers will be injured for life it they do.

That is why Justin Verlander has not thrown above 120 pitches since I wrote this article .

And if your starter IS OUT due to some reason, like getting hit hard or has been replaced by a pinch hitter, and your first relief pitcher is pitching well, NEVER, EVER take him out to bring in your 7th inning, 8th inning or closer (unless it is Mariano Rivera).

WHY?

Same reason above, you know how your current pitcher is performing and you do not know how the next guy will do.

When relief pitchers have good days, everyone is happy. But why take the risk? That is why they are relievers – they really aren’t great pitchers.

But when relievers have bad days, and they oftentimes do, the team usually loses the game. Most of the time when relief pitchers give up runs, games penciled in the win column turn into losses. Or as Girardi has shown the Pettitte and Vazquez games, he takes a one run deficit and makes it into a game you never will win.

Maybe, just maybe they turn into games you barely squeak out but use up your entire bullpen by playing the idiotic matchup game.  

And the matchup game is because lefty pitchers supposedly can only get out left handed hitters, and righty pitchers can supposedly only get out right handed hitters.

And that is why (as I mentioned earlier) relievers are not good pitchers because they can pretty much only get out the same side hitter. They never had the pitches to make it as a starter.

That is why starters should pitch longer than seven innings and 100-110 pitches. They are your better pitchers. They should pitch more, especially when they are in their 30’s and have been involved in the majors for a decade as have Pettitte and Vazquez have been.

No way Vazquez should be taken out of Friday night’s game. Girardi cost the Yankees an opportunity to win that game. I have much more confidence in Vazquez (after throwing 5.1 consecutive hitless innings) pitching the 8th and, even the 9th, innings than I do some middle reliever guy.

And that includes Joba Chamberlain.

A team today should only have ten pitchers – five starters, a closer, and four guys who can get out both right handed and left handed batters and pitch multiple innings. One of those four needs to be a five+ inning type guy (a sixth starter)- in case there is an extremely long extra inning game.

I ask you, “is it too much to think that a pitcher can’t throw 15 pitches per inning? That equates to 105 pitches for a seven inning game. Then why can’t he go two more innings than the usual seven if he feels good, his legs are strong and he is dominating the opposition?

The biggest knock on the “abuse of pitchers” was that the pitches they threw when tired is what led to injuries. Vazquez (and Pettitte*) did not appear tired after seven innings. So why take them out, and lose those games?

* I do understand a little about Pettitte as the Yankees are a little worried because his rib cage injury from last season has begun to act up again . The Yankees may think it might be a little more serious than just a pull .

Is is that hard? Or is everybody scared of what the agents will think? Are the GM’s who let this craziness continue worried too much about the money lost if a pitcher gets hurt?

Are wins and losses important?

As I said earlier, it is not just Girardi who makes this terrible blunder time after time. Zack Greinke’s bullpen has blown at least three games for him this year, Tim Lincecum’s bullpen blew several of his early starts.

Just yesterday, The Philadelphia Phillies bullpen blew a win for Cole Hamels . The Phillies bullpen is a sad group of pitchers who should be the poster children for complete game advocacy.

But Hamels had thrown 117 pitches by that time, and the Phillies had a five run lead with two innings to go. As the PAP guys say, “the game is in the bag, why abuse the starting pitcher?”

It is not pitch counts or innings workloads which hurt pitchers arms. Josh Johnson of the Florida Marlins, the second best pitcher in baseball had Tommy John surgery at age 22. He was not abused via pitch count or innings increments, having a steady increase throughout his pro career. 

Johnson was taken out of yesterday’s game  by manager Fredi Gonzalez, he of the double-switch lineup snafu’s, removed Johnson after eight innings because he had thrown 117 pitches.

“If the pitch count had been 103 or 104, you’ve got to give him the opportunity to go back out there,” Gonzalez said.

Johnson’s last two pitches, his 116 and 117, were 96 MPH.

How about a 34 year old man in Javier Vazquez, who has a history of durability and was pitching great baseball?

Why take him out after 109 dominating pitches?

Now that the Yankees are in sole possession of first place, Girardi will try like hell to help his team lose games.

You can pitch count on it.