Monday, February 25, 2013

Two Yankees Make Baseball Prospectus Top 101 List

Two  very familiar New York Yankees faces have cracked Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 prospects list in Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams. Gary Sanchez ranked in at BP's list at #47 and Mason Williams ranked in at #51. I find it shocking that Slade Heathcott or Tyler Austin did not make the list as they made every other list that was released this month but what can you do.

New York Yankees Spring Training Notes 2/25

Johnny Damon has told the Yankees that he is interested in filling their newly acquired left field hole but the Yankees do not seem interested whatsoever. Johnny last played on the Yankees during the 2009 World Series run.

Both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have shot down the idea of putting Eduardo Nunez in left field to replace the injured Curtis Granderson. So much for that idea and forcing his bat into the lineup.

Mariano Rivera faced hitters for the second time since his ACL surgery last season and everything looked crisp and went well. CC Sabathia also faced hitters this morning and even threw sliders and came away feeling good.

New York Yankees @ Baltimore Orioles 2/25

The Yankees continue their Grapefruit League schedule this Spring Training with an afternoon game at the AL East rival Baltimore Orioles squad. The Yankees will send young soft tossing lefty and recent 40 man addition Vidal Nuno to the mound to face off against the Fighting Showalters. The game will be televised at 1:00 pm ET on MLB Network although it will be on a delay.

Gardner gets work in while Yanks fall to Orioles 5-1

The travel roster for today's Yankees/Orioles game seemed a bit off. Only one locked in Opening Day starter made the trip while the rest of the travel roster included non-roster invitees, minor leaguers and players off the 40-man roster. The Orioles played a lot of their regulars, overpowering the young minor leaguers while the Yankees dropped their second straight Spring Training game 5-1 in Sarasota.

There wasn't much offense for the Yankees but today's game seemed more about getting work in for  Brett Gardner. The Yankees had seven hits. Gardner had three of them. Jayson Nix, who is expected to make the team in a bench role had two hits. Not a lot of offense for the Yankees today but one of the hits that Brett Gardner did cause a bit of concern.

While Yankees fans and staff enjoy Gardner's grittiness, Gardner dove into first base to confirm a lead-off infield single. The single was good. The issue? Gardner dove into first base one day after Curtis Granderson broke his forearm. Gardner quickly erased his small error, perfecting a bunt single and hitting a line drive into left center field.

The lone run for the Yankees came in the 9th inning after young Corban Joseph prolonged the inning with a single, then stealing second which was a risky move since there were two outs in the inning.

What's Next:

-- The Yankees will play the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, tomorrow at 1:05pm. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki, Kevin Youkilis, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson are expected to make the 20 minute bus trip. The game will air on MLB.TV and I was also told it would air on MLB Network.

Cervelli Out Of Options

"Like magnets, I have no idea how minor league options work."

Contrary to earlier reports, Brian Cashman has told Jack Curry that Francisco Cervelli does not have an option remaining. So that pretty much confirms that Cervie will either be the starting or backup catcher for the Yankees when the regular season opens.

With Curtis Granderson missing about a month of the regular season, due to the broken arm he suffered yesterday, I'm a bit more concerned about Cervelli's lack of hitting (career .271/.339/.353). It would be different if the Yankees had an adequate replacement for Grandy's power, but they really don't. Perhaps a kid like Zoilo Almonte will step up huge, but I'm not holding my breath.

On that note, I'm not for trading for Alfonso Soriano. If the Yankees find a trade for a strong/young outfielder, who can make it so losing Granderson after this season is no big deal, then great. But Soriano is definitely not that guy.

Granderson's Injury Is An Opportunity

There isn't much going on in the sports world in late February.   Yesterday afternoon's menu for sports fans wasn't very attractive.  There were some NHL and NBA games, but those sports don't start the postseason for a couple of months yet and 16 teams make the playoffs in those sports anyway so the drama is limited.  There were some NCAA men's basketball games on, but every decent team makes the tournament these days, so how excited can anyone get over a regular season game right now? The PGA tour was holding the first WGC event of the year but the match play format is a novelty event held on the PGA tour only one time each year, and to many of us that one time is one time too many.  It looked like some MLB preseason games might actually be the cream of the crop as far as sports viewing was going to go.  It appeared to be a lazy Sunday afternoon without much drama to unfold in the sports world.  That all changed when J.A. Happ threw a 2-2 fastball that caught Curtis Granderson on the right forearm in his first appearance of the 2013 Grapefruit League.

By now the whole world knows that Curtis Granderson is expected to miss at least ten weeks with a fractured right forearm.  Granderson will miss anywhere from 4-6 weeks of the regular season while he heals.  While this event was certainly newsworthy and not a positive event for the Yankees, it certainly isn't the apocalyptic event that many have proclaimed it to be.

When we last saw Curtis Granderson, he was flailing away hopelessly and comically at pitch after pitch in the 2012 ALCS.  Granderson was a disgraceful 0-11 in the ALCS with two walks and seven strikeouts.  In the 2012 ALDS series vs. the Orioles, Granderson was a feeble 3-19 with one walk, nine strikeouts, and one RBI which came on a solo home run in game five.  Granderson's 2012 postseason stat line was a pathetic 3-30(.100) with one HR and one RBI. While many Yankees were cold as ice in the 2012 postseason, Granderson's struggles in 2012 didn't begin in October.  Granderson was lost at the plate from August until the end of the season in 2012.  Granderson was 41-200(.205)  with only twenty walks from August 1st through the end of the 2012 regular season.  While Granderson did hit 15 homers in that time span, he was basically an all or nothing hitter that couldn't make simple contact and advance runners. When you add his laughable postseason stats to the equation, Granderson was as much of a hindrance to the Yankees as he was an asset down the stretch of the regular season and in the postseason.

The simple fact is that Curtis Granderson hadn't been the Curtis Granderson that anyone wants or longs for since July of last season and it is unlikely to assume that he will ever be that Curtis Granderson again.  Granderson's inability to hit breaking pitches had pitchers feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls out of the zone in the second half of last season and I see no reason why that would change this season or anytime in the future. While Granderson's power will be impossible to replace, his total value to the team is vastly overrated. An average CF at best these days, Granderson was already assumed to be moving to LF  for the 2013 season, with Brett Gardner taking over in CF.

Granderson's injury gives the Yankees four options to replace him.  The first option is to let Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera battle it out in spring training for the position.  That option seems a bit like the "battle" already going on between Chad Stewart and Francisco Cervelli at the catching spot.  No matter who wins the battle, it makes it tougher to win the war.

The second option is to sign a reclamation project/golden oldie such as Johnny Damon(age 39) or Bobby Abreu(turns 39 on March 11th). While some fans, nostalgic and sentimental as they may be, would welcome such a move, there is a very good reason why players like Damon and Abreu are available. They're done, through, finished and over with.

The third option would be to trade for an overpaid, over the hill player like Vernon Wells(age 34) or former Yankee Alfonso Soriano(age 37).  Trading prospects for either of these guys doesn't seem very sound, no matter how much money their current teams eat in the deal.

Option number four? It may be too much to hope for, but certainly makes the most sense.  To say that  Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have been reluctant to use young players would be an understatement of epic proportions.  Girardi and Cashman act as terrified of starting a young player as two college kids staring at a home pregnancy test are of the plus sign appearing.

Alas, necessity is the mother of all invention, and perhaps Cashman and Girardi will allow the need for an outfielder motivate them to reinvent their own strategies and allow Slade Heathcott, Ronnie Mustelier, Tyler Austin, or Zoilo Almonte play left field for the Yankees.

By all accounts Heathcott was outstanding in the most recent Arizona Fall League.  Several scouts referred to him as the best player in the league.  Heathcott is a five-tool player and viewed by many as the most talented member of the entire Yankee farm system, even more talented than catcher Gary Sanchez.  The biggest knock on Heathcott by many scouts is his intensity. A popular school of thought is that Heathcott's eagerness may add to his injury prone nature.  If that's the worst thing you can say about a player than he is the kind of player I want in a lineup as soon as possible.While injuries have delayed Heathcott's major league debut, he is 22 years old, and they all have to be rookies sometime.  Is it a stretch to send someone from high A ball to MLB? Perhaps, but it wouldn't be outrageous based on Heathcott's age and performance in the AFL.

If not Heathcott? How about Tyler Austin,  Ronnie Mustelier or Zoilo Almonte?  All are talented and need to be given a chance sooner than later.   Given the choice between letting these youngsters battle it out instead of Diaz and Rivera or antiques like Damon or Abreu or trading for Wells or Sorianojust makes sense.  Mike Trout was considered a great future talent who was too young to play in MLB at this time last year and now he's considered by many to be the most talented player in MLB. You don't know until you try them.

Now is the time to give these younger players serious consideration to replace Granderson, especially with a Yankee team that is looking older and older by the minute. Fans are ready to embrace new young players and the lackadaisical attitude that an all-veteran team is vulnerable to was on display in the 2012 postseason.  Young blood is not only good for a baseball team, but is often vital.  Giving these kids a serious shot at taking over Granderson's outfield slot represents an opportunity to inject some badly needed youth and energy to the Yankees while motivating the young players in the Yankee system by showing them that home grown players under age 25 are allowed to start games in the Bronx.

Spring Training 2/25/13 Lineup

Brett Gardner CF
Jayson Nix 2B
Matt Diaz DH
Juan Rivera RF
Francisco Cervelli C
Melky Mesa LF
Dan Johnson 3B
Gil Velazquez SS
Kyle Roller 1B

LHP Vidal Nuno

Meet A Prospect : David Phelps

David Edward Phelps was born on October 9th, 1986 in St. Louis, MO where he attended Hazelwood West High School in Hazelwood, MO where he played both basketball and baseball. Standing 6'2" and weighing in at 200 lbs you can see why the New York Yankees drafted him in the 14th round of the 2008 MLB First Year Players Draft. Phelps can throw five pitches for strikes including a four seam fastball that sits around 92 mph, a two seam fastball that also sits in the low 90's, a cutter that sits in the high 80's, a curve ball that tops out at 80 mph, and a change up that hits the mid 80's. David likes to throw the two seam fastball primarily to left handed hitters while saving the four seam fastball for right handed hitters. He also saves the change up exclusively against left handed hitters to keep them off balance. Coming off of a stellar 2012 season out of the bullpen and in the starting rotation the sky seems to be the limit for David Phelps in pinstripes and nobody is happier about that then myself.

While attending Hazelwood West High School David was named to the All Conference team playing both outfield and pitcher as a sophomore. As a junior and a senior David was named All Conference, All Metro Performer, and his teams captain while also finding time to be in the National Honor Society. David played his college baseball at the University of Notre Dame even though he was ranked as the sixth best prospect coming out of Missouri before the 2005 MLB draft. David did not pitch much as a freshman for the Fighting Irish but bounced back in 2007 as a starter putting up a 1.88 ERA with 102 strike outs to go with only 30 walks in 110 innings pitched. David would be named to the Big East All-Conference Team as well as Academic All-District and Academic All-American teams as well. He would struggle as a junior putting up a 4.65 ERA with 75 K's and 28 BB's in only 93 IP after entering the season looking to be picked in the early first round. He would see his stock fall all the way to the 14th round when the Yankees signed him for a $150,000 signing bonus.

David would start his professional career in 2008 when the Yankees put him on the Staten Island Yankees. He responded by putting up an 8-2 record with a 2.72 ERA in 15 starts. In his 72.2 IP he struck out 52 batters and put up a 1.170 WHIP. David would split time in Charleston and Tampa, both A Ball affiliates, putting up a combined 13-4 record and 2.38 ERA in 26 starts. In his 151 IP he struck out 122 batters while putting up a 1.205 WHIP. He would split his 2010 season as well between the AA Trenton and the AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre teams putting up a 10-2 record with a 2.50 ERA in 25 starts and one relief appearance. In his 158.2 IP he struck out 141 batters and put up a 1.103 WHIP while being named to the Eastern League All Star Team and was also named the Yankees Minor League Pitcher of the Year. 2011 would see David being added to the 40 man roster for Rule 5 Draft protection and would see him start the season with the Gulf Coast Yankees.  After putting in seven innings in the GCL David was brought up to the Scranton team where he put up a combined 7-7 record with a 2.99 ERA in 20 starts. In his 114.1 IP David struck out 95 batters and put up a 1.277 WHIP. David would put in 18 IP across three of the Yankees affiliates in 2012 but spent the vast majority of the season with the big league club.

David would spend basically the entire 2012 season with the big league club after making the team as the long man out of Spring Training. David would start the season as the long man in the bullpen until April 29th when he was moved into the rotation to replace a struggling Freddy Garcia. He would only make two starts before being knocked back to the bullpen when the Yankees promoted Andy Pettitte to the big club. David would be sent down to Scranton when David Robertson came off the disabled list with his oblique problems but would be right back to the majors when the Yankees lost both CC Sabathia to Andy Pettitte to injury before the All Star Break. All in all David would appear in 33 games, 11 of them out of the starting rotation, to put up a 4-4 record with a 3.34 ERA in 99.2 innings pitched. He would compile 96 strike outs while putting up an impressive 1.194 ERA. David will be fighting Ivan Nova for the 5th spot in the rotation this spring so good luck to both men.