Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nova plans to throw off mound soon; Feels great after Tommy John surgery

Yankees' right-hander Ivan Nova still has a long way to go before he can pitch again, but the veteran is nonetheless feeling good after his recent Tommy John surgery.

"To be honest, I feel right now like nothing happened," Nova told The New York Post's Dan Martin Tuesday. "I don't feel any pain. I don't feel any tightness. I can do motions and lifting without any problem."

Nova underwent the operation after partially tearing his right UCL in a start against the Rays last April, and isn't expected to rejoin the Yankees' rotation until June. He does, however, plan to begin throwing off a mound soon -- a step up from his current flat-ground tossing of 120 feet.

Nova says he will also attempt to improve on his demeanor in the upcoming season after posting a cringeworthy 8.27 ERA in four outings in 2014. 

"Last year wasn't really a good beginning," Nova said. "I didn't really have a chance to heat up. The way I finished up 2013, I have to go with the same mindset: aggresive."

Nova's return to the Yankees will likely be welcomed by the team considering its numerous question marks heading into camp -- top club hurlers Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda included. Tanaka and Pineda suffered severe injuries to their elbow and back respectively last year, and it remains unknown how they will deal with them in the future. 

But they probably won't be able to rely on Nova to pick up the slack for them if they struggle, as even he acknowledges the sizable amount of rehab he has left.

"I know it's not time yet," the 28-year-old said. "I'm trying not to rush."

The Last Standing Brian Cashman Apologist

Ever since Brian Cashman took over as the General Manager of the New York Yankees in 1998 he has enjoyed success. While much of that success came early on in his tenure and in large part due to the late George Steinbrenner’s checkbook the Yankees GM has reinvented himself in recent years with his new found power and control over the personnel decisions for the team. Every once in a while we see shades of The Boss in owner Hal Steinbrenner while he is signing a Rafael Soriano or contributing to a second Alex Rodriguez contract, and honestly we probably always will see these types of moves from the higher ups, but we can now say with confidence that overall this is Cashman’s team. For better or worse.

New York Yankees fans are some of the most passionate, and subsequently some of the most emotional, fans in all the world and come with some of the harshest and toughest criticisms you will ever hear. Any fan can go on Twitter, Facebook, Yankees Lohud or your favorite social media site or blog to make a comment or ask a question about a trade or signing involving the Yankees and you are bound to get a flurry of responses. Some of those responses will generally be positive but for the most part those opinions have turned negative regarding Cashman and his decision making. Truth be told I’m not sure why. On a long enough timeline, and Cashman has had one of the longest timeline’s as a GM I have seen in my lifetime for a GM in Major League Baseball, every GM acquires Javier Vazquez twice and signs Carl Pavano for nine wins, four years and $40 million… right?

Cashman has not made those same mistakes this offseason as the Yankees GM has continued to stockpile young talent, hard throwing pitchers and depth at almost every position. Many fans expected Cashman to fold under the pressure and give ludicrous contracts to Brandon McCarthy or insane trade packages for broken Troy Tulowitzki's but instead he got creative and made some trades. Instead of yet another question mark and a ton of salary in Tulo New York acquired a young and promising shortstop in Didi Gregorius and a perfectly capable stopgap in the fifth starter slot in Chris Capuano. Instead of setting the team back even further with another asinine contract for Max Scherzer the Yankees instead stayed the course, stuck to the plan and showed a willingness to rebuild on the fly. There is a finish line, and it conveniently ends when his current contract does after the 2017 season, and for the first time in over 20 seasons the Yankees can see it. The team cannot see that because Randy Levine jumped in and demanded a $12 million AAV for a 7th inning pitcher, the team can see it because of the work Cashman has done since he was given full control over player decisions and personnel.  

Another common complaint against the Yankees GM is the lack of player development and a farm system. While for a long time that was an absolutely legitimate concern and gripe the tides are turning down on the farm finally and we may now be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. MLB Pipeline is releasing their Top 10 lists per position right before Spring Training and the Yankees have a Top 10 RHP in Luis Severino, a Top 10 2B in Robert Refsnyder, a Top 10 1B in Greg Bird and will presumably have a Top 10 outfielder in Aaron Judge. Also Kylie McDaniel, a former Yankees scout and current member of Fangraphs, even went as far as to name the Yankees the 10th best farm in all of baseball and possibly the "deepest in the game." The rankings and the write ups from McDaniels and others makes for a pretty good farm system without even mentioning the likes of Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin and the slew of International free agent signings the team has made in the last two or three seasons. 

For better or worse this is finally Cashman's team and in a couple seasons when the plan is complete and has come to fruition I may longer be the last standing apologist for the Yankees GM. 

2015 MLB Draft Order Set in Stone

Per MLB Trade Rumors:

1. Diamondbacks     [Protected First-Round Picks]
2. Astros
3. Rockies
4. Rangers
5. Astros
6. Twins
7. Red Sox
8. White Sox
9. Cubs
10. Phillies
11. Reds

12. Marlins             [Unprotected First-Round Picks]
13. Rays
14. Braves
15. Brewers
16. Yankees
17. Indians
18. Giants
19. Pirates
20. Athletics
21. Royals
22. Tigers
23. Cardinals
24. Dodgers
25. Orioles
26. Angels

27. Rockies            [Compensation Picks]
28. Braves
29. Blue Jays
30. Yankees
31. Giants
32. Pirates
33. Royals
34. Tigers
35. Dodgers
36. Orioles

37. Astros              [Competitive Balance Round A]
38. Rockies
39. Cardinals
40. Brewers
41. Padres
42. Indians

And the amount of money the top six teams will have to spend this summer on the draft:

Astros – $17.98MM
Rockies – $14.55MM
D’backs – $14.18MM
Rangers – $9.47MM
Braves – $8.70MM
Yankees – $8.21MM

Greedy Pinstripes Top 28 Prospects List: #18

Prospects Month is in full swing and we're already up to our 18th best prospect in the farm system, Juan DeLeon. DeLeon marks the first prospect from the big International spending spree to be showcased on the list this season which is pretty cool. 

Here is the write up from Kyle McDaniel on DeLeon:

Juan DeLeon, RF Video: DeLeon was my favorite prospect of the Yankees’ July 2nd haul when he signed, even though he only got the third highest bonus ($2 million), behind Dermis Garcia and Nelson Gomez. He has very quick hands, with easy plus bat speed and arm strength to go with above average foot speed and power potential. As with some of his young peers facing players five years older than them, DeLeon would get out of control at the plate at times in instructs, but he made hard contact when he stayed within himself and didn’t hesitate to show off his arm in right field. It’s too early to know for sure, but there’s a good chance he’ll join the best players from the July 2nd class in the GCL in 2015. This may sound crazy, but DeLeon’s Dominican trainer, who goes by “Banana,” is known for developing advanced hitters and DeLeon is continuing that trend.

18. Juan DeLeon
19. Dante Bichette Jr. 
20. Domingo German
21. Slade Heathcott
22. Nick Rumbelow
23. Jose Ramirez
24. Ramon Flores
25. Gosuke Katoh
26. Chasen Shreve
27. Taylor Dugas
28. Johnny Barbato

Meet a Prospect: Johnny Barbato

When the New York Yankees traded Shawn Kelley to the San Diego Padres for prospect Johnny Barbato many around Yankeesland were up in arms, in a good way. Kelley didn't have many fans in New York, especially around the hardcore fans, even though all he did was pitch to the back of his baseball card while with the Yankees. New York fans are the best in the world in my very humble and bias opinion but we also tend to be a tough crowd, comes with the territory I guess. That same uproar came when Jack Curry reported that Barbato may need Tommy John surgery before throwing a single pitch in a Trenton Thunder or Scranton Wilkes Barre RailRiders uniform.

Barbato is just 22 years old and destined to start the season in Double-A if the elbow injury that shut him down in June does not require the surgery. Barbato stands 6'2" and throws right handed from a 185 lbs. frame with a 94-97 MPH fastball, a knuckle curve which he uses as a strike out pitch and an average changeup. The best part of Barbato is his control that saw him strikeout almost two for every one walk in his career.

Barbato likely sits ahead of Nick Rumbelow on the depth chart and side by side or right behind Danny Burawa and Branden Pinder as far as right handed pitchers go.

Looking at the 2015 Draft: 18th Best Prospect

Continuing our look at the 2015 MLB First Year Players Draft we take a look at the #18 ranked prospect expected to enter the draft. As always we will include the mini scouting report from as we introduce the #18 prospect, Mike Nikorak. Nikorak is a RHP from Stroudsburg High School in Pennsylvania. 

Here is the write up from

Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55

Nikorak raised his profile with his performance at the first showcase event on the summer circuit. He came out throwing 94-97 mph at the Perfect Game National and some scouts thought he was as impressive as any prep pitcher early in the summer.

Even when Nikorak's fastball was operating at 91-95 mph toward the end of showcase season, it was still effective because it features plenty of run and sink. He shows the makings of a plus curveball at times and also flashes at least a solid changeup.

An all-conference quarterback before he decided to focus on baseball, Nikorak is extremely athletic and has a lot of projection remaining in his lean 6-foot-5 frame. He has committed to Alabama.

18. Mike Nikorak
19. Kyle Cody
20. Cody Ponce
21. Riley Ferrell 
22. Chris Betts
23. James Kaprielian
24. Jake Lemoine
25. Beau Burrows
26. Richie Martin
27. Kyle Tucker
28. D.J. Stewart

RBI Baseball Will Return in 2015

This is not really New York Yankees related, prospects related or really anything but video games related but it excites me so sue me. RBI Baseball made its triumphant return to consoles, iOS and handheld phones and devices and will return for its sophomore season in 2015. RBI Baseball 2015 is happening!

Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs will be the cover athlete for the game which will showcase newly re-designed stadiums for all 30 MLB teams, online game PvP play, stat tracking through season mode, 25 man rosters and 40 man rosters.

This Day in New York Yankees History 2/11: No Second Team in the Bronx

On this day in 1915 New York Giants President Harry Hempstead rejected the International League's request to put a team in the Bronx. The shift of the International League's Jersey City to the Bronx, already home of the New York Yankees, was going to be a way to prop up a failing minor league franchise. This was also attempted to try and keep the invasion of the Federal League out of New York.