Friday, November 27, 2015

Meet a Prospect: Johnny Barbato

Johnny Barbato was the young man that the San Diego Padres sent to the New York Yankees in the offseason trade that sent relief pitcher Shawn Kelley, and his horse mask I can confirm, to the West Coast a couple offseasons ago. It was originally thought that Barbato would need Tommy John surgery immediately following the deal but those reports turned out to be false leaving Barbato healthy and available to pitch well in both Double-A and Triple-A this season. Barbato pitched well enough to catch the eye of many people inside the Yankees organization, and probably a few of the scouts outside the Yankees organization as well, this season and was added to the 40 man roster this week in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Barbato is now a Yankee for the long haul so now is as good of a time as any to meet him. Let’s Meet a Prospect: The Johnny Barbato Edition.

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 and Nick Goody on the depth chart and is currently side by side or right behind Caleb Cotham and Branden Pinder as far as right handed pitchers go.


In 2015 Barbato split time between the Double-A Trenton Thunder and the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders and posted this overall pitching line. This was well enough to warrant being added to the 40 man roster despite a slew of other candidates seemingly ahead of him on the depth chart. I don’t pretend to know more than the Yankees and their advisers that watch players like Barbato every day, I was quite vocal about the protection of Mason Williams in 2014 and I am still cleaning egg off my face for that, so if the Yankees protected him then I agree that it was a good move. Welcome to the family Mr. Barbato, officially. 

Could the Yankees Take a Prospect in Rule 5 Draft?

The 2015 version of the Rule 5 Draft goes down on December, 10 and the New York Yankees recently added three of their own prospects to the 40 man roster to protect them from the draft. Adding Johnny Barbato, Ben Gamel and Rookie Davis to the roster filled up the 40 man roster but the Yankees have plenty of time to make a trade and plenty of players they can potentially outright off the 40 man roster or designate for assignment. Long story short the Yankees could make a move and actually take a player in the Rule 5 Draft... but who would that be?

Corey Black is the right-handed pitcher that the Yankees sent to the Chicago Cubs in the deal that brought Alfonso Soriano back to the Bronx. Now the circle can complete after Chicago left Black unprotected and off the 40 man. Black throws hard and is a big strikeout guy, which the Yankees like, but his walk totals are troubling.

Reymin Guduan is another mid-to-high 90's heat thrower that struggles with command and was left unprotected by the Houston Astros. The Yankees have so many left-handed relief pitching options though so I can't see this happening.

Throw Sam Selman of the Kansas City Royals into that category as well as he can hit 97 MPH on the gun.... he just doesn't always know where it's going.

The final piece, and one of the more notable pieces in my opinion, is the New York Mets shortstop prospect T.J. Rivera. Rivera has hit well in the minor leagues but has yet to reach the Major Leagues. The issue that intrigued me most is that Rivera is that he has experience at all four infield positions and plays them all well. Upgrade over Brendan Ryan?

Jesse Chavez is no David Price for Toronto… Thankfully

You’ll have to excuse me as I have been sick for almost a week now and I haven’t been writing much at all. Thank goodness for my back-logged stuff and all the content I had saved as a draft or the site would have likely gone quiet, and it’s never been quiet for a full day since its inception almost four years ago now. One of the key tidbits of news that I missed regarding an American League East rival of the New York Yankees was when the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Jesse Chavez, a right-handed starting pitcher from the Oakland Athletics. Chavez is a nice piece but thankfully for the Yankees he’s not David Price.

The Blue Jays sent Liam Hendricks, a now full-time relief pitcher who went 5-0 with a 2.92 ERA in 58 appearances in 2015, to Oakland in exchange for Chavez. Hendricks trade value has never been higher after a switch to the bullpen not only saw his ERA, WHIP, FIP and peripherals go down but his fastball velocity spike leading to a career-best 9.9 K/9 ratio. Hendricks is under team control through the 2020 season while Chavez is a free agent after the 2016 season.

Chavez has made 26 starts over the past two seasons as he has bounced between the A’s bullpen and rotation and has posted a combined 7-15 record with a 4.18 ERA. Chavez is 32-years old and is a former member of the Blue Jays as recently as 2012 so he’s no stranger to Toronto. Chavez was last seen sporting an 8.44 ERA in a Blue Jays uniform before being acquired for cash from the Athletics. Chavez is a definite win-now move for the Blue Jays but will he be enough? Will he be enough to replace the man he is essentially, for lack of a better word, replacing in David Price?

Price was money for Toronto posting this stat line:
2015 ★ TOT 18 5 2.45 32 220.1 190 70 60 17 47 225 161 2.78 1.076 7.8 0.7 1.9 9.2
2015 DET 9 4 2.53 21 146.0 133 50 41 13 29 138 156 3.06 1.110 8.2 0.8 1.8 8.5
2015 TOR 9 1 2.30 11 74.1 57 20 19 4 18 87 172 2.22 1.009 6.9 0.5 2.2 10.5
Chavez on the other hand was anything but “money” in 2015:
2015 OAK 7 15 4.18 30 157.0 164 78 73 18 48 136 96 3.85 1.350 9.4 1.0 2.8 7.8
Even with Marcus Stroman coming back last September to lead the Blue Jays to the ALCS Toronto doesn’t go as far without Price. Price was a godsend for Toronto and led the team down the stretch with clutch performance after clutch performance, especially against the New York Yankees. Toronto may have likely still made the playoffs without Price but bet your bottom dollar if the Jays have Chavez starting everything fifth day in the second half of the 2015 season and not Price they aren’t winning that AL East Division. Not by a long shot. 

Potential Black Friday Deals for the New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are preaching austerity once again and the general consensus is the team is not going to be one of 30 trampling over each other to get the next “great deal” via free agency. New York could be looking at adding a starting pitcher, another bullpen piece or maybe even another middle infielder to either upgrade over Brendan Ryan or to fill in at second base if the team doesn’t have the utmost confidence in Robert Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley like I do. New York will be present and accounted for when Black Friday (free agency) really kicks off and rush is on but instead of trampling over people for the latest and greatest toys (David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, Yoenis Cespedes), they will likely be content with these lesser known deals. 

Nobody wants Doug Fister after one bad season in Washington, nobody. If it weren't for the absolutely deep free agent market Fister would still be in high demand. That's baseball and it could be the Yankees gain if they truly want a starting pitcher. Fister may be forced into taking a one year deal to build value and that's right up the Yankees alley. Fister had forearm problems that set the tone for much of his season and if those are behind him the Yankees could get a decent middle-of-the-rotation starter for relatively nothing.

Steve Pearce is a name I keep linking to the Yankees because it makes so much sense. He'll likely come on a one year deal and can play the outfield, first base and second base. Pearce is a right-handed bat with pop potential that pretty much finishes out the Yankees bench. Well, if they didn't have Brendan Ryan and a platoon at second base.

Yovani Gallardo is getting ground balls on nearly 50% of his pitches thrown, that's huge. He doesn't strike out as many batters as he used to but he doesn't give up home runs either. Gallardo proved he could pitch in a hitter friendly ball park after pitching for the Texas Rangers last year so I can't see him pitching inside Yankee Stadium being the problem. You know what is the problem though? Texas offered him a qualifying offer. 

Hal Steinbrenner Seemingly Has a Plan for the Yankees Offseason

If you’re a fan of the New York Yankees or have been for any length of time you have probably seen the same old song and dance for most of the winter’s and offseason’s you’ve experienced. The Yankees see a shiny new toy, the Yankees overpay for that shiny new toy despite their age, track record or injury history and the Yankees let that contract work for the now and worry about it later when it begins to burden them. Not anymore, at least that is my opinion based off what I have seen thus far this winter, as it looks like Hal Steinbrenner finally has a plan for the direction of the New York Yankees.

Now I know what you’re thinking, Hal is the Yankees owner and not the GM so who cares if he has a plan. That’s a valid and correct statement but at the end of the day Hal writes the checks and whether they admit it or not Hal has the final say in any and all deals and free agent signings. Most management driven deals are not initially reported as such but I’d say most of them, or more than we as a fan base should be comfortable with to be honest, come out eventually. See the Rafael Soriano signing or the Ichiro Suzuki trade and signing as examples of this.

In every interview you hear from Hal Steinbrenner it’s the same three or four lines that are likely on a tape recorder that he’s just playing back. The Yankees will look at everyone, it’s called due diligence, but the team is likely to stay out of the big free agent pool. That means no David Price, no Zack Greinke, no Jordan Zimmerman and no Ben Zobrist. Why? Because the team just doesn’t have the salary coming off the books before the 2016 season. Just $12.5 million is off the books from the 2015 season and all of that and then some will be eaten up by arbitration raises. In years past the team has taken that money and reinvested it, see the Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran signings along with the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes and the Brett Gardner extension.

Steinbrenner loves to name drop the names of the Yankees top prospects. James Kaprielian, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge specifically. Steinbrenner believes building a farm system and building from within will not only allow the team to cut costs and get under the luxury tax threshold but will also make the team more “likeable” to fans. He’s got a point, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. Steinbrenner is going to spend, not spend wildly like his father mind you, and he’s also going to invest in the future, something his father rarely to never did. 

It sucks now to watch the team miss the postseason in two consecutive years and lose in the Wild Card Game in 2015 but if this means the team can get back to being a perennial powerhouse as soon as 2017 and beyond I think I’m okay with that. That’s the plan, at least that’s what I think the plan is, and if it’s allowed to achieve fruition I think a lot of Yankees fans will be “okay” with it too. 

Let the Free Agency Black Friday Deals Begin

Thanksgiving is over. The turkey is cooked, the ham is eaten and the stuffing has me stuffed. What better way to follow up a day of gluttonous eating and showing our thanks for everything we have in this world than to trample over people in a retail store for our own greed and pleasure. In America we call this “Black Friday” where you can risk your life and get in a fist fight over some cheap and flimsy Wal Mart towels all to save a couple hundred bucks. Me personally, I prefer to stay home under the covers and do all my Christmas shopping online, something that many teams around the league are likely doing right about now in free agency.

The first major free agents have yet to fall off the board this season and with the family functions over and the endless traveling back and forth for this dinner and that dinner the wheeling and dealing (you know, to burn calories and such) can begin. We’ve all seen these offseason’s before, it just takes one of these major free agents to pick a destination and the rest of the league scurries to grab up the remaining talent before it’s gone. Free agency is just like Black Friday, and these deals could be going fast.

Ben Zobrist is likely the most highly sought after 34-year old on the entire free agent market. When teams like the New York Yankees and the New York Mets are interested in your services you can understand why the switch hitting utility player is taking his time but until Zobrist comes off the board you are unlikely to see Howie Kendrick, Alexei Ramirez, Ian Desmond or any of the middle infield free agents specifically come off the board.

The Yankees are dangling Brett Gardner out in any and all trade offers this offseason and may have log-jammed the entire outfield market. Until Gardner is secure either in the Bronx or elsewhere it may be a while before we see a Denard Span or a Dexter Fowler come off the free agency board.

The Cincinnati Reds know how to get us all worked up just to let us down as fans. Last season we all thought Aroldis Chapman was going to be traded before the deadline and he wasn’t. Then recently a report surfaced that Chapman was going to be moved again and by that weekend. Chapman is still in Cincinnati which means no one is looking at trading for the Yankees Andrew Miller or any other closer until Chapman’s 2016 home is secure, even if it’s still inside the Great American Ball Park.

David Price despite being older than and presumably more expensive than Jordan Zimmermann is likely going to set the tone for the starting pitching market this winter. Until Price comes off the board Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto and others may simply sit by and wait idly while the left-hander makes up his mind.

And finally the relief pitching department, as fickle as it can be, may be at a standstill until former Baltimore Orioles right-hander Darren O’Day makes up his mind. O’Day is likely the best and most sought after free agent in the bullpen that’s not already a closer and is said to have much of the league interested in his services. Tyler Clippard, Ryan Madson and maybe even Joakim Soria continue to sit in limbo until someone grabs O’Day off that Black Friday pallet and brings him home this Christmas.

I hope everyone had a great and Happy Thanksgiving, an even better and a safe Black Friday and a great weekend.

This Day in New York Yankees History 11/27: Enter Graig Nettles

On this day in 1972 the Indians and the Yankees hooked up for a trade that saw Graig Nettles and catcher Gerry Moses head to New York for John Ellis, Jerry Kenney, Charlie Spikes, and Rusty Torres. Nettles would be a huge part of three American League pennants and two World Series titles in the late 70's, ask any Dodgers fan about him.

Also on this day in 1947 the Yankees Joe DiMaggio edged out Ted Williams to win the American League Most Valuable Player award by one point. Williams won the Triple Crown this year posting a .343 average with 32 home runs and 162 RBI's but DiMaggio's .315 with 20 home runs and 97 RBI's would take the award. This would be the second time in the 40's, the other in 1941, that DiMaggio narrowly won the award over a more deserving Ted Williams.