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Archive for the ‘Yankees Prospects’ Category

The long-awaited September call-up of top Yankees hitting prospect, Jesus Montero has finally come. Joe Girardi has slotted him in the lineup tonight against Boston Red Sox as the designated hitter. It’s will be interesting to see Jorge Posada’s reaction to being pulled off the playoff roster if Montero puts on a clinic this September.

Montero will be donning the No. 63 on his uniform.

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Are we talking a matter of days here? A couple of weeks? A September call-up?

“According to sources close to organization, Trenton catcher Austin Romine, then Dellin Betances, will be next to board the SWB shuttle, with top overall prospect Jesus Montero expected to join the Yankees’ lineup in the very near future.

The summer fo 2011 marks the first time since 1999 the Yankees have not made a July trade, and Cashman told reporters in New York today that he was never close to a deal with anyone, including the Colorado Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez.”

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For the past 2 ½ seasons, we Yankee fans have been on the Jesus Montero hype train, with appetites whetted by amazing tales of baseballs launched into orbit by the 21 year old phenom’s bat. Last season, we were shocked when we learned that Montero was nearly sent to Seattle for Cliff Lee. I think the shock was even more palpable when we discovered the reason the deal fell through wasn’t Yankee reservations about dealing the stud prospect. It was Brian Cashman‘s reluctance to send along Eduardo Nunez.

Still, entering this past offseason, the general assumption was that Montero would be joining the Yanks for 2011, sharing catching duties with Jorge Posada and perhaps Francisco Cervelli. Instead, Cashman signed Russell Martin. Martin has been solid this season – especially defensively. And that’s where the story of Jesus Montero seems to constantly wind up – with his defense, or rather, lack of defense. We all watched Jesus demonstrate how not to play catcher during Spring Training and further solidify the case that Montero actually projects to more of a Victor Martinez type – good bat, but his best defensive position is the bench.

And if that’s the case, he becomes a luxury for most teams: in the NL, he has nowhere to play. In the AL, he locks up the DH spot.

To make matters worse, the occasional rumors about his mental make-up seem to be holding true. He was recently benched for “attitude problems.” He seems to be taking his defensive struggles and expectations into his at-bats. So far at AAA this year, he’s hitting .283 with only a .747 OPS – or around 125 points lower than last year. More worrisome, his strike out percentage is higher: 22% this year from 17.7% last season while his power numbers are way down. Last year, he homered once every 24 plate appearances. This year, it’s once every 44. It has to concern the Yankees that this supreme talent may not be able to get his head into the game.

We’re now a year later and already Montero’s name has come up in trade rumors. Once again, the Yankees seem more willing to deal him than other top-flight prospects – and he recently dropped out of the top five baseball prospects for the first time since 2009. The organization obviously has reservations about his ability at the big league level, otherwise we wouldn’t have Cervelli on the ML roster. (Or Martin, for that matter). If he survives the trade season still wearing Baby Pinstripes, he will need to perform over the second half of the season and then show something in September with the big club. If not, I suspect will be gone this offseason in some package or another. And we’ll remember Montero the way we remember other über prospects who were never able to realize their full potential, from Ken Phelps to Roberto Kelly.

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Yesterday, I reviewed the Baby Bomber’s pitchers and catchers and evaluated their chances of making the opening day roster. Today it’s time for the infielders and outfielders. Unlike the wealth of talent behind the dish and on the rubber, there isn’t any outstanding talent in these spots, but there are some intriguing guys who might help out somewhere along the line.

Infielders – Let’s face it. As fans, we don’t want another season of Ramiro Pena’s average glove and Mario Mendoza bat. And while Kevin Russo seems like a nice kid, he wasn’t any better. Who might replace him?

Eduardo Nunez: If any of the young infielders in camp have a sincere chance of unseating Pena, this is the guy. He continues to hit decently, showing some line-drive power and decent speed. He isn’t the smoothest guy in the field, but he isn’t a liability, either. Besides, he is the guy who was supposed to replace Derek Jeter had Armageddon come to the Bronx this past winter.

Eduardo Nunez

Eduardo Nunez

Reegie Corona: Quite frankly, I don’t see much difference between Corona and Pena. Both of them get the bat knocked out of their hands by anyone who throws harder than 85mph. Both are competent, but not other-worldly, fielders. He looks targeted for AAA Scranton and will likely be first guy up should Jeter or Robbie Cano get injured.

Brandon Laird: The Yankees are sending the natural 3B to AAA Scranton to learn a “super-utility role” – 3B, 1B, RF, LF. It makes sense since both 1B and 3B are sewed up for the next few years. And I doubt the front office wants to keep bringing in retreads for reserve RH bench spots, when there may well be a better option in the high minors.

Jorge Vazquez: Look, when you’re 29 and never been on a major league roster, you might want to start thinking about taking the Crash Davis route. Vazquez possesses a slider speed bat but can’t hit breaking balls. He plays the corner spots, but is known in the minors as a defensive liability at third and barely adequate at first. He does have power and displayed it against other minor leaguers early in camp. He’s a classic “AAAA” player – too good for AAA, but will get eaten alive in MLB.

Outfielders – Fortunately, the Yanks don’t really need anything other than competent bench players here, because this is easily the most underwhelming part of the minor league system.

Justin Maxwell: Ok, so he isn’t exactly a rookie, with 122 major league appearances over three seasons. But the Nationals aren’t exactly a MLB club, either. He has a career ML slash line of .201/.319/.379 with a .698 OPS. What he brings to the table is decent speed, the ability to play all 3 OF positions adequately and the high expectations from his college career at Maryland. Hopefully, a full season at AAA (something he never got from Washington) will help him rediscover the form that made him a 1st round pick.

Colin Curtis: Yankee fans got a glimpse of Curtis last year, when he appeared in 31 games for the Bombers. He didn’t really impress, putting up a .538 OPS in 64 plate appearances. (Although he did hit a memorable homer against the Angels). The former Arizona State standout may have reached his limit. If so, that would be a shame because he certainly has a compelling back story.

Greg Golson: Yet another player that fans have seen in Pinstripes, the 25 year old Golson also saw MLB time while with the Phillies and Rangers. He has become a speedy defensive specialist, and his arm proved invaluable in a key game against the Rays last year. Still, he needs to do better than his career MiLB slash line of .263/.309/.398 if he wants to stick with the big club.

Melky Mesa

Melky Mesa: Another long shot, the 24 year old Mesa has played 5 seasons of MiLB and never reached AA. He does have speed and power but his strikeout percentage (.319) is higher than his on base percentage (.307), never a good sign. I hope he figures it out, since he is the prototypical 5 tool player. The Yanks are taking something of a chance, assigning him to AAA to start the season and skipping AA entirely.

Jordan Parraz: In 7 minor league seasons, the 26 year old former Astros and Royals farmhand has compiled a MiLB slash line of .289/.376/.438, which is decent. But he may be another case of the classic “AAAA” player, since he has yet to see the majors despite an ability to play all three OF spots and good peripherals in the minors.

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As we head into the homestretch of Spring Training, many fans are wondering which of the Yankees highly touted prospects will make the team. My best guess is that only two will be on the Opening Day roster – and one won’t be the guy everyone seems to think. Here’s a quick run-down, beginning with pitchers and catchers.

Pitchers – Coming into camp, there were six youngsters on the radar. All have demonstrated that they’ll be in the majors someday and a few have shown glimpses of top of the rotation talent.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Lomoglio

Dellin Betances: Headed to AA Trenton. Although he impressed at times, those moments were mostly in the early spring. As the competition began to stiffen, his lack of command and inexperience began to show. Don’t worry, though. He has all the tools to be an ace one day. My best guess is he gets a cup of coffee in 2012 and is a full time Yankee in 2013.

Manny Banuelos: See above, although he’s shown more poise. He may actually fast track to the boogie down faster than Betances; he has better command of more pitches at this stage and he’s left-handed.

Andrew Brackman: Remember how Randy Johnson frustrated the Expos early in his career, as his 6’10” frame got completely out of kilter with men on base? Brackman is at that stage now. He throws hard and has a wicked breaking ball, but his mechanics need a lot of fine tuning. He’s headed for AA Scranton, but we may see him in pinstripes sooner than the other Killer B’s.

Ivan Nova: Yankee fans, meet your number 4 starter. It isn’t official yet, but he has proven himself capable this spring. He is combining a plus fastball with a “cut-slider” and improved change to make hitters look foolish at times.

Adam Warren, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell: All three are proving that they may be serviceable as middle of the rotation or relief type pitchers. A lot of teams would drool at this trio, but with the Yankees, they’re merely trade pieces.

Catchers – Most teams have trouble finding one young catcher. The Yankees have 3 kids who are pushing for a MLB spot. The back-up spot on the Yankee roster will be open until early May with Francisco Cervelli’s injury. Which one goes north?

Jesus Montero

Jesus Montero: The kid can hit, but his defense…well, no one is going to confuse him with Thurman Munson just yet. I really hope the Yanks send him back to AAA to start the year – to allow him to play every day and work on it. Catcher is still a defense-first position and having an all-offense catcher isn’t a luxury the team can afford. I suspect that the manager understands that, having been a catcher during his MLB career.

Austin Romine: The most polished defensively of the trio, his odds of being the heir to Jorge Posada are pretty low. By bringing him north and letting him play 2-3 times a week, he can show off those skills and hopefully hit well enough that the Yanks can set him up as a big-time trade piece – or that he plays so well that Cervelli winds up on the trading block. He is good enough to start for about 20 teams right now, including a few with hopes of contending.

Gary Sanchez: With only 47 pro games under his belt, the 18 year old is near the top of Baseball America‘s Top 100 prospect list. He is still at least two, and more likely four, years away from being ready for the majors. But if the scouts are right, this kid is the next coming of Johnny Bench.

Coming tomorrow, I’ll look at the minor league infielders and outfielders trying to make the Opening day roster.

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 Jesus Montero #83 Of The New York Yankees Works

Francisco Cervelli fractured a bone in his foot and will be out for at least four weeks, leaving the backup catching position wide open for Jesus Montero. Yankees fans have anticipated his arrival at the major league level for a while now, but he won’t be handed the job. He’ll have to battle it out with Austin Romine during spring training, but he’ll definitely be the favorite to take the job. According to Bryan Hoch, there is no plans for Jorge Posada to strap on the gear and will remain the team’s designated hitter.

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Yesterday, the Yankees made their first move of the Hot Stove Season.

Was it signing Derek Jeter? No, although there are numerous reports today of them officially offering the Captain a 3 year, $45 million contract.

Was it signing Mariano Rivera or coaxing Andy Pettitte from the brink of retirement? No, again.

The Yankees traded Juan Miranda to Arizona for Scott Allen.

We’re all pretty familiar with Miranda at this point. A regular call-up over the past three seasons, the first baseman posted a .788 OPS over 94 plate appearances. A lefty swinger with some power (25.3 AB/HR) in the minors, Miranda was hopelessly blocked at the major league level by the logjam that is Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and Jesus Montero. Because of his frequent trips on the SWB Shuttle, Miranda is out of options: come April 1, the Yankees were faced with two choices; either waive him or keep him on the 25 man roster. So, the Yankees needed to do something to get value in return – even if they were dealing from behind the 8 ball. Here’s hoping the 27 year old Miranda gets a chance to play regularly in Arizona.

In Allen, the Yanks get a 19 year-old left handed pitcher who hasn’t exactly wowed scouts at any level. An 11th  round pick in the 2009 draft, he’s posted a 1.3 WHIP and 8.9 k/9 in 95 minor league innings. Did I mention he’s left-handed? And only 19? So there is a chance for some upside with this trade.

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A bit late on this, but Baseball America has released the New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects for 2011. And here it is:

1. Jesus Montero
2. Gary Sanchez
3. Dellin Betances
4. Manny Banuelos
5. Andrew Brackman
6. Austin Romine
7. Hector Noesi
8. Eduardo Nunez
9. Slade Heathcott
10. Brandon Laird

No real surprises on the list. Montero ranking #1 makes sense, considering he could very well be holding the starting catcher position out of Spring Training at the start of next season. As you can tell by the list, some prospects have made considerable improvements. Sanchez (#7 in ’10) and Brackman (#10 in ’10) have moved up the ranks. The thing that has to catch your eye is Dellin Betances ranking #3 on this list. It just shows how good of a year he’s had, considering he was left off the top 10 list all together in 2010.

With Zach McAllister and Arodys Vizcaino leaving the team, it opened up some new spots for other propsects. New additions to this year’s list include: Noesi, Nunez and Laird.   (more…)

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Item 1: Derek Jeter will be a Yankee in 2011 and get paid like the Derek Jeter of 2000, not 2010. At least that’s the scuttlebutt coming from Wallace Matthews of ESPN. The good news is that no other teams have even bothered contacting Casey Close, Jeter’s agent. Nor do they have any plans on doing so, since they would rather pay Jeter on a Marco Scutaro type contract, not a Derek Jeter type contract. (On an aside,why does every sportswriter want to compare Jeter to Scutaro? If Jeter isn’t offended by that comparison, then he’s made of sterner stuff than I imagined).  Even though Hal Steinbrenner sounded a note of hardball negotiations last week, Matthews’ sources think it’s more bluster than anything else. As he wrote,

“…although the Yankees appear to hold most of the leverage in this one, both sources agreed they are unlikely to wield very much of it.”

The even better news is that it dashes Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle’s hopes of putting Jeter into a Giants uniform.

Item 2: Baseball’s latest arms war, better known as the Cliff Lee bidding war, has begun. As expected, Brian Cashman was on the phone with Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, first thing Sunday morning. Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), the general managers for several other teams were also burning up Braunecker’s minutes on Sunday. Those teams are reputed to be the Rangers and Phillies – and then several long-shot candidates, including the Nationals, Brewers and Cubs. Given the financial situations of those last three teams and the fact that Lee is expected to get a contract somewhere north of 6 years/$125M, I doubt you can consider them serious contenders. That leaves the Yanks, Phillies and Rangers battling it out. Regardless, Braunecker has been busy telling everyone and anyone not to expect anything soon:

“Historically, these deals take some time,” Braunecker told the Daily News in a telephone interview Monday. “When you look at the calendar and we’re already into the second week of November; we don’t handicap the timing of this stuff, but we don’t anticipate this happening too quickly.”

The Rangers desperately need Lee back, since without him they don’t make it to the World Series last year. Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg has made no secret that he has every intention of bidding high. Ruben Amaro of the Phillies has to be kicking himself (and is being kicked bythe Philly press) for trading Lee away last off-season for what was basically nothing. And the Yankees really don’t have a plan B for 2011 without Lee. There aren’t really any internal options now, although one of the “Killer Bs” (Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, and Manny Banuelos) may be ready for a late-season call up. This dovetails neatly into…

Item 3: Has anyone heard from Andy Pettitte? Not really – and the Yankees aren’t figuring to hear from Andy before Thanksgiving. Although I love Andy for what he’s done in the past and think he can still be an extremely effective pitcher in 2011, he is beginning to remind me of Brett Favre. As much as the Yankees would love to have Cliff Lee in pinstripes, if neither he nor Pettitte are around in 2011, the Yankees rotation looks to be paper thin. Pettitte is the key, since regardless of what happens with Lee, if he decides not to come back then the team is stuck with Ivan Nova or a journeyman (quick: how fast can you say Dustin Moseley?) in the 5 spot. Neither can be particularly enticing. Although I can say that possibility would give Joe Girardi’s binder a heck of a workout.

Item 4: And finally, speaking of giving the Girardi Binder a workout, the pages would be burned out by May if Mariano Rivera doesn’t wear pinstripes in 2011. Fortunately, nobody really expects that to happen. But it does appear that Rivera’s contract has taken a back seat to those of Jeter and Pettitte, which has to give Yankee fans everywhere at least momentary heart palpitations.

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Yankeemetrics abound this week: Katie Sharp has some really interesting stats on Yankees baseball over the last few days. Here’s just one: “Javier Vazquez has now allowed a home run in eight straight games. That is the longest single-season streak by a Yankee since Andy Pettitte allowed a HR in eight straight games in 1999 (19 straight, combining 1999-2000).”

Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos have both been promoted to Double-A Trenton.

You remember I told you about that man who was trying to deliver a photo to President Barack Obama? Well, he completed his mission. Barack Obama gets a gift from Yogi Berra.

From Politico.com:

“One man, standing at the edge of the yellow police tape, handed POTUS something (it looked like a maroon 8.5×11 folder but pool was too far away to tell.) POTUS looked at it, then handed it to Nicholson [Obama’s trip director],” read the report.

So who was the man, and what was in the envelope? Turns out it was Tom Murro (a.k.a. the “Celebrity Magnet” from New Jersey) who had a gift for Obama from baseball legend Yogi Berra: a photo of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson coming in safe after stealing home during a 1955 World Series game against Berra and the Yankees. Berra wrote “Dear Mr. President, He was out!” and signed his name in blue pen. Here is the video.

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Attention Yankees Fans. You now have the chance to own a baseball signed by C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Bucky Dent and Joe Torre!

They’ve all signed baseballs to be a part of our SUBWAY Baseball DeSIGNS tour, a collection of baseballs decorated by Little Leaguers and signed by professional athletes and celebrities. The 40-baseball display has been making tour stops across the country and is currently set up at the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, PA. The baseballs are also viewable at SubwayKids.com and the Official SUBWAY® Facebook page.

The balls are up for auction NOW on eBay through its Giving Works program.  All the proceeds generated will go to support the Little League Urban Initiative. Go ahead and Bid! The auction ends on SUNDAY Aug. 29. (more…)

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OK, forgive a little hyperbole. But it almost feels that way. All over the Yankee Universe, people are cheering the arrival of Ivan Nova to the big club. Nova, the club’s best pitcher at AAA, is scheduled to make his first start tonight against the Blue Jays. The question now is: whose spot in the rotation will Nova take: Javier Vazquez or AJ Burnett? Nova is starting in what would ordinarily be Burnett’s turn; perhaps most telling, both Vazquez and Burnett are being skipped for the entire Blue Jays series. Combined with a scheduled off-day on Thursday and CC Sabathia certain to get his normal turn on Friday, that means the earliest either could pitch is Saturday.

And for good reason: both have been atrocious for the past month. Their stat lines over their past seven respective starts have read more like a horror movie than anything else:

Pitcher

W – L

IP

ER

BB

SO

HR

ERA

BA(a)

OBPa

SA(a)

OPSa

Burnett

2 – 4

40

22

14

29

6

4.950

0.290

0.364

0.465

0.829

Vazquez

2 – 2

35

26

15

23

11

6.686

0.292

0.381

0.673

1.054

About the only good thing you can say about it is the Yankees have somehow managed to go 7-7 in these 14 starts, thus pointing to improved offense and bullpen work. Both are definitely needed when giving either of these two knuckleheads the ball.

My guess is Vazquez is going to be the odd man out, permanently. His fastball has been in serious decline for the past month – and as his fastball has steadily gotten worse, his ERA has climbed. That 6.69 ERA over the past month isn’t a mind trick. Take a look at these charts:

There are other reasons to put Vazquez in the bullpen – and then forget about him, until he demonstrates that he can either pitch with a mid-80’s fastball or regains something in the 90mph range. The Yankees have quite a bit invested in Burnett and he is proving to be something of a headcase. While not approaching Carlos Zambrano levels of psychiatric need, the Yankees can’t permanently damage the psyche of a pitcher with 3+ years and $50 million left on his contract by relegating him to the pen for the rest of the season. Further, Phil Hughes’ innings limit is fast approaching, with perhaps 30 innings or so left after his Wednesday start. Assuming Andy Pettite is able to come back next week, keeping Nova in the 5 spot in the rotation allows Hughes to move to the bullpen for the final 2-3 weeks of the season, keeping him fresh for October. Finally, Nova likely doesn’t have a long-term future in the Bronx, not with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman on the way and Cliff Lee certain to be a target in the offseason. But this is a chance for Nova – and the Yankees – to showcase him over the next 5 weeks, at the ML level and against some quality competition in preparation for a potential deal.

What do you think? Have we seen the last of Javier Vazquez as New York Yankee?

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On Thursday, Lance Berkman was placed on the disabled list with a sprained ankle. He was 7-for-39 with no homers and 4RBI’s as a Yankee. “We just felt that it hadn’t progressed quite as quickly as we wanted it to,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We just felt that it was probably in his and our best interest to DL him and that way he’s not rushing back. He still lacks some stability and has not had a chance to run yet.”

Frankie Piliere of Fanhouse gave full-length scouting reports of Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos.

On Betances: The bottom line here is this: keep Dellin Betances on the mound and healthy and his talent is as good as anyone at the minor league level. Health is the only thing that can hold him back.

On Banuelos: Look around the big leagues and find the left-handed starting pitchers that average 93 mph or better with their fastball. It’s a very short list. Throw in the fact that Banuelos is a consistent strike-throwing machine with two above-average secondary pitches and you have a very rare commodity….If he can remain healthy and keep his shorter frame in check, he is a true front-of-the-rotation type pitcher.

Yankees prospect, Zach McAllister, was sent to the Indians as the player to be named later in the Kearns trade.

(more…)

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