Showing posts with label Domenic L.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Domenic L.. Show all posts

Monday, June 29, 2009

Manny Banuelos, The Next Big Thing

While it may be a bit of a misnomer to call the 5'10", 155 lbs. lefty "big" in any sense of the word, I cannot help but be genuinely excited by his progress since signing out of Mexico last Spring. As a 17 year-old in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, Banuelos posted the following numbers last summer in twelve games (three starts):

4-1, 42 IP, 32 H, 13 BB, 37 K, .208 BAA, 2.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Impressive doesn't quite cut it, to be perfectly honest. Elisaul Pimentel led the GCL in ERA in 2008, checking in at 2.41 - and he's nearly three years older than Banuelos. The diminutive lefty began 2009 in low Class-A. Check out his numbers thus far, through twelve starts:

5-3, 61 IP, 47 H, 14 BB, 57 K, .207 BAA, 2.51 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Banuelos is currently sixth in the league in ERA - all five pitchers ahead of him are at least one year older (and two of which are three-plus years older). He is pitching well-ahead of even the most optimistic projections thus far, and I cannot help but think he can be even better with time - after all, he's only 18.

According to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Banuelos' fastball sits between 90 and 92 MPH, he changes speeds well, and he should develop a strong breaking ball. Other sources note that he has excellent command and the makings of a fantastic change-up.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Xavier Nady to Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Xavier Nady's season is over and next year is in question, too, the New York Post has learned.

According to several teammates, the Yankees outfielder told them late Thursday night that his right elbow requires Tommy John surgery, a procedure that often takes 12-14 months recovery.

Reached today, all Nady said was, "I am going to have a lot of time on my hands."

Nady, a free agent at the end of the season, felt something in the elbow in the third inning of a Triple-A rehab game Thursday night and removed himself two innings later. He plans on being at Citi Field today and is scheduled to see Dr. Lewis Yocum in California. Yocum performed the same surgery on Nady in 2001.

According to the Nady, "There was no reason to do tests" today.

"It's disappointing," said Joe Girardi, who didn't confirm that Nady needs surgery to repair a ligament that first bothered him April 14 and forced him from a game against the Rays. "I am more disappointed for him than I am the club. You would love to have him back. He has put a lot of time into this. I know how bad he wants to play."

The fact that Nady, 30, is headed to Yocum told Girardi the problem is serious.

"My gut tells me it is injured again," Girardi said. "Him going to see Yocum tells me it's more than what he felt in Tampa."

Though Girardi had Nady only for seven games (in which he hit .286 with two RBIs) and there was no guarantee of having him back at some point, quietly the Yankees were hoping to have Nady's right-handed bat to help out in right field, where switch-hitter Nick Swisher is playing every day.

Now that won't happen. And though GM Brian Cashman said this week "a bat isn't needed," knowing that Nady isn't returning might change the Yankees' mind.

Nady was acquired from the Pirates with lefty reliever Damaso Marte last July and batted .268 in 59 games. Marte is currently on the disabled list with an injured shoulder and nobody can predict when he will be back.

I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I feel terrible that Nady has suffered such a severe setback - he has an excellent reputation within the clubhouse and, after steadily improving year-to-year, had a large leap in production in 2008, appearing to put it all together. It's a shame that he will likely be unable to play again until this time next season (at the earliest).

On the other hand, many fans were eager to see Yankees deal Nady, as he had more value than any other outfielder. While the return wouldn't have been much, the Yankees may've been able to acquire a better bullpen option than Veras or a better infield option than Berroa. This is, of course, hindsight - but it is something to consider.

In the end, the Yankees probably did the right thing in holding onto Nady, Swisher, and Cabrera. The team is somewhat old and fragile, and depth is a very good thing to have. While Nady is very unlikely to have much of an impact this season, barring some sort of miracle, it seems both inane and inappropriate to lambast the organization for holding onto him.

Get well soon, X.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Move Alan Horne to the Bullpen

The Yankees pitching staff, thought to be a strength heading into 2009, has been among the worst in Major League Baseball thus far. Both the bullpen and the rotation have experienced significant struggles, and there appears to be a dire lack of "sure things" in either. Rivera has faltered, Sabathia has been up and down, and everyone between the team's two aces has been hurt, inconsistent, or both. 

In my mind, the rotation will sort itself out. The Yankees Major League roster has seven pitchers capable of starting, with Wang, Hughes, and Aceves deserving a look for the fifth and final spot. Personally, I would like to see Hughes there (as I believe he is ready, and needs to take his lumps). Wang's velocity would be up in the bullpen, and he would have more time to work on his mechanics, and Aceves has proven to be very valuable in high-leverage situations. 

The bullpen, then, is my concern. I believe that Melancon and Robertson need to stay on the roster, and Veras needs to go. I do see another pitcher that should get a look, though, that has skirted under the radar - and that is the titular Alan Horne.

Horne has been in the Yankees organization for four seasons now, and has been ineffective for three. He is injury-prone and inconsistent, and his stuff has suffered a bit following his second major arm-surgery last season. At 26, this trend is unlikely to reverse itself, leaving Horne's value as minimal, at best. I believe that, much like Phil Coke, Horne could be a very good reliever.

For those of you that don't know much about Horne, he is a power pitcher, and his mechanics leave him very prone to injury. At the same time, though, this makes him an ideal reliever. His velocity peaks at 95 in the rotation, his power slider and hard curve have been rated between average and plus, and he has a surprisingly effective change-up. He struggles with control at times, and his fastball sits below 90 at times. In the bullpen, Horne's velocity would likely increase, he would be less likely to strain himself with high pitch-counts, and he may be able to help the team fairly soon.

In the end, there's no real reason not to make the move with Horne. I dislike giving up on starting pitchers, but Horne has fallen behind several other prospects, and it seems unlikely that he will be able to right the ship at 26. That being said, he has the stuff to be a light's-out reliever, and it could very well save his career.

Bullpen Moves

TheYankees are in pretty good shape right now. They're only two games behind Boston for the division and three games ahead of the Angels, Toronto, and Tampa for the Wild Card. If not for their miserable record against the Red Sox, they'd be sitting on top of the AL East with a comfortable lead. However, they have some obvious flaws and we're at the point in the season were the sample sizes are starting to become large enough for some use.

Its pretty obvious that some players are just not getting the job done and their are other guys languishing away in the minor leagues, waiting for a shot. Jose Veras, Phil Coke (more on him later), and Brett Tomko have just been awful. Replacing them with a few guys that can actually pitch would go a long way towards solving our bullpen issues.

First of all, we have the obvious. Brian Bruney will make his return tomorrow and if he can pitch anything like he did last year and the start of this year, he will quickly find his way back to the eight inning role (although I could change my mind tomorrow on that). I have high hopes for Bruney and believe that he, not Melancon or Joba, will be the next Yankees closer. His fastball velocity has steadily been rising over the years and at 27, is in the prime of his career.

Next is Mark Melancon to most Yankees fans he is the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera. I was calling for his promotion last September and now I definitely think he's ready. He didn't really get much of a shot in his brief ML stint this year but I think with time he will establish himself as a reliable cog in that bullpen. Anthony Claggett and Edwar Ramirez would also be in line for this spot.

Finally, we need a guy that can go multiple innings to take Tomko's place. That guy, for me, is Sergio Mitre. He has two good starts under his belt now in AAA and about nine innings of A ball in which he posted an FIP of 2.45. In his last ML stint in Florida, since then he's been hurt, he posted a deceptively high, but still solid, ERA of 4.65. I say deceptively high because his FIP was two ticks under four.

I doubt Coke will go because his ERA is low and he has earned Girardi's trust but Tomko and Veras for Mitre and Bruney would be an excellent trade off. I really don't care how good Veras' stuff is, he doesn't get outs and that's the bottom line.

BTW, this is the 1,000th post on the Chuck Knoblog. Its come a long way since I first joined Charlie and Nate back in August of last year and even longer since Nate launched the latest and greatest unnecesary Yankees blog. Its been great and I hope we can keep going for another 1,000 posts.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pitching: The Key to the Draft

Through eighteen rounds and sixteen picks, the Yankees draft is as follows:

  1. Slade Heathcott, CF
  2. John Murphy, C
  3. Adam Warren, RHP
  4. Caleb Cotham, RHP
  5. Robert Lyerly, 3B
  6. Sean Black, RHP
  7. Samuel Elam, LHP
  8. Gavin Brooks, LHP
  9. Tyler Lyons, LHP
  10. Neil Medchill, LF
  11. Brett Gerritse, RHP
  12. Deangelo Mack, LF
  13. Graham Stoneburner, RHP
  14. Shane Green, RHP
  15. Bryan Mitchell, RHP
  16. Chad Thompson, RHP

In short, I believe that the direction the Yankees have chosen for the draft is fantastic. Great pitching is much harder to come by than great hitting - particularly on the market. The demand for pitching is much higher than the demand for hitting, and the cost of pitching is greater than the cost of hitting. At the core of this is the fact that the attrition rate of pitching is much greater than that of hitters. Most of the well-known busts of the last dozen years or so have been pitchers, and most of the successful teams over that time have developed most of their pitching.

The Yankees began that route in 2006 (with a remarkable draft that included Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Zach McAllister, George Kontos, Dellin Betances, Mark Melancon, and David Robertson), and have continued it with this draft, with eleven pitchers drafted thus far. While the Sabathia and Burnett signings run counter to this strategy, let's not forget that Wang and Chamberlain are in the rotation, Hughes is set to take over for Pettitte, and the bullpen is mostly homegrown. By the time Sabathia and Burnett are done in pinstripes (for whatever reason), the Yankees should have the depth to make up for their losses.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Bullpen

With the exception of Jose Veras, who has been consistently bad, inconsistency has plagued the Yankees bullpen for the first two months of this season. While the month of May resulted in better overall numbers for the bullpen, I cannot help but dig my nails into the chair whenever Girardi heads towards the mound, regardless of the situation. This sense of dread has been pervasive whenever any non-Rivera reliever takes the mound, and even the Sandman has struggled a bit this season.

With roughly one-third of the season on the books, we are at an awkward point in terms of gauging what needs to be done. While each player has over one-hundred games left to turn himself around, this first chunk of the season provides a fair sample size for projection, with some accounting for regressions and progressions. Given that the bullpen's performance declined after the All-Star Break last season, I believe that it is reasonable to say that some change is necessary.

The Keepers:
  • Mariano Rivera - Well, duh.
  • Alfredo Aceves - I trust Aceves in high-leverage situations. He's smart, and his starting experience should allow him to come in at any point in the game and pitch for however long is necessary. I view him as a less erratic Ramiro Mendoza.
  • Edwar Ramirez - Inconsistent, but effective against righties and lefties. Notwithstanding Girardi using him for 3.1 IP on 9 May, Ramirez has been excellent since the end of April.
  • David Robertson - Great in the minors, he has nothing left to prove at Triple-A.

The Losers:

  • Jose Veras - He has a 5.90 ERA since August 2008, and has been awful in every situation thus far this season. While his stuff is solid, the Yankees appear to have much better options.
  • Damaso Marte - While bad luck is partially to blame for his struggles, Marte hasn't done much to encourage Yankees fans, either. Between his lack of production and Girardi's inconsistent use of him, this may be addition by subtraction.
  • Jonathan Albaladejo - He has middling stuff, middling control, and a fairly extensive injury history. His lack of results make this a fairly easy decision.
  • Brett Tomko - Tomko is a decent option to have in the minors, but he doesn't belong on a major league roster - particularly one with Wang and Aceves... and even one with just Aceves.

The Final Two:

  • Mark Melancon - While I think he could still use a bit of seasoning at Triple-A, I also believe that he is better than at least three pitchers currently on the roster. It's just a matter of time, I suppose.
  • Phil Coke - I see him and Ramirez as nearly interchangeable, with Coke having a higher upside. I prefer Ramirez for the time being, as Coke is less consistent, but I believe there is a great deal of value in having both, due to their effectiveness against righties and lefties.
  • Brian Bruney - He's injured now, and I didn't list him as a keeper due to his injury history and bouts with inconsistency. That being said, a healthy Bruney has the chance to be a fantastic set-up reliever, and with a bit of health he'll find himself right below Rivera.
  • Kei Igawa - The Yankees need to get their value somehow... Igawa's been very good in the minors, and seems to be strong his first time through a line-up.

I didn't consider Hughes or Wang here, as I believe that Hughes will head down when Wang is deemed healthy (and justifiably so). I hope to see Hughes fill Pettitte's spot in the rotation in 2010, and I think consistent work at Triple-A will be better than inconsistent relief appearances in working towards that goal.

In the end, I think the Yankees could be very strong with a six-man bullpen. Things are questionable after Rivera, but I have faith in the talents of those pitchers that I want to keep around, and think they can help the Yankees immensely with a bit of consistency.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Promote Pat Venditte!

By now, I am sure most of the Yankee faithful have heard about Pat Venditte, the switch-pitcher out of Creighton that had a rule named after him following a back-and-forth showdown with Ralph Henriquez of the Brooklyn Cyclones. What most may not be aware of is just how dominant Venditte has been thus far in the minors:

2008 - Low-A - 32.2 IP, 13 H, 10 BB, 42 K, 0.83 ERA

2009 - High-A - 20.0 IP, 15 H, 1 BB, 31 K, 0.90 ERA

While it is highly unlikely that Venditte could be as dominant at the Major League level (at nearly 24 he is older than the bulk of his competition), it is not inconceivable that he could be a worthwhile addition to the bullpen at some point in the future. He throws 90-plus with both arms, has good control of his off-speed stuff with both arms, and garners a ton of groundballs (57% thus far). With that sort of acumen for groudballs, Venditte may actually be able to retain some of his dominance at higher levels - he is allowing a .341 BABIP this season, which may be attributed to the weaker fielders at High-A. In short, Venditte has proven himself at Single-A and, with the Yankees bullpen in shreds, the organization could benefit from seeing what Venditte has to offer against tougher competition.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mettle

–noun

1. courage and fortitude: a man of mettle.
2. disposition or temperament: a man of fine mettle.

—Idiom

3. on one's mettle, in the position of being incited to do one's best: The loss of the first round put him on his mettle to win the match.

Last night's start against the Red Sox should put to rest the silly notion of sending Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen. While his night seems rather unimpressive on the whole - 5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 12 K - one must read between the lines to see how important this start was for Chamberlain.

Chamberlain allowed the first five Red Sox hitters to reach base, allowing four runs, prior to recording and out. From that point forward, Chamberlain was light's out, striking out twelve batters (including eight in a row) while allowing only four more baserunners. While that does not negate his horrendous start, it does demonstrate Chamberlain's mettle. That is, he did not allow his struggles to knock him off his game - he settled down and kept the Yankees in the game through six innings, and did so in dominant fashion. This is an important element of any young pitcher's development, and it demonstrates a great deal of maturity that many claim Chamberlain lacks. While I would certainly have preferred him to dominated from start to finish, I cannot help but be encouraged.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Moving Joba Chamberlain to the Bullpen Makes No Sense

None.

Seriously.

Since Hughesus return on Tuesday, countless fans, analysts, and talking heads have called for Chamberlain to return to the bullpen. After all, with Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, Wang, and Hughes in the rotation, the Yankees are set. How can you not be excited about this rotation?

Sabathia - 4.73 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
Burnett - 5.40 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
Pettitte - 3.82 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
Wang - 34.50 ERA, 4.83 WHIP
Hughes - 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP

The Yankees starters have posted a stellar 5.52 ERA this season - take Chamberlain's line out, and it jumps to 6.03!

All kidding aside, the Yankees pitching has been quite poor thus far. However, whereas the bullpen has been showing signs of improvement, the rotation has continued to battle inconsistency - Pettitte's last start was poor, as were Burnett's last two, and Sabathia's last start was solid, but he has done little to instill confidence. Weakening the rotation to bolster the bullpen makes no sense whatsoever - especially considering the questionable status of Chien-Ming Wang.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hughesus!

6 IP. 2 H. 0 ER. 2 BB. 6 K.

Hughesus' last three starts with the Yankees:

18 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 16 K, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP

While I am not quite ready to jump on the "Hughes to the rotation, Chamberlain to the bullpen" bandwagon, I must say that Hughes' progress is nothing but encouraging. His stuff was fantastic last night, and he showed excellent command, the umpire's miniature strikezone notwithstanding. Further, his fastball was consistently around 92, 93 MPH, compared to the high-80s velocity he was showing prior to his injury last April (begging the question of whether or not he had been injured earlier)... all this against a fairly potent Tigers offense.

Hughesus has earned another start, to say the least, and he has made a Philiever© out of me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hughesus, and Tigers, and Wangs (Oh My!)

Over the past week, there has been a great deal of debate as to who should fill-in for Chien-Ming Wang while he sorts out his issues in Tampa. While the question itself has now been answered (according to the Hartford Courant, Phil Hughes will be called-up for Tuesday's game against the Tigers), the debate still rages on. In my mind, there were four reasonable possibilities to pick-up the slack - Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Alfredo Aceves, and Kei Igawa.

The case for Hughes:

Phil Hughes has been dominant thus far in Scranton (3-0, 1.86 ERA, 19/3 K/BB in 19.1 IP). He pitched very well in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League, was light's out down the stretch for Scranton last season, and looked quite good in his last two starts with the Yankees (2.25 ERA, 10/2 K/BB in 12 IP). In short, he's been nothing but great since returning from a rib injury in late 2008. While Hughes has had his ups and downs throughout his minor league and major league career, particularly in terms of controlling his stuff, he has been riding high for the past several months. Hughes also has the best stuff of the bunch.

The case for Kennedy:

Ian Kennedy has also been fantastic in Scranton thus far (1-0, 2.00 ERA, 21/5 K/BB in 18 IP). In fact, Kennedy has been nothing but great in 121.2 IP at Scranton over the past few years (2.22 ERA, 127/42 K/BB). Kennedy does not have much more to prove in the minors and, between three seasons at USC and 244 IP in the minors, has a great deal of experience pitching against solid competition.

The case for Aceves:

Alfredo Aceves was one of the Yankees best starters down the stretch last season, posting a 2.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 30 IP. While he has been knocked around in Scranton this season, he pitched well at every level in 2008 and pitched against Double-A level talent for several years in the Mexican League.

The case for Igawa:

Kei Igawa will earn $4 million this season... and $4 million in 2010... and $4 million in 2011. While he hasn't shown much with the Yankees, he has been solid for Scranton over the past three years, and pitched well in Japan for seven years.

In the end, I'm not sure where I stand on the issue. In fact, much of my thoughts hinge on how many starts Wang will miss. Hughes is, in my mind, the best of the group, and has earned a couple of starts at the Major League level. However, I do not want to see him make one start, then shuffle back and forth between Scranton and the Bronx. With the Yankees needing a long reliever out of the bullpen, I would also be interested in seeing Aceves or Igawa make a start or two, then settle into that role if and when Wang returns - simply put, I don't see Aceves or Igawa panning out as starters. I believe Kennedy is the most Major League ready of the group, and feel that he would suffer the least from shuffling back and forth, were that the case.

As it stands, I support this decision - I don't really think there was a wrong way for the Yankees to go in this case, though.