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Saturday, February 26, 2011

A look at the Yankees by position: Catchers

As we near the start of Spring Training games I'm going to take a look at the Yankees catchers this season. I'll look at veterans from Jorge Posada and Russell Martin, to top prospects like Jesus Montero and Austin Romine.

C/DH. Jorge Posada: This could be Jorge Posada's last season in the major leagues, or his last season in the Bronx for the 39 year old backstop, whose contract is up at the end of the 2011 season. Posada is pretty much a legend here, winning five World Series championships and being a key leader for the dynasty teams in the '90s, but now times have changed. Posada will more than likely be a full time DH with Russell Martin being the primary guy behind the plate. The question for Posada is will he be able to adjust in being a DH? He'll need to because the Yankees care about his bat more than his glove.

C. Francisco Cervelli: Cervelli may benefit from hitting coach Kevin Long's magic. Cervelli was brought up in 2009 because of his defense when Jorge Posada and Jose Molina went down. In that '09 season Cervelli batted .298 with one of the many walk-off hits during the championship campaign; but his 2010 season can best be described in one word: rollercoaster. Cervelli batted .360 in April, but come June, July, and August he batted .180, .214, and .233, respectively. In September, Cervelli was red hot again, batting .394, thus making his batting average for the season a solid .271. However, the side Cervelli is supposedly good at, his defense, isn't quite as good as advertised. Although he has ninja like reflexes behind the plate and a rocket arm, Cervelli had 13 errors in a limited role. He also threw out just 14% of base runners, a very alarming rate for a guy of his caliber. In 2009 Cervelli threw out 43% of base runners, and committed just one error in 40 games. It is still uncertain if he will or will not have a spot on the roster once the season heats up. The question for Cervelli is can he return to his '09 form defensively? Will he even have a spot on the team this year?

C. Jesus Montero: Montero is the top prospect in the Yankees farm system and the number nine prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to's Top 50 Prospect list. Montero is supposed to have a plus bat because when he has a bat in his hand, he can be lethal; but his skills behind the plate are something he still needs to work on. Montero batted .289 with 21 homeruns and 75 RBI's for the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 123 games. The question for Montero is will we have more Jesus Montero references in the trade front, or on the field with the New York Yankees? Montero would be a key piece in a deal for an ace type starter, like Felix Hernandez or Chris Carpenter. Last year he was involved in trade talks between the Yankees and Seattle Mariners in a deal that fell through at the last minute for Cliff Lee.

C. Austin Romine: Austin Romine is the second Yankee catching prospect that has a small chance to make the club but, since he has less experience he probably won't get called up this year, but Romine has plenty of potential. Unlike Montero, Austin Romine is stronger behind the plate then he is with the bat, but can definitely still hit. Austin batted .268 with 10 homers and 69 RBI's for the AA Trenton Thunder. Like Jesus Montero, the question for Austin Romine is will he be subject of trade rumors as the season goes along? He's probably the second option, if not the third Yankee catching prospect option. Gary Sanchez, another Yankee catching prospect, is on the Top 50 Prospects list while Romine is not. I have a feeling by the time July 31st passes one of these guys will be in another uniform while an ace comes to town.

C. Russell Martin: Because of Jorge Posada's age and ineffectiveness behind the plate, Francisco Cervelli's lack of bat, and the lack of experience from Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, GM Brian Cashman brought in the former Dodger to be the primary catcher. Russell Martin had a rough season last year in LA suffering a hip injury while batting just .248 in 97 games. However, Martin's play behind the plate is the reason why he was brought in after he threw out 39% of the runners who tried to steal against his team. Since the Boston Red Sox have speedsters Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury on their team it is key that Martin can keep that up. The question for Martin is, how will he be able to handle New York? Martin played in relaxed Los Angeles, how will he be able to handle the scrutiny of New York? Also, Russell Martin will have to deal with his knee injury that could force him to miss his first spring training game. That will be another thing to watch closely with Martin.

There you have it. Those are the Yankees catchers this season, from future hall of famer Jorge Posada to guys like Jesus Montero and Austin Romine who may or may not make next years catching preview article if they are still in the Yankees organization. Next time I'll break down the Yankees starting pitchers. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 18, 2011

A look at the Yankees by position: Outfield

In my second part of my five part series I will look at the Yankees outfield and potential outfield players. Like last edition I broke down everyone from lock starter to guys possibly not even getting a job, I will do the same with this edition. This time i'll look at the outfielders from sure starters like Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson, to more of minor league guys like Greg Golson and Colin Curtis.

RF. Nick Swisher: In July of the 2010 season the Yankees were in Seattle to play the Mariners. It was a Friday afternoon in downtown Seattle and I got a chance to meet the Yankee All-Star, and Home Run Derby contestant. He was very nice and I was fortunate enough to take a picture of him. Believe it or not on that day when he was about to leave I told him "hey get a homer off of King Felix tonight!" He kinda chuckled and said OK and walked off. And dog gone it he hit a homer of the AL Cy Young Award winner, and my favorite pitcher. But enough of my story. Nick Swisher had a bounceback year last year raising his average from 2009 from .249 to a career high .288 in 2010. He also matched his homerun total from '09 with 29 dingers in '10. And he also added seven RBI from 2009, 82 to 89. The thing with Swisher is he has had low points in his career. He batted .219 in 2008 with the Chicago White Sox. And his previous career high batting average was .262 in 2007, his final year with the Oakland A's. But the alarming statistic for Swisher is how he does in the postseaon. In his five individual series he has played with the Yankees he's had a batting average .150 or below in four of those. The one series where he had a batting average above that mark was in last years Divisional series against the Minnesota Twins. He had a .333 average while hitting one solo homerun. Swisher also had an OPS of 1.135 in that series. But in the ALCS that year against the Texas Rangers he batted just .091 with one solo homerun. He also struck out seven times in the six game set while having an OPS of just .473. The question for Swisher is can he be more of a consistant guy who can carry his regular season numbers into the postseason? This is a big year for Swisher and could be his last. If he has another poor postseason, assuming the Yankees make it, he could be on his way out.

CF. Curtis Granderson: "The Grandy Man" had a rough first season for the Yankees. He batted just .247 in his first year in pinstripes and he struck out 116 times in 136 games. Also Granderson had to prove that he could hit left handed pitching. Grandy batted .237 last year in the regular season against left handed pitching. Thats an improvement of the 2009 season where he batted just .183 against lefties and he hit only two HRs. Granderson missed time in the middle of the season due to a groin injury, which obviously didn't help with his baserunning ability, as he stole just 12 bases. But in the middle of the year when Granderson was really slumping he worked with hitting coach Kevin Long. Granderson had a bit of a helicopter type of swing. He'd always let go of his top hand after he finishes his swing and he doesn't have much of an uppercut on his swing. So, Long made him hold onto his top hand through his swing. They started this in late July into early August and the results showed. Granderson hit 14 of his 24 homeruns in August and September. Also, in the postseason Granderson shined by batting .357 against the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS and the Texas Rangers in the ALCS. He hit one homerun and drove in seven. Granderson also had a good eye of the strikezone in October as he drew seven walks. Thats a good sign going into the season because I believe when right Granderson should be at the number two spot in the order hitting infront of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano. The question for Granderson is; will he be able to carry his August/September/October momentum into this season? He'll be a key part in the Yankees offense. And if he plays to the best of his capabilities he can be a five-tool type of guy. I expect him to have a 30-30 season, raise that average above .275, and contend for a Gold Glove.

LF. Brett Gardner: Out of every Yankee on this team Brett Gardner confuses me the most. He is able to slap the ball pretty much wherever he wants to, mostly left field, and he has killer speed. He's probably the fastest player in the game. He can spark a rally at any moment of the game, see ALCS game one. But hes a .270ish hitter. I don't get that. Also in the postseason he has struggled. Gardner batted .175 in the span of five postseason series in two years. An alarming stat for Gardner is in 40 at bats he has struck out 12 times, definantely something you arn't so excited about since Gardner is not a power hitter. Also, Brett Gardner has had to miss time with injury the last two years. He's had trouble with thumb and wrist issues so that could play a roll into him have not so steller seasons. The question with Gardner is can he stay healthy and improve so he can be a .300 hitter? He'll also need to improve in the postseason because, like Swisher, he could be on his way out.

OF. Andruw Jones: Ah remember the days when Andruw Jones was with the Atlanta Braves? Where in a 10 year stretch from 1998-2007 he averaged nearly 35 homeruns, and 103 RBI's, he also won 10 Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger, and was elected to five All Star Games. But in 2008-2010 he had fallen completely off the map averaging just 13 HR's, including just three in 2008 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also averaged just 35 RBI's in that stretch, including a whopping 14 in that '08 season in LA. Andruw Jones is at best a fourth outfielder, and thats what the Yankees got him for. If right he can be a nice power bat off the bench. He had a decent season last year with the Chicago White Sox where he had 19 homers and drove in 48 in just 278 at bats. So he has proven that he can hit off the bench in the American Leauge is what he'll have to do with the Yankees. So the question is, can he? He should be used to, doing this of late.(He did the same with the 2009 Texas Rangers hitting 17 HR's and driving in 43 in just 281 at bats.) He could be like a Marcus Thames like of guy except Jones can play in every outfield postition and can play it well.

OF. Greg Golson: Golson will be remembered most for his game ending outfield assist of Carl Crawford, of the Tampa Bay Rays on September 14th. Other then that no one would really remember him. Hes a good defensive outfielder with good speed and a rocket arm. In limited action with the Yankees he hit .261 in 23 at bats, but he went 0-2 in stolen base chances. The question really for him is; can he make the team? Its unlikely with Andruw Jones having a huge advantage over Golson as being the teams fourth outfielder.

OF. Colin Curtis: Like Greg Golson, Colin Curtis will be remembered for pretty much just one moment. On July 21st against the LA Angels Curtis hit a pinch hit three run homerun to spark the Yankees to a 10-6 win that afternoon. The impressive thing is he was pinch hitting for a previously ejected Brett Gardner who left with an 0-2 count. Other then that Curtis is just a .186 hitter with 59 career big league at bats. He's probably down on the pecking order behind Andruw Jones and Greg Golson as the teams fourth outfielder.

There you have it. Those are the Yankees outfielders from the guys who are a lock to make the majors to guys who have a slim chance to make it. Part three will be the catchers. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A look at the Yankees by position: Infield

As we near Spring Training I will be starting a five part series that breaks down the Yankees by each position and I will ask key questions about each player at that respective position. I will even talk about non-roster invitees that don’t have much of a shot to make the bigs. In this edition I will break down every Yankees infielder, excluding catchers, from superstars like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, to non-roster guys like Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliard.

1B. Mark Teixeira: Big Tex had a down year last year batting just .256, struck out 122 times and brought in only 108 RBIs. He also sustained a hamstring injury in the ALCS to close out his 2010 campaign. Teixeira will need to have a bounce back year if the Yankees want to make the playoffs. The key question for Teixeira is can he get off to a better start so he doesn't have to dig out of a deep hole once May and June come around?

2B. Robinson Cano: Cano had a great season last year batting .319 while hitting a career high 29 HRs, and driving a career high 109 RBIs in his first year in the number five spot in the order. Cano also committed just three errors on defense, because of this Cano earned his second All-Star appearance while collecting a Gold Glove and his second Silver Slugger. He could have easily won the AL MVP, but he ended up finishing third in the voting. Cano was also great last year in the postseason; he batted .343, hit four homeruns while having an OPS of 1.132. The key question for Cano is can he keep up his MVP type caliber status? With players like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada all past their respective peak years Cano will have to be a consistent force in the lineup to keep the Yankees as an offensive power.

SS. Derek Jeter: Like Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter had a down year. The Yankee captain hit a career low .270 and hit just 10 HRs and did not produce clutch hits, especially with the bases loaded. With 20 at bats and with the bases loaded Jeter had only one, count 'em, one hit. He does have six RBIS in those situations with two of them coming on a walk, but the killer is Jeter struck out seven of the 20 times in these situations. That will have to improve. Another thing Jeter will have to improve on is his defense. Yes, Jeter won a Gold Glove while just making a small handful of errors, but his range has dropped dramatically. Not to mention he had all the drama in this off season with trying to work out a deal to stay a Yankee. He eventually signed a three year pact with a possibility for a fourth. The key question for Jeter is can he rebound? That may sound like a dumb and simple question, but it is true. He'll eventually turn 36 by the middle of the season, and the myth in baseball is once you turn 35 years old your career goes downhill quickly. That myth is looking more like a fact and Jeter could fall into that trap if he doesn't have a bounce back year.

3B. Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod, like Jeter, batted .270 on the season. But unlike the Yankee captain, Rodriguez missed nearly 30 games with an injury, yet he had 30 HRs and 125 RBIs, the most since his 2007 MVP season where he had a ridiculous 156 RBI’s that year. But in the 2010 campaign his average wasn't that high, thus he didn't get many hits. Yet when he did get those hits he made the most of them which is an important thing he'll have to continue. Let’s not kid ourselves Alex Rodriguez is going to be closer to the 2009 and 2010 Alex and not the 2005 and 2007 Alex where he won those MVP awards with the Yankees. The key question for A-Rod is how will he adjust? How will he adjust to getting older? He's now approaching 35 years of age. Like I said with Jeter, it’s the myth in baseball that players, especially elite players, fall down hard once they reach 35. Alex Rodriguez isn't the 45 homerun, 140 RBI guy with a .320 average anymore, instead he’s closer to a .275-.290 guy with 30, maybe 35 homeruns max, to go along with 125 RBI, tops. He has also struggled with injury problems over the years missing about two months’ worth of games those past two years. Is he pushing himself too much? We all know Alex is a very hard worker, probably the hardest working guy on the team. Will he have to tone it down a bit? It should be an interesting watch, and like always the spotlight will be on him.

Infield. Eduardo Nunuez: You can say what you want about Nunez having a very good glove, and about him having a pretty good bat, but what you can't say about Eduardo Nunez is that he'll have a spot in the lineup sooner rather than later. You're dead wrong if you even fathom that. Now this isn't a bash Eduardo Nunez post here. All I’m saying is there isn't a spot for him really if you think about it. Nunez was a starting infielder in the minor leagues. He has a tremendous glove and a very good bat. He should be a good young starting shortstop for a building team, but not for the Yankees. In Eduardo's limited time with the Yankees he had a solid .280 average in 30 games with 50 at bats where he belted one homerun and drove in seven. He also stole five bases in limited time, which is very good. On the defensive side he committed one error in 83 chances as a third baseman, and at short he didn’t commit an error in 39.1 innings of work. The question for Nunez is if he makes the big league roster can he handle being a backup? It’s very difficult to be a starter in the minor leagues but then once you hit the bigs you find yourself on the bench.

Infield. Ramiro Pena: Although he’s had a relatively short career it seems as though Pena has been around for a while. Pena is a lot like his team, a member of the 2009 World Series Champion Yankee team, batted .287 with 115 at bats. On defense he committed five errors at mostly shortstop and third base in over 200 innings of work. In 2010 he fell off when he batted .227 with 154 at bats. The question for Pena is the same, how will he do coming off the bench? He may be used to it more than Nunez because this will be his third season at it, if he makes the club. His bat is a glaring weakness, and with some of the roster moves by General Manager Brian Cashman there will be some competition this spring. Girardi isn't putting in Pena's name in pen on the 25 man roster, that you can count on.

Infield. Eric Chavez: Chavez has been plagued by injuries for most of his career; he hasn't played a full season since 2006. In fact in the last four seasons combined Chavez has played a grand total of 154 games. His injury issues have been a major concern, but when he is healthy he can produce. When Chavez was starting games for the A's in the early to mid 2000's he had at least 20 homeruns in each of those years to go along with at least 70 RBIs during the year 2000-2006. Also, Chavez earned six gold gloves for his outstanding efforts at the hot corner. If he makes the team he won't be a starter by any stretch, he'll be used all over the infield and maybe as a DH here and there but by no means will he see significant playing time, barring injury. There are two questions for Chavez, but the second question can only happen if the first question is a yes. The first questions is can he stay healthy? Like I said before Chavez has played just 154 games the past four seasons. He’s proven he can be a nice power bat off the bench with a very good glove, especially at third. The second question is like Nunez, Chavez has been a starter for a long time so how will he react to being a bench player if he makes the 25 man roster? Also, a bonus question, how will Chavez react to not getting a sure spot on the roster this time around? The Yankees signed Chavez to a non-roster invitee deal, thus getting an invitation to spring training. Will he be able to step up and stay healthy?

Infielder. Ronnie Belliard: Like Eric Chavez, Ronnie Belliard is a non-roster invitee. Last year with the Dodgers, he batted just .216 in 162 at bats and just a .295 OBP. But the year before in 2009, he joined the Dodgers midseason after being traded from the Washington Nationals. Belliard was on fire with his time in LA that season batting .351 with a .398 OBP in just 24 games with the Dodgers. He eventually took over second base previously filled by Orlando Hudson, aka the "O-Dog". If Belliard makes the Yankees Opening Day roster he'll be a bench player and he'll have to be a guy who can play all four spots on the infield. So the question for Belliard is, will he be able to play multiple positions in the infield and will he be able to do it effectively? The Yankees didn't get him for his .216 average last year. They're looking more for the 2009 Belliard, but more in a pinch.

There you have it. Those are the infielders the Yankees have who are competing for a shot at making the big leagues. In my next edition I'll be examining the Yankees outfield. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Andy Pettitte's keeping his talents in Texas

Its official, Andy Pettitte made his decision. No it wasn't like the LeBron James debacle this past summer but it was a big decision. It took Pettitte nearly two months more to decide this year around weather to comeback or not. This is a big loss for the Yankees. Right now the question isn't weather he's a hall of famer or not, we have five years to debate that. The real question is; can the yankees get enough out of their starting pitchers to reach the postseason?

Right now, if the season were to start tomorrow, the Yankees would have a starting rotation that consists of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, and Sergio Mitre, yikes! As you can see the Yankees have a real problem. Especially with the number four and five starters in Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Ivan Nova was pitching in the minors last year until September call ups, and Sergio Mitre is a boarderline mop up man in the bullpen. Also, A.J. Burnett struggled tremendously last year posting an ugly 10-15 record with an uglier 5.26 ERA in 33 starts. And, Phil Hughes struggled in the second half of the season going 6-6 with a shaky 5.03 ERA while allowing 14 HRs. He did rebound in the ALDS against the Minnesotta Twins pitching 7 shutout innings allowing just four hits and striking out six. But in the ALCS against Texas it was a different story. In two starts he pitched just 8.2 innings with an 11.42 ERA while walking seven and striking out six.

In my last issue I talked about the Yankees newest starting pitching additions which include Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia. Right now in my opinion unless one of them is near perfect in Spring Training, or an injury to Ivan Nova and/or Sergio Mitre, one or two of those guys will make the rotation. I dont think any of those guys have a good shot to make it, but I wouldn't be shoked out of my mind if one of them make it. If you read my last post you would know that I would favor Freddy Garcia.

Also the Yankees have a surplus of young minor league pitching down on the farm. That list includes Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Andrew Brackman. Now I doubt even one of these guys breaks camp as the number five starter. But don't kid yourself, barring a blockbuster trade by Brian Cashman to bring in current Seattle Mariner ace Felix Hernandez the Yankees will call up one of these kids by seasons end. Until that time the Yankees will have Betances and Banuelos start in AA. And they'll probably have Noesi, Warren, Phelps, and Brackman start in AAA. It will be interesting to see.

For now the Yankees will have Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre fill the number four and five spots, respectively. Like we said earlier Nova came up in September to start a few games for the Yankees. Nova seemed to pitch pretty well the first two times in the order but come the third time around he struggled. This is why he was just 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA. In order for Nova to stay in the majors the entire year he will have to improve on pitching to the opposing lineup the third time around. Meanwhile Sergio Mitre fills in the number five spot. Although everyone knocks on Mitre for his poor performance in the postseason, (10.13 ERA against Texas in 2.2 innings in last years ALCS) he has pitched well in the regular season. Last year in 27 games, three starts, he had a 3.33 ERA in 54 innings, while allowing just 43 hits during the season. He probably won't repeat that kind of season, but we'll see.

With this in mind the pressure will be back on Cashman after failing to sign Cliff Lee and failing to convince Andy Pettitte to comeback he will now have to try to trade for a quality starting pitcher. There were rumors in November about the Yankees trying to trade for Felix Hernandez. That was shot down and the Mariners will not trade him maybe until the July 31st trade deadline if they are terrible like they were last year. There was also a false rumor a few weeks ago the the Yankees would send Brett Gardner and minor leaguer, and brother of Gerald Laird, Brandon Laird to the Los Angeles Angels for Ervin Santana. That would have been a good move for the Yankees if it was a true rumor. Yes I know that was an oxymoron, but either way if that deal would have happend we wouldn't have to worry about the Yankee rotation. Brian Cashman, the ball is in your court so make a move...Now

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Prior to the 2011 campaign Yanks get some Colon and a Chief

Although the title of my most recent entry may have left readers in disgust I will try to make sense of the recent off-season starting pitching pickups by the New York Yankees and find out if they can crack the starting rotation.

The first flyer picked up by Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman was Mark Prior. The former Chicago Cub, Texas, and San Diego minor leaguer signed another minor league deal with the Bombers on December 15th. Prior hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 2006 because of lingering arm troubles. In '06 with the Cubs he posted a 1-6 record with a bloated ERA of 7.29 in nine starts. Prior signed a minor league deal in 2009 and 2010 with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers, respectively, both times Prior failed to reach the big leagues. But GM Brian Cashman took a flyer on him. Also, with former Chicago Cub pitching coach Larry Roethschild joining the Yankees Cashman could have believed that he could get Prior back on track.

The second flyer taken by Cashman came more then a month later. Cashman signed former Cleveland Indian, Montreal Expo, Chicago White Sox, Anaheim/Los Angeles Angel, and Boston Red Sox Bartolo Colon to a minor league deal on January 26th. Colon hasn't pitched since 2009 when he posted a 3-6 record with a solid 4.19 ERA with the Chicago White Sox in 12 starts. Like Prior, the 2005 AL Cy Young winner Colon has had troubles with arm issues since that '05 season just making 47 starts in the last five seasons. Also, Colon has not only had arm issues, he has had weight issues. Colon weighs a cool 245 pounds with his 5 foot, 11 inch frame. Just something to watch.

The third and final flyer taken by Cashman was former Seattle Mariner, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Philly, and Detroit Tiger Freddy Garcia was picked up on January 29th. Like Mark Prior and Bartolo Colon, "The Chief" signed a minor league deal and was also invited to Spring Training. The former 2005 World Series champ has also struggled with arm problems. But unlike Prior and Colon, Garcia did pitch in 2010. He made 28 starts with the Chicago White Sox and earned a 12-6 record posting a 4.64 ERA in that season. Right now I would say Freddy Garica is the clear cut favorite out of those three cast offs due to the fact he has pitched in recent play.

Although if the season were to start today Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon, nor Freddy Garcia would break camp as the number four or five starter for the Yankees. But we are still several weeks away from the Yankees even getting to camp so there are still a lot of possibilities. Right now the leading candidates for the number four and five starters are Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Also contending for a spot are minor leaguers Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos although they are even bigger long shots compared to Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia.