In George We Trust
A(nother) blog about the most storied franchise in sports
Thursday, March 30, 2006
2006 Predictions
The start of the season is right around the corner (thank the Lord), so everyone is rolling out their predictions. The Crosstown Rivals crew dropped theirs recently, as did SF of Yanksfan vs Soxfan and the Baseball Prospectus staff. I'm sure ESPN and SI and every other major media outlet will release theirs out soon, if they haven't already.

Everyone laughed at me last year when I said Giambi would be hitting in the heart of the order by the end of the season, and look how that story played out (I really did say that, ask my roommate. Okay fine I said by May, but I was alot closer than most people). I usually don't like to make predictions, but I'll do it anyway. After all, who doesn't enjoy being wrong...

AL Awards
Winner Runner-upShowDark Horse
MVPAlex RodriguezMark TeixeiraTravis HafnerGrady Sizemore
Cy YoungRoy HalladayFelix HernandezRich HardenDaniel Cabrera
Rookie of the Year

Ian Kinsler

Francisco LirianoJustin VerlanderBrandon Wood
Manager of the Year

John Gibbons

Eric WedgeJoe TorreJoe Maddon

NL Awards
Winner Runner-upShowDark Horse
MVPAlbert PujolsJason BayRoy OswaltAlfonso Soriano
Cy YoungRoy OswaltJake PeavyJohn SmoltzAaron Cook
Rookie of the Year

Matt Cain

Jeremy HermidaRyan ZimmermanRonny Cedeno
Manager of the Year

Bobby Cox

Ned YostJim TracyJoe Girardi

Playoff Brackets (* indicated Wild Card)

World Series Champs


*White Sox20Mets*

Veterans that will lose their job by midseason, and the kids that will replace them (on the next Oprah):
  • Bob Wickman (Fernando Cabrera)
  • Jason Johnson (Jeremy Sowers)
  • Aubrey Huff (Wes Bankston)
  • Kyle Lohse (Francisco Liriano)
  • Adam Kennedy (Howie Kendrick)
  • Aaron Boone (Andy Marte)
  • Sidney Ponson (Anthony Reyes)

Yankee Predictions:

  • Matt DeSalvo will make more major league starts than Jaret Wright
  • Robbie Cano = All-Star
  • Randy Johnson will break Gator's single season record of 248 K's
  • Mo will go from first ballot HOFer to "They really need to name an award after this guy"
  • This year's big mid-season trade will bring...Wes Helms, Joe Borowski and Brian Moeller
  • Torre leaving Mike Myers in to face righties will cost the Yanks at least 2 games
  • Scott Proctor's spring? Aberration

Non-Yankee Predictions:

  • The Fish won't be nearly as bad as most expect them to be, but they'll still lose 90 games
  • More than just fantasy geeks (no offense) will come to appreciate the greatness of Jason Bay
  • Josh Beckett will find out the Green Monster is pretty sweet...for hitters
  • Kris Benson throws a punch at Leo Mazzone after Mazzone brags that he just showed Anna the real meaning of the term "chin music." Luckily for Mazzone, Benson stays true to form and misses his target by a foot and a half
  • Roy Oswalt will become the first pitcher to win 20 games in back-to-back-to-back seasons since...well I don't know when, but I'm sure it's been a long time
  • The ban of Amphetamines takes it's toll, as no pitcher amasses more than 210 IP and no slugger hits 45 HR
  • Jose Lima will save the Mets season (I'm serious, versus the AL he's 31-55, 6.11 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, vs. the NL he's 58-43, 4.66, 1.21)
  • The Rocket un-retires (again) and returns to Houston for the second half
  • Sixteen year old girls all over the Tri-State area are dismayed when we learn that the phrase "bringing men home" has more than one meaning to David Wright
  • Curt Schilling still won't shut the fuck up
The Last Nine Innings
I've been online with IGWT for a little more than 2 months now, and it's starting to yield some pretty sweet rewards. The BTF crew asked me to partake in the annual "Looking Ahead to..." series, and last week I got my first free book in the mail to review. Let me take a minute to say that if anyone out there has any free stuff they want to send me, please feel free, no wait, feel encouraged to send it my way.

The book, entitled The Last Nine Innings (written by Mr. Charles Euchner), uses Game 7 of the 2001 World Series (not the proudest moment in Yankee history) as a backdrop, similar to Buster Olney's Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty. Unlike Olney however, Eucher uses the events of the game to discuss aspects of baseball we all know exist, but hardly know anything about.

By breaking the game down into it's most basic element, individual at bats (occasionally even pitch-by-pitch), Euchner provides insight into a wide range of topics, including the "power ballet" of fielding and subsequent defensive analysis, pitcher-catcher relationships, hitting mechanics, pitching strategies, bullpen usage, managerial strategies, the works.

Personally, I most enjoyed Euchner's dialogue regarding the globalization of the game (Chapter 18), which he previewed in the prelude:

At a time when so much of the game is reduced to scientific examination and action, I also wondered why the best players seemed to come from Latin America. If we have become a nation of superkids with superparents who hire supercoaches and use videos and stats and scientific research to teach throwing, hitting, running, and sliding to the privileged scions of the American Dream, why do so many great and innovative players come from places where bats need to be carved out of tree trunks?

Even though we all know the outcome of the game, Euchner still manages to capture your attention and leave you wanting more each time you put the book down. An extremely easy and quick read, I highly recommend it to not just Yankee fans, but fans of the game in general.

Alex Bleth over at Bronx Banter (by the way, a belated congratulations to the BB guys for being named the Best Sports Blog of 2005) provided an excerpt recently, you can find it here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Top 50 Prospects released their Top 50 Prospects, with Phil Hughes as the only Yankee farmhand to make an appearance, checking in at number 30:

2005 stats: 9-1, 2.19 ERA, 86.1 IP, 54 H, 20 BB, 93 K
2005 Club: Charleston/Tampa
ETA in Majors: 2007
2005 Final Rank: NR
Hughes jumps onto the fast track this season with a leap up to Double-A. It's not out of the question he'll see the Bronx by September, then challenge for a rotation spot next spring.

You can watch the Top 50 Prospects video here, skip ahead to the 26:40 mark to see Hughes' segment (cough, Matt Cain at 46:10, cough). If you've got an hour to kill, check out the whole video, it's worth it.

Update: At the end of the video, they list the guys that just missed the Top 50; Eric Duncan was at number 52.
Prior-ity #1
Well Mark Prior went on the DL yet again yesterday, making his 5th trip to the DL since 2003. What does this have to do with the Yankees? Nothing, unless Brian Cashman makes something of it.

Maybe it's time for Cash to give Cubs' GM Jim Hendry a call and try to persuade him that a change of scenery is needed for Prior. The Yankees had Prior once upon a time, selecting him in the 1st round in 1998 out of his San Diego high school. Prior choose to go to Vanderbilt instead, his Dad's alma mater (how sweet), before eventually transferring to SC.

Two of Prior's 5 trips to the DL have been caused by fluke injuries, as Marcus Giles plowed into him on the bases in 2003 and Brad Hawpe drilled him with a line drive in 2005 (Hawpe must not like Prior, because he did the same thing back in college). If it wasn't for the line drive (which was not only fractions of an inch from not only ending his career, but also rendering the joint useless), Prior would have made 31 starts last year, which is more starts than any Yankee not named Randy made.

When he's pitched, Prior has been dominant, owning a career 10.55 Kper9 and 1.19 WHIP. He's 3 starts away from his 100th career start, which is right around where a pitcher's career usually takes off (i.e. the Big Unit). He's still very young (only 25, won't be 26 until the end of the season) and his stuff is unbelievable. If given the proper time to heal and recover, Prior should finally be 100%, but the problem is the Cubs have been too aggressive with bring him back.

Well what would it take to nab Prior? Alot probably, but Hendry could be haggled down a bit considering Prior's injury-riddled history. The Cubbies would almost certainly want a pitcher that could step right into the rotation and give them innings, and the obvious name is Chien-Ming Wang (injury prone himself). Wang is actually older than Prior (by a little more than 4 months) and has alot less miles on his arm. The other possibility is Carl Pavano, who up until last year has been durable during his career.

What would the final package look like? I dunno, but Prior won't come cheap. Maybe Wang, Pavano and Eric Duncan for Prior and a prospect (perhaps Brian Dopirak - the right handed version of Duncan). What it boils down to is that if Prior returns to even 80% of his normal self, he's still better than Wang and/or Pavano. He'd anchor the rotation for years to come, joining Phil Hughes in a potentially devastating 1-2 punch from 2009 to about 2019.

The chances of such a trade? Slim to none, but it sure is fun to dream.

FYI - Baseball Analysts previews the AL East round table-style. Don't miss it.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Prospect Profile: Jim Conroy
Name: James T. Conroy
Position: RHP
Vitals: 6'3", 190 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Born: November 4, 1982
Hometown: Rock Island, Illinois
Drafted: 19th round (589th overall) in 2005 (Yankees 19th selection)

Background: A true baseball lifer, Conroy began his foray into baseball at age 7, drawing posters of himself as a major leaguer in first grade. Conroy headed to the University of Illinois, where he initially served as a reliever, gradually working his way into the rotation. After going 10-7, 4.21 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in his first 3 years as a Fighting Illini, the Oakland A's selected him in the 25th round (757th overall) in the 2004 draft. Conroy opted to return to Illinois for his senior season, becoming the staff ace with an 8-3 record, 3.10 ERA, 1.14 WHIP. Conroy was most effective in conference play, going 5-2, 3.52 ERA in 53.2 IP against Big Ten teams as a senior. Conroy earned second team all Big-Ten honors for his efforts, while improving his draft stock upwards 6 rounds with the performance.

Strengths: Conroy's changeup is his lone plus pitch, but it's exceptional. Coming in around 75-77 mph, Conroy throws it with arm speed identical to that of his fastball. It's a strikeout pitch that has similar tumble to a breaking ball, and he often puts hitters away by throwing it out of the zone. Conroy's fastball is good, sitting at 88-92 mph but featuring little movement. His fastball has potential, but for now it's effectiveness is a result of his change. Conroy has superb control, walking 1.95 batters per 9 innings total since the start of the 2004 college season. His frame is solid, but he could stand to add some more muscle as he missed some time as a junior due to injuries.

Weaknesses: Conroy can best be described as a 'tweener. He's not a power pitcher, but he's also not a finesse pitcher. A groundball pitcher, Conroy will continue to give up his fair share of hits. His breaking ball is still very slurvy, sometimes resembling a curve, other times a slider. Growing up in a cold weather state and attending a university with a second tier baseball program left Conroy somewhat raw, not what you'd expect from a 4 year college player.

Stats: Conroy dominated in his pro debut at Short Season Staten Island, going 5-1, 2.04 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 18 games (9 starts). Between his work at college and as a pro, Conroy logged 159.1 innings in 2005, 102.1 innings more than his previous career high. Despite the heavy workload, Conroy pitched well throughout the year and maintained his velocity.

2002U. of Illinois2-03.681.188-122.01810-9117-8
2003U. of Illinois2-35.701.539-630.03120-19318-15
2004U. of Illinois6-43.631.3212-1057.06524-23349-10
2005U. of Illinois8-33.101.1414-1493.08936-32563-17

2005Staten Island5-12.041.0918-966.15210-9267-20

Outlook: His lack of experience (his 202 IP in 4 yrs at UoI is 65 IP less than Mark Prior threw at USC in 2 years) combined with the aforementioned fact that he grew up in a cold weather stated and played with a minor baseball program at UoI would lead one to be skeptical regarding Conroy's future. On the contrary, many baseball people feel Conroy has a solid major league career ahead of him, and although he won't continue to be as dominant as he was at Staten Island, but he should be an effective number 3 or 4 starter. He should move quickly, with a chance of opening 2006 at High-A Tampa, however Low-A Charleston is his likely destination.

I'm going to scrap the Comparison section that usually accompanies the Prospect Profiles, replacing it with stats, etc. It was just too difficult to come up with reasonable comparisons as you may have noticed, and often times they weren't worth the time or effort.
Monday, March 27, 2006
As if life isn't hard enough... of my roommates friend's changed something on Internet Explorer, and now everything is in Chinese (or Japanese or whatever the hell it is, but it sure ain't English). Anyone know how I can fix it? Thanks
News and notes
Gammons likes the Dotel signing:

Octavio Dotel will definitely turn out to be one of the offseason's best moves, but be surprised if he's back as fast as people are speculating. Pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery almost always think they're way ahead of schedule, then hit a minor wall as they get close.
Chien Ming Wang took a ground ball off his shin:

"No problem," said Wang, who had a gauze wrap around the knee. He left the stadium joking and in good spirits.

"I came in and looked at him and I could see discoloration on his knee. Everything is normal so that's good," said Joe Torre, who was less certain about Wang starting Friday. "We're thankful that is wasn't more than what it was. The next 48 hours will probably tell us more."
The start of the season is still a week away, and there's already talk about who'll replace the injured Aaron Small, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and now Wang in the rotation. Hopefully Cash has the Rocket's agent on speed-dial. At least Pavano is making progress:

Pavano was supposed to throw batting practice yesterday at Legends Field, but manager Joe Torre said that was canceled because of unusually cool weather. Now the plan is to throw a bullpen session today and - if all goes well - throw a few innings in relief of Mike Mussina Thursday against the Devil Rays at Legends Field. The Yankees want Pavano to throw as many as 35 innings during his minor-league rehab, putting him in line to be ready at the end of April, at the earliest.

Got an extra $3-5M burning a hole in your pocket? Buy the Staten Island Yankees, who've won 3 of the last 6 NY-Penn League championships:

Unlike the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets farm team based in Coney Island, the Yankees affiliate has failed to capture the public's imagination.

The Getzlers own 51% of the team while Steinbrenner's son, Hal, owns 49%. They have talked about selling the minor-league squad - but at least one potential suitor has balked.
The Getzlers, who could not be reached yesterday, reportedly were asking from $3 million to $5 million for the rookie-league team.

The Yanks pulled off a minor deal with the Rangers:

Yankees completed a minor-league trade Friday, acquiring catcher Keith McDonald from Texas for a player to be named. McDonald spent last year in Triple-A (Oklahoma) and batted .240 in 66 games.
Hopefully this means they'll let Wil Nieves go via free agency instead of putting him on the big league roster.

Weekly Poll: No surprise here, but more than 86% of you think King George belongs in the Hall. No argument from me. The new question is up and as always, thanks for voting.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Give Moose the damn ball
Joe Torre has already named Randy Johnson the team's Opening Day starter to no one's surprise, but Torre might want to reconsider and give stalwart Mike Mussina the ball, for a gaggle of reasons:

Nepotism: This one's the simplest, so I'll get it out of the way first. With the exception of you-know-who, Moose is the longest tenured pitcher on the regular staff, by far (Tanyon Sturtze has the next longest tenure).

Numbers: Both Moose and Unit have made their share of opening day - oops, my bad, Opening Day - starts, with the following results:

Average per Start

Hmmm, interesting. The per start stats are similar enough, and although the difference in W-L record is sizable, you can attribute that to the pathetic group of players known as the late-90s Orioles. In fact, two of Moose's Opening Day losses came in a games you could easily characterize as spectacular (8 IP, 6 H, 11 K in 1998; 7.2 IP, 5 H, 4 K in 2000), but Moose got a grand total of 2 runs of support in those two starts, taking hard luck losses both times. With almost any other club behind him, Moose would be 5-1 (winning percentage of 83.3) in Opening Day starts.

Unit on the other hand escaped an 5.2 IP, 11 H, 6 R disaster on Opening Day 1998 with a no decision thanks to a nice helping of run support by his Mariner teammates (9 runs in an eventual loss). In reality, he should be sporting a 6-3 record (66.7 winning percentage) on Opening Day. Furthermore, his two losses came in recent years (2003 & 2004), and he's steadily declined the last few years, going from 9 IP to 6.67 to 6 on Opening Day.

Playoffs: Randy likes to start every five days, not every five games. He got into that routine with Arizona, and needless to say it seems to being working damn well for him. If Torre gives Moose the Opening Day start and uses Randy every five days, the Unit's turn will line up perfectly with Game 1 of the playoffs (if he starts Opening Day he lines up to make the start on the final game of the season). Now if there's a situation like last year, meaning the 162nd game is actually meaningful, Johnson could go on three days rest, perfectly fine with me if it's the difference between making the playoffs and not.

But assuming that the last game of the year will be meaningless like it usually is, having Randy set to go in Games 1 and 5 of the ALDS on regular rest is a ginormous advantage. How different would have last year's playoffs gone if Unit was able to start Game 1? Probably a whole lot. Of course, after about a month the rotation is out of whack anyway, so this is likely a moot point.

Logic: As in most cases, simple logistics provides the most compelling argument. Although it's not yet official, Barry Zito is on his way to making his second consecutive Opening Day start for the A's, with boy wonder Rich Harden expected to draw the start the next night. Now anyone who's watched the A's the last 2 seasons like I (no YES network here obviously, so I've settled into watching the surprisingly entertaining A's most nights, except when Mr. Cain is pitching across the Bay) knows 2 things: first, Barry Zito has pitched much better than his numbers indicate, he's still a top tier pitcher in the AL; and secondly, when Rich Harden is healthy, he's as close to unhittable as it gets, capable of dominating any team at any time in any park (just look at some of those headlines and realize the kid isn't even 25 yet, exactly a month younger than me in fact. Damn I feel old.). Don't misconstrue this as a "Randy-stinks-and-Moose-is-the-man" piece, I fully acknowledge Unit being the better pitcher at this point, which is why I want him facing Harden, all the more reason to give Moose the Opening Day nod.

The old adage is that the season is a marathon and not a sprint, but getting off to a hot start out of the gate is one hell of an advantage. If the White Sox didn't start the year 16-4 last April, they most likely would have been overcome by the Indians late in the year, and chances are they'd still be cursed. The Yankees themselves would have been able to breathe a whole lot easier if they didn't start last season 11-19. If a little tinkering with the rotation will give the team the best chance to start 2-0 instead of even 1-1, then I say do it, especially considering Oakland will be there at the end of the year, possibly battling the Yanks for the Wild Card.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Crank preview

The Baseball Crank released his AL East preview:
(EWSL=Established Win Shares Levels)

Raw EWSL: 297.00 (99 W)
Adjusted: 317.17 (106 W)
Age-Adj.: 280.18 (93 W)

C34Jorge Posada2119
1B35Jason Giambi1914
2B23Robinson Cano*617
SS32Derek Jeter2522
3B30Alex Rodriguez3231
RF37Gary Sheffield3222
CF32Johnny Damon2421
LF32Hideki Matsui2522
DH37Bernie Williams139
C236Kelly Stinnett21
INF32Miguel Cairo76
OF29Bubba Crosby+16
1329Andy Phillips+06
SP142Randy Johnson1716
SP237Mike Mussina1211
SP330Carl Pavano108
SP426Chien-Ming Wang47
SP528Shawn Chacon78
RP136Mariano Rivera1815
RP230Kyle Farnsworth97
RP336Ron Villone65
RP434Aaron Small43
RP530Jaret Wright54

Other pitchers we are likely to see include Tanyan Sturtze and, if he gets healthy enough to pitch this season, Octavio Dotel. Carl Pavano is clearly the key guy on this team; a solid year from Pavano gives them three dependable starters, with a chance for 4 if Wang holds up (no, I don't expect the fairy godmother to give Chacon and Small a new set of ball gowns this season), and could take the pressure off a bullpen that yet again is shaky behind the sandman. On offense, the Yanks are 8 men and out once again, with the decrepit Bernie eating up at bats and minimal help from the bench. And, of course, this is an old, old team.

With Bonds ailing last season and Palmeiro having hung it up, we haven't yet had a test of a guy with the kind of steroids bullseye Sheffield now has painted on him; 2006 will be that test, and we'll see if Sheff proves that he's still impervious both to age and to the media. Long term, of course, if it turns out that a lot of the performances by mid/late-30s slugging of the past decade have been steroids-driven, and those performances don't hold up in the future under the new testing regimes (two big ifs), that could adversely impact Steinbrenner's business model of buying established over-30 veterans.

I'm not optimistic about Cano, who came into camp out of shape and isn't the most disciplined player to start with.

I think the Crank needs to take a look at the spring Chacon and Cano have had. And by God, if Robbie's out of shape, I don't wanna know what I am:

Thursday, March 23, 2006
Let's get ready to rumble
Buster Olney thinks there will be some Yanks-Red Sox fireworks this season:

The Yankees and Red Sox got into a little war of plunk Wednesday night, with both sides getting warned by game's end. I didn't see David Riske's pitch, so I can't speak to intent there, but did see Tanyon Sturtze's shot and there is no confusing the message with that pitch; he's the Yankees' version of an enforcer.

There are so many new players -- new relievers, in particular -- on the two teams, and they will tend to be overaggressive in reacting to somebody getting hit by a pitch in this rivalry. It will be as if Kyle Farnsworth and Julian Tavarez and the others joined a fraternity fight, they know all their new house brothers are watching and they feel a need to demonstrate their toughness. There's almost no doubt that they will have incidents this year, and you can almost assume that Farnsworth or Tavarez or Sturtze will be in the middle of something.

I've never been against the beaning of a Red Sock, but Randy Johnson should be the one intimidating people. Not Tanyon Sturtze. Thankfully, Jorge will be okay for Opening Day:

Posada was to have the nose realigned last night and is expected to be released today.

"He will probably be out about five days," Joe Torre said after a 5-4 win over the Red Sox at Legends Field last night. "He can work out but no games. The eye socket is good."
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Go get him Cash
Sorry for the lack of posts recently, Blogger has been giving me a hard time these past few days...

The Alfonso Soriano soap opera is dragging on, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, if you want to read about the details go here.

I say Cash if you're out there, go trade for him. Now. He never wanted to leave the Yanks in the first place, and now he's yours for the taking. The Nats lost 2 pitchers for the year - a much needed innings eater in Brian Lawrence, and top set-up man Luis Ayala via the WBC - this offseason, so offer them something to ease their suffering. See if they'll take Jaret Wright off your hands - after all, he could be successful for an NL team, especially in RFK - and throw in Scott Proctor, who'll never be anything more than the 12th man on the Yanks staff.

Get the money to work and pull the trigger. Soriano is on record saying the only team he'd switch to the outfield for is the Yanks, so that leaves tons of options as to where you could play him. You could platoon him with Cano, give him a ton of ABs as the primary DH, and use him to spell Matsui-Damon-Sheff in the outfield. That'll turn Bernie and Andy Phillips into bats off the bench, which is where they probably should be.

Think of the lineup:

CF - Damon
SS - Jeter
3B - A-Rod
1B - Giambi
RF - Sheff
LF - Matsui
DH - Soriano
C - Posada
2B - Cano

Soriano would transform the lineup from 'God Damn' to 'Holy Sh*t', and you'd add some speed given his annual 30-30 output and 40-40 potential. He may never be the player he was in 2002 again (92 XBH, 39 HR, 102 RBI, 41 SB - 3rd in MVP voting), but he's still a monster at the dish. Jim Bowden wouldn't get a better offer than Wright and Proctor at this point, so stick it to him when he's most vulnerable.

And as icing on the cake, when Omar Minaya throws 5-yrs and $70M Soriano's way next offseason, we'll get 2 extra first round picks! Do it Cash, do it!
Monday, March 20, 2006
Prospect Profile: Matt DeSalvo
Name: Matthew Thomas DeSalvo
Position: RHP
Vitals: 6'0", 170 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Born: September 11, 1980
Hometown: New Castle, Pennsylvania
Signed: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003.

Background: DeSalvo had a dominant run at Division III Marietta College (Ohio), going a remarkable 17-1 his junior year, which including a 19 strikeout game at Salisbury State University. After taking a medical redshirt his senior year, DeSalvo wrapped up his Pioneer career as a fifth year senior in 2003 by going 16-3 with a 1.36 ERA and .93 WHIP. DeSalvo holds the NCAA record for career wins (53), career strikeouts (603), and single-season strikeouts (205). Despite all of his college success, DeSalvo went undrafted in 2002, landing with the Yankees as an undrafted free agent.

Strengths: DeSalvo is extremely polished, throwing effortless strikes with two solid fastballs: a four-seamer that now sits at 92-94 mph, and an 87-92 mph sinker with hard movement. His sinker, 12-to-6 knuckle-curve, and dynamite changeup give him 3 swing-and-miss pitches. His deep repertoire is rounded out by a decent slider, an average cutter and a below-average forkball that he rarely uses. DeSalvo gets outs, holding batters to a measly .206 BAA in 323 pro innings. The ultimate competitor, High-A Tampa manager Bill Masse says DeSalvo is "all about hating the batter."

Weakness: The biggest knock on DeSalvo is his smallish frame, which doesn't lend itself well to pitching. A back injury forced DeSalvo to miss a good portion of 2004, and he also missed his fourth season at Marietta due to a knee injury. DeSalvo's back problems can be traced to his delivery, which resembles that of Kevin Brown (also plagued by back problems) as he briefly turns his back to the batter.

Comparison: DeSalvo didn't miss a beat going from amateur to pro ball, continuing his dominance at every step of the ladder. He's thoroughly outperformed two college pitchers that were drafted in the first round the year DeSalvo was passed on (stats are career minor league numbers):

Drafted Hper9BBper9Kper9HRper9WHIP
Bryan Bullington1st overall (PIT) 8.842.526.89.841.26
Joe Saunders12th overall (LAA)9.462.706.34.421.42



The oldest of the group (less than 3 weeks older than Bullington), DeSalvo has had the most successful minor league career to this point (save his walk rate). Both Bullington and Saunders have reached the majors however, as they were on the fast track after being drafted so high.

Outlook: "Pleasant surprise" doesn't do justice to what DeSalvo has been for the Yankees. He's has made himself into a prospect by constantly getting batters out and exceeding expectations, going from undrafted to All-Star in 2 years. His stuff falls short of that of a frontline starter, however he could be an outstanding number 3 or 4 guy. Fearless on the mound, DeSalvo will likely start 2006 at Triple-A Columbus, where he'll have to battle Jeff Karstens, Sean Henn and Darrell Rasner for a rotation spot. If his health remains in check, he could force his way into the big leagues by September, possibly sooner if injuries at the major league level become rampant.
Rocket being Rocket
Roger Clemens is still the same old Rocket:

Roger Clemens, everyone agreed, looked great on the mound during the WBC, too good to retire, and, you know, wouldn't he look nice wearing pinstripes this summer? So of course they made sure the certain Hall of Famer knows how much he's wanted back.
Although the Yankees are one of four teams Clemens, 43, is considering, he always mentions retirement as a viable option, a course nobody who knows him expects him to follow.

"Presently, Roger does not plan to play in April or May," his agent, Randy Hendricks, said in an e-mail yesterday. "We will review things in mid-May."

The Yankees -- for whom Clemens pitched from 1999-2003 -- realize it's likely that he will choose the Astros over the Yanks, the Rangers and the Red Sox, but until he does so, they might as well keep hoping. Knowing that a decision isn't coming for a while, they are in a wait-and-see mode, saying there's no reason to reach out because he knows of their interest.
Although the Astros can offer the seven-time Cy Young Award winner the attractive opportunity to play close to home with the benefit of missing some road trips, the Yankees hope the competitor in him ultimately decides that he wants to win another World Series ring.

Although the Astros reached the 2005 World Series, the Yankees believe they're in the best position to offer that. "He's in a pretty good situation," Damon said, "because he knows how desperate
teams are to get him."

Weekly Poll: As far as last week's poll goes, 45% of you think Matt DeSalvo will be this year's Aaron Small (more on DeSalvo this afternoon), followed by Scott Erickson and Jeff Karstens (25% each), with Sean Henn bringing up the rear (5%). The new question is up, and thanks for voting as always.
Friday, March 17, 2006
An open letter to Jaret Wright
Dear Jaret,

You know J, I wanted to like you. I was one of the few Yankee fans that openly rejoiced when the news hit that you took the fat 3 year deal Brian Cashman offered. I hoped you failed that physical prior to signing because of incompetent doctors, the same way amateurish docs told Roger Maris it was okay for him to play through the wrist injury that ultimately led to his premature retirement. I was part of the minority that thought you had turned the corner for good in 2004, that whatever Leo Mazzone taught you in Atlanta was here to stay.

But I see now that I was wrong. I was so naive, I remember thinking you had a legit shot at winning 18 games. You were going to be at the back of the rotation for a team with a dominant offense and a dominant end game bullpen, what wasn't there to like about that situation? Just about a month ago I thought you could be a very good reliever, after all you did earn your spot in Atlanta after serving as John Smoltz's primary set-up man down the stretch in 2003. But now, I think you'd most benefit the team by pitching BP, you know, helping the hitters gain confidence. You seem to be good at that.

You've certainly had your moments in the sun; how could I forget you twice outdueling Andy Pettitte as a rookie in the 1997 ALDS? Heck, you even started Game 7 of the series that year! It wasn't your fault Jose Mesa couldn't hold the lead in the 9th, or that Charles Nagy threw something that resembled a curveball to Edgar Renteria. Let's not forget how lights out you were against the Cubbies in the 2003 NLDS, hurling 4 hitless, shutout innings. Dude, you even have a Fan Club.

Now, I know it's not really your fault your right shoulder is softer than pudding, and I applaud the dedication you showed coming back from the DL ahead of schedule last year. You certainly had your share of bad luck in 2005, turning into a moving target on the mound. You're a fierce competitor and everyone associated with the organization knows you'll pitch until your arm falls off, but so would I and about 300 other pitchers in the bigs.

I'm mean, come on, you gave up 11 hits and 8 runs to the Pirates on Monday. In 3 innings! I'm sure I don't need to remind you they had guys named Stansberry and Chiaffredo in the lineup. Your aggregate spring line is 7.2 IP, 18 H, 11 R (all earned), 3 BB, 2 K, 12.91 ERA, which means if you were about 10 years younger, you'd have earned yourself a trip to instructional league already.

Let's face facts here, excluding the fluke season you had in 2004, you're a .500 pitcher (42-42) with a career ERA of 5.72. You've racked up only 37 Win Shares during your career, which is the same number of WS perennial doormat Ryan Franklin has piled 35 fewer starts. Your "Stuff" is a 5. A 5! For chrissakes that fat toad Hideki Irabu's was a 10!

To steal a line from Van Wilder: there comes a time in everyman's life when he has to realize a bad investment, and simply cut his losses. It just might be best for both of us if you packed up your locker and left. Sorry things had to turn out like this, but I want you to know it's not me, it's you.

Mike of IGWT

PS - Give Omar Minaya a ring at 718-507-METS, I don't think he has enough overpaid, injury prone average starters as it is...

Update: Let your voice be heard: Sign the "Anti Jaret Wright" petition via the comments!
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Small hurt, and don't give him a long-term deal...
First Carl Pavano, now Aaron Small:

Aaron Small will likely open the season on the disabled list, as the Yankees right-hander strained his right hamstring while running on Tuesday.

Although he is not battling for a spot in the starting rotation, Small was scheduled to start in the Yankees' split-squad game in Lakeland, Fla., against the Tigers on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Yankees scratched Small from that start, so they will use either right-hander Matt DeSalvo or left-hander Sean Henn in his place.

"I just tweaked it a little," said Small, who is 0-0 with a 4.05 ERA in three relief outings this spring. "It will set me back a little bit, but I've never done it before, so I don't know how long it will be. They said these things need time to heal, since they have a way of lingering."

David Regan of Hardball Times has an interesting article up on Baseball Analysts analyzing long-term contracts, which is something Yankee fans are familiar with. It's worth the read (as you can imagine, several Yankee names make a cameo), but here's the conclusions he draws from his analysis:

- Hitters have historically been a better investment than their counterparts on the mound for teams looking to spend big money in free agency. There's not much risk in signing an under-30 superstar hitter to a long-term deal.

- Home-grown is the way to go. Instead of overspending on guys who stand a great chance at underperforming once they sign, develop young, cheap pitching talent.

- Contracts longer than three years for pitchers aren't a good idea. We've seen the rapid drop-off in years two and three of a deal, and it likely won't get any better in year four unless, of course, year four is another contract year.

- Lengthy and lucrative free agent contracts are not going to go away.

Oh by the way, I'm officially on the Kevin Thompson bandwagon (hat tip to No Maas for the graphic):

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Looking ahead to the draft
"The draft has never been anything but a fucking crapshoot. We take fifty guys and celebrate if two make it. In what other business is two for fifty a success? If we were in the stockmarket, we'd all be broke."

It's hard not appreciate the brutal honesty of that quote from Moneyball by A's GM Billy Beane. The draft is a little more than 3 months away, but it's never to early to start talking about it, especially because the big shots in the front office have been seriously scouting players for a few months now, after years of following their progress.

The MLB draft is unlike the more hyped NFL and NBA drafts; there's no TV broadcast (it's a league-wide conference call that is available on audio via, no one selects a player expecting an immediate impact (players like the 2005 version of Huston Street come along once every 10 years or so), and there's no trading of picks (thankfully, you could imagine were the Yanks would be if they were able to trade away first rounders these past few years).

The Yankees haven't always hit the nail on the head when it comes to their first selection in the draft; the only player to have an above-average major league career expected of a high draft choice in the last 15 years or so is Derek Jeter (Eric Milton is an average pitcher, and save judgment for the recent first rounders, Eric Duncan and Phil Hughes). With the exception of Jeter, the homegrown core of the late-90s dynasty teams were either international signees (Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Orlando Hernandez) or mid-to-late round draft choices (Andy Pettitte, 22nd round; Jorge Posada, 24th), not exactly a picture perfect blueprint. But hey, it worked.

The 2005 draft was the strongest the Yankees have had in several years, possibly the best since the 1996 draft that netted the aforementioned Eric Milton (traded for Chuck Knoblauch), Nick Johnson (traded for Javy Vazquez), and Zach Day (traded for David Justice). They landed two first round talents in CJ Henry and Austin Jackson (Jackson dropped to the 8th round because of a basketball scholarship to Georgia Tech, but the Yankees gambled and it paid off), and loaded up on college pitchers with their next few picks. They also picked up some potential sleepers in the later rounds with Alan Horne (11th round) and Josh Schmidt (15th round).

As far as the 2006 draft goes, the Yanks first selection comes at pick number 21, which is compensation from the Phillies for Tom Gordon. The Yankees own first rounder (28th overall) was sent to the Red Sawx as compensation for Johnny Damon, so their next selection comes in at number 40. The Yankees also forfeited their second round choice (71st overall) to the Braves as compensation for Kyle Farnsworth. Here's a quick run down of the Yankees draft slots:

#21 (first round)
#40 (first round supplemental)
#103 (third round)
Every 30 picks thereafter

The 2006 draft class is widely considered the weakest since the infamous 2000 draft, where only 12 of the first 100 selections have made it to the show and stayed there. Baseball America's early draft preview cites little high ceiling talent accompanied by depth in rounds 2 through 6. No one will likely touch the most talented player available (Luke Hochevar) given the debacle surrounding his contract negotiations after last year's draft.

The Yankees' needs are apparent: they desperately need a long-term successor for Jorge Posada, depth on the left-side of the infield (it's thin beyond CJ Henry, Eduardo Nunez and Marcos Vechionacci), and as always, pitching. In reality, the Yanks should have looked for a solution at catcher about 2 years ago, but I guess they were hoping 2000 first rounder David Parrish would still pan out. As far as backstops go, these guys are two of the best the 2006 draft has to offer (all stats are as of March 12th):

Chad Tracy, C, Pepperdine: No relation to the Diamondback's third baseman of the same name, Tracy can hit. Alot. More than 35% of his hits for the Waves have gone for extra bases, and his career line is .341-.391-.555-.946. Impressive considering he's a catcher and spends his time in full catching gear baking under the Malibu sun. He strikes out a bit too much, but is improving in that regard (30-28 K/BB in 2005, 9-8 in 2006). Baseball America rated him as the 25th best college prospect before the season.

Mike Ambort, C, Lamar: The local kid out of Rockville Centre, NY was a pre-season first team All-American heading into 2006. He mashes, clubbing 27 HR and and 29 doubles in 117 college games (that works out to 37 HR and 40 doubles over 162 games), producing a career line of .309-.384-.559-.943. Baseball America's 47th best preseason college prospect has been stuck in part-time duty thanks to an injury he suffered in the Cape Cod League last July. If he's unable to get regular ABs this season, he'll drop in the draft, meaning he may fall into the Yankees lap.

Despite their gaudy numbers, neither Tracy nor Ambort were that highly touted before the season, and could have been had with a third round pick, possibly even a fourth rounder. Tracy is still in that draft position, but Ambort is plummeting down draft boards, possibly even as far down as the 20th round. The one thing not in short supply in this year's draft is pitching, especially righthanded pitching (just like every year). One of these 4 guys would make a solid if not spectacular first round selection at number 21:

Joba Chamberlain, RHP, Nebraska: It's hard not to like the 6'3", 225 lb member of the Winnebago tribe, if not for his name and appropriate physique, then for his stuff and "give me the damn ball" mentality. Listed as the 12th best college player available in the draft by Baseball America prior to the start of the season, Chamberlain dominates opposing batters with a mid-90s fastball and knee-buckling curveball. Chamberlain is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA for the Huskers, allowing only 11 hits in 21 innings while striking out 28 this season.

Ian Kennedy, RHP, USC: The pint-sized (5'11", 185 lbs) Trojan ace is a control artist, sporting a 372-90 K/BB ratio in 254 college innings. Baseball America ranked him as the 5th best college player available prior to the season, and although his stuff is barely above average (89-91 mph fastball, decent changeup and curveball) he's a winner (22-8 at USC) that'll give you innings (6.9 IP per start in 2006). He's widely considered by scouts to be the safest bet amongst pitchers in the draft.

Brandon Morrow, RHP, Cal: Heading into the season, Baseball America ranked Morrow the 9th best college prospect, but has seen his stock grow exponentially this season. After serving primarily as a reliever in his first to years at Berkeley, Morrow is dominating in his newfound starter role. He's holding batters to a .195 BAA and striking out 9.62 per 9 innings this season with his filthy stuff . His drawback is his control, as he's walked more than 6 batters per 9 innings over his career, uncorking 8 wild pitches in 88.1 IP.

Dellin Betances, RHP, Grand Street High: The New York City native is a giant on the hill, measuring in at 6'9" and 205 lbs (he's only 18, so he's still growing). Baseball America lists him as the 4th best high school player available in the the upcoming draft. He uses his height to his advantage, throwing on an extreme downhill plane with his 92-93 mph fastball, decent changeup and hammer 12-to-6 curveball. He has good control for a kid his size, but keeping his mechanics in check and maintaining a sound delivery will always be a challenge. He's a quiet kid with an "aw shucks" personality, but still commands respect.

Based on the way the draft has panned out in recent years, there's a good chance at least one of those 4 guys will drop to the Yankees at 21. Players, especially top tier pitchers (go figure), drop in the draft all the time due to a variety of reasons: signability, college commitments, injury questions, etc. The best pitcher in 2005 lasted until pick number 40 (the aforementioned Luke Hochevar), and even the greatest college pitcher ever, Mark Prior, "dropped" to number 2 overall. It's possible, if not likely that one of Chamberlain, Kennedy, Morrow or Betances will be available when the Yankees turn comes up. Personally, I'm hoping for Betances or Chamberlain, in that order.

Finally, if Hochevar is still available come the 15th or 16th round, I take him. Makeup problems or not, the reward is well worth the risk, even if it costs $1M-$1.5M to sign him. Something about a 19-5 record accompanied by a 2.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 9.50 Kper9 in 2004-2005 combined makes me think, hey, this guy is pretty good.

Keep in mind the draft is still a ways away, and alot will likely change. I'm sure I've revisit this topic several times before then.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Lovin' the WBC
The WBC certainly isn't the All-Star Game atmosphere just about everyone expected, players are met on the field by teammate after teammate after scoring a run, the pitch counts have been a non-factor for the most part, and the final out isn't followed by handshakes and hi-fives, it features hugs and swarms of teammates piling onto each other. The competitiveness, passion and pride is all there. I love it.

Yesterday's USA-Japan game was riveting, especially the final 4 innings. In what other context is it OK for me to hope a Minnesota Twin cures his wildness one inning, followed by a prayer for a strikeout by a Houston Astro the next inning, only to run the emotional gamut the next half inning as Jeter was hit in the back by a pitch (worried), Junior struck out (frustrated), and A-Rod won the game with what sounded like a broken bat single with the bases loaded (joy!)? I don't think any. Heck, yesterday's game was better than any World Series game we've seen the last 2 years, possibly even further beyond that.

On to Yankee talk. Shawn Chacon has surpassed the expectations that accompanied him from Colorado:

"The whole premise of this deal [Chacon for 2 minor leaguers] comes down to, simply, I needed a starter tomorrow."

In other words, Chacon was a fill-in, a sub, a body. Faced with the prospect of handing the ball to yet another minor-league pitcher or asking a slew of relievers to get through a Saturday matinee against the Angels, Cashman instead made what was supposed to be a relative blip of a deal to get Chacon. He was supposed to pitch that one game, maybe hold a place for one of the Yanks' injured starters and then, in all likelihood, get lost in the bullpen.
Chacon's had a stellar spring, running his scoreless inning streak to 8 despite a rough outing:

"It was the worst three-inning shutout I've ever thrown," he [Chacon] said. "It was definitely one of those days where I threw a lot more pitches than I should have. I need to go back to the pen and find that rhythm."
Despite his spring brilliance, his spot in the rotation is far from guaranteed:

Torre will only say that Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina have guaranteed spots in the rotation, with Carl Pavano joining them once his back is at full strength; Chacon, Wang and Jaret Wright are competing for the other two spots, though the Yanks only need four starters for the first few weeks of the season because of several off days.

Weekly Poll: The new question is up, and no real surprise as far as last week's question. More than 47% of you that voting think Chien-Ming Wang is the most likely 20-win candidate, followed by Moose (23.5%), Chacon (20.6%), and last but not least, Carl Pavano (8.8%). Thanks as always for taking the time to vote.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Top 20 Prospects
Prospect lists are running rampant on the blogosphere this time of year; Mark Healey of Gotham Baseball released his Top 10 Yankee prospect way back in November, and John Sickels released his Top 20 list for the Yanks less than a week ago. Pinstripes Plus wrapped up their marathon Top 100 Yankees prospects list exactly a month ago. The best in the prospect business, Baseball America, released their Top 10 Yankee prospects in January, followed by the release of their annual must-have Prospect Handbook which covers the Top 30 prospects of each team, then topped it all off with the annual Top 100 prospects list.

Forever a fan of prospects and minor league baseball in general, I thought I'd take a shot at ranking who I think the Yankees Top 20 prospects are. I ranked them based on a variety of criteria, including (but not limited to) what I think their long-term potential is, major league readiness, injury history, past performances, and age. Needless to say many of you will disagree with my rankings, so feel free to let me know. This is the first time I've ever tried something like this (it's alot harder than I thought it would be), and I'm far from a prospect guru, so please go easy on me.

1. Jose Tabata, OF: The uber-talented Venezuelan is just oozing potential. His ceiling is in orbit, and although he may not play in the majors at age 19 like Andruw Jones, he could end up twice the player Andruw is. All for the bargain basement price of a $500k signing bonus. Cross your fingers he stays healthy.

2. Phil Hughes, RHP: The stuff and intangibles are all there for Hughes to be a frontline starter, but he's not in my top spot for one reason and one reason only: I have no idea if they kid can hold up physically for a full season (3 trips to the DL in 2 years, and he only averages 4.71 IP per start). He has only 92.1 pro innings on his resume, or 160.2 IP less than my boy Matt Cain had under his belt at the same age.

3. Eric Duncan, 1B: His stock took a hit after a relatively poor Double-A showing, but he rebounded with an exclamation point at the Arizona Fall League (.362-.423-.734-1.157). His prodigious power is on the rise (4 HR in 2003; 16 in 2004; 19 last year), but his batting average is on a serious decline (.301 BA in 2003; .258 in 2004; .235 in 2005). Hopefully the Yanks won't continue to push him so aggressively and the confidence he gained at the AzFL is here to stay.

4. JB Cox, RHP: How can people not like this guy? He's a fearless strikeout pitcher that's near major league ready. He doesn't just shut the door, he slams it. Given the uncertainty surrounding Octavio Dotel's health and Kyle Farnsworth's bust potential, would you be surprised if he was Torre's 8th inning guy come October?

5. CJ Henry, SS: It's something special when he makes contact (one-third of his hits went for extra bases). Make that if he makes contact (.249 BAA in 48 Rookie ball games). He's got quite a ways to go and alot to learn, but his talent is undeniable. A switch to the outfield may be in the cards thanks to Captain October's presence.

6. Austin Jackson, OF: He does it all, or at least he has the potential to. Brief scouting report: great athlete, decent power, good competitor, good contact, good speed, good defense, good eye, good arm, mean jump shot (passed on a basketball scholarship to Georgia Tech). It'll be a neck-and-neck race between Jackson and Tabata to see who gets to the majors first.

7. Tyler Clippard, RHP: I'm very skeptical and I don't know why. Maybe it's because he has grossly overachieved with his average stuff (his 23-23 career record more accurately tells of his ability then his 5.38 K/BB ratio), or it could be that he looks like a decent wind gust would blow him off the mound (6'3", 170 lbs). Either way, I hope he keeps it up.

8. Eduardo Nunez, SS: Tantalizing ability that translating into on-the-field production almost instantly. As an 18-year old he put up a .313-.365-.427-.792 line in the NY-Penn League, and he's only going to get better. He has Derek Jeter ahead of him and CJ Henry behind him on the organizational depth chart, so he may be changing positions in the near future.

9. Marcos Vechionacci, 3B: A Gold Glover waiting to happen, he just needs to get his bat back on track. Even though A-Rod's contract seems to be neverending, Vechionacci will only be 24 when A-Rod's deal is up in 2010, making it possible he takes over long-term. He would be the first homegrown third baseman (that stuck for more than 1 year) for the Yanks since Mike Pagliarulo in 1985.

10. Christian Garcia, RHP: The stuff and potential is there for him to join Hughes at the top of the rotation one day, but he needs time. He took a step back in 2005, but remember, he's only been pitching for 3 years (originally a catcher).

11. Jeff Marquez, RHP: Premier talent, inferior results. His sinkerball can do better than a 13-17 career record.

12. Brett Gardner, OF: He's fast and knows what he's doing on the field thanks to incredible instincts. There's a chance he could have been roaming center at the Stadium in mid-2007 if it wasn't for that long-haired fellow.

13. Matt DeSalvo, RHP: The most underappreciated pitcher in the system. In 323 pro innings, his career stats read like a Hall of Famers: 2.62 ERA; 2.06 BAA; 9.14 Kper9; .39 HRper9; 1.14 WHIP. With the exception of Kper9, those numbers are better across the board than those of Dodgers phenom Chad Billingsley (334 career innings).

14. Garrett Patterson, LHP: Hard throwing lefty with serious control issues. Sounds like a young Randy Johnson. Just don't don't get your hopes up that high.

15. Matt Smith, LHP: Found his niche in the pen after floundering around in the rotation for almost 4 years. But all those walks (4.87 career BBper9; 3.93 in 2005), eek.

16. TJ Beam, RHP: What's not to like (declining Hper9 and BBper9, increasing Kper9) except the fact that he's almost 25 and has yet to throw a Double-A pitch?

17. Alan Horne, RHP: A potential 11th round steal, but he just needs some motivation. OK, alot of motivation.

18. Darrell Rasner, RHP: How could teams like the Padres, Royals and especially the Marlins not pluck him off waivers before the Yanks? (3.20 ERA since Opening Day 2004)

19. Steven White, RHP: Almost 25 years old and he's still unproven above High-A. Is he the same guy that had a 63.6 winning percentage at Baylor?

20. Tim Battle, OF: Makeup questions cloud his tantalizing power-speed potential. Surprising considering his bout with cancer.

Honorable Mention
Sean Henn, LHP: Believe it or not, Henn used to touch 100+ on the gun. Throw away his Bronx cameo, and his 2005 was pretty damn good (2.66 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 95 hits allowed in 111.2 IP), so of course, he'll probably be moved to the bullpen full-time in 2006.
Kevin Howard, 2B: Magic 8-ball says...utility player at best. And that's OK.
Melky Cabrera, OF: His confidence is all but gone after his call-up, and sadly, he may never be the same.
Bronson Sardinha, OF: Well, at least he's better than his brothers (Dane's minor league BA: .234; Duke's: .236; Bronson's: 270).
Rudy Guillen, OF: His plate discipline is almost non-existent (only 107 walks in 1869 pro plate appearances), his OPS has dropped every year since he signed (.748-.725-.660-.656), he's hit into more double plays (48) than homers (25), and yet that sweet swing from the right side keeps bringing us back. You tease. Reality check: Guillen was the Jose Tabata of 2001.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
As if $252M wasn't enough
I was doing some research for the Top 20 Prospects list I plan on posting tomorrow when I came across this clause in A-Rod's contract:

[Rodriguez] may opt out [of his contract] after 2007 unless he gets an $8M/year raise or $1M more than MLB’s highest-paid player
He's already slated to make $27M a year from 2007-2010, and he could up that to $35M a year (he'll still be the highest paid player by 2008)? That's ridiculous. I wonder if he really would opt out if the Yanks refused to give him the extra money...

Alex if you're out their reading this, I'm a broke college student who's less than 3 months away from graduating and making my second cross-country move in 2 years. I'm not asking for a handout, consider it a charity. I'll even put a link to your site on my sidebar. (There, how could he say no to that!)
Prospect Profile: Zach Kroenke
Name: Zachary Kroenke
Position: LHP
Vitals: 6'3", 210 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/L
Born: April 21, 1984
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska
Drafted: 5th round (169th overall) in 2005 (Yankees 5th selection).

Background: Drafted after his junior season, Kroenke was the ace at the University of Nebraska for his final two seasons, earning second team All Big-12 honors both years. The baby-faced Kroenke showed flashes of dominance as a Husker, hurling a complete game 1-hitter against Kansas State as a sophomore, followed by 11 strikeouts in 6.1 IP against Northwestern. The happiest person in Kroenke's family on draft day was his grandfather, who's a lifelong Yankee fan.

Strengths: Kroenke is as polished as college juniors get. He's got good command to both sides of the plate with all his pitches. His fastball runs anywhere from 88-92 mph, touching 94 out of the bullpen. His slider is a strikeout pitch that has tight rotation and a sharp break. Kroenke's frame is of major league caliber, as he has wide shoulders and a strong lower half. Thanks to that frame Kroenke is a workhorse lefthander, hurling 7 complete games in 41 starts as a Husker (17%), as well as averaging more than 7.2 IP per start at Staten Island.

Weaknesses: Kroenke has what scouts call a "pie throwing" delivery; a phrase that stems from a brief pause in his arm motion. It sometimes costs him command and consistency with his pitches. His changeup is in it's developmental stages, lagging significantly behind his fastball and slider. He's never been good at holding runners, and baserunners like to take advantage of his long motion from the stretch.

Comparison: Throw away Kroenke's 2-inning cameo for the Gulf Coast League Yanks, and he's never had an ERA over 3.03 since high school. His short season stats rivaled that of Devil Ray's phenom Wade Davis in 2005:




Davis is almost 17 months younger than Kroenke however, and is a prime candidate for a breakout season in 2006. Kroenke certainly needs to address his walk rate, although 3.46 really isn't that bad.

Outlook: Kroenke shouldn't need much minor league seasoning, however it might take time to get the kink out of his arm action, benefiting both his command and long-term health. His ceiling may not be anything more than a middle-of-the-rotation starter, as he'll most likely develop into a number 3 or 4 workhorse starter. He may never get that chance with the Yankees though, and could be a prime piece of trade bait in coming years. He'll start the season at Low-A Charleston, although High-A Tampa is a possibility with a strong spring showing. His big league ETA is late-2007, early-2008.

You can view Kroenke's scouting view here, simply scroll down until you find his name (2nd from the bottom), then click on your connection speed on the far right of his vitals line.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Farm system on the rise
David Regan at Hardball Times asks (and answers) his top 10 minor league questions heading into 2006. The Yanks system makes an appearance:

Is the Yankees' farm system close to again cranking out talent for the big club?

No matter how much money George Steinbrenner throws at free agents, he continues to lose sight of the fact that the great Yankees teams of the 90s were led by players such as Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Alfonso Soriano, and Mariano Rivera—for the most part, 100% home-grown Yankees. There are encouraging signs recently however, as general manager Brian Cashman has refused to part with young players Robinson Cano, Eric Duncan, Philip Hughes, and Chien-Ming Wang in trades. Of course if George wanted to deal Cano and Hughes for a quick fix to the starting rotation, he’d have takers to be sure, but it appears he's wising up and listening to his baseball people more these days.

There are signs that the Yankees' farm system is headed in the right direction, and Duncan and Hughes are premium talents that should be ready to contribute by 2008. Athletic high school shortstop C.J. Henry wasn’t the typical Yankees pick when he was drafted in the first round last year. In addition, the team has a number of talented teenage international signings in the lower rungs of the system. Perhaps a few of those will turn out to be helpful in a few years. I think this is a system on the rise.

Also, I'd like to rescind a remark I made in the Farm System portion of the 2006 Cross-Town Comparision: As the Yankees system stands right now, with the majority of it's high-end talent in low minors, even if it all came together for everyone, the Yanks system still WOULD NOT be as deep as the Dodgers' system is currently. I apparently got a little overexcited writing the piece, but the Dodger's system is absolutely loaded with star potential, near major league ready talent. Most of the prospects the Yanks have in the low minors can be solid if not above average major leaguers, but only a handful are truly high-ceiling. When a potential ace like Greg Miller is number 18 on your prospect list, you're doing something right.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Weekly Poll Results
Kind of a shocker (at least to me) in last week's poll. More than 53% of you voting that A-Rod was the most indispensable Yankee, followed by Mariano Rivera (35.2%), the Big Unit (7%) and Jorge Posada (4.2%). In my opinion, the Yankees will score runs with or without A-Rod, but a bullpen without Mo could mean 10 extra losses. Of course, looking at their replacement players makes A-Rod seem more valuable than he already is (Felix Escalona vs. Kyle Farnsworth). Anywho, the new question is up, and as always thanks for taking the time to vote.

Eric Duncan is loving the WBC:

Losing four stars to the WBC has irked Yankees management, but it has allowed Florham Park's [Eric] Duncan and a few other prospects to get playing time in Grapefruit League games that otherwise would have been tough to come by.

"That's the upside to it," manager Joe Torre said yesterday. "It's an upside for these guys because they're here in the big-league camp and they're actually getting at-bats and playing games. So it can do nothing but help them."

Duncan, 21, said he has carried over some confidence from the Arizona Fall League, where he was named Most Valuable Player (helping erase the disappointment of a .235 average last year at Double-A Trenton).

"His attitude is really good," Torre said. "He's got some thunder. He's going to be able to do some things."

A main focus of Duncan's this spring is working on defense and he makes the transition from playing third base to first. With Alex Rodriguez entrenched at third, the Yankees decided to slide Duncan across the diamond."

I talked to him early on because of the position switch," Torre said, "and he's very upbeat about it, which is good. Sometimes kids will take it as a little bit of a what's-wrong-with-me type of thing. But I think when you look up and see Alex playing third you realize it's no slap at you."

Torre has been impressed with some other youngsters as well:

Torre has also been impressed with [Ramiro] Pena, a 20-year-old shortstop ("He's got some special tools"), and [Marcos] Vechionacci, a 19-year-old switch-hitter moving from second to third ("His moves at third base look very good").

Duncan probably speaks for all of them when he says, "I'm having a blast."
Friday, March 03, 2006
Prospect Profile: Garrett Patterson
Name: Garrett Patterson
Position: LHP
Vitals: 6'2", 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Born: May 11, 1982
Hometown: McAlester, Oklahoma
Drafted: 7th round (229th overall) in 2005 (Yankees 7th selection). Received a $90,000 bonus.

Background: Much like fellow Yankee farmhand Alan Horne, Patterson split time at 3 schools over his 4 year college career. After an uneventful stay at Kansas State, Patterson went off to Grayson County Community College (Denison, TX) where he was hampered by elbow problems. He finally landed at the University of Oklahoma, splitting time as a starter and part-time reliever. Patterson was a rare fourth year sophomore in 2005 for the Sooners (the elbows injuries prolonged his his eligibility), and he was named to the second team All Big-12 Conference Team after a stellar year, giving up just over 6 Hper9 while striking out almost 10.5 per 9 IP. Patterson was expected by many to wind up a draft-and-follow, but he chose to sign after being drafted.

Strengths: Patterson has the goods. His fastball is electric and sits comfortably in the 93-94 mph range, exceptional velocity for a lefthander. His changeup is a second quality pitch, thanks to arm action that's identical to his heater. His curve is a decent third pitch, although he's still inconsistent with it. Patterson has shown a remarkable ability to keep the ball in the park, as he's given up only 1 homerun since the start of the 2004 season. He repeats his smooth and effortless delivery with ease, and the elbow problems he faced in college are in the past and not considered a long-term health risk. He's an intense competitor, though sometimes it works against him.

Weaknesses: While Patterson's stuff is very good, he often has no idea where it's going. His control, or lack thereof, has been his Achilles heel through his career. He often leaves a game after 4-5 innings because of high pitch counts, and in 113.2 combined innings in 2005 (college and pro), Patterson walked 80 hitters (6.33 BBper9) and uncorked 22 wild pitches (roughly 1 every 5 IP). Patterson's conditioning is a major drawback, as he doesn't have the baseball prowess or aptitude to succeed with his Grimace-like figure a la David Wells.

Comparison: Patterson was the top pitching prospect on the prospect filled Staten Island staff that led the NY-Penn league an 2.85 team ERA. Outside of his win-loss record, Patterson had a very good pro debut, comparable to the aforementioned Boomer Wells at the same age (23):


The two performances are similar, but Wells was drafted out of high school and already had 4+ pro years under his belt by time he was 23.

Outlook: Patterson's two biggest needs are to improve his control and get in better physical shape. If he does so, he'll be the given the chance to remain in the rotation. His power stuff from the left side would fit nicely in the bullpen, which many consider to be his likely destination. Not far off from his 24th birthday, Patterson will be looked upon to move up the ladder quickly, starting the year at High-A Tampa in all likelihood. Patterson may be on the cusp of a breakout season, and it may not be long before he threatens Sean Henn and Matt Smith on the organizational depth chart, possibly by season's end, but more likely by mid-2007.

You can view Patteron's scouting view here, simply scroll down until you find his name (12th from the top), then click on your connection speed on the far right of his vitals line. Around the 5:30 mark, there's a look at a bullpen session that allows you to see how fluid Patterson's delivery is, remarkable for a big man. I completely forgot about the scouting videos at, but better late than never. Here's video of the previously profiled Chris Malec (7th from top), as well as a look at the filth J. Brent Cox throws (2nd from bottom). I'll update the Malec and Cox profiles to include the videos accordingly, but most likely not until tomorrow.
Around the papers
So you know all those moonshots you here are being launched by X player in batting practice? Well, if he's a Yankee, you can now watch those bombs from your couch:

Before the Yanks' April 3 opener in Oakland, "Yankees Batting Practice Today" will premiere at 9 p.m. on the YES Network.

Besides showing taped segments featuring the Yankees and their opponents taking batting practice (thankfully there will be no BP play-by-play, just graphics giving info on each batter), "BP Today" will include Yankee updates and interviews.

Of course the Yanks would be the first team to broadcast BP. If the Yanks need an extra arm or a big bat come midseason, here's two interesting names:

As if Joe Girardi didn’t have it bad enough, there’s already talk that stud lefty Dontrelle Willis and third baseman Miguel Cabrera are both going to be available at the trade deadline this summer because their contracts are about to go through the roof.

Willis is collecting $4.3 million this season and has two years of arbitration eligibility left, and Cabrera ($472,000) will reach arbitration status next off-season, when he’s likely to be worth at least $5 million.

Joe Torre is pledging to incorporate more small-ball into his team's offense:

It didn't take long for Joe Torre to send a message to his players that waiting for the home run to carry the Yankees isn't going to be a staple of the offense this season.

Torre spent the winter preaching the Yankees needed to do the little things more, and in the second inning of yesterday's 6-3 loss to the Phillies at Legends Field, provided a glimpse of his thinking.

With Jason Giambi on first via a leadoff single and no outs, Torre put on the hit-and-run and watched Giambi reach third on Bernie Williams' single. Giambi scored on Jorge Posada's fly to center that advanced Williams to second. He scored on Derek Jeter's single to center.

"Joe said we are going to try new things," said the heavy-legged Giambi, who looks like Fred Flinstone when he runs.
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