Friday, March 18, 2011

2 Weeks and Counting

Opening Day is just 2 weeks away and the questions the Yankees had to answer this Spring Training seem to be taking shape.

Can AJ Burnett be a serviceable pitcher in 2011? AJ has tweaked his mechanics and seems to have figured it out this spring. He has pitched real well so far. IN 3 starts he has an ERA of 2.00 and looks to continue the good spring with a start against Toronto this afternoon. My only warning about Burnett...last year he started out 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA. He only picked 6 more wins the entire rest of the season.

Who will fill the #4 and #5 spots in the rotation? After this weeks 6 no hit innings over the much improved Orioles line up, Nova seems like a lock for one of those spots with Freddy Garcia taking the last spot. An injury to Mitre has definitely closed his bid for a rotation spot though he pitched really well up til then. Colon is the "X" factor here. He has pitched really well and the Yankees may choose the veteran presence over youth to begin the season.

How good will the bullpen be? Mo,Soriano, and Feliciano have been spot on in their limited work so far. Joba was pitching well until the oblique strain. If that doesn't have a lasting impact this bullpen is solid in 7-8-9. Robertson has struggled a bit. But the Yankees may have suitable in house backup options with guys like Brackman waiting in the minors.

Will the young kids impress? I think the answer here is a resounding yes! The talk of spring has been about the Killer B's or the Bronx B's; Banuelos, Betances, and Brackman. Baneulos will be great, he will start at AA, most likely move to AAA by May or June and could get a cup of coffee in September if he performs at those levels. Betances will join him at AA Trenton. He needs to work on his command and refining his mechanics but when he's right he looks overpowering. Brackman is a lot smoother in his delivery than Bentances and has shown nice progress since coming back from his groin injury. He may start the season at AAA and may be the first call up if there is an injury (unless Nova gets sent down). I think Montero has been not quite as impressive offensively, but has shown improvement in defense, calling games, and receiving. With the injury to Cervelli, Montero seems the odds on favorite to make the club as the backup catcher. The Yankees will need to get him AB's though even as a backup. I'm guessing somewhere around 300 ABs would be necessary.

Will Jeter bounce back or will Nunez be called upon this season? The answer to both questions seem to be Yes. jeter has tweaked his batting stance and is hitting over .300 for the spring. Nunez could have been mentioned above with the other youngsters but he has flat out impressed the Yankees this spring. He can play 2nd, SS or the OF and he is hitting. He makes the team as the utility player with Pena wither being sent down or released.

Which of the veteran players that the Yankees signed in the offseason will actually make the club? We already mentioned Garcia and Colon they have impressed and both could make the starting rotation. Eric Chevez seems to have a lock on the other bench spot and will be the corner infielder reserve. He could get as many as 400 ABs and provide some nice offense for the club. While Andruw Jones has not impressed anyone. He's sitting at .200 for the spring and his defense has lost another step. If he was a lock for the 4th OF spot, the Yankees wouldn't be trying out Nunez there. Unfortunately Jones may be the best option as the #4 OF.


old professor said...

So many questions asked and at this point so few answers to give. AJ Burnett has pitched will in Spring Training. Tweaking the delivery was probably a good idea, the bigger problem is tweaking his mind - will he still overthink on the mound? will he allow a bad pitch to bother him so he makes a second bad pitch and a third, etc????

The rotations still has so many questions, the Yankees were willing to give Kevin Millwood - he of the 85 mph fastball- a tryout. Problem being Milwood wants four million and a major league contract - Yankees want to give a minor league contract.

As for which of the young players will impress - Nova has probably earned his pinstripes. Garcia and Colon will probably be on the opening day roster because Joba will be on the DL and the be sent to the minors until next spring.

Banuelos has opened a lot of eyes, but the GM is convinced he should start the year at AA or AAA. Brackman has already been sent down.

Montero will be the backup because of his bat, but his defense has regressed and there are problems with his mechanics related to his size. Cervelli will be out until late May and then he will be back with the club and Montero goes down.

Nunez will also make the team, which may make Pena expendable. The interesting battle seems to be with the backup First/Third base slot. Eric Chavez appears to be healthy but the kid Vasquez is better defensively and has been hitting over 400.

Crash said...

Montero's defense has not regressed. By all accounts the Yankees have been impressed with the improvements he has made and his work ethic and getting even better. Either way, he is still a better option behind the plate than anyone else the Yankees currently have, including Posada.

Chevez will make the team. Vasquez may be trade bait. He's blocked at 1B and 3B for at least the next couple of season until A-Rod is too old/slow to play 3B and moves to DH on a permanent basis.

Middle Relief said...

unless I missed it you forgot Mark Pryer

I've seen him twice - he looked nervous but serious. And he looked like he still had the goods - I had no idea he hadn't pitched in the Bigs since '06 - I say he holds up and contributes big time

Crash said...

Prior could be a big piece to the bullpen, but I think he starts the season in the minors. He may get a call up if Robertson pitches like this in the regular season.

Brackman has been officially reassigned to AAA camp. I heard Bentances was also reassigned, but I don't see it on the official transaction list yet. Banuelos has not been reassigned yet.

Mets have officially released Oliver Perez this morning. What a waste of $36MM. Omar made so many bad deals for the Mets...and all of them were involving Latin players.

old professor said...

Pryor has pitched rather effectively this spring. He has learned how to pitch. In addition at his last outting, he hit 94 on the radar gun (not consistently), which could meean he feels good about his health and where it is.

old professor said...

The Yankees may need the veteran pitchers. Joba has not pitched in awhile due to a strain, now Feliciano and Logan have some injury issues. Feliciano with stiffness in his left arm and Logan with back spasms. Who is Next????

Crash said...

Somehow I missed that Romine is suddenly in contention for the back up catching duties. Not sure if that speaks to Montero's defense or Romine's hitting. At the start of spring Montero was the clear favorite with Romine still a year away. But now who knows. If the Yankees think Romine's bat is MLB ready, then they should send Montero down to get more time behind the plate. This may hurt his trade value though.

I don't want to hear the argument that Montero is too big to catch. Joe Mauer is bigger (he's listed at 6'5" while Montero is 6'4" and Mauer weighs more 230 vs. 225). Right now Montero is batting .235 and Romine is hitting .250. Everyone says he can hit at the MLB level (projecting .270 and 20 HRs with limited AB's) then I say let Montero hit now. If the Yankees don't see him as the catcher it will increase his trade value.

On a different note, suddenly Freddy Garcia is on the outside looking in at the #5 spot, and Colon seems to be the favorite to land it.

old professor said...

The backup job was probably going to go to Cervelli (he can give as much defense and offense as the two minor leaguers). With Cervelli out, it came down to Romine and Montero. For all of the hoopla regarding Montero's bat, he has not produced this spring and as of yesterday was not showing the offensive promise. And as previously stated a number of scouts have not been impressed with his behind the plate presence.

I would still expect Montero to be the backup until Cervelli comes back from injury - simply put, they have been hyping the kid and to promote Romine over Montero to the show would definately undermine his trade value should he become a bargaining chip.

I have been surprised by Colon's performance and believe he has now become a serious candidate for the #5 spot. Garcia has hurt his chances with two sub-par performances in a row.

Crash said...

First off...Cervelli would not provide as much offense as either Montero or Romine. And Cervelli may be able to receive well but he was terrible at throwing runners out.

Yankees need to make a decision on their rotation this week.

Crash said...

2 years ago it seemed everyone was pulling hammy's in spring training. Last year it was hips. This year is the year of oblique strains. Granderson has been scratched from today's lineup with an oblique strain. No word on seriousness yet.

old professor said...

Mitre may have pitched himself out of the rotation debate - three innings five runs. Chamberlain one inning one run and Pryor - one inning no runs no hits.

Some of the oblique strains may come from too much lifting of weights specifically designed to strengthen the upper body while unfortunately putting other areas under stress.

old professor said...

The most recent report in the Post indicates Girardi is leaning toward putting Garcia in as the fifth starter. How can he be rated above the performance of Colon this spring? He seems to be leaning on the last time Colon pitched in the majors versus Garcia pitching last year. Colon has shown better command, a better fastball and his breaking stuff has been above average and yet Garcia gets the nod!!!! Hopefully he isn't the one making the final decision.

old professor said...

Well the hype about Jesus Montero seems to have come to an end. He has not hit in spring training and as most scouts are now saying he has regressed defensively (maybe he is just to tight about making the team). In any event the Yankees are turning their attention to a 31 year old catcher with all of 23 games in the majors - Gustavo Molina (does not have the skills nor is he related to the Molina catching family).

The GM and Pitching coach are hinting that both Garcia and Colon will make the team. So who goes? It is obvious that Nova will get the #4 slot. Mitre was targeted as the long man in the pen. If Colon and Garcia make the team someone is going to be traded or released.

Crash said...

Can't believe the Yankees are signing Millwood. Both Garcia and Colon have looked more than serviceable, and Nova has looked great. No need for Millwood at this point. Believe he is just signing a minor league deal...just another old veteran clogging up the rotation blocking any chance of seeing the young talent we saw on display this spring in the rotation this year.

Crash said...

Sergio Mitre has been traded to the Brewers. This makes room for both Garcia and Colon making the big club.

old professor said...

Milwood signing stuns me. This is a guy who has had his fastball top out at 85. I am coming out of retirement and will audition with a guaranteed contract of pay me only if I win.

It is about time they cut ties with Mitre. He has been excessive baggage for two years and this opens up a spot on the 25 and 40 man roster.

Millwood will take several weeks to get into playing shape. His signing is a safety valve should one of the two veterans break down. Though I don't know how much to expect from a guy that lost 15 games. He originally refused a minor league contract with the team because he thought someone out there would offer a major league contract at $4 million. Competely delussional.

old professor said...

Yankees get a left handed hitting outfielder for Mitre. Dickerson has a career 260 average. Though last year he hit .206. Why is the team stockpiling outfielders? The have Golson, Curtis, Maxwell, and now Dickerson. They should be looking at arms for the mound not career AAA outfielders.

old professor said...

Being a left handed reliever for the Yankees seems to be a problem. Marte is gone for the season and now Feliciano is headed to the DL - for how long is anyone's guess. The team is looking at a number of options. I would like to see Pryor rewarded for his good spring and put on the roster.

Team is leaning toward Gustavo Molina as the backup catcher - no hit okay defensively has 28 games at major league level. Clear sign that neither Montero or Romine are ready for any kind of situation at the major league level and will also mean that Cervelli gets the backup job back when he returns from injury.

Crash said...

So Molina is now getting the backup catching duties??? This guy has one hit all spring!!! At least Romine went yard yesterday. I think the Yankees shot themselves in the foot by signing Martin. Romine or Montero could have handled the catching duties. They could have brought in Benji Molina for a veteran presence and a backup to mentor them further (along with Jorge).

Colon goes to the pen, not sure how that will affect him. He was throwing well and has been a starter his whole career. Hopefully he can stay sharp, do a great job out of the pen, and possibly make a spot start here and there to keep Nova's innings down (if he's on a limit) and spell any of the other young kids if/when they get called up.

old professor said...

Benji Molina retired. The additional piece to this is that neither Romine or Montero showed much this Spring. It is believed to some degree that Romine has the ability to catch at the major league level, but will not hit. In other words he will be a career backup - this seemed to be the arguement that John Flaretty was making on the 2011 version of pinstripes, power, etc..

In addition when Cervelli comes back, the Yankees cut Molina and there is no damage done.

As for Colon, I would not be surprised to see him go longer distances in Garcia's start or if the team occassionally flipflops the two.

Crash said...

Mark Prior is in the mix for the extra bullpen spot when Feliciano officially goes on the DL.

Benji Molina retired because he didn't have an offer from a club. If the Yankees offered him a 1 year deal he would have played.

The Yankees have essentially killed the trade value of Romine and Montero at this point. Before spring training they would have been offered the world for them, now they would be considered a throw in. They both were given the opportunity and neither capitalized. They better hope for some real good production and improvement at the AAA level. Wonder where each will be assigned to. They both can't be at AAA. They'll be splitting time with each other and that will not get either one of them ready for a call up.

Crash said...

Maxwell, Pena, Bernier, Montero to AAA; Romine to AA, Belliard released; Prior stays behind in Tampa.

Crash said...

Chavez and Nunez make the team.

old professor said...

I tend to like the make up of this team - IF they stay healthy. I would be hard pressed to say that Hughes will win 18 games again this year (the team scored a lot of runs for him in most of his early games and when that support tailed off so did his wins).

Burnett could be on track to come back. If he and Hughes win 15 that would be big. The infield remains the same as last year and I think the bench is deeper than last year with one glaring exception - catching. Gustavo Molina will not hit on the days he catches. I can see pitchers walking two batters just to get to him.

Both Montero and Romine had positive attitudes about going down. Both will be on the field full time and I would expect one of them to be up this year and the other next. They could actually form a tandum next year as the 1 and 1a catcher for the team.

I would really like to see Pryor come back and make the team. They are giving him extra time to pitch and get stronger (multiple innings over two days). He has an out clause I believe that would allow him to become a free agent after May 1.

Crash said...

I think Hughes wins 20 this year. He slowed last year because he got tired. Remember in 2008 he had less than 70 innings pitched, 2009 he had about 106 innings pitched, 86 were in the big leagues. Last year he jumped up to over 180 (regular season and post season). And he struggled when the Yankees started to mess with him by skipping starts. This year he's able to go through the season without limits and pitches better.

I think they call Prior up before May 1. I think they did him a favor by not putting him in the minors. I have a feeling Robertson gets shelled early and they send him down.

old professor said...

It is an odd thing about Robertson. His stuff is pretty ordinary - fastball in the 89-91 range and a decent breaking pitch yet he is able to blow the fastball by people. Also remember that when he was in the minors, he was a starter (as was Phil Coke).

Prior deserves a shot. I was somewhat surprised the Yankees selling Romulo Sanchez to a Japanese team. He was out of options and apparently his up side as well did not outweigh (no pun intended) his weight and his workout scheme. If memory serves me right, the Yankees got him as part of the Brian Bruney trade.

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