Thursday, February 15, 2007

2007 Yankees Preview

This projection assumes a few things.
  • Potential backup catcher, Raul Chavez and his newly broken hand pave the way for an unproven Wil Nieves. Grizzled vet, Todd Pratt could also fight for the spot.
  • Phelps beats out Phillips for the righthanded piece of the firstbase platoon. Phelps gets the opening day start over Mientkiewicz, assuming Scott Kazmir faces Wang on April 2nd.
  • Villone impresses during Spring as Myers remains a lefty specialist with batter-per-week type stuff. The trust Torre displayed during Villone's power-outage is a contributing factor.
  • Phil Hughes does not make the club out of Spring training. Phil-er-up awaits a mid-season call-up while dominating at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Which brings us to a midseason projection of the 25-man Yankee roster:

Once again, the perceived roster would rely upon several assumptions.
  • The Yankees re-acquire Roger Clemens, outbidding Houston and Boston.
  • Phil Hughes does not falter during his time in AAA, continues his prodigious rise and appears ready for the jump.
  • Kei Igawa yields mediocre results, but displays strong bullpen potential. Particularly his ability as a long man and strong k/9 ratio (as seen in Japan).
  • Humberto Sanchez thrives in a new role at Scranton Wilkes-Barre: coming out of the pen. His heavy fastball and swooping curveball befuddle AAA hitters, prompting Yankee management to insert Sanchez into an already strong AL bullpen.
  • The Yankees can package Pavano, Bruney, (maybe an Ohlendorf) and get back strong catching prospect Jeff Clement who is currently blocked by Kenji Johjima. Even following Clement's injury-shortened sophmore year in the minors (the majority spent at AAA) and an awful Hawaiian Winter League the Mariners may still reject an offer. Unless of course, Pavano is back to his 2004 form, which may halt the Yankees dealing him altogether. Keith Law's take on Clement is surprisingly dreary.
  • The Yankees are able to move horror-show Kyle Farnsworth, maybe bringing to an end 8th innings full of free passes and frozen-ropes.
These midseason projections materialized out of creativity as much as rational thought. Giving up on Igawa after a 1/2 season may be a bit brash, especially when he is earning (luxury-tax or not) $40 million over the next four years. However, should Clemens choose New York while Hughes continues ravaging the minors, somebody needs to make room and it will not be a healthy Wang, Pettitte or Mussina.

There is always the possibility that the Yankees leave Hughes down at AAA Scranton, continuing to closely monitor his innings pitched until he reaches the targeted 180 mark. With the addition of Clemens, even more pressure is alleviated for Igawa.

However, should they move Igawa to the pen after gaining Clemens and Hughes, the Yankees could have a dynamite rotation. An '07 stable of Wang, Clemens, Pettitte, Mussina and Hughes means business. As does the addition of Sanchez to a bullpen already juggling late-inning arms.

It may be unlikely that Seattle deals a first rounder with as much potential as Clement for someone as brittle as Pavano, but a strong first half from Carl the Crutch will attract multiple suitors. Many of whom understand the front-end type stuff Pavano is capable of harnessing when healthy.

This depends on how much Seattle covets Clement - as well as Johjima - and how much they covet starting pitching. Following their failure to sign free agent Jason Schmidt (or Barry Zito), the M's rotation must bare Jarrod Washburn's unpredictability, Jeff Weaver's AL return, the loss of Gil Meche and a shaky second season from future stud Felix Hernandez.

Sure Clement earned himself the Johnny Bench award as the nation's top catcher, but a deal that brings a rejuvenated Pavano, bullpen arm in Bruney and mid-rotation guy like Ohlendorf (whose on the MLB brink) may draw their interest. If Johjima has a strong start in '07 while their pitching falters, they may need those arms - even if they must send Clement and another above-average prospect packing.

Also of note is the fact that Baseball Prospectus ranked the top catching prospects on PECOTA and Clement came in at #18. The rating is hurt by Clement's injuries and is not very reliable with minor leaguers, but these are chips working in the Yankees' favor. A cerebral Clement could back up Jorge for a couple years until Posada retires. At which time he would be ready to carry the torch.

Unrealistic? Maybe.

More interesting than "outsiders" reporting Mariano will be in a Red Sox uniform next year? I hope so.


Eric Schultz said...

Intersting projections. It would certainly be a great midseason rotation, and it would be great to acquire a good catching prospect like Clement for nothing more than some spare parts and a mid-level prospect. I wonder if Seattle would want to take on Pavano's salary. I do hope Villone beats out Myers, and Myers could be traded for something useful. What do you think they could get in return for Myers? I might prefer for Sanchez to stay in the rotation in AAA, because I think he still has value in the future as a starter. Instead of Sanchez, they could bring up Veras, Beam or Cox to replace Bruney. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Bronx Liaison said...


I completely agree with you on Villone over Myers. What they get for Myers - whose only owed about $1 million in the 2nd year of a two year deal - may not be much, but they could probably pry some value away from an NL team in need of bullpen help.

I also hope to see Sanchez develop as a starter, but until Cox proves he is 100% healthy, Scranton may be tempted to throw Humberto in the pen & see if he responds. I think Sanchez has the presence to pitch in any capacity and has said so himself. There's always the possibility that Sanchez comes out of the bullpen during a stretch run and returns to the Scranton rotation come 2008.

There a lot of intriguing possibilities for the Yankee organization including - as you said - more conservative plugs like Beam or Veras. This should be an interesting season to follow the Yankees from the Bronx to Charleston.

Eric Schultz said...

True. I'm definitely excited to see what the Yankee minor leaguers can do this year, especially Betances, Chamberlain, and Montero.

Bronx Liaison said...

Amen to that. Let's all cross our fingers that Betances is able to stay healthy for the next two years. He has as high a ceiling as any Yankee "farmer" in recent memory.