Monday, August 25, 2008

Carrol's Latest On Joba

Will Carrol's been working the phones since Joba Chamberlain went down with shoulder tendinitis in Texas and posted his latest analysis today at Baseball Prospectus. By all accounts, it seems as though Chamberlain is well on his way back - regardless of what Abraham's pessimism says over at Lohud.

The idea will be to work Joba back into the rotation the same way which was implemented the first go-round - in other words use him in relief until his arm strength allows him to start again. This is an especially smart move because the minor league season will soon be over and therefore take away the chance for him to rehab down there.

Carrol's thoughts:
Things looked good for Chamberlain when he got back up on the mound in the latest in a series of throwing sessions. The news has been more about shifting him back to the pen than it has about the success of his steady but slow return. There are a couple of factors that appear to be pushing him to relief work, none of them having anything to do with the injury. First is the impending end of the minor league season, making it tougher to send him down for a rehab start, and secondly the Yankees have chosen a more advanced approach to pitching management, something that has allowed them to transition Chamberlain from the pen to the rotation in the first place. Think of this as the same sort of transition, allowing him to build up stamina at the major league level while controlling his innings. The media and less-informed fans might panic, but in the end the Yankees have one starter who should be established enough for them to build around for 2009 and beyond.
As much as I enjoy a rotation built around Carl Pavano and Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner, for some reason Chamberlain and Phil Hughes would be a bit more exciting come September.

*** Humberto Sanchez has been promoted to Tampa and pitched one scoreless inning Monday night.

*** Ian Kennedy struck out another nine batters over six innings, allowing two runs on four hits. Over his last two starts IPK has punched out 18 batters over just 11 innings while walking just three. As you've read here [probably too many times], Kennedy needs to refine his curveball if he's going to be successful in the bigs. And that's what he's been doing during his latest foray into the minor leagues. Hence the big strikeout totals.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gerrit Cole UCLA Bound?

There seems to be a lot of [understandable] confusion regarding Gerrit Cole's decision to attend college and consequently turn down a multi-million dollar deal with the New York Yankees. I'm pretty confused myself. But, I have been hearing a lot of people discuss the topic with the misconception that the failed signing has, in any way, to do with the efforts of Brian Cashman.
I just sent an email explaining this to my brother and this is what I said:
This falls solely on Cole [and/or his dad]..

As you probably know, the baseball draft is an entirely different animal than the NBA or NFL drafts. In baseball, kids can get drafted out of HS [like Cole], but they can choose to go to college instead [like Cole]. However, the top prep players make sure their advisors inform clubs what the player plans to do in regards to the draft.

For example, Alex Meyer is a beast RHP coming out of High School - he made it abundently clear that he would be attending Kentucky U. next year so teams shouldn't bother picking him in the draft. The Red Sox picked him in the 20th round hoping a bunch of money might change his mind. It didn't and Meyer turned down $2million to go to college.

Cole, on the other hand, informed everyone that he DID want to pursue a careeer in professional baseball [the minors] and did not plan on attending UCLA - unless of course his financial desires weren't met. Knowing this, the Yankees jumped at the chance to draft Cole, and knew they had the financial might to sign him regardlesss of what outlandish demands Scott Boras made.

Out of nowhere Cole said he wanted to go to school and that no amount of money could sway that fact. Essentially, Cole turned down money which only top-5 picks got [and a chance to pitch for his favorite team] in order to got to school [and a just OK UCLA program].

For me and everyone else who followed the negotiations, this is completely inexplicable. There is no sound reasoning behind this decision except for maybe Cole's desire to be the big man on campus and pick up college chicks. Even so, having $5 or $6 million in the bank would probably get him more than a baseball scholarship. Hope he knows what he's doing, because an arm injury is just one greedy UCLA coach away - considering the overuse top college pitchers often face.
And the hits just keep on coming, huh?

According to an anonymous source cited by the always reliable Tyler Kepner, 1st round draft pick Gerrit Cole will not sign with the Yankees and instead plans on attending UCLA.

Kepner says that money was not an issue as Cole decided to go to school regardless of what money the Yankees offered.

This, regardless of what Yankees brass say, is a gutpunch considering an 18 year-old with a high-90s fastball and potential plus breaking ball is a rare commodity. It hurts even more considering the underwhelming status of the Yankees 2008 draft - which becomes especially evident without Cole in the fold.

Aside from Brett Marshall, and the probable signing of LHP Anthony Bleich, the Yankees played it safe this draft. Cole was the one piece of the puzzle which had to be had. Unfortunately, Scott Boras probably pushed for the same type of major league deal given to Andrew Brackman, and when he didn't get it, decided to take Cole's electric right arm to college and hope to get a Porcello type deal.

Looks like Mr. Cole wasn't nearly as big a Yankees fan as he led on. Either that or Boras pulled another one of his hypnotist tricks on Gerrit and Papa Cole.

The End Of An Era

Apparently all that chatter about one of Mike Francesa or Chris Russo leaving the top sports radio network in the country [WFAN] and top sports talk program [Mike & The Mad Dog] is more than innuendo or contract posturing.

According to multiple reports, Chris Russo is leaving WFAN and most probably on his way to Sirius Satellite radio.

WFAN announced early Thursday evening that Chris Russo is leaving the company, making Mike Francesa the sole host of the popular afternoon drive time show.

The announcement of Russo's departure coincided with the announcement of a new contract for Francesa, whose deal was believed to be expiring around the end of the year.

Love 'em or hate 'em, this marks the end of an era in sports broadcasting as these sometimes frustrating, sometimes dead-on, but always entertaining twosome created what sports talk radio is today.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnd, goodbye everybody! Ouch.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Hey Zeus, As In Father Of Apollo"

The kid is raking. He is absolutely raking.

The kid being 18 year old catcher Jesus Montero of course.

While the Yankees stink up the Bronx with their putrid road trip, the future is bright down on the farm. Keep in mind that Mr. Montero, the 6-foot-5, 230 pounder, has one of the biggest pitcher's ballpark in the minors to call home. [According to statistics, Charleston has been the 4th toughest place to hit homers over the past three years]

As of 7:45pm Wednesday, Montero is batting .325/.373/.481 with 14 homers, 31 Doubles, 72 RBI in 445 at bats. Imagine if he played at a launchpad like Lancaster for half the year.

To put it in perspective, Montero's numbers rank as follows in the Sally League:
Hits - first
Avg. - second
Doubles - fourth
Total Bases - fifth
RBI - seventh
Slugging - eighth
OPS - eighth
Runs - eleventh
OBP - twelfth
It will be fun to see Montero do damage to the Florida State League pitching next year as has solidified as a blue chip prospect in 2008.

In old news, Wilkins De La Rosa earned a promotion to Tampa and, not surprisingly, pitched well when facing the new challenge by throwing 5.1 innings, allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out four. On the season De La Rosa has now punched out 114 batters over 95.2 innings and allowed just 63 hits. That works out to a .188 opponents batting average.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Joba Expects To Pitch This Month

I hope the Yankees are being as cautious as I expect them to be, but if Joba Chamberlain is indeed correct, it's great news that "The Hutt" could rejoin the Yankees rotation by late August - at which time he, alongside Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy could be celebrating a Generation Trey reunion.

Isn't it ironic how the Yankees will, in all likelihood, begin and end the season relying heavily on Hughes and IPK as rotation stalwarts.

Ed Price of the Star Ledger is reporting Chamberlain will likely miss a month, though he cites Yankees anonymous sources who call the injury "minor" and even says the injury was actually to his "biceps tendon" and not the rotator cuff.

From the ESPN article:
Joba Chamberlain plans to start a throwing program next week and expects to rejoin the New York Yankees' rotation this month.

"I'll be throwing in a week. I'll probably throw the beginning of next week," Chamberlain said Friday when he arrived at the Yankees' spring training complex. "Everything feels fine now."

[Chamberlain] never thought the problem was serious.

"No. Not at all," Chamberlain said. "It would have been different if I wasn't still throwing 99 [mph]. It was a different feeling that I never had, so I just wanted to make sure."

When asked if he would be ready to start again for the Yankees by Sept. 1, Chamberlain said "I'll throw way before that in a game."
Alrighty then. Yankees docs, let's try and do your due diligence on this one. I don't want the same brilliant minds who allowed the Mets' Ryan Church to play through concussion symptoms going near Mr. Chamberlain. I'd rather the Yankees play it safe with Chamberlain and thereby risk the 2008 playoffs, then take any chance on Chamberlain's shoulder and thereby risk the next decade.

If Joba is really suffering from the common malady of "shoulder tendinitis," then it does not make a difference if he rests for the next week or the next three months. As long as the inflammation subsides and his shoulder is properly restrengthened, there isn't any reason Joba can't return from this injury rather quickly.

Again, that is if the Yankees brass is offering the public an honest diagnosis and isn't playing the cloak and dagger games they have in the past.

Brett The Jet's Best Clips

For Jet fans like myself, forget ESPN's fawning over Brett Favre [while John Clayton puts some odd negative spin on it] and all the ridiculous pageantry Mayer Bloomberg offered today.

This is what Brett's all about.. some great stuff:

Prediction: AFC Wildcard berth with 10-11 wins. Your heard the hex here first.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hughes Coming On Quick,
Adds New Pitch

Though his command could use a little greater consistency, Phil Hughes again pitched well in his first AAA start of 2008, tossing 68 pitches [40 for strikes] through 4.2 innings and allowing one earned run on three hits. Hughes is slated for 85 pitches during his next start Tuesday in Pawtucket.

More importantly, Phil's stuff appears to be back in the electric category as it is again being reported that he was hitting the mid-90s consistently with his fastball. Also, according to Chad Jennings, Hughes has added a cut-fastball to his arsenal which was around 87-89 mph [that's replaced a mediocre slider] and tossed a handful of changeups.

Here's what my boy Dan Graziano reported as he was on assignment in Scranton tonight:
A scout who's here tonight said the scoreboard radar gun at this park can fluctuate unreliably. According to this guy's gun, Hughes' fastball was in the 94-95 mph range in the first three innings and then in the 91-93 range thereafter. The scout also said Hughes' curveball looked good, and that his slider sometimes looked a little more like a cutter, which he speculated was probably unintentional and a result of rust.
If you haven't already read the Baseball Prospectus report from Phil's last rehab start in Charleston, it's pretty obvious that BP and the scouts in attendance that night were thoroughly impressed with where Hughes' stuff was at:
Philip Hughes, RHP, Low-A Charleston (Yankees)
Technically, he's not really a prospect any more, but he's still a young unproven player. Based on what Hughes showed on Saturday, though, he could be a factor in the post-season race. Once the top pitching prospect in the game, Hughes made his second rehab appearance since coming back from a rib injury, absolutely dominating Sally League hitters on Saturday, allowing one hit in 3 2/3 shutout innings while striking out five. More important was how good Hughes' stuff was, as his fastball sat in the low 90s and consistently touched 94-95—the kind of velocity he showed frequently in the minors, but rarely with the Yanks. While neither he nor Ian Kennedy have played the expected roles at the big-league level this year, they both might come September.
Mr. Hughes looks like he's back in the building which begs the question: has Hughes reverted back to the mechanics he used in 2006? I sure hope it is the case as I've already heard rumors Phil is back to the more athletic 3/4 armslot he began with as opposed to the more over-the-top delivery he'd been using of late. If you want to read a longwinded discussion of Phil's mechanics and velocity issues, feel free to check out this post from last year.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Carrol's Initial Diagnosis
On Joba Looks Positive

Will Carrol, the injury savant, offers his take on the Joba Chamberlain injury:

The early word is that his muscle tightened up due to a combination of the blistering heat (I sat in that heat the night before, and yeah, it's a huge factor) and fatigue. It's the latter that's most worrisome given Chamberlain's switch of roles. While he built up his arm strength, no one has any idea how the fatigue will be affected by the shape of his season. He's headed back to New York for tests, so we'll know more soon, but early reports and sources tell me that things look relatively positive, based both on the pain's location, and on his reaction. Expect the Yanks to be ultra-conservative, and for Chamberlain to miss a start at least.

Hat tip to the man, Alex of BronxBanter.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hughes Headed To AAA

According to Tyler Kepner, the Phil Hughes rehab train will be taking the express line as the RHP is on his way to AAA-Scranton after pitching twice for Low-A Charleston. Kepner goes on to predict Hughes will only need two starts at AAA before making his major league return during the next Yankees homestand [August 17th]:
Prediction: Ian Kennedy takes over for Darrell Rasner the next time through the rotation, and Phil Hughes comes back on the next homestand. Phil made his way to Scranton last night, and he will slot into the Class AAA rotation this week. (He drove up with Shelley Duncan, who’s back in Scranton after a quick rehab for his separated shoulder in Tampa.) I can’t imagine Phil would need more than two starts until he’s ready. That could mean the end of the Sidney Ponson Era, part 2, although Ponson has done a good job.
While Kennedy earned his way back into consideration for a spot within the big league rotation, Hughes is obviously being pushed into the majors because of need, and not results. This was the same problem many had with his MLB debut last year, because the argument was that he hadn't refined his third and fourth pitches [change/slider] enough to warrant a roster spot.

Though I believe Hughes has the fastball velocity and command to succeed at the highest level, it is his ability to command the changeup which will determine how valuable he is during the '08 stretch run. In the same vain, the key to Kennedy's success remains his ability, or lack thereof, regarding the quality of his breaking stuff. No command of his curveball and the occasional slider means hitters will simply take his good changeup and sit dead red on fastballs.

It's interesting to see that Kepner is so confident Hughes and Kennedy will soon replace the dwindling twosome of Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner.

UPDATE from SWB Blog:
Chad Jennings had some great quotes from the pitching guru himself, Nardi Conteras, regarding Hughes:
Pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras is here with Hughes and watched both of his rehabs in Charleston. Contreras said Hughes looked about as good in his last start as he ever has with the Yankees. His fastball command and velocity were both very good -- 93 to 95 mph, not 101 like the stadium gun showed -- and Contreras said the curveball was as sharp as it's been since 2006 when Hughes was so good for Trenton.
Considering how well Nardi knows Phil's development and ability, [as well as his tendency to downplay pitchers] this is some exciting stuff. Looks as if the real deal Philip might actually show up in '08.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hughes Hits Triple Digits?
I Think Not, But...

Phil Hughes captured the imagination of Yankees fans everywhere when, during his most recent rehab outing for Charleston, the 22 year-old starting pitcher alledgedly hit 101 mph with his fastball.

Although it was reported Hughes touched triple digits while in high school, his typical velocity will range from 91-94mph and touch the mid-90s when he dials it up.

Though the Charleston announcer reported that the stadium radar gun had been checked in between innings and was supposedly accurate, it doesn't take a whole lot of thinking before realizing the gun was juiced.

I felt like the gun was, in all probability, running approximately 4 mph too high which still means Philerup is touching 97 mph. Knocking off the same 4 mph would have had Carl Pavano [who started the game] throwing 88-89 mph, which makes sense considering this is just his second start back coming off of TJ surgery.

Some in the area have told me that the radar gun was probably about 5 mph higher than reality, meaning Hughes was essentially throwing 92-95 mph and topping out at 96 mph. Which was supported by Brian Cashman, who, while appearing on TBS during today's game, said Hughes was hitting 95 mph during last night's outing.

Let the Phil Hughes velocity obsession saga continue. Just don't think that he'll hit 100mph any time soon, unless the RHP bought a Porsche 911 and feels like dragging on the NJ Tpke.

After going to Friday's game and leaving with a heartwrenching 1-0 loss at the hands of Mariano Rivera [and his inability to pitch in a tie game this year], today was an enormous game and split for the Yankees.

By the way, here are Rivera's 2008 stats:

Non-save situations: 3.00 ERA, 21 IP, 18 hits, 7 ER, 25 K's, 3 HR
Vs.. Save situations: 0.33 ERA, 27.1 IP, 12 hits, 1 ER, 33 K's, 0 HR

Friday, August 1, 2008

In A Word, Pathetic.

C'mon now Diamond Notes. Even for a red pom-pom waver like Gammons, it's pretty comical to see such a corrosive report condemning Manny Ramirez considering how he [and the rest of ESPN] reveled in how the Manny Being Manny circus had served as a calming effect for Boston just last postseason.
At that time, the Sox were trailing Cleveland three games to one in the ALCS, when Ramirez was quoted as saying losing the series would "not [be] the end of the world." However, when Boston admirably ran off three straight wins on their way toward a second championship in four years, Manny's initially moronic comments had somehow metamorphized into an inspirational slogan.
See, when Manny's antics add up to a World Series trophy, he's the lovable dope who doesn't know any better. But, when the organization finally decides to banish the formerly lovable dope, now his actions become the indefensible behavior of a selfish clubhouse cancer. Where were you the last five years?
And as far as the threat of Ramirez possibly taking the rest of the Summer off had he not been dealt, why not take a look back at the conclusion of the 2006 season when a mysterious knee ailment [sound familiar?] allowed Ramirez to quit on his teammates. Apparently it's OK to bail on the team when they're bound for a third place finish in the AL East - as they were in '06 - but when Boston is in contention for a playoff spot - as they are in '08 - that's when Manny Being Manny becomes Manny being a malcontent.
The coup-de-grace for me was the steroid line of Gammons' column. Placing Manny's immaturity off the diamond on par with the most egregious cheaters of the game is about as palatable an idea as Wilson Betemit playing first base. Obviously, this Gammons piece has John Henry's fingerprints all over it. The Red Sox front office was happy to put a bullseye on Manny's back as he walked out Fenway's door, and, not surprisingly, Gammons was just as content to pick up the ammo from Theo Epstein before firing the killshot.
For all the times I've ripped Ramirez for his shenanigans as a Red Sox, I can at least point to my consistency. Though I always felt Manny's tendency to quit on his teammates or dog it on the basepaths would eventually take its toll on the rest of the team, I never questioned his unbelievable talent in the batter's box and I never dropped his name into the same category as steroid users like Bonds, McGwire or Giambi. One thing's for sure; July 31st, 2008 has become a holiday for Yankees fans and Yankees pitchers alike which is why It will also be interesting to see what impact not having Ramirez hitting behind him will have on David Ortiz.
Since we're on the topic of phonies, here's another unsurprising, unflattering, critique of Manny's Red Sox tenure. This one offered up by, who else, Curt Schilling during his weekly radio [via the Rob Neyer Blog]:

"At the end of the day you're taking the field with a guy who doesn't want to play with you, doesn't want to be there, doesn't want to … obviously effort-wise is just not there and that's disheartening and disappointing," Schilling said during his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI's Dennis and Callahan program."

"I enjoyed pitching with Pedro, but I watched Pedro for a year come and go as he pleased, and do whatever he pleased, from a schedule standpoint and to a point, All-Star break heading home and no one ever said a word …The things that Pedro said going out of town about Terry [Francona], that crushed me because of what I saw Tito do for him. Manny's the same way …"

Even when he's not with the team, Schilling finds a way to throw his hat into the ring. And why exactly would Red Sox fans want to hear from a guy who hasn't thrown a pitch all season and likely never will again?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Melancon Promoted To AAA

It's about time.

After dominating and piling up 75 innings between Tampa and Trenton, Marky Melancon is finally on his way to Scranton.

By now you know all the stats. If not, click on the "Mark Melancon" label at the bottom of this post. The numbers speak for themselves, to go along with glowing scouting reports on his make-up, work ethic, etc.

One would assume this is where the Yankees begin regulating Melancon's innings a bit more, so that he is only pitching a frame per outing. For Tampa and Trenton Melancon often times pitched three or more innings per appearance - which can be somewhat deceiving due to the extremely low number of pitches-per-inning he was requiring.

Yesterday's NY Post article on Melancon quoted a scout as saying the following:
"Just a year [after the surgery], to have everything back with his kind of stuff . . . that's exceptional," the scout said. "A kid can't come back the way he did without working hard."

"There are some guys who are middle relievers, that don't have the mentality to come in at the end of the game," the AL scout said. "But the way he goes about his business and gets the job done . . . once you see him, you'll know."
The article also cited the scout as saying Melancon's plus fastball currently sits 92-94 mph and his filthy power curveball is between 81-84 mph. When I saw Melancon at Trenton his fastball topped out at 95, so that sounds about right.

With the hearty workload Melancon's tasted so far this year coming back from Tommy John surgery, it's not certain whether he will enjoy a September call-up. However, he may receive the same treatment which prospects like a teenage Phil Hughes received before breaking into the majors by visiting the Yankees clubhouse when the team's at home - though he would not be allowed to sit in the dugout.

Also, Brian Cashman called buzz that Phil Coke had a torn labrum "completely false." As was the plan all along, Coke has been moved to the bullpen to limit his innings.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fallout: The Nady/Marte Deal

Goodbye Tabby...

A great trade for the Yankees? Absolutely.

A gut-punch for many Yankees fans? Definitely.

Like the old adage goes, when making an important trade each team should feel some pain once the deal is done. This one was no different.

Though the original reported trade was incorrect, the the actual deal announced today is as follows:

Yankees get: LHP Damaso Marte and OF Xavier Nady
Pirates get: OF Jose Tabata, RHP Ross Ohlendorf, RHP Dan McCutchen and RHP Jeff Karstens
The last two names were in place of RHP George Kontos and LHP Phil Coke.

While I am no scout by any means, I was fortunate enough to see every one of the six mentioned Yankees prospects in person. It hurts to lose a kid as talented and projectable as a teenage Tabata because the Yankees really sold low on him. However, having control of Nady until after the 09 season and more importantly, having Austin Jackson [who leapfrogged Tabata as a prospect this year] marginalizes the hit.

I still believe McCutchen could be a mid-rotation starter or [through his versatility] could come out of the bullpen in the late innings to help a ballclub. And I love his make-up and bulldog persona; they don't call him "Danimal" for nothing. He has thrown a couple of complete games at AAA, shows an ability to consistently throw strikes [evidenced by his low walk rates] and is not afraid of anything on the mound.

However, trading guys like McCutchen, Ohlendorf and Karstens [all RHP's] is dealing from a position of absurd strength for the Yankees. Consider this, the Yankees still have guys like Melancon, Horne, Betances, Brackman, [soon Cole], McAllister, Heredia, Cox, Patterson, Sanchez, Marquez and a host of other righties in their system. With the lack of lefthanded pitching in the system, it's encouraging that a currently surging Coke - the only legitimate upper level lefty prospect in the system - will remain a Yankee. Though, with the Jarrod Washburn talks still ongoing, it is uncertain if that will remain true.

Though Keith Law's take on the trade is generally agreeable - the ESPN writer says it's win-win for both teams - I feel he truly undersells Kontos and particularly Coke in saying they would "never" contribute to the Yankees' big club anyhow. Law states that Kontos throws 90-92 and that Coke utilizes a fringe-average fastball.

When I saw Kontos, he touched 96 mph with his fastball and, though I agree with Law that his command is at times shaky, the Northwestern product possesses a big league slider, decent curve and serviceable change. In my mind, Kontos could have a lot of value if/when he moves to a bullpen role in that his fastball which is characteristically 91-93 may jump up to the mid-90's to compliment a consistently hard slider.

Coke, who has come from out of nowhere to lead the Eastern League starters with a 2.60 ERA, struck out 109 [over 114 innings] to just 38 walks and has been absolutely dominant. Furthermore, the southpaw has seen a jump in velocity of late and is now throwing 91-93 mph and touching 94. For an already cerebral lefty, that type of power fastball is extremely impressive considering his original billing as a crafty southpaw type. If nothing else, Coke offers the Yankees a starting option from the lefthand side or a future LOOGY should one become necessary behind Marte.

To say the Yankees were given Nady and Marte for nothing is an absolute joke. Tabata, until this season, had hit .300 or better at every level and more often than not was the youngest hitter at each respective stage of his development. His power element could at any time reveal itself, especially once his wrist injury is fully healed following offseason hamate surgery and he learns to pull the ball to left. Tabata's off-field problems could return or he may never reach his full potential, but make no mistake, the kid is a legit top prospect who's had a terrible season [again, at age 19] on and off the diamond.

Considering the Yankees' need for an impact bat with the uncertainty surrounding Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and even Johnny Damon, and due to the fact that the team has zero lefthanded relievers in the already excellent bullpen, the trade made sense. Now, the team can more effectively absorb losing Posada for the season and will offer a versatile setup man to bridge Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

However, the Pirates did not hurt themselves either, picking up a blue chip positional prospect to compliment future star outfielder Andrew McCutchen as well as two young versatile right handed pitchers in Cutch/Ohlie who can provide power in the rotation or out of the pen.

Though it'd be tough to see Tabby eventually turn into Man-Ram lite, the Yankees have undeniably pushed their chips into the center of the table and can now chuckle at the clueless sportswriters decreeing this a transitional year in which the Yankees would not chase a postseason berth.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

De La Rosa Torching Competition

Wilkins De La Rosa is a name you should file away in the back of your mind so here's a little scouting report.

The 23 year-old began his professional career as a toolsy outfielder signed by the Yankees way back in 2001. But, when it became evident his hitting prowess did not match his mammoth arm in the outfield, the organization decided to put him on the mound instead.

The results have been nothing short of dazzling thus far. I first started following De La Rosa last season when he tossed 24 innings of relief for the GCL Yankees, striking out 32 batters, walking 11, allowing 20 hits and posting a 2.63 ERA. At that early stage of his pitching career, De La Rosa was reportedly already pumping fastballs 92-95mph and touching the high 90s when he needed it.

Considering the dearth of lefthanded pitching in the Yankees farm system at that time [hello Phil Coke, Anthony Bleich], De La Rosa became an intriguing must-monitor prospect for me. His rise has been fun to watch.

Moving up a level to Low-A Charleston this year, De La Rosa continued torching through hitters with ease and striking out opposing hitters at an absurd rate. Though his slider is a bit inconsistent in terms of command it projects to be a solid weapon in the future, and De La Rosa does have a solid grasp of his changeup right now to compliment a surprisingly repeatable delivery.

The result has been a stellar 2008 campaign, headed by his 94 strikeouts over 75.2 innings, .189 opponent batting average and sparkling 2.26 ERA. After spending the bulk of his year as a shutdown multi-inning reliever for the Riverdogs, De La Rosa was recently converted to the rotation. As has become a trend for De La Rosa, he again excelled in the new role. [And, believe it or not, his numbers have actually improved since becoming a starter]

Of his six starts this year, De La Rosa has only been truly stretched out as a starter for his last four outings. Over those last four starts the 6-foot-3 lean lefty tossed 23.1 innings, struck out 26 batters, walked just 5 and allowed only 4 earned runs. For a converted outfielder to not only pick up the art of pitching this quickly but simultaneously dominate his competition is rare, to say the very least.

Below are De La Rosa's last four starts:
July 2nd..... 5.1 innings, 2 hits, 1 ER, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
July 7th...... 6 innings, 2 hits, 0 ER, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts
July 13th.... 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 ER, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
July 18th.... 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 ER, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
And finally, De La Rosa's career stats as a minor league pitcher:
2.32 ERA, 93.2 IP, 63 hits, 119 strikeouts, 44 walks, 1 HR
11.49 K/9 - 1.15 WHIP - 6.08 H/9 - 0.10 HR/9 - 4.25 BB/9
It's safe to say that Wilkins has catapulted himself from an underwhelming outfielder limited to minor league limbo into a bona fide major league pitching prospect.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ahh Good Ol' China Bringing
Racism To The Olympics

Sure it's totally irrelevant to baseball and the Yankees' 7-1 blowout of the Athletics tonight [how about that D-Rob striking out the side on 11 pitches in the seventh] but this new story is too insulting to ignore.

Apparently bars with an international clientele in the party town of Sanlitun - not far from Beijing - were told not to serve black patrons before or during the Olympic games. How does a country who lets atrocities go unchecked [Tibet], promotes racism as a means of crime control [above link] and whose Olympic sailing venue was until recently unnavigable, handed the most prestigious, unifying, camaraderie-driven event on the planet? That IOC has got some kind of sick humor.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sanchez Making Progress in GCL

Bronx, NY native Humberto Sanchez - like fellow organizational arms JB Cox and Mark Melancon - is making his way back from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.
Sanchez began his rehabilitation work for the GCL Yankees on June 24th, and has been very effective in [mind you] a very small sample size. Including yesterday's outting, Sanchez has now made seven appearances in the Gulf Coast League, and over those 6.2 innings-pitched he has allowed just one earned run on three hits while striking out nine and walking three.
The only run Sanchez has allowed thus far came during his first appearance on June 24th, the first time he'd pitched in a profressional game since 2006. According to a source, Sanchez is already throwing in the low-90s mph with his fastball and may soon again reach the mid-90s with his heater in the coming months.
Before his arm surgery, Sanchez complimented a bowling-ball heavy fastball with a filthy 12-6 curveball, power slider and serviceable changeup.
Humberto's surgery was performed by James Andrews on April 17th of last year which means he is exactly 15 months out of surgery. The standard recovery period cited for most pitchers is 12-18 months, with the latter being the expected time table for the pitcher to really feel his velocity, command and strength return.
With that said, the time table for Sanchez remains a big, fat question mark at this point as every athlete responds differently to the surgery. Therefore, any belief that he could contribute to the big club in 2008 currently seems unwarranted at this juncture.
However, Sanchez's last season of work saw him dominate AA hitters for the Tigers to the tune of a 1.76 ERA over 11 starts, with 86 strikeouts in 71.2 innings and allowing just 47 hits and 27 walks. Those are some serious numbers for a starting pitcher at the proving grounds of AA level baseball.
So, if his rehab were to continue at this rate without setback or incident, and he breezed through Tampa/Trenton as a reliever, a short stay at AAA might allow him to break into the majors in September. A lot of things have to go right, however, for that to occur.
Should the Yankees begin to stretch Sanchez out with the intent of keeping him as a starting pitcher, I would believe the chances of seeing Sanchez in the Bronx in '08 would then be nil.
The best plan for Sanchez this year and for the future is as a potential closer or setup man as it will play up an already dangerous pitching arsenal and keep his innings count down which should help him avoid another injury. Whatever the case may be, Sanchez will be an entertaining prospect to watch in person if he hits the northeast later this Summer.

This'll Get My $10 Next Summer

I will give The Dark Knight the IMAX treatment this summer, but it looks like Christian Bale is again going to force me into the absurdly large and loud theater in the summer of 2009 because Terminator: Salvation looks pretty sick. I give you Exhibit A:

What's Bale got on tap for Summer 2010? Casablanca: Redux?

Nevermind, he's only filming this. A film tracing the exploits of John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Pretty Boy Floyd that is directed by Michael Mann and stars Bale, Johnny Depp, Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi and Marion Cotillard? Where do I sign up?

Bale is putting together quite a career. Underrated in Harsh Times, absolutely disgusting in The Machinist and harrowing in Rescue Dawn, just to name a few less commercial efforts.

Meanwhile, one can only hope Terry Gilliam can work his evil genius into completing this film too.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rest In Peace Lemon

Bobby Murcer dead at the age of 62. A sad, sad moment for the Yankees, Major League Baseball and all of his fans. Unfortunately, great human-beings aren't immune to cancer.

Lemon inspired countless individuals, myself being one of them. All you need to know about Bobby Murcer is the events of August 6, 1979. In the morning Murcer buried his best friend Thurman Munson and gave the eulogy during his funeral.

That night Murcer knocked in all five runs, including a 3-run homer and a walk-off two run single, generating an eruption from the jubilant Yankee Stadium crowd as well as relief within an emotionally charged home dugout.

Prayers go out to his family and friends during an obviously tough, tough time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

McCutchen Getting Close

"Danimal" McCutchen is starting to knock on the major league door with a little more authority after another solid performance Thursday night.

As of today, McCutchen has 10 starts at the AAA level and is posting an impressive 3.32 ERA. It will sound excusatory, but in nearly every one of his starts for Scranton, McCutchen's struggled and surrendered runs in one particular inning while dominating before and after.

During the five starts listed below, McCutchen has been able to avoid the one bad inning syndrome which blew up his ERA from what would have been an even more impressive number in the 2.00's. Excluding one poor start on June 20th, here are the last five outings for Cutch at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre:
July 10th.. 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 ER, 6 strikeouts, 1 walks
July 5th.... 9 innings, 5 hits, 0 ER, 10 strikeouts, 0 walk
June 30th. 6 innings, 6 hits, 1 ER, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk
June 25th. 6.2 innings, 7 hits, 3 ER, 3 strikeouts, 3 walks
June 14th. 9 innings, 6 hits, 0 ER, 4 strikeouts, 0 walks
Over these five starts, Cutch piled up 28 strikeouts over 36.2 innings and walked only five. The 28 to 5 strikeout-to-walk ratio speaks to his excellent control, but more importantly, it highlights that McCutchen's command is improving as well. Over those five starts, Danimal's WHIP is just under the 1.00 mark, which also supports the idea of a spike in command.

While he hasn't been Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain dominant, the Danimal has been consistently very, very good in the minors. Just go back and take a look at his numbers the past two years at Tampa, Trenton and now Scranton and remember he holds a 2.63 career minor league ERA over 284 innings-pitched. On a year split between AA and AAA, Cutch has a 2.97 ERA with 102 strikeouts to just 28 walks and 112 hits over 118 innings.

Look out Rasner/Ponson.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Justin Upton Is A Freak

Don't you wish you could be 20 years old, play in the major leagues and be capable of hitting 484 foot homeruns? If you haven't seen Justin Upton's mammoth, record-breaking homer from Sunday night, I recommend checking out the above link.