Tuesday, August 17, 2010

RAB's Updated Top 30 Yankee Prospects And 5 Interesting Questions To Ask About Them

(Photo of Cito Culver used courtesy of RAB)

Everybody who reads this site (assuming there is anybody that actually reads it in the first place) knows I'm a sucker for prospects and Minor League evaluations.  I love looking at stats and updates on all the players and planning out in my head how they can all help contribute to the future success of the Yanks.  Now that the rookie draft pick signing period has ended, Mike A. at RAB has updated his Top 30 Yankee Prospects List and it proved to be the perfect reading material to kill time and come up with ideas while I recover from my insane sunburn here at the beach house instead of having my brain melted by the endless drivel on ESPN and ESPN 2.

The quick highlights of the list, in case you don't have time to read it:

- The Yankee catching prospects, The Jesus, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy, and Gary Sanchez, are all either currently raking or have been raking at some point this season.  With each guy spread across every level of the Minors, there is no shortage of potential replacements for Jorge.

- The Yankee pitching prospect pool has filled up this year thanks to continued improvement by guys like Nova and Hector Noesi, excellent performances in the early stages of pro ball by guys like Manny Banuelos, Graham Stoneburner, and Jose Ramirez, and big-time bouncenbacks from injury by Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances.

- Postionally, the Yankees are a little light, especially in the outfield, where only Slade Heathcott has done anything noteworthy to date.  There are some solid infield prospects like David Adams and Brandon Laird, but with the current situation in the Yankee infield, these guys aren't going to putting on the pinstripes anytime soon.

So after I got done drooling over everybody in the article like a lush couger mom at her son's college grad party, I got to thinking about what this rebirth of the Yankee farm system means for the future and how the Yankees plan to maximize this talent.  Here are 5 questions that I asked:

1) How will the Yankees use this growing stable of pitching talent to help the team?

In the past, it was a solid bet that none of these guys would end up ever seeing the Yankee 25-man roster, but with the Yanks' commitment to rebuilding their farm system over the last 5 years and their propensity this year and last for adding undervalued guys for lower or no prospects at the trade deadline, the chances are much brighter.  I'm sure one or two will get moved in a trade, but since Cash has shown he's willing to hold onto his high-ceiling prospects (Hughes, Joba, Cano, Jesus), it's a good bet that we'll be seeing almost all of these guys on the mound for the Yankees in one way or another.

2) How many out of that stable will actually end up wearing the pinstripes?

Again, it's impossible to know for sure, but I would say Ivan Nova is a sure bet since they've already used him this year.  Brackman and Betances have to be considered locks since big guys with stuff like theirs' don't come along often and they project as higher-end of the rotation pitchers.  I would say Noesi, Stoneburner, and Banuelos also have a good shot because of their young age and upside, and then its guys like Ramirez, David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Brett Marshall who are more likely to become trade pieces.

3) How do the Yankees use all the catching prospects to help the team?

At this point, it's looking more and more likely that The Jesus will be on the 25-man next season.  That move should start the rotation that pushes Romine up to Triple-A, Murphy up to Double-A, and Sanchez up to some level of A-ball next year.  The problem is there are only so many catchers you can have and these guys aren't going to stay in the Minors forever, so if Montero turns out to be able to catch full-time in the Majors I would bet 2 out of the other 3 get traded for starting pitching or bullpen help during future trade deadlines.

4) Is there any potential for a few infield guys to replace Jeter a/o A-Rod?

Not likely, given the money those 2 make and their standing with the team, but I think there is potential for an Adams or a Laird to become a Luis Sojo/Mariano Duncan-type utility bench guy since both of their bats are far superior to Ramiro Pena's.  And with Jeter covering less and less ground, there is room for opportunity.  Who knows?  Maybe Adams shows enough at Triple-A for the Yankees to give him a shot at 2nd?  Robbie Cano has showed great range at 2nd this year, could he transition to SS?...

5) What impact will the draft class of 2010 have?

The 2010 draft was a high-risk, hopefully high-reward draft for the Yanks.  Cito Culver ditched on his commitment to Maryland almost immediately and is already making a good showing in rookie ball.  Rob Segedin has a big bat, and Mason Williams has all the tools to become a great player.  Most of these guys were projects, though, so it's going to be at least a few years before anything can definitively be said about them.  But the "high potential" tags that many of them have give the Yankees more flexibility when it comes to keeping and developing or using as trade bait, which is exactly what the Yankees like to have.

2-Game Slump Thoughts And Afterthoughts

- Well it's official now.  If you want a guaranteed way to beat the Yankees just throw a pitcher out there that they've never faced before.  You would have thought Brian Bullington and Max Scherzer were neck and neck for the Cy Young Award the way they dominated the Bombers over the last 2 days.

- The sad thing is that the Yanks get shut down by marginal or mediocre young pitchers like this all the time.  The even sadder thing is that the "never faced before" excuse seems to fly for them and the YES announcers.  I don't give a fuck if they've faced a guy a million times or none.  It's not that hard to have people in your organization study film of their OTHER starts, take notes on their tendencies, and build a profile for the team to work off of when they come up against a new opponent. 

Guys like Bullington, with his winless career and "major bust" status shouldn't need to have been seen before for the Yankees to beat him into the ground.  But if that's what these guys need to succeed, then somebody in the scouting department needs to get on checking the schedule and preparing for pitchers the Yankees don't have a history against.

- Where has all the clutch hitting gone?  I commented a week ago on how the Yankees hitting with RISP could have cost them 2 games against Boston, and that inability to get the big hit has continued to plague them.  Everyone in the Detroit bullpen gave them chances last night, putting runners on like it was going out of style, and the Yanks could do nothing with the opportunities gift wrapped and handed to them.

- Frankie Cervelli, the darling of April and May, isn't making a good case for himself to get any kind of major playing time next year with The Jesus on the horizon.  He has completely stopped hitting, including with RISP, which was his calling card earlier in the year, and his defense has been incredibly lackluster over the last couple weeks.  The 'loaf after a bad throw and then make a shitty throw to 2nd' combo on Sunday almost brought my lunch back up when I watched it.

- Javy Vazquez needs to be put on the DL, period.  Guy has no velocity and no movement, which is a bad combination for a starting pitcher in the Majors.  Clearly there is something more going on than just him not having his command, and the Yanks can't afford to send him out for just 4 or 5 shit innings and tax the bullpen every 5th day when they're in the middle of a playoff race.  I know it's probably not what they want to do, but Vazquez needs 15 days to rest and get his shit together and Ivan Nova deserves a chance to show what he can do at the Major League level.  Who knows?  Maybe other teams facing Nova will suffer the same fate the Yankee hitters do against every young pitcher in baseball.

- How ironic is it that the rest of the Yankees completely disappear when the bullpen gets it all together and starts to become the asset it was expected to be at the beginning of the year?  I'd say at least a solid 6.5-7 out of 10 on the irony scale.

- Now if you want to jump up to the 8-9 range on the irony scale, let's talk about Curtis Granderson and his newfound swing waking up and starting to produce at the same time the rest of the lineup turned into a bunch of first- or second-pitch swinging hackers.

- And while we're on Granderson's swing, how awesome is Kevin Long?  Guys have problems and he fixes them pronto.  Teix can't do anything at the plate and he opens his stance up.  He takes the movement out of Swish's stance and swing and suddenly Swish is hitting .300.  He does the same with C-Grand and now Grandy can actually get hits again!  He's less hitting coach and more mystical wizard as far as I'm concerned. 

- I don't want to sound like too much of a Debbie Downer (even though I already do), and I definitely don't want to look past the great year he has had, but what's up with Robbie Cano?  His tripleslash has been slowly going down over the last couple weeks and he's not scoring any runs nor driving any in.  At this rate the dude is going to end up "just" hitting .300 on the year with less than 100 RBIs, which didn't look like it was even possible a few months ago.

- I don't want to hear about how he's gotten a bunch of hits over the last week or anything like that.  Derek Jeter needs to swallow his fucking pride and have a little session with Kevin Long, because I'm sick and tired of watching him ground everything to the left side of the infield, especially with runners on base.  His first GIDP last night was bad enough with 2 on, but to ground out to short to end the game last night when Jose Valverde was doing everything he possibly could to help the Yankees win short of ripping off his Tigers jersey to show a Yankee one underneath, was just disgraceful.  Jeter's continued weak pulls to the left, his lower than low OBP, and his nonexistent range in the field right now aren't exactly giving him a lot of ammo for his offseason contract negotiations.

- Speaking of limited range, I know Jeter and A-Rod don't have a lot of errors this season, which may make some people think they are in line for Gold Gloves.  But the plain fact of the matter is they just don't get to any balls hit to the left side.  Any ball hit with a little speed into the hole between them is surely getting through, and that's a bad thing.

- Great play by Gardner trying to take out Carlos Guillen in the 9th to break up the double play.  You don't see a lot of guys slide that late and hard and sacrifice their bodies anymore.  He's also looking better and more patient at the plate again, so that's a good sign.  If he can keep the hitting up it might be time for Joe to consider juggling to lineup to move Gardner to the leadoff spot.

- I know what I said after his 3 homers on Saturday, but with this latest tweaky little injury, I'm starting to have my doubts about whether or not A-Rod will reach 763.  The dude just plain can't stay healthy anymore.  He's always pulling this and straining that.  I know it's tough for centaurs to stretch that many legs, but would it kill him to get out and do a few more calisthenics?

- I don't know what the deal is with this team right now, but it looks to me like they need a little kick in the ass.  And by kick in the ass I mean Joe getting off his own ass, getting that "blah" look off his face in the dugout, and managing the fucking team.

The Yanks have been on top of the division for months now and it looks like they've gotten a little complacent and a little too comfortable.  During a time when the Rays were stumbling and bumbling and the Red Sox were down on the mat, the Yanks should have stepped on their throats and closed out the division.  Instead, they've been playing lazy, sloppy, uninspired baseball and now they find themselves tied for the lead with Tampa again as Boston is starting to get off the deck.

Maybe they need this little jolt of competition to get themselves re-focused, but it would have been nice to see them keep their collective feet on the gas and make a statement that they are the team to beat.  If they can't self motivate each other in the clubhouse then the job falls on Joe.  He's already said they need to hit and play better to the media during his press conferences, now it's time for him to air his team out and make sure they get the message.

Injuries or no injuries, struggles or no struggles, this team is still the best team in baseball.  Now it's time for them to start playing like it again.