Wednesday, February 5, 2014

ManBan In The Bullpen? Sure, Why Not?

ESPN NY is in the middle of rolling out a big 3-part look at the Yankee farm system and its recent struggles, and while I think Wally was a little heavy-handed with his "doom and gloom" overview in Part I, there was an eye-catching bit about Manny Banuelos that I think warrants further discussion:

"Banuelos has got that big arm," a front office source said. "If it's still there and the lightning still strikes then you're going see people say, 'Fuck it, bring him with us [on Opening Day].'"

I've been a big advocate of giving ManBan a real chance at a rotation spot in camp this year.  There's nothing to lose really.  If he doesn't pitch well enough to earn it, send him to Triple-A.  But I could totally get on board with bringing him along on the Opening Day roster in the bullpen if he pitches well enough for one of those open spots.

AB4AR's Top 5 Prospect Tools: Defense

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Just when you thought Prospect Week was over, it reaches up out of the water like Jason at the end of the original "Friday The 13th" and pulls you back under one more time.

I mentioned last week that I didn't get to touch on as many of the tool rankings as I wanted to, so I figured a slow news day was a good time to circle back and hit the one I most wanted to cover.  Like I did with the pitching stuff rankings last week, I'm going to make things easy here and lump all the various defensive skills into one category for this list.  Speed, range, hands, footwork, timing, arm strength, instincts, it's all being balled up into the "defense" category, otherwise I don't think I could ever settle on a top 5 for each individual skill.  After the jump, my top 5 defensive prospects.

What Is Preston Claiborne's Ceiling?

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(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

On Monday, I took a quick peek back at Preston Claiborne's 2013 season.  He became the latest homegrown reliever to graduate to the show last year and as we all know now that graduation resulted in some very mixed results.  Long story short, Claiborne started off like a house on fire in May and June, pitched pretty well in July, then fell apart in August and September.  All together it added up to a 4.11/4.14/3.88 slash line, 19.6% K rate, 6.5% BB rate, and 0.2 fWAR in 50.1 IP.

Despite my multiple suggestions that the Yankees need to go out and acquire another relief pitcher, including the latest one from a few days ago, they seem prepared to head to camp with what they've got and sort out the back end of their relief corp in Spring Training.  That leaves Claiborne as the unofficial "7th Inning Guy" right now, at least I'm assuming it does since he was the 4th of the 4 guys Joe mentioned by name when asked about the bullpen last month.  That's not a bad spot to be for a player who never popped up on any top prospect lists while he worked his way through the system and never had his stuff talked about by scouts anywhere near as much as a Dellin Betances or a Jose Ramirez or even a Mark Montgomery.  The question now becomes can Claiborne hold onto that spot this year?  And looking further down the road, can he develop into anything more than a middle reliever?

You And Me Both, Brett

Brett Gardner was honored at the Munson Awards Dinner last night, and he took time out to speak to the media about the Yankee offseason and expectations for the upcoming season.  When asked about his reaction to the Jacoby Ellsbury signing, Gardner was pretty straightforward and honest:

“I was surprised at first.  I didn't really see that coming."

Gardner went on to praise Ellsbury and said he's looking forward to playing with him this year, but I can see where he's coming from.  It looked like Gardner was going to seize the center field reins for good when he took C-Grand's spot last year and after only 1 year he had the job taken away from him heading into a contract year.  That has to sting a little.

From a baseball perspective it makes sense.  Gardner is a good but not great hitter and Ellsbury is a little better than him, and he was a good but not great defender in center field last year according to most metrics and Ellsbury is a little better than him there as well.  Gardner's defensive value is maximized in left and I think he'll compete for all the major outfield awards in 2014 if he stays healthy.  And who knows, if he uses this as motivation, maybe his offensive output will jump back up to 2010 levels or better.  Still, it's never fun to lose your job and the decision to sign Ellsbury and move Gardner back to left may end up pushing Gardner to look elsewhere when he hits the FA market next offseason.