All winter we heard about the Yankees young pitching talent, a series of arms that could help out sooner rather than later. A week and a half into spring training, manager Joe Girardi is sold on both the quantity and the quality.
“I’ve seen a lot of good things this spring, from a lot of the young kids as well,” he said. “I thought Phelps threw pretty well today. Warren. Brackman. All of these kids have thrown the ball extremely well at this point in camp. I’m happy. Very happy… We’ve talked about that we have pitching coming, and I really believe that.”
Today, Girardi was asked specifically quite a bit about Manny Banuelos, largely because Banuelos faced live hitters on the main field, with Girardi watching most of the BP session. Girardi said what he saw “matches up” with what he’d already heard about Banuelos. Right now, Girardi knows what he wants to see out of young pitchers, and Banuelos has shown it.
“Strikes, and good strikes,” Girardi said. “Not just strikes, but good strikes. If they throw a ball where they don’t want to, can they adjust quickly? Say he throws a curveball and leaves it way up, can they adjust and get it where (they want it)? What I’ve seen, he’s pretty good at it.”
That said, the plan remains the same. The Yankees are happy with their pitching depth, but they brought in some rotation options that might buy the kids a little more time to develop.
“You have to be open minded, you have to evaluate,” Girardi said. “But it’s not necessarily what you plan on going in.”
• More evidence that the Yankees take Bartolo Colon seriously as a rotation option: “He’s looked pretty good,” Girardi said. “It’s the Bartolo that I remember: A guy that keeps the ball down, uses his fastball a lot and is able to hit his spots.”
• New lefty Pedro Feliciano is used to pitching 85 to 90 times each year. Last year, no Yankees reliever made more than 73 appearances. Boone Logan, Damaso Marte and Royce Ring combined for fewer appearances than Feliciano made last season. “I talked to him about the way we do things here,” Girardi said. “That I’m not a big proponent of throwing guys three days in a row, so don’t be surprised if I do some things different. He’s important to our bullpen. We have to keep him healthy all year long.”
• Eduardo Nunez and Austin Romine were sent home sick today. “It’s the head cold and the throat,” Girardi said. “We gave them medicine and sent them home. We felt that was the best thing to do.”
• With Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliard, the Yankees have given themselves some options for veteran experience on the bench. And not just experience, but guys who were very good everyday players before settling into supporting roles. “I think it’s great, because you know they know how to play the game,” Girardi said. “You know that situations when they get in that day to play, there’s not going to be an extreme emotional high. They’re going to prepare the way they’ve always prepared. They know the league, they know the ballparks and they know what it takes to be successful.”
• On the other hand, the Yankees have taken notice of Brandon Laird: “He’s obviously proven that he knows how to drive in a run, he knows how to put good at-bats together when guys are on base,” Girardi said. “He’s a guy that you might think about (on the roster).”
• Speaking of which… Charging choppers at third base this morning, Laird might a nice play on a short hop at the edge of the grass. Minor league defensive coordinator Torre Tyson, who was doing the hitting for the defensive drill, said, “You couldn’t get there two years ago.” Laird agreed, said he had no shot at making that play two years ago. He looks pretty good at third these days. Not implying he’s a defensive wizard, but I haven’t seen anything to make me think Laird can’t play the position.
• Didn’t see anything particularly out of the ordinary about defensive positioning during drills today. Ronnie Belliard continued to take some reps at first base, and I did see Brad Suttle go to first base for a while.
• Dave Robertson was the only pitcher I saw throw his batting practice without a protective screen in front of him. Some pitchers just hate having the thing in front of them and feel like it actually causes them to mess with their mechanics (they feel like their arm or the ball is going to hit the screen). Robertson pitched without it, and as soon as he was done, the screen was put back in place for Ivan Nova.
• Didn’t seem serious, but Colin Curtis fouled a ball off his calf and crashed to the dirt. He was hobbling around for a while, and got some ice for it, but he should be fine.
• Here’s a must-read Times piece about the relationship between Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry. Four years ago, during my first spring training covering the Yankees organization, Berra was the very first person I saw when I first walked into the Yankees clubhouse.
Associated Press photos: Girardi surrounded by players; Berra with Derek Jeter; Alex Rodriguez laughing during drills
Tuesday notes: Early rotation takes shape • 02.22.11
Can’t make too much of the Yankees rotation on February 22, but for now it’s the only thing we know about the most uncertain part of the roster. In the competition to fill the final two starting spots, Bartolo Colon will have the first chance to impress.
“I feel ready,” Colon said through a translator. “I pitched a lot in the winter, and I know I pitched very good. I’m ready to demonstrate to the Yankees that I’m ready to pitch.”
It was that winter success that led the Yankees to sign Colon, and it was that winter experience that led Joe Girardi to choose him for the spring opener. Girardi said Colon is “possibly a little more ready” than some of the other starters.
This morning, though, while Colon was pitching on the back field, Girardi was on the main field watching Freddy Garcia.
“He looked pretty good to me,” Girardi said. “As I’ve said all along, Freddy knows how to pitch, and he knows how to compete. He knows what he has to do to get ready. He threw a lot of strikes and he mixed his pitches and he looked OK.”
• Girardi said the current rotation alignment of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes — in that order — is not necessarily indicative of the way the rotation will line up in April. “Things might bounce around a little bit, but right now that’s how we have them lined up,” Girardi said.
• Girardi has previously said Sergio Mitre will start games this spring, but Girardi said he hasn’t mapped out when Mitre might make his first start. “I’m not out that far,” he said. So far we only know the first six starters. Mitre will work out of the bullpen for now.
• Will Mariano Rivera throw a bullpen tomorrow? “I don’t know exactly,” Girardi said. “That’s not a question I ask on a daily basis, when Mo is going to throw. I know he’ll be ready when we leave here.”
• Girardi said it’s too early to know much about Mark Prior, but he liked what he saw out of Prior — and Boone Logan — during today’s early morning live batting practice sessions. “I thought (Prior) threw the ball pretty good,” Girardi said. “To me it’s still early. This is a guy that hasn’t pitched a lot lately, and it’s still early, but I thought he threw the ball OK. So did Booney.”
• Speaking of guys throwing to hitters: “I’ve actually been really happy with the way our guys have thrown BP, collectively as a group,” Girardi said. “I haven’t seen everyone because I’m on one field, but I’ve been pleased.”
• The Yankees did some team fielding drills this morning. There was a player at every position — some taking turns at a position — and the pitcher would pretend to throw a pitch, at which point Tony Pena would shoot a fly ball with a ball machine. He spread the fly balls to different players, including infielders, and everyone reacted accordingly (backing up, hitting the cutoff man, covering bases, etc). Nothing unusual or especially insightful, just the first the Yankees have done that sort of full-squad drill this spring.
• I only saw the team fielding drills on the main field, didn’t see the half of the team that was going through the same drills in the back. If you’re interested, here’s the defensive alignment on the main field: 1B Teixeira, 2B Russo/Pena, SS Pena/Maruszak, 3B Rodriguez/Laird, LF Golson/Curtis, CF Gardner/Mesa, RF Swisher/Maxwell. Not that I think it matters very much, but thought it was kind of interesting that they had Gardner doing his work in center instead of left.
• During batting practice, groups that aren’t hitting take more ground balls and fly balls, just like during BP during the season. Today, Eric Chavez split his BP defensive drills between third base and first base.
• Speaking of Chavez, it occurred to me today that the Yankees have Brandon Laird in a defensive drills group with Rodriguez and in a hitting group with Chavez. That means, any time Laird is on the field, he’s with either Rodriguez or Chavez, two third basemen who can give the kid plenty of advice about big league success. Eduardo Nunez hits and fields with Derek Jeter.
• Speaking of Nunez, he caught my eye during batting practice today. I saw him hit one ball out to left-center and he seemed to be consistently driving the ball to all fields.
• Jeter likes the Carmelo Anthony trade. “The Knicks made a good trade,” he said. “It was a good job. Carmelo is going to help them out. Everyone in New York is excited about it.”
Associated Press photos of Garcia, Sabathia and Jeter
Exactly one week after the first official workout for pitchers and catchers, Yankees camp opened this morning with Dellin Betances taking the mound on the main field here at Steinbrenner Field. Two hitters, Austin Krum and Greg Golson, took turns against him.
I asked Golson how Betances looked, and Golson gave a classic hitter’s response: He said he refuses to say any pitcher’s stuff was good, even if it’s during a batting practice session in front of no one but a few coaches. If Golson gets out, it’s his own fault. I thought it was pretty funny, but I don’t think Golson meant it as a joke.
Apparently Betances is the only pitcher who faced hitters this morning. There should be more later in the day.
• Infielder Addison Maruszak has been added to big league camp, but he’s here as a catcher. Primarily a shortstop, he was the Yankees 17th-round pick in 2008, and he’s played all over the infield. This fall Maruszak started getting some time at catcher during instructs. The Yankees have always like Maruszak’s arm, and he said they’re grooming as a kind of eight-position utility man. He’s never played the outfield as a pro, but he’s certain he could handle it. Maruszak said he’s already pretty comfortable behind the plate, though he’s still honing his instincts back there.
• Maruszak said he’s not sure how long he’ll be in big league camp. He doesn’t know whether this will be an occasional thing, a one-or-two day stint, or if he’s here until being reassigned just like everyone else. As far as I know he hasn’t been officially added to the spring roster.
• Hector Noesi said this morning that he was throwing bullpens back home, so he’s not really behind the other pitchers in camp. He was never concerned that he wouldn’t be able to get here.
• Random observation: Francisco Cervelli spent the winter working out with Robinson Cano, but it’s funny how much he still follows and constantly talks to Jorge Posada. Once a mentor, always a mentor, I guess.
• On the sheet of paper that lists the hitting and defensive assignments for the day, every player name is typed in black ink with two exceptions: Brandon Laird and Kevin Russo are written in red. I assume that’s because they’re the guys who will shuttle between infield and outfield drills.
• Bullpen assignments:
Andy Sisco (to Francisco Cervelli)
Andrew Brackman (to Kyle Higashioka)
Steve Garrison (to Kyle Higashioka)
Daniel Turpen (to Jesus Montero)
David Phelps (to Austin Romine)
Adam Warren (to Jose Gil)
D.J. Mitchell (to Jose Gil)
Eric Wordekemper (to Addison Maruszak)
• Hitting groups: Most are the same as yesterday, with catchers moving around
Infield Group 1: Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Jorge Posada
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Austin Romine
Infield Group 3: Eric Chavez, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, Jose Gil
Infield Group 4: Doug Bernier, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Addison Maruszak
Outfield Group 1: Greg Golson, Andruw Jones, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin
Outfield Group 2: Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Justin Maxwell, Francisco Cervelli
Outfield Group 3: Colin Curtis, Jordan Parraz, Melky Mesa, Kyle Higashioka
Outfield Group 4: Daniel Brewer, Austin Krum, Brandon Laird, Gustavo Molina, Jesus Montero
• Fielding groups: The exact same as yesterday’s groups, Maruszak wasn’t listed with a defensive group
Catcher Group 1: Jose Gil, Russell Martin, Gustavo Molina, Russell Martin
Catcher Group 2: Francisco Cervelli, Kyle Higashioka, Jorge Posada, Austin Romine
Infield Group 1: Doug Bernier, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Brandon Laird, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Russo, Mark Teixeira
Outfield Group 1: Daniel Brewer, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones, Austin Krum, Jordan Parraz
Outfield Group 2: Colin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Nick Swisher
Sunday notes: Less is more • 02.20.11
The weight issue won’t quite go away here in Tampa. Alex Rodriguez arrived in camp a little bit lighter. Buster Olney reported it was 10 pounds lighter. Joe Girardi said it wasn’t quite that much. Whatever the exact number, it’s more than a pound or two, but not so much that Rodriguez looks drastically different.
“Sometimes guys just feel like they want to be a little bit lighter,” Girardi said. “It might add to their game. Physically they might bounce back quicker. That’s not uncommon for a player to try to put more energy into their body, and sometimes it is by not having to carry so much mass.”
Girardi said he didn’t know Rodriguez was planning to lose weight until Rodriguez reported to camp. But seeing him, Girardi has no complaints.
“This is just the weight that he showed up,” Girardi said. “He showed up in very good shape, so I’m not going to complain about that.”
“I’m careful to not try to push players right now or to say a whole lot to pitchers — we need a little bit more, your breaking ball’s not quite as sharp – because I don’t want them trying to overdo it,” Girardi said. “Sometimes there might even be a guy that’s throwing the ball well, and if I come around I see that he missed a couple of spots, I might just move on (if it’s) a young guy. I don’t want them thinking, gosh, the manager’s watching. Just let them go about their business. There will be plenty of time to evaluate.”
• That said, five pitchers threw batting practice to actual hitters early this morning: Joba Chamberlain, Ivan Nova, Dave Robertson, Brian Anderson and Manny Banuelos. “Some guys got an early morning wakeup call at 8:15,” Girardi said.
• Eight more pitchers will throw BP tomorrow. Girardi didn’t say who.
• Because there are fewer workout days, there will be no intrasquad games before the actual spring schedule.
• Girardi said he knows who he wants to start the spring opener, but he wants to wait a few days to make sure that pitcher is still good to go. He promised to make the announcement on Tuesday.
• When he finished hitting, Jorge Posada spent some time at first base. Girardi said it’s possible Posada could see some time at the position this spring, but whether he’s a legitimate option at first during the season depends on who else is on the roster. “Is it a viable option? Is it an emergency option? A lot of it depends on the makeup of your roster,” Girardi said.
• Kevin Russo was listed as an infielder today, but he instead worked as an outfielder during drills. He said he expects to work in the infield tomorrow.
• Random infield assignments: Eric Chavez, Brad Suttle and Brandon Laird did their infield work at third base, and Jorge Vazquez got his time at first. Those four will probably spend time at both infield corners this spring. Ronnie Belliard and Doug Bernier got time at both second base and shortstop, though the time at short was just fielding grounders. I doubt Belliard is being looked at as a shortstop option. Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez both worked at shortstop.
• Tino Martinez has arrived in Yankees camp as a guest instructor.
• Girardi and his staff are still discussing possible team outings. Not sure what it will be this year.
Associated Press photos of Jeter with Rodriguez during stretch; Nova in the bullpen; and Andruw Jones in the outfield
Spring decision: Fourth spot on the bench • 02.12.11
The Yankees know Andruw Jones will be their fourth outfielder. They know their utility infielder will be one of two candidates. They know their backup catcher will be either Francisco Cervelli or one of the young guys. The spot that seems wide open is the fourth man on the bench, a spot that could go to either an infielder or an outfielder, a power bat or a pinch runner, a defensive replacement or a potential pinch hitter.
The Yankees could go almost any direction with this spot. If they want additional outfield depth, Greg Golson and Justin Maxwell are both speedy, right-handed hitters who could be defensive replacements or pinch runners, and Colin Curtis could be a left-handed balance to Jones. In the infield, the Yankees could choose to carry both Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena, or they could carry one of those two as a backup shortstop, with either Eric Chavez or Ron Belliard — or Brandon Laird or Kevin Russo or Jorge Vazquez — available to fill in at the corners.
The easy choice
That’s what the Yankees are hoping for: An easy choice. If anyone steps up in spring training and puts himself clearly above the other candidates, the Yankees choice will be simple. It seems that in an ideal world, Chavez will prove he’s healthy and can still hit for power. He would be a left-handed hitter on a predominantly right-handed bench, and if he can step in as the guy to give Alex Rodriguez an occasional day off at third base, that might be the best use of the fourth bench spot. Any other choice — either a fifth outfielder or a light-hitting second utility man — would have no clear role other than late-inning defense and base-running.
If Chavez is finished, the Yankees could focus on late-inning defense and base-running. Carrying both Pena and Nunez would let the team use either one as a pinch runner without losing defensive flexibility. The same would be true for either Golson or Maxwell, each of whom has enough speed to steal a bag and could slide into right field for the last inning or two.
Normally, the fact Curtis is a left-handed hitter would be a negative in an already left-leaning outfield, but of the favorites for a bench job, Jones, Cervelli and Nunez are all right-handed, and switch-hitter Pena isn’t much of an offensive threat from either side of the plate. If Chavez doesn’t emerge as a legitimate option from the left side, Curtis could bring some left-right balance to the bench.
The Yankees could also prioritize flexibility, opening a spot for either Russo or Brandon Laird as a player capable of filling in at the infield and outfield corners.
A separate but related issue
Eleven players had at least 150 at-bats for the Yankees last season (a group that included Pena and the since-departed Marcus Thames). Of the group that had fewer than 150 ABs, no one had more home runs or RBI than Juan Miranda. Defensive versatility is crucial on the bench, but the Yankees might be on the lookout for a hitter who can bounce back and forth from Scranton and occasionally give the Yankees productive big league at-bats, regardless of defensive ability.
Associated Press photos of Curtis and Chavez
I didn’t intentionally time it this way, but Ed’s guest post about the construction of the Yankees minor league system happened to come on the same day MLB Network and MLB.com are revealing their Top 50 Prospects. The list will be announced at 9 p.m., broadcast on the television network and on the website. You can bet that Jesus Montero will be near the top.
Leading up to the Top 50, MLB.com has already ranked the top 10 prospects at each position.
Yankees on the list: Jesus Montero (1), Gary Sanchez (3), Austin Romine (8)
Yankees top prospect: Montero
The top catcher on last year’s MLB.com list was National League Rookie of the Year Buster Posey, who opened 2010 in the minor leagues before hitting his way to San Francisco. There’s obviously a chance Montero could do the same thing for New York this season.
Yankees on the list: None
Yankees top prospect: Luke Murton
The Yankees really don’t have a standout first base prospect, which isn’t a significant issue with Mark Teixeira in New York. The Yankees best long-term first base prospect is probably someone currently playing a different position, maybe third baseman Brandon Laird or catcher J.R. Murphy. Of the guys primarily playing first right now, I’ll give the nod to Murton, but you could just as easily make a case for Jorge Vazquez (more advanced), Kyle Roller (higher draft pick) or Reymond Nunez (more raw talent).
Yankees on the list: Eduardo Nunez (9)
Yankees top prospect: Corban Joseph
MLB.com put Nunez, a natural shortstop, on its list of second basemen and cited the probability that he’ll be cast in a utility role with the Yankees. Makes perfect sense, and I agree. Of the guys currently playing second base for the Yankees, I’ll go with Joseph as the top prospect, barely ahead of likely Trenton teammate David Adams. Both are interesting young players, but Nunez is more advanced.
Yankees on the list: None
Yankees top prospect: Eduardo Nunez
Nunez made MLB.com’s list at second base but not at shortstop. What stands out about the shortstop ranking is how many of the Top 10 are low-level players who are still extremely raw and young. It’s tough to stick at shortstop, which is part of the reason Nunez has real value (he’s made it this far). The Yankees have their own young, raw shortstop in first-round pick Cito Culver.
Yankees on the list: None
Yankees top prospect: Brandon Laird
Frankly, I think Laird has a chance to make the same sort of impact as some of the guys on MLB.com’s list. I might not have said that two years ago, but Laird has steadily produced, and now he’s one level away from the big leagues. Might not be a superstar, but he’s a good bet to help at the Major League level.
Yankees on the list: None
Yankees top prospect: Slade Heathcott
MLB.com’s list of outfielders starts with Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Domonic Brown. The Yankees don’t have anyone with that kind of hype or perceived potential, but Heathcott is a good young athlete, and the Yankees have quite a few interesting center fielders in their lower levels. On the whole, though, the outfield is a bit of an organizational weakness.
Yankees on the list: None
Yankees top prospect: Dellin Betances
Predictably, there are a lot of talented right-handers in minor league baseball, and listing the top 10 would be a matter of extreme preference. Betances is a legitimate prospect who belongs in the same sentence as some of the guys listed by MLB.com. He could pitch his way into the middle of the rotation, if not higher, and he could do it within the next year or two.
Yankees on the list: Manny Banuelos (10)
Yankees top prospect: Banuelos
This is a pretty impressive list of lefties, and MLB.com notes that Banuelos showed improved velocity in 2010, leading to projection as a “front-line starter in the not-too-distant future.” I consider him the top pitching prospect in the system, though Baseball American ranked him one spot behind Betances.
Yankees organizational depth: First base • 01.09.11
Up next in a position-by-position look at the Yankees organization we’ll turn to first base, where the Yankees lack of organizational depth shouldn’t be a significant concern because of the guy who’s already playing the position in New York.
In the big leagues
If you go from 2004 through 2009 and choose Mark Teixeira’s lowest single-season batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage you get this slash line: .281/.370/.514. That makes last year’s slash line of .256/.365/.481 a complete outlier. It was quite literally — in every way — unprecedented since Teixeira’s rookie year. No Yankees position player is better positioned for a rebound season than their soon-to-be 31-year-old first baseman. At his age, there’s little reason to expect a repeat of 2010, which is good for the Yankees because he’s locked up through the 2016 season.
On the verge
For the past three years, the first baseman waiting in the Triple-A shadows has been Juan Miranda. He always hit, but his path was always blocked and this winter he was traded to Arizona. Instead, the immediate minor league depth at first base centers on Jorge Vazquez and Brandon Laird. Vazquez is a veteran of the Mexican League, a raw power hitter who slugged .526 in Triple-A last season. Laird is a self-made prospect who’s spent most of his time at third base and is starting to see time in the outfield corners. Laird is more versatile than Vazquez — plus he has a 40-man spot with more prospect hype — but Vazquez isn’t out of the picture entirely. He’d have to impress to jump ahead of Laird for a call-up, but he’ll probably get most of the Triple-A starts at first base.
Deep in the system
Even in the lower levels, there isn’t a lot of pure first-base talent that jumps out as big-name prospects. Kyle Roller was the Yankees eight-round draft pick this summer, and he hit .272/.367/.402 while leading Staten Island in total bases last year. Luke Murton was a 19th-round pick in ’09 and slugged .463 in Charleston last season. A first-base wild card is Reymond Nunez, who’s shown good power in the extremely low levels of the system but hit just .222/.263/.361 and suffered a hamstring injury last year. He could be in the mix in Charleston, if not in April maybe some time during the season.
Organizational depth chart
My own rough guess. It’s far too early for the Yankees to settle on who will be where next season.
New York: Mark Teixeira
Scranton/WB: Jorge Vazquez
Trenton: Myron Leslie, Brad Suttle
Tampa: Luke Murton
Charleston: Kyle Roller
The true New York first-base depth chart probably includes Nick Swisher and Brandon Laird as well, but as long as Teixeira stays healthy, those two will obviously get most of their playing time elsewhere.
Suttle is a good defensive third baseman, but I listed him in the mix at first only because the Triple-A and Double-A infields are pretty crowded, and first base could be a position used primarily to get people at-bats. If Suttle, David Adams and Corban Joseph all open in Trenton, there will be only so many second base and third base at-bats to go around. Leslie is a former independent leaguer who could fill the gap. Guys like Rob Lyerly, Addison Maruszak, and Ramon Flores could also get some time at first base in the full-season leagues, but they primarily play other positions.
Associated Press photo of Teixeira, headshots of Teixeira, Vazquez and Murton
Now that Russell Martin is on the roster, it’s likely both Jesus Montero and Austin Romine will open the season the minor leagues. In theory, each should each be in Triple-A, but that’s a logjam the Yankees don’t want.
“They need to catch, so that’s something we’ll deal with if we get there,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “I wouldn’t want them to split right now.”
Montero and Romine split catching duties in the lower levels, but at this point, both need to get used to catching every day. They also need repetition behind the plate so that they improve defensively.
Obviously the Yankees won’t set anything in stone right now, but the arrival of Martin could force Romine back to Trenton, where last season he hit .268 with a second half that was worse than his first. I’m sure he’d rather move forward, but repeating the level might not be a waste of time.
• So far so good with Brandon Laird’s work in the outfield. Newman said the Yankees are convinced he can play the corners. Left field at Yankee Stadium might be a little spacious for him, but they think he could play right field in the Bronx, and he could play left in most parks. “He’s going to do well enough out there that he’s going to be an option,” Newman said. The Yankees still think Laird is better defensively at first and third, but he could be a legitimate four-corners option as soon as 2011.
• For whatever it’s worth — and it might not be worth much — I was impressed with Laird’s glove when I saw him in spring training. Much better than I was expecting. He made some pretty nice plays at third.
• If the Yankees feel the need to move one of their prospect starting pitchers into the Major League bullpen next season, they can make that adjustment quickly. There’s no need to make that switch out of spring training. “When they get to Triple-A, they don’t need a full year doing that,” Newman said. “They need a month or two of adjustment. They still need innings. You don’t want to limit innings by putting them prematurely in the bullpen.”
• Pretty standard situation for all of the players so far invited to camp on minor league deals. Neal Cotts is a slight exception because of his considerable big league experience and the fact he’s coming back from injury. “It’s a rehab deal with him,” Newman said.
• Romulo Sanchez is out of options. He’ll need to make the big league roster or pass through waivers this spring. I believe — though I forgot to ask — that Sanchez has been designated for assignment once before, meaning even if he clears, he could opt for free agency rather than accept a minor league assignment.
• Last month the International League transactions listed Matt DeSalvo having been assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It’s not true. The Yankees have not re-signed him.
• One lower-level note: Catching prospect J.R. Murphy will continue to get the bulk of his time behind the plate, but he’ll also see time at third base and right field next season. He didn’t hit much last season, but the Yankees believe in his bat and believe he’s athletic enough to play different positions. They haven’t decided whether he’ll be in Charleston or Tampa next year.
The three new guys • 11.20.10
I’m a geek about the 40-man roster. Even as a kid, I remember getting Baseball Digest delivered my house in the country and reading through the rosters in the back of each issue. I understand that it should be boring, but I like these sort of lists and groupings, and I always thinks it’s interesting when people are added and removed. A team can’t have its 25-man roster until it has its 40-man roster, and I like that.
Yesterday, the Yankees 40-man additions took an obvious back seat to the new pitching coach. But these three are officially worth knowing heading into next season.
How he got here: Back in 2006, Betances was an eight-round pick with first-round stuff. Injuries have slowed some of his progress, but 2010 reestablished him as one of the elite pitching prospects in the organization.
What’s to like: First time I saw him, I was struck by just how big he is. He’s not a wiry 6-8. He’s pretty thick. He works mostly with a low to mid-90s fastball and big curveball. Baseball America noted that even if he takes a step back, he could slide into the mix as a possible closer candidate down the road.
Up next: He made only three Double-A starts last season, so a return to Trenton is probably in order. A September call-up seems possible, but there are enough pitchers ahead of him that there’s absolutely no need to rush his progress. Keep him and healthy and let that arm carry him.
How he got here: He just kept hitting. Even with a big league brother, Laird was only a 27th-round pick and the Yankees drafted two third baseman ahead of him. He certainly didn’t come into the system with a lot of hype, but he hit — and hit for power — leading up to a breaking 2010 season in which he had 25 homers and 102 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A.
What’s to like: Primarily the power. That said, when I saw him in spring training, Laird seemed to play a better third base than I was expecting. He’s been working in the outfield corners, and if he could become a four-corners type of utility player, he could play a role pretty quickly.
Up next: More Triple-A at-bats. Probably more time in the outfield. Depending on the Yankees needs in New York, a big league call-up is certainly not out of the question.
How he got here: Slow and steady is probably the way to describe it. Pope was a third-round pick in 2007, but he’s never had one of those breakout years that puts him firmly on the prospect map. Even within the Yankees system he’s been overshadowed.
What’s to like: Pretty much everything since the second week of May. After opening the season in the rotation, Pope moved to the Trenton bullpen and finally started to standout from the pack. His first relief outing was two hitless innings with no walks and four strikeouts. He never let an inherited runner score.
Up next: A promotion to Triple-A. Although a move from the rotation to the bullpen is usually seen as a bad thing, it might actually help Pope standout from the large group of young pitchers in the upper levels of the Yankees system. With Jonathan Albaladejo out of the picture, Pope could be the first Triple-A reliever called up next season.
Yankees prospects on MLB Network tonight • 11.06.10
The Arizona Fall League’s fifth annual Rising Stars Game will be on MLB Network tonight at 9 ET, and the rosters include three of the Yankees top prospects: LHP Manny Banuelos, C Austin Romine and 3B Brandon Laird.
The Rising Stars Game is an all-star game, but it’s more of a showcase for the top prospects — not necessarily the top performers — in the Fall League.
Banuelos was picked as the starting pitcher for the East team. He’ll be starting against Royals prospect Mike Montgomery.
Eighteen former first-round Draft picks are on the rosters for this year’s Rising Stars Game, including a young Pirates catcher named Tony Sanchez. Phil Hughes has been in the Rising Stars Game. So have Buster Posey, Mike Leake, Gordon Beckham, Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Ike Davis.