The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Off day minor league notes: Risks behind the plate05.26.11

I didn’t see or hear about last night’s Buster Posey injury until I was several thousand feet above the fly-over states of middle America. After sleeping for a little while and reading for a little while, I turned on the little satellite TV screen in front of me to catch up on the news of the day. Then I flipped briefly to SportsCenter.

Posey is probably out for the year with a broken bone and possibly some ligament damage. It’s a bad situation, and an unfortunate situation, but we can’t pretend it’s a new situation. The Posey injury doesn’t necessarily change anything for Jesus Montero or the other elite catching prospects in the Yankees organization.

It’s not as if the Yankees turned on a television at the same time I did and suddenly realized that being a catcher is dangerous.

If injury concerns lead the Yankees to eventually move Montero or Austin Romine or Gary Sanchez to a different position, it would be perfectly justifiable, but it would not be a move to be taken lightly and with a sigh of relief. Part of what makes these catching prospects so valuable is their ability to play behind the plate, lending a premium bat to a position that often has minimal offensive impact.

Risk comes with the position, but so does reward. That was true before and after Posey was rocked at home plate last night.

• Speaking of catching prospects, Gary Sanchez is playing in extended spring training after opening the year in Low-A Charleston. Mark Newman told Josh Norris that Sanchez is down there because of a back injury. He seemed to be getting things turned around before landing on the Charleston disabled list. Sanchez was hitting .314/.455/.657 in his last 10 games before going on the DL.

• Speaking of behind the plate in Charleston, J.R. Murphy’s breakout season continues with the Low-A affiliate. He’s played some third base and designated hitter, but Murphy continues to get most of his time behind the plate and he just keeps hitting. He’s up to .318/.358/.497, a huge leap from last season.

• While we’re behind the plate: Jesus Montero is hitting .260/.337/.377 this month. I know a lot of the fan base is anxious to get this kid into the big league lineup — and I understand why — but player development is a very real thing, and Montero’s still just 21 years old. Consistency might be the next — and final — part of his development.

• Jorge Vazquez is still hitting home runs at a stunning rate, but the thing that catches my attention is that he has seven walks in his past 10 games (he had four in all of April). Either he’s becoming a little more selective, or teams are completely pitching around him. By the way, his home run total is up to 17. That’s insane, especially in a pitchers’ league.

• Vazquez’s teammate, Justin Maxwell, is second in the International League with 13 home runs.

• Speaking of Triple-A hitters, a few guys who struggled early have started to hit in the past month: Brandon Laird (.293/.341/.373 in May), Kevin Russo (.288/.367/.404 in May), Ramiro Pena (.310/.356/.310 in May).

• D.J. Mitchell, Adam Warren and David Phelps are still pitching well out of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation — well enough that they’d have to be involved in any call-up conversation — but if the Yankees want a new long man, they might also need to look at George Kontos. Lost in the Rule 5 draft this winter — just like Lance Pendleton — Kontos has a 2.22 ERA and a .209 opponents batting average this season, and he’s been better this month than last month. If the Yankees are looking for a one-inning option, Kevin Whelan keeps getting it done in that Triple-A closer’s role.

• Veteran left-hander Randy Flores has yet to allow a hit in four appearances since joining the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen.

• Two Double-A starters you might have heard about: Dellin Betances has a 1.30 ERA with 39 strikeouts through seven starts, and Manny Banuelos has a 1.96 ERA with 34 strikeouts through eight starts. Both have had some walk issues from time to time, but my gut reaction is to blame their youth. On the whole, their numbers are awfully impressive.

• No overwhelming home runs numbers or anything like that, but the Yankees regular Class-A third basemen in are both playing pretty well. In High-A Tampa, Rob Lyerly is hitting .326/.368/.481, and in Low-A Charleston, Rob Segedin is hitting .288/.384/.445. Each has three homers, and between them they have 21 doubles and six triples.

• Talked to Alan Horne earlier today. He’s pitched in extended spring training twice in the past week and he’s pretty encouraged. His fastball’s been good, but he’s still looking to build some arm strength.

• Surprise numbers of the month: Utility man Kelvin Castro who’s hitting .462 with five triples and more walks than strikeouts in 12 games since joining the Tampa infield. Last season he hit .224 with five triples all year. He also struck out more than three times as often as he walked.

• A blast from the recent past: Zach McAllister is starting for Triple-A Columbus tonight, attempting to become the minor league’s first eight-game winner. Traded away in last year’s Austin Kearns deal, McAllister is thriving in his second attempt at Triple-A. He has a 2.48 ERA and seems to be getting better as the season progresses. He had a 5.09 ERA with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before last year’s trade.

Associated Press photo of Posey, headshots of Sanchez, Murphy, Kontos and Whelan

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 498 Comments →

A few off day minor league notes04.21.11

Off days seem to work pretty well for minor league updates. There’s not much going on with the big league team on these days, so we might as well look into the minor league system.

Today let’s start in Double-A. Austin Romine is always the other catcher in the Yankees system. He’s not considered one of baseball’s elite like Jesus Montero, and he’s not a raw mega-talent like Gary Sanchez, but Romine is a legitimate prospect his bat is heating up.

He hit a walkoff single on Tuesday, then he homered twice on Wednesday. Romine got off to a slow start in the season’s first week, but in the past five games he’s collected nine hits including a double and two home runs. He has nine RBI in the his past five games after not driving in a run in any of his first six games. His slash line is up to .310/.420/.500.

Of course, in this system, Romine isn’t the only minor league catcher who’s been hitting lately.

Jesus Montero continues to rake for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He had another three-hit game last night, and although he hasn’t homered since April 9 and has yet to draw a walk, Montero is batting .423/.423/.558 through 11 games. Down in Charleston, Gary Sanchez is back from a brief stint on the disabled list and had a hit last night. While Sanchez was out — Josh Norris says it was a sore oblique, of course — J.R. Murphy got some regular time behind the plate and his bat is still going strong with three homers, 13 RBI and a .326 average.

For the immediate future, the catching situation that has the most impact on the Yankees is happening in Tampa, where Francisco Cervelli is supposed to be begin a rehab assignment tonight.

• Kei Igawa is up from Double-A to start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight. Kevin Millwood is coming up from the Double-A roster to start for Scranton tomorrow. As Donnie Collins pointed out, Millwood should have time to make one start after tomorrow before his out kicks in.

• Speaking of Triple-A starters, David Phelps and Adam Warren have turned in back-to-back gems this week. Phelps allowed three hits and struck out six through 6.1 innings on Tuesday night, then Warren followed with eight scoreless innings on Wednesday. Minor league pitchers — and big league pitchers for that matter — occasionally talk about creating a friendly rivalry in which one player’s success helps to spark another’s success. Those two outings could start something like that.

• Jorge Vazquez is up to seven home runs in Scranton, meanwhile Chris Dickerson has started hitting in Triple-A. Eight hits in his past four games has Dickerson’s slash line up to .292/.393/.375. He’s had two doubles and a triple in the past three days, his first extra-base hits of the year.

• Manny Banuelos is back from his blister and made his second start on Tuesday night. He allowed two hits and one unearned run through four innings for Double-A Trenton. Dellin Betances is still on the disabled list in Trenton, but he seems close to a return.

• Good numbers from a name you might not know: Mikey O’Brien, a ninth-round pick in 2008, has a 2.16 ERA with 19 strikeouts through his first three starts with Charleston. He’s walked only three and his production has been pretty steady (his numbers aren’t the product of just one good start), but he has yet to get a win. O’Brien could be building on last season when he had a 2.08 ERA in Staten Island.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 107 Comments →

Pregame notes: Another lefty likely finished for the season04.14.11

Pedro Feliciano had an MRI this winter before he signed with the Yankees. It showed no problems. When he got to spring training, he pitched with no pain and no cause for concern. In his fourth spring outing, he allowed one hit and struck out the other three batters he faced. It seemed to be another good sign, but that’s the day Feliciano first felt something in his shoulder.

“That day that I pitched, I remember I threw long toss with Soriano and I was fine,” he said. “I did my short toss and everything, then in the bullpen I was fine. After I got my first out, I got a single bloop to the righty and then I got my two strikeouts. I got the last two outs, but it wasn’t me. That inning was weird. I’ve never had that, so I thought it would go away. That’s why I kept pitching, but the next day was bad.”

Initially, Feliciano thought it was just unexpected soreness. When it lingered, he initially labeled it a triceps issue. Gradually, the diagnosis shifted closer to the shoulder, and yesterday he found out that there’s a small tear in his shoulder capsule. Feliciano believes it’s a new injury, one that happened that day in Florida, not over time at Citi Field. He wonders if it’s connected to all the weight lifting he did this spring.

Bottom line, Feliciano will see Dr. Andrews on Monday for a second opinion, but he’s expecting to have surgery. The Yankees are expecting the same. Brian Cashman called it a “very obvious” diagnosis, and surgery will keep him out all year.

Even if Andrews says surgery is not necessary, Feliciano will still be out several more weeks leaving the Yankees without their primary left-handed reliever, the guy they gave two year, $8 million this winter. The Yankees were well aware of Feliciano’s workload with the Mets, but they thought this was a risk worth taking.

“He was definitely abused over there,” Cashman said. “But we knew that.”

Here’s Cashman. It’s worth a listen. He talked for about 20 minutes about the Yankees own history of overusing pitchers. Cashman said he spoke to Joe Torre about it several times, asking that he not go to the same guys over and over again, and he seems happy that it’s no longer an issue with Joe Girardi.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

• For now, the Yankees are going to stick with Boone Logan as their only left-handed reliever. There’s no one in the system they’re considering calling up at the moment, and Girardi said he doesn’t expect to find a lefty on the market right now.

• The most obvious left-handed addition might be Andy Sisco, but Cashman said Sisco’s fastball in Scranton hasn’t been what it was when the Yankees saw him this winter. Sisco might be an option down the road, but Cashman said he’s not an option right now.

• Here’s Joe Girardi on the bullpen without Feliciano: “The bullpen is what it is. We believe that we have right-handers that are capable of getting left-handers out. At this point, Pedro has to make a decision on what he’s going to do. It’s disappointing. We were counting on him to be a big left-hander out of our bullpen. Boone Logan stepped up for us last year, and he’s going to have to do it again.”

• The Associated Press reports that Major League Baseball is leaning toward expanded use of instant replay next season.

• Both Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos have been placed on the Double-A disabled list because of blisters. Cashman said he believe it’s because the seams are smaller — not as raised — on minor league baseballs, which might have been an issue for Betances and Banuelos shifting from big league spring training to the minor league season.

• In other minor league injury news, Josh Norris reports that Gary Sanchez is headed for the disabled list in Charleston. Not sure why.

• Obviously today is a pretty big start for Phil Hughes, as big as a third start of the season can be anyway. Both Girardi and Cashman said Hughes has generally been slow to generate velocity, that it usually doesn’t come until a little later in the season. Last year was an exception to the rule. Girardi said he still considers the velocity a secondary issue. “I wasn’t getting so caught up in it,” he said. “It comes down to locating the ball and changing speeds.”

Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Derrek Lee 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Matt Wieters C
Cesar Izturis SS

Associated Press photo of Feliciano

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 66 Comments →

Wednesday notes: Rivera travels, Jones arrives, Cotts leaves02.16.11

Get that Enter Sandman track ready to play.

Mariano Rivera is expected to arrive in Yankees camp tomorrow. He talked to Joe Girardi last night and said he would fly to Tampa tonight, arriving in time to report to camp in the morning. He’s been away to stay with one of his kids, who’s sick with something flu-like.

“Whenever Mo gets here is fine,” Brian Cashman said.

Truth is, Rivera wouldn’t be pitching right now even if he were in camp. He follows his own schedule and doesn’t start throwing until much later. This early in camp, all he does is long toss and fielding drills. In theory, how long could he wait to actually show up?

“As long as we don’t let it out – I don’t want him getting any ideas next year – he could have went for a while,” Joe Girardi said.

• Sounds like the infield is a priority for the Yankees bench. Girardi said the team might very well carry Andrew Jones as the only reserve outfielder, leaving room for both a utility man and a second backup infielder (maybe Eric Chavez or Ronnie Belliard). “The dynamics of how many outfielders we carry probably depends on the infielders,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of Jones, he stopped by the clubhouse this afternoon and said he chose the Yankees largely because he thought it was a good opportunity to get fairly regular playing time. “I look at him more as a corner guy that’s going to play against lefties, a lot sometimes,” Girardi said. Girardi said he doesn’t need Jones in center field — “Not with the two guys that we have,” he said — so he’ll simply move Brett Gardner to center field on the days Curtis Granderson gets a day off.

• Girardi said the Yankees could find creative ways to get Jesus Montero or Austin Romine at-bats if they were to break camp as the backup catcher. “You can develop a lot playing twice a week too at this level,” Girardi said.

• Girardi said it’s “fair to say” it’s a three-man race for the backup catching job: Montero, Romine and Francisco Cervelli.

• Cashman on releasing Neal Cotts: “You go through the medicals for a reason. He had his physical, and from that, we decided to release him.”

• Hector Noesi is still dealing with visa issues. It’s unclear when he’ll actually arrive in Tampa.

• The New York Post reported this morning that catching prospect Gary Sanchez was sent for medical tests on his heart, but the test revealed nothing serious. “There’s no worries now with Gary Sanchez,” Cashman said. “Simple as that. Nothing more to talk about.”

• Nick Swisher was among the position players hitting at the Yankees minor league complex today.

• One non-weight note about Joba Chamberlain: He’s made a small adjustment with his hands during his delivery. “When I talked to (Larry Rothschild) about the idea, he said yeah, that was one of the things that I noticed,” Chamberlain said. “Just my hands traveling away from the center of my body, and that’s when your hand doesn’t catch up. And that’s where they were when I first got called up. I thought I’d go back and try that to get away from my hands being back up here because I bounce a lot and don’t get over the rubber.”

Associated Press photos: Cashman, Billy Eppler and Girardi watching the bullpen sessions; Pedro Feliciano throwing a bullpen

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 515 Comments →

Notes and links: Chavez, Vizcaino, K. Long and more02.09.11

In case you missed it, Sam and I held a video chat this afternoon, and you can go back and watch it in the archives. Otherwise, here are a few notes and links from the day.

• Jerry Crasnick reported the contract details of Eric Chavez’s minor league deal with the Yankees: He’ll make $1.5 million if he makes the big league roster, and he has the chance to earn another $4 million or so based on plate appearances and time on the roster.

• Joel Sherman reports that the Yankees managed to void their minor league contract with reliever Luis Vizcaino after he was injured this winter. Perhaps most interesting is Sherman reporting that the Yankees’ scouts had Vizcaino steadily hitting the mid-90s and thought he was a legitimate candidate to make the roster.

Kevin Long expects most of the Yankees lineup to be better in 2011 than in 2010. “It would be hard for Cano and Swisher to duplicate what they did last year,” Long told ESPNNewYork. “If they stay even close to that, great. But I expect the rest of them to do better.”

Frankie Piliere is high on the Yankees top prospects, ranking Jesus Montero (4), Manny Banuelos (13), Gary Sanchez (34), Dellin Betances (44) and Andrew Brackman (60) among the Top 100 prospects in baseball.

FanGraphs likes the Red Sox signing of Alfredo Aceves as a low-risk move with some upside.

• It almost goes without saying, but Bryan Hoch took a look at Michael Young as a potential trade target for the Yankees and found that it’s not a good fit.

• Good news for former Yankees pitcher Ross Ohlendorf: He won his arbitration hearing.

• Bad news for Ohlendorf: He’s still with the Pirates.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 280 Comments →

Maxwell: “I feel pretty much 100 percent”02.02.11

The Yankees newest outfielder, Justin Maxwell, had Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow this fall but says he feels ready for spring training.

“We’re a little over three months out and I feel pretty much 100 percent,” Maxwell told Bryan Hoch at “I’ve already been hitting and throwing, doing everything. I feel good.”

At this time last year, Maxwell was considered the Nationals’ eighth-best prospect according to Baseball America. The magazine noted his “above-average power potential” and said he was a “plus runner” and an “above-average defender.” I saw him a little bit during my last year in Scranton. I just remember him as a toolsy guy, a player who had the attention of the league.

At the end of last season, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he was looking forward to giving Maxwell another shot in 2011.

“Hopefully, it all comes together and he has a good spring for us and he’s part of the ballclub next year,” Riggleman said. “There’s no reason to give up on him. I think it’s all going to click. There’s no last-chance situation. I wouldn’t put that on him. I’m just hoping he does use the opportunities on the field, as sparing as they’ve been, to show us that he’s the real deal.”

Some other notes and links on this icy Wednesday:

Terrific piece from my friend Donnie Collins, who wrote that Russ Springer’s retirement sparked memories of watching the Yankees with his grandmother. Be sure to give that a read.

• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Lou Piniella has accepted a job in the Giants front office. The paper notes that, “GM Brian Sabean goes back with Piniella to their Yankee years in the ’80s, and they’ve remained tight.”

• Josh Norris posted a Q&A with vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman. I didn’t realize the Yankees had moved Vic Valencia to Charleston to work with Gary Sanchez this season.”  He’s done a nice job with the catchers he’s worked with so far,” Newman said. “We move staff around to try and match them up with players so we get the biggest bang for our buck from our staff.”

• Heres’s a video of Nick Swisher addressing the media before last night’s Munson dinner. Swisher started to give his acceptance speech in the press room, but ultimately cut it short and saved it for the ballroom.

• Looks like the Rays minor league deal with Felipe Lopez is all but official.

• Here on the blog, I haven’t really mentioned the Mets situation. If you’re curious but haven’t been following the whole mess, here’s a good Times story on the situation. It still seems unclear how this will affect the Mets moving forward.

• I was never a huge White Stripes fan — always thought they were interesting but only bought a couple of their albums — but today the band announced that it’s splitting up, with no plans to ever record or tour again. That’s a shame. At the very least they were always making music that stood out as something different.

Associated Press photo of Maxwell

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 409 Comments →

Law: Montero and Banuelos among the elite prospects01.27.11

For whatever reason, there’s been a lot of prospect stuff going on the past few days. Probably because it’s late January and there isn’t much else going on.

Today, Keith Law chimed in with his Top 100 list, and it’s much kinder to the Yankees than the MLB Network list was a few days ago.

Law lists Jesus Montero at No. 4, immediately behind the game’s trio of premier outfield prospects: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Domonic Brown. In his evaluation, Law brings up the idea of immediately moving Montero away from the catcher position:

With a bat this potentially strong, why risk injury or give up the 20-25 games a year when your catcher has to rest? Montero could solve the Yankees’ DH problem for the next 10 years if they commit to it, a move they are unlikely to ever regret.

Law is also high on Manny Banuelos, who ranked 12th on this list, one spot ahead of the Blue Jays Kyle Drabek, two spots ahead of the Rays Jeremy Hellickson and three spots ahead of the Reds Aroldis Chapman. That’s impressive company.

Gary Sanchez, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman all fell between 60 and 90 on Law’s list. Catcher Austin Romine was mentioned as one of the players who just missed the cut, with Law noting that he’s not completely sold on Romine’s bat and that he’s seen Romine struggle with “basic receiving tasks.”

Arodys Vizcaino — the young right-hander the Yankees lost in The Boone Logan Trade — made it just inside the top 50 at No. 47.

In his team-by-team rankings, Law shows some love for Graham Stoneburner, ranking him as the seventh-best prospect in the Yankees system, just ahead of Slade Heathcott and immediately behind Romine.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 126 Comments →

Talking prospects over at mlb.com01.26.11

Want to talk prospects this afternoon? Yesterday, and MLB Network announced their Top 50 prospects, with three Yankees making the cut. This afternoon at 2 ET, minor league guru Jonathan Mayo will chat about the list and about prospects in general.

For those of you only interested in the Yankees who made the cut, the Yankees were one of eight teams to have three different players in the top 50, and one of only four teams to place three players in the top 35. These are the Yankees who made the list.

No. 9: Jesus Montero
The Yankees top prospect landed in the top 10 on the strength of, “a bat that should be penciled into the middle of the big league lineup for years to come.” Predictably, mentioned Montero’s defensive future as the only remaining question, but the site also noted that Montero has “more than enough bat” to be a designated hitter or first baseman.

No. 32: Gary Sanchez
Even in an organization with remarkable catching depth, note that Sanchez, “just might end up being better than all of them.” He’s very young, which is why he’s only in the middle of this list, but Sanchez has “plenty” of power and ability to hit for average — similar to Montero — and he has “better defensive tools” than Austin Romine. The question with him is development. He still has a long way to go.

No. 35: Manny Banuelos
It’s been mentioned several times that Banuelos came back from appendectomy and showed better fitness and stuff. He gained velocity to show a mid-90s fastball, and noted that he’s shown “glimpses of above average or better” secondary pitches. If his development continues, Banuelos could have  “front-of-a-rotation stuff,” and he doesn’t have far to go before he’s ready for New York.

No. 53: Dellin Betances
In addition to the Top 50, listed the 10 players who just missed the cut, including the top right-handed pitcher in the Yankees farm system. Betances was actually ranked ahead of Banuelos by Baseball America. With a list like this, the difference between No. 35 and No. 53 is pretty small.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 122 Comments →

Yankees organizational depth: Catcher01.08.11

Let’s start a position-by-position look at the Yankees organization by looking behind the plate. It’s probably the most intriguing spot in the entire system, both because of what’s happening at the big league level and what’s coming up from the minor leagues. This has been Jorge Posada’s position for more than a decade, but that’s about to change.

In the big leagues
The transition is about to begin, and it will start with Russell Martin. Signed this winter to a one-year deal, Martin says he’s healthy and that he’s shifted his workout routine to try to regain the power that made him a coveted young player just three years ago. Martin is a short-term fix, but at 27 years old, he could have some long-term upside if he returns to form. Can’t count him out beyond this season. Francisco Cervelli is, of course, poised to return to his backup role, while Posada is still around for occasional starts behind the plate. If you count Posada, it seems entirely possible that the Yankees will carry three catchers at all times this year.

On the verge
The catching future of the Yankees starts with Jesus Montero. He’s the most highly touted player in the system, and he’s one step away from the big leagues. There are still questions about his ability to catch, but he seems to convince more and more people each year. He might never be great, but his defense might play enough to keep his bat in the lineup without clogging the DH spot. Behind him is Austin Romine. The Yankees expected him to open this season in Triple-A before the Martin signing. Now it’s entirely possible Romine will be bumped back to Double-A, at least to start the year. He was good but didn’t exactly dominate that level last year — .268/.324/.402 and the league’s worst caught stealing percentage — so a return isn’t exactly a waste of time. Gustavo Molina, who has some big league time, was signed as a minor league free agent and could help in a pinch. He’ll likely start the season coming off the bench in Triple-A.

Deep in the system
It’s unusual that a minor league system would have the Yankees combination of talent and depth at the catcher position. Montero is obviously the star of the show, but 18-year-old Gary Sanchez could be a similar talent. He’s considered a better defensive prospect, and although he doesn’t have quite Montero’s power, he does have considerable pop in his bat. He’s an elite prospect himself. JR Murphy’s ultimate position is unclear, but he also has enough bat to be worth following. Kyle Higashioka doesn’t generate nearly the same buzz, but he was the youngest player invited to big league camp last year. He’s on the radar.

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: Russell Martin
Scranton/WB: Jesus Montero
Trenton: Austin Romine
Tampa: Kyle Higashioka
Charleston: Gary Sanchez

There are six players who could, given the right circumstances, get some big league time at catcher this season: Martin, Cervelli, Posada, Montero, Molina and Romine. All of those come with different levels of concern, but that’s also a lot of depth at a position that’s often very thin.

Further down in the system, Murphy figures into this depth chart mix somewhere — either Tampa or Charleston — but he’ll also see some time at the infield and outfield corners. He shouldn’t be overlooked, even in this catching-rich system. Tyler Austin was the top catcher selected by the Yankees in last year’s draft (13th round), but it seems uncertain whether he’ll stay behind the plate as a pro. He played only two games last season before an injury. Those two games were at DH and first base.

Associated Press photo of Posada, headshots of Martin, Montero and Murphy

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 156 Comments →

What Martin might mean for Montero (and Romine)12.17.10

For now, all the Russell Martin signing means for the immediate future of Jesus Montero — and Austin Romine for that matter — is that the Yankees have options. Martin gives the Yankees flexibility, plain and simple.

“Breaking in Robinson Cano at second base, or Brett Gardner in left field, or Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, or Phil Hughes at the back of the rotation, or (Dave) Robertson in the bullpen,” Brian Cashman said, “those are a lot easier than breaking in a young catcher in the big leagues, especially with high veteran starters and relievers in a pennant race in the American League East. Russell Martin, we hope, is the perfect situation to come along to allow us the timeframe to gives these kids the chance to (develop).”

Montero just turned 21. He hit .252/.328/.415 in the first half last season, and he had to be disciplined for his attitude. By all accounts, things changed in the second half when he was better behind the plate, at the plate and in the dugout. I truly believe that the Yankees think he’s ready for the big leagues, but a few more months in Triple-A certainly won’t hurt him. Romine has never caught a game above Double-A, and he hit .268 in Trenton last season. At this very moment, he’s hardly a can’t-miss option at the big league level.

There’s no need to rush either of them, and adding an experienced catcher — especially one with Martin’s potential — makes obvious sense. But what might it ultimately mean for the future of Montero and Romine? Well, this move is about giving the Yankees options, and there are plenty of options for their young catchers.

MonteroNew plan, same as the old plan
It doesn’t seem likely, but Cashman didn’t rule out the idea of either Montero or Romine beating Francisco Cervelli for the backup job out of spring training. “Those are things we’re going to work through in the spring,” Cashman said. There is still a chance — especially if Martin gets hurt again — that one of those two could open the season in New York, in one role or another. Not likely, but certainly an option.

Mid-season adjustment
The change of plans could be temporary. If Montero crushes the ball in Triple-A, or Romine takes a giant step forward, one of them could force his way to New York by mid-season. Martin isn’t a sure thing after two disappointing seasons, and his signing could do nothing but buy a little time for Montero or Romine to force the Yankees hand. Things could also change with a mid-season injury in New York.

See you in September
Could be that Martin is nothing but a one-year stepping stone. If Martin hits this season, and the young guys make progress in the minors, the Yankees could wait until September to give Montero or Romine a look in the big leagues — get their feet wet that way — and make the transition next season when the development has taken another step forward.

One is good, two is better
Martin is still arbitration eligible next season, and Jorge Posada is in the last year of his contract. Isn’t it entirely possible that Martin could bounce back to his all-star self, the Yankees could decide he’s actually their catcher of the near future and Montero could step into Posada’s DH role next season? Instead of being the bridge to Montero, couldn’t Martin become the bridge to Gary Sanchez? It’s possible.

Prospects are prospects, nothing more
Can’t pretend that every possible scenario is a good one. There’s a lot to like about Montero and Romine, but they haven’t done a thing at the big league level, and there’s always the chance they never will. The addition of Martin lets the Yankees keep the young guys in the minor leagues, where holes might be discovered and best-case scenario’s might not play out. There’s always the chance that Martin is, in fact, the best 20-something catcher currently in the Yankees organization.

From friend to foe
This is the part that makes a lot of folks nervous: Martin makes it easier for the Yankees to trade Montero or Romine if the right opportunity presents itself. Cashman has made it clear he’ll be hesitant to deal a proven hitter like Montero. Think of all the times Cashman did not trade Phil Hughes. It’s that kind of situation. If Montero is dealt, it will be for an elite player (like the Cliff Lee proposal in the summer). That’s one of the benefits of having considerable depth at a single position, and Martin limits the short-term impact if Cashman does pull the trigger.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 297 Comments →

Sponsored by:





    Read The LoHud Yankees Blog on the go by navigating to the blog on your smartphone or mobile device's browser. No apps or downloads are required.


Place an ad

Call (914) 694-3581