John, NY: Do you see Mark Melancon making an impact in the Yankees bullpen this season?
John Manuel: (3:37 PM ET ) I could, he got in a lot of innings last year and his stuff was fairly consistent. He'd do well to apprentice under Rivera if he's to become a future closer; I'm on the fence as to his future role, back and forth from closer to setup guy. Today I'll say closer.
From BP's John Perroto:
Spezzaz0r (NY): What are your thoughts of Daniel McCutchen cracking the buc's rotation? And for fun, Which of Brackman, Bleich, Heredia, Betances, De La Rosa break out of the Tampa Yankees' rotation first?
John Perrotto: If McCutchen pitches well this spring, he'll almost certainly be in the rotation. As far as the Yankees, I'll go with Betances.
Andrew Brackman, a 6-10 pitcher who played basketball at NC State, might be the Yankee prospect with the highest ceiling and Newman says he is ⁈Å"healthy and ready to go⁈ after spending much of last year recovering from elbow surgery. Brackman showed flashes of brilliance in the Hawaiian Winter League, Newman said, and should start the season at either Tampa or Charleston.
⁈Å"In Hawaii, he had mediocre games and very good games,⁈ Newman said. ⁈Å"It was the first time he had pitched in quite a while and it was a good challenge for him. His velocity was 94-97 (miles per hour) and he has top of the rotation type stuff.⁈
However, Newman cautioned, ⁈Å"Tall pitchers typically need a little more time to make sure all the body parts work together.⁈
Eric Duncan, the Yanks⁈⁚ No. 1 pick in 2003, was once thought to be their top prospect, but he hasn⁈⁚t reached the majors at 24 and was exposed in the Rule 5 draft and not taken. On Friday, Duncan, a 1B/3B was taking balls in the outfield. ⁈Å"The more versatility he has defensively gives him a greater chance to help us,⁈ Newman said. ⁈Å"He is still relatively young and has had some good, really productive stretches in his young career. He⁈⁚s been close (to blossoming) and then kind of backed off. We⁈⁚ll see how it goes.⁈ In 120 games at Triple-A last season, Duncan hit .233 with 11 homers and 60 RBI⁈ ¦Asked to name a potential surprise major-league roster candidate coming out of spring training, Newman said, ⁈Å"Mike Dunn. Lefty, really good arm. Fastball up to 97 (mph), legit power slider.⁈ Dunn, a 23-year-old former outfielder, was 5-7 with a 4.49 ERA in 31 games (22 starts) between Tampa and Double-A Trenton last year.
Call it a "blog bonus." Here is a story that would've run in Sunday's Daily News if not for a certain player's steroid mess. This is for you readers who are fascinated by prospects...
TAMPA - On one field at the Yankees⁈⁚ minor-league complex, Jorge Posada is working out daily to rehab from shoulder surgery. On another, 19-year-old catching prospect Jesus Montero performs drills alongside other minor-leaguers and pounds batting-practice pitches off a building that sits beyond the left-field fence.
Montero, perhaps the Yanks⁈⁚ best position-player prospect, could one day be Posada⁈⁚s replacement behind the plate. Though there⁈⁚s been speculation that Montero, a burly, 6-3, 230-pound Venezuelan, might have to switch positions, the Yankees say they are committed to him as a receiver.
⁈Å"That⁈⁚s our intention and, more importantly, that⁈⁚s his intention, too,⁈ said Mark Newman, the Yankees⁈⁚ vice president of baseball operations. ⁈Å"Right now, he hasn⁈⁚t shown us anything that tells us he can⁈⁚t do it. He improved his throw-out percentage last year. He⁈⁚s a big boy, so he⁈⁚s got to maintain lower body flexibility, but he⁈⁚s got very good arm strength and he⁈⁚s very bright, so he⁈⁚ll run a game very well.⁈
⁈Å"The conventional wisdom might be that he⁈⁚s too big. But our attitude is that he can do it and we expect him to do it. He⁈⁚s a catcher and he⁈⁚s nothing beyond that, at this time.⁈
Montero, who played in the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium last summer, had a huge season at Charleston, the Yankees⁈⁚ low-Class A affiliate in 2008, batting .326 with 17 homers and 87 RBI. It was his first full season. Montero likely will move up to high-A Tampa in 2009, Newman said.
Just got off the phone with Eric Hacker. It was a good 15 minute chat⁈ ¦I was driving on my way to Trenton for an impromptu tour of the redesigned front office, to pick up All-Star Game tickets for the winner of my fantasy football league and to cover the Trenton Devils tonight, so I couldn⁈⁚t really write too much down. But here are a few highlights⁈ ¦
- I asked Hacker about Chad Jennings report that Mark Newman couldn⁈⁚t rule out the possibility of him starting the year in the bullpen. He said he hadn⁈⁚t heard about it, but that he wants to do whatever he can to help the team he⁈⁚s on win, and that if it means being in the bullpen, then so be it. Hacker did say that he prefers starting, considering it⁈⁚s the role he⁈⁚s been in for his entire life.
- Hacker had a busy off-season, getting married and getting named to the 40-man roster all in the span of about a week. He told me that until he got the phone call from the Yankees, he had no indication of whether they were going to add him to the roster or not, and that he was concerned about his impending minor league agency because all he⁈⁚d ever known since coming out of high school was being a Yankee. He was very grateful for the opportunity, pointing out that the Yankees could have easily given up on him considering his past injury problems.
- Hacker hopes to start the season in Scranton, but did enjoy his time in Trenton and would be happy to go there as well. He has not been given any indication as to where he will start the season or what his role will be.
- Hacker has been in Tampa for a little over a week now, and is anxious for spring training to get started. Much like Phil Coke, Hacker has a mentality to where he just wants the ball, and he⁈⁚s very anxious to show the Yankees what he can do.
One of the most exciting players in the system, Almonte is a freak athlete and has one of the highest ceilings in the organization. Originally a second baseman, the Yankees shifted Almonte to center field midway through the 2007 Rookie level Gulf Coast League season and he took to the position well. A true switch hitter, Almonte struggles mightily against offspeed pitches but can punish even quality fastballs. He wore down as the season went on and failed to adjust to the league⁈⁚s pitchers after they adjusted to him, something experience should help correct. At this point Almonte is just a raw athlete trying to turn his physical gifts into baseball skills. He⁈⁚ll again be manning center for Low-A Charleston to start the season.
Dan Brewer, RF, 21
An unheralded eighth round pick out of Bradley in 2008, nothing in Brewer⁈⁚s skill set screams premium prospect. He⁈⁚s a well rounded player who⁈⁚s just about average in all aspects of the game, even more so offensively. At the plate he has an excellent approach and has shown the ability to spray line drives to all fields. Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island suppressed his offensive output, as he hit .381-.466-.504 on the road but just .214-.277-.350 at home. Brewer has seen time at second, short, third and the corner outfield spots in the past, so he also offers versatility. Defensively he⁈⁚s best suited for the outfield corners, but he can handle all four infield spots in an emergency situation. While he doesn⁈⁚t have a high ceiling, Brewer has value as a utlity player that puts together quality at-bats off the bench. He⁈⁚ll likely begin the year flanking Almonte in the Low-A Charleston outfield.
One of the better prep catchers available in the 2008 draft, the Yanks landed Higashioka in the seventh round and signed him to an above slot $500,000 bonus after giving him the grand tour of the Yankee Stadium. His calling card is his premium defense behind the plate, but he also offers plenty of upside offensively thanks specifically to his raw power. Higashioka rivals Frankie Cervelli as the best defensive catcher in the system, and he might have the best all-around potential of any backstop in the system. Also an excellent student, he turned down a scholarship to Berkeley to turn pro and has drawn raves for his leadership qualities. The Yankees love Higashioka⁈⁚s potential and could challenge him with an assignment to Low-A Charleston to start the year. It⁈⁚s more likely that he⁈⁚ll start in Extended Spring Training followed by a trip to Short Season Staten Island.
Mikey O⁈⁚Brien, RHSP, 19
An undersized righthander (listed at 5'11?, 185 lbs), O⁈⁚Brien was thought to be headed to Winthrop until the Yanks reeled him in with a $200,000 signing bonus in the tenth round last year. Although he⁈⁚s not a prototypical super-projectable high school pitcher, O⁈⁚Brien⁈⁚s strength lies in his strong command and advanced feel for pitching. He works in the low-90⁈⁚s with his fastball and backs it up with a good changeup, and he⁈⁚s shown the ability to spin a breaking ball. O⁈⁚Brien⁈⁚s upside isn⁈⁚t sky high, but he could quickly develop into a mid-rotation workhorse that succeeds because of his ability to set-up and outsmart hitters rather than sheer stuff. Because he⁈⁚s polished the Yankees could push him to Low-A Charleston, although an assignment to Extended Spring Training with a Short Season Staten Island chaser is more likely.
Unlike O⁈⁚Brien, Turley is that prototypical super-projectable high school arm. One of the very last players drafted in 2008 (1,502nd overall out of 1,504 total picks) because teams figured he was heading to BYU, but the Yanks took the latest of late round gambles and bought him out of his commitment with a $125,000 signing bonus. Standing 6'7?, 195 lbs, Turley already touches the low-90⁈⁚s with his fastball and has shown a feel for a breaking ball and changeup. If he is able to develop consistent mechanics while adding to his stuff as he fills out, it⁈⁚s easy to envision him becoming a top notch pitching prospect. Because he⁈⁚s raw, Turley will start the year in Extended Spring Training and could return to the Rookie level Gulf Coast League rather than jump up to Short Season Staten Island.
Stouffer (DC): Keith, if you had to redo your top 100 prospects list right now, are there any changes you would make?
Keith Law: (1:08 PM ET ) I think I was too hard on Jesus Montero's positional question. He should have been 15-20 spots higher.
Brian (Wantagh, NY): You've said Jesus Montero doesn't project to be a big league catcher. With A-rod and Teix at the corners and Jeter expected to be somewhere in the outfield in the future where do you see montero playing?
Keith Law: (2:49 PM ET ) First base, for someone else, I suppose.
Brian (Wantagh, NY): What happened to Humberto Sanchez? He was the centerpiece of the Sheffield deal a few years back.
Keith Law: (2:15 PM ET ) Blew his elbow out and missed two years. He was back and throwing in relief in September. Still has good velo, still fat.
Alfredo Aceves (right) In camp to make his case as a major league long reliever. Likely to end up in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation, though the big league bullpen is certainly not out of the question. Worth knowing that Aceves is on Mexico's WBC provisional roster. If he can be a starter in the WBC, those innings might plead his case better than the relief work he'll get in spring training.
Jonathan Albaladejo In camp to fight for a spot at the back of the big league bullpen. Likely to end up in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen, though you can't rule out New York. Worth knowing that Albaladejo was injured most of last season but did break camp with the big leaguers. Of his seven major league appearances with New York, five were for more than an inning and three lasted more than two innings. He could be lumped in with some of the Triple-A rotation candidates as a possible major league long reliever.
Andrew Brackman In camp to get ready for his first professional season. Likely to end up in either Tampa or Charleston, but I'll say Tampa. Worth knowing that Brackman was the Yankees first-round pick in 2007 but he missed all of 2008 because of Tommy John surgery. His results in the Hawaiian Winter League were hit and miss, but in his three wins he went at least five innings never allowing more than one earned run.
Brian Bruney (right) In camp to prove himself as a viable major league setup man. Likely toend up in the big league bullpen pitching a lot of eighth innings. Worth knowing that Bruney might not be a huge name, but he had a 1.98 ERA in New York last season and through his career, big league hitters have a .228 average against him.
A.J. Burnett In camp to stay healthy and live up to the big contract he signed this winter. Likely to end up in the New York rotation. Worth knowing that Burnett set a career-high with 221.1 innings last season. Counting the minor leagues, he averaged 145.2 inning from 2000 to 2007.
Joba Chamberlain In camp toget himself ready to pitch out of the rotation instead of the bullpen. Likely to end up in the New York rotation labeled as the No. 5 starter. Worth knowing that his numbers did take a hit when he moved from the bullpen to the rotation, but Chamberlain still had a 2.76 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 65.1 innings as a big league starter last season.
Anthony Claggett (right) In camp to make the case that he can handle major league hitters if needed this season. Likely to end up in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen. Worth knowing that Baseball America labeled Claggett's slider the best in the organization.
Phil Coke In camp to make the Yankees want him in the big league bullpen rather than the Triple-A rotation. Likely to end up in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation, but I'm saying that strictly because the Yankees have told him to prepare himself as a starter. He seems to have as good a chance as any of the candidates to land one of those big league bullpen openings. Worth knowing that Coke made one spot start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre early last season and was knocked around, but he returned to Triple-A late in the year and went 11 straight relief outings without a run.
J.B. Cox In camp to open some eyes and put himself back on the big league radar. Likely to end up in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen. Worth knowing that heading into 2007 Cox was considered a Top 10 prospect, but Tommy John surgery in 2007 and a bad second half in 2008 have hurt his stock. I've seen him pitch really well and I've seen him struggle. He doesn't throw hard, but when he's on he pounds the lower half of the zone and rarely allows solid contact.
Wilkins De La Rosa (right) In camp to get his feet wet with the big leaguers and tell reporters whether or not his first name has an S at the end. Likely to end up in the Tampa rotation. Although he seems to profile as a lefty reliever down the road, everything I've read suggests he's going to keep working out of the rotation for the time being. Worth knowing that De La Rosa had to be added to the 40-man this winter to keep him from six-year free agency. He started his career as a not-very-good outfielder.
Michael Dunn In camp to make the kind of impression that could accelerate his climb through the system. Likely to end up in the Trenton bullpen. Worth knowing that Mark Newman has said Dunn could be a surprise big league roster candidate this spring.
Chris Garcia In camp to show off his impressive repertoire that could make him a major league option later this season. Likely to end up in the Trenton rotation. Worth knowing that Garcia has long been touted as having one of the most electric arms in the Yankees system, but injuries have limited him to just one regular-season outing above Double-A. Staying healthy is the key.
Dan Giese (right) In camp to actually be a major league front runner for the first time in his career. Likely to end up as a long reliever in the New York bullpen. Worth knowing that the Yankees chose to hold on to Giese while designating Chase Wright for assignment earlier this winter. Giese made his major league debut with the Giants in 2007, his ninth year as a professional.
Eric Hacker In camp to get himself back on the same track that made him a surprising organizational standout last season. Likely to end up in the Trenton rotation, though Triple-A might be a possibility. It is certainly possible Hacker will be in Triple-A before the end of the year. Worth knowing that Hacker has a 2.70 ERA in the minors, but his career has been stalled by serious injuries that cost him all of 2004 and 2006.
Phil Hughes In camp to make the case that the Yankees signed one too many free agent starters this winter. Likely to end up in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation as the first call-up if/when the Yankees need a spot starter in New York. Worth knowing that in his last four Triple-A starts last season, including two in the playoffs, Hughes went 25 innings allowing four runs, walking nine and striking out 38.
Kei Igawa (right) In camp to somehow put himself back in the hunt for a big league call-up. Likely to end up in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation. Worth knowing that Igawa was Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Pitcher of the Year last season when he went 14-6 with a 3.45 ERA and 117 strikeouts.