Tagged: Michael Pineda

Evaluating Yankees Prospects: The Good, The (Not So) Bad & The Ugly (Injuries), Part 1 of 4

Manny Banuelos

LHP Manny Banuelos, New York Yankees

It’s no state secret that the New York Yankees farm system hasn’t exactly been cranking out top tier talent since around 2000, nor has it slipped everyone’s notice that once they’ve drafted guys a precious few have actually developed into bonafide stars.

Between playing in the post-season virtually every year and ensuring they are drafting at the bottom of every round, sacrificing high draft picks as compensation for free agent signings, injuries to vital prospects and flat out bust the years have not been kind to the Bronx Bombers on this front.

Over the next week I am going to go through the Top 20 or so prospects in the system, offer a little scouting report and try to prognosticate their future.

Without further ado & in no particular order:

Manny Banuelos, LHP, Starter

Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Fastball: 6/7| Curveball: 6/7 | Changeup: 5/6 | Control: 5/7 | Overall: 5/7

Banuelos was on the cusp of making the Yankees back in 2011 as one of the most exciting left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, but when he reached Triple-A in 2011, he lost some of his feel for pitching and his command disappeared. It turns out he had lost some feeling in his arm and eventually needed, and had, Tommy John surgery. He missed the 2013 season as a result, but he’s still young enough to bounce back from this as many pitchers have done in the past.

When he’s healthy and around the plate, Banuelos boasts three above-average-to-plus offerings. The left-hander’s fastball registers in the 89-95 mph range and seemingly explodes out of his hand. His breaking ball features late, downward bite and generates a ton of swing-and-misses. He also features a great changeup that maintains its decpetion and features a nice downward break.

One of the things you heard people say about the young man before the injury was “the kid doesn’t just ‘throw’, he ‘knows how to pitch'”. Because of that he has as good a chance as any to come back from this setback and be a solid major league pitcher.

Michael Pineda, RHP, Starter

Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Fastball: 7/8 | Slider: 7/8 | Changeup: 4/6 | Control: 4/6 | Overall: 6/7

I know, with a year in MLB already under his belt he isn’t a “true prospect” but with him coming off an injury and some significant time back in the minors rehabbing it’s what he kind of feels like.

He is thick, he is quite the physical specimen at 6’6″/255 pounds and his stuff is good.

His fastball, even after injury is sitting at around 92-93, topping out at 95-96 with a natural cut to it and his slider is just absolutely filthy. It is every bit the “wipeout slider” it was advertised to be.

He needs better feel for his offspeed stuff but everything else is so good we’ve already seen he rack up 170 incredibly solid innings at the MLB level in 2011.

His mechanics were sketchy and unrefined, likely leading to the injury he sustained, but he refined his delivery quite a bit over the course of last season in the minors so now it’s a matter of just being consistent with his motion.

His ceiling is through the roof and the only thing that will hold him back will be his health.

Jose Campos, RHP, Starter/Reliever

RHP Jose Campos, New York Yankees

RHP Jose Campos, New York Yankees

Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Fastball: 5/6 | Curveball: 5/7 | Changeup: 4/6 | Control: 5/6 | Overall: 5/6

When the New York Yankees traded Jesus Montero & Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda more than a handful of folks, myself included, thought that the best player in the deal might be the “throw in guy” Seattle sprinkled on top, right-hander Jose Campos.

And indeed, for the first six months or so of the deal it appeared so. Montero was the 2d worst catcher in MLB (based on WAR), Noesi was the 3d worst starter in the game and Pineda suffered an injury in spring training, cutting his season short before it even began.

But then, tell me where you heard this before, an injury occurred. He suffred from “elbow irritation” and was shut down for the final four months of 2012.

In 2013 he was able to come back and post a quality season, though the Yankees seemed to keep a close eye on his workload.

His fastball, which once sat around 95 and topped out near 97, now sits comfortably at 91-93, topping out around 94-95 with very good control.

His curveball shows flashes of its former greatness but needs more consistent depth and power, something that will come with an increased workload and the opportunity to use it more often.

He is confident in his changeup but it suffers frm the same inconsistency as his hook. The good news is, he isn’t afraid to throw it which means that given enough innings he can get the feel back for it.

While he’s lost some of his upside Campos remains a very polished young pitcher, as evidenced by the fact he walked on 4% of the batters he faced in 2013. He has a good delivery, keeps his balance and rhythm throughout it and does a great just of repeating his release point.

At 21 he can still regain some of his velocity or polish his other skills even more to reclaim his once lofty status as a top-tier prospect.

Gary Sanchez, Bats: Right/Throws: Right, C

Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Hit: 4/6 | Power: 5/7 | Run: 2/3 | Arm: 7/7 | Field: 4/6 | Overall: 5/6

Sanchez has been described as being “from the same forest as Joe Mauer, maybe even the same tree.”

Stuff like that puts you squarely on the radar and once the Yankees gave him $3 million to sign out of the Dominican Republic the kid was sitting squarely in the spotlight.

He has above-average raw power and his approach at the plate has improved, albeit slower than I like, giving him the chance to be an outstanding all-around hitter.

His catcher skills need some work/refinement but his arm and its accuracy have never been a cause for concern. Simply put: He’s got an accurate cannon.

Given time to learn the craft of handling a staff and calling the games there is absolutely no ceiling on this guy, hence his Number 2 ranking among all MLB catching prospects.

Eric Jagielo, Bats: Left/Throws: Right, 3B

3B Eric Jagielo, New York Yankees

3B Eric Jagielo, New York Yankees

Scouting Grades (on 1 to 8 scale, present/future): Hit: 4/6 | Power: 4/6 | Run: 3/3 | Arm: 5/5 | Field: 5/6 | Overall: 5/6

When the one man carnival act known as A-fraud A-rod is your 3B you just know that everyone will be keeping an eye on your hot corner prospects. Fortunately for the Yankees they’ve got themselves a good one.

Left-handed hitting third basemen are always a hot commodity in the Bronx, so when Jagielo carried over a strong Cape Cod League season into his junior year at Notre Dame, he became a sure-fire first-rounder, one who could eventually man the hot corner for the Yankees in the not-too-distant future.

He has good pop to all fields and should hit for both average and power in the future.

While some thought his limitations with the leather would force a move to 1B, Jagielo showed good defensive improvement in 2013 and answered some of those questions. The Yankees certainly had no plans to move him and he should fit the profile of a run-producing third baseman very well.

Here’s a sample of what others are saying about him.

  • Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com: “Another good looking college bat, Jagielo had a very strong Cape League season, finishing second in the summer circuit in home runs. He has legitimate power from the left side of the plate and as he showed with wood bats over the summer and then into his junior year, it should play just fine at the next level.”
  • John Sickels, Minor League Ball: “Scouts seem more comfortable with his glove now, but (teams) could still slot him at first base and he’ll have the bat for the position.”

Look for “Evaluating Yankees Prospects: The Good, The (Not So) Bad & The Ugly (Injuries), Part 2 of 4” tomorrow.


Quote of the Day: Buster Olney on Michael Pineda

by @ Hardball Talk

Buster brings some serious truth to the Michael Pineda injury:

The explosion of social media has fueled the desire to identify incompetence, to illuminate failure, to expose the cheaters. Within seconds that news broke that Michael Pineda will miss the rest of the year with a labrum tear, Twitter was flooded with theories — that the New York Yankees blew it, that the Seattle Mariners knew that Pineda was hurt, that there were idiots and schemers … The Mariners didn’t cheat, the Yankees weren’t idiots. It just didn’t work out.

When bad things happen we often look for someone to blame. It makes it much easier to deal with bad news if we believe that it is the result of malfeasance. The scariest part of this world, however, is that the vast majority of bad things that happen … just happen.  Often for no reason at all other than bad random chance.

Baseball player injuries obviously don’t compare to the real bad things, of course, but in their frustrating habit of just … happening, they are pretty similar.

List Of Top Young Pitchers Without Extensions

Ben Nicholson-Smith @ MLB Trade Rumors put together this great list of young pitchers who might be hitting the open market in the not-too-distant future.

MLB teams are working to keep their best pitchers off of the open market with contract extensions, and fewer elite arms are hitting free agency as a result of this emerging trend. In the past month alone, Matt Cain, Derek HollandJon Niese and Madison Bumgarner have signed long-term extensions that will postpone their free agency.

So who’s going to hit free agency? Fortunately for teams without pitching, some under-30 starters are not signed to long-term deals (minimum 2.5 wins above replacement in 2011 per FanGraphs). The list below includes pitchers who are going year to year through arbitration, and those who are headed for free agency this coming offseason:

Eligible For Free Agency After 2012

Eligible For Free Agency After 2013

Eligible For Free Agency After 2014

Eligible For Free Agency After 2015

  • Rick Porcello — 23 years old, 2.7 WAR in ’11, 2.170 years of MLB service through ’11
  • David Price — 26 years old, 4.7 WAR in ’11, 2.164 years of MLB service through ’11
  • Jordan Zimmermann –– 25 years old, 3.4 WAR in ’11, 2.154 years of MLB service through ’11 (extension candidate)
  • Ian Kennedy — 27 years old, 5.0 WAR in ’11, 2.124 years of MLB service through ’11 (extension candidate)
  • Mat Latos — 24 years old, 3.2 WAR in ’11, 2.079 years of MLB service through ’11
  • Doug Fister — 28 years old, 5.5 WAR in ’11, 2.058 years of MLB service through ’11
  • Philip Humber — 29 years old, 3.5 WAR in ’11, 2.000 years of MLB service through ’11

Eligible For Free Agency After 2016

  • Daniel Hudson — 25 years old, 4.9 WAR in ’11, 1.117 years of MLB service through ’11 (extension candidate)
  • Ivan Nova — 25 years old, 2.7 WAR in ’11, 1.035 years of MLB service through ’11
  • Brandon Beachy — 25 years old, 2.8 WAR in ’11, 1.014 years of MLB service through ’11
  • Michael Pineda — 23 years old, 3.4 WAR in ’11, 1.000 years of MLB service through ’11

Many of the pitchers above will eventually sign extensions that delay their arrival on the open market. For now, however, it remains possible that they’ll test free agency.


The Other Part Of The Pineda/Montero Trade

Jose Campos has surrendered just one hit in 11 innings this season.

by Ben Badler @ The Daily Dish

With one trade, the Mariners sent arguably the two best Latin American pitchers they’ve signed since Felix Hernandez to the Yankees in January.

It may end up being worth it, given Jesus Montero’s bat potential and some early concerns about Michael Pineda’s health, but losing righthander Jose Campos in the deal may end up stinging.

Pitching for low Class A Charleston tonight, Campos threw five no-hit innings, allowed one run (it was unearned, thanks to a couple of fielding errors in the first inning), walked two and struck out seven against Augusta.

It was a nice two-day stretch for Campos’ family in the series, as his cousin, Giants lefthander Edwin Escobar, had shut down Campos’ Charleston club the previous day, throwing six shutout innings with two hits, no walks and seven strikeouts.

While Escobar is an interesting 19-year-old southpaw with some pitchability, Campos is a potential frontline arm. Campos, a 19-year-old signed out of Venezuela three years ago, ranked as one of the Top 20 prospects in the 2010 Dominican Summer League and Venezuelan Summer League after a strong VSL season, then came as advertised last season when he ranked as the short-season Northwest League’s No. 3 prospect.

Campos has a power fastball that he can ramp up to the high-90s when he needs to, but he also throws it for strikes, backs it up with solid secondary stuff and has a big, durable 6-foot-4 frame.

Montero should help a Mariners offense that scored the fewest runs in baseball a year ago, but Campos has the potential to swing that deal in the Yankees‘ favor in a big, big way.

Another Stellar Example of Why Too Many Bleacher Report Articles Are A Joke

I don’t want to come across like I am just bashing Bleacher Report for the hell of it. Because I’m not. I am really not.

When it first showed up on the “blogosphere” it was a good thing. Hell, it was a great thing.

It offered a venue where the casual writer yet avid sports fan could offer up their opinion on whatever it is they felt the urge to talk about.

But over the last couple of years, as more & more “writers” found their way into that community the quality/relevance of what you find on there has gone from “decent amateur sports journalism” to “a collection of biased, statistically unsupported, mindless drivel”.

You get hit over the head with an endless parade of pieces that are nothing more than hatchet jobs on teams/athletes the writer’s don’t like or completely ridiculous pipe dreams like “How The Yankees Should Acquire Felix Hernandez For A Bucket of KFC & A.J. Burnett’s Jock Strap”.

Yet, every day I get an e-mail with a collection of today’s “stories” from the site because I am an eternal optimist and secretly hope the site (and its contributors) pulls itself around some time soon.

In today’s e-mail comes a piece titled Seattle Mariners: 5 Reasons Why They Have Already Won the Jesus Montero Trade.

The thing is a joke.

An absolute, freakin’ joke.

Not because of the premise, because in the end the Mariners may very well indeed “win” that trade, but because it a. is claiming that a team won a trade involving two premier talents who are BOTH under the age of 23 just a couple of months after it was completed (and before one meaningful game was played by either club after the trade) and b. it offers no real analysis.

Just bad analysis.

First thing it does is ignore the obvious.  It doesn’t even address the fact you are trading a young, high end starting pitcher for a young, high end position player. Ask every GM in baseball what side of that scenario and I am willing to bet vital parts of my anatomy that every single one comes back saying they want that young arm.

They will talk nuances like what each clubs specific needs are, but as Curt Schilling said after the trade “there is a reason why you never see 22 year olds with his arm and his upside traded…let alone for a position player.”

A century’s worth of statistical analysis shows that, yes, pitching is far more important that position players and offensive production.

In the history of baseball only three teams have won the world series with an ERA+ under 100, meaning that those teams had a staff that performed below the league average.

Over that same span nearly forty percent had an offense that was close the league average in terms of OPS+.

Looking at the data this is what you see:

• Only 22 of 106 winners had better hitting than pitching (20.75 percent)
• Only eight of 40 winners had better hitting than pitching in the divisional era (20 percent)
• Only two of 16 winners had better hitting than pitching in the dead-ball era (12.50 percent)
• Since the offensive-centric Reds of the 1970s, aka The Big Red Machine, only five of 33 have had better hitting than pitching (15.15 percent)
• The average World Series winner had an OPS+ of 103.47 and a median of 104
• The average World Series winner had an ERA+ of 113.84 and a median of 113
• Thus, on average, the winner has an ERA+ of 10.37 more than its OPS+

So to not even address this simple fact automatically renders his entire conclusion as flawed. But it gets better, oh so much better when you look at the positions he does put forward.

Case in point, the author’s argument that:

When Hector Noesi was thrown in with Jesus Montero in the Michael Pineda trade, I certainly didn’t expect him to fall in behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas as the third starter in the Mariners rotation.

However, after an encouraging spring, it’s easy to see why manager Eric Wedge chose Noesi for the spot.

After five freakin’ innings pitched. Five. F -I – V -E. And how did this surprisingly dominant third starter do in their exhibition game on Sunday? He got shelled. By a Japanese team.

So way to jump the gun homer.

His next piece of justification:

Like I said before, it was great watching Michael Pineda dominate opposing batters as a rookie last April and May, but as the season wore on and his unseasoned arm grew tired, his efficiency dropped pretty significantly.

It’s possible it was just because it was his first year in the majors throwing (almost) a full season, but you could also argue that as Pineda faced more and more batters, they started to figure him out.

It is much more likely that he wore down as the innings piled up but yes, it is indeed possible that the league “figured him out”.

But you know what that means? That it might “figure Jesus Montero out” once he plays more than a month in the show. You know, kind of like Jason Heyward.

Heyward has bee absolutely lost at the plate for the last season and a half, after having a Hall of Fame caliber start to it. He tore up the league, the pitchers did their homework and found holes in his swing that the kid has yet to fix.

If both Montero and Pineda had played the entire season in 2011 his argument would have merit, but since Jesus didn’t it doesn’t.

His next argument is mind numbingly retarded:

I don’t mean to snub Jose Campos—he’s got legitimate potential as a starting pitcher—but he has only gone as high as Single-A (short season) in the minors.

He’s f***** 19. Nineteen. N – I -N -E -T- E – E – N.

This tool thinks a nineteen year old, high end pitching prospect with a cannon for an arm as part of the trade is a negative.

Bart Klett over at BaseballInstinct.com has a great piece outlining Campos’ upside, describing his impressive fastball as such:

“Campos is listed as 6’4” and this helps him to get downward plane on his fastball. His fastball has been described as heavy and I think that is a fair description. Very few hitters are able to square up and drive the ball with any authority. In fact, at the games that I have observed, not many hitters actually got the ball out of the infield.”

Jose Campos, a 19-year-old capable of hitting upwards of 98 MPH on the gun, could very well be the steal of the deal for GM Brian Cashman and his Yanks.

Campos posted a 2.32 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 85 K in Single-A in 2011—all while allowing just 13 BB in 81.1 IP over 14 starts.

And somehow that is a bad thing?

Granted, maybe his entire argument is based around the fact that Campos won’t arrive for a while as he seasons himself in the minors. But ya know what?

That means you can’t evaluate this trade yet then doesn’t it?

Now if the Yankees had a pressing need for starting pitching maybe you could make the argument that the short-term impact of the trade is it compromises the Yankees but this year, of all years, you can’t even come close to making that case.

The Yankees have so much starting pitching they traded A.J. Burnett and are still shopping Freddy Garcia, just to trim down to six starters once Andy Pettite is up to speed.

Not only do they have a wealth of pitching at the big lig level, but they have a ton of high end arms in AAA ready to step in if needed. Just take a look at the stats from the Yanks spring training this year.

Kontos, Phelps, Warren and Betances all have an ERA under 1.93 (with all but Kontos having thrown more innings than Noesi, the man the author crowned as a legitimate number three after a whole five IP).

And that list doesn’t even include the Yankees best pitching prospect, Manny Banuelos, because he gave up one three run home run to jack his ERA up, but other than that blemish he hasn’t yielded a single runner past second base, let alone one that scored.

Then this buffoon closes with:

Perhaps the listed circumstances give Jack Z and the M’s an advantage in public perception, but either way, the Mariners did take the cake here.

The Yankees took on a high-risk, high-reward pitcher who was definitely ready to start this year, and a young, unproven pitching prospect who could potentially benefit the team in the future.

The Mariners acquired a proven hitting asset who will contribute to the team for a number of years, and who is developing even more useful tools, as well as a safer pitcher who followed a more conventional path to the majors.

The Mariners acquired a guy who doesn’t even have 70 AB‘s in the major leagues, where as the Yankees acquired someone who was already logged more innings in one season than Clay Bucholz (a fine damn pitcher), yet the M’s received the “proven thing”.

Where exactly is that supported by one shred of evidence, either of the statistical variety or some well crafted logical arguments?

Sorry, but this is the kind of senseless crap that pervades Bleacher Report right now. So if you go there, continue reading at your own risk.

Analyzing Michael Pineda’s “Reduced Velocity”

by Dave Cameron @ FanGraphs

Michael Pineda made his Yankee debut yesterday – at least, Yankee-debut-in-games-that-don’t-count anyway. He threw two innings, gave up just one hit, didn’t walk anyone, and struck out two batters. The results were pretty successful. However, as Ken Rosenthal reports, the process was slightly less impressive:

A pitcher who sat in the mid-90s and regularly touched the upper-90s now throwing 88-91 could be cause for real concern. And, Keith Law even noted that at this time last year, Pineda was throwing much harder:

So, time to panic?

No, not really. As the 2011 season wore on, Pineda decided that it wasn’t in his best interests to come out firing at full velocity from the first pitch. He wanted to be more efficient early in games, so rather than coming out and throwing 97 and striking everyone out, he decided to ease off the fastball in the first inning or two and try to get some quick outs on the ground.

For instance, here are the first 10 pitches from his Pitch F/x log during his August 21st start against Tampa Bay from last year.

Fastball: 89.2
Fastball: 90.2
Fastball: 90.3
Fastball: 91.0
Change-Up: 85.5
Fastball: 93.9
Fastball: 91.8
Slider: 83.8
Slider: 83.6
Fastball: 93.7

He didn’t crack 94, and the average velocity was just over 91. The results were still fine, as he retired the side in order in the first inning, including getting two strikeouts, but the velocity wasn’t what he had shown earlier in the year. Later in the game, however, he was sitting 94-95 with regularity, and he finished the day with six innings pitched, allowing just six hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. It took him 94 pitches to throw those six innings.

Essentially, this development just isn’t new. Pineda spent a good part of the second half of 2011 experimenting with pitching at reduced velocities early in games, and then he cranked up the volume when he needed to as the game wore on. Now, I think an argument could be made that it’s a little disconcerting that Pineda feels it’s necessary to start games with diminished velocity, suggesting that perhaps he doesn’t feel he can throw in the mid-90s for 100 pitches per start over a full season. However, his performances from 2011 suggest that he’s choosing to throw at lower velocities early in starts, and you’d certainly rather have velocity loss be due to something that the pitcher can change when he wants to, rather than simply being unable to throw as hard as he used to.

Bottom line – this just isn’t really something to be overly concerned with. He only threw two innings in an exhibition game, and did so after being strongly encouraged to work on his change-up during Spring Training. For Pineda, there was no incentive to come out throwing 95, and he’s already shown that he prefers to work at lower velocities early in games.

If it’s mid-April and he’s trying to keep the Yankees in a regular season game and can’t get his fastball over 92, then it’s cause for alarm. Now, though, it’s just not really something that anyone should spend much time worrying about.