Saturday, May 19, 2007
Tyler Clippard Day
Since my last post, Marcos Vechionacci has returned from his lengthy stay on the disabled list. This leaves Tim Norton and George Kontos as the remaining DL casualties of unknown injury timetable.
The big news for today is that Tyler Clippard will be making his major league debut. I’ve been a huge fan of Clippard since he was drafted in the 9th round of the 2003 First Year Player Draft and as a result I am incredibly excited to see him reach the big stage. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Clippard’s start tonight will be the biggest start in the history of Major League Baseball, ever. The first reason why is that the Yankees are currently playing terrible baseball and have dug themselves an almost insurmountable hole in the division. If they want any chance at making the playoffs, the charge needs to begin now. The second reason is that Tyler Clippard has been one of the most controversial prospects in recent memory. He’s always put up eye catching stats, but scouts have been slow to warm to him. Despite scouts’ concerns about Clippard, he has, in my uneducated opinion, a good repertoire. He throws a fastball regularly clocked at 89-91 MPH, touching 92, a change-up at about 80 and a curveball around 75. Clippard’s change-up is his best pitch, his curve his second best, and his fastball a third offering. In the past Tyler has struggled with keeping the ball down, but has done a pretty good job of that this year. I’m cautiously optimistic about his chances.
Due to injuries, both at the major league and minor league level, the AAA pitching rotation has become very uninteresting outside of Steve Jackson and Chase Wright. Even focusing on those two, the rotation isn’t that interesting. Jackson was knocked around in his last outing, with a line of 5.2-10-6-6-2-3-0 (IP-H-R-ER-BB-K-HR). Jackson’s ERA is now up to 5.53 and he has just had an extremely uninspiring year. Jackson is looking more and more like Ramiro Mendoza Red Sox edition and less like Ramiro Mendoza Yankee edition. This is not a good thing.
Chase Wright’s start today was uninspiring in the sense that he is just continuing to get lucky rather than actually pitch well. With a final line of 7.2-6-3-2-3-2-0, Wright now has a AAA ERA of 2.93 despite an 8:13 K:BB ratio in 27.2 innings. Given Rasner’s injury, if Clippard does poorly today, Wright may be back in the bigs.
Alberto Gonzalez is 4 for his last 15 with a double, 3 walks, and a strikeout. The 3 walks in the stretch are half of his total for the year, which really hurts when you have a .235 AVG. Eric Duncan was 4 for 16 with a double, 3 walks, and a strikeout. One strange thing about Duncan’s performance this year, other than the extremely low BABIP, is that he has really struggled against LHP. Despite being a LHB, Eric has actually hit LHP better than he’s hit RHP over the last two years. Hopefully this means he’s going to begin hitting lefties again and get his AVG out of the low .200s.
With the AAA rotation starting to feel the crunch of constant roster movement, the AA guys continued to shine and wait for their chance. Brett Smith, Jeff Marquez, and Alan Horne put up a combined line of 20-11-6-6-6-16-1 during the past week. Based on his peripherals, Marquez isn’t quite where he needs to be yet, but the reports from those who’ve seen him have been glowing, so I’m not going to worry much, if at all, but I will acknowledge that his ERA is due for some correction. Smith has been a beast with run prevention and Alan Horne has put up phenomenal peripherals. Overall, the pitching at the major league level has been righting itself as of late, and the minor league prospects are serving notice that the club should not have to worry about pitching in the future.
Ian Kennedy, Daniel McCutchen, and Joba Chamberlain continued to perform as the FSL version of the Smith, Marquez, and Horne. The combined line of the advanced A trio was 18.2-14-5-5-4-23. Kennedy has done a terrific job overall, but I am a bit worried by his walk total, 18 in 44 innings. When these guys are promoted may depend on some of the people behind them. I would like to see the Trenton Three go to AAA, and the Tampa Three to AA as soon as possible. The only problem is that other than Michael Dunn, there are really no easy choices to step into the Tampa rotation.
Reegie Corona is 4 for his last 19 with 1 double, 1 homer, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts, and 3 steals. I wasn’t a big believer in Corona prior to this season, but the way he’s been playing this year as well as the way he looked in the Clemens game has me reconsidering my evaluation. Corona seems to have a live body with room for growth, a solid sense of the strike zone, good range, and a solid arm. He might not be a star, but looks to be a good player nonetheless. He just has to get more under control in the field and not rush the game too much. With Robinson Cano’s nightmare season, middle infield prospects in the Yankee organization are becoming important once again.
Jose Tabata is 6 for his last 22 with 1 walk and 3 strikeouts in that stretch. There was a point this off-season when I was considering placing Tabata ahead of Hughes on my prospect ranking. It was partially to be controversial and partially because I didn’t feel there was much difference between the two as prospects. However, I decided against it because doing it just to be controversial would have been stupid and because I couldn’t get over my fears about his history of hand injuries and his weight. Spring training came and it seemed all was well. Tabata looked to be in better shape than he was last year and he was driving the ball, but a month and a half into the season and Tabata is having trouble driving the ball, expected in the FSL, and is very much out of shape, not as expected. I scoffed at the initial Baseball America reports of Tabata being 220 pounds, but now I’m not sure. Making matters worse, Tabata seems to be loafing, both at the plate and in the field. While I hope Tabata can work his way back into shape, he has established himself as a guy who struggles to keep his weight under control and that is going to be a huge mark against his prospect status.
Juan Miranda is 3 for his last 16 with a home run, a walk, and 4 strikeouts. Miranda’s performance has been highly uninspiring, but he stood out in the Clemens game as an impressive physical specimen. He has monstrous forearms and despite being at least 24 years old, looks like he has room on his frame to get even bigger. I’m not sure he’s going to hit much, but he could probably sell a few jeans.
Colin Curtis was 2 for 10 with a walk and 2 strikeouts. Curtis is really struggling at the moment, which is something a guy with questionable tools can’t afford to do, as he will be buried quickly. Colin didn’t leave much of a lasting impression in the Clemens game as he seemed to be your run of the mill scrappy player.
Francisco Cervelli was 3 for 11 with a double, a homer, 2 walks, and 2 strikeouts. My concern when I saw Cervelli play last year was his discipline or lack thereof. This season his statistics have shown him to be a much more disciplined hitter and he looked the part as well. I’ve been straddling the fence a bit on him, but right now I’m a big Cervelli backer. He is probably a Top 3 position prospect in the system at the moment. Hopefully he finishes the year as strong as he started it and Posada does the same, so that we can then begin planning the Posada to Cervelli transfer.
After a month off with injury, Marcos Vechionacci returned to the lineup to go 0 for 7 with a walk. Vechionacci’s eye didn’t suffer any from the layoff, but his timing did as he is not squaring up with the ball when he swings. This is a critical year in Marcos’ development as I, and many others, have been waiting on him for some time now. He needs to get things going, which he seemed to be doing prior to his DL stint. Luckily for him, he’s only had 42 at bats, so even if things don’t go smooth immediately, he will have ample time to make his numbers look nice.
Michael Dunn and Ivan Nova both had good outings this past week. Dunn posted a 6.2-4-0-0-1-3-0 night and Nova had a 7-5-1-1-0-4-0 night. Both guys had rough outings last time out, so it was nice to see them bounce back. If Reyes can get his issues with the strike zone in control, the Yankees may have another pitching trio on their hands.
Mitch Hilligoss is now the proud owner of a 26 game hit streak. Over the last 5, Hilly was 7 for 20 with 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, and a steal. Hilly’s season line now stands at .323/.367/.406 (AVG/OBP/SLG). That isn’t too impressive and is a concern about his overall future effectiveness, but his flashy AVG and extended hit streak is also evidence of why scouts think he’s such a great pure hitter. Hopefully he’s one of the great pure hitters who is able to eventually develop some power; otherwise, that tool/skill won’t do him much good.
Austin Jackson is 6 for his last 19 with 3 doubles, a walk, 5 strikeouts, and 2 steals. The production has been solid, but the strikeout total is beginning to creep up again and more than anything else, that is what he needs to keep under control. Eduardo Nunez went 5 for his last 15 with 4 walks, 2 strikeouts, and 2 steals in 3 attempts. Despite only having 3 extra base hits through 39 games, I’ve been impressed with the way Eduardo has played. If he can continue to raise his average and pick up his walks, I’m comfortable, for now, with the lack of power.
Tyler Clippard going in the majors and Jeff Marquez going for Trenton. It should be an exciting day/night.
I just finished Finals this past week, I have LSATs on June 11th, and I begin work for the Yankees on Monday. If my posting slows, you know why.
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