About EJ Fagan

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

Its Time To Make Those Tough Bullpen Decisions

The banged-up Yankee roster had to resort to using Javier Vazquez as a long reliever last night. I actually give Joe Girardi a lot of credit for foresight – he skipped Javier in the rotation in part to take a start away from his worst starting pitcher, but also in part to allow the team to use their 5th starter as a long man while Sergio Mitre recovered from his spot start. However, he appeared only after the Yankee bullpen blew yet another lead. After Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, Alfredo Aceves, and Sergio Mitre, the Yankee bullpen has been a disaster this season.

I definitely expected the group of David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves, Chan Ho Park, Damaso Marte, and Joba Chamberlain to be an effective bridge to Mariano Rivera. Instead, they have been a glaring weakness on an overall strong team. With injuries to key players, including the effective Aceves, the Yankees can’t afford to let their bullpen plod along all season in the middle innings.… Click here to read the rest

Rising: Austin Romine

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In preparation for my pre-draft top-30 prospect ranking, I’ll be looking at some prospect whose stock is on the rise. First up is Austin Romine.

Austin Romine is off to a very strong start at Double-A Trenton. He’s hitting .296/.372/.472 in his first 28 games while dealing with some dead arm problems that have limited his time behind the plate. Below is his full stat line:

2008 19 Charleston SALL A 104 436 407 66 122 24 1 10 49 3 0 25 56 .300 .344 .437 .781
2009 20 Tampa FLOR A+ 118 481 442 61 122 28 3 13 72 11 5 29 78 .276 .322 .441 .763
2010 21 Trenton EL AA 28 121 108 17 32 10 0 3 22 1 0 12 24 .296 .372 .472 .844
4 Seasons 251 1041 959 146 277 63 4 26 144 15 5 67 159 .289 .338 .444 .782

Romine’s chief concern coming in to the season was a low BB%, which he increased from 6% last season to 10% in the first part of 2010.… Click here to read the rest

Juan Miranda should be called up

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The Yankees brought up Kevin Russo to serve as a backup infielder yesterday, following the injuries to Nick Johnson and Robinson Cano. Cano is better, and Nick Johnson will be on the disabled list for some time. With Curtis Granderson also out, the Yankees are going to have to get some miles out of Marcus Thames and Randy Winn, but that also means that occasionally, Nick Johnson’s DH spot will be up for grabs.

Joe Girardi seems willing to use a rotating DH for now. But I really want to ask: why not call up Juan Miranda? Miranda is hitting a solid .261/.374/.455 in his third Triple-A season. He has improved against left-handed pitchers quite a bit, after struggling to hit them in his first Triple-A season. Miranda gives you an effective platoon partner to stick with Marcus Thames, and an offensive improvement over playing one of Francisco Cervelli, or Ramiro Pena every day.… Click here to read the rest

Yankee Injury Situation Should Be Expected

After finishing the semester from hell, I will now be returning to 1-2 posts per day. And I’d like to start with something that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

The Yankees have had a bad week on the injury front. To recap, they are:

  • Curtis Granderson is to miss about a month with a groin pull.
  • Nick Johnson to miss an undetermined amount of time with a wrist injury.
  • Andy Pettitte to miss at least one start with elbow inflammation.
  • Jorge Posada has missed several games with a knee issue, and may miss more going forward.
  • Alex Rodriguez is dealing with a knee issue, has missed some time, and may be slumping as a result.
  • Robinson Cano may miss a few days after being hit in the knee with a Josh Beckett pitch.
  • Chan Ho Park is still on the 15-day DL with a hamstring pull.
  • Mariano Rivera has been unavailable for several days (though could have pitched yesterday) with tightness in his right side.
Click here to read the rest

Building a Professional Resume – Graham Stoneburner

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What’s the perfect distraction for a burnt-out graduate student with a bunch of papers due in 3 days? Minor league baseball blogging.

Graham Stoneburner pitched about as good as he could on Saturday – 8 innings, 1 earned run, 8 strikeouts, no walks. At one point, he retired 20 straight batters. Stoneburner’s line on the season: 25 innings, 4 starts, 10.8 K/9, 2.16 BB/9. The Yankees started him this season at Low-A Charleston, ending some speculation that he might spend the year in short season baseball.

Stoneburner is a raw and largely untested college Sophomore that the Yankees picked up with an above-slot bonus last season. He was exactly the kind of player that the Yankees should be targeting with their inflated draft budget – later round, risky college players with upside. Although he pitched one inning in the minors last year, this season is for all intents and purposes his professional debut.… Click here to read the rest

Phil Hughes Looking Like Its 2006 All Over Again

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I spent much of last night doing the Gameday / Audio combination to watch Phil Hughes start against the Oakland Athletics. Assuming that Gameday’s radar gun is accurate, we’re seeing the best fastball velocity that Phil Hughes has thrown since his hamstring injury. He sat at 93-94 for most of the night, and had his best start in the majors ever. For awhile, I had flashbacks to 2006.

It is really easy to forget how good of a prospect Phil Hughes was. He was by many accounts the #1 pitching prospect in the game. He spent his age-20 season cutting through Double-A batters like a hot chainsaw through butter. His playoff-included statistics that season are staggering: 152 innings, 10.77 K/9, 2.07 BB/9, 2.13 ERA. Looking at the trends, he was even more impressive. In his final 10 Double-A starts, Hughes managed a 13.13 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, and 1.29 ERA.

At the time, I wrote the following about Phil’s fastball:

He is capable of throwing 96-97 mph, but prefers to sit comfortably at 93-94 or 94-95 on a good day in order to command it better.

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Comparing Young Pitchers – Jose Ramirez and Manuel Banuelos

[image title=”Manuel Banuelos” size=”full” id=”16828″ align=”center” linkto=”full” ]The Yankees push a lot of talented young pitchers through their Latin American development program. Every year, 2-3 guys pop up with real potential to become top-flight prospects. Some flame out quickly, while some climb the ladder. I remember pimping the likes of Angel Reyes, Francisco Castillo and Ferdin Tejada. Seriously, I thought that Ferdin Tejada was the next big thing. A lot of those guys have come and gone from the Yankee development program, but only two have retained their prospect status in to the high minor leagues – Ivan Nova and Wilkins De La Rosa. They’re keeping the Yankee Latin American pitching team from the shutout.

The two best hopes for the Latin American team to follow up Nova and De La Rosa are Jose Ramirez and Manuel Banuelos. While being roughly the same age, they could not be more different pitching prospects. They offer two interesting case studies to help evaluate pitching prospects in the very low minors.… Click here to read the rest

Minor League Notes, April 13, 2010

Prediction comes true: Pat Venditte is on a schedule

Three days after his last appearance, Pat Venditte pitched two innings for Tampa tonight. He struck out four and allowed one hit. While its only two appearances, I willing to bet that this is a permanent shift for Venditte. He will pitch multiple-inning appearances to a pitch count every three days. The Yankees have him on a prospect track, which means there is a very good chance that at some point we will be seeing Pat Venditte in the major leagues. Prepare for a show.

Greg Fertel at Pending Pinstripes says that we’ll really know what the Yankees think if they promote Venditte to Double-A quickly. I’m willing to go one step further. I’m positive that the Yankees, because this is how they do things in the minors, have an absolute minimum number of innings required for a relief pitcher to be promoted to the next level. They set the bar at 40 innings for starting pitchers, but it took Mark Melancon only 25 innings to get out of High-A.… Click here to read the rest

Pat Venditte Finally Considered a Prospect?

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Pat Venditte made a sensational season debut on Saturday. He pitched 3 perfect innings, striking out four. You’re probably already familiar with the switch-pitcher, so I won’t rehash it here. Venditte has questionable MLB talent as either a right-hander or left-hander, but has a career 11.6 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, and .3 HR/9 in 103 minor league innings, and has started to look like more than just a novelty act. He started the season at High-A Tampa instead of Double-A, which led many (including myself) to question how much faith the Yankees have in the 25 year-old.

Major League teams are very clear to their minor league affiliates: some players are prospective major leaguers, and some players are not. They treat the two very differently: better spots in the batting order, guaranteed playing time at a position regardless of performance, etc. Minor league managers are always torn between the two competing goals of developing players and winning ballgames.… Click here to read the rest