Friday, June 27, 2008

Down on the farm

For those of you die-hard Yanks fans, I thoroughly recommend you to check in with Chad Jennings' Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees blog. I don't usually weigh in too often on the Yanks prospects since I don't get to, you know, actually SEE them play. Chad does.

Jennings has a ton on some of the likely bullpen help the big club can look towards to rescue the leaky bullpen. To wit:

David Robertson: "Hard not to be impressed by Robertson, who now has 48 strikeouts in 33 innings. Eleven of his 16 walks came last month. I forgot to mention earlier, so I'll mention here that I asked Mark Newman today if the Yankees had any plans to let Robertson go back to throwing the slider he used in college. Newman didn't rule it out, but said Robertson's fastball moves so much that the slider seems redundant. They like having him work with that big curveball, and the curveball has obviously been working."

Mark Melancon: "Mark Newman understands the desire to see Mark Melancon in big league pinstripes, but player development is a game of patience, and Newman is willing to wait. With a 1.57 ERA through 11 Double-A games, Melancon has fans calmoring for a call-up, but Newman is happy to leave the right-hander where he is. “He could stay there all year," Newman said. "Probably will. Not a guarantee, but probably.” [...] The good news, of course, is that Melancon is rolling through the Eastern League, consistently throwing two, three and even four innings at a time."

And then there are the bats to look for either when the rosters expand in September or in Spring Training next year:

Newman on Brett Gardner: “His swing has gotten better, technique-wise. It’s clear to me because I haven’t see him for a few months, and people need to know how good Butch Wynegar is. He’s outstanding at what he does. He’s helped Gardy, and Gardy has worked his butt off, plus he’s very bright and committed to improvement. You take that and put him with Butch, you’re going to see some high caliber results.”

Newman on Austin Jackson: “He’s been good the last month. He‘s hit home runs, he‘s played defense good, he‘s hit for power. He jumped a level and made adjustments. He’s hitting about .285 with about a .360 on-base. He’s hit for power. It validates. Any time they go a significant chunk of the season performing, half a season in this case, you’re more confident in your assessment.

And for those of you wondering who the heck Justin Christian is and why he was called up ahead of Brett Gardner, I humbly blockquote this:

Why Justin Christian instead of Brett Gardner? I can think of several reasons.

1. Christian is right handed. With a slew of left-handed starters scheduled to face the Yankees the next few days, a right-handed bat has very real value.

2. Christian has been red hot. Yes, so has Gardner, but it's not as if the Yankees called up some bum. Christian was hitting .412 this month with a .448 on-base percentage, .588 slugging nine stolen bases and only three strikeouts. Christian earned this call-up.

3. Gardner is getting noticeably better in Triple-A. It's not often that you can physically see a player improving. Progress is usually slow and steady and you only notice it in retrospect. With Gardner, it's happening right before our eyes. Why slow this kind of progress?
- Four stolen bases in eight attempts in April, 25 steals in 29 attempts ever since. It seems like he can take a bag whenever he wants.
- He said last week that he wanted to cut down on the strikeouts, and promptly struck out only twice in four days, all while walking seven times.
- I don't know how many pitches Gardner sees each game, but last night it was 25 in five at-bats. It's gotten to the point that we in the press box have set an over/under on the number of pitches he'll see in a game and tried to guess. Last night the over/under was set at 30 and almost got there.
- The power numbers, obviously, are much better this year than in the past.

4. Christian is 28 years old. He's spent almost exactly a year in Triple-A with consistent production. It's time to see what he can do.
Great job by SWB Yanks Blog. Thanks for keeping us in the loop!

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