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Seattle Mariners Opening Day Primer

2011 Record: 67-95 Manager: Eric Wedge

The Mariners once again struggled to score runs last season and decided to trade their rookie all star pitcher Michael Pineda to get one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, Jesus Montero. For this lineup to improve and get this team back to .500, Montero and their other young prospects need to grow up in a hurry.

Player in the spotlight: Ichiro Suzuki RF

Ichiro drops to the #3 spot in the batting order as he starts the season at 38. For the first time in his MLB career, Ichiro failed to amass 200 hits on the season. His unbelievable string of 10 consecutive 200 hit seasons ended. With 2428 career hits entering 2012, Ichiro is only 572 hits away from immortality at 3000 hits. That’s an incredible accomplishment for a player who didn’t get his first hit until he was 27 years old.

Biggest question mark in the lineup: Jesus Montero C/DH

Montero is the headline acquisition for the Mariners in the offseason. The M’s thought so highly of him that they trade a pitcher coming off an all star season as a rookie. That makes the expectations for Montero pretty high. He’s expected to develop into a 30+ HR hitter, but what position will he play? He’s still average on his best days behind the plate and one wonders if he’ll ever settle into an everyday role in the field. Perhaps he’ll end up like former Mariners great Edgar Martinez and have a great career as a DH.

Pitcher in the spotlight: Felix Hernandez

The King wasn’t as dominating in 2011 as he had been previously. Perhaps he felt pressure to throw a shutout each game because of the poor run support. Felix enters this season at 26 and remains an annual candidate to win the Cy Young Award. With some of the new offensive talent, maybe Hernandez can pick up a few more wins this season.

Biggest pitching question mark: Hector Noesi

Noesi was the second piece of the Pineda-Montero deal in the winter. Noesi gives the Mariners a chance to really win this trade in a big way if he’s able to develop into a good major league pitcher. If he does it this season, the Mariners have a decent chance of getting to .500 on the season.

Prospect with a chance to make an impact this year: Vinnie Catricala 3B/1B/OF

Catricala has a pretty good power bat and is versatile enough to play a few positions. If he adjusts quickly to AAA, he could end up in Seattle by the end of the summer, especially if Chone Figgins doesn’t revive his career.

Prediction: 4th in AL West

The Mariners are an intriguing mix of young hitting talent and a pitching rotation that could develop into a top 3 rotation in the AL. But that’s probably a year away at the soonest for the Mariners faithful. This season, the M’s will need to find a way to gradually improve their offense and develop a core of 4-5 everyday players who are going to lead this team into the future. If they do that and pitch well, this team could surprise some and get to around .500. If their offense doesn’t start to come around, the Felix trade rumors will begin en force and the Mariners front office will begin to feel the heat for a rebuilding effort that is going on 10 years with only 2 winning seasons.

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MLB Daily Balk 5/16 plus Posada, Montero, and the Yankees

All of that commotion for a day off? Why not just a fake cough?

Posada, Montero, and the Yankees

Jorge Posada created a stir in the Bronx with his refusing to play on Saturday night after being dropped to 9th in the batting order. While everybody seems to be making a huge deal out of this situation, there’s really nothing to it. Posada wasn’t happy with the demotion and combined with his 2011 performance, he showed a great deal of frustration.

As long as Posada is hitting less than .200, he’s not going to be moved up in the order. He needs to understand that if he’s going to hit like a pitcher, he’s going to hit ninth. Posada is in the final year of a 4-year contract worth over $52 million and he’s earning $13.1M this season. The Yankees are going to give him plenty of opportunities to hit his way out of the season long slump. Playing DH, he’s really not impeding anybody else from making it to the big leagues.

Even though Posada isn’t catching, however, prized catching prospect Jesus Montero remains in AAA with no timetable to arrive in the Bronx. Montero’s name appears in every big trade rumor involving the Yankees, from Cliff Lee last summer to every ridiculous Felix Hernandez weekly rumor. Montero projects as a great hitting catcher with modest defensive skills. Some scouts believe that he’ll eventually end up at first base.

What’s interesting about Montero is that the Yankees seem hesitant to bring him up and play him. With the firepower in the Yankees lineup, having Montero adjust to big league pitching wouldn’t hurt them as much as other teams. But during the offseason, they signed Russell Martin and are paying him $4M this season. They also have Francisco Cervelli as Martin’s backup.

Montero is still very young at 21. But is there something about him that the Yankees know about, either offensively or defensively, that they feel might get exposed in the majors? Montero’s value is certainly higher as a future catcher than as a first baseman. But many people expect him to make that move anyway.

Could Montero have holes in his swing that could be exposed in a big way in the majors? He struck out 91 times in about 500 plate appearances in AAA last season.

If the Yankees felt that Montero was truly their catcher of the future, he’d be up with them sharing time with Martin. GM Brian Cashman probably feels that his trade value is probably much higher as a hyped prospect than an above average hitting catcher with defensive issues. That’s why Montero probably won’t make his major league debut with the Yankees, but with the team that probably overpays to trade for him.

 

Best of Yesterday May 15

Last Night’s Games  
American  
Seattle PPD Cleveland
Kansas City PPD Tigers
Baltimore 9 Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 11 Minnesota 3
Los Angeles 4 Texas 5
Chicago 4 Oakland 3
Boston 7 New York 5
National  
St. Louis 7 Cincinnati 9
Florida 4 Washington 8
Philadelphia 2 Atlanta 3
New York 7 Houston 4
Pittsburgh 6 Milwaukee 9
San Francisco PPD Chicago
San Diego 8 Colorado 2
Arizona 4 Los Angeles 1

 

Top Aces    
Player Team Stats
Ian Kennedy W (4-1) ARI 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 8 K, BB
Jake Arrieta W (5-1) BAL 6 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 7 K, 3 BB
Tim Hudson ATL 7 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 K, 5 BB
Roy Halladay PHI 8 IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 7 K, 2 BB

 

Hitting Heroes    
Player Team Stats
Jose Bautista TOR 3-5, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R
Justin Turner NYM 2-4, HR, 5 RBI, 2 R
Dan Uggla ATL 2-3, HR, RBI, 3 R
Ryan Braun MIL 2-3, HR, 4 RBI, R
JJ Hardy BAL 2-5, HR, 4 RBI, R

  

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

The Reds almost imploded at the end of their game Sunday against the Cardinals. The Reds entered the ninth inning with a 9-2 lead, but Aroldis Chapman walked four and only retired one hitter before being pulled. Francisco Cordero hit Albert Pujols on the hand with a pitch and then Pujols slid hard into second base to break up a potential game ending double play. Following a strikeout to end the game, Cordero then stared into the Cardinals dugout and yelled at the Cards bench. They don’t play each other again until July, but will play another nine more times.

 

AL News/Notes

Athletics closer Andrew Bailey had no problems in his extended spring training game on Saturday. He’s probably going to start a rehab assignment early this week.

The White Sox are going to use Adam Dunn more at first base as the season goes on to give Paul Konerko a break. Mark Teahen is going to give his strained oblique a try on Monday to see if he can avoid the DL.

The Twins have placed Jose Mijares on the DL and optioned Jim Hoey to AAA. Jason Repko is getting closer to returning after playing in an extended spring training game.

  

NL News/Notes

Jason Heyward came into play defense in the 9th inning and is hoping to bat on Tuesday for the Braves. It’s starting to look like Julio Teheran will be starting on Wednesday.

Bobby Parnell is going to need to work his way back to the Mets when he gets healthy. Due to his poor start to the season, the Mets are going to make Parnell earn his way back from the minors.

The Phillies Shane Victorino has a bad hamstring but doesn’t look like he’s heading to the DL. Jose Contreras is going to begin a rehab assignment on Wednesday.

The Brewers think that Zach Greinke could have been tipping his pitches in Sunday’s game against the Pirates.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Angels Erick Aybar extended his hitting streak to 13 games
  • Marlins Logan Morrison extended his hitting streak to 13 games

 

Top Monday Matchups

6:40 EDT Yankees (Burnett 4-2, 3.38) at Rays (Price 5-3, 3.12)

7:05 EDT Blue Jays (Drabek 2-2, 4.81) at Tigers (Scherzer 6-0, 3.20)

7:10 EDT Cubs (Zambrano 4-1, 4.35) at Reds (Bailey 2-0, 0.69)

10:05 EDT Angels (Pineiro 2-0, 1.33) at Athletics (Anderson 2-3, 3.21)

10:10 EDT Brewers (Marcum 4-1, 2.72) at Dodgers (Garland 1-2, 3.66)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 0

New York Yankees Opening Day Overview

New York Yankees Opening Day Overview

Manager: Joe Girardi      GM: Brian Cashman

  Lineup:
1 LF Brett Gardner
2 SS Derek Jeter
3 1B Mark Teixeira
4 3B Alex Rodriguez
5 2B Robinson Cano
6 RF Nick Swisher
7 DH Jorge Posada
8 CF Curtis Granderson
9 C Russell Martin

 

Gardner will bat leadoff after an up and down 2010. If he can play more like he did in the first half before some nagging injuries affecting him, then Gardner could be a very good leadoff hitter if his OBP is close to .400.

Jeter had the worst year of his career last year at 36. Was it an aberration or the beginning of the end for the Captain? It’s hard to believe that Jeter might be done as an above average player but he’s at the age where that happens, especially with middle infielders. If last year’s numbers are more of what’s to come, then the Yankees are going to need to find a palatable way to ease Jeter down in the order or their offense will suffer.

Teixeira had the worst year since his rookie season last year. Although he had a down year, it was still pretty good and as long as he improves incrementally, the Yankees should be fine. He should be good for 30+ HR, 100 RBI, 100 Runs, and hit at least .270.

Rodriguez is getting a lot of spring hype about a potential MVP run. He had a very similar season to Texeira last year. He had been incredibly durable until 2008, playing in at least 140 games every year but one from 1996-2007. Over the past three seasons, A-Rod has failed to play 140 games in a season. While he’s still hitting well, there’s been a steady drop off since his 2007 MVP season. The last few years were still solid years for a #4 hitter, but if the Yankees want to return to the playoffs then A-Rod needs to get back to his 2008 numbers (35 HR, 103 RBI, .302).

Cano has become the best player on the Yankees. He was the pick for MVP by many in the media, finishing third. Barring injury, Cano should be good again for his 25+ HR, 100 RBI, and hit over .300. Depending on how his older teammates fare, Cano could be moved up in the order if Texeira or A-Rod were to drop off from their typical production levels. Cano would make a great #3 hitter.

Swisher gets rewarded for his best season by getting dropped down to #6 and a run producing spot in the order. That probably as much a result of his better slugging as it is of his more aggressive nature at the plate. Despit increasing his average from .249 to .288, Swisher’s OBP dropped .012 points. He’s another Yankee who is now on the other side of 30 so it might be a little too much to expect any improvement from Swisher.

Posada is going to start the season as the DH. Whether he remains in that spot will depend on how he hits, because if his numbers continue to deteriorate, then Girardi will have no choice but to sit him. If he does sit, that will open a spot for the Yankees to go and acquire a bat (Carlos Lee?).

Granderson isn’t the same hitter that was the most exciting extra base hitter in the league a few years ago. For the second consecutive season, the Grandy man hit under .250 and his OPS was under .800 for the first time since his first full season of 2006. He also enters the season with a strained oblique and nobody knows when that might get better, if it will. Since Gardner can play CF, finding a replacement wouldn’t be as difficult. But with more than a few of the Yankees facing aging/deterioration of skills, the Yanks don’t need to be looking for help here as well.

Martin comes over from the Dodgers after hitting .250 or worse in the past two seasons. Despite being only 28, Martin’s production has really dropped off from his all star seasons a few years back. With three of their top prospects being catchers, their might not be much patience for subpar production out of Martin. Especially if the rest of the lineup is struggling. Jesus Montero has a big bat and is the future. With that in mind, Martin might be the backup by Memorial Day.

  Starting Pitching
1 LHP CC Sabathia
2 RHP Philip Hughes
3 RHP AJ Burnett
4 RHP Ivan Nova
5 RHP Freddy Garcia/RHP Kevin Millwood

 

You can’t do much better for an ace than Sabathia. He’s won Cy Young Awards and a championship. He’s also got an opt-out clause in his contract following this season. The price of CC could be going up. There’s really no reason to not expect another run at 20 wins, 230 IP, and an ERA around 3.00. Girardi won’t have problems sleeping the night before he pitches.

Hughes had a great start to last season, but trailed off after the weather got warmer. He’s going to need to be better if the Yankees have any hope of winning the AL East. Hughes doesn’t have to be great, just pitch consistently with a sub 4.00 ERA. That should get him 15+ wins.

Burnett has three more years left in the Bronx. Whether the Yankees left him pitch until then remains to be seen. Burnett is the classic case of overwhelming talent minus a knowhow of how to pitch and durability issues. These were all known before the Yankees gave him the 5 year contract. What they need from him is a low 4.00 ERA and to go to the mound every five days. That should be enough to win 12-14 games if the offense is solid. If he pitches like last season, he might find himself in the bullpen by July.

Nova pitched well enough last season and in the spring to win the #4 starters job. With Bartolo Colon and Kevin Millwood waiting in the wings, Nova can’t afford to start slowly since he’s not going to be paid like Burnett. If he can give the Yanks a sub 4.00 ERA and 6 innings per start, Girardi would be ecstatic and Nova would probably get 13-14 wins.

Garcia pitched last season for the White Sox and was better than AJ Burnett. Now that wouldn’t be good enough to keep him in the rotation, but if he can get that ERA into the low 4’s, then that should be good enough to keep him in the rotation. A slow start will most likely mean a quick hook as Colon and Millwood wait their turn.

  Bullpen
CL RHP Mariano Rivera
SET RHP Rafael Soriano
  RHP David Robertson
  RHP Joba Chamberlain
  LHP Boone Logan
  RHP Bartolo Colon
  RHP Luis Ayala/LHP Pedro Feliciano (DL)

 

Is this the year that Mariano finally starts slowing down? That prediction isn’t coming here. Until further notice, there’s nothing to worry about the greatest closer of all time. Period. He arguably the best pitcher, starter or reliever, of his generation and it’s amazing that he’s never won a MVP or Cy Young Award. Truly a crime.  

Soriano comes over from the Rays where he was really good as the closer last year. If this is Rivera’s last season, then Soriano will slide into that spot. He should be more than capable of replacing Kerry Wood, who pitched great after coming over last season. The Yanks are in good hands if they take a lead to the 8th inning. There might not be a better pair in baseball.

Robertson has a lot of potential, but control and consistency have held him back. The Yankees would like to groom him for that 8th inning role when Rivera retires so he’ll be given an opportunity to work on his issues in the 7th inning and when the team is trailing late.

Chamberlain has had a lot of hype, but the time has come for the Yankees to move him so he can get a fresh start as a rotation guy. He could be the centerpiece of a potential deal to get a 3 or 4 starter or a bat if the offense struggles.

Lefties Logan and Feliciano will provide situational relief against lefties (think Crawford, Gonzalez, and Ortiz) and not much else.

Colon pitched well in spring after not pitching last year. The confidence that Girardi showed by carrying him on the 25 man roster lends credibility to the potential of Colon joining the rotation eventually.

  Farm Prospects who could help in 2011
1 C Jesus Montero
2 RHP Hector Noesi
3 SS/3B Eduardo Nunez

 

If this was for all levels of the organization, then it might be catcher 1-2-3. Nobody has organizational catching depth like the Yankees. Montero will get the first call and it was Cashman’s unwillingness to include Montero in a potential deal for Cliff Lee that made the Mariners turn elsewhere. Montero has to be the first hitter looked to if the Yanks offense struggles early. Noesi came back from Tommy John surgery in 2008 and moved from high A to AAA last season. He could be a candidate for the rotation later in the summer if the Yankees are out of contention. Nunez was set to take over for Jeter had he left. He’s going to work on his outfield skills in order to be a utility man at the majors.

Three Questions:

1. Will the Yankees get any good starting pitching after CC Sabathia?

  • Hughes pitched well in April last season but was ordinary after. Burnett hasn’t figured things out in the Bronx, pitching as poorly as he has in his career. He’s looked like a modern day Ed Whitson. Nova is a prospect with promise, but will the Yankees show the necessary patience that is needed with young pitchers? Garcia is essentially the first piece of a three-headed retread monster with Bartolo Colon and Kevin Millwood. Each will probably get a few starts to show what they have left.

2. Will the Yankees hitters’ production continue to deteriorate?

  • Last season, Jeter, Teixeira, A-Rod, and Posada’s numbers all dropped some as they are getting up there in age. Will the production continue to decrease and how does Girardi alter the lineup to deal with this situation? Would Jeter be willing to bat 8 or 9 if he’s only a .270 hitter now? Could A-Rod or Texeira bat 5th and let Cano hit in the #3 hole? Will Granderson rediscover the hitting prowess that he showed in Detroit a few years ago? There’s a lot of questions for aging stars.  

3. Will the Yankees be willing to trade their top prospects to ensure another run at the postseason?

  • It’s almost an impossibility that the Yankees can win the AL East or even make the playoffs with the current roster that they have. They are going to have to make a deal for a starter and maybe even a right handed bat. They could call Houston and get both. Brett Myers and Carlos Lee would fit well on the Yankees and they could probably get the Astros to eat much of Lee’s remaining contract (2 yrs @$18M/yr). Otherwise, they might have to deal prospects to get front line talent and they didn’t want to do that last year.

 

Projection

The Yankees are facing aging issues and have problems in their starting rotation. Although they still have enormous talent, much of it is centered on home run power and their aging everyday players don’t play great defense. In any normal season, the Yanks probably would be a safe selection for the AL Wildcard, but this season might find all five of the AL East teams with records over .500. Think about that. If all five teams have winning records and they play each other 18 times each, then it could really bunch each team together in the 81-87 win area. It’s going to take at least 90 wins to get the Wildcard and it’s difficult to see how the Yankees get there right now.