The biggest problem now facing the 2008 Yankees is the state of the bullpen. They’ll likely have 6 starter-types:
(probably in that order)
That’s basically set. However, when one looks at the pen, it’s much less clear. We know it’ll start with Mo and Farnsworth. Assuming 13 total pitchers, that leaves 5 spots open. Here are the immediate candidates:
A lot of guys with good stuff but little production. IF Edwar commands his fastball, he could be a dominant reliever. IF Ohlendorf commands all his stuff, he could be a very good reliever. Same thing with Veras, Bruney, Henn and Beam. Britton is what he is, a solid at best reliever. Outside of Edwar, they’re all fastball/slider pitchers (not that that’s atypical of relievers). The guys I see having the most potential impact are Edwar, Ohlendorf and Albaladejo (herein referred to as Alby). I really liked what I saw of Ohlendorf in limited action this year, and even Edwar looked dominant at times. Ohlie can hit 98 mph on the gun and has a live, sharp slider. The reason I believe in Edwar is his sick K rate (11.1 k/9 in the minors) – he just has to get ahead of hitters to use his changeup, and that means improving his fastball command. Having watched several of Alby’s outings (on MLB.tv), I’m actually the most confident in him (out of this group) having a solid, consistent year. The rest of these guys have shaky control but Alby is by far the best in this area (1.73 bb/9 in 500+ minor league innings) and even a decent K rate (7.4 k/9) – he pitched great in limited time with Washington this year (14.1 ip, 7 h, 2 bb, 12 k). His size, stuff and control should make him a very effective reliever. His ceiling as I see it is a good 8th inning guy.
Here are the potential 2008 relief candidates:
The most promise lies with this quintet. Sanchez, Whelan and Melancon have closer-type stuff. However, Sanchez, Melancon and Cox are coming off serious injuries and may not make an impact at all in the Bronx in 2008. It depends on how much their stuff and control come back. If not for their injuries, they might’ve seen time with the big club this year. Melancon, 22, has a slightly higher ceiling than Sanchez but is further away – he last pitched for short-season Staten Island in 2006 while Sanchez, 24, pitched for Triple-A Toledo in ’06. After rehab stints, these pitchers (excluding Melancon) will be pitching in Scranton by mid-season and therefore have the possibility to make the short drive to the Bronx anytime after the break. Melancon has the furthest to go (having pitched just 7 minor league innings) but has already completed some rehab work in the D.R. He’ll likely start in High-A Tampa with the Yanks looking to promote him quickly. If we’re lucky, he’ll have a Joba-esque rise and be in the pen by August. You shouldn’t expect it though.
Whelan also has a tremendous ceiling but has been plagued by control problems. He has sick power numbers: 4.75 hits/9, .34 HR/9, 11.6 k/9, but his bb/9 is very high at 5.14. If that comes down to a respectable level (below 3), he also could be a dominant reliever. Cox and Patterson have the lowest ceilings but could still be solid ML relievers. Cox was the closer for U-Texas and has put up good minor league stats in two seasons. Patterson is old, 28, but has also put up good stats despite being a 1 1/2 pitch pitcher (fastball and little else). But because he’s 6’7″ and has an extreme overhand delivery, the fastball looks like it’s coming out of the sky (despite low 90s speed). He’s the fringiest of this group – will he be able to get by with a great fastball without much else? Doubtful, but maybe he improves one of his secondary pitches. If he even had an average breaking ball, he could be another solid reliever.
And here are the 2008 conversion candidates – as in these guys will enter 2008 as minor league starters but based on need could see time in the Bronx pen:
This is basically Scranton’s 2008 opening day rotation. As there are 8 names listed, several will be either converted to full time relievers, traded or used as tandem pitchers (meaning they’ll enter in the 5th or 6th innings of games and close them out – basically a long reliever with a set schedule). Horne has easily the highest ceiling of this group – he won the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year in ’07 and has been described by at least one expert as ‘Joba-lite’. In terms of stuff, Marquez and White are about even with Igawa behind them (hey, he does have good stuff but can’t locate it for his life), followed by the rest as a mish-mosh of AAAA talent. Wright and Igawa actually have the best chance to be the first among this group to crack the majors – they’re southpaws who already have ML experience (despite sucking).
Trade/Free Agent options include:
Marte is far and away the best of the bunch, but being under contract with Pittsburgh, he will have to be traded for. He dominates lefties (.571 ops) and has more strikeouts than innings – he also has the lowest whip and best ERA+ of this trio. Mahay and Vizcaino are free agents, but since the Viz will net an extra draft pick for us, let him sign elsewhere and go after Mahay. He’s old (36), but would be slightly more helpful than the Viz. How much in terms of players would it cost for Marte? How about a boatload of AAAA pitchers, e.g. DeSalvo, Rasner, Karstens, Wright? Pittsburgh could always use cheap starters, and that’s what they are – they might even succeed (a little) in the NL.
So there you have it. All the options. The five available pen spots will mostly be decided by Spring Training performances, but seeing as injuries and general suckiness will ensue, the pen will be much different in the second half. The following are my predictions (excluding non-current Yankees) for first and second half bullpens (not my personal choices):
Early in the year -
That is ugly. It would look a lot better with Marte in the mix. Edwar and Ohlie will spend some time in Scranton fine-tuning. When the front office feels they’re more ready, they’ll be the first to get call-ups with Rasner and Henn likely going down (Bruney too if he can’t throw strikes). The second half pen looks far better:
Much better. Of course, if Marte or Mahay are acquired, they would replace one of those bottom five guys.
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