Showing posts with label Phil Hughes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Phil Hughes. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The New York Yankees Fantasy Report

If you are a Yankees fan, you are used to seeing the team bashed as if they a dimwit with an unlimited credit card ran the team. Nevertheless, the fact is this is one of the best-managed teams in sports. They should be a model for other teams rather than just the envy of them. They have a very deep farm system. Although not filled with many elite prospects, the depth of B and C prospects is impressive. The vast majority of those prospects are pitchers. The Yankees recognize that nothing is more valuable or more difficult to acquire than pitching. After years known as an organization that would not give a rookie a chance – they are successfully integrating youngsters onto the team on a regular basis. Then they use the savings that these young players provide, and the massive revenue (that years of winning and good business bolstered) to sign the very best players available.

Last year the very best players were CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Mark Teixeira. It should be noted that these players took the roster spots of players whose massive contracts had finally expired – Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Carl Pavano, and so forth. The depth in the system had also made trades for Nick Swisher, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady possible. Now that depth may result in the acquisition of Roy Halladay and the level of hatred for all things Yankees would certainly reach new heights. However, it makes some sense. George King of the New York Post calls the Yankees and Red Sox favorites for Halladay because of their ability to part with major league ready talent (or close enough) and to provide Halladay with the Sabathia-like contract he is certain to demand.

Meanwhile, the Yankees could be losing two key players to free agency. Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Andy Pettitte are free agents. Pettitte is not as likely to leave for another team, as he is to retire. However, Damon and Matsui look like prime targets for teams seeking outfielders but unwilling or unable to meet the contract demands of players like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. Ironically, if the Yankees do lose both Damon and Matsui, it increases the chance that they will go after a Holliday or a Bay. Despite their willingness to include young players in the mix, it is unlikely that the Yankees would go into the season with Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, and Melkey Cabrera starting in the outfield.

Fantasy Focus

Alex Rodriguez, 3B
After Alex Rodriguez’s gutsy season, he has won quite a bit of respect from me. After a pre-season that included accusations of (and later admitting) PED use, a tell-all book from Selena Roberts, and surgery to repair a muscle tear in his hip, I had no faith that A-Rod would perform. But he did. He had some help. Derek Jeter turning back the clock and Mark Teixeira providing an MVP quality season took away much of the unwanted attention. For the first time since coming to New York, Rodriguez just played baseball. In just 124 games, he managed to hit 30 homers and collect 100 RBI.

However, there are still some questions to answer. Does he need further surgery on his hip and how will that affect his play offensively and defensively? Do you believe his story about quitting PED use after the 2003 season? If not, how will he react? If he is only stopping their use now, how much will his performance degrade? Right now, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I believe many players stopped their PED use after the 2003 season with serious testing implemented. There are many rumors that A-Rod may not even need the more invasive version of the hip surgery. In any case, Chase Utley’s season provides a ton of reasons to hope for the best. I think A-Rod belongs back in the first round. He needs to prove some things before he returns to the Top 5, but Top 10 is a lock.

Phil Hughes, RHP and Joba Chamberlain, RHP
After the General Manager meetings, the New York media swarmed onto GM Brian Cashman with questions about the direction the team would take in 2010. One of the revelations was that Cashman and the Yankees had not yet made a decision about the starting/relieving status of either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. Cashman indicated that he thought of both players as starters who could also pitch in relief. Both will be part of a large group of starting candidates in Spring Training. The acquisition of Roy Halladay would almost certainly cost the Yankees one of the two pitchers. In that scenario, I believe that the remaining young player would be in the rotation with Sabathia, Burnett, Halladay, and Chien-Ming Wang or Andy Pettitte.

Phil Hughes had a great season for the Yankees. Fans tend to forget just how highly the Yankees think of Phil Hughes. When Wang went down to injury, Hughes stepped up and performed in the rotation. He was not untouchable as a starter but his talent was on obvious display and it would have been nice to see him stay there. However, when Wang returned (it was a short-lived return) Hughes campaigned to stay and pitch in the bullpen. He not only pitched well there but he may have been the MVP of the pitching staff by bridging the gap between the starters and Mariano Rivera.

Hughes finished the season with excellent fantasy stats including an 8-3 record, 3 saves (3BS), 3.03 ERA (3.22 FIP), 1.12 WHIP, and 10.05 K9. Looking a little deeper, Hughes had solid control (2.93 BB9), kept the ball in the park (0.84 HR9) – the Homerun rate may look on the lucky side but he has been displaying that ability his entire career despite being a flyball pitcher. One of the skills that Hughes seems to have is inducing infield flyballs, which obviously do much less damage than the other sort does. Hughes did not seem to have his previously excellent curveball this season. However, in the bullpen it wasn’t needed. His fastball was excellent and his cutter was a solid pitch. If Hughes can rediscover his curve I believe he will be an excellent starter and is worthy of fantasy consideration. If only one of the two is in the rotation, I believe it will be Hughes.

Joba Chamberlain seems to pitch better in the bullpen because he does not attempt to conserve his energy to make it through multiple innings. However, that is not the only reason he looked better as a reliever in 2009. In the first half of the 2009 season, Chamberlain pitched like an average major league starter (with excellent potential) which is just fine for a young player in his first season in a major league rotation. It is even more impressive when you consider that Chamberlain spent just one season in the minors has pitched just 364.3 innings since being drafted. Even for a college player that is a miniscule amount. Now consider that this young and inexperienced pitcher was skipped whenever it was possible in the first half as part of the attempt to limit his innings. Then in the second half, the Yankees hit on a plan to give him 8-10 days between starts. This quickly proved to be a disastrous idea. The Yankees adjusted the plan to allowing him to pitch regularly in the rotation but with a ridiculously low pitch count that made it difficult for Joba to escape even the third inning. The second half was a disaster.

Chamberlain has excellent stuff and if he works on developing his other pitches, he can be a very good starter. There is little point in going into the numbers. He was below average and way off his previous career marks in almost every category. The Yankees still see Chamberlain as a starter but they may not have a spot for him in the rotation in 2010. He will have to earn it. Keeper League owners whose rosters allow Joba to be benched indefinitely should definitely consider holding onto him. With experience, Joba still projects to be an impressive pitcher. However, those in year-to-year leagues are cautioned to avoid Chamberlain as a starter. He will experience ups and down consistent with young pitchers. If Chamberlain in a reliever he should be treated as a very good set-up reliever and next in line for saves should anything happen to Mariano Rivera (knock on wood). In fact he should probably be considered next in line even if he spends the season starting.

Searching for Sleepers

David Robertson, RHP
The most underrated player on the Yankees is probably David Robertson. Illustrated beautifully by the way manager Joe Girardi ignored him during the playoffs. Despite a high walk rate (4.74), Robertson earned a 3.30 ERA and 3.05 FIP. He seems to strikeout batters (12.98 K9) almost at will and despite being a groundball pitcher he keeps the ball in the park, which looked like quite the feat at times this season. He has the stuff to close and probably should become next in line for saves should Joba be established as a starter when Rivera retires.

Francisco Cervelli, C
It is strange the way the Yankees have used Cervelli. He played at four different levels in 2008 and then played at four different levels again in 2009. The Yankees obviously like him as a defensive catcher and he looks like the favorite to backup to Jorge Posada in 2010. Posada is bad enough defensively that I can easily see the Yankees giving Posada lots of at-bats at designated hitter, especially if they do not re-sign Hideki Matsui. If that happens, I believe that Cervelli would make a fine one-dollar catcher. However, this is where the Yankees strange usage makes it hard to predict what he’s capable of doing with consistent at-bats. I think he will make solid contact and hit for a good average but without any real power. Batting in the Yankees lineup on a regular basis should be good for his Run and RBI totals, making him of use in AL-only leagues.

Best Team Blogs for the New York Yankees: -`

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog -

Was Watching -

Respect Jeter’s Gangster -

Bronx Banter -

LoHud Yankees Blog -

River Ave Blues -

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Saga of Phil Hughes and the Yankees Bullpen

He was supposed to be the new ace of the New York Yankees. A young star for a franchise with a long history of winning and turning good baseball players into media icons. But that did not happen for Phil Hughes as we expected. Instead he struggled, he got hurt, and he was replaced. But the talent that was on display in the minor leagues and in the Arizona prospect showcase was obvious and undeniable. He came into the Yankees camp and had a very solid spring. He was not the worst performer of the starters and by a considerable margin. But because the Yankees often have more faith in the highly salaried than in young phenoms, Hughes was sent to the minors yet again.

The Yankees did not start the 2009 season well. Injuries to the lineup's stars and poor performances by the aforementioned highly salaried starters led to unexpected losses and talk of firing the Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, for letting it happen. Chien-Ming Wang, once the Yankees' most reliable starter and winner, was pitching so horribly that he was placed on the disabled list to regain his strength and confidence. Meanwhile, Hughes has gone to Scranton-Wilkes Barre and pitched like the ace he was once destined to become. He was called up to replace Wang in the rotation.

was brilliant in his first start. Then horrible in the next two. He was mediocre in his fourth start, and in his fifth but was starting to flash that incredible ability we all knew was there. his sixth start was awesome. His seventh was not amazing but his skill as a pitcher was becoming obvious to all observers. But by now Wang was healthy again, appearing temporarily in the bullpen. The Yankees needed to make a decision on what to do with each pitcher. They chose to reinstall Wang into the rotation and pushed Hughes into the bullpen.

Which brings us to last night. Wang's first start since returning from the disabled list. Overall it would have to be classified as a mediocre start, but Wang looked a lot like the pitcher we had come to know. He had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5-1, and induced eight groundballs to just one fly ball in 4 and 2/3 innings. Hughes has yet to appear out of the bullpen.

Here is a question that Yankees' fans and fantasy baseball owners are interested in answering. Can Phil Hughes become the missing piece in the Yankees' bullpen? Most observers forget or choose to ignore that Joba Chamberlain was never meant to be a full time relief pitcher. It was never in the Yankees' plans. But he did so well that fans fell in love with the idea, probably because most had never seen him as a starter. No one ever expected Randy Johnson to stay in the bullpen despite his being brilliant in his few appearances there. Mostly because they knew how good he could be as a starter. You don't waste a brilliant starter in the bullpen. Relief pitchers are far easier to find than frontline starters. Admittedly the Yankees have made it look difficult at times.

I expect Phil Hughes to do an excellent job out of the Yankees bullpen. I expect him to win and save games when called upon to do so. I expect his strikeout rate to soar and his ERA and WHIP to shrink. This is based on his incredible talent as a pitcher and the boost that usually comes when a starter moves to the bullpen. But next year when Andy Pettitte is gone, Phil Hughes, no matter how good his bullpen resume, must...MUST be returned to the Yankees rotation. Hughes is not, and should not be the future of the Yankees bullpen.

Lest I forget that this is not my old Bronx Pride blog, a bit of advice for the owners of Hughes and Wang. Fantasy owners should not be afraid to re-activate Chien-Ming Wang. Wang looks like his old self again and should be the solid (not an ace) starter he was in the past and is expected to be again. Hughes owners should be patient, especially those in keeper leagues. Both pitchers should have positive value in AL-only leagues and in deeper mixed leagues.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Yankees Re-Boot their Pitching Staff

Sometimes I wonder why the Yankees (and every other big market team) have to see things fail before they make the moves that seem so obvious to me and I'm certain many others. The Yankees finally placed Chien-Ming Wang on the disabled list to give him time to re-build his arm strength. Brian Bruney and Cody Ransom also hit the disabled list. They recalled closer of the future Mark Melancon and the talented David Robertson to fill roles in the bullpen. Angel Berroa who looked great this spring had to wait for Cody Ransom of all people to get hurt before getting a job.

I thought it was obvious at the end of the 2008 season that those two players would have big roles to play in the 2009 bullpen. It also seemed as if the Yankees knew it too. But rather than give them jobs to start the season they insist on working with lesser talents and blow a few games before doing what they knew months ago they would do eventually. But maybe I'm missing some subtle ability in Cody Ransom and some skill that Robertson and Melancon were missing that a few weeks in the minor leagues solved...

Owners in American League-only should grab Melancon as soon as possible. He should take over the eighth inning role this season and eventually replace Mariano Rivera as the Yankees closer. David Robertson is another option for the Yankees that I like a lot. He has great stuff and should provide strikeouts in bunches. He has control issues at times like most young pitchers but has shown improvement lately. The Yankees released Humberto Sanchez which seemed unnecessary to me. I can think of a few names I would rather dump before giving up on him. Though again, the Yankees probably have some information I don't. Seriously, they probably do.

Phil Hughes, who I suggested to anyone who listened as a bullpen candidate out of spring training, is expected to get the call on Tuesday to start in Wang's spot. He is probably getting two starts on the road which is not really a bad thing. I sincerely believe that Hughes will never ride a minor league bus again. I'll be picking him up in every league possible. It wasn't so long ago that Hughes was more highly thought of than Joba Chamberlain.

Speaking of Joba...the Yankees need to stop babying him so much. I respect that they want to be responsible with his arm and put restraints on his pitch counts but I think its holding him back. From watching him, I think Joba pitches better when his arm is well stretched. In the bullpen he always seemed to pitch better when he had multiple outings in a week. When he went long stretches his control would leave him. This is not an argument that he should return to the pen. But rather that the Yankees should extend his pitch count a little and stop skipping him in the rotation. I still love Joba as a fantasy option he just won't do much good for fantasy owners or the Yankees until they stop treating him with kid gloves.

Mark Melancon Statistics

Mark Melancon Profile

Mark Melancon Spring Report

Monday, December 01, 2008

Would You Draft Phil Hughes

After years of hype, Phil Hughes has finally hit his low as a fantasy baseball prospect. He has had little if any value in even the deepest of leagues. Hughes is now claimingto be ready for 2009 but we've heard similar declarations before. beyond the occasional flash of talent he has done nothing for fantasy owners.


Those flashes... He seems to end every season on a roll. He dominated the Arizona Fall League. In the AFL he loked exactly like the ace that the Yankees have been counting on in their rotation. Remember when he was ranked higher than Joba Chamberlain?

Tell me in the comments if you would draft him in your leagues in 2009.
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