Monday, March 31, 2014

New York Yankees’ Dean Anna: End of a “long journey”

Dean Anna led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with a .331 average in 2013 and didn’t even get the courtesy of a call up from the parent club San Diego Padres in September. Fast forward to an under-the-radar trade early in the offseason and Anna was part of the most storied franchise in baseball, the New York Yankees.

Better for him, there was some room for movement in the organization with the Yankees losing Robinson Cano to free agency and a slew of question marks around the infield.

Anna reported for spring training and put in his work. He hit .262 this spring and played well at three different infield positions. The Yankees announced over the weekend that the 27-year-old lefty hitter made the Opening Day roster as a reserve infielder.

With Brendan Ryan on the disabled list, Anna will be the primary back up for starting shortstop Derek Jeter. Jeter is expected to have off days penciled into the opening of the season and Anna will take the role until Ryan is healthy.

Anna, through a press release delivered to The Baseball Stance by his management company Worldwide Career Management, expressed his enthusiasm.

New York Yankees: Preston Claiborne, DFA candidate

The New York Yankees are one day away from the start of their 2014 regular season. As the team readies itself for action against the Houston Astros, team management has to deal with one 40-man roster spot.

When the Yankees decided to add non-roster invitee Yangervis Solarte to the 25-man roster instead of Eduardo Nunez it created the necessity to remove a player from the current 40-man roster.

The easiest thing to do is designate a player for assignment (DFA) if the team cannot trade one of its players currently on the 40-man roster. Who would the Yankees choose to DFA if they cannot find a trade partner?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 MLB predictions to hang your hat on

It is that time of the year. Everyone is making predictions so here are mine.

First, I’ll supply a predicted order of finish and a short snippet about each division. If I believe the team will be one of the wild card participants it is noted with (WC) next to their name. Then I’ll provide my selections for American League Champ, National League Champ and the eventual World Series Champ. Lastly, I’ll take a stab at the individual end of year awards for each league.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

New York Yankees: Eduardo Nunez out, Yangervis Solarte in?

The New York Yankees have one roster spot left and it has come down to Eduardo Nunez and Yangervis Solarte. Dean Anna, according to multiple reports, was told Friday night that he’d won a spot on the 25-man roster. Nunez and Solarte were told not to pack for Houston just yet.

Nunez is the once promising, yet extremely inconsistent right-handed hitter and Solarte is a switch-hitting upstart non-roster invitee.

Nunez has been given chance after chance to have a larger role with this team, but the Yankees might have finally begun to sour on him. Solarte took the Grapefruit League by storm with an early barrage at the plate and has kept his average above the .400 mark since.

Each player is versatile enough to play multiple infield spots. Solarte’s advantage is that he can hit from both sides. Nunez’s advantage is his experience as a major leaguer and maybe more importantly he’s on the 40-man roster and Solarte is not.

What should the Yankees do?

Friday, March 28, 2014

New York Yankees: Cesar Cabral, not Vidal Nuno for final bullpen spot

The New York Yankees are in the process of winding down their final selections for the 2014 Opening Day roster. They have two infield bench roles which you can read about here, and one slot left in the bullpen.

That spot looks to be for the second left-handed option after veteran Matt Thornton. The battle is between Cesar Cabral and Vidal Nuno.

Cabral was purchased by the Yankees from the Kansas City Royals in 2011 after they snagged him in the Rule 5 draft from the Boston Red Sox. Cabral, 25, unfortunately suffered a stress fracture in his left elbow in 2012 but is now fully healthy. He climbed three minor league levels in 2013 before reaching the Bronx in September. Cabral appeared in eight major leagues games, striking out six batters in 3.1 innings.

Nuno was a fifth starter candidate for much of this spring training. He pitched well, but eventually lost out to Pineda. Nuno made three spot starts for the Yankees in 2013 and was very effective. He spent the other part of his season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 2012, Nuno was with Double-A Trenton for a majority of his time and went 9-5 with a 2.45 ERA in 114 innings, all as a starter.

As the Yankees ponder this decision, it might be simple enough to say Nuno is a starter, and Cabral is a reliever so that’s that. Obviously it is not that cut and dry or else the Yankees would have made this decision a couple of days ago. Nuno might be the better pitcher right now especially with his control versus Cabral who has had difficulty limiting walks. So why Cabral?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

MLB: Forbes' team value rankings provide interesting takeways

For 17 years, Forbes has presented a fantastic listing of franchise valuations and earnings results for all 30 Major League Baseball teams. For each of those years, the New York Yankees have topped the list as the league’s most valuable franchise.

The Yankees came in at $2.5 billion this year, $500 million ahead of the second-ranked club, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Forbes’ valuations “are enterprise values (debt plus equity) and include completed television deals that begin in the future, but exclude the equity interests in other assets the team may own, such as regional sports networks or concession businesses. Revenues and operating income figures include all revenue and expenses for each team and its stadium where applicable.”

There are several takeaways beyond the values of the teams which I found interesting.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New York Yankees: Brendan Ryan to start season on DL

The New York Yankees infielder Brendan Ryan will definitely start the season on the disabled list according to a tweet by the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Barbarisi.

While not surprising, this is troubling news for the Yankees because Ryan’s sole purpose on this roster as far as I can see is to backup Derek Jeter at shortstop.

Ryan has been suffering from back issues for the last few weeks. His DL-stint can be backdated to March 5, allowing him to be back with the big club not long after the season begins assuming he’s healthy.

Mets, Mariners and differing business practices

Major League Baseball contracts are incredibly intricate documents and that’s why these players pay handsome sums of money to their agencies. Tuesday, there were two instances in which a player’s contract language, or lack thereof, came into play in determining their immediate fate. One exhibited team exhibited good faith practices and the other did not in my opinion.

First, per Anthony DiComo at, Daisuke Matsuzaka was optioned to Triple-A by the New York Mets. Matsuzaka is fighting for the role of the fifth starter but some injury issues with Jon Niese has the final decision on the Mets rotation in a holding pattern. They might decide to use the other fifth starter candidate Jenrry Mejia early in the season in case Niese cannot make it back to the hill as planned. The Mets would have to wait 10 days to call Mejia up if they optioned him instead of Matsuzaka. There are no such concerns with Matsuzaka.

Anyway, the story here is about the contract language in Matsuzaka’s contract which stipulated that the team would have to pay him $100,000 in order to assign him to the minors. He agreed to this up front and the Mets forked over the cash to basically hold Matsuzaka until they need him up on the big leagues. No contract surprises and good business.

Shift to Seattle where the Mariners agreed to release pitcher Randy Wolf according to Greg Johns at Wolf was in camp under a contract which would have paid him $1 million if he made the team and he could have earned another $4.25 million in performance bonuses. Wolf has not pitched in a game since 2012, after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Wolf, 37, was told he was going to break camp with the club, but he would need to sign a “45-day consent release” agreement. The addendum would allow the Mariners to release him or send him to the minors within 45 days. Not until the 46th day would Wolf’s contract become guaranteed. Wolf did not agree to this new wrinkle and asked for his release.

So, we’ve got two different ways of doing things here. One is up front and with no surprises and the other is handled with an ‘oh by the way’ additional agreement.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bovada sets Bryce Harper's home run over/under at 26.5

Bovada set the over/under for home runs hit by Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper at 26.5 for 2014 (hat tip to Buster Olney for tweeting this out).

Harper, who was recently named the most overrated player by his MLB peers has a career-high of 22 dingers in a season, which he hit during his 139-game rookie campaign.

The 21-year-old Harper will need to play in at least 130 games for the bet to be valid. He played in just 118 games in 2013 and hit 20 homers.

Here is Harper's most recent homer from today's action against the New York Mets.

Monday, March 24, 2014

New York Yankees: Pitching is key to start of season

As the New York Yankees approach the beginning of the 2014 regular season it’s looking more and more clear that at the start of the season the Bombers might need to rely on their pitching staff to carry the load.

The Yankees have received very good pitching up and down staff this spring; rotation members, guys fighting for a rotation spot and many of the bullpen candidates. As spring training winds down the Yankees are living the old cliché that pitching is ahead of hitting early on in the season.

Of the anticipated Yankee regulars, only Brett Gardner is hitting above .270 this spring through Sunday's games. Brian Roberts, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran are hitting in the .260s. None of the regulars has an OPS above .800.

Yes, watching Francisco Cervelli, Yangervis Solarte and Zoilo Almonte rake has been great. But when the season starts, barring injury, these guys are riding the pine and in Solarte’s and Almonte’s case not assured of a big league roster spot yet.

Derek Jeter (5-for-44), Mark Teixeira (3-for-26) and Jacoby Ellsbury (4-for-23) are not exactly boosting confidence that a great offensive barrage is approaching when the team heads north. Jeter and Teixeira are surely rusty from a lack of reps in 2013, while Ellsbury has now been dealing with a sore right calf which has stunted his work for over a week.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New York Yankees: Francisco Cervelli is more valuable as backup than trade chip

Rumors have been swirling over the last few weeks about New York Yankees backup catcher Francisco Cervelli being a target of other teams because of the Yankees’ depth at the position. It would seem teams might be ready to send offers to the Bombers based on Cervelli’s experience and his impressive offensive performance this spring. Maybe they already have.

Usually if a player is clicking on all cylinders his value immediately begins to rise in the eyes of those outside of an organization. The problem for those teams is that the Yankees might not be so willing to depart with Cervelli considering their other options haven’t been as productive this spring and who simply may not be ready to be Brian McCann’s full-time backup.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Time to face facts about Tommy John surgery

I’m not an injury specialist. I’m not a statistical guru. So, if you’ve started this article and think I am going to be able to add them together and inform you of the reasons why Tommy John surgery is not the answer, you’ll be disappointed. No one knows exactly why some players respond better or worse than others after receiving ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) surgery. All the data in the world has yet to help and apparently the surgery itself is far from a sure thing. Reality is, no one knows what to do about it.

I simply want to discuss the grand disappointment that befalls pitchers who throw their hearts out or should I say their elbows apart only to have to succumb to the knife. For many aspiring and current professional baseball pitchers, one part of the body they all know is the UCL. The procedure to fix damage to the UCL is all at once feared, assumed and dealt with.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jacoby Ellsbury: Spring kinks or sign of things to come?

New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was slated to hit in the batting cage Monday even before the team’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out. Ellsbury has not played since Saturday due to a tight right calf muscle.

According to multiple reports this morning, including this one from Chad Jennings of The Journal News, Ellsbury may also sit out Tuesday against his former team, the Boston Red Sox, per Yankees manager Joe Girardi. I’m fairly certain the Yankees are being extra cautious here, but at the same time it does bring up some concern where Ellsbury is involved.

Red Sox fans often complained that Ellsbury wouldn’t step on the field if he wasn’t 100 percent. Even in a season where he was mostly healthy, he finally fell victim to a compression fracture in his right foot causing him to miss most of Sept. 2013. In all, Ellsbury missed 28 games in 2013. Fortunately for Ellsbury, he was fantastic when on the field (.298/.355/.426 with 92 runs and 52 stolen bases) and the Yankees opened the vault with a seven-year, $153 million deal.

So, is this recent bout with a tight calf simply part of the aches and pains associated with spring training or is it a sign of things to come where it concerns Ellsbury and how often he steps on the field in 2014?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mostly homegrown bullpen for 2014 Yankees?

The New York Yankees get loads of flak for failing to develop their own talent. That said there have been a number of players in the not too distant past that came up through the Yankee organization and became superstars. The core four of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada come to mind, and that Bernie Williams guy was a decent player.

However, the Yankees are seen by many as a team which relies on the free agent market to build its roster and those sharing such a viewpoint would not be entirely wrong. $500 million-plus spent this offseason pretty much speaks volumes about their strategy.

There is a developing situation in this 2014 spring training camp which could counterbalance the argument slightly. The bullpen could be configured by as many as four (maybe five) homegrown Bombers when camp breaks, and potentially more as the season progresses.

We know that David Robertson is going to be the closer for this team and I recently wrote he will excel in 2014. Robertson is the first of the homegrown relievers on the roster.

It is almost sure thing that barring injury lefty Matt Thornton and righty Shawn Kelley will lock down spots. After that the Yankees could fill the remainder of the slots with homegrown talent. Who are they?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Yankees' David Robertson will succeed as closer

The New York Yankees lost the greatest closer of all time when Mariano Rivera retired from the game at the end of the 2013 season. The team spent more than $500 million on free agents this offseason and not one player was signed with the intention of replacing Rivera.

The Yankees decided potentially long before the offseason began that they would be best served to have Rivera’s setup man the last couple seasons, David Robertson, carry the burden of following up Rivera.

Being a closer is no easy task. They are often times asked to do things that other pitchers are not -- strand runners with the game on the line and with little or no time for the offense to catch up. Closers take most of the blame for late-game losses in which they cough up the lead and are sometimes overly celebrated for saves. But, following Rivera could make the role of Yankees closer the hardest of all 30 MLB teams in 2014 as far as scrutiny is concerned.

Can Robertson handle it?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Angels, Dodgers replay; Trout, Puig and a long delay

Two batters into Thursday’s spring training game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers there was an incredible play involving two of the best young players in the game which required the use of the new video replay system to determine who came out on top.

Mike Trout ripped a line drive into center field where Yasiel Puig, always trying to be part of a highlight reel, dove for the ball instead of playing it in front of him. He missed and the ball went all the way to the wall.

Trout smelled blood and ran as hard as he could for home. To his credit, Puig jumped up and raced to the ball at the wall. He threw to the relay man, Hanley Ramirez, who rifled home to Dodgers’ catcher A.J. Ellis. Ellis was up the line and applied the tag to Trout before he touched home plate. Trout and the rest of the Angels didn’t think so and out trotted Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia.

Here is the play.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mixed results for Yankees' Tanaka in second spring appearance

The New York Yankees endured a long rain delay this afternoon in Clearwater, Fl. before sending Masahiro Tanaka to the mound for his second appearance and first start of the spring against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tanaka completed three innings, allowing one run on a home run by Freddy Galvis. He gave up one more hit, a double to Marlon Byrd. Tanaka struck out one and walked none. His first-inning strike out of Chase Utley came on a nasty splitter after bouncing a couple of others well in front of the plate earlier in the inning.

Tanaka's demeanor on the mound showed promise and poise. He seemed completely unfazed by waiting out the weather or by allowing the homer to Galvis. Tanaka appears to have the attitude required of a pitcher when allowing a run; work on the next batter and finish the inning.

Despite giving up the homer and the double, Tanaka looks like he is on the right track so far this spring. I've seen nothing in his five innings thus far which indicate he cannot handle MLB hitters. I imagine the Yankees are happy with the results so far.

Derek Jeter collected his first two hits of the spring, a single and double, ending a 0-10 skid.

Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano made their first appearances of the spring. Each went 0-3, with Soriano striking out in all three plate appearances.

The Yankees staged a late-inning comeback to win the game 4-3.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. Connect with Chris on TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and LinkedIn.

Who will win the New York Yankees’ last rotation spot?

The New York Yankees began spring training with a mostly settled starting rotation. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova are holdovers and they added Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka in late January. That leaves one spot available and four players working to grab hold of it.

Michael Pineda is finally healthy and ready to compete for the role. David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno, all of whom made starts for the Bombers in 2013, are also in the thick of the race.

Pineda came over to the Yankees in a trade with the Seattle Mariners, with the Bombers surrendering then top catching prospect Jesus Montero. The trade seemed like a fairly balanced deal of potential stars, but has failed to live up to expectations for both sides.

Pineda, after enjoying a very productive rookie season in 2011 (9-10, 3.74 ERA, 173 K in 171 IP), has made ZERO big league starts since. The 25-year-old right-hander suffered through a labrum tear and subsequent shoulder issues in 2012 and parts of 2013. He has had issues with his work ethic particularly where it concerns staying in shape.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New York Yankees: Ivan Nova must demonstrate consistency in 2014

When the New York Yankees desperately needed a starting pitcher to latch onto during the stretch run of the 2013 season, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte would have been legitimate guesses as to who would take the reins. Do you know who took control for much of it? Ivan Nova.

Sabathia floundered the entire season, Kuroda was completely out of gas by August and while Pettitte pitched decently, it was Nova who turned in one fine effort after another in the heat of the summer. This wasn’t exactly remarkable; Nova has had his share of good stretches while with the Bombers. But he’s also faltered for lengthy periods.

Fast forward to this spring training and Nova has already earned himself a place in the Yankees rotation. He is no longer fighting for a spot, but assured one so long as he stays healthy. More than just filling a slot, Nova will be every bit as important to the success of the team as any other starter.

Nova cannot let up however. With Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno all vying for the fifth starter role, there are plenty of arms ready to vault into Nova’s fourth spot should he falter. This is the issue with Nova. Can he turn in a fully consistent effort across an entire season?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New York Yankees need Masahiro Tanaka to make immediate impact

The New York Yankees did not sign Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract to be a middle of the rotation starter. These are ace-status figures, given to pitchers who have very high expectations. No matter how the Yankees try to spin it, they need Tanaka to make an immediate and lasting impact.

Beyond the massive contract, the Yankees doled out $20 million in posting fees, so the notion of Tanaka having a middle of the rotation ceiling that general manager Brian Cashman tried to dish out after the 25-year-old hurler was signed was nothing more than an effort to temper prognostications. The team knows very well that if Tanaka’s production falls short of top of the rotation results, the pact will be looked at as a failure.

Some will argue that the transitional learning curve should have some impact on his production in 2014 and of course they would be right. But, no one, including Tanaka, is going to be happy with a 10-10 record and a 4.50 ERA in his inaugural pinstripe season. Such mediocrity won’t help the Yankees in 2014 and truthfully would throw up red flags for the remaining six years of the contract.