• Frankie Piliere: Yanks Should Consider Youth

    Posted by on December 16th, 2010 · Comments (3)

    Former MLB scout and current AOL Fanhouse writer Frankie Piliere thinks the Yanks — should they be so inclined — could fill some holes from within their own organization.  Below are some of the highlights of the piece (with my own emphasis added in bold type):

    On New York’s minor league depth-

    If any organization other than the Yankees was looking at themselves in the mirror right about now, and they had the Yankees’ talent even minus Cliff Lee, they’d like what they saw…in terms of organizational health New York is just about as strong and as flush with talent in its minor league system as any team in the game.

    On Jesus Montero-

     Jesus Montero is clearly one of baseball’s elite prospects and arguably the best hitter in the minor leagues. Barring a disastrous spring training, he’s also proven himself ready to take his hacks in the major leagues. Despite recurring reports of his defensive problems, Montero is at a stage where he can handle himself as a big-league catcher…the idea of him being simply unable to catch at the next level is one that is still vastly overblown.  As I’ve stressed numerous times over the last year, like many elite big-league sluggers, if he reaches his ceiling as an offensive force he’ll never be known for his defense.

    I’ve had the pleasure of scouting Montero at each level of the minor-league ladder during his development, and the worries about his defense aren’t unwarranted. But, they were much more warranted two years ago, and even more so the year before…I still saw a lot of inconsistencies in Montero’s game behind the plate, but it was nothing that I don’t see from time to time from mediocre defensive catchers at the major league level…The bottom line is that there is a big difference between having defensive deficiencies and not being able to play the position at all. Montero is ready to play catcher in 2011, and the more I’ve seen from him, the more confident I’ve become of that fact.

    On New York’s young pitching-

    In the starting pitching department, the only safe bets you can make beyond 2011 are CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. Surely New York could try to buy pitchers to fill those rotation spots, but the reality is they may not have to.  The trio of Phil Hughes/Ian Kennedy/Joba Chamberlain in the rotation not so long ago didn’t work out, but the truth is that two of those three are now solid big-league starters.

    When the time comes can New York be patient enough to work guys like Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances or perhaps even Andrew Brackman into its rotation?  When that time comes will the Yankees take a similar approach as they did at catcher this year and go get a safety net like [Russell] Martin at another position that could keep a promising player in Triple-A?  Age is coming for the core of the Yankees’ roster, and there is no denying that. It has long been a part of the equation for them, but never like it is now in the heart of their team.  The starting rotation clearly needs replenishing too.  Again, though, given their minor-league depth, the prospect of having to retool the roster shouldn’t be all that scary.

    His recommendation-

    What the age in their core may require them to do is take a leap of faith.  They don’t appear ready to take the full plunge with Montero, but eventually they may not have a choice.  Now that they are without Cliff Lee, it only makes it more prudent to plan on making use of all this young talent…In other words, the future of the Yankees is safe, but only if it’s handled correctly and given a real chance to blossom.  How much of a chance Montero really gets at that starting catching job in 2011 will tell us just how willing the Yankees are to embrace their youth.

    I’d more or less agree with all of those thoughts.  Although I’ve long believed that Montero was always the team’s best trade chip and that his future utility to the Yankees was what he could bring in return (as opposed to what he could do here for the Yankees), I concede that there’s no sense trading Montero if the Yankees can’t extract an elite player in return.  So, as long as Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Justin Verlander or Jon Lester aren’t available, then Montero shouldn’t be either.

    Comments on Frankie Piliere: Yanks Should Consider Youth

    1. Scout
      December 16th, 2010 | 8:26 am

      I was not disappointed when Lee chose a National League team because I thought the deal was too long, but the fact remains that the Yankees are in a win-now mode even as they try to build a farm system that can make them strong in the future. For the organization, it is about capitalizing on a window of opportunity unlikely to last beyond 2012. At that point, the team will be unable to count on major contributions from Rivera, Pettite, Posada, or Jeter; A-Rod will be on the downside and it’s likely that C.C. will be, too; and even Tex may be past his prime.

      The problem is the mismatch between the readiness of the minor league talent and this window. Montero is the only position player likely to make a significant contribution over the next two seasons. That’s OK, because the team has a strong set of position players. The problem, of course, lies with the pitching. Force-feeding young pitchers into the rotation is not a recipe for their immediate success. It works better when the team can add one promising starter to the back of the rotation every year or two. Most of the pitchers who are close to the majors — Nova, Noesi, and Phelps — profile more as relievers or back-end starters. That’s fine; they can still be useful parts of a staff this year and next or serve as trade chips (Future Pittsburgh Pirates or FPPs, as I like to call them).

      The better pitching prospects now in the organization need more time to develop. They might begin to help the starting rotation in 2012, but that is pushing the envelope. Often there are hiccups before even the best young pitchers settle in. By the time Brackman, Betances, Banuelos, Stoneburner et al. are ready to make a significant contribution, the window of opportunity for this core will be closed.

      For the organization, the situation poses a dilemma. Certainly the team can fill two rotation spots with the likes of Nova, Mitre (cringe), Phelps, Noesi, or an injury reclamation project. Maybe they’ll get lucky with one of these guys and catch lightening in a bottle. But the probability (and it’s always about probabilities) is that I’m describing a team that will struggle to win more than 90 games, especially if Pettite doesn’t return. Some if us will be OK with this, prepared to be patient and harvest the crop of young. talent. But with a $200 million plus payroll commitment, I very much doubt the Yankees are prepared to go that way. Add to that the uncertainty over what happens beyond 2012 wwhen the window closes. By no means is the long term future of the organization assured by the talent now in the minors. We all hope Piliere evaluation is on the mark, but I think it is unlikely the Yankees will be content to stand pat with its current pitching talent pool in the expectation of a bright post-2012 future.

      As Lenin, the noted St. Petersburg GM, might ask, “What is to be done?” I have said before I am in favor of (short-term) patience. Proceed into the season with a soft rotation if necessary and wait for the opportunity to spring a deal that returns a front-end starter or (if Hughes shows improvement) a solid mid-rotaiton arm. I think at least one of the hyped young arms will have to go in such a deal, and that strikes me as an acceptable price given the model the organization has adopted.

    2. MJ Recanati
      December 16th, 2010 | 8:31 am

      @ Scout:
      I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said from a macro point of view.

    3. Evan3457
      December 16th, 2010 | 5:53 pm

      Keep in mind that the Yanks stand to lose contracts between $10-30 million a year, every year for the next 3-4 years. If the “geezers” decline, there’ll be plenty of $$$ to bring in whatever prime free agents are available who are willing to come to New York.

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