Thursday, March 22, 2007

Yankees' 4 Positional Battles

The Yankees came into Spring Training with 21 of the 25 roster spots set. Since Carl Pavano hasn't hurt himself yet, those 21 spots are still intact, leaving the same 4 positions up for grabs; back up catcher, righty first baseman, #6 & #7 in the bullpen.

The first base battle is between Josh Phelps and Andy Phillips. Phillips is one of the nicest guys in baseball, and before getting hurt had a nice little run last season. However, he just doesn't hit lefties like Josh Phelps does. Phelps came into spring training having to come from behind to get the job, and he's done that. While Phillips has a .500 OPS this Spring (still better than the Yankee starting first baseman), it pales in comparison to Phelps 1.090, which is second on the team only to Jose Tabata's 1.172.

The catching battle comes down to Wil Nieves and Todd Pratt. They both have mustered 2 hits this spring. Clearly the Yankees are not getting any offense from this position. Pratt has had a few big hits in his career, and can handle New York, so I'm rooting for the 40-year old. Nieves is better defensively, but can't even hit in the minors, let alone the big leagues.

I'm hoping that when Posada has a day off, and especailly when Wang and Pettitte are not pitching, that the Yankees will put Giambi at first base those days. I'm expecting Posada to have a season very similar to last year, as Tony Pena has been extremely impressed with how he looks, which is a good enough endorsement for me to think he's not going to have his eventual Varitek-like dropoff this season. This would be great for Posada as it's a contract year as well. I am worried about Posada having enough off days. Torre will give him his normal off days, but anytime the Yankees are in a close game late where he's not starting, and the catcher comes up, Posada could end up playing the last couple of innings.

The first 5 spots in the Yankee bullpen are Rivera, Farnsworth, Vizcaino, Proctor, and Myers. The Yankees would like to add a second lefty to that, but don't need to as all of these relievers have had success against lefties. For the final two spots there is an 8-person competition of:

TJ Beam
Colter Bean
Chris Britton
Brian Bruney
Sean Henn
Jeff Karstens
Darrell Rasner
Ron Villone

Britton has pitched his way out of the competition. The second highest spring ERA of this group is 3.86, he's at 10.50. Rasner and Karstens have the most innings pitched, as they are both minor league starting pitchers, and both have ERA's nicely under 3.00. However, I would prefer to see them both as starters in AAA for now, instead of the back end of the bullpen.

TJ Beam, Colter Bean, Brian Bruney, and Sean Henn each have spring ERA's of 0.00. Ron Villone started the spring great but no so much in his last outing which is a scary reminder of his second half last season. He costs 2 million more than anybody else and he's not currently on the 40-man roster, so I would eliminate Villone.

Bruney scares me with his walks. He has only 3 spring training innings due to a minor injury, so I would have him go down to AAA and work on his control. Colter Bean and Sean Henn have been the best of the bunch, with Henn being a lefty. Henn hasn't given up a hit in 5 spring outings, and in 6.2 innings, Bean has given up just 2 hits, no walks, and struck out 8.

So I would like to see the Yankees final four spots go to Phelps, Pratt, Bean, and Henn.

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