New York Yankees: "Killer B's" and Other Replacements Waiting to Take Over

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New York Yankees:
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They say you can't argue with results.

The New York Yankees are 20-16, two games behind the first place Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.

Could they be in first place? Sure. After all, it's still only May 14, and there's plenty of baseball to be played.

It's a marathon, not a sprint, the optimists will say.

But the Yankees are not without their flaws. No team in baseball is, but perfection is an obsession in the Bronx.

Just look at Derek Jeter. No player personifies the, "What have you done for me lately?" mentality better. Jeter has been the face of New York baseball for 16 years, helping the Yankees to five World Series titles, but you would never know it by reading the newspapers or the comments section of any Yankees forum.

He's done. He can't hit anymore. It's time to bat him ninth.

We've heard it all.

What's keeping Jeter atop the Yankee lineup?

It was a lack of options, but the Yankees can't say that for much longer.

After struggling for most of the season, Brett Gardner is now red hot. He has 13 hits in his last 31 at-bats (.419) with a scorching .526 OBP in May.

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Jeter has gotten off to a hot start in May as well, batting .300 and raising his season average to .268. But he has just four hits in his last 19 at-bats since going 4-for-6 in a 12-5 win over the Texas Rangers on May 8.

Who's more likely to stay hot? The younger, faster Gardner or the quickly aging Jeter?

Jeter's spot atop the lineup is more out of respect than anything else. But the chances to bury the Boston Red Sox and Rays in the standings are now gone. The Yankees are now on a three-game losing streak, their second of the season and are just 3-7 in their last 10 games.

If there was ever a time to finally make the change, it's now.

But it's unfair to single out Jeter.

Jorge Posada has also struggled mightily. Yes he has six home runs. Yes he has 15 RBI. But he's batting a putrid .165 and hasn't homered since April 23.

Unlike Jeter, Posada will certainly be gone after this season, so the sense of urgency to move him or replace him is weaker. But like Jeter, there are replacements waiting in the wings, and the longer the Yankees wait, the sooner the fans will start to notice.

After failing to win the backup catcher job in spring training, top prospect Jesus Montero is tearing up Triple-A pitching. Montero is batting .325 with two home runs and 11 RBI in 28 games for Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

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Montero has been more known for his bat than his glove, a stance which was only reaffirmed in the spring. The prevailing thought is that the Yankees would rather have Montero play in the minor leagues to keep his trade value up in case the Yankees pull the trigger on a trade during the season.

Montero would have already been gone had the Yankees been able to trade for Cliff Lee last August.

But as Posada struggles and Montero continues to hit, how long can the Yankees stick to their plan? Montero's defense has most scouts projecting a DH or first base job in the youngster's future. Mark Teixeira isn't going anywhere of course, which leaves DH.

And while the Yankees would love to leave themselves with the flexibility to rest their aging veterans like Alex Rodriguez at DH, if Montero can come up and do a better job than Posada, the Yankees could live with his weak defense behind the plate should they chose to make him the backup.

Francisco Cervelli only has 14 at-bats since coming off the DL, so there's no reason to move him out from behind the plate. And Russell Martin continues to be the best pick up of the offseason.

But as Posada struggles, the Yankees can't feign ignorance much longer.

The biggest reason the Yankees can be comfortable with the status quo is the surprising production they've received from Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Two pick ups off the scrap heap this offseason, Colon and Garcia have far surpassed expectations.

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Colon is 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA. Garcia is 2-2 with a 2.61 ERA.

It's great to see, and imagining where the Yankees would be had their rotation not shaped up the way it has might make you sick. But despite the overachieving, the Yankees are still just 14th in the majors in stater's ERA (3.88).

And what's the over/under on how many starts the Yankees will get out of their reclamation projects?

Garcia was limited to just 12 starts from 2008-2009 but bounced back with 28 last season for the White Sox. Colon hasn't made more than 20 starts since 2005 and was limited to just 19 over the last two seasons.

It's safe to say both have been better than expected, and the best thing the Yankees can do is ride the both of them into the ground. Keep sending Colon and Garcia out there every fifth day and if, or when, they break down, cut them loose.

If that happens, would the Yankees hesitate to call up their top pitching prospects, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos?

Both are starting for Double-A Trenton right now and have been pitching very well. Betances is 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts. Banuelos is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in six starts.

The Yankees are very protective of their young prospects, perhaps to a fault. And after watching Phil Hughes land on the DL after an inexplicable drop in velocity, the Yankees might be fearful of adding onto the innings total of their young "B's."

But the fans know they're pitching well. And the moment Colon and Garcia begin to show flaws, the screams for mid-season call-ups for Banuelos and Betances will echo throughout Yankee Stadium.

For now, the Yankees can keep sending out the same lineup and rotation every day, satisfied that they're only two games out of first. But two can quickly become four or six if the Yankees continue to struggle, while the Red Sox and Rays surge.

It's not in the Yankees' nature to be quick on the trigger, but they have to at least keep their guns loaded.

 

 

 

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