With more than 100 games still to go in the season, Yankees fans need only to look at tonight’s starting pitching match-up to recognize their team’s biggest weakness. While the rival Boston Red Sox are sending Jon Lester to the hill, the Yankees will counter with Freddy Garcia.
Although one of the keys to the Yankees success this season has come in the form of pleasant surprises from Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, they cannot be relied on for the same kind of production for the rest of the season. At 4-4, Garcia has already pitched well above his pay-grade, while Colon has been dazzling considering he wasn’t even in baseball last season. That said, everything they have given the Yankees thus far must be considered a bonus, and Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman will be looking for a starting pitcher to add before the trade deadline.
For that reason, the future is uncertain for Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain, all potential trade pieces as the Yankees inch closer to the July 31 deadline.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, there is a scarcity of starting pitching available this year and so Cashman will likely have to buy at a premium. In addition, of the Yankees who Cashman could realistically trade, only Martin has had a year which has inflated his trade value. If the Yankees are not willing to part with him, they will likely have to dip into their farm system to get a quality arm in return.
Cashman, who has only traded one blue-chip prospect in the last five years (Austin Jackson), will be reluctant to shake up the minor leagues too much this year in pursuit of a starting pitcher. So with that said, here’s a look at five guys the Yanks definitely will not get rid of in the coming weeks.
With uncertainty plaguing the Yankees' starting rotation, Cashman is going to be reluctant to give up his most promising minor league arms.
Mitchell played his college ball at Clemson University and was drafted in the 10th round of the 2008 draft by the Yankees. At 6 feet and only 160 lbs, Mitchell's size isn't nearly as formidable as his stuff. His primary pitch is a sinker, but he also throws a good curveball that gives him good strikeout numbers for a sinkerball pitcher.
For the last three seasons, Mitchell has bounced around the Yankees' minor league system, enjoying sporadic success with all three teams. This year, however, he seems to have finally settled into a confident role as a starting pitcher with Triple-A Scranton. He has gone deep into ball games, averaging nearly six innings per start, while maintaining an impressive 2.95 ERA. In 61 innings of work, Mitchell has also struck out 42 batters.
Like any sinker-ball pitcher, his WHIP (1.24) is higher than you might expect when compared to his ERA, but what's really important is that he's keeping the ball in the ball-park, allowing only three homers this season. With guys who throw a good sinker, there's always seeing-eye-singles that sneak through the infield on the ground, but Mitchell isn't getting drilled.
He's only 24 years old, so he won't be called up this season (or maybe even next), but this is a name to remember and a player that Cashman will be extremely reluctant to part with.
This one may come as a surprise to Yankee fans who know that Sanchez was sent to extended Spring Training this week because of "attitude problems."
Apparently, Sanchez pulled a Posada and refused to enter a game off of the bench or catch a bullpen session due to his frustration with his own poor play. Fortunately for Sanchez, his penance may turn out to be lighter than Posada's, who is likely to be cut in July if he doesn't hit a solid streak.
As discouraging as the news from Scranton was this week, it's no reason to give up on the 18-year old Sanchez. Signed for $3 million as a 16-year old international free agent by the Yankees in July 2009, he is one of the most promising young talents in the Yankees' farm system.
In 2011, he was ranked the 32nd best prospect in baseball by MLB.com. Big money and high praise like that can go to an 18-year old's head pretty quickly, especially for a guy coming from humble origins in the Dominican Republic. News of his rebelliousness is not good, but it's not entirely surprising either. Growing pains hurt sometimes.
More importantly, this kid tore it up last year in rookie ball and with the Staten Island Yankees. In 136 PAs in the rookie Gulf league, Sanchez smoked the ball, hitting .353 and boasting a .419 OBP before being called up to Staten Island. In an additional 54 ABs with Staten Island last year, Sanchez continued to produce, hitting .278 with a .333 OBP, all as a 17-year old.
He's having some struggles this year, but remember, this kid still has three more years before he's legally allowed to buy a beer and he's already a millionaire. He's got unbelievable talent, and the Yankees would be foolish to move him before they know exactly what they're dealing with.
One of two exciting pitchers in Double-A Trenton, Manny Banuelos is among the Yankees' most prized possessions right now, and he may not be as far away from the majors as many thought at the beginning of this season.
At 20 years old, the Mexican native is still extremely young, but his talent has wowed scouts since playing his first game in the Yanks' rookie league in 2007.
Watching Banuelos is strangely reminiscent of Pedro Martinez. At 5'11", 155 lbs, Banuelos is not a big guy, but the power he gets behind his fastball defies logic. He reaches 93 mph on the gun regularly and throws a nasty change-up, which keeps hitters' timing off. The only difference is that Banuelos is a lefty.
In 11 starts in Trenton this year, Banuelos has yet to record a loss and his ERA is an impressive 2.84.
The biggest knock on Banuelos is his control. He's already surrendered 29 walks in 50.2 innings. Even so, the 41st ranked prospect by Baseball America is receiving more and more media attention with each start, and it's only going to get harder for the Yankees to keep hiding him in the minors.
Personally, I hope they leave him down there for at least another year. After all, look at what Ian Kennedy is doing for the Diamondbacks this season.
Betances has been Banuelos's partner in crime at Double-A Trenton this season. Earlier this week, Cashman said in a press conference that it is a possibility that Banuelos and Betances are called up to help the major league club if the Yankees are still in the midst of a pennant race in the late summer.
That said, it's much more likely that Yankee fans will get a look at Betances than Banuelos this because of his age. The 23-year old Betances has been in the Yankees' system since he was drafted by the Yanks in the 8th round of the 2006 draft, and he's had much more minor league experience.
Add that to the fact that Double-A Scranton may not have a whole lot more to offer to Betances and you might see him in the majors sooner than you think. He's dominated there this year, posting a 1.99 ERA while striking out 50 in just 45 innings.
The Yankees will need to be careful with Betances though, because his work has been limited in the minors. Since 2006, he's only thrown 345 innings, which means that it is unlikely that he could slip into the Yankees rotation without significant risk of injury.
Many teams these days now take the so-called Verducci Rule (pitchers under the age of 25 who increase their innings by more than 30 year after year have a significantly higher risk of serious arm problems) very seriously, and the Yankees would be smart to do the same. The young right-hander has already had elbow surgery, so the Yankees need to handle him carefully.
By now, Jesus Montero is a household name without ever having seen a pitch in the major leagues. He's been ranked in the Top 50 Prospects by Baseball America for three consecutive years, including an overall ranking of 3 in 2011.
Despite his accolades, there has been speculation this season that the Yankees might trade Montero in order to bring in another pitcher. Unless the Steinbrenners overrule Cashman like they did with the Rafael Soriano deal, it's not going to happen. Montero is with New York to stay.
Brian Cashman has been bragging about Montero for more than three years now, and Montero is still only 21-years old. He's played so well in Triple-A Scranton this year that he was quoted telling reporters that he was "bored" earlier last month. As soon as there is space on the major league roster, he's coming up.
The biggest knock on Montero is his defense, and many scouts have suggested that Montero may need to switch positions to be effective in the majors. This could work perfectly for the Yankees, who would be happy to keep Russell Martin, an excellent defensive catcher and favorite of Yankee starters, behind the plate.
With two struggling corner outfielders, Montero could play his way into that spot in New York sooner rather than later. For Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher, the pressure may be on very soon.
The Yanks won't trade this guy because they won't get equal value for him. Cashman is too smart to ship out a 21 year old prospect in exchange for a second rate starting pitcher like Mark Buehrle. With Seattle remaining steadfast in their determination to hold on to Felix Hernandez, it looks unlikely that Montero will go anywhere this season.