Chad Jennings is a former beat writer for the AAA Scranton Yankees. He took over as a Yankees beat writer in October and has agreed to do a quick interview with The Pinstriper. We thank him for the interview. Enjoy and don’t forget to check out his work here!
1. Thoughts on the Curtis Granderson trade? Who got the best of it?
I think every team got what it wanted. Granderson is a great fit for the Yankees. They gave up some real talent to get him, but that’s what it was going to take for an impact player like that. I think some people are getting a bit too caught up in his splits. They’re bad, and they’re a factor in judging him as a hitter, but at the end of the day he’s consistently hit 20+ home runs with 70+ RBIs while playing good defense in center field. He’s also young and signed to a good contract.
2. Can you profile Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy for us?
Jackson is going to be an everyday center fielder, but his lack of power suggests he’ll be more of a bottom-of-the-order hitter. He could develop more power and become more of an impact bat — wouldn’t surprise me, actually — but right now he’s a guy with a little bit of speed who hits for a high average despite striking out a lot. He’s also a good defensive player in center field. Kennedy started throwing a two-seam fastball during the Arizona Fall League and his curveball has improved since his bad 2008 stint in New York. It’s easy to overlooked that he’s been absolutely dominant in the minor leagues and that he pitched very well in the big leagues when he was first called up in late 2007. He throws strikes — quality strikes — and that makes him a good pitcher.
3. Any idea who the Yankees might want in the Rule 5 Draft? What position?
Can’t figure it out, to be honest. Infield makes no sense because the 40-man is already packed with utility candidates, I can’t imagine the Rule 5 providing a better backup catcher than Francisco Cervelli, and if the Yankees wanted a power arm, why not protect Grant Duff or Kevin Whelan? There are a few right-handed hitters available who can play the outfield and also have experience at catcher. I wonder if that might work for the Yankees, giving them a little bit more outfield depth — which they need — as well as a spare catcher for days when Cervelli is behind the plate and Jorge Posada is the DH.
4. Any idea of any players that might be taken from the Yankees?
I think Zach Kroenke will be taken, I think Kevin Whelan should be taken and I think Colin Curtis might be taken. There are other candidates — Jason Hirsh, George Kontos, Grant Duff, Alan Horne — but I tend to think Kroenke, Whelan and Curtis are the guys most at risk of being taken.
5. Do you think the Yankees need to improve the bullpen at all or they are good as it is?
I don’t think they have to make a bullpen move, partially because I think they’ll sign Andy Pettitte plus one more starting pitcher. That could leave either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain to return to the eighth inning (I still think they should both be starters, but that’s a whole other issue). David Robertson and Mark Melancon are also legitimate options for high-leverage bullpen roles. And you never know what young starter they might convert to the pen. If they were willing to move Hughes, they’re willing to move anyone, and guys like Ivan Nova and Zach McAllister might work well in that role. You never know.
6. Is Zach Kroenke an MLB option at this point? Was he part of the reason they were willing to trade Coke?
I think Mike Dunn was the reason the Yankees were willing to trade Coke. After last year, it’s hard to believe the Yankees see Kroenke playing a role in the big leagues. Kroenke was terrific in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year. When he didn’t get a shot then, and when he wasn’t added to the 40-man this winter, it became obvious that the Yankees don’t view him as much of a major league option. I hope he’s taken in the Rule 5 because he deserves a shot.
7. If you had to predict the rotation for next year what would it be?
Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, Hughes, Chamberlain
I think they’ll bring someone else in to compete, but unless that person is Ben Sheets or Rich Harden, I think it’s entirely possible that Hughes and Chamberlain will outpitch the new competition and win the job.
8. The outfield? What could Melky Cabrera net in a trade and are the Yankees definitely more willing to trade him rather than Brett Gardner?
The short answer is, I have no idea. Cabrera is an enigma on the trade market. He’s still cheap and he’s coming off a nice year, but is his trade value that of a starting center fielder or a fourth outfielder? Everyone seems split on the way they ultimately view him. As for which one I would trade, it’s no secret that I really like Gardner, but I’m not sure it makes sense to have two left-handed center fielders.
*Interview conducted by Brandon of The Pinstriper and Chad Jennings of the Lohud Yankees Blog*
We here at the Pinstriper are proud to announce that we have another 10 for 10 interview! This time it is with Rich of Fightin’ Phillies. Enjoy!
1. What is your prediction now that the Phils and the Yankees are tied 1-1 in the World Series so far who will win it?
I like the Phillies in 6 games now that they have two games under way in the series.
2. How will finish better batting now that they’ve both had two games into the Series : Ryan Howard or Alex Rodriguez?
Ryan Howard, because he’ll have his groove back at home in Philly.
3. Phillies or Yankees who has the better food at the stadium?
Speaking as a Sunday season ticket holder with the Phillies, I would have to say Philly has some nice barbeque items and of course cheesesteaks and crab fries which are french fries with crab seasoning on it and cheese dip on the side, but everything is way overpriced. I haven’t been to new Yankee Stadium yet, but I like that they have a Hard Rock Cafe on site.
4. What team will finish the series with more home runs?
It’s even at this point, I am going to say it will stay that way about even through out the series.
5. Who will get MVP of the Series?
I am thinking Cliff Lee for the Phillies as I have them winning it, if not maybe Utley for his great start already.
6. “New York, New York” or “Philadelphia Freedom” what is the better song?
Two different styles of music, I remember when Philadelphia Freedom came out as a kid, but I would call it a tie with an edge to Sinatra cause he had class.
7. Who’s better Jorge Posada or Carlos Ruiz in this World Series?
Posada is slightly better, more experience and better overall BA, Ruiz has been clutch though.
8. Lee or Sabathia who’s better, who’s best?
I have seen Lee great so far on the Phillies team, I think C.C. is overrated though he did have a great season this year. Can C.C. come through in the World Series? I think Lee betters him and gets MVP in the Series. I also think Lee should have C.C.’s agent, he got a ton of money from the Yankees.
9. Should the Yankees and the Phillies play more interleague games?
I was at the games in the late 90’s when interleague started with the Yankees, I like the local matchups better than say the Phillies playing the White Sox. I think every other year the Yankees should end up playing the Phillies at least for the next 6 years.
10. Who is your favorite Phillies player of all time and why?
Mike Schmidt, he was ‘the man’ in Philly for 18 seasons. The fans often criticized him too much, he was such an awesome player and really my choice as the best Phillies player ever.
Rich came up with the questions and you can check out his blog for my answers to the same questions!
Without further ado, here is the interview in its entirety:
1. In a recent blog post I debated whether I would prefer Ryan Howard or Mark Teixeira for this series….which would you take?
Right now I would take Howard. He’s as hot as anyone not named Alex Rodriguez, and he’s even getting Rodriguez a run for his money. I got to see Howard hit quite a bit in Scranton, and he’s more than just a pull-the-ball power hitter. He can go the other way. He can move runners. He’s not awful at first base. On the whole, though, I think Teixeira is a more complete player. Just hard to overlook what Howard’s done this postseason.
2. With Pedro Martinez starting game 2, do you think the Yankees or Pedro have the upper hand? (Which has the advantage in that matchup)
I think Pedro’s a little different pitcher than he used to be. He’s still mixing his pitches, but this isn’t going to be the same Pedro that Jeter and Posada and the rest remember from Boston. I’m not sure the experience against one another plays a huge role, but certainly this is going to be a tough place to pitch for Martinez and this Yankees lineup is awfully dangerous. I’ll take this Yankees lineup over an aging Martinez, but I’ll say that respectfully. The guy can still pitch. Just ask the Dodgers.
3. Do you think the Yankees will go with a 3 man or a 4 man rotation for the World Series? Which would you do?
Four man. That’s what I think they’ll do and that’s what I would do. I would pitch Sabathia in Game 4 and Gaudin in Game 5. That leaves a fully rested Burnett/Pettitte for Game 6, and the off day between 5 and 6 means the Yankees can burn through a ton of relievers without losing them for the next game.
4. Do you think the set-up man role is open right now? Girardi has stuck by Hughes, but if Hughes struggles?
I still think Hughes has the job, mostly because Chamberlain hasn’t been lights out. He’s allowed some hits of his own. I’m a huge Robertson believer, and I think the eighth inning might be his one day, but I’m not sure a few big outs by Robertson and a couple of bad innings by Hughes is enough to swap roles. Hughes earned this spot and I’m not sure anyone has done enough to take it from him.
5. Having covered the Phillies farm system in the past, can you give us some background on their core players?
Utley is the best player I ever saw in Scranton. He and I weren’t especially close — he was never particularly comfortable with the media back then — but he’s a terrific, terrific hitter. I touched on Howard, who can do more than hit home runs. He has a lot of power to left-center. Victorino isn’t so underrated anymore thanks to the all-star game, but he’s had a lot of talent for a long time. Good speed. Good power. Terrific arm. I’ve said before that I think Victorino is the kind of player the Yankees hope Austin Jackson becomes. Don’t count out Carlos Ruiz. His numbers aren’t good, but he’s a dangerous hitter and does good work behind the plate. He works great with pitchers. That’s why he’s remained an everyday catcher.
6. What do you think is the biggest problem for the Yankees going into the World Series?
I think there should be a little bit of concern about the middle of the order, outside of Rodriguez. Teixeira and Matsui got it done this season, but both have been a bit cold in the playoffs and I think the Yankees need both of them to break out oit.
7. For the Phillies?
The bullpen. The rotation has some question marks, but the bullpen is full of them. Brad Lidge has pitched really well this postseason, but I don’t know any Phillies fan who feels particularly comfortable with him in the ninth. And getting to him is hardly a sure thing.
8. Any bold predictions for the series?
Nothing too bold, but I’ll say Teixeira snaps out of it and Utley gives the Yankees more trouble than Howard.
- Who wins, how many games? Yankees in six.
- Best starter? Sabathia.
- Best Hitter? Utley.
- Best Reliever? Rivera, with Hughes getting back on course in the eighth.
- World Series MVP? Jeter.
Just like every other Yankees fan, we here at The Pinstriper are gearing up for the Fall Classic. And what better way to prepare than to get a look inside the mind of a Phillies blogger. We did a Q&A session with Brian of the People’s Phillies Blog (who you can follow on Twitter) where we each answered several questions about our respective teams.
Okay, pencils down! Here are the results:
Brandon to Brian – Scouting the Phillies
1. What would you say the Phillies vulnerabilities are?
The bullpen. Their bullpen struggles have been well-documented, particularly those of Brad Lidge. And Ryan Madson hasn’t exactly lit it up this October. However, they’ve gotten the job done thus far and are more than capable of stepping up. That said, no Phillies fan will feel completely safe with a slender lead and the game in the bullpen’s hands.
2. What player on the Phillies will be the X-Factor for whether they win or lose the series?
Cole Hamels. The 2008 World Series MVP hasn’t looked like himself for much of the season, but everyone knows he’s capable of dominating a game. He had a solid start against the Yankees this year allowing 2 runs in 6 innings at Yankee Stadium. He’ll have an easier time in Game 3, since he won’t have to face a DH. It’s also worth noting that Hamels has had difficulty with left-handed hitting this October and the Yankees are a better right-handed hitting team.
3. Jimmy Rollins has begun the trash talking process. Do you feel that this will help or hurt the team in the longrun?
Rollins has a history of trash-talking a certain other New York team and it’s worked out pretty well for them. Will it help or hurt? Ultimately I think it’s irrelevant. Rollins and the Phillies have earned the right to talk trash, as the reigning World Champions. They are extremely confident, as they should be, and know how to win in hostile environments.
4. If you had a big game situation, who would you want on the mound?
Adam Eaton. Oh wait, I thought you meant who I want on the mound for the OTHER team. Yeah, I’m gonna have to go with Cliff Lee. He’s the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and has been nothing short of brilliant in the postseason. Upon further review, it’s a question worth considering. Not because I have any doubts about Lee (though his history against the Yankees is mediocre) but because the Phillies also have the Hamels and a future Hall of Famer in Pedro Martinez at their disposal. I’d still have to go with Lee, but I wouldn’t feel terrible about going into a Game 7 with Hamels or Pedro taking the hill.
5. At the Plate?
This is a much tougher choice. But again, it’s because the Phillies have so many proven clutch performers. I’ll have to go with Chase Utley, since he’s our best all-around hitter, but you really can’t go wrong. Ryan Howard has been a hitting machine this October, just as good (if not better) than A-Rod. Jayson Werth has had a great year and slays left-handed pitching. Victorino, Feliz, and Ruiz have all had their share of clutch hits this year and last. Ibanez hasn’t gotten much press, but he has 9 RBI and 9 games. Two weeks ago I would have left Rollins off the list, but after witnessing his NLCS Game 4 heroics in person, I’ll never doubt him again. As I said, I’ll take Utley, as he’s the best overall player, but lucky for me and Phillies fans everywhere, I don’t really have to choose.
6. Do you think the Phillies bullpen will step up or step down? Why?
I wouldn’t be much of a fan if I said “step down,” would I? Seriously though, the Phillies bullpen has been impressive this October and there’s reason to believe it could step up and be even better in the World Series. Brad Lidge appears to have his confidence back. Chan Ho Park is well-rested and got some good work in during the NLCS. Brett Myers, who had an impressive start against the Yankees in May, is back and (hopefully) healthy. Madson hasn’t looked good lately, but there’s no questioning his talent or his track record. The question with this bullpen all year has not been ability, it’s been composure, and they look plenty composed right now.
7. Summarize the Phillies lineup? Strengths? Weaknesses?
American League-esque. This is a lineup that has no real weaknesses, up and down the order. The Phillies’ 2 through 6 hitters made the All-Star team, and deservedly so. Rollins was left off but he’s improved in the second half and is a former MVP. Feliz and Ruiz don’t scare anyone, but Feliz has been good in the clutch (.879 OPS with 2 outs and runners in scoring position). Meanwhile, check out Ruiz’s postseason numbers. His career playoff OPS is .838. His OPS in last year’s Fall Classic was 1.188 and in this year’s NLCS he posted a 1.271 OPS. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s a career 6-for-8 with a home run and 3 RBI against the Yankees. And then there’s Ben Francisco, who will almost certainly get some at-bats, either as a pinch hitter, or as left fielder while Ibanez starts at DH. Francisco is great against left-handed pitching and he has a .928 OPS in 10 games against the Yankees.
As far as weaknesses, the one thing the Phillies have going against them is their tendency to leave runners on base. The Phillies have a lot of big hitters who take big cuts, and that can lead to strikeouts and pop-ups, so it’s not altogether uncommon to see the Phillies come up empty, despite having 1st and 3rd and no outs. That said, they can just as easily crank a 3-run home run. Critics lambasted the Phillies last year as well for leaving runners on, but the important thing to remember is that if you’re leaving runners on, that means you’re getting runners on to begin with. It means you’re working counts, tiring the starting pitching, and giving yourself the opportunity to blast those 3-run shots.
8. How about the Phillies bench?
The bench is one of the Phillies’ great strengths. As mentioned, Ben Francisco is a very good right-handed bat and he’s also a good baserunner and strong fielder. When the Phillies employ him in their outfield, they’ve essentially got 3 center fielders. Matt Stairs finished the regular season below the Mendoza line, but he posted a .357 OBP and cranked 5 home runs. As any Phillies (or Dodgers) fan can tell you, he’s a home run threat every time he’s at the plate. Greg Dobbs was arguably the best pinch hitter in the league in 2008. Eric Bruntlett isn’t great, but he’s a solid utility player and a good baserunner, with good playoff experience. Paul Bako is nothing special, but he’s a veteran catcher with good defensive ability. If he had to step in for Ruiz at some point, the Phillies could do worse.
World Series winner
Phillies in 6
Jayson Werth – Let’s face it, this is going to be a hitter’s series. And with the Yankees’ left-handed starting pitching, the Phils may not get the kind of production from Howard as they did in the first two rounds. Werth can hit with the best of them, and even when he’s not mashing home runs, he works counts better than anyone in baseball.
Most Valuable Pitcher
Cliff Lee – If the Phillies are going to win it, it will have a lot to do with Lee. If his 0.74 ERA against the NL’s 2nd and 4th best offenses was any indication, he can win a game or two for the Phillies against the Yankees.
Werth – Like I said, Werth will need to have a good series to neutralize the Yankees’ left-handed starters, but frankly there’s so many good players on this Phillies offense, there’s no wrong answer here. Rollins, Utley, Howard, and Ibanez have shown they are capable of carrying the offense for stretches. Victorino is no slouch either and I already talked about Ruiz’s playoff resume. I’m fairly confident Feliz, Bruntlett, and Bako won’t be tearing it up, but otherwise, all bets are off.
Chan Ho Park – the obvious answer is Lidge, but the truth is, the Phillies already know who they’re going to in the 9th inning. The 7th and 8th innings, however, are a tougher call. Park was the Phillies’ best reliever this season and will be looked upon to get big outs, especially if Madson continues to look shaky.
Brian to Brandon – Scouting the Yankees
1. What would you say the Yankees vulnerabilities are?
I say the bullpen. The Yankees bullpen has the capability to be amazing or terrible, depending on the day. We’ve seen Alfredo Aceves pitch like an ace, but we’ve also seen him pitch like a AAA pitcher. David Robertson has been great getting out of jams, but he also got himself into those jams. Then theres Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. Can you trust them in the 7th or 8th innings? It’s becoming questionable with their rocky ALDS and ALCS performances.
2. What player on the Yankees will be the X-Factor for whether they win or lose the series?
I wanted to say Phil Hughes and even originally typed that as my answer, but I’m going with A.J. Burnett. The all-important Game 2 is a must-win game if the Yankees lose game one. Which Burnett will show up? Game 2 of the ALDS (which I was at) or Game 2 of the ALCS? He is a rocky pitcher that when he is on, hes ON, but when he is off, he is OFF.
3. Does C.C. Sabathia’s 2008 struggles against the Phillies in the playoffs concern you?
No. I am biased in saying that, but I truly do believe it. When CC Sabathia pitched against the Phillies last year he was coming off a streak of many, many 3 days rest starts. This season he has only started on three days rest once. He can be the workhorse that they need, but they haven’t needed that yet.
4. If you had a big game situation, who would you want on the mound?
Easy, Mariano Rivera. Rivera is the only pitcher in the MLB that I would trust in this situation. If you give me a bases loaded nobody out tie game in World Series Game 7 situation I would not even hesitate to pick Rivera. Not only is he the all-time postseason saves leader, but he has also had a very good postseason this year.
5. At the Plate?
Hmmm I’m going to go with Nick Swisher and his .125 Batting Average. Actually, never mind I think I’m going to pick Alex Rodriguez and his .438 Batting Average, 5 HR and 12 RBI this postseason. The fact that he has tied two games in the 9th inning or later this postseason just shows on its own how dependable in the clutch situations he has been.
6. Do you think the Yankees bullpen will step up or step down? Why?
This was a very hard question for me. I think that Phil Hughes will step down and Joba Chamberlain will step up. I think in at least one of the games Hughes will blow the lead in the 7th or 8th innings and then Joba Chamberlain will come in, shut the Phillies down and then the Yankees will go on to win that game. They will win that game because the rest of the bullpen will step up as well. Watch out for David Robertson. He could even take over the set-up role if he pitches well enough.
7. Summarize the Yankees lineup? Strengths? Weaknesses?
Top to bottom I would not take any lineup in baseball over it. There have been struggles with Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, but I am confident that Teixeira at least can break ouy of it. Otherwise you have Mr. November (Derek Jeter), Mr. October of this year (Alex Rodrgiuez) and other proven postseason players (Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada) within the lineup.
8. How about the Yankees bench?
If the rumors are true, Eric Hinske and Brian Bruney (pitcher) will be added to the roster over Freddy Guzman and Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli was used as the third catcher this postseason and came in handy when needed. If Posada gets hurt now in game 2 (if Molina catches that game) then Jerry Hairston Jr. will be the 3rd catcher. Hairston hasn’t ever played catcher in his career. Hairston himself can be used to pinch-run or even pinch-hit if neccessary. Hairston had never played a postseason game in his career going into this year. Of course there is Hinske who Phillies fans know for making the last out of last years World Series. He has been on the AL Champions three years in a row now and can provide some pop off the bench. Brett Gardner rounds off the bench as the big speedy guy. Fans enjoy calling him Gritty Gutty Brett Gardner (or GGBG for short) because of his instincts and base-running abilities.
World Series winner
Yankees in 6. I tell you though, if this series was in Philadelphia I would probably pick the Phillies in 7. I think home-field advantage will be the deciding factor in this series.
Most Valuable Pitcher
David Robertson. Watch out for him.
Thanks again to Brian for doing this interview. I hope both teams play great baseball, but the Yankees play better baseball! Check out his site and make sure to vote on the polls on the sidebar of my site. More interviews and commentary to come!
I was able to get Pete Abraham of the Weschester Journal News to interview with me.
1. How have the players reacted to all the books written about the team this year – Torre’ book and Selena Roberts’. Did you sense more tension? Also, do you feel that that had something to do with the slow start?
Tension? They have the best record in baseball and terrific chemistry. Why would a book by somebody who managed them in 2007 cause tension in 2009? The slow start was due to poor pitching and A-Rod being on the DL. Not any books.
2. Who is your favorite player to cover on the Yankees? Why?
Nobody in particular on this team, they’re a pretty good bunch. It’s a great honor to cover Mariano Rivera.
3. Do you feel that Chien-Ming Wang will ever return to his prime form?
Unfortunately, probably not. That foot injury altered his mechanics and led to a serious shoulder injury.
4. Some beat writers say that they want Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes should be the Yankees future closer, while you say that they should be starters. Why?
I think this issue has been beaten to death. Joba is obviously a starter and the Yankees have said Hughes will start as well.
5. What is your favorite and least favorite stadiums to visit?
I like Safeco Field. I dislike Oakland.
6. Question for kids out there that may want to be a beat writer when they grow up. What is it like? The traveling, asking questions, press conferences, getting to be near players?
That is a pretty involved question. It’s a very enjoyable job but there is a lot of hard work and a lot of hours involved. I’m not sure what you mean by getting to be near players. They’re just people who play baseball, it’s not a big deal.
7. Jim Bouton, a former Yankee, wrote a book revealing private information about his teammates and friends. Selena Roberts wrote a book about one player, Alex Rodriguez. Do you feel players have to be more careful about trust and being a close team? Has the loss of privacy in any way cause a lack of chemistry?
I’ve never heard any of the players talk about books and it doesn’t impact team chemistry in the slightest.
8. The Yankees asked the Pirates to help pay for Eric Hinske’s salary this year…..are they really having money issues or are there other reasons?
I don’t think they’re having money issues. But if the other team will pay some salary, they might as well try and get it.
9. When Joe Torre rejected the Yankees offer you called it “the most shocking thing in a long time.” What since has surprised you the most? Why?
In terms of what has surprised me since, it was A-Rod being on steroids. I had foolishly believed his denials.
10. Any funny or interesting stories you have from your time as a Yankee beat writer?
There are too many to mention. Plenty of interesting and funny things happen.
Do you like the new Yankee Stadium as much as the old one?
Best 1-2 Combination in baseball?
Pitching or hitting? Pitching I’d say it’s Lincecum and Cain. Hitting I’d say Mauer and Morneau.
World Series predictions?
As I wrote in the beginning of the season, I think the Yankees will win it.
Date of Austin Jacksons MLB Debut?
No idea. Depends what they do in the offseason.
Will Joe Torre get his number retired? Will he make up with the Yankees?
I would hope so on both accounts.
Chad Jennings is the beat writer for the Scranton W/B Yankees. He was kind enough to answer 10 questions for me. Here is the interview:
1. Out of all the players in AAA this year….who has impressed you the most? Who has dissapointed you the most?
Chad Jennings: Austin Jackson has probably impressed me the most. For a guy his age to hit like this in the International League is pretty amazing. He’s also a lot faster than I expected, and he uses his speed well on the bases and in the outfield. He’s terrific driving the ball to the opposite field. Kevin Russo, Shelley Duncan and Zach Kroenke deserve some honorable mention here. I guess there’s some disappointment in the way Doug Bernier and Justin Leone have struggled. Great guys, both of them, but the bat just hasn’t been there all season. Eric Duncan has really struggled, too.
2. Do you see Shelley Duncan as a capable MLB every day player, or just another AAAA player?
CJ: I absolutely see him as a capable MLB everyday player. I would love to see what would happen if a big league team stuck with him for a season. He would strikeout quite a bit, but he could be a 35 home run guy. And if he got himself locked in, he could be really valuable.
3. Can you give us some information on Zach Kroenke?
CJ: Lefty. Low 90s with his fastball. Mixes a slider and splitty, using both as an outpitch. He’s not a huge strikeout guy, but he doesn’t allow many hard-hit balls. And he comes from a major college program at Nebraska. There’s talent there, it’s just a question of how much the other pitchers in the system have him overshadowed.
4. The AAA Yankees got off to an 11-0 start this year and are currently the 2nd best team in the IL winning-percentage wise. Who would you attribute this to the most? The players? The manager?
CJ: I think there’s a lot to be said for this coaching staff. The Yankees have been one of the best teams in the league each of the three years they’ve been in Scranton, and that’s happened with constantly shuffling rosters. Dave Miley and Butch Wynegar really know what they’re doing and the pitching coaches the past three years — Dave Eiland, Rafael Chaves and Scott Aldred — have track records that speak for themselves. Aaron Ledesma has been a great addition this season. That staff has helped create a loose, easy going clubhouse. In the end, though, I think it falls on the players. These guys have largely bought into the idea of winning being important, even at this level, and I think that’s helped.
5. After seeing the whole Tony Bernazard and Binghamton Mets story play out and the Mets be repeatedly chastised for their lack of depth how do you feel the Yankees are at the same thing? Do you feel they have good enough depth in the system?
CJ: For the most part, yes. The Triple-A roster has long-term and short-term solutions in the infield, outfield and catcher. The relief depth is such that it’s been hard to get everyone innings. The starting pitching depth has dwindled considerably, but that’s only after a ton of injuries and just-for-now bullpen conversions. It’s deep enough to fill some holes.
6. How is the Redsox farm system this year?
CJ: I don’t really follow it too closely. I know Lars Anderson hasn’t been too good, but Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden and Daniel Bard are legit. Junichi Tazawa looks like a solid signing, as well.
7. Who would you say is the best prospect you’ve seen this year (Yankee or non-Yankee) and do you feel he has lived up to the hype?
CJ: I missed a lot of them. Didn’t get to see Gordon Beckham or Tommy Hanson or Andrew McCutchen. I did see Matt Wieters, and what struck me was his size and athleticism. He looks like an NFL tight end. He just looks like a better athlete than everyone else. I also thought Michael Bowden looked good against the Yankees. He’s really boosted his stock the past year or two.
8. Is Kei Igawa just another minor-leaguer?
CJ: Maybe. I think Kei can get big leaguers out, but when he makes a mistake, it gets crushed. And it’s tough to learn anything new from watching him pitch in Triple-A. He’s been good at this level for three years now. He seems to be better at keeping the ball down this year, but I have no idea if that will be enough to make a significant difference at the big league level. He’s had Triple-A success in the past but not been able to carry it to New York.
9. Give us a background on Austin Jackson?
CJ: It seems most people know that he was a terrific athlete in high school who turned down a basketball scholarship to Georgia Tech, but when Tyler Kepner wrote about him in the Times, Kepner wrote about the batting cage that was in Austin’s backyard as a kid. The idea of him as a terrific athlete who just happens to be playing baseball is false. He’s always been a baseball player, he was just too good of an athlete to focus on one sport in high school. He’s doing that now and he seems to be getting better and better. Plus, he’s a good guy. He seems to work hard and his teammates seem to really like and respect him. There’s been a lot of buzz about him this season, but Austin has handled it as well as possible.
10. Last question: Give us one story that you find interesting in your time covering the Scranton Yankees?
CJ: Hard to pick one. The first that comes to mind is a story I’m working on right now about Shelley Duncan’s personality. There’s a lot more depth to him than most people realize.
I liked writing about Cody Ransom this season, simply because I like it when long-time minor league guys get a real shot in the big leagues. Cody’s not an everyday player, but I think he’s fine in that utility role and I think there are a lot of guys like him who could play a role in the big leagues if given a shot. Dan Giese did it last year. Chris Coste during the Red Barons years. Nick Green’s doing it with Boston. I’ve also really enjoyed all the random big leaguers pulled out of obscurity — Edwar Ramirez and Alfredo Aceves especially — because we all spend a ton of time reading about “prospects” but there are always guys completely off the radar who can make a surprising run to the majors. Covering last year’s playoffs was fun because there were so many walk-off wins and tide-turning moments.
Thanks to Chad for answering the questions and also to Mike Ashmore for answering his questions!
In my first segment of 10 questions with, I ask 10 questions to Mike Ashmore, Trenton Thunder beat writer.
1. Out of all the players in AA this year….who has impressed you the
most? Who has dissapointed you the most?
Mike Ashmore: Impressed me the most is probably Ivan Nova or Josh Schmidt. Looking
at his previous numbers, I really wasn’t expecting a lot out of
Nova…and I thought his confidence might be shot from getting knocked
around in big league camp with the Padres. While I don’t think he was
as consistent as he would have liked to have been in Trenton, he did a
lot to improve his stock while he was here.
As for Schmidt, he isn’t a guy who will ever be considered a prospect,
despite the fact he’s always put up numbers. He’s the kind of guy a
lot of fans will ignore because they don’t read about him in the
prospect books and so on…but he’s been unflappable for most of the
season, performing better than the guys with supposedly better stuff.
2. Give us some background info on Josh Schmidt?
MA: Schmidt is a great guy, and it seems you won’t find anyone who will
tell you any different. It’s not uncommon to see him chatting away
with a fan, the grounds crew, a beat writer or anyone he can find.
His engaging personality is very similar to another Californian, Phil
Coke. Throws a mid 80’s fastball, a so-so slider and an absolutely
devastating slow curve. I’ll be very, very curious to see how his
repetoire plays against Triple-A hitters…and I think that chance
will come soon.
3. Give us some info on Zach McAllister?
MA: Z-Mac isn’t really that exciting on or off the field. He’s a quiet
kid in the clubhouse, and doesn’t really blow anyone away on the
mound, nor does he have what you could describe as one standout
offering. But he really pounds the zone, has great command of his
stuff, and flat out knows how to pitch. He’s attracted the interest
of quite a few scouts who have passed through Waterfront Park…
4. If you had to pick one player on the Thunder that will have a long
and successful MLB career who would it be?
MA: It would be hard to bet against Jesus Montero right now. I’m not sure
if that career will come behind the plate, but his bat will take him a
5. After seeing the whole Tony Bernazard and Binghamton Mets story
play out and the Mets be repeatedly chastised for their lack of depth
how do you feel the Yankees are at the same thing? Do you feel they
have good enough depth in the system?
MA: No. They’ve had to dip into the minor league free agent pool and
independent baseball recently. And even with that, some of the
options to be called up aren’t exactly very appealing. It seems that
the position player depth is a bit behind the pitching depth…and
even the pitching depth doesn’t seem to be what it used to.
6. Give us some insight on Jesus Montero?
MA: Has a big body for a 19-year-old…he could stand to improve a bit
behind the plate, but he continually works to do so. It’s not
uncommon to see him working on blocking balls in the bullpen or in the
batting cage. He struggles a bit with offspeed stuff at the plate
sometimes, but overall…the bat is absolutely there. Seems to crush
line drives with the flick of the wrists.
7. Give us the best prospect you’ve seen (thunder or non-thunder) that
has impressed you the most?
MA: Assuming I’m sticking with guys I’ve seen just this year, both Tim
Alderson and Junichi Tazawa (who is on the Redsox AA Affiliate) were both really impressive. Had I seen
Jeanmar Gomez’s perfect game, I’m sure I’d have included him here as
8. Were you surprised when you saw Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Pena
jump from AA to the MLB? Are there any current AA players that you
think can do the same any time soon?
MA: Cervelli didn’t surprise me because they really didn’t have a choice
with the way the 40-man roster was constructed. You can’t argue with
what he did while he was there, but considering the way he was playing
in Trenton, you could make a case that he didn’t exactly earn it,
either. Pena was a surprise just because of the role he was asked to
fill. All he ever really did in Trenton was play shortstop, and there
he was filling at third base for Alex Rodriguez. I was surprised at
how well he handled it.
As far as any of the current Thunder players being able to make the
jump…honestly, I’m not really sure anyone on the current roster is
ready for that right now. I’m sure there are guys who would perform
well if they were given the opportunity…but there isn’t anyone
standing out for me. Maybe Jorge Vazquez? His age and his bat would
make him a candidate.
9. When talking about the minor leagues we always seem to use the word
“potential.” The Yankees may promote Andrew Brackman despite his
horrific numbers in Charleston because of his potential. The Yankees
were so reluctant to promote Pat Venditte because they felt he didn’t
have much potential. I think Josh Schmidt would be a good case in AA.
Can you describe the effect potential has on minor leaguers compared
to actual success?
MA: I don’t know if it’s so much that they didn’t think Venditte had
potential as it was his stuff may not have compared favorably to other
guys in the organization. And a lot of it’s financially related as
well. Look at the investment they’ve made both financially and with a
roster spot they’ve made with Brackman. They have little choice but
to keep throwing him out there, regardless of how he does.
The guy with the better stuff, sometimes regardless of results, will
likely get a look before the guy who’s getting by with average stuff
but is putting up numbers. If you were doing things based off of
numbers, Josh Schmidt and Eric Wordekemper would be in Scranton right
10. What is your favorite story that you’ve had with the Thunder?
MA: This season, probably the Thunder Burger Challenge…it was an
off-beat story and had nothing to do with baseball, which was nice
because I can kind of get tired of writing about it 24/7.
Overall, probably anything regarding last year’s championship. After
they won it on the road in 2007, it was nice to be able to be a part
of it last year and see them win it in front of the home fans.
Thanks again to Mike for answering the questions!