Monday, February 11, 2008

Things to Watch for in Spring Training

Pitchers and catchers report in a matter of days so I thought now would be a good time to write up a preview on Spring Training. Here`s a list of things to watch for this spring:

  • Who will emerge as the first Baseman?

The Yanks brought in a lot of different candidates to see who can fill what will be the biggest hole in their lineup. Last year Josh Phelps had a monster spring with Andy Phillips missing most of it. Despite all expectations before spring Phelps got the job. Look for something similar this year. The Yanks brought in a lot of different candidates this year. Shelley Duncan, Morgan Ensberg, Wilson Betemit, Juan Miranda, and Jason Lane are all competing for the first base job. Pretty much all of these have pretty slanted righty/lefty splits so a plattoon is a strong possibility. I think Juan Miranda is the best of these and will be plattooned with Shelley Duncan. You have to wonder how long Shelley can survive with that swing of his he`s going to strike out a lot. I think he`ll start off well but by mid-season they`ll have to replace him. They also might just decide to go with Giambi at first and sacrifice the first base defense.

  • What will Joba do?

Early indicators are that he`ll start the season in the bullpen to limit his innings and I agree with this idea. However, the long-term plan, even for this year, is for him to start. He`s also going to be preparing as a starter so maybe he`ll get a chance to show the majority of Yankees fans what he can do as a starter. I still believe he is best off as a starter long term and for now the Yankees agree with me. Sure, he could be the succesor for Mariano but he could also be their own Justin Verlander. Obviously, these are the two absolute best case scenarios but the point is a starter is more valuable than a reliever. Joba isn't the successor to Rivera or the 8th inning bridge to Rivera.

  • Who will be the 8th inning bridge to Mariano?

The enternal question of Yankees fans. You`ve all heard it. We miss Tom Gordon more than we though we would, we haven't had a reliable setup man since the late '90's, etc. No doubt, they`re going to have trouble getting the bal to Rivera. For part of the season at least they should have Joba but as I said before he won't be there the whole season. Joe Girardi essentially needs to play the hot hand which is a difficult and risky job. Latroy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth willprobably be the chief competitors for this spot though anybody could really take the job. Brian Bruney could be a sleeper for this if he can get his control together he could be a devestatating force. Maybe the new coaching staff can do something for him. Jonathan Albaladejo also was a quiet pick-up that could do very well.

  • How will the rest of the bullpen shape up?

Assuming that they will go with 12 pitchers and a 7 man bullpen I only see Rivera, Farnsworth (as frustrating as he is he`s still better than anything else they have), and Hawkins as having guarenteed spots to start the season. Although, Farnsworth and Hawkins could lose their jobs mid-season. Also, Joba will probably start the season in the bullpen. That leaves 3 more spots. Sean Henn is really their only option for a lefty specialist and he`s not exactly a very good one. If he has a good spring though he might get the job since they probably would like to have one. Chris Britton was acquired last year for Jaret Wright and many Yankees fans campaigned for him to be called up. Although he struggled during the brief time he was up he wasn't given much of a chance. Same deal with Edwar Ramirez. He was very erratic with moments where he showed his awesome change up. His big problem was his control which was excellent in the minors which is strange and since he was used so strangely (he once went over a week without pitching) that may be excusable. Jonathan Albaladejo was traded for this season for Tyler Clippard. He was unhittable in Washington but didn't go the whole season. Brian Bruney has a Farnsworth-esque fastball but unfortunately his control is also comparable to Farnsworth. Maybe the new coaching staff can straighten that out. Ross Ohlendorg was acquired for Randy Johnson along with Alberto Gonzalez and Steven Jackson last winter. He was converted from starter to reliever and now has a mid 90's sinker ball which dominated AAA. Veras and Karstens seem to have been "Torre guys" and I doubt they`ll make the team.

  • How will Mike Mussinca do?

Remeber last spring when Mussina called out Pavano? He was proven right but the irony is that Mussina had an awful 2007. However, he could be a key to the Yankees in 2008. His periphereals were better than his ERA indicating part of his failure was due to luck. He also supposedly took on a more rigorous workout regime this winter which could help him get a few more miles on his fastball and that much needed seperation between his changeup and his fastball. Early on it`ll be tough to tell but towards the end of March if the Moose is throwing 87, 88 mph then that`s a sign he`s back and could be a valuable innings that they need to make sure they don't push the Big Three to hard. If he`s throwing 83, 84, 85 he very well might be finished although I`d give him another month or two.

Well, their`s your 5 things to watch in Spring Training. If you have anything I forgot just mention it in the comment section. :)

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