Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 2011 'Pen (feat. Pat Venditte)

Over the past few years, it seems as if Yankees fans have been consistently unsatisfied with the construction and utilization of the bullpen. Oftentimes, it seems as if more concern is affixed to the 'Bridge to Mo' than to the rotation or the line-up, which seems ... well, silly is the first word that comes to mind, and it's likely the best. The Yankees bullpen has ranked among the top-five in most important categories over the past decade, and that trend has continued into this season - yet I may very well have stumbled across more articles about Chamberlain's struggles than I have about the futility of the rotation beyond Sabathia, or the struggles of Jeter. Perhaps inane would be a better word than silly...

Going forward, however, there is reason for optimism about the bullpen. Mariano Rivera appears to be an immortal Highlander, with no challenge to his throne in sight. Chamberlain seems to have figured out how to harness his stuff successfully (and with some semblance of consistency). David Robertson has been light's out over the past three-plus months, including 12.9 K/9 and 3.3 K/BB since the break. Boone Logan has become dependable, against what seemed to be unsurmountable odds earlier in the season. Some blend of Aceves, Mitre, and Nova looks quite good at this juncture, as well.

In my mind, the only real issue with the bullpen has been the organizational mismanagement of some promising arms. The four following pitchers have been dominant in the minors, yet the Yankees have been slow to promote them - and I'm not quite sure why.

Jonathan Albaladejo, Triple-A
62.0 IP, 37 H, 18 BB, 80 K, 1.31 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 1.35 FIP

Albaladejo was the butt of many jokes this Spring, due to his awful performance in Spring Training and surprising weight loss (not unlike last year's edition of Brian Bruney). Since then, however, Albaladejo has done nothing but impress. In addition to his dominant results, his stuff has never looked better. He apparently ditched his two-seamer, and now features a four-seamer that touches 95 MPH, a big breaking curveball (for which his control has improved dramatically), and a tight slider. He did well in limited action with the Yankees this year, and his 4.14 xFIP in the majors is solid in its own right. He's earned an extended look, in my opinion ... and it's a shame he hasn't received it at this point.

Jonathan Ortiz, High-A
50.2 IP, 37 H, 11 BB, 56 K, 2.49 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 2.21 FIP

While Ortiz is a bit old for High-A, that cannot be blamed on a lack of results - the diminutive righty performed well at Low-A two years in a row, and performed well in a half-season at High-A in 2009 ... why he's still languishing in Tampa, I'm not quite sure. I have heard Ortiz compared to Edwar Ramirez - both feature a plus change and a middling fastball, and little else. However, Ortiz's control is far superior, as is his ability to keep the ball on the ground.

Josh Schmidt, Double-A (Recently promoted to Triple-A)
55.1 IP, 38 H, 27 BB, 64 K, 2.77 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.27 FIP

Schmidt's handling puzzles me, as he was dominant at Double-A in 2009 (spending the entire season in Trenton), yet spent the first two-thirds or so of 2010 at the same level. A side-armer, Schmidt features a low 90's fastball and a filthy, frisbee-like slider that is nearly unhittable for righties ... and eminently hittable for lefties. That being said, there is plenty of use for a righty specialist at the Major League level, and Schmidt's earned an extended look on the merits.

Pat Venditte, High-A
69.0 IP, 44 H, 12 BB, 81 K, 1.70 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 1.42 FIP

While I understand that baseball isn't anything resembling a meritocracy, I am baffled as to why Venditte remains at High-A at this time. He's been nothing but fantastic since being drafted and his stuff has drawn generally positive reviews - it's rarely as stellar, but he's hardly a junkballer. As a righty, Venditte throws an over-the-top fastball in the low 90's (with spectacular control) and an average-ish curveball in the low 70's. As a lefty, he's a side-armer, with a mid to high 80's fastball and a high 60's slurve. His change-up needs work on both sides, but I feel that his breaking stuff is more than enough for a short reliever. To me, Venditte could be a deadly lefty specialist ... with the advantage that he could do quite well against righties with poor platoon splits.

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