When Does a Prospect Cease to be a Prospect?
As I was scanning through the blogosphere the other day, specifically those related to the Yankees, I came across a which had recently scored an interview with Yankees’ VP Mark Newman.
In Major League Baseball’s annual personnel directory, Newman’s official title is “Senior VP, Baseball Operations and Player Development“, a moniker which puts him at the top of the food chain in terms of the minor league system.
I’ve made mention here on a number of occasions that when reading or hearing an interview with a player or manager or front office guy, what they don’t say sometimes is more revealing than what they do.
When the Milwaukee Brewers dropped Corey Hart to seventh in the order a few weeks ago, the reason given was “he’s struggling now and we want to take some pressure off him.”
What they really said was, “Corey’s really sucking ass right now, and the only reason he’s hitting seventh is major league rules don’t allow us to hit him tenth.”
Newman revealed some very interesting things in his interview, and he really didn’t say anything about them.
In answering the first question presented by , Newman states when talking about pitcher Hector Noesi;
“Noesi’s had some OK moments, but he has a lot of development still to do.”
Kreese immediately followed up his answer by asking Newman if he agreed, especially after Noesi’s “great year in 2010″, on how Noesi had been used so far this season. Newman replied, in part;
“Our thoughts are that we’re in an ‘all-hands on deck’ scenario. Our mission is to win games in New York. Our secondary mission is to develop championship-caliber players in our farm system. In the ideal situation, Noesi would be a starter in Scranton right now and be continuing his development.”
Kreese’s next two questions were attachments to the first, and went into the decision making process which led to the Yanks’ picking up a journeyman AAA with a 25 man roster guarantee tied into an opt-out clause in his contract.
On Brian Gordon;
“It was our decision that at the current time our best option was Brian Gordon. He had extraordinary performance over the last couple months in AAA, and because of an out, he became available. We always want to promote our guys, but this was a special case. We needed to make a decision on what would help us win in the short-term.”
On why AAA Scranton prospects David Phelps and Adam Warren were seemingly passed over for Gordon;
“They were in consideration. Adam Warren has picked it up a notch over his last few starts. But, his walks have gone up and his strikeouts have gone down. … The silver lining is that Adam Warren will get more time in Triple-A…. Signing someone like Brian Gordon gives Warren a little more time to refine his abilities….Phelps has to work his way through this shoulder thing. But, he’s pitched fine all year.
Since this interview, Phelps has been placed on the DL with the aforementioned shoulder problems, but at the time was in the mix as a possible replacement.
What do those comments tell you?
What they tell me is there is no one in the Yankees organization, anywhere, they are comfortable with in making one or two emergency starts while Phil Hughes or Bartolo Colon were on the disabled list.
The Yankees didn’t sign Brian Gordon because he was a “special case”, they signed him because the they felt he was a better pitcher than anyone currently in their system right now.
The interview then moves on, talking about the struggles of former first rounder Andrew Brackman and the versatility of former major leaguer Greg Golson and how that’s helped with the day to day lineups in Scranton.
The conversation finally turned to the inevitable discussion of top prospect Jesus Montero.
Most of those who follow me on various comment blogs know of my disdain for Montero as a prospect, and that disdain goes back to the first time I saw him play in 2009.
I’m not afraid to admit my failings; I’m the guy who thought a certain California surfer dude would win a batting title, or a local Arizona high schooler I scouted while with the Seattle Mariners would be a better pitcher than a 2010 playoff hero.
I give credit to Mr. Kreese here; he started off with a high inside fastball and when Newman ducked, he came right back with another one.
The first part of Newman’s answer was Montero has improved defensively.
In 2010, Montero threw out a woeful 23% of runners attempting to steal (a total based on him throwing out nine of his last ten) and led International League catchers in passed balls with fifteen.
So far this year, at the halfway point?
Montero has thrown out 18% of runners and leads ALL minor league catchers in passed balls with thirteen.
Where’s the improvement, exactly?
Reading through Newman’s full answer I came across one thing which really got my blood pressure rising;
“Montero is 21 years old, he’s basically a college junior…”
Age wise, that’s true, but what does that have to do with major league readiness?
Montero was signed as a sixteen year old free agent and has played over 420 career minor league games.
Jason Heyward was a high school draftee and is four months older than Montero and is already a major league All-Star.
Mike Stanton is three weeks older than Montero and will be a National League All-Star this year.
Starlin Castro is six months younger than Montero and finished the 2010 in the top five in voting for Rookie of the Year.
There is no such thing as “organizational age”
If Bryce Harper is still in the minor leagues when he’s twenty-one, the Nationals will be pissed.
Reading further down, Kreese again throws Newman something off-speed in a fastball count;
“Well, let’s go back to what you said earlier in that the Yankees’ main priority is to win games at the big league level. Playing devil’s advocate, why wasn’t Montero brought up when Russell Martin went down to his back injury… Why wasn’t Montero called up if the priority is to “win now?”
Newman’s answer was, ” Cervelli still would have caught every day because he knows the pitching staff. Joe wouldn’t use Montero, and there was no point using him as a backup to Cervelli.”
Wait a second.
“Joe wouldn’t use Montero”?
So, what you’re really saying is the Yankees’ manager, the guy who writes the lineup everyday and is singularly responsible for personnel decisions, AND who played fifteen years in the major leagues as a CATCHER doesn’t think Montero could handle the job at the next level”
Kind of sounds like the Noesi/Warren/Gordon situation, doesn’t it?
You have a guy believed to be a top prospect in your organization at a specific position, at least the media leads you to believe there is, yet when the time comes for a need the team looks elsewhere for a fill-in?
I mean, dude, c’mon, really?
The Montero situation reminds me of those Carfax TV commercials. Keith Law and Jonathan Mayo and the rest of the media hype machine are the car salesmen, and Montero’s the car.
They can BS us all day long about what a great product is, but when you ask for the Carfax, what you eventually see is a lemon.
I’ve seen Montero play forty times at least over the past two seasons, and if you looked up lemon in the dictionary, you’d see his picture.
Newman goes on to say Double A Trenton catcher Austin Romine “should be in AAA”, which kind of tells me the Yanks are concerned now that Montero’s lack of development is now hindering that of Romine.
Romine played in the prestigious Arizona Fall League last year and will start in the Eastern League All-Star game for the second consecutive season.
What the Yanks should do is promote him to Scranton for the second half and DH Montero until they can find a trade for him.
At this point Montero’s place in the system is doing nothing but retard the growth of not only Romine, but that of JR Murphy and Gary Sanchez.
The lack of depth in the Yanks’ system is frightening, especially at the position level, but one place they are strong is at catcher.
Former Dugout Central Staff Writer Mike Silva said on his website today that he had information from an American League scout that not only confirmed my opinion Romine has passed Montero on the Yankees’ depth chart at catcher, but so has Class A prospect Gary Sanchez.
The moral of the story here?
The Yanks went out of their organization to sign a Triple A pitcher who wasn’t good enough to make the major league roster where he was to put him on their own major league roster to make an emergency start over every other pitcher in the system.
That means the Yankees don’t believe anyone in the system is right now a capable major league pitcher.
The Yankees went out of their organization to sign an injury prone former All-Star to handle a premium defensive position, yet they were comfortable with the backup at the position catching everyday even though statistically he was one of the worst position players in the game in 2010.
Did I really need to explain this to you?