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Arms Race: Yankees Now Team to Beat in AL East?

Blockbuster!

Blockbuster!

In the blink of an eye in the waning hours of Friday, January 13th, the New York Yankees awoke from their offseason slumber and just might have made themselves the favorites in the AL East.

Though the trade is not official, sources close to both the Yankees and the Seattle Mariners report that the teams have agreed to a blockbuster trade, with the Yankees sending Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to Seattle in exchange for fireballer Michael Pineda and Class A pitcher Jose Campos. If that wasn’t enough, shortly afterward the Yankees announced they had come to terms with veteran righty Hiroki Kuroda on a 1 year, $10 million deal. What was one of the Yanks’ biggest shortcomings is now no more. Let’s look more closely at the players involved:

Jesus Montero

Jesus Montero

Jesus Montero

Montero has been consistently ranked as the Yankees best prospect, and the 5th best prospect overall by Baseball America. The 22 year-old Venezuelan’s minor league numbers are below:

[table id=4 /]

Any concerns he would be overmatched at the major league level proved unfounded, as he came up to the Yankees late in September and made an immediate impact with this stat line:
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Ultimately, it appears the Yankees felt that Montero, while his hitting was not in question, may not have had the requisite defensive/staff handling skills that would have made him a complete major league catcher. He was originally penciled in to be the everyday DH in 2012, but it appears the Yanks will go with an Andruw Jones (signed)/Eric Chavez (negotiating) DH team. There will be no shortage of games in which the Yanks need to rest their aging left side of their infield with days in the DH slot as well. Montero should be a fearsome hitter for years to come (even in the cavernous Safeco Field) for the anemic Mariners, who ranked dead last in the league in runs scored in 2011.

Hector Noesi

Hector Noesi

Hector Noesi

The 25 year-old righty out of Venezuela was used primarily in relief for the Yanks last year, but did spot start in two games. He was ranked as the Yankee’s 7th best prospect and “Best Control” by Baseball America. He could end up in the same role with the M’s as he had with the Yanks, though his numbers could certainly improve in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly confines. His numbers in 2011 with the Yanks:

[table id=6 /]

And, to the Yankees:

Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda

One of the most exciting young pitchers in baseball, the 6’7″, 260 lb. 23 year-old Dominican strikeout artist has dominated in pretty much every stop he has made on his way to the majors. His minor league numbers are below:
[table id=7 /]

He exploded onto the major league scene in 2011, securing an All-Star spot and coming in 5th in the Rookie of the Year race in the AL. Had he pitched for a better team than the Mariners, his numbers would likely have been more impressive. He was dominant in the first half before appearing to tire in the second half to finish with this final stat line:
[table id=8 /]

I don’t know if you realize how sick those numbers are. Couple them with these fun facts:

  • Those 173 strikeouts and that 9.1 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio came in a year where Pineda was 22. Dave Boswell of the 1966 Twins was the only other right-handed pitcher in the history of the American League ever to have that many punchouts and that good a strikeout ratio at age 22 or younger.
  • Pineda’s average fastball was clocked at 94.7 miles per hour last year, according to FanGraphs. The only starting pitchers in the big leagues who were better? Pretty good company: Alexi Ogando (95.1), Justin Verlander (95.0) and David Price (94.8).
  • Pineda’s 24.2 swing-and-miss percentage ranked him 5th last year, according to FanGraphs. The only pitchers in either league who did better than that were Tim Lincecum (24.9), Brandon Morrow (24.6), Cole Hamels (24.6) and Mat Latos (24.5).

Simply put, Pineda is the type of pitcher that doesn’t get traded.

Jose Campos (no photo available)

This 19-year old Venezuelan has not pitched above Low A ball yet. He is ranked in the top 10 Mariners’ prospects. His pro numbers so far:
[table id=9 /]

Effect on Teams Involved

This certainly seems to be a win/win scenario for both teams. The Yankees get a young, extremely talented, top of the rotation pitcher in Pineda, and another young arm for their farm system in Campos. It addressed what was certainly a deficient starting rotation in a major way. The Mariners likewise addressed one of their glaring shortcomings by getting one of the best young pure hitters in the league in Montero, and a major-league ready arm, whether for their rotation or their bullpen, in Noesi.

As if the Above Wasn’t Enough!

Hiroki Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda

Not content to stand pat, the Yanks also agreed to a one-year deal with 36-year old Japanese righty Hiroki Kuroda for $10 million. Kuroda brings a great veteran presence and decent numbers, considering he played on mostly awful Dodgers teams. One always has to be wary on an NL pitcher coming over to the AL, but hey, it’s not like he could be worse than AJ Burnett, amirite? Kuroda’s major league numbers are below:
[table id=10 /]

Final Thoughts

The Yankees now have a possible excess of starting pitching. This could allow them to move Phil Hughes back into the bullpen (where I personally think he belongs) and maybe see about ditching AJ Burnett’s horrific contract, although they would likely be expected to get one back in return. (Perhaps Vernon Wells?) I’d like to see the Yankees stop pursuing Eric (I’m Always Hurt) Chavez and let Eduardo Nunez split the DH duties with Andrew Jones. ( I am aware they are both righties.) Although Tampa Bay has to be reckoned with because of their excellent rotation and Boston has upgraded at manager, I believe the Yankees are now the team to beat in the AL East. Yankee fans have let Brian Cashman hear it in the past, but there’s no doubt that the events of January 13th, 2012 should affect the Yankees positively for years to come.

Follow me on Twitter @phdinweed

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About phdinweed
Father of 2 sons on the autism spectrum, wage slave, socially functional nerd of all sorts. Just entered my 40's, but still love video games (RPGs especially), cartoons, fart jokes, and getting nice.

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