September 11, 2011
Transaction Analysis Blog
Yankees Add Betances, Rays Add Warmth
With Jesus Montero turning the whine of Yankee fans into joyful tears, New York has decided to give another one of their preseason five-star prospects a look-see in the majors.
Betances, 23, spent most of the 2011 season in Double-A Trenton, where he compiled 105 1/3 innings pitched, a 3.42 earned run average, and a 2.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio. A promotion to Triple-A gave Betances four starts of exposure and a mixed bag to show for it (he struck out 27 batters over 21 innings, but also allowed 12 runs). There is some question as to whether the Yankees are giving Betances time in the majors simply to give him life experience, or if they want him for deployment in worthwhile situations. For his part, Joe Girardi doesn’t sound committed to using Betances unless he is forced:
Kevin Goldstein ranked Betances as the Yankees fourth-best prospect in February, and as the 24th-best prospect in baseball at the midway point, although Goldstein noted, “whispers about him possibly being better off as a late-inning reliever are becoming more common these days.” Saying a pitching prospect will end up in the bullpen is almost an insult nowadays, but the reasons for spitting at Betances’ starting chances feel legitimate. He lacks a tertiary pitch, has questionable mechanics (not that such a thing is unusual for a 6-foot-8 youngster), and his injury sheet isn’t clean. Still, it’s too early to label Betances a reliever and nothing more.
Expect the potential of a Betances’ sighting to whet the imaginations of Yankees fans whether he gets into a game or not.
No grounds are more hallow for human-interest stories in baseball than these days in September. The roster expansion period always brings some heartwarming cases of perseverance to the forefront, and while the Rays best bullet (Matt Bush) remains in the chamber, De La Rosa and Canzler still pack some heat.
De La Rosa debuted earlier this season against the Yankees (the team that drafted him) and struck out the first batter he faced, Mark Teixeira. Although De La Rosa would yield walks and runs (thanks to the subsequent reliever), his debut felt like a victory. After all, he spent years bouncing around the minor leagues and indie ball, and even resorted to selling real estate to make ends meet. De La Rosa joined the Rays organization in 2010 and landed a 40-man roster spot over the winter—an achievement for a reliever who, prior to this season, held Triple-A baseball as a theory and little else.
In 2011, De La Rosa spent 70 1/3 innings in Durham while fanning 83 batters and boasting nearly identical numbers for his strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.19) and earned run average (3.20). At 6-foot-7, De La Rosa is an aircraft carrier of a man with a fastball that can get into the mid-to-upper 90s and a curve (although the organization asked him to start throwing a slider). The Rays bullpen is wide open after Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta, so De La Rosa could ostensibly work his way into a late-inning role before the end of the 2012 season.
Canzler is in his first season with the Rays organization, but has a connection to skipper Joe Maddon in that they both grew up in the Hazleton, Pennsylvania area. What’s more is that Canzler played high school baseball at a park named after Maddon. It’s only fitting that Canzler, who spent his previous time in professional baseball with the Cubs, wound up in the same organization as a few of his 2010 teammates thanks to the Matt Garza trade. Unlike last season, though, when Robinson Chirinos and Brandon Guyer out-OPSed Canzler, the man of the hour had the best 2011 season of the trio and won the league’s MVP award thanks to his .314/.401/.530 slash line.
Promoting Canzler makes sense for two reasons: 1) without a 40-man roster spot, he would have qualified for minor league free agency this winter; and 2) he seemingly is a better option against left-handed pitching than Johnny Damon and/or Casey Kotchman, both of whom play on a near-daily basis. There are some concerns about how Canzler’s game will translate to the majors—mostly related to his lack of bat speed and athleticism—so it is possible that he craters and receives the Quad-A label, however the Rays owe themselves and Canzler the opportunity to see what can happen.