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Tag: 2011 spring training

Spring Training, Prospects and the Circle of Life

It seems like a lifetime ago that YankeeWorld was obsessed with three minor-league pitching prospects: The Big Three of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. And even though our wildest dreams for that trio might not have come true, given the unpredictability of pitching prospects in general (TINSTAAPP!), it’s actually pretty impressive that they’ve had as much success as they have. Ian Kennedy is 26, started 32 games for the Diamondbacks last year and came out of it with an ERA+ of 111; Phil Hughes is still finding his way a bit, but at 24 gives every sign of becoming a solid stater; and Joba, well, if we’re all a little disappointed, he still may well end up being a valuable major leaguer. Hopes for those three were so high – it’s easy to forget that while they didn’t turn into the trio of aces that we might have imagined in our less guarded moments, all of them have been helpful to major league teams, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Anyway, spring training is the time to dream on these things. Now we’ve got a brand-new trio of new prospects to hang our hopes on, the junior Killer B’s: Andrew Brackman, New York’s own Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos. There have been encouraging stories and profiles on each of them recently – ’tis the season – and even for a cynical veteran of spring training coverage it’s easy to get caught up in the high hopes. Even as I was writing this post, we got this from the YES Network’s Jack Curry:

There’s a lot to like about each of those guys. Brackman  may be the one I’d most like to see succeed this year, just because he’s been in the organization the longest and, a year ago, looked like he might be a bust. Bettances is a NYC kid and, as detailed in the link above, was in the bleachers for David Wells’ perfect game – you’ve gotta love that. And Banuelos, from Mexico, very nearly a foot shorter than either of those guys and a crafty lefty in the making, will be a fine underdog in this six-footed race (although it seems horribly unfair that he’s already being compared to Andy Pettitte. No pressure or anything).

It’s human nature to dream on these kids but I hope we don’t have such crushing expectations for them that, as with The Big Three, it’ll seem disappointing if in three years they aren’t all dominant aces. Growing your own innings-eaters and relievers is nice too, and if all of these guys end up healthy and in the majors that’ll be quite a success in its own right.

A Pujols Deferred

Albert Pujols said that he didn’t want to negotiate after spring training started because he didn’t want his expiring contract to be a distraction this season. Well, good luck with that.

The current frenzy will certainly die down, but I expect Pujols’ contract to come up early and often as the season goes on. And why wouldn’t it? It’s not every day that one of the best hitters in the history of baseball comes this close to free agency. I don’t know who Ken Rosenthal’s source on this is, but if he’s right, the Cards may have seriously lowballed Pujols:

As many people have pointed out, including Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk and Christina Kahrl at Baseball Prospectus, the lack of a deal at this artificially created “deadline” hardly means that there won’t be a deal at some point. Still, I was struck by the negativity of Bill DeWitt, the Cardinals Chairman, when asked if he thought there was still a chance Pujols signs with the Cards after this season:

“I think that’s hard to say at this point,” DeWitt said. “We tried last offseason, so maybe the third time will be the charm… We did make every effort. We started the process early and had good dialogue throughout. It wasn’t that we ran out of time, it’s just that we were unable to reach agreement.”

That may just be a negotiating ploy or a PR stance, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

I don’t feel like I have a very good grip on Albert Pujols’ personality. I’ve seen a lot of reporters say recently that he’s a good guy, and they would know better than me, but in my own (admittedly quite brief) personal experience, covering the 2006 NLCS, he was an abrasive jerk with the media. There’s no reason why St. Louis fans would, or should, care about that – watching him play baseball is a beautiful thing, and that’s what’s important there. I only bring it up because I wonder what impact his personality might have on these negotiations. There’s no obligation for him to take less money than he could get elsewhere to play in St. Louis, and few athletes do. But I wonder if he will insist on being the highest-paid player ever, and whether there’s any room for compromise.

It’s always nice when a great player is able to stay with a team for his whole career – but if Pujols gets cut loose, that’ll be fascinating to watch in its own right, and it’s hard not to feed the hype on this.

Crazy Lucci

The overweight lover’s in the house…

A False Spring

Yeah, it’s cold again in New York, but their is plenty of hot air about C.C. Sabathia keeping heads busy down in Florida. Hey, Sabathia might opt out of his deal at the end of the year: Oh, word?

Meanwhile, George King has a piece on A.J. Burnett:

“Last year it really hit me how important I am to this team,” Burnett said yesterday on the way out of George M. Steinbrenner Field.

“I am not saying that we didn’t win the World Series because of me, but I know if I had been right, it would have been a lot easier chore. I never knew how important I was to a team. That’s not being cocky or arrogant, it’s the way it is. I mean, what did I do to help?”

King also reports that Joba Chamberlain is ready to step up to Brian Cashman’s challenge.

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