Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Relief Pipeline

The Yankees have one hell of a starting pitcher depth chart. I've spent plenty of time outlining what might be the organization's greatest strength a year from now.

The Yankee bullpens of the 2000s have been held down by the sheer force of Mariano Rivera. He's had help from Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon, Scott Proctor, Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton and others during that time. Except for Scott Proctor, who was traded to the Yankees by Los Angeles, we haven't seen any young relievers break in from the Yankee farm system. Guys like Ramon Ramirez, Matt Smith, Brad Halsey, and others are former Yankee farm now that now come in for other teams, but for the most part we've done a terrible job at developing young relief pitchers.

It worries me. Joe Torre has never liked his young relievers. The list of rookie relievers to break in to the majors with serious roles under Joe Torre is limited to Ramiro Mendoza and Scott Proctor. If Brian Cashman gives Torre a young starter, it's hard for him to not write his name on the lineup card every 5th day. With a young reliever, Torre can let him rot in the back of the bullpen while Paul Quantrill and Ron Villone blow their arms out.

We've got a fantastic array of guys in the minor leagues. Mariano Rivera isn't going to pitch forever. We'll probably find a decent closer replacement in Mark Melancon, J.B. Cox, Kevin Whelan, or even T.J. Beam. I think that we will get a very good lefty reliever out of Chase Wright, and may find ourselves a LOOGY in R.J. Swindle. Maybe even Humberto Sanchez or Steve White or Steve Jackson or Jeff Marquez will find their way to the Yankee pen.

Chances are, we'll find the Ramiro Mendozas and Jeff Nelsons of the next Yankee dynasty in our current crop of farmhands. Just don't expect it until after Joe Torre retires.

Tomorrow I will post part one of what may be my favorite story on this blog ever. I will post an interview with Kyle Boddy of Baseball Delusions, an amateur league pitcher who has been taught the gyroball by Baseball Prospectus's Will Carroll. He brilliantly describes how to throw a gyroball, and offers his insight on it's potential use in major league baseball. I think that you'll all enjoy it.