Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Bleich Injury No Reason for Yankees System to Panic

Bleich Injury No Reason for Yankees System to Panic



By Jed Weisberger ~ May 31st, 2010. Filed under: Yanks Minors.

Having gotten to know many of the Yankees pitching prospects personally, I certainly have sympathy for any who are bitten by the injury bug.

I’ve seen both Chris Garcia and Jeremy Bleich go down this year.  The Yankees released Garcia May 14 to open up a roster spot. He underwent elbow surgery. Bleich, who in no way was himself on the mound at Double-A Trenton this season, faces rehab from shoulder surgery.

These injuries have seemed to cause some consternation among some observers, questioning if the conditioning regimen the pitchers in the Yankees system undergo leads to injuries. Some point out that Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and Humberto Sanchez were also hurt.

So was Joba Chamberlain in college.  His issues with triceps tendinitis allowed him to fall to the Yankees as the 41st selection in the 2006 draft.  What this illustrates is the Yankees can afford to take a chance on a pitcher with an injury history a lot more than other teams.

Could you see the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates or at least a dozen other teams taking a chance on Chamberlain, Betances, Bleich or Garcia.  Sanchez came to the Yankees in the trade that sent Gary Sheffield to Detroit.

Let’s examine what some of these pitchers went through – before and after they were drafted by the Yankees:

Garcia, the Yankees’ third-round selection in 2004, has not pitched a full season in since 2005, when he was 5-6, 3.91 at Class-A Charleston. He suffered his first right elbow injury in 2006 – missing the entire 2007 season after his first surgery – and made just 19 starts since.

In 2009, he opened the season on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis, making his first start, at Trenton, May 20. He was outstanding in five starts with the Thunder, but went on the disabled list June 11 and did not pitch until he started Trenton’s 2010 opener.

“What happened with Chris is a shame,’’ said a Trenton teammate. “His stuff is so good. Had he stayed healthy, he’d be in the majors right now.’’

The Yankees will no doubt follow Garcia’s progress from surgery and, perhaps, re-sign him.

Bleich had elbow issues his senior year at Stanford, but the Yankees saw enough upside to make him a supplemental first-round pick in 2008, offering a $700,000 bonus. He was healthy all of 2009 and, despite a 3-6, 6.65 mark at Trenton, was eager to make amends in the Eastern League.

“Who in Trenton delivers the best pizza?’’ was his major concern after a solid early start. Unfortunately, as he went along – finishing with a 3-2, 4.79 mark in eight starts, his velocity and command kept dipping.

Finally – and pitchers (the Mets’ John Maine, for example) almost never tell when something his wrong – the shoulder issue was discovered. Bleich hopes to return by mid-2011.

Brackman was the Yankees; top pick in 2007. The Yankees knew he needed Tommy John surgery, yet, knowing his potential, gave him a $3.55 million bonus which was part of a major-minor contract worth $4.55 million with incentives that could reach $15 million.

The 6-foot-10 hurler did not pitch in 2008, and struggled to a 2-12, 5.91 mark at Charleston in 2009, with a strikeout/walk ratio of 103-76. Was there worry about these statistics? Not at all. The key was he pitched 107 innings, learning his command and control all over again.

Brackman is 3-3, 5.92 at Class-A Tampa this year, with three straight quality starts. His strikeout/walk ratio is 29-5 and is his fastball is crackling in the mid-90s.  His career path after surgery is not all that surprising.

Betances has had elbow issues ever since he was drafted in the eighth round in 2006 out of high school. He is a local kid, a high-risk, high-reward pick who was given a $1 million bonus. After Tommy John surgery last August, Betances should return to the mound this season.

Sanchez also had elbow issues – needed Tommy John surgery soon after the trade to the Yankees – yet made his Yankees debut in 2008. He is now playing in Taiwan.

Meanwhile Zach McAllister is healthy and beginning to pitch well in Scranton.  Ivan Nova saw a bit of time in The Bronx.  George Kontos has yet to return from surgery to correct a torn ulnar collateral collateral ligament. The diagnosis was ligament stretched into a tear. That can happen.

In Trenton, David Phelps is having an excellent season. Lance Pendleton (3-2, 3.54) seems to be improving with every start. Both D.J. Mitchell and Hector Noesi are throwing well.

At Tampa, recently promoted Graham Stoneburner and Shaeffer Hall look good.  Promising youngster Manny Banuelos is sidelined, due to an appendectomy.  At Charleston, Sean Black and Kelvin Perez lead the way.

The Yankees have had some pitching prospects go down.  All, with the exception of Kontos, were high-risk. Many more are making their way through the farm system.  The Yankees, again, take much more of a chance on high-risk pitching prospects than just about anyone.

In the quest to develop in-house pitching, taking such risks to develop two or three eventual front-line starters makes sense for the Yankees.

YANKEES FARM SYSTEM REVIEW

SCRANTON (Triple-A; 30-19) – Infielder Jeff Natale joined the club and hit .300 (3-for-10) in his first five games. McAllister is getting it going. He is 4-2, 4.03 in 10 starts with a strikeout/walk ratio of 40-11.

TRENTON (Double-A; 29-20) – Has Brandon Laird ever put himself on the radar with a Double-A leading 50 RBIs (in 49 games) – third in Minor League Baseball – and a .314 (60-for-191) average?  Phelps (3-0, 2.40) has made nine starts and Eastern League hitters are batting  just .194 against him.

TAMPA (Single-A; 27-24) – Infielder Corban Joseph is hitting .316 (61-for-193) and had five RBIs in the T-Yanks’ 14-5 win over Bradenton Sunday. He is batting .421 (16-for-38) in his last 10 games.  Closer Jon Ortiz (2-0, 1.89) has converted 9-of-10 save opportunities).

CHARLESTON (Single-A; 22-28) – Infielder Luke Murton is sizzling, batting .301 (56-for-186) thanks to a .368 (14-for-38) run in his last 10 games. Reliever Ryan Flannery (2-2, 3.32) has converted 6-of-9 save opportunities.

DSL (Rookie) – Both Yankees teams in the Dominican Summer League opened their respective seasons Saturday. They will be included in this roundup beginning next week.

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook

The following two tabs change content below.
Jed spent 35 years in the newspaper business working as both a writer and editor, in both sports and news under tight deadline pressure. As both sports editor at the Indiana (Pa.) Gazette and a copy editor/columnist at The Times of Trenton, he made daily decisions on overall coverage and designed and produced thousands of pages and special sections. Since accepting a buyout from The Times, he has concentrated on broadening his writing and editing horizons to the medical, academic and business fields. Anyone is welcome to Google Jed to see the different places in print, on the Web and in front of the camera his professional expertise has spread to.

Latest posts by Jed Weisberger (see all)

2 Responses to Bleich Injury No Reason for Yankees System to Panic

  1. Andrew Yankee Fan

    “His strikeout/walk ratio is 29-5 and is his fastball is crackling in the mid-90s”. Are you sure that Brackman’s velocity is up around the mid-90′s now? Kevin Goldstein wrote on twitter last week that when he saw him, he was in the low-90′s with two underwhelming breaking pitches. Maybe Goldstein’s report was based on seeing him earlier this year when he was getting bombed. If Brackman is indeed in the mid-90′s with his fastball, and combine it with the results he has had in his last few starts, that is very good news for the yankees.

  2. Howard Megdal

    Jed wrote:

    “The Yankees have had some pitching prospects go down. All, with the exception of Kontos, were high-risk. Many more are making their way through the farm system. The Yankees, again, take much more of a chance on high-risk pitching prospects than just about anyone.

    In the quest to develop in-house pitching, taking such risks to develop two or three eventual front-line starters makes sense for the Yankees.”

    Jed is exactly right. As usual.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.