I caught a couple of innings of Sunday's exhibition game between the Yankees and Phillies--saw Giambi punch a double into the left center field gap, saw Alex Rodriguez just get under one and fly out. I was struck by how, what's the right word?, rusty, the fielding was. Not that it came as a surprise, but it reminded me just how smooth most major league fielders are once the season gets going. How talented they are. The routine plays looked difficult on Sunday.
Also saw Jorge Posada take one off the face mask and Ken Singleton, the YES announcer, said, "First one of the year." I wonder if veteran catchers like Posada are so used to getting banged up by foul balls that they hardly notice it (that is, if it is physically possible to hardly notice getting pounded in the grill), or if he says, "Oy, there's the first one, only a hundred plus more to go." Does it get harder and harder the older you get?
Couple things: Mike Mussina talked about how young pitchers are handled with reporters yesterday.
What's striking is just how wrong everybody was about not only Cano, but about the Yankees' farm system generally. Do you remember all those stories about the Yankees' supposed inability to make mid-season trades because they didn't have anything to offer other teams? I sure do, because I repeated them every time someone asked me.
In the spring of 2005, everybody rated Eric Duncan as the Yankees' No. 1 prospect. In that year's Baseball America Prospect Book, three of four editors had Duncan as the only Yankee among the top 50 prospects; the other editor didn't list any Yankees at all. Overall, the organization's young talent was ranked 24th, with this comment: "Plenty of emerging players, especially power arms, but none has played above Class A."
The power arms, they mean. Cano had played in Triple-A. The Yankees also had Melky Cabrera (who had not played above Class A). And they had Chien-Ming Wang, who'd pitched brilliantly in 40 Triple-A innings (and it's not clear why he wasn't considered a "power arm," as he routinely threw his fastball in the low- to mid-90s).
As usual, I don't mean to pick on Baseball America. My friend John Sickels' ratings were essentially the same. He had Duncan as a B+ prospect, the 24th-best hitter, but had no other Yankee among the top 50 hitters or top 50 pitchers. He rated Cano, Cabrera, and Wang as B- prospects.
Of course, within a year all three were playing key roles for a team that won 97 games. And Eric Duncan, the jewel of the organization just three years ago? He's still in the organization. Still only 22 last year, he spent the entire season in Triple-A and batted .241 with 11 homers. In their latest Prospect Handbook, Baseball America doesn't rank Duncan among the Yankees top 30 prospects.
Wonder if there will be any rookies that come up and impress us in the Bronx this year?