Saturday, July 26, 2008

The New Bucs...


> Jose Tabata, OF: The headlines in the New York tabloids last season likened Tabata to Manny Ramirez. He's young, he's talented and he was supposed to be one of the prospects on whom the Yankees were keeping a firm hold. But along with being young and talented, he's also temperamental, so maybe the Manny comparisons weren't too far off.

Tabata bolted from the Trenton Thunder at the end of April in an incident that may have ultimately played a role in making him a future Buc instead of a future Bomber. He had been struggling through the first month of the season when his frustrations came to a head on April 26 at New Britain. After striking out for the second time against the Rock Cats in the Eastern League contest, Tabata went into the visiting clubhouse, picked up his belongings and left the stadium.

The Yankees suspended him for three days and welcomed him back after he apologized and copped to being immature and frustrated. He was hitting .200 when he walked out on the team. He's hit .270 since returning, raising his average to .248. Tabata has three homers, 36 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and a bunch of unanswered questions that have cropped up about his makeup since the incident.

If he can put this behind him and continue to play the way he played early on in his career with New York, then the Pirates could have a nice young outfielder to build around. He hit .314 as a 17-year-old in the GCL in 2005 and was hitting .305 at Charleston of the Sally League the following July when he was hit by a pitch on the right wrist.

Doctors struggled to make a diagnosis and he played with a sore hand for much of 2007 before having the hamate bone removed in August. Still, he hit .307 in the Florida State League and had 54 RBIs.

While there was talk that he was the heir apparent to Bobby Abreu in right field, his inconsistencies and obvious immaturity have tarnished his reputation as being one of the brighter prospects in baseball.

> Ross Ohlendorf, RHP: Ohlendorf was with the Yankees the first three months of this season after appearing in six games for them last year. His claim to fame is that he was part of the trade that sent Randy Johnson back to the Diamondbacks in January of 2007.

Ohlendorf has seen considerable time at the AAA level over the last three seasons, and had appeared in 25 games out of the bullpen for the Yanks this year. He was 1-1 with a 6.53 ERA. He has been used mostly as a starter throughout his career since the Diamondbacks took him in the fourth round out of Princeton in 2004.

His departure from New York coincided with Sidney Ponson's arrival. Ohlendorf was 1-1 with a 4.03 ERA in five starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the Triple-A International League.

> Jeff Karstens, RHP: Karstens was selected by the Yankees in the 19th round of the 2003 Draft out of Texas Tech. He snaked his way through the system, eventually reaching New York in 2006, when he went 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA in eight games (six starts) for the Bombers.

He appeared in only seven games for the Yankees last year because of injuries. Karstens suffered from a tender elbow near the end of spring training and then went down after suffering a broken right leg at the end of April against the Red Sox.

Karstens appeared to have the best shot at earning the long man spot in the New York pen this season, but pulled his right groin - incidentally it was on a pitch to Nady - and didn't return to action until the middle of May. Since his return, he's made 12 starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, posting a 6-4 record with a 3.80 ERA. He's won three consecutive starts.

> Daniel McCutchen, RHP: The big right-hander from Oklahoma experienced some early hiccups after the Yankees made him a 13th-round selection in 2006. He was hit with a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's performance enhancing drug policy, but laid the blame on some prescription drugs he took while in school.

The Yanks seemed satisfied with his explanation and he came back strong last year, going 14-4 with a 2.47 ERA while splitting time between the Florida State and Eastern Leagues. He was 2-0 in two playoff starts for the Thunder as they won the EL title.

McCutchen is 8-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 20 starts split between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. He's won his last three outings and has a 2.39 ERA over his last 26 1/3 innings. There was some discussion about moving him to the bullpen because of his aggressiveness and attack-the-hitter style on the mound.

Overall, he's got a good low-90s fastball that moves, whether it's a two-seamer or four-seamer. His curveball remains an effective out pitch.

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