For those of you who do not know, Donnie Collins is the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees beat writer for the Scranton Times-Tribune. Due to the amazing social media that we have today, I reached out to Donnie on Twitter and asked him if he wouldn't mind answering a few questions for Pinstripe Alley.
Donnie was more than willing to help, and seemed as genuinely excited about this as I did. If you would like to read some of Donnie's work, here is a link to his Twitter account, and a link to his blog.
Without further ado, let's get to the interview.
Frank: Andrew Brackman has a 6.75 ERA, a 5.85 FIP, and his BB/9 have escalated passed 2009 levels. What's going on with him?
Donnie: His mechanics are pretty inconsistent, which isn't a surprise considering how tall and lanky he is and how convoluted his delivery can get at times. He supposedly had all of that under control last season when he dominated at Tampa and Trenton, but this season, he seems to be fighting himself mechanically. I'd pinpoint an exact problem for you, but I've seen so many issues this season with him that it's never the same thing repeating itself. I think he's having a bit of a crisis of confidence as well. After a few games this season, he seemed beyond frustrated. He's a guy who knows issues exist and doesn't quite seem to know what to do about them. That said, he is coming off his best start of the season -- he allowed just one hit and a walk in five shutout innings on Tuesday before imploding a bit in the sixth inning -- and there were some positive signs there. But he needs to be much more consistent mechanically. One thing we were told about Brackman coming into the season was that his control had improved and that his fastball was electric. Well, he has admittedly been wild all season, and he has not had a great fastball. (I was told it was in the 93-95 range last year. But this season, he hasn't gotten into the 90s consistently.)
Frank: Talk about Jesus Montero. His walk rate and his ISO are currently the lowest of his career. Is this a product of his perceived "boredom?" If not, what's the issue there?
Donnie: I don't know if "boredom" is exactly the word to use. The man has pretty much dominated Triple-A, and while his power numbers haven't been what anybody expected, he has still come up with a ton of big hits for this team this season. Does he wish he was in the big leagues? Sure, just like the 23 other guys in the room. But I don't think it's affecting his play.
I'm not a big statistics guy, so I really don't pay much attention to how rates and percentages compare to years past. I'll say this, though, about his walk rate: Montero is probably extending the strike zone a little bit from time to time trying to make something happen, but largely, I'd say he's getting more pitches in the strike zone this year hitting third than he did last year hitting sixth in the first half. Why? Because Jorge Vazquez is hitting fourth. That said, he is seeing a steadier diet of breaking balls this year than he did in 2010. I'd say it's a decent sign that he has been at or above .300 for most of the season. He is not a hitter, from what I've seen, that can muscle up and drive it out of the park whenever he wants to. He has freakish power, and his homers are almost accidental. I think they'll come when he learns to put the barrel of the bat on sliders and curveballs consistently. But he's not like Vazquez, where you know he can try to hit the ball over the fence and do it with some regularity. When Montero's swing is good, he's getting line drives. When his swing is really good, those line drives just carry over the wall.
Frank: Jorge Vazquez is quickly becoming a cult hero at Pinstripe Alley. Is he a late bloomer with serious potential, or just a "AAAA" type of player?
Donnie: He's the Alfredo Aceves of hitters. They were both guys signed out of the Mexican League who are legends there and always have been too good for the minor league level they're at. But the key for Vazquez, like it was for Aceves, is finding the role where he could actually maximize his performance. Vazquez looks like a superstar in the International League -- he'll hit 40 homers if he stays here all season, which is not easy to do in this league. He has kind of grown on me a bit defensively. He has good feet for a third baseman, a solid arm and he does a nice job at first. But he does strike out a ton, and he'll extend the strike zone on himself a lot more than Montero does. To me, and this is just my opinion, but Vazquez looks like a perfect corner infield option off a big league bench. He's going to hit some bombs if he gets the chance in the big leagues. But fans are also going to find there are some negatives to his game. He's like one of those old-time sluggers who, if you gave him 600 at-bats, would certainly hit 30 or40 homers. But I don't know if he's going to give you much else. Of course, the Yankees aren't ever going to give Vazquez 600 at-bats with Teixeira and A-Rod in front of him. So in some ways, that makes him a little more intriguing. Like I said, I prefer him off a good big league bench. And if you go with Vazquez in that spot, it's not like you're going to have to worry about putting Montero on the bench and wondering if the time off will make him rusty.
Again, special thanks to Donnie for conducting this interview. His Twitter account and blog are linked above.