DotF: Flores & Pirela continue strong winter ball seasons

Before we get into this week’s winter ball recap, here are some mostly Arizona Fall League related links:

  • Baseball America published their list of the top ten prospects in the AzFL. Twins OF Buxton claimed the top spot with Dodgers SS Corey Seager, Indians SS Francisco Lindor, and Cubs SS Addison Russell behind him, in that order. No Yankees farmhands made the list, but, in a separate piece (subs. req’d), Baseball America said OF Aaron Judge and 1B Greg Bird “both impressed with the bat.” “Scouts question whether (Bird will) be an adequate defender at first base due to below-average athleticism, but the former high school catcher is relatively new to the position,” added the write-up. “Judge showed off his raw power and a plus arm from right field, but scouts were mixed on his ability to hit at higher levels.”
  • Jim Callis ranked the top 25 prospects in the AzFL. Buxton claimed the top spot and was followed by three shortstops: Lindor, Russell, and Seager. Judge ranked 12th and Bird ranked 19th. Sounds about right. The AzFL is loaded with the best prospects in the game and you’ve got to be a top of line guy to crack a top ten list.
  • Assistant GM Billy Eppler spoke to George King (subs. req’d) about OF Tyler Austin‘s return from last year’s wrist injury, which lingering into 2014. “It wasn’t just the numbers, it was the quality and the impact of his swing that we were getting (better) day in and day out,” said Eppler. “Our hitting coaches monitor all hit balls, and according to our guys the sound off the bat is good.”
  • One more note from King: the Yankees fired Billy Hart, who was the team’s assistant director of baseball operations. He spent the last three years working under retired VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman. The player development system overhaul continues. Also, former director of player development Pat Roessler was hired by the Mets to be their assistant hitting coach, according to Mike Puma. The Yankees fired him a few weeks ago.
  • Carson Cistulli at FanGraphs put together a statistical breakdown of the top AzFL hitters and pitchers using homer rates, walk rates, and strikeout rates. Bird ranked as the fourth best hitter — the difference between the top five guys is tiny — right behind old pal C/1B Peter O’Brien.

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2015 Draft & International Free Agent Links: Rankings, Scouting Reports

At the moment, the Yankees currently hold the 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft. They could still move up a few slots if the Marlins, Padres, Rays, Braves, and/or Brewers sign one of the nine unsigned qualified free agents, one of whom is David Robertson. All of the details are at our 2015 Draft Order page. Of course, the Yankees could also forfeit that 17th overall pick if they sign a qualified free agents. Here are some links about next year’s draft and international free agent class.

  • Both Baseball America and Keith Law/Chris Crawford wrote up their lists of the top 30 prospects for the 2015 draft. Both links are subscriber-only, unfortunately. LHP Brady Aiken, who didn’t sign with the Astros as the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, tops the ESPN list while Florida HS SS Brendan Rogers is atop the Baseball America list. Aiken is second. He’s heading to a junior college and will be draft-eligible again in 2015.
  • Draft to the Show put together a series of (free!) rankings and mini-scouting reports for the top prospects for the 2015 draft: top 15 high school pitchers, top 15 high school hitters, top 15 college pitchers, and top 15 college hitters. Seems like the strength of this draft is quick-moving college arms, which is a shame because it seems like you could pull any schmuck from the stands and get a 3.50 ERA these days.
  • Kiley McDaniel wrote up scouting reports for several of the top international prospects for the 2015-16 signing period. Because the Yankees exceeded their 2014-15 bonus pool, they won’t be able to sign a player for more than $300,000 in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. So I guess you can get to know the Yankees can’t sign as amateurs but will try to sign as free agents in ten years.

Yankees sign infielder Jonathan Galvez to minor league deal

(Photo via Friars on Base)
(Photo via Friars on Base)

The Yankees have signed infielder Jonathan Galvez to a minor league contract, according to the transactions page at the team’s official site. I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training though that’s unclear at this point. As Kiley McDaniel wrote recently, the Yankees tend to pay well on minor league contracts. I wonder if that came into play here.

Galvez, 23, became a minor league free agent after the season. He spent the first six years of his career in the Padres system — they signed him for $750,000 out of Dominican Republic back in 2007 — and has played the last two years in Triple-A, where he had a .278/.348/.414 (~101 wRC+) batting line with 16 homers and 25 steals in 215 games.

Baseball America never ranked Galvez among San Diego’s top 30 prospects in their Prospect Handbook, though they did rank him as the 18th best prospect in the rookie level Arizona League back in 2009. That’s … something. Here’s a snippet from their scouting report that year:

He has a clean stroke and good plate coverage, and he has promising power potential. He has average speed, though he’s a tick below average getting out of the box. The biggest question about Galvez relates to his defense. His arm is too weak for him to stay at shortstop and makes playing the outfield a stretch, which will confine him to second base or a utility role in the future.

Galvez has played played all four infield spots as well as left field in his career, though he didn’t play the middle infield at all this past season. It’s easy to roll your eyes and ignore a signing like this, but every so often one of these guys turns into Yangervis Solarte. I expect Galvez to open next season in a utility role for Triple-A Scranton. That’s a long way away though. Still lots of time before the roster shakes out.

King: Ibanez not interested in Yankees hitting coach job

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

According to George King, Raul Ibanez is not interested in becoming the Yankees new hitting coach. Ibanez is one of three finalists for the Rays managerial opening, but King says Ibanez doesn’t want to coach at all if he doesn’t get the Tampa job. The Yankees planned to talk to Ibanez about their hitting coach gig a few weeks ago and at one point he was interested in hearing what they had to say.

The Yankees fired hitting coach Kevin Long more than five weeks ago now. Brian Cashman confirmed earlier this week that they have an interview lined up next week with a new candidate and that they’ve yet to bring anyone back for a second interview. We heard Chili Davis, Dave Magadan, and James Rowson were interviewed at some point. Davis joined the Red Sox and Magadan will remain with the Rangers. The Yankees also had interest in Cubs assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske, but he declined to interview.

At this point I really have no idea who the leading candidates are for the hitting coach position. Rowson has spent seven years as a hitting instructor in the team’s farm system and seems as likely a candidate as anyone. With the Rays bringing in a new manager, I wonder if their hitting coach Derek Shelton would an option for the Yankees. He managed in New York’s farm system from 2000-02 and is said to be close with Joe Girardi and new VP of Baseball Ops Gary Denbo.

Given their interest in Ibanez and Hinske, it’s clear the Yankees aren’t prioritizing experience in their search for a new hitting coach. Those two have no experience whatsoever in the role. It seems like whoever they bring in will be a surprise hire, kinda like when Larry Rothschild was named pitching coach a few years ago. There were no reports Rothschild even interviewed for the job, then bam, he was hired. I guess we’ll find out who the new hitting coach will be soon enough.

Murti: Yankees have discussed signing Jason Grilli

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

As they mull over potential bullpen options, the Yankees have discussed signing free agent right-hander Jason Grilli, reports Sweeny Murti. Murti makes it sound like the team was talking about Grilli as a potential replacement for David Robertson should their incumbent closer sign elsewhere this winter. Then again, it’s the bullpen. There are several spots to fill. Grilli’s agent is Gary Sheffield, by the way. (Yes, really.)

Grilli, 38, has a 4.00 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 54 innings split between the Pirates and Angels this past season. He had a 2.82 ERA (2.42 FIP) with Pittsburgh from 2012-13 and was their closer in 2013 before losing the job earlier this year. Grilli seemed to figure some things out while in Triple-A with the Phillies in 2011, and was able to carry his success over into MLB. Here’s a quick breakdown of his last three seasons:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9 RHB wOBA LHP wOBA
2012 58.2 2.91 2.80 36.9% 9.0% 30.7% 1.07 0.328 0.217
2013 50.0 2.70 1.97 36.6% 6.4% 33.0% 0.72 0.220 0.316
2014 54.0 4.00 3.37 24.3% 8.9% 32.0% 0.67 0.313 0.310

Grilli’s fastball has consistently sat in the 92-94 range these last three years and he throws a frickin’ ton of sliders — 33.3% in 2014 and 29.5% from 2012-13. Only 16 of the 88 relievers who’ve thrown at least 150 innings over the last three seasons have thrown a higher percentage of sliders than Grilli. I guess that explains why he missed most of the second half of 2013 with a flexor strain in his elbow. Grilli also missed the entire 2010 season following right quad surgery and about a month this summer with an oblique strain.

If the Yankees were to lose Robertson to free agency, I like the idea of signing someone like Grilli to take over as the traditional one-inning closer. It doesn’t specifically have to be him — others like Sergio Romo, Casey Janssen, and even Rafael Soriano could work in that role — but the point is keeping Dellin Betances in that multi-inning setup role he was so damn good at in 2014. Let the inferior reliever start the ninth inning fresh with the bases empty while Betances handles the most high-leverage spots.

Grilli isn’t the sexiest bullpen option there, but he’s likely to take a one-year contract given his age and is just as likely to adequately close out ball games as any other low-cost option out there. If the Yankees won’t spend big to re-sign Robertson, then they probably won’t spend big for Andrew Miller either. Someone like Grilli is the best of the rest.