Predictions by Position

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

After today, the next time you read a post from me, the Yankees will be three hours away from their first pitch of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays (while we’re on it, how silly is it that even in a dome, the Yankees have an off day after their Opening Day? Isn’t the point of the dome to avoid that? Ugh.). That’s pretty damn cool, huh? It also means you’re in for a flurry of prediction posts, so allow me to be near the top of the list. When September ends, we can all look back at this and laugh at how absurdly wrong I was.

Catcher

Gary Sanchez will struggle at the plate to start the year and a certain segment of fans–the talk radio set–will become frustrated, though his defense is mostly fine. By early June, though, Sanchez will find his stroke and finish the year with about 20 homers and a caught stealing percentage near the top of the league.

Austin Romine will remain the backup all year, turning in a very typical backup season. But, for him, it’s a coup as it lands him a two-year contract after the season to stay on as Sanchez’s reserve.

Carter. (Presswire)
Carter. (Presswire)

First Base

I don’t know exactly what the combination will be or how it will break down to a man, but Greg Bird and Chris Carter will combine for 40 homers.

Shortstop and Second Base

I’m combing these thanks to the Didi Gregorius injury. Ruben Tejada will start the year at short. By mid-April, though, his bat will not be worth the defensive contribution and he’ll be let go. Starlin Castro will slide over to short and “everyone” will get their wish as Rob Refsnyder will be called up to play second, the team willing to live with his defense since his offense will be needed more. He’ll have a hot first week, then cool down just in time for Didi to return and send Castro back to second.

Didi will take a slight step back offensively this year, as will Castro. However, they’ll be able to buoy it with solid defense, becoming one of the top double play combinations in the league.

(Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Third Base

Chase Headley continues his ‘bounce back’ that started after his terrible beginning to 2016. He ends the year around a 100 wRC+, but his defense begins to show a little bit of wear before he heads into the last year of his contract.

Outfield

Brett Gardner bounces back offensively. The power doesn’t come back totally, but he reaches double digits in homers again and regains some of his base-stealing prowess. Jacoby Ellsbury hovers around where he was last year and his steals stay flat as he’s not apt to run in front of Sanchez or Matt Holliday, whoever occupies the three spot.

Aaron Judge struggles through the first month and is sent down to Scranton and Aaron Hicks takes over in right for a bit. Judge is eventually recalled and put in a platoon to start, but earns his way back into the starting role, promising better things for 2018.

(Kim Klement | USA TODAY Sports)
(Kim Klement | USA TODAY Sports)

Designated Hitter

Holliday shows flashes of his Colorado self, but is generally more like the player he was in St. Louis last year. He surprises, though, with a fair amount of opposite field homers and winds up leading the team in that category.

Starting Rotation

Michael Pineda comes out of the gates like a bat out of hell. He pushes his way into the All Star Game, but falters down the stretch, reminding us more of 2016 than the early part of 2017.

CC Sabathia pitches like a number two for half his starts and a number five for the other half. Masahiro Tanaka again competes for the Cy Young Award, putting up an even better case this year than last year.

Adam loves it. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Bullpen

Adam Warren becomes the new Dellin Betances. No, he won’t be as dominant as Dellin, but he’ll move into the multi-inning, high-leverage spot, allowing Betances to join Tyler Clippard and Aroldis Chapman as a more traditional one-inning reliever when Warren is fresh.

Team

What will all this add up to? Somehow, someway, I’m thinking…84 wins. That sounds right, no? What wild, crazy, or boring predictions do you have? If we’re gonna laugh at me in September, let’s laugh at you, too.

Play ball.

Open Thread: March 25th Camp Notes

Fighting Spirit! The Yankees won again today. They rallied for two runs in the ninth. Mason Williams tied the game with an error ball off the first baseman’s mitt, and Pete Kozma won it with a walk-off single. Amazing. Greg Bird launched yet another home run, his seventh of Spring Training. None of his homers sneak over the wall. They’ve all been bombs. He also drew two walks. Tyler Wade hooked a double to right field and also had a near homer caught on the warning track.

Adam Warren got the start and wasn’t crisp at all, allowing four runs (including two homers) in 3.1 innings of work. He struck out four and walked two. Not a great afternoon. Five relievers were used and Jonathan Holder was the most impressive. He struck out one and retired all six men he faced. Here are the box score and video highlights, and here’s the latest from Tampa:

Here is the open thread for the rest of the day. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, if you’re interested. MLB Network will have other games live and on tape delay pretty much all afternoon and evening. All of the local hockey and basketball teams are playing except the Knicks, and there are a pair of March Madness games as well. Use this thread to talk about anything and everything, as long as it’s not politics or religion. Thanks in advance.

Spring Training Game Thread: A Clue About The Rotation?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have six exhibition games remaining, and if they’re leaning toward certain players for the fourth and fifth rotation spots, they haven’t said as much. They might be leaving some clues though. Luis Cessa has already been sent to minor league camp, so he’s out of the running. Duh. Also, in recent days Chad Green and Luis Severino came out of the bullpen. Bryan Mitchell and today’s starter, Adam Warren, are still starting. Hmmm.

Of course, both Mitchell and Warren came out of the bullpen earlier this spring, but Opening Day is one week from tomorrow. Would they be making full fledged five or six-inning starts this late in camp while the other guys are throwing three innings in relief if they weren’t the leading candidates for the rotation? What about Jordan Montgomery? Intrigue! I haven’t seen the Blue Jays’ lineup anywhere, so we’re in for a surprise. Here are the players the Yankees will use today:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 1B Greg Bird
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Tyler Wade
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Adam Warren

Available Pitchers: LHP Aroldis Chapman, LHP Tommy Layne, LHP Jon Niese, RHP Jonathan Holder, and RHP Matt Marsh are all expected to pitch today. (Shane Hennigan says Chapman is pitching in a minor league game instead.) LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP J.R. Graham, and RHP Ernesto Frieri are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Wilkin Castillo, 1B Mike Ford, 2B Donovan Solano, SS Ruben Tejada, 3B Ronald Torreyes, LF Rob Refsnyder, CF Mason Williams, and RF Zack Zehner will be the second string off the bench. C Kyle Higashioka, C Radley Haddad, IF Pete Kozma, and OF Aaron Judge are the extra players. Ford, Williams, Zehner, and Haddad are up from minor league camp for the day.

It’s a bit cloudy in Tampa this afternoon, though it’s warm and there’s no rain in the forecast, so that’s good. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET. You can watch on YES and the FOX Sports Go app locally, and MLB.tv nationally. Enjoy the game.

Open Thread: March 24th Camp Notes

The Yankees are a team of Grapefruit League destiny. They won again today, this time rallying for two runs in the bottom of the ninth. Minor league camp call-up du jour Trey Amburgey had the walk-off single. The Yankees have won 20 spring games for the first time since winning 24 in 2009. You know what that means, right? Anyway, right field candidates Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge both had singles. Judge also threw a runner out the plate. Hicks ain’t the only outfielder on the roster who can throw.

On the mound CC Sabathia moseyed on through 5.1 innings of two-run ball. An inordinate number of ground balls found holes during the two-run second inning. Sabathia struck out one. Dellin Betances retired both batters he faced in his first outing back from the World Baseball Classic, and Luis Severino chucked three scoreless innings. He fanned five. Here are the box score and video highlights, and here are the rest of the notes from Tampa:

  • Following today’s game Joe Girardi announced Sabathia will start the second game of the season. Michael Pineda will start the third. Pretty much what I expected. The Rays, meanwhile, announced Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Alex Cobb will start their first three games in that order. The Yankees open the regular season with a three-game set in Tampa. [Bryan Hoch, Marc Topkin]
  • The Yankees announced another round of roster cuts today: Luis Cessa was optioned to Triple-A and Ji-Man Choi, Dustin Fowler, Clint Frazier, Jason Gurka, and Billy McKinney were reassigned to minor league camp. So I guess that takes Cessa out of the rotation (and bullpen) mix. I count 39 players still in big league camp. Oh, and if you missed it earlier, the Diamondbacks returned Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Jones.
  • The Yankees had a brief on-field ceremony prior to today’s game to present last year’s Scranton RailRiders with their championship rings. Here are some photos. Pretty cool ring. Scranton beat El Paso (Padres) in last year’s Triple-A Championship Game.
  • Shane Hennigan has the day’s minor league lineups. Heart eyes at the top of the Double-A Trenton lineup. Hitting coach Alan Cockrell said he’s working with Jorge Mateo to widen his stance, which has “kept him on the ball better.” [Brendan Kuty]
  • Tyler Austin said he’s going to be in a walking boot another two weeks. Once healthy, he’s essentially going to have to go through Spring Training to get ready, so he might not return until early-May. Sucks. [Hennigan]
  • Tyler Clippard is back in camp following the World Baseball Classic. Also in camp: Hideki Matsui! He’s there as guest instructor. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was in camp today too. The Yankees have brought in coaches from other sports to give motivational speeches and whatnot over the years. [Kuty, Mike Mazzeo]
  • The Yankees are home against the Blue Jays tomorrow afternoon. Adam Warren is lined up to start. That game will be on YES and MLB.tv.
  • And finally, the Yankees will reveal their 2017 commercials next week. I’ve been hoping they had some coming. Neat.

This is the open thread for the night. MLB Network will cover the Yankees as part of their 30 clubs in 30 days tour tonight at 10pm ET, so keep an eye out for that. Also, this afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES (10pm ET) and MLB Network (2am ET), if you’re interested. MLB Network has the Orioles and Twins live right now, plus the Islanders and Nets are playing, and there’s March Madness as well. Talk about anything here as long as it’s not politics or religion.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Diamondbacks have returned Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Jones to the Yankees, both teams announced earlier today. That means Jones, a right-handed reliever, cleared waivers and was removed from the 40-man roster. The Yankees have assigned him to minor league camp.

Jones, 27, signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent last offseason. He had a 2.17 ERA (1.50 FIP) with 34.2% strikeouts and 5.6% walks in 45.2 Double-A innings last summer. This spring he allowed five runs (three earned) in 6.2 innings with Arizona. Jones fanned eight and walked none.

The D’Backs aren’t particularly deep in the bullpen and I thought Jones had a chance to stick as a middle reliever. Arizona would have had to carry him on their 25-man big league roster all season as a Rule 5 Draft pick, otherwise put him on waivers and offer him back to the Yankees, which is what happened.

The Yankees still have three other Rule 5 Draft picks out there: catcher Luis Torrens (Padres) and lefties Caleb Smith (Cubs) and Tyler Webb (Pirates). Webb has the best chance to stick with his new team, I believe. Torrens and Smith are almost certainly coming back at some point before Opening Day.

Cashman indicates Yankees will use off-days to skip fifth starter early in the season

Luis and Luis. (Presswire)
Luis and Luis. (Presswire)

With less than two weeks to go before Opening Day, the Yankees are still in the process of picking their fourth and fifth starters to start the season. So far none of the various rotation candidates has separated himself from the rest of the pack. I’m sure the Yankees have their internal preferences, but from a Spring Training performance standpoint, no one has looked great.

Based on recent comments by Brian Cashman, the fifth starter won’t be all that important early in the season. While talking to George King, Cashman indicated the Yankees intend to use all those early season off-days to skip their fifth starter the first two times through the rotation. Here’s what Cashman said:

“We have to lock in sooner than later,’’ the GM said. “And one of those guys isn’t going to pitch until the 16th [of April] with days off. We have to make some decisions soon and get people in the right spots whether it’s the bullpen or Scranton.’’

The Yankees have three off-days within the first ten days of the regular season, so not only can they skip their fifth starter the first two times through rotation, the four starters they do use will still get an extra day of rest between their first and second starts. April is always loaded with off-days because of potential weather issues. Here’s the schedule.

The benefit here is obvious. Being able to avoid your fifth starter until the 12th game and 15th day of the season frees up a roster spot, typically for an extra reliever. And that reliever could be the fifth starter. Let’s say the Yankees go with Luis Cessa as the fifth starter. They’d be able to use Cessa in long relief once or twice within the first ten days of the season, then let him start that April 16th game, the first time a fifth starter is needed.

Nowadays the Yankees try to give their regular starters an extra day of rest as often as possible, which is why I thought they might stick with five starters right out of the gate. It would keep the workloads light before ramping things up in mid-April. I guess that’s not much of a concern so early in the season though. It’s more of a concern at midseason, when off-days are harder to come by.

I should probably note that by skipping the fifth starter, the third starter will start the home opener on April 10th. I have no idea whether the Yankees care about that honor, but, if they do, I’d bet on CC Sabathia getting the ball. That means Michael Pineda would slot in behind Masahiro Tanaka as the No. 2 starter. Whatever. Point is, no fifth starter the first two times through the rotation. Thanks, off-days.

Going beyond the top relievers [2017 Season Preview]

(Gett Images)
Layne. (Getty Images)

Over the last few days, we’ve covered the four key cogs in the Yankees’ bullpen machine: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard. If healthy, each will take up the main roles in Joe Girardi‘s ‘pen and be called upon for the most important innings this season.

But the bullpen features far more than four guys. There will be at least seven on opening day. The Yankees had 20 different relievers pitch in at least one game last season. They had 26 the year before (24 if you take out position players).

So let’s take a look at the rest of the bullpen. Chances are, far more than the guys listed below will log time in relief, but these are the ones that jump out with a chance right now.

The veteran pick-up

Frieri circa 2014. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Frieri. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Last week, the Yankees added Ernesto Frieri on a minor league deal. Frieri didn’t pitch at all in 2016 after an awful spring with the Phillies, but he played for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic. While there, he tossed two shutout innings against the Dominican Republic, even striking out Nelson Cruz.

Frieri, just 31 years old, was a pretty solid reliever from 2010-13, highlighted by a 2.32 ERA and 23 saves with the Padres and Angels in 2012. However, he was barely usable in 2014-15 with the Angels, Pirates and Rays with his ERA ballooning as high as 7.34 in 2014. At his best, he utilizes his mid-90s fastball to get hitters out, mixing in a slider and the occasional change or curve.

He’s a real wild card for the Yankees’ pen. There’s a solid chance he’ll make the team (seven batters into spring, he has six strikeouts and one HR allowed) but what he does from there is anyone’s guess. His velocity seems to have returned after falling a bit in 2014-15 and could be the secret to an improved Frieri.

The lefties

Girardi loves his southpaws, so one has to figure there will be at least one on the roster at all times, if not two. That’s not including Chapman, who won’t be used as a matchup lefty and is the definitive closer.

First up is Tommy Layne. Layne, 32, is a classic LOOGY, much better against lefties than righties. He tosses a lot variations of fastballs alongside a slider and curveball to produce some strikeouts. He was perfectly fine in 29 games for the Yankees in 2016 and it’s not outlandish to expect him to have another mid-3.00 ERA with a few too many walks and struggles against righties. Again, classic LOOGY.

Behind him lie a few different options, namely Chasen Shreve and Jon Niese. Niese, 30, has started most of his career and has succeeded at primarily keeping the ball on the ground. He’d provide a solid option as both another lefty and as a long man, two roles Girardi has said he sees Niese filling. He is coming back from a knee injury that he struggled with last season, so a healthy Niese would be an interesting piece.

We all know about Shreve. He was dominant for a couple months in 2015 with his low-90s fastball and changeup before becoming a liability late in ’15 and shuffling between the bullpen and the minors in 2016. The 26-year-old southpaw isn’t a LOOGY with the changeup as an out-pitch, but hitters appeared to figure out his off-speed offerings over the last couple seasons.

Two pitchers who reached Triple A last season are also in the mix for roles this summer, if not earlier. Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns each played roles in Scranton’s success last fall and looked solid in Double A Trenton before that. Enns was added to the 40-man roster this winter. Lefties hit Enns slightly better than righties last season and the soft-tossing southpaw may not be best suited for a role as a LOOGY.

Montgomery — who is potentially in play for a spot in the rotation on opening day, let alone a relief spot — isn’t on the 40-man roster yet. Similar to Enns, Montgomery had a reverse split last year, although neither lefties or righties hit him well. He throws from a high arm slot and has a solid change-up and would be a solid long reliever if he isn’t a starter.

Righties with a taste

Heller (Getty Images)
Heller. (Getty Images)

Both Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder got chances last September to help the Yankees bullpen and neither particularly impressed. Heller, a 25 year old who came over in the Andrew Miller trade, throws in the upper 90s with his fastball and mixes in an effective slider. Despite his 6.43 ERA in seven big league innings, he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on because he has the stuff to be effective. He’s posted strong strikeout numbers everywhere in the minors, solid enough to mask occasional issues with walks. I’d expect him to be one of the first relievers called up this spring, if not someone on the roster opening day after a lights-out spring (one run, 8 ks in 9 2/3 innings with 6 BB).

Like Heller, Holder couldn’t seem to have his strikeout numbers translate in his short big league stint (8 1/3 innings). He also uncharacteristically struggled with control. Still, his fantastic strikeout rates (101 Ks in 65 1/3 innings last year over three levels) are the reason he was added to the 40-man roster early at 23 years old. He’s likely behind Heller but still a solid option this spring/summer.

Long man

The Yankees’ have a series of young pitchers competing for the final rotation spots right now and only two will walk away with said spots. Therefore, the rest will be relegated to Triple A or to spots in the bullpen. Frieri’s addition to the team makes it less likely the team brings two of those losing out north — or actually south 20 miles from Steinbrenner Field to Tropicana Field — for opening day.

Still, there is likely one spot, if not two, for those who lose out. Let’s say Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell get the rotation spots. It’s easy to see Luis Cessa take the long-man role while Chad Green and Montgomery go to Triple A. The latter two would still be likely to see time in the majors and could be see it quickly considering the bullpen shuttle of recent years.

40-man roster and beyond

Barbato (Getty Images)
Barbato. (Getty Images)

There is a gaggle of relievers that got opportunities to show off their stuff this spring with the Yankees, way too many to go through in detail. Johnny Barbato and Gio Gallegos are both on the 40-man and closest to the majors.

Further down the 40-man, Yefrey Ramirez and Domingo German both have strikeout worthy stuff, but they’re starters at the moment and haven’t pitched above Single A. Ronald Herrera, acquired for Jose Pirela a couple years ago, has all of five innings above Double A.

Off the 40-man roster, it’s worth paying attention to a few names. Nick Rumbelow, outrighted off the 40, is coming off Tommy John surgery and once showed promise for a middle relief role. Joe Mantiply — a southpaw who was claimed off waivers, DFA’d and then re-signed to a minor league deal this winter — has solid strikeout rates in the minors but hasn’t thrown much above Double A. Finally, J.P Feyereisen was acquired in the Miller deal with Heller and co. and was solid as a fireman for Double A Trenton in the MiLB playoffs last year. Could be something down the road and I wouldn’t be shocked if he is seen in the majors for a stint this summer.