The Yankees made the cross-state trip to Viera to play the Nationals this afternoon, though the game will not be on television anywhere in New York. It will be on MASN for those of you near the beltway, otherwise it’s MLB.tv or nothing. Here are the Yankees and Nationals lineups. CC Sabathia is starting and, if I’m not mistaken, this will be the first time Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner play the outfield together. Time to develop some communication. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET. Talk about the game here if you’re watching.
Via Chad Jennings: Left-handed pitching prospect Nik Turley expects to be shut down for another two weeks or so with arm tightness. He has been sidelined since camp started and has not thrown at all. Tests showed no structural damage, the team is just being cautious.
Turley, 24, had a 3.88 ERA (4.18 FIP) in 139 innings with Double-A Trenton last season, making one spot start with Triple-A Scranton. I ranked him as the team’s 23rd best prospect last month. With both Turley and Jose Ramirez (oblique) unlikely to start the season on time, the Triple-A rotation is suddenly short an arm or two. Manny Banuelos and Bruce Billings seem to be the only locks with Vidal Nuno a strong possibility. Might have to grab a straggler free agent to eat some innings for a few weeks. · (4) ·
Early on in Spring Training, it was obvious the Yankees were showcasing their young catchers for trades. Gary Sanchez, John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine were (and still are) playing just about every game, either behind the plate, at DH, or off the bench. It’s no secret the Yankees need infield and bullpen help, and when you sign Brian McCann to an $85M contract, trading a spare backstop for help elsewhere makes sense.
We know at least two teams (Brewers and White Sox), have been scouting the Yankees’ catchers, so all that showcasing is not going to naught. Someone is out there watching and that’s exactly what the Yankees want. They can force anyone to make a trade. The young catchers are not the only guys out there being put on display though. The Yankees are also showcasing their extra outfielders this spring after signing both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner long-term, as well as sinking big money into Carlos Beltran on a shorter term deal.
Both Ramon Flores and Mason Williams have played in nine of the team’s first dozen Grapefruit League games so far, more than every outfielder in camp other than Adonis Garcia and Antoan Richardson, who have played in ten games each. Flores is second to Ellsbury in plate appearances among outfielders, and he’s played all three outfield spots as well. Williams has played both his usual center field as well as right, where he has zero career games in the minors. Even Ichiro Suzuki, who was shopped all winter, has started a game at each of the three outfield spots this spring as the Yankees continue to look for a taker.
Now, part of the reason why Flores and Williams are playing so much is injury. Had Slade Heathcott (knee) and Tyler Austin (wrist) been healthy this spring, they surely would have grabbed some at-bats and games in the outfield. For the purposes of showcasing their young outfielders — Flores and Williams are the team’s most tradeable outfield prospects in my opinion, though none of these guys are close to untouchable — the injuries allow the Yankees to give Flores and Williams (and even Ichiro) all that playing time. No team will trade for a player based on how he looks in Spring Training, but the extended looks give them a chance to update their internal evaluations. That can be a bad thing in some cases.
As with the catchers, the Yankees have a decent amount of outfield depth in the minors. They have a better (but more injury prone) version of Williams in Heathcott, who is also one level closer to the big leagues. Flores had an okay year in Double-A last season but he and Austin are similar players, though they bat from different sides of the plate. Holding onto every prospect isn’t a good idea no matter how badly you need homegrown players. Not at all. Some of them are going to flame out through normal attrition and knowing when to cut bait is just as important as knowing who the keep*.
* The Cardinals are great player development organization and it’s not just because of the guys they produce. When a Brett Wallace (2008 first round) or Zach Cox (2010 first round) goes bad, they get rid of them quickly (for Matt Holliday in 2009 and Edward Mujica in 2012, respectively). The Yankees did this with C.J. Henry (2005 first rounder, for Bobby Abreu in 2006) back in the day. Knowing your own players and being honest about their ability is super important.
What could the Yankees get for Flores or Williams? Who knows. A scout recently told Peter Gammons the Yankees “could be a player” for Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez, who fits their need for a young infielder. The 24-year-old Dominguez is a top notch defender with some power (21 homers in 2013) but a questionable bat in general. Would I trade Williams for five years of Dominguez? Yeah, I probably would. Double-A prospect for a young guy who can step right into the MLB lineup to fill a position of need? What else should are they supposed to trade him for? That’s just one example of a potential trade match that, as far as we know, isn’t actually on the table.
Anyway, the point is that the Yankees have some extra young outfielders and are giving teams an opportunity to scout them this spring. They’re doing the same for their extra young catchers. Given the obvious needs on the infield (and also in the bullpen, but less so) and the team’s depth in the outfield and behind the plate, showcasing these guys makes all the sense in the world. It’s due diligence, only the other way around. Instead of asking about guys, they’re letting other teams see their players. This is the time of year to showcase people, and so far the Yankees have done a lot of it.
The crew at MLB.com published their list of the top 20 Yankees prospects today, a list that is topped by C Gary Sanchez. No surprise there. OF Mason Williams and OF Slade Heathcott round out the top three. Jim Callis published his list of prospects 21-25 as well.
MLB.com’s lists are always great because they include full (and free) scouting reports, 20-80 scouting scale grades for individual tools, and video for many prospects. The rankings can be a little unique from time to time — this year’s list looks pretty reasonable to me, perhaps because Callis took it over — but that’s okay. Different perspectives are a good thing.
Other Yankees prospects lists: RAB, Baseball America, Keith Law, Baseball Prospectus. · (19) ·
Guess what? There are no camp notes. The Yankees were off today for the first time since Grapefruit League games started, and it was a full day off. There were no workouts scheduled or anything. Just a day to recharge the batteries. With the Panama trip coming up and the next off-day two weeks away, a day of rest is a good thing. No news is good news and that’s exactly what we have today.
There is one thing I do want to take a second to point out: RAB turned seven years old on
January February 20th. I am terrible at dates and I completely forgot. Just realized it today. Thanks for reading and making RAB part of your day. The site has grown far more than Ben, Joe, or myself ever expected when we launched, and I think I speak for everyone here when I say the best parts of RAB are the friends I’ve made and all the great people I’ve met these last seven years. It’s been pretty awesome.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. MLB Network will replay a game later tonight and SNY will re-air this afternoon’s Mets game as well, if you’re really desperate for some baseball. Old pals Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson both played. This happened too. The Islanders, Knicks, and Nets are all playing as well. Talk about whatever you like here. Enjoy.
(I’m re-posting that video because it was easy to overlook last Friday night. I enjoyed it.)
Via Chad Jennings: Several clubs are specifically scouting Frankie Cervelli this spring as they look for catching help. We’ve heard that the Brewers and White Sox are scouting the team’s spare backstops, and the Diamondbacks are said to be looking for an MLB ready catcher as well.
Cervelli, 28, is out of options and can not go to the minors without first passing through waivers. He’s slated to start the season as Brian McCann’s backup. Jennings hears that Cervelli’s value isn’t all that high, and that a trade would likely involve another team’s out of options player. Spare part for spare part, basically. Here are the Brewers, White Sox, and D’Backs out of options guys, if you’re interested. None of the players who figure to actually be available are all that appealing. · (66) ·
Mariano Rivera has retired and he’s not coming back. After 16 years of enjoying eight inning games thanks to the best reliever in baseball history, the Yankees are beginning an era in which the ninth inning isn’t such a lock anymore. The bullpen anchor is gone, and even though we got a glimpse of what life without Mo was like when he hurt his knee in 2012, this is still going to be a new experience.
The Yankees have stopped short of officially naming David Robertson their new closer, but that is a mere formality at this point. Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, and even Hal Steinbrenner have indicated Robertson will assume ninth inning duties this spring. That’s no surprise. Robertson has been excellent these last three years and has pretty much every quality you’d want in a future closer. He strikes guys out, he gets ground balls, and he has experience working high-leverage innings for a (mostly) contending team in a tough division in a huge market. All the boxes are checked.
At this point, I think we all know what Robertson is and what he can do. He’s primarily a cutter pitcher at this point, mixing in the occasional curveball when ahead in the count. He’s also cut down on his walk rate drastically these last two years, going from 4.7 BB/9 (12.2 BB%) from 2008-11 to a 2.6 BB/9 (7.3 BB%) from 2012-13. Robertson is not the most efficient pitcher in the world, but he has said this spring that he is making an effort to throw fewer pitches and get quicker outs this season. Maybe that leads to him striking out fewer batters but being available three days in a row instead of just two. We’ll see.
There seem to be two opposing schools of thought when it comes to the closer’s role: anyone can do it and not everyone can do it. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Not everyone likes pitching at the end of games — Jeremy Affeldt and LaTroy Hawkins are two notable players who have admitted as much — but way more guys can close than most people initially thought. The fact of the matter is we don’t know how Robertson will react to closing until he does it. I think he’ll be more than fine but what do I know? All we can do is wait a few weeks and see.
Instead of focusing just on Robertson, I want to spend some time exploring what the Yankees are looking at in the post-Rivera years. How the other half lives. That is, basically, a revolving door at closer. Sure, Robertson might be the guy for the next half-decade, but he has not been a closer yet and he’s due to become a free agent after the season. It’s not crazy to think he might not be the team’s closer long-term. Closers like Rivera, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Billy Wagner, and Trevor Hoffman are very rare. Not many guys do the job for ten years or more. There is generally a lot of turnover in the ninth inning.
As of right now, only three teams project to have the same closer on Opening Day 2014 as they did on Opening Day 2012: the Phillies (Papelbon), Braves (Craig Kimbrel), and Padres (Huston Street). (Aroldis Chapman and Glen Perkins took over as their club’s closer a few weeks into the 2012 season, but were not the guys on Opening Day.) Three teams, that’s it. You can go back and check if you want. Furthermore, all four LCS teams last year (Dodgers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers) changed closers at midseason. World Series closers Koji Uehara and Trevor Rosenthal weren’t even their team’s Plan B. Uehara got the job after Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey got hurt, and Rosenthal got it after Jason Motte got hurt, Mitchell Boggs flopped, and Edward Mujica crashed late in the season.
That is the norm. Most teams wind up making changes at closer if not in season, than at some point in the span of two seasons. The Yankees are very fortunate to have Robertson, who is more Rosenthal than Mujica, but in a world without Rivera, they could be looking at a new closer every year or two. Remember what it was like before Mo? John Wetteland for two years, Steve Howe for a year, Steve Farr for three years … on and on. Let’s not forget the postseason either, Rivera was beyond brilliant in October and that is irreplaceable. That revolving door is what the next few years of the ninth inning could look like, especially if Robertson proves to be not up to the task or bolts as a free agent next winter.
For this coming season, the Yankees appear to have a more than capable ninth inning man in Robertson. If he can’t hack it, then whichever reliever happens to be pitching the best at the time figures to get a crack at the ninth inning. Maybe that’s Shawn Kelley or Dellin Betances or Adam Warren. Who knows? We’ll worry about that when the time comes. Robertson is as good as any prospective closer in the game, but because of his impending free agency, the ninth inning is still a question long-term. That’s the case for almost every team in baseball and new experience for the Yankees as we know them.
Depending on what happens with the fifth starter spot, the Yankees have either two or three bullpen spots up for grabs in camp. There are something like eight or nine relievers competing for those spots, though some obviously have a better chance than others. Dellin Betances and Cesar Cabral, both of whom pitched with the team last September, have already emerged as the early favorites for big league jobs just two weeks into the Grapefruit League schedule.
Betances, who turns 26 in less than two weeks, continued his strong spring yesterday by pitching around a one out double in an inning of work. He didn’t just pitch around the double, he did it by throwing six straight curveballs to big leaguers Matt Joyce (strikeout) and Wil Myers (ground out). That’s not something Betances would have been able to do in the past. Emphasizing his offspeed stuff is something he’s been working on this spring.
“I feel good right now. I feel good with where my offspeed is. I feel like I can throw it for strikes. It’s been working for me. I’m just trying to better myself with each outing,” said Betances to Bryan Hoch. “I know my offspeed was one of the things that helped me out when I got in trouble with my fastball. I would try to use that to keep myself a little calm with my mechanics. I just tried to take that into this spring, mix my pitches. In the big leagues, everybody can hit fastballs, no matter how hard you throw. I’m just trying to use all my pitches the best way I can.”
Betances is up to 6.1 scoreless innings in camp, striking out five against two walks and two hits. The opponent quality stat at Baseball Reference says he’s been facing mostly big leaguers, which isn’t surprising. He’s been the first guy out of the bullpen in most games. Betances has the size and power stuff the Yankees love, so maybe a roster spot was his to lose coming to camp following last season’s bullpen breakout. If it was, he’s done nothing to lose the spot. If it wasn’t, he’s pushed himself towards the top of the depth chart.
With Cabral, on the other hand, it always felt like he was on the outside of the bullpen competition looking in. At least it did to me. Carrying a second lefty specialist is a luxury, and with Matt Thornton already on board to be the primary guy, passing on Cabral to take a more versatile right-hander makes some sense. It still does, actually. Then again, the best pitchers are the best pitchers, and if another southpaw is one of the seven best relievers in the organization, he should be on the roster come Opening Day.
In 4.1 innings across four appearances this spring, the just-turned-25-year-old Cabral has allowed one hit and two walks, striking out four. Lefties are 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a walk against him. Cabral has not faced the best competition however, basically Double-A level according to that opponent quality metric at B-Ref. He can only face the guys he’s put out there against though, and if he keeps getting outs and handling lefties, he’ll get a longer look and more serious consideration as camp progresses.
So far, after only a handful of Grapefruit League appearances, both Betances and Cabral have done everything they’ve needed to do to secure a big league bullpen job. Neither guy has a spot locked up of course, but they have moved to the front of the pack. Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, and Fred Lewis have pitched well too, so they’re not alone, but others like Robert Coello and Brian Gordon have already managed to pitch themselves out of bullpen consideration. Both Betances and Cabral have made a nice little statement early on and put themselves in good position for a big league job when roster decision time comes.
Spring Training Record: 7-4-1 (58 RS, 44 RA)
Spring Training Games This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Nationals (Tues.), vs. Tigers (Weds. on YES, MLBN), vs. Orioles (Thurs., split squad on YES), @ Phillies (Thurs., split squad), vs. Twins (Fri. on YES), @ Orioles (Sat., split squad on MLBN), vs. Marlins (Sat., split squad in Panama), vs. Braves (Sun., split squad on YES), vs. Marlins (Sun. split squad in Panama)
Top stories from last week:
- The Mariners are scouting David Phelps, though there are no indications a deal is close or even being discussed. The White Sox and Brewers continue to monitor the Yankees’ spare catchers. Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz signed with the Cardinals.
- Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (wrist), Alfonso Soriano (flu), and Manny Banuelos (elbow) all returned to game action. Brendan Ryan (oblique) feels better and hopes to return to the lineup on Wednesday. Tyler Austin (wrist) has resumed hitting. Jose Ramirez (oblique) and Francisco Rondon (shoulder) were both reassigned to minor league camp.
- Michael Pineda struck out four in two scoreless innings in his spring debut. Soriano is taking ground balls at first base to see if he can be an emergency option there.
- Orlando Hernandez has joined the Yankees as a minor league pitching instructor.
- The Yankees ranked 28th in Baseball Prospectus’ 25-and-under talent rankings.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
According to multiple reports, the Cardinals have agreed to a four-year contract with Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz. The deal is reportedly worth a little less than $20M. The Yankees had interest in Diaz and even had him in camp for a private workout a few weeks ago, but they ultimately decided not to make a contract offer. Oh well. · (47) ·