Three small, easy moves the Yankees can make to improve the margins of the roster

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Even with last night’s disappointing come-from-ahead loss to the Blue Jays, the Yankees have won 13 of their last 17 games, and they’ve played well in just about all phases of the game. Not truly great but good enough. They’re getting just enough offense and just enough starting pitching to support a strong team defense and a dominant bullpen.

The Yankees are not without their flaws, of course. The bottom of the order is mostly unproductive, like half the roster is at risk of physically breaking down in any given game, and some of the spare part players are providing little help. Garrett Jones failing to make that scoop in the eighth inning last night is a prime example. It was a tough play but one that has to be made.

The trade deadline is still several weeks away and the Yankees are unlikely to make a major roster move anytime soon. By major I mean adding a new everyday player to the lineup or a new starter to the rotation. (Chris Capuano is two weeks away from returning. That’s about as big as it’ll get until July.) The Yankees do have the ability to make some small upgrades to the margins of the roster though, and they don’t even have to go outside the organization to do it. Here are three that jump to mind.

Swap Petit For Pirela

This one is really straight forward. The Yankees were planning to call up Jose Pirela last Wednesday before Masahiro Tanaka got hurt and threw a wrench into things. Tanaka’s injury allowed the team to recall Gregorio Petit one day after sending him down and extend Pirela’s rehab assignment, which was actually a good thing because Pirela himself told Dan Pfeiffer he didn’t feel his swing was all the way back just yet.

Pirela went 0-for-11 with three strikeouts in his first three rehab games before the Tanaka injury and has gone 12-for-22 (.545) with five doubles, one homer, two walks, and no strikeouts in five games since. I suppose that doesn’t necessarily mean he feels his swing is back to where it needs to be, but yeah. It sure seems like Pirela back on track after missing close to a month with the concussion.

For whatever reason Joe Girardi considers Petit a legitimate platoon option — he pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth inning last night! — but he’s not that type of player. Petit’s not much of a hitter at all. He’s been in pro ball since 2003 and has never really hit. No reason expect it to happen now unless he’s made a sacrifice to the BABIP gods. Pirela’s defense is not on par with Petit’s but his offense figures to be so far superior.

Petit surprisingly has an option left and that’s good. He’s worth stashing in Triple-A as middle infield depth since Brendan Ryan can’t even rehab one injury without hurting something else. This is a very simple move. Send down Petit, activate Pirela off the disabled list, and platoon him with Stephen Drew at second. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Swap Shreve Or Martin For Lindgren

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

I am going to die on the Jacob Lindgren hill this summer, aren’t I? New York’s top draft pick last year has struck out 14 of 50 batters faced in Triple-A and 24 of the 30 balls he’s allowed to be put in play have been ground balls. His career numbers are even better — 40.3% strikeouts and 80.6% grounders in 35 innings. Total domination from a quick moving college reliever.

The Yankees have played a lot of close games lately and both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have been worked hard. Betances pitched for the sixth time in the last nine games last night and Miller has appeared in five of nine. This is just one of those stretches where they’ve been needed a lot — at some point later this season they’ll go five or six days between appearances, that’s baseball — so anything the Yankees can do to make their lives easier, they should.

Last night Girardi turned to Chris Martin in the eighth inning and that didn’t work — he got one out and allowed two hits. That’s after nearly allowing a homer to Mookie Betts over the weekend. Furthermore, Chasen Shreve seems to be the quintessential “last guy in the bullpen.” He’s pitched in either mop-up spots or extra innings. These two have done nice work overall this year, but I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again: you don’t let guys like that block someone like Lindgren.

The Yankees didn’t select Lindgren with their top pick last year because they think he’s a middle reliever. They believe he’s an impact reliever, and there’s no such thing as too many impact relievers. Betances and Miller are unbelievable. Betances, Miller, and Lindgren might be even better. Or it might not! At some point you have to find out, right? Lindgren’s a possible late-inning weapon. Martin and Shreve are the bullpen flavors of the week. Send down one, call up Lindgren, and let’s see what he’s got to offer.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Give Carpenter More Responsibility

This David Carpenter thing is crazy, isn’t it? It certainly appears Girardi does not trust him, possibly because of that big meltdown in Baltimore a few weeks ago. Carpenter threw one pitch in the Red Sox series and that was only because the bullpen was short-handed and Girardi had no choice to use him. Carpenter’s thrown six innings in the last 22 games and 3.2 of those six innings came with the Yankees up by at least six runs.

Games like last night are pretty much the exact situation I had in mind when the Yankees acquired Carpenter. Starter goes seven innings, one of Miller or Betances isn’t available, so Carpenter is the guy to pick up the slack. That’s basically what he did for the Braves the last two years, when he had a 2.63 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 126.2 innings. Isn’t that the kind of pitcher who deserves a longer leash than one meltdown before being banished to the far corner of the bullpen?

Girardi is usually really good with his bullpen usage and decisions, I mean really really good, yet Carpenter has fallen out of favor for whatever reason. I really don’t understand it. With Betances and Miller overworked, this is the time to show a little more faith in the right-hander in high-leverage spots. At least more faith than Martin. Carpenter’s pitched in late-inning situations before and he’s capable of doing it again. He just needs the opportunity. There’s no reason to hide him.

* * *

These aren’t major moves and no, they’re unlikely to have a big impact. They are potential upgrades though, potential upgrades with minimal downside. Swap Petit for Pirela and work Lindgren and Carpenter into the late-inning mix ahead of Martin and Shreve. Nothing crazy here. These are three easy-to-make moves — really two moves and one role change — and three possible upgrades that could help the Yankees sustain this recent hot stretch a little longer.

DotF: Judge picks up three hits, Trenton loses anyway

Got a couple notes to pass along before we get to the game action:

  • Ben Badler (subs. req’d) has a firsthand scouting report from RHP Luis Severino‘s most recent start. Severino’s fastball was “parking at 94-96 mph the entire game and topping out at 97,” plus he was “flashing a pair of secondary pitches in his slider and changeup that were swing-and-miss offerings at times but were still inconsistent.” Sounds about right.
  • The Yankees have released 3B Christopher Tamarez, according to Matt Eddy. They signed him for $650,000 as one of their top international signings in 2011, but Tamarez hit only .261/.318/.337 in 192 pro games, none above rookie ball. Also, Eddy says the RHP Jordan Foley was placed on the 7-day DL. Not sure what happened there.
  • And finally, ex-Yankees farmhand RHP Jeff Karstens announced his retirement on Twitter. He was the team’s 19th round pick in 2003, threw 57.1 innings in pinstripes from 2006-07, then was traded to the Pirates in the Xavier Nady deal. Karstens retired with a 4.44 ERA (4.55 FIP) in 592.1 innings and made nearly $8M. Not bad for a 19th rounder.

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day.

Double-A Trenton (6-1 loss to Erie)

  • DH Jake Cave: 0-5
  • RF Aaron Judge: 3-4, 1 R — 10-for-21 (.476) in his last four games
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • 3B Eric Jagielo: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — seven of his last nine hits have been doubles
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 PB, 1 E (throwing)
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-4, 1 K
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 5/1 GB/FB — only 30 of 65 pitches were strikes (46%) … had four walks in 16.1 innings coming into this game
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 27 of 37 pitches were strikes (73%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%)

[Read more…]

Whitley brilliant but unfortunate series of events dooms the Yankees in a 3-1 loss to Blue Jays

So, let’s start with the good news: Chase Whitley looked like an ace out there. He’s definitely earned more trust with that gem. Okay, time for bad news: pretty much everything else that happened after he left. The Yankees had a chance to extend the winning streak to four and nail the first game of the series in the Rogers Centre, but the painful eighth inning got in the way and New York lost 3-1. For now, just be happy that we are still in the first place. Can’t win them all.

Ace (Source: Getty)

Chase the ace:

Whitley tossed seven scoreless innings, gave up six hits, no walks and struck out six. That’s a great line and yet it still doesn’t feel like it doesn’t do justice on how well he pitched tonight. He hit corners, lured hitters, changed speeds and made some great hitters look silly.

Only major blunder from Chase tonight came from the third inning. With one out, Ezequiel Carrera tried to bunt for a base hit. Whitley picked up the ball but did not get a complete grip and threw it way off target. Carrera advanced to third. Fortunately, Whitley got Devon Travis to strike out swinging and Josh Donaldson to ground out to end the inning. Phew.

It’s only been two ML starts for Whitley this season but he’s shown the ability to strike out hitters (11 K’s in 12 IP) and throw strikes (only 1 walk allowed). Definitely don’t expect him to maintain this sub-1.00 ERA but two sharp outings against division rivals is encouraging.

Roger Centre is no paradise (Source: Getty)

The eighth inning of doom:

Chase Whitley was mostly a reliever in minors. He did not adapt to a regular starting role until last year and needless to say, I don’t think it was a horrible decision to pull him after 90 pitches thrown, especially with the caliber of bullpen the Yankees have. Joe Girardi put in Chris Martin, who has essentially put himself into the Circle of Trust this season.

Martin got the reigning AL Rookie of the Month Devon Travis to ground out. Josh Donaldson followed that up with a single and so did Jose Bautista. With the cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion coming up, Girardi sub’d in Dellin Betances. On the first pitch curveball that the slugger did not particularly hit well … the ball dropped in front of Brett Gardner by the left field line for a fair ball and a run scored. Just last night, a David Ortiz line drive with bases loaded sucked right into the center fielder’s glove, and tonight, a blooper by Encarnacion falls right by the line and becomes a game-tying double. Go figure.

Former Yankee Russell Martin came in to pinch hit. With the count full, the catcher hit a hard grounder down the line that Chase Headley somehow caught. Headley’s throw, however, eluded Garrett Jones‘s glove as the first baseman couldn’t handle the hard bouncer in front of him. Two more Jays runs scored. 3-1 Toronto. Sigh. Mark Teixeira definitely would have handled that throw better but I don’t think it was an easy throw to cleanly scoop.

Leftovers:

Carlos Beltran went 1-for-3 but he did hit the ball hard on all three at-bats. He also hit a leadoff double in the seventh inning that got the only Yankee scoring going. I do have to mention that the only pitcher he faced tonight was R.A. Dickey, who is not exactly an overpowering guy, but Beltran’s bat seemed to show some life since the Red Sox series, which is good.

Brett Gardner walked twice but his six-game hitting streak came to an end as he also went 0-for-2. Jacoby Ellsbury did not go 4-for-4 tonight but he did get a hit so it’s 1-for-4 instead. Unlike last night, tonight’s game went by quite quickly but then again, I would definitely trade the faster pace of game for some more Yankee runs.

Box Scores, WPA, Standings:

Here is the box score and updated standings. Oh, and WPA.


Source: FanGraphs


What’s next:

The series continues at Toronto tomorrow. #BigMike goes against Marco Estrada, who gave up tons of homers last year (1.73 HR/9). Hope there’s another winning streak starting soon.

Game 26: We Play Today, We Win Today, Das It

Sorry Chase, but I had to use this photo. (Presswire)
Sorry Chase, but I had to use this photo. (Presswire)

The Yankees are coming off a pretty damn awesome three-game sweep of the Red Sox in Fenway Park, their best and most impressive series since at least 2012. I still have a baseball hangover. Tonight’s series-opener against the Blue Jays in Toronto almost feels like a trap game after such a hectic and nail-biter of a win last night. Hopefully that isn’t the case.

You know what the Yankees could really use tonight? A blowout win. A blowout win and at least six innings from Chase Whitley so Chasen Shreve and either Chris Martin or Esmil Rogers can handle the rest. Both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have worked a lot lately — they’ve both pitched in five of the last eight games — and it would be nice to give them a real night off, a night in which they don’t even have to think about warming up. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. 2B Stephen Drew
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Garrett Jones
  8. C John Ryan Murphy
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Chase Whitley

It’s cloudy and cool in Toronto this evening. Not sure if they’ll have the Rogers Centre roof open or not though. First pitch is scheduled. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy the game.

2015 Draft: Donny Everett

Donny Everett | RHP

Background
The 18-year-old Everett attends Clarksville High School in Tennessee and is committed to Vanderbilt. He made the jump from interesting prospect to high-end prospect at the World Wood Bat Championships last August, where he was the hardest thrower in the tournament and performed well against other elite prep players.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 lbs., Everett is a big boy and pretty close to maxed out physically, which is fine because he already sits 92-95 mph. He regularly touched 97-98 last summer and has reportedly hit 100 a few times this spring. Everett’s secondary pitches lag behind his fastball, with his hard low-80s slider showing more MLB readiness than his mid-80s changeup. You wouldn’t necessarily guess it from his size, but Everett is a really good athlete, which is why most expect him to be able to tone down his high-effort delivery and improve his location going forward. With that big durable frame and a good feel for pitching, Everett has all the look of a future workhorse.

Miscellany
Keith Law (subs. req’d), Baseball America, and MLB.com ranked Everett as the 17th, 27th, and 31st best prospect in the draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. For what it’s worth, Law said he’s heard the Yankees have been “heavy” on Everett this spring in his chat last week (subs. req’d). The Yankees pick 16th and 30th this year, and it has historically been tough to buy kids away from Vanderbilt, so they’d probably have to take Everett with the 16th pick and pay him accordingly. (Slot for the 16th pick is $2.54M.) Everett’s not just an arm strength high schooler, he has the ability to do more than throw hard, but he’ll need quite a bit of refinement going forward.

5/4 to 5/6 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are in Toronto for a three-game set starting tonight as they look to win their sixth consecutive series. They haven’t won six straight series since late-June/early-July 2011, when they won seven straight. Yeah, it’s been a while. It’s worth noting new turf was installed at Rogers Centre this offseason and everyone seems to hate it. Players have said it’s too soft and spongy, and it slows down batted balls significantly, enough that MLB is monitoring the new surface.

What Have The Blue Jays Done Lately?

The Blue Jays dropped a slugfest to the Indians yesterday afternoon (final score: 10-7) and split the four-game series in Cleveland. They’ve lost seven of their last ten games overall and are in the AL East cellar with a 12-14 record and a +6 run differential. The Yankees and Blue Jays played in Yankee Stadium in the very first series of the season, as you probably remember. Toronto won two of three.

Offense & Defense

The Blue Jays look quite a bit different than when he was saw them. SS Jose Reyes (rib) and C Dioner Navarro (hamstring) are both on the DL, UTIL Steve Tolleson has been designated for assignment, and OF Dalton Pompey was sent to Triple-A because he wasn’t hitting. They Jays are the highest scoring team in baseball, averaging 5.54 runs per game with a team 109 wRC+.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The middle of Toronto’s lineup is straight up terrifying even though OF Jose Bautista (128 wRC+) is having some BABIP issues (.213) and 1B Edwin Encarnacion (75 wRC+) has yet to really get going. Those two plus 3B Josh Donaldson (155 wRC+) are as good as any three hitters in any other lineup in the baseball, at least on paper. Add in surprising rookie 2B Devon Travis (180 wRC+) and you’ve got four really scary right-handed hitters atop the lineup.

Bautista is nursing a throwing shoulder issue and has been limited to DH duty for about a week now. OF Ezequiel Carrera (244 wRC+ in very limited time) and 3B/OF Danny Valencia (155 wRC+) have been platooning in his place. OF Kevin Pillar (97 wRC+) and OF Michael Saunders (70 wRC+) are the other two regular outfielders. C Russell Martin (138 wRC+) is the everyday catcher and OF Ryan Goins (75 wRC+) and UTIL Jonathan Diaz (-38 RC+ in very limited time) have been platooning at short with Reyes out. C Josh Thole and 1B Justin Smoak are also on the bench.

The Blue Jays are a sound defensive team with elite defenders at third base (Donaldson) and behind the plate (Martin). Pillar has been excellent this year as well, first in left and now in center with Pompey demoted. Saunders and Carrera are above-average glovemen while Valencia looks very much like a third baseman playing the outfield. Travis is adequate at second and the Goins/Diaz tandem is good at short. Encarnacion’s not much of a defender at first. He’s in the lineup for his bat.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Chase Whitley (Career vs. TOR) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (Career vs. NYY)
Dickey, 40, is off to a rough start this season, with a 5.23 ERA (5.50 FIP) in five starts and 31 innings. His strikeout (14.9%), ground ball (43.8%), and home run (1.45 HR/9) rates are all below average, and Dickey’s walk rate has climbed from 5.8% in 2012 to 7.5% in 2013 to 8.1% in 2014% to 9.7% in 2015. Lefties (.384 wOBA) have hit him a lot harder than righties (.304 wOBA) in the early going. Dickey’s a knuckleballer, you know that, and these days it butterflies in around 75 mph. He throws the knuckler roughly 85% of the time, and the other 15% are show-me low-80s fastballs. The Yankees faced Dickey earlier this year and he held them to one run in 6.1 innings.

Tuesday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (Career vs. NYY)
Late last week rookie left-hander Daniel Norris was sent back to Triple-A after struggling to throw strikes (11.7 BB%), keep the ball on the ground (30.0 GB%), and pitch deep into games (4.2 innings per start). The 31-year-old Estrada is taking his spot in the rotation after pitching to a 0.84 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 10.2 long relief innings. Estrada’s been a starter before — he made 62 starts for the Brewers from 2012-14 — so this won’t be knew to him. Last season he managed to lead MLB with 29 home runs allowed in only 150.2 innings. Estrada’s always been homer and fly ball prone with average strikeout and walk rates. He’s a three-pitch pitcher, using upper-80s fastballs to set up upper-70s changeups and curveballs. The changeup is his go-to secondary pitch. Estrada did not pitch during the series at Yankee Stadium earlier this year.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Wednesday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. TOR) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (Career vs. NYY)
Man, Buehrle is off to a terrible start this year. He’s got a 6.75 ERA (5.89 FIP) and has allowed 47 hits (!) in 28 innings. Egads. No other pitcher who has yet to throw 30 innings has allowed even 40 hits this year. Buehrle’s strikeout rate (8.3%) is at an all-time low, his homer rate (1.93 HR/9) an all-time high, and both his walk (5.3%) and grounder (42.7%) numbers are in line with his career norms. Lefties (.498 wOBA) have crushed him, but it’s a small sample. Righties (.412 wOBA) have hit him really hard too. Buehrle sits in the low-80s with his fastball, has for a few years now, and throws both two and four-seamers in addition to an upper-70s cutter. An upper-70s changeup is his top secondary pitch and either he is throwing the pitch more than ever (~33%), or PitchFX is misclassifying some fastballs as changeups. That’s never good. The Yankees didn’t face Buehrle in the first series of the year.

Bullpen Status
Despite that slugfest with the Indians yesterday, manager John Gibbons didn’t really tax his bullpen too much. RHP Scott Copeland (5.14 FIP) threw two innings and RHP Miguel Castro (4.76 FIP) needed 33 pitches to get four outs, and that’s about it. Ex-Yankees LHP Jeff Francis (3.14 FIP) got one out as well. No one on the staff has pitched in both of the last two games.

LHP Brett Cecil (6.14 FIP) has resumed closing and his primary setup men are RHP Roberto Osuna (1.76 FIP) and LHP Aaron Loup (4.69 FIP). Castro and Osuna are the two youngest players in MLB right now — they’re both only 20. RHP Liam Hendriks (1.54 FIP) is the last man in the bullpen. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for an update on New York’s bullpen and then head over to Andrew Stoeten’s site for everything you need to know about the Blue Jays.

Yankeemetrics: May 1-3 (Red Sox)

Number 660 for Al from Miami (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Number 660 for Al from Miami. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The Not Milestone Home Run
Alex Rodriguez just doesn’t do normal. So it was hardly surprising when his 660th career home run on Friday night played out like a movie script: a pinch-hit, tie-breaking solo shot in the eighth inning that not only silenced the unremitting boos of the Fenway crowd but also lifted the Yankees to a critical win over the Red Sox.

Although he’s had his share of dramatic longballs in his career, this home run was far from predictable for A-Rod:

• Before Friday, he was 1-for-19 as a pinch-hitter (including the postseason) and that lone hit was a single in 2013. Of those 19 at-bats, only three times did he even hit the ball to the outfield.
• He swung away on a 3-0 pitch and hit just the third homer of his career on a 3-0 count. The others were in 2001 off Barry Zito and 2009 off Ervin Santana.
• The pitch that went over the Green Monster was a 94 mph fastball from Junichi Tazawa; prior to the homer, A-Rod was 1-for-13 in at-bats ending in pitches at least 94 mph this season.

Matching Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list wasn’t the only history that A-Rod made with that swing of the bat.

He also became the first Yankee to hit a go-ahead pinch-hit home run at Fenway since Johnny Blanchard in 1961. And the homer was his fourth against the Red Sox in the eighth inning or later that gave the Yankees the lead – twice as many as any other Yankee has hit in the last 50 years.

Evolution of Eovaldi
The Yankees clinched their fifth straight series win this season with a 4-2 victory against the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon. It’s also the fourth series in a row at Fenway Park that they’ve taken from the Red Sox.

Nathan Eovaldi turned in another strong outing by holding the Red Sox to just two runs while pitching into the seventh inning. For the first time all season, his four-seam fastball was a legit weapon, netting him 14 outs and allowing just two hits off the pitch. Entering the game, batters were hitting .481 in at-bats ending in his heater, the worst mark among all pitchers this season (min. 100 fastballs).

With Joe Girardi deciding to rest the official non-closer, Dellin Betances got his first save opportunity of the season and left no doubt that he could handle the pressure of closing out a game. He entered in the eighth inning and needed just 14 pitches to strike out all four batters he faced to secure the 4-2 win.

How impressive was that performance? Betances joined Goose Gossage (May 14, 1982) and Mariano Rivera (June 24, 2009) as the only Yankee relievers to record a save of at least four outs and strike out every batter he faced.

Brooms out in Beantown
The Yankees improved to 16-9 with a win on Sunday night, giving them their first series sweep of three-or-more games at Fenway Park since the epic five-game sweep in August 2006.

Jacoby Ellsbury is scorching hot right now and added four more hits on Sunday night, bringing his season batting average up to .351. He is the first Yankee outfielder to go 4-for-4 or better against the Red Sox since Dave Winfield in 1985. Ellsbury also walked and was hit by a pitch, becoming the first Yankee to reach base six times in a nine-inning game against Red Sox since Snuffy Stirnweiss in 1945.

Brett Gardner put the game out of reach with a three-run homer in the sixth inning to make it 8-0, the second straight day he plated three runs against Boston. He’s the first Yankee left fielder with back-to-back games of at least three RBI and two hits against the Red Sox since Mickey Mantle in 1966.

Despite a shaky ninth inning during which he loaded the bases, Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless frame for his 10th save in 10 tries this season. Miller is the second Yankee to convert his first 10 save opportunities with the team (since saves became an official stat in 1969), joining Tippy Martinez in 1975-1976.