Yankees place Slade Heathcott on 15-day DL with quad strain, call up Ramon Flores

Slade. (Presswire)
Slade. (Presswire)

Earlier today, Joe Girardi told reporters in Oakland the Yankees will place Slade Heathcott on the 15-day DL with a Grade II quad strain. “I can tell you it’ll be longer than 15 days,” said Girardi when asked about a timetable. Ramon Flores has been called up from Triple-A Scranton to fill the roster spot.

Heathcott, 24, told reporters on Thursday that the quad has been bothering him on and off since the offseason. I guess the team sent him for tests at some point, which confirmed the Grade II strain. Chris Capuano suffered a Grade II quad strain in Spring Training and was out from early-March through mid-May, for what it’s worth. Heathcott’s not a starting pitcher who has to get stretched out though.

Girardi said that with both Heathcott and Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) on the DL, he’ll use Brett Gardner in center field more often going forward. That makes sense — Chris Young hasn’t hit for about a month now and Flores is best used in left field. Hopefully Flores gets a chance to play like Heathcott, even if he’s only the left-handed half of a left field platoon with Young.

Flores, 23, has hit .294/.389/.425 (140 wRC+) with four homers in 42 games with Triple-A Scranton this season. This will be his first taste of MLB. Donnie Collins says Flores was in the RailRiders’ lineup tonight before being scratched, so chances are he is not with the Yankees and is still traveling out west. I guess they have to play a man short tonight.

Friday Night Open Thread

Today is day two of the seven-game West Coast swing, which means another 10pm ET start. Sigh. The regular game thread will be along a little closer to game time, so, until then, talk about anything here in the open thread. The Mets are playing, MLB Network is showing a regional game, and the (hockey) Rangers are playing Game Seven of their third round matchup with the Lightning (8pm ET on NBCSN). Kind of a big deal! Go root for the Rangers while you wait for the Yankees.

2015 Draft: Ashe Russell

Ashe Russell | RHP

Background
The 18-year-old Russell attends Cathedral High School in Indianapolis and is committed to Texas A&M. He’s been on the radar as a draft prospect for years and has consistently performed well against elite high school competition in showcase events.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs., Russell has the big frame scouts love, and he generates a ton of movement thanks to his low arm slot. His fastball sits 92-95 mph and runs all over the place, though he’s able to command it well. A hard low-80s slider that takes a sharp left turn just before it reaches the plate is his out pitch. Russell doesn’t have a changeup — he hasn’t needed one in high school — and while he’ll need one at the next level, his fastball/slider combo will always be his break and butter. There’s some concern Russell won’t handle lefties well enough to remain in the rotation long-term.

Miscellany
MLB.com, Baseball America, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Russell as the 14th, 17th, and 31st best prospect in the draft class in their most recent rankings, respectively. For what it’s worth, Baseball America said the Yankees were in on Russell in their second to last mock draft. The Yankees pick 16th and 30th this year and Russell’s a divisive prospect — some see a high-end starter and others see a reliever. I’m not sure if he’s someone who will still be on the board when that 30th pick comes up.

2015 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v4.0

Ponce. (Cal Poly)
Ponce. (Cal Poly)

It’s Friday, which means John Manuel of Baseball America has posted his updated mock draft. It’s free to read. You don’t need a subscription. This week Manuel has the Diamondbacks taking Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick, and that seems to be the consensus now. There is no clear top prospect this year, so the D’Backs have been in on everyone, but lately everything seems to be converging towards Swanson.

This week Manuel has the Yankees taking Cal Poly Pomona RHP Cody Ponce with their first pick, 16th overall. Here’s my profile on Ponce. The Yankees have been connected to Ponce, a big right-hander with a deep repertoire who isn’t as refined as the typical college hurler, for a few weeks now. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer loves physically huge Southern California pitchers and that’s Ponce.

With the 30th overall selection, the compensation pick for David Robertson, Manuel has the Yankees selecting California HS C Chris Betts. Here’s my profile on Betts. Like Ponce, the Yankees have been connected to Betts for several weeks now. He’s a bat first catcher with huge left-handed power, maybe the most in the draft, but he’s not a lock to stay behind the plate. It’s not impossible, Betts just has work to do defensively.

Within the write-up Manuel notes the team “wants an arm,” and while the Yankees “don’t mind dealing with tough signability … they remain unlikely to gamble with difficult medical issues.” Manuel notes they also prefer Ponce to Louisville RHP Kyle Funkhouser, who has a big arm but is tumbling down draft boards because he was missing 5-6 mph in his last start. Yikes.

Eric Jagielo in position to help the Yankees in the future … or at the trade deadline

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two years ago the Yankees had three first round picks thanks to the free agent departures of Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano. They desperately needed to add impact talent to the system at the time, and by and large they succeeded, mostly with OF Aaron Judge. Judge was the compensation pick for Swisher. LHP Ian Clarkin, the comp pick for Soriano, had a strong season in 2014 but has been dealing with elbow woes this year.

The third of those three first rounders — or really the first since it was New York’s natural first round pick — was 3B Eric Jagielo, who this year is emerging as a top power hitting prospect with Double-A Trenton. He went into yesterday’s doubleheader hitting .297/.380/.568 (166 wRC+) with an Eastern League leading nine home runs while ever so slightly cutting strikeout rate from 24.4% last year to 22.9%.

For some reason there seemed to be a sense of disappointment with Jagielo’s 2014 season, maybe because he wasn’t as overwhelmingly dominant as Judge. Jagielo, now 23, missed about a month with an oblique strain last year but otherwise hit .256/.351/.461 (132 wRC+) with a 10.6 BB% with High-A Tampa. Heck, he hit one more home run than Judge (18 to 17) in 178 fewer plate appearances.

Jagielo was supposed to join Judge in the Arizona Fall League last fall, but he took a pitch to the face in Instructional League and needed surgery to repair a fracture. Thankfully he fully recovered and is back to mashing baseballs, which is great for the Yankees. As a left-handed power hitter willing to draw walks, Jagielo is tailor made for Yankee Stadium, and he isn’t terrible far away from MLB. The second half of 2016 isn’t an unrealistic timetable.

There’s also this: Jagielo’s strong season makes him an attractive trade chip for the Yankees. Teams aren’t stupid, they make trades based on their own internal evaluations, not the player’s FanGraphs page, but Jagielo’s performance is the kind of performance that can get a player noticed and bring scouts back for another look. Offense and especially power are hard to find these days and Jagielo offers it. That he’s now doing it in Double-A instead of High-A will make him even more attractive.

(MiLB.com)
(MiLB.com)

Obviously Jagielo is not a perfect prospect. He doesn’t really have a position. He’s currently playing third base but his defense at the hot corner isn’t all that good, so much so that there’s at least some talk of moving him to a corner outfield spot or first base. Jagielo’s bat would play at either position though clearly he would be most valuable at third base, where the Yankees have Chase Headley in year one of his new four-year contract. Kind of a problem there.

Both Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira will be become free agents after next season, so right field and first base are opening up soon. Jagielo could be an option there. I know we’ve all kinda been earmarking those spots for Judge and 1B Greg Bird, respectively, but who knows? That’s a long time away in prospect years and lots can change. Who’s to say Jagielo won’t be the team’s best first base option in 16 months? I don’t think it’s farfetched at all.

Either way, the Yankees have lots of options with Jagielo, who is having a tremendous season to date and looks very much like the power/patience left-handed force he was expected to be at the time of the draft. They have the option of holding onto him, seeing what spots open up in the next year and change, or using him in a trade to bolster another part of the team this year since they do have Headley locked in at third base. There’s an argument to made both ways.

Personally, I think the Yankees are at a point where they should hang on to Jagielo and see how the roster shakes out. His offense could be a very welcome addition to the lineup at some point in the next two years. At the same time, they shouldn’t close the door on any trades. That would be foolish. Jagielo could net them a piece that better fits their roster going forward, say a young pitcher or middle infielder, and that’s a move they have to be open to making if the opportunity presents itself.

Right now, Jagielo is living up to his first round draft slot much like Judge, which is something the Yankees really needed given their run of (thus far) unproductive top picks from 2007-12. Jagielo’s success gives the team some options going forward, including the option to keep him and the option to use him in a trade.