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Oct
24

Weekend Open Thread

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Here is your open thread for tonight and the next two nights as well. The Royals and Giants resume the World Series in a little bit (Guthrie vs. Hudson, 8pm ET on FOX), plus both the Knicks (preseason) and Devils (regular season) are playing. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Categories : Open Thread
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Baseball America published their 2014 Draft Report Card for the Yankees earlier this week, though it is behind the paywall. It’s fairly straight forward anyway. LHP Jacob Lindgren (2nd round) has the best secondary pitch (his slider) and is closest to the big leagues. RHP Austin DeCarr (3) has the best fastball, OF Mark Payton (7) is the best pure hitter, and 1B Chris Gittens (12) is the best power hitter. No real surprises there.

In a free companion piece, Clint Longenecker broke down some recent draft spending trends from around the league. The Yankees exceeded their $3.2M pool and were only $70k away from a 5% overage this summer, which would have forced them to forfeit their first round pick in 2015. Thankfully that didn’t happen. They were also one of three teams to sign just one high school player (DeCarr). The Astros and Phillies did it as well. You can see all of New York’s draft picks right here and their draft pool situation right here. (My numbers are approximate.)

Categories : Asides, Draft
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(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Last offseason, the Yankees sought to improve their offense by signing big name free agents, and that led to both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran wearing pinstripes. With Brett Gardner earmarked for left field and Alfonso Soriano in tow, Ichiro Suzuki was suddenly a man without a job. Not a full-time job anyway.

Ichiro had been relegated to a fifth outfielder’s role before pitchers and catchers even reported to Spring Training. He was going to be a pinch-runner and defensive replacement specialist. That’s pretty much it. To his credit, Ichiro didn’t complain about being forced into a low-profile role when Spring Training rolled around, at least not publicly.

“This is a place where the greatest players gather and play, so I’m really excited to play with those guys,” he said to Chad Jennings in February. “Obviously with the additions, I’m going to have to find a place for myself, but I worked hard this offseason. I worked on a lot of things, and throughout Spring Training, hopefully those things will come together and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

After the Yankees unsuccessfully tried to trade him — they offered to eat $4.5M of his $6.5M salary to send him to the Astros — Ichiro started three of the first six games of the season because Ellsbury’s calf was barking, and he went 6-for-13 (.462) in those three starts. He appeared in 32 of the team’s next 40 games, but 20 of those appearances came as a late-inning defensive replacement. Three other appearances came as a pinch-runner.

Suzuki batted only 69 times in the first 46 games of the season and he was damn good: .369/.406/.431 (139 wRC+). He had settled into his new role wonderfully. It was very reminiscent of the 1996-2000 Yankees, who had former greats like Tim Raines and Wade Boggs excelling in reduced roles because they accepted them. They weren’t jonesin’ for more playing time.

In late-May, the bone spur in Beltran’s elbow flared up and Soriano’s season-long slump started to become untenable. Ichiro’s playing time soon went up and his production went down as a result. Beginning with May 23rd, he started 45 of the team’s next 56 games and hit .236/.294/.279 (60 wRC+) during that time. That’s more or less what you’d expect considering he .262/.297/.342 (71 wRC+) as a full-time player last season and was now a year older.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

The Yankees put an end to the “Ichiro as an everyday player” experiment at the trade deadline by acquiring Martin Prado with the intention of playing him in right field. Of course, that never really happened. Prado wound up spending a bunch of time at second base because Stephen Drew was so bad, so Ichiro played right field whenever Beltran’s elbow prevented him from throwing, which was basically all the time.

Even after the Prado trade, Ichiro still started 34 of the team’s final 54 games, including 19 starts in 26 September games. He actually hit quite well during that time, putting up a .312/.331/.384 (99 wRC+) batting line in 130 plate appearances. Suzuki finished the season with a .284/.324/.340 (86 wRC+) batting line and one homer in 385 plate appearances. His strikeout rate was a career-high by far at 17.7%. His previous career high was 11.7% in 2010.

Because of Beltran’s elbow and Soriano’s general awfulness, Ichiro started 94 games this past season despite opening the year as the fifth outfielder. He seemed to play better — both coming off the bench and in spot starts — in that role. Once he started playing everyday, it got a little ugly. Ichiro’s defense has slipped over the years — he’s still solidly above-average, no doubt — and it was even more noticeable in 2014. The guy turned 41 yesterday. What do you expect?

Ichiro told reporters after the season that he wants to continue playing, presumably because he wants to get 3,000 hits in MLB (he’s 156 away). He also cryptically referred to some clubhouse issues after Game 162 — “Obviously there’s a lot of things that go on that the fans and the media can’t see, that goes on inside (the clubhouse), but what I can say is that the experiences I had this year, those experiences are going to help me in the future,” he said to Brendan Kuty — though it’s unclear if he was referring to a widespread problem or his own unhappiness.

In all likelihood, the Yankees and Ichiro will go their separate ways this offseason. He’ll look for more playing time and the team has cheaper fifth outfielder options in Eury Perez and Ramon Flores, among others. Ichiro was pretty awesome in the second half of 2012 and again as a part-time player in 2014, but everything in between was not so good. Needing him to play so much this past season definitely contributed to the Yankees missing the postseason for the second straight year.

Categories : Players
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Rays manager Joe Maddon has opted out of his contract and is leaving the organization, the team announced. I’m sure we’ll hear tons about him potentially joining Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers in the coming days and weeks. Or maybe he just has his eye on that open first base coaching job in the Bronx. Times are a changin’ down in Tampa, that’s for sure.

Categories : Asides, Other Teams
Comments (123)

Got six questions in this week’s mailbag. The best way to send us mailbag questions or comments or links or anything else is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Greg asks: What kind of stats can we expected from Rob Refsnyder at the major league level in 2015?

I’m not really sure how to answer this so I’ll start by saying Steamer projects a .262/.328/.390 (102 wRC+) line from Refsnyder next season, which seems reasonable enough to me. (Reminder: Projections are not predictions, they’re an attempt to estimate current talent level.) The jump from Triple-A to MLB is always the toughest, though to his credit Refsnyder never really had any kind of extended adjustment period whenever he was promoted in the minors.

Chad Jennings recently spoke to a scout who compared Refsnyder to Giants second baseman Joe Panik, saying it was a “very good comparison” of “two guys making the most of their ability, and both have the knack of putting the barrel to the ball.” The scout also said Panik was smoother at second base. Panik hit .305/.343/.368 (107 wRC+) with an 11.5% strikeout rate after a midseason callup this summer, and I’m pretty sure we’d all be thrilled if Refsnyder did that next year. It’s worth noting Refsnyder’s minor league track record is way better than Panik’s as well.

I think Refsnyder’s gaudy minor league numbers may have set expectations unreasonably high. If he comes up and hits like, .270/.330/.400 while playing a bit below average defensively, people are going to call him just another over-hyped Yankees prospect or whatever. It’s inevitable. In reality, .270/.330/.400 would be pretty damn awesome and huge upgrade for the Yankees at second base. I think his introduction to MLB might be similar to Brett Gardner‘s — up and down a few times the first year before settling in the second year.

T.J. asks: I know it is unlikely that the Cleveland Indians decline Mike Aviles’ option, or trade him, but wouldn’t he be one of the best options out there for the Yankees, at shortstop? He also offers more infield versatility.

I would prefer Aviles more as a bench player than a starting shortstop, though he does meet the relatively low standard of “better than Brendan Ryan” though. The 33-year-old Aviles hit .247/.273/.343 (74 wRC+) for the Indians this year and he’s been at that level for three full seasons now (75 wRC+ in 2012 and 79 wRC+ in 2013). He’s a righty but his numbers against lefties aren’t all that good (82 wRC+ since 2012), and, depending on the stat, he’s somewhere between below-average and average at short. Aviles can play second, third, and left field in a pinch as well.

Aviles. (Presswire)

Aviles. (Presswire)

The Indians have a $3.5M club option for Aviles and that’s kinda pricey for a player who has been just above replacement level the last two years, but then again guys capable of playing shortstop are hard to find. I’d be happy if the Yankees replaced Ryan with Aviles as their backup infielder, though that’s a relatively small upgrade. Not something that will make a huge difference. I would much prefer bringing Stephen Drew back on a one-year “prove yourself” contract than settle for starting someone like Aviles at short. He’s a pure bench player for me and has been for Cleveland the last two years.

Daniel asks: Maybe this is a stupid question since it’s so unlikely. But, to me signing Adam LaRoche would be a good move for this roster. Not saying it’s top priority or anything, but doesn’t a modest two-year deal for LaRoche to split time with Mark Teixeira at 1B and take a few DH at-bats seem like a good idea? He is a lock to play more games than Tex, and he still is good for 25 HR and probably more in Yankee Stadium.

I don’t see LaRoche as a fit at all. He’d help the offense and I’m sure he’d mash a bunch of homers in Yankee Stadium, but the Yankees don’t need another full-time first baseman who soaks up DH at-bats. He doesn’t fit the roster. Square peg, round hole, etc.

The Yankees need someone who can play another position — third base or right field are obvious spots — and back up first base easily. Someone who was able to do what Nick Swisher did from 2009-12, play another position full-time and sub in at first in a pinch. Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Alex Rodriguez are enough first base/DH types for one roster. LaRoche doesn’t make any sense for this team as is.

Nik asks: Reading your Chase Headley review got me to thinking: Has there ever been a player who played for two teams on the same day? Gotten hits for two teams on the same day?

Yes! It’s happened once in baseball history. On August 4th, 1982, Joel Youngblood played for the Mets against the Cubs in the afternoon and then for the Expos against the Phillies at night. He even traveled from Chicago to Philadelphia between games. Here is the box score for the first game, the box score for the second game, and the Wikipedia blurb:

On August 4, 1982, Youngblood became the only player in history to get hits for two different teams in two different cities on the same day. After Youngblood had driven in two runs with a single in the third inning for the Mets in an afternoon game at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs, he was replaced in center field by Mookie Wilson, and traded to the Montreal Expos for a player to be named later (On August 16, the Expos sent Tom Gorman to the Mets to complete the deal). Youngblood rushed to Philadelphia in order to be with his new team, and hit a seventh-inning single. Interestingly, the two pitchers he hit safely against, Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs and Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies, are both in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Isn’t that neat? Maybe it’ll happen again someday.

Brian asks: Not sure if you know or can answer this one, but do you have any idea on the process for doing an MLB schedule? Just seems like a massive undertaking.

ESPN put together a 30-for-30 Short on the making of the schedule a year ago. Here’s the 12-minute video (it autoplays), and here’s the short version: MLB executive Harry Simmons drew up the schedule each year until the husband and wife team of Henry and Holly Stephenson were hired in 1982. They created the schedule every season until 2005, when MLB started using a computer system that randomly generates the schedule each year.

The Stephensons, who did much of the work by hand, had to deal with several division realignments and the introduction of interleague play over the years. MLB and MLBPA have a bunch of collectively bargained rules about travel and off-days and all that, plus each team had special requests each year (home for this holiday, away for that week, etc.), so yeah, it was a massive undertaking. I can’t really explain how they did it, it’s incredibly complex. Check out the video when you get a chance. Nowadays it seems like they just input a bunch of criteria and the computer spits out a schedule, which is how you end up with Derek Jeter playing his final game in Fenway Park rather than Yankee Stadium.

Mark Appel and the new pitch count in the AzFL. (Presswire)

Mark Appel and the new pitch clock in the AzFL. (Presswire)

George asks: Any update on the “make the game go faster” changes from the Arizona Fall League?

Unsurprisingly, many players aren’t a fan of the rule changes at this point. Players are routine-oriented and this breaks the routine they’ve been developing their entire life. Not being able to step out of the batter’s box between pitches, being forced to make the next pitch within 20 seconds … yeah I’m sure it’s an adjustment. Alexis Brudnicki recently spoke to some players about the rule changes, so check that out. Here’s one quote:

“It’s tough,” (Dodgers prospect Corey) Seager said. “You almost feel rushed. It’s not your normal (routine) where you can take your time, get your rhythm. It’s kind of on somebody else’s rhythm. It was a little rushed … getting on and off the field, getting your stuff done in the dugout and in the box mainly because you only have 20 seconds between pitches. You swing and then get right back in—it’s a little weird.”

Salt River Field is the only park with the 20-second pitch clock installed and there have only been a handful of games played their so far. Earlier this week MLB Pipeline reported games with the pitch clock (and some other rule changes) are averaging only two hours and 20 minutes, down from two hours and 51 minutes last year. Knocking a half-hour off the average game time is a pretty big deal, though we are talking about a small sample thus far.

I’m sure some of these rules will be changed and others will be eliminated before they are implemented at the MLB level. I’m sure there will be more complaints from the players, but there’s almost no way to shorten games without forcing them to make some kind of adjustment to their routine. Even shortening up commercial breaks between innings will be a big change for them. Hopefully MLB keeps at it and they come up with some solutions. Games are just too long nowadays.

Categories : Mailbag
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Rawlings announced the 2014 Gold Glove finalists earlier today, and, somewhat surprisingly, no Yankees were among the players selected. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury were their best Gold Glove candidates but neither made it. Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, and Michael Brantley are the left field finalists while Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Eaton, and Adam Jones are up in center.

Here is the full list of finalists. The Gold Glove winners will be announced Friday, November 7th. Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira were the Yankees’ last Gold Glove winners (both 2012).

Categories : Asides
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Oct
23

Thursday Night Open Thread

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Here is your open thread for the night. Today is an off-day for the World Series as the Royals and Giants travel from Kansas City to San Francisco. The Islanders are playing and the Thursday NFL game is the Chargers and Broncos. Feel free to talk about those games or whatever else is on your mind right now.

Categories : Open Thread
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Thursday: Drellich clarifies Hillman was only offered the chance to interview for Newman’s job. He wasn’t offered the job itself. Drellich also says Hillman confirmed he was on a scouting trip to see the Astros and Athletics late in the season, so … Jed Lowrie I guess?

Wednesday: Via Evan Drellich: Former Yankees special assistant Trey Hillman confirmed the team offered him the opportunity to replace the retiring Mark Newman as their VP of Baseball Ops and head farm system honcho. He turned it down because he wanted to get back on the field and coach. “(Brian Cashman) said, ‘Trey, I would never hold you back from that,’” said Hillman, who was recent named the Astros bench coach. Gary Denbo will replace Newman.

In other news, Hillman also said part of his job this summer was scouting free agent-to-be shortstops. “I did three different trips scouting potential free agent shortstops to replace a guy named Jeter,” he said. I don’t think that means the Yankees will definitely sign a free agent shortstop this winter — they could always make a trade or, gasp, go with Brendan Ryan — but they are doing their due diligence. I’m sure Hillman was one of several people the Yankees sent to see the various impending free agent shortstops throughout summer.

Categories : Asides, Front Office
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MLB announced yesterday that Royals closer Greg Holland won the first Mariano Rivera Award, which will be given annually the top reliever in the AL. Craig Kimbrel won the NL version, the Trevor Hoffman Award. The award is voted on by Rivera, Hoffman, and Hall of Fame relievers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, and Goose Gossage.

According to Jon Heyman, Dellin Betances finished second to Holland in the voting for the Mo Award. Zach Britton finished third. Betances threw more innings (90 vs. 62.1) and had a better ERA (1.40 vs. 1.44), FIP (1.64 vs. 1.83), strikeout rate (39.6% vs. 37.5%), and walk rate (7.0% vs. 8.3%) than Holland this past season, as well as more fWAR (3.2 vs. 2.3) and bWAR (3.7 vs. 2.5). But he had 45 fewer saves. A bunch of ex-closers voted for the closer. Such is life.

Categories : Asides
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Severino. (Presswire)

Severino. (Presswire)

In yesterday’s Season Review post, I noted Shane Greene was a big player development success for the Yankees, who turned an under-scouted (due to Tommy John surgery) right-hander into a bonafide Major Leaguer with a 15th round pick, a $100k bonus, and patience. They haven’t had enough success stories like that, so much so that director of player development Pat Roessler was recently let go. I’m pretty sure VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman would have been cut loose as well if he wasn’t retiring.

The Yankees do, however, get just enough from their farm system each year to fill out their roster and make trades. This past season it was Greene in the rotation, Dellin Betances in the bullpen, and Vidal Nuno on the trade market. Last year it was Adam Warren and Preston Claiborne in the bullpen and Corey Black in a trade. They seem to crank out a few supporting players and trade chips every year despite the overall lack of production from the system. Spare parts aren’t a problem. Getting regulars and above-average contributors is.

Anyway, both Joe Girardi and Hal Steinbrenner recently indicated the Yankees will get younger going forward. “At times we ran out four guys, five guys over 35 years old. I don’t think that will happen next year,” said Girardi during his end-of-season press conference. Hal said “there’s no doubt, young players, player development, that’s going to play a big part (going forward)” during a radio interview. They could both be blowing smoke, but I do think they’re sincere.

Incorporating more young players into the roster going forward is a wonderful idea but it’s not easy to pull off. If it was, every team would be doing it. They try, but many fail. That’s baseball. The Yankees are also at a disadvantage because most of their top prospects are in the lower minors and aren’t big league ready, so they’re still a year or two away from the show. Which prospects could help next year, a la Greene or Betances or Black? Let’s look.

The Obvious Candidates
As always, the Yankees have some upper level relievers who are knocking on the door and figure to get an opportunity in 2015. Top 2014 draft pick LHP Jacob Lindgren is the most notable bullpener while others like RHP Nick Rumbelow, LHP Tyler Webb, RHP Nick Goody, and LHP James Pazos could force the issue and get called up at some point. Every team winds up dipping into their farm system for bullpen help at some point and these guys are at the front of the line for the Yankees.

Elsewhere on the roster, both RHP Bryan Mitchell and C John Ryan Murphy have already gotten a taste of the show and are primed for bigger roles if the need arises. Same with RHP Jose Ramirez. I think we’ll finally get to see LHP Manny Banuelos next season as well. He missed just about all of 2012-13 with elbow problems and had an up-and-down 2014, which wasn’t entirely unexpected after the long layoff. With the rust shaken off, Banuelos is finally in position to help the Yankees next summer, either in the rotation or out of the bullpen.

Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

And then there’s 2B Rob Refsnyder, who is very likely to get an extended trial at second base in 2015. It might not happen right away, he might have to spend a few weeks in Triple-A, but I’m very confident it’ll happen at some point. Refsnyder has hit his way into big league consideration but his defense might be what keeps him in the minors a little longer. He’s still rough around the edges at second base after playing the outfield in college. Aside from the relievers, Refsnyder seems like the safest bet to be called up next year.

The Maybes
New York’s two best prospects are OF Aaron Judge and RHP Luis Severino. If you want to debate the order, fine. It doesn’t really matter though. Both are Yankees. Both are also likely to start next season with Double-A Trenton, and any time a top prospect starts a season in Double-A, he’s a candidate to be called up at midseason. The Yankees were very aggressive with the 20-year-old Severino this year in particular, so I’d be less surprised if he debuted in 2015 than I would with Judge.

Defensively-challenged C Gary Sanchez is expected to move up to Triple-A next season, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team distributes playing time between him, Murphy, and C Austin Romine. Sanchez’s climb up the ladder has been deliberate — he’s spent parts of two seasons in Low-A, High-A, and Double-A — and a full year at Scranton is probably in the cards next season. I do think he’ll end up getting a September callup since he’s already on the 40-man roster though.

Other possible call-ups include OF Ramon Flores and OF Taylor Dugas, both of whom spent part of last season with the RailRiders and will return there in 2015. 1B Kyle Roller is in the same boat. 1B/OF Tyler Austin is expected to join them next year and because he plays two positions where the Yankees will need backup (right field and first base), the chances of him making his debut next season are very good. Even if it’s only as a September call-up. Austin will be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

Among the pitchers who could pitch their way into a big league callup are RHP Jaron Long, RHP Zach Nuding, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Danny Burawa, and LHP Matt Tracy. Long is the son of recently dismissed hitting coach Kevin Long but I don’t think that will have any impact on his standing in the organization. This is a business. Jaron knows it, Kevin knows it, the Yankees know it. If he’s the best option to help the team at some point next year, Jaron will get a chance and both he and his father will be thrilled.

The Long Shots
In all likelihood 3B Eric Jagielo, 1B Greg Bird, and DH Dante Bichette Jr. will open next year with Double-A Trenton, though I think they’re further behind Judge and Severino. Jagielo probably has the best chance of debuting in 2015 among these three and that’s only because he plays third base (not well, apparently). If the team needs a first baseman or DH, Austin and/or Roller are head of Bird and Bichette on the depth chart.

OF Jake Cave is in the same situation as those guys — starting the year at Double-A but unlikely to see the show in 2015. If the Yankees need an outfielder, both Austin and Flores will already be on the 40-man roster and in Triple-A. We won’t see young guys like LHP Ian Clarkin, RHP Brady Lail, OF Miguel Andujar, and LHP Daniel Camarena next year. It’s too early for them. We can talk about them more seriously next offseason and even more seriously the offseason after that.

The Trade Chips
Everyone. Seriously. I don’t think the Yankees have any prospects worthy of being deemed untouchable. But, to use an old Brian Cashman phrase, some are more touchable than others. I mean, if the Marlins come calling and say they’re willing to deal Giancarlo Stanton as long as the package starts with Judge and Severino, how do the Yankees say no to that? They shouldn’t give anyone away but everyone should be available in the right situation. Cashman did a great job getting a lot for a little at the trade deadline this year and I’m sure that’s the approach he’ll take going forward.

* * *

The Yankees say they plan to incorporate more youth going forward, and for 2015 that means Refsnyder and a bunch of relievers. That’s really it. The 2016 season is when others like Judge, Severino, Jagielo, and Bird become realistic big league options. It will probably take them a year or three before they have a real impact, but that’s true of every prospect. The process has to start sometime though, and for the Yankees, next season means better late than never.

Categories : Minors
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