4/29 to 5/1 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Even though April is just about over, the Yankees are only now about to play their third series against an AL East team this year. They’ve spent a lot of time playing the AL West already. Weird schedule this year. Anyway, the Yankees are up in Boston to Renew The Rivalryâ„¢ with the Red Sox this weekend. They’ll play three games — all night games too, blah — at Fenway Park.

What Have They Done Lately?

The schedule makers did the Red Sox a solid this year and scheduled them a four-game home-and-home interleague series with the Braves. Atlanta did actually win the series finale yesterday, which is one more game than I expected them to win. The BoSox are 12-10 with a +11 run differential in the early going.

Offense & Defense

The Red Sox were expected to score runs this season and they have done exactly that so far. They’re averaging 5.18 runs per game with a team 117 wRC+ in 2016. Their only injured position player is 3B Pablo Sandoval, who is out with a shoulder problem. He was awful last year and showed up to camp out of shape again this year. I’m guessing the Red Sox aren’t exactly rushing him back.

Ortiz. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Ortiz. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

As always, manager John Farrell’s lineup is built around the still annoyingly productive DH David Ortiz (168 wRC+). I really can’t wait until he retires. RF Mookie Betts (112 wRC+), 2B Dustin Pedroia (156 wRC+), and SS Xander Bogaerts (121 wRC+) usually hit ahead of Ortiz in the lineup. That’s their standard top of the batting order. 1B Hanley Ramirez (87 wRC+) and 3B Travis Shaw (157 wRC+) have been hitting behind Ortiz.

The bottom of the lineup is occupied by LF Brock Holt (102 wRC+), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (84 wRC+), and C Christian Vazquez (61 wRC+). Former Yankee OF Chris Young (59 wRC+) is the extra outfielder, IF Josh Rutledge (211 wRC+) is the extra infielder, and C Ryan Hanigan (65 wRC+) is the backup backstop. Boston is currently carrying 13 pitches for whatever reason. They’re dealing some rotation injuries and want the extra relievers around in case the fill-ins get knocked out early, I guess.

On defense, the BoSox have above-average defenders up the middle in Vazquez, Pedroia, and Bradley. Bradley and Vazquez are truly elite defenders. Bogaerts has improved over the last year or so but is still closer to average than great. Betts has looked lost at times in right — he’s made some great catches thanks to pure athleticism — and Holt’s been adequate in left. Shaw and Hanley are no bueno on the infield corners.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Henry Owens (vs. NYY)
Both Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) and Joe Kelly’s great stuff (shoulder) are on the DL, which is why the 23-year-old Owens joined the rotation last week. He allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in 3.1 innings against the Astros the other day in his only big league start of 2016. Owens had a 4.57 ERA (4.28 FIP) with an 18.8% strikeout rate, an 8.8% walk rate, a 34.7% ground ball rate, and a 1.00 HR/9 in 63 MLB innings last season. He sits a tick below 90 mph with both his four-seamer and sinker, and his bread and butter is a great upper-70s changeup. Owens will also mix in some low-70s curveballs. Guys with upper-80s fastballs need good command and Owens doesn’t have it. He doesn’t even have good control. He’s liable to walk himself into trouble and lay cookies over the plate. Patience is the key tonight.

Porcello. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Porcello. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Saturday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello’s second season with the Red Sox has gotten off to a much better start than his first season. He has a 3.51 ERA (4.12 FIP) in four starts and 25.2 innings, and his 29.2% strikeout rate is by far a career high. Porcello also has a 4.9% walk rate and a 50.0% ground ball rate, though his 1.75 HR/9 is an eyesore. Lefties have historically hit him a lot larder than righties. Porcello, 27, uses a sinker right around 90 mph as his main fastball, and so far this season he’s preferred his low-80s changeup to his low-70s curveball. He’ll also throw some mid-80s cutter/slider things. With Porcello, it’s all about the sinker. If he’s commanding it at the bottom of the zone, he’ll dominate. If he’s doing anything else, he’ll get knocked around.

Sunday (8pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
We started doing these series preview posts at RAB back in 2011, and during these last five years and one month, I think we’ve written about Price as an opposing starter more than any other pitcher. Has to be, right? It’s either him or Chris Tillman. The Yankees never seem to miss Price (or Tillman) whenever they play whatever team he happens to be playing for at the time.

Anyway, Price’s tenure in Boston has gotten off to an uneven start. He has a 5.76 ERA (2.44 FIP) in 29.2 innings, and he currently has a career high strikeout rate (35.4%) and a career low ground ball rate (36.1%). His walk (6.2%) and homer (0.91 HR/9) rates are higher than they have been in four or five years now. Price, 30, has never had much of a platoon split because his stuff and command are so good. He’s sitting around 93 mph with his four-seamer and sinker, and about 88 mph with his cutter. His velocity is actually down noticeably from last year (via Brooks Baseball):

David Price velocityPrice uses a low-80s changeup as his main secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in a few low-70s curveballs per start. There’s no messing around here though. Price throws his three fastballs about 70% of the time combined. He throws hard and he dares you to hit it.

Bullpen Status

New president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski went out and made some big trades this offseason to improve his bullpen, which was an obvious team weakness last year. One of his trade pickups, RHP Carson Smith, has been on the DL all season with a forearm injury. The other, RHP Craig Kimbrel, has already had some high-profile meltdowns. Here’s the bullpen:

RHP Matt Barnes: 11.1 IP, 14 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 13 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 19 pitches Weds.)
RHP Heath Hembree: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 0 HR (15 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Craig Kimbrel: 10 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 18 K, 2 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
LHP Tommy Layne: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR (23 pitches Thurs., 11 pitches Weds.)
RHP Pat Light: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
LHP Robbie Ross. Jr.: 10 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Junichi Tazawa: 8.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Koji Uehara: 9.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 9 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)

Like Joe Girardi, Farrell likes to assign his relievers set innings whenever possible. Kimbrel is the closer, Uehara is the eighth inning guy, and Tazawa is the seventh inning guy. That’s the formula. Layne is the left-on-left specialist and Ross is more of the long man lefty. Barnes is the low leverage middle reliever and Hembree has kinda come out of nowhere to pitch well.

The Yankees had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get one month into the season. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have each had three straight days off, so they’re good to go. Our Bullpen Workload page will tell you all you need to know about the team’s relief corps.

Are the Yankees being too passive at the plate?

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

It seems one of the biggest universal pet peeves in baseball is swinging at the first pitch when the pitcher is struggling to throw strikes. In the second inning two nights ago the Yankees had runners at first and second with no outs after Martin Perez walked Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, then Brian McCann swung at the first pitch and grounded into a double play. That took the wind out of everyone’s sails.

As fans, seeing McCann swing at the first pitch in that spot was frustrating, but players will tell you the first pitch might be the best one to hit in those situations. The pitcher doesn’t want to fall behind in the count again, so they lay a first pitch fastball in the zone, figuring the hitter might take it. They try to steal a strike when they’re struggling to locate. Unfortunately McCann hit into the double play and that was that.

The Yankees have struggled to score runs this season, and following Wednesday’s game I noted 12 of the 34 men they sent to the plate saw two pitches or less. They were swinging early and often that night. On the season though, only one team has swung less often than the Yankees. The Yankees have a 42.3% swing rate in 2016. The Brewers are at 41.4% and the MLB average is 45.6%. Let’s break it down a little further.

Z-Swing% Z-Contact% O-Swing% O-Contact%
Yankees 58.9% 91.4% 27.2% 62.7%
MLB AVG 63.4% 85.8% 29.3% 61.9%
NYY MLB Rank 30th 1st 6th 14th

Do you see what’s going on there? The Yankees have the highest contact rate in baseball on pitches in the strike zone (Z-Contact%), but they also swing at those pitches (Z-Swing%) less than any other team. They also don’t swing at many pitches out of the zone (O-Swing%). This is good! You want your players to a) make contact when they swing, and b) not chase stuff off the plate.

But dead last in swing rate on pitches in the zone? Those are the pitches you’re supposed to swing at. Last season the Yankees swung at 62.6% of the pitches they saw in the zone with largely the same lineup. The only difference is Starlin Castro instead of Stephen Drew. The Yankees were still a bottom five team in Z-Swing% last year — they were also top three with an 88.8 Z-Contact% — but the gap between 2015 and 2016 is pretty substantial.

The obvious caveat: it’s still early and this stuff can change in a hurry. (For what it’s worth, swing and contact rates do stabilize fairly quickly.) That said, I do wonder if the Yankees are perhaps being a bit too passive as a team, and are letting hittable pitches go by on occasion. Let’s look at some individual players really quick:

2015 Z-Swing% 2016 Z-Swing% Change from 2015-16
Mark Teixeira 65.8% 56.3% -9.5%
Brett Gardner 52.8% 44.0% -8.8%
Chase Headley 61.6% 54.5% -7.1%
Alex Rodriguez 66.6% 62.2% -4.4%
Jacoby Ellsbury 64.5% 60.7% -3.8%
Carlos Beltran 64.3% 61.0% -3.3%
Starlin Castro 64.9% 63.6% -1.3%
Brian McCann 56.5% 55.5% -1.0%
Didi Gregorius 71.7% 71.7% 0.0%

Every single player in the starting lineup except Gregorius is swinging at fewer pitches in the zone this season than they did a year ago. Most of them are swinging at considerably fewer pitches too. We’re talking a difference of three percentage points or more for most guys.

Now, again, the 2016 season is only 20 games old, and weird stuff happens in samples of 20 games. But the entire team has a lower Z-Swing%, so I wonder if that has something to do with the new hitting coaches. The Yankees replaced Kevin Long with the Jeff Pentland/Alan Cockrell tandem last year, then replaced Pentland/Cockrell with Cockrell/Marcus Thames this year. Cockrell was promoted to the main hitting coach to replace Pentland with Thames taking over as his assistant.

Is it possible for a new hitting coach(es) to instill a philosophy like “swing less?” I suppose so, but the Yankees are a pretty veteran team. These guys know what they’re doing at the plate. And even if the new coaches did preach swing less, what’s to be gained? A few more walks? Believe me, I know how important on-base percentage is, but the goal first and foremost is to get a hit, and letting hittable pitches go by is no way to do that.

The Yankees have the highest Z-Contact% and the lowest Z-Swing% in baseball, so it’s easy to say they should simply swing more often and the offense will come. I don’t think it’s quite that simple though. If they start swinging for the sake of swinging, their Z-Contact% rate is going to come down in a hurry. You want to swing at pitches in the strike zone but not necessarily every pitch in the strike zone.

I don’t have an answer to the question in the title. I’m inclined to say this is all small sample size noise and eventually the team’s Z-Swing% will climb upwards. I do think it’s fair to wonder whether the Yankees are taking too many hittable pitches. The players know they’re struggling to score, they feel the pressure, and sometimes you can overthink things and let good pitches go by. They’re not going to walk their way out of this slump though. A few more swings on pitches in the zone can’t hurt.

Mailbag: Trades, Braun, Hicks, Gallo, Judge, Eovaldi, Myers

Got a dozen questions and eleven answers in this week’s mailbag. As always, send any questions or comments to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. We can’t answer them all, but we’ll try our best.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Eric asks: This will never happen but it’s strangely fun to think about. If the Yankees are out of it and decide to be sellers at the deadline, who could the Yankees realistically sell off? What teams would these pieces fit? Easiest answer is Chapman who we could easily flip for a package better than what we gave up.

Yeah, Aroldis Chapman is the big one. Assuming the off-the-field stuff doesn’t get in the way — it very well might — pretty much every contender out there would have room for him. The Nationals reportedly had interest even after the domestic dispute, so they’re a possibility. The Cubs, Giants, White Sox, Rangers, Astros, Mets … pretty much any good team in the race in July. (The Dodgers nixed their trade for Chapman after the incident, so they might not be interested.)

Two years ago Andrew Miller was traded for Eduardo Rodriguez at the deadline, which is good framework for a Chapman trade. Instead of taking two or three prospects, the Yankees could shoot for the one high quality young player. Chapman for Joe Ross? Chapman for Phil Bickford? Chapman for Joey Gallo? Rangers GM Jon Daniels has been known to pay big for rentals at the trade deadline.

Here are the other players the Yankees could market at the trade deadline, as well as some potential landing spots:

I’m sure the Yankees could find a taker for Starlin Castro, but he seems like someone they’ll keep and build around. Same with Didi Gregorius. Those two are keepers unless you get blown away with an offer. Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury are a tad too pricey to be moved, I think. It would be different if they were rentals, but they still have multiple years left on their contracts.

As I said yesterday, the Yankees need to be honest with themselves and trade away players at the deadline if they’re out of it. Chapman, Teixeira, and Beltran are the obvious candidates to go because their contracts are up after the season. They shouldn’t stop there though. See what teams are willing to give up for Gardner and Miller again. Same with Pineda and Eovaldi. Even Betances. It doesn’t hurt to listen.

Anonymous: Not a question, but you forgot one possible bad-contract trade (that will never happen because of Ell’s no-trade provision + the public relations fallout). Ellsbury + prospects for Braun. If Milwaukee could get Ells playing well, they could possibly flip him to another team for even more prospects.

The money is about the same — Ellsbury ($110M) and Ryan Braun ($100M) are both under contract through 2020 — but Braun is the better player right now. He’s not the perennial MVP candidate he was a few years back, but he hit .285/.356/.498 (129 wRC+) with 25 homers and 24 steals last year, and he went into yesterday’s game with a 183 wRC+ in the early going this year. Even with his terrible defense, give me Braun over Ellsbury.

The Brewers aren’t getting enough out of this, not unless the Yankees kick in some quality prospects. It’s not just that they’d be getting the inferior player, they’re also getting a player the fans have no attachment to. Brewers fans still love Braun and he helps the team sell tickets and merchandise. Ellsbury wouldn’t do that. This one doesn’t make sense for the Brewers. The Yankees would either have to eat a bunch of cash or kick in some good young players to make it work.

Jon asks: If Aaron Hicks doesn’t end up hitting much, Could it be worth it to test that arm out as a pitcher?

It is nowhere near time to consider this. Hicks hit .256/.323/.398 (97 wRC+) with eleven homers and 13 steals in 97 big league games just last year. Plus he plays great defense. So he’s gotten off to a 2-for-22 (.091) start in sporadic playing time. Big deal. If a few years down the line he continues to not hit — and I mean really not hit, like an 70 wRC+ guy — then maybe consider a move to the mound. That is a very long way away though.

Anonymous: Now that Beltre is blocking him for another 2 years, what do you think it would take to get Joey Gallo? Can you imagine how many HRs he’d hit in Yankee Stadium? Obviously this would require unloading Headley, maybe back to SD for another bad contract like Upton Jr.

Gallo is absolutely someone the Yankees should target. The Rangers could always play him at first base, so it’s not like they have nowhere to stick him, but right now he’s blocked at third base and even in the corner outfield. Chase Headley shouldn’t stand in the way of a Gallo trade. Get him and figure the rest out later.

The 22-year-old Gallo is the best power hitting prospect in the game. It’s true 80 power. He has that Giancarlo-esque “he’s going to hit 40 homers no matter what park he plays in” pop. Enjoy:

Gallo is going to strike out a ton — he had a 39.5% strikeout rate in Triple-A last year, though it is down to 23.8% in the early going this year — but even if he hits .220 in the big leagues long-term, he’s going to wind up hitting about 500 home runs. The power is unreal. Gallo’s can also run a little and is pretty good defensively at the hot corner. Between the lefty pop and the long-term need at third base, he’s an obvious fit for the Yankees.

What would it take? Well, Gallo is a top ten prospect in all of baseball, and he’s MLB ready, so he won’t come cheap. What about Miller for Gallo, straight up? Betances for Gallo? My trade proposal sucks. I have a hard time thinking the Rangers would be interested in a prospect for prospect trade. Those rarely happen. Otherwise I’d say trade pretty much anyone for him. Aaron Judge or Jorge Mateo and others? Sure. The “what would it take” question is always the hardest. Clearly though, Gallo’s a fit for the Yankees.

Joe asks: When a player (Rumbelow) has season ending injury in the minors vs. the majors (Pinder) – what are the rules surrounding their 40 man status and benefits? Does Pinder benefit from service time accrual while Rumbelow doesn’t?

Yep. You get to collect service time and MLB salary when you’re on the MLB DL. Players like Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder sign split contracts, so they make one salary in the big leagues and a lower salary in the minors. Rumbelow got hurt in the minors, so he’s stuck with his Triple-A salary — usually in the low six figures — and won’t accrue service time. (He does still get the healthcare, licensing money, etc.) Pinder got hurt in the show, so he gets MLB salary and service time. Getting hurt sucks, but if you’re a fringe player and you’re going to blow out your elbow, you’d rather do it in the show than in the minors.

Andrew asks: What would have to happen to see Aaron Judge get called up this year?

Bobby asks: If Judge came up, would the Yankees lose a year of team control? When Sanchez’ promotion was discussed, the date of his future free agency was a main part of the conversation but it hasn’t been the same thus far with Aaron.

Going to lump these two together. No, the Yankees would not lose a year team of control if they called Judge up now. At this point of the season any player who is called up to the big leagues for the first time will not be able to pick up a full year of service time. The Yankees would control Judge through 2022 regardless of whether they called him up tomorrow or September 1st.

As for an actual call-up, there are only two scenarios I see. One, the Yankees do sell at the deadline and Beltran and/or Gardner are moved, and they want to give Judge an audition. Two, a September call-up. Ben Gamel and Slade Heathcott are already on the 40-man roster and are presumably first in line to be injury replacements. That’s about it. I don’t think the Yankees will call Judge up to try to spark their offense or something like that.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Anonymous asks: What would a trade for Wil Myers look like? Next year with Beltran and Teixeira most likely gone the Yankees will have holes at 1B and RF. Wil Myers can play both 1B and RF while playing primarily RF with Greg Bird at 1B. I know Myers has his own injury history too but this does seem like a good fit.

I do like the idea of Myers. He’s healthy now — he’s had a lot of wrist problems in recent years — and he’s been rather productive this season. Myers is hitting .303/.333/.506 (122 wRC+) in the early going after hitting .253/.336/.427 (116 wRC+) around the wrist injury last year. The Padres are playing him at first base full-time, but he is only 25, so you could always stick him back in the outfield too. He seems like a nice fit.

Again, the “what would it take” question is the toughest. Myers has been traded twice before, once as the headliner for an ace (James Shields) and once for a big package of prospects (Joe Ross, Trea Turner, and others). The Padres are looking to add prospects and shed payroll, but Myers seems like someone they could keep and build around, right? You trade for prospects and hope they turn into Wil Myers, basically. He’s pretty good, he’s cheap, and he’s under team control through 2019. If San Diego wants to flip this guy for prospects, say Judge and some others, I say go for it.

Deren asks: Eovaldi was only(!!) 95-96 last night with his fastball. Do you think that can be tied into his success against the rangers? Many hard throwers often come up and quickly find out that fastball velo isn’t everything anymore. I believe even King Felix had to make a similar adjustment when he first arrived. He settled into 92-95 before long (With nasty movement and location). How much of last nights success was because Eovaldi wasn’t trying to throw as hard as he can and focus on changing speeds, location, and movement?

I noticed this during the broadcast too, but it seems the TV gun was off. PitchFX says Eovaldi averaged 97.4 mph with his fastball Tuesday, which was his second highest average velocity in a game so far this season. His velocity was right where it normally sits (via Brooks Baseball):

Nathan Eovaldi velocityI hate to be a buzzkill, but this seems like a “the TV gun was off” thing and not a “Eovaldi took a little off and located better” thing. The PitchFX data says it was the same old Eovaldi. He was throwing hard.

David asks: With how dominant (and efficient) Betances and Miller have been until now, and assuming they stay way, does Chapman automatically assume the closers role upon his return? Or does he have to earn that spot now?

I could see Joe Girardi easing Chapman back into things at first. Maybe one or two lower leverage appearances before giving him important innings. I think their perfect world scenario is Chapman comes back and they use him to protect a four or five run lead that night, just to get his feet wet. After that, I think he’s going right into the closer’s role. That’s fine with me. It doesn’t seem to bother Betances or Miller at all and I have no reason to think it’ll be an issue. Now, if Chapman comes in and blows his first save, the second-guessing will be epic.

Dan asks: Let me preface this with saying, I think the Yanks will be in contention all season (they’re better than they’ve played in April). But, assuming the Yanks perform like they’ve done in April for the whole year, and that this results in a protected draft pick (currently they’d pick 7th), would the fact that they wouldn’t give up first round compensation alter the Yanks approach to Free Agency next year?

It could. I still think the main factor is going to be money. The Yankees don’t seem interested in handing out a big money long-term contract anytime soon. The protected pick could result in them having more interest in players who get caught up in the system and are sitting there unsigned in February, like Dexter Fowler and Yovani Gallardo this year. No one likes giving up a draft pick, but giving up a second rounder instead of your first is a much easier pill to swallow.

Noa asks: I feel like I am in the minority and I just think Aaron Judge’s strikeouts will always be way too high for him to be productive. He doesn’t seem to hit for enough power or even be enough a productive all-around player to justify the strikeouts. This would be bold, and I’m sure you oppose this, but could the Yankees trade him while he still has lots of prospect value and if so, what could they possibly get back for him?

That’s very possible. Judge is certainly a risky prospect. He’s a classic boom or bust guy and the strikeouts are definitely a red flag. As far as I’m concerned, the Yankees don’t have an untouchable prospect. They could trade anyone in the system and I wouldn’t be heartbroken. That doesn’t mean I’d give them away, of course. The Yankees have traded away players at the peak of their prospect status before — Jesus Montero, most notably — and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did it with Judge.

Baseball America had Judge at No. 76 in their annual top 100 list, which was his lowest ranking in the various lists this spring. Some other prospects in the No. 76 range who have been traded in recent years include:

  • Billy McKinney, No. 83 in 2015: Second piece in the Jeff Samardzija/Addison Russell trade.
  • Jake Marisnick, No. 79 in 2014: Second piece in the Jarred Cosart/Colin Moran trade.
  • Avisail Garcia, No. 74 in 2013: Main piece going to White Sox in three-team Jake Peavy/Jose Iglesias trade.

I definitely understand why some folks are skeptical of Judge’s long-term potential, and like I said, I’d definitely put him on the table in a trade. He’s not untouchable. The Yankees really need some fresh blood in their lineup and Judge has the most offensive potential in their system, and the guy is in Triple-A and close to MLB ready. He seems like someone worth holding on to, not a chip you cash in.

DotF: Andujar and Avelino homer in Tampa’s win

Got some notes to pass along:

Both Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton had scheduled off-days.

High-A Tampa (5-4 win over Dunedin)

  • SS Jorge Mateo: 2-5, 1 3B, 1 CS — 13-for-34 (.382) with a triple and two homers in his last nine games
  • DH Mark Payton: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 1B Billy Fleming: 2-5, 1 R
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — four homers in 18 games this year … he didn’t hit his fourth homer until his 33rd game last year
  • 2B Abi Avelino: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB — his ninth career home run was a grand slam
  • LF Zack Zehner: 0-2, 1 BB, 1 HBP
  • CF Michael O’Neill: 1-3, 1 BB
  • C Francisco Diaz: 1-4, 1 K
  • LF Jake Skole: 1-4 — the 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft is hitting .216/.241/.333 with 19 strikeouts and one walk in 14 games
  • RHP Jose Campos: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 3/4 GB/FB — 56 of 87 pitches were strikes (64%), plus he picked a runner off first … 26/12 K/BB in 28.2 innings so far
  • LHP Caleb Frare: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K — 21 of 32 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • RHP Matt Marsh: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 15 of 26 pitches were strikes (58%)

Low-A Charleston was rained out. The game was cancelled and will not be made up. Seems like it’s a little too early in the season for that, but whatever.

Thursday Night Open Thread

The Yankees have an off-day today and it comes at a good time, because I think we could all use a night away from the team given the way they’ve been playing. In the meantime, I command you to read Billy Witz on elbow injuries and John Harper on the shift. Harper spoke to Brian Cashman about the team’s shifting and why they continue to do it even though the perception is they result in more hits allowed than hits saved.

Here is tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is showing regional games at both 7pm ET and 10pm ET, plus the NBA and NHL playoffs are ongoing. Also, the NFL Draft starts tonight too (8pm ET on ESPN and NFLN). Remember, you’re not a true fan unless you boo your team’s pick. Talk about anything and everything here.

2016 Draft: Josh Lowe

Josh Lowe | 3B/RHP

Background
Lowe attends Pope High School in the Atlanta suburbs and is committed to Florida State. He played fall ball with the East Cobb Yankees last year, though they’re not affiliated with the New York Yankees. They’re a very prestigious prep travel team for Atlanta area players that happens to be named the Yankees. Brian McCann is a former East Cobb Yankee.

Scouting Report
Lowe, 18, is the best two-way player in the draft, though he’s a better prospect as a position player than pitcher. He’s a left-handed hitter with tremendous raw power thanks to his bat speed, strong hands, and lower half leverage. Lowe is a big guy — he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 190 lbs. — with long arms and that leads to some swings and misses, though his swing is level and he knows the strike zone. He’s not a true all or nothing hitter. Although he’s a third baseman now, there’s some thought Lowe will end up in the outfield long-term because his hands are a bit clunky. He runs well, so center field is a possibility. If not, right field it is.

On the mound Lowe works in the 90-92 mph range and touches 94 regularly. His breaking ball is somewhere between a curveball and a slider, and his changeup is rudimentary as well. Lowe’s a good athlete with good body control, so he repeats his delivery fairly well. Here’s video of him on the mound:

All in all, Lowe is a classic projection high school player. Put him on the mound full-time and he could be living in the mid-90s with a sharp breaking ball in a year or two. Stick with him as a position player and you dream of that power potential developing into in-game power and 30+ homers down the line. Lowe is not short on tools. No siree.

Miscellany
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) rank Lowe as the 11th, 17th, and 18th best prospect in the 2016 draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. The Yankees hold the No. 18 pick. Lowe figures to begin his career as a position player — most two-way guys start as a position players because it’s easy to go from hitter to pitcher down the line than vice versa — and his power is a great carrying tool. Lefty pop is a Yankees trademark for sure. He’s right up their alley.