Didi Gregorius is ready to help all the young shortstops in the Yankees’ farm system

(Sung Min Kim/River Avenue Blues)
(Sung Min Kim/River Ave. Blues)

A bit after the Netherlands-Israel World Baseball Classic match at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, a group of Taiwanese reporters flocked towards the Netherlands dugout as Didi Gregorius stepped outside of the dugout. As one of the reporters finished an interview, she giddily asked Gregorius for a selfie because she “wants to prove that she actually talked to him.” Gregorius easily obliged. He (and I) probably knew that the reporter probably wanted one with him regardless because he is Didi Gregorius, a young and rising figure who plays for the famed New York Yankees.

Gregorius spent the past week in Seoul as a member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands team for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. After one of the exhibition matches, Gregorius and several teammates went out and he posted on his Instagram stories a selfie of themselves at a shopping mall.

“I was just walking around,” he said. “You gotta experience everything when you’re in a different country. I’ve never been (in Korea) so you gotta walk around and see what they got.”

The Korean baseball fans — and many others who traveled to see the games in Seoul — however, got to see what Gregorius has to offer. Gregorius, after hitting a home run in his first Spring Training at-bat this year, did not seem to lose his power stroke in Pool A play of the World Baseball Classic. In three games and twelve at-bats, he has hit for a 1.083 OPS, hitting three doubles and knocking in three. One of the doubles, which came in the bottom of eighth in the game against Taiwan, tied the game up at five and Netherlands went on to walk-off in the ninth to clinch the second round trip to Tokyo.

Gregorius also barely missed a home run earlier in the game, as the ball hit the wall just a few feet shy of being in the seats. It might as well as been a home run in many other ballparks, as the Gocheok Sky Dome is rated below-average for home run rates. Last night, in the Tokyo Dome, Gregorius clobbered a big home run for the Netherlands:

However, Gregorius never looks for home runs when he steps into the box. He is aware of last year’s power surge and the expectations that came with it. But when asked if he changed his offseason training regimen to increase power, he immediately shook his head and gave a firm response.

“If I hit a home run, I hit a home run,” Gregorius said. “But I’m just trying to drive the ball, try to hit it gap to gap — left field line, right field line — I’m a line drive hitter. If they go out, they go out, but nothing’s going to change.”

Indeed Didi is a line drive hitter. He’s always had a line drive swing that Yankee scouts loved even when his bat did not play out for the Diamondbacks in 2014 (.226/.290/.363 in 299 PA). After hitting for a .276/.304/.447 line with 20 home runs with 70 RBI in 2016 while still displaying slick fielding ability, he’s established himself as one of the most fun AL shortstops to watch.

With the Team Netherlands, Didi is teammates with another young AL shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, whom Gregorius acknowledges is a better hitter “if you look at the numbers.” While they play for rival teams in the regular season, Gregorius and Bogaerts feel natural playing for a same squad.

“It does not feel weird to play with (Bogaerts) because I played with him when we were young,” Gregorius said. “It’s just fun because all people (on the team) are from back home representing Netherlands and Curacao. When we’re working together, we are a team. When we’re playing each other, we don’t know each other (laugh).”

Sure, the Red Sox may have a better-hitting shortstop right now, but the Yankees have some great shortstop talent in the minors that could impact the big league team in a few years. There’s of course Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo. Deeper down, there are Tyler Wade, Wilkerman Garcia, Kyle Holder, Hoy Jun Park, etc., all of whom signed as shortstops but could very well change positions in near future.

Despite the many shortstop talents in the system, Gregorius is not worried about his long-term outlook with the Yankees.

“I’m going to play my game,” Gregorius put it succinctly. “They are playing their game too. I cannot judge people on what they do and I cannot worry about it.”

Even if any of the younger talents land in the majors, Gregorius is planning to be an embracing “veteran.” “When we are on the team, we play together so there’s no competition between each other,” he said. “Why do I have look out for something that’s not even there right now? (To them) I’m a so-called veteran so they come to me and I pass along what A-Rod and all those guys taught me. I hope every young guy goes a long way because you want them to be successful.”

Gregorius, of course, was once in their shoes before. Breaking into the bigs in 2012, it took him until 2015 to be a solid regular and the work ethic that scouts raved about and guidance from older players took his play to the next level in 2016. Prior to that though, he has had to go back and forth between Triple-A and MLB in the both Reds and Diamondbacks systems. He is aware of the challenges of having to transition as an ML player and has the right intentions – guide them through the most crucial part of their career.

Not only Gregorius cares about the younger players, but also he has looked out for the fans during Pool A play of the World Baseball Classic. After Netherlands defeated Taiwan in a dramatic walk-off affair, he walked over to the Royal Diamond seats (the seats directly behind the home plate and by the dugouts in Gocheok) to sign each autographs for each fan and take selfies while his teammates had gone into the clubhouse to celebrate the win.

In each instance I have been around him, Gregorius is upbeat, smiling, not saying “no” to fans and generally being positive to whatever is in his sight. His positive attitude rings in his answer when asked what his 2017 goal is.

“Win a ring. That’s it,” he said. “We got a lot of talent and a lot of young guys coming up so wait for the season.”

The Other Guys: The 4th and 5th Starter Candidates

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
Severino. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

Barring any late offseason moves, here are the names we know for sure we’ll see in the Yankee rotation in 2017:

  1. Masahiro Tanaka
  2. Michael Pineda
  3. C.C. Sabathia

That’s it. Having only three sure thing starters doesn’t seem like a way to go about competing for the division title. (Yeah, it is supposed to be a rebuilding year but they still go out on the field to win, y’know?) Brian Cashman is very much aware. The smart money says he has inquired around the league for starting pitching and looked at FA options as well.

However, he has been careful. In a January 20 press conference, Cashman remarked he did not pull the trigger on opportunities that would have been “costly to the franchise.” My guess is a lot of teams have been asking for names like Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, James Kaprielian, Clint Frazier, etc. As much as they would like to accumulate as many wins as possible, this is not really a period to “go for it all.” The Red Sox, however, are in position to do so. They just had a very dominant regular season and pushed to become an even better team by trading for Chris Sale.

Here are the names that I think will get starting opportunities for the Yankees this season: Luis Severino, Chad Green, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Chance Adams, Jordan Montgomery, and Dietrich Enns. Let’s lay out the pecking order of those seven names.

1. Luis Severino

It’s an easy choice. Despite being youngest of the four pitchers with ML experience, Severino has logged the most ML innings in the list. He also was the highest-regarded pitcher as a prospect, ranking no. 35 in Baseball America’s top 100 list in 2015.

After tearing through minors and having a good ML stint in 2015, Severino struggled throughout 2016, marking a 5.83 ERA in 71.0 IP. He was very ineffective as a starter, allowing a .976 OPS against in 11 starts. That would’ve ranked fifth among all hitters, by the way (behind Joey Votto and ahead of Freddie Freeman). The Yanks put him in the bullpen for the most of the second half and he dominated, allowing only .367 OPS against (.105/.209/.158 slash line).

Many wondered whether Severino is destined to be a bullpen arm. Not only did the 2016 results indicate such but also several experts aren’t big fans of his build and delivery. However, Sevy is still very young. He will get his shot to prove himself as a rotation arm. It’s notable that Severino has spent some time with Pedro Martinez this offseason to correct that flaws that haunted him last year (per Brendan Kuty of NJ.com).

“My fastball was all the way over here,” Severino told NJ Advance Media, showing wider-than-normal release point.

“But my changeup was over here,” he said, his arm dropping even lower. “My slider was over here and then sometimes over here.”

A new focus where he lets go of the ball and an effort to transform his body have Severino believing he’ll fulfill the potential the Yankees saw during his fast rise in 2015, the 22-year-old said Saturday.

Given that Severino’s biggest problems have to do with fastball command, tweaking his release point with one of the best ever shouldn’t hurt. Pedro also was a wizard with the changeup and other secondary pitches back in his day, so one would hope that Severino was able to soak up as much wisdom as possible. I’m no pitching coach but it seems like Sevy has been aware of his own flaws and looked to find solutions. He’s got a real good arm and he’s going through struggles that young pitchers in ML normally experience. It’s a roll of the dice on what he will become, so for now, we just have to #TrustTheProcess.

If Sevy still ends up becoming a good bullpen arm long-term, that is still a pretty successful outcome (given on how hard it is to succeed in MLB). However, I’d like to see the Yankees try him out as a starter while youth is very much on his side.

2. Luis Cessa

Cessa. (Mike Carlson/Getty)
Cessa. (Mike Carlson/Getty)

This would have been trickier to decide had Chad Green not suffered an arm injury to close out 2016. After a few cup of coffee earlier in the season, Cessa was called up to MLB for good in August, making nine starts with mixed results.

As a starter, Cessa had a 4.01 ERA in 51.2 IP. He showed pretty nice control by only walking eight, but he allowed 11 home runs during that span. He’s not a ground ball guy and he’s pitching at YS3. He’s bound to be tagged for some HR in 2017 as well, unless he changes his approach dramatically. For now, he’s got nice velocity on a fastball that, well, he should probably stop throwing to the upper part of the zone.

Here is are his fastball zone percentages last year. This is how often he threw a fastball in these spots:

luis-cessa1

And here is how the hitters slugged against the pitch in those locations:

luis-cessa2

As you can see, Cessa located (or mis-located) his fastball to the upper part of the zone quite frequently. That’s also where hitters put up a 1.294 SLG%. Not ideal. That’s the classic “good control but bad command” problem. He can keep it in the zone but not be precise about it.

A good thing about Cessa is that he’s a young guy. Not Sevy-level young but young enough to learn a few tricks and improve his game. He’s not really a guy with a clear “out pitch,” but his slider has a potential, generating a 64% ground ball rate. If he wants to stick to rotation long-term, this season will be very telling. Cessa is probably not as valued as Severino, so he’ll have to show consistency and improvement to lock up a spot. But because he was able to finish the season healthy and gave a relatively solid showing, I believe he is just slightly ahead of Green in this list.

3. Chad Green

When it comes to excitement level, Green up there among the top candidates. Along with Cessa, he arrived to the Yankees system as a decent-looking high-minor arm. In 2016, he pitched lights out in Triple-A, marking at 1.52 ERA in 16 starts. He also struck out hitters at a 9.51 K/9 rate while limiting walks (2.00 BB/9) and home runs allowed (0.29 HR/9). Performances like that get noticed and he made his ML debut back in May. It wouldn’t be until July till he got to stay in the bigs consistently though.

Green put up a 4.73 ERA in 45.2 IP with eight starts and four relief appearances. His season ended in early September when he was diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon and sprained UCL in his throwing arm. Injuries like that tend to be a precursor to (gulp) Tommy John Surgery. Uh-oh. The last update on Green said that he is hoping to avoid going under the knife and be back healthy.

My guess is that Yankees will take precautions with Green and limit his innings total for 2017. They will give him shots at the rotation though. He has shown in 2016 that he can be electrifying. He can really strike out hitters (10.25 K/9) and has shown some exciting performances, such as this 6 IP, 0 R, 11 K gem against the powerful Blue Jays. However, just like Cessa, gopher balls have been Green’s kryptonite. He allowed a 2.36 HR/9 in those 45.2 IP, which is terrible. An encouraging thing is that he never allowed a HR/9 rate higher than 1.00 in a full season of minors. The bad thing is, well, he’s in MLB now. He’s gotta find a way to figure it out up there.

Some pitchers never solve YS3 and go on to flourish with other organizations (A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes come to mind). There is also Masahiro Tanaka, who adapted his style to induce weaker contact and grounders. Green has enough upside that Yankees will wait and see how he can progress as a MLB pitcher.

4. Bryan Mitchell

If Cessa and Green saw their stock tick upwards, it was the opposite for Mitchell. After getting a brief trial in 2015, Mitchell locked up a spot on the 2016 Opening Day roster … and then he sprained his toe while covering first base during a ST game, resulting in a Grade 3 turf toe that cost him four months. Welp.

Mitchell did get to pitch in MLB in 2016. He made his return in September and made five starts — two each against the Blue Jays and Red Sox and one against the Dodgers. That’s a tough welcome back to the big league roster. Mitchell held on his own, allowing 9 ER in 25.0 IP for a 3.24 ERA while striking out 11 and walking 12. The peripherals aren’t great but his stuff was back. Take a look at this nasty hard curve that got David Ortiz whiffing.

bryan-mitchell-david-ortiz1

At this moment, Mitchell’s rotation candidacy is dicy because he didn’t pitch as much last year as the guys I put ahead of him on this list. I do think, however, that it is possible for him to notch a rotation spot if he blows the coach staff away in Spring Training. He looked pretty good last spring and he could’ve entrenched himself in MLB had he not gotten injured.

I think Mitchell has a chance for a rotation spot but I’m not sure how well he’ll have to do to win one over Severino, Cessa, or Green. I think the likely scenario is the Yankees give him a long relief job and a chance to impress if there is an injury or one of the starters underachieve. Mitchell was drafted by the Yankees during Mark Teixeira‘s first year with the team, just to give you an idea how long he’s been with the organization.

5. Jordan Montgomery/Dietrich Enns

Mike profiled Montgomery just a few days ago. He wasn’t the most exciting draft pick but he worked himself into being more intriguing lately. Getting near MLB is a big accomplishment itself. Developing more velocity and putting great numbers up in his first look at Triple-A (0.97 ERA in six starts and 37.0 IP) are icing on the cake. Montgomery is not a top tier prospect but there are reasons to be excited.

Enns, on the other hand, has taken every opportunity he could and built himself into a legitimate call-up candidate. A 19th rounder out of Central Michigan University in 2012, he didn’t arrive with eye-popping stuff, and most pitchers with his resume end up becoming organizational fodder. However, his rise through the system has been nearly flawless. The only major blemish was the Tommy John surgery he had back in 2014, but he was even stronger after, posting a 0.61 ERA in 58.2 IP at two levels (Rookie & High-A) in 2015 and a 1.73 ERA in 135.0 IP at two more levels (Double-A & Triple-A) in 2016. Yowza. However, because he’s not young (turning 26 in May) and he’s considered as junkballer, he’s got long odds to overcome to settle a rotation spot in MLB long-term.

Montgomery has a higher ceiling but Enns has a better minor league track record. Both of them spent some time in Scranton last season and excelled there. They probably will have to do it again to get a look in the MLB this year. As much as the fans and I would like to see the rotation remain stable throughout the season, I’d be pretty interested to see either of them make a start for the Yankees. While neither is likely to make the roster out of the camp this year, if they keep dominating in Triple-A, you better believe that the front office will want to try’em out.

6. Chance Adams

Not a lot of people expected Adams to elevate through the system so quickly, but here we are. The 5th rounder out of Dallas Baptist University in the 2015 draft did nothing but impress. He’s one of my favorite stories in the Yankee farm system. Dude went from a college reliever to a starting pitching prospect and put up great numbers while pitching with mid-90’s heat. Many teams would’ve signed up for this outcome with their first round pick.

Ceiling-wise, Adams might be the highest in the list after Severino. His fastball, his minor league track record and his sudden ascension really make him an intriguing story all-around. I’m guessing Adams opens 2017 in Scranton. Unless he has a setback, he will probably make a ML debut sometime during the 2017 season. The question is, when? Unless he puts an unprecedented level of performance, he is likely behind Montgomery/Enns in the pecking order. He doesn’t turn 23 until August, so youth is definitely in Adams’ side, which leads me to believe that Yanks can take a little time with him.

Headley embraces new challenges while his Yankee status is anything but guaranteed

by Sung Min Kim/River Avenue Blues
(Sung Min Kim/RAB)

Chase Headley showed up to Yankee Stadium yesterday with a beard, as if he had been traded away to another team awhile ago. However, he still remains a member of the New York Yankees. He will shave his face clean before showing up to the Spring Training next month.

When it’s all said and done, it’s unlikely fans will remember Headley as a part of the great Yankee lore. As we know, he is an average hitter with solid glove and, well, that doesn’t exactly sell a lot of jerseys. The club also owes him $26 million for the next two years.

Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when the Yankees looked to trade Headley during this offseason. At yesterday’s press conference, Brian Cashman sounded off when asked about Headley’s future with the organization.

“I can’t predict that. I expect him to be here as a starter at the third base,” Cashman said while adding he shopped Headley around this winter, but couldn’t find a return that he liked. There weren’t many replacement options at third available either.

Headley admitted he saw heard the trade rumors, though he didn’t pay attention to them.

“I’ve dealt with that for a lot of my Major League career,” he said. “I don’t act like I’m angry about it … I understand that those are certainly business decisions that are made and me worrying about that isn’t going to change one thing one way or another.”

But still, to Cashman, Headley is a valuable commodity.

“Tell you what, in New York, when you struggle, everyone lets you know about it,” said Cashman. “It’s tough to pull yourself out of it, so he showed some serious mental confidence to continue to stay focused and (bounce back). He showed some toughness and I really respect that. I’m looking forward to a bigger year this year because I think he’s even better for that kind of experience.”

Two and half seasons into being a Yankee, the fans have an idea what to expect from their starting third baseman: a reliable glove and a decent-but-forgettable bat. In these past two seasons, Headley registered a 92 wRC+ each, which means he was a bit below average in runs created metrics. It’s safe to say we are not getting the guy who led the NL in RBI in 2012 anytime soon.

Entering the third year of the four-year, $52 million contract, Headley seems determined to set the tone this coming season by diagnosing one of the things that went wrong with him last year: that brutal 9-for-60 start in April.

“Trying to get a couple hits in April would be great,” he said. “There was a mechanical thing from the left side of the plate and once I got corrected, I started to swing a bat a little bit better … Hopefully I’ll be a mechanically better.”

The encouraging part of that statement is that Headley hit for a .265/.338/.418 line the rest of the season after April. Not the sexiest numbers, but they look better than the .252/.315/.405 line that the entire team averaged in 2016.

The discouraging part is that Headley is not getting any younger. The 2017 season will be his age 32 season, and we shouldn’t expect some kind of renaissance with his bat. If anything, the fans can be realistically optimistic by hoping he avoids a slow start and puts up slash line similar to what he did after the dreadful April last season.

However, as long as he is the member of the 2017 Yankees, Headley has a bigger off-the-field aspect to look forward to: being a more vocal clubhouse leader amidst the Yankee youth movement.

“I am looking forward to getting know (the younger players) and, hopefully, offering them help that I can to help them to this level and to help (the Yankees) to be successful,” Headley said. “I am excited about having the opportunity to have a little bit more leadership in the clubhouse … I’m excited to be able to be more vocal and speak my mind a little bit more.”

I don’t know if the Yankees will win a division title while Headley is under his current contract. This year is looking like a rebuilding year. The 2018 season could feature some exciting young talent on the ML roster, but I don’t think the Yankees will really compete until 2019, when they will possibly have added one of big 2018-19 free agents (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Clayton Kershaw, if he ops out, just to name a few) and fuse them with the talented youngsters.

If the Yankees manage to find a young big league ready third baseman, Headley will probably not be the starter going forward. However, because there are games to be played and valuable youngsters to be taught, Headley is a perfectly fine team asset for now, and I think it is in the team’s best interest to play him and hope for the best possible performance.

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Rich Hill

(Getty)
(Getty)

Remember when Rich Hill pitched for the Yankees back in 2014? He threw 5.1 IP of one-run ball in 14 appearances, walking three and striking out nine. The Yankees, of course, did not bring him back that offseason. That 2014 season was the final season of his very forgettable seven-year stretch in which Hill was marred by injuries and inefficiency. In those years, he threw only 153.0 ML innings total with a cumulative 5.41 ERA and 108 walks. No one was going to give serious consideration to an aging journeyman pitcher who had a 6.4 BB/9 since 2008.

As you may know, it’s been a total turnaround for Hill. In 2015, he figured some things out and got a chance with the Red Sox. He threw four stellar games for Boston (29.0 IP, 14 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 36 K, 1.55 ERA), looking unlike the pitcher who seemed to be on the verge of irrelevancy. Those four games made him an intriguing yet uncertain player entering free agency. The A’s took a flier on him with a one-year deal and a $6 million guarantee.

Hill showed in 2016 that he can stay effective for more than just four starts. In fact, he was one of the best ML starters when healthy. Pitching for the A’s and Dodgers, he had a 12-5 record with a 2.12 ERA in 20 starts. His underlying stats (2.39 FIP) suggest it was no fluke.

I was going to name this “Is Rich Hill a fit for the Yankees?” but of course he’s a fit. A pitcher who can perform like he did in those 20 starts this year is going to be a fit for any team. It is a question of whether Yankees should take a risk and throw money at him after what he’s done in his career, specifically the past two seasons. Let’s break it down.

1. He’s really good. Perhaps good enough that Yankees should consider splurging a bit.

The Yankees have not been willing to offer a huge-money contract to a starting pitcher since, well, Masahiro Tanaka in the 2013-14 offseason. Prior to that, they were willing to break the bank for Cliff Lee but the lefty chose to play with the Phillies. They also approached and signed Hiroki Kuroda via free agency.

The common theme that I see is that you could count on solid, consistent production from those guys. Sure, Tanaka was just coming out of NPB, but many had tabbed him to be a real deal. Cliff Lee, of course, was an ace and he went on a pitch like one in Philly. Kuroda pitched four very consistent seasons for the Dodgers before coming over to New York.

The Yankees did not bother much with the Ricky Nolascos or Wei-Yin Chens of the world — guys who were above average prior to hitting the market, but would you really be comfortable giving either a five-year, $80 million contract? (That’s how much the Marlins are paying Chen by the way. He had a 4.96 ERA in 22 GS in the first year of contract.)

Sure, Hill’s track record of domination isn’t long but his 2016 season reassured us that his surge is for real. He figured something out. Unless his physical strength deteriorates big time, he should have at least a year or two of quality pitching left in tank. You want numbers on how good he is? Here are some (min. 110 IP):

  • 2.12 ERA — ranks 2nd behind Clayton Kershaw
  • 2.39 FIP — ranks 4th behind Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and Jose Fernandez
  • 10.52 K/9 — ranks 9th
  • 0.33 HR/9 — ranks 1st. It helps that he pitched in two of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks (A’s Coliseum and Dodger Stadium), but still, a great figure.
  • 22.3% soft contact rate — ranks 9th highest
  • 28.3% hard contact rate — ranks 19th lowest

As you can see, Hill ranked among the top 10 in many positive stats. It’s not like he was great at just one thing, a la Michael Pineda and striking hitters out. He excelled in many facets of dominating hitters. He’s a guy that you’d give a ball to in important games ten times out of ten.

If you need a refresher on what Hill’s stuff looks like, here are all the pitches thrown from his September 10 start versus Miami.

2. He won’t cost a pick.

The Yankees hold the 17th overall pick for the MLB Draft next year, which means that they will lose it if they sign a free agent that rejected the qualifying offer. New York is one of the teams that can afford to pick signability guys early and gift them with an ample bonus cash, just like what they did with Blake Rutherford, the 18th overall pick of the draft this year.

I don’t think Yankees would risk losing a pick that high for a pitcher with substantial risk. They have been collecting many young assets via the draft and trades, and I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon. Hill did not reject the qualifying offer — he couldn’t receive one because he was traded at midseason — so he won’t cost the Yankees their first round pick.

3. What about his age and health? 

The thing about Rich Hill is that the man has a long enough injury history to it out on an entire roll of toilet paper. In 2016 alone, he had two separate DL stints (groin and blisters) and was limited to only 110.1 IP. The silver lining is that neither of them are serious arm issues, but they still caused him to miss an extended amount of time. One of the last things you want during the season is to have one of your best pitchers hit the disabled list, whatever the reason may be.

If the Yankees sign Hill, they will monitor his workload for sure. It’s pretty clear that the Yanks are targeting bullpen arms this offseason. If all goes as planned, they could have another ‘pen that can send an array of trustworthy arms after a 5-6 IP outing by the starter. I’m not guaranteeing that they will sign another guy beyond Aroldis Chapman/Kenley Jansen/Mark Melancon, but I think it would make sense if they do. In 20 regular season starts, Hill went 7 innings or longer only thrice. The highest pitch count he had was 112. If New York signs him, I think it is very possible that Joe Girardi will have a strict limit.

From what we can tell, Hill can give a team excellent quality innings in a limited number of starts. “Limited” is the key word here. Prior to 2016, the last time he had a 100+ IP season in pros was 2010 (103.0 IP total between AAA and MLB). In his pro career that started in 2002, only six times he managed to break the 100 IP mark. That is kind of terrifying.

Behind that number are a lot of injuries, but at the same time, he was very ineffective and also had pitched as a reliever. Perhaps we shouldn’t take the figure too seriously. It is true, however, he has limited or basically zero track record of durability. There could very well be a scenario in which he suffers a major injury early on in the contract and is never effective again. Obviously I am no Dodgers fan, but I always get wary that a free agent pitching signing could go as bad as the Jason Schmidt deal. It’s not an outcome that happens often but anything bad could happen when you take on an aging arm.

(Getty)
(Getty)

4. Do the Yankees need rotation help? (Spoiler: Yes)

As of right now, the two locks for the 2017 rotation are Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Pineda. Who do they have otherwise? Nathan Eovaldi will be rehabbing. Luis Severino could spend another year flip-flopping between the rotation and bullpen. Chad Green will have to earn a spot again if he recovers well from sprained elbow. Bryan Mitchell had a decent showing late in the year but I can’t say he’s locked down a rotation spot. There’s also Luis Cessa, who was decent but not a type that I’d easily guarantee a spot to.

So yeah, there are tons of question marks. At this point, you’ve gotta figure management knows that they need to make a move to improve the rotation to be competitive in 2017. As you can see the names from above, the young depth is there. It is hard to tell, at this moment, if any of them will turn out to be a reliable MLB starter for 2018 and beyond.

The Yankees would surely like to be a winning team in 2017. A Tanaka-Hill tandem would be a hoot. Hill was worth 3.8 fWAR in 2016, which is remarkable considering he only threw 110.1 IP. Getting 20 starts worth of solid production is better than none. Also, in a scenario where the 2017 Yankees tank coming into the trade deadline and Hill pitches lights out, they could explore trading him for prospects.

I think Hill is a worthy venture. He is an elite starting pitcher when healthy … for now. You never know what could happen to a pitcher turning 37. Unless he suffers a season-ending injury, a team could count on him for 100-130 IP worth of solid production. Is 150 IP out of the question? Maybe. If they monitor him well and his body doesn’t betray him, I can see Hill being a useful starter until the young guys in the organization start to make an impact. However, he hasn’t shown a track record of staying healthy as a SP for most of the season since, well, 2007.

On the other side of the coin, Hill wouldn’t require a draft pick or a trade. Just a check from the Steinbrenners. If the contract is around 3 years and $45-50 million, I say sign him. You don’t get many chances to sign a guy with such upside for that money. I don’t think money would be a huge issue for Yankees. However, I’m wondering, because of the weak starting pitching market this winter, if the Hill camp pushes the envelopes a bit and demand more annual money and/or a fourth year. I’m sure the team has done/doing/will do their research to evaluate whether Hill would be worth the risk. We’ll see what happens.

Yankees get walloped in Baltimore, lose 8-0 to Orioles

(Getty)

To put it succinctly, this game was not good. An 8-0 loss is, surprisingly enough, the worst ever shutout loss for the Yankees at Camden Yards. The lineup managed only two hits total while Chad Green exited early with a right elbow pain. No bueno. Aside from the fact that Jonathan Holder had a pretty nice debut inning, let’s forget this game happened.

Green = hurt

After a hit-or-miss first in which he loaded the bases but also struck out the side and allowed no runs, Green allowed the first run of the day in the second. He allowed a double to J.J. Hardy (which Jacoby Ellsbury got a bad jump to start with but I don’t think he was getting there anyway) and two batters later, an RBI single to Adam Jones to give O’s a 1-0 lead.

A batter later, Pedro Alvarez hit a fastball right down the middle for a 424 ft two-run homer. 3-0 Orioles. After walking Manny Machado, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius saw something wrong with Green. Joe Girardi immediately took him out and replaced him with Nick Goody. Yikes. Goody didn’t fare that well either. He gave up a dingers Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo back-to-back. The Yankees allowed six runs after two outs, which is not what you want.

Losing Green is a bummer. He’s still a young guy but has shown flashes of brilliance in several starts. I think he can he a long-term ML pitcher but if this injury turns out to be a serious one – fingers crossed that it’s not – it could throw a wrench into the progress.

(Getty)

Bullpen arms = brought in 

As I mentioned, the Yankee bullpen had to absorb tons of innings after Green left after only 1.2 IP. Goody came in and promptly allowed back-to-back jacks. The following inning was kinder to Goody – a scoreless frame with a strikeout and a double allowed. He doesn’t strike me as a potentially dominant ML relief guy. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff and is frequently guilty of leaving pitches up to be prone to homers. Sure, he can develop and fix some of the bad habits but I don’t see a high ceiling in him.

Kirby Yates came in the fourth and took care of two innings. Like Goody, he was pretty ho-hum mediocre. While striking out two in two frames, he also allowed a two-run dinger to Manny Machado, making it 8-0 in the bottom of fourth.

The silver lining of the game happened in the sixth. Jonathan Holder, who had an incredible season in minors (13.9 K/9 and 1.0 BB/9 with 1.65 ERA across three levels), made his ML debut. Against the first hitter faced in ML – Adam Jones – Holder made it look rather easy by striking him out swinging with three fastballs. Not so shabby. He also went on to retire Alvarez and Machado to make it a clean 1-2-3 inning. I have no idea how good of an ML reliever he could be but YankeeSource guy thinks he has a ceiling of David Robertson. Any comparison to a guy like D-Rob warrants some kind of skepticism but hey, drink the kool-aid while it’s cold.

After Holder, Luis Severino and Blake Parker came in and each pitched a scoreless one. Nope, I don’t have a take about Severino being a bullpen arm long-term. He sure does look better there right now but he’s still too young to give up being an ML starter.

Leftovers

The Yankees had two hits the entire game. One of them was a Brett Gardner leadoff single in the 1st (he went on to be picked off almost immediately) and another was an Ellsbury single in the third that put their only runner in RISP all game. They did work Dylan Bundy for four walks but failed to threaten anything major.

To be fair, Bundy is a talented young guy and is capable of shutting down lineups. He will be pain in other AL East teams’ sides for a long while as long as he’s healthy.

Box Score, Highlights, WPA and Standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, video highlights, WPA and updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs


Tomorrow is another day. CC Sabathia will take the mound against Kevin Gausman, who will look to give the O’s the series win. For now, enjoy this incredible photo of Camden Yards at dusk today by Patrick Smith of Getty Images.

(Getty)

Yankees get shellacked 12-3 by Rays, but hey, Judge and Sanchez homered


Source: FanGraphs

Come for Yankee baseball, stay just for young hitter dingers. Luis Severino got torched by the Rays today and Luis Cessa didn’t do too well either. However, those who paid their money to see the Yanks got to see Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez hit home runs to drive in their only runs of the day. It’s the weekend so let’s do it bullet point style.

  • The Runs (Allowed): Evan Longoria continued to kill the Yankees this series (or, as he’s always done in his career). He drove in the first run of the game for Rays in the first with an RBI double with Logan Forsythe on second. Longoria went 3-for-4 today with 4 RBI’s, doing his part in the 12-run barrage. Guys like Forsythe, Corey Dickerson and Nick Franklin also added in home runs. It was basically a field day. Each one of the Rays starters recorded at least a hit, which should just about tell you how bad the Yankee pitching was.
  • Baby (HR) Bombers: With team trailing 2-0 in the bottom of third, Judge hit a laser just above the short porch for a solo HR. Judge is here to kill baseballs. That ball didn’t seem like it wasn’t particularly hit that hard off the bat but it somehow sailed over the fence. Maybe it’s the easiness of how Judge swings the bat but man, that was something. Save a spot in your bank account for another Yankee jersey – you might want to get a #99 in an imminent future. An inning later, Sanchez got a fastball to drive into the left field seats. This one was a no-doubter.
  • Bad Command Sevvy: We all know the story with Severino. His electric fastball and slider allowed him to strike out seven in 3.2 IP, but he was touched for 7 hits and 2 HR’s in that span, giving up 7 earned runs. The Yankees sent him down to Triple-A right after the game and I hope he gets to maintain rhythm and work on stuff down there. I think he’ll figure something out but it doesn’t mean he’ll be a long-term SP in the majors.
  • Leftovers: After Sevvy departed, Cessa came in to relief. His line doesn’t look as bad as Severino’s but that’s not saying much. He allowed five earned runs in three innings pitched and a dinger to Nick Franklin. Blake Parker made his second Yankee appearance and tossed 1.1 scoreless IP with two strikeouts.

Here’s today’s box score, highlights, WPA and updated standings. The Yankees welcome the Blue Jays to Bronx tomorrow for a three-game series. Chad Green and R.A Dickey are starting Monday. This could be fun or disastrous.

Yankees fall short in the ninth, lose 5-3 to the Red Sox

This picture summarizes it, I think (Getty)

This game started off pretty nicely with a two-run explosion by the bats. With this Yankees team, that’s kind of too good to be true, right?  The Red Sox then scored five runs and held on during a pretty dicey ninth to win the game 5-3.

Taking the lead

For a little while in the game, I was a bit excited about the possibility of Luis Severino out-dueling Rick Porcello. If you haven’t been paying attention, Porcello’s numbers have been pretty neat this year. Prior to tonight’s game, he had a 14-3 record with a 3.46 ERA, becoming the pitcher that Boston envisioned to be when they gave up Yoenis Cespedes. Severino, on the other hand, has had a very up-and-down season in which he’s experienced major growing pains in the majors.

Happier times (Getty)

The Yankees, however, struck first. In the second, Starlin Castro doubled to lead off the inning and Chase Headley drove him in with a two-bagger of his to give New York a 1-0 lead. Castro seemed to move a bit gimpy after his double but thankfully, he stayed in game and played rest of the way.

You don’t call it an offensive explosion without consecutive innings of scoring. Brett Gardner doubled (yeah, again) to lead off the inning. Two batters later, Brian McCann squared up one to right for an RBI single, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Well, that’s as close to the climax for Yanks’ part of the game.

Giving’em back (and then more)

Severino started the bottom third with a Sandy Leon K. However, Andrew Benintendi singled (his first Fenway hit, by the way) and Mookie Betts followed it with a double to put him in a hot water all of sudden with runners on second and third. On the 9th pitch of the at-bat, Severino left a fastball middle up and Dustin Pedroia drove it down the right field line for a two-run double. Argh. Pedroia will do that to ya, especially if you’re a young pitcher going through things.

After tossing a scoreless fourth, Severino got into more trouble in the fifth by allowing a leadoff triple to Sandy Leon. Benintendi followed it with a looooong double that was initially called a double… then called a home run… then reviewed and called a double again. A batter later, Pedroia struck again, hitting a sharp liner down the right field (again) to drive in a run. 4-2. I’m honestly willing to give it time for Severino to develop as a possible ML starter but tonight was just not great – not being able to finish hitters off, giving up big hits, etc. Fortunately, he’s at a stage of the career that there’s always a next time.

Oh, Severino had his earned run tacked on to his ledger when Tommy Layne, making his Yankee debut, let the inherited runner score on an Ortiz RBI single. Sevvy’s final line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 0 BB and 3K.

The unlucky seventh

Behind 5-2, the Yankees could’ve padded about two runs (or even more) had it not been for some unfortunate baserunning hijinks. Headley hit a big fly bouncing off the center field wall to lead off the inning. The ball trickled away and it appeared that Headley could reach third. However, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s strong, accurate throw caught him out there. As third base coach Joe Espada wanted to check with dugout to see if they could challenge the call, apparently Porcello and Headley had a heated exchange that led to both benches clearing. The Yankee – Sox rivalry ain’t what it used to be, but hey, nothing like a drama like that to make things exciting.

With two outs, Aaron Hicks hit a weak grounder to third that Travis Shaw misplayed, allowing him to reach first base. Gardner followed it up with a sharp grounder down the left field line that seemed like Hicks should’ve scored on. However, Hicks missed Espada furiously waving him home and hesitated as he rounded the base. By the time Hicks saw it, it was too late – he had to stay there or he was dead meat at home. I have no idea how to explain that besides not really paying attention or losing Espada in the vision while running – or both. Yanks’ scoring chance died with Ellsbury’s line out to right.

Close call

Porcello threw eight innings of two-run ball and Farrell brought in his closer Craig Kimbrel to close out the game. Kimbrel is, well, known to be pretty good at this. Tonight, however, he seemed like he had difficulty putting balls into the zone.

After striking out Didi Gregorius, Kimbrel walked Headley. Once Gary Sanchez followed it up with a line out though, it seemed like the end of game was imminent. Well, that’s when Kimbrel walked three hitters in a row – the last one coming in a bases-loaded situation versus Jacoby Ellsbury. Pitching is pretty hard and that’s not really news to anyone. Kimbrel seemed like he was out of sync and not finishing the pitches well, resulting in a lot of pitches way off the mark and, well, walking a bunch of hitters.

The Yankees decreased the deficit to two runs and Farrell took Kimbrel out for Matt Barnes. Barnes had only one job and he got it done – getting the last out of the game. He did so by striking out Mark Teixeira looking with a fastball outside. I don’t know how to say it but this seemed like a fitting end to tonight’s game – the Yankees tried, but for one reason or another, they didn’t execute.

Box score, highlights, WPA and standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, video highlights, WPA and updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up next

The Yankees and Red Sox will play game two of this series tomorrow. Nathan Eovaldi and Drew Pomeranz will be the starters.