James Kaprielian to undergo Tommy John surgery

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2017 season will be another lost year for the Yankees’ top pitching prospect. Right-hander James Kaprielian will indeed undergo Tommy John surgery, the Yankees announced this morning. Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the surgery next Tuesday. Brian Cashman strongly indicated surgery was coming while speaking to reporters yesterday.

“We met last night,” said Scott Boras, Kaprielian’s agent, to Mike Mazzeo. “And it was something where, after the discussion with the doctors and compiling the proper information and having a history with pitchers, you don’t want to send a pitcher out to the mound where he’s going to have something in the back of his mind that’s troubling him from start to start. The surgery allows us to alleviate those concerns.”

Kaprielian, who turned 23 last month, missed nearly the entire 2016 regular season with a flexor tendon strain, and Cashman said the same injury resurfaced this spring. Last year’s rehab essentially failed. Here’s a quick recap of Kaprielian’s timeline:

  • April 25th, 2016: Placed on the minor league disabled list with elbow pain after three starts with High-A Tampa.
  • June 28th, 2016: Diagnosed with a flexor tendon strain after the elbow continued to be a problem and did not show improvement. ElAttrache examined Kaprielian at the time.
  • October and November, 2016: Makes seven starts in the Arizona Fall League. PitchFX says his fastball averaged 95.7 mph and the scouting reports were glowing.
  • March, 16th 2017: Throws two innings in his only Grapefruit League appearance. The Yankees took it slow with Kaprielian in camp and limited him to simulated games early on.
  • March 26th, 2017: Throws 4+ innings in a minor league spring game, according to Josh Norris. As far as we know, that’s the last time he pitched before this latest injury.
  • April 6th, 2017: Elbow begins acting up again.

These days Tommy John surgery comes with a 14-16 month rehab, sometimes even 18 months. The days of a 12-month rehab are all but over. A few years ago a rash of pitchers needed a second Tommy John surgery and the industry seems to have concluded the 12-month rehab was too aggressive. Kaprielian figures to be out until midseason 2018 at the very least.

Between the flexor injury last year and the Tommy John surgery now, Kaprielian is essentially going to miss two full seasons, likely more depending on the length of his rehab. Throwing 45 total innings, all in High-A and the AzFL, from Opening Day 2016 through midseason 2018 is, obviously, really bad. That’s an awful lot of development time Kaprielian won’t be able to make up. Sucks, but what can you do?

Despite last year’s injury, Kaprielian was very highly regarded coming into the season. I was surprised at how high he ranked on the various top 100 lists this spring, and I’m pretty sure I wrote that a few times. Look at his placement on the various top 100 lists:

2016 Rank 2017 Rank
Baseball America top 100 Not ranked 87th
Baseball Prospectus top 101 Not ranked 58th
Keith Law top 100 87th 28th
MLB.com top 100 Not ranked 55th

Kaprielian missed most of last year with a major elbow problem and he still climbed on every single list. That’s how impressive he looked during his admittedly brief AzFL stint last year. He was healthy and throwing well. The same was true in Spring Training. Then something gave. Pitchers, man.

The Yankees selected Kaprielian with their first round pick (16th overall) in the 2015 draft and paid him an above-slot $2.65M bonus. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Kaprielian’s velocity ticked up his draft year at UCLA, and again in pro ball both after the draft and early in 2016. Velocity spikes seem to have a way of leading to elbow woes.

I suppose the good news is Kaprielian is a top of the line makeup and work ethic guy who will attack his rehab. Tommy John surgery has a high success rate, but it’s not perfect. If it fails with Kaprielian, I don’t think it’ll be due to a lack of effort on his part. Kaprielian has been through worse in his life. Hopefully everything goes well and he comes back a better (and healthier) pitcher next season.

Quick Postgame Notes: Sanchez, Montgomery, Shreve

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees announced some news following this afternoon’s win over the Rays. A quick recap:

  • Sanchez out four weeks. Gary Sanchez will miss four weeks with a Grade I strain of his brachialis muscle. That’s the muscle behind the biceps. Girardi clarified that the Yankees expect Sanchez to be back in the big leagues in four weeks, not just starting baseball activity.
  • Montgomery to debut Wednesday. Jordan Montgomery will start Wednesday’s game and make his big league debut. Girardi said they’re doing that specifically to give Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia an extra day of rest. Luis Severino will pitch Thursday instead.
  • Shreve sent down. The Yankees optioned Chasen Shreve to Triple-A Scranton following today’s game. That clears a 25-man roster spot for Montgomery. They still need to clear a 40-man spot. That might not happen until Wednesday.

So good news and bad news. Yay for Montgomery, boo for the Sanchez injury. All things considered though, four weeks for Sanchez isn’t terrible. The way he grimaced in pain Saturday had me thinking it was a serious shoulder problem.

Update: Gary Sanchez headed to disabled list with biceps strain

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

8:00pm: Sanchez will be placed on the 10-day disabled list, according to Jack Curry. Sweeny Murti says Higashioka is coming up from Scranton. Following today’s game Joe Girardi said the Yankees will be cautious with Sanchez because the injury is to his throwing arm.

6:02pm: The Yankees say Sanchez has a right biceps strain. Phew. I was worried it his shoulder. They’re not out of the woods yet, but a biceps strain is far more preferable to a shoulder (or elbow) issue. Here’s video of the injury:

5:40pm: Gary Sanchez left this afternoon’s game with some sort of right arm injury. He took a swing in the fifth inning, then immediately grimaced and doubled over. No idea what it could be, though he was clearly favoring his right arm. Sanchez left the game without really lobbying in to stay.

Needless to say, losing Sanchez for any length of time would be pretty devastating. He is one of the Yankees’ best hitters despite his relatively slow start to the season, and he’s also their starting catcher. That’s kind of a big deal. Kyle Higashioka is the No. 3 catcher in Triple-A right now. Hopefully Sanchez’s injury is nothing serious and he isn’t needed.

The Yankees have not yet released any sort of update on Sanchez, so stay tuned.

James Kaprielian heading for MRI on pitching elbow

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once again, James Kaprielian‘s elbow is acting up. The Yankees placed their top pitching prospect on the minor league disabled list with elbow pain earlier today, the team announced. He’s going for an MRI and a dye contrast MRI. The Yankees will know more once the tests are done.

Kaprielian, as you know, missed most of last season with a flexor strain. He did return in time for the Arizona Fall League and reports said he looked very god. PitchFX clocked his fastball at 95.7 mph on average with a max of 99.1 mph out in the desert. Kaprielian threw 45 total innings between High-A and the AzFL in 2016.

“It’s a concern,” said Brian Cashman to Erik Boland. Cashman also confirmed Kaprielian first complained of discomfort two days ago, so this is a relatively new injury. The discomfort is in the same spot as Kaprielian’s injury last year. Pitching is terrible. Don’t ever pitch.

The Yankees took it slow with their 2015 first round pick in Spring Training, opting to have him throw simulated games for the first few weeks before letting him make a two-inning Grapefruit League appearance. Kaprielian threw four-plus innings in a minor league camp start last week and told Josh Norris he felt good.

Hopefully this is nothing serious. Needless to say though, elbow trouble in back-to-back seasons is not good. Kaprielian is New York’s best pitching prospect in terms of stuff and command, but health is a skill and he hasn’t shown it as a pro yet. Even a minor injury is a red flag at this point. Sigh.

Could Didi Gregorius’ injury be Rob Refsnyder’s opportunity?

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Didi Gregorius‘ injury is unfortunate in every way, even if he may only miss a month of the season. The Yankees don’t have a ready-made replacement and, much more importantly, a key cog of their future has to deal with an injury that can set him back after he made strides last season and hoped to bring into this season. Furthermore, Gregorius’ best tool is perhaps his arm strength and that could be affected by this injury.

As with every injury in sports, there is now an opportunity for someone else. As Mike detailed the other day and some reporters have indicated, the likeliest scenario is Starlin Castro, despite his prior experience at short, to stay at second while Ronald Torreyes and possibly Ruben Tejada or Pete Kozma take the load at short. This is a fine option, albeit with the lesser offensive (and likely defensive) production at shortstop. It’d be tough to imagine Tyler Wade or Gleyber Torres are quite ready for the job either (again, check out Mike’s piece on this).

There is another option, albeit one that guarantees lesser performance defensively and that is moving Castro to shortstop — he played just three games there last year — and handing the second base job to … Rob Refsnyder. The oft-talked of second baseman has been masquerading as a super utility player for the last year, but perhaps this is the opportunity he needs to prove himself, one way or another.

Joe Girardi talked about how the team sees him as that utility player, working all around the field. “I look at him at second, first, right and left, is how I look at Ref,” Girardi said to the Daily News. “Depending on what we do, that’s why I talked about he can play his way in, and if he’s an extra infielder and outfielder, whatever he is, then you might have to move Castro to play some short. If you give (Chase Headley) a day off and you move Torreyes over, then that would be Ref’s spot at second. Those are the different options we have.”

Is this the chance Refsnyder needs? Well, he’ll need to show some improvements to make it happen.

1. Refsnyder needs to show more at the plate

So far in his MLB career, Refsnyder has had all of 222 plate appearances. For all the talk of him taking over second base during the 2015 season, it would seem like he’d have taken more ABs, but alas, that is not the case. He hit quite well during his 47 PAs in 2015 (131 wRC+) but looked exposed in sporadic stints last season, batting just .250/.328/.309 (72 wRC+).

As has been discussed on this website before, he needs to hit for power in order to make at the big league level. He actually had a .512 slugging percentage (.210 ISO) in 2015 and there was reason to believe he has some power potential. With Torreyes, you’re simply not going to get much power, but you’ll get plenty of contact. He hit .258/.305/.374 (81 wRC+) last season in 168 plate appearances and had an 11.9 percent strikeout rate compared to Refsnyder’s 17.1 percent mark.

Refsnyder does walk a bit more than Torreyes, but as detailed below, he’s enough of a negative defensively that he’ll need to more than make up for it at the plate for this experiment to be worth it. While spring stats are relatively meaningless, Refsnyder has struck out in 11 of 39 PAs while Torreyes has just two in 41 PAs. Refsnyder does have a better slash line this spring but neither has impressed with the bat.

2. How would it work defensively?

Losing Gregorius is a blow to the Yankees’ team defense. While defensive metrics were down on Didi last season, it’s likely that Gregorius would have been a defensive plus for the month or so he’ll now miss. Last season, Torreyes only played 99 innings at shortstop, his only time at short in his brief MLB career. He made one error in 11 starts there while UZR had him at -0.7 there (-15.9 UZR/150). Again, short sample size, hard to judge.

So what would happen if instead of Torreyes getting extended time at short, Castro shifted over and Refsnyder moved to second in his place? In Castro’s case, it could actually work out well. Castro has been seen as a definite negative in his 1,524 innings at second over the last two years with a -7.4 UZR. At shortstop, he’s been a minus in his career, albeit less so. He only played 20 innings there last season, but it is his natural position. He wasn’t particularly adept there (negative in DRS each season except 2012).

And then there’s Refsnyder. To be fair, he’s only played 147 MLB innings at second base, but they haven’t been pretty, either in terms of statistics or the eye test. He has a -3 DRS and -2.6 UZR in those innings and has been better, albeit in similarly small samples, at each other position he’s played in the majors. 1B, LF and RF are the ones he has more than an inning played (He actually graded out well in RF during 132 2/3 innings last year, if that’s worth anything). It’s also simply hard to forget how inept he looked at times during his stint at second in 2015. It seemed like a common announcer phrase during that time was “past a diving Refsnyder.”

All of this is to say that defensively, this pairing could be tough to stomach, hence why it’s so necessary that Refsnyder hit if he’s going to be anything more than a Quadruple A player.

3. Easy to change course

Putting Refsnyder in at second would be a perfect chance to see whether he sinks or swims at the big league level. He’d have the chance to know he’s starting every day for certain period and the team would see if he can produce with that comfort level. I have my doubts, but it’s an imperfect solution just like every other replacement for Gregorius.

If he didn’t perform after a few weeks, it’s easy to course correct. First of all, this is only temporary since Gregorius should miss only a month or so. With Torreyes on the roster, it’d also be simple enough to begin giving him the starts if the defensive minuses are too much or Refsnyder simply hack it at the plate.

The questions about Refsnyder can seem pretty glaring, but this would be a chance to answer them in a low cost scenario. It’s not like Torreyes will be much better with the bat. The worst case is that Refsnyder is so unpalatable at second that the team decides to send him back down to AAA quickly. In the best case, the Yankees find a suitable backup with restored promise for when Gregorius returns.

Didi Gregorius will miss Opening Day with shoulder strain

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Yankees received good news and bad news about Didi Gregorius and his injured shoulder today. The good news: Gregorius does not have a serious injury. It’s a shoulder strain and he will be shut down from baseball activities for two weeks. The bad news: Didi will miss Opening Day. Bummer. Bryan Hoch has the news.

Joe Girardi acknowledged Gregorius may miss all of April because they’re going to be cautious with him, obviously. They won’t try to rush him back or anything like that. It’s better to miss a few games now than many games later. Gregorius will be shut down for two weeks, then he’ll have to get back into game shape before playing.

Gregorius hurt himself making a throw while playing second base in a World Baseball Classic tune-up game in Arizona over the weekend, Girardi told Michael Silverman. The Netherlands clinched a spot in the semifinals last week, and they had a long layoff before last night’s game because they had to travel from Tokyo, so they played an exhibition game to stay sharp.

The Yankees have a not terrible collection of replacement shortstop options. My guess is they’ll ride out Didi’s injury with Ronald Torreyes and either Ruben Tejada or Donovan Solano. I suppose they could continue the youth movement and go with Tyler Wade though. We’ll see. Either way, Gregorius will be out a while, but at least it’s not something more serious.

Didi Gregorius leaves WBC with right shoulder injury

(AP Photo/Toru Takahashi)
(AP Photo/Toru Takahashi)

Welp, this isn’t good: Didi Gregorius has left Team Netherlands and is returning to Tampa with a right shoulder injury, according to Bryan Hoch and Kevin Kernan. It’s a “hematoma of the subcapsular muscle,” whatever that means, according to Anthony Rieber. Gregorius had a preliminary MRI yesterday and will go for more tests tomorrow.

“The doctor was really encouraged by his strength and felt good about it, but we thought we’re going to cover ourselves,” said Joe Girardi to Randy Miller. “It’s obviously not what you want to hear, but hopefully it’s something short. But again, we have not seen him. The evaluation from the doctor was his strength was really good. But we’ve got to see him.”

Gregorius played six games in the World Baseball Classic — one at shortstop and five at designated hitter in deference to Andrelton Simmons. The Netherlands clinched a spot in the semifinals last week and they’ve spent the last few days in Arizona working out and playing exhibition games while waiting for the semifinals to start tonight.

It’s unclear how exactly Gregorius got hurt, but it could simply be one of those wear and tear baseball injuries. I know everyone will freak out and blame the WBC, but Gregorius could have just as easily gotten hurt with the Yankees. It doesn’t really matter though. He’s hurt and that’s that.

Hopefully tomorrow’s tests bring good news because the shortstop depth chart is not pretty. Ronald Torreyes, Ruben Tejada, Donovan Solano, and Pete Kozma are the best in-house options. I don’t think the Yankees would be foolish enough to accelerate their timetable with Gleyber Torres because of the injury. Didi getting hurt doesn’t make Torres more MLB ready.

Gregorius, 27, hit .276/.304/.447 (98 wRC+) with 20 home runs last season. He went 8-for-23 (.385) with four doubles and a home run in his six WBC games. Opening Day is only 13 days away, so unless this is a really minor injury, Didi’s chances of being ready to start the season aren’t good.