Tuesday Links: Sabathia, Girardi, Mets, Judge, Tate, Abreu

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Thanks to wins in Games Three and Four of the ALDS the last two days, the Yankees will play for a spot in the ALCS tomorrow night. What a fun season this has been. I hope it never ends. Anyway, here are some stray links to check out now that we all have a chance to catch our breath a bit during the off-day.

Sabathia still wants to pitch in 2018

Over the weekend CC Sabathia reiterated to Jon Morosi that he plans to pitch in 2018. He said this back over the winter too, but at 37 years old and with a balky knee, he could’ve changed his mind at some point during the season. And heck, maybe the Yankees will win the World Series and Sabathia will decide to ride off into the sunset as a champion. That’d be cool, as much as I’d miss CC.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow night, I am totally cool with bringing Sabathia back on one-year contracts for pretty much the rest of his career, Andy Pettitte style. He showed this year that last season’s success was no fluke. The new Sabathia is here to stay. Between the perpetual need for pitching depth and Sabathia’s leadership role in the clubhouse, bringing him back is a no-brainer. And why would Sabathia want to leave? The Yankees are good and fun, and he lives here year-round. The going rate for veteran innings dudes (Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, etc.) is one year and $10M to $12M these days. Maybe Sabathia gets $15M because he’s basically a legacy Yankee?

Mets have discussed Girardi

I had a feeling this was coming. According to Mike Puma, the Mets have internally discussed pursuing Joe Girardi should Girardi and the Yankees part ways when his contract expires after the season. Terry Collins was essentially pushed out as Mets manager after the season, and the team is looking for a new skipper. Also, as George King writes, Girardi has given some indications he could step away after the season to spend more time with his family and avoid burnout.

While we should never rule out Girardi going elsewhere or simply stepping away to be with his family, these two reports struck me as plants from Girardi’s camp as a way to build leverage for contract talks. The best thing for Girardi would be the Nationals and Dusty Baker having trouble finding common ground for an extension, because then he could use them as leverage too. I think Girardi wants to come back — who’d want to leave given how well set up the Yankees are for the future? — and I think both Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman want him back. The chances of a reunion seem quite high to me. Maybe as high as 95/5.

Judge named BA’s Rookie of the Year

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

A few days ago Baseball America named Aaron Judge their 2017 Rookie of the Year, which should surprise no one. They give out one award for all of MLB, not one for each league. Baseball America has been giving out their Rookie of the Year award since 1989 and Judge is the second Yankee to win it, joining Derek Jeter in 1996. From their write-up:

“You watched him in the minor leagues and you saw the raw power and athletic ability,” one pro scout told BA during the season. “You saw a big swing and high strikeout numbers. Then you have to ask yourself does he have the ability to make adjustments and shorten the swing. The answer was yes.’

“If anybody says they expected this I would have to call them a liar. Nobody in their right mind expected this.”

The last few Baseball America Rookies of the Year include Corey Seager, Kris Bryant, Jose Abreu, Jose Fernandez, and Mike Trout. Judge is for sure going to win the AL Rookie of the Year award — he’d be the first Yankee to win that since Jeter — and he should win unanimously. The real question here is the MVP race. I see way more people explaining why Judge shouldn’t win it (his slump) than why Jose Altuve should win. Kinda weird.

Tate removed, Abreu added to AzFL roster

Dillon Tate has been removed from the Scottsdale Scorpions roster with Albert Abreu taking his place, the Arizona Fall League announced. Also, Chris Gittens was removed from the roster as well. I’m not sure why Tate was dropped from the roster, but it could one of countless reasons. He could’ve gotten hurt. The Yankees could’ve decided to shut him down after Instructional League. The Yankees may think those innings would be better spent on Abreu. Who knows.

Abreu came over in the Brian McCann trade and he threw only 53.1 innings around elbow and lat injuries this year. He finished the season healthy though, and is obviously healthy enough to go to the AzFL, so he’ll be able to squeeze in some more innings there. That’s good. Abreu has an awful lot of upside, maybe the most of any pitcher in the system. As for Gittens, he was removed because Billy McKinney was added to the AzFL roster, and he’s going to start playing some first base there. Only so many first base roster spots to go around, so Gittens gets dropped.

Saturday Links: Otani, Denbo, Judge, Sanchez, YES Network

(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)
(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

The Yankees and Indians have an off-day today as the ALDS shifts from Cleveland to New York. The best-of-five series will resume with Game Three tomorrow night. Here are some links to check out in the meantime.

Otani dazzles in possible final start in Japan

Shohei Otani, who may or may not come to MLB this offseason, made what could be his final start for the Nippon Ham Fighters earlier this week. He struck out ten in a two-hit shutout of the Orix Buffaloes, and Jason Coskrey says dozens of MLB scouts attended the game. Otani finished the season with a 3.20 ERA in 25.1 innings and a .340/.413/.557 batting line in 63 games. He missed time with quad and ankle problems, hence the limited time on the mound.

Joel Sherman says the Yankees are “known to be extremely interested” in Otani, who, if he does come over this year, will come over under the old posting rules. That means the (Ham) Fighters will set a $20M release fee. MLB and NPB are currently renegotiating the posting agreement for other players going forward. The Yankees have roughly $2M in international bonus money to offer Otani based on my estimates, though if he comes over this year, it won’t be for top dollar. Basically no team has much international money to offer. Otani will go wherever he thinks is the best fit based on his own personal preferences. Good luck predicting that.

Denbo expected to join Marlins

Folks in baseball expect Yankees vice president of player development Gary Denbo to join Derek Jeter and the Marlins this offseason, reports Jon Heyman. Marlins general manager Mike Hill is expected to remain on, with Denbo coming over to head up their player development department, the same department he runs for the Yankees now. Denbo’s contract is up after the season, so he’s free to come and go as he chooses.

Jeter and Denbo are very close and go back a long away, and I figured Jeter would try to poach him once we found out he was buying the Marlins. Denbo has done a phenomenal job turning around the farm system and the Yankees will miss him, assuming they can’t convince him to stay. Who will take over the farm system? I have no idea. The Yankees will find someone. I’m curious to see which Yankees farmhands the Marlins try to acquire going forward. You know Denbo has some personal favorites in the system.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Judge had most popular jersey in 2017

The most popular player jersey this season, according to sales on MLB.com, belongs to Aaron Judge. Here is the press release. The average age of the top 20 players in jersey sales is 27, so that’s fun. Here’s the top five:

  1. Aaron Judge, Yankees
  2. Kris Bryant, Cubs
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  5. Bryce Harper, Nationals

Also in the top 20 jersey sales: Gary Sanchez. He ranked 15th in jersey sales overall and sixth among AL players, behind Judge, Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, and Jose Altuve. Only two pitchers in the top 20, which is kinda weird. Kershaw is fourth and Noah Syndergaard is 19th. The people love dingers, I guess.

YES Network ratings up 57%

Not surprisingly, the YES Network’s rating were up a whopping 57% this season, the network announced yesterday. This season’s ratings were the best in five years. Primetime game broadcasts on YES had higher ratings than the primetime schedules of all other cable networks in New York, plus ratings for non-game broadcasts (pregame and postgame shows, etc.) were up as well. Ratings outside the city also increased substantially. Turns out if you put a very good and very fun team on the field, people will watch. Who woulda thunk it?

Thursday Links: Top High-A Prospects, Shohei Otani

Tate. (Presswire)
Tate. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Rays wrap up their three-game series later today — final night game of the regular season! — so, until then, here are some stray links and notes to check out.

Two Yankees among top High-A prospects

Baseball America (subs. req’d) continued this week with their analysis of the top 20 prospects in each minor league. They covered the High-A Florida State League today, with Blue Jays 3B Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Blue Jays SS Bo Bichette sitting in the top two spots. Two Yankees farmhands made the top 20:

  • 7) RHP Dillon Tate: “His fastball reaches 98 mph consistently, and unlike past seasons, he held his velocity, often getting up to 97 as late as the eighth inning of his last two starts. His fastball command, changeup and slider all have improved from 2016.”
  • 14) 2B Nick Solak: “(He) has fast hands, a feel for hitting and above-average speed. He’s put in the work to become an average defender … ‘He’s a baseball player who can really hit,’ one league manager said. ‘He’s a pain in the butt to have to play against; that’s a compliment.’

In the chat, John Manuel said RHP Taylor Widener has a chance to be “in the Adam Warren family of swing man,” which would be an amazing outcome for a 12th round pick. Widener successfully transitioned from college reliever to pro starter this year, though Manuel says it’s unfair to compare to him to RHP Chance Adams because Adams has more fastball. Still pretty cool that Widener raised his stock this year.

Anyway, glad to hear Tate is back to being the 2015 fourth overall pick version of himself after the Rangers tried to tweak his mechanics last year. Keith Law had a similar report recently too, so we’re getting a consensus here. OF Estevan Florial did not spend enough time with High-A Tampa this season to qualify for the top 20 list. Interestingly enough, neither Athletics SS Jorge Mateo nor Twins RHP Zack Littell made the top 20. I wonder if that was an oversight. I figured both would be locks, especially Mateo. Whatever.

Otani interviewing MLB agents

According to Jon Heyman, two-way superstar Shohei Otani has started interviewing prospective agents. This is another indication Otani is indeed preparing to make the jump to MLB, though it doesn’t confirm anything. He could just be doing his homework. Here’s more from Heyman:

Big-time agencies Wasserman (led by Joel Wolfe and Adam Katz), Octagon (headed by Alan Nero), The Legacy Agency and the Scott Boras Corporation are believed to be in the early mix and seen as among the favorites, as all have experience repping Japanese stars. Many groups declined comment or ignored messages regarding the process, but other big-time agencies with experiencing repping Japanese stars include Excel (Casey Close), CAA (Brodie Van Wagenen) and John Boggs.

Otani is basically interviewing the who’s who of player agents, and the Yankees have relationships with all of ’em. Brian Cashman and his staff have hammered out deals with Wasserman (Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui), Octagon (Hiroki Kuroda), Legacy (CC Sabathia), Boras (Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez), and Excel (Derek Jeter) plenty of times over the years. I wouldn’t say those relationships give the Yankees an advantage — every team has a relationship with every agent! — but they can’t hurt.

Otani will be exempt from new posting agreement

MLB and NPB are currently negotiating a new posting agreement — MLB is trying to knock down the cost of acquiring players from Japan again — and, according to Jim Allen, the next agreement will not apply to Otani. Should he come to MLB, it will be under the old posting agreement, meaning the Nippon Ham Fighters will set the release fee — it’ll surely be the max $20M — and whichever team signs Otani will pay it. That’s good. It means no delay in Otani’s posting as the two sides haggle over the posting system.

There are two posting system proposals on the table: a flat 15% of the player’s contract, or 15% up to $100M with a flat $20M fee for deals in excess of $100M. Under that arrangement, the (Ham) Fighters would receive less than $1M for Otani given the international hard cap. Allen says MLB’s international rules, which say players under 25 count against the hard cap and come with six years of control, effectively tell Japan’s best young players to come straight to MLB out of high school. Don’t bother playing in Japan because it’ll just delay your big payday. Junichi Tazawa did that. NPB teams aren’t thrilled, as you can imagine.

2017 Minor League Awards

The GCL Yanks East won their league title this year. (MiLB.com)
The GCL Yanks East won their league title this year. (MiLB.com)

The last 18 months or so have been a whirlwind down in the farm system. Last year the Yankees decided to sell at the trade deadline for the first time in nearly three decades, which gave them arguably the game’s best and deepest farm system coming into this season. All the scouting publications ranked New York’s system second best behind only the hard tanking Braves this spring.

This season, the Yankees started to turn that highly ranked farm system into MLB players. Aaron Judge graduated to the big leagues and broke the rookie home run record. Jordan Montgomery graduated to the big leagues and became a solid back-end starter. Chad Green graduated to big leagues and emerged as a lockdown reliever. Others like Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade, and Domingo German made their MLB debuts as well.

Then there are the trades. The purpose of a farm system is to produce MLB players and trade chips, and the Yankees did both this year. Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin, and Tito Polo went to the White Sox for David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Tommy Kahnle. Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian, and Dustin Fowler went to the Athletics for Sonny Gray. Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns became Jaime Garcia. The farm system had a ton of big league impact in 2017.

Despite the graduations and trades, the Yankees still have a very strong farm system with one of the two or three best prospects in the game in Gleyber Torres. “(Farm system head) Gary Denbo has done a terrific job. They have the best minor league system, by far,” said one rival scout to Jon Heyman recently. The Yankees minor league affiliates went a combined 491-325 this year, far and away the best record among the 30 teams, and seven of their eight affiliates qualified for the postseason. Lots of prospects and lots of winning.

Now that the minor league postseason is over, it’s time to hand out some awards for the minor league season. As always, these awards are totally subjective and completely meaningless. I have no authority whatsoever. This is just my look back at the season and a recognition for those who played well. This isn’t any sort of top prospects list. It’s a best performers list regardless of prospect status. Got it? Good.

Here are my 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 awards posts. Ten years already. This is year eleven. Crazy. Time to dive into this season’s minor league awards.

Minor League Player of the Year: OF Estevan Florial
Not an easy call this year! Not at all. It came down to Florial and Andujar, both of whom had tremendous seasons. Ultimately, I went with Florial because while they had comparable offensive numbers, Florial did it as a 19-year-old in full season leagues. That to me is more impressive than a 22-year-old having a big season at Double-A and Triple-A. Andujar was essentially repeating Double-A for the first half of the season. Florial played a handful of Low-A (and High-A) games last year, but only a handful. Andujar was with Trenton for the second half last year. Again, both had amazing seasons! I think Florial’s was a little more impressive, despite the unsightly 31.1% strikeout rate. He hit .298/.372/.479 (145 wRC+) with 10.5% walks, 23 doubles, seven triples, 13 homers, and 23 steals in 31 attempts, which earned him a spot in the Futures Game and will land him in the various top 100 prospect lists next spring.

Florial. (Charleston RiverDogs)
Florial. (Charleston RiverDogs)

Minor League Pitcher of the Year: RHP Chance Adams
Adams was not quite as good this year as last year, though he was still the most consistently excellent pitcher in the farm system in 2017. He started the season back at Double-A before a quick promotion to Triple-A, and overall, he threw 150.1 innings with a 2.45 ERA (3.70 FIP) with 22.3% strikeouts and 9.6% walks. The walks are the only real negative. Adams led the farm system in innings and his 135 strikeouts were third most behind Brian Keller (157) and Domingo Acevedo (142). Among the 17 pitchers to throw at least 100 innings in the system this year, his 1.078 WHIP was second lowest behind Caleb Smith (1.063). I nearly went with Keller here, though a 23-year-old four-year college guy against Single-A kids isn’t really a fair fight. Adams would’ve carved up Low-A too.

Minor League Hitter of the Year: 3B Miguel Andujar
Florial is the Minor League Player of the Year and Andujar has to settle for being the Minor League Hitter of the Year. Not a bad consolation prize. Andujar authored a .315/.352/.498 (132 wRC+) batting line between Double-A and Triple-A and led the farm system in hits (151), doubles (36), and extra-base hits (54). He also struck out only 13.6% of the time against the best pitching he’s ever faced. Forty-seven players posted a 130 wRC+ or better in at least 500 minor league plate appearances this season, and among those 47, Andujar had the fifth lowest strikeout rate. And, as an added bonus, he went 3-for-4 with a double in his MLB debut. Quite a season for Andujar.

Breakout Player of the Year: OF Estevan Florial
Really easy call here. When you make the jump from interesting yet relatively unheralded short season prospect to the Futures Game and top 100 lists and my Minor League Player of the Year in the span of a season, you’re the obvious Breakout Player of the Year. Just an incredible all-around season for Florial. Jorge Guzman and Taylor Widener deserve an honorable mention here. Freicer Perez and Jonathan Loaisiga as well. The Yankees graduated several top prospects to the big leagues and traded away several others, yet they replenished the pipeline by helping more than a few guys take their game to the next level, none moreso than Florial

Comeback Player of the Year: RHP Domingo German
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, German threw 109.1 minor league innings around big league call-ups, during which he posted a 2.88 ERA (3.29 FIP) with 26.3% strikeouts and 7.1% walks. He was at his best late in the season, as he got further away from elbow reconstruction and actually got a chance to pitch rather than sit in the big league bullpen as the little used eighth reliever. Little Sunday pitched to a 2.34 ERA (2.84 FIP) in his final ten Triple-A starters after being sent down for good. Jake Cave and Billy McKinney deserve a mention for their strong comebacks seasons. In my opinion, German coming back from major surgery to do what he did is more Comeback Player of the Year worthy than a couple bats bouncing back from down seasons.

Bounceback Player of the Year (started slow, finished strong): SS Kyle Holder
Second straight Bounceback Player of the Year award for Holder. The defensive wiz played 104 total games this season, all with High-A Tampa. His first 52 games: .187/.232/.242 (37 wRC+) with seven extra base hits (four doubles, two triples, one homer), 16.0% strikeouts and 4.7% walks. He started the season in a 1-for-34 (.029) slump. Yikes. His last 52 games though: .351/.396/.452 (151 wRC+) with 15 extra base hits (12 doubles, three homers), 12.2% strikeouts, and 7.0% walks. The end result is a .271/.317/.350 (95 wRC+) batting line. Would be nice to see Holder put together a full productive season at some point rather than continue the “bad first half, great second half” trend.

Best Pro Debut: OF Steven Sensley
Plucked from Louisiana-Lafayette in the 12th round of this year’s draft, Sensley received a straight slot $125,000 bonus, then went on to hit .292/.370/.584 (157 wRC+) with 15 doubles and 13 homers in only 50 pro games. Although his season didn’t start until late-June, Sensley finished ninth in the farm system in homers and 22nd in extra-base hits. The Yankees started him in the Rookie Gulf Coast League, then bumped him up to Rookie Pulaski, then again to Low-A Charleston. Sensley kept forcing the issue. Outfielder Canaan Smith (4th round) and right-handers Trevor Stephan (3rd) and Glenn Otto (5th) get the honorable mentions here.

Most Disappointing Player of the Year: SS Wilkerman Garcia
Not many candidates to choose from — that’s a good thing! — so Wilkerman gets the nod almost by default. A shoulder issue early last year slowed Garcia’s season, during which he hit .198/.255/.284 (52 wRC+) in 54 rookie ball games after getting back on the field. This year the hope was Garcia would bounce back with a healthy shoulder and continue his rise up the prospect rankings. Instead, Wilkerman hit .222/.256/.296 (64 wRC+) with 26.0% strikeouts and 4.3% walks in 67 games with Short Season Staten Island. His big breakout 2015 season — Garcia hit .299/.414/.362 (140 wRC+) with more walks (25) than strikeouts (19) in 39 rookie ball games that year — feels like so long ago.

All-Minor League Teams

First Team Second Team Third Team
Catcher Donny Sands Gustavo Campero Jorge Saez
First Base Mike Ford Brandon Wagner Ji-Man Choi
Second Base Nick Solak Donovan Solano Billy Fleming
Shortstop Tyler Wade Gleyber Torres Thairo Estrada
Third Base Miguel Andujar Dermis Garcia Gosuke Katoh
Outfield Estevan Florial Isiah Gilliam Alex Palma
Outfield Clint Frazier Billy McKinney Jhalan Jackson
Outfield Jake Cave Steven Sensley Zack Zehner
Starting Pitcher Chance Adams Domingo German Caleb Smith
Starting Pitcher Brian Keller Freicer Perez Justus Sheffield
Starting Pitcher Domingo Acevedo Taylor Widener Jorge Guzman
Relief Pitcher Nestor Cortes Jose Mesa Jr. Anyelo Gomez
Relief Pitcher Ben Heller Cody Carroll Nick Rumbelow

Lifetime Achievement Award: IF Cito Culver
The Cito Culver story is well known by now. The Yankees selected Culver with their first round pick, the 32nd overall selection in the 2010 draft, even though he was considered more of a third or fourth round talent. Baseball America ranked him 168th (!) among their top 200 draft prospects that year. Lists are just lists, they don’t mean anything, but the pick sure led to some head-scratching.

Cito. (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Cito. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Culver never did anything to justify his draft spot — he dropped out of my top 30 prospects list (and Baseball America’s as well) by the middle of 2013 — though he has remained in the organization and become a super utility player. “It was about the halfway point last year where we decided Cito was more of what we call an Infield 5 player, which means he can play shortstop, third base, second base,” said farm system head Gary Denbo to Chad Jennings last spring.

This season Culver, with Triple-A Scranton, played 46 games at shortstop, 25 at first base, 17 at third base, 12 at second base, and three in left field. Plus three others at designated hitter. Culver set a career high with 12 home runs this season, and while he faded in the second half, he did manage a .246/.317/.463 (114 wRC+) batting line before the All-Star break. In parts of eight pro seasons, Cito has played in 833 games and batted 3,453 times.

As best I can tell, Culver is the longest tenured player in the organization who has yet to play in the big leagues. He hasn’t even been added to the 40-man roster yet. Last winter Culver became a minor league free agent and decided to re-sign with the Yankees despite (likely) knowing they would continue to use him as a utility man. Cito never did reward the Yankees for the high draft slot and $954,000 bonus, though he has stuck around for the better part of the decade as an organizational role player, and those are the players the Lifetime Achievement Award is intended to honor.

Thoughts during the homestretch of the regular season

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The Yankees, as we all know, are chasing the AL East division title and, as much as they’d hate to admit it, solidifying their status as the top AL Wild Card team. The Red Sox look like clear AL East winners and the Yankees seem to be gearing up for the AL Wild Card game (most likely at home). Anyways, here are some thoughts I’ve got.

1. The Dellin BetancesAroldis Chapman duo was ballyhooed all offseason to be a cream of the crop eighth-ninth inning bullpen duo. Both of them are not having bad seasons, but the performance has not reached the expectations. As of now, Dellin Betances has a 3.02 ERA in 56.2 IP. While he’s still striking out hitters at an exorbitant rate (15.53 K/9 IP), his walk rate has almost doubled from last year (3.45 to 6.83 BB/9 IP, yeesh). Chapman? This is his worst season as a big leaguer since 2012. He has a 3.50 ERA and a 2.68 FIP – both of them higher than marks from 2012-16 seasons. Both relievers have been inconsistent all season, Jekyll and Hyde-mode. What is interesting, however, is the pattern of how they did it. Take a look at their monthly stats:

April
Betances: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 14 K, 1.13 ERA
Chapman: 9.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 15 K,  0.96 ERA

May
Betances: 9.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 18 K, 0.00 ERA
Chapman: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 10.80 ERA

June
Betances: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 9 BB, 15 K, 4.50 ERA
Chapman: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 1.93 ERA

July
Betances: 12.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 13 BB, 21 K, 4.26 ERA
Chapman: 13.0 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 16 K, 2.77 ERA

August
Betances: 12.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 6 BB, 17 K, 1.50 ERA
Chapman: 8.0 IP, 8 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 8 K, 9.00 ERA

September
Betances: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 6 BB, 14 K, 7.04 ERA
Chapman: 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 0.00 ERA

As you see, they’ve been pretty much see-sawing it after April. If the Yankees want to go deep into the postseason, they can’t afford to have one of them be off again. Imagine if they were dominant together for one or two more months of the season. Given that the Yankees have lost a lot of one-run games this season, we could be talking about the AL East division-leading team. What’s giving me hope for Chapman is that he seems to have found the root of his problems and fixed it. Betances? It’ll take a few good outings in a row for Yankee fans to feel comfortable seeing him on mound in cutthroat October situations.

2. The last time the Yankees made the postseason was 2015. It’s kind of staggering to think how different the team was only two seasons ago. For instance, they had guys like A-Rod and Mark Teixeira playing vital roles most of the season. We had no idea what was coming with guys like Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. Also unlike that top AL Wild Card team, this likely-top AL Wild Card team seems to have a much brighter forecast in October. While momentum in September does not necessarily correlate with how the team fares in playoffs, the 2015 team did not have a lot of good things going for them towards the AL Wild Card game. Teixeira was declared out for rest of the season after a painful bone bruise. In September/October 2015, the Yankees were 14-17 and got swept by the Orioles in a three-game series to end the regular season. Two years later, at this moment of the season, the Yankees are on upswing of things. They are 16-6 so far in September and, barring a late-season losing streak at home, they’ll head to the AL Wild Card (assuming that’s what they’ll end up doing) in quite a positive vibe.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

3. I’m wondering if Todd Frazier‘s in the Yankees’ plans for 2018. Dude’s had a fine September (went into yesterday’s hitting .207/.390/.569 for a .959 OPS) and has commented that he wants to be back. He’s certainly a productive player. He gets on base, can hit for power and displays really nice third base defense. Those aspects alone should give the team some thoughts on offering him a contract before free agency season hits. However, I don’t know if they would offer him anything more than a one or two-year deal. Maybe Frazier could take a one-year deal and try to re-build his value to what it was back when he was a Home Run Derby-winning, top-tier slugger. *If* he can do that, that would be a win-win for both the player and the team – Yankees would get solid production before letting Gleyber Torres take over full-time and Frazier could make a good amount of money from some other team after 2018. However, it’s too bold to assume that kind of theory to come to life. Him, Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius, etc. could very well play the role of mentor to Torres when the top prospect comes up to the bigs next season. Another aspect that he could be valuable is what him and Headley have been able to do in 2017 – alternating positions and filling in hole at the first base if (or when) Greg Bird becomes unavailable. I would personally very much welcome it if Frazier were to sign a short-term contract. If it will be something like three years, hopefully it won’t be backloaded. There’s always risks and careful calculations when making decisions like this. Whatever the Yankees decide to do with Frazier, they will give it some deep thought looking at a big picture, I’m sure.

For what it’s worth, Frazier has provided above-average run production with a good glove for the past few seasons. He’s also walked quite more this season than he had in his entire career. Next year will be his age-32 season so he’s presumably got few more years of keeping up current level of performance. So far with the Yankees, Frazier’s had a .803 OPS. That figure would be the highest by a non-A-Rod Yankee third baseman since… 2002 Robin Ventura (.826 OPS). Boy, that’s awhile ago.

4. Joe Girardi was recently asked about kneeling during the national anthem, Donald Trump’s comments on the NFL players, and whether he would visit the White House if the Yankees were to win the World Series. If you don’t live under the rock, you know the deal. Randy Miller of NJ.com wrote an article about it and Girardi, I think, played it as safe as he can.

“It’s not something that I would choose to do,” Girardi said Sunday before the Yankees’ game with the Toronto Blue Jays. “It’s my opinion. I’m entitled to my opinion and others are entitled to their own opinion. There’s going to be a lot of things in this world that you may not agree with. I think it’s a player’s right. That’s the country we live in. It’s a player’s right. You don’t necessarily have to agree with it, but it’s what people do.”

Girardi never really struck me as a hugely political guy and he probably was instructed by the front office to “say the right things.” That could mean a lot of different things. But from what I can decipher, it seems like he worded his statement in a way that would not incite loud reactions from the both sides. It just sounded like a “let’s get this question over with and talk about baseball” kind of thing. This quote, in particular, really struck me as one that reflected his tone: “Those are my personal reflections and I’m not going to necessarily dive into it because that just opens up a huge can of worms and allows you to write stories for weeks.”

I personally stand on the side of the players protesting. That being said, I would be disappointed if the Yankees choose to visit the White House if they win the 2017 World Series. I know CC Sabathia himself has said that he won’t go at all and it’s possible that he’s not alone in the Yankees on that side. However, it is easy to assume that the baseball locker room culture is not as racially diverse as the NFL teams, where team-wide protests took place Sunday. Chris Archer of the Rays has spoken out that he would not be comfortable voicing his opinion within his own clubhouse, which is a damn shame. Only 7.7 percent of all MLB players are African-Americans and, the odds are that they share the locker room with many players with conservative backgrounds. Gotta understand where Archer is coming from. That makes what Bruce Maxwell did much more gutsy and impressive.

Anyways, didn’t mean to get too political here. Politics have been a big part of my life since I first moved to U.S. so it’s hard not to think about societal + sports concerns. And, as you could tell from this past NFL Sunday, these two subjects really do go hand-on-hand, whether you like it or not.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

5. Alright, something lighter here. You can make a case for AL MVP for any of these five guys right now: Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve, Chris Sale, Mike Trout and Jose Ramirez. Besides Trout, all of them play for a playoff-bound team and have been playing some of the best baseball of their lives. From what I can gather though, it looks like it could come down to a Altuve-Judge match. Trout, the best player of this generation, is posting career-high peripherals but that missed time from thumb injury is really going to hurt his case. Ramirez is putting up stupendous numbers but his basic stats aren’t strong as Judge or Altuve’s. Chris Sale is the current fWAR leader in all of the baseball but his hype train has slowed down a bit in the second half and it became unclear if he would even win the AL Cy Young Award. (Corey Kluber really, really stepped it up as of late, didn’t he? You could also make an MVP case for the Indians righty as well.) Altuve and Judge both get love for their basic and sabermetric stats and seem like the two strongest candidates for the 2017 AL MVP award. Depends on what metric you look at, they’ve both been productive in almost equal way – just in different manners. Judge, as you know, hits for massive power, a decent average, strikes out a lot, etc., and Altuve is a Swiss Army knife kind of guy who hits for high average, plays scrappy defense, steals bases, etc. Unfortunately for Judge, his two-month cold streak will seem to work against him. He went from a clear MVP favorite hitting .330/.440/.700~ish in early-July to .270/.410/.570 by early-September. That’s still a great line! But during that period, from July 8 to September 9 (53 games), Judge hit for a .186 average, 9 HRs and struck out 84 times. And you know some writer are going to reference that when they write to explain their MVP votes.

As you know, however, from September 10 on, Judge has been on fire and could be making a case for some MVP votes. In those 14 games, he’s hit eleven home runs with a 1.678 OPS. I assume he could be extra-wired for the last home stretch with a lot of fun things in stake – the rookie home run record, the Yankees AL East run (if not, clinching the top AL Wild Card spot) and, of course, making the last push for his MVP case. He may not talk about it, but I bet it is in his head somewhere. He’s been a better home hitter (1.150 OPS) than road (.910 OPS) so get excited for the next six games! My question is, how much of a push push would he need to make the last six games to earn some votes? I think, unless Judge goes absolutely ballistic (something like, reaching 55 home runs), Altuve will still be the favorite. Getting to 50 home runs (because what a nice, round number that is for a Major League rookie!) could help, but Altuve is leading the league in hits, batting average, and has arguably been the best member of the top 2 team of the league. Also, for someone his size, boy he’s getting every bit and inch out of the talent that’s given. Judge has a clear flaw in his game (strikeouts) but Altuve is almost flawless. Besides that he’s really, really undersized among his MLB peers. I know there are many ways to spin to argue that Judge has been more valuable than Altuve but, at least for this moment, the consensus seems to point to the latter. Obviously it would be really cool to see Judge be the first AL player to win both ROY and MVP since Ichiro Suzuki. We’ll see how it goes though.

McKinney and Carroll added to Arizona Fall League roster

The Yankees have assigned outfielder Billy McKinney and right-hander Cody Carroll to the Arizona Fall League, the league announced last week. They’ll join fellow Yankees prospects infielder Thairo Estrada, outfielder Estevan Florial, first baseman Chris Gittens, infielder Kyle Holder, lefty Justus Sheffield, and righty Dillon Tate in the desert this year.

Back when the AzFL rosters were announced, the Yankees had two pitching spots left open, and it appears they managed to swap one of those pitching spots for another outfield spot for McKinney. That’s not too uncommon. Teams will barter roster spots. I need an extra outfield spot and you need an extra pitching spot, so let’s trade. That kinda thing.

McKinney, who came over in the Aroldis Chapman trade last year, will reportedly begin working out at first base in Instructional League, and I assume he’ll continue working there in the AzFL. The Yankees are planning to add him to the 40-man roster after the season. As a bat-first corner outfielder, adding the ability to play first base to his skill set will only help.

As for Carroll, the 24-year-old threw 67.1 relief innings with a 2.54 ERA (3.04 FIP) to go with 32.1% strikeouts and 10.8% walks for High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year. He was the team’s 22nd round pick in the 2015 draft and really broke out this year. MLB.com ranks him as the 26th best prospect in the system right now. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

Carroll worked in the low 90s as a college starter but now operates at 96-98 mph and reaches triple digits with his fastball. Hitters can’t afford to sit on his heater because he also has a hard breaking ball that can reach the upper 80s, pairing slider velocity with curveball depth … Despite a relatively easy delivery, he didn’t throw a lot of strikes in college and hasn’t as a pro.

The Yankees are sending a really strong crop of prospects to the AzFL this year. Of course, Sheffield and Tate are going to make up for innings lost to injuries, and that’s never great. Still, Florial and McKinney makes for a pair of interesting position player prospects, and Holder tore the cover off the ball in the second half. Would be cool to see him continue it out in the desert.

The 2017 AzFL season begins Tuesday, October 10th and will end with the Championship Game on Saturday, November 18th. Yankees prospects will be on the Scottsdale Scorpions with players from the Angels, Giants, Mets, and Reds organizations.

Saturday Links: Otani, Top Double-A Prospects, Robertson

Dingers. (Getty)
Dingers. (Getty)

The final road series of the 2017 regular season continues this afternoon with the middle game between the Yankees and Blue Jays in Toronto. That’s a 4pm ET start. Here are some links and notes to check out in the meantime.

Manfred doesn’t expect any side deals with Otani

While speaking to Jim Hoehn earlier this week, commissioner Rob Manfred said he doesn’t expect teams to get away with any sort of side deal with Shohei Otani, should he come over to MLB this offseason. There’s been plenty of speculation that whichever team signs Otani could agree to a massive contract extension in advance, then sign him after some predetermined length of time. Here’s what Manfred said:

“With respect to the speculation about what clubs are going to do, in today’s basic agreement structure, there’s only so much that you can do in an effort to avoid the rules and I have an outstanding staff in New York,” Manfred said. “If you’re talking about doing something with a 14-year-old kid in the Dominican Republic that nobody’s ever heard of, you might get past us. Given the focus on Otani, not only by our office, but by the clubs as a group, I think that it’s very, very unlikely that a club is going to be able to avoid the rules and not be caught.”

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes language targeting potential international hard cap circumvention. Ben Badler has a breakdown. Among other things, teams can not agree to sign players to an MLB contract at a set point in the future, or give him non-monetary compensation. Masahiro Tanaka‘s contract, for example, included moving allowances and an interpreter and round trip flights between New York to Japan.

MLB wants to treat Otani like any other player, meaning when he inevitably signs a big extension, they want it to be in line with other players at that service time level. The largest contract ever given to a player with one year of service time is the seven-year, $58M deal the Braves gave Andrelton Simmons. That was five years ago, so inflation has to be considered. If Otani comes out and throws 170 innings with a 3.50 ERA and hits .280/.350/.450 in 400 plate appearances next year, how would MLB be able to argue he is not at least a $150M player?

Three Yankees among top Eastern League prospects

Baseball America (subs. req’d) continued their look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league this week with the Double-A Eastern League. Red Sox 3B Rafael Devers sits in the top spot. Three Yankees farmhands made the list, not including Athletics SS Jorge Mateo, who placed eighth on the list based on his time with Trenton before the trade. Here are the three Yankees:

  • 10) 3B Miguel Andujar: “Andujar has above-average raw power and should have the bat to profile at third base … His hands are soft enough and his arm is strong enough, but he has a tendency to lower his arm slot, which leads his throws astray.”
  • 11) LHP Justus Sheffield: “He couples his fastball with a slider and changeup that waver in their consistency but project as plus for some scouts … Some see him as a No. 2 starter, while others see a back-end starter or a potentially dominant reliever based on his shorter stature and durability questions.”
  • 12) RHP Domingo Acevedo: “Opposing managers marveled at the way Acevedo can place his fastball, which parks in the mid-90s and can touch as high as 98 mph …He tends to throw mostly fastballs, so the Yankees mandated he go offspeed in certain counts, even against his instincts.”

That Acevedo mandate is pretty interesting. It’s certainly not uncommon for teams to mandate pitchers throw, say, a certain number of changeups per start. But go offspeed in specific counts? That’s a new one. I wonder whether that shows up in the stats at all. Acevedo had a 2.38 ERA (3.19 FIP) in 79.1 innings for Trenton, but did he get predictable because he was throwing offspeed in certain counts? Hitters could’ve keyed in on that.

Anyway, Sheffield and Acevedo are the two highest rated pitchers on the list. Also, SS Gleyber Torres was not eligible for this list because he only played 32 games with Trenton before being promoted, otherwise I’m sure he would’ve ranked first or second. The conflicting scouting reports on Andujar are kinda funny. This report says his hands are “soft enough” while the Triple-A International League list said his “hard hands could be too much to overcome.” Hmmm.

Also, in the chat, Josh Norris said SS Thairo Estrada was very close to making the list. “Managers around the league paid him plenty of compliments for his ability to get on base and play solid defense at both second and shortstop (once Torres left for Scranton) as well as his leadership abilities on the field and work ethic behind the scenes,” said the write-up.

Robertson a Marvin Miller Man of the Year award finalist

MLBPA announced this week that David Robertson is the AL East finalist for this year’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year award. Eduardo Escobar, Mike Trout, Steven Matz, Anthony Rizzo, and Buster Posey are the finalists for the other divisions. Each team nominates a player and the six finalists were chosen through fan voting. The winner will be decided by a player vote. The Marvin Miller Man of the Year award goes to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community most inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” MLBPA makes a $50,000 donation to charity on the winner’s behalf. Mariano Rivera won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award back in 2013, so Robertson is trying to follow in Mo’s footsteps (again).