DotF: Sheffield debuts, Abreu strikes out eleven in wins

Here are the day’s notes:

  • Brian Cashman discussed RHP James Kaprielian‘s injury following today’s game. The video is above. Cashman acknowledged surgery is on the table and Kaprielian will take a day or two to decide on the next step. It’s the same injury as last year, so the rehab essentially failed. Sucks.
  • Matt Eddy compiled a list of every player to begin the season on the minor league disabled list. There are no real surprises for the Yankees. RHP Austin DeCarr came back from Tommy John surgery last year, threw 39.1 innings, and is now hurt again. Not sure what’s wrong with him this time around, but a disabled list stint is ominous.

Triple-A Scranton (10-6 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 4-5, 1 RBI, 1 K — off to an 11-for-20 (.550) start … he’s yet to play a position other than shortstop
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 HBP
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 1B Rob Refsnyder: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — oh Ref
  • RF Mark Payton: 3-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • 2B Ruben Tejada: 1-2, 3 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K — quietly off to a 5-for-12 (.417) start with six walks and one strikeout
  • RHP Brady Lail: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 53 of 83 pitches were strikes (64%) … Triple-A has never been kind to him
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HB, 5/0 GB/FB — 28 of 39 pitches were strikes (72%) … nice bounceback outing after allowing six runs in one inning in his season debut
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — six pitches, six strikes

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It’s sounding more and more like Shohei Otani will come over to MLB after this season

(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)
It’s both Otani and Ohtani. (Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

Through seven games this season, it couldn’t be any more obvious the Yankees have some work to do to build a pitching staff going forward. Even while acknowledging Masahiro Tanaka is not really this bad, the fact is he can opt-out after the season, and who knows what happens after that. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia will be free agents too. The kids are promising but unproven.

The most interesting name on the free agent pitching market for the foreseeable future will be Nippon Ham Fighters ace Shohei Otani, the 22-year-old who throws 100 mph when he pitches and socks dingers when he doesn’t. Otani recently suffered a thigh strain running out a ground ball and will miss six weeks, though that shouldn’t affect his stock going forward. Muscle pulls happen. It just means scouts won’t be able to see him for a few weeks.

Otani appeared on 60 Minutes this past weekend, and while he stopped short of saying he will come over to MLB this offseason, he did say, “Personally, I don’t care how much I get paid, or how much less I get paid, because of this,” which seemed to acknowledge baseball’s silly international hard cap. Because he is under 25, Otani is subject to the hard cap, which limits each team’s annual international spending to $4.75M to $5.75M.

The (Ham) Fighters, for what it’s worth, will post Otani whenever he decides to come over to MLB, according to Jon Wertheim. From Wertheim:

While neither party will confirm the particulars, the team clearly seems to have made an agreement with the Ohtani family: When Shohei was ready to declare yosh ganbarimasu (“I’m gonna go for it”), the Fighters would not stand in his way. Rather, they would agree to “post” him, taking the negotiated fee from a major league team (currently $20 million), relinquishing his rights and wishing him well.

Their agreement reportedly dates back a while. Otani flirted with the idea of coming over to MLB as an 18-year-old out of high school a few years ago a la Junichi Tazawa, but the (Ham) Fighters convinced him to stay and agreed to post him for MLB clubs when the time comes. This will be his fifth season in Japan, and I can’t imagine he wants to stay much longer. He won a championship and was named MVP last year. What’s left to accomplish?

The natural reaction is to think once Otani decides to come over — and it sure sounds like it could happen this offseason — the Yankees should go after him hard because pitchers this young and this talented are hard to find. The Yankees are in the middle of a youth movement and Otani would fit right in as the pitching center piece. A few problems with that though:

  1. The hard cap evens the playing field. The Yankees can only offer Otani whatever they have in international money, which is $4.75M. That’s assuming they don’t sign any Latin American players on July 2nd, and supposedly the club already has some agreements in place. The Yankees can’t flex their financial muscle and blow everyone away with an offer.
  2. Does he want to hit? I’m guessing yes. So the real question is will the Yankees let him hit? Otani’s decision could very well come down to a team agreeing to let him hit and pitch. Start every fifth day and then DH a few times between starts. That’s risky, man. Imagine losing your ace because he gets hit by a pitch or pulls a muscle running the bases, which is exactly what happened with this recently thigh injury.
  3. Otani is said to prefer the West Coast. Supposedly Otani prefers the West Coast because it’s closer to home, though it’s unclear how much of a priority that really is for him. Tanaka was said to prefer the West Coast too, remember. Just something to keep in mind.

As much as the Yankees could use a young power starter like Otani to continue their youth movement, this isn’t a matter of simply wanting him and bidding. The international hard cap levels the playing field, and Otani’s potential preferences of the West Coast and being allowed to hit complicate things. In the past, the Yankees could up the ante and pay more to lure players. They can’t do that in this situation.

I’m really curious to see how teams approach the July 2nd international signing period. Do they do nothing and save their bonus pool money in hopes Otani is posted? That’s really risky. You could end up with no international talent during the 2017-18 signing period — or at least no high-end talent — and no Otani either. Keep in mind several big market teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals, Giants, Astros, and Cardinals are basically out on Otani. They’re limited to the $300,000 bonus maximum this coming offseason due to past international spending.

The Yankees can offer Otani the opportunity to be a part-time designated hitter — he’s a lefty with pull power! — and hey, playing for the Yankees comes with some pretty great endorsement opportunities. That’s pretty much the only thing that separates them from the pack now. The signing bonus playing field is level. I’d love to see the Yankees get Otani — or a similar high-end young starter — though the more time that passes, the more I feel like things stack up against them.

DotF: Mateo steals fifth base, makes first start in center field

Two quick notes:

  • There have been some rumors going around that LHP Justus Sheffield and RHP Chance Adams are hurt, but they’re not. Not sure where that all started. Sheffield is pitching tomorrow and Adams is pitching Thursday, both for Double-A Trenton, according to Matt Kardos. Sheffield’s first start was pushed back by the rainouts late last week.
  • The Yankees have released 1B Connor Spencer, according to Matt Eddy. He was their eighth round pick in 2014. Spencer hit .303/.368/.387 in parts of three minor league seasons. Between college and pro ball, he hit six home runs in 368 games from 2012-16. A first baseman needs a little more pop than that.

Triple-A Scranton (6-0 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • DH Mason Williams: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K — final game in the organization? the Yankees need to clear a 40-man roster spot for LHP Jordan Montgomery tomorrow
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-3, 1 BB — Shane Hennigan says he took too wide a turn around first base on the single and was thrown out before he could get back to the bag
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-4, 2 K — off to a 3-for-20 (.150) start
  • LF Mark Payton: 3-4, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • RHP Chad Green: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 63 of 95 pitches were strikes (66%) … he was supposed to start today for Double-A Trenton, but once Montgomery got called up to MLB, the Yankees put him here

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DotF: Wade and Cessa lead Scranton to win in home opener

Random note from Brendan Kuty: C Radley Haddad, who traveled with the Yankees a bunch of times as an extra player this spring, is now with the big league team full-time as one of the two bullpen catchers. Jason Brown is the other bullpen catcher. He was on the Triple-A Scranton coaching staff last season and spend time in the farm system as a player in the mid-2000s. Longtime bullpen catcher Ramon Rodriguez left the Yankees to become a scout with the Angels over the winter.

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • 2B Tyler Wade: 2-4, 1 K — he’s 7-for-15 (.467) so far and has hit safely in all four games
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • DH Dustin Fowler: 0-4, 1 K
  • RF Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 0-2
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 9/2 GB/FB — 60 of 82 pitches were strikes (73%) … he took a comebacker to the calf but was able to stay in the game … LHP Jordan Montgomery will start for the big league team Wednesday, and it’s only a matter of time until Cessa gets an opportunity to start in the Bronx this year as well
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten of 16 pitches were strikes (63%) … nice bounceback after giving up the walk-off homer yesterday
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eleven of 16 pitches were strikes (69%)

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DotF: Fowler and Andujar both go deep twice in big day in the farm system

There were a series of roster moves in the farm system today, most as a result of the C Gary Sanchez injury. Here’s a recap before we get to one of the most exciting days in the system in recent memory:

  • C Wilkin Castillo has been bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton to replace C Kyle Higashioka, who was called up to replace Sanchez. Also, LHP Jordan Montgomery has officially joined the RailRiders.
  • C Jorge Saez went from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton to replace Castillo. And, as expected, RHP Chad Green went from Tampa to Trenton as well. He and Montgomery are lined up for April 16th, the next time the Yankees need a fifth starter.
  • RHP Josh Roeder, RHP Christian Morris, and C Wes Wilson all went from Extended Spring Training to High-A Tampa. They’re replacing Montgomery, Green, and Saez on the roster. Got all that?

Triple-A Scranton Game One (4-3 loss to Buffalo in seven innings, walk-off style) make up of Thursday’s Opening Day rainout

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB
  • RF Clint Frazier: 0-2, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 SB — he also reached on an error, so three times on base without a hit
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-4, 1 RBI
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 HBP
  • LF Mason Williams: 0-3 — threw a runner out at second
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 7/4 GB/FB — 57 of 93 pitches were strikes (61%) … he’ll inevitably get called up as part of the bullpen shuttle at some point, though since he’s in the rotation, the timing will have to be right … they’re not going to call him up when he’s still a day or two away from being available
  • RHP Ben Heller: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eight of 14 pitches were strikes (57%) … gave up the two-run walk-off homer

[Read more…]

DotF: Torres, Estrada help Trenton to a win on Opening Day

Two quick notes today:

  • The RHP Dillon Tate mystery has been solved. Josh Norris says he’s dealing with a shoulder issue. That’s why he wasn’t on an Opening Day roster. Sucks. Hopefully it’s minor and he can get back on a mound soon.
  • LHP Jordan Montgomery will make his next start with Triple-A Scranton on Tuesday, according to Shane Hennigan. He started for High-A Tampa on Thursday only because the weather forecast in the Northeast was terrible, and the Yankees wanted to make sure he got his work in and remained lined up for April 16th, the first day they need a fifth starter.

Triple-A Scranton (4-2 loss to Buffalo) this is their season opener after a pair of rainouts, so here’s the full lineup per Opening Day tradition

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 R
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — keep the extra-base hits coming
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-4, 1 K
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 0-4, 1 RBI, 1 PB, 1 E (fielding) — passed ball and an error, but he also threw out both runners who tried to steal … he’s heading to Baltimore to join the Yankees tomorrow following the C Gary Sanchez injury
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 BB — got picked off first … this is now his fourth season at this level
  • RF Mason Williams: 2-4
  • 3B Donovan Solano: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 K — he led the International League with 163 hits last season
  • 1B Ji-Man Choi: 1-4, 1 K
  • DH Mark Payton: 1-3, 1 2B
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 48 of 76 pitches were strikes (63%) … and thus begins his audition as a starting pitcher
  • LHP Jason Gurka: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 21 of 35 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K — 25 of 38 pitches were strikes (66%)

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DotF: Rutherford has big game in Charleston’s walk-off win

Let’s begin with two quick notes, including an update on RHP James Kaprielian:

  • Kaprielian went for his MRI and dye contrast MRI today, and he will see a Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday, the Yankees announced. That ain’t good. Players usually don’t go see ElAttrache for second opinions until there’s something scary in the MRI.
  • Baseball America posted a list of the youngest players on Opening Day rosters at each level. SS Gleyber Torres is the youngest player in the Double-A Eastern League and IF Oswaldo Cabrera is the youngest player in the Low-A South Atlantic League. Several other Yankees make appearances on the various lists.

Both Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton were rained out. No word on the makeup dates yet. The weather should be good enough for both clubs to begin their seasons Saturday. I’ll get the Gleyber Torres Watch up in the sidebar once he, you know, plays a game.

High-A Tampa (5-0 loss to Lakeland)

  • SS Jorge Mateo: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K — he’s been at shortstop both games so far
  • 3B Kyle Holder: 0-4, 3 K
  • LF Trey Amburgey: 0-3, 2 K
  • DH Matt Snyder: 0-3, 3 K
  • CF Tito Polo: 0-3, 2 K — the 2-3-4-5 hitters were a combined 0-13 with ten strikeouts
  • 2B Nick Solak: 0-3
  • RF Jhalan Jackson: 1-3 — he didn’t play last night, so this is his season debut
  • RHP Taylor Widener: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 1 Balk, 6/3 GB/FB — 49 of 69 pitches were strikes (71%) … last year’s 12th round pick was a reliever in college, but the Yankees are trying him in the rotation a la RHP Chance Adams
  • LHP Nestor Cortes: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 4/5 GB/FB — 45 of 67 pitches were strikes (67%)

Low-A Charleston (9-8 win over Lexington, walk-off style) they scored four runs in the ninth to win

  • SS Hoy Jun Park: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B
  • 3B Oswaldo Cabrera: 3-5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 K — this dude is a hitting machine … he hit .345/.396/.523 (163 wRC+) in 52 rookie ball games last year
  • RF Blake Rutherford: 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K — had the game-tying two-run single in the ninth inning (there was an error on the play, hence only one RBI) … first pro game in right field … he played two games in left and 20 in center field last season
  • LF Leonardo Molina: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K — walk-off single
  • CF Estevan Florial: 2-4, 1 R — this is a really fun outfield
  • 1B Isiah Gilliam: 1-3, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • 2B Angel Aguilar: 1-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI
  • RHP Freicer Perez: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HB, 1 Balk, 3/2 GB/FB — tough first start, but he’s poised to become a no-doubt top 30 prospect this summer, even in this farm system
  • RHP Adonis Rosa: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 45 of 62 pitches were strikes (73%) … 22-year-old had a 2.19 ERA (3.03 FIP) in 78 innings between Short Season Staten Island and Low-A Charleston last year … they’re going to use tandem starters here for a while because they have more starters than rotation spots