Poll: The Next Step with Luis Severino

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Last night, young right-hander Luis Severino made his fifth start of the season, and once again he was not good. He allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings and made a pair of carbon copy errors when he dropped a toss from Mark Teixeira because he was looking for first base rather than looking the ball into his glove. It was not a pretty night.

Through five starts Severino ranks 95th out of 101 qualified starters with a 6.31 ERA. His 4.44 FIP is better but still not good; it ranks 72nd out of those 101 pitchers. Also, his 13.8% strikeout rate ranks 94th. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Severino has been bad this season. You really have to squint your eyes for positives. (He has the tenth lowest walk rate at 4.3%, so yay?)

“If necessary,” said Brian Cashman to Chad Jennings yesterday afternoon when asked about the possibility of sending Severino to Triple-A. “If we feel that’s what has to take place, that’s definitely an avenue that’s open. Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to that, but if that’s what’s in his best interest, and therefore our best interest, that’s something I have no problem doing.”

After another rough start, the talk about sending Severino to the minors is only going to continue. The Yankees have a ready made rotation replacement in Ivan Nova, or, if you prefer, they could call up either Luis Cessa or Chad Green from Triple-A Scranton since both have pitched well overall. When a young pitcher struggles, he gets sent back to the minors. That’s the way it’s always been.

A week ago I said it was a bit too early to send Severino to Triple-A. Now, after another rough outing, a strong case can be made on both sides. There’s an argument to be made for sending Severino down and an argument to be made for keeping him here. I’m not convinced there’s a right answer at the moment either. Let’s look at the two sides.

The Case For Keeping Severino Around

The rough start to this season can make it easy to forget just how dominant Severino was in the minors. From 2014-15 he had a 2.45 ERA (2.42 FIP) with a 26.4% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk rate in 212.2 minor league innings. He climbed from Low-A to Triple-A in the span of about 14 months. Severino allowed more than three runs only three times in 43 starts from 2014-15. He allowed more than two runs only ten times. Dominant.

Severino has mastered the minors. He can go down to Triple-A and overwhelm hitters with his fastball alone, and that doesn’t accomplish much developmentally. Severino, like everyone else ever, needs to be challenged to continue his development, and it was not until he got to the big leagues that he was challenged consistently.

As best I can tell, most of Severino’s issues right now are location related. He’s missing his spots and not by an inch or two either. I refer you back to Mark Trumbo’s first home run last night:

Luis Severino Mark Trumbo1

Yeah, Brian McCann wanted it down and away, and Severino threw it up and in. That’s a mistake you can get away with in the minors when you throw 95+ like Severino. Big league hitters will make you pay for that pitch. Triple-A hitters often do not. That pitch shows up as a K in the minor league box score and that K leaves out all the important stuff.

The Yankees can force Severino to work on specific things in the minors — you need to throw this many down and away sliders per start, etc. — though they’ll never be able to replicate the MLB atmosphere. The intensity and the quality of the competition is totally different. Severino could go down, dot the corners with sliders for a month, then come back up and struggle again because it’s a much different game in the show.

Remember, Severino is only 22 years old. He’s a young 22 too. His birthday is in February, so he’ll spend the entire season at that age. He still has a lot to learn, and it seems Severino has learned all he can in the minors given the success he had. The next phase of his development is learning how to get big league hitters out, and that’s not something you can do in Triple-A.

The Case For Sending Severino Down

Let’s start with this: Severino is not pitching well and these games count, so the Yankees should swap him out for a more effective pitcher. That’s pretty simple, right? At the end of the day, results are the only thing that matters in MLB. It’s all about wins and losses, and the current version of Severino is not getting the results that help the Yankees win.

Beyond that, the Yankees can more easily target specific deficiencies in Severino’s game in the minors. They can have him throw X number of whatever per start in Triple-A regardless of situation because the final score doesn’t matter. Sending players to the minors is not about stats. The Yankees won’t send Severino down, watch him pitch to a 2.00 ERA for six weeks, then call him back up because the results are good. Nope. You send a player down to work on specific things, and once the necessary improvement is there, the player comes back up.

There’s also the confidence factor to consider. Severino is only human. He’s struggling, and when you’re a young player who is experiencing failure for the first time, it can be easy to get down on yourself. Imagine how Severino must of have felt last night after giving up two dingers and making those two errors. That has to be tough. An assignment to Triple-A gives him a chance to catch his breath and experience some success again.

* * *

Right now big league hitters are telling Severino he has to make adjustments to stick around, and the Yankees must decide whether they want him make those adjustments in the Bronx or in Scranton. We’re at the point now where having his conversation is not unwarranted. After one or two bad starts? Nah. Too soon to talk about it. But after five? Yeah, this is a thing now. What side of the argument are you on?

Should should the Yankees do with Severino?

Fan Confidence Poll: May 2nd, 2016

Record Last Week: 1-5 (15 RS, 34 RA)
Season Record: 8-15 (81 RS, 112 RA, 8-15 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Orioles (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Red Sox (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Fan Confidence Poll: April 25th, 2016

Record Last Week: 2-4 (17 RS, 25 RA)
Season Record: 7-10 (66 RS, 78 RA, 7-10 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: @ Rangers (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Red Sox (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Fan Confidence Poll: April 18th, 2016

Record Last Week: 2-4 (14 RS, 26 RA)
Season Record: 5-6 (49 RS, 53 RA, 5-6 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Athletics (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Rays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Fan Confidence Poll: April 11th, 2016

Record Last Week: 3-2 (35 RS, 24 RA)
Season Record: 3-2 (35 RS, 24 RA, 3-2 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Blue Jays (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Mariners (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Fan Confidence Poll: April 4th, 2016

Spring Record: 14-16-2 (116 RS, 155 RA)
Regular Season Record: 0-0, duh
Opponents This Week: Mon. rained out, vs. Astros (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Tigers (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Poll: The 2016 Prospect Watch

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

One of our longest running quasi-features here at RAB is the annual Prospect Watch. It’s pretty simple. We pick a prospect each year, then track his performance in the sidebar with daily updates throughout the season. Think of it as the nuts and bolts of the player’s Baseball Reference page in our sidebar. Easy, right?

In the past I would make an executive decision and pick the prospect myself. It was pretty easy back in the days of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Andrew Brackman, and Jesus Montero. I can’t remember who else has been featured in the Prospect Watch over the years — definitely Mason Williams and Eric Jagielo, I’m pretty sure Manny Banuelos too — but it’s not really important now.

Rather than pick a prospect myself, these days I turn it over to you folks, the readers. Over the last few years I’ve picked a handful of prospects and let readers vote for the Prospect Watch prospect. Some say the Prospect Watch is cursed, you know. I only wish the pixels in our sidebar were so powerful. Anyway, here are the five candidates for the 2016 Prospect Watch, presented alphabetically.

OF Dustin Fowler

The Case For: Fowler, 21, was one of the breakout stars of the farm system last year, hitting .298/.334/.403 (114 wRC+) with 22 doubles, eight homers, and 37 steals in 587 plate appearances split between Low-A, High-A, and the Arizona Fall League. Didn’t realize he stole 37 bags, did you? He drew rave reviews for his tools in the AzFL as well. Fowler fills all the columns and stands to improve even more now that he has another year as a full-time baseball player under his felt. (He split his time between three sports in high school.)

The Case Against: At this point Fowler is not expected to put up big power numbers. In fact, it took a strong AzFL showing to get his season slugging percentage over .400. (He slugged .394 at the two Single-A levels.) He could very well be a single-digit home run guy in 2016. Fowler’s not a huge numbers prospect; a lot of his value is to tied to his defense and raw athleticism, which he’s still working to turn into baseball skills.

OF Aaron Judge

The Case For: Last year’s Prospect Watch prospect — we’ve had the same Prospect Watch prospect in consecutive years before, that’s no issue — is the best prospect in the farm system. The 23-year-old Judge managed a .258/.332/.446 (124 wRC+) batting line with 26 doubles, 20 homers, and seven steals in 552 total plate appearances last year despite his second half skid at Triple-A. He’s got power and he draws walks, and he’s scheduled to start the season back with the RailRiders. Repeating a level usually provides a nice boost to a player’s stats. Out of everyone in this post, I think Judge has the best chance to put up “holy crap” numbers in 2016.

The Case Against: Judge did scuffle at Triple-A last season, hitting .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) with eight home runs and an eyesore of a 28.5% strikeout rate in 260 plate appearances. Experienced pitchers took advantage of his massive frame and chewed him up with soft stuff away. Judge made some mechanical adjustments over the winter in an attempt to correct that flaw — he has a bigger leg kick and moved his hands slightly — and any time mechanical adjustments are made, there’s a chance for a slow start as the player gets used to his new setup. As talented as he is, Judge comes with quite a bit of risk.

RHP James Kaprielian

The Case For: The Yankees selected Kaprielian, 22, out of UCLA with their first round pick last summer. He’s an advanced college pitcher with four pitches (fastball, slider, curveball, changeup) and good control, and last summer he experienced a velocity uptick that has stuck this spring. Kaprielian went from sitting 88-91 mph for most of his career with the Bruins to 94-96 mph in pro ball last year. Scouts have reportedly had him up to 97 mph this spring. Kaprielian is probably the “safe” pick here. Guys with three years of experience at a major college program and good control of four pitches tend to carve hitters up in the low minors. Grandmaster Kap will start the season at High-A and there’s a chance he’ll reach Triple-A by the end of the season, if not MLB.

The Case Against: It’s tough to come up with a case against Kaprielian. There’s the standard “he’s a pitcher and pitchers tend to get hurt” disclaimer, which is always a bummer. Also, he’s a starting pitcher, which means the Prospect Watch will be updated only once every five days. And chances are the Yankees will have Kaprielian on some sort of workload limit too, so he might be limited to five innings per start or something like that. They might even shut him down at some point. There aren’t any real performance concerns with Kaprielian. It’s all stuff out of his control.

Mateo. (Presswire)
Mateo. (Presswire)

SS Jorge Mateo

The Case For: Mateo is the most exciting prospect in the farm system. He has electric tools, headlined by his top of the line speed, which allowed him to a steal a professional baseball leading 82 bases in 2015. Mateo, 20, hit .278/.345/.392 (114 wRC+) with 23 doubles, eleven triples, and two homers in exactly 500 plate appearances last year, mostly at Low-A but also some at High-A. He’s going to steal an obscene number of bases, and based on our quick look in Spring Training, Mateo might be ready to turn his batting practice power into in-game power. Either way, he’ll do everything.

The Case Against: Mateo is a prospect you have to see with your own eyes to fully appreciate. The gaudy stolen base total will be fun, but otherwise this is a prospect likely to hit around .280 with a sub-.400 slugging percentage, and that’s not eye-popping Prospect Watch material. Mateo is a better real life prospect than a stats prospect. Does that make sense?

C Gary Sanchez

The Case For: The third time at Double-A was a charm for the 23-year-old Sanchez, who had a 127 wRC+ with 12 homers in 58 games with Trenton before a promotion to Triple-A, where he had a 145 wRC+ with six homers in 35 games. Throw in his outrageous AzFL showing and Sanchez hit .276/.336/.503 (137 wRC+) with 29 doubles and 25 home runs in 515 total plate appearances in 2015. He’s got big power and it seems Sanchez is just starting to put it all together. Good things are in his future.

The Case Against: Sanchez could very easily end up spending the majority of the upcoming season in the Bronx, meaning the Prospect Watch would really be a Backup Catcher Watch that gets updated once or twice a week. Where’s the fun in that? The performance isn’t much of a question here. Sanchez figures to mash this summer because he’s mashed pretty much everywhere he’s played. Will he play enough to justify a spot in the sidebar as the Prospect Watch prospect?

* * *

I also considered adding SS Wilkerman Garcia to the poll, but he’s almost certainly going to start the year in Extended Spring Training before shuttling off to one of the short season affiliates, meaning the Prospect Watch would be dormant until late June. That’s no fun. LHP Ian Clarkin also received consideration. There’s just way too much downside risk there after Clarkin missed the entire 2015 regular season with an elbow injury. Hopefully Clarkin and Garcia will be candidates for the 2017 Prospect Watch.

Anyway, it’s time for the poll. I’ll leave the poll open until 12pm ET this Friday, so you’ve got a little more than 48 hours to mull the options and vote. Should be plenty of time. I’ll reveal the winner Friday afternoon. Thanks in advance for voting.

Who should be the 2016 Prospect Watch?