Open Thread: March 17th Camp Notes

Spring Training is going so well for the Yankees that they threw a damn no-hitter today. Seriously. Masahiro Tanaka (4.1 innings), Chasen Shreve (0.2 innings), and Jordan Montgomery (4.0 innings) combined to do the deed. Tanaka personally has thrown 10.1 hitless innings against the Tigers across three starts this spring. He again looked really good this afternoon. Midseason form. A spring no-hitter. What a time to be alive.

There were no dingers off offense, sadly. Matt Holliday, Chase Headley, Rob Refsnyder, and Tyler Wade all had doubles, however. Gary Sanchez drew one walk while Greg Bird drew two. Bird has six walks and six strikeouts in 38 plate appearances this spring. Seems he’s seeing the ball well, eh? Here are the box score and video highlights for the no-hitter — YES says this was the Yankees’ first spring no-hitter since March 14th, 1983, a game started by Ron Guidry — and here’s the rest of the news from Tampa:

  • Jorge Mateo has been optioned to High-A, the Yankees announced. He was supposed to travel for today’s game before being pulled off the road trip. “At 21 years old, I was doing some foolish things. I think he’s grown up,” said Joe Girardi, who said he was pleased with Mateo’s spring and added he’ll work out in center field in minor league camp. By my count there are 46 players still in big league camp. [Brendan Kuty, Bryan Hoch]
  • Girardi wouldn’t say whether anyone has a leg up in the rotation competition. “I would say (no one is ahead). I think we’re going to have some long meetings about this,” he said. Girardi also didn’t rule out Montgomery making the Opening Day roster. That would surprise me, but stranger things have happened. [Randy Miller, Erik Boland]
  • Luis Severino has been leaning on Tanaka for advice this spring. “I asked him about how he’s always calm, because nobody can mess with Tanaka when he’s pitching. That’s how I wanted to be. He told me to do something that would remind me of that, and that’s what I decided to do,” said Severino. [David Lennon]
  • Kuty has the day’s pitching assignments and hitting/fielding groups for everyone who didn’t travel for today’s game, if you’re interested in such things. Not a whole lot going on. Chad Green and Severino threw their usual between starts bullpen session. Yawn.
  • Alex Rodriguez will return to camp at some point next week for his second stint as a guest instructor. Also, Bernie Williams announced he’s in camp as a guest instructor right now. He’ll be there until Tuesday. [Mike Mazzeo, Kuty]
  • The Yankees will be at home against the Orioles tomorrow afternoon. That game will be on YES. In fact, the Yankees will be televised every day from today through next Saturday. Hooray for that. Anyway, CC Sabathia and Adam Warren are lined up to pitch tomorrow.
  • And finally, check out Andrew Marchand’s great story on Michael Pineda, who’s done a lot of growing up since the pine tar incident a few years ago. The Yankees have been so impressed by Pineda’s maturity that they had him speak at Captain’s Camp this year.

Here is the nightly open thread. MLB Network will show USA vs. Puerto Rico live at 10pm ET. The winner of that game is all but a lock to advance to the World Baseball Classic final four. The (hockey) Rangers, Devils, and Nets are all playing tonight, plus there’s all the March Madness action. Talk about those games or anything else right here, as long as it’s not religion or politics.

Spring Training Game Thread: Tanaka’s Fourth Start

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Spring Training continues this afternoon with Masahiro Tanaka‘s fourth Grapefruit League start. He looked excellent the first three times out, striking out 13 with no walks and three hits allowed in nine scoreless innings. Last year at this time Tanaka was coming back from surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow. There are no such concerns this year. He’s looked really good so far.

In other news, the Yankees are set to play their top two prospects (Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier) in today’s game, plus their most MLB ready starting pitcher prospect (Jordan Montgomery) will come out of the bullpen as well. Roster cuts are being made by the day. Enjoy watching these guys while you can, folks. We won’t get to see them too many more times before they’re sent across the street to minor league camp. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 1B Greg Bird
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Rob Refsnyder
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. SS Gleyber Torres
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Available Pitchers: LHP Jordan Montgomery, LHP Chasen Shreve, LHP Jason Gurka, and RHP Jonathan Holder are all scheduled to pitch today. RHP Matt Wotherspoon, RHP Dillon McNamara, RHP Eric Ruth, and LHP Caleb Frare are all up from minor league camp to serve as the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Kyle Higashioka, 1B Ji-Man Choi, 2B Donovan Solano, SS Pete Kozma, 3B Ruben Tejada, LF Clint Frazier, CF Tyler Wade, and RF Billy McKinney will be the second string off the bench. C Radley Haddad, IF Abi Avelino, OF Dustin Fowler, and UTIL Wilkin Castillo are the extra players. Haddad and Avelino are up from minor league camp for the day.

The Yankees made the 45-minute trip inland to Lakeland for this afternoon’s game. The weather report tells me there won’t be a cloud in the sky for this afternoon’s game. It will be a tad chilly, however. This afternoon’s game will begin shortly after 1pm ET. If you’re in the Tigers’ home market, you can watch on FOX Sports Detroit. If not, you can watch on MLB Network and MLB.tv, even in the New York market. Enjoy the game.

Open Thread: March 16th Camp Notes

The Yankees showed their Fighting Spirit and rallied for a win over the Blue Jays this afternoon. Today’s dinger hitters: Aaron Hicks (okay), Starlin Castro (cool), Rob Refsnyder (wait, really?), and Clint Frazier (sweet!). Refsnyder and Frazier both hit their first of the spring. Hicks, Frazier, Castro, and Ronald Torreyes each had two hits. Tyler Wade and Mason Williams had one apiece.

Luis Cessa started and it did not go well. He allowed four runs on six hits and a walk in only 1.2 innings. Eek. Bryan Mitchell helped his rotation case by striking out five and allowing one run in three innings. James Kaprielian made his Grapefruit League debut late in the game and fanned three in two scoreless innings. He walked one and allowed no hits. Erik Boland heard from scouts Kaprielian’s fastball sat 95 mph and touched 96 mph. Too bad we couldn’t see it. Today’s game wasn’t televised, so there are no video highlights. Here’s the box score and here are the rest of the notes from Spring Training:

This is the open thread for the night. MLB Network will have the Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela live at 10pm ET, plus every local hockey and basketball team is in action except the Rangers. Also, March Madness started today, so there’s plenty of college hoops on tonight. Talk about those games or anything else here, as long as it’s not religion or politics.

March 15th Camp Notes: Romine, Frieri, Torres, Kaprielian

Another day, another win for the Yankees. They’re now 14-5 this spring. Greg Bird hit his fourth home run of the spring tonight, plus he added a single. Gary Sanchez had two hits and Gleyber Torres picked up a Little League double. It was a grounder that deflected off the third base bag into foul territory, away from the third baseman. Brett Gardner and Chase Headley had base knocks as well.

Michael Pineda started and he was excellent, fanning eight in five perfect innings. I know the Phillies kinda stink, but his slider was razor sharp. Pineda would have carved up most lineups with the stuff he had tonight. Aroldis Chapman tossed a scoreless frame and Chad Green closed things out by allowing one run in three innings. Here are the box score and video highlights, and here’s the rest of the day’s news from Tampa:

  • Austin Romine left tonight’s game with a right hand injury. A wild pitch bounced in the dirt and clipped his hand. Romine had his hand behind his back, but the ball managed to bounce under his leg and jump up to get his hand. Go figure. Here’s the video. The Yankees haven’t announced an update yet. Hopefully it’s just a bad bruise or something. Update: The Yankees say x-rays came back negative on Romine’s hand. Exhale.
  • Veteran free agent right-hander Ernesto Frieri was in the clubhouse before the game and he’s expected to sign a minor league contract with the Yankees, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. He pitched for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic after not playing anywhere last year. PitchFX says Frieri’s fastball averaged 95.0 mph during the WBC. [Jack Curry]
  • Another round of roster cuts were announced: Johnny Barbato, Dietrich Enns, and Gio Gallegos were optioned to Triple-A, Miguel Andujar was optioned to Double-A, and Chance Adams was sent to minor league camp. There are 48 players still in big league camp by my unofficial count.
  • Gleyber Torres has started working out at third base. He’s not expected to play there this spring, but he is getting familiar with the position. It was only a matter of time. [David Lennon]
  • Bad news, folks: James Kaprielian will make his Grapefruit League debut tomorrow, not Friday. Tomorrow’s game will not be televised. Friday’s will be. Lame. Lame lame lame. [Erik Boland]
  • Bryan Hoch has the pitching assignments and hitting/fielding groups for everyone who didn’t play in tonight’s game. CC Sabathia threw a bullpen session and Adams threw a simulated game.
  • And finally, the Yankees announced Chris Carter was scratched from tonight’s game because he’s been traded to the Angels for Mike Trout. Or because he was sick. I forget. It was one of those.

The Yankees will be on the road to play the Blue Jays tomorrow afternoon and again, that game will not be televised. Hopefully Kaprielian gets into another game at some point before the end of spring. Time’s running out. Both Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa line up to pitch tomorrow.

Spring Training Game Thread: Pineda’s Third Start

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Grapefruit League season marches on tonight. Michael Pineda is making his third start of the spring overall and his first televised outing. This’ll be our first time seeing Big Mike in action since last year. His first spring start was pretty good. The second … not so much. Classic Pineda. Which guy will show up tonight? The guy with the nasty slider and a ton of strike ’em outs, or the guy with a nasty slider and a ton of hits allowed? Stay tuned!

What else is there to pay attention to tonight? I guess Chad Green, who is competing for a rotation spot and is scheduled to come out of the bullpen. He’s allowed one run in 5.2 innings this spring, but he’s also walked five and struck out three, which ain’t good. If I had to guess, I’d say Green lags behind the others in the rotation race right now. Here is the lineup the Phillies sent over and here are the players the Yankees will use:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 1B Greg Bird
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. SS Tyler Wade
    RHP Michael Pineda

Available Pitchers: LHP Aroldis Chapman, RHP Chad Green, RHP Ben Heller, LHP Chasen Shreve, and RHP J.R. Graham are all scheduled to pitch tonight. RHP Andrew Schwaab, RHP Eric Ruth, RHP Travis Hissong, and LHP Nestor Cortes are all up from minor league camp to serve as the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Ji-Man Choi, 2B Ruben Tejada, SS Gleyber Torres, 3B Pete Kozma, LF Rob Refsnyder, CF Dustin Fowler, RF Billy McKinney, and DH Donovan Solano will be the second string off the bench. Solano is just back from the World Baseball Classic. C Kyle Higashioka, SS Jorge Mateo, 3B Miguel Andujar, OF Clint Frazier, OF Mason Williams, and UTIL Wilkin Castillo are the extra players.

Clear skies in Tampa tonight and the internet tells me it’s downright chilly. All I care about is rain and there’s none of that in the forecast. Tonight’s game will start at 6:35pm ET and you can watch on YES. There’s also MLB.tv and the FOX Sports Go app. Enjoy the game.

Plate discipline is Dustin Fowler’s biggest weakness, and he’s working on it this spring

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Ever since last year’s trade deadline, nearly every conversation about the Yankees has focused on their farm system. It’s unquestionably one of the best in baseball, and we’ve seen much of that young talent this spring. The big names like Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge have been excellent. Others like Billy McKinney have opened eyes too. It’s been a fun spring so far.

Outfielder Dustin Fowler has also been a standout this spring, going 7-for-23 (.304) with two triples and two steals. He’s also played a very nice center field aside from one hilarious miscue two weeks ago — the ball deflected off his glove and bonked Clint Frazier in the head — which had more to do with a lack of communication than some sort of skill deficiency. The young talent has been exciting in Spring Training and Fowler is one of the guys making it happen.

“He’s swung the bat well, he’s played good defense, he’s run the bases well,” said Joe Girardi to Bryan Hoch. “You kind of see a young man growing up in front of you. He had a tremendous year last year, for the age that he was in Double-A. That’s not always the easiest place to hit, the first couple months of the year, with the weather. It’s not really a hitter’s ballpark. He’s made some big, big strides.”

Fowler, who turned 22 in December, would receive more attention in a farm system not quite as deep as New York’s. The Yankees have a ton of prospects and it’s easy to overlook players as a result. Fowler was a three-sport guy in high school (baseball, football, wrestling) and he’s really blossomed since being the club’s 18th round pick in 2013. His ability is breaking through now that he is focusing on baseball full-time. And he’s had some help, of course.

“(Double-A Trenton hitting coach P.J. Pilittere) really changed my career from a hitting aspect,” said Fowler to Mike Mazzeo. “I was always a guy with my hands above my head, so he shortened me up, which allowed me to put the barrel on the ball more. Last year, my power numbers went up and my average went up a bit, so he’s helped me out getting shorter and making contact more.”

There is, however, one glaring deficiency in Fowler’s game. I mean, it’s tough to knock a left-handed batter who can get the bat on the ball (15.0 K% in Double-A in 2016), has some pop (.177 ISO), can run (25 steals), and can play above-average center field defense. But, in Fowler’s case, he just doesn’t walk. He had a 3.8% walk rate in a full season at Double-A last year, and in his career, it’s a 4.4% walk rate in nearly 1,500 plate appearances.

Minor league walk rates are fickle and not very predictive — there are so many pitchers in the minors who have no idea where the ball is going, plus most talented hitters drive something in the zone before taking four balls — but in Fowler’s case, the walk rate is emblematic of his approach. He’s a free swinger. Not a wild hacker who swings and misses a lot, but someone who swings at anything he can reach and puts it in play. From MLB.com’s scouting report:

Fowler makes repeated hard contact with a short, quick left-handed stroke. His bat speed, strength and plus speed give him 20-20 upside, though he’s still learning to be an efficient basestealer. To reach his offensive ceiling, he’ll need to get more selective at the plate because he walks infrequently and puts too many early-count pitches in play rather than waiting for one to drive.

The lack of walks and plate discipline hurts Fowler in two ways. One, it drags his OBP down. Duh. The guy hit .281 with a .311 OBP last year. It’s .279 and .313 for his career. Yeesh. Nice AVG, yucky OBP. And two, Fowler doesn’t get himself into as many hitter’s counts as you’d like. It’s possible he’d show even more pop with a few more 2-0 and 3-1 counts. Fortunately, Fowler recognizes this and is working on his plate discipline this this year.

“Get the walk rate up little bit, trying to figure out the zone a little bit better,” said Fowler to George King and Ken Davidoff when asked what he’s working on this spring. “It’s going to help me in the long run. It will help everything. Strikeout rate will be better, squared-up contact will be better … I’ve always been an aggressive hitter. Just picking pitches that are in the zone that (I should) probably take, get to the next pitch, get a little deeper.”

So far this spring Fowler has drawn three walks in 26 plate appearances. Yay? I guess. I wouldn’t read much into that. Unfortunately there is no PitchFX data for the Grapefruit League nor is there reliable swing rate data for Double-A, so we can’t look at Fowler’s approach more in-depth. It’s entirely possible he is showing more patience this spring and getting himself into better hitter’s counts — Fowler is hitting .304/.385/.478 in those 26 plate appearances, after all — but we need more information.

Fortunately, there is some evidence a player Fowler’s age (22) will see his walk rate improve as he gets into his mid-to-late-20s. Is it guaranteed to happen? Of course not. Being a free-swinger is in your DNA and it’s a difficult thing to change. It’s not impossible though. Here is a walk rate aging curve via Jeff Zimmerman:

bb-aging-curve

Keep in mind that aging curve is from 2014, so it could use an update. Point is, plate discipline is clearly something Fowler can improve, and it’s the kind of skill that could allow him to make the jump from good prospect to great prospect. The ability to drive the ball is there, as is the speed and defense, which makes for an exciting package of tools. Only plate discipline is lacking.

“(Baseball is) something I always loved and something I was really talented at … I believe in my abilities,” added Fowler while talking to Mazzeo. “I don’t really get into the hype and everything. I try to stay away from that as much as possible, but I believe in my abilities and I do everything I can on and off the field to help my career. Hopefully I can keep it going, stay healthy and get better and better.”

The Yankees, even with Jacoby Ellsbury under contract for all eternity (through 2020, to be exact), are going to need a new full-time center fielder fairly soon. Ellsbury will turn 34 this summer and not too many players that age man center full-time. Perhaps he’ll be an exception. If not, Fowler is the obvious candidate to get the first crack at being the new full-time center fielder given his career to date, and the fact he’ll begin 2017 in Triple-A. He’s on the cusp of the show.

The raw tools are there for Fowler to be an impact two-way player. He makes contact and will surprise you with his power, plus he can cover center field gap to gap. His ability to improve his plate discipline could very well determine whether he’s a nice bottom of the order player, or someone who could legitimately hit first or second for a contending team, and Fowler seems to be aware of that. Working the count and refining his approach seems to be a priority for him this year.

Open Thread: March 14th Camp Notes

The Yankees were back in action this afternoon and they lost to the Rays. Bummer. The good news: Gary Sanchez homered, Greg Bird had a double and a triple, and Gleyber Torres had a double and a home run. They are good at baseball. Also, Mason Williams started in center field and went 0-for-2. It was his Grapefruit League debut. He’d be shelved by patella inflammation the last few weeks.

Luis Severino started and allowed one run on two hits and a walk in three innings. He fanned four and allowed a solo homer to Rickie Weeks, who is still playing, apparently. Johnny Barbato and Dietrich Enns let the game get out of hand in the middle innings. They combined to allow eight runs while recording four outs. Here are the box score and video highlights, and here are the notes from Tampa:

This is the open thread for tonight. MLB Network will have live WBC games at 9pm ET (Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico), 12am ET (Netherlands vs. Cuba), and 6am ET (Israel vs. Japan). The Knicks, Nets, and Islanders are all playing too. You know how these things work by now, so have at it.