Game 62: Six Equals Seven

MVP. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
MVP. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

The Yankees are rolling right now. They had to work a little harder for last night’s win than they did over the weekend, but a win is a win, and the Yankees have won their last six games. They’ve outscored their opponents 60-12 in the process. Total domination. What a fun stretch of baseball this has been.

Tonight the Yankees are trying for their second seven-game winning streak of the season after having one such streak from 2013-16. They already have three winning streaks of at least six games this season. How many did they have from 2013-16? Three. Crazy. Anyway, a sixth straight win for CC Sabathia equals a seventh straight win for the Yankees. Let’s do this. Here is the Angels’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    LHP CC Sabathia

I’m sure the weather is great in Anaheim. It always is. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 10:07pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) was supposed to pitch for High-A Tampa tonight, but the game was rained out. Joe Girardi said he’ll still pitch for Double-A Trenton on Friday as originally scheduled.

Roster Move: Tommy Layne cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. I believe he has a day or two to decide whether to accept the assignment, or become a free agent.

All-Star Voting: Judge remains the leading All-Star Game vote-getter among AL players. Pretty cool. MLB released a voting update earlier today. Judge is the only Yankee current in line to start the All-Star Game. Castro (second), Holliday (second), Gregorius (third), Sanchez (fourth), and Gardner (eighth) are all getting support at their positions.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

Did you stay up for that game last night? It was worth it. Aaron Judge getting loud MVP chants in Mike Trout’s home ballpark was something else. The Yankees are out on the West Coast all week, so the regular game thread will be along a little closer to first pitch. Until then, make sure you check out Michael Lananna’s article on Clarke Schmidt, the Yankees’ first round pick in the ongoing 2017 draft. Awesome stuff.

Here is an open thread until tonight’s game. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network will have a regional game as well. Talk about those games, Lananna’s article, or anything else here that isn’t religion or politics.

Yankees want Sanchez to shed added bulk to improve blocking behind the plate

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Because Aaron Judge is out there crushing everything in sight, it can be easy to overlook Gary Sanchez‘s impressive .276/.358/.530 (138 wRC+) batting line this season. Among the 21 catchers with at least 150 plate appearances, Sanchez is third in wRC+ and third with ten homers. He’s been awesome! Judge has been otherworldly.

One area in which Sanchez has seemed to struggle this season is blocking balls behind the plate. For what it’s worth, the blocking numbers at Baseball Prospectus say he’s been better this year (+0.2 runs) than last year (-1.4 runs). That doesn’t really match the eye test, I don’t think. Sanchez has appeared to have trouble keeping the ball in front of him at times this year. At least moreso than last year.

Either way, the Yankees acknowledge Sanchez has had some blocking issues, and Ken Rosenthal says they want him to shed some of the bulk he added over the winter to improve his mobility behind the plate. From Rosenthal:

Gary Sanchez, like Severino, had only good intentions when he packed on 12 pounds of muscle last winter. But rival scouts all season have noted that he is again struggling to block pitches.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman believes that the added weight affected Sanchez’s mobility behind the plate, but adds that Sanchez is working to address the problem and become more like the catcher he was last year.

Sanchez holds a slightly different view — he said through an interpreter that he is indeed working on losing some weight, but didn’t think the added bulk created an issue with his catching.

Luis Severino, you may remember, added quite a bit of muscle last offseason, then all of a sudden last year his fastball command disappeared and his delivery was too stiff. Severino trimmed down a bit this past winter and he regained the fluidity in his delivery. His tempo is so much better.

Something similar could be happening with Sanchez behind the plate, and given Cashman’s comments to Rosenthal, the Yankees seem to think it is at least a possibility. Sanchez is not a great defender. He’s a bat first, second, and third guy. But he is adequate back there and he has improved quite a bit over the years. Sanchez doesn’t need to be peak Yadier Molina defensively to have value. Just be okay.

Because he is such a big dude — Sanchez is listed at 6-foot-2 and 230 lbs., and he is rock solid — Sanchez is always going to have to work hard to keep his weight in check, and that doesn’t necessarily mean bad weight either. Severino bulked up last year and it hurt him on the field. Sanchez bulked over the winter and now he’s not moving well behind the plate. There’s a happy medium somewhere and Sanchez is still searching for it.

Chad Green can be a better version of Adam Warren

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Chad Green is currently just a long reliever (and occasional spot starter), but he has the potential to be much more for the Yankees.

This season, Green has made eight appearances. He’s recorded at least four outs in all but one game and thrown at least two innings in five, including his Sunday start. He’s come in with the Yankees leading by three runs or fewer twice and with them down by two runs or fewer twice. Very few of those innings can be considered high leverage.

Simply put, he hasn’t been trusted to get the biggest outs, but he’s also had the opportunity to give the Yankees much-needed length at times to save the rest of the bullpen. He’s struck out 23 in 18 2/3 innings while sporting a 2.41 ERA.

It’s early, but his role looks strikingly similar to Adam Warren in 2013. Warren that season threw 77 innings over 34 games (two starts) and was the consistent long man for the team. He soaked up innings in losses (24 of them in all) and didn’t pick up a hold until Sept. 12, though it’s hard to say he wasn’t more than adequate in his role (3.39 ERA).

A year later, Warren earned himself an important middle innings role, moving up in the reliever food chain. As you surely know, he’s since maintained that role. He still takes multi-inning appearances on thanks to his background as a starter, but he’s primarily a middle reliever now and an effective one at that.

Warren (Getty Images)
Warren (Getty Images)

When looking at both Warren’s scouting report as a prospect and the report on Green, the similarities between the two are pretty clear: They both were considered potential starters who relied on their four-seam fastballs and solid sliders. Neither had established significant success with their changeups or their other non-slider offspeed pitches.

But they diverge in two significant ways. First, Green simply has better stuff. His fastball averages over 95 mph while Warren tops out around 95-96. Green’s slider has graded as above average while Warren’s was viewed as more an average offspeed offering. Baseball America had Green going into this season as a 50-grade prospect while they had Warren as a 45 going into 2012.

However, they had Warren as a 45-low and Green as a 50-high, indicating that Warren was at less risk to hitting his ceiling. Keep in mind, this was a time when Warren hadn’t reached the majors while Green already had 45 2/3 MLB innings. Green’s elbow injury at the end of last season definitely casts a shadow over him. Sprained UCLs and flexor tendons are nothing with which to trifle.

But Green’s potential reaches beyond Warren’s accomplishments. The 26-year-old righty may be simply the long man right now, but he’s also been quite effective (20 strikeouts and a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 innings). He finished with a 4.73 ERA last season yet had at least five strikeouts in six of his eight starts. His six innings of shutout ball with 11 strikeouts against the Blue Jays last Aug. 15 showed all of his potential.

He can fan batters with his plus-velocity on his fastball/cutter while mixing in his strong slider. Whether or not he can be a long-term starter comes down to his ability to harness his other offspeed pitches. Lefties hit .287/.351/.663 against him last year, so the changeup is key to that end. For what it’s worth, he told Suzyn Waldman before Sunday’s start that he’s worked on the changeup to the point that hitters have to consider it. He’s been better against LHBs in 2017, albeit in a smaller sample size. Furthermore, he’s yet to go multiple times through a lineup.

However, based simply on the fastball and slider, he can be an effective late-inning reliever. Even the fastball alone got him through the heart of the Orioles’ lineup on Sunday when he didn’t have his best command. His ability to throw multiple innings adds to his overall effectiveness. And if he hits his ceiling, it can far surpass the reliability of Warren in the near future.

2017 Draft: Day Two Open Thread

2017-draft-logoNow that all the pomp and circumstance of Day One of the amateur draft is in the books, it’s time for teams to really get down to business. The first rounders get all the attention and understandably so, but Days Two and Three separate contenders from pretenders. The teams that turn those mid-to-late-round picks into valuable (or just useful) players have a big advantage over the teams that don’t. How many teams right now wish they used a third or fourth rounder on Jordan Montgomery in 2014? Exactly.

The Yankees selected two players during Day One: South Carolina RHP Clarke Schmidt (first round) and California HS RHP Matt Sauer (second round). Here is my Day One recap. The draft continues today with Day Two, covering rounds 3-10. Day Two is, typically, the most boring day of the draft. Teams typically use most of their Day Two picks on cheap college seniors to save bonus pool money. Lame, but it is what it is. Here are some stray draft links:

  • In his first round recap, Jim Callis says the Yankees took Schmidt “close to the high point of where he would have gone before he had Tommy John surgery this spring … He could be a quality starter when he’s healthy … He has a hard sinker and a pair of breaking balls that can both be plus at their best.”
  • In a separate piece, Callis listed Clarke has one of his biggest surprises and Sauer as one of his best value picks. “Another high school righty who easily could have fit in the first round, he can run his fastball up to 97 mph and his slider up to 87. Sauer needs some polish, but he has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter or a closer,” said the write-up.
  • Keith Law (subs. req’d) said he “never bought into (Schmidt) as a first-round talent given the rough delivery, but his stuff did tick up this year to the mid-90s and he was still throwing strikes when he blew out his elbow in April,” in his Day One recap. As for Sauer, Law said “perhaps they’re just not worried about the things that worry other teams (or me!) in pitcher mechanics.”
  • John Manuel singled out the Schmidt pick as a surprise given how high he was selected. “It’s expected Schmidt’s bonus will be below the pick value at No. 16 ($3,458,600) while Sauer’s will be significantly above the value at pick 54 ($1,236,000),” he wrote.
  • According to Joe Bailey, Sauer said he will likely sign with the Yankees rather than follow through on his commitment to Arizona. Bailey says the team reportedly offered a $2.5M bonus. That all but confirms the Yankees have a below-slot deal in place with Schmidt.
  • Here are the best available players per MLB.com and Baseball America. Keep an eye on California HS SS Nick Allen (RAB profile) and California HS OF Garrett Mitchell. They both fit New York’s typical profile as toolsy up-the-middle athletes. The Southern California thing doesn’t hurt either.

The draft resumes today at 12:30pm ET and you can stream it online at MLB.com. There is no MLB Network broadcast today. The draft shifts to online only for Days Two and Three. Here is the MLB.com Draft Tracker. Talk about all things draft right here throughout the day.

2017 Draft: Yankees play the bonus pool game on Day One

Schmidt. (AP)
Schmidt. (AP)

The 2017 amateur draft is now underway. A total of 75 picks were made Monday night, during Day One of the draft, including the Yankees’ first (16th overall) and second (54th overall) selections. With those picks, the Yankees did something they had never done before in the draft pool era. They (presumably) cut a deal with their first round pick so they could spend big on their second rounder. Let’s review New York’s two picks from Day One.

Yankees gamble on Schmidt

At first blush, I wasn’t thrilled with the Yankees first round pick, South Carolina RHP Clarke Schmidt. I imagine I wasn’t alone. Schmidt’s a good prospect, don’t get me wrong, but he also had Tommy John surgery in April. Why take an injured college pitcher when healthy comparable college pitchers were still on the board? The Yankees had been connected to Oregon LHP David Peterson for weeks and he was still available, for example.

“Schmidt’s got four pitches that at times are all plus. He has command, he has makeup,” said scouting director Damon Oppenheimer in a statement. “We really like his delivery. He’s got a chance to be a top end of the rotation type of guy who combines pitchability with power stuff. And you always like it when they’re the Friday night guy, pitching and having success in that conference … The (surgery) results were positive and we feel really good about the rehab. He should be back pitching at full strength in approximately 12 months.”

Schmidt was a potential top 10-15 pick before blowing out his elbow thanks to a power arsenal with strikeout stuff. He struck out 70 in 60.1 innings for the Gamecocks this spring before needing elbow surgery, and Baseball America’s scouting report (subs. req’d) makes you can’t wait to see Schmidt healthy and back on a mound:

(This) spring he was routinely touching 95-96 mph with his four-seamer and sitting comfortably in the low 90s. He also throws a heavy two-seamer, although his four-seamer shows good movement as well. Schmidt’s slider has developed into one of the better breaking balls in the college class, a strikeout pitch in the mid-80s with tilt. He also flashed an above-average changeup at times, with sinking movement to his arm side … Before the surgery, Schmidt’s stock was steadily rising, and to some evaluators, he had inserted himself into the uppermost tier of college pitching.

Sounds good! But, you know, the elbow. Sure, Tommy John surgery has a very high success rate, but it’s not perfect. The Yankees have steered clear of injured pitchers in recent drafts, most notably Brady Aiken two years ago, and I’m sure the Andrew Brackman flame out was one of the reasons. The Yankees drafted Brackman knowing he needed Tommy John surgery, and all the missed development time was too much to overcome.

So again, why draft an injured college pitcher when comparable healthy college pitchers were still on the board? There are two possible answers. One, the Yankees really like Schmidt. I mean really like him. They must think he’s a no-doubt top ten guy to take him that high despite recent elbow construction, and they must also think he is very likely to make a full recovery. Or two, they know they can sign Schmidt to a below-slot bonus to manipulate their bonus pool.

Given their second round pick, the latter seems much more likely. They’re going to sign him cheap. The Yankees either got Schmidt to agree to a below-slot number before the draft or feel comfortable enough with his willingness to take a below-slot bonus to draft him in the first round. That 16th overall pick comes with a $3,458,600 slot bonus. Cutting a deal with Schmidt would free up a lot of bonus pool space to spend on other players, such as …

Planning to spend big on Sauer

With their second round pick, the 54th overall selection, the Yankees selected California HS RHP Matt Sauer — a Southern California kid, of course — and suddenly it all started to make sense. Sauer was a consensus late first round who really shot up draft boards this spring and was considered by some to be a potential tough sign given his commitment to Arizona. Now we know where any bonus pool money saved with Schmidt is going.

Prior to the draft, both MLB.com and Baseball America ranked Sauer as the 28th best prospect in the draft class — Keith Law (subs. req’d) isn’t as much of a fan and ranked him 67th — because he possesses a live arm with two knockout pitches. From MLB.com’s scouting report:

Sauer brings the potential to have premium velocity from his 6-foot-4 frame. He’s reached 97 mph at times this spring and has sat comfortably in the 91-95 mph range in most starts. He combines that with a nasty slider, up to 87 mph, thrown from a three-quarter slot with good power, bite and deception. The changeup is a distant third pitch, but he hasn’t needed it much against high school competition.

The lack of a reliable changeup is one of the biggest knocks against Sauer, though it’s not terribly unusual for a top high school pitcher to lack a changeup. They rarely need it to get outs. Another popular knock against Sauer is his delivery, specifically his arm action, which some believe is too long in the back and robs him of command. Here’s some video. The quality of his stuff is obvious, as is the lengthy arm action and command issues:

It’s easy to understand why Sauer was drafted so high. (Going 54th overall is pretty cool!) The kid throws fire. It’s also easy to see he’s a work in progress. The Yankees will have to work with Sauer to iron out his mechanics and develop a changeup. Won’t be easy! But the Yankees are banking on Sauer’s upside and their improving track record of developing arms.

“Sauer is a projectable high school right-hander who is athletic, with a ‘now’ fastball and a plus slider,” said Oppenheimer in a statement. “He really has a good way about his aggressiveness and makeup on the mound. We see a chance there for a starter with power stuff.”

We should look at the Schmidt and Sauer picks together because they are connected through the bonus pool. Like I said, Schmidt is slotted for $3,458,600. Sauer, on the other hand, is slotted for $1,236,000. That’s $4,694,600 between the two of them. Maybe they’ll wind up with even split? Roughly $2.35M each? Schmidt gets below-slot because he recently had his elbow cut open and Sauer gets over-slot because, well, that’s what it’ll take to get him to turn pro.

Why didn’t the Yankees take Sauer in the first round and Schmidt in the second round? Wouldn’t you rather take the high upside kid first to make sure you actually get him before cutting deals? Yes, in theory, but keep in mind that if a player doesn’t sign, the team loses all the pool money associated with that pick. Taking Sauer in the first round and having him walk away means losing $3,458,600 in bonus money. Yikes. The Yankees would rather roll the dice with the $1,236,000 in second round bonus pool money.

Chances are the Yankees did not specifically target Sauer for an over-slot bonus in the second round. He was probably one of several players they were looking at for that 54th overall pick. Among the other notable prospects to come off the board shortly after Sauer were Minnesota HS RHP Sam Carlson and Florida HS SS Mark Vientos, for example. California HS SS Nick Allen and Louisiana HS RHP Blayne Enlow are still on the board now and could have also been in the mix for that second round pick.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: the Yankees like Schmidt and think he can be a really good pitcher when healthy, but they also recognized his leverage is shot following Tommy John surgery. By taking him in the first round and (again, presumably) getting him to agree to a below-slot bonus, it would leave them bonus pool money to spend on another player(s) later. In this case that player is Sauer. If Sauer had come off the board before that 54th pick rolled around, maybe it would have been Carlson. Or Allen. Or whoever.

Last year the Yankees did the exact opposite of this strategy. They took the top available talent, Blake Rutherford, with their first round pick, then figured out how to save enough bonus money to pay him later. This year they saved the bonus pool money first, then waited to see who would be available later. And who knows? Maybe they’ll save enough with the Schmidt pick to go over-slot with their third round pick as well. That would be cool.

I should note this strategy is not particularly new or unique to the Yankees. Teams have been doing it since the draft pools were put in place. Most of the time it happens with teams at the very top of the draft, with the picks tied to huge slot values. They turn that one big bonus slot into multiple high-end prospects. Not many teams have done it in the middle of the first round, so in that sense the Yankees are unique. Overall though, this has been done before. It’s not new.

For now, the Yankees landed two nice power arms with upside on Day One. One of them happens to be broken at the moment. I didn’t like the Schmidt pick when it happened because Tommy John surgery is a big risk and I still don’t love it overall. Healthy players are cool. It’s not like Schmidt is getting a tooth pulled or something like that. Once the Yankees went for Sauer, arguably the best player still on the board, with their second pick, their strategy became clear. They were planning to pounce on whichever highly ranked prospect slipped into the second round.

Yankees win their sixth straight behind Tanaka’s outing and Judge’s homer

Ho-hum. Another night of Aaron Judge heroics for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka having a good outing is also something to talk about. Sure, they didn’t score eight runs this time — the Yankees beat the Angels 5-3 on Monday — but they won their sixth straight to start off the West Coast trip. Good win nonetheless.

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

A good sign

Tanaka allowed a homer to Kole Calhoun in the first inning. Uh-oh. It was only the second batter of the inning and the panic was nigh amongst Yankee fans. However, Tanaka settled down and had a great outing, including retiring 13 straight at one point.

Let’s get to some positives. 6.2, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 8 K. That’s a pretty dang good pitching line! Tanaka’s ERA dropped from 6.55 to 6.07 and he still got a good amount of whiffs (18 total). Brooks Baseball has his fastball topping out at 95.0 mph, which sounds about right. His velocity hasn’t really suffered in this brutal stretch. It was more about giving up meatballs up in the zone quite often to allow loud hits.

This is not a data-talk but from the eye test… Tanaka definitely seemed to have a good groove going on. His stuff looked flat in the first inning but from second inning and on, it looked like he got some of the bite back. Location-wise, he definitely avoided the high part of the strike zone. Take a look:

bandicam-2017-06-13-15-45-01-004

It’s a solid game plan for Tanaka – keep it down and low. He probably should’ve been able to finish the seventh inning. We’ll talk about that… right now

Tied up

So that seventh inning was a bit nutty. Tanaka got Andrelton Simmons to fly out to begin the frame but Eric Young Jr. reached on an error by a Chase Headley error. Young hit a squibber towards third and Headley, who was rushing forward, couldn’t scoop it and let the ball roll past him. Tanaka struck out Martin Maldonado to make it two outs but Young stole second base to make it a RISP situation. Tanaka faced Danny Espinosa and allowed an RBI single that ended his night. Espinosa could’ve been kept at first but Judge made a humongous throw that went over Austin Romine‘s head and that allowed Espinosa to take second base. Joe Girardi decided to pull Tanaka out at 89 pitches and brought in the interim 8th inning guy Tyler Clippard.

Clippard went into an eight-pitch battle against Cameron Maybin that he lost. He put a fastball right down the middle that Maybin hit for an RBI double. Tie game. 3-3. There are some fingers to be pointed at for the Yankees letting them tie it up but sometimes, that’s baseball.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Taking back the lead

Right after they gave up the lead, the Yankees took it right back. In the top of the eighth with one out, Aaron Hicks hit a deep double off of Jose Alvarez that just missed being a HR by a several inches. That brought up a RISP situation for Aaron Judge and Mike Scioscia put in Bud Norris to face him. In case you weren’t aware, Norris has been enjoying a in his first full season as a reliever (1-2, 2.43 ERA with 38 K’s in 29.2 IP). However, I don’t think there are a lot of pitchers that want to face the red-hot Aaron Judge right now. I fully expected Norris to give Judge a non-intentional intentional walk.

It seemed like Norris was going to not give Judge anything worth hitting. The first two pitches were cut fastballs way below the strike zone. However, on his third offering, Norris put one up in the strike zone and Judge drove that out of the park for a 438 feet, 2-run, go-ahead bomb. 5-3 Yankees. Sure, the hindsight is 20/20 – but with the first base open, I really don’t know why they decided to pitch to Judge. Good thing Judge plays for the Yankees, not the other guys.

Judge cracked into the 4.0 fWAR mark after that HR, by the way. We are just getting to the middle of June and he’s already there as a rookie. Pretty insane, eh?

Leftovers

Dellin Betances, who hadn’t pitched since June 8, came in with two outs in the eighth for a four-out save and that’s exactly what he got. He struck out the side in the ninth – all of them swinging. Betances has allowed only 1 ER in 20 IP this season (0.45 ERA) while striking out hitters in an insane 17.10 K/9 IP clip. I’d buy tickets to see him pitch. That is also the Yankees’ first save since May 28, somehow.

How about Didi Gregorius? He drove in the first two Yankee runs and had a 4-for-4 game with an intentional walk. He’s hitting .344/.367/.513 this season, which is pretty awesome. I’ve said it before but his bat seemed to be on a roll this year since the Spring Training and World Baseball Classic. And, of course, we don’t need to worry about his defense at all. Good to have a starting shortstop like him.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will look to make it seventh straight tomorrow. C.C. Sabathia will be on the mound against J.C. Ramirez. It’ll be another 10 pm EST start so get your Keurig ready again.