DotF: Judge homers twice in Teixeira’s first rehab game

The Yankees have signed Belmont Abbey RHP Kyle Halbohn as an undrafted free agent, reports Matt Eddy. Halbohn had a 2.82 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 27 walks 72 strikeouts and eleven walks in 54.1 innings this spring. The kid is listed at 6-foot-8 and 230 lbs., so he must throw really hard or something.

Triple-A Scranton (9-2 win over Toledo)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — he’s out of his mind hot right now
  • RF Aaron Judge: 4-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — two homers and an infield single in the same game … here’s a fun fact: his current strikeout rate (23.6%) is his lowest strikeout rate at any level since Low-A two years ago (21.2%)
  • 1B Mark Teixeira: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 K — he played six innings as scheduled … Shane Hennigan says the plan is for Teixeira to DH tomorrow, then play nine innings at first base Thursday
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-1, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-5, 1 K
  • DH Nick Swisher: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB
  • LF Jake Cave: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 8/2 GB/FB — 53 of 81 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 15 of 23 pitches were strikes (65%) … gave up another homer, this one to lefty hitter (and former big leaguer) Anthony Gose
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — eleven of 16 pitches were strikes (69%)

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Game 70: Back Home

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are back home for a nine-game homestand following that six-game trip through Colorado and Minnesota last week. Thanks to some scheduling weirdness, they’re going to again play the Rockies and Twins this week. Hopefully it goes better than it did last week. Going 3-3 against those two teams is no way to climb back into the postseason race. Here’s the Rockies’ lineup and here’s the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. CF Aaron Hicks
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Ivan Nova

Not the best weather in New York today. It’s been cloudy all day and there is a tiny little bit of rain in the forecast, but not until much later tonight. It shouldn’t interrupt the game. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury is out with some sort of stomach illness. Joe Girardi said he expects him to be back in the lineup tomorrow.

All-Star Updates: The fourth AL All-Star fan voting update was released today and, unsurprisingly, no Yankees are in line to start the game. McCann dropped to fourth among catchers and Beltran jumped up to tenth among outfielders. Here’s the latest update and here’s the ballot.

Update: Yankees sign second round pick Nick Solak

(Louisville Baseball on Twitter)
(Louisville Baseball on Twitter)

June 21st: Solak received a $950,000 bonus, reports Jon Heyman. That’s a bit under the $1,040,800 slot. Assuming the Yankees sign third rounder Nolan Martinez to slot money, they’ll have roughly $3.74M to offer Blake Rutherford. That’s seventh overall pick money. Here’s our Draft Pool Tracker.

June 16th: According to Joshua Welge, the Yankees and second round pick Nick Solak will finalize a contract in the coming days. Solak, a second baseman from Louisville, is scheduled to travel to New York and sign his contract at Yankee Stadium on Monday. There’s no word on his bonus yet.

“I guess you could say the last week has been the highest of highs and lowest of lows,” said Solak to Wedge, referring to getting drafted and Louisville’s soul-crushing walk-off grand slam elimination from the Division I postseason. “It was heartbreaking the way our season ended but I’m excited about what’s ahead.”

The Yankees will be home Monday and my guess is Solak will get the full treatment. Sign the contract, tour the ballpark, take batting practice with the team, the works. Clubs do that all the time with their high picks. Aaron Judge took batting practice with the Yankees out in Oakland after being drafted, for example. Here’s the video.

Solak, 21, hit .376/.470/.564 with 14 doubles, five homers, nine steals, 28 walks, and 20 strikeouts in 47 games this spring. He was a career .346/.442/.484 hitter in three years at Louisville. MLB.com’s free scouting report says Solak “has a line-drive stroke and focuses on the middle of the field” and “receives praise for his gritty makeup.”

The 62nd overall pick comes with a $1,040,800 bonus slot. The Yankees have $5,091,200 in pool money remaining — it’s $5,340,669 if you include the overage — and they still have to sign their top three picks. Most of that money figures to go to first rounder Blake Rutherford. Here’s our Draft Pool Tracker.

6/21 to 6/22 Series Preview: Colorado Rockies

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

The Yankees are back in the Bronx for a nine-game homestand following a disappointing 3-3 road trip through Colorado and Minnesota. They’re playing the Rockies again — and they’ll play the Twins again later on the homestand — after dropping both games in Coors Field last week. This is another quick two-game set.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rockies beat the Yankees twice last week, then they went to Miami for four games with the Marlins, and they dropped three of four by the combined score of 20-12. Figures. Colorado is 33-36 overall with a -9 run differential on the season. They seem to do this every year. Stay somewhat relevant through June or so, then completely collapse in the second half.

Offense & Defense

As we saw last week, the Rockies can score runs in a hurry. Manager Walt Weiss’ team is averaging 5.01 runs per game with a team 94 wRC+, though it’s worth pointing out they score only 4.24 runs per game on the road compared to 5.97 runs per game at Coors Field. The Rockies have one injured position player at the moment: LF Gerardo Parra (65 wRC+). Remember when SS Trevor Story (114 wRC+) ran him over chasing a pop-up last week? Parra landed on the DL with an ankle sprain because of that play.

Arenado. (Joe Mahoney/Getty)
Arenado. (Joe Mahoney/Getty)

Weiss builds his lineup around two players. Well, three players, really. Megastar 3B Nolan Arenado (132 wRC+) is the centerpiece and RF Carlos Gonzalez (123 wRC+) sure is one heck of a second piece. Don’t sleep on CF Charlie Blackmon (107 wRC+) though. He sets the tone from the leadoff spot. 2B D.J. LeMahieu (118 wRC+) and Story are very good complementary players on the middle infield. There’s a little of everything in that group. Power, contact, speed, you name it.

1B Mark Reynolds (103 wRC+) is having a very nice season to date even though he’s not a true talent .290 hitter. We all know that. OF Ryan Raburn (99 wRC+) and OF Brandon Barnes (18 wRC+) are splitting time in left with Parra out. C Nick Hundley (108 wRC+) and C Tony Wolters (43 wRC+) split catching duties. IF Cristhian Adames (60 wRC+) and IF Daniel Descalso (170 wRC+) are the other bench players. With the DH this series, I’m guessing Weiss will shoehorn both Raburn and Barnes into the starting lineup.

The Rockies have a very good team defense, led by the otherworldly Arenado at third base. He’s unreal at the hot corner. LeMahieu and Story are very good on the middle infield and so is Blackmon in center. CarGo is a fine right fielder and Barnes is definitely the better defender between him and Raburn. Reynolds is Reynolds. You can run on Hundley. Not so much Wolters though. Colorado can catch the ball for sure.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. COL) vs. RHP Chad Bettis (vs. NYY)
Bettis, a personal fave, has a 5.63 ERA (4.52 FIP) in 14 starts and 78.1 innings this season, so it seems I have a thing for bad pitchers. In my defense, he has been better on the road (5.52 ERA) than at home in Coors Field (5.79 ERA). Wait, that doesn’t work. Dammit to hell. Anyway, the 27-year-old right-hander has good walk (5.5%) and grounder (51.0%) numbers but bad strikeout (16.8%) and homer (1.38 HR/9) rates. He’s also been getting hammered by righties, which is not unusual. He has a career reverse split. Bettis operates with three fastballs: low-90s sinkers and four-seamers, plus an upper-80s cutter. A mid-80s changeup and an upper-70s curveball are his two offspeed pitches. Last week Bettis held the Yankees to three runs (two earned) in six innings.

Gray. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Gray. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Wednesday (1:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. COL) vs. RHP Jon Gray (No vs. NYY)
Ah yes, the one who got away. The Yankees drafted the 24-year-old Gray out of junior college in the tenth round back in 2011, but he turned down their well-above-slot bonus offer, went to Oklahoma for two years, and blossomed into the third overall pick in the 2013 draft. Gray has a 4.55 ERA (3.53 FIP) in eleven total starts and 65.1 innings this season, and he’ll bring above-average strikeout (26.8%) and grounder (49.0%) rates into tomorrow’s start. His walk rate (7.7%) is about average and he’s been a bit dinger prone (1.1 HR/9), though Coors Field can be blamed for at least part of that. Gray has allowed five homers in 28.2 innings at home and only three in 36.2 innings on the road. Lefties have had a tad more success against him than righties. As you’d expect from the No. 3 pick, Gray sits comfortably in the mid-90s with his fastball and has run it up as high as 99 mph this season. A hard upper-80 slider is his put-away pitch. He’ll also throw some mid-80s changeups and even a few upper-70s curves per start. As far as promising young pitchers with less than a full year of MLB service time go, Gray is among the best. The Yankees didn’t see him in the series in Colorado last week.

Bullpen Status

Believe it or not, the Rockies are carrying nine relievers at the moment. Yes, nine. They normally carry eight relievers anyway, but the other day starter Tyler Chatwood landed on the DL with a back problem. The Rockies called up an extra reliever for a few days until they need to call up the spot starter later this week. Here is the bullpen Weiss has to work with:

Closer: RHP Carlos Estevez (3.86 ERA/4.02 FIP)
Setup: LHP Boone Logan (1.45/1.78), RHP Jason Motte (2.00/3.90), RHP Chad Qualls (4.64/4.71)
Middle: RHP Miguel Castro (5.14/5.19), RHP Gonzalez German (4.88/4.95), RHP Justin Miller (5.46/4.03), RHP Scott Oberg (4.05/5.22)
Long: RHP Eddie Butler (6.26/5.14)

Gosh, that’s a lot of bullpen. Colorado is currently without LHP Jake McGee (4.98/4.50), the ex-Ray and their usual closer. He’s out with a knee issue. Estevez is closing in the meantime with those three veterans setting up. The Rockies committed $32.5M across seven contract seasons to Logan, Motte, and Qualls. They’re not shy about paying veteran free agent relievers well. How else are they going to get them to come to Colorado?

Oberg is the new addition. He was called up the other day to temporarily replace Chatwood. He wasn’t on the roster when the Yankees and Rockies met last week. Motte (23 pitches), Estevez (17), Logan (9), Castro (3), and Qualls (2) all pitched yesterday, though only Castro has pitched in each of the last two days. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen.

Despite strong Triple-A showing, the Yankees aren’t ready to bring Luis Severino back to MLB

(Danna Stevens/Times Tribune)
(Danna Stevens/Times Tribune)

Without question, CC Sabathia‘s renaissance is the best story in an otherwise mediocre 2016 Yankees season. Sabathia has been able to overcome years of declining stuff and personal demons to turn in what is truly a Cy Young caliber performance to date. It’s hard not to love what the big man is doing this season. It’s so fun to watch.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t think there has been a bigger disappointment this year than Luis Severino. The young right-hander impressed in his second half cameo last year and was poised to emerge as a rotation force this season. Instead, he struggled big time, pitching to a 7.46 ERA (5.50 FIP) in 35 innings before getting hurt and demoted to Triple-A. It was a well-earned demotion, no doubt.

Since joining the RailRiders, Severino has posted a 2.52 ERA (2.85 FIP) in four starts and 25 innings. It’s not much, but it is right in line with what he did in the minors from 2014-15 (2.45 ERA and 2.42 FIP). That’s good! Had Severino gone down to Triple-A and continued to struggle, it would be a big problem. A big problem and very scary. The top young pitcher in the organization would still be broken.

Severino’s performance in Triple-A has been very good, and it stands to reason the Yankees want to get him back to the big leagues at some point, but right now there does not seem to be any urgency to do so. Joe Girardi told reporters the other day he’s watched all of Severino’s minor league starts and he still believes there is work to be done. From Randy Miller:

“It still needs some tuning up,” Girardi said Sunday before the Yankees and Minnesota Twins finished up their four-game series at Target Field. “It’s location. Consistency is the big thing. You see some really good pitches, some well-located pitches, but it’s consistency and here (in the majors) you can’t leave ball in the middle of the plate or they get hammered. So I think a lot of times you have to look beyond the numbers.”

“I think sometimes you see the location is not where it needs to be,” Girardi said. “He throws some really good sliders, then he throws some that are up or lack the downward movement that you want.

“I think he’s making strides. I think he’s becoming more consistent, but we’re looking for some more.”

Severino’s biggest problem with the Yankees earlier this season was his command, particularly of his slider and changeup. The stuff was fine. He had the velocity and his slider had some bite to it, but he left too many pitches in the hitting zone and batters really made him pay. Opponents hit .316 with a measly 11.6% swing-and-miss rate against his slider, for example. That is legitimately awful. The league averages are .211 and 15.2%, respectively.

Unfortunately, we don’t have access to any video of Severino’s minor league starts, so we haven’t been able to see him for ourselves. MiLB.com has just one highlight video from his time in Triple-A, and it’s a full three-pitch strikeout at-bat. The first pitch was a fastball, the next two were nasty sliders down in the zone. Check it out:

Based on that three-pitch look, Severino’s command is fixed! Those are two pretty good sliders. Too bad it doesn’t work like that. That at-bat represents 0.898% of the pitches he’s thrown with the RailRiders this year. They don’t tell us much at all. Severino broke off some nasty sliders in the big leagues earlier this year too.

When Girardi says “sometimes you see the location is not where it needs to be” you can be sure that is an organizational opinion and not his alone. After all, Girardi doesn’t make the roster moves. He might have input — I’m certain he does after 8+ years on the job — but at the end of the day, the front office is going to decide who is and who isn’t on the roster. Right now Severino is not considered MLB ready.

And you know what? That is perfectly fine with me. I was on board with sending Severino down to the minors to work on things right before his injury and nothing has changed. He’s too important to rush back just because the numbers are good. There are specific flaws that need to be addressed — again, the location of his secondary pitches — and if Girardi and the Yankees say there hasn’t been enough progress, then there hasn’t been enough progress.

Although the team insists they’re trying to contend — of course they’re going to say that, what do they have to gain by saying they’re going to trade everyone and rebuild? — improving the 2017 Yankees has to be a priority right now, and part of that is getting Severino right. If that means more time in Triple-A, so be it. Severino is too important to the franchise long-term. His development should continue in the minors until it is certain his command has improved.

Let’s talk about Starlin Castro, the Yankees’ talented yet frustrating second baseman

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Yankees are a little more than 40% of the way through the 2016 season, and so far things are not going according to plan. They need a serious run to get back into the postseason race and that run needs to happen soon. The season isn’t so young anymore, you know? It’s only going to get harder and harder to climb back into the race from here.

Starlin Castro is now a little more than 40% of the way through his first season in pinstripes, and based on what we’ve seen so far, I think the best way to describe his season is: meh. Certainly not great, but not truly abysmal either. Adequate is a good word. Or maybe participatory. He’s not the reason the Yankees are out of the postseason picture but he’s probably not someone who will carry them back into the race either. Here are some thoughts on Starlin’s first few weeks in New York.

1. He stopped hitting after the Astros series. Boy did Castro make a great first impression. He came out of the gate and went 7-for-12 (.583) with two doubles and two homers in the season-opening three-game series against the Astros. Starlin drove in eight runs in the three games. It was easy to dream on Castro being a guy who is energized by the bright lights of New York and carrying the offense going forward.

Instead, in the 66 team games since that Astros series, Castro has hit .234/.271/.365 (68 wRC+) in 259 plate appearances, which is not an insignificant sample. His overall season batting line sits at .250/.285/.406 (83 wRC+), which is awfully close to the .265/.296/.375 (80 wRC+) batting line he put up last season. Starlin definitely has had his moments …

… and yes, he has been better than Stephen Drew was last year (76 wRC+), but not by a ton. Overall, I don’t think many will disagree with me when I say Castro has been underwhelming offensively. He leaves you wanting more.

2. He’ll get himself out on pitches out of the zone. Castro has never been a guy who will work deep counts and drive the pitcher nuts. He’s up there to swing the bat. There’s a reason he has a career 4.9% walk rate, after all. This season Starlin has a career high 36.6% chase rate on pitches out of the zone (career 33.3%), which is the 20th highest among the 170 hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

When there are runners in scoring position, Castro expands his zone even more. He has a 41.3% chase rate on pitches out of the zone with runners on second and/or third base. Every one of Starlin’s at-bats with ducks on the pond seems to look the same. Pitchers feed him a steady diet of breaking pitches down and away, and he goes fishing again and again and again. I don’t know about you, but Castro is not someone I want at the plate with the game on the line.

I’m not a believer in hitting with runners in scoring position being a skill. Hitting is a skill and good hitters overall tend to be good hitters with runners in scoring position. Castro’s the kind of guy who makes me rethink that stance. He goes into hack mode with men on base, even moreso than usual, and that’s pretty much the exact opposite of the approach you should have in those spots. The pitcher is the one in trouble, not the hitter. Be patient. Don’t help the guy on the mound out.

3. His defense is generally fine, but his double plays could use work. Even at this point, Castro is still relatively new to second base. He’s played only 105 games and 827.1 innings at the position in the big leagues, all since last August, so he doesn’t even have a full year at second yet. Because of that, we should cut him some slack in the field. He’s generally been fine. He’s not killing the Yankees in the field.

More than anything, Castro’s biggest issue at second seems to be turning the double play. Example:

Starlin Castro double play

We’ve seen similar plays — a weak throw to first and the runner beats out the double play — throughout the season. That one from Sunday was particularly egregious because it was so routine. Castro was at the bag for the toss and had plenty of time before the runner bore down on him. It’s not the first time this season that’s happened and it feels like it won’t be the last.

Like I said though, I do think Castro deserves some slack because he is new to the position. Turning double plays at second is totally different than turning them at short. At short the play is right in front of you and you can see the runner coming from first. At second, your back is to the runner, so you’re making the pivot blind. Turning double plays is definitely an area Castro can improve, and really, it seems like it could be as simple as getting him to put more on his throws. Just fire it to first, assume everything will be a bang-bang play.

4. Baserunning? More like baseoutmaking, amirite? The Yankees and their fans have already had the full Starlin Castro Baserunning Experience™. He’s been picked off third …

… and twice been thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, among other mistakes. A total of 729 players have run the bases this year and only 25 have made more outs on the bases than Castro. This is not a new issue either. Starlin was 19th in outs on the bases last year.

Some players make a lot of outs on the bases because they’re speedy and they push the envelope, and occasionally they get thrown out. That’s baseball. Castro isn’t one of those guys though. He’s made some bad baserunning mistakes, like that pickoff at third and the two times he was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, both of which came on a ball hit to left field, so the entire play was in front of him. Starlin has been doing this for years and years. I don’t expect it to stop.

5. His power seems to be blossoming. I know this turned into a “let’s dump on Starlin Castro” post but I don’t want that to be the case, so let’s end with a positive. Castro is hitting for more power than ever before. He’s already hit nine home runs, two fewer than last season in 307 fewer plate appearances. Starlin averaged 12 homers per season from 2011-15 and he should clear that easily this year. He has a chance to hit 20+ dingers in 2016 for sure. Remember, Wrigley Field is a pretty good place to hit. It’s not like this a guy going from a huge ballpark to Yankee Stadium.

Castro currently has a career high .156 ISO and he’s used pretty much the entire field too. Here’s the spray chart of his extra-base hits, via Baseball Savant:

Starlin Castro

Like most hitters, Castro does the most damage when he pulls the ball. He has hit three of his nine home runs to the opposite field though, and that’s a skill well suited for Yankee Stadium. Keep in mind Castro is still only 26, so he’s either in or about to enter would figures to be the prime years of his career. You’d expect his power output to uptick right about now, and it has this season. That is definitely promising.

* * *

A little less than three months into the season, it’s easy to see why Castro earned a reputation for being a talented yet frustrating player while with the Cubs. He has a knack for giving away at-bats by chasing out of the zone, and he’s had enough lapses in the field and on the bases to say they were more than a fluke one-time incident. Castro is still pretty young, but he also more than 4,000 plate appearances and 1,000 games in the bigs, and yet he’s still making the same mistakes he was years ago. Folks are still waiting for the adjustments.

Adam Warren has had a pretty crummy season to date — 4.56 ERA (5.39 FIP) with an 18/14 K/BB in 25.2 innings — which is surprising because he was pretty damn excellent for the Yankees the last three years. Does that soften the blow of Castro’s rough first few weeks in pinstripes? Eh, maybe. It doesn’t really matter to me. You can understand why the Cubs were ready to move on from Starlin and why a team devoid of young impact talent would take a chance on him, right? So far that chance is not really paying off for the Yankees. Starlin seems capable of so much more, and that has been the case for a few years now.

DotF: Torrens’ big game helps Staten Island to 4-0 start

Some notes:

  • Big news: the Staten Island Yankees are re-branding for next season. You can submit a nickname suggestion right here. MLB doesn’t seem to want minor league teams sharing nicknames with their parent clubs, so they’ve been “encouraging” affiliates to change names.
  • The Yankees have signed OF Connor Oliver out of the independent Frontier League and assigned him to High-A Tampa, the team announced. Oliver, 22, spent a few years in the Braves’ system. He was hitting .337/.386/.652 with six homers in 24 games for the Lake Erie Crushers.
  • OF Jake Skole has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, the team announced. Skole, the 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft, has 166 games of Double-A experience.
  • Chad Jennings put together a great rundown of the top players at each position in the farm system this year, so make sure you check that out.

Both Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton had scheduled off-days.

High-A Tampa (9-1 loss to Daytona)

  • SS Jorge Mateo: 0-4
  • 3B Thairo Estrada: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB
  • RF Austin Aune: 0-4, 2 K
  • 2B Abi Avelino: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 E (fielding) — four homers in 63 games this year after hitting four in 123 games last year
  • RHP Will Carter: 5.2 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 5/0 GB/FB — 59 of 88 pitches were strikes (67%)
  • RHP Gabe Encinas: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 WP, 1/1 GB/FB — 29 of 45 pitches were strikes (64%) … first time in ten appearances this year he’s had more strikeouts than walks

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