Report: Yankees have $5.77M pool for 2016 draft, $2.28M for 2016-17 international signing period

(Taylor Baucom/Getty)
(Taylor Baucom/Getty)

According to Hudson Belinsky, the Yankees will have a $5,768,400 bonus pool for the 2016 draft and a $2,177,100 bonus pool for the 2016-17 international signing period. That gives them a $7,945,500 pool to sign amateur players this year, sixth smallest in baseball. Only the Cubs, Royals, Giants, Rangers, and Nationals have less to spend.

The Yankees did not gain or lose any draft picks via free agency this offseason, and there’s no reason to expect them to sign one of the remaining qualified free agents (Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond). They’re currently slated to pick 19th overall, though they’ll move up to 18th if the Orioles finish their deal with Gallardo.

As a reminder, the draft pool covers the top ten rounds. Each pick in the top ten rounds is assigned a slot value, and if you pay one pick below slot, you’re free to spend the savings elsewhere. Every pick after the tenth round has a $100,000 slot value, and anything over that counts against the pool. The Yankees have exceeded their draft pool ever so slightly the last few years. Enough to get hit with a small tax but not enough to forfeit future picks. No team has forfeited future picks yet.

The international bonus pool is largely irrelevant because the Yankees are still stuck with a $300,000 bonus cap stemming from their 2014-15 international spending spree. New York is pretty darn good at finding under-the-radar Latin American prospects — Luis Severino ($225,000), Jorge Mateo ($250,000), and Domingo Acevedo ($7,500) all signed for under $300,000 — but that bonus cap stinks. It takes them out of the running for the best players.

The Yankees will be able to resume spending as they please next year, during the 2017-18 international signing period, assuming the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t drastically change things. An international draft could be coming. The international signing period opens July 2nd this year, as it does every year.

Aaron Judge and the Outer Half of the Plate

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two and a half years ago the Yankees had three first round draft picks thanks in part to the free agent defections of Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano, and already the usual rules of prospect attrition apply to those three picks: one got hurt (Ian Clarkin), one has been traded (Eric Jagielo), and one is a promising top prospect (Aaron Judge). That, as they say, is baseball.

Judge remains New York’s top prospect and last season he reached Triple-A, so he’s ostensibly close to making his MLB debut. He hit .258/.332/.446 (124 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 124 total games last year, though that can be broken down into a .284/.350/.516 (147 wRC+) line with 12 homers and a 25.0% strikeout rate in 63 Double-A games and .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) with eight homers and a 28.5% strikeout rate in 61 Triple-A games. Clearly Triple-A pitching gave him a hard time.

“They started pitching me a little differently and I just wasn’t able to make the adjustments as quick as I wanted to. You’ve just got to learn. Live and learn and get better,” said Judge to Bryan Hoch earlier this week when asked about his Triple-A struggles. Judge is enormous, he’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 275 lbs., and experienced Triple-A pitchers took advantage of his size by attacking him with soft stuff down and away. That’s the next adjustment he has to make.

The Yankees shuttled Judge in and out of Tampa this offseason for what were essentially hitting mini-camps designed to help him work on handling those down and away pitches. (That’s actually not uncommon. Prospects of every caliber attend these mini-camps throughout the winter.) The issue is not so much Judge’s approach, but his size and freakishly compact swing. He does a good job hitting the ball to the opposite field, which is the usual approach against pitches away, so that’s not an issue. Here are Judge’s batted ball heat maps for the 2015 season, via MLB Farm:

Aaron Judge 2015 Spray Charts

As you can see from the heat maps, the right-handed hitting Judge does a pretty good job of taking the ball the other way in general, so he’s not some sort of brute masher looking to yank everything to the pull side. Judge does tend to hit a lot of ground balls to the left field of the infield, however, and Keith Law actually mentioned this in his recent top 100 prospects write-up:

He’s excellent at covering the inner third despite his long arms, which is a positive skill overall but causes two issues: He hits too many grounders to the left side, and he’s very vulnerable to soft stuff away, which led to the excessive strikeout rates in 2015. Learning to cover the outside corner — or lay off pitches just off of it — while maintaining that plate coverage inside is the main challenge for Judge if he wants to become an impact bat in the majors.

The Baseball Prospectus crew had a pretty interesting line in their Yankees top ten prospects write-up: “It’s almost as if Judge’s body prevents him from being the kind of pure hitter he could be.” Every scouting report since the 2013 draft has indicated Judge is an excellent pure hitter more apt to rip line drives from pole to pole than sell out for power, which is uncommon for dudes his size. He has big power — Law’s says it’s 70 raw power on the 20-80 scouting scale, which is well-above-average — but that isn’t his strength as a hitter. It’s his pure hitting ability.

“A lot of times, you see power arms from starters at Double-A and then you see them again in the big leagues,” said minor league hitting instructor James Rowson to Dan Martin when asked about Judge’s Triple-A issues. “Sometimes in Triple-A, you don’t have as many starters with those power arms. I thought he picked it up as he went along. One thing that stands out as a young player that size is he has great plate discipline and body control. He’s as wide as he is tall, so he has a good foundation.”

A year ago at this time we were all talking about Judge as a potential second half call-up should the Yankees need outfield help. He absolutely mashed at Low-A and High-A in 2014 and the scouting reports were glowing. The issues with outer half pitches in Triple-A were more of a surprise than expected, I’d say. That’s okay though. Judge is a very unique prospect — he’s a really good athlete and runner for his size, this isn’t a dude who lumbers on the field — and he’ll have a unique development path.

The Yankees are pretty well set in the outfield heading into the 2016 season. They have their three big league starters (Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran), an up-and-comer as their fourth outfielder (Aaron Hicks), a solid fifth outfield option (Dustin Ackley), and a wealth of Triple-A options (Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel) already on the 40-man roster and ahead of Judge on the call-up depth chart. Judge isn’t in a Greg Bird situation; the Yankees needed Bird this year. They don’t need Judge.

As far as Judge is concerned, the goal this season is improving against those pitches away and putting himself in the best possible position to replace Beltran as the everyday right fielder in 2017. Does he want to reach the show this summer? Of course. He’s human. “I’m excited that maybe I’ll get a chance to do (what Bird did last year) this year,” he said to Martin. But as far as the Yankees are concerned, they want Judge to work on his main weakness, and if it takes the entire season with the RailRiders, so be it.

Rosenthal: Yanks among teams scouting Cuban outfielder Alexei Bell

The Yankees were among the 13 teams scouting Cuban outfielder Alexei Bell at his recent showcase in Mexico, reports Ken Rosenthal. The other dozen teams scouting him were the usual heavy hitters (Dodgers, Red Sox, Giants, etc.). Bell is still going through the process of becoming a free agent, so he can’t sign just yet.

Bell, 32, left Cuba with his family with the government’s permission last year. “Physically, I don’t feel 32. I feel strong. I feel young. I feel agile,” he said to Rosenthal. “I feel I can still produce a lot on the field. I do not feel old at all … I’ll demonstrate that in the games.” Here are his recent stats, via Baseball Reference:

Year Age AgeDif Tm G PA H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 27 0.8 Santiago de Cuba 81 350 91 19 0 18 69 16 9 53 35 .327 .449 .590 1.038
2012 28 1.6 Santiago de Cuba 21 85 20 2 1 2 6 0 1 17 9 .303 .452 .455 .907
2013 29 1.5 Santiago de Cuba 44 179 43 11 0 8 24 3 2 21 13 .277 .374 .503 .878
2014 30 3.1 2 Teams 58 251 64 11 2 8 28 9 3 45 29 .323 .450 .520 .970
2015 31 Quebec 59 241 71 14 2 2 23 11 6 14 24 .317 .363 .424 .787
All Levels (15 Seasons) 718 3682 998 201 33 140 655 132 51 445 463 .319 .414 .539 .952

Bell, who is listed at a mere 5-foot-7 and 187 lbs., spent last season in an independent league and performed well, though not as well as he had in Cuba over the years. He’s starred in international competition while being teammates with Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes, among others.

“In (the 2008) Olympics, he was in his prime, a Raul Mondesi-type who could run and throw, had power — he was the guy,” said a scout to Rosenthal. “He’s not the same player now. I know he has numbers in Cuba. But he’s not the same powerful little guy, little but strong.”

Last month Ben Badler (subs. req’d) said Bell “is a smart hitter with a good approach … (but) there just aren’t many corner outfielders his size who aren’t speedsters, and Bell is a fringy runner who doesn’t have plus power.” Badler adds scouts loved Bell when he was in his 20s and feel he should have tried to leave Cuba ten years ago. Those same scouts are “skeptical of him being an everyday big leaguer.”

It’s good the Yankees are scouting Bell simply because they should do their due diligence on everyone, but signing a 32-year-old outfielder with no MLB track record doesn’t make any sense right now. Beyond their three starting outfielders they have Aaron Hicks and Dustin Ackley, plus a small army of Triple-A outfielders (Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, Aaron Judge, Lane Adams, even Tyler Austin). There’s no room at the inn.

If the Yankees are going to splurge for the 30-something Cuban player, it should be Yulieski Gurriel, who’s a better player than Bell and fills a more pressing need on the infield. He and his brother Lourdes Jr. told Jesse Sanchez they’d like to sign with a team as a package deal, which would be pretty cool. Point is I don’t see much of a fit with Bell. There’s always a price point where it makes sense, but given the team’s outfield depth, that price point figures to be pretty low.

The Five Most Important Storylines of the Spring [2016 Spring Training Preview]

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Each and every year, Spring Training around the Yankees is pretty hectic with important storylines to watch, regardless of whether they just won the World Series or missed the postseason. Last year we had the Alex Rodriguez circus and I’m not sure anything can compare to that. All things considered, it went pretty well, mostly because A-Rod showed he could still play.

This spring there are many things to keep an eye on as the Yankees prepare for the upcoming season, most of which involve health. That’s the buzzword this spring: health. The Yankees have some injury risk — I think it’s fair to say more than other teams — so that’s something to watch these next few weeks. Is it the only think to watch? Hardly. Here are five of the most important storylines to monitor in Spring Training this year, roughly in order of importance.

Tanaka’s Timetable

Masahiro Tanaka did indeed have elbow surgery this offseason, but it wasn’t the Tommy John surgery that is widely considered inevitable. He had a bone spur removed from his elbow, a spur that reportedly dates back to his time playing in Japan. Tanaka is already in Tampa working out and he’s thrown off a mound, so his rehab is going well. He threw some gas on the fire by saying he might not be ready for Opening Day, however.

“I can’t really say (whether I’ll be ready for Opening Day). I’ll take it day by day. I just want to see myself go into the bullpen, get the innings and see how I feel. I feel perfectly healthy,” said Tanaka to reporters the other day. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Tanaka has had no trouble with his throwing program and that the team’s ace will “get to where he needs to get to as time progresses.”

Brian Cashman hedged a bit, saying Tanaka will “enter Spring Training maybe a little behind for precautionary reasons,” even though he is physically fine. CC Sabathia had the same surgery following the 2012 season and the Yankees took it easy on him in Spring Training. He was a few days behind the other starters in camp, and he made most of his early spring starts in controlled simulated games before getting into Grapefruit League action.

Every pitcher is different, though I suspect the Yankees will follow a similar plan with Tanaka this year. Simulated games early — that allows the team to control the action; they can end a inning if it goes too long, stuff like that — then a few tune-up Grapefruit League appearances late. (Sabathia made only two official Grapefruit League starts in 2013.) Is it ideal? No. But neither is offseason elbow surgery, even for something as relatively minor as a bone spur.

We should be able to get a pretty good idea whether Tanaka will be ready for the start of the regular season early in camp. Opening Day is April 4th, so give him four weeks of prep and we’re talking about a March 7th target date for game action, even if it’s only a simulated game. If Tanaka’s not able to pitch in some kind of game and get his pitch count into the 40-45 range that week of March 7th, the odds of him being ready for the season fall big time.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Teixeira’s Leg

Greg Bird‘s shoulder surgery has made it easy to forget Mark Teixeira is coming back from a pretty substantial injury himself. He suffered a small fracture in his shin last August, then was shut down in mid-September with a three-month rehab timetable. The last Teixeira update came in mid-December and all indications were his rehab was going well, though he had not yet started running. That was scheduled for sometime in January.

Joe Girardi will hold his annual start of Spring Training press conference tomorrow and I’m sure we’ll get an update on Teixeira at that time. It goes without saying how important he is to the Yankees. Teixeira is arguably the team’s best two-way player and he is their best power hitter, and now Bird is not around as a backup plan. The Yankees could keep Teixeira off his feet and give him a bunch of DH at-bats in spring, but that is A-Rod’s position now, so it’s not so simple. Both guys need at-bats to get ready for the season.

Castro At Third

The Yankees have made it clear they plan to try Starlin Castro at third base this spring — “We’re not going to force it … but we’ll certainly find out when we get to know him a little better and see how he looks,” said Cashman — and his ability to handle the hot corner will have huge roster implications. If he can play third, the Yankees can use their 25th roster spot as a revolving door, which is their plan. If he can’t play third, they’ll need to use that spot to carry a backup third baseman.

Not only will watching Castro physically play the position be important, but I’m also curious to see exactly how much time the Yankees give him there. Remember, Starlin is relatively new to second base as well. He only started playing second last August. He’s going to need reps at that position as well. The Yankees can’t have Castro focus solely on the hot corner in Spring Training. He’s got to work out at second too. Will that leave enough time for him to pick up third base? There are reasons to believe Castro can handle the third, but it is still going to be a new experience, and he won’t have much time to learn the position.

Headley’s Throwing

I’m not sure any aspect of the 2015 Yankees surprised me more than Chase Headley‘s sudden inability to make routine throws. He made a career high 23 errors last year, including 12 throwing errors, fourth most of any non-first base infielder in baseball. Only Marcus Semien (18), Jean Segura (15), and Josh Donaldson (13) threw more balls away. That doesn’t include all the errors Teixeira saved Headley as well*. There was too much of this last summer:

Chase Headley error

The routine plays gave Headley trouble, yet his throws on difficult plays (those with minimal reaction time) were largely perfect. That suggests a mental issue, not a physical issue, and to be fair he did cut down on the errors as the season progressed. He made 16 errors in the first half and only seven in the second half, which is still a lot, but not nearly as much as earlier in the season. “There are some balls there is nothing you can do about but I worked on recognizing. Hopefully it’s behind me and hopefully it makes me mentally stronger,” he said at midseason.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone would say Headley is over his throwing problems based on his second half error total, including the Yankees and Headley himself. That’s why his throwing will be a focal point this spring. The goal isn’t to get Headley to do something he’s never done before, like it is with Castro playing third. The goal is to get him back to where he was his entire pre-2015 career.

* For what it’s worth, the fancy Baseball Info Solutions data I have access to through CBS says Headley ranked middle of the pack among third basemen in the number of errors saved by “good scoops” at first.

Dellin’s Workload

Last spring was a new experience for Dellin Betances. It was the first time in his career he reported to Spring Training with a big league job locked up, and relievers who are locked into big league spots have light schedules. They throw only a handful of innings and rarely travel. It’s a sweet gig if you can get it. Last spring Dellin threw 8.1 innings across nine appearances. In 2014 it was 12.1 innings across ten appearances.

Four innings doesn’t sound like a huge difference, and it probably isn’t, but Betances did struggle in Spring Training last year. His control was awful and even his velocity was down. It wasn’t until a week or two into the regular season that he started to look like the 2014 version of himself. Betances has said he’s a guy who likes regular work because it helps him stay sharp, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest the reduced spring workload led to his early season problems. He simply didn’t have enough time to get ready.

I’m curious to see how the Yankees handle Betances this spring. Do they give him a few more Grapefruit League innings to prepare for the season, or do they keep him on the typical reliever plan and expect him to adjust? Maybe the solution is more bullpen work, not necessarily game action. A balance has to be struck between enough work to prepare and too much work. That doesn’t seem like an easy thing to do, especially with a pitcher as unique as Dellin.

Yankees discontinuing print-at-home tickets starting this season

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are discontinuing the print-at-home ticket option starting this season, reports Eric Fisher. To get into Yankee Stadium you now need either hard-stock tickets or a mobile bar code. The move is being made to “further combat fraud and counterfeiting of tickets.”

This is almost certainly going to take a huge bite out of the StubHub market and it’s clear the Yankees are trying to corner the secondary market via Yankees Ticket Exchange. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve made a last minute decision to go to a game, bought a ticket on StubHub, printed it out, then headed up to the Stadium. Can’t do that anymore.

The new ticket policy is right here. On the bright side, mobile ticketing is now available, which has been long overdue. You’re out of luck if you don’t have a smartphone though. Between the metal detectors — that’s an MLB thing, not a Yankees thing — and the inability to print tickets, I feel like it’s a bigger inconvenience to go to a game than ever before. Attendance is down already. I can’t imagine this will help fix that problem.

Anyway, individual tickets will go on sale online at 10am ET next Monday. The MasterCard pre-sale runs from tomorrow through Sunday. You can walk up to the Yankee Stadium ticket booth and begin buying tickets next Tuesday.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

Got something of a non-update on the YES/Comcast dispute: Bob Raissman says the two sides have not yet increased negotiations with Spring Training looming — Grapefruit League play begins two weeks from tomorrow — and it’s possible the threat of legal action will be introduced. Other cable provider/regional sports network disputes have been settled in a courtroom. That hasn’t happened yet with YES and Comcast. The two sides are apparently talking, but without increased urgency just yet. I sincerely hope this gets settled soon.

This is tonight’s open thread. The Devils are the only locals sports team in action, and there’s some college hoops on the schedule as well. The NBA is still in the middle of their All-Star break. You folks know what do with these open threads by now, so do it.

Spring Notes: Captain’s Camp, Tanaka, Pineda, Pettitte

Soon. (Presswire)
Soon. (Presswire)

We are now a day and a half away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training. Of course, a bunch of players are already working out at the minor league complex, so a bunch of spring notes have been trickling in the last few days. Here’s a quick roundup, via Bryan Hoch, Anthony McCarron, and Erik Boland.

2016 Captain’s Camp underway

The second annual Captain’s Camp is underway and the Yankees have been shuttling in former players, executives, and media folks to talk to their top young prospects. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, and Darryl Strawberry have all stopped by the Tampa complex to spend time with the kids. Derek Jeter took them all out to dinner last night.

“What’s encouraging to me is that we don’t pay anybody to come. We have a lot of really good people that are coming in to talk to our guys, just to voluntarily share what they’ve learned over the years,” said farm system head Gary Denbo, who came up with the idea for Captain’s Camp last year. Denbo confirmed more prospects were invited this year as the Yankees look to groom their next young core.

Interestingly, the Yankees selected two Captain’s Camp “leaders” this year: outfielder Aaron Judge and right-hander Brady Lail. “We picked a pitcher and we picked a position player that we thought could lead by example and through their actions. They’ve done a tremendous job,” said Denbo. I think the whole Captain’s Camp idea is pretty cool. Being a big leaguer is hard and it’s great the Yankees are doing whatever they can to help their prospects get to the next level.

All goes well as Tanaka throws off a mound

Over the weekend Masahiro Tanaka threw off a mound for the first time in Tampa — he threw off a mound at Yankee Stadium last week — and everything is going well with his surgically repaired elbow so far. “(Tanaka) didn’t try to push it too much, but it was good. He wasn’t midseason form, but he was where he should be,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild of the 20-pitch throwing session. Tanaka played long toss yesterday as well.

Tanaka had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in October and depending who you ask, he is either right on schedule or the Yankees are handling him carefully. I suppose both can be true. Tanaka says he’s unsure if he’ll ready for Opening Day, Rothschild says he’s right on schedule, and Brian Cashman says they’ll take it easy with him in camp. Either way, so far, so good. “We’ll keep throwing. We’ll probably do a mound (session) within the next couple days, and then just keep progressing from there,” said Rothschild.

Pineda wants to throw 200 innings in 2016

Standard Spring Training story alert: [Pitcher] who has never thrown 200 innings in a season wants to throw 200 innings this year. In this case [Pitcher] is Michael Pineda. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. That’s my goal,” he said. “You always want to do better. Sometimes we have good games, sometimes we have bad games … Now it’s a new year and a new season is coming and I want to be ready and prepared to have a great year.”

Pineda built a gym in his home this offseason and he is “looking slimmed down,” according to Boland. Of course, the biggest issue with Big Mike is health. He was on track to throw roughly 200 innings last season before missing most of August with a forearm issue. Pineda seems like the biggest wildcard on the staff. His upside is so obvious and yet, as we saw last year, the results don’t always match the stuff. He’s frustrating and also way too talented to give up on.

Pettitte throws batting practice, may be back later in spring

While in town for Captain’s Camp, Pettitte threw batting practice to several of the team’s top prospects for about 30 minutes yesterday. “If I’m going to be here, y’all ought to use me. The wind was blowing out. Judge, I think, hit a couple on Dale Mabry (Boulevard),” he joked.

Pettitte may return to Spring Training in a few weeks — he was asked about coming back as a player and answered with a straight “No,” in case you’re wondering — depending on his schedule. “I’m going to try to, but I have to see the kids’ games, the way it works out” he said. “I love being down here, love being around these young guys. It’s extremely important to me, also, because of what the Yankees have been to me.”