Mailbag: Refsnyder, Minors, Teixeira, Robertson, Holder

I’ve got 14 questions for you in the mailbag this week. I also have a bunch of guest post submissions sitting in my inbox that I haven’t been able to get to yet, so if you’ve sent one in, I’m not ignoring you. I’ve just been busy this week. I hope to get to them soon. If you want to send us anything, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the email address to use.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Justin asks: Will the Refsnyder third base experiment get revisited a little bit down the stretch?

Maybe if there’s an injury, otherwise I don’t think so. Rob Refsnyder has played one inning at third base in the big leagues, and that was during an interleague game in an NL park. He was double-switched out one inning later. Chase Headley has gotten three days off since the All-Star break and Ronald Torres was at third base all three times. If the Yankees didn’t use Refsnyder at third then, I’m not sure when they will. They don’t seem comfortable with him at the hot corner at all, and to be fair, he is still very new to the position. We might see him at third in September, but I would bet against it becoming a regular thing.

David asks: At what point does a player (who has been called up) lose prospect status? If Sanchez and Judge lose prospect status in 2016, how well does the Yankees’ system rank among MLB teams overall? Still Top 5? Top 15?

MLB’s rookie limits are 130 at-bats for position players and 50 innings for pitchers, and 45 days of service time outside September for all players. Once you reach one of those limits, you are no longer technically a rookie. When it comes to prospect status, most places just stick with 130 at-bats or 50 innings. Service time is too much of a hassle to track.

Based on how much he’s played the last week, Gary Sanchez should clear 130 at-bats this season. Whoever gets called up to replace Alex Rodriguez on Saturday, either Aaron Judge or Tyler Austin, figures to lose rookie eligibility as well if they do indeed play regularly. If, say, both Sanchez and Judge lose prospect status down the stretch, the Yankees would still have a top ten farm system in my opinion, if not top five. They’d still have four legit top 100 guys in the system in Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo, and Justus Sheffield. Maybe James Kaprielian too.

As long as the Yankees are losing prospects for good reasons (graduated to MLB) and not bad reasons (injury, poor performance), then I couldn’t care less about the farm system dropping in the rankings. Give me the talent in the big leagues. That’s the whole point of acquiring prospects and building a strong system. To improve the MLB team.

Stephen asks: Now that Teixeira is retiring, I thought it would be a good time to compare Teixeira and Giambi’s Yankee careers. The easy answer would be to say that Tex had the better career because 1) they won a world series and 2) he could play defense…but looking at the numbers quickly, it is somewhat surprising to see Giambi seemed to have outshined Tex by more than a little bit offensively. Thoughts?

Jason Giambi has better offensive numbers for sure. I think Mark Teixeira has been the better all-around player. Here’s the side-by-side comparison of their careers in pinstripes:

Games PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR RBI BB% K% bWAR fWAR
Teixeira 923 3,981 .249/.344/.480 120 201 606 11.6 18.1 20.8 18.3
Giambi 897 3,693 .260/.404/.521 145 209 604 16.8 19.1 22.0 21.8

Both versions of WAR say Giambi was the more valuable player (in fewer games), though WAR doesn’t handle first base defense well. I think it sells Teixeira well short in the field, and it probably overrates Giambi a bit too. Giambi was a way better hitter than Teixeira, but he gave a ton of value back in the field. Teixeira has been comfortably above-average on both sides of the ball. Bottom line: they were both very productive in pinstripes.

Noah asks: David Robertson has been gone for a couple of years now and the no runs DMC era is over. I think many people forget how dominant Robertson was for the Yankees (especially in 2011) because of how good Betances, Miller, and Chapman have been. Where do they stand when compared to each other? Is Robertson’s 2011 still better than Betances or Millers’ 2015?

That 2011 season was Robertson’s big breakout season and the best season of his career. He’s had plenty of excellent seasons since, but that was his absolute peak. Here’s how 2011 Robertson compares to last year’s version of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller:

IP ERA FIP WHIP K% BB% GB% HR/9 bWAR fWAR
2011 Robertson 66.2 1.08 1.84 1.13 36.8 12.9 46.3 0.14 4.0 2.6
2015 Betances 84 1.50 2.48 1.01 39.5 12.1 47.7 0.64 3.7 2.4
2015 Miller 61.2 2.04 2.16 0.86 40.7 8.1 48.3 0.73 2.2 2.0

I don’t think you can say one of those three is clearly better than the other two. I’m not a big believer in reliever WAR — I think it drastically understates their value, especially high-leverage relievers like these three — and if I had to pick one, I think I’d go with 2015 Betances because of the sheer number of innings. He threw roughly 20 (20!) more innings than the other two guys. Either way, all three were awesome. The Yankees have had some truly remarkable relief seasons in recent years. We’ve been spoiled as fans.

Bob asks: Please tell us more about Abiatel Avelino who, considering his age, has had a pretty good year in Tampa and has held his own in Trenton so far. Is he a good prospect?

Avelino, 21, was bumped up to Double-A Trenton a week or two ago, and he’s hitting .269/.336/.379 (110 wRC+) with 22 doubles, six homers, 21 steals in 35 attempts (60%), an 8.1% walk rate, and a 16.0% strikeout rate in 105 games between High-A and Double-A this season. I’ve had him on my top 30 list a few times (including this year) and he’s basically a slap hitter with speed and good defense at short. Avelino has always been billed as a guy with great baseball instincts whose whole is greater than the sum of the parts. He’s a decent prospect who probably fits best in a utility role.

Joseph asks: If the White Sox place Robertson on waivers, do you think the Yankees will claim him like they did last year? If so, Do they work out a trade, do the White Sox just assign him to the Yankees or neither?

Not including his partial rookie season in 2008, Robertson is currently having the worst year of his career, pitching to a 4.18 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 47.1 innings. He’s had some really high profile meltdowns too. For example:

Yeah, that’s bad. Robertson is owed the remainder of his $11M salary this season, plus $12M next season and another $13M the season after that. He’s not cheap by reliever standards. Robertson is worth a deeper look outside a mailbag setting because I’m not sure what exactly the problem is. Given the money owed and the fact there are some signs of decline, I’d steer clear. I don’t think the White Sox would just give Robertson away, but I wouldn’t risk a claim either.

Bryan asks: Will Gardner gain 10 and 5 rights at the end of this season? I’ve seen people say both yes and no. I’d think that if he doesn’t gain them, he would almost be a must-move for the offseason with the amount of talent we have coming up in the OF and the logjam created between him and Ellsbury. Then, if we were to trade him, what kind of package do you think he could bring back?

No on the 10-and-5 rights. It’s ten years of continuous service, and Brett Gardner wasn’t up for good until August 2008. He won’t get 10-and-5 rights until August 2018. There is no no-trade clause in Gardner’s contract, not even a partial one, but he gets a $1M bonus if traded. That’s better than nothing, I guess.

I think the Yankees are going to end up trading Gardner this offseason to help clear up their outfield logjam. I’m sure they’d prefer to trade Jacoby Ellsbury, but that’s not happening, so Gardner it is. Sucks. Gardner will be two years away from free agency after the season, and when Dexter Fowler was traded two years prior to free agency (Rockies to Astros), he fetched an MLB ready mid-range pitching prospect (Jordan Lyles) and an MLB ready platoon outfielder (Brandon Barnes). I guess that’s a good template for a Gardner trade?

Anonymous asks: RA Dickey has thrown 200+ innings in 5 straight seasons. HR rate isn’t ideal for the Bronx, but he’s a dependable innings eater. What about signing RA Dickey to a 1-2 year deal in the offseason as a back end option?

If the Yankees plan to try to contend next year, then I say no, aim higher. Dickey is 41 and he’s having his worst season since before he joined the Mets (4.61 ERA and 5.27 FIP), so I’m not sure what he offers a contending team at this point other than veteran presents. (I hear he gives good veteran presents.) If the Yankees are willing to focus on player development and aren’t so concerned with winning in 2017, Dickey could make sense as an innings guy. Someone has to pitch, right? He’s someone you can count on for 180+ innings and to start every fifth day, no questions asked.

Mark asks: Probably already asked a million times, but with ARod retiring how does his remaining contract count against next years luxury tax? Is he not essentially a $20M+ advisor? I’m sure I’m missing something obvious. Thanks for all the great work you guys do.

Nothing changes as far as the luxury tax is concerned. The Yankees will still be hit with a $27.5M luxury tax hit next season — luxury tax hits are based on the average annual value of the total contract (ten years, $275M), not actual salary ($20M in 2017) — even though A-Rod is being released after tonight’s game. When you release a player, it’s like he’s still on your roster for payroll purposes. It doesn’t matter that he’s staying on as an advisor. And if another team signs A-Rod, the Yankees can subtract the pro-rated portion of the league minimum from the $27.5M. That’s the only break they’ll get. The Yankees are fully aware of this and are willing to accept it, obviously.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Jason asks: Not sure if you’ve mentioned this before, but if the Yankees do for whatever reason decide to sign Chapman in the offseason, would they surrender a draft pick because he was traded (from them, if that matters) during the season? Would this also apply to Melancon?

Players have to spent the entire season with the same team to be eligible for the qualifying offer, so since Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon were traded at the deadline, they will not be attached to draft pick compensation. Those two plus Kenley Jansen will be the three big free agent relievers after the season. I’d prefer Jansen myself, though he’s going to cost a first round pick, and that kinda sucks. As good as he’s been, Melancon’s velocity is down and he’s not getting nearly as many grounders as in the past, so he’s probably at the bottom of my target list. I’m already preparing myself for the Yankees to re-sign Chapman. It feels inevitable at this point.

Hunter asks: What happens to Alex’s number 13 after Friday? Held for retirement, immediately back in circulation, or given the Paul O’Neill treatment?

Good question! I have no idea whatsoever. I could totally see the Yankees putting it right back in circulation — they gave out No. 46 the Spring Training after Andy Pettitte lefty for the Astros as a free agent — and I could also see them retiring it at some point. Nothing would surprise me. The Yankees still have not retired No. 2, you know. That will happen soon. If they do retire No. 13, it’ll probably be in a few years. Now watch Ronald Torreyes show up to camp wearing No. 13 next spring.

R.J. asks: Hey Mike, can you explain what are the area code games and how the players are selected to play for the teams they play for? Thanks

The Area Code Games are one of the major high school showcase events each year. They’re actually going on right now. There are eight teams that draw players from different regions of the country, and the eight teams are named after MLB franchises.

  • Chicago White Sox: Midwest
  • Cincinnati Reds: Four Corners and Hawaii
  • Kansas City Royals: Pacific Northwest
  • Milwaukee Brewers: Southern California
  • New York Yankees: Northeast
  • Oakland Athletics: Northern California
  • Texas Rangers: Texas and Louisiana
  • Washington Nationals: Southeast

The Area Code Games teams are just named after MLB franchises. There’s no affiliation. The kids aren’t Yankees prospects. They’re not coached by Yankees coaches, nothing like that. It’s just the team name. The Area Codes Games are why there are photos of Mike Trout in a Yankees hat and Bryce Harper in a Reds hat floating around the internet:

(WhatProsWear.com)
(WhatProsWear.com)

As far as I know most players are invited to the Area Code Games, especially in the traditional baseball hotbeds, but there are open tryouts as well. The games are played at Long Beach State’s Blair Field in August each year, and it gives the kids a chance to strut their stuff against other elite high school players in front of hundreds of scouts. The Area Code Games are the first big scouting event of the draft season.

Craig asks: Jonathan Holder. I confess I never heard of him (notwithstanding some passing references in RAB) until I read the Fangraphs piece on Grant Dayton of the Dodgers today.  But Holder’s numbers this year in AA and AAA are pretty mind-boggling.  In the mix for 2017?

Mind-boggling is a good way to describe Holder’s numbers: 1.86 ERA (1.49 FIP) with a 39.4% strikeout rate and a 3.4% walk rate in 53.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He was the team’s sixth round pick in 2014 — Holder was the closer at Mississippi State and Jacob Lindgren was the setup man/fireman — and the Yankees tried Holder as a starter last season. He performed well (2.52 ERA and 2.85 FIP in 118 innings), though I guess the team didn’t like what they saw, because they stuck him back in the bullpen this year.

Holder is a low-to-mid-90s fastball/curveball pitcher and I don’t think he’s a future closer or anything like that. I know the numbers are great, but trust me, there are hundreds of relievers putting up silly numbers in the minors. Holder is more of a middle reliever type, someone who rides the shuttle a la Nick Goody and Branden Pinder. One of those guys. Of course, I said the same thing about Robertson back in the day, then he jumped two grades of command overnight, so who knows.

Max asks: Given that Tex announced his retirement today; it makes me wonder. How much longer are you gonna keep this site going, Do you see it as a lifelong thing? Do you think baseball will even be here in 40 years?

I can promise you right now this won’t be a lifelong thing. RAB’s tenth anniversary is in February and I can’t see going another ten years. Ben, Joe, and I started the site when we were all in college because we wanted to write about baseball. Now we’re all in our 30s and, ugh, responsible adults. Priorities have changed. The best answer I can give is saying I’m taking it year-to-year at this point. It has nothing to do with the state of the Yankees. It’s all about me and whether I want to continue doing it.

Ellsbury’s double gives Yankees a 4-2 win over Red Sox

For the first time in more than two weeks — since the series in Houston — the Yankees have won back-to-back games. They rallied from behind to beat the Red Sox in the final road game of Alex Rodriguez‘s career Thursday night. The final score was 4-2. That was a good game. I enjoyed it.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Pineda’s Tight Rope
That was a good start from Michael Pineda even though it didn’t feel like a good start. He put eleven runners on base in six innings and really had to wiggle out of some jams, but the important thing is he did wiggle out of those jams en route to holding the Red Sox to two runs in six innings. A well-timed double play and a few clutch strikeouts helped Pineda along the way.

The BoSox scored their two runs with two outs, because of course. Two-out runs are Pineda’s thing. The first run came in the first inning. David Ortiz ground-rule doubled and Hanley Ramirez singled him in. Ortiz and the Red Sox had zero regard for Jacoby Ellsbury‘s arm. It was a hard hit single to center and they sent Ortiz home anyway — remember, he was hobbled after hitting that foul ball off his shin last night — and he beat it out easily. Blah.

The second run scored in the fifth inning. Xander Bogaerts blooped a one-out single and Hanley drove him in with a two-out double into the gap. That gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. Pineda struck out three and got nine of his other 15 outs on the infield. Was it the prettiest outing? No. Not at all. Pineda’s outings are rarely pretty. But, at the end of the day, two runs in six innings against the best offense in baseball is pretty good. Nice work, Big Mike.

Come From Behind, Again
The Yankees put a hurting on Boston’s bullpen Wednesday night, and they did it again in this game. They scored their first run of the night in the third inning on Austin Romine‘s long solo homer — did you realize he has four homers this year? where have I been — which I’m pretty sure cleared the Green Monster and left the ballpark entirely. If it didn’t, it came damn close. Romine really laid into that Eduardo Rodriguez fastball.

It wasn’t until the eighth inning, after Rodriguez was out of the game, that the Yankees scored again. The Red Sox were nursing their 2-1 lead, and Gary Sanchez started the rally by running over Hanley at first base. I’m not joking. He hit a grounder that Dustin Pedroia ranged far to his right to grab, but his throw short-hopped Ramirez and more or less pushed him backwards into Sanchez’s path.

Gary Sanchez Hanley Ramirez

Hanley was on the ground for a few minutes in obvious pain. He stayed in the game but only briefly; he was lifted for a pinch-hitter the next half-inning. Ramirez told reporters after the game he was a) kneed in the thigh, and b) felt something in his lower back on the fall. The back was the reason he was on writhing in pain.

Anyway, that play gave the Yankees a leadoff baserunner. Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner followed with singles to load the bases with one out. The Yankees were in business against funky submariner Brad Ziegler. A fly ball would have tied the game, and Ellsbury did indeed get that fly ball, but it did more than tie the game. Rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi appeared to lose it in the lights and let a catchable ball sail over his head for a two-run double. The play was originally called a sac fly and an error, but nah. They changed it to a double later.

That double turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead, then, naturally, it came down to A-Rod. It always comes downs to A-Rod. The Red Sox intentionally walked Chase Headley to load the bases with one out for Alex because they didn’t think he could do damage. I don’t blame them. Rodriguez hasn’t done much of anything since last year. Sure enough, A-Rod managed to hit the ball this far …

Alex Rodriguez1

… which was just far enough to score Gardner from third. A younger A-Rod beats that little nubber out for an infield single. The current version of A-Rod had to settle for an RBI fielder’s choice. Hey, it got the run in! That gave the Yankees an always appreciated insurance run and a 4-2 lead. Sanchez running over Hanley and Benintendi doing whatever the hell he did were the keys to that inning.

Nine Outs From Glory
Welcome back to the big leagues, Luis Cessa. He picked up his first second career win with two innings of no effs given relief. Six up, six down against the 1-6 hitters with one ball out of the infield. Cessa struck out two and Joe Girardi let him stay in for the eighth inning with a two-run lead and the bullpen gassed. It was no problem. Heck of a job by Cessa. He really shoved for those two innings. I wonder if he starts Monday in place of Nathan Eovaldi?

Dellin Betances came in for the ninth and things got a little interesting, as they tend to do in Fenway Park. Sandy friggin’ Leon doubled with one out to bring the tying run to the plate. So annoying. A wild pitch moved Leon to third, and a walk to Benintendi put the tying run on base. Betances then rebounded to strike out Pedroia and Bogaerts to end the game. All three outs were strikeouts, and each one was more embarrassing than the last. Dellin made those guys look foolish.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Leftovers
The 3-4-5 hitters went a combined 0-for-11 with a walk and three strikeouts. The rest of the lineup went 7-for-22 (.318). The top and bottom of the order really picked up the guys in the middle. Romine (homer, walk) and Hicks (two singles) were the only Yankees to reach base twice. The eight and nine hitters. Go figure.

How about Sanchez’s arm? Good gravy does that kid have a rocket. He threw Jackie Bradley Jr. out trying to steal by a mile in the fourth inning. It wasn’t even close. Sanchez has thrown out three of five basestealers since coming up — the two successful steals came with Betances on the mound, and Dellin can’t control the running game at all — plus two others on wild pitches. He is: good.

Hicks ran into a brutal double play in the third. He was on first, Gardner hit a soft little humpback line drive to Pedroia at second, and Hicks wandered way too far off the base, so he couldn’t get back in time. The Yankees’ baserunning was really bad this entire series. Really, really bad.

And finally, the Yankees are now 58-56 on the season, and thanks to this win, they’re only 3.5 games back of a wildcard spot. They haven’t been this close to a postseason berth since July 28th. The last time they were this close before that was July 3rd. Nothing better to do the rest of the season than make a run for it, right? Right.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees (58-56) have a better record than the Mets (57-57) and that pleases me. Feels right, you know? Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the very fun win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The final game of A-Rod’s career is next. That’s a bummer. The Yankees are going home to start a three-game series with the Rays. They’re going to hold a special ceremony for Alex prior to Friday’s series opener. That’ll be neat. CC Sabathia and Chris Archer are the scheduled starters for that one. RAB Tickets can still get you in the door if you want to see A-Rod play one last time.

DotF: Higashioka homers in Scranton’s loss

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Lehigh Valley in five innings) completed early due to rain

  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-3, 1 K, 1  E (throwing)
  • DH Aaron Judge & 1B Chris Parmelee: both 1-2
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-2, 2 K
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — here’s video of the dinger … his 18 homers are tied with Padres C Austin Hedges for the most among minor league catchers … Hedges is doing it in an extremely hitter friendly home ballpark too (hitters at El Paso are hitting .306/.361/.487 in 2016)
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 5/2 GB/FB — 32 of 45 pitches were strikes (71%) … makes the start in place of Luis Cessa, who was called up to the MLB team to give them a fresh arm
  • LHP Phil Coke: 2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 32 of 50 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Game 114: The Opposite of a Farewell Tour

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

What’s the opposite of a farewell tour? A good riddance tour? Whatever it is, Alex Rodriguez is going through it right now. He is playing the final road game of his career tonight — Alex played his first ever MLB game at Fenway Park, so everything is coming full circle — and he’s in the lineup in a move that seething with obligation. A-Rod is also batting cleanup because the Yankees are #TryingToWin. Whatever. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. C Gary Sanchez
  8. 1B Austin Romine
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Michael Pineda

Not a bad night for baseball in Boston. A little cloudy, but there’s no rain in the forecast. Nothing substantial, anyway. Tonight’s game is going to begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy hearing A-Rod booed by a road crowd for the final time.

Roster Moves: In case you missed it earlier, Luis Cessa and Ben Heller were called up and Nick Goody and Rob Refsnyder were sent down. The Yankees needed fresh arms after blowing through their bullpen last night.

Heyman: Yanks wanted Foltynewicz, Inciarte for McCann?

(AP)
(AP)

4:28pm ET: Heyman’s post has been changed and now says the last known request was simply “two young players.” Foltynewicz and Inciarte are no longer mentioned by name. Developing!

3:30pm ET: According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees’ “last known request” during Brian McCann trade talks with the Braves was hard-throwing righty Mike Foltynewicz and outfielder Ender Inciarte. Atlanta was apparently willing to eat half of McCann’s $17M annual salary, but they also wanted to give up lesser prospects.

McCann has already cleared trade waivers, and while Heyman says no deal is close, the Yankees are expected to continue listening to offers for their starting catcher. The Braves make sense as a trade partner. McCann played all those years with the Braves, he’s from the Atlanta area, and he’d give them a veteran catcher to lead their young pitchers as they make the transition from rebuilder to contender.

Foltynewicz, 24, was drafted by the Astros and included in the Evan Gattis trade. He has a 4.37 ERA (4.67 FIP) in 78.1 innings this year, and a 5.10 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 183.2 career big league innings. Foltynewicz throws extremely hard — PitchFX says he’s topped out at 99.8 mph this season — and he fits into the Nathan Eovaldi/Michael Pineda class of “hard-throwing but hittable” pitchers. Here’s video:

The 25-year-old Inciarte was part of the Shelby Miller trade and is a WAR All-Star who posts insane defensive numbers. He’s a very good outfielder, don’t get me wrong, but the numbers are a bit skewed because he bounces between the three outfield spots. That messes with the positional adjustments. Inciarte hit .303/.338/.408 (100 wRC+) last year but has zero track record of being a threat at the plate. His numbers dropped back down to .267/.325/.340 (81 wRC+) this year.

I don’t know about you, but Foltynewicz and Inciarte seems light to me. Unless you’re expecting Foltynewicz to take a huge jump forward soon and/or believe 2015 Inciarte is the real Inciarte, you’re talking a project pitcher and a role player for an above-average everyday catcher. The Yankees shouldn’t dump McCann for the sake of dumping him. He’s not blocking Gary Sanchez. The two can co-exist. They are right now!

The Yankees love their big stuff project pitchers — they haven’t had much success turning them into productive big leaguers, but I digress — so it’s not really a surprise they wanted Foltynewicz. I have no idea what they’d do with Inciarte. Flip him elsewhere? How many low-power lefty hitting outfielders can one team carry? The Yankees have Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in MLB, plus Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, and Jake Cave in Triple-A.

I don’t think Foltynewicz and Inciarte was an unreasonable request by the Yankees. If anything, it was probably a little light, especially if the Braves were only willing to pay half McCann’s salary. It sounds like the Yankees will continue to listen to offers for McCann and I’m sure they’ll circle back around with the Braves at some point. This won’t be the last time we hear about a potential McCann deal.

Severino has made some progress with his slider, and now he needs to do the same with his changeup

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two nights ago Luis Severino returned to the rotation with a thud, not a bang. The Red Sox roughed him up for five runs on seven hits (five extra-base hits) in 4.1 innings. He struck out three and didn’t walk anyone, so … yay? The Yankees didn’t exactly set Severino up for success by starting him against MLB’s best offense in Fenway Park, but what’s done is done.

Severino earned Tuesday’s start with three strong relief outings, particularly his 4.1 inning masterpiece against the Mets last week. Overall, he allowed one run with ten strikeouts in 8.1 innings out of the bullpen. That’s after a successful ten-start stint with Triple-A Scranton. Chad Green getting smacked around by the Mets certainly played a role in the team’s decision to start Severino as well.

The Yankees sent Severino down weeks ago with a specific goal in mind: improve his secondary stuff. Both the quality of his pitches and his location. I think we’ve seen progress with his slider. First and foremost, he’s actually locating it down in the zone now. Here are his slider locations in 2016 (click for larger):

Luis Severino sliders

Severino has done a much better job burying the slider down and away to righties since being recalled, and a better job keeping it down in the zone in general. Earlier this season he was throwing cement mixers that just spun up in the zone and got hammered. At least now he’s burying them, and, as a result, the swing-and-miss rate on his slider jumped from 11.1% earlier this year to 13.9% since being recalled. (It was 8.9% last year.)

The progress Severino has made with his slider — both in terms of location and swing-and-miss rate — is promising, though it’s clear there’s still some work to be done here. The league average swing-and-miss rate on sliders is 15.2%, after all. That’s okay though! He’s a 22-year-old kid who is still developing. Severino apparently made some real progress with his slider while in Triple-A and that’s good to see.

Now, that all said, the slider is just one piece of the puzzle. The Yankees sent Severino down to work on his secondary pitches. Not secondary pitch. The changeup was supposed to be a point of emphasis too, and so far, we’ve rarely seen it since Severino was called back up. He threw 85 pitches the other night against the Red Sox, and two were changeups. Two! It’s not like he didn’t have an opportunity to throw it either; the BoSox had six lefty hitters in the lineup.

Severino has thrown six changeups out of 207 total pitches since being called back up, or 2.9%. It was 14.6% changeups last year and 14.6% changeups before being sent down earlier this year. I can understand not throwing changeups out of the bullpen, but what’s the reason for Tuesday night? Severino was throwing to Gary Sanchez, who caught him a ton in the minors, so I can’t imagine not trusting the catcher was a reason.

“I’m not throwing it a lot because I don’t have the same confidence I had two years ago,” said Severino to Chad Jennings yesterday. Tuesday night Severino was out there as a two-pitch pitcher. He threw 43 fastballs, 40 sliders, and two changeups. That’s better than being a one-pitch pitcher like he was earlier this season, but it’s still not good enough. It leads to things like this:

First time through the lineup: 2-for-9 (two singles)
Second and third time through: 5-for-11 (four doubles, one triple)

Once the lineup turned over and hitters got a second look at him, the Red Sox were over all Severino. Those doubles (and triple) were not softly hit. They were rockets off the wall and down the line. The swings were mighty comfortable, and part of that is the Red Sox just being really good at hitting, for sure. Part of it is also Severino having nothing else in his bag of tricks. Once they saw the fastball and slider, hitters had nothing else to worry about.

Throwing bad changeups is one thing. Not throwing the changeup is another. It suggests Severino is not comfortable using it at this point, which is weird, because all throughout his time in the minors we heard it was his top secondary pitch. From Baseball America in 2014 (subs. req’d):

While Severino’s mid-80s slider was his top secondary pitch before he signed, he has developed a solid changeup since signing, and it’s presently the better of the two. His slider still flashes plus but remains inconsistent.

And now from Baseball America in 2015 (subs. req’d):

He couples the fastball with a changeup that features plenty of late fade. He’s confident enough to double and triple up on the pitch at times and use it to get strikeouts against both lefthanders and righthanders.

Yeah, we didn’t see that the other night. To be fair, we’re talking about one start. A pitcher not using his changeup in relief is not uncommon at all. We need some more information before we can say anything definitive about Severino’s changeup usage, or lack thereof. It was just really discouraging to see him shy away from the pitch entirely the other night, especially since he actually got a whiff with one of the two changeups he did throw.

Luis Severino changeup

One thing has become increasingly clear this season: Severino is not the instant ace we all wanted to believe he was coming into the season. His secondary pitches need work, and to his credit, he went to the minors and improved his slider. Did he improve his changeup as well? We don’t know. Severino hasn’t thrown it since coming back, but he’ll need it to be successful. Almost every starter does.

The Yankees could have kept running Severino out there every fifth day — it’s not like they’re in the postseason race — but they opted to send him to Triple-A yesterday, which is for the best in my opinion. The team really rushed him up the minor league ladder and a lot of the things Severino is working on now are things he should have worked on in the minors, before his MLB debut. This year the Yankees have been forced to send him down to play catch up.

There’s a fine line between letting a guy go through developmental growing pains and letting him get blasted every fifth day, destroying his confidence. I think Severino is really at risk of the former. Hopefully things are different the rest of the year, and we see the same improvement with the changeup as we’ve seen with the slider whenever he comes back up. Severino’s a very important piece of the long-term picture and getting him right has to be Priority No. 1 the rest of 2016.

Poll: Replacing Alex Rodriguez

Austin. (Presswire)
Austin. (Presswire)

Tomorrow night Alex Rodriguez will play the final game of his MLB career. That’s pretty wild, isn’t it? We all knew the end would come sooner rather than later, but this is all happening so fast. It’s for the best though. The Yankees are better off with someone else occupying A-Rod‘s roster spot, and come Saturday, someone else will indeed be occupying that roster spot.

The Yankees seem committing to giving their young players a chance down the stretch, and A-Rod’s exit gives them an opportunity to incorporate another kid into the lineup. Gary Sanchez has been up for a week already and he’s getting regular at-bats. It’s pretty cool. Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin seem to be the most likely candidates to replace A-Rod, but they’re not alone. Let’s break down their cases.

Tyler Austin

The Case For Austin: After a few seasons of injury and poor performance, Austin has put himself back on the prospect map this year by hitting .295/.394/.527 (161 wRC+) with 17 homers in 106 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s got opposite field pop and defensive versatility, at least somewhat. Austin can play first base and right field, as well as DH. He could also man third base in a real pinch, but not regularly.

Austin has to be added to the 40-man roster after the season and the Yankees figure to do exactly that rather than risk losing him for nothing. Greg Bird is rehabbing from shoulder surgery and first base is a little up in the air next season, and Austin could be an option there. Calling him up now and giving him regular at-bats would give the Yankees a chance to evaluate him against MLB caliber pitching. That’s the entire point of calling these guys up.

The Case Against Austin: Even with the bounceback year, Austin’s upside is not sky high, and he projects as maybe a solid regular at the MLB level if things break right. Historically, righty hitting and righty throwing first basemen have to hit and hit big to stick around long-term. Austin’s ability to play the outfield works in his favor, though we’re now talking about a right-handed Garrett Jones type. Rather than audition Austin this month, the Yankees could opt to play a higher upside prospect with a better chance to be a part of the next core.

Aaron Judge

The Case For Judge: Simply put, Judge came into the season as the team’s top prospect — he’d still be their top prospect if not for the Clint Frazier trade — and he’s done exactly what the Yankees wanted him to do this season. He’s putting up good numbers (.265/.359/.472 with 18 homers and a 141 wRC+) and he’s cut his strikeout rate down to 23.9%, lowest it’s been since he was in Low-A ball two years ago. The performance is there.

Judge. (Times Leader)
Judge. (Times Leader)

On top of that, the right field job is wide open going forward, and Judge is the obvious candidate to assume that position long-term. It’s not just about the bat. Judge is a surprisingly good runner for his size and he’s an asset on defense with a very strong arm. He’s going to surprise a lot of people with his athleticism when he first comes up. Guys listed at 6-foot-7 and 275 lbs. usually don’t move this well. Judge is the heir apparent in right field and his time is now.

The Case Against Judge: Judge did just return from a knee injury that forced him to miss close to a month, remember. He’s performed well since returning, going 10-for-29 (.345) in eight games, but that’s still a lot of time to miss. A few more Triple-A at-bats to make up for the lost time wouldn’t be the end of the world. Also, Judge doesn’t offer much versatility, so if the Yankees remain committed to giving Aaron Hicks a look, the everyday at-bats might not be there.

Other Candidates

Ben Gamel: Gamel is having another strong season in Triple-A (132 wRC+) around a few short call-ups to MLB. He’s a lefty hitting outfielder, which is something the Yankees don’t exactly lack right now. Finding playing time for Gamel, who might only be a fourth outfielder long-term, might not be all that easy. I — and I think the Yankees — would rather see Hicks out there everyday.

Clint Frazier: Overall, Frazier is hitting .273/.345/.463 (122 wRC+) this season, though most of that is at Double-A. He’s played 13 total games at Triple-A (73 wRC+), including eight since the trade. Frazier is ridiculously talented and a potential impact hitter, but there is still some development to be done. Calling him up would be a sexy, headline making move. It would also be extremely aggressive.

Chris Parmelee: Remember him? Parmelee is currently on a Triple-A rehab assignment and will have to be activated off the DL no later than Thursday, August 25th. He could be activated to replace A-Rod and get a bunch of first base and DH at-bats. Of course, the 28-year-old Parmelee has no long-term future in the organization, so he doesn’t exactly qualify as part of the youth movement.

Others like Jake Cave, Cesar Puello, and Mason Williams could be call-up candidates as well — Williams is actually on the Triple-A DL with a quad injury at the moment — though they seem to be further down the depth chart at the moment. It truly feels like it’s Austin and Judge against the field right now. Who’s the best option?

Who should be called up to replace A-Rod?