2015 Draft: Yankees sign second rounder LHP Jeff Degano to below slot bonus

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

According to Bob Elliott, the Yankees have signed second round pick LHP Jeff Degano to a $650,000 signing bonus. That is well below the $1,074,400 slot value for the 57th overall pick. We heard Degano was in Tampa two weeks ago, indicating the two sides were close to a deal.

Degano, 22, was at Indiana State from 2013-15 but missed most of 2013 and all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery. He returned to the mound this spring and pitched to a 2.36 ERA with a 126/28 K/BB in 99 innings, and he was especially strong down the stretch after shaking off the elbow reconstruction rust. Keith Law (subs. req’d) recently said Degano has “first-round stuff” but fell in the draft because he is almost 23 and because of his injury history.

When healthy, Degano sits 90-93 mph with his fastball and will touch 95 from the left side. His go-to pitch is a hard slurve — not quite a slide, not quite a curve, it’s in between — in the 78-82 mph range. Degano also throws a changeup but it needs work. He has the size (6-foot-4 and 200 lbs.) and stuff to start. I’m guessing Degano will head to Short Season Staten Island sometime soon.

As our 2015 Draft Pool Tracker shows, the Yankees now have almost $650,000 in draft pool savings to spend. I’m guessing some of that will go to an overslot bonus for first rounder UCLA RHP James Kaprielian and the rest to players taken after the tenth round. New Jersey HS LHP Andrew Miller (34th) seems like a prime overslot candidate.

Slowly and steadily, Gregorius is turning things around at the plate

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Let’s start with the obvious: the first 70 games of the Didi Gregorius era have not been pretty. He’s hitting a weak .231/.283/.325 (67 wRC+) overall and his defense, while occasionally spectacular, has been enigmatic at times. Decision-making has been an issue too. I think we all knew there would be some growing pains with Didi this season, but not this many.

Thankfully Gregorius has settled down in recent weeks and looks way more comfortable than he did in April, both at the plate and in the field. “I’m settling down a little bit more. Trying to get more comfortable more at-bats, better at-bats, so it’s getting better,” he said to Chad Jennings recently. The bad decisions don’t really happen anymore and his offense is, very slowly and steadily, trending upward.

Gregorius started well — relatively well, anyway — during the last two seasons with the Diamondbacks before fading as the season progressed. This year he’s done the opposite. Started terribly and now gradually heading in the right direction. That’s … something. I mean, the guy still has a 67 wRC+, but at least there is some semblance of improvement:

Didi Gregorius wOBANo one is claiming Gregorius has suddenly become an offensive dynamo. We’re just looking for some silver linings here, and Didi has indeed gotten better at the plate as the season has progressed. Let’s break his season up into three almost equal parts:

AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ BB% K% Soft% Hard% O-Swing% Z-Swing%
Games 1-23 .212/.274/.242 44 6.8% 17.8% 22.2% 9.3% 35.2% 75.2%
Games 24-46 .222/.290/.349 78 5.7% 17.1% 21.2% 23.1% 33.1% 69.2%
Games 47-70 .253/.284/.373 79 4.5% 14.8% 16.9% 29.6% 30.8% 75.2%

The slash line is what counts the most, at the end of the day we’re all judged on results, but the most important numbers going forward here are the K%, Hard%, and O-Swing%. Gregorius has cut down on his strikeout rate while making more hard contact and swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone. His hard contact rate has improved considerably as the season marches on.

A few weeks ago the Yankees had both Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez, two veterans who know a whole lot about what it takes to be a successful big league hitter, work with Gregorius in an effort to get him headed in the right direction at the plate. Beltran specifically said he worked with Didi to use the same approach in batting practice and in the cage as in games. “I am taking BP seriously, trying to get better,’’ said Gregorius to George King.

The league average shortstop is hitting .248/.298/.358 (81 wRC+) this season, so while Didi is still short of even that low bar, he’s getting closer. Gregorius doesn’t figure to hit for much power outside of a few Yankee Stadium home runs now and then and he doesn’t walk either, so his offensive potential is limited. It’s basically batting average plus a little extra on top. That’s okay though. Gregorius with average shortstop offens plus his defense makes him a slightly above-average player for the position in my opinion.

There are two questions going forward. One, will Gregorius ever actually become a league average hitting shortstop? He’s trending the right way now but that’s not guaranteed to continue. The increase in hard contact and decline in strikeouts are encouraging, sure, but that only goes so far. Two, should Gregorius one day become that league average hitting shortstop, is that good enough for the Yankees? The Yankees will always and forever be driven by star power, and a shortstop with an 81 wRC+ and good defense probably doesn’t fit the bill.

I imagine the Yankees are hoping Gregorius develops the way Brandon Crawford has developed for the Giants. Crawford started out as a no-hit/all-glove shortstop earlier in his career but improved at the plate little by little each season as he entered his peak years. He’s gone from a 81 wRC+ to a 92 wRC+ to a 102 wRC+ to a 132 wRC+ during his age 25-28 seasons. Obviously the Yankees would like more immediate impact from Gregorius, but, if he were to develop on a similar timetable as Crawford, I doubt they’d complain.

For now, Didi has been able to shake off his brutal April and show signs of improvement at the plate. Not just signs of improvement, I mean actual, tangible improvement. He’s hitting better now than he did earlier this season. The numbers say so. His strikeout rate is down and his hard contract rate is up. Progress! It’s progress, very slow and steady progress, but progress nonetheless. Hopefully it continues.

Yankees continue to scout Mike Leake, have “sworn off” trading top prospects

(Andy Lyons/Getty)
(Andy Lyons/Getty)

For at least the second straight start, the Yankees had a scout watching Reds right-hander Mike Leake over the weekend, according to George King. They sent a different set of eyes too — last time out Jeff Datz scouted Leake and this time it was Brandon Duckworth. Leake struck out seven and allowed two hits in seven shutout innings against the Marlins on Friday.

The Yankees have been scouting Leake as well as Reds ace Johnny Cueto in recent weeks, which makes perfect sense. The Reds are bad and both Leake and Cueto are impending free agents. They’re very much on the trade block and, at the very least, the Yankees need to do their due diligence beforehand. Cueto’s an ace and would help any rotation. I’m not sure how Leake helps New York right now. I looked at both in our recent Scouting The Market post.

Meanwhile, according to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have “sworn off” trading their top prospects for a rental player at the trade deadline. That is something every single team says every year at the trade deadline, without fail. There’s little to gain by saying you’re open to trading top prospects. Leake shouldn’t require top prospects anyway, but Cueto would. Aces don’t come cheap. Not even rental aces.

I do believe the Yankees are sincere with their unwillingness to trade top prospects for a rental, at least moreso than previous years. They’ve given a lot of young players a chance this season. Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ramon Flores, a gaggle of relievers … we’ve seen the Yankees dip into their farm system for help quite often this year. In recent years they’d always jump out and pick up some scrap heap guy to plug a roster hole.

Basically everyone in the organization has said the Yankees intend to incorporate more young players going forward and their actions so far this season back that up. Does that mean top prospects should be off-limits in trade talks? Of course not. Sometimes a deal is too good to be true. But I think guys like Aaron Judge and Luis Severino are as close to untouchable as it gets for a Yankees prospect.

Thoughts prior to Ivan Nova’s return to the rotation

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yesterday afternoon Joe Girardi announced Ivan Nova will make his (hopefully) triumphant return to the rotation tomorrow afternoon, in the Yankees’ series finale with the Phillies. Nova had Tommy John surgery late last April, so his rehab lasted 14 months or so. I have thoughts on this development. Time to share.

1. It goes without saying Nova’s return is a good thing. Getting a healthy pitcher back and beefing up the depth chart is never bad. That said, I really have no idea what to expect from Nova. Heck, even when he was healthy it was tough to know which Nova would show up from start to start. He’d have rough stretches and dominant stretches, which isn’t uncommon for talented young pitchers. Command was never really his strength though — he seemed to lack command all through 2012 and the result was the most extra-base hits allowed in baseball — and that’s usually the last thing to return following Tommy John surgery. Nova’s return could be a little rocky at first, and, if it is, there’s nothing the Yankees can do other than ride it out and wait for him to adjust to his new elbow.

2. So yes, while Nova’s return is a good thing, it does create some roster headaches. Girardi told reporters the Yankees will use a six-man rotation for the time being, something they’ve been talking about since before Spring Training even started. They want to give everyone, particularly guys with health questions like Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) and Michael Pineda (shoulder) an extra day of rest whenever possible, and the six-man rotation allows them to do that during this 20 games in 20 days stretch that is a little more than halfway complete. (Tonight is Game 12.) My guess is the Yankees figured the crowded rotation would take care of itself, either by someone getting hurt or Adam Warren pitching himself back into the bullpen, but that didn’t happen. The six-man rotation both gives the starters extra rest and gives the team time before deciding who to remove from the rotation.

Warren for 2B. (Presswire)
Warren for 2B? (Presswire)

3. I don’t think anyone expected Warren to pitch this well as a starter — 3.62 ERA (4.25 FIP) overall and 2.93 ERA (4.23 FIP) in his last seven starts — including the Yankees. Remember, he was only in the rotation to start the year because Chris Capuano got hurt in Spring Training. I think the Yankees figured Warren would simply hold down the fort, be serviceable but not really excel, and then slide back into the bullpen whenever someone got healthy. That didn’t happen. Warren complicated things (in a good way!) by pitching well. He took Capuano’s rotation spot — that was the easy part — and is now going to have to show he belongs in the rotation ahead of … who? Tanaka, Pineda, and CC Sabathia won’t lose their spots and Nathan Eovaldi is unlikely to as well. It’s either Warren or Nova, and my guess is Nova will be given a lot of rope coming off elbow surgery. Barring an injury, it’s hard to see how Warren remains in the rotation beyond next week. For shame.

4. When the time comes to activate Nova tomorrow, I have no doubt the Yankees will send Ramon Flores down to Triple-A Scranton and play with a three-man bench. Everything they’ve done the last few years says they will not play with a six-man bullpen. And, not for nothing, they need all the arms they can get right now. They’ve had some problems keeping the other team off the board the last week or so. Going with a six-man bullpen is not a good idea right now. So Flores goes down, Garrett Jones and Chris Young share a quasi-platoon in left, and John Ryan Murphy and Brendan Ryan are on the bench. The roster stays like that until … who knows. Until a starter is moved into the bullpen or Jacoby Ellsbury returns. This is another one of those “deal with it when the time comes” situations. Either way, like I said, I have no doubt Flores is going down and the Yankees will use a three-man bench while using the six-man rotation.

5. Opening a 40-man roster spot for Nova will be a bit more interesting. The Yankees could call up Jacob Lindgren (elbow) and slide him to the 60-day DL, which would allow him to accrue service time, which the team wants to avoid. They’ve been hesitant do that “call up then 60-day DL” thing with other prospects in the past. That means someone will be designated for assignment, with Gregorio Petit and Jose DePaula standing out as candidates. Diego Moreno is another candidate as well. The Yankees have added three pitchers to the 40-man in recent weeks (Moreno, Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow) and could opt to jettison DePaula or Moreno while keeping the extra infielder. This isn’t a critical move, whoever they cut can be replaced relatively easily, but this stuff always interests me. Nova’s return means someone else has to go.

Pineda doesn’t fool anyone, Yankee pitchers allow 18 hits in an 11-8 loss to the Phillies

Boy, that was ugly. The Yankees’ pitching staff allowed 18 hits tonight against a poor Phillies lineup. Eighteen! The Yankees’ offense did manage to score eight runs and made a late run, but, as the final score indicates, they fell short. If one had told me the Yankees were going to score eight runs, I would have predicted an easy Yankee win but alas, you can’t predict baseball.

(Relative) calm before the storm

With two outs in the first inning, Big Mike hung a slider in a 1-2 count to Maikel Franco, who is one of the few on the Philadelphia Phillies who is good at baseball. The 22-year old Dominican didn’t miss any of that pitch and put it beyond the left field fence. 1-0 Phils.

Luckily for New York, Kevin Correia (at least on paper) is much more hittable. Yankees started the bottom of the first with two straight singles. A-Rod went on to strike out but Brian McCann hit a sac fly to tie it up at 1.

With two outs, Carlos Beltran worked Correia into a 3-2 count and drove an RBI double to left to score Chase Headley from first. 2-1 Yankees. Garrett Jones singled but Beltran got thrown out at home. New York still got out of the inning with a lead. You would think that Yankees would end up score more and Michael Pineda settles down nicely for an easy win, right? Well …

Le Sigh (Source: Getty)

Michael Pine-d’oh!

Pineda’s velocity was good tonight. His command was less than ideal. But luckily, the Phillies lineup isn’t exactly a Murderer’s Row … or so you would think.

In the top third, Pineda allowed three straight baserunners (two singles and a walk) to loaded the bases with no outs. Ryan Howard followed that with a two-RBI single to retake the lead for Philadelphia and Domonic Brown’s GIDP scored another run for a 4-2 Phillies lead.

Things didn’t seem to be any better in the fourth. In fact, it got a whole lot worse. Pineda allowed two straight singles to start the inning. Freddy Galvis attempted a push bunt and the ball went down the line … and it just managed to stay fair. Oof. It was that kind of night for Pineda.

With bases loaded and no outs, Ben Revere grounded into force out to home. The next hitter, Cesar Fernandez, hit a double to right to drive in two more. That was a hanger of a slider that not many big leaguers would miss and Pineda paid for it. Maikel Franco, who had already homered this game, added a two-RBI single to knock Pineda out of the game. 8-2 Phillies.

Tonight was a culmination of not a lot of things working for the big guy. Sure, there were a good amount of soft/unlucky singles for Pineda but he also wasn’t getting swings-and-misses to strike guys out. In fact, he struck out no one in 3.1 innings pitched. Pitchers have bad games and Pineda just happened to have one of his worse ones against one of the worst lineups in the league. Oh well.

By the way, after tonight’s game, Pineda’s ERA is at 4.25 and he’s allowed 96 hits in 84.2 IP. He definitely has shown ability to keep the walks down (12) and strike out hitters (87) for a solid 2.89 FIP but, well, he’s been allowing too many hits recently. I think he will rebound – he’s got too much talent not to be better than his ERA – but it’s not ideal to see him go through this while every win is so important for the Yankees right now.

Extra note: tonight was only the second time Pineda recorded zero strikeout in an ML start – the first after the pine tar game.

Comeback attempt/RISPFail

In the bottom fourth, after two outs, Chris Young singled to right and Stephen Drew reached on an infield hit. Brett Gardner followed it up with a three-RBI home run to tighten the gap at 8-5 Phillies lead. Progress!

Come bottom fifth, the Phillies took out Correia and brought in fireballing LHP Jake Diekman. Diekman walked A-Rod in four pitches but took care of McCann with a pop-up. Beltran, who has been hitting much better lately, hit a double to the gap to get the runners on second and third with one out. If it were A-Rod ten years ago, he would have scored easily, but remember, we are talking about a guy almost at 40 who came off hip surgeries in last few years.

Garrett Jones, who is capable of hitting balls to outfield, hit a pop up that A-Rod would have no chance scoring on. Blah. Two outs and Didi Gregorius had to face a flame-throwing lefty to drive runs in … and  that didn’t work out well for New York. Gregorius struck out to end the trouble for Diekman and the Phillies. That was painful to watch.

When you get beat by a 99 mph fastball (Source: Getty)

New York had another opportunity in the sixth when Drew and Gardner walked with one out. Diekman, bringing his A-game fastball on, struck out both Headley and A-Rod swinging to get out of the trouble. Again, painful.

The lesser evil

Chris Capuano came in relief for Pineda in the fourth inning. After Pineda failed to strike out anyone, Capuano struck out the first batter (Ryan Howard) he faced, because of course.

In the fifth, Capuano tossed a (relatively) clean inning for the Yanks. After plunking Chase Utley, the lefty struck out Cameron Rupp and Cody Asche and got Galvis to line out to left.

Welcome to New York, it may have not been waiting for you that eagerly (Source: Getty)

In the sixth, with one out, Cesar Hernandez hit a single to right. Maikel Franco then came to bat and, on a 3-0 count, the Dominican swung as confident as anyone could and boy, he did show what he can can. He hit a homer way up in the left field bleachers for a two-RBI home run. 10-5 Phillies.

Another pitching debut!

Remember the A.J. Burnett trade after the 2011 season? Well, the Yankees got RHP prospect Diego Moreno out of it. New York also got the minor leaguer with an awesome name Exicardo Cayones but he later became a part of the package to the Angels when the Yankees traded for Vernon Wells in March 2013.

After pitching in the minors for a bit more than five seasons, Moreno displayed a solid showing for the Triple-A Scranton RailRiders in 2015: 2.27 ERA in 35.2 IP with 26 hits and 8 walks allowed and 29 strikeouts.

As advertised, Moreno threw pretty hard. His fastball sat around 95~97 mph. On the first hitter faced in ML level, Moreno plunked Rupp in the ribs. Ouch, that’s gonna hurt for awhile.

Moreno also had a changeup around 88~90 mph that garnered him his first ML strikeout from Cody Asche. The righty went on to allow a consecutive singles to Galvis and Revere but got Cesar Hernandez to force ground out to home. Moreno then accomplish something Pineda or Capuano couldn’t – he actually got Maikel Franco out – on a swinging strikeout nonetheless.

All in all, not a bad debut for the righty – a full inning of work with two hits allowed but no runs and two punch outs.

Late inning attempts

The Phillies brought in another LHP (Elvis Araujo) for the bottom of seventh. McCann hit a fastball right in the screws for a homer to the second deck in right field to lessen the gap at 10-6. The offense failed to come up with much in the rest of the seventh and the eighth.

In the bottom of ninth, the Phillies turned to their closer and our old fiend, Jonathan Papelbon. A-Rod greeted him with a deep double to left to lead off. McCann flew out but Beltran reached on an infield single to second to get the runners in corners with one out.

Garrett Jones, who was earlier denied of an RBI in the first and failed to capitalize on a big RISP situation in the fifth, hit a deep double to left to drive in both Rodriguez and Beltran. 11-8 Yankees. Unfortunately for New York, Papelbon got both Gregorius and Young to pop out to end the game. Bleh.

Leftovers

Chasen Shreve came in the top of eighth and tossed his eleventh consecutive scoreless outing. How about that? Meanwhile Manny Banuelos threw a shutout for the Braves Triple-A team tonight. So that’s also that.

Buried by this loss was a big night from Brett Gardner – the gritty guy went 4-for-4 with three RBI’s and a walk. His line is up to .290/.361/.472 and that’s more than what you could ask for from a leadoff guy.

Box score, standing, video highlights, WPA

Here’s the box score, updated standings, highlights and WPA – if you do so dare to revisit the game.


Source: FanGraphs


Yankees have the big lefty CC Sabathia take the mound against Sean O’Sullivan. On the paper, Yankees should have an edge but then again, the team had a huge edge in the Pineda vs. Correia matchup… on the paper. We’ll see how the next one goes.

DotF: Campos, Bailey return to the mound on GCL Opening Day

OF Dustin Fowler has been promoted from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa, the team announced. Also, I missed this the other day, but 3B Miguel Andujar won the High-A Florida State League Home Run Derby over the weekend. He won on a walk-off homer in a tie-breaker round. Neat.

Triple-A Scranton (4-2 loss to Louisville)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 K
  • 2B Jose Pirela: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — 5-for-37 (.135) in his last nine games
  • DH Rob Refsnyder: 0-4, 2 K — so is he gonna start hitting at some point or nah? Stephen Drew has been really bad and Refsnyder hasn’t forced the issue whatsoever
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 K — Triple-A debut
  • C Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 K
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 5 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 5/5 GB/FB — 55 of 95 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • LHP Matt Tracy: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 6/3 GB/FB — 33 of 43 pitches were strikes (77%)

[Read more…]

Game 70: Big Mike and the Phillies

BIG MIKE IS HERE

The Yankees open a three-game series with the punchless Phillies this evening — Philadelphia has baseball’s worst offense in terms of runs per game (3.10) and wRC+ (75) — and they’re sending Michael Pineda to the mound. Last time out Big Mike took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Marlins. There is no such thing as a guaranteed win in baseball, but man, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel good going into this game.

Anyway, the Yankees got blown out by the Tigers on Sunday and that sucked. They had won four straight before that though, and this series with the Phillies is a great opportunity to shake off the blowout and pile up some wins. The Yankees have to take care of business this series. The Phillies are terrible and they need to beat teams like this to remain in the hunt in the AL East. The division is too close to give away series to bad teams. Here is Philadelphia’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 1B Garrett Jones
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. LF Chris Young
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a gorgeous day in New York. Just perfect for baseball. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch live on WPIX. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup with a stiff neck. It’s been bothering him on and off for a week or so now. Teixeira went for an MRI today and Joe Girardi said he expects him to be back in the lineup in a day or two … Andrew Miller (forearm) will play catch on Wednesday.

Roster Update: In case you missed it earlier, Ivan Nova will start Wednesday and the Yankees will temporarily shift to a six-man rotation … as expected, both Nick Rumbelow and Diego Moreno were called up from Triple-A Scranton. Jose DePaula and Danny Burawa were sent down yesterday.

All-Star Update: MLB released the latest AL All-Star Game voting update today, and the good news is it is no longer Mike Trout and the Royals. Now it’s Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and the Royals. No Yankees are remotely close to the top spot for their positions. No non-Royals other than Trout and Cabrera are, basically.