The Spare Part Position Players [2016 Season Review]

Butler. (Presswire)
Butler. (Presswire)

Over the last two years the Yankees have been pretty good about dipping into their farm system whenever a position player need arose. Last year Slade Heathcott and Greg Bird got opportunities, most notably. This year Ben Gamel and Rob Refsnyder were the go-to options before the trade deadline sell off. Whenever possible, the Yankees went young.

It wasn’t always possible, however. Inevitably, the Yankees ran into a few instances in which they didn’t have a young player available to plug a roster hole. That led them to call up a journeyman veteran or pick up someone off the scrap heap. The Yankees did this a few times this past season, and you know what? It worked out pretty darn well in some instances.

Billy Butler

On August 13th, the Yankees released Alex Rodriguez because they had no room on their roster for a right-handed platoon DH. On September 14th, the Yankees signed Billy Butler because they needed a right-handed platoon DH. Baseball, man. I like to think the front office conversation went like this:

Hal: “Brian, get me a butler.”
Cashman: “Done.”
Hal: “Wait no I meant …”

In all seriousness, the Yankees signed Butler because they used Austin Romine at DH against Clayton Kershaw earlier that day. They had no one else to fill that role. The Yankees were trying hard to stay in the wildcard race and Butler was freely available — the Athletics released him a few days earlier — so they picked him up for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.

Butler’s first few days in pinstripes were rather productive. He went 1-for-3 and drove in two runs in his first game. The next day he smacked a two-run pinch-hit home run. Four days later he ripped a pair of doubles. Butler went 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles and a homer in his first week as a Yankee. Pretty nice for a cost nothing pickup.

For whatever reason Joe Girardi decided to start Butler at first base a few times and that was a predictable disaster. He made two egregious misplays — Butler missed a pickoff throw and booted a grounder — that led directly to runs. Yuck. The man has no business owning a glove.

The Yankees fell out of the rate in late September and Butler’s playing time diminished. Tyler Austin and Refsnyder got those at-bats instead. Butler went 10-for-29 (.345) with those two doubles and one homer in 12 games with New York. He became a free agent after the season — I’ve seen some confusion about this, the fact his A’s contract ran through 2017 means nothing to the Yankees, they’re not on the hook for that — and there’s basically no reason for the Yankees to bring him back.

Chris Parmelee

The Yankees were dealt a pretty significant blow in February, when Bird injured his shoulder working out and needed surgery. His season was over before it even had a chance to begin. The team signed Parmelee to effectively replace Bird as the Triple-A first baseman, but that’s it. He was only going to help the big league team in an emergency.

That emergency came in early June. Mark Teixeira landed the disabled list with a knee problem, so the Yankees were down their top two first baseman. Third string first baseman Dustin Ackley was hurt too. First base duties fell to Parmelee and Refsnyder. On June 8th, in his first start as a Yankee, Parmelee went 3-for-5 with a double and two home runs in the team’s comeback win over the Angels.

The next day Parmelee drove in another run, but because the Yankees can’t have nice things, he hurt his hamstring stretching for a throw at first base a few innings later. He had to be helped off the field. Parmelee was placed on the disabled list, where he remained the next two months. It was one of those years.

Once healthy, the Yankees sent Parmelee back to Triple-A, where he remained the rest of the season. Overall, he went 4-for-8 with a double and two homers with the Yankees while putting up a .248/.335/.449 (124 wRC+) batting line with eleven homers in 64 games with the RailRiders. Parmelee hit a three-run home run in the Triple-A Championship Game to help Scranton to a win.

After the season Parmelee became a minor league free agent. I suppose the Yankees could bring him back to be their Triple-A first baseman again next year, but guys like this tend to be one and done. Parmelee will look for more playing time elsewhere and the Yankees will find someone else to play first for Scranton.

Ike Davis

At one point in June the Yankees were down to their fifth string first baseman. Teixeira (knee), Bird (shoulder), Ackley (shoulder), and Parmelee (hamstring) were all hurt. The job was Refsnyder’s. After Parmelee’s injury, the Yankees scooped up Davis just to provide some veteran depth at first. Ike had opted out of his minor league deal with the Rangers a few days earlier.

Davis appeared in only eight games with the Yankees — four starts and four appearances in relief of Refsnyder — and he went 3-for-14 (.214) with one walk, five strikeouts, and no extra base hits in those eight games. He did actually drive in a run though. In his very first at-bat in pinstripes, no less.

Not the most picturesque swing, but it got the job done there. The Yankees dropped Davis from the roster when Teixeira returned from the disabled list. Ike went to Triple-A, hit .217/.318/.391 (103 wRC+) with five homers in 26 games for the RailRiders, then was released. He was the epitome of short-term help. The Yankees needed a first baseman for a few days in June and Davis filled the role.

Donovan Solano

Infield depth was a big concern coming into Spring Training, so much so that the Yankees signed three veterans to minor league deals: Solano, Pete Kozma, and Jonathan Diaz. All three spent the entire minor league regular season with Triple-A Scranton. Solano was the RailRiders’ best hitter from start to finish, putting up a .319/.349/.436 (124 wRC+) batting line with an International League leading 163 hits.

The Yankees didn’t plan to call the 28-year-old Solano up, but when Starlin Castro felt a tug in his hamstring running out a double in mid-September, their hand had been forced. Solano appeared in nine games with the Yankees, including six starts, and he went 5-for-22 (.227) at the plate. One of the five was a home run.

Solano was in the right place at the right time. He had the best season among the veteran Triple-A infielders and it just so happened Castro hurt his hamstring late in the season. That got Solano back to the big leagues, albeit briefly. The Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster soon after the end of the regular season and he elected free agency. Next year another random Triple-A infielder will hit another random September home run.

Scouting the Trade Market: Atlanta Braves

Newcomb. (Presswire)
Newcomb. (Presswire)

After 20 years and zero World Series wins, the Atlanta Braves are moving out of Turner Field and into brand new SunTrust Park next season. I have some fond memories of Turner Field. There’s the 1999 World Series, Derek Jeter being named All-Star Game MVP in 2000, the Frankie Cervelli home run in 2009, the blowout series in 2015 … it was a good place for the Yankees. They’re 14-2 all-time at Turner Field, you know.

Anyway, Turner Field is closing its doors next season and the Braves are moving into their new ballpark. They lost 93 games in 2016, but the goal is to be as competitive as possible in 2017, which is why they’ve already signed R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon to bolster the rotation. The Braves are said to be in on Chris Sale, Sonny Gray, and Chris Archer too, among others. And we know they were in on Brian McCann during the summer as well.

The McCann trade rumors have picked up again this offseason. He grew up in nearby Athens and still lives in Atlanta in the offseason, plus he played his first nine seasons with the Braves, so it stands to reason McCann would be willing to wave his no trade clause to go back home. The Braves want his power bat and veteran leadership to guide all their young pitchers through the rebuild. It’s easy to understand why any team would want him, really.

Atlanta has a stacked farm system that is especially loaded with pitchers, something the Yankees crave. They reportedly asked for righty Mike Foltynewicz and outfielder Ender Inciarte at the trade deadline, but no dice. Maybe the team’s willingness to eat $17M of the $34M left on McCann’s contract will be enough to change the Braves’ mind. We’ll see. Let’s take a trip through their organization and look at some possible trade targets. All scouting reports come from MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

LHP Kolby Allard

Background: Allard, 19, was the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft. He was arguably the top high school pitching prospect in the draft class, but he fell due to a stress reaction in his back that caused him to miss most of his senior season in high school. Allard had a minor procedure following the 2015 season and has been fine since. He had a 2.62 ERA (2.98 FIP) with 26.3% strikeouts and 7.0% walks in 99.2 innings split between rookie ball and Low-A in 2016. MLB.com currently ranks Allard as the 60th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “He was throwing his fastball in the 90-94 mph range (in 2015). He’s shown the ability to reach back for more in the past. Allard has a plus curve, with some evaluators seeing it as a 70 eventually. He has a feel for a changeup, especially given his age and experience. Allard hides the ball well, with Cliff Lee-like deception, and his fastball has good late life.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Allard has a ton of potential even if he doesn’t have a true ace ceiling. A polished southpaw with an out-pitch curveball and feel for a changeup, especially at such a young age, has a chance to pitch a very long time in the big leagues. And, as always, quality left-handed starters are always welcome in Yankee Stadium.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many pure baseball reasons. The biggest concern with Allard is his back. He had the stress reaction last spring, which lingered long enough to require some kind of surgery last November. Also, as a 19-year-old pitching prospect in the low minors, there’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong.

RHP Aaron Blair

Background: The Diamondbacks made the 24-year-old Blair the 36th overall pick in the 2013 draft, then traded him to the Braves last winter in the ridiculous Shelby Miller deal. Blair made his MLB debut this past season and it was not pretty. He had a 7.59 ERA (6.15 FIP) with 14.2% strikeouts and 10.5% walks in 70 innings. His Triple-A showing was just okay: 4.65 ERA (3.38 FIP) with 22.6% strikeouts and 10.2% walks in 71.2 innings. Blair shuttled up and down all year.

Scouting Report: “The Marshall product has three above-average pitches in his repertoire with a good feel for pitching. His fastball can touch 95 mph and will sit in the low-90s consistently. He throws it with movement and sink, generating a good amount of ground ball outs. He’s always had a very good changeup and his breaking ball has improved to the point where it, too, flashes above average. He works quickly and tends to go right after hitters, typically not hurting himself too much with walks … He has the makings of a workhorse No. 3 type starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Coming into the season Blair was a consensus top 100 prospect — MLB.com ranked him 56th and Baseball America ranked him 60th — so the kid obviously has some talent. He had a tough start to his MLB career, but so what? It happens. Blair has three pitches and pitchability, so there are still reasons to believe he can be a solid long-term starter. The Yankees would be buying low on him right now.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? We can’t completely sweep Blair’s terrible 2016 performance under the rug. It happened and there’s information to be gleaned from it. Was his fastball command not up to snuff? Did hitters lay off his breaking ball? It’s a small sample, sure, but there’s still stuff in there that could be a reason to stay away.

RHP Mike Foltynewicz

Background: Foltynewicz, 25, was the 19th overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Astros. They traded him to Atlanta during the 2014-15 offseason in the Evan Gattis deal. Foltynewicz threw 86.2 ineffective innings for the Braves last year (5.71 ERA and 5.05 FIP), though he was much better in 2016. This season he had a 4.31 ERA (4.24 FIP) with 21.1% strikeouts and 6.7% walks in 123.1 innings around an elbow issue.

Scouting Report (from 2015): “According to Pitchf/x his fastball reached 101 mph in the Major Leagues last season and he routinely throws in the upper-90s as a starter. Like most young flamethrowers, he has had to work on his fastball command and improving the consistency of his offspeed pitches … He has all the tools necessary to start for the Braves if he can harness his powerful fastball. Otherwise, he’ll fit well at the back of the bullpen.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Foltynewicz does throw really hard — he averaged 95.2 mph as a starter in 2016 — and his array of offspeed pitches include a mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. It’s the kind of power stuff the Yankees love. Foltynewicz has also made some real strikes with his secondary stuff and overall command the last two or three years, so he’s improving.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? For starters, Foltynewicz missed time with bone spurs at midseason, though he didn’t need surgery. Secondly, his non-fastballs still aren’t great. The curveball had an average swing-and-miss rate in 2016 and the slider was below-average. Foltynewicz doesn’t have a good ground ball pitch, hence his career 36.9% ground ball rate (and 1.50 HR/9). He’s a classic good fastball/so-so everything else pitcher, and the Yankees haven’t had much luck with those.

OF Ender Inciarte

Background: Once upon a time Inciarte was a Rule 5 Draft pick by the Phillies, but they returned him to the D’Backs and opted to keep Delmon Young on the roster instead. D’oh. Inciarte, now 26, has been a regular for close to three full seasons now, and during that time he’s hit .292/.337/.385 (95 wRC+) with 13 homers and 56 steals in just under 1,600 plate appearances. This past season he hit .291/.351/.381 (97 wRC+) with three homers and 16 steals after coming over in the Shelby Miller heist.

Scouting Report (from me): Inciarte is a left-handed hitting contact machine, with a career 11.3% strikeout rate and an 89.2% contract rate. He’s top ten in contact rate since 2014, alongside guys like Michael Brantley and Joe Panik and Daniel Murphy. Inciarte doesn’t have much power, he doesn’t steal a ton of bases, and he doesn’t draw many walks either, so his offensive value depends heavily on his batting average. In the field, he’s an excellent defender capable of playing all three outfield positions.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The Yankees don’t have a hitter like Inciarte, that high-contact lefty who opponents can’t shift against. Jacoby Ellsbury was supposed to be that guy, but it hasn’t worked out. Inciarte is similar to Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as a low power lefty bat, but unlike those two, his best years probably aren’t already behind him. Also, at some point Ellsbury is going to have to move to left field, so the Yankees need a long-term center fielder. Inciarte would fit the bill.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? How many of the same player do the Yankees need? Even if they trade Gardner, they’d still be trotting out two defense first, no power outfielders. The Yankees have outfield depth too, including some very highly touted prospects. Add Inciarte to Ellsbury and there’s one less spot for Aaron Judges and Clint Fraziers of the world.

LHP Sean Newcomb

Background: Newcomb, 23, was the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Angels. They traded him to the Braves in the Andrelton Simmons deal last offseason. This past summer Newcomb had a 3.86 ERA (3.19 FIP) with 25.6% strikeouts and 11.9% walks in 140 innings, all at Double-A. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 46th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “There were readings of Newcomb’s fastball touching triple digits in 2015 and he’ll sit in the 94-97 mph range. Big and physical, he maintains that velocity and does so without too much effort. Newcomb’s curve has become a plus pitch, one that misses plenty of bats. His changeup gives him a third at least Major League average offering. Newcomb does have to cut down on his walks to reach his ceiling.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Again, quality lefties are always good to have when you call Yankee Stadium home. Newcomb is a physically huge guy — he’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 255 lbs. — and he’s never been hurt, so you’re looking at a workhorse southpaw with three quality pitches and above-average velocity. You can be dealt worse cards.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Newcomb has a lot of problems throwing strikes. Has his entire baseball life. Just last season he walked 13.2% of batters faced at Single-A and Double-A. It’s not a mechanical problem either. Newcomb has a very smooth delivery and he repeats it well. It’s a “throwing strikes is hard” problem. Newcomb has really good size and stuff, but it comes with bad control and basically zero command.

3B Rio Ruiz

Background: The Astros took the 22-year-old Ruiz in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and paid him a huge overslot bonus ($1.85M). He went to the Braves in the Gattis trade with Foltynewicz. Ruiz hit .271/.355/.400 (118 wRC+) with ten homers, 21.8% strikeouts, and 11.4% walks in 133 Triple-A games this year. He made his MLB debut in September and went 2-for-7 (.286) with a triple.

Scouting Report: “With a smooth swing from the left side and excellent plate discipline, Ruiz should hit for average. He also has more power than he’s shown thus far. He goes very well to left-center … While there have been concerns about Ruiz’s ability to stay at third, he improved his agility just enough, adding a touch more range that could help him stay at the hot corner.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Ruiz is not one of Atlanta’s very best prospects, but the Yankees have a long-term opening at third base. I like Miguel Andujar too, but you can never really count on one prospect to be the guy. Ruiz is lefty hitter with plate discipline, two traits synonymous with most successful Yankees teams, plus the presence of Chase Headley means they could send the kid to Triple-A for more seasoning if it’s deemed necessary.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There are questions about Ruiz’s power potential and ability to stay at third. He’s not an atrocious defender by any means, but he’s not going to save a ton of runs either, which means he’ll draw most of his value with his bat. Yankee Stadium would help Ruiz pop a few more dingers, but he’s seen as more of a 10-15 homer guy than a 20+ homer guy long-term. The downside here is a low power first baseman. The upside is an average offensive third baseman with mediocre defense. Meh.

RHP Mike Soroka

Background: The Braves selected the 19-year-old Soroka with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 draft. They jumped him right to Low-A this season, where he had a 3.02 ERA (2.79 FIP) with 21.4% strikeouts and 5.5% walks in 143 innings. That’s quite a performance (and workload) for a kid who was nearly four years younger than the average South Atlantic League player. MLB.com currently ranks Soroka as the 90th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “The 6-foot-4 right-hander brings an exciting mixture of stuff and feel for pitching to the table … His fastball sits in the low-90s and he commands it well. He can really spin his breaking ball and has a good feel for a changeup. He absolutely pounds the strike zone and could have above-average command when all is said and done. Wise beyond his years, he takes things like nutrition and conditioning seriously.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Pretty obvious, no? Soroka already has good stuff and command — he does have to improve the consistency of his breaking ball and changeup, which is typical 19-year-old pitching prospect stuff — plus he’s a very driven player who works hard to get better.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Not many reasons, really. Soroka is inherently risky as a 19-year-old pitching prospect in Single-A because there’s still so much that can go wrong before he reached the big leagues. That’s about it. The tools and pitchability are already there.

RHP Matt Wisler

Background: The 24-year-old Wisler was a seventh round pick by the Padres in 2011, and he developed into one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Baseball America ranked him as the 34th best prospect in baseball prior to last season. Wisler was the headliner in the Craig Kimbrel trade last year, and in 265.2 big league innings, all with Atlanta, he has a 4.88 ERA (4.88 FIP). This season it was a 5.00 ERA (4.85 FIP) with 17.1% strikeouts and 7.3% walks in 156.2 innings.

Scouting Report (from 2015): “While Wisler won’t overpower hitters, he does have a pair of plus pitches and throws strikes with four offerings. His main two weapons are a 90-95 mph sinker and a changeup with plenty of deception and fade. Both of his breaking balls are effective, with his low-80s slider featuring some tilt and his mid-70s curveball used more to keep opponents off balance.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? It wasn’t too long ago that Wisler was a top pitching prospect, and since the bloom is off the rose now, his value is down. They’d be buying low. Despite the low strikeout rate, Wisler’s slider has registered an above-average swing-and-miss rate in the big leagues, plus both his four-seamer and sinker sit comfortably in the mid-90s. The Yankees would be acquiring Wisler and hoping to tap into the potential he showed going into last season.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? More than a few reasons. One, that supposedly plus changeup has been a terrible pitch in the big leagues, getting neither whiffs nor ground balls. Also, Wisler has had problems keeping the ball on the ground (career 37.5% grounders) and in the park (1.42 HR/9). At this point we have more than 250 innings of big league hitters telling us Wisler doesn’t fool them.

* * *

Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Braves prospects list. Their tank job has led to a very deep and very good farm system. One of the best in the game. I picked only eight guys for this post, but there are plenty others the Yankees should consider in trade talks. Just don’t expect to get Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, or any of the three big arms the Braves drafted in June (Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller).

Unlike Joe Musgrove and the Astros, there’s no one with the Braves who jumps out at me as a must-have in a McCann trade. I like the idea of Newcomb because it could just click one day and he’ll start throwing strikes, but he’s risky. Foltynewicz throws hard and that’s about it. I’ve seen enough Inciartes in my lifetime to know those guys go from WAR All-Stars to barely playable in a hurry. The teenage arms in Single-A are exciting, but they’re teenage arms in Single-A. The Braves could offer New York prospects of all shapes and sizes. It’s just a question of who much risk they’re willing to assume.

Masahiro Tanaka finishes seventh in AL Cy Young voting

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

Earlier tonight, the BBWAA announced Red Sox righty Rick Porcello has won the 2016 AL Cy Young award. He won despite receiving fewer first place votes (14-8) than Tigers righty Justin Verlander, who finished second in the voting. Indians righty Corey Kluber finished third. Here are the full voting results.

This was the second closest vote in Cy Young history. Porcello beat out Verlander by a mere five voting points. The closest vote ever? Back in 2012, when Verlander finished four points behind David Price. Womp womp. Porcello won because he had way more second place than Verlander (18-2), and also because two writers left Verlander off their ballot entirely. A Red Sox pitcher second placing his way to the Cy Young is fitting, I’d say.

Anywho, Masahiro Tanaka finished tied for the seventh in the voting with Blue Jays righty Aaron Sanchez. Tanaka received one fourth place vote and four fifth place votes. He finished behind Porcello, Verlander, Kluber, Orioles closer Zach Britton, White Sox lefty Chris Sale, and Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ. Tanaka received Cy Young votes for the first time this year, and they were well deserved.

Also noteworthy: ex-Yankee Andrew Miller finished ninth in the Cy Young voting. He received one third place vote. Hooray for that. Gary Sanchez finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and Joe Girardi finished fifth in the Manager of the Year voting. The MVPs will be announced tomorrow.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

The hot stove is decidedly lukewarm right now. Unless you count that big Charlie Morton signing earlier today. Told you the Astros were going to do something big this offseason! I get the feeling the hot stove will be slow until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place, then all hell will break loose.

This is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks are playing and there’s some college hoops on as well, otherwise you’re on your own for entertainment. You know what to do, so have at it.

Wednesday Notes: Medicals, Strike Zone, Revenue Sharing

The commish has a lot of work to do these next few weeks. (Elsa/Getty)
The commish has a lot of work to do these next few weeks. (Elsa/Getty)

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 15 days. MLB and the MLBPA are hard at work negotiating a new deal and I’m sure they’ll get it done in time. No one wants a work stoppage. There’s too much money to be lost on both sides. Here are some big picture updates from around the league in the meantime.

MLB to standardize medical info

In the wake of Padres GM A.J. Preller’s suspension, MLB will standardize the medical information teams must disclose during trade talks, reports Kyle Glaser. The Padres essentially hid medical info at the trade deadline. That’s why Colin Rea was returned from the Marlins. He had a preexisting injury. There’s also an issue with Drew Pomeranz’s elbow the Red Sox didn’t know about it. Zoinks.

“We’ve talked about medical records given the issues we had this season, and I think we’re going to focus on trying to do even a better job of standardizing that process when clubs exchange records,” said MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem to Glaser. “We’re going to formalize it a little more and contemplate pushing for guidance in terms of what has to be in and what has to be out. Just make sure everybody has confidence in the system.”

GMs were informed of the new standards during the GM Meetings last week. Halem told Glaser this has been in the works for a while and isn’t a response to Preller’s suspension. Hmmm. Either way, I’m kinda surprised it took this long for this to happen. There have been some other preexisting injury issues over the years — the Gary Majewski trade comes to mind — and this is in the best interest of the league. Better late than never, I suppose.

MLB considering strike zone changes

According to Jon Morosi, MLB is considering formal changes to the strike zone this offseason thanks to PitchFX and Statcast, which help foster more adherence to the rulebook. Jon Roegele’s research has shown the strike zone has gotten bigger since 2009, mostly at the bottom of the zone near the knees. The pitches that are hardest to hit, basically. That’s one of the reasons offense dipped in recent years.

I’m not sure what kind of changes MLB is considering — I guess something that lowers the top of the strike zone since no one calls the high strike anyway? — but I guess we’ll find out. MLB umpires are the best umpires in the world, it’s not like there’s a secret group of elite umpires the league refuses to hire, but they’re not perfect. Far from it. If PitchFX and Statcast and all that help create a more uniform strike zone that more accurately reflects the rulebook, then great.

Players protesting international draft

MLB hopes to implement an international draft in the near future, which would both push the signing age back from 16 to 18, and also cost players money by reducing their negotiating leverage. In response, amateur prospects in the Dominican Republic boycotted the league’s showcase last month, according to Ben Badler. MLB then canceled the two-day showcase and forced the players to take random drug tests. This is fine.

Several current big leaguers who signed as international free agents back in the day have spoken out against an international draft. Gary Sanchez is one of them. Here’s his video. Others like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Santana, Miguel Sano, and Ivan Nova have posted similar videos too. I’m curious to see how this plays out. The MLBPA usually has no problem negotiating away the rights of amateurs, but with so many big leaguers speaking out, how can they ignore them?

Revenue sharing a key point in CBA talks

As MLB and the MLBPA negotiate the new CBA, a key item is the revenue sharing system, reports Susan Slusser. Specifically, teams that pay into revenue sharing (like the Yankees) want to make sure teams that receive revenue sharing are actually spending it. There’s been concern small market teams are just pocketing a portion of their revenue sharing checks. The Marlins and Athletics have come under scrutiny, specifically.

“There is leeway to justify other expenditures (like scouting),” said an MLBPA official to Slusser. “But if a team shows no progress year after year and most of the revenue sharing spending is on non-Major League salaries, red flags go up. There are clubs that other clubs look at and say, ‘What are they doing? Is this really the best use of our money?'”

The Yankees pump more money into revenue sharing than any other team — they paid over $90M in both 2014 and 2015 — so I’m sure they’re one of the clubs curious to know where their money is going, as they should. Revenue sharing isn’t going away. It’s been around too long and it’s working. The Indians and Royals just went to the World Series. More teams are in contention right now than ever before. But there’s an obvious problem with small market clubs pocketing revenue sharing money. The Yankees and other big market teams have every right to be concerned.

Prospect Profile: Dillon Tate

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Dillon Tate | RHP

Background
Tate, 22, was born and raised in Southern California, and he attended Claremont High School in the Los Angeles suburbs. He earned all sorts of baseball and academic honors, and during the summers he trained at MLB’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton.

Baseball America ranked Tate as the 79th best prospect in California and 391st best prospect overall in the 2012 draft class. Their scouting report said he “could develop into an impact prospect” in college, and noted there were “scouts who regard him as a sleeper worth gambling on inside the top 10 rounds this year.”

Despite that praise, Tate went undrafted out of high school and wound up at UC Santana Barbara. He rarely pitched as a freshman — four games and three innings, that’s it — before pitching for the Urban Youth Academy Barons of the California Collegiate League in the summer. Tate threw another 32.2 innings in the CCL. He told Grace Raynor he vowed to himself that summer to become a first round pick after watching the 2013 draft on television.

As a sophomore in 2014, Tate took over as the Gauchos’ closer and pitched to a 1.45 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 17 walks in 43.1 innings. He was among the finalists for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year award as the nation’s top reliever. Tate pitched for Team USA in the summer and was ranked the fifth best prospect on the team by Jim Callis, one spot ahead of James Kaprielian.

UCSB moved Tate into the rotation his junior year and he took over as the staff ace, throwing 103.1 innings of 2.26 ERA ball. He struck out 111 and walked 28. Because he’d thrown more innings than ever before, Tate started to wear down late in the season and the Gauchos had to lighten his workload. He was named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s best player.

Prior to the 2015 amateur draft, Baseball America ranked Tate as the third best prospect in the draft class behind Brendan Rodgers and Dansby Swanson. MLB.com and Keith Law (subs. req’d) both ranked Tate as the fifth best prospect available. The Rangers selected him with the fourth overall pick — he was the first pitcher selected in 2015 — and signed him to a $4.2M bonus.

The Yankees acquired Tate and two others from the Rangers in the Carlos Beltran deal at the 2016 trade deadline.

Pro Career
Because he threw so many innings at UCSB last spring, the Rangers took it very easy on Tate following the 2015 draft. They assigned him to the short season Northwest League and Low-A South Atlantic League. He appeared in only six games and threw only nine innings after signing, during which he allowed one run on three hits and three walks while striking out eight.

Texas sent Tate back to Low-A to start this season, and after two dominant starts (10.2 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 16 K), he was placed on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain. It sidelined him for nearly three weeks. Tate struggled when he returned and he never really got going. He allowed 19 runs on 23 hits and seven walks in his first five games and 13 innings back. Yikes.

At the time of the trade Tate had a 5.12 ERA (4.37 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (19.0%) and walk (9.3%) rates in 65 innings. The Yankees moved him to the Low-A Charleston bullpen immediately and had minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell work on his mechanics. Tate had a 2.95 ERA (3.62 FIP) with 17.9% strikeouts and 8.3% walks in 18.1 relief innings with the RiverDogs after the trade.

The Yankees sent Tate to the Arizona Fall League after the season for more innings. He had a 3.86 ERA (5.21 FIP) in six relief appearances and 9.1 innings with the Scottsdale Scorpions before reaching his innings limit and being shut down, according to Randy Miller. On the bright side, his small sample size strikeout (29.7%) and walk (2.7%) rates were excellent.

Scouting Report
There are essentially two scouting reports on Tate. The good scouting report has him sitting mid-90s and topping out at 98 mph with his fastball, and backing it up with a killer upper-80s slider and a promising changeup. The bad scouting report has his fastball in the upper-80s/low-90s with a sweepy breaking ball and generally inconsistent secondary pitches.

The good version of Tate existed prior to the hamstring injury. The bad version showed up after his early season disabled list stint. Reports indicate Tate’s stuff bounced back by time he got to the Arizona Fall League, which is promising. His velocity was more consistent in a relief role with the Yankees. That’s for sure. The changeup looked good too.

Even when he’s at his best, Tate’s fastball is pretty straight, so there’s some concern he’ll be homer prone against advanced hitters. The Yankees could try teaching him a two-seamer or sinker, though that’s easier than it sounds. Learning how to locate a pitch that moves unlike anything you’ve thrown before takes time.

Tate is listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 lbs., and he’s very athletic with a repeatable delivery, generally speaking. His tempo was out of whack for much of the year however, and that’s what the Yankees worked to fix. And for what it’s worth, Tate’s a really bright kid who did well in school. The good version of him is really, really good. The bad version might not get out of Double-A.

2017 Outlook
Brian Cashman told Randy Miller the Yankees are planning to move Tate back into the rotation next season. “(His velocity) has been good since we got him. We kind of let him go back to some of his mechanical ways before they made changes with him in Texas, and the velocity came back,” said the GM.

My guess is Tate will open next season with High-A Tampa, and if he does well, the Yankees figure to move him up to Double-A fairly quickly. There’s some thought he could reach the show as soon as next season if the team moves him to the bullpen full-time, but I think it’s way too soon to do that. Give him a chance to start with your coaches and instructors first.

My Take
The Yankees were really smart to buy low on Tate in the Beltran trade. He was a top prospect coming into the season — MLB.com (36th), Keith Law (50th), Baseball Prospectus (59th), and Baseball America (69th) all ranked him as a top 100 prospect in the spring — and the Yankees were able to get him (and two others!) for a rental DH. Had he suffered an arm injury in April instead of the hamstring, things might be a little different, but his arm’s healthy.

Now, that said, the Yankees took a pretty big risk here. Tate may not be fixable — the early returns suggests he’s getting back on track, so hooray for that — and even if he does get back to where he was last year, he still may only be a reliever long-term. A really good reliever, but still a reliever. He was definitely a worthwhile pickup though. The Yankees have a ton of depth in the farm system are in position to roll the dice on a talented player like Tate.

The Young Shuttle Relievers [2016 Season Review]

Barbato. (Presswire)
Barbato. (Presswire)

Like always, the Yankees spent a good portion of the 2016 season cycling through assorting homegrown relievers as their bullpen needs changed. They swapped guys out when a fresh arm was needed, or when someone wasn’t performing well, or when there was an injury. Whatever. Every team does it. The Yankees aren’t special or creative.

New York’s bullpen shuttle was not quite as extreme this year as last year. Last season is felt like the Yankees were making a roster move every other day, usually because they were. Some injuries thinned out the shuttle relief crew this year, which meant other players got a chance to strut their stuff in the big leagues. Time to review the 2016 shuttle arms.

Johnny Barbato

I thought Barbato had a chance to be the rare shuttle reliever with staying power. He dominated in Spring Training, made the Opening Day roster, and put together a few good weeks before things came apart. The 24-year-old allowed one run and struck out ten in his first eight innings. He then allowed seven runs and struck out two in his next five innings. Yeah.

Barbato was sent down to Triple-A Scranton in mid-May and he spent almost the entire rest of the season there. His only other big league cameo came in early August, when the Yankees needed a fresh reliever. Barbato appeared in one game, faced four batters, didn’t retire any of them, then was sent down. The Yankees didn’t even give him a courtesy September call-up. Ouch.

Overall, Barbato had a 7.62 ERA (4.45 FIP) with a 26.4% strikeout rate in 13 big league innings and a 2.61 ERA (3.44 FIP) with a 24.1% strikeout rate in 48.1 Triple-A innings. General command was his issue. Barbato has a big fastball and two different breaking balls, but he left too many pitches over the middle. Not getting a September call-up suggests he may not be on the 40-man roster much longer.

Nick Goody

Goody was the primary shuttle reliever this past season, meaning he was the one who was called up most often and spent the most time in the big leagues. Four times he was called up. Once in April, once in July, once in August, and then once rosters expanded in September. He threw 29 innings for the Yankees overall.

Goody’s best outing of the season came on May 13th in relief of an ineffective Luis Severino. The White Sox hammered Severino and he eventually left the game after 2.2 innings with a triceps issue. The 25-year-old Goody fired 3.1 scoreless innings in relief to spare the bullpen. Needed only 37 pitches too.

In those four big league stints Goody had a 4.66 ERA (5.28 FIP) with a 26.6% strikeout rate in 29 innings. He also allowed seven homers, which works out to 2.17 HR/9, so yeah. The long ball was a problem. Goody had a 1.93 ERA (2.91 FIP) with a ridiculous 34/4 K/BB in 23.1 Triple-A innings as well, and one one of those walks was intentional too. Hot damn.

The Yankees still have a minor league option for Goody next season, meaning they’ll be able to send him up and down as many times as they want in 2017. It’s possible he could be a 40-man roster casualty in the offseason, though I think there’s enough guys below him on the depth chart for now. I like Goody the most among the shuttle arms, but until he can keep the ball in the park, his bat-missing slider won’t be of much use.

Ben Heller

The Yankees added Heller to the shuttle relief crew at midseason. He was the third piece in the Andrew Miller trade with the Indians. Heller, 25, had a 1.73 ERA (2.86 FIP) with 29.3% strikeouts and 7.3% walks in 41.2 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A before the trade. A few tune-up appearances with Triple-A Scranton were made before the Yankees called Heller up in August.

Heller. (Presswire)
Heller. (Presswire)

Unlike most other shuttle relievers, Joe Girardi and the Yankees have Heller a real shot at important innings. It didn’t go so well, but they tried. He entered with the Yankees either tied or leading by one run in three of his first six appearances, and in those three appearances, he put four of nine batters on base. Heller completed a full inning once. The other two times he got one out and zero outs.

Force-feeding Heller high-leverage innings right away didn’t work so well, so Girardi scaled back. His final four outings all came with the Yankees trailing by at least five. All told, Heller had a 6.43 ERA (9.57 FIP) in seven innings. He struck out six, walked four (one intentionally), and allowed three dingers. Also hit two batters and gave up eleven hits. It was a rude introduction to the big leagues.

Unlike a few others in this post, Heller’s spot on the 40-man roster is safe this offseason — the Yankees might trade him, but he won’t be dropped from the roster — and he’ll come to Spring Training with a chance to win a bullpen job. Heller’s fastball averaged 96.0 mph and topped out at 97.9 mph during his brief cameo, plus he showed a workable slider, so the tools are there. He’s not the first reliever to struggle in his first seven MLB innings and he won’t be the last.

Jonathan Holder

No reliever in minor league baseball had a better season than Holder in 2016. He shifted back to the bullpen after spending last season as a starter, and in 65.1 innings at three levels this year, the 23-year-old righty had a 1.65 ERA (1.30 ERA) with 101 strikeouts (42.4%) and seven walks (2.9%). Holder capped off his minor league season by striking out eleven in a row as part of a four-inning save to clinch a postseason berth for Triple-A Scranton.

That performance earned Holder a September call-up. It was a total knee-jerk reaction by the Yankees, who were hanging around the wildcard race. Brian Cashman said they made the move because Holder gave the Yankees the best chance to win, but Girardi’s history suggested he was going to lean on his veteran relievers down the stretch, not the kids.

Sure enough, Holder’s appearances were sporadic. He made eight appearances and only three times was the score separated by fewer than three runs. Holder entered one of those three games in the second inning, after Severino had been ejected for throwing at Justin Smoak, so it was hardly a high-leverage appearance. He allowed runs in four of his eight outings and was working mop-up duty by the end of the season. Womp womp.

Overall, the 2016 season was a phenomenal success for Holder, who climbed from High-A to the big leagues. Was the call-up a little shortsighted? Sure. The Yankees tied up a 40-man roster spot with a low-leverage reliever who was a year away from Rule 5 Draft eligibility. What’s done is done though. Holder had a 5.40 ERA (4.95 FIP) in 8.1 big league innings, during which he struck out five and walked four. Like Heller, he’ll come to camp with a chance to win an Opening Day bullpen job.

Conor Mullee

After three elbow surgeries and six and a half seasons in the minors, the 28-year-old Mullee finally reached the big leagues in 2016. He had a 1.42 ERA (2.02 FIP) in 19 minor league innings when the Yankees called him up for the first time. Mullee appeared in one game, walked three Diamondbacks and hit another while allowing a run in an inning on May 16th. Not the greatest debut. It happens.

Mullee went back to Triple-A and waited another month before getting his next call-up. This time he appeared in two games, striking out three and walking one in two scoreless and hitless innings. Much better. Unfortunately, his elbow started acting up again. Mullee felt some numbness in his fingers and was placed on the DL. He actually started a minor league rehab assignment in late July when the numbness returned.

Tests revealed a nerve issue near Mullee’s elbow, and he soon underwent season-ending surgery. That bites. At least there was no structural damage this time. Mullee remained on the disabled list until November 2nd, when the Yankees tried to slip him through waivers and remove him from the 40-man roster. The Cubs claimed him instead. Mullee had been with New York since being their 24th round pick in 2010.

James Pazos

Pazos. (Presswire)
Pazos. (Presswire)

Pazos, 25, is the hardest throwing left-hander in the organization now that Miller and Aroldis Chapman have been traded away. His heater averaged 95.5 mph during his September call-up this year, which was actually up from 94.1 mph last year. That kind of velocity is hard to find on a lefty, even these days where every team seems to have guys who throw 95+ out of the bullpen.

An unknown injury sidelined Pazos from early June until late August in the minors, and around the injury he had a 2.32 ERA (2.50 FIP) with a 35.6% strikeout rate and a 15.2% walk rate in 31 minor league innings. The Yankees did not call him up right away once rosters expanded; Pazos had to wait until September 6th to join the MLB team. He appeared in eleven games with the Yankees and faced no more than two batters in eight of them. The Yankees were leading in three of his eleven appearances, twice by five runs.

Pazos had a 13.50 ERA (10.05 FIP) in his 3.1 innings with New York and lefties went 4-for-8 against him with one strikeout. That seems bad. The Yankees seem to like Pazos — I get it, he throws hard from the left side — and he has two option years remaining, so he figures to stick around for a little while as an up-and-down southpaw. I wouldn’t rule him out coming to Spring Training with a chance to win a bullpen job.

Branden Pinder

Pinder. (Elsa/Getty)
Pinder. (Elsa/Getty)

A year ago Pinder was the primary shuttle reliever, getting called up six (!) times throughout the season. At least once in every month. Wild. This year, his season lasted three appearances. Pinder didn’t win a bullpen job in camp, so he went to Triple-A, appeared in two games, then got called up in mid-April. He pitched in one game with the Yankees and blew out his elbow. Pinder had Tommy John surgery on April 26th.

On the bright side, Pinder spent nearly the entire season on the Major League disabled list and collected big league salary and service time. Good for him. Poor Nick Rumbelow blew out his elbow in Triple-A and didn’t have the same luxury. The Yankees designated Pinder — who is still in the middle of his rehab — for assignment when they claimed Joe Mantiply last week. Injured fringe relievers who are weeks away from their 28th birthday aren’t exactly a hot commodity on waivers, so there’s a pretty good chance Pinder will remain in the organization as a non-40-man roster player.