DotF: Austin hits walk-off homer in second rehab game

Here are the day’s notes:

  • LHP Justus Sheffield (oblique) has started throwing, reports Kyle Franko. He made 50 throws from 60 feet on flat ground. There is no timetable for Sheffield’s return, though the fact he’s throwing is good news. Maybe Sheffield will go to the Arizona Fall League to make up for the lost innings.
  • C Kyle Higashioka (back) has been throwing and the hope is he will get back into games within a week, according to Conor Foley and D.J. Eberle. Between the injuries and spending a month sitting on the big league bench, Higashioka has only 73 plate appearances this season. That’s not good.
  • Two Yankees on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet: OF Billy McKinney (14th ) and 3B Dermis Garcia (20th). Also, RHP Deivi Garcia was the Helium Watch player. “He’s a smaller righthander with a big arm. His fastball has touched as high as 96 mph in the past, and he’s shown feel to spin a curveball as well,” said the write-up.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Pawtucket, walk-off style)

  • LF-CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 K — now a 19-game hitting streak
  • CF Aaron Hicks: 0-3, 2 K — played seven innings in his third rehab game, as scheduled
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI — hitting streak is up to 17 games … I think the odds are pretty darn good he would outhit Matt Holliday from right now through the end of the season
  • DH Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — walk-off two-run homer
  • RF Billy McKinney & 1B Garrett Cooper: both 0-3
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 47 of 69 pitches were strikes (68%), and Conor Foley says he generated 19 (!) swings and misses
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 25 of 33 pitches were strikes (76%)
  • RHP Ben Heller: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 19 of 27 pitches were strikes (70%) … really wish all those big league innings that went to Holder earlier this year had gone to Heller instead

[Read more…]

Game 108: Jaime’s Debut

(Jim McIsaac/Getty
(Jim McIsaac/Getty

Last night Sonny Gray made his Yankees’ debut. Tonight Jaime Garcia will do the same. Garcia came over from the Twins last Sunday and, thanks to the Gray trade, his role going forward is a little undecided. Fifth starter? Long reliever? Both are possible. Depends what the Yankees want to do with Jordan Montgomery, and what’s going on with Montgomery’s and Luis Severino‘s innings limits.

Some fun facts: Garcia will be the first pitcher to start a game for three different teams in one season since Byung-Hyun Kim in 2007. Completely forgot he started for a while. Kim started for the Rockies, Marlins, and Diamondbacks that year. Also, Garcia will be the first pitcher to make three consecutive starts for three different teams since Gus Weyhing in 1895. 1895! Just score some runs and win a game, please. Here’s the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Clint Frazier
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. DH Matt Holliday
  7. 1B Chase Headley
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP Jaime Garcia

Another cool and cloudy day in Cleveland, though there’s no rain in the forecast, and that’s all that matters. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.

Jake Cave may have a future in pinstripes after all

(Courtesy of Max Kassan)
(Courtesy of Max Kassan)

While the Yankees are undeniably improved from their deadline moves, the underrated part of Brian Cashman‘s trades are the 40-man roster spots it opens for this upcoming year. With Yefry Ramirez, Dietrich Enns, Jorge Mateo, Zack Littell, Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo and Dustin Fowler all gone, that helps lessen the 40-man roster crunch the Yankees were going to deal with after the season. Plenty of players would have been lost for no return, so Cashman acted.

One player who could directly benefit is Jake Cave. Cave, 24, was left off the 40-man this past year because he was expendable and seemed like he may be on his way out of the organization. After all, he’d hit .261/.323/.401 in his first extended taste of Triple-A and the acquisition of outfield depth made Cave the odd man out. However, the other 29 teams passed on him as a second-time Rule 5 pick and he remained a Yankee for the time being.

But this year has been different. Splitting his time between Trenton and Scranton, he’s done nothing but hit. In 171 PAs in Scranton, he’s batted .376/.427/.682 while hitting 12 home runs, more than he had posted in any entire season until now. In total, he’s hit .326/.377/.607 with 42 extra-base hits. That’s just one fewer XBH than last season in 159 fewer PAs. His strikeout rate remains about the same with a slight uptick in his walk rate while his home run per fly ball rate has skyrocketed. Maybe some of the power is a mirage, but he’s increased his flyball and line drive rates as well. Seeing him in person last week vs. a year ago around this time, he appears to have better command of the strike zone.

If you’re going to have a player repeat a level, you need them to show improvement and he’s clearly taken a step forward. He can play all three outfield positions well and now has shown the hit tool necessary to receive a look.

Where he benefits from this year’s deadline is the lessening of the Yankees’ outfield depth. Mateo, Fowler, Polo are no longer obstacles. Neither are Rob Refsnyder or Mason Williams, the latter who is still in the system but off the 40-man. The organization has five full-time OFs on the 40-man roster (Gardner, Ellsbury, Hicks, Judge and Frazier) and Tyler Wade as a utility man. At least one of the veterans, likely Ellsbury, could be gone this offseason, leaving room for a backup outfielder, or at least someone waiting in the wings in Scranton.

Billy McKinney complicates things. Acquired in last year’s Aroldis Chapman deal, McKinney is nearly two full years younger, comes with a higher pedigree (former top 100 prospect and first round pick) and has more power potential. Also a lefty, McKinney has hit nearly as well as Cave in his small sample with Scranton, hitting seven home runs and batting an impressive .343/.385/.676 in 110 PAs. Not bad for someone three weeks shy of turning 23. Cave’s calling card over McKinney is his ability to play center more often.

But there could be room for both on the 40-man, one in the majors and one in the minors, whereas both were borderline roster candidates at best prior to this deadline. The Yankees could utilize Gardner, Hicks, Judge and Frazier in the three OF spots and the DH role, leaving Wade and one of McKinney or Cave to back them up.

Cave went unprotected last season for good reason and there’s reason to believe the team didn’t see a future in the organization for the 2011 6th round pick. He’s a minor league free agent after this season, so adding him to the 40-man is the only way to keep him under team control. But that could now be in the cards, both with his performance and thanks to factors outside his control. As improbable as it may have seemed even a month ago, there may just be a role for Cave to play for the Yankees.

2017 Post-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Frazier. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Frazier. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Each year, soon after the draft signing deadline, I update my top 30 Yankees prospects list to welcome in all the new draftees. This year the signing deadline fell on a Friday, so I decided to wait until the next Friday to release the post-draft top 30 prospects list. Then the Yankees went out and made the big trade with the White Sox, so I decided to hold off until after the trade deadline because it felt like some stuff was about to go down.

Sure enough, it did. In addition to that big trade with the White Sox, the Yankees also used top 30 prospects to acquire Jaime Garcia and Sonny Gray in the days and hours leading up to Monday’s trade deadline. Six potential top 30 prospects were traded away in those deals. Eight of my preseason top 30 prospects are no longer eligible for the list, either because they’ve been traded away or graduated to MLB. Stunning turnover in just a few months.

And yet, the Yankees still have one of the better farm systems in baseball. They came into the season with arguably the best system — the consensus ranking was No. 2 behind the Braves — and just yesterday MLB.com ranked New York’s system the third best in baseball. Baseball America had them seventh. That’s even after all the trades and graduations. They still have some high-end talent, plus tons of depth. There are players who project to be everyday big leaguers outside of my top 30.

So, now that the trade deadline has passed and the dust has settled, it’s time to update my top 30 Yankees prospects. I’ve included each player’s pre-draft ranking for reference, and for fun, I included where each of the traded prospects would have slotted in had they not been traded. I get a lot of “where would this guy rank if he were still in the system?” questions, so I figured I’d answer those right in the list. Here’s my latest top 30. Feel free to make fun of it.

The Top Tier

1. SS Gleyber Torres, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 1)
2. OF Clint Frazier, MLB (Pre-draft: No. 2)
OF Blake Rutherford, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 3)
3. LHP Justus Sheffield, Double-A (Pre-draft: No. 4)

Frazier is about two weeks away from losing his prospect status. He’s at 98 big league at-bats right now and the rookie limit is 130. Once he graduates, the top tier will be down to two prospects. Lame! Then again, it’ll be down to two prospects because Frazier and Aaron Judge are in MLB, and Rutherford was traded for pieces who are helping the Yankees try to win the division, so I can’t complain.

Torres is still the undisputed the best prospect in the system right now, even after Tommy John surgery to his non-throwing arm. Everyone seems to expect him to come back just fine next year and that’s good enough for me. Every surgery has risks. This one seems to carry less than most elbow reconstructions. Sheffield is out with an oblique strain himself, which stinks, but at least it’s not his arm. He’s pretty clearly the best pitching prospect in the system in my opinion. Three-pitch lefty with swing-and-miss stuff? Sign me up.

The Other Top Prospects

SS/OF Jorge Mateo, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 5)
4. 3B Miguel Andujar, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 6)
5. OF Estevan Florial, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 14)
6. RHP Albert Abreu, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 7)
7. SS/OF Tyler Wade, MLB (Pre-draft: No. 8)
OF Dustin Fowler, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 9)
8. RHP Chance Adams, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 10)
9. RHP Dillon Tate, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 12)

This is where I think the depth of the farm system really shines. I’m the low man on Adams but Baseball America (56th) and MLB.com (61st) just ranked him as a top 50-ish prospect in their midseason top 100 lists. I have him eighth in the system. Both Abreu (82nd) and Wade (101st) snuck onto Baseball Prospectus’ top 101 prospects list before the season. Tate was the fourth overall pick — and first pitcher taken — in the draft just two years ago. That’s the kind of talent we’re talking about here.

Andujar is my dude and has been for a while, and he’s making me look smart this year, so thanks Miguel. I get the feeling that, in a year or two, lots of people are going to wonder why he never made a top 100 list. Florial is the biggest riser in the farm system this year. His strikeout rate is a red flag but the tools and athleticism are off the charts, and so is the performance, really. He hit .297/.372/.483 (145 wRC+) with eleven homers and 17 steals in 91 Low-A games as a 19-year-old before being promoted earlier this week. For a while there it looked like Florial would get traded at the deadline, but nope. He remains and Fowler went instead.

The Upside Arms

RHP James Kaprielian, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 11)
10. RHP Matt Sauer, Rookie (Pre-draft: Not eligible)
11. RHP Domingo Acevedo, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 13)
12. RHP Domingo German, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 15)
13. RHP Clarke Schmidt, Rehab (Pre-draft: Not eligible)
14. RHP Jorge Guzman, Short Season (Pre-draft: Unranked)

Things just kinda fell into place here. A bunch of power arms with upside and also some risk were bunched together in my rankings. Sauer, Acevedo, and Guzman all throw heat but come with command questions. German is in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery and Schmidt is rehabbing from elbow construction right now. A healthy Schmidt would have ranked higher, though not much. Probably ahead of German and that’s about it.

The big riser here is Guzman, who came over from the Astros with Abreu in the Brian McCann trade. He did not make my pre-draft top 30 list, which was an oversight on my part. I should have had him in the top 30. Guzman has been electric with Short Season Staten Island so far this year, throwing 42.2 innings with a 2.53 ERA (3.03 FIP) and a 56/13 K/BB ratio. Fastball that routinely touches 100 mph, promising secondary stuff, and improving control? Guzman is someone who will really shoot up the rankings over the next year.

The Mid-Range Bats

15. 3B Dermis Garcia, Low-A (Pre-draft: No. 21)
16. SS Thairo Estrada, Double-A (Pre-draft: No. 18)
17. SS Hoy Jun Park, Low-A (Pre-draft: No. 16)
18. C Donny Sands, Low-A (Pre-draft: No. 24)
RHP Zack Littell, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 29)
LHP Ian Clarkin, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 19)
19. SS Wilkerman Garcia, Short Season (Pre-draft: No. 17)
20. 2B Nick Solak, Double-A (Pre-draft: Unranked)

Even considering that last pitcher tier, this might be the riskiest prospect tier in my rankings. Garcia — Dermis, not Wilkerman — has easily the most power in the system, but he’s also swing-and-miss prone and not that great defensively. The other Garcia has solid all-around tools but has struggled to put it all together and stay healthy the last 18 months. Sands is a third baseman learning to catch, and a high-contact hitter without much power. His prospect stock is really riding on the whole catching thing working out.

Estrada and Solak are the “safest” bets among the players in this tier — I say “safest” because there’s no such thing as a safe prospect — because they’re both all-fields hitters who have the uncanny ability to get the fat part of the bat on the ball, and they’ll both take their walks too. Thairo is a better defender and capable of playing shortstop, which is why he’s higher in my rankings. I see similar offensive upside and more defensive value. And he’s a full year younger too.

The Bottom Ten

21. OF Jake Cave, Triple-A (Pre-draft: Unranked)
22. OF Billy McKinney, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 27)
23. 1B Tyler Austin, MLB (Pre-draft: No. 20)
24. RHP Freicer Perez, Low-A (Pre-draft: Unranked)
25. RHP Nolan Martinez, Rookie (Pre-draft: No. 26)
26. RHP Drew Finley, Short Season (Pre-draft: No. 25)
27. SS Kyle Holder, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 23)
28. LHP Josh Rogers, Double-A (Pre-draft: No. 22)
29. RHP Ben Heller, Triple-A (Pre-draft: Unranked)
30. RHP Trevor Stephan (Pre-draft: Not eligible)

Lots and lots and lots of candidates for the back of the top 30, so it comes down to personal preference. Among those who were considered: SS Oswaldo Cabrera, RHP Cody Carroll, SS Diego Castillo, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, OF Isiah Gilliam, RHP Nick Green, RHP Ronald Herrera, RHP Jonathan Holder, OF Leonardo Molina, OF Pablo Olivares, RHP Erik Swanson, C Saul Torres, RHP Taylor Widener, and RHP Alex Vargas.

Cave and McKinney were two of the hardest players to rank. I feel like I’m going out on a limb a bit with Cave. He’s always had ability and he’s been in my top 30 lists before, but now the performance has been so great that it’s hard to ignore. Even if he’s a platoon left-handed bat long-term — Cave is hitting .358/.405/.672 against righties and .250/.315/.440 against lefties this year — Cave can play center field and run. He does a lot of things.

McKinney, on the other hand, is basically all bat. He’s not much of a defender and he’s relegated to an outfield corner. McKinney might also be a platoon left-handed bat — he’s hitting .289/.365/.532 against righties and .252/.319/.437 against lefties — except you’re not getting the defense and baserunning. I know he’s a former first round pick and all that, but I feel like the end game here is … Seth Smith? Seth Smith is a good player! He’s been in the league a decade. But that feels like McKinney’s upside to me.

I really like Martinez and Finley and just wish they’d get healthy, stay healthy, and put together consistently strong performances at some point. That’s unfair to Martinez because he was just drafted last year, but you know what I mean. I’m eager to see more from him. With Holder, I’m still betting on the elite defense being a carrying tool. If he can hit enough to be, say, a 90 OPS+ guy who bats ninth long-term, he’ll end up a +3 WAR player with his glove. Heller … man I just wish the Yankees would give him a look already. Something more than shuttle call-ups here and there.

* * *

I didn’t love the Yankees’ draft this year, though I do think the “take the injured guy first and an over-slot guy second” strategy was Plan B. I think they were planning to use their first rounder on a player who came off the board before their pick came around, so they called an audible. In my idiot blogger opinion, there were comparable arms still on the board when the Yankees picked Schmidt, except those guys were healthy. Healthy pitchers are cool.

Last year the Yankees really stocked the system at the trade deadline and this year has been about unpacking the system. Get the guys to the big leagues you plan to build around and trade from the depth before you start losing players for nothing through the Rule 5 Draft or on waivers. Littell and Clarkin were both potential 40-man roster crunch casualties after the season, as were other traded prospects like Dietrich Enns, Yefry Ramirez, and Tito Polo.

The farm system right now is not as strong as it was six months ago, though for the right reasons. The Yankees have graduated players to the big leagues and used others in trades to bolster the MLB roster for a postseason push. And those trades brought in controllable players like Gray and Tommy Kahnle. Not only rentals. New York still has a deep system with upside, and the big league roster is looking better and more exciting than it has in years.

Mailbag: Judge, Frazier, Ellsbury, Severino, One-Year Deals

Big mailbag this week. Eighteen questions and 17 answers. This might be our biggest mailbag ever. Lots and lots of people asked about the international bonus pool money trades and whether they mean the Yankees will go after Shohei Otani this offseason. I wrote about that earlier this week. Anyway, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the mailbag email address.

Judge. (Elsa/Getty)
Judge. (Elsa/Getty)

Dan asks: If Judge’s slump persists, could he be in any danger of losing Rookie of the Year?

Nah. I don’t think the slump will last much longer — that doesn’t mean he’ll go back to hitting .329/.448/.691 (198 wRC+) again like he did in the first half, but he’ll be better than he’s been the last few weeks — but even if it did, he’s still done more than enough to win the award. Who is his primary competition anyway? The AL rookie fWAR leaderboard:

  1. Aaron Judge: +5.8 WAR
  2. Bradley Zimmer: +2.1 WAR
  3. Ben Gamel: +2.1 WAR
  4. Jordan Montgomery: +2.0 WAR
  5. Trey Mancini: +1.5 WAR

Zimmer has the most realistic chance to knock off Judge as the AL Rookie of the Year and this is basically the reverse Michael Fulmer-Gary Sanchez argument. Zimmer has only done it for half the year while Judge has been up all season. Also, Judge this year has been better than Fulmer last year, and Sanchez last year was better than Zimmer this year, so yeah.

As ugly as the slump has been, Judge has been “only” a -0.1 WAR player in the second half. There’s basically no way he can dip under +5 WAR for the season at this point, even if he continues to slump. His defense is too good. I’m sure some voters will find a reason not to vote for Judge — “He slumped when his team needed him the most in the second half,” sounds like a thing someone will say, nevermind the role Judge played in getting the Yankees to where they are in the first place — but he should still win the AL Rookie of the Year unanimously.

Artie asks: If the Yanks send Frazier down and recall him in September when rosters expand, can he still be on the post-season roster (provided they get there)? And if so, who does he bump from the roster? Joe loves having more pitchers than he needs so I would think the last spot would come down to Ellsbury and Frazier.

Brian asks: Do you think Ellsbury is left off the postseason roster?

Might as well lump these two together. Clint Frazier and every other player in the organization before 11:59pm ET on August 31st is eligible for the postseason roster, even if they haven’t played in the big leagues. Because Frazier has played in MLB, he can be added to the postseason roster nice and easy. A player who did not play in the big leagues prior to September 1st would have to be an injury replacement. The only stipulation there is that a position player has to replace a position player, and a pitcher has to replace a pitcher.

That last part is kinda tricky. The Yankees have Michael Pineda‘s spot to add a pitcher. So if, say, Domingo Acevedo comes up in September and throws fire in relief, and the Yankees want him on their postseason roster, they could use the Pineda injury to add him. The Yankees don’t have any injured position players who are expected to miss the rest of the season. They’re probably going to get a pinch-runner at some point, a Rico Noel/Eric Young Jr. type, but if that guy is not in MLB before September 1st, he can’t be on the postseason roster. (Unless someone gets hurt between now and then.)

As for getting Frazier and/or Jacoby Ellsbury on the postseason roster, that won’t be a problem. The pitching staff shrinks in the playoffs because you don’t really need your fifth starter or seventh reliever. The Yankees figure to cut down to ten pitchers in the postseason, or maybe eleven. That leaves room for Frazier, Ellsbury, and Aaron Hicks on the roster. Maybe the Yankees don’t need a Noel/EYJ type and will use Ellsbury as their pinch-runner?

Matt asks: If it were up to you, what four stats would you show when a player comes up to hit during a broadcast? As more advanced stats have pushed themselves to the mainstream, when could we see networks move on from the traditional AVG HR RBI OBP?

I am cool with keeping sabermetrics out of broadcast presentations. The Astros have things like WAR and wRC+ on their broadcast and that’s neat, but the vast majority of the people watching don’t care. I’d stick with the basics. Give me the full AVG/OBP/SLG slash line, homers, RBI, and steals. That works for me. At this point in time, I think less is more with sabermetrics on television. Let the announcers like David Cone talk about them once in a while, but I don’t think baseball should be forcing this stuff down the throats of casual fans. Those who want to learn about sabermetrics will seek the information out.

Dustin asks: Who do you think is more likely to be re-signed next year, Sabathia or Tanaka?

CC Sabathia by a mile. If Masahiro Tanaka opts out — I’d say it’s about 80/20 in favor of opting out at this point — I don’t think the Yankees will re-sign him. I don’t see them handing out any large $20M+ per year contracts this coming offseason because they want to get under the luxury tax threshold next year. The Yankees should be able to re-sign Sabathia to a one-year deal worth $12M or so. Tanaka is looking at what, five years and $100M? Maybe four years and $88M? I don’t see the Yankees going there. The Sonny Gray addition makes it that much easier to walk away too. The Yankees know they’re building around Gray and Luis Severino (and Montgomery) going forward.

Dan asks: What about Severino for Comeback Player of the Year? Maybe it’s more “development” than a true comeback but he went from having an historically bad 2016 to being a legit Cy Young candidate. That has to count for something, no? So whereas Berrios and Judge went from a horrendous 2016 debut to really good in 2017, Severino at least had a bit of elite success prior to his down year. Thoughts?

Nah. This isn’t a comeback. This is a young — Severino is only 23! — player breaking out. To me, the Comeback Player of the Year is someone who had a rough season either due to injury or poor performance, then bounced back to their previous level of production (or better). Severino made eleven starts in 2015. That’s not enough to establish a baseline for Comeback Player of the Year for me. Severino is just a young dude breaking out. The best Comeback Player of the Year candidate on the Yankees is, uh, Adam Warren? They don’t really have one. Michael Brantley stands out as the AL Comeback Player of the Year to me. He played only eleven games last year due to two shoulder surgeries, and is hitting .295/.357/.438 (110 wRC+) this year.

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Bryon asks: If the team can’t find a way to move Ellsbury, is it possible the Yankees don’t sign someone to DH full time and start Judge, Gardner, Hicks and Frazier, among the 3 OF spots and DH with Ellsbury serving as the 4th OF?

Yeah I think it’s possible. I don’t think they’d sign another DH only player like Matt Holliday again. That’s for sure. They might someone who can actually play the field, likely first base or the corner outfield, with the idea of giving them DH at-bats at times. But a full-time DH? Nah. Even if the Yankees manage to unload Ellsbury, they’d still have to figure out how to get Frazier, Judge, Hicks, and Brett Gardner regular at-bats. And don’t forget Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar too. Those dudes are going to be a factor next year.

Gene asks: Rick Porcello has a legit shot at losing 20 games this year. Has a CY winner ever lost 20 games the year after winning the award? For that matter, has any CY winner ever lost 20 games in a season in his career, whether before or after winning the award?

Oh sure, plenty of Cy Young winners have lost 20 games at some point in their careers, especially back in the day when guys used to make 40-something starts a year. Steve Carlton went 27-10 and won the Cy Young in 1972, then went 13-20 in 1973. Porcello went 22-4 last year, and after last night’s win, he is 5-14 this year with about about ten starts to go. Losing 20 games is possible, though I’d bet against it.

(If you’re interested, here’s a list of 20-game losers. The last was Mike Maroth with the 2003 Tigers. That had to be the worst team of my lifetime.)

John asks: As a team the yankees seem to be a bad baserunning team. But Is it just me or is Gardner the best Yankee baserunner by a mile? He always seems to take the extra base and have a knack to know when to steal. Additionally Gary really is scary but doesn’t seem to be scary on the basepaths. I know he is slow but he seems lost on the bases at times. Do you have stats to show who are the best and worst yankee baserunners and how the yankees are compared to other teams?

Gardner is pretty easily the best baserunner on the Yankees and one of the best in baseball. I know he frustrates people because he doesn’t run first pitch every time he’s on the first base — that’s not realistic at all — but he’s a highly efficient basestealer (15-for-18 this year) and an extra-base taking monster. He’s taken the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) 54% of the time this year. That’s actually down from 56% last year and 58% the year before. The league average is 40%. Since 2015, Gardner is seventh among all players with +14.4 runs on the bases, per FanGraphs.

The Yankees as a team are middle of the pack when it comes to running the bases, closer to the top than the bottom. Some quick ranks:

  • Steals: 64 (9th in MLB)
  • SB Success Rate: 79% (2nd)
  • FanGraphs Baserunning: +2.1 runs (12th)
  • Baseball Prospectus Baserunning: +5.8 runs (6th)

Is Sanchez really that bad running the bases? I hadn’t noticed. He’s slow because he’s a catcher and pretty much every catcher is slow, but slow doesn’t automatically equal bad. Starlin Castro is far and away the worst baserunner on the Yankees. He makes a lot of boneheaded mistakes. Didi Gregorius can be an adventure too.

Zach asks: If the offer was on the table, would you have rather offered Torres or Frazier straight up for Sonny Gray, rather than 3 other top 10 prospects?

Keep Torres and Frazier for sure. Keep the elite talent — Gleyber is unquestionably elite in my opinion, Frazier is arguable, though he’s obviously very talented — and trade the merely very good talent. Especially when two of those three very good talents are recovering from major injuries. I know Torres is coming back from Tommy John surgery himself, though it’s to his non-throwing arm, and that’s not nearly as much of a long-term risk as a pitcher having Tommy John surgery or a center fielder have an open rupture of his patella tendon. Quality over quantity. Giving up Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian hurts. Getting Gray was always going to hurt. But the Yankees managed to keep their very best prospects and that’s a good thing.

Timothy asks: If you could take back one of the players from the Gray trade and send a similarly-ranked, similar position prospect in his place, who would you swap?

That’s a tough question. Kaprielian’s had to many injury issues the last two years to swap out, I think. I’d probably keep Fowler over Mateo despite the knee injury. Fowler has performed everywhere he’s played and even if he slows down and has to move to a corner outfield spot full-time following the injury, I think he’ll do enough things to help his team win. Mateo has loud tools, though he hasn’t always performed, so I’m most skeptical of him going forward. I’d swap out Fowler for … I guess Tyler Wade? I’ve had them ranked similarly over the last year or so.

Pete asks: If the WC game was next week and the Yankees had their choice of pitcher to throw out there (ie rest/turn in the rotation isn’t an issue), who would it be?

Severino for sure. I don’t think going with any one of Severino, Gray, or Tanaka would be a bad move. They’re all capable as far as I’m concerned. Severino has pitched the best up to this point though, so he’s my choice. That said, the Yankees aren’t thinking wildcard. The AL East is winnable. The postseason preference list is this:

  1. Win the AL East with ease and set up your rotation for the ALDS.
  2. Win the AL East on the last day and not be able to set up your rotation for the ALDS.
  3. Win a wildcard spot with ease and line up your preferred pitcher for the Wild Card Game.
  4. Win a wildcard spot on the last day and not be able to line up your preferred pitcher for the Wild Card Game.

Back in 2015, Tanaka was an easy call to start the Wild Card Game in my opinion. Severino pitched well in eleven starts that year but it was eleven starts, and Tanaka had been better for longer. This year it’s a little more wide open and not because everyone stinks. Tanaka has turned things around and has been pitching much better. This Tanaka, this Severino, and Gray are all viable Wild Card Game options for me. I’d be happy starting any of them in the Wild Card Game or Game One of the ALDS.

Andujar. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Andujar. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Michael asks: Cashman did a great job with trades. Still, Yanks need another bat. Assuming (dangerous word) Yanks don’t pull a waiver deal, what about bringing up Andujar? Although not the preferred LH bat, he’s already on 40-man, can DH and play 3B, and with Todd F and Chase (gives Girardi plenty of flexibility without increasing payroll.

For me, it’s starting to get to that point. Holliday has been so bad these last few weeks. So, so bad. He’s hitting .142/.208/.257 (19 wRC+) in 125 plate appearances since June 12th and that can’t on forever. A DH who doesn’t H isn’t even a zero. He’s a negative. Alex Rodriguez hit .190/.230/.267 (29 wRC+) in his final 126 plate appearances before being released last season. Alfonso Soriano hit .200/.209/.320 (39 wRC+) in his final 129 plate appearances before being released in 2014.

I’m not saying the Yankees should release Holliday. But they can’t keep running him out there every single day and wait for things to turn around. Both A-Rod and Soriano were already well into the “losing at-bats” phase of their slumps by this point. Earlier this year I was totally cool with keeping Andujar in Triple-A to work on his defense. Now that we’re later into the season and the postseason race is heating up, the Yankees have to put their best team on the field, and it wouldn’t take much for Andujar to be an upgrade over this version of Holliday. In all likelihood, the Yankees won’t call up Andujar and will wait for Hicks to return before taking at-bats away from Holliday.

Marc asks: You recently talked about Matt Holliday’s slump and him seemingly turning into Travis Hafner. Can you talk about the Yankees success (or lack thereof) of their most recent 1-year off-season free-agent contracts for hitters, say over the last 7 years or so? Feels like there has been a lot of futility in this type of contract…

According to the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, the Yankees have signed 12 position players to guaranteed one-year Major League contracts since the start of the 2010-11 offseason. That doesn’t include the one-year Derek Jeter extension in November 2013. Here are the results:

  • Chris Carter ($3.5M for 2017): -0.7 WAR and released at midseason.
  • Matt Holliday ($13M for 2017): +0.0 WAR and trending down at this point.
  • Stephen Drew ($5M for 2015): +0.4 WAR because he could field but not hit.
  • Chris Young ($2.5M for 2015): +1.2 WAR as arguably the best fourth outfielder in baseball.
  • Brian Roberts ($2M for 2014): +1.5 WAR and released at midseason.
  • Kelly Johnson ($3M for 2014): +0.7 WAR and traded for Drew at the deadline.
  • Travis Hafner ($2M for 2013): -0.1 WAR and hurt for much of the year.
  • Kevin Youkilis ($12M for 2013): -0.2 WAR and hurt pretty much all year.
  • Eric Chavez ($0.9M for 2012): +1.6 WAR as a great platoon bat in his second year in New York.
  • Andruw Jones ($2M for 2012): +0.3 WAR and especially bad in the second half.
  • Andruw Jones ($1.5M for 2011): +1.0 WAR as a really good platoon bat.
  • Russell Martin ($4M for 2011): +2.7 WAR after being non-tendered by the Dodgers.

Martin was kind of a weird case because he was still only 28 at the time, and the Dodgers non-tendered him over injury concerns, not production concerns. He remained under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2012, so it wasn’t a true one-and-done contract. The only clear “yes we’d do it again in an instant” hits to me are Martin, 2011 Andruw, Chavez, and Young. Roberts’ WAR was basically all defense and having seen him play, I didn’t really agree with him being that good in the field.

Keep in mind the vast majority of these signings were small one-year deals for reclamation project types or role players. Many of these guys were damaged goods to start with. Holliday and Youkilis are the only big money deals. (The Yankees signed Youkilis because they had basically nowhere else to turn after A-Rod went down with hip surgery.) Andruw, Chavez, Hafner, and Roberts were all nearing the end of their careers and trying to hang on. Johnson, Drew, and Carter were stopgaps.

That track record is spotty at best, though I guess that’s what you’re going to get with these players. If they were better or lower risk, they wouldn’t get one-year contract. The Yankees won’t and shouldn’t stop looking for depth players on one-year deals. Just have to hope they work out as well as guys like Chavez and Young did.

Update: I missed Raul Ibanez. He signed a $1.1M deal for 2012 and put up +0.5 WAR that year, though all those glorious clutch dingers made it worth it.

Nick asks: Do you think the trading of so much outfield depth means that Billy McKinney is a lock for the 40 man? And what about Rashad Crawford and Jake Cave?

Yes, no, maybe. Yes I think McKinney is getting added to the 40-man roster after the season. He’s a former first rounder who just might be figuring things out right now, and even if you don’t think he’s going to help you in 2018 because he might need another 400 at-bats in Triple-A, he’s worth keeping around to see what happens. Crawford has great tools and athleticism, but he’s not hitting at all. I can’t see him sticking as a Rule 5 Draft pick next year. Easy call to leave him exposed in my opinion.

Cave is the tough one because what’s changed this year? I don’t know. I know the stats, but is something fundamentally different about Cave as a player this year, or is he merely beating up on the competition his fourth year at Double-A and third year at Triple-A? Cave is going to be a minor league free agent after the season, and right now, my guess is the Yankees will add him to the 40-man roster and keep him around as their depth center fielder now that Fowler is gone and Mason Williams is likely to be gone after the season.

Mark asks: Pretend Headley was a first basemen all year. How does his offensive numbers compare to the rest of the leagues’ first basemen?

Pretty terrible overall. Chase Headley went into last night’s game hitting .272/.354/.393 (102 wRC+) with five home runs, which is basically league average overall. The problem is the average first baseman is hitting .260/.343/.480 (114 wRC+) this year and Headley is well below that. There are 27 first basemen with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title this year. Headley would be the 28th. Here are his hypothetical ranks among those 28 first basemen:

  • AVG: .272 (13th)
  • OBP: .354 (13th)
  • SLG: .393 (27th, ahead of only Joe Mauer and his .390 SLG)
  • wRC+: 102 (23rd)
  • HR: 5 (27th)
  • fWAR: +1.5 (15th)

Chase Headley: 102 wRC+. Miguel Cabrera: 101 wRC+. Yikes.

Anyway, remember that +1.5 fWAR includes the third base positional adjustment, which Headley would lose at first base. The difference between first base and third base is +15 runs (!) per FanGraphs. Swap out the positional adjustment and keep everything else the same, and Headley is roughly a +0.5 WAR first baseman. Nope.

Justin asks: The Yanks have almost no left handed pop in their lineup this year which is very unusual. Seems the Rays gave up very little to land Lucas Duda. 1st base was a trade deadline priority for the Yanks. Why didn’t they offer a better package than the Rays to land him?

The Yankees tried. Joel Sherman says the Yankees made the Mets a comparable offer — I guess that means someone like Jonathan Holder or Ben Heller? — but the Mets didn’t want to send him across town. “The Mets just wouldn’t trade him to us,” said someone with the Yankees to Jon Heyman. I guess you could argue the Yankees should have just blown them away with an offer. Offer them Holder and Heller instead of one or the other, something like that. That doesn’t really make sense to me. There are comparable bats to Duda out there you won’t have to overpay to get. Had Duda not hit two home runs against the Yankees last weekend, I don’t think anyone would be sweating the non-trade. The Yankees tried, the Mets didn’t want to send him to their crosstown rival, and that’s that.

Stephen asks: Had Dustin Fowler not gotten hurt in Chicago when he was called up and he had been productive enough to keep Ells on the bench and in turn kept Frazier in AAA, do you think Frazier would have been included in Sonny Gray trade? Or do you think Fowler and Frazier would have been off limits?

I think both guys would have been off-limits. The Yankees said they were not going to trade their best close to MLB prospects and they didn’t. The only guy who fits the bill is Fowler, and he’s coming off a major injury. I don’t think he would have been traded had he been healthy. In all likelihood, a healthy Fowler likes means Fowler and Frazier are with the Yankees and Estevan Florial is with the A’s.

Indians 5, Yankees 1: Bad defense and good Corey Kluber spoil Sonny Gray’s debut

Remember back in April and May when the Yankees scored like six runs a night? That was fun. The offense remains completely dormant — at least they faced a legitimate ace Thursday night, unlike the last two days — and the Yankees lost the series opener 5-1 to the Indians. The Yankees have lost three straight and four of their last five. That happened quick.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Welcome to New York
Me at 9:30am: “The Yankees are a substantially better defensive team than the Athletics.” The Yankees at 7:00pm: Three errors within the first four batters of the game. Good job, guys. Way to make me look smart. The Yankees made Sonny Gray feel right at home with an A’s caliber defensive inning in the first. It should have been a 1-2-3 inning with three weak ground balls on seven pitches. It ended up being a two-run inning on 22 pitches. Those extra outs, man.

The first batter of the game, Bradley Zimmer, hit a routine ground ball to Chase Headley at first base. He bobbled it. Twice, actually. He had enough time to recover after the first bobble, but the second bobble allowed Zimmer to beat it out. The next batter, Francisco Lindor, hit a weak ground ball to second that Tyler Wade fielded cleanly and threw to first for the out. Hooray for that. The ball was hit too slowly and Zimmer is too fast to turn two, so just the one out.

Michael Brantley, the third batter of the inning, hit another weak ground ball to Wade, except this time Wade booted it. Gray started the game with three weak ground balls hit directly at infielders, and he was rewarded with runners on the corners and one out. Jose Ramirez then singled to right field to score Zimmer, and because Clint Frazier was trying to do way too much against his former team, he airmailed the throw into the dugout. Embedded Indian? Embedded Indian.

The airmailed throw allowed Brantley to score and Ramirez to advance to third base with one out. Three errors and one legitimate hit led to two runs and a runner on third with one out. Sigh. Fortunately Gray escaped that jam with a strikeout and a fly out, limiting the damage to two unearned runs. He settled down until the Indians put together a two-out rally in the sixth. Walk, single, double on a hanging slider. Womp womp.

Gray’s final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 R, 3 BB, 6 K. He looked better than that. Fastballs in and out, sliders and curveballs for swing and misses, and a much better changeup than I expected. That two-out rally in the sixth stunk, though Gray showed some real nice poise and competitiveness by pitching out of jams in the first and fourth. Not sure what more you could’ve wanted to see from him. Hanging curves like the one in the sixth happen. Everything else was pretty damn good.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One Run, Just To Remember What It Feels Like
Well, so much for the idea of this being a trap game. The Yankees got shut down by the reanimated corpses of Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann the last two nights, though there would be no inexplicable offensive explosion against Corey Kluber. What can charitably be described as the “C” lineup managed one run on three hits and one walk against Cleveland’s ace during his complete game win. He struck out eleven.

By my subjective count, the Yankees hit five balls hard against Kluber. Two were hits. Frazier doubled into the right field corner in the fourth inning — that was New York’s first hit of the night — and Gary Sanchez hit a solo home run over the high wall just to the left field side of center field in the seventh. By then it was too little, too late, of course. And of course Frazier was stranded after that leadoff double. Sanchez struck out with him at third and Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out.

The Sanchez solo home run ended a 16-inning scoreless streak for the offense. The Yankees never once had as many two baserunners in an inning against Kluber, and aside from the Frazier double and Sanchez homer, no runner advanced as far as second base. Kluber is excellent, obviously. He can shut any team down at any time. But when it happens after getting dominated by Anibal and Zimmermann, it’s still annoying. The Yankees need another bat and they need it soon. The AL East race won’t wait for Aaron Hicks and Starlin Castro to return.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Shout out to Chasen Shreve for soaking up two innings out of the bullpen. He immediately negated the Sanchez solo home run by allowing a solo home run to Francisco Lindor the very next half-inning. In an 0-2 count, no less. I love love love Lindor, so I choose to attribute that home run to him being awesome rather than Shreve being bad. Shreve retired the other six batters he faced anyway.

Brett Gardner went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to end his 14-game hitting streak. He had probably the best at-bats against Kluber. Gardner saw 19 total pitches in his four at-bats. No one else saw more than 14. In fact, here are the pitches seen for the game:

  1. Brett Gardner: 19
  2. Clint Frazier: 14
  3. Didi Gregorius: 8
  4. Gary Sanchez: 13
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury: 14
  6. Chase Headley: 11
  7. Ronald Torreyes: 8
  8. Austin Romine: 12
  9. Tyler Wade: 7

I know it’s Corey Kluber, but geez. Work the count a little guys. Been a little too much free swinging these last few days.

Gregorius went 0-for-4 but it was a loud 0-for-4. He had a gap shot run down by Zimmer, a line drive snared by Carlos Santana at first, and a hard-hit grounder reeled in by Ramirez at third. Remember when I said the Yankees hit five balls hard against Kluber? Gregorius had three of them. The Frazier double and Sanchez homer were the others.

And finally, the three-error first inning was the Yankees’ first three-error inning since Game 161 in 2010. Lance Berkman, A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Cervelli did the honors in the fourth that night. Berkman and Burnett managed to make their errors on the same play.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. If you’re interested in postseason odds, go to FanGraphs. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This four-game series is just getting started. Jaime Garcia will make his Yankees debut Friday night, in the second game of the series. He’ll be opposed by Trevor Bauer. Perhaps the Yankees will score more than one run.

DotF: Hicks doubles and walks in second rehab game

Some links to check out before we get to what might be the largest DotF (12 games!) in DotF history:

  • MLB.com released their post-trade deadline farm system rankings. Even after all the trades and graduations, the Yankees rank third. “They still may have the deepest (farm system), with an abundance of infielders (led by Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar) and a seemingly endless supply of power arms (Chance Adams, Domingo Acevedo, Albert Abreu, Jorge Guzman, Freicer Perez, Matt Sauer and on and on and on),” says the write-up.
  • Baseball America (subs. req’d) also released their updated farm system rankings. The Yankees rank seventh overall and are included in the “Elite Farm Systems” section, so that’s cool. “Even after trading to help bullpen and rotation, Yankees are still loaded,” says the write-up.

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

  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4
  • DH Aaron Hicks: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 SB — hurry up Hicksie, the offense needs you … the fact he stole a base indicates he’s feeling pretty good physically … you don’t do that if you’re still a little tentative after the injury
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI — hitting streak is up to 18 games
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 0-2 — played five innings as scheduled in his first rehab game
  • RF Billy McKinney: 2-4, 2 K
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 2 WP, 4/4 GB/FB — 54 of 85 pitches were strikes (64%) … first start since being sent down
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 25 of 39 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1 HB, 0/2 GB/FB — eight of 14 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]