Wednesday Night Open Thread

I’m starting to think this might not be the Yankees’ season, folks. They’re not just bad, they’re boring, and that’s the worst kind of bad. At least the 2013 Yankees were ironically entertaining, you know? Yuck. There are 97 games to go and gosh, that doesn’t sound appealing at all.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing tonight and ESPN2 will show the Red Sox and Orioles, and that’s pretty much it. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Mark Teixeira resumes hitting and running, could return next week

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Sounds as though Mark Teixeira may be closer to a return than initially expected. Teixeira, who is currently out with cartilage damage in his right knee, has already resumed hitting and running. “I feel so much better,” he said to reporters this afternoon.

Teixeira hopes to take batting practice later this week when the Yankees are in Minnesota. If that goes well, he could play in his first minor league rehab game as soon as next Tuesday, then rejoin the big league lineup as soon as late next week. Optimistic? Sure, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The 36-year-old Teixeira has received a lubrication injection to deal with the pain and he’ll have to continue receiving them throughout the season. The hope is he can return next week and finish the season before having surgery over the winter. The surgery would be season-ending if he had it now.

Teixeira was hitting .180/.271/.263 (48 wRC+) with three homers at the time of his injury, so he wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball. Still, when the Yankees run out a lineup with Chase Headley batting lineup and Didi Gregorius batting fifth like they did today, I’ll happily welcome Teixeira back with open arms.

Game 65: Well, at least the weather is nice

Make sure the oxygen tank is handy. (Presswire)
Make sure the oxygen tank is handy. (Presswire)

The Yankees have lost three straight games, which is something that seems to have happened far too often this season. They’re one game into this stretch of eleven straight games against the Rockies and Twins, and as I said yesterday, they need to win about eight of these eleven games to have a realistic chance at contention. Dropping the first of those eleven games was not a good start. Win it today, fellas. Here is the Rockies’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. 3B Chase Headley
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. RF Aaron Hicks
  7. 1B Ike Davis
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. RHP Ivan Nova

That’s as close to a Spring Training lineup as you’ll see during the regular season. Yeesh. Anyway, at least the weather is nice in Denver. Sunny with temperatures in the low-80s. Nice afternoon for a game. This afternoon’s game will begin at 3:10pm ET — I know I said 3:40pm ET yesterday, sorry about that, my mistake — and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Carlos Beltran had his knee drained yesterday and isn’t available today. This is fine.

Finding comparable prospects to Blake Rutherford using MLB.com’s scouting grades

(MinorLeagueMadhouse.com)
(MinorLeagueMadhouse.com)

Last Thursday, after weeks of rumors about high school arms and college bats, the Yankees used their first round pick to select California HS OF Blake Rutherford. He was a consensus top ten talent — Keith Law (6th), MLB.com (8th), and Baseball America (9th) all ranked Rutherford highly — who fell because of bonus demands and the fact he turned 19 last month. The signing deadline is July 15th.

It’s been a long time since the Yankees had the opportunity to draft a player like Rutherford, a highly coveted prospect who slipped due to bonus demands. That is partly the result of the bonus pools. Talent comes off the board more linearly nowadays and fewer prospects are slipping. (And those who do slip are often unsignable.) The Yankees have also forfeited some first round picks recently (2011, 2014) and made some surprise selections.

The scouting report on Rutherford is awfully exciting. Keith Law (subs. req’d) said he has a “unique combination of hit and power and has shown an ability to spray well-hit balls to all fields,” while Baseball America (subs. req’d) wrote “(some) scouts see him as a potential power-hitting center fielder in the Jim Edmonds mold.” Here’s a piece of MLB.com’s free scouting report:

Rutherford has the chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average raw power. He’ll record average to plus run times, and his speed helps him on the basepaths and in the outfield. Rutherford is a solid defender in the outfield, though most feel he’ll move to right field in the future. The good news is his bat should profile just fine if that move does happen.

Gosh that is fun to read. The Yankees have been picking late in the first round for two decades now, so we’re used to reading scouting reports about talented players with obvious flaws, flaws that prevented them from going near the top of the draft. The biggest concern with Rutherford is that he had the audacity to be born in May and not July or August. That’s all.

Scouting reports are great, but it’s difficult to quantify words. Baseball is a numbers game. It’s tailor made for record keeping and statistical analysis. So, to help us understand exactly what kind of prospect Rutherford is, let’s turn to MLB.com’s scouting grades. They’ve been handing out scouting grades with their draft prospects list for a few years now, so we can compare Rutherford to other highly touted prep players.

A crash course: the grades are on the 20-80 scouting scale. A 20 is the worst possible grade. Alex Rodriguez has 20 speed. Carlos Beltran is a 20 defender. An 80 is the best possible grade. Aroldis Chapman has an 80 fastball. Andrew Miller has an 80 slider. A 50 is an average grade, so you can go three standard deviations up and three standard deviations down. MLB.com has grades for the five tools: hit for average, hit for power, running, throwing, and fielding.

There are two important things to understand about MLB.com’s 20-80 grades. One, they’re future grades. These are what the player projects to be, not what he is today. Two, they tend to be conservative. You won’t see many 70s or 80s at all, especially with high school kids. No one wrote up Mike Trout as 70 hit, 70 power, 70 run a few years back because they’d get laughed at, yet that’s what he’s become. A 50 prospect doesn’t sound sexy, but trust me, that’s really good.

Okay, so with all that in mind, let’s compare Rutherford’s scouting grades to the grades for other top left-handed hitting prep outfield prospects in recent years. We need to be specific here. There’s a big difference between being left-handed and right-handed, between being an outfielder and an infielder, and between high school and college. What’s the point of comparing Rutherford to, say, Kris Bryant, a right-handed hitting college third baseman? They couldn’t be any more different.

MLB.com has been listing scouting grades since 2013, and from 2013-15, a total of 15 lefty hitting high school outfielders ranked among their top 100 draft prospects. It’s not a huge sample, but it’s what we have to work with. Here’s are those 15 plus Rutherford and their scouting grades. The green cells are tools that received the same or a better grade than Rutherford:

Blake Rutherford comps

Right off the bat you see no lefty hitting prep outfielder matched all five of Rutherford’s tools from 2013-15. Only four of those 15 players matched Rutherford on four of the five tools: Austin Meadows and Ryan Boldt are short on power while Kyle Tucker and Mitch Hansen are short on run. Heck, Mickey Moniak, this year’s first overall pick and another lefty hitting high school outfielder, doesn’t match Rutherford’s five tools either. He’s short on power.

Compared to his peers over the last three drafts, Rutherford has a very unique skill set. There’s a reason only four left-handed hitting high school outfielders rated as at least 55 overall prospects from 2013-15. It’s hard to be good at baseball. Here’s a really quick look at what those four players have done in pro ball.

  • Trent Clark, Brewers: Career .284/.409/.418 (128 wRC+) hitter in 337 minor league plate appearances. He’s at Low-A and Baseball America ranked him the 49th best prospect in all the land coming into the season.
  • Alex Jackson, Mariners: Career .207/.304/.375 (98 wRC+) hitter in 531 minor league plate appearances. Jackson is still in Low-A. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 20 prospect in baseball prior to 2015. He wasn’t on their 2016 list.
  • Austin Meadows, Pirates: Career .305/.370/.476 (147 wRC+) hitter in 1,260 minor league plate appearances. He is currently in Double-A and is crazy good. Meadows has landed on three Baseball America top 100 lists, topping out at No. 22 before this season.
  • Kyle Tucker, Astros: Career .279/.337/.403 (113 wRC+) hitter in 515 minor league plate appearances. That includes a 133 wRC+in Low-A this season. Tucker was ranked the 61st best prospect in baseball by Baseball America before this season.

Meadows, Tucker, and Clark have developed into awesome top prospects since they were drafted. Jackson is fizzling out, though three out of four ain’t bad at all. We could probably blame the Mariners for what Jackson is doing anyway. Their top position player prospects never seem to work out. Point is, the left-handed hitting high school outfielders most similar to Rutherford have generally gone on to be very good prospects.

Now, does this mean Rutherford is destined to become a top 50 caliber prospect, or even a top 25 caliber prospect like Meadows? Of course not. Every player is their own person, and what Meadows or Jackson or anyone else has done has zero effect on Rutherford’s development. All we’re doing is looking for context. How many players have had similar skill sets in recent years? The answer is not many at all. Most of the few who have gone to be pretty good.

The Yankees still haven’t signed Rutherford but that’s not surprising. The draft happened not even a week ago. The signing deadline is July 15th this year and it’s not uncommon for high picks to wait until the very last moment to sign. James Kaprielian did it just last year. The Yankees have already saved a ton of pool money and you can bet they’re planning to shovel most (if not all) of it in front of Rutherford.

Should the Yankees sign Rutherford — I fully expect him to sign, but you can never be 100% sure — recent history suggests they’re adding a significant prospect to the system. The various draft class rankings indicate that, and when you look at his individual tools, you can see very few players are as well-rounded as Rutherford. Those who have been closest have gone on to grow into very promising young players.

Update: I’m a dolt. Alex Jackson is a right-handed hitter. Disregard him. My bad.

Trade Notes: Cubs, Gallo, Tigers, Fulmer, Norris, Reyes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The draft is now over, which means teams will soon shift their focus to the trade deadline. The way things are going right now, the Yankees are much more likely to be sellers than buyers this summer. We’ll see what happens. Here are some miscellaneous trade notes, both past and present.

Cubs scouting Yankees’ top relievers

According to George King, the Cubs had a scout at Yankee Stadium last week taking a look at New York’s big three relievers. The Cubbies already know those guys are awesome. They’re just doing their due diligence. Chicago could really use a shutdown lefty reliever, and I’m guessing they’d prefer Andrew Miller to Aroldis Chapman. Miller is under contract two more years and is willing to pitch in any role. Also, Theo Epstein and Miller have a connection dating back to their time with the Red Sox.

I’ve already written about the Cubs as a possible trade partner a few times (here and here) and something tells me I will end up writing about them a few more times before the trade deadline. As always, it’s going to come down to what Chicago is willing to give up in a trade. We’ve already heard they won’t trade Kyle Schwarber straight up for Miller. Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were involved in trade rumors all offseason, so I imagine they’re available.

Rangers won’t trade Gallo for Miller

From the “no duh” rumor mill: the Rangers are unwilling to trade third base masher Joey Gallo straight up for Miller, reports Jon Heyman. The Rangers have the best record (40-25) and worst bullpen ERA (5.12) in the AL, so yeah, a reliever or three figures to be on their trade deadline shipping list. It’s the glaring need right now. Manager Jeff Banister has to hold his breath each time he signals for a reliever.

Texas GM Jon Daniels has a history of making big moves at the trade deadline, and no team will have more bullpen help to offer than New York, so I expect to see a ton of Rangers-Yankees rumors these next few weeks. I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees will push for Jurickson Profar. They’ve had interest in him in the past, and it appears the Rangers have no place to play him. That’s the kind of talent the Yankees should be targeting, anyway.

(Fulmer)
(Fulmer)

Tigers were unwilling to part with top prospects for Miller

Prior to the Justin Wilson trade in December, the Yankees and Tigers were discussing a Miller trade, reports Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal says Detroit was not willing to move their top prospects, specifically righty Michael Fulmer and lefty Daniel Norris, so nothing happened. The Tigers then shifted their focus to Wilson, and that trade eventually came together.

This jibes with everything we heard about the Miller trade talks over the winter. The Yankees wanted high-end young pitching in return. They talked to the Astros about Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez, for example. Fulmer and Norris are cut from a similar cloth. When it comes time to take offers for Miller again — I imagine the Yankees will listen even if they’re unwilling to sell — I assume they’ll again prioritize young power arms.

Yanks didn’t offer Mateo for Reyes

Remember a few weeks back when we heard the Yankees reportedly offered the Rockies shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo for Jorge Reyes last year? That didn’t pass the sniff test at all. As it turns out, the report was wrong. Tracy Ringolsby says the Yankees did not offer Mateo for Reyes, but Mateo’s name did come up during talks about a larger multi-player trade. That makes much more sense.

I wonder who else the Yankees could have been targeting in such a deal? The Rockies don’t exactly having pitching to spare — Jon Gray had not made his MLB debut at that point, and I can’t imagine Colorado was willing to trade him anyway — and the Yankees had no other massive needs since Reyes would have presumably replaced Stephen Drew at second. Maybe Mateo and stuff for Reyes and prospects? I have no idea what it could realistically be otherwise. Intrigue!

Ten runs aren’t enough; Yankees fall 13-10 to Rockies in series opener

Well, you can’t blame the offense for Tuesday’s loss. That’s a nice change of pace. The Yankees and Rockies played a classic Coors Field slugfest Tuesday night, and the Rockies came out on top 13-10. The Yankees scored seven runs in the eighth inning and still lost by three. Good grief. At least that was more fun to watch than a 3-1 loss or something like that.

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Don’t Let That 8.81 ERA Fool You
Amazingly, the Yankees were unable to muster much of anything offensively against Jorge De La Rosa, who went into Tuesday’s start with an 8.81 ERA (5.64 FIP) in 31.2 innings. De La Rosa limited New York to three singles and two walks in five innings while striking out only one. He also hit a batter. The Yankees actually had a baserunner in each of De La Rosa’s five innings, but were still unable to score.

The team’s best chance to put some runs on the board against the veteran southpaw came in the very first inning. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner led the game off with singles — Ellsbury’s was a line drive to center, Gardner beat out a bunt — but Starlin Castro banged into a 6-4-3 double play to short circuit the rally. De La Rosa allowed only one runner to make it as far as second base the rest of the night. Gross. He shaved more than a full run off his ERA. It’s down to 7.61 ERA. The Yankees have made a lot of pitchers happy this year, huh?

Nate’s Homer Problem
I get that it’s Coors Field, but Nathan Eovaldi has now allowed 12 home runs in 75.1 innings this season after allowing ten homers in 154.1 innings last year. He came into the season with a career 0.6 HR/9 in more than 600 innings, so clearly he has some sort of homer suppressing skill. That skill has been nonexistent this year. Eovaldi is up to a 1.4 HR/9 a little more than one-third of the way through 2016.

Trevor Story and Ryan Raburn got him Tuesday night, and they were back-to-back blasts in the fourth inning. Story absolutely clobbered a terrible 3-2 pitch …

Nathan Eovaldi Trevor Story

… to dead center field for a two-run homer that Statcast measured at 454 feet. It’s the second longest homer given up by the Yankees this season. Remember that dinger Michael Pineda served up to Carlos Correa back in April, the one he smacked off the windows of the restaurant? That one went 462 feet. Raburn followed Story’s blast with a 388-foot opposite field job.

Two singles and a double ended Eovaldi’s night in the fifth inning. (Gardner got twisted around and should have caught the double, but by then the story of Eovaldi’s outing had been written.) He was charged with six runs on eight hits and two walks in only four innings, and he struck out only two. It was a non-competitive start. Eovaldi has now allowed at least five runs in each of his last three starts after allowing seven runs total in his previous five starts.

Don’t Call It A Comeback
To their credit, the Yankees did not go quietly. After falling behind 6-0, they put three runs on the board in the top of the sixth. Didi Gregorius had the big blow with a home run to right field. Brian McCann drew a walk and Chase Headley bunted to beat the shift to set Gregorius up for the dinger. Didi had a real nice at-bat. He fell behind in the count 0-2, worked it back full, then mashed the three-run tater.

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

The home run cut the deficit in half but lol that didn’t last. The Rockies immediately answered with three runs in the next half-inning, and another three runs the half-inning after that. Colorado scored three runs in the fourth, two in the fifth, three in the sixth, and three more in the seventh. Yeesh. Kirby Yates (0.2 innings) and Richard Bleier (1.1 innings) were both charged with three runs. The non-big three relievers now have a 4.95 ERA in 116.1 innings on the season.

The Rockies took a 12-3 lead into the eighth inning, and, just as we all expected, the Yankees scored seven runs that inning to make it 12-10. How about that? Here’s the short version of that seven-run inning:

– Headley strikes out
Rob Refsnyder rips a solid single to center
– Gregorius squibs an infield single to short
Aaron Hicks bloops a single to right to load the bases
– Pinch-hitter Ike Davis singles to right to drive in a run in his first at-bat as a Yankee
– Ellsbury lines a two-run single to center to cut the deficit to 12-6
– Gardner gets hit by a pitch to reload the bases
– Castro drive in two with an infield single (pitcher Miguel Castro threw it away)
– McCann grounds out to second to score another run, cutting the deficit to 12-9
– Headley shoots a single to left to score yet another run, making it 12-10
– Refsnyder singles to right
– Gregorius grounds out to end the inning

Got all that? Seven runs on eight singles, an error, and a hit-by-pitch. No lead is safe in Coors Field, but geez, it’s not like the Yankees were ripping line drive after line drive that inning. There were definitely a few softly hit but well-placed singles in there. Hey, sometimes that’s all it takes. It also helps that Colorado’s bullpen is really bad.

The Rockies got another run back in the bottom of the eighth — they scored in the next half-inning each time the Yankees scored, which is annoying as hell — when Carlos Gonzalez launched a bomb of a home run off Andrew Miller. It was a no-doubter. Rockies closer Carlos Estevez retired the side in order in the ninth with a 13-10 lead.

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Leftovers
Every Yankee in the starting lineup had at least one hit except McCann and Eovaldi. In fact, every starter had at least two hits except McCann, Eovaldi, and Gardner. Gardner singled and was hit by a pitch. McCann drew a walk. The Yankees put 20 runners on base and scored scored ten runs. And lost. By multiple runs. The worst.

After facing Justin Wilson and Shane Greene last series, the Yankees got a look at two more ex-Yankees on Tuesday. Boone Logan and Chad Qualls combined for a scoreless seventh inning. Logan retired Ellsbury (strikeout) and Gardner (ground out). He was always over-hated while in pinstripes.

And finally, assuming my Play Indexing is correct, this is the first time the Yankees have scored ten runs in a loss since 2010. They dropped a 13-11 game to the Indians on May 29th, 2010. They blew a 9-3 lead that night.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, and ESPN for the updated standings. Also don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees won’t be in Denver very long. They’ll wrap up this quick two-game set with the Rockies on Wednesday afternoon. That’s a 3:40pm ET start. Lots of weird start times this season, huh? Ivan Nova and Chad Bettis are the scheduled starting pitchers.

DotF: Charleston clinches first postseason berth since ’05

Some promotion news:

  • 3B Miguel Andujar has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, reports Matt Kardos. That was very much expected. Andujar hit .283/.343/.474 (144 wRC+) in 58 games in his second stint with Tampa. Now comes the hard part: Double-A.
  • C Kyle Higashioka was sent from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton, so says Chad Jennings. Higashioka had a monster three weeks filling in for C Gary Sanchez, but, at the end of the day, Sanchez is the priority here, and he’s going to start behind the plate.
  • Old friend alert: OF Slade Heathcott has signed a minor league deal with the White Sox, the team announced. He was placed on their Triple-A DL. I thought Slade was going to end up with the Angels because they’re short on outfielders and Billy Eppler knows him. Alas.

Triple-A Scranton (7-5 win over Toledo)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 3-5, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 CS — 22-for-49 (.449) in his last 12 games
  • DH Nick Swisher: 0-4, 1 BB
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-3, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — 16-for-39 (.410) in eleven games since the 0-for-24 slump
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB — first time behind the plate since the broken finger
  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 0-5, 1 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 48 of 75 pitches were strikes (64%)

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