Yankees place Slade Heathcott on 15-day DL with quad strain, call up Ramon Flores

Slade. (Presswire)
Slade. (Presswire)

Earlier today, Joe Girardi told reporters in Oakland the Yankees will place Slade Heathcott on the 15-day DL with a Grade II quad strain. “I can tell you it’ll be longer than 15 days,” said Girardi when asked about a timetable. Ramon Flores has been called up from Triple-A Scranton to fill the roster spot.

Heathcott, 24, told reporters on Thursday that the quad has been bothering him on and off since the offseason. I guess the team sent him for tests at some point, which confirmed the Grade II strain. Chris Capuano suffered a Grade II quad strain in Spring Training and was out from early-March through mid-May, for what it’s worth. Heathcott’s not a starting pitcher who has to get stretched out though.

Girardi said that with both Heathcott and Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) on the DL, he’ll use Brett Gardner in center field more often going forward. That makes sense — Chris Young hasn’t hit for about a month now and Flores is best used in left field. Hopefully Flores gets a chance to play like Heathcott, even if he’s only the left-handed half of a left field platoon with Young.

Flores, 23, has hit .294/.389/.425 (140 wRC+) with four homers in 42 games with Triple-A Scranton this season. This will be his first taste of MLB. Donnie Collins says Flores was in the RailRiders’ lineup tonight before being scratched, so chances are he is not with the Yankees and is still traveling out west. I guess they have to play a man short tonight.

Friday Night Open Thread

Today is day two of the seven-game West Coast swing, which means another 10pm ET start. Sigh. The regular game thread will be along a little closer to game time, so, until then, talk about anything here in the open thread. The Mets are playing, MLB Network is showing a regional game, and the (hockey) Rangers are playing Game Seven of their third round matchup with the Lightning (8pm ET on NBCSN). Kind of a big deal! Go root for the Rangers while you wait for the Yankees.

2015 Draft: Ashe Russell

Ashe Russell | RHP

The 18-year-old Russell attends Cathedral High School in Indianapolis and is committed to Texas A&M. He’s been on the radar as a draft prospect for years and has consistently performed well against elite high school competition in showcase events.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs., Russell has the big frame scouts love, and he generates a ton of movement thanks to his low arm slot. His fastball sits 92-95 mph and runs all over the place, though he’s able to command it well. A hard low-80s slider that takes a sharp left turn just before it reaches the plate is his out pitch. Russell doesn’t have a changeup — he hasn’t needed one in high school — and while he’ll need one at the next level, his fastball/slider combo will always be his break and butter. There’s some concern Russell won’t handle lefties well enough to remain in the rotation long-term.

MLB.com, Baseball America, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Russell as the 14th, 17th, and 31st best prospect in the draft class in their most recent rankings, respectively. For what it’s worth, Baseball America said the Yankees were in on Russell in their second to last mock draft. The Yankees pick 16th and 30th this year and Russell’s a divisive prospect — some see a high-end starter and others see a reliever. I’m not sure if he’s someone who will still be on the board when that 30th pick comes up.

2015 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v4.0

Ponce. (Cal Poly)
Ponce. (Cal Poly)

It’s Friday, which means John Manuel of Baseball America has posted his updated mock draft. It’s free to read. You don’t need a subscription. This week Manuel has the Diamondbacks taking Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick, and that seems to be the consensus now. There is no clear top prospect this year, so the D’Backs have been in on everyone, but lately everything seems to be converging towards Swanson.

This week Manuel has the Yankees taking Cal Poly Pomona RHP Cody Ponce with their first pick, 16th overall. Here’s my profile on Ponce. The Yankees have been connected to Ponce, a big right-hander with a deep repertoire who isn’t as refined as the typical college hurler, for a few weeks now. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer loves physically huge Southern California pitchers and that’s Ponce.

With the 30th overall selection, the compensation pick for David Robertson, Manuel has the Yankees selecting California HS C Chris Betts. Here’s my profile on Betts. Like Ponce, the Yankees have been connected to Betts for several weeks now. He’s a bat first catcher with huge left-handed power, maybe the most in the draft, but he’s not a lock to stay behind the plate. It’s not impossible, Betts just has work to do defensively.

Within the write-up Manuel notes the team “wants an arm,” and while the Yankees “don’t mind dealing with tough signability … they remain unlikely to gamble with difficult medical issues.” Manuel notes they also prefer Ponce to Louisville RHP Kyle Funkhouser, who has a big arm but is tumbling down draft boards because he was missing 5-6 mph in his last start. Yikes.

Eric Jagielo in position to help the Yankees in the future … or at the trade deadline


Two years ago the Yankees had three first round picks thanks to the free agent departures of Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano. They desperately needed to add impact talent to the system at the time, and by and large they succeeded, mostly with OF Aaron Judge. Judge was the compensation pick for Swisher. LHP Ian Clarkin, the comp pick for Soriano, had a strong season in 2014 but has been dealing with elbow woes this year.

The third of those three first rounders — or really the first since it was New York’s natural first round pick — was 3B Eric Jagielo, who this year is emerging as a top power hitting prospect with Double-A Trenton. He went into yesterday’s doubleheader hitting .297/.380/.568 (166 wRC+) with an Eastern League leading nine home runs while ever so slightly cutting strikeout rate from 24.4% last year to 22.9%.

For some reason there seemed to be a sense of disappointment with Jagielo’s 2014 season, maybe because he wasn’t as overwhelmingly dominant as Judge. Jagielo, now 23, missed about a month with an oblique strain last year but otherwise hit .256/.351/.461 (132 wRC+) with a 10.6 BB% with High-A Tampa. Heck, he hit one more home run than Judge (18 to 17) in 178 fewer plate appearances.

Jagielo was supposed to join Judge in the Arizona Fall League last fall, but he took a pitch to the face in Instructional League and needed surgery to repair a fracture. Thankfully he fully recovered and is back to mashing baseballs, which is great for the Yankees. As a left-handed power hitter willing to draw walks, Jagielo is tailor made for Yankee Stadium, and he isn’t terrible far away from MLB. The second half of 2016 isn’t an unrealistic timetable.

There’s also this: Jagielo’s strong season makes him an attractive trade chip for the Yankees. Teams aren’t stupid, they make trades based on their own internal evaluations, not the player’s FanGraphs page, but Jagielo’s performance is the kind of performance that can get a player noticed and bring scouts back for another look. Offense and especially power are hard to find these days and Jagielo offers it. That he’s now doing it in Double-A instead of High-A will make him even more attractive.


Obviously Jagielo is not a perfect prospect. He doesn’t really have a position. He’s currently playing third base but his defense at the hot corner isn’t all that good, so much so that there’s at least some talk of moving him to a corner outfield spot or first base. Jagielo’s bat would play at either position though clearly he would be most valuable at third base, where the Yankees have Chase Headley in year one of his new four-year contract. Kind of a problem there.

Both Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira will be become free agents after next season, so right field and first base are opening up soon. Jagielo could be an option there. I know we’ve all kinda been earmarking those spots for Judge and 1B Greg Bird, respectively, but who knows? That’s a long time away in prospect years and lots can change. Who’s to say Jagielo won’t be the team’s best first base option in 16 months? I don’t think it’s farfetched at all.

Either way, the Yankees have lots of options with Jagielo, who is having a tremendous season to date and looks very much like the power/patience left-handed force he was expected to be at the time of the draft. They have the option of holding onto him, seeing what spots open up in the next year and change, or using him in a trade to bolster another part of the team this year since they do have Headley locked in at third base. There’s an argument to made both ways.

Personally, I think the Yankees are at a point where they should hang on to Jagielo and see how the roster shakes out. His offense could be a very welcome addition to the lineup at some point in the next two years. At the same time, they shouldn’t close the door on any trades. That would be foolish. Jagielo could net them a piece that better fits their roster going forward, say a young pitcher or middle infielder, and that’s a move they have to be open to making if the opportunity presents itself.

Right now, Jagielo is living up to his first round draft slot much like Judge, which is something the Yankees really needed given their run of (thus far) unproductive top picks from 2007-12. Jagielo’s success gives the team some options going forward, including the option to keep him and the option to use him in a trade.

Mailbag: Betances, Heathcott, Soriano, Braun, Severino

Got 13 questions in the mailbag this week. That’s a lot. Use the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar to send us questions at any time.

Dellin. (Presswire)

Jon asks: Is it possible that Dellin Betances is even better this year than last? I think most assumed that he was so historically good last year that he could not even repeat it.

It’s possible, sure. We need to see the rest of the season play out — I love Dellin as much as anyone, but I doubt he’ll maintain that 0.00 ERA and 0.0 HR/9 all season, especially considering his home park — but that’s not an unfair question. Here’s a real quick comparison of his 2014 and 2015 seasons:

2014 1.40 1.64 39.6% 7.0% 46.6% 13.0% .223 .186
2015 0.00 1.24 42.3% 11.3% 48.9% 14.6% .198 .090

The only drop there is in walk rate, so yeah, I guess we can say Betances has been better so far this year than he was last year. The important thing to me is that he got over his early season control issues and has shown he can sustain some semblance of last year’s performance. That’s pretty remarkable. Dellin had one of the best reliever seasons in history a year ago, and now he’s doing it again.

Steve asks: Conspiracy Theory: The Yankees have every intention of paying A-Rod that $6M bonus from passing Willie Mays in April. They know that by refusing to pay A-Rod, they made him a sympathetic figure who the fans have (mostly) welcomed back. Had they just paid him, he would have been vilified.

That … is a conspiracy theory, that’s for sure. If the plan all along was to pay the $6M, they would have marketed the hell out of the milestone homer to make as much money as possible. The Yankees are a for profit business, remember. They care more about making money than fans siding with A-Rod.

Jimbo asks: If the division wasn’t so close, do you think we would see Rob Refsnyder by now? I’m honestly not expecting much from this team. I think it would be more fun watching the young kids playing up here at this point.

Everyone wants to watch young kids until they play like Didi Gregorius, amirite? Anyway, yeah I’m sure the team’s handling of Refsnyder would be different if they were far out of the race. They’d have more incentive — and less to lose — to give another young player a shot. Personally, I’d much rather watch the Yankees stay in contention and try to win this year than give some young players a shot. Winning and watching meaningful games is way more fun.

Geno asks: If Didi put up a .250/.330/.375 each year, do you think the team is happy enough with that to keep his starting SS role for the rest of his team control?

I think they would take that, assuming his defensive brain farts come to an end at some point reasonably soon. I don’t think that’s a safe assumption, but let’s roll with it. The league average shortstop is hitting .248/.300/.358 (82 wRC+) this season, so a .250/.330/.375 hitter would be solidly above-average for the position. If the defense doesn’t come around, then no, the Yankees shouldn’t be happy with that production from Gregorius. But if he settles in as even an average defender with that slash line, I think they’d be thrilled.

Slade. (Presswire)
Slade. (Presswire)

Michael asks: Should they Yankees trade Slade Heathcott while his value is high, considering his injury history and our other needs for the team?

I don’t think it’ll work like that. Other teams could have signed Heathcott this offseason and passed. I don’t think the last two months have changed many minds about his long-term outlook, especially since tools and performance were never a question, it was health. If I was another team, I think the most I’d give up for Slade is a similar busted former top prospect trying to stick around.

That said, maybe a deal like that does make sense for the Yankees. They have plenty of outfielders at Triple-A and Double-A — if they trade Heathcott, they could simply call up Ramon Flores and put him in left with Brett Gardner in center — so perhaps there’s an opportunity to flip Slade for a pitcher or a middle infielder. Something like that. I don’t think his trade value has climbed significantly these last two months, but maybe there is an opportunity to use him to strengthen another part of the team.

Hank asks: Looking at the Brooks data on release points, Nathan Eovaldi‘s release point seems to vary quite a bit by pitch type (for example his horizontal release on his Curve is ~6″ different than his fastball). Could this be one of the reasons batters hit him so well – they can get a good idea of pitch type by his release point? Guys like Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia seem to have much tighter release points between pitch type.

Release points tend to be different for different pitches but not to that extreme. Six inches is a pretty big deal. Here are Eovaldi’s release points from 2013-15. I prefer FanGraphs for these because their graphs are easier to read. Click the image for a larger view:

Nathan Eovaldi release points

First of all, Eovaldi’s overall release point has risen a few inches this year and is back to where it was in 2013, for whatever reason. That could be a PitchFX/ballpark issue — he’s on a new mound and we don’t have a big sample size, so little inconsistencies like this can happen.

You can see the difference in release points between his fastball (baby blue) and curveball (green), though Eovaldi has only thrown his curveball 11.5% of the time this year. The difference between his fastball and slider (purple) might be more relevant since those are his two main pitches. (He throws his fastball 54.6% of the time and his slider 27.0% of the time.) There’s a difference in release point there, not a huge one, but a difference nonetheless, and perhaps that plays a role in his hittability. Hitters might be reading the pitch out of his hand because of the different release points. We can’t say that for certain, but it could definitely be a factor. Nice catch.

Steve asks: With the middle relief looking not all that hot lately, would taking a flier on Rafael Soriano make sense?

Yeah I think so. Assuming he comes really cheap — what’s he looking at now, one year and $2M if he’s lucky? — it’s never a bad idea to add a veteran end-game reliever, especially with David Carpenter showing no signs of coming around. I don’t think this is a “they need to sign him today!” situation, the Yankees do have bullpen depth, but if MFIKY will sign cheap and is okay being (at best) the seventh inning guy, why not? He’s not the Soriano we saw a few years ago, he has declined some, but it would be so low risk. If he blows up, big deal. The Yankees would be right back where they started.

Bob asks: Things seem bleak right now, but can anything really compare to 1965 in terms of a Yankee team falling off a cliff? World Series to last place in one year, and with a reasonably good looking roster? I realize most RAB readers are too young to remember those days, but that seems to be the team one needs to refer to when perspective is needed. Thoughts?

This was sent in when the Yankees were in the middle of that whole ten losses in eleven games mess, as you can tell from the tone of Bob’s question. Here are five largest winning percentage decreases from one year to the next in team history:

Seasons Win% Drop Notes
1924-25 0.138 89 wins, 2nd place to 69 wins, 7th place
1964-65 0.136 99 wins, lost WS to 77 wins, 6th place
1939-40 0.131 106 wins, won WS to 88 wins, 3rd place
1998-99 0.099 Best team ever to 97 wins, won WS (lol)
1943-44 0.097 98 wins, won WS to 83 wins, 3rd place

I wasn’t around back then but yeah, the drop from 1964-65 is often cited as the worst year-to-year collapse in franchise history. The Yankees won 17 pennants and ten World Series titles from 1947-64, and still had Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, and others in 1965. They suddenly got bad and stayed bad — they didn’t return to the postseason until 1976. They were bad for a while. Legitimately bad. The Yankees nowadays are just mediocre.

Since I have the spreadsheet open, the best year-to-year improvement in team history was 1925-26, so the worst winning percentage drop in Yankees history was followed immediately by the biggest improvement (+0.143). The second biggest improvement? That would be 1926-27, the following season (+0.123). Here’s the team’s win total from 1921-28: 98, 94, 98, 89, 69, 91, 110, 101. One of those things is not like the others.

Mitch asks: Isn’t Ryan Braun a good a trade target? The Yankees need a middle of the order bat, they have the money to eat most of the contract, and they have the prospect depth to make a trade. Obviously he’s an injury concern, but so is the entire team. What would it take to get him?

Braun is hitting again (12 HR and 132 wRC+) this year, probably because he finally had the nerve issue in his thumb surgically repaired this past offseason after playing with it for nearly two years. He’s not back to where he was in his prime, but he’s still productive. That said, Braun’s contract is the kind of contract I think the Yankees need to avoid. He’ll turn 32 in November and his six-year, $105M extension doesn’t kick in until next year. He’s got negative defensive value and it’s hard to think his production will do anything but go down from here on out. I don’t even know where the Yankees would play Braun at this point. Play him in left field until Jacoby Ellsbury returns and then what? The Yankees could use another bat, sure, but I don’t think taking on six and a half years of 31-year-old Ryan Braun is the answer either. That’s the kind of move that put the team where they are today.

Jim asks: Thoughts on this statement: David Wright is Don Mattingly.

Interesting! Both bonafide homegrown stars in New York whose best chance to be a major piece of a contending club came early in their careers. Mattingly’s career was sabotaged by back problems, and now Wright is going through something similar with his back trouble. And Mattingly had been relegated to complementary player status by time the Yankees were ready to win again. The same may be true with Wright. Thus far the middle of Wright’s career has been more productive than Mattingly’s:
Source: FanGraphsDavid Wright, Don Mattingly

Wright found that second gear for another few years at age 28 while Mattingly petered out. Depending on the severity of his back problems, the end of Wright’s career may be more productive than the end of Mattingly’s. There are definitely similarities though. They were both on the Hall of Fame track before injuries set in and ruined things.

Quintin asks: What level of prospect would Betances return in a trade? This is just a hypothetical question.

I’m not even sure. Guys like Betances — an elite reliever with four and a half years of team control remaining — never get traded. Craig Kimbrel was traded with four years of control remaining and he netted a top pitching prospect (Matt Wisler) and an interesting secondary prospect (Jordan Paroubeck). That’s about the only similar trade we can reference. (The Melvin Upton for Cameron Maybin/Carlos Quentin part of the trade was basically a two-way salary dump.) Kimbrel had a longer track record than Betances but was also substantially more expensive during those four years of control. I’m not sure how to value Dellin in a trade. Highly, obviously, but how highly?

Baez. (Presswire)
Baez. (Presswire)

Mark asks: Would Luis Severino be enough to swap with the Cubs for Javier Baez?

I don’t think so. I’d want more if I was the Cubs. Severino is a really good pitching prospect, but he’s not elite, and several other clubs could match or exceed that offer. (Ahem, Mets.) Baez really struggled in his MLB debut last year, I mean really struggled (51 wRC+ and 41.5 K%), but he’s only 22 and has elite bat speed/power potential. The tools are off the charts. Baez does have more bust potential than the typical high-end prospect because he has no plate discipline, sure, but is it higher than that of a young pitcher who generates most of his mid-90s velocity with his arm? The Cubs are probably thinking more along the lines of Noah Syndergaard for Baez. That seems more appropriate.

Alex asks: Thoughts on the Yankees making a play for Arismendy Alcantara? He’s pretty clearly extraneous on the Cubs and seems to have a pretty dynamic bat despite the high K totals.

I like Alcantara. He’s one of those players I just like for no reason in particular. He’s another guy like Baez who has really struggled during his brief time as a big leaguer (63 wRC+ and 31.3 K%), but he’s consistently hit in the minors and has both some power and a lot of speed. Alcantara is only 23 and he can play almost anywhere — he’s played all over the infield and outfield in his career. Severino for Alcantara is more realistic than Severino for Baez, though I’m not sure I’d do that if I was the Yankees.