According to George King, the White Sox asked the Yankees about top catching prospect Gary Sanchez earlier this week, but talks didn’t progress far because the asking price was “far too high.” The ChiSox just lost Alex Avila to a hamstring injury and are looking to stay in the wildcard race. Also, Sanchez would be a long-term solution behind the plate.
Sanchez, 23, went into last night’s game hitting .281/.321/.487 (132 wRC+) with nine homers in 55 Triple-A games. He missed a few weeks earlier this season after taking a foul tip to the thumb and suffering a fracture. Sanchez spent one day in the big leagues a few weeks ago, serving as the DH against the White Sox, coincidentally enough. Anyway, I have three quick thoughts on this.
1. So the Yankees asked for one of the lefties, right? I’m guessing the Yankees asked the ChiSox for one of their three left-handed starters, meaning Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, or Carlos Rodon. When a team asks about one your top prospects, you ask about getting one of their best players in return. That’s how this usually works. Sale and Quintana are presumably off-limits and I’m sure the Yankees knew that. They were probably asking for Sale or Quintana, and willing to “settle” for Rodon. He’d satisfy their need for young pitching controllable beyond 2017.
2. What else do the White Sox have to offer? The White Sox don’t have a great farm system, especially with Tim Anderson now holding down the shortstop position in the big leagues. Carson Fulmer, the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft, has a 4.76 ERA (4.11 FIP) with a 13.0% walk rate in Double-A this year. His stock is down because concerns about his high-effort delivery and imprecise command are manifesting themselves in pro ball.
Here is MLB.com’s top 30 White Sox prospects, for your perusal. I don’t see anyone — or even a combination of multiple players — worth giving up Sanchez to get. Maybe I’m just a raging homer. If nothing else, that prospect list shows why the Yankees (probably) focused on the White Sox’s lefty starters. What else do they have to offer? Brett Lawrie? No thanks.
3. Sanchez is the most “untouchable” prospect the Yankees have. As far as I’m concerned, the Yankees do not have an untouchable player in their organization. They don’t have a young franchise cornerstone like Mike Trout or Francisco Lindor, and they don’t have a truly elite prospect like Lucas Giolito or Dansby Swanson. Those guys should be untouchable. Not players like Sanchez or Didi Gregorius or Aaron Judge.
That said, it would be tougher to part with some players than others, and Sanchez is one of them as a Triple-A catcher with a chance to hit in the middle of the order. Those guys are hard to find. Trading Judge would make more sense because the Yankees have a ton of outfield prospects in Double-A and Triple-A. Trading Jorge Mateo would also make more sense because he’s only in High Class-A and the Yankees have a whole bunch of other quality shortstop prospects. They only have one Sanchez though. Outfield and shortstop are positions of depth. Catcher isn’t.
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Austin Romine‘s surprisingly competency as Brian McCann‘s backup has bought the Yankees some time. They’ve been able to leave Sanchez in Triple-A so he can continue to work on his defense. He is clearly the catcher of the future, and his path to the job is pretty clear. Sanchez figures to spend next year as McCann’s understudy before taking over as the No. 1 guy in 2018 or 2019. Trading him shouldn’t be off the table, but the Yankees are right to set the price high.
Got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week, the last one before the All-Star break. As always, you can send us questions or comments at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.
Matt asks: Given the increased discussions about the Yankees being “sellers” at the deadline, is there any chance that the team takes a look at the Cubs’ Dan Vogelbach? Would a Vogelbach for Miller trade be realistic? (And yes, my trade proposal sucks—sorry if this has been asked already elsewhere!)
Vogelbach is the most likely to be traded prospect in all of baseball. Defensively, the kid is basically present day Alex Rodriguez. He’s a bad defensive first baseman who fits best at DH. The Cubs move everyone around to different positions and they haven’t even bothered to try Vogelbach, who is listed 6-foot-0 and 250 lbs., in left field. With Anthony Rizzo entrenched at first base and no DH spot in the NL, Vogelbach has no long-term place with the Cubs.
Now, his defense may stink, but boy, Vogelbach can hit. The lefty hitter owns a .301/.413/.536 (152 wRC+) line with 15 homers, a 15.4% walk rate, and a 19.6% strikeout rate in 81 Triple-A games this year. Last year he hit .272/.403/.425 (140 wRC+) in 76 Double-A games around oblique and hamstring problems. MLB.com’s scouting report praised Vogelbach because “(rather) than selling out for home runs, he controls the strike zone, makes consistent contact and uses the entire field.”
The Yankees have the DH spot available as well as a long-term opening at first base, at least until Greg Bird shows he’s back to normal following shoulder surgery, so yes, Vogelbach does seem like someone who could interest them. There’s no way I would trade Miller straight up for Vogelbach though. I’m not even sure I’d take Vogelbach as the second piece for Miller. Vogelbach for Aroldis Chapman is more realistic, but even then I’d want more. The kid can hit, but at the end of the day we’re talking about a 23-year-old DH. If he doesn’t hit, he’s useless.
Matt asks: I noticed when the International League All-Stars were announced the team included 4 Yankees: Green, Sanchez, Judge, and Gamel. This got me wondering, when was the last time the Yankees had 4 All Stars at the AAA level? Particularly, 4 All-Stars who have a change to legitimately contribute at the MLB level in the near future? It seems like the type of thing that would’ve been impossible to imagine a few years ago.
Unlike the other minor leagues, which stay within themselves and play division vs. division in the All-Star Game, the Triple-A All-Star Game is International League vs. Pacific Coast League. The Yankees and Blue Jays lead the way with four International League All-Stars each this year. Here are New York’s Triple-A All-Stars over the years:
2016: Ben Gamel, Chad Green, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez
2015: Kyle Roller, Austin Romine
2014: Jose Pirela
2013: Chris Bootcheck, Thomas Neal
2012: Juan Cedeno
2011: Jesus Montero, Jorge Vazquez, Kevin Whelan
2010: Jonathan Albaladejo, Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez
2009: Shelley Duncan, Austin Jackson, Zach Kroenke
2008: Justin Christian
2007: Shelley Duncan
Okay, I’ve gone back far enough. To answer Matt’s question: a long time. It’s been a long time since the Yankees last had four Triple-A All-Stars, nevermind four Triple-A All-Stars who were legitimate big league prospects. That 2010 class is the closest by default. Most of the guys listed above are journeymen filling out the roster.
Being selected to a Triple-A All-Star Game hardly means the player is destined for a productive big league career. For example: almost everyone listed above. It’s still cool to see the Yankees not only have legitimate prospects in Triple-A, but legitimate prospects playing well enough to make the All-Star team. That’s pretty awesome.
Joe asks: Who are the rule V candidates of note for this offseason?
The Yankees have some big time prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, including Judge and Jorge Mateo. Miguel Andujar and Luis Torrens too. The first three guys will definitely be added to the 40-man roster. I can’t imagine Torrens will be though. He’s nowhere close to ready for MLB duty, even as a sparsely used backup catcher. Some team might pick Torrens, but I doubt he’d even make it through Spring Training. This is one of those situations where the best way to keep him is to leave him unprotected, because you know he’ll be offered back.
Others eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after the season include Jake Cave, Tyler Webb, Brady Lail, Dietrich Enns, Kyle Higashioka, and Cale Coshow. Cave’s an interesting one because he’s been a Rule 5 pick once before, which means he can elect free agency rather than return to the Yankees if he doesn’t stick with his new team. I’m curious to see what the Yankees do with Cave and all their other upper level lefty hitting outfielders. They can’t all of ’em. Does the Rule 5 Draft stuff make Cave trade bait? My guess right now is Judge, Mateo, Andujar, Webb, Higashioka, and Cave (assuming he isn’t traded) get protected. No one else.
Update: Higashioka will be a minor league free agent after the season. Forgot about that. My bad. He’ll still be Rule 5 Draft eligible if he signs a minor league contract with the Yankees or any other team though. The Yankees could add Higashioka to the 40-man roster to prevent him from hitting free agency.
Adam asks: Why are the Cardinals not mentioned as a potential trade partner when looking at where guys like Miller or Chapman could be sent? They would seem to have a need in their bullpen and while their farm system has been ranked around the same as the Yankees’ they always seem to do a good job of player development.
Trevor Rosenthal is having a shockingly bad season — he went into yesterday with 22 walks and a 5.28 ERA (4.17 FIP) in 29 innings — while other bullpen veterans like Jonathan Broxton, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness have been hurt and/or ineffective. Korean important Seung-hwan Oh (1.67 ERA and 1.69 FIP) has been awesome and is manager Mike Matheny’s only reliable late-innings reliever right now.
The Cardinals are not catching the Cubs in the NL Central, no one is, but they remain in the wildcard mix. The bullpen is an obvious place to upgrade. We should definitely be talking about them more as a possible trade partner. Here’s their MLB.com top 30 prospects list, if you want to look that over. I love righty Jack Flaherty, have since the 2014 draft (he was said to be unsignable, but the Cardinals were able to buy him away from UNC), and I’d want him in any trade involving one of the big three relievers. Catcher Carson Kelly and (injured) lefty Marco Gonzales are also personal faves.
Mary asks: Why doesn’t MLB have something similar to the NFL draft scouting combine? I realize that some teams are still playing such as in the College World Series, but what about moving the draft a little later and having a scouting combine for teams to get a look at the players in that kind of environment? Do you think it will ever happen?
There has been talk about doing something like this for the top 200 draft prospects per the MLB Scouting Bureau. Those guys are already subject to performance-enhancing drug tests. The scheduling is difficult because, like you said, the college baseball season is still going on. Plus the high school season usually ends a few weeks before the draft, so you’d be expecting kids to come in when they’re not in midseason form.
I’m not sure how much useful information teams can gain from a scouting combine anyway. Are they going to change the scouting reports they’ve been building for years just because a guy hits few batting practice homers or runs a 4.4 40? If so, a combine might do more harm than good. Baseball’s much different than football. At the NFL combine teams are looking at players who will be on their roster next year. Baseball draft picks are years away.
Daniel asks: I know its way too early, but care to guess the Yankees starting 9 position players and top 3 SP for Charleston next year? There seems to be at least 10 actual position player prospects in the 3 rookie league teams alone.
Thanks to the 2014-15 international free agent haul and the last two drafts, it looks like the 2017 Low-A Charleston River Dogs will be the most exciting minor league affiliate we’ve seen in a very, very long time. Here’s an extremely preliminary roster:
Catcher: Luis Torrens
First Base: Drew Bridges (?)
Second Base: Hoy Jun Park (repeating the level)
Shortstop: Wilkerman Garcia
Third Base: Dermis Garcia
Outfield: Estevan Florial, Blake Rutherford, Isiah Gilliam, Leonardo Molina
Starting Pitchers: Drew Finley, Nick Nelson, Austin DeCarr, Jeff Degano (?)
First base is the only position where it looks like the River Dogs won’t have a really good prospect, assuming Park is held back. (Nick Solak will almost certainly start with High-A Tampa.) I suppose the Yankees could move Gilliam back to first base, the position he played as an amateur, but he’s doing well in the outfield right now. Those four outfielders will do the “rotate among the three outfield spots plus DH” thing the Yankees have going on in Triple-A Scranton right now.
Obvious caveat: a lot can change over the next nine months. Guys will get hurt, traded, held back in Extended Spring Training, all sorts of stuff. As it stands right now, it looks like that group of players will head to Charleston next season. I’m sure the actual finished product will be different, perhaps substantially so.
Anonymous asks: I know you’re pretty high on Tyler Wade, & your recaps often mention how he’s holding his own offensively at a young age in AA, but have you noticed his soaring error total lately? He’s up to 19(!) as of 7/4. I know minor league error totals can be high, but is there any concern here?
Wade is now up to 20 errors in 81 games: five in 27 games at second and 15 in 54 games at short. Last season Wade made 35 errors in 124 total games, so he’s more or less on the same pace. I don’t worry too much about minor league error totals though because these are minor leaguers. They’re still learning the game and they’re going to make mistakes. Also, the fields aren’t as well-groomed as MLB fields, so there are lots of tricky hops and things like that.
MLB.com’s scouting report says Wade has the “quick feet and hands to go with solid arm strength” necessary for shortstop, so the tools are there. Is he going to be a Gold Glover? Probably not. But he can play the position. Wade has close to no power — it’s 30 power, not true 20 power on the 20-80 scouting scale — but he’s a lefty hitter who makes contact (16.2 K%), knows the strike zone (12.8 BB%), can run (16-for-20 in steal attempts), and can play short. He’s doing all of that as a 21-year-old in Double-A, where he’s more than three years younger than the average Eastern League player. That’s a really good prospect. If I were another team with a hole at shortstop, I’d be looking to trade for Wade to be a stopgap the next few years.
Dustin asks: Now that he’s DFA’d by the Indians, should the Yanks bring Joba back?
My initial reaction was nah, why bother? Joba Chamberlain hasn’t been all that good for about five years now. That said, the bar he has to clear is “better than Anthony Swarzak,” so yeah. Maybe it is worth it. Joba had a 2.25 ERA (3.82 FIP) with a 22.0% strikeout rate and a 13.4% walk rate in 20 innings with the Tribe after pitching to a 4.28 ERA (4.36 FIP) from 2012-15. Has anything changed? Did he learn a new pitch or improve his command, anything like that? Glossing over the numbers, the answer seems to be no. Same old Joba. There’s nothing wrong with bringing him back on a minor league deal, but when it comes to the MLB roster, I say roll with Nick Goody and Johnny Barbato first.
Jeff asks: Chase Headley is slashing .297/.369/.494 with a 129 wRC+ since he hit his first HR on May 12th. Do you think this is sustainable for him, or just an outlier similar to his 41 wRC+ prior to this run?
Another outlier, and that’s coming from a Headley fan. The real Headley is somewhere between the 41 wRC+ and 129 wRC+, though closer to the latter. A year ago Headley hit .259/.324/.369 (91 wRC+), and ZiPS pegged him for .251/.328/.392 (98 wRC+) this year. That’s pretty much exactly who I think he is. A bit below league average offensively and above-average defensively. Headley’s been awesome the last few weeks. I expect him to level off and settle in a little south of league average in the second half.
Steve asks: How bout a buy-low candidate in someone like Patrick Corbin either at the trade deadline or in the off season? I think I remember at one point he was included in one of your articles as the type of pitcher the Yankees go for with his peripherals. Also, do not exactly trust the D-Backs to be putting him in the best position to succeed based on their track record. Interesting candidate or not worth the trouble?
I’ve always liked Corbin and felt validated when he had his breakout 2013 season (3.41 ERA and 3.43 FIP). Then he blew out his elbow the next spring and needed Tommy John surgery. Go figure. Corbin, 26, had a 3.60 ERA (3.35 FIP) in 85 innings after returning last year, but so far this year he has a 4.90 ERA (5.05 FIP) in 101 innings. His strikeouts (16.9%) are down while both his walks (8.2%) and homers (1.51 HR/9) are up. That’s … bad.
Corbin’s stuff has bounced back well from Tommy John surgery. He’s still throwing in the low-90s and using his slider and changeup as much as ever. It’s not uncommon for location to be off following elbow surgery, though it seems Corbin’s command was fine a year ago. He’s also going to be a free agent after the 2018 season, so he wouldn’t be a super long-term rotation addition. Corbin’s someone who is worth a deeper analysis outside a mailbag setting. For now, I’ll call my interest “limited.”
Dave asks: Does a suspension of this type (i.e. a violation of team policy as opposed to, say, a drug suspension) hurt Mateo’s trade value?
I don’t think so. Other clubs will cite the suspension (“makeup concerns”) as a reason to talk down Mateo’s value when negotiating with the Yankees, but has his value as a player changed? No. Mateo’s still the same guy on the field, and teams have shown time and time again they will put up with a player who is a jerk (or worse) as long as he can play, and Mateo can play. If no club is willing to pay full price to get Mateo, that’s fine, the Yankees can keep the dynamic top 25-ish overall prospect.
Alex asks: My question is do you think it’s the right decision for Judge to hit in the AAA HR derby? Will it mess up his swing right as he’s getting hot and starting to strike out less?
We hear about this every year. One or two players who participate in the Home Run Derby slump in the second half, and inevitably it gets blamed on the Derby rather than just baseball being baseball. Pick eight players at random and chances are one or two of them will have down second half. That’s just baseball. If one night of glorified batting practice screws up Judge’s swing so much that he can’t hit the rest of the season, then he’s not going to amount to much anyway. The Home Run Derby is a total non-issue to me.
A mismatch of a game actually ended up much differently than expected. The Indians, the hottest team in AL with one of their best starters on the mound, lost to the Yankees, a meh team with an Ivan Nova starting. Hey, you can’t predict baseball. Yes, the Yankees won but it was a bit of a struggle at times – not that you should expect an easy win against a team like Cleveland anyways.
Not a promising start
After allowing homers in each of his first nine starts, Nova didn’t give up any versus the Padres his last start out. How about that?
Tonight, however, he went back to the familiar routine of giving up dingers. In the third, Nova allowed a leadoff dinger to Tyler Naquin, one of the best AL rookies this year. Two batters later, Jason Kipnis followed with a solo dinger of his own. 2-0 Indians. Both pitches were just about the same and very hittable – a spillover two-seamer that just happened to be located right on the middle of the plate. Now that is a formula for failure.
After allowing two big ones tonight, Nova has a HR/9 rate of 1.69. No, that is not nice. The 2011 A.J. Burnett had a 1.47 HR/9 and that is still pretty darn bad. Meanwhile, Trevor Bauer was putting up zeros (well, he did allow a hit during the span) for the first four innings of the game. It didn’t last too much longer.
Runs??? What is this sorcery?
Didi Gregorius hit a solo HR in the fifth inning. It wasn’t one of those Yankee Stadium cheapies critics have been bickering about. It was absolutely crushed into the right field seats. There wasn’t any doubt about it off his bat. That homer bumped Gregorius’ isolated power go up to .160, which is pretty darn great for a shortstop. His slash line? .296/.323/.456. I mean, yes please.
After that homer, Chase Headley and Rob Refsnyder hit back-to-back singles to keep the pressure on. After a Jacoby Ellsbury pop out, Brett Gardner drove in Headley with a grounder single up the middle, 2-2 tie. Carlos Beltran walked to load the bases but Brian McCann flew out to the end frame.
The Yankees had another scoring chance in the sixth. With one out, Starlin Castro and Didi hit a back-to-back single to create another RISP situation. Headley followed it up with a single to right field that had a chance to bring in Castro. However, he was called out by the HP umpire Dan Bellino. The Yankee bench begged to differ. They called for an instant replay and the call overturned – New York went ahead 3-2.
But wait! There’s more! With runners on second and third, Refsnyder hit a sac fly to drive in another and Ellsbury followed it up with an RBI single to make it 5-2. Who would’ve guessed we’d see this kind of offensive outburst (well, “outburst” used relatively here) tonight against Bauer, who had a 3.02 ERA coming into the game?
Oh yes, this is the 2016 Yankees and not a lot of things come easy for the team. With a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of sixth, Nova got into quick trouble with back-to-back doubles from Carlos Santana and Kipnis putting two runners on scoring position. (It is indeed curious how Santana didn’t score though) With Francisco Lindor batting, Nova threw a curveball that just missed way off McCann’s target, inducing a wild pitch and letting Santana score easily. 5-3 Yankees. The young shortstop hit a grounder to first and Mark Teixeira grabbed it, kept Kipnis in check on third, and stepped on first for the first out. Girardi brought in Dellin Betances to face Napoli and beyond.
Nova’s line – 5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 6 K’s and 2 HR’s – leave something to be desired but to be fair, he was doing decently (besides the two HR third) up to the sixth. There were times that it seemed like he was getting weak contact at will and there were those where his pitches just getting nailed. Such is the life of following Ivan Nova.
Anyways, Betances induced a grounder to third from Mike Napoli and the Yankee infield let the run score, but also took an out at first. 5-4 Yankees. Dellin went on to pitch a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts and Miller followed it up with a perfect frame with one strikeout. This is going to be another easy win finished by the bullpen, right? Well…
The Yankees went with Chapman to close out the game. What else is new? This ninth inning was a grinder though. Napoli led off with a walk on a 3-2 count. The next hitter, Jose Ramirez, struck out on 6 pitches. Juan Uribe followed it up with a battle though – an 8-pitch AB that he won with a base hit.
With one out, two runners on, there was a distinct chance that the game would be tied pretty soon. Up next was Rajai Davis, who hit a liner to the outfield that looked like a game-tying hit off the bat, but luckily for the Yanks, it was hit right at Gardner. Two outs. That deep breaths, but don’t get comfortable. Up next was Tyler Naquin, who had homered earlier in the game and has been one of the catalysts in the red-hot Indians lineup.
Naquin hit a hard grounder that Teixeira stopped but did not field cleanly. Castro picked it up, tossed it to Chapman, who seemed to be having an even race with Naquin to the bag. Initially the umps called him safe, loading the bases with two outs. However, Joe Girardi thought that there was a reason to double-check it via instant replay. Upon further review, Chapman just barely beat Naquin to the bag, confirming Girardi’s call. And such was the game: the one that closed out so anticlimactically but no Yankee fans left complaining – a 5-4 New York win.
Box Score, Highlights, WPA and Standings
The Yankees continue their series in Cleveland tomorrow. Youngster Chad Green goes up against former AL Cy Young and 2016 All Star Corey Kluber. I don’t know about you but I’d definitely watch this one.
1B Kevin Cornelius, who seemed to be hitting a homer a day for Rookie Pulaski, has been bumped up to High-A Tampa, the team announced. He hit six homers in 13 games with Pulaski, including five in his last seven games.
Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Buffalo)
- CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 K
- LF Aaron Judge: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing)
- 1B Ike Davis: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB
- DH Tyler Austin: 2-4, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI — 17-for-53 (.321) with seven doubles and five homers in his last 13 games, and there’s an 0-for-12 slump mixed in there
- RF Jake Cave: 1-4, 2 K
- RHP Diego Moreno: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 46 of 74 pitches were strikes (62%)
- LHP Tyler Webb: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 Balk, 5/1 GB/FB — 27 of 39 pitches were strikes (69%) … 52/12 K/BB in 48.2 innings
- RHP Kirby Yates: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — nine of 16 pitches were strikes
On paper, this series this is a total mismatch. The Indians have the best pitching staff in the league (3.93 runs allowed per game) while the Yankees have the third worst offense in the league (4.12 runs scored per game). With the exception of Josh Tomlin, who we won’t see this series, Cleveland’s rotation is full of power arms with wicked breaking balls. They’re mighty impressive.
So does that statistical mismatch make this a trap series? Maybe! This series could very well determine whether the Yankees are buyers or sellers at the deadline. They’re five games back of the second wildcard spot with six teams ahead of them. If they go into the All-Star any further back than that, not selling will be close to impossible to justify. Here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- LF Brett Gardner
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- 2B Starlin Castro
- SS Didi Gregorius
- 3B Chase Headley
- RF Rob Refsnyder
RHP Ivan Nova
It is cloudy and humid in Cleveland, which usually means rain is on the way. Sure enough, there are thunderstorms in the forecast overnight. It doesn’t look like it’ll be anything that interrupts the game unless they go to extra innings or something like that. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
All-Star Update: Earlier today MLB announced the eight players for this year’s Home Run Derby. None of the eight are Yankees, but hey, Robinson Cano will participate. Here’s the full Home Run Derby squad.
It’s hard to believe, but this is the final series of the first half. The season seems to go by a little quicker each year, doesn’t it? The Yankees wrap up the first half and this ten-game road trip with four games in Cleveland against the first place Indians. The Indians are the only AL team the Yankees have yet to play this season.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Indians did something yesterday they had not done all season: lose to the Tigers. They were a perfect 11-0 (!) against Detroit prior to yesterday’s 12-2 loss. The Tribe have gone 2-3 since their franchise record 14-game winning streak ended Sunday. Yes, franchise record. The Indians have been around for 115 years and that was their longest winning streak ever. Crazy, right? Anyway, Cleveland is 51-33 with a +79 run differential overall. They have a big lead in the AL Central and the second best record in the AL behind the Rangers.
Offense & Defense
The Indians are the most balanced team in the AL. They don’t have a glaring weakness like, say, the Rangers’ bullpen or the Orioles’ rotation. Manager Terry Francona oversees a very good offense, one that is scoring 4.87 runs per game with a team 101 wRC+. They’re doing that even though OF Michael Brantley, their best hitter, has been limited to eleven games by offseason shoulder surgery. He had surgery, hurried back, played eleven games, then felt renewed soreness. Brantley is on the DL working his way back now. He won’t return this series.
Manager Terry Francona uses platoon leadoff hitters; OF Rajai Davis (109 wRC+) bats first against lefties while DH Carlos Santana (124 wRC+) does it against righties. Yes, the slow-footed Santana bats leadoff. It’s all about that OBP (.352), baby. 2B Jason Kipnis (103 wRC+) bats second, SS Francisco Lindor (114 wRC+) bats third, and 1B Mike Napoli (105 wRC+) bats fourth. Lindor is already a megastar. The only position players I would take over him right now are Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Kris Bryant. He’s that good.
RF Lonnie Chisenhall (121 wRC+) plays everyday and so does UTIL Jose Ramirez (113 wRC+), who moves all around and seems to play a different position each day. CF Tyler Naquin (155 wRC+) and OF Abe Almonte (8 PA) join Davis and Ramirez as part of a big outfield platoon in left and center. C Yan Gomes (37 wRC+) and C Chris Gimenez (35 wRC+) handle catching duties. 3B Juan Uribe (67 wRC+) has been better of late, mostly because the Indians stopped playing him every single day. He’s a part-timer at this point of his career.
The Indians have improved their defense tremendously over the last year by calling up Lindor and Naquin, and adding Davis, Napoli, and Uribe. Kipnis is okay at second and Chisenhall will have his “third baseman playing right field” moments, but otherwise this team can catch the ball. Gomes and Gimenez are opposites behind the plate. Gomes is a great thrower and a poor pitch-framer while Gimenez is a poor thrower and a great framer.
Thursday (7:10pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
It seems Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, is starting to figure things out at the big league level. The 25-year-old has a 3.02 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 95.1 innings spread across 12 starts and seven relief appearances. He’s getting way more grounders (50.6%) than ever before, leading to a career low home run rate (0.66 HR/9). His strikeout (22.3%) and walk (8.4%) rates are in line with his career norms, and his platoon split is tiny. Bauer is getting all those ground balls by throwing his mid-90s sinker more than ever before. It’s his main fastball now with his-90s four-seamer being a secondary offering. It used to be the other way around, four-seamer before sinker. Bauer’s wide array of offspeed pitches includes an upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. For a while the knock on Bauer was that he had too many pitches — he used to throw a slider, a splitter, and even a screwball — and would get burned on his sixth or seventh or eighth best pitch. He’s cut down on his arsenal and is sticking to his five best pitches now.
Friday (7:10pm ET): RHP Chad Green (No vs. CLE) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (vs. NYY)
Two years ago Kluber, who earlier today was named to the All-Star team as an injury replacement for Marco Estrada, deservingly won the AL Cy Young award. He had a 2.44 ERA (2.65 FIP) in 235.2 innings that year. Last year those numbers jumped to 3.49 ERA (2.97 FIP) in 222 innings, and this year he owns a 3.79 ERA (2.96 FIP) in 114 innings. The ERA keeps going up even though his peripherals are off the charts good. Weird. Kluber, 30, has excellent underlying stats across the board — 24.9% strikeouts, 5.9% walks, 48.9% grounders, and 0.71 HR/9 — and lefties have had slightly more success against him than righties. In the past his platoon split was much bigger. The Klubot is a low-to-mid-90s sinker pitcher who uses a four-seam fastball at similar velocity in get-me-over situations. His low-80s slider is not of this Earth …
… and he also throws upper-80s cutters and low-80 changeups. Kluber has filthy, filthy stuff. His combination of raw stuff and command is in the top 1% of all pitchers.
Saturday (4:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (vs. NYY)
Salazar had a strong first full season as a big leaguer last year, and he’s taken his game to another level this year. The 26-year-old has thrown 99 innings of 2.36 ERA (3.30 FIP) ball, though his walk rate (11.0%) is way high. It was much better last season (7.0%). Not sure what’s going on there. Salazar’s strikeout (28.3%), grounder (47.5%), and homer (0.73 HR/9) numbers are all very good though, plus he has a big reverse split. That’s thanks to his nasty upper-80s changeup, which falls right off the table. Salazar sits in the mid-90s with his fastball — he’s hit 99.4 mph this season, per PitchFX — and also has a mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball. Believe it or not, he only throws the two breaking balls roughly 10% of the time combined. He’s a fastball/changeup pitcher. Salazar made the All-Star team this year and is a candidate to start for the AL. He’s been that good.
Sunday (1:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
A hamstring injury shelved Carrasco for about six weeks earlier this season, but, when healthy, he’s had a 2.47 ERA (3.90 FIP) in eleven starts and 69.1 innings. He’s been weirdly homer prone (1.30 HR/9), which is unlike the rest of his career. Carrasco’s strikeout (25.1%), walk (6.6%), and grounder (53.3%) rates are all marvelous. This is some rotation the Indians have. The 29-year-old Carrasco has no platoon split because he used five pitches regularly, led by his mid-90s four-seamer and sinker. Both his upper-80s slider and low-90s changeup are legitimate put-away pitches, and he’ll also throw a bunch of mid-80s curveballs per start too. Nasty, nasty stuff.
The Indians played a 19-inning game against the Blue Jays last Friday and they’re still trying to get their bullpen in order. They’ve been shuttling guys in and out on almost a daily basis since to make sure they have fresh arms. Bauer, who was scheduled to start the day after the 19-inning game, came out of the bullpen and threw five innings that game, then Cleveland went with a bullpen game the next day. These guys are definitely looking forward to the All-Star break. Here is Francona’s relief crew:
Closer: RHP Cody Allen (3.03 ERA/3.73 FIP)
Setup: RHP Bryan Shaw (4.41/5.01)
Middle: RHP Tommy Hunter (3.48/3.22), RHP Jeff Manship (2.13/4.67), RHP Zach McAllister (5.40/4.93), RHP Dan Otero (1.36/2.32)
Long: RHP Mike Clevinger (7.71/5.50), LHP T.J. House (1.2 IP)
The Yankees agreed to sign Hunter over the winter, you may remember. Then he failed his physical and the team walked away from the two-year agreement. Hunter instead had to settle for a cheap one-year deal with the Tribe. McAllister and Otero are former Yankees who never actually played for the Yankees. New York drafted McAllister in 2006 and traded him as a prospect for Austin Kearns in 2010. Otero spent a few weeks in the organization between offseason waiver claims in 2013.
The Tigers did the Yankees a favor and worked Cleveland’s bullpen yesterday. Hunter (17 pitches), McAllister (24), House (23), and Manship (18) all pitched. No one in their bullpen comes into today having worked back-to-back games though. Our Bullpen Workload page tells you everything you need to know about the availability of Joe Girardi‘s relievers.