DotF: Beltran singles in second rehab game; Judge homers in Triple-A

Triple-A Scranton (8-7 win over Louisville in eleven innings)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-6, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 K, 1 SB
  • 2B Jose Pirela: 4-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 E (both throwing) — had been 2-for-12 (.167) since being sent down
  • LF Ramon Flores: 2-3, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 BB
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
  • 1B Greg Bird: 0-5
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 47 of 81 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Wilking Rodriguez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — eight of 13 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • RHP Chris Martin: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — seven of 12 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K — eight of 15 pitches were strikes (53%) … he’s allowed seven runs in two innings since being sent down
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — just one of his dozen pitches was a ball … 67/14 K/BB in 46.1 innings

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Thursday Night Open Thread

Just one more night left in the All-Star break. The Yankees and every other team returns to action tomorrow — Robinson Cano, Jesus Montero and the rest of the Mariners are coming to the Bronx for a three-game weekend set — so enjoy this last night away from baseball. There’s a whole bunch of nothing going on in the world of sports today, so you’re on your own for entertainment. Have at it.

Aaron Judge ranks 13th on Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Over at ESPN (subs. req’d), Keith Law posted his midseason list of the top 50 prospects in the minor leagues today. Dodgers SS Corey Seager, the consensus top prospect in baseball following the wave of recent promotions, is predictably ranked first. Phillies SS J.P. Crawford and Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito rank second and third, respectively.

The Yankees have one prospect on Law’s midseason list, and it’s OF Aaron Judge at No. 13. Judge also ranked 13th on both Baseball America’s and Baseball Prospectus’ midseason lists last week. So I guess that makes him the consensus 13th best prospect in baseball. How about that? Here’s a snippet of Law’s blurb on Judge:

(Judge is) all muscle and is shockingly athletic for someone his size, an average or better runner with a 65 or 70 arm. Judge has good feel to hit and enormous raw power, and he commands the strike zone well, with a lower strikeout rate than you’d expect from a guy with arms this long. He covers the inner third so well that he’s more vulnerable to stuff away, but overall has kept his strikeout rate to about 25 percent or better even as he has moved up three times in the past 14 months.

RHP Luis Severino did not make Law’s midseason list but he is one of seven honorable mentions, so I guess that means he would have made his midseason top 57 prospects list. Round numbers are sexier though. Law does say Severino is “more likely” to be a reliever than starter down the road because of his delivery. Judge ranked 23rd on Law’s preseason list while Severino was on the outside looking in.

Also, in this afternoon’s chat (subs. req’d), Law said the Yankees currently have five top 100 caliber prospects in Judge, Severino, 1B Greg Bird, SS Jorge Mateo, and the just signed RHP James Kaprielian. (Not necessarily in that order.) Bird ranked 80th on his preseason list and Law says Kaprielian would be “in the 51-100 range, probably around 75th.” Also, Law said LHP Ian Clarkin “would be a top 100 guy if he were healthy,” which he’s not, obviously. Hopefully he will be one day.

2015 Midseason Review: The New-Look Bullpen With An Even Newer-Look

The Yankees put a lot of time and effort (and resources) into improving their bullpen this past offseason, and, of course, halfway through the season three-sevenths of the relief crew has changed. The bullpen to start the season is never ever the one that finishes the season. Changes are inevitable and the Yankees went through several in the first half of the 2015 campaign.

Miller. (Presswire)
Miller. (Presswire)

The Not Co-Closers

Even before Spring Training started, Joe Girardi floated the idea of using Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances as co-closers. Miller would face the tough lefties regardless of whether they batted in the eighth or ninth while Betances got the tough righties in those innings. It was a wonderful plan that made perfect sense … until Dellin showed up to Tampa unable to throw strikes. That threw a big wrench into the works.

Betances walked six batters in 9.1 innings during Grapefruit League play and looked worse than that. He couldn’t locate his fastball to save his life and his breaking ball was flat. Given his history of being, well, let’s say enigmatic in the minors, there was definitely a reason to be concerned. The Yankees were built to win close games on the back of a dominant bullpen, with Betances being the centerpiece. Suddenly that centerpiece didn’t look so reliable.

Thankfully, Dellin was able to right the ship a few appearances into the regular season, and while he hasn’t been as overwhelming as last year, he has still been one of the three or four best relievers in the game. Heck, if you’re a disciple of fWAR, he has been the best reliever in baseball by almost half-a-win. Betances earned himself another trip to the All-Star Game and even picked up a few saves when Miller hit the DL with a forearm problem.

Miller, meanwhile, has stepped into the closer’s role smoothly and been overpowering, racking up strikeouts and getting grounders. He’s a lefty, yeah, but that doesn’t matter. Righties are hitting .082/.212/.165 (.189 wOBA) against him. The four-week DL stint stunk, but Miller returned last week and looks fine aside from some obvious rust. Maybe more than one minor league rehab outing would have been a good idea.

Betances and Miller have anchored the bullpen — they are turning those late-inning leads into wins as planned, the Yankees have a .949 winning percentage when leading after seven innings compared to the .883 league average — and their numbers are straight out of a video game. I know strikeouts are up and pitching dominates today’s MLB, but geez, look at this:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9
Betances 47.0 1.53 1.69 42.5% 10.5% 48.2% 0.38
Miller 29.1 1.53 2.29 39.5% 9.2% 54.4% 0.61
Combined 76.1 1.53 1.69 41.3% 10.0% 50.7% 0.47

They’ve allowed 30 hits combined in 76.1 innings. They have a combined .194 BABIP, which is extraordinarily low, though Betances and Miller have two of the 20 best soft contact rates in baseball, and soft contact leads to lower than usual BABIPs. Maybe it won’t be that low all season, but their true talent BABIP is likely sub-.250.

Even with their higher than you’d like walk rates, Betances and Miller are putting just 0.79 runners on base per inning combined. When hitters have been lucky enough to put the ball in play against these guys, it has usually been on the ground, and the odds of it falling in for a hit are low. Aside from Dellin’s little hiccup at the start of the season, these two have been exactly what the Yankees hoped they would be this year. They’re dominating in the late innings and are critical pieces of the team’s success.

The Flop

As the Yankees overhauled their bullpen this offseason, the only notable right-hander they brought in was David Carpenter. He was supposed to be the third wheel behind Betances and Miller, handling seventh inning duties and filling in in the eighth or ninth when necessary. Carpenter had a lot of success with the Braves from 2013-14 (2.63 ERA and 2.88 FIP) and he fit the Yankees’ mold as a hard-throwing strikeout guy. It just didn’t work is planned.

More like Crapenter amirite? (Presswire)
More like Crapenter amirite? (Presswire)

The first real sign that hey, Carpenter might not work out came in Baltimore in the ninth game of the season. He started the sixth inning with a one-run lead, immediately gave up the game-tying home run, then put two more runners on base before being yanked in the eventual loss. A few weeks later Joe Girardi asked Carpenter to protect a six-run lead with three outs to go against the Blue Jays, and the inning went homer, ground ball, fly ball, walk, ground-rule double, single before Miller had to come in.

Carpenter allowed eight runs on ten hits and three walks in a span of 6.2 innings in mid-May, which pushed him into “last guy out of the bullpen” territory. Girardi gave Carpenter plenty of opportunities to right the ship — he appeared in eleven of 22 games (4.32 ERA and a .353/.410/.618 batting line against) before being designated for assignment on June 3rd. He was later traded to the Nationals for an iffy Double-A prospect.

The end result was a 4.82 ERA (5.27 FIP) in 18.2 innings with strikeout (13.4%) and walk (8.5%) rates that were way too close together. Carpenter has a lower ERA with the Nationals (1.50) but he still isn’t missing bats (16.0%), which is the real problem. This is a guy who struck out 27.4% of batters faced during his two years in Atlanta. Relievers, man. They go poof without warning all the time.

The Guy Who Doesn’t Belong Here

Carpenter’s ineffectiveness created a need for a second right-handed reliever behind Betances. Eventually, after a parade of call-ups, the Yankees settled on the guy who held that job so effectively last season: Adam Warren. Warren had been very good as a starter during the first few weeks of the season (3.59 ERA and 4.12 FIP), but Ivan Nova had come back from Tommy John surgery and CC Sabathia wasn’t going to lose his rotation spot, so back to the bullpen he went. Life ain’t fair.

Warren has thrown six innings in six relief appearances since moving to the bullpen, including 2.2 innings in his very first appearance. Girardi has used Warren like he used him last year, as a handyman capable of pitching in tight games and entering mid-inning. Warren had a little bump in the road last weekend in Boston (0.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K) but it happens. Even good relievers have bad days. Now that his time as a starter has come to an end (at least this year, most likely), Warren has joined non-LOOGYs Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson to form the bridge to Dellin and Miller.

The Long Mans

Every bullpen needs a long man, and for most of this season that long man was Esmil Rogers. And gosh, was he not good (6.27 ERA and 4.62 FIP). Rogers deserves major props for gutting through 4.2 innings in the 19-inning game against the Red Sox — he threw 81 pitches that night after throwing 35 the night before, dude bit the bullet — but he allowed 24 runs (!) and 41 base-runners (!!!) in his last 16.2 innings with the team. Egads. Rogers was dropped from both the 25-man and 40-man rosters in mid-June and is currently in Triple-A.

Chris Capuano has since taken over as the long man after coming to camp as the fifth starter. He hurt his quad, missed two months, allowed eleven runs and 22 base-runners in 12.2 innings in his first three starts back, then was moved to the bullpen. Warren basically Wally Pipp’d him. Capuano hasn’t pitched a whole lot since taking over as the long man — that’s a good thing, really — throwing just 15.2 innings across ten appearances in the team’s last 38 games. He has a 3.45 ERA (3.59 FIP) since moving to the bullpen. If you’re expected the long man to be better than that, I suggest recalibrating expectations.

Mitchell. (Presswire)
Mitchell. (Presswire)

The Revolving Door

A total of 27 different pitchers have appeared in at least one game for the Yankees already this season. 27! It was 33 all of last year and 24 all of 2013. The Yankees used 27+ pitchers once from 2009-13 (28 in 2011) and they’ve already used 27 at the All-Star break this season. And the craziest thing is that most of the team’s core pitchers have stayed healthy, with Miller’s forearm and Masahiro Tanaka‘s wrist/forearm the only exceptions.

There is no way I’m going to recap 20-something pitchers here, especially since several only threw a handful of innings (if that). So instead let’s hit on the most notable arms to come through that revolving door, listed alphabetically:

  • Jacob Lindgren: Lindgren, the team’s top draft pick last summer, was called up in late-May and posted a 5.14 ERA (8.08 FIP) in seven innings. It turned out Lindgren had been pitching with a bone spur in his elbow, so he had surgery in late-June and will miss most of the rest of the season. Disappointing!
  • Chris Martin: Martin was not only on the Opening Day roster, but Girardi showed a lot of faith in his early on as well. He even picked up a save when Betances and Miller were unavailable one night. Martin’s elbow started barking in early-May, which landed him on the DL. He hasn’t been the same since. Martin has a 5.63 ERA (2.76 FIP) in 16 innings and is currently in Triple-A.
  • Bryan Mitchell: Mitchell has been up and down a few times but has finally seemed to stick in a short relief role. He has a 2.89 ERA (2.11 FIP) with nine strikeouts in 9.1 innings. PitchFX says he’s averaging 96.6 mph with his fastball and 92.6 mph with his cutter. That’ll do. Mitchell seems to be carving out a role as a middle innings flamethrower but could wind up in Triple-A if the club acquires an arm.
  • Chase Whitley: Poor Ace Whitley. The Yankees sent him to Triple-A this year so he could be available as their spot sixth starter, then he got the call when Tanaka landed on the DL. In his fourth start with the team, Whitely blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. For shame. He had a 4.19 ERA (4.53 FIP) in 19.1 innings before getting hurt.

The Yankees cycled through almost their entire Triple-A bullpen at one point as they looked for someone to emerge as a reliable righty reliever. Well, not really. A lot of those guys were called up simply because the team needed a fresh arm at some point. The Yankees opted to keep Lindgren over Carpenter, and now it looks like Mitchell will be given an opportunity to stick around in the second half. Rogers, Carpenter, and Martin were all on the Opening Day roster and have since been replaced by Capuano, Mitchell, and Warren. So it goes.

2015 Midseason Review: The Non-LOOGYs

The Yankees overhauled their bullpen this offseason, so much so that just one reliever was on both the 2014 and 2015 Opening Day rosters. That, of course, was Dellin Betances. The Yankees had a new closer, a new long reliever, and a new middle innings crew to start this season, and they were heavy on left-handers for the first time in years. Two of those southpaws haven proven to be way more than the average Lefty One Out GuY.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Lefty They’ve Been Waiting For

By my count the Yankees made five trades involving bonafide MLB caliber players this past offseason, and the very first one sent Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates for lefty Justin Wilson. To date it has been a perfect win-win trade — the Pirates got a starting catcher to replace Russell Martin while the Yankees beefed up their bullpen and cleared the backup job for John Ryan Murphy. Both teams have to be pleased with the return halfway through the 2015 season.

Wilson came to New York with a reputation for throwing hard and not always throwing strikes, which is pretty much exactly what he’s done during his first three and a half months in pinstripes. His fastball has averaged 95.0 mph this season — only the inhuman Aroldis Chapman (99.6 mph!) has a higher average fastball velocity among lefty relievers — and he’s walked 10.9% of batters faced. Last year those numbers were 95.0 mph and 11.7%, respectively.

The walks are annoying, but Wilson excels at missing bats (24.8 K% in 2014 after 23.8 K% last year) and keeping the ball on the ground (50.0 GB% after 51.3 GB% last year). That’s a good combination. I’ll take my chances with a guy who misses bats and gets grounders, even if he walks a few too many. Wilson is also effective against righties, which is huge. Righties are hitting .159/.266/.246 (.240 wOBA) against him with a 26.6 K% and a 53.2 GB%. That’s after Wilson held righties to a .279 wOBA last year and a .258 wOBA the year before.

The success against righties is not new and Joe Girardi is aware of that — he’s used Wilson as a full-inning reliever for weeks now. That wasn’t the case in April because Wilson walked way too many righty batters out of the gate, but Andrew Miller‘s injury forced Girardi to use Wilson for full innings and he’s responded in a big way. He has a 1.23 ERA (2.76 FIP) with 27.2 K% and a manageable 8.6 BB% in 22 innings over the last two months. That works!

With all due respect to Boone Logan, who had some solid years for the Yankees, Wilson is the kind of left-handed reliever the club has been trying to acquire since Mike Stanton left as a free agent. Hard-throwing, strikeout and ground ball heavy, able to get righties out. No one’s perfect, he does walk too many, but otherwise Wilson has every quality you want in a late-inning reliever. He’s a legitimate setup man. He just happens to throw lefty.

Chasin’ Shreve

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The last of those five offseason trades brought the relatively unknown Chasen Shreve to the Yankees in January. I’m a total baseball nerd and even I hadn’t heard of Shreve at the time of the trade. The Yankees decided it was time to stop waiting for Manny Banuelos, so they turned him into Shreve and David Carpenter, the latter of whom flopped spectacularly in pinstripes.

Shreve was on the verge of getting pushed out of baseball last year when he reinvented himself as a hard(er) thrower, and while the extra velocity is nice, he’s emerged as a trusted reliever in New York because of his split-finger fastball. That’s the pitch that has allowed him to post a 2.02 ERA (3.27 FIP) with 26.8 K% in 35.2 innings this year, his first extended taste of big league action. Shreve doesn’t have great walk (9.4%) or ground ball (39.5%) numbers, but they haven’t hurt him yet.

Like Wilson, Shreve has been ultra-effective against right-handed hitters this season. Wilson does it with velocity, Shreve with the splitter. Righties have put up a .141/.224/.260 (.215 wOBA) batting line with a 23.3 K% against Shreve so far this year, and Girardi has regularly brought him into games to put out fires. Ten of his last 21 appearances have come mid-inning with men on base. Eight of those appearances have come with the score separated by no more than two runs. Shreve in inherited 15 runners in those eight games and one scored. One!

As Katie explained recently, Shreve’s splitter has been a difference-maker for him and the Yankees. There was a question of whether he would even make the team out of Spring Training — Shreve had a 4.76 ERA in camp and was especially yucky in late-March — and then once the season started, he really didn’t have a role. Well he did have a role, he was the last guy out of the bullpen, but Shreve continued to get outs and has become a critical part of the relief crew.

* * *

Both Wilson and Shreve pitched their way into the Circle of Trustâ„¢ in the first half thanks in large part to their work when Miller was sidelined. They both stepped up and assumed high-leverage innings, and the Yankees didn’t miss a beat. With Miller back, Wilson and Shreve will now be Girardi’s go-to middle innings weapons. That they both throw left-handed but can get right-handed hitters out is a bonus.

More pitching depth a must at the trade deadline even if it creates a roster squeeze

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Know who the Yankees miss? Chase Whitley. Don’t get me wrong, he’s was exactly a critical part of the pitching staff, but Whitley was the de facto spot sixth starter and a useful depth arm. Joe Girardi admitted the team’s plan for Whitley this year was to keep him stretched out in Triple-A and use him as a spot starter to give the regular rotation members extra rest on occasion. They haven’t been able to do that since Ace Whitley blew out his elbow.

Thanks in part to Whitley’s injury, as well as the general injury risk in the rotation, the Yankees should look to add pitching depth at the trade deadline. I mean, every team should, right? That is especially true for these contending Yankees because guys like Masahiro Tanaka (elbow), Michael Pineda (shoulder), and CC Sabathia (knee) carry more injury risk than most other starting pitchers. Ivan Nova has been rather uneven in his return from Tommy John surgery as well.

The question is not whether they should add pitching depth, but how do they fit it on the roster? Sabathia isn’t coming out of the rotation, and even if he did, the Yankees would simply move him to the bullpen and not off the roster entirely. Same with Nathan Eovaldi. He’s in the rotation. The only flexible spots in the bullpen belong to Bryan Mitchell and Chris Capuano, and I get the feeling the Yankees aren’t going to cut ties with Capuano only because he’s fine for the long man role and could always start if necessary.

With Whitley out, you could argue New York’s sixth (Adam Warren), seventh (Capuano), and eighth (Mitchell) starters are in the big league bullpen. That leaves either Luis Severino or Esmil Rogers as the next in line spot starter whenever one is needed. That’s … not ideal. Severino has dominated Triple-A but he’s not someone you want to jerk around. Whitley was perfect for that spot starter role because he could go up and down with no real concern for his long-term development.

So the Yankees have something of a roster crunch on their hands. They could always option Mitchell to clear a roster spot — man, hasn’t he looked great in short relief though? — but otherwise there’s not much flexibility, not if the Yankees are committed to Sabathia as a starter. The should definitely acquire an extra starter to protect themselves against injury down the stretch, but where does that guy fit? Trading for, say, Johnny Cueto means either Sabathia or Eovaldi (or Nova?) goes to the bullpen and that seems so very unlikely.

This of course is a dumb problem. Making room for a good pitcher is not a “problem.” It’s a minor nuisance. Someone’s feelings will be hurt and you move on. Warren went through it already. The Yankees do need to acquire more pitching at the trade deadline; the guys in the rotation have too many healthy questions to ignore. If that means someone undeserving like Mitchell gets squeezed to Triple-A, so be it. These things always have a way of working themselves out and you’d rather have “too much” pitching than not enough.

DotF: Beltran reaches three times in first rehab game

Dellin bobble

Just a heads up, the Staten Island Yankees are holding a Dellin Betances Bobblehead Night this Saturday (the bobblehead above!). The first 2,500 fans in attendance will receive once. It’s also FDNY Appreciation Night and there will be postgame fireworks. Click here for tickets and make sure you use the promo code “FDNY” so the proceeds go to John G. Chipura Foundation and Joseph Grzelak Fund. You get a hot dog, a drink, and a Staten Island Yankees hat all for $20. Can’t beat it. Here are some other quick notes:

  • Turns out the Yankees signed 12th rounder OF Terrance Robertson to an overslot $170,000 bonus, reports Jim Callis. Because he was picked after the tenth round $70,000 of that counts against the draft pool. With RHP James Kaprielian signed, the Yankees exceeded their draft pool by nearly $700,000 this year and fell just $18,565 short of having to forfeit next year’s first round pick.
  • SS Tyler Wade and LHP Nestor Cortes were named the High-A Florida State League Player of the Week and Rookie Appalachian League Pitcher of the Week, respectively, so congrats to them.

Triple-A Scranton is off until tomorrow for the All-Star break. The International League beat the Pacific Coast League by the score of 4-3 in the All-Star Game tonight. Here’s the box score.

  • PH-1B Kyle Roller: 2-2, 2 RBI 1 BB — entered the game in the sixth … two-run single in the top of the ninth tied the game at three, with earned him the IL Top Star honor
  • PH-C Austin Romine: 0-1, 1 BB — entered the game in the seventh

Double-A Trenton is off until tomorrow for the All-Star break. The All-Star Game was played time and the score was tied 4-4 after nine innings, so they went to a Home Run Derby shootout. Each player got one swing and they alternated sides until someone homered. Reading DH Brian Pointer won it in the 11th round for the Eastern Division team. Neat!

  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-2 — started and batted fifth … busy few days for him between this and the Futures Game
  • RF Jake Cave: 0-3, 1 RBI, 3 K — started and batted eighth
  • RHP Brady Lail: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB — ten of 13 pitches were strikes (77%) … pitched the second inning
  • RHP Eric Ruth: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 13 of 25 pitches were strikes (52%) … pitched the fifth

[Read more…]