Game 58: Tanaka Tuesday

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

Oh man, there is a lot going on tonight. For starters, Masahiro Tanaka is making just his third home start of the season and his first in almost exactly two months due to his wrist/forearm injury. Secondly, Tanaka is squaring off against Max Scherzer in what will probably be the best pitching matchup of the season. Third, the Yankees have a six-game winning streak and need to keep that sucker going.

And finally, future Yankee Bryce Harper is playing his first game in his future home ballpark, Yankee Stadium. He’ll get to take aim at that short right field porch and then go to bed tonight dreaming about all those future home runs he’ll hit. Harper’s not as stupidly hot as he was the last time these two teams played, but he can still flick his wrists and hit the ball into the second deck. Hopefully it doesn’t happen these next two days. Here’s Washington’s lineup and here’s New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. LF Ramon Flores
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It has been cloudy and kinda rainy most of the day, but the sun came out not too long ago and it’s turned into a nice night. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Ivan Nova (elbow) is going to travel to New York to throw a bullpen session for pitching coach Larry Rothschild, then he’ll make a rehab start with Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees will then determine if he’s ready or needs another rehab outing.

All-Star Voting Update: MLB released their weekly All-Star Game voting update yesterday, and no Yankees are close to leading their respective positions. A-Rod is third among DHs and he’s closest. Fans in Kansas City are stuffing the ballot box, so unless MLB steps in or there’s a sudden shift in the voting, the All-Star Game will be Mike Trout and the Royals against the NL.

Righty reliever option off the board: Cubs sign Rafael Soriano

(Rich Lam/Getty)
(Rich Lam/Getty)

A right-handed bullpen option has come off the board. The Cubs signed Rafael Soriano to a minor league contract earlier today, the team announced. James Wagner says Soriano will get the pro-rated portion of a $4.1M base salary plus $4M in bonuses based on appearances and games finished. I’m guessing he’ll pitch in a few minor league games before joining Chicago’s bullpen, where they’ve had a bit of a revolving door at closer of late.

Soriano fired Scott Boras a week or two ago and was scheduled to throw for scouts later this week, but apparently the Cubs were aggressive and decided to make an offer before other teams got a look at him. Every team would take Soriano on a minor league contract, but Soriano has a say too, and he presumably felt Chicago was his best opportunity. Plus he played for manager Joe Maddon with the Rays, so there’s some familiarity there.

Late last week Brian Cashman said the Yankees want to add a right-handed reliever — “I do need to find a right-handed arm for the bullpen here at some point,” said the GM — to their five-lefty bullpen, and earlier today they signed righty Sergio Santos to a minor league contract, basically just to see if he has anything left. I expect them to cycle through internal options (Nick Rumbelow? Branden Pinder? Jose Ramirez?) and scrap heap guys like Santos before making any sort of trade.

The lack of right-handed relievers isn’t a major problem right now because those lefties can get righties out. Still, it would be nice to add some balance down the road. The Yankees were never connected to Soriano, but he was speculated as a bullpen target simply because he’s a righty and was available for nothing but money. Then again, the Yankees know him firsthand and might not have been interest in a reunion. Either way, expect the search for the righty reliever to continue.

6/9 to 6/10 Series Preview: Washington Nationals


It’s time for another round of interleague play, except this time the NL team is coming to the Bronx, so the Yankees don’t lose the DH. The Nationals will be in Yankee Stadium for two games this week to wrap up the season home-and-home series. The Yankees lost both games in Washington last month.

What Have The Nationals Done Lately?

The last time these two teams played, the Nationals were basically the hottest team in baseball and zooming their way to the top of the NL East standings. Now? Pretty much the exact opposite is true. They lost three of four to the Cubs over the weekend and have dropped eight of their last ten games overall, getting outscored 53-27 in the process. Washington is still 30-27 overall with a +2 run differential this season.

Offense & Defense

The Nationals are averaging 4.32 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+, so they’re close to league average in both measures. They’re currently missing three outfielders due to injury: OF Jayson Werth (wrist), OF Nate McLouth (shoulder), and OF Reed Johnson (foot). None are coming back anytime soon. Certainly not this series, at least. Also, OF Denard Span (116 wRC+) is day-to-day with back spasms.


Manager Matt Williams has the luxury of penciling baseball’s best young power hitter into his lineup every day. OF Bryce Harper leads MLB in homers (19), walks (48), SLG (.706), OPS (1.170), OPS+ (216), wRC+ (210), and total bases (132). He is also 22 years old. Fun fact: If Harper faces Jacob Lindgren this series, it will be the first time he faces a pitcher younger than him as a pro. Majors or minors. I’m not joking. That is a 100% true fact. Crazy.

Anyway, the rest of the lineup features just three other players who have been solidly above average this year: Span, IF Danny Espinosa (123 wRC+), and IF Yunel Escobar (119 wRC+). That’s all. IF Anthony Rendon (42 wRC+ in very limited time) just came off the DL a few days ago, and 1B Ryan Zimmerman (69 wRC+) has struggled all season. C Wilson Ramos (81 wRC+) and SS Ian Desmond (84 wRC+) are the other regulars.

OF Michael Taylor (76 wRC+) has played quite a bit this season thanks to all the injuries and we’ll see him this series at some point thanks to the DH, I’m sure. 1B/OF Tyler Moore (51 wRC+), 1B/OF Clint Robinson (71 wRC+), IF Dan Uggla (93 wRC+), and backup C Jose Lobaton (90 wRC+) fill out the bench. For what it’s worth, the Nationals used Robinson as the DH in their only other series in an AL park this season, way back in April. Who knows what they’ll do this week.

Washington generally has a good team defense with Harper, Span, Taylor, Espinosa, Escobar, Zimmerman, Ramos, and Rendon rating anywhere from good to great. Desmond had some major issues at shortstop earlier this season, and while he’s calmed down of late, he’s still nothing special there. Guys like Uggla, Moore, and Robinson are not on the team for their gloves. Let’s put it that way.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. WAS) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (Career vs. NYY)
Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Best pitching matchup of the season? I have a hard time thinking we’ll see a better one. Scherzer, 30, has been off-the-charts so far in 2015, pitching to a 1.85 ERA (2.18 FIP) in eleven starts and 77.2 innings. He’s got a career-high strikeout rate (29.3%), a career-low walk rate (3.9%), a career-low ground ball rate (34.3%), and a career-low home run rate (0.58 HR/9). What an extreme season. His platoon split is small too — lefties (.246 wOBA) have a tiny advantage over righties (.236 wOBA). Scherzer’s four-seam fastball velocity has actually ticked up this season, going from 92.8 mph last year to 93.4 mph this year. He also throws mid-80s sliders and changeups, and a handful of low-80s power curves per start. Nasty stuff. Scherzer is arguably the best right-hander in the business at the moment.

Scherzer. (Presswire)

Wednesday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. WAS) vs. TBA
Washington’s starter for tomorrow’s game is still officially TBA, but they’re expected to start lefty Gio Gonzalez. It is Taylor Jordan’s turn, but Monday’s off-day allows them to skip the young righty and instead go with Gio. The somehow still only 29-year-old Gonzalez has pitched to a 4.57 ERA (3.07 FIP) this season, replacing some strikeouts (22.1%) with ground balls (56.1%). He’s still walking a few too many (8.9%) but is keeping the ball in the park (0.42 HR/9) as well as ever. Righties (.350 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.313 wOBA), though his career split is tiny. Gonzalez is throwing more low-90s two-seamers than last year, resulting in more grounders, and his big upper-70s curveball remains his bread and butter. He’ll also throw some low-90s four-seamers and a low-80s changeup. The Yankees did face Gio when these teams met a few weeks ago, scoring six runs in five innings.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Nationals had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be in early-June. Ex-Yankees draft pick RHP Drew Storen (1.18 FIP) is the closer with RHP Aaron Barrett (1.98 FIP) and ex-Yankee LHP Matt Thornton (2.91 FIP) serving as his setup men. Thornton’s the high-leverage lefty specialist, not a full inning guy.

Williams also has RHP Casey Janssen (3.11 FIP), RHP Blake Treinen (3.56 FIP), LHP Felipe Rivero (1.61 FIP in very limited time), and RHP Taylor Hill (4.17 FIP in very limited time) in his bullpen. The middle relief can be a real problem for the Nationals. That’s where the Yankees can do some damage. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of New York’s bullpen, then check out Federal Baseball for updates on the Nats.

Rosenthal: Yankees to sign Sergio Santos to minor league deal


According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees will sign right-hander Sergio Santos to a minor league contract. He’s heading to Double-A Trenton. Santos was up with the Dodgers earlier this year but elected free agency after being dropped from the 40-man roster. Fun fact: He struck out four batters in an inning not once, but twice this year.

Santos, 31, was really good with the White Sox from 2010-11 (3.29 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 115 innings), but he struggled from 2012-14 after getting traded to the Blue Jays (5.23 ERA and 4.00 FIP in 51.2 innings). Santos allowed seven runs in 13.1 innings with Los Angeles earlier this year, with 15 strikeouts and seven walks. He’s a classic low-to-mid-90s fastball/mid-80s slider guy.

Late last week Brian Cashman said the Yankees want to add a right-handed reliever — “I do need to find a right-handed arm for the bullpen here at some point,” said the GM — to their five-lefty bullpen. Santos may or may not be the answer. Probably not. A minor league contract is no risk — he’s not even in Triple-A! — and he’s worth the look though. But still, I encourage you to go forth with outrage.

2015 Draft: Day Two Open Thread

2015 Draft logoDay One of the 2015 draft came and went yesterday with the usual fanfare. The Yankees selected three players — UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (16th overall), San Diego SS Kyle Holder (30th), Indiana State LHP Jeff Degano (57th) — as part of rather vanilla Day One haul. Kaprielian should move quickly, Holder can play the hell out of shortstop, and Degano is a big lefty with arm strength who missed a bunch of time due to Tommy John surgery from 2013-14. None has star potential but all three give you reasons to believe they’ll be useful MLB players. Here’s my Day One recap.

The draft continues today with Day Two, and, under the current spending restrictions, Day Two is typically the least exciting of the three days. Rounds 3-10 will be selected today and teams use these picks to manipulate their draft pools — they were working all night to cut deals and get signing bonuses in place so they know how much money they have to work with going forward. Day Three is when they start taking risks, when the picks aren’t tied to draft pool space. Here are some stray draft links to check out:

  • Here are the pick-by-pick first round pick analyses by Chris Crawford (subs. req’d) and Jim Callis. The short versions: both like Kaprielian as a quick moving righty and love Holder’s glove, with Crawford more skeptical about his long-term value than Callis. “I think his glove alone could make him a big league regular,” wrote Callis.
  • Here are the best available players according to Baseball America and The Yankees have been connected to both Tennessee HS RHP Donny Everett (my profile) and Florida post-graduate RHP Jacob Nix (my profile), and they’re both among the best players still on the board. I wonder if Nix is experiencing some blowback from teams after filing his grievance against the Astros last year. I’d like to that isn’t happening, but who knows.
  • The big name still on the board: Duke RHP Mike Matuella, who had Tommy John surgery in April and a back problem earlier in the spring. He told Laura Keeley he is considering returning to school, and since every team with extra picks already passed on him, my guess is his medicals are scary. He might not be signable at this point. Then again, he doesn’t have much leverage. Matuella’s options are sign or go back to school and not get on a mound until April.
  • Name to watch going forward: Iona RHP Mariano Rivera III (my profile). The Yankees will inevitably draft him at some point, the question is whether they do it today or wait until tomorrow. (He’s a fourth or fifth round talent.) Mo III and his family have said finishing school is a priority, and I doubt the Yankees want to risk losing draft pool money by taking him with one of today’s picks.

The draft resumes today at 1pm ET and there will be a half-hour pre-draft show as well. There is no MLB Network broadcast today, the draft shifts to online only for Days Two and Three. Here is the feed and here is the Draft Tracker. Talk about all things draft right here throughout the day.

2015 Draft: Yankees balance probability with projects on Day One

Day One of the 2015 amateur draft was both surprising yet completely predictable for the Yankees. They used their first round pick on a player they’ve been connected to for weeks, and they did take three college players with their three picks. New York’s second and third selections seemed to come out of left field though. At least in the sense that we hadn’t seen them connected to those players this spring.

The Yankees went probability first, upside second on Day One this year. Getting safe players — safe by draft standards, which means not safe at all! — likely to contribute at the MLB level was the priority over getting players with impact potential. That’s nothing fans want to hear, of course, but it’s very easy to say they should take more risk when you’re not the one with your neck on the line. And besides, the Yankees haven’t had much success developing their risky picks the last few years. Let’s review Day One.

Kaprielian. (Daily Bruin)
Kaprielian. (Daily Bruin)

Fit The Profile
UCLA RHP James Kaprielian fit the Yankees’ profile so perfectly that I’m not sure why I ever thought they might take someone else once we knew was going to be available. Deep repertoire? Check. Command? Check. Big? He’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 lbs., so check there too. Southern California product? Also check. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer loves his SoCal pitchers. He shows it year after year.

“Kaprielian is a guy we’ve scouted for a long time, and we’re really happy we were able to get him,” said Oppenheimer in a statement following the draft last night. “He has three quality pitches, throws strikes and generates a lot of swings-and-misses. On top of that, he has great make-up. He compiled a quality track record in a good league and performed well for Team USA.”

Kaprielian, who the Yankees selected with their first round pick (16th overall), was the team’s safe pick on Day One. Safe by baseball draft standards, I mean. No prospect is ever really safe. Kaprielian throws three pitches, including a fastball that jumped from 89-92 mph to 93-95 mph later in the spring, as well a very good changeup and a solid curveball. He locates all three pitches well and has even messed around with a slider/cutter at times.

Pitchers with good fastballs who can control two offspeed pitches tend to have a ton of success at the college level, which Kaprielian certainly did with the Bruins. The Yankees have had some success developing pitchers like Kaprielian, the polished college guys, though he has better command than someone like David Phelps and better stuff than someone like Adam Warren. He’s someone they can just plug into the farm system and not worry a whole lot about. Safe is boring, but safe also has value.

Holder. (San Diego Union Tribune)
Holder. (San Diego Union Tribune)

Carrying Tool
In the wake of Derek Jeter‘s retirement, the Yankees have gone full doomsday hoarder with shortstop prospects. They signed several top shortstops as international free agents last year, traded for young Didi Gregorius in the offseason, and selected San Diego SS Kyle Holder with the 30th overall pick last night. That was the compensation pick for David Robertson.

“Holder is about as elite a defender as we’ve seen come through the college ranks. He’s got a tremendous glove. He also had a productive year offensively and does not swing and miss,” said Oppenheimer after making the pick. Holder fits the no hit/all glove mold, which is far from exciting, but that’s also Holder’s starting point. He’s not a finished product and he did hit .348/.418/.482 with as many walks and strikeouts (19) in a major college conference this spring, so it’s not as if he’s never hit.

What Holder offers more than anything is a carrying tool in his high-end defense. Quality shortstops are hard to find. There’s a reason dudes like Brendan Ryan stay in the league for a decade. The Yankees have to figure out a way to get Holder to be a passable hitter — the league average shortstop is hitting .246/.297/.356 (80 wRC+) this season, by the way — to maximize his value, which won’t be easy. Frankly the Yankees have kinda sucked at developing bats lately and there are reasons to doubt their ability to help Holder.

The Yankees took on a project with Holder and it’s fair to question his overall upside. The best case scenario seems like a solid regular, which would be a pretty great outcome for the 30th overall pick, but Holder is also extremely likely to get to the show as a defensive specialist, even as an up-and-down utility guy. Holder is starting from a pretty high base and any sort of development with his bat suddenly puts him in the everyday player conversation.

Degano. (
Degano. (

Long-Awaited Lefty
The history of the New York Yankees is littered with great left-handed starters, from Whitey Ford to Ron Guidry to Andy Pettitte to CC Sabathia. They’re the Bronx Bombers first and foremost, yes, but their historic success is also built on quality southpaws. For some reason that demographic has been largely ignored in recent years, with 2013 draftee Ian Clarkin the notable exception.

The Yankees went back to their roots with their third selection on Day One, taking Indiana State LHP Jeff Degano with their second round pick, 57th overall. “Degano is a left-hander with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a good breaking ball. He throws a lot of strikes and has a quality athletic body,” said Oppenheimer of the 6-foot-4, 200 lb. southpaw. A power lefty? Where have guys like this been lately?

Of course, Degano is not without risk. He’s already blown out once, having Tommy John surgery back in 2013, forcing him to miss most of that season and the entire 2014 season as well. Degano started this spring a little rusty but was much better down the stretch and climbed draft boards as he started looking more like the pre-elbow injury version of himself. The Yankees are banking on that history.

More than anything, the Yankees are rolling the dice on a big southpaw with a power fastball and a quality breaking ball. Degano missed bats all spring — he struck out 126 batters (99 innings) this year, seventh most in Division I, and he did it while walking only 28 batters — and he’s a changeup away from being  a no-doubt starter, the kind of lefty starter the Yankees have lacked since Sabathia’s fade started. Learning a changeup is not easy, but the guys who already have changeups go in the first round, like Kaprielian.

* * *

The Yankees had … well I’d say sort of an atypical Day One. Kaprielian is a classic Oppenheimer pick but Holder and Degano are unlike any of their recent high selections. They’ve gone for big bats (Eric Jagielo and Aaron Judge), raw and toolsy athletes (Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott), or prep hurlers (Clarkin and Ty Hensley) the last three or four years. Holder and Degano are none of those things.

This draft was more about probability. Kaprielian’s very likely to be a big league starter as long as he stays healthy. Holder’s defense at a premium position means the offensive bar is low, and Degano will get a million chances as a lefty who misses bats. Even if he doesn’t learn a changeup, he goes to the bullpen to be a poor man’s Jacob Lindgren. The Yankees went safe on Day One this year, safe but with two project players in Holder and Degano who have the potential to be big league regulars with the fall back option of being high probability useful players.

2015 Draft: Yankees select Indiana State LHP Jeff Degano with second round pick


The Yankees went 3-for-3 on Day One of the 2015 draft Monday night: three picks and three college players. With their third pick, the 57th overall selection and their second round pick, the Yankees took Indiana State LHP Jeff Degano.

Degano, 22, was a late riser this spring after missing most of the 2013 and all of the 2014 seasons due to Tommy John surgery. He had a 2.36 ERA with 126 strikeouts and 28 walks in 99 innings this year. I didn’t write up a profile of Degano, so here are some scouting report tidbits from the pros.

Baseball America (83rd ranked prospect):

Degano has dominated thanks to a 90-94 mph fastball and a plus 78-82 mph slurve with good depth. He’s shown he can vary the shape of the breaking ball to make it a little bigger and slower or harder and later-breaking depending on the situation … Degano also throws a fringy changeup, but he’s used it infrequently this season.. (94th ranked prospect):

The redshirt junior works at 88-92 mph and can reach 95 with his fastball, which features some natural cutting life. He gets many of his strikeouts with his hard slurve, which he can run away from lefties and back-foot against righties … Degano has a decent changeup with some fade and will need to use it more as a starter in pro ball. He throws strikes but his command could use some refinement. Though he doesn’t have a true plus offering, he has the upside of a three-pitch starter with the fallback of becoming a situational lefty.

Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Degano as the 54th best prospect in the draft class in his latest rankings, but did not write up an individual scouting report. Degano is a big dude at 6-foot-4 and 200 lbs. and he spent much of this spring shaking off the rust following Tommy John surgery. Here’s video:

Degano flew under the radar for much of the spring but really finished strong and shot up the various draft rankings in recent weeks as he showed his pre-Tommy John surgery form. He has to learn a changeup and that’s not easy, but he’s a big, physically lefty with a power fastball and a bat-missing breaking ball. That’s a profile that, frankly, the Yankees haven’t drafted enough in recent years. They’ve eschewed southpaws for some reason.

Slot money for the 57th overall pick is $1,074,400, and this year’s signing deadline is Friday, July 17th. Degano shouldn’t be a tough sign at all — there’s a chance he could sign below slot, but we’ll see — and I’m sure the Yankees are eager to turn him over to pitching coordinator Gil Patterson to work on that changeup. That pitch is the key.