Whether he’s out short-term or long-term, the Yankees have options to replace CC Sabathia

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

The Yankees lost more than just a game last night. The game is whatever. Losses happen, even frustrating ones. In the grand scheme of things, losing CC Sabathia to a hamstring injury is a much greater concern than one loss in the standings. Sabathia has been rock solid overall this season, and his steadiness is important to the rotation. The Yankees will miss him.

“It is a little sore,” said Sabathia to George King after last night’s game. “It happened on (my) second to last pitch, I felt it grab. I thought maybe it was a cramp, but when I went to push off, it hurt and didn’t feel good … It’s sore, hopefully I wake up, and it feels better.”

At some point later today we’ll learn the severity of Sabathia’s hamstring injury, and man, I really hope it’s nothing serious. Miss one or two starts, that sort of that thing. That would be ideal. Either way, minor injury or major injury, the Yankees will have to replace Sabathia in the rotation in the short-term in some way. And no, I don’t think it will be Chance Adams.

Adams, the organization’s top Triple-A pitching prospect, has a 1.78 ERA (3.45 ERA) in 12 starts and 70.2 innings total this season. It feels inevitable that he will make his MLB debut this season. I just don’t think it will be right now, as in Sabathia’s next rotation turn, which is slated for Sunday. Even if Sabathia’s injury is serious, I don’t think Adams will get the call to pitch this weekend.

This is what I think will happen. The Yankees will place Sabathia on the disabled list today — Joe Girardi all but confirmed Sabathia is DL bound after the game yesterday — and they’ll use that to circumvent the ten-day rule and bring Domingo German back. They’ll then let German and Chad Green tag team Sunday’s start, with Girardi knowing full well he can empty his bullpen because Monday is an off-day.

Then, after the off-day, the Yankees will go through their regular four starters and reevaluate where they stand before they need to use a fifth starter again on June 24th. Maybe Sabathia will be able to come off the disabled list by then! That would be neat. It is a 10-day DL nowadays, remember. Maybe he’ll miss just the one start, and be able to return next week after sitting out a few days. That’s the best case scenario.

But, if Sabathia will need to miss more time, the Yankees will determine the next step when June 24th rolls around. That could mean rolling with Green/German again, or maybe turning Adams loose, or giving Luis Cessa a chance, or going with someone else entirely. Having options is cool. The most popular option, the one I think 95% of fans want to see, is Adams. The best and most sensible option is probably Green and German though. At least right now it is. The fact this is even up for debate is a good thing. Depth is wonderful.

Point is, I don’t think the Yankees are going to change the development plan of one of their top prospects to address a need at the big league level. I said the same thing about Gleyber Torres and third base. Sabathia being hurt doesn’t make Adams more MLB ready. He has some real development goals to accomplish this season, specifically improving his command, and doing that in the big leagues isn’t easy. I don’t think the Yankees will want to rush him, which leads me to believe it’ll be Green again.

Anyway, before the Yankees make any decisions, they have to see what the tests say and find out how long Sabathia will be sidelined. The severity of the injury is absolutely going to be a factor in their roster decisions. I know everyone wants to see Adams, and we very well might thanks to this injury, but my guess is the Yankees will use Green as a stopgap Sunday, then reevaluate things after the off-day.

2017 Draft: Day Three Open Thread

2017-draft-logoThe 2017 amateur draft concludes today with rounds 11-40, which are the rounds where organizational depth is built. The Yankees have found guys like Tyler Austin, Chase Whitley, Rookie Davis, and James Pazos on Day Three in recent years, and they’ve all proven useful in one way or another. Everyone wants stars and impact players. Depth guys are important too.

So far this year the Yankees have gone heavy on arms. We’re talking nine pitchers and one position player in the first ten rounds these last two days. I think that’s a coincidence more than anything. That said, the Yankees may try to balance things out a bit with a few position players here on Day Three. Here is my Day Two recap, here are the Yankees’ picks, and here are some draft links to check out:

  • Make sure you check out Brendan Kuty’s chat with Clarke Schmidt, the Yankees’ first round pick. He played coy when asked about signing. His agent trained him well. “We’re still in talks. Still have to sign, deal with all the contracts. That’s the side of the ball I haven’t gotten into yet,” he said.
  • Here are Eric Longenhagen’s Day One and Day Two notes. “Arkansas RHP Trevor Stephan (3) will touch 96, sit 92-94, and throw enough strikes to start. His sweeping curveball is average but plays up against righties because of his cross-bodied delivery,” says the write-up.
  • If you’re into such things, Craig Mitchell’s KATOH system projects Stephan as the third best college player taken on Day Two. “The right-handed Stephan put up big strikeout numbers in the SEC this year, trailing only Alex Faedo, Alex Lange, and Kyle Wright, all of whom were no-doubt first rounders,” says he write-up.
  • Here are the best available players per MLB.com and Baseball America. Most of the highly ranked high school kids are unsignable at this point. Teams will still pick them though, just in case they to change their mind and decide to turn pro.

The draft concludes today with rounds 11-40. Thankfully, the conference call is now rapid fire, one pick after another. That’s the way the entire draft used to be (and always should be!). Anyway, the draft resumes at 12pm ET, and you can tune in on MLB.com. Here is MLB.com’s draft tracker. Chat about all the day’s draft-related stuff here.

2017 Draft: Yankees load up on pitchers on Day Two

Otto. (Getty)
Otto. (Getty)

The first two days and ten rounds of the 2017 amateur draft are in the books. The top ten rounds are tied to the bonus pool, and because of that, Day Two is typically the least interesting day of the draft. Teams take players they know they can sign because they don’t want to lose draft pool money should the player decide to go to school, which usually means selecting lower profile prospects without much leverage. The Yankees went heavy on arms yesterday. Very heavy. Let’s recap their Day Two draft haul.

The Lone Position Player

Day Two covers rounds 3-10 and the Yankees selected exactly one position player in those rounds: Texas HS OF Canaan Smith (fourth round). Smith was mostly a catcher in high school but the Yankees announced him as a right fielder, so I guess he’s changing positions. Also, he was quarterback for the football team, and the Yankees have a history of targeting two-sport players. They love two-sport guys with athleticism and big time compete tools.

Smith is a left-handed hitter with very good bat speed and power potential, giving him exciting offensive potential. The problem? Scouts didn’t get to see him swing the bat much this spring. He was always walking! Smith drew over 60 walks in approximately 40 games this year, which is a top ten all-time walks season for a prep player. The combination of teams pitching around him and high schoolers just not being able to throw strikes meant Smith didn’t get many pitches to hit.

In all seriousness, I can’t help but wonder whether all the walks hurt Smith on the scouting trail. He’s got good size (6-foot-0 and 215 lbs) and he’s a good athlete based on the two-sport thing, plus it sounds like there’s some thump in his bat. Did scouts not see him take enough swings to recommend drafting him higher? Either way, with lefty power and patience, not to mention good athleticism, it’s not hard to understand why the Yankees were drawn to Smith.

By the way, Smith’s draft slot comes with a $433,100 bonus value. I get the sense he’s going to wind up getting an over-slot bonus, however. Smith is committed to Arkansas and the two-sport thing gives him some extra leverage because he has more options. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll get a huge seven-figure bonus, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Smith’s bonus exceed his slot value.

The Possible Starters

Stephan. (Arkansas)
Stephan. (Arkansas)

Over the last few years the Yankees have gone after power arms in the middle rounds of the draft and that continued this year. Arkansas RHP Trevor Stephan (third round) and Rice RHP Glenn Otto (fifth round) have the best chance to start among the team’s Day Two picks. Both are lacking a reliable changeup and that will be their pet project in pro ball, should they sign. (They will.)

Stephan is a big kid at 6-foot-5 and 225 lbs., and he sits mostly low-90s with his fastball and low-80s with his slider. The slider helped him strike out 120 batters in 91 innings this spring. His changeup is okay at best. He’s not afraid to throw it though. It’s just a matter of improving the quality of the pitch. If Stephan can do that, he has a chance to start to long-term and become a pretty interesting prospect. If not, to the bullpen he’ll go.

Like Stephan, Otto is another big guy at 6-foot-5 and 240 lbs. — the Yankees drafted large pitchers? I’m shocked — though it should be noted he has been worked very hard in college. That’s standard for Rice pitchers. The coaching staff pushes them very hard. Otto missed time with a sore arm earlier this year, and when he returned, his fastball was mostly 91-94 mph, down a tick from the 93-95 mph he showed in the past. His hard curveball is an out pitch.

Otto’s changeup is further along than Stephan’s, though he doesn’t have much confidence in the pitch, so he rarely threw it in college. One guy has a bad changeup but is willing to throw it. The other guy has an okay changeup but won’t throw it. Go figure. The Yankees will let both guys start because that’s what they should do. If things don’t work out, they’ll look to move them quick as relievers.

The Daltons

The Yankees selected a pair of Daltons with back-to-back picks on Day Two. They used their sixth round pick on Augustana LHP Dalton Lehnen and their seventh round pick on Dallas Baptist RHP Dalton Higgins. Lehnen is, by frickin’ far, the highest drafted player in Augustana history. They never had a player drafted before the 23rd round prior to yesterday. Not too many baseball prospects coming out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I guess.

Lehnen is the better prospect of the two Daltons because he has a true three-pitch repertoire: 89-92 mph fastball, a slurvy breaking ball, and a decent changeup. The breaking ball sometimes looks like a slider and sometimes looks like a curveball, and it’s not intentional. The pitch is inconsistent. Even if he refines the breaking ball, Lehnen’s margin for error is pretty small, and his command isn’t great. He strikes me as a lower level depth starter.

The other Dalton, Higgins, is a power reliever who figures to remain in that role in pro ball. He’s mostly 92-94 mph with a good slider that on its best days will be allergic to bats, and he doesn’t have a changeup. Two years ago the Yankees took another Dallas Baptist reliever, Chance Adams, and turned him into a starter, but I don’t see that happening with Higgins. Not unless he makes big strides with his changeup in a short period of time.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Yankees have had success getting pitchers to add velocity the last few seasons. It’s their throwing program and training methods. Guys like Adams, Jordan Montgomery, and James Kaprielian have all added some velocity. Should either of the Daltons add some oomph to their heater, they’ll become interesting in a hurry.

The Senior Signs

Whitmer. (The Southern)
Whitmer. (The Southern)

As always, the Yankees selected several college seniors on Day Two as a way to save draft pool space. College seniors have no leverage. They can either turn pro or go get a real job, and who wants to do that? The Yankees used their final three Day Two picks on seniors: Radford RHP Kyle Zurak (eighth round), Texas-Arlington RHP Austin Gardner (ninth round), and Southern Illinois RHP Chad Whitmer (tenth round).

Zurak is, by no small margin, the best prospect among the three seniors. He’s similar to Tyler Webb in that he’s a career college reliever with enough stuff and command to climb the minor league ladder and maybe one day be a big league option, if not for the Yankees than for another team. Zurak can run his fastball up to 95 mph and his money pitch is a nasty mid-80s slider. He struck out 73 batters in 60 innings this spring.

“It’s so freaking amazing. I honestly couldn’t be any freaking happier. It just worked out perfectly to be with the greatest, most recognizable sports team in the whole entire world — the New York freaking Yankees,” said Zurak to the freaking Roanoke Times. “I worked my butt off. It finally paid off, hearing … my name be called. It’s been my dream forever to be a professional baseball player and it finally came true.”

Neither Gardner nor Whitmer bring a ton to the table aside from experience and the willingness to sign very cheap. Gardner is a reliever with a low-90s fastball and an iffy breaking ball. Whitmer is a durable starter with a decent three-pitch mix and enough pitching know how that he’ll probably carve up the low minors and have folks talking about him as a potential sleeper. Zurak is the guy though. At least among the seniors. He has the best chance to develop into something worthwhile, even if he’s stuck in the bullpen.

I should note the new Collective Bargaining Agreement changed the way the bonus pool money is distributed. It’s top heavy now. The first round bonuses are huge and the tenth round bonuses are tiny. That means the college seniors won’t save teams as much as they had in the past. Zurak ($157,200 slot), Gardner ($141,200 slot), and Whitmer ($133,300 slot) all figure to sign low five-figure bonuses. Those three picks might save the Yankees something like $400,000 combined, and hey, that could go a long way to landing another player.

* * *

You can see all of the Yankees’ picks right here. Through ten rounds they’ve selected one position player and nine pitchers, though I don’t think that’s part of a concerted effort to load up on arms. That’s just the way the cookie crumbled, you know? It’s not like the Yankees are short on arms in the lower levels anyway. The Yankees did select some interesting arms on Day Two — Stephan, Otto, Higgins, and Zurak, most notably — plus one powerful position player. And, as always, they’ll grab some high-profile high school players on Day Three and try to convince them to sign with any bonus pool savings generated from Days One and Two.

Yankees lose Sabathia, and the game 3-2 to the Angels in the extras

All winning streaks have to end at some point. The Yankees lost one tonight in extra innings in the Big A after a weird and annoying 11-inning battle. They got close to making it a seven-game winning streak but they blew a lead in the eighth and couldn’t cash in in several scoring opportunities. The Yankees have won some games big lately but when they lose, it’s been mostly of the one-run variety. Annoying, right? Oh well. Games like this happen. Let’s recap and not think about it again.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Get well soon, big man

CC Sabathia, who had been on a roll in the previous six starts (0.99 ERA in that stretch, to be exact), started tonight’s game with a similar tone. CC pitched the first three innings scoreless and seemed to be cruising on his way for another good start.

Then came the bottom of the fourth. Sabathia struck out Albert Pujols and grounded out Yunel Escobar to get the first two outs. Andrelton Simmons hit a grounder to Didi Gregorius that should have resulted in a very, very routine out and Chris Carter just simply did not catch the ball. It was not like Didi made a difficult throw either. It was a regular “playing catch” throw from the shortstop to first base and Carter simply botched it. The ball went off Carter’s glove and Simmons was able to advance to second.

Sabathia attempted to bail his first baseman out but C.J. Cron hit an RBI single to cash in on the Yankee mistake, giving Angels a 1-0 lead. While facing Martin Maldonado, Sabathia felt something in his leg, which turned out to be strained left hamstring. Sanchez threw out C.J. Cron trying to steal second (???) but Sabathia’s night was done. He headed right into the clubhouse after the inning. Welp.

Joe Girardi said right after the game he expects Sabathia to head to the disabled list. Not ideal! The best the Yankee fans can hope now is that he’s back healthy without missing a beat. Big guy with a history of lower body problems? No need to be rushed back, so hopefully the Yankees find a replacement plan in the meantime who can do a solid job.

Getting the lead

Anyways, CC left after four strong innings. The Yankees turned to Giovanny Gallegos for the fifth inning. At the time, it didn’t seem like the most comforting decision for the fans, as Gallegos hasn’t really performed strongly so far this season (7.27 ERA in 7 games prior to tonight’s game). However, Gallegos turned in some good results today. It was his best outing in ML by far: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 K.

In the meantime, the Yankees tied it up in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Chase Headley hit a ground-rule double into the right field seats. Chris Carter struck out to ease it up for the Angels, but Brett Gardner hit a single up the middle to tie the game, 1-1.

The Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning thanks to their usual power suspect, Chase Headley. Wait what? Leading off the seventh, Headley hit a 435-feet solo homer. Again, Chase Headley! Judge hit one 438 feet last night and Headley almost matched that. In terms of impact though, both are quite big.

Former Yankee great Eric Young Jr. (Getty Images)
Former Yankee great Eric Young Jr. (Getty Images)

The later innings

After the Yankees took a 2-1 lead, they went with Adam Warren for the bottom of the seventh. He got into a bit of trouble but wiggled out of it. Simmons reached on an infield single and stole second with one out to give the Angels a chance to tie it up. Maldonado’s groundout sent the runner to third and Scioscia pinch-hit Luis Valbuena for Danny Espinosa. Warren went on to throw a nasty backdoor slider to strike him out looking. Clutch.

However, Tyler Clippard didn’t come up as clutch. Coming into the eighth inning as the interim set-up man, Clippard allowed a lead-off homer to Eric Young Jr. for a blown save. He threw a 91 mph fastball that was meant to be located inside and Young turned on it quickly. If you weren’t aware, Eric Young Jr., who only had 1 AB with the Yankees last year, was hitting .878 OPS as Mike Trout’s replacement. How about that? Also, this was the first time a Yankee pitcher had back-to-back blown saves since Matt Thornton in 2014 (May 11-12). Clippard struck out Cameron Maybin and grounded out Kole Calhoun and Pujols to get out of the inning but the damage had been done. It was up to the hitters to score more than two runs for the entire game.

The bats tried to get a rally going in the bottom of the eighth. After Didi grounded out, Headley hit his third base hit – a single – of the night to validate his fan favorite status. Carter struck out easily as it was the theme of the night for him. Headley advanced to second on a wild pitch during the Gardner at-bat, setting up a RISP chance with two outs. After a nine-pitch at bat, Gardner hit a hard liner into the outfield… just right at Calhoun. 3 outs. Ugh. It’s been that kind of night for the Yankees.

Girardi put in Jonathan Holder in the ninth inning in a 2-2 game because that’s the status of the bullpen right now with Aroldis Chapman on DL. That also went edgy. Holder struck out Escobar, allowed a single to Simmons and got another strikeout from Cron. The next hitter, Martin Maldonado, hit a double into the left field that put two runners on scoring position with two outs. Girardi took out Holder for Chasen Shreve, who induced a flyout from Cliff Pennington to end the frame.

Losing it

The Yankee bats had two runners in scoring position with one out in the top of the eleventh inning and failed to score, because that’s how things have gone for them tonight. Sanchez walked with one out and Didi hit a double to right to put both of them in second and third. Mike Scioscia made some obvious moves here – change the pitcher to one of his best relievers in Keynan Middleton and intentionally walk Headley to fill in the first base and face Chris Carter. I hate to rag on Carter but with the defensive mistake and looking languish in at-bats… it was not his best night. Carter popped up on the very first pitch to make it two outs and Gardner followed it up with another pop out to end the threat. That had to be deflating, at least a bit.

Shreve started the bottom of the eleventh by walking Andrelton Simmons. He did retire Cron to a flyout and that ended the night for him. Girardi went with the recently called-up Ben Heller to try to finish the inning. As he faced Maldonado, Simmons stole second to give Angels a RISP chance. Maldonado grounded out to put Simmons on third and Heller followed it up by walking Pennington (sigh). The next hitter, Eric Young Jr. (who else?), hit a liner off Heller’s buttocks and it trickled towards Didi’s opposite side. Gregorius came up with the ball but it was too late to throw anyone out and the run scored. Angels won, 3-2. Sigh. Quite a fitting way to lose this one.

Leftovers

We can pin the loss to the obvious suspects but the big bats going quiet didn’t really help either. The no 3. to 7 hitters (Aaron JudgeMatt HollidayStarlin Castro– Sanchez-Gregorius) went 1-for-22. Usually, teams lose games like this more handily but the Yankees somehow managed to make it close. On a positive side, Chase Headley went 3-for-4 and was a triple shy from a cycle.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.


Source: FanGraphs


Because the series is now tied, the game tomorrow (or later today) will be a rubber match. Big Mike Pineda will be on the mound against Matt Shoemaker. Win the series tomorrow. Get the Keurig rolling again, Yankee fans.

Update: CC Sabathia exits start with hamstring strain

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

11:59pm ET: Sabathia has a left hamstring strain, the Yankees announced. Here’s video of the injury. I imagine Sabathia is heading for tests to determine the severity of the strain.

11:35pm ET: CC Sabathia left tonight’s start after four innings with an apparent left leg injury. He grabbed at his hamstring between pitches at one point, though he did stay in to complete the inning. Sabathia walked off the field gingerly and headed to the clubhouse.

The Yankees have been really fortunate with the health of their starting pitchers so far this season. They used a sixth starter for the first time this past weekend, and that was only to give the struggling Masahiro Tanaka an extra day, so he wouldn’t have to face the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.

I suppose the good news is the problem is not with Sabathia’s right leg, with the troublesome knee. He’s had all sorts of problems with his right knee over the years. Whatever it is, hopefully it’s minor. The Yankees have not yet provided an update on Sabathia, so stay tuned.

DotF: Fowler and Torres have big games in Scranton’s win

Two quick notes to pass along:

  • Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique told Andrew Marchand he doesn’t think SS Gleyber Torres is ready for MLB. “If you ask me today, if the call comes, he is not ready. He is headed in the right direction. I like where he is at for a 20-year-old kid to be in Triple-A. He’s very mature, but defensively, he needs more work at third and second,” said Pedrique.
  • The Yankees are sending seven players to the High-A Florida State League All-Star Game: RHP Cody Carroll, RHP Zack Littell, SS Jorge Mateo, RHP Dillon McNamara, RHP Jose Mesa, Jr., OF Tito Polo, and LHP Josh Rogers. Rogers and McNamara have already been promoted to Double-A Trenton, so they won’t play in the All-Star Game. Here are the North and South rosters.

Triple-A Scranton (9-3 win over Rochester)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K — 20-for-51 (.392) during his 12-game hitting streak
  • LF Dustin Fowler: 3-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 E (fielding)
  • DH Greg Bird: 0-3, 1 R, 2 BB — 2-for-15 (.133) in his last four games … he has eleven walks and two strikeouts in eleven rehab games
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 2-4, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – 9-for-32 (.281) with seven doubles in his last nine games
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 SB
  • 3B Gleyber Torres: 3-4, 2 RBI, 1 BB — 12-for-31 (.387) in his last eight games
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 3-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • RF Mason Williams: 1-4, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 BB, 2 K
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 8/3 GB/FB — 56 of 93 pitches were strikes (60%) … he’s been solid all season long
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 15 of 28 pitches were strikes (54%) … interesting pitching line

[Read more…]

Game 62: Six Equals Seven

MVP. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
MVP. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

The Yankees are rolling right now. They had to work a little harder for last night’s win than they did over the weekend, but a win is a win, and the Yankees have won their last six games. They’ve outscored their opponents 60-12 in the process. Total domination. What a fun stretch of baseball this has been.

Tonight the Yankees are trying for their second seven-game winning streak of the season after having one such streak from 2013-16. They already have three winning streaks of at least six games this season. How many did they have from 2013-16? Three. Crazy. Anyway, a sixth straight win for CC Sabathia equals a seventh straight win for the Yankees. Let’s do this. Here is the Angels’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    LHP CC Sabathia

I’m sure the weather is great in Anaheim. It always is. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 10:07pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) was supposed to pitch for High-A Tampa tonight, but the game was rained out. Joe Girardi said he’ll still pitch for Double-A Trenton on Friday as originally scheduled.

Roster Move: Tommy Layne cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. I believe he has a day or two to decide whether to accept the assignment, or become a free agent.

All-Star Voting: Judge remains the leading All-Star Game vote-getter among AL players. Pretty cool. MLB released a voting update earlier today. Judge is the only Yankee current in line to start the All-Star Game. Castro (second), Holliday (second), Gregorius (third), Sanchez (fourth), and Gardner (eighth) are all getting support at their positions.