2012 Draft: First rounder Ty Hensley to sign with Yankees

11:38pm: Via Callis, Hensley signed for a below-slot $1.2M. Chase Parham has some more on the MRI and shoulder issue, saying the right-hander was (and remains) completely asymptomatic and without pain. The Yankees have $615,910 of draft pool money — plus the $100k exemption for players drafted after the tenth round — left to spend before Friday’s deadline.

11:01pm: Via Jim Callis, the two sides had agreed to a slot bonus before a pre-signing MRI showed “abnormalities” in Hensley’s shoulder. Still no word on his bonus or said abnormalities.

10:44pm: Via K. Levine-Flandrup, first rounder Ty Hensley has decided to sign with the Yankees. No word on his bonus yet, but he was slotted for $1.6M and the team was able to pay him up to $1,815,910 without forfeiting a future draft pick. Earlier this week we heard that the two sides had already completed negotiations, but Hensley was still debating whether to turn pro or follow through on his commitment to Ole Miss. Hensley confirmed the deal on Twitter.

A high school right-hander from Oklahoma, Hensley was set to wind up with the Rockies as the tenth overall pick until RHP Mark Appel fell to the Pirates with the sixth pick, leaving OF David Dahl on the board for Colorado. Everything you need to know about the kid is right here. Hopefully Hensley will get a few Rookie ball innings in over the next few weeks, that would be neat. All of the team’s draft picks can be seen at Baseball America, and you can keep track of the draft pool situation with our Draft Pool page. The deadline to sign picks is 5pm ET on Friday.

Ramirez & Pinder combine for seven-inning no-hitter

First, a few notes…

Second, bullet point recaps. Sorry folks, but nine games is just too much…

  • Triple-A Empire State Game One (win): This was the completion of a game that was suspended way back in April. DH Jack Cust doubled, as did LF Ronnie Mustelier. He replaced Dewayne Wise, who started the original game. SS-3B Doug Bernier also doubled to wrap up a boring day of offense. RHP Nelson Figueroa threw three scoreless innings of relief after RHP Ramon Ortiz started the original game. RHP Cory Wade allowed three hits in two scoreless innings of work to close out the win.
  • Triple-A Empire State Game Two (win): The game was scoreless until SS Ramiro Pena drew a bases loaded walk in the top of the 14th inning. Frankly, there wasn’t any offense other than that. RHP Adam Warren threw a gem, striking out three across seven scoreless innings. A parade of relievers — LHP Justin Thomas, RHP Ryota Igarashi, LHP Mike O’Connor, and RHP Chase Whitley — tossed up zero after zero for another seven innings. DH Jack Cust went hitless in two at-bats before leaving the game for an unknown reason.
  • Double-A Trenton (win): Big night for the bats, including five hits (four singles and a double) for the molten hot David Adams. LF Pirela (two singles), 3B Addison Maruszak (single and double), DH Kevin Mahoney (two singles and a double), and C J.R. Murphy (two singles) all had multiple hits. RHP Dellin Betances allowed four runs in 6.2 innings, but the good news is that he walked just one and struck out six.
  • High-A Tampa Game One (win): CF Mason Williams went 0-for-3 but LF Ramon Flores and RF Adonis Garcia both doubled. C Gary Sanchez didn’t have a hit but drew a walk, as did DH Slade Heathcott. LHP Nik Turley allowed one run in four innings, but he walked just one while striking out six. RHP Mark Montgomery struck out the side in a scoreless inning, though he also walked two.
  • High-A Tampa Game Two (win): A no-hitter! Granted, it was only seven innings, but it still counts. RHP Jose Ramirez took care of the first six innings (one walk, seven strikeouts) while RHP Branden Pinder (two strikeouts) did the honors in the ninth. Congrats to these fellas. CF Mason Williams singled and 1B Kyle Roller doubled for what was essentially the only offense.
  • Low-A Charleston (win): RF Rob Refsnyder doubled and CF Ben Gamel continued his hot hitting with a solo homer, pretty much the only meaningful offense in the game. SS Cito Culver singled while 3B Dante Bichette Jr. did not play. RHP Brett Gerritse allowed an unearned run in five innings before RHP Joel DeLaCruz and RHP Nick Goody threw a pair of scoreless frames each.
  • Short Season Staten Island (loss): LF Taylor Dugas drew just one walk, so it was an off night for him. DH Saxon Butler (single and double), 1B Matt Snyder (single and double), and 2B Fu-Lin Kuo (two singles) each had a pair of knocks. C Peter O’Brien went hitless in three at-bats but did draw a walk. RHP Corey Black tossed five scoreless frames with three strikeouts and no walks. RHP Andrew Benak gave it up, surrendering five runs in his two innings.
  • Rookie GCL Yankees Game One (loss): Not much on offense, just singles from DH Yeicok Calderon, RF Nathan Mikolas, 2B Jerison Lopez (two), C David Remedios, and SS Francisco Rosario. LHP Caleb Frare threw three scoreless innings, striking out three. LHP Rony Bautista allowed two runs in four innings, striking out three.
  • Rookie GCL Yankees Game Two (win): 2B Jerison Lopez doubled while DH Austin Aune and 3B Miguel Andujar both singled. LF Justin James drew a pair of walks. RHP Jordan Cote had another strong start, this time four scoreless with four whiffs and a walk. Remember IF Kelvin Castro? Well he’s a RHP now, and he threw a scoreless inning to close out the win.

Aardsma will rest for two weeks before starting throwing program

Via Mark Feinsand, two doctors have recommended that right-hander David Aardsma rest for two more weeks before beginning a throwing program. He was shut down after feeling pain in his surgically repaired elbow about two weeks ago. Given this new timetable, there’s basically zero chance Aardsma will be able to join the bullpen before rosters expand in September. For shame.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Ivan Nova spent yesterday talking to some kids at Riverbank State Park. (Stuart Ramson)

Just one more baseball-less night until the Yankees kick off the second half of their season against the Angels. Have you enjoyed the break? I sure have, it’s good to take a few days to clear your mind and recharge the baseball batteries. The second half is always a grind, they don’t call it the dog days of summer for nothing.

In case you missed it, we took some time to review the first half of the season over the last few days…

If you read the posts already, well go read them again. After that, use this as your open thread for the evening. There are no major sports on tonight, so relax and talk about whatever you like here. Go nuts.

Williams, Sanchez, and Austin crack Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list

From left to right: Williams, Austin, Sanchez. (MiLB.com)

In an Insider-only piece, Keith Law published his midseason top 50 prospects list today. SS Jurickson Profar of the Rangers, who put on a show in the Futures Game by homering from the left side of the plate and singling from the right side, claimed the top spot to what should be no one’s surprise. RHP Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado, both of the Orioles, round out the top three. Some big things are happening in Baltimore.

The Yankees placed three players on the list, led by OF Mason Williams at #21. “He was recently promoted to High Class A after posting an .848 OPS in a half-season at Charleston,” wrote KLaw. “Williams earns a lot of raves from scouts between the tools and his general feel for the game, especially on defense.” Mason ranked 34th on Law’s preseason list, so he made a modest jump into the top 25. I’m not sure how much higher he can rank unless he taps into some hidden power at some point.

C Gary Sanchez wasn’t too far behind Williams at #28, and Law says he’s “improved markedly on defense to the point where you can picture him remaining behind the plate long term, and the bat should make him an MVP candidate if he does stay there.” Now that sure is good to hear, the defense has always been the long-term question with Sanchez. He doesn’t need to be a Gold Glover, just adequate. Law notes that Sanchez is primed for yet another jump up the rankings after making the leap from #55 in his preseason list.

The third Yankees farmhand to crack the top 50 is OF Tyler Austin at #45. “[He can] really hit, with a balanced swing and some pull power already, although when I caught him early this season, he was struggling a little to make adjustments to changing speeds, something that has improved in the last two-plus months,” said Law in his write-up. Austin was unranked in the preseason list and obviously made a huge jump thanks to his big full season league debut.

For comparison’s sake, Baseball America ranked Williams, Sanchez, and Austin as the 28th, 30th, and 39th best prospects in baseball in their recent midseason top 50 list, respectively. Good to see we have a bit of a consensus on where these three rank in terms of the bigger picture. LHP Manny Banuelos and several other injured pitchers were ineligible for Law’s list, but I confirmed with him that Manny would have cracked the top 50 if healthy. RHP Dellin Betances is healthy but obviously wasn’t close to the top 50, especially after ranking just 83rd before the season. Either way, three and potentially four top 50 guys is pretty darn good.

Second Half Needs

(Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Yankees have the best record in baseball and a sizable lead in the AL East, but the hardest part is yet to come. They have to maintain that lead in the second half because winning the division is of paramount importance thanks to the new playoff system. There is always room for improvement, and this year’s Yankees are no different. Here’s a quick look at some aspects of the team that need improvement in the second half.

More Production From The Middle of the Order
The Yankees have been a very well-rounded team this season, ranking fourth in position player production (16.5 fWAR), seventh in starting pitcher production (8.5 fWAR), and second in bullpen production (3.6 fWAR) among the 30 teams. Their offense has been the best in the game at 114 wRC+, but that has led to just 412 runs, the sixth most in the game. Blame all the struggles in runners in scoring position, and that’s why the Yankees need some of their middle of the order bats to perform better in the second half.

Specifically, they need more out of Mark Teixeira. Alex Rodriguez is at the point of his career where you can’t really expect him to improve his performance, but I’ll happily eat crow if he has a big finish to season. I would love to see it. Teixeira, on the other hand, has continued what is now a three-year slide into mediocrity. The batting average and OBP have basically held static with last year, but he’s on pace for 29 homers with a .223 ISO. Both would be his worst marks since his rookie season in 2003. Robinson Cano can’t do it all, Teixeira needs to start mashing some taters in the second half.

A Quality Reliever
Rafael Soriano has filled in admirably for the injured Mariano Rivera and David Robertson remains a highly effective setup man, but the Yankees are still short in the bullpen right now. The middle innings are the primary concern, especially following Cory Wade’s complete collapse. Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley have performed well but they’re specialists who shouldn’t face batters of the opposite hand, ditto the recently acquired Chad Qualls. That limits Joe Girardi‘s flexibility.

Joba Chamberlain started his minor league rehab assignment earlier this week and could be back next month, so maybe he’ll provide that extra bullpen depth. They could always go outside the organization and made a trade, but dealing for bullpen help is as risky is as it gets. Either way, the Yankees need to shore up their middle relief situation and take a bit of the load off Robertson and Soriano by adding a quality arm. Internal or external solution, it doesn’t matter. They need another quality reliever.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Something, Anything From Russell Martin
In terms of offensive production, the catching situation has been just brutal this season. Martin and Chris Stewart have combined for a 71 wRC+, which ranks 23rd among the 30 teams. The Yankees aren’t looking to trade for catching however, as Brian Cashman recently said: “We have our catching … I believe in Russell Martin, period.”

We know that Cashman and the Yankees tend to surprise us with deals and pickups, but if they’re going to stick with Martin and Stewart, fine. Martin needs to hit in that case. A .179/.300/.349 line (79 wRC+) doesn’t cut it from a starting position player even when you consider his position. The average AL catcher is hitting .241/.309/.388 (89 wRC+) this season and Russ isn’t even meeting that modest standard. Hopefully his .193 BABIP corrects in the second half — it almost certainly will somewhat to sheer luck — and the Yankees get at least league average production out of Martin going forward, preferably more.

Health!
This last one goes without saying. As strong as the bench and role players have been this season, the Yankees still need their core players to stay healthy in the second half. CC Sabathia is expected to come off the DL to start on Tuesday and obviously he’s one of the two most important players on the team. There’s a chance Brett Gardner will be back by the end of the month, adding some much needed speed and defense to the everyday lineup. Andy Pettitte‘s late-season return from a fractured ankle will be a huge lift as well.

Those three guys, plus Joba, are already hurt though. The players on the team that are healthy right now need to stay healthy, specifically guys like Soriano (history of elbow problems), A-Rod (four DL stints and two surgeries in the last four years), and valuable reserve Eric Chavez (pretty much everything). The AL East is so competitive these days that it’s not just about who has the best players, it’s about what has the best players and keeps them on the field the most.

Midseason Review: Incomplete Grades

During the next few days we’ll take some time to review the first half of the season and look at which Yankees are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling short of expectations. What else is the All-Star break good for?

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It takes a total team effort to finish the first half with the best record in baseball, and the Yankees have already used 35 different players this season. Not all of them have made a significant contributions though, mostly because they simply haven’t had a chance to play all that much. I’m talking up-and-down relievers, miscellaneous fill-ins, and those who got injured.

Andy Pettitte
Blame Casey Kotchman. He hit the one-hop ground ball that fractured Pettitte’s left ankle on June 27th and will cause the left-hander to miss no fewer than two months. Prior to the injury, Andy’s return from retirement was a smashing success. He pitched to a 3.22 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 58.2 innings with ungodly peripherals: 9.05 K/9 (25.2 K%), 2.30 BB/9 (6.4 BB%), and 58.3% grounders. The strikeout and ground ball numbers are career bests by not small margins and the walk rate is more than half-a-walk better than his career average.

Obviously there are sample size issues with that, but what’s done is done. Pettitte pitched that well in his nine starts and the Yankees will miss him immensely in the second half. It’s unclear if he’ll come back with that kind of effectiveness — the injury was to his push-off leg — or if he’ll even come back period. Andy could decide that the rehab and getting back into playing shape is just too much. I wouldn’t bet on it, but you never know. It was a fluke injury, it happens, but it still put a major damper on the best story of the season.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Brett Gardner
The Yankees have gotten exactly nine games out of Gardner this year. He didn’t even start two of them, he came off the bench to play defense for exactly one inning each time. Those nine games include 34 plate appearances (.321/.424/.393 with two steals) and 14 defensive chances. That’s it, that’s all they’ve gotten out of Gardner in 2012.

An elbow injury suffered while making a sliding catch against the Twins is the culprit. It was diagnosed as a bone bruise and an elbow strain, and twice Gardner has suffered setbacks after working his way back in minor league rehab games. He’s not expected back until the end of this month at the earliest, over 100 games into the season. The Yankees have done just fine without Gardner in the lineup and in left field, but they sorely lack team speed and the defense can always use an upgrade. His absence has been notable.

D.J. Mitchell & Adam Warren
We figured we would see these two — and David Phelps as well — at some point this season, and it didn’t take all that long. Mitchell made his debut in relief in early-May and has thrown a total of 3.2 innings across two stints and three appearances with the big league club. He’s allowed one run, five hits, and one walk in that time. The Yankees are carrying him as a long reliever right now due to the Pettitte and CC Sabathia injuries, so he has a chance to stick around by simply pitching well and soaking up innings.

Warren’s introduction to the big leagues wasn’t nearly as kind. The White Sox tattooed him for six runs on eight hits and two walks in just 2.1 innings late last month, his only appearance for the team. The Yankees called him up as an emergency replacement for Sabathia and sent him back to Triple-A the next day. You only get one debut and it wasn’t a good one for Warren, but he’ll surely get another chance to help the team at some point.

Chad Qualls, Darnell McDonald & Ryota Igarashi
All three midseason additions, all three having minimum impact thus far. Qualls was acquired from the Phillies in a minor trade less than two weeks ago and has allowed one run in his three appearances so far. He’ll stick around as a sixth or seventh inning matchup guy for the time being. McDonald was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox last week and went hitless in four plate appearances against his former team last weekend. He’ll most likely be remembered for causing Curtis Granderson to drop a routine pop-up on Saturday night. Igarashi has made all of one appearance for the Yankees since being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays earlier this year, allowing one run in one inning against the Mets. He’ll ride the Triple-A shuttle a few more times in the second half.