DotF: Austin stays hot, Severino dominates in Triple-A win

Two quick notes to pass along:

  • C Gary Sanchez (thumb) went for his two-week checkup and was cleared to resume baseball activities, according to Chad Jennings. He’s been taking ground balls at first base, but the Yankees have made it clear he’s still a catcher, because duh.
  • RHP Gio Gallegos was bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, so says Shane Hennigan. They’re a little short on arms with RHP Anthony Swarzak called up and LHP Tyler Olson in DFA limbo.

Triple-A Scranton (6-0 win over Charlotte)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 2 K
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — 10-for-22 (.455) during his little six-game hitting streak
  • DH Nick Swisher: 0-4, 2 K
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — 8-for-18 (.444) with three doubles and two homers in five games since the promotion
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-4, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 K — his 28 extra-base hits lead the farm system by a mile … Sanchez and 1B Chris Gittens are second with 20 each
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Luis Severino: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 4/4 GB/FB — 51 of 75 pitches were strikes (68%) … vintage Severino performance
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • LHP James Pazos: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2/0 GB/FB — half of his 32 pitches were strikes … 29/19 K/BB in 22 innings

[Read more…]

2016 Draft: Bryan Reynolds

Bryan Reynolds | OF

Background
Reynolds, 21, was undrafted out of high school, but he’s been a three-year starter at a powerhouse program in Vanderbilt. This spring Reynolds put up a .330/.461/.603 batting line with 13 homers, 49 walks, and 58 strikeouts in 62 games. He also performed well in the Cape Cod League last summer.

Scouting Report
Reynolds is one of those guys who does a little of everything but nothing exceptionally well. His weakest tool is his below-average throwing arm, which relegates him to left field long-term. Reynolds has good speed and instincts in the outfield, so he should be able to hold down center for the foreseeable future. At the plate, he’s a switch-hitter with good power from both sides, and his advanced approach allows him to hit for average too. No player is a lock to do anything, but Reynolds is as good a bet as any player in the draft to become at least an average big league hitter. Swing-and-miss issues are a concern — he had a 20.4% strikeout rate this spring, which is awful high for a top college hitter — especially since he’s not a hacker who will chase off the plate.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings Keith Law (subs. req’d), MLB.com, and Baseball America ranked Reynolds as the 16th, 23rd, and 31st best prospect in the draft class, respectively. The Yankees pick 18th. They’ve been connected to college bats in mock drafts recently, and outside of the elite top of the draft guys, Reynolds figures to be the best all-around college position player available when New York’s pick rolls around.

Game 59: How About A Blowout Win?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have won two straight and four of their last six, and boy, they’ve had to tax their end-game relievers to do so. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman have each pitched four of the last six days, and Miller actually warmed up in the two games he didn’t pitch as well. (Chapman warmed up in one of his two off-days.)

That’s an awful lot of work. A blowout tonight would be really cool for more than one reason, but especially because it will give those three a full day of rest. No warming up, nothing. How about, say, 15 runs and a couple mop-up innings from Anthony Swarzak? That would be pretty rad. Here is the Angels’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 1B Chris Parmelee
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It was raining in New York for much of the afternoon. Pretty heavily at times too. The rain has stopped though, and it’s supposed to stay stopped the rest of the night. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

2016 Draft: Kyle Muller

Kyle Muller | LHP

Background
The 18-year-old old Muller had a record breaking spring with Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas. He set a national high school record by striking out 24 consecutive batters across two starts, including the first 18 batters of the game as part of an eight-inning, 21-strikeout performance. Muller also set a record by recording 36 consecutive outs on strikeouts at one point. He had a 0.46 ERA with 133 strikeouts and 15 walks in 76 innings this spring and is committed to Texas.

Scouting Report
Muller has the most big league ready frame among high school players in the 2016 draft class. He’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 lbs., though despite that build, he generally only sits in the 89-92 mph range with his fastball. That’s up from 85-88 mph last year. Muller’s climbed draft boards quickly this spring thanks to the velocity spike. That said, he doesn’t offer much projection physically, so it’s tough to expect more velocity down the road. Muller also throws a curveball and a changeup, though neither is even an average offering at this point. His delivery is sound for such a big guy, though he is pretty deliberate and slow to the plate. He often focuses more on repeating his mechanics than executing the pitch. It’s worth noting Muller is also a legitimate prospect as a power-hitting first baseman — he’ll get a chance to be a two-way player in college — though his upside is much greater on the mound.

Miscellany
Both MLB.com and Baseball America consider Muller a first round talent; they rank him as the 24th and 25th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Keith Law (subs. req’d) is a little lower on Muller and ranks him 58th. The Yankees hold the 18th pick. We’ve heard New York is targeting high school arms this year, and while Muller is not one of this draft’s elite prep pitchers, he could very well be the best one still on the board when their pick comes around.

Yankees smart to stop putting Luis Cessa’s development on the back burner

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Out of all the trades the Yankees made over the last two offseasons, I’m not sure any of them was more surprising than the Justin Wilson trade. We know no one is truly untouchable, but Wilson was very good last year and he was an important part of the bullpen, which is the team’s greatest strength. He seemed like someone who would wear pinstripes for a while.

Instead, the Yankees shipped Wilson to the Tigers for two Triple-A starters during the Winter Meetings. The combination of the general volatility of relievers — Wilson was a year removed from a 4.20 ERA and an 11.7% walk rate, after all — and the team’s lack of upper level rotation depth led to the trade. It didn’t help that guys like Mike Leake and Ian Kennedy were signing $70M+ contracts either. Pitching is getting harder and harder to acquire.

The two pitchers the Yankees acquired for Wilson, Chad Green and Luis Cessa, have both spent time in the big leagues this season. Green made a spot start a few weeks back and is probably next in line whenever the club needs another starter. Cessa made the Opening Day roster as a reliever, made one appearance, then was shipped down to Triple-A Scranton to continue his development as a starter.

The Yankees called Cessa back up three weeks ago, though I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t realized he was on the roster before he was sent down yesterday. Cessa barely pitched after being recalled. He threw an inning on May 24th, and, in his most notable MLB appearance to date, he threw four innings against the Rays on May 28th. Cessa allowed one run and struck out three in those four innings.

Beyond that, Cessa has been something of a forgotten man in the bullpen. He did warm up three times (!) Sunday afternoon and again Monday night, but never did get into either game. Richard Bleier has made three appearances since Cessa last pitched, if you can believe that. Joe Girardi clearly doesn’t want to thrust the kid into high (or even medium) leverage work and that’s understandable. The problem is Cessa was not pitching.

Over the last three weeks and four days, Cessa has made two appearances and thrown a total of 68 pitches. That’s all. It’s not enough for a 24-year-old kid who still could use some innings in the minors to work on his secondary pitches and overall refinement. That’s why the Yankees sent Cessa down yesterday and replaced him with Anthony Swarzak. It wasn’t because they feel Swarzak is an upgrade over Cessa as the last guy in the bullpen.

The goal here was not necessarily improving the bullpen. I’m willing to bet Cessa would out-pitch Bleier and Swarzak if given the same opportunity. No, the goal is to continue Cessa’s development and put him in a position to really help the Yankees down the road. He needs innings and he’s not getting them. It’s pretty simple. I have a really hard time thinking all this inactivity is a good thing for Cessa’s development.

The Yankees have been saying since Spring Training that they view Cessa as a starter long-term and that’s wonderful, but how are they helping him prepare for that role? They weren’t by letting him sit in the bullpen. He was sitting around waiting for blowouts, which rarely happen nowadays because the Yankees don’t score and their starters have been pretty good the last month or so. That’s why Cessa’s pitched twice in the last three weeks and three days.

We have no idea what Cessa will be long-term. He might fade away into oblivion as Hector Noesi 2.0 and make the Wilson trade a miserable failure. Or he might be the next Adam Warren and provide valuable innings. We’ll find out eventually, and the only way to find out is to let him pitch, either in MLB or Triple-A. Yesterday’s move was made because it was time for the Yankees to make Cessa’s development a priority.

2016 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Mateo. (Main St. Rock)
Mateo. (Main St. Rock)

Tomorrow night the 2016 amateur draft gets underway and the Yankees will begin the process of adding a bunch of talent to the farm system. That means new prospects to follow as they begin their path to becoming future Yankees. Or future trade chips. Can’t forget about that.

So, with the draft one day away, let’s step back for a second and take stock of the farm system right now. I put together three prospect lists each year and this pre-draft list is by far my least favorite, mostly because it’s prone to small sample size noise and there usually aren’t any new names. The pre-draft top 30 list is basically the preseason top 30 list with a few modifications.

In fact, there are only two new players on this pre-draft top 30 list. One replaces Slade Heathcott, who was released a few weeks ago. The other replaces Nick Rumbelow, who barely made the preseason list and had Tommy John surgery in April. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. Here is my updated list of the top 30 prospects in the Yankees’ system. Be sure to bookmark this post for mocking purposes.

The Top Four

1. SS Jorge Mateo, High-A (No. 3 preseason)
2. C Gary Sanchez, Triple-A (No. 2 preseason)
3. OF Aaron Judge, Triple-A (No. 1 preseason)
4. RHP James Kaprielian, High-A (No. 4 preseason)

There’s a change at the top for two reasons. One, Mateo continues to be awesome and he’s now starting to hit for a little more power. Will it last? We’ll find out. Secondly, Judge is still having trouble adjusting to Triple-A pitching. I have him below Sanchez now because they have similar offensive profiles, but Sanchez is putting up way better numbers at the same level, is eight months younger, and plays the more premium position (passably).

Kaprielian is an easy call for the fourth spot even though elbow inflammation has limited him to three starts and 18 innings this season. He was predictably dominating High-A hitters. Kaprielian is supposedly on a throwing program now and is due to return to game action towards the end of the month. Hopefully he picks up right where he left off.

The Next Five

5. OF Dustin Fowler, Double-A (No. 9 preseason)
6. SS Tyler Wade, Double-A (No. 13 preseason)
7. LHP Ian Clarkin, High-A (No. 5 preseason)
8. SS Wilkerman Garcia, Extended Spring (No. 8 preseason)
9. 3B Miguel Andujar, High-A (No. 15 preseason)

Gosh, it is really tough to order these guys. You could stick any one of them in the fifth spot or ninth spot and it would be totally justifiable. Fowler has the best combination of tools and performance (and MLB readiness), which is why I have him fifth. Andujar is having a very good season, but he is repeating the level, so I want to see him at Double-A before bumping him up any further.

Wade is the most underrated prospect in the system in my opinion even though he’s in the Yankees’ top ten on just about every list you’ll find. He has very good defensive tools and is a no-doubt shortstop, and he’s a left-handed hitter with barrel control and a strong knowledge of the strike zone. Is Wade going to be a star? No. But I felt pretty confident he’ll play in the big leagues and start for someone.

I should note Garcia is injured, but I don’t know if he’s actually injured. He came down a shoulder ailment in Spring Training and hasn’t played in any games this season, though he wasn’t going to play in any games anyway. Wilkerman was always going to start in Extended Spring Training and report to one of the short season leagues in late-June. For all we know he could be perfectly healthy right now.

A future Hall of Famer. And A-Rod. (Greg Fiume/Getty)
A future Hall of Famer. And A-Rod. (Greg Fiume/Getty)

The Big League Two

10. UTIL Rob Refsnyder, MLB (No. 6 preseason)
11. RHP Bryan Mitchell, MLB (No. 7 preseason)

At long last, Refsnyder is finally getting an extended opportunity at the big league level, as a first baseman of all things. Wouldn’t have guessed that before the season, but here we are. Mitchell is still eligible for this list only because he suffered a freak injury at the end of Spring Training. He somehow broke his toe covering first base. Mitchell was expected to be a key middle innings reliever this season. Instead, he’s not expected to return in August.

Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

12. C Luis Torrens, Low-A (No. 10 preseason)
13. RHP Drew Finley, Extended Spring (No. 12 preseason)
14. OF Mason Williams, MLB (No. 14 preseason)
15. LHP Jacob Lindgren, High-A (No. 11 preseason)

These four guys have combined for 30 plate appearances/batters faced this season, all by Lindgren, who had some rather extreme control problems before hitting the DL with an elbow injury. He managed to walk nine and uncork six wild pitches in only seven innings with High-A Tampa. Egads.

Torrens and Williams are still working their way back from last year’s shoulder surgeries. Torrens was supposed to be ready to go start the season, but the Yankees decided to shut him down when he complained of discomfort in the spring. Finley? He’s healthy, as far as we know. He’s just a teenager who is still in Extended Spring. Finley will be pitching in a short season league quite soon.

Lower Level Studs

16. RHP Domingo Acevedo, Low-A (No. 19 preseason)
17. SS Hoy Jun Park, Low-A (No. 16 preseason)
18. SS Kyle Holder, Low-A (No. 18 preseason)
19. LHP Jeff Degano, Extended Spring (No. 17 preseason)

I’m still not fully buying into Acevedo despite his strong season — he has a 2.19 ERA (2.02 FIP) with a 30.1% strikeout rate and a 3.5% walk rate in 37 innings around a mysterious lower leg injury — because I haven’t heard or read anything indicating his slider has improved. That’s the big knock on him. Acevedo lacks the breaking ball to project as a starter long-term in my not so expert opinion.

Degano has spent the season in Extended Spring, which is a little surprising to me. He wasn’t an advanced college arm like Kaprielian when drafted last season — he missed nearly two full college seasons due to Tommy John surgery — but he still seemed like someone who was ready for Low-A. Degano’s 2016 debut will come later this month. Park and Holder have had good but not great seasons while sharing short with the River Dogs. I wish there was a way to play them both at short full-time.

Almost Ready

20. OF Ben Gamel, Triple-A (No. 20 preseason)
21. RHP Luis Cessa, MLB (No. 26 preseason)
22. LHP Jordan Montgomery, Double-A (No. 21 preseason)
23. RHP Chad Green, Triple-A (NR preseason)
24. OF Jake Cave, Triple-A (NR preseason)
25. RHP Brady Lail, Triple-A (No. 22 preseason)

All six of these players have either made their MLB debut this season or are close to doing so. Montgomery is the furthest away in Double-A, but I expect him to finish the season in Triple-A, putting him a phone call away. There is some redundancy here — Gamel and Cave are pretty similar, ditto Cessa and Green — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since they play positions where depth is always necessary. I am curious to see what the Yankees do with all these outfielders. There are five outfielders on this list at Double-A and Triple-A, and four are left-handed hitters. Gotta think one or two will be used in a trade, right?

Gamel. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Gamel. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Final Five

26. IF Thairo Estrada, High-A (No. 23 preseason)
27. RHP Chance Adams, High-A (No. 24 preseason)
28. IF Abi Avelino, High-A (No. 25 preseason)
29. OF Leonardo Molina, Low-A (No. 29 preseason)
30. RHP Austin DeCarr, Extended Spring (No. 30 preseason)

Lower level players round out the bottom of list, though I suppose Adams could get the call to Double-A at some point this season. His conversion from reliever to starter has gone pretty well so far. Then again, Jonathan Holder’s seem to go well last year, and he was moved back to the bullpen this season. We’ll see what happens with Adams going forward.

Estrada is a personal favorite because he does a little of everything and seems more mature as a player than his age (20) would indicate. It’s going to take a lot to stand out in a system this deep with shortstops — the Yankees have more on the way from their 2014-15 international spending spree — so Thairo has to keep hitting and playing well regardless where the team sticks him on a given day.

DeCarr is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and should return with one of the short season affiliates this summer. We haven’t heard any updates on his status so far this year but that’s not uncommon. A healthy summer from DeCarr would move him up the rankings, no doubt.

Carlos Beltran’s power surge comes at a great time for the Yankees

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Two nights ago the Yankees beat the Angels thanks to an eighth inning three-run home run by Carlos Beltran. It was an opposite field job into the short porch against lefty Jose Alvarez. Believe it or not, that was the team’s first three-run homer since April 7th, the third game of the season. Yeah, it had been a while. Beltran again gave the Yankees the lead lastnight, this time with a first inning two-run homer off David Huff.

Last night’s home run was the 15th of the season for Beltran, and that’s notable because he hit only 19 homers last season and 15 the year before. Even in 2013, his final year with the Cardinals, Beltran swatted 24 homers. He’s on pace to hit 42 dingers (!) this season. His .277 ISO and .549 SLG rank 11th and 13th among the 175 qualified hitters in baseball, respectively. The guy is 39, remember.

As you know, Beltran started last season horribly. He looked done. Like done done. He turned things around in May and raked the rest of the season, but he didn’t hit for power like this. Beltran hit his first homer last year on May 10th, in the team’s 32nd game. From that game through the end of the season, Carlos ran a pace of 26.6 homers per 150 games. That’s really good! It’s still far below this year’s pace of 38.8 homers per 150 games.

Check out Beltran’s rolling 20-game ISO since 2010, via FanGraphs. Aside from a spike early in 2012, Beltran hasn’t matched his current power rate at any point in the last six seasons:

Carlos Beltran ISOAs you can see in the graph, Beltran’s ISO gradually faded from early-2012 though the end of the 2014 season, and that is totally normal for a player on the wrong side of 35. Players lose bat speed as they age and their power suffers. That’s the way it goes. Beltran was no exception during that three-year period.

Since the last May though, Beltran has been hitting for power at a tremendous pace, and he’s kicked it up a notch through two months and change this season. He’s done it without a substantial change in his fly ball rate or hard hit ball rate too. Beltran’s not even pulling the ball more often to take advantage of the short porch. In fact, his pull rate is down, though as a switch-hitter, that helps him take aim at the short porch against lefties.

“That’s not the plan,” said Beltran when Chad Jennings earlier this week when asked if he’s trying to hit more home runs. “The plan is to just to try to put together good at-bats. Hopefully everyone in the lineup is capable of putting together good at-bats. The plan is not to go up there and try to hit homers. That’s a terrible plan, but (Monday) it worked out for us.”

There is one really obvious possible explanation for Beltran’s recent power surge: he’s healthy. Beltran spent most of 2014 playing through a bone spur in his elbow. He wasn’t all that good that season, especially in the second half. Beltran then had the bone spur removed in the offseason. It seems like it took him a few weeks early last year to get right physically, then once he started to feel really good in May, he took off and it carried into this season.

I also think there might be something tying Beltran’s performance to his contract status. This is going to sound cynical as hell, but money is a great motivator. We’ve all noticed Carlos running better in the outfield and on the bases this season, right? Is it unreasonable to think he’s in better shape than he has been the last few years because his deal is up? I don’t think so. This happens all the time in all sports.

The combination of good health and that extra contract year motivation could help explain Beltran’s recent power surge. Could is the key word there. We don’t know this for sure. The only thing we know for sure is that since May of last season, Beltran has really awesome at the plate, and he’s upped his power output considerably this season. He hasn’t hit for power like this since he was in his prime with the Mets years and years ago.

For the Yankees to have any chance to climb back into the postseason race, they’ll need Beltran to keep up this pace. He’s been their best hitter this season by no small margin and is their biggest power threat. And you know what? If the Yankees don’t get back into the race, this power surge will make Beltran that much more attractive to other teams at the deadline should the Yankees decide to sell. For now, Carlos’ power definitely qualifies as a good surprise this season.