Assorted Baseball Thoughts

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Hey, baseball! You’re unofficially back and that’s all sorts of awesome. It’s still a while before things really count, but it’s nice to have the game back in our lives on a daily basis, even if it’s just in the form of players doing workouts or taking batting practice or throwing bullpens. Dinner, so to speak, is finally on the stove and we’re beginning to smell it as its scent wafts up to us, enticing us to walk down into the kitchen (even if it won’t really open until April). So, in celebration of the season, here are some assorted thoughts about baseball goings on and whatnot.

How about that Aaron Judge homer? Or Gleyber Torres knocking two doubles and scoring from second (!) on a wild pitch? Or Clint Frazier going oppo on a triple? In the long run, these things mean absolutely nothing. I know it; you know it; the players themselves (probably) know it. But, regardless, it’s nice to see. Spring Training already gives us that nebulously fuzzy feeling of optimism and that only gets heightened when prospects and young players perform well.

While on the topic of young players, whom do you guys think is more likely to start the year in AAA: Judge or Greg Bird? There are cases for both players needing more work. Judge still swings and misses a lot and Bird will need to find his power stroke after missing an entire year; it’s plan to see why those two things could/should be worked out in Scranton rather than the Bronx. Both have nominally capable “replacements” in Aaron Hicks and Chris Carter, though Carter is much more a sure thing than Hicks at this point. I don’t think either of them ends up in AAA to start the year, though, and despite arguments for it, in a year in which the Yankees are transitioning, it’s okay to see some growing pains at the highest level.

The World Baseball Classic is back this year and it’s still something that I like but don’t love at this point. I get why it exists and I think the commissioner and his office genuinely do want to grow the game internationally–as they well should from a business point of view–but the whole thing still feels a bit stilted and awkward and I can’t place why. As a fan of soccer, I enjoy tournaments that the WBC tries to mimic–the World Cup, the European/Copa America tournaments, the Champions League, the FA Cup, etc.–but I just can’t fully buy into the WBC. I think I’d like it a lot more if it were styled after the Champions League with club teams rather than international teams. The only problem there is lack of competition. Only teams from the US, Japan, Cuba, and Korea would really be able to hack it in such a tournament, as teams from the other leagues in the world aren’t anywhere near good enough to hang with the best of the best from those leagues. I suppose, then, that there really isn’t much to do about changing it. Eventually–when no Yankees play in the damn thing–I’ll learn to love it.

Intentional walks as we know them may soon be a thing of the past. (Getty)
Intentional walks as we know them may soon be a thing of the past. (Getty)

Speaking of changes, MLB is doing away with the intentional walk process and I feel very…ambivalent about it. I don’t necessarily like it, but I don’t feel nearly strong enough about it to make a stink. At the end of the day, it’s a fairly meaningless change that won’t do much to take away from the game and won’t do much to improve it. It’s a fairly transparent move, in fact, so MLB can say ‘Look! See? We’re making changes!’ without having to do anything radical or spend any money. Regardless of my personal feelings, pace of play is a concern of MLB’s and they’re going to do what they can to speed up play, though I’m not sure how much it’ll help. Will casual fans become die hards or will new fans be born because games go from three hours to two hour and forty five minutes? Eh.

To grow the game, MLB needs to think outside just the field of play. I love baseball not just because it was introduced to me by my family, but because I played it growing up. For many kids in this country–especially kids of color and those in urban environments–the cost of playing baseball is prohibitive. Pumping money into youth leagues of all shapes and sizes–even subsidizing some of them–is one way for MLB to grow both with young people and people of color, demographics the sport has lacked recently.

Additionally, MLB needs to tap into why young people like certain sports. Over the last five years or so, I’ve taught every grade from 7-12 (though only as a day sub for 8th grade) and kids like players more than they like teams. I was the same way when I was younger–I had basketball and football jerseys from a dozen different teams and kids today are no different. They talk about players and stars more than they talk about teams. MLB hasn’t done the greatest job of promoting its new crop of stars and that’s going to hurt them as they compete against star-driven leagues like the NBA and the NFL. Allow player personalities to shine on the field and give them exposure off the field. It’s 2017; act like it, MLB.

Open Thread: February 25th Camp Notes

The Yankees suffered their first spring loss today, though they showed some #FightingSpirit by rallying to tie the game in the top of the ninth. The Phillies then came back to win in the bottom half. Womp womp. Gleyber Torres had a double to left, a double to right, and he scored from second on a wild pitch. That was fun. Chris Carter, Clint Frazier, and Miguel Andujar each had a single.

Adam Warren started and threw two perfect innings. It was a very ho hum, Adam Warren-like outing. Dietrich Enns and Daniel Camarena threw two innings each and combined to allow five runs. Ben Heller struck out the side in an impressive inning, though it was against a bunch of minor league kids. Jonathan Holder fanned two in his perfect inning. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the rest of the day’s notes from Tampa:

This is the open thread for the rest of the day. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on MLB Network at 11pm ET, if you’re interested. (MLB Network will be showing games the rest of the day, though all will be on tape delay.) All the local hockey and basketball teams are in action, and there’s more college basketball on the schedule than any one person could possible watch. Talk about those games or anything else right here, as long as it’s not religion or politics.

Good Cause: The Trenton Thunder have teamed up with Vs. Cancer to help fight pediatric cancer. Doug Hall has all the details. The Thunder will hold a fundraising event at the ballpark on August 22nd, though you could make a donation right now at their Vs. Cancer page. They’re hoping to raise $20,000 this year. If you’ve got a few extra bucks burning a hole in your pocket, here’s a good cause.

Spring Training Game Thread: A Prospect-Laden Lineup

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yesterday’s Grapefruit League opener sure was fun, wasn’t it? Aaron Judge cranked a monster homer, Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar both did some exciting things, and of course the Yankees won. That’s always cool, even in Spring Training. This afternoon the Yankees are on the road for the first time this spring, and they brought some big time prospect firepower with them to Clearwater.

A few things to watch today: Greg Bird! He’s playing again. First base too. The shoulder must be feeling good if he’s playing back-to-back days in the field. We’ll also get to see Chris Carter in a Yankees uniform for the first time. Will he be able to one-up Judge’s homer from yesterday? That’d be cool. Also, natural shortstop Tyler Wade will play center field off the bench as the Yankees continue to turn him into a super utility player. Here is the Phillies lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  2. C Austin Romine
  3. 1B Greg Bird
  4. DH Chris Carter
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. LF Clint Frazier
  7. 3B Miguel Andujar
  8. SS Gleyber Torres
  9. CF Dustin Fowler
    RHP Adam Warren

Available Pitchers: LHP Dietrich Enns, LHP Daniel Camarena, RHP Ben Heller, LHP Joe Mantiply, and RHP Jonathan Holder are all scheduled to pitch after Warren. RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, RHP Brady Lail, and RHP J.R. Graham are also available.

Available Position Players: C Kellin Deglan, 1B Rob Refsnyder, 2B Jorge Mateo, SS Pete Kozma, 3B Donovan Solano, LF Ji-Man Choi, CF Tyler Wade, RF Billy McKinney, and DH Jorge Saez will be the second string off the bench. UTIL Wilkin Castillo and C Francisco Diaz drew the short straws and had to make the road trip even though they aren’t scheduled to play.

The weather is pretty excellent in Clearwater. A little cloudy with temperatures in the mid-70s and a cool breeze. Can’t beat it. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET today. If you’re in the Phillies’ home market, you can watch the game on CSN Philly. Otherwise MLB.tv is your only option. There’s no YES broadcast and MLB Network isn’t showing the game live either. Enjoy.

Open Thread: February 24th Camp Notes

The Yankees played and won their first Grapefruit League game of the year this afternoon. We play today, we win today, das it. Aaron Judge hit the monster home run you see in the video above. What a shot. Didi Gregorius and Kyle Higashioka also went deep. Clint Frazier and Dustin Fowler both tripled, and Miguel Andujar doubled and tripled. The kids, they’re fun.

Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa both threw two perfect innings in their first outings of the spring. They’re competing for the two open rotation spots. The Yankees actually took a perfect game into the seventh inning before it got fudged up. Gio Gallegos had a tough time in the ninth inning. Here’s the box score and here are the video highlights. I recommend the highlights. It was a fun game. Here’s the rest of the day’s news from Tampa:

  • Bryan Hoch has the pitching assignments for those who didn’t play in today’s game, as well as the hitting/fielding groups. Luis Severino and Jon Niese threw bullpen sessions. That’s about it. Not a particularly busy day in camp.
  • Turns out Jorge Mateo will not play the outfield this spring. “In talking [within] the organization, we would like to get him more work out there before we put him in a game,” said Joe Girardi. Mateo has worked out in the outfield this spring and during Instructional League last year. That’s all so far. [George King]
  • Matt Holliday joined Frazier for breakfast yesterday and the two had a little veteran-to-prospect chat. “We talked about some things that can help me grow as a man. For him to kind of put his arm around me and put me under his wing … It’s a testimony to what kind of man he is,” said Frazier. [Randy Miller]
  • And finally, former infielder David Adams has joined the Yankees as a defensive coach for one of their two rookie Gulf Coast League affiliates. Adams was a pretty good prospect back in the day, though he was never quite the same after suffering a severe ankle injury sliding into a base in 2010. [Brendan Kuty]

Here is an open thread for the night. If you’re interested, this afternoon’s game will be replayed on MLB Network at 7pm ET and on YES at roughly 12am ET (after the Nets game). Otherwise the Nets are the only local team in action tonight. No college hoops either. Enjoy the rest of your evening.

Friday Links: A-Rod, YES, Judge, Frazier, Gagne, Littell

Guest instructor Al from Miami. (Presswire)
Guest instructor Al from Miami. (Newsday)

The Yankees are, at this very moment, playing their first Grapefruit League game of the season. Turn on YES or MLB.tv to watch. Here’s our game thread. Don’t miss it. Here are some bits of news and notes to check out in the meantime.

A-Rod to meet with YES

At some point this spring Alex Rodriguez will meet with executives from the YES Network, report George King and Bryan Hoch. The exact reason for the meeting is unclear. It could be something, it could be nothing. Maybe just a meet-and-great or some promo work. Or maybe the two sides will discuss a broadcasting role. YES has a small army of ex-Yankees on their rotating panel of analysts.

Rodriguez has done analyst work with FOX the last two postseasons and he’s been really good. Critics have praised him and diehard fans seem to like him too. A-Rod certainly knows the game and he seems comfortable talking about it in depth on camera. Again, I have no idea why exactly Alex and YES are meeting. It really could be nothing. I selfishly hope it’s about potential broadcasting work though. That would be awesome.

Judge among Law’s top impact prospects for 2017

Keith Law (subs. req’d) recently ranked his top 19 prospects based on potential 2017 impact. Not surprisingly, Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi and Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson sit in the top two spots. They’re the two best prospects in baseball in my opinion, and both are locked into big league starting jobs this year. Aaron Judge is seventh on Law’s list and Clint Frazier is among the honorable mentions.

I expect (Judge) to take some time to bring (his strikeouts) down this year, but that’s been his history with each promotion in pro ball. Judge is a giant, at 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, so his strike zone is just as big, but he has enormous raw power and is an above-average right fielder. As long as the contact he makes continues to be hard contact, he’ll have value even if he’s among the league leaders in Ks.

I don’t think the Yankees will hesitate to send Judge to Triple-A to start the season if they feel it’s best for him. I also think they understand he’s going to come with growing pains. We saw them late last year and they’re not necessarily over. At some point they’re just going to have to stick it out with Judge and let him work through the problems, and perhaps that means a .205 average with 185 strikeouts in 2017. Perhaps moreso than any other young player in the system, Judge is going to require a lot of patience, both from the Yankees and fans.

Gagne considering comeback attempt

Eric Gagne, who turned 41 last month, is considering a comeback attempt, according to Ken Gurnick. Gagne hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2008 — he was one-and-done on the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot — but he has thrown in various independent leagues the last few years, and he’ll pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Gagne’s agent told Gurnick he sat 93-95 mph in indy ball last year (eh) while Jon Heyman hears he’s throwing 92-93 mph in bullpen sessions right now.

Gagne at his peak was one of the most dominant forces in baseball history. From 2002-04 he had a 1.79 ERA (1.57 FIP) with 38.6% strikeouts and 6.1% walks in 247 innings. During his 2003 Cy Young season he struck out 137 and walked 18 unintentionally in 82.1 innings. Insane. This is the time of year for comeback attempt stories, and hey, if Gagne looks good during the WBC, I’m sure some team will offer him a minor league deal. Maybe even the Yankees.

Littell among top “control” prospects

A few weeks ago Matt Eddy put together a list of the best “control” prospects in the minors. In this case control is not referring to the ability to throw strikes. FIP is based on three things the pitcher controls: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. Eddy removed strikeouts and examined the best prospects at limiting walks and homers, and he also threw in the ability to hold runners for good measure. Zack Littell ranked third on his list.

Of the dozen prospects traded by the Mariners this offseason, Littell looks like one of the more promising. The Yankees acquired the 21-year-old North Carolina prep in a straight-up trade for lefty reliever James Pazos. Littell brings a cerebral approach to the mound, which helps his high-spin fastball and above-average breaking ball play up.

I’m still amazed the Yankees were able to get a solid starting pitcher prospect for Pazos, who throws hard and doesn’t do much else. Littell did not make my top 30 prospects list but Baseball America ranked him 24th in the system in their 2017 Prospect Handbook. The Yankees managed to use the industry’s obsession with lefties and velocity to turn Pazos and Justin Wilson into three pretty nice young arms at a time when reliable starters are hard to find and not cheap to acquire. Neat.

Spring Training Game Thread: Baseball Returns!

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time since October 2nd of last year, the Yankees will play a baseball game today. Not a meaningful one, of course, but a game nonetheless. The Yankees open the 2017 Grapefruit League schedule with a home game against the Phillies at renovated George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa this afternoon. Welcome back, baseball. I’ve missed you.

A few things to watch today: Greg Bird! We haven’t seen him since the 2015 Wild Card Game. He is in today’s lineup. So is Aaron Judge, who is competing for the right field job. I’m curious to see what his mechanics look like these days. There’s been some confusion of late (which is my fault). And, of course, the fourth and fifth starter competition is beginning. Here is the cast of characters the Phillies sent across the causeway, and here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is sending out there in the exhibition opener:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Didi Gregorius
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 1B Greg Bird
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. LF Aaron Hicks
  9. RF Aaron Judge
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

Available Pitchers: RHP Tyler Clippard, LHP Tommy Layne, RHP Luis Cessa, LHP Jordan Montgomery, and RHP Gio Gallegos are all expected to pitch today, assuming I’m reading the lineup card correctly. LHP Daniel Camarena, LHP Dietrich Enns, RHP Ben Heller, RHP Jonathan Holder, and LHP Joe Mantiply are also listed as available.

Available Position Players: C Kyle Higashioka, 1B Ji-Man Choi, 2B Ruben Tejada, SS Gleyber Torres, 3B Miguel Andujar, LF Clint Frazier, CF Dustin Fowler, RF Rob Refsnyder, and DH Wilkin Castillo will be the second string off the bench. That’ll be fun. C Kellin Deglan, C Francisco Diaz, C Jorge Saez, SS Jorge Mateo, OF Billy McKinney, and UTIL Tyler Wade are also available today.

The internet tells me the weather in Tampa is pretty much perfect for baseball. Sunny and warm but not oppressively hot and humid. I want to go to there. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and both MLB Network and MLB.tv nationally. There’s also the FOX Sports Go app. Over the last few years MLB.tv blackout rules have not applied during Spring Training, and hopefully that is still the case. Enjoy the game, folks.