Anyway, here is an open thread for the evening. ESPN is showing the Cubs and Pirates, and MLB Network will have a regional game later on. There are also a trio of NBA playoff games on as well. No NHL though. No one bothered to force a Game Seven this round. Lame! Talk about anything that isn’t religion or politics here.
Baseball’s annual three-day amateur draft will begin seven weeks from today. The 2017 draft runs from June 12th to 14th this season and it’s safe to assume MLB Network will again broadcast the first day. Based on previous years, the broadcast will cover 75 picks on Day One, stretching from the First Round to Competitive Balance Round B. Here is the full 2017 draft order.
The Yankees will make two selections on Day One — their first (16th overall) and second (54th overall) round picks — and for the third straight year, they will pick in the top 20. They held the 18th pick last year (OF Blake Rutherford) and the 16th pick (RHP James Kaprielian) the year before. Only once in the previous 19 years did the Yankees have a top 20 pick. They used the 17th pick to take SS C.J. Henry in 2005. He was later traded for Bobby Abreu.
At some point soon, perhaps later this week, I’ll begin profiling draft prospects and potential draft targets for the Yankees. I never did profile Rutherford last summer because I didn’t think he’d fall all the way to 18th. It would be cool if something similar happened this year. Here’s the draft profile I wrote about OF Aaron Judge back in 2013. The profiles will look similar again this year. Here are a few draft notes seven weeks out from the main event.
Yankees will have a $6.91M bonus pool
A few weeks back it was reported the Yankees will have a $6.583M bonus pool, but it turns out that’s low. They’ll actually have a $6,912,800 pool this year, according to Jim Callis. More important than the overall bonus pool are the individual slots. Here are New York’s slot values for the 2017 draft:
- First Round (16th overall): $3,458,600
- Second Round (54th): $1,236,000
- Third Round (92nd): $588,700
- Fourth Round (122nd): $433, 100
- Fifth Round (152nd): $323,400
- Sixth Round (182nd): $247, 600
- Seventh Round (212nd): $193,700
- Eighth Round (242nd): $157,200
- Ninth Round (272nd): $141,200
- Tenth Round (302nd): $133,300
As a reminder, if the Yankees fail to sign a player in one of those slots, they lose the associated pool money. If they sign a player below the slot value, they can use the savings elsewhere. The Yankees, like many teams, tend to select college seniors in the sixth through tenth rounds, sign them dirt cheap, then spend the savings on other players. That’s the only way you can give out overslot bonuses now.
MLB and the MLBPA agreed to direct more bonus pool money to the top of the draft as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is why the first round slot is so high. Last year the Yankees had a $2,441,600 slot bonus for Rutherford and the 18th pick. Yeah. The money was distributed much more linearly through the top ten rounds. Now it’s top heavy.
Baseball America, MLB.com top draft prospects
The consensus top draft prospect this year is California HS SS/RHP Hunter Greene, who Keith Law recently said has a “chance (to be) a generational talent.” Greene is a legitimate prospect as both a shortstop and a pitcher, though most believe he has more upside on the mound. It’s worth noting a high school right-handed pitcher has never been selected first overall. Greene has a chance to make history this summer. (Don’t miss the Greene vs. Rutherford video above!)
As for potential Yankees targets, I’d start by looking at players from Southern California. That is scouting director Damon Oppenheimer’s wheelhouse. Both high school and college, and if the college guy has had success in the Cape Cod League, that’s a bonus. Rutherford, Kaprielian, LHP Ian Clarkin, RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Ian Kennedy … all first round picks under Oppenheimer and all SoCal products.
Baseball America’s mock draft v2.0
Last month John Manuel posted his first mock draft of the year, though it only covered the top ten picks, so the Yankees were not included. He had the Twins selecting Greene (as a pitcher) with the No. 1 overall pick. Last week Manuel posted his second mock draft — this time he had the Twins taking Louisville 1B/LHP Brendan McKay — and this one covered the entire first round. He has the Yankees taking California HS 1B/OF Nick Pratto with the 18th overall selection. Here’s the blurb:
Fresh off Blake Rutherford’s strong start, the Yankees could go to the SoCal hitter well again with Pratto, who also has a fallback as a lefthanded pitcher. While the Yankees have had confidence in their ability to draft and develop pitching, the injuries to James Kaprielian and success of homegrown hitters such as Aaron Judge could nudge them back in the hitter direction. Pratto runs well enough to give the outfield corners a shot rather than just being limited to first base.
Even with the draft six weeks away, it’s still a bit too early to start connecting teams to individual players. Lots and lots can and will change between now and draft day. As I said before, Southern California is a safe bet for the Yankees, so I guess that means Pratto fits.
Starlin Castro is not a very good major league baseball player. This is something that precious few people would find shocking or inaccurate, and yet I feel the need to say it. His career 97 wRC+ is a bit above-average for a middle infielder, but, when combined with his subpar defense and middling to poor base-running it leads to an average of 1.8 fWAR per 150 games. If you squint, you can easily convince yourself that Castro is an average big leaguer – I just happen to take it a step further.
I was ecstatic when the Yankees dealt Adam Warren for Castro a year and a half ago. I saw a 25-year-old player that had shown flashes of greatness in his six seasons in the majors, and was just one season removed from a deserved All-Star appearance. And, given his age and overall contact-heavy approach, it wasn’t difficult to recall the 70s and 80s that scouts tossed on his hit tool back in 2010. He was a frustratingly inconsistent player, to be sure, but the talent was obvious, and he felt like the ideal ‘change of scenery’ type, given the new direction of the Cubs franchise and his status as the face of the failures of the previous several seasons.
This time last year, it seemed as though my optimistic outlook was paying off. Castro wrapped-up April batting .305/.345/.488, which was essentially his 2014 season with more power. Nothing screamed outlier, either, as his .324 BABIP was less than a handful of points higher than his career norm, his 5.7 BB% was in-line with his better seasons, as was his 12.6 K%, and his 15% HR/FB was explained by a few cheap home runs. And the power wasn’t what we were looking for anyway – it was always about Castro getting back to that .300 batting average range, and seeing what happened around it. Things were looking up.
And then he hit .244/.278/.370 for the next three months. His walk rate dropped by 1.7 percentage points, his strikeout rate jumped by nearly 8 percentage points, and his BABIP dropped down to .285. We watched Castro swing at everything between his shoulders and his ankles, and most anything that came within six inches of the strike zone. Is there hyperbole sprinkled in there? Yes, to some extent – but that’s what the Castro experience feels like. He rebounded in August and September, and that led to some positive buzz; but the damage was done.
Or so you’d think, as I’m finding myself gravitating right back into his corner.
As of this writing, Castro is batting .357/.400/.571, good for a 178 wRC+ – easily his best month in pinstripes, if not his career. It’s obviously unsustainable (note the .396 BABIP), but could we be seeing some tangible change? Maybe. Probably not … but maybe.
It all begins with his swing rates. As per FanGraphs, Castro is currently swinging at 32.5% of pitches outside of the strikezone (1.3 percentage points below his career norm), and 49.1% overall. Both are his lowest since 2014, and both are within striking distance of league-average; the aggressiveness is still there, but it has been toned down. For better or worse, however, we saw this last April, too:
Those charts are incredibly similar, and tell the same story – Castro loves to swing. And that includes swinging at pitches in on the hands, which may well be his kryptonite (announcers and fans have long lamented his propensity to be jammed inside). When everything’s working with his swing, he’ll pick up hits on those pitches; when it’s not, we see far too much weak contact.
What about the uptick in walks, though? Castro’s 6.7% walk rate would represent the high water mark of his career if it held, and it’s his best single month mark since July of 2014. That’s not great at face value, but it’s an improvement for the swing-happy second baseman. And there might just be something there, when you consider his swing percentages and his career-high 3.85 pitches per plate appearance.
That 3.85 P/PA mark is right around league-average, and represents a very real improvement from his 3.69 P/PA of 2016, and career rate of 3.68 P/PA. And that is something that we didn’t see last year, even in his hot April when he saw just 3.65 P/PA. While such a jump only represents an extra 130 or so pitches seen per season, it is nevertheless a positive indicator of a (potentially) more disciplined hitter.
There could also be something to Castro’s batted ball profile, as well. Castro is pulling the ball just 35.1% of the time, after sitting at or above 40% from 2014 through 2016. He’s also going the other way on 29.8% of batted balls, 3.8 percentage points above his career norm (and the second highest rate of his career). Given his average power, that’s a good way to take advantage of Yankee Stadium – especially when you factor in his continued uptick in flyballs and decrease in grounders.
Attempting to discern any real information from eighteen games and 75 plate appearances is something of a fool’s errand, and that oftentimes feels even more true with Starlin Castro. It is clear, though, that Castro has been a bit more disciplined this year, and that is contributing to his hot start. Moreover, prior successes (and scouting reports) tell us that the talent is there, and many of us have bought in, albeit to varying degrees. When talent and production meet in an age-27 season, the word ‘breakout’ comes to mind – but we’ve been fooled before.
The Bad, the Ugly and the Awful
Last year the Yankees went 3-7 on their road Interleague slate, tied with the Twins for the worst record among AL teams … and the trend continued into 2017 after dropping the series opener in Pittsburgh, 6-3, on Friday night.
All the momentum and confidence built up from a strong 8-1 homestand came to a screeching halt thanks to a mix of bad pitching (see below), sloppy defense (two unearned runs) and a lack of clutch hitting (0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base).
CC Sabathia was knocked around early, allowing a lead-off homer on the third pitch he threw and another longball in the second frame, putting the Yankees in 4-0 hole after two innings. Although he settled down and was able to gut through three more innings without allowing another run, he still was tagged for his worst outing of the season.
For whatever reason, Sabathia’s fastball (sinker/cutter) velocity was down significantly from his first three starts, averaging 88.2 mph compared to 90.6 in his first three starts combined …
… and stuff-wise, each of his fastballs had much less “ride” on Friday, averaging just 7.1 (sinker) and 1.3 (cutter) inches of horizontal movement compared to 11.9 (sinker) and 3.7 (cutter) in his first three starts.
Unsurprisingly, the Pirates crushed Sabathia’s diminished hard pitches, going 5-for-14 with two homers when putting his fastballs in play. In his first three starts, batters hit .244 and slugged .317 against Sabathia’s sinker/cutter combo.
The Pirates did their best to give the Yankees a chance to win, committing three errors, while the Yankees weren’t credited with an official RBI on any of their three runs scored. It was just the sixth time in franchise history they scored as many as three runs in a game with zero RBI. The last time it happened was May 2, 1989 in a 5-3 loss to the Royals.
Love these Komeback Kids
The Yankees got back in the win column with their sixth comeback win of the season, this time erasing a 3-0 deficit after five innings and cruising to an 11-5 victory.
Starlin Castro ignited the first rally with a three-run homer in the sixth inning that knotted the score at 3-3. It was his 25th longball with the Yankees and the 12th one that either tied the game or gave the Yankees the lead – that’s three more than any other Yankee over the last two seasons.
Ronald Torreyes then followed with a two-run double to give the Yankees their first lead, 5-3, in the sixth. Torreyes finished with four hits and two RBI, giving him 13 RBI through the team’s first 17 games. The only other Yankee shortstops with that many RBIs this early into the season were Derek Jeter (1999, 2006) and Frankie Crosetti (1936).
After the Pirates came back to tie the score, Chris Carter delivered his first True Yankee Moment®, belting a tie-breaking, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning – his first time going deep in pinstripes. He is just the fourth Yankee pinch-hitter with a go-ahead homer in an Interleague game, joining Travis Hafner (2013 vs Arizona), Eric Chavez (2012 vs Mets) and Clay Bellinger (2000 vs Braves).
Aaron Judge then put the icing on the cake, connecting for yet another moonshot deep into the left field bleachers at PNC Park. Statcast measured the blast at career-high 457 feet with an exit velocity of 115.6 mph. Since his debut on Aug. 13, 2016, he has hit three homers traveling at least 445 feet. In that span (and through Saturday), only Justin Upton could match Judge in 445-plus foot homers.
It was the sixth time in 2017 that Judge ripped a ball with an exit velocity of at least 115 mph, making the leaderboard of 115-plus mph batted balls this season through Saturday … well, pretty ridiculous:
- Aaron Judge: 6
- Joey Gallo: 2
- Rest of MLB: 9
As good as the Yankees have been in the Bronx, they’ve been just as bad away from the friendly confines. After dropping the rubber game on Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Yankees fell to 0-3 in road series this season.
Ivan Nova — in his first start against the Yankees since being traded away last summer — got some sweet revenge against his former team as he allowed one run in seven efficient innings. It was the ninth time in 15 starts (60%) with the Pirates that Nova gave up one earned or fewer; he did that in just 25 percent of his 118 starts with the Yankees.
Jordan Montgomery continued to show poise on the mound and a knack for pitching out of trouble in another impressive outing. Making his third career start, the 24-year-old rookie scattered seven hits across six innings, surrendering two runs. The Pirates had one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring against Montgomery, who has held batters to a .118 average (2-for-17) with a man on second and/or third in his three starts.
The Yankees had plenty of chances to win the game but repeatedly came up empty. Notably, they loaded the bases with one out in the ninth but Aaron Hicks struck out and then Pete Kozma grounded out to end the game.
This was not an ideal situation for Hicks: he is now 2-for-27 (.074) with the bases loaded in his career, the second-worst mark among active players (min. 25 at-bats). And Kozma is just a bad hitter: his .148 batting average overall since the start of 2015 is better than only two non-pitchers that have at least 100 at-bats in the last three seasons (Craig Gentry, .139 and Erik Kratz, .117).
Record Last Week: 3-3 (32 RS, 22 RA)
Season Record: 11-7 (92 RS, 62 RA, 12-6 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Red Sox (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Orioles (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The week started with the three-game home series against the White Sox. The Yankees stretched their winning streak to eight games with a 7-4 win Monday. The streak ended with Tuesday’s 4-1 loss. The Yankees took the series with a 9-1 win Wednesday.
- Following Thursday’s off-day, the Yankees headed out to Pittsburgh for a three-game interleague series. The Yankees lost 6-3 Friday, but Chris Carter‘s clutch home run contributed to Saturday’s 11-5 win. A ninth inning rally fell short in Sunday’s 2-1 loss.
- Injury Updates: Didi Gregorius (shoulder) has started a minor league rehab assignment. Gary Sanchez (biceps) has started throwing and hitting. Gleyber Torres (shoulder) has been placed on the minor league disabled list with tendinitis. He is not expected to miss much time.
- Aaron Judge is open to participating in the Home Run Derby. Johnny Barbato was traded to the Pirates for cash or a player to be named later.
- Once again, Forbes estimates the Yankees are the most valuable franchise in baseball by a lot.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Well, that game could have gone a lot better. Jordan Montgomery didn’t have the best showing but limited the damage to 2 runs in 6 IP, which is pretty solid. Bryan Mitchell got out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam and tossed another scoreless to keep the Yankees close, but the offense went silent with runners on — and in general besides that Jacoby Ellsbury HR. The Yankees took a series loss against the Pirates and fall to 11-7 on the season. It’s the weekend so let’s do it bullet-point style.
- Down two runs: Montgomery got into a trouble in a jiffy in the first inning. He walked Jordy Mercer and allowed back-to-back singles by Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen to get into a no-out, bases-loaded jam with Gregory Polanco, David Freese and Jose Osuna coming up. However, he got out of the inning relatively unscathed, allowing only a run on Freese’s deep sacrifice fly. Montgomery’s location was kind of all over the place that inning so it seemed like it could have gone a lot worse. Down 1-0 with eight more innings to go didn’t seem like a too bad of a scenario. The score stayed that way until the bottom of third when the Bucs scored another. Montgomery walked McCutchen and allowed an RBI double to Polanco for a 2-0 Pittsburgh lead.
- Dominated by an old friend: Ivan Nova had a start that the Pirates needed to win a ballgame, pitching seven solid innings, striking out seven and allowing only a run — on the Ellsbury solo HR — en route to earning his second win of the season. Oddly enough, he also allowed a walk. That’s a rarity nowadays because it’s only his fourth allowed in the Pirates uniform, which is pretty incredible. What makes it even more incredulous is that Jordan Montgomery drew said walk, in his first ML plate appearance ever, nonetheless. Baseball can be pretty weird like that. Speaking of an old friend, former Yankees backup catcher Chris Stewart went 2-for-3 today with a triple (!!!) because of course.
- That ninth inning: The Yankees were gifted a pretty good chance against a very good reliever in Tony Watson. After Ellsbury lined out to first, Aaron Judge singled, Matt Holliday walked, and Ronald Torreyes reached on a Harrison error that should have been a game-ending double play. A flyball would have tied the game, which Aaron Hicks seems pretty capable of. However, he struck out in three pitches and Pete Kozma followed it up with a ground out on a 2-0 pitch to end the game. That was a huge and frustrating tease. The Yankees went 0-f0r-6 with RISP today and that’s not what you want if you want to win. Blergh.
- Miscellaneous: Mitchell relieved Montgomery to start the seventh and got into a no-out, bases-loaded jam (two walks and a single). With top of the lineup coming up, it seemed like the game was going to get out of control pretty quickly. However, Mitchell induced a short fly out, a line out and a strikeout to get out of the jam, keeping New York in the game … Brett Gardner had another dud game at bat today, going 0-for-3 and dropping his season average to .182 … April AL MVP candidate Chase Headley also had an 0-for-4 day … Greg Bird? 0-for-3 day. Not the best day for the bats. You’re gonna get a few of these in a 162-game season.
Here are today’s box score, updated standings and video highlights. The Yankees get a day-off tomorrow before going to Boston. They’ll play a three-game series at Fenway Park and will be back to the Yankee Stadium on Friday to play the Orioles.
The Yankees announced their first notable prospect promotion of the season earlier today: RHP Albert Abreu has been bumped up from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa. The team’s No. 9 prospect had a 1.84 ERA (2.54 FIP) with 22 strikeouts and three walks in three outings and 14.2 innings with the RiverDogs. Abreu, who came over from the Astros in the Brian McCann trade, threw 90 innings at Low-A last season as well.
Triple-A Scranton (4-2 loss to Indianapolis)
- SS Tyler Wade: 0-4, 2 K
- LF Clint Frazier: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K — here’s video of yesterday’s homer (talk about a hanger)
- DH Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 K — started the season 1-for-13 (.077) … he’s gone 11-for-35 (.314) since
- 1B Ji-Man Choi: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- CF Mason Williams: 0-3
- RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 4/5 GB/FB — 53 of 91 pitches were strikes (58%)
- LHP Chasen Shreve: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 15 of 21 pitches were strikes (71%)