The Aaron Hicks injury creates a spot for one of the Triple-A outfield prospects

Frazier. (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Frazier. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

The losses are starting to pile up. Not just in the standings either. The Yankees have lost ten of their last 12 games, and they’ve also lost several players to injuries during that time as well. Yesterday Aaron Hicks went down with a right oblique issue. He’s expected to go on the disabled list and miss 3-4 weeks. Yuck. Hicks as been great this year overall. Losing him is no good.

If there’s a silver lining to the Hicks injury, it’s the timing. Jacoby Ellsbury played two minor league rehab games over the weekend and there’s a chance the Yankees will activate him today to replace Hicks. The Yankees would love to have both guys healthy, but that’s not an option. Having one is better than having none, and it sure seems like Ellsbury will be back very soon.

Replacing Hicks with Ellsbury would be the easiest move. Hicks goes on the disabled list and Ellsbury takes his place on the roster, in center field, and in the second spot in the lineup. Three birds, one stone. It’s so straightforward that that’s what I think will happen. That said, even with Ellsbury back, the Hicks injury creates an opportunity for the Yankees to turn to Dustin Fowler or Clint Frazier, their top Triple-A outfield prospects. Let me explain.

1. Ellsbury and Gardner could use rest going forward. Ellsbury is going to be coming back from a concussion and, for his own good, easing him back into things would be a smart move. You don’t want to push him too hard coming off a brain injury. Brett Gardner, the team’s other veteran outfielder, could also use a more rest going forward. He’s played a ton these last few weeks with Ellsbury out. Gardner has started 27 of 28 games since Ellsbury went on the disabled list, and he came off the bench the one game he didn’t start. Yeah.

Think about this way: what was the plan when Ellsbury came back before Hicks got hurt? The Yankees were going to go back to rotating Hicks around the outfield. There’s basically no chance the Yankees and Joe Girardi would outright bench one of their outfielders and relegate someone to true fourth outfielder duty. And, really, none of them deserve to sit full-time. The Yankees are at their best when all four outfielders are getting rest and staying involved.

Calling up one of the Triple-A outfielders, either Fowler or Frazier, would allow the Yankees to do the same thing. Rotate the young outfielder around like they would have Hicks. You don’t want to call up one of those guys and have him sit on the bench day after day. You want him to play. This would be a way to get their feet in the big leagues without overwhelming them, without counting on them to have an impact, and without cutting someone else’s playing time drastically.

Fowler. (Times Leader)
Fowler. (Times Leader)

2. The Yankees really need to upgrade the bench. The Yankees effectively went into yesterday’s game with a one-man bench. Matt Holliday wasn’t feeling well and Starlin Castro was unavailable after receiving a cortisone shot in his wrist. Their only bench player was Austin Romine, and he went into the game when Hicks got hurt. That meant the Yankees had no one to pinch-hit for Tyler Austin or Romine in the late-innings of a one-run game. Yuck.

On days everyone is feeling well, the regular three-man bench is Romine, Ronald Torreyes, and Mason Williams. That’s … not great. I love Torreyes as much as the next day, but realistically, you’re not going to use him as a pinch-hitter late in the game. He can pinch-run and be a defensive replacement. That’s about it. The same is true with Williams. Romine? He’s the backup catcher and those guys rarely get used strategically in the late innings.

The Yankees are handcuffing themselves with an eight-man bullpen. I get that they’re worried about running out of arms, especially with Masahiro Tanaka struggling all year and Michael Pineda struggling recently, and Luis Cessa in the rotation. Eight relievers still feels like overkill when you have a multi-inning guy like Chad Green and true long man like Domingo German in the bullpen. And you know what? If you do blow out your bullpen due to a short start or extra innings, you make a roster move or two after the game. They do that anyway, even with eight relievers.

Dropping the eighth reliever for a fourth bench player would give Girardi more bench options so he could pinch-hit for Austin, or pinch-run for Holliday, or replace Castro for defense. Whatever. The Yankees can’t do that now. The three bench players are there purely to back up each position. They’re not weapons that can be used strategically, for matchups or whatever. Adding Fowler or Frazier creates more options. Remember, even on days they play, one of the veterans will be on the bench resting.

3. The Yankees could use a spark. Like I said, the Yankees have lost ten of their last 12 games. That’s not good! And prior to yesterday’s late comeback attempt, the offense has looked pretty flat for a good week or so. Remember late last year, when the Yankees called up Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, and it seemed to energize the entire team? They gave the entire roster a nice shot in the arm and the Yankees played well in August and September. Calling up Fowler or Frazier could provide a similar spark. And if it doesn’t, well, no big deal. The Yankees are right where they started.

* * *

Okay, so now comes the obvious question: who should the Yankees call up, Fowler or Frazier? Fowler (.294/.331/.542, 137 wRC+) is outhitting Frazier (.251/.343/.482, 124 wRC+), though not by so much that it’s an obvious choice. Both Erik Boland and Josh Norris have heard from scouts that Fowler is the more MLB ready player, and I don’t disagree. The issue there is that you’re adding another speedy left-handed hitter to the roster when you already have two in Gardner and Ellsbury. Kinda redundant. Frazier would give the Yankees more balance as a righty bat. But, if he’s not ready, he’s not ready.

The 40-man roster is not a deciding factor here either. Neither Fowler nor Frazier is on the 40-man — the Yankees still have an open spot after designating Chris Carter for assignment — but they both have to be added after the season to avoid Rule 5 Draft exposure, and of course that’s going to happen. Calling them up now would only be getting a head start on things. I’d be more worried about burning a minor league option when Hicks returns than tying up a 40-man spot for a few weeks.

Assuming Ellsbury comes back to replace Hicks — that’s going to happen at some point no matter what — these are the other moves I’d like to see made:

  1. Send down the eighth reliever. Tyler Clippard isn’t going anywhere, so that means Tyler Webb.
  2. Send down Williams. Sorry dude, but there are better outfielders waiting.
  3. Call up Fowler. I like Frazier! But if the pros say Fowler is more MLB ready, I believe ’em.
  4. Call up Rob Refsnyder. He’s not great, but he’s more useful than an eighth reliever.

Because Refsnyder was just sent down Thursday, the Yankees would have to bring him back as the injury replacement for Hicks. That’s the only way around the ten-day rule. Ellsbury and Fowler would then technically replace Williams and Webb. Fowler gets regular at-bats by rotating in with the other outfielders a la Hicks, and you’re back to a four-man bench with a serviceable righty platoon bat in Refsnyder.

Keep in mind several players who are on the active roster aren’t 100% right now. Castro had the cortisone shot over the weekend. Chase Headley received an epidural last week. Sanchez had the abductor problem last week and doesn’t seem be running full speed yet. Ellsbury is coming back from the concussion. The Yankees have hamstrung themselves for a while now with a short bench. Continuing to do it with all those guys banged up is asking for trouble.

The Yankees are, amazingly, still in first place despite this recent 2-10 stretch. They won’t be in first place much longer unless things improve. Losing Hicks takes a bite out of the offense, and while getting Ellsbury back will help, there’s more the Yankees can. Fowler or Frazier would add another potentially potent bat (plus speed!) and getting back to a four-man bench gives Girardi more options. Contending is hard enough. Contending while essentially playing shorthanded on the position player side makes it even more difficult, and the Yankees shouldn’t do that voluntarily.

Fan Confidence Poll: June 26th, 2017

Record Last Week: 2-4 (25 RS, 38 RA)
Season Record: 40-33 (408 RS, 313 RA, 45-28 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: @ White Sox (four games, Mon. to Weds.), @ Astros (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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.

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DotF: Andujar hits first Triple-A homer in Scranton’s win

Triple-A Scranton (10-9 win over Pawtucket)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-2, 2 R, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — he’s 24-for-28 (86%) in steal attempts this season … 10.5 BB% and 17.3 K% this year after 11.3 BB% and 17.7 K% last year … he’s managed to hold his strikeout and walk rates relatively steady despite moving up a level, so that’s cool
  • DH Jacoby Ellsbury: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI — 3-for-8 with two doubles in two rehab games … here’s video of his double and single … he supposed to head to Trenton next to continue his rehab assignment (Scranton is going out on the road and the Thunder will be home this week) though I suppose Aaron Hicks’ oblique injury could change that … rushing a dude back from a concussion doesn’t seem like a good idea though
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-5, 2 RBI
  • 1B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Clint Frazier: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — first Triple-A homer … he’s 8-for-22 (.364) with a double, a homer, two walks, and no strikeouts in six Triple-A games so far
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 4/4 GB/FB — 60 of 82 pitches were strikes (73%) … Good Bryan showed up to the park today
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • RHP J.R. Graham: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 1 K — 19 of 35 pitches were strikes (54%) … tried his hardest to blow it in the ninth

[Read more…]

Comeback falls just short, Yankees drop finale 7-6 to Rangers


Source: FanGraphs

Well, at least the Yankees showed some Fighting Spirit in Sunday’s game. They very nearly rallied to erase an early 7-0 deficit — they brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth! — but ultimately could not finish the comeback. Alas. The final score as 7-6 Rangers. The Yankees have lost ten of their last 12 games now, yet somehow remain in first place in the AL East. The Red Sox can’t be too happy about that. Anyway, let’s recap with bullet points because it’s Sunday:

  • Small Mike: It is becoming increasing clear Michael Pineda‘s strong start to the season was nothing more than a classic Michael Pineda hot streak that happened to occur at the start of the season. Nothing’s really changed. He allowed three runs in the first inning Sunday afternoon, including a two-out two-run homer to Adrian Beltre, then he gave up three more in the second, all on a two-out three-run homer by Shin-Soo Choo. Here are his slider locations. Hanger city. Pineda finished the afternoon with seven runs allowed in four innings. He’s allowed at least five runs in three of his last five starts.
  • Four-Run Rally: All praise the obstruction rule. Nick Martinez struck out Austin Romine for the third out of the fifth inning, but the ball got away from catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and Martinez got in Romine’s way as he ran to first on the wild pitch. Romine beat the throw to first anyway, but the official call was obstruction on Martinez. Romine would have been awarded first anyway. That kept the inning alive for Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Judge stroked a run-scoring single to center, then Sanchez followed with a three-run dinger into Monument Park. Suddenly a seven-run deficit became a three-run deficit. Hmmm.
  • Two More Runs: The comeback got serious in the seventh inning. Ronald Torreyes smacked a solo home run to get the Yankees to within 7-5 — the best part? Didi Gregorius picked up Judge to he could high-five Torreyes (video) — then two two-out walks set up Gregorius for a run-scoring single to right. Unfortunately, Sanchez got thrown out going first-to-third on the single to end the inning. Third out at third base down a run? Yuck. The Yankees couldn’t do anything after Chase Headley‘s leadoff double in the eighth, then Sanchez struck out with Judge on first base to end the game in the ninth. Bah. At least the offense showed some life. Haven’t seen much of that lately.
  • The Unsung Heroes: Shout out to the bullpen for making the comeback attempt possible. Tyler Webb (one inning), Chad Green (two innings), Dellin Betances (one inning), and Aroldis Chapman (one inning) combined for five zeroes after Pineda was removed. Two hits, two walks, seven strikeouts in those five innings. The bullpen has been pretty terrible the last two weeks or so. They did the job Sunday though. They gave the offense a chance to get back in the game. The bats just ran out of innings.
  • Leftovers: Aaron Hicks left the game with an oblique injury and is heading to the disabled list … Starlin Castro was not available after receiving a cortisone shot in his wrist … Judge (two singles, two walks) reached base four times and Headley (two singles, double) reached three times … the Yankees had 14 baserunners and did go 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position … Judge stretched his on-base streak to 27 games. That’s the longest by a Yankee since Derek Jeter had a 36-gamer in 2012. The last Yankee rookie with an on-base streak that long was Gil McDougald in 1951. He did it in 29 straight.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. The Yankees are now heading to Chicago for the second time this season. They swept the Cubs earlier this year and they’ll look to sweep the White Sox this week. It’s a four-game series. Lefties Jordan Montgomery and David Holmberg are Monday night’s scheduled starting pitchers.

Update: Aaron Hicks exits Sunday’s game with oblique injury

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

5:56pm ET: Hicks will be placed on the disabled list, he told reporters following today’s game. He said he was told he would miss 3-4 weeks. That is: bad.

4:21pm ET: Hicks left today’s game with right oblique tightness, the Yankees announced. So it’s not the Achilles. It’s a new injury. That’s bad. Obliques can take a while to recover. Hicks is heading for tests to determine the severity of the injury and all that. Fingers crossed.

3:41pm ET: Aaron Hicks was removed from this afternoon’s game after four innings, presumably with an injury. The YES Network cameras caught him grimacing several times throughout the game, most notably after running to first on a base hit, and running down a ball in center field. There wasn’t one obvious play where he suffered the injury.

Hicks missed a few games with an Achilles injury last weekend. He returned a few days ago and seemed to be running fine since, though he could have reaggravated the Achilles injury at some point this weekend. Or it could be something else entirely. The Yankees haven’t announced an update yet, so stay tuned.

The Yankees are already without Jacoby Ellsbury, who is currently on a minor league rehab assignment. I doubt they’d rush him back from a concussion should Hicks miss time. Maybe they’ll call up Clint Frazier or Dustin Fowler. If Hicks lands on the DL, I’d bet Rob Refsnyder comes back until Ellsbury is ready. We’ll see.

Sunday Open Thread

Here is an open thread for the rest of the weekend. The Mets are playing right now and MLB Network is showing a regional game as well. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Pirates and Cardinals. ESPN probably didn’t expect both clubs to be at least five games under .500 when they scheduled this broadcast way back when. Anyway, you know how these open threads work, so have at it.

(You can see a bunch more Old Timers’ Day videos right here, by the way.)

Game 73: Old Timers’ Day

Hip hip. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Hip hip. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees are bad now, maybe forever but probably only temporarily, and this afternoon we’ll get to forget all about the 2017 Yankees for a few hours. Today is the 71st annual Old Timers’ Day, the franchise’s annual celebration of their unmatched history. Pretty much no other team can do something like this. The Dodgers tried it a year or two ago and it was kinda sad.

Based on experience, Old Timers’ Day is best enjoyed in person at Yankee Stadium, not through television. It also makes for a really, really long day in the ballpark, but that’s okay. No matter your age, many of the great Yankees of your youth will be in the ballpark today. Hall of Famers, All-Stars, fan favorites, role players … there’s something for everyone on a day like this.

Here is the roster of 2017 Old Timers. For the first time ever, a member of the Core Four Five will be in attendance. Jorge Posada is making his Old Timers’ Day debut this afternoon after inexcusably falling off the Hall of Fame ballot in his first year of eligibility over the winter. I’m not saying Posada was a no-doubt Hall of Famer, but man, he deserved more than one year on the ballot.

The Old Timers’ Day festivities will begin at approximately 11:30am ET. There will be the baseline introductions and then the Old Timers’ Game, as usual. I haven’t seen the Old Timers’ Game lineups posted anywhere, but if I find them, I’ll pass ’em along. The weather in New York today is pretty much perfect. A little on the humid side, but the sky is blue with just the right amount of clouds. The weather always seems to be great on Old Timers’ Day, doesn’t it?

Like I said, the Old Timers’ Day ceremonies begin at 11:30am ET. YES will show it of course and I believe the FOX Sports Go app will have it as well, though I can’t make any promises. MLB.tv never covers Old Timers’ Day. Sorry. Once the festivities are over, the Yankees and Rangers will wrap up their series at 2pm ET. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Aaron Judge
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. RF Mason Williams
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

Enjoy the day.

Injury Update: CC Sabathia (hamstring) threw a 35-pitch bullpen session today and everything went well. He hopes to return as soon as possible (duh). I wonder if he could skip a minor league rehab start at this pace. We’ll see … Greg Bird (ankle) ran on the field today for the first time since receiving a cortisone shot the other day.