DotF: Bird named AzFL Fall Star Game MVP after mammoth homer

The video above is 1B Greg Bird‘s monster homerun off Reds RHP Nick Howard (19th overall pick in 2014) in the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game last night. Bird was named the game’s MVP. You’ve got to be mighty strong to hit a ball that far on a pitch on the outer half of the plate. Baseball America recently published articles on Bird (free), the Yankees’ players development changes (free), and RHP Jaron Long (subs. only), so check those out.

AzFL Scottsdale (6-2 loss to Peoria) Monday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-2, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 E (fielding)
  • DH Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI
  • RHP Alex Smith: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K — nine of 14 pitches were strikes (64%)

AzFL Scottsdale (4-3 loss to Surprise) Tuesday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 BB
  • LF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 2 K
  • DH Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-2, 1 R, 2 BB
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1/1 GB/FB — five of eight pitches were strikes
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0/1 GB/FB - seven of 12 pitches were strikes (58%)

AzFL Scottsdale (7-5 loss to Mesa) Wednesday’s game

  • DH Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB
  • 1B Greg Bird: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing)
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB – he’s hitting .438/.500/.688 in only four games played
  • RF Tyler Austin: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI – got picked off first
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)

AzFL Scottsdale (7-5 win over Mesa) Thursday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — also threw a runner out at the plate
  • DH Greg Bird: 2-2, 2 BB
  • 1B Dante Bichette Jr.: 0-0 — took over as an injury replacement in the eighth but did not bat
  • LF Tyler Austin: 3-4, 1 R — he threw a runner out at the plate as well … hitting .322/.394/.492 with two homers in 15 games
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 17 of 25 pitches were strikes (68%)

AzFL Scottsdale (8-6 loss to Salt River) Friday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP — hitting .296/.418/.574 in 15 games and is tied for second in the league with four homers
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 2 RBI, 1 BB — hitting .342/.400/.632 with a league-leading six homers in 19 games
  • DH Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 3 RBI — hitting .240/.310/.240 in 14 games
  • RHP Alex Smith: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3/0 GB/FB — eight of 12 pitches were strikes (67%)
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — half of his 28 pitches were strikes

AzFL Fall Stars Game (East wins 6-2) Saturday’s game

  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — batting cleanup and played the entire game
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-2 – entered the game in the fifth inning

Dominican Winter League

  • OF Zoilo Almonte: 4 G, 5-14, 4 R, 1 2B,  RBI, 2 BB, 3 K (.333/.412/.400) — I believe he’s about to become a six-year minor league free agent
  • OF Eury Perez: 3 G, 3-14, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K (.214/.214/.268) – likely to replace Zoilo as the up-and-down outfielder next year
  • LHP Ramon Benjamin: 2 G, 0.1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K (27.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP)
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR (0.00 ERA, 1.80 WHIP) — I can’t help but laugh whenever a homer counts as an unearned run
  • LHP Francisco Rondon: 3 G, 1.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K (6.75 ERA, 3.75 WHIP)

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Jose Figueroa: 13 G, 3-10, 4 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB (.300/.364/.600)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 8 G, 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HB (1.23 ERA, 0.95 WHIP)
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 4 G, 4 GS, 16 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 14 K, 1 HB, 1 HR (2.81 ERA, 1.00 WHIP)

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) started play on Thursday. SS Vince Conde, 2B Angelo Gumbs, and OF Carlos Beltran are all listed on rosters but have not yet played. Beltran hasn’t played winter ball in years and won’t this year because of his recent elbow surgery. He’s only listed on the roster because the team still controls his winter ball rights.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • C Francisco Arcia: 13 G, 10-52, 2 R, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 14 K (.192/.222/.250)
  • UTIL Ali Castillo: 19 G, 29-79, 17 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 11 K, 9 SB, 2 CS, 2 HBP (.367/.393/.494)
  • OF Ramon Flores: 13 G, 12-37, 5 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 2 RBI, 6 BB, 7 K (.324/.419/.459)
  • UTIL Adonis Garcia: 18 G, 21-77, 7 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 SB, 1 HBP (.273/.317/.299)
  • C Jose Gil: 11 G, 11-39, 9 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP (.344/.400/.563)
  • OF Ericson Leonora: 4 G, 3-11, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 K (.273/.273/.545)
  • UTIL Jose Pirela: 7 G, 10-28, 8 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K (.357/.400/.857)
  • C Jackson Valera: 1 G, 0-0
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 9 G, 8 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 1 HR (5.68 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) — allowed four runs in an inning of work in his only appearance this week
  • RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Wilking Rodriguez, SS Angel Aguilar, and C Frankie Cervelli are all listed on rosters but have not yet played. They probably won’t at this point.

Badler: Second baseman Andy Ibanez leaves Cuba

Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

According to Ben Badler, second baseman Andy Ibanez has left Cuba and will pursue a contract with a big league team. He still needs to establish residency in a foreign country, be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and officially be declared a free agent by MLB before he can sign. That process will take several weeks and months.

Ibanez, 21, was the youngest player on Cuba’s roster during the World Baseball Classic last year, though he only received one at-bat in the tournament. He hit .267/.377/.435 with more walks (33) than strikeouts (28) in 280 plate appearances this past season after winning the Cuban league’s equivalent of the Gold Glove as a rookie two years ago.

Balder (subs. req’d) ranked Ibanez as the eighth best prospect left in Cuba last month — recently defected second baseman Jose Fernandez ranked third — and said he “doesn’t have any premium tools or star upside” while noting his value is in his athleticism and all-around game. He’s said to be a very good fielder and able to get the bat on the ball consistently.

It’s worth noting that because of his age and limited experience in Cuba, Ibanez will be subject to MLB’s international spending restrictions. The Yankees went bonkers this summer and way overspent their bonus pool, so they will not be allowed to sign a player to a bonus larger than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. Something tells me $300,000 won’t cut it.

However, if Ibanez goes is declared a free agent before June 15th, he’d count against the current signing period. The Yankees are already way over their pool and would be able to offer him whatever they want without worrying about some spending cap. It took Rusney Castillo six months to be declared a free agent after defecting and Yasmany Tomas only four months. That doesn’t necessarily mean Ibanez will be eligible to sign before June 15th, but it looks like it has a good chance of happening.

Anyway, Ibanez is more like Jose Iglesias and Jorge Soler than Castillo and Jose Abreu because he’s so young. He’s not someone the Yankees could stick right into the lineup next year — Badler says Ibanez would likely have to start his career in High-A or Double-A. There’s no word if the Yankees or any other team have interest in him, but we’re still a few weeks away from that. Needless to say, teams are always looking for young and athletic middle infielders.

Heyman: Yankees hire Eric Chavez as special assignment scout

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have hired former infielder Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout. He’s always said he wanted to continue working in baseball once his playing career was over, and he’s remained close with GM Brian Cashman and assistant GM Billy Eppler. Chavez retired this July after battling injuries with the Diamondbacks. Heyman says it’s unclear if Chavez pursued any coaching jobs this offseason or if the Yankees considered him for their hitting coach vacancy.

2014 Season Review: The Obligatory Lefties

Thornton. (Presswire)
Thornton. (Presswire)

One thing has become very obvious over the last few years: the Yankees value having a left-hander in the bullpen. Two, preferably. Some teams don’t worry too much about carrying a southpaw, but not these Yankees. Joe Girardi likes to have a matchup lefty out there and the team has spent a lot of money trying to fill that spot. Remember Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano? Of course you do.

The 2014 season were no different, but, believe it or not, they only had 109 appearances by a left-handed reliever this year. That was the fifth fewest on baseball. At the same time, they had 56 lefty appearances of two or fewer batters faced, the fourth most in baseball. Girardi is definitely a fan of matching up for a batter or two if the opportunity presents itself. Let’s review the team’s surprisingly large collection of left-handed relievers from this past season.

Matt Thornton

The Yankees signed the 38-year-old Thornton to a two-year contract worth $7M last season, figuring he could still be a quality specialist even though his performance against righties had declined big time in recent years. He was one of the top relievers in the game regardless of handedness not too long ago. Maybe there was still some magic in there.

Thornton threw only 24.2 innings across 38 appearances with New York, so Girardi definitely used him as a matchup guy. His overall 2.55 ERA (2.73 FIP) is good but that’s not the best way to evaluate a lefty specialist. Thornton held same-side hitters to a .237/.306/.250 (.258 wOBA) batting line with a 17.2% strikeout rate, a 3.1% walk rate, and a 54.3% ground ball rate. Despite still having mid-90s heat, his swing-and-miss rate against lefties was a paltry 8.3%. That’s well-below-average. Also, he allowed 14 of 43 inherited runners to score (33%), including five of the last 12.

In early-August, the Yankees simply gave Thornton away for nothing. The Nationals claimed him off revocable trade waivers and New York opted not to pull him back, so they let him to go Washington on the claim. It was … weird. Girardi and Brian Cashman both confirmed the move was made to create roster and payroll flexibility. Thornton had a 0.00 ERA (2.51 FIP) in 11.1 innings for the Nats after the claim and quickly emerged as an important part of their bullpen.

Huff returned in 2014 ... with glasses! (Presswire)
Huff returned in 2014 … with glasses! (Presswire)

David Huff

The Yankees spent the first ten or so weeks of the season cycling through some amazingly bad long relievers, so, when the Giants decided to cut ties with Huff in mid-June, the Bombers jumped at the chance to re-acquire him. The minor trade cost New York nothing but cash.

Huff, 30, had a 6.30 ERA (4.38 FIP) in 20 innings for San Francisco, but he actually pitched pretty well in pinstripes. He chucked 39 innings across 30 appearances — so he was multi-inning guy, not a specialist — and posted a 1.85 ERA (4.00 FIP), holding lefties to a .250/.301/.279 (.266 wOBA) batting line with a 19.2% strikeouts rate and a 6.2% walk rate. Huff also stranded 16 of 17 inherited runners. What more do you want from a low-leverage lefty?

Rich Hill

After letting Thornton walk, the Yankees grabbed Hill off the scrap heap and he actually had two stints with the team. He came up in early-August, made six appearances, was designated for assignment, then was called back up when rosters expanded in September to make eight more appearances. All told, Hill faced 19 lefties with New York, striking out seven, walking two, hitting one, and allowing four hits. That’s a .250/.368/.250 (.298 wOBA) batting line. At one point in September he struck out six in a span of eight batters faced.

Josh Outman

Outman. (Presswire)
Outman. (Presswire)

Hill was designated for assignment in late-August to make room for Outman, who the Yankees picked up from the Indians because he was a so very slight upgrade. He faced ten left-handed batters in pinstripes and held them to one hit. He also struck out one. That works out to a .100/.111/.111 (.099 wOBA). If you extrapolate that out over 60 innings, Outman was, like, the best lefty reliever ever, man.

Cesar Cabral

Two years ago, Cabral almost made the Opening Day roster as a Rule 5 Draft pick before suffering a fractured elbow late in camp. He made four appearances with the Yankees this season and faced five lefties. One made contract (a hit), one drew a walk, one was hit by a pitch, and two struck out. As you may recall, Cabral allowed three runs on three hits and three hit batsmen in one ugly April outing against the Rays. He was designated for assignment after the game, eventually landed back in Double-A, and that was that.

Jeff Francis

Confession: I totally forgot Jeff Francis was a Yankee. They acquired him in a very minor trade with the Athletics when they were desperate for pitching depth at midseason, and he somehow made not one, but two appearances in pinstripes. He threw a scoreless 14th inning in a late-July game against the Rangers — when Chase Headley hit the walk-off single in his first game with the team — and allowed a run in two-thirds of an inning against the Blue Jays a week later. They dropped Francis from the roster soon thereafter.

Wade LeBlanc

I did remember that LeBlanc was a Yankee this year! He made one appearance with the team. It went single, single, grounder to first, intentional walk, hit batsmen to force in a run, sac fly, ground out. The Yankees designated him for assignment to make room for Huff a few days later. I hope Wade LeBlanc goes into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee.

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