Game 62: Can The Yankees Make It Six Straight?

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Yankees are probably playing their best baseball of the season right now. They’ve won five straight games and they’ve outscored their opponents 32-14 in the five games, which is pretty damn awesome. Hopefully they can keep it going tonight. Being over .500 is pretty cool. Here is the Tigers’ 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. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s another nice day in New York. Warmer than it has been the last few days but not oppressively hot. It’s actually raining right now in New York but it’s not supposed to last very long. Tonight’s game is going to begin at 7:15pm ET and you can watch on FOX. Enjoy the broadcast!

Injury Update: Chasen Shreve (shoulder) will start a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton tomorrow.

2016 Draft: Day Three Open Thread

(Pic via @MLB)
(Pic via @MLB)

The top ten rounds of the 2016 amateur draft are in the books. The Yankees landed a premium talent in OF Blake Rutherford on Day One, and they spent most of Day Two manipulating their bonus pool situation to make sure they have enough cash to sign him. The draft wraps up today with rounds 11-40. Yes, 11-40. The draft was once 100 rounds, you know.

In addition to the usual Day Three fodder (organization filler, etc.), I expect the Yankees to grab some of the best available players throughout the day as a backup plan in case Rutherford doesn’t sign. They’ll lose the $2.44M tied to his pick if he doesn’t sign, but they’ll still have the savings from their picks in rounds 2-10 available. I fully expect Rutherford to sign. The Yankees still need a Plan B though. You can see all of their picks at MLB.com. Here are some stray links to check out:

  • No one has signed yet as far as we know. Both 2B Nick Solak (2nd round) and RHP Nolan Martinez (3rd) told Bryan Hoch they intend to sign, however. Solak has to wait for Louisville’s season to end. They’re very much a College World Series contender. Also, RHP Nick Nelson (4th) indicated to Pat McCann he plans to sign, and LHP Trevor Lane (10th) told Paul Pagnato he intends to sign.
  • Chris Crawford (no subs. req’d) and Jim Callis put together posts looking at the best (and in Crawford’s case, also the worst) picks from Day Two of the draft. The Yankees aren’t mentioned in either post. Also, Chris Mitchell used his KATOH system to project the college players taken on Day Two. The vast majority project out to replacement level. OF Dom Thompson-Williams (5th) leads the Yankees at +0.3 WAR.
  • Here are the best available players according to Baseball America and MLB.com. Like I said, I expect the Yankees to grab a few of the top remaining talents just to have backup plans in case Rutherford doesn’t sign.

The draft resumes today at 12pm ET. Thankfully the picks are rapid fire today, one after the other. The entire draft used to be like that back in the day. It was pretty great. Here’s the MLB.com broadcast and here’s the MLB.com Draft Tracker. The Yankees have found some useful arms on Day Three in recent years (David Phelps, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley, etc.), so today is not insignificant. Enjoy the rest of the draft.

2016 Draft: Yankees focus on saving bonus pool space for Rutherford on Day Two

Generally speaking, teams have two goals on Day Two of the draft. First of all they want to acquire talent. That’s obvious. At the same time, they also want to make sure their bonus pool situation is in order, so they spend a lot of time on the phone cutting deals. No one likes surprises when it comes to bonus demands, especially now in the age of spending pools.

After making two picks on Day One, the Yankees made eight more yesterday, and most of them were used on players who figure the save the team bonus pool space. California HS OF Blake Rutherford, the team’s first round pick, is not going to come cheap. He was a projected top ten pick and figures to be paid accordingly. The Yankees had to do something to save pool space on Day Two. Let’s review the team’s picks in rounds 3-10.

Adding More Upside

The pool saving did not start right away. The Yankees kicked off Day Two by taking California HS RHP Nolan Martinez with their third round pick, No. 98 overall. That seems like good value; Baseball America ranked Martinez as the 67th best prospect in the draft class while Keith Law (subs. req’d) and MLB.com ranked him 93rd and 99th, respectively. Point is, this wasn’t a pick designed to save money.

Martinez is a 6-foot-2 right-hander who runs his fastball up to 95 mph on occasion, and last fall at the World Wood Bat Association showcase, PitchFX measured his fastball spin rate at 2,685 rpm. That was the highest spin rate at the event and well above the MLB average fastball spin rate of 2,226 rpm. Spin rate is still a new thing we’re learning about, though high spin rates correlate well to swings and misses and low spin rates correlate well to ground balls.

In addition to the high spin fastball, Martinez also throws an upper-70s slurve that is closer to a curveball than a slider. He also has a changeup and a good, athletic delivery. Martinez doesn’t have sky high upside, but he does have three pitches and okay control, which is a darn good starting point for a third round pick. He’s the best prospect the Yankees have drafted aside from Rutherford so far.

Back to the JuCo ranks

I’m not sure how well they compare to other teams, but the Yankees seem to do a really good job scouting junior colleges. Just last season they plucked OF Trey Amburgey out of a junior college. Two years ago they landed 1B Chris Gittens from a junior college. Go back to 2011 and they plucked RHP Jon Gray out of a junior college too. He only developed into a prospect worthy of being the No. 3 pick in the country.

The Yankees went back to the junior college ranks to select Florida JuCo RHP Nick Nelson in the fourth round (128th overall). Nelson was a two-way player in school — he led the team in innings (90.1) and was second in plate appearances (247) — who projects best on the mound. It’s a classic reliever profile with a low-90s heater and a good slider, and if there’s one thing the Yankees know how to find in the draft, it’s bullpen arms.

Thompson-Williams. (247Sports)
Thompson-Williams. (247Sports)

A Top Tool in the Fifth Round

Once you get to the fifth round, there’s not much more you can do than zero in on players with an above-average tool and either hope it carries him or the rest of his game catches up. The Yankees picked South Carolina OF Dom Thompson-Williams with their fifth round selection (158th overall) and his standout tool in his defense. He’s a ballhawk in the outfield capable of making highlight reel plays. Can he hit? That’s the question and most think the answer is a no. The Yankees will send Thompson-Williams out there and hope he learns to recognize spin and catch up to pro velocity well enough to keep his glove in the lineup.

Time to Save Money

Inevitably, the Yankees had to draft some college seniors on Day Two to save bonus pool money for Rutherford. It had to happen. College seniors have little leverage and often sign for five-figure bonuses. Some get even less than that. The best senior the Yankees drafted yesterday is USC RHP Brooks Kriske (sixth round), who added velocity this spring and now sits 93-95 mph. He also has a slider and could carve out a career in the bullpen.

Fullerton 1B Dalton Blaser (eighth round) and Southern Miss 1B Tim Lynch (ninth round) will reportedly be in the Bronx later today to try out for the big league team’s first base job. Okay fine, I made that up. It might not be a bad idea though given the team’s first base situation. Anyway, Blaser is the better prospect of the two as a lefty hitter with some pull power. He hit .359/.439/.485 with four homers, 30 walks, and 18 strikeouts this year.

Update: I didn’t realize this, but Blaser’s father Mark was the Yankees’ fourth round pick in the 1981 draft. He played in their farm system from 1981-85, reaching as high as Double-A. Here’s his Baseball Reference page.

Lynch has much better numbers — he put up a .364/.470/.545 batting line with ten homers, 39 walks, and 13 strikeouts this spring — and is another left-hander hitter, but the general belief is there isn’t enough bat speed to handle high caliber pro pitching. Lynch is going to hold down a roster spot in the lower levels and provide some lineup depth around higher profile prospects. Same with Blaser.

Skinner! (North Florida University)
Skinner! (North Florida University)

North Florida C Keith Skinner (seventh round) is another lefty hitter with great numbers — he hit .382/.466/.486 with two homers, 36 walks, and 14 strikeouts this year — and unlike Blaser and Lynch, he has the advantage of playing a premium position. Skinner’s defense is okay at best. He can throw and receive a little bit, but he’s not someone who will shut the running game down with his arm or steal strikes with his framing.

The final college senior the Yankees drafted yesterday is Illinois-Chicago LHP Trevor Lane (tenth round), who fanned 30 and walked eleven in 26.2 innings this spring. He’s a reliever with a classic left-on-left matchup profile. Lane is a little guy at 5-foot-11 and 185 lbs., and he sits in the upper-80s with his fastball. He also has a sweepy breaking ball. Kriske, Skinner, Blaser, Lynch, and Lane are slotted for $944,200 combined. I’ll be surprised if it costs the team even half that to sign them all.

* * *

The Yankees landed one very good prospect in Martinez on Day Two, and I’m interested to see what Kriske does in pro ball, especially if the team sticks him in the bullpen right out of the chute. Most of the day was spent manipulating the bonus pool to make sure they have enough money to sign Rutherford, who is the kind of top of the draft talent the Yankees rarely have access to.

Sabathia’s renaissance continues in 4-0 win over Tigers

Are the Yankees fun right now or what? They beat the Tigers by the score of 4-0 on Friday night for their fifth consecutive win, improving their record to 31-30 on the season. The Yankees are over .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 seven games into the season.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Cy Sabathia
One batter into the game, it did not seem CC Sabathia would be around very long. Ian Kinsler battled him for a 12-pitch at-bat to start the first inning — Sabathia got a generous strike three call from home plate umpire Carlos Torres to finally end the at-bat — and it seemed like we were in for another game in which Sabathia had to battle for each out. Remember how hard the Orioles worked him last time out?

Instead, Sabathia settled into a nice groove and pitched around some trouble in the early innings. The leadoff man reached base in the third and fourth innings but failed to score. Then, in the fifth, Detroit loaded the bases with one out for Miguel Cabrera. That was … bad. The Yankees were up 4-0 at the time and Miggy was very capable of tying things up with one swing. That didn’t happen. Sabathia got Cabrera to roll over into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play. Huge.

Sabathia finished his night by retiring the final seven batters he faced starting with that Miggy double play. I thought his night was over after the sixth with pitch count at 98, but Joe Girardi sent CC back out for the seventh, and he retired the side on ten pitches. Just perfect. Sabathia allowed five hits and two walks in his seven innings. He fanned four and got eight ground ball outs.

Baseball is way more fun when CC is pitching well. This is awesome. Following Friday’s start he’s down to a 2.28 ERA (3.33 FIP) in 59.1 innings. Among the 61 AL pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings this season, Sabathia has the fourth lowest ERA and the eighth lowest FIP. It’s not crazy to say Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka have been one of the best one-two rotation punches in baseball this year. They’ve been that good.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Over Early
The offense has been clicking over the last week and right away the Yankees were doing damage against Mike Pelfrey. Two singles (Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran) and a walk (Alex Rodriguez) loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, then Brian McCann drew a bases loaded walk to give New York a really quick 1-0 lead. McCann was ready to swing 3-0, you could see it in his stride, but the pitch was way high. He was looking to make it 4-0. No doubt.

Starlin Castro struck out for the second out of the inning, giving Pelfrey a chance to escape with just one run allowed. Thankfully Justin Upton was playing left field, and he turned what should have been an inning-ending fly ball into a two-run Didi Gregorius double. It wasn’t an easy play — Upton was playing shallow and had to backtrack — but it was a play a big leaguer has to make. The inning should have been over with the score 1-0 Yankees. Instead it was 3-0 Yankees after an inning of play.

In the third, Gardner drew a leadoff walk and was able to scoot all the way to third when James McCann threw a pickoff attempt down the right field line. Beltran drove in Gardner with a single to make it 4-0 good guys. The Yankees really had a chance to break the game open in the fourth when they loaded the bases with no outs, but new first baseman Rob Refsnyder grounded into a 1-2-3 double play to kill the rally. Alas.

The Yankees scored four runs in the first three innings and didn’t do much of anything thereafter. Refsnyder’s rally killer was the start of a stretch of ten straight batters retired by Pelfrey. His night ended when he walked Jacoby Ellsbury with two outs in the seventh. I didn’t think Big Pelf would be around that long. Fourteen of the final 16 Yankees to bat made outs. Good thing they scored early, huh?

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Leftovers
I give Girardi a lot of crap for his bullpen use, but he handled his relievers perfectly in this game. Even with a 4-0 lead, he went to Dellin Betances in the eighth because the Tigers had the top of the lineup due up. If they were going to make a comeback, it was going to start in that inning. Betances tossed a 1-2-3 inning to snuff out the comeback before it even had a chance to start. Anthony Swarzak then handled the bottom of the order in the ninth.

Beltran and Gregorius each had two hits while Gardner and McCann each had a hit and a walk. Refsnyder went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and is 1-for-14 (.071) since taking over as the starting first baseman. The Yankees are pretty much out of alternatives though, so the job is his. His at-bats have been pretty good, so hopefully Refsnyder gets himself back on track soon.

And finally, Friday’s HOPE Week event involved Blissful Bedrooms, an organization that helps “transform the personal spaces of young individuals who have very limited resources and severe physical disabilities that make them wheelchair dependent and highly reliant on others for activities of daily living.” A bunch of Yankees helped renovate a bedroom earlier today. Pretty awesome. Good stuff, Yankees.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings while MLB.com has the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs
Up Next
The Yankees and Tigers continue this three-game series with the middle game Saturday night. Yep, a Saturday night game. The. Worst. Anyway, Tanaka and Justin Verlander are the scheduled starters. That should be fun. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or Sunday’s game in person before the Yankees head out on the road next week.

DotF: Austin, Higashioka, Puello all have big games in AAA win

Some notes:

  • C Gary Sanchez (thumb) has started hitting again, according to Shane Hennigan. He was scheduled to take batting practice today for the first time since a foul tip broke his thumb.
  • In a bit of a surprise, OF Estevan Florial as been promoted to High-A Tampa, reports Josh Norris. I think this might be temporary. One of those “Tampa needs an outfielder so let’s grab someone from the minor league complex across the street” things. Florial was talked up all winter as the team’s next great prospect, and he still only 18.
  • OF Aaron Judge placed 12th on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, so check that out. Judge rebounded nicely from that ugly 0-for-24 stretch a week or so ago.

Triple-A Scranton (10-7 win over Louisville)

  • CF Jake Cave: 0-5, 2 K — threw a runner out at second
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-3, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-5, 2 R, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — 11-for-27 (.407) with six doubles and two homers in seven games since being promoted … you know, the big league first base job is pretty wide open
  • DH Kyle Higashioka: 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB — 18-for-44 (.409) with four doubles and five homers in eleven games since coming up to fill in for Sanchez
  • LF Cesar Puello: 4-5, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 SB, 1 E (throwing) — the former Mets farmhand is hitting .322/.459/.471 on the season
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 1.1 IP, 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 32 of 50 pitches were strikes … yuck, though, to be fair, he barely pitched the last three weeks
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 27 of 44 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Game 61: Win it for Parm

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Chris Parmelee quickly became something of a cult hero with the Yankees. Hey, when you make two starts and hit two homers in the first game and have a game-tying single in the second, people are going to like you. Unfortunately, Parmelee pulled his hamstring last night, further thinning the team’s first base depth. Parmelee didn’t wear pinstripes very long but he made an impact. Go win a game for him. Here is the Tigers’ 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. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    LHP CC Sabathia

Another gorgeous day in New York today. Sunny, no cloud, cool … pretty excellent weather. Hopefully it stays like this all weekend. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Parmelee suffered a Grade II hamstring strain and is going to miss about a month, Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon. Another first baseman bites the dust. Refsnyder is the go-to guy at first now.

Roster Move: Parmelee was placed on the 15-day DL and righty Chad Green was called up, the team announced. They don’t really need another arm — Green was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton tomorrow, so he’s available for very long relief if necessary — but an extra bullpener never hurts.

TiqIQ: Tickets Still Available for Old-Timers’ Day This Sunday

The Yankees will celebrate the 70th anniversary of Old-Timers’ Day at the Stadium on Sunday, bringing together many of the franchise’s most established players for a pre-game ceremony. While Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson and Joe Torre highlight the bill, more than three dozen other greats and close family members will also take part in the festivities.

With the Detroit Tigers in town for a three-game weekend series, Sunday will be one of the most anticipated days of the year in the Bronx, and those making plans to go can still find Yankees tickets for Old-Timers’ Day on the primary market.

Outfield bleacher seats are the cheapest tickets still available when searching Ticketmaster. Fans looking to observe the festivities from afar can find outfield bleachers tickets starting at just $17 each. If hoping to take in the action from a bit closer to home plate, upper level seating on the first and third base lines can be found from $22 per ticket.

Making their first Old-Timers’ Day appearances this year include 1996 World Series MVP and former closer John Wetteland as well as fellow teammate Mariano Duncan. Bubba Crosby and Eddie Robinson, who is perhaps best known as the Yankees’ initial starting center fielder before they traded for Johnny Damon, will also be making their debut on Sunday.

The turn of the century dynasty team will also be well-represented this weekend. Paul O’ Neill, Bernie Williams, David Cone, Ramiro Mendoza, Jeff Nelson and Homer Bush will all be on hand, each responsible in their own right for bringing four World Series to the Bronx  between 1996 and 2000.

Honoring several late Yankees and their impact within the organization, the widows of Billy Martin, Catfish Hunter, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson will be in attendance. Last year’s ceremony honored former player Willie Randolph’s accomplishments in pinstripes, culminating with his plaque bearing in Monument Park. Mel Stottlemyre,  who pitched for 11 seasons with the Yankees and went on to serve as pitching coach of the team for another 10 years, was also recognized in 2015.

Gates will open at 10 a.m. and the ceremony is expected to begin at 11:30 a.m. First pitch between the Yankees and Tigers will commence at 2:05 p.m.