Monday Night Open Thread

Once again, there is no baseball tonight. The World Series doesn’t start until tomorrow. The Cubs look pretty much unstoppable right now, but I’m rooting for the Cleveland Andrew Millers, so hopefully we get an upset. I’ve always kinda pictured the Cubs team that ends their title drought being a scrappy underdog team that defies all the odds. This juggernaut doing it would be sorta weird.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Texans and Broncos are on Monday Night Football, and that’s pretty much it. There’s no preseason basketball tonight and none of the local hockey teams are playing either. Have at it.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: October 2011

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Now that we’re into October, it’s time for another edition of our MLBTR Archives series. I forgot to do this earlier in the month, so my bad for the tardiness. Anyway, the entire point of his monthly series is to look back at trade and free agent rumors from five years ago to see how silly (or genius!) it all sounds now. What good are rumors if you only read them once?

The Yankees finished the 2011 season with a 97-65 record and a +210 run differential despite serious rotation concerns. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia really bailed them out. Only the Phillies (102-60) had a better regular season record than New York. Unfortunately, the Yankees didn’t last long in the postseason. The Tigers beat them in five games in the ALDS. That stunk. Let’s get to the October 2011 rumors.

October 1st, 2011: Quick Hits: Pettitte, Granderson, Alomar Jr.

Former Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte is enjoying retirement is highly unlikely to return to pitching, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “I feel the desire [to play] is gone,” Pettitte said. “I am retired. I would never say never, but God would literally have to give me desire again… I’m really doing good. I just had a good peace about [retiring].

Hah. Little did we know that a few months later Pettitte would come out of retirement to join the Yankees not only for 2012, but 2013 as well. I never in a million years expected Pettitte to un-retire — I know people talk about it all the time, but it rarely actually happens — but I’m glad he did. He was pretty awesome after coming back. The first round of “will he or won’t he retire” talk during the 2010-11 offseason was the worst though. It never ended.

October 7th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Sabathia, Posada, Cashman

Joel Sherman of the New York Post suspects that the Yankees will wait, instead of extending Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson this offseason. Both players are eligible for free agency after 2013 (assuming New York exercises Cano’s two options).

This was back when the Yankees had that “no extensions” policy that accomplished … I’m not sure what, exactly. Thankfully that is no more. Extending Cano back then would have been a smart move because he was an excellent homegrown Yankee at a hard-to-fill position — there’s no reason to think Robbie would have entertained an extension offer at that time anyway — and those guys are worth locking up.

Granderson was a different matter. He had a monster 2011 season, hitting .262/.364/.552 (146 wRC+) with 41 homers and 25 steals. Granderson finished fourth in the AL MVP voting and Cano finished sixth. That was also Granderson’s first season with that kind of production, so it was fair to wonder whether he’d do it again. The Yankees had him signed for another two years and could afford to be patient. Granderson had another year like that in 2012 but no extension came. Alas.

October 7th. 2011: Eric Chavez “Leaning Heavily Towards Retirement”

Veteran third baseman Eric Chavez is considering retirement, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).  Chavez, 33, is “leaning heavily towards” hanging up his cleats after 14 Major League seasons. 

The Yankees brought Chavez to camp as a non-roster player in 2011 and he wound up making the team as a bench player. He was okay that year, hitting .263/.320/.356 (80 wRC+) while playing the corner infield and missing time with a foot injury. Not great, not awful. Chavez did not retire that offseason, so the Yankees brought him back, and he rewarded them with an incredible 2012 season. He hit .281/.348/.496 (126 wRC+) with 16 homers that year. Pretty awesome. Chavez played another two years with the Diamondbacks after that, so he wasn’t close to retiring this offseason.

October 9th, 2011: Quick Hits: Payrolls, Jay, Wilson, Epstein

Some people think that C.J. Wilson has keen interest as a free agent in New York, tweets Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated.  He adds that the Yankees are probably the early favorite to sign him.

At the time, Wilson was very desirable as a free agent. The Rangers moved him into the rotation in 2010, and from 2010-11 he had a 3.14 ERA (3.39 FIP) in 427.1 innings. That’s really good! Wilson walked a few too many (9.5%), but he missed bats (21.3%) and got grounders (49.2%), plus he didn’t have nearly as many miles on his arm as most 30-year-old starters because he spent so much time as a reliever.

Alas, the Yankees didn’t sign Wilson, and that was for the best. He actually took less money from the Angels than the Marlins because he thought they were closer to winning. Wilson had a 3.87 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 722.1 innings with the Halos during his five-year, $75M contract. That’s not awful, but it’s not what the team was expecting. Wilson hasn’t pitched since July 2015 due to ongoing elbow and shoulder woes. The Yankees were never seriously in the mix to sign him during the 2011-12 offseason.

October 10th, 2011: AL East Links: Red Sox, Jays, Yanks, Sabathia, O’s

Unsurprisingly, the Yankees are looking for starting pitching and left-handed relievers, tweets Heyman. Our free agent list shows a number of attractive lefty relief options.

The Yankees did indeed get starting pitching that offseason — that was the Michael Pineda trade/Hiroki Kuroda signing offseason — but they took the “let’s bring in a bunch of guys and hope they work out” approach to the lefty relief market. The Yankees added three southpaws that winter: Cesar Cabral, Hideki Okajima (!), and Clay Rapada. Cabral, a Rule 5 Draft, hurt his elbow in Spring Training. Okajima failed his physical and never officially signed with the Yankees.

Rapada? He was nails in 2012. Had a 2.82 ERA (3.20 FIP) overall and held lefties to a .183/.263/.255 batting line with 28.7% strikeouts. Pretty awesome. Rapada and Boone Logan were a very nice left-on-left matchup tandem during that 2012 season. Unfortunately, Rapada got hurt during Spring Training in 2013 and didn’t pitch a whole lot after that. He pitched for the Philippines in the World Baseball Classic qualifier this past February, then retired.

October 11th, 2011: Raul Valdes, Scott Proctor Elect Free Agency

Relievers Raul Valdes and Scott Proctor have elected free agency, the Yankees announced today (Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweeted the news).  Having lost Aaron Laffey as well, the Yankees’ 40-man roster now stands at 37.

Like this offseason, the Yankees got a head start on their 40-man roster cleanup during the 2011-12 offseason. Valdes and Proctor were late-season bullpen depth pickups not unlike Blake Parker and Tommy Layne. I’ll never forget Joe Girardi letting Proctor wear it in Game 162 in Tampa that year. That was the year the Red Sox collapsed and the Rays made the postseason on the final day of the season. Girardi brought Proctor in to pitch extra innings that game and you could tell he was in there until the game ended, one way or the other. He threw 2.2 innings and 56 pitches that game. Proctor spent 2012 in Korea and that was pretty much it for his career.

October 12th, 2011: Front Office Notes: Orioles, Yankees, Angels

The Yankees have granted the Angels permission to interview both Billy Eppler and Damon Oppenheimer for their vacant general manager job, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.

The Angels wound up hiring Jerry Dipoto to be their new GM that offseason, and Eppler was actually the runner-up. Oppenheimer was eliminated from contention earlier in the process. Dipoto resigned last summer — when was the last time a GM resigned? geez — and eventually the Halos hired Eppler as their new GM, partly because they were so impressed during his initial interview in 2011.

October 13th, 2011: David Ortiz Talks Yankees, Red Sox

David Ortiz recently hinted that the offseason could get even more tumultuous for the Red Sox. The designated hitter, who will be eligible for free agency after the World Series, suggested to ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez that he would fit into the Yankees’ culture.

“It’s great from what I hear,” he said. “It’s a good situation to be involved in. Who doesn’t want to be involved in a great situation where everything goes the right way?”

Ortiz says there’s “too much drama” in Boston these days and acknowledged that he’s thinking about moving on.I don’t know if I want to be part of this drama for next year.”

This was so obviously an attempt to create leverage during contract talks with the Red So that the “Ortiz to the Yankees???” stuff never picked up steam that offseason. Yeah, the Red Sox collapsed hilariously in 2011, but no one actually expected him to leave. The Yankees needed the DH spot for Alex Rodriguez and other veterans, plus Jesus Montero was locked into a roster spot at the time, so signing another DH wasn’t a priority, even one as good as Ortiz. He eventually re-signed with the Red Sox to the surprise of absolutely no one. This was like when Mariano Rivera said he was open to signing with Boston during the 2010-11 offseason. Yeah, sure. Like that was going to happen.

October 19th, 2011: Yankees To Decline Damaso Marte’s Option

The Yankees will announce that they’re declining their 2012 option for Damaso Marte, according to Mark Hale of the New York Post (on Twitter). The left-hander missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing shoulder surgery last October. He’ll get a $250K buyout instead of a $4MM salary for 2012.

That’s World Series hero Damaso Marte to you. The Yankees declined Marte’s $6M option for 2009 and instead gave him a three-year deal worth $12M. He had a 6.39 ERA (5.41 FIP) in 31 innings during the life of the contract and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 due to injuries. But! …

You’re cool with me, Damaso.

October 19th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Kuroda, Darvish, Sabathia, Nova

Rafael Soriano will not opt out of the two years and $25MM remaining on his contract, though there’s nothing official yet, according to Marchand.

I don’t know about you, but I was shocked a pitcher who missed half the season with elbow trouble and had a 4.12 ERA (3.97 FIP) when he did pitch didn’t walk away from a guaranteed $25M.

October 20th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Sabathia, Swisher, Blake, Soriano

The Yankees are “very likely” to pick up Nick Swisher‘s $10.25MM option for 2012, reports ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews, though they may wait “until the very last minute” (i.e. three days after the World Series) to do so.

I didn’t understand the “the Yankees might decline Swisher’s option!” talk that was going around after the Yankees were eliminated in the 2011 ALDS. Switch-hitters coming off a .260/.374/.449 (124 wRC+) season with 23 homers are a dime a dozen, I guess. No need to keep that guy for $10.25M. What a weird talking point that was. The option was a no-brainer and of course the Yankees picked it up.

October 21st, 2011: Heyman on Friedman, Darvish, Yankees

Free agent starter Freddy Garcia is popular with the Yankees’ front office and could return in 2012. The right-hander barely qualifies as a Type B free agent, according to our rankings.

The good ol’ Type-A/B free agent system. Garcia did qualify as a Type-B, meaning the Yankees would have received a supplemental first round pick had he signed elsewhere. It would have been, like, 55th overall. Somewhere in that neighborhood. Instead, the Yankees re-signed Garcia to a one-year deal worth $4M. There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth, right? Sweaty Freddy was good in 2011 (3.62 ERA and 4.12 FIP) and not so good in 2012 (5.20 ERA and 4.68 FIP). So it goes.

October 24th, 2011: Quick Hits: Yankees, Pirates, Moyer, Oswalt

The Pirates have prioritized catching help this offseason and the Yankees would “definitely” trade Francisco Cervelli in the right deal, according to Sherman. The Pirates may not view Cervelli as a starter, however.

The seeds were planted early. In fact, Brian Cashman said he originally proposed Cervelli for Justin Wilson back in 2012, but the Pirates said no. It wasn’t until November 2014 that they went through with that trade. Anyway, Cervelli missed most of 2011 due to injuries and the Yankees stashed him in Triple-A for all of 2012. His value was at an all-time low at the time.

October 27th, 2011: Boras Kidding About Reworking Cano’s Contract

6:32pm: Boras was just joking about a new contract for Cano, the agent tells George A. King III.  “Cash [Brian Cashman] and I have talked three or four times in the last three days. My statements were in jest. Cash always returns my phone calls,” Boras said. “My conversations with Cash about Robinson have nothing to do with the options. We fully expect the options to be exercised.”

9:57am: Agent Scott Boras phoned Yankees GM Brian Cashman to discuss the possibility of re-working Robinson Cano’s contract, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. Boras says he’s hoping to remove the 2012 and 2013 options on the second baseman’s deal and work out a new contract.

“I called Cash to ask about dropping the options and he hasn’t returned the call,” Boras told King.

Oh that silly Scott Boras. I have a hard time thinking Boras would have seriously discussed a contract extension that offseason, not unless the Yankees talked Mariners money. He was fully intent on getting Cano out on the open market and breaking the bank. And he did.

October 31st, 2011: Yankees, CC Sabathia Agree To Extension

CC Sabathia has agreed to a precedent-setting contract that will keep him in pinstripes and off of the free agent market. The 31-year-old left-hander announced on his Twitter account and on Zoodig.com that he has agreed to a new deal with the Yankees. 

Sabathia’s opt-out was, by far, the biggest story of the 2011-12 offseason — really the entire 2011 season, for that matter — and it was over quick. The Yankees and Sabathia agreed to an extension minutes before the opt-out deadline. He got to say he never did opt-out while still leveraging it into more money. Here’s the video in which Sabathia announced the extension:

All things considered, the opt-out situation could have been much worse. The Yankees tacked one additional year and $30M in guaranteed money on top of the four years and $92M left on his original contract. The extension also included the vesting option that covers next season. There was talk of adding two or three more guaranteed years to his contract.

Sabathia had a phenomenal season in 2011 (3.00 ERA and 2.88 FIP) and letting him walk was not something anyone wanted. The extension hasn’t really worked out as hoped — Sabathia had a great year in 2012, stunk from 2013-15, then rebounded nicely in 2016 — but I still love the big guy. Huge money contracts can work out worse.

The Continually Improving Didi Gregorius [2016 Season Review]

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Two years ago the Yankees faced an uncertain future at shortstop following Derek Jeter‘s retirement. The last year or two of Jeter’s career weren’t great, he was a below-average hitter at that point, but there was something comforting knowing he was going to be the guy at the position. Shortstop’s important! That’s not a spot to have a revolving door.

Now the future at shortstop is far from uncertain. The Yankees acquired Didi Gregorius to replace Jeter and there were legitimate questions about his ability to be an everyday big league shortstop. Would he hit enough? Is his defense enough to carry his bat? Could he handle the pressure of replacing Jeter and playing in New York? There were lots of questions. Now there aren’t. Gregorius is the answer at short.

The 20-Homer Shortstop

A year ago Gregorius smacked nine home runs in 578 plate appearances thanks to an excellent second half, during which he hit .294/.345/.417 (110 wRC+) with five homers in 72 games. The hope was that strong second half would carry over into 2016. Gregorius is still young — he played the entire 2016 season at 26 — and he had a season under his belt in New York. He figured to be more comfortable in 2016 than he was in 2015.

It wasn’t unreasonable to expect Gregorius to produce more offense this season, especially in the power department, and he did exactly that. Didi hit 20 home runs this summer, the same number as Carlos Correa, and seven of the 20 came during a four-week hot streak at the end of the first half. At one point he hit five home runs in the span of ten games. One of the five was a walk-off against the Rangers.

There are reasons to believe Gregorius’ power spike are legit and reasons to believe it might have been a little fluky. In reality, it was probably a little of both, right? You’ve got a prime-aged left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium, so you’d expect a power uptick. Homers also jumped around the league this year — I think the baseballs are juiced, but who knows — and surely Didi benefited some.

I’ve never seen a ground ball go over the fence, so a prerequisite for hitting for more power is hitting the ball in the air more often. Take a look at Gregorius’s ground ball rate since joining the Yankees:

Didi Gregorius ground balls

Well well well. Look at that. When Gregorius first arrived in New York, he was beating the ball into the ground. His ground ball rate has been in steady decline since. Didi had a 48.0% ground ball rate and a 36.0% fly ball rate in April 2015. It was down to 31.0% grounders and 56.0% fly balls in September 2016. Pretty awesome. Gregorius isn’t a speedster. Driving the ball in the air is the best way to do damage.

The best part of Didi’s newfound ability to get the ball airborne is that he isn’t selling out and trying to yank everything down the line. We’ve seen more than a few left-handed hitters fall in love with the short porch and try to pull everything to right. Gregorius is still hitting the ball to all fields. In fact, he was hitting more balls the other way this year than last year.

Didi Gregorius pull oppo

This is a wonderfully positive development for Gregorius. He’s hitting the ball in the air and the result is more home runs, and he’s been able to do that without sacrificing the all-fields ability he showed last year. For someone who makes so much contact — Didi had the 26th lowest strikeout rate (13.7%) among the 146 qualified hitters in baseball in 2016 — this is a really great skill set. Really, really great.

Now, as I said before, power was up around the league this year, and I have no doubt Gregorius benefited a bit from that. He hit for more power this summer because everyone hit for more power this summer. (Except Brett Gardner.) Let’s quickly compare Didi’s isolated power to the league average, while adjusting for ballpark. Same idea as OPS+, basically, except we’re using ISO instead of OPS.

2015: 57 ISO+
2016: 77 ISO+

Success! Last year Gregorius’ power output was 57% of the league average left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium. This year it was 77%. So still below-average for his environment, but there’s still a legitimate improvement here. Those 20 home runs he hit this year weren’t just the product of the increase in power around the league. Didi himself improved. Hopefully he takes another step next year, in his age 27 season.

Suddenly Dangerous Against Lefties

Gregorius came to the Yankees will a big platoon split. He hit .262/.332/.411 (101 wRC+) against righties with the Reds and Diamondbacks from 2012-14, and only .184/.257/.233 (32 wRC+) against southpaws. That platoon split existed last year too, though it wasn’t quite that extreme. He hit .272/.321/.391 (95 wRC+) against righties and .247/.311/.315 (74 wRC+) against lefties.

This year, Gregorius managed to reverse the split. He was better against lefties than righties. Didi put up a .258/.283/.437 (88 wRC+) batting line against righties while hitting a whopping .324/.361/.473 (126 wRC+) against lefties. Fifty-four left-handed hitters had at least 100 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers this year. Among those 54, Gregorius ranked third in AVG, 13th in OBP, and eighth in SLG. Only Charlie Blackmon (.331) and Daniel Murphy (.329) had better left-on-left batting averages.

The question now is why? Why did Gregorius improve so much against lefties, and is this his new true talent level? I’m guessing he’s not really quite this good against lefties, but some improvement would be cool. Here are Didi’s core stats against lefties the last two years:

PA BB% K% GB% FB% Pull% Opp% Soft% Hard% BABIP
2015 164 6.1% 15.9% 49.6% 32.8% 41.1% 26.6% 27.4% 21.8% .292
2016 161 2.5% 7.5% 38.5% 43.7% 34.3% 28.6% 20.0% 22.9% .331

There are two huge differences there. One, Gregorius hit way more balls in the air against lefties this year than last year. That’s consistent with everything above about his power output. His soft contact rate dropped a ton too, though it became medium contact, not hard contract. That’s still better than nothing.

And two, Didi put way more balls in play against lefties this year. Look at those strikeout and walk rates. Last season Gregorius had 164 plate appearances against southpaws and put 124 balls in play. This year it was 140 balls in play out of 161 plate appearances. Pretty big difference. The combination of a) more balls in play, b) more balls in the air, and c) less soft contact helps explain the uptick in left-on-left damage.

Is Gregorius going to hit .320/.360/.470-something against lefties going forward? I find that unlikely. That doesn’t mean his improvement was a total mirage, however. A .331 BABIP in 161 plate appearances is not completely insane. It might not happen against next year, but it’s not so outrageous that it’ll never happen again, you know? I think there’s real improvement here. Didi is making more contact against lefties and hitting the ball in the air more often in general. Those are big positives.

All told, Gregorius hit .276/.304/.447 (98 wRC+) with 32 doubles and 20 home runs in 2016. He rarely struck out (13.7%) but he also rarely walked (3.2%). Only Rougned Odor (3.0%) and Brandon Phillips (3.1%) walked less among qualified hitters. That’s just who Didi is. He’s a free swinger. I don’t have much hope for him improving his plate discipline drastically. Hopefully one day he can get up to a 7.0% walk rate. That would be cool. (It was 5.7% last year.)

A Good Bad Defender, or a Bad Good Defender?

In terms of raw defensive tools, Gregorius is as good as anyone. He’s athletic, he’s got good hands, and his arm is a rocket. One of the best I’ve ever seen from a shortstop. Why then did the defensive stats hate him so much this year? Almost all of them, across the board.

DRS UZR Total Zone FRAA
2015 +5 +7.4 +4 +1.2
2016 -9 -2.9 +5 -5.2

Total Zone is the only holdout. DRS, UZR, and FRAA all dinged Gregorius this year, and by quite a lot too. We’re talking a full win in the field according to both DRS and UZR. That’s pretty crazy. That’s why Didi went from +3.1 fWAR and +3.3 bWAR in 2015 to +2.7 fWAR and +2.2 bWAR in 2016 despite his offensive improvement.

The eye test told me Gregorius was a really good defensive player this year, though I also thought there were a few more miscues than last year. Basic mistakes. A bobble, a ball not knocked down and kept on the infield, that sort of thing. Error totals don’t really help us — Didi had 13 errors last year and 15 this year — and I’m not sure really how to quantify this stuff. The various defensive stats are better than nothing, though they’re far from perfect.

I do have a very hard time believing Gregorius cost the Yankees with his glove this year. Was he really, truly, a negative in the field? Maybe he was! Maybe I’m my perception of quality shortstop defense is distorted after watching Jeter all those years. I see stuff like this …

… and think hey, this dude is pretty good defensively though. I thought Didi was really good in the field this year. The defensive stats disagreed. Feel free to form your own opinions.

Outlook for 2017

The Yankees are blessed with a ton of quality shortstop prospects right now, most notably Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo. There’s also Tyler Wade, who figures to open next season in Triple-A. Those guys don’t matter right now. Gregorius is New York’s unquestioned shortstop going into the next season and will be continue to be going forward until one of those other guys unseats him. The Yankees won’t give Torres or Mateo the job. They’ll have to take it.

Gregorius is under team control through 2019 as an arbitration-eligible player — MLBTR projects a $5.1M salary next year — and it would behoove the Yankees to approach him about a multi-year contract extension this winter. Forget about the prospects in the minors. A prime-aged up-the-middle player who plays good defense and can smack 20 dingers is a valuable asset worth locking up. The Yankees can figure out what to do with Torres and Mateo when the time comes.

Fan Confidence Poll: October 24th, 2016

2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot

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.

Weekend Open Thread

Friday: Happy Friday folks, assuming you can read this and aren’t stuck with the massive internet outage sweeping across the country. I haven’t been able to check Twitter for hours. It’s quite liberating, I must say. Anyway, there is no baseball this evening. It’s a travel day for the NLCS. The Dodgers and Cubs will be back at it tomorrow night with Game Six. The Cubbies are looking to claim their first NL pennant since 1945.

Here is your open thread for the evening. The Islanders are pretty much the only local sports team in action, so you’re on your own for entertainment tonight. Have at it.

Saturday: Once again, this is the open thread. The Dodgers and Cubs are playing Game Six of the NLCS tonight (Kershaw vs. Hendricks, 8pm ET on FOX Sports 1), plus there’s all sorts of college football on too. The (hockey) Rangers and Devils are both paying as well. Talk about whatever here.

Sunday: Here’s the open thread for one last time. There’s no baseball game today and there isn’t one tomorrow either. There’s plenty of NFL action today though, so talk about that stuff.

Random Thoughts

Andrew Miller
(Getty)

The World Series

With the Chicago Cubs clinching the NL pennant, earning a spot in the World Series opposite the Cleveland Andrew Millers, one of the two longest World Series droughts in baseball will come to an end. Many have noted all the stuff that’s happened since the Cubs had last been in the Fall Classic (1945) and this will be the first time the Cubs franchise will play in a World Series that features players of color.

As it has been since 2009, rooting in the World Series will be relatively stress free. That’s the one upside of the Yankees missing the playoffs that I always mention this time of year. Watching playoff baseball–or any sport’s playoffs, for that matter–without having to live and die with each pitch is a wonderful experience. Granted, the combination of having an infant with me and the 8 PM start times, I really only get a few innings of stress-free enjoyment until the Sandman–and I don’t mean Mariano Rivera–comes and gets me.

MatsuiMVP
(AP)

Awards Season

When the World Series ends, awards season begins to kick off the Hot Stove season. I used to be very into this time of year, getting very passionate about whom I thought should win, spilling a lot of digital ink and dying on a lot of digital hills about this. Still, that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the idea of having opinions about this thing. Without doing any sort of real research, my picks for the awards are:

AL MVP: Mike Trout. It should just be Trout until…whenever? I know there are cases for other players this year, but the MVP is Mike Trout and probably will be Mike Trout next year, too.

NL MVP: Kris Bryant. Great year? Check. Successful team? Check. A narrative? Check. Dude’s probably got this in the bag and has for a long while.

AL Cy Young: Masahiro Tanaka. Why? Because I’m being a homer, dammit, that’s why.

NL Cy Young: Jose Fernandez. Call this a sentimental pick, but I don’t care. Jose Fernandez and the way he approached baseball represent everything good and right about the game. His attitude made baseball fun for him and those around him in myriad ways. The voters should honor his spirit with this year’s award, then create an award named after him from here on out.

AL ROY: Gary Sanchez. I’m still a homer.

NL ROY: Cory Seager. This one is so obvious it’s almost boring. If you wanna throw Trea Turner a vote or two, fine, but it’s likely to be Seager, as it well should be.

Changes

Once again, the Yankees are going to look way different next year than they did this year. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are gone. It’s possible that one of Brett Gardner or Brian McCann will be gone. It seems that the team’s only constant has been change lately, though this year’s additions may be a bit harder to predict. I’m sure they’ll go after a big bullpen arm, but beyond that, I’m really not sure. But, either way, I’m looking forward to seeing a new group out there for 2017, especially when that means full years from Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and hopefully Greg Bird.

DotF: Gleyber Torres raking in the Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League is in full swing and the various Caribbean winter leagues are getting underway as well. Before we get to the winter ball action, here are some minor league links and notes:

  • LHP Nestor Cortes has been added to the Scottsdale Scorpions roster, according to the AzFL transactions page. He’s replaced an injured pitcher with another organization. Cortes will pitch in relief and RHP Brody Koerner will move into the Scottsdale rotation.
  • SS Gleyber Torres landed in the top spot of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. “Torres is a powerful hitter who’s shown the ability to hit for both average and power as well as the ability to stick at shortstop … He is ready for his first taste of the upper levels next season at Double-A Trenton,” said the write-up.
  • It appears OF Aaron Judge (oblique) is healthy. George King (subs. req’d) says Judge is currently working with minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson. “It’s not about making any major overhaul. He just needs to get back to doing what got him here, and the important thing is not to panic. We know that’s not going to happen because he’s been through this before,” said Rowson.
  • A few things on RHP Dillon Tate: Keith Law (subs. req’d) said his stuff has come back, but he might need to try a two-seamer to keep hitters off his “pin-straight” fastball. A scout told Randy Miller that Tate works hard but is too stubborn to succeed in MLB. How silly. Bill Mitchell spoke to Tate about his stint in the AzFL.
  • Miller has a series of posts with things to know about Torres, 3B Miguel Andujar, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, and SS Tyler Wade. Also, Mark Cannizaro spoke to 1B Greg Bird about his summer rehabbing from shoulder surgery. He hated it. “I mean, when was the last time I took a summer off from baseball?” said Bird.
  • And finally, the Yankees have re-signed C Francisco Diaz, reports Matt Eddy. The 26-year-old depth catcher hit .212/.294/.237 (56 wRC+) in 65 games at three levels in 2016. Diaz figures to again spend next season going from level to level depending where a catcher is needed at any given time.

AzFL Scottsdale

  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 7 G, 9-23, 4 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K (.391/.481/.478) — he cooled down a bit towards the end of the regular season, so it’s good to see him starting strong out here
  • 1B Greg Bird: 6 G, 6-23, 2 R, 4 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K (.261/.346/.435) — so far so good following shoulder surgery
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 6 G, 9-21, 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 SB, 2 CS (.429/.520/.810) — reminder: he’s 19
  • SS/OF Tyler Wade: 4 G, 1-14, 4 R, 4 BB, 5 K, 1 SB (.071/.278/.071) — he’s played one game at second, one in left, and two in center
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 4 H, 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K (7.20 ERA and 2.20 WHIP)
  • RHP James Kaprielian: 2 G, 2 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K (1.50 ERA and 0.83 WHIP) — like Bird, so far so good following the injury
  • RHP Brody Koerner: 2 G, 3.1 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HR (24.30 ERA and 3.90 WHIP) — he missed most of the season with an unknown injury
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 3 G, 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR (9.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP)

The Dominican Winter League season started last weekend. IF Jorge Mateo, IF Abi Avelino, OF Cesar Puello, UTIL Jose Rosario, RHP Anyelo Gomez, and RHP Adonis Rosa are all on rosters but haven’t played yet. And they might not, either. Being on the roster just means that team controls their winter ball rights, not that they will actually play.

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Tito Polo: 4 G, 3-16, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 5 K, 3 SB (.188/.235/.250) — he was one of the guys the Yankees got in the Ivan Nova trade
  • C Sebastian Valle: 6 G, 3-21, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K (.143/.250/.190) — he’ll be a minor league free agent soon
  • No other Yankees farmhands are on league rosters.

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) season begins next week. Only partial rosters have been released so far. IF Cito Culver, IF Vince Conde, and OF Aaron Judge are listed on rosters. Maybe Judge will actually play after missing time with knee and oblique injuries this summer. He only played 120 games this year.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • SS Angel Aguilar: 1 G, 0-1, 1 K
  • C Francisco Diaz: 9 G, 8-25, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 SB (.320/.393/.520) — well look at that, a catcher with two triples and a steal in the span of nine games
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • RHP David Kubiak: 2 G, 1 GS, 6.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K , 1 HR (6.75 ERA and 1.65 WHIP) — the Yankees signed the 6-foot-7 righty out of an independent league over the summer
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 4 G, 2.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K (10.13 ERA and 2.25 WHIP)
  • LHP Miguel Sulbaran, RHP Daniel Alvarez, 3B Daniel Barrios, RHP Alex Mejias, 3B Andres Chaparro, OF Andres Fernandez, and C David Vergel are all on rosters.