Rob Refsnyder’s Big Chance


You know, I always assumed it would take an injury for Rob Refsnyder to get a chance to play everyday this season. I just didn’t think it would take injuries to Greg Bird and Mark Teixeira and Dustin Ackley. The Yankees have lost Plans A through C at first base to injury, so, with their options limited, the team gave Refsnyder a crash course at the position last week and threw him out there.

I’d say Refsnyder’s play at first base has been mostly fine, though I can’t remember him being tested with any tough plays in his 28 innings at the position. The Yankees aren’t asking him to be a Gold Glover like Teixeira. Just catch the ball from the other infielders and occasionally flip it over to the pitcher covering the bag. That’s all. Chris Parmelee is there for late-inning defense. (He’s taken over at first late the last few games.)

More important than Refsnyder’s defense is his offense, which is his calling card and a fairly divisive topic in Yankeeland. Some folks think he can be an impact hitter, others aren’t quite as sold. Regardless of your opinion of Refsnyder’s bat, there is only one way for the Yankees to find out whether he can hit big league pitching, and that’s by writing his name into the lineup regularly. He just needed the opportunity.

The Teixeira and Bird (and Ackley) injuries have created that opportunity for Refsnyder, even though he has to play out of position. It’s not ideal, but you know what? Refsnyder’s not the first player who will have to play out of position early in his big league career. He hasn’t complained about playing first base and he won’t. I’m just saying. The Yankees aren’t being unreasonable by asking Refsnyder to play first. Quite the contrary, actually. They’re giving him a chance.

Truth be told, the Yankees should have given Refsnyder a chance last season. Stephen Drew was unproductive for long stretches of time and never did validate the team’s faith in him. Refsnyder started at second for a handful of games at the end of the season, which was better than nothing, but it wasn’t enough to tell us anything meaningful. Now Refsnyder will have a chance to play regularly for possibly the rest of the season. It’s not hyperbole to call this the opportunity of a lifetime.

The Yankees said yesterday they hope to get Teixeira back on the field in three weeks, so we’ll see. We know the surgery would be season-ending, so why not try the rehab first? It only makes sense. If Teixeira does come back in three weeks, then the Yankees can figure out what to do with Refsnyder then. He has to give them a reason to stay in the lineup first, remember. “Let’s find out what he can do,” said Joe Girardi the other day when asked about playing Refsnyder everyday at first.

So far this season Refsnyder is 5-for-22 (.227) with two doubles, but he’s looked good overall at the plate. He’s working counts and putting together good at-bats. We saw the same thing last year. A lot of times young kids will try to hit a five-run homer every at-bat when they first get a chance to play regularly. We haven’t seen that yet from Refsnyder and that’s encouraging. Will it lead to production? We’re finally getting a chance to find out.

Dingers are good! Yankees rally past the Angels 5-2 in the series opener

Elsa/Getty Images

Start spreading the news – the Yankees went from being shut out to hitting home runs late in the game to win this one 5-2 over the Angels. It looked like Masahiro Tanaka‘s strong seven inning effort was going to be wasted, but a pair of big solo HR’s in the seventh tied it up. Later, Carlos Beltran hit a three-run homer to put the Yanks ahead for good.

Elsa/Getty Images

Tanaka = Good

So, Tanaka has been good this season. Here’s a little bit of factiod from our own Katie Sharp: Tanaka is tied for second with Madison Bumgarner for most starts with 2 ER or less allowed in a game with ten. Who’s first? Clayton Kershaw (11). Tanaka may not be the 95-mph throwing fireballer anymore (but Brooks Baseball did have a pitch clocked at 95.3 mph so there’s that) but you know what, as long as he gets the hitters out, it’s not a concern at all. Overall, he threw 7 innings of 2 ER ball and struck out three. Solid, not sexy, but he gave the team a chance to win.

Tanaka allowed the first run in the top of first. Yunel Escobar singled on the very first pitch of the game and advanced to second and third on two different fly outs. With two outs, Albert Pujols hit a soft single to center to drive Escobar in for a 1-0 Angels. They increased their lead to 2-0 in the third when Kole Calhoun drove Gregorio Petit in with a sac fly. Fortunately for the Yanks, that was the only damage Tanaka allowed in his seven inning outing. However, it looked likely that he was in line for the loss because of Matt Shoemaker’s pitching.

En Route to a Maddux?

The Yankee offense was pretty bad for first six innings. We are not talking about bad RISP numbers like they put up yesterday. They just weren’t getting on base much. Matt Shoemaker, who hasn’t been going through his best season (5.50 ERA in 10 starts), seemed to pitch with some chip on the shoulder, averaging 93.1 mph with his four seamer (topping out at 95.3 mph), a bump above the usual.

For a good chunk of the game, it seemed like Shoemaker was on his way to throw a Maddux (a CGSO with less than 100 pitches). Through the first six innings, he had allowed only one baserunner in scoring position and threw 59 pitches. I gripe about the RISP in Yankee losses often but tonight, I felt like I wouldn’t even have the figure to write on.

The Yankees did have two instances early on with chance to put the runner on second. In the first inning, Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single and attempted to steal second. The 2B ump Clint Fagan initially ruled him out but Joe Girardi challenged the call. The replays showed that it did seem as if Ellsbury was safe but umps disagreed – they stood by Fagan’s call.

In the bottom of second, Starlin Castro hit a fly ball that LF Rafael Ortega barely failed to make a diving catch on. However, Ortega got up quickly and made a throw to second right away, catching Castro out trying to stretch the double into a single. Shoemaker went on to retire 11 straight batters until the Ellsbury double in the sixth with two outs (which they failed to score on). However, the game doesn’t end until the ninth…

Late Inning Dingers

Shoemaker had gotten first two hitters of the seventh out and had only 67 pitches thrown when Brian McCann stepped up to the plate. On a 3-1 count, McCann hit a gigantic foul ball that just twisted away from the right field foul pole, missing a home run by not much. On the next pitch, McCann didn’t miss it. He put the ball right up the luxury suites – in fair territory – for a solo home run. The Yankees trailed by one and that didn’t last long at all.

Elsa/Getty Images

The next batter, Castro, he second pitch of the at-bat way deep into the left field seats. And, just like that, the game was tied in a mere three pitches. I don’t know when was the last time the Yankees took charge offensively and changed the game around this quick. The two solo HR’s made it a brand new ballgame and the momentum probably shifted towards Yanks’ side.

With 80 pitches thrown, Shoemaker came back to start out the bottom of the eighth. After striking out Chase Headley on three pitches and grounding out Aaron Hicks, he allowed back-to-back singles to Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to create a two out, runners in corners situation. The Angels pulled him out for lefty Jose Alvarez. Up to the plate: Carlos Beltran.

On a 0-1 count, Beltran got a 91 mph fastball out over the plate – it didn’t look like the spot that Alvarez wanted to locate. What do talented ML hitters do with a mistake pitch? Crush it. Beltran squared up on the ball and took it over the right field fence for a go-ahead, three-run home run. 5-2 Yankees. This was a certainly refreshing sight considering how much the offense seemed incompetent for the most of the game. Aroldis Chapman closed the door in the ninth.

Box Score, Highlights, WPA, Standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, video highlights, WPA and updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees will face their old friend David Huff tomorrow. Michael Pineda will start for New York, looking to build on from his best start of the season last week against Detroit.

DotF: Gittens, Aguilar homer in Charleston’s blowout win

The season is two months old now and I’m pretty sure I haven’t updated the standings once, so let’s do that now. Daren Willman pointed out that, heading into yesterday’s game, the Yankees had the second highest minor league winning percentage this year at .593. Only the Indians (.620) have been better. Minor league winning percentage means basically nothing, so I caution you not to read too much into it. The standings updates today are more to keep track of postseason races because hey, the playoffs are fun.

Triple-A Scranton (8-1 loss to Charlotte) 31-27 and 1.5 games back in the division

  • RF Ben Gamel: 1-3, 1 BB
  • CF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — second steal in as many games
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 RBI
  • DH Tyler Austin: 0-4
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding)
  • RHP Chad Green: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 9/2 GB/FB — 70 of 108 pitches were strikes (65%) … 108 pitches in 5.2 innings is an awful lot
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 17 of 33 pitches were strikes (52%) … you’re not going to get back to the Bronx like that, Johnny
  • LHP Neal Cotts: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 15 of 22 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • LHP Jame Pazos: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB — nine strikes, 12 pitches

[Read more…]

2016 Draft: Cal Quantrill

Cal Quantrill | RHP

Quantrill, 20, is indeed the son of former Yankee and longtime big leaguer Paul Quantrill. The Yankees selected Cal out of high school in the 26th round of the 2013 draft basically as a shot in the dark. They had no realistic chance of signing him given the draft pool and his strong commitment to Stanford. Quantrill had a 2.58 ERA with 118 strikeouts and 42 walks in 129 college innings. He made three starts as a sophomore last year, blew out his elbow, had Tommy John surgery, and hasn’t pitched since.

Scouting Report
Before elbow reconstruction, the 6-foot-3 and 185 lb. Quantrill was the early favorite to go first overall in this year’s draft. He ran his fastball in the 90-94 mph range and his changeup was already being touted as a big league out pitch. Quantrill also throws sharp sliders and curves and he located everything well. In addition to the impressive four-pitch mix, he also earned big time praise for his pitching aptitude and presence. Quantrill carried himself like a big leaguer on the mound, which I guess isn’t a surprise for a kid who grew up around the game. Although he did not pitch for Stanford this spring, Quantrill has worked out for teams in private showcases, so it’s not like no one has seen him since last year.

As you can imagine, the Tommy John surgery has clouded Quantrill’s draft outlook. and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 22nd and 23rd best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Baseball America had him a little lower at 38th. The Yankees pick 18th and, obviously, they have a tiny little bit of history with Quantrill. Someone in the organization liked him enough to convince the bosses to pop him in 2013.

The Tommy John surgery is a no doubt risk. I know everyone likes to say it’s routine these days, but there’s always a chance Quantrill will continue to have elbow problems and/or his stuff won’t come all the way back. Teams have shown a willingness to take kids rehabbing from Tommy John surgery — Brady Aiken, Jeff Hoffman, and Erick Fedde were all first round picks in recent years despite having their elbows rebuilt prior to the draft — and really, only club needs to be willing to roll the dice.

Game 57: HOPE Week


The Yankees are finally back home after that ten-game road trip that seemed like it would never end. They return home to kick off HOPE Week, the team’s annual community outreach event.

Today the Yankees were in New Rochelle to help Stars for Cars, a charity organized by 14-year-old Jake Gallin. He’s been raising money to help military families since 2011 by selling magnetic star decals people can put on their cars. Ryan Hatch has more on today’s HOPE Week event. I’m sure there will be video during tonight’s game broadcast.

As for the Yankees on the field … gosh, do I have to talk about them? They kinda stink. Well, not kinda. They do stink. Only the Rays, Athletics, and Twins have worse records in the AL. The Yankees have lost eight of their last 12 games overall. That’s come immediately after an 8-2 stretch. Blah. Here is the Angels’ 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

The weather has been very nice in New York today. It’s a little cloudy but warm and breezy. Pretty nice night for a ballgame. Tonight’s series opener with the Angels will begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy.

2016 Draft: Joey Wentz

Joey Wentz | LHP

Wentz, 18, attends Shawnee Mission East High School in the Kansas City suburbs. He spent last summer participating in showcases as a first baseman because he was dealing with a dead arm period. Wentz returned to the mound this spring and has been healthy. He’s committed to attend Virginia in the fall.

Scouting Report
As a hitter, Wentz has easy power and a sweet swing from the left side of the plate. He’s only played first base but is considered athletic enough to give the outfield a try. Most agree Wentz has much higher upside on the mound, however. At his best he’ll sit in the 91-95 mph range and touch 97, though it’s worth noting he’s been unable to hold that velocity all spring and has spent the last few weeks in the 88-91 mph range. That’s kinda scary after last summer’s dead arm. A big-breaking upper-70s curveball and promising changeup round out his repertoire. There’s hope that at 6-foot-5 and 210 lbs., Wentz will add velocity and answer questions about his durability.

In their most recent rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and Baseball America ranked Wentz as the 16th, 22nd, and 26th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. The Yankees pick 18th. Before the recent velocity dip there was talk Wentz would be a top ten pick because hey, lefties who touch 97 and have three pitches are hot commodities. Ultimately, it’s going to depend on which team feels most comfortable with him physically after the dead arm and velocity loss. I suppose Wentz could always fall back on being a first baseman (or outfielder), but that’s a backup plan no one wants to use.

6/6 to 6/9 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels

Mike Scioscia

That long ten-game, four-city road trip is finally over. The Yankees are now back home for a seven-game homestand that wraps up this long 41 games in 40 days stretch. It’s been a grind. Even for fans, I think. The Angels are in the Bronx for four games this week. This is the first meeting of the season between these two teams.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Halos erased a 4-1 deficit in the late innings yesterday to earn a 5-4 win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh. They took two of three over the weekend and have the same 26-30 record as the Yankees. The Angels have the better run differential though: -11 to -31. You win this round, Billy Eppler.

Offense & Defense

When I looked over the roster before the season, I wondering how in the world the Angels would score runs. They’ve actually been pretty respectable offensively, averaging 4.36 runs per game with a team 100 wRC+. As a team the Halos have the lowest strikeout rate (15.8%) and third highest contact rate (81.6%) in baseball, so they’re going to put the ball in play. Then again, the Yankees have the fifth lowest strikeout rate (19.2%) and second highest contact rate (81.7%), so maybe they’re not the most predictive thing in the world.

You know who this is, right? Right. (Justin Berl/Getty)
You know who this is, right? Right. (Getty)

The Angels have a laundry list of players on the DL at the moment, most notably SS Andrelton Simmons (45 wRC+). He tore a thumb ligament a few weeks back and is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment today. Needless to say, Simmons won’t be back this series. The left field platoon of OF Daniel Nava (70 wRC+) and OF Craig Gentry (22 wRC+) are out with lumbar and groin problems, respectively. Backup C Geovany Soto (128 wRC+) and backup IF Cliff Pennington (109 wRC+) are on the shelf too. Crazy.

Anyway, manager Mike Scioscia still has CF Mike Trout (164 wRC+) to anchor his lineup, and once again Trout is having an out-of-this world season. He’s so, so good. So good. 3B Yunel Escobar (120 wRC+) and RF Kole Calhoun (138 wRC+) bat first and second ahead of Trout while 1B/DH Albert Pujols (107 wRC+) cleans up. 1B/DH C.J. Cron (93 wRC+) and 2B Johnny Giavotella (82 wRC+) typically hit fifth and sixth in some order.

With Simmons hurt, ex-Yankees IF Brendan Ryan (-100 wRC+) and IF Gregorio Petit (74 wRC+) are sharing time at shortstop. OF Shane Robinson (104 wRC+) and OF Rafael Ortega (65 wRC+) handle left field. C Carlos Perez (55 wRC+) is the starting backstop with C Jeff Bandy (97 wRC+) backing him up. IF Jefry Marte (218 wRC+) is the other bench player. The Halos have good to great defenders all over the field. Their worst defender is probably Pujols or Cron, whoever happens to be at first base that day.

Pitching Probables

Monday (7:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. LAA) vs. RHP Matt Shoemaker (vs. NYY)
Two years ago Shoemaker finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Jose Abreu. Last year he had a 4.46 ERA (4.59 FIP) and missed time with a forearm injury. This year Shoemaker has 5.50 ERA (3.58 FIP) in ten starts and 52.1 innings, which earned him a brief demotion to Triple-A. Look at the numbers and you’ll think he’s stunk, but they don’t tell the whole story. The 29-year-old allowed 26 runs with 17 strikeouts in his first six starts and 24.2 innings. In his last four starts he’s allowed seven runs with 36 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. What changed? His pitch selection (via Brooks Baseball):

Matt Shoemaker pitch selection

Almost half of Shoemaker’s pitches have been splitters over those last four starts. Hey, when you spend parts of five seasons in Triple-A before finally getting a chance at the Major League level, you’re going to do whatever it takes to stay there, and in this case it means throwing your best pitch a frickin’ ton. Shoemaker sets the splitter up with low-90s four-seamers and sinkers — I guess the splitter sets up the fastballs at this point, right? — and he also throws a low-80s slider. These days he doesn’t bother with his upper-70s curveball. We’ll see how the Yankees approach Shoemaker now that he’s throwing all those splitters. It’s a tough pitch to combat.

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. LAA) vs. TBA
The Angels have nearly a full rotation on the DL at the moment. Garrett Richards (elbow), Andrew Heaney (elbow), C.J. Wilson (shoulder), and Nick Tropeano (shoulder) are all out. Richards and Heaney are currently trying to rehab partially torn elbow ligaments and avoid Tommy John surgery a la Tanaka. Tropeano hit the DL over the weekend and this was supposed to be his start, and the Angels still haven’t announced his replacement. They’ve given zero indication who will get the ball instead. It won’t be Tim Lincecum, who signed a free agent a deal a few weeks back. Scioscia confirmed he’ll make at least one more Triple-A tune-up start before joining the team. Scioscia seemed to indicate the Angels might go with a bullpen game tomorrow. It’s a big mystery for now.

Wednesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. LAA) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (vs. NYY)
Weaver, who is somehow only 33, has a 5.18 ERA (5.59 FIP) in eleven starts and 64.1 innings so far this season, and about the only thing he does well is limit walks (5.7%). He doesn’t strike anyone out (14.3%), doesn’t get grounders (29.4%), and doesn’t keep the ball in the park (1.96 HR/9). His platoon split is small but only because both righties and lefties hit him hard. Weaver’s fastball is averaging 83.1 mph this year, which is bonkers. Only knuckleballers R.A. Dickey and Steven Wright have slower average fastballs this year. Doug Fister has the next slowest heater among non-knucklers at 86.6 mph, so we’re talking about a gap of 3.5 mph between Weaver and the next slowest fastball. Yeesh. His kitchen sink approach includes low-80s sinkers, mid-70s changeups and sliders, and an upper-60s curveball. Everything is slow. It’s a different look for sure. Doesn’t seem to be working much for Weaver this year though.

Not Jeff. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Not Jeff. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Thursday (7:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. LAA) vs. RHP Jhoulys Chacin (vs. NYY)
The Angels picked up the veteran Chacin from the Braves in a minor trade a few weeks ago simply because they needed another warm body for the rotation. The 28-year-old has made ten starts and thrown 58 innings this year overall, and he has a 4.50 ERA (4.02 FIP) in those 58 innings. He’s always been a heavy ground ball pitcher (52.9%) thanks to his trademark low-90s sinker. His strikeout (19.4%), walk (7.3%), and homer (1.09 HR/9) numbers are middling at best, and weirdly enough, he’s been more effective against righties than lefties. That not typical. Chacin backs up his sinker with upper-80s cutters, mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and upper-80s curveballs. He throws everything too. Chacin is a true five-pitch pitcher.

Bullpen Status

Injuries have struck the bullpen too. The Angels only recently welcomed closer RHP Huston Street back from an oblique injury that cost him six weeks. Setup man RHP Joe Smith is now nursing a hamstring problem that may land him on the DL. Here is Scioscia’s relief crew at the moment:

Closer: RHP Huston Street (0.90 ERA/4.82 FIP)
Setup: RHP Joe Smith (3.91/5.21)
Middle: LHP Jose Alvarez (4.23/3.01), RHP Cam Bedrosian (1.96/2.58), RHP Javy Guerra (5.68/7.70), LHP Greg Mahle (4.24/4.95), RHP Fernando Salas (3.76/4.11)
Long: RHP Deolis Guerra (5.14/1.12)

If Smith is not placed on the DL, someone will have to go down to make room for tomorrow’s spot starter. (Assuming it’s not a bullpen game.) One of the Guerras seems most likely given a) the fact they both threw 28 pitches yesterday, and b) the team’s transactions over the first two months of the season. Alvarez (17 pitches) and Street (14 pitches) both pitched yesterday too.

You can check up on the status of the Yankees bullpen with out Bullpen Workload page and boy, it’s not pretty. Joe Girardi has really worked the guys hard the last few days. Tonight would be a good night for Tanaka to pitch very deep into the game. That and the offense scoring a lot of runs.