DotF: Higashioka goes deep in Scranton’s win

Got some notes to pass along:

  • Josh Norris (no subs. req’d) has a really good article on C Donny Sands’ conversion to catcher. Turns out Sands is not catching much in GCL games because he has regular 5am workouts with the team’s catching instructors. “The first time I threw out a guy — we had worked out at five in the morning on footwork, footwork, footwork — and the first time, it just clicked. That’s when I started feeling like, ‘This is starting to pay off,'” he said. Pretty cool.
  • LHP Justus Sheffield was officially added to the High-A Tampa roster following today’s game, the team announced. I’m guessing that means he’s going to make his first start tomorrow. Sheffield was part of the Andrew Miller trade this past weekend.
  • In case you missed it earlier, LHP Jacob Lindgren will have Tommy John surgery on Friday, so we probably won’t see him again until 2018. Also, RHP Conor Mullee is still have issues with his hand and is heading to see a doctor.

Triple-A Scranton (7-0 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 RBI, 3 K
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K — gets his first hit in his second game in the organization
  • DH Aaron Judge: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K — 3-for-8 with two doubles in his two games back from the knee injury
  • 1B Ike Davis: 0-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — I wrote about him earlier today
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB — he’s hit five homers in his last nine Triple-A games
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 3/5 GB/FB — 49 of 86 pitches were strikes (57%), plus he picked a runner off first … exactly half of his 20 starts this season have been scoreless, which is pretty nuts
  • RHP Kirby Yates: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 2/2 GB/FB — 16 of 21 pitches were strikes (76%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — eleven pitches, nine strikes
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K — eleven pitches, eight strikes … 74/7 K/BB in 51 innings

[Read more…]

Game 107: Sanchez returns, maybe for good this time

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, the Yankees called up top catching prospect Gary Sanchez today and he is in tonight’s lineup (at DH) against southpaw Steven Matz. They’ve done this before, calling up Sanchez to spot start against a left-handed pitcher, but this time it seems he may be up for good. For starters, the Yankees gave him No. 24 this time, which looks like a “you’ll be here a while” number. Sanchez wore 73 and 57 his last two times up.

Secondly, the Yankees have spent the last few days doing nothing but talking about prospects and incorporating them into the lineup in the second half. Sanchez is as ready as he’s going get, and with Carlos Beltran gone and Alex Rodriguez glued to the bench, the DH spot is wide open. He just might be here for a while. Here is the Mets’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. RF Rob Refsnyder
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. 3B Chase Headley
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. DH Gary Sanchez
  9. LF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Chad Green

The weather in New York is pretty much perfect. Nice and sunny but on the cool side and a little breezy. There are worse days to spend at the ballpark. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES and SNY locally, and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Ben Gamel was sent down to clear a spot on the roster for Sanchez, the Yankees announced. That’s not surprising. Releasing A-Rod is a pipe dream at this point. Joe Girardi did say the team is likely to call up other young players before rosters expand in September, for what it’s worth.

Injury Update: Conor Mullee (hand) is heading to see a doctor after feeling renewed symptoms during his latest minor league rehab game. He’s on the DL with some sort of nerve issue that is making his fingers go numb.

TiqIQ: New-Look Yankees Welcome Crosstown Mets, Divisional Counterparts to Stadium in August

The dust has finally settled, and out of the Yankees’ deadline fire sale come a slew of young players that will have an immediate impact on the franchise’s farm. Top prospects Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres highlight the list of 10 minor leaguers the Yankees hauled in by Monday afternoon, the prized new additions to an organization that now boasts one of the best farm systems in the league.

So where does that leave 2016’s Yankees team? Well, the “No Runs DMC” trio is no longer, with Aroldis Chapman shipping out to Chicago and Andrew Miller taking up new digs with the Cleveland Indians. Carlos Beltran is the latest piece to the Texas Rangers’ playoff hopes while Ivan Nova now dresses in black and yellow in Pittsburgh. Still, with four key players skipping town, there are still plenty of reasons to watch the Yankees battle in the Bronx this month.

The Wild Card race is slowly slipping out of reach, and following Tuesday’s loss to the New York Mets the Yankees now sit 5.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot. There will be several notable teams making their way to Yankee Stadium over the next four weeks, however, and Yankees tickets in August won’t be too taxing on the wallet for fans attending an upcoming game.

The Mets will be in town for the second half of a four-game series beginning tonight. Despite both teams’ recent shortcomings, the hype surrounding the Subway Series games will make them the most expensive to attend in the Bronx this month. As it stands now tickets to tonight’s game start from $95. The final game of the series will be slightly cheaper to attend, with tickets listed from $58 in the 200 level headed out towards right field.

Following their two-game bout with the Mets, the Yankees welcome the red-hot Cleveland Indians for a three-game series this weekend. The Indians made a splash last Sunday after acquiring the former Yankee Miller, who was greeted to the team with a home run from Joe Mauer in his first appearance Monday night. With the lockdown lefty back in town this weekend, all three games will offer relatively cheap price points, with tickets starting from just $17 each in the outfield bleachers.

A mid-week trip to Boston will pen three games against the Red Sox from August 9-11. The Yankees return home for a six-game homestand against the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, the latter of which are neck-and-neck with the Orioles atop the division to begin the month. While tickets are listed from $17 during the Rays series, fans can take advantage of the MasterCard Half-Price Game against the Blue Jays on August 17, where tickets can be found at just $9 each in the outfield bleachers when checking out with a MasterCard.

The first-place Orioles will be the final team to visit Yankee Stadium this month for a three-game stretch between August 26 and 28. Barring an unlikely playoff series, the O’s make their second-to-last trip to New York this season. Like that of the Indians and Rays series, tickets start from $17 on Ticketmaster.

Jacob Lindgren to have Tommy John surgery on Friday

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Left-hander Jacob Lindgren will undergo Tommy John surgery on Friday, the Yankees announced today. Unfortunately this doesn’t feel like much of a surprise. He’s been out since April with an elbow issue and we recently heard he had been throwing off a mound, so the ligament tear is relatively new. That bites.

Lindgren, 23, was the Yankees second round pick (55th overall) in the 2014 draft. They didn’t have a first rounder that year. Lindgren destroyed the minors (1.83 ERA and 2.03 FIP) and was called up to the Yankees briefly last season. He allowed four runs in seven innings before having surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

The Yankees started Lindgren in High-A this season because he couldn’t throw strikes in Spring Training, and, sure enough, that continued with the Tampa Yankees. He walked nine and uncorked six wild pitches in seven innings before being placed on the DL. Lindgren hasn’t appeared in a game since.

These days teams are giving players 14-16 months to rehab from Tommy John surgery, not 12 months, so chances are we won’t see Lindgren in a game again until 2018. He’s going to qualify for a fourth option, which will allow the Yankees to send him to the minors to make up for lost time come that 2018 season.

Tyler Austin has put himself back on the prospect map and should get a look in the second half

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As recently as two years ago, Tyler Austin was so well-regarded that Keith Law (subs. req’d) placed him 85th on his annual top 100 prospects list, one spot ahead of current Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop. That was the last time Austin would appear on a top 100 list due to ongoing injuries and performance issues. His prospect stock cratered the last two years.

Austin, now 24, hit .263/.332/.390 (105 wRC+) with 17 homers in 806 total plate appearances from 2014-15, mostly at Double-A but also some Triple-A. He dealt with a bunch of injuries too, most notably wrist problems. Those numbers aren’t that bad, but for a bat first prospect at a corner position, they’re not nearly good enough to stay on the various prospect lists.

The injuries and lack of production led to Austin losing his 40-man roster spot last September. The Yankees designated him for assignment to clear space for other players and Austin slipped through waivers unclaimed. He went from a top 100 prospect prior to 2014 to unclaimed on waivers in September 2015. Austin didn’t even get invited to big league Spring Training this year. That’s quite a fall, one many players usually don’t come back from.

“You never want to go backward in this game but I think it was a great learning experience for me,” said Austin to Shane Hennigan back in June. “This game humbled me very fast and I found out the hard way. I’m going to try and not let anything like that happen again and continue to work hard and go from there.”

With a healthy wrist and a chip on his shoulder after being passed over on waivers, Austin has rebuilt some prospect stock this year, first by mashing in Double-A and then continuing to do so in Triple-A. He put up a .260/.367/.395 (118 wRC+) line with the Thunder and went into last night’s game hitting .316/.417/.649 (209 wRC+) with the RailRiders. Overall, Austin has hit .288/.392/.521 (161 wRC+) with 17 homers in 99 games. Those 17 homers are his most since hitting 17 during his breakout 2012 season.

The big bounceback season has put Austin back on the prospect map and apparently on the cusp of the big leagues as well. In recent days both Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner mentioned Austin as a call-up candidate in the second half. When the owner mentions you by name in interviews, you’re doing something right. I’m of the belief Austin should indeed get a look in the second half, and not just because his numbers are good. There are plenty of other good reasons as well.

1. He’s a righty hitter with opposite field power. The old scouting reports on Austin said he had power to all fields and a level swing that made consistent hard contact. We didn’t see that version of Austin from 2014-15 due to the wrist and other physical problems. This year, the good version of Austin has returned, and he’s showing that all-fields power. Check out his 2016 spray chart, via MLB Farm:

Tyler Austin spray chart

I count eight of Austin’s 17 home runs going out to right field. Ten of his 29 doubles have been hit to the right field side of dead center as well. Needless to say, a right-handed hitter who can drive the ball with authority to right field is a damn good fit for Yankee Stadium. Austin has pull power as well, but that ability to go the other way is what made him a top 100 prospect back in the day. We’ve seen the oppo pop return in 2016.

2. He plays a position(s) of need. The Yankees originally drafted Austin out of a Georgia high school as a catcher back in the 13th round of the 2010 draft. He immediately moved to first base, then gave third base a try, then shifted to right field, and now he’s back at first. Austin has moved around quite a bit over the years as the Yankees tried to find his best natural position. Turns out it’s first base.

The Yankees have a long-term need at first base, and while everyone hopes Greg Bird fills that spot, this year’s shoulder injury has thrown a wrench into things. At the very least, the Yankees figure to need a right-handed platoon partner for Bird next season, and that’s a role Austin can fill. He could also be an option in the two corner outfield spots and an emergency option at third base. Austin offers a little versatility and is capable of playing first base, a position that is a question mark going forward until Bird shows he’s healthy and productive.

3. This offseason is decision time. Back in November 2014, the Yankees added Austin to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. They dropped him from the 40-man last September and he went unpicked in December’s Rule 5 Draft, which was no surprise. No team bothered to claim him off waivers, when they could have acquired him for nothing and not put up with the Rule 5 Draft rules. Why would they then take him in the Rule 5 Draft?

This offseason Austin will not just be Rule 5 Draft eligible again. He’s up for minor league free agency. And if he hits the open market, the smart money is on him joining an organization that gives him the best chance to break into the big leagues immediately. You could argue that team is the Yankees with Mark Teixeira likely to be let go and Bird coming back from shoulder surgery, but Austin may not see it that way.

The Yankees are going to have to decide whether to keep Austin by adding him to the 40-man roster — if he’s put back on the 40-man, he can’t become a minor league free agent — or likely lose him for nothing as a free agent. That’s not ideal. Austin has two minor league option years left, so they could keep him and always send him back to Triple-A if there’s a roster crunch. That’s not a problem. Either way, it’s decision time. Something has to happen.

* * *

It’s important to keep in mind that while it’s good to call a player up and get a look at him in the second half, it can be deceiving. Those 40-50 games are still a small sample size and they can play tricks on you. Luis Severino sure looked ready to take over as the staff ace following those eleven starts last season, right? Those 40-50 games are useful and they do help teams evaluate the player. They don’t tell the entire story though. Hardly.

Austin’s prospect stock took a huge hit the last two years, so much so that he went unclaimed on waivers. He’s rebounded this season thanks mostly to good health, and if nothing else, he’s put himself in position to be considered for a call-up. With Teixeira not hitting all year and a clear long-term need at first base, it would behoove the Yankees to call Austin up and get his feet wet at the MLB level down the stretch. His performance and those three reasons above are why it should happen.

Guest Post: The Five Stages of Rebuild Grief

The following is a guest post from a longtime reader and commenter who goes by Robinson Tilapia in the comments. Enjoy.

Frazier. (Presswire)
Frazier. (Presswire)

In 1969, psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published the classic “On Death and Dying,” which introduced the world to her Five Stages of Grief.  Even if you only took a high school elective on psychology, you’ve probably come across the five stages.  They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Throughout the years, Kubler-Ross later expanded her model in order to incorporate other sorts of losses that were not necessarily related to death, such as divorce, displacement, and loss of job.

As a mental health professional in my non-RAB life, I began toying with the idea of whether these five stages applied to baseball fans after their favorite team completing taking part in the selling-off process that frequently accompanies rebuilds.  Does this not constitute, after all, a form of loss for the fan?

I gave up pretty quickly on making the comparison once I looked at Kubler-Ross’s stages.  I really couldn’t relate to “denial” as the first thing you experience after trading away Andrew Miller, nor am I sure “bargaining” has a place there at all.  Instead, I spent an entire drive to work trying to name my own five stages for the process, which I’m sharing here.  While I doubt these will bring me anywhere near the acclaim Kubler-Ross received for her stages, perhaps they’ll be remembered about half as much as Ben’s (or was it Joe’s?) theory on Zen Baseball.

The Five Stages of Rebuild Grief are as follows:

Elation – The names are announced.  You’ve read comment after comment repeating these names: Clint Frazier! Justus Sheffield! Gleyber Torres!  They’re Yankees now!  You Google any scouting report you can get your hands on, damn the source.  You read about how Frazier has elite bat speed, how Sheffield is holding his own in A-ball despite being two years underage, and about how Ben Heller can dial it up to 100 at times.  Ben Heller, you ask?!?!  I hadn’t heard of him … and he’s ours now?!  You watch as MLB quickly updates their prospect rankings in order to include all the new guys, and you begin to write out that 2018 lineup.  Nothing can go wrong.

Doubt – You’ve now sat down for a few minutes, and have begun to digest them all.  You’ve done your fair share of reading.  Perhaps you even stumbled upon that rascal, Dave Cameron, giving you all these lovely comparisons on Clint Frazier.  Perhaps Freddie Freeman is on them.  Unfortunately, Wily Mo Pena may also be there (Note: I am making these comps up.  I figured Wily Mo Pena is as good a boogeyman as any.  Cameron has said none of this that I know of.)  You begin asking yourself why Texas would give up last year’s number four pick in the entire draft, even though everything points to a hamstring injury messing with their mechanics.  What else would they know, and does that mean Chicago knew something about Torres as well?  You wonder why Frazier, when Joey Gallo remained untraded at the deadline.  You start to ask yourself whether these were actually the right moves.

Justification – You log on to your favorite website’s comment section.  Others seem to be vocalizing the same doubts you’ve begun to have.  Could they be right?  Nonsense. THIS is what the fans wanted all along.  THESE are the players we wanted.  WE are getting younger.  Not only do I have zero doubts, but I’ve never been happier as a fan!  I will watch every game the rest of the way.  As a matter of fact, I think there’s a pretty good chance they make the playoffs.  Who are you to think otherwise?  GET ON BOARD.

Despair – You’re now on board, but there’s no turning back, is there?  Your favorite team is committed to having a Frazier/Aaron Judge/whoever-someone-else-wants-less outfield in the near future.  You begin to think about how Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Drew Henson, and Eric Duncan broke your heart.  You had visions of Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams shagging down fly balls in the outfield, but they’ve stalled out in AAA due to injury.  That can’t all be on the individual, can it?  No … it must be the Yankees, who are now entrusted to develop these guys too.  This was a bad idea, and there’s no way out now.  Are the St. Louis Cardinals looking for new fans?

Acceptance – The only overlapping stage with Kubler-Ross.  You’ve taken that deep breath, and now realize that all those options are possible outcomes and, know what?  It all sounds like fun.  It’s new.  It’s different.  You don’t know where this is going, but you’re willing to be taken for this ride.  You’ve reached that peace.  Go Yankees.

When you read what others have to say, no matter how negative or “Pollyanna” they may appear, they are simply on this same ride with you.  They’re just at a different marker.

Enjoy the ride.

The Alex Rodriguez Problem

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

What a difference a year makes, huh? Last season Alex Rodriguez was coming back from his 162-game Biogenesis suspension and no one knew what to expect. How would a soon-to-be 40-year-old with two surgically repaired hips perform after missing a full season (close to two full seasons, really)? Quite well, it turns out.

A-Rod hit .250/.356/.486 (129 wRC+) overall with 33 homers in 2015, which was truly best case scenario stuff. I think each and every one of us would have happily signed up for that before the season. Rodriguez did slump in the second half like most Yankees, but, overall, he was a middle of the order force and a big reason why the team managed to qualify for the postseason.

This season has been a much different story. Rather than come to Spring Training as a complete unknown, Rodriguez came to camp with the Yankees counting on him to provide power and a steadying middle of the order presence. It hasn’t happened. A-Rod owns a .204/.252/.356 (56 wRC+) batting line with nine homers in 234 plate appearances around injuries and benchings.

The Yankees have not so gradually started scaling back A-Rod’s playing time. For a few weeks they benched him against righties, and these days they bench him against pretty much everyone, so much so that Gary Sanchez is expected to be called up today to DH against lefty Steven Matz. Alex can’t play the field at all, and now if he’s not trusted enough to start against lefties, what purpose does he serve? None. He serves no purpose.

It’s no surprise then there’s been talk the Yankees may release A-Rod at some point in the second half. The team denies it because what else are they supposed to do? “I know it’s been tough on him. But he’s been a pro and working his tail off,” said Brian Cashman to reporters earlier this week. Now that Carlos Beltran is gone and the Yankees are in sell mode, chatter about cutting Alex is only going to grow louder. What’s the right thing to do?

The Case for Cutting A-Rod

This is the easy one so we might as well start here. The case for cutting A-Rod comes down to two things: his lack of production and his lack of flexibility. He’s hitting .198/.276/.367 (71 wRC+) in 446 plate appearances since August 1st of last year, so this isn’t a small sample. For a DH, those numbers are putrid. There’s a minimum acceptable standard on offense and Alex ain’t meeting it, especially relative to position.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Defensively … well there’s not much to talk about. A-Rod hasn’t played even one out in the field since last May, and although he’s been working out at first base lately, there’s no indication the Yankees will actually use him there. Rodriguez almost got into a game at third base in San Diego a few weeks ago, though that was an emergency situation in the late innings. It didn’t happen. The game ended before he could return to the hot corner.

A DH who can’t hit or play the field in something more than an emergency is useless. It’s a dead roster spot. Cutting A-Rod frees up a roster spot and playing time for one of the many kids the Yankees have in Triple-A. We’re not talking about Shelley Duncan types here. Sanchez figures to be the catcher of the future. Aaron Judge figures to be the right fielder of the future and Tyler Austin is looking to carve out a role as well. Moving on from A-Rod creates an opportunity for players who will part of what we hope is the next great Yankees team.

The Case for Keeping A-Rod

This is a much tougher argument to make, and honestly, I’m not sure I can do it. I’m going to try though. Here are three reasons it may be wise for the Yankees to hang on to Rodriguez in the second half.

1. A-Rod could always get hot. The Yankees traded Beltran, by far their best hitter, at the deadline in one of their “seller” trades. Their best hitter is now, uh, Didi Gregorius? Maybe Brian McCann? That’s not so great. Despite his down year, A-Rod is still insanely talented, and with Beltran gone, the DH spot is wide open. Alex still has the ability to get hot and carry a team for a few weeks, and the Yankees are going to need someone to create runs. I’m not sure Rodriguez can bounce back at this point, but I’ve bet against him before and he’s made me look silly pretty much every time.

2. He’s closing in on 700 homers. Right now A-Rod is sitting on 696 career homers, meaning he’s only four away from becoming only the fourth member of the 700 home run club. That is pretty incredible. It’s historic. It really is. We may never see another player reach 700 homers in our lifetime. It’s also very marketable. I don’t know the numbers, but I’m willing to bet attendance and ratings are down this season, and A-Rod’s pursuit of 700 homers could help the Yankees sell some tickets and improve ratings down the stretch. They would actually have to play him regularly for the chase to be interesting, of course.

3. He can be a mentor to the team’s young players. A-Rod has long had a reputation for being a leader in the clubhouse and a great mentor to young players. He’s a preparation and workout freak, and he makes sure the young guys put in the work that is necessary to excel at the MLB level. “I’m a teacher at heart,” he told Joe Lemire yesterday.

Alex is one of the most talented players in baseball history, and seeing someone that talented do that much prep work really drives home the point of just how hard it is to be a good big league ballplayer. Coasting on talent isn’t an option. The Yankees have a lot of young players on the cusp of the show and, with Beltran gone, A-Rod is someone who can take them under his wing and show them the ropes. He may not hit anymore, but Alex’s leadership has value that can’t be quantified.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Is the 700th home run pursuit and leadership enough to keep A-Rod on the roster? It may not seem so to you and me, but the Yankees could feel otherwise. They know much more about his intangible value as a marquee player and mentor than we ever will. All we see is the on-field performance, which this year means a total lack of production. Like I said, a DH who can’t hit or play the field occasionally is not worth a roster spot.

My guess is yes, the Yankees have indeed kicked around the idea of releasing A-Rod, but they’re not ready to commit to that just yet. Rosters expand four weeks from tomorrow, and I think the team will ride it out with Alex until September 1st, when it’ll be more easy to carry the wasted roster spot. If he smashes his 700th home run between now and then and mentors some young players, great. They’ll reassess his place on the roster in the offseason.

Make no mistake though, if A-Rod were Joe Schmo and not a guy with a huge contract approaching a historic milestone, he’d be long gone by now. Teams usually don’t stand for this type of production, or lack thereof. A-Rod’s still on the roster because of what he’s done in the past and the money still owed to him through next year, and that’s generally not a good reason to keep a player around. Not when there are young players in Triple-A ready for an opportunity.