Thursday Night Open Thread

The Yankees have yet another off-day today, their third in the last week, then tomorrow they’re off to Baltimore for a three-game set with the Orioles. By mid-June standards, that’s kind of a big series. The O’s are only three games back of the Yankees heading into their game tonight, and given how tight the division is, these head-to-head matchups are extremely important. The Yankees are 16-13 against AL East rivals this year, which is good but will hopefully get better.

Here is your open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network is showing a regional game. Game Four of the NBA Finals is on tonight as well (9pm ET on ABC), and, as a non-basketball fan, I have to say I have enjoyed the series so far. You folks know how these threads work by now, so have at it.

Yankees acquire Tony Renda from Nationals for David Carpenter

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees announced they have acquired minor league second baseman Tony Renda from the Nationals for David Carpenter. Carpenter was designated for assignment last week to clear a roster spot for Masahiro Tanaka. I believe today was the last day to trade him before he had to be placed on waivers.

Carpenter, 29, had a disappointing 4.82 ERA (5.31 FIP) in 18.2 innings with New York after coming over in the Manny Banuelos trade this offseason. Joe Girardi gave Carpenter plenty of opportunities to right the ship — he appeared in nine of the team’s last 20 games before getting cut — but it just didn’t happen. So it goes. Relievers, man.

On the bright side, the 24-year-old Renda is a really nice get for a player who had been designated for assignment. He is hitting .267/.333/.340 (95 wRC+) with more walks (8.3%) than strikeouts (6.6%) at Double-A this year after hitting .307/.381/.377 (119 wRC+) at High-A Last year. Renda was Washington’s second round pick in 2012.

Prior to the season Renda was ranked as 12th and 22nd best prospect in the Nationals’ system by Baseball America and MLB.com, respectively. MLB.com gave him a 50 hit tool and a 50 fielding tool on the 20-80 scouting scale while J.J. Cooper says it’s 45 hit and 50 fielding. Close enough. Here’s a piece of Renda’s free MLB.com scouting report:

Renda is an offensive-minded second baseman. His quiet swing helps him make consistent hard contact to all fields. He isn’t a speedster and has below-average power. He is a solid defender, capable of making the routine plays well … Renda isn’t flashy in any phase of the game, but he gets praise for his makeup and work ethic, which helps his tools play up.

Renda is listed at 5-foot-8 and 180 lbs., so this is the classic gritty grinder profile. I assume he’ll head to Double-A Trenton to join their prospect laden lineup and play second base everyday. Jose Rosario and Ali Castillo had been splitting time at second for the Thunder. I’m not sure where Renda would slot into my Top 30 Prospects list but it would almost certainly be the back half somewhere, 20-30 range or so.

It’s a shame things didn’t work out with Carpenter, especially since the Yankees could use an extra reliever right now with Andrew Miller landing on the 15-day DL yesterday. Carpenter’s probably going to go and dominate for the Nats now because that’s usually how these things work.

Thoughts following the 2015 Draft

Kaprielian. (Los Angeles Times)
Kaprielian. (Los Angeles Times)

After weeks of anticipation and three days of picks, the 2015 amateur draft came to an end Wednesday evening. The Yankees made 41 picks and now we have to wait until Friday, July 17th to see how many of them actually sign. It’s usually somewhere in the 25-30 range. Obviously some will sign sooner than others. Here are my reviews for Day One, Day Two, and Day Three, and here are some miscellaneous thoughts on the draft.

1. The Yankees once again went heavy on college players — 34 of their 41 picks were college players (83%), including ten of the first 12 — after doing so last year. (They took 82% college players in 2014. The league average is close to a 50/50 split.) Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer said last year they are leaning towards college players because they’ve had better success developing them, and while that’s true, I also wonder if there’s some pressure from ownership. Not an explicit “go take college players” directive, but Hal Steinbrenner has been talking about the farm system not helping enough for two years now, so perhaps the staff feels some pressure to get guys through the system quick, which is why they’re focusing on college players. I would hope not, but these guys are only human, and they’re going to do what they can to please their boss and keep their jobs. I dunno, I’m just thinking out loud.

2. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s nothing too exciting about high-probability college starters, though that doesn’t make UCLA RHP James Kaprielian a bad pick or anything. He’s a perfectly fine first round pick. He’s a quality prospect and was expected to go right in the middle of the first round somewhere. The Yankees were connected to a ton of bats before the draft, and I wonder if Kaprielian was Plan B after the bats they wanted were off the board. They were connected to Cincinnati OF Ian Happ (9th overall), Georgia HS SS Cornelius Randolph (10th), and New York HS RHP Garrett Whitley (13th) in the days and weeks leading up to the draft, for example. Perhaps the Yankees were hoping to grab one of those three and settled for Kaprielian when they were off the board. Then again, they were said to love California HS C Chris Betts, yet passed on him twice. Who knows. That the Yankees were connected to so many bats but changed direction and went for a pitcher makes me think the guy(s) they were targeting had already come off the board.

3. Speaking of Kaprielian, he is represented advised by Scott Boras and didn’t say a whole lot about when he expects to sign while speaking to reporters the other day. “I’m very happy about the opportunity. I’m going to let the business portion work itself out,” said Kaprielian to Andrew Marchand. Boras coaches these guys well. They don’t say anything that could hurt their leverage. Boras tends to wait until the signing deadline with his high profile draft prospects to squeeze every last draft pool penny out of teams, though I’m not sure if Kaprielian is high profile enough. The Yankees did take some cheap college seniors in rounds 7-10, so they will have extra bonus pool money to play with. I’m curious to see if that extra money goes to overslot bonuses for players taken after the tenth round or to Kaprielian, who is already slotted for $2,543,300. I wouldn’t be surprised if Boras managed to get his client a few extra grand. He’s good like that. Special assistant Jim Hendry is leading negotiations for the Yankees according to Bryan Hoch, by the way.

Holder. (USD)
Holder. (USD)

4. It kind of goes without saying the development of San Diego SS Kyle Holder’s hit tool will be a major storyline to track doing forward. The Yankees took the defensive wiz with their supplemental first round pick (the pick they received for losing David Robertson to free agency) and while there are no questions about his glove — seriously, I haven’t seen anything that says Holder is worse than a well-above-average defender at short — there are questions about his bat and whether he’ll hit at the next level. Apparently Holder made some mechanical changes before his junior season that allowed him to get the bat through the zone a little quicker, though who really knows. If Holder develops even an average hit tool, something that allows him to post a 90-100 OPS+ down the line, he’s going to be a seriously good prospect. Can the Yankees help him improve his hitting ability? Maybe! We’re going to find out. No one thought Brett Gardner would hit much and look at him. It’s not impossible.

5. I’m intrigued by two of the club’s junior college picks: Howard 2B Brandon Wagner (6th round) and Chipola 1B Isiah Gilliam (20th). They’re both position-less power bats, though that late in the draft teams are looking for unteachable skills, and power can’t be taught. Gilliam’s got an interesting backstory too. He’s only 18 yet he did a year in junior college because he graduated high school early, and, as I mentioned this morning, Eric Longenhagen says Gilliam once hit a ball over the Western Metal Supply building at Petco Park. Metal bats or not, that is quite the shot. Wagner will sign — the Yankees wouldn’t have taken him in the sixth round and risked draft pool space without knowing (and being willing to meet) his asking price — but Gilliam’s more of a question. He might require an overslot bonus, which is $100,000+ after the tenth round. I’m also interested in following BYU RHP Kolton Mahoney (16th), who doesn’t have a ton of pitching experience because he was on a Mormon mission for two years.

6. The Yankees selected only two catchers in this year’s draft — Oral Roberts C Austin Afenir (25th) and Catawbe C Will Albertson (40th), not counting UCSB C Paddy O’Brien (24th) because he is moving to the mound — after taking two last year, one the year before that, and three year before that. Almost all of them are organizational player types too, not prospects, which I thought was a little weird. The Yankees tend to hoard catchers because they’re hot commodities, but they’ve drafted just two catchers higher than the 12th round since taking John Ryan Murphy with the 76th pick in the 2009 draft: Greg Bird in the fifth round in 2011 and Peter O’Brien in the second round in 2012, and those guys didn’t last long behind the plate. The Yankees have signed a bunch of international free agent catchers in recent years, Luis Torrens most notably, but the catching prospect well has dried up a bit. It’s certainly not a point of emphasis early in the draft anymore. (The Yankees took Murphy, Kyle Higashioka, Austin Romine, and Chase Weems reasonably high in the draft from 2007-09.)

7. Last year the Yankees had a conservative. college heavy draft because they had basically no choice. They surrendered a bunch of high draft picks to sign free agents and had a tiny draft pool. This year was a different story. They had an extra pick and the sixth largest bonus pool, yet they still went conservative, and I find that disappointing. I do wonder though if that was done in an effort to balance out last year’s international spending spree. The Yankees spent a ton of money of international amateurs last year and those kids are super risky. They have a ton of talent and upside, but they’re much less likely to fulfill their potential because they’re so far away from MLB. Lots of them will never even make it out of rookie ball. The draft gives the Yankees some safer prospects to help balance things out and not put all their eggs in the ultra-risky prospect basket. I don’t know if that’s what happened, but it’s certainly possible. Either way, I’d like to see the Yankees go after a little more upside in the future. These are the Yankees, they’re always going to be chasing stars, and it would be nice if they tried developing one or two of their own so they don’t have to pay through the nose for the decline phase of someone else’s one of these years.

Yankees call up Chris Martin and Mason Williams from Triple-A Scranton

Williams. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)
Williams. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

The Yankees have called up right-hander Chris Martin and outfielder Mason Williams from Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. They take the place of Andrew Miller and Jose Pirela on the 25-man roster. Miller was officially placed on the 15-day DL today and Pirela was optioned to Triple-A Scranton yesterday.

Martin, 29, had a 3.55 ERA (2.00 FIP) in 12.2 innings for the Yankees earlier this year before his elbow starting acting up. He landed on the DL then was optioned to Triple-A once healthy, where he made four appearances. The Yankees are looking for another righty reliever and Martin will get the first audition. Joe Girardi showed a lot of faith in him back in April and I suspect that will be case now, especially since the alternative is Esmil Rogers.

The real story here is Williams, who was a borderline non-prospect after last season because he wasn’t hitting and had makeup and work ethic concerns. The 23-year-old hit a weak .236/.298/.319 (74 wRC+) from 2013-14 at mostly Double-A Trenton while getting benched for lack of hustle numerous times. He reportedly came to camp with a better attitude this year and has hit .318/.397/.398 (132 wRC+) with more walks (11.8%) than strikeouts (9.8%) between Double-A and Triple-A.

Williams has never lacked physical ability — he’s got a Jacoby Ellsbury-esque profile as a left-handed hitter with contact and speed and great center field defense. Hopefully he plays regularly going forward, at least against righties. Brett Gardner figures to slide back over to left field because Williams is a better defender. He’s probably the best center field defender in the organization.

This has been a remarkable year for formerly troubled Yankees prospects. First Slade Heathcott got the call after battling injuries all those years and now Williams is up with the team after two terribly disappointing seasons. Ramon Flores, who’s been in the system for what feels like an eternity, also made his MLB debut in 2015. Heathcott and Flores had some success right away with the Yankees. Hopefully Williams does the same.

Yankeemetrics: So good, so bad (June 9-10)

(Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News)
(Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News)

Another Cy Young winner? No problem
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Yankees recent seven-game win streak was the list of starting pitchers they beat along the way. After a 6-1 victory over the Nationals in the series opener, it included:

• two former Cy Young winners (Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez)
• two guys that have thrown a no-hitter (Hernandez, Jered Weaver)
• a couple recent top-25 prospects (Taijuan Walker, Mike Montgomery)
• a pitcher with the fifth-best ERA in the AL last season (Garrett Richards)
• a guy that started Game 1 of the World Series four years ago (C.J. Wilson)

On Tuesday night the Yankees countered with their own Cy Young hopeful, Masahiro Tanaka, who outdueled Scherzer in a battles of aces. Tanaka scattered five hits across seven innings, and his only mistake was a Bryce Harper solo homer in the fourth inning.

This was his fourth straight outing of at least six innings and no more than five hits and one run allowed, matching the longest such streak by any Yankee over the past 100 seasons. The last guy to do it was Orlando Hernandez in August 1998.

Stephen Drew book-ended the Yankees scoring with two solo homers, one in the third inning and one in the eighth inning, for his second multi-homer game in the past week. Each of his last four hits has been a homer; his last non-homer hit was June 2 in Seattle.

Drew joins Tony Lazzeri as the only Yankee second baseman in the last century to have two multi-homer games in a five-day span. Lazzeri did it in back-to-back games in 1936.

Extra, extra trouble
The Yankees longest win streak since 2012 came to end on Wednesday afternoon with a 5-4 loss in 11 innings to the Nationals. It was the first time the Yankees lost an extra-inning game at home to a Washington DC-based team since May 2, 1964 when the Washington Senators beat them 5-4 in 10 innings.

Fun fact: Don Zimmer was the leadoff hitter for the Senators in that game!

Not-so-fun fact: Yankees are now 1-4 in extra-inning games this season, the second-worst record in the AL, and have yet to record a walk-off win.

Even worse not-so-fun fact: Gio Gonzalez entered this game with a 7.30 ERA in seven starts against the Yankees, the highest ERA vs. the Yankees by any active pitcher who had made at least six starts against the team. So, of course, he held them scoreless for the first six frames.

The Yankees, though, rallied from a 2-0 deficit with four runs in the seventh inning. The key hit was a two-out, tie-breaking double delivered by Alex Rodriguez. It was A-Rod’s third go-ahead hit in the seventh inning or later in 2015 — the same number as all other Yankees combined this season.

But the bullpen faltered late in the game and the Yankees suffered a loss like none other this season. Before Wednesday, the Yankees were 15-0 at home when holding a lead entering the eighth inning.

2015 Draft: Yankees remain conservative, focus on college players on Day Three

After three days, 40 rounds, and 1,215 total picks, the 2015 amateur draft is complete. The Yankees wrapped up their draft haul with rounds 11-30 yesterday, and once again they focused on college players with higher probabilities, same as Day One and Day Two. Day Three was … not all that exciting. But who knows how this will work out? The draft is totally unpredictable. You can see all of the Yankees’ picks at Baseball America. Let’s review Day Three.

Miller. (NJ.com)
Miller. (NJ.com)

Youth & Upside
The Yankees made 30 picks on Day Three and only five (five!) were high school players. The two most notable are New Jersey LHP Andrew Miller (34th) and Florida SS Deacon Liput (39th). Yes, the Yankees actually drafted a lefty named Andrew Miller. Like the other Andrew Miller at the same age, this version throws hard (low-to-mid-90s) but doesn’t have much of an idea where it’s going. Unlike the other Andrew Miller, this one lacks a defined breaking ball and an intimidating frame (6-foot-3 and 195 lbs.). Still, lefties who throw hard are always worth a late round pick.

Liput is committed to Florida and is the kind of player who could wind up coming out of college as a top three rounds pick in a few years. He’s a sound defender with great instincts and good speed, and he’s able to slash the ball all over the field from the left side of the plate. Liput is very similar to current Yankees farmhand Tyler Wade, though Wade was a better bet to stay at shortstop long-term when he was drafted out of high school. The Yankees figure to have some pool money available to sign Miller or Liput to above-slot bonuses, but it might be one or the another, not both. Whoever takes the money first gets it.

Rogers. (Louisville)
Rogers. (Louisville)

Tommy John Surgery Veterans
The Yankees selected a pair of college hurlers on Day Three who had their careers interrupted by Tommy John surgery: Louisville LHP Josh Rogers (11th round) and Southern Mississippi RHP Cody Carroll (22nd). Both had their elbows rebuilt as high school seniors — Rogers in 2013 (he’s a draft-eligible sophomore) and Carroll in 2011 (he’s a senior). Neither has had any elbow trouble since.

Rogers shows three pitches (fastball right at 90, slider, changeup) he can throw for strikes, giving him back of the rotation potential, though one of those offerings will have the develop into an out-pitch at some point to reach that ceiling. Carroll is more of an arm strength guy — he sits low-90s and will touch 95 while also throwing a good changeup and a meh slider. He doesn’t throw enough strikes though, likely limiting him to the bullpen long-term. Like many of the team’s pitchers, Carroll is a big dude (6-foot-5, 200 lbs.).

Unproven Thump
Despite spending a year in junior college, Chipola 1B Isiah Gilliam (20th) is still only 18 years old because he graduated high school early. He’s a switch hitter with a ton of power from both sides of the plate — Eric Longenhagen says Gilliam once hit a ball over the Western Metal Supply building at Petco Park, which, uh, is a bomb — who doesn’t have a set position and hasn’t yet learned how to take his power into games. Still, power from both sides of the plate? That’s never a bad skill to take in the 20th round.

The Yankees also selected Lehigh 2B Mike Garzillo (38th) after teams continued to shy away from his right-handed power bat. Garzillo went from zero home runs as a freshman and sophomore to 13 as a junior, in part because he learned how to pull the ball with authority when the opportunity presented itself rather than be content with sitting back and serving everything the other way. Garzillo hasn’t faced the greatest competition and it’s fair to wonder just how legitimate his power spike really is. He could opt to return to school, prove himself further, then try his hand in the draft again next year.

Mahoney. (BYU)
Mahoney. (BYU)

The Atypical Prospect
BYU RHP Kolton Mahoney (16th) had his draft stock held down by three factors beyond his control: he’s already 23, he doesn’t have much of a track record, and he’s on the small side for a right-hander (6-foot-1 and 195 lbs.). Mahoney went on a Mormon mission from 2012-13 and only threw 135 innings in college. That said, he chewed up wood bats and was named the Cape Cod League Pitcher of the Year last summer, a league the Yankees scout very heavily because it’s basically a collegiate All-Star league. The best of the best. Mahoney has a fresh arm, repeats his delivery, and sits low-90s with three offspeed pitches (slider, curveball, changeup). He’s lacking command, which isn’t surprising given his lack of experience, though it’s starter stuff. Mahoney is older than the typical prospect, sure, but they don’t check IDs on the mound.

Swing Adjusted
Last year Cal Poly OF Zack Zehner (18th) was a seventh round pick by the Blue Jays, but he didn’t sign, returned to school, made some swing adjustments, set career highs in doubles and walks, and … fell eleven rounds in the draft? Zehner is a righty swinger with power but he can be overly aggressive at the plate, sabotaging his offensive ability. He’s also a sound defender with a good arm, though for some reason the Yankees announced him as a left fielder rather than a right fielder. Zehner is a college senior, though his new swing mechanics are just a year old, and the Yankees used a late round pick see if the power spike is something more than a fluke.

Arms, Arms, Arm
As always, the Yankees loaded up on college arms on Day Three, simply because they need warm bodies to soak up innings in the lower levels of the minors later this summer. Among this year’s haul of Day Three arms are Alabama RHP Will Carter (14th), Tennessee RHP Bret Marks (15th), San Diego State RHP Mark Seyler (19th), Nebraska RHP Josh Roeder (21st), Fresno State RHP Garrett Mundell (23rd), Cal State LA RHP Icezak Flemming (26th), Pittsburgh RHP Hobie Harris (31st), West Point RHP Alex Robinett (32nd), and Sam Houston RHP Alex Bisacca (35th).

Roeder. (Nebraska)
Roeder. (Nebraska)

First of all, yes, the Yankees drafted a dude named Icezak. Secondly, all nine of those guys are college seniors, which means they are extremely likely to sign and begin their careers. Carter is the best prospect of the bunch and not just because he was drafted the highest — he stands 6-foot-3 and 190 lbs. and sits in the 92-95 mph range with a useable curveball. He doesn’t always throw strikes though, and he often falls in love with his fastball and gets way too predictable on the mound. Roeder has the best numbers of the bunch (28/3 K/BB in 20 innings) and has a low-90s sinker/slider combination. He also holds Nebraska’s career saves record (33).

Among the non-senior arms are Clemson RHP Brody Koerner (17th), Georgia RHP David Sosebee (26th), Delaware RHP Chad Martin (30th), Indiana RHP Christian Morris (33rd), and Oklahoma City RHP Dustin Cook (36). Koerner had a terrible year (7.55 ERA in 62 innings!) but is the best prospect of the bunch because he has a bowling ball of a low-90s sinker. Sosebee, who returned to the mound less than a month after having surgery to repair a constricted spinal cord in March, is a super-high-makeup guy who could stick around in pro ball a very long time because of his leadership. Teams value that. They want their prospects around good guys who are driven to succeed.

The Rest of the … Rest
Arizona HS OF Terrance Robertson (12th) is a light hitting speedster who stands out most for his athleticism and, well, speed. Robertson also has a strong arm and pitched in high school, but his future is in the outfield … St. Petersburg OF Trey Amburgey (13th) is a tool shed with a ton of speed who did a nice job turning his talent into baseball skills in his two years at junior college … UCSB RHP Paddy O’Brien (24th) is both extremely Irish and a catcher the Yankees are going to try on the mound because his arm is a howitzer. He’s also 6-foot-5, 230 lbs., and a draft-eligible sophomore …  Oral Roberts C Austin Afenir (25th) is the son of longtime Yankees scout Troy Afenir … Idaho HS 1B Michael Hicks is a 6-foot-7, 245 lb. high school first baseman. I mean, what? … Morehead State 1B Kane Sweeney (29th) and Catawba C Will Albertson (40th) are big time college performers. Albertson hit .467/.534/.865 with 26 homers in 62 games this spring … Colorado HS 3B Matthew Schmidt (37th) has two-way tools but is probably better off going to college (he’s committed to Texas), refining his skills, and trying the draft again in three years.

* * *

I’ll have some more thoughts on the draft later today. For now I’ll just say the Yankees went conservative on Day Three — at least based on the tiny little bit we know right now — which is disappointing. They weren’t going to have enough draft pool space to afford the higher profile high school players who fell due to bonus demands like Tennessee HS RHP Donny Everett and California HS LHP Justin Hooper, but taking more college seniors than high schoolers on Day Three seems … backwards. Teams can always sign undrafted free agents to fill out minor league rosters. The younger guys who have a chance to grow into legitimate prospects the next two or three years are much harder to come by, yet the Yankees have steered clear of those players for two drafts now.

DotF: Severino strong in third start with Triple-A Scranton

Triple-A Scranton (7-2 win over Buffalo)

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-4, 1 R
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-5, 1 R
  • C Austin Romine: 1-5, 2 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 2-5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 2 K — 9-for-25 (.360) during his little seven-game hitting streak
  • RHP Luis Severino: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 7/2 GB/FB — 64 of 95 pitches were strikes (67%) … 56/15 K/BB in 55 innings this year
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 15 of 26 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • LHP Matt Tracy: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 13 of 23 pitches were strikes (57%)

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