Update: Yankees call up Mason Williams


1:15pm: The Yankees have indeed called Williams up, the team announced. They haven’t announced an update on Judge, however. Rosters are expanded and Williams is already on the 40-man roster, so no other move is required.

11:30am: According to Sweeny Murti, the Yankees are calling up outfielder Mason Williams from Triple-A Scranton. I figured that would happen. Williams will replace Aaron Judge, who strained his oblique taking a swing last night. The Yankees have not yet announced the results of his MRI, but it’s not a stretch to assume Judge’s season is over.

Williams, 25, missed the first half of the season following shoulder surgery. He hurt himself diving back into first base on a pickoff play last year, you may remember. Williams hit .317/.335/.410 (112 wRC+) in 46 regular season minor league games after returning, most with the RailRiders, and he’s continued his hot hitting in the Triple-A postseason.

Last season Williams played eight games with the Yankees before hurting his shoulder — he replaced the injured Slade Heathcott, who replaced the injured Jacoby Ellsbury — and went 6-for-21 (.286) with one homer and three doubles. He went deep in his very first big league game, which was really cool.

Joe Girardi said last night he expects to use Rob Refsnyder as the everyday right fielder with Judge sidelined. Aaron Hicks could return from his hamstring injury as soon as next week as well. For now Williams seems like the fourth outfielder who will spot start and replace Refsnyder for defense in the late innings.

The call-up means Triple-A Scranton is pretty screwed — they’re currently in the International League Championship Series and Williams was their everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter — but the big league team is the priority, and they couldn’t play with a short bench. Not when they’re still in the mix for a postseason spot. Calling up Williams was a no-brainer. It had to be done to ensure the Yankees are as close to full strength as possible.

Refsnyder and Williams are the Yankees’ best options in the wake of the Judge injury

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
(Ed Zurga/Getty)

Last night the Yankees won the second game of their three-game series with the Dodgers, but they also lost an everyday player to injury. Right fielder Aaron Judge tweaked his right oblique taking a swing, and although he stayed in to finish the at-bat, he was pulled from the game after the inning was over. Judge will go for an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury.

“It’s possible (he’s done for the season),” said Joe Girardi following last night’s game. “It’s his right rib cage. He’ll have an MRI. We won’t see him for a while … I just told him, ‘You’re out.’ I called him over and he didn’t really argue. We’ve got to get this checked out and see where you’re at.”

Judge’s first month or so in the big leagues has been a mixed bag. He’s hitting .179/.263/.345 (61 wRC+) overall with a 44.2% strikeout rate, so for the most part his at-bats have been unproductive. At the same time, every once in a while Judge will do this …

… and remind you exactly why he’s been so highly touted the last few seasons. That’s not even the longest home run Judge has hit in his short time as a big leaguer. He hit one over the windows of the restaurant in center field last month. Between the power and the strikeouts, it’s amazing Judge ever sees a fastball. It really is.

Anyway, the injury means the Yankees are down not only their starting right fielder in Judge, but also their backup right fielder. Aaron Hicks is still out of action with a Grade II hamstring, remember. At the moment the Yankees have only three healthy true outfielders on the active roster: Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Eric Young Jr. That’s it. (I won’t blame you if you forgot about EYJ. I did too.)

Even if the MRI today reveals good news, chances are the Yankees will be without Judge for at least a few days. Oblique strains usually don’t heal overnight. Also, they’re very easy to reaggravate, and Judge isn’t a nobody. The Yankees are going to play it very safe with him. The last thing they want is him to suffer a setback that throws his offseason workouts out of whack. Here are the team’s options with Judge sidelined.

Short-Term Fix

Girardi all but confirmed Rob Refsnyder will step in as the every right fielder for the time being. They really have no other choice. “That’s what I’ll go with now and obviously I’ve got to talk to (Brian Cashman) to see if we’re going to make a move here,” said the manager last night. The only other option is Tyler Austin, who is the most-of-the-time first baseman, so Refsnyder it is.

In sporadic playing time this year Refsnyder has a .268/.342/.333 (81 wRC+) batting line in 159 plate appearances. That’s … unique. He’s drawing walks (10.1%) and making contact (13.2% strikeouts), but he’s also hit for zero power. Refsnyder’s yet to hit a home run and he has only nine doubles too. He works a quality at-bat almost every time up and that’s great. Some extra-base pop would be cool though.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Hopefully the doubles and homers come now that Refsnyder will get a chance to play everyday. His defense is not great in right field — maybe this will press Young into defensive replacement duty in tight games? — but again, the Yankees are pretty much out of options. Based on the guys they have on the active roster, Refsnyder is the best right field solution.

Returning Soon?

Grade II hamstring strains can be pretty serious and they tend to lead to prolonged absences, but Hicks is already back performing baseball activities. He got hurt on August 31st and he’s already started running in the outfield and taking batting practice. Hicks is going to Tampa later today to ramp up his rehab, and it sounds as though the goal is to activate him off the DL when the Yankees arrive for their series with the Rays next week.

As crappy a year as he’s had, getting Hicks back as soon as next week would be pretty huge. At the very least, he could replace Refsnyder for defense in the late innings. Best case scenario is Hicks picks up where he left off in August — he hit .280/.330/.439 (106 wRC+) in fairly regular playing time last month — and takes over right field everyday. A little friendly competition between Refsnyder and Hicks would be good for both, I think. Either way, there’s a chance Hicks will return as soon as next week. That would be pretty awesome.

The Call-Up Candidate

The Yankees have one outfielder on the 40-man roster who is not in the big leagues right now: Mason Williams. Williams returned from shoulder surgery at midseason and hit .317/.335/.410 (112 wRC+) in 46 regular season minor league games, almost all at Triple-A. Typical Mason Williams, basically. At least when he’s going good. Williams has carried that performance over into the postseason with the RailRiders too.

Girardi acknowledged a Williams call-up was possible last night — “It’s going to be really difficult (with a short bench) … There’s outfielders down there that we’re going to have to talk about because we’re short,” he said — and given where the Yankees are in the postseason race, everything has to be on the table at this point. They surely want Williams to get as many at-bats as possible following shoulder surgery, but playing with a short bench in a postseason race makes no sense.

(Scranton Times-Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

Remember, the Yankees originally planned to give Bryan Mitchell one more Triple-A start to iron things out earlier this month, but as soon as Chad Green got hurt, they called Mitchell up because he was the best option. The same applies to Williams. Would they like him to get more at-bats with the RailRiders? Surely. Judge’s injury has forced their hand though, and with a playoff spot within reach, having the best team possible has to be the priority.

Scranton’s season will end no later than Saturday — it can end as soon as tomorrow — and I’m guessing Williams won’t make it that far. He’ll be up before then, perhaps later today. The RailRiders would be pretty screwed during the International League Championship Series, but the big league team is the always the priority. Chances are we’ll see Mason very soon.

The Long Shots

The three other outfielders with Triple-A Scranton are not on the 40-man roster: Clint Frazier, Cesar Puello, and Jake Cave. I can’t see them calling Frazier up a year before he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible. That would be a big time panic move. Puello and Cave are a different story because cutting them loose in the offseason wouldn’t be a big deal. If the Yankees do decide to give Williams more at-bats in Triple-A following surgery, Puello or Cave could get the call instead. This section is called “The Long Shots” for a reason though. I don’t see this happening. Puello, Cave, and Frazier are all options available to the Yankees. They’re not that desperate yet though.

* * *

The Judge injury isn’t devastating — he wasn’t hitting much outside the occasional dinger — but it further thins out the Yankees’ outfield. Refsnyder is a short-term solution and Hicks might be back next week, which would be cool. My guess is we’ll see Williams sooner rather than later too. There’s a clear need and he can be useful, even if he’s only a defensive replacement for the time being. The Yankees may not want to use Refsnyder in right or call up Williams before the end of the Triple-A season, but they’re short on outfielders at the moment, and those two are their best immediate options with Judge and Hicks out.

Sabathia dominates, Yankees turn to the long ball in 3-0 win over Dodgers

Now that’s more like it. After dropping back-to-back games the last two days, the Yankees rebounded with an emphatic win Tuesday night, reminding everyone they are still in the damn postseason race. The Yankees beat the Dodgers by the score of 3-0 in the middle game of the three-game series. The Orioles won and the Tigers lost, so the Yankees are now tied with Detroit in the standings and two games back of the O’s for the second wildcard spot.

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

World Champ
Last time out, CC Sabathia looked like a total wreck. He was laboring right from the start of the first inning and there was nothing on his pitches at all. I wrote in that night’s recap that Sabathia almost seemed to be pitching hurt. He looked that bad. Fast forward to this game and Sabathia looked far better, with jump on his fastball and conviction in his delivery. He looked better than good. Sabathia was as good as we’ve seen him at any point this season.

The Dodgers had their best chance to score against Sabathia in the second inning, after Enrique Hernandez ripped a two-out double to left field and advanced to third on a passed ball. Sabathia ended the threat with a quick three-pitch strikeout of former Yankees farmhand Rob Segedin. Following the Hernandez double, Sabathia retired nine straight and 14 of the final 16 batters he faced. He didn’t allow another runner to make it as far as second base.

Sabathia has been shakier and shakier as his pitch count climbs this season, particularly once he gets over 75-80 pitches or so. He held the Dodgers scoreless over the first five innings, but his pitch count was at 73, and he was about to face the top of the lineup a third time. That’s usually the danger zone. Joe Girardi sent Sabathia out for the sixth — no one was warming in the bullpen — and while he gave up a hard-hit one-out single to Justin Turner, CC finished the sixth with the 0-0 tie intact.

Sabathia started the seventh to get the left-on-left matchup against Adrian Gonzalez, and after getting him to roll over on a ground ball, he was replaced by Adam Warren. I was pleased. I thought this was one of those batter-to-batter situations. Sabathia finished the night with three hits and one walk allowed in 6.1 innings. He struck out seven and impressively allowed only two fly ball outs against ten on the ground. Well done, CC. You’re still a BAMF.

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

Power Off The Bench
Dodgers rookie lefty Julio Urias showed a lot of things Tuesday night. He showed some nasty stuff first of all, regularly hitting 96+ mph. He also showed a lot of pitching know-how by fooling hitters with a few 2-0 and 3-1 changeups. And Urias also showed a decided lack of efficiency; he threw 78 pitches to 17 batters in 3.2 innings. That’s 4.59 pitches per batter and 21.3 per inning. Yikes.

Incredibly — and annoyingly — six of the final nine hitters Urias faced reached base, yet the Yankees failed to score a run. They stranded two runners in the third and the bases loaded in the fourth. There was a double play mixed in there as well. Blah. Aaron Judge‘s two-out walk in the fourth inning was the last batter Urias faced. Righty specialist Louis Coleman came in and got contact machine Ronald Torreyes to ground out to short with the sacks full. Alas.

Judge’s walk was his final at-bat of the night. He hurt his oblique taking a swing during that at-bat and was removed from the game after the inning. He’ll go for an MRI tomorrow. Sucks. Jacoby Ellsbury replaced Judge in the lineup — he took over in center, Brett Gardner went to left, and Rob Refsnyder slid over to right — and his only at-bat of the game was rather huge.

With the game scoreless in the seventh inning, Ellsbury came to the plate for the first time with one out. Rowdy Ross Stripling was on the mound for his second inning of work, and Ellsbury worked a really great at-bat. Fell behind in the count 0-2, worked it back full, and fouled off three two-strike pitches. The ninth pitch of the at-bat was a hanger and a half. Check it out:

That is one aesthetically pleasing home run. You can see Ellsbury read hanger out of Stripling’s hand, wait back for it to arrive at the plate, then unload for the tie-breaking solo home run into the second deck. Perfect. I’ve given Ellsbury a lot of crap this year (and last year … and the year before that) but he’s been really good the last three weeks or so. Coming on at just the right time.

I don’t know about you, but one run felt like it was enough to win this game. Thankfully Didi Gregorius did not share that sentiment and followed Ellsbury’s home run with a solo homer of his own. It was a pinch-hit dinger on a flat fastball up in the zone. Another mistake pitch. Neither Ellsbury nor Gregorius started Tuesday’s game, yet they came off the bench to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead with back-to-back solo homers in the seventh.

One run felt like enough to win and two runs felt like plenty. What did three runs feel like? I dunno. Pretty good, I know that much. Gary Sanchez hit New York’s third solo dinger of the night in the eighth inning, this one against veteran Jesse Chavez. Look at the pitch location:

Gary Sanchez

That ridiculous. You’re not supposed to be able to hit that out of the park. Sanchez muscled the high and outside pitch over the right field wall for his 14th homer of the season and third in the last five games. He hasn’t been picking up as many non-home run hits lately, but man, when he connects, the ball goes an awfully long way. Sanchez has 24 home runs in 107 total games this season between Triple-A and MLB. As a full-time catcher. That’ll do.

Shutdown Bullpen
The Yankees haven’t gotten much length from their starters recently, but with Sabathia taking the ball into the seventh inning, Girardi was able to go right to his end-game relievers. Warren got two quick outs to close out the seventh, then after Tyler Clippard allowed a dinky two-out single to Howie Kendrick in the eighth, Dellin Betances entered for the four out save. His only blemish was a leadoff Corey Seager single in the ninth. It deflected off Mark Teixeira‘s glove at first base and away from Starlin Castro. What can you do?

Following Hernandez’s double in the second, the Dodgers did not have another runner reach second base until the ninth inning, when Seager took second on defensive indifference. Just a phenomenal job by all four pitchers. They held the Dodgers to one double, four singles, and one walk in nine innings. They struck out ten. Thirty-three Dodgers came to the plate and nine hit the ball out of the infield. Nine!

It didn’t seem like it — I guess because the game was scoreless into the seventh inning — but the Yankees had 13 baserunners in eight offensive innings. Eight hits, four walks, and a hit batsman. Castro led the way with three hits. Brian McCann was the only other Yankee to reach base twice; he walked and was grazed by a pitch.

The Yankees went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. I wonder how many games they’ve won with so few at-bats with men on second and/or third? Power hitters are pretty cool. When you can hit dingers, there’s a runner in scoring position even when the bases are empty. The Bronx Bombers came through big Tuesday.

And finally, the Yankees have a new wrestling style championship belt in the clubhouse, and before the game Gregorius said they plan to give it to the player of the game after each win. Sabathia earned the first title belt after his performance in this game, hence the “World Champ” section title earlier. Check it out (via Didi on Twitter):

CC Sabathia belt

If you’re down with the Yankees giving out a title belt after wins, gimme a hell yeah.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, and ESPN for the updated standings. Make sure you don’t miss out Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings as well. Here’s the very excellent win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees close out the non-AL East portion of their schedule with the series finale against the Dodgers tomorrow. Michael Pineda and some guy named Clayton Kershaw will be on the mound. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any of the other six (six!) home games left in 2016.

DotF: Scranton, Trenton drop Game One of Championship Series

RHP Kyle Haynes and RHP Dillon McNamara have been bumped up a level to Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton, respectively, report Shane Hennigan and Matt Kardos. I assume Haynes will start Game Five for the RailRiders, if necessary. Right now their Game Five starter is TBA.

Triple-A Scranton (7-4 loss to Gwinnett) they trail the best-of-five Championship Series one game to none

  • CF Mason Williams: 0-5, 1 K — first hitless game of the postseason
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — threw a runner out at third
  • 3B Donovan Solano: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 0-3, 1 BB
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — had a two-run single as part of their three-run seventh inning rally, which made the game a bit more interesting
  • RF Jake Cave: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — hit a solo homer for their first run
  • 2B Cito Culver: 0-4, 1 E (fielding)
  • LHP Jordan Montgomery: 0.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 24 of 38 pitches were strikes (63%) … brutal start to close out his season … he allowed four runs in 44 Triple-A innings before this game … the RailRiders held Lehigh Valley to three runs total in the first round of the postseason, and Gwinnett matched that in the first four batters of this game
  • RHP Eric Ruth: 3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 39 of 64 pitches were strikes (61%) … nice job giving them some distance after Montgomery’s dud
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 15 of 28 pitches were strikes (54%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, zeroes, 1/0 GB/FB — ten pitches, seven strikes
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — 13 pitches, 12 strikes
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 21 of 27 pitches were strikes (78%)

[Read more…]

Update: Aaron Judge exits game with right oblique strain


9:01pm: Judge left the game with a right oblique strain and will undergo an MRI tomorrow, the Yankees announced. Well that’s no good. Here’s video of the injury:

8:45pm: Aaron Judge left tonight’s game after the fourth inning with an unknown injury. Replays showed him grimacing after a swing and the trainer did come out to check on him, but Judge remained in the game to draw a walk and run the bases. He was lifted after the inning.

Hopefully the Yankees are playing it safe and only removed their prized young outfielder as a precaution. The team is already without Aaron Hicks, so if Judge misses any time, Tyler Austin and Rob Refsnyder would have to step into right field full-time. There’s also Mason Williams in Triple-A.

For what it’s worth, Judge missed a few weeks with a knee injury in Triple-A earlier this year, which he suffered diving for a ball in the outfield. The Yanks haven’t released an update on Judge, so stay tuned.

Game 144: Time’s Running Out


Including tonight, the Yankees have 19 games remaining this season. The current standings indicate it’ll take 88 wins to get the second wildcard spot, so the Yankees have to go 12-7 from here on out to get there. That doesn’t seem too bad! They’re 13-6 in their last 19 games, after all. Doable. Very doable.

That’s all well and good, but the Yankees are going to face the best pitcher on the planet tomorrow, then they’re going out on an eleven-game, three-city road trip. That is: daunting. Tonight’s game is pretty important, especially on the heels of those last two losses. Here is the Dodgers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Rob Refsnyder
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

The weather is perfect again in New York today. A little warmer than yesterday, otherwise pretty much the same. Great night for an important late-season ballgame. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally.

Injury Update: Didi Gregorius took ground balls and hit in the batting cage today, and is available off the bench if necessary. He’s feeling better but is still a little beat up. Gregorius has been hit by some pitches and taken a few foul balls to the legs the last two weeks or so.

Youth has helped the Yankees get back into the race, but they have veterans in important places too

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Even after two straight losses, the Yankees are still only two games back of the second wildcard spot with 19 games to play. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at a slim 9.6% as of this writing, but hey, that’s better than the 2.3% they were at nine days ago. Those odds can change real quick from one day to the next.

At 24-15, the Yankees have the second best record in the AL since selling buying for the future at the trade deadline. (The Royals are 25-14.) Gary Sanchez has had a monumental impact, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin have had their moments, and young hurlers like Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell contributed too. The Yankees would not be where they are without these kids.

As productive as many of them have been, the young players are not the only reason the Yankees have climbed back into the wildcard race. That was never going to be the case. The Yankees weren’t going to call up a bunch of prospects and let them carry the team into October. Some of the holdover veterans have contributed too, and in fact, the Yankees have veteran players in very important spots.

Front of the Rotation

It’s easy to forget Masahiro Tanaka is still only 27 years old, isn’t it? He’s two months younger than Chris Archer and five months younger than Jacob deGrom. And yet, despite his relative youth, Tanaka is very much a veteran pitcher. He’s thrown 477 innings with the Yankees on top of over 1,300 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, with whom he won a championship and a pair of Sawamura Awards (Cy Young equivalent).

There’s something reassuring about having a veteran ace on the staff. During his heyday from 2009-12, you knew CC Sabathia was going to go out every fifth day and give the Yankees a quality outing. Even his bad starts weren’t that bad. We watched Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina do the same for years and years. That’s Tanaka now. He’s very good, rarely bad, and every fifth day he’s going to give the Yankees a good chance to win. (Remember when he couldn’t pitch on normal rest? He’s allowed six runs in 31.1 innings in his last five starts on normal rest.)

Back of the Bullpen

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

At this point Dellin Betances qualifies as a veteran, right? I think so. This is only his third full season, but he’s already been a three-time All-Star, and Dellin’s been throwing high-leverage innings for well over two years now. Relievers don’t have the longest career life span in this game. Betances is a grizzled veteran compared to most bullpen guys.

Add in Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren, and each of the Yankees’ three end-game relievers has been around the block. Veteran relievers melt down just as easily as rookies (see: Nathan, Joe), but there’s always going to be the element of the unknown with kids. How do they handle intense late-season games with postseason implications? There’s less wiggle room in the eighth and ninth innings because there’s not much time to score any necessary runs. The more unpredictability you can take out of the bullpen, the better.

Top of the Lineup

As we’ve seen over the last three weeks or so, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury really ignite the offense when they’re both hot at the same time. The Yankees look like an entirely different team when those two are causing chaos. It’s imperative they stay hot for the Yankees to reach the postseason, and when it comes to setting the table for the offense, the Yankees have two veteran leadoff men. They need them too; none of their young players fits the leadoff hitter mold. I guess maybe Mason Williams, though asking him to do that right away seems like too much, too soon.

In the Clubhouse

Even after their sell-off, the Yankees kept most of their leadership core intact. Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran are gone, ditto Alex Rodriguez, but team leaders like Sabathia, Gardner, Brian McCann, and Mark Teixeira remain. Both McCann and Teixeira have had their roles reduced and that’s surely tough for a veteran player. They haven’t complained though. They continue to go about their business and help the young players. Young players are great! You need them to win these days. There also needs to be a leadership core in place to help those young players develop into winners, if not immediately than down the road.

* * *

At the end of the day, talent reigns supreme. It doesn’t matter how many veterans you have or where they fit on the roster if the performance is there. Can having experience and good leadership help that talent translate into good performance more frequently? I firmly believe the answer is yes. The Yankees have turned their season around because their young players have (mostly) performed and brought a lot of energy to their team. The veterans still play a big role though, and they still occupy some very important spots on the roster.