Yankees have little use for Refsnyder now, but that is not necessarily the case long-term

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Last week the Yankees called up seven players from Triple-A Scranton when rosters expanded, not including Dustin Ackley, who was activated off the DL. Five of those seven players have since appeared in a game with the Yankees. One of the two who didn’t is Austin Romine, the third catcher who was only called up because Gary Sanchez‘s hamstring acted up at the wrong time.

The other is second baseman Rob Refsnyder, the team’s top prospect at the position. The Yankees called him up very briefly earlier this season — Refsnyder played four games in July with the All-Star break mixed in — but otherwise stuck with the Stephen Drew/Brendan Ryan platoon at second. Drew has picked it up of late, but boy, he was pretty unproductive for much of the summer. Ryan had his moments too, but he’s back to being an offensive black hole.

So, when Refsnyder was called up last week, it seemed he would at least take some platoon at-bats away from Ryan. That hasn’t happened. Drew started against Henry Owens last week, Ryan started against Matt Moore over the weekend, and Jose Pirela started against Wei-Yin Chen yesterday. All lefties yet no Refsnyder. In two pinch-hitting opportunities against lefty relievers over the last week, Joe Girardi turned to Pirela.

Refsnyder’s usage — or lack thereof — has been surprising this season, at least from the perspective of those who expected him to get a shot at the second base job had Drew struggled for much of the summer, which he did. (He had a sub-.250 OBP as late as June 20th. Yeesh.) Drew didn’t hit last year, and didn’t hit early this year, so it made sense the Yankees would turn to their Triple-A second base prospect, right? Well, no. That didn’t happen.

At this point, it’s becoming obvious there is something more to Refsnyder’s lack of big league work than “we want him to improve his defense.” A few weeks ago Mike Francesa said some of the team’s veteran players didn’t appreciate Refsnyder’s attitude and/or arrogance during his July cameo — that report has not been confirmed, though I highly doubt anyone on the roster would throw a teammate under the bus — and his post-send down comments didn’t exactly put out the fire either.

“I wasn’t expecting this, but I had a great experience,” said Refsnyder to Dan Martin after being sent back down in July. A rookie with four games in the show probably shouldn’t be saying he didn’t expect to get sent down. I know it sounds silly, but literally every other player in the clubhouse has been in the “just got called up and now I’m trying to stick around” situation, and hearing a kid with that little MLB time say he didn’t expect to be sent down could rub some the wrong way. I get it.

Of course, the team’s decision to not give Refsnyder an extended look could be performance based. When they called him up in July, he was hitting .290/.387/.413 (137 wRC+) at Triple-A. He then hit .238/.307/.392 (100 wRC+) after being sent down. The end result was a .271/.359/.402 (123 wRC+) batting line in 522 Triple-A plate appearances this year, and I hate to break it to you, but that’s not good for a bat first prospect. I mean, it’s good, but that’s not forcing the issue. Pirela hit .329/.402/.406 (139 wRC+) after his last demotion, for comparison.

Do the Yankees not trust their young players? Please. That’s a lazy and outdated complaint. Greg Bird is playing everyday right now and Luis Severino is in the rotation. When Jacoby Ellsbury got hurt, Slade Heathcott came up. When Heathcott got hurt, Mason Williams came up. Just about every young Triple-A and Double-A reliever was called up at some point this summer. The Yankees have done nothing but turn to their young players this season, for better or worse.

And yet they haven’t given Refsnyder an extended opportunity. They aren’t even giving him platoon at-bats this month. Doesn’t that say a lot about his standing in the organization? At least from the “can he help us win during this postseason race?” point of view? I think it does. The Yankees are very good at self-evaluating — who’s the last young player they traded that they really regret? — and they have way more information that us. It would be kinda silly to call them dumb for not playing Refsnyder in a playoff race. They’re smarter than us.

None of this means Refsnyder is not in the team’s future plans, however. We shouldn’t assume that. He doesn’t fit into their plans right now. Next season? Who knows. There’s an entire offseason looming. Refsnyder could be given the second base job out of Spring Training next year, he could be trade bait, or he could be asked to continue working on his defense in Triple-A. There’s something keeping the Yankees from turning to Refsnyder right now, in September 2015. That thing may not exist next year.

For now, it seems Refsnyder will be nothing more than a spectator and the equivalent of a position player mop-up man. Drew has been hitting of late and his defense has always been there. Pirela had a better season than Refsnyder in Triple-A, is more versatile, and has a tiny bit more MLB experience. That’s why he’s ahead of Refsnyder on the second base depth chart. That’s understandable, right? Refsnyder’s not some kind of elite prospect. He’s a flawed prospect who happens to fill a position of need. If the Yankees thought he could help, he’d be getting a chance right now. But there are better options on the roster. The Yankees have made that clear.

DotF: Staten Island clinches division title on final day of the minor league season

Just a heads up, the minor league regular season ended today, and the postseason doesn’t start until Wednesday, so there will be no minor league update Tuesday. No games on the schedule.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Syracuse in eleven innings, walk-off style) their season is over … they went 81-63 and won the division … their first round postseason matchup with Indianapolis begins Wednesday (best-of-five)

  • CF Jake Cave: 3-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 BB, 2 K — finishes the season at .276/.335/.357 with 25 doubles, two homers, and 17 steals
  • 2B Ali Castillo: 5-6, 3 2B, 4 RBI, 1 K — he’s been a beast since getting bumped up
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-6, 3 K — threw a runner out at home … finishes the season at .255/.330/.448 with 26 doubles and a system-leading 20 homers despite the rough finish to the year at Triple-A
  • PR Ben Gamel: 0-0, 1 R, 1 SB — pinch-ran late … finishes the season at .300/.358/.472 with 28 doubles, 14 triples, ten homers, and 13 steals … led the system with 52 extra base hits
  • LHP Chaz Hebert: 5 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2/4 GB/FB — 46 of 70 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 46 of 83 pitches were strikes (55%) … got bumped up to help out the bullpen on the final day of the season … he was the 75th different player they used this season, tying an International League record according to John Sadak

[Read more…]

Eovaldi shut down two weeks with elbow inflammation

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Earlier this evening, the Yankees announced right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will be shut down two weeks with right elbow inflammation. He was examined today and underwent an MRI. I assume no structural damage was found. The timetable would be way longer than two weeks in that case.

Eovaldi, 25, had Tommy John surgery as a high school junior way back in 2007. His elbow has been healthy since. (He dealt with some shoulder inflammation in 2013.) There are still four weeks left in the regular season, so, with any luck, Eovaldi will be back in two weeks. Hopefully this is nothing serious.

In 27 starts and 154.1 innings this year, Eovaldi has a 4.20 ERA (3.43 FIP), though he’s been much better of late, with a 3.43 ERA (2.87 FIP) in 14 starts and 84 innings since the Miami disaster. Eovaldi did struggle with his location the last two times out and command problems are a classic symptom of elbow trouble.

The Yankees are getting CC Sabathia back from his knee injury Wednesday, so he’ll step right into Eovaldi’s rotation spot. Expanded rosters will still allow them to use a spot sixth starter whenever they want. Bryan Mitchell and Chris Capuano are candidates to make spot starts if necessary.

Eovaldi has been the team’s best pitcher the last few weeks, and the Yankees are already without their best hitter thanks to Mark Teixeira‘s bone bruise, so the roster has taken some big hits of late. And yet, they’re tied with the Blue Jays in the loss column. Fighting spirit.

Labor Day Open Thread

Happy Labor Day everyone. Here is your open thread for the last few hours of the holiday weekend. MLB Network is airing a bunch of regional games tonight and there’s some college football on as well, I believe. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here.

(I was hoping to embed Greg Bird’s homer, but it’s not embeddable as I finish writing this.)

Bird’s late blast gives Yankees 8-6 win over Orioles

Source: FanGraphs

Another day, another come from behind win. The Yankees fell behind early Monday afternoon but used the power of the longball to beat the Orioles 8-6 on Labor Day. They’ve won 16 of their last 24 games. It’s a holiday, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • A Tale of Two Mikes: That was an awful start and a great finish by Michael Pineda. He allowed four runs in the second inning — his three outs were a bunt, a miraculous play at the plate (thanks Didi!), and a screaming line drive at Chase Headley — including three on Jonathan Schoop’s three-run homer. Pineda made a really bad 0-2 pitch to Schoop. Spun right out over the plate. But, after the second inning, Big Mike retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced, and the two base-runners were a walk and an infield single. Four runs in six innings kinda stinks, but Pineda did a great job settling down and keeping the O’s at four.
  • Comeback: The Yankees scored their first inning run on some well-placed bloops, including Chris Young‘s single that barely left the infield. They went big after that. Headley stole a run in the third — he caught Adam Jones napping on a routine fly ball and was able to tag up and advance to second before scoring on Young’s double — then Alex Rodriguez solo homered in the fifth. A few batters later, John Ryan Murphy went opposite field for a two-run go-ahead dinger. Greg Bird drew a walk to set it up. Wei-Yin Chen faced 26 batters and ten reached base (.385 OBP).
  • Let’s Go Flying: The 5-4 lead evaporated in the seventh inning on Manny Machado’s solo homer to dead center off Justin Wilson. Machado will do that. He’s a stud. The Yankees answered right back though. Carlos Beltran walked leading off the seventh, Young followed with a single, then Greg Bird whacked a three-run home run off lefty specialist Brian Matusz to give New York an 8-5 lead. Came on an 0-2 pitch too. Bird hit it like he knew it was coming.
  • Door Closed: Dellin Betances, who has now pitched or warmed up eight of the last ten days, had a no contact inning in the eighth. Three walks, three strikeouts. The last strikeout came on a 3-2 hanging curveball Caleb Joseph swung through. Dellin needs a few days off. He looks like he’s running on fumes. Andrew Miller got the ninth inning, allowed a run when Chris Davis singled in Steve Pearce, but otherwise nailed down his 32nd save in 33 chances. Never easy.
  • Leftovers: Every starter had at least one hit. The 5-6-7 trio of Young, Bird, and Murphy went a combined 6-for-11 (.545) with a walk, a double, and two homers. They drove in seven of the eight runs … Wilson, Betances, and Miller put six runners on base in two innings. That doesn’t happen often … the Yankees are now sitting on 9,990 career wins as a franchise. Ten more to 10,000. They’ll be the eighth franchise with that many wins. (The others have been around much longer. New York’s .569 winning percentage is by far the best in baseball history.)

Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is now 20, so Jorge Posada is in the sidebar. Now here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and O’s continue this series Tuesday night. Masahiro Tanaka and Kevin Gausman will be the pitching matchup. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch that game or any of the other five games left on the homestand.

Game 136: Big Mike on Labor Day


I have to say, I thought this early-September series against the Orioles would be a bit more meaningful than this. Don’t get me wrong, these three games are crazy important for the Yankees, but the O’s are out of it. For a while I thought these two clubs would be battling it out for the division title. (I picked the O’s to win the division!)

The man they call Big Mike is on the mound this afternoon, making his third start off the DL. His first two starts were a mixed bag. The first was rough (five runs in 4.1 innings) but the second was good (one run in six innings). Of course, the last time Pineda faced the O’s in Yankee Stadium, he struck out 16. Let’s hope for a repeat. Here is Baltimore’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. LF Chris Young
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    RHP Michael Pineda

Just a perfect weather for the Labor Day matinee. It’s nice and sunny in New York with temperatures in the mid-80s. Wonderful day to spend at the ballpark. This afternoon’s game will begin a bit after 1pm ET. You can watch live on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: Chris Capuano is back! The Yankees called up the veteran southpaw prior to today’s game, the team announced. He started for Triple-A Scranton on Friday and probably won’t be available until tomorrow. Maybe not until the next day. Jacob Lindgren (elbow) was called up and transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. His season is officially over.

9/7 to 9/9 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

Another division rival visits the Bronx. The Orioles come to town clinging to very remote postseason hopes while the Yankees are very much in the race and in need of every possible win. Big series. They’re all big series from here on out. The Yankees are 8-5 against the O’s this season, including 6-1 at Yankee Stadium. The home team has won all four series these two clubs have played in 2015.

What Have The Orioles Done Lately?

Boy, manager Buck Showalter’s team has collapsed big time the last few weeks. They have lost 14 of their last 17 games and are now 65-71 with a +26 run differential overall this season. They’re 11.5 games back of the second place Yankees in the AL East and 6.5 games back of a wildcard spot. Doesn’t look like there will be October baseball in Baltimore this year.

Offense & Defense

The O’s average 4.34 runs per game with a 97 team wRC+, so they’re an approximately league average offense this year. They hit a lot of homers (fourth in baseball with 179) but they don’t get on base (27th in baseball with a .305 OBP). The O’s are currently without SS J.J. Hardy (groin), who is not expected to return this series. C Matt Wieters (90 wRC+) is day-to-day with a sore wrist.

(Jamie Squire/Getty)
Jones. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Showalter has three star caliber producers in the middle of his lineup: IF Manny Machado (132 wRC+), OF Adam Jones (116 wRC+), and 1B Chris Davis (140 wRC+). Davis leads all of baseball with 40 home runs, including 21 homers in his last 44 games. He’s a monster. Machado, by the way, has been playing some shortstop with Hardy out. He came up through the minors as a shortstop. Those three are the core of the O’s lineup.

Yankees killer IF Jonathan Schoop (118 wRC+) has been playing second everyday and C Caleb Joseph (101 wRC+) has played a ton this year thanks to Wieters’ injuries. OF Gerardo Parra (117 wRC+) hasn’t had much impact since being acquired at the deadline (60 wRC+ with the O’s) and UTIL Steve Pearce (84 wRC+) has been unable to repeat last season’s success. UTIL Jimmy Paredes (99 wRC+) predictably crashed back to Earth following his hot start. IF Ryan Flaherty (78 wRC+) is the utility infielder. OF Junior Lake, OF Nolan Reimold, IF Paul Janish, and C Steve Clevenger are the September call-ups.

The O’s have a pretty good defensive club, though they’ve somehow picked up the reputation for being one of the best defensive units in the game. Jones and Parra are great in the outfield and Machado is unreal at third (haven’t seen him much at short), plus Davis is underrated at first and Wieters is a stud behind the plate. Others like Schoop, Pearce, and Paredes are in the lineup for their bats, not their gloves. Well, Schoop’s okay. That’s not fair to him.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (1pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (vs. NYY)
This has been a solid contract year for the 30-year-old Chen, who has pitched to a 3.36 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 26 starts and 160.2 innings. His walk rate (5.3%) is very good, his strikeout rate (19.4%) is about average, and both his grounder (40.7%) and homer (1.46 HR/9) rates are worse than average. Righties (.347 wOBA) have hit him a ton harder than lefties (.277 wOBA) this season. Chen operates with low-90s two and four-seamers, low-80s changeups and sliders, and a low-70s curveball. The slider is his go-to offspeed pitch. The Yankees have faced Chen three times this season: two runs in six innings in April, one run in seven innings in May, and three runs in 6.1 innings in July.

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
The O’s have not had much success getting their top pitching prospects to fulfill their potential over the last two decades or so, and the 24-year-old Gausman is no different. He has a 4.59 ERA (4.46 FIP) in 12 starts and eight relief appearances this season. Like Chen, he has a good walk rate (5.7%), an average strikeout rate (20.1%), and below-average grounder (43.6%) and homer (1.53 HR/9) rates. Gausman has a big reverse split: righties have a .362 wOBA against him while lefties have a .294 wOBA. A mid-90s four-seamer sets up his mid-80s changeup and low-80s slider, the latter of which he’s yet to really develop a feel for since being the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft. The Yankees have seen Gausman twice this year, scoring two runs in two-thirds of an inning of relief in April, and then scoring four runs in a six-inning start in July.

Gausman. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Gausman. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Wednesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. NYY)
These are the same three starters — in the same order — the Yankees faced when they swept the O’s at Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago, effectively knocking them out of the AL East race. Jimenez, 31, has a 4.24 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 153 innings spread across 27 starts this season. His 49.2% ground ball rate is better than the league average, but otherwise his strikeout (20.9%), walk (8.5%), and homer (1.06 HR/9) numbers are average or slightly worse. Ubaldo’s platoon split is relatively small (.333 vs. .320 wOBA in favor of righties) because his out pitch is a mid-80s splitter, which helps him neutralize lefties. Jimenez sets the split up with low-90s two and four-seamers, and will also throw low-80s sliders and mid-70s curves. The curve is his distant fifth pitch. Ubaldo has faced the Yankees twice in 2015. One start went okay (three runs in five innings) and the other was a disaster (seven runs in 2.1 innings).

As for the Yankees, Sabathia (knee) is tentatively scheduled to come off the DL to make Wednesday’s start. That depends on how he feels following today’s bullpen session. If he has some sort of problem, Joe Girardi said the Yankees would simply stay on rotation, meaning Luis Severino would get the ball on normal rest instead.

Bullpen Status
Showalter’s bullpen was a disaster early in the season, though they settled down in the middle of the summer and now have a 2.93 ERA (3.36 FIP) overall. Closer LHP Zach Britton (2.00 ERA/1.92 FIP) and setup man RHP Darren O’Day (1.71/2.73) are among the top end-game duos in baseball this year. LHP Brian Matusz (2.25/3.17) is the primary left-on-left matchup guy. Ex-Yankee RHP Chaz Roe (3.65/3.55) has had some success this year around injury.

RHP Brad Brach (2.58/3.48), LHP T.J. MacFarland (4.13/4.53), and Rule 5 Draft pick RHP Jason Garcia (4.62/5.16) are the other regulars in Showalter’s bullpen. RHP Mychal Givens (1.42/1.83 in limited time) has seen a lot of work of late. The crop of September call-ups includes RHP Oliver Drake, RHP Steve Johnson, and RHP Jorge Rondon. Johnson, Matusz, Roe, Brach, Garcia, and Drake all pitched a bit yesterday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi’s bullpen, then check out Camden Chat for the latest on the Orioles.