Thursday Night Open Thread

Here is the open thread for the evening. The MLB Extra Innings package is still in a free preview, so find the channels and you can watch any game you want tonight. The three local hockey teams are in action as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Game Three: Rain, Rain, Go Away

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The good news: the Yankees have a baseball game today! The bad news: it’s raining in New York. The other good news: it’s supposed to stop raining at some point! There are going to be on and off showers the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, but the forecast does make it seem there will be a large enough window for today’s game to be played. The field may be sloppy, but so it goes.

The Astros are not scheduled to return to Yankee Stadium this year, so expect the two teams to wait this one out as long as necessary. If the game does indeed have to be postponed, the good news is the Astros have to come to New York. The travel wouldn’t be tough for the Yankees. The two clubs have eight mutual off-days this summer. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Here is the ‘Stros lineup — as expected, Michael Feliz was send down for a fresh arm following last night’s 107-pitch relief outing (!) — and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Starlin Castro
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Like I said, the weather is pretty yucky in the Boogie Down. It’s been raining most of the afternoon and there will be occasional showers throughout the rest of the day. Hopefully they can squeeze in nine innings, or at least four and a half if the Yankees have the lead. Today’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 4pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Update: The Yankees say they intend to begin today’s game at 4:15pm ET. Hopefully that’s the only delay.

Encina: Yanks pursued Miguel Gonzalez before he signed with White Sox

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

According to Eduardo Encina, the Yankees pursued right-hander Miguel Gonzalez before he signed a minor league deal with the White Sox last week. The Orioles released Gonzalez at the end of Spring Training and saved about $4M of his $5.1M salary for the season. They tried to bring him back on a minor league deal, but no luck.

The Yankees, like every other team in baseball, are in perpetual pursuit of rotation depth. Ivan Nova is currently the sixth starter and I guess Luis Cessa is the seventh starter in the wake of Bryan Mitchell‘s toe injury. The Triple-A Scranton rotation is Chad Green, Kyle Haynes, Anthony Swarzak, Tyler Olson, and a Nick Rumbelow/Tyler Webb piggyback, so says Shane Hennigan. Uh, yikes.

Gonzalez, 31, has a reputation for being a Yankees killer, but that was based on 2012 and nothing else. He has a career 3.79 ERA in 80.2 innings against the Yankees, postseason included, but it was a 2.18 ERA in 20.2 innings in 2012 and a 4.35 ERA in 60 innings thereafter. Besides, signing a guy so you don’t have to face him anymore never made much sense to me.

Jeff Sullivan wrote a really great post looking at why the Orioles may have released Gonzalez despite their rotation issues, and from the looks of things, his stuff hasn’t come back following last year’s elbow and shoulder issues. He was never a huge stuff guy anyway, so his margin of error was small to start with. Gonzalez probably isn’t a big league caliber pitcher if his stuff doesn’t bounce back following the injuries.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a bad minor league deal, and bringing Gonzalez aboard as Triple-A fodder would have been perfectly reasonable. The White Sox probably offer a great path to big league playing time at this point though — or at least Gonzalez thinks they do — so to the ChiSox he went. Chicago is pretty good with reclamation project arms.

If the Yankees do continue to look for rotation depth, free agent options include Tim Lincecum, Kyle Lohse, Roberto Hernandez, and Chad Billingsley. Not much to see there. Generally speaking, when guys still don’t have a job even after the season starts, there’s usually a pretty good reason. The Yankees figure to stick with what they have in-house.

Hot start by Starlin Castro exactly what the Yankees need to open 2016

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two games into the 2016 season, we’ve seen the very best of what Starlin Castro has to offer. We know all about his credentials by now, the three All-Star Game selections and the 991 hits before his 26th birthday, but Castro still had to come in and produce. What he did with the Cubs the last six years doesn’t have any value to the Yankees.

So far this year Starlin has gone 5-for-8 (.625) with three doubles and a home run, driving in seven of the team’s 19 runs. Castro drove in two runs with a double against the excellent Dallas Keuchel on Opening Day, and last night he punished all the mediocre pitching the Astros ran out there. In the seventh inning, after being buzzed up high by Josh Fields, he responded by stroking an RBI single to right. It was perfect.

“Starlin Castro is playing tee ball right now. He’s just seeing the ball good and hitting the ball where it’s pitched,” said Carlos Beltran after last night’s game. Starlin joins Babe Ruth, Tino Martinez, and Yogi Berra as the only Yankees to drive in seven runs in the first two games of the season. “It means a lot, especially because those guys have been unbelievable in baseball,” said Castro. “I feel really good about that.”

In addition to his production at the plate, Castro has played a fine second base, most notably ranging to his left to make some stops before turning and firing to second to get the lead runner. Those are tough plays, especially for a guy whose experience at second base is limited. The season is very young, we all know that, but the early returns have been very positive.

The Yankees need a hot start from Castro, maybe more than they’re willing to admit. First and foremost, they want him to come out of the gate strong just so he feels good about himself. Players are human and they want to impress their new employers and their new fans. Confidence can be a very powerful thing for a baseball player, and I can’t imagine Castro is short on it right now.

Furthermore, a lot of nonsense happens when a big new addition comes to New York and struggles right away. Remember Didi Gregorius last year? There was talk of sending him to Triple-A and playing Stephen Drew at short. That was a real thing that happened. No. Just … no. The Yankees have shown they will be patient. They were last year with Gregorius, but fans? Not so much. The sooner Castro got on their good side, the better.

Starlin has batted eighth these first two games, and the Yankees are counting on him to lengthen the lineup and provide offense behind the veterans. The Yankees talked all offseason about resting their regular players. Castro, however, won’t get as much rest as the veterans because he’s so young. (Ditto Didi, the other member of the Prestige Worldwide™ middle infield.) Girardi said so in Spring Training. Starlin’s going to be a consistent presence in the lineup.

And let’s face it, the Yankees don’t really know what to expect from some of their veterans. Alex Rodriguez is 40 and Carlos Beltran is 38. Mark Teixeira hasn’t played more than 123 games since 2011. Brian McCann is mighty old in catcher years, and who knows what Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner will do following their finishes to last season. There’s a lot of unknowns there. Starlin has to be a known, both right now and going forward.

Even with the Opening Day loss, Castro’s first two games in pinstripes couldn’t have gone any better. He had a fantastic spring and it has carried over into the regular season. He’s been the Yankees’ best player these first two games by no small margin. An adjustment period would have been understandable, but give the Yankees a truth serum and I’m sure they’d tell you they wanted Castro to come out of gate hot by having an impact on both sides of the ball. He’s done exactly that.

“We thought that he would be big in our lineup,” said Girardi. “He gave us a lot better balance than we’ve had the last couple of years, and that he would do a really good job at second base. All that is so far, so good.”

Starlin Castro leads Yankees to 16-6 win over Astros for first win of 2016

The first win of the season always feels good, doesn’t it? Especially when it’s a blowout. The Yankees walloped the Astros 16-6 on Wednesday night. Nice way to rebound from that yucky Opening Day loss.

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

A Good Start
So hey, it turns out the Yankees are pretty good at scoring runs when the reigning Cy Young award winner is not on the mound. Twelve of the first 17 men they sent to the plate Wednesday night reached base. Is that good? That seems good. Let’s recap the six-run first inning with an annotated play-by-play. (Click the image for a larger view.)
NYYvsHOUpbp(1) The six-run rally started with a catcher’s interference call, something Jacoby Ellsbury is weirdly good at. Since the start of the 2008 season, Ellsbury’s first full season as a big leaguer, he has 15 catcher’s interference calls, most in MLB. Ryan Ludwick and Carl Crawford each have 13, and David Murphy has eleven. No one else has more than eight. Weird. For whatever reason, Ellsbury seems prone to catcher’s interference calls. Hey, can’t complain about it. You’ve got to do whatever you can to get on base.

(2) The Yankees loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning without putting a ball in play. That Alex Rodriguez walk really seemed to set the tone for the rally too. Collin McHugh jumped ahead in the count 0-2, but A-Rod worked the count back full and eventually drew the walk. He laid off some tough pitches too. Rod is still such a great hitter. His at-bats are rarely non-competitive.

(3) Mark Teixeira‘s two-strike single started the scoring — he hit the ball so hard and George Springer threw it back in so quickly that Ellsbury, who was on third base, had barely crossed the plate when the throw was cut off near the pitcher’s mound — and Brian McCann‘s two-run single ensured the Yankees would not waste a golden opportunity. He was down 0-2 in the count, then went down and hooked a McHugh curveball into right field. Look where this pitch was:

Brian McCann

I know broadcasters usually reserve the “nice piece of hitting” line for singles filleted to the opposite field, but I’m using it here: that was a nice piece of hitting. McCann probably shouldn’t have swung at that pitch, but he had seen McHugh’s curveball earlier in the at-bat, so he made the adjustment and went down to get it. Just like that, the Yankees were up 3-1 and the line kept moving.

(4) The team’s first out of the game was a productive out: Carlos Beltran hit a hard-hit ground ball to first base that scored Teixeira from third. The Chase Headley at-bat after that was pretty big in my opinion. The Yankees had a runner at third with one out, and you definitely want to get that run. Headley could have gotten the job done with an out. Instead, he battled McHugh for an eleven pitch at-bat, the last pitch of which went for a run-scoring single. It’s still very early in the season. McHugh’s pitch count was over 40 in the inning, and I’m sure his legs were starting to get heavy. He seemed to have nothing to put Headley away. Ultimately, that was his final batter of the night.

(5) A-Rod stole the team’s first base of the new season Tuesday. Naturally, Headley stole the team’s second base of the season Wednesday. Go figure. Starlin Castro took advantage of the opportunity and drove in Headley with a single up the middle. I don’t really have much more to say about that. When Headley starts stealing bases, you know the inning is going well.

(6) Ellsbury, the tenth batter of the inning, made the second out on a line drive to short. Even the first two outs in the inning were hard-hit. Everything was going well for the Yankees. They worked the count and they made good contact against two pitchers presumably struggling in the cold. Textbook.

(7) I was really hoping Teixeira would get a chance to bat with the bases loaded twice in the first inning. Alas, Rodriguez popped out to end the inning. The total damage: six runs on four singles, one double, three walks, one stolen base, and one catcher’s interference. McHugh and reliever Michael Feliz combined to throw 65 (!) pitches. The Yankees led all of baseball with 125 first inning runs in 2015. They’re up to six in two games in 2016.

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

Oh, You Thought They Were Done?
The Yankees followed that six-run first inning with three runs in the second and another three runs in the third. Houston pitchers did not have a 1-2-3 inning until the eighth. Castro’s first home run as a Yankee, a three-run ding dong into the visitor’s bullpen, was the big blow in the second. McCann walked and Beltran singled earlier in the inning to set things up.

In the third, Teixeira’s first home run of the season drove in three runs to give New York a 12-5 lead. Up to that point, the Yankees had scored 13 runs in 4.1 innings against Not Dallas Keuchel in 2016. It was a classic Tex shot, pulled into the second deck in right field. We’ve seen him hit about a hundred of those these last seven years and two games. Three-run dingers are pretty cool, you guys.

Big Fly Mike
Not a good night for Michael Pineda, huh? He allowed six runs on eight hits and no walks in five innings, including three home runs. One was a grand slam by George Springer in the second inning, immediately after the Yankees’ six-run first, and two were solo shots by the very good at baseball Carlos Correa. Correa’s second blast hit halfway up the windows of the restaurant in center field. Look at this thing:

Statcast measured that homer at 462 feet. I’m not even mad. I’m impressed. The three home runs came on pitches very much like that one in the video, soft stuff Pineda left up in the zone. Really good hitters like Correa and Springer (and Correa again) don’t miss those.

As with McHugh, I’m sure the cold was a factor in Pineda’s rough start. It’s hard to grip a baseball when the temperatures are in the 40s, and let’s not forget Big Mike sat in the dugout for a long time between innings because the Yankees were scoring all those runs. I’m going to sound like a homer but whatever: I think Pineda (and McHugh) should get a mulligan for this game because of the cold. If he does it again in five days, it’s a problem.

Proven Closer
With a six-run lead and four innings to go, Joe Girardi turned the game over to new long man Ivan Nova. This was a real good opportunity to keep Ivan stretched out. Sometimes those can be hard to come by. Nova allowed four hits and a walk in four scoreless innings, striking out five. He threw 56 pitches. Ivan did a nice job closing this one without making it interesting. We all had Nova getting the team’s first save of the season, right? Right.

Leftovers
I feel bad for Feliz. He’s an actual prospect — MLB.com ranked him as Houston’s No. 10 prospect coming into the season — and manager A.J. Hinch hung the kid out to dry, leaving him in to allow six runs in 4.1 innings. Feliz threw 107 pitches (!) and was clearly out of gas near the end of his outing. I get it, the kid made the team as the long reliever and someone has to wear it in games like this, but man, that’s rough. His confidence must be shot, and I’m sure the ‘Stros are going to send him down for a fresh arm before Thursday’s game. Sucks.

Beltran hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to push the lead to 13-6. Lefty Tony Sipp, who I kinda sorta wanted the Yankees to sign this offseason, tried to climb the ladder, but Beltran just reached up and drove the pitch out left. Little Ronald Torreyes — I say that affectionately, the guy is listed at 5-foot-10 on the official roster but he’s really more like 5-foot-8 — came off the bench late in the blowout to hit a two-run triple.

Brett Gardner managed to draw four walks in six plate appearances. He saw 34 total pitches, by far the most of any player on either team. Believe it or not, the 1-2-3 hitters went a combined 1-for-11. They did draw six walks though, the four by Gardner and two by A-Rod. Ellsbury singled for that one hit. Dustin Ackley came off the bench to play the last few innings at first base. He flew out to right in his first at-bat of the campaign.

Castro and Gregorius, the Prestige Worldwide™ middle infield, combined to go 7-for-10. Castro had four hits and drove in five runs. He was a triple shy of the cycle. This middle infield is: cool. Teixeira, McCann, and Beltran had a pair of hits each.

And finally, the Yankees sent 49 batters to plate Wednesday, and 24 reached base. That’s a .490 OBP. Yay offense! Yay Yankees!

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here are the up to the minute standings. It’s never too early to scoreboard watch, you know. (Yes, yes it is.) Now here is the WPA graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Astros will wrap up this three-game series Thursday afternoon, weather permitting. Right now the forecast is calling for rain pretty much all afternoon. Bummer. The game is scheduled to begin at 4pm ET. Nathan Eovaldi and Mike Fiers will be the starting pitchers, should the game be played. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to brave the coming storm.

Game Two: Big Mike and the Astros

BIG MIKE IS HERE

Now that the Yankees have gotten their annual Opening Day loss out of the way, I feel like the real season is about to begin. Michael Pineda is on the mound making his 2016 debut tonight, and I know I’m not the only one expecting big things from Big Mike. It’s time to take that next step towards the front of the rotation. The raw ability is there. It’s obvious. Some things need to be fine-tuned, however.

The Yankees scored three runs on Opening Day and really, that makes the offense seem better than it really was. They had one only base-runner following Brian McCann‘s leadoff single in the fourth inning, and that was Didi Gregorius‘ eighth inning homer. Homers are cool. I’d like to see more than one solo shot in the span of six innings, however. Here is the Astros’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Starlin Castro
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Michael Pineda

It is cold and windy in New York tonight. Not quite as cold as yesterday, but, you know, cold. There’s no rain in the forecast thankfully. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a bit after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Those of you in-market can stream the game online with FOX Sports Go, assuming you subscribe to YES through your cable provider. Enjoy the game, everyone.

Protest Update: Joe Girardi said the Yankees never bothered to officially file a protest with the league following yesterday’s game. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The umpires weren’t wrong.

Slot bonus values for 2016 draft and 2016-17 international signing period

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are limited to a set bonus pool when acquiring amateur talent through the draft and international free agency each year. Teams can exceed their pools, but the penalties are harsh. Within those pools are slot values, which are important to the draft and international free agency for different reasons.

Hudson Belinsky and Ben Badler recently got their hands on the 2016 draft and 2016-17 international slot values, respectively. Both articles are free. They’re not behind the Baseball America paywall. Let’s dive in and see what the slot values mean for the Yankees.

2016 Draft Slot Values

The Yankees have a $5,768,400 bonus pool for the draft this year. That’s the eighth smallest bonus pool in baseball. The Yankees didn’t add (or subtract) and draft picks through free agency this past offseason, so all they have is their natural picks in rounds 1-40. Here are the slot values:

  • First Round (No. 18 overall): $2,441,600
  • Second Round (No. 62): $1,040,800
  • Third Round (No. 98): $608,200
  • Fourth Round (No. 128): $455,400
  • Fifth Round (No. 158): $341,000
  • Sixth Round (No. 188): $255,300
  • Seventh Round (No. 218): $191,500
  • Eighth Round (No. 248): $176,200
  • Ninth Round (No. 278): $164,600
  • Tenth Round (No. 308): $156,600

Slot value for every pick after the tenth round is $100,000. Any amount spent over $100,000 on one of those picks counts against the draft pool. If you sign a player for less than the slot value within the first ten rounds, you can redirect the pool savings to other picks. If you do not sign a player, you lose the slot money associated with that pick. Got it? It’s easy enough.

The Yankees — and all teams, really — have been gaming the system by taking cheap college seniors, usually in rounds 5-10, to save draft pool space so they can spend it on other players. College seniors have no leverage, so they usually sign for five figures. Sometimes even less. Do that a few times and you up with a nice chunk of leftover cash to use on other picks.

To me, it looks like the best place to really save pool space is with that second round pick. You don’t see many top prospects fall to the second round these days. Talent has come off the board more linearly since the spending pool system was put in place. The Yankees could take a good prospect with that second rounder, sign him below slot, and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in pool space.

This is exactly what the Yanks did last year. They took LHP Jeff Degano with their second round pick and signed him for $650,000. Slot for his pick was $1,074,400. The Yankees got a talented player and still saved over $400,000 with that pick, most of which went to third rounder RHP Drew Finley. Depending on what the draft board looks like in June, going this route with the second round pick could make an awful lot of sense.

2016-17 International Slot Values

The Yankees have a $2,177,100 bonus pool for the 2016-17 international signing period, which ninth lowest among the 30 clubs. The international pools are based on the reverse order of the standings. The Yankees are still subject to the penalties stemming from the 2014-15 international signing spree for one more year, so they can’t sign any player to a bonus of more than $300,000 in the coming signing period.

Here are the team’s 2016-17 international slot values. I’ll explain what these mean in a second.

  • Slot No. 22: $609,800
  • Slot No. 52: $411,800
  • Slot No. 82: $278,100
  • Slot No. 112: $177,400

Each team gets $700,000 in “base” money, so add that and the four slots together and you get the club’s total international bonus pool. Once upon a time teams also had six $50,000 bonus exemptions each year, both those are gone. Nowadays the only exemptions are players who sign for $10,000. Teams can hand out as many bonuses of $10,000 or less as they want, and they don’t count towards the bonus pool.

The international slot values are used for trading. You can sign a player to a bonus of any size, it doesn’t have to match a slot number. But, if you trade bonus pool money, you have to trade the specific slot. HOWEVA, teams are only allowed to acquire an additional 50% of their original draft pool. That’s an extra $1,088,500 for the Yankees. It doesn’t make any sense for the Yankees to acquire international bonus pool money because of the $300,000 penalty though. It makes more sense to trade away pool space.

Unfortunately, international bonus slots don’t seem to have much trade value. Last year Matt Eddy recapped trades involving bonus slots, and for the most part slots were traded for middling prospects or fringe MLB players. In some instances they were thrown in as the third or fourth piece in a trade package. Is it worth trading, say, that No. 22 slot for another up-and-down reliever or infielder? Maybe it is. Depends on what kind of talent is available internationally this summer.