DotF: Bird continues to rake in the Arizona Fall League

In the video above, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo chat about some of the Yankees prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League this month. Here is Callis’ companion piece with more on each prospect. Also, 1B Greg Bird was named the AzFL Player of the Week last week and Matt Eddy says LHP Cesar Cabral has elected free agency. He’s no longer with the organization.

AzFL Scottsdale (7-3 win over Glendale) Monday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-5, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • DH Greg Bird: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 0/1 GB/FB — 26 of 39 pitches were strikes (67%)

AzFL Scottsdale (7-6 win over Glendale) Tuesday’s game

AzFL Scottsdale (9-3 loss to Mesa) Wednesday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-4, 1 K
  • DH Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R
  • RHP Alex Smith: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 11 of 21 pitches were strikes (52%) … nine runs and 4/6 K/BB in 5.1 innings so far

AzFL Scottsdale (7-3 loss to Mesa) Thursday’s game

  • LF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 E (fielding)
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K
  • 1B Greg Bird: 2-4, 1 2B
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 0/1 GB/FB — 17 of 34 pitches were strikes (50%) … 7/5 K/BB in 6.2 innings
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten pitches, eight strikes … 11/2 K/BB in eight innings so far

AzFL Scottsdale (2-1 loss to Surprise) Friday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K — threw a runner out at the plate
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • LF Tyler Austin: 0-2, 2 BB
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 2-4

AzFL Scottsdale (12-3 win over Mesa) Saturday’s game

  • DH Aaron Judge: 1-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — hitting .250/.311/.475 with two homers and nine strikeouts in ten games
  • 1B Greg Bird: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — leads the league with five homers … .349/.382/.651 with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 15 games
  • RF Tyler Austin: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — hitting .277/.370/.468 with seven walks and eight strikeouts in 12 games
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 0-5, 1 RBI, 3 K — he’s at .225/.289/.225 with eleven strikeouts in ten games
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS — 6-for-13 (.462) in his three games

Dominican Winter League

  • LHP Ramon Benjamin: 2 G, 0.1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K (27.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP)
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 1 G, 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (0.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP)
  • LHP Francisco Rondon: 2 G, 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K (0.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP)

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Jose Figueroa: 10 G, 3-8, 4 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB (.375/.444/.750)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 6 G, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HB (0.00 ERA, 0.88 WHIP)
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 3 G, 3 GS, 11 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 10 K, 1 HB, 1 HR (4.09 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) doesn’t begin play until Thursday. No rosters yet.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • C Francisco Arcia: 12 G, 10-49, 2 R, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 13 K (.204/.235/.265)
  • UTIL Ali Castillo: 13 G, 19-51, 12 R, 4 2B, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K, 6 SB, 2 CS, 1 HBP (.373/.400/.451)
  • OF Ramon Flores: 8 G, 6-22, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K (.273/.360/.409)
  • UTIL Adonis Garcia: 13 G, 17-56, 6 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K, 2 SB, 1 HBP (.304/.350/.321)
  • C Jose Gil: 7 G, 6-18, 6 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP (.333/.400/.611)
  • UTIL Jose Pirela: 2 G, 4-7, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB (.571/.667/1.429) — gotta think he’ll come to camp next year with a legit chance to win a bench job
  • C Jackson Valera: 1 G, 0-0
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 7 G, 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB (1.42 ERA, 0.63 WHIP)
  • OF Ericson Leonora, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Wilking Rodriguez, SS Angel Aguilar, and C Frankie Cervelli are all listed on rosters but have not yet played.

Coaching Staff Notes: Mattingly, Hinske, Shelton, Davis, Colbrunn, Long, Kelleher

Shelton. (Presswire)
Shelton. (Presswire)

Long-time manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays yesterday, and a few hours later new Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman released a statement saying Don Mattingly will remain the team’s manager in 2015. I think they should quit screwing around and just hire Maddon, otherwise it’s going to be hanging over the team all season. We all know how this movie is going to end.

Anyway, with Mattingly supposedly staying put, he remains a non-option for the Yankees and their hitting coach job. We don’t even know if he would have interest in the gig, but it’s the Yankees and Mattingly. They’ll be connected forever. Here are some other miscellaneous coaching staff notes, courtesy of George King, Nick Cafardo, Buster Olney, Erik Boland, Mark Feinsand, and Sweeny Murti.

  • The Yankees reached out to Eric Hinske to see if he had interest in their hitting coach job, but he said no. Hinske was the Cubs first base coach last year and he will be their assistant hitting coach next year. If nothing else, the interest in Hinske shows the Yankees are not prioritizing experience.
  • With Maddon gone, the Yankees could show interest in Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton for their hitting coach position. He managed in the team’s farm system from 2000-02 and is said to be close with Joe Girardi and new VP of Baseball Ops Gary Denbo.
  • The Red Sox gave new hitting coach Chili Davis a three-year contract because it “was the only way Davis could be kept from signing with the Yankees.” After earning $155k annually with the A’s, Davis will make $400k per year with Boston.
  • Greg Colbrunn has rejoined the organization as Low-A Charleston’s hitting coach, a position he held from 2007-12. He was the Red Sox hitting coach from 2013-14 before leaving the team a few weeks ago so he could be closer to home. I thought maybe the Yankees would interview him for the MLB hitting coach position, but I guess not.
  • As you probably know, ex-hitting coach Kevin Long has been hired by the Mets. The Yankees owe him $750k next season and whatever the Mets pay him will be subtracted from that, so the Bombers will save some cash.
  • And finally, ex-first base coach Mick Kelleher has decided to retire and will not pursue another coaching job. He spent 46 years in baseball, including 16 as a coach with the Yankees. I had no idea Kelleher was 67. I would have guessed 50-something.

Baseball America’s 2014 Draft Report Cards: Yankees edition

Baseball America published their 2014 Draft Report Card for the Yankees earlier this week, though it is behind the paywall. It’s fairly straight forward anyway. LHP Jacob Lindgren (2nd round) has the best secondary pitch (his slider) and is closest to the big leagues. RHP Austin DeCarr (3) has the best fastball, OF Mark Payton (7) is the best pure hitter, and 1B Chris Gittens (12) is the best power hitter. No real surprises there.

In a free companion piece, Clint Longenecker broke down some recent draft spending trends from around the league. The Yankees exceeded their $3.2M pool and were only $70k away from a 5% overage this summer, which would have forced them to forfeit their first round pick in 2015. Thankfully that didn’t happen. They were also one of three teams to sign just one high school player (DeCarr). The Astros and Phillies did it as well. You can see all of New York’s draft picks right here and their draft pool situation right here. (My numbers are approximate.)

2014 Season Review: The Fifth Outfielder Who Played Too Much

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Last offseason, the Yankees sought to improve their offense by signing big name free agents, and that led to both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran wearing pinstripes. With Brett Gardner earmarked for left field and Alfonso Soriano in tow, Ichiro Suzuki was suddenly a man without a job. Not a full-time job anyway.

Ichiro had been relegated to a fifth outfielder’s role before pitchers and catchers even reported to Spring Training. He was going to be a pinch-runner and defensive replacement specialist. That’s pretty much it. To his credit, Ichiro didn’t complain about being forced into a low-profile role when Spring Training rolled around, at least not publicly.

“This is a place where the greatest players gather and play, so I’m really excited to play with those guys,” he said to Chad Jennings in February. “Obviously with the additions, I’m going to have to find a place for myself, but I worked hard this offseason. I worked on a lot of things, and throughout Spring Training, hopefully those things will come together and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

After the Yankees unsuccessfully tried to trade him — they offered to eat $4.5M of his $6.5M salary to send him to the Astros — Ichiro started three of the first six games of the season because Ellsbury’s calf was barking, and he went 6-for-13 (.462) in those three starts. He appeared in 32 of the team’s next 40 games, but 20 of those appearances came as a late-inning defensive replacement. Three other appearances came as a pinch-runner.

Suzuki batted only 69 times in the first 46 games of the season and he was damn good: .369/.406/.431 (139 wRC+). He had settled into his new role wonderfully. It was very reminiscent of the 1996-2000 Yankees, who had former greats like Tim Raines and Wade Boggs excelling in reduced roles because they accepted them. They weren’t jonesin’ for more playing time.

In late-May, the bone spur in Beltran’s elbow flared up and Soriano’s season-long slump started to become untenable. Ichiro’s playing time soon went up and his production went down as a result. Beginning with May 23rd, he started 45 of the team’s next 56 games and hit .236/.294/.279 (60 wRC+) during that time. That’s more or less what you’d expect considering he .262/.297/.342 (71 wRC+) as a full-time player last season and was now a year older.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees put an end to the “Ichiro as an everyday player” experiment at the trade deadline by acquiring Martin Prado with the intention of playing him in right field. Of course, that never really happened. Prado wound up spending a bunch of time at second base because Stephen Drew was so bad, so Ichiro played right field whenever Beltran’s elbow prevented him from throwing, which was basically all the time.

Even after the Prado trade, Ichiro still started 34 of the team’s final 54 games, including 19 starts in 26 September games. He actually hit quite well during that time, putting up a .312/.331/.384 (99 wRC+) batting line in 130 plate appearances. Suzuki finished the season with a .284/.324/.340 (86 wRC+) batting line and one homer in 385 plate appearances. His strikeout rate was a career-high by far at 17.7%. His previous career high was 11.7% in 2010.

Because of Beltran’s elbow and Soriano’s general awfulness, Ichiro started 94 games this past season despite opening the year as the fifth outfielder. He seemed to play better — both coming off the bench and in spot starts — in that role. Once he started playing everyday, it got a little ugly. Ichiro’s defense has slipped over the years — he’s still solidly above-average, no doubt — and it was even more noticeable in 2014. The guy turned 41 yesterday. What do you expect?

Ichiro told reporters after the season that he wants to continue playing, presumably because he wants to get 3,000 hits in MLB (he’s 156 away). He also cryptically referred to some clubhouse issues after Game 162 — “Obviously there’s a lot of things that go on that the fans and the media can’t see, that goes on inside (the clubhouse), but what I can say is that the experiences I had this year, those experiences are going to help me in the future,” he said to Brendan Kuty — though it’s unclear if he was referring to a widespread problem or his own unhappiness.

In all likelihood, the Yankees and Ichiro will go their separate ways this offseason. He’ll look for more playing time and the team has cheaper fifth outfielder options in Eury Perez and Ramon Flores, among others. Ichiro was pretty awesome in the second half of 2012 and again as a part-time player in 2014, but everything in between was not so good. Needing him to play so much this past season definitely contributed to the Yankees missing the postseason for the second straight year.

AL East Shakeup: Joe Maddon opts out of contract to leave Rays

Rays manager Joe Maddon has opted out of his contract and is leaving the organization, the team announced. I’m sure we’ll hear tons about him potentially joining Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers in the coming days and weeks. Or maybe he just has his eye on that open first base coaching job in the Bronx. Times are a changin’ down in Tampa, that’s for sure.