2017 Draft: Austin Beck

Austin Beck | OF

Background
Beck, 18, attends North Davidson High School in the Winston-Salem/Greensboro area. Scouts did not get a chance to see him in showcase events last summer because he tore the meniscus and ACL in his left knee. Beck is committed to North Carolina.

Scouting Report
Few players in the 2017 draft class are as tooled up as Beck. He’s a right-handed hitter and thrower with excellent bat speed and well-above-average power potential. Both his speed and arm rate near the top of the scale as well. Beck possesses three clearly above-average tools and has a chance to be a true five-tool player. The biggest knocks against him are a general lack of experience, which shows up in poor outfield routes and overanxiousness at the plate. Beck is listed at 5-foot-11 and 175 lbs., and he’s definitely more of a project than a plug-and-play prospect.

Miscellany
In their latest draft rankings Baseball America (9th), MLB.com (9th), and Keith Law (12th) all ranked Beck as one of the dozen best prospects in the 2017 draft class. However, many recent mock drafts have Beck slipping to the back half of the first round because he missed the showcase circuit last summer, so teams didn’t get to see him perform against other elite high schoolers with a wood bat. The Yankees hold the 16th overall pick.

First base has been a disaster this year, but at least the Yanks have some help on the way

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

Considering the Yankees have yet to play their 50th game, and that they have someone they hope will be their first baseman for the next half-decade at the MLB level, it’s kind of amazing the Yankees have used six different first basemen already this season. That doesn’t even include Bryan Mitchell, a pitcher who spent an inning at first base in an extra innings game.

Last night Rob Refsnyder became the fourth player to start a game at first base for the Yankees this season, and the seventh to play the position overall, including Mitchell. Here’s the list in order of games played:

  1. Chris Carter: 31 games (27 starts)
  2. Greg Bird: 19 games (17 starts)
  3. Matt Holliday: 5 games (4 starts)
  4. Austin Romine: 3 games (0 starts)
  5. Chase Headley: 3 games (0 starts)
  6. Rob Refsnyder: 1 game (1 start)
  7. Bryan Mitchell: 1 game (0 starts)

Keep in mind the Yankees have also had Aaron Hicks work out at first base, you know, just in case. Anyway, those seven players have combined to hit .167/.284/.298 (42 OPS+) this season, which is easily the worst first base production in baseball in terms of OPS+. The Mariners have received the second worst first base production at 54 OPS+. Yikes. So much for not being able to be worse than 2016 Mark Teixeira, huh? That was a fun talking point this offseason.

The good news is the Yankees have some help on the way. Bird has been out roughly a month now with an ankle injury sustained back in Spring Training. He is currently in Tampa facing live pitching, and is tentatively scheduled to start a minor league rehab assignment later this week. Bird was terrible earlier this season, truly awful, and we’re all hoping a healthy ankle will get him back on track. That would be rad. Remember how great he was in Spring Training? Of course you do. I want to see that guy again.

The Yankees have more immediate help coming in Tyler Austin, who is 12 days into a 20-game (max) minor league rehab stint after breaking his foot with a foul ball during batting practice early in Spring Training. He’s hitting .393/.469/.607 in nine games at three levels during his rehab stint. Earlier this week Joe Girardi told Bryan Hoch they want Austin to get 50 or so at-bats during his rehab stint, and right now he has 32 plate appearances. He’s getting close.

My guess is the Yankees are planning to activate Austin next Monday, when they return to the Bronx for their next homestand. That would give him another five days on his rehab assignment and more at-bats to get up to speed. Bird? I’m not really sure what the Yankees will do with him. Because he was so bad earlier this year, I think his rehab stint will be longer than usual. They want to make sure he’s all the way back before activating him, you know?

For now, the Yankees are more or less stuck with Carter. I don’t think anyone wants to see Refsnyder or Holliday at first base full-time. (Remember those four annoying infield singles last night? Refsnyder didn’t actually catch three of them. Geez.) Also, Austin and Bird are still rehabbing ankle injuries, and one little misstep could equal a setback. The Yankees aren’t in position to give away first base depth at the moment. Not when the next in line is, uh, Ji-Man Choi? Nah. They have to keep Carter for the time being.

Whenever Austin does return, I do expect the Yankees and Joe Girardi to install him as their regular first baseman, either sending down the eighth reliever or Refnsyder to clear the roster spot. Perhaps they’ll ease Austin into things after the ankle injury and he’ll play two out of every three games initially, something like that, but I think the majority of the playing time at first base is his. Even against righties.

At this point Carter had his chance and failed. Not a big chance, but a chance nonetheless. It’s time to try something else even though the “he can’t be worse than Carter” logic is … not great. We just went through this with Teixeira, right? Bird couldn’t possibly be worse! Then he was. And Carter was worse than him. (Bird was actually worse than Carter, but you know what I mean.) Unless a guy is hitting literally .000/.000/.000, it always can be worse.

Point is, the Yankees have gotten so little production from first base — a position with a high offense bar! — that maintaining the status quo isn’t really viable. As soon as another option comes along, in this case a healthy Austin at the end of his rehab, they should make the switch. And when Bird comes back after his rehab, they can incorporate him back into the lineup too. There are times to be patient and times to act. This is a time to act.

It’s sort of amazing the Yankees have spent just about the entire month of May in first place and are currently second among all teams with an average of 5.33 runs scored per game despite getting so little from first base. Imagine where they’d be with league average (.265/.349/.488) production from the position? Goodness. Hopefully Austin and Bird complete their rehab with no issues and soon, and they correct the serious lack of offense the Yankees have gotten from first base so far this year.

Guest Post: Can Ernesto Frieri return to prominence in the Yankees’ bullpen?

The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, who has previously written guest posts on Austin Romine, Chris Capuano, Ike Davis, the bullpen, and a pair of former Yankees.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

When Ernesto Frieri was last seen in the big leagues, the once-dominant Angels closer was serving up meatballs for the Tampa Bay Rays during a 22 game stint in 2015. Frieri didn’t even play affiliated baseball last year and the 31-year old hasn’t posted a positive fWAR since 2013.

Frieri pitched in this year’s World Baseball Classic for his native Colombia, where he threw two scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic. PitchFX clocked his fastball average at 95.0 mph and Yankees scouts decided that he was worth a minor-league contract, which included an invitation to major league camp.

The move came out of nowhere, but it’s an example of how participating in the WBC can help out of sight free agents looking for jobs catch the eyes of major league clubs. In four spring innings, Frieri allowed four runs, including two homers. But he struck out nine and walked only one batter. He was assigned to Scranton and seemed set on proving himself once again.

“I just want to come here and throw in front of big-league hitters,” he said when he signed in March. “First, prove to myself that I’m ready and that my stuff is back and prove to the Yankees that I can get big-league hitters out. I know a lot of guys have been here longer than me.”

Frieri, who signed as a free agent with the San Diego Padres as a 17-year-old in 2003, made his debut in 2009 and pitched for the team until he was traded in May of 2012 to Anaheim. After taking over as the Angels’ closer following the trade, Frieri converted 60 of 67 save opportunities over two seasons and established himself as one of the best closers in baseball. But then 2014 happened.

After recording an unsightly 6.39 ERA in 34 games with the Angels, Frieri was shipped off to the Pirates in June. The struggles continued and he was demoted to the minors, eventually being released in September. In total, the right-hander recorded a 7.34 ERA in 48 games.

He surfaced with Tampa Bay the following season, cobbling together a 4.63 ERA in 23 1/3 innings. The Rays designated him for assignment in June and he cleared waivers. He was then sent down to Triple-A Durham, where he recorded a 2.40 ERA in 15 appearances. Frieri attended Spring Training with the Phillies last year but didn’t make the roster after allowing nine earned runs in seven innings.

No other major league team called and he was limited to a cameo in winter ball in Venezuela. With his delivery in need of repair, Frieri traveled home to Columbia during his time away from the game and went back to the basics with Manuel Ezquivia, who is now a Cubs scout and has known the right-hander for twenty years.

“I got my delivery back. I got my deception back,” Frieri told reporters during the spring. “I proved myself in the WBC; good hitters couldn’t hit the fastball. They didn’t look that good. Even they talked to me after and they said, ‘Dude, man, you’re back. I can’t pick the ball up. ‘ That’s the old Ernie, like three years ago, so I’m really happy about that.”

This isn’t the first time that he’s claimed to be ready for a career “revival.” Back in 2015, Frieri was convinced that Tampa’s famed pitching coach Jim Hickey would get him straightened out. Even during his heyday with Anaheim, he walked plenty of hitters – career 10.9% walk rate. But Frieri, who has a June 1 opt out in his deal, has been nasty of late.

Dating back to April 19, he’s allowed just 2 earned runs in 17 innings. During that span he has walked just 6 batters and recorded 20 punchouts. In 16 games for Scranton, Frieri has a 2.25 ERA and he has yet to allow a homer. He’s also converted six of seven save opportunities.

With his reputation as a quality late-inning reliever long gone, its no guarantee that Frieri will help the Yankees. But New York has a long history of making use of retreads and he’s worth a shot while Aroldis Chapman continues to heal up.

The 2018 rotation is starting to take shape for the Yankees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

How many teams have a comparable young position player core to the Yankees? The Cubs and Astros for sure. The Dodgers? I suppose so with Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger. They’re in the conversation. Point is, there aren’t many teams with an Aaron Judge and a Gary Sanchez at the MLB level, a Greg Bird working his way back, and a Gleyber Torres and a Clint Frazier in Triple-A. It’s pretty awesome.

The pitching staff is another story. The Yankees have sneaky good pitching depth in the farm system, though coming into the season, the future of the big league rotation was uncertain. It still is, really. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia will become free agents after the season, and Masahiro Tanaka can opt-out as well. The holdover youngsters from last season (Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Chad Green) offered promise. That’s about it.

Now, two months into the 2017 season, next year’s rotation is beginning to take shape. Who knows how things will play out the rest of the season, but at least things are moving in a positive direction. So far two things are true that we hoped would be true when everyone reported to Tampa in February:

  1. Severino can bounce back from his rough 2016 season and be a dominant starter.
  2. Jordan Montgomery can be a cheap and serviceable rotation piece.

We all kinda thought and hoped those two things would be true, but we didn’t know they would be true. And we still don’t, really. The evidence is pointing in that direction though. Severino has been very good overall and occasionally brilliant, such as last night. He’s been even better in 2017 than he was in 2015 in more ways than one. Severino looks like an entirely different pitcher than last season.

“Really good again. If we wouldn’t have pushed him the other day I probably would have left him in,” said Joe Girardi following last night’s game (video link). “… He had a lot of depth to his slider tonight. I thought his fastball, he hit a lot of locations with it … You feel good when he takes the mound. You really do. Because of the stuff that he has. I’ve seen the improvement in his slider. It has a lot more depth. And when he has the depth to it, it’s really tough to hit.”

Montgomery, despite Monday’s clunker, has been solid through his first nine big league starts. The walks are kinda annoying (8.9 BB%) though I think it’s only a matter of time until those come down. Montgomery has a long track record of throwing strikes. He’s walking a few too many right now because many rookie pitchers walk a few too many. That’s how it goes. The most important thing is you can see Montgomery sticking in an MLB rotation. He has the tools to do it.

The Yankees went into Spring Training with a lot of pitching inventory and that’s good because you need depth, but they were still trying to sort out who can help them, both short and long-term. Who can they build around going forward? Who can soak up some innings to get them through the coming season? Those questions had to be answered. And so far this season, Severino sure looks like a keeper. Montgomery does too, even if he doesn’t offer the same upside.

Make no mistake, the Yankees are not out of the woods yet. They still have three more rotation spots to figure out going forward. At least right now they have a pretty good idea that Severino and Montgomery will be two of their five starters heading into next season. As recently as two months ago it wasn’t clear where those two fit in. Now they’re part of the solution both this year and the future.

Severino dominates, offense breaks out in 8-3 win over O’s

The rain stayed away and the Yankees won for the sixth time in their last nine games Tuesday night at Camden Yards. The offense came out and put the game to bed early. The final score was 8-3 good guys. The Yankees are now 30-19 on the season. Pretty incredible.

(Screen grab via our Sung-Min Kim)
(Screen grab via our Sung-Min Kim)

The Bald Bash Brothers
I do love first inning runs on the road. Score early and put the other team on the defensive right away. Best way to do that is with a leadoff home run, and Brett Gardner provided one against the formerly good at baseball Chris Tillman. Gardner’s second leadoff dinger of the season gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Two batters later Matt Holliday made it a 2-0 lead with a home run to left field. Two batters after that Aaron Judge hit a ball to the warning track. This is good.

That first inning made it pretty clear the Yankees were in for a good night against Tillman, whose fastest pitch in the game registered at 92.9 mph. He hasn’t been the same since coming down with a nagging shoulder issue last year. The Yankees scored another run in the second on a double (Didi Gregorius) and a single (Aaron Hicks), though they had runners at second and third with one out and couldn’t cash in any more. That was annoying, temporarily.

In the third, Holliday added his second home run of the night and Chase Headley plated two with a two-out single to right to increase the lead to 5-0. Judge singled and Hicks drew a walk to set that run up. Headley’s single ended Tillman’s evening. The Yankees punished him for five runs on seven hits (three homers!) and two walks in 2.2 innings. He struck out one. We’ve seen a lot of Tillman over the years. This isn’t the same guy. Shoulder injuries suck.

But wait! The Yankees did not stop there. In came long reliever Logan Verrett, and out went Gardner’s second home run of the night. It was his second leadoff homer of the game. He started the first inning and fourth innings with home runs. Gardner now has three multi-homer games this season. He hit seven homers total last season. The lead swelled to 8-0 in the fourth inning on Judge’s rocket double to right, which scored two. He flicked his wrists and it banged off the wall. That man is amazing.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Kid On The Mound Is Pretty Good Too
Another excellent outing for Luis Severino, who has now allowed no more than one run in three straight starts, four of his last five starts, and five of his last seven starts. He’s down to a 2.93 ERA (3.04 FIP) on the season. As great as Judge has been and as awesome as Gary Sanchez can be, I feel it’s important to mention Severino is the youngest player on the active roster right now. He turned 23 in February. Pretty cool.

Severino faced two jams Tuesday night and both were stupid. The first jam, in the second inning, was the result of two ground ball singles and an infield single. Severino struck out J.J. Hardy to strand the bases loaded. In the sixth, a walk and three infield singles (three!) gave the Orioles their lone run against Severino. It was so dumb. One weak grounder for a hit after another. Thankfully Severino struck out Joey Rickard to strand the bases loaded to avoid letting it snowball.

All told, Severino allowed just that one run in 6.1 innings on one walk and seven hits, all singles, four of which did not leave the infield. I’m having a hard time remembering a hard-hit ball. I’m sure there was one at some point, but nothing is coming to mind. Severino was pretty dominant. Eight strikeouts, seven ground ball outs, four fly ball outs, 73 strikes and 17 swings and misses out of exactly 100 pitches. Outstanding work by Severino. He was awesome in this game and has been awesome pretty much all season.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Leftovers
Up seven runs after six innings? Somehow the Yankees still wound up using four relievers, including Tyler Clippard for four outs. Dellin Betances even warmed up. Sigh. Joe Girardi can get real panicky at times. Bryan Mitchell was the biggest bullpen culprit, allowing two runs on two singles, one walk, and his own error in the eighth. (Mitchell threw away a comebacker.) Tommy Layne and Adam Warren each got one out.

The Yankees had 14 hits total and only three starters did not have multiple hits: Sanchez (one hit), Gregorius (one hit), and Rob Refsnyder (no hits). Everyone else had two hits, including Gardner and Holliday, who had two homers apiece. The Aarons each had two hits and a walk. Judge is hitting .323/.423/.689 (197 wRC+). Hicks is hitting .302/.432/.552 (168 wRC+). Amazing.

And finally, Gregorius took a pitch to the hand in the ninth inning. He remained in the game after being looked at by trainer Steve Donohue, though Didi was in obvious pain. Postgame x-rays came back negative. Exhale. Another injury to Gregorius is the last thing the Yankees need.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Also, check out our Bullpen Workload page too. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The rubber game as the Yankees try to clinch their first series win at Camden Yards since 2014. Just keep winning series, baby. Masahiro Tanaka and Kevin Gausman will be on the mound in Wednesday night’s series finale. That will be a meeting of Opening Day starters.

DotF: Andujar extends hitting streak in Trenton’s win

A few quick notes to start the night:

  • LHP Justus Sheffield made an appearance in this week’s Monday Morning Ten Pack (subs. req’d). “(Unless) he’s one of those dudes who takes a big command jump at some point, the questions about his long-term role aren’t really going to be answered until and unless he makes the majors and succeeds as a starter or doesn’t,” says the write-up.
  • In other Sheffield news, he was named the Double-A Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. He allowed two runs (one earned) in two starts and 13 innings last week while striking out ten.

Triple-A Scranton (5-0 loss to Columbus)

  • LF Tyler Wade & CF Dustin Fowler: both 0-4, 2 K
  • DH Tyler Austin: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K — now 11-for-28 (.383) with two doubles and two triples in nine rehab games
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-3, 1 K
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 0-3, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) — now 5-for-24 (.208) in seven Triple-A games
  • RHP Domingo German: 7 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 12/3 GB/FB — 60 of 95 pitches were strikes (63%) … he’s allowed five runs in two of this three Triple-A starts
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 23 of 35 pitches were strikes (66%) … 37 strikeouts and zero (!) walks in 26 innings so far

[Read more…]

Game 49: Waiting For The Offense To Come Back

(Matt Hazlett/Getty)
(Matt Hazlett/Getty)

Not-so-fun fact: the Yankees have not won a series at Camden Yards since September 2013. How? I mean, you’d think you’d win a series by accident at some point since then, right? But no, the Yankees keep losing series in Baltimore. A loss tonight clinches another series loss in that admitted beautiful ballpark. Pretty annoying, I’d say.

From a big picture standpoint, the bigger concern tonight is getting the offense back on track, not worrying about who wins in what building. The Yankees have scored only 37 runs in their last eleven games, and they scored nine of those 37 runs Sunday afternoon. I miss April, when it felt like the Yankees started each game with a three-run head start. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Luis Severino

Now the bad news: there’s rain in the forecast tonight. Not a ton, but enough that it could delay the game in the middle innings. It’s supposed to start sometime around 8pm ET and end around 11pm ET. Yuck. Hopefully it stays away long enough. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is feeling better, though he has not yet been cleared by doctors to resume baseball activities.