Here is an open thread for this suddenly Yankees baseball-less night. MLB Network is showing regional games at both 7pm ET and 10 pm ET, plus there are NBA and NHL playoff games on too. (Game Seven in the NHL!). Talk about those games, HOPE Week, or anything else here. Just not religion or politics. Get that outta here.
Bubba Thompson | OF
Thompson, 18, attends McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, Alabama, where he plays both baseball and football. He’s a good quarterback recruit who received Division I scholarship offers for both sports, though he committed to attend Alabama, where he’ll play baseball only. Odds are it won’t matter. Thompson is expected to turn pro after being drafted.
At 6-foot-2 and 180 lbs. Thompson is one of the top athletes in the 2017 draft class, and his best tools right now all come on the defensive side of the ball. He’s a rangy center fielder thanks to his top of the line speed, and he also has a strong throwing arm. A long-term center fielder, he is. No doubt about. Thompson is a right-handed hitter with bat speed and bat-to-ball skills, and he’s shown promising power potential this spring. He has the potential to go 20-20 with very good center field defense down the line. Despite splitting his time between two sports, Thompson is not as raw as you’d expect. The kid has legitimate five-tool ability.
The various scouting publications all agree Thompson is a first round talent. Baseball America ranks him as the 18th best prospect in the draft class while MLB.com and Keith Law (subs. req’d) rank him 24th and 25th, respectively. The Yankees hold the 16th overall pick. The biggest knock on Thompson is his age. He’s 18 with a June birthday, so he’s older than most high school prospects. (He’ll be roughly the same age on draft day as Blake Rutherford last year, who slipped out of the top ten in part due to his age.) The Yankees love their toolsy up-the-middle athletes and Thompson certainly fits the mold. For what it’s worth, Baseball America linked the Yankees to Thompson in their most recent mock draft.
There are always certain phases of the major league season. The highs and lows, the streaks and skids, fluctuating from month to month and week to week.
Unlike last season, the Yankees began 2017 on fire. The start seemed reminiscent of 2010, when the team got off to a roaring start coming off a championship. The funny thing about that 2010 team is they didn’t soar to a division title. They struggled. They blew their early division lead, gained it back and then lost it in the final weeks of the season, settling for a wild card.
I don’t mean to make a straight side-by-side comparison between the 2010 Yankees and the current squad, but the lesson is important: There are going to be lulls in the season and the team can’t let up, allowing a division rival to sneak ahead. This year, the Yankees likely won’t be overcome by a pesky Rays squad, but the Orioles and Red Sox are enough to handle.
And in April, the Yankees handled them well enough. They split their six games with the O’s and took both contests with the Sox. Considering they had to face AL Cy Young favorite Chris Sale and started 0-2 against the O’s, that’s a strong result.
It was all part of a magical month where everything seemed to go right. Aaron Judge, Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, among others, put up surprising numbers en route to a 15-8 record. The only thing perhaps more eye-catching was the rotation, which consistently worked deep into games despite most assuming it would be a liability going into the season.
That’s the catch: It wasn’t supposed to go that way. One would have assumed coming out of the spring that if the team caught fire early, it’d be on the backs of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and a knockout bullpen alongside Masahiro Tanaka as the ace. Well, Sanchez and Bird got hurt. Tanaka was off on Opening Day and despite a 5-3 record, hasn’t looked quite right since. The bullpen was quite good, perhaps even better than expected, but it was overshadowed and not asked to perform many herculean tasks.
And now that we’re late in May, phase two is well underway. The team is 6-8 in their last 14 dating back to May 8 and have seen some stinkers out of the rotation. Castro and Judge have looked more Earth-bound recently and Headley has crash landed. Early expectations have proved more prescient with the bullpen carrying a bigger load, Tuesday’s blown lead notwithstanding. Sanchez has taken off and so has Brett Gardner, who seems to have found the hitting stroke that earned him an All-Star appearance just a few seasons to go.
Despite this sub-par stretch, the Yankees still hold a 2.5 game lead in the division over the Orioles, 3.5 on the Red Sox. That lead is actually their largest this season.
But the team has an upcoming stretch that could help define them. After this homestand with the Royals and Athletics wraps up, they play 13 straight games in division, including six with the O’s and three with the Red Sox, all condensed into two weeks. You’re not going to win the division with a good two weeks, nor are you going to lose it with a lousy fortnight.
Yet this is the time when the Yankees need to begin figuring out who they are long-term, finding that second gear that can help carry them throughout the summer. The 11 wins by five or more runs have been nice and so have the standout starts from guys like Luis Severino and Michael Pineda, who would have castoffs this offseason if certain sections of the fan base had their way. But is this young crew really going to dominate all season? Is this team actually arrived ahead of schedule and not just showing glimpses of 2018 and beyond?
The team’s diverse set of skills in the lineup serves them well if sustained success is indeed in the cards. If, let’s say, Matt Holliday and Judge going into month-long slumps, the team can rely on hitters like Gardner or Didi Gregorius to carry them in a different way, not needing to pound home runs game-by-game.
It doesn’t hurt to have that sturdy backbone of a bullpen, which may end up as the defining positive for this team. Even with Aroldis Chapman out, Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard and co. are a force that can hold down most leads. With a few quality long relievers, the team can withstand a few 4-5 inning outings and keep the team within striking distance.
Or maybe the rotation with a rejuvenated Tanaka can lead the way. With Jordan Montgomery and CC Sabathia as strong back-end starters, perhaps Tanaka, Severino and Pineda can carry the team every five days and enable more winning streaks.
So that second gear doesn’t necessarily have to look all that different from the first one. It can be a continuation. But in order for the Yankees to sustain their early success, they’ll need to figure out just what makes this team special and utilize those defining characteristics in the crucial weeks ahead.
The Yankees season has largely been a story of adjustments. Or, perhaps, the greatest questions regarding the roster have revolved around adjustments: how would the league adjust to Gary Sanchez? Could Aaron Judge adjust to the majors? Could Luis Severino re-adjust to being a starting pitcher? How would Dellin Betances adjust to his career as an astronaut? And so on. For the most part, these questions have yielded positive answers, small sample sizes be damned (and dissipating at a rapid pace, to boot).
Heading into Tuesday night, we wondered how Jordan Montgomery would adjust to facing the Royals for the second time in six days. It was the first time that a major league lineup would see Montgomery twice, and it had an added layer of seeing how he would fare follow the worst start of his young career (5 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 4 K). The Royals are a bad offensive team – the worst in baseball on the season – but they have been heating up, and Montgomery is still a rookie. It may well have been the biggest test this side of his debut this season.
By now you know that Montgomery responded with a gem of a performance, pitching to the following line: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K. The lone blemish on that line was a solo shot by Lorenzo Cain in the 7th inning, the result of a 93 MPH that caught too much of the plate. It was nevertheless his best start to-date, and he outpitched Royals ace Danny Duffy. All of this raises a question, though – what changed in the last week?
The short answer is pitch selection and pitch location. Let’s look into Montgomery’s offerings on May 18:
Montgomery threw 83 pitches the first time he faced the Royals, and just over half of those (42) were some variety of fastball. He picked up just seven whiffs on the day, largely due to the fact that he threw just 11 sliders. As per PITCHf/x, his slider is worth 2.55 runs per 100 thrown and has a 22.1% swinging strike rate, which makes it his best pitch by a fairly comfortable margin. With that in mind, take a look at Tuesday night’s start:
This time around, 41 of his 98 pitches were fastballs, and he threw more than twice as many sliders (which led to twice as many swings and misses). Montgomery threw fifteen more pitches this time around, and essentially all of them were sliders. It was a completely different mix of pitches, and it helped to keep the Royals off-balance; and the results were excellent.
It wasn’t just a matter of throwing more sliders, though. Montgomery was also far more successful in keeping the ball around the edges, as well as in the bottom-third of the strike-zone.
In the first outing, Montgomery was, to oversimplify, throwing the ball down the middle or outside of the zone. And, given that most the pitches he threw were fastballs or change-ups, it’s no surprise that he was hit, and hit hard.
Montgomery threw a few too many pitches near the heart of the plate both times around, but he was clearly living on the edges far more often on Tuesday night. He was also pounding right-handed hitters down-and-in (and lefties down-and-away), and it worked quite well. The majority of his pitches move, and he has shown the ability to locate most of them well-enough, so the latter plot is exactly what you’d expect to see when Montgomery is on his game.
The usual “it’s only one game” caveat applies here, yet it is encouraging to see Montgomery make such a significant adjustment from one game to the next. He went with what has worked best for him this season, and held the Royals to 1 run in 6.2 IP. On most nights, that would be a winning effort – but I digress. One of the most often cited pluses on Montgomery’s scouting report was his pitchability, and that was on full display for at least one night.
As expected, the Yankees have placed Jacoby Ellsbury on the 7-day concussion disabled list, the team announced. Rob Refsnyder has been called up to fill the roster spot. The Yankees have already been rained out today. We won’t see Refsnyder in uniform until tomorrow night.
Ellsbury left last night’s game after crashing into the wall making a catch on literally the first pitch of the game. Trainer Steve Donohue checked him out and Ellsbury did stay into complete the inning — no other balls were hit his way — before being removed prior to the second inning. It’s a concussion and a neck strain, the Yankees say.
The fact Refsnyder was called up rather than a true outfielder like Mason Williams tells us Aaron Hicks will step into the lineup full-time to replace Ellsbury. That’s the best move. Hicks is having a great year, and the Ellsbury injury gives the Yankees a chance to get the switch-hitter into the lineup everyday.
Refnsyder can play both corner outfield spots, but when Hicks sits, Brett Gardner will have to slide over into center field. That’s no big deal. He’s more than capable. The Yankees have not given any sort of timetable for Ellsbury’s return. He’s having a nice year and losing a good player stinks.
This afternoon’s series finale between the Yankees and Royals has been rained out, the two teams announced. They’ll play the makeup game on Monday, September 25th. The start time is TBA. That was supposed to be the Yankees’ final off-day of the regular season. At least the Royals have to come to New York and the Yankees don’t have to go anywhere.
Here’s what the Yankees say about the ticket situation for today’s rainout:
Fans holding paid tickets for today’s postponed game (May 25) may use them for the rescheduled game on Monday, September 25, or exchange their paid tickets for any regular season game at Yankee Stadium within 12 months of today’s postponed game (subject to availability).
Fans holding Complimentary (COMP) tickets for today’s game must use them for the rescheduled game. COMP tickets or equivalent tickets bear no cash value and do not have any additional benefits that may be offered to ticket(s) with a dollar value.
The Yankees already have two makeup games on the schedule for the second half this year. They’ll make up this game with the Royals on September 25th, and they’re also due to play a doubleheader at Fenway Park on July 16th. That’s the first Sunday after the All-Star break. The Yankees and Red Sox were rained out on April 25th.
I suppose the good news is the Yankees get an off-day today to break up their 20 games in 20 days stretch. They’re halfway through it — today was going to be game ten. The Yankees will play three games against the Athletics this weekend before going out on the road for three games in Baltimore and four games in Toronto next week.
The rainout gives all the starting pitchers an extra day of rest, which means if the Yankees had any plans to call up a spot sixth starter at some point during this 20 games in 20 days stretch, they might not have to now. They could still do that, of course, but now they have the option of waiting a little longer or skipping it all together.
Masahiro Tanaka, who has been dreadful the last two times out and owns a 6.56 ERA (6.05 FIP) on the season, was scheduled to start this afternoon. He’ll presumably get the ball tomorrow instead. The Yankees haven’t announced their pitching plans, though I would be surprised if they used the rainout to skip Tanaka’s start.
Losing the final off-day of the regular season to a makeup game isn’t a huge deal. The Yankees will now close the season with ten straight games rather than six. Plus rosters will be expanded, so they’ll have all the extra bodies. And! The last place Royals could very well sell at the deadline, so they might be much less imposing then than they are right now. We’ll see.
Good game, would watch again. The Yankees rebounded from Tuesday night’s deflating loss with a crisp 3-0 win over the Royals on Wednesday. Great pitching, good enough hitting. It works!
Ho boy. What an outing by Luis Severino. Starts like this show you exactly why the Yankees resisted the urge to keep Severino in the bullpen after last season, why he zoomed through the minors in less than three years, and why he should at least be discussed as a possible All-Star. Severino thoroughly manhandled the Royals in this game, holding them to four hits and one walk in eight shutout innings. He struck out seven.
Kansas City only had one runner reach second base against Severino — Brandon Moss yanked a double into the right field corner with two outs in the fifth — and never once had a runner reach third base. No jams at all. Severino threw first pitch strikes to 19 of 28 batters, and only four of those 24 batters saw a hitter friendly 2-0 or 3-1 count. He generated 14 swings and misses out of 114 total pitches, and check out his velocity (via Brooks Baseball):
There’s no decline there. Severino’s final pitch of the night was a 98.4 mph fastball. We’ve seen this all year too. Severino loses nothing off his fastball. He’s similar to peak Justin Verlander in that sense. Pitch count over 100? No big deal, here’s a 98 mph heater. It’s amazing. Severino also used his changeup and especially his slider effectively in this game, getting outs on both pitches.
Following these eight dominant innings, Severino now owns a 3.11 ERA (3.29 FIP) with 61 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 55 innings this season. He’s had some clunkers, most notably that dud against the Astros two weeks ago, but gosh, Severino had been totally dominant at times too. He’s the only Yankees starter to complete eight innings twice this season — heck, Masahiro Tanaka is the only other guy to do it once — and each time he’s had a tough outing, he’s bounced back to dominate next time out. Severino looks nothing like he did last year. It’s awesome. Go Sevy.
Three Runs Are Enough
I wouldn’t say the offense broke out Wednesday night, though they did get three runs on the board, and they did it in three different ways. Didi Gregorius opened the scoring with a solo home run to right field in the third inning. Dingers are always great. Love dingers. Gregorius has quietly — or maybe not so quietly? — been excellent since coming back from his shoulder injury. He’s hitting .330/.359/.474 (127 wRC+) on the season.
The Yankees scored their second run thanks to noted speed demon Gary Sanchez. He led off the sixth inning with a single, stole second (!) and moved to third when the throw sailed in center field, then scored on Matt Holliday‘s well-struck sac fly to the right field warning track. In the eighth, Gregorius smacked a ground rule double, moved to third on Chris Carter‘s ground out, then scored on Brett Gardner‘s two-strike single. Matt Strahm struck Gardner out on the previous pitch, but home plate Jerry Layne missed the call, and Gardner took advantage.
Three runs on seven hits and two walks isn’t a whole lot, but it was more than enough to win this game. The Yankees have still scored only 22 runs in their last seven games, and prior to the Holliday sac fly, they had scored their last nine runs on home runs. The offense is fighting it right now. This’ll happen a few times during the season. You just have to hope the pitching can pick up the bats, and it sure did Wednesday night.
Dellin Betances was absolutely untouchable in the ninth inning. He struck out all three batters he faced on 13 total pitches, and geez, they stood no chance. Betances was overwhelming. He was throwing his fastball by hitters and locking them up with the breaking ball. Total domination. As good as you’ll see Dellin look all season. Too bad he’s #notacloser.
Gregorius was the only Yankee with multiple hits. Gardner, Sanchez, Holliday, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks had one hit each. Carter and Judge drew the walks. The Yankees went 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position, so yeah, they didn’t exactly have a boatload of opportunities. When they did though, they capitalized. A solo homer, a sac fly, and an RBI single. Hooray offensive diversity.
And finally, if you missed it earlier, Jacoby Ellsbury had to leave the game with a concussion and a neck strain. He crashed into the wall making a catch on the very first pitch of the game. Joe Girardi already confirmed Ellsbury is going on the seven-day disabled list. Stinks.
The end of this series, finally. Thursday afternoon the Yankees will play their first last game against a team this season. That make sense? If the Yankees play the Royals again this year, it’ll be in the postseason. Tanaka and young Miguel Almonte are the scheduled starting pitchers. Almonte will be making his first MLB start after debuting out of the bullpen. That’s a 1pm ET getaway day start. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you feel like catching the midweek matinee.