Game 52: Big Mike Back In Seattle

BIG MIKE IS HERE

For the first time since being traded to the Yankees in January 2012, Michael Pineda will face his former team tonight. He’s never pitched against the Mariners, either at Yankee Stadium or Safeco Field, so I have to think he’ll be a little amped up tonight. You know, one of those “here’s what you’re missing out on, suckers” kinda starts. That would be cool.

Regardless of who is pitching tonight, the Yankees really need to figure out a way to scratch some runs across against Felix Hernandez. Or at least wait him out and go to town on the bullpen. The Yankees just lost three of four to the Athletics and they’ve lost 13 of their last 18 games overall and that needs to end. It’s annoying. I don’t think I’m crazy when I say the Yankees are too good for that to continue. Anyway, here is Seattle’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

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

It’s cloudy and cool with a chance of rain tonight in Seattle (shocking, I know), so I’m guessing the Safeco Field roof will be closed for at least part of the game. First pitch is scheduled for 10:10pm ET tonight and can be seen on YES. Try to enjoy.

Roster Update: Adam Warren will remain in the rotation and Chris Capuano will shift to the bullpen when Masahiro Tanaka returns on Wednesday, Joe Girardi told reporters. They’ll still have to send a reliever down to clear a 40-man spot for Tanaka when the time comes. Not surprising. Warren has pitched too well of late to go back to the bullpen.

All-Star Voting Update: MLB released the second AL All-Star Game fan voting update today, and no Yankees lead at their positions. Royals fans are stuffing the ballot box — five Royals are on pace to start and three others are second in the voting at their positions. A-Rod is third at DH, McCann and Teixeira are fourth at catcher and first base, respectively, and Jacoby Ellsbury, Beltran, and Gardner rank 6th, 12th, and 13th among outfielders, also respectively.

2015 Draft: Nick Plummer

Nick Plummer | OF

Background
The 18-year-old Plummer attends Brother Rice High School in Michigan, a few miles outside Detroit. He announced his status as a top draft prospect with authority at the Area Code Games last summer by dominating elite high school pitching. Plummer missed time last fall with mono but showed no lingering effects this spring. He is committed to Kentucky.

Scouting Report
Simply put, Plummer has arguably the best pure hit tool in the draft class, high school or college. His setup at the plate and his left-handed swing are as clean as it gets, with great balance and a direct, level path to the ball. Plummer covers the plate well and makes hard contact to all fields. There is some question about his long-term power potential, but right now he shows enough bat speed to expect at least average home run totals down the road. Plummer has a stocky build at 5-foot-11 and 190 lbs., and while he isn’t a great athlete or a speedy runner, he can play center thanks to his instincts. Plummer has had some conditioning issues in the past, and whenever he reaches the point where he can’t stay in center (could happen next year, could happen in 15 years), left field is the most likely destination because his arm isn’t suited for right.

Miscellany
Baseball America, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and MLB.com ranked Plummer as the 11th, 15th, and 27th best prospect in their latest draft prospect rankings, respectively. For what it’s worth, Kiley McDaniel recently said he heard the Yankees have interest in Plummer. It’s very likely Plummer will be the first player drafted out of Michigan in the first round since the Yankees selected Michigan C David Parrish with the 28th pick in 2000. New York drafts 16th and 30th this year and Plummer’s stock seems to be all over the place. Could go as high as the 10-12 range, could slip into the back half of the first round. My guess is he won’t be around for that 30th pick.

Monday Night Open Thread

The Yankees are still out on the West Coast, which means we have another 10pm ET start tonight. Until then, use this as your open thread to talk about whatever. ESPN is showing the Brewers and Cardinals at 8pm ET and that’s about it as far as nationally televised sports go. The regular game thread will be along closer to game time.

TiqIQ: Legends Suites Bring About Memorable Experiences At Yankee Stadium

The New York Yankees are in the process of picking back up that hot start to the 2015 MLB season. While they’ve added some digits to the loss column over the last few weeks, the Yanks still boast a strong offense that has helped them hold onto first place in the ultra-competitive AL East division (every team has at least 22 wins). For that to hold, New York’s pitching rotation will need to establish more stability and consistency.

To this point, the offense hasn’t been too much of a problem, as Alex Rodriguez, Jacob Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira have kept the Yankee offense going strong. The team has been especially successful at Yankee Stadium, where they’ve won 12 of 22 games. That appears to be where fans are getting the most bang for their buck and that happens even more when they take advantage of Legends Suites seating, which start at roughly $699, and can get up to $1,640, depending on the location.

With the absolute best seat in the house, fans can hang out in the Legends Suites to watch A-Rod and Co. pile on the runs at home. While offense and wins obviously push the value of those seating locations over the top, Legends Suites carry plenty of value on their own as well.

Basic secondary market New York Yankees tickets on TiqIQ average $105.97 for their next home series against the Los Angeles Angels ($21 to get in). For fans looking for the All-Star treatment during a home win, they won’t find a better experience than in the Legends.

Legends Suites are all about location, as fans can view the game through a floor-to-ceiling window or on one of the many HD televisions, as well as their field-level seats. The suites are complete with a large granite bar, all-inclusive top-end food and beverage of the highest quality, and elite service from the second you sit down until the game ends. Any set of Yankees tickets can end up being worth the price, but tickets in the Yankee Stadium Legends Suites in section 027A behind the visiting team dugout, which start at $699 including fees from the team directly, are worth it every single time, regardless of whether the Yanks win or lose.

Fans could be in for a great stretch when enjoying Legends Suites, as the next few series at Yankee Stadium either provide a beatable opponent or a killer matchup. The Angels represent the latter, featuring arguably the game’s best player Mike Trout, leading a legitimate AL contender. Then come the Washington Nationals with the brash and explosive Bryce Harper, followed by a slumping Miami Marlins team in mid-June, although they do possess baseball’s best home run hitter in Giancarlo Stanton. Then, it’s another intense showdown with the reigning AL Central champion Detroit Tigers in the Bronx. All things considered, Legends Suites, especially with New York’s upcoming matchups, could be worth the expense, especially if you like sushi, steak, lobster, or other amazing food, dessert, and drink options.

2015 Draft: Mike Nikorak

Mike Nikorak | RHP

Background
Nikorak, 18, went from interesting draft prospect to elite draft prospect on the showcase circuit last summer, when he overwhelmed top high school competition and wowed scouts. At Stroudsburg High School (Pennsylvania) this spring, Nikorak pitched to a 1.82 ERA with a 50/21 K/BB in 29.2 innings. His older brother Steve pitched at Temple and in the White Sox system briefly. Nikorak is committed to Alabama.

Scouting Report
The knock on Nikorak last year was his slight build, but he hit the weight room hard last offseason and now stands a sturdy 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds. His fastball is one of the best in the draft class, sitting 92-94 mph with movement and touching 97 mph fairly regularly. Nikorak did a better job of maintaining his velocity deep into games this spring thanks to the added muscle. His hard curveball is a hammer and a true out pitch on his best days, but he’s still working to be consistent with it. Like many high schoolers, his changeup is very much a work in progress. Nikorak has an easy delivery and the ball jumps out of his hand, and his control is better than his walk total indicates, but he does still need to improve his command, which is not uncommon for pitchers from cold weather states.

Miscellany
Nikorak was ranked as the 12th, 15th, and 16th best prospect in the draft class by Keith Law (subs. req’d), MLB.com, and Baseball America in their latest rankings, respectively. Both Law and Baseball America said the Yankees have interest in the right-hander in recent mock drafts. Nikorak checks all the boxes for a high school pitcher — he has size, a great fastball, and a potentially great breaking ball — which is why there was talk of him being a top five pick earlier this spring. The Yankees pick 16th and 30th this year, but it’ll have to be 16th or bust for Nikorak. He might not even be on the board for that pick. No way he gets to that 30th pick.

Cashman: “I don’t see us making a major acquisition for a pitcher”

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

The Yankees went 13-16 during the month of May partly because their pitching staff had a 4.38 ERA (4.07 FIP) overall, which was quite a bit worse than the AL average (3.80 ERA and 3.97 FIP). The rotation had a 4.36 ERA (4.22 FIP) in May while the bullpen had a 4.43 ERA (3.78 FIP). I’m not even going to calculate the non-Dellin Betances/Andrew Miller portion of the bullpen because yeesh.

Anyway, the Yankees are getting some pitching help this week when Masahiro Tanaka returns from his wrist/forearm injury on Wednesday. Even if Tanaka is rusty, he should still be an upgrade over Chris Capuano, who has been really ineffective in his three starts since coming back from a quad injury (6.39 ERA and 4.20 FIP). The Yankees could use more pitching help (every team could use more pitching help), but right now Brian Cashman doesn’t expect a major pitching acquisition.

“It has a lot to do with the usual things — health, players performing to their capabilities, players who are promoted performing, and anything you can do to improve your team from the outside and have that move click for you,” said the GM to Nick Cafardo over the weekend. “I don’t see us making a major acquisition for a pitcher [at this time] but I’m not going to say I wouldn’t do it.”

That last part goes without saying. Of course Cashman would pull the trigger on a pitching upgrade if something comes along that makes sense. Obviously Cole Hamels is the big name — Rob Bradford says the Phillies are now more willing to eat a big chunk of Hamels’ contract to facilitate a trade, for what’s it worth — but others like Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir, Ian Kennedy, Kyle Lohse, Bartolo Colon, and Matt Garza figure to be available. Cueto (elbow) and Kazmir (shoulder) recently came down with supposedly minor injuries though.

In addition to Tanaka, the Yankees also have Ivan Nova inching closer to a return. He made an Extended Spring Training start on Thursday, will make another one this week, then is expected to head out on an official minor league rehab assignment. Nova’s about a month away from returning, give or take. I’m still pretty skeptical of how effective he can be so soon after Tommy John surgery — command is usually the last thing to come back following elbow reconstruction, and let’s face it, command wasn’t exactly a strength of his to start with — but at least he’ll be an option.

Aside from getting Tanaka and Nova back, the Yankees need improvement from CC Sabathia (5.67 ERA and 4.20 FIP) and Nathan Eovaldi (4.40 ERA and 4.05 FIP) more than anything. Barring injury, those two aren’t coming out of the rotation (for different reasons), but the Yankees aren’t good enough to survive with two below-average starters. Michael Pineda has been generally awesome and Adam Warren has really come on of late, though it takes more than two starters to contend, even in the weak AL East.

Top pitching prospect Luis Severino was just promoted to Triple-A and I suppose he could be a rotation option later in the season. Considering he’s only 21 years old and has yet to throw more than 113 innings in a season, I’d bet against it. If anything, I think Severino would be a late-season bullpen option. Bryan Mitchell is the club’s other noteworthy Triple-A rotation depth arm. After him there’s, uh, Kyle Davies? Yeah.

Even if they won’t make a major pitching addition — would something similar to last season’s Brandon McCarthy trade qualify as major? — the Yankees would benefit from adding another depth arm or two they could stash in Triple-A, especially now that Chase Whitley is done for the season from Tommy John surgery. Cashman says he doesn’t expect a major pitching acquisition at the moment, but things like that have a way of changing in a hurry.

6/1 to 6/3 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The West Coast trip continues and will conclude early this week in Seattle, with a three-game set against Robinson Cano and the Mariners. The Yankees are 9-2 in their last eleven games in Safeco Field dating back to 2011. Jeremy Bonderman pitched for the Mariners the last time the Yankees lost in Seattle. That … seems impossible.

What Have The Mariners Done Lately?

The Mariners lost a 12-inning game to the Indians yesterday and dropped three of four in the weekend series. (Hey, just like the Yankees!) After being a trendy World Series pick coming into the season — or at least a trendy AL West pick — Seattle is disappointing with a 24-26 record and a -18 run differential. They’re in fourth place in the division.

Offense & Defense

As has been the case quite often in recent years, the Mariners have a below-average offense, scoring just 3.72 runs per game with a team 96 wRC+. They can’t blame it all on the ballpark either (wRC+ is park adjusted). The Mariners are totally healthy on offense. No position players on the DL or even day-to-day.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Manager Lloyd McClendon’s lineup is anchored by DH Nelson Cruz (194 wRC+), who is tied with Bryce Harper for the MLB lead with 18 homers. Cano (80 wRC+) is in the middle of the worst season of his career — I suspect you knew that already! — despite having Cruz hitting behind him, so yeah, lineup protection doesn’t help as much as everyone thinks. 3B Kyle Seager (125 wRC+) has been very good and OF Seth Smith (125 wRC+) has raked as the left-handed half of the left field platoon.

OF Justin Ruggiano (89 wRC+) is the other half of the platoon with Smith, and ex-Yankees farmhand OF Austin Jackson (65 wRC+) recently returned from the DL to resume playing center every day. Remember when a bunch of Yankees fans were upset the team traded Jackson instead of Brett Gardner? What a weird time that was. Anyway, 1B Logan Morrison (101 wRC+), SS Chris Taylor (22 wRC+), and C Mike Zunino (77 wRC+) are the rest of the regulars while C Welington Castillo (22 wRC+), UTIL Brad Miller (106 wRC+), UTIL Dustin Ackley (54 wRC+), and UTIL Willie Bloomquist (12 wRC+) fill out the bench. Yes, they have a five-man bench at the moment.

The Mariners have a surprisingly bad team defense. Well, not bad, but it’s not great either. Cano and Seager are both excellent and Zunino’s a stud behind the plate, plus Jackson can still go get it, but there’s not a whole lot to see besides that. Cruz has actually played more right field (31 games) than DH (19 games) and he’s abysmal in the field, same with Smith and, to a lesser extent, Ruggiano. Taylor’s alright at short and Miller has a knack for hilarious errors. LoMo’s okay around the bag but won’t wow anyone. Cano, Seager, and Jackson … hit it to anyone but them.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. SEA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (Career vs. NYY)
You didn’t think the Yankees were going to miss Felix, did you? Of course they weren’t. Hernandez, who is still somehow only 29, has a 1.91 ERA (3.19 FIP) in ten starts and 70.2 innings this season, so he’s basically as good as ever. He’s got a great strikeout rate (26.6%), a great walk rate (5.6%), a great ground ball rate (62.1%), an above-average home run rate (0.89 HR/9), and no platoon split (.258 vs .249 wOBA in favor of righties). Felix is on the very short list of the best pitchers in baseball, but you knew that already. These days Hernandez throws a fastball only 40% of the time or so — he favors his low-90s sinker over his low-90s four-seamer — and instead relies heavily on his upper-80s changeup. He throws that pitch more than one-third of the time, believe it or not. An upper-70s curveball is Felix’s preferred breaking ball, though he’ll also throw a bunch of mid-80s sliders per outing. This will not be fun.

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. SEA) vs. TBA
Seattle’s starter for tomorrow’s game is TBA because lefty James Paxton was just placed on the 15-day DL with a finger injury. (Paxton’s DL stint is why they’re carrying a five-man bench at the moment.) Ryan Divish says all signs point to fellow southpaw Mike Montgomery getting the start in Paxton’s place. Montgomery, 25, was once one of the best prospects in baseball, but his career has stalled out in Triple-A due to control issues. The Royals traded him to the Rays in the James Shields-Wil Myers deal two years ago, then the Rays traded him to the Mariners for Erasmo Ramirez in Spring Training. Montgomery has a 3.74 ERA (3.30 FIP) in nine starts and 53 innings in Triple-A this year, posting his best strikeout (21.8%) and walk (6.9%) rates in years. His fastball sits low-90s and his best pitch is a fading changeup. Montgomery never did figure out a reliable breaking ball — he’s thrown a curveball, a slider, and a cutter at times over the years in an effort to find a third pitch. If Montgomery doesn’t start tomorrow … I have no idea who else it would be.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Wednesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (Career vs. SEA) vs. RHP Taijuan Walker (Career vs. NYY)
Walker is a nice reminder that even the best pitching prospects will break your heart, or, at the very least, run into bumps in the road to stardom. The 22-year-old has a 6.18 ERA (4.78 FIP) in ten starts and 51 innings so far in 2015, with an average strikeout rate (20.3%) and below-average walk (9.9%), grounder (39.2%), and homer (1.41 HR/9) rates. Righties (.374 wOBA) have hit him a tad harder than lefties (.340 wOBA), which is the opposite of what he did in limited action from 2013-14. Walker has a big fastball, sitting in the mid-90s with his four-seamer, and he throws it nearly 70% of the time. He throws his upper-70s curveball only 5% of the time, instead using an upper-80s splitter as his go-to offspeed pitch. Walker will also throw some upper-80s cutters. As with most young pitchers, there are good days and bad days, and so far this year Walker’s bad days have outnumbered the good days.

Bullpen Status
Like I said earlier, the Mariners played 12 innings yesterday, and that was after starter J.A. Happ went only five innings. McClendon needed seven innings out of his bullpen and all seven of his relievers pitched. RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (1.53 FIP), RHP Mark Lowe (2.88 FIP), LHP Charlie Furbush (3.03 FIP), and LHP Joe Beimel (3.20 FIP) have all pitched each of the last two days.

Closer RHP Fernando Rodney (4.98 FIP) has been very shaky this season. I mean really, really shaky. He’s put 39 runners on base in 21.1 innings. Yikes. RHP Dominic Leone (6.32 FIP) and RHP Carson Smith (2.29 FIP) are the last two relievers, though Smith has pitched himself into a setup role of late. He’s not a “last guy in the bullpen” guy. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page to see the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen. For updates on the Mariners, check out Lookout Landing and USS Mariner.