Dietrich Enns pitching his way on to the prospect map

(Martin Griff/Pinstriped Prospects)
(Martin Griff/Pinstriped Prospects)

Over the last few seasons the Yankees have had some success turning late round draft picks into useful big league arms. Most notably, David Robertson went from 17th rounder to shutdown reliever. Others like David Phelps (14th), Chase Whitley (15th), and Shane Greene (15th) have proven to be valuable in different ways. Getting value from those late picks is pretty cool.

Back in 2012 the Yankees used their 19th round pick on Central Michigan southpaw Dietrich Enns, who, like Phelps and Whitley and Greene, was an unheralded college arm. Of course the Yankees liked his ability and believed there was something interesting there, that’s true of every pick, but it was easy to overlook Enns and assume he was minor league fodder. Just a guy to soak up some innings, basically.

Enns, now 24, opened this season with Double-A Trenton, though his rise through the minors hit a bump in the road two years when he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. Here’s a really quick rundown of his career stats:

2012 Short Season 22/0 42.2 2.11 2.84 18.9% 8.6% not avail.
2013 Low-A, High-A 28/8 82.2 2.94 2.74 32.7% 10.2% 40.3%
2014 High-A 13/1 25.1 1.42 3.15 26.3% 10.1% 45.2%
2015 Rookie, High-A 13/12 58.2 0.61 2.39 23.7% 8.6% 48.3%
2016 Double-A 3/3 16.2  0.00 3.03 26.6% 17.2% 41.2%

I’ve mentioned this stat before but it bears repeating: last season 1,902 pitchers threw at least 50 innings in the minors, and none had a lower ERA than Enns. Ryan Dull, who we just saw in the A’s bullpen last week, was second with a 0.74 ERA. Pretty big gap between him and Enns.

As always, minor league stats come with a lot of caveats. First and foremost, the further away you get from the big leagues, the less they mean. There’s just too much noise. In the low minors many hitters have no real plan at the plate and lots of pitchers are control challenged. Enns has only 16.2 career innings above Single-A, and Baseball Reference tells me he is 0.4 years older than the average Eastern League player this year. Context is important.

At the same time, a player like Enns is going to have to perform very well to get any attention. He was an unheralded late round pick — Baseball America didn’t even have a pre-draft scouting report on Enns, and they seem to write up everyone — out of a school not really known for baseball. (Central Michigan has had four players drafted in the single digit rounds in the last 20 years, one of which was Yankees’ 2014 fifth rounder Jordan Foley.)

Enns owns a 0.48 ERA (2.53 FIP) with a very good strikeout rate (24.3%) in 75.1 innings since Tommy John surgery, and in his most recent start, and he fanned a career high eleven in six innings. He did that with farm system head Gary Denbo and special advisor Gene Michael in attendance, as noted by Jon Mozes. The heavy hitters were there.

The scouting report is pretty basic and it’s not something that will jump out at you. Enns lives in the 89-92 mph range as a starter — he’s a tick above that when working in relief — and he backs his fastball up with a low-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and rudimentary curveball. There are lots of those guys kicking around in the minors. That’s why Enns has to perform so well to get noticed.

As good as his ERA and strikeout rate have been over the years, they do not paint a complete picture. Enns has consistently run high walk rates throughout the minors — surely the elbow reconstruction contributed to that somewhat — and his ground ball rates aren’t any good. Almost all pitching prospects worth a damn have high ground ball rates because they overwhelm less talented hitters.

There’s also this: Enns went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft last December. That’s telling. Here you have a 24-year-old left-hander with unreal numbers and three pitches, yet no team took a shot at him. No one bothered to bring him to camp for an extended look or anything. Maybe they were scared away by the recent Tommy John surgery, but boy, any half-decent lefty tends to get scooped up in the Rule 5 Draft. No one felt he was ready.

If nothing else, Enns has put himself on the prospect map with his performance since last year. It’s tough to ignore basically zero runs allowed with an above-average strikeout rate. Those numbers alone do not make Enns a prospect, but they do get people to pay attention. Enns is now in Double-A and performing well, and if he continues to do so, he’ll soon find himself in Triple-A.

The Yankees are already down three key shuttle relievers (Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, Jacob Lindgren) thanks to elbow problems, and they showed last year they’re willing to dip deep into the farm system for bullpen help. That’s how guys Joel De La Cruz and Matt Tracy wound up with affordable healthcare for life. Enns is cut from a similar cloth. He’s that guy you don’t necessarily expect to get called up who ends up getting called up, know what I mean?

On an individual level, Enns wants to put himself in position to either land a 40-man roster spot with the Yankees after the season, or be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Continuing to perform this well at Double-A and maybe Triple-A figures to accomplish that goal. Enns is the classic example of a player who has done a lot with the small opportunity usually affording to late round picks. He’s been really good since being drafted and especially so since elbow reconstruction.

Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are not only dominant, they’re efficient too


As Yankees fans, we’ve been privileged to watch some stellar bullpen work in our lifetimes. Older fans (no offense!) can go back to Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage, and Dave Righetti. More recently you have Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and, of course, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. In less than two weeks Aroldis Chapman will join that group.

Even with all those great bullpeners, I don’t think we’ve ever seen two relievers — either at the same time or in different years — as overwhelmingly dominant as Betances and Miller are right now. Their numbers are truly video game-like: one earned run on nine hits and two walks in 19 innings. They’ve struck out 38. Thirty-eight! That’s out of 67 base-runners, so 56.7% have stuck out. El oh el.

Betances and Miller have been unreal this season, and what has really impressed me is how efficient they’ve been while being so dominant. Miller has made nine appearances and only once has he thrown more than 13 pitches. Once! Betances, who is no stranger to long innings, has reached the 20-pitch mark just three times in ten outings. His last three appearances have checked in at 13 pitches or less.

Keep in mind these two are keeping their pitch counts low despite all those strikeouts. Last year Miller averaged 15.7 pitches per inning and he threw a strike 67% of the time. This year he’s at 11.4 pitches per inning (!) and 79% strikes. That’s bonkers. Betances has upped his strike rate slightly from 62% last year to 63% this year, though it’s 66% since his two-walk appearance on Opening Day.

The quick outings are especially helpful right now because Joe Girardi has had to lean on Betances and Miller an awful lot so far this season. The Yankees have struggled to score consistently, so when they have had a lead, it’s typically been one or two (maybe three) runs. In fact, Betances and Miller have each appeared in seven of the team’s eight wins. The only one they avoided was the 16-6 blowout over the Astros.

Overall the Yankees have played 18 games; Betances has pitched in ten and Miller has pitched in nine. That’s a lot but it sounds worse than it is. The Yankees had all those off-days early on, remember. Those 18 games have been played 21 calendar days. They’ve had two scheduled off-days plus a rainout. Don’t get me wrong, Betances and Miller have pitched a lot, but not quite every other day.

Chapman will be back in two weeks and will inevitably help lighten the load on the back-end of the bullpen. Girardi has talked about using only two of his three big relievers per game in order to make sure one is always fresh and available the next day, which sounds great, though we’ll see how it works in practice. This strikes me as one of those ideas that is much easier said than done.

For now, Betances and Miller have endured heavy workloads through the first 18 games, but they’ve been able to mitigate that workload with quick innings. They’ve been able to cut down on their pitches per inning while maintaining an absurdly high strikeout rate because they’re simply throwing so many strikes. It’s good to have stuff so crisp that hitters still can’t touch it when you throw it over the plate.

Eovaldi pitches seven dazzling innings in a 3-1 Yankees victory in Texas

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

That’s more like it. The Yankee bats weren’t overly imposing tonight but Nathan Eovaldi showed what kind of pitcher he can be when things click. He had a no-hitter going for the first six innings and pitched probably the best game by a Yankee starter this season. Good starting pitching, the lineup scoring more than the opponent, and the bullpen closing it out – certainly a way to win a ballgame.

The Big Non-RISP Hits

The Yankees caught a break in the pitching matchup. Their ace Cole Hamels was scratched due to a groin issue so the Rangers trotted out LHP Cesar Ramos as their starter. Ramos, a former Tampa Bay Ray, isn’t a stranger to facing the Yanks. Prior to tonight, he faced New York 19 times (21.0 IP) and had a 5.57 ERA against, which ain’t great.

In the second, Mark Teixeira led off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Chase Headley hit a single to right to make it runners on first and third with one out. Dustin Ackley followed it up with a full-count walk to load the bases. Didi Gregorius hit the first pitch right at 1B Prince Fielder and he nabbed Teixeira at the plate for a fielder’s choice. With the bases still loaded. Austin Romine hit a weak grounder right back to Ramos to end the inning. Not gonna lie, I was afraid that would set up the tone for another RISP fail-filled night for the Yanks. Well, I was right, but the Yanks still turned out fine.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Yankees had more luck the next inning. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a homer into the right field seats to lead off the inning, 1-0 New York. A batter later, Carlos Beltran worked a walk to reach the first and Teixeira drove a deep double to right-center to drive him in. 2-0. New York posted another run on the board in the sixth. Starlin Castro hit a high 86 mph fastball from Ramos over the left field wall for a solo homer. Notice the theme of all three runs they scored? Those RBI’s came in non-RISP situations. Overall, they hit only 1-for-9 with RISP and left eight runners on base. Had Eovaldi struggled tonight, that could have bode Yankees terribly but luckily,

Nasty Nate!

Seven innings, two hits allowed, six strikeouts, no runs allowed and a big fat W. Eovaldi’s outing was very pleasing to watch. He seemed to be very comfortable with all four of his pitches. He was also inducing weak contact and grounders, generating a nice 62.5 ground ball percentage tonight.

As you may know, Eovaldi had a no-hitter bid going on until the seventh inning. Nomar Mazara, the Rangers’ young hot hitter, squeaked a single between Headley and Didi to get the first hit of the night for Texas. Adrian Beltre followed it up immediately with a GIDP so the situation didn’t become too dire for New York. Fielder hit a double to right to start something but Eovaldi retired Ian Desmond with a ground out. No real harm done.

After seven scoreless innings, Eovaldi faced only one hitter in the eighth (walked Mitch Moreland) and departed from the game after 98 pitches. There’s so much good about his start tonight and one of them is the fact that he’s the first Yankee starter to throw a pitch in the eighth inning this season (h/t Katie Sharp). For the season, he has a 28-5 K-BB ratio in 24.2 IP, which is quite nice. His season ERA sank from 6.11 to 4.38, which is getting close to his nice 3.54 FIP/2.98 xFIP. More starts like this, please.


Dellin Betances came in the eighth to relieve Eovaldi and… allowed a home run to C Brett Nicholas. It was a curve that wasn’t quite sharp and it ran right into Nicholas’ zone. That was his first career homer and, of course, he hit it off of Betances. Dellin finally got himself an ERA for the 2016 season (0.90 after tonight).

You know who has yet to have an ERA though? Andrew Miller. He earned the fifth save of the season after a clean ninth inning. He did not strike out anyone though. Bum!

I knew Headley wasn’t hitting well this season but it just occurred to me how bad he’s been. After tonight, the third baseman has a .157 avg with a .447 OPS. There are several adjectives to describe those two numbers and one of them is “putrid.” I do however, think he’s seeing the ball well, given on his 16.0% BB rate, which is several points higher than usual (10.1 %). Hitting a baseball well consistently is not easy – it’s so easy to fall into funk for an extended amount of time. The good news is that, players do generally find a way to normalize their performance to close to their talent level (see: 2015 Carlos Beltran) so I think I’ll just wait and see on Headley.

Box Score, Highlights, WPA and Standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings, WPA and video highlights.

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees are back at it again in Arlington tomorrow evening. Luis Severino will be on the mound versus A.J. Griffin. Big fastball versus high-80’s heat, hard slider versus Uncle Charlie – I’ll be waiting for it.

DotF: Swisher plays right field, goes deep in Scranton’s win

Some notes:

  • In case you missed it earlier, RHP James Kaprielian is going on the High-A Tampa DL with elbow inflammation. He will be “treated conservatively” and there’s no timetable for his return. Bummer.
  • In other in case you missed it earlier news, the Yankees have acquired LHP Phil Coke from the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. He’s heading to Triple-A Scranton.
  • The Yankees have signed RHP Luis Rodriguez, reports Matt Eddy. There are like a dozen Luis Rodriguezes playing baseball, so I have no idea which one they signed. The teenager from Mexico? The 33-year-old minor league journeyman? We’ll find out soon enough. Suspense!

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 R, 1 K — 11-for-26 (.423) in his last seven games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — 9-for-24 (.375) with four doubles, a triple, and a homer in his last six games
  • RF Nick Swisher: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — the homer was his third homer in ten games with the RailRiders, and Shane Hennigan says it was an opposite field job … this was his first game in right field, and Dave Rosengrant says Swisher made a leaping catch at the wall to end the game … it’s not a coincidence he is playing right field with Aaron Hicks and Alex Rodriguez banged up
  • LF Jose Rosario: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 5/6 GB/FB — 63 of 90 pitches were strikes (70%) … best start of the season for the RailRiders
  • RHP Vinnie Pestano: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — eleven of 18 pitches were strikes
  • LHP James Pazos: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — seven of eleven pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 18: Maybe They’ll Score Some Runs In Texas

How are they supposed to hit if they don't open their eyes? (Presswire)
How are they supposed to hit if they don’t open their eyes? (Presswire)

That nightmare of a nine-game homestand is finally over. Hard to believe I’m actually happy the Yankees are somewhere besides Yankee Stadium. That’s how bad the homestand was. The team is in Texas tonight for the first of three games against the Rangers, the defending AL West champs.

Needless to say, the offense needs to get its act together and soon. It looked like were on the right track Friday night, then they scored four runs total Saturday and Sunday. Not scoring runs stinks. There’s nothing less enjoyable than a struggling offense. It would be nice if they put up a ten-spot one of these days. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Dustin Ackleyfirst career start in right field
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It is sunny and warm in the Dallas area this evening. Temperatures are in the low-80s, so it’s not Texas hot just yet. Tonight’s series opener is going to begin at 8:05pm ET, and you can watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Injury Update: Alex Rodriguez (oblique) took batting practice prior to today’s game. The Yankees did not make a roster move, so they have a two-man bench tonight (Brian McCann and Ronald Torreyes). This is fineAaron Hicks (shoulder) played catch and is feeling better, but there is no firm timetable for his return … Branden Pinder (elbow) will indeed have Tommy John surgery. The procedure is scheduled for tomorrow.

Yankees bring back Phil Coke, send him to Triple-A


The Yankees have acquired Phil Coke from the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League, the team announced. He’s headed to Triple-A Scranton and will help replace some of the bullpen depth the Yankees lost when Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder, and Jacob Lindgren got hurt.

Coke, 33, was originally drafted and developed by the Yankees, and he was part of the 2009 World Series team before being included in the Curtis Granderson trade. Between Coke and Nick Swisher, the Yankees have a little 2009 reunion thing going on in Scranton. Neat.

In 12.2 innings last season Coke had a 5.68 ERA (4.48 FIP) with the Cubs and Blue Jays. Back in 2014, his last full season as a big leaguer, he had a 3.88 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 58 innings. He held lefties to a .255/.310/.381 (.308 wOBA) with a 22.8% strikeout rate and a 7.0 BB% that year. Coke allowed three runs in four innings with Lancaster.

As with Swisher, I don’t expect much out Coke this year — if a lefty had to resort to going to an independent league, scouts couldn’t have been too excited by what they saw — but there’s no harm in bringing him in as depth.

James Kaprielian heading to DL with elbow inflammation


Bad news: right-hander and top pitching prospect James Kaprielian is heading to the High-A Tampa DL, the Yankees announced. The team says he will be “treated conservatively” with rest and a throwing program, and there is no timetable for his return. The MRI showed no structural damage in his elbow, so that’s good.

Kaprielian, 22, has a 1.50 ERA (1.97 FIP) with 22 strike outs and three walks in 18 total innings this season. He’s been marvelous. Reports have indicated his fastball has jumped into the 94-96 mph range and even as high as 99 at times. It’s not uncommon for big velocity spikes to be followed by elbow problems, unfortunately.

The elbow injury and conservative rehab approach could very well erase any chance Kaprielian had at pitching in the big leagues this year. He was going to have to fly though the minors, and even then he would have been on some sort of innings limitation. Bah.