Yanks survive bullpen meltdown, beat Angels 8-7 in opener

Well that was way too stressful. The Yankees barely hung on to a seven-run lead in Friday’s series opening 8-7 win over the Angels. They were up 8-1 heading into the ninth. The bullpen melted down and the tying run was at third base when the final out was recorded. Goodness.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Two Runs Two Times
In theory, Jered Weaver is exactly the type of pitcher who would struggle at Yankee Stadium. He’s a big time fly ball pitcher with a mid-80s fastball, and, sure enough, he came into Friday’s start with an 8.17 ERA and seven homers allowed in four starts and 25.1 innings at the new ballpark in the Bronx. This is not the ballpark to live and die with the fly ball, that’s for sure. Ask Phil Hughes.

The Yankees took advantage of Weaver’s propensity for the air ball with a pair of two-run home runs juuust over the wall in right field. They were Yankee Stadium cheapies for sure. The first came from Stephen Drew in the second inning, who did a nice job staying back on a slow 60-something mph curveball after being fooled by one earlier in the at-bat. Mark Teixeira hit his two-run home run one inning later. That gave Nathan Eovaldi and the Yankees a nice early 4-0 lead.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Split
Eovaldi gave the Yankees 5.1 innings of one-run ball, and holy moly did he emphasize his relatively new splitter. PitchFX says Eovaldi threw 23 splitters in this game after throwing ten in his last start, seven in the start before that, and four in the start before that. Eovaldi got all four strikeouts on the splitter as well as a few other outs, including a pop-out and a soft line drive out by Mike Trout. This was definitely the most he’s used the pitch this season.

Eovaldi cruised for most of the game — he did have to pitch out of some bad defense-aided jams early — but the wheels came off rather quickly in the sixth inning. Yeah, the strike zone did seem to shrink, but Eovaldi lost the plate and walked three batters to load the bases with one out. No bueno. The three walks ended his night, and Chasen Shreve was able to limit the damage, escaping the inning with just one of the three inherited runners scoring. That was on a ground out too. Shreve was the unsung hero of the night for that inning.

I’m curious to see how Eovaldi uses his splitter going forward. Was this a one-time blip, or will it be a point of emphasis going forward? It was pretty effective for him on Friday night, and a pitch like that can really help him take that next step. Eovaldi threw the splitter so much in this game that I have to think it was intentional and something he is trying to improve. We’ll see.

Barely. (Presswire)
Barely. (Presswire)

Messy Ninth
The Yankees scored four insurance runs late in the game and they ended up needing them. Alex Rodriguez singled in a run in the fifth, Didi Gregorius plated a run with a sac fly in the sixth, Drew hit another home run in the sixth (solo), and Chris Young dunked a single into right to score another run in the seventh. They scored with homers, they scored with hits, they scored with sac flies, they scored in five of eight offensive innings. Great night for the offense, up and down the lineup. The top, middle, and bottom of the order all contributed.

Unfortunately, the bullpen really fell apart in the ninth inning. Esmil Rogers came in to face the bottom of the order with a seven-run lead — the Angels subbed out some of their regulars! — and was unable to retire any of the five batters he faced. Ridiculous. Dellin Betances had to come in with the bases loaded and no outs in the inning to clean up the mess. He allowed a two-run single to David Freese, walked Matt Joyce, walked Chris Iannetta with the bases loaded, struck out Kirk Nieuwenhuis, got Johnny Giavotella to hit into a run-scoring fielder’s choice, then struck out Carlos Perez with runners on the corners to end the game. Good grief.

The defense didn’t help Rogers — Jose Pirela and Chase Headley let a pop-up fall when it should have been the first out — but it did save the game with Betances on the mound. Gregorius made a nice play going to his right to snag Giavotella’s ground ball, keep it on the infield, and get the out at second. That ball was dangerously close to scooting into left field for a game-tying two-run single. Didi legitimately saved a run there. What a mess of an inning. Let us never talk about that again.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Every Yankee in the starting lineup had at least one hit except for Gregorius, who walked and had the sac fly. Brett Gardner had two hits, A-Rod had four hits (!), and Drew had his two homers. The Yankees tallied 14 hits total while striking out just three times.

A-Rod’s fifth inning single gave him 1,997 career RBI, passing Barry Bonds and taking over sole possession of second place on the official all-time RBI list. Only Hank Aaron (2,297) has more. Alex is now only nine hits away from 3,000 as well.

And finally, Dellin Betances has an ERA now. It’s 0.30, but still. That 0.00 ERA was fun while it lasted.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. This is the team’s 18th series of the season, and so far YES has used 13 different booth combinations. Crazy. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Angels will continue this three-game series with the second game on Saturday night. (Grumble grumble.) Adam Warren and Garrett Richards will be the pitching matchup. Warren is three months younger than Richards. Wouldn’t have guessed that. Anyway, head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or any other game on the homestand in person.

DotF: Hebert throws rare minor league complete game shutout in Tampa’s win

RHP Rookie Davis ranked third on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. I didn’t include him in today’s Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects but I should have. That’s a mistake. Davis is having a fantastic year with High-A Tampa and is really coming into his own (3.26 ERA and 1.86 FIP in 49.2 innings). Also, SS Jorge Mateo has hired Scott Boras, according to Jon Heyman. Nothing to worry about there. The Yankees aren’t poor.

Triple-A Scranton (10-2 win over Syracuse in eleven innings)

  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-5, 1 R, 2 RBI
  • C Austin Romine: 1-6, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 K
  • CF-RF Ben Gamel: 3-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI — threw a runner out at the plate … third homer of the year … his career high is four set back in 2013
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 K — left the game with an injury in the eighth
  • RHP Luis Severino: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 10/5 GB/FB — 56 of 94 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 2/0 GB/FB — 28 of 46 pitches were strikes (61%) … very nice second start at Triple-A
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 21 of 30 pitches were strikes (70%)

[Read more…]

Game 55: Back from the West Coast

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

That was a really uneven seven-game trip to the West Coast. The Yankees played poorly in losing two of three to the Athletics then had basically the best series ever while sweeping the Mariners. They pounded Felix Hernandez in the first game, had a dramatic ninth inning comeback in the second game, and watched Masahiro Tanaka dominate in his return from the DL in the third game. How could it get any better?

Thankfully, the Yankees are back home in the Bronx for a quick five-game homestand, starting tonight with the first of three against the Angels. The Halos had the best record in baseball a year ago but are kinda scuffling along this year. In fact, they have almost the same record as the Yankees. The Yankees are 29-25 and the Angels are 28-26. Anyway, here is Anaheim’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 Garrett Jones
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. LF Ramon Flores
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

The weather is kinda crummy in New York. It’s been raining on and off all day, though there’s nothing more than some drizzle in the forecast tonight. That’s good. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, depending where you live. Enjoy the game.

Rotation Update: The Yankees are skipping Michael Pineda‘s next start to control his workload. He isn’t hurt and will start next Friday. CC Sabathia will start on normal rest Sunday in Pineda’s place. The Yankees had an off-day yesterday and have off-days coming up on Monday and Thursday, so they can skip Pineda without needing a spot starter. Big Mike has already thrown 70.1 innings this year and is on pace for about 220 innings. He threw 76.1 innings last year and a career-high 171 innings back in 2011, before shoulder surgery.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) ran some sprints, took dry swings, and played catch today, the first time he’s performed any baseball activity since getting hurt … Ivan Nova (elbow) will make his first official minor league rehab start with High-A Tampa on Monday, the team announced. He is scheduled for 80-85 pitches and will make at least one more start after that before returning to the team … Carlos Beltran (foot) is still day-to-day after fouling that pitch off his foot in Seattle. He may be available to pinch-hit tonight … McCann (foot) got some new orthotics and tested his foot in the bullpen this afternoon. He’s fine and back in the lineup.

2015 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v5.0

Everett. (The Tennesseean)
Everett. (The Tennesseean)

It’s Friday, so Baseball America’s John Manuel published his weekly mock draft. As always, the mock draft is free to read. You don’t need a subscription. Manuel has the Diamondbacks selecting Georgia HS C Tyler Stephenson with the first overall pick, which differs from most recent mock drafts. Arizona’s been connected to Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson frequently the last few weeks.

Anyway, Manuel has the Yankees taking Cal Poly Pomona RHP Cody Ponce with the 16th overall pick and Tennessee HS RHP Donny Everett with the 30th overall pick. (The 30th pick is compensation for David Robertson.) The Yankees have been connected to both players in recent weeks — here are my profiles for Ponce and Everett — so these two mock draft picks are not surprising at all.

Manuel notes the Yankees are in New York HS OF Garrett Whitley (profile), and says they “can be aggressive with a tough sign” with their second pick thanks to their extra draft pool space. New York has a $7.885M bonus pool this year, sixth largest in baseball, so they can roll the dice on a tough to sign player knowing they have the extra money to spend.

The ‘extra’ flaw that could be costly for Yankees

mark-teixeira running
If there is one thing we’ve learned from the first two months of the season, it’s the AL East is probably the toughest division in the majors to handicap and try to predict a champion. Every team seems capable of both winning and losing the race, and there’s little separation between the top and bottom.

How do you explain a division where every team has spent at least five days in first place and no team has had a lead of more than four games? The current third-place team has by far the best run differential in the division, and the first-place team is less than two weeks removed from losing 10 games in an 11-game span.

What it all means that even the smallest statistical edge a team can gain over its rivals during the course of the season could be the difference between making the playoffs and playing golf in October.

Sure, a good rule in life is “don’t sweat the small stuff” — but in baseball, sometimes the “small stuff” can have a big impact on a team’s season.

Let’s take a look at one “small” weakness in the Yankees offense — a flaw that might end up only costing them a win or two, but could ultimately be a deciding factor in a division race that likely will come down to the final days of the season.

*******

Although the Yankees have tried to inject some much-needed youth and speed into lineup over the past few years, they still have the oldest average batters’ age in the major leagues this season (31.7 years old).

And, while those aging bats have largely been productive and healthy this season (hooray for 35-year-old Mark Teixeira and 39-year-old Alex Rodriguez!), one consequence of putting them in the lineup every day is that the team’s baserunning has suffered somewhat.

There are several aspects of baserunning — it’s not just about stealing bases, it also includes advancing on outs and taking the extra base on a hit. While the Yankees are above-average compared to the rest of the league in the first two components, they are among the worst teams in taking the extra base on a hit.

Per data at baseball-reference.com, the Yankees have taken an extra base — i.e. advancing more than one base on a single or more than two bases on a double — just one-third of the time. The only team with a lower rate this season is the White Sox (31 percent).

The biggest culprits on the Yankees are no surprise, with the lead-footed Mark Teixeira at the bottom, taking an extra-base on just six percent (!) of his opportunities. (MLB average: 40 percent.)

xbt stats

The Yankees also rank 27th in the majors in Baseball Prospectus’ Hit Advancement Runs metric, which estimates the number of runs above/below average that a baserunner contributes by advancing (or not advancing) on the basepaths via singles and doubles.

According to the stat, this “small” weakness has cost them 3.2 runs in 54 games this season. While that number might seem inconsequential now, it adds up to approximately 10 runs — equal to one crucial win — over the course of a 162-game season.

And that one win might end being the difference between first and second place in the AL East, the majors’ most competitive and up-for-grabs division race in 2015.

6/7 to 6/9 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

The Yankees are back home after their seven-game West Coast swing, and now a West Coast team is coming to visit the Bronx. The Angels will be in Yankee Stadium for three games this weekend. This will be the first meeting of the season between these two clubs, which have quite a bit of head-to-head history in the 2000s.

What Have The Angels Done Lately?

Like the Yankees, the Halos had an off-day yesterday as they traveled to New York. They lost their last two games to the Rays and two of three in the series overall earlier this week. Prior to that, manager Mike Scioscia’s team won six straight, including sweeping a four-game series from the reeling Tigers. The Angels are 28-26 with a +6 run differential overall. They’re a distant second to the Astros in the AL West. What a world.

Offense & Defense

After leading all of MLB in runs per game last season (4.77), the Angels are averaging just 3.96 runs per game with a team 96 wRC+ in 2015. That’s quite a step back. The Angels are healthy too. Their only injured position player is fourth OF Collin Cowgill (50 wRC+), who is on the DL with a wrist issue. He won’t return this series.

Trout. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Trout. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

As always, Scioscia’s offense is led by OF Mike Trout (160 wRC+), who continues to be baseball’s best all-around player. 1B Albert Pujols (129 wRC+) has gotten hot of late — Pujols has hit six homers in his last seven games — and personal fave OF Kole Calhoun (108 wRC+) is having a solid year. Same with 3B David Freese (105 wRC+), who’s already hit nine home runs after hitting ten all of last season.

2B Johnny Giavotella (109 wRC+) replaced Howie Kendrick and is making the most of his first extended taste of MLB, specifically with a bunch of big hits late in games and extra innings. Every time I turn on MLB.tv he’s driving in a run in the eighth or ninth it seems. SS Erick Aybar (89 wRC+) has been okay-ish but OF Matt Joyce (62 wRC+) has really struggled. C Chris Iannetta (68 wRC+) and C Carlos Perez (128 wRC+) are the catching tandem while Rule 5 Draft pick IF Taylor Featherston (-64 wRC+), UTIL Grant Green (17 wRC+), UTIL Efren Navarro (67 wRC+), and OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis (12 wRC+) are on the bench.

The Angels are a sound defensive club overall. Trout is a stud in center and Iannetta has graded out as a top notch pitch-framer this season, given them two great glove guys. Pujols is very good around the bag but doesn’t move as well as he once did, and Aybar is still very good at short. Calhoun and Giavotella are solid defenders but Joyce and Freese are pretty terrible. Nieuwenhuis is quite good in the field and he’s been playing regularly of late. The left side of the field is the place to hit it, towards Freese and Joyce.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. LAA) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (Career vs. NYY)
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the 32-year-old Weaver. He had a 6.29 ERA (5.80 FIP) in his first six starts and now has a 1.98 ERA (3.06 FIP) in his last five starts. It all works out to a 4.08 ERA (4.39 FIP) in 70.2 innings. Weaver doesn’t strike out (13.2%) or walk (3.5%) anyone, and his 40.0% ground ball rate is actually a career high. He’s always been an extreme fly ball/pop-up pitcher. His 1.27 HR/9 is also a career high, and lefties (.331 wOBA) are hitting him harder than righties (.298 wOBA). Weaver’s fastball legitimately sits in the mid-80s these days (look!), and he will throw the kitchen sink at you. Four-seamers, two-seamers, low-80s cutters, upper-70s sliders, upper-70s changeups, upper-60s curveballs … he throws everything like seven miles an hour slower than the average pitcher. Crazy.

Saturday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. LAA) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (Career vs. NYY)
Richards, 27, was a bonafide Cy Young candidate last season before he slipped covering his first base and shredded his knee in late-August, ending his year. He had surgery and missed the first few weeks of this season rehabbing. Richards has a 3.26 ERA (3.79 FIP) in nine starts and 58 innings since returning, though his strikeout (19.3%), walk (9.9%), and homer (0.62 HR/9) rates are all slightly worse than a year ago. He’s still getting a ton of grounders (54.5%) and is doing better against lefties (.242 wOBA) than righties (.308 wOBA), which was true last season as well. Richards throws very hard, sitting in the mid-90s with all three of his fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter) and complementing them with an upper-80s slider and a handful of upper-70s curves. He doesn’t throw a changeup at all.

Richards. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Richards. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. LAA) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (Career vs. NYY)
The Angels were willing to give Wilson away in the offseason, and now he’s arguably their most consistent pitcher, posting a 3.55 ERA (3.64 FIP) in eleven starts and 71 innings. His strikeout rate (19.1 K%), walk rate (8.2%), grounder rate (44.7%), homer rate (0.63 HR/9), and left/right splits (.244/.292 wOBA) are right in line with his career norms. Typical year for the 34-year-old southpaw. Wilson throws six pitches, including five at least 10% of the time. He offers low-90s two and four-seamers, an upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. The cutter is the sixth pitch. That one he’s thrown only 7% of the time this year.

Bullpen Status
The Angels had a solid bullpen last year (3.52 ERA and 3.40 FIP) when they had the best record in baseball, and Scioscia’s relievers are repeating that performance almost exactly (3.53 ERA and 3.41 FIP). Freaky. Setup man RHP Joe Smith (1.98 FIP) and closer RHP Huston Street (2.73 FIP) are a formidable duo at the end of games, and RHP Fernando Salas (2.44 FIP) has been a fine third wheel.

LHP Jose Alvarez (4.49 FIP) and LHP Cesar Ramos (3.69 FIP) are Scioscia’s two primary lefties, though neither is a true specialist. Both are starters by trade and can pitch full innings. LHP Edgar Ibarra (2.62 FIP) has two MLB innings under his belt and is currently in the “last man in the bullpen” role. RHP Cam Bedrosian (3.53 FIP) and RHP Matt Shoemaker (5.08 FIP) are the other two guys in the ‘pen. Shoemaker is actually in their rotation, but he’s really struggled this year (2.06 HR/9!) and the Halos are going to take advantage of some off-days to skip his spot. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers, then check out Halo Hangout for updates on the Angels.

2015 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Judge. (Times of Trenton)
Judge. (Times of Trenton)

The 2015 amateur draft begins Monday night, which means it’s time for my annual pre-draft update of the top 30 prospects in the Yankees’ system. Of the three top 30 lists I do each year, the pre-draft list by far my least favorite because it’s prone to small sample size overreactions and usually no new interesting prospects have joined the organization. So it’s the same players in a slightly different order, basically.

The only player to graduate from my Preseason Top 30 Prospects list to the big leagues so far this year is current backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. He crossed the 130 at-bat rookie eligibility threshold a few weeks ago. The Yankees haven’t made any trades yets this season, so no prospects were added or subtracted from the farm system since the preseason list.

Rather than simply present the pre-draft top 30 like I usually do, I’m going to try something a little different this time, and break the list up into groups. The players are still ranked 1-30, but are now grouped together based on common traits. Make sense? You’ll see what I mean. Each player is listed with his position, his age, and his rank on my preseason list. Let’s get to it.

The Top Two

1. OF Aaron Judge, 23 (Preseason Rank: 1)
2. RHP Luis Severino, 21 (Preseason Rank: 2)

At this point these two are clearly the two best prospects in the system. The order is debatable but not really — Judge has done nothing but mash as a pro and also will provide defensive value in right field. There are basically two flaws in his game. One, he is prone to striking out, partly because he’s so damn big and has such long arms. Two, he doesn’t hit for as much power as you’d expect because he has such a contact-focused approach. That’s the “my biggest weakness is I work too hard” of the prospect world.

Severino, on the other hand, is still working to refine his breaking ball and changeup — both of which are very promising yet far from consistent from start-to-start — as well as improve his delivery. The Yankees have moved Severino very aggressively through the system and I have little doubt he will reach MLB before Judge. I like Judge’s potential to be a long-term impact player more, however. Again, these two are the two best prospects in the system and the Yankees are lucky to have both. At this point Judge is the better bet though.

The Questionable Next Four

3. C Gary Sanchez, 22 (Preseason Rank: 3)
4. LHP Ian Clarkin, 20 (Preseason Rank: 4)
5. 1B Greg Bird, 22 (Preseason Rank: 5)
6. 3B Eric Jagielo, 23 (Preseason Rank: 12)

(Presswire)
Bird. (Presswire)

All four of these guys have a lot of upside and at least one significant flaw that holds them back from top prospect status. Sanchez’s defense continues to be a work in progress — the Yankees had him repeat Double-A this year so he could specifically work with ex-catchers/coaches P.J.Pilittere and Michel Hernandez — and while it is improving, it is improving very slowly. The Yankees are being patient. Jagielo’s issue is also his defense. He’s statuesque at the hot corner.

Clarkin and Bird have been hurt this year. In fact, Clarkin hasn’t pitched in an official game at all this season. He went down with elbow tendinitis in Spring Training and was reportedly pitching in Extended Spring Training games last month, but there have been no updates since. Hard not to think the worst at this point. Bird returned to the Double-A Trenton lineup last night after missing a month with a shoulder strain. Sanchez, Clarkin, Bird, and Jagielo all have a chance to be impact big league players, but none are a safe bets due to their noted flaws.

Young & Far Away

7. SS Jorge Mateo, 19 (Preseason Rank: 8)
8. C Luis Torrens, 19 (Preseason Rank: 6)
9. 3B Miguel Andujar, 20 (Preseason Rank: 7)
10. SS Tyler Wade, 20 (Preseason Rank: 20)

This is the “ultra-talented but many levels away from MLB” group. Wade is the big climber here because the kid does nothing but hit. He went into last night’s game with a .305/.348/.385 (124 wRC+) batting line in High Class-A, where he is two and a half years younger than the average Florida State League player. Wade doesn’t have any power, but as a left-handed hitting shortstop with good defensive chops and bat-to-ball ability, his stock continues to rise.

Mateo leads all of professional baseball in stolen bases this season and is as tooled up as any player in the system. He might be a little in over his head with Low-A Charleston at the moment, but he hasn’t been atrocious. Andujar is once again doing his “slow start at a new level” thing, which he’s done his entire career. He has the skills to be a two-way asset though. Torrens is out for the season, unfortunately. He tore his labrum and had surgery in Spring Training. That’s a pretty significant injury, but I love him as a player, so I have him in a holding pattern for the time being.

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

Ready To Help

11. 2B Rob Refsnyder, 24 (Preseason Rank: 13)
12. LHP Jacob Lindgren, 22 (Preseason Rank: 14)
13. RHP Bryan Mitchell, 23 (Preseason Rank: 15)
14. OF Ramon Flores, 23 (Preseason Rank: 22)
15. LHP Chasen Shreve, 24 (Preseason Rank: 26)

We’ve reached the MLB ready portion of the list, and in fact three of these guys (Lindgren, Ramon, Shreve) are in the big leagues at this very moment. Mitchell was up earlier this year and last year as well. Refsnyder could be called up pretty much any day now, though his defense at second is still questionable and he hasn’t wowed at the plate this season — he was hitting .277/.357/.375 (116 wRC+) prior to last night’s game. These guys don’t have the highest ceilings in the organization, but their MLB readiness and probability makes them all top 15 prospects in the system.

The Mixed Bag

16. OF Jake Cave, 22 (Preseason Rank: 19)
17. RHP Domingo German, 22 (Preseason Rank: 11)
18. OF Tyler Austin, 23 (Preseason Rank: 10)
19. RHP Austin DeCarr, 20 (Preseason Rank: 16)
20. RHP Brady Lail, 21 (Preseason Rank: 25)
21. SS Abi Avelino, 20 (Preseason Rank: 20)

The only thing this group has is common is … well nothing. They’re all Yankees, that’s it. Cave, Lail, and Avelino are all having good to great seasons — Lail and Avelino received early season promotions to Double-A Trenton and High-A Tampa, respectively — while Austin has really struggled with Triple-A Scranton. He battled injuries the last few seasons, but, as far as I know, he’s healthy now. Healthy and not hitting, which is a problem for a bat first prospect.

German and DeCarr have not pitched in an official game yet this season for different reasons. German, who came over from the Marlins in the Nathan Eovaldi/Martin Prado trade, blew out his elbow in Spring Training and needed Tommy John surgery. He’s out for the season, obviously. DeCarr, meanwhile, is hanging out in Extended Spring Training and will join one of the team’s four (!) short season affiliates when the various seasons start later this month. My guess is Short Season Staten Island. We’ll see.

Reclamation Prospects

22. OF Mason Williams, 23 (Preseason Rank: 29)
23. OF Slade Heathcott, 24 (Preseason Rank: 30)
24. RHP Jose Ramirez, 25 (Preseason Rank: 23)

Heathcott. (Presswire)
Heathcott. (Presswire)

We could also call this the Cautious Optimism group. All three are trying to rebuild their prospect stock. Williams was flat out terrible the last two seasons while Heathcott and Ramirez have battled injuries for years now. Williams got off to an excellent start in Double-A Trenton this year and was quickly promoted to Triple-A Scranton thanks in part to Heathcott. Heathcott had a great Grapefruit League showing, a great few weeks in Triple-A, and was called up to MLB last month. Ramirez has been Triple-A almost all year and is doing fine. Not great, not awful.

If prospect rankings were based on pure talent and upside, these three would be near the top of the list. But there’s also a probability component that has to be considered, and these guys are sorely lacking in that area. Williams is atop this group because his problems are makeup and work ethic related, and theoretically those issues are correctable. Injuries are much more difficult to overcome, especially the kind Heathcott and Ramirez have been through. Their natural talent keeps them in the top 30, but it’s hard to go any higher given their track records.

The Best of the Rest

25. SS Angel Aguilar, 19 (Preseason Rank: 21)
26. OF Leonardo Molina, 17 (Preseason Rank: 24)
27. LHP Jordan Montgomery, 22 (Preseason Rank: N/A)
28. RHP Ty Hensley, 21 (Preseason Rank: 18)
29. SS Thairo Estrada, 19 (Preseason Rank: 27)
30. RHP Danny Burawa, 26 (Preseason Rank: 28)

The last few spots are always the toughest because there isn’t a whole lot of separation between prospects at this level. It comes down to preference, not any sort of significant difference in talent level or anything like that. Aguilar, Molina, and Estrada are all still very young and talented, though they have combined to play a total of 33 games this season, all by Aguilar at Low-A Charleston. Molina and Estrada are still in Extended Spring Training.

Hensley takes a big fall because he’s hurt again. He had Tommy John surgery in March and is going to miss another full season. Due to hip, hernia, and elbow woes, the team’s first round pick in the 2012 draft will have thrown a total of 42.1 innings from 2012-15. Brutal. There’s just no way to get that development time back. I’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it’ll be very difficult for Hensley. Hopefully the elbow surgery is his last injury and he can finally start to accumulate some innings next year.

The only new name added to the list is Montgomery, who has predictably torn up the low minors after spending three years in the SEC as part of South Carolina’s rotation. He’s the kind of guy who won’t be tested until he gets to Double-A. Montgomery is cut from the David Phelps/Adam Warren cloth as a college starter with enough stuff and enough command to move quickly and stick around in MLB for a few years. The upside isn’t sky high, but back-end starters have to come from somewhere.