Fan Confidence Poll: November 7th, 2016

2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Weekend Open Thread

Friday: So, who’s ready for the first weekend without baseball since February? Blah, this stinks. This is the worst time of year, the time when I realize exactly how much baseball means to my everyday existence. This cartoon seems appropriate:

CharlieBrown

Fun fact: I played Charlie Brown in an elementary school play once. True story. Had a DIY yellow shirt with the zig zag and everything. Gosh that was a long time ago.

Anyway, the Yankees won the 2009 World Series seven years ago tonight, so that’s really cool. Use this open thread to talk about that, the upcoming offseason, tonight’s Knicks and Nets games, or anything else right here.

Saturday: Here is the open thread once again. The Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game is on tonight (8pm ET on MLB Network and MLB.com). Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, and Dillon Tate will all play at some point. Also, the three local hockey teams are in action, plus there’s college football on as well. Have at it.

Sunday: For the last time, here is the open thread. You’ve got all the day’s NFL action plus the Knicks, Rangers, and Devils are playing. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Why I Love Baseball

Hit lots of these today, please. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The most important question we can every ask is, simply, ‘why?’ When it comes to asking others, we’re usually pretty good at it. But, oftentimes, we fall short when it comes to asking ourselves that same question. That’s not to say we don’t self-examine about important things; however, how often do we really question why we love the leisure time activities we do? And when we do, the answers are usually pretty quick and with good reason; we’re resolute in our enjoyment of certain things and they’ve become second nature. This week, as the World Series ended, I found myself asking myself, “Why do I love baseball?” The question wasn’t meant to be an accusatory one; I’m not finding fault with myself or even the game–though I’m sure you could join me in some nitpicking about that. Rather, the question was meant as a reminder after a great Game 7 and a highly entertaining and enjoyable World Series.

FullSizeRender

The biggest reason I love baseball–and I’m sure this is the case for many of you–is that of the connection it facilitates between people. From my father and grandfather to my wife and (hopefully) my son, baseball has been a common link between all of us. Whether it was going to games with my dad (and mom and sister) or him watching me play or me going to his softball games or, eventually, us playing together a few times, the ball game has always been a strong link between us. When his father died in July of 2006, I dove into baseball as a coping mechanism and it led me to the intense love of the game that led me to writing. That writing led me to Twitter, where my wife and I first interacted and bonded over a love of baseball and the Yankees, and now five years later, we have a son whom we’ll do the best we can to raise in the “Yankees Only” lifestyle.

People are the most important things in our lives and the connections we have with them are at the base of that importance. For many people in my life, that connection is rooted in baseball. Even the game itself, not dictated by a clock or the passing of a clock, but the overlapping and transition of innings is about connection over time that so many of us find with the game from those that came before us and those that we will share the game with in the years to come.

As the years pass on, the connections I have to the game will remain based in the people around me, though in some sort of mirrored cycle in which I become my father and grandfather to my son (and any other kids we’re lucky enough to have) and eventual grandchildren. The connection, the cycle, will hopefully be unbroken because, dammit, I love baseball.

DotF: Miguel Andujar finishing season strong in AzFL

Later tonight, SS Gleyber Torres and RHP Dillon Tate will participate in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game (8pm ET on MLB Network). 3B Miguel Andujar will play in the game as well; he won the final roster spot through fan voting. Neat. Here are some links before this week’s update.

  • Jonathan Mayo spoke to Torres and OF Clint Frazier about watching Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller pitch this postseason. “Watching Miller dominate those hitters like that has been unreal. It kind of puts some pressure on you. You want to live up to the expectations,” said Frazier.
  • RHP James Kaprielian spoke to Chris Tripodi about his injury and the fear of Tommy John surgery. “After getting multiple opinions and understanding what was happening, that was the biggest thing. Obviously, as a pitcher, the thought crosses your mind,” he said.
  • J.J. Cooper polled scouts and created a master list of minor leaguers who hit 100 mph this year. There are 69 of them overall, including nine (!) Yankees. No other team has more than six. Tate, RHP Domingo Acevedo, RHP Domingo German, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, RHP Anyelo Gomez, RHP Ben Heller, RHP Luis Medina, RHP Freicer Perez, and RHP Daris Vargas are the nine. Three of them came over at the trade deadline.
  • And finally, George King reports third base coach/infielder instructor Joe Espada will head to the AzFL at some point to work with Torres for a week. Torres is in the process of learning second base to increase his versatility.

Arizona Fall League

  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 14 G, 15-46, 8 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 9 BB, 5 K (.326/.429/.413) — finishing the year strong, so that’s good to see
  • 1B Greg Bird: 14 G, 11-54, 7 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 10 BB, 13 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP (.204/.338/.370) — went 2-for-13 (.154) last week, which dragged his overall numbers down
  • IF Gleyber Torres: 12 G, 12-40, 20 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 11 BB, 5 K, 2 SB, 2 CS (.300/.451/.575) — pretty amazing he’s playing so well here … he’s only 19 and he played a full season in High-A before coming here, many kids this age are completely out of gas by time they get to the AzFL
  • UTIL Tyler Wade: 10 G, 5-32, 8 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 9 BB, 9 K, 6 SB (.156/.341/.219) — he’s played one game at second, two in left, four in center, and three in right … he’s also played four innings at third
  • LHP Nestor Cortes: 3 G, 3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K (12.00 ERA and 3.00 WHIP)
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 7 G, 9 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 10 K (4.00 ERA and 1.89 WHIP) — so the link above says he hit 100 mph this summer … I had no idea he threw that hard
  • RHP James Kaprielian: 5 G, 5 GS, 18.1 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 4 BB, 17 K, 3 HR (3.93 ERA and 1.20 WHIP) — the season ends on the 17th, so he has two starts left
  • RHP Brody Koerner: 4 G, 2 GS, 11 IP, 14 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 7 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 1 WP (8.18 ERA and 1.91 WHIP) — the AzFL: not a pitcher’s league
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 6 G, 9.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 2 HR 2 HB (3.86 ERA and 1.07 WHIP)

Dominican Winter League

  • IF Abi Avelino: 6 G, 1-10, 1 R, 2 K (.100/.100/.100)
  • SS Jorge Mateo: 10 G, 5-34, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HBP (.147/.194/.235) — he’s been playing shortstop exclusively, no second base or center field
  • OF Cesar Puello: 6 G, 3-10, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 4 BB (.300/.500/.400) — the Yankees didn’t add him to the 40-man roster yesterday, which indicates they’ll let him become a minor league free agent Monday
  • RHP Adonis Rosa: 2 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (0.00 ERA and 0.40 WHIP)
  • UTIL Jose Rosario and RHP Anyelo Gomez are both listed on rosters as well, but they haven’t appeared in a game yet.

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Tito Polo: 14 G, 14-53, 11 R, 4 2B, 1 RBI, 4 B, 15 K, 8 SB, 1 CS, 3 HBP (.264/.350/.340) — he got hurt in Tuesday’s game and hasn’t played since, so that’s not good
  • C Sebastian Valle: 15 G, 12-53, 5 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 19 K, 1 HBP (.226/.323/.340)

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) started its season last week. IF Cito Culver, IF Vince Conde, and OF Aaron Judge are all listed on rosters, though they haven’t played yet. And they might not.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • IF Angel Aguilar: 6 G, 2-7, 3 R, 3 K (.286/.286/.286)
  • C Francisco Diaz: 17 G, 11-51, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 11 K, 1 SB (.216/.259/.333) — poised to be the new Kyle Higashioka in that he’ll bounce around to the different levels depending on which team needs a catcher at any given time
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 3 G, 1 GS, 8.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 1 GB, 2 WP (5.40 ERA and 1.56 WHIP)
  • RHP David Kubiak: 4 G, 2 GS, 11.2 IP, 14 H, 13 R, 11 ER, 7 BB, 11 K, 1 HR, 1 HB, 2 WP (8.49 ERA and 1.80 WHIP)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 5 G, 3.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K (7.36 ERA and 1.91 WHIP)
  • LHP Miguel Sulbaran, RHP Daniel Alvarez, 3B Daniel Barrios, RHP Alex Mejias, 3B Andres Chaparro, OF Andres Fernandez, and C David Vergel are all listed on rosters as well.

Yankees add Kyle Higashioka, Domingo German to 40-man roster

Higashioka. (Times Tribune)
Higashioka. (Times Tribune)

The Yankees made their first roster moves of the offseason earlier today. Both catcher Kyle Higashioka and right-hander Domingo German were added to the 40-man roster, the team announced. Dustin Ackley, Nathan Eovaldi, Chad Green, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow were all activated off the 60-day DL as well.

Brian Cashman confirmed Higashioka would be added the 40-man roster a few weeks back. The 26-year-old backstop broke out with a .272/.339/.496 (131 wRC+) batting line with 21 home runs in 110 games between Double-A and Triple-A this past season, plus he’s a strong defender. Higashioka would have become a minor league free agent had the Yankees not added him to the 40-man.

German, 24, came over in the Eovaldi-Martin Prado trade a few years ago. He missed all of last season and the start of this season following Tommy John surgery, and when he returned this year, he had a 3.29 ERA (3.82 FIP) with a 19.6% strikeout rate and a 5.9% walk rate in 54.2 Single-A innings. Like Higashioka, German was eligible for minor league free agency this offseason.

Ackley (shoulder), Eovaldi (elbow), Pinder (elbow), and Rumbelow (elbow) all missed big chunks of the season with their injuries. Green (elbow) got hurt in September. There is no DL in the offseason, so these guys had to be activated. The deadline to do so is Monday, though waiting the few extra days would have made no difference. The Yankees made the moves today and that’s that.

As best I can tell, the Yankees still have one open 40-man roster spot after losing Conor Mullee on waivers yesterday. I’ve kinda lost count after all the team’s recent moves. Mullee, Blake Parker, Anthony Swarzak, Kirby Yates, Donovan Solano, and Eric Young Jr. have all been dropped since the 40-man since the end of the regular season.

The Two Bench Mainstays [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Because baseball is so competitive these days, a strong bench is imperative for success. You can’t win with just eight or nine quality position players. Teams need good bench players capable of filling in without much of a drop off in production. That depth is often the difference between good teams and great teams. We see it every season.

As usual, the Yankees cycled through several different bench players this season due to injuries and ineffectiveness and whatnot. Two players remained on the bench all year though: Austin Romine and Ronald Torreyes. Neither was a lock to make the team out of Spring Training, and yet, they stayed on the big league roster all season. You really can’t predict baseball, huh?

The Backup Catcher

A year ago Romine was barely on the big league radar. He was designated for assignment last Spring Training and slipped through waivers unclaimed, and when September 1st rolled around, he was among the first wave of call-ups only because Gary Sanchez‘s hamstring was barking. The year before Romine wasn’t called up until Francisco Cervelli got hurt in mid-September.

The Yankees kept Romine on the 40-man roster all offseason and brought him to Spring Training as backup catcher competition for Sanchez this year. They didn’t want to just hand the backup job to Sanchez. They wanted to make him work for it, and Romine (and I guess Carlos Corporan) was the alternative. Then a weird thing happened: Romine thoroughly outplayed Sanchez in Spring Training and won the backup job.

The combination of Romine outhitting Sanchez in camp (.289/.308/.474 vs. .091/.259/.136) and their roster statuses (Romine was out of options, Sanchez had one left) tipped the scales in Romine’s favor. It’s tough to think the Yankees made the wrong decision in hindsight too. Sanchez thrived in the second half after some more minor league seasoning and Romine turned in a decent year as the backup catcher.

As expected, Romine didn’t play a whole lot early in the season. The Yankees stuck with Brian McCann because he was the clear cut starter, and also because they were really struggling to score runs early on and wanted their best players in the lineup as often as possible. Romine started only five of the team’s first 22 games. His best month was May, when he went 12-for-37 (.324) with four doubles and a homer. That includes a 3-for-4 game with two doubles and two runs driven in against the Red Sox on May 7th.

Romine also went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs in a game against the Rays later in the month. His bat cooled down after that — Romine went 17-for-84 (.202) with three homers from June 1st through August 31st — before a nice little finish in late September. He had a pair of two-hit games within his final four starts. By then Sanchez had established himself as the starting catcher, so playing time was hard to come by.

All told, Romine hit .242/.269/.382 (68 wRC+) with three home runs in 176 total plate appearances this year, which stinks in general but is basically right on par with the league average backup catcher. He was surprisingly excellent with runners in scoring position, hitting .364/.354/.477 (111 wRC+) in those spots. I do love OBP > AVG batting lines. That’s what three sac flies and one walk will do for you.

Defensively, the numbers don’t match Romine’s reputation. He only threw out 16.7% of basestealers — to be fair, it’s a more respectable 22.2% if you remove Dellin Betances, who doesn’t hold runners — and both StatCorner (-3.8) and Baseball Prospectus (-1.9) say he cost the Yankees runs with his pitch-framing. FRAA, which is BP’s attempt at an all-encompassing catcher defense metric, rated Romine at -3.2 runs overall behind the plate.

It’s tough to gauge backup catcher defense with the eye test because they play so sparingly, though Romine does seem like a classic Nichols Law catcher. He doesn’t hit much, so his defensive reputation gets talked up. Romine will turn 28 later this month and he is what he is at this point. He’s a decent enough backup option. Someone you can stash behind a starter like McCann or Sanchez, who will play as much as possible. Not someone you want to platoon or use as part of a two-catcher timeshare.

Romine filled in capably early in the season as the Yankees gave Sanchez those extra reps in Triple-A. It’s hard to see how Austin fits into the team’s long-term plans. Heck, he might not even make it through the offseason. Sanchez isn’t going anywhere, I’d say the odds are against a McCann trade, plus Kyle Higashioka is being added to the 40-man roster. Romine had a decent enough season in 2016, yet his roster spot is not terribly secure.

The Backup Infielder

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The last 18 months have been pretty hectic for Torreyes. The poor guy has changed organizations five times since last May. Here is his transactions log.

  • May 15th, 2015: Traded by Astros to Blue Jays for cash.
  • June 12th, 2015: Traded by Blue Jays to Dodgers for cash.
  • January 12th, 2016: Traded with Tyler Olson by Dodgers to Yankees for Rob Segedin.
  • January 25th, 2016: Claimed off waivers by Angels.
  • February 1st, 2016: Claimed off waivers by Yankees.

Astros to Blue Jays to Dodgers to Yankees to Angels to Yankees. Five transactions and four different teams. And yet, Torreyes remained on the big league roster all season in 2016. Usually guys who bounce around that much in a short period of time don’t stick in the big leagues. Torreyes did.

Of course, Torreyes had to win a job in Spring Training first. He was up against Rob Refsnyder and Pete Kozma (and some others) for the backup infielder’s job, and Torreyes won it because he hit well enough in camp and offered the most defensive versatility. Simply put, Torreyes could out-hit Kozma and out-defend Refsnyder, so he made the team out of Spring Training.

Baseball America ranked Torreyes as the No. 26 prospect in the Dodgers’ farm system last offseason and we saw exactly what was in their scouting report this season:

Though he is 5-foot-7 with physical limitations, his bat control is terrific. He has a simple stroke, getting his body in position to create a swing that stays on plane through the hitting zone. That allows him to consistently find the barrel. He has a solid eye but doesn’t draw a ton of walks, while his well below-average power limits his impact. An average runner, he’s played at shortstop and third base, but his best fit is second, where he’s a solid defender with an average arm.

That perfectly describes Torreyes. That’s exactly him. Torreyes had an 11.9% strikeout rate and an 86.0% contact rate this season, both of which were far better than the league averages (21.1% and 78.1%). That contact ability allows him to go on ridiculous BABIP-fueled hot streaks. Torreyes went 8-for-17 (.471) with a double and a triple to start the season. He then went 14-for-26 (.538) with six doubles and a homer during an eight-game span in late-August.

With those insane hot streaks came long cold streaks as well. In fact, from May 1st through August 14th, an arbitrarily selected stretch of 95 team games, Torreyes hit .158/.238/.228 (25 wRC+) in 63 plate appearances. He didn’t hit and he didn’t play. I mean, 63 plate appearances in 95 games! And he was healthy and on the roster for all of them too. At one point Torreyes appeared in only six of 31 games.

Torreyes wasn’t playing for a few reasons, most of which weren’t hit fault. Chase Headley was very good after April, so it was tough to take him out of the lineup. Didi Gregorius was generally awesome all year, so it was tough to take him out of the lineup too. Starlin Castro had an insane hot streak to open the new season and that bought him a lot of rope. It was hard for Joe Girardi to take one of those guys out of the lineup with the Yankees needing wins.

Overall, Torreyes hit .258/.305/.374 (81 wRC+) this season, which is the most backup infielder batting line possible. I’m pretty sure every backup infielder is contractually obligated to hit .250-something/.300-something/.370-something. Ronnie also did the little things at the plate, like protect the runner on a steal attempt.

Ronald Torreyes swing

Torreyes didn’t strike out (11.9%), didn’t walk (6.0%), didn’t hit for power (.116 ISO), and didn’t steal bases (2-for-3). Only one of those things is a good thing. It’s tough to rack up big stolen base totals as a reserve player, though Torreyes did steal 12+ bases a bunch of times in the minors. It would be cool if he ran more next year.

It’s very easy to like Torreyes because he plays with a ton of energy and is short little guy. He and Gregorius had this thing where Didi would pick Torreyes up so he could high-five teammates after they hit home runs. It was pretty awesome.

Aaron Judge Ronald Torreyes

Torreyes is a classic underdog. He’s a little guy who doesn’t hit for power and has been in four different organizations in the last 18 months. You can’t help but root for him, especially when you see him go on one of his insane hot streaks. He’s a good bench player. That’s what he is. There’s not enough here to start — he’d have to start hitting for power or stealing a lot more bases, something like that — but Torreyes is a guy worth having on the bench.

I don’t think you can ever say a bench player is locked into a roster spot on next year’s team in November. Roles like this feature an awful lot of turnover. Torreyes is clearly the favorite to be the utility infielder again next season though. That’s not a stretch. Refsnyder and others might get a crack at the job in camp, as they should. Competition is a good thing. Torreyes did a fine job as the backup infielder this past season and there’s a chance he might stick around for a little while in that role.