Game 109: My Kingdom For Some Runs

(David Maxwell/Getty)
(David Maxwell/Getty)

The 2017 season is now two-thirds of the way complete. The Yankees begin the final third of the season tonight three games back in the AL East and 1.5 games up on a wildcard spot, which isn’t a bad place to be. Could be better, could be worse. Beats being several games out like the last few years.

Now the Yankees just need to offense to snap back into shape. They’ve scored six runs in their last four games, all losses, and three of those four games were started by Anibal Sanchez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Trevor Bauer. Yuck. Struggling to score against those guys would be understandable in, like, 2013. Not 2017. End the losing streak, fellas. Here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. DH Gary Sanchez
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

It is cool and partly cloudy in Cleveland this evening. Not a bad night for baseball, aside from the fact it’s Saturday. Weekend night games are the worst. Anyway, tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Matt Holliday tweaked his lower back taking a swing last night and could be placed on the disabled list. I look forward to the Yankees played shorthanded for three or four days before putting Holliday on the disabled list, then rushing Aaron Hicks back from his rehab assignment to fill the roster spot.

Saturday Links: Payroll, Bird, New CBA Details, YES Network

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Indians will continue their four-game series with the third game later today, though not until 7pm ET. Man do I hate Saturday night games. I might have mentioned that a few times over the years. Anyway, here’s some news and notes to check out.

Payroll is frozen for 2017

According to Bob Klapisch, Hal Steinbrenner has told Brian Cashman payroll will remain frozen for the remainder of the season. The Yankees took on quite a bit of salary at the trade deadline in David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Sonny Gray, though they got the Twins to eat the remainder of Jaime Garcia‘s contract. Apparently that’s it though. No more payroll can be added this season.

Two things about this. One, if payroll is indeed frozen, the Yankees aren’t going to get the bat(s) they pretty clearly need. Well, no, that’s not necessarily true. It just means they’d have to give up better prospects to get the other team to pay the remainder of the player’s salary. And two, man I hate hearing payroll is frozen. I mean, it’s Hal’s team and he can do whatever he wants, but the division is so winnable and the Yankees have played one postseason game since 2012, and they won’t take on more money if necessary? Blah.

Bird still the long-term first baseman

Not surprisingly, Cashman confirmed to Joel Sherman that Greg Bird remains the club’s first baseman of the future, even after his ankle surgery and what is essentially another lost season. That’s why they didn’t look for long-term first base help at the deadline like they did rotation and bullpen help. They sought out rentals only and, obviously, came up empty.

Bird, who will turn 25 in November, has resumed hitting following surgery and it’s possible he will rejoin the Yankees later this month. I never really expected the Yankees to pivot away from Bird as their first baseman going forward. They clearly love him, and they’re going young wherever possible, so it makes sense to try him again. Clearly though, the Yankees will need some sort of first base protection. Basically what Chris Carter couldn’t provide this year

New CBA includes draft penalties for payroll

MLB and the MLBPA finally completed the Collective Bargaining Agreement and got everything in writing last month, and according to J.J. Cooper, there’s a provision that levies draft pick penalties based on team payroll. Simply put, spend more than $237M on player payroll, and your top draft pick gets pushed back ten spots. From Cooper:

But the penalties really kick in for a team that spends more than $237 million in 2018. Not only will the franchise be hit with a 42.5 percent or 45 percent surcharge tax on top of the competitive balance tax, but the team will also see its first draft pick dropped 10 spots. That pick is protected, but that protection is relatively meaningless, as the penalty is applied to the team’s second draft pick only if it’s one of the top six picks in the draft. It would be hard to envision a team finishing with a top-six pick (meaning it had one of the six worst records in baseball) with a $237-plus million payroll.

These penalties are on top of the luxury tax penalties. So if your payroll exceeds $237M, you have to pay the luxury tax and your top draft pick gets moved back. Now a $237M payroll is substantial — the Yankees have only topped that twice ($237.1M in 2013 and $243.8M in 2016) — though salaries and revenues around baseball are only going up. It wouldn’t take much for many teams to get to $237M within the next two or three years. This new CBA is pretty terrible for the players. There are so may mechanisms in place designed to suppress salaries.

International play coming in 2018

As part of the new CBA, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to move 13 series to foreign countries from 2018-21, reports Bill Shaikin. Commissioner Rob Manfred has made it no secret he wants to grow the game globally and this is one way to do it. Here, via Shaikin, are the international play details:

  • 2018: Opening series in Asia, April series in Mexico, May series in Puerto Rico.
  • 2019: Opening series in Asia, April and May series in Mexico, June series in the United Kingdom.
  • 2020: Opening series in Asia, April series in Mexico, May series in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, June series in the United Kingdom.
  • 2021: April and May series in Mexico.

The Yankees, as the most popular team in baseball and one of the most recognizable brands in the world, will inevitably be sucked into a few of these series. That’s not per Shaikin’s report. That’s just me saying. When you’re playing games overseas and trying to increase interest in baseball, you send the Yankees because people are going to pay attention. I foresee a trip to Asia and Mexico in the team’s future.

YES ratings up considerably in first half

Not surprisingly, the young and exciting (and contending!) Yankees have led to a substantial increase in YES Network ratings. Ratings were up 57% in the first half this season, including a 73% increase in the ages 18-49 demographic. YES has already had 18 games this year with a higher rating than the best game last year — Monday night’s game against the Tigers was the network’s highest rated game since Derek Jeter‘s final game at Yankee Stadium in 2014 — and ratings overall are the best in five years. Build a team with good young players, and people watch. Ratings are up now. Soon attendance will shoot up as well.

Losing streak hits four as Yankees fall 7-2 to Indians

Four-game losing streak. The Yankees have scored six runs in those four games. It was abundantly clear which team went to World Series last year and which team has played one postseason game in the last four years Friday night. The Yankees were out-hit, out-pitched, out-defended, out-everything-ed in the 7-2 loss to the Indians. The Yankees are now 39-42 in their last 81 games.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Garcia’s Debut
Rough first start for Jaime Garcia, though his defense did him no favors. For the second straight night the right-fielder made an ill-advised throw and allowed a runner to score when the ball skipped away. Thursday night Clint Frazier‘s throw was airmailed into the dugout. Friday night Aaron Judge‘s throw short-hopped Todd Frazier at third and hopped into foul territory. Also, the Indians scored a run on a Gary Sanchez passed ball.

Garcia’s biggest problem was the walks and the lack of control in general. He walked four batters in his 4.2 innings and threw a first pitch strike to only ten of the 22 batters he faced. The Indians had five hits against Garcia and all five were ground balls. Only three of those 22 batters hit the ball to the outfield. Normally, that’s a good thing. When you keep walking dudes and the grounders keep finding holes, it’s probably a bad thing.

All told Garcia allowed six runs (five earned) on five hits and four walks in those 4.2 innings. He struck out four. He’s better than that. Gotta stop walking dudes though. Keep getting those grounders, hope the defense gets its collective head out of its butt, and go from there.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees Need A Bat (Or Three)
Of course, Garcia could have gone out and allowed two runs in eight innings Friday night, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Another miserable night for the offense, this time against another bad pitcher. Trevor Bauer came into this start with a 5.25 ERA (3.90 FIP) on the season. He held the Yankees to one run in seven innings. The run was a Todd Frazier opposite field solo homer. Thanks for coming, Todd.

Getting shut down by Corey Kluber like the Yankees did on Thursday is one thing. Kluber’s great and he’s gonna have starts like that against everyone. Tip your cap and move on. But Bauer? And Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann? Those three have a 5.33 ERA in 299 combined innings this season. They held the Yankees to three runs in 20.2 innings these last four days. Impressively pathetic job by the offense.

The Yankees had their best chance to really get on the board in the fifth inning, after Frazier’s homer. Two singles (Ronald Torreyes and Brett Gardner) and a walk (Judge) loaded the bases with two outs, but Sanchez went fishing for a curveball and struck out to end the inning. The score was 4-1 at the time. Gardner singled in a run with two outs in the ninth. Too little, too late is an understatement. The offense needs an exorcism.

Great play is great. (Presswire)
Great play is great. (Presswire)

Leftovers
Believe it or not, the Yankees had eleven hits in the ballgame. Eleven hits and somehow only five at-bats with runners in scoring position. Scattered hits, they were. Gardner, Torreyes, Old Frazier, Didi Gregorius, and Chase Headley each had two hits. Judge had the other hit. He went 1-for-2 with two walks and looked more comfortable at the plate than he has in weeks. Hopefully his slump is coming to an end.

Matt Holliday, meanwhile, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and is now hitting .138/.202/.248 in his last 31 games and 129 plate appearances. He has no business being in the lineup. Young Frazier went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and is 5-for-34 (.147) in his last eight games. That eight-game slump is going to be the justification for sending him to Triple-A when Aaron Hicks is ready even though Holliday should be the one to go. Not a doubt in my mind.

Mop-up man Chad Green was electric out of the bullpen, striking out five of the eight batters he faced in his 2.1 scoreless innings. Green now has a 1.74 ERA (2.29 FIP) with a 38.9% strikeout rate in 46.2 innings this year. He’s been so good. Tommy Kahnle got touched up for a run in his inning of work. Good he got out of his system now rather than the next time the Yankees have a lead, which should be sometime in 2018.

And finally, the Yankees had a runner thrown out at the plate on a truly phenomenal play by Indians third baseman Giovanny Urshela. Here’s the video. I’m not even going to try to describe it. Just watch. The Yankees have been playing like crap but I can’t fault anyone for anything there. Just an outstanding play by Urshela. Maybe the best defensive play turned against the Yankees this year.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The box score and updated standings are at ESPN and the video highlights are at MLB.com. We have a Bullpen Workload page too. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Saturday night, in the third game of his four-game series. That’s a 7pm ET start. Jordan Montgomery and Danny Salazar as the scheduled starting pitchers.

DotF: Austin hits walk-off homer in second rehab game

Here are the day’s notes:

  • LHP Justus Sheffield (oblique) has started throwing, reports Kyle Franko. He made 50 throws from 60 feet on flat ground. There is no timetable for Sheffield’s return, though the fact he’s throwing is good news. Maybe Sheffield will go to the Arizona Fall League to make up for the lost innings.
  • C Kyle Higashioka (back) has been throwing and the hope is he will get back into games within a week, according to Conor Foley and D.J. Eberle. Between the injuries and spending a month sitting on the big league bench, Higashioka has only 73 plate appearances this season. That’s not good.
  • Two Yankees on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet: OF Billy McKinney (14th ) and 3B Dermis Garcia (20th). Also, RHP Deivi Garcia was the Helium Watch player. “He’s a smaller righthander with a big arm. His fastball has touched as high as 96 mph in the past, and he’s shown feel to spin a curveball as well,” said the write-up.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Pawtucket, walk-off style)

  • LF-CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 K — now a 19-game hitting streak
  • CF Aaron Hicks: 0-3, 2 K — played seven innings in his third rehab game, as scheduled
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI — hitting streak is up to 17 games … I think the odds are pretty darn good he would outhit Matt Holliday from right now through the end of the season
  • DH Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — walk-off two-run homer
  • RF Billy McKinney & 1B Garrett Cooper: both 0-3
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 47 of 69 pitches were strikes (68%), and Conor Foley says he generated 19 (!) swings and misses
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 25 of 33 pitches were strikes (76%)
  • RHP Ben Heller: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 19 of 27 pitches were strikes (70%) … really wish all those big league innings that went to Holder earlier this year had gone to Heller instead

[Read more…]

Game 108: Jaime’s Debut

(Jim McIsaac/Getty
(Jim McIsaac/Getty

Last night Sonny Gray made his Yankees’ debut. Tonight Jaime Garcia will do the same. Garcia came over from the Twins last Sunday and, thanks to the Gray trade, his role going forward is a little undecided. Fifth starter? Long reliever? Both are possible. Depends what the Yankees want to do with Jordan Montgomery, and what’s going on with Montgomery’s and Luis Severino‘s innings limits.

Some fun facts: Garcia will be the first pitcher to start a game for three different teams in one season since Byung-Hyun Kim in 2007. Completely forgot he started for a while. Kim started for the Rockies, Marlins, and Diamondbacks that year. Also, Garcia will be the first pitcher to make three consecutive starts for three different teams since Gus Weyhing in 1895. 1895! Just score some runs and win a game, please. Here’s the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Clint Frazier
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. DH Matt Holliday
  7. 1B Chase Headley
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP Jaime Garcia

Another cool and cloudy day in Cleveland, though there’s no rain in the forecast, and that’s all that matters. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.

Jake Cave may have a future in pinstripes after all

(Courtesy of Max Kassan)
(Courtesy of Max Kassan)

While the Yankees are undeniably improved from their deadline moves, the underrated part of Brian Cashman‘s trades are the 40-man roster spots it opens for this upcoming year. With Yefry Ramirez, Dietrich Enns, Jorge Mateo, Zack Littell, Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo and Dustin Fowler all gone, that helps lessen the 40-man roster crunch the Yankees were going to deal with after the season. Plenty of players would have been lost for no return, so Cashman acted.

One player who could directly benefit is Jake Cave. Cave, 24, was left off the 40-man this past year because he was expendable and seemed like he may be on his way out of the organization. After all, he’d hit .261/.323/.401 in his first extended taste of Triple-A and the acquisition of outfield depth made Cave the odd man out. However, the other 29 teams passed on him as a second-time Rule 5 pick and he remained a Yankee for the time being.

But this year has been different. Splitting his time between Trenton and Scranton, he’s done nothing but hit. In 171 PAs in Scranton, he’s batted .376/.427/.682 while hitting 12 home runs, more than he had posted in any entire season until now. In total, he’s hit .326/.377/.607 with 42 extra-base hits. That’s just one fewer XBH than last season in 159 fewer PAs. His strikeout rate remains about the same with a slight uptick in his walk rate while his home run per fly ball rate has skyrocketed. Maybe some of the power is a mirage, but he’s increased his flyball and line drive rates as well. Seeing him in person last week vs. a year ago around this time, he appears to have better command of the strike zone.

If you’re going to have a player repeat a level, you need them to show improvement and he’s clearly taken a step forward. He can play all three outfield positions well and now has shown the hit tool necessary to receive a look.

Where he benefits from this year’s deadline is the lessening of the Yankees’ outfield depth. Mateo, Fowler, Polo are no longer obstacles. Neither are Rob Refsnyder or Mason Williams, the latter who is still in the system but off the 40-man. The organization has five full-time OFs on the 40-man roster (Gardner, Ellsbury, Hicks, Judge and Frazier) and Tyler Wade as a utility man. At least one of the veterans, likely Ellsbury, could be gone this offseason, leaving room for a backup outfielder, or at least someone waiting in the wings in Scranton.

Billy McKinney complicates things. Acquired in last year’s Aroldis Chapman deal, McKinney is nearly two full years younger, comes with a higher pedigree (former top 100 prospect and first round pick) and has more power potential. Also a lefty, McKinney has hit nearly as well as Cave in his small sample with Scranton, hitting seven home runs and batting an impressive .343/.385/.676 in 110 PAs. Not bad for someone three weeks shy of turning 23. Cave’s calling card over McKinney is his ability to play center more often.

But there could be room for both on the 40-man, one in the majors and one in the minors, whereas both were borderline roster candidates at best prior to this deadline. The Yankees could utilize Gardner, Hicks, Judge and Frazier in the three OF spots and the DH role, leaving Wade and one of McKinney or Cave to back them up.

Cave went unprotected last season for good reason and there’s reason to believe the team didn’t see a future in the organization for the 2011 6th round pick. He’s a minor league free agent after this season, so adding him to the 40-man is the only way to keep him under team control. But that could now be in the cards, both with his performance and thanks to factors outside his control. As improbable as it may have seemed even a month ago, there may just be a role for Cave to play for the Yankees.

2017 Post-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Frazier. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Frazier. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Each year, soon after the draft signing deadline, I update my top 30 Yankees prospects list to welcome in all the new draftees. This year the signing deadline fell on a Friday, so I decided to wait until the next Friday to release the post-draft top 30 prospects list. Then the Yankees went out and made the big trade with the White Sox, so I decided to hold off until after the trade deadline because it felt like some stuff was about to go down.

Sure enough, it did. In addition to that big trade with the White Sox, the Yankees also used top 30 prospects to acquire Jaime Garcia and Sonny Gray in the days and hours leading up to Monday’s trade deadline. Six potential top 30 prospects were traded away in those deals. Eight of my preseason top 30 prospects are no longer eligible for the list, either because they’ve been traded away or graduated to MLB. Stunning turnover in just a few months.

And yet, the Yankees still have one of the better farm systems in baseball. They came into the season with arguably the best system — the consensus ranking was No. 2 behind the Braves — and just yesterday MLB.com ranked New York’s system the third best in baseball. Baseball America had them seventh. That’s even after all the trades and graduations. They still have some high-end talent, plus tons of depth. There are players who project to be everyday big leaguers outside of my top 30.

So, now that the trade deadline has passed and the dust has settled, it’s time to update my top 30 Yankees prospects. I’ve included each player’s pre-draft ranking for reference, and for fun, I included where each of the traded prospects would have slotted in had they not been traded. I get a lot of “where would this guy rank if he were still in the system?” questions, so I figured I’d answer those right in the list. Here’s my latest top 30. Feel free to make fun of it.

The Top Tier

1. SS Gleyber Torres, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 1)
2. OF Clint Frazier, MLB (Pre-draft: No. 2)
OF Blake Rutherford, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 3)
3. LHP Justus Sheffield, Double-A (Pre-draft: No. 4)

Frazier is about two weeks away from losing his prospect status. He’s at 98 big league at-bats right now and the rookie limit is 130. Once he graduates, the top tier will be down to two prospects. Lame! Then again, it’ll be down to two prospects because Frazier and Aaron Judge are in MLB, and Rutherford was traded for pieces who are helping the Yankees try to win the division, so I can’t complain.

Torres is still the undisputed the best prospect in the system right now, even after Tommy John surgery to his non-throwing arm. Everyone seems to expect him to come back just fine next year and that’s good enough for me. Every surgery has risks. This one seems to carry less than most elbow reconstructions. Sheffield is out with an oblique strain himself, which stinks, but at least it’s not his arm. He’s pretty clearly the best pitching prospect in the system in my opinion. Three-pitch lefty with swing-and-miss stuff? Sign me up.

The Other Top Prospects

SS/OF Jorge Mateo, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 5)
4. 3B Miguel Andujar, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 6)
5. OF Estevan Florial, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 14)
6. RHP Albert Abreu, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 7)
7. SS/OF Tyler Wade, MLB (Pre-draft: No. 8)
OF Dustin Fowler, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 9)
8. RHP Chance Adams, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 10)
9. RHP Dillon Tate, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 12)

This is where I think the depth of the farm system really shines. I’m the low man on Adams but Baseball America (56th) and MLB.com (61st) just ranked him as a top 50-ish prospect in their midseason top 100 lists. I have him eighth in the system. Both Abreu (82nd) and Wade (101st) snuck onto Baseball Prospectus’ top 101 prospects list before the season. Tate was the fourth overall pick — and first pitcher taken — in the draft just two years ago. That’s the kind of talent we’re talking about here.

Andujar is my dude and has been for a while, and he’s making me look smart this year, so thanks Miguel. I get the feeling that, in a year or two, lots of people are going to wonder why he never made a top 100 list. Florial is the biggest riser in the farm system this year. His strikeout rate is a red flag but the tools and athleticism are off the charts, and so is the performance, really. He hit .297/.372/.483 (145 wRC+) with eleven homers and 17 steals in 91 Low-A games as a 19-year-old before being promoted earlier this week. For a while there it looked like Florial would get traded at the deadline, but nope. He remains and Fowler went instead.

The Upside Arms

RHP James Kaprielian, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 11)
10. RHP Matt Sauer, Rookie (Pre-draft: Not eligible)
11. RHP Domingo Acevedo, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 13)
12. RHP Domingo German, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 15)
13. RHP Clarke Schmidt, Rehab (Pre-draft: Not eligible)
14. RHP Jorge Guzman, Short Season (Pre-draft: Unranked)

Things just kinda fell into place here. A bunch of power arms with upside and also some risk were bunched together in my rankings. Sauer, Acevedo, and Guzman all throw heat but come with command questions. German is in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery and Schmidt is rehabbing from elbow construction right now. A healthy Schmidt would have ranked higher, though not much. Probably ahead of German and that’s about it.

The big riser here is Guzman, who came over from the Astros with Abreu in the Brian McCann trade. He did not make my pre-draft top 30 list, which was an oversight on my part. I should have had him in the top 30. Guzman has been electric with Short Season Staten Island so far this year, throwing 42.2 innings with a 2.53 ERA (3.03 FIP) and a 56/13 K/BB ratio. Fastball that routinely touches 100 mph, promising secondary stuff, and improving control? Guzman is someone who will really shoot up the rankings over the next year.

The Mid-Range Bats

15. 3B Dermis Garcia, Low-A (Pre-draft: No. 21)
16. SS Thairo Estrada, Double-A (Pre-draft: No. 18)
17. SS Hoy Jun Park, Low-A (Pre-draft: No. 16)
18. C Donny Sands, Low-A (Pre-draft: No. 24)
RHP Zack Littell, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 29)
LHP Ian Clarkin, Traded (Pre-draft: No. 19)
19. SS Wilkerman Garcia, Short Season (Pre-draft: No. 17)
20. 2B Nick Solak, Double-A (Pre-draft: Unranked)

Even considering that last pitcher tier, this might be the riskiest prospect tier in my rankings. Garcia — Dermis, not Wilkerman — has easily the most power in the system, but he’s also swing-and-miss prone and not that great defensively. The other Garcia has solid all-around tools but has struggled to put it all together and stay healthy the last 18 months. Sands is a third baseman learning to catch, and a high-contact hitter without much power. His prospect stock is really riding on the whole catching thing working out.

Estrada and Solak are the “safest” bets among the players in this tier — I say “safest” because there’s no such thing as a safe prospect — because they’re both all-fields hitters who have the uncanny ability to get the fat part of the bat on the ball, and they’ll both take their walks too. Thairo is a better defender and capable of playing shortstop, which is why he’s higher in my rankings. I see similar offensive upside and more defensive value. And he’s a full year younger too.

The Bottom Ten

21. OF Jake Cave, Triple-A (Pre-draft: Unranked)
22. OF Billy McKinney, Triple-A (Pre-draft: No. 27)
23. 1B Tyler Austin, MLB (Pre-draft: No. 20)
24. RHP Freicer Perez, Low-A (Pre-draft: Unranked)
25. RHP Nolan Martinez, Rookie (Pre-draft: No. 26)
26. RHP Drew Finley, Short Season (Pre-draft: No. 25)
27. SS Kyle Holder, High-A (Pre-draft: No. 23)
28. LHP Josh Rogers, Double-A (Pre-draft: No. 22)
29. RHP Ben Heller, Triple-A (Pre-draft: Unranked)
30. RHP Trevor Stephan (Pre-draft: Not eligible)

Lots and lots and lots of candidates for the back of the top 30, so it comes down to personal preference. Among those who were considered: SS Oswaldo Cabrera, RHP Cody Carroll, SS Diego Castillo, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, OF Isiah Gilliam, RHP Nick Green, RHP Ronald Herrera, RHP Jonathan Holder, OF Leonardo Molina, OF Pablo Olivares, RHP Erik Swanson, C Saul Torres, RHP Taylor Widener, and RHP Alex Vargas.

Cave and McKinney were two of the hardest players to rank. I feel like I’m going out on a limb a bit with Cave. He’s always had ability and he’s been in my top 30 lists before, but now the performance has been so great that it’s hard to ignore. Even if he’s a platoon left-handed bat long-term — Cave is hitting .358/.405/.672 against righties and .250/.315/.440 against lefties this year — Cave can play center field and run. He does a lot of things.

McKinney, on the other hand, is basically all bat. He’s not much of a defender and he’s relegated to an outfield corner. McKinney might also be a platoon left-handed bat — he’s hitting .289/.365/.532 against righties and .252/.319/.437 against lefties — except you’re not getting the defense and baserunning. I know he’s a former first round pick and all that, but I feel like the end game here is … Seth Smith? Seth Smith is a good player! He’s been in the league a decade. But that feels like McKinney’s upside to me.

I really like Martinez and Finley and just wish they’d get healthy, stay healthy, and put together consistently strong performances at some point. That’s unfair to Martinez because he was just drafted last year, but you know what I mean. I’m eager to see more from him. With Holder, I’m still betting on the elite defense being a carrying tool. If he can hit enough to be, say, a 90 OPS+ guy who bats ninth long-term, he’ll end up a +3 WAR player with his glove. Heller … man I just wish the Yankees would give him a look already. Something more than shuttle call-ups here and there.

* * *

I didn’t love the Yankees’ draft this year, though I do think the “take the injured guy first and an over-slot guy second” strategy was Plan B. I think they were planning to use their first rounder on a player who came off the board before their pick came around, so they called an audible. In my idiot blogger opinion, there were comparable arms still on the board when the Yankees picked Schmidt, except those guys were healthy. Healthy pitchers are cool.

Last year the Yankees really stocked the system at the trade deadline and this year has been about unpacking the system. Get the guys to the big leagues you plan to build around and trade from the depth before you start losing players for nothing through the Rule 5 Draft or on waivers. Littell and Clarkin were both potential 40-man roster crunch casualties after the season, as were other traded prospects like Dietrich Enns, Yefry Ramirez, and Tito Polo.

The farm system right now is not as strong as it was six months ago, though for the right reasons. The Yankees have graduated players to the big leagues and used others in trades to bolster the MLB roster for a postseason push. And those trades brought in controllable players like Gray and Tommy Kahnle. Not only rentals. New York still has a deep system with upside, and the big league roster is looking better and more exciting than it has in years.