Open Thread: March 22nd Camp Notes

The Yankees and the Mets are playing tonight, and the pitching matchup is pretty great: Luis Severino vs. Steven Matz. That’s as good as it gets, even in Spring Training. The problem? We can’t watch. There’s no YES broadcast, no SNY broadcast, no MLB Network, no, nothing. That’s a bummer. Here is the Gameday link, so you can follow that way. Here are the day’s notes from Tampa:

This is tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is showing the Dodgers and Royals later tonight, plus the Nets are playing as well. Talk about those games, tonight’s un-watchable Yankees-Mets game, or anything else right here.

Yankees rank 17th in’s farm system rankings

Mateo. (Presswire)

Over at, the esteemed Sam Dykstra posted his farm system rankings earlier this week, and he has the Dodgers sitting in the top spot. Easy to understand why when they have the best position player prospect (SS Corey Seager) and arguably the best pitching prospect (LHP Julio Urias) in the game. The Braves and Twins round out the top three and the Angels predictably rank 30th.

The Yankees rank 17th in the rankings after Baseball America and Keith Law ranked them 17th and 13th, respectively. That is as middle of the pack as it gets. Here is Dykstra’s blurb:

Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez make up a core of promising position player prospects that any of the organizations above would love. All three have the potential to be regular Major League contributors and possess the individual tools (Mateo with speed, Judge with power, Sanchez with his arm) to become stars. What the Yankees lack is pitching. New York believes it took a potential leader in James Kaprielian out of UCLA with their pick at 16th overall last season, but there isn’t much more pitching in the system beyond Domingo Acevedo, who could rocket up the rankings if he can expand his repertoire beyond a 100-mph heater.

In recent weeks Dykstra also ranked each farm system in terms of position player talent and pitching talent. The Yankees were 12th in the position player rankings and only 25th in the pitching rankings. They definitely have a position player heavy system. Have for about two years now. They might rank 29th in arms if not for RHP James Kaprielian. Dykstra also gave the Yanks a B- for their under-21 talent.

Both 1B Greg Bird and RHP Luis Severino lost their prospect eligibility last season due to the time they spent in the big leagues, so while they are not technically prospects, they are obviously very important young players. The farm system takes a big hit because Severino threw 12.1 innings over the rookie limit, so don’t get too caught up in the rankings. Overall farm system rankings are much more hit or miss than individual player rankings.

This season the Yankees figure to graduate C Gary Sanchez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, and RHP Bryan Mitchell to the big leagues. Those are their No. 2, 6, and 7 prospects according to my rankings. One or two of the shuttle relievers might graduate too. Both Kaprielian and OF Aaron Judge could definitely make their MLB debuts this season, but I would be surprised if either racked up substantial big league time.

Cashman: Yanks continue to look for “potential castoffs” to fill-out roster


With Opening Day less than two weeks away and the final few roster spots still unsettled, Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees continue to look for “potential castoffs” from other teams to fill out their roster. They offered Ruben Tejada a minor league deal last week after he was released by the Mets, for example.

“A lot of meetings with the staff, a lot of discussions of ways to go,” said the GM to Meredith Marakovits (video link). “Engaging other clubs about potential castoffs or available players on their end to make sure you measure them against what you already have in camp. (We have) a lot of extra meetings about that 25th spot, moreso than people could ever imagine. You always spend so much time discussing who’s the final piece to a puzzle that’s never finished.”

Right now the Yankees have four open roster spots: the backup catcher, a backup third baseman, and two relievers. Rob Refsnyder seems to have a leg up on that final bench spot, but who knows. Four years ago it seemed Frankie Cervelli had the backup catcher’s job locked down, then bam, he was in Triple-A and Chris Stewart was a Yankee. Things can come together quickly.

I didn’t see many appealing targets on the out of options market, though there are definitely a lot of veteran players around the league on minor league contracts that include an opt-out at the end of Spring Training. That would be an interesting list to see. Here are all the players on minor league deals. I wonder if someone like Grant Green, A.J Griffin, or former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang has an end-of-camp opt-out date.

Over the last few seasons the Yankees have acquired players like Stewart, Vernon Wells, Gregorio Petit, and Lyle Overbay in the week leading up to Opening Day. (They also traded away Eduardo Nunez.) All of those guys except Stewart were brought in to help cover for an injury. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that this season. The Yankees have some depth but don’t want to have to use it.

Chase Headley’s Chances For A Rebound, Offensively & Defensively [2016 Season Preview]


Here’s a weird, random fact: the Yankees have had four different Opening Day third basemen in the last four years. It was Alex Rodriguez in 2012, Jayson Nix in 2013, Kelly Johnson in 2014, and Chase Headley in 2015. This year Headley will become the first player to start consecutive Opening Days at the hot corner for New York since A-Rod started three straight from 2010-12.

The Yankees re-signed Headley last offseason because Rodriguez can’t play third base anymore. The Yankees didn’t even wait to find out if he could in Spring Trianing. He was coming off his suspension last winter and had another hip surgery in his recent past, plus he was pushing 40, so the Yankees needed someone else at third. They brought back Headley because he had been one of the better third baseman in the game over the previous few years. From 2012-14:

  1. Miguel Cabrera — 19.0 fWAR
  2. Adrian Beltre — 17.2
  3. Josh Donaldson — 15.6
  4. David Wright — 15.3
  5. Chase Headley — 15.3

If you prefer bWAR, it’s the same five names, only with Miggy and Beltre flipped. If you want to limit it to 2013-14 only to remove Headley’s career 2012 season, he’s still top ten among all third basemen. Headley played rather well after coming over at the 2014 trade deadline and he seemed to fit exactly what the Yankees needed, namely a switch-hitting bat and good defense.

Last season Headley fell short on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. He hit .259/.324/.369 (91 wRC+) with eleven homers overall, making it his worst offensive season as a full-time player. Headley also committed a career-high 23 errors — his previous career high was 13 — and seemed to develop the yips, which turned routine throws into adventures. Needless to say, the Yankees are hoping for a big bounce back from their third baseman in 2016.

Can He Throw?

Headley’s ten fielding errors were a career high last season, but the throws were far more worrisome. It wasn’t just the errors, it was the number of poor throws overall, many of which Mark Teixeira saved at first base with his scooping ability. The throws weren’t just off-line either. Headley looked very tentative:

Chase Headley error

That is a third baseman lacking confidence. This all came out of nowhere too. Headley has been one of the best defensive third basemen in the game throughout his career and he was fantastic in the field with the Yankees after the trade two years. You’re lying if you say you saw this coming.

“More than anything, it’s just footwork. Footwork related stuff,” said Headley to Jack Curry (video link) recently when asked about his defensive work with third base/infield coach Joe Espada this spring. “Trying to keep my feet going … Just trying to clean that up a little bit and that’ll help some of the throwing issues I have last year.”

Headley hasn’t had any defensive miscues this spring, though we are talking about only 21 total chances in 55 innings, which is not enough to say whether he’s back on track in the field. Especially since not all of those 55 innings have been broadcast somewhere for us to see. I guess no errors in 21 chances is better than a few errors, but it doesn’t help us much going forward.

Looking at Headley’s career, last season was the outlier. He’s been a very good defender throughout his career and he suddenly forgot how to throw in 2015. The goal this season isn’t to take a bad defender and make him good. The goal is to take a previously good defender and get him back on track after a down season. Defense is like everything else in baseball. Players have slumps and bad years.

There is definitely a mental side to this — Headley admitted to losing confidence in the field last year — and that can be tough to overcome. And if Headley can’t get over his throwing issues, that’s a big problem because the Yankees don’t have a true third base alternative. (Sorry, I don’t think 36 spring innings mean Rob Refsnyder‘s ready to play the position regularly at the MLB level.) Like it or not, the Yankees need Headley.

If the throwing issues persistent, it won’t be the result of a lack of effort. Headley has been putting in extra work since last summer to sort this out, and Curry said Headley and Espada are out on a back field working on his defense pretty much every day this spring. I have no idea if he can get his throwing in order. There’s no way to put a number on this. All you can do is hope 2015 was truly an aberration and Headley will go back to being the player he was prior to 2015.

Is He Going to Hit?

Twenty third basemen qualified for the batting title last season, and among those 20, Headley ranked 15th in AVG (.259), 12th in OBP (.324), 19th in SLG (.369), 18th in ISO (.110), and 19th in wRC+ (91). He was among the worst offensive regulars at the position a year ago. The lack of power was a big part of it too. Here is his ISO over the years (Headley became a regular in 2009):

Source: FanGraphsChase Headley

No one in their right mind expected Headley to repeat his career 2012 season after re-signing with the Yankees. But something close to his 2013-14 performance (108 wRC+) was reasonable. Earlier in his career Headley’s lack of power could be blamed on Petco Park, at least in theory. From 2009-11, those pre-peak years, he had a .101 ISO at home and a .133 ISO on the road, so the split wasn’t huge.

Headley now calls Yankee Stadium his home park, and Yankee Stadium is a great place to hit for power, especially if you’re left-handed. Headley hit six of his eleven homers in the Bronx last season, and five of the six came as a left-handed hitter. Overall though, he was actually a better hitter on the road (98 wRC+) than at home (84 wRC+), which is pretty weird. Maybe that’s a reason to expect a rebound offensively. It’s tough for a hitter to be average-ish on the road and bad at home in Yankee Stadium two years in a row.

The power is what it is, especially since Headley has never been a great power hitter and he’s now over 30. More interesting to me are his strikeout and walk rates. Last season he had his lowest walk rate (7.9%) since becoming a regular, but also his second lowest strikeout rate (21.0%). (His previous low was 20.6% in 2010.) The PitchFX data shows Headley is not chasing more pitches or anything like that. He’s just making more contact nowadays.

Chase Headley plate discipline

Headley’s swing rate on pitches out of the zone (O-Swing%) was actually a career low last season, so no, the career-low walk rate was not the result of chasing more pitches. His contact rate, both overall (Contact%) and on pitches in the zone (Z-Contact%) were the highest they’ve been in years, so he was putting the ball in play more often. When you put the ball in play, you don’t walk or strike out as much.

The problem was the quality of Headley’s contact wasn’t great last summer. His 27.8% hard contact rate exactly matched the league average in 2015, but it was down from the 35.6% hard contact rate he posted from 2012-14. The real problem: Headley’s soft contact rate was 17.4%, which is still better than the league average (18.6%), but was way up from is 12.6% soft contact rate from 2012-14. (He had a 35.3% hard contact rate and a 12.2% soft contact rate from 2013-14, if you want to remove his career year.)

As with his throwing and defense, 2015 was an outlier for Headley offensively compared to his recent seasons. Maybe it was an adjustment year? A year ago at this time we were all talking about Brian McCann possibly rebounding after his adjustment period. Yeah, Headley spent some time with the Yankees in 2014, but not that much time. Who knows. You can’t rule anything out when trying to figure out how a player will perform going forward.

* * *

My guess is Headley rebounds with the glove but not so much with the bat this year. Perhaps he can get back to being a league average-ish hitter. I’m not sure will happen without the power though. I can’t say I’m supremely confident, but I do feel pretty good about Headley bouncing back on defense. He’s worked hard at it, he looks okay in camp, and his track record is pretty long. Like I said, this is a good defender who had a bad year, not a true talent bad defender. I think the glovework will be there, and the Yankees are going to need it to be there, because they don’t have any great alternatives.

Thoughts 13 days prior to Opening Day


Opening Day is two weeks from yesterday, and we’re at the point of Spring Training where everyone wants it to be over. Even the players. Most of the top prospects are in the minor league camp and the veterans are going through the motions. These are the dog days of March. Just gotta grind it out and wait for the season to begin. Here are some assorted thoughts.

1. Even though the tests came back clean, the Jacoby Ellsbury injury worries me because he has a history of getting hurt and staying hurt. His injuries tend to linger and they have pretty much his entire career. I can’t imagine that will change now that he’s over 30. There are 13 days between now and Opening Day, and the Yankees have outfield depth, so they’re in good shape there, but to get back to the postseason this year, they’re going to need Ellsbury on his A-game from the leadoff spot. Wrist injuries can be pretty serious even without a break. All the inflammation can make it tough to hold a bat properly, and if you can’t hold a bat properly, you’re not going to hit. Hopefully this blows over quickly and Ellsbury gets back on the field by the end of the week. I just worry we’re going to be talking about this hit-by-pitch in three months and how Ellsbury still doesn’t look right.

2. So how many teams do you think called the White Sox about Chris Sale since last week? Probably 29, right? Sale threw some serious verbal barbs management’s way after the whole Adam LaRoche fiasco — he called vice president Kenny Williams a “bold-faced liar,” among other things — and was clearly unhappy with that whole situation. Teams smell blood in the water and if there is any chance the incident could make Sale available, they wanted their foot in the door. GM Rick Hahn told Dan Hayes they have no interest in moving their ace, which is no surprise whatsoever. Sale is one of the most valuable commodities in the game as a true No. 1 starter who is owed a maximum of $47.15M through 2019. I hope the Yankees placed a call out of due diligence. I don’t think they have the pieces to get Sale — Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, and Gary Sanchez maybe piques Hahn’s interest — but you’ve got to at least make the call. And by the way, the White Sox have every right to ask LaRoche to not bring his kid to the clubhouse every day and LaRoche has every right to retire. That’s pretty much all that needs to be said about that.

3. I admit a sliver of doubt is beginning to enter my mind about CC Sabathia getting the fifth starter’s job over Ivan Nova. I still think it will be Sabathia when it’s all said it done, though right now my confidence is like 98% instead of 100%. Like I said, it’s only a sliver of doubt. The team keeps talking about this being an open competition and Brian Cashman seemed pretty sincere while speaking to Meredith Marakovits over the weekend (skip to the 0:44 mark for the fifth starter talk):

Nova didn’t pitch well in his last start and that’s going to hurt his chances of breaking camp in the rotation. He’s going to have to really outperform Sabathia this spring to win that fifth starter’s spot. Anything close to resembling a tie will go to the veteran making $25M. Nova has to leave zero doubt he is the best man for the job. Either way, I’m sure both of these guys are going to end up making a bunch of starts this season. That’s baseball. The Yankees could go into the season with Sabathia as a starter thinking it’s only a matter of time until Nova moves into the rotation anyway.

4. Chasen Shreve has looked phenomenal this spring. The numbers are outstanding — the only base-runner against him in 6.1 innings came on an error — but beyond that, his stuff looks firm and his body language looks way better than it did last September. Shreve looked pretty down on himself late last year and who could blame him? He got torched for a few weeks there. He seems to be more confident this spring and he’s throwing with conviction. Maybe it’s something as simple as being fresh physically after an offseason of rest. After all, almost everyone who was asked about Shreve’s stumble to finish last year chalked it up to fatigue. Perhaps it really was that simple. Either way, Shreve has looked great this spring and I hope it carries over into the regular season. He can be dominant when right.


5. Know who we’re going to see a lot this season? Kirby Yates. I just have that feeling, you know? Yates has been pretty good this spring but that’s not it. His stuff is good, he has a history of missing bats, and he has 56.1 innings of big league experience to his credit. I could see Yates being a very prominent part of the bullpen shuttle, if not the No. 1 up-and-down guy. Last season Branden Pinder held that role. Pinder was the guy who stuck around longer than the other shuttle relievers whenever there was a chance to stay with the team longer than 48 hours. I feel like Yates is going to be that reliever this season. We’re going to look up in August and this guy’s going to have 40 innings under his belt, isn’t he?

6. Both Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran will be free agents following this season, and the Yankees sure seem to be looking forward to having their big contracts off the books. They’ll have more payroll flexibility and two open roster spots for young players once they’re gone. But you know what? That’s an awful lot of offense walking out the door. You’re talking about the team’s best power hitter and best all-around hitter. That doesn’t mean the Yankees should look to retain Teixeira and/or Beltran — what are the odds they continue to be the club’s best power hitter and best all-around hitter in 2017 and beyond, in their late-30s? — just that the potential offensive hit is something they have to consider. This might be no big deal. Teixeira and/or Beltran could struggle this year and make replacing them easy. If that happens though, the Yankees probably aren’t making the postseason. The more they produce this season, the better it is for the Yankees in 2016 and the tougher it will be to replace them in 2017.

Open Thread: March 21st Camp Notes

The Yankees had an off-day today and it was a complete off-day with no workouts scheduled on the Major League side. So, with no mini-game recap to share, I command you to read this Tyler Kepner article on the Big Three. That was one hell of a nostalgic read. RAB was just becoming a thing when it appeared Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain were going to be the future of the rotation. Anyway, here is the little bit of news from Tampa:

  • The Yankees had Rob Refsnyder head to the minor league complex for more work at third base today. He went through infield drills with various coaches and instructors as the team tries to help him become more comfortable at the hot corner. [Brendan Kuty]
  • Luis Cessa threw his entire 30-pitch bullpen session from the stretch Sunday. Are the Yankees preparing him for a relief role? “No, I didn’t think he threw the ball well from the stretch the other day,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild. [Fred Kerber, George King]
  • If you’re interested, here are the day’s minor league lineups (via Kuty). Jorge Mateo almost took a fastball to the face (video via Kuty), and James Kaprielian was 94-97 mph with an 87 mph slider during his start, a scout told Erik Boland.
  • The Yankees are playing the Mets at home tomorrow night. Luis Severino is the scheduled starter. Right now there is no broadcast for that game. Hopefully YES or SNY pick it up.

This is tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is showing Reds-Padres live later tonight, and both the (hockey) Rangers and Islanders are playing as well. Talk about those games or whatever else right here.

Yankees offered Ruben Tejada minor league deal before he signed with Cardinals


I missed this the other day: According to Brendan Kuty, the Yankees offered former Mets infielder Ruben Tejada a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Mark Feinsand says Tejada rejected the deal because he was holding out for a Major League contract. The Cardinals signed him to a one-year deal worth $1.5M over the weekend.

Tejada, 26, opened last season as a utility infielder before taking over as the Mets starting shortstop in the second half. He hit .261/.338/.350 (95 wRC+) overall and played his usually solid defense. Tejada broke his leg on Chase Utley’s infamous NLDS take-out slide, though he had completed his rehab and was playing in Grapefruit League games before the Mets cut him loose.

The Mets released Tejada to save money — they only had to pay him $500,000 of his $3M salary — and it’s no surprise the Cardinals scooped him up. They recently lost Jhonny Peralta for half the season and didn’t have a steady fill-in. The only way the Yankees were going to get Tejada was by claiming him and his $3M salary off waivers. Once he became a free agent and St. Louis could offer their starting shortstop job, it was over. No other team had a chance.

Here is our Scouting the Market post on Tejada. The Yankees are currently looking for a true backup third baseman — Rob Refsnyder has done a nice job in his limited time there this spring — and bringing in middle infield depth is never a bad idea. Tejada can legitimately play short. Always nice to have a guy like that in reserve should injury strike.

For now the Yankees figure to carry Refsnyder as their backup third baseman and use Starlin Castro as their backup shortstop. Pete Kozma, Donovan Solano, Jonathan Diaz, and Ronald Torreyes are among the infield options they’ll have stashed in Triple-A. Hopefully they don’t need any of them. Unfortunately, chances are they will. That’s baseball.