The draft signing deadline was last Friday, and the Yankees were able to sign everyone they were expected to sign. There were no surprises, good or bad. Because they didn’t have a first round pick (or a supplemental round pick), this wasn’t the most exciting draft for the Yankees, who went heavy on college pitching and took a reliever with their top selection.
The Yankees did, however, add an amazing amount of talent to the farm system through international free agency earlier this month. My unofficial tally puts the spending spree at approximately $28.5M total between bonuses and penalties, though I’m sure there have been several deals that were not reported. Most of those players signed 2015 contracts and are not technically Yankees yet, so they are not included in this snapshot of the farm system. I usually wait until international signees show up in the U.S. to rank them anyway.
Two players — righties Dellin Betances and Chase Whitley — have graduated to the big leagues since the pre-draft list was posted late-May. I’ve been doing these for eight years and this is the very first RAB prospect list without Betances. I’m kinda sad. Another prospect, righty Rafael DePaula, was traded away just this week. Those three departures plus the draft and some stateside debuts have led to a healthy amount of turnover since the last list in May.
I feel like it’s clear who the top two prospects are (in whatever order), clear who the next seven prospects are (again, whatever order), and then a total mess after that with no obvious order. As always, this list is my personal opinion and based on how I value things like tools and probability and performance and all that. You’re welcome to disagree with the rankings. I’m sure you will. Rankings don’t mean anything anyway. They’re just fun to look at it. Anyway, the ages listed are as of today, and the levels listed are the player’s current level. The fun starts after the jump.
I’m not sure Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over the Rangers could have gone any better for the Yankees. They scored the runs they needed and played quick enough to get the minimum five innings in before the rain came. The Yankees were declared winners after four and a half innings. The baseball gods owed them one after the rain-shortened loss in Baltimore before the All-Star break.
Yu Ain’t Got Nuthin’
After getting shut down by guys named Miles Mikolas and Nick Martinez the last two days, the Yankees were able to get to Yu Darvish for two runs on four hits in 4.1 innings before the sky opened up. All four hits went for extra bases — Chase Headley doubled in the second, Frankie Cervelli doubled in both the third and fifth, and Brett Gardner homered in the third. Cervelli moved up on Brendan Ryan‘s ground ball and scored on Darvish’s balk in the third. Gardner went deep as the next batter. Two quick runs, just like that.
The Yankees forced Darvish to throw 67 pitches to get 13 outs (5.15 pitches per out), so they didn’t work him as hard as they did Johnny Cueto on Sunday (7.47 pitches per out) but they did make him work harder than either Mikolas (4.77) or Martinez (4.19). I guess this lineup is built to beat aces, huh? Two runs in four innings plus one out against Darvish is pretty damn good. Hats off to Cervelli and Gardner for that third inning rally. They did the heavy lifting. Gardner now has a career-high ten homers, by the way. He might get 15 this year. Isn’t that awesome?
Five For Phelps
The Rangers scored their only run of the night on two singles (Leonys Martin and Chris Gimenez) and a ground ball double play (Rougned Odor) in the third inning, but it was not their only prime run-scoring opportunity. In fact, they had a golden chance in the top of the fifth, right before the rain. Martin tripled into the right field corner with one out, though neither Gimenez (foul pop-up) nor Odor (strikeout) could bring him in. Phelps went full Joba with the fist pump after the strikeout.
All told, Phelps held the Rangers to just the one run on five hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked zero, recording nine of his other 12 outs on the infield. Joe Girardi never needed to warm up his bullpen thanks to the rain, which is exactly what the Yankees needed after the 14-inning game on Tuesday. Phelps has pitched very well since moving into the rotation and Wednesday’s game was more of the save. His first career complete-game was a cheap rain-shortened one, but who cares. He should get a win for the start and a save for the fifth inning.
It’s A Tarp!
As you can see in the video above, the grounds crew had a devil of a time getting the tarp on the infield because of the wind and heavy rain. It took them roughly 15 minutes to actually get the thing in place after the umpires called for it, and by then the infield was drenched. The game was set to continue about an hour later and the grounds crew went to work, but the infield was still a mess.
The umpires, Joe Girardi, and Ron Washington all walked around and agreed the infield was not safe to continue playing. The mound and the batter’s box were fine, but the areas around the bases, where players run and cut to turn directions, were too soft. They talked it over, it started raining again, and eventually the game was called. I’m not quite sure what more they could have done. Scrape the infield and apply more drying agent? Whatever. The grounds crew did their best but Mother Nature had other ideas.
There’s not really anything else to cover here.
Brian McCann Cervelli threw Alex Rios out trying to steal second in the first inning, but only after the Rangers challenged the play. It appeared Ryan may have missed the tag, but the call was upheld. Every player in the starting lineup had two at-bats and only Gardner (ten) and McCann (12) saw more than nine pitches. This team, man. They’re a bunch of hackers.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to MLB.com for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some nerdier stats and the updated standings are at ESPN. The Mets beat the Mariners, so the Yankees are now only a half-game back of the second wildcard spot. They’re tied with Seattle in the loss column. Depending on the outcome of the late game, the Bombers will be either three games (Orioles lose) or four games (Orioles win) back of the top spot in the AL East.
The Yankees and Rangers will wrap-up this four-game series on Thursday afternoon. Colby Lewis and former Ranger Brandon McCarthy will be the pitching matchup in the matinee. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live.
Matt Eddy (no subs. req’d) went back and ranked the most productive drafts of the last ten years. The 2004 Astros, led by Hunter Pence and Ben Zobrist, claim the top spot. The 2005 Yankees are eighth thanks mostly to Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson. I’m surprised the 2006 Yankees draft didn’t make the list. It produced arguably three of the ten best relievers in baseball (David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Mark Melancon) as well as the solid Ian Kennedy and serviceable Joba Chamberlain. I guess the WARs don’t add up.
Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended due to rain with two outs in the top of the third inning. They’ll finish it up tomorrow. Here’s the box score until then. OF Zoilo Almonte hit two homers already. Hopefully he’ll be in the Bronx tomorrow.
Double-A Trenton (5-2 win over New Hampshire)
- CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
- LF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 2 K
- DH Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 R, 2 K — 9-for-33 (.272) during his little eight-game hitting streak
- 1B Peter O’Brien: 3-3, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 8-for-14 (.571) with four doubles and a homer in his last four games
- RF Tyler Austin: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI — 15-for-36 (.417) with four doubles and a homer in his last ten games
- RHP Zach Nuding: 8 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 7/8 GB/FB — 66 of 97 pitches were strikes (68%)
I could totally go for a blowout win tonight. Like nine or tens run in the first two or three innings, then go into cruise control and let the just called up Chris Leroux get one of those silly three-out saves. It’s been a long time since the Yankees had a laugher like that — they haven’t scored double-digit runs since scoring 14 at Fenway Park on April 24th, which was 77 games ago — and after these last two games, I think we could all use one. Just do me a solid. Blow this one open early and make the last few innings boring. Here is the Rangers lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Carlos Beltran
- 1B Brian McCann
- 3B Chase Headley
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Frankie Cervelli
- 2B Brendan Ryan
RHP David Phelps
It’s hot and humid as hell in New York, plus there is some rain in the forecast later tonight. Stuff that will probably affect the game somehow. We’ll just have to wait and see. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES.
MLB announced the results of the competitive balance lottery today, awarding a total of 12 picks to small market, low revenue clubs. Obviously the Yankees did not get one. The full results are right here. It’s hard to understand a system in which the Cardinals are awarded competitive balance picks but not the Rays
or Athletics. Anyway, these picks can be traded! Just not in the offseason. What stupid system. · (23) ·
The non-waiver trade deadline is now one week and one day away, and we’ve got a pretty good idea of which teams will be sellers and which will be buyers. The Yankees, like or not, will be buying. Yesterday’s Chase Headley trade confirmed that. They’re 1.5 games out of a playoff spot in Derek Jeter‘s final season and selling just isn’t something they’ve done during the Steinbrenner era. Rotation help is a clear need, ditto an upgrade in right field. Possibly second base too, though they might be able to solve that internally.
At 47-53, the Twins have the ninth worst record in baseball, and GM Terry Ryan recently told Rhett Bollinger he is planning to listen to trade offers for his veteran players over the next eight days. “We’re in a tough spot right now and we’ve been in a tough spot for four years, so you have to listen. And that’s what we do,” said Ryan. Outside of Brian Dozier, hometown guys Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins, and probably the resurgent Phil Hughes, I’m not sure Minnesota has any untouchables.
I’ve been splitting these Scouting The Market posts up into position players and pitchers by team, but the Twins have an amazingly thin roster, so I’m going to lump all of their trade chips together into one post. Prying Dozier and his right-handed pop/above-average defense at second base loose would be an amazing get for the Yankees, but I just don’t see it. Here’s a look at the Twins players who are actually available and possible fits for the Yankees.
OF Josh Willingham
The 35-year-old Willingham has consistently been an above-average hitter since breaking into the league full-time in 2006 — his 117 wRC+ in 2007 was his lowest from 2006-12 — and his best season came in 2012, his first in Minnesota. He hit .260/.366/.524 (142 wRC+) with 35 homers that year, which was the first covered by his three-year contract worth $21M. In hindsight, the 2012-13 offseason was the perfect time to trade him. His value was never getting any higher.
Willingham dropped down to .208/.348/.368 (102 wRC+) with 14 homers in 471 plate appearances last season while missing a month and a half with cartilage damage in his left knee. This year he is sitting on a .212/.358/.412 (116 wRC+) batting line with nine homers in 215 plate appearances around a hairline fracture in his left wrist that sidelined him for almost two months. (He suffered the injury on a hit-by-pitch.) As the batted ball data at Baseball Heat Maps shows, the average distance of the balls Willingham has hit in the air is holding steady, which is encouraging:
The Yankees have only gotten 16 homers out of their right-handed hitters this season and right-handed power is Willingham’s best tool. He might not ever hit 35 homers like he did two years ago again, but his .200 ISO is in line with his career average (.214). He’s actually hitting more balls in the air than ever before (29.1% grounders), which helps explain his career worst .250 BABIP. Fly balls are often easy outs. Willingham has always drawn a ton of walks (16.7% this year and 12.0% career) and, frankly, that’s something the Yankees need in addition to his righty pop. He isn’t going to hit for much average, but if healthy he’ll hit the ball out of the park and still get on base at a respectable clip.
Willingham has played left field exclusively the last five years, which is a problem. He has only 264.1 career innings in right and they all came way back in 2009. The Yankees would be asking him to play an unfamiliar position by sticking him in right. Willingham’s contract is a non-issue since he’s in the final season of his deal and similar rental outfielders like Ryan Ludwick and Shane Victorino have not cost much in recent years, so the left field/right field thing is the only problem. He’d be a fantastic addition to the lineup. It’s just a question of where he’d play.
3B Trevor Plouffe
Plouffe, 28, made a name for himself by hitting 24 homers two years ago even though it came with a less than impressive .235/.301/.455 (105 wRC+) batting line. Leg and wrist problems limited him to 14 homers and a .254/.309/.392 (93 wRC+) line last year, though this season he’s rebounded to hit .243/.315/.413 (102 wRC+) with seven homers and an already career-high 29 doubles in 355 plate appearances. Plouffe did miss time with a ribcage/oblique problem last month.
Like Willingham, Plouffe’s calling card is his right-handed power. He owns a .170 ISO this year and a career .171 ISO, which is solidly above-average, though he has actually hit for more power at home in spacious Target Field (.187 ISO) than on the road (.153 ISO) over the years. The spray charts show Plouffe does the most damage when he pulls the ball to left, which fits well with Target Field but not Yankee Stadium. Teaching a guy to go the other way to hit for power is not something that is easy or can happen overnight.
The various defensive stats say Plouffe is a below-average defender but not a disaster at third base, though that position is no longer a problem with Headley on board. He also has experience at first base, second base, and in the two corner outfield spots, so there would be ways to get him into the lineup, plus he’d give the team third base protection next year. Plouffe is what he is, a low batting average third baseman with some power and just enough walks (7.5% career) to get on base three out of ten times. He’s making $2.35M this year, his first of four years of arbitration-eligibility as a Super Two, so there’s a good chance he’ll be a non-tender candidate soon. Mark Reynolds was traded for two Triple-A relievers at a similar point in his career, and he hit 44 homers the year before the trade, so yeah. The price shouldn’t be high.
RHP Kevin Correia and RHP Samuel Deduno
The Yankees need some innings, right? Well, these two can given them. I’m not saying they’ll be quality innings, but they’ll be innings. The 33-year-old Correia has a 4.76 ERA (4.35 FIP) in 20 starts and 113.1 innings this year, and over the last few seasons he’s been consistent 4.40-ish FIP guy who misses zero bats (4.29 K/9 and 10.8 K%) but limits walks (2.30 BB/9 and 5.8 BB%). His ground ball rate (41.2%) isn’t anything special either. Correia would be a pure rental (owed another $2M or so), but, in addition to not being very good, he doesn’t really fit what the Yankees look for in a pitcher, namely grounders and/or strikeouts.
Deduno, 31, has been a swingman for Minnesota this year, pitching to a 4.32 ERA (4.05 FIP) in 73 innings across eight starts and 13 relief appearances. Last season he managed a 3.83 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 108 innings as a full-time member of the rotation (for half the year). Unlike Correia, Deduno has some bat-missing ability (7.15 K/9 and 18.1 K%) and really excels at getting grounders (55.2%) thanks to his heavy upper-80s sinker. The pitch runs all over the place (4.07 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) and he backs it up with a hard low-80s curveball. The Yankees just brought in Brandon McCarthy for his ground ball heavy ways and adding Deduno would be along the same lines, though he doesn’t offer the same name value. Both Deduno and (especially) Correia figure to come cheap. Deduno is still in his pre-arbitration years, by the way.
The Twins seem to have a knack for rostering relievers I’ve never heard of. Their primary setup men ahead of Perkins are righty Casey Fien (2.34 ERA and 3.23 FIP) and lefty Caleb Thielbar (2.81 ERA and 3.26 FIP), who bounced around waivers and signed out of an independent league, respectively. Lefty Brian Duensing (2.35 ERA and 3.90 FIP) has been around a while and been used in every role imaginable, but this year he’s settled in as a one-inning reliever. Not necessarily a matchup guy either. Veteran retread Matt Guerrier (3.86 ERA And 3.92 FIP) and long man Anthony Swarzak (4.34 ERA and 3.37 FIP) don’t excite anyone. Meh. I don’t think you could convince me any of these guys would be a real help going forward, but more pitching never hurt anyone.
* * *
Willingham is the best fit for the Yankees among players on the Twins roster who figure to actually be available, though acquiring him would mean someone would have to play out of position in right field. It would either be him or Brett Gardner. That’s not ideal. His right-handed power would be a huge help for the offense though. Plouffe is an expensive utility man who can hit the ball out of the part and, as always, the Twins really don’t have many interesting pitchers. They continue to shoot themselves in the foot with that “okay stuff, no strikeouts, pitch-to-contact” profile. I’d be all for a Willingham trade if I only knew how they’d get him into the lineup defensively.
The Yankees have placed Kelly Johnson on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain, the team announced. Right-hander Chris Leroux was called up from Triple-A Scranton to replace him on the roster. Bruce Billings was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man spot for Leroux.
Johnson left last night’s game with what was initially called a cramp, but he went for an MRI that showed the strain. Leroux was scheduled to start for the RailRiders today, so he’ll be able to give the Yankees a bunch of innings out of the bullpen if needed following last night’s 14-inning marathon. Hopefully the three-man bench, eight-man bullpen setup will only last a few days. · (78) ·
Carlos Beltran started a new throwing program yesterday, Joe Girardi told Chad Jennings. Once he is able to throw without discomfort due to the bone spur in his elbow, the Yankees can resume playing him in right field rather than at DH everyday.
Beltran, 37, started a throwing program a few weeks ago but had to be shut down after a few days because of soreness. He admitted to still feeling some lingering discomfort three weeks ago. Beltran is not good defensively by any stretch of the imagination, but being relegated to DH really limits Girardi’s flexibility with the lineup. Being able to stick him out in right even two or three times a week opens up some more lineup possibilities. · (58) ·
Yesterday we looked at the pitchers the Phillies could offer at the trade deadline, and they have two gems in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Now let’s look at the position players. Philadelphia doesn’t have any impact position players to trade — Chase Utley has already said he would use his no-trade clause to remain with the team — but they do have a few usable pieces. Here are the potential fits for the Yankees.
OF Marlon Byrd
The Yankees have zero right-handed power right now. Their righty hitters have managed 16 homeruns in 99 games this year, six of which were hit by the departed Alfonso Soriano. Unless switch-hitters Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Chase Headley are facing a southpaw, the team’s best power threat from the right side is Zelous Wheeler. That’s not good and adding some right-handed firepower to the lineup is a clear need leading up to the trade deadline.
Byrd, 36, is currently hitting .266/.319/.480 (120 wRC+) with 19 homers this season, one year after resurfacing with the Mets (and Pirates) and going deep 24 times. He was very nearly out of baseball in 2012 — Byrd had a 27 wRC+ in 153 plate appearances that year before being suspended for a failed performance-enhancing drug trade — but he reinvented himself as an all-or-nothing slugger following that season. Byrd basically swings from his heels all the time now, and the result is a lot of power (.214 ISO this year, .220 last year, .151 career) and a lot of strikeouts (28.7% this year, 24.9% last year, 18.9% career).
There is a tangible reason for Byrd’s transformation as a hitter (both Jason Collette and Jeff Sullivan have written about it more in depth) and his performance this year is right in line with last year. He is hitting a few more fly balls in general but his 16.7 HR/FB% is the same as last year (16.6% in 2013, to be exact). His plate discipline stats are roughly the same and his .337 BABIP is actually lower than last season’s .353 mark. After nearly 1,000 plate appearances, I think it’s safe to say Byrd’s swing hard all the time style is conducive to a high BABIP. If you’re willing to live with the strikeouts — the Yankees as a team have the fifth lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 18.4% — he’ll give you plenty of right-handed thump.
The Phillies signed Byrd to a very reasonable two-year contract worth $16M over the winter (there’s also a vesting option for 2016 based on plate appearances) and he is in demand at the trade deadline. The MLBTR archives show the Royals, Mariners, and Reds are among those interested in acquiring him. The Yankees are not included in Byrd’s four-team no-trade list according to Jim Salisbury, and he would fit nicely as the team’s everyday right fielder/number six or seven hitter. The Mets traded a half-season of Byrd for a Triple-A reliever (Vic Black) and a good but not great Single-A prospect (Dilson Herrera) last year, though I suspect the price will be a big higher this summer because he’s shown his resurgence isn’t a fluke.
1B/OF John Mayberry Jr.
Don’t want to pay the price for Byrd? Fine, the 30-year-old Mayberry is a cheaper alternative. He is currently hitting .213/.304/.418 (104 wRC+) with six homers in 138 plate appearances overall, including .255/.339/.582 (155 wRC+) against lefties. Over the last three seasons he’s managed a .259/.314/.498 (120 wRC+) line against southpaws and only a .220/.286/.341 (73 wRC+) line against righties, so Mayberry is strictly a platoon option. Considering what the Yankees have gotten out of right field this year, playing him everyday might still be an upgrade.
A few weeks ago we heard the Bombers were scouting Mayberry and that makes sense. He’s cheap ($1.59M salary this year) and under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016, plus he can play both corner outfield spots and first base in a pinch. A real live backup first baseman. Imagine that. We aren’t talking about a difference maker, just a nice role player. Mayberry would instantly become the team’s best right-handed power hitter and he should come relatively cheap — similar players like Scott Hairston and Justin Ruggiano cost nothing more than fringe prospects over the last calendar year. The Phillies placed Mayberry on the 15-day DL with wrist inflammation just yesterday, so a trade would either have to come in August or while he’s injured.
OF Domonic Brown
Remember all those Brown for Dellin Betances rumors? Those were fun. Last year the Yankees looked dumb for not making the trade (not that is was ever on the table, as far as we know) and this year they would be morons to doing it. Brown has been one of the very worst position players in baseball this year, hitting a weak .227/.279/.327 (66 wRC+) with six homers while playing awful defense in left field. That 66 wRC+ ranks 157th out of 161 qualified hitters. The raw production is slightly better than what Soriano (60 wRC+) gave the Yankees this year.
Of course, the 26-year-old Brown hit .272/.324/.494 (124 wRC+) with 24 homers and was an All-Star last season, when it looked like he was finally starting to turn his talent into results. Eighteen of those 24 homers came in the months of May and June though (12 in May alone), so over the last calendar year he has hit a soft .236/.292/.337 (74 wRC+) with only nine homers in 136 games. Brown is not a high-strikeout hitter (18.1% this year and 18.4% career) but he does struggle against lefties and is beating the ball into the ground this year. He’s a project. No doubt about it.
Buying super low on Brown as a reclamation project seems like a great idea, except he’s out of options and can’t go to the minors to work on things. At least not without clearing waivers, which would never happen no matter how poorly he hits. Someone would take a chance on him. Can the Yankees afford to stick him in right field everyday and hope hitting coach Kevin Long can fix whatever needs to be fixed? I’m not sure. The Phillies have been shopping Brown since the offseason and I don’t think acquiring him would be all that tough. I’m just not sure what the Yankees would do with him other than stick him in right and cross their fingers.
* * *
As I mentioned earlier, Utley has all but said he wants to remain with Philadelphia and would block any trade. Jimmy Rollins has indicated the opposite — he would be open to accepting a trade to a contender. I don’t think Rollins, who has played one-third of an inning at a non-shortstop position in his entire professional career, is a fit for the Yankees right now, but I fully expect a winter of Rollins-to-New York rumors after Derek Jeter retires. Get ready for it. It’s coming.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz makes no sense for the Yankees and don’t even bring up Ryan Howard. Did you realize he’s hitting .222/.302/.378 (88 wRC+) this year? Forget him. Just a name at this point. Left-handed hitting third baseman Cody Asche is hitting .256/.308/.401 (96 wRC+) with poor defense but is only 24, so that makes him kinda interesting. He wouldn’t help the 2014 Yankees all that much — they wouldn’t need him to with Headley now on board — but he might be useful in the future. Byrd and to a lesser extent Mayberry are good fits for a Yankees team in need of right-handed power. Both are available and both would make a lot of sense.
12:37am: Johnson felt something in his groin and is heading for an MRI. That’s never good. Sounds like he’ll be out a few days at the very least.
10:20pm: Kelly Johnson exited tonight’s game with some sort of injury. He took the field in the top of the 11th before Joe Girardi and the trainer came out to check on him. He tried to run before leaving the game. Replays showed Johnson pulling up lame running out a ground ball in the previous half-inning. Hopefully it’s just a cramp. We’ll find out soon enough. · (27) ·