Thoughts on Baseball America’s top ten Yankees prospects

Guzman. (
Guzman. (

Now that we’re a month into the offseason, Baseball America has started their annual look at the top ten prospects in each farm system. They hit on the Yankees yesterday. The list and system overview is free for all. The scouting reports and the chat are not, however. They’re behind the paywall.

There are no big surprises in the top ten. The top few spots are as expected — at least the names are as expected, we can quibble about the order until we’re blue in the face — before dipping into the plethora of power arms in the system. Here’s the top ten:

  1. SS Gleyber Torres
  2. OF Estevan Florial
  3. LHP Justus Sheffield
  4. RHP Chance Adams
  5. 3B Miguel Andujar
  6. RHP Albert Abreu
  7. RHP Jorge Guzman
  8. RHP Luis Medina
  9. SS Thairo Estrada
  10. RHP Domingo Acevedo

Quick reminder: OF Clint Frazier is no longer prospect eligible. That’s why he’s not in the top ten. He exceeded the rookie limit by four at-bats this year. Anyway, nice to see my main man Thairo get some top ten love. It’s been fun to watch him climb from sleeper to 40-man roster player. I have some thoughts on the top ten, so let’s get to them.

1. This is a pitching system now. I mentioned this as part of the Baseball Prospectus top ten write-up and it is worth repeating. The Yankees are loaded with pitching now. A year ago at this time they were a position player heavy farm system and hey, that’s great. I’d rather build around bats long-term than arms. Now though, the farm system is full of power pitchers. Six of the top ten prospects are pitchers, and among the pitchers who didn’t make the top ten are RHP Domingo German, RHP Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP Freicer Perez, RHP Matt Sauer, RHP Clarke Schmidt, RHP Dillon Tate, and RHP Taylor Widener. When those dudes are not among the six best pitching prospects in your farm system, you are packed to the gills with pitching. Inevitably many of these guys will get hurt or flame out, but when you have as many quality arms as the Yankees, your chances of landing some long-term keepers is quite high.

2. Guzman’s velocity is super elite. It’ll be a year or two before the Yankees get some impact from the Brian McCann trade, but so far things are looking good. Both Abreu and Guzman are among their top ten prospects, and, according to the Baseball America scouting report, Guzman “averaged 99 mph with his four-seamer in 2017 and just a tick less with his two-seamer.” That is pretty insane. Among qualified pitchers, Luis Severino led MLB with a 97.8 mph average fastball velocity this year. Guzman averaged 99 mph, prompting J.J. Cooper to say he “has a strong argument that he’s the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in baseball.” There is more to pitching than fastball velocity, of course, but the various scouting reports say Guzman made big strides with his secondary stuff and his command this year, so he’s starting to figure some things out. He’s not going to average 99 mph forever because no one does, but he’s starting from such a high baseline that even after losing some velocity in the coming years, he’ll sit mid-90s no problem.

3. Spin rate is a thing in the minors now too. I wrote a little bit about spin rate last week, and while it is still a relatively new concept to fans and analysts, it’s been a thing within baseball for a while now. The Baseball America scouting report mentions Medina has a “high-spin curveball,” and in the chat, Josh Norris notes RHP Deivi Garcia has a “hook that measures at 3,000 RPMs.” Only three big leaguers topped 3,000 rpm with their curveballs this season, for reference (min. 100 curveballs). RHP Drew Finley (curveball) and RHP Nolan Martinez (fastball) both earned notoriety for their spin rates as draft prospects. As I’ve said, spin rate is like velocity in that it’s only one tool in the shed, it’s not everything, but clearly it is something teams — the Yankees, specifically — target nowadays. The general belief is that spin is not really teachable. It’s either in your wrist or it’s not. The Yankees aren’t just hoarding pitching prospects. They’re hoarding high-spin prospects, the guys who are now very in demand at the big league level.

4. Mechanical changes contributed to Gilliam’s breakout. OF Isiah Gilliam, the team’s 20th round pick in 2015 and the recipient of a well-above-slot $550,000 bonus, was one of the easiest to overlook breakout stars in the farm system this summer. The switch-hitter spent most of the season at age 20, and he hit .275/.356/.468 (137 wRC+) with 15 homers and 10.8% walks in 125 Low-A games. That’s a damn fine season. Norris notes in the chat that Gilliam “saw significant benefits to the changes he made with his stance and swing mechanics,” and that’s pretty interesting. Amateur and minor league video can be tough to come by, so here’s what I dug up on Gilliam’s right-handed swing:


That’s Gilliam in high school in 2014 on the left (video) and Gilliam with Low-A Charleston in 2017 on the right (video). I did my best to grab each image at the moment Gilliam begins to lift his front foot as part of his leg kick. Two things stand out. One, Gilliam has a wider base underneath him now. His legs are further apart. I suppose that could just be a camera angle issue, however. And two, his hands are much lower now. There’s no funny camerawork there. His hands used to be way up near to head and now they’re down by his chest, so yes, he has made some adjustments, at least to his right-handed swing. (There isn’t much old video of his left-handed swing, weirdly.) Anyway, Gilliam had a real nice season, and is one of those quality under-the-radar prospects that makes the system so deep.

5. So apparently Wade’s stock has dropped. Although he did not eclipse the 130 at-bat rookie limit this year, SS Tyler Wade is no longer rookie eligible because he accrued too much service time this season. Baseball America does not, however, consider service time when ranking prospects, so Wade is still prospect eligible. And yet, he’s not in the top ten. In the chat, Norris said Wade “did not come close to (making) this list” even though “he still has a big league future … probably as a utility infielder.” I like Wade. Have for a long time. I like the athleticism, the speed, the defense, and the strike zone knowledge. He just hit .310/.382/.460 (136 wRC+) with seven homers and 26 steals (in 31 attempts) in 85 Triple-A games as a 22-year-old. That’s really good! I know Wade stunk in the big leagues, but he had 63 plate appearances in 81 days of service time. The kid never played. Last year Aaron Judge got called up, struggled in his brief MLB debut, then tumbled down the prospect rankings. Baseball America ranked Judge as the sixth best prospect in the system coming into this season, behind SS Jorge Mateo (who didn’t hit) and RHP James Kaprielian (who was hurt all last year). Now Wade rips up Triple-A, struggles in an insignificant amount of big league playing time, and now he “did not come close” to ranking in the top ten prospects. Eh. I know I’m the high man on Wade, but if he’s not close to the top ten prospects, the system is even deeper than I realized.

Al Pedrique leaves Yankees to join Athletics coaching staff

Clint and Al. (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Clint and Al. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique has left the Yankees to become the Athletics first base coach, the A’s announced. Pedrique was speculated as a possible managerial candidate for the Yankees, though he never did get an interview. Over the years he’d been very open about his desire to manage in the big leagues again at some point.

Pedrique, 57, had been with the Yankees since 2013. He managed Low-A Charleston in 2013, High-A Tampa in 2014, Double-A Trenton in 2015, and Triple-A Scranton in 2016 and 2017. The RailRiders won their division the last two years — they won the Triple-A championship in 2016 — and Pedrique was named International League Manager of the Year both years.

Prior to joining the Yankees, Pedrique had worked as a scout — while with the Astros, he was the scout who recommended signing Jose Altuve — and minor league coach with several organizations. He was the Diamondbacks third base coach in 2003 and their interim manager for part of 2004. That is his only MLB managerial experience to date.

Pedrique had worked with basically every notable prospect in the system the last few years. He managed Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, you name it. Now the Yankees will have to find a new Triple-A Scranton skipper. Such is life. Minor league managers usually don’t stick around long-term.

Monday Night Open Thread

So that was a fairly busy baseball weekend, huh? In the span of three days Shohei Ohtani was posted, the Yankees picked a new manager, and Ohtani rejected the Yankees. The team’s two most important pieces of offseason business resolved themselves in a 48 hour window, basically. Hopefully that doesn’t mean the rest of the offseason will be boring. That would suck.

Anyway, here is an open thread for the night. Steelers vs. Bengals is the Monday Night Football game, plus the Knicks, Nets, and Islanders are playing, and there’s some college basketball on as well. Talk about those games or anything else here, as long as it’s not politics or religion.

Mayo: Yankees are “looking closely” at Julio Pablo Martinez and Yunior Severino

According to Jonathan Mayo, the Yankees are “looking closely” at Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez and Dominican infielder Yunior Severino. This is obviously in response to suddenly having $3.5M in international bonus money to spend after getting rejected by Shohei Ohtani.

Martinez, who Mayo says has a showcase scheduled for Friday, left Cuba earlier this month and is said to have been one of the top young players on the island. The 21-year-old hit .297/.345/.449 with seven homers and 20 steals in 57 games this past season. Here is a piece of Ben Badler’s scouting report:

At around 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Martinez is a lefty with a promising combination of power and speed … Based on his present ability, he’s probably ready to go to a high Class A or Double-A team.

For what it’s worth, Eric Longenhagen said Martinez “profiles as a fringe regular who hits in the bottom of the lineup and plays a solid center field” back when he saw him in 2016. Martinez still must establish residency and be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can sign, but Badler says that should happen at some point before the 2017-18 international signing period ends June 15th.

Severino, 18, is one of the 13 former Braves prospects who became a free agent after the team was punished by MLB for their international impropriety. He hit .270/.345/.420 (121 wRC+) with three homers in 58 rookie ball games this summer, during his pro debut. Here’s what Longenhagen had to say about Severino recently:

Signed for $1.9 million out of the Dominican Republic, Severino is a switch-hitting middle infielder with surprising power for his size. Scouts think his long-term defensive home is second base and are skeptical about his long-term ability to make contact. He takes big, violent swings.

Per MLB’s terms, Severino gets to keep his $1.9M bonus, and can receive a new bonus when he signs with a new team. Every penny over $200,000 will count against the hard cap, though teams can choose to apply it to next year’s hard cap space, if they choose. Severino and the other Braves prospects are free to sign starting tomorrow.

It’s unclear whether the Yankees are interested in Kevin Maitan, the big name prospect no longer with the Braves, though I imagine they’ll check in. That $3.5M is a nice chunk of change. Now that Ohtani is off the table, expect the Yankees to invest that money in other international players, like Martinez and Severino and Maitan and others. They won’t let it go unused.

Yankees officially name Aaron Boone their new manager


December 4th: It’s official. The Yankees announced Boone is their new manager this afternoon. The press conference is Wednesday at 12pm ET. He received a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year, which seems to be the standard contract for a rookie manager. No word on the money yet.

Let’s get to the various statements, shall we? First, Hal Steinbrenner:

“I firmly believe that Aaron possesses the attributes needed to follow in the tradition of great Yankees managers. From all accounts, he is a polished communicator who possesses the ability to cultivate and grow relationships. Aaron has also spent a lifetime immersed in baseball, affording him a unique and intimate understanding of what fosters team success.

“Aaron’s name is already etched into Yankees history, and my family and I are excited to welcome him back to this franchise. This opportunity will allow him to continue to make a positive impact on this organization in distinctly new and meaningful ways.”

Next up, Brian Cashman:

“Over the past several weeks, our baseball operations department sat down with a number of managerial candidates, all of whom brought a diverse array of baseball knowledge and experience. Each interview led to insightful and thoughtful discussions, and I am grateful to the candidates for their preparation, interest and commitment to our extensive interview process.

“When we had the opportunity to speak with Aaron and share concepts and ideas, he was able to showcase a variety of traits that we believe will strongly benefit this franchise as we move forward, including an astute mind for the game and a progressive approach to evolving strategies. 

“We also believe Aaron’s interpersonal skills and baseball pedigree will allow him to blend well with the systems we have in place, our baseball operations staff and the 25-man roster. On a personal level, I look forward to collaborating with him over the coming years and offering him the support and resources needed to get the most out of our players.”

And finally, Mr. Boone himself:

“Words cannot express how humbled I am to wear the pinstripes again as the manager of the Yankees. I want to thank the Steinbrenner family and Brian Cashman for entrusting me with this tremendous honor and responsibility. I believe we are entering into a special time in New York Yankees history, and I am so excited to be a part of it.  I can’t wait to get to work – and that work starts now.”

December 1st: The Year of the Aarons continues in New York. According to multiple reports, the Yankees are set to name Aaron Boone their next manager. Jack Curry, Buster Olney, Joel Sherman, Ken Rosenthal, Mark Feinsand, and Bill Madden are all reporting it, so yeah. The Yankees have not yet confirmed or announced anything. That should happen relatively soon.

The Yankees interviewed six candidates for their managerial opening and one-by-one they were ruled out Friday before Boone was the last man standing. The candidates: Boone, Carlos Beltran, Hensley Meulens, Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge, and Chris Woodward. Boone and Meulens were reportedly the two finalists. Thomson, who had been with the Yankees since the early 1990s, is leaving to become the Phillies bench coach.

With Boone, the Yankees are continuing the recent trend around MLB of hiring managers with no experience. He retired as a player following the 2009 season and had been working as an analyst with ESPN ever since. Boone has an interest in analytics, that much is clear from his broadcasts, and he’s always been good with the media. The Yankees must feel pretty good about his communication skills as well. They reportedly prioritized communication.

Boone, who will turn 45 in March, will be the 33rd different manager in Yankee history and only the third in the last 22 years, and the fourth in the last 26 years. Pretty amazing considering how much turnover there was under George Steinbrenner in the 1970s and 1980s. Boone is very much a baseball brat. His grandfather (Ray), father (Bob), and brother (Brett) all played in the big leagues. He grew up around the game. Baseball is all he knows.

What kind of manager will Boone be? Beats me. Your guess is as good as mine. My guess is his lineup construction and bullpen usage and other basic on-field stuff won’t be all that different from Joe Girardi. The real difference will be in the clubhouse. That’s why the Yankees parted ways with Girardi. They didn’t like the way things were going on behind closed doors. Hopefully Boone connects well with the young players and gets them to take their games to the next level.

Now that the managerial search has reportedly concluded, the Yankees have to build the rest of their coaching staff. Larry Rothschild is coming back as pitching coach. We know that much. I have to think the Yankees and Boone will want an experienced bench coach, someone who has been a manager before. Tony Pena, maybe? Someone new? We’ll find out soon enough.

The Other Core Relievers [2017 Season Review]

Adam Warren. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Adam Warren. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Adam Warren

It may be an exaggeration to say that Adam Warren’s inclusion in the Aroldis Chapman deal was as exciting to Yankees fans as the hype around centerpiece Gleyber Torres a year and a half ago, but he was regarded as far more than a throw-in. Our own Mike Axisa was “stoked” to have him back, for example, and for good reason – Warren was a borderline stud reliever before being dealt to Chicago. To wit, he pitched to the following line out of the Yankees bullpen: 183 IP, 8.3 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 45.3 GB%, 3.05 ERA, 130 ERA+, 3.40 FIP. Warren was not that pitcher for the Cubs, but there was hope that a return to his old stomping grounds would cure whatever ailed him.

And it did – 30.1 IP and a 133 ERA+ later, and Warren was right back in the mix to be the Yankees fireman.

Warren entered the 2017 season in a fireman-esque role, and he did not disappoint. Six of his first seven outings saw him picking up four or more outs, and six of those seven games were also within three runs when he entered. And, in true fireman fashion, he entered games in the 4th, 5th, 6th (3 times), 7th, and 8th in those outings. Those seven appearances comprised the first month of the season, over which he tossed 13.1 IP of 0.68 ERA ball, with 13 strikeouts against 3 walks.

May was a different story, though. Warren blew three leads in twelve appearances, and generally struggled to put batters away. He was also shifted into a more defined role, settling in as the ‘7th inning guy;’ that coincided with Chad Green becoming an absolute monster in multi-inning stints, and Joe Girardi went with the hot hand in the fireman position. And so the bullpen deployment became a bit more rigid.

Warren settled down after Memorial Day, and the Yankees bullpen was firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, Warren hit the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation on June 16, and would spend the next three weeks on the sidelines. He came back strong, though, returning on July 4 and reeling off a month and a half of awesomeness. Warren made 16 appearances from that date through August 16, pitching to the following line: 19.2 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 19 K, 0.92 ERA.

The wheels fell off at that point, though, and he hit the DL with a balky back on September 6. There were rumblings that he’d miss the rest of the season, but he returned to throw a scoreless inning in the Yankees final game. He finished the season with a 2.35 ERA (193 ERA+), 8.5 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9 in 57.1 IP, and looked strong in the playoffs, to boot – Warren shutout the Astros in two appearances (3.1 IP) in the ALCS.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Chasen Shreve

Calling Shreve a “core” reliever sounds strange, but that’s basically what he was in 2017. Granted, he was essentially the mop-up man – but he held onto that role for the vast majority of the season. Shreve made 44 appearances in 2017, and he entered 25 of those games with a lead or deficit of three or more runs; and ten of those appearances came with the Yankees leading by four or more runs, so he may be best described as their victory cigar.

Shreve, like Warren, was counted on to pitch more than one inning, and was rarely used in the prototypical LOOGY role. He was only called upon seven times to get out a tough lefty, and he was actually successful in six of opportunities. Despite Girardi’s justified misgivings about using him in tough spots, Shreve was quite good against lefties in 2017, holding them to a .161/.235/.262 slash line in 68 showdowns. Compare that to a .225/.338/.491 line against righties, and one can’t help but wonder if there’s a lefty specialist to be found.

As was the case in his first two seasons in pinstripes, Shreve had no trouble racking up whiffs. He struck out 11.5 batters per nine, and his 14.4% swinging strike rate was well above league-average. On the flip side of that, however, were his continued struggles with the long ball (1.6 HR/9 compounded by a lowly 37.4% groundball rate) and control (5.0 BB/9). He’s basically a three true outcomes pitcher, and that’s not someone that can be relied upon all that often.

That being said, those weaknesses did largely evaporate against same-handed batters. Shreve struck out 38.2% of lefties, walked just 8.8%, and allowed just one home run to the aforementioned 68 lefties that he faced. Those are excellent numbers, and he was fairly consistent against lefties throughout the year. That may not mean that he has shaken off the horror show that was 2016, when he allowed lefties to post a .437 wOBA – but I would be interested to see him get another shot at the role, as the Yankees perpetual search for a LOOGY wages on.

2018 Outlook

Warren seems a lock to return to the sixth/seventh inning role, barring a trade of Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle, or Aroldis Chapman. Well, that, or if Green actually ends up starting (which I don’t see happening). And the Yankees should be confident in his ability to fill any role, given that Warren has never disappointed in pinstripes.

As for Shreve, I’m not quite sure. The Yankees are loaded with potential relievers, and Shreve was an odd man out at the end of the regular season. A new coaching staff may be interested to see if he could be the lefty specialist, and I think he deserves that opportunity; but his ability to throw multiple innings and get out lefties may keep him in a more mop-up oriented role. And I don’t know how safe his spot on the roster is, either.

Thoughts after the Yankees miss out on Shohei Ohtani

At least I can stop looking for Ohtani photos now. (AP)
At least I can stop looking for Ohtani photos now. (AP)

The first round of Shohei Ohtani cuts were announced last night. The Yankees were among them. Brian Cashman confirmed Ohtani’s camp told him he will not sign with the Yankees. Sucks. Ohtani was reportedly impressed by New York’s sales pitch, but is said to be prefer a West Coast team. Jon Heyman says Ohtani’s agents implored him to give the Yankees a longer look, but no dice. What can you do? Anyway, some thoughts.

1. Of course I’m disappointed the Yankees missed out on Ohtani, but I’m not crushed, weirdly. I thought I would be. On a scale of zero to wow the Yankees are about to trade for Cliff Lee, I’m at about 0.25 Cliff Lees right now. That’s my disappointment level. Maybe that’s because I’ve mellowed out with age. Or maybe because I wasn’t planning the offseason around Ohtani, and because I always knew the level financial playing field meant Ohtani’s personal preferences would drive his decision, and I had no idea what those preferences are. He’s not the first Japanese-born player who wants to play on the West Coast and he won’t be the last. It stinks. Ohtani is fun as hell and I was hoping the Yankees would add him to their very fun team. It’s a bummer, and yet I don’t feel like this is the end of the world. I wish Ohtani well, but if he wants to sign with the Mariners, then get outpitched by Masahiro Tanaka and lose to the Yankees in Game Seven of the ALCS one of these years, I’ll allow it.

2. What are the Yankees missing out on in Ohtani? A potential impact player, in the simplest terms. There’s a natural tendency to say “he sucks anyway” whenever your favorite team misses out on a player, but Ohtani’s potential is significant. I’m skeptical he’ll be an impact hitter — in last week’s chat I said I think Ohtani will be a full-time pitcher no later than 2020 — but his upside on the mound is considerable. Upper-90s heat with two swing-and-miss secondary pitches (slider, splitter) is no joke. This was a 23-year-old potential ace-caliber pitcher available for nothing more than a $3.5M bonus and a minor league contract. How often do you get a chance to acquire this type of player on those terms? Basically never. This was a big missed opportunity. The Yankees didn’t do anything wrong! We can’t blame them. It just sucks to miss out on such a young and potentially great player.

3. The Yankees are definitely going to spend that $3.5M in international bonus money elsewhere now. They didn’t trade Matt Wotherspoon and Yefry Ramirez for nothing! In all seriousness, that money is going somewhere. The current scouting reports are hardly glowing, but Kevin Maitan is the big name out there now that he’s no longer with the Braves. All those other Braves prospects are out there waiting to be signed too. The Yankees can spend that $3.5M on them. Also, keep in mind the Yankees have been connected to outfielder Raimfer Salinas and catcher Antonio Cabello for weeks now, so they’re probably going to wrap up deals with them soon. Salinas and Cabello are two of the best international prospects still on the market now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees sign Salinas, Cabello, and Maitan now that they’re out on Ohtani. Point is, that international bonus money is going somewhere. I wish it were Ohtani, but better the other guys than nowhere.

4. So what do the Yankees do now? Well, if you’re hoping they turn around and make a big move like signing Yu Darvish or trading for Giancarlo Stanton, I would advise you not to hold your breath. For starters, the Yankees don’t operate like that anymore. They don’t make knee jerk reactionary moves. Secondly, the financial terms of these moves are not even in the same state, let alone the same ballpark. We’re talking about a player at the league minimum and players on large contracts, whether it’s Stanton or some free agent. The plan to get under the luxury tax threshold is still in effect — that’s what made Ohtani so appealing, he could have so much impact at so little cost — and the Yankees won’t jeopardize that. They’ll look for pitching depth because they always do that, and, if anything, they might now look for a lower cost bat to take some DH at-bats after losing out on Ohtani. That’s something they can wait to do later in the offseason though, when players who are still unsigned start to get desperate, a la Chris Carter last year. There are always bargains to be had in January and February. Is a big move possible? Of course, these are still the Yankees. I just don’t see them making a big move in response to losing out on Ohtani. It is entirely possible their biggest move this winter will be re-signing CC Sabathia.

5. On the bright side, at least Ohtani was nice enough to let teams know they are out of the running early in the process rather than string them along. He could’ve easily summoned the Yankees to Los Angeles to make an in-person sales pitch just to hear them out, but no, he let them know not to bother. Ohtani did that for selfish reasons — he only has a 21-day window to pick a team, so why waste time on a team you know you’re not signing with? — but it helps the Yankees. They can put the Ohtani pursuit behind them and move on with the rest of their offseason. No need to wait around for him to make a decision. Now that we know Aaron Boone will be the next manager and Ohtani will sign elsewhere, I think we can say the biggest offseason stories for the Yankees are complete. Onward.