Thoughts following the 2016 Draft

Rutherford. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)
Blake Ruth. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

The marathon 2016 amateur draft is complete. The Yankees drafted 40 players from Thursday through Saturday — here are our Day One, Day Two, and Day Three recaps — and now we have to see how many of those 40 they actually sign before the July 15th deadline. It’s usually somewhere around 25-30. We’ll see. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. It’s hard not to love the California HS OF Blake Rutherford (1st round) pick. All the major scouting publications ranked him as a top ten talent, and the Yankees were able to get him with the 18th pick because of bonus demands and his age. Rutherford turned 19 last month and some are acting like he’s about to collect social security. It’s not like his 20th birthday is right around the corner. Slot money for the 18th pick is $2.44M and my guess is the Yankees end up signing Rutherford for something closer to $4M. They’ve spent over their bonus pool the maximum allowed without forfeiting a future first round pick last few drafts, so they might sign their picks from rounds 2-10, then take all the leftover money and drop it in front of Rutherford. That’s essentially what they did with James Kaprielian last year and Aaron Judge a few years ago. Either way, I fully expect Rutherford to sign. The Yankees did their homework and know what number they need to meet.

2. I’m pretty pleased by the Louisville 2B Nick Solak (2nd) selection. He can really hit. Maybe not for much power, but he can drive the ball from line to line and he’s willing to take a walk, plus he offers some speed. So basically the only thing he can’t do at the plate is hit the ball over the fence consistently. As long as Solak plays passable defense at second base, he’ll be a nice little player. I buy into his bat much more than I do some other college middle infielders the Yankees have drafted in the top ten rounds in recent years, like Kyle Holder and Vince Conde. Solak wasn’t the sexiest pick in the world, but the kid can hit.

3. California HS RHP Nolan Martinez (3rd) is exactly the kind of prep pitcher the Yankees have been selecting early in Day Two in recent years. He’s a three-pitch guy with a potential put-away pitch breaking ball and unusual polish for a high schooler. Drew Finley and Austin DeCarr, the team’s third round selections in the previous two drafts, came into pro ball with the same basic profile. Don’t get me wrong, every player is unique and their own individual, but there are definite similarities. I kinda feel like I should have seen the Martinez pick coming. Three-pitch high school guy with polish from Southern California? Too easy. I have to remember to keep my eye on that demographic when looked at candidates for next summer’s third round pick.

4. I need to learn a little more about Florida JuCo RHP Nick Nelson (4th) because Keith Law’s scouting report (subs. req’d) in his AL draft recap is pretty ridiculous. “(Nelson) works with a plus fastball up to 95 and a plus curveball, with good command for his age, and his arm action and delivery point to future plus command as well,” he wrote. Uh, a plus fastball and a plus curveball with the potential for plus command makes for a really really really good pitching prospect. That sounds too good to be true. Nelson is only 6-foot-1, so I imagine there is some concern about his ability to pitch downhill, but still. A plus fastball and a plus curve with a delivery that hints plus command is coming? In the fourth round? Yes please.

5. My favorite obscure pick: USC RHP Brooks Kriske (6th). He’s been up to 96 mph with his heater this spring after sitting closer to 90-92 mph in the past, and he also has an average-ish slider that could improve with pro instruction. Kriske is a senior sign designed to save draft pool space for Rutherford first and foremost. He’s not a non-prospect though. There’s some power in his arm and this is a guy who went from a 16.8% strikeout rate his first three years at USC to 29.4% this year thanks to that extra velocity. Kriske’s a pure reliever and the Yankee seem to have a knack for digging up random power arms from the college ranks.

6. This draft was definitely different than the last few. First and foremost, the Yankees shot for the moon with their top pick, which hasn’t always happened. (To be fair, the team hasn’t had a talent like Rutherford fall to them since I guess Gerrit Cole in 2008.) Secondly, they drafted way more high school players. They took 14 this year after taking 14 in the 2014 and 2015 drafts combined. College players were a definite point of emphasis the last few drafts. And third, just about every college position player they selected is bat over glove. That isn’t to say defense is unimportant. It obviously is. It just seemed like the Yankees leaned a little too heavily towards the top glove guys in recent years. I don’t know if this is all one giant coincidence or a shift in philosophy, but it’s not hard to notice this all happened in the first full year since the Yankees made their player development staff changes, most notably hiring Gary Denbo to run the system.

7. It was interesting to see how the 2014-15 international signing period affected the 2016 draft. The Yankees loaded up on infielders internationally two years ago, so when it came time to fill out their rosters late in the draft this year, they had to go heavy on outfielders. They took ten total outfielders in the 2016 draft and only four infielders. Teams don’t draft for need but they kinda do. Early on they take the best talent available because you have to. High-end talent is hard to get, so get it while you can. The later rounds are definitely about filling specific needs though. You need players to plug roster holes around the actual prospects, and for the Yankees, that meant bringing in a bunch of outfielders.

8. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement is due this offseason, and while I do think it will bring some changes to the draft, I don’t think the bonus pools are going away. They’re a way for the owners to save money and they’re an easy concession for the MLBPA to make because they don’t hurt union members. Given the way the draft works nowadays, I’d like to see them shorten it to 20-25 rounds or so. Forty rounds is unnecessary at this point. Give teams their 20-25 picks, then let them fill out their minor league rosters with undrafted free agents. These days 40 rounds is overkill. I think there’s a chance draft picks will be made tradeable with some limitations in the next CBA, though I’m not optimistic. Making picks tradeable would certainly spice things up.

Yankeemetrics: Welcome back to under .500 [June 10-12]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Vintage CC
They say that Father Time is undefeated … but right now CC Sabathia is giving him a heck of a battle. Sabathia wrote yet another chapter in his amazing renaissance season, shutting down the Tigers with seven scoreless innings in the Yankees 4-0 win on Friday night.

Sabathia dropped his ERA to 2.28, the lowest it’s been through the first 10 starts of any season in his career. The big lefty ended April with a mediocre 5.06 ERA, but has been brilliant since the calendar turned to May. In 38 innings over six starts since then, he’s allowed just 23 hits — only four of them for extra bases — and has a hard-to-believe 0.71 ERA.

Through Friday, that was the best ERA by any pitcher since May 1 (min. 30 innings), just ahead of Madison Bumgarner (0.96) and Clayton Kershaw (0.99). It also marks the best six-start stretch — in terms of ERA — for Sabathia during his entire career. His previous best was 0.76 from June 25 to July 21, 2011.

Sabathia isn’t blowing away hitters with high-90s fastballs anymore, but rather he’s using his cutter and sinker effectively to generate a ton of weak contact.

He got two more pop ups on Friday, increasing his rate of infield fly balls to a major-league-best 19.0 percent. His soft-contact rate of 38.1 percent against the Tigers was his second-highest single-game mark this year, and he now ranks second among AL starters in that metric (25.4 percent). And thanks to such a dominant outing on Friday, his average exit velocity allowed on batted balls fell to 85.6 mph, also the second-lowest by any AL starter entering the weekend.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Goodbye, win streak …
On paper, Saturday’s game seemed like a matchup heavily in the Yankees favor: They were 18-6 vs. the Tigers at the new Yankee Stadium, tied for their best record there against any AL team. Detroit’s Justin Verlander had struggled mightily at this ballpark during his career, going 0-4 with a 4.93 ERA in eight starts (including the postseason). That was his most starts without a win for any stadium he’s pitched at in the majors.

The Tigers and Verlander defied those numbers, Ian Kinsler had a historic day at the plate, and the Yankees five-game win streak was snapped. Verlander shut down the middle of the order with a mix of four-seamers, cutters, changeups and curves — the Yankees’ No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters were a combined 0-for-11 with one walk — and Kinsler provided the scoring punch with a three-run homer and a two-run double.

He became just the third visiting leadoff hitter in the last 50 seasons to have at least five RBIs at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The most recent was Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, and the other was the Orioles’ Brady Anderson in 1992.

Verlander cooled off the scorching-hot bat of Carlos Beltran, who went 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play against the former Cy Young winner. Beltran is now 1-for-16 (.063) with five strikeouts against Verlander in his career, his worst batting average against any pitcher he’s faced at least 15 times.

Masahiro Tanaka, who came into the game with a 1.33 ERA in his previous four outings, was tagged for five runs on six hits, including two homers. The first of those longballs came after he had gotten two quick strikes on Nick Castellanos in the second inning. It was the first time in his career that Tanaka had allowed a home run on an 0-2 count. Castellanos also had never hit a homer on an 0-2 count before taking Tanaka deep.

First time for everything
Seven times the Tigers had come to the new Yankee Stadium in the regular season, and seven times they left with more losses than wins during the series. They ended that drought with a 4-1 win on Sunday, taking two of three from the Yankees in the Bronx.

Not only had the Yankees never lost a regular-season series to the Tigers at this ballpark, but they’d never even lost back-to-back games against them there … until Sunday. The Tigers were the only AL team that had never beaten the Yankees twice in a row during the regular season at the new Yankee Stadium.

For the second day in a row, a Tigers starter dominated the Yankees lineup. Rookie Michael Fulmer tossed six scoreless innings, allowing only a pair of doubles by Austin Romine and Aaron Hicks. The last opposing pitcher age 23 or younger to go at least six innings without allowing a run and no more than two hits in the Bronx was the Twins’ Scott Erickson, who threw a two-hit shutout at the old Yankee Stadium on June 24, 1991.

Mister “Box of Chocolates” — aka Michael Pineda — continued to do his best to shed that label of inconsistency with another strong performance this month. For the first time this season, he’s put together three straight starts without allowing more than three runs in each outing. Baby steps, Big Mike, baby steps.

His slider continues to be a dominant swing-and-miss weapon for him, with the Tigers whiffing on 14 of their 32 swings (44 percent) against the pitch. During this mini-three-game hot streak in June, batters have swung at 73 of his sliders and come up empty 39 times — a ridiculous whiff rate of 53 percent.

Fan Confidence Poll: June 13th, 2016

Record Last Week: 5-2 (35 RS, 24 RA)
Season Record: 31-32 (247 RS, 267 RA, 29-34 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Rockies (two games, Tues. and Weds.), @ Twins (four games, Thurs. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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

Bats go silent as Yankees drop series finale 4-1 to Tigers

The day started with the 70th annual Old Timers’ Day ceremony and ended with the Yankees’ second straight loss to the Tigers. The final score was 4-1. At least Hideki Matsui hit a homer during the Old Timers’ Game. That was cool. The 2016 Yankees once again fell below .500 though. They’re 31-32.


Pineda Does His Part
Third straight strong start for Michael Pineda, who held the Tigers to two runs on six hits and two walks in six innings. It wasn’t like they hit him hard either. Detroit scored their first run on a ground ball single, an infield single, a soft line drive single, and a sac fly to center. They scored their second round on a walk, a ground ball single, and a ground out. The hardest hit ball against Pineda all afternoon was probably the sac fly, and it was a routine catch.

In those six innings Pineda fanned eight and got 19 swings and misses out of 114 total pitches. That’s an awful lot. It was his sixth game with 18+ whiffs so far this season. Pineda’s 12.9% strikeout rate is the sixth highest in baseball in 2016, which makes his early season struggles that much more frustrating. The stuff is clearly high-end. He was getting burned by too many mistake pitches. Pineda seems to have found something these last three starts. Hopefully he continues to build on it.


Shut Down By Fulmer
Right-hander Michael Fulmer, who went to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, went into Sunday’s start with a 22 innings scoreless streak. It is now at 28 and counting. He completely shut the Yankees down over his six innings, allowing only two hits and three walks. The Bombers had leadoff doubles in the third and fifth innings, and failed to score both times. Blah.

The Yankees had their best chance to make it a game in that fifth inning, when they loaded the bases with two outs. Austin Romine led off with a ground-rule double, and after Aaron Hicks popped out and Rob Refsnyder grounded out, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner drew walks. They were completely different walks too. Ellsbury walked on four pitches, none of which was close. Gardner fouled off five pitches as part of a ten-pitch at-bat.

That brought Carlos Beltran to the plate with the bases loaded and a 2-0 deficit, and he is exactly the guy the Yankees want up in that situation. Fulmer worked Beltran over all afternoon — he struck him out feebly his first two times up — and he was able to keep the Yankees off the board by getting Carlos to fly out to center. Fulmer sure is mighty impressive, huh? The Mets have cranked out some big time power arms of late.


The Yankees scored their lone run in the eighth inning off former Yankee Justin Wilson. Ellsbury singled, Beltran walked, then Chase Headley singled to score Ellsbury. Ellsbury and Headley were the only Yankees to reach base twice in the game. Ellsbury had a single and a walk, Headley had a single and a hit-by-pitch.

The middle relief monster struck out again. First one out of the bullpen with a 2-0 deficit in the seventh inning was Anthony Swarzak, who promptly gave up a two-run homer to Ian Kinsler to put the game out of reach. The team’s non-big three relievers have a 4.61 ERA in 113.1 innings.

And finally, ex-Tigers farmhand Chad Green got a chance to pitch against the Tigers after warming up Saturday. Green struck out one in a perfect ninth. His reward? A trip to Triple-A. He was sent down after the game, presumably to make room on the roster for just signed Ike Davis.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has both the box score and updated standings, and has the video highlights. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the WPA graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
An off-day, finally. The Yankees went 23-17 during this 40 games in 41 days stretch and will now get a day to catch their breath. I think everyone needs the off-day, fans included. The Yankees open a quick two-game series with the Rockies in Colorado on Tuesday night. Nathan Eovaldi and Jorge De La Rosa is the scheduled pitching matchup.

DotF: Swisher homers twice, Sanchez returns in AAA win

LHP James Pazos was placed on the Triple-A DL, according to Shane Hennigan. Not sure what’s wrong with him, exactly. RHP Matt Wotherspoon was called up from Double-A Trenton to take his place on the roster.

Triple-A Scranton (8-5 win over Columbus) they scored 33 runs in the three-game series and have scored 52 runs in their last six games

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 16-for-39 (.410) in his last ten games
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — that’s three homers in his last two games
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB — back-to-back days with a dinger after going a month without one
  • 3B Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K — that’s his 33rd career game at third and his first since 2014
  • DH Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HBP — first game back from the broken thumb … missed only 18 days total
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — nine of 14 pitches were strikes (64%) … first rehab outing of I don’t know how many
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 52 of 86 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/4 GB/FB — 30 of 45 pitches were strikes … the Scranton native is back with the RailRiders

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

The Yankees held their 70th annual Old Timers’ Day this afternoon, and, once again, it was just a wonderful ceremony. Here are all the videos. Hideki Matsui hit a homer into the second deck during the Old Timers’ Game just like the old days. It landed pretty much in the same spot as his 2009 World Series homer off Pedro Martinez. Good times.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Giants and Dodgers are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Peavy vs. Urias), plus Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals is on as well. Talk about those games, Old Timers’ Day, or anything else right here.

Game 63: Old Timers’ Day


Based on experience, Old Timers’ Day is an event best enjoyed live at Yankee Stadium. It makes for a long day at the ballpark, but being there to see all those great Yankees on the field is pretty damn awesome. Pretty much no other team in baseball can pull off something like this.

Today is the first Old Timers’ Day since Yogi Berra passed away, which is pretty sad. Yogi and George Steinbrenner had their long feud from 1985-99, but since then, he had been a staple at Old Timers’ Day. Berra was one of the greatest catchers in history and seeing players like him is what makes this day so special.

The full roster of Old Timers can be found right here. We’re still waiting for Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera to make their Old Timers’ Day debuts, though there are still plenty of all-time great players and personal faves scheduled to appear today. I’m looking forward to seeing Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui myself.

The Old Timers’ Day festivities are scheduled to begin at 11:30am ET or so. There will be the baseline introductions and then the Old Timers’ Game, as usual. Here are the lineups, via Pete Caldera:

Old Timers' Day lineup

Looks a wee bit lopsided to me! The Clippers have youth on their side though. Don’t underestimate guys like Bubba Crosby and Mariano Duncan. They want to show they can still play during their Old Timers’ Day debut.

We’ve got some pretty nice weather in New York today. It’s sunny with temperatures in the low-80s. It’s really windy though. My hat almost got blown off my head a few times when I went out for breakfast this morning. Like I said, the Old Timers’ Day stuff will begin at 11:30am ET. The series finale between the Yankees and Tigers will follow at 2pm ET. Enjoy the day, everyone.

Update (1:26pm ET): Here is the lineup for the regular game this afternoon:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Michael Pineda

Here is the Tigers’ lineup.