Game 48: Oaktown

See? The Coliseum wasn't so bad before Mount Davis. (Baseball Feelings)
See? The Coliseum wasn’t so bad before Mount Davis. (Baseball Feelings)

Fresh off their three-game sweep of the Royals, the Yankees are back out on the road, this time traveling across the country for a seven-game West Coast trip. It starts tonight in Oakland, not far from CC Sabathia‘s hometown, and Sabathia happens to be on the mound tonight. Neat.

The A’s have the worst record in the league (17-32) but their run differential (-5) says they’re better than that. Their bullpen has really sabotaged their season. I wouldn’t assume this will be an easy series — is any series an easy series for these Yankees? — just because Oakland has such an awful record. They could sneak up on you. Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 2B Stephen Drew
  8. CF Chris Young
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s sunny yet cool in the Bay Area tonight. Temperatures are down in the 50s. No rain in the forecast though. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin just after 10pm ET (argh) and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Slade Heathcott was originally in tonight’s lineup but was a late scratch due to a sore quad … Ivan Nova (elbow) made another Extended Spring Training start today. He’ll make one more in a few days then head out on an official minor league rehab assignment … Chris Martin (elbow) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton on Saturday … in case you missed it earlier, Masahiro Tanaka is en route to join the Yankees. He’s expected to start early next week.

Tanaka joining Yankees out west, expected to return to rotation next week

(Scranton Times-Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

Earlier today, Joe Girardi told reporters Masahiro Tanaka is flying west today to meet the Yankees in California, and he is expected to return to the rotation early next week. “In a perfect world he would start sometime in Seattle,” said Girardi, referring to the team’s three-game series with the Mariners from Monday through Wednesday.

Tanaka, 26, has been out exactly one month now with wrist tendinitis and a minor forearm strain. He’s made two Triple-A rehab starts — one good, one not so good — and was able to get his pitch count up to 62 yesterday, in his second start. Girardi said Tanaka will be limited to 80 pitches in his return next week.

First off all, hooray Tanaka! The Yankees have played it very safe with their ace and they’ve insisted the injury was minor the entire time. Tanaka was reportedly upset at being placed on the DL too. There’s no reason to think they’re rushing him back or that they’re being too aggressive. He’s healthy. He’s just not stretched out.

Secondly, I’m interested to see how they get Tanaka on the roster. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia will start Monday and Tuesday, and they’re not coming out of the rotation, but Chris Capuano is starting Wednesday and the Yankees are off Thursday. Will Tanaka replace Capuano in the rotation? Or just push him back?

As far as the 25-man roster spot, the easy move would be sending Jacob Lindgren back to Triple-A, but I hope that doesn’t happen. Chasen Shreve could (undeservingly) get sent out, or Esmil Rogers or David Carpenter could be cut loose with Capuano or Adam Warren sliding into the bullpen. Intrigue! We’ll find out soon enough.

Thursday Night Open Thread

The Yankees are out on the West Coast, which means they don’t play until 10pm ET tonight. We’ll have a regular game thread a little closer to first pitch, so, until then, use this open thread to keep yourself busy. The baseball schedule is pretty light tonight — there are no 7pm ET games and the only 8pm ET game is the Red Sox and Rangers. That game will be on MLB Network. There’s no NHL or NBA postseason action tonight either. Weird. Anyway, talk about whatever here.

2015 Draft: Jacob Nix

Jacob Nix | RHP

Background
Nix, 19, was the Astros’ fifth round pick last year out of a California high school, and he agreed to sign for an above slot $1.5M. When Houston’s deal with first overall pick Brady Aiken fell apart, they backed out of the agreement with Nix because they no longer had the bonus pool savings from the Aiken pick. Nix filed a grievance and the two sides settled for $1.5M six figures before going to a hearing. He is now doing a post-graduate year at IMG Academy in Florida and is draft-eligible again this summer.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 205 lbs., Nix has the model pitcher’s frame, and depending on the day you’ll see either a future ace or a future fifth starter. His fastball jumped this spring and he now sits in the 92-95 mph range with some run back in on righties. Nix’s curveball is inconsistent but is a true put-away pitch at its best. His changeup is more consistent but doesn’t show the same out pitch potential. Command is an issue but Nix has worked hard to spring to tighten up his mechanics. He’s still pretty raw, though Nix has made some nice strides since the Astros left him at the altar last year.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’d), Baseball America, and MLB.com ranked Nix as the 30th, 37th, and 45th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Law said he heard the Yankees were in on Nix in his most recent mock draft. Nix is going to go much higher this year — he was more of a third rounder who fell to the fifth round due to bonus demands last summer — but he isn’t a slam dunk first rounder. He’s definitely not a quick to MLB prospect either. The Yankees pick 16th, 30th, and 57th this year. Nix won’t be around for 57th overall, so it would have to be 16th or 30th, likely 30th.

2015 Draft: Keith Law’s Mock Draft v2.0

Allard. (USA Baseball)
Allard. (USA Baseball)

Earlier today Keith Law posted his second mock draft of the season (subs. req’d), and this time he has the Diamondbacks taking Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick. We’ve seen Swanson connected to Arizona in other mock drafts too. I’ve lost track of how many players have been considered for that spot though. There’s no consensus No. 1 pick this year.

Law has the Yankees selecting California HS LHP Kolby Allard with their top pick, the 16th overall selection. He had them taking Pennsylvania HS RHP Mike Nikorak in his first mock draft. Allard came into the spring as arguably the best left-handed pitcher in the draft before missing two months with a stress reaction in his back. He was unable to return before the end of his team’s season, though there was talk Allard would schedule some showcase events for scouts this month to show he’s healthy.

Here’s a snippet of Allard’s free MLB.com scouting report:

A UCLA recruit, he has two plus pitches in his 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 96 and a tight curveball. Allard’s third pitch is a changeup that needs more work. He has an easy delivery that enhances his ability to command his pitches and his chances to remain a starter despite his smaller build.

Allard’s listed at 6-foot-0 and 170 lbs., so he’s not a big kid, but he has stuff and command. Law (subs. req’d) called him the best left-handed pitcher in the draft “in terms of ceiling and floor,” for what it’s worth. Obviously the back injury is a concern. Those tend to never go away. At least it’s not his arm though. If he’s healthy, Allard would be as close to the best case scenario as it gets for that 16th pick.

Also in the mock draft, Law says he hears the Yankees are in California HS C Chris Betts, New York HS OF Garrett Whitley, and Tennessee HS RHP Donny Everett as well. Nothing new, we’ve heard that before. Here are my profiles on Betts, Whitley, and Everett. The Yankees could conceivably end up with two of those guys because they have the 30th pick as well (compensation for David Robertson), plus a ton of draft pool space ($7.885M).

5/28 to 5/31 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time this season, the Yankees will head west and play in the Pacific Time Zone. They open a seven-game trip with a four-game series against the Athletics in Oakland later tonight. The Yankees will make another West Coast trip at the end of June.

What Have The A’s Done Lately?

Let’s put it this way: this is not the A’s season. They just dropped two straight to the Tigers and lost two of three in the series. Before the two losses, they won three straight games for the first time this season. First time! Oakland has the league’s worst record (17-32) despite a not abysmal run differential (-5).

Offense & Defense

Overall, the Athletics are about a league average offensive club with a team 101 wRC+ and an average of 4.18 runs per game. They’re a little banging up offensively, with OF Coco Crisp (neck) and 1B Ike Davis (oblique) on the DL with long-term injuries. Crisp’s injury might be career-ending. 3B Brett Lawrie is also day-to-day with back tightness, though he did play yesterday.

I believe in Stephen Vogt. (Presswire)
I believe in Stephen Vogt. (Presswire)

The big names in manager Bob Melvin’s lineup are 2B Ben Zobrist (100 wRC+), DH Billy Butler (95 wRC+), and OF Josh Reddick (158 wRC+). Reddick’s been really good, Zobrist okay around a knee injury, and Butler a disappointment. Their best hitter is C Stephen Vogt (182 wRC+), a late-blooming 30-year-old the Rays gave up on last year. Vogt’s been the best hitting catcher in baseball so far this season. Go figure. SS Marcus Semien (124 wRC+) has been really good as well.

In addition to Lawrie (81 wRC+), the rest of the lineup includes OF Sam Fuld (61 wRC+) and OF Billy Burns (100 wRC+), two no-power speed guys. (Burns is very appropriately named.) 1B Max Muncy (116 wRC+) and 1B/OF Mark Canha (102 wRC+) are platooning at first base for the time being. C Josh Phegley (75 wRC+) will play against lefties and IF Andy Parrino (0-for-5) is the backup infielder. Reddick and Vogt are a force in the middle of the lineup. The rest of the offense … eh.

Regardless of metric, the A’s are one of the very worst defensive teams in baseball. They have both the most errors (50, ten more than anyone else!) and the lowest team UZR, so it’s no surprise they lead baseball with 30 unearned runs allowed. Reddick is excellent in right and Zobrist and Lawrie are strong at second and third, respectively, but that’s about it. Fuld and Burns can run a little but that hasn’t translated to great defense. Semien at short has been particularly ugly, which isn’t surprising because basically no one outside Oakland thought he could play short on an everyday basis. Put the ball in play and good things will happen against this defense.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. OAK) vs. RHP Kendall Graveman (No vs. NYY)
Graveman, 24, came over in the Josh Donaldson trade and was my pick to win AL Rookie of the Year before the season. So, naturally, he has a 6.04 ERA (5.74 FIP) in five starts and 22.1 innings this year. Graveman was sent down to Triple-A for a few weeks but has since rejoined the team. He threw six shutout innings against the Rays last time out, which was his first start back from the minors. Graveman hasn’t missed many bats (12.2 K%) and he does walk people (10.3 BB%), which is usually a bad combination. His strong ground ball rate (49.4%) hasn’t helped him keep the ball in the park (1.21 HR/9). Lefties (.405 wOBA) have teed off against him too, moreso than righties (.328 wOBA). Graveman is a sinker pitcher, sitting right around 90 mph with the pitch. He’ll also throw a few upper-80s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters to keep hitters honest. Low-80s changeups and upper-70s curves are his two offspeed pitches. Graveman has thrown the sinker and cutter almost 80% of the time combined.

Friday: LHP Chris Capuano (Career vs. OAK) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (Career vs. NYY)
After a fine first full season as big leaguer last year, the 25-year-old Gray has taken a step towards ace-hood this year, pitching to a 1.77 ERA (2.60 FIP) in ten starts and 66 innings. His strikeout rate (23.6%) has ticked up, his walk rate has dropped (7.0%), and his ground ball rate (51.4%) has remained steady. Gray has been allergic to home runs (0.27 HR/9), but, even pitching his home games in Oakland, I don’t think that will last forever. He has a small platoon split — .245 vs .277 wOBA in favor of lefties — which has been true his entire career. Gray throws both two and four-seamers in the mid-90s and he uses them both equally. A hammer low-80s curveball is his out pitch, but he also throws mid-80s sliders and a handful of mid-80s changeups per start. Gray’s really good. Climbing towards the game’s elite. It’s worth noting Gray left his last start with an ankle contusion after being hit by a comebacker, but he threw a bullpen session a few days ago and is fine.

Hahn. (Presswire)
Hahn. (Presswire)

Saturday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Hahn (Career vs. NYY)
Hahn is well-traveled despite being only 25 years old. He was a sixth round pick by the Rays in 2010, then they traded him to the Padres in the Alex Torres/Brad Boxberger/Logan Forsythe deal during the 2013-14 offseason, then this past offseason the Padres shipped him to Oakland in the Derek Norris trade. Hahn has a 3.69 ERA (3.18 FIP) in nine starts and 53.2 innings for the A’s this year, and he’s done it mostly with few walks (5.3%) and lots of grounders (51.7%). He doesn’t strike anyone out (16.0%) and his homer rate (0.34 HR/9) is way low. Lefties (.331 wOBA) have hit him a lot harder than righties (.213 wOBA) this year. Hahn throws two fastballs but seems to prefer his low-90s two-seamer to his low-90s four-seamer. A big mid-70s curveball is his go-to breaking ball. He’ll also mid-80s changeups and sliders, but for the most part it’s the two fastballs and the curve.

Sunday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (Career vs. NYY)
Chavez moved into the rotation when Graveman was sent down and he’s stayed there because a) Drew Pomeranz got hurt, and b) he’s been really good. The 31-year-old has a 2.44 ERA (2.83 FIP) in seven starts and four relief appearances with average strikeout (21.7%) and walk (7.3%) rates. Chavez doesn’t get grounders (38.7%), hasn’t given up homers (0.35 HR/9), and has been much more effective against righties (.211 wOBA) than lefties (.296 wOBA). That’s been true his entire career. Chavez is a bit of a kitchen sink guy, throwing five different pitches including four at least 15% of the time. He’s got low-90s two and four-seamers, an upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. The curve’s the black sheep. That’s the fifth pitch he doesn’t use a ton.

Bullpen Status
Remember how I said the Athletics have an awful record despite a not so terrible run differential? That’s because the bullpen’s been horrible and blown a lot of late leads. In fact, Oakland is 2-15 (!) in one-run games. 2-15! That’s incredible. The bullpen as a whole has a 4.93 ERA (4.37 FIP), which is bad, though they did just get ex-closer LHP Sean Doolittle back off the DL. He missed the start of the season with a shoulder issue and made his first appearance of the season yesterday. He’s not yet closing; they’re easing him back into things.

Ex-Yankees RHP Tyler Clippard (4.38 FIP) has been he fill-in closer with RHP Evan Scribner (2.61 FIP) emerging as the regular setup man. RHP Dan Otero (4.26 FIP), who was a Yankee for about a minute back in 2013, is a workhorse middle reliever and LHP Fernando Abad (7.68 FIP) was Melvin’s only southpaw until Doolittle returned. RHP Fernando Rodriguez (2.32 FIP) and long man RHP Arnold Leon (4.77 FIP) fill out the rest of the bullpen. Scott Kazmir left yesterday’s start after three innings with a shoulder injury (ugh), so Melvin had to use Otero (50 pitches), Doolittle (14), Rodriguez (36), and Scribner (26). Their ‘pen isn’t too fresh. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then head over to Athletics Nation and BeaneBall for the latest and great on the A’s.

Yankeemetrics: A Royal Sweep (May 25-27)

Homers are awesome. (Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke/Newsday)
Homers are awesome. (Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke/Newsday)

Chicks dig the longball, right?
14 runs. Five homers. Seven extra-base hits. Win!

Well, I guess that’s one way to break out of the worst slump by a Yankee team in nearly 20 years. The Yankees entered this week having lost 10 of 11 games for the first time since 1995, and responded by pounding the Royals 14-1 in the series opener on Monday afternoon.

They also snapped a season-high six-game losing streak — and did so in historic fashion: It is the first time ever that the Yankees snapped a single-season losing streak of six-or-more games with a blowout win by 13-or-more runs. (On a side note, in 1902 they did end an 11-game winless streak, that included a tie, by beating the Tigers 15-1).

They wasted no time in trying to stop the skid, scoring eight times in the bottom of the first inning — a frame that included three homers, a double and four singles. It was their most first-inning runs since taking a 12-0 lead on July 30, 2011 against the Orioles. The last time they crushed three homers in the first inning of a game was August 6, 1999 at Seattle.

With nearly every guy making a positive contribution, let’s highlight two notable career-firsts: Slade Heathcott crushed his first homer and Jacob Lindgren pitched in his first game.

Heathcott put together an impressive line in his first four major-league games: 5-for-12 (.417), HR, double, three runs, three RBI. The only other Yankee outfielders in the last 100 years to hit .415 or better with that many runs scored and RBI in their first four career games were Joe DiMaggio (1936) and Joe Lefebvre (1980).

Lindgren pitched the eighth and ninth innings, allowing no hits or runs, to finish off the win. He’s the first Yankee age 22 or younger to pitch at least two hitless innings in his major-league debut since Stan Bahnsen in 1966.

Streakin’
After winning one game in a brutal two-week span, the Yankees won for the second time in two days … against the team with the best record in the league. Baseball, folks.

Mark Teixeira provided the power and Adam Warren the pitching, leading the Yankees to a 5-1 win on Tuesday night. Teixeira drove in four of the team’s five runs with a first-inning homer and a fifth-inning double. It was his 377th career home run, tying Norm Cash and Jeff Kent for 70th place on the all-time list.

Warren put together the best starting pitching performance of his career, holding the Royals to just one run on two hits in 6 1/3 innings. It was his third straight quality start, giving him an ERA of 2.75 over his last three turns. In that span (May 13-26), all other Yankee pitchers combined for three quality starts.

Big Mike is back
The Yankees completed a sweep of the defending AL champs (yes, I really wrote that) with a 4-2 win on Wednesday afternoon, giving the team some much-need momentum heading into its west coast trip.

Michael Pineda bounced back after getting roughed up in his previous two starts, giving up one run on six hits with eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. His signature slider was back in form, netting him seven whiffs on 18 swings against the pitch. Pineda had gotten just six whiffs on his slider in his previous two outings combined.

A-Rod, of course, did the milestone thing again. His three-run homer in the third inning gave him 1,995 career RBI, which broke Lou Gehrig’s American League RBI record and moved him into sole possession of third place on the all-time list (or at least since 1920 when RBI became an official stat).

Despite allowing an unearned run, Dellin Betances kept his 0.00 ERA intact by striking out the final two batters in the eighth inning. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in any of his 23 appearances this year, the third-longest such streak to begin a season by any right-hander. The only righties with longer streaks are Todd Worrell (25 in 1995) and Brad Ziegler (29 in 2008).