Here’s an open thread for night. MLB Network is showing a live spring game tonight (D’Backs vs. Padres) plus the Islanders are playing. That’s pretty much it. Talk about anything except religion or politics here. Thanks in advance.
Prior to making the Brandon Drury trade, the Yankees were discussing a deal with free agent infielder Neil Walker, reports Billy Witz. Walker, who is currently participating in MLBPA’s spring camp for free agents, said he wanted a multi-year contract and was “certainly willing” to play first and third bases in addition to his usual second base.
“I thought that was a really good fit, especially playing in New York with the Mets for the time that I did, understanding what you’re getting into when you’re getting into a New York market with the media and so forth,” said Walker to Witz. “We don’t know if it was a money thing, but we thought we were fairly close until they made the trade. Whatever it was, they decided to hang on to money for midseason and felt like making a trade was more valuable.”
The 32-year-old Walker hit .265/.362/.439 (114 wRC+) with 14 homers in 448 plate appearances for the Mets and Brewers last season. He’s been a +2 fWAR player in each of the last eight seasons, yet he still can’t get a job. Nick Cafardo says the Royals offered Walker a minor league deal, which is ridiculous. I’m not saying he deserves a long-term, big money contract. But like half the league could use this guy.
Anyway, Walker was my top infield choice because he’s a switch-hitter, he has a history of getting on base, and you could stick him at second base or at the corner infield spots. And you know what? The Yankees could still sign him! Drury is a pre-arbitration-eligible player making something close to the league minimum, meaning whatever money the Yankees were willing to give Walker is still available. Plus second base is still open.
Realistically though, the Drury trade all but closes the door on Walker, which is fine. I thought Walker was the best option. Drury is basically the next best thing. The Yankees still have $22M or so to spend under the $197M luxury tax threshold. Apparently they were willing to spend some of it on Walker. I can’t help but feel like the Yankees will redirect those dollars to pitching now.
Last week MLB.com wrapped up their annual top prospects series with the top ten farm systems in baseball. The Yankees placed sixth, their lowest ranking this spring. All the other scouting publications ranked the system second behind the Braves. Five rebuilding teams (Padres, Braves, White Sox, Rays, Phillies) top the MLB.com list.
“Despite graduating a strong rookie class headlined by Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery and Chad Green and trading several quality prospects to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, Sonny Gray, David Robertson and others, the Yankees still might have the deepest system in the game,” says the write-up. Sounds good to me.
As part of their prospect coverage, MLB.com also posted their top 30 Yankees prospect list. As always, MLB.com’s lists and scouting reports are completely free. Can’t beat it. Here’s the top ten:
- SS Gleyber Torres
- OF Estevan Florial
- LHP Justus Sheffield
- 3B Miguel Andujar
- RHP Albert Abreu
- RHP Chance Adams
- RHP Luis Medina
- RHP Freicer Perez
- RHP Domingo Acevedo
- IF Thairo Estrada
On Twitter, Jim Callis says OF Clint Frazier would’ve ranked second between Torres and Florial had he still been prospect eligible. (Clint exceeded the rookie limit by four at-bats last year.) Also, Callis says both 2B Nick Solak and RHP Taylor Widener would’ve been top 15 prospects in the system had they not been traded for Brandon Drury. Some thoughts on MLB.com’s top 30:
1. More on Torres’ power. Gleyber’s power has been a talking point in recent weeks. Keith Law said Torres projects to “probably just 10-15 homers a year” while Baseball America gave him 55 power on the 20-80 scouting scale, which is a tick above-average. MLB.com gives him 55 power as well, which used to equate to 20-ish home runs per season, but it might be a bit more now with the juiced ball. Law seems to be the low man on Gleyber’s power, which is fine. Sports are boring when everyone thinks the same thing. Given the juiced ball — assuming the ball stays juiced, of course — and the fact Yankee Stadium is a home run park in a division with three other hitter’s parks, I’ll take the over on 10-15 homers per season from Gleyber. Twenty dingers annually definitely seems doable to me.
2. Florial and Yankee Stadium. In the scouting report, MLB.com notes Florial is “built to do a lot of damage at Yankee Stadium” given the “quickness and loft in his left-handed stroke,” which caught my eye. Here is his 2017 spray chart from MLB Farm:
I didn’t realize Florial was such an extreme pull hitter last year. He had a 47.7% pull rate as well as a 54.0% ground ball rate — that ground ball rate is on the high side, though it’s not uncommon for a teenager in full season ball to hit the ball on the ground a ton — hence all those grounders rolled over to the right side of the infield. Florial did hit some balls out to left and center fields, but, for the most part, his damage came to the pull field. That’s not necessarily a bad thing or a permanent thing. This is a just turned 20-year-old kid who didn’t play a ton of baseball growing up. The Yankees hope Florial will do a better job making contact as he gains experience, and with any luck, he’s also learn to spray the ball to all fields as well. Nothing wrong with being a pull left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium though.
3. So I guess it’s time to start paying attention to Lane. Southpaw Trevor Lane is in camp as a non-roster invitee — the Yankees officially added him to the non-roster list at some point, which I had a feeling was coming — and MLB.com ranks him as the 30th best prospect in the system. Last summer scouts ranked him as the best bullpen prospect in the Low-A South Atlantic League. The 23-year-old Lane was a tenth round pick in 2016, and last season he threw 65.1 Single-A innings with a 1.52 ERA (2.37 FIP) and very good strikeout (26.5%) and walk (5.8%) rates. The MLB.com write-up says Lane sits 92-97 mph out of the bullpen, backing it up with a “high-spin breaker that looks more like a curveball” and a “decent changeup.” Here’s some video:
4. What do the Yankees have in Smith? OF Canaan Smith, who the Yankees selected in the fourth round last season, hit .289/.430/.422 (151 wRC+) with more walks (46) than strikeouts (44) in 57 rookie ball games during his pro debut. His 19.4% walk rate was 13th highest among the 2,132 hitters with at least 200 plate appearances in the minors last season. MLB.com ranks Smith as the 28th best prospect in the system and the write-up says he “made enough of an impression that other clubs began asking for him in trade talks.” Interesting! Over the years I remember hearing reports that Andujar and Florial were asked about in trade talks very early in their careers, and both grew into excellent prospects. Trade interest is a great way to gauge a prospect’s value. Teams don’t ask about nobodies. If there is already interest in Smith, a left-handed hitting outfielder with pop and military style plate discipline, the Yankees just might have something here.
Three years ago the Yankees started their homegrown youth movement with Greg Bird and Luis Severino. Two years ago it was Gary Sanchez. Last year it was Aaron Judge and Jordan Montgomery. This season, the Yankees are expected to extend the youth movement to the infield. The Starlin Castro and Chase Headley trades made it all but certain.
Brandon Drury was acquired two weeks ago as infield insurance, and veteran journeymen Danny Espinosa and Jace Peterson are in camp as non-roster players, but make no mistake, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are the future at second and third base, respectively. The future is not necessarily Opening Day, mind you. But it isn’t far away.
The Yankees are blessed with a bevy of young infielders that extends beyond Torres and Andujar. Heck, Drury is only 25 himself. It wouldn’t be wrong to consider him part of the youth movement. There’s also Tyler Wade, who figures to get an extended look this season in some capacity. Let’s preview the upcoming season for the kid infielders.
The Drury trade seemed to confirm Andujar would start the 2018 season back in Triple-A, mostly to work on his defense. Barely two weeks later, Andujar is making the decision very tough for the Yankees. The just turned 23-year-old third baseman has gone 8-for-19 (.421) with four home runs in Grapefruit League. He’s putting a charge into the ball pretty much every at-bat.
There is a lot of Spring Training remaining — “It’s March 1st,” said Aaron Boone last week after Andujar hit two homers against the Phillies — and who knows what’ll happen between now and Opening Day. Andujar could cool down and make it very easy for the Yankees to send him to Triple-A. And if they do, it’ll be because of his defense, not his bat. Andujar’s footwork needs to be refined and he has to be more consistent at the hot corner.
That said, the Yankees seem to more willing to roll with Andujar at the hot corner this year than they did last year, at least before the Drury trade. Andujar made his big league debut last season, though it was brief, and the Yankees opted to keep him in Triple-A to work on his defense in the second half rather than use him at DH. This year, I think they’d put him at third base on an everyday basis no questions asked, if necessary.
Andujar’s calling card is his innate ability to barrel up the baseball. He makes lots of contact, and when he makes contact, he tends to hit the ball hard. Last season 167 players batted at least 200 times in the Triple-A International League. Here are their swing-and-miss and isolated power rates:
The red dot is Andujar. The dot all the way at the top is Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins, who is almost two full years older than Andujar, was the only player in the International League last season to hit for more power while swinging and missing less often than Andujar. Andujar’s ability to make consistent hard contact is special. It really is.
That isn’t to say Andujar is without flaws. Beyond his defense, he’s also quite aggressive at the plate, and it’s fair to wonder whether big league pitchers will pick him apart Starlin Castro style. That is a question that can’t be answered until Andujar gets an opportunity, and I don’t mean 15-20 spring at-bats or 100 regular season at-bats. Andujar will need a chance to adjust to the league and adjust to the league adjusting to him, know what I mean?
As great as he’s been so far in camp, sending Andujar down to Triple-A come Opening Day wouldn’t be the end of the world. Disappointing? Sure. But he has only played 58 games at Triple-A, and if the Yankees want to give Drury a look to see whether his new fly ball approach yields results, Triple-A is the place for Andujar. There’s no sense in carrying him on the big league bench. It’s everyday third baseman in the Bronx or Scranton. No middle ground.
I think we’re going to see a lot of Andujar this season. I really do. I think he’s going to force the issue with his bat — even with only 58 games of Triple-A experience, I think Andujar is at the point where he has to face MLB pitching to get better — and Drury is versatile enough that he and Andujar can be in the lineup together. The Yankees reportedly made Andujar untouchable in trade talks over the winter for a reason. This kid has the goods.
“He is special from a bat speed standpoint, and he knows where his barrel is and walks up there with a lot of confidence. It’s good to see him continue to swing it,” said Boone to George King. “… I am happy for him that he just continues to gain that confidence and obviously is in a really good place now.”
Andujar has the been the early star of the Grapefruit League. Torres, meanwhile, has looked very much like a kid coming off a major injury with only three month’s worth of playing time above Single-A in his career. Gleyber has gone 2-for-16 (.125) in his first seven spring games, and he’s also had some defensive issues at second base. He’s had some hard-hit grounders eat him up, and he’s gotten into trouble when he’s tried to be too flashy.
Torres turned only 21 in December and the Castro trade all but ensures second base will be his long-term position. Gleyber can play shortstop — he can play the hell out of shortstop — but Gregorius isn’t going anywhere, so second base is the next best spot. And that second base job is wide open. Andujar has to contend with Drury. Gleyber is competing against Wade, Espinosa, Peterson, and Ronald Torreyes. Not the biggest obstacles, you know?
Gleyber insists his focus is not on winning the second base job — “My focus right now is to play hard, stay focused, stay humble, and do my job. I don’t think about winning the job,” he said to King following the spring opener — but he’s only human. Of course it’s on his mind. How could it not be? Things haven’t gone well thus far in camp, but it’s only 16 at-bats, and the skills that make Torres one of the top prospects in baseball still exist.
Unfortunately for Torres, the Yankees could easily justifying sending him to Triple-A to start the season, even with a great Spring Training. Those reasons include:
- He’s coming back from a major injury and hadn’t played since June.
- Sixteen days in the minors pushes his free agency back one year.
- He’s played only 194.1 career innings at second base, including Spring Training.
- He’s played only 32 Double-A games and 23 Triple-A games.
The Yankees would never admit the whole service time thing, but it absolutely could factor into their decision to demote Torres. The injury, the lack of second base experience, and the lack of upper level experience provide plenty of cover for a Triple-A stint. And as much as I want to see Gleyber in the Opening Day lineup, I think a quick trip to Scranton to get up to speed following the injury would be a good idea.
Either way, Triple-A stint or no Triple-A stint, Torres is an extremely talented young man with a chance to be an impact player almost right away. He has the bat-to-ball skills, the ability to make quick adjustments, and strong defensive skills. MLB.com says Gleyber “has the tools to be a star wherever he winds up (defensively)” and I have no reason to disagree. Andujar may be more MLB ready, but Torres has the higher long-term upside.
The projection systems are all over the plate. PECOTA pegs Gleyber as replacement level in 2018 (+0.0 WARP in 279 PA) while ZiPS thinks he’ll be average-ish (+1.5 WAR in 426 PA). Since 2010, only five middle infielders have qualified for the batting title in their age-21 season. All were top prospects and three of the five handled themselves well:
- Carlos Correa, 2016 Astros: +6.0 WAR
- Addison Russell, 2015 Cubs: +3.3 WAR
- Starlin Castro, 2011 Cubs: +3.0 WAR (+1.6 WAR at age 20 in 2010)
- Elvis Andrus, 2010 Rangers: +1.1 WAR
- Xander Bogaerts, 2014 Red Sox: +0.3 WAR
All top prospects — all tippy top prospects — like Torres. When guys this young and this talented get to the show, they tend to perform right away. Now, that said, none of them were coming off a major injury like Gleyber is right now. He’s healthy and that is the single most important thing. The elbow is good. The long layoff happened though, and based on his first few spring games, Torres needs some time to shake off the rust.
As with Andujar, I think Torres is going to spend most of this season in the big leagues. I think an Opening Day assignment to Triple-A is inevitable — I think the Yankees are going to use the injury as cover to delay his free agency no matter how well he hits in Spring Training — but I expect Gleyber to come up fairly soon, mostly because he doesn’t have someone like Drury standing in the way, and also because he’s incredibly talented and is likely the best second baseman in the organization right now.
Wade does not have the same prospect shine as Andujar and Torres. He’s not a super highly regarded prospect — technically he’s not a prospect at all, Wade lost his rookie eligibility through service time last year — and he’s appeared on just one top 100 prospects list in his career. Wade was No. 101 on Baseball Prospectus’ top 101 list last year. Barely made the one top 100 list (top 101 list, whatever) he did make.
But, Wade has some ability, and he is firmly in the mix for the second base job this spring. He’s had a nice Grapefruit League season so far, going 5-for-14 (.357), but who cares? It’s 14 at-bats. I guess it’s better than the alternative though. Wade’s not going to win a roster spot with a bad spring, I don’t think. He made some changes to his hitting mechanics and maybe they’ll pay dividends. Little too early to say right now.
Compared to Andujar and Torres, Wade has four things going for him at the moment:
- He has the most big league experience.
- He’s a left-handed hitter with very good speed.
- He can play the three non-first base infield positions as well as the outfield.
- He’s the best infield defender of the bunch.
The big league experience point is negligible, as far as I’m concerned. Wade was on the roster for 81 days last season and he received 63 plate appearances. That’s nothing. Being versatile, a left-handed hitter in a righty heavy lineup, having speed, and being a pretty darn good gloveman are not negligible, however. Wade can do a lot of things to help a team win. On Opening Day 2018, he might be able to do more to help the team win than Andujar and Gleyber!
More than a few Yankees fans seem to have soured on Wade after his rough debut last season — and I get it, the kid hit .155/.222/.224 (17 wRC+) and looked pretty overmatched — but the Yankees haven’t, and they’re the only ones that matter. Wade is in the running for an infield job in camp and the Yankees like him enough to play him in the outfield, because they want to find ways to get him in the lineup. At the same time, he wasn’t untouchable in trade talks over the winter.
Even if he doesn’t win an infield job come Opening Day, Wade is poised to spend a considerable amount of time on the big league roster this season, either as a starter or bench guy. He’s performed in Triple-A — Wade hit .310/.382/.460 (136 wRC+) in Scranton last year — and his speed and defense give him a chance to contribute in ways other than at the plate. I’m not sure I’d expect big things offensively this year, but I definitely expect Wade to hit more than last year, and everything else he brings to the table can make him sneaky valuable.
Spring Training Record: 8-2 (51 RS, 45 RA)
Spring Training Schedule This Week: Mon. OFF; Tues. @ Tigers; Weds. @ Mets (SNY, MLB.tv); Thurs. vs. Phillies (YES, MLB.tv); Fri. @ Braves; Sat. vs. Mets (YES, MLBN, MLB.tv); Sun. @ Marlins
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees swooped in to sign free agent slugger Adam Lind to a minor league contract. That is probably bad news for Tyler Austin. Lind could land on the bench as the backup first baseman.
- Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) has a mild strain and there is no timetable for his return. Clint Frazier (concussion) remains shut down. David Robertson (illness) will return to the mound in the coming days. Albert Abreu (appendix) has started throwing.
- Ellsbury is going to play some left field this spring, or at least he was before he got hurt. Domingo Acevedo is healthy, though he has yet to appear in a game because the Yankees are trying to build his arm strength.
- The Yankees could use a spot sixth starter early in the season as a way to give their regular starters extra rest. They’ll play 18 games in 18 days starting April 19th.
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 the Features tab in nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Chad Green started and struck out four in two scoreless innings. He looked like regular ol’ Chad Green. Aroldis Chapman made his spring debut and faced three batters before reaching his pitch limit: hit batsman, single, ground out. A pair of Danny Espinosa errors contributed to three unearned runs in 1.1 innings for Ben Heller. Here are the box score and video highlights, and here is the rest of the day’s news from Tampa:
- Stanton got a rude introduction to left field today. He had one fly ball clank off his glove and another catchable ball go over his head. The sun was clearly an issue both times. “Sun vision, ability to see through the sun,” he joked when asked what he needs to be comfortable in left. Stanton expects to play left again next time out. [Bryan Hoch, Coley Harvey]
- Clint Frazier (concussion) rode a stationary bike for 20 minutes today and said he feels “better,” though he is still experiencing some headaches. “(The headaches are) in and out … some days I have it some days I don’t,” he said. Frazier will rest Monday then work out a bit Tuesday. Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) remains shut down. [Hoch, Erik Boland, Brendan Kuty]
- David Robertson has been out with food poisoning, which is why he’s yet to appear in a game. He’s scheduled to throw a simulated game Tuesday, then pitch in a game later this coming week. “He is a guy who won’t need a lot of outings,” said Aaron Boone. [Hoch, George King]
- The Yankees have their first off-day of the spring tomorrow and it sounds like it’ll be a full off-day with no workouts scheduled. Sanchez, Judge, and Stanton are among those who will make the trip for Tuesday’s road game. That game will not be televised. [Harvey]
Here’s an open thread for the rest of the weekend. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES (5pm ET) and MLB Network (6am ET). The Knicks, Nets, and Devils are playing and there are a few college basketball games on the schedule. Also, the Oscars are on tonight (8pm ET on ABC), if that’s your thing. Use this thread to talk about that stuff or anything else that isn’t religion or politics. Thanks in advance.
When the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton back in December, both Stanton and Aaron Judge made it clear they are willing to do whatever necessary to accommodate each other, including changing positions. Today, for the first time in his big league career, Stanton is playing left field. I imagine Judge will see time in left in the coming days.
Of course, the club’s best outfield defense features Brett Gardner in left field, but the Yankees have to be prepared for days Stanton and Judge are needed in the field. You don’t want the first time either guy plays left field to come in a regular season game, you know? My guess is both Judge and Stanton will be perfectly fine in left field. They’re both good defensive outfielders and once they get some left field time under their belt, they’ll both look natural out there.
The Rays made the trade up from Port Charlotte for this afternoon’s game and they brought several former Yankees with them. Nathan Eovaldi will start today’s game and second baseman Nick Solak, who was part of the Brandon Drury trade, is in the starting lineup. That’ll be fun. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:
- CF Brett Gardner (first game in center field this spring)
- RF Aaron Judge
- LF Giancarlo Stanton
- C Gary Sanchez
- DH Brandon Drury
- 3B Danny Espinosa
- 1B Billy McKinney (second game at first base this spring)
- 2B Ronald Torreyes
- SS Tyler Wade
RHP Chad Green
Available Pitchers: LHP Aroldis Chapman will make his spring debut today. RHP Cale Coshow, RHP Raynel Espinal, RH Matt Frawley, RHP Gio Gallegos, RHP Ben Heller, LHP Wade LeBlanc, LHP James Reeves, and RHP Andrew Schwaab are also available.
Available Position Players: C Erik Kratz, C Chace Numata, C Jorge Saez, 1B Chris Gittens, IF Gleyber Torres, IF Kyle Holder, 3B Miguel Andujar, OF Jake Cave, OF Estevan Florial, OF Mark Payton, OF Shane Robinson, and UTIL Jace Peterson are the bench players.
It is sunny and cool in Tampa — cool by Florida standards, anyway — so it’s a great afternoon for baseball. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB.tv nationally. Enjoy the game.