DotF: Bird continues to tear up the AzFL

The video above, courtesy of Kiley McDaniel, is SS Jorge Mateo running down the line a few times in Instructional League. McDaniel says he clocked him at 4.0 seconds down the line from the right side of the plate, which is basically 80 speed. Kid’s fast.

In other video news, Josh Norris posted some Arizona Fall League footage the other day. It’s not embeddable, but just click the link to watch. It includes clips of both OF Tyler Austin (2:17 to 2:36) and 1B Greg Bird (2:36 to 3:27). The video is from the first game of the AzFL season, when Bird hit two doubles and a homer. Austin singled twice. Check it out.

AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (6-3 loss to Salt River) Wednesday’s game

  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 15 of 28 pitches were strikes (54%) … looks like he replaced RHP Branden Pinder on the roster for whatever reason … Norris says Haynes sat 93-95 mph with a hard slider and changeup both in the mid-80s … he’s the guy they got from the PirateS for Chris Stewart last winter
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 2/0 GB/FB — 17 of 29 pitches were strikes (59%) … both hits were solo homers
  • RHP Alex Smith: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 1/0 GB/FB — 16 of 32 pitches were strikes (50%) … he plunked ex-battery mate Peter O’Brien

AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (11-2 loss to Peoria) Thursday’s game

  • 1B Greg Bird: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 E (fielding) — replaced 3B Eric Jagielo on the roster after Jagielo had his face broken by an errant pitch in Instructional League a few weeks back

AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (6-5 win over Glendale) Friday’s game

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — got picked off first … 7-for-16 (.438) with three doubles in a dinger in his first three games out in the desert
  • DH Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 K — got picked off second … Judge, Bird, and DBJ hit 3-4-5 in the lineup
  • RHP Alex Smith: 1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 18 of 29 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — nine pitches, six strikes

AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (7-6 win over Surprise in ten innings) Saturday’s game

  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-5, 1 R, 2 K
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 CS — 2-for-11 (.182) in the early going
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 BB
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 3-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
  • RHO Caleb Cotham: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 18 of 28 pitches were strikes (64%)

The Dominican Winter League season begins next Friday. The rosters have not yet been released but don’t worry, there will be more than a few Yankees’ farmhands playing here this winter.

The Mexican Pacific League just started Friday and no one’s gotten into a game yet. RHP Luis Niebla, RHP Gio Gallegos, and OF Jose Figueroa are all listed on rosters.

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) doesn’t begin play until October 30th. No rosters yet.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • C Francisco Arcia: 3 G, 3-11, 1 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 K (.273/.273/.455)
  • UTIL Ali Castillo: 3 G, 2-9, 1 R, 2 K, 1 CS (.222/.222/.222)
  • OF Ramon Flores: 2 G, 2-6, 2 R, 1 K (.333/.333/.333)
  • UTIL Adonis Garcia: 3 G, 3-12, 2 R (.250/.250/.250)
  • C Jose Gil: 1 G, 0-2, 1 BB, 1 K (.000/.333/.000)
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 2 G, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HB (0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP)

The VWL season just started Thursday, so obviously there hasn’t been much action. In addition to the six guys who have already appeared in games, OF Ericson Leonora, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Wilking Rodriguez, SS Angel Aguilar, and C Frankie Cervelli are all listed on rosters. Remember, just because a player is listed on a roster, it doesn’t mean he will play. That just means the team controls his winter ball rights.

Tanaka, Betances make Baseball America’s All-Rookie Team

Baseball America announced their All-Rookie Team on Friday, and both Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances made the cut. Tanaka claimed one of five starting pitcher spots while Betances grabbed the only reliever spot. Former Yankee Yangervis Solarte was mentioned in the write-up for his strong season but was not named to the team.

“The Yankees’ $155 million import pitched like a Cy Young Award winner in the first half, going 11-3, 2.10 and leading the AL in wins and ERA, but an elbow injury scuttled his second half and leaves his 2015 season in doubt after a pair of lackluster September starts … he proved he can pitch like an ace, health permitting, in both Japan and the U.S,” said the write-up of Tanaka.

The write-up noted Betances’ season was better Craig Kimbrel’s, Neftali Feliz’s, and Andrew Bailey’s when they won the Rookie of the Year awards. Betances won’t beat out Jose Abreu though. “(One) must go back to Mark Eichhorn’s 1986 season to find a rookie reliever who notched more strikeouts than Betances, who had 135 in 90 innings. The catch: Eichhorn needed 157 innings to strike out 166 batters.”

Cafardo: Kenta Maeda prefers to play for Yankees or Red Sox

Via Nick Cafardo: Hiroshima Carp right-hander Kenta Maeda told the media in Japan he would prefer to play for either the Yankees or the Red Sox next season. He is expected to be posted this offseason and early speculation has him in line for a five or six-year contract in the $100-120M neighborhood. The 26-year-old had a 2.56 ERA with a 154 strikeouts in 179 innings this season. Here are his career stats.

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) recently gave a scouting report on Maeda, saying he “doesn’t have overpowering stuff of a frontline starter like we’ve seen from fellow Japanese righthanders Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish, (but his) ability to command his fastball and mix his pitches allows him to keep hitters off-balance.” Badler said Maeda sits anywhere from 87-94 with his fastball and his go-to pitch in a low-80s slider. He also throws a mid-80s changeup, an upper-80s cutter, and a slow low-70s curveball. Here’s video. The Yankees need pitching and I’ll sure they’ll kick the tires on Maeda, but I think they’d go after a known commodity like Jon Lester or James Shields if the price is $20M+ per year.

Feinsand: Yankees will not retain first base coach Mick Kelleher

Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees will not retain first base coach Mick Kelleher. He also served as the team’s infield instructor. I’m pretty sure Kelleher’s contract was up, so they technically aren’t firing him. They just aren’t bringing him back. Kelleher had been the team’s first base coach since 2009.

Feinsand: Yankees fire hitting coach Kevin Long

Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees have fired hitting coach Kevin Long. GM Brian Cashman signed a new three-year extension today and it seems they waited until that was complete to announce any coaching changes. First base coach Mick Kelleher was also let go. Joe Girardi said Long and the rest of the staff were going to be evaluated soon after the end of the season, though that’s no different than every other season.

Long, 47, is essentially being scapegoated for the team’s underperforming offense. He took over as hitting coach in 2007 and the Yankees led baseball with a 113 wRC+ from 2007-12 before falling apart these last two years, when, not coincidentally, the quality of the players on the roster went down. Brian McCann was the only regular this year to perform well below reasonable expectations. No word on who will replace Long, but I’m sure that’s something the Yankees want to address sooner rather than later. Double-A Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames is someone to keep in mind.

It’s official: Yankees sign Brian Cashman to new three-year contract

The Yankees have re-signed GM Brian Cashman to a new three-year contract, the team officially announced. The two sides had reportedly been talking about a new deal for a few weeks now. This is Cashman’s fifth straight three-year contract. No word on the value, but his last deal was worth $9M total and I’m sure he got some sort of raise.

Cashman, 47, has been the team’s GM since 1998 and the Yankees are literally the only employer he’s had in his adult life. He started with the team as an intern way back in the mid-1980s. I don’t really mind that Cashman is coming back, he seems to consistently come out ahead in trades, but the strategy of throwing money at free agents to plug every hole has to change. Free agency isn’t what it once was and that approach just isn’t as effective as it used to be.

2014 Season Review: Alex

The 2014 season is over and it’s time to look back at the year that was. Our old What Went Right/Wrong format has gotten stale, so it’s time for a new review format. We’ll review individual players, performances, tendencies, all sorts of stuff in the coming days and weeks.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Although the Yankees failed to make the postseason for the second straight year, the 2014 season was mighty peaceful, wasn’t it? The hottest topic in Spring Training was whether Yangervis Solarte would make the Opening Day roster, and the summer was focused first on Masahiro Tanaka‘s dominance and later Derek Jeter‘s farewell. It was pure baseball all the time. It was pleasant and refreshing.

That was all possible because Alex Rodriguez was serving a 162-game suspension for his ties to Biogenesis. His initial 211-game suspension was handed down last August, he appealed the ruling and played in 44 second half games, then spent most of the offseason in front of an arbitrator in a court room. The ban was eventually reduced to the entire 2014 season and postseason by the appeal, which saved the Yankees almost $24M against the luxury tax. That helped them sign Tanaka.

As we’ve learned over the last ten years or so, A-Rod is a human lightning rod, creating and drawing all sorts of attention. A little of it is good — I’m certain the Yankees and MLB love the additional ticket sales and ratings — but most of it is bad or controversial. To his credit, Alex stayed out of the limelight during his suspension. I expected him to make some headlines at some point but he didn’t. He was photographed at a few college football and baseball games, plus he recorded an Ice Bucket Challenge video …

… but that’s it. The MSM was so starved for A-Rod driven controversy that they made a big deal out of him spending a few days in New York last week because he didn’t meet with the Yankees, as if a guy can’t just spend a few days in a New York to attend a charity event in the offseason. It was a nice, quiet, A-Rod free summer.

Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, and Hal Steinbrenner all made it clear in recent weeks Rodriguez will be back with the team next year — “When he’s healthy, he’s an asset. We need those kind of assets. We need the hitting,” said the owner — and that makes sense. I initially thought they would release him after the suspension but I’m an idiot. Of course they won’t release him. They could still recoup a significant chunk of the $63M they owe him through 2017 if he gets suspended or hurt (via insurance) again. The odds of one of those two things happening is pretty high, especially the getting hurt part given the last few years.

The quiet, controversy-free season is over and now the attention will shift back to Alex as soon as Spring Training begins. It’ll start before then, really. I’m sure the first few days of camp will be total chaos and there’s really no avoiding that. No one has any idea what he can contribute on the field — A-Rod is said to be in great shape, but he’s 39 and has played 44 games these last years, so it’s almost like he’s coming out of retirement after a two-year hiatus — but the Yankees are stuck with him. They signed him to that contract. They made their bed and still have another three years to lie in it. I have zero sympathy for the team.

I enjoyed watching A-Rod so much for the first five or six years of his time in pinstripes. He was a tremendously productive player and goofy enough to make you laugh a few times a year. And that’s why I felt sad when I realized how much more peaceful this past season was without Alex. He’s such a distraction — he’s a distraction even when he isn’t doing anything wrong at this point, just his presence is a distraction — that it took away from my enjoyment of the game, and I didn’t realize it until he was gone this summer.