The Yankees got walloped by the lowly Astros on Monday night, losing 9-1 to the league’s worst team in their own building. Stuff like that will happen a few times each year, it’s inevitable with a 162-game schedule, but that doesn’t make it feel any better. It’s pretty embarrassing.
Luckily, the Yankees and Astros are back on the field today for game two of the three-game series. New York has a chance to put the blowout loss behind them and get back to winning, something they’ve done very well since that brutal 1-4 start. They aren’t scoring a ton of runs — 3.8 runs per game since the two de-pants-ings of the Indians — but their pitching has been stellar. Well, stellar outside of Andy Pettitte last night. Here’s the lineup that will face right-hander Phil Humber…
- CF Brett Gardner
- LF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Travis Hafner
- RF Brennan Boesch
- 3B Jayson Nix
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is the veteran right-hander, Hiroki Kuroda.
It’s a lovely day in New York, perfect baseball weather. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
The 2013 amateur draft will be held from June 6-8 this year, and between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.
Eric Jagielo | 3B
Following an impressive prep career at Downers Grove North High School in the Chicago suburbs, Jagielo was a 50th round pick of the Cubs in the 2010 draft. He didn’t sign and instead followed through on his commitment to Notre Dame, where he’s hit .400/.508/.676 with eight homers this spring after putting up a .291/.379/.486 batting line during his first two years with the Fighting Irish.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs., Jagielo fits the Yankees mold of power and patience from the left side of the plate. He has power to all fields but does the most damage when he pulls the ball to right field, and he’s able to tap into that power because he has a plan at the plate and command of the strike zone. There is some concern about his ability to hit at the upper levels of pro ball because he has a loopy swing and can be beat with good fastballs up in the zone.
Jagielo has played all over the field for Notre Dame in his career — both infield and outfield — but he has settled in at third base and has the quickness, hands, and arm to remain there long-term. A corner outfield spot would be the next logical spot should the hot corner not work out. He’s not terribly fast and won’t be a threat on the bases. Jagielo draws high marks for his work ethic and has been successful everywhere he’s played. There are plenty more videos available on YouTube.
Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Jagielo as the 35th and 40th best prospect in the draft, respectively, in their latest rankings. That puts him firmly in the late-first round/sandwich round mix at the moment, which is right where the Yankees have their first three picks (26th, 32nd, 33rd). It wasn’t until last summer that Scouting Damon Oppenheimer drafted a college bat in the top two rounds of the draft, and that was a college senior (catcher Peter O’Brien) in a draft pool saving maneuver. The Yankees tend to go for athleticism and upside at an up-the-middle position early, which doesn’t really describe Jagielo. Then again, special assistant Jim Hendry did draft him while still working as Cubs GM three years ago. Maybe the team will change course this summer because of all the extra picks.
The Yankees have placed Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day DL, the team announced. The official diagnosis is a lumbar spine sprain. Yesterday’s MRI showed no structural damage, but Youkilis was due to receive an epidural today. Because he played Saturday, the team can’t backdate the DL stint to the original injury last week. Obviously it was a mistake to have him play that game, in hindsight.
Infielder Corban Joseph has been called up from Triple-A to fill the roster spot. The 24-year-old hit .273/.347/.477 (130 wRC+) with four homers in 98 plate appearances this year, his second at the level. Joseph is a second and third baseman by trade, plus the team has had him work out at first recently. He isn’t particularly good anywhere defensively, plus he’s a left-handed bat who won’t help with the team’s continued problems against southpaws, so I really have no idea how they’re going to use him. I guess we’ll find out.
In case you were wondering, Brian Cashman confirmed David Adams is ineligible to be called up until May 15th. It’s the same rule that applies to Clay Rapada — players who are released and re-sign minor league contracts with the same team have to wait 30 days before going back to the show. Adams would have been a much better fit for the roster than Joseph as a right-handed bat who can legitimately play third base. · (51) ·
This season is the opportunity of a lifetime for Eduardo Nunez. The 25-year-old is getting a chance to play shortstop on an everyday basis thanks to Derek Jeter‘s ankle surgery and subsequent setback, and he’s going to continue to play the position regularly because the Cap’n isn’t due to return until after the All-Star break. It sure doesn’t seem like there is a trade in the works to acquire another shortstop either.
The biggest question about Nunez coming into the year was his defense, especially his throwing. His throws were strong but far too often very wild, so much so that the Yankees had to send him to Triple-A last May to sort things out. That demotion may have saved the team a couple hundred grand next year, but that’s besides the point. The club penciled Nunez in as the everyday shortstop during Jeter’s absence this year and that was a very, very risky proposition.
To date, Eduardo’s defense has mostly been a non-issue. He’s committed three errors in 22 games and 178 innings at shortstop, and only one of the three was a throwing error. That came over the weekend when a throw pulled first baseman Lyle Overbay off the bag just a bit. Nunez worked with first base coach/infield instructor Mick Kelleher to shorten his throwing motion in camp and the results have been overwhelmingly positive so far. I think we all still get nervous when a ball is hit his way, but give Eduardo credit. He worked hard and has greatly improved his defense, particularly his throws.
Of course, defense is only half the battle. Maybe less depending on your point of view. Offensive expectations certainly weren’t high coming into 2013, but Nunez hasn’t hit a lick in the early going. He comes into today riding an ugly 4-for-36 (.111) streak, which has dropped his overall season batting line to .169/.273/.185 (32 wRC+) in 79 plate appearances. No, it’s not a huge sample nor definitive evidence of how he will hit going forward, but Nunez has been awful at the plate even considering the low offensive standard for the position (87 wRC+ league average at shortstop). There’s no argument to be made otherwise.
Because he doesn’t offer much power (career .100 ISO) or much patience (career 6.7 BB%), Nunez’s entire offensive game is built around contact and speed. He’s a (very) poor man’s Ichiro Suzuki, someone who just puts the ball in play, runs, and hopes for the best. While hitting .272/.318/.384 (88 wRC+) in 491 plate appearances from 2010-2012, Nunez posted a 10.4% strikeout rate and an 88.2% contact rate. Those are both far better than average. So far this year he’s sitting on a 17.3% strikeout rate and an 83.3% contact rate, which are still better than the league average. Just a touch better though. When it comes to pitches in the strike zone, Nunez is making contact on 88.0% of his swings in 2013 compared to 92.5% from 2010-2012.
Contact and swing rates — his swing rates on pitches both in and out of the zone haven’t changed much this year — stabilize relatively quickly, so this isn’t necessarily something that will simply revert back to his career averages over time. Nunez is hitting way more fly balls (42.6% in 2013, 34.5% from 2010-2012) and fewer ground balls (40.7%, 47.4%) this year, which is the exact opposite of what you want to see from a speed player. Fly balls turn into outs more easily than grounders, plus they completely eliminate the speed aspect. There’s no pressure on the infielders to make a play quickly, stuff like that. Yes, his .204 BABIP this year is way low for any player, especially one who came into the year with a .291 career mark, but the reduced contact and ground balls rates indicate the problem is something more than dumb luck.
Hitting coach Kevin Long has reportedly worked with Nunez on his balance at the plate recently, specifically by widening his base and eliminating some of his stride. It goes without saying that balance is important, especially for a contact guy who needs to be short to the ball. Eduardo should see his numbers improve in part due to simple BABIP correction, but that alone won’t turn him into the average or even slightly-below-average hitter the Yankees need him to be. Maybe Nunez is being exposed with regular playing time or maybe he’s just in an early-season funk, but his production has been a drain on the offense from the bottom of the lineup. If he doesn’t show improvement in the coming weeks, the Yankees are going to have to consider finding a replacement.
Via Andrew Marchand: Robinson Cano confirmed his new representatives at CAA Sports and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation have yet to begin contract talks with the Yankees. Jon Heyman says the team “prominently mentioned” David Wright’s eight-year, $138M contract with the Mets as framework for a deal.
Cano, 30, is hitting .324/.378/.608 (165 wRC+) in 111 plate appearances so far this season. I don’t think he hooked on with Jay-Z to leave New York, and I do expect the two sides to sit down and hammer out a new contract before the end of the season. Wright’s contract seems like a pipe dream though. My hunch is they work something out in the eight-year, $190M range. It would top Derek Jeter’s total guarantee and be the second biggest deal for a middle infielder in history behind Alex Rodriguez’s pact with the Rangers. That’s just a guess though. · (19) ·
The Yankees have a knack for holding fake Spring Training competitions, and Austin Romine was on the outside looking in at this spring’s catching competition. Frankie Cervelli and Chris Stewart were going to open the year as the team’s catching duo while Romine headed to Triple-A, which was for the best given his back trouble these last two seasons. He missed a lot of development time and was in need of regular at-bats.
A little less than four weeks into the season, the 24-year-old Romine is with the big league team thanks to Cervelli’s fractured hand. He started his first game last night after two on the bench, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a hit-by-pitch at the plate while struggling to get on the same page as Andy Pettitte. There were an awful lot of shake-offs and mound conferences, which is not the norm with Pettitte. He’s very much a “get it and throw it” guy.
“I don’t want to throw too much at him too quickly,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings over the weekend when asked about Romine and the pitching staff. “I want him to get familiar with the guys that are here. He has a sense of who they are. He’s had a chance to catch all of them at some point in Spring Training, whether it was a side or a game in the minor leagues, but you want him to be familiar with the guys.”
Girardi previously indicated he will figure out the catching workload as they go in the wake of Cervelli’s injury, which is what he said about Cervelli and Stewart prior to Opening Day. Frankie came out of the gate hitting well and had unofficially taken over as the starting backstop less than two weeks into the season. Romine has the same opportunity staring him in the face — if he hits, Girardi has shown he will pencil him into the lineup on a near-everyday basis.
“Anytime you get any type of (playing time), you have to show them what you can do,” said Romine to Jennings after being called up. “I’m going to take whatever time I do have here and I’m going to show them that I can do it. I can handle it back there, I can handle pitching staff and I can swing it at the plate.”
Romine managed a .271/.341/.377 (~101 wRC+) batting line in 508 minor league plate appearances from 2011-2012, and Baseball America wrote “scouts used to project him to hit 15-20 homers annually due to his raw power but didn’t see the same snap in his bat in 2012″ in their 2013 Prospect Handbook. Tomine told Mark Feinsand he ditched his leg kick and worked on shortening his stride with Triple-A hitting coach Butch Wynegar this month, which may have contributed to his .333/.391/.405 (129 wRC+) line before the call-up. It was only 46 plate appearances though, so I wouldn’t get too excited.
Much like Cervelli before the injury, Romine has a golden opportunity to take the catching job and run with it. There’s an obvious need behind the plate both this year and over the next several years, assuming the team is putting all of its eggs in the Gary Sanchez basket. Cervelli will be out a minimum of six weeks, and Romine is going to need to massively outplay Stewart during that time if he plans on sticking around the rest of the year and put himself in the running for the long-ish tern catching job. This opportunity probably came a few months too soon, but he’ll have to make the best of it.
I only caught the bottom of the ninth inning of Monday’s game, so needless to say I’m glad I missed this disaster. The Astros marched into Yankee Stadium and embarrassed the home team 9-1, knocking Andy Pettitte out of the game after 4.1 innings. He surrendered seven runs on ten hits, and from what I understand he was getting hit hard all night. Lots of rockets, few bloopers. Hopefully it was just an off-night. It happens.
The offense did very little against right-hander Lucas Harrell, who recorded 18 of his 19 outs on the infield. The Yankees managed to string together three singles to plate a run in the sixth inning, but the game was basically over by then. At least they didn’t shutout, I guess. Oddly enough, the top three hitters in the lineup went a combined 6-for-11 with a walk. Usually that leads to more than one run, but alas. Oh, and congrats to Vidal Nuno for firing three scoreless innings in his big league debut. That’s something he’ll never forget in an otherwise forgettable game.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some additional stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Every team has a few clunkers like this each year, sometimes even against bad teams like the Astros, so just wake up tomorrow and move on. What else can you do? Hiroki Kuroda will look to turn things around against Phil Humber in the second game of the series on Tuesday night. RAB Tickets is to place to do if you want to attend.
Triple-A Scranton Game One (5-4 win over Charlotte in seven innings) makeup of Saturday’s rainout
- 1B Corban Joseph: 2-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB – second start at first base of the season
- RF-CF Melky Mesa: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI
- CF-LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 2B, 2 K
- 3B David Adams: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — 14 hits in his last 37 at-bats (.378)
- RHP Dellin Betances: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 2 WP, 2/1 GB/FB — 46 of 80 pitches were strikes (58%)
- RHP Sam Demel: 2.2 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 22 of 29 pitches were strikes (76%) … three hits, two walks, zero runs, and seven strikeouts in his last 8.2 innings
The MRI on Kevin Youkilis’ stiff back was clean — no structural damage, that means — but he will receive an epidural tomorrow. The team is discussing a DL stint and frankly that seems incredibly likely. Too bad he played on Saturday, otherwise they could have backdated the DL trip and been half done with it already. · (3) ·
Winning four of four against the Blue Jays over the weekend was the start of what could be an outstanding homestand. The Astros bring the second worst record (7-18) and first worst run differential (-50) in baseball into this three-game midweek series, so the Yankees have a chance to really fatten up their win total as the calendar gets ready to flip over to January. No big league team is a pushover and it’s unrealistic to expect a sweep in any series, but taking two of three against Houston feels like an absolute bare minimum to me. Here’s the lineup that will face right-hander Lucas Harrell…
- CF Brett Gardner
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- DH Travis Hafner
- RF Brennan Boesch
- 3B Jayson Nix
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- C Austin Romine
And on the mound is the former Astro, Andy Pettitte.
It’s been raining on and off all day in New York and there are expected to be some light showers tonight, but it’s not supposed to be anything heavy enough to delay or postpone the game. It will just be one of those ugly, misty games. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Kevin Youkilis Update: Youkilis (back) had an MRI today as scheduled, but the results are not back yet. He isn’t too concerned, but obviously something is wrong. He wouldn’t have missed seven of the last eight games otherwise.