Game 81: Halfway Home

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The season is halfway complete, or at least it will be in a few hours. Today is the 81st game of the season, and because they are 39-41, the Yankees have already clinched a losing record in the first half. The Yankees were 40-41 the last two times they finished the first half with a losing record (1992, 2007), and the last time they lost 42+ of their first 81 games was 1990. They were 30-51 in the first half that year.

Rookie right-hander Chad Green is making a spot start today — the Yankees pushed CC Sabathia back a day to avoid having him hit and run the bases on his balky knee — and this is a pretty big game for him. Ivan Nova pitched well last night but has generally stunk this season, plus Nathan Eovaldi‘s been getting smacked around lately too. A strong effort tonight and could land Green another start before the All-Star break. Here is the Padres’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. 3B Ronald Torreyes
  9. RHP Chad Green

The weather is great in San Diego, I assume. This afternoon’s game will begin at 4:40pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Heyman: Yankees among teams looking to add a starter

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)
(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are “one of a dozen teams” looking to add starting pitching at the trade deadline. Heyman cites a source from a rival team, so take this for what it’s worth. That said, pretty much every team wants to add rotation help at the deadline, so this isn’t far-fetched. It certainly passes the sniff test.

Right now the Yankees have one reliable starter (Masahiro Tanaka), one really good starter who might be in for some home run rate regression (CC Sabathia), two frustrating starters (Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda), and one Ivan Nova. Luis Severino is in Triple-A working on things and both Chad Green, who will make a spot start today, and Luis Cessa are available for depth.

Adding a starter doesn’t have to be about buying for this season. All five pitchers in New York’s current rotation can become free agents at some point in the next two years. The Yankees reportedly prioritized young controllable starters in offseason trade talks about Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner, and I doubt anything has changed. They still want someone to build their rotation around going forward.

The upcoming free agent class is very light on pitching, so expect the trade market to be active over the next eight months or so. It’s going to be a seller’s market and that’s bad for the Yankees. Prices will be high. That’s definitely one of the reasons why they traded a setup reliever (Justin Wilson) for two Triple-A starters (Cessa, Green) over the winter. It was a cheap way to add rotation depth now and for the future.

Which teams could look to capitalize on the seller’s market and trade a starter(s)? The Rays, Braves, and Padres immediately jump to mind as last place clubs with some spare arms. Contenders like the Indians, Mets, and Nationals could also look to take advantage of the market by trading one of their extra arms for big time help elsewhere. We’ve seen a lot of big league for big leaguer trades in recent years. Nothing would surprise me.

Some Runs DMC: Bullpen (and offense) blows it in 2-1 walk-off loss to the Padres


Source: FanGraphs

That walk-off loss would be more annoying if it didn’t feel so inevitable. I just didn’t expect Andrew Miller to give it up. The Yankees dropped their second straight game to the Padres on Saturday night, this one by the score of 2-1. West Coast night games get bullet point recaps, so here we go:

  • Ivan’s Good Start: For the first time in a long time, Ivan Nova put together a solid start. Better than solid, really. He held the Padres to one run on four hits and a walk in 5.1 innings while striking out seven. The run scored with Dellin Betances on the mound; Nova walked Wil Myers, was pulled, then Betances allowed a stolen base and a stupid little defensive half-swing double to Matt Kemp. I thought only Didi Gregorius was allowed to do that? Anyway, that was a much-needed good start from Nova.
  • Run, Singular: Drew Pomeranz is a very good pitcher having a great year, but with these Yankees, it’s impossible to tell if the pitcher had a good night or if the offense was just being its usual self. Pomeranz held New York to one run in seven innings, and the run scored on Starlin Castro‘s sixth inning ground out. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s double and Brett Gardner‘s infield single set it up. Unfortunately they couldn’t get Gardner home from second after Castro’s fielder’s choice, so one run was all the Yankees scored, both in that inning and in the game in general.
  • Battle of the Bullpens: Neither Betances nor Miller were especially sharp, but they did throw scoreless seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Joe Girardi opted to send Miller out for the ninth inning as well, which was perfectly cool with me, but he missed his spot with his fastball and the player formerly known as B.J. Upton hit a walk-off solo homer on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth. It was gone off the bat. Upton crushed it into the second deck of the Western Medal Supply Building. When the top relievers are blowing games, it’s time to put the entire roster on the lawn with a “For Sale” sign.
  • Leftovers: Ellsbury and Gardner both went 2-for-4 with a double. Everyone else went 2-for-24 (.083) … Rob Refsnyder threw a runner out at the plate from right field, which was cool … the game featured three replays that totaled nearly ten minutes in review time. The Yankees were on the winning side of all three … the Yankees scored first for the first time in nine games, not that it helped … now that they’re 39-41 on the season, the Yankees are guaranteed to finish the first half with a losing record for the first time since 2007 and only the second time since 1992. They were 40-41 after 81 games in both 1992 and 2007.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Now here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Padres wrap up this three-game series Sunday afternoon. That’s a 4:40pm ET start. No more West Coast night games until August. Spot starter Chad Green and trade bait Andrew Cashner will be on the mound in the series finale.

DotF: Mason Williams returns; Wade and Fowler have big games in Trenton’s win

Some quick notes:

  • 1B Nick Swisher is going home to spend the rest of the season with his wife and two daughters, he announced. Swisher’s wife gave birth to their second child a few days ago. Swisher says he isn’t retiring and will evaluate his options for next season at a later time.
  • I missed this last weekend: David Laurila had a brief interview with RHP Drew Finley in last week’s Sunday Notes column. Finley’s father, a longtime scout and executive, did not let him pitch at all from ages 12-16. He also taught him how to scout hitters, which helps him read swings and make adjustments on the fly. Pretty neat stuff.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 win over Buffalo)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI — he’s been crushing the ball for over a month now
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 PB — 5-for-5 in steals this year … his career high is 15 steals, believe it or not … he did that back in 2012
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 0-4
  • DH Ike Davis: 1-4, 2 K — this is only his third game with the RailRiders, but he’s yet to play first base … I’m glad the Yankees have made Austin the priority at the position
  • LF Cesar Puello: 2-4, 2 R, 1 K, 1 SB — the Yankees signed the former Mets prospect as a minor league free agent over the winter and he’s hitting .295/.427/.403
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 18 of 38 pitches were strikes (47%) … made the spot start in place of RHP Chad Green, who is starting for the Yankees tomorrow
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 8/3 GB/FB — 42 of 69 pitches were strikes (61%) … kinda weird Barbato started and not Moreno … I wonder if Barbato is coming up Monday to replace Green, and they wanted to make sure he got his tune-up work in today
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 16 of 26 pitches were strikes (62%) … 51/12 K/BB in 45 innings … he’ll be Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason and he’s going to wind up someone’s 40-man roster, probably the Yankees’

[Read more…]

Game 80: What’s better than a ninth inning comeback?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night the Yankees made a spirited ninth inning comeback attempt, scoring four runs in the final inning to turn a 7-2 deficit into a 7-6 loss. A loss is a loss, but at least they showed some fight, you know? Three days ago the Yankees had that massive ninth inning comeback against the Rangers too. If nothing else, this team is going down swinging. They still have that Fighting Spirit.

But you know what’s better than a ninth inning comeback? Not trailing in the ninth inning! Good teams don’t come from behind to win all the time. Good teams are ahead all the time. The Yankees play from behind an awful lot these days, which makes getting back into the postseason race that much more difficult. Scoring first, which the Yankees have not done in their last eight (!) games, would be cool tonight. Here’s the Padres’ lineup and here’s the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Rob Refsnyder
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. RHP Ivan Nova

The weather is surely lovely in San Diego tonight. The weather is never not nice in San Diego. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 10pm ET and you can watch on FOX Sports 1 only. Not YES, not MLB Network, not even regular old FOX. FOX Sports 1 only. Enjoy the game, nerds.

Injury Update: Conor Mullee has been placed on the 15-day DL with a hand injury, the Yankees announced. He left last night’s game with of a weird feeling in his fingers. Mullee went for tests for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which thankfully came back negative. That’s serious stuff. Chad Green took his spot on the roster. Green is making the spot start tomorrow.

Saturday Open Thread

The Yankees don’t play until much later tonight — a 10pm ET start on a Saturday? come on — so here is an open thread for the time being. MLB Network is showing a game right now and FOX will have a bunch of regional games later tonight. You all know how these work by now, so have at it.

Happy 10th signing anniversary, Jesus Montero!

(Getty)

It’s July 2, 2016. Guess what happened ten years ago today? The Yankees signed a highly-touted catching prospect Jesus Montero out of Guaraca, Venezuela. Montero, the former future cleanup hitter and present what-could-have-been, pretty much hit his way up to the top of the system and excited the fans with a solid ML showing late in the 2011 season. But as you know, he was dealt to Seattle in January 2012 in a trade that brought Michael Pineda and Vicente Campos to the Yanks.

Montero had been hyped as the very top commodity for the 2006 IFA signing class. The excitement stemmed from his hitting prowess. Here’s PinstripePlus.com’s assessment of his bat before the Yankees signed him”

The right-handed power hitting catcher drew immediate attention from Yankee officials in Spring Training in a two-day tryout where he participated in intrasquad games this past March … He not only held his own against much older competition, but he drew glazed and impressed looks from all the Yankees’ prospects that day.

“He’s ‘the’ top International free agent this year,” (then international scouting director) Carlos Rios told PinstripesPlus.com on March 17th. “He can really hit and he plays a prime position.”

So yes, it wasn’t a secret that Montero could hit. I was never involved in scouting so I have no idea how they evaluate players beyond their stats but it seems like just about everyone that looked at him loved the intangibles.

The major knock on Montero — which followed him for a long, long while — was that scouts didn’t like his chances of him remaining at catcher. Here’s a quote from Baseball America:

While his bat and power potential made Montero a hot commodity, his future behind the plate may be in doubt, according to scouts with other clubs. One scout said Montero was already 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and disparagingly compared his body to that of Henry Blanco; another said he was too stiff and lacked the athleticism to catch at the big league level.

“He has above-average raw power, a lot of power, but where do you put him?” the scout said. “I don’t think he’ll catch. He’s a big-hipped kid and he’s going to get bigger; he may have to end up at first base.”

The BA article also had a nice quote from a scout, who compared Montero to Travis Hafner. We’re not talking about the Hafner that briefly played for the Yanks in 2013. The 2006 version of Travis Hafner terrorized ML pitching by hitting .308/.439/.659 with 42 HR. So yes, it was an extremely attractive comparison that had Yankee fans salivating for future.

(The Crowley Collection)

The Yankee system at the time was on the upswing. They had an exciting young position player in Low-A named Jose Tabata, and their 2004 first-rounder Phil Hughes was tearing up the low minors en route to Double-A. Another Double-A pitcher named Tyler Clippard was having a solid season in which he tossed a no-no. Guys like Austin Jackson and Brett Gardner were trying to climb out of the low minors.

Around that time, Melky Cabrera (only 21 then) had just come up to majors and made some impact replacing the injured Gary Sheffield. It had been awhile since the Yankees had organizational talents come up to bigs and be regulars, and in 2006, fans were excited about the possibility of building yet another Core Four.

The Yankees signed Montero at dawn of the July 2nd signing day. The reported bonus was $2 million, a record amount at the time. An initial report called it $2.2 million, but Yankees disputed it, saying that it was $2 million. As you may have guessed, Montero took the No. 1 spot on ESPN’s top IFA list in 2006. Following him are plethora of names that you may or may not have heard. Here are a few:

1. Jesus Montero: You know how it went.

2. Engel Beltre: Signed with the Red Sox. Sent to the Rangers in July 2007 trade that brought Eric Gagne to Boston. He had 22-game cup of coffee with the Texas Rangers in 2013 but never made a mark in the bigs. He’s currently playing in Mexican league, hitting .354/.394/.446 for Campeche.

3. Angel Villalona: Signed with the Giants. He was a big kid who was projected to hit for power. After some decent seasons, he was charged for murder in September 2009. Whoa. Villalona was ordered to house arrest for two years and the charges were dropped after he reached a settlement with victim’s family. He came back to U.S. in 2012 to resume pro career and still hasn’t reached to Triple-A yet, let alone majors. At age 25, Villalona is with the Giants’ Double-A affiliate and hitting for a measly .336 OPS in 31 PA. Safe to say this was probably one of the worst big money IFA signings ever.

4. Oscar Tejeda: Another young toolsy guy signed by the Red Sox. And again, another guy who hasn’t made the majors. He bounced around the Boston, Pittsburgh and Washington organizations but never got past Triple-A. There is no record of him playing baseball in 2016.

5. Larry Suarez: The highest pitcher in the list. Signed with the Cubs. Never got to the majors and pitched only one Triple-A game in his seven-year MiLB career. He had a 5.09 ERA in 272.1 career IP.

6. Euclides Viloria: ESPN’s brief report described him as “Sort of like Johan Santana, but with less power.” He signed with the Padres and apparently had only one pro season. He pitched to a 5.63 ERA in 54.1 but struck out 73. It seems he suffered an injury and never pitched in the pros again. Shame.

7. Esmailyn Gonzalez: Signed with the Nationals. This one was a doozy. In 2009, MLB found out Gonzalez was named Carlos Lugo, and he was four years older than listed. The scandal forced Nationals then-GM Jim Bowden to resign. Prior to being busted, Lugo was on a roll, hitting .343 with a .906 OPS in GCL in 2008 when he was supposedly 18-year old Esmailyn Gonzalez. Lugo never got past High-A and he’s been out of professional baseball since 2014.

8. Carlos Triunfel: Signed with the Mariners. Ho-hum, another ML cup of coffee guy. He actually hit decently in the low minors but couldn’t figure out Double-A pitching for awhile. He got to majors in 2012 and had 24 very forgettable PA (.579 OPS). In 87 career ML PA, Triunfel has a .423 OPS. He’s still in MiLB, with the Reds Triple-A affiliate.

None of these guys reached their potential. I assume guys like Montero can make it as a late-bloomer and get a shot at being a ML regular, but the chances of that are pretty slim.

(Icon SMI)

Montero hit consistently throughout the minors. He got up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2010, his age 20 season. He earned a call to the majors in 2011 and hit for a .996 OPS in 69 PA. It seemed as if Montero was going to remain in the bigs and be groomed as the next cleanup hitter for the Bronx Bombers, at least until the Yankees and Mariners pulled the trigger on the Pineda trade. The idea back then was that Pineda would go on to be a No. 1 or 2 starter for New York while Montero grew into a complete hitter in Seattle.

Oh how funny things work out. Pineda is still in the Yankees rotation. He’s had flashes of brilliance but overall has been quite inconsistent (though I’m encouraged by his recent hot stretch). Montero, on the other hand, is no longer with the Mariners organization. After series of weight and attitude issues, Montero lost out on a roster spot in Spring Training this year (it went to Dae-Ho Lee) and he landed in the Blue Jays system on waivers. He’s currently with their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, hitting .312 with a .808 OPS.

From a personal standpoint, I was just starting to follow the Yankees more in-depth back when they signed Montero. The 2006 season was when I started to follow the system, draft and signings closely, and the hype leading to his signing was something that I thought a lot about. I was as happy about Yankees inking Montero as I was when they signed Johnny Damon. And sure, I was aware of Yankees’ spotty record with position player prospects (Jon Poterson, C.J. Henry, Eric Duncan, Estee Harris, Tim Battle, etc.), so I was cautiously optimistic about Montero when he was playing in GCL and Low-A. Once he destroyed High-A and Double-A, I really thought he was going to be a foolproof ML hitting talent, the future king of the Bronx.

Yet, here we are. Montero is in a different organization, struggling to get out of the minors. I still have a soft spot for him. I used to endlessly watch his swings, believing that he’d deliver so many HR in the Yankee Stadium. Maybe he could have a some sort of revival and be serviceable for someone else. It’s not impossible!