Thoughts following Aroldis Chapman’s suspension

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yesterday afternoon MLB announced Aroldis Chapman has been suspended 30 games under the league’s collectively bargained domestic violence policy following the October incident at his home. The suspension itself was not a surprise. We just had no idea how long it would be because he’s the first player to be suspended under the policy. There was no precedent. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. This is much larger than Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees in the grand scheme of things. A 30-game suspension seems fair to me — I was expecting a shorter ban and I’m glad the league was able to come down harder than I expected because I am generally anti-hurt people — and it sets a tough precedent for the league. Chapman was not arrested, he was not charged with a crime, and there was a lack of physical evidence. The league was still able to suspend him for a month while getting cooperation from Chapman and no fight from the MLBPA. That’s good. A shorter suspension would have been viewed as a slap on the wrist and anything longer likely would have been met with resistance from the union, especially since Chapman’s service time and impending free agency would have been a factor. Thirty games sorta represents the best case scenario for players involved in a domestic dispute. No arrest, no charges, cooperate with investigators, and you’re still getting 30 games. This domestic violence policy has some teeth.

2. The suspension will end up costing Chapman a little under $1.86M in salary and I’d like to see the Yankees do something positive with that money, specifically donate it to charity. Alex Rodriguez‘s home run milestone bonus was donated to charity and domestic violence is about a billion times worse than performance-enhancing drugs. Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation is the obvious fit here. Safe at Home’s mission statement is “edu­cat­ing to end the cycle of domes­tic vio­lence and save lives,” and the Yankees are still very involved with the foundation. Several current and former players attend the gala each year and help raise money. If the Yankees would rather split that $1.86M up among several charities, great. That works too. The Chapman trade came with a lot of backlash — Brian Cashman admitted they swung the deal because the price dropped after Chapman’s incident became public, ewww — and that backlash is not going away because of the suspension. Between this and Lonn Trost telling poor people they don’t belong in premium seats, the Yankees aren’t exactly swimming in positive PR these days. Donating the money to a worthy cause would be a good first step towards salvaging an otherwise ugly situation. A little compassion goes a long way. Don’t put the money back into the roster and in the name of all that is holy don’t just pocket it.

3. Okay, let’s change gears and focus on the on-field aspect of the suspension. Per the terms of the ban, Chapman will be allowed to play in Spring Training — my guess is the Yankees don’t send him on any road trips, the reception might not be so pretty — but not minor league tune-up games once the season begins. That probably won’t be that big a deal. Chapman will be able to work out at the Tampa complex to stay sharp, and once the suspension nears its conclusion, he can pitch in Extended Spring Training games to get some innings in. Those aren’t official minor league games, so I assume this is doable. If not, simulated games will have to do. It’s not ideal but this isn’t a major problem. Chapman’s a reliever. He’s not a hitter who needs to find his rhythm at the plate or a starter who needs to get stretched out. I’m also curious to see how Joe Girardi handles him once the suspension is over. Does Chapman jump right into the closer’s role, or does Girardi ease him back into game action with one or two middle relief appearances before giving him the ninth inning? I guess it depends what the rest of the bullpen looks like at the time.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4. Once Chapman returns, I hope Girardi uses him heavily and gets as many innings out of him as possible. I know Girardi goes to great lengths to make sure his relievers are fresh and that’s great, but I say throw all that out the window with Chapman. Give him the ol’ Scott Proctor treatment. Make him the bullpen version of CC Sabathia on the 2008 Brewers. Chapman just turned 28 over the weekend and the guy is 6-foot-4 and 215 lbs. with the physique of a Greek god. The guy is built to last. This is almost certainly a one-and-done situation — all indications are the Yankees will let him walk as a free agent next offseason — so the Yankees have no long-term investment here. Give him a heavy workload — a 30-game suspension means he’ll still be available for 132 games, so get 65-ish innings out of him — and take advantage of the no stings attached elite reliever. Callous? Yes. So be it. Treat Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances with care and let Chapman be the workhorse, then let some other team deal with the aftermath. I don’t think the Girardi and the Yankees will actually do this, mind you. I’m just saying I hope they do.

5. The Yankees came into Spring Training with three open bullpen spots and now it’s four. Miller and Betances are more than fine in the late innings, and Ivan Nova will be the long man assuming everyone in the rotation makes it through camp in one piece. (That’s a big assumption, I know.) My guess right now, a few hours before the Yankees play their first Grapefruit League game, is those four open bullpen spots go to Chasen Shreve, Bryan Mitchell, Nick Rumbelow, and Jacob Lindgren. Shreve gets the first crack at being The Seventh Inning Guy™ based on last year’s overall body of work while Mitchell, a starter by trade, gets an opportunity to show whether he can replace Adam Warren as the Swiss Army Reliever who can go three pitches or three innings depending on the team’s needs that day. The other two guys get the “only when losing” innings out of the gate. The Yankees have a ton of relief candidates in camp and that’s good. They’ll need all of ’em at some point this year. Those four are my picks for the open bullpen spots based on what we know right now.

Open Thread: March 1st Camp Notes

Bonding. (Photo via @Yankees)
Bonding. (Photo via @Yankees)

Today was a scheduled off-day for the Yankees. Rather than go through a workout, the players took part in a team bonding activity at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Joe Girardi brought in Steve Shenbaum, who led the team through all sorts of improvised games and whatnot to build trust and comradery. Sounds fun. There are no photos from camp today, but here are the day’s notes:

  • Luis Severino is scheduled to throw two innings and 30 pitches in tomorrow’s Grapefruit League opener. Alex Rodriguez is not scheduled to play but he will be in Thursday’s lineup. Tomorrow’s game will be on television and streamed online. Hooray for that. [Meredith Marakovits, Chad Jennings]
  • Nathan Eovaldi (groin) will throw his bullpen session Thursday, not tomorrow as scheduled. No setback or anything, they’re just lining him up for his first spring outing. Brett Gardner (wrist) will take batting practice for the first time tomorrow. [Marakovits, Jennings]
  • Severino, Ivan Nova, and Bryan Mitchell will start the next three days. Non-roster lefty Richard Bleier is scheduled to start Saturday, assuming he gets over his flu-like symptoms soon. Can’t say I expected Bleier to get a start this spring. [Jennings]
  • And finally, A-Rod referred to the team’s clubhouse leaders as the “Board of Trustees.” That is pretty awesome. Someone fire up Photoshop. [David Lennon]

Here is this evening’s open thread. Every local hockey and basketball team is playing tonight except the Rangers. There’s also a ton of college hoops on the schedule too. Tournament’s starting pretty soon, you know. Talk about that or anything else here. Just don’t be a jerk.

TiqIQ: Yankees’ Offseason Additions, NYCFC’s Second Year Makes 2016 A Promising Year At Yankee Stadium

The New York Yankees need not be reminded of the gem Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel threw at Yankee Stadium during the AL Wild Card game last October. There is a heightened sense of optimism heading into the 2016 season, however. After acquiring infielder Starlin Castro from the Chicago Cubs and closer Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds, Yankee Stadium will be alive and well with All-Star talent beginning in April.

Along with the added hype and marquee roster additions will also be a larger demand for tickets on the secondary market. As it stands now the average price for New York Yankees tickets through all 81 games at Yankee Stadium is $110.76. That marks a 27.9% increase from last year’s average of $83.63. More than a half dozen games currently own an average price above $150, including divisional games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox and crosstown rival Mets in August.

That shouldn’t deter fans from making traveling arrangements to New York City this spring and summer, however. The Yankees won’t be left to lick their wounds for long as they welcome the Astros to the Bronx in early April. An August 14 game against the Rays, which will honor Mariano Rivera with his own plaque in Monument Park before the game, is currently the most expensive on Yankees schedule this season, with tickets averaging $227.59 and the cheapest ticket listed for $37. Fans can expect the Yankees’ shut-down relief to be on full display with a lead, as Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman round out what is considered the most feared bullpen in the Majors this year.

Reasons to travel to Yankee Stadium don’t just end with the Yankees. New York City Football Club, New York’s newest sporting franchise, will launch its second season in the Bronx beginning on March 13 against Toronto FC. Tickets for the opening game are considerably cheaper than the Yankees’ Opening Day one month later, with an average secondary market price of $70.75 and a $23 get-in price. It will fall in the middle of the price pack in relation to the whole season, however, as seven other games are averaging a higher price. A July 3 game against the crosstown New York Red Bulls is the most expensive match of the season for NYCFC, with tickets averaging $110.79 and the cheapest ticket listed for $39.

NYCFC is coming off an underwhelming inaugural year after going just 10-17-7 and finishing 17th overall in the league. Much of the season was dedicated to the ongoing participation controversy regarding Frank Lampard, who played just 10 games and posted three goals in that time. Lampard, the all-time leading goalscorer for Chelsea, did little to contribute to a postseason push for NYCFC in 2015.

There is reason to believe that the upcoming year will be a monumental one at Yankee Stadium. With the Yankees bolstering their roster and NYCFC hoping to break out and place in the MLS Playoffs, 2016 will be a fruitful year for the fan hell-bent on making the trip to the Bronx.

Aroldis Chapman suspended 30 games under domestic violence policy, will not appeal

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, Aroldis Chapman has been suspended under the league’s domestic violence policy following an October incident at his home in Miami. Chapman has been suspended 30 regular season games by commissioner Rob Manfred and he will not appeal, which runs counter to what he said a few weeks ago. In the meantime, Chapman will be allowed to pitch in Spring Training games but not minor league games during the season. He’s free to use the team’s complex to stay sharp.

“I asked my staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the incident involving Aroldis Chapman on October 30, 2015,” said Manfred in a statement. “Much of the information regarding the incident has been made public through documents released by law enforcement. Mr. Chapman submitted to an in-person interview with counsel present. After reviewing the staff report, I found Mr. Chapman’s acknowledged conduct on that day to be inappropriate under the negotiated Policy, particularly his use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner. I am gratified that Mr. Chapman has taken responsibility for his conduct, that he has agreed not to appeal the 30-game suspension, and that he has agreed to comply with the confidential directives of the Joint Policy Board established under the parties’ Policy to ensure that a similar incident does not occur in the future.”

In addition to the suspension, Chapman must also meet with a treatment board, reports Billy Witz. The board will determine whether any additional discipline is warranted, such as counseling or the relinquishment of weapons. The 30-game suspension will cost Chapman roughly $1.7M in salary and 35 days of service time. That will not delay his free agency. Chapman will still hit the open market next winter. He will be eligible to return on May 9th, for the first of four home games against the Royals.

“Today, I accepted a 30 game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on October 30, 2015,” said Chapman in a statement. “I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to my actions, and for that I am sorry. The decision to accept a suspension, as opposed to appealing one, was made after careful consideration. I made this decision in an effort to minimize the distractions that an appeal would cause the Yankees, my new teammates and most importantly, my family. I have learned from this matter, and I look forward to being part of the Yankees’ quest for a 28th World Series title. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.”

Back in October police were called to Chapman’s home after his girlfriend alleged he pushed and choked her during a party. Chapman admitted to police he fired eight shots from his legally owned handgun in his garage. Here is the police report. No arrests were made that night and Chapman will not face criminal charges, though Manfred has the power to suspend players under the domestic violence policy even without an arrest or charges. The gunshots all but ensured Chapman would be suspended. Manfred can’t let that go unpunished.

Chapman was one of three players under investigation under the domestic violence policy. Both Jose Reyes (for this) and Yasiel Puig (for this) are under investigation as well, though Chapman is the first to be suspended. Reyes is facing criminal charges after putting his wife in the hospital over the winter. His trial begins in April and MLB has placed him on paid administrative leave for the time being. That is separate from his inevitable suspension. Puig was in a bar fight, though there were no arrests or charges filed.

A 30-game suspension is more than expected, to be honest. I figured Chapman would get 15 games or something like that. Normal usage means the Yankees are going to lose something like 10-12 Chapman relief appearances early in the season, which is no big deal from a baseball standpoint. This was a sensitive subject, and I’m happy the suspension has been handed down and Chapman is not appealing. I can’t imagine anyone wanted this to drag on any longer.

Brian Cashman plays coy about interest in Otani: “We look at everything internationally”

(Masterpress/Getty)
(Masterpress/Getty)

It was only a matter of time. Last week Brian Cashman was asked about the Yankees’ interest in Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani, and the GM predictably played coy. “We look at everything internationally, as well as domestically, but he’s under control of another club. So I couldn’t speak to him, but we’re always watching everything that takes place around the world to the best of our abilities,” he said to Brendan Kuty.

Otani, 21, is the best pitcher in the world not under contract with an MLB team. He had a 2.24 ERA with a 31.6% strikeout rate and a 7.4% walk rate in 160.2 innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters last year, and keep in mind hitters focus much more on putting the ball in play in Japan than they do in MLB. The league average strikeout rate last season was 18.1%. It was 20.4% in MLB.

Otani and the (Ham) Fighters were in Arizona training a few weeks ago, giving teams a chance to see him without having to cross the pond. Eric Longenhagen (subs. req’d) gave this scouting report:

Overall, Ohtani’s fastball was clocked anywhere from 91 and 99 mph, featuring some two-seam sinking action at the low end of that spectrum. He does it effortlessly and with good extension, which makes the pitch look as though it’s erupting from his hand right on top of the plate. He showed four pitches in the outing. His fastball is comfortably plus, the aforementioned curveball is above average and projects to plus while the splitter and lollipop, low-70s curveball were both below average.

(His name has been spelled Otani and Ohtani over the years, and apparently the back of his jersey said Ohtani in Arizona a few weeks back.)

Keep in mind this was what amounts to Spring Training outing, so Otani was not in midseason form. Longenhagen noted Otani is incredibly athletic — he used to play the outfield on days he didn’t pitch, but that stopped last season — and his splitter should develop into a pitch that grades out as “much higher” than average because of his arm speed. So you’ve got a big fastball, an above-average breaking ball, and a promising split-finger pitch. Sounds good to me. Here’s video of one of Otani’s recent Arizona outings. Again, this was essentially a Spring Training start:

The issue with Otani is that he’s six years from international free agency, and there is no real incentive for the (Ham) Fighters to post him anytime soon. Under the current posting system, the team can only receive the maximum $20M release fee regardless of when they post him. The posting agreement expires in December but will continue on a year-to-year basis unless NPB asks to renegotiate. They have to give MLB 180 days notice, so by June we should know if the posting agreement will stay as is or be changed again.

Anyway, yes there’s always the risk of injury, but as long as the current posting system is in place, it makes sense for the (Ham) Fighters to hold onto Otani a few more years. They had the second best record in Japan last season, so I assume they have talent on their roster beyond Otani. The team could hold onto their ace right-hander and try to win the third Japan Series title in franchise history. (They won in 1962 and 2006, and lost in the finals in 1981, 2007, 2008, and 2012.)

The Yankees have a lot of money coming off the books the next few seasons — that includes Masahiro Tanaka potentially opting out of his contract in two years — clearing the way for the Yankees to spend big on someone like Otani. He’s young, the consensus is he is a budding MLB ace, and he will be available for nothing but money. A lot of money, but only money. The Yankees have long-term pitching needs too. All of their current starters can become free agents within two years except Luis Severino.

For now, Otani is a name worth knowing even if it appears he is years away from coming over to MLB, not months.

The Summer of Al, the Sequel [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

At this time last year Alex Rodriguez was a complete unknown. Not only was he coming off his Biogenesis suspension in 2014, hip surgery limited him to only 44 games in 2013 as well. A-Rod was approaching 40 and had barely played the previous two seasons for several not good reasons. Could he still hit? Could he play defense? Did the Yankees even want him around?

It was easy to think the answers would be no, no, and no. And if that was the case, what would the Yankees do with Rodriguez? Bench him? Release him? Try to trade him? It was hard to imagine a trade being even remotely possible, and releasing him meant eating north of $60M in salary. Benching him meant playing with a 24-man roster. The A-Rod situation was shaping up to be pretty ugly.

And now, coming into Spring Training, Rodriguez is viewed as a key cog in the machine that is the 2016 Yankees. A-Rod is expected to hit in the middle of the order, and the Yankees value his leadership so much that they invited him to speak at Captain’s Camp because they want him working with their young prospects. Heck, prior to the trade deadline last year, Brian Cashman admitted to getting Alex’s input on needs and possible deals.

It has been quite a turnaround for Rodriguez over the last 12 months. He went from unknown and unwanted — at the very least, a large subset of Yankees fans didn’t want him — to an offensive linchpin and a key member of the clubhouse. Newcomers Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi both credited A-Rod for helping them make adjustments during their first season in New York. The Summer of Al was an overwhelming positive in 2015.

Now comes the hard part: doing it again. Rodriguez had the benefit of zero expectations last summer. Almost everyone expected him to stink, and if he was going to contribute to the team, he would have to earn it. A-Rod batted seventh on Opening Day, remember. Now there are expectations. A-Rod is the club’s best right-handed hitter and is no longer in a “whatever he gives us is a bonus” situation. He’s important.

The reality of Alex’s situation is that he is a 40-year-old ballplayer, that he no longer can play defense (the Yankees aren’t even going to try him at first or third base this spring), and that he has two surgically repaired hips. Great players do age differently than everyone else, but the history of 40-year-old hitters is not particularly strong. Seven players have qualified for the batting title in their age 40 season this century:

2014 Derek Jeter: 76 OPS+
2007 Kenny Lofton: 105 OPS+
2007 Omar Vizquel: 61 OPS+
2006 Jeff Conine: 86 OPS+
2006 Craig Biggio: 84 OPS+
2003 Edgar Martinez: 141 OPS+
2001 Cal Ripken Jr.: 70 OPS+

The most similar player to A-Rod in that group is Edgar, who mashed during his age 40 season, but that doesn’t mean Rodriguez is in the clear. That list is intended to show just how to tough it is to be productive on an everyday basis at age 40. All of those guys except Conine were everyday big leaguers at a young age. The game takes a toll physically. A-Rod was in the show at 18 and a regular at 20.

Based on everything they’ve been saying over the last few weeks and months, the Yankees believe the key to keeping A-Rod productive this year is eliminating the every day aspect. They want to turn him into a most days player, not an everyday player, which he was last year. That means more time on the bench, freeing up the DH spot for Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira and whoever else.

“We were trying and running him out to the field last year, and there were things that we were doing — I think he got a little bit sore at times just like any normal infielder would,” said Girardi to reporters last week. “He doesn’t have to deal with that this year … I think he has a better understanding of what it took and what it takes and what he needs to be able to do … He’s ready to go. He looks healthy. He’s strong.”

Because he is a DH and a DH only, A-Rod’s value stems entirely from his offense, which is a bit risky at his age. If he doesn’t hit, he has zero on-field value to the team. None. He’d be dead roster weight. The Yankees can’t do anything about Alex’s age. The only thing they can do is try to keep him as fresh and as healthy as possible, and hope for the best. I’m not big on projections, so I’m only listing these as a conversation starter:

ZiPS: .237/.331/.449 with 23 homers
Steamer: .239/.333/.410 with 19 homers
PECOTA: .244/.334/.418 with 22 homers

Last season Rodriguez hit .250/.356/.486 (131 OPS+) with 33 homers — by OPS+, that is the tenth best season by a player who qualified for the batting title in his age 39 season — and the projections are understandably expecting his power to take a hit this coming season. The on-base ability is fine relative to the batting average. Still lots of walks, which has been an A-Rod forte for years. Would a .240/.330/.420 season be a success? All things considered, I’d have to say yes, even if we’re used to much more from Alex.

As good as he was overall last season, Rodriguez was far more successful against lefties (148 wRC+) than righties (120 wRC+), and I bet Girardi and the Yankees will time his off-days so that he sits against northpaws. That figures to mean extra at-bats for Dustin Ackley and Aaron Hicks. The extra rest coupled with less playing time against right-handers could help Rodriguez remain productive and beat his projections (again). That’s the plan, I assume.

I love A-Rod — seriously, how sad will it be once he’s gone? — yet even I was an A-Rod doubter last season. Could you blame me? I’m happy he proved me and lots of others wrong. I’m not betting against him this year but I’m also not oblivious to the risks associated with a 40-year-old player on two surgically repaired hips. A-Rod is risky. And while last season showed he can still be a force, he’s reached the point of his career where he’ll have to prove himself again each and every year.

“This is a result-oriented business, so the team needs me to produce,” said A-Rod to reporters last week. “I never look at the season and think about numbers. I think about how can I help the team win and be available both on the field and in the clubhouse to give positive contributions, especially with our youngsters … At age 40 with two hip surgeries, I’m day-to-day. I plan to prepare hard and play as long as my body lets me.”

Prospect position changes have helped the Yankees boost their farm system in recent years

Birdman. (Presswire)
Birdman. (Presswire)

In an effort to improve roster flexibility, the Yankees have both Starlin Castro and Rob Refsnyder working out at third base this spring. It might work, it might not. The only way to find out is to try, and there is no better time to try than Spring Training. Well, except in the minors, where the player can play their new position every day and not worry about sharing playing time.

Over the last few years the Yankees have boosted their farm system and improved the stock of several individual prospects by changing their positions. I don’t mean the usual starter to reliever (Dellin Betances), shortstop to third base (Miguel Andujar), and center field to a corner (Aaron Judge) conversions. I mean moves to more challenging positions, with Jorge Posada going from second base to catcher the most well-known example. The Yankees have had some success with similar moves in recent years. Here are the most notable.

Greg Bird: C to 1B

Okay, moving from catcher to first base is a move down the defensive spectrum, but catcher is a unique position, and I think the Bryce Harper principle applies to Bird. Harper was a catcher as an amateur, yet the Nationals moved him to the outfield immediately following the 2010 draft. Why? Because it would reduce injury risk, it would allow them to keep his bat in the lineup every single day, and it would accelerate his development because he wouldn’t have to focus on the defensive aspect of the position.

Bird actually started his career as a catcher — he caught three games with the rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2012 — before suffering a back injury, at which point the team said forget it, let’s put him at first base. That has allowed Bird to avoid the wear and tear of catching, focus on his offense, and reach the big leagues just three years later. Would Greg Bird be more valuable as a catcher? In theory yes. Except his offense would likely suffer because he’d wear down, he wouldn’t play as often, and he’d probably be a nightmare defensively. Moving from catcher to first made Bird a better prospect and allowed him to reach the big leagues sooner.

John Ryan Murphy: IF to C

Back in high school Murphy was primarily an infielder — a third baseman, specifically — who also dabbled in the outfield and caught once in a while. The Yankees moved him to catcher full-time after selecting him in the 2009 draft and Murphy took to the position well, well enough that he reached the show four years after being drafted and was able to settle in as a sturdy big league backup by age 23.

The Yankees received one full season of backup catcher work from the Serial Killer plus 48 other games scattered across two seasons before sending him to the Twins for Aaron Hicks this winter. Given his good but not great offensive potential, Murphy would have been just another guy at third base or in the outfield. The Yankees saw his potential behind the plate and were rewarded first with a quality prospect, and later with a quality big league player.

Peter O’Brien: C to OF

The Yankees are very willing to be patient with bad defensive catchers in the minors — Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez, anyone? — but even they could not be patient with O’Brien. The team gave him 99 games behind the plate from 2012-13 before pulling the plug and moving him first to third base, then later to the outfield, where he has remained since. As with Bird, the move out from behind the plate has helped O’Brien blossom as a hitter.

In the span of two years, the Yankees turned O’Brien from a bad defensive catcher who might hit into a passable defensive outfielder who can mash taters, which made him good enough to fetch Martin Prado in a trade. They then turned Prado into Nathan Eovaldi. O’Brien was a lost cause behind the plate and keeping him there for a sake of being patient would have been a mistake. The Yankees stuck him where he was most likely to succeed and were rewarded with quality trade bait. (Tyler Austin, who also made the move from catcher to the outfield, didn’t work out quite as well.)

Rob Refsnyder: OF to 2B

Ref. (Presswire)
Ref. (Presswire)

In perhaps the most notable prospect position change, the Yankees moved Refsnyder back to send base after he played the outfield for three years at Arizona. (He played some second in high school.) Similar to Murphy, Refsnyder would be just another guy in a corner outfield spot given his offensive profile. But, put him at second base, and suddenly he has a chance to be above-average at the position.

Refsnyder’s defense at second base has improved but is still rough overall, and now the Yankees have him working out at the hot corner. He did reach the big leagues as a second baseman though, and probably could have (should have?) spent a lot more time in the show last season than he actually did. At least one team wanted him in a trade — the A’s wanted Refsnyder and Adam Warren for Ben Zobrist last July — and the Yankees claimed they were willing to go into the season with Refsnyder as their primary second baseman. That won’t happen, but point is, the move to second has largely been a success.

Luis Torrens: IF to C

As with Murphy, Torrens was primarily an infielder when the Yankees signed him out of Venezuela in 2012, playing mostly third base but also some shortstop. The Yankees moved him to catcher immediately and he has reportedly taken to the position extremely well. Torrens was praised for his defensive work and baseball acumen earlier in his career, before shoulder surgery sidelined him for the entire 2015 season.

It remains to be seen how Torrens will return from the injury — shoulder surgery is no joke, especially for catchers since so much of their defensive value is tied up in their arm — but the early returns at catcher are very promising. “Managers and scouts alike rave about Torrens’ defensive skills, noting how advanced he is as a receiver and a blocker for someone his age and with his limited experience,” wrote Baseball America (subs. req’d) prior to last season. Torrens is still only 19 with a lot of career ahead of him. For now, the move to catcher looks like a smart one.

Chase Whitley: 3B to RP to SP

This one was pretty outside the box. Whitley was a two-way player in college, playing both third base and pitching out of the bullpen. He hit .364/.464/.564 with ten homers and more walks (31) than strikeouts (27) in 288 plate appearances his draft year while pitching to a 3.68 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 24 walks in 66 relief innings. Ace Whitley was one hell of a college player.

The Yankees drafted Whitley in the 15th round of the 2010 draft and moved him to the mound full-time. He was a rare three-pitch reliever (fastball, changeup, slider) who had a lot of success in the minors, so the team decided to stretch him out in Triple-A to see how he could handle a starting assignment. It worked well, and before you knew it, Whitley had made 16 starts for the Yankees from 2014-15.

Whitley wasn’t great (5.02 ERA and 4.23 FIP) and he eventually got hurt and claimed off waivers, but before all that the Yankees were able to develop him into a replacement level spot starter after acquiring him as a part-time third baseman/part-time reliever. All it cost them was a 15th round pick and a small signing bonus too. Considering the expected return for a 15th round pick is basically nothing, Whitley’s conversion(s) worked out very well.