We are now less than three weeks away from the 2014 amateur draft, which will surely be fun even though the Yankees do not have a first round pick. There’s a ton of pitching in this draft and more than a few quality arms will be available for their first pick in the second round, the 55th overall selection. Here’s a collection of miscellaneous draft links:
- Keith Law’s Mock Draft v1.0 (subs. req’d): Law has the Astros taking California HS LHP Brady Aiken, the consensus top talent in the draft, with the first overall pick. He also has NC State LHP Carlos Rodon falling to the Cubs with the fourth overall pick. The mock draft is for the first round only, so the Yankees are not included, but there’s a ton of info in there about which way clubs are leaning.
- Baseball America’s Mock Draft v2.0 (no subs. req’d): Meanwhile, Baseball America has Rodon going to Houston. Interestingly enough, hard-throwing (like 100+ mph) Texas HS RHP Tyler Kolek is said to be sliding because he throws so hard and teams are worried about his mechanics and his 6-foot-5, 250+ lb. frame. Again, the mock draft only covers the first round, so no Yankees.
- MLB.com’s Mock Draft v1.0: And finally, MLB.com also has the Astros taking Aiken first overall in their latest mock draft. No Yankees again, unfortunately. First round only. Based on the information in these three mock drafts, it doesn’t seem like ECU RHP Jeff Hoffman or UNLV RHP Erick Fedde are expected to fall out of the first round despite recently having Tommy John surgery.
- Baseball America’s Top 100 Draft Prospects: The recently updated list is free but the individual scouting reports are subscriber-only. By my count, 62 of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects are pitchers, so yeah, lots of arms this year. The Yankees have a ton of position player prospects and could use some more pitchers. I’m not saying they should pass on quality position players in favor of pitchers this year to fill a need but there’s a good chance the best available player for their first few picks will do his work on the mound.
- Keith Law’s Top 100 Draft Prospects (subs. req’d): Sixty-one of Law’s most recent top 100 draft prospects are pitchers, including 15 of 20 prospects in the 45-65 range. Talent tends to come of the board linearly these days thanks to the spending restrictions (the best players go first, they rarely fall), so the players in that 45-65 range are as good a bet as any to wind up being selected by the Yankees with that 55th overall pick.
Via Ken Davidoff: Hal Steinbrenner indicated a willingness to take on salary and beef up payroll to add players during the season. “[We’re] always willing to look at options come July. Come the trade deadline,” he said. “And I think we’ve shown that. Some years we’ve done stuff, like last year with [Alfonso] Soriano. Some years we haven’t. But we’re not going to ever lay down and die. We’re going to do what we need to do to stay in.”
According to Cot’s, the Yankees opened the season with a $197M payroll this year after spending between $207M and $213M from 2010-12. (The $228M payroll last year was a bit of an anomaly because of the injuries.) If ownership is willing to spend as much as they did from 2010-12, the Yankees can add roughly $10-16M in payroll during the season, which is a ton. The team clearly needs another starting pitcher, maybe even two, and another infielder wouldn’t hurt either. The money seems to be there, so the question now is whether they have the prospects to swing any deals. · (36) ·
RHP Ty Hensley faced hitters today and didn’t have any problems, according to his Twitter feed. He’s working his way back from both hip and hernia surgery. Meanwhile, both 1B Greg Bird and OF Jake Cave made the “In The Team Photo” Section of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. 3B Eric Jagielo was featured in today’s Minor League Roundup after swatting two homers last night.
Triple-A Scranton (5-3 win over Lehigh Valley)
- SS Dean Anna: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 E (throwing) — already his sixth error in only 17 Triple-A games
- RF Adonis Garcia: 2-5, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — 23-for-53 (.434) during his 13-game hitting streak
- LF Ramon Flores: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 K
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
- DH Kyle Roller: 1-3, 1 2B, 2 BB
- LHP Matt Tracy: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 7/1 GB/FB – 47 of 77 pitches were strikes (61%) … Triple-A debut after a mediocre showing in Double-A
The series opener between the Yankees and Pirates was rained out, which means no game tonight but two on Sunday. Single admission doubleheader too. When was the last time the Yankees had one of those at home? Been a while, I assume.
Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing plus MLB Network will air a game as well. Who you see depends on where you live. There’s also an NHL playoff game (Game Seven!) on later as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.
Brandon Finnegan | LHP
Finnegan is from Fort Worth and he passed on signing with the Rangers as their 45th round pick out of high school in 2011. He had a 3.03 ERA and 142/65 K/BB in 141.2 combined innings as a freshman and sophomore at TCU before taking off this spring: 1.66 ERA and 100/20 K/BB in 76 innings. Finnegan missed time in recent weeks with a sore shoulder but returned to the mound last night.
Despite a tiny frame (listed at 5-foot-11 and 184 lbs.), Finnegan sits in the 91-95 mph range with his fastball and has run it up as high as 98. He learned a new slider grip from fellow 2014 draft prospect NC State LHP Carlos Rodon when they played for Team USA last summer, which gave Finnegan a much needed out pitch. It’s a hard slider, usually in the mid-to-high-80s, but he still needs more experience with it. Finnegan has an okay changeup that shows potential. There is quite a bit of effort in his delivery, though his control is fine.
In their latest rankings, Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) had Finnegan as the ninth, 11th, and 19th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. TCU has a history of working their pitchers hard — Andrew Cashner, Jake Arrieta, and Matt Purke all had arm problems after leaving TCU in recent years — and the shoulder soreness is a red flag, enough that Finnegan is sliding down draft boards. He was terrible last night (six runs in 6.1 innings) and that surely didn’t help things. This draft is deep in arms and there is talk Finnegan might fall out of the first round entirely after looking like a top ten pick a few weeks ago. The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall), and while shoulder problems are scary, they never get a chance to land this kind of talent.
4:37pm: David Phelps will start tomorrow’s game with Hiroki Kuroda and Vidal Nuno starting Sunday’s game, the Yankees announced. The order for Kuroda and Nuno has not been determined. I’m guessing Kuroda will get to pick which game he starts. The veterans usually makes the call.
12:57pm: Tonight’s game has been postponed due to rain, the Yankees announced. They will play a rare single admission doubleheader on Sunday. No word on what this does to the pitching staffs, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. Thanks to Monday’s off-day, the Yankees will not need to dig up a spot starter. They can keep everyone on turn.
The Yankees say tickets for tonight’s game are NOT valid for Sunday’s doubleheader. Only tickets for Sunday’s game will get you into the doubleheader. Tickets for today’s game can be exchanged for tickets to any regular season game within the next 12 months. The first game on Sunday will begin at 1pm ET. The second game will begin roughly 30 minutes after the first one ends. · (21) ·
I thought all the interleague games were supposed to be spread out now? The Yankees begin the third of four straight interleague series
tonight tomorrow as the Pirates come to town for a three-game weekend series. This is the Pirates’ first trip to the new Yankee Stadium and their first trip to the Bronx in general since 2007. They are 0-6 all-time in Yankee Stadium during interleague play.
What Have They Done Lately?
Pittsburgh was handed a walk-off loss by Khris Davis and the Brewers yesterday, and they have lost three of their last four games overall. They won four straight before that. Following their stellar 94-win campaign last season, the Pirates are 17-23 with a -13 run differential in 2014 and are again looking for a way out of the NL Central cellar.
At 3.95 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+, reigning NL Manager of the Year Clint Hurdle has a decidedly average offense. It doesn’t help that former Yankee C Russell Martin (103 wRC+) is out with a hamstring injury. He’s on the 15-day DL and it doesn’t sound like he will return this weekend. OF Starling Marte (96 wRC+) has been dealing with back tightness and has been limited to pinch-hitting duties these last few days.
Hurdle’s lineup revolves around reigning NL MVP OF Andrew McCutchen (159 wRC+), who is actually performing better this year than he did last year. He’s an elite all-around player. Second best outfielder in the game behind Mike Trout. 2B Neil Walker (128 wRC+) has been very good this year, as has the first base platoon of 1B Gaby Sanchez (159 wRC+) and 1B Ike Davis (127 wRC+). I assume both guys will play this weekend thanks to the DH. Washington Heights native 3B Pedro Alvarez (101 wRC+) has enormous power and may be in for quite a weekend thanks to the short porch.
With Martin hurt, C Chris Stewart (47 wRC+) has more or less taken over as the everyday catcher. I’m sure you remember what that was like. The platoon of OF Travis Snider (88 wRC+) and former Yankees farmhand OF Jose Tabata (78 wRC+) is just keeping right field warm for top prospect OF Gregory Polanco, who figures to be called up after the Super Two deadline passes late next month. SS Clint Barmes (38 wRC+) and SS Jordy Mercer (47 wRC+) share shortstop duty and UTIL Josh Harrison (125 wRC+) has had a nice year off the bench. C Tony Sanchez (79 wRC+) is Stewart’s backup. It’s a top heavy (really middle heavy) lineup.
Tonight’s game has already been postponed due to rain, so the Yankees and Pirates will play one game on Saturday and two games on Sunday. There’s no word on how the pitching staffs will shake out, so here are the matchups that were scheduled coming into today. I assume the same six pitchers will start these three games, just not necessarily in the same order.
Friday: RHP David Phelps (vs. PIT) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
I’m not sure there is a more frustrating pitcher to watch in all of baseball than Volquez. He’s like A.J. Burnett times three. Volquez, 29, has a 4.36 ERA (4.49 FIP) in 43.1 innings across seven starts and one relief appearance this season, though his strikeout rate (5.19 K/9 and 13.9 K%) is way, way down. He has cut down on his walks (2.70 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%), and while that may be an early season fluke, the Pirates did manage to help Burnett curb his walk problem, so it might be real improvement. Volquez is getting grounders (50.4%) and allowing homers (1.04 HR/9 and 11.9% HR/FB) at almost exactly his career rates. Lefties (.269 wOBA) have hit him much harder than righties (.277 wOBA) this season. Volquez’s stuff is usually electric, as he uses low-to-mid-90s two and four-seam fastballs to set up his hard upper-70s/low-80s curveball and a mid-80s changeup. It’s just that his command is so bad he often has no idea where the ball is going, though when it clicks and he’s having a good day, he is dominant.
Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. PIT) vs. RHP Charlie Morton (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Morton, 30, made a name for himself a few years ago by copying Roy Halladay’s mechanics and essentially saving his then stalled out career. “We made a change, and things are going better. Did I reinvent myself? Reinventing is a fairly accurate term,” he said to Paul Daugherty about copying Halladay. This season he owns a 3.22 ERA (4.14 FIP) in eight starts and 50.1 innings. He’s a ground ball guy (55.3%) who does an okay job limiting walks (3.04 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%) and homers (0.54 HR/9 and 8.8% HR/FB), but he can’t miss bats (5.54 K/9 and 14.2 K%) to save his life. Morton has a reverse split this season — .274 wOBA by lefties and .327 wOBA by righties — but that is the exact opposite of the last few seasons. He usually gets destroyed by left-handers. Morton is basically a two-pitch pitcher, throwing his sinking low-90s two-seamer and upper-70s curveball more than 90% of the time combined. He’ll throw a handful of mid-80s changeups per start, but that’s it. Think of him as a lesser version of vintage Chien-Ming Wang.
Sunday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. PIT) vs. RHP Gerrit Cole (No vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Of course. Of course Cole is going to pitch against the Yankees this weekend. Of course the team’s first round pick in 2008 who didn’t sign and wound up going first overall to Pittsburgh in 2011 after three years at UCLA is going to make his Yankee Stadium debut on Sunday. The baseball gods wouldn’t have it any other way. The 23-year-old Cole has a 3.76 ERA (3.96 FIP) in eight starts and 52.2 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.69 K/9 and 20.2 K%) doesn’t match the quality of his stuff. He is getting grounders (54.5%), limiting walks (2.73 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%), and doing an okay job of keeping the ball in the park (1.03 HR/9 and 14.6% HR/FB), however. Lefties (.351 wOBA) have had much more success than righties (.317 wOBA) this season, which is the exact opposite of last season. Cole’s arsenal has evolved a bit since the Yankees drafted him, but he still has his trademark high-octane fastball. It is averaging 95.6 mph this season, the fourth fastest fastball in the game. Cole backs it up with a nasty upper-80s slider and mid-80s curveballs and changeups. The changeup is arguably his best offspeed pitch and more than a few people think he needs to throw it more often. Right now Cole only throws it 4.2% of the time. Get ready for a whole lotta “what could have been” chatter this weekend.
Hurdle has been without closer RHP Jason Grilli (oblique) since last month, so former Yankee RHP Mark Melancon (2.63 FIP) has been handling ninth inning duties in his place. He blew the save and took the walk-off loss yesterday. The Pirates have two very good, hard-throwing lefties in LHP Justin Wilson (2.39 FIP) and LHP Tony Watson (1.95 FIP).
RHP Bryan Morris (4.88 FIP), RHP Vin Mazzaro (8.77 FIP), and RHP Jared Hughes (3.80 FIP) handled the middle innings while RHP Jeanmar Gomez (5.88 FIP) is the long man. Melancon, Wilson, and Watson all have had high workloads recently and may not have been available tonight. The rainout comes at a good time for Pittsburgh. Check out the status of New York’s relievers at our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Pirates Prospects, Raise the Jolly Roger, and Bucs Dugout for everything you need to know about the Pirates. There are some really good Pirates blogs out there.
Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees may re-consider signing Stephen Drew after the draft passes next month, when they would not have to forfeit their second round pick. The team also doesn’t want the Red Sox to gain another compensation pick after essentially giving them one as part of the Jacoby Ellsbury signing.
Drew, 31, will probably need several weeks to get ready for MLB game action at this point, even if he has been working out in the meantime. (I’m sure he has.) The best case scenario is what, probably one week to get ready? As Joe wrote yesterday, the Yankees could clearly use help on the infield — if Carlos Beltran needs surgery, Derek Jeter could serve as the regular DH with Drew at shortstop — but it’s obvious no other team is going to jump in to sign him before the draft. With only three weeks to go, I think they could wait. He wouldn’t move the needle enough in those three weeks to justify losing the pick. · (39) ·
Got eight questions for you this week, some with long-ish answers and some with short answers. If you want to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
JoeyA asks: How much would TANAK get on the open market RIGHT NOW. My guess: more than 7/155.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure Masahiro Tanaka would fetch more than seven years and $155M right now. He’s legitimately pitching like an ace (2.17 ERA and 2.81 FIP) because he doesn’t walk anyone (1.09 BB/9 and 3.1 BB%) and he misses a ton of bats (10.24 K/9 and 29.5 K%). Tanaka’s been durable throughout his career, he’s adjusted to the different ball and five-day schedule just fine, and he’s only 25 years old. Plus he’s a stone cold killer on the mound. Absolutely nothing rattles him. He would be a seriously hot commodity on the open market now that he’s shown he can handle MLB.
Tanaka’s contract (not counting the release fee) is already the fourth largest pitching contract in baseball history. I don’t think he’d get Clayton Kershaw money (seven years, $215M) if he was a free agent right now, but Felix Hernandez (seven years, $175M) and Justin Verlander (seven years, $180M) money seems very doable. That said, none of those three were free agents, they all signed extensions. Tanaka would be able to create a bidding war, so maybe $200M isn’t out of the question. I think Max Scherzer’s headed for $200M this winter and he turns 30 in July. Wouldn’t you rather have Tanaka’s age 25-31 seasons over Scherzer’s age 30-36 seasons?
Stephen asks: CC Sabathia‘s xFIP is 3.14, good for 21st in the bigs. Since the purpose of xFIP is to normalize home run rates, do you see a large regression coming for the big guy? How is it possible for a guy with his peripherals to be this bad? Tanaka is actually leading the xFIP leaderboard, due to his bloated HR rate. Is it possible that he’s going to get even better as the season progresses?
I am absolutely not a fan of xFIP because it does normalize homer rates to the league average. Why are we doing that, exactly? We know pitchers give up homers at different rates so why would we expect them to regress back to the rest of the league? You’re better off comparing a pitcher’s homer rate to his recent performance.
For example, Sabathia has a 23.3% HR/FB rate this year, which is way higher than last season (13.0%) and the last three seasons (11.3% from 2011-13). At the same time, he’s given up some serious bombs this year — Hit Tracker says eight of Sabathia’s ten homers allowed were “no doubters” or had “plenty,” basically meaning they were crushed. One was “just enough” and barely got over the wall. The other was Wil Myers’ inside the park homer — and that indicates hitters are squaring him up well. The 23.3% HR/FB rate is insane (would be the highest in MLB history by a mile) and I would expect it come down some, but given the swings hitters are taking against him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a true talent 15-16% HR/FB guy now, especially in Yankee Stadium. The AL average is 9.4% this year and it feels like it would take a miracle for Sabathia to get his homer rate down that far at this point of his career. Long story short: I’m not an xFIP fan at all.
Spencer asks: I know it’s a tad premature, but how does the contract Yangervis Solarte has work? Does he become a free agent this year? Also, suppose he has the same slash line as he has now at the end of the season what would you sign him for?
This is the first time Solarte has been in the big leagues, so the Yankees still have his full six years of team control. Assuming he never goes back to the minors, he’ll earn something close to the league minimum from 2014-16, then go through arbitration from 2017-19. Solarte can not qualify for free agency until after the 2019 season at the earliest, when he will be 32 years old.
As for signing him long-term … I think it might be too early for that. Solarte’s been awesome, don’t get me wrong, but given his out of nowhere emergence from mediocre minor league journeyman to impact big leaguer, I think you need to see if he does it again next season before committing real money to him. If he’d agree to something like five years and $10M after the season (say $550k, $750k, $1.5M, $2.9M, $4.3M from 2015-19), then hell yeah, do it. He might jump at the guaranteed payday after toiling in the minors so long. At worst he’d be an expensive bench player four years down the line. The Yankees have a ton of money and can roll the dice by waiting a year to see if this is the real Solarte though.
Chris asks: Any thoughts at a run at Mike Moustakas? He’s off to an awful start and they are talking of sending him back to the minors.
I think the Yankees should call and ask, sure. Moustakas is off to a dreadful start (53 wRC+ going into last night’s game) and he simply can’t hit lefties, either this year (.198 wOBA) or throughout his relatively short big league career (.267 wOBA), so he’s basically a platoon player. He does have left-handed pop and he’s made himself into a strong defender at the hot corner, plus he is only 25 and it wasn’t that long ago that he was considered one of the ten best prospects in baseball. Maybe hitting coach Kevin Long can help him take him to the next level like he did Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson (and Solarte?).
The Royals are not the cellar-dwellers they once were, or at least they aren’t acting like that anymore. They’re trying to win right now, this year, before James Shields leaves as a free agent. I don’t think they’ll trade their starting third baseman — they have some internal candidates to replace him, so trading Moustakas is not necessarily a crazy idea — for a handful of prospects. They’ll want help for the big league team in return. Kansas City could probably use another outfielder and another starting pitcher. There’s no way I’d give up Brett Gardner for Moose Tacos and I doubt Zoilo Almonte or Ichiro Suzuki would cut it. As for the pitching, hah. The Yankees have zero to spare. He’s worth a phone call but I’m not sure there’s a good trade fit at this moment.
Mike P. asks: Under the new replay system, let’s say the HQ in New York tells the umpires a batter is safe at first, but the umpires watch the scoreboard replay and think he’s out. Do they have to follow the call from NYC or can they make their own judgment?
It’s all done in the Midtown office, the reviews and the decision. They just relay the call through the headsets. I don’t believe the on-field umpires have the authority to make the call either once it goes to review, that would defeat the purpose.
Daniel asks: You mentioned being sort of iffy on the decision to give Tino Martinez a plaque. Are there any of the other plaques or retired numbers that you disagree with or that at least are strange to you?
Here’s the list of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers. None of them stand out to me as odd but most of those guys played or managed or whatever long before my time. I think there’s a “feel” element to this stuff. You can’t just set some arbitrary WAR threshold and say guys over this number get a plaque, guys over this number get their number retired, so on and so forth. The guy has to feel like he belongs in Monument Park. You know I mean. Tino was awesome for the Yankees for six years, but was he an all-time great Yankee? Not a chance. I think others like Willie Randolph, Bobby Murcer, and Joe Gordon (Hall of Famer!) are more deserving of plaques. That’s just my opinion though. Everyone is welcome to feel differently.
Dan asks: Do you think Peter O’Brien has reached his top level this season? He got a quick promotion. If he keeps hitting like he did in High-A could he make it to AAA this year?
O’Brien was promoted quickly because he spent the second half of last season in High-A as well, it wasn’t just a few weeks early this year. That said, yes I definitely think another promotion may come later this season. Not right away, O’Brien needs some time to catch his breath and get comfortable in Double-A, but in August or so? Sure, bump him up if he’s still raking. Guys like him — drafted as a college senior, ton of power, lots of strikeouts, never walks, still trying to find a position — are the ones teams should promote aggressively because you’re not going to know what you have until he gets to the highest levels of the minors. He’s not someone like, say, Luis Torrens, who is trying to learn to catch high-end velocity and get through the grind of a full season. Give O’Brien like two months in Double-A then see where he’s at.
Sanchez still needs to work on his catching and I mean just about everything. Footwork, receiving, throwing, the whole nine. I think they should let him focus on improving behind the plate because that is where he’s most valuable. Who’s to say McCann won’t be a full-time DH and Murphy won’t be a bust by time Sanchez is ready? We’re still a long way away from worrying how he fits onto the roster and I think the odds of him being traded are much higher than the odds of him wearing pinstripes for more than a few weeks. When he gets to Triple-A and it looks like he might be ready to help the MLB team, that’s when I’d worry about his position. For now, leave him behind the plate and let him learn.