Scouting The Trade Market: Javier Baez

(Dylan Buell/Getty)
(Dylan Buell/Getty)

Now that the draft is over, teams are starting to shift gears and focus on the trade deadline. We’ve already seen Chris Coghlan, James Shields, and Kelly Johnson get traded in recent weeks, among others. The deadline is five weeks and five days away, and not many clubs are eager to throw in the towel and start trading away pieces just yet. We’re seeing that now with the Yankees.

Among the teams certain to be buyers at the deadline are the Cubs, who have baseball’s best record (47-22) and run differential (+169). The Cubs figure to have interest in several Yankees at the deadline, most notably their high-end relievers, so expect to see the two clubs connected these next few weeks. One player the Yankees could seek in return: infielder Javier Baez, one of Chicago’s many fine young sluggers. Let’s take a look at the 23-year-old.

The Offense

Baez is not a bat first player, but make no mistake, his bat is what makes him so highly touted. Back in 2014, the last time he was prospect eligible, Baseball America (subs. req’d) wrote Baez has “special bat speed and produces top-of-the-scale power,” while adding he “has tremendous plate coverage and really has no true holes in his swing, which takes a direct and violent path to the ball.” The offensive potential is special.

The results have not yet matched the offensive potential, however. Baez has left zero doubt that he’s mastered the Triple-A level (.287/.347/.516 in 762 plate appearances), though in parts of three big league seasons, he’s yet to really find his way. Here are his numbers in the show:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR SB K% BB% O-Swing% Contact%
2014 229 .169/.227/.324 53 9 5 41.5% 6.6% 39.2% 59.2%
2015 80 .289/.325/.408 98 1 1 30.0% 5.0% 40.0% 67.7%
2016 158 .268/.314/.443 102 6 4 20.9% 4.4% 43.3% 73.5%

The positives: Baez has upped his overall production (in terms of wRC+) each year while cutting down on his strikeout rate and improving his contract rate. The negatives: Baez is walking less while swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone (O-Swing%). Then again, we’re talking about relatively small samples here. Those 80 plate appearances last year? I’d pretty much ignore them. They don’t tell us much.

Baez’s natural talent is pretty obvious when you watch him play. So are his flaws. He’s ultra-aggressive at the plate — he has a career 27.6% strikeout rate in Triple-A, higher than OMG he strikes out too much Aaron Judge (25.9%) — and advanced pitchers have used that aggressiveness against him. It appears Baez is making some progress in the discipline department this year, but we can’t say that for sure just yet. Now, that said, when a guy can turn on 96 mph inside heaters like this …

… you take notice. Not many players can get the bat around that quickly on an above-average fastball, let alone drive it well out of the park. Baez has true 30+ homer potential, possibly 40+ at his peak. The bat speed is that electric. It’s Sheffieldian. You just have to hope Baez develops enough plate discipline to tap into that power regularly.

The Defense

The Cubs originally drafted Baez as a shortstop and he’s always been a very good defender at the position. Baseball America (subs. req’d) said he has “solid range to go with solid actions and a 70-grade arm” prior to the 2014 season. Chicago has moved Baez around a bit — they move everyone around it seems, that’s Joe Maddon’s thing — so he’s also spent a bunch of time at second and third bases. He’s even played some left field too.

You’d hate to waste a 70 arm at second base, so Baez would look best long-term on the left side of the infield. He has the tools for either shortstop or third base, though obviously he would be more valuable at short. Every player would. Point is, Baez offers some flexibility. He can play all over the infield and you could even stick him in the outfield in an emergency. The defense statistics don’t help us much given the small samples, but based on the eye test and the scouting reports, Baez is an asset in the field. He adds value with his glove.

Injury History

Baez has been on the DL twice in his career, both times with kinda dumb fluky injuries. He broke his ring finger sliding into second base on a steal attempt in Triple-A last year, which sidelined him about six weeks. Then, in Spring Training this year, Baez suffered a thumb contusion on a headfirst slide. The Cubs were able to backdate the DL stint, so he returned only a week into the regular season. That’s it as far as injuries go. Just two fluky injuries from sliding into bases. Could happen to anyone.

Contract Status

Assuming he never goes back to the minors, Baez will have five years of team control remaining after this season. He’ll make something close to the league minimum in 2016 and 2017 before being arbitration-eligible from 2018-2020. It doesn’t look like Baez will have enough service time to be a Super Two down the road. Then again, the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement may change things.

As best I can tell, Baez still has two minor league option years remaining. He was called up and added to the 40-man roster back in 2014, and never went down again that season. Baez burned an option last year and has been with the Cubs all of this season, so yeah, he has two options left. You don’t want to use those though, right? Any team that acquires Baez wouldn’t be doing so with designs of sending him down at some point.

Why Would The Cubs Move Him?

For what it’s worth, Ken Rosenthal said earlier this week it would be “nearly impossible” for the Cubs to trade Baez, though that reads more like his speculation than rumor reporting. Either way, this is the time of the year when every young player is untouchable. No one wants to deal their youngsters and they would have to be blown away to do so and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. Same story every deadline.

(Joe Sargent/Getty)
(Joe Sargent/Getty)

Here are the facts. One, the Cubs have a lot of infield depth. They have Coghlan and Tommy La Stella at the MLB level, plus Ben Zobrist can play anywhere. Utility man Munenori Kawasaki and third baseman Jeimer Candelario are waiting in Triple-A too. Not even counting Baez, they’re three deep at second, short, and third bases thanks to Zobrist’s flexibility.

Two, the Cubbies were reportedly willing to trade Baez over the winter. Scroll through the MLBTR archives and you’ll see he was involved in Shelby Miller talks with the Braves and various trade talks with the Rays, mostly involving Alex Cobb and/or Jake McGee. In fact, Gordon Wittenmyer even reported the Cubs were close to sending Baez to Atlanta as part of a package for Miller before the Diamondbacks came in with their massive offer.

Do the Cubs want to trade Baez? Of course not. Every team wants to keep all their young players and make trades using guys they don’t consider potential cornerstones. It doesn’t work like that though. The Cubs were reportedly willing to trade Baez over the winter, and given their current infield situation, they’re in position to discuss him again at the deadline. It sounds harsh to say he’s expendable, but he kinda is.

Wrapping Up

We know the Cubs are scouting the Yankees’ top relievers and it makes total sense. Chicago lacks a shutdown left-handed reliever — with all due respect, Travis Wood is not someone you send out there against guys like Bryce Harper or Brandon Belt in the late innings of a close postseason game, you know? — and the Yankees have two to offer in Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Assuming the Yankees sell, the Cubs are an obvious fit.

My guess is the Cubs would push for Miller over Chapman for a few reasons. One, the two extra years of team control. Two, Miller and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein have a relationship dating back to their time with the Red Sox. And three, Miller is straight up better than Chapman, at least so far this year. That wasn’t the case from 2012-15 but it is certainly the case in 2016. Miller’s been the best of the club’s big three relievers by a not small margin, I think.

The Cubbies are going to want Miller (or Chapman) and the Yankees have every right to ask for someone like Baez in return. And the Cubs have every right to say no. The Yankees are in the driver’s seat here. They’re going to get a ton of offers for Miller (and Chapman) and can pick the best. If the Cubs don’t get Miller or Chapman, who will they add to be that shutdown lefty reliever? Boone Logan? Xavier Cedeno? Fernando Abad? Sean Doolittle? Pretty big drop in quality there, eh?

For a one-time elite prospect, Baez has very high bust potential because he’s so undisciplined at the plate. The Yankees would be taking on the greater risk in, say, a Miller-for-Baez swap. Miller is the proven elite big league performer in that scenario. (No, he’s not “just” a reliever. Kirby Yates is just a reliever. Miller’s a game-changer.) Baez may have big time bust potential, but the upside is enormous, and the Yankees lack players with star caliber tools.

Despite the obvious risk, I think the Yankees should push for Baez in any trade talks with the Cubs. Where would he play? I’m not sure. Worry about importing the high-end talent first, then sort it all out later. The Yankees have too many complementary players and not enough centerpieces. Baez has the ability to be a cornerstone type player, and those are the players each and every team should target in a trade.

Nova hammered again, Yankees drop series opener 8-4 to Rockies

Is it good when you get out-classed by the Rockies three times in two different time zones in the span of a week? Colorado out-hit and out-pitched (and out-defended and out-baseran) the Yankees yet again Tuesday night, a week after doing it twice in Colorado. The final score was 8-4 Rockies. Don’t worry, the Yankees are just gearing up for their next run at .500.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Down Early
There’s nothing worse than falling behind before you even get a chance to bat. That’s exactly what happened Tuesday night, when Ivan Nova managed to put the Yankees in a 3-0 hole in the top of the first. It was a pretty wild inning, so I’m going to annotate the play-by-play. Usually I reserve this for big offensive innings, but that top of the first deserves it.

NYYvsCOL play by play

(1) The Rockies wasted no time taking the lead. The underrated Charlie Blackmon launched a leadoff home run on Nova’s third pitch, a big time hanging curveball. It clanked it off the very top of the right field foul pole. Way up there. In most other parks, that ball probably sails just foul. In tiny Yankee Stadium, it’s off the pole for a tater.

(2) This was a very weird play. Starlin Castro was shaded towards shortstop because Nolan Arenado is a pull hitter, and sure enough, Arenado pulled a grounder to the shortstop side of second base. Both Castro and Didi Gregorius went after the ball and both were in position to make the play, so much so that they nearly collided:

Didi Gregorius Starlin Castro

Gregorius ended up scooping the ball, then spinning and firing to first. Arenado was originally called out because Laz Diaz, the first base umpire, is just terrible, but replay correctly overturned it. Three batters into the game, the Rockies had a run and runners on first and second.

(3) Carlos Beltran is in the lineup because of his bat. We all know that. The Yankees would rather have him at DH, no doubt about it, but the presence of Alex Rodriguez makes it impossible. So right field it is. Carlos Gonzalez ripped a single to right field and Beltran waddled on over to pick it up … except he straight up whiffed on the scoop and the ball rolled to the wall. Amazingly, the Rockies scored only one run on the play, which probably would have happened even without Beltran’s error. Still.

(4) This was one of those Murphy’s Law innings. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Blackmon hit a hanger for a homer, Didi and Castro almost ran into each other, Beltran whiffed on the rolling grounder, so on and so forth. Daniel Descalso — excuse me, Designated Hitter Daniel Descalso — loaded the bases with what was basically a swinging bunt. Chase Headley made a nice play to charge the weak grounder and make a quick throw to first, but DHDD beat it out. So it goes.

(5) Castro and Gregorius almost make a breathtaking inning-ending double play. Castro made a tremendous diving stop on Mark Reynolds‘ ground ball behind second base, flipped to Gregorius, who spun and threw to first. Reynolds beat it out though. Starlin made a tremendous play to stop the ball. He saved a run by keeping it on the infield. Getting the out at second was a nice bonus. The fact they nearly turned it into a double play was really cool.

Nova finished the night having allowed six runs (five earned) in only four innings. He gave up eight hits and walked two while striking out one. That is: bad. Nova has made nine starts this season and he’s managed to give up a homer in every single one. He gave up two in this game; Blackmon got him twice. Ivan is up to 58 baserunners and 27 runs in his last six starts and 34 innings. Nova shouldn’t make his next start — I’d go with Chad Green, personally — but he will.

Not this year, Al. (Presswire)
Not this year, Al. (Presswire)

A Failed Attempt At A Comeback
The Yankees couldn’t out-score their own pitching staff Tuesday, which is exactly what happened last week in Colorado. Brett Gardner and Beltran opened the first inning with back-to-back singles, then A-Rod plated a run with a double play to get the Yankees on the board. They answered that three-run top of the first with a run in the bottom half, which is better than nothing.

New York scored their second run in the second inning thanks to a D.J. LeMahieu error. Gregorius doubled with one out, moved to third on Headley’s ground out, then scored when LeMahieu bobbled a grounder, allowing Aaron Hicks to beat out what should have been the third out of the inning. Singles by Gardner and Beltran, plus an A-Rod sac fly, drove in the Yankees’ third run of the game. By then it was too little, too late. The Rockies had pushed their lead to 6-3.

The best opportunity for the Yankees to get back into the game was in the bottom of the seventh, when the score was 8-4 Rockies. Rob Refsnyder led the inning off with a double — odds Ike Davis gets the start at first base tomorrow? 50/50? — and Gardner followed with the walk to put runners on first and second with no outs. They never advanced any further. Beltran flew out, A-Rod grounded out, and McCann struck out. The Yankees went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Still managed to score four runs though.

More Sloppiness
Once again, the Yankees played sloppy baseball. Beltran let the grounder get under his glove in the first, Refsnyder took a grounder to the wrist in the second, Brian McCann let a few pitches get by him behind the plate, and Beltran was thrown out when he foolishly tried to tag up and go first to second and A-Rod’s fifth inning fly ball. Carlos, predictably, was thrown out by a considerably margin. Stupid mistakes like this happen almost every game. Fair or not, it reflects poorly on the coaching staff. The Yankees are bad and they’re sloppy. It’s an awful combination.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Props to the bullpen, and yes I’m serious. Nick Goody allowed a two-run homer to Arenado, and well, that’s just going to happen. Arenado is so damn good. Richard Bleier recorded five outs, Kirby Yates threw a scoreless inning, and Anthony Swarzak tossed a perfect ninth. The four relievers allowed just the two runs in five innings. They struck out 12! I’ll take it. They didn’t let the game get out of hand.

Gardner did his job as the leadoff hitter du jour, going 2-for-3 with two walks. Beltran had two singles as well. Not just singles, infield singles. Yep. Gregorius and Refsnyder each had a pair of hits too. Didi raised his season batting line to .286/.317/.420 (97 wRC+). He seems like the only position player on the team who has a realistic chance to be a contributor to the next championship caliber Yankees team. I’m not way off base here, am I?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have Announcer Standings and Bullpen Workload pages too. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Rockies finish up this quick two-game set Wednesday afternoon. That’s a 1:05pm ET start. CC Sabathia and ex-Yankees draft pick Jon Gray will be on the bump. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch that one live.

DotF: Judge homers twice in Teixeira’s first rehab game

The Yankees have signed Belmont Abbey RHP Kyle Halbohn as an undrafted free agent, reports Matt Eddy. Halbohn had a 2.82 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 27 walks 72 strikeouts and eleven walks in 54.1 innings this spring. The kid is listed at 6-foot-8 and 230 lbs., so he must throw really hard or something.

Triple-A Scranton (9-2 win over Toledo)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — he’s out of his mind hot right now
  • RF Aaron Judge: 4-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — two homers and an infield single in the same game … here’s a fun fact: his current strikeout rate (23.6%) is his lowest strikeout rate at any level since Low-A two years ago (21.2%)
  • 1B Mark Teixeira: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 K — he played six innings as scheduled … Shane Hennigan says the plan is for Teixeira to DH tomorrow, then play nine innings at first base Thursday
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-1, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-5, 1 K
  • DH Nick Swisher: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB
  • LF Jake Cave: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 8/2 GB/FB — 53 of 81 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 15 of 23 pitches were strikes (65%) … gave up another homer, this one to lefty hitter (and former big leaguer) Anthony Gose
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — eleven of 16 pitches were strikes (69%)

[Read more…]

Game 70: Back Home

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are back home for a nine-game homestand following that six-game trip through Colorado and Minnesota last week. Thanks to some scheduling weirdness, they’re going to again play the Rockies and Twins this week. Hopefully it goes better than it did last week. Going 3-3 against those two teams is no way to climb back into the postseason race. Here’s the Rockies’ lineup and here’s the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. CF Aaron Hicks
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Ivan Nova

Not the best weather in New York today. It’s been cloudy all day and there is a tiny little bit of rain in the forecast, but not until much later tonight. It shouldn’t interrupt the game. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury is out with some sort of stomach illness. Joe Girardi said he expects him to be back in the lineup tomorrow.

All-Star Updates: The fourth AL All-Star fan voting update was released today and, unsurprisingly, no Yankees are in line to start the game. McCann dropped to fourth among catchers and Beltran jumped up to tenth among outfielders. Here’s the latest update and here’s the ballot.

Update: Yankees sign second round pick Nick Solak

(Louisville Baseball on Twitter)
(Louisville Baseball on Twitter)

June 21st: Solak received a $950,000 bonus, reports Jon Heyman. That’s a bit under the $1,040,800 slot. Assuming the Yankees sign third rounder Nolan Martinez to slot money, they’ll have roughly $3.74M to offer Blake Rutherford. That’s seventh overall pick money. Here’s our Draft Pool Tracker.

June 16th: According to Joshua Welge, the Yankees and second round pick Nick Solak will finalize a contract in the coming days. Solak, a second baseman from Louisville, is scheduled to travel to New York and sign his contract at Yankee Stadium on Monday. There’s no word on his bonus yet.

“I guess you could say the last week has been the highest of highs and lowest of lows,” said Solak to Wedge, referring to getting drafted and Louisville’s soul-crushing walk-off grand slam elimination from the Division I postseason. “It was heartbreaking the way our season ended but I’m excited about what’s ahead.”

The Yankees will be home Monday and my guess is Solak will get the full treatment. Sign the contract, tour the ballpark, take batting practice with the team, the works. Clubs do that all the time with their high picks. Aaron Judge took batting practice with the Yankees out in Oakland after being drafted, for example. Here’s the video.

Solak, 21, hit .376/.470/.564 with 14 doubles, five homers, nine steals, 28 walks, and 20 strikeouts in 47 games this spring. He was a career .346/.442/.484 hitter in three years at Louisville. MLB.com’s free scouting report says Solak “has a line-drive stroke and focuses on the middle of the field” and “receives praise for his gritty makeup.”

The 62nd overall pick comes with a $1,040,800 bonus slot. The Yankees have $5,091,200 in pool money remaining — it’s $5,340,669 if you include the overage — and they still have to sign their top three picks. Most of that money figures to go to first rounder Blake Rutherford. Here’s our Draft Pool Tracker.

6/21 to 6/22 Series Preview: Colorado Rockies

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

The Yankees are back in the Bronx for a nine-game homestand following a disappointing 3-3 road trip through Colorado and Minnesota. They’re playing the Rockies again — and they’ll play the Twins again later on the homestand — after dropping both games in Coors Field last week. This is another quick two-game set.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rockies beat the Yankees twice last week, then they went to Miami for four games with the Marlins, and they dropped three of four by the combined score of 20-12. Figures. Colorado is 33-36 overall with a -9 run differential on the season. They seem to do this every year. Stay somewhat relevant through June or so, then completely collapse in the second half.

Offense & Defense

As we saw last week, the Rockies can score runs in a hurry. Manager Walt Weiss’ team is averaging 5.01 runs per game with a team 94 wRC+, though it’s worth pointing out they score only 4.24 runs per game on the road compared to 5.97 runs per game at Coors Field. The Rockies have one injured position player at the moment: LF Gerardo Parra (65 wRC+). Remember when SS Trevor Story (114 wRC+) ran him over chasing a pop-up last week? Parra landed on the DL with an ankle sprain because of that play.

Arenado. (Joe Mahoney/Getty)
Arenado. (Joe Mahoney/Getty)

Weiss builds his lineup around two players. Well, three players, really. Megastar 3B Nolan Arenado (132 wRC+) is the centerpiece and RF Carlos Gonzalez (123 wRC+) sure is one heck of a second piece. Don’t sleep on CF Charlie Blackmon (107 wRC+) though. He sets the tone from the leadoff spot. 2B D.J. LeMahieu (118 wRC+) and Story are very good complementary players on the middle infield. There’s a little of everything in that group. Power, contact, speed, you name it.

1B Mark Reynolds (103 wRC+) is having a very nice season to date even though he’s not a true talent .290 hitter. We all know that. OF Ryan Raburn (99 wRC+) and OF Brandon Barnes (18 wRC+) are splitting time in left with Parra out. C Nick Hundley (108 wRC+) and C Tony Wolters (43 wRC+) split catching duties. IF Cristhian Adames (60 wRC+) and IF Daniel Descalso (170 wRC+) are the other bench players. With the DH this series, I’m guessing Weiss will shoehorn both Raburn and Barnes into the starting lineup.

The Rockies have a very good team defense, led by the otherworldly Arenado at third base. He’s unreal at the hot corner. LeMahieu and Story are very good on the middle infield and so is Blackmon in center. CarGo is a fine right fielder and Barnes is definitely the better defender between him and Raburn. Reynolds is Reynolds. You can run on Hundley. Not so much Wolters though. Colorado can catch the ball for sure.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. COL) vs. RHP Chad Bettis (vs. NYY)
Bettis, a personal fave, has a 5.63 ERA (4.52 FIP) in 14 starts and 78.1 innings this season, so it seems I have a thing for bad pitchers. In my defense, he has been better on the road (5.52 ERA) than at home in Coors Field (5.79 ERA). Wait, that doesn’t work. Dammit to hell. Anyway, the 27-year-old right-hander has good walk (5.5%) and grounder (51.0%) numbers but bad strikeout (16.8%) and homer (1.38 HR/9) rates. He’s also been getting hammered by righties, which is not unusual. He has a career reverse split. Bettis operates with three fastballs: low-90s sinkers and four-seamers, plus an upper-80s cutter. A mid-80s changeup and an upper-70s curveball are his two offspeed pitches. Last week Bettis held the Yankees to three runs (two earned) in six innings.

Gray. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Gray. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Wednesday (1:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. COL) vs. RHP Jon Gray (No vs. NYY)
Ah yes, the one who got away. The Yankees drafted the 24-year-old Gray out of junior college in the tenth round back in 2011, but he turned down their well-above-slot bonus offer, went to Oklahoma for two years, and blossomed into the third overall pick in the 2013 draft. Gray has a 4.55 ERA (3.53 FIP) in eleven total starts and 65.1 innings this season, and he’ll bring above-average strikeout (26.8%) and grounder (49.0%) rates into tomorrow’s start. His walk rate (7.7%) is about average and he’s been a bit dinger prone (1.1 HR/9), though Coors Field can be blamed for at least part of that. Gray has allowed five homers in 28.2 innings at home and only three in 36.2 innings on the road. Lefties have had a tad more success against him than righties. As you’d expect from the No. 3 pick, Gray sits comfortably in the mid-90s with his fastball and has run it up as high as 99 mph this season. A hard upper-80 slider is his put-away pitch. He’ll also throw some mid-80s changeups and even a few upper-70s curves per start. As far as promising young pitchers with less than a full year of MLB service time go, Gray is among the best. The Yankees didn’t see him in the series in Colorado last week.

Bullpen Status

Believe it or not, the Rockies are carrying nine relievers at the moment. Yes, nine. They normally carry eight relievers anyway, but the other day starter Tyler Chatwood landed on the DL with a back problem. The Rockies called up an extra reliever for a few days until they need to call up the spot starter later this week. Here is the bullpen Weiss has to work with:

Closer: RHP Carlos Estevez (3.86 ERA/4.02 FIP)
Setup: LHP Boone Logan (1.45/1.78), RHP Jason Motte (2.00/3.90), RHP Chad Qualls (4.64/4.71)
Middle: RHP Miguel Castro (5.14/5.19), RHP Gonzalez German (4.88/4.95), RHP Justin Miller (5.46/4.03), RHP Scott Oberg (4.05/5.22)
Long: RHP Eddie Butler (6.26/5.14)

Gosh, that’s a lot of bullpen. Colorado is currently without LHP Jake McGee (4.98/4.50), the ex-Ray and their usual closer. He’s out with a knee issue. Estevez is closing in the meantime with those three veterans setting up. The Rockies committed $32.5M across seven contract seasons to Logan, Motte, and Qualls. They’re not shy about paying veteran free agent relievers well. How else are they going to get them to come to Colorado?

Oberg is the new addition. He was called up the other day to temporarily replace Chatwood. He wasn’t on the roster when the Yankees and Rockies met last week. Motte (23 pitches), Estevez (17), Logan (9), Castro (3), and Qualls (2) all pitched yesterday, though only Castro has pitched in each of the last two days. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen.

Despite strong Triple-A showing, the Yankees aren’t ready to bring Luis Severino back to MLB

(Danna Stevens/Times Tribune)
(Danna Stevens/Times Tribune)

Without question, CC Sabathia‘s renaissance is the best story in an otherwise mediocre 2016 Yankees season. Sabathia has been able to overcome years of declining stuff and personal demons to turn in what is truly a Cy Young caliber performance to date. It’s hard not to love what the big man is doing this season. It’s so fun to watch.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t think there has been a bigger disappointment this year than Luis Severino. The young right-hander impressed in his second half cameo last year and was poised to emerge as a rotation force this season. Instead, he struggled big time, pitching to a 7.46 ERA (5.50 FIP) in 35 innings before getting hurt and demoted to Triple-A. It was a well-earned demotion, no doubt.

Since joining the RailRiders, Severino has posted a 2.52 ERA (2.85 FIP) in four starts and 25 innings. It’s not much, but it is right in line with what he did in the minors from 2014-15 (2.45 ERA and 2.42 FIP). That’s good! Had Severino gone down to Triple-A and continued to struggle, it would be a big problem. A big problem and very scary. The top young pitcher in the organization would still be broken.

Severino’s performance in Triple-A has been very good, and it stands to reason the Yankees want to get him back to the big leagues at some point, but right now there does not seem to be any urgency to do so. Joe Girardi told reporters the other day he’s watched all of Severino’s minor league starts and he still believes there is work to be done. From Randy Miller:

“It still needs some tuning up,” Girardi said Sunday before the Yankees and Minnesota Twins finished up their four-game series at Target Field. “It’s location. Consistency is the big thing. You see some really good pitches, some well-located pitches, but it’s consistency and here (in the majors) you can’t leave ball in the middle of the plate or they get hammered. So I think a lot of times you have to look beyond the numbers.”

“I think sometimes you see the location is not where it needs to be,” Girardi said. “He throws some really good sliders, then he throws some that are up or lack the downward movement that you want.

“I think he’s making strides. I think he’s becoming more consistent, but we’re looking for some more.”

Severino’s biggest problem with the Yankees earlier this season was his command, particularly of his slider and changeup. The stuff was fine. He had the velocity and his slider had some bite to it, but he left too many pitches in the hitting zone and batters really made him pay. Opponents hit .316 with a measly 11.6% swing-and-miss rate against his slider, for example. That is legitimately awful. The league averages are .211 and 15.2%, respectively.

Unfortunately, we don’t have access to any video of Severino’s minor league starts, so we haven’t been able to see him for ourselves. MiLB.com has just one highlight video from his time in Triple-A, and it’s a full three-pitch strikeout at-bat. The first pitch was a fastball, the next two were nasty sliders down in the zone. Check it out:

Based on that three-pitch look, Severino’s command is fixed! Those are two pretty good sliders. Too bad it doesn’t work like that. That at-bat represents 0.898% of the pitches he’s thrown with the RailRiders this year. They don’t tell us much at all. Severino broke off some nasty sliders in the big leagues earlier this year too.

When Girardi says “sometimes you see the location is not where it needs to be” you can be sure that is an organizational opinion and not his alone. After all, Girardi doesn’t make the roster moves. He might have input — I’m certain he does after 8+ years on the job — but at the end of the day, the front office is going to decide who is and who isn’t on the roster. Right now Severino is not considered MLB ready.

And you know what? That is perfectly fine with me. I was on board with sending Severino down to the minors to work on things right before his injury and nothing has changed. He’s too important to rush back just because the numbers are good. There are specific flaws that need to be addressed — again, the location of his secondary pitches — and if Girardi and the Yankees say there hasn’t been enough progress, then there hasn’t been enough progress.

Although the team insists they’re trying to contend — of course they’re going to say that, what do they have to gain by saying they’re going to trade everyone and rebuild? — improving the 2017 Yankees has to be a priority right now, and part of that is getting Severino right. If that means more time in Triple-A, so be it. Severino is too important to the franchise long-term. His development should continue in the minors until it is certain his command has improved.