There are nine questions in this week’s mailbag. As always, send your questions or comments to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll get to as many as I can each week.
Many asked: What about a Starlin Castro reunion?
Earlier this week Ken Rosenthal reported Castro wants to be traded because he doesn’t want to go through another rebuild. I don’t blame him. Unfortunately he has no official recourse. Starlin can ask for a trade but the Marlins are under no obligation to trade him. There aren’t many teams out there that need a second baseman. The Yankees, Mets, Rays, and Tigers. That’s about it. Maybe the Brewers if they’ve really soured on Jonathan Villar.
In theory, yes, the Yankees could make a trade to reacquire Castro. His salary is the sticking point though. Castro was included in the Giancarlo Stanton trade specifically to offset salary. Now we’re talking about the Yankees reacquiring that salary. They could ask the Marlins to eat some money, but then the Yankees would have to give up a higher quality prospect, and who wants to give up a good prospect for Castro?
If there’s a way around the money, yeah, I suppose a reunion could make sense. My guess is part of the Yankees’ motivation for trading Starlin was opening second base long-term for Gleyber Torres, and bringing Castro (and the two guaranteed years on his contract) back throws a wrench into that plan. Things are shaping up for the Yankees to get a free agent infielder at a bargain rate (Neil Walker?). I’d rather go that route than reunite with Castro.
Brian asks: If the Yankees trade for someone who was offered arbitration do they have to use the previous team’s filing offer? Pretending the new team/player don’t come to an agreement does the team that acquires Cole have to go with the Pirates offer and do they know that number in any official capacity now?
They’d inherit the former team’s filing number. It’s like inheriting a contract. Whatever the player’s previous team agreed to is what you get. No do-overs. I can’t imagine the Yankees or any other team would know what salary the Pirates are filing prior to the filing deadline. Teams don’t broadcast their contract negotiations. Keep in mind the Yankees could trade for Gerrit Cole, assume the Pirates’ salary filing number, and still sign Cole to a contract of any size. They don’t have to go to a hearing with Cole just because the two sides filed salary figures.
Daniel asks: Do the Yankees have any realistic QO free agents after 2018?
The Yankees have four players scheduled to become free agents after the season: Adam Warren, David Robertson, CC Sabathia, and Brett Gardner. Gardner’s contract includes a $12.5M club option for 2019 — that comes with a $2M buyout, so it’s effectively a $10.5M decision — so the Yankees could bring him back for another year. They won’t make him the qualifying offer if they walk away. The Yankees aren’t going to pass on the $12.5M option and give Gardner the ~$19M qualifying offer. They’d just pick up the option.
Warren and Sabathia clearly are not qualifying offer candidates. As for Robertson, he could definitely be a qualifying offer candidate if he has a typically excellent Robertson year. He won’t get ~$19M annually with his next contract, but his total guarantee should exceed the qualifying offer amount. Maybe two years and $30M? Or three years and $40M? Realistically, Robertson is the only qualifying offer candidate next offseason, unless the Yankees land a qualify free agent on a one-year contract at some point in the next few weeks.
Update: Forget it, Robertson can not receive the qualifying offer. As per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, players can only receive the qualifying offer once in their careers, and the Yankees gave on to Robertson back when he became a free agent a few years ago. My bad.
Alberto asks: I was wondering and who had a better rookie season between Mark McGuire & Aaron Judge? (Putting aside the HR)
Judge was better almost completely across the board. McGwire struck out less and had a slightly higher batting average, otherwise Judge was better in every way. Here’s the head-to-head comparison between 2017 Judge and 1987 McGwire:
- AVG: McGwire (.289 vs. .284)
- OBP: Judge (.422 vs. .370)
- SLG: Judge (.627 vs. .618)
- wRC+: Judge (173 vs. 157)
- OPS+: Judge (171 vs. 164)
- HR: Judge (52 vs. 49)
- XBH: McGwire (81 vs. 79)
- BB%: Judge (18.7 vs. 11.1)
- K%: McGwire (20.4 vs. 30.7)
- fWAR: Judge (+8.2 vs. +5.1)
- bWAR: Judge (+8.1 vs. +5.7)
Among players who had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, Judge just had the third best rookie season ever by OPS+, behind Shoeless Joe Jackson (193) and Jose Abreu (173). By bWAR, Judge had the fourth best rookie season ever behind Mike Trout (+10.8), Shoeless Joe (+9.2), and Dick Allen (+8.8). Even with the second half slump that undoubtedly cost him the AL MVP award, Judge just put together one of the greatest rookie seasons in baseball history.
Stephen asks: If Ellsbury would waive his NTC, would a trade based on Ellsbury for Desmond work for both teams? Thanks Mike.
Interesting! The total salary commitment is similar. There is $68.5M remaining on Ellsbury’s contract and $62M remaining on Ian Desmond’s contract. Ellsbury has three years left on his deal, however. Desmond has four. Ellsbury’s contract comes with a $21.857M luxury tax hit. Desmond’s is a much more palatable $15.5M. A straight-up trade would save the Yankees luxury tax space and give them a more versatile player, since Desmond can play the infield and outfield.
The obvious questions: Why would Ellsbury agree to go to the Rockies, and why would the Rockies be interested in this trade? They’re loaded with outfielders even with Carlos Gonzalez now a free agent. I suppose the Yankees could kick in a prospect — or an actual big leaguer since the Rockies are kinda good now — to make it worthwhile. I just don’t think Ellsbury would approve a trade, and I don’t think the Rockies would have much interest either, even after Desmond had a 69 wRC+ and -0.8 WAR in 2017. Interesting idea though. I’d be cool with a hypothetical one-for-one trade. Desmond fits the roster better and there’d be a good chunk of luxury tax savings involved.
Lonnie asks: Suppose the Yankees pull a trade for a starting pitcher that doesn’t involve one of the current starters. Which pitcher gets the bump to the pen or do you think the Yankees can move to a 6 man rotation?
Jordan Montgomery to Triple-A seems like the obvious solution. I don’t love sticking him in the bullpen as a long man. The Yankees could call Montgomery up for regular spot starts to give the other starters rest, and whenever someone inevitably gets hurt, he comes up to join the rotation full-time. A six-man rotation is possible as well. (The Yankees would have to go to a three-man bench to make it work.) I think Montgomery to Triple-A makes the most sense. He’ll end up making like 25 big league starts anyway. That’s usually how it goes.
Jackson asks: Do you think the Yankees would ever play with the idea of having two guys (Chad Green and Adam Warren maybe?) throw 3-4 innings each 20ish times a year to reduce the workload on other starters? Ideally each would have to go through a lineup no more than twice, could get the ball to the back end of the bullpen in the 7th/8th, and would only need two days of rest before being ready to pitch out of the pen again.
It’s a great idea in theory. Use Green and/or Warren for three or four innings at a time every four or five days, thus turning them into 30-appearance/100-inning relievers. It can be difficult to put into practice. The starter can be cruising and you don’t want to take him out. You run into an extra-innings game and need to use your multi-inning guy on a day he isn’t scheduled to pitch. There are all sorts of situations that can arise to create headaches. We don’t know what type of manager Aaron Boone will be. Maybe he’s open to using Green or Warren in this way, regardless of the game situation. If the Yankees have a two-run lead in the ninth, maybe he’ll let Green throw a third inning to finish it off rather than go to the closer. I — and many other statheads — like the idea of a 120-inning super reliever. I’m not sure it’s all that practical though.
Bob asks: Keeping in mind my trade proposal sucks, who says no first Yankees or Marlins for a Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto for Gary Sanchez trade?
The Marlins. They could get a more for Yelich and Realmuto, either in separate trades or together in one trade. Realmuto is really good — he’s not too far behind Sanchez in terms of overall value — and Yelich is a stud. Trading Gary would be a very tough pill to swallow, but when you’re getting a quality young catcher in return and a player like Yelich, it’s a no-brainer. How would the roster work with Yelich joining the five (six, really) other outfielders? Beats me. Just get the talent and figure it out later.
Joe asks: With the signing of Jay Bruce to the Mets, what chances do you give the Yankees to reopen talks with the Giants about an Ellsbury trade?
Great chances the Yankees restart talks and poor chances a trade actually goes down. The chances of any Ellsbury trade remain quite small. The Giants were said to be in on Bruce before he re-upped with the Mets, so now they still need outfielders with one fewer free agent outfielder available. They could get Ellsbury for basically nothing. Just assume like $6M in salary in each of the next three years and send the Yankees a non-prospect.
Last month we heard the Yankees tried to engage the Giants in an Ellsbury trade — supposedly he might be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to San Francisco — but the Giants were said to be looking at other options first. Now one of those options are off the board. The problem for the Yankees is basically every non-Bruce free agent outfielder is still available, so the Giants have plenty of options to sift through. I’m hopeful a trade can be worked out eventually, even if it’s not until the end of Spring Training. I’d still bet the farm against it.
Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. None of the local hockey or basketball teams are playing tonight, and there’s no college basketball either. You’re on your own for entertainment. Talk about anything that isn’t religion or politics here.
Here’s a simple answer to the question presented at the title: he’s a young guy, having turned only 20 this past November. He is clearly talented but his hitting needs polish, which could come as he advances through the minor league levels.
There is no doubt that Estevan Florial is talented. Baseball Prospectus rated him the No. 2 prospect in the organization behind Gleyber Torres and projects a 70-grade player (All-Star center fielder) as the overall future potential. However, when you strike out at a 31.9% clip in Low-A, there are some eyebrows raised. Florial’s .297/.373/.483 line has assuaged some concerns about those strikeout tendencies and, rightfully so, put him in the conversation among the top young prospects in the entire minor leagues. There are still questions to be answered for his future. First off, would that translate poorly as he ascends through the minor league levels? Secondly, even if he hits higher level pitching, will high strikeout rate be a long-term thing?
In 2017, Florial’s strikeout rate is the third highest in the South Atlantic League behind Mitchell Gunsolus (32.7% rate, .205/.347/.286 in 431 PA) of the Red Sox system and Khalil Lee (32.1% rate, .237/.344/.430 in 532 PA) of the Royals.
What is very much worth noting is that neither Gunsolus nor Lee came anywhere close to Florial’s 2017 production. Florial is a bit of a unique profile because, while he struck out a ton, he also could hit the crap out of the ball and hit close to a .300 average. Usually, the correlation is that, the more you strike out, the less likely you to hit for average – Florial has found a way around it. He’s pretty gifted with power (helps with hitting ball hard) and speed (helps with beating out infield singles), which helped his sky-high .431 BABIP in 91 Sally league games.
Is there any precedent or past cases similar to Florial’s combination strikeout rate and production? Of course. Here are some of the recent (2007-17) South Atlantic League hitters that showed high strikeout tendency yet mashed at the plate. My criteria: strikeout rate over 27% and a wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) over 130.
- Estevan Florial, NYY: 31.9% strikeout rate, 143 wRC+
- Vince Fernandez, COL: 28.5%, 135 wRC+
Fernandez was a 10th rounder in the 2016 MLB Draft out of UC Riverside. He turned 22 in the past July so that kind of takes him away from ML top prospects conversation. However, to his credit, he’s hit well in the pros. Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus projects him to have an above-average power but not quite a batting average guy. While Fernandez has a potential to carry himself into the bigs with his bat, Florial should be in high minors or knocking on the ML door by the time he’s Fernandez’s age.
- Chris Gittens, NYY: 27.9%, 140 wRC+
Just like Fernandez, Gittens is a college bat draftee (12th round in 2014 MLB Draft). He was 22 when he put up those numbers in Low-A and will turn 24 in upcoming February. He did, however, continue his strong hitting performance by hitting for a 150 wRC+ in High-A in Tampa. But, again like Fernandez, Gittens is nowhere near any top prospects conversation.
- K.J. Woods, MIA: 30.3%, 143 wRC+
Just like Florial, Woods was in his age-19 season when he spent 2015 in the South Atlantic League. He was a multi-sports star in high school and the Marlins were appealed by his high power tool. While there were reasons to be excited about Woods, the scouts were not as high on him as Florial. Woods was ranked Mo. 15 prospect in the Miami system after the 2015 season but was released by the organization during 2016 aNter hitting .483 OPS in High-A. He was picked up by White Sox and it seems that he missed the entirety of 2017 with an injury.
- Joey Gallo, TEX: 37.0%, 163 wRC+
Gallo lived and died by strikeouts and power – and still does the same. He struck out a lot all throughout the minors but his prodigious power carried him to the majors. In 2017, his first full-season in MLB, Gallo marked a 123 wRC+, and a 36.8% strikeout rate.
- Nick Williams, TEX: 27.2%, 148 wRC+
A second-rounder by the Rangers in the 2012 MLB Draft, Williams had been a top prospect for a bit awhile. He was ranked Baseball America’s No. 27 prospect in the all minor after the 2015 season and made his ML debut with the Phillies in 2017 — he was one of the top pieces in the Cole Hamels trade — hitting 110 wRC+ in 343 PA. Not bad.
- Harold Riggins, COL: 27,4%, 155 wRC+
Riggins was another college bat guy (22 years old in Low-A) who mashed and struck out a lot in the Sally League. His peak as a prospect was being ranked No. 23 in the White Sox organization after the 2012 season. However, his strikeout rates ballooned the next few seasons and he was out of the pro baseball by the end of 2015.
- Matt Smith, MIA: 27.2%, 136 wRC+
Smith was even older (24 years old in Low-A). He was an undrafted guy who simply hit younger pitchers very well and couldn’t replicate his performance in a higher level. After hitting 29 wRC+ in 14 games in 2013, Smith was released by the Marlins.
- Jim Murphy, PHI: 27.2%, 148 wRC+
Just like the many aforementioned guys, Murphy was an old dude (23 years old in 2009) in Low-A. A 17th-rounder out of Washington State in the 2008 MLB Draft, Murphy hung around long enough to make it to Triple-A but never got to big leagues. He retired after the 2014 season after posting a 101 wRC+ in Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He was never mentioned in the Baseball America’s Phillies organization top prospect list.
- Giancarlo Stanton, FLA: 28.3%, 169 wRC+
We all know about Stanton. He is a ridiculous human specimen and, despite the amount of strikeouts he had, he still terrorized the Sally pitching at age 18. Before reaching the majors, he has a history of being very highly regarded by the scouts and is one of the best players in the Major League Baseball. He is probably the prime example of flashy (or, in this case, ridiculous) tools overriding concerns in a young player’s game and enjoy the ensuing success.
These guys could be divided into two groups. One group is low-ceiling college bats that could hit low-minor pitching but did not show much beyond that. The other is high-ceiling prospects with attractive tools who also happened to be strikeout prone. Florial clearly belongs in the latter group.
Does that mean that Florial will take the Gallo/Williams/Stanton path of reaching the majors and becoming a future impact Major Leaguer? Many prospect experts will tell you that he clearly has the potential to be a future 30-HR, 20-SB guy in the majors. But at this moment, it’s too early to put all your chips on a 20-year-old who just got a taste of High-A. His performance could easily bust as early as 2018 and be forgotten for a long time a la K.J. Woods. It’s not ideal. But at the same time, we’ve seen low-level prospects hit well in Single-A levels and get completely overmatched in the higher ones. Such is life.
Also, it’s worth noting that Florial passed the big test of being able to hit Low-A pitching. A lot of high-tool prospects fizzle out after not being able to handle lower-level minor league pitching. A guy that comes to mind is a former Phillies 2008 first-rounder Anthony Hewitt. He was the epitome of the high-risk, high-reward high school bat and they hoped that he’ll learn to hit pro pitching. Hewitt ended up repeating Low-A twice (striking out more than 30% of the time in both seasons) and never got past Double-A. You could make a laundry list of guys who has all the athleticism would failed to go past low minors. Florial, it seems, has graduated that level.
My hunch is that, as long as Florial plays, the strikeouts will be a big part of his game. But he can certainly excel at many things and that’s what makes Florial so exciting. He might be a type where you want to take some patience since he could need some time to figure out higher level pitching. You might see his strikeout rate climb to 35 or 40% in his first stint in Double-A and flail at a lot of pitches out of the zone – but it’s a part of the growing pains. If Florial hits his way up to the big leagues as the future star centerfielder, then the strikeouts will be an afterthought. But for now, it’s a homework for a young guy who’s working to fulfill his potential.
Estevan Florial | OF
Estevan Florial signed out of the Dominican Republic for $200,000 back in March of 2015, though his story begins well beforehand. The son of a Haitian mother and an unknown father, Florial — then known as Haniel d’Oleo — utilized falsified documentation to enroll in school in the D.R., which he otherwise would have been unable to do due to his lack citizenship. Unfortunately, this mostly innocuous ruse (which did not alter his age) was discovered by the Commissioner’s Office, so he was suspended for a year beginning in 2014, and was therefore ineligible to sign as a 16-year-old. The prospect formerly known as d’Oleo was viewed in a similar light as players that received bonuses of $2 MM and up, and ended up receiving just one-tenth of that.
Florial made his professional debut about three months after signing, debuting in the Dominican Summer League on June 9, 2015. He went 1-for-3 with 2 RBI, a walk, a strikeout, and a steal in that game, and that set the tone for the rest of the season (if not the rest of his career to-date). Florial spent the rest of the year in the DSL, slashing .313/.394/.527 with 7 HR, 15 SB (5 CS), an 11.3% walk rate, and a 22.9% strikeout rate in 266 PA. It was an excellent all-around showing, and his 154 wRC+ ranked 12th in the league. Numbers at that level are oftentimes taken with a grain of salt, but the buzz around Florial nevertheless began in earnest by the time the season came to a close.
His stateside debut came at High-A Tampa on June 10, 2016, which was an incredibly ambitious move for an 18-year-old prospect. It was no surprise when he was sent down to Rookie-Level Pulaski a couple of weeks later, and he would spend most of the season at that level. Florial was inconsistent and occasionally overmatched at Pulaski, where he hit .225/.314/.364 (92 wRC+) with 7 HR and 10 SB (2 CS) in 268 PA. His walk rate dipped to a still strong 10.4%, but his strikeouts skyrocketed to 29.1%, the fifth-worst mark in the league.
Florial ended 2016 on a high note, however. He was promoted to Low-A Charleston on September 1 for their stretch run, and he suited-up for five games, batting .300/.348/.550 with 4 runs, a home run, and 5 RBI in 23 PA. While it wasn’t quite enough to wash away the reality check that was his time in Pulaski, it served as a reminder of his precocious talent.
And then 2017 happened.
Florial opened last season back at Charleston, and he proceeded to rake for four months. He hit .297/.373/.483 (146 wRC+) with 11 HR and 17 SB (7 CS) in 389 PA there, and avoided any prolonged slumps. Florial placed in the top-four in all three slash stats and ranked second in wRC+, and earned a promotion to High-A on August 1. And he just kept hitting, posting a .303/.368/.461 (141 wRC+) slash line in 87 PA. He also chipped in a couple of home runs and 6 steals in 7 chances, and lowered his strikeout rate by 4.3 percentage points … albeit to a still high 27.6%.
As a result of this, Florial placed 71st on Baseball America‘s midseason top-hundred – and most expect him to rank higher on most lists heading into 2018.
Florial’s season didn’t end there, though. He made the Double-A Trenton playoff roster, and saw action in two games. He went 1-for-4 with 3 strikeouts in his lone start (though he did throw out a runner at home), and pinch ran in another game. He then continued onto the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .286/.383/.414 in 81 PA. Florial struck out 29 times in those 81 PA, but he otherwise drew rave reviews for his performance (particularly on defense).
The term “five tool prospect” is thrown around far too liberally nowadays (if not in perpetuity), and that is always worth mentioning with a prospect like Florial. He checks in at an incredibly athletic 6’1″ and 185 pounds, and it’s fairly easy to throw above-average or better grades on his power from the left side (especially his raw power), speed, glove, and arm. Some reports will throw plus or better grades on all four of those tools, with his speed grading as plus-plus. In short, there’s a heck of a lot to like.
Offense is, of course, what gets everyone excited, and Florial has standout potential with the bat. His raw power is frequently lauded as plus or better, and that doesn’t come through in the numbers (yet). What it all comes down to, though, is his hit tool. Most every report lists his hit tool as average to above-average, and it’s not difficult to see why, given his high batting averages. However, the career 28.8% strikeout rate speaks for itself to some extent, and he is incredibly aggressive at the plate. He is capable of discerning balls from strikes, as evidenced from his strong walk rates – but he is still learning how to identify what strikes to swing at, and his two-strike approach is very much a work in progress.
Here’s the thing, though – he’s 20. The flaws are real, but he spent all of the 2017 season as a teenager, and he’ll spend all of the 2018 season as a 20-year-old. And his tools are nothing short of excellent.
There are rumblings that the Yankees will have Florial start the season at Trenton, which would be reasonably aggressive. He looked terrific at Low-A and in a small sample at High-A, and he’s an elite prospect. I wouldn’t be shocked if he opened the year back at High-A, though. And there’s an outside chance that we see him in the majors this season, if only as a benchwarmer once the rosters expand. It’s worth noting that he’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season, as well.
I have Florial as the Yankees second-best prospect, and he’s almost as close to untouchable as Gleyber Torres. No prospect is truly untouchable, to be sure – but I’m enamored by Florial’s power, speed, and defense combination, as well as the frequent comparisons to Curtis Granderson. I don’t love comparisons, but this one makes sense on a purely statistical expectation level, and it gives you an idea as to how valuable Florial could be. His strikeout rates certainly bears watching, but that’s okay as he’s the most must-watch prospect in the Yankees system.
If the Yankees get their way, they will go into Spring Training with six viable big league starters for five rotation spots. They’ve been trying to add a starter to a group that already includes Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery. And not just a depth arm, either. They’ve been after guys like Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, and Chris Archer. The Yankees want impact.
Of course, even if the Yankees get that impact pitcher, they’re probably going to end up using more than six starters this coming season. That’s baseball. Last season the Yankees used eleven different starting pitchers, right at the MLB average of 11.6 starters. The last team to use as few as six starters in a single season is the 2013 Tigers. The 2003 Mariners are the last team to get through a season using only five starters. Think we’ll ever see that again?
The Yankees have five starters at the moment, so while they would like to add another high-end starter, they’re not desperate. They can wait out the market until the price drops to their liking. As for their depth starters, well those guys are going to come from the farm system, and the Yankees have some quality arms slated to begin the season in Triple-A. Here are the team’s No. 6-10 starters according to their 2018 ZiPS projections:
6. Chance Adams: +1.4 WAR in 132.2 innings
7. Domingo German: +1.0 WAR in 113.1 innings
8. Domingo Acevedo: +0.7 WAR in 117.1 innings
9. Justus Sheffield: +0.6 WAR in 99 innings
10. Luis Cessa: +0.3 WAR in 115.2 innings
Being able to stash two +1 WAR pitchers in Triple-A for emergencies is a pretty nice luxury. (I’m higher on Cessa than basically everyone, so I think it’s more like three +1 WAR pitchers in Triple-A, but ZiPS says what ZiPS says.) Lots of teams will go into the new season with a +1 WAR guy slated to be their fifth starter, hoping they won’t have to dip into the replacement level fodder sitting in the minors.
Teams do not base their rotation depth charts on ZiPS, however. Real live depth charts are based not only on the team’s internal statistical projections — yes, teams develop their own projections — but also scouting reports, development goals, and the 40-man roster. Oftentimes the spot starter decision will be made for the team. Who lines up to pitch that day? Okay, well, he’s getting the ball then. It happens all the time. A few thoughts on the rotation depth chart.
1. Do the Yankees consider Adams ready? Last season, they did not. At least not enough to justify putting him on the 40-man roster two years earlier than necessary. The Yankees wanted Adams to meet some developmental goals in the minors before bringing him to the Bronx, which is why those midseason spot starts when to Cessa and Bryan Mitchell and whoever else.
Adams put in close to a full season at Triple-A last year, and he did well superficially: 2.89 ERA (3.76 FIP) with 22.3% strikeouts and 9.3% walks in 115.1 innings. Those numbers usually do not tell the entire story, however. The Yankees may want Adams to, say, improve his changeup. Or get more comfortable pitching lefties inside. Or do a better job locating his fastball from the stretch. That sorta stuff determines MLB readiness more than stats.
I expected Adams to make his MLB debut last season, and if you’d have told me in March he wouldn’t, I would’ve assumed an injury was involved. Instead, the Yankees wanted Adams to continue working on some things in Triple-A. Has he improved enough to get the call this year? If not, how long until that happens, assuming he isn’t traded before Opening Day? When it comes to Adams being an MLB option, the numbers tell one story. The Yankees’ actions tell another.
2. Acevedo and Sheffield aren’t rotation options yet. Unless the Yankees manage to get to August or even September without needing their eighth or ninth starter, I don’t think Acevedo and Sheffield are really eighth and ninth on the depth chart, as ZiPS suggests. Acevedo made two Triple-A starts last year and spent most of the summer in Double-A. Sheffield spent the season at Double-A and missed several weeks with an oblique injury.
Based on the Adams (and Severino and Montgomery) precedent, both Acevedo and Sheffield are going to get Triple-A time before the Yankees are ready to bring them to the show. Acevedo is on the 40-man roster, so perhaps he gets called up as a shuttle arm or emergency starter or something, but I think the plan is to give him a bunch of innings in Triple-A so he can continue working on his breaking ball and command. Sheffield isn’t on the 40-man and has yet to throw even 130 innings in a season. The Yankees will stick to their development plan with him. It’ll probably be a few months before these two are realistic big league options.
3. Like it or not, Cessa is going to keep getting chances. Like I said, I’m a Cessa fan. I like his velocity, his array of secondary pitches, and his athleticism. Does that mean I think he’ll be an impact starter? Of course not. I think the tools are there for him to be a solid fourth starter, the kinda guy who gets about $10M a year in free agency. At the same time, I know I am in the minority. Cessa has a 4.49 ERA (5.58 FIP) in 106.1 MLB innings, so yeah.
Clearly, there’s something the Yankees like about Cessa, because he keeps getting chances. He joined the rotation late in 2016 after Nathan Eovaldi got hurt, and he drew spot starts last year when Sabathia’s knee acted up. Cessa can start, he can relieve, and he’s on the 40-man and optionable. Maybe the Yankees don’t like him as much as me. They probably don’t. But Cessa is a viable depth arm and he’s only 25, so the Yankees are going to continue giving him opportunities to see if something clicks. Maybe it clicks in relief, ultimately. Either way, I think Cessa is the de facto sixth starter right now, regardless of the ZiPS projections.
4. Mystery starters are coming. Who had Caleb Smith making starts at midseason last year? Or Cessa and Chad Green two years ago? Or Chase Whitley in 2014? These unexpected call-ups happen all the time and for all different reasons. Smith was having an exceptional Triple-A season and impressed enough in a long relief outing to get a start. Green was throwing the snot out of the ball for the RailRiders two years ago. Whitley handled the reliever-to-starter conversion better than anyone expected.
These surprise starters come with the territory during a long 162-game season. Who will be the random minor leaguer who ends up making some starts this summer? My money is on Brady Lail, but don’t sleep on Nestor Cortes. He’ll be in camp as a Rule 5 Draft pick with the Orioles, though if he comes back, he could get a look. That’s basically what happened with Smith last year. He was a Rule 5 Draft guy with the Cubs, came back to the Yankees, then got called up. Point is, we can put together this carefully thought out rotation depth chart, then some random minor leaguer will barf all over it.
* * *
Rotation depth tends to disappear quickly. As soon as you think you have it, you don’t. Guys get hurt, guys underperform, things never go according to plan. That’s why the Yankees are looking to add a high-end starter. The more the better. I have some concerns about the current rotation given last year’s workloads, but I’m also comfortable with Cessa and German as the sixth and seventh starters, especially with Adams waiting behind them. At the same time, if the Yankees want to add more arms for depth, I am all for it.
Here is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks and Nets are playing, and there’s some college hoops on the schedule too. Talk about those games, the Cole stuff, or anything else here as long as it is not religion or politics. Thanks in advance.