DotF: A wild night of walk-offs in the farm system

Let’s start with some notes:

  • In case you missed it earlier, RHP James Kaprielian has been diagnosed with a flexor tendon strain. Also, C Gary Sanchez and SS Jorge Mateo will represent the Yankees at the Futures Game.
  • Vince Lara-Cinisomo put together a list of nine pitching prospects who are in the middle of breakout seasons, and RHP Chance Adams is one of the nine. Adams has a 3.01 ERA (2.52 FIP) with a 30.9% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk rate in 68.2 inning this year. He’s transitioning from reliever to starter.
  • And finally, earlier today Matt Eddy pointed out the Yankees have the highest minor league winning percentage in baseball this year at .601. The Phillies are a distant second (.576). I’ve been around long enough to know winning in minors means nothing, but it’s still cool to see. So with that in mind, let’s update the standings tonight.

Triple-A Scranton (6-4 win over Syracuse) they are 47-30 and have a one-game lead in the North Division

  • DH Ben Gamel: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 , 1 BB — no homer? lame
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI — 11-for-37 (.297) with two doubles and a homer in his last nine games
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — man he is on some kind of tear, pretty amazing that he’s in the conversation for a call-up right now given the last few years
  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 8/5 GB/FB — 55 of 96 pitches were strikes (57%)
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1/4 GB/FB — 19 of 33 pitches were strikes (58%)

[Read more…]

Update: Carlos Beltran day-to-day after hamstring MRI comes back clean

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

9:55pm: The MRI came back clean, Joe Girardi told reporters following tonight’s game. Beltran had a cramp and is day-to-day. Exhale.

8:18pm: Beltran left the team with a tight right hamstring, the Yankees announced. He’s heading for an MRI tonight. Here’s video of the play:

7:32pm: Carlos Beltran left tonight’s game in the first inning after running out a would-be double into the left field corner. He busted it out of the box then slowed down near first base. Carlos never attempted to run to second. Rob Refsnyder replaced him on the bases and then in right field.

Trainer Steve Donohue came out to check on Beltran, who grabbed at his hamstring — I think it was his right hamstring, but I could be wrong — before leaving the game. I guess the good news is he walked off under his own power and didn’t seem to be in any real pain. So maybe just a cramp? We’ll see.

It goes without saying that losing Beltran for any length of time would be devastating. Not only has he been the team’s best hitter this season (by a mile), he’s also a pretty darn good trade chip should the Yankees decide to sell at the deadline. Either way, contend or sell, losing Beltran ain’t good.

James Kaprielian diagnosed with flexor tendon strain

(Staten Island Advance)
(Staten Island Advance)

Top pitching prospect James Kaprielian has been diagnosed with a right flexor tendon strain, the Yankees announced. He went for an MRI today because his elbow is still not feeling better. Kaprielian will see Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles to get a second opinion in the coming days.

A flexor tendon strain is not the worst case scenario but it is pretty bad. It’s not uncommon for flexor strains to turn into Tommy John surgery and other nasty things. Hopefully Kaprielian can avoid anything more serious, though either way, his season is probably over. This usually isn’t a quick rehab process.

Kaprielian, 22, has not pitched since April due to what the Yankees have been calling elbow inflammation. He was supposed to begin a throwing program at some point this month, and I guess that’s when the elbow started giving him more problems. Hopefully ElAttrache brings good news. Fingers crossed.

Curry: Yankees making progress in talks with first round pick Blake Rutherford

According to Jack Curry, the Yankees are making progress in contract talks with first round pick Blake Rutherford. “Stay tuned,” said Curry’s source. Jack is the single most plugged in reporter covering the Yankees, so not only is there no reason to doubt his report, I’m going to assume a deal is pretty close to done at this point.

Slot money for the 18th overall pick is $2.44M, and as our Draft Pool Tracker shows, the Yankees currently have $3.28M or so in bonus pool space remaining. I should probably note I had an error on the Tracker page. I previously said the team only had $3.14M in bonus pool space, but one of the calculations was wrong, so it’s actually $3.28M. My bad, yo.

The signing deadline is Friday, July 15th this year. That’s two weeks from Friday. It’s not uncommon for first rounders to wait until the deadline to sign — James Kaprielian did it last year — but hopefully Rutherford signs before that. The Yankees may not be offering the full $3.28M at the moment, so Rutherford he try to wait them out.

Pretty much everything you need to know about Rutherford is right here. I also looked at similar players drafted in recent years. He’s in pretty excellent company. Rutherford was a projected top ten pick heading into the draft, though he fell to the Yankees due to signability concerns.

Game 76: If you’re going to lose, at least have the decency to lose before 2am

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Man did last night’s game suck. The worst part about it was that you could see the loss coming a mile away too, yet we had to sit through that awful rain delay anyway. Not the best baseball watching experience I’ve had.

Anyway, tonight is a new night. That’s the good thing about baseball. It gives you a chance to forget about those ugly losses pretty quickly because they play every damn day. The Yankees are trying to get back to .500 again (lol) so I guess a lot is on the line tonight? I dunno. I’m out of game thread ideas. Here’s the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. LF Aaron Hicks
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP CC Sabathia

Bad news: there’s more rain in the forecast tonight. It doesn’t look like it’ll be anything heavy, but that’s what the internet told be last night, and it lied like hell. I guess we’ll just have to see. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET. You can watch on YES. Try to enjoy.

Roster Move: The Yankees called up Conor Mullee and optioned Kirby Yates to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. No surprise there. I didn’t realize Yates had an option left. How about that.

Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez to represent Yankees at the 2016 Futures Game

Sanchez in the 2015 Futures Game. (Getty)
Sanchez in the 2015 Futures Game. (Getty)

Shortstop Jorge Mateo and catcher Gary Sanchez will represent the Yankees at the 2016 Futures Game next month, MLB announced earlier today. Here are the full Team USA and World Team rosters. Baseball America also has free mini-scouting reports for every player selected for the game, so check that out.

Mateo, 21, is heading to his first Futures Game. He is hitting .275/.333/.417 (122 wRC+) with five homers and 26 steals in 37 attempts (70%) for High-A Tampa this season. Mateo has actually been slumping pretty hard of late; he’s hitting .207/.250/.241 (45 wRC+) in 21 games this month. Still, the Futures Game is a showcase for the game’s top prospects, and Mateo certainly qualifies.

This is the second Futures Game selection for Sanchez, who also played in the game last year. The 23-year-old is hitting .279/.324/.500 (135 wRC+) with eight homers for Triple-A Scranton this season. Sanchez missed about three weeks with a thumb fracture after being hit by a foul tip. Last summer he went 1-for-2 with a double off Giants right-hander Tyler Beede in the Futures Game.

Teams do have some input into the Futures Game rosters. I remember last year there was talk the Yankees declined to let Luis Severino participate because there was a chance he would get called up before the All-Star break. That was never confirmed and Severino wasn’t called up until early-August. Still though, the Yankees wanted to be prepared in case they needed him.

Last year Sanchez and Aaron Judge represented the Yankees in the Futures Game. The year before it was Severino and Peter O’Brien. The year before that it was Rafael DePaula. The 2016 Futures Game will be played in Petco Park on Sunday, July 10th. Trevor Hoffman will manage Team USA and Moises Alou will manage the World Team.

Judge’s hot streak is a good sign for his development, not a sign he should be called up

Glow in the dark jersey night! (Jason Farmer/Times Tribune)
Glow in the dark jersey night! (Jason Farmer/Times Tribune)

What a difference four weeks makes. At this time four weeks ago, Aaron Judge was mired in an ugly 0-for-24 slump with Triple-A Scranton, a slump that saw his season batting line dip to .221/.285/.372 (87 wRC+) with a 26.2% strikeout rate through 221 plate appearances. He hit .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) with a 28.5% strikeout rate in 260 plate appearances at the same level last year. His performance was going backwards.

Now, four weeks since the end of that 0-for-24 slump, Judge has raised his season batting line to .266/.352/.493 (141 wRC+) in 324 plate appearances while cutting his strikeout rate down to 23.8%. He’s in the middle of a monster home run tear, going deep four times in his last five games, six times in his last ten games, and nine times in his last 15 games. Last night’s homer was a bomb that scared a bird:

Four weeks ago folks were discussing whether Judge’s development was stalling out. We even got a few mailbag questions asking about a possible demotion. Now, after this home run binge, everyone wants him called up. Alex Rodriguez is on the bench and Carlos Beltran is spending more time at DH, creating an opening in right field. Judge is a perfect fit. (Assuming he doesn’t get the Rob Refsnyder treatment, of course.)

“I’m not sure yet,” said Brian Cashman to Ryan Hatch yesterday when asked about the possibility of Judge being promoted. “He’s on a really nice roll right now. There’s some things he’s definitely improved upon, but our first alternative is to see what (Aaron) Hicks can do. And Refsnyder, in fairness.”

The Yankees haven’t given us a reason to think a Judge promotion is imminent, but his recent tear makes this a conversation worth having. After all, once a guy starts producing in Triple-A, that makes him a big league option. Here are three thoughts on the matter.

1. Let’s not overreact to small sample sizes. We go through this every year. A few great weeks does not mean a prospect deserves to be promoted the same way a few awful weeks doesn’t mean he deserves to be demoted. Every player has peaks and valleys throughout the season. When it comes to prospects we don’t watch every single day, the normal ebb and flow of the season can be easily misconstrued as a change in skills. Most of the time it’s just baseball being baseball. We have to keep that in mind.

2. Judge is still making adjustments. Over the winter we heard Judge spent a bunch of time in Tampa working with the player development staff, most notably minor league hitting instructor James Rowson, making adjustments to help him handle soft stuff away. He’s a massive human with a lot of strike zone to cover, and experienced Triple-A pitchers picked Judge apart with soft speed stuff on the outer half.

As a result of that work, Judge showed up to Spring Training with a new leg kick. He also lowered his hands ever so slightly. Here’s a GIF I made back in March. The clip on the left is from Spring Training 2015 and the clip on the right is from Spring Training 2016. The bigger leg kick is impossible to miss.

Aaron Judge 2015 vs 2016

Now here’s the thing: Judge is still making adjustments to his setup and stance at the plate. Did you notice his hands in the home run video above? Take a look at how he’s setting up now:

Aaron Judge hands

The umpire’s black uniform makes it tough to see, but Judge has his hands way out in front now. Before they were up high around his shoulder. Now they’re out in front of his chest and he’s pointing the bat straight up in the air. That’s an awfully big difference, no? Yes, yes it is.

“He made an adjustment to (his) hands,” said Refsnyder to Chad Jennings recently when asked about Judge’s recent home run binge. “I think it was something with his shoulders to get his hands adjusted, to make sure his hands get to the ball as efficiently as possible.”

All the adjustments he’s made this year — the leg kick, lowering his hands, etc. — show Judge is still in the process of finding out what works best for him at the plate. He deserves to be given more time to figure things out. Judge is a very unique prospect because of his size. He’s not your normal college bat. The fact he’s made so many adjustments is encouraging and shows he’s not only a hard worker, but has good baseball aptitude. Give him more time to get comfortable.

3. Not calling him up now doesn’t mean not calling him up ever. As it stands right now, bringing Judge up to the show would essentially be asking him to be a savior. Fair or not, he’d be looked at as someone the Yankees hope will improve their generally underwhelming offense. That’s a lot to put on a young player making his MLB debut — “hey kid, go save the Yankees’ season, and if you don’t, you’re a bum!” — even a young player as impressive as Judge.

That doesn’t mean Judge should not be called up at all. The Yankees have players ahead of him on the right field depth chart (Hicks, Refsnyder, Ben Gamel, etc.) and Judge is still make adjustments, so they can afford to be patient. The team seems much more likely to slip further back in the postseason race than climb back into it, so come the trade deadline, the perception may shift from “Judge is a savior” to “it’s time to look towards the future.” There’s a big difference there. Anything the Yankees can do to ease the jump to MLB is a plus in my book.

* * *

For now, the only thing Judge’s hot streak shows is that he’s capable of recognizing his flaws and making adjustments, and that’s pretty rad. The hot streak does not mean he belongs in the big leagues the same way the cold streak didn’t mean he was a bust. The right field job is wide open for Judge next season and that’s exciting, and yes, it would behoove the Yankees to get his feet wet in the show at some point this year, even if he’s only a September call-up.

The perception of Judge has changed dramatically these last few weeks because of his performance, which went from extremely bad to extremely good seemingly overnight. The home run binge sure is fun, but the Yankees should give their prized youngster some more time in Triple-A to figure out what works best for him, something they didn’t really do with Luis Severino. It’s pretty clear Judge is still working on things.