2016 Draft: Connor Jones

Connor Jones | RHP

The 21-year-old Jones is from Chesapeake and he currently pitches for Virginia. He spent his freshman year in the bullpen before moving into the rotation as a sophomore. This spring Jones has a 2.05 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 33 walks in 92 1/3 innings. He was a possible first round pick out of high school in 2013 had he been considered signable. A strong college commitment caused Jones to slide to the 21st round (Padres).

Scouting Report
Jones, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs., pitches off a heavy sinker with a ton of movement in the 88-95 mph range. He’s thrown even harder out of the bullpen. The sinker moves so much that he has trouble locating it. It’s one of those pitches you can just throw down the middle and let the movement do the rest. Jones also throws an inconsistent mid-80s slider that looks like a true out pitch on its best days. His changeup is just okay. Between his work out of the bullpen as his freshman and his two years as a workhorse starter, Jones has earned the bulldog label.

MLB.com and Baseball America ranked Jones as the 16th and 22nd best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Keith Law (subs. req’d) is not as high on him. He had him 57th. The Yankees pick 18th and 62nd. It’s worth noting Virginia pitchers have a poor track in pro ball. Recent high picks like Nathan Kirby (40th overall in 2015), Nick Howard (19th in 2014), Branden Kline (65th in 2012), and Danny Hultzen (2nd in 2011) all got hurt and/or saw their performance take a big step back after leaving Virginia. That doesn’t mean Jones is doomed to fail, but that track record could scare some teams away.

Even on a hometown discount, passing on Robinson Cano was the smart move for the Yankees


The Yankees are now in year three of the post-Robinson Cano era. The team has lacked a dominant offensive force since Cano left and it’s been painfully obvious at times. It wasn’t until this season that the Yankees finally found a long-term replacement at second base in Starlin Castro too. We all knew losing Robbie was going hurt. It wasn’t a surprise.

Based on everything we heard at the time, Cano would have taken a discount to remain with the Yankees, but not a big one. He wanted to get paid and that was his right. The Yankees maxed their offer out at seven years and $175M before the Mariners blew them out of the water at ten years and $240M. How could Cano say no to that? Seattle made the decision easy.

A friend of Cano’s told Mark Feinsand that Robbie was willing to take a larger discount than originally reported to remain in New York, however. The friend says Cano would have taken an eight-year deal at $200M, which is the Yankees’ final offer plus one additional year at the same average annual value. This is second hand information, it’s not coming directly from Cano, so take it with a grain of salt.

This news about Cano’s willingness to take a larger than reported discount doesn’t really change anything. He’s still a Mariner and the Yankees can’t have a do-over. I wouldn’t say the report raises some questions, but it does spark some thought. Three things immediately jumped to mind when I read what Cano’s friend told Feinsand.

1. Leaving $40M on the table would have been, uh, bold. I have a hard time believing Cano would have really taken $200M from the Yankees over $240M from the Mariners. This isn’t Andrew Miller turning down an extra $4M from the Astros to sign with the Yankees. We’re talking about $40M. Hey, Robbie had already made a lot of money at that point of his career, so maybe he really would have turned down an extra $40M (!) to stay in New York. It just seems so very unlikely, right? How does anyone turn down that much money? The MLBPA would have crushed Cano too. They would have been so pissed. I don’t doubt Feinsand’s reporting. I doubt Cano’s friend. This one doesn’t pass the sniff test.

2. Even at that price, passing on Cano was smart. Okay, so let’s say Cano really would have come back on an eight-year deal at $200M. Does that mean it would have been a good idea? Only if the goal was to get better value than the deal he took from the Mariners. We’re still talking about a player who had just turned 31 and averaged 160 games a year at a physically demanding position. The wear and tear could not be ignored.

Cano was truly great for the Yankees from 2009-13. The Yankees wouldn’t be getting 2009-13 Cano though. They would have been signing 2014-21 Cano, the guy who unquestionably would have been on the downside of his career. Robbie is having an excellent season to date (155 wRC+) but last season the Mariners got a scare when he put up a 116 wRC+ and barely resembled the Cano from the last half-decade. A contract of that size means you end up holding your breath an awful lot.

That 2013 season was a big wake up call for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira‘s wrist gave out, CC Sabathia‘s performance collapsed, and Alex Rodriguez‘s (other) hip gave out. The huge money contracts all started to go bad at once. Cano was great, but so were Teixeira and Sabathia and A-Rod once upon a time. Even at the “discount” rate of eight years and $200M, the Yankees were smart to not want pay big money through Cano’s decline years.

3. The problem wasn’t letting Cano walk, it was replacing him with Ellsbury. The Yankees essentially signed Jacoby Ellsbury to replace Cano, and that was bad. Now they’re going to end up paying big for someone’s decline years anyway. I know Ellsbury has been hitting well these last few weeks, but overall, his time in pinstripes has been largely forgettable. Give the Yankees a truth serum and I’m sure they’d tell you they’d like a do-over.

If given the choice between Ellsbury at seven years and $153M and Cano at eight years and $200M, give me Cano each and every time. I’d rather see the Yankees pony up for the elite homegrown player. Letting Robbie walk was a smart move long-term. The problem is the Yankees signed Ellsbury to replace him, so they still wound up with an expensive player heading into his mid-30s, except this one isn’t as good as the guy they had. The Yankees wanted to get back into contention in 2014 though, so when Cano walked, they pounced on Ellsbury. Blah.

* * *

The rational business side of baseball and the emotional fan side of baseball don’t always see eye to eye. I would have loved nothing more than to cheer Cano on as he chased 3,000 hits in pinstripes and cemented his place in Monument Park. At the same time, I understand committing huge bucks to Robbie’s age 31+ seasons was not a good idea. I can’t imagine the Mariners are looking forward to the remaining seven years of his contract.

I have a tough time believing the friend who says Cano would have taken eight years and $200M to return to the Yankees. That’s too steep of a discount. Either way, it doesn’t matter now. Cano is in Seattle and the Yankees are worse off without him in the short-term and better off without him in the long-term. That was always going to be the case.

Luis Severino and the possibility of too much velocity

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

This Sunday right-hander Luis Severino will make his first minor league rehab start as he works his way back from a mild triceps strain. He’ll be back on the mound only 16 days after suffering the injury, so it was indeed a mild strain. The Yankees weren’t downplaying it. Assuming all goes well Sunday, Severino could rejoin the rotation as soon as next week.

Of course, Severino was not all that good before getting hurt. He has a 7.46 ERA (5.43 ERA) with too few strikeouts (16.8%) in seven starts and 35 innings. There was talk of sending Severino to the minors before the injury, and at the moment, the only other starter you would even consider removing from the rotation is Michael Pineda, and Pineda just had a pretty good start against the A’s last time out.

There is no shortage of possible reasons why Severino struggled so much before getting hurt. And really, it’s probably not one specific thing. It’s likely a combination of several things. Bad mechanics, no confidence, bad tempo, who knows what else? One thing we haven’t talked about much is the possibility of Severino having too much velocity. It sounds silly, but it could definitely be true.

Severino hasn’t been in the big leagues all that long, so the available PitchFX data is limited. This graph still seems pretty telling though. Check out his month-by-month average velocity, via Brooks Baseball:

Luis Severino velocity

You see the data for July 2014? That’s the Futures Game in Target Field. Severino allowed a hit and struck out one in a scoreless inning in that game, back when he was still in High-A ball. That seems like a long time ago now even though it was less than 24 months ago.

Here’s the video of Severino’s inning in the Futures Game. You can’t help but notice how different 2014 Severino looks compared to 2016 Severino:

That’s a very limited look (12 pitches!) but holy moly, that doesn’t look a whole lot like the current version of Severino, does it? The offspeed pitches in particular. His slider averaged 82.3 mph in the 2014 Futures Game while his changeup averaged 83.3 mph. This year Severino’s slider and changeup have averaged 89.4 mph and 89.6 mph, respectively. Huge difference!

Having watched Severino this season, I feel comfortable saying his problems are more a result of poor location than poor stuff. That said, I do think it’s fair to wonder if Severino is being hurt by a lack of velocity separation. Hitters know everything he throws is going to be hard, up around 90 mph and above. They don’t have to worry about that low-80s pitch with a wrinkle in it.

We hear it all the time: pitching is about disrupting a hitter’s timing, and when you throw everything at a similar velocity, it gives the hitter a better chance to time it. Movement and location aren’t always enough to compensate. Right now, hitters can focus on hard stuff with Severino, giving them that much better of a chance to square him up. A little less velocity on the slider and changeup could equal more whiffs and more weak contact.

I have no idea what happened to Severino between the 2014 Futures Game and now. He’s a young man, remember. Severino turned 22 in February, meaning he was only 20 during the Futures Game. He was still maturing physically and he could have added arm strength between now and then. It could be he tweaked his mechanics and unlocked some velocity. Maybe he was holding back at the Futures Game because his schedule had been thrown out of whack. Who knows?

If I had my pick, I would probably take sliders and changeups in the upper-80s rather than the low-80s, but what the hell do I know. Severino’s secondary pitches have not been particularly effective this season and I wonder if scaling back and subtracting some velocity to create more separation with the fastball would help. That theoretically would help his fastball play up too. It’s not often throwing hard is a problem. When it comes to Severino’s slider and changeup, it just might be.

Carlos Beltran’s no-trade clause and his future with the Yankees


Following last night’s win over the Blue Jays, the Yankees are 22-22 on the season and three games back of a playoff spot. Their current postseason odds are 25.2% according to FanGraphs, down from 31.7% on Opening Day but up from 10.7% on May 13th. It’s still a little too early to worry about that stuff, but we shouldn’t forget about it completely either. The season is almost one-third complete.

Carlos Beltran has played a huge role in getting the Yankees back on track, specifically by hitting .299/.333/.649 (162 wRC+) in the month of May. He’s wanted to wear pinstripes for a very long time. Remember when Beltran was willing to take a discount to sign with the Yankees back in 2005? He wanted to sign with the Yankees in 2011 too. It wasn’t until 2014 that he got his wish, and now he’s in year three of his three-year contract.

If the Yankees are going to continue to climb back into contention this summer, Beltran will have to be a big part of it, regardless of whether he’s playing right field or DH. And if the Yankees don’t get back into the race, Beltran has to be one of the players the Yankees put on the trade market. I’ve said this a million times already. The Yankees have to be honest with themselves and move some of their veterans if they’re out of it. That includes Beltran.

As it turns out, Beltran has a limited no-trade clause rather than a full no-trade clause like most of the team’s veteran players. Buster Olney (subs. req’d) reports the Yankees can trade Beltran to 14 teams without his permission. Among those 14 teams are the Indians, Nationals, Royals, Cardinals, Rays, Tigers, and Dodgers. I’m not sure who the other seven clubs are. What does this mean for Beltran’s future in pinstripes? Let’s talk it out.

1. Would any of those teams actually want Beltran? A lot of things are going to have to fall into place for a Beltran trade, even beyond the Yankees falling out of the race and ownership giving the thumbs up to sell. (I think both of those things are unlikely.) The Yankees will have to navigate Beltran’s no-trade clause, which won’t be easy even though it is limited, and find a trade partner willing to meet their asking price, whatever that may be.

Obviously the only teams that will show interest in Beltran are contenders. Contenders will want him as that veteran bat to solidify the lineup. The Tigers, Cardinals, and Dodgers do not have openings in the outfield (or in Detroit’s case, at DH) — a spot could always open through injury, but right now there aren’t any openings — and the Yankees aren’t trading with the Rays, so right off the bat that 14-team list is a ten-team list.

The Indians have a need in the outfield and so do the Royals, especially now that Alex Gordon is injured. Kansas City prioritizes defense but they did pursue Beltran as a free agent three years ago. Their window to win is right now and Beltran would be an upgrade over Jarrod Dyson in right field. The Nationals could always play Bryce Harper in center and put Beltran in right if Ben Revere doesn’t start hitting. That definitely seems like a thing they’d do.

Point is, there are complications even beyond Beltran’s limited no-trade clause. He’s a limited player positionally and that’s going to shrink his market. The Royals seem like the best fit and no doubt it’s because of his history there. (Would we even be talking about Beltran and the Royals if he hadn’t played there?) When the Mets traded Beltran to the Giants years ago, he had plenty of suitors because he could still play right field. Now Beltran is an unignorable defensive liability.

2. What about keeping him and making the qualifying offer? Well, first of all the qualifying offer might not even exist this coming offseason. It could be changed or wiped out completely as part of the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement. At the very least, I think the free agent compensation system will be changed in some way. Too many good players are getting hung out to try in January and February. This year that group included Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Yovani Gallardo, and Howie Kendrick. The MLBPA doesn’t like that.

For the sake of argument, let’s just assume CBA talks drag on and the offseason begins with the current qualifying offer system in place. The qualifying offer is set at the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball, and based on my quick math, that will be $17.1M this winter. Could you see Beltran passing up a one-year deal at $17.1M this offseason? I can’t. He’s going to turn 40 years old in April and 40-year-olds ain’t getting that kind of money on the free agent market. If the Yankees make Beltran the qualifying offer he’ll be back next season at a very inflated salary.

3. What about re-signing him? I can’t see this happening at all. Beltran could rake the rest of the season and the Yankees will probably still give him a nice thank you, then move on after the season. The team is trying to get younger and trying to get under the luxury tax threshold. Beltran helps them accomplish neither. The Yankees have several young outfielders in Triple-A (Ben Gamel, Aaron Judge, etc.) plus Aaron Hicks at the big league level, and at some point they need to give those guys a chance. If Alex Rodriguez was not around clogging the DH spot, then maybe re-signing Beltran could happen. That is not the case though.

* * *

One way or another, Beltran’s time with the Yankees figures to come to an end at some point this year. Either the team will trade him at the deadline or, much more likely, they’ll let him walk as a free agent. For now the focus is on Beltran helping the Yankees win and turn their season around. The more he does that, the longer the questions about his future in New York will be put off.

Winning streak hits six as Yankees shut out Blue Jays 6-0

For the first time since they were 4-4 on April 14th, the Yankees are a .500 ballclub. Tuesday night’s series-opening win over the Blue Jays got New York to 22-22 on the season and extended their winning streak to six games. The final score was 6-0 good guys.


Two Early Runs
Well, I guess it was really one early run and one middle run. The Yankees scored their first run thanks in large part to an ill-advised Jose Bautista dive in the first inning. He should have pulled up and played Jacoby Ellsbury‘s line drive on a hop and held him to a single, but he dove and missed, so the ball rolled to the wall for a stand-up triple. Carlos Beltran‘s fielder’s choice — it was damn near an inning-ending double play — drove in the run later in the inning.

The team’s second run was again courtesy of Beltran. That one was a fourth inning solo homer into the second deck in right field. R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball didn’t knuckle. It happens. Knuckleballers have historically been very home run prone. Beltran’s blast gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead. It’s worth noting that between Ellsbury’s triple and Beltran’s homer, Dickey retired nine of eleven batters, so he wasn’t exactly hittable. He pitched well.

A+ photo. (Presswire)
A+ photo. (Presswire)

Nathan F. Eovaldi
Early on it looked like this game would be a real grind for Nathan Eovaldi. He was behind in the count an awful lot — he threw a first pitch strike to only three of the first nine hitters — and the Blue Jays put men in scoring position in the second and third innings. Even with Toronto struggling offensively this season, I still don’t feel comfortable against that lineup.

Josh Donaldson did Eovaldi and the Yankees a big favor by bunting with runners on first and second with no outs in the third. I know he was bunting for a hit with Chase Headley back — Donaldson bunted it too hard and it turned into a sacrifice — but man, the reigning AL MVP bunting with two on and no outs in Yankee Stadium? That seems like the perfect time to swing away, but what do I know. I’m just a schmuck with a blog. Eovaldi escaped the inning with a strikeout and a pop-up.

Following that bunt, Eovaldi retired the next eleven batters he faced and allowed just one ball to be hit out of the infield. Joe Girardi gave his starter an opportunity to start the seventh inning with a 2-0 lead and that didn’t work; Eovaldi walked the leadoff man to end his night. He finished with five strikeouts, two singles, and three walks in six scoreless innings (plus one batter). That’s now two runs or less in four of his last six starts.

This game really showed how huge the splitter has become for Eovaldi. The second and third innings were a battle, and the difference was being able to keep the Blue Jays off his heater with the split. Five of the six outs those two innings came on the splitter — Donaldson’s bunt came on a heater — so it bailed Eovaldi out and gave him a chance to settle down. Before he would have had to try to wiggle out of that jam with his fastball and his fastball alone. The split has been a game-changer for Nate.

The Yankees could pull someone out of the stands and turn him into a good hitting backup catcher, it seems. (Presswire)
Are you a backup catcher for the Yankees? You’re a good hitter now. (Presswire)

Tack-On Runs
Dellin Betances bailed Eovaldi out in the seventh with two strikeouts and a long fly ball, and even though the Yankees were all set up with Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman for the final six outs, scoring some insurance runs was very appreciated. They were able to tack on two runs with two-out hits in the bottom of the seventh and then two more runs in the eighth.

The play-by-play says that seventh inning rally started with a Dustin Ackley infield single to the shortstop, and while that is true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It was a ground ball pulled by the first baseman that shortstop Ryan Goins, who was playing shallow right field as part of the shift, fielded and fired to first base. Ackley beat Dickey to the bag. Dickey took an awkward step, fell to his knees, and missed the base. It wasn’t pretty.

Two ground outs advanced Ackley to third, then Didi Gregorius drew a walk to put men on the corners. No. 9 hitter Austin Romine came through with a two-out ground rule double to right field that hopped over the side wall, preventing Didi from scoring from first. It still got Ackley in. Ellsbury then followed with an infield single into the shortstop hole to get Gregorius in and give the Yankees a crisp 4-0 lead.

Then, in the eighth, the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs on a single and two walks. Headley got one run in with a sacrifice fly and Gregorius drove in another with a single against a lefty. Well, switch-pitcher. Pat Venditte was in. The Yankees were up 6-0. Girardi was able to take his foot off the bullpen gas thanks to the insurance runs. Kirby Yates tossed the eighth and Luis Cessa tossed the ninth. Neither made it interesting. Perfect.

Mark Teixeira had a hit! He slapped an opposite field single over the shortstop to lead off that eighth inning. Teixeira will take all the hits he can get right now. Ellsbury and Romine each had a pair of hits while Beltran and Gregorius each had a hit and a walk. Pretty good night all around for the offense.

I’m not sure what else to include here, so I’ll close with this: the six-game winning streak is the team’s longest since a seven-gamer last June. You have to go back to July 2013 for their last six-game winning streak before that. Feels good, don’t it?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, then back to ESPN for the updated standings. Also don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Wednesday night, in the middle game of this three-game series. Ivan Nova and Marco Estrada are the scheduled starters. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to attend that game or Thursday’s series finale. The Yankees don’t come back home until June 6th after that.

DotF: A-Rod begins rehab assignment; Sanchez hurt in AAA

The day’s notes:

  • LHP Phil Coke has accepted his outright assignment rather than elect free agency, reports Chad Jennings. Coke is going to start for Triple-A Scranton tomorrow. The Yankees want to keep him stretched out, apparently.
  • RHP Eric Ruth has been sent from Scranton down to Double-A Trenton, per Shane Hennigan. The move clears a roster spot for Coke. The RailRiders will need to clear a spot for the recently claimed RHP Layne Somsen soon too.
  • UTIL Jose Rosario needs surgery to repair fractures in his face near his right eye, reports Matt Kardos. Rosario was hit by a pitch the other day. Ouch. Sounds like he escaped without any serious eye or neurological damage. All things considered, it could have been worse.

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 loss to Louisville)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 0-4 — 8-for-45 (.178) since being sent back down
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-2, 1 K — left the game after taking a foul tip to the hand, according to Hennigan … Sanchez did try to make some throws to see if he could stay in, but no dice … needless to say, hopefully it’s just a bruise
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 2-4 — odds his agent has called the Mets after the Lucas Duda injury? probably 99%
  • LF Jake Cave: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 K — ten extra-base hits (five doubles, three triples, two homers) in 12 games with the RailRiders
  • DH Cesar Puello: 1-3, 1 R, 1 H, 3 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 6/5 GB/FB — 66 of 103 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 16 of 25 pitches were strikes (64%) … 4/4 K/BB in six innings since being sent down

[Read more…]

Game 44: Home, For Now


The Yankees are back home from their seven-game West Coast trip but they’re not going to be here for long. They play three games against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium this week, then they’ll head right back out on a ten-game, four-city road trip. Blah. They’re in the middle of a stretch with 17 of 20 games on the road. Not ideal, but what can you do.

Anyway, hey, the Yankees are on a five-game winning streak! How about that? They hadn’t won as many as three games in a row this season before this five-game winning streak. The Blue Jays may be in last place, but that doesn’t matter to me. These games are always tough. If the Yankees are going to extend this winning streak to six games, they’ll have to earn it tonight. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. DH Carlos Beltran
  5. RF Dustin Ackley
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Not the best weather in New York today. It was raining when I woke up and it’s been cloudy all day. There’s a tiny little bit of rain in the forecast tonight, though nothing heavy or prolonged. They might have to play through some rain drops for an inning or two. We’ll see. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: In case you missed it earlier, Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) is starting a rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton tonight. Joe Girardi seemed to indicate the plan is to give A-Rod two more rehab games, then activate him this weekend when the Yankees go to Tampa … Luis Severino (triceps) will make a rehab start for High-A Tampa on Sunday. Girardi said when he’s healthy, the Yankees could use him to give the other starters an extra day of rest during this upcoming stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

Blue Jays Rotation Update: The Blue Jays have changed their rotation for the series. They’re pushing Aaron Sanchez back a few days to give him extra rest, so he won’t start Thursday’s series finale. It’ll be lefty J.A. Happ instead. He’s been really good this year. Tough break for the Yankees.