The Yankees lost for the eighth time in their last 12 games yesterday, and only four times in that stretch did they score more than three runs. They’re hitting .240/.292/.322 as a team during those 12 games and are averaging 2.67 runs per game. Last season’s club boasted the worst Yankees offense since the early 1990, and they scored 250 runs through their first 62 games. This year’s team has 249.
The offensive struggles are becoming untenable. The pitching staff is already stretched thin due to injury and asking them to carry a lineup barely able to scratch out three runs a night is totally unrealistic. The Yankees revamped their bullpen slightly last week and the time has come to shake up the offense as well. Their options to improve the offense are limited because of large contracts and whatnot, but here are three pretty simple ideas.
Bat Jeter Leadoff
Let’s state the obvious here: Derek Jeter hasn’t hit a lick this year. He’s managed a .254/.312/.300 (71 wRC+) batting line through 234 plate appearances and ranks dead last out of 167 qualified hitters with a .047 ISO. Even Ben Revere has hit for more power. According to Baseball Savant, Jeter has seen the highest rate of pitches over 90 mph (55.2%) among players with at least 100 at-bats, and against those pitches he has the lowest ISO (.019!) and the fifth lowest batting average (.235) in baseball. Opponents know he can’t hit fastballs so they’re throwing the ball right by him. It’s sorta embarrassing at this point.
And yet, because he’s Derek Jeter, he’s batted second all season and he’ll continue to bat second going forward. The Yankees have made it clear they won’t do anything to upset their captain — remember when they gave him a raise for no apparent reason over the winter? that was weird — and at least part of that is due to the fact that his retirement tour is a cash cow. Attendance, ratings, and merchandise sales would take a hit if Jeter is given a lesser role. The Yankees are all about winning, as long as it doesn’t upset Jeter or hurt their bottom line.
So, the club is stuck batting him in a prime lineup spot. That’s reality and it’s been made very clear. To make the best of a bad situation, the Yankees should move Jeter up a lineup spot, from second to leadoff. Why? Because it would allow them to bunch their four best hitters together. Rather than having the unproductive Jeter splinter Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup, they could bat him leadoff, then go with Gardner in the two spot ahead of Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, and Yangervis Solarte.
Because the Yankees don’t hit for any power — they’ve hit four homers in their last 13 games, four! — they have to string together base hits and walks to score runs. The best possible way to do that is to bunch your best hitters together in the lineup, not spread them out. All you’re doing is adding outs to the equation by spreading them out and that reduces the chances of scoring. Bat Jeter leadoff, get his at-bat out of the way, then give the team’s four best hitters a chance to do some damage. Don’t try to include him in the rally because he’s shown these last 62 games he can’t help offensively.
Exit Roberts, Enter Sizemore
The Yankees were in a real tough spot when Robinson Cano bolted for the Mariners, and yet, because of the contract he signed, it was totally understandable why they let him walk. That didn’t make finding a replacement any easier — Omar Infante has a 66 wRC+ in the first year of his four-year contract, by the way — so the Yankees settled on Proven Veteran™ Brian Roberts, who has a .239/.317/.350 (85 wRC+) batting line in 203 plate appearances. Somehow he’s stayed healthy so far.
Like Jeter, it’s clear Roberts isn’t going to provide much with the bat. He had a little hot streak a few weeks ago but even then that only raised him up to a .690 OPS for the season, the highest it’s been since the third game of the year. Unlike Jeter, the Yankees can replace Roberts. He’s not a legacy player, there are no long-standing ties to him, and it’s not like he’s hit when he’s been healthy the last few years either. His only redeeming quality on offense is his ability to have consistently long at-bats (3.97 pitches per plate appearances), which isn’t worth a whole lot by itself.
Since Roberts isn’t hitting and is one of the few disposable pieces in the lineup, the Yankees should replace him with … Solarte. Solarte’s natural position is second base and he’s looked much more comfortable defensively there than at the hot corner. That would allow them to call up Scott Sizemore and use him in a third base platoon with Kelly Johnson. Johnson’s hit 16+ homers in each of the last four years and this team can’t hit for power. I don’t know how they expect him to remain productive playing him once a week out of position at first base. Dump Roberts and go with Solarte at second and the Sizemore/Johnson platoon at third.
Exit Soriano, Enter Almonte
Joe wrote about dumping Alfonso Soriano last week and I don’t really have anything to add. He’s hitting .229/.255/.396 (71 wRC+) with 60 strikeouts and five unintentional walks this year, and since April 25th his swing and miss rate is 17.8%, which is absurd. His at-bats aren’t even competitive. The Yankees are only paying Soriano $5M this season and this point they only owe him another $3M or so. It’s a sunk cost. Cut him loose and let someone else play.
That someone, in my opinion, should be Zoilo Almonte. I’m not sold on Adonis Garcia and there really isn’t another viable MLB outfield option in Triple-A. Almonte has some power, swatting eight homers in 38 Triple-A games this year. He also has seasons of 15 and 21 homers in the minors. Zoilo is a switch-hitter but not really; he’s awful against lefties. He’s hit .296/.355/.502 against righties in the minors since 2011 but only .255/.313/.386 against southpaws. The left side of the plate is clearly his better side.
Ichiro Suzuki isn’t terrible against lefties though, hitting .375/.423/.417 (129 wRC+) against them this year and .347/.360/.462 (124 wRC+) since joining the Yankees in 2012. I don’t understand it either, but whatever. Rather than continuing to stick with the wholly unproductive Soriano, the club could roll with the unconventional two lefty platoon in right field — Almonte against righties and Ichiro against lefties. As with the proposed second/third base arrangement above, there’s a decent chance the Almonte/Ichiro platoon will improve both the offense and defense. Crazy, I know.
* * *
The Yankees don’t have much flexibility with their everyday lineup, mostly due to contracts but also because of their undying devotion to Jeter. The offense has been stagnant for way too long for them to remain status quo and wait for things to improve — “We’re just trying to move this thing along. If there are guys struggling in New York, I can’t wait,” said Brian Cashman to Donnie Collins recently — and those are three simple ways to shake things up and give the team a better opportunity to score. They could roll out this regular lineup:
- Carlos Beltran or Brian McCann
- Beltran or McCann
- Almonte/Ichiro platoon
- Johnson/Sizemore platoon
The four best hitters on the team are bunched together and there’s a little bit of pop in the lower third of the lineup. No one will confuse that group for the 1927 Yankees or even the 2012 Yankees, but two of the three worst hitters would be replaced and the third will be de-emphasized in the sense that the club’s best hitters won’t have to try to build a rally around him. It’ll be like Jeter is hitting ninth once the lineup turns over.
There’s not much the Yankees can do to improve their occasionally non-existent offense, but a shakeup is still in order. They can do it without creating a stir with Jeter as long as they’re willing to cut bait with two unproductive veterans and give a young guy like Almonte a chance. What they have now just isn’t working.
Record Last Week: 2-5 (19 RS, 35 RA)
Season Record: 31-31 (249 RS, 280 RA, 27-35 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: @ Royals (one game, Mon.), @ Mariners (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Athletics (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The week started with one game against the Mariners, a makeup game stemming from an April rainout. Seattle won the game in a blowout.
- The Athletics came to town for a three-game set after that, and Oakland took the first game after the bullpen melted down. The Yankees could not protect a four-run lead on Wednesday, but they won the finale behind Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka was named the AL Pitcher of the Month for May.
- The Yankees headed to Kansas City for a four-game wrap around series in Kansas City on Friday. They won the opener behind Chase Whitley, but David Phelps got roughed up on Saturday. The club managed to go 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position in yesterday’s loss.
- Injury Updates: CC Sabathia (knee) has started playing catch. Shawn Kelley (back) pitched in a minor league rehab game and will do it again on Monday. OF Ramon Flores (ankle) and IF Dean Anna (unknown) were placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL. 3B Eric Jagielo (oblique) will miss another week or so.
- The Yankees activated Carlos Beltran (elbow) off the 15-day DL and sent Scott Sizemore to Triple-A Scranton. Wade LeBlanc was claimed off waivers from the Angels, Jose Ramirez was called up, Preston Claiborne was demoted, and Alfredo Aceves was designated for assignment as part of a bullpen shakeup.
- With their top pick in the 2014 amateur draft (second round), the Yankees selected Mississippi State LHP Jacob Lindgren. He said he wants to sign “as soon as possible.” Here is what happened on Day Two and Day Three of the draft.
- Kendrys Morales agreed to a contract with the Twins after the Yankees asked him to hold off on signing.
- The Yankees extended their player development contract with Triple-A Scranton through 2018.
- Derek Jeter wants to become on owner after his playing career is over.
- Former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer passed away at age 83.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Toledo)
- 1B Jose Pirela: 1-5 — got picked off first
- C Frankie Cervelli: 1-3 — caught seven innings in his second rehab game behind the plate (third overall) … told Shane Hennigan the plan is to play here the next two days, them move the rehab assignment to Double-A Trenton (Scranton’s going on the road at the end of the week, Trenton will be home, it’s just a travel thing)
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 R
- 2B Zelous Wheeler: 3-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB – 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles and two homers in his last four games
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 0-4, 1 K
- DH Kyle Roller: 1-4, 2 K
- RHP Zach Nuding: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 3/6 GB/FB — 53 of 86 pitches were strikes (62%) … 30 runs allowed in 40.1 innings at this level
- SwP Pat Venditte: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 28 of 41 pitches were strikes (68%) … 42/7 K/BB in 36 innings this year
Ho boy. One hit in 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position? And the one hit didn’t even score a run? Looks like I picked the perfect day to spend outside and far away from baseball. I mean … 1-for-17 in a nine-inning game? I’m not even mad. That’s amazing. The Yankees seem to sink to a new low every week. Sunday’s game was a 2-1 loss to the Royals.
On the bright side, Hiroki Kuroda did turn in a dandy, surrendering only two runs in seven innings of work. He quietly has a 3.30 ERA in 43.2 innings over his last six starts, so he’s giving the team both quality innings and a lot of innings. That’s exactly what they need from him with Masahiro Tanaka taking over as the ace. Just be reliable and eat some innings to rest the bullpen. Kuroda’s done that of late.
Offensively … yuck. The Yankees managed to not score after having the bases loaded with no outs in the second, and overall they had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in every inning but the fifth and eighth. James Shields threw 49 pitches in the first two innings and only 61 pitches in the next four innings. Brett Gardner, Yangervis Solarte, and Ichiro Suzuki all had multiple hits, but it did little good. The one run scored on a ground out.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees have lost six of their last eight games and 21 of their last 37 games dating back to the start of the first series with the Mariners. That is not good. Not at all. They’ll try to earn a split of this four-game set in Kansas City on Monday night. Vidal Nuno and Jason Vargas will be the pitching matchup.
I know these have been out there for a few days and you’ve probably all seen them already, but I guess it’s better to post them late than never. Apparently Mark Teixeira has a fake talk show on the YES Network and you know what? It’s actually kinda funny. There’s the video above, and there’s also clips with Brian McCann (video), Masahiro Tanaka (video), and Jacoby Ellsbury (video). I can’t believe YES filmed these things in Spring Training and didn’t start posted them until recently.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the final few outs of the weekend. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Red Sox and Tigers (Lackey vs. Sanchez), plus Game Two of the NBA Finals is on as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.
The Yankees have extended their player development contract with the Triple-A Scranton franchise through 2018, the team announced. The four-year extension is the maximum allowed. “We are excited. When we brought the franchise affiliation here in 2007, we told everyone we were here to stay and we meant business. We couldn’t be in a better place,” said Brian Cashman in a statement.
After a lengthy affiliation with the Columbus Clippers, the Yankees moved their Triple-A franchise to Scranton for the 2007 season and they’ve been there ever since. It’s a win-win relationship. The Bombers get to keep their extra players 90 minutes away and the Scranton franchise gets the marketing and business perks of being associated with the Yankees. Definite no-brainer and the extension was just a formality. There were no rumblings of moving the Triple-A squad elsewhere. · (6) ·
Well, technically it’s 101 games to go right now. After this afternoon’s game against the Royals there will be 100 games left in the season. That really doesn’t mean anything, but I’ve always felt going from triple-digit to double-digit games remaining drove home the point that the season isn’t young anymore. Early season hot streaks are now something more than a hot streak. Same with slumps.
Anyway, I don’t know where I was going with that. I guess that the Yankees need to play better? That kinda goes without saying. I’m yammering. Here is the Royals lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 1B Kelly Johnson
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
It’s cloudy and humid in Kansas City but there is no rain in the forecast. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin a bit after 2pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (wrist) is fine. Joe Girardi is just being proactive and giving him a day off … Shawn Kelley (back) will pitch in another minor league rehab game on Monday and rejoin the team on Wednesday if all goes well … Frankie Cervelli (hamstring) will take ground balls at first base during his rehab assignment.
So much for targeting high school catchers, huh? Actually, so much for targeting high schoolers in general. The Yankees wrapped up the 2014 Rule 4 Draft with their final 30 selections yesterday, and only six of those 30 picks come from the high school ranks. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer wasn’t kidding when he told Chad Jennings they “might lean toward the college guy if everything’s equal” the other day.
The Yankees made 39 total picks in this year’s draft and the final tally is 24 pitchers, nine infielders, four outfielders, and two catchers. I swear it felt like way more than 24 pitchers while following the draft live. Only seven of the 39 were high school players, the other 32 were from either a four-year college or junior college. You can see every pick at Baseball America. Here is the Day One and Two review. Now let’s look over what happened on Day Three.
The Upside Plays
Despite their college heavy approach, the Yankees did land two prep upside plays on Day Three. Florida HS RHP Garrett Cave (17th round) already sits in the low-90s and will touch 95 with his fastball even though there is plenty of room to fill out his 6-foot-3, 190 lb. frame. He also has good athleticism, a promising curveball, and a work in progress changeup. New York will use some of their saved draft pool money to try to sign him away from Florida International. Oh, and as far as I know, he isn’t related to OF Jake Cave.
Five rounds later the Yankees selected Connecticut HS 3B Will Toffey (23), who also happens to be one of the top hockey players in the Northeast. He dropped hockey not too long ago and is now focusing on baseball exclusively. Toffey’s best tools are his speed and arm strength, though he projects to hit for both average and power from the left side as he gains more experience on the diamond. With a 6-foot-0 and 200 lb. frame with athleticism to spare, Toffey is something of a blank canvas with lots of potential. The team will have to buy him away from Vanderbilt, however.
The Lottery Tickets
Once you get into the late rounds, there’s not much a team can do other than gamble on super raw tools and athleticism. The Yankees drafted Stanford OF Dominic Jose (24) even though he was only a part-time player in college, hoping they could smooth out his swing and untap his power potential. Tennessee HS RHP Will Gaddis (36) is a raw thrower. On the position player side, New York also took California HS C Chris Hudgins (35) and South Carolina HS SS Madison Stokes (40). Stokes is expected to wind up at third and is more of a contact oriented, line drive hitter. The Yankees see something they like in each of these guys and will try to get them signed.
Big & Beautiful
It’s no secret the Yankees love physically huge players, especially on the mound. Day Three featured a run of massive college pitchers, including Eastern Illinois RHP Matt Borens (11), West Virginia RHP Sean Carley (14), Gonzaga LHP Derek Callahan (16), Concordia RHP Corey Holmes (20), Oregon LHP Porter Clayton (21), Indiana RHP Jake Kelzer (22), and USC RHP Lee Casas (28). Those seven average 6-foot-6 and 223 lbs. Boren, Holmes, Kelzer, and Casas stand 6-foot-7, 6-foot-6, 6-foot-8, and 6-foot-7, respectively. Carley, as you can see, bears some resemblance to Kenny Powers.
Carley and Kelzer are the best prospects of the bunch. They both sit in the low-90s with good sliders, almost non-existent changeups, and questionable control. It’s worth noting Kelzer was also on the swim team and has a really loose and athletic body. What more do you expect from double-digit round picks? Both guys were (mostly) relievers in college and figure to continue in that role in pro ball. Clayton walked more batters (26) than he struck out (25) in 36.1 innings this spring, but he has lefty specialist potential because of a low-90s heater and big breaking slurve. Borens should be able to start at the next level and both Callahan and Holmes are pure arm strength guys.
The Yankees draft four first basemen and only two shortstops this year, which is just weird. Usually teams load up on the up-the-middle players, but I guess they’re doing that in international free agency next month. Two of the three first basemen selected on Day Two are Grayson County JuCo 1B Chris Gittens (12) and Citadel 1B Bo Thompson (13), both of whom have huge raw power. The third, Oklahoma HS 1B Cameron Warren (39), projects to have power down the road. The other two have it right now.
Gittens is another huge guy at 6-foot-4 and 250 lbs., and he’s a better hitter than Thompson because of his bat-to-ball skills and advanced approach. Thompson is basically a brute masher, swinging from his heels and trying to yank the ball 500 feet every at-bat. The Yankees will try to teach him that he is strong enough to hit the ball out of the park with shorter, more controlled swings that make him a better all around hitter. None of the drafted first basemen stand out defensively, so the Yankees grabbed all of them for their bats. In the late rounds, power is a good tool to emphasize.
The Depth Players
Pittsburgh RHP Joe Harvey (19), Grand Canyon RHP Jorge Perez (30), and UNC Wilmington RHP Jordan Ramsey (32) are all bullpen prospects with good fastballs and not so good secondary stuff. Both Alabama RHP Justin Kamplain (18) and Pittsburgh RHP Matt Wotherspoon (34) have the three-pitch mixes necessary to start and I assume they’ll continue to do that in pro ball. Arizona State RHP David Graybill (33) played the infield this spring but has pitched in the past, and the Yankees plan to stick him on the mound full-time. That’s what they did with Chase Whitley back in the day.
On the position player side, Oppenheimer & Co. opted for experience with Washington State C Collin Slaybaugh (26), Jacksonville State OF Griffin Gordon (27), and William & Mary 2B Ryan Lindermuth (32), all of whom are seniors. They’ll help fill out minor league rosters. Same with UC Riverside OF Devyn Bolasky (31), a junior. Other miscellaneous arms include Boston College LHP Andrew Chin (15), Tampa RHP Dylan Barrow (25), and UH-Victoria RHP Andre Del Bosque (38). Some of these guys will sign, some won’t. Either way, they’re there to be role players around the actual prospects in the minors.
The Legacy Pick
The name says it all: Mariano Rivera Jr. The Yankees drafted Mo’s kid out of Iona College in the 29th round because that’s what teams do — they draft the kids of their all-time greats. It’s been going on for years. Junior told Stan Grossfield getting drafted is “an opportunity that I can’t let pass” back in April, though his father has made it clear he wants him to return to school to finish his education. Sounds like something the family will have to work out. Either way, Mariano Jr. is not his father and it’s unfair to put any kind of pressure on him or have any real expectations. (He doesn’t even throw a cutter.) He’s not much of a prospect and the draft pick was more of a thank you than anything. It’s nuts we’re at the point where Mo’s kid is getting drafted out of college though, isn’t it?
* * *
Aside from Cave, Toffey, and Connecticut HS RHP Austin DeCarr (3), the Yankees did not draft a ton of upside this year. That is … kinda disappointing. They went very heavy on college players, particularly relievers, which are the types of prospects they’ve had success developing into MLB players over the last seven or eight years. They stuck to their strengths, basically. Boring but not entirely unreasonable, especially not with the rumored international spending spree on the horizon. This was far from the sexiest draft haul and its impact potential will depend on whether Cave and Toffey turn pro.
Well, so much for stringing some wins together. The Yankees lost 8-4 to the Royals on Saturday night, making a spirited comeback in the middle innings before the pitching staff coughed it up an inning later. The Bombers have lost seven of their last eleven games. Let’s recap:
- Phlops: David Phelps has now allowed 18 runs and 32 base-runners in his last 17.2 innings following his latest masterpiece. Five of the first six Royals reached base to start the second inning (the only out was a sac bunt) to give the Royals a quick 3-0 lead, then five of the first seven reached in the sixth inning to plate four more runs. Salvador Perez’s three-run homer was the big blow. Phelps allowed seven runs on ten hits and two walks in 5.2 innings, and five of those hits went for extra-bases.
- Comeback: Danny Duffy came out of the gate throwing gas, 96-98 all night, and it looked like the Yankees had little chance against him. They did string together a two-out rally in the sixth, with Carlos Beltran‘s double and Yangervis Solarte‘s single driving in three runs. Derek Jeter singled and Mark Teixeira walked in the inning. After that, seven of the next eight Yankees made outs. The rally was cool while it lasted.
- Leftovers: The Yankees did plate a garbage time run in the ninth on Solarte’s double and Brian Roberts‘ ground out. Teases … Matt Daley served up a monster solo homer to Eric Hosmer and Jose Ramirez threw a scoreless inning, so the usual late-inning guys got a night off … Jacoby Ellsbury had two singles and extended his hitting streak to 12 games … Beltran’s double was his first and only hit since coming off the DL … Alfonso Soriano went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He’s gotta go. Totally cooked.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Veterans Hiroki Kuroda and James Shields will match up on Sunday afternoon in the third game of this four-game set.