Nuno no longer qualifies as a prospect. (Getty)

Nuno no longer qualifies as a prospect. (Getty)

With the amateur draft less than one week away — international free agency is a month away and the Yankees will reportedly spend some serious money — it’s time to check in on the current state of the farm system. The top 30 prospects, specifically. The system overall has bounced back well from that nightmare last year, when almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. All three 2013 first round picks hit the disabled list before playing their first pro games, for example.

Anyway, because the minor league season is only two months old, there isn’t a ton of difference between this list and my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List. Players may move a spot or two, but that’s nothing really. There aren’t many big climbers or fallers, though I will say there is more movement in this year’s pre-draft list than there has been other years for a few reasons, including injuries. As always, this list is my personal preference and you are very welcome to disagree. The cool thing about prospects is that there is no right way to rank them, so no one’s wrong. It’s a balance between potential and probability, and people value those things differently.

The only player to graduate to the big leagues from the preseason list is LHP Vidal Nuno. The rookie limits are 50 innings or 130 at-bats, so if you’re above that, I don’t consider you a prospect. That’s a convenient enough cutoff point. Several other players dropped off the preseason list for different reasons, including OF Zoilo Almonte (numbers crunch), RHP Jose Campos (another elbow injury), and LHP Nik Turley (arm problems). The ages listed are as of today, and the levels listed are the player’s current level. Away we go:
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Categories : Minors
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Only six questions for you this week, but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Paul asks: Dellin Betances: All-Star?

At this point in time, I say yes on merit and no on actually getting elected to the game. Among the 108 relievers who had thrown at least 20 innings going into yesterday’s game, Betances ranked first in strikeouts (51), second in strikeout rate (44.9%), and second in FIP (1.02). Wade Davis ranked second (40), first (44.9%), and first (0.94), respectively. Betances has legitimately been one of the five or ten best relievers in baseball this season and that makes him All-Star Game worthy in my opinion.

Non-closing relievers get elected to the All-Star Game every year — Brett Cecil and Jesse Crain went just last year, for example — but it’s usually only one or two (not including the final vote). Remember, Red Sox manager John Farrell is filling out the AL roster this year after the players have their vote, and the manager tends to take his own guys. Joe Torre did it all the time in the late-90s and early-2000s. Would the Red Sox manager take a Yankees middle reliever over one of his own guys like Junichi Tazawa or Koji Uehara? Probably not. Betances has been awesome and I think he belongs to be in the All-Star Game, but belonging there and getting there are two different things.

Matt asks: Can you see the Yankees letting David Robertson walking at the end of the year and giving Betances the closer job?

Yes, I could, but the problem is that they’d still have to replace Robertson. Sure, Betances takes his role as the closer, but the Yankees would still be letting an elite reliever walk. Robertson is replaced as closer, but who replaces Betances as the middle innings fireman? Maybe someone like Danny Burawa or Mark Montgomery or Jose Ramirez could step up and do the job, but until they get a chance, we don’t know how much they can really help.

The Yankees have done a very good job of fielding a quality bullpen on the relatively cheap over the years, and letting Robertson walk as a free agent and saving $10-12M a year to spend elsewhere makes sense. At the same time, Robertson just turned 29 and he hasn’t had any arm problems in his career. He’s a strikeout machine who has proven he can handle high leverage spots in New York. It’s tough to let that guy walk, isn’t it? If he’s demanding Jonathan Papelbon money, then yeah, maybe let him walk. But if they can get Robertson to come back on a three-year deal worth that $10-12M per year (Rafael Soriano money, basically), I think they should do it. This isn’t like letting Joba Chamberlain or Luis Ayala walk.

Travis asks: What about Raciel Iglesias? What are the scouting reports on him?

Iglesias, 24, defected from Cuba over the winter and is throwing a showcase for scouts in Haiti today, according to Joel Sherman. Sherman says teams view the right-hander as a bullpen arm who could help as soon as the second half of this year (he was a reliever in Cuba). Here’s some more from Ben Badler:

Major league scouts (and Baseball America) have been able to see Iglesias pitch in person outside of Cuba twice this year. At the World Baseball Classic in March, Iglesias pitched at 88-92 mph. When Cuba visited the U.S. in July for a five-game friendship series against the U.S. College national team, Iglesias looked more impressive, throwing 92-95 mph while varying the speed and shape of his sweepy 76-81 mph breaking ball to get swings and misses.

“I think he’s a guy that, as he gets bigger and stronger, could be in the mid-to-upper 90s,” said Team USA coach Jim Schlossnagle, who is also the coach at Texas Christian. “He’s lean, has a ridiculously loose arm and pounded the strike zone. I was glad they didn’t pitch him more. He was the guy where you’re like, ‘Let’s find a way to get a lead before they get to this guy.’”

Badler says Iglesias stands 5-foot-11 and 165 lbs., so he’s a skinny little guy. You can see that in the video above. I’ve also seen his name spelled Raciel, Raicel, and Rasiel, so we don’t even know how to properly spell the guy’s name at this point. There isn’t much information about him available. Sherman is well connected though, and if he hears that teams think Iglesias could help in the bullpen later this year, then it’s probably true. I assume the Yankees will do their due diligence — they can use another reliever, but that’s true for every team — but I haven’t heard anything specific about their level of interest. Same goes for every other team for that matter.

Wandy. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Wandy. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

A different Mike asks: Should the Yanks see if they can nab Wandy Rodriguez? He was recently designated. I don’t know if I’d give him a major league deal but a minor one for certain.

Yeah, there’s no way I’d give Wandy a big league contract at this point, but there’s no harm in a minor league deal. The Pirates ate about $5.5M in salary by cutting him — yet they won’t call up Gregory Polanco because they’re worried about a similar amount of money three years into the future, but I digress — so no one will claim him off waivers and take on that money. Rodriguez will eventually be released and free to sign with anyone.

Before getting designated for assignment, the 35-year-old southpaw had a 6.75 ERA (7.32 FIP) in 26.2 innings. He also gave up ten homers (!) and has been dealing with on and off elbow problems the last two years. Wandy’s numbers against lefties haven’t been all that good either, so it’s not even like there is reason to think he could help as a situational reliever. There’s no harm in giving him a minor league deal just to see if something clicks, but I don’t see how an AL East team could stick this guy on their active roster right now.

Nik asks: Question about Extended Spring Training games. Just who exactly is left down in Tampa to play these games? We hear about rehabbing players going to ExST and playing and how that doesn’t count toward their return countdown. Are these like practice squad players?

Extended Spring Training is basically Spring Training for the two short season leagues. It’s similar to regular old Spring Training in that there are daily drills and games against other ExST teams. They travel to the other complexes in Florida and everything. The games are not official though, they’re basically scrimmages. From what I understand they are open to the public too, you can just walk in and watch.

The players in ExST are the guys under contract with the team who have not been assigned to one of the full season minor league affiliates. SS Thairo Estrada is in ExST right now. So are RHP Ty Hensley and OF Leonardo Molina, for example. ExST ends when the short season leagues start in late-June (so when Short Season Staten Island and the Gulf Coast League Yanks begin play) and the players who do not get assigned to a minor league affiliate at that time are released or hidden on the phantom disabled list somewhere. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a continuation of Spring Training, only with minor leaguers.

(Getty)

(Getty)

Ryan asks: After seeing what Babe Ruth’s paycheck was it has me curious. If Ruth were say a 28 year old free agent today, what type of deal do you think he would sign? Money and years.

Here is Ruth’s paycheck, if you miss it floating around the internet the other day (I did). He was paid $7,685.23 twice a month (MLB players are paid on the 15th and 30th during the season, so today’s payday), which works out to $104,709.93 in 2014 dollars according to the CPI Inflation Calculator. That puts his annual salary at $1.25M or so in 2014 dollars, which is nothing by MLB standards. Baseball salaries have increased at a rate greater than general inflation.

Ruth was 32 years old in 1927 (the date on the paycheck) and was still a marvelous hitter, hitting his career-high and then-record 60 homers that season. Here is what Ruth did through his age 28 season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1914 19 BOS AL 5 10 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 4 .200 .200 .300 .500 49
1915 20 BOS AL 42 103 16 29 10 1 4 20 9 23 .315 .376 .576 .952 188
1916 21 BOS AL 67 152 18 37 5 3 3 16 10 23 .272 .322 .419 .741 121
1917 22 BOS AL 52 142 14 40 6 3 2 14 12 18 .325 .385 .472 .857 162
1918 23 BOS AL 95 382 50 95 26 11 11 61 58 58 .300 .411 .555 .966 192
1919 24 BOS AL 130 543 103 139 34 12 29 113 101 58 .322 .456 .657 1.114 217
1920 25 NYY AL 142 616 158 172 36 9 54 135 150 80 .376 .532 .847 1.379 255
1921 26 NYY AL 152 693 177 204 44 16 59 168 145 81 .378 .512 .846 1.359 238
1922 27 NYY AL 110 496 94 128 24 8 35 96 84 80 .315 .434 .672 1.106 182
1923 28 NYY AL 152 697 151 205 45 13 41 130 170 93 .393 .545 .764 1.309 239
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2014.

Bold means he led the AL, bold and italicized means he led all of MLB. Take a second to fully grasp how dominant a hitter Ruth was. Defense is irrelevant at that point. He could have sat in a lawn chair in the outfield and been the best player in the game, which he clearly was.

Anyway, Ruth had a 231 OPS+ in his first four years in pinstripes. Miguel Cabrera had a 177 OPS+ in the four years before signing his record extension this spring. (We can’t really compare raw homer totals given the difference in eras, but Ruth hitting 40+ in the 1920s is far superior to Miggy hitting 40+ these days. Ruth out-homered entire teams back in the day.) Cabrera’s deal was ten years and $292M total, the extension plus the two years left on his current contract. He wasn’t a free agent on the open market, so there no bidding war to drive up the price.

Having just completed his age 28 season, I think Ruth would wind up getting something like 12 years and $396M ($33M per year) these days. That’s nothing more than my guess, we’re in uncharted territory here. Ruth was far and away the best player in baseball and I think that would result in far and away the richest contract in sports history. Remember how Alex Rodriguez‘s contract with the Rangers shattered records (the second largest sports contract at the time was Kevin Garnett’s $126M deal)? I think that would happen again today if 28-year-old Ruth hit free agency in today’s market. It would be unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Categories : Mailbag
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Podcast Logo_horiz

Guest: Brandon Warne of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He’s also on a Sunday radio show with Jack Morris, which is pretty cool. We’re talking about the plucky Twins, just three games under .500, and the familiar faces we’ll see this weekend.

Jay and I are, of course, discussing the successful road trip, including the recent series win against the Cardinals. We do bring up Cliff Lee, of course. I don’t think I mentioned him in the previous podcast

Admin note: For consistency’s sake, we’re going with a Tuesday and Friday show schedule.

Remember to email in your questions before Friday’s show (recorded Thursday night), podcast at riveraveblues.com.

You can also give us a call us at 716-393-5330 and leave a voicemail. We’ll play it on air and answer it. It’ll feel more radio-like that way.

Categories : Podcast
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According to Josh Norris, OF Slade Heathcott‘s knee is bothering him again and he is heading to see the team doctor in New York. He took batting practice yesterday but did not play in the game. Hopefully all of this is precautionary following offseason surgery.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Louisville) they faced old friend RHP Chien-Ming Wang

  • RF Ramon Flores & DH Kyle Roller: both 0-4 — Roller struck out
  • 1B Scott Sizemore: 2-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB – 12-for-29 (.414) in his last seven games
  • SS Dean Anna: 1-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 HBP, 1 E (throwing) — 6-for-13 (.462) in his last three games
  • RHP Zach Nuding: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 7/2 GB/FB — 56 of 91 pitches were strikes (62%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Did you realize the Yankees are 5-1 in games immediately prior to a scheduled off-day this season? That doesn’t mean anything, it’s just kind neat. Off-days are always a little more enjoyable on the heels of a win. The bad taste of a loss can linger for a while. The one loss was the second game of the doubleheader against the Pirates, so the Yankees still had a win in the bank that day.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the off-night. The Mets are playing and MLB Network will air a game as well. Who you see depends on where you live. There are also NBA and NHL playoff games on, including the Rangers as they look to a clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. Talk about those games or anything else you want right here.

Categories : Open Thread
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May
29

2014 Draft: Pat Connaughton

By in Draft. Tags: · Comments (7) ·

Pat Connaughton | RHP

Background
Connaughton is from just outside of Boston, and he turned down the Padres out of high school as their 38th round pick in 2011. He followed through on his commitment to Notre Dame, where he plays both baseball and basketball. Connaughton had a 2.42 ERA with a 69/49 K/BB in 92.2 innings during his freshman and sophomore seasons, and this spring it’s a 3.92 ERA with a 36/40 K/BB in 62 innings. Yes, more walks than strikeouts. He has been a three-year starter for the Fighting Irish basketball team but is not a serious NBA prospect.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 214 lbs., Connaughton is a pure arm strength prospect who regularly touches 95 mph with his fastball. His curveball shows some potential but his changeup needs a lot of work. He’s clearly still a project after splitting so much time between two different sports. Connaughton’s delivery is pretty stiff and it hurts his command. Obviously he’s a very good athlete, that’s kinda necessary to play two sports at the Division I level, and he draws praise for his competitiveness and makeup.

Miscellany
Baseball America ranked Connaughton as the 128th best prospect in the draft class last week. He did not make either Keith Law‘s (subs. req’d) or MLB.com‘s most recent top 100 rankings. Connaughton told Andrew Owens the Yankees are one team he has spoken to “a lot” in recent weeks. He plans to return to school to play his senior basketball season and said clubs are open to letting him play both sports before focusing on baseball full-time in 2015. The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall), though Connaughton is a better fit as a roll of the dice with their third (91st overall), fourth (122nd), or even fifth (152nd) round pick.

Categories : Draft
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The best part of Spring Training is the photos. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The best part of Spring Training is the photos. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Here are some injury updates on the off-day, courtesy of George King, Chad Jennings, and Andrew Marchand:

  • Mark Teixeira (wrist) will visit his surgeon in New York today and have an ultrasound. He hasn’t played since Sunday and an MRI is not planned unless other tests show something. “I was hoping I’d wake up this morning and feel nothing. There’s still some soreness in there,” said Teixeira yesterday. “Hopefully the extra day off tomorrow will help, and hopefully I’m back in there on Friday.”
  • Michael Pineda (back/shoulder) is scheduled to pitch in an intrasquad game in Tampa on Sunday. He threw two innings in Extended Spring Training on Tuesday, so he’s on a regular five-day schedule. If Sunday’s outing goes well, Pineda could soon begin an official minor league rehab assignment.
  • Carlos Beltran (elbow) will hit off a tee and soft toss with hitting coach Kevin Long at Yankee Stadium today. He rested yesterday after swinging a bat on Monday (fungo) and Tuesday (full-size bat).
  • Shawn Kelley (back) played catch again yesterday and felt fine. He will get back on a mound and throw a bullpen session on Friday.

Update (3:17pm): Teixeira has only inflammation in his wrist and is day-to-day, the Yankees announced following his visit to the doctor this afternoon. The team also says Beltran took 25 swings from each side of the plate and felt no discomfort in his elbow. He will do the same thing tomorrow.

Categories : Injuries
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(Presswire)

(Presswire)

When the Yankees signed Brian McCann over the winter, I’m pretty sure they knew he would have to move to first base eventually. He turned 30 just as Spring Training started and he’s been an everyday catcher for a long, long time. McCann caught almost 9,000 innings with the Braves in the regular season alone. Eventually he’ll have to move out from behind the plate. That’s just the way it goes.

Now, that said, I don’t think the Yankees expected to start McCann at first base 52 games into his five-year contract. He had never played first base before this season, but Joe Girardi used him there for four innings (spread across three games) earlier this year in blowout games. Nothing crazy. Jorge Posada did that a bunch of times too. But starting a game at first, like he did last night? That was not the plan coming into the season.

“I was a little hesitant to do it,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings before last night’s game. “I saw him over there those couple of times and I’m a little more open to it, just because of some of the injuries. You know, there are a lot of things you don’t plan on doing during the course of the season that kind of go awry when some things happen. I never planned on playing Vernon Wells at third base last year. Never in my wildest dreams, but it happened. That’s where you have to be sometimes a little creative.”

First, shout-out to Girardi for reminding me Wells played third base last year. I completely forgot about that (even though I GIF’d it). He played second base at one point too. So did Mark Reynolds. Now let’s wipe that from our memories forever.

Anyway, the Yankees have essentially been forced to play McCann at first base on occasion because they never bothered to pick up a real backup first baseman over the winter. The backup first baseman was Kelly Johnson by default — “We felt that Kelly’d be able to handle it, and I still think that Kelly can handle it,” added Girardi — and he had 18 career innings at the position coming into the season. McCann, Johnson, Frankie Cervelli, and Scott Sizemore all started games at first this year. Brendan Ryan and Carlos Beltran have played there as well. Seven different players already.

Mark Teixeira will visit the doctor to have his surgically repaired right wrist examined at some point today. He missed the Cardinals series due to lingering soreness and inflammation, something that will apparently be the norm going forward. It’s going to act up from time to time — “[The doctor] was surprised I haven’t had more flare ups,” said Teixeira to Jennings — and they’ll have to manage it somehow. More days off, more time at DH, more treatment, whatever it takes. They don’t have much of a choice.

Because Teixeira’s wrist will continue to be an issue, the Yankees will have to keep forcing round pegs into the square hole at first base. McCann was fine last night but he wasn’t tested with any particularly tough plays. Johnson has been a mess over there recently — is it just me, or did he look much more comfortable over there while Teixeira was on the DL in April? what happened? — and that’s to be expected given his inexperience. Same goes with McCann, Ryan, Sizemore, and whoever else they throw over there.

The Yankees had the ideal backup first baseman in Nick Swisher a few years ago. A productive player who could play another position everyday and step right in at first base if need be. It was awesome. That’s much more preferable to a pure backup first baseman like, say, Lyle Overbay. Players who can play another position and slide over to first seamlessly are hard to find though. Kendrys Morales is still unsigned but he barely qualifies as a first baseman at this point of his career (59 games at first since destroying his ankle in 2010). Maybe Mitch Moreland becomes available if the Rangers continue to fall out of it. Who do you drop from the roster to make room for this player though? It’s tricky.

Looking back — and really, we don’t even need hindsight to say this — it was pretty silly to come into the season with no really backup plan at first base after Teixeira missed all of last season with a wrist injury, especially since he was told it would flare up during the season. Yeah, they did bring in Russ Canzler on a minor league contract, but that’s it. Keeping Mark Reynolds as a part-time corner infielder/DH would have been awesome, but it’s pretty clear he signed with the Brewers because they gave him a greater opportunity for playing time. Hopefully Teixeira’s soreness this week nudges the Yankees towards finding a suitable backup and soon.

Categories : Bench
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(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

The Yankees are off today following their nine-game road trip, and starting tomorrow they play 17 games in 17 days in three different time zones. On the bright side, they don’t have to travel back to the West Coast after that, and only two more times this season do they even have to go to the Central Time Zone. The team’s travel after this upcoming stretch as is easy as it gets. Here are some random thoughts on the off-day.

1. This weekend’s series against the Twins marks the end of what is probably the softest stretch of schedule for the 2014 Yankees in terms of the quality of their opponents: 19 straight games against the Mets, Pirates, Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals, and Twins. Only the Cardinals aren’t awful. The Yankees have won nine of the first 16 games during that stretch, with the last three against Minnesota still pending. That’s pretty damn good, but I can’t help but feel greedy and wish they could have stolen one or two more. That Adam Dunn walk-off homer game really stings. With the Rays and Red Sox falling behind the rest of the AL East a bit — Tampa is literally one game better than the Astros right now — the division race has opened up a little bit. The Yankees play the Blue Jays and Orioles a combined nine times next month and those games are the most important ones right now. Games against Boston and Tampa aren’t as crucial as they have been the last few years. (They’re obviously still important. You know what I mean.) This isn’t the AL East race we’re used to seeing.

2. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this at some point before, I but I can’t remember the last time the Yankees had a reliever like Dellin Betances. That overwhelmingly dominant flamethrower. Joba Chamberlain was excellent following his call-up in 2007, but even he did not have the kind of strikeout stuff as Betances — Joba had a 37.4 K% in 24 innings in 2007 while Betances is at 44.7 K% in 30.2 innings in this year. (Bet you didn’t realize David Robertson has a 41.5 K% strikeout rate this year, did you?) Mariano Rivera was outstanding in 1996 as John Wetteland’s setup man, but Mo’s dominance was always more surgical than overpowering. You know what I mean, right? Betances just comes out of the bullpen pumping 97+ with a knee-buckling breaking ball that hitters don’t even bother to swing at. They just bail on the pitch and it goes for a called strike. It’s amazing and so much fun to watch. Betances spent a very long time in the minors fighting control problems and battling injuries, and the decision to move him into the bullpen last year was basically a last resort. A desperate attempt by the team to get something out of him. The move into a relief role has worked out to the best case scenario and it saved his career.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

3. Obviously the late-1990s Yankees were excellent for many reasons, one of them being their strength up the middle. Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams were among the best players at their positions, Jorge Posada was just starting to get the majority of the playing time behind the plate, and Chuck Knoblauch was very good until things started to fall apart in 2001. They were getting top notch production from the four most important non-pitcher positions on the field. That is not the case this year though. The Yankees have gotten a combined .266/.331/.379 batting line from their catchers, second basemen, shortstops, and center fielders this year, which is right in line with the .254/.323/.397 league average. Average isn’t bad! It is less than you would like to see though. The Yankees should be getting more production from those positions — neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Brian McCann were hitting much prior to their big games last night (McCann was playing first, remember) — but it has not been there just about a third of the way through the season. Ellsbury and McCann are not going anywhere, but as the Yankees usher out of the Jeter era this winter, improving both middle infield spots should be a top priority. Along with having good pitching (duh), getting big production from those up the middle spots is one of the most surefire ways to contend. Just look at the World Series teams of the last, I don’t know, 25 years or so. All strong up the middle.

4. So, with that in mind, man how perfect would Chase Utley look in pinstripes? Someone asked about him in a mailbag a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to shake the thought of trading for him since. It’s not going to happen for several reasons — his ten-and-five no-trade protection first of all, plus the Phillies would have to be willing to sell and trade their best and most popular player — but the fit is too perfect. Left-handed power and patience, no real platoon concerns, good defense at second base, big market and postseason experience, short-term contract … he’s perfect. The only negative is Utley’s injury history, particularly his knee problems, but 100 games of him and 62 games of a replacement level player is still one of the best second baseman in baseball. The Phillies are pretty bad and they’re only sinking further in the standings, especially with Cliff Lee hurt. Maybe that will push ownership to demand a rebuild. In the unlikely event it happens, the Yankees should be on the phone about Utley immediately. He’s exactly what they need on both sides of the ball.

Categories : Musings
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The nine-game road trip through Chicago and St. Louis is over, and the Yankees are coming home with five wins. The jumped out to a big early lead against the Cardinals on Wednesday, then held on for dear life in the late innings for a 7-4 series clinching win. You didn’t think they would blow it, did you?

I will be sad when Murphy is traded for a rental pitcher. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

I will be sad when Murphy is traded for a rental pitcher. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Corrected
Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller came into Wednesday’s series finale with a low 3.18 ERA but an ugly 5.22 FIP due to ongoing control and homer problems. He’s taken a big step back from his stellar rookie campaign a year ago. The Yankees spurred on the ERA correction in this game, pounding Miller for seven runs in only five innings. At one point spanning the third and fourth innings, nine of 13 batters reached base. The Yankees were all over him.

The two-inning rally all started with a one-out walk by Brett Gardner in the third, a debatable one at that considering how close some of the pitches were. Yadier Molina didn’t frame them enough, I guess. Brian Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with singles, Brian McCann drew a walk, then backup catcher/serial killer John Ryan Murphy poked a single into shallow center to plate two runs and give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. It’s really hard not to be impressed with Murphy. The single came on a nasty slider down and away. Ichiro Suzuki made it 4-0 when he beat out a would-be double play ball.

The fourth inning rally came almost entirely with two outs. Kelly Johnson led off the frame with a single, but Hiroki Kuroda popped up a bunt and Gardner flew out to center for two quick outs. Then Roberts doubled to left-center and Ellsbury singled back up the middle for two more runs. He stole second uncontested for the second time in the game (more on that in a bit), then McCann singled him in for the seventh run. Seven singles, two walks, one double, seven runs. That’s all why would get on the night and all they would need. (Miller exited the game with a 3.94 ERA and 5.11 FIP, in case you’re wondering. Getting closer.)

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

A Tale Of Two Starts
I thought Kuroda looked very sharp early in this game. He retired the side in order in the first, pitched around a ground rule double and an error in the second, then got two quick outs in the third. After that, ten of the final 18 batters he faced managed to reach base. That led to three runs, one each in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. It would have been worse had Dellin Betances not cleaned up a first-and-third, two outs situation in the sixth.

Kuroda’s night ended with those three runs allowed on nine hits and a hit batsman in 5.2 innings of work. He failed to complete six full innings for the fourth time in his last eight starts after doing it only eight times all of last season. (The Yankees as a team have 21 starts of fewer than six innings this season, the tenth most in baseball.) It was almost a quality start, which I guess is good for Kuroda these days, sadly. I keep waiting for everything to click like it did during his start in Anaheim a few weeks ago, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that just isn’t going happen.

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Late Innings Machinations
The Yankees had a golden opportunity to blow the game open in the eighth inning, after two singles and an error loaded the bases with no outs. Gardner struck out and Roberts hit into an inning-ending double play though, squashing that opportunity. Roberts swung at a 3-0 pitch from soft-tossing lefty Randy Choate and I was totally cool with it. You know he’s going to throw something in the zone and you already have a four-run lead. Let it fly and try to do some real damage. Didn’t work. Whatever.

The bullpen usage was a little weird only because Joe Girardi used Betances for just one batter — he got Matt Holliday to fly out to end that first-and-third situation in the sixth (on the first pitch, no less). Usually Betances would stay in to pitch the seventh inning as well, but it seems like Girardi didn’t want to push him given his recent workload. Dellin’s worked hard of late, so one batter it was.

Adam Warren, who had each of the last two days off, got five outs in the seventh and eighth before David Robertson finished things off with a four-out non-save. It did get a little messy though. Warren allowed a double and Robertson a single to score a run in the eighth, then Robertson allowed a single and a four-pitch walk to bring the tying run to the plate with no outs in the ninth. Then he struck out the next three batters because that’s what David Robertson does. Game over. Nice and easy.

No more pitchers batting this year! At least not until the World Series. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

No more pitchers batting this year! At least not until the World Series. (Getty)

Leftovers
Ellsbury had a much-needed huge game, going 3-for-5 with two runs, two steals, and three runs batted in. He stole second base without a throw twice, and replays showed that he was basically getting a running lead against Miller. Ellsbury had his move down pat (maybe after doing his homework in advance of the World Series last fall?) and took advantage. Still, three steals in three attempts against Molina in one series is damn impressive.

Roberts, Brendan Ryan, and Johnson all had multiple hits in addition to Ellsbury, just as we all expected. Murphy singled, Gardner walked, and McCann singled twice and walked. The 12 hits were the Yankees’ most since the second game against the Cubs and only their third time with double-digit hits in the last 15 games. That dates back to the second game against the Mets. On the other hand, the Yankees struck out only three times in the game and ten times in the entire series (122 batters, so 8.2%).

Four bad defensive plays by the infield in this game: Ryan booted a routine ground ball in the second, both Kuroda and Matt Thornton mishandled comebackers in the sixth, and Roberts got eaten up by a ground ball in the seventh. All were hard hit except Ryan’s grounder, but geez. Make a somewhat difficult play once a while? Could be cool?

Remember the Yankees supposedly stopped shifting behind Kuroda? Yeah, forget it. They were shifting behind him five days ago against the White Sox and they did it again on Wednesday against the Cardinals. Maybe they’re just not shifting behind him as much as they shift behind the other pitchers?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has both the box score and video highlights. Head over to FanGraphs for some other stats and ESPN for the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are off on Thursday, then they will return to the Bronx to open a three-game weekend series against the Twins. Vidal Nuno and Ricky Nolasco will be the pitching matchup. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch that game or any game on the seven-game homestand.

Categories : Game Stories
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