Drew Pomeranz trade shows why Yankees would be smart to sell at the deadline

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

The news broke yesterday afternoon and it was made official last night: the Red Sox traded top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to the Padres for All-Star lefty Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz shut the Yankees down when they were in San Diego earlier this month. The BoSox are getting a 27-year-old southpaw who seems to be coming into his own with two and a half years of control left. Nice pickup.

I know there’s always a rush to judge trades and declare a winner, but this trade makes perfect sense to me for both teams. Sorry if that’s boring. The Padres are rebuilding and they turned a good pitcher with a limited track record into an excellent prospect. (Baseball America has Espinosa 15th in their midseason top 100.) The Red Sox are clearly all-in this season, and when you’re all-in, you trade the 18-year-old Single-A pitcher for the guy pitching at a high-level in the show. Anyway, I have some thoughts on this trade and what it means for the Yankees.

1. Holy cow is this a seller’s market. Drew Pomeranz is a very good pitcher. He was the fifth overall pick in 2010 and the center piece of the package that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians. Once he got out of Coors Field, he had a 3.08 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 155 innings with the A’s. The talent has always been there. Pomeranz was held back by injuries and being juggled between the rotation and bullpen.

That all said, Pomeranz has a limited track record pitching at an All-Star level and he has a bit of an injury history. As good as he’s been this season, he’s not someone who changes the balance of power within a division like, say, Jose Fernandez. And yet, the Padres were still able to get an elite pitching prospect in return, albeit one far away from MLB. That’s because the upcoming free agent pitching market is so bad that anyone pitching decently with a few years of control remaining will be in demand. Prices are sky high right now.

Think about it. If two and a half years of Pomeranz fetch a top 15 prospect in baseball, what would two and a half years of Andrew Miller bring back? What about a year and a half of Michael Pineda or Nathan Eovaldi? The demand for power arms always exists. I’m not saying the Yankees can trade those guys for top 15 prospect, but clearly pitching help comes at a high price this year. The Pomeranz trade sets a high benchmark, and the Yankees should look to take advantage.

2. It pays to make moves early. The Padres are far out of the race and already in the middle of a rebuild, so trading Pomeranz was a matter of “when,” not “if.” Rather than wait until the deadline because that’s what teams usually do, they got out ahead of the market and made Pomeranz available when there weren’t many other pitchers out there being dangled in trades.

“(There were only) a couple pitchers available. I’m not sure you don’t take a greater risk by waiting (to make a trade),” said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski during the trade conference call. It’s supply and demand, folks. The Red Sox had the demand for pitching and, at the time, the Padres were the only real team offering supply. They were able to get a big return because the BoSox didn’t have many alternatives.

The Yankees are still trying to get back into the race, which means no trades will happen anytime soon. (For what it’s worth, Wally Matthews reports the front office is ready to sell now, but ownership wants to hold off.) They’re going to wait instead. That’s a mistake in my opinion. The Yankees have given us no reason to think they’ll go on the kind of run necessary to get back into the race. The sooner they sell, the less competition they’ll have and the more they can seek in return.

3. The AL East is going to be that much tougher now. The Yankees are still trying to get back into the race, right? Well things just got a little tougher. One of the teams they’re chasing — not just in the AL East, but in the wildcard race — is the Red Sox, and the Red Sox just got better with Pomeranz. Pomeranz means fewer Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly and Henry Owens starts in the second half.

Our in-house projections at CBS say Pomeranz adds almost three wins to the BoSox the rest of the season over the crap they’ve been running out there every fifth day. That’s huge! (For what it’s worth, I feel our projections tend to be optimistic. Three wins in a half-season is a ton.) Point is, one of the Yankees’ direct competitors just got better, and that’s going to make life that much tougher for the Yankees. That’s even more reason to sell.

* * *

This is a seller’s market. We didn’t need the Pomeranz trade to tell us that. You could argue as many as 19 teams are in the race right now, including the Yankees, which means few sellers. The Yankees have some premium trade chips (Miller, Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman) and high-end players are netting huge returns. They’d be foolish to keep them because of some long shot odds at contention.

Mailbag: Free Agents, Austin, McCann, Sanchez, Gregorius

I’ve got ten questions for you in this week’s second half opening mailbag. Ten questions qualifies as a small mailbag these days. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything.

Coghlan. (Norm Hall/Getty)
Coghlan. (Norm Hall/Getty)

Phil asks: Looking at next year’s FA class, who do you see as B-list guys we could sign to 1-2 year deals that could help as stop-gaps or maybe break out to re-up their value?

Here’s the upcoming free agent class. Oddly enough, the best one-year contract reclamation project starter may be … Ivan Nova. Rich Hill seems to have pitched his way into a two-year deal at this point. Besides, pitchers don’t come to the Yankees to rebuild value. The AL East and Yankee Stadium is not a good place to try to improve your stock if you do your work on the mound.

As for hitters, Chris Coghlan is someone who could be interesting as a super utility guy. The former Rookie of the Year is hitting only .155/.244/.278 (40 wRC+) this season, but he put up a .265/.346/.447 (119 wRC+) line in almost 1,000 plate appearances from 2014-15 while playing first, second, third, left, and right. A lefty hitter who can do that is worth a shot as a bench piece. Here are some other one-year deal candidates that stand out to me:

  • 1B Mitch Moreland: Moreland has some outfield experience and is a lefty pull hitter who can take aim for the short porch. He’d be an okay stopgap if Greg Bird‘s shoulder isn’t ready to go come Opening Day.
  • UTIL Steve Pearce: Pearce is never going to put up a 161 wRC+ like he did in 2014 again, but he can hit lefties while playing first base and the corner outfield. He can also be an emergency option at second and third. Pearce would be a really great righty hitting complement to Bird.
  • OF Jon Jay: Jay would only make sense if the Yankees let Carlos Beltran walk and trade Brett Gardner, and even then they have all those lefty hitting Triple-A outfielders. He hits for average, gets on base, makes contact, and plays solid defense. You can do worse for a stopgap outfielder.

The upcoming free agent class is really light on impact players. There’s Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Yoenis Cespedes if he opts out, and, uh, Ian Desmond? That’s the list. The Yankees are trying like hell to get under the luxury tax threshold, and let’s just say fighting off the temptation to spend big in free agency won’t be tough this winter.

George asks: Girardi said he couldn’t work with a 6 man rotation. If it meant Hicks would get more playing time, it would work. Two thoughts – 6 starters, whoever is supposed to have a “throw day” could be a 1-2 inning reliever that day, start warming up in the 5th-6th since starters need more time. Second – 2 starters + 1-2 relievers at AAA, 6th starter pitches, goes down, reliever comes up. Other starter comes up for next 6th start. Days off make this easier. It doesn’t seem that difficult.

This is not nearly as easy as you make it sound. First and foremost, you need seven starters to make it work, because the ten-day rule prevents you from sending down your sixth starter and calling him back up five days later. Do the Yankees have seven MLB caliber starters? I’m not even sure they have four right now. I guess it doesn’t matter if Chad Green and Luis Cessa are getting blasted every sixth day if you sell at the deadline though.

Also, having pitchers throw one or two innings on their throw day is not something you can do all year. Teams do it once in a while when they’re very light on available relievers. Between-start throwing sessions are usually far less intense than game action. Using a pitcher on his throw day all the time like that means he’s going to run out of gas not only earlier in the season, but earlier in starts as well.

The Yankees only have to get through the rest of July and August — they have four off-days between now and September 1st — before rosters expand and they can go with a six-man rotation. Counting the days on the schedule, Masahiro Tanaka would make nine starts between now and September 1st: five on normal rest and four on extra rest. Use a spot sixth starter once or twice and it’s only three or four starts on normal rest. He’ll live.

Howie: Through Wednesday, Tyler Austin is hitting .294/.376/.633 with 15 walks and 31 strikeouts in 29 games at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Now that he’s healthy again, is he back as a prospect? Could he have a chance at reaching that ceiling he once had?

He’s definitely rebuilt some prospect stock, though he’s not all the way back to where he was a few years ago simply because he’s older now and has lost development time. Austin’s biggest problem over the years has been injuries, specifically wrist problems. It’s not like he lacked hitting ability. Before Austin projected as a potential 20-homer corner outfield bat. Now he might be more like a 15-homer part-time corner outfielder/part-time first baseman. That’s still a useful player, but he’s not someone who’s going to be a real difference maker. It’s great to see him raking in Triple-A. The lost development time is not insignificant though.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Chip asks: Is the current group of young AL Shortstops (Correa, Lindor, Didi, Xander) the best we’ve seen since Jeter, Alex, Tejada and Nomar? And that’s not even including Russell in the NL.

Has to be, right? The best shortstops to debut from 2000-12 are Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Rafael Furcal in whatever order. That’s five All-Star caliber shortstops in the span of 13 seasons. Now all of a sudden we’ve seen Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell, and Corey Seager debut within the last three years. (Didi Gregorius is a notch below those guys.) This is definitely the best crop of young shortstops — not just in the AL, but all of MLB — we’ve seen since the Derek Jeter/Alex Rodriguez/Nomar Garciaparra class, hands down.

Paul asks: In the beginning of the year it seemed like McCann was using the entire field pretty effectively, and now it feels like that’s gone away entirely. Is this real or imagined? If real, is there a tangible reason why?

The numbers don’t really bare that out. Here are Brian McCann‘s batted ball direction rates by month this season, via FanGraphs:

Brian McCann batted balls

Last season McCann was at 50.1% pull, 31.5% middle, and 18.4% opposite field. He was right in that range again during the first half. The monthly data reflects the random month-to-month fluctuation that happens in baseball. I don’t think a 55.8% pull rate in June and a 41.7% pull rate in July means McCann has suddenly made a conscious effort to go the other way. That’s just baseball. He’s had some memorable hits the other way this year …

… though I don’t think there’s much to it. He seems like the same ol’ McCann to me, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. He’s very productive for a catcher despite his generally low batting average.

Anonymous asks: Wondering how much trade value Higashioka has. He’s stuffed way down in the depth chart right now. Would he be able to bring anything of note back with how well he’s performed this year? Or do teams see him as a carriage waiting to turn back into a pumpkin? Keep up the awesome work and thanks!

Not much, probably. Kyle Higashioka’s track record as this type of hitter is very short, and if you look around baseball, I’m sure there are a bunch of 26-year-olds mashing in Double-A. Higashioka is a very good defensive catcher and that’s pretty important. He might be the third or fourth piece in a big trade, or someone who goes as a player to be named later. I feel like the Yankees are better off keeping Higashioka and seeing whether he’s for real than trading him for a spare part player.

Anonymous: Fun stat to track the rest of the year– Will Didi wind up with more HRs or BBs? He needed an intentional walk(!) in Saturday’s game to keep the totals even.

There are always a handful of players who finish the season with more homers than walks. Last year Cespedes (35 HR, 33 BB), Adam Jones (27 HR, 24 BB), Nolan Arenado (42 HR, 34 BB), and Salvador Perez (21 HR, 13 BB) all did it. Jones has done it a bunch of times over the years. So has Adrian Beltre.

Gregorius is at eleven homers and eleven walks right now, and like you said, one of the walks was intentional. Didi went on a bit of a homer binge to close out the first half (five homers in eleven games) and that’s not going to last all year. My guess is he finishes the season with 18-20 homers, which would be frickin’ awesome. Who wouldn’t have taken that coming into the season?

Right now Didi has a hilarious 3.5% walk rate. He’d need 572 plate appearances to get to 20 walks at that rate. Gregorius is at 317 plate appearances now and getting another 255 in the second half shouldn’t be a problem as long as he stays healthy. To finish the year with more homers than walks, Didi is either going to have to sustain this recent power binge or just stop walking all together.

Mike asks: Whether or not McCann gets traded, why don’t the Yankees call up Sanchez to split catching duties and keep McCann/Romine on the roster as backup first basemen? Torreyes seems pretty much useless on the roster at this point (barring injury) and Castro even played a game at short last week to spell DiDi. Just seems like Sanchez’s bat is needed more right now than Torreyes’ versatility, and you keep Romine so you have the option to send Sanchez back down.

Should the Yankees sell at the deadline, calling up Gary Sanchez in the second half seems like a no-brainer to me. Let him get his feet wet as McCann’s back up and give him a healthy amount of starts, maybe even half. Austin Romine has been pretty good, but he shouldn’t stand in Sanchez’s way. I say keep Ronald Torreyes — they need the backup infielder more than they need a third catcher/first baseman — and dump Romine, then let Sanchez join the team. Maybe they could get a decent prospect for Romine. Who knows? Added bonus: Higashioka goes to Triple-A.

Sanchez. (Stacy Revere/Getty)
Sanchez. (Stacy Revere/Getty)

Johnny asks: I was looking at the schedule and all the games in September (minus 3 with the Dodgers) are against AL East opponents. Is it possible the brain trust thinks the team can make up significant ground and therefore is hesitant to decide on selling?

The odds of this happening are annoyingly high. The Yankees have 13 games remaining against the Red Sox, 13 against the Orioles, and ten against the Blue Jays. More than 40% of their second half games are against those three teams. So yes, all those games represent an opportunity to gain ground in the postseason race. At the same time, the Yankees beating the Red Sox is good for the Orioles and Blue Jays. Beating the O’s is good for the Red Sox and Blue Jays. They Yankees need at least two of those three teams to go in the tank to catch up. What are the odds of that happening? Also, what reason do we have to believe the Yankees can even beat those teams consistently? They’re 6-15 against them in 2016.

Anonymous asks: If, for example, Chapman had the same 2 years of control left and the same amount of money due, who would have the most trade value, Chapman or A. Miller?

Chapman. Miller is awesome, but Chapman’s track record as an elite reliever is way longer and he’s nearly three full years younger. Also, Miller missed a month with that forearm injury last year. Chapman hasn’t had any injury problems in years. Miller has been better this year on a rate basis and this is definitely a “what have you done for me lately” game, but the combination of age and track record seems too much to ignore.

DotF: Green dominates, Gamel stays hit in Scranton’s win

OF Blake Rutherford has been promoted to Rookie Pulaski, according to multiple reports. Those eight games in the Gulf Coast League were just a tune-up, apparently.

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 win over Gwinnett)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-5, 1 2B, 2 K — 19-for-46 (.413) in his last ten games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-4, 1 K — between the Futures Game and Triple-A All-Star Game, he’s traveled from Scranton to San Diego to Charlotte to Gwinnett in the last six days
  • DH Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 1B Ike Davis: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K — second homer with the RailRiders
  • RF Cesar Puello: 1-4, 1 K
  • LF Jake Cave: 0-3, 2 K, 1 CS, 1 HBP
  • RHP Chad Green: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 8/6 GB/FB — 77 of 102 pitches were strikes (75%) … we know he can dominate at this level
  • RHP Kirby Yates: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — ten of 19 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

It’s the final night of the All-Star break. The Yankees and every other team return to action tomorrow. It’s been a good break. Nice to spend a few days away from baseball to recharge the batteries a bit. You could argue these next two weeks will be the most important two weeks for the Yankees in a very long time, probably since the 2008-09 offseason. Maybe longer.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. There’s not much going on, so you’re on your own for entertainment. I recommend reading this piece on Bryce Harper’s record-smashing year in junior college. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Beltran, Teixeira, Mitchell

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Today is the final day off the All-Star break. The Yankees open the second half with the first of three against the Red Sox tomorrow night. Their next 13 games are against contending teams (Red Sox, Orioles, Giants, Astros), so that’s going to be pretty fun. Here are some miscellaneous injury updates.

Beltran’s hamstring is 100%

Two nights ago, when Carlos Beltran played two innings in right field during the All-Star Game, it was his first appearance in the outfield in exactly a week. He served as the DH in the final five games of the first half because of a balky hamstring. After the game, Beltran told Joel Sherman he is 100%. “I want to give (Joe Girardi) the ability to be flexible with the DH role,” he said.

Beltran, 39, has had minor knee and hamstring problems this year. He did not have to be placed on the DL either time, but the knee had to be drained and the hamstring meant no outfield for a week. Beltran’s importance to the Yankees in the second half can’t be overstated. If they’re going to contend, they need him in the lineup because he’s their best hitter. If they’re going to sell, they want him healthy to get the maximum return.

Teixeira receives another knee injection

Following Sunday’s first half finale, Mark Teixeira received another lubrication in his right knee, reports Mark Feinsand. It was a scheduled injection and he’ll get a few more in the second half. “It’s important that we have him,” said Girardi. “If it’s four out of five days, five out of six, that’s pretty good. I have to check with him all the time.”

The 36-year-old Teixeira sat out Saturday’s game as the Yankees work to keep the knee in check and keep Teixeira on the field. He’s yet to play more than four games in a row since coming off the DL, and I don’t think Girardi will push him much more than that. Teixeira will need surgery at some point. He’s hoping the regular lubrication injections will allow him to push the surgery back until the offseason.

Mitchell resumes running and throwing

Bryan Mitchell, who managed to break his toe covering first base in Spring Training, has starting running and throwing, Girardi told George King. “He has been throwing and he has started to run a little bit so I think it’s possible we get him back, but (I’m) not necessarily counting on it,” said Girardi. “His rehab has gone really well.”

Mitchell, 25, had surgery on the toe in early-April, and the original timetable put his return at four months. That would put him on target to be back sometime in August. The Yankees are not going to push Mitchell hard. I know a toe injury sounds silly, but the last thing they want him to do is change his mechanics to compensate for the toe — that could happen subconsciously — and hurt his arm.

2016 Midseason Review: The Farm System

Now that the All-Star break has arrived, it’s time to look back and review the first half of the season. We’ve already looked at the catchers, infielders, outfielders, bench, rotation, bullpen, and role players. Now let’s go down into the farm system.

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

The Yankees are a team in transition. They’re trying to get younger wherever possible while waiting out the last few years of all those big money contracts. Most of them will be off the books by the end of next season. There’s no denying the Yankees have had their problems developing players over the last few years, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of the farm system. If anything, it makes the farm system more important going forward. Let’s review the first half of 2016 in the minor league system.

The Top Prospects

The order may vary, but pretty much everyone was in agreement OF Aaron Judge, C Gary Sanchez, and SS Jorge Mateo were the Yankees’ three best prospects coming into the season. I ranked them in that order in my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List. Others had Mateo first and Judge third. The order doesn’t really matter. Those were the three guys.

Judge and Sanchez both opened the year in Triple-A and they’ve had very different seasons. Judge has been up and down. He started well, slumped hard in May, then caught fire in June. At one point he hit nine home runs in 15 games. Overall, Judge is hitting .261/.357/.469 (139 wRC+) with 16 homers and a strong 11.4% walk rate in 83 games. His strikeout rate, which was the No. 1 concern coming into 2016, sits at 23.2%, down from 28.5% in Triple-A last year. Judge unfortunately hurt his knee last week and will be out a month.

Sanchez, meanwhile, has mashed pretty much all season. He hasn’t had the big peaks and valleys like Judge. Sanchez, who is still only 23, is hitting .286/.328/.489 (133 wRC+) with nine homers in 56 games around a fractured thumb caused by a foul tip. My favorite thing about Sanchez is the progression of his strikeout rate:

Low-A: 25.0%
High-A: 19.2%
Double-A: 18.7%
Triple-A: 16.3%

Sanchez is making more contact as he climbs the ladder, and his defense is improving too. That’s pretty awesome. He and Judge factor prominently into the team’s long-term plans. The Yankees envision these two as not only as their catcher and right fielder of the future, but their middle of the lineup of the future too. They’re both having success in Triple-A right now, which is exactly what the Yankees wanted to see this summer.

As for Mateo, he’s down in High-A and gosh, he had an incredible start to the season. He was hitting .299/.364/.485 (149 wRC+) with five homers on June 1st — last year Mateo hit two homers, one of which was an inside-the-parker — and he looked very much like an electric power-speed threat at shortstop. Since then though, Mateo has hit only .211/.250/.246 (46 wRC+) in 122 plate appearances, and last week the Yankees suspended him for violating team policy. He reportedly complained to team officials about not being promoted. Not great, Jorge.

Both Sanchez and Judge are performing as hoped in Triple-A, which puts them in position to assume fairly prominent roles with the 2017 Yankees. It’s not out of the question we see them with the Yankees in the second half. Mateo has had a fine statistical season — he’s hitting .266/.323/.396 (112 wRC+) overall even with the recent slump — but this suspension is a bummer, regardless of why it happened.

The Breakout Prospect

Andujar. (MLB.com video screen grab)
Andujar. (MLB.com video screen grab)

There has been no bigger breakout prospect in the system this year than 3B Miguel Andujar, who always had the tools to be a high-end prospect, but had not yet turned those tools into baseball skills. He’s doing that this year, hitting .291/.343/.446 (128 wRC+) with ten homers and a measly 11.4% strikeout rate in 83 games split between High-A and Double-A. We’ve been waiting a while for Andujar to put it all together, and it’s happening this year.

The other notable breakout prospect this year is a reliever turned starter. The Yankees took last year’s fifth rounder, RHP Chance Adams, and moved him into the rotation this season because of his stuff and pitchability. The results have been better than anyone expected. Adams has a 2.63 ERA (2.97 FIP) with a 29.4% strikeout rate and a 7.5% walk rate in 85.2 innings between High-A and Double-A. He still has work to do with his changeup, but Adams is able to hold his stuff deep into games, which is always a big question with these reliever-to-starter conversation guys.

Perhaps the most interesting breakout prospect is an older guy: 26-year-old C Kyle Higashioka. Higashioka was the Yankees’ seventh round pick back in 2008, and this year he’s hitting .321/.379/.589 (168 wRC+) with 14 homers in 62 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s dealt with a bunch of injuries over the years, including Tommy John surgery, but he’s finally healthy now. Higashioka has always had power and he’s the best defensive backstop in the system. Catchers tend to be late-bloomers moreso than any other position. Higashioka may be 26, but they don’t check IDs on the field. A good defensive catcher with power is a legitimate big league prospect.

Other prospects who have raised their stock in the first half this season include RHP Vicente Campos, OF Jake Cave, and SS Tyler Wade. All three have been on the prospect map for a while. Campos is healthy for the first time in years and is having success as a starter, really for the first time since coming over in the Jesus MonteroMichael Pineda trade. Cave has developed some power after being returned as a Rule 5 Draft pick this spring. Wade is doing the bat control/strike discipline/good defense thing in Double-A.

The Inevitable Injuries

Kaprielian. (MLB.com video screen grab)
Kaprielian. (MLB.com video screen grab)

Injuries come with the territory and they’re unavoidable. The biggest injury in the system this year is RHP James Kaprielian‘s elbow injury, which was only recently diagnosed as a flexor tendon strain. Kaprielian, who was the Yankees’ first rounder last year, was limited to three High-A starts this year. That’s a bummer. He was expected to shoot up the ladder rather quickly. There’s no timetable for Kaprielian’s return, as far as we know.

Elsewhere in the system, LHP Jacob Lindgren came down with an elbow injury after completely losing the strike zone in High-A. He threw seven innings and hasn’t been heard from since. RHP Ty Hensley had to undergo a second Tommy John surgery, unfortunately. The team’s first rounder in 2012 has thrown 42.1 innings in parts of five seasons. Ouch. RHP Nick Rumbelow and RHP Branden Pinder had their elbows rebuilt early in the season too.

One of the biggest names — and longest tenured players — in the system saw his time with the organization come to an end following an injury. OF Slade Heathcott, who the Yankees selected in the first round way back in 2009, hit .230/.271/.310 (58 wRC+) with a 32.0% strikeout rate in 23 Triple-A games before coming down with another knee problem. He’s had a bunch of those over the years. The Yankees released Slade in May and he hooked on with the White Sox a few weeks later.

The Prospects Returning From Injury

Clarkin. (MLB.com video screen grab)
Clarkin. (MLB.com video screen grab)

Last year the Yankees seemed to have an inordinate number of full season injuries in the farm system. Several big name prospects missed the entire season, including C Luis Torrens (shoulder), LHP Ian Clarkin (elbow), RHP Domingo German (elbow), and RHP Austin DeCarr (elbow). Clarkin avoided the knife. The other three guys all had surgery. All things considered, their 2016 seasons have gone well to date.

Clarkin was one of New York’s three first round picks in 2013, and so far this season he has a 3.12 ERA (3.16 FIP) in 95.1 innings with High-A Tampa. He’s not only avoided another injury, he’s gotten stronger as the season has gone on. When it comes to the first 100 innings back following a lost season, Clarkin’s season has gone about as well as hoped this year. He’s healthy and he’s getting outs.

Torrens, German, and DeCarr all returned within the last few weeks and haven’t played much. German and DeCarr went through the usual 14-16 month Tommy John surgery rehab — it used to be 12 months, but nowadays teams are stretching it out a bit more — while Torrens was said to be ready to go in Spring Training. He had to be shut down with shoulder discomfort though. Torrens is the healthy now and he’s picked up right where he left off before the injury.

Other Notables

RHP Domingo Acevedo is having an excellent statistical season but still has to work on his secondary pitches … OF Dustin Fowler has climbed the ladder rather quickly after being a two-sport guy in high school and an 18th round pick in 2013. He’s have a good but not great season in Double-A … LHP Jordan Montgomery is inching closer to being a big league option after a strong half-season in Double-A … SS Hoy Jun Park, who was part of that big 2014-15 international class, is having a solid two-way season in Low-A … SS Kyle Holder is still playing the heck out of shortstop, but he’s not hitting much in Low-A … LHP Jeff Degano spent most of the first half in Extended Spring Training, apparently because he’s no longer able to throw strikes.

* * *

Kaprielian’s injury and Mateo’s recent suspension have put a bit of a damper on the top prospects in the system, but Judge and Sanchez are having strong seasons in Triple-A, Andujar and Adams are breaking out, and both Clarkin and Torrens have returned well after missing last season with injury. The Yankees haven’t been able to dip into their farm system for help like they did last year, when RHP Luis Severino and 1B Greg Bird had an impact in the second half, but the tippy top prospects are performing well and the key injured prospects have come back strong. That qualifies as a good season in the minors to me.

Four Yankees make Keith Law’s updated top 50 prospects list

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Earlier today, Keith Law posted his midseason list of the top 50 prospects in baseball (subs. req’d). Astros IF Alex Bregman, the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, now sits in the top spot. Several of the top prospects coming into the season have graduated to MLB, including Dodgers SS Corey Seager and Twins OF Byron Buxton. Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito and Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi fill out the top three behind Bregman.

The Yankees landed four players on Law’s list: OF Aaron Judge (No. 23), C Gary Sanchez (No. 36), OF Blake Rutherford (No. 43), and SS Jorge Mateo (No. 50). Welcome to the top prospect lists, Blake. Law says Judge has “made some progress in his plate coverage this year” and Sanchez has “become sort of adequate behind the plate and hit for increasing power the last two years.” Adequate defense and power definitely makes for a starting catcher.

As for Rutherford, the write-up says he is an “advanced enough hitter with above-average present power and should be able to (start 2017 in full season ball) given how well he performed against good competition last summer.” Law is probably the high man on Rutherford. You might see him on various top 100 lists in the coming weeks and months, though I don’t think anyone else will rank him as high as No. 43. Not yet, anyway.

The Mateo write-up is rather scathing. Law says it is “time for him to start performing up to the level of his tools,” specifically by cutting down on his strikeouts (21.5% in High-A this year) and making hard contact more consistently. “If the rumor that Mateo wanted a promotion to Double-A is true, that’s great, but he needs to understand that hitting .266/.323/.396 won’t get him there. Harder contact and all-the-time effort will,” wrote Law.

Even with the last two months being the worst of Mateo’s career, the Yankees still landed four prospects in Law’s top 50, and that’s really awesome. Remember, RHP James Kaprielian made Law’s preseason top 100 list as well, so there’s some high-end talent in the system. Rutherford and Mateo are years away, but Judge and Sanchez are knocking on the door of MLB, and that’s pretty darn exciting.