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Guest: Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs. If you follow him on Twitter, @devil_fingers, you’ll know that he’s pretty die hard on the Royals. For which we pity him.

There’s plenty to talk about, both about the upcoming series and about the Yankees, uh, not ideal play for the past week or so.

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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(Logan Lowery/InsideMSUSports.com)

(Logan Lowery/InsideMSUSports.com)

With their first pick in the 2014 amateur draft (second round, 55th overall), the Yankees selected Mississippi State LHP Jacob Lindgren. They did not have a first round pick after signing all those free agents over the winter. Here is what I wrote about Lindgren a few weeks ago and here is the obligatory video:

“Jacob has two Major League pitches that are above average and possess swing-and-miss quality. He has been extended for multiple innings and holds his stuff consistently,” said scouting director Damon Oppenheimer in a statement. “Jacob has been very successful in a tough conference and has produced exceptional strikeout numbers. We are very happy to have selected him.”

Lindgren, 21, was a full-time reliever this spring after trying out the rotation last year. He pitched to a 0.81 ERA with a 100/25 K/BB ratio in 55.1 innings this year, and his 16.27 K/9 would have been by far the highest in the country if he had enough innings to quality. As @collegesplits notes, Lindgren also had the second highest ground ball rate in Division I at approximately 79%.

Here is what the big three scouting publications have to say about the 5-foot-11, 205 lb. southpaw:

Baseball America (ranked 50th best prospect in the draft):

He regularly reaches 93-94 mph with his fastball with heavy life and arm-side run. He’s tabled his curve and changeup in a relief role, sticking to the heater and his hard, plus slider in the low to mid 80s. His stiff delivery likely leads him to a future relief role as well, and his 16.8 strikeouts per nine indicate he can dominate in that job. Lindgren lacks command, and his control usually is just enough.

MLB.com (51st):

He has overmatched hitters more than ever in shorter stints, making it unlikely that he’ll last past the second round of the Draft. His best pitch is a wipeout slider that arrives at 82-84 mph with late bite. His fastball has jumped from 87-91 mph as a starter to 91-95 as a reliever … Because Lindgren has a sinking changeup and throws strikes, a pro team could be tempted to develop him as a starter. But his stuff plays up as a reliever, and he could reach the Majors very quickly in the role. He has closer upside.

Keith Law (67th):

His fastball sat in the 88-90 mph range as a starter, but that has shot up to the 92-94 range in relief. That velocity plays up even more because of his slider, which flashes plus-plus with outstanding late tilt that is practically unhittable for left-handed hitters … Someone might be tempted to see if Lindgren’s two plus pitches can play in the rotation, but more than likely he’s a high-leverage reliever who can be death to left-handed hitters and hold his own against right-handers as well.

I am not at all joking when I say Lindgren might be better than Matt Thornton right now. Unless the Yankees try him in the rotation — always a possibility, but I think it’s unlikely — Lindgren should fly through the system and become a big league bullpen option very soon. There’s a chance he can pitch in the show later this season, a la Paco Rodriguez for the Dodgers two years ago. It’s really a question of whether the Yankees will let him more than anything.

New York is reportedly planning to spend a ton of money internationally this summer, upwards of $30M between bonuses and penalties, so that is where they’re going to add the high-ceiling prospects this year. They opted to use their top draft pick to add a player who can help the MLB club in short order. It’s a reasonable strategy given their low draft slot and upcoming international spending spree. Plus they’ve stunk at player development lately and Lindgren doesn’t need much work. The Yankees have plenty of power righty relievers in the system and he helps balance things out.

Slot money for the 55th overall pick is $1,018,700 and there are no concerns about Lindgren’s signability. Mississippi State’s season ended earlier this week, so he is free to sign at any time. I would expect it to happen soon. The Yankees didn’t take a reliever with their top draft pick to wait around. They want to get his career started as quickly as possible.

Categories : Draft
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Triple-A Scranton (13-9 loss to Norfolk)

  • LF Jose Pirela: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • RF Zoilo Almonte: 3-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — second game back after being sent down
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 0-4, 1 BB, 3 K
  • RHP Shane Greene: 3 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 4/1 GB/FB — 51 of 81 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • RHP Preston Claiborne: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 18 of 29 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • SwP Pat Venditte: 1.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 33 of 49 pitches were strikes (67%) … took one for the team with the bullpen short due to injuries and call-ups
  • RHP Russ Canzler: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 0/1 GB/FB — ten pitches, six strikes … made his pitching debut when the team simply ran out of arms

Read More→

Categories : Down on the Farm
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2014 DraftThe 2014 amateur draft begins tonight with the first round, the supplemental first round, the second round, and the two competitive balance rounds. A total of 74 picks will be made tonight, including the Yankees’ second rounder (55th overall). They don’t have a first rounder after signing all those free agents last winter. The Cardinals and Royals lead the way with four picks tonight while the Orioles are the only team without a selection on Day One.

The Yankees are said to be targeting a high school catcher or Indiana 1B Sam Travis with that 55th overall selection. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer also has a long history of selecting players from Southern California (Ian Kennedy, Ian Clarkin, Gerrit Cole, Gosuke Katoh, Austin Romine, Tyler Wade, Angelo Gumbs, etc.), plus we know the Yankees are willing to go off the beaten path with their picks.

All of our 2014 draft coverage can be found right here. Baseball America has a list of the top 500 draft eligible prospects while MLB.com has a great top 200 list that includes video and scouting reports, all for free. If you’re wondering what it’s like in a draft war room, read this FanGraphs article by former Mariners front office staffer Tony Blengino.

All of tonight’s action, all 74 picks, will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com. Here’s the video link. You can also follow the entire draft with MLB.com Draft Tracker. The broadcast is scheduled to run from 7pm to 11pm ET, so the Yankees will probably make their selection sometime during that 10 o’clock hour. That’s just a guess though.

Use this thread to day about the draft or anything else tonight. Sorry, there won’t be any liveblog(s) this year, I just don’t have the time. The Yankees already won this afternoon, so there’s no game to watch. The Mets are playing and the NBA Finals start tonight.

Categories : Draft, Open Thread
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  • Heyman: Yankees asked Morales to hold off on signing

    Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees asked Kendrys Morales to hold off on signing so they could have a little more time to evaluate Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Carlos Beltran (elbow) following their injuries. Morales and Scott Boras said no because they’ve been waiting to sign for months and that is a stupid request. Heyman says Morales is likely to sign within a day or two since the draft is beginning tonight.

    Teixeira already said he’s going to need regular days off to manage the wrist, no? And Beltran will receive treatment for the elbow the rest of the season, right? Right. They’ve already been evaluated, there you go. They’re probably going to get hurt again because they have injuries prone to setbacks and because everyone on the Yankees gets hurt again. If the Yankees are this hesitant to add help, then they’re in even more trouble that we all think.
    · (83) ·

The four-game losing streak is over and hey, the Yankees didn’t get swept. They escaped the series against the Athletics (and the homestand in general) with a tight 2-1 win on Thursday afternoon.



A Bloop And A Blast
The Yankees kinda sorta got screwed out of a run in the first inning when Jacoby Ellsbury‘s double hit off the very tippy top of the wall in right field. I’m not joking at all when I say it was three inches from being the cheapest homer in Yankee Stadium history. The umpires called it a homer on the field, but A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged the play and the it was rightfully overturned. Ellsbury was dangerously close to hitting his second homer in two days.

Derek Jeter was running on the play and it appeared he would have scored on the double, but the umpires send him back to third base. After looking at the replays, I don’t think he would have scored. Right fielder Stephen Vogt got the ball into the infield in a hurry, and Derek was basically right at third base when the throw got to the cutoff man. Still, second and third with one out isn’t bad. Then Mark Teixeira lined out to third and Carlos Beltran struck out, so no runs. Three inches from a two-run homer to no runs. Sigh.

Thankfully, the luck broke their way in the second inning. Brian McCann dunked a single into left that became a double when Brandon Moss misplayed the hop and let the ball get by him. It was McCann’s 12th hit to the opposite field this season. He had between 14-19 hits to the opposite field every year from 2011-13. The mega-slumping Alfonso Soriano managed to get wood on a hanging curveball as the next batter and blooped a single into shallow center to score McCann. Soriano had been hitless in his last previous 16 at-bats with nine strikeouts.

The bloop single knotted the game up at one, then Brett Gardner blasted a solo homer into the second deck leading off the third inning to give the Yankees the lead. It was one of his classic ambush homers. Every once in a while he loads up and guesses first pitch fastball, and when he guesses right, the ball tends to leave the park. Five of his 12 homers since the start of last year have come on the first pitch for that very reason. One almost homer, one actual homer. Progress!



Grind It Out
There’s a pretty good chance Masahiro Tanaka faced the best lineup he’s ever faced on Thursday afternoon. The Athletics came into the game leading baseball with 308 runs and ranking second with a 116 wRC+. They don’t make offenses like that in Japan, and John Jaso let Tanaka know what’s up when he hit his seventh pitch of the game out to right for a solo homer. Tanaka had not allowed a dinger in his previous five starts after giving up seven in his first six starts.

Ten straight Athletics made outs following Jaso’s homer, but in the fourth and fifth inning, they worked Tanaka very hard. Oakland didn’t score, but they forced him to throw 53 pitches in those two innings, ten of which were fouled off with two strikes. McCann and Tanaka had more than a few chats on the mound those two innings as they tried to figure out a plan of attack. Tanaka’s pitch count sat at 93 after five innings and he ended the afternoon at 104 pitches in six innings. He held the A’s to just the one run on five hits and a walk, but man, it was a grind. Those six innings tied a season-low for Tanaka, and he set a new season-low with four strikeouts. Even when he’s bad, he’s still pretty good.



Hold On To Your Butts
The bullpen has been pretty shaky of late, so, naturally, the Yankees never bothered to score any insurance runs. They stranded runners at second base in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Dellin Betances got the call in the seventh and struck out one in a perfect inning, so he’s clearly been rattled by his weak outing the other day. I mean, only one strikeout? What else could it be? His strikeout rate is down to 15.17 K/9 and 45.7 K%. Slacker.

Adam Warren got the ball in the eighth and he immediately made things interesting by allowing back-to-back singles to start things off. Then he retired Josh Donaldson (strikeout), Brandon Moss (line out to right), and Yoenis Cespedes (strikeout). Defensive replacement Ichiro Suzuki made a great sliding catch to save the lead and take a base hit away from Moss. I thought it was ticketed for the gap off the bat. Warren hit 97 mph several times according to PitchFX as he cut through the 3-4-5 hitters of the highest scoring lineup in baseball in the eighth inning of a one-run game. Hell yeah.

The ninth inning went to David Robertson, of course, and he put a runner on base, of course. That was Stephen Vogt’s one-out single to center. Craig Gentry pinch-ran and stole second base — the throw was right on the money, he just out-ran the damn thing — then moved to third on Alberto Callaspo’s ground ball. That’s what the game log will say. In reality, it was a hard-hit grounder that Robertson luckily deflected to Teixeira at first with his foot. Robertson hustled over to cover first base, then he struck out Derek Norris to seal the win. He’s 13 for 15 in save chances so far.

Beltran went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts at the plate in his return to the lineup after missing close to a month with a bone spur in his elbow. He picked up right where he left off before the injury. (I kid, I kid.). Soriano went 2-for-3 with the bloop single and a sun-aided double. It was a routine fly ball that Coco Crisp lost in the sun and was unable to reel in. Soriano needs all the help he can get these days.

Following Gardner’s leadoff homer in the third inning, the Yankees had just three base-runners: Ellsbury walked in the sixth and singled in the eighth (stole second both times), and Soriano sun-doubled in the seventh. That’s all. Eighteen of the final 21 Yankees made outs and only five hit the ball out of the infield. Gardner, Jeter, Ellsbury (two), McCann, and Soriano (two) had the seven hits and Ellsbury the only walk.

Six of the Yankees’ last eight wins have come by two runs or less. When they lose, they tend to lose big. When they win, they hang on for dear life. That is … ominous. Two runs a game just isn’t going to cut it. The offense needs to wake the frig up already.

And finally, it’s pretty funny neither the YES nor MLB.com people get the YEAH JEETS! joke on the guy’s shirt in the video above.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some additional stats and ESPN has the updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are off to Middle America for a wrap-around four-game weekend series with the Royals. Chase Whitley and Jeremy Guthrie will start the series opener on Friday night.

Categories : Game Stories
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The 2014 amateur draft begins a little less than five hours from now — the Yankees will make only one pick tonight — so here are some last minute draft links to get you ready:

  • Mock Drafts: Here are the final mock drafts from Keith Law (subs. req’d), Baseball America, and MLB.com. All three still have the Astros taking San Diego HS LHP Brady Aiken first overall. It would be a surprise if he wasn’t the top choice at this point. The last high school pitcher to be taken first overall was … Brien Taylor. How about that? The Yankees are not included in any of the mocks because they cover the first round only.
  • In this afternoon’s chat, Law says he continues to hear the Yankees connected to high school catchers and Indiana 1B Sam Travis. He also says we should never rule out Southern California prospects given scouting director Damon Oppenheimer’s roots and tendencies. You can filter Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects list by state, if you want to check out the SoCal prospects.
  • Jeff Passan obtained a copy of the memo MLB sends to teams outlining what they can and can not ask prospects prior to the draft. They can explicitly ask the player what kind of bonus he’s seeking, but there are rules against trying to use other players as leverage as stuff like that. It’s silly because teams ignore all of it and do whatever they want. It’s just interesting to see.
  • Clint Longenecker listed the youngest and oldest prospects available in this draft, broken down into pitchers and position players, high school and college. Want to feel very old? There’s a kid in this draft who was born in 1997.
  • As a reminder, the Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) because of their offseason spending spree. Their spending pool for the top ten rounds is $3,202,300, including $1,018,700 for that second round pick. None of their other picks are slotted for seven figures.
  • Click here to go back through our draft archive to see all the draft prospects we’ve profiled. I selfishly hope the Yankees select one of them. It was pretty neat when they drafted three players I wrote up in the first round last year.
Categories : Draft
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Once every five days, the Yankees aren’t half bad. Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound this afternoon as the Yankees look to avoid being swept by the best team in baseball in the final game of what has been a disaster homestand. Six games, one win. With Tanaka’s help, they might be able to leave town with a 2-5 homestand.

The lineup is getting some much needed help this afternoon as Carlos Beltran returns from what was close to a month long stint on the disabled list. No, he wasn’t hitting much when he got hurt, but he’s a new face in the lineup. Something has to change with the offense and getting Beltran back will help, hopefully right away. Here is the Athletics lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Yangervis Solarte
  7. C Brian McCann
  8. RF Alfonso Soriano
  9. 2B Brian Roberts
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It was pouring all morning in New York but stopped within the last hour or so. Doesn’t look like they’ll have any trouble getting a full nine innings in. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing right now. The game is scheduled to begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, depending on where you live. Enjoy.

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Yankees activate Carlos Beltran, designate Scott Sizemore for assignment

    11:40am: Dan Barbarisi says Sizemore is on optional assignment waivers like Matt Daley earlier this year and Ramiro Pena a few years ago. He wasn’t actually dropped from the 40-man roster, it’s just a procedural thing due to his service time.

    11:15am: As expected, the Yankees have activated Carlos Beltran off the 15-day disabled list. Scott Sizemore was designated for assignment to clear room on the roster. I wonder why they didn’t just send him to Triple-A Scranton. The team now has two open 40-man roster spots.

    Beltran, 37, missed a little less than a month due to a bone spur in his right elbow. Joe Girardi said the plan is to use him exclusively at DH because they don’t want to risk re-aggravating the injury by having him throw. Beltran said he feels fine now and will continue to receive treatment all season. He hit .234/.286/.430 (90 wRC+) with five homers in 140 plate appearances before getting hurt.
    · (34) ·

Solarte Swings

Love Solarte’s full-effort swings. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

We all want to believe his emergence is real. He’s had 200 plate appearances. He has slumped and made us think that the spell was broken. Just when we think it’s over, he comes back and starts hitting again.

Where would the Yankees be without Yangervis Solarte?

Actually, don’t answer that. We read your comments and your tweets. The answer would only depress us.

Much joy as his early season performance has brought, Solarte has a long way to go before he proves he’s for real. History just isn’t on his side. Players typically don’t debut at age 26 and hit like borderline stars.

Hell, players don’t debut at age 26 and even qualify for the batting title. Only 44 have done it since 1901, and three quarters of them did it before 1950. Of those, only seven of them did so in what is termed the Expansion Era (1973 to present).

Even of those seven, two were Cuban defectors: Yoenis Cespedes and Alexei Ramirez. No, they didn’t have MLB experience before their age-26 seasons, but they also weren’t prospects who toiled in mediocrity before suddenly breaking out.

That leaves us with just four decent comparisons to Solarte (Rookie of the Year voting finish in parentheses).

1 Yoenis Cespedes (2nd) 139 2012 OAK 129 540 142 25 5 23 82 43 102 16 .292 .356 .505
2 Yangervis Solarte 129 2014 NYY 53 214 56 12 0 6 26 21 23 0 .298 .366 .457
3 Dan Uggla (3rd) 112 2006 FLA 154 683 172 26 7 27 90 48 123 6 .282 .339 .480
4 Chris Singleton (6th) 105 1999 CHW 133 530 149 31 6 17 72 22 45 20 .300 .328 .490
5 Chris Sabo (1st) 105 1988 CIN 137 582 146 40 2 11 44 29 52 46 .271 .314 .414
6 Alexei Ramirez (2nd) 104 2008 CHW 136 509 139 22 2 21 77 18 61 13 .290 .317 .475
7 David Eckstein (4th) 89 2001 ANA 153 664 166 26 2 4 41 43 60 29 .285 .355 .357
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/5/2014.

Dan Uggla

When I thought of players who debuted at 26 and thrived, Uggla immediately came to mind. It wasn’t long ago at all that the Marlins selected him in the Rule 5 draft, inserted him into the starting lineup, and watched him smash 27 home runs.

Uggla didn’t have a terrible minor league career; it just took him three-plus years to get out of A ball. He actually thrived at AA in 2005, but apparently it wasn’t enough for the Diamondbacks to place him on the 40-man roster.

Solarte could do worse than to emulate Uggla’s career. Sure, he’s toast right now, at age 34, but he had a pretty good run for about six years, hitting .258/.343/.482 (116 OPS+).

David Eckstein

Yes, everyone’s favorite scrappy underdog didn’t debut until age 26. He’d actually hit pretty well throughout his minor league career, but struggled a bit upon hitting AA in 2000. The Red Sox placed him on waivers and the Angels claimed him.

In 2001 he debuted and hit not so great, .285/.355/.357. That might be remarkable in today’s game, but back then it was an 89 OPS+. He did go on to have a few decent seasons after that, including a 101 OPS+ in the Angels’ 2002 championship season.

Chris Singleton

A second round pick in 1993, Singleton struggled early in his minor league career. He didn’t flash even half-decent power until age 23, and didn’t have a good season until age 24. After that good season, the Giants traded him to the Yankees for Charlie Hayes. But he proceeded to have a bad season, so the Yankees traded him to the White Sox for some guy you’ve never heard of.

Singleton broke camp with the Sox in 1999 at age 26 and proceeded to hit .300/.328/.490 and finish sixth in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting. Singleton would never produce even average numbers again (his slash line was good for a 105 OPS+ in 99).

Chris Sabo

Yes, the goggled dude took a while to incubate in the minors. In fact, he spent two full seasons at AAA before making his debut. He certainly hit well enough to earn it. In his first season he hit .271/.314/414, a 105 OPS+ that earned him the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Two years later he won a World Series.

Sabo had a few good seasons, including a pretty monster 1991 season, but he peaked in his late 20s. As did most of these guys. As do most players, really.

The craziest part about this list: Solarte right now has better numbers than all of them. You’d have to count the Cuban players to find one who put up full-season numbers better than Solarte is currently producing. (Cespedes, obviously.)

At the same time, he probably has the least impressive minor league track record among the five drafted players who debuted at age 26. He certainly spent the longest time down there. Sabo, Eckstein, Singleton, and Uggla all got drafted out of college. Solarte was signed as an amateur free agent at age 17 and debuted stateside at age 19.

Given the thin history of players who debuted at 26, it is still difficult to believe that Solarte can keep up his hot hitting. Not only are there few players who debuted at 26 and qualified for the batting title, but none of them, save for Cuban defectors, hit nearly as well as Solarte.

Still, I want to believe. There has to be some magic about this team. Right?

Categories : Players
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