Game 17: Still no DH

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Four days ago the Yankees lost to the White Sox to snap their eight-game winning streak. They rebounded the next day with a blowout win. Last night the Yankees dropped the series opener to the Pirates due in part to some sloppy defense. How will they rebound today? Hopefully with another blowout win. That’ll be tough with no designated hitter, but whatever. It’s doable.

Anyway, the point is the Yankees have played well the last two weeks or so, and losses happen. Making sure a loss is just a loss and not the start of the losing streak is pretty damn important if the Yankees, who currently have the fifth best postseason odds in the AL, are going to sneak into the playoffs. Just keep winning series. Keep winning series and good things will happen. Here is the Pirates’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. SS Ronald Torreyes
  9. RHP Michael Pineda

Not a great weather day in Pittsburgh. It’s cold and cloudy, and there might be some on and off rain throughout the game. Today’s game will begin at 4:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Gary Sanchez (biceps) continues to make progress with his rehab. He made 25 throws from 60 feet and another 25 from 90 feet today. Sanchez was also scheduled to hit off a tee for the first time at some point today. He’s been taking dry swings. Now he’ll hit an actual baseball.

Saturday Links: Top 50 Prospects, Cabrera, Forbes, Uniforms

Gleyber. (Presswire)
Gleyber. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Pirates will resume their three-game series with the middle game later this afternoon. Until then, here are a few bits of news and notes to check out.

Three Yankees on Law’s updated top 50 prospects list

I missed this last week, but Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted an updated list of the top 50 prospects in baseball. This isn’t a re-ranking. It’s more of an update to Law’s preseason top 100 to reflect prospects who have either graduated to MLB or will soon. Here are the Yankees in the updated top 50 list:

2. SS Gleyber Torres (No. 4 preseason)
16. OF Blake Rutherford (No. 22 preseason)
20. OF Clint Frazier (No. 27 preseason)

Torres is behind only Mets SS Amed Rosario. He was also behind Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi and Braves SS Dansby Swanson on the preseason list, but those two have since graduated to the big leagues, which is why Gleyber has moved up two spots.

OF Aaron Judge ranked 44th preseason but recently graduated to MLB, so he’s no longer a prospect. RHP James Kaprielian went from 28th before the season to out of the top 50 in the update, presumably due to his continued elbow problems. LHP Justus Sheffield was 88th preseason and did not jump into the top 50. So, in the eyes of at least one prospect ranker, the Yankees currently have three of baseball’s 20 best prospects in their farm system. And Judge and Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird and Luis Severino at the MLB level. Hooray.

Cabrera among top DSL prospects

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) recently put together a list of the top 20 prospects who spent time in the Dominican Summer League last year. The players are listed alphabetically. Not ranked. The Yankees had one player in the top 20: SS Oswaldo Cabrera. He tore up the DSL in 26 games last year before the Yankees brought him stateside. Here’s a piece of Badler’s scouting report:

He’s a true all-fields hitter with a sound swing and natural hitter’s actions in the box. When he swings, he doesn’t miss much, with innate feel for the barrel and good plate coverage with a chance to develop into a plus hitter. Cabrera isn’t that big and will probably always have a hit-over-power profile … He should be able to stick at shortstop.

Badler also notes Cabrera, who signed for $100,000 in 2015, made a slight adjustment after signing that has paid big dividends. He backed up a bit in the batter’s box, giving him more time to react and allowing him to use his hands more efficiently. The just turned 18-year-old Cabrera is off a slow start with Low-A Charleston — he’s the youngest player in the South Atlantic League by several months — but he hit .345/.396/.523 (193 wRC+) in 52 rookie balls games last year. A spot in the organizational top 30 prospects list awaits.

MLB unveils 2017 special event uniforms

Earlier this month MLB unveiled their special event uniforms for the 2017 season. These cover Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and the All-Star Game. Rather than wear the special uniforms only on the day of the event, this year players will wear them the entire holiday weekend. Everything will then be auctioned off for charity. Here are the Yankees special event hats and jerseys, via Chris Creamer:

2017-special-event-uniforms

That stars and stripes hat for the Fourth of July is pretty awesome. These special event caps usually don’t do anything for me, but I dig that one. Also, during the All-Star Game this year, each player will wear a patch on their sleeve that includes the number of All-Star Games they’ve been selected to in their careers. That’s pretty cool.

Yankees are still the most valuable franchise in MLB

Surprise surprise, the Yankees remain the most valuable franchise in baseball, according to Forbes. By a lot, too. The Yankees are worth an estimated $3.7 billion. The Dodgers are a distant second at $2.75 billion. Yeah. This is the 20th consecutive year the Yankees have ranked as baseball’s most valuable franchise. They generated an MLB best $526M in revenue in 2016 despite a 10% drop in attendance the last few years.

Amazingly, the average MLB franchise is now worth $1.54 billion, up a whopping 19% from last year. Incredible. The league can thank new television contracts and the rapid growth of the MLB Advanced Media juggernaut for that. The Yankees were worth an estimated $3.4 billion last year. Back in 2010 they were worth a comparatively tiny $1.6 billion. The franchise could very well triple in value before the decade is over. Owning an MLB team is good work if you can get it.

Bad pitching, bad defense send Yankees to 6-3 loss to Pirates


Source: FanGraphs

Blah, that was a clunker of a series opener. A little of this (bad pitching), a little of that (bad defense), and a little of everything in between (0-for-7 with runners in scoring position) sent the Yankees to a 6-3 loss to the Pirates in Friday night’s series opener. Have I mentioned I hate watching pitchers hit? Because I hate watching pitchers hit. It’s Friday night, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • CC’s Dud: It was clear right away CC Sabathia was not sharp. He allowed a first inning leadoff homer to Jordy Mercer and then a two-run shot to Josh Bell in the second inning. Sabathia’s velocity was down a bit — he was more 87-88 mph than 90-91 mph like he’d been in his previous starts — and he was missing his spots consistently. He did grind it out and give the Yankees five innings, but at the end of the day, falling behind 4-0 after two innings was too much to overcome.
  • A Near Comeback: The Yankees have Fighting Spirit, so they didn’t go quietly after falling behind 4-0. Chase Headley drove in Brett Gardner from first with a double in the third inning, then Greg Bird drove in two runs with a ground ball that snuck under Josh Harrison’s glove in the fifth. Harrison, the second baseman, was in shallow right field for the shift. Aaron Judge chugged all the way around from first to score on the play. The big man can really run. Judge is sneaky fast. That brought the Yankees to within 4-3, but alas, three runs were not enough to win on this night.
  • Late-Inning Mistakes: The Pirates tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh thanks in part to a brutal Starlin Castro error. He Luis Castillo’d a pop-up. It was bad. Tommy Layne then walked the only man he faced — lefties have a .417 OBP against him this year, which doesn’t bode well for his job security — and Jonathan Holder allowed a run-scoring single. Two things. One, why not just leave Adam Warren in after the dropped pop-up? He’s perfectly capable of getting lefties out. And two, why is Tyler Clippard pitching down three in the eighth instead of Holder when the game was closer in the seventh? Bullpen roles, man.
  • Leftovers: The Yankees did bring the tying run to the plate with two outs in the eight and ninth innings, but Matt Holliday struck out out and Judge grounded out. Darn. Had the right guys at the plate at the right times. Just didn’t work out … the Yankees had ten hits total, including two by Castro and three by Jacoby Ellsbury … Bird went 0-for-4 and yanked two foul balls about 430 feet each. Just a little too quick, Greg — in case you missed it earlier, Didi Gregorius started his minor league rehab assignment tonight. He’s inching closer to a return.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also check out our Bullpen Workload page. The Yankees and Pirates will resume this series Saturday afternoon. That’s a 4pm ET start. Michael Pineda and Jameson Taillon are the scheduled starters.

DotF: Gregorius begins rehab assignment in Tampa’s loss

Triple-A Scranton (1-0 win over Indianapolis)

  • 2B Tyler Wade: 1-3, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 K — he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the fifth inning
  • DH Clint Frazer: 0-3, 1 HBP — off to a 9-for-46 (.196) start, so so much for forcing an early season call-up
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-4, 2 K
  • RF Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 BB
  • LF Mason Williams: 0-4, 3 K — off to a 7-for-44 (.159) start … can’t help but wonder how much longer he’ll be around … can’t imagine his 40-man roster spot is all that safe
  • RHP Chad Green: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 66 of 98 pitches were strikes (67%) … 28/4 K/BB in 22 minor league innings so far this year … we know he can get Triple-A hitters out … now we have to see if he can get big leaguers out consistently
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 19 of 29 pitches were strikes (66%)

[Read more…]

Game 16: The Joy Of Watching Pitchers Try To Hit

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

The Yankees are on the road for their first interleague series in a National League park this season. They’ll play the first of three games against the Pirates tonight. The Pirates, weirdly, have either swept or been swept in every series so far this season. I guess that makes tonight’s game super important? Win tonight and the Yankees are guaranteed a sweep! A loss and they’re guaranteed to get swept. It has been decided.

Anyway, CC Sabathia is starting tonight’s opener and that’s kinda noteworthy because he’s going to have to hit and run the bases with his balky knee. Well, I should say “hit” and “run the bases,” right? Something tells me we won’t see Sabathia do much more than take a few swings, maybe square around to bunt, and take a step or two toward first base. Maybe he’ll sock a dinger instead. Just don’t get hurt, CC. Here is the Pirates’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. SS Ronald Torreyes
  9. LHP CC Sabathia

It is cold and cloudy in Pittsburgh tonight, and there’s a tiny little bit of rain in the forecast later. Doesn’t look like anything they won’t be able to play through. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

4/21 to 4/23 Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

It would be difficult to call the Yankees first homestand anything less than a riveting success, considering their 8-1 record, strong offense, and terrific all-around pitching. They’ll take the show back on the road for the next six games, beginning with a three-game set against the Pirates in what might just be the nicest ballpark in Major League Baseball.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees hosted the Pirates for three games back in May of 2014, and took two out of three. They played a double-header that weekend, too, as the Friday night game was postponed due to inclement weather. A few points of interest:

  • Carlos Beltran had been placed on the disabled list the night before the series began, so Zoilo Almonte started all three games – he went 2-for-9 with a home run.
  • Eight of the pitchers who appeared for the Yankees are no longer with the team; that number is seven for the Pirates.
  • In the second game of the double-header, the Yankees played thirteen position players and four pitchers – only two (Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury) are still with the team.
  • The Yankees as a team were a strong 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the series, and scored three runs with two outs.

Injury Report

The Pirates are one of two teams (the Cubs are the other) that do not have any players on the disabled list. That being said, they will be without CF Starling Marte until July 18 at the earliest, as the 28-year-old was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for an anabolic steroid. While Marte had been in a bit of a slump to start the season, this is nevertheless a huge loss as he averaged 4-plus fWAR over the last four seasons; it will be interesting to see how they handle his absence going forward (their top prospect, CF Austin Meadows, is just a phone call away at Triple-A).

IF Jung Ho has yet to make his 2017 debut, as he is currently awaiting an appeal of his drunk driving conviction in South Korea, and has been unable to get his work visa as a result. The hearing isn’t until May 25 either, so his timetable to return is complete up in the air.

Their Story So Far

Marte’s suspension immediately became the story of the Pirates season, as he had already been placed firmly in the spotlight for taking over center-field duties from face-of-the-franchise Andrew McCutchen. They were viewed as a long shot to return to the playoffs in 2017 to begin with, and losing Marte is a serious blow to an offense that is already struggling immensely (80 wRC+, 3.3 runs per game).

Well that, and Ivan Nova somehow sporting a 2.25 ERA and 2.90 FIP despite striking out just 3.60 per 9 thus far (small sample size or not, that’s at least a little funny).

The Lineup We Might See

Prior to his suspension, Marte hit first or second in every Pirates game. In the games that he has not led off, Clint Hurdle has deployed three different hitters – and that has been his modus operandi, given that McCutchen is the only hitter that has not been moved around the lineup, batting third in every game. With that in mind, the Yankees will probably see a lineup that looks something like this:

  1. Adam Frazier, RF
  2. Josh Harrison, 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Gregory Polanco, LF
  5. David Freese, 3B
  6. Francisco Cervelli, C
  7. Josh Bell, 1B
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS

The Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Tyler Glasnow

Glasnow was a consensus top-25 prospect heading into 2017, and it isn’t difficult to see why. The 6’8″ righty struck out 31% of the batters he faced between Double-A and Triple-A last year, on the strength of a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a big breaking curveball that sits around 80 MPH. Both pitches have been graded as plus to plus-plus, and his change-up shows some promise, as well. As is to be expected from a gigantic pitcher with tremendous stuff, though, Glasnow has struggled with his mechanics and control, resulting in poor walk rates in the minors and even worse totals in the majors. If you look at his stuff, size, and numbers and think of Dellin Betances, I don’t think anyone would hold it against you.

Last Outing (vs. CHC on 4/15) – 5 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 7 K

Saturday (4:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP Jameson Taillon

It almost feels like a miracle that Taillon is in the majors right now. The 25-year-old missed all of 2014 and 2015 as a result of Tommy John Surgery, complications from said surgery, and a hernia during recovery, and there were rumblings that his stuff would never fully recover. He earned a surprising call-up in June of last year, after making just ten starts in the minors, and proved that he belonged almost immediately. All told, he pitched to the following line as a rookie – 104 IP, 20.3 K%, 4.1 BB%, 52.4 GB%, 3.38 ERA, 3.71 FIP. That is a terrific line for most anyone, let alone a pitcher that barely touched a baseball the two previous seasons.

Taillon’s bread and butter is his two-seamer, which sits just under 95 MPH. He pounds the bottom of the strik.ezone with it, and commands it incredibly well. He also throws a mid-90s four-seamer, a low-80s curve, and a mid-80s change-up; that last pitch is inconsistent, which has led to some issues against left-handed hitters, who have hit .261/.306/.401 against Taillon.

Last Outing (vs. CHC on 4/16) – 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K

Sunday (1:35 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Ivan Nova

Nova has made 14 starts with the Pirates, and has posted borderline absurd numbers. In addition to his 2.87 ERA (144 ERA+), Nova has a minuscule 0.8% walk rate (and staggering 20 K/BB), as he has walked just 3 batters in 84.2 IP. As per PITCHf/x, his pitch selection hasn’t changed all that much overall (though he has thrown more fastballs overall this year, it’s only three starts), nor has his velocity – so we’ll just have to chalk this one up to Ray Searage’s black magic.

The stuff is essentially the same as when we last saw Nova in pinstripes – a couple of low-90s fastballs, a low-80s curve, a mid-80s change-up, and a rarely used mid-80s slider. It’s his suddenly stellar command that has made all the difference in the world.

The Bullpen

The Pirates bullpen looks quite different this season, as three of their top-five most utilized relievers in 2016 (Mark Melancon, Jared Hughes, and Neftali Feliz) are no longer with the team. Longtime Pirate Tony Watson has taken over as the closer, with Daniel Hudson and Felipe Rivero handling the seventh and eight innings. The group currently has a 4.47 ERA, but that is heavily skewed by Antonio Bastardo’s 20.25 ERA.

Yankees Connection

Would it be hyperbole to call the Pirates Brian Cashman‘s favorite trading partner? The two teams have completed five trades since 2012, when the Yankees sent A.J. Burnett packing in exchange for Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno. Most recently, Johnny Barbato was sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for cash or a player to be named later. Beyond that, we have:

  • Francisco Cervelli, now in his third season as the Pirates starting catcher;
  • Chris Stewart, now in his third season backing up Cervelli (and his fourth season with the team);
  • The aforementioned Nova;
  • Gerrit Cole, who was drafted by the Yankees in the first round of the 2008 draft, but chose to attend UCLA instead.

Who (Or What) to Watch

The prospect lover in me is stoked to see Tyler Glasnow on Friday night, and you should be, too. He’s wild at times, but his stuff is simply incredible, and he’s one of the few prospects/rookies with a semi-legitimate claim at a top-of-the-rotation ceiling. It isn’t always pretty – but he’ll pop the radar gun, and buckle some knees.

Torreyes has given the Yanks exactly what they needed during Gregorius’ absence

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees have won nine of their last ten games, and perhaps the most amazing thing about this hot stretch is that they’ve done it without Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, arguably their two best position players. Sanchez hurt his biceps taking a swing two Saturdays ago, the day before eight-game winning streak started. He resumed throwing and swinging Wednesday but is still a few weeks ago.

Gregorius, on the other hand, has not played at all during the regular season due to a shoulder strain suffered during the World Baseball Classic. The injury sucks, but what can you do? Gregorius resumed throwing last week and has gradually increased his workouts. He’s expected to play in his first official minor league rehab game later today. The Yankees could get Gregorius back sometime next week. Hooray for that.

While Gregorius has been sidelined, utility man Ronald Torreyes has filled in at shortstop admirably. He hasn’t been great — he’s hitting .239/.239/.391 (70 wRC+) in 46 plate appearances — but he hasn’t been a total disaster either. Torreyes has generally fielded the ball cleanly, plus he’s come up with some clutch hits. His two-run triple against the Orioles helped spark the comeback the led to the first win of the eight-game winning streak.

I was pretty excited when the Yankees acquired Torreyes last offseason — they traded for him, lost him on waivers, then claimed him back on waivers — but not because I thought he could be a future star or even a regular or anything like that. I thought he could be exactly what he has been for the Yankees: a solid high-energy bench player who could spot start for a few weeks and not kill you at the plate or in the field. Good bench players are tough to find.

That said, we’ve reached the point where Torreyes is starting to get exposed by playing everyday. He’s gone 5-for-26 (.192) in his last eight games and is averaging only 2.97 pitches per plate appearances during that time. Only three strikeouts is good! That’s what Torreyes does. He makes a lot of contact. But he’s not impacting the baseball much, and it’s starting to show up in his numbers. A few clutch hits have prevented him from being a total drain on the offense, so that’s cool.

Once Gregorius returns, the Yankees can slide Torreyes back into the reserve infielder role he fills so well, and enjoy an upgrade on both sides of the ball at shortstop. Didi has made steady progress in his two years with the Yankees. He was a better player in September 2015 than he was in April 2015, and he was a much better player in September 2016 than he was in April 2016. I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes his game this season.

This isn’t intended to be a knock on Torreyes, because he gave the Yankees exactly what they needed at shortstop while Gregorius was out: competence. He made all the plays he was supposed to make on defense and he chipped in some big hits. We’ve seen some bench players thrust into everyday duty by injuries in recent years who were overmatched. Jayson Nix. Chris Stewart. Brendan Ryan. Ben Francisco. So on and so forth.

That didn’t happen with Torreyes and he deserves major props for holding down a tough position as well as he has. The Yankees are a much better team with Gregorius in the lineup though, and now that he’s inching closer to a return, it’s exciting to think this team could be ever better going forward. Then when Sanchez returns? Oh boy.