Chris Nelson‘s brief tenure in pinstripes has come to a rather unceremonious end. Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez continue their respective paths to recovery. All of this adds up to a golden opportunity for rookie third baseman David Adams to showcase his skills for fans and scouts alike.
Adams, who was drafted in the third round by the Yankees back in 2008, has had some positive moments during his time in the minors. In 2012 he hit .306/.385/.450 (.377 wOBA, 133 wRC+) over 383 plate appearances with the Yankees AA affiliate after missing substantial time during the couple years prior. Up until a few nights ago when he got the call from the Yankees, he was hitting a fairly gaudy .316/.407/.490 (.407 wOBA, 153 wRC+) over 113 plate appearances in AAA. What’s more, the kid managed to get a hit during his big league debut and doubled in a run in his second game. Unfortunately, as I alluded too in Thursday’s RAB Live Chat and in the post’s title, my expectations for Adams are fairly tempered. Here’s why I think yours should be too.
1. It’s really hard to succeed in the Major Leagues in general. It’s really, really hard to sustain success once you do succeed. It’s especially hard for a young (and in this case, non-elite) prospect to join a MLB franchise and immediately have an impact with sustained success — especially when said player knows he’s probably a stopgap (though with Youk and A-Rod, the timetable may prove more substantial). This first point is kind of obvious, but I feel as though it’s still a point we fail to remember all too often regardless of the player’s pedigree.
2. Offensively, Adams displayed an advanced approach at the plate with good gap power during his time in the minors. He won’t be facing minor league pitchers anymore though. He’ll be facing experienced arms, and he’ll have to make the necessary adjustments as his weaknesses get exposed. This is not to say he can’t or won’t have an effective bat, just that we shouldn’t be overly surprised if his production deflates. One need only remember Jesus Montero for an example of an offensively potent minor leaguer who has been unable to adjust. Small mechanical flaws become big points of vulnerability. It happens, and it happens more often than not.
3. Adams was recruited as an above-average second baseman defensively. The ankle injuries have robbed him of his mobility, so much so the team moved him to third (although that may have also been partially influenced by A-Rod’s injury), where’s he’s also viewed as defensively mediocre if not substandard. If Adams struggles at the plate, his defense will be that much more important, and unfortunately for him, that much more scrutinized. The Yankees cannot afford to have a black hole in the line up — they’ll need Adams to prove himself capable at least in this department.
Note by Mike: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Adams’ defense so far. He’s no Adrian Beltre, but he’s been rock solid. At this point he’s probably the best defensive third baseman in the organization.
4. The injuries scare the crap out of me, quite frankly. Basically, since joining the organization, Adams has had a hell of a time staying on the field. Aside from showing dubious durability, he’s missed valuable developmental time — so much so the Yankees released him altogether to make room on the roster for Vernon Wells. In fact, at one point, he was playing four games in a row with a day off on the fifth during his time in the minors. The daily grind won’t get any easier with the Yankees. If he’s going to obtain a contract with a Major League team, he’s going to need prove himself capable of staying on the field — a trait often underappreciated.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to come across as completely bearish on Adams. As I noted above, he does have a solid approach at the plate, and the team will give him every opportunity to succeed. Plus he seems like a fun player to root for. Frankly, I hope he proves me dead wrong and thrives because that’d be awesome; it’d give the team options to consider on a lot of different levels. The point I’m trying to make here is that we shouldn’t endorse one of our home grown kids too heartily until he has some time to establish himself — honestly, the same should probably be said about all prospects in general.
The Yankees and Blue Jays have seen quite a bit of each other so far this season. This will be their third series of 2013 already; New York won the previous two. They took two of three in Toronto last month, then all four in the Bronx a week later.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Jays have played much, much better of late. They just clobbered the Giants in a two-game series and have won four straight games overall, scoring double-digit runs in each of their last three games. Toronto has won seven of their last ten games overall, raising their season record to 17-24 with a -35 run differential. They remain in last place in the AL East by a decent margin.
Toronto is not far off from a perfectly league-average offense with a team 96 wRC+ and a 4.3 runs per game average. Like I said though, they’ve scored 10+ runs in each of their last three games. They’re swinging the bat well. SS Jose Reyes (175 wRC+) remains on the DL with his ankle injury, and OF Rajai Davis (96 wRC+) joined him on the shelf since the last time these clubs met. He’s dealing with an oblique problem.
OF Jose Bautista (146 wRC+) and 1B Edwin Encarnacion (115 wRC+) anchor the middle of the order and, as you know, are threats to drive in a run even when the bases are empty. They can mash. OF Melky Cabrera (84 wRC+) has poor overall numbers, but he’s figuring things out lately and has been tearing the cover off the ball for about two weeks now. Those three are batting 1-2-3 these days, so the top of the lineup is no joke. They can put up a crooked number all by themselves.
DH Adam Lind (140 wRC+) and CF Colby Rasmus (102 wRC+) have been surprisingly not useless, plus C J.P. Arencibia (96 wRC+) has been useful as well. He’s all power (.256 ISO) and nothing else (.236 AVG, .252 OBP, 1.4 BB%). 3B Brett Lawrie (72 wRC+) and Reyes replacement SS Munenori Kawasaki (84 wRC+) haven’t been anything special. Backup C Henry Blanco (-15 wRC+) has been awful, ditto UTIL Emilio Bonifacio (47 wRC+) and UTIL Maicer Izturis (52 wRC+). UTIL Mark DeRosa (102 wRC+) has fared well in limited time. The lineup revolves around those top three guys, they’re the ones who do the most damage.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Mark Buehrle
The AL East has not been kind to the 34-year-old Buehrle, who owns a 6.19 ERA and 5.81 FIP through his first eight starts of the year. His strikeout rate (5.63 K/9 and 14.0 K%) is right in line with his career norms, but the walk (2.44 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%) and ground ball (39.2%) totals are the worst of his career. Same goes for his homer rate (2.06 HR/9 and 16.4% HR/FB). Buehrle sits in the mid-80s with his two- and four-seamer, and a bit below that with the cutter. An upper-70s changeup is his top secondary pitch, though he’ll also throw a low-70s curveball. The Yankees have seen the long-time White Sox twice already this year, scoring three runs in seven innings the first time and five runs in 5.1 innings the second time.
Saturday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Brandon Morrow
Like most of his rotation-mates, Morrow is off to a poor start (4.69 ERA and 4.61 FIP) this season. The 28-year-old has his worst peripheral stats in years — 7.59 K/9 (19.1 K%), 3.79 BB/9 (9.6 BB%), and 35.7% — so it’s not just bad luck. That first number isn’t good enough to compensate for the second two. Morrow still lives in the mid-90s with his four-seamer, and he backs it up with upper-80s sliders and low-80s splitters. He’ll also throw the occasional curveball right around 80, but only three or four a start. The Yankees roughed him up a few weeks ago (seven runs in 5.1 innings), and Morrow’s track record at the new Yankee Stadium is pretty poor (6.84 ERA and ~4.30 FIP). He’s always pitched well against the Bombers in Toronto, but not so much in the Bronx for whatever reason.
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP R.A. Dickey
I can’t imagine the Blue Jays were expected to see Dickey, 38, sitting on a 4.83 ERA (4.80 FIP) nine starts in the season. He is coming off two straight quality starts and three in his last four games, so the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is trending in the right direction. Dickey is missing plenty of bats (8.00 K/9 and 20.9 K%), but his walk (4.00 BB/9 and 10.4 BB%) and ground ball (41.4%) numbers are way off from where they’ve been in recent years, even the non-Cy Young years. The trademark knuckleball is sitting in the low-to-mid-70s this season, which is down a bit from the last few years with the Mets. It’s unclear a) why, and b) if that is the root cause of his struggles. Nine out of every ten pitches is the knuckler, with the one exception being a low-80s get-me-over fastball. The Yankees scored three runs off Dickey in seven innings a few weeks ago, but remember, he shut them down until hitting the wall in the later innings.
Manager John Gibbons and his Toronto team had Thursday off — doesn’t it seem like everyone has the day off before facing the Yankees lately? — so the bullpen is rested. RHP Casey Janssen (1.02 FIP) does the closing while RHP Steve Delabar (3.29 FIP) and LHP Darren Oliver (3.83 FIP) do the setting up. RHP Esmil Rogers (4.89 FIP) has been demoted to middle relief, where he now hangs with RHP Brad Lincoln (5.09 FIP) and LHP Aaron Loup (4.02 FIP). LHP Brett Cecil (2.45 FIP) is the multi-inning guy and former Yankees property RHP Mickey Storey (1.11 FIP in very limited time) is their eighth reliever. They’ve been carrying a 13-man staff all year because of the rotation issues.
Thanks to Phil Hughes‘ two-out start and Andy Pettitte‘s trap injury, the Yankees have taxed their bullpen quite a bit these last few days. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have both had two straight days off, so they should be good to go tonight. Kuroda will need to provide some length though. You can check out the Bullpen Workload page for the recent reliever usage details. For the latest and greatest on the Blue Jays, check out Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb.
Via Ken Davidoff: Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the Yankees have had some talks with Robinson Cano’s new agent about a contract extension. The team’s 30-year-old second baseman fired Scott Boras and hired CAA Sports/Roc Nation last month. It’s unclear if a new offer has been made.
“We’ve had several conversations with Brodie (Van Wagenen), the new agent, just as we did with Scott (Boras) … A lot of it’s procedural. I keep saying, it’s not a process we’ll be reading about in the paper every day. If anything significant happens, everybody’s going to know, but we’re going to continue in the weeks to come to work though things and try to come to an agreement,” said Hal. The teams hopes to sign Cano before he hits free agency after the end of the year. · (30) ·
Rapid fire mailbag this week, so ten questions and ten answers. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Max asks: At what point should we worry about Robinson Cano‘s bad lefty splits going forward? He’s hitting .254/.299/.476 against lefties this year and had a .239/.309/.337 line last year. Sure, he still mashes righties but I’m really not comfortable with the idea of giving a potential platoon player a megadeal. Thanks.
Oh it’s definitely a red flag right. Cano hit lefties nearly as well as he hit righties until last season, when his performance fell off a cliff. I looked at the data as part of our season review and didn’t find any significant red flags. This year though, both his ground ball (56.3%) and strikeout (22.4%) rates are way up against southpaws. That could change in a hurry since it’s so early in the season. If that continues into the summer, I’d be very worried. Giving a super-long contract to a middle infielder is risky enough, and it would be even worse if he’s morphed into a platoon bat. Not worried yet, but I will be watching this.
Steve asks: Single-season saves record is Francisco Rodriguez at 62. Mariano Rivera is on pace for 66. What are the odds he does it?
This isn’t really a Mo thing, right? The other 24 players on the team have to create those save opportunities for him. They’d have to give him like, 67 save chances over the full season to get to 62 saves, which means another 51 save chances in the final 121 games of the year. It’s doable, the Yankees play a ton of close games because their pitching is good and their offense mostly stinks (94 wRC+!), but only twice has someone saved more than 55 games in one year. I think the odds are very small, maybe 5% on the high-end.
Vinny asks: Assuming Travis Hafner gets and stays healthy (big assumption), what will the Yankees do with Lyle Overbay whenever Mark Teixeira comes back? His performance against righties has been excellent.
His performance against righties has been excellent (160 wRC+), but so has Hafner’s (151 wRC+). Pronk also does a much better job of holding his own against southpaws (98 wRC+, where Overbay has been basically useless (-21 wRC+). Their overall hitting numbers aren’t particularly close either (106 vs. 139 wRC+). The Yankees will have to decide if Overbay’s advantages on defense and durability make up the difference in offensive production. Considering he’s a first baseman and first baseman only, I think the answer is clearly no.
I definitely think they will see what they have internally first. That means Vidal Nuno and maybe even Josh Spence in addition to Rapada and Cabral. If those guys all manage to flop — or if Boone Logan gets hurt — in the coming weeks, yeah I could see them looking for lefty relief help at the deadline. It definitely isn’t a pressing need right now.
KG asks: Would the Yankees have the interest/package to trade for Nick Franklin? He may not end up a bonafide major league shortstop, but the Mariners have Dustin Ackley at second and Brad Miller just behind Franklin. Pipe dream?
I’m sure there would be some interest on New York’s part, but I don’t see why the Mariners would move him right now. He’s tearing up the Triple-A level (159 wRC+) and even though he’s unlikely to be a shortstop long-term, he’s much better than their big league shortstops. Ackley is awful but they won’t give up on him yet, but Miller is far from a sure thing. I think the Mariners will call Franklin up in the coming weeks and give him a chance. The only thing the Yankees have to offer are a bunch High-A and Double-A outfielders, none of whom is performing particularly well this year. I don’t really see a trade fit.
Anonymous asks: With Seattle having uber-catching prospect Mike Zunino just about ready for the show — any chance Seattle will take offers for Jesus Montero? What would the Yankees have to give to reacquire Jesus?
Teams usually aren’t quick to admit failure after a trade of that magnitude, so I don’t think Seattle would be open to moving Montero so soon without getting a big piece in return. They’re not going to sell-low and take two Grade-C prospects despite his dismal big league performance. The Yankees could stick him at DH, teach him first base, catch him on rare occasions … basically everything they could have done when he was with the organization. I don’t see this happening at all.
Anonymous asks: Do you believe the Yankees are planning to trade Joba Chamberlain for pieces around the deadline, considering the Yankees’ surplus of middle relief options? Joba could bring back a cost-controlled piece.
He’s an injury-prone middle reliever who will be a free agent after the season. You don’t get “pieces” in return for that, and the only cost-controlled piece he’ll bring back in a mid-level prospect. Joba’s value to the Yankees as a seventh inning reliever is much greater than anything they’ll realistically get in return. Teams aren’t giving up anything worthwhile for him, I know I wouldn’t.
Mike asks: Sort of a two-part David Aardsma question now that the Marlins released him. Firstly, why are teams not giving him a shot in the Majors, and secondly, would it make sense for the Yanks to go pick him up again?
I don’t know why he hasn’t been given a big league shot yet, but I don’t believe it’s because he’s been overlooked. Teams know Aardsma, and anytime a former standout closer becomes a free agent, he gets looked into. They must not like what they’ve seen, either in his stuff or command — he did walk eight in 14 innings before the release, which he requested — or whatever. If Aardsma wants to come back to the organization and pitch in Triple-A for a few weeks, great. I wouldn’t give him a big league job over Shawn Kelley or Preston Claiborne (or Joba) right now though.
Tuckers asks: I know it’s too soon to predict, but what do you think about the Yankees signing Tim Lincecum after the season? I think there’s a good argument to be made either way.
My answer at this exact moment is no. That is subject to change between now and the offseason, but his velocity continues to hover around 90 mph and his offspeed stuff isn’t as devastating as it was when he was 93-95. His walk (4.25 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%) and homer (0.92 HR/FB and 15.6% HR/FB) rates are career-worsts, and that’s in a big park in the NL. The Yankees do a wonderful job of squeezing production from seemingly cooked veterans, but I don’t think Lincecum is coming on a cheap one-year deal. So yeah, right now my answer is no. If he adds some velocity this summer, my opinion will change.
Brad asks: So the Yankees seem to have a glut of serviceable, young starting pitchers. Is there a deal out there for them to turn some quantity of these into an impact bat?
I don’t think so. I don’t see any team giving up an impact back for guys like Ivan Nova and David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Two or three projected fifth starters doesn’t get you one really good bat. Maybe they could get a David Adams type, but that wouldn’t qualify as an impact bat in my opinion.
The injuries are really starting to the catch up to the Yankees offense, as the club failed to score more than three runs for the seventh time in the last eleven games. You can’t win like that, not playing in a small ballpark in the AL East. The Mariners won Thursday’s rubber game by the score of 3-2.
Pettitte’s Back Hurting, Again
Andy Pettitte leaving the game with a tight left trap is the major story of the game obviously, and we have no idea how long it’s been bothering him. He wasn’t particularly sharp before leaving the game, throwing 48 of 79 pitches were strikes (61%) and falling behind in the count quite a bit. That could easily be the result of the trap tightness, but Andy hasn’t really been on top of his game for a few starts now. He hasn’t been bad, just a little off.
Pettitte held the Mariners to two runs on four hits and three walks in 4.2 innings, and both runs scored with two outs. Not just with two outs, with two outs and two strikes. Not just with two outs and two strikes, with two outs and two strikes and the hits came from Dustin Ackley (66 wRC+) and Brendan Ryan (6 wRC+). I don’t think it’s asking too much of a pitcher to finish those guys off in two-strike counts with men on-base. It took a great catch from Ichiro Suzuki to save some runs in the first inning as well.
The Batting Order Strikes, Twice
In 22 of the team’s first 40 games, Robinson Cano batted second. It was glorious, he batted with a ton of men on-base and squeezed in an few extra two-out at-bats during a rally at the end of an inning. On Thursday, Jayson Nix batted second against a right-handed pitcher for whatever reason. The batting order doesn’t mean a ton over the 162-game season, but in this individual game, it cost the Yankees on two occasions.
First, with the Mariners up by one, Nix batted with two outs and runners at the corners in the fifth inning. He popped out in a 1-2 count to end the inning. Second, with the Mariners still up by one, Nix batted with the tying run at third and one out in the ninth inning. He struck out, swinging and missing at three Tom Wilhelmsen fastballs. Instead of having Cano bat in those situations, the Yankees had their … eighth? best hitter at the plate. There’s no guarantee Robbie would have come through, especially given his recent slump, but I think we all would have preferred to see him up in those spots. Nix finished the night with a -.403 WPA, the worst by a Yankees position player and the seventh worst by any position player in MLB this year.
Curtis Granderson, who was batting way down in the sixth spot for some reason, had three of the team’s eight hits. The top five hitters in the lineup went a combined 2-for-21 with two walks and eight strikeouts. That ain’t good. Brett Gardner singled and stole two bases in the ninth, but he also struck out looking with men on first and second with no outs in the seventh. He’s in a real bad funk. Ichiro, by the way, snapped out of an 0-for-22 slump with a single to center. He’s dangerously close to Tony Womackian levels of offensive production.
The bullpen did a pretty solid job in relief of Pettitte, allowing just one run 4.1 innings. That one run was the game-loser though, a solo homer by Mike Morse off Shawn Kelley. Kelley struck out five of the eight men he faced, giving him 30 strikeouts (and four walks) in 17.1 innings. Silly. Boone Logan retired all four men he faced and Adam Warren chipped in a scoreless ninth. At some point the Yankees have to start scoring more runs, the pitching staff is doing it’s job.
Remember yesterday when I said I wish I could look up the last time the Yankees had five players make their big league debut within the first 40 games of the season? Chad Jennings dug up the answer. It was 1995, when Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Brian Boehringer, and Jeff Patterson did it. Impressive group.
The Blue Jays are coming to town for a three-game weekend series, and they’re playing a whole lot better right now than they were the last time they were in the Bronx. Hiroki Kuroda and Mark Buehrle is your series opening pitching matchup on Friday night. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game in person.
10:53pm: After the game, Joe Girardi said the Yankees aren’t too concerned about the injury. They just took Pettitte out as a precaution. It’s unclear if he’ll make his next start, however.
9:51pm: Pettitte left the game with a tight left trap, the team announced. That’s the muscle in the upper back, kinda between the neck and shoulder blade. No word on a timetable or tests or anything.
8:32pm: Andy Pettitte left tonight’s game with an apparent injury with two outs in the fifth. He threw 79 pitches and struck out the two batters he faced in the inning. Replays didn’t show anything obvious, yet Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue came out to chat. Pettitte left the game without throwing any test pitches. He missed a start last month with a stiff back. Stay tuned for updates. · (24) ·
10:46pm: It’s his left groin and he’s off for an MRI. Stewart said he didn’t feel anything pop, so I guess that’s good.
9:47pm: Chris Stewart left tonight’s game after the seventh inning with an apparent groin injury. He pulled up lame running the bases and was in obvious discomfort. Stewart did remain in the game to run the bases, but he was taken out between innings. As always, stay tuned for updates. · (14) ·
Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Toledo)
- 2B Corban Joseph: 1-4, 1 HBP
- RF Brennan Boesch: 0-5, 1 K
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K — tough to win when the 1-2-3 hitters go a combined 1-for-13
- 3B Ronnie Mustelier: 2-5
- CF Melky Mesa: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
- RHP Chien-Ming Wang: 6.2 IP, 12 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1 Balk, 8/6 GB/FB — 66 of 100 pitches were strikes … the lack of grounds and all the hits are a pretty good indication the sinker wasn’t working
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 14 of 24 pitches were strikes (58%)
The Yankees and Mariners have split the first two games of this three-game series in very different ways. New York mounted a late-inning comeback in the opener before getting completely blown out yesterday. Did you know the Yankees have trailed after the first inning 14 times this year? They’ve had the lead after the first just five times, and they’ve been outscored 63-54 in the first three innings this year. Early runs and a fast start, please. Here’s the lineup that will face former Yankee Hector Noesi…
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Jayson Nix
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- DH Curtis Granderson
- 3B David Adams
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is 1996 Al Cy Young Award runner-up, left-hander Andy Pettitte.
The weather is damn near flawless in New York right now, so it’s a perfect night for baseball. The game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Got a trio of injury updates to pass along…
- Michael Pineda (shoulder) will throw 50 pitches in an Extended Spring Training game tomorrow. Brian Cashman has said they want to stretch him out to 65 pitches before sending him out on an official rehab assignment. Seems like the earliest possible return is late-June. [Jack Curry]
- Travis Hafner (shoulder) will take batting practice before tonight’s game. If that goes well, he will be available off the bench as a pinch-hitter. The Yankees will face left-hander Mark Buehrle on Friday, so I guess the earliest Pronk will return to the lineup is Saturday. [Meredith Marakovits]
- Joba Chamberlain (oblique) is not yet ready to come off the DL. He’ll make at least one more minor league rehab appearance with Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees swapped Brett Marshall for Dellin Betances today, just to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. [Bryan Hoch]
Update: Chad Jennings has lots more injury news, so let’s recap…
- Derek Jeter (ankle) was checked out recently and although he’s healing well, he’s still not ready to do any sort of baseball activities. He could shed his walking boot soon, however.
- Ivan Nova (triceps) will pitch in a minor league game on Monday. He felt some discomfort in his back last week, near his left shoulder, so he’s been setback a bit.
- Alex Rodriguez (hip) hit off a tee and soft toss the other day. It’s slow and stud with him, a minor league rehab assignment is still a long ways off.
- Kevin Youkilis (back) has also been hitting off a tee and soft toss, and he’s expected to take batting practice soon. Seems like David Adams‘ audition at third base will last for at least a few weeks.