Scouting the Trade Market: Yonder Alonso

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Remember the offseason, when Greg Bird and various supporting cast members couldn’t possibly provide less production at first base than Mark Teixeira last year? Good times. We were so naive. So far this season Yankees first basemen are hitting .192/.291/.355 (54 OPS+) overall, easily the worst production in the league. This is the position with the highest offensive bar. It has been capital-B Bad.

Bird has been on the disabled list since early May with an ankle issue, and last week he suffered a setback that will sideline him for an unknown length of time. He saw a specialist yesterday and we’ve yet to get an update. Given the setback and Chris Carter‘s inability to find sustained success, it’s time for the Yankees to begin looking outside the organization for first base help. Carter isn’t cutting it and the Yankees have to give Bird all the time he needs to get healthy.

One first baseman who is very likely to be available at the trade deadline is Athletics masher Yonder Alonso, an impending free agent having a career year offensively. The 30-year-old is hitting .299/.392/.619 (168 wRC+) with a career high 17 home runs already. His previous career high was nine homers back in 2012. The Athletics have the worst record in the American League and it stands to reason they’ll, at the very least, listen to offers for Alonso.

Does Alonso make sense for the Yankees? Well, yes. That’s easy. A left-handed hitter with those numbers and solid defense is pretty much exactly what the Yankees need. That’s what they hoped to get from Bird! There are two questions here. One, why should we expect Alonso to keep up this level of production? He’s never done it before. And two, what’s it going to cost? Let’s try to answer those.

The Fly Ball Revolution

Thanks largely to Statcast, there’s a lot of talk these days about launch angle and a renewed emphasis on getting the ball airborne. I refuse to believe Major Leaguers are just now figuring out that hitting home runs and getting the ball in the air are good things, though now we can better quantify that, and perhaps that helps in some way. I’m certain teams use this data to educate their players and make mechanical tweaks.

Alonso, maybe moreso than any player in the league, has not only bought into the fly ball revolution, he’s also excelled at putting it into practice. It’s one thing to say or know you need to do something. It’s another to actually do it. Baseball is hard! Becoming an extreme fly ball hitter is not like flipping a light switch. Here are Alonso’s batted ball rates over the years:

yonder-alonso-batted-balls

Yup. Before this season, Alonso’s career low ground ball rate was 41.8% in 2011. His career high fly ball rate was 38.5% in 2014. So far this season he’s at 28.1% ground balls and 50.7% fly balls. Statcast data goes back to 2015, so here are Alonso’s 2015-16 launch angles and his 2017 launch angles:

yonder-alonso-launch-angles1

The ideal launch angle is 10-30 degrees. Below that and you hit a grounder. Above that and you hit a pop-up. Anything from 10-25 degrees is likely a line drive (depending on how hard the ball is struck, i.e. exit velocity). Most home runs fall in the 25-30 degree range. From 2015-16, Alonso’s average launch angle was 9.1 degrees. 9.1! This year it’s 21.8 degrees.

It’s also worth noting Alonso’s hard contact rate (36.3%) and strikeout rate (22.5%) are career highs for a full season as well, which perhaps indicate he’s selling out for power a bit. (Like Matt Holliday?) In an effort to get the ball in the air, he’s swinging harder than ever, which inevitably leads to more whiffs.

Here’s a look at 2016 Alonso vs. 2017 Alonso. If a guy is hitting way more fly balls and way fewer ground balls, in addition to more hard contact and strikeouts, surely his swing is going to look a little different, right? I’d assume so. 2016 Alonso is on the left. 2017 Alonso is on the right.

2016-17-yonder-alonso-swing1

Looks … pretty much exactly the same? Dammit. I hate when that happens. Yonder has always had a pretty swing. That’s one of the main reasons he was the seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft. He just never developed the power many expected. At least not until this season. Before this year, he was basically James Loney 2.0.

Anyway, as for the GIFs, Alonso still uses both one-handed and two-handed follow-throughs regularly, so that’s not it. The GIFs are synced up at the moment his front foot touches down, and it does seem his leg lift is a little shorter this year. His leg hangs in the air a little longer in the GIF on the left, from 2016. Also, Alonso’s head is much more still in the 2017 GIF. Last year there was some herky-jerkiness in there. Keeping your head still is kinda important.

Ken Rosenthal recently profiled Alonso, who did some soul-searching this past offseason and was not happy with the way his career was playing out. From Rosenthal:

“It’s pretty simple,” Alonso says. “I was heading in a direction where I saw my career on the downfall. I think in August and September of last year I realized that if I don’t make some adjustments, I will be heading into a backup role, not get the at-bats that I want.

“I’m 30 years old. I’m in my prime. I pretty much was very truthful honest with myself. I realized that if you’re going to play first base, you’ve got to make sure you’re doing everything to make yourself valuable. I needed to work on my hitting.”

Alonso told Rosenthal he consulted with many former teammates and players around the league in the offseason. Everyone from Joey Votto to Rougned Odor to Danny Valencia to Carlos Beltran. Rosenthal and Susan Slusser say Alonso even sent video of his at-bats to Votto and Beltran for advice. This is a player who was not happy with his career, sought help, made changes, and is now reaping the rewards. Hooray hard work!

The Yonder Alonso we’re seeing this year is not the same Yonder Alonso as the past five years. He has made a drastic change to his batted ball profile and is now hitting the ball harder and in the air far more often than ever before. The difference is enormous. The power spike is not necessarily a fluke. It would be if Alonso were the same hitter with the same batted ball profile as in the past. That’s not the case though. He’s a different hitter. Because of that, there is reason to believe this version of Alonso is here to stay.

What’s it going to cost?

Alonso is a rental, not a long-term buy, which takes a bite out of his trade value. The A’s can still market him as an impact hitter, however. Here’s a list of rental bats traded at the deadline the last two years:

  • Jay Bruce: Traded for an up-and-down depth infielder (Dilson Herrera) and one organizational top 20 prospect (Max Wotell). (Bruce’s contract did in include a club option for another year.)
  • Carlos Beltran: Traded for a preseason top 50-75 global prospect (Dillon Tate) and two non-top 30 organizational prospects (Erik Swanson, Nick Green).
  • Yoenis Cespedes: Traded for a preseason top 50-75 global prospect (Michael Fulmer) and a top 20 organizational prospect (Luis Cessa).
  • Gerardo Parra: Traded for an organizational top ten prospect (Zach Davies).
  • Ben Zobrist: Traded for a preseason top 50-75 global prospect (Sean Manaea) and an up-and-down depth arm (Aaron Brooks).

Decent sample! The best comparable to Alonso is probably Parra, right? Beltran, Cespedes, and Zobrist were all high-end producers with long track records at the time of the trade. Bruce had some pretty great years earlier in career before slipping a bit, partly due to injuries.

Parra, meanwhile, was a solid player from 2009-14 who was an average-ish hitter and an above-average defender. He then had a huge first half with the Brewers in 2015, hitting .328/.369/.517 (137 wRC+) in 100 games, which is when they flipped him to the Orioles. Parra then hit .237/.268/.357 (66 wRC+) with the O’s. Heh.

There was no real reason to believe Parra was a changed hitter, however. That 2015 first half was a .372 BABIP fueled hot streak. Baltimore then dealt with the correction. With Alonso, there are tangible reasons to believe he is a different hitter now, specifically the sudden surge in fly balls. Parra had a hot streak. Alonso is a new player.

Davies actually represented the Orioles in the 2015 Futures Game, though he was by no means a top prospect. He was a good prospect in a bad farm system. Davies was a top ten prospect in that system. Bring a top ten prospect in the Yankees’ system means being in the conversation for top 100 lists. Davies is not comparable to, say, Chance Adams. Not close.

The current Yankees equivalent of Davies is probably Domingo German, though they are very different pitchers. (Davies is finesse, German is power.) German for Alonso? I’d do it, which probably means the A’s would not. Then again, the Athletics have made some terrible trades of late, so who knows. Maybe they’d go nuts for Tyler Austin or Rob Refsnyder. They seem like “random players the A’s build a trade around” players, no?

Keep in mind Matt Adams, a pretty similar player to Alonso, was traded straight up for a non-top 30 lower level prospect a few weeks ago (Juan Yepez). How many of these first base masher types were unsigned in February? The market for them is not robust. Alonso is better than Adams — he’s performing better at the time of the trade, plus he can play defense — but not so much better that it’ll take a top prospect to get him.

There aren’t many teams in need of first base or DH help at the moment. That could always change with an injury, but looking around the league, the only contenders with a need at either position right now are … the Yankees? That’s about it. Maybe the Cardinals if they’re willing to put Matt Carpenter at third and Jedd Gyorko at second. I suppose the Mariners could be in the mix too. That’s pretty much it.

So, given the overall lack of suitors and the fact Alonso’s track record is not long at all, it should not take a top prospect to get him. It might take two okay prospects, but not a great prospect. Not a top seven or eight prospect in the system. The Yankees have a ton of minor league depth and using some of it to improve the big league team through trades only makes sense.

Okay, so does Alonso still make sense?

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

I’m a big believer in not paying for outlier performance at the trade deadline. Example: Parra! Also: Xavier Nady. He had a huge first half with the Pirates in 2008, then went back to being regular ol’ Xavier Nady after getting traded to the Yankees. You remember that, don’t you?

Look at his career numbers, and this season is a clear outlier for Alonso. He’s never come close to doing anything like this in the past. Unlike Parra and Nady, however, there are some indicators Alonso has changed his hitting approach in a way that allows him to hit for more power. There are reasons to believe this is all very real.

If you buy into the new Alonso — I do, the Yankees may not — then yeah, he’d be a wonderful fit for the 2017 Yankees, especially since it probably won’t cost an arm and a leg to acquire him. Carter has been mostly terrible and who knows when Bird will be healthy. Given everything Bird has been through the last 18 months or so, it would behoove the team to be cautious and patient with him.

One thing I should note is that Alonso wants to remain with the Athletics long-term, so much so that he is open to foregoing free agency to sign an extension midseason. “I think that there is a great chance that I stay here. I really do mean that,” he said to Rosenthal. That gives the A’s some leverage in trade talks. They don’t have to trade him. They could keep him and try to re-sign now, before he hits free agency.

That all said, given their shoestring budget and the fact they have other first base options in house (Ryon Healy, Matt Olson), it would make sense for the A’s to at least listen to offers for Alonso. Billy Beane has a history of making trades early in the season too. This one might not have to wait until the July 31st deadline. The Yankees or any other team could probably get Alonso before the end of the month and squeeze that many more at-bats out of him.

Trading for a rental like Yonder is a win now move, and it’ll be up to the Yankees to decide whether they want to do something like that. They may decide to stay the course and go with the kids, and hope Bird gets healthy soon. Or they could decide that yes, they’re in the race, and yes, they have some excess prospects to trade. If they decide to make the win now move, Alonso would be pretty much the ideal first base target in my idiot blogger opinion.

Chance Adams, Domingo Acevedo, and the Yankees’ need for middle relief help

Adams. (Times Leader)
Adams. (Times Leader)

It happened again last night. For the fifth time during the seven-game losing streak, the bullpen let a winnable game slip away in the late innings. Tyler Clippard did the honors again, this time by allowing three runs in the span of four batters. Sometimes the bullpen is going to let a game slip away. It happens. That’s baseball. It has been happening entirely too often this last week though. It’s bad.

The Yankees did welcome Aroldis Chapman back from the disabled list Sunday, and adding him to the bullpen will no doubt help. Dellin Betances is now freed up for seventh and eighth inning work. Beyond those two though, the Yankees are without the injured Adam Warren, have a malfunctioning Clippardbot, and will need guys like Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve to get big outs. Not ideal!

The season is more than one-third of the way complete now, and it’s looking like the bullpen needs more help than a healthy Chapman. The trade deadline is coming up and trades are fun! We’re going to talk about them a bunch in the coming weeks. No doubt about it. But give the Yankees and Brian Cashman a truth serum, and I’m guessing they’d say they’d rather not trade prospects for non-elite bullpen help.

With the Yankees in the middle of their youth movement, going out and making a trade to shore up the bullpen may be Plan B. Plan A could be looking for help within first. We’ve seen guys like Gio Gallegos and Ben Heller already, and they could get more chances. I’m not talking about them though. The Yankees could turn to some of their high-end minor league starters for bullpen help, specifically Chance Adams and Domingo Acevedo. Let’s talk this out.

1. Using minor league starters as big league relievers is tried-and-true. Teams have been doing this for decades now. It’s not a new idea. Chris Sale spent his first year and a half as a big leaguer in the bullpen before transitioning into the rotation and becoming an ace caliber starter. So did Carlos Martinez. Jeff Samardzija, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Dylan Bundy, Adam Wainwright. They all broke into the show as relievers.

The Yankees have done this too. They did it with Joba Chamberlain, most notably. Phil Hughes spent just about the entire 2009 season in the bullpen. Luis Severino did the bullpen thing last season before getting another chance to start this year. I know we’re all still scarred from the Joba Rules and the weird way the Yankee used Joba late in 2009 and all that, but that was almost ten years ago now. The Yankees have learned from that. I know that because they’ve done absolutely nothing like it since.

The bottom line is this: if the Yankees believe in a player as a starting pitcher, they’re going to give him a chance to start at some point, likely sooner rather than later. They are not against an apprenticeship in the bullpen, however, because that can be beneficial too. Learning how to get outs in the big leagues is valuable experience regardless of role. Does Severino become the pitcher he is today without pitching out of the bullpen last season? I don’t think so.

2. Both Adams and Acevedo can miss bats, and that’s huge. I’m of the belief that the ability to miss bats is essential for bullpen arms. The Warren types, who succeed despite an okay-ish number of strikeouts thanks to weak contact and deep arsenals, are pretty rare. Being able to miss bats and get swings and misses in the late-innings is crucial. That ability to escape jams — or prevent rallies from getting started — by limiting balls in play is huge. Huge.

Both Adams and Acevedo can miss bats. They’ve racked up strikeouts in the minors — Adams has a 25.5% strikeout rate this year, Acevedo 26.2% — and the scouting reports suggest it’s not a fluke. Adams has a mid-90s fastball and a pair of quality breaking balls in his curveball and slider. Acevedo is 6-foot-7 with big extension on his mid-to-upper-90s fastball, plus he has a quality changeup. Let them air it out in relief for an inning or two at the time and these guys could run strikeout rates north of 30%.

3. It won’t be long before they bump up against their workload limits. I don’t know what the number for either guy is, but the number exists. The Yankees have some workload limit in mind for Adams and Acevedo, two of their top pitching prospects, because they want to protect their arms long-term. Here are their recent innings totals:

Adams Acevedo
2014 56.1 15.1
2015 94.1 49.2
2016 127.1 93
2017 so far 75.2 81.2
2017 limit 160? 140?

The old and outdated Verducci rule says you shouldn’t increase a young pitcher’s workload more than 30 innings from one year to the next, but that is, well, old and outdated. Teams are smarter than that now. Every pitcher is different and a blanket “no more than a 30-inning increase” doesn’t make sense.

The Yankees are fairly aggressive with their workload increases. Severino threw nearly 50 more innings in 2015 than he did in 2014, for example. (He threw 48.2 more innings, to be exact.) The Yankees will set limits and stick to them, however. They shut Adams down completely right before Double-A Trenton started the postseason last year. Took away the club’s best pitcher for the sake of his long-term health.

Whatever it is, Adams and Acevedo have an innings limit this year. Maybe it’s the 160 innings and 140 innings I threw in the table. Maybe it’s something else entirely. Whatever it is, rather than shut these down like they did with Adams last year, the Yankees could use those final few innings — their last, say, 20-25 innings, maybe? — out of the big league bullpen.

Remember, we’re not talking about Single-A pitchers here. Both Adams and Acevedo are in Triple-A now. Letting a young, talented pitcher reach his workload limit only to shut him down for the year in Triple-A rather than give him a chance to help the MLB team, even as a September call-up, almost seems wasteful.

Big Sunday. (Icon Sportswire)
Big Sunday. (Icon Sportswire)

4. Service time, minor league options, and the 40-man roster aren’t obstacles. Any time you call up a player, there are roster consequences to be considered. In the case of Adams and Acevedo, neither is on the 40-man roster. The Yankees have an open 40-man spot right now, plus Greg Bird is a 60-day DL candidate, though that might not be the case when they’re ready to call up these two pitchers.

Acevedo will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, so calling him up would simply be getting a head start and adding to the 40-man a few weeks early. Adams won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible until after next season, however. And once both guys are on the 40-man roster, they’re not coming off. The Yankees would be tying up a spot for good and that limits their roster flexibility. That’s not nothing!

That said, Acevedo is going to end up the 40-man roster soon anyway, and Adams is likely going to be big league ready before being Rule 5 Draft eligible. This isn’t like adding, say, Jorge Mateo to the 40-man last year. Mateo is a Single-A kid who isn’t MLB ready but was Rule 5 Draft eligible. Acevedo and Adams would be added to the 40-man when the Yankees deem them MLB ready. They’d be on the roster because they’re ready to help.

As for minor league options and service time, who cares? It’s not worth worrying about service time with non-elite prospects, especially pitchers because they get hurt so often. And if the Yankees run into options trouble with Acevedo and Adams down the line, then things are going wrong. Not being able to send them to the minors in 2020 would mean something has gone wrong. These roster issues really aren’t worth worrying about.

* * *

All of that was a long way of saying that if the Yankees consider Adams and Acevedo big league ready, there’s no good reason not to use them as relievers. The guys in the bullpen are not getting the job done and sticking with the status quo might not be viable much longer. The Yankees are going to have to get some new bodies in there if things don’t change soon.

Adams and Acevedo can go back to starting next year and the roster situation isn’t enough of an obstacle. Maybe the Yankees end up needing both Adams and Acevedo in the rotation and this is all moot. If not though, the bullpen is waiting, and both should be considered middle relief options. If they’re deemed ready to help, let them help, even if they’re only throwing one inning at time.

Angels 8, Yankees 3: Losing streak reaches seven after Dellin Betances watches another bullpen meltdown

And the losing streak has hit seven. A well-deserved loss, this was. Shaky starting pitching, bad defense, not enough offense, and miserable relief pitching sent the Yankees to an 8-3 loss to the Angels on Tuesday night. Turns out you occasionally have to win to stay in first place. The seven-game losing streak is their first since April 2007. (They had one that spanned the end of 2011 and the start of 2012, but that doesn’t count.)

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Pineda Settles Down
The top of the first was the baseball equivalent of having your teeth pulled. Cameron Maybin started the game by poking a double into the right field corner, then Michael Pineda went into “I’ll throw the next pitch whenever I damn well feel like it” mode. He took a looong time between pitches. The walk and run-scoring single didn’t help matters. Pineda threw 27 pitches that inning and it took about 25 minutes. No joke.

The two-run second inning started with an inexcusable error by Chris Carter. Eric Young Jr. pulled a soft grounder to first and Carter just whiffed on it. Brought his glove up too quickly. Young made it to second, then Danny Espinosa ripped a run-scoring double into the right-center field gap to give the Angels a 2-0 lead. Kole Calhoun later chipped in a two-out, two-strike single against Pineda to score a run and give the Halos a 3-0 lead.

To Pineda’s credit, he settled down quite nicely after the rough first two innings. He retired nine in a row after the Calhoun single and 12 of the final 15 batters he faced. Pineda did allow back-to-back two-out singles in the fifth and a two-out single in the sixth, but escaped. Well, Chasen Shreve escaped the sixth. He struck out Espinosa after Pineda was yanked. Can’t feel good when your manager doesn’t trust to you face Espinosa a third time.

All told, Pineda allowed three runs (only one earned thanks to Carter’s error) on seven hits and one walk in 5.2 innings. He threw 105 pitches and struck out seven. It was a grind early. Big time. The first inning was a mess and Pineda did well to escape that mess with only one run allowed. He couldn’t do the same in the second, but I guess one outta two ain’t bad. Nice work not letting this snowball into a disaster outing, Mike.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Fighting Spirit!
Down three runs after two innings? No problem! The Yankees stormed back to knot things up 3-3 by the sixth inning. They got on the board with a Chase Headley sacrifice fly in the fourth inning. A Starlin Castro single and a Gary Sanchez walk set that one up. Didi Gregorius lifted a fly ball deep enough to center field to get Castro to third for the sac fly.

In the fifth, Aaron Judge flicked his wrists and hit a solo home run into the right-center field seats for his team’s second run of the night. An inning later, Sanchez did the same thing. Judge’s home run was more of a high fly ball. Sanchez’s was a line drive. Two different homers, but the same result. The picket fence in innings 4-6 evened the score at three apiece. A new ballgame!

Death By Bullpen
I have to admit, I’m impressed by Joe Girardi‘s steadfast refusal to use his best reliever in high-leverage situations. No matter how many games the non-Dellin Betances relievers blow, Betances is going to pitch his inning and his inning only. Bullpen management in the year 2017. What a time to be alive.

The 3-3 tie lasted two pitches. Two pitches! Seventh inning guy Tyler Clippard came into face the top of the lineup in the seventh inning — definitely don’t want to use Betances against those guys — and he left a 78 mph nothingball out over the plate to Cameron Maybin …

tyler-clippard-cameron-maybin

… which turned the 3-3 tie into a 4-3 Angels lead. It was a homer as soon as it left Clippard’s hand. A 78 mph changeup there is a batting practice fastball. This was the third time Clippard allowed the game-tying or go-ahead home run to the first batter he’s faced (!) in his last seven appearances. Amazing. If that doesn’t knock him out of the Circle of Trust™, nothing will.

But wait! It didn’t stop there. The next batter: double off the wall. The next better: fly ball to the warning track. The next better: triple off the top of the wall. Nothing but loud contact against Clippard, which is the norm these days. Jonathan Holder, who has been sneaky crummy of late too, replaced Clippard and allowed the inherited runner to score. The final line on Clippard: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR. Six runs in his last 5.2 innings.

Holder didn’t stop the bleeding. In addition to allowing Clippard’s inherited runner to score, he also allowed a run on a double, a bunt, and an infield single in the eighth. Then came the Luis Valbuena solo homer in the ninth to give the Angels an 8-3 lead. That was that. Holder threw 41 pitches in 2.2 innings. He has now allowed nine runs, including four homers, in his last 12.1 innings. That bad? That seems bad.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Leftovers
The bullpen was awful but let’s not excuse the offense here. Four hits against Parker Bridwell (?!?) and various relievers? Come on. The Yankees did draw five walks, so that’s good, but four hits won’t win you many games. Judge (homer), Matt Holliday (double), Castro (single), and Sanchez (homer) had the hits. The other five players in the lineup went 0-for-16.

Aaron Hicks returned to the lineup after missing three games and went 0-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout. Holliday, Sanchez, and Headley had the other walks. Austin Romine pinch-hit for Carter in the ninth inning, which seems ridiculous even as bad as Carter has been this year. No one said he’s hurt after the game though. Weird. Tonight was bad but I’m not worried about the bats. The bullpen is another matter.

And finally, the Yankees last lost seven in a row back in April 2007, as I said. That losing streak ended after Jeff Karstens had his leg broken by a comebacker, and Kei Igawa came out of the bullpen to throw six shutout innings against the Red Sox. I was at that game. No idea why I mentioned that. I guess it’s better than talking about this game.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page that you should check out. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Wednesday night, in the middle game of this three-game series. Jordan Montgomery and Ricky Nolasco are the scheduled starting pitchers. RAB Tickets can you in the door for that game, or any of the other four games remaining on the homestand.

DotF: Staten Island wins opener; Tate returns in Tampa’s win

Some notes to get us started:

  • SS Gleyber Torres is having his Tommy John surgery tomorrow, according to Bryan Hoch. Mets team doctor Dr. David Atlchek will perform the surgery. See you in the spring, Gleyber.
  • 3B Nelson Gomez is listed as suspended on the Staten Island Yankees roster for some reason. Not sure what happened there. He didn’t fail a drug test or anything like that. Those are announced by MLB. Must have violated team rules.
  • RHP Travis Hissong has been released, the Tampa Yankees announced. Hissong had been with the Yankees since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He threw some innings as an extra arm in Spring Training this year.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (4-3 loss to Syracuse in seven innings)

  • 2B Tyler Wade & C Kyle Higashioka: both 0-3 — Higashioka struck out twice
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — 12 homers in 64 games this year after hitting 12 in 132 games last year … getting out of Trenton is a part of it, no doubt, but not all of it
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 0-2, 1 BB
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — three homers in his last eight games
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 4.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 7/0 GB/FB — 43 of 67 pitches were strikes (64%) … he’s thrown 56, 60, and 67 pitches in his last three starts, which is weird … they’re not really stretching him out much
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 22 of 34 pitches were strikes (65%)

[Read more…]

Game 68: Home Sweet Home

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Thank goodness the Yankees are back home again. That road trip was a nightmare. Six losses in seven games and five injuries too, including two DL stints (CC Sabathia and Adam Warren) and one setback (Greg Bird), and not including one top prospect blowing out his damn elbow on a slide (Gleyber Torres). But that’s baseball. A little adversity never hurt anyone.

On paper, the Yankees are set up well to bounce back this series. They’re throwing their three best starting pitchers against the Angels, who are starting a pitcher acquired in a cash trade, the league leader in home runs allowed, and a converted reliever. Also, the Yankees are 22-9 at home and have outscored their opponents by 83 (!) runs. The Yankees have hit .285/.367/.524 at home this year. They’re a lineup of Nelson Cruzes (.288/.369/.517) at Yankee Stadium. Here is the Angels’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks (the Achilles is healthy)
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Michael Pineda

Lovely day in New York today. The sky will be nice and clear tonight. Good night to snap a six-game losing streak. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is feeling better and will take full batting practice with Double-A Trenton tomorrow. There is still no firm timetable for his return though … Warren (shoulder) saw the doctor today and has inflammation in his rotator cuff. No structural damage. They pumped him full of steroids and he’ll rest for a bit before he resumes throwing … Bird (ankle) is seeing a specialist today.

All-Star Voting: According to MLB’s latest update, Judge is still the AL’s leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game. His 2,631,284 votes are nearly half-a-million more than second place Jose Altuve (2,185,035). Pretty awesome. Castro (second), Holliday (second), Gregorius (third), Sanchez (third), and Gardner (eighth) are all getting a bunch of support at their positions as well. Here’s the All-Star ballot. Go vote.

Home Run Derby: Judge has been invited to the Home Run Derby, according to the Associated Press. Hooray! He has not yet decided whether to participate, however. Judge should do it. He should so do it.

2017 Draft Signings: Sauer, Smith, Lehnen, Higgins, Zurak

Higgins. (Getty)
Higgins. (Getty)

We are still two and a half weeks away from the Friday, July 7th signing deadline, though the Yankees have already taken care of business with most of their 2017 draft picks. Here are my Day One, Day Two, and Day Three recaps, and here are all of the Yankees’ picks. Now here are the latest signings:

  • Both Arkansas RHP Trevor Stephan (3rd) and Rice RHP Glenn Otto (5th) signed for less than originally reported. MLB.com says Stephan received $797,500, not $800,000. Jim Callis says Otto received $320,900, not $323,400. Turns out there’s an accounting trick that saves teams $2,500 against the bonus pool. Callis says the standard draftee contract includes $2,500 in bonuses so easily reachable that teams were counting it as part of the signing bonus. Now they’ve stopped. The player still gets the money, but it doesn’t count against the bonus pool. Huh.
  • The Yankees and California HS RHP Matt Sauer (2nd) have a deal in place, reports Steve Adams. Joe Bailey says Sauer was offered $2.5M, which is roughly double his slot value. I don’t doubt Adams and Bailey, though I’d like to see one of the regular draft gurus says the deal is done before considering it done, you know?
  • Texas HS OF Canaan Smith (4th) has signed, the Yankees announced. Jim Callis says he received a $497,500 bonus, a little above the $433,100 slot value. Smith has big left-handed raw power and he walked 60+ times in 40 games this spring. It’s a top ten walks total for a prep player all-time.
  • Augustana LHP Dalton Lehnen (6th) and Dallas Baptist RHP Dalton Higgins (7th) have signed, the Yankees announced. Callis says Lehnen received a $245,100 bonus, which is his slot value minus the $2,500 trick. No word on Higgins’ bonus yet. My guess is he received slot as well. (Update: Callis says Higgins signed for $227,500, which is slightly above slot.)
  • Radford RHP Kyle Zurak (8th), Texas-Arlington RHP Austin Gardner (9th), and Southern Illinois RHP Chad Whitmer (10th) have all signed as well, the Yankees announced. MLB.com says all three signed for a well-below slot $7,500. They’re draft pool saving college senior picks.
  • New Orleans RHP Shawn Semple (11th), Orange Coast 1B Eric Wagaman (12th), Virginia Tech RHP Aaron McGarity (15th), Mount Olive SS Ricky Surum (16th), Delaware RHP Ron Marinaccio (19th), and Notre Dame C Ryan Lidge (20th) have all signed, the Yankees announced. Slot money for every pick after the tenth round is $125,000 and I doubt these guys signed for more than that. (Update: Callis says Semple signed for $147,500. No word on the other guys.)
  • Seattle RHP Janson Junk (22nd) has signed, according to his Instagram feed. There’s no reason to think he received more than the $125,000 slot.

Assuming the Sauer deal is done, the Yankees have now signed every pick in the top 22 rounds except South Carolina RHP Clarke Schmidt (1st) and Alabama-Birmingham RHP Garrett Whitlock (18th). That Sauer is getting a big over-slot bonus indicates the Yanks have a below-slot deal in place with Schmidt.

6/20 to 6/22 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels

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

The Yankees trip to the West Coast went about as poorly as it could. They dropped six of seven to the Angels and A’s, and suffered injuries and heartbreaking losses along the way. They’ve fallen to 16-20 on the road as a result of this road trip, so a return to the Bronx (where they’re 22-9) is quite welcome.

The Last Time They Met

It was last week, so this may well be a fine example of deja vu all over again. The Angels took two of three at Angel Stadium, and CC Sabathia left the second game with a strained left hamstring. Let’s take a look at some of the positives from the series:

  • Aaron Judge went 2-for-4 with a three runs, a home run, and two RBI in the first game. That home run was a two-run shot in the 8th inning, which broke a 3-3 tie and helped secure the win for the Yankees.
  • Masahiro Tanaka was solid in that game, as well. He went 6.2 IP, allowing 4 hits, 3 runs (1 ER), and 2 BB, striking out 8.
  • Chase Headley showed signs of life in the series, going 6-for-13 with a double and a home run. He raised his season OPS from .659 to .696 in those three games.
  • All nine Yankees starters reached base safely in both the first and third games of the series.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more in-depth analysis of the series.

Injury Report

Closer Cam Bedrosian returned from the disabled list over the weekend, and there’s a chance that reliever Huston Street will return this week, as well. Matt Shoemaker essentially replaced Bedrosian on the DL, due to a forearm strain. Otherwise, it’s the same story as last week – which means no Mike Trout and no Garrett Richards.

Their Story So Far

The Angels hosted the Royals for a four-game series after the Yankees left, and they dropped three. They’re now 36-37 on the season, including 10-10 with a +13 run differential since Trout hit the disabled list.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager Mike Scioscia seems to have found a lineup that works for him over the last week and change – at least as it pertains to the first six spots in the order. If their last two series’ are any indication, the Yankees pitchers will see something along these lines:

  1. Cameron Maybin, CF
  2. Kole Calhoun, RF
  3. Albert Pujols, DH
  4. Yunel Escobar, 3B
  5. Luis Valbuena, 1B (vs. RHP) or Andrelton Simmons, SS (vs. LHP)
  6. Andrelton Simmons, SS (vs. RHP) or C.J. Cron, 1B (vs. LHP)
  7. Ben Revere, LF or Eric Young, LF
  8. Martin Maldonado, C
  9. Danny Espinosa, 2B

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP Parker Bridwell

It has been a rather inauspicious beginning to Bridwell’s 2017 season, as the 25-year-old was DFA’d by the pitching-starved Orioles to make room for Paul Fry, and was subsequently dealt to the Angels for a PTBNL or cash. This will be the second start of his MLB career (he started against the Braves on 5/30), and his second time facing the Yankees (his most recent outing).

Bridwell throws a trio of fastballs, including a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s two-seamer, and an upper-80s cutter. He also throws a slurvy breaking ball and a change-up in the low-to-mid 80s.

Last Outing (vs. NYY on 6/14) – 3.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco

There was a time when we were all waiting for Nolasco to break-out, owing largely to his strong strikeout and walk rates, which resulted in low FIPs that belied his high ERAs. He’s now 34-years-old, though, with a 5.02 ERA (81 ERA+) since the beginning of the 2014 season, so those days are long gone. Nevertheless, the 0.61 run gulf between his career ERA (4.55) and FIP (3.93) is the highest of any long-term starter since the end of the 19th century.

Nolasco throws mostly fastballs and sliders nowadays, with his four- and two-seamers sitting in the low-90s, and his slider checking-in in the low-80s. He’ll also throw a low-80s split change-up every so often.

Last Outing (vs. KCR on 6/15) – 6.0 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 K

Thursday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Jesse Chavez

To say that Chavez can do a bit of everything is a bit of an understatement, as the 33-year-old has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen several times over the last five years. He spent all of 2013 in the bullpen, split the 2014 season between starting and relieving, spent the vast majority of 2015 as a starter, and was used as a reliever for the entirety of 2016. He’s back in the rotation in 2017, and he leads the Angels in both starts and innings pitched. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up for debate.

Chavez is a four-pitch guy, with a low-90s fastball, a low-90s cutter, a low-80s slider, and a mid-80s change-up. He’ll flash a curve, as well, but it’s not used more than a couple of times per game.

Last Outing (vs. KCR on 6/16) – 7.0 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K

The Bullpen

The return of Bedrosian and potential return of Street means that the Angels bullpen is approaching full-strength. It was difficult to tell that they were short-handed, though, given that the bullpen has a 2.70 ERA (133 ERA+) in June. They held the Royals offense to 4 runs in 15 innings this past weekend, striking out 14 while walking just 2. It was all hands on-deck in the series against the Royals, with most relievers going at least twice. However, the day off and the return of Bedrosian should leave the group fairly rested and ready for tonight’s game.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Would it be a cop-out to lean on Simmons’ defense once again? If not, there you go.

If so, Bedrosian’s slider is among the best in the game, with batters hitting just .170 with a .019 ISO against the offering last year. It’s a filthy pitch, to say the least. You could also probably make a game out of how often the broadcasters reference his father – the Cy Young-winning Steve Bedrosian.