Here is tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is showing some regional games tonight, and at 10pm ET ESPN will have the Dodgers and Nationals. That’s Clayton Kershaw vs. Stephen Strasburg. Fun fun fun. The NBA postseason is finally over, so there’s nothing but baseball for the next few months. Talk about whatever here.
Here is the latest round of 2016 draft pick signing news. You can see all of the Yankees’ picks at Baseball America. Here’s our first set of signing updates and our reviews of Day One, Day Two, and Day Three of the draft, in case you missed them.
- Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer told George King there “is progress going on” in talks with California HS OF Blake Rutherford (1st round). “I don’t have a timetable, but we are making progress,” he said. Oppenheimer also said the Yankees are making progress with California HS RHP Nolan Martinez (3rd). Rutherford and Martinez are the team’s only unsigned picks in the top ten rounds, which are the rounds tied to the bonus pool.
- South Carolina RHP Taylor Widener has signed, according to Baseball America. No word on his bonus, though I assume it is $100,000 or less. That’s the maximum teams can give players drafted after the tenth round without it counting towards the bonus pool.
- Florida HS RHP Jordan Scott (14th) has signed, also according to Baseball America. Scott actually tweeted out that he had signed, but it has since been deleted. Guess he jumped the gun. There’s no word on his bonus.
- New York JuCo LHP Tony Hernandez (15th) has signed for $100,000, reports Josh Norris. That’s the max allowed without anything counting towards the bonus pool.
- Eastern Kentucky 3B Mandy Alvarez (17th) round has signing and is already playing for Short Season Staten Island. No word on his bonus, but I assume it is $100,000 or less.
- Fordham RHP Greg Weissert (18th) told Jesse Foster he is planning to sign. He’s supposed to head down to Tampa soon to take his physical and sign his contract.
- Texas HS OF Evan Alexander (19th) seems to have signed, according to his Twitter account. He traveled to Florida yesterday, indicating he’s in Tampa for his physical and contract signing.
- Fullerton RHP Miles Chambers (20th), USC OF Timmy Robinson (21st), and Maryland JuCo OF Joe Burton (24th) have all signed, according to Baseball America. No word on their bonuses.
- Florida HS OF Ed Luaces (25th) has signed, he told Robert Pimpsner. He is currently in Tampa working out and will be assigned to one of the minor league affiliates soon.
- Lander RHP Will Jones (28th) has signed according to his Twitter feed. No word on his bonus, but as with pretty much everyone else in this post, I assume it’s $100,000 or less.
- California HS C D.C. Clawson (34th) told Steve Breazeale he plans to follow through on his commitment to BYU unless the Yankees make a last minute over-slot offer. Clawson is one of the players the Yankees took as a backup plan in case Rutherford doesn’t sign and leaves them with a bunch of unspent bonus pool space.
- Virginia HS RHP Zach Hess (35th) indicated he will not sign on Twitter. Like Clawson, Hess is one of the players selected as a backup plan in case Rutherford doesn’t sign.
- Stony Brook RHP Tim Honahan (36th) has indeed signed. Stony Brook broadcaster Jeff Bernstein posted a photo of Honahan signing his contract on Twitter. No word on his bonus. Last week we heard Honahan was planning to sign.
- Wisconsin-Milwaukee RHP Brian Keller (39th) has signed, he told Steven Tietz. He’s in Tampa working out now. “There will be workouts, and then I’ll be assigned (to one of the minor league affiliates),” said Keller to Tietz.
- Wisconsin HS RHP Nate Brown (40th) told JR Radcliffe he will not sign, but appreciates being drafted. “Now I have a love for the Yankees I didn’t have before. Three years from now, if they come in and (draft me) and don’t offer me as much as I’ve been (hoping for), there’s still that deep feeling in my heart that three years ago, they saw something that the other guys didn’t,” he said.
By my unofficial count, the Yankees have now signed 24 of their 40 draft picks. Teams usually sign 25-30 draftees each year. The Yankees still need to get Rutherford and Martinez locked up, though it seems like only a matter of time until that happens. Rutherford probably won’t sign until the July 15th deadline though. Here’s our Draft Pool Tracker.
The trade deadline is now only six weeks away, and unless the Yankees get hot and go on an extended run between now and then, they’re going to have to seriously consider selling. The Yankees are four games back of the second wildcard spot with four teams ahead of them. FanGraphs pegs their postseason odds at 13.8%.
According to Ken Rosenthal (video link), five contending teams are already showing interest in ace lefty reliever Andrew Miller: Cubs, Giants, Nationals, Dodgers, and Rangers. We’ve already heard that the Giants and Nationals want Miller, and that the Cubbies have been scouting New York’s bullpen. The Dodgers and Rangers are obvious fits too. I have some thoughts on this.
1. Push Chapman on the Nationals. Because Aroldis Chapman will be a free agent after the season, there should be a greater sense of urgency to trade him than Miller, who has two years left on his deal. The Nationals don’t have a history with Chapman but they kinda do. Dusty Baker was his first manager with the Reds and Washington reportedly tried to trade for him this offseason, even after the domestic violence incident. The Yankees just beat them to it. Hopefully the Yankees can exploit that interest, send Chapman to the Nats for a big package, then look to move Miller elsewhere.
2. The Rangers have more to offer than anyone. To me, no team has as much to offer for Miller (or Chapman) as the Rangers. They have both high-end young big leaguers (Jurickson Profar, Nomar Mazara) and high-profile prospects (Joey Gallo, Chi Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz) to trade, though obviously some are more available than others. I’d be stunned if Texas traded Mazara, and I think it would take a lot to pry Profar loose. Certainly more than a reliever, even a great one like Miller.
That said, Rangers GM Jon Daniels has a history of being aggressive and paying big at the trade deadline. He gave up a lot to get Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza a few years back, most notably. Texas has the best record in the AL (45-25), a huge lead in the AL West (8.5 games), and an awful bullpen (4.76 ERA). I can’t imagine Daniels will not address his relief crew at the deadline. The Yankees have great relievers to offer and the Rangers can offer a lot in return. It’s a really great match.
3. A bidding war between the Giants and Dodgers would be sweet. The Giants have won eight straight games to open a 6.5-game lead in the NL West, and while that is hardly insurmountable in mid-June, it sure is better than being neck-and-neck. You know the Dodgers don’t want to fall behind any further. Both teams have some bullpen issues and, of course, they’re big time historic and intradivision rivals.
Creating a bidding way between the Giants and Dodgers could be awfully beneficial to the Yankees. The Dodgers have more to offer if you look at prospect lists and whatnot, but I wouldn’t rule out the Giants cobbling together enough to beat them out for Miller (or Chapman). Either way, the best possible thing for the Yankees would be the Dodgers closing the NL West gap a bit in the next few weeks. If the San Francisco bullpen could blow a few games during that time, that would help too.
4. More teams will get involved. The Cubs, Giants, Nationals, Dodgers, and Rangers are the most notable contenders looking for bullpen help, but they’re far from the only teams in need of relievers. The Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Indians, and Mets all figure to be in the market for bullpen arms at the deadline. Would the Yankees trade with another AL East team? I doubt it but they shouldn’t rule it out. If that’s the team that offers the best return, why not take it? In theory, an intra-division trade means you’d be improving your organization and making a rival’s worse, right? Just go into the deadline with an open mind. There will be plenty of suitors. Listen to them all.
Sabathia heating up
There haven’t been many enjoyable things to watch with this year’s Yankees team, but one of them undoubtedly is the masterful, turn-back-the-clock season of CC Sabathia.
He continued his brilliance on Thursday, working out of several jams to pitch six innings of one-run ball in the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the Twins. He put 10 guys on base but stranded nine of them, consistently generating weak ground ball outs to end rallies and finish off innings. His ground ball rate of 70.6 percent was his highest in a start this season.
Sabathia also dialed up the heat on his pitches and seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. His cutter (91.5 mph), sinker (93.3 mph) and slider (82.4 mph) each had their highest average velocities in a game this season, and he maintained that velocity as he approached 100-plus pitches late into his outing.
The large lefty now has a 0.82 ERA in his last seven starts, the lowest among all pitchers with at least 30 innings since the start of May through Thursday. Sure, that’s an arbitrary endpoint, but consider this: Clayton Kershaw’s best ERA over a seven-start span this year is 0.81 and his best seven-game mark last year was 0.82.
Didi Gregorius provided the margin of victory with a tie-breaking three-run homer in the seventh inning off lefty specialist Fernando Abad. The Twins reliever entered the game having allowed only three hits in 30 at-bats against lefty hitters this season, and had yet to surrender a longball to anyone. Didi, of course, entered the game with the best batting average among left-handed batters against left-handed pitchers in MLB this season — and won the strength-versus-strength battle.
The blast was also his second three-run homer in three games, which gives us this #funfact: Didi is the first Yankee shortstop to hit multiple three-run home runs in a three-game span since Roy Smalley, who hit two of them in a game against the Royals on Sept. 5, 1982.
There’s nothing like a trip to the Twin Cities to cure those losing-streak blues. The Yankees continued to pound a bad Twins team on Friday night, winning 8-2 thanks a balanced offense that scored early and often to support a stellar performance by Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka bounced back from a rough start last week against the Tigers, throwing eight innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks. It was his 11th game allowing two earned runs or fewer, the most such starts among all American League pitchers through Friday’s slate.
The outing also marked his fifth straight start on the road with at least six innings pitched and no more than one earned run allowed. Only one other pitcher in franchise history has fashioned a streak like that in a single season: Whitey Ford, who did it in 1950, 1963 and 1964.
Down 4-0 heading into the eighth inning, Saturday’s game seemed destined to end in another frustrating loss. But then the Twins remembered who they were (a very bad baseball team), the Yankees remembered where they were playing (Target Field; aka Yankee Stadium Midwest), and their bats came alive to spark another late-inning rally. In the end, the Bronx Bombers had their first win this season when trailing after seven innings.
Alex Rodriguez — who was riding a season-high 11-game homerless streak entering this game — cut the deficit in half with a two-run blast in the seventh inning. That hit gave him 5,795 career total bases, passing Babe Ruth (5,793) for sixth place on the all-time MLB list.
Carlos Beltran then tied the game with an opposite-field homer in the eighth inning off Kevin Jepsen. His 18 homers are the most by any Yankee age 38 or older this early into the season, one more than Babe Ruth had through 68 team games in 1933.
Jacoby Ellsbury capped the comeback win with a bases-loaded RBI single in the next frame. It was the first time since joining the Yankees three seasons ago that he delivered a go-ahead hit in the ninth inning.
Aroldis Chapman made things interesting in the ninth inning as he tried to close out the game. He surrendered back-to-back two-out homers to Eduardo Escobar and Kurt Suzuki, which sliced the lead to 7-6, before he eventually got the save. Suzuki’s shot came off a 102 mph fastball, the fastest pitch ever hit for a home run by any player in the Pitch F/X era (since 2008).
Sweep-less in Minneapolis
As much as the Yankees have dominated the Twins in Minneapolis recently, they couldn’t complete the four-game sweep this weekend, blowing an early lead and losing 7-4 on Sunday afternoon.
The Yankees entered the final game of this series with a 19-5 record in the regular season at Target Field (and 2-0 in the postseason), a mark that was notable in several ways. It was the:
- highest win percentage at Target Field by any AL team
- highest win percentage at any stadium by any team since 2010 (when Target Field opened)
- highest win percentage for the Yankees at any park over the last 100 seasons (min. 20 games)
The loss was even more improbable given the opposing starter, Ervin Santana, who had a 7.71 ERA in his previous five outings this season and who hadn’t beaten the Yankees since August 1, 2008. His streak of 11 straight starts without a win against New York was the longest active winless streak versus the team by any starting pitcher.
Brian McCann broke out of his hitting slump in style, crushing two homers deep into the right-field seats and beyond; according to Statcast, they traveled 421 and 450 feet. Since 2008 (as far back as Statcast has batted ball distance), the only other Yankee with two homers of at least 420 feet in the same game was A-Rod on July 25 last season, also at Target Field against the Twins.
Record Last Week: 3-3 (36 RS, 35 RA)
Season Record: 34-35 (283 RS, 302 RA, 32-37 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Rockies (two games, Tues. and Weds.), Thurs. OFF, vs. Twins (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The week started with a much-needed off-day following the 40 games in 41 days stretch. The Yankees went to Colorado after that, and they lost the opener 13-10 to the Rockies. They then dropped the second game 6-3.
- A four-game series in Minnesota was next. The Yankees earned a 4-1 win Thursday and then an 8-2 win Friday. They came from behind for a 7-6 win Saturday, but were unable to finish the sweep. They lost 7-4 Sunday.
- Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (knee) has resumed hitting and running. He’ll begin a three-game minor league rehab assignment tomorrow. Carlos Beltran (knee) had fluid drained and missed a few games, but has since returned to the lineup. Brady Lail landed on the Triple-A DL.
- The Yankees signed Ike Davis and added him to the roster to help cover for all the first base injuries. Chase Shreve was activated off the DL and optioned to Triple-A. Tyler Olson was claimed off waivers from the Royals.
- Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel has been declared a free agent, and the Yankees have interest. The Cubs are scouting the big three relievers. The Yankees and impending free agent Carlos Beltran have not had any talks about a new contract.
- The Yankees have signed several draft picks, most notably second rounder Nick Solak. His deal will be finalized today.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
It’s tough to sweep any team in a four-game series, even a bad team like the Twins, but the Yankees had a chance to do so Sunday afternoon. Instead, they blew an early lead and lost 7-4 in the series finale, which once again dropped them a game below .500. The 2016 Yankees: mediocre as hell.
Build A Lead
Brian McCann has been so bad these last few weeks — he went into Sunday’s game in a 5-for-55 (.091) slump over his last 20 games — that I wondered if he was hurt. He had the toe injury a few weeks back and more recently dealt with a hyper-extended elbow. Catchers get hurt. It’s a brutal position. McCann was slumping so hard that you couldn’t help but wonder if he was playing through something painful.
In the second inning Sunday, McCann snapped an 0-for-15 skid with a long solo home run off Ervin Santana to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. It was a quality at-bat — he fouled off three tough pitches and worked the count full — before unloading on Santana’s center cut 3-2 fastball. Look at the location:
When you’re struggling like McCann, you can get pitches like that and still miss them. They get popped up or rolled over for a ground ball, something like that. It was good to see McCann really lay into that pitch and drive it a long way. The ball hit off the facing of the upper deck in right-center. Statcast measured it at 421 feet, his longest dinger of the season to date.
The Yankees scored their second run thanks to some bad Twins defense and good Brett Gardner baserunning. Gardner hit a high fly ball to center that went over Danny Santana’s head for a double — it really should have been caught, it appeared Santana misread the distance due to the wind — then scored on Alex Rodriguez‘s bloop single. Gardner read the ball off the bat perfectly and took off for home. He didn’t need to wait to make sure it would fall in. That gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Give It Back (And Then Some)
Nathan Eovaldi pitched pretty well for the first five innings of Sunday’s game. He did wiggle out of trouble in the first inning after walking two, but after that, he retired 14 of the next 17 batters he faced. Once of the three baserunners was a Max Kepler solo homer into the right field flowerbed. It was a line drive that just barely made it into the overhang. The ball actually hit the first row of flowers and fell back onto the field, so yeah, it barely made it over.
Things fell apart in the sixth inning, and really, a bunch of weakly hit base hits got the wheels in motion. Brian Dozier blooped a one-out single in front of Jacoby Ellsbury, then Trevor Plouffe followed with a little ground ball poked the other way against the shift. That put runners on the corners. Eduardo Escobar ended Eovaldi’s afternoon with a broken bat dinker over Ike Davis‘ head at first base. Dozier scored and Plouffe came all the way around the score too. He was originally called out on the play at the plate before it was overturned on replay.
Ultimately, it didn’t really matter. Escobar’s triple — he raced all the way around the bases as the throw went to home plate — gave the Twins a 3-2 lead. Betances entered and allowed a bloop single to Kepler to make it 4-2 Twins — Statcast measured Escobar’s triple and Kepler’s single at 62 mph and 61 mph off the bat, respectively, which is nothing — then Kurt Suzuki followed with a hard-hit double to left to make it 5-2 Twins. Suzuki’s double was, by far, the most well-struck ball of the inning.
Eovaldi was charged with four runs on six hits and two walks in 5.1 innings, giving him a 5.02 ERA (4.31 FIP) on the season. He struck out only two. Eovaldi has now allowed at least four runs in each of his last four starts, something he’s never done before. A month ago he looked like he was on track and riding the splitter to consistent success. Now the splitter seems to have deserted Eovaldi, making him much less effective. For shame.
The Yankees scored a run in the eighth inning thanks to back-to-back errors by Taylor Rogers and Plouffe. Rogers pulled Plouffe off the first base bag with a throw on Ellsbury’s infield grounder, then Plouffe let a routine grounder go right through his legs. Of course, Kirby Yates gave up a bomb to Dozier in the previous half-inning, so that eighth inning run only cut the deficit to 6-3. Yates has allowed eleven runs in his last ten innings.
Nick Goody put the game further out of reach by allowing a run in the ninth inning. He’s now allowed eight runs in his last 9.2 innings. For all the preseason talk about the Yankees possibly having the best bullpen ever, the team’s relievers now have a combined 3.96 ERA in 202 innings. The non-big three relievers have a 4.94 ERA in 122 innings. Imagine how much worse the bullpen will be once the Yankees trade Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
McCann added a single and another solo homer later in the game. The second homer measured at 450 feet, per Statcast, so that’s a new season high. McCann went 3-for-4 on the afternoon. Hopefully that gets him going. Gardner had two hits as well while A-Rod and Davis had one each. The Yankees did not draw a walk for sixth time in 69 games this season. They did it eight times all of last year, and from 2002-11, they averaged 4.6 walk-less games per season. Not making outs is overrated anyway.
Fun fact: in his first inning at-bat, Ellsbury swung and missed at a pitch for the first time in 19 plate appearances, according to Inside Edge. He went 84 total pitches and 41 swings between swings and misses by my unofficial count. Ellsbury went into Sunday’s game with a 6.1% swinging strike rate, 22nd best out of the 171 players qualified for the batting title. (Gardner is fourth at 4.4%.)
And finally, the Yankees went 3-3 on their trip through Colorado and Minnesota. They lost a game in both the AL East and wildcard races, and are now four games back of a playoff spot with four teams ahead of them. Their postseason odds sit at 14.5%, per FanGraphs. Trade ’em. Trade ’em all.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings. MLB.com has the video highlights. Check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the win probability graph:
The Yankees are heading home for a nine-game homestand, but first, they have an off-day Monday. It’s their second off-day in a week after having one off-day in the previous seven weeks. The Rockies are coming to town for a two-game series after that. Ivan Nova and Chad Bettis is the scheduled pitching matchup for Tuesday night’s series opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch that game or any of the other eight games on the homestand at Yankee Stadium.
Thanks to his contributions to Short Season Staten Island’s ten-inning no-hitter last night, RHP Drew Finley landed in today’s Prospect Report. It’s not behind the Baseball America paywall, so check it out.
- CF Ben Gamel: 1-4 — hitting .370/.452/.520 with 13 walks and 14 strikeouts in his last 24 games
- RF Aaron Judge: 0-1, 1 BB
- C Gary Sanchez: 0-2, 1 K
- LF Jake Cave & 1B Nick Swisher: both 1-3
- DH Cesar Puello: 0-3
- LHP Phil Coke: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 5/4 GB/FB — 38 of 57 pitches were strikes (67%)
- RHP Gio Gallegos: 3 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 28 of 42 pitches were strikes (67%) … 53/8 K/BB in 35.2 innings
- RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 12 of 18 pitches were strikes (67%)