Fan Confidence Poll: February 1st, 2016

2015 Season Record: 87-75 (764 RS, 698 RA, 88-74 pythag. record), lost wildcard game

Top stories from last week:

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.

Weekend Open Thread

I didn’t have much time to read this week, but all you basketball fans out there, make sure you check out Lee Jenkins’ profile of Kristaps Porzingis. I don’t even like basketball and I enjoyed it. Also, I had an itch to watch some Curtis Granderson highlights earlier today, so he’s the weekend video. Enjoy.

Friday: This is tonight’s open thread. The NHL is in the middle of their All-Star break, but Porzingis and the Knicks are playing, as are the Nets. There’s no college basketball on the schedule though.

Saturday: Here’s the open thread again. The NHL All-Star Skills Competition in on tonight (7pm ET on NBCSN), plus the Nets are playing, and there’s a bunch of college hoops too. Have at it.

Sunday: This is the open thread for one last time. The NFL Pro Bowl is on tonight (7pm ET on ESPN), if that’s your thing. The NHL All-Star Game and its fun new format will be on as well (5pm ET on NBCSN). The Knicks are playing and there’s some college hoops on the schedule as well.

Ivan the Reliever

(Getty)
(Getty)

Heading into 2016, the Yankees seem to have a full starting rotation. Injuries will happen and more than five pitchers will start for the team this year, but if we bite our lips and close our eyes, take ourselves away to paradise where everything breaks right (meaning nothing breaks) and the Yanks are able to roll with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Luis Severino for most of the year, that leaves Ivan Nova with no spot in the rotation. For many–author included–that’s not a bad thing. Nova’s been very up and down in his career and coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2015, that was no different. While Severino pitched his way into the 2016 rotation with his 2015 performance, Nova may’ve pushed his way (permanently) out of it and into that ever gray, nebulous area of ‘not good enough to start, but not an obvious reliever, either.’

Of course, Nova could fit nicely into the long-reliever slot. The Yankees don’t necessarily need to be concerned with his long-term development as he’s close to free agency and he is blocked in the rotation by pitchers with better stuff, better results, and better upside. Allowing him to wallow for a while won’t negatively impact the team too much. It’s better that he fills this role than, say, Bryan Mitchell, who still has some room to grow and may yet turn out to be a starter for the big league team. And though it’s hard to see, given his lack of consistency, there is a route to success in the bullpen for Nova.

When we think of good relief pitchers, we generally think of those with one devastating pitch, which is something Nova hasn’t had in his career, despite throwing relatively hard and flashing a good curve every once in a while. Other relievers have a good two-pitch combo, like Andrew Miller‘s blistering fastball and sweeping slider–ditto for Dellin Betances and his curveball. Nova may not have any one pitch that is nearly as good as any his teammates have, but if he focuses on his two pitch combo–sinker and curveball, especially the latter–he may just find surprising success in the bullpen.

One key to Nova’s experience in the bullpen may just be increased reliance on that curve. Of course, I should note that it may not be wise for a guy coming off of elbow surgery to up his curveball usage, but if he’s relieving, the gross total may be lower than if he were a starter, even if the percentage goes up. For his career, Nova’s curve has the second highest whiff/swing rate at 36.97%, trailing only his slider (40.80), which he hasn’t thrown–per Brooks–since 2013. In 2015, he had whiff/swing rate of 37.43% with his curveball, blowing away all of his other pitches. The other key will be pairing that curveball with his sinker, which is most definitely Nova’s calling card. Both for his career and 2015, that sinker has gotten a hefty number of ground balls, with both tallies coming in at over 60% grounders/balls in play.

Ditching a fastball may seem like an odd choice, but it may be best for Nova if he’s going to succeed in a relief role. Moving into the ‘pen and out of the rotation is about simplifying your game and the simplest thing Nova can do is use his two best weapons–his bowling sinker and his effective curve. If he can do that and harness the power of those two pitches, perhaps he can move from just a long-man to an effective short reliever. The chances may not be great, but this is baseball, after all, and stranger things have happened.

Mateo, Judge, Sanchez all rank among MLB.com’s top 100 prospects

Mateo. (Post and Courier)
Mateo. (Post and Courier)

Last night, MLB.com wrapped up their preseason prospect ranking series with their annual top 100 list. Dodgers SS Corey Seager grabbed the top spot and was followed by Twins OF Byron Buxton and Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito in the top three. As always, MLB.com’s scouting reports are free. They’re a great resource.

The Yankees landed three players on the top 100 list: SS Jorge Mateo (No. 30), OF Aaron Judge (No. 31), and C Gary Sanchez (No. 59). Mateo was the 11th shortstop on the list, Judge was the eighth outfielder, and Sanchez was the second catcher. Three top 60 prospects is pretty darn good considering RHP Luis Severino and 1B Greg Bird graduated to MLB last year.

Mateo led professional baseball with 82 steals last year, so it’s no surprise the scouting report calls him a “true top-of-the-scale runner.” He’s also lauded for his “wiry strength,” though the power he shows in batting practice has yet to translate in games. That’s not unusual for kids that young. “With his actions, range, hands and arm, he’ll stay at shortstop for the long term,” said the write-up.

“Depending on how much Judge balances power versus discipline, he could be a higher-average hitter with 20 or so homers per season or more of a masher who delivers 30-plus long balls,” said MLB.com. Judge will work on tightening up his strike zone in Triple-A next season before getting an opportunity to assume the big league right field job long-term.

As for Sanchez, the scouting report says if he “stays behind the plate and realizes his power potential, he can be an All-Star.” That’s not surprising. Sanchez has always had the raw tools. He just had to work on turning those tools into baseball skills, and he’s done that in recent years, especially behind the plate. Sanchez still has work to do defensively, of course.

There’s a good chance Sanchez will graduate to the big leagues this summer, and Judge may do the same depending on his strike zone coverage progress in Triple-A. Interestingly, Jim Callis says Mateo has the potential to jump into the top five prospects next year. The global top five. All prospects, regardless of position. The Yankees haven’t had a top five prospect since Jesus Montero.

Aaron Judge ranks eighth on MLB.com’s list of the top ten outfield prospects

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

MLB.com’s look at the top ten prospects at each position wrapped up yesterday with the outfield. Twins OF Byron Buxton claimed the top spot — doesn’t it feel like he’s been around forever? hard to believe 2016 will only be his fourth full year of pro ball — and is followed by two Rangers prospects, OF Lewis Brinson and OF Nomar Mazara. OF Aaron Judge ranks eighth.

“He scuffled (in Triple-A), but even though he profiles as a potential slugging run producer, he’s also shown an ability in the past to make adjustments. Once Judge does that, he should be ready for his New York debut,” said the write-up. MLB.com’s scouting reports are free, as always. Here’s a snippet of their latest report on Judge:

Built along the lines of Giancarlo Stanton, Judge has similar strength, leverage and huge raw power. He focused on working counts and the middle of the field during his 2014 pro debut, but he started to turn his right-handed swing loose more often last season … An excellent athlete for his size, Judge has average speed and a strong arm. He has spent the bulk of his pro career in right field, but he could play left and fill in in center if needed.

Judge, 23, did hit .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) in 61 Triple-A games last year, but he still finished the season with a .258/.332/.446 (124 wRC+) line and 20 homers in 127 total games. He’ll return to the RailRiders this year and work specifically on controlling the outer half of the plate. Experienced Triple-A pitchers chewed him up with soft stuff away last summer.

I still consider Judge the Yankees’ top prospect but that is not the consensus. He struggled in Triple-A and Jorge Mateo is the new hotness. (And Gary Sanchez raked in the Arizona Fall League.) This is a what have you done for me lately world. Anyway, the long-term right field job is wide open. After some more tune-up time in Triple-A, I’m sure Judge will get an opportunity in the Bronx. The Yankees seem dedicated to their youth movement.

Sanchez ranked second on the catcher list and Rob Refsnyder ranked ninth on the second base list. Mateo was an honorable mention for the shortstop list. The Yankees did not have any players among the top ten righty pitcher, lefty pitcher, first base, or third base prospects.

Rosenthal: Yankees talked Jose Reyes trade with Rockies

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Early in the offseason the Yankees engaged the Rockies in trade talks about Jose Reyes, reports Ken Rosenthal. The Yankees were planning to play him at second base had a deal gone down. The Bombers eventually moved on and acquired Starlin Castro after a trade with Colorado failed to come together.

Here’s a little more on the trade talks from Rosenthal:

The teams talked about different ways to make a Reyes trade work, according to major-league sources. The Yankees, who wanted Reyes to play second base, would have required the Rockies to pay a significant portion of his remaining salary. But the two sides never got close to a deal, sources said.

Reyes, 32, is owed $48M over the next two seasons, assuming his $22M option for 2018 is bought out. He was arrested in Hawaii on domestic abuse charges in early-November — Reyes and his wife got into an argument and she ended up in the hospital with injuries to her face, neck, and leg — and his trial is scheduled to begin on Opening Day.

I have to think trade talks with the Rockies took place before that, so very early in the offseason. I know the Yankees used Aroldis Chapman‘s domestic dispute to get him at a bargain price, but man, Reyes put his wife in the hospital and he’s facing criminal charges. (Chapman is not.) Nope. Nope nope nope. Reyes has to be a non-option after that.

From a pure baseball perspective, Reyes is starting to slow down, and I don’t just mean on the bases. He hit .274/.310/.378 (80 wRC+) last year with seven homers and 24 steals, and his defense has been on the decline for a few years now. He did play some second base with the Mets very early in his career. It’s one thing to hope a young guy like Castro rebounds. Reyes might be in irreversible decline.

Earlier this offseason Brian Cashman said “if it’s old and expensive, it’s more likely that we didn’t check in on that,” so Reyes was one of the exceptions. Rosenthal says the Yankees wanted the Rockies to pay down a ton of that $48M, and in that case I guess Reyes qualifies as old and cheap. Either way, the Yankees didn’t get him. Phew.