Open Thread: March 5th Camp Notes

The Yankees beat the Red Sox 6-4 this afternoon, and both Jorge Mateo (solo) and Aaron Judge (three-run) hit home runs. Hopefully that’s the first of many times those two go deep in the same game against the BoSox. Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-2 with a walk and Jacoby Ellsbury tripled. Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Rob Refsnyder, Ben Gamel, and Ronald Torreyes each had a hit as well.

Mark Montgomery allowed three of Boston’s four runs in his inning of work. Chasen Shreve, Johnny Barbato, and Nick Goody each threw a perfect inning and Nick Rumbelow pitched around a double in his inning of work. The Yankees used nine different pitchers. One an inning. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the day’s notes:

This is tonight’s open thread. YES is replaying this afternoon’s game after tonight’s Nets game, whenever that ends. Figure 11pm ET or so. The Knicks are playing too and there’s a whole bunch of college hoops on the schedule. MLB Network is also showing some games on tape delay throughout the night. Talk about those games or anything right here.

Spring Training Game Thread: A-Rod on TV

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are playing their second televised (and fourth overall) Grapefruit League game this afternoon, and for the first time in 2016, we’ll get to see Alex Rodriguez in action. Rod homered on his first swing of the spring the other day, which of course means he’s going to hit about 40 dingers this year, his age 40 season. 40 at 40? Sign me up.

The Red Sox made the two hour drive up from Fort Myers — rivalry renewed, y’all! — so we’re not going to see many of their regulars today. They’re not putting guys on long bus trips yet. No one is, really. Anywhere, here is the Boston lineup and here is the Yankees lineup, for at least the first few innings before the mass substitutions begin:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 2B Dustin Ackley
  8. LF Ben Gamel
  9. SS Jorge Mateo
    RHP Tyler Cloyd

Available Pitchers: LHP Richard Bleier, RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Nick Rumbelow, RHP Nick Goody, LHP Chasen Shreve, and RHP Kyle Haynes are all scheduled to pitch. Shreve will be making his spring debut. He was hit by a line drive in the back during live batting practice the other day, but everything’s good now.

Available Position Players: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Chris Parmelee, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Ronald Torreyes, 3B Jonathan Diaz, LF Cesar Puello, CF Dustin Fowler, RF Aaron Judge, and DH Santiago Nessy will replace the starters.

It’s a pretty great day for baseball in Tampa. A little on the cool side, but it’s sunny and there are only a few clouds in the sky. Spring Training weather, it is. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1pm ET and you can watch on YES locally, MLB Network nationally, and MLB.tv anywhere. There are no MLB.tv blackouts in Spring Training. Enjoy the game, folks.

Minor League Links: Campos, Heathcott, Impact Prospects

Campos. (Presswire)
Campos. (Presswire)

The Yankees continue the Grapefruit League season later today and there will be a television (and online) broadcast, so hooray for that. We’ll have a regular game thread when the time comes. Here are some miscellaneous minor league notes to hold you over until first pitch.

Campos to work as a starter in 2016

Earlier this week Brian Cashman told Chad Jennings that RHP Vicente Campos will indeed continue to work as a starting pitcher this season. Campos, who came over from the Mariners in the Jesus MonteroMichael Pineda trade, missed the entire 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. The 23-year-old had a 6.29 ERA (3.58 FIP) in 54.1 innings across 13 starts with mostly High-A Tampa after returning last year. The Yankees re-added him to the 40-man roster over the winter to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent.

The ERA was ugly but Campos showed good control following surgery last summer (18.9 K% and 4.2 BB%) and his stuff reportedly returned to its pre-surgery levels, meaning a mid-90s heater and a hard upper-70s curveball. Campos, who used to go by Jose, has thrown only 166 innings over the last three years due to injuries, so he hasn’t had much time to work on his changeup. I think he’s likely to end up in the bullpen long-term because of that, but it makes sense to keep him in the rotation for the time being, if only to build up innings. There are a ton of guys ahead of him on the bullpen depth chart, though I wouldn’t rule out Campos making his MLB debut at some point in 2016.

Heathcott studying the swings of MLB’s best

In an effort to fine tune his swing, OF Slade Heathcott told Ryan Hatch he has been studying video of the game’s best hitters, such as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Josh Donaldson. “Just their approach, the load, the path to the ball,” he said. “Hitting the ball on a plane. That’s what works for me. Not trying to hit home runs, but get the ball in the air.”

Heathcott, now 25, had a 38.1% ground ball rate during his limited big league time last season. It was 51.6% in Triple-A last year and 51.5% with Double-A Trenton in 2013. (Injuries limited him to only nine games in 2014.) Heathcott has speed, so he can leg out some infield hits, but he’s going to have to get the ball in the air more often to really have an impact offensively. If watching videos of guys like Trout and Harper helps, great.

No Yankees among Law’s top 25 impact prospects for 2016

Keith Law (subs. req’d) recently put together a list of the top 25 impact prospects for the 2016 season, which is different than a general top 25 prospect list. Not everyone in a general top 25 list is big league ready. Dodgers SS Corey Seager predictably tops the top 25 impact prospects list, which features no Yankees. In his weekly chat, Law said C Gary Sanchez wasn’t really considered for the list because of a lack of playing time. Even if Sanchez makes the Opening Day roster, Brian McCann is going to get the lion’s share of the playing time behind the plate. Understandable.

Sanchez. (Presswire)
Sanchez. (Presswire)

Baseball America’s position rankings

The crew at Baseball America finished posting their prospect position rankings this week. They released the catcher, right-handed pitcher, and left-handed pitcher lists two weeks ago. Here’s a quick recap with all of the relevant Yankees:

Keep in mind the No. X prospect at one position is not necessarily of equal caliber to the No. X prospect at another position. Talent isn’t linear across positions. Baseball America’s top ten Yankees’ prospects list had Refsnyder one spot behind Wade, for example. Add in Sanchez, who ranked No. 1 on the catcher list, and the Yankees had a top ten prospect at five of the nine positions. That’s pretty good.

Misc. Links

Here are a bunch of miscellaneous links that are worth checking out and come with RAB’s highest level of recommendation.

  • Sweeny Murti has a must read interview with farm system head Gary Denbo (part one, part two). Denbo confirmed Judge made some adjustments with his lower half over the winter, which we noticed the other day.
  • Joel Sherman profiled OF Estevan Florial, who is the shiny new toy in the farm system. Florial, 18, signed for $200,000 last March after being suspended for a year by MLB for falsified documents, which he used to enroll in school a few years back. Lots of folks are talking about Florial as the next great Yankees prospect.
  • Mark Feinsand wrote about RHP James Kaprielian, who lost his mother to breast cancer two years ago. Kaprielian explained how the experience shaped him as a man and helps him deal with adversity on the field.

As a reminder, the four full season minor league affiliates begin their regular season on Thursday, April 7th this year. That’s three days after the big league Yankees behind their season.

Open Thread: March 4th Camp Notes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees lost their second straight Grapefruit League game this afternoon, falling 3-0 to the Tigers. Vinnie Pestano served up a three-run homer to Miguel Cabrera for the day’s only offense. Didi Gregorius, Brian McCann, and Dustin Ackley each had one hit. Didi doubled and drew the team’s only walk. Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks were both 0-for-3.

Bryan Mitchell struck out two in two hitless and scoreless innings. He did walk and a hit a batter. James Kaprielian retired all six batters he faced with two strikeouts, and one scout told Erik Boland he was sitting 94-96 mph. I’m sure Kaprielian was a little amped up for his first spring outing, though it does seem last year’s velocity uptick is here to say. He joked he “had a game plan and everything” for Miggy but didn’t get to face him, says Jared Diamond. Here’s the box score, here are the photos (no video since the game wasn’t on TV), and here are the day’s notes:

  • Pretty slow day at the complex. Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen, Brett Gardner (wrist) hit in the cage again, and all the regulars who didn’t play in this afternoon’s game took batting practice. That’s about it. CC Sabathia, Dellin Betances, Ivan Nova, and Andrew Miller will all throw in workouts tomorrow. [Chad Jennings, Brendan Kuty]
  • Domingo German (elbow) will be shut down for two weeks with ulnar nerve irritation before beginning a throwing problem. His recently rebuilt elbow ligament is intact. Donovan Solano was scratched from today’s game and is dealing with some back tightness. [Kuty, Jennings]
  • Jacoby Ellsbury will leadoff tomorrow in what will be his first spring game of the year. Chasen Shreve will also pitch in tomorrow’s game after taking a line drive to the back during live batting practice earlier this week. Tomorrow’s game will air on YES, MLB Network, and MLB.tv. Tyler Cloyd is scheduled to start. [Ryan Hatch, Jennings]

Here is the nightly open thread. MLB Network is showing the Royals and Padres live a little later tonight, plus all of the local hockey and basketball teams are playing except the Islanders. And there’s some college hoops on the schedule too. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

The Latest on the Yankees vs. StubHub

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Two weeks ago the Yankees announced they will eliminate the print-at-home ticket option this season. Hard-stock tickets and mobile barcodes will be the only way into Yankee Stadium. The team says the goal is eliminating ticket fraud. I’m sure the potential for increased ticket revenue is only a secondary concern. (To be fair, the Yankees are not the only pro sports team eliminating the print-at-home option.) Anyway, here’s an update on the team’s war with StubHub.

Yankees meet with StubHub, accomplish nothing

Last week team president Randy Levine and StubHub president Scott Cutler met to discuss … something. I’m not sure what, exactly. Here are the statements Levine and Cutler released afterwards:

Levine: “I met today with Scott Cutler, President of StubHub, and we had a good and productive meeting. It lasted about an hour and we agreed to continue talking. There is nothing to announce at this current moment, but we will update everyone when we have news.”

Cutler: “StubHub appreciates the Yankees willingness to meet and have an open dialog with regards to their ticketing policies. We were encouraged by the tenor of the conversation and look forward to continuing these discussions in the days ahead. StubHub is committed to putting fans first and passionately advocating for them with both our partners and the industry at large.”

If nothing else, this at least gives off the impression the Yankees are making an effort to work with StubHub. They’ve been so anti-StubHub over the years though — remember, they once sued StubHub because their ticket kiosk was too close to Yankee Stadium — that it’s hard for me to believe any sort of meaningful change will come out of this.

Yankees may let StubHub transfer mobile barcodes

According to Billy Witz, Levine said the Yankees may be willing to allow StubHub and other ticket providers to unlock mobile tickets. “The bottom line is, we would work with ticket providers as long as we know they’re legitimate, doing it in the spirit of helping our ticket buyers. But the ones I’ve talked to, including StubHub and SeatGeek, they don’t want to do that because they don’t want to spend the time and money,” said Levine.

This sounds great — as long as you have a smart phone — except this is the first StubHub has heard about it. “That is definitely news to us and definitely something we’d be interested in,” said StubHub spokesman Glenn Lehrman to Witz. “You’d be opening up a playing field and being given the opportunity to buy and sell tickets in an open marketplace, which is what we’re asking. All we would like is an opportunity to compete.”

Transferring mobile barcodes through StubHub (or another ticket company) would likely require the use of a third company like Flash Seats, writes Witz. Buyers would have to register with Flash Seats to receive mobile barcodes, allowing the team to track who is sitting in each seat. It would be a way for the Yankees to track the market and possibly charge additional fees.

StubHub considering courier service for tickets

In an effort to get hard-stock tickets to fans, StubHub is considering a courier service that would deliver tickets from the buyer to the seller, reports Jared Diamond. This could all happen within hours of first pitch. Nothing is final yet; StubHub is still exploring the possibility. I assume the courier service would come with some sort of fee, though it’s possible the tickets plus courier fee would still be a better deal than buying tickets at face value from the Yankees themselves, especially as prices drop big time before first pitch.

As the Red Sox change plans again, the Yankees continue to stick to theirs (for better or worse)

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

When the Yankees played their first Grapefruit League game of the year Wednesday, future rotation cornerstone Luis Severino was on the mound. Severino represents a sea change for the Yankees. Not too long ago the team used promising young like players like him to acquire proven big leaguers. Now they’re incorporating players like Severino into their big league roster and looking towards the future.

This emphasis on young players is fairly new. Remember, it was only two offseasons ago that the Yankees committed over $450M to big ticket free agents, including Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka. Last year the Yankees shifted gears and went young with a few mid-range free agents mixed in, namely Andrew Miller and Chase Headley. This offseason they avoided free agents all together and continued to get younger.

That’s the plan now: young players and no big money long-term contracts, at least not until the ones already on the books expire. The Yankees say they’re committed to this plan and I buy it. They’ve been to the postseason once in the last three years, and that was a one-game cameo as the wildcard team last season. Ratings and attendance are down. The Mets are the talk of the town. The free agent class was outstanding. The Yankees had every reason to spend big and trade prospects for big leaguers this past winter, and they didn’t do it. Regardless of whether you agree with it, their restraint was impressive.

Meanwhile, a few hours north, the Red Sox have apparently once again changed their organizational philosophy. Last week owner John Henry said the club won’t rely on analytics as much going forward — they’re not abandoning statistical analysis, just scaling back — even though they’ve had a ton of success over the last 12 years thanks to their ability to interpret numbers. Heck, Henry made his fortune using data to analyze hedge funds. You won’t see the Yankees abandon analytics anytime soon.

“One of the reasons that we’ve been able to avoid a dramatic falloff and at least be competitive is how effective our analytics have been,” said Brian Cashman to Peter Gammons recently. “We’ve been able to find players to fit in, like (Nathan) Eovaldi. We have great scouts and development people, but there are a lot of factors that go into the totality of an organization.”

Over the winter the Red Sox signed 30-year-old David Price to a $217M contract only a year after Henry said spending big on players on the wrong side of 30 is a bad idea. “Virtually all of the underpaid players are under 30 and virtually all the overpaid players are over 30, yet teams continue to extravagantly overpay for players above the age of 30,” said Henry to Nick Cafardo in 2014. “It is a wildly different approach. We haven’t participated in this latest feeding frenzy of bidding up stars.”

The Red Sox also traded high-end prospects for bullpen help after former GM Ben Cherington — with Henry’s blessing — wanted the club to focus on developing their own cornerstone players. That plan didn’t work in 2014, the year after the BoSox won the World Series by spreading the wealth around and signing several quality free agents rather than one or two stars. That spread it around strategy came about after spending huge dollars on Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford failed spectacularly.

That’s an awful lot of philosophical changes in a short period of time. The Red Sox have spent big, spent small, gone young, and now they’re circling back to spend big again. And now they’re scaling back on analytics to some degree. It gives off the impression the BoSox are reeling from all the recent last place finishes, don’t have any answers, and are scrambling for a solution. Fair or not, that’s how it comes off. Every plan needs to be flexible. This goes beyond normal flexibility.

For better or worse, the Yankees are now going young — they’re entering year two of this go young plan, so it’s lasted longer than any of the Red Sox’s recent plans — after years of spending big and emphasizing veterans. The Yankees were bonafide World Series contenders not too long ago and spending big made sense. Success is fleeting these days. I think you have to go all-in when you can, and the Yankees did just that.

Now it makes sense to step back and retool for the future, which the Yankees are doing. They’re trading for young guys with upside and keeping their prospects. That they’ve so far been able to do that without becoming an abject embarrassment on the field is gravy. I have no idea if this plan will work, but I’m pretty confident the Yankees will see it through either way.

Changing strategies year after year is no way to run a team. Not if the goal is long-term success. You’ve got to find a plan, stick to it, and hope it’s successful. One year is not nearly enough time to determine whether something as important as a team-building strategy is a success in this game.

Year Two of the Didi Gregorius Era [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last year at this time, the Yankees were preparing to begin the first season of the post-Derek Jeter era. The Cap’n had been entrenched at shortstop for the better part of two decades, and although Jeter’s game had slipped with age, replacing him was not going to be easy. All eyes were going to be on his replacement and the pressure promised to be intense.

The Yankees acquired Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade following Jeter’s retirement and let him sink or swing at shortstop. Didi struggled the first few weeks of the season, no doubt about it, but he started to settle in around mid-May. He hit .294/.345/.417 (109 wRC+) in the second half and played the hell out of short. The Yankees were patient early in the season and Gregorius rewarded them.

Things figure to be a little more comfortable for Gregorius this season, if for no other reason than because he’s more familiar with his situation. “It’s going to come up anyway, it’s never in the past,” said Didi to reporters last week when asked about no longer having to worry about being the guy who replaced Jeter. That narrative is never going away, unfortunately. Most see this as Year Two of the post-Jeter era. I prefer to look at it is as Year Two of the Gregorius era.

“I started to pick up halfway through and try to keep it going this year,” added Didi. “Getting to know the (American League) a little better, that was the thing in the first couple of months. Hopefully I can stay consistent through the whole year. It’s an improvement year and you have to improve every year. Hopefully try and keep the same thing going and try to get even better.”

Based on everything we saw from mid-May through the end of the season, Gregorius’ defense might be the most predictable aspect of the Yankees going into 2016. I’m more confident saying Didi will be an outstanding gloveman than I am saying pretty much anything else about the team right now. Gregorius has very good range, good hands, and a crazy strong arm. His defense is no question. It’s going to be great.

That all means the 2016 season is going to be about his offense, specifically his ability to take a step forward and contribute a little more. Didi did hit .265/.318/.370 (89 wRC+) overall last season, which is a touch better than the .256/.307/.375 (85 wRC+) batting line authored by shortstops around MLB in 2016. Gregorius hit .272/.321/.391 (94 wRC+) against righties and .247/.311/.315 (73 wRC+) against lefties.

In a perfect world, Gregorius would improve to the point where he is above-average against righties and competent against lefties this season. That seems like a modest goal. Take a nice little step forward and begin punishing righties while making lefties work for their outs. That’s not asking too much, is it? He knows how to make contact (14.7 K% overall and 15.9 K% against lefties), so getting the bat on the ball isn’t a problem.

Didi’s batting ball splits are pretty interesting, because they say he both hit the ball harder in the second half and sprayed it around the field a little better. Check it out:

Didi Gregorius batted ball

In the first half of the season Gregorius hit a ton of ground balls and he didn’t make much hard contact. In the second half, he hit the ball in the air way more often and he did a better job making hard contact. The spray data is neat too. Didi actually pulled the ball more in the second half, but he also went to the opposite more as well. He added some more balance to his game.

To me, that’s all good news. More hard contact and putting the ball in the air in a pretty good recipe for success. Didi’s not a speedster. He’s not someone who is going to put the ball on the ground and beat out a bunch of singles. He has the strength to drive the ball, and in the second half last year he did exactly that, drive the ball in the air and all around the field. This year I’d like to see Gregorius do that even more. More hard contract, maybe a few more balls in the air, and some more to left field as well.

Last season was all about getting Gregorius acclimated to his new team and his new situation. It was not his first chance at everyday playing time but it was his first full big league season, and he did it as the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees the year after Derek Jeter retired. That’s a lot to take on. Year One of the Gregorius era was about surviving all of that. Year Two is about improving. We now know Didi is a starting caliber shortstop. There’s also reason to believe he has the potential to contribute even more.