The Yankees are bad right now. They weren’t bad the whole season. They might not be bad in a week or so. But for the past few weeks they’ve been pretty bad.
When the going gets rough, people want a shakeup.
“If George were alive [insert desired shakeup here].”
…because George presided over nothing but winning teams, and they definitely didn’t build the 90s dynasty while he was out of the picture.
A shakeup sounds great. It means that ownership is taking action to correct a problem. Mistakes were made, and someone is to blame. Someone has to pay.
Where would such a shakeup start with the Yankees?
Brian Cashman? He’s the one who built this roster. Why should he get a free pass for its poor performance?
Perhaps Cashman has worn out his welcome with the Yankees. I’ve always been a fan, but there could certainly be some Stockholm Syndrome aspect to that opinion. But is the time now to fire him?
Absolutely not. What would that accomplish? The draft is tomorrow. The Yankees have spent months preparing. It’s not as though you can just let them draft guys and then fire everyone. (Because if you fire Cashman, you fire the entire front office essentially.) They still have to sign those guys.
Hell, when the Cubs finally fired Jim Hendry, they kept him on for nearly a month after making the decision. Why? Because a new general manager — or worse, and interim GM — would probably fare worse than the guy they were firing in dealing with the roster at the trade deadline.
A new GM is rarely, if ever, a savior. He or she might bring a change of philosophy, but it can take years for that philosophy to make a difference on the field. A new GM will not turn around a team that is underperforming.
Cashman’s contract is up after this year. If they want to get rid of him, they have the opportunity to do so soon enough. (Although as Buster Olney said on the podcast, there is every indication that the Steinbrenners will opt to bring back Cashman even if the Yankees miss the postseason.)
There is one thing the Yankees can do to shake things up, at least a little bit.
They can DFA Alfonso Soriano.
Getting Soriano at last year’s trade deadline worked wonders. He went on an immediate tear, and kept the Yankees relevant for a month longer than they had any business being relevant. But his role diminished early in the off-season, when they signed Jacoby Ellsbury. Unless they traded Brett Gardner, Soriano would have to DH or play out of position. Signing Carlos Beltran meant DH, a non-position Soriano had vocally opposed in the past.
The Yankees have four outfielders once Carlos Beltran is healthy. Both Kelly Johnson and Yangervis Solarte have some experience playing out there, so they can act as emergency options. Zoilo Almonte can come back up at some point and be the fifth outfielder if the Yankees feel they need one.
We know Soriano can go on ridiculous hot streaks. Mike and I discussed that on the latest podcast. But can you really count on that happening this year, given how absolutely terrible he’s looked? His lone hot streak this year lasted 12 games, during which he hit four doubles and three homers. In the other 41 games? Nine doubles and three homers.
The Yankees can’t exactly afford to wait on Soriano at this point. They need to turn around a stagnant offense. Getting improved production from Brian McCann, Beltran, and Jacoby Ellsbury would help. Keeping Mark Teixeira healthy would help as well.
You know what else would help? Replacing the least productive starter with someone who is potentially very productive*. Replacing Soriano at DH with Kendrys Morales, a process they can start as early as Friday, could jolt an offense that has struggles going on a month at this point.
*Sorry, they’re not replacing Jeter. Cry about it if you want, blame everyone for letting it happen. Just understand that you’re arguing with reality.
There isn’t much the Yankees can do with the current roster. Is there anyone who should be getting less playing time — other than Jeter, who I mentioned, and McCann, who is in a similar position? Brian Roberts? With whom would you replace him, and would it be enough of an upgrade to the offense?
The Yankees lose little by replacing Soriano with Morales. It costs them some money, but there will be a return on that investment.
Like Morales or not, he’s the most efficient and potentially effective upgrade at this point.
For the third straight game, the Yankees scored exactly two runs. That’s their daily allotment. Two runs certainly isn’t enough to beat the high-powered Athletics, who grabbed the series-opener by the score of 5-2 in ten innings on Tuesday night. The Yankees have lost three straight and have scored no more than three runs in all five games on the homestand.
I Guess The Wrist Is Healthy
The Yankees have been without Mark Teixeira for five and a half of their last seven games due to nagging soreness in his surgically repaired wrist. He received a cortisone shot over the weekend, was re-evaluated on Tuesday afternoon, and was back in the lineup Tuesday night. His impact was immediate.
The Yankees used one of their patented “three hits, one run” rallies in the first inning to jump out to an early lead. Brett Gardner singled through the right side of the infield, Jacoby Ellsbury singled on a line drive to shallow left, then Teixeira blooped a single into right to plate Gardner from second. It was the bloopiest bloop that ever blooped. Stayed just inside the line and out of the reach of two fielders. Perfectly placed for the quick one-zip lead.
Then, later in the game after the Athletics knotted things up at one, Teixeira hooked a very poorly located Scott Kazmir fastball into the visitor’s bullpen for a solo homer. His team-leading tenth dinger gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. The right wrist is the one that hurts, so it shouldn’t bother him too much batting right-handed. If it does, you couldn’t tell on Tuesday.
Kuroda Parties Like It’s April-July 2013
For at least one night, the good version of Hiroki Kuroda returned to Yankee Stadium. The slider was working, the splitter was working, and home plate umpire Chris Guccione had a nice big strike zone. Here’s the strike zone plot. That definitely helped. Kuroda allowed just one run — a solo homer by Brandon Moss, which happens — in 6.2 innings of work, though with his pitch count at 93, he could have easily finished the inning. Joe Girardi just didn’t want him facing Moss a third time. I don’t blame him.
Kuroda allowed only three base-runners all night: a Yoenis Cespedes single in the second, a Coco Crisp walk in the fourth, and the Moss homer in the fifth. Both Cespedes and Crisp were immediately erased by ground ball double plays. Kuroda threw seven of his 93 pitches from the stretch. That’s it. He struck out only two but recorded 15 other outs on the infield via pop-ups and ground balls. That’s what the good version of Kuroda does, he manages contact well and gets a lot of high-percentage outs on weakly hit balls in play. Does this mean he has turned the corner and will be better going forward? Who in the world knows. Kuroda was excellent on Tuesday. That’s all we know.
Don’t Do That Dellin
The Yankees had a golden opportunity to tack on another run or two after Dellin Betances struck out Moss to end the seventh inning. Scott Sizemore and John Ryan Murphy singled and walked, respectively, to put runners on first and second with no outs. Brendan Ryan tried to bunt them over, but he fouled a pitch off. For whatever reason, he never tried to bunt again. He struck out, Gardner struck out, and Derek Jeter flew out to end the rally. I don’t get it. It’s Brendan Ryan. He should be bunting in that situation even with two strikes.
Anyway, the insurance run never came, so Betances went back out for the eighth inning. He started the inning innocently enough with a weak ground out and a strikeout, but then Dr. Dellin showed up and Mr. Betances was nowhere to be found. Betances walked Alberto Callaspo before leaving a total meatball of a fastball out over the plate for Stephen Vogt, who lined a double into the gap to score Callaspo all the way from first to tie the game at two. It was a terrible pitch. After getting three outs on eleven pitches, Betances threw 13 to Callaspo and Vogt. It was the first run he allowed in 9.1 innings and the first non-homer run he allowed in 16.1 innings.
The A’s tried to give this game to the Yankees, but the Yankees just didn’t want to take it. Not only did they blow that two on, no outs situation in the seventh, but they couldn’t get Ellsbury in after he drew a four-pitch walk to leadoff the eighth. Teixeira struck out, Yangervis Solarte grounded out, and Ichiro Suzuki flew out. Ellsbury stole second during Solarte’s at-bat — he didn’t run earlier because they would have walked Teixeira, and the Yankees need him to hit — and was eventually stranded at third. This goes here.
David Robertson pitched for the first time since his meltdown on Sunday, and, unsurprisingly, he was totally fine. His psyche was not shattered. He threw a perfect ninth inning on 13 pitches. It was Adam Warren‘s turn to cough it up, however, and he surrendered three runs in the top of the tenth. An absolute missile of a solo homer by Moss to lead off the inning was the only run that really mattered. So, within the last three games, each of Girardi’s key late-inning relievers blew up. Maybe throwing multiple innings every other day last month is catching up to them.
Teixeira was the only player in the lineup with two hits. His homer was the only extra-base hit as well. The Yankees have exactly one extra-base hit in three straight games. Gardner, Ellsbury, Solarte, Sizemore, and pinch-hitter Brian McCann had singles. Ellsbury, Solarte, and Murphy all drew walks. Ten base-runners in ten innings is good, right? Michael Kay said a 1.00 WHIP was good during the broadcast.
This was probably the infield’s best defensive game of the season. Sizemore made two nice plays (one to turn a double play, one jumping to field a chopper), Ryan made a few nice plays (one jumping to snag a liner), and both Solarte and Teixeira were solid as well. It was really refreshing to see. The infield has been a nightmare this year.
So far this year the Yankees are averaging 3.70 runs per game at home and 4.47 runs per game on the road. That’s a pretty huge difference. Maybe they should offer to swap ballparks with the Mets. This offense is much more suited for a large pitcher’s park like Citi Field, where hitting for power isn’t a thing.
Same two teams on Wednesday night, when the Yankees will look to avoid falling to .500 for the first time since May 13th, after the second game against the Mets. Don’t worry, Vidal Nuno will be on the mound. He’ll be matched up against Jesse Chavez. Check out RAB Tickets if watching this team on television isn’t off-putting enough.
As usual, let’s start with some notes:
- According to George King, 3B Eric Jagielo is expected to be out another two weeks or so. He has been on the disabled list with an oblique/ribcage problem for about two weeks.
- Jagielo, DH Dante Bichette Jr., OF Jake Cave, UTIL Zach Wilson, and LHP Daniel Camarena were all named to the High-A Florida State League All-Star Game. Congrats to them.
- 1B Mike Ford, OF Aaron Judge, RHP Brady Lail, and LHP Caleb Smith were all named to the Low-A South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Congrats to them as well. RHP Jaron Long was snubbed.
- LHP James Pazos and UTIL Casey Stevenson have been promoted to Double-A Trenton, according to Nick Peruffo. They replace LHP Francisco Rondon and SS Carmen Angelini, who were bumped up to Triple-A Scranton yesterday.
Triple-A Scranton (7-6 loss to Norfolk)
- 2B Jose Pirela: 1-5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI — 18-for-50 (.360) in his last ten games
- 1B Kyle Roller: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
- DH Corban Joseph: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB
- C Austin Romine: 0-3, 1 K
- RHP Zach Nuding: 6 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 9/3 GB/FB — 51 of 79 pitches were strikes (65%)
- SwP Pat Venditte: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 24 of 36 pitches were strikes (67%)
On paper, this series looks like it could be a bloodbath. The Athletics are no worse than the second best team in baseball and the Yankees are playing horribly. The offense and defense, specifically. The pitching hasn’t been bad, it’s just fallen victim to the terrible glovework. Now they have to face the team that has scored the most runs and allowed the fewest runs in baseball? Hide the women and children.
Luckily, they don’t play games on paper. That would be pretty boring. I’m not going to lie to you and say the Yankees will be just fine, you aren’t stupid, you can see how bleak things look, but anything can happen in one game. That’s what makes it fun. Hopefully the Yankees can steal a win tonight and go from there. Here is the Athletics lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- DH Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
3B2B Yangervis Solarte
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Scott Sizemore
- C John Ryan Murphy
- SS Brendan Ryan
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
It was hot and sticky in New York today and it’s been raining for about an hour now. They’re going to be playing through some slop if there isn’t a delay. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB network nationally, depending on where you live. Try to enjoy.
Roster Moves: In case you missed it earlier, Sizemore has been called up and Zoilo Almonte was sent down to Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees also claimed lefty Wade LeBlanc off waivers from the Angels. He’ll report to the team in a day or two, which I assume means the end of Alfredo Aceves.
Injury Updates: Carlos Beltran (elbow) went 2-for-3 with a walk in his second Extended Spring Training game and said he felt fine. He is expected to play again tomorrow, then rejoin the team a day or two later … Frankie Cervelli (hamstring) went 3-for-5 with a double and caught five innings in the same game. He’s going to play again tomorrow. [Adam Berry]
Update (6:56pm): Tonight’s game will start in a delay, the Yankees announced. No word on a possible start time. The weather is supposed to clear up around 11pm ET though.
Update (7:32pm): Word is the game will start at approximately 8:15pm ET. They’re probably going to be playing through some light rain, if true.
Jakson Reetz | C
Reetz is from tiny little Firth, Nebraska, a town with less than 1,000 people. It’s about 30 miles outside Lincoln. Reetz is committed to Nebraska and is the best high school prospect the state has produced since former Yankee Buddy Carlyle was drafted in the second round of the 1996 draft.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 lbs., Reetz is a very good pure hitter, with quick hands and the innate ability to get the fat part of the bat on the ball. He also has a good approach and has shown a willingness to use the entire field. The power is not there yet but figures to develop as he fills out and gets stronger. Reetz’s best defensive tool is his strong arm — he pitched in the past and showed a low-90s fastball. His overall footwork and received need work, especially catching high-end stuff. Reetz has above-average speed, so the outfield could be an option if catching doesn’t work out. He is also said to be a very intense competitor who plays all out, all the time.
MLB.com, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and Baseball America ranked Reetz as the 40th, 42nd, and 62nd best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Just last week Law said the Yankees are once again targeting high school catchers and mentioned Reetz as a target by name. Their first pick is in the second round (55th overall), so he fits right into that range. Catchers do have a tendency to get drafted higher than expected due to position scarcity, however.
Masahiro Tanaka was named the AL Pitcher of the Month for May, MLB announced. He had a 1.88 ERA (2.21 FIP) with a 42/6 K/BB in 43 innings across six starts last month, so it was very clearly deserved. Tanaka’s the first Yankee to be named Pitcher of the Month since … Ivan Nova last August. Two in the last four months. Neato. · (6) ·
The Yankees have called up infielder Scott Sizemore from Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. Zoilo Almonte was sent down in a corresponding move. Sizemore, 29, has hit .265/.333/.361 (96 wRC+) with the RailRiders this year. The Yankees will face four lefty starters in the next seven games and six lefties in the next dozen games. I’m guessing that’s why the righty hitting Sizemore is up.
In other news, the Yankees also claimed left-hander Wade LeBlanc off waivers from the Angels. That’s French for David Huff. Michael Pineda was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. He’s already been on the disabled list for a month and just suffered a setback, so yeah. The 29-year-old LeBlanc made a spot start for the Halos the other day (four runs in 6.1 innings) and has a 3.69 ERA (4.46 FIP) in 53.2 Triple-A innings this year. His best attribute is that he’s not Alfredo Aceves. I’m guessing Aceves will get the axe when LeBlanc joins the team in a day or two. · (45) ·
The soft part of the schedule is over. The Yankees had their fun with the Mets and Pirates and Cubs and White Sox and Twins of the world (8-8 in 16 games, great job!) these last few weeks, and now it’s time to deal with the elite. The Athletics are in the Bronx for the final three games of the homestand and they bring the best record in the league with them.
What Have They Done Lately?
Like I said, Oakland has the best record in the AL at 35-22. Their +115 run differential is just about double the next best in baseball. Seriously. That’s what happens when you score the most runs (296) and allow the fewest runs in baseball (181). Some combination, huh? The A’s just swept a three-game series from the Angels, but before that they actually lost six of eight.
Again, the Athletics have scored the most runs in baseball (5.19 per game), and their team 115 wRC+ is obviously sky high. Manager Bob Melvin’s lineup is mostly healthy, though 1B/OF Brandon Moss (160 wRC+) and OF Josh Reddick (75 wRC+) are a little banged up with nagging calf and knee injuries, respectively. They sat a few games this weekend and are expected to return to the lineup soon.
OF Yoenis Cespedes (116 wRC+) is Oakland’s big name on offense, but 3B Josh Donaldson (161 wRC+) is their best all-around player by a rather large margin. The catching platoon of C John Jaso and C Derek Norris (both 149 wRC+) is unfairly productive, and SS Jed Lowrie (110 wRC+) hits enough to make up for his occasionally sketchy defense. Oh, and OF Coco Crisp (115 wRC+) is one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball.
The A’s have an incredibly deep bench loaded with platoon options, including OF Craig Gentry (93 wRC+), 1B Kyle Blanks (144 wRC+ in limited time), IF Alberto Callaspo (96 wRC+), and IF Nick Punto (93 wRC+). IF Eric Sogard (52 wRC+) is the weak link. He’s been losing playing time at second to Callaspo and Punto. C Stephen Vogt was just called up and allows Melvin to pinch-hit liberally for Jaso and Norris to get the platoon matchup. They hit homers, they steal bases, and they draw walks. It’s brutally effective.
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (vs. NYY)
Kazmir, 30, turned his successful comeback attempt with the Indians into a two-year, $22M contract with the Athletics over the winter. He has a 2.36 ERA (3.02 FIP) in eleven starts and 68.2 innings this year, though his strikeout rate (6.85 K/9 and 19.9 K%) is way down compared to even last season. His walk (1.70 BB/9 and 4.9 BB%) and homerun (0.52 HR/9 and 5.6 HR/FB%) rates are way down and his ground ball (49.2%) rate is way up. Kazmir has a reverse split so far — righties have a .248 wOBA while lefties are at .290 — and he’s been much better in the spacious O.co Coliseum (.237 wOBA) than on the road (.275 wOBA). No longer the mid-to-high-90s flamethrower he was with the (Devil) Rays, Kazmir now operates right around 90 mph with his sinking two-seam fastball, and he still throws that nasty low-80s slider. He is still throwing his upper-70s dead fish changeup and has added a mid-70s curveball to his repertoire this season. It’s hard to believe that after all those arm injuries, Kazmir is not only back in the show, but he’s back and is damn good too.
Wednesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (vs. NYY)
When the A’s lost Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to Tommy John surgery in Spring Training, the pulled the 30-year-old Chavez out of the bullpen and stuck him in the rotation. The result? A 2.78 ERA (3.55 FIP) in eleven starts and 68 innings. Only the A’s, man. Chavez gives up some more homers than his teammates (1.06 HR/9 and 12.9 HR/FB%), but otherwise his strikeout (8.47 K/9 and 22.7 K%), walk (2.38 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%), and ground ball (47.0%) numbers are all very good. Lefties (.327 wOBA) have hit him much, much harder than righties (.246 wOBA). As a starter, Chavez sits in the low-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs, and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball are his two secondary pitches. Chavez bounced around the league for a few years — he was the guy the Rays traded to the Braves for Rafael Soriano back in the day — but after joining the Athletics he dropped a ton of weight and took his career more seriously. Now he’s in a contender’s rotation. Baseball, man.
Thursday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. OAK) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
Pomeranz, 25, was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, and he has since been traded for Ubaldo Jimenez and Brett Anderson. He opened the season as a long reliever, but moved into the rotation a few weeks ago because Dan Straily was really, really bad. Pomeranz has a 2.37 ERA (4.28 FIP) in 38 innings spread across five starts and nine relief appearances so far this season. His strikeout (8.29 K/9 and 22.7 K%) and ground ball (49.0%) rates are very good, his walk (4.03 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%) and homer (1.18 HR/9 and 13.5 HR/FB%) rates a little too high. He has absolutely crushed lefty batters (.236 wOBA) while righties have been a bit more successful (.292 wOBA). Pomeranz also has a massive home (.219 wOBA)/road (.340 wOBA) split. As a starter, he’ll sit right around 90 with four and two-seam fastballs, which he throws almost 80% of the time combined. An upper-70s/low-80s curveball is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll mix in a few show-me mid-80s changeups per start. Pomeranz went from Coors Field to the O.co Coliseum, which is like a hitter going from Citi Field to Yankee Stadium. Just a much friendlier environment.
In a very out of character move, the Athletics traded for a big money closer in RHP Jim Johnson (3.66 FIP), and he has been a total bust (6.55 ERA). LHP Sean Doolittle (1.26 FIP) has taken over as closer with RHP Luke Gregerson (2.63 FIP) as the primary setup man. RHP Dan Otero (3.54 FIP), who was Yankees’ property for about three days between waiver claims last spring , also gets some high leverage work.
Believe it or not, the A’s are only carrying eleven pitchers right now, so the only guys in the bullpen are LHP Fernando Abad (2.23 FIP) and LHP Jeff Francis (4.06 FIP in limited time). RHP Ryan Cook (3.88 FIP) is expected to come off the disabled list very soon, and I assume that will put an end to the five-man bench/six-man bullpen experiment. Vogt seems most likely to go down. Oakland was off yesterday, so their bullpen is rested. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen, then check out Athletics Nation and Beaneball for everything you need to know about New York’s opponent for the next three days.
Update: The A’s activated Cook and placed Reddick on the 15-day DL with a hyper-extended knee this afternoon.
Via Zach Braziller: Derek Jeter said he wants to own a Major League team when his playing days are over, and he intends to start gauging interest after the season. “That’s the next goal, buddy. Calling the shots, not answering to someone, that’s what interests me,” said the Cap’n. “I’d like to think I would be good one. I’d probably be a little bit more behind the scenes than the Boss, but I learned a lot of things from the Boss.”
I could totally see the Steinbrenners letting Jeter buy into the Yankees. Can’t you? He could be for the team what Magic Johnson is for the Dodgers, that local megastar who is the face of the ownership group despite having a relatively small stake in the team. At least that’s what he could be at first. Jeter’s star power is unmatched in baseball, but he’s a smart guy, he knows staying in New York is best for him. The Yankees and Derek Jeter were made for each other. Him owning a piece of the team makes too much sense. · (94) ·
The old saying is that you need five years to evaluate a draft class, but I’m not sure how true that is. On one hand, the prospects and non-prospects usual separate themselves within three or sometimes even two years. On the other hand, most players don’t get much of an opportunity to have a big league impact within five years of being drafted, so it’s not a enough time to truly know what you have. Five is a convenient number though (hooray round and half numbers!), so with the 2014 draft two days away, let’s review the Yankees’ 2009 draft haul, five years after the fact.
Because of their massive free agent spending spree during the 2008-09 offseason, the Yankees forfeited their first (for Mark Teixeira), second (for CC Sabathia), and third (for A.J. Burnett) round picks in the 2009 draft. They did still have first and second round compensation picks after failing to sign Gerrit Cole and Scott Bittle the previous year though, so it’s not like they were stuck waiting until the fourth round to call a name. As Ken Rosenthal reported, New York was ready to draft Mike Trout with their first selection (29th overall), but the Angels grabbed him 25th overall. That was the Teixeira pick. The Yankees would have had to not sign Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett to keep that pick, and even then the Angels still would have had the 24th pick. They weren’t getting Trout, so let’s move on already. The Bombers did land two players currently on their active 25-man roster, however.
With the pick for Cole, that 29th overall selection, the Yankees drafted a toolsy, athletic, and somewhat troubled high school outfielder from Texas named Slade Heathcott. According to Gene Sapakoff, Heathcott’s stepfather was in prison, he battled alcohol addiction and lived in his truck as a high school senior, and was nearly shot when he broke into a stranger’s home in a drunken rage. That’s … pretty scary stuff.
The Yankees did their homework though, and they believed in Heathcott’s talent enough to give him a $2.2M bonus right before the signing deadline, which is exactly double slot money. It is still the largest bonus the team has ever given a draft hitter or high school player. Heathcott barely played after signing late and he never made it to Instructional League in the Dominican Republic after the season.
“I drank so much the night before, I blacked out. I hurried to the airport with my bag but my passport fell out. Having to explain that is how the Yankees found out about all my drinking,” said Heathcott to Sapakoff. The Yankees sent him to Alcoholics Anonymous and gave him a mentor (ex-Yankee up and down reliever Sam Marsonek), after which Heathcott quite drinking. As far as I know, he has not had a relapse.
The Yankees held Slade back in Extended Spring Training before sending him to Low-A Charleston in the middle of the 2010 season. His full season debut was cut short by a shoulder injury that required surgery. Heathcott was bumped up to High-A Tampa the next year, but again his season ended abruptly due to another shoulder injury that again required surgery. It kept him out for half of 2012 as well. The shoulder has been fine since, but this past offseason he needed knee surgery. (He torn his ACL in high school as well.)
Since signing, Heathcott has played only 309 regular season games in parts of six seasons. His best season was 2012, when he hit .302/.380/.461 with five homers and 19 steals in 65 games, almost all for High-A Tampa. Heathcott’s career highs are 103 games played and 444 plate appearances, both set last year. He missed the start of this season due to the knee surgery, played nine games with Double-A Trenton, then landed back on the disabled list with more knee problems.
The Bombers drafted Heathcott because he has high-end athleticism and exciting tools in his speed, raw power, and defense, but he has been hurt so much these last few years that he has not been able to develop those tools into baseball skills. Part of the problem is that he plays all out, all the time, and is prone to hurting himself with slides and dives and all that. Heathcott remains one of the team’s better prospects — the Yankees added him to the 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft — but the injuries have really hurt his development.
That’s John Ryan To You
The best prospect the Yankees landed in the 2009 draft was their second rounder, the compensation pick for Bittle. They used that pick plus a $1.25M bonus for a Florida high school infielder/catcher named John Ryan Murphy, who they immediately moved behind the plate full-time. Apparently someone called him J.R. after the draft and he never bothered the correct them, so the nickname stuck until he spoke up last winter. Go figure.
Murphy steadily climbed the minor league ladder and made tremendous improvement behind the plate — “It’s been a long process. I was not very good when I was drafted. I’ve come a long way … I’m completely different from when I signed. Slowly, but surely, there’s been a total evolution,” he said to David Laurila last year — then last year his bat caught up to his defense. Murphy hit .269/.347/.426 between Double-A and Triple-A last season, then earned a September call-up as the team’s third catcher.
When Frankie Cervelli blew out his hamstring back in April, the Yankees called up Murphy and he has been pleasantly productive as Brian McCann‘s backup. He doesn’t have star potential behind the plate, but he looks very much like someone who will be a solid all-around starting catcher that might crack and All-Star Game roster once or twice during his peak. At worst, Murphy spend a bunch of years in the show as a backup. Now five years later, he is clearly the best player the club drafted in 2009.
Long Man, Then Setup Man
The Yankees did not have a third rounder, and they used their fourth rounder on one of those cliched “safe” college arms. They selected senior right-hander Adam Warren out of UNC, where he spent four years being overshadowed by higher profile prospects like Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller, and Matt Harvey. The Yankees gave Warren a $195k signing bonus and three years later he was in the big leagues.
As you know, Warren’s big league debut was a total disaster. The White Sox clobbered him for six runs in 2.1 innings in a spot start in June 2012. It was ugly. Warren did not pitch in the big leagues again until April 2013, when the made the team as the long man out of Spring Training because Phil Hughes hurt his back at the end of camp. He pitched to a 3.39 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 77 innings as a swingman, and this season Warren has emerged as a late-inning force as a mostly one-inning setup man (1.71 ERA and 2.34 FIP). Turning a fourth rounder into at worst a serviceable big league arm and at best a high-leverage reliever is a great get for New York.
Two other players from the 2009 draft have reached the big leagues with the Yankees, but only as emergency call-ups due to injury. The first is 15th rounder Shane Greene, who did not pitch at all during the spring of 2009 because he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. One of the team’s scouts saw him throwing a bullpen while rehabbing and invited him to Tampa for a private workout. They like what they saw enough to draft him and give him a $100k bonus. Greene pitched in one MLB game earlier this year and is currently in Triple-A.
The other player is right-hander Bryan Mitchell, who was called up for a day in April, but did not pitch. He was the team’s 16th round pick in 2009, and the Yankees gave him $800k to skip out on his commitment to UNC. Mitchell is a classic “big stuff, needs to learn how to harness it” pitching prospect currently in Double-A. Like Greene, he was placed on the 40-man roster over the winter. Righties Caleb Cotham (fifth round), Brett Gerritse (12th round), and Graham Stoneburner (14th round) remain in the system as organizational arms.
Big Arms, Small Busts
In addition to Stoneburner, Greene, and Mitchell, the Yankees rolled the dice on several other pitchers with big arms in the mid-to-late rounds. Righty Sean Black (seventh round) was the highest unsigned pick in the 2006 draft (59th overall by the Nationals), but he took a step back in college and never regained the stuff he showed in high school. Lefty Sam Elam (eighth round) had a huge arm and extreme control problems, walking 64 in 76.1 innings in Notre Dame before walking 51 in 30 pro innings. Lefty Gavin Brooks (ninth round) blew out his shoulder a year after signing. Lefty Evan DeLuca (44th round) received a $500k bonus to skip out on his commitment to San Diego. He posted a 98-95 K/BB in 109 pro inning before being released. The Yankees took shots in the dark with all four of these guys and none worked out. Only DeLuca required a substantial bonus.
Unlike the 2007 (Drew Storen) and 2008 (Cole) draft classes, New York did not fail to sign a player in 2009 who has since gone on to be even a very good prospect. The biggest name among the unsigned players is outfielder Pat White (48th), who was more notable for his football exploits as a quarterback at West Virginia. In fact, he never even played baseball in college. White played in 13 games for the Dolphins in 2009 and has since bounced around to the UFL and CFL.
Two of the Yankees’ unsigned 2009 draftees have reached the big leagues with other teams. Lefty Tyler Lyons (tenth round) returned to Oklahoma State for his senior year, was drafted in the ninth round by the Cardinals in 2010, and has gone up and down as a replacement level spot starter the last two years. Righty Jake Petricka (34th round) was the White Sox’s second round pick in 2010 following his senior year at Indiana State. He’s a hard-thrower with control problems who has seen some time as a setup man for Chicago this year.
The Yankees also failed to sign local outfielder Jeremy Baltz (45th round), who had a decorated career at St. John’s. The Padres drafted Baltz in the second round of the 2012 draft and he current plays in their farm system. Baseball America did not rank him among the team’s top 30 prospects in their 2014 Prospect Handbook. Infielder Stephen Bruno (26th round) was a seventh rounder of the Cubs in 2012 and was not among their top 30 prospects before the season, according to Baseball America. Outfielder Andrew Aplin (33rd round) was ranked as Houston’s 19th best prospect by Baseball America before this season. They selected him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft.
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The Yankees have already gotten value out of this draft class thanks to Warren, and it certainly looks like Murphy has a big league future ahead of him. Greene and Mitchell are interesting arms who might most help the team as trade bait. The Yankees are still waiting on Heathcott and he will be the biggest factor in determining if this was a good draft or a great draft.