James Kaprielian diagnosed with flexor tendon strain

(Staten Island Advance)
(Staten Island Advance)

Top pitching prospect James Kaprielian has been diagnosed with a right flexor tendon strain, the Yankees announced. He went for an MRI today because his elbow is still not feeling better. Kaprielian will see Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles to get a second opinion in the coming days.

A flexor tendon strain is not the worst case scenario but it is pretty bad. It’s not uncommon for flexor strains to turn into Tommy John surgery and other nasty things. Hopefully Kaprielian can avoid anything more serious, though either way, his season is probably over. This usually isn’t a quick rehab process.

Kaprielian, 22, has not pitched since April due to what the Yankees have been calling elbow inflammation. He was supposed to begin a throwing program at some point this month, and I guess that’s when the elbow started giving him more problems. Hopefully ElAttrache brings good news. Fingers crossed.

Curry: Yankees making progress in talks with first round pick Blake Rutherford

According to Jack Curry, the Yankees are making progress in contract talks with first round pick Blake Rutherford. “Stay tuned,” said Curry’s source. Jack is the single most plugged in reporter covering the Yankees, so not only is there no reason to doubt his report, I’m going to assume a deal is pretty close to done at this point.

Slot money for the 18th overall pick is $2.44M, and as our Draft Pool Tracker shows, the Yankees currently have $3.28M or so in bonus pool space remaining. I should probably note I had an error on the Tracker page. I previously said the team only had $3.14M in bonus pool space, but one of the calculations was wrong, so it’s actually $3.28M. My bad, yo.

The signing deadline is Friday, July 15th this year. That’s two weeks from Friday. It’s not uncommon for first rounders to wait until the deadline to sign — James Kaprielian did it last year — but hopefully Rutherford signs before that. The Yankees may not be offering the full $3.28M at the moment, so Rutherford he try to wait them out.

Pretty much everything you need to know about Rutherford is right here. I also looked at similar players drafted in recent years. He’s in pretty excellent company. Rutherford was a projected top ten pick heading into the draft, though he fell to the Yankees due to signability concerns.

Game 76: If you’re going to lose, at least have the decency to lose before 2am


Man did last night’s game suck. The worst part about it was that you could see the loss coming a mile away too, yet we had to sit through that awful rain delay anyway. Not the best baseball watching experience I’ve had.

Anyway, tonight is a new night. That’s the good thing about baseball. It gives you a chance to forget about those ugly losses pretty quickly because they play every damn day. The Yankees are trying to get back to .500 again (lol) so I guess a lot is on the line tonight? I dunno. I’m out of game thread ideas. Here’s the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. LF Aaron Hicks
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP CC Sabathia

Bad news: there’s more rain in the forecast tonight. It doesn’t look like it’ll be anything heavy, but that’s what the internet told be last night, and it lied like hell. I guess we’ll just have to see. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET. You can watch on YES. Try to enjoy.

Roster Move: The Yankees called up Conor Mullee and optioned Kirby Yates to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. No surprise there. I didn’t realize Yates had an option left. How about that.

Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez to represent Yankees at the 2016 Futures Game

Sanchez in the 2015 Futures Game. (Getty)
Sanchez in the 2015 Futures Game. (Getty)

Shortstop Jorge Mateo and catcher Gary Sanchez will represent the Yankees at the 2016 Futures Game next month, MLB announced earlier today. Here are the full Team USA and World Team rosters. Baseball America also has free mini-scouting reports for every player selected for the game, so check that out.

Mateo, 21, is heading to his first Futures Game. He is hitting .275/.333/.417 (122 wRC+) with five homers and 26 steals in 37 attempts (70%) for High-A Tampa this season. Mateo has actually been slumping pretty hard of late; he’s hitting .207/.250/.241 (45 wRC+) in 21 games this month. Still, the Futures Game is a showcase for the game’s top prospects, and Mateo certainly qualifies.

This is the second Futures Game selection for Sanchez, who also played in the game last year. The 23-year-old is hitting .279/.324/.500 (135 wRC+) with eight homers for Triple-A Scranton this season. Sanchez missed about three weeks with a thumb fracture after being hit by a foul tip. Last summer he went 1-for-2 with a double off Giants right-hander Tyler Beede in the Futures Game.

Teams do have some input into the Futures Game rosters. I remember last year there was talk the Yankees declined to let Luis Severino participate because there was a chance he would get called up before the All-Star break. That was never confirmed and Severino wasn’t called up until early-August. Still though, the Yankees wanted to be prepared in case they needed him.

Last year Sanchez and Aaron Judge represented the Yankees in the Futures Game. The year before it was Severino and Peter O’Brien. The year before that it was Rafael DePaula. The 2016 Futures Game will be played in Petco Park on Sunday, July 10th. Trevor Hoffman will manage Team USA and Moises Alou will manage the World Team.

Judge’s hot streak is a good sign for his development, not a sign he should be called up

Glow in the dark jersey night! (Jason Farmer/Times Tribune)
Glow in the dark jersey night! (Jason Farmer/Times Tribune)

What a difference four weeks makes. At this time four weeks ago, Aaron Judge was mired in an ugly 0-for-24 slump with Triple-A Scranton, a slump that saw his season batting line dip to .221/.285/.372 (87 wRC+) with a 26.2% strikeout rate through 221 plate appearances. He hit .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) with a 28.5% strikeout rate in 260 plate appearances at the same level last year. His performance was going backwards.

Now, four weeks since the end of that 0-for-24 slump, Judge has raised his season batting line to .266/.352/.493 (141 wRC+) in 324 plate appearances while cutting his strikeout rate down to 23.8%. He’s in the middle of a monster home run tear, going deep four times in his last five games, six times in his last ten games, and nine times in his last 15 games. Last night’s homer was a bomb that scared a bird:

Four weeks ago folks were discussing whether Judge’s development was stalling out. We even got a few mailbag questions asking about a possible demotion. Now, after this home run binge, everyone wants him called up. Alex Rodriguez is on the bench and Carlos Beltran is spending more time at DH, creating an opening in right field. Judge is a perfect fit. (Assuming he doesn’t get the Rob Refsnyder treatment, of course.)

“I’m not sure yet,” said Brian Cashman to Ryan Hatch yesterday when asked about the possibility of Judge being promoted. “He’s on a really nice roll right now. There’s some things he’s definitely improved upon, but our first alternative is to see what (Aaron) Hicks can do. And Refsnyder, in fairness.”

The Yankees haven’t given us a reason to think a Judge promotion is imminent, but his recent tear makes this a conversation worth having. After all, once a guy starts producing in Triple-A, that makes him a big league option. Here are three thoughts on the matter.

1. Let’s not overreact to small sample sizes. We go through this every year. A few great weeks does not mean a prospect deserves to be promoted the same way a few awful weeks doesn’t mean he deserves to be demoted. Every player has peaks and valleys throughout the season. When it comes to prospects we don’t watch every single day, the normal ebb and flow of the season can be easily misconstrued as a change in skills. Most of the time it’s just baseball being baseball. We have to keep that in mind.

2. Judge is still making adjustments. Over the winter we heard Judge spent a bunch of time in Tampa working with the player development staff, most notably minor league hitting instructor James Rowson, making adjustments to help him handle soft stuff away. He’s a massive human with a lot of strike zone to cover, and experienced Triple-A pitchers picked Judge apart with soft speed stuff on the outer half.

As a result of that work, Judge showed up to Spring Training with a new leg kick. He also lowered his hands ever so slightly. Here’s a GIF I made back in March. The clip on the left is from Spring Training 2015 and the clip on the right is from Spring Training 2016. The bigger leg kick is impossible to miss.

Aaron Judge 2015 vs 2016

Now here’s the thing: Judge is still making adjustments to his setup and stance at the plate. Did you notice his hands in the home run video above? Take a look at how he’s setting up now:

Aaron Judge hands

The umpire’s black uniform makes it tough to see, but Judge has his hands way out in front now. Before they were up high around his shoulder. Now they’re out in front of his chest and he’s pointing the bat straight up in the air. That’s an awfully big difference, no? Yes, yes it is.

“He made an adjustment to (his) hands,” said Refsnyder to Chad Jennings recently when asked about Judge’s recent home run binge. “I think it was something with his shoulders to get his hands adjusted, to make sure his hands get to the ball as efficiently as possible.”

All the adjustments he’s made this year — the leg kick, lowering his hands, etc. — show Judge is still in the process of finding out what works best for him at the plate. He deserves to be given more time to figure things out. Judge is a very unique prospect because of his size. He’s not your normal college bat. The fact he’s made so many adjustments is encouraging and shows he’s not only a hard worker, but has good baseball aptitude. Give him more time to get comfortable.

3. Not calling him up now doesn’t mean not calling him up ever. As it stands right now, bringing Judge up to the show would essentially be asking him to be a savior. Fair or not, he’d be looked at as someone the Yankees hope will improve their generally underwhelming offense. That’s a lot to put on a young player making his MLB debut — “hey kid, go save the Yankees’ season, and if you don’t, you’re a bum!” — even a young player as impressive as Judge.

That doesn’t mean Judge should not be called up at all. The Yankees have players ahead of him on the right field depth chart (Hicks, Refsnyder, Ben Gamel, etc.) and Judge is still make adjustments, so they can afford to be patient. The team seems much more likely to slip further back in the postseason race than climb back into it, so come the trade deadline, the perception may shift from “Judge is a savior” to “it’s time to look towards the future.” There’s a big difference there. Anything the Yankees can do to ease the jump to MLB is a plus in my book.

* * *

For now, the only thing Judge’s hot streak shows is that he’s capable of recognizing his flaws and making adjustments, and that’s pretty rad. The hot streak does not mean he belongs in the big leagues the same way the cold streak didn’t mean he was a bust. The right field job is wide open for Judge next season and that’s exciting, and yes, it would behoove the Yankees to get his feet wet in the show at some point this year, even if he’s only a September call-up.

The perception of Judge has changed dramatically these last few weeks because of his performance, which went from extremely bad to extremely good seemingly overnight. The home run binge sure is fun, but the Yankees should give their prized youngster some more time in Triple-A to figure out what works best for him, something they didn’t really do with Luis Severino. It’s pretty clear Judge is still working on things.

Olney: Marlins considering a pursuit of Aroldis Chapman


According to Buster Olney (subs. req’d), Aroldis Chapman is one of several pitchers the Marlins have “talked about internally” leading up to the trade deadline. Miami is very much in the postseason race — the Marlins and Dodgers are essentially tied for the second wildcard spot — but the Marlins definitely need some pitching help to stay in the hunt the rest of the way.

I don’t know why, but Chapman has always struck me as someone destined to play for the Marlins at some point. You know how some guys just seem to fit certain teams? No? Maybe I’m crazy. Anyway, Chapman to the Marlins is definitely something that passes the sniff test, especially since Miami is known to swing a blockbuster trade from time to time. I have some thoughts on this.

1. So what do the Marlins have to offer? The Marlins are one of the best player development organizations in the game, but their farm system is rather thin at the moment. Their No. 1 prospect is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, their No. 2 prospect stabbed a teammate, their No. 3 prospect is on the DL, and their No. 4 prospect is the guy who got stabbed. Yeah. Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Marlins prospects for your perusal.

Given the state of Miami’s system, I wonder if the Yankees would instead target players on their big league roster. The Marlins were very open to trading Marcell Ozuna over the winter, but he’s broken out in a big way this season (152 wRC+), so I doubt he’d be on the table for Chapman. Derek Dietrich maybe? He can hit (123 wRC+ since the start of 2015) and play multiple positions (first, second, third, left). The Marlins are short on pitching, so they’re probably not willing to move a young arm like Adam Conley. It could be tough to match up for a Chapman trade.

2. What about expanding a Chapman deal into something bigger? Now we’re talking. Chapman for Ozuna might not work, but what about Chapman and, say, Michael Pineda and Jorge Mateo and Aaron Hicks for Ozuna and Conley? Yes, my trade proposal totally sucks. You catch my drift though. There is definitely the potential for a Yankees-Marlins swap to grow into something bigger with multiple players going each way. That sure would be fun. It’s been a while since the Yankees made a good ol’ fashioned blockbuster with multiple big names going each way.

3. The Yankees need the Nationals and Mets to continue to sputter. The Nationals crushed the Mets last night and now have a 3.5-game lead over the Marlins and 4.0-game lead over the Mets in the NL East. Washington has won only three of their last ten games though, and the Mets have dropped six of ten as well. Neither club is playing all that well while the Marlins have won seven of their last ten games.

The Nats and Mets will play six more times between now and the All-Star break, and the best thing for the Yankees would be those clubs beating up on each other and keeping the NL East race nice and tight. The Marlins need to stay in the race too, otherwise paying big for a rental like Chapman won’t make much sense. Added bonus: the Nationals struggling could increase their urgency to pick up another reliever. Point is, the tighter the NL East race, the more likely it is these clubs will have to make a move, and that’s good for the Yankees.

* * *

The Yankees aren’t in sell mode right now and I get it even though I don’t necessarily agree with it. They are only three games back of a wildcard spot, after all. (Three games back with six teams ahead of them, but I digress.) If they do decide to sell, Chapman figures to be first to go, and the Marlins are a logical destination. Could the Yankees and Marlins find common ground? It might be tough because Miami’s farm system is thin. They might not be willing to trade away players from their MLB roster while still in the race.

Benching A-Rod against righties is a good start, but there are other lineup changes worth making

But that's not any of Al's business. (Presswire)
But that’s none of Al’s business. (Presswire)

Later today, Alex Rodriguez will return to the lineup after spending the last two days on the bench. He wasn’t hurt. The Yankees are looking for ways to improve the offense and sitting Alex against right-handers is the solution they came up with. With lefty Cole Hamels on the mound tonight, A-Rod will be back in there.

“It’s a hard decision. Alex has meant a lot to this club over the years, but right now we’re gonna do something a little bit different and see how it works,” said Joe Girardi to Howie Kussoy yesterday. “It’s been tough for him against right-handers. That’s why we’re looking at this … You perform, that’s the bottom line. We’re in the business of performing. Things change. Nothing is set in stone.”

Rodriguez certainly has struggled against righties this year. The demotion is not undeserved. He’s hit .200/.236/.348 (50 wRC+) with a 31.7% strikeout rate against them so far, and his at-bats have looked pretty bad. A-Rod can’t seem to lay off sliders away and is getting chewed up by good fastballs. Removing him from the lineup against righties is necessary and smart.

That’s not the only lineup change the Yankees can and should make, however. Everyone involved keeps saying they’re trying to contend — “We can’t keep treading water. I want to be a contender, not a pretender,” said Brian Cashman to Josh Thomson yesterday — yet they can’t maintain the status quo and expect different results. It’s almost July. Here are some other changes the Yankees should make.

Give Teixeira’s Knee A Break


Even with Mark Teixeira going deep the last two days, my guess is Rob Refsnyder will be at first base against Hamels tonight. Not only is there the left-right thing, but the Yankees had a very long night last night, and Teixeira also just played three straight games after coming off the DL with a knee problem. Girardi said they plan to give Teixeira a little more rest just to make sure the knee doesn’t flare up again. Makes sense, right? Right.

The Yankees have to do something to get Refsnyder at-bats and Teixeira’s knee is going to need regular rest, so this works well. Maybe something like three games on and one day off for Teixeira? Or two games on, one game at DH, and one day off? That will be difficult if these homers the last two days are a sign Teixeira is snapping out of his season long funk, but the Yankees can deal with that when the time comes. The point is to get Refsnyder some more at-bats. The kid has to play.

Drop Castro In The Lineup

There are 168 players qualified for the batting title as of this morning. Starlin Castro ranks 156th with a .285 OBP. That is terrible. I know he’s hit some big dingers and has generally been better than Stephen Drew, but man, his at-bats are consistently the worst on the team. He hacks at everything. Execute a slider off the plate in a two-strike count and Starlin will go fishing, no doubt about it.

Castro’s hot start and consistent dinger production — not to mention his age and contract — has bought him a long leash in a fairly premium lineup spot. He’s been hitting fifth or sixth for a while now. That has continued even though others, specifically Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley, have out-hit Castro for weeks now. Here are some numbers since May 1st, a totally arbitrary date I picked because it’s the start of a month:

Castro 209 .231/.260/.372 64 7 7 3.3% 19.1%
Gregorius 193 .311/.344/.443 110 10 4 4.1% 8.3%
Headley 183 .279/.344/.412 104 8 4 8.2% 21.9%

So yeah, Gregorius and Headley have been way more productive players for close to two months now. Benching Castro won’t (and shouldn’t) happen — he’s still only 26 and at least has a chance to be a building block player going forward — but dropping him in the lineup shouldn’t be off the table. Moving him behind Gregorius and Headley would be totally justifiable given their recent production.

Give Gardner & Ellsbury More Rest

Remember the plan to rest the regulars more often? The Yankees talked about it all offseason and in Spring Training. It hasn’t happened though. The team got off to a slow start, so Girardi kept running his regulars out there in an effort to get things turned around. As a result, Brett Gardner has started 64 of 75 games while Jacoby Ellsbury has started 61. That’s more than I think the Yankees originally planned.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Gardner and Ellsbury have slowed down of late. Gardner is hitting .273/.340/.295 (75 wRC+) over the last two weeks and Ellsbury is at .222/.255/.244 (32 wRC+). I don’t know if giving them one extra day on the bench a week while help things, but that was the plan coming into the season, right? That plan shouldn’t be abandoned, especially with the offense being so hit and (mostly) miss. It’s time to try something different.

I know most folks are done with Aaron Hicks but I’m nowhere near ready to give up on him. Clamoring for the Yankees to sell and wanting to move on from Hicks are conflicting ideas. I say give Gardner and Ellsbury that extra day of rest per week and stick Hicks in the lineup in their place. The two veterans get more rest and hopefully stay productive while Hicks gets some at-bats.


Bonus Non-Lineup Suggestion: Get Nova Out Of The Rotation

Ivan Nova stepped into the rotation a few weeks back and strung together three very good starts. The rotation was a total mess at the time and Nova did a really nice job calming things down. Props. Lately though, Ivan has been a mess, and following last night’s dud he owns a 5.32 ERA (5.07 FIP) on the season. That can’t continue. Chad Green has a 1.54 ERA (2.25 FIP) in 81.2 Triple-A innings and lines up to take Nova’s spot perfectly. The Yankees have plenty of dead weight in the bullpen they can cast aside, so put Nova back into a long relief role and give Green a chance to show what he can do.

* * *

Are the Yankees doing all they can right now to give themselves the best chance to win? I don’t think so, not if Refsnyder is sitting on the bench for three days at a time and Nova is taking a regular rotation turn. Benching A-Rod is a good move that figures to improve the offense. There’s more than can be done though, and the sooner the Yankees start making other changes, the better off they’ll be. Sitting A-Rod should be step one, not the only step.