Weekend Open Thread

PSA: The Yankees are holding a series of youth baseball camps this summer across New York and New Jersey. It’s not free (nor cheap), but it sure sounds like one heck of a four-day experience. All the information, including how to enroll, is right here. Check it out, moms and dads.

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It’s the final weekend of the offseason. Thank goodness for that. Pitchers and catchers report Tuesday, and two weeks from today, the Yankees will play their first Grapefruit League game. Two weeks until glorious baseball. Here are a few baseball and non-baseball links to check out this weekend:

Friday: This is tonight’s open thread. Baseball America’s annual top 100 prospects list will be unveiled during a live MLB Network broadcast at 9pm ET. Aside from that, the Knicks and Nets are both playing, and that’s it. Hopefully Charles Oakley gives James Dolan the business again. Talk about whatever here, just not religion or politics.

Saturday: Here’s the open thread again. The (hockey) Rangers are playing tonight and there’s a whole bunch of college basketball on the schedule too. Have at it.

Sunday: For the final time, this is the open thread. The Knicks are playing right now and the Islanders are playing later tonight. There’s also a few college basketball games on as well. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Fitting Chris Carter into the Lineup

(Lachlan Cunningham/Getty)
(Lachlan Cunningham/Getty)

If you’ve never experienced pure boredom and, for whatever reason, want to, I suggest you proctor a New York State Regents exam. It’s perfect if you love pacing around a room, unable to speak, sit, read, or write while students take a graduation-mandatory exam. Just as perfect is hall proctoring, in which you wait outside a room or pair of rooms for students to use the bathroom, where you must escort them–one by one–and wait outside. The highlight of this was flipping quarters that I happened to have in my pocket, marking down heads or tails on my finger; for the record, tails won in a relative landslide. I mention this not so that you pity me– please, though, feel free to do so–but because this is a near-perfect analogy for where we are in the baseball calendar. Like me waiting to be relieved by the next proctor or the kids who finished early waiting for the release time, we’re all at our ‘desks’ waiting for Spring Training to begin.

To their credit, the Yankees did add some fire to the hot stove when they signed Chris Carter to a one year contract last week. When I first heard that they were checking in on him, I wasn’t too jazzed about the idea. But once the signing was announced–especially for so cheap–I came around on it more and more; that could have had something to do with spending a bit of time watching highlight videos of Carter’s NL-leading 41 homers. Regardless of how I–or you–feel about the deal, it’s done and Carter will be part of the team and playing time for him needs to be found. He brings with him a ton of whiffs, but a ton of walks and the aforementioned homers, too, and the Yankees have been lacking those things of late. Though not necessarily an ideal candidate for this team, Carter can help and add value; the only issue is, as Mike mused, where the heck is he gonna play?

(Stacy Revere/Getty)
(Stacy Revere/Getty)

Against right handed pitchers, it’s pretty hard to find a spot for Carter, aside from a late-inning pinch hitter when a tough lefty reliever comes in. As a right handed batter, he obviously doesn’t give a platoon advantage over Greg Bird at first, and he’s not as complete a hitter as Matt Holliday. To be fair to Carter, though, he does have a career wOBA of .332 (109 wRC+) against righties, so he’s not helpless against them–far from it–which is comforting should Holliday go down or Bird’s shoulder not be fully recovered.

Against lefties, though, there will be ample opportunity for Carter to play. The simple answer is that he and Bird split the first base duties as a platoon. This serves a dual purpose as it gives Bird the lion’s share of the playing time and gives the Yankees another powerful right handed bat to deploy against lefties. However, as Bird is much longer for this team than Carter, it might make more sense to expose Bird to lefties as well. Where does that leave Carter? It depends on some other platoon variables.

If the Yanks really want to hammer lefties and eschew defense a bit in the process, they can. They can accomplish this dual ‘goal’ by being aggressive with their platooning in the outfield. Aaron Hicks can play center in place of Jacoby Ellsbury. Matt Holliday can “play” left field in place of Brett Gardner. The latter move would free up a spot for Carter to DH, giving the Yankees an all-right handed lineup against lefties, save for Didi Gregorius at short.

Chances are, this is all academic and this “problem” resolves itself through lack of performance or an injury. And, either way, the Yankees didn’t sign a 30+ homer guy–regardless of lack of cost–to have him ride the pine. He’ll get his playing time. And, as Mike noted, Carter has team control after this and 2017 could be a showcase for 2018. Hopefully, he makes the most of it.

Saturday Links: Betances, Tanaka, Proposed Rule Changes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This is the penultimate weekend without baseball games until November. Pretty great, isn’t it? The Yankees will play their first Grapefruit League game two weeks from yesterday. Thank goodness. Anyway, here’s some news and notes to check out this weekend.

Yankees, Betances set for arbitration hearing Friday

According to George King, the Yankees and Dellin Betances are scheduled to have their arbitration hearing this coming Friday, February 17th, in St. Petersburg. “Nothing has changed, we haven’t talked. We have no intention of talking. It’s not close. Somebody else will make the decision,” said Brian Cashman. Betances is seeking $5M while the Yankees countered with $3M, which, as far as I can tell, would still be a record salary for a first year arbitration-eligible setup man.

Since the arbitration hearing is Friday, chances are the three-person panel will announce their ruling Saturday morning. That’s usually how it goes. The hearing is one day and the ruling is announced the next. Maybe they’ll wait until Monday because it’s the next business day. Eh, whatever. Each side will state their case at the hearing and the panel will pick either the $5M or $3M for Dellin’s salary in 2017. Nothing in-between. My guess is the Yankees win. (There have been six arbitration hearings around the league so far and each side has won three, for what it’s worth.)

Tanaka not thinking about opt-out

Earlier this week, Masahiro Tanaka told Dan Martin he hasn’t put much thought into whether he will use his opt-out clause after the season. “Obviously, I’m aware of what my contract says, but it’s something I put aside going into the season,” he said. “You can’t really be thinking about that while you go through the season. I’m really focused on this season. When the time comes after the season, then I’ll probably have a chance to think about that more.”

Back in 2012, we heard CC Sabathia say pretty much the exact same thing when his opt-out was looming. It’s the best possible answer, right? “I’m only focused on trying to win, not my contract.” That’s what everyone wants to hear. These guys are human beings though. Of course Tanaka is aware a big season would mean a shot at a(nother) monster contract. We’ve been through this before with Sabathia. The opt-out is going to be a thing all year.

MLB considering new extra innings rules

According to Jeff Passan, MLB will test new and impossibly stupid extra innings rules in rookie ball this season, assuming Joe Torre, the league’s chief baseball officer, signs off. Under the new rule, a runner would be placed at second base at the start of every inning after the ninth. The goal is, obviously, to cut down on extra innings and eliminate games that last long into the night.

“Let’s see what it looks like,” said Torre. “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time. It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”

One, position players pitching is fun! Two, it doesn’t happen all that often anyway. And three, they have this rule in many amateur leagues and international tournaments. Every inning plays out the same: they start with a runner at second, the first batter bunts him to third, and the second batter is intentionally walked to set up the double play. Every single time. It’s terrible and horrible and I hope this rule change never ever ever comes to MLB.

Now, that said, I could understand implementing this in the minors as a way to avoid overusing pitchers. Maybe make them play 12 innings, allowing each team to go through the lineup one more time, then put a runner at second? This should never come to MLB though. Forget that. I like that commissioner Rob Manfred is open to new ideas. That’s great. This one though? Bad. No thanks.

MLB proposed changes to intentional walks, strike zone

In addition to the stupid extra innings rule, MLB has formally proposed changes to intentional walks and the strike zone, reports Jayson Stark. The ball is now in the MLBPA’s court. Neither side can implement a rule change unilaterally. Both MLB and the MLBPA have to sign off. For what it’s worth, Passan hears there’s no chance the players will approve any changes to the strike zone.

MLB proposed raising the bottom of the zone approximately two inches, which would undoubtedly increase offense. Jon Roegele’s research has shown the strike zone has increased downward in recent years. So not only are more low pitches being called strikes, but now hitters have to protect against them too, and pitches down below the knees are hard to hit with authority. Raising the zone would mean more hitter’s counts and more pitches in hittable locations.

The intentional walk rule change is simple: rather than making the pitcher throw four pitches, they issue a signal and the runner is sent to first automatically. I hate it. Intentional walks are a competitive play. Make the pitcher and catcher complete it. Pitchers are prone to losing the zone after intentional walks, plus we see a handful of wild pitches each year. Gary Sanchez did this last year:

There were 932 intentional walks in 2,428 games last season. It works out to one every 46.1 innings or so. I get MLB is looking to improve the pace of play, but this won’t help much. Intentional walks are too infrequent to make a meaningful change to the time of game. Want to improve pace of play? Cut down on mound visits. The catcher gets one per inning, per pitcher. That’s my proposed solution.

Prospect Profile: Giovanny Gallegos

(Robert Pimpsner)
(Robert Pimpsner)

Giovanny Gallegos | RHP

Background

The 25-year-old Gallegos was signed by the Yankees for $100,000 in January of 2011. As per Baseball America, he was a part of a “package deal” with the Mexico City Red Devils, alongside Luis Niebla (now a member of the Rockies organization). The deal itself received little hype at the time, as is the case with most signings from the Mexican League. Gallegos underwent Tommy John Surgery before making his professional debut with the Yankees.

Pro Career

Gallegos finally made organizational debut in June of 2012, as a member of the GCL Yankees. He appeared in 12 games (four starts), and pitched to a 1.67 ERA in 27 IP. That ERA may sell his small sample size dominance a bit short, as he allowed just 22 base-runners and one home run in that time, while striking out 22. Gallegos followed that up by pitching for his hometown Yaquis de Obregon in the Mexican Pacific Winter League (LPW), where he struggled to the tune of an 8.44 ERA (albeit in just 5.1 IP).

He moved up to the short-season NYPL in 2013, where he spent the entirety of the regular season in the starting rotation. Gallegos made sixteen starts, and pitched to the following line: 65.1 IP, 71 H, 14 BB, 43 K, 4.27 ERA, 4.44 FIP. It was an uninspiring line, to say the least, but it was a full, healthy season that was once again followed by a stint in the LPW (he put up a 4.26 ERA in 6.1 IP).

The Yankees continued to move Gallegos up the ladder in 2014, and he spent the season with Low-A Charleston. The result was another middling season, as he posted a 4.57 ERA in 88.2 IP, spread over 29 appearances (six of which were starts). A silver lining was beginning to show, though, as Gallegos posted a 1.93 BB/9 for the second season in a row, which played a large role in his much better looking 3.45 FIP. He wrapped-up the 2014 calendar year pitching in the LPW, cruising to a 1.69 ERA in 16 IP.

Gallegos broke out in 2015, the majority of which he spent at High-A Tampa. In 53.1 IP at the level (all in relief), he had a 1.35 ERA, 26.9 K%, 3.5 BB%, and a 2.13 FIP. He ranked in the top-five in the Florida State League in ERA, FIP, K%, BB%, and K-BB%, and he didn’t allow an earned run in his last eleven appearances (or 17 IP). Gallegos floated between Double-A and Triple-A, too, posting a 3.72 ERA and 5.0 K/BB in 9.2 IP in the upper minors.

He struggled mightily in the LPW that winter, with an atrocious 10.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in 9 IP. Thankfully, that did not carry over to 2016.

Last year saw Gallegos earn his place on the Yankees 40-man roster (thereby avoiding the Rule 5 draft), owing to his 1.27 ERA in 78.0 IP between Double-A and Triple-A. His overall numbers look somewhat video game-y, as he had more strikeouts (106) that hits, walks, and home runs combined (70). The lone blemish on his season was a 36.53% ground ball rate, which had precious little impact on the bottom line.

Scouting Report

Gallegos is a 6’2″, 210-pound right-handed batter and thrower, with a surprisingly well-rounded arsenal. His fastball sits in the 92-95 MPH range with a bit of run, and his above-average mid-70s curveball is his go-to secondary pitch. He’ll also throw a high-70s slider and low-80s change-up in longer outings, and both pitches can flash average when he’s on.

As one would suspect based upon his numbers, Gallegos has well above-average command and control. He attacks hitters within the zone, and does a fine job of painting the corners (particularly on the inner-half). That applies to all four of his offerings, as well, though upwards of ninety-percent of his pitch selection revolves around the fastball and curve.

Gallegos’ inability to find consistency with his slider and change-up led to the Yankees removing him from the rotation, and the results support that decision. And that doesn’t just apply to the numbers, either, as his velocity sat in the 87 to 89 MPH range as a starter, which simply isn’t enough without a ton of sink and a couple of plus off-speed pitches.

2017 Outlook

Gallegos is on the 40-man roster, and there’s every reason to believe that he will be afforded an opportunity to make the team’s roster in Spring Training. (He will play for Mexico in the WBC, however.) The bullpen may well have upwards of three slots open to competition, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t at least follow in the proud tradition of shuttle riders of Yankees past. I suspect that we’ll see a fair amount of Gallegos in the show this year.

My Take

If Gallegos ends up being a competent reliever, he may well represent a steal for $100,000 a half-dozen years ago. I don’t think that he has the profile of a light’s out reliever that could fill a set-up or closer role, but I do see him as more capable than the fungible sorts that the Yankees churn through with gusto. The fact that he has averaged better than one and two-thirds innings per outing as a reliever could prove immensely useful to this year’s team, too.

2017 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

The RailRiders won the 2017 Triple-A championship. (MLB.com)
The RailRiders won the 2017 Triple-A championship. (MLB.com)

Over the last 14 months or so, the Yankees went from having a promising middle of the pack farm system to arguably the best system in all of baseball. They sold at the trade deadline for the first time in nearly three decades, and the trading of veterans for prospects continued this offseason. The Yankees have acquired six of my top 30 prospects (and five of my top 15) since last July, plus two others who were among the final cuts.

The trades are not the only reason New York’s farm system has morphed into one of baseball’s best, however. A strong 2016 draft as well as several breakout (and bounce back) seasons from prospects already in the system helped as well. It would be wrong to say everything went right in the farm system last year. Only most things went right. It’s hard to think of a better possible season on the minor league side.

Amazingly, the Yankees have arguably the game’s top system despite graduating four of last year’s top 30 prospects to MLB, most notably No. 2 prospect Gary Sanchez. Fellow 2016 top ten prospects Rob Refsnyder (No. 6) and Bryan Mitchell (No. 7) also graduated to the big leagues last year, as did Luis Cessa (No. 26). Four others from last year’s top 30 are no longer in the organization due to trades (Ben Gamel), releases (Slade Heathcott, Jacob Lindgren), and the Rule 5 Draft (Luis Torrens). Thirteen of last year’s top 30 prospects are not on this year’s list for whatever reason.

This is, ridiculously, my 11th top 30 prospects list here at RAB. It still feels like just yesterday we were dreaming on guys like Jose Tabata and Christian Garcia. Good times. Good times. You can see all my previous top 30 lists right here. Obligatory reminder: I do not claim to be an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to read about prospects and rank them on my free of charge weblog. Disagree with the rankings? That’s cool. Mock me as you see fit.

For prospect eligibility, I stick with the MLB rookie limits of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched. Why at-bats and not plate appearances? Who knows. Also, I don’t pay attention to service time — players lose rookie eligibility once they accrue 45 days of service time outside September — because it’s not worth the effort to track. As always, prospect ranking is about balancing upside with probability, present skills with projection, and performance with tools. Everyone balances those things differently. It would be boring if we all did it all the same.

I liked the way the format worked out last year, so I stuck with it again this time around. All head shot photos come from MLB.com and MiLB.com. This year’s top 30 is after the jump. Enjoy.

[Read more…]

Mailbag: Carter, Austin, Torreyes, Otani, Castro, MVPs, Frazier

We’ve got 16 questions in the mailbag this weekend. I didn’t realize it was so many while I was writing it up. Send all your questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

(Lachlan Cunningham/Getty)
(Lachlan Cunningham/Getty)

Steve asks: $3M/1 for Carter vs $37M/3 for Trumbo. Compare and contrast.

Mark Trumbo is a better player and hitter than Chris Carter, but he’s not two years and $34M better. Some quick numbers:

Carter 2016: .222/.321/.499 (112 wRC+), 41 HR, 32.0 K%, 11.8 BB%, +0.9 fWAR
Trumbo 2016: .256/.316/.533 (123 wRC+), 47 HR, 25.5 K%, 7.6 BB%, +2.2 fWAR

Carter 2014-16: .218/.313/.477 (114 wRC+), 102 HR, 32.2 K%, 11.3 BB%, +3.3 fWAR
Trumbo 2014-16: .253/.309/.477 (110 wRC+), 83 HR, 24.8 K%, 7.3 BB%, +2.0 fWAR

Carter 2017 ZiPS: .211/.311/.484 (115 OPS+), 35 HR, 35.6 K%, 11.7 BB%, +1.2 WAR
Trumbo 2017 ZiPS: .251/.307/.491 (111 OPS+), 32 HR, 25.3 K%, 7.4 BB%, +1.4 WAR

Trumbo is going to hit for a considerably higher average, we’re talking as much as 30-40 points, and I think those extra hits more than make up for the difference in walk rate. Walks are good. Hits are better. Carter is almost a full year younger, though it wouldn’t surprise me if Trumbo came close to repeating his 2016 season in 2017. He’s made some real improvements with his plate discipline over the years.

That said, give me Carter at one year and $3.5M over Trumbo at three years and $37M all day, every day. Especially since Trumbo was attached to draft pick compensation.

Matt asks: Aaron Judge, Chris Carter, Gary Sanchez, or the field: Who hits the longest HR for the Yankees this season? Who hit the longest out of that trio last year? (I would assume Carter, but I know the kids hit some moonshots themselves.)

Carter did have the longest home run of the three last season. He mashed this 465 foot bomb off former Yankee Wade LeBlanc in August:

That was easily the longest homer hit by those three last season. Carter also had the second longest at 449 feet. Aaron Judge’s first career homer, the one of the top of the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar in center field, went 446 feet and was the third longest. Gary Sanchez’s longest were a pair of 437 foot dingers.

The easy answer for the longest homer this coming season is Carter because the dude has so much power. I’ll take Judge though. I bet he’ll hit one over both bullpens at Camden Yards. How’s that sound?

Dan asks: Do the signings of Holliday and Carter mean that Tyler Austin is probably not in the Yankees plans going forward?

I don’t think so. Matt Holliday and Carter are on one-year contracts. Keep in mind that at this time last year, Austin was a complete non-factor. He had been dropped from the 40-man roster and no team bothered to claim him on waivers. It’s entirely possible Austin has turned a new leaf and last season was the real him. I don’t blame the Yankees for bringing in a little extra depth just in case though. Personally, I probably would have passed on Carter and given Austin the playing time, but I don’t think it’s an egregious move. (Also, we have no idea what’s going with Greg Bird‘s shoulder, and I’m sure that factored into the decision to sign Carter.) Austin was always going to have to prove he belongs in the long-term plans. Nothing has changed.

Matthew asks: In basketball a lot of the talk these days is about height vs. wingspan, so a guy like Draymond Green can effectively play way bigger than he is due to a relatively large wingspan. Why don’t we talk about this with pitchers? Like if a pitcher in your system is 5’10” but has a 6’4” wingspan wouldn’t he essentially be releasing the ball at a similar spot to a taller guy? On top of that wouldn’t having longer arms allow a guy to get more torque and therefore more velocity on his pitches?

That’s interesting. This could be something that shows up in a pitcher’s extension, right? How far away from the plate he releases the ball? Part of what makes Dellin Betances so hard to hit is not just the sheer quality of his stuff, but he’s also so tall and his arms are so long that he’s releasing the ball that much closer to the plate, which gives hitters even less time to react. There are no stats on extension as far as I know, which is also tied to stride length and would be an imperfect measure of the effect of wingspan, as far as I know.

It does stand to reason the guy with longer arms would generate more force on the ball since he’s using a longer level, though there would also be more resistance from the air during his arm swing. I’ve never heard anyone talk about a pitcher’s wingspan before, let alone do research to see what kind of benefits it offers. Perhaps the impact is negligible, or not large enough to justify seeking out pitchers with long arms. I wish I had a better answer, but this is definitely something I’d be interested in learning more about.

Geoffrey asks: What was Torreyes’ story when he was a prospect? I know he’s bounced around to a number of different teams in the last couple years, but he’s still quite young, I believe 23 for all of last season, and as you pointed out, filled the backup infielder role admirably. Is this really as good as teams think he’ll get though? No one really seemed to want him before the Yankees, but a 22/23 yr old infielder capable of hacking it in the big leagues, even just as a back up, doesn’t seem like the kind of player a team should give up on.

Ronald Torreyes was never a top prospect but he was a legitimate prospect. Last offseason, in their 2016 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America ranked him as the 26th best prospect in a stacked Dodgers system. (The Prospect Handbook went to print before the trade.) Torreyes is pretty well traveled, and here is where Baseball America has ranked him in his various organizations over the years:

ronald-torreyes-prospect-rankings

Never a top prospect, but a prospect nonetheless. Baseball America’s scouting report last offseason dubbed Torreyes a future utility infielder. The year before, when he ranked 24th in the Astros system, their scouting report said he “profiles as a utilityman.” Go back to 2011 and Baseball America’s scouting report says “some scouts think he could handle the position as a utilityman.”

Torreyes has profiled as a bench player for a long time, mostly because he has no power and doesn’t walk a ton. He’s a rock solid reserve player because he makes contact easily and can handle the three non-first base infield positions well. Torreyes is listed at 5-foot-10, but having stood next to the guy, there’s no way that’s correct. He’s closer to 5-foot-7 or 5-foot-8. Unless he grows a few inches and adds more muscle, he’s not going to hit for more power, so I don’t see how he can improve his long-term outlook.

I’m not sure “teams gave up on Torreyes” is the best way to look at it. It seems like lots of teams wanted him, which is why every time he hit waivers, he was claimed. I mean, if you need to open a 40-man roster spot, isn’t the prospect who projects to be a utility infielder usually among the first to get cut? That’s usually how it works. Torreyes is a quality reserve infielder and there’s nothing wrong with that. He’ll make a heck of a living that way. I’m glad the Yankees have him.

Alex asks: Will the team have a problem finding enough innings for all of their SP Prospects, or is this something that usually works itself out, namely with injuries? If everyone stays healthy, are they more likely to go with six-man rotations, or opt for tandem starters?

Oh no. They won’t have any problem finding innings. No no no. If, by some miracle there aren’t enough innings, then the Yankees will probably be right in the thick of the AL East race. The Yankees will need all their pitchers and more throughout the season. That’s just the way it goes. Hopefully everyone makes it through camp healthy and the pitching staffs are clogged at the upper levels of the minors on Opening Day. That would take care of itself before long. Having too many pitchers is not something I will ever worry about.

Paul asks: Love the prediction post on the SWB starting roster. How accurate was last year’s prediction?

Here is last year’s post and here is the 2016 Triple-A Opening Day roster. I cheated a bit and gave more of a broad overview of the pitching staff, so it’s hard to say how accurate I was last year. I also took the easy way out and said the two catchers will come from this group of four players. I’m so lame. Four players I didn’t mention in last year’s post wound up on the Triple-A Scranton Opening Day roster: Tyler Cloyd, Diego Moreno, Chris Parmelee, and Deibinson Romero. Last year’s post went up before Greg Bird’s injury, so Parmelee wasn’t even in the organization at the time. This year’s post was a little more rigorous. We’ll get a better idea of how accurate it was come April.

Frankee asks: Could Otani be signed with a say, a seven year contract, with the first three years fitting under new international hard cap, and then balloon payments years four through seven with a player opt out to make up for the salary hit he’d take on the front end?

Nope. Players subject to the international spending rules can only sign minor league contracts. He gets his bonus and a minor league deal. That’s it. In theory, whichever team signs Otani could sign him to a massive long-term contract after his first big league season, though something tells me MLB would make a stink about that. The owners seem pretty dead set on suppressing salaries, and I’m guessing they’d want Otani to go through three pre-arbitration years like everyone else. That sets a precedent going forward.

Daniel asks: What, if anything, do you take away from the Yankees having Starlin Castro attending the recent events with some of the team’s top prospects? Between the panel discussion, and the senior citizen kitchen, I’ve noticed him a couple times with the young guys.

I don’t think it means anything. Chances are Castro was involved because he was available, that’s all. Didi Gregorius was away at the time in New Zealand, where he was promoting baseball and holding camps for kids, that sort of thing. Had Gregorius not been on the other side of the world, I’m sure he would have been involved in the Winter Warm-Up too. CC Sabathia, Chase Headley, and Holliday were involved along with Castro. Does it mean anything that Betances wasn’t involved? Probably not, despite his upcoming arbitration hearing. He’s one of the most popular players on the team and someone the Yankees would want involved in the Warm-Up. Betances probably wasn’t in town though. These things usually have as much to do with who is available at the time as who the team wants there.

Harper. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Harper. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Miguel asks: What are your early predictions for AL MVP and NL MVP, and why?

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, because they are the most talented players in each league. A boring answer? Yes. But they’re both pretty strong bets. Trout managed to break through and win MVP last year despite being on a terrible team, and he did it in a year there was a trendy alternative on a contender (Mookie Betts). I hope that’s a sign of things to come. Voters had gotten to the point where they were looking for reasons to not give him the MVP. Same with Clayton Kershaw and the NL Cy Young. He’s so damn good and the obvious answer each year that it gets boring talking about it.

As for Harper, I think his down season — imagine hitting .243/.373/.441 (112 wRC+) at age 23 and having people call it down a season, but that’s the standard Harper has set — has more to do with the nagging shoulder injury he reportedly played through most of the year. Here’s a fun game: how high could you go before you say there’s no way Harper could do that next year? .330/.470/.680? Maybe even .340/.480/.700? Remember, he hit .330/.460/.649 as a 22-year-old in 2015. There’s no need to overthink things with preseason awards picks. Who is the most talented player in the league? That’s who I’ll take for MVP.

Chris asks: Any Eovaldi updates? Until he signs with someone, he has access Yankee facilities correct? Do they assist with his recovery at all?

No new updates on Nathan Eovaldi since we heard the Yankees had talked to him about a reunion. And yes, the Yankees have to assist him during his rehab. For rehab purposes, it’s like he’s still on the roster. He has access to the team facilities and all that. Eovaldi doesn’t have to use them, he could rehab on his own, but the Yankees have to make their facilities available to him. That’s true until he signs with a new team. I wouldn’t be surprised if Eovaldi went unsigned all summer a la Greg Holland, especially since this is his second Tommy John surgery. Not too many of these “give this injured guy a two-year deal and hope he helps in a year” deals have worked out. Seems now teams are saying forget it, we’ll wait until he’s almost done rehabbing before getting involved.

Anthony asks: Assuming there is no trade market for Ellsbury and they have to pay him anyway, do you think he will eventually get the A-Rod treatment, i,e. benching –> release? Is there any other way to free up a spot for one of the young outfielders?

Not anytime soon. Not with four years left on his contract. Brian Cashman said the Yankees have talked about breaking up Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury atop the lineup, and while that sounds great, I can’t help but feel it’ll be Gardner who gets demoted to the bottom of the order. We’ll see. If there was one or two years left on Ellsbury’s contract, then maybe they’d be more open to reducing his playing time or even releasing him. He has four years left though. Four. They’re going to spend the next two or three years trying to make him more productive, not reducing his role.

Anonymous asks: You’ve got a time machine that’ll take you back a couple of months. A Deleon for Didi swap is up for discussion. Who hangs up first (assuming Didi agrees to a position change) Yankees or Dodgers?

Both teams, probably. The Dodgers wanted a right-handed batter at second base because they were so dreadful against lefties a year ago (.213/.290/.332!) and Didi Gregorius wouldn’t have helped them. I mean, yeah, he had a great year against southpaws in 2016, but it’s a little too early to dub him a lefty masher at this point. Also, I don’t think the Yankees would take De Leon for their starting shortstop. De Leon comes with some real red flags (shoulder injury in 2016, average fastball, fly ball and home run prone, etc.) that seem to get ignored because because OMG Friedman is a genius!, but they’re real red flags nonetheless. There are valid reasons to think De Leon is a terrible fit for Yankee Stadium and the AL East in general.

(How the heck does six years of De Leon for two years of Logan Forsythe get more hate than six years of Andrew Heaney for one year of Howie Kendrick? Heaney then > De Leon now.)

Frazier. (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Frazier. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Adam asks: It’s possible I’m making the connection simply because they seem like large personality outfielders, but does Clint Frazier remind you of a better defensive Nick Swisher?

Swisher was a pretty good defender during his prime, you know. There are definitely similarities in their games and Frazier turning into Swisher 2.0 would be a really good outcome. Swisher had his ups and down during his first full season in the show (105 wRC+), then from ages 25-31, he hit .258/.365/.471 (122 wRC+) overall and averaged 27 homers and +3.4 fWAR per season. That’s really good! Frazier has the talent to hit for a higher average, though I’d be shocked if he drew as many walks (Swisher had a 13.7% walk rate from ages 25-31), so their on-base percentages may be similar, though they’ll get there in different ways. I know Swisher got on some people’s nerves, but he was a really good hitter for a seven-year stretch there. Swisher 2.0 would be a great outcome for Frazier. (Don’t forget Swisher was a switch-hitter. Always having the platoon advantage is a nice luxury.)

Brent asks: Who is the most important player for the rebuild to be successful.

Good question! I’m not sure there’s a correct answer. Sanchez seems like an obvious choice because having a great catcher is such a huge advantage. Maybe it’s James Kaprielian? The Yankees need arms going forward and he offers the best combination of present stuff and MLB readiness in the system. What about Gleyber Torres? A star up-the-middle player is crucial too. Then again, the Yankees have so many bats in the farm system that maybe they don’t need Sanchez or Torres or Judge to hit. They have enough offensive depth to cover. I’m going to go with Sanchez. Look at pretty much any team that has sustained success over several years and chances are they had a high-end catcher on the roster.

Bob asks: I noticed that Luis Torrens is only the 23rd ranked prospect with the Padres. How can he possibly stick with the ML team all year? Are the Padres that stacked? Where do you think he would rank with the Yankees now?

Torrens did not make San Diego’s top 30 in Baseball America’s shiny new 2017 Prospect Handbook, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) said Torrens “at one point was a serious prospect behind the plate, but after shoulder surgery his arm really hasn’t come back” in his recent Padres top ten list. Law ranked 22 prospects and Torrens was outside the top 22. MLB.com has Torrens ranked 23rd on their end-of-season 2016 list. When they release their 2017 rankings in the coming weeks, he’ll probably rank lower.

The Padres have a phenomenal farm system right now, on par with the Yankees and Braves. (Law had San Diego third behind the Braves and Yankees in his recent farm system rankings.) I have a really hard time thinking Torrens can stick in the big leagues all year. So very few Rule 5 Draft catchers stick, even the veteran-ish guys who have Triple-A time. Torrens is going to be making the jump from Low-A. Yikes. The Padres are going to be so bad that maybe they just don’t care and will keep him all season anyway. Hopefully not, but we’ll see.

As for where Torrens would rank with the Yankees right now, you’re just going to have to wait until I post my annual Top 30 Prospects List later today. I answered that question within the post. Intrigue!