8/25 Makeup Game Preview: Kansas City Royals


Today was supposed to be an off-day. Instead, the Yankees are in Kansas City for a quick little one-game series against the Royals. The two teams are making up their June 9th rainout game. The Royals took two of three during the rained-shortened four-game series back in June.

What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Ned Yost’s squad lost to the Rangers yesterday, but they won two of three games in the series and have won a ridiculous 24 of their last 31 games. That surge has them sitting atop the AL Central at 72-57 with a +35 run differential, the fourth best record and fifth best run differential in the American League.

The Royals average 4.15 runs per game with a team 94 wRC+, so they are a below-average offense overall. It’s worth noting they have baseball’s lowest strikeout rate at 15.7%, nearly two full percentage points lower than the next lowest team (Athletics at 17.5%). The Yankees have the sixth lowest at 18.5%. Anyway, 1B Eric Hosmer (91 wRC+) is out with a hand problem and is the team’s only injured position player.

Gordon. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Gordon. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Yost’s lineup is built around OF Alex Gordon (126 wRC+), who has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the game these last few years. He’s every bit as good as Brett Gardner in left field defensively. Probably better, really. DH Billy Butler (99 wRC+) is having a very poor year by his standards. C Salvador Perez (96 wRC+) is a budding star and the duo of OF Josh Willingham (121 wRC+) and OF Raul Ibanez (60 wRC+) give the all-important veteran presents.

OF Norichika Aoki (89 wRC+) and 2B Omar Infante (80 wRC+) set the table from the one-two spots in the lineup — good thing the Yankees didn’t give Infante four years, huh? — while OF Lorenzo Cain (108 wRC), SS Alcides Escobar (89 wRC+), and OF Jarrod Dyson (97 wRC+) provide speed. All three have stolen at least 20 bases. (The Royals lead the AL with 112 steals, 20 more than the second place Yankees.) 3B Mike Moustakas (80 wRC+), IF Christian Colon (182 wRC+ in very limited time), and C Erick Kratz (78 wRC+) fill out the rest of the position player crop.

Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
Figures. The Yankees are in town for one night only, and they still get stuck facing Kansas City’s best pitcher. The 32-year-old Shields has a 3.28 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 27 starts and 178.1 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.22 K/9 and 19.2 K%) is his lowest in five years. He still limits walks (1.82 BB/9 and 4.8 BB%) and does a decent job of keeping the ball in the park (0.96 HR/9 and 10.1 HR/FB%) and getting grounders (45.1%). Lefties (.327 wOBA) have a bit more success against Shields than righties (.311 wOBA). A mid-80s changeup remains his go-to pitch, but Shields has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees scored one unearned run in six innings against the ex-Rays righty back in June.

Davis. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Davis. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The reason David Robertson and Dellin Betances are only “arguably” the best closer/setup man tandem in baseball is because RHP Greg Holland (2.14 FIP) and RHP Wade Davis (1.30 FIP) exist. They’re both outstanding. Throw in the super-hard-throwing RHP Kelvin Herrera (2.87 FIP) and you’ve got the best late-game trio in the game. None of the three pitched yesterday either.

The rest of Yost’s bullpen includes LHP Bruce Chen (1.59 FIP), LHP Francisley Bueno (3.06 FIP), RHP Aaron Crow (5.45 FIP), and RHP Jason Frasor (3.52 FIP). Both Frasor and Crow threw an inning yesterday. Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess after this weekend’s series with the White Sox. Robertson has pitched in three straight games and surely won’t be available tonight. I guess that makes Betances the closer du jour. Check out out Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the Royals.

IFA Notes: Castillo, Moncada, Tomas, New Rules

Castillo at the 2011 Pan-Am Games. (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty)
Castillo at the 2011 Pan-Am Games. (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty)

Late last week, the Red Sox signed free agent Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year contract worth $72.5M. He’ll play in some minor league games this week and make his MLB debut in September. The Yankees were connected to Castillo — they reportedly liked him more as a second baseman — but opted to “end any pursuit” of him a few days before he wound up in Boston. Here are some notes on the international market, including some more details on New York’s pursuit of Castillo.

Yankees never made offer to Castillo

Both Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman report the Yankees did like Castillo — they saw him as a potential 20-homer player — but balked for luxury tax reasons once the bidding got up to $40M. They didn’t even make a contract offer. The Yankees are taxed 50% on every dollar they spend over the $189M threshold, so $72.5M for Castillo would have meant a $108.75M total investment, and they didn’t view him as that type of player. They considered him to be similar to trade deadline pickup Martin Prado. One thing is clear: the price for Cuban free agents is only going up with each new player who arrives.

The Next Big Thing

Isn’t it amazing how as soon as one high-profile Cuban player signs, the next one pops up? Ben Badler puts on a name on that next big thing, and it is 19-year-old Yoan Moncada. He is described as a “a 6-foot, 210-pound switch-hitting infielder who’s the best teenager to leave Cuba since Jorge Soler, a player with exciting tools and dominance of the Cuban junior leagues on par with what Yasiel Puig did at the same age.” Here’s the obligatory video The video was removed from YouTube for whatever reason.

Now here’s the catch: no one seems to know where Moncada is at the moment. Badler says it doesn’t appear he is in Cuba but other reports say he is still on the island. If he is still in Cuba, it will obviously be a long time before Moncada is able to sign with a big league team, if ever. If he has defected, teams still have to wait for MLB to declare him a free agent and for the Office of the Foreign Assets Control to unblock him.

Because he is only 19, Moncada will be subject to the international spending restrictions clubs deal with each summer. The Yankees are unable to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods as a result of this year’s international spending spree, so they won’t be able to make a serious play for Moncada if he becomes the available anytime soon. That’s the risk with going big in one signing period, taking yourself out of the running for the top talent in future years.

Tomas establishes residency

Tomas at the 2013 WBC. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)
Tomas at the 2013 WBC. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas has established residency in Haiti, according to Jesse Sanchez. That is a big and necessary step towards being unblocked by the OFAC and declared a free agent by MLB. It’s still likely he will not be able to sign with teams until the offseason, if not sometime in 2015. Because of his age (23) and service time in Cuba, Tomas will not be held to the international spending restrictions.

Back in June, Badler described Tomas as a “righthanded-hitting corner outfielder” who can “hit towering home runs thanks to the strength from his thickly-built 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame,” though he cautioned Tomas has “some swing-and-miss tendencies” and an “uppercut stroke and trouble handling good breaking pitches.” Tomas is also described as a below-average runner who will be a corner outfielder in the big leagues. Here’s video. Jim Salisbury says the Phillies intend to be major players, for what it’s worth.

MLB implements new rules to curb pre-July 2nd deals

Last week, MLB sent teams a memo detailing new rules for how they are allowed to evaluate international amateurs, according to Badler. Players are now no longer allowed to be at a team facility until they are 16 years old or until six months before they are eligible to sign, whatever comes first. Before that, players can go to team facilities for MLB sanctioned league games and showcases only. The rule change is effective immediately.

Under the old rules, teams would bring players to their complex and have them work out. If they liked what they saw, they would make an offer and often agree to a contract in advance of the signing deadline. Teams would “hide” players they like at their complex so other clubs couldn’t scout them. That isn’t possible anymore. Long story short, MLB is trying to crack down on pre-July 2nd deals, and limiting how long players can spend at team complex is a big step towards doing that.

Fan Confidence Poll: August 25th, 2014

Record Last Week: 4-2 (25 RS, 22 RA)
Season Record: 67-61 (506 RS, 540 RA, 60-68 pythag. record) 6.0 GB in ALE, 3.5 GB of WC
Opponents This Week: @ Royals (one game, Mon.), @ Tigers (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

DotF: Flores hits two homers in Scranton’s loss

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the standings, so let’s do that now. The minor league season is over in about a week anyway.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Rochester) 65-71 and they’ve already been eliminated from postseason contention

  • CF Jose Pirela: 2-5, 1 R
  • RF Ramon Flores: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI – five homers in his last five games … nine homers in only 60 games this year, his career high is eleven in 125 games back in 2011
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — 14-for-37 (.379) in his last ten games
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4, 3 K
  • C John Ryan Murphy: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Zach Nuding: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 7/3 GB/FB — 51 of 85 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • RHP Chase Whitley: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 27 of 38 pitches were strikes (71%) … first outing since being sent down
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 0.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 15 of 28 pitches were strikes (54%) … blew the lead in the eighth

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the rest of the weekend. The ESPN Sunday night game is a real good one, the Angels at the Athletics (Weaver vs. Kazmir). They’re tied atop the AL West and the first two games of the series have been pretty exciting. There’s also a preseason NFL game on as well. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s walk-off win, or anything else right here.

Sweep! McCann’s walk-off blast gives Yankees 7-4 win over ChiSox

Source: FanGraphs

That was fun! And unexpected! The Yankees finished off the sweep of the White Sox — in a game started by all-world lefty Chris Sale, no less — on Sunday afternoon thanks to Brian McCann‘s biggest hit in pinstripes, a three-run walk-off bomb in the bottom of the tenth. So awesome. Let’s recap the team’s fourth straight win:

  • The Other Chris: Two pitches into the game, the Yankees were down 1-0 — Chris Capuano left a pitch up and Alexei Ramirez swatted it out to left for leadoff homer. With Sale pitching, it kinda felt like game over right there. It definitely felt like game over when Conor Gillaspie whacked a two-run homer to right in the top of sixth, extended Chicago’s lead to 3-0. Capuano was pretty damn good between homers, retiring 16 of 21 batters faced. His final line was those three runs on six hits and no walks in six innings. He struck out five and didn’t walk anyone. The very definition of a quality start, three runs in six innings.
  • Unearned Rally: It all started with an error. Dayan Viciedo dropped a Martin Prado fly ball with one out in the sixth — the sun probably played a role, but it was a play a big league outfielder has to make — opening the door for the Yankees’ go-ahead four-run rally. Mark Teixeira doubled in Prado, Carlos Beltran and Frankie Cervelli sandwiched walks around a Chase Headley strikeout, loading the bases with two outs. Pitching coach Don Cooper went out to talk to Sale, whose pitch count was at 96, but he remained in the game. His next pitch hit Zelous Wheeler in the leg to force in a run, and his next pitch after that dunked into right for Ichiro Suzuki‘s two-run single. The Yankees put nine men on base against Sale, including six in that inning. All four runs were unearned because of Viciedo’s error, but who cares? Only people who own Sale in fantasy, I guess.
  • Makeshift Bullpen: Because of their recent workloads, neither Shawn Kelley nor Dellin Betances were available. That meant Esmil Rogers and Rich Hill got the seventh inning and Adam Warren got the eighth once the Yankees took their 4-3 lead. Rogers retired the two men he faced (grounder, strikeout), Hill retired the one lefty he faced (fly out), and Warren sat down the side in order (fly out, grounder, strikeout). Warren fell behind in the count 3-0 to Jose Abreu but rebounded to strike him out looking. Helluva job right there. Everything was all set up for David Robertson, and then …
  • Blown Save: For the first time since June 1st, 22 consecutive saves ago, Robertson blew a save. Avisail Garcia hit a game-tying solo homer into the short porch on the very first pitch of the ninth inning. It was a Yankee Stadium cheapie, but it still counts and the save was blown. Two of his three blown saves this year have come against the ChiSox. Robertson retired the next three batters with ease to end the inning. What’s Wrong With Robertson Week™?
  • Extra Innings: The Yankees blew a first and second, one-out situation in the ninth thanks to Derek Jeter‘s double play. David Huff navigated the tenth — he struck out Abreu looking for the third out with two men on base — and set up the offense for the walk-off win in the bottom half. It all happened with two outs too. One-time Yankees draftee Jake Petricka struck out both Prado and Teixeira to start the inning, but Beltran fileted a double to left and Headley was intentionally walked to get the right-on-right matchup against Cervelli. Girardi went to McCann off the bench, and Petricka left a full count changeup out over the plate. McCann yanked it down the line, just fair for a cheap Yankee Stadium walk-off. Like I said before, it still counts. That’s exactly the type of homer the Yankees were expecting out of McCann when they signed him.
  • Leftovers: Beltran (double, walk), Headley (double, two walks) and Ichiro (two singles) were the only Yankees to reach base twice … everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once except for the leadoff man (Jeter) and number nine hitter (Brendan Ryan) … Robertson pitched in back-to-back-to-back games for the second time this month and only the fifth time in his career … the Yankees scored 5+ runs in back-to-back games for the first time since August 2nd and 3rd and only the second time since early-July.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. As of right now, the Yankees are 6.5 games back in the AL East and three games back of the second wildcard spot. Those numbers will change pending the outcomes of the other games today. The Yankees are now off the Kansas City to play a makeup game against the red hot Royals. (They were rained out on June 9th.) Michael Pineda and James Shields will be the pitching matchup Monday night. After that, the Yankees head to Detroit for three important games against the Tigers.

Game 128: Chris vs. Chris

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

The share a first name and they both throw with their left arm, but otherwise this afternoon’s starting pitchers could not be any more different. Yankees starter Chris Capuano is a classic veteran finesse lefty, mixing speeds and using an array of soft stuff to keep hitters off balance. White Sox starter Chris Sale is a pure power pitcher who will make hitters look foolish by both throwing fastballs by them and getting silly hacks at filthy offspeed pitches. Sale really is outstanding. One of the two or three best pitchers in the world on a rate basis.

The Yankees have won their last three games and five of their last seven overall, climbing to within 3.5 games of the second wildcard spot. Every time I’m ready to count them out, they go on a run and reel me back in. They head out on an important road trip that will pit them against the Royals and wildcard competitors Tigers this week, and it sure would be nice to go out on the trip following a sweep. Find a way to beat Sale today and move on to the super important games this coming week. Here is the White Sox lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. SS Derek Jeter
  2. LF Martin Prado
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. DH Carlos Beltran
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. C Frankie Cervelli
  7. RF Zelous Wheeler
  8. CF Ichiro Suzuki
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    LHP Chris Capuano

Just a few clouds in New York on an otherwise perfect afternoon for baseball. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start a bit after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Brett Gardner has a sore ankle and Jacoby Ellsbury is “pretty beat up,” so Joe Girardi is giving them both the day off against the tough lefty … Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) will throw his next simulated game on Thursday.