Thursday Night Open Thread

Good news: only two more 10pm ET starts left on the West Coast trip. Tonight and tomorrow. Thank goodness for that. I can’t handle these late night games/early mornings as well as I once did. Anyway, make sure you check out Joe Lemire’s post on scouting vocabulary. It’s pretty great. “Fall down range” has always been my favorite weird baseball term.

Here is an open thread until the regular game thread comes along. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network will have a regional game as well. Talk about those games or anything else here.

Greg Bird still doesn’t feel right, Yankees have “pulled the plug” on his rehab

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

7:33pm ET: The Yankees announced Bird has been pulled off his rehab assignment with a right knee contusion. He fouled a pitch off his shin the other day, but was fine and stayed in the game. I wonder if that’s just a mistake and they meant a right ankle contusion? Either way, it’s a setback.

6:27pm ET: Greg Bird‘s rehab has hit a snag. Brian Cashman told Erik Boland that Bird still doesn’t feel well, so they have “pulled the plug” on his rehab. The issue is still with his ankle, not his surgically repaired shoulder. Bird has been out since early May with a bone bruise in the ankle, an injury he originally suffered in the final week of Spring Training. He fouled a pitch off the ankle and tried to play through it in April.

Bird has been on a minor league rehab assignment the last two weeks, going 9-for-38 (.237) with 12 walks and four strikeouts in 12 games. The numbers don’t mean much though. How does he feel? How does his swing look? Does his have his lower half working right? Those are the important questions, and no, apparently he doesn’t feel good.

Joe Girardi said earlier today Bird will see a doctor, and hopefully that brings good news. Maybe it is nothing more than normal “hey you’re playing baseball everyday again” soreness. It’s not easy to be optimistic though. The Yankees have a pretty terrible history with bone bruises (see: Teixeira, Mark) and Bird himself has had plenty of injury issues in his career, even going back to his days in the minors.

Unless the doctor visit brings good news, the Yankees are going to have to start thinking about trading for a new first baseman. Chris Carter has worn out his welcome and Tyler Austin probably isn’t good enough to start at first base for a contender. Playing Matt Holliday there full-time doesn’t seem like a good idea at his age either.

I suppose the good news is the Yankees are in first place despite getting nothing from first base, a premium offensive position. They shouldn’t bank on that continuing though. If Bird is going to miss more time, they have to start thinking about an upgrade if they plan on giving themselves the best possible chance to contend. They can’t keep waiting for Bird. Not at this point.

2017 Draft: Beck, Mangum, Williams, Abbott, Burns, Brown

Burns. (@MLBDraft)
Burns. (@MLBDraft)

Now that the Yankees have made their selections and the 2017 draft is over, it’s time to see who they actually sign. The signing deadline is Friday, July 7th this year, so three weeks from tomorrow. That’s really close! Anyway, here are my Day One, Day Two, and Day Three recaps. Here are all of the Yankees’ picks, and here’s some draft news and links:

  • In his AL recap, Keith Law notes he doesn’t like the deliveries of South Carolina RHP Clarke Schmidt (1st round) and California HS RHP Matt Sauer (2nd), though he does say, “some teams were fine with the way (Sauer’s) arm works despite all of that and saw a mid-rotation starter.”
  • In their AL East draft recap, Baseball America wrote “college RHPs Trevor Stephan (3), Glenn Otto (5) and Dalton Higgins (7) and LHP Dalton Lehnen (6) all have at least one swing-and-miss offering.” The Yankees always use those middle rounds on Day Two to hoard power arms.
  • Catawba College RHP Bryan Blanton (21st) has a deal in place and is traveling to Tampa today, reports Mike London. Blanton, a reliever, had a 2.70 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 15 walks in 33.1 innings for the Indians.
  • Stanford RHP Tristan Beck (29th) is not going to sign, reports John Manuel. Bummer, but not surprising. Beck was a consensus first round talent before a back issue caused him to miss the season. He was reportedly seeking upwards of $4M to sign.
  • Missouri State OF Jake Mangum (30th), a draft-eligible sophomore, is going to return to school for his junior year, he announced on Twitter. Mangum was a top five rounds pick based on talent, though he slipped due to signability concerns.
  • If you’re into such things, Chris Mitchell’s KATOH system projects Duke OF Jimmy Herron (31st) as one of the best college picks on Day Three at +1.5 WAR. “A draft-eligible sophomore, Herron smacked 17 doubles, stole 17 bases, and struck out in just 12% of his plate appearances this year … Herron doesn’t turn 21 until late July, so he’s a few months younger than most of his draft-eligible college peers, making his performance all the more impressive,” said the write-up.
  • Georgia HS C Steven Williams (35th) will not sign and instead follow through on his commitment to Auburn, he wrote on Twitter. Williams was considered a possible top five rounds pick as an offense-first catcher, though his strong commitment to Auburn caused him to slide to Day Three.
  • Virginia HS LHP Andrew Abbott (36th) is not planning to sign, based on his Twitter feed. That’s not really a surprise. He was considered unsignable from the start. Abbott throws three pitches, including an excellent curveball, though he sits mostly in the upper-80s right now with his fastball.
  • Alabama HS RHP Tanner Burns (37th) will not sign, according to his Twitter feed. Jim Callis mentioned him as one of the most notable picks on Day Three. “Burns drew comparisons to recent first-rounders due to his big arm and advanced command, but his commitment to Auburn must have been too strong for teams to take a chance on him early,” wrote Callis.
  • The Yankees have signed Missouri State OF Cody Brown as an undrafted free agent, according to MSU. He’s heading to Tampa to sign tomorrow. Brown, a lefty swinger, hit .323/.433/.539 with nine homers and ten steals in 64 games this spring.

By the way, our annual Draft Pool Tracker page is now up and running. You can keep tabs on the Yankees’ bonus pool situation there between now and the signing deadline. It is available at all times under the Resources pull down menu in the nav bar at the top of the site.

6/15 to 6/18 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

Sonny Gray. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Sonny Gray. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

On Monday afternoon, one of the prevailing concerns about the series with the Angels was that it was a ‘trap series.’ The Yankees were red hot, but they’ve also struggled in Angel Stadium over the last few years – and the Angels have been surprisingly good since Mike Trout went down. A few days later the Yankees had dropped two of three and lost CC Sabathia to an injury. It was a disappointing series, to say the least, as seems to be the norm on these West Coast trips. Next up: the Oakland Athletics.

The Last Time They Met

The A’s visited the Bronx just three weeks ago (May 26-28), and the Yankees took two of three. All three games were relatively close, as the Yankees outscored the A’s by just two runs in total. Other points of interest:

  • Masahiro Tanaka tantalized us once more in the first game, pitching to the following line – 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 13 K. The key was his splitter, which was on-point for what may have been the only time this season. Thanks to some quirky rules, he took the loss despite not being responsible for the go-ahead run.
  • The Yankees won game two 3-2, in what was a frustrating game for the offense. They had just seven base-runners (only two of which reached base via hit), and had trouble squaring up the A’s pitchers all day. Luckily, one of those hits was a go-ahead two-run home run by Matt Holliday, and that was all they needed.
  • Game three was much more Yankees-like, as the bats came alive and they plated nine runs. Aaron Judge was 2-for-4 with the first grand slam of his career, Ronald Torreyes was 2-for-3 with a couple of runs scored, and Brett Gardner picked-up a couple of 2-our RBI in a 9-5 victory.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more detailed notes and statistics.

Injury Report

As was the case last time around, the A’s have some key players on the disabled list. RP Ryan Dull, SP Kendall Graveman, SS Marcus Semien, SP Andrew Triggs, and RP Ryan Dull are on the DL, and none will return in time for this series (Triggs started against the Yankees in the previous series). OF Matt Joyce had to leave yesterday’s game early following a collision, and he received three stitches to close a laceration on his chin. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Their Story So Far

The A’s have lost three in a row by a combined 13 runs, and are currently 27-38 with an AL-worst -77 run differential. They’re also 4-9 in June, having been outscored 92-64 since the calendar flipped. Their offense has gradually improved (and is about league-average once adjusted for the park), but their pitching has backslid tremendously.

Yonder Alonso is a big part of that offense, and he has yet to show signs of slowing down. He’s batting .303/.398/.635 with 16 home runs (174 wRC+) on the year, including a .370/.452/.630 slash line since these teams last met. Their offense as a whole has a 101 wRC+ this month, with 6 regulars sitting at 111 or better. Pitching was supposed to be their strength, but I’m sure that they’re more than happy with fielding a competitive lineup every night.

The Lineup We Might See

Bob Melvin has used more distinct batting orders than any other manager in the game this year, as he has a proclivity for platooning and riding the hot bat. The fact that the team has dealt with a slew of injuries doesn’t help, either. This is essentially the core lineup that he’s been building off of lately (keeping in mind that Jordan Montgomery is pitching tonight):

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Jed Lowrie, 2B
  3. Ryon Healy, DH
  4. Khris Davis, LF
  5. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  6. Chad Pinder, SS
  7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  8. Matt Joyce, RF
  9. Josh Phegley, C

With a RHP on the mound, Matt Joyce will bat higher in the lineup, and Stephen Vogt will start at catcher.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Thursday (10:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Sonny Gray

Two years ago, Gray looked like a legitimate top of the rotation starter. He was coming off of back-to-back 200-plus IP seasons with a combined 131 ERA+ and 8.9 bWAR, and he was turning 26 just before the start of the 2016 season. And then 2016 came, and he was hurt (just 22 starts) or ineffective (70 ERA+, -0.1 bWAR) throughout the season, and those injuries carried over to 2017. Gray has shown signs of his old self, though, as his strong strikeout (23.7%), walk (7.1%), and groundball (56.7%) belie his 4.37 ERA (94 ERA+).

Gray has found some velocity this season, and he now works in the mid-90s with his fastballs (four- and two-seamers). He also throws a low-80s slider, a low-80s curveball, and a change-up in the upper-80s. He throws all five pitches regularly, as well.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 6/10) – 6.0 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 10 K

Friday (9:35 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Sean Manaea

Manaea shut-down the Yankees three weeks ago (7 IP, 4 H,  R, 1 BB, 8 K), and has been going strong ever since. He now has a 3.67 ERA (112 ERA+) on the season, and his stuff has been improving as the weather warms up.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 6/10) – 7.o IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Saturday (4:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Jesse Hahn

This is Hahn’s first healthy season in years, as the 27-year-old has dealt with a litany of arm-related injuries. He has been mostly effective throughout his major league career, with a 102 ERA+ and 3.0 bWAR in 277.0 IP, but that doesn’t look quite as good when it’s spread out over three-plus seasons. Interestingly enough, Hahn is the oldest member of the A’s rotation with Triggs on the DL.

Hahn is a three or four-pitch guy, depending upon the day. He throws a mid-90s two-seamer, a mid-70s curveball, and a mid-80s change-up regularly. He’ll also mix in a mid-80s slider, but that isn’t a given on most days.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 6/11) – 5.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Sunday (4:05 PM EST): TBD (Chad Green?) vs. RHP Jharel Cotton

Cotton was viewed as a dark horse candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year heading into 2017, on the strength of a strong performance during a September call-up and a seemingly terrific fastball/change-up combination. He’ll need quite a bit of work to get to that level, though, as he has a 5.52 ERA (74 ERA+) through eleven starts, to go along with below-average peripherals. The 25-year-old has just three quality starts on the season, to boot.

Cotton’s bread and butter is ostensibly the coupling of his low-to-mid-90s fastball and mid-70s change-up. The discrepancy between those two offerings should keep hitters off-balance, but that simply hasn’t been the case so far. Cotton also throws a slider in the upper-80s and a curveball in the upper-70s.

Last Outing (vs. MIA on 6/13) – 5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K

The Bullpen

The A’s bullpen has the second-worst park-adjusted ERA in baseball, and it is only getting worse – the unit has a 7.16 ERA in 44.0 IP in June (which includes a 4.2 IP, 4 ER effort yesterday). Sean Doolittle just returned from an injury and Santiago Casilla seems to have righted the ship, but only four relievers have an ERA under 4.00 (and that includes Doolittle in just 8.2 IP). The rotation doesn’t help matters, either, as they routinely turn the ball over to the bullpen in the 6th inning or earlier.

It’s difficult to imagine the A’s bullpen as a whole being in good shape for this series, as it was needed for 7.2 IP between Tuesday and Wednesday. Fortunately for them, neither Doolittle nor Casilla has pitched since Saturday, so their best arms are ready to go.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Sonny Gray was the object of the Yankees desire at one point, and the A’s are almost always willing to shop their stars – so this could be an audition, of sorts, should Cashman and Co. seek to improve the team’s rotation sooner rather than later. With Jose Quintana struggling in Chicago, however, Gray may be both the best and the cheapest option on the market come the trade deadline.

Yankeemetrics: West Coast nightmare (June 12-14)

(Getty)
(Getty)

No pizza but still a win
The Yankees headed out west for the first time this season, but the story remained mostly the same on Monday night: another win and another legend-boosting performance by Mr. Judge.

This victory, however, was different from others in the past couple weeks because of the fact that John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman didn’t get to mention the beloved Papa John’s promotion. In case you’re not familiar with the popular deal: the day after the Yankees score six or more runs, customers get 50 percent off the regular menu price of all pizzas at Papa John’s online.

The Yankees scored ‘only’ five runs on Monday night, but that was still enough for the win because of another anomaly: Masahiro Tanaka did not get pummeled! Though he did cough up a solo homer to the second batter of the game, he settled down after that, retiring 13 straight at one point while pitching into the seventh inning.

One of the biggest keys for Tanaka was getting ahead in the count, throwing a first-pitch strike to a season-high 77.8 percent of the batters he faced. Because he was consistently in control of at-bats, he was then able to efficiently finish off batters when getting to two strikes, as the Angels went 0-for-11 in two-strike counts with eight strikeouts.

Okay, so back to the part of this game that was normal – Aaron Judge destroying baseballs. With the game tied in the eighth inning and a man on second, Judge drilled a 2-0 cutter from Bud Norris over the fences for a 5-3 lead. Sorry Buddy, this is not the best location for a pitch when facing a 6’7, 280-pound baseball cyborg:

aaron-judge

I wouldn’t be surprised if Judge was literally smiling as he extended his arms and pummeled this pitch into the right-centerfield seats. It was right in his power-happy zone, as he was slugging 1.182 in that part of the strikezone after Monday’s game.

judge

It was his first career go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later … and hopefully the first of many more to come.

Judge wouldn’t have been the hero, though, without another standout performance from Didi Gregorius. He went 4-for-4 and kept the Yankees in the game with game-tying and go-ahead RBI singles in the third and fifth innings. Didi was the second Yankee shortstop ever with a four-hit, multi-RBI game against the Angels. The other guy to do it was … of course, Derek Jeter on Sept. 5, 1999 at Angel Stadium.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Clipp’d
The Yankees six-game win streak was snapped on Tuesday in one of the more frustrating losses of this season, as they lost in the 11th inning after failing to cash in on key scoring chances throughout the night. It was also a rare type of loss for a couple reasons:

  • Before Tuesday, the Yankees were one of just two teams that hadn’t yet suffered a walk-off loss – the Marlins are now on the clock as the only team left on that list.
  • The Yankees were 33-0 when leading at the start of the eighth inning, one of four major-league teams without a loss in that scenario entering Tuesday’s slate. The others: Rockies (33-0), Red Sox (26-0) and White Sox (23-0).

Tyler Clippard was the game’s biggest goat – according to Twitter, at least – as he surrendered that game-tying homer and was tagged for his fourth blown save of the season in his 29th appearance. Through Tuesday, the only pitchers in the majors with more blown saves were Tony Watson and Francisco Rodriguez (both with 5).

Fangraphs tracks a stat called Meltdowns, which answers the simple question of whether a reliever hurt his team’s chance of winning, based on changes in win probability during the pitcher’s outing. (To be more specific, he gets a Meltdown if the game’s win probability declines by at least six percent from when he enters and then exits the game.) Clippard has eight Meltdowns this season, tied for the most among American League pitchers and fourth-most in MLB.

Clippard has a shiny 2.00 ERA and .158 batting average allowed, but he’s been horrible in critical at-bats this season. He’s allowed a .304/.375/.682 line in high-leverage plate appearances – that equals a .436 wOBA, which ranked seventh-highest among pitchers that have faced at least 25 batters in those situations. For reference, Aaron Judge had a .476 wOBA through Tuesday.

As if the game wasn’t depressing enough from a standard win-loss perspective, there’s also the fact that CC Sabathia suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth inning. He had won his last five starts, with a 0.99 ERA dating back to May 16 at Kansas City. During that month-long span (May 16 to June 13), a total of 161 pitchers threw at least 15 innings; Robbie Ray (0.24) and Sabathia (0.99) were the only ones to post a sub-1.00 ERA.

(AP)
(AP)

Welcome back, Tiny Mike
This annual road trip to Southern California has been a devastating one for this franchise, even in the best of times. After dropping the rubber game on Wednesday, the Yankees continued their run of futility in Los Angeles (or Anaheim, whatever). The Yankees fell to 45-58 at Angel Stadium in the Wild Card Era, their worst record at any AL ballpark in that span.

It looked like they might reverse that trend after taking a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, capped by Gary Sanchez‘s booming 441-foot three-run homer. It was the Yankees 11th home run of at least 440 feet this season, the most in the majors.

And here’s a stat that pretty much sums up the 2017 Yankees: Sanchez’s longball was also the 35th hit by a Yankee in his age-25 season or younger; in the five-year period from 2010-2014, there were 21 homers hit by Yankees in their age-25 season or younger … COMBINED.

Unfortunately that early offensive explosion was quickly rendered meaningless as #BadMike returned with vengeance. He soon turned that 4-0 advantage into a 5-4 deficit by the end of the third inning. Pineda ended up pitching six innings and gave up five runs on 10 hits, further widening his Jeykyll-and-Hyde home/road splits this season:

He is now 1-5 with a 6.25 ERA in six road starts, compared to 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA in seven home starts. That difference of 4.3 runs is the ninth-largest among the 100-plus pitchers that have made at least five starts at home and five starts on the road.

2017 Draft: Yankees grab several top prospects on Day Three, but will they sign any of them?

Beck. (@MLBDraft)
Beck. (@MLBDraft)

The 2017 draft is now in the books. All together 1,215 players heard their names called over the last three days, including 40 by the Yankees. You can see all of New York’s picks here. The Yankees loaded up on pitchers on Day One and Day Two. On Day Three they grabbed plenty of organizational depth, but also selected several highly ranked prospects who slipped due to signability concerns. Will the Yankees get any to turn pro? That’s the million dollar question. Let’s review the Day Three haul.

The Top Dollar Prospects

When the draft resumed yesterday, three of Baseball America’s top 41 prospects remained on the board. The Yankees selected two of them: Stanford RHP Tristan Beck (29th round) and Alabama HS RHP Tanner Burns (37th). Both were considered potential first round picks coming into this spring. Bonus demands caused Burns to slip. Bonus demands and injury caused Beck to slide.

Beck was one of the top pitchers in the country in 2016 — he joined Mike Mussina and Cal Quantrill (Paul’s kid) as the only freshmen to start Opening Day in Stanford history — but he did not pitch at all this spring due to a stress reaction in his back. During that freshman season he had a 2.48 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 26 walks in 14 starts and 83.1 innings, and he did it with good stuff (low-90s fastball, above-average changeup, good breaking ball) and an excellent feel for pitching. Beck really knows what he’s doing out on the mound.

In addition to being really good, Beck has added leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore. Man of the people Chris Crawford hears Beck wants anywhere from $2.5M to $4M to sign, and if true, there’s basically no chance the Yankees can sign him. Maybe that’s the opening ask and Beck is willing to settle for less? Either way, his options are take gobs of money from the Yankees, or go back to school and re-enter the draft next year as a potential top ten pick.

Burns, meanwhile, is a legitimate two-way prospect with a mid-90s fastball and an out pitch mid-80s slider on the mound, and a powerful right-handed bat with a keen eye at the plate. He is considered a better pro prospect on the mound. (The Yankees announced him as a pitcher.) Burns was not drafted on Day One (or Day Two) because he wants a lot of money to skip out on his commitment to Auburn, and teams weren’t convinced they could get him to turn pro.

While Beck and Burns are the crown jewels of Day Three, the Yankees drafted several other high-end prospects with signability questions yesterday as well. Louisville RHP Riley Thompson (25th) is a rare draft-eligible freshman after having Tommy John surgery and taking a medical redshirt in 2016. He threw only 14.2 innings this spring between coming back from surgery and being buried on a deep pitching staff. When he did pitch, Thompson showed first round stuff with a mid-to-high-90s heater and a power low-80s curveball. He has a chance to come out as a first round pick next year.

Georgia HS OF Pat DeMarco (24th) grew up in New York before moving to Georgia in 2014, and he’s an advanced all-around player with contact skills and good center field defense. Georgia HS C Steven Williams (35th) was one of the top high school catchers in the draft class, thanks mostly to his offense. He’s got big power in his left-handed bat and a history of annihilating elite prep competition with wood bats in showcase events. Williams might not catch long-term, but his bat will play anywhere. He’s committed to Auburn. DeMarco is committed to Vanderbilt.

And finally, Mississippi State OF Jake Mangum (30th) offers outstanding leadoff skills, including high contact rates from both sides of the plate, a patient approach, and top of the line speed. He also plays a mean center field. Mangum is an animal on the field who plays all out, all the time. People love watching him play. Mangum is a draft-eligible sophomore with plenty of negotiating leverage. He can either turn pro, or go back to school for a year and re-enter the draft next summer.

Based on talent, all six of these players should have been Day One or early Day Two picks. Two of them, Burns and Beck, have true first round ability. The Yankees selected all six of them because, well, why not? They could either continue to mine for hidden gems in the late rounds, or grab the most talented players on the board and try to convince them to sign. There’s always a chance they’ll change their minds and decide to turn pro, after all. Take the best players and figure out the rest later.

The Yankees hope to sign one of these players. That’s the realistic goal. Get one to turn pro. Beck or Burns would be preferable, but Thompson, Williams, DeMarco, or Mangum would work just as well. The Yankees will take whatever draft pool savings they have from Days One and Two, shovel it in front of these guys, and force them to say no. In all likelihood, all six will wind up in school next year. That’s usually how it goes. The fact the Yankees grabbed so many of these highly ranked players with signability questions increases their chances of getting one to turn pro, I think.

Balancing Out Days One & Two

Wagaman. (Los Angeles Times)
Wagaman. (Los Angeles Times)

I don’t think it was intentional, but the Yankees did select nine pitchers with their ten picks the first two days of the draft. That’s probably just the way the board fell in the top ten rounds. But still, when you go that pitcher heavy early in the draft, you kinda have to balance it out with position players later. The minor league rosters still need to be filled out, after all. On Day Three, the Yankees skewed toward college bats.

The best position player prospect the Yankees selected yesterday, at least among the guys they have a realistic chance to sign, is probably Orange Coast 1B Eric Wagaman (13th). He’s a right-handed hitter with big raw power and a knack for getting the bat on the ball despite a big long swing. Wagaman is a first baseman only defensively, so he’s going to have to hit and hit big to climb the ladder.

Duke OF Jimmy Herron (31st) is a ridiculous runner and a slap hitter from the right side of the plate. He puts the ball in play and runs like hell, plus he’ll draw walks and play good defense. There’s the potential for something exciting here if Herron ever figures out how to get some power out of his 6-foot-1, 195 lb. frame. California HS SS Alika Williams (32nd) has tools but is so raw that he’s probably best off going to college and developing there rather than against pro caliber competition.

Louisiana-Lafayette OF Steven Sensley (12th), Mount Olive SS Rickey Surum (16th), and Rhode Island 2B Chris Hess (17th) are all college performers without carrying tools. Surum can at least play shortstop, so he has position scarcity on his side. The Yankees drafted 40 players and only 12 are position players.

The Power Arms

When you get to Day Three of the draft, you’re looking for pitchers with one of two things: stuff or command. The guys who have both are usually long gone. The Yankees have long preferred the guys with stuff, I guess because they consider that an unteachable skill. They think it’s easier to teach someone to locate than it is to get him to throw harder or develop a better breaking ball. You don’t have to agree with that, but that’s what the Yankees seem to think, and they draft accordingly.

The best power arm the Yankees drafted on Day Three is Seattle RHP Janson Junk (22nd), who will inevitably be nicknamed “Junkballer” even though he is anything but. His heater will sit 95-96 mph in short relief outings and touch 98, and his best secondary pitch is a changeup with some fade. Junk has arm strength. Now he needs to refine either his changeup or breaking ball or give him a consistent second pitch, and allow him to climb the minor league ladder. Man can not live on fastball alone.

Maryland HS RHP Harold Cortijo (14th) made a name for himself in showcases last year by showing a low-to-mid-90s fastball with a promising curveball. Cortijo is a great athlete who also has some potential as a center fielder, and the hope is that athleticism will allow him to iron out his command and improve the quality of his secondary stuff. Slot money for every pick on Day Three is $125,000 — every penny over that counts towards the bonus pool — and it might take an over-slot bonus to convince Cortijo to turn pro.

Among the college pitchers taken on Day Three, New Orleans RHP Shawn Semple (11th) probably has the best chance to start long-term. His fastball is mostly low-90s and he has feel for both a breaking ball and a changeup, and he throws strikes. That’s someone you can send out as a starter for a year or two, and if it’s not working out, try him in relief. Delaware RHP Ron Marinaccio (19th) found new life after moving to the bullpen this spring and can miss some bats with a fastball and slider.

Norfolk State RHP Alex Mauricio (27th) used to throw very hard, up to 99 mph, but the wear of tear of college ball has him sitting mostly low-90s and touching 95 mph these days. He doesn’t have much to offer besides his fastball, however. Ventura College LHP Andrew Nardi (39th) has a nice fastball/slider combination and he models his delivery after Clayton Kershaw, though throwing strikes is a problem.

The Bounceback Candidates

In Virginia Tech RHP Aaron McGarity (15th) and Alabama-Birmingham RHP Garrett Whitlock (18th), the Yankees selected two pitchers who showed Day Two stuff in the past, before getting hurt. McGarity was low-to-mid-90s with ease in the Cape Cod League in 2015 before breaking down. Whitlock was mid-90s with a nasty slider on the Cape last summer, then he came down with a back problem early this spring. When he returned, the fastball was mostly 90-92 mph and flat.

The thinking here is pretty obvious. The Yankees grabbed McGarity and Whitlock with late round picks hoping they’ll regain their previous form as they get healthy and further away from their injuries. If it works, great! If not, you’re only out a late pick, and who cares about that? Sometimes these broken late round guys turn into Brian Wilson. (Wilson was coming off Tommy John surgery and his stuff was way down when the Giants drafted him in the 24th round in 2003.)

Other Unsignables

Beyond the high-profile prospects highlighted at the beginning of this post, the Yankees did grab several high school prospects in the late rounds with some tools, but basically no chance to sign. Florida HS LHP Jordan Butler (34th) is the best prospect of the bunch. He’s a side-armer with a low-90s sinker and a big sweepy slider that cuts across the entire width of the plate. The arm slot has most thinking he’s destined for the bullpen. It’s going to be tough to buy him away from Florida since he’ll have an opportunity to play a prominent role for the Gators from the get-go.

Virginia HS LHP Andrew Abbott (36th) has three pitches, including an upper-80s fastball and a great curveball, though he is considered completely unsignable and will follow through on his commitment to Virginia. If Abbott adds velocity in college, he could come out as a potential Day One pick in three years. Louisiana HS SS Hayden Cantrelle (40th) has speed and good defense at shortstop. He’s a legitimate football prospect as a quarterback and wide receiver, though he’s committed to play baseball only at Louisiana-Lafayette. Never say never, but Butler, Abbott, and Cantrelle are all dead set on college and not expected to sign.

The Rest of the Class

Lidge. (@NDBaseball)
Lidge. (@NDBaseball)

Notre Dame C Ryan Lidge (20th) is a catch-and-throw guy most notable for being Brad Lidge’s cousin … Catawba College RHP Bryan Blanton (21st round) is a reliever with a breaking ball he throws an awful lot … Arizona HS RHP Colby Davis (23rd) can locate three pitches, though none of the three stand out as a potential put-away pitch … Lane College LHP Austin Crowson (26th) has a big 6-foot-5, 210 lb. frame and a low-90s heater. He’s trying to figure out everything else … Florida HS RHP Shane Roberts (28th) is mostly upper-80s with the makings of an okay breaking ball. College might the best place for him going forward … Boston College RHP Jacob Stevens (33rd round) pitches at 88-89 mph and relies on a wide array of secondary pitches to get outs … Spartanburg Methodist RHP Brent Burgess (38th round) was a catcher in college who the Yankees want to try on the mound. The Rangers couldn’t convince him to do the same in the 40th round last year.

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The draft signing deadline is Friday, July 7th this year — doesn’t the deadline seem to get a little closer each year? — and because of all those high-end prospects who fell into the Yankees lap on Day Three, the deadline could be exciting this year. I don’t expect any of those guys to actually sign because those types of players never seem to sign, but hey, I’m open to being surprised. Maybe the Yankees saved enough bonus pool space on Days One and Two to get one of them turn pro.

Missed opportunities prove costly in 7-5 loss to the Angels

After scoring 4 runs in the first inning, the Yankees gave the lead back, tied it up again, but let go of the game after experiencing some RISPFails and allowing a go-ahead HR to Andrelton Simmons. That was an annoying series – lost a starter and two games that were quite winnable. The Yankees still have the division lead but it has shortened to two gmes after the Red Sox beat the Phillies again. Let’s recap this game and move on to the next one.

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Exchanging runs early

The Yankee bats got out of the gate early today. In the first inning, Brett Gardner led off the game with a base hit and Aaron Judge‘s single made it runners on corners with one out. Judge followed it up with a stolen base and Matt Holliday hit a sac fly to make it 1-0 Yankees. Starlin Castro got hit in the hands to make it runners in the corners. Gary Sanchez, as he does often, annihilated a second pitch slider into the left field seats for a 3-run homer. 4-0 Yankees. The game seemed like a cake walk for the Bombers at that point.

Big Mike, however, wasn’t that big tonight. The Angels hitter threatened rallies from the first inning. Cameron Maybin, Albert Pujols and Yunel Escobar hit singles against Pineda to make it one-out, bases-loaded situation for the Angels. Luis Valbuena hit a deep flyball to center that was on its way over the fence and Aaron Hicks did this:

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Yep, in case you are wondering, he robbed it. Hicks robbed a grand slam and held the Angels to a sac fly. Pineda got out of it with allowing only one run. However, more trouble was coming for Big Mike in the upcoming innings.

Eric Young Jr., as he did all series, bugged the Yanks again with a leadoff single in the 2nd. Danny Espinosa, who came into the game with a .164 batting average, hit a 94 mph fastball into the right field seats for a 2-run homer, making it a one-run game. The Angels tacked on two more in the third. Pujols led off with a single and advanced to second and third on two consecutive groundouts. With two outs, Pineda walked Andrelton Simmons to make it runners on corners. Facing Eric Young Jr., Pineda spiked a slider in front of the home plate that Sanchez couldn’t come up with and the ball rolled to the backstop. Pujols scored easily on the wild pitch to tie the game. Young Jr. followed it up with a single to right to give Angels a go ahead run and just like that, Yankees blew an early 4-run lead. 5-4 Angels.

RISPFail (Getty Images)
RISPFail (Getty Images)

The score stayed 5-4 until the top of the sixth. The Yankees had two great scoring chances in both fourth and fifth, but failed to cash in in either. Sanchez and Didi Gregorius led off the fourth with back-to-back singles. Chase Headley followed it up with a grounder to second… that hit jumping Didi’s back leg. Espinosa probably would’ve caught it for at least a force out but it forced Sanchez going to third back to second base. Rob Refsnyder hit a liner hard but it went right into Espinosa’s glove and Sanchez got doubled off at second. Yes, it’s that kind of game!

The Yanks’ RISP misfortunes continued in the fifth. With two outs, Judge reached on base with an Escobar throwing error. Holliday followed it up with a single to make it runners and first and second. Castro hit a sharp single to left and third base coach Joe Espada waved Judge to run home. The problem was that Judge was doomed from start:

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That’s Eric Young Jr. getting ready to throw while Judge was not even at third base. Judge is not a slow runner but that was a terrible send. Young’s throw from outfield got Judge out at home pretty easily and Yankees came up empty-handed again. Had Judge held up, Yankees would have had Sanchez (who was 2-for-2 at the time) at the dish with bases loaded.

The bats finally got the tying run in the sixth inning. Sanchez reached second with an infield single + throwing error. After Gregorius struck out swinging, Headley singled to drive in Sanchez. Tie game!

The debut

A few days after Domingo German made his ML debut, another prospect got his first outing in the bigs tonight. Ronald Herrera (acquired from trading away Jose Pirela to Padres after the 2015 season), who has been lights out in Double-A this year (7-0, 1.03 ERA in 8 GS), faced Pujols in the bottom of the seventh in a 5-5 game. No pressure kid. However, he retired the first two hitters on first two pitches. Things went downhill from there. He walked Valbuena in five pitches and allowed a two-run, go-ahead HR to Andrelton Simmons on the first pitch. He hit Eric Young Jr. with a pitch on the foot but struck out Espinosa to get out of the inning.

I thought the timing of putting in Herrera was interesting. Tie game in the 7th, and a rookie making a ML debut is the first pitcher out of the bullpen? If it was in the 4th inning, it would make more sense but in the late inning situation, I would have gone with someone like Adam Warren to get an inning or two soaked. At the same time, the bullpen has been quite used lately, especially after last night’s 11-inning affair. Herrera was brought up to be the fresh arm guy out of the bullpen. Just not in an ideal situation to make a debut.

The Yankees had a bit of a two-out rally going on in the top of the ninth inning. Aaron Hicks hit a deep flyball into the right that Kole Calhoun caught with a leaping catch at the wall… or did he? Yankees asked the umps to look it over and they ruled that the ball hit the wall and Calhoun trapped it. It was pretty darn close and looked like it could have gone the other way. Anyways, that brought up Judge with two-outs, runner on second situation… which ended with a groundout. 7-5 Angels.

Leftovers

Pineda had a rough first three innings but settled down nicely after. From the fourth to sixth innings, he only allowed three baserunners and struck out two. As much as his poor outing engineered the Yankee loss, credit to Pineda for bouncing back nicely.

The Yankees had 14 hits total and every starter had a base hit each. Rob Refsnyder hit his first MLB triple and started in the right field today, giving Judge a day off with the glove. The offense definitely had it going but just ran into some rotten, rotten RISP lucks many a times tonight. Welp. You play 162 games and there will be a few annoying ones like this.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees now head to the Bay Area to face the Athletics for a 4-game series on Rickey Henderson Field (great name). Jordan Montgomery will be on the hill against Sonny Gray on Thursday.