Chris Young and the 2015 fourth outfielder spot

(Alex Goodlett/Getty)
(Alex Goodlett/Getty)

Even though the list of September call-ups looked like a bunch of guys signed by the Long Island Ducks, the Yankees have gotten some real nice production from their extra players since rosters expanded two weeks ago. Antoan Richardson had a good weekend in Baltimore, Bryan Mitchell was solid in his first MLB start, and even Rich Hill has been very good since coming back, striking out six of nine batters faced. Chad Jennings ran down the September call-up situation yesterday.

The most productive extra player this month is ex-Mets outfielder Chris Young, who has gone 10-for-27 (.370) with four doubles and three homeruns in pinstripes. He hit a walk-off homer against the Rays last Thursday (after breaking up Alex Cobb’s no-hitter with a double in the eighth inning) and hit a go-ahead homer in the tenth inning against the Orioles in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, though the bullpen couldn’t protect the lead. Young has also played very good defense despite being relatively new to left and right fields. He’s done all that for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum. Not bad at all.

The Yankees already have a full starting outfield heading into next season — I am in the camp that wants to see Carlos Beltran become a most of the time DH, but I’m not convinced that will actually happen just yet — but they will need to bring in a fourth outfielder. Ichiro Suzuki is due to become a free agent and I don’t think the Yankees will re-sign him, and while Martin Prado can play the outfield in a pinch, they’re still going to need one dedicated player to back up all three outfield spots. That’s just someone a team needs to have on the roster.

Since both Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are lefties and Beltran is a switch-hitter with much better numbers against righties (118 wRC+ vs. RHP and 54 wRC+ vs. LHP), next year’s fourth outfielder should be a right-handed hitter just to balance things out. Another righty bat has been a need since Opening Day, really. It goes without saying good speed, good defense, and the ability to play all three outfield spots would be preferred as well. Bench players are bench players for a reason though, and that’s because they aren’t good enough to start. Usually they can only do a few of those things and are lacking somewhere.

The Yankees don’t have a right-handed hitting fourth outfielder option in the organization — Ramon Flores is on the 40-man roster but is a left-handed hitter, and Tyler Austin will be added to the 40-man this winter but is unlikely to skip over Triple-A — so they’ll have to go outside the organization for this player. Chris Denorfia, Jonny Gomes, and Scott Hairston are all due to become free agents this offseason and they’ve filled this role to a T just about their entire careers. All have their pluses and minuses.

Young is a different story though. He was an everyday center fielder with the Diamondbacks from 2006-12 before moving into a platoon role with the Athletics last year. The Mets played him nearly everyday before releasing him, so, for most of his career, Young has been an everyday player, not a bench guy. He does check all the right boxes though: right-handed hitter, good power, good speed, and good defense in all three outfield spots. Young is a low average hitter (.234 career, 22.6 K%), so that’s his flaw. Otherwise he looks like someone who could be a fourth outfielder option next year.

Now, there are two sides to every free agent signing. There is no doubt Young is hoping his strong September with the Yankees will make teams forget what he did in Flushing and land him a starting outfield spot somewhere. He’s going to have to settle for a one-year contract no matter what, so he’ll look for the best opportunity and the most playing time this winter. Is being a fourth outfielder in the Bronx the best situation for Young? Maybe it is. It all depends on the offers that come his way in the offseason. For what it’s worth, Young told Buster Olney (subs. req’d) that he’s “having a blast (with the Yankees). I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun. Hopefully it’s a new start of better things to come.”

The Yankees already have close to $170M tied up in only ten players next year (not counting arbitration cases) and Hal Steinbrenner has held the line with payroll in recent years, somewhere around the $200M mark. That might change after missing the postseason for a second straight year, and don’t necessarily mean an increase either. Paying Young starter money — the Mets gave him one year and $7.25M — to be a fourth outfielder probably isn’t an option and shouldn’t be anyway. The Yankees gave Andruw Jones one year and $2M a few years ago and that’s good money for a fourth outfielder. That’s probably the max the team can offer Young to stay around.

Finding a right-handed complement for their left-handed heavy outfield will be on the shopping list this winter, and the Yankees are getting a firsthand look at what Young offers right now. I don’t necessarily mean on the field either — I doubt a month of playing time will drastically change their opinion of him — they’ll also get to see his work ethic, how he interacts with teammates in the clubhouse, stuff like that. The stuff that you usually can’t find out until after signing a player. Young does make sense for the fourth outfielder spot next year and not just because of his strong last week or so. Whether that position is appealing to him is another matter entirely.

9/15-9/17 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Brian Blanco/European Press)
(Brian Blanco/European Press)

It’s September, which means a heavy intra-division schedule and two series against the Rays in the span of a week. The Yankees are in Tampa to start a three-game set tonight. They’re 7-9 against the Rays this year, including 4-3 at Tropicana Field. Since their elimination number is two, the Yankees would be mathematically eliminated from the AL East race if they lose the series regardless of what the Orioles do.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays beat the Blue Jays in extra innings yesterday and took two of three in Toronto this weekend. They lost two of three to the Yankees in New York last week, as you may remember. Overall, Tampa Bay is 72-78 with a +4 run differential, leaving them in fourth place in the AL East and five games back of the Yankees.

Manager Joe Maddon’s offense averages 3.85 runs per game with a team 100 wRC+, which is weird. A 100 wRC+ is exactly league average but the runs per game rate is about half-a-run below average. Timing is important, I guess. OF Desmond Jennings (104 wRC+) is their only injured position player and he is done for the season with a knee problem.

Loney. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Loney. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

As has been the case the last half-decade or so, Maddon’s lineup revolves around 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (119 wRC+) and 3B Evan Longoria (107 wRC+). Longoria is having a good year but a down year compared to his usual standards. 1B James Loney (109 wRC+) has been solid overall but the Yankees can’t seem to get him out. OF Wil Myers (83 wRC+) has been both injured and ineffective this year. OF Matt Joyce (114 wRC+) and OF Kevin Kiermaier (120 wRC+) have both been comfortably above-average.

SS Yunel Escobar (94 wRC+) plays everyday and OF Brandon Guyer (109 wRC+) platoons against lefties. C Ryan Hanigan (98 wRC+) and C Jose Molina (23 wRC+) split time behind the plate. UTIL Sean Rodriguez (100 wRC+), OF David DeJesus (131 wRC+ in limited time), and UTIL Logan Forsythe (81 wRC+) have been Maddon’s regular bench players this summer. C Curt Casali and IF Nick Franklin are the September call-ups.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Colome (vs. NYY)
The Durham Bulls, Tampa’s Triple-A affiliate, was eliminated from the postseason over the weekend, and the 25-year-old Colome is one of several players who will be called up today. He has spent most of the year hurt or in Triple-A — Colome made one start and one relief appearance for the Rays earlier this year (three runs in 9.2 innings) — where he had a 3.77 ERA (3.25 FIP) in 15 starts and 86 innings. His strikeout (7.64 K/9 and 19.8 K%) and walk (3.14 BB/9 and 8.1 BB%) rates were okay and hitters were completely unable to take him deep (0.21 HR/9). Colome sits in the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball and his top secondary pitch is a mid-80s changeup. He’ll throw a handful of upper-80s cutters and low-80s curveballs per start, but the fastball/changeup combination is his bread-and-butter. Neither of Colome’s big league outings earlier this year were against the Yankees.

Tuesday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
Odorizzi, 24, has a 4.08 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 29 starts and 159 innings this year, thanks mostly to his elite strikeout rate (9.51 K/9 and 24.9 K%). His walk (3.11 BB/9 and 8.1 BB%), homer (1.08 HR/9 and 9.0 HR/FB%), and ground ball (30.7%) rates are less impressive. Righties (.314 wOBA) have had a little more success against Odorizzi than lefties (.296 wOBA), and he’s been much better at home (.248 wOBA) than on the road (.379 wOBA). Odorizzi uses a straight four-seamer right around 90 mph to set up his mid-80s slider, which is his top breaking ball. He’ll throw a handful of mid-80s changeups and big-breaking upper-60s curveballs per start. The Yankees hammered Odorizzi for six runs in 4.1 innings last week.

(Scott Iskowitz/Getty)
Odorizzi. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
The 26-year-old Cobb has taken over as Tampa’s ace now that David Price has been traded away. He has a 2.75 ERA (3.06 FIP) in 24 starts and 147.1 innings this year — Cobb missed several weeks with an oblique strain in the first half — with very good to great strikeout (8.43 K/9 and 22.9 K%), walk (2.57 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%), homerun (0.55 HR/9 and 7.8 HR/FB%), and ground ball (56.1%) rates. Righties (.292 wOBA) have had more luck against him than lefties (.247 wOBA) because of his knockout mid-80s changeup. Cobb throws his two and four-seamers in the low-90s and he’ll also throw a bunch of low-80s curveballs. As you may remember, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Yankees last week.

Bullpen Status
Although Maddon won’t come out and admit it, LHP Jake McGee (1.71 FIP) has taken over as Tampa’s closer these last few weeks. They had been using a committee for a while. McGee blew the save yesterday, like he did last week when he served up Chris Young‘s walk-off homer. RHP Grant Balfour (4.13 FIP), RHP Brad Boxberger (2.87 FIP), and RHP Joel Peralta (3.64 FIP) all see setup innings. McGee, Balfour, and Peralta all pitched yesterday.

Middle relievers RHP Brandon Gomes (4.57 FIP) and RHP Kirby Yates (3.59 FIP) have been in the bullpen just about all summer, ditto long man LHP Cesar Ramos (4.30 FIP). LHP Jeff Beliveau, RHP Steve Geltz, and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser are the extra September arms. Gomes and Beliveau both pitched briefly yesterday. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen. I can’t imagine David Robertson will be available tonight and probably not tomorrow night either. The Process Report is the definitive Rays analysis on the web.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 15th, 2014

Record Last Week: 3-4 (22 RS, 25 RA)
Season Record: 76-72 (577 RS, 606 RA, 70-78 pyth. record) 12.5 GB in ALE, 5.5 GB of WC
Opponents This Week: @ Rays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), vs. Blue Jays (four games, Thurs. 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?

McCann’s late homer not enough, O’s walk-off with 3-2 win

Source: FanGraphs

Is it bad this loss barely made me feel anything? The Yankees are out of the postseason race and they’ve been out-hit, out-pitched, out-defended, out-everythinged by the Orioles all season long. No reason to think that would change Sunday. Let’s recap the 3-2 walk-off loss:

  • #HIROK ‘n Roll: Late season fade? What late season fade. Hiroki Kuroda held the Orioles to one run on two doubles and four singles in seven innings on Sunday night, walking no one and striking out five. Seventeen of his 21 outs came on the infield. The O’s scored that one run on an Alejandro De Aza single and an Adam Jones double that deflected off the glove of a leaping Martin Prado at third base. Kuroda was sharp but got no run support. Story of his career.
  • Two Taters: The Yankees scored their two runs on solo homers. Prado took Chris Tillman deep leading off the second inning and Brian McCann took Darren O’Day deep with one out in the ninth. I didn’t think either was gone off the bat — doubles off the wall, if anything — but both managed to carry just over the wall and into the first row or two of seats. The club blew a first-and-third opportunity with no outs in the third inning, which was easily their best chance to push across some more runs. Oh well.
  • Blown: Following Saturday’s game, David Robertson told reporters he was sore after pitching in back-to-back games and throwing a season-high 35 pitches on Friday. Despite that, Joe Girardi called on him for the third straight day to protect the one-run lead. Robertson looked awful and was completely unable to locate. He got squared up three times in the span of four batters, which never ever happens. Nelson Cruz doubled, Steve Pearce doubled to tie the game, and Kelly Johnson doubled for the walk-off win. Girardi usually goes to great lengths to keep his relievers fresh, so using Robertson this much this weekend was out of character. Almost seems like the team isn’t all that invested in the future of their impending free agent closer.
  • Leftovers: Derek Jeter went 0-for-4, saw eleven total pitches, and is in an 0-for-24 slump. He’s down to .250/.298/.298 (67 wRC+) on the season … Prado and McCann had two hits each. The rest of the lineup had two hits total (Mark Teixeira and Stephen Drew). Chris Young drew their only two walks … Dellin Betances struck out two in a perfect eighth inning, giving him 130 strikeouts on the season. That ties 1996 Mariano Rivera for the most strikeouts by a full-time reliever in team history. Mo did it in 107.2 innings, Betances in 86.2 innings … the Yankees are now 4-11 against the Orioles this season. is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees are now five games back of the second wildcard spot with 14 games to play. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 0.8% and their elimination numbers are two (AL East) and ten (wildcard). They’re off to Tampa next and will open a three-game series with the Rays on Monday night. Chris Capuano and Alex Colome will be the pitching matchup.

Game 148: Split

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

The Yankees managed to beat the Orioles yesterday afternoon, which is notable because they’ve beaten the O’s only four times in 14 tries this season. They had lost five straight to Baltimore before yesterday’s win. Winning tonight’s game would give the Yankees the series split, meaning they will have not lost a series to the O’s for the first time this season. Modest goals, I guess. Here’s the Orioles lineup and here’s the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. LF Brett Gardner
  4. 3B Martin Prado
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 1B Mark Teixeira
  7. DH Chris Young
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. RF Antoan Richardson
    RHP Hiroki Kuroda

It is cool and clear down in Baltimore tonight. Pretty much perfect September baseball weather. Tonight’s game will begin just after 8pm ET and you can watch on ESPN. Enjoy.

Weekend Mailbag: All about the shortstops

Just had a huge and delicious Sunday breakfast. Now have a cup of coffee and nothing particular on the agenda, so let’s get to answering some questions Mike didn’t get to in this week’s official mailbag.

Plenty of people wrote in with shortstop-themed questions, and Mike covered ones relating to Asdrubal Cabrera, trades, and Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang. Yet there were plenty more.

Alcides Escobar
(Credit: Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

C.Roy asks: Could you see the Royals being willing to talk about Alcides Escobar in a trade this winter? I see it unlikely that we will fix our lack of power at the SS position and Escobar would provide great defense and one more solid leadoff type. Possibly get Beltran involved (eating money) to open DH for Arod and in turn 3B for Headley.

No, I don’t see the Royals shopping Escobar this winter. They’re right in the race this year and with some young players coming through the system I doubt they’re ready to sit back and start rebuilding. He’s also under contract and has pretty reasonable team options through 2017, so the Royals really have no reason to trade him.

Well, maybe they have one reason. Escobar isn’t a guy known for his bat, as C.Roy mentions in his question. Great on defense, not much of a bat. Sounds like someone else the Yankees have on the roster, Brendan Ryan. Yes, Escobar’s bat is considerably better than Ryan’s, but remember that Ryan once could hit a little bit. His OPS+ during prime years:

2009: 97
2010: 57
2011: 85

It’s only since 2012 that Ryan has been a complete and total zero with the bat. Escobar’s last three years, by OPS+:

2012: 96
2013: 53
2014: 87

Escobar is a bit younger than Ryan was from 2009-2011, so it’s not a straight comparison. But the point is that I wouldn’t place my bets on a light-hitting shortstop, especially as the league hits lighter and lighter.

Nik asks: The Yanks seemed to have had a dearth of OF’ers and catchers, even arms for the mound over the last large handful of years. Why is it so hard to find shortstops who can hit AND play serviceable d? Has the era of Jeter and Ripken passed? Or is it that the Yankees just decided “Well, Derek will play until he’s 55, we don’t need to worry about it…”??

Not sure how they have a dearth of catchers, unless by dearth you mean abundance, in which case sure, maybe. But that misses the larger part of the question.

Yes, the era of Ripken and Jeter has clearly passed. Offense is down league-wide, as it seems we say in every post these days. Of the 22 shortstops who have enough PA to qualify (and Troy Tulowitzki does not), only seven have a wRC+ over 100 (although another four have 98 or 99). Of those seven, three were below average last year. (Of the four with a 98 or 99 wRC+, three were worse in 2013.)

Point being, it’s incredibly difficult to find consistently good, healthy shortstops. In the last three years there are 26 shortstops who have 1,000 or more PA, and of them only eight have an above-average wRC+. Only 15 of them have 1,500 PA (so average of 500 per year, which is not that much).

Making matters worse, at least in terms of 2013 and 2014, is that the Yankees have Derek Jeter. Who’s going to sign with them to play backup to Jeter? Stephen Drew wouldn’t do it last year, even with Jeter’s status uncertain. As for grooming one through the minors: it sounds nice, but how many teams have developed everyday shortstops in the last five years?

Jon asks: Why not take a chance on Tulo next year?

For starters, he’s under contract with the Rockies through 2020, so it’s not as though the Yanks can just take a flier on him. The Rockies aren’t just going to give him away, even if they do owe him $118 million through 2020.

To that point, why would you want to take on the most expensive portion of that contract? Tulowitzki hasn’t played in nearly two months and he’s constantly hurt. Since 2012 he has 1090 PA, or 363 per season. He’s played more than 140 games just three times since coming up full-time in 2007.

What is a fair exchange for a super expensive player (Tulo got the 18th largest deal in MLB history despite never hitting free agency)? How much would the Rockies have to eat? How little would they take? No, I don’t think they’re parting ways with him this winter, just because doing so will be too complicated.

Minor League Notes: Newman, AzFL, Higashioka

A few days ago we learned the Pulaski Yankees of the rookie Appalachian League will be joining the organization as the Yankees’ eighth domestic minor league affiliate starting next season. The club will serve as a stepping stone between the two rookie Gulf Coast League affiliates and Short Season Staten Island. Here are some more minor league notes with the Arizona Fall League still more than three weeks away.

  • According to George King, the Yankees have known about the impending retirement of VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman since February. He’s been with the team since 1988 and has been running for the running the farm system for the last 15 years now. King adds that special assistant Trey Hillman, who was tabbed as Newman’s likely replacement, may not be interested in the job. Hal Steinbrenner will conduct a “total evaluation” of the player development system after the season and it may result in a “complete overhaul.”
  • C Kyle Higashioka has been re-signed after becoming a six-year minor league free agent, according to Matt Eddy. Josh Norris adds Higashioka has been assigned to the Arizona Fall League as the team’s last position player. He missed most of these season following Tommy John surgery. The Yankees are sending several top prospects to the desert this year, including OF Aaron Judge, 3B Eric Jagielo, 1B Greg Bird, and OF Tyler Austin.
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder was named the second baseman for Baseball America’s Triple-A International League All-Star Team. No other Yankees’ farmhands made their classification All-Star Teams. SS Angel Aguilar, UTIL Bryan Cuevas, and OF Alex Palma all made the official GCL postseason All-Star Team.
  • Marc Hulet of FanGraphs reviewed the year the was in the team’s farm system. RHP Shane Greene and RHP Luis Severino understandably earned praise for their rises this season, albeit at very different levels.
  • And finally, Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs put together a super early look at the 2015 draft class. Lots of names and lots of information. Make sure you check it out. The Yankees are currently slated to have the 18th overall pick.