Mailbag: Vogelbach, Rule 5 Draft, Cardinals, Joba, Mateo

Got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week, the last one before the All-Star break. As always, you can send us questions or comments at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.


Matt asks: Given the increased discussions about the Yankees being “sellers” at the deadline, is there any chance that the team takes a look at the Cubs’ Dan Vogelbach? Would a Vogelbach for Miller trade be realistic? (And yes, my trade proposal sucks—sorry if this has been asked already elsewhere!)

Vogelbach is the most likely to be traded prospect in all of baseball. Defensively, the kid is basically present day Alex Rodriguez. He’s a bad defensive first baseman who fits best at DH. The Cubs move everyone around to different positions and they haven’t even bothered to try Vogelbach, who is listed 6-foot-0 and 250 lbs., in left field. With Anthony Rizzo entrenched at first base and no DH spot in the NL, Vogelbach has no long-term place with the Cubs.

Now, his defense may stink, but boy, Vogelbach can hit. The lefty hitter owns a .301/.413/.536 (152 wRC+) line with 15 homers, a 15.4% walk rate, and a 19.6% strikeout rate in 81 Triple-A games this year. Last year he hit .272/.403/.425 (140 wRC+) in 76 Double-A games around oblique and hamstring problems.’s scouting report praised Vogelbach because “(rather) than selling out for home runs, he controls the strike zone, makes consistent contact and uses the entire field.”

The Yankees have the DH spot available as well as a long-term opening at first base, at least until Greg Bird shows he’s back to normal following shoulder surgery, so yes, Vogelbach does seem like someone who could interest them. There’s no way I would trade Miller straight up for Vogelbach though. I’m not even sure I’d take Vogelbach as the second piece for Miller. Vogelbach for Aroldis Chapman is more realistic, but even then I’d want more. The kid can hit, but at the end of the day we’re talking about a 23-year-old DH. If he doesn’t hit, he’s useless.

Matt asks: I noticed when the International League All-Stars were announced the team included 4 Yankees: Green, Sanchez, Judge, and Gamel. This got me wondering, when was the last time the Yankees had 4 All Stars at the AAA level? Particularly, 4 All-Stars who have a change to legitimately contribute at the MLB level in the near future? It seems like the type of thing that would’ve been impossible to imagine a few years ago.

Unlike the other minor leagues, which stay within themselves and play division vs. division in the All-Star Game, the Triple-A All-Star Game is International League vs. Pacific Coast League. The Yankees and Blue Jays lead the way with four International League All-Stars each this year. Here are New York’s Triple-A All-Stars over the years:

2016: Ben Gamel, Chad Green, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez
2015: Kyle Roller, Austin Romine
2014: Jose Pirela
2013: Chris Bootcheck, Thomas Neal
2012: Juan Cedeno
2011: Jesus Montero, Jorge Vazquez, Kevin Whelan
2010: Jonathan Albaladejo, Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez
2009: Shelley Duncan, Austin Jackson, Zach Kroenke
2008: Justin Christian
2007: Shelley Duncan

Okay, I’ve gone back far enough. To answer Matt’s question: a long time. It’s been a long time since the Yankees last had four Triple-A All-Stars, nevermind four Triple-A All-Stars who were legitimate big league prospects. That 2010 class is the closest by default. Most of the guys listed above are journeymen filling out the roster.

Being selected to a Triple-A All-Star Game hardly means the player is destined for a productive big league career. For example: almost everyone listed above. It’s still cool to see the Yankees not only have legitimate prospects in Triple-A, but legitimate prospects playing well enough to make the All-Star team. That’s pretty awesome.

Joe asks: Who are the rule V candidates of note for this offseason?

The Yankees have some big time prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, including Judge and Jorge Mateo. Miguel Andujar and Luis Torrens too. The first three guys will definitely be added to the 40-man roster. I can’t imagine Torrens will be though. He’s nowhere close to ready for MLB duty, even as a sparsely used backup catcher. Some team might pick Torrens, but I doubt he’d even make it through Spring Training. This is one of those situations where the best way to keep him is to leave him unprotected, because you know he’ll be offered back.

Others eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after the season include Jake Cave, Tyler Webb, Brady Lail, Dietrich Enns, Kyle Higashioka, and Cale Coshow. Cave’s an interesting one because he’s been a Rule 5 pick once before, which means he can elect free agency rather than return to the Yankees if he doesn’t stick with his new team. I’m curious to see what the Yankees do with Cave and all their other upper level lefty hitting outfielders. They can’t all of ’em. Does the Rule 5 Draft stuff make Cave trade bait? My guess right now is Judge, Mateo, Andujar, Webb, Higashioka, and Cave (assuming he isn’t traded) get protected. No one else.

Update: Higashioka will be a minor league free agent after the season. Forgot about that. My bad. He’ll still be Rule 5 Draft eligible if he signs a minor league contract with the Yankees or any other team though. The Yankees could add Higashioka to the 40-man roster to prevent him from hitting free agency.

Judge will added to the 40-man roster in November. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Judge will be added to the 40-man roster in November. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Adam asks: Why are the Cardinals not mentioned as a potential trade partner when looking at where guys like Miller or Chapman could be sent? They would seem to have a need in their bullpen and while their farm system has been ranked around the same as the Yankees’ they always seem to do a good job of player development.

Trevor Rosenthal is having a shockingly bad season — he went into yesterday with 22 walks and a 5.28 ERA (4.17 FIP) in 29 innings  — while other bullpen veterans like Jonathan Broxton, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness have been hurt and/or ineffective. Korean important Seung-hwan Oh (1.67 ERA and 1.69 FIP) has been awesome and is manager Mike Matheny’s only reliable late-innings reliever right now.

The Cardinals are not catching the Cubs in the NL Central, no one is, but they remain in the wildcard mix. The bullpen is an obvious place to upgrade. We should definitely be talking about them more as a possible trade partner. Here’s their top 30 prospects list, if you want to look that over. I love righty Jack Flaherty, have since the 2014 draft (he was said to be unsignable, but the Cardinals were able to buy him away from UNC), and I’d want him in any trade involving one of the big three relievers. Catcher Carson Kelly and (injured) lefty Marco Gonzales are also personal faves.

Mary asks: Why doesn’t MLB have something similar to the NFL draft scouting combine? I realize that some teams are still playing such as in the College World Series, but what about moving the draft a little later and having a scouting combine for teams to get a look at the players in that kind of environment? Do you think it will ever happen?

There has been talk about doing something like this for the top 200 draft prospects per the MLB Scouting Bureau. Those guys are already subject to performance-enhancing drug tests. The scheduling is difficult because, like you said, the college baseball season is still going on. Plus the high school season usually ends a few weeks before the draft, so you’d be expecting kids to come in when they’re not in midseason form.

I’m not sure how much useful information teams can gain from a scouting combine anyway. Are they going to change the scouting reports they’ve been building for years just because a guy hits few batting practice homers or runs a 4.4 40? If so, a combine might do more harm than good. Baseball’s much different than football. At the NFL combine teams are looking at players who will be on their roster next year. Baseball draft picks are years away.

Daniel asks: I know its way too early, but care to guess the Yankees starting 9 position players and top 3 SP for Charleston next year? There seems to be at least 10 actual position player prospects in the 3 rookie league teams alone.

Thanks to the 2014-15 international free agent haul and the last two drafts, it looks like the 2017 Low-A Charleston River Dogs will be the most exciting minor league affiliate we’ve seen in a very, very long time. Here’s an extremely preliminary roster:

Catcher: Luis Torrens
First Base: Drew Bridges (?)
Second Base: Hoy Jun Park (repeating the level)
Shortstop: Wilkerman Garcia
Third Base: Dermis Garcia
Outfield: Estevan Florial, Blake Rutherford, Isiah Gilliam, Leonardo Molina
Starting Pitchers: Drew Finley, Nick Nelson, Austin DeCarr, Jeff Degano (?)

First base is the only position where it looks like the River Dogs won’t have a really good prospect, assuming Park is held back. (Nick Solak will almost certainly start with High-A Tampa.) I suppose the Yankees could move Gilliam back to first base, the position he played as an amateur, but he’s doing well in the outfield right now. Those four outfielders will do the “rotate among the three outfield spots plus DH” thing the Yankees have going on in Triple-A Scranton right now.

Obvious caveat: a lot can change over the next nine months. Guys will get hurt, traded, held back in Extended Spring Training, all sorts of stuff. As it stands right now, it looks like that group of players will head to Charleston next season. I’m sure the actual finished product will be different, perhaps substantially so.

Anonymous asks: I know you’re pretty high on Tyler Wade, & your recaps often mention how he’s holding his own offensively at a young age in AA, but have you noticed his soaring error total lately? He’s up to 19(!) as of 7/4. I know minor league error totals can be high, but is there any concern here?

Wade is now up to 20 errors in 81 games: five in 27 games at second and 15 in 54 games at short. Last season Wade made 35 errors in 124 total games, so he’s more or less on the same pace. I don’t worry too much about minor league error totals though because these are minor leaguers. They’re still learning the game and they’re going to make mistakes. Also, the fields aren’t as well-groomed as MLB fields, so there are lots of tricky hops and things like that.’s scouting report says Wade has the “quick feet and hands to go with solid arm strength” necessary for shortstop, so the tools are there. Is he going to be a Gold Glover? Probably not. But he can play the position. Wade has close to no power — it’s 30 power, not true 20 power on the 20-80 scouting scale — but he’s a lefty hitter who makes contact (16.2 K%), knows the strike zone (12.8 BB%), can run (16-for-20 in steal attempts), and can play short. He’s doing all of that as a 21-year-old in Double-A, where he’s more than three years younger than the average Eastern League player. That’s a really good prospect. If I were another team with a hole at shortstop, I’d be looking to trade for Wade to be a stopgap the next few years.

Joba. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Joba. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Dustin asks: Now that he’s DFA’d by the Indians, should the Yanks bring Joba back?

My initial reaction was nah, why bother? Joba Chamberlain hasn’t been all that good for about five years now. That said, the bar he has to clear is “better than Anthony Swarzak,” so yeah. Maybe it is worth it. Joba had a 2.25 ERA (3.82 FIP) with a 22.0% strikeout rate and a 13.4% walk rate in 20 innings with the Tribe after pitching to a 4.28 ERA (4.36 FIP) from 2012-15. Has anything changed? Did he learn a new pitch or improve his command, anything like that? Glossing over the numbers, the answer seems to be no. Same old Joba. There’s nothing wrong with bringing him back on a minor league deal, but when it comes to the MLB roster, I say roll with Nick Goody and Johnny Barbato first.

Jeff asks: Chase Headley is slashing .297/.369/.494 with a 129 wRC+ since he hit his first HR on May 12th. Do you think this is sustainable for him, or just an outlier similar to his 41 wRC+ prior to this run?

Another outlier, and that’s coming from a Headley fan. The real Headley is somewhere between the 41 wRC+ and 129 wRC+, though closer to the latter. A year ago Headley hit .259/.324/.369 (91 wRC+), and ZiPS pegged him for .251/.328/.392 (98 wRC+) this year. That’s pretty much exactly who I think he is. A bit below league average offensively and above-average defensively. Headley’s been awesome the last few weeks. I expect him to level off and settle in a little south of league average in the second half.

Steve asks: How bout a buy-low candidate in someone like Patrick Corbin either at the trade deadline or in the off season? I think I remember at one point he was included in one of your articles as the type of pitcher the Yankees go for with his peripherals. Also, do not exactly trust the D-Backs to be putting him in the best position to succeed based on their track record. Interesting candidate or not worth the trouble?

I’ve always liked Corbin and felt validated when he had his breakout 2013 season (3.41 ERA and 3.43 FIP). Then he blew out his elbow the next spring and needed Tommy John surgery. Go figure. Corbin, 26, had a 3.60 ERA (3.35 FIP) in 85 innings after returning last year, but so far this year he has a 4.90 ERA (5.05 FIP) in 101 innings. His strikeouts (16.9%) are down while both his walks (8.2%) and homers (1.51 HR/9) are up. That’s … bad.

Corbin’s stuff has bounced back well from Tommy John surgery. He’s still throwing in the low-90s and using his slider and changeup as much as ever. It’s not uncommon for location to be off following elbow surgery, though it seems Corbin’s command was fine a year ago. He’s also going to be a free agent after the 2018 season, so he wouldn’t be a super long-term rotation addition. Corbin’s someone who is worth a deeper analysis outside a mailbag setting. For now, I’ll call my interest “limited.”

Dave asks: Does a suspension of this type (i.e. a violation of team policy as opposed to, say, a drug suspension) hurt Mateo’s trade value?

I don’t think so. Other clubs will cite the suspension (“makeup concerns”) as a reason to talk down Mateo’s value when negotiating with the Yankees, but has his value as a player changed? No. Mateo’s still the same guy on the field, and teams have shown time and time again they will put up with a player who is a jerk (or worse) as long as he can play, and Mateo can play. If no club is willing to pay full price to get Mateo, that’s fine, the Yankees can keep the dynamic top 25-ish overall prospect.

Alex asks: My question is do you think it’s the right decision for Judge to hit in the AAA HR derby? Will it mess up his swing right as he’s getting hot and starting to strike out less?

We hear about this every year. One or two players who participate in the Home Run Derby slump in the second half, and inevitably it gets blamed on the Derby rather than just baseball being baseball. Pick eight players at random and chances are one or two of them will have down second half. That’s just baseball. If one night of glorified batting practice screws up Judge’s swing so much that he can’t hit the rest of the season, then he’s not going to amount to much anyway. The Home Run Derby is a total non-issue to me.

Gregorius’ homer, bullpen help Yankees win a wild one in Cleveland, 5-4


A mismatch of a game actually ended up much differently than expected. The Indians, the hottest team in AL with one of their best starters on the mound, lost to the Yankees, a meh team with an Ivan Nova starting. Hey, you can’t predict baseball. Yes, the Yankees won but it was a bit of a struggle at times – not that you should expect an easy win against a team like Cleveland anyways.

Not a promising start 

After allowing homers in each of his first nine starts, Nova didn’t give up any versus the Padres his last start out. How about that?

Tonight, however, he went back to the familiar routine of giving up dingers. In the third, Nova allowed a leadoff dinger to Tyler Naquin, one of the best AL rookies this year. Two batters later, Jason Kipnis followed with a solo dinger of his own. 2-0 Indians. Both pitches were just about the same and very hittable – a spillover two-seamer that just happened to be located right on the middle of the plate. Now that is a formula for failure.

After allowing two big ones tonight, Nova has a HR/9 rate of 1.69. No, that is not nice. The 2011 A.J. Burnett had a 1.47 HR/9 and that is still pretty darn bad. Meanwhile, Trevor Bauer was putting up zeros (well, he did allow a hit during the span) for the first four innings of the game. It didn’t last too much longer.


Runs??? What is this sorcery?

Didi Gregorius hit a solo HR in the fifth inning. It wasn’t one of those Yankee Stadium cheapies critics have been bickering about. It was absolutely crushed into the right field seats. There wasn’t any doubt about it off his bat. That homer bumped Gregorius’ isolated power go up to .160, which is pretty darn great for a shortstop. His slash line? .296/.323/.456. I mean, yes please.

After that homer, Chase Headley and Rob Refsnyder hit back-to-back singles to keep the pressure on. After a Jacoby Ellsbury pop out, Brett Gardner drove in Headley with a grounder single up the middle, 2-2 tie. Carlos Beltran walked to load the bases but Brian McCann flew out to the end frame.

The Yankees had another scoring chance in the sixth. With one out, Starlin Castro and Didi hit a back-to-back single to create another RISP situation. Headley followed it up with a single to right field that had a chance to bring in Castro. However, he was called out by the HP umpire Dan Bellino. The Yankee bench begged to differ. They called for an instant replay and the call overturned – New York went ahead 3-2.

But wait! There’s more! With runners on second and third, Refsnyder hit a sac fly to drive in another and Ellsbury followed it up with an RBI single to make it 5-2. Who would’ve guessed we’d see this kind of offensive outburst (well, “outburst” used relatively here) tonight against Bauer, who had a 3.02 ERA coming into the game?



Oh yes, this is the 2016 Yankees and not a lot of things come easy for the team. With a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of sixth, Nova got into quick trouble with back-to-back doubles from Carlos Santana and Kipnis putting two runners on scoring position. (It is indeed curious how Santana didn’t score though) With Francisco Lindor batting, Nova threw a curveball that just missed way off McCann’s target, inducing a wild pitch and letting Santana score easily. 5-3 Yankees. The young shortstop hit a grounder to first and Mark Teixeira grabbed it, kept Kipnis in check on third, and stepped on first for the first out. Girardi brought in Dellin Betances to face Napoli and beyond.

Nova’s line – 5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 6 K’s and 2 HR’s – leave something to be desired but to be fair, he was doing decently (besides the two HR third) up to the sixth. There were times that it seemed like he was getting weak contact at will and there were those where his pitches just getting nailed. Such is the life of following Ivan Nova.

Anyways, Betances induced a grounder to third from Mike Napoli and the Yankee infield let the run score, but also took an out at first. 5-4 Yankees. Dellin went on to pitch a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts and Miller followed it up with a perfect frame with one strikeout. This is going to be another easy win finished by the bullpen, right? Well…

Wacky Ending

The Yankees went with Chapman to close out the game. What else is new? This ninth inning was a grinder though. Napoli led off with a walk on a 3-2 count. The next hitter, Jose Ramirez, struck out on 6 pitches. Juan Uribe followed it up with a battle though – an 8-pitch AB that he won with a base hit.

With one out, two runners on, there was a distinct chance that the game would be tied pretty soon. Up next was Rajai Davis, who hit a liner to the outfield that looked like a game-tying hit off the bat, but luckily for the Yanks, it was hit right at Gardner. Two outs. That deep breaths, but don’t get comfortable. Up next was Tyler Naquin, who had homered earlier in the game and has been one of the catalysts in the red-hot Indians lineup.

Naquin hit a hard grounder that Teixeira stopped but did not field cleanly. Castro picked it up, tossed it to Chapman, who seemed to be having an even race with Naquin to the bag. Initially the umps called him safe, loading the bases with two outs. However, Joe Girardi thought that there was a reason to double-check it via instant replay. Upon further review, Chapman just barely beat Naquin to the bag, confirming Girardi’s call. And such was the game: the one that closed out so anticlimactically but no Yankee fans left complaining – a 5-4 New York win.

Box Score, Highlights, WPA and Standings

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

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees continue their series in Cleveland tomorrow. Youngster Chad Green goes up against former AL Cy Young and 2016 All Star Corey Kluber. I don’t know about you but I’d definitely watch this one.

DotF: Higashioka homers again in Trenton’s win

1B Kevin Cornelius, who seemed to be hitting a homer a day for Rookie Pulaski, has been bumped up to High-A Tampa, the team announced. He hit six homers in 13 games with Pulaski, including five in his last seven games.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Buffalo)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 K
  • LF Aaron Judge: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing)
  • 1B Ike Davis: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB
  • DH Tyler Austin: 2-4, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI — 17-for-53 (.321) with seven doubles and five homers in his last 13 games, and there’s an 0-for-12 slump mixed in there
  • RF Jake Cave: 1-4, 2 K
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 46 of 74 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 Balk, 5/1 GB/FB — 27 of 39 pitches were strikes (69%) … 52/12 K/BB in 48.2 innings
  • RHP Kirby Yates: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — nine of 16 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 85: Hello Cleveland

Aug 13, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; General view as the Cleveland Indians take batting practice before playing the New York Yankees at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, this series this is a total mismatch. The Indians have the best pitching staff in the league (3.93 runs allowed per game) while the Yankees have the third worst offense in the league (4.12 runs scored per game). With the exception of Josh Tomlin, who we won’t see this series, Cleveland’s rotation is full of power arms with wicked breaking balls. They’re mighty impressive.

So does that statistical mismatch make this a trap series? Maybe! This series could very well determine whether the Yankees are buyers or sellers at the deadline. They’re five games back of the second wildcard spot with six teams ahead of them. If they go into the All-Star any further back than that, not selling will be close to impossible to justify. Here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. RF Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Ivan Nova

It is cloudy and humid in Cleveland, which usually means rain is on the way. Sure enough, there are thunderstorms in the forecast overnight. It doesn’t look like it’ll be anything that interrupts the game unless they go to extra innings or something like that. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

All-Star Update: Earlier today MLB announced the eight players for this year’s Home Run Derby. None of the eight are Yankees, but hey, Robinson Cano will participate. Here’s the full Home Run Derby squad.

7/7 to 7/10 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

Official photo of Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Official photo of Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

It’s hard to believe, but this is the final series of the first half. The season seems to go by a little quicker each year, doesn’t it? The Yankees wrap up the first half and this ten-game road trip with four games in Cleveland against the first place Indians. The Indians are the only AL team the Yankees have yet to play this season.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Indians did something yesterday they had not done all season: lose to the Tigers. They were a perfect 11-0 (!) against Detroit prior to yesterday’s 12-2 loss. The Tribe have gone 2-3 since their franchise record 14-game winning streak ended Sunday. Yes, franchise record. The Indians have been around for 115 years and that was their longest winning streak ever. Crazy, right? Anyway, Cleveland is 51-33 with a +79 run differential overall. They have a big lead in the AL Central and the second best record in the AL behind the Rangers.

Offense & Defense

The Indians are the most balanced team in the AL. They don’t have a glaring weakness like, say, the Rangers’ bullpen or the Orioles’ rotation. Manager Terry Francona oversees a very good offense, one that is scoring 4.87 runs per game with a team 101 wRC+. They’re doing that even though OF Michael Brantley, their best hitter, has been limited to eleven games by offseason shoulder surgery. He had surgery, hurried back, played eleven games, then felt renewed soreness. Brantley is on the DL working his way back now. He won’t return this series.

Lindor. (Mike Zarrilli/Getty)
Lindor. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Manager Terry Francona uses platoon leadoff hitters; OF Rajai Davis (109 wRC+) bats first against lefties while DH Carlos Santana (124 wRC+) does it against righties. Yes, the slow-footed Santana bats leadoff. It’s all about that OBP (.352), baby. 2B Jason Kipnis (103 wRC+) bats second, SS Francisco Lindor (114 wRC+) bats third, and 1B Mike Napoli (105 wRC+) bats fourth. Lindor is already a megastar. The only position players I would take over him right now are Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Kris Bryant. He’s that good.

RF Lonnie Chisenhall (121 wRC+) plays everyday and so does UTIL Jose Ramirez (113 wRC+), who moves all around and seems to play a different position each day. CF Tyler Naquin (155 wRC+) and OF Abe Almonte (8 PA) join Davis and Ramirez as part of a big outfield platoon in left and center. C Yan Gomes (37 wRC+) and C Chris Gimenez (35 wRC+) handle catching duties. 3B Juan Uribe (67 wRC+) has been better of late, mostly because the Indians stopped playing him every single day. He’s a part-timer at this point of his career.

The Indians have improved their defense tremendously over the last year by calling up Lindor and Naquin, and adding Davis, Napoli, and Uribe. Kipnis is okay at second and Chisenhall will have his “third baseman playing right field” moments, but otherwise this team can catch the ball. Gomes and Gimenez are opposites behind the plate. Gomes is a great thrower and a poor pitch-framer while Gimenez is a poor thrower and a great framer.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7:10pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
It seems Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, is starting to figure things out at the big league level. The 25-year-old has a 3.02 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 95.1 innings spread across 12 starts and seven relief appearances. He’s getting way more grounders (50.6%) than ever before, leading to a career low home run rate (0.66 HR/9). His strikeout (22.3%) and walk (8.4%) rates are in line with his career norms, and his platoon split is tiny. Bauer is getting all those ground balls by throwing his mid-90s sinker more than ever before. It’s his main fastball now with his-90s four-seamer being a secondary offering. It used to be the other way around, four-seamer before sinker. Bauer’s wide array of offspeed pitches includes an upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. For a while the knock on Bauer was that he had too many pitches — he used to throw a slider, a splitter, and even a screwball — and would get burned on his sixth or seventh or eighth best pitch. He’s cut down on his arsenal and is sticking to his five best pitches now.

Friday (7:10pm ET): RHP Chad Green (No vs. CLE) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (vs. NYY)
Two years ago Kluber, who earlier today was named to the All-Star team as an injury replacement for Marco Estrada, deservingly won the AL Cy Young award. He had a 2.44 ERA (2.65 FIP) in 235.2 innings that year. Last year those numbers jumped to 3.49 ERA (2.97 FIP) in 222 innings, and this year he owns a 3.79 ERA (2.96 FIP) in 114 innings. The ERA keeps going up even though his peripherals are off the charts good. Weird. Kluber, 30, has excellent underlying stats across the board — 24.9% strikeouts, 5.9% walks, 48.9% grounders, and 0.71 HR/9 — and lefties have had slightly more success against him than righties. In the past his platoon split was much bigger. The Klubot is a low-to-mid-90s sinker pitcher who uses a four-seam fastball at similar velocity in get-me-over situations. His low-80s slider is not of this Earth …

Corey Kluber slider

… and he also throws upper-80s cutters and low-80 changeups. Kluber has filthy, filthy stuff. His combination of raw stuff and command is in the top 1% of all pitchers.

Saturday (4:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (vs. NYY)
Salazar had a strong first full season as a big leaguer last year, and he’s taken his game to another level this year. The 26-year-old has thrown 99 innings of 2.36 ERA (3.30 FIP) ball, though his walk rate (11.0%) is way high. It was much better last season (7.0%). Not sure what’s going on there. Salazar’s strikeout (28.3%), grounder (47.5%), and homer (0.73 HR/9) numbers are all very good though, plus he has a big reverse split. That’s thanks to his nasty upper-80s changeup, which falls right off the table. Salazar sits in the mid-90s with his fastball — he’s hit 99.4 mph this season, per PitchFX — and also has a mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball. Believe it or not, he only throws the two breaking balls roughly 10% of the time combined. He’s a fastball/changeup pitcher. Salazar made the All-Star team this year and is a candidate to start for the AL. He’s been that good.

Sunday (1:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
A hamstring injury shelved Carrasco for about six weeks earlier this season, but, when healthy, he’s had a 2.47 ERA (3.90 FIP) in eleven starts and 69.1 innings. He’s been weirdly homer prone (1.30 HR/9), which is unlike the rest of his career. Carrasco’s strikeout (25.1%), walk (6.6%), and grounder (53.3%) rates are all marvelous. This is some rotation the Indians have. The 29-year-old Carrasco has no platoon split because he used five pitches regularly, led by his mid-90s four-seamer and sinker. Both his upper-80s slider and low-90s changeup are legitimate put-away pitches, and he’ll also throw a bunch of mid-80s curveballs per start too. Nasty, nasty stuff.

Allen. (Mike Zarrilli/Getty)
Allen. (Mike Zarrilli/Getty)

Bullpen Status

The Indians played a 19-inning game against the Blue Jays last Friday and they’re still trying to get their bullpen in order. They’ve been shuttling guys in and out on almost a daily basis since to make sure they have fresh arms. Bauer, who was scheduled to start the day after the 19-inning game, came out of the bullpen and threw five innings that game, then Cleveland went with a bullpen game the next day. These guys are definitely looking forward to the All-Star break. Here is Francona’s relief crew:

Closer: RHP Cody Allen (3.03 ERA/3.73 FIP)
Setup: RHP Bryan Shaw (4.41/5.01)
Middle: RHP Tommy Hunter (3.48/3.22), RHP Jeff Manship (2.13/4.67), RHP Zach McAllister (5.40/4.93), RHP Dan Otero (1.36/2.32)
Long: RHP Mike Clevinger (7.71/5.50), LHP T.J. House (1.2 IP)

The Yankees agreed to sign Hunter over the winter, you may remember. Then he failed his physical and the team walked away from the two-year agreement. Hunter instead had to settle for a cheap one-year deal with the Tribe. McAllister and Otero are former Yankees who never actually played for the Yankees. New York drafted McAllister in 2006 and traded him as a prospect for Austin Kearns in 2010. Otero spent a few weeks in the organization between offseason waiver claims in 2013.

The Tigers did the Yankees a favor and worked Cleveland’s bullpen yesterday. Hunter (17 pitches), McAllister (24), House (23), and Manship (18) all pitched. No one in their bullpen comes into today having worked back-to-back games though. Our Bullpen Workload page tells you everything you need to know about the availability of Joe Girardi‘s relievers.

Yankeemetrics: South side flop [July 4-6]


The Yankees opened the second half of the schedule against the White Sox with a game that had a familiar tune: substandard starting pitching, lack of clutch hitting and a listless loss.

The Yankees had plenty of chances to make a dent in the scoreboard but their sputtering lineup went hitless in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. It was their worst 0-fer with a man on second and/or third since Sept. 12, 2012 against the Red Sox, a game they actually won 5-4; the last time they had such an awful day with RISP and lost was May 21, 2012 in a 6-0 loss to the Royals.

Starlin Castro was one of the few Yankees who actually provided some offensive fireworks with four hits in four at-bats, including two doubles, in his first game back in Chicago.

He’s the first Yankee second baseman to go 4-for-4 or better against the White Sox since Willie Randolph in 1976. With that perfect line, Castro upped his batting average at U.S. Cellular Field to .397 (25-for-63), the highest mark by any active player with at least 50 at-bats there.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Bronx hitmen
The Yankees flipped the script on Tuesday night with a lopsided 9-0 victory in the Windy City. They put together one of their most complete games of the season — a rare confluence of terrific starting pitching and explosive bats.

The last time the Yankees had at least 20 hits and allowed zero runs was an 11-0 win on August 11, 1997 against the Twins at the Metrodome. They’d never done it before in any game against the White Sox, a rivalry that dates back to the beginning of the franchise in 1903.

The team’s offensive breakout was encouraging, but the frustrations with men on base continued as the Yankees stranded 14 guys. The only other game in the last decade where they had 20 or more hits while leaving 14 or more men on base was September 13, 2009 in a 13-3 win over the Orioles.

And if it felt like they should have scored a bunch more runs based on their bloated hit total … you’d be correct. This was the first time in at least the last 100 years that the Yankees pounded out at least 20 hits in a nine-inning game but failed to score in double digits.

Masahiro Tanaka bounced back from his worst outing of the season, firing 7 2/3 scoreless innings for his sixth win of the season. With that ace-like performance, he lowered his road ERA this season to 1.14, the lowest among starting pitchers the majors through Tuesday. It was his ninth straight road start allowing no more than two runs, the longest such streak by any Yankee pitcher since at least 1913.

From heroes to zeroes
With a chance to get back to .500 and build some momentum heading into their final pre-break series, the Yankees laid an egg as they were blanked by the White Sox, 5-0, on Wednesday night. It was just the second time they’ve ever been shut out at the current version of Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field (which opened in 1991); the other game was also a 5-0 loss on April 13, 1994.

With the loss, the Yankees fell to 5-11 at U.S. Cellular since 2012, their worst record at any AL ballpark in that span, and the second-worst record by any AL team at that stadium over the past five seasons (the Rangers are 4-11).


Looking to extend a solid run of six June starts during which he posted a 2.75 ERA with 49 strikeouts, Michael Pineda reverted back to his early-season form, giving up five runs across six innings. Four of the five runs were scored with two outs in the second frame, highlighting two of his biggest statistical bugaboos this season: early-game troubles and difficulties closing out innings.

He’s now allowed 17 runs in the first inning, and 17 runs in the second inning this season (compared to 25 runs in all other innings combined). The 34 total runs given up in the first and second frames are the second-most by any pitcher the majors, behind only James Shields (38). Pineda also now leads all MLB pitchers with 37 two-out runs allowed.

Pineda will enter the All-Star break with first-half statistics that are both dominant (113 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings) and dreadful (3-8 record, 5.38 ERA).

The Good: his strikeout rate of 10.69 per nine innings is the second-best in franchise history before the break (min. 60 innings), just a hair behind David Cone’s 10.72 in 1997. The Bad: he is the second Yankee pitcher to make more than 10 starts before the break and post an ERA of at least 5.30 with a win percentage of .273 or worse; the other, coincidentally (or not), was David Cone in 2000 (1-7, 6.40 ERA in 16 starts).

Putting it all together, his mix of strikeout excellence and awful run prevention is unprecedented in baseball history. Pineda’s 5.38 ERA is the highest by any pitcher heading into the All-Star break who also had a strikeout rate of at least 10 batters per nine innings and at least 75 innings pitched.

Thoughts prior to the final series of the first half

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

Later today the Yankees begin their final series of the first half, a four-gamer with the Indians in Cleveland. The Indians are really good with an insane power rotation — they have the rotation everyone thought the Mets would have — so these next four games might not be much fun. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. The Yankees will face four righties in the Cleveland series, so are they just going to sit Alex Rodriguez all four games? They deemed him unfit to face Miguel friggin’ Gonzalez last night. Would they really send him out here against Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco, who throw mid-to-high-90s with wicked breaking balls? It seems unlikely. That means Alex is going to sit five straight days to close out the first half. The Yankees are basically playing with a 24-man roster right now. A right-handed platoon DH isn’t all that useful, especially since playing the field appears to be completely off the table. There’s a Catch-22 here. A-Rod‘s not playing because he’s not hitting, but he probably needs to play more to start hitting. Sitting on the bench won’t accomplish much as far as getting his bat going.

2. The “Masahiro Tanaka needs to learn how to pitch on normal rest” thing has officially jumped the shark. You’d think the guy has pitched like Sidney Ponson on normal rest, and yet:

Normal Rest, 2014-15: 2.89 ERA (3.42 FIP)
Extra Rest, 2014-15: 3.26 ERA (3.57 FIP)

Normal Rest, 2016: 5.28 ERA (4.27 FIP)
Extra Rest, 2016: 1.72 ERA (2.46 FIP)

Tanaka has made seven starts of his 17 starts on normal rest this year. That’s it. Included in those seven starts are three starts of at least six innings with no more than two earned runs, so it’s not like he’s never pitched well on normal rest this year. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be smart to give Tanaka an extra day whenever possible. It’s smart to give every pitcher an extra day now and then. But the idea Tanaka is unable to pitch effectively on normal rest is so overblown. It’s an overreaction to four starts spread across three months this year.

3. Jorge Mateo‘s two-week suspension is totally deserved, in my opinion. George King says Mateo complained to team executives about not getting promoted, and even went as far as to say an unnamed player in Double-A should be released to clear a spot for him. (Had to be Cito Culver, right?) First of all, Mateo is hitting .266/.323/.396 (112 wRC+) this season, including .240/.292/.351 (89 wRC+) since May 1st, so he hasn’t exactly forced the issue. Secondly, a team can’t just let a player complain about not being promoted, because I have news for you: everyone thinks they deserve to be promoted. If the Yankees had let Mateo get away with that, it would be open season. Every prospect would be going to the front office and mouthing off about a promotion. I mean, he went to the team and said release this guy and promote me. What the hell is that? Mateo was insubordinate and thus disciplined. Welcome to the real world, kid. Hopefully he serves his suspension, grows up a little, and performs well enough for the Yankees to consider promoting him.

4. Last week Chad Jennings posted a neat interview with Rob Refsnyder on Aaron Judge. Refsnyder was in Triple-A and had a front row seat for Judge’s crazy home run surge a few weeks back. “With normal human beings, it’s, ‘I’m going to get a hit or two tonight.’ With Judge it’s like, ‘I’m going to get a double and a home run tonight,'” said Refsnyder. Anyway, I found this part interesting:

“You get so many offspeed pitches in Triple-A, it’s ridiculous. It’s so unrealistic (compared) to this type of pitching. You get a lot more fastballs … So many more fastballs and truer pitch sequences. In Triple-A it’s like, guys have five pitches and they could throw them at any time, so some guys start leaning out over the plate. They lose their posture and their swing plane is all messed up. So I think he’s just trying to stick to staying taller and getting his hands to the ball more efficiently.”

I think at least part of it is Refsnyder getting a lot of fastballs because he’s a rookie, and pitchers are going to challenge him until he shows he can do damage, but otherwise that’s pretty much the opposite of what I expected. I figured more pitchers would be living off their fastball in Triple-A while the five-pitch guys are in the big leagues. It does make sense though. Triple-A is loaded with older players trying to hang on — look at the International League innings pitched leaderboard, the retreads outnumber the prospects four-to-one — and many teams skip their top prospects right over Triple-A these days. The hard throwers all get called up because of baseball’s general obsession with velocity. Had Refsnyder not said anything, it never would have occurred to me Triple-A pitchers may throw more fastballs than MLB pitchers.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

5. Speaking of Refsnyder, he’s handled himself well these last few weeks despite being in a less than ideal situation. He’s not playing every single day, and he’s going back and forth between three different positions (first, second, right). It can be tough to remain productive when that’s your role, especially when you’re new to it after playing everyday for the last, well, rest of your life. I’m not a huge believer in Refsnyder. Yes, the Yankees should play him more just to see if he can be an everyday guy somewhere, but I think this is the best role for him long-term. Hopefully he can pick up third base and be an option there too at some point. Point is, the Yankees haven’t exactly put Refsnyder in the best position to succeed — that’s not exactly uncommon, young players are moved around and sit on the bench all the time — but he’s made the most of it. Good to see.

6. It’s not a fatal flaw, but Dellin Betances‘ inability to stop the running game is a real problem. Opponents are 11-for-11 in steal attempts against him this year after going 17-for-21 last year and 12-for-15 the year before that. That’s 40-for-47 (85%), and that’s, uh, bad. The book is out too. This is no secret. Whenever Betances puts a man on base, they’re looking to run first or second pitch. Dellin is a big man with a slow and deliberate motion, so speeding up his delivery isn’t really an option. (Given his career-long control issues, I wouldn’t mess with his mechanics at all anyway.) The Yankees are going to have to work with him on his pickoff move, varying his times to the plate, that sort of thing. Betances doesn’t allow many baserunners to start with, so this isn’t a huge problem, but not every walk and single can be turned into a double. It’s a weakness that can be improved. That’s the best way to put it.

7. I’m happy the Yankees have kept Luis Severino in Triple-A these last few weeks. I thought they were going to bring him right back up after two or three good starts. Severino definitely has some things to work on, specifically his command of his secondary pitches, and it’s not realistic to think that can be fixed overnight. I thought the Yankees were very aggressive with Severino — he was in the big leagues after throwing 144.2 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A combined — and this gives him a chance to catch his breath a bit and finish off some of the development the Yankees skipped over. Severino is incredibly important to the Yankees long-term. They have to get this right. Bringing him back up after a handful of Triple-A starts because his stats were shiny would have been an easy move, but not necessarily the right move. I totally expected Severino to back in MLB by now. I’m pleasantly surprised the Yankees are being patient after being so aggressive.