The Yankees aren’t very good, but that doesn’t mean 2016 has to be a lost season

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Folks, the Yankees aren’t very good. They’re bad and they’re boring, and they’ve given us basically no reason to think they’re capable of going on the kind of run it’ll take to qualify for the postseason. The Yankees need to go 56-41 the rest of the way to match last season’s 87 wins. That’s a 94-win pace. I know the Yankees are bad because it is June 16th, and when I pull up the standings, I see this:

AL East standings

Last place. A deserved last place. The Yankees can’t beat teams in their own division (10-17), they can’t win on the road (13-20), and they’ve had only two winning streaks of at least three games all season. They can’t kept their head above .500 at all. The last two times they’ve reached .500, they immediately went on a losing streak and fell several games back under. It’s awful.

The Yankees are bad and chances are they’re not going to the postseason. FanGraphs puts their playoff odds at a mere 10.9% right now. Being bad and missing the postseason does not mean the season has to be lost though. The Yankees can still accomplish a lot this season, stuff that will put them in better position to contend as soon as next year. It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s doable. Here are a few ways to make the most of this yucky season.

Sell Sell Sell

This goes without saying. The Yankees have some valuable assets who clearly are not enough to get this team to October, and some of them figure to be gone after the season. Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran are at the front of the line here. Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner have two years of control beyond this season and would help contenders. There are others to market as well.

At an absolute minimum, Chapman and Beltran have to be moved for younger players because of their impending free agency. The sooner the better too. Beltran’s knee is barking and you don’t want to be left holding the bag if it gives out in a few weeks. Chapman and Beltran have to go, but the Yankees should be open to moving everyone. Miller, Gardner, Dellin Betances, Starlin Castro, Brian McCann, you name it.

Make A Decision About Eovaldi (And I Guess Pineda Too)

Depending on the day, you either want to give Nathan Eovaldi a six-year contract or trade him as soon as possible. He’s pitched extremely well at times this season, and yet here he is on June 16th with a very Eovaldi-ian 4.90 ERA (4.19 FIP). Eovaldi is the perfect microcosm of the Yankees. The talent is obvious and there are flashes that make you want to believe. The record and the stats are what they are though, and that’s underwhelming.

The Yankees do not have Eovaldi much longer. This isn’t Luis Severino with six years of team control remaining. Eovaldi will be a free agent after next season, and at this point the Yankees should at least have an idea of what they want to do with him long-term. Do they keep him or trade him? The sooner they make a decision, the better, because then they can begin to act on that decision.

The same applies to Michael Pineda as well, though it seems the chances of an extension with Pineda are much smaller. He was pretty damn terrible earlier this season, and the shoulder surgery is still in the back of everyone’s mind. Either way, the Yankees should take the time this season to figure out what they want to do with Eovaldi and Pineda. The longer the wait, the more it’ll cost them.

Refsnyder. (Presswire)
Refsnyder. (Presswire)

Figure Out What You Have In Refsnyder

In hindsight, this should have happened last year. It didn’t though and it’s not really happening right now either. Guys like Ike Davis and Chris Parmelee are stealing at-bats away from Rob Refsnyder, and you know what? I get it. He’s inexperienced at first base — we’ve seen it at times for sure — and there’s always going to be the temptation to go with the proven vet not playing out of the position.

The Yankees are at a crossroads with Refsnyder now. He’s going to be 26 next season and he’s logged over 1,000 plate appearances at Triple-A. It’s time to find out where he fits going forward, and the only way to do that is by playing him. With the postseason looking like a long shot, all the at-bats going to the Davis and Parmelee types are a waste of time. They have no value to the Yankees. Is Refsnyder part of the solution or not? It’s time to let him answer that question one way or the other.

Consider Eating Dead Money

It’s tough not to notice what’s going on around the league. Last week the Dodgers cut ties with Carl Crawford even though there was $35M left on his contract. Just yesterday the Rockies and Royals cut ties with Jose Reyes ($40M) and Omar Infante ($15M), respectively. The Dodgers and Royals are trying to win and the Rockies are rebuilding. They made similar moves despite being in different situations.

Why did those clubs eat all that money? Because it was best for the team, plain and simple. They had better players that deserved the playing time. The Yankees have a bunch of bad contracts that are doing various degrees of harm to the team. That doesn’t mean they should release them all. Doing something like, say, releasing McCann so Gary Sanchez can play is silly. Silly and totally unrealistic.

In fact, I’d say the only player the Yankees should seriously consider releasing for the good of the roster is Alex Rodriguez. He’s owed another $34M or so, but his bat has clearly slowed, he can’t play the field, and he can’t run. I love A-Rod, he’s the man, but gosh does he limit flexibility. It’s getting to the point where he does more harm than good on the field. There are better uses of that roster spot. We saw it earlier this year when he was on the DL.

(This is never going to happen, by the way. Not with Alex only seven homers from 700. The Yankees need to attendance boost.)

* * *

I don’t want the Yankees to be bad. I’d love nothing more than to watch them go on a three-month tear and play meaningful baseball in September. If you don’t want to see that, then what’s the point? It doesn’t appear the Yankees are going to give us that chance though. So, instead, the focus should be on the ways the team can put itself in the best possible position to contend going forward. The sooner they shift focus, the better off they’ll be.

Three runs aren’t enough either; Yankees lose 6-3 to the Rockies

(AP)
(AP)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the New York Yankees just lost another game. They dropped their fourth in a row thanks to this simple formula: the Yankee lineup made Chad Bettis look like a decent ML starter (to be honest, they had a ST-caliber lineup out there) while Ivan Nova fell apart in the fifth to give the Rockies a lead for good. I don’t know how to characterize this game other than to say the Yankees played bad and the results showed as much.

All Bettis Off

Chad Bettis has been a mediocre pitcher at best this season. In 13 starts prior to tonight, he’s had a 5.85 ERA while allowing homers at a, well, not a good rate (1.49 HR/9). So naturally, the Yankees failed to hit an extra base hit all day. To be fair, today’s Yankee lineup wasn’t really the most formidable one. All you need to know is that Chase Headley hit cleanup and Didi Gregorius followed him. Yikes.

The Yankees did manage to scratch two earned runs off Bettis though. In the fourth, Didi drove in a run with two on and two out with a single to left. Aaron Hicks followed with a tapper that¬†looked like an easy ground out, but Rockies catcher Tony Wolters threw it way above the first baseman’s head for an error. Another run scored as a result. That made it 2-1 Yankees. That was probably the pinnacle of the game for New York. They scored one more run in the sixth with a Hicks RBI single that drove in Headley, but they were trailing 5-3 at the time.

He definitely didn’t give up an XBH on this pitch (Getty)

No No Nova 

Good news: Ivan Nova struck out five hitters in five innings, which is 9.0 K/9! Bad news: pretty much everything else. He allowed 10 hits for 5 earned runs to take a loss.

Four of the runs came in the fifth. Charlie Blackmon singled and stole a base to begin the inning. Nova allowed an RBI single to D.J. LeMahieu to tie the game at two apiece. The next hitter, Nolan Arenado, saw a first-pitch fastball and didn’t miss any of it. He drove it over the left field fence for a two-run homer. Nova makes a bad pitch. A good hitter destroyed it. Rinse, repeat. The Rockies added another run with a Trevor Story double and an RBI single by Mark Reynolds to make it 5-2.

The middle innings have given Nova a lot of trouble this year. He came into the game with a 1.71 ERA in innings 1-3, and a 6.03 ERA in the fourth inning and beyond. Those numbers are getting worse after this game.

Leftovers

In the bottom sixth, Anthony Swarzak came in to relieve for Nova. With one out and runner on first, Swarzak hit LeMahieu in the head, which was scary. Fortunately, LeMahieu seemed okay enough to stay in the game. It did not seem Swarzak had any intent to hit him either.

In the next frame, the Rockies reliever Miguel Castro threw two pitches close to Austin Romine‘s head, which prompted the HP umpire Gabe Morales to issue warnings to both benches. Well look at that, a possible Yankees-Rockies beef brewing. Fortunately, that was just about all the damage done.

Aroldis Chapman came in to pitch in bottom eighth with team down 5-3. After getting the first two outs, he allowed a single to Blackmon, and LeMahieu followed it up with an RBI triple to make it 6-3 Rockies. Carlos “Not Charlie Sheen” Estevez came in the ninth for the Rockies to close it down.

Box Score, Highlights, WPA and Standings

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

Source: FanGraphs


Maybe the Yankees can start padding their record elsewhere! They are off to Minnesota to face the lowly Twins for a four-game series. Did I imply that the Twins are bad? They are 20-44 this season, which is pretty awful.

DotF: Gamel and Judge stay hot in Scranton’s win

RHP Brady Lail has been placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL, reports Shane Hennigan. I’m not sure what’s wrong with him. It might just be a paper move to temporarily clear a roster spot. LHP Phil Coke was activated off the DL to replace Lail on the roster.

Triple-A Scranton (7-3 win over Toledo)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 3-6, 1 R, 2 K — threw a runner out at third … 25-for-55 (.455) in his last 13 games
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — 18-for-44 (.409) with only eight strikeouts since the 0-for-24 slump
  • DH Gary Sanchez: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-2, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — hasn’t slowed down since being promoted
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K — six homers in 58 games this year … he hit two homers in 132 games last year
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 41 of 63 pitches were strikes (65%) … that’s much more like it, Luis
  • LHP Phil Coke: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 20 of 31 pitches were strikes (65%) … they have six starters for five spots at the moment, so the fact he went back to the bullpen tells me Lail will back soon
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP, 2/1 GB/FB — 25 of 41 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

I’m starting to think this might not be the Yankees’ season, folks. They’re not just bad, they’re boring, and that’s the worst kind of bad. At least the 2013 Yankees were ironically entertaining, you know? Yuck. There are 97 games to go and gosh, that doesn’t sound appealing at all.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing tonight and ESPN2 will show the Red Sox and Orioles, and that’s pretty much it. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Mark Teixeira resumes hitting and running, could return next week

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

Sounds as though Mark Teixeira may be closer to a return than initially expected. Teixeira, who is currently out with cartilage damage in his right knee, has already resumed hitting and running. “I feel so much better,” he said to reporters this afternoon.

Teixeira hopes to take batting practice later this week when the Yankees are in Minnesota. If that goes well, he could play in his first minor league rehab game as soon as next Tuesday, then rejoin the big league lineup as soon as late next week. Optimistic? Sure, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The 36-year-old Teixeira has received a lubrication injection to deal with the pain and he’ll have to continue receiving them throughout the season. The hope is he can return next week and finish the season before having surgery over the winter. The surgery would be season-ending if he had it now.

Teixeira was hitting .180/.271/.263 (48 wRC+) with three homers at the time of his injury, so he wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball. Still, when the Yankees run out a lineup with Chase Headley batting lineup and Didi Gregorius batting fifth like they did today, I’ll happily welcome Teixeira back with open arms.

Game 65: Well, at least the weather is nice

Make sure the oxygen tank is handy. (Presswire)
Make sure the oxygen tank is handy. (Presswire)

The Yankees have lost three straight games, which is something that seems to have happened far too often this season. They’re one game into this stretch of eleven straight games against the Rockies and Twins, and as I said yesterday, they need to win about eight of these eleven games to have a realistic chance at contention. Dropping the first of those eleven games was not a good start. Win it today, fellas. Here is the Rockies’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. 3B Chase Headley
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. RF Aaron Hicks
  7. 1B Ike Davis
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. RHP Ivan Nova

That’s as close to a Spring Training lineup as you’ll see during the regular season. Yeesh. Anyway, at least the weather is nice in Denver. Sunny with temperatures in the low-80s. Nice afternoon for a game. This afternoon’s game will begin at 3:10pm ET — I know I said 3:40pm ET yesterday, sorry about that, my mistake — and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Carlos Beltran had his knee drained yesterday and isn’t available today. This is fine.

Finding comparable prospects to Blake Rutherford using MLB.com’s scouting grades

(MinorLeagueMadhouse.com)
(MinorLeagueMadhouse.com)

Last Thursday, after weeks of rumors about high school arms and college bats, the Yankees used their first round pick to select California HS OF Blake Rutherford. He was a consensus top ten talent — Keith Law (6th), MLB.com (8th), and Baseball America (9th) all ranked Rutherford highly — who fell because of bonus demands and the fact he turned 19 last month. The signing deadline is July 15th.

It’s been a long time since the Yankees had the opportunity to draft a player like Rutherford, a highly coveted prospect who slipped due to bonus demands. That is partly the result of the bonus pools. Talent comes off the board more linearly nowadays and fewer prospects are slipping. (And those who do slip are often unsignable.) The Yankees have also forfeited some first round picks recently (2011, 2014) and made some surprise selections.

The scouting report on Rutherford is awfully exciting. Keith Law (subs. req’d) said he has a “unique combination of hit and power and has shown an ability to spray well-hit balls to all fields,” while Baseball America (subs. req’d) wrote “(some) scouts see him as a potential power-hitting center fielder in the Jim Edmonds mold.” Here’s a piece of MLB.com’s free scouting report:

Rutherford has the chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average raw power. He’ll record average to plus run times, and his speed helps him on the basepaths and in the outfield. Rutherford is a solid defender in the outfield, though most feel he’ll move to right field in the future. The good news is his bat should profile just fine if that move does happen.

Gosh that is fun to read. The Yankees have been picking late in the first round for two decades now, so we’re used to reading scouting reports about talented players with obvious flaws, flaws that prevented them from going near the top of the draft. The biggest concern with Rutherford is that he had the audacity to be born in May and not July or August. That’s all.

Scouting reports are great, but it’s difficult to quantify words. Baseball is a numbers game. It’s tailor made for record keeping and statistical analysis. So, to help us understand exactly what kind of prospect Rutherford is, let’s turn to MLB.com’s scouting grades. They’ve been handing out scouting grades with their draft prospects list for a few years now, so we can compare Rutherford to other highly touted prep players.

A crash course: the grades are on the 20-80 scouting scale. A 20 is the worst possible grade. Alex Rodriguez has 20 speed. Carlos Beltran is a 20 defender. An 80 is the best possible grade. Aroldis Chapman has an 80 fastball. Andrew Miller has an 80 slider. A 50 is an average grade, so you can go three standard deviations up and three standard deviations down. MLB.com has grades for the five tools: hit for average, hit for power, running, throwing, and fielding.

There are two important things to understand about MLB.com’s 20-80 grades. One, they’re future grades. These are what the player projects to be, not what he is today. Two, they tend to be conservative. You won’t see many 70s or 80s at all, especially with high school kids. No one wrote up Mike Trout as 70 hit, 70 power, 70 run a few years back because they’d get laughed at, yet that’s what he’s become. A 50 prospect doesn’t sound sexy, but trust me, that’s really good.

Okay, so with all that in mind, let’s compare Rutherford’s scouting grades to the grades for other top left-handed hitting prep outfield prospects in recent years. We need to be specific here. There’s a big difference between being left-handed and right-handed, between being an outfielder and an infielder, and between high school and college. What’s the point of comparing Rutherford to, say, Kris Bryant, a right-handed hitting college third baseman? They couldn’t be any more different.

MLB.com has been listing scouting grades since 2013, and from 2013-15, a total of 15 lefty hitting high school outfielders ranked among their top 100 draft prospects. It’s not a huge sample, but it’s what we have to work with. Here’s are those 15 plus Rutherford and their scouting grades. The green cells are tools that received the same or a better grade than Rutherford:

Blake Rutherford comps

Right off the bat you see no lefty hitting prep outfielder matched all five of Rutherford’s tools from 2013-15. Only four of those 15 players matched Rutherford on four of the five tools: Austin Meadows and Ryan Boldt are short on power while Kyle Tucker and Mitch Hansen are short on run. Heck, Mickey Moniak, this year’s first overall pick and another lefty hitting high school outfielder, doesn’t match Rutherford’s five tools either. He’s short on power.

Compared to his peers over the last three drafts, Rutherford has a very unique skill set. There’s a reason only four left-handed hitting high school outfielders rated as at least 55 overall prospects from 2013-15. It’s hard to be good at baseball. Here’s a really quick look at what those four players have done in pro ball.

  • Trent Clark, Brewers: Career .284/.409/.418 (128 wRC+) hitter in 337 minor league plate appearances. He’s at Low-A and Baseball America ranked him the 49th best prospect in all the land coming into the season.
  • Alex Jackson, Mariners: Career .207/.304/.375 (98 wRC+) hitter in 531 minor league plate appearances. Jackson is still in Low-A. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 20 prospect in baseball prior to 2015. He wasn’t on their 2016 list.
  • Austin Meadows, Pirates: Career .305/.370/.476 (147 wRC+) hitter in 1,260 minor league plate appearances. He is currently in Double-A and is crazy good. Meadows has landed on three Baseball America top 100 lists, topping out at No. 22 before this season.
  • Kyle Tucker, Astros: Career .279/.337/.403 (113 wRC+) hitter in 515 minor league plate appearances. That includes a 133 wRC+in Low-A this season. Tucker was ranked the 61st best prospect in baseball by Baseball America before this season.

Meadows, Tucker, and Clark have developed into awesome top prospects since they were drafted. Jackson is fizzling out, though three out of four ain’t bad at all. We could probably blame the Mariners for what Jackson is doing anyway. Their top position player prospects never seem to work out. Point is, the left-handed hitting high school outfielders most similar to Rutherford have generally gone on to be very good prospects.

Now, does this mean Rutherford is destined to become a top 50 caliber prospect, or even a top 25 caliber prospect like Meadows? Of course not. Every player is their own person, and what Meadows or Jackson or anyone else has done has zero effect on Rutherford’s development. All we’re doing is looking for context. How many players have had similar skill sets in recent years? The answer is not many at all. Most of the few who have gone to be pretty good.

The Yankees still haven’t signed Rutherford but that’s not surprising. The draft happened not even a week ago. The signing deadline is July 15th this year and it’s not uncommon for high picks to wait until the very last moment to sign. James Kaprielian did it just last year. The Yankees have already saved a ton of pool money and you can bet they’re planning to shovel most (if not all) of it in front of Rutherford.

Should the Yankees sign Rutherford — I fully expect him to sign, but you can never be 100% sure — recent history suggests they’re adding a significant prospect to the system. The various draft class rankings indicate that, and when you look at his individual tools, you can see very few players are as well-rounded as Rutherford. Those who have been closest have gone on to grow into very promising young players.

Update: I’m a dolt. Alex Jackson is a right-handed hitter. Disregard him. My bad.