Saturday Links: A-Rod, Rowson, Braves, Gardner


Later this afternoon the Yankees and Rays will continue their four-game series with the third game at Yankee Stadium. First pitch isn’t until 4pm ET, so here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time.

A-Rod expected to appear at Instructs

According to Brendan Kuty, Alex Rodriguez is expected to make an appearance at Instructional League later this month. As a special instructor, of course. Not as a player. “I’m very pleased to have somebody with Alex’s experience and time in the game to be able to share those experiences with our young players. Our best young players are all going to be part of Instructional League,” said farm system head Gary Denbo.

This year’s Instructs roster hasn’t been released yet but it’ll come out soon enough. It’s usually a collection of top prospects, recent draftees, and players who missed time due to injury. Greg Bird will face live pitching for the first time since shoulder surgery in Instructional League, for example. My guess is A-Rod will wind up spending a bunch of time with the team’s small army of middle infield prospects, specifically Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo.

Rowson joins Yankees

Minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson joined the Yankees earlier this week and has been with the team since, reports Dan Martin. Rowson has worked with Aaron Judge a ton over the years. “He’s trying to get comfortable here. Everything is new to him and he’s had his battles before and made the adjustments,” said Rowson. “He’s been through rough times, especially with the punch outs and he’s always come out on the other side. So I feel like he’s going to do that again.”

This is not all that uncommon, really. A handful of minor league coaches will join the big league team for a homestand in September pretty much every year. Every single one of the Yankees’ full season minor league affiliates qualified for the postseason this year though, so those coaches and instructors haven’t had a chance to come up yet. This isn’t Rowson’s first stint with the big league team and it won’t be his last. Chances are he didn’t join the team specifically to work with Judge.

Update: Minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell is with the Yankees as well, reports Chad Jennings.

Yankees to open SunTrust Park


The Yankees and Braves will open the brand new SunTrust Park with an exhibition game on Friday, March 31st next year, the Braves announced. Apparently only “A List Members” (season ticket holders) will be allowed to attend. Lame. Atlanta is moving into their new 41,500 seat ballpark just 20 years after moving into Turner Field. The Yankees and Braves opened Turner Field with an exhibition game in 1996 as well.

This year the Yankees closed out Spring Training with a pair of exhibition games at Marlins Park. Last year they played two at Nationals Park. The Cubs came to New York for two exhibition games in 2009, when the new Yankee Stadium opened. They do this stuff every year. Also, the fact this exhibition game is scheduled for March 31st suggests the 2017 regular season will begin on Monday, April 3rd. Next year’s schedule should be announced soon. Possibly next week.

Gardner nominated for Roberto Clemente Award

Brett Gardner is the Yankees’ nominee for the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award, MLB announced. Here are the nominees from each team. The award is given each year to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Three Yankees have won the award: Derek Jeter (2009), Don Baylor (1985), and Ron Guidry (1984).

Amazingly, MLB turned an award recognizing community involvement — and an award named after an iconic player and a great humanitarian — into a popularity contest. Each nominee has an official hashtag and the player who receives the most votes on Twitter and Facebook will win. Incredible. MLB really knocked this one out of the park, eh? I’m sure fans will recognize each player’s off-the-field work and definitely not vote for their favorite player. No way.

Game 121: Out West


I don’t know about you, but West Coast night games don’t even feel real to me. It’s almost like they don’t count. Baseball’s great. I love it dearly. But staying up this late to watch games? Not something I’d like to do regularly. The Yankees will be out west for the next week, so we’re stuck. So it goes. Here is the Angels’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Didi Gregorius
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. LF Aaron Hicks
  8. 1B Tyler Austin
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Great weather in Anaheim. Sunny and generally excellent for baseball. I didn’t even bother to check the forecast. That’s the everyday forecast for Orange County. Tonight’s game is going to start at 10:05pm ET and you can watch on FOX Sports 1. No YES, no regular FOX. FOX Sports 1 only. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Brett Gardner (ankle) remains day-to-day and could return tomorrow … Chase Headley (Achilles) is also day-to-day and he figures to be out a little longer than Gardner … Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) went under the knife today. He had his second career Tommy John surgery and also had his flexor tendon repaired. The Yankees say everything went “as expected.”

Game 117: Mariano Rivera Day

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

This has been a pretty fun weekend, hasn’t it? Friday night was Alex Rodriguez‘s farewell game, and then yesterday there was the 1996 World Series team reunion and the debuts of Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge. That was an awful lot of great stuff to pack into a 24-hour window.

Today, the fun continues with Mariano Rivera Day. The Yankees have already retired No. 42 — they did that in Mo’s honor back in 2013 — and today they’re dedicating a Monument Park plaque in his honor. Needless to say, Rivera is very deserving. He’s the greatest reliever in baseball history and was a key member of five World Series teams.

From what I’ve seen, the ceremony is going to begin sometime between 12pm ET and 12:40pm ET, which is a pretty big window. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start at 1:25pm ET, so I’m guessing the ceremony will start closer to 12:40pm ET. The Yankees never seem to start these things on time anyway. YES will carry the ceremony, as always.

Once that’s done, the Yankees will play the finale of this three-game series with the Rays. New York is looking to complete the sweep and win their fifth straight game today. If they’re going to make a run at a postseason spot, they need to put together more extended winning streaks like this. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. SS Didi Gregorius
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. DH Brian McCann
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Severino

It is again incredibly hot in New York today, though at least there are some clouds in the sky, so every so often we’re gifted some shade. Like I said, today’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:25pm ET. It’ll be broadcast on YES. Enjoy the ceremony and the game.

Injury Update: Brett Gardner (ankle) is going to be out a few days. He’s still feeling it after being hit by that pitch in his first at-bat Friday night. Doesn’t sound like a DL situation.

Brett Gardner’s Disappearing Power

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Being a sports fan means you’re going to make predictions or statements or give takes; with that comes a lot of being wrong. Most recently, I was most wrong about fellow former UConn Husky and current Detroit Piston Andre Drummond. After he left Storrs following his freshman year, I thought he’d struggle in the NBA thanks to a lack of a refined offensive game. I was wrong and I was very glad to be wrong. Before him, I was (somewhat) wrong about Brett Gardner.

Though I’ve long been a fan of Gardner’s, I wasn’t always sure how he’d fare long-term in Major League Baseball. Despite a good batting eye that helped him get on base just about everywhere he played, I had concerns regarding his general lack of power. I thought that once he got through the league a time or two, pitchers would be able to knock the bat out of his hands by challenging him, thus negating his good eye at the plate and limiting his effectiveness as a hitter. I was wrong; Gardner’s lasted a long time in the league and has been a productive player for most of that time.

Not enough of this. (Elsa/Getty)
Not enough of this. (Elsa/Getty)

Part of that productivity came from a power surge in 2013 that lasted through 2015. From 2013-2015, he had ISOs of .143, .166, and .140 after never having an ISO greater than .110 from 2008-2012. Additionally, 2014 and 2015 saw him hit 17 and 16 homers respectively. This isn’t Barry Bonds level power or anything, but for Gardner, this was groundbreaking stuff. In 2016, though, that power reservoir has seemingly dried up.

This year, his ISO has dropped down to .116, his lowest since a .110 mark in 2011 — not including the partial season in 2012. Per FanGraphs, ZiPS rest-of-season projections forecast Gardner to hit only four more homers this year, bringing his total up to 11. While that would be higher than any non-2014/15 year, it’s still a drop from the last two years, though the ISO drop is the more pronounced of the two. As proof of that, let’s take a look at Gardner’s extra-base hit rate as a percentage of his hits. In 2014, 35.2% of his hits went for extra bases. That rate dropped to 30.4% in 2015 and is down another 5% to 25.3% this year.

He’s dropped back down to relatively normal levels of his power so it’s not horribly alarming, but it’s still disappointing to see since that added dimension of power helped make Gardner an even more valuable player. As such, it’s still worth looking at why these numbers have dropped back down. When Gardner was going right with his homers, he was pulling inside pitches over the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. Let’s take a look at Gardner’s pull numbers over the last three years, incorporating HR/FB%; Hard Hit%; and ISO (all per FanGraphs):

Year HR/FB% Hard Hit% ISO
2014 29.4 37.3 0.385
2015 62.5 28.2 0.367
2016 37.5 24.5 0.263

While Brett is still hitting for good power to his pull field, it’s down significantly from the previous two years. 2015 was a little fluky with regards to the HR/FB% as Gardner tended not to hit many fly balls last year; the ones he did hit, however, left the park at an insanely high rate. It’s expected that there’s been a drop off this year, but that’s been coupled with a steadily dropping hard hit rate to the pull field. Why might this be? Well, intuitively, when you’re pulling the ball, you’re doing damage on inside pitches. Is that happening for Gardner this year compared to 2014-15? Not so much.


There’s Gardner’s 2014-2015 zone profile by ISO. By taking a look at the inside pitches in the zone, we see ISOs of .300; .281; and .361. He also did damage on pitches actually inside and out the zone, ISOing .471 on those pitches; he was even able to golf some low/in pitches out of the zone for a .286 ISO. Now let’s look at 2016.


That inside power has seemingly disappeared in 2016. Up and in, in the zone, Gardner’s still doing damage: .546 ISO. Middle-in, in the zone is still solid at .250, but there’s been a drop off from 2014-15. The low-in, in the zone and the two out of zone locations have produced virtually no power.

There’s no quick and easy answers in baseball, but a rough estimate for why Gardner’s power has dropped this year is that he just isn’t doing damage on inside pitches and isn’t pulling the ball with as much authority to his pull field as he did in the previous two seasons. Despite the lack of power, Gardner has still been reasonably productive in 2016. He’s walking at his highest rate since 2011 (again, discounting 2012’s limited scope) and striking out at his lowest rate since 2011. But the lack of power has Gardner’s wRC+ under 100 for the first time since 2011. While the team was nowhere near reliant on Gardner for power coming into 2016, the lack of it — and the general lack of production from Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira — has been a disappointment. Hopefully next year, Gardner can regain his power stroke and increase his productivity.

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Monday

Bye, Carlos? (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Bye, Carlos? (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

The 2016 non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET this afternoon, and the Yankees have already been very active. One of the most active teams in baseball, really. Within the last week they traded Aroldis Chapman, traded Andrew Miller, and added Tyler Clippard. Chances are they aren’t done either.

“Stay tuned. A lot more things could happen,” said Brian Cashman to reporters during a conference call following the Miller and Clippard trades yesterday. “If you want to become a super team, there are ways you have to go about it. We’re trying to get back to a situation where we can build an uber-team, and a sustainable one.”

Here are Sunday’s rumors. Once again, we’re going to keep track of the day’s Yankee-related rumors right here in this post. I’m going to be running around a bit today — bad timing, I know, but family first — and will do my best to update things promptly. All time stamps are ET.

  • 9:00am: The Astros, Red Sox, Indians, and Rangers are all in on Carlos Beltran. He has not yet been asked to waive his limited no-trade clause and, unsurprisingly, a trade with Boston is considered unlikely. I’m sure the thought of Beltran helping the BoSox win the World Series makes ownership squeamish, even if it means making the best possible deal. Some clubs want the Yankees to eat money to facilitate a trade. [Buster Olney, Mark Feinsand, Jon Heyman]
  • 9:00am: The Yankees continue to listen to offers for Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, Nathan Eovaldi, and Michael Pineda. They also want to unload impending free agent Ivan Nova prior to today’s deadline. [Joel Sherman]
  • 12:03pm: McCann remains a possibility for the Braves. They want the Yankees to eat a bunch of money and the Yankees want good prospects in return, so there are some things that need to be worked out. [Mark Bowman]

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Tuesday


Yesterday afternoon the Yankees made their biggest trade in quite some time, sending Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for Adam Warren and three prospects. One of those prospects, shortstop Gleyber Torres, ranks among the top 25-ish prospects in baseball. It’s a significant haul for a rental reliever, even one as good as Chapman, and it very well might be the team’s biggest move at this year’s trade deadline.

“This one move doesn’t necessarily create a domino effect of selling, and it doesn’t prevent a domino effect of buying,” said Brian Cashman to reporters on yesterday’s trade conference call. “This is an easy call, and this was the right call. Easy because we traded from an area of strength, and we are excited about the players that we received for someone that obviously was only under control for two more months.”

With Chapman gone, the focus figures to shift to the team’s other rental players, namely Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova. Andrew Miller‘s name has been out there as well, ditto basically everyone in the rotation other than Masahiro Tanaka. Here are Monday’s trade deadline rumors. We’ll again keep track of today’s rumors right here, in this one post, so check back often. All time stamps are ET.

  • 9:30am: Trading Nova is the next priority, and the Marlins are among the interested teams. “They’re shooting high, but it’s early. They know what the pitching market looks like right now and they’re trying to capitalize on that,” said a source to Mark Feinsand. I guess there’s a chance Nova has already thrown his last pitch as a Yankee.
  • 9:30am: Brett Gardner is a consideration for the Dodgers, though he is not atop their list of targets. Los Angeles is without Andre Ethier (leg) and Trayce Thompson (back), plus Yasiel Puig isn’t hitting, so they need outfield help. Howie Kendrick in left isn’t going too well. [Joel Sherman]
  • 9:30am: The Nationals were “deep in conversations” with the Yankees about Chapman before he was traded to the Cubs. They didn’t put enough on the table though, so to the Cubs he went. The Nats could change gears and focus on Miller now. [Buster Olney]
  • 10:21am: The Nats declared Joe Ross, Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner, Victor Robles, and Reynaldo Lopez off-limits in Chapman trade talks. That’s a lot of untouchables. The Indians were “seemingly” unwilling to part with top outfield prospects Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 10:51am: Rival clubs say the Yankees are buying and selling, and are looking for controllable pitching in particular. “We’re not playing in a narrow-minded world. We want to be open to any and all ideas. Buy, sell, long, short. It’s in our best interests to be creative and open-minded, not just now,” said Cashman. [Ken Rosenthal]

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.

2016 Midseason Review: The Outfielders

Now that the All-Star break has arrived, it’s time to look back and review the first half of the season. We’ve already looked at the catchers and infielders. Now it’s time to cover the outfielders.


The Yankees have been making an effort to get younger over the last 20 months or so, but the one place they’ve been unable to do so is the outfield. They’re locked into three veterans making good to great money, and despite their efforts to move one of them over the winter, the Yankees didn’t get an offer they liked.

Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran returned as the starting outfield this season, and all three have been among the most productive players on the team. In fact, along with Didi Gregorius and Brian McCann, I’d said they were three of the Yankees’ five most productive players in the first half. Let’s review their seasons.

Carlos Beltran: Still Great After All These Years

Last April, Beltran looked done. Like done done. He was 38 and coming off surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, and he was caught so far between fastballs and offspeed stuff that it seemed like he was guessing at the plate. It was ugly. But, once the calendar flipped to May, Beltran raked the rest of the way, and it’s carried over into this season.

Beltran was, by no small margin, the team’s best hitter in the first half. He’s hitting .299/.338/.550 (132 wRC+) with 19 homers in 320 plate appearances, and he leads the Yankees in … drum roll, please … AVG, SLG, ISO, OPS, OPS+, wOBA, wRC+, doubles, homers, and RBI. Pretty much everything except OBP. (He’s fourth in OBP.) Carlos is 17th among the 167 qualified hitters in SLG and 21st in ISO, and he’s 19th among all players in homers. He hasn’t hit for this kind of power since he was in the prime of his career with the Mets.

Source: FanGraphsCarlos Beltran

The signs of aging are there. Beltran walks less (5.3%) and strikes out more (18.4%) than he did during his prime, and good fastballs have given him a hard time, but otherwise he’s still a very smart hitter with power who seems to have a knack for understanding how he’s being pitched. He’s even hitting lefties better than he has in years, putting up a 167 wRC+ against southpaws in 2016 after having a 75 wRC+ against them from 2014-15.

Beltran’s offense has been better than I think anyone could have reasonably expected. Even as good as he was from May through the end of the season last year, it wasn’t crazy to think the 39-year-old would slip some this year. That’s baseball. Instead, Beltran has been a monster at the dish and he has been since Opening Day, really. He hasn’t had any sort of extended slump this year. Most players will hit the skids for two or three weeks at some point. Not Carlos.

As you know, offense is pretty much the only Beltran provides these days. He doesn’t run well and he’s a terrible defender in right field. The Yankees have been able to give him more time at DH this year, first because Alex Rodriguez got hurt, and then because they’re flat out benching A-Rod. Beltran seems to be running better this year than the last two years, and call me a cynic, but I can’t help but that think that’s tied to his upcoming free agency. He’s playing for a contract and might be in a little better shape this year. Either well, Beltran has been the team MVP so far.

Second Half Outlook: One of three things will happen: One, the Yankees remain in the postseason hunt and they keep Beltran for a second half push. Two, the Yankees fall out of the race and trade Beltran to a contender at the deadline. Three, the Yankees don’t contend and don’t trade Beltran. Clearly, the third option would be the worst. I’d like to see the Yankees contend, but the team isn’t cooperating, which makes a trade the best outcome. Carlos definitely played his way into some nice trade value in the first half.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Separating The Player From The Contract

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

It’s impossible to look at Ellsbury and assess his play without thinking about his contract. He’s a good player making great player money, and so far this season Ellsbury has been exactly that: a good player. He owns a .279/.347/.398 (100 wRC+) batting line with four homers and 16 steals, and he’s stayed mostly healthy too. That’s always a question, unfortunately.

Ellsbury actually started this season rather slowly, hitting .235/.278/.341 (62 wRC+) with one homer and five steals in eight attempts in April. He’s since hit .297/.373/.421 (115 wRC+) with three homers and eleven steals in 15 chances. Ellsbury has also walked (9.9%) nearly as often as he’s struck out (10.7%). We haven’t seen the disruptive baserunning this year, which could be a product of age — 32-year-olds usually don’t run much — or a minor hip injury he dealt with earlier this season.

Defensively, Ellsbury has settled in after a weirdly poor start to the season. His days as a Gold Glover are over and really, at some point during the life of his contract he’ll have to shift to left field. Not too many 33+ year olds are running around playing center at a high level these days. Ellsbury’s range is still good and his arm … well sometimes his throws reach the cutoff man on one hop. Let’s leave it at that.

Relative to his contract, Ellsbury is performing well-below expectations and he’s not likely to get better as he approaches his mid-30s. Relative to other center fielders, Ellsbury is a solid player who is worth a roster spot on a contending team. When he gets hot, he gets really hot and can raise hell with his bat and his legs. He’s just not someone you want to pay $20M+ a year. What’s done is done though. Ellsbury has shaken off that slow start and is one of the more productive players on the team.

Second Half Outlook: Last season Ellsbury started well, then crashed horribly after returning from a knee injury. He’s healthy now and the outlook going forward is much more promising. Ellsbury is a good all-around player, and now that he’s hitting second rather than leading off, he figures to get some more opportunities to do damage with men on base. For the Yankees to have any chance at the postseason, Ellsbury is probably going to have to play at an All-Star level in the second half. He’s vital to their success.

Brett Gardner: Same Ol’ Brett, Just Without The Power

Brett Gardner is one boring baseball player. He’s hitting .257 with a .353 OBP this season. Last year he hit .256 with a .343 OBP. His career averages? A .263 AVG and a .346 OBP. Boring! Outliers are much more fun. Gardner is reliably productive each and every year even though a large segment of the fan base seems to think otherwise.

The difference between 2016 Gardner and pre-2016 Gardner is his power, which was never his calling card anyway, but still. Look:

Source: FanGraphsBrett Gardner

Gardner hit his power peak at ages 29-31 thanks in part to former hitting coach Kevin Long, who got him to be a little more aggressive and hunt fastballs early in the count. Gardner’s power peak was basically a league average ISO, but this year he’s well below that with a .098 ISO. He’s hit five homers this year, his fewest in the first half since 2011, when he hit four. (Not counting his injury shortened 2012 season.)

Gardner’s power outage is tied directly to his ground ball percentage. He’s put a career-high 55.2% of his batted balls on the ground this year, up from 45.3% last year and 41.7% the year before. Furthermore, when he pulls the ball, Gardner is putting it on the ground 69.9% of the time. Two years ago it was 49.7%. That’s no way for a left-handed hitter to take advantage of Yankee Stadium‘s short right field porch.

Offensively, Gardner is doing just about everything he usually does except hit the ball out of the park. He’s hitting in the .255-.260 range, he’s drawing a ton of walks (11.6%), and he’s going to end up with 20+ steals again. The over-the-fence power isn’t there like it has been the last few years though. Don’t get me wrong, no one was expecting Gardner to swat 20+ dingers this year, but he might not even get to ten this season.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

On top of the offense is Gardner’s defense, which remains comfortably above-average and actually seems better this year than it was the last two years. Maybe it’s just me. The various stats like UZR and DRS agree, but eh. Let’s not rely on half-seasons of defensive stats. Between the solid defense and team-leading OBP, Gardner is once again one of the most productive players on the Yankees. His power has gone missing, and the Yankees have compensated by putting him in the leadoff spot, where the lack of pop is less of an issue.

Second Half Outlook: Gardner has a recent history of fading in the second half, but as long as he’s healthy, I expect him to be rock solid. I suppose the Yankees could look to trade him as part of a deadline sell-off, though they figure to push Beltran a little harder in trade talks given his status as an impending free agent. As with Ellsbury, the Yankees will need Gardner to produce at a high level to make a run at a postseason spot.