Minors Notes: Top Triple-A & Breakout Prospects, Rodriguez

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The 2017 minor league season is officially over. Durham beat Memphis in the Triple-A Championship Game at PNC Field in Scranton last night. The Triple-A Championship Game rotates sites each year like an All-Star Game, and it just so happened to be played in Scranton this year. Too bad the RailRiders didn’t make it. Anyway, here are some minor league notes to check out.

Three Yankees among top International League prospects

Earlier this week Baseball America started their annual series looking at the top 20 prospects in each minor league. They covered the Triple-A International League (subs. req’d) yesterday, with Braves OF Ronald Acuna claiming the top spot. Three Yankees made the list (four if you count OF Dustin Fowler, who was traded away but makes the list at No. 17 due to his time with Scranton):

  • 9) RHP Chance Adams: “One evaluator said that between Adams’ four offerings, he has a chance for three above-average pitches with above-average control … He drew comparisons with Bud Norris and Jordan Zimmermann.”
  • 15) 3B Miguel Andujar: “Andujar drew rave reviews from managers and scouts for his uncanny ability to barrel baseballs with authority as well as his energetic nature on the field … He has a plus arm, quick-twitch actions and a strong work ethic at third base, but below-average footwork and hard hands could be too much to overcome.”
  • 16) OF Clint Frazier: “(Some) evaluators think he always will pair home runs with strikeouts and low batting averages because of a limiting, rigid swing. With sufficient pitch recognition, though, he can be an impact power hitter.”

Hmmm. I’m pretty sure I’m the biggest Andujar fan out there, but even I wouldn’t rank him above Frazier on a prospect list. Frazier seems like one of those prospects people look for reasons not to like. The kid has insane bat speed, the ball explodes off his bat, he works the count well, and he’s fine in either corner outfield spot. What’s the problem here? Anyway, in the chat Carlos Collazo said SS Gleyber Torres would’ve ranked in the top three had he not gotten hurt and fallen short of the playing time minimum. SS Tyler Wade was a consideration for the list as well.

McKinney to begin working out at first base

OF Billy McKinney, who will be added to the 40-man roster after the season, is going to begin working out at first base in Instructional League, reports Robert Pimpsner. Sounds like an assignment to the Arizona Fall League in possible as well, though the Yankees already have a first baseman going to the desert (1B Chris Gittens) and their position player spots are full. Someone could get be getting pulled though. We’ll see.

McKinney, 23, came over from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade and hit .277/.338/.483 (124 wRC+) with a career high 16 home runs in 124 games between Double-A and Triple-A this summer. He’s a bat first prospect — his defense in the corner outfield is not great — so it makes sense to increase his versatility and get him time at first base. We still don’t know whether Greg Bird can stay healthy and/or produce consistently. Given the team’s outfield glut, getting McKinney familiar with first base seems like a no-brainer.

Loaisiga, Widener among top 2018 breakout candidates


The crew at Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d) posted a list of ten breakout candidates for the 2018 season, and two of the ten are Yankees: RHP Jonathan Loaisiga and RHP Taylor Widener. Keith Law had good things to say about Loaisiga last week. Widener was a reliever in the college before the Yankees moved him into the rotation, Chance Adams style. A quick recap of the write-ups:

  • Loaisiga: “(He) features a potentially plus fastball-curveball combination with the ability to throw either pitch for strikes in any count. The fastball consistently hovers around 95 (t97) with late movement … expect him to start shooting up prospect lists.”
  • Widener: “Widener was in the low-to-mid-90s with the fastball, topping out at 96, and it was moving around pretty good … Widener commanded it like a good Double-A starting prospect, not a guy making his first Double-A appearance … Widener projects as an interesting mid-rotation prospect at the upside, with a more likely outcome as a good reliever.”

So I guess Johnny Lasagna being a prospect is a thing now? He originally signed with the Giants out of Nicaragua back in 2013, but they released him a year later after some injury issues. The Yankees picked him up, he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery last year, and came back looking good this year. Loaisiga turns 23 in November, and he’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 lbs., plus he has an injury history, so there are some things working against him. Still, the Yankees picked him up off the scrap heap, and now he’s being written up as a breakout prospect. Pretty cool.

Rodriguez is “99%” sure he’s retiring

C Eddy Rodriguez, who spent the last three seasons with Triple-A Scranton (and part of one season with Double-A Trenton) is “99%” sure he’s retiring, reports D.J. Eberle. For much of this year Rodriguez was third on the catcher depth chart while C Kyle Higashioka was hurt, though he never did get a call-up. His one MLB cameo came with the Padres in 2012. He took Johnny Cueto deep in his first at-bat.

Rodriguez, who defected from Cuba with his family when he was a kid, is still only 31 years old. He’s not much of a hitter — he hit .189/.240/.308 (51 wRC+) in 446 plate appearances with the RailRiders the last two years — but he’s long been regarded as a great defender and clubhouse guy. Rodriguez wouldn’t reveal his post-playing days plan to Eberle, but he seems like the kind of guy we’ll see on a Yankees minor league coaching staff/instructor list in the near future. Either way, the Yankees need a new veteran good guy backup catcher for Scranton next year.

Saturday Links: Judge, Playoffs, Cave, Automatic Strike Zone

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox will continue their three-game weekend series later tonight at Fenway Park. That’s a 7pm ET start. Remember when they used to play baseball on Saturday afternoons? That was fun. Anyway, here are some links and notes to check out until first pitch.

Yankees not considering moving Judge to first base

According to David Lennon and Bob Klapisch, the Yankees have not considering moving Aaron Judge to first base to unclog the outfield logjam and potentially address first base long-term. Judge did play first base in high school, you know. He moved to the outfield in college because Fresno State already had a pretty good first baseman. Even if the Yankees were considering moving Judge, they wouldn’t do it midseason. They’d wait until Spring Training.

Two thoughts on this. One, Judge’s right field defense is way too good right now to move him. He’s an asset out there, particularly his throwing. Move him to first base and you’re wasting his arm. And two, I think it’s only a matter of time until Judge winds up at first base permanently. There’s a reason you don’t see many players that size running around the outfield. It’s tough on the knees and tough on the body. That doesn’t mean Judge will have to move to first base next year. But maybe in four or five years? Yeah, it’s possible. Right now though, it is not a consideration for the Yankees, and that is absolutely the right move in my opinion.

Hal says missing postseason would be a “failure”

It seems the Yankees have gone from “World Series or bust” to “transition year” to “postseason or bust” within the last 18 months or so. Earlier this week, Hal Steinbrenner said it would be a “failure” if the Yankees missed the playoffs this year. “If we don’t make the playoffs, it’s a failure … It’s been a tough last two months for the most part. But I think they’re coming out of it … (We’re) going to have a strong last five, six weeks,” said Hal to Anthony Castrovince.

The continued shift in expectations this year has been pretty fascinating. The Yankees sold at the trade deadline last year and, for the most part, I think people considered this a “step back before taking a step forward” year. Break in some young players, deal with the growing pains, then gear up for 2018. Instead, the young players hit the ground running and the Yankees got off to a great start. They’ve been a .500-ish team for three months now though. It went from “rebuilding year” to “let’s shock the world!” to “please just get a wildcard spot.” If the Yankees miss the postseason now, it’ll feel like a disappointment. Five months ago, it was kinda expected.

Four Yankees among most improved prospects

Cave. (AP)
Cave. (AP)

Dan Szymborski used his ZiPS system to find the position player and pitching prospects who have improved their stock the most this season. In a nutshell, he compared each player’s preseason projection to their current projection. He lists 18 prospects total and four are Yankees:

  • RHP Chance Adams: 5.32 ERA preseason to 4.35 ERA now
  • OF Jake Cave: .617 OPS preseason to .709 OPS now
  • 1B Garrett Cooper: .679 OPS preseason to .751 OPS now
  • RHP Domingo German: 5.70 ERA preseason to 4.88 ERA now

SS Gleyber Torres and OF Billy McKinney were among the honorable mentions. The Cave projection is most interesting to me because ZiPS basically says he made the jump from non-prospect to potential fourth outfielder this season. From the write-up:

Of the 1,400 projections for hitters run by ZiPS coming into 2017 (about 1,250 “official” ones and 150 for prospects at very low levels for which I have little confidence), only four players got a larger boost than Cave’s 92-point OPS boost: Ryan Zimmerman, Aaron Judge, Justin Smoak and Zack Cozart.

ZiPS still isn’t convinced Cave will be more than a fourth outfielder, but it’s damn hard to add 100 points of OPS to a projection in four months.

Huh. Cave will be a minor league free agent this offseason and I think it’s likely the Yankees will add him to the 40-man roster and make sure he doesn’t get away. He is going to be 25 in December, so he’s not super young, but hit .343/.387/.610 (176 wRC+) with 13 homers in 54 Triple-A games while playing center field, and you’re going to make yourself worth keeping around.

Electronic strike zone not on the horizon

No surprise here, but commissioner Rob Manfred told Anthony Castrovince the league is not close to implementing an electronic strike zone. The technology isn’t there yet, and even once it is available, Manfred is leery of moving away from human umpires. Balls and strikes are everything to umpires. I suspect they’ll fight an electronic strike zone tooth and nail when the time comes.

Personally, I don’t have much interest in an electronic strike zone. Yes, I would like the umpires to be better behind the plate, but I feel like an electronic zone would take more away from the game than it would provide. Consistency is boring. Also, I get the sense that shifting to an electronic strike zone would have some unintended consequences. We could see some pretty drastic shifts in pitcher (and therefore hitter) performance with an unambiguous zone.

Jeter becomes a dad

And finally, Derek Jeter is now officially a father. Derek and Hannah welcomed their daughter, Bella Raine Jeter, into the world on Thursday, it was announced on The Players’ Tribune (of course). Congrats to them. Not a bad gene pool to come from, huh?

Sunday Links: Walker, Best Tools, Bullpen, Food Safety

Random photo is random. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Random photo is random. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox will wrap up their three-game weekend series with the ESPN Sunday Night Game later today. The game should end sometime Monday morning. Anyway, here are some bits of news and notes to check out.

Yankees, Mets had Walker deal

More Yankees-Mets trade deadline drama. According to Mike Puma, the Yankees and Mets agreed to a Neil Walker trade prior to the trade deadline, but the Yankees backed out due to medical concerns. Puma says the Mets believe the Yankees used the medical concerns as an excuse to back out after finishing the Sonny Gray trade. Hmmm. Walker returned from a partially torn hamstring a few days before the trade deadline and had back surgery late last year.

Walker, 31, was traded to the Brewers last night and is hitting .264/.339/.442 (107 wRC+) with ten home runs in 299 plate appearances this season. Although he’s primarily a second baseman, the Mets also used Walker at first and third bases. He’s an impending free agent and the Yankees would have presumably used Walker at second base until Starlin Castro returned, then shifted him into a utility role. Eh, whatever. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little sick of this Yankees-Mets drama.

Baseball America’s best tools survey

One of my favorite features of the year is Baseball America’s annual best tools survey. They poll managers and coaches and scouts about the best tools and players in their leagues, from MLB all the way down to Low-A. Here’s where the various Yankees ranked:

Bell, the longtime big leaguer, is in his first season managing High-A Tampa after spending 2013 as the Pirates hitting coach and 2014-15 as the Reds bench coach. I’m curious to see what the Yankees do with him going forward. If Bell is a highly regarded managerial prospect as the survey suggests, either the Yankees are going to have to move him up the ladder, or they’ll lose him to an organization that will move him up.

Also, must be a down year for relievers in the Sally League, huh? Lane, who has since been promoted to High-A Tampa, is a 23-year-old former tenth round pick, and a sinker/slider lefty with middling velocity and a low arm slot. A classic left-on-left matchup profile. He’s got really good numbers this year, throwing 57 innings with a 1.26 ERA (2.26 FIP) and strong strikeout (27.1%) and walk (6.7%) rates. Not sure he’s much of a prospect though.

Yankees top ZiPS bullpen projections

Not surprisingly, the Yankees sit atop the ZiPS bullpen projections for the rest of the season, so says Dan Szymborski. Projections don’t really mean anything, of course. They’re not predictions. They’re more like an estimate of talent level. Anyway, here’s what ZiPS has to say about New York’s new-look bullpen:

Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman was already one of the best, if not THE best, one-two relief punch in baseball. Now you add in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, the latter possibly the most underappreciated player acquired this deadline. Even Adam Warren has been lights-out, with a 1.97 ERA/2.69 FIP. Not to mention the team’s remaining big acquisition: Adding the complete absence of Tyler Clippard.

The bullpen before the Robertson/Kahnle trade: 3.39 ERA (3.33 FIP). The bullpen since the Robertson/Kahnle trade: 2.09 ERA (2.64 FIP). That 3.39 ERA (3.33 FIP) before the trade is a little deceiving too, because Jonathan Holder and especially Clippard had become wholly unreliable. They started the season well before crashing hard. The Yankees needed to fix their bullpen at the trade deadline, and they did exactly that. Too bad the starters are all getting hurt and the offense has since gone in the tank.

Yankees lagging in food safety rankings

Earlier this week Tanner Walters, using public inspection records, compiled ballpark food safety rankings. How clean are the facilities, is everything stored properly, so on and so forth. Yankee Stadium ranks 21st among the 28 parks in the rankings (data wasn’t available for Progressive Field or Comerica Park), and ranking 21st among 28 teams seems not good? From Walters:

Yankee Stadium led the league with critical violations (62% of its stands), and an infestation of flies highlighted the inspections from late July in the Bronx. Inspectors handed out citations at over a dozen food entities around the ballpark for observation of flies and improper vermin-proofing. The city doesn’t give detailed observations in its reports, but nearly a quarter of the stadium’s violations came from improper maintenance for non-food surfaces. Last year, even without a fly problem, Yankee Stadium would have finished in the same spot in our rankings. The ballpark had fewer overall violations but more that were critical, mostly from the restaurants and suites.

Kinda gross! Even with recent improvements, the concessions at Yankee Stadium lag big time in quality and selection behind the rest of the league — the concessions at Citi Field are so much better it’s not even funny, and it’s not just Shake Shack — and apparently they’re lacking in cleanliness and proper food safety too. Yuck.

Thoughts on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 prospects

(Al Bello/Getty)
Frazier. (Al Bello/Getty)

Late last week, Baseball America released their updated list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. White Sox 3B Yoan Moncada remains in the top spot, which isn’t too surprising. The Moncada hype train still has a full head of steam.

Seven Yankees made the updated top 100 list, the same number that made the preseason list. A few of the names have changed, however. Here’s where the Yankees rank:

3. SS Gleyber Torres (Preseason: 5th)
36. OF Blake Rutherford (Preseason: 45th)
48. OF Clint Frazier (Preseason: 39th)
55. RHP Chance Adams (Preseason: Not ranked)
70. OF Estevan Florial (Preseason: Not ranked)
72. LHP Justus Sheffield (Preseason: 91st)
88. OF Dustin Fowler (Preseason: Not ranked)

Adams, Florial, and Fowler jump into the top 100 while preseason No. 85 Jorge Mateo (poor performance), No. 87 RHP James Kaprielian (injury), and No. 90 OF Aaron Judge (graduated to MLB) fell out of the top 100. Looking back, it’s pretty funny Judge slipped from 53th to 76th to 90th on Baseball America’s preseason top 100 lists the last three years, and now he’s an AL MVP candidate (favorite?) as a rookie. Good times. Anyway, I have some thoughts on the latest top 100, so let’s get to them.

1. Gleyber’s injury hasn’t changed his prospect status. Despite undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery a few weeks ago, Torres remains on the very short list of the best prospects in baseball. That indicates the injury to his non-throwing arm hasn’t soured anyone on his long-term outlook. The lost development time stinks, no doubt about that, but it’s a correctable injury to his least important limb. (That sounds bad. You know what I mean.) It was a freak injury and a pretty rare injury, but there is some precedent here. Reds shortstop Zack Cozart needed Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow in August 2011. He tore his ligament in a collision at second base. Cozart had surgery in August and was ready for Spring Training. He was in Cincinnati’s lineup on Opening Day 2012. Torres had his surgery in June, two months earlier in the season than Cozart. And Cozart has had no trouble with the elbow since. Tommy John surgery is really bad and always risky. In Gleyber’s case, it’s not as bad as it would be with his throwing arm, and because of that, he remains a tippy top prospect.

2. Why did Rutherford and Frazier switch spots? For all intents and purposes, Rutherford and Frazier have switched spots since the preseason list. They’re still pretty close together — they’re separated by 12 spots on the midseason top 100 — but they did flip. For some reason Baseball America now prefers Rutherford whereas four months ago they preferred Frazier. Hmmm. What changed? Frazier, 22, hit .257/.345/.474 (123 wRC+) with 12 homers, 21.3% strikeouts, and 11.6% walks in 73 Triple-A games before getting called up. Rutherford, 19, is hitting .278/.343/.384 (111 wRC+) with one homers, 19.3% strikeouts, and 8.8% walks in 64 Low-A games. Which performance is more impressive? It’s Frazier for me. Pretty clearly too. But it’s not just about numbers though. The scouting report will forever be more important than the stats. I’m curious to know why Rutherford climbed (slightly) and Frazier fell (slightly). If anything, Frazier’s stock is up in my eyes, and not only because he’s now socking dingers in the big leagues. Forget about all that for a second. Frazier is better commanding the strike zone this year and he’s tapping into his power more often. He hit 12 homers in 73 Triple-A games. His previous career high was 16 homers in 119 games last year. I dunno. Feels like ever since the trade, people have been looking for reasons to dog Frazier, whether it’s silly stories about his attitude or nitpicking his game and dropping him in prospect rankings. Dropping him below Rutherford (who is awesome!) seems like more of the same.

3. I am still the low man on Adams. Adams keeps climbing prospect rankings and that’s pretty cool to see. The reliever-to-start conversion couldn’t be going any better. I ranked Adams as the tenth best prospect in the system in my most recent top 30 list, behind three players who did not make Baseball America’s midseason top 100. That isn’t to say I think he’s a bad prospect. He’s not! He’s really good. But ranking Adams in the middle of a top 50 list suggests you think he can be an impact pitcher soon, or that he’s very likely to remain a starter long-term, and I’m not sure I buy either right now. I have some reservations about his overall command, about the life and plane on his fastball, and about his complete inability to keep Double-A and Triple-A hitters on the ground this year. A 42.7% ground ball rate at those levels is pretty darn scary. Just about every pitching prospect worth a damn puts up good grounder numbers in the minors simply by overwhelming all the low quality hitters you inevitably find at every level. Adams hasn’t been able to do that. Hopefully I’m wrong and he’ll soon be an impact pitcher for the Yankees. The fact the Yankees haven’t called him up despite their pitching needs — even as a reliever at this point — is a pretty good indication the team doesn’t consider Adams ready to help, however. I feel like a spot in the middle of the top 100 is a bit aggressive, but to each his own.

Florial. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Florial. (Rob Carr/Getty)

4. Florial has a really unique profile and I don’t know how to rank him. So far this season the 19-year-old Florial is hitting .300/.383/.502 (152 wRC+) with eleven homers, 15 steals in 21 attempts, and an 11.4% walks in 74 Low-A games. That is across the board excellence for a kid who is more than two years younger than the average South Atlantic League player. At the same time, Florial has a 30.2% strikeout rate, which is awfully high. You don’t often see a player pair that strikeout rate with the kind of overall success at the plate Florial is having. It’s very unique, though we are watching Judge do the same thing in the big leagues, so it’s not unprecedented. Does the strikeout rate mean Florial will fail against more advanced pitchers as he climbs the ladder? Or does the strong overall numbers indicate he will make the adjustment and cut down on the whiffs as he moves forward? This much is clear: Florial’s tools are off the charts. He’s got power from the left side of the plate, he runs well, he’s a very good center fielder, and he has a rocket arm. Based on the natural talent and overall production, Florial is a top 100 caliber prospect. I’m just not sure what that strikeout rate means. I’m more fascinated than alarmed.

5. Mateo could wind up back on the top 100 soon. Mateo has been tearing the cover off the ball since being bumped up to Double-A Trenton. He hit .240/.288/.400 (97 wRC+) in 69 games while repeating High-A and is at .417/.533/.750 (249 wRC+) in 13 games since being promoted. I mean, 13 games is 13 games, we probably shouldn’t read too much into them, but it sure is nice to see Mateo raking for the first time in more than a year. I don’t think Baseball America was wrong to drop him out of their midseason top 100. Not at all. That said, Mateo certainly has the tools to climb back into the top 100 in the future, and his Double-A performance is going to make people take notice. The Yankees have plenty of top 100 caliber prospects and I feel like they’re most willing to part with Mateo in a trade despite his upside. His success in Double-A is perhaps rebuilding some trade value leading up to the deadline and the offseason. It can’t hurt. That’s for sure.

6. Andujar keeps getting snubbed. I am the low man on Adams and the high man on Miguel Andujar, it seems. I’m not saying Andujar is a no doubt top 100 prospect, but I do think he deserves serious consideration, and he’s yet to sneak into any top 100 list. For shame. Andujar is hitting .302/.336/.479 (121 wRC+) between Double-A and Triple-A this year and he’s gone from a 98 wRC+ in 2015 to a 111 wRC+ in 2016 to a 121 wRC+ in 2017, so he’s trending in the right direction. That said, Andujar has to improve his defense, and I guess that’s why he’s not making any top 100 lists. Not everyone is sold on him remaining at third. Defense is the No. 1 priority right now and I’m glad the Yankees are letting him work on it in Triple-A. I don’t want Andujar playing first base and I don’t want him learning the hot corner on the fly in the big leagues. Third base in Triple-A is the appropriate spot for him. Robinson Cano never made a top 100 list, you know. Not once with any publication. I’m not saying Andujar will be the next Cano — Robbie is about 90% of the way to the Hall of Fame at this point, it’s not pair to compare any prospect to him — but in a few years, I definitely think he’s the type of player who will have people saying “how was this guy never on a top 100 list?”

DotF: Mateo extends hitting streak in Trenton’s win

Got a bunch of notes to get us started:

  • Baseball America released their midseason top 100 prospects list earlier today. Seven Yankees made it: SS Gleyber Torres (3rd), OF Blake Rutherford (36th), OF Clint Frazier (48th), RHP Chance Adams (55th), OF Estevan Florial (70th), LHP Justus Sheffield (72nd), and OF Dustin Fowler (88th). I’ll have some thoughts on this next week.
  • The Yankees signed Alabama-Birmingham RHP Garrett Whitlock (18th round) to a $247,500 bonus, reports Jim Callis. That is over the $125,000 slot for each pick after the tenth round, so the remaining $122,500 counts against the bonus pool. The signing deadline was 4pm ET today. Here is our Draft Pool tracker.
  • 1B Mike Ford (hamstring) and RHP Ronald Herrera (shoulder) were placed on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, the team announced. Ford isn’t expected to be out long. Also, RHP Bryan Mitchell was sent from Triple-A Scranton to High-A Tampa. That allows him to make a start next week during the Triple-A All-Star break.
  • Two Yankees made Baseball America’s Prospect Team of the Month for June and they are not among the team’s top prospects: 2B Nick Solak and RHP Zack Littell. Hooray farm system depth! Solak hit .392/.453/.595 (204 wRC+) with three homers in June. Goodness. Littell had a 0.58 ERA (1.92 FIP) in 31 innings.
  • A bunch of Yankees made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet: SS Jorge Mateo (7th), RHP Dillon Tate (8th), RHP Jorge Guzman (11th), and OF Billy McKinney (16th). That’s a good sign. Mateo, Tate, and McKinney are trying to rebuild prospect stock right now while Guzman is trying to establish his.

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-4, 1 K
  • RF Billy McKinney: 0-3, 1 K
  • SS Abe Avelino: 0-3
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 3/4 GB/FB — 62 of 95 pitches were strikes (65%) … he’s walked at least three batters in seven of his 17 starts this year, which is a few too many
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 28 of 44 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 14 of 21 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

DotF: Scranton walks off with a win behind Andujar, McKinney

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the standings, so let’s do that today. Here are the day’s notes first:

  • LHP Justus Sheffield was placed on the Double-A Trenton disabled list with a right oblique strain, the team announced. Manager Bobby Mitchell admitted to Kyle Franko it is a pretty significant strain. Sucks. There is no timetable for Sheffield’s return. At least it’s not his arm, I guess.
  • Baseball Prospectus released their midseason top 50 prospects list, which includes three Yankees: SS Gleyber Torres (7th), RHP Chance Adams (37th), and Sheffield (47th). Prospect eligible players in the big leagues (so OF Clint Frazier, OF Dustin Fowler, and IF Tyler Wade) were not included, ditto 2017 draftees.
  • OF Zack Zehner and LHP Nestor Cortes have been added the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game, it was announced. Zehner is replacing 1B Mike Ford (promoted) on the roster and Cortes is replacing Sheffield.
  • Welcome back, Mason Williams. He cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. That’s good. Never hurts to have a spare center fielder lying around.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Buffalo in eleven innings, walk-off style) they are 54-32 and have a one-game lead in the North Division

  • DH Jake Cave: 2-6, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-6, 2 RBI — two-run walk-off single in the 11th
  • 1B Mike Ford: 3-4, 1 R — Conor Foley says Ford left the game with hamstring soreness and he’ll be reevaluated tomorrow … the first base depth chart is really, really thin right now
  • RF Billy McKinney: 3-5
  • 2B Jonathan Diaz: 3-5, 1 R, 1 K — first game back with the RailRiders after yesterday’s minor trade
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 7/3 GB/FB — 67 of 92 pitches were strikes (73%) … 28/5 K/BB in 28 innings around the shoulder injury
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 13 of 24 pitches were strikes (54%) … he’s going to have to do better than that to get back to the big leagues
  • RHP Ben Heller: 2 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 18 of 28 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Let’s have the innings limit conversation the Yankees say they haven’t had yet

Sevy. (Presswire)
Sevy. (Presswire)

Two nights ago Luis Severino chucked seven innings of one-run ball against the White Sox, striking out a career high 12 in the process. He was awesome. (The bullpen less so.) Severino has been New York’s best starting pitcher all year — that includes the Mets! — and after his rough 2016 season, this is the guy everyone hoped to see. The top of the rotation ability is there and we’re seeing it consistently.

Severino, who is the youngest pitcher on the roster at 23 years and 129 days old, leads the Yankees with 94.1 innings pitched this season. He threw 151.1 innings last year between Triple-A and MLB, down slightly from the 161.2 innings he threw in 2015. Severino is on pace to blow by that number and set a new career high in innings this year, and that’s good! You want to keep building him up.

It has to be done carefully, however. Severino is still a young man and he’s a very important part of the Yankees’ long-term future. He could be fronting the rotation as soon as next season. Heck, he’s doing it right now. The Yankees will be careful with Severino and their other young pitchers because it’s the smart thing to do. And yet, earlier this week Joe Girardi told Brendan Kuty the Yankees have not yet discussed innings limits. Why don’t we do that now?

This is not just about Severino, remember. Jordan Montgomery is in the big league rotation as well, and the Yankees have a few other young pitchers in Triple-A who need to have their workloads monitored. The Verducci Rule, which says no pitcher under 25 should increase his workload more than 30 innings from one year to the next, is outdated. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every pitcher is different and their workload limits should be tailored to their specific needs.

Last week I wrote about both Domingo Acevedo and Chance Adams as bullpen options, and in that post I looked at their workload situations. I guesstimated Adams could throw 160 innings this year while Acevedo is a tick behind at 140 innings or so. Here are the innings totals for the team’s other young arms over the years:

Cessa German Green Mitchell Montgomery Severino
2014 118.1 123.1 130.1 114 107.2 113
2015 139.1 0 148.2 126.2 134.1 161.2
2016 147.2 49.2 140.1 45 152 151.1
2017 so far 77.1 68.0 58 41 86.2 94.1
2017 pace 164.2 145 123.2 87.1 184.2 201

The Yankees have other young pitchers who could be call-up candidates, like Caleb Smith and Brady Lail, but those six in the table plus Adams and Acevedo seem to be the go-to options in whatever order. Heck, the six guys in the table are all in the big leagues right now. Anyway, let’s talk these workload situations out, shall we?

1. Are the Yankees really going to let Severino throw 200 innings? My guess is no. They might let him throw 180 innings, though pushing him up over 200 regular season innings doesn’t seem all that smart. (All bets are off in the postseason. It’s pedal to the metal in October.) Severino is too young and too important to the franchise long-term to put his health at risk. My guess is the Yankees have a soft innings cap in mind and will monitor Severino in the second half. They’ll work in extra rest days whenever possible and watch for signs of fatigue. And if he keeps throwing well, great. Getting to 200 innings is difficult to do anyway.

2. Cessa and Montgomery are in great shape. Both pitchers have been built up quite well over the years. Montgomery hasn’t missed a start since high school, and he’s got that big frame (6-foot-6 and 225 lbs.) that makes you think he’ll be able to chew up innings year after year. He’s on pace for 185-ish innings and that in no way seems to be a problem. That is the next step for Montgomery given his workloads the last few years.

As for Luis Cessa, he approached 150 innings last season, which in theory puts him in line for 180-ish innings this year. The thing is he spent some time in the bullpen earlier this year, and also as part of a six-man rotation with Triple-A Scranton, so his current innings total isn’t has high as you’d expect in late June. Most pitchers have about 17 starts left this season, and if Cessa averages six innings per start, that’ll get him to 180 innings almost on the nose. What are the chances of him making 17 starts and averaging six innings per start? Seems small.

Montgomery’s workload is in good shape because he’s been built up well the last few years. Cessa’s workload is in good shape because he’s been built up well and because his current innings total isn’t as high as most other full-time starters at this point of the season. He’s starting at a lower baseline from here on out.

3. Green might never start a game again. Chad Green is similar to Montgomery and Cessa in that he’s been built up well the last few years. He threw between 130-150 innings each year from 2014-16. Green would have thrown more last year and finished closer to 160 innings had he not come down with a season-ending elbow issue in September. The Yankees could probably ask him for 170 or so innings this year without a problem.

Here’s the thing though: Green is working as a reliever and has been for a while, and he’s really starting to find a home in the bullpen. His fastball plays up and he’s able to hide the fact he doesn’t have much of a changeup. I know Green made that one spot start a few weeks ago, but I don’t see that happening again. He’s been too good in relief and the bullpen has been too crummy overall to take him away. The Yankees surely sketched out some sort of workload limit for Green coming into this season. Now that he’s in the bullpen, he won’t come close to hitting it (whatever it is), and that’s okay.

Green. (Getty)
Green. (Getty)

4. Injuries complicate things. Both Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell had pretty serious injuries in recent seasons, which complicates their workload situations. German missed all of 2015 and the first half of 2016 with Tommy John surgery. This is his first full season with his new elbow ligament and I doubt the Yankees are going to push him all that hard. His previous career high are those 123.1 innings in 2013. That number, or something close to it, might be his limit this season. German is on pace for 145 innings right now, though the longer he stays in the bullpen, the less likely he is reach to that number.

Mitchell, meanwhile, broke his toe covering first base in Spring Training last year. It was a dumb, fluke injury that sidelined him for four months and cost him plenty of innings. He’ll exceed last year’s innings total within the next week. That said, Mitchell is 26 and this is his final minor league option year. It’s put up or shut up time, you know? That plus the fact he’s been over 100 innings several times in the past leads me to believe the Yankees are just going to let him keep throwing. They won’t be reckless about it, of course, but they’ll let him pitch. Also, remember, Mitchell has been in the bullpen for much of the season, so his current innings total is lower than it would be had he been starting.

* * *

Girardi said the Yankees have not discussed a workload limit for Montgomery and Severino, though I don’t buy that. Of course the team kick things around before the season. They do it with everyone. The Yankees and Girardi just don’t want to tell us what those limits are because there’s nothing to be gained from it. We’ve seen some ugly workload situations the last few years. Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey, etc. The Yankees want to avoid a situation like that, so they’re not going to tell us the workload limits. I don’t blame them.

Severino is going to be the young pitcher to watch going forward, for more reason than one. For starters, he’s awesome! Secondly, he’s on pace to top 200 innings as a 23-year-old, and the list of 23-year-olds to throw 200+ innings in recent years is a mixed bag:

  • Julio Teheran (221 innings in 2014)
  • Madison Bumgarner (201.1 innings in 2013)
  • Patrick Corbin (208.1 innings in 2013)
  • Clayton Kershaw (233.1 innings in 2011)
  • Trevor Cahill (207.2 innings in 2011)
  • Felix Hernandez (238.2 innings in 2009)
  • Jair Jurrjens (215 innings in 2009)
  • Chad Billingsley (200.2 innings in 2008)

Bumgarner, Kershaw, and Felix are great! Both Corbin and Jurrjens broke down almost immediately after their age 23 seasons, however. Billingsley and Cahill stayed productive a few more years before falling apart. Teheran endured a down age 24 season before getting things straightened out at age 25. Perhaps Severino will be the next Bumgarner or Kershaw or Felix. But do the Yankee want to risk him becoming Corbin or Jurrjens?

Severino threw enough innings the last two seasons that stretching him to 180 or so innings this year is not outrageous. And my guess is he has more of a soft cap. Like I said, the Yankees will watch him and look for signs of fatigue, and scale back when appropriate. The good news is both Montgomery and Cessa are in great shape with their workloads, ditto Mitchell to some degree, so if the Yankees do need to scale back on Severino at some point, they have the arms to cover those starts and innings.

The biggest workload limits are probably attached to German (Tommy John surgery in the not-too-distant past), Adams (converted reliever), and Acevedo (had some injuries last year). If we do see the Yankees shut someone down because they’ve thrown enough this year, it’s probably going to be one (or more) of those three. The guys on the big league roster are in good shape. That doesn’t mean the Yankees can throw caution to the win and let them pitch forever. It just means the chances of an innings cap related headache in September are relatively small.