Ranking the 40-Man Roster: Nos. 20-25

Over these next two weeks we’re going to subjectively rank and analyze every player on the Yankees’ 40-man roster — based on their short and long-term importance to the team — and you’re inevitably going to disagree with our rankings. We’ve already covered Nos. 26-31 and 32-40.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
Capuano. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

After spending the last two days looking at the 40-man roster players who might help the Yankees in some sort of limited capacity this coming season, we’re now getting to players expected to have regular roles during the 2015 season. We aren’t at the core of the roster yet, but some of these folks are more than fringe players.

Our 40-man roster ranking series continues today with Nos. 20-25, six spots split eventually between big league pitchers and prospects. There’s not much of a common theme in this group, that’s just the way the rankings fell. Boring, I know, but that’s the way it goes. Alright, let’s continue marching on …

No. 25: Chris Capuano

2015 Role: Fifth starter, maybe a swingman if a better rotation option comes along at some point. The Yankees re-signed Capuano to a little one-year contract worth $5M to add pitching depth and add some stability to the back of the rotation. Capuano did an alright job in pinstripes last year (4.25 ERA and 3.85 FIP in 12 starts) and the team will ask him to do more of the same in 2015.

Long-Term Role: Doesn’t really have one. I mean, yeah, the Yankees could always bring Capuano back in 2016, but he is very much a year to year guy at age 36. Maybe it’s more appropriate to call him a month to month guy instead. Capuano is nothing more than a stopgap rotation option. The Yankees just want him to soak up innings every fifth day and be a mentor to some of the younger pitchers on the staff. Capuano is important in 2015 because the rotation is full of injury concerns, though there’s no long-term plan here.

No. 24: Chasen Shreve

2015 Role: At worst, an up-and-down bullpen arm. At best, a bullpen fixture who serves as a reliable matchup lefty for Joe Girardi in the middle innings. The Yankees acquired the 24-year-old Shreve from the Braves in the Manny Banuelos trade a few weeks ago and while he isn’t guaranteed a roster spot come Opening Day, I think he is the leading candidate for the final bullpen spot. Either way, he’ll get a long look in Spring Training.

Long-Term Role: A bullpen regular. Shreve reinvented himself last season by simply airing it out — he stopped holding back velocity in an attempt to improve location, and the result was across the board improvement. Even to his walk rate. I don’t know if he has the pure stuff to be a late-inning reliever who can face both lefties and righties, but if the results stemming from the new approach are legit, Shreve is a guy who can hang around and contribute out of the bullpen for the next several years. I’m very intrigued by the pickup and am looking forward to seeing him this summer.

German. (Presswire)
German. (Presswire)

No. 23: Domingo German

2015 Role: Nothing at the MLB level. German came over from the Marlins in the five-player Martin Prado/Nathan Eovaldi trade after spending all of last season in Low Class-A. He’s on the 40-man roster because the Marlins opted to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft earlier this offseason. German will head to High-A Tampa this coming year and maybe, just maybe, he’ll earn a call-up to Double-A Trenton at midseason. I wouldn’t expect anything more than that.

Long-Term Role: German is one of the best pitching prospects in the organization — you could easily argue he’s the team’s second best pitching prospect behind non-40-man-roster guy Luis Severino — and that alone makes him an important part of the team’s future even if he won’t realistically make his MLB debut until 2016, if not later.

The Yankees want German to do one of two things: either become a long-term fixture in their rotation or continue improving his prospect stock so they can use him as the centerpiece in a trade. He’s much closer to the latter than he is the former right now. At 22, German is the youngest pitcher on the 40-man roster by 16 months and the second youngest player on the 40-man roster overall (behind Gary Sanchez), and that alone makes him an important part of the organization. He’s a key piece moving forward.

No. 22: David Carpenter

2015 Role: Setup man, replacing Shawn Kelley. Carpenter has been setting up Craig Kimbrel these last two years — he came over with Shreve in the Banuelos trade — and he’ll continue to work important innings in New York. It remains to be seen how the ninth inning will shake out, but if Dellin Betances gets the closer’s job, Carpenter is the leading candidate to be Joe Girardi’s right-handed complement to Andrew Miller.

Long-Term Role: Still setup man. Carpenter is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through the 2017 season, so he’s not going anywhere unless he’s just so terrible the team dumps him. The Yankees basically reacquired Kelley. He and Carpenter are very similar pitchers — fastball, slider, lots of strikeouts, lots of fly balls — and they’ll wind up filling the same role in pinstripes.

No. 21: Justin Wilson

2015 Role: Middle reliever but not just as a left-handed specialist. Wilson, who came over from the Pirates in the Frankie Cervelli swap, has a big fastball and a history of striking batters out and neutralizing both lefties and righties. The shaky control means he might never be a regular high-leverage option, but Wilson is a solid reliever who won’t have to be hidden from righties.

Long-Term Role: Wilson won’t qualify for free agency until after the 2018 season, so he’s expected to be a staple in the bullpen for the next several years. If the Carpenter is the next Kelley, Wilson is the next Boone Logan, a lefty with power stuff but questionable strike-throwing ability. Even with Miller on board, Wilson has a chance to grow into a traditional setup role if his control improves a la Logan because he isn’t held back by platoon splits.

Austin. (Star-Ledger)
Austin. (Star-Ledger)

No. 20: Tyler Austin

2015 Role: These last two seasons have been physically tough for Austin, who suffered a bone bruise in his wrist in April 2013 and had it linger all the way into the middle of the 2014 season. (It didn’t help that he played through it for most of 2013). He also missed several weeks with a hamstring strain last year.

Austin mashed before and after the wrist issues — he put up a .302/.355/.487 (133 wRC+) line in the final two months of the 2014 regular season and did more of the same in the Arizona Fall League (135 wRC+) — and he was added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He’s headed to Triple-A Scranton to start the year and could bypass Ramon Flores as the first outfielder to get called up when help is needed. So I guess that means his immediate role is up-and-down outfielder.

Long-Term Role: He’s not expected to be a star, but Austin has legitimate upside as an everyday MLB player, most likely in right field. He has also seen time at first and third bases in his career, but the hot corner ain’t happening. The Yankees have a full outfield at the moment, though Carlos Beltran will be an injury risk from now through the end of his contract. Among players on the 40-man, Austin has by far the best chance to come up, replace an injured outfielder, and make the team keep him in the lineup with his play.

The Yankees have a small wave of promising position player prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, and Austin is in position to be among the first to get an opportunity in an everyday role. He could replace Garrett Jones as the part-time right fielder, part-time first baseman, part-time DH as soon as 2016 — Austin is a righty while Jones is a lefty, but that’s not a huge deal — before settling into a full-time role. Offense is at a premium and Austin has never not hit when healthy. If he contributes at the plate at the MLB level, he’ll stick around.

Coming Thursday: Nos. 17-19. Two pitchers at different points of their careers and a potential impact position player prospect.

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Capuano a nice depth pickup, but only part of the rotation solution

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

The Yankees came into the offseason in a need of at least one starting pitcher — preferably two! — and that was before they used Shane Greene to acquire Didi Gregorius. After that trade they definitely needed two starters. New York acquired one of those starters yesterday by re-signing Chris Capuano to a reasonable one-year contract, and Brian Cashman made it clear Capuano will be in the rotation during a conference call yesterday afternoon.

“He’ll come to Spring Training as a starter. He’s coming in as one of our starters,” said the GM. Capuano joins CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Masahiro Tanaka as rotation locks, assuming Sabathia’s knee and Pineda’s shoulder and Tanaka’s elbow make it through camp in one piece. Both David Phelps and Adam Warren are coming to Spring Training as starters, and Cashman also named Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley, Jose DePaula, and Esmil Rogers as internal rotation options.

Needless to say, there’s nothing particularly exciting about bringing Capuano back. He’s a boringly serviceable back-end starter who seems to pitch just well enough to keep his team in the game while occasionally throwing a gem. (Over the last four years, Capuano has as many starts with an 85+ Game Score as Zack Greinke and Doug Fister. It seems like once or twice a year he’ll unexpectedly throw a masterpiece.) Is he the fourth starter we were all hoping for? Nah. But does he help? Sure.

And Capuano is nothing more than that, a help. He’s not the answer to the team’s rotation problems all by himself. He’s just a very small part of the solution, a solution that frankly the Yankees might not completely find this winter. There are two top free agent starters still on the board (Max Scherzer and James Shields), no more mid-rotation guys, and then a whole lotta Capuano types and reclamation projects. Unless Hiroki Kuroda decides to continue playing*, those middle of the rotation starters are all gone.

* I get the feeling that if Kuroda does decide to continue playing, there will be one big announcement. “Hiroki Kuroda has decided to pitch in 2015 … and oh by the way the Yankees have signed him for one year and $15M.” Something like that. I don’t think it’ll be a prolonged free agency.

“We are never done or finished, so I will continue to be engaged in the free-agent and trade markets … I think it’s safe to assume we are open to any legitimate possibilities to improve our club,” said Cashman during yesterday’s conference call (via Chad Jennings and George King). “Obviously making sense in the current circumstances that we have … The preference would be to never have to go to the free agent market to get what you need, but that’s just not realistic.”

Since the Yankees seem disinclined to pursue Scherzer — I assume the same is true for Shields, though I won’t rule them out on either pitcher until they sign elsewhere — the only way they’re going to get an impact starter this winter is through trade, which is always possible. The Padres and Mets have arms to spare, the Phillies are still looking to unload Cole Hamels, the Reds could still move Johnny Cueto or Mike Leake, so on and so forth. A trade is pretty much the only way the Yankees will get guys who pass the “better than Capuano” test unless they change course on Scherzer and/or Shields.

The Yankees re-signed Capuano because they need multiple starters and he was among the best of the non-elite remaining on the board. A signing like this was inevitable, even if they had signed Scherzer or Shields first. Capuano should only be part of the rotation fix and not the whole thing. At worst, he’s a stopgap until Ivan Nova is healthy or Luis Severino is deemed ready. At best, he’s 2011 Freddy Garcia. If the Yankees stop here and don’t add anymore pitching, then yeah they have a problem. There’s still a lot of offseason left and Cashman is clearly open to more moves. As long as Capuano is nothing more than one piece of the solution, then he’s a fine depth addition.

Chris Capuano is back on a one-year deal

Chris Capuano
(Patrick Semansky/AP)

The Yankees have signed LHP Chris Capuano to a one-year deal, according to YES Network’s Jack Curry. He’ll earn $5 million in 2015.

Capuano, 36, started 2014 with the Red Sox, but he pitched poorly enough to get DFA’d from that last-place team. He then signed as a free agent with the Rockies, but didn’t pitch at all for them before the Yankees purchased his contract.

By ERA Capuano didn’t fare much better for the Yankees than he did for the Sox: 4.25 vs 4.55. But he did cut down on his walks, which helped him eat some innings as a starter (5.5 innings per start). Basically, you could count on him for between five and six innings and between three and four runs per start. That worked better in the mid-00s, when the Yankees had 900-run offenses, but with all the injuries last year it came in handy in the second half.

This move was predictable once the Yankees signed Chase Headley yesterday. A week ago Joel Sherman noted that if the Yankees sign Headley, “they will have to bottom-feed for starting pitching.” Capuano is pretty much the definition of bottom-feeding.

While Capuano doesn’t really move the needle for the team, he does help lengthen the starting rotation. If he can give them six innings per start — not unfathomable, given that he spent the entire first half of last year in Boston’s bullpen — he can probably keep them in enough games that the back of their bullpen can close the door.

In a world where Brett Anderson gets $10 million and J.A. Happ costs you an average-hitting outfielder, spending $5 million on Capuano seems like a downright decent deal.

Heyman: Yankees targeting McCarthy, Capuano, Hammel

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are currently focusing on Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano, and Jason Hammel as they look to upgrade their rotation heading into next season. Heyman reiterates the club is unlikely to pursue Jon Lester or Max Scherzer.

McCarthy and Capuano were with the Yankees this past season, so we’re all already familiar with them. The 32-year-old Hammel had a 3.47 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 176.1 innings with the Cubs and Athletics in 2014, though he was great in Chicago (2.98 ERA and 3.09 FIP) and not good in Oakland (4.26 ERA and 5.10 FIP). He signed a one-year deal worth $6M with the Cubs last year and is probably looking at a similar deal this winter. Meh.

A-Rod reinstated, ten Yankees become free agents

Now that the World Series is over, Alex Rodriguez has officially been reinstated off the restricted list by MLB and the Yankees. He was originally suspended 211 games for his ties to Biogenesis, but it was reduced to 162 games during an appeal. A-Rod would not have been eligible to play in the postseason had the Yankees qualified. He now counts against the team’s 40-man roster.

In other news, a total of 121 players became free agents at 9am ET this morning. Here’s the full list. Ten of those 121 players are Yankees: Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew, Chase Headley, Rich Hill, Derek Jeter, Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy, David Robertson, Ichiro Suzuki, and Chris Young. No surprises there at all. Martin Prado, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Slade Heathcott all have to be activated off the 60-day DL if they haven’t been already. So, after all of that, the Yankees have 35 players on their 40-man roster.

2014 Season Review: Lefty rotation fodder

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

From 2009 through 2012, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were the only lefties to start games for the Yankees. That’s a little odd, considering the huge number of random lefties that got spot starts from 2004 through 2008. So odd, in fact, that I made a Sporcle quiz that no one has even the slightest chance of completing.


The Yankees broke that four-year drought in 2013, when David Huff and Vidal Nuno combined for five starts. Heading into 2014, Nuno was in the running for a rotation spot. He understandably lost out to Michael Pineda. But when Ivan Nova went down with an elbow injury, Nuno lined up for the next start. It was his.

And it was a disaster.

You could be charitable and say sure, Nuno had some not terrible starts here and there. For instance, he lasted 6.1 innings in a 1-0 win against the best-record-in-baseball Angels. There were five shutout innings against the Rays in April.

The Yankees did have something of a reason to believe Nuno could help. He pitched well during his brief MLB stint in 2013, which followed a lights-out performance in AAA. In 2012 he cruised through A+ and AA with a 2.54 combined ERA and a 3.82 K/BB ratio. He didn’t have the stuff of an ace, but as a #5 starter it seemed he might cut it.

Cut it he might. Just not in New York. What stood out in his 14 starts was an alarming home run rate. In four of those 14 starts he gave up multiple homers, including three twice. In other words, when he’s off even a bit hitters can take advantage. Out in Arizona, another hitters’ park, he allowed a homer in nine of his 14 starts.

In other words, the Yankees might have given up a useful starter who, at the time of the trade, had five and a half years of team control. Yet they got back Brandon McCarthy, who seemed to find himself while wearing pinstripes. For a team with perpetual sights on contention, the trade was a coup for the Yankees. If they can re-sign McCarthy there will be no reason to ever look back on this one.

For a while it seemed as though the Yankees would forge ahead with a five-righty rotation. But in late July, three weeks after trading Nuno, they acquired Chris Capuano from the Rockies. And so the Yankees traded away a mediocre lefty and picked one up for cash considerations. Given the acquisition of McCarthy, that sounds like a great trade-off.

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

Yet Capuano did play a valuable role down the stretch. Rarely did he dazzle, but he also rarely had a breakdown. (The exception being his 0.1 inning, four-run start against Tampa, which he redeemed in his very next start by pitching six shutout innings against them.) Never did he allow more than four runs in a start, and three times he allowed none. It’s more than anyone expected from a guy who couldn’t hack it on the last-place Red Sox.

Were it not for the huge number of starting pitcher injuries, the Yankees might not have even needed Capuano. They wouldn’t have run Nuno out there for so many starts. But when three fifths of your Opening Day rotation is on the DL by May 15, with two of them done for the year, you have to reach deeply into the pitching well. With a healthy Sabathia (potentially a problem of his own) and a healthy Pineda, chances are David Phelps takes over for Nuno. If Phelps still gets hurt in that scenario, there’s Shane Greene.

All told, the lefty fodder combination of Nuno and Capuano didn’t perform too too badly. They combined to pitch 143.2 innings to a 4.89 ERA, which is essentially what Mike Minor did. Given the unreasonable number of injuries to the staff, they could have done a lot worse.

Capuano among players going to Japan for All-Star Series 2014

MLB is sending a team of players to Japan to play a five-game series against the Japanese national team in November, an event they’re calling the All-Star Series 2014. Derek Jeter declined to participate in the event but Chris Capuano will be part of the team, according to a Japan-Baseball report passed along by Kazuto Yamazaki. Capuano will technically not be a Yankee when the series takes place (Nov. 11-20), but I’m guessing they’ll slap the pinstripes on him for marketing purposes.

The Japan-Baseball page has all 17 players currently confirmed for the event, but you either have to read Japanese or recognize their faces. Former Yankees Robinson Cano and Randy Choate are on the roster, ditto other notables like Yasiel Puig, Albert Pujols, Adam Jones, Bryce Harper, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and Jose Altuve. There are already 13 position players on the roster, so I’m guessing most of the remaining spots will go to pitchers. (They’ll probably take 30 or so players, right?) I’m sure MLB would love to squeeze another Yankee onto the roster for marketability and stuff, but I’m not sure who it could be at this point. David Huff?