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…]

Yankeemetrics: The sinking pinstriped ship (June 30-July 2)

(Getty)
(Getty)

Sleep is overrated
The Yankees arrived in Houston early Friday morning, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, but that didn’t stop them from putting together one of their most satisfying wins of the season against the best team in baseball.

The 13-4 rout also capped off one of the most bizarre months for any Yankees team in recent memory. They went 13-15 in June, the 20th best record in the majors last month. Not good. Yet they compiled a run differential of plus-56 that ranked second only to the Dodgers. Very good!

Two stats tell this perplexing story: The Yankees led MLB with nine wins by at least five runs, and tied for the MLB lead with nine losses by exactly one run. It was the first time the Yankees had nine wins by five-or-more runs in a single month since July 2010; and the first time in at least the 15 seasons they had nine one-run losses in a single month.

At the center of the offensive explosion was Brett Gardner, who went 3-for-5 — including his third career grand slam — and a career-high-tying six RBIs. He’s just the second Yankee leadoff batter to drive in six runs in a game, along with Hank Bauer on May 10, 1952 against the Red Sox. Gardner is also just the fifth Yankee to have multiple 6-RBI games as a leftfielder; this is a fun list: Alfonso Soriano, Bob Meusel, Charlie Keller and Babe Ruth.

Although Aaron Judge was hitless in four at-bats, he still notched his 29th and 30th walks of the month, etching his name in both the MLB and franchise record books. The ridiculous power and patience he showed in June was nearly unprecedented, especially for such a young player:

  • Judge is the fourth Yankee with at least 30 walks, 10 homers and five doubles in a calendar month. The rest of the names should be familiar by now: Mickey Mantle (June 1957), Lou Gehrig (twice) and Babe Ruth (seven times).
  • Among all major-leaguers age 25 or younger, only six others besides Judge walked at least 30 times and had at least 70 total bases in a month: Mantle (June 1957), Eddie Mathews (July 1954), Ted Williams (twice), Mel Ott (June 1929), Keller (August 1939) and The Babe (twice).
(AP)
(AP)

Deja vu all over again
Another series, another candidate for W.L.O.T.S. (Worst Loss Of The Season).

In what has become an all-too-familiar theme for this Yankees team, they followed up one of their most impressive wins of the season with one of their most brutal losses, and the bullpen flames were raging again on Saturday night. Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman self-destructed in the eighth inning, blowing a three-run lead as the Yankees suffered another horrible come-from-ahead loss, 7-6.

Here are some of the gory details behind the Yankees recent string of late-inning meltdowns:

Stat Notes
15 Blown Saves – 10(!) more than they had at this point in the season last year (in just four more save opportunities);
– Yeah, they had 16 all of last year
16 One-Run Losses – Four more than they had through 79 games last year;
– 10 of them have come since June 1, tied with the Phillies for the most in that span
5 losses when leading by at least three runs – Matches the same number they had in all of 2016;
– At this point last year, they had one such loss
10 losses with at least five runs scored – One fewer than they had all of last year;
– Through 79 games in 2016, had six such losses;
– 7 of the 10 losses have come since June 1, the most in MLB

Dellin Betances was the biggest culprit in the eighth inning, getting only two outs while allowing three stolen bases, four earned runs, three walks and a homer. Yikes.

betances-long-gm2-apHe is just the third Yankee pitcher to allow at least three stolen bases in an outing of fewer than one inning pitched, and he’s the only one of those three to also allow an earned run.

But its the rest of his ugly pitching line that earns Betances of our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series:

He’s just the second Yankee ever to give up at least four earned runs, walk at least three guys, allow a homer while facing no more than six batters. The other was Hank Johnson on June 17, 1925 against the Tigers, a 19-1 loss that included a 13-run sixth-inning implosion by Yankee pitchers.

The story of the game should have been about the historic and dazzling major-league debut of Clint Frazier, who went 2-for-3 with a double and homer. His six total bases were the most by a Yankee his first career game over the last 100 years, and he also became the first player in franchise history to hit a home run and a double in his big-league debt.

Perhaps even more impressive … at 22 years and 298 days old, he was the youngest Yankee rightfielder with a homer and a double in any game since Mickey Mantle on May 30, 1952.

Didi Gregorius also took his turn in the spotlight, crushing his first career grand slam. The only other Yankee shortstops in the last three decades with a grand slam were Starlin Castro (August 5 last year) and Derek Jeter (June 18, 2005).

(AP)
(AP)

At least they scored a run
The Yankees early-summer slide deepened with another listless defeat on Sunday afternoon, as the bats went cold and the arms were lit up by the Astros powerful lineup in an 8-1 loss. They’ve now gone winless in six straight series, their longest such streak since an eight-series winless streak spanning July and August of 2013.

Luis Severino had one of his worst performances of the season, getting tattooed for nine hits — six doubles, a homer and two singles — and six runs in 5⅓ innings pitched. Yet he still flashed dominance with his fastball-slider combo, striking out a quarter of the batters he faced (7 of 28).

That pitching line gives us an unfortunate statistical connection for Severino …. The only other Yankee in the last 100 seasons to pitch fewer than six innings while surrendering at least seven extra-base hits and getting at least seven strikeouts in a game was Michael Pineda on April 24, 2016 against the Rays. #SmallSevy

The only other notable number to come out of this game was One — the number of runs they scored in the ninth inning to avoid being shutout for the first time this season. This is the sixth time in franchise history they’ve gone at least 80 games into the season without being blanked and the first time since 1988.

The franchise record? That would be held by the 1932 team, which scored at least one run in every game that season. In related news, the 1932 Yankees went 107-47 and swept the Cubs in the World Series. Oh, and a man named Babe Ruth hit a sorta famous home run in Game 3 of that series:

Sunday Musings

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone! Hope you’re celebrating and will be celebrating safely with friends, family, and baseball. What’s on your mind, baseball wise, as the calendar has flipped to July? Here’s what’s on mine.

The State of the Union

It would be an overstatement to call the state of the Yankees precarious at this point, even if that’s the first word that comes to mind after two weeks of bullpen disasters and a slide out of first place. The team is still in the lead for the first wild card and, frankly, I never expected this group to be here when the season was about to start.

I’ve heard and seen talk of adjusting expectations and that at this point, a lack of playoffs would be a severe disappointment for this edition of the Yankees, but there’s a part of me that’s hesitant to agree with that. Would I be bummed if this team missed the playoffs? Definitely. Maybe. They’ve mashed and played better than expected; the playoffs would be a great reward for that. But from the outset, this year was about developing the young players; Greg Bird notwithstanding, this year has been a success for that as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Jordan Montgomery have flourished in staring roles for the team, with Chad Green emerging as a reliable bullpen option to boot. Hopefully Clint Frazier‘s big night last night is a sign of more success for 2017.

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

The All Stars

Aaron Judge leads the AL in All Star votes. Gary Sanchez is having the best overall season of any AL catcher, though Salvador Perez of the Royals is leading the vote behind the plate. Still, it’s hard to say both of the Yankees’ youngsters won’t be All Stars. As I’ve matured as a fan, I’ve longed for my favorite team’s players to skip the All Star Game, opting for rest and rehab, rather than strain in an exhibition. But this year, it’s different. Though both have played in the Futures Game, this is likely to be the first (of many) All Star appearances for both players. That makes it special. And on top of that, they deserve it. As they say, you always remember your first and both Judge and El Gary should be proud to represent the Yankees at the game.

On that note, there’s another reason–a less important one–for Judge and Sanchez to play in the game. It signals to the league as a whole that the future is now for the Yankees, that they’re reloading and retooling, not rebuilding. Judge and Sanchez are going to be an important part of returning the Yankees to dominance. That’s obviously a good thing for us as Yankee fans, but isn’t it just as easy to argue that they represent something more important to baseball as a whole? People, silly people, really, love to root against the Yankees. They love for the Yankees to be the heel. For the last few years, the team has been so mediocre that they bordered on irrelevance and I’d imagine hating them was hard. Everyone loves a villain and the Yankees are poised to be that once again.

Also, Aaron, if you’re reading this, please participate in the Home Run Derby. Please.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

A Good Problem to Have?

With Clint Frazier joining the big league team, the Yankees have four outfielders they’d want to start for only three positions. Barring MLB letting them play four outfielders and bat ten men like slow pitch softball, someone is going to need to sit every night. Well, not exactly. With Matt Holliday out with a viral infection–let’s hope he’s not patient zero of some apocalyptic nightmare disease–one of the four can DH each night for the time being. That keeps everyone fresh and keeps bats in the lineup. As a plus, all four guys are good enough defensively that it won’t cost them. When Holliday comes back, there may be an issue. There definitely will be when Aaron Hicks returns. This, however, is a great logjam to have and I’m sure it’ll work itself out in time.

Game 79: Up Goes Frazier

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Another day, another big league debut for one of the Yankees’ top prospects. It was Tyler Wade on Tuesday, Miguel Andujar on Wednesday, Dustin Fowler on Thursday, and now Clint Frazier on Saturday. Frazier will make his MLB debut this evening, largely because Fowler suffered that truly awful injury the other day. I don’t think Frazier is here if Fowler is healthy.

More important the Frazier’s debut is tonight’s game itself. The Yankees made a great comeback last night to earn the blowout win, and now they’re trying to win back-to-back games for the first time in more than two weeks. They haven’t won two straight since that bloodbath series against the Orioles. Win it for Dustin. That’s the motto the rest of the season. Here is the Astros’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. 1B Chris Carter
  9. RF Clint Frazier
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

It’s another hot and humid day in Houston, which means the Minute Maid Park roof will be closed. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:15pm ET and FOX will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: CC Sabathia (hamstring) is tentatively scheduled to rejoin the rotation Tuesday. That’s the plan as long as the hamstring doesn’t act up again … Adam Warren (shoulder) will throw a simulated game tomorrow. If that goes well, he’ll be activated next week. I guess neither he nor Sabathia will go out on a minor league rehab assignment … Aaron Judge is fine. Joe Girardi is trying to give him some rest because he’s played right field basically every day so far this season. Judge is available to pinch-hit and will play the outfield tomorrow.

Roster Moves: Andujar was sent down to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot for Frazier and Fowler was transferred over to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. Andujar needs to play every day and that’s not going to happen in the big leagues.

The Aaron Hicks injury creates a spot for one of the Triple-A outfield prospects

Frazier. (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Frazier. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

The losses are starting to pile up. Not just in the standings either. The Yankees have lost ten of their last 12 games, and they’ve also lost several players to injuries during that time as well. Yesterday Aaron Hicks went down with a right oblique issue. He’s expected to go on the disabled list and miss 3-4 weeks. Yuck. Hicks as been great this year overall. Losing him is no good.

If there’s a silver lining to the Hicks injury, it’s the timing. Jacoby Ellsbury played two minor league rehab games over the weekend and there’s a chance the Yankees will activate him today to replace Hicks. The Yankees would love to have both guys healthy, but that’s not an option. Having one is better than having none, and it sure seems like Ellsbury will be back very soon.

Replacing Hicks with Ellsbury would be the easiest move. Hicks goes on the disabled list and Ellsbury takes his place on the roster, in center field, and in the second spot in the lineup. Three birds, one stone. It’s so straightforward that that’s what I think will happen. That said, even with Ellsbury back, the Hicks injury creates an opportunity for the Yankees to turn to Dustin Fowler or Clint Frazier, their top Triple-A outfield prospects. Let me explain.

1. Ellsbury and Gardner could use rest going forward. Ellsbury is going to be coming back from a concussion and, for his own good, easing him back into things would be a smart move. You don’t want to push him too hard coming off a brain injury. Brett Gardner, the team’s other veteran outfielder, could also use a more rest going forward. He’s played a ton these last few weeks with Ellsbury out. Gardner has started 27 of 28 games since Ellsbury went on the disabled list, and he came off the bench the one game he didn’t start. Yeah.

Think about this way: what was the plan when Ellsbury came back before Hicks got hurt? The Yankees were going to go back to rotating Hicks around the outfield. There’s basically no chance the Yankees and Joe Girardi would outright bench one of their outfielders and relegate someone to true fourth outfielder duty. And, really, none of them deserve to sit full-time. The Yankees are at their best when all four outfielders are getting rest and staying involved.

Calling up one of the Triple-A outfielders, either Fowler or Frazier, would allow the Yankees to do the same thing. Rotate the young outfielder around like they would have Hicks. You don’t want to call up one of those guys and have him sit on the bench day after day. You want him to play. This would be a way to get their feet in the big leagues without overwhelming them, without counting on them to have an impact, and without cutting someone else’s playing time drastically.

Fowler. (Times Leader)
Fowler. (Times Leader)

2. The Yankees really need to upgrade the bench. The Yankees effectively went into yesterday’s game with a one-man bench. Matt Holliday wasn’t feeling well and Starlin Castro was unavailable after receiving a cortisone shot in his wrist. Their only bench player was Austin Romine, and he went into the game when Hicks got hurt. That meant the Yankees had no one to pinch-hit for Tyler Austin or Romine in the late-innings of a one-run game. Yuck.

On days everyone is feeling well, the regular three-man bench is Romine, Ronald Torreyes, and Mason Williams. That’s … not great. I love Torreyes as much as the next day, but realistically, you’re not going to use him as a pinch-hitter late in the game. He can pinch-run and be a defensive replacement. That’s about it. The same is true with Williams. Romine? He’s the backup catcher and those guys rarely get used strategically in the late innings.

The Yankees are handcuffing themselves with an eight-man bullpen. I get that they’re worried about running out of arms, especially with Masahiro Tanaka struggling all year and Michael Pineda struggling recently, and Luis Cessa in the rotation. Eight relievers still feels like overkill when you have a multi-inning guy like Chad Green and true long man like Domingo German in the bullpen. And you know what? If you do blow out your bullpen due to a short start or extra innings, you make a roster move or two after the game. They do that anyway, even with eight relievers.

Dropping the eighth reliever for a fourth bench player would give Girardi more bench options so he could pinch-hit for Austin, or pinch-run for Holliday, or replace Castro for defense. Whatever. The Yankees can’t do that now. The three bench players are there purely to back up each position. They’re not weapons that can be used strategically, for matchups or whatever. Adding Fowler or Frazier creates more options. Remember, even on days they play, one of the veterans will be on the bench resting.

3. The Yankees could use a spark. Like I said, the Yankees have lost ten of their last 12 games. That’s not good! And prior to yesterday’s late comeback attempt, the offense has looked pretty flat for a good week or so. Remember late last year, when the Yankees called up Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, and it seemed to energize the entire team? They gave the entire roster a nice shot in the arm and the Yankees played well in August and September. Calling up Fowler or Frazier could provide a similar spark. And if it doesn’t, well, no big deal. The Yankees are right where they started.

* * *

Okay, so now comes the obvious question: who should the Yankees call up, Fowler or Frazier? Fowler (.294/.331/.542, 137 wRC+) is outhitting Frazier (.251/.343/.482, 124 wRC+), though not by so much that it’s an obvious choice. Both Erik Boland and Josh Norris have heard from scouts that Fowler is the more MLB ready player, and I don’t disagree. The issue there is that you’re adding another speedy left-handed hitter to the roster when you already have two in Gardner and Ellsbury. Kinda redundant. Frazier would give the Yankees more balance as a righty bat. But, if he’s not ready, he’s not ready.

The 40-man roster is not a deciding factor here either. Neither Fowler nor Frazier is on the 40-man — the Yankees still have an open spot after designating Chris Carter for assignment — but they both have to be added after the season to avoid Rule 5 Draft exposure, and of course that’s going to happen. Calling them up now would only be getting a head start on things. I’d be more worried about burning a minor league option when Hicks returns than tying up a 40-man spot for a few weeks.

Assuming Ellsbury comes back to replace Hicks — that’s going to happen at some point no matter what — these are the other moves I’d like to see made:

  1. Send down the eighth reliever. Tyler Clippard isn’t going anywhere, so that means Tyler Webb.
  2. Send down Williams. Sorry dude, but there are better outfielders waiting.
  3. Call up Fowler. I like Frazier! But if the pros say Fowler is more MLB ready, I believe ’em.
  4. Call up Rob Refsnyder. He’s not great, but he’s more useful than an eighth reliever.

Because Refsnyder was just sent down Thursday, the Yankees would have to bring him back as the injury replacement for Hicks. That’s the only way around the ten-day rule. Ellsbury and Fowler would then technically replace Williams and Webb. Fowler gets regular at-bats by rotating in with the other outfielders a la Hicks, and you’re back to a four-man bench with a serviceable righty platoon bat in Refsnyder.

Keep in mind several players who are on the active roster aren’t 100% right now. Castro had the cortisone shot over the weekend. Chase Headley received an epidural last week. Sanchez had the abductor problem last week and doesn’t seem be running full speed yet. Ellsbury is coming back from the concussion. The Yankees have hamstrung themselves for a while now with a short bench. Continuing to do it with all those guys banged up is asking for trouble.

The Yankees are, amazingly, still in first place despite this recent 2-10 stretch. They won’t be in first place much longer unless things improve. Losing Hicks takes a bite out of the offense, and while getting Ellsbury back will help, there’s more the Yankees can. Fowler or Frazier would add another potentially potent bat (plus speed!) and getting back to a four-man bench gives Girardi more options. Contending is hard enough. Contending while essentially playing shorthanded on the position player side makes it even more difficult, and the Yankees shouldn’t do that voluntarily.

Saturday Links: Happ, Zimmer, Sanchez, Mock Drafts, Girardi

The Yankees and Rays will play the second game of their three-game series later this afternoon. Here are some links to check out until then.

Yankees passed on Happ, Jimenez, Zimmer

This is pretty fun and interesting. According to Joel Sherman, during trade talks last year, the Yankees and Cubs agreed that New York would receive either Gleyber Torres, Ian Happ, or Eloy Jimenez in the Aroldis Chapman trade. Also, during talks with the Indians about Andrew Miller, it was down to Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer. Both Happ and Zimmer were called up within the last week, and both have hit their first MLB home runs already.

Sherman says the Yankees passed on Jimenez because he was furthest away among the three Cubs prospects, and they passed on Happ because he’s not expected to be much of a defender. Torres had the best all-around ability. The Yankees went Frazier over Zimmer because he’s two years younger and has fewer exploitable holes in his swing. (Zimmer had a 30.7% strikeout rate between Double-A and Triple-A last year. Yikes!)

I really do like Happ, though I am totally cool with passing on him for Gleyber. The Yankees picked correctly in both cases, in my opinion. Torres is a budding superstar. Frazier has a much better chance to be an impact bat long-term too. Something tells me we’ll all have one eye on Happ and Jimenez and Zimmer over the next few years. Either way, the trade deadline last year truly was a franchise altering event. The Yankees are in much better shape long-term right now than they were 12 months ago.

Sanchez among top 25 under 25

A few days ago Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked the 25 best players in baseball under the age of 25. Not surprisingly, Bryce Harper claims the top spot. Manny Machado and Carlos Correa are second and third. Yeah. The Yankees have one player on the list: Gary Sanchez, who ranks 14th. He’s one spot behind Alex Bregman and one spot ahead of Dansby Swanson. Here’s the write-up:

Sanchez had a rookie season — well, half-season — for the ages last year, with 20 homers in 53 games, good enough to get him second in Rookie of the Year balloting and push the Yankees to trade Brian McCann and give Sanchez the starting job behind the plate. Sanchez has improved enough as a receiver to stay back there, though he is probably always going to be a bat-first, throw-second, glove-third kind of guy. I’m sure the Yankees will be fine with that.

Aaron Judge, who turned 25 last month, was not eligible for the list. I’m sure he would have made it had the list been players age 25 and under. The list is very position player heavy — Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Julio Urias, and Michael Fulmer are the only pitchers — and I’m guessing Luis Severino wasn’t particularly close to making it. That doesn’t surprise me. Sanchez is the only catcher in the top 25, and that is pretty darn cool.

Baseball America’s mock draft v3.0

Baseball America released their third mock draft of the year earlier this week, and now they have the Twins selecting Vanderbilt RHP Kyle Wright with the top pick. California HS RHP/SS Hunter Greene, the top prospect in the draft class, is projected to fall to the Padres with the third pick. The mock draft has the Yankees taking Alabama HS OF Bubba Thompson with their 16th pick. Here’s the write-up:

New York has been linked to preps this spring such as Huntington Beach first baseman Nick Pratto and Alabama prep outfielder Bubba Thompson, who’s likely to go in the 16-23 range. Pratto’s relatively modest spring offensively has pushed him down lists a bit.

The draft is a little more than four weeks now, so things are still pretty wide open. So far the Yankees have been connected to mostly high school players, though that doesn’t mean much. Last year they were mostly connected to high school arms and college bats before the draft, then bam, they went with a high school bat. Hopefully things get narrowed down a bit over the next month.

MLB.com’s mock draft v1.0

In other mock draft news, Jim Callis dropped his first full mock draft of the year last week. He has the Twins taking Louisville LHP/1B Brendan McKay first overall. It seems Minnesota has been connected to all the top prospects except Greene. Weird. Anyway, Callis has the Yankees taking California HS 1B Nick Pratto withe their first rounder.

One of the most rumored mid-round marriages is New York and Pratto, though this is more a floor than a ceiling for the best high school bat available. Burger and Canning are other potential targets.

Here’s my write-up on Pratto. Also, here’s my write-up on UCLA RHP Griffin Canning, who Callis connected to the Yankees as well. Burger is Missouri State 3B Jake Burger, who is one of the top power hitters in the draft. He’s probably going to end up at first base though, and it’s unclear if his less than picturesque swing will allow him to handle pro pitching. Meh. Doesn’t seem like the kind of player the Yankees usually target in the first round.

Girardi on new competition committee

Earlier this week MLB announced the relaunch of the competition committee, a 16-man committee that is “charged with studying all aspects of the game and advising the Commissioner and Club Owners on on-field matters.” They’re going to look for ways to make baseball better, basically. I guess automatic intentional walks and talking about pace of play constantly isn’t working as well as hoped.

Anyway, Joe Girardi is one of four current big league managers on the committee, along with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, and Orioles skipper Buck Showalter. Here is the press release with all the committee members. I do like that commissioner Rob Manfred is open to new ideas and seems genuinely interested in improving the game. I have no idea whether the new competition committee will result in any tangible improvements, but hey, at least they’re trying.