Game 89: Start A New Streak

So this is where the Yankees are at right now, in case you were unsure. (Presswire)
So this is where the Yankees are at right now, in case you were wondering. (Presswire)

The six-game winning streak is over and that’s fine, it was bound to happen eventually. I guess it’s comforting to know they were only a rare Mariano Rivera blown save away from making it seven straight. I dunno, not really.

Anyway, there are seven games left before the All-Star break, and the Yankees will play all seven of them at home against teams with losing records. It’s like the baseball gods gifted them a chance to go into the break on a high note after such a turbulent first half. The Yankees have to take advantage of that opportunity now though, nothing else will be handed to them. Here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is sending out there against noted Yankees-hunter* Jeremy Guthrie:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Zoilo Almonte
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. DH Travis Hafner
  5. RF Vernon Wells
  6. 1B Travis Ishikawa
  7. 3B Luis Cruz
  8. SS Alberto Gonzalez
  9. C Austin Romine

And on the mound with an extra day of rest is right-hander Phil Hughes. Like most pitchers, he’s allowed fewer runs with an extra day (4.03 ERA and 4.43 FIP) than on a normal schedule (4.92 ERA and 4.20 FIP) throughout his career.

It has cooled off just a tiny bit in New York, but it’s still pretty damn hot and humid. There’s actually some rain in the forecast a little later tonight, nothing really substantial but maybe enough to bring the tarp out at some point. I hope not. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Roster Move: As expected, David Adams have been optioned down to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot for Ishikawa. He was claimed off waivers yesterday and will be the 25th different position player to play for the Yankees this year. That’s the most in the big leagues. /sobs

* A whopping 16.1% of Guthrie’s career hit batsmen have come against the Yankees in 7.2% of his total innings pitched. He always seems to hit one or two of ‘em a start.

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Yankees need to continue shaking up the roster

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
Boesch. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Fresh off three offensively inept losses to the Athletics last week, the Yankees called up outfielder Thomas Neal from Triple-A and inserted him right into their lineup during the first two games of the Angels series. The move wasn’t just a response to the 18-inning marathon game either — Neal told Chad Jennings he received the call at 2:15pm ET on Thursday, more than an hour before the marathon game started. The team made the move as a direct response to their struggling offense.

It was just one very small move, and the Yankees shouldn’t stop there. Despite yesterday’s six-run outburst, this is still a club that struggles to put more than four runs on the board on any given night, and lately scoring more than two runs has been a chore. With so many high-profile injuries and scrap heap replacements, the Bombers actually have some roster flexibility and can replace players without having to worry about salaries or contract statuses or egos.

In no particular order, here are four moves the Yankees can make to potentially improve the position player side of their roster. None of these moves are going to transform the offense into a juggernaut, not even close, but even slight upgrades are worth making at this point.

Bring back Brennan Boesch
Boesch, 28, hit .283/.341/.458 (117 wRC+) with 16 homers as recently as 2011. He had surgery to repair the UCL in his right thumb (so the thumb on his front/power hand) following that season, and the lingering effects contributed to his .240/.286/.372 (77 wRC+) line in 2012. The Yankees picked him during Spring Training and outside of a one-week stint with Triple-A Scranton last month, Boesch has not played regularly or been able to get into a groove this season. He managed a .275/.302/.529 (123 wRC+) line during his sporadic appearances with the big league team, and now’s the time to see what he can contribute with regular at-bats. The club’s corner outfielders have been just awful overall this year.

Now, there’s a small problem: Boesch is currently on the Triple-A DL with a shoulder injury. Ken Davidoff said it was a minor issue in multiple articles last week and indicated he could return relatively soon, however. As soon as Boesch is healthy and ready to be activated, the Yankees should call him up and stick him in the lineup everyday. Against righties, against lefties, at home, on the road, whatever. Let him sink or swim. There’s a non-zero chance he can contribute to the team both this year and in the future — Boesch is under control as an arbitration-eligible player through at least 2015 — and this is the time to see what he has.

Swap David Adams for Ronnie Mustelier
It feels like an eternity since the 26-year-old Adams burst onto the scene and went 10-for-31 (.323) with two doubles and two homers in his first eight big league games. Since then, he’s gone 6-for-44 (.136) with one double to drag his season batting line down to .213/.234/.333 (49 wRC+). He also has yet to draw a walk in 77 plate appearances. Adams has gone from everyday third baseman to seldom-used platoon infielder.

(Presswire)
Mustelier. (Presswire)

Mustelier, on the other hand, has put up an unimpressive .280/.319/.408 (96 wRC+) line in 166 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton this year, at least unimpressive compared to the .314/.371/.488 (~140 wRC+) line he managed between Double-A and Triple-A last summer. The 28-year-old Cuban defector has picked it up of late following a slow start, hitting .324/.359/.468 over the last month. He plays third, he plays left, he plays right, he’s hit ever since signing two years ago. The defense is not great (or even good), but if not now, then when?

Of course, we run into another problem: like Boesch, Mustelier is hurt at the moment. He is currently sidelined — not on the DL, just day-to-day — with what amounts to a minor grain strain. I don’t know what the timetable is for his return, but I assume it will be relatively soon since they’ve yet to put him on the 7-day minor league DL. By swapping the two, Adams can go back to Triple-A to get regular playing time and rebuild his confidence while Mustelier gets the opportunity to play third everyday.

Drop Reid Brignac for Alberto Gonzalez
Brignac, 27, is the best defensive shortstop in the entire Yankees organization. He is also hitting .182/.217/.261 (18 wRC+) in 94 plate appearances overall this year, including a .100/.122/.125 mark since joining New York. Big league pitchers are hitting .138/.165/.186 (-9 wRC+) this year, for comparison. There is a minimum standard of acceptable offense and Brignac does not meet it, even at the low standards of shortstop.

The Yankees actually dumped the 30-year-old Gonzalez for Brignac last month, opting for better defense and the left-handed bat. Gonzalez has gone 8-for-35 (67 wRC+) in limited big league time this year, and at Triple-A Scranton he currently owns a .269/.355/.312 (85 wRC+) line. Neither of these guys can hit, but Gonzalez can’t hit slightly less. He’s no slouch with the glove either, in fact he’s probably the second best defensive shortstop in the organization. There isn’t much sense in keeping Brignac around for platoon reasons when he can’t hit at all. Gonzalez could provide a slight upgrade overall, and even if he doesn’t, no big deal. The Yankees really wouldn’t be any worse off.

Shoppach. (Presswire)
Shoppach. (Presswire)

Swap Austin Romine for … someone
Three (three!) competent big league backup catchers were designated for assignment last week, meaning they are freely available to the other 29 teams. One of those catchers (John Baker) has since been claimed by the Dodgers, but the other two (Ramon Hernandez and Kelly Shoppach) are still out there for the taking. Hernandez has hit .208/.291/.438 (103 wRC+) in 55 plate appearances for the Rockies and Dodgers this season while Shoppach put up a .196/.293/.346 (82 wRC+) line in 125 plate appearances for the Mariners.

Romine, 24, has been an absolute disaster even by backup catcher standards, going 7-for-53 (-24 wRC+) with two doubles. Both the 37-year-old Hernandez and 33-year-old Shoppach represent upgrades, allowing Romine to get the regular playing time he desperately needs in Triple-A. Shoppach is particularly appealing because he a) has  hit .239/.333/.428 (112 wRC+) against left-handers since 2010, and b) is familiar with CC Sabathia from their years together with the Indians. As we saw with Romine, the Yankees are obviously concerned about the pitcher-catcher relationship. Shoppach and Sabathia already have a bit of a rapport, which should ease the transition. The backup catcher is pretty much the 25th man on the roster, but an upgrade is an upgrade.

* * *

Obviously these moves aren’t as simple as swapping one guy out for another. Each requires a 40-man roster move and that can get complicated, especially when making multiple moves at the same time. The 40-man is full right now, but guys like Chris Bootcheck, Melky Mesa, Neal, and Brignac are easily cuttable. Remember though, the team is expecting five (!) players to return from 60-day DL at some point this summer barring setbacks. Clogging up the roster with someone like Mustelier might not be ideal. Then again, neither is struggling to score four runs a night.

Feinsand: Yankees will call up Thomas Neal, option David Adams

Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees are expected to call up outfielder Thomas Neal prior to tonight’s game against the Angels. Infielder David Adams will be optioned to Triple-A to clear room on the 25-man roster. The team has an open 40-man spot, so no further move is required.

Neal, 25, is expected to DH against left-handed pitchers according to Feinsand. The right-handed hitter has a .339/.426/.446 (144 wRC+) line with two homers in 195 Triple-A plate appearances this year, including a .333/.435/.436 mark against southpaws. He signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent over the winter and made his big league debut with the Indians last September. Considering how terrible Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki have been, it won’t take much for Neal to hit his way into a regular lineup spot.

Mailbag: Outfield, Draft, Overbay, Sim. Games

Got seven questions and six answers this week, so the answers aren’t crazy long. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us whatever, whenever.

Paul: Kevin Youkilis to the OF? He’s played there before (albeit only 22 games and not really recently). Any chance David Adams has been shagging fly balls during BP recently?

Oh hell no on Youkilis. Aside from what will very likely be awful defense — as you can see above, he has played left field in Yankee Stadium before, rather lolingly at that —  I’m not sure I want a 34-year-old with a history of back problems running around the outfield day after day. Stick him at third base and be done with it, no need to needlessly complicate things.

Adams has zero outfield experience as a pro and from what I can tell, he never played it in college either. I’m guessing he didn’t play it in high school as well because of the unspoken “best player plays shortstop unless he throws left-handed” rule. I haven’t seen any reports of him shagging fly balls lately — he has taken ground balls at shortstop, but that’s not unusual — so I’m guessing the Yankees don’t consider him much of an option out there. I don’t see any outfield help coming until Curtis Granderson‘s pinky heals up.

Jeb asks: As unlikely as this is to happen, suppose that draft day is rather chaotic and there is a top-15 talent available for each of the Yankees’ first round picks (e.g. Ryan Stanek, Austin Meadows, etc.). Would you select each of these high-caliber guys and not worry about how to sign them, or would you perhaps take two and then go for some guys who likely would have lower demands to ensure that you can sign your top two picks?

This is very unlikely as you said, but this is where the new draft pool system would really screw a team over. The top 15 picks are all slotted at over $2.2M apiece, so those guys were expecting large bonuses. The Yankees have a touch less than $7.96M to spend this year, which probably isn’t enough to sign three top-15 guys even going super cheap with $10k senior seniors in rounds two through ten.

Given the team’s need to add impact talent to the system, I’d hope they would just blow through the draft pool number and get the three players signed. It’s an extreme circumstance and you can’t pass up a haul like that. The Yankees can spend up to $8,753,140 before forfeiting a future first round pick (that would come with a $596,805 tax) and up to $9,151,010 before forfeiting a future first and second round pick ($1,193,610 tax). If they could add three legit top-15 guys, they’d have to grab them and get them signed. It it costs a pick next year, so be it. They never have access to those guys.

Mike asks: What could the Yankees get in a trade for Lyle Overbay when Mark Teixeira returns? Who would be a potential trading partner? The draft is on my mind, what about a competitive balance pick?

Ryan asks: With Teixeira going on a rehab assignment and very close, what teams may have a need/interest in Overbay? They will likely keep him for a little bit to make sure Tex is healthy, but what might a trade look like, what kind of a return might they get?

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Might as well lump these two together. I do think the Yankees will hold onto Overbay for at least a few weeks while they make sure Teixeira’s wrist is healthy and he’s in the clear. He’d be a bench bat/part-time starter at first and DH, basically.

As good as he’s been, Overbay is still just a 98 wRC+ first baseman who can’t hit lefties. There usually isn’t a huge market for those guys, but I could see clubs like the Marlins, Mets, Brewers, and Rockies having some interest. Obviously injuries could create more openings, and that includes the Yankees. If they could get one of those competitive balance picks — #34-39 and #69-73, and they are tradeable between now and the draft — I’d take it and run. Otherwise I think the Yankees would be lucky to get a C-prospect out of Overbay in a trade. He’s been better than expected but still below-average overall. The demand just isn’t that great.

Matt asks: Which Yankees FA from last offseason (Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez) would you most like to have back, given their current performances and the injuries/general awfulness of their replacements?

All of the above? If I had to pick one, I’d go Swisher over Martin even though he plays the less important position because the Yankees really need offense and he’s the better offensive player. I think the difference between Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki is greater than the difference between Martin and Chris Stewart. Chavez has quietly been awesome by the way (153 wRC+) — he did leave yesterday’s game hurt — and I didn’t think he’d do it again. Good for him.

Michael asks: Could you write a post where you explain exactly how a simulated game “plays?” For instance, are there nine fielders? Are they playing at 100% or is it simply a way for the pitcher and hitter to do their work? Are there two discrete sides playing and changing between batting and fielding? Is the pitching coach calling balls and strikes? And so on … Thanks.

It’s glorified batting practice, basically. There’s a pitcher (with no L-screen) and usually two batters (one lefty and one righty) alternating at-bats in simulated “innings.” No fielders, and a coach will call balls and strikes and declare balls in play hits or outs or whatever. The pitcher will sit down for 15 minutes after getting three “outs” before going out for the next inning. The players are supposed to play at 100%, but you can’t truly simulate the adrenaline levels of a big league game. It’s just a way to get work in.

Bernie asks: How many wins do the Yankees have when trailing in the 7th or later and how many did they have all of last year? Has to be close?

I’ve spent more time on Baseball-Reference than I care to admit over the years, yet I always seem to be finding stats and info I didn’t know they had. Win-loss records when leading after a specific inning are one of those things I discovered within the last few weeks, so I can actually this question.

The Yankees are just 3-19 (.136) when trailing after seven innings this year, which is better than the league average winning percentage (.104). Small sample size, yadda yadda yadda. Last season they went 9-58 (.134) when trailing after seven, so a negligible difference. It’s basically the same pace. This year’s team does, however, already have more wins when trailing after eight innings (two) than last year’s team (one).

Tempering expectations for David Adams

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

Chris Nelson‘s brief tenure in pinstripes has come to a rather unceremonious end. Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez continue their respective paths to recovery. All of this adds up to a golden opportunity for rookie third baseman David Adams to showcase his skills for fans and scouts alike.

Adams, who was drafted in the third round by the Yankees back in 2008, has had some positive moments during his time in the minors. In 2012 he hit .306/.385/.450 (.377 wOBA, 133 wRC+) over 383 plate appearances with the Yankees AA affiliate after missing substantial time during the couple years prior. Up until a few nights ago when he got the call from the Yankees, he was hitting a fairly gaudy .316/.407/.490 (.407 wOBA, 153 wRC+) over 113 plate appearances in AAA. What’s more, the kid managed to get a hit during his big league debut and doubled in a run in his second game. Unfortunately, as I alluded too in Thursday’s RAB Live Chat and in the post’s title, my expectations for Adams are fairly tempered. Here’s why I think yours should be too.

1. It’s really hard to succeed in the Major Leagues in general. It’s really, really hard to sustain success once you do succeed. It’s especially hard for a young (and in this case, non-elite) prospect to join a MLB franchise and immediately have an impact with sustained success — especially when said player knows he’s probably a stopgap (though with Youk and A-Rod, the timetable may prove more substantial). This first point is kind of obvious, but I feel as though it’s still a point we fail to remember all too often regardless of the player’s pedigree.

2. Offensively, Adams displayed an advanced approach at the plate with good gap power during his time in the minors. He won’t be facing minor league pitchers anymore though. He’ll be facing experienced arms, and he’ll have to make the necessary adjustments as his weaknesses get exposed. This is not to say he can’t or won’t have an effective bat, just that we shouldn’t be overly surprised if his production deflates. One need only remember Jesus Montero for an example of an offensively potent minor leaguer who has been unable to adjust. Small mechanical flaws become big points of vulnerability. It happens, and it happens more often than not.

3. Adams was recruited as an above-average second baseman defensively. The ankle injuries have robbed him of his mobility, so much so the team moved him to third (although that may have also been partially influenced by A-Rod’s injury), where’s he’s also viewed as defensively mediocre if not substandard. If Adams struggles at the plate, his defense will be that much more important, and unfortunately for him, that much more scrutinized. The Yankees cannot afford to have a black hole in the line up — they’ll need Adams to prove himself capable at least in this department.

Note by Mike: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Adams’ defense so far. He’s no Adrian Beltre, but he’s been rock solid. At this point he’s probably the best defensive third baseman in the organization.

4. The injuries scare the crap out of me, quite frankly. Basically, since joining the organization, Adams has had a hell of a time staying on the field. Aside from showing dubious durability, he’s missed valuable developmental time — so much so the Yankees released him altogether to make room on the roster for Vernon Wells. In fact, at one point, he was playing four games in a row with a day off on the fifth during his time in the minors. The daily grind won’t get any easier with the Yankees. If he’s going to obtain a contract with a Major League team, he’s going to need prove himself capable of staying on the field — a trait often underappreciated.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to come across as completely bearish on Adams. As I noted above, he does have a solid approach at the plate, and the team will give him every opportunity to succeed. Plus he seems like a fun player to root for. Frankly, I hope he proves me dead wrong and thrives because that’d be awesome; it’d give the team options to consider on a lot of different levels. The point I’m trying to make here is that we shouldn’t endorse one of our home grown kids too heartily until he has some time to establish himself — honestly, the same should probably be said about all prospects in general.

Yankees call up David Adams, designated Chris Nelson for assignment

3:59pm: Yep, Nelson has been designated for assignment. He had a nice little two weeks in pinstripes, specifically going 8-for-26 (.308) at the plate in the last seven games. Nelson was always just a stopgap until Adams could be called up.

3:45pm: The Yankees have officially called up infielder David Adams, the team announced. No word on the corresponding roster move just yet — they need to make both a 25-man and 40-man move — but I’m guessing it’ll involve Chris Nelson. They’re completely redundant.

Adams, who turns 26 today, hit .316/.407/.490 (155 wRC+) with three homers in 26 games for Triple-A Scranton this year. They Yankees couldn’t call him up any sooner because of some silly roster rules, but he is expected to get a chance to play everyday with Kevin Youkilis on the DL. Adams started his career as a second baseman but shifted over to third in the second half last year, exactly when Alex Rodriguez had his hand broken by a pitch.

Feinsand: Yankees plan to call up David Adams on Wednesday

Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees are planning to call up infielder David Adams this coming Wednesday, the first day he is eligible to be added to the big league roster after being released and re-signing to a minor league contract last month. The team will give him a chance to play third base everyday.

Adams, 25, is hitting .314/.404/.477 (153 wRC+) with two homers and 99 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton this year. He’s been a full-time third baseman since last July, but he came up as a second baseman and even spent some time at first this year. Although Ben Francisco seems like the obvious candidate to lose his roster spot, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees cut Chris Nelson in favor of Adams instead. Kevin Youkilis has just started working out in Tampa according to Chad Jennings, so he isn’t close to returning. Pretty great opportunity for Adams, who I ranked as the team’s 18th best prospect before the season.