DotF: Ellsbury sits out rehab game again; Bird goes deep in Trenton’s blowout win

Some notes:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) did not play for High-A Tampa tonight as planned. Brian Cashman told Erik Boland everything is “all good” and they’re just bringing Ellsbury along slowly, so I guess that means more rehab and not a return to the Yankees tomorrow.
  • 3B Eric Jagielo does not need surgery for the “loose bodies” in his knee, according to Nick Peruffo. He’ll head to Tampa for rehab and the doctors think he might be able to play later this season. Hooray for getting good injury news for once.
  • The Yankees have signed OF Rico Noel and assigned him to Triple-A Scranton, reports Matt Eddy. The 26-year-old hit .242/.333/.288 in 33 games for the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate this year before being released. This is a “all our outfielders are getting hurt and we need a warm body” signing.
  • 1B Kyle Roller and C Austin Romine were selected for the Triple-A International League All-Star Team, so congrats to them. Here’s the full roster.

Triple-A Scranton (14-2 win over Pawtucket)

  • CF-RF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB — sixth inning grand slam put this one out of reach
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K — he was taken out of the game in the late innings, but I assume it was to get him off his feet in the blowout
  • LF Ramon Flores: 1-5, 1 K
  • C Austin Romine: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B — just keeps mashing
  • RHP Luis Severino: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4/5 GB/FB — 57 of 83 pitches were strikes (69%) … over/under on the date of his MLB debut is set at August 15th … what do you think?
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 21 of 30 pitches were strikes (70%) … 41/20 K/BB in 35 minor league innings this year

[Read more…]

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Jagielo’s injury comes at a really bad time for the Yankees

(Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)
(Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

Two weeks and one day ago, third base prospect Eric Jagielo slid into home plate and jammed his knee, forcing him to miss a few days. A few days turned into a DL stint, and, as we learned yesterday, Jagielo has “loose bodies” in his knee, which may require surgery. He’ll undergo more tests before deciding whether to go under the knife or attempt to rehab the issue. (I’m not sure how rehabbing “loose bodies” works, but I’m no doctor.)

The 23-year-old Jagielo was hitting .284/.347/.495 (141 wRC+) with nine homers in 58 games for Double-A Trenton before getting hurt. The Yankees’ first of three first round picks in 2013 has swatted 27 home runs in 150 games since the start of last season, so the production is matching the scouting reports that touted him as a left-handed power hitter. Jagielo isn’t much of a defender, he’s a bat first guy, and his bat has been delivering.

It’s unclear how long those “loose bodies” will keep Jagielo out, but I think it’s safe to say it will be several weeks if not several months regardless of whether he has surgery or goes through rehab. In fact, Double-A Trenton manager Al Pedrique told Nick Peruffo that Jagielo is “going to be out for awhile.” Hopefully he can get healthy in time to play the last few weeks of the regular season before making up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League.

Either way, surgery or no surgery, Jagielo will be out for a while, and his injury comes at a really bad time for the Yankees. (Obligatory: There is no such thing as a good time for an injury.) The trade deadline is just four weeks and one day away now, and Jagielo sure looked like one of the team’s best trade chips. A power prospect producing at Double-A in an age when offense is hard to come by? There figured to be plenty of interest in Jagielo despite his lack of a clear long-term position, especially since he’s a former first round pick. That pedigree has value.

The Yankees themselves will be able to use a young power-hitter in the near future, though, unlike Aaron Judge, Jagielo’s long-term fit with the Yankees is less clear. Judge will take over as the everyday right fielder once Carlos Beltran‘s contract is up. That’s the perfect world plan. Jagielo will … maybe play first base once Mark Teixeira‘s deal expires? Chase Headley is locked in at third base through 2018, and yeah I guess the Yankees could trade him to clear the position for a prospect, but Jagielo’s probably not going to stay at the hot corner long-term anyway.

A week or two ago we heard the Yankees have “sworn off” trading top prospects for rentals, which is something every team says at the trade deadline. The definition of “top prospect” is fluid though — you and I may consider someone like Jagielo a top prospect, but the Yankees may not, and vice versa. To me, Jagielo fits in that second tier of prospects, behind Judge and Luis Severino. The kind of prospect the Yankees should be willing to trade prior to the deadline to improve the MLB roster. The right rental player, as people like to say.

Now the Yankees won’t have that option. Jagielo’s injury takes him out of the trade chip equation — technically he can still be traded while hurt, but it’s not often injured prospects get traded these days aside from the occasional high-end pitcher rehabbing from Tommy John surgery — and gives the Yankees less ammunition leading up to the deadline. The injury is unfortunate for Jagielo’s development as a player and unfortunate for his trade value. The timing is real bad for the Yankees given their obvious needs on the mound and at second base.

DotF: Aaron Judge and Austin Aune have huge games

Bad news: Matt Kardos says 3B Eric Jagielo has “loose bodies” in his knee. He hurt himself sliding into home plate a week or two ago. Jagielo will undergo more tests before deciding whether to have surgery or go the rehab route. Either way, it’s safe to assume he’ll be out for a while. Sucks.

Triple-A Scranton (12-8 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Aaron Judge: 4-4, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 BB — big day at the plate and he also threw a runner out at third … also, that’s his first pro game in center field, the position he played in college
  • RF Ramon Flores: 1-3, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
  • DH Austin Romine: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — having a really great year, might be enough to earn himself a spot on the 40-man roster come September so the Yankees don’t lose him for nothing as a minor league free agent after the season
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 33 of 59 pitches were strikes (56%)
  • RHP Chris Martin: 1.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 23 of 49 pitches were strikes (47%) … not gonna earn a trip back to New York that way, Chris
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 19 of 28 pitches were strikes (68%)

[Read more…]

Injury Updates: Ellsbury, Miller, Clarkin, DeCarr, Jagielo

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees begin their three-game series with the Angels later tonight (much later tonight), so, until then, here are some updates on a few injured Yankees via Meredith Marakovits, Marly Rivera, Joel Sherman, and the Yankees themselves.

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) traveled to Tampa following yesterday’s game and will begin playing in minor league rehab games at some point later this week. “I’m excited to get back. (I’ll be) playing in games sometime this week and I can’t wait to get back to big league club,” he said.
  • UPDATE: Ellsbury will start a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa today, the team just announced. My guess is the Yankees hope to have him back in the lineup for the start of the homestand on Friday. Fingers crossed.
  • Andrew Miller (forearm) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. He played catch the last few days and will do it again today. Miller will long-toss tomorrow before getting up on a mound Wednesday. Can’t imagine he’ll need much time to get ready after that as a short reliever.
  • Ian Clarkin (elbow) has not had Tommy John surgery. Not yet, anyway. Clarkin was shut down in Spring Training with elbow tendinitis and he reportedly pitched in an Extended Spring Training game in May, but we haven’t heard anything since. This non-update is the latest.
  • Austin DeCarr (elbow) did have Tommy John surgery, however. Not sure when when he had it — last week? last month? March? makes a difference! — but he had it. DeCarr was the team’s third round pick last year and I had him as their 16th best prospect coming in the season.
  • This isn’t really an injury, but I’m not sure where else to put it: Eric Jagielo was diagnosed with diabetes late last year. It’s manageable and hasn’t impacted his career in any way to this point. But still, geez. This has been a bad year for minor league injuries and this adds the lolwtf factor.

Taking stock of the Yankees’ trade chips leading up to the deadline

Sanchez. (Star-Ledger)
Sanchez. (Star-Ledger)

Over the last few seasons the Yankees have focused on rental players at the trade deadline while doing their long-term shopping in the offseason. That isn’t always the case — Martin Prado had two and a half years left on his contract at the time of the trade last year — but that definitely seems to be their preference. Hal Steinbrenner already confirmed rentals are the plan this summer as well.

Earlier this week we heard the Yankees have “sworn off” trading their top prospects for rentals, and that’s all well and good, but every team says that this time of year. If the Tigers offer David Price for Luis Severino, are the Yankees really going to say no to that? Probably not. Anyway, the Yankees have some needs heading into the trade deadline as always (righty reliever, second base, etc.), so let’s sort through their trade chips to see who may and may not be dealt this summer.

The Untouchables, Sorta

The Yankees rarely trade players off their big league roster at the trade deadline, and, when they do, it’s usually a Vidal Nuno or Yangervis Solarte type. Not someone who was a key part of the roster. I think Dellin Betances is the team’s best trade chip right now — best as in he’d bring the largest return by himself — but they’re not going to trade him for obvious reasons. Same with Michael Pineda and, yes, even Didi Gregorius.

Among prospects, Severino and Aaron Judge are the closest to untouchable, and I don’t think they should be completely off the table. They’re very good prospects, not elite best in baseball prospects, and the Yankees should at least be willing to listen. (I suspect they are.) Does that mean they should give them away? Of course not. The Yankees would need a difference-maker in return, likely a difference-maker they control beyond this season.

The Outfielders

Alright, now let’s get to the prospects who might actually be traded this summer. We have to start with the outfielders. The Yankees have a ton of them. You could argue too many, though I won’t. Just this season the Yankees have had Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Ramon Flores make their big league debuts. Judge was just promoted to Triple-A Scranton, where the Yankees also have Ben Gamel and Tyler Austin. Jake Cave is with Double-A Trenton.

Flores. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Flores. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

That’s a lot of outfielders! Obviously some are more valuable than others, especially with Heathcott (quad) and Williams (shoulder) on the DL, but that’s a legitimate surplus the Yankees can use in a trade(s) at the deadline. Judge is the big prize here, though he’s supposedly untouchable. My guess is healthy Williams and Flores have the most trade value out of everyone else because teams could realistically plug them right onto their MLB roster. The Yankees are in position to trade a young outfielder or two while still having enough depth for themselves.

The “Blocked” Prospects

Prospects who don’t necessarily fit into a club’s long-term plans are prime trade bait. Gary Sanchez sure seems likely to be made available this summer assuming he returns from his bruised hand reasonably soon. (He was hit by a foul tip last week.) The Yankees value defense behind the plate very highly. They’ve made that clear. Sanchez, while improving slowly and steadily, isn’t much of a defender at all. The bat is more projection than results — 108 wRC+ in just over 800 Double-A plate appearances from 2013-15 — which isn’t uncommon for a 22-year-old.

Sanchez is still only 22 but he is also in his second minor league option year, meaning he has to stick in MLB or be exposed to waivers come the 2017 season. That’s still a long way away in the grand scheme of things. Long enough for his defense to improve to the Yankees’ high standards? Probably not. It’s not impossible, just unlikely. As with Jesus Montero and Peter O’Brien before him, Sanchez seems very likely to be dealt no matter how promising his bat appears simply because it doesn’t look like he’ll be a good catcher and doesn’t really have another position.

Eric Jagielo is blocked but not really — the Yankees did just sign Chase Headley to a four-year contract, but Jagielo probably won’t stay at third base long-term anyway. He might be headed for left field or, more likely, first base. And, if that is the case, Jagielo’s future impacts Greg Bird, a true first base prospect. Mark Teixeira‘s contract will expire after next season and ideally one of these two will step into to replace him at first. It’s easy to say the Yankees should look into their crystal ball, decide whether Jagielo or Bird will be the first baseman of the future and trade the other, but that’s not realistic. Either way, Jagielo and Bird shouldn’t be off-limits in trade talks.

Stock Down

Coming into the season, I would have said prospects like Ian Clarkin, Domingo German, Ty Hensley, and Luis Torrens fit into the “candidates to be traded” group for different reasons. Maybe even Jacob Lindgren too. They’ve all since suffered significant injuries. German and Hensley both had Tommy John surgery, Torrens had shoulder surgery, and Lindgren had a bone spur taken out of his elbow this week. He might be back in September. German, Hensley, and Torrens are done for the year.

Clarkin has not pitched in an official game this year because of some kind of elbow problem. He was shut down with tendinitis in Spring Training and reportedly pitched in an Extended Spring Training game back in May, but we haven’t heard any updates since, and he hasn’t joined any of the minor league affiliates. (Extended Spring Training ended a few days ago.) It’s hard not to think the worst in a situation like this. Clarkin and these other guys are still eligible to be traded, but injured non-elite prospects usually don’t have much value. The Yankees are better off holding onto them and hoping they rebuild value with a healthy 2016.

Refsnyder. (MiLB.com)
Refsnyder. (MiLB.com)

Not As Valuable As You May Think

Like the fans of the other 29 teams, we overvalue the Yankees’ prospects. We’re not unique. Everyone does it. Rob Refsnyder? He’s slightly more valuable than Tony Renda, who New York just acquired for a reliever who had been designated for assignment. An all-hit/no-glove prospect pushing a .750 OPS at Triple-A isn’t bringing back a whole lot. Think Pete O’Brien without the power.

Jorge Mateo? He’s loaded with ability. He’s also 20 and in Low-A, so three years away from MLB, give or take. The further away a player is from MLB, the less trade value he has. Same deal with Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade. These guys absolutely have trade value. Just not as a centerpiece in a significant deal. They’re second or third pieces in a big deal, headliners in a smaller deal.

Miscellaneous depth arms fit here as well. Jose Ramirez, Tyler Webb, Branden Pinder, guys like that. They’re all interesting for different reasons and hey, they might have some MLB value for a few years, but they’re basically throw-ins. And no, lumping two or three good prospects together doesn’t equal one great prospect. Most teams already have prospects like the guys in this section in their farm system. They aren’t game-changers in trade negotiations.

Straight Cash, Homey

The Yankees’ single greatest trade chip is their payroll and their ability to absorb salary. That helped them get Prado at the trade deadline last year, for example. Or Bobby Abreu years ago. Whether Hal Steinbrenner is willing to take on substantial money to facilitate a trade is another matter. I mean, I’d hope so, especially for a rental player who won’t tie down future payroll when the team tries to get under the luxury tax threshold again. The team’s ability to take on big dollars separates them from most other clubs in trade talks. Their financial might is absolutely valuable when talking trades.

* * *

Even if the Yankees do make Severino and Judge off-limits — all indications are they will — I think they have enough mid-range prospects to acquire upgrades at the trade deadline. Not huge ones, we can forget all about Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto is Severino and Judge are off the table, but Sanchez, Jagielo, and the various outfielders will generate some interest. Finding a match will be more difficult than scratching together tradeable prospects, which was an issue for New York for several years in the mid-2000s.

Eric Jagielo in position to help the Yankees in the future … or at the trade deadline

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two years ago the Yankees had three first round picks thanks to the free agent departures of Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano. They desperately needed to add impact talent to the system at the time, and by and large they succeeded, mostly with OF Aaron Judge. Judge was the compensation pick for Swisher. LHP Ian Clarkin, the comp pick for Soriano, had a strong season in 2014 but has been dealing with elbow woes this year.

The third of those three first rounders — or really the first since it was New York’s natural first round pick — was 3B Eric Jagielo, who this year is emerging as a top power hitting prospect with Double-A Trenton. He went into yesterday’s doubleheader hitting .297/.380/.568 (166 wRC+) with an Eastern League leading nine home runs while ever so slightly cutting strikeout rate from 24.4% last year to 22.9%.

For some reason there seemed to be a sense of disappointment with Jagielo’s 2014 season, maybe because he wasn’t as overwhelmingly dominant as Judge. Jagielo, now 23, missed about a month with an oblique strain last year but otherwise hit .256/.351/.461 (132 wRC+) with a 10.6 BB% with High-A Tampa. Heck, he hit one more home run than Judge (18 to 17) in 178 fewer plate appearances.

Jagielo was supposed to join Judge in the Arizona Fall League last fall, but he took a pitch to the face in Instructional League and needed surgery to repair a fracture. Thankfully he fully recovered and is back to mashing baseballs, which is great for the Yankees. As a left-handed power hitter willing to draw walks, Jagielo is tailor made for Yankee Stadium, and he isn’t terrible far away from MLB. The second half of 2016 isn’t an unrealistic timetable.

There’s also this: Jagielo’s strong season makes him an attractive trade chip for the Yankees. Teams aren’t stupid, they make trades based on their own internal evaluations, not the player’s FanGraphs page, but Jagielo’s performance is the kind of performance that can get a player noticed and bring scouts back for another look. Offense and especially power are hard to find these days and Jagielo offers it. That he’s now doing it in Double-A instead of High-A will make him even more attractive.

(MiLB.com)
(MiLB.com)

Obviously Jagielo is not a perfect prospect. He doesn’t really have a position. He’s currently playing third base but his defense at the hot corner isn’t all that good, so much so that there’s at least some talk of moving him to a corner outfield spot or first base. Jagielo’s bat would play at either position though clearly he would be most valuable at third base, where the Yankees have Chase Headley in year one of his new four-year contract. Kind of a problem there.

Both Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira will be become free agents after next season, so right field and first base are opening up soon. Jagielo could be an option there. I know we’ve all kinda been earmarking those spots for Judge and 1B Greg Bird, respectively, but who knows? That’s a long time away in prospect years and lots can change. Who’s to say Jagielo won’t be the team’s best first base option in 16 months? I don’t think it’s farfetched at all.

Either way, the Yankees have lots of options with Jagielo, who is having a tremendous season to date and looks very much like the power/patience left-handed force he was expected to be at the time of the draft. They have the option of holding onto him, seeing what spots open up in the next year and change, or using him in a trade to bolster another part of the team this year since they do have Headley locked in at third base. There’s an argument to made both ways.

Personally, I think the Yankees are at a point where they should hang on to Jagielo and see how the roster shakes out. His offense could be a very welcome addition to the lineup at some point in the next two years. At the same time, they shouldn’t close the door on any trades. That would be foolish. Jagielo could net them a piece that better fits their roster going forward, say a young pitcher or middle infielder, and that’s a move they have to be open to making if the opportunity presents itself.

Right now, Jagielo is living up to his first round draft slot much like Judge, which is something the Yankees really needed given their run of (thus far) unproductive top picks from 2007-12. Jagielo’s success gives the team some options going forward, including the option to keep him and the option to use him in a trade.

Minor League Notes: Assignments, Spring Reports, Judge, International Spending

Pace of play clocks are up at PNC Field in Scranton. (RailRiders)
The new pace of play clocks are up at PNC Field in Scranton. (RailRiders)

The Yankees open the 2015 regular season tomorrow, and a few days later the minor league season will get underway as well. Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, and Low-A Charleston all begin their seasons this coming Thursday. Here are some minor league notes to hold you over until then.

Opening Day assignments for top prospects

The full minor league rosters have not yet been released and won’t be a few days, though Josh Norris was able to get his hands on Opening Day assignments for most of the Yankees’ top prospects. The list:

Norris says the assignments could change slightly before the start of the season, but for the most part they’re set. Sanchez is going back to the Thunder to continue working on his defense with coaches and ex-catchers Michel Hernandez and P.J. Pilittere, which I don’t love, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I assume Avelino, Katoh, and Mateo will rotate between second, short, and DH like Avelino, Katoh, and Wade did last year before Avelino got hurt. I’m little surprised Mateo is going to Charleston — he’s played only games in 15 rookie ball, that’s it — but the Yankees have never been shy about aggressively promoting their best teenage players. Otherwise these assignments are fairly straight forward. No major surprises.

Notes from the backfields in Tampa

Both Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Jeff Moore (no subs. req’d) recently posted a collection of notes after watching minor league games on the backfields all around Florida. Law got a look at Mateo, saying he likes “how well he keeps his hands inside the ball” and added he “liked the potential of the hit tool but was hoping to see more polish on both sides of the ball.” The polish will come. It’s only Spring Training and Mateo is still just a 19-year-old kid.

Meanwhile, Moore saw Judge, Bird, and RHP Bryan Mitchell. “What’s impressive is (Judge) seems to get a little better each time I see him. The at-bats have gotten tougher and more advanced, with a better plan each time out,” wrote Moore. He also said he sees Bird as “a potential regular first baseman” and his “power is very real, more real than he gets credit for.” As for Mitchell, Moore says his fastball/curveball combination “screams reliever, and possibly a darn good one.”

Law still ranks Judge 23rd in latest Top 50 Prospects list

Last week, Law released an updated ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball (subs. req’d). There are only very minor changes from his top 100 list in February, with the most notable being the addition of Red Sox IF Yoan Moncada, who slots in at No. 16. Even with Moncada joining the list, Judge stays in the same No. 23 spot because he jumped over Rockies RHP Jon Gray, who hasn’t looked like himself this spring. Judge remains the third outfielder on the list behind Twins OF Byron Buxton and Cubs OF Jorge Soler. Law is the high man on Judge based on all this spring’s other top 100 lists. That’s cool with me.

Yankees spent $17.83M on international players in 2014

According to Ben Badler, the Yankees spent a ridiculous $17.83M on international prospects last year, easily the most in baseball. They spent more than the number two (Rays, $6.11M), three (Red Sox, $5.63M), and four (Astros, $5.42M) teams combined and more than the bottom ten teams combined ($16.9575M). Just to be clear, this is for the 2014 calendar year, not the 2014-15 signing period.

The Yankees handed out three of the five largest, six of the 14 largest, and 12 of the 40 largest signing bonuses to international prospects during the 2014 calendar year, according to Badler. We still don’t have a final number for the total bonuses the Yankees handed out during the 2014-15 signing period, but the total investment is clearly going to be north of $30M between bonuses and penalties. Most of that $17.83M last year was spent on July 2nd, the first day of the 2014-15 signing period. Now the Yankees just have to turn these kids into big leaguers and tradeable prospects.

Yankees release nine more minor leaguers

The Yankees have released seven more minor leaguers according to Matt Eddy: OF Yeicok Calderon, RHP Tim Giel, OF Robert Hernandez, RHP Stefan Lopez, RHP Matt Noteware, 1B Dalton Smith, and IF Graham Ramos. Dan Pfeiffer says OF Adonis Garcia was released as well, and OF Adam Silva announced on Facebook he was also released.

First things first: no more Yeicokshots!, sadly. Hernandez was signed in January, so his stint with the organization didn’t last long. Lopez led NCAA in saves in 2012 and had some potential, but he fell in love with his fastball so much in college that he lost all feel for his slider and became a one-pitch guy. The Yankees signed Giel, Noteware, and Ramos as undrafted free agents within the last two years to help fill out minor league rosters. That’s about it.

Old Timers’ Game coming to Triple-A Scranton

And finally, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre franchise is holding an Old Timers’ Game on June 21st, reports Donnie Collins. The event will raise money for Parkinson’s disease research. “I expect the ballpark to be sold out — and standing room only. That’s the goal,” said RailRiders’ co-managing partner to Grant Cagle to Collins. A bunch of ex-Yankees will be in attendance — not sure who, exactly — to play in the Old Timers’ Game and/or mingle with fans during a meet-and-greet and autograph session. That should be fun.