DotF: Sheffield dominant in Arizona Fall League opener

Now that the various fall and winter leagues have started their seasons, it’s time for a minor league update. I usually only do these once a week during the offseason. Before we get to the game action, here are some stray notes and links.

  • If you’re still holding out hope the Yankees will find a way to keep Gary Denbo, stop. The Marlins officially announced his hiring this past Tuesday. Here’s the press release. The Yankees have not yet announced who will replace Denbo as their player development department head. It might not happen until after the postseason.
  • Matt Eddy ranked the 30 teams by farm system production, and the Yankees led the way with +13.2 WAR from their prospect class in 2017. The Rockies were a distant second with +7.4 WAR. OF Aaron Judge is the headliner, obviously, but both LHP Jordan Montgomery and RHP Chad Green had close to +3 WAR seasons too.
  • Baseball America (subs. req’d) posted their 2017 draft report card for the Yankees recently. Most notably, the write-up says OF Steven Sensley has 70 power. Huh. Didn’t expect that. Sensley hit .292/.370/.584 (157 wRC+) with 13 homers in 50 games after being this year’s 12th round pick.
  • The Yankees have re-signed C Francisco Diaz, according to Eddy. Diaz, 27, hit .261/.315/.322 (79 wRC+) in 58 games at three levels as an organizational depth catcher this year. This is at least the second time he’s re-signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent.

AzFL Scottsdale (7-4 win over Mesa) Tuesday’s game

  • SS Thairo Estrada: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K — the Summer of Thairo is now the Autumn of Thairo (the Fall of Thairo sounds bad)
  • DH Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K
  • RF Estevan Florial: 1-4, 2 K — threw a runner out at the plate
  • LHP Justus Sheffield: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 40 of 62 pitches were strikes (65%) … Keith Law and Eric Longenhagen had Sheffield sitting 94-96 mph … Law said this game was the best he’s ever seen Sheffield, and a scout told Josh Norris: “That was No. 1 starter stuff right there” … in a post (subs. req’d), Law said Sheffield was “absolutely filthy in his AFL debut, sitting 94-96 with a plus slider at 86-87 and above-average changeup at 86-89, better at the 86-87 part of that range”
  • RHP Cody Carroll: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 16 of 31 pitches were strikes (52%)

[Read more…]

Sorting out the projected 2017 Triple-A Scranton roster

Home of the RailRiders. (EwingCole.com)
Home of the RailRiders. (EwingCole.com)

Over the last few seasons the Yankees and every other team in baseball have begun to use their Triple-A affiliate as an extension of their big league roster. They not only send relievers up and down whenever a fresh arm is needed, they’ll also shuttle platoon players in and out based on upcoming pitching matchups. Clubs look for every advantage possible, and these days that means having MLB and Triple-A roster flexibility.

The Yankees have built an exceptional farm system with many high-caliber prospects ticketed for Triple-A. They also have several big league roster openings with young players slated to compete in Spring Training. The refreshing emphasis on youth means projecting the 2017 Triple-A Scranton roster is damn near impossible, but that won’t stop me from trying. I do this every winter and I ain’t stoppin’ now.

Now that the non-roster invitees have been announced, let’s try to figure out what the RailRiders’ roster will look like on Opening Day. After all, these players are depth players for the Yankees, and inevitably we’re going to see many of them in MLB at some point. The top prospects get all the attention, understandably, but don’t sleep on the Chris Parmelees and Anthony Swarzaks of the world either. Those guys have a way of finding themselves in the Bronx.

Let’s begin by looking at position player candidates for the Triple-A Scranton roster. An asterisk (*) denotes the player is on the 40-man roster, which, in this situation, is kind of a big deal.

Catchers Infielders Outfielders Utility
Kyle Higashioka* Greg Bird* Aaron Judge* Tyler Austin*
Wilkin Castillo Ronald Torreyes* Mason Williams* Rob Refsnyder*
Francisco Diaz Ji-Man Choi Jake Cave Tyler Wade
Kellin Deglan Cito Culver Dustin Fowler
Mike Ford Clint Frazier
Pete Kozma
Donovan Solano
Ruben Tejada

I have 20 position players in the table and these days Triple-A rosters run 25 players deep. As recent as 2011, Triple-A and Double-A teams fielded only 24-man rosters. For real. It is not at all uncommon for Triple-A clubs to carry eight-man bullpens, especially early in the season when pitchers are still getting in the swing of things and also having their workloads monitored. We need to pare that list of 20 players down to 13 or even 12.

Catchers: Barring injury, the Yankees are set with Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine behind the plate at the big league level. Romine did an okay job as the full-time backup last year, and while I wouldn’t completely rule out Higashioka winning the job in camp, it would surprise me. Remember, Romine is out of minor league options, which means if he’s not the backup catcher, he’s out of the organization. (Even if he clears waivers, he’d likely elect free agency and look for a big league opportunity elsewhere.)

The odds are strongly in favor of Romine backing up Sanchez with Higashioka biding his time as the third string catcher in Triple-A. The real question is who will back up Higashioka? Castillo seems like the safe bet considering he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with (a little) big league experience and a ton of Triple-A experience. Diaz has two games of Triple-A experience and that’s it. Deglan has barely played above Single-A. Those two figure to be the Double-A Trenton catching tandem with Higashioka and Castillo in Scranton. That’s two of our 12 position player roster spots.

Infielders: Austin, Bird, and Refsnyder are essentially competing for two big league roster spots: the first base job and a bench job. Everyone wants Bird to win the first base job, including the Yankees themselves. But, if he needs more time to shake off the rust following shoulder surgery, a return trip to Scranton could very well be in the cards. Either way, one of these three players figures to start the season with the RailRiders while the other two are with the Yankees. My guess is Refsnyder winds up in Triple-A, but who knows. Three of our 12 Triple-A roster spots are now taken.

Back to Triple-A for Mr. Refsnyder? (Presswire)
Refsnyder. (Presswire)

Solano, Tejada, and Torreyes will all compete for the big league reserve infielder’s job in Spring Training, or at least appear to compete for the job. Maybe even Kozma too. Torreyes not only filled the role admirably last season, he’s also on the 40-man roster and the other three are not. That’s one heck of a tiebreaker. Torreyes can be sent to Triple-A, he has options remaining, it’s just hard to think he could lose the bench job in Spring Training. Lil’ Ronnie in the show with the other three in Scranton seems to be the most likely outcome here. That’s six Triple-A roster spots accounted for now.

Choi has big league time and while I suppose it’s not completely impossible he wins the big league first base job should Bird need more time in Triple-A, I’d bet against it. The big league service time all but ensures Choi will start the season in Scranton, not Double-A Trenton. That figures to spell bad news for Ford, who has played only 42 career games at the Double-A level. Hard to think the Yankees would send two pure first basemen to Scranton. Choi is position player number seven.

Before we found out the Yankees re-signed Kozma, the final Triple-A infield spot came down to Culver or Ford. Now neither of them figures to get a Triple-A roster spot. They’ll likely have to go back to Double-A to begin the season. Either that, or the RailRiders will carry a six-man bullpen, and there’s no chance of that happening.

Outfield: In a roundabout way, Judge and Williams are competing for one big league roster spot. Judge will be given every opportunity to win the starting right field job, but if the Yankees determine he’s not ready for it, he could wind up back in Triple-A. In that case, Aaron Hicks would presumably take over in right field and Williams would get the fourth outfielder’s job. I suppose it could go to Refsnyder or Austin, but I think the Yankees would want an actual outfielder on the bench. There’s the eighth position player. (Hicks, by the way, is out of options and can’t be sent to Triple-A.)

Frazier is a Triple-A lock because he reached the level last season and is a priority guy as a top prospect. The Yankees aren’t going to send him to Double-A to clear a roster spot because Culver has tenure in the organization or anything like that. Fowler is another high-end prospect who had a successful season at Double-A in 2016, so an assignment to Triple-A is the natural order of things. Cave is a Triple-A veteran and the logical candidate for the fourth outfield spot. Frazier, Fowler, and Cave are position players nine, ten, and eleven.

Utility: I listed Austin and Refsnyder as utility players only because they can play the infield and outfield. They were already covered in the infield section. Wade, who is primarily an infielder but started working out in the outfield in the Arizona Fall League, had a solid Double-A season a year ago, so, like Fowler, an assignment to Triple-A makes sense. Wade is out 12th and final Triple-A position player.

Let’s quickly recap everything we just went through:

  • Catchers (2): Higashioka and Castillo
  • Infielders (4): Choi, Kozma, Solano, and Tejada
  • Outfielders (4): Cave, Fowler, Frazier, and either Judge or Williams
  • Utility (2): Wade, and one of Bird, Austin, or Refsnyder

That’s a dozen position players right there, and I suppose if the RailRiders open the season with a normal seven-man bullpen, either Culver or Ford would make the team as the 13th position player. Probably Culver. I still expect an eight-man bullpen, at least initially.

The perfect world scenario for the Yankees is Bird and Judge winning the first base and right field jobs, respectively, and Austin beating out Refsnyder for a bench spot. So, assuming that happens, here are the projected Triple-A position players, with a batting order written out because why not?

1. SS Tyler Wade
2. CF Dustin Fowler
3. LF Clint Frazier
4. DH Rob Refsnyder
5. C Kyle Higashioka
6. 3B Donovan Solano
7. 1B Ji-Man Choi
8. 2B Ruben Tejada
9. RF Mason Williams

Bench: C Wilkin Castillo, IF Pete Kozma, OF Jake Cave

The batting order is just for fun. Don’t take it to heart. Remember, players are going move around. Refsnyder won’t always DH. Wade will undoubtedly see some time in the outfield. Frazier and Williams will probably see time in all three outfield spots. Heck, Solano and Tejada will probably roam around the infield too. These things are very fluid. That, however, is the projected Triple-A Scranton group of position players based on everything we know at the moment. Now let’s get to the pitchers.

Starters Righty Relievers Lefty Relievers
Luis Cessa* Johnny Barbato* Richard Bleier*
Dietrich Enns* Gio Gallegos* Chasen Shreve*
Chad Green* Ben Heller* Joe Mantiply
Ronald Herrera* Jonathan Holder* Jason Gurka
Bryan Mitchell* J.P. Feyereisen Evan Rutckyj
Luis Severino* Mark Montgomery
Chance Adams Matt Wotherspoon
Daniel Camarena
Kyle Haynes
Brady Lail
Jordan Montgomery

Lots of pitchers. Lots and lots of pitchers. There are 23 of ’em in the table, and if that sounds like a lot, consider the RailRiders used 37 different pitchers last season, including 22 different starters. They used 45 pitchers and 24 different starters in 2015. So yeah, 23 pitches in the table seems like a lot, but it’s maybe half as many as Scranton will need to get through the season. Before you know it they’ll be signing Phil Coke out of an independent league again. That’s baseball, yo.

Rotation: At the moment, the Yankees have to two open big league rotation spots, which Brian Cashman & Co. insist will go to two young pitchers. Cashman has specifically singled out Cessa, Green, Mitchell, and Severino as the candidates for those jobs. (Adam Warren too, but I don’t think he’ll actually open the season in the rotation unless all hell breaks loose in camp.) My money is on Severino and Cessa getting the rotation spots. We’ll see.

In theory, the Yankees would send the two losers of the rotation competition to Triple-A, where they would bide their time until they need another starter in the Bronx. Sounds simple enough. That’s not necessarily how it will work though. In 2014 the Yankees held a three-way competition for the long reliever job — not even a rotation spot, the long reliever spot — between Warren, David Phelps, and Vidal Nuno. The Yankees ended up carrying all three on the Opening Day roster because they were the best men for the job.

Who’s to say that, if Cessa and Severino were to win the two rotation spots, that Green and Mitchell wouldn’t be in the bullpen? That really complicates things and is why I included guys like Haynes and Lail in this exercise. More than a few of those 40-man roster Triple-A rotation candidates could wind up in the big league bullpen, creating a need for starters in Scranton. Geez, that’s a mouthful.

Severino. (Danna Stevens/Times Tribune)
Severino. (Danna Stevens/Times Tribune)

Anyway, this is what I think will happen: two of the Cessa/Green/Mitchell/Severino quartet get big league rotation spots and a third winds up in the bullpen as the long man. The fourth goes to Scranton as the de facto sixth starter. That means, based our table, we’re left with seven candidates for the four remaining Triple-A rotation spots: Adams, Camarena, Enns, Haynes, Herrera, Lail, and Montgomery.

Two of the four spots are easy. They’ll go to Adams and Montgomery, two of the better pitching prospects in the organization, both of whom are ready for Triple-A. (Montgomery thrived there in his brief stint last year.) Enns and Herrera are on the 40-man roster, which could give them a leg up for the final two Triple-A rotation spots. I do wonder whether the Yankees will move Enns to the bullpen since that’s likely his ultimate destination.

For now, I’m guessing Enns remains a starter, meaning Scranton’s five-man rotation to start the season will be, in whatever order, Adams, Enns, Herrera, Montgomery, and one of Cessa, Green Mitchell, or Severino. That leaves Camarena, Haynes, and Lail out in the cold. The projected Double-A rotation is pretty stacked (Ian Clarkin, Josh Rogers, Justus Sheffield, etc.) so it’s not as simple as bumping them down a level. Hmmm.

Bullpen: Right now, the Yankees have five big league bullpen spots accounted for: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard, Tommy Layne, and Warren. Layne is out of options, so if he doesn’t make the big league bullpen, he’s probably out of the organization. No Triple-A for him. I assumed in the previous section one of the four young starters winds up in the bullpen, which means six of seven big league bullpen spots are accounted for in this little exercise.

I have 12 relievers in the table plus Camarena, Haynes, and Lail to consider, so that’s 15 pitchers total. One of those 15 is going to get the final big league bullpen spot, so it’s really 14 pitchers for eight Triple-A bullpen spots. In all likelihood one of the 40-man roster guys will get that last bullpen job with the Yankees. It doesn’t really matter which one, specifically. My money is on Bleier because the Yankees really seem to like him, but ultimately the name doesn’t matter.

Why doesn’t it matter? Because there are six 40-man relievers in that table, and whichever ones don’t get that final MLB bullpen spot will wind up in Triple-A, no questions asked. None of ’em are going to Double-A. That’s five Triple-A bullpen spots accounted for already, which leaves us nine pitchers for the final two or three bullpen spots (depending whether they carry a seven or eight-man bullpen): Camarena, Feyereisen, Gurka, Haynes, Lail, Mantiply, Montgomery, Rutckyj, and Wotherspoon.

The Yankees signed Gurka as a minor league free agent earlier this offseason and he has some big league bullpen time with the Rockies, so I think he gets a Triple-A bullpen spot. Cashman talked up Mantiply at the town hall two weeks ago and he has a tiny little bit of big league time too, so I think he gets a Triple-A bullpen spot as well. If the RailRiders employ an eight-man bullpen — and to be clear, the Yankees make that decision, not the RailRiders — I think it would be Feyereisen. Just a hunch. Camarena, Haynes, Lail, Montgomery, Rutckyj, and Wotherspoon end up in Double-A for the time being. (One or two might even get released.)

Alright, so after all of that, my projected 13-man Triple-A Scranton pitching staff shakes out like this:

  • Rotation (5): Adams, Enns, Herrera, Montgomery, and one of Cessa, Green, Mitchell, or Severino.
  • Bullpen (8): Feyereisen, Gurka, Mantiply, and five of Barbato, Bleier, Gallegos, Heller, Holder, or Shreve.

After going through all of that, I must point out the odds are strongly in favor of this post being a complete waste of time. Guys are going to get hurt in Spring Training, released before the end of camp, whatever. These things change and they change a lot. Trying to project the Triple-A Opening Day roster in late January is a fool’s errand, so I guess that makes me a fool.

I still think it can be instructive to go through this exercise each year, even though it’s prone to blowing up in my face. It’s good to get an idea of how the Triple-A roster will shake out, see where the Yankees have depth, and who the call-up candidates are at any given moment. I have a tendency to forget about Herrera, personally. Laying this all out is a good reminder that hey, he’s probably going to be in the Scranton rotation. So even though this is all very subject to change, I think we get a good grasp of what the Triple-A roster may look like come April.

Torres, Frazier, Kaprielian, and other prospects headline 2017 Spring Training invitees

Soon. (Presswire)
Soon. (Presswire)

Two weeks from today the Yankees will open Spring Training when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. And earlier today, the Yankees officially announced this year’s list of non-roster invitees. The 23 non-roster players include several of the team’s best prospects. Here’s the list:

Pitchers (11)
RHP Chance Adams
LHP Daniel Camarena
RHP J.P. Feyereisen
LHP Jason Gurka
RHP James Kaprielian
RHP Brady Lail
LHP Joe Mantiply
RHP Jordan Montgomery
RHP Nick Rumbelow
LHP Evan Rutckyj
LHP Justus Sheffield

Catchers (4)
Wilkin Castillo
Kellin Deglan
Francisco Diaz
Jorge Saez

Infielders (6)
Ji-Man Choi
Pete Kozma
Donovan Solano
Ruben Tejada
Gleyber Torres
Tyler Wade

Outfielders (2)
Dustin Fowler
Clint Frazier

As a reminder, all players on the 40-man roster will be in big league camp automatically. That includes prospects like Miguel Andujar, Dietrich Enns, Domingo German, Ronald Herrera, Kyle Higashioka, Jorge Mateo, and Yefrey Ramirez. Those guys have yet to make their MLB debuts, but they’ll be in Spring Training since they’re on the 40-man roster.

As for the list of non-roster players, first things first: the Yankees have apparently re-signed Kozma. He spent all of last season with Triple-A Scranton, where he hit .209/.268/.265 (52 wRC+) in 488 plate appearances before becoming a minor league free agent. The Yankees obviously then re-signed him as a depth player at some point. Welcome back, Pete.

Secondly, good gravy is that a lot of top prospects. Torres, the crown jewel of last year’s Aroldis Chapman trade, is one of the very best prospects in all of baseball, and we’ll get to see him in a Yankees uniform for the first time this spring. Frazier, Kaprielian, and Sheffield are consensus top 100 prospects as well. They’re all going to be in camp.

Adams and Montgomery are not on the 40-man roster and chances are we won’t see either of them on a top 100 prospects list this spring, but they’re two of New York’s best pitching prospects, and both will begin 2017 at Triple-A. Bringing them to big league camp as non-roster players is a no-brainer.

The one top prospect who will not be in camp is Blake Rutherford, last year’s first round pick. That’s not surprising though. The kid is only 19 and he’s yet to play a full season of pro ball. Prior to Kaprielian last year, the Yankees hadn’t brought a first round pick to big league camp for his first Spring Training in at least a decade. Not even Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain got invites their first year.

It’s worth pointing out this list is not necessarily final. The Yankees can still add players as non-roster invitees and they very well may do so. (Mark Montgomery was a late add last year, for example.) This is a World Baseball Classic year, and the Yankees will have some playing time to fill while Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius are away from the team.

Two weeks ago I put together a non-roster preview and came up with 24 possible names. Twenty of the 24 received non-roster invites this year, so hooray for that. Go me.

Previewing the Yankees’ potential Spring Training invitees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Four weeks from yesterday, pitchers and catchers will report to Tampa and the Yankees will open Spring Training. It’s the best non-news day of the year. Nothing really happens that day, but hey, it’s the start of Spring Training, and that’s exciting. The offseason is boring. This one especially so.

At some point in these next three weeks and six days the Yankees will announce their Spring Training non-roster invitees. There are usually 20-something of them. The number varies year to year. The 20-something non-roster players plus the 40-man roster means 60-something players in big league camp. This is a World Baseball Classic year though, so the Yankees might bring a few extra bodies to camp to cover for the guys who leave to play for their country.

Non-roster players take on all shapes and sizes. Some are veteran journeymen trying to hang on. Others are top prospects. Heck, some are middling prospects. Very few of them actually have a chance to win an Opening Day roster spot. Most non-roster players are hoping to open eyes in camp and earn an early-season call-up whenever reinforcements are inevitably needed. That’s what Preston Claiborne did a few years back. He pitched well in camp and made himself a name to remember.

This spring should be extra exciting because the Yankees have such a robust farm system, and so many of their top prospects are close to the big leagues. Spring Training is a great time of year for prospect watchers. The Yankees will surely bring a bunch of their top youngsters to camp, even if only for a few weeks, just to expose them to big league life. So, with all of that in mind, let’s preview this year’s crop of potential non-roster players. Let’s call this … educated speculation.

Catchers

The Yankees, like every other team, invite a ton of non-roster catchers to Spring Training. Why? Well, who else is supposed to catch all those bullpen sessions? That’s really all it is. Teams need lots of catchers in camp because there are lots of pitchers in camp, and someone has to behind the plate for those guys. Last year the Yankees brought six non-roster catchers to camp. The year before it was five.

New York is pretty devoid of catching prospects at the moment, now that Luis Torrens is (temporarily?) a member of the Padres. Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine, and Kyle Higashioka are all on the 40-man roster, so they’ll be in camp. Donny Sands and Miguel Flames, the team’s two best catching prospects, are rookie ball kids still transitioning behind the plate, so they won’t be in big league Spring Training. Too soon. Their time will come. That means an unexciting crop of minor league signees and journeyman roster fillers behind the plate.

Mike’s Prediction: Wilkin Castillo, Kellin Deglan, Francisco Diaz, Jorge Saez, plus one or two others yet to be signed. Diaz was in camp as a non-roster player last year and re-signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent earlier this offseason. Castillo and Deglan signed as minor league free agents over the winter. Saez, 26, was a minor league Rule 5 Draft pick from the Blue Jays. The Yankees brought Santiago Nessy to camp last spring after picking him in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. I’m guessing Saez gets the same treatment.

Infielders

Gleyber. (Presswire)
Gleyber. (Presswire)

Alright, now we’re talking. Gleyber Torres, the best prospect in the system and one of the best prospects in all of baseball, is a lock to be invited to big league camp, I believe. The Yankees have historically brought their tippy top prospects to camp — Jorge Mateo was there last year, remember — and Gleyber is the best they have to offer. Torres could hang around until mid-to-late March too, depending on how much playing time is available.

Among the other prospects, Tyler Wade is the other non-roster lock in my opinion. He’s not a Torres-caliber prospect, but he’s pretty darn good himself, and he’s slated to open the 2017 season in Triple-A. The Yankees had Wade play some outfield in the Arizona Fall League last year, so they’re starting to groom him for a big league utility job. Getting him in camp so he can work with the big league instructors is the next logical step.

The Yankees have a small army of infield prospects in the low minors, guys who are better served going to minor league camp. Wilkerman Garcia, Hoy Jun Park, Kyle Holder, and Thairo Estrada fit into this group. I thought maybe the Yankees would bring Mike Ford to camp as an extra first baseman, but the recent Ji-Man Choi signing takes care of that. Choi will “compete” with Greg Bird and Tyler Austin (and Rob Refsnyder?) for the first base job.

Mike’s Prediction: Choi, Torres, Wade, Cito Culver, Donovan Solano, and Ruben Tejada. Solano and Tejada are big league veterans on minor league deals, so yeah, they’ll be in camp. Culver gets the call because both Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro could end up playing in the WBC, meaning the Yankees will need infielders. Cito re-signed with New York as a minor league free agent a few weeks ago, and it wouldn’t surprise me if an invite to Spring Training was part of the deal. Keep in mind Mateo and Miguel Andujar are on the 40-man roster and will be in Spring Training automatically.

Outfielders

Remember last spring, when the Yankees had both Mateo and Aaron Judge in camp as non-roster players? That was so fun. They even hit home runs in the same game (against the Red Sox!). To the very necessary action footage:

Ah yes, that’s the good stuff. Anyway, I bring this up because Torres and Clint Frazier and going to be this year’s Mateo and Judge. The top prospect infielder-outfielder tandem we all tune in to see every Spring Training broadcast. Frazier is one of the Yankees’ best prospects and he’s already played in Triple-A, making a non-roster invitation to Spring Training is a no-brainer.

One top outfield prospect I don’t expect to see in big league camp is Blake Rutherford. The Yankees bought James Kaprielian to camp last year and that was a rarity — Kaprielian was the first first round pick the Yankees brought to Spring Training as a non-roster player one year after the draft in at least a decade. Not even Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain got non-roster invites in 2007. Rutherford is fresh out of high school. Big league camp isn’t the appropriate place for him. Lame, but it is what it is.

Mike’s Prediction: Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Mark Payton, and Jake Cave. I’m going to go against the grain and say Payton over the more heralded Billy McKinney. Payton is not a top prospect by any stretch, but he can do a little of everything and is a performer. He’s going to carve out a career as a fourth outfielder, and I think the Yankees will want to get him in camp at least once before he becomes Rule 5 Draft eligible next winter. Cave is a Triple-A vet, hence the non-roster invite. Fowler is one of the team’s top prospects and he’ll be in Triple-A this year, so I expect to see him too. Mason Williams (and Judge) is already on the 40-man.

Right-handers

Kaprielian. (Presswire)
Kaprielian. (Presswire)

We’re going to see some nice prospects arms in camp this year, me thinks. Kaprielian, Chance Adams, and Dillon Tate are the three big names. Kaprielian was in Spring Training last season, and since he was healthy enough to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, I don’t think the Yankees will hesitate to bring him to camp this year. Adams broke out last year and is going to start the season in Triple-A. Prime non-roster fodder.

Tate is the interesting one and I don’t think a non-roster invite is a lock, but I do think it’s likely. He regained velocity after the trade last year and threw well in the AzFL. Tate is going back to starting this season and I think the Yankees will look to move him quickly. And you know what? I think the Yankees want to show him off too. Tate was the fourth overall pick in the draft two years ago and one of the big name prospects they acquired at the deadline last summer. They’ll strut him out there and let him air it out for a few Grapefruit League innings because hey, why not?

Other big name prospects, like Domingo Acevedo and Albert Abreu, seem unlikely to get an invite to big league Spring Training this year. There are only so many innings to go around, and the Yankees will need them to a) decide the fourth and fifth starter race, and b) sort through a bunch of candidates for the remaining bullpen spots. This might be a year ahead of schedule for Acevedo and Abreu. I’m open to being wrong. We’ll see.

Mike’s Prediction: Adams, Kaprielian, Tate, J.P. Feyereisen, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, plus two or three others yet to be signed. At some point soon the Yankees will sign some pitchers to minor league deals for depth and Triple-A roster filler. The Anthony Swarzaks of the world we all love to hate. Feyereisen is a reliever with a chance to pitch in the show next year, hence the invite. Pinder and Rumbelow are still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, so they won’t actually pitch this spring, but they have big league service time and the non-roster invite is basically a courtesy. They’ll get big league meal money and lodging. It’s better than rehabbing in minor league camp.

Left-handers

As with the righties, I think we’ll see some good left-handed pitching prospects in Spring Training, most notably Jordan Montgomery and Justus Sheffield. Montgomery pitched very well at Double-A and Triple-A last summer, and the odds are strongly in favor of him making his MLB debut at some point in 2017. Spring Training is a chance for Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild to get their eyes on him. Giving Montgomery a non-roster invite makes all the sense in the world.

Montgomery. (Jason Farmer/Scranton Times-Tribune)
Montgomery. (Jason Farmer/Scranton Times-Tribune)

As for Sheffield, I do think he’ll get the invite to big league camp even though the odds of him pitching in the show this year are extremely small. Sheffield is a top prospect who reached Double-A last year, and he’s going to spend much of 2017 there as well, which could be enough to make him a non-roster candidate. And like Tate, I think the Yankees are going to want to show him off a bit. Sheffield could be one of those guys who makes one Grapefruit League appearance before being sent to minor league camp.

Mike’s Prediction: Montgomery, Sheffield, Jason Gurka, Joe Mantiply, plus one yet to be signed. Gurka signed a minor league deal a few weeks ago and has big league time with the Rockies, so he’ll get the non-roster invite. Mantiply is in a similar situation. Other southpaw prospects like Ian Clarkin, Nestor Cortes, Stephen Tarpley, and Josh Rogers will have to settle for minor league camp and a possible one-day call-up for a split squad game or something.

* * *

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the chances of me being wrong (very wrong) here are quite high. This is all nothing more than guesswork based on the farm system and New York’s recent non-roster tendencies. Okay, so after all of that, I came up with 30 possible non-roster invitees:

  • Catchers (6): Castillo, Deglan, Diaz, Saez, plus up to two others yet to be signed.
  • Infielders (6): Choi, Culver, Solano, Tejada, Torres, and Wade.
  • Outfielders (4): Cave, Fowler, Frazier, and Payton.
  • Pitchers (14): Adams, Feyereisen, Gurka, Kaprielian, Mantiply, Montgomery, Pinder, Rumbelow, Sheffield, Tate, plus as many as four yet to be signed.

Last year the Yankees brought 25 non-roster players to camp. The year before it was 26 and the year before that it was also 26, so my total of 30 is in ballpark when you consider each team will probably bring a few more players to camp to help cover for the WBC. If anything, 30 might be a little light since Pinder and Rumbelow won’t actually pitch. (The Yankees brought 44 players to camp in 2013, the last WBC year, which was insane.)

The Yankees announced their non-roster invitees on February 5th each of the last two years. Three years ago it was January 29th. They tend to do it very late in the offseason, so we still have a few weeks to go before things are made official. Either way, this promises to be a very prospect filled Spring Training. Guys like Torres, Frazier, Kaprielian, Montgomery, Fowler, and Wade will all be in camp, plus all the 40-man guys like Mateo, Andujar, Judge, and Bird. Should be fun.

DotF: Gleyber Torres raking in the Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League is in full swing and the various Caribbean winter leagues are getting underway as well. Before we get to the winter ball action, here are some minor league links and notes:

  • LHP Nestor Cortes has been added to the Scottsdale Scorpions roster, according to the AzFL transactions page. He’s replaced an injured pitcher with another organization. Cortes will pitch in relief and RHP Brody Koerner will move into the Scottsdale rotation.
  • SS Gleyber Torres landed in the top spot of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. “Torres is a powerful hitter who’s shown the ability to hit for both average and power as well as the ability to stick at shortstop … He is ready for his first taste of the upper levels next season at Double-A Trenton,” said the write-up.
  • It appears OF Aaron Judge (oblique) is healthy. George King (subs. req’d) says Judge is currently working with minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson. “It’s not about making any major overhaul. He just needs to get back to doing what got him here, and the important thing is not to panic. We know that’s not going to happen because he’s been through this before,” said Rowson.
  • A few things on RHP Dillon Tate: Keith Law (subs. req’d) said his stuff has come back, but he might need to try a two-seamer to keep hitters off his “pin-straight” fastball. A scout told Randy Miller that Tate works hard but is too stubborn to succeed in MLB. How silly. Bill Mitchell spoke to Tate about his stint in the AzFL.
  • Miller has a series of posts with things to know about Torres, 3B Miguel Andujar, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, and SS Tyler Wade. Also, Mark Cannizaro spoke to 1B Greg Bird about his summer rehabbing from shoulder surgery. He hated it. “I mean, when was the last time I took a summer off from baseball?” said Bird.
  • And finally, the Yankees have re-signed C Francisco Diaz, reports Matt Eddy. The 26-year-old depth catcher hit .212/.294/.237 (56 wRC+) in 65 games at three levels in 2016. Diaz figures to again spend next season going from level to level depending where a catcher is needed at any given time.

AzFL Scottsdale

  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 7 G, 9-23, 4 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K (.391/.481/.478) — he cooled down a bit towards the end of the regular season, so it’s good to see him starting strong out here
  • 1B Greg Bird: 6 G, 6-23, 2 R, 4 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K (.261/.346/.435) — so far so good following shoulder surgery
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 6 G, 9-21, 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 SB, 2 CS (.429/.520/.810) — reminder: he’s 19
  • SS/OF Tyler Wade: 4 G, 1-14, 4 R, 4 BB, 5 K, 1 SB (.071/.278/.071) — he’s played one game at second, one in left, and two in center
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 4 H, 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K (7.20 ERA and 2.20 WHIP)
  • RHP James Kaprielian: 2 G, 2 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K (1.50 ERA and 0.83 WHIP) — like Bird, so far so good following the injury
  • RHP Brody Koerner: 2 G, 3.1 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HR (24.30 ERA and 3.90 WHIP) — he missed most of the season with an unknown injury
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 3 G, 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR (9.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP)

The Dominican Winter League season started last weekend. IF Jorge Mateo, IF Abi Avelino, OF Cesar Puello, UTIL Jose Rosario, RHP Anyelo Gomez, and RHP Adonis Rosa are all on rosters but haven’t played yet. And they might not, either. Being on the roster just means that team controls their winter ball rights, not that they will actually play.

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Tito Polo: 4 G, 3-16, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 5 K, 3 SB (.188/.235/.250) — he was one of the guys the Yankees got in the Ivan Nova trade
  • C Sebastian Valle: 6 G, 3-21, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K (.143/.250/.190) — he’ll be a minor league free agent soon
  • No other Yankees farmhands are on league rosters.

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) season begins next week. Only partial rosters have been released so far. IF Cito Culver, IF Vince Conde, and OF Aaron Judge are listed on rosters. Maybe Judge will actually play after missing time with knee and oblique injuries this summer. He only played 120 games this year.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • SS Angel Aguilar: 1 G, 0-1, 1 K
  • C Francisco Diaz: 9 G, 8-25, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 SB (.320/.393/.520) — well look at that, a catcher with two triples and a steal in the span of nine games
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • RHP David Kubiak: 2 G, 1 GS, 6.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K , 1 HR (6.75 ERA and 1.65 WHIP) — the Yankees signed the 6-foot-7 righty out of an independent league over the summer
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 4 G, 2.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K (10.13 ERA and 2.25 WHIP)
  • LHP Miguel Sulbaran, RHP Daniel Alvarez, 3B Daniel Barrios, RHP Alex Mejias, 3B Andres Chaparro, OF Andres Fernandez, and C David Vergel are all on rosters.

Judge, Mateo, Kaprielian headline 2016 Spring Training invitees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees announced their list of non-roster Spring Training invitees for the 2016 season. A total of 25 non-roster players were invited, so add in the guys on the 40-man roster, and the Yankees will have a total of 65 players in Spring Training this year. Last season they had 68.

Here are the 25 non-roster players who will be in Tampa this spring. As always, everyone on the 40-man roster will be there as well.

CATCHERS (6)
Carlos Corporan
Francisco Diaz
Kyle Higashioka
Eddy Rodriguez
Sebastian Valle
Santiago Nessy

INFIELDERS (6)
Jonathan Diaz
Pete Kozma
Jorge Mateo
Deibinson Romero (recently signed as a minor league free agent)
Donovan Solano
Tyler Wade

OUTFIELDERS (3)
Dustin Fowler
Aaron Judge
Cesar Puello

PITCHERS (10)
LHP Richard Bleier
RHP Tyler Cloyd (recently signed as a minor league free agent)
RHP Domingo German (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery)
RHP Chad Green
RHP James Kaprielian
RHP Brady Lail
RHP Diego Moreno
RHP Vinnie Pestano
RHP Anthony Swarzak
LHP Tyler Webb

Obviously some players have a much better chance of making the Yankees than others. Mateo, for example, has close to zero chance of making the Opening Day roster. He’ll be in camp so the big league coaching staff can get a firsthand look at arguably the top prospect in the organization. The same applies to Kaprielian, last summer’s first round pick, and Judge.

Right now the Yankees have five open big league roster spots: three in the bullpen, the backup catcher, and the final bench spot. Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine are the main candidates for the backup backstop job along with Corporan. It seems like the Yankees want Sanchez to be the guy, but there are service time reasons to send him to Triple-A for a few weeks (35 days in Triple-A equals an extra year of team control). All those extra catchers will be in camp to help catch bullpens and stuff.

Brian Cashman has confirmed the Yankees intendt the use their final bench spot as something of revolving door. They want to rotate players in and out based on their needs at the time, and that includes adding an eighth reliever on occasion. Remember, position battles do not end when Spring Training is over. Whoever gets those three bullpen spots and the two bench spots will have to produce during the regular season to keep the job.

Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Tampa on Thursday, February 18th. That’s two weeks from yesterday. Position players will report on Wednesday, February 24th, and the first full squad workout will follow on February 25th.

DotF: Sanchez & Fowler finish Arizona Fall League strong

The Surprise Saguaros (19-11) finished with the best record in the Arizona Fall League and will play the Scottsdale Scorpions (18-12) in today’s Championship Game. Here are the starting lineups. C Gary Sanchez, OF Tyler Austin, and OF Dustin Fowler are all playing. The game will begin at 3pm ET and you can watch live on MLB Network and MLB.com. Here are some other minor league notes:

  • Not one, but two former Yankees farmhands signed big league contracts this week. RHP Cesar Vargas signed with the Padres and RHP Andury Acevedo hooked on with the Cubs, both teams announced. Vargas and Acevedo became minor league free agents last week. They’re both hard-throwing relievers. The Yankees have plenty of those.
  • Kelsie Heneghan has a nice article on OF Dustin Fowler, who’s had a strong few weeks in the AzFL. “You can see he’s a line-drive hitter, knows how to handle the bat well. He can steal a base, he has good speed, is aggressive on the bases, a good fielder,” said Surprise manager Carlos Subero. “He’s definitely a player that you like on your team, has good intangibles, good ballplayer.”
  • The Yankees have signed C Francisco Diaz and RHP Jhony Brito to minor league contracts, reports Matt Eddy. Diaz, 25, hit .353/.418/.482 (157 wRC+) in 26 Low-A games with the Pirates last year. He’s a pure depth pickup, not a prospect. Someone has to catch, you know? Brito is an international free agent signed out of the Dominican Republic.
  • And finally, Anthony Morales, the ex-football player who allegedly assaulted RHP Ty Hensley last offseason, has been acquitted according to Kyle Schwab. The two reportedly got into an argument about signing bonuses. Hensley recovered from his injuries in time for Spring Training but missed the season following Tommy John surgery.

Now for the winter ball updates. The AzFL regular season is over, so those stats are final. The various Caribbean league seasons don’t end for several weeks.

Arizona Fall League

  • OF Tyler Austin: 21 G, 22-81 (.272), 13 , 5 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 18 K, 7 SB, 2 CS (.272/.344/.444) — apparently he’s heading to Venezuela next to play winter ball
  • OF Dustin Fowler: 16 G, 17-61 (.279), 14 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 10 K, 7 K (.279/.313/.410) — nice work for a guy on the taxi squad playing twice a week
  • C Gary Sanchez: 22 G, 26-88 (.295), 16 R, 6 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 8 BB, 19 K, 4 SB, 2 CS, 1 HBP (.295/.357/.625) — led the league in homers, RBI, and total bases (55) … he’s considered the favorite for AzFL MVP after 1B Greg Bird won it last year
  • IF Tyler Wade: 14 G, 9-41 (.220), 6 R, 2 2B, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 7 K, 2 SB, 1 CS (.220/.313/.268) — hit .208/.250/.266 (46 wRC+) in 43 games between Double-A and the AzFL to end the season
  • RHP Domingo Acevedo: 7 G, 0 GS, 12 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 1 HR, 2 RBI (2.25 ERA and 1.00 WHIP) — gotta think he’ll start next year in the Low-A Charleston rotation with a chance for a quick promotion
  • LHP Ian Clarkin: 6 G, 6 GS, 24.2 IP, 34 H, 16 R, 16 ER, 14 BB, 17 K, 2 HR, 1 HB, 3 WP (5.84 ERA and 1.95 WHIP) — ugly numbers but at least he’s healthy … I assume he’ll start next season with High-A Tampa
  • LHP Chaz Hebert: 7 G, 1 GS, 14.1 IP, 13 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 10 BB, 12 K, 1 WP (4.40 ERA and 1.60 WHIP) — he wasn’t added to the 40-man roster yesterday so he’ll be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in a few weeks
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 9 G, 0 GS, 12.1 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 12 K, 1 HR, 2 WP (5.84 ERA and 1.30 WHIP) — got a few innings in after missing the second half with a hand injury

Dominican Summer League

  • IF Abi Avelino: 1 G, 0-1, 1 K
  • C Eduardo de Oleo: 1 G, 0-1, 1 K
  • SS Jorge Mateo is listed on a roster but hasn’t played yet and probably won’t at this point.

Mexican Pacific League

  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 13 G, 0 GS, 9 IP, 14 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 4 BB, 14 K, 2 HR, 1 WP (10.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP)
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 7 G, 7 GS, 35.1 IP, 27 H, 18 R, 17 ER, 24 BB, 20 K, 3 HR, 2 HB, 1 WP (4.33 ERA and 1.44 WHIP)
  • 2B Angelo Gumbs is listed on a roster but hasn’t played yet. As with Mateo, he probably won’t play if he hasn’t already.

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico)

  • IF Cito Culver: 6 G, 2-19 (.105), 1 R, 1 BB, 6 (.105/.150/.105)
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 4 G, 4 GS, 20.1 IP, 15 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 9 BB, 13 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (1.77 ERA and 1.18 WHIP) — up to 125 innings on the year … his career high is 145.1 innings set back in 2013

Venezuelan Winter League

  • C Francisco Diaz: 9 G, 4-13 (.308), 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K (.308/.357/.308) — the new guy
  • OF Teodoro Martinez: 34 G, 35-133 (.263), 17 R, 3 2B, 2 3B, 13 RBI, 4 BB, 13 K, 2 SB, 2 HBP (.263/.293/.316)
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 6 G, 0 GS, 5 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (9.00 ERA and 2.20 WHIP)
  • RHP Jaron Long: 7 G, 7 GS, 40.2 IP, 39 H, 12 R, 11 ER, 10 BB, 22 K, 2 HR, 2 WP (2.43 ERA and 1.20 WHIP) — up to 195.1 innings on the season
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 14 G, 0 GS, 12.1 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 5 BB, 15 K, 2 HR (6.57 ERA and 1.38 WHIP) — he’s be available in the Rule 5 Draft again after being passed over last year
  • IF Thairo Estrada is also listed on a roster. He’s yet to get into a game yet though.