Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez to represent Yankees at the 2016 Futures Game

Sanchez in the 2015 Futures Game. (Getty)
Sanchez in the 2015 Futures Game. (Getty)

Shortstop Jorge Mateo and catcher Gary Sanchez will represent the Yankees at the 2016 Futures Game next month, MLB announced earlier today. Here are the full Team USA and World Team rosters. Baseball America also has free mini-scouting reports for every player selected for the game, so check that out.

Mateo, 21, is heading to his first Futures Game. He is hitting .275/.333/.417 (122 wRC+) with five homers and 26 steals in 37 attempts (70%) for High-A Tampa this season. Mateo has actually been slumping pretty hard of late; he’s hitting .207/.250/.241 (45 wRC+) in 21 games this month. Still, the Futures Game is a showcase for the game’s top prospects, and Mateo certainly qualifies.

This is the second Futures Game selection for Sanchez, who also played in the game last year. The 23-year-old is hitting .279/.324/.500 (135 wRC+) with eight homers for Triple-A Scranton this season. Sanchez missed about three weeks with a thumb fracture after being hit by a foul tip. Last summer he went 1-for-2 with a double off Giants right-hander Tyler Beede in the Futures Game.

Teams do have some input into the Futures Game rosters. I remember last year there was talk the Yankees declined to let Luis Severino participate because there was a chance he would get called up before the All-Star break. That was never confirmed and Severino wasn’t called up until early-August. Still though, the Yankees wanted to be prepared in case they needed him.

Last year Sanchez and Aaron Judge represented the Yankees in the Futures Game. The year before it was Severino and Peter O’Brien. The year before that it was Rafael DePaula. The 2016 Futures Game will be played in Petco Park on Sunday, July 10th. Trevor Hoffman will manage Team USA and Moises Alou will manage the World Team.

DotF: Austin, Higashioka, Puello all have big games in AAA win

Some notes:

  • C Gary Sanchez (thumb) has started hitting again, according to Shane Hennigan. He was scheduled to take batting practice today for the first time since a foul tip broke his thumb.
  • In a bit of a surprise, OF Estevan Florial as been promoted to High-A Tampa, reports Josh Norris. I think this might be temporary. One of those “Tampa needs an outfielder so let’s grab someone from the minor league complex across the street” things. Florial was talked up all winter as the team’s next great prospect, and he still only 18.
  • OF Aaron Judge placed 12th on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, so check that out. Judge rebounded nicely from that ugly 0-for-24 stretch a week or so ago.

Triple-A Scranton (10-7 win over Louisville)

  • CF Jake Cave: 0-5, 2 K — threw a runner out at second
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-3, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-5, 2 R, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — 11-for-27 (.407) with six doubles and two homers in seven games since being promoted … you know, the big league first base job is pretty wide open
  • DH Kyle Higashioka: 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB — 18-for-44 (.409) with four doubles and five homers in eleven games since coming up to fill in for Sanchez
  • LF Cesar Puello: 4-5, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 SB, 1 E (throwing) — the former Mets farmhand is hitting .322/.459/.471 on the season
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 1.1 IP, 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 32 of 50 pitches were strikes … yuck, though, to be fair, he barely pitched the last three weeks
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 27 of 44 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Update: Gary Sanchez placed on Triple-A DL with fractured thumb

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

7:12pm: Sanchez has a non-displaced fracture of his right thumb, the Yankees announced. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Sucks.

1:53pm: Top catching prospect Gary Sanchez has a “crack in his thumb,” Brian Cashman confirmed to Shane Hennigan this afternoon. Sanchez is heading to New York for further evaluation. He took a foul tip to the hand during Triple-A Scranton’s game last night.

Sanchez, 23, is hitting .297/.340/.536 (155 wRC+) with six homers in 34 games with the RailRiders this year. He made a one-game cameo with the big league team earlier this month. It goes without saying a thumb injury is a pretty big deal. If you can’t hold the bat or grip the ball properly, you’re kinda useless on the field.

Austin Romine, who has played well in limited time as Brian McCann‘s backup, won’t have to look over his shoulder for a little while now. Sanchez has been waiting in Triple-A and is clearly part of the team’s long-term plans behind the plate. It’s only a matter of time until he begins an apprenticeship under McCann.

For now all we can do is hope the injury is not severe and will only sideline Sanchez for a few weeks or even a few days. He’s a young man who is still working on his defense, and he can’t do that if he’s injured.

Romine’s hot start allows the Yankees to be patient with Gary Sanchez

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

It’s hard to believe that only a year ago, Austin Romine went unclaimed on waivers and seemed to be nearing the end of his time with the Yankees. Heck, it was only seven months ago that he looked like a candidate to lose his 40-man roster spot whenever the Yankees needed room. Romine’s time in the organization was about to come to an end after nine seasons.

Except it didn’t come to an end. The Yankees managed to hang on to Romine over the winter and he came to Spring Training as a backup catcher candidate. No one seemed to think he would actually win the job after Gary Sanchez‘s monster 2015 season, but the Yankees insisted he was in the mix, and eventually he did indeed win the job. Sanchez struggled in camp, Romine raked, and that was that.

“There was a lot of talk that (Sanchez would) be the backup, and we were encouraged with how he played last year, but it’s probably a guy trying too hard and trying to do too much,” said Joe Girardi last week when asked about Sanchez’s spring. “That happens all the time. The key is that you learn from that — like an Austin Romine did — and that you just go out and relax and be yourself.”

Six weeks into the regular season, it’s hard to think that decision could have worked out any better. The 27-year-old Romine is hitting .303/.324/.424 (104 wRC+) in limited time as Brian McCann‘s backup while Sanchez remains in Triple-A, playing every day to continue his development, especially defensively. Sanchez owns a .297/.345/.550 (163 wRC+) batting line with the RailRiders.

We spent so much time talking about keeping Sanchez down in the minors long enough to delay his free agency. Thirty-five days. That was the magic number. Thirty-five days in the minors in 2016 meant team control of Sanchez’s age 29 season in 2022. That’s a very long way off and no one has any idea what will happen between now and then, but 35 days? It was worth keeping Sanchez in the minors that long this year to gain that extra year of control.

Those 35 days have come and gone, and Romine has not given the Yankees a reason to make a change at backup catcher. On day 33 Romine went 3-for-4 with two doubles against David Price and the Red Sox while leading Nathan Eovaldi through eight innings of two-run ball. A few days later he started at DH because he’s been hitting so well. Romine was going to have to hit to keep his job. He’s credited his success to a change in his mental approach.

“I went home in the offseason and said I’m done not doing the best that I can,” he said to Laura Albanese last week. “You get passed up (for a job) by another catcher … It just makes me step back and realize what I needed to do, and that was hit. It comes down to the same thing. I’ve got to hit. I’ve got to show them I can hit up here, show them I can hit off big league pitchers and continue to show them I can catch.”

Romine has hit well and he has seemed to work well with the pitching staff, so much so that he’s essentially become Eovaldi’s personal catcher. The hitting success very well might be small sample size noise. That stuff happens. But Romine was going to have to hit in Spring Training to win a job and hit early in the regular season to keep that job, and he did just that. This is one of those cases where a small sample means a whole lot.

“Just being able to slow the game (down),” said Romine to Chad Jennings when asked what has made him successful this year. “I’ve been here. I’ve been in this situation before. I know how to prepare for hitting every four, five days. Being the backup catcher you get to play once a series, maybe. Being able to prepare myself to hit, going on a couple days now, it’s a hard thing to do. But it’s just being able to slow the game down.”

So now, with Romine emerging as serviceable backup catcher (if not more) rather than settling in a stopgap, the Yankees have some options. First and foremost, they have the option to remain patient with Sanchez and leave him in Triple-A. Not for service time reasons, but for developmental reasons. Sanchez is still only 23, remember. He’s 23 and still in need of refinement behind the plate. He can play everyday in Triple-A and work on things.

Also, Romine’s combination of strong play, cheap salary ($556,000), and years of team control (through 2019) means he may have some actual trade value. A year ago this guy slipped though waivers unclaimed. Any team could have had him and they all passed. Now, a year later, Romine is a productive big leaguer who seems to have turned a corner with his mental approach and preparation. And it helps that he plays the most premium position of all.

The Yankees have made a habit of trading backup catchers in recent years. They sent Chris Stewart to the Pirates for Kyle Haynes two years ago, Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates for Justin Wilson one year ago, and this past winter John Ryan Murphy went to the Twins for Aaron Hicks. Can Romine bring back a Wilson or a Hicks in a trade? Nah, probably not. Cervelli was an established big league backup catcher and Murphy had a full year as a productive backup to his credit and is three years younger.

Romine for all we know is a guy who just had the six best weeks of his career. He’s appeared in 15 games and has 35 plate appearances. That’s it. I do buy his change in approach because he does look different at the plate. Romine is swinging at way fewer pitches out of the zone this year than he did in 2013 (36.3% to 31.4%), his only other extended trial in MLB, and his hard contact rate is up too (29.4% to 37.0%). For the first time, he looks like someone who knows he belongs.

For now, Romine has performed better than anyone could have reasonably hoped in the early going this season, and that’s great news for the Yankees. I get that people are eager to see Sanchez, I am too, but Romine has given the Yankees no reason to make a change. Two quality backup catchers is better than one, after all. At some point the Yankees will have to pick between the two. Right now they can be patient. There’s no urgency to make a decision because Romine had made himself in an asset.

Cobbling together some random thoughts

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

State of the Union

It’s mid-May and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this Yankees’ season. Logic tells me that I may have overrated this team in the offseason. Emotion tells me that it’s still early enough that they can make a run. But then I think, “What would that run be to?” I’ve harped on this point a lot recently, but I think the roster and the team are at the point where missing the playoffs and getting a higher-end draft pick might make more sense. If that happens, I hope there is a sell-off of assets. Neither one of these things is likely to happen as that’s just now how the Yankees operate. But with some solid core pieces in place for next year–Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Dellin Betances, Brian McCann, (a hopefully healthy) Greg Bird, Brett Gardner–a high draft pick and some prospect rewards for tradeable assets could go a long way in securing the team’s future just a little bit more.

The McCannibal

Speaking of Brian McCann, he represents a bit of a contradiction in my mind. I generally disliked the post-2013 spending spree that brought in McCann and his free agent classmates Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. But that dislike has a lot more to do with Taco and Carlos than it does with McCann. McCann has been quietly very good with the Yankees. Since joining the team, he leads all catchers in home runs with 53. He’s also fourth in fWAR (6.0), behind leader Buster Posey (12.2); Jonathan Lucroy (8.2); and Russell Martin (7.8). The team may have been disappointing in that stretch, but McCann is not among the reasons for disappointment.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Gary Sanchez Thing

Obviously, Gary Sanchez was sent back down thanks to the roster crunch created by Luis Severino‘s sudden injury. It seemed he was only going to be up for two days to face Chris Sale and Jose Quintana anyway, but it still felt like a tease. And isn’t that so fitting for Gary Sanchez’s career? This has nothing to do with Sanchez’s personality or even his performance, which has always been good. I remember reading about him on this very site way back when; he’s 23, but it seems like he’s been around forever–because he has. When is his time finally going to come? Will it be next year? The year after? I still have faith that this guy can and will contribute to the Yankees, but I’m finding it so hard to see a spot for him unless the Yankees really commit to platooning him and McCann next year. That could actually be a good way to ease him in. Then, if/when Alex Rodriguez retires, Sanchez can take the lion’s share of the catching duties while McCann sees more time at DH, and maybe even first.

Sanchez. (Presswire)
Sanchez. (Presswire)

Speaking of prospects…

I’m a fan of Brian Cashman‘s. I think he’s done a really great job in running this team; it’s hard to argue with about 20 straight winning seasons and only two non-playoff seasons, three if you don’t like to count the play-in game. But where do we draw his line of responsibility, so to speak, for the Yankees’ general failure with regards to developing players? No, that’s not all in his hands, but he’s still in charge. This isn’t to say the Yankees have been a total bust with regards to prospects–just look at the Chicago White Sox’s roster for proof of that. But the lack of big-time contributions from homegrown players is shocking. Of course, a team shouldn’t have homegrown players simply for the sake of having them, but something more than Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances would be nice, no?

Game 35: A New Day

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Last night’s game went about as poorly as possible. Not only did the Yankees lose the game itself, they also lost Luis Severino to an arm injury and taxed their bullpen. Getting humbled by Chris Sale was no fun either. Today is a new day though. The Yankees have to continue to dig themselves out of this hole, and they’ll have to do it against another tough pitcher in Jose Quintana this afternoon. Here is the White Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. DH Austin Romine
    RHP Ivan Nova

It’s a bit cloudy in New York today and there is rain in the forecast a little later on. Nothing that should impact the game unless it goes long or into extra innings. This afternoon’s game is going to start a bit after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (hip) is available today and the plan is to have him in tomorrow’s starting lineup … Severino (triceps) will make at least one minor league rehab start, according to Brian Cashman. Cashman also seemed to indicate Severino is not guaranteed a rotation spot once he’s healthy.

Roster Moves: As expected, the Yankees called up Chad Green today. They also called up Conor Mullee, which is pretty awesome. The 28-year-old has had his elbow rebuilt three times and now he gets affordable health care for life. Awesome. To make room on the 25-man roster, Severino was placed on the 15-day DL and Gary Sanchez was sent down to Triple-A. I assumed the Sanchez call-up was a short-term thing, but not this short-term. Whatevs. Greg Bird and Bryan Mitchell were transferred to the 60-day DL to clear 40-man spots for Green and Mullee.

Game 34: Reverse Lock?

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The ten-game homestand has gone about as well as we could have reasonably hoped so far. The Yankees took two of three from the Red Sox and three of four (!) from the Royals, and now they get three with the White Sox, who look totally legit as a contender. Lots of teams get off to hot starts and fizzle. I think the ChiSox are for real. The pitching is great and the infield upgrades they made over the winter are massive, especially defensively.

Tonight the Yankees draw Chris Sale, who is on the very short list of the best pitchers in baseball. They counter with Luis Severino, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this year. It’s true. He ranks 109th in ERA (6.12) and 97th in FIP (4.92) among the 117 pitchers to throw at least 30 innings this season. That said, Sale comes into the game 7-0. Severino is 0-5. There’s only one way this game can end. This has reverse lock written all over it. Here is the ChiSox’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Aaron Hicks
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. DH Gary Sanchez
  7. LF Brett Gardner
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Severino

It has been raining in New York for much of the afternoon but it stopped just a few minutes ago. The forecast says there’s no more wet stuff coming tonight, so the game will begin on time. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: CC Sabathia (groin) threw a bullpen today. It was his first time throwing off a mound since being placed on the DL … Jacoby Ellsbury (hip) is progressing and remains on track to return sometime this weekend. My guess is Sunday is the earliest we’ll see him.

Roster Move: Lefty Tyler Olson was send down to Triple-A to get Sanchez on the roster, the Yankees announced. They’re back to a seven-man bullpen and a four-man bench, though it’s really a three-man bench with Ellsbury banged up.