Yanks add Gleyber Torres, five others to 40-man roster prior to Rule 5 Draft protection deadline

Torres. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Torres. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Monday night was the deadline for teams to set their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 Draft, and, as expected, the Yankees added top prospect SS Gleyber Torres to the 40-man. Also added were RHP Albert Abreu, RHP Domingo Acevedo, IF Thairo Estrada, RHP Jonathan Loaisiga, and OF Billy McKinney. The 40-man roster is now completely full. Garrett Cooper, Caleb Smith, Nick Rumbelow, and Ronald Herrera were all traded away in recent days to clear space.

Torres, 21 next month, is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, and is expected to be ready in time for Spring Training. He came over from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade and hit .287/.383/.480 (141 wRC+) in 55 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season. MLB.com currently ranks Torres as the best prospect in baseball. Protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft was a no-brainer.

The 22-year-old Abreu is the second best prospect added to the 40-man, at least in my opinion. He came over from the Astros in the Brian McCann trade. Abreu had a 3.37 ERA (3.12 FIP) with 27.6% strikeouts and 8.1% walks in 53.1 Single-A innings around elbow and lat injuries this year. He then went to the Arizona Fall League and threw 27.2 innings with a 2.60 ERA in six starts. Great finish to the season, that was.

McKinney, 23, is a former first round pick who went from the Athletics to the Cubs (Jeff Samardzija trade), then from the Cubs to the Yankees (Chapman trade). He bounced back in a big way this season, hitting .277/.338/.483 (124 wRC+) with career high 16 homers in 124 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. The Yankees had McKinney start learning first base in the Arizona Fall League to increase his versatility. We heard he’d be added to the 40-man a few weeks ago.

The 21-year-old Estrada is a personal favorite, and he had a breakthrough with Double-A Trenton this season, hitting .301/.353/.392 (107 wRC+) with a tiny 10.3% strikeout rate. He’s a good defensive shortstop who also has a lot of experience at second and third bases. Guys with good bat-to-ball skills and strong defensive chops on the middle infield are worth keeping around. The Yankees added a lot of talent to the 40-man today, but don’t sleep on Thairo. Kid can play.

Acevedo, the prospect who goes by Big Sunday, threw 133 innings with a 3.25 ERA (3.25 FIP) with 26.0% strikeouts and 6.0% walks at three levels this season. The 23-year-old is one of the more divisive prospects in the system. On some days Acevedo will look like a future ace and on others he’ll look like a middle reliever with little more than a big fastball. It’s worth keeping him around to see how he develops, for sure.

Loaisiga, 23, is a lottery ticket the Yankees picked up a few years ago, after he had been released by the Giants. Loaisiga had Tommy John surgery last year, returned this year, and threw 32.2 innings with a 1.38 ERA (2.17 FIP) in the various short season leagues.

Johnny Lasagna has been getting talked up as a breakout prospect in recent weeks, and these days rebuilding teams have no problem popping low minors kids in the Rule 5 Draft and stashing them on the roster all year. That’s what the Padres did with Luis Torrens last year.

Among the notable prospects the Yankees are leaving exposed to the Rule 5 Draft are IF Abi Avelino, LHP Nestor Cortes, OF Rashad Crawford, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, 1B Mike Ford, RHP Anyelo Gomez, RHP Brady Lail, OF Alex Palma, and LHP Stephen Tarpley. I suspect Cortes and Gomez will get selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Feyereisen and Tarpley are candidates to get picked.

As a reminder, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team’s 25-man active big league roster all of next season, or be placed on waivers and offered back to the Yankees. Most Rule 5 Draft players do not stick. The Yankees lost four players in the Rule 5 Draft last season (Torrens, Smith, Tyler Jones, Tyler Webb) and all but Torrens were returned.

Thoughts on Baseball Prospectus’ top ten Yankees prospects

Adams. (The Citizens' Voice)
Adams. (The Citizens’ Voice)

Now that the 2017season is over, the crew at Baseball Prospectus is storming through their annual look at the top ten prospects (plus more) in each farm system. Yesterday they hit the Yankees. From what I can tell, the entire article is free. You don’t need a subscription to read the commentary.

“A year after being deadline sellers, the Yankees thinned out their farm with graduations and a pair of July 31st buys. The system is down a little, but has an elite 1-2 punch at the top and a bonanza of high-upside teenagers further down the organizational totem pole,” said the write-up. Here’s the top ten:

  1. SS Gleyber Torres
  2. OF Estevan Florial
  3. RHP Chance Adams
  4. LHP Justus Sheffield
  5. RHP Albert Abreu
  6. 3B Miguel Andujar
  7. RHP Domingo Acevedo
  8. RHP Domingo German
  9. RHP Matt Sauer
  10. RHP Luis Medina

Both OF Clint Frazier and UTIL Tyler Wade exhausted their rookie eligibility this season, which is why they’re not in the top ten. Frazier exceeded the 130 at-bat rookie limit (he finished with 134) while Wade accrued too much service time. The rookie limit is 45 days outside the September roster expansion period. Wade finished with 50 such days, by my unofficial count. Anyway, some thoughts.

1. A year ago at this time the farm system was very position player heavy. The top four and six of the top nine prospects in the system were position players, per Baseball Prospectus. Six of my top eight were position players. Now Baseball Prospectus has seven pitchers among the top ten prospects in the organization. Furthermore, six prospects in the 11-20 range are pitchers as well. That’s a lot of quality arms! And the Yankees are going to need them too. Pitchers break down, they fail to develop a third pitch, etc. There are so many things that can derail development. Plus young pitching is the best currency in baseball. It can get you almost anything you want at the trade deadline. We could start to see the system strength shift from position players to pitchers earlier this year. Now this is damn close to a pitcher first farm system.

2. Speaking of pitchers, where’s RHP Jorge Guzman? He’s not mentioned in the Baseball Prospectus write-up at all. Not in the top ten, not in the next ten, nothing. In the comments it was explained the Yankees have a deep system and Guzman essentially got squeezed out by the numbers crunch, though I’m not sure I agree with him not being a top 20 prospect in the system. Heck, he’s in my top ten right now. When you have Medina in the top ten and RHP Roansy Contreras in the next ten, it’s tough to understand why Guzman isn’t there. He’s a more polished version of those guys, relatively speaking. Perhaps his age is the problem? Guzman will turn 22 in January and he’s yet to pitch in a full season league. That happens when you don’t sign until 18. I dunno. They don’t check IDs on the mound. If you can get outs, it doesn’t matter if you’re 21 or 31 or 41. Guzman’s stuff is as good as anyone’s in the system and he made great strides with his command and secondary pitches in 2017. Seems like a top ten prospect to me.

3. OF Pablo Olivares got some love. He’s been a little sleeper favorite of mine the last two years. The 19-year-old struggled in his quick stint with Low-A Charleston last season, but he .311/.420/.424 (149 wRC+) with 10.7% walks and 13.4% strikeouts in complex ball from 2016-17. Olivares is one of those guys who does a little of everything but nothing exceptionally well. “I project him to at least average across the board, led by a future 55 hit tool … (When) patient, he took walks and drove pitches to center and oppo. He’s bigger than his listed 6-foot, 160 pounds (likely closer to 170), and while just an average runner, his reads and instincts in center are good enough to stick with an average arm. With maturity and some added strength, he at least has a chance to see 50 power,” said the write-up, which included Olivares as a prospect in the 11-20 range of the farm system. I like him. I think he’ll establish himself as a no-doubt top 15 prospect in the system in 2018. There’s a “Thairo Estrada but an outfielder” quality to Olivares.

4. My favorite feature of Baseball Prospectus’ annual prospect write-ups are the “top talents 25 and under” lists. The ten best players in the organization no older than 25, basically. Straightforward, right? New York’s list has Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino in the 1-2-3 spots in that order, then slide the top ten prospects behind them. Noticeably absent: Greg Bird. Hmmm. I assume the injuries are the reason Bird was omitted from the top 25 and under talents — “As per usual, his future outlook depends almost entirely on his health,” said the write-up — but even considering that, I still feel like he belongs in the top ten somewhere. Why would injuries knock Bird out of the top ten but not, say, Abreu? He had injury problems of his own this year and he’s never pitched above High-A. Bird is quite risky given his injury history. He’s also shown he can be a productive big leaguer when healthy. Not sure I agree with knocking him down the list below prospects, who themselves are inherently risky.

DotF: Austin heads to winter ball, Abreu dominates in AzFL

Last week SS Thairo Estrada finished third in the annual Arizona Fall League Hitting Challenge behind Twins 3B Chris Paul and Mets C Tomas Nido. During the Hitting Challenge players aim for targets on the field to accumulate points. It’s pretty neat. The video is above. Here are some minor league notes:

  • SS Gleyber Torres has started hitting off a tee as he continues his rehab from Tommy John surgery, according to his Instagram feed. Good news. Seems everything is going well. Torres blew out his non-throwing elbow sliding into home plate in June and is expected to be ready in time for Spring Training.
  • Both 3B Miguel Andujar and 1B Tyler Austin will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic this winter, according to MLB Pipeline. Austin missed a bunch of time with injuries this past season, and could be a 40-man roster casualty this winter. Andujar needs to work on his defense. The more reps, the better.
  • LHP Justus Sheffield (No. 1) topped last week’s Prospect Hot Sheet following his dominant Arizona Fall League debut, then both RHP Albert Abreu (No. 2 ) and OF Estevan Florial (No. 7 ) made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. I can’t remember the last time the Yankees had this strong a group of prospects in the AzFL.
  • Player development analyst Dan Greenlee has left the Yankees to join Gary Denbo with the Marlins, reports Joel Sherman. Greenlee will be Miami’s director of player personnel, which is quite the promotion. He’d been doing minor league analytical work for the Yankees.
  • The Yankees have started interviewing internal candidates to replace Denbo, reports George King. Pro scouting director Kevin Reese, director of minor league operations Eric Schmitt, director of performance science John Kremer, and field coordinator Carlos Mendoza have interviewed so far.
  • So long, 1B Ji-Man Choi. He elected free agency, reports Matt Eddy. We’ll always have those dingers. Also, the Yankees re-signed C Sharif Othman. The organizational depth catcher hit .223/.265/.345 (74 wRC+) in 72 games at three levels in 2017.

Arizona Fall League

  • SS Thairo Estrada: 10 G, 16-41, 9 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 9 K, 2 HBP, 2 SB (.390/.432/.512)
  • OF Estevan Florial: 10 G, 12-38, 9 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 6 BB, 18 K, 1 HBP, 1 SB, 1 CS (.316/.422/.447) — Josh Norris said Florial got chewed up by breaking balls in one of the games he saw, which included six swings and misses on breaking stuff
  • SS Kyle Holder: 6 G, 10-24, 3 R, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, 1 CS (.417/.444/.625) — he’s on the taxi squad, so he only plays Wednesdays and Saturdays
  • 1B/OF Billy McKinney: 9 G, 11-36, 5 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K, 1 HBP (.306/.372/.528) — so far he’s played five games at first base, three in left field, and one at DH … some AzFL parks are equipped with Statcast, and among the games recorded, McKinney had one of the ten hardest hit balls
  • RHP Albert Abreu: 3 G, 3 GS, 15 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 15 K, 1 HR (1.20 ERA and 0.80 WHIP)
  • RHP Cody Carroll: 5 G, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 11 K (0.00 ERA and 0.86 WHIP)
  • RHP Andrew Schwaab: 5 G, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HB (8.31 ERA and 1.85 WHIP)
  • LHP Justus Sheffield: 4 G, 4 GS, 19 IP, 13 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 21 K, 1 WP (2.39 ERA and 0.79 WHIP) — Josh Norris has a write-up of Sheffield’s second AzFL start, and said his stuff was as good as his first start … “The 21-year-old sat between 94-97 mph with his fastball for most of his 4.1 inning out and touched 98 once. Just like he did on Tuesday, he also showed two potential plus offerings in his mid-80s slider and high-80s slider,” said the report.

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Minors Notes: Top Triple-A & Breakout Prospects, Rodriguez

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The 2017 minor league season is officially over. Durham beat Memphis in the Triple-A Championship Game at PNC Field in Scranton last night. The Triple-A Championship Game rotates sites each year like an All-Star Game, and it just so happened to be played in Scranton this year. Too bad the RailRiders didn’t make it. Anyway, here are some minor league notes to check out.

Three Yankees among top International League prospects

Earlier this week Baseball America started their annual series looking at the top 20 prospects in each minor league. They covered the Triple-A International League (subs. req’d) yesterday, with Braves OF Ronald Acuna claiming the top spot. Three Yankees made the list (four if you count OF Dustin Fowler, who was traded away but makes the list at No. 17 due to his time with Scranton):

  • 9) RHP Chance Adams: “One evaluator said that between Adams’ four offerings, he has a chance for three above-average pitches with above-average control … He drew comparisons with Bud Norris and Jordan Zimmermann.”
  • 15) 3B Miguel Andujar: “Andujar drew rave reviews from managers and scouts for his uncanny ability to barrel baseballs with authority as well as his energetic nature on the field … He has a plus arm, quick-twitch actions and a strong work ethic at third base, but below-average footwork and hard hands could be too much to overcome.”
  • 16) OF Clint Frazier: “(Some) evaluators think he always will pair home runs with strikeouts and low batting averages because of a limiting, rigid swing. With sufficient pitch recognition, though, he can be an impact power hitter.”

Hmmm. I’m pretty sure I’m the biggest Andujar fan out there, but even I wouldn’t rank him above Frazier on a prospect list. Frazier seems like one of those prospects people look for reasons not to like. The kid has insane bat speed, the ball explodes off his bat, he works the count well, and he’s fine in either corner outfield spot. What’s the problem here? Anyway, in the chat Carlos Collazo said SS Gleyber Torres would’ve ranked in the top three had he not gotten hurt and fallen short of the playing time minimum. SS Tyler Wade was a consideration for the list as well.

McKinney to begin working out at first base

OF Billy McKinney, who will be added to the 40-man roster after the season, is going to begin working out at first base in Instructional League, reports Robert Pimpsner. Sounds like an assignment to the Arizona Fall League in possible as well, though the Yankees already have a first baseman going to the desert (1B Chris Gittens) and their position player spots are full. Someone could get be getting pulled though. We’ll see.

McKinney, 23, came over from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade and hit .277/.338/.483 (124 wRC+) with a career high 16 home runs in 124 games between Double-A and Triple-A this summer. He’s a bat first prospect — his defense in the corner outfield is not great — so it makes sense to increase his versatility and get him time at first base. We still don’t know whether Greg Bird can stay healthy and/or produce consistently. Given the team’s outfield glut, getting McKinney familiar with first base seems like a no-brainer.

Loaisiga, Widener among top 2018 breakout candidates


The crew at Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d) posted a list of ten breakout candidates for the 2018 season, and two of the ten are Yankees: RHP Jonathan Loaisiga and RHP Taylor Widener. Keith Law had good things to say about Loaisiga last week. Widener was a reliever in the college before the Yankees moved him into the rotation, Chance Adams style. A quick recap of the write-ups:

  • Loaisiga: “(He) features a potentially plus fastball-curveball combination with the ability to throw either pitch for strikes in any count. The fastball consistently hovers around 95 (t97) with late movement … expect him to start shooting up prospect lists.”
  • Widener: “Widener was in the low-to-mid-90s with the fastball, topping out at 96, and it was moving around pretty good … Widener commanded it like a good Double-A starting prospect, not a guy making his first Double-A appearance … Widener projects as an interesting mid-rotation prospect at the upside, with a more likely outcome as a good reliever.”

So I guess Johnny Lasagna being a prospect is a thing now? He originally signed with the Giants out of Nicaragua back in 2013, but they released him a year later after some injury issues. The Yankees picked him up, he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery last year, and came back looking good this year. Loaisiga turns 23 in November, and he’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 lbs., plus he has an injury history, so there are some things working against him. Still, the Yankees picked him up off the scrap heap, and now he’s being written up as a breakout prospect. Pretty cool.

Rodriguez is “99%” sure he’s retiring

C Eddy Rodriguez, who spent the last three seasons with Triple-A Scranton (and part of one season with Double-A Trenton) is “99%” sure he’s retiring, reports D.J. Eberle. For much of this year Rodriguez was third on the catcher depth chart while C Kyle Higashioka was hurt, though he never did get a call-up. His one MLB cameo came with the Padres in 2012. He took Johnny Cueto deep in his first at-bat.

Rodriguez, who defected from Cuba with his family when he was a kid, is still only 31 years old. He’s not much of a hitter — he hit .189/.240/.308 (51 wRC+) in 446 plate appearances with the RailRiders the last two years — but he’s long been regarded as a great defender and clubhouse guy. Rodriguez wouldn’t reveal his post-playing days plan to Eberle, but he seems like the kind of guy we’ll see on a Yankees minor league coaching staff/instructor list in the near future. Either way, the Yankees need a new veteran good guy backup catcher for Scranton next year.

DotF: Austin goes deep twice on final day of the minor league regular season

SS Gleyber Torres has started swinging a bat as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. Matt Kardos shared Gleyber’s Instagram story. Torres is wearing a brace on his left arm, which is to be expected less than three months out from surgery, and it seems everything with his rehab is going well so far. Good news.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 loss to Lehigh Valley) their regular season is over … they went 86-55 and won the division … their best-of-five first round postseason series with Lehigh Valley (Phillies) begins Wednesday … RHP Domingo German and RHP Chance Adams are lined up to start the first two games of the series, though the rotation hasn’t been officially announced yet

  • CF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 K — finishes the year at .305/.350/.542 with 26 doubles, 20 homers, 6.4% walks, and 26.3% strikeouts in 103 games between Trenton and Scranton … the 20 homers tie 1B Mike Ford for the farm system lead
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-5, 1 K — he got off to a pretty slow start this season if you remember, yet he finishes at .277/.336/.483 with 29 doubles, 16 home runs, 7.8% walks, and 18.8% strikeouts in 124 games between Trenton and Scranton
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-4, 1 K — finishes his breakout season at .314/.352/.498 with 36 doubles, 16 home runs, 5.5% walks, and 13.6% strikeouts in 125 games between Trenton and Tampa … the 16 homers are a career high, and he led the system in doubles (36) and hits (151)
  • DH Tyler Austin: 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — hit one of the home runs against former big leaguer Henderson Alvarez … his ten days since being sent down are up tomorrow, so I think we’ll see him in Baltimore
  • RHP Jose Pena: 2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 Balk, 1 HB, 1/0 GB/FB — 31 of 57 pitches were strikes (54%) … up from Tampa to soak up some innings on the final day of the season
  • LHP Joe Mantiply: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 5/0 GB/FB — 19 of 32 pitches were strikes (59%) … had a 2.83 ERA with a 62/18 K/BB in 67 do-it-all innings

[Read more…]

Previewing the Yankees’ upcoming September call-ups

Matty H. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Matty H. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

This coming Friday, on September 1st, all 30 big league teams will be allowed to expand their active rosters from 25 players up to 40 players. Most teams end up going with 30-35 players in September. Maybe two or three clubs a year actually go with the maximum 40 players. Either way, rosters are going to expand in a few days and every club has reinforcements coming.

The Yankees have been fairly aggressive with September call-ups in recent years. Aggressive in the sense that they call up a lot of extra players in general, especially on September 1st. Last year they called up six players on September 1st. The year before it was seven players. The year before that it was nine players. Nine call-ups on September 1st! Good gravy. The Yankees tend to call up plenty of help the first day possible. I’m surprised more teams don’t do the same.

So, with September call-ups only a few days away, there’s no better time to look ahead at who the Yankees could bring to the big leagues once rosters expand. Let’s take a trip through the organizational depth chart. Come with me, won’t you?

The Injured Guys

Might as well start here. The Yankees currently have five players on the MLB disabled list: Luis Cessa, Garrett Cooper, Clint Frazier, Matt Holliday, and Michael Pineda. Pineda’s done for the season following Tommy John surgery. I’m not really sure what’s up with Cessa. We haven’t heard any updates on him since he was sidelined by rib cage issue on August 15th. Should Cessa get healthy before the end of the season, he’ll join the Yankees, I’m sure.

Both Holliday and Cooper are on minor league rehab assignments right now and in all likelihood both will be activated Friday, the first day rosters expand. Frazier recently started taking swings and going through some other baseball activities, so he’s a little further behind Cooper and Holliday. Once he gets healthy and goes through the requisite minor league rehab assignment — assuming there are still minor league games being played at that time — Frazier will be activated and join the Yankees for the rest of the season. Pretty straightforward here.

The September Locks

Monty. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Monty. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

As always, the safest bets for September call-ups are guys who were up earlier this season. There are eleven such players on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues right now: Miguel Andujar, Tyler Austin, Gio Gallegos, Domingo German, Ben Heller, Ronald Herrera, Kyle Higashioka, Jonathan Holder, Bryan Mitchell, Jordan Montgomery, and Tyler Wade. All eleven of those guys have seen big league time this year. Some more than others.

Like I said, the Yankees have been fairly aggressive with their September 1st call-ups in recent years, so I expect several of these players to join the Yankees on Friday. Montgomery is an absolutely lock. He’s going to get a September call-up and step right back into the rotation, I suspect. Mitchell, Holder, and Gallegos have been the primary up-and-down relievers this season, and since the Yankees like to load up on pitching reinforcements whenever possible, my money is on all three guys showing up to Yankee Stadium this Friday.

Austin and Wade are all obvious September call-ups candidates as well, though there is a catch here. They were both sent down recently and need to wait out the ten-day rule first. Wade was sent down Friday, when Starlin Castro was activated, so he can’t come back up until Monday. Austin was sent down Saturday to make room for Greg Bird. He can’t come back until Tuesday. The ten-day rule is a bit of a hassle. It is what it is.

The Guys Who Might Have To Wait

As noted, there are eleven players on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues right now. I expect four to be called up on September 1st: Mitchell, Montgomery, Gallegos, and Holder. That’s all. The other seven will have to wait a little bit for different reasons. Austin and Wade have to wait because of the ten-day rule. Here’s my thinking on the remaining five guys.

1. Higashioka and Herrera are both hurt. Pretty good reason for not calling them upright away, I’d say. Herrera is currently pitching in rookie ball rehab games and is expected to join the Double-A Trenton rotation (or maybe Triple-A Scranton rotation) for the postseason next week. Herrera was called up twice this year as an emergency fill-in. It was one of those “crap we need a long man and he’s the only guy lined up” situations. Well, two of those.

Higashioka, meanwhile, is currently out with a shoulder injury that is not believed to be serious. There’s even some talk he could be ready to go by time rosters expand Friday. That would be cool. A third catcher is a September staple, and keep in mind Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine have suspensions pending. They’re appealing, though at some point they’re going to have serve at least part of their suspensions, and having Higashioka on the active roster will make it much easier to get by without those guys. He has to get healthy first though.

2. The Yankees have mostly avoided Andujar and Heller. There have been plenty of opportunities to call up both guys this year, and they have seen big league time. Andujar had the one great game against the White Sox. Heller has made two appearances with the Yankees this season, most notably throwing two scoreless innings in the 16-inning win at Fenway Park right after the All-Star break.

Andujar. (Times Leader)
Andujar. (Times Leader)

The Yankees could have easily — and justifiably — called up Andujar and/or Heller on several other occasions this season, but choose to go in another direction. With Andujar, he’s a bonafide prospect who needs to improve his defense, so keeping him in Triple-A to work at the hot corner rather than play sporadically at the MLB is understandable. Heller? I’m not sure. The Yankees seem to prefer Gallegos and Holder for whatever reason. I’m a Heller guy. The Yankees aren’t.

Point is, because these two have been passed over for call-ups these last few weeks, I don’t think they will be September 1st call-ups when rosters expand. Both will likely have to wait until the Triple-A postseason ends, which could be as early as next weekend or as late as September 19th. There aren’t going to be many at-bats available for Andujar, and with Heller, how many mop-up relievers does a team need? I think both will have to wait until the RailRiders are done playing.

3. German needs to pitch. From June 6th through July 28th, a span of 52 days, German made eight appearances and threw 350 total pitches. That’s all. This kid’s a starter! But he spent so much time with the Yankees as their seldom used eighth reliever that it took a few Triple-A outings to get stretched all the way back out. German has thrown 115 total innings this season and that’s not much at all. This is his first full season since Tommy John surgery, so I imagine the Yankees are monitoring his workload closely. I still think they want German to log more innings this season. That’s why I think he’ll stay with Scranton, start every fifth day through the end of their season, then come up to sit in the bullpen.

Non-40-Man Roster Guys

Every once in a while the Yankees will take a player who will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, add him to the 40-man roster, and call him up September. Rather than wait to add the player to the 40-man at the November deadline, they get a head start on things and call him up in September. Romine received his first taste of the big leagues that way in September 2011. The Yankees did the same thing with James Pazos in 2015.

That does not happen often, however, and I do not think the Yankees will do it this September. Gleyber Torres is hurt, Domingo Acevedo has been shut down due to his workload, and Albert Abreu missed a big chunk of the season with injuries and has yet to pitch above High-A. They’ll all be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season and the Yankees will add them to the 40-man roster prior to the November deadline, no doubt. Not a second earlier, however. Torres and Acevedo are unavailable and Abreu is a Single-A kid. Calling them up would be pointless.

Other 40-man roster hopefuls like Jake Cave and Billy McKinney wouldn’t have a defined role in September. Romine was the third catcher. Pazos was the third lefty. Cave and McKinney would be … the seventh and eighth outfielders? Not exactly a big priority. I suppose the Yankees could add Cave to the 40-man roster — he’s going to be a minor league free agent this winter, so the Yankees will have to add him to the 40-man pretty much right after the World Series to avoid losing him — as a reward for his great season, but nah. Roster space is at a premium.

E-Rod. (Scranton Times Tribune)
E-Rod. (Scranton Times Tribune)

Now, that all said, there are two non-40-man players who I think could get a September call-up. One is Eddy Rodriguez, and he will only get called up if a) Higashioka doesn’t get healthy reasonably soon, and b) both Sanchez and Romine have their appeals heard and must serve their suspensions. So basically only if the Yankees run out of eligible catchers. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. If it does, the Yankees will have no choice but to clear a 40-man roster spot to call up Rodriguez.

The other non-40-man call-up candidate? I don’t know. It’ll be the designated September pinch-runner, whoever that ends up being. Last year it was Eric Young Jr., the year before it was Rico Noel, and the year before that it was Antoan Richardson. Back in 2009 it was Freddy Guzman. Guzman was on the postseason roster all three rounds that year. True story. The Yankees have made it clear they value the designated September pinch-runner.

Jorge Mateo has been traded and I don’t think the Yankees would use Jacoby Ellsbury as their designated pinch-runner — besides, he’s starting to hit a little bit now, so I imagine he’ll find himself in the starting lineup a little more often going forward — so they don’t have an obvious in-house candidate for that role. If the Yankees are willing to open a 40-man roster spot, they’ll likely go out and get someone to come off the bench and run in September. Not a big trade — they got Young for cash last year — but a trade nonetheless.

* * *

As is often the case, this year’s batch of September call-ups is fairly straightforward. Holliday and Cooper will return from the disabled list Friday while Montgomery, Mitchell, Holder, and Gallegos figure to came up from Scranton, giving the Yankees six extra players on the first day rosters expand. Others like Andujar, Austin, German, Heller, and Wade are likely to come up shortly thereafter. Cessa, Frazier, and Higashioka will join the Yankees once they’re healthy, and if Higashioka doesn’t get healthy soon, Rodriguez figures to come up instead. Herrera and a pinch-runner are other possibilities.

I am pro-September call-ups — there are a lot of weirdos out there who don’t like expanded rosters — and it’s always fun to see the young guys come up, but here’s something to keep in mind: the Yankees are fighting for a postseason spot. They’re not going to play Andujar (or Cave) for the heck of it. Joe Girardi is going to stick with his regulars because the Yankees need to win, and the regulars give them the best chance to do that. The call-ups are around for blowouts and emergencies. That’s about it.

Even though he hasn’t yet made his MLB debut, the Yankees already miss Gleyber Torres

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Regardless of how the rest of the season plays out, 2017 will be remembered as a stepping stone for the Yankees. They’ve incorporated so much high-end youth into the roster this year. Luis Severino is emerging as a top of the rotation starter and both Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have established themselves as middle of the order hitters. Chad Green and Jordan Montgomery have become key contributors as well.

Others highly touted youngsters like Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, and Tyler Wade have made their big league debuts this summer and will get more opportunities going forward. One prospect we haven’t (and won’t) see this season is Gleyber Torres, who MLB.com and Baseball America currently rank as one of the two best prospects in the minors. Torres blew out his non-throwing elbow sliding into home plate in June and needed Tommy John surgery. What a dumb fluke injury.

Torres, who won’t turn 21 until December, hit .287/.383/.480 (141 wRC+) with 14 doubles and seven home runs in 235 plate appearances split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year before hurting his elbow. He’d never played above High-A prior to this season, yet he was quickly promoted from Double-A to Triple-A this year because he adjusted so well. A 20-year-old kid doing what he did this year is pretty damn impressive. Impressive and rare.

Had he not gotten hurt, chances are Torres would be in the big leagues right now. He was moving that quickly and it seemed the Yankees were preparing him for a big league call-up by moving him around the infield. Think about the playing time opportunities that have existed the last few weeks:

  1. Starlin Castro has spent two stints on the disabled list with hamstring problems. He’s played in only six of the team’s last 45 games. Torres could have stepped right in to play second base.
  2. First base has been a black hole most of the season. The Yankees could’ve called up Torres, played him at third, and moved Chase Headley to first. Maybe that means no Todd Frazier trade?
  3. Matt Holliday has been ineffective and/or hurt since mid-June. Holliday’s playing time could have been scaled back in favor of Torres, or, at the very least, Gleyber could have been part of the DH rotation.

Earlier this season, when Didi Gregorius was on the disabled list with his shoulder injury, I thought the Yankees did the right thing having Torres start the year in Triple-A. He’d not yet played above High-A at the time and the last thing you want to do with a prospect this talented is rush him before he’s ready. That could do more harm than good. As I’ve said, the Gregorius injury didn’t make Torres more big league ready.

Midseason is a different story. Gleyber showed he could handle Double-A and Triple-A, and he worked hard on his defense at new positions. Perhaps he wasn’t MLB ready the day he hurt his elbow, but it sure felt like he would’ve been shortly thereafter. The Yankees have had more than a few lineup openings these last few weeks and Torres has been unavailable to fill them because of the injury. Talk about terrible timing, huh?

Now, who’s to say Torres would’ve come up and had an immediate impact a la Sanchez last season? Maybe he would’ve struggled out of the gate like Judge. ZiPS projected Torres for a .221/.279/.344 (73 OPS+) batting line at the MLB level coming into the season, so the completely objective computer system wasn’t convinced he could be a difference-maker right out of the gate. But who knows. Crazy talented players like Torres can do special things early in their careers.

The Yankees have survived all their injuries and their general lack of first base production to this point and remain very much in the postseason race. They have slipped in the standings though, going from first place in the AL East to trying to hang on to a wild card spot, and a healthy Torres could have made a difference these last few weeks. He hasn’t played an MLB get yet and already the Yankees miss him. If nothing else, Gleyber has missed out on some big league time this year, which would’ve helped prepare him for next season.