The Up & Down Position Players [2015 Season Review]

Run run Rico. (Presswire)
Run run Rico. (Presswire)

The big league roster portion of our 2015 Season Review series is winding down, and now it’s time to wrap-up the position players with the extras. The up-and-down guys who saw brief time in the Bronx this year. Every team goes through a few of these players each season and the Yankees are no different. Here are the final few position players who saw action in pinstripes in 2015.

Cole Figueroa

Last offseason the Yankees inked Figueroa to a minor league contract because they needed some infield depth in Triple-A. They didn’t have any obvious shortstop or third base options for the level, so Figueroa was brought in. He played a bunch in Spring Training — .269/.321/.308 in 23 Grapefruit League games — but never really had a chance to make the team, so off to Triple-A Scranton he went at the end of camp.

Figueroa, 28, started the season as the everyday third baseman for the RailRiders, and he had himself a nice little start to the season: .291/.357/.382 (118 wRC+) with two home runs in 68 games through June. He’s not a power hitter, he’s a contact guy — Figueroa had a 5.4% strikeout rate and an 8.6% walk rate in those 68 games — and he was holding up his end of the bargain.

In early July, when Chase Headley was dealing with a minor calf issue, the Yankees called up Figueroa because his left-handed bat and solid defense made him a capable stopgap. Figueroa started two games with New York, going 2-for-4 with two doubles on July 9th and 0-for-4 on July 10th. Those two doubles helped the Yankees take the lead then tack on some insurance runs in an eventual win over the Athletics.

The Yankees sent Figueroa back to Triple-A after those two games and he remained there the rest of the season, playing mostly shortstop. He was designated for assignment on September 1st to clear 40-man roster spot for other call-ups. Figueroa finished the year with a .292/.355/.359 (108 wRC+) batting line and more walks (8.7%) than strikeouts (5.3%) in 121 Triple-A games. He became a minor league free agent after the season. It wasn’t much, but Figueroa did help the Yankees win a game in 2015.

Rico Noel

Noel, who spent the 2010-15 seasons in the Padres’ farm system, asked San Diego for his release in June because he wanted to look for a better opportunity. According to Billy Witz, he approached the Yankees about a possible pinch-running role in September. The team agreed and signed him to a minor league deal even though it was the middle of the summer.

Noel, 26, spent a few weeks with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, rarely starting. He was instead getting accustomed to his September role. The Yankees used Noel as a pinch-runner and spot starter in the minors — Noel was an everyday guy for most of his career and they wanted him to get used to sitting on the bench all game before coming in to pinch-run — before calling him up on September 1st.  He went 5-for-50 (.100) with 13 steals in 17 attempts in the minors.

Noel made his big league debut on September 2nd, but not as a pinch-runner, as a defensive replacement in right field. His lineup spot came up with a runner on third and two outs in the eighth inning of a hectic back and forth game at Fenway Park, and with Noel literally standing in the batter’s box, Joe Girardi called him back to the dugout for a pinch-hitter. It worked, the run was driven in, but man, that’s harsh. Noel was in the batter’s box for his first MLB at-bat when he was lifted.

Over the next few weeks Rico was limited to pinch-running duty only. He pinch-ran 12 times in the final month of the season, going 5-for-7 in stolen base attempts and scoring five runs. Noel was successful in each of his first five attempts. He finally got his first big league at-bat on October 3rd, on the second to last day of the season. Rico beat out an infield single for his first career hit.

Noel batted again in Game 162, so he went 1-for-2 for the Yankees and stole five bases in a dozen pinch-running assignments. He was on the wildcard game roster but the team didn’t generate much offense against Dallas Keuchel and the Astros, so Rico didn’t get into the game. The Yankees dropped Noel from the 40-man roster after the season and he elected free agency. He remains unsigned.

Gregorio Petit

Thanks to a sudden rash of injuries, the Yankees were short a utility infielder at the end of Spring Training, so they made a cash trade with the Astros to get Petit on April 1st, five days before Opening Day. The 30-year-old Petit made the Opening Day roster and actually played. He started seven of the team’s first 15 games (!) and pinch-hit three other times. April was weird.

Girardi used Petit as a platoon partner for Stephen Drew and he didn’t hit (3-for-20 in those 15 games), which wasn’t unexpected. Petit’s a glove-first infielder who happened to hit right-handed. He did, however, come up with a rather big bases clearing double against David Price and the Tigers on April 22nd. Unexpected!

Petit was optioned to Triple-A Scranton on April 28th to make room for spot starter Chase Whitley, then he was called back the next day when Masahiro Tanaka landed on the DL. He hung around until early-May, when he himself was placed on the DL with a right hand contusion after being hit by a pitch. When Petit was activated almost six weeks later, the Yankees sent him to Triple-A.

Petit spent most of the rest of the season with the RailRiders but he did make another big league cameo in late-June and early-July. The Yankees eventually designated Petit for assignment on July 25th, clearing a 40-man roster spot for Nick Goody. Petit cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment, then spent the rest of the summer with the RailRiders.

In 20 games with the Yankees, Petit went 7-for-42 (.167) with three doubles and 16 strikeouts while playing second and third bases. He also hit .230/.264/.322 (65 wRC+) in 46 Triple-A games. Petit became a minor league free agent after the season. Can’t imagine many have gone from a non-roster invitee with the Astros to the Yankees’ Opening Day roster in the span of five days like Petit.

Pirela. (Presswire)
Pirela. (Presswire)

Jose Pirela

When Brendan Ryan went down with a calf injury in Spring Training, it opened the door for the 26-year-old Pirela to make the Opening Day roster. He had a monster camp — .370/.433/.630 in 15 Grapefruit League games — before crashing into the center field wall and hitting his head on the warning track near the end of spring.

Pirela suffered a concussion and missed the first six weeks of the regular season. His injury plus Ryan’s injury led to the Petit pickup. Pirela, an infielder by trade, had plenty of outfield experience in the minors and winter ball, he just got turned around and landed hard. Sucks.

Once he returned to the team, Pirela more or less replaced Petit as Drew’s platoon partner, and he hit quite well in limited time. At least at first. He went 5-for-14 (.357) in his first four games before falling into a 6-for-29 (.207) slump. Pirela’s not a great defender anywhere on the field, so if he’s not hitting, he has no value to the Yankees. The team sent him to Triple-A in mid-June.

Pirela spent most of the rest of the summer in Triple-A, though he did get another chance in late-June/early-July, going 3-for-23 (.130) in eleven games. He was called up when rosters expanded in September and went 3-for-8 (.375) down the stretch. He was the pinch-hitter who replaced Noel in what would have been Rico’s first at-bat. On October 4th, Pirela grounded out to second base against Zach Britton for the final out of the 2015 regular season.

All told, Pirela hit .230/.247/.311 (47 wRC+) with one homer in 37 games and 78 plate appearances for the Yankees this summer. That includes a .302/.333/.419 (106 wRC+) batting line in 45 plate appearances against southpaws. Pirela played second base and the two corner outfield spots for New York, and also hit .325/.390/.433 (142 wRC+) in 60 Triple-A games.

The Yankees traded Pirela to the Padres for minor league righty Ronald Herrera early last month. Brian Cashman admitted the move was made to clear 40-man roster space. Rather than designate Pirela for assignment and potentially lose him for nothing, they flipped him for a non-40-man roster pitching prospect. If nothing else, the Pirela trade shows the Yankees are pretty confident in Rob Refsnyder as the primary right-handed hitting second base option.

* * *

Special shout-out goes to outfielder Taylor Dugas, who was called up to the big leagues for two days this summer but didn’t actually play. Carlos Beltran was nursing an oblique strain, and the Yankees didn’t want to place him on the 15-day DL just yet, but they couldn’t recall Ramon Flores because he’d just been sent down and the ten-day rule was still in effect. Dugas, who hit .235/.336/.279 (84 wRC+) in 82 minor league games in 2015, got the call instead.

The 25-year-old Dugas was added to the 40-man roster and called up on July 1st, optioned down on July 3rd, designated for assignment July 9th, and outrighted to Double-A Trenton on July 12nd. Sounds crummy, but two days in the bigs is a huge deal for a organizational player like Dugas. He got two days of big league pay (roughly $5,600!) and now has access to a great health care program for himself and his family for life. No, Dugas didn’t get to play, but those two days changed his life for the better.

DotF: Sanchez and Pirela off to great starts in winter ball

Got some minor league notes and links to pass along before we get to the first round of performance updates from winter ball:

  • Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted some Arizona Fall League scouting notes, saying LHP Ian Clarkin “looked great in a four-inning stint” in his first game of the year. “Clarkin was 89-93 mph, mostly 90-92, for his entire outing, with a plus curveball that he really controlled well, 73-75 with tight spin. His changeup needs some work, and was actually better at 82 mph (where it had more action) than at 85-86 mph (where it was more like a bad fastball),” wrote Law. He added Clarkin’s ceiling as a potential No. 2 starter remains unchanged despite the elbow injury.
  • In a separate post (subs. req’d), Law says RHP Domingo Acevedo was “throwing 94-98 mph” with bad command, plus an 84-87 mph slider that “took a lot of effort for him to get to it.” He kinda sorta likened Acevedo to Dellin Betances because of his “high-effort delivery and long arm swing as well as a general lack of athleticism.”
  • Sam Dykstra posted some really simple Triple-A park factors for both 2015 and 2013-15. Once again, Triple-A Scranton’s PNC Field ranked among the toughest parks to hit, with a 0.876 (!) park factor this year. That means it suppressed offense to 87.6% of the league average. It was 0.926 from 2013-15. The four full season affiliates play in what have historically been pitchers’ parks.
  • Some transaction news from Matt Eddy: both IF Gregorio Petit and RHP Kyle Davies elected free agent after the end of the season, as expected. Also, Eddy reports the Yankees signed 16-year-old Venezuelan OF Jhon Moronta. I can’t find much about him, just this.

Now on to the performance updates from fall and winter ball, which take place at the same time of year. As a reminder, Ramiro Pena used to crush winter ball every year. The guy was like Babe Ruth down there. Don’t take the numbers too seriously. Small samples and the caliber of competition is not good.

Arizona Fall League

  • OF Tyler Austin: 8 G, 9-29 (.310), 6 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K, 1 SB, 1 CS (.310/.394/.586) — had a rough regular season — that included getting dropped from the 40-man roster — so it would be great if he could rake here and head into the offseason feeling good about things
  • OF Dustin Fowler: 4 G, 5-18 (.278), 4 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 3 SB (.278/.316/.278)
  • C Gary Sanchez: 10 G, 17-44 (.386), 7 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, 2 SB, 1 CS (.386/.404/.818) — leads the AzFL in homers (by one), RBI (by five), and total bases (by five)
  • IF Tyler Wade: 9 G, 5-29 (.172), 2 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 SB, 1 CS (.172/.219/.276)
  • LHP Ian Clarkin: 3 IP, 3 GS, 12.1 IP, 15 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 9 BB, 8 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (5.11 ERA, 1.95 WHIP) — ugly numbers, but he’s a) healthy!, and b) shaking off an entire season of rust
  • LHP Chaz Hebert: 5 G, 0 GS, 8 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR (4.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) — he had a breakout regular season (2.46 ERA and 3.07 FIP in 139 innings) and is Rule 5 Draft eligible, plus he’s left-handed, but I’ll be surprised if the Yankees protect him … 40-man roster space is pretty tight
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 5 G, 0 GS, 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR (4.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) — first game action since late-June … he missed a bunch of time with a tendon problem in his hand

Dominican Winter League

  • IF Abi Avelino: 1 G, 0-1
  • RHP Andury Acevedo: 3 G, 0 GS, 4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 2 HB (6.23 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 1 G, 0 GS, 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (9.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
  • UTIL Jose Rosario and SS Jorge Mateo are listed on rosters but have yet to appear in a game. They might not play at all, especially Mateo, who ended the regular season on the DL. (Albeit with a minor injury.) They’re listed on the rosters because the clubs hold their winter ball rights.

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Rico Noel: 3 G, 1-12 (.083), 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB (.083/.154/.169) — he’s a runner, not a hitter
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 8 G, 0 GS, 5.2 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 2 HR, 1 WP (14.29 ERA, 2.47 WHIP) — he’s allowed multiple runs in four of those eight outings, so it’s not just one disaster outing skewing the numbers
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 4 G, 4 GS, 24 IP, 15 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 7 BB, 14 K, 1 HR, 1 HB, 1 WP (1.88 ERA, 0.92 WHIP)
  • RHP Cesar Vargas: 8 G, 0 GS, 7 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 1 HR (1.29 ERA, 0.92 WHIP)

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico)

  • RHP Bryan Mitchell, IF Cito Culver, and 2B Angelo Gumbs are listed on rosters but have not yet appeared in a game. The season just started yesterday. Mitchell threw only 104.2 innings during the regular season. He might be down here to get some more under his belt. His career high is 145.1 innings set back in 2013.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • C Francisco Arcia: 12 G, 11-32 (.344), 3R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K (.344/.432/.500)
  • IF Ali Castillo: 4 G, 3-15 (.200), 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K (.200/.294/.267)
  • OF Ben Gamel: 13 G, 13-48 (.271), 7 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 7 BB, 12 K, 1 SB, 1 CS (.271/.351/.479) — following up his excellent regular season with a nice showing in winter ball … I’m sure the Yankees were happy to let him play winter ball this year, it gives them more time to evaluate him before deciding whether to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason
  • OF Ericson Leonora: 12 G, 4-22 (.182), 5 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP (.182/.217/.318)
  • OF Teodoro Martinez: 18 G, 20-69 (.290), 2 3B, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K, 2 SB (.290/.318/.348) — I’m not even sure if he’s still in the organization, to be honest … the Yankees signed him at midseason when they needed some outfielders to help cover for injuries and promotions … that’s usually a part-time gig
  • UTIL Jose Pirela: 6 G, 11-20 (.550), 5 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 BB, 1 K (.550/.640/.750) — he always rakes in winter ball
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 3 G, 0 GS, 2.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (0.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
  • RHP Jaron Long: 4 G, 4 GS, 23.2 IP, 20 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 11 K, 1 HR (1.90 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) — between the regular season and winter ball, the ex-hitting coach’s kid has thrown 178.1 innings this year
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 8 G, 0 GS, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 9 K, 1 HR (9.45 ERA, 1.65 WHIP) — allowed three runs in two of those eight outings … everything else has been pretty good
  • IF Thairo Estrada is listed on a roster but has not yet played in a game.

Game 98: The Big 4-0

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Today is Alex Rodriguez‘s 40th birthday. He was only 28 years old when the Yankees originally got him in the trade with the Rangers. Man, time flies. The coolest part is that A-Rod is playing like a 28-year-old this year, at least at the plate. He doesn’t play the field anymore and running is a challenge, but he’s mashing and I love it. The Summer of Al is in full swing.

Alex will get to celebrate his 40th birthday back in Texas where the locals will boo him like he kicked their dog, not cheer him like a guy who hit 156 homers in three years and won an MVP in their uniform. Whatever. A-Rod gets booed everywhere. As he said earlier this year, the last 15 years have been one long boo. Let’s celebrate Al’s birthday with a win, mmmkay? Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Ivan Nova

It’s sunny and extremely hot in Arlington — temperatures were over 100 degrees earlier today and it’ll still be north of 90 for the game. Gross. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 8:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Roster Move: Gregorio Petit cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. He can now elect free agency. Petit was designated for assignment a few days ago to clear a 40-man roster spot for Nick Goody.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury “jammed the shoulder pretty good” running into the wall while making a catch yesterday, but said today he’s fine and was scheduled to get the day off anyway. The Yankees will face a lefty starter tonight and tomorrow, so they could sit Ellsbury and play Young tomorrow to give him one extra day if they want.

Game 96: Find A Way To Win On The Road

Don't do this again. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Don’t do this again. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

The Yankees got their brains beat in by the Twins last night and it was just one of those games. Happens to every team a few times each season. It was another road loss however, the team’s 22nd loss in their last 35 road games. That’s not very good! The Yankees are 23-25 with a a -21 run differential on the road this year and I was surprised to see their record was that good.

Obviously this Yankees team is built for Yankee Stadium, but it’s not like they are completely helpless without the short porch. They rank middle of the pack with an average of 3.81 runs per game away from home. The real problem is the pitching staff — the Yankees have a 4.14 ERA on the road and a 3.76 ERA at home, which makes no sense. They’ve allowed four more earned runs on the road in 32.1 fewer innings.

The Yankees have built themselves a nice little lead in the AL East — emphasis on little, it is still only July — but they’re going to have to solve their road woes at some point to really run away with this thing. Last night was a clunker, just forget about it. Move on and try to win today. Here’s is Minnesota’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Brendan Ryan
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    LHP CC Sabathia

The weather in Minneapolis has been great for most of the day, but there have been some on and off showers this afternoon. The forecast says things will dry up right around game time, however, so it shouldn’t be a problem. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy.

Roster Move: Welcome to the big leagues, Nick Goody. Enjoy the affordable health care for life. The Yankees have called Goody up to give them a fresh arm in the bullpen, the team announced. Branden Pinder was sent down and Gregorio Petit was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster. Goody, the team’s sixth round pick in 2012, has a 1.68 ERA (1.86 FIP) with 35.5 K% and 7.1 BB% in 48.1 relief innings split between Double-A and Triple-A this year. He’ll be the 12th (!) Yankee to make his MLB debut this season whenever he gets into a game.

Rotation Update: Joe Girardi announced the Yankees will use a spot sixth starter on Tuesday to give everyone an extra day of rest. Right now Tuesday’s starter is TBA and Girardi said they could piggyback Adam Warren and Chris Capuano. Luis Severino started for Triple-A Scranton last night and Bryan Mitchell is starting tonight, so they aren’t options. The most likely minor league candidate is (gulp) Esmil Rogers. He threw 91 pitches last time out and lines up to start Tuesday if the team wants to go that way.

Game 89: Start of the Second Half

#TrueDetectiveSeason2 (Presswire)
#TrueDetectiveSeason2 (Presswire)

Baseball is back. The All-Star break is over and we’re heading into the dogs days of summer. The Yankees are the team to beat in the AL East right now. They have a nice little 3.5-game lead in the division and have the best combination of offense and pitching among the five clubs, though they’re certainly not without their flaws. The trade deadline is two weeks from today, by the way.

Robinson Cano and the Mariners are in the Bronx to start a three-game series this weekend. I don’t blame Robbie one bit for taking the extra $65M from the Mariners, I would have done the same thing, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t satisfying to see Seattle near the bottom of the standings while the Yankees are in first place. Here is Seattle’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Chris Young
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The weather has been very nice in New York all day. Sunny, a few clouds, temperatures in the upper-70s without much humidity. Pretty great, actually. There is some rain in the forecast tonight but not until the wee hours of the morning. First pitch tonight is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen live on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Brendan Ryan (back) has been activated off the 15-day DL and Gregorio Petit was sent down to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Carlos Beltran (oblique) is ready to be activated in a day or two.

2015 Midseason Review: Odds & Ends

Time to tie up some loose ends and conclude our Midseason Review series. The second half of the 2015 seasons starts tonight, thankfully. I’ve come to appreciate the All-Star break, but yeah, I am ready for more baseball.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

G.I. Jones and the Serial Killer

By bench player standards, Chris Young has been dynamite this season. He’s mashing lefties and playing strong defense, which are his two main job functions. Garrett Jones, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have a set role. He’s the backup at first base, yeah, but otherwise he doesn’t play regularly against righties or anything. Jones has started just 28 of the team’s 88 games, for example. He batted 28 times in April. That’s it.

Playing that infrequently didn’t exactly help Jones remain productive. He went 6-for-40 (.150) before hitting his first home run on May 22nd, a pinch-hit three-run homer into the Yankee Stadium short porch. That seemed to get him going. Jones is 24-for-89 (.270) with four homers since then, including at least one big one …

… while continuing to play sporadically. Jones is hitting .233/.277/.395 (84 wRC+) with five homers overall — again, he’s been much better since that dreadful start — and all things considered, he’s been really good for his role. That backup first baseman/fifth outfielder/lefty power bat off the bench who rarely plays. This is exactly the kind of veteran dude you want in this role. Not some prospect with an actual future.

John Ryan Murphy, meanwhile, has a total of 85 plate appearances as Brian McCann‘s backup this year, and is hitting .247/.286/.325 (65 wRC+). That’s about on par with the league average for backup catchers. Murphy’s defense has been fine to the untrained eye — he’s thrown out six of 19 attempted base-stealers (32%), so teams have tried running on him in limited action — and for whatever reason the pitching staff has better strikeout (23.4%) and walk (5.6%) rates with him behind the plate than McCann (21.8% and 7.2%, respectively). Could easily be sample size noise.

The Yankees reached the point where something had to happen with their catching depth. Someone had to go, and it was Francisco Cervelli, who was two years from free agency. The Yankees turned him into Justin Wilson, gave Murphy the backup job, and managed to keep Austin Romine in Triple-A as a non-40-man roster player. As an unabashed JRM fan, I’m happy with the way things turned out and I look forward to seeing Murphy continue to develop on both sides of the ball.

Futility Infielders

Pirela. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Pirela. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

It feels like more, but the Yankees have had four differential utility infielders this season, not counting the just called up Rob Refsnyder. Gregorio Petit, Jose Pirela, Brendan Ryan, and Cole Figueroa have hit a combined .209/.243/.310 (~53 wRC+) in 140 plate appearances. Pirela (41 wRC+) has exactly half those plate appearances. There’s a decent chance the Yankees will stick with Refsnyder as the regular second baseman and push Stephen Drew in the backup infielder role going forward, which would still be a net upgrade even as bad as Drew has been. Young, Jones, and Murphy have been pretty good off the bench, all things considered. The infielders have … not.

Get Called Up, Get Injured

When Jacoby Ellsbury hit the DL, the Yankees first called up Slade Heathcott, and it was a great story. Slade has dealt with all sorts of on-the-field and off-the-field issues over the years, so much so that he was dropped off the 40-man roster in the offseason, but he came to Spring Training healthy and played well in Triple-A. He earned the call up, went 6-for-17 (.343) with a homer, then blew out his quad and landed on the DL for a few months. Brutal.

Heathcott’s injury opened the door for Mason Williams, who battled mostly work ethic and makeup problems the last few years, but had the proverbial light bulb go on this offseason. He played well in Double-A and Triple-A, got called up to replace Slade, went 6-for-21 (.286) with three doubles and a homer, then suffered a shoulder injury diving back into first base on a pickoff throw. The day-to-day injury turned into a 60-day DL stint. I repeat: brutal.

The only young fourth outfielder to escape the injury bug in the first half was Ramon Flores, who got called up to replace Williams and went 7-for-32 (.219) with a double. He’s been up and down a few times and hasn’t gotten the everyday opportunity like Heathcott and Williams did before getting hurt. Maybe that’s the team’s way of keeping him healthy. I’m glad the Yankees have given their young outfielders a chance. It sucks they keep getting hurt. Seriously hurt too.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

One Hundred Pitches Or Less

Through 88 games this season, the Yankees have had a starting pitcher throw 100+ pitches only 22 times, tied with the Rockies and Royals for the fewest in MLB. Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi have both thrown 100+ pitches seven times, Adam Warren did it four times before being put in the bullpen, CC Sabathia has done it three times, and Masahiro Tanaka has done it once. That’s it. The Yankees do have 38 starts of 90-99 pitches, for what it’s worth.

The lack of 100+ pitch starts is the result of many things, first and foremost ineffectiveness. Sabathia and Eovaldi have gotten knocked around a bit at times, Warren struggled in April, and even Tanaka and Pineda went through rough stretches. The Yankees also have a strong bullpen and Joe Girardi has not been shy about going to it early rather than letting his starter go through the lineup a third time. Can’t say I blame him.

That said, the Yankees rank 22nd in innings by starters (510) and eighth in innings by the bullpen (283.1), which is a bit unbalanced. Over the last five years the ratio of rotation innings to bullpen innings is almost exactly 2.0 (1.996, to be exact) in the AL. The Yankees are at 1.80 this year. I’m not saying it can’t work all year, but it would be nice to see Girardi let the starters go a little deeper into games to help avoid bullpen burnout, especially with multi-run leads. I’m not sure asking the relievers to get a dozen outs each night is a built to last strategy.

Yankees place Beltran on 15-day DL, recall Flores and Petit

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees have placed Carlos Beltran on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain, the team announced. Ramon Flores and Gregorio Petit were both called up from Triple-A Scranton in corresponding moves. Taylor Dugas was optioned down to Triple-A to clear the other roster spot.

Beltran, 38, left Tuesday’s game in Anaheim after grabbing his side during an at-bat. He actually stayed in to finish the at-bat before being removed between innings. Beltran told reporters his oblique had been bothering him for a few days but the discomfort was manageable. Beltran went for tests yesterday that showed the strain.

Although he is hitting an average-ish .260/.309/.430 (102 wRC+) overall this season, Beltran has been much more productive since May 1st, hitting .299/.346/.494 (132 wRC+) in his last 188 plate appearances. The Yankees will miss his bat in the middle of the order for sure. His defense? Not so much. The lineup is a little shorter now though.

Flores wasn’t called up when Beltran initially got hurt because he couldn’t be recalled — he was still in his ten-day window after being sent down last week and the team wasn’t sure if Beltran needed to be placed on the DL yet. His ten days are up now. Beltran’s injury allowed Petit to come back before his ten days were up. He was sent down last weekend.

The Yankees are currently have Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury (knee), Slade Heathcott (quad), and Mason Williams (shoulder) on the DL, so they’re running out of outfielders. Their depth has been put to the test. Ellsbury might be back soon and Williams is eligible to come off the DL tomorrow, but there have been no updates on him. Heathcott will miss several more weeks.

Chris Young and Garrett Jones have both played well of late, though Girardi has given the majority of the playing time to Young, even against righties. My guess is Flores plays left, Young plays right, and Brett Gardner mans center for the time being. Once Ellsbury comes back, they can figure out a new alignment then.