Archive for Houston Astros
The Yankees designated Eduardo Nunez for assignment on Tuesday, giving them ten days to trade him, release him, or slip him through waivers. That is down to eight days now, and considering the waiver process takes three days, it’s really more like five days. This situation could be resolved before the start of next week.
According to Marly Rivera, the Astros and Mariners* are among the teams with interest in Nunez. The middle infield bar is pretty low around the league right now, especially at shortstop, so I figured there would be some interest. That the Yankees couldn’t work out a trade before designating him suggests interest isn’t that high though. For what it’s worth, George King hears Nunez is expected to wind up elsewhere, either through a trade or waivers.
* As you surely remember, the Mariners wanted Nunez as part of the failed Cliff Lee trade a few years ago, so their interest now is not surprising.
Since he’s been designated for assignment, Nunez has pretty much zero trade value. He had very little trade value before being removed from the 40-man roster, but this clinches it. The Yankees forced their own hand with the move and other teams know they have to move him. That’s the way the DFA game has been and always will be. If they were to ship him to the Astros or Mariners, the likely return would be a nondescript non-40-man minor leaguer, cash, or a player to be named later. Don’t get your hopes up.
Nunez, 26, has hit .267/.313/.379 (86 wRC+) in parts of four seasons, in a league where the average shortstop put up a … wait for it … 86 wRC+ from 2010-13. His offense isn’t the problem, especially since he can steal bases on top of the league average-ish production. The issue has been and always be his defense, which hasn’t improved after years and years of work. This has been a career long problem and his career started in 2005.
The Yankees are short on shortstops right now, especially with Brendan Ryan hurt. Derek Jeter appears to be healthy and is moving fine in the field, but at age 39, he’s not someone who can play the position day after day. Joe Girardi‘s going to mix in some DH days every once in a while. He has to. Dean Anna is the backup shortstop, Yangervis Solarte the emergency backup, and the Triple-A starter is Carmen Angelini according to Chad Jennings. (Addison Maruszak was released yesterday according to Donnie Collins.) The 25-year-old Angelini had a 73 wRC+ at Double-A Trenton last year, so yeah.
Even though his defense is nightmarish, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Nunez slipped through waivers and went to Triple-A (he can’t elect free agency since it would be his first outright assignment), at least until Ryan returns. The Astros and Mariners and whoever else probably won’t give up anything of value for him in a trade, so keeping Nunez around as an emergency backup plan is better than losing him for nothing. Especially with no shortstop at Triple-A. If he doesn’t stick around, they’ll have to find someone just like him to stash in the minors.
After more than four months of offseason and six weeks of Spring Training, meaningful baseball is back. The Yankees open the 2014 season later tonight in the same place they ended last season, at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Astros will honor Derek Jeter with a ceremony prior to tomorrow’s game, according to Evan Drellich. Former Yankees and former Astros Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens are scheduled to attend. Neato.
What Did They Do Last Year?
Stunk, mostly. The Astros went 51-111 with a -238 run differential, the worst marks in baseball by eleven games and -64 runs, respectively. Terrible. They made a few moves to add legitimate MLB caliber players over the winter but not nearly enough to right this ship. Houston went 12-15 during Grapefruit League play.
The Yankees were terrible offensively last season thanks to the injuries, and the Astros were just as bad. The two clubs were nearly identical on a rate basis (86 vs. 85 wRC+), though New York did a better job of actually pushing runs across (4.01 vs. 3.77 runs per game). Houston did add one notable position player in OF Dexter Fowler (106 wRC+ in 2013), who they stole from the Rockies for pennies on the dollar.
The Astros’ best hitter and best all around player is C Jason Castro (130 wRC+ in 2013), who broke out last summer and lived up to the hype of being the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft. 1B/DH Chris Carter (113 wRC+) has huge power (29 HR and .223 ISO) and was the club’s only other comfortably above-average hitter in 2013. 2B Jose Altuve (85 wRC+) has become one of the game’s most overrated players the last year or two. His production is on par with the Yankees version of Melky Cabrera, except instead of having a cool name, he’s really short.
3B Matt Dominguez (89 wRC+) quietly swatted 21 homers a year ago. Guys like OF L.J. Hoes (98 wRC+) and OF Robbie Grossman (97 wRC+) had strong showings after being called up at midseason, SS Jonathan Villar (80 wRC+) and 1B Marc Krauss (74 wRC+) less so. OF Alex Presley (career 102 wRC+ vs. RHP) and UTIL Jesus Guzman (career 130 wRC+ vs. LHP) were low-cost offseason pickups who are good platoon options. C Carlos Corporan (79 wRC+) is Castro’s seldom used backup and IF Marwin Gonzalez (55 wRC+) is essentially the 25th man on the roster. The top four hitters in the lineup (Fowler, Altuve, Castro, Carter) are MLB caliber, but it really falls off after that.
Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Scott Feldman (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Feldman, 31, was one of those legitimate MLB players the Astros added this winter, signing him to a three-year, $30M contract. I like him as a back-end starter, but not that much. Anyway, Feldman is coming off a solid season split between the Cubs and Orioles, pitching to a 3.86 ERA (4.03 FIP) in 181.2 innings. His strikeout rate (6.54 K/9 and 17.4 K%) wasn’t anything special but he limits walks (2.77 BB/9 and 7.4 BB%) and gets ground balls (49.6%). He also had no platoon split, holding righties to a .297 wOBA and lefties to a .298 wOBA. Freaky. Feldman is primarily a low-90s sinker/upper-80s cutter/mid-70s curveball pitcher, though he will throw the occasional mid-80s splitter that serves as his changeup. Feldman has been around a while and so has most of the Yankees’ lineup, so there’s some familiarity here.
Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Jarred Cosart (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Acquired from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade, the 23-year-old Cosart made his MLB debut last season and managed a 1.95 ERA (4.35 FIP) in 60 innings. He got a ton of ground balls (54.5%) but walked (5.25 BB/9 and 14.2 BB%) more batters than he struck out (4.95 K/9 and 14.4 K%). Eek. Command has never been his strong suit. The young righty had a reverse platoon split last year — righties had a .376 wOBA, lefties only a .236 wOBA — but that’s a sample size thing more than anything. Cosart throws very hard, sitting in the mid-90s and touching 97-98 with a four-seam fastball that he threw more than 70% of the time in 2013. An upper-70s curveball is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in the occasional mid-80s changeup. Cosart did not face the Yankees last season and players on the roster have four combined plate appearances against him, three by Jacoby Ellsbury.
Thursday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Oberholtzer, like Cosart, made his big league debut last season. The 24-year-old had a 2.76 ERA (3.65 FIP) in 71.2 innings, walking no one (1.63 BB/9 and 4.4 BB%) but not striking anyone out either (5.65 K/9 and 15.5 K%). He also didn’t get many ground balls (35.6%) or do a particularly good job against same-side hitters — lefties had a .325 wOBA, righties a .271 wOBA — though again, that’s probably a sample size thing. Oberholtzer is a classic finesse southpaw, sitting right around 90 mph with his fastball while throwing both his changeup and curveball in the low-80s. The Yankees did face Oberholtzer in Game 160 last year, but the only guy who was in the lineup that day and on the active roster right now is Alfonso Soriano. Here’s the box score if you don’t believe me.
The Astros did spend some money on bullpen help this winter, though RHP Jesse Crain (1.52 FIP in 2013) will open the season on the DL with a biceps strain. Manager Bo Porter has declined to name an closer to start the season, with RHP Chad Qualls (3.32 FIP) and RHP Josh Fields (5.10 FIP) considered the leading candidates.
Porter’s middle relief crew is solid, with veteran RHP Matt Albers (3.49 FIP) joining LHP Kevin Chapman (4.28 FIP) and RHP Anthony Bass (4.24 FIP). RHP Brad Peacock (4.98 FIP) is moving into the bullpen after a failed experiment as a starter, so he could take off in his new role as many failed starters have done before. Veteran RHP Jerome Williams (4.60 FIP) is the long reliever. Only one left-hander, so Porter will have to decide whether to save him for Ellsbury or Brian McCann. The game situation will dictate that. There aren’t many Astros blogs out there, but The Crawfish Boxes is very good.
If the Yankees and Astros play three meaningless games in Minute Maid Park to close out the season and no one sees them … did it actually happen? A recent Astros television broadcast received a 0.0 Nielsen rating, so pretty much no one watched the game. I’m guessing more than a few people will tune in to see the Bombers this weekend, however.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Astros have lost 12 straight games and come into this series with the very worst record in baseball: 51-108 with a -232 run differential. They are, as the kids say, stupid bad.
At 3.8 runs per game with a team 87 wRC+, Houston is a below-average offensive club. No surprise there. They’re without C Jason Castro (130 wRC+), their best player, who is done for the season with a knee injury. OF Robbie Grossman (97 wRC+) is out with an oblique issue as well.
Manager Bo Porter doesn’t have a lot of firepower at his disposal. Aside from Castro, the team’s only legitimate above-average everyday hitter is 1B Chris Carter (115 wRC+), who has huge power (29 homers and .232 ISO) and will strike out a frickin’ ton (36.5%). 2B Jose Altuve (86 wRC+) and 1B Brett Wallace (96 wRC+) are two other guys you might recognize, along with former Yankees farmhands 3B Brandon Laird (94 wRC+ in limited time) and OF Jimmy Paredes (33 wRC+ in limited time). OF L.J. Hoes (96 wRC+ in limited time) and 3B Matt Dominguez (91 wRC+) have been useful.
Aside from those guys, there’s not much to see here. C Carlos Corporan (85 wRC+), C Max Stassi (96 wRC+ in super duper limited time), and C Cody Clark (-37 wRC+ in very limited time) handle things behind the plate with Castro hurt. IF Jake Elmore (83 wRC+ in limited time), IF Marwin Gonzalez (55 wRC+), and SS Jonathan Villar (83 wRC+) are the various infielders. OF Brandon Barnes (77 wRC+), OF Trevor Crowe (72 wRC+ in limited time), OF J.D. Martinez (77 wRC+), and OF Marc Krauss (76 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench. Nineteen position players in all.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Adam Warren vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer
Oberholtzer, 24, has a 2.71 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 66.1 innings across nine starts and three relief appearances this season, his rookie season. The southpaw doesn’t miss bats (5.56 K/9 and 15.5 K%), doesn’t walk anyone (1.63 BB/9 and 4.4 BB%), and doesn’t get ground balls (36.6%). He does kinda keep the ball in the park though (0.95 HR/9 and 7.6% HR/FB). Oberholtzer sits right around 90 with his two and four-seam fastballs, using them to set up his low-80s changeup and upper-70s knucklecurve. Obviously, the Yankees have never seen him before.
Saturday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Paul Clemens
No relation to Roger, the 25-year-old Clemens has a 5.69 ERA (5.97 FIP) in 68 innings covering four starts and 30 relief appearances. He’s in the rotation because there’s no one else, basically. The peripherals are just terrible: 5.96 K/9 (14.9 K%), 3.31 BB/9 (8.3 BB%), 2.12 HR/9 (14.4% HR/FB), and 36.1% grounders. Clemens has good stuff, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and low-90s with his two-seamer. A hard mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his two secondary pitches. The Yankees actually saw Clemens earlier this season, scoring a run against him in 1.1 innings of relief.
Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Erik Bedard
Finally, a pitcher we’ve heard of. Bedard, 34, has pitched to a 4.81 ERA (4.52 FIP) in 144 innings this year, his most since 2007. His strikeout rate (8.06 K/9 and 20.3 K%) is good but the walk (4.69 BB/9 and 11.8 BB%), homer (1.13 HR/9 and 9.6% HR/FB), and ground ball (36.8%) numbers aren’t. Bedard still has that knee-buckling mid-70s curveball, but his fastballs (two and four-seamer) have slipped into the upper-80s with age and injury. An upper-70s changeup is his fourth pitch. The Yankees have seen Bedard a bunch of times over the years, both the good version with the Orioles and the broken down version with the Mariners.
The Astros were off yesterday, but that doesn’t really matter with September call-ups and the season about to end. Rule 5 Draft pick RHP Josh Fields (5.45 FIP) has taken over as closer and LHP Kevin Chapman (4.44 FIP) does most of the setup work. RHP Rhiner Cruz (5.36 FIP in limited time) and RHP Josh Zeid (4.75 FIP in limited time) tend to get the ball in the middle innings. Thanks to expanded rosters, Porters also has inexperienced arms RHP Jorge De Leon, RHP Chia-Jen Lo, and RHP David Martinez in the bullpen.
The Yankees are in fine bullpen shape at this point. I don’t know if we’ll see Mariano Rivera again this season, and as sad as that would be, I would be perfectly cool with that given the send-off last night. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details, then check out Crawfish Boxes for the latest and great on the Astros.
The Yankees are fresh off a four-game sweep of the division rival Blue Jays, and I’m not sure the schedule could have worked out any better to help continue the winning streak as the Astros are coming to the Bronx for three games. Then again, this has classic “trap series” potential.
What Have They Done Lately?
Lose, unsurprisingly. The Astros were just swept by the Red Sox in a four-game series, getting outscored 28-10. They did win two straight against the Mariners before that though. Overall, Houston is 7-18 with a -50 run differential, both the worst marks in the AL.
The Astros average 3.9 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+, both a touch below the league average. They are missing two important right-handed platoon bats in OF J.D. Martinez (92 wRC+) and former Yankees property OF Justin Maxwell (87 wRC+) due to a knee sprain and a broken hand, respectively.
Manager Bo Porter’s best full-time hitter is also his leadoff hitter, 2B Jose Altuve (121 wRC+). LF/DH Chris Carter (101 wRC+) and 1B Carlos Pena (86 wRC+) both play everyday as well, and both guys can hit the ball out of any park despite their massive strikeout issues. C Jason Castro (94 wRC+) and slick-fielding 3B Matt Dominguez (81 wRC+) are the team’s only other everyday guys. Marwin Gonzalez (138 wRC+) and Ronny Cedeno (116 wRC+) split time at shortstop.
The rest of the Houston lineup is filled by platoon players, including right-handed hitters OF Brandon Barnes (178 wRC+ in limited time) and former Yankee 1B/3B Brandon Laird (129 wRC+ in limited time). Lefty bats OF Rick Ankiel (112 wRC+ with a 58 K% (!)) and OF Fernando Martinez (64 wRC+) start against righties. OF Robbie Grossman (-20 wRC+ in limited time) has taken over in center following Maxwell’s injury while C Carlos Corporan (90 wRC+) backs up Castro. It’s not a great lineup obviously, but they aren’t total pushovers.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Lucas Harrell
The Astros struck waiver wire gold with the 27-year-old Harrell last year, as he pitched to a 3.76 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 193.2 innings after being selected from the White Sox. He owns a 4.08 ERA (5.54 FIP) through five starts this year even though his strikeout (6.28 K/9 and 16.3 K%) and ground ball (54.7%) rates are basically identical to last season. His walk (4.71 BB/9 and 12.2 BB%) and homer (1.57 HR/9 and 22.7% HR/FB) numbers have jumped a ton though. Harrell is a big time two-seam fastball guy, throwing the low-90s pitch roughly 60% of the time. He’ll also throw a low-90s four-seamer and upper-80s cutter on occasion, and his array of offspeed pitches includes a mid-80s slider, a low-80s curveball, and a low-80s changeup. He doesn’t throw any of those pitches more than eight or so percent of the time, however. That two-seamer is his bread-and-butter. Harrell has never pitched against the Yankees in his career and only three players (Brennan Boesch, Jayson Nix, and Travis Hafner) on the roster have ever faced him before.
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Phil Humber
Baseball has not been kind to Humber since his perfect game last April. The 30-year-old has pitched to a 7.54 ERA (~5.99 FIP) in 111 innings since making history, including a 7.99 ERA (4.69 FIP) in five total starts this year. He hasn’t struck anyone out (4.94 K/9 and 11.5 K%), but he has done an okay job of limiting walks ( 3.04 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%) and getting grounders (45.5%). Either way, he’s been pretty close to the worst starting pitcher in baseball so far this year. Humber is very offspeed heavy, throwing his upper-80s two- and four-seamers a combined 41.2% of the time. Upper-70s curveballs and mid-80s sliders are his top secondary pitchers, and he’ll also throw a mid-80s changeup. The Yankees have faced Humber twice before, both times when he was having success with the White Sox back in 2011.
Wednesday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP Erik Bedard
Bedard, 34, has managed to stay healthy in the early going after years and years of injury trouble. The results haven’t been very good (7.98 ERA and 6.47 FIP) so far, which isn’t terribly surprising given his walk (4.91 BB/9 and 11.4 BB%), ground ball (33.3%), and homer (3.07 HR/9 (!) and 23.8% HR/FB) rates. He is striking out plenty of batters though (11.66 K/9 and 27.1 K%), which is something he never really stopped doing even while battling all the physical problems. Bedard’s money-maker remains a knockout mid-70s curveball he can throw for a called strike or bury in the dirt for a swing-and-miss. He’ll also throw an upper-70s changeup and set things up with three fastballs: upper-80s/low-90s two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter. The two-seamer is the most used by far. The Yankees saw Bedard a bunch during his Orioles days, but he hasn’t started a game against them since May 2008.
Despite the beatdown in Boston, Porter’s bullpen is in decent shape because Bud Norris threw six innings yesterday before RHP Jose Cisnero (2.08 FIP) followed with two innings to wrap things up. The team carries three long man types out of necessity, with RHP Paul Clemens (6.48 FIP) and LHP Travis Blackley (7.16 FIP) doing the honors alongside Cisnero.
When they do actually have a lead, the Astros use former Yankee Jose Veras (1.86 FIP) to slam the door in the ninth inning. The setup crew is some combination of matchup guys RHP Rhiner Cruz (6.48 FIP), LHP Wesley Wright (3.08 FIP), and RHP Hector Ambriz (3.45 FIP). The Yankees have relied on their late-game arms pretty heavily of late, which could limit their availability in this series. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. There aren’t a ton of Astros blogs out there, but Crawfish Boxes is the best of the bunch.
The Yankees have claimed right-handed reliever Sam Demel off waivers from the Astros, the team announced. Fellow righty Dan Otero was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot. Otero was claimed off waivers just yesterday.
Demel, 27, owns a 4.95 ERA (4.75 FIP) in 63.2 career big league innings, all with the Diamondbacks over the last three seasons. He got absolutely hammered in camp — ten hits, eleven runs, four homers, three walks, and one strikeout in 2.1 innings — but the Yankees are clearly hoping he can miss bats like he has in Triple-A going forward (24.6% in 138 IP). Demel is a low-to-mid-90s fastball/slider guy with an option left, so again, just another depth arm.
The Astros have claimed right-hander Mickey Storey off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. The Yankees had originally claimed the right-handed reliever off waivers from the ‘Stros last month, so I hope he hasn’t sold his place in Houston yet. Storey was designated for assignment last week to clear a 40-man roster spot for Mariano Rivera after he re-signed with the club.
Six added to 40-man roster
The Yankees added six minor leaguers to the 40-man roster: LHP Manny Banuelos, RHP Brett Marshall, LHP Nik Turley, OF Ramon Flores, RHP Jose Ramirez, and LHP Francisco Rondon. Midnight tonight is the deadline to set the 40-man for next month’s Rule 5 Draft, and all six guys would have been eligible had they not been protected.
Banuelos will miss pretty much all of next season due to Tommy John surgery, so the club is losing a pre-arbitration year of team control. That really bites. The annual lolwut addition is Rondon, a 24-year-old southpaw who had a good but not great year at three levels in 2012 (3.93 ERA and 10.1 K/9 with 5.3 BB/9 in 71 relief innings). The Yankees now have five (!) lefty specialists on the 40-man. Marshall, Turley, and Flores were no-brainer adds and some team could have hid Ramirez’s big arm in long relief next season.
Mickey Storey claimed off waivers from Houston
The Yankees have claimed 26-year-old right-hander Mickey Storey off waivers from the Astros. He had a phenomenal season in Triple-A this year and made his big league debut in the second half: 3.86 ERA (2.80 FIP) with 10.09 K/9 (26.8 K%) and 2.97 BB/9 (7.9 BB%) in 30.1 relief innings. He also missed a few games after taking a line drive off the face.
Despite the gaudy peripherals, Storey isn’t a power pitcher. He’s a four-pitch reliever in the Cory Wade mold, throwing an upper-80s four-seamer, a mid-80s cutter, an upper-70s slider, and a mid-70s curveball. The curve is his bread and butter. I believe he has two minor league options remaining, but don’t hold me to that. That stuff is hard to verify. Here’s some video.
Yankees re-sign David Herndon
According to agent Josh Kusnick, the Yankees have re-signed David Herndon to a split contract. He had elected free agency after the team outrighted him off the 40-man roster and I assume it’s a minor league deal. The 27-year-old reliever will received $750k in the big leagues ($50k in incentives) and $180k while in the minors. Herndon is coming off Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready until June. The Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Blue Jays earlier this month.
* * *
After all of today’s moves, the 40-man roster is at 39. The Yankees will be able to make one selection in the Rule 5 Draft unless they remove more players from the 40-man between now and midnight. Catcher Eli Whiteside is the obvious candidate to be removed, but one empty spot is plenty. If Herndon’s contract is a big league deal, the 40-man will be full and the Yankees won’t be able to make any picks in the Rule 5 Draft.
Via LoHud, the Astros have claimed Brandon Laird off waivers from the Yankees. New York designated the infielder for assignment when they re-acquired Steve Pearce from (who else?) the Astros earlier this week, so think of it as a straight one-for-one trade.
Laird, 24, hit .254/.307/.414 with 15 homers while repeating Triple-A this season. He’s a .256/.295/.409 career hitter at the level in nearly 1,200 plate appearances, and last season he had four singles and three walks in 25 big league plate appearances in New York. This is a real good opportunity for Laird, who should get a chance to claim an everyday job with a team that epitomizes rebuilding at the moment.
Via Brian McTaggart, the Astros have claimed Justin Maxwell off waivers. The Yankees designated him for assignment last week when they had no room for him on the Opening Day roster. Maxwell had a nice spring, so it’s not a surprise that he was claimed. At least the Yanks got to keep Chris Dickerson for outfield depth. Both guys were out of minor league options and I figured they’d lose both.
Via MLBTR, the Astros have claimed Lance Pendleton off waivers. The Yankees designated him for assignment earlier this week to make room on the 40-man roster for George Kontos. Remember, the Astros have the righty a look in Spring Training as a Rule 5 Draft pick, but they eventually send him back. Pendleton is from Houston and went to Rice (also in Houston), so he’s right at home. Good luck, I’ll miss you Pants Lendleton.