Archive for J.R. Murphy

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

The Yankees are on their last legs. Baseball Prospectus gives them a 2.4% chance to make the postseason following last night’s shutout loss and even that feels high. The non-Andy Pettitte starters are struggling, the bullpen is a disaster, and the offense has dried up since Brett Gardner got hurt. Obviously Gardner’s absence is not the only reason the team is struggling to score runs, but taking a .273/.344/.416 (107 wRC+) hitter out of the lineup sure does hurt. No doubt about it.

Because of the injuries to Gardner and Derek Jeter — as well as Alex Rodriguez‘s barking calf and hamstring — there is only so much Joe Girardi can do to shake up his lineup going forward. Brendan Ryan (!) has already replaced Eduardo Nunez at short and Mark Reynolds has taken over at the hot corner full-time despite his defensive deficiencies. There are still two more moves that can be made though, and it has more to do with getting unproductive bats out of the lineup than having slam dunk upgrades waiting in the wings.

Since Gardner got hurt, replacement Ichiro Suzuki has gone 2-for-15 while hitting exactly four balls out of the infield on the fly. He came off the bench to get all the at-bats that would have gone to Gardner had he not gotten hurt. Chris Stewart, meanwhile, has gone 3-for-38 (!) in the team’s last 24 games. To make matters worse, both guys have started to slip defensively either due to fatigue or old age or whatever. Ichiro‘s been misplaying balls in right field while Stewart is a passed ball machine. They’re killing the team.

Girardi doesn’t have a ton of alternatives at his disposal despite September call-ups, but he could pull the plug on the veterans and run the kids out there. Zoilo Almonte recently returned from his ankle injury and J.R. Murphy was called up to serve as the third catcher a few weeks ago. Austin Romine would be another option behind the plate had he not been concussed last week. Almonte and Murphy aren’t exactly the next Mike Trout and Buster Posey, but the offensive bar in right field and behind the plate has been set so low that it’s worth giving the kids the try.

No team — extra-especially the Yankees — likes to hand the keys to a playoff race over to a bunch of prospects late in September, but the alternative is two very unproductive veterans. Ichiro and Stewart have stunk all year, this is not anything new, but their recent slumps have been much more pronounced and ill-timed. Almonte had some success during his brief cup of coffee earlier this year and at the very least put together some quality at-bats while Murphy … well he had a real nice year split between Double-A and Triple-A. What more can you say about him? Not much. Change for the sake of change is usually foolhardy, but I think Ichiro and Stewart have forced the issue. Enough is enough.

These last eleven games will tell us nothing about whether Almonte and/or Murphy can help the team next year. Nothing at all. There just isn’t enough time. What they can do is potentially help the team right now. Again, the bar in right field and behind the plate has been set so very low that it won’t take much for them to be upgrades. Could they be downgrades? Oh sure, it’s very possible. But the Yankees aren’t going to postseason if Ichiro and Stewart continue to play everyday. Replacing them with Almonte and Murphy could possibly improve their already slim chances. It’s worth a shot.

Categories : Offense
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The rarely seen Cesar Cabral. (Star-Ledger)

The rarely seen Cesar Cabral. (Star-Ledger)

12:05pm: Mesa was giving his unconditional release, not designated for assignment. So even if he were to clear waivers, he is done with the organization. Mesa had tools, just sucks he never figured out how to make even halfway consistent contact.

11:16am: Nix was transferred to the 60-day DL and Mesa was designated for assignment to clear the two 40-man spots. Melky2.0 will be out of options next year and would have been a DFA candidate this winter. At least now he might sneak through waivers due to the injury.

10:22am: The Yankees have called up five players from Triple-A Scranton: IF David Adams, RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Cesar Cabral, RHP Brett Marshall, and C J.R. Murphy. RHP Preston Claiborne is expected to rejoin the club tomorrow, but OF Melky Mesa has a significant hamstring injury and will not be called up this month. Teams can carry up to 40 players on their active rosters as of today. It’s unclear if the Yankees are planning any more call-ups after Claiborne unless there’s an injury or something.

Adams, Betances, and Marshall were all up with New York earlier this season, so it’s no surprise they were brought back. The Adams and Betances call-ups are pretty straight forward — they’ll provide infield and bullpen depth. I wouldn’t expect Betances to see any kind of high or even medium leverage innings right out of the gate. Marshall is stretched out as a starter and since he’s now available as a long man, David Huff could move into a more traditional lefty specialist role alongside Boone Logan. That would be helpful down the stretch.

Cabral, 24, nearly made the team as a Rule 5 Draft pick out of Spring Training last year before fracturing his elbow. The job went to Clay Rapada instead. He has a 5.40 ERA (3.61 FIP) overall in 36.2 innings across various minor league levels since returning from the injury, but he has been better against same-side hitters (2.36 FIP and 34.7% strikeout rate) in a small sample. Cabral figures to see time as the third lefty specialist behind Logan and Huff. With Logan due to become a free agent this winter, Cabral could also be auditioning for a spot in next year’s bullpen a la 2008 Phil Coke.

The 22-year-old Murphy has hit .269/.346/.426 (~118 wRC+) with 12 homers in 468 plate appearances split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year. He’s also thrown out 50 of 136 attempted base-stealers (37%). Yesterday we heard it was “very likely” he would be called up. Murphy, the team’s second round pick in the 2009 draft, will serve as the third catcher and doesn’t figure to play much as long as the Yankees remain in the wildcard race. He’ll catch bullpens on the side and soak up the whole MLB experience instead.

No word yet on how the team opened 40-man roster spots for Murphy and Cabral, but the Yankees have 60-day DL candidates in Jayson Nix (hand), Zoilo Almonte (ankle), and Travis Hafner (shoulder). Both Murphy and Cabral would have been Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, so the Yankees simply sped up the process and added them to the 40-man a few weeks early. All five call-ups are with the team and will be available for this afternoon’s game.

Categories : Transactions
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Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees are “very likely” to call up J.R. Murphy to be the third catcher once rosters expand in September. He has to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this coming offseason anyway, so they’ll get it out of the way early and let him spend a month in the big leagues. Austin Romine and Chris Stewart are the only catchers on the 40-man roster at the moment with Frankie Cervelli injured/suspended. I assume Jayson Nix (broken hand) will be transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a roster spot.

Murphy, 22, is hitting .269/.346/.426 (~118 wRC+) with 12 homers in 468 plate appearances split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year while throwing out 50 of 136 attempted base-stealers (37%). The RailRiders currently have three catchers on the roster and their season ends on Tuesday (they aren’t going to the playoffs), so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees called up Murphy tomorrow instead of waiting for Wednesday. I wouldn’t expect him to play much down the stretch — he’ll catch bullpen sessions to learn the staff, that kind of stuff — but just being in the big leagues is valuable experience and a nice reward for a strong year.

Categories : Asides
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Another six questions this week, so I tried to keep the answers relatively short. If you want to send us anything throughout the week, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Trenton Thunder)

(Trenton Thunder)

Andrew asks: How long do you think J.R. Murphy has to continue tearing the cover off the ball before he gets a shot? He can’t be worse than Austin Romine or Chris Stewart. Seriously, I think it’s statistically impossible.

Oh, it’s possible. David Adams tore the cover off the ball in Triple-A but has been worse than Jayson Nix. Thomas Neal was worse than Vernon Wells after his big Triple-A performance. The “he can’t be worse” idea is a terrible reason to make a move. They can almost always be worse.

With that said, I don’t think the Yankees should replace Murphy with Romine, not right now. The kid just got to Triple-A and is having his first real standout season since turning pro, and I wouldn’t risk screwing that up for the sake of upgrading the backup catcher spot. Not when Ramon Hernandez and Kelly Shoppach are freely available. Joe Girardi‘s not going to not play Chris Stewart, so I don’t see the point of calling him up to play twice a week. Let Murphy work on his catching and continue to rake in Triple-A. Rushing a prospect to plug a big league hole would only compound the problem.

Mitchell asks: MLBTR says Aramis Ramirez and maybe Jonathan Lucroy are available. Does one or both make sense for the Yanks? And what would it take, do you think, to get him/them?

Matt wrote about Ramirez the other day, so all I’m going to add to that is that I don’t like the idea of adding another aging veteran on the wrote side of 35 who is under contract through 2014. The Yankees have met their quota already. Ramirez would certainly help the team right now, but he’s battling continued knee problems while his strikeouts are up and his power is down. Classic signs of decline in a slugger, otherwise known as “The Kevin Youkilis.” Not a fan.

Lucroy, on the other hand, would be great for the Yankees. The 27-year-old has hit .274/.321/.443 (108 wRC+) this year and .285/.333/.443 (111 wRC+) since becoming the full-time catcher in 2011, plus he’s signed affordably ($9M through 2016 with a $5.25M club option for 2017). Lucroy isn’t all that good at throwing out attempted base-stealers but he grades out okay in the other defensive aspects of catching. Given his age and contract, I imagine it’ll take quite a haul to get him. At least two very good prospects, probably two plus a third piece.

Paul asks: Joe Girardi has stacked lefties recently. The criticism is that late in games you are likely to have the platoon disadvantage as the opposing manager will deploy a lefty reliever. My question is this: isn’t that a little negated by having the platoon advantage for the first 5-7 innings? What about neutralizing their righty relievers, or, better yet having them use a righty closer against your lefties?

Stacking the lefties isn’t ideal because of those late game matchups, but given the current Yankees roster, I’m perfectly fine with it. They don’t have many good hitters as it is, so the ones they do have need to bunched together if they want to generate any kind of rally. Breaking up Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano with Nix defeats the purpose, really. Those mid-to-late-inning lefty specialists are problematic, but stacking the left-handers is a net positive for New York right now given their personnel.

(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

Ted asks: Can you guys please clarify injuries and insurance? If the Yankees are getting money back from insurance for Mark Teixeira‘s recent DL stint, then shouldn’t they also have boatloads of money if they have insurance policies on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (not to mention all the other injuries)? Thanks!

From what I understand, team don’t purchase insurance for everyone, nor do they fully insure the contract either. A lot of times teams will only get coverage for what is morbidly referred to as “total loss or death” because the premium are so damn high. For pitchers with huge contracts with CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, the premiums could wind up costing more than the actual contract. In that case, they just pass. The Yankees are apparently getting 80% of Teixeira’s salary back for this injury, but I have no idea what the case is for the other injured guys. I assume there’s some protection in place, but who knows how much.

Brad asks: Next season, as everyone moves up a rung in the bullpen, do you think Dellin Betances gets a shot in the show?

It depends entirely on how well he pitches the rest of the season. If he continues this strong run, then yeah I think they would find room for him in the bullpen next year. Not as a setup man or anything like that, just as the last arm for blowout games or whatever. At least at first, he could always pitch his way into more responsibility.

If Betances starts pitching like he did as a starter, he’d be a candidate to get taken off the 40-man roster over the winter. There would be no value there. Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and Mariano Rivera will all hit free agency after the season, so there figures to be some bullpen competition in Spring Training even if the Yankees sign a free agent reliever or two.

Steve asks: Any reason the Yanks wouldn’t go after Eric Thames?

Not really. I mean, he isn’t all that good. He’s a career .250/.296/.431 (97 wRC+) hitter in 684 career big league plate appearances with awful, awful defense, yet he continues to put up very good numbers at Triple-A (124 wRC+ before being designated for assignment last week). Thames hasn’t been resigned to Quad-A status yet, but he’s getting there.

That said, he’s 26 and a left-handed hitting outfielder with minor league options remaining. The Yankees also drafted Thames in the 39th round of the 2007 draft back in the day, so they liked him once upon a time. They have an open 40-man roster spot — Youkilis is prime 60-day DL bait as well — and an open outfield spot in Triple-A (for the time being), so it’s close to a no risk move. I don’t think it would be some great travesty if they passed, however.

Categories : Mailbag
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In today’s Ask BA, Jim Callis listed all the players who received votes for their Top 100 Prospects List but failed to crack the final edition. Dante Bichette Jr. and Jose Campos each appeared on seven of eight Top 150 Ballots, peaking at #81 and #73, respectively. Ravel Santana was listed on four ballots and peaked at #104 while Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy were at #104 and #145 on their only ballots. Both Bichette and Campos are prime candidates to jump onto next year’s least with strong debuts in full season ball this summer.

Manny Banuelos (#29), Dellin Betances (#63), Gary Sanchez (#81), and Mason Williams (#83) all made the final cut of the Top 100, as did former Yankee Jesus Montero (#6).

Categories : Asides, Minors
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We’re all focusing on the big league team right now, but Chad Jennings took some time to check in with VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman about some minor league business. I suggest heading over and reading the whole thing, but the important stuff I want to highlight are the injury updates…

  • David Adams is still rehabbing from that brutal ankle injury he suffered in May 2010, and he’s scheduled to arrive in Tampa for early Spring Training work next month. The Yankees added Adams to the 40-man roster last month, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft.
  • Slade Heathcott figures to be behind other position players in Spring Training as he rehabs from his second left shoulder surgery in as many years. It’s his third left shoulder injury since 2009, his senior year of high school, and they’ve limited him to just 132 games over the last 2+ seasons. They’re a very real problem.
  • J.R. Murphy is 100% ready to go after missing the end of last season due to a foot/ankle injury suffered when he apparently fouled a pitch off himself. Newman says he will “predominantly” catch in 2012, as he should given the significant improvement in his defense.
  • Remember Jeremy Bleich? The Yankees highest signed pick from the 2008 draft hasn’t pitched since May 2010 due to major shoulder surgery, and Newman says he’s still rehabbing.
Categories : Injuries, Minors
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Baseball America posted a midseason (half) update to their preseason top 100 prospects list, and you can see the list for free. You’ll need a subscription to see the analysis, however. Jesus Montero fell from number three overall to number eight, though they caution everyone to not “be swayed by [his] so-so first half, his hit/power tools are still the same.” Manny Banuelos jumps from number 41 to number 13 (“Was dominating in spring training, but stuff isn’t as firm now as it was”) and Dellin Betances from 43 to 26 (“Impressive stuff, but Betances rarely makes it look easy”). Gary Sanchez (preseason #30), Andrew Brackman (#73), and Austin Romine (#98) did not figure into the updated top 50.

BA also put together a stock up/down report (subs. req’d), with J.R. Murphy making the Stock Up section. “[Scouts] report he’s improved significantly on defense, as he threw out 27 percent of opposing baserunners and polished up his receiving. He’s still an offensive catcher, but he’s more of a catcher than ever before.” We’ve heard about the improved defense before. Brackman made the Stock Down section: “His fastball velocity remains inconsistent but has more consistently dipped into the average range … Brackman’s confidence has taken a hit, and scouts report he throws his curve when he most needs a strike.” One good, one not so good.

Categories : Asides, Minors
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Got a bunch of minor league notes today, so let’s round them all up in one post. Everything comes from Mike Ashmore or Chad Jennings

  • Right-hander Brian Anderson has been released. He had been on the Double-A Trenton disabled list with a biceps issue, though his performance when he did pitch was pretty good: nine strikeouts and just one walk in 7.1 IP.
  • Mark Newman again said that Gary Sanchez is out with a “stiff lower back,” though he’s playing in Extended Spring Training. He is on the Low-A Charleston disabled list at the moment, and he’ll return there when healthy.
  • Both Slade Heathcott (.376 wOBA) and J.R. Murphy (.385) will “probably” move up to High-A Tampa this summer. That’s a yes, though I was wondering if Heathcott’s brawl would slow down his schedule somewhat.
  • Mark Prior is not throwing off a mound and is dealing with some kind of oblique/hip issue. Alan Horne (remember him?) is throwing in ExST, as is Brad Halsey. Graham Stoneburner, Jeremy Bleich, and Steve Garrison aren’t close to returning yet.
  • David Adams is still having leg issues. It might be related to last year’s broken ankle, but the leg started bothering him after his one game played this year.
  • When asked about who’s impressed in ExST, Newman responded with personal fave Bryan Mitchell. “He’s got electric stuff,” said Newman. “He’s got the stuff to be the next Banuelos, Betances. The high-end guy. That’s Mitchell.”
  • Carlos Silva can opt out of his minor league deal in mid-June, so he could probably make another two or three or maybe even four starts for Triple-A Scranton before the Yankees have to make a decision about whether or not to call him up.
Categories : Injuries, Minors
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J.J Cooper had a little something about Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy today, writing about their defense behind the plate. You need a Baseball America subscription to read the whole article, but the important thing is that Sanchez’s struggles (league leading 13 passed balls in just 19 games at catcher) seem to have more to do with focus than physical tools. “He often will block a difficult breaking ball in the dirt, then clank a well-placed fastball on the corner off his mitt that rolls to the backstop,” says Cooper, who also spoke to a scout that said Sanchez has “bad form” and stabs at the ball. Focus can be fixed, lacking the tools to catch can’t. Remember, the kid is still seven months away from his 19th birthday.

Murphy, on the other hand, has shown “significant improvement as a backstop” and “enough diligence and desire to catch [that] the organization gave him another shot.” The Yankees had him work out at third base and in the outfield during Instructional League last year, and he still plays there on occasion now. “Murphy has shown significant improvement in his receiving and his throwing, to the point where he is clearly more advanced on defense than Sanchez is right now,” says Cooper.

Categories : Asides, Minors
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Hooray for mailbag day. Four questions, four topics, including one about contract extensions and two about the futures of two up-the-middle positions. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send your questions in.

That would be Mr. Gardner at the plate. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Daniel asks: So I’ve heard on the RAB Radio Show that you guys aren’t huge fans of Jair Jurrjens, personally I have been. He has shown some serious signs of life … what would it take to acquire him, and would it be worth it?

I always try to find comparable pitchers when dealing with questions like this. We’ve got a 25-year-old right-hander with a career 3.41 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 6.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 45.5% ground ball rate, and two-and-a-half years of team control left (assuming a midseason trade). Jurrjens also has an injury history (including offseason knee surgery and shoulder tightness three years ago), so we can’t forget that. So who’s the comparable?

Matt Garza doesn’t fit, he had better numbers and a better track record of health, so go adjust down from there. Brandon Morrow isn’t a great match, neither is Scott Kazmir or Dan Haren. Edwin Jackson? That might work, when he went to the Tigers for Matt Joyce. Joe Blanton to the Phillies also works well, and he cost them one really good prospect (Adrian Cardenas), a decent big league ready pitching prospect (Josh Outman), and another throw-in prospect (Matt Spencer). Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena happened so long ago, but it’s still along the lines of Jackson-for-Joyce. You know what might work best? Tom Gorzelanny to the Nationals for three good prospects (A.J. Morris, Michael Burgess, and Graham Hicks).

The Blanton and Gorzelanny blueprints say three good (but not any of them great) prospects is enough, though one above-average, young big leaguer could get it done. Atlanta reportedly had interest in Eduardo Nunez, so maybe you built a package around him and one of the Triple-A arms (preferably D.J. Mitchell) is a good starting point. Fill in from there. I’m not a Jurrjens fan, but I’d almost certainly pull the trigger if that’s the cost.

Romine's probably the Yankees best chance for a long-term, homegrown backstop. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Anonymous asks: People often mention Yankees as a team with great depth at catching prospects but do you think any of them can actually stick at catcher? Montero’s struggles at C has been chronicled extensively but KLaw reiterated in his chat last week that he doesn’t think Romine can stay at catcher. Sanchez supposedly has the tools to catch but is obviously struggling to field right now. J.R. Murphy‘s ability to handle catching is also doubtful from various scouting reports. So do you guys think any of them will catch in the big leagues? How would you rate each of their chances?

I don’t think Jesus Montero can catch long-term in the majors, but I think he could fake it for two or three years before he really fills out in his mid-20′s. Austin Romine is better, and Keith Law has always been the low man on his defense. Most other publications see him as average behind the dish, which is good enough. Gary Sanchez has been a defensive disaster early in his career (25 passed balls and 11 errors in 42 games behind the plate), and Murphy is spending more time in the outfield and at DH than at catcher. Those two have a long time to improve, but the early returns are not good.

Montero’s bat is so special that I’d make it work behind the plate for as long as possible, then figure things out once he’s completely unplayable. Romine almost certainly has the best chance to catch in the show when it comes to long-term staying power, though Kyle Higashioka is the best defender out of all of ‘em. Too bad the kid can’t hit.

Paul asks: With the shift across the league towards locking up young players for the majority of their productive years, do you see the Yankees rethinking their strategy of not handing out extensions to their own guys? It seems with less premium players hitting free agency, this may be something to look at in the near future for the Yanks.

Yes and no. I don’t see any reason for the Yankees to take on that risk with pitchers since all we have to do is look at Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes to see the potential downside. Position players are a different story since they’re generally safer bets to remain productive. They locked up Robinson Cano just as he entered his arbitration years and that contract (four years, $30M guaranteed) turned out to be a steal regardless of what happens from here on out. I don’t who would be a candidate for such a contract now, certainly not Brett Gardner or Frankie Cervelli. Maybe Montero if he comes up and kills it for two years or so. So yeah, they should at least consider such deals, but I don’t really blame them for not wanting to assume the risk when they can afford big arbitration raises.

Bill asks: What is the FA situation next year and the year after at SS? Jeter cannot be a realistic option for the next two years (hopefully) and after watch Nunez sail throw after throw against Detroit it’s safe to say he is out too.

After this season you have Jose Reyes, Yuniesky Betancourt (nope), Ronny Cedeno (also nope), and aging Jimmy Rollins (no way), and personal fave J.J. Hardy on the free agent market. The post-2012 class offers Erick Aybar and Stephen Drew, who are both legit options based on what we know right now. Jason Bartlett would be an okay stopgap at best. For better or worse, the Yankees are stuck with Jeter (or Eduardo Nunez) at short for the foreseeable future. Troy Tulowitzki or Hanley Ramirez ain’t walking the door, sorry folks.

Categories : Mailbag
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