Saturday Links: Top 50 Prospects, Cabrera, Forbes, Uniforms

Gleyber. (Presswire)
Gleyber. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Pirates will resume their three-game series with the middle game later this afternoon. Until then, here are a few bits of news and notes to check out.

Three Yankees on Law’s updated top 50 prospects list

I missed this last week, but Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted an updated list of the top 50 prospects in baseball. This isn’t a re-ranking. It’s more of an update to Law’s preseason top 100 to reflect prospects who have either graduated to MLB or will soon. Here are the Yankees in the updated top 50 list:

2. SS Gleyber Torres (No. 4 preseason)
16. OF Blake Rutherford (No. 22 preseason)
20. OF Clint Frazier (No. 27 preseason)

Torres is behind only Mets SS Amed Rosario. He was also behind Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi and Braves SS Dansby Swanson on the preseason list, but those two have since graduated to the big leagues, which is why Gleyber has moved up two spots.

OF Aaron Judge ranked 44th preseason but recently graduated to MLB, so he’s no longer a prospect. RHP James Kaprielian went from 28th before the season to out of the top 50 in the update, presumably due to his continued elbow problems. LHP Justus Sheffield was 88th preseason and did not jump into the top 50. So, in the eyes of at least one prospect ranker, the Yankees currently have three of baseball’s 20 best prospects in their farm system. And Judge and Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird and Luis Severino at the MLB level. Hooray.

Cabrera among top DSL prospects

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) recently put together a list of the top 20 prospects who spent time in the Dominican Summer League last year. The players are listed alphabetically. Not ranked. The Yankees had one player in the top 20: SS Oswaldo Cabrera. He tore up the DSL in 26 games last year before the Yankees brought him stateside. Here’s a piece of Badler’s scouting report:

He’s a true all-fields hitter with a sound swing and natural hitter’s actions in the box. When he swings, he doesn’t miss much, with innate feel for the barrel and good plate coverage with a chance to develop into a plus hitter. Cabrera isn’t that big and will probably always have a hit-over-power profile … He should be able to stick at shortstop.

Badler also notes Cabrera, who signed for $100,000 in 2015, made a slight adjustment after signing that has paid big dividends. He backed up a bit in the batter’s box, giving him more time to react and allowing him to use his hands more efficiently. The just turned 18-year-old Cabrera is off a slow start with Low-A Charleston — he’s the youngest player in the South Atlantic League by several months — but he hit .345/.396/.523 (193 wRC+) in 52 rookie balls games last year. A spot in the organizational top 30 prospects list awaits.

MLB unveils 2017 special event uniforms

Earlier this month MLB unveiled their special event uniforms for the 2017 season. These cover Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and the All-Star Game. Rather than wear the special uniforms only on the day of the event, this year players will wear them the entire holiday weekend. Everything will then be auctioned off for charity. Here are the Yankees special event hats and jerseys, via Chris Creamer:

2017-special-event-uniforms

That stars and stripes hat for the Fourth of July is pretty awesome. These special event caps usually don’t do anything for me, but I dig that one. Also, during the All-Star Game this year, each player will wear a patch on their sleeve that includes the number of All-Star Games they’ve been selected to in their careers. That’s pretty cool.

Yankees are still the most valuable franchise in MLB

Surprise surprise, the Yankees remain the most valuable franchise in baseball, according to Forbes. By a lot, too. The Yankees are worth an estimated $3.7 billion. The Dodgers are a distant second at $2.75 billion. Yeah. This is the 20th consecutive year the Yankees have ranked as baseball’s most valuable franchise. They generated an MLB best $526M in revenue in 2016 despite a 10% drop in attendance the last few years.

Amazingly, the average MLB franchise is now worth $1.54 billion, up a whopping 19% from last year. Incredible. The league can thank new television contracts and the rapid growth of the MLB Advanced Media juggernaut for that. The Yankees were worth an estimated $3.4 billion last year. Back in 2010 they were worth a comparatively tiny $1.6 billion. The franchise could very well triple in value before the decade is over. Owning an MLB team is good work if you can get it.

DotF: Gleyber Torres hurts biceps, Clint Frazier goes deep

Here are the notes for the day:

  • SS Gleyber Torres was scratched from tonight’s game with biceps tendinitis, according to Joe Girardi. He’ll likely go for an MRI. Torres first felt some tightness in his shoulder during batting practice today. A little tendinitis is no big deal, so hopefully that’s all it is. He probably got hurt petting Rookie and Derby too much. Understandable.
  • J.J. Cooper put together a list of five prospects who are already making a case for a promotion. RHP Chance Adams is one of them. “Adams’ control could continue to use some refinement, and he only had a half-season in Double-A last year, but the call to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre should come before too long,” said the write-up.
  • The Yankees have signed LHP Nestor Oronel, according to Matt Eddy. The Pirates released him last month. Oronel, 21, had a 5.53 ERA (5.96 FIP) with 18.1% strikeouts and 7.0% walks in 42.1 rookie ball innings last year. The combination of age and handedness leads to me believe the Yankees possibly see him as something more than roster filler.
  • And finally, RHP James Kaprielian had his Tommy John surgery today as scheduled. Everything went well, the Yankees say. The long rehab road begins now.

Triple-A Scranton (6-4 win over Louisville)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SB — had been in a little 3-for-15 (.200) rut
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — first dinger of the season
  • RF Dustin Fowler: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS — 4-for-8 in his last two games, so he’s starting to come around
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-4, 1 R, 2 K, 1 HBP
  • 3B Donovan Solano: 2-5, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 2 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3/6 GB/FB — 54 of 87 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/3 GB/FB — 30 pitches, 20 strikes
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 19 of 29 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — nine of 15 pitches were strikes … he comes down here and dominates

[Read more…]

James Kaprielian to undergo Tommy John surgery

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2017 season will be another lost year for the Yankees’ top pitching prospect. Right-hander James Kaprielian will indeed undergo Tommy John surgery, the Yankees announced this morning. Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the surgery next Tuesday. Brian Cashman strongly indicated surgery was coming while speaking to reporters yesterday.

“We met last night,” said Scott Boras, Kaprielian’s agent, to Mike Mazzeo. “And it was something where, after the discussion with the doctors and compiling the proper information and having a history with pitchers, you don’t want to send a pitcher out to the mound where he’s going to have something in the back of his mind that’s troubling him from start to start. The surgery allows us to alleviate those concerns.”

Kaprielian, who turned 23 last month, missed nearly the entire 2016 regular season with a flexor tendon strain, and Cashman said the same injury resurfaced this spring. Last year’s rehab essentially failed. Here’s a quick recap of Kaprielian’s timeline:

  • April 25th, 2016: Placed on the minor league disabled list with elbow pain after three starts with High-A Tampa.
  • June 28th, 2016: Diagnosed with a flexor tendon strain after the elbow continued to be a problem and did not show improvement. ElAttrache examined Kaprielian at the time.
  • October and November, 2016: Makes seven starts in the Arizona Fall League. PitchFX says his fastball averaged 95.7 mph and the scouting reports were glowing.
  • March, 16th 2017: Throws two innings in his only Grapefruit League appearance. The Yankees took it slow with Kaprielian in camp and limited him to simulated games early on.
  • March 26th, 2017: Throws 4+ innings in a minor league spring game, according to Josh Norris. As far as we know, that’s the last time he pitched before this latest injury.
  • April 6th, 2017: Elbow begins acting up again.

These days Tommy John surgery comes with a 14-16 month rehab, sometimes even 18 months. The days of a 12-month rehab are all but over. A few years ago a rash of pitchers needed a second Tommy John surgery and the industry seems to have concluded the 12-month rehab was too aggressive. Kaprielian figures to be out until midseason 2018 at the very least.

Between the flexor injury last year and the Tommy John surgery now, Kaprielian is essentially going to miss two full seasons, likely more depending on the length of his rehab. Throwing 45 total innings, all in High-A and the AzFL, from Opening Day 2016 through midseason 2018 is, obviously, really bad. That’s an awful lot of development time Kaprielian won’t be able to make up. Sucks, but what can you do?

Despite last year’s injury, Kaprielian was very highly regarded coming into the season. I was surprised at how high he ranked on the various top 100 lists this spring, and I’m pretty sure I wrote that a few times. Look at his placement on the various top 100 lists:

2016 Rank 2017 Rank
Baseball America top 100 Not ranked 87th
Baseball Prospectus top 101 Not ranked 58th
Keith Law top 100 87th 28th
MLB.com top 100 Not ranked 55th

Kaprielian missed most of last year with a major elbow problem and he still climbed on every single list. That’s how impressive he looked during his admittedly brief AzFL stint last year. He was healthy and throwing well. The same was true in Spring Training. Then something gave. Pitchers, man.

The Yankees selected Kaprielian with their first round pick (16th overall) in the 2015 draft and paid him an above-slot $2.65M bonus. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Kaprielian’s velocity ticked up his draft year at UCLA, and again in pro ball both after the draft and early in 2016. Velocity spikes seem to have a way of leading to elbow woes.

I suppose the good news is Kaprielian is a top of the line makeup and work ethic guy who will attack his rehab. Tommy John surgery has a high success rate, but it’s not perfect. If it fails with Kaprielian, I don’t think it’ll be due to a lack of effort on his part. Kaprielian has been through worse in his life. Hopefully everything goes well and he comes back a better (and healthier) pitcher next season.

DotF: Sheffield debuts, Abreu strikes out eleven in wins

Here are the day’s notes:

  • Brian Cashman discussed RHP James Kaprielian‘s injury following today’s game. The video is above. Cashman acknowledged surgery is on the table and Kaprielian will take a day or two to decide on the next step. It’s the same injury as last year, so the rehab essentially failed. Sucks.
  • Matt Eddy compiled a list of every player to begin the season on the minor league disabled list. There are no real surprises for the Yankees. RHP Austin DeCarr came back from Tommy John surgery last year, threw 39.1 innings, and is now hurt again. Not sure what’s wrong with him this time around, but a disabled list stint is ominous.

Triple-A Scranton (10-6 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 4-5, 1 RBI, 1 K — off to an 11-for-20 (.550) start … he’s yet to play a position other than shortstop
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 HBP
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 1B Rob Refsnyder: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — oh Ref
  • RF Mark Payton: 3-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • 2B Ruben Tejada: 1-2, 3 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K — quietly off to a 5-for-12 (.417) start with six walks and one strikeout
  • RHP Brady Lail: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 53 of 83 pitches were strikes (64%) … Triple-A has never been kind to him
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HB, 5/0 GB/FB — 28 of 39 pitches were strikes (72%) … nice bounceback outing after allowing six runs in one inning in his season debut
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — six pitches, six strikes

[Read more…]

Game Eight: Montgomery’s Debut

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The fifth starter competition is officially over, just a little earlier than everyone expected. The Yankees were planning to wait until April 16th to use their fifth starter, but after Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia had to work hard in their starts over the weekend, the club decided to give them an extra day. Jordan Montgomery arrives today as the fifth starter. It will be his MLB debut.

Montgomery wasn’t exactly a prime contender for the fifth starter’s spot in Spring Training, but he outpitched everyone ahead of him in the pecking order, which is why he’s getting a shot today. The Yankees still have Chad Green and Luis Cessa in Triple-A, plus Bryan Mitchell is in the bullpen, so Montgomery will have to pitch well to keep this rotation spot. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 1B Chris Carter
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. C Kyle Higashioka
  9. SS Pete Kozma
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

Not the best weather in the Bronx this afternoon. It rained on and off for much of the morning, though that’s cleared out now. It’s still cloudy and windy though. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1pm ET — I have no idea why this is a 1pm ET start, it’s not a getaway day for either team — and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (ankle, flu) is doing much better. He’s out of the lineup today because the Rays are starting a left-hander, not because he’s still hurting or sick … Didi Gregorius (shoulder) started taking swings recently, so he’s progressing with his rehab … James Kaprielian (elbow) had his visit with Dr. Neal ElAttrache yesterday. Still no update though.

Roster Move: To get Montgomery on the 40-man roster, the Yankees have … done nothing yet. Still no announcement. They’re waiting until the last minute, apparently. designated Johnny Barbato for assignment, the team announced. Chasen Shreve was sent down Monday to get Montgomery on the 25-man roster.

DotF: Rutherford has big game in Charleston’s walk-off win

Let’s begin with two quick notes, including an update on RHP James Kaprielian:

  • Kaprielian went for his MRI and dye contrast MRI today, and he will see a Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday, the Yankees announced. That ain’t good. Players usually don’t go see ElAttrache for second opinions until there’s something scary in the MRI.
  • Baseball America posted a list of the youngest players on Opening Day rosters at each level. SS Gleyber Torres is the youngest player in the Double-A Eastern League and IF Oswaldo Cabrera is the youngest player in the Low-A South Atlantic League. Several other Yankees make appearances on the various lists.

Both Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton were rained out. No word on the makeup dates yet. The weather should be good enough for both clubs to begin their seasons Saturday. I’ll get the Gleyber Torres Watch up in the sidebar once he, you know, plays a game.

High-A Tampa (5-0 loss to Lakeland)

  • SS Jorge Mateo: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K — he’s been at shortstop both games so far
  • 3B Kyle Holder: 0-4, 3 K
  • LF Trey Amburgey: 0-3, 2 K
  • DH Matt Snyder: 0-3, 3 K
  • CF Tito Polo: 0-3, 2 K — the 2-3-4-5 hitters were a combined 0-13 with ten strikeouts
  • 2B Nick Solak: 0-3
  • RF Jhalan Jackson: 1-3 — he didn’t play last night, so this is his season debut
  • RHP Taylor Widener: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 1 Balk, 6/3 GB/FB — 49 of 69 pitches were strikes (71%) … last year’s 12th round pick was a reliever in college, but the Yankees are trying him in the rotation a la RHP Chance Adams
  • LHP Nestor Cortes: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 4/5 GB/FB — 45 of 67 pitches were strikes (67%)

Low-A Charleston (9-8 win over Lexington, walk-off style) they scored four runs in the ninth to win

  • SS Hoy Jun Park: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B
  • 3B Oswaldo Cabrera: 3-5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 K — this dude is a hitting machine … he hit .345/.396/.523 (163 wRC+) in 52 rookie ball games last year
  • RF Blake Rutherford: 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K — had the game-tying two-run single in the ninth inning (there was an error on the play, hence only one RBI) … first pro game in right field … he played two games in left and 20 in center field last season
  • LF Leonardo Molina: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K — walk-off single
  • CF Estevan Florial: 2-4, 1 R — this is a really fun outfield
  • 1B Isiah Gilliam: 1-3, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • 2B Angel Aguilar: 1-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI
  • RHP Freicer Perez: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HB, 1 Balk, 3/2 GB/FB — tough first start, but he’s poised to become a no-doubt top 30 prospect this summer, even in this farm system
  • RHP Adonis Rosa: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 45 of 62 pitches were strikes (73%) … 22-year-old had a 2.19 ERA (3.03 FIP) in 78 innings between Short Season Staten Island and Low-A Charleston last year … they’re going to use tandem starters here for a while because they have more starters than rotation spots

James Kaprielian heading for MRI on pitching elbow

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once again, James Kaprielian‘s elbow is acting up. The Yankees placed their top pitching prospect on the minor league disabled list with elbow pain earlier today, the team announced. He’s going for an MRI and a dye contrast MRI. The Yankees will know more once the tests are done.

Kaprielian, as you know, missed most of last season with a flexor strain. He did return in time for the Arizona Fall League and reports said he looked very god. PitchFX clocked his fastball at 95.7 mph on average with a max of 99.1 mph out in the desert. Kaprielian threw 45 total innings between High-A and the AzFL in 2016.

“It’s a concern,” said Brian Cashman to Erik Boland. Cashman also confirmed Kaprielian first complained of discomfort two days ago, so this is a relatively new injury. The discomfort is in the same spot as Kaprielian’s injury last year. Pitching is terrible. Don’t ever pitch.

The Yankees took it slow with their 2015 first round pick in Spring Training, opting to have him throw simulated games for the first few weeks before letting him make a two-inning Grapefruit League appearance. Kaprielian threw four-plus innings in a minor league camp start last week and told Josh Norris he felt good.

Hopefully this is nothing serious. Needless to say though, elbow trouble in back-to-back seasons is not good. Kaprielian is New York’s best pitching prospect in terms of stuff and command, but health is a skill and he hasn’t shown it as a pro yet. Even a minor injury is a red flag at this point. Sigh.