Saturday Links: Otani, Top Double-A Prospects, Robertson

Dingers. (Getty)
Dingers. (Getty)

The final road series of the 2017 regular season continues this afternoon with the middle game between the Yankees and Blue Jays in Toronto. That’s a 4pm ET start. Here are some links and notes to check out in the meantime.

Manfred doesn’t expect any side deals with Otani

While speaking to Jim Hoehn earlier this week, commissioner Rob Manfred said he doesn’t expect teams to get away with any sort of side deal with Shohei Otani, should he come over to MLB this offseason. There’s been plenty of speculation that whichever team signs Otani could agree to a massive contract extension in advance, then sign him after some predetermined length of time. Here’s what Manfred said:

“With respect to the speculation about what clubs are going to do, in today’s basic agreement structure, there’s only so much that you can do in an effort to avoid the rules and I have an outstanding staff in New York,” Manfred said. “If you’re talking about doing something with a 14-year-old kid in the Dominican Republic that nobody’s ever heard of, you might get past us. Given the focus on Otani, not only by our office, but by the clubs as a group, I think that it’s very, very unlikely that a club is going to be able to avoid the rules and not be caught.”

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes language targeting potential international hard cap circumvention. Ben Badler has a breakdown. Among other things, teams can not agree to sign players to an MLB contract at a set point in the future, or give him non-monetary compensation. Masahiro Tanaka‘s contract, for example, included moving allowances and an interpreter and round trip flights between New York to Japan.

MLB wants to treat Otani like any other player, meaning when he inevitably signs a big extension, they want it to be in line with other players at that service time level. The largest contract ever given to a player with one year of service time is the seven-year, $58M deal the Braves gave Andrelton Simmons. That was five years ago, so inflation has to be considered. If Otani comes out and throws 170 innings with a 3.50 ERA and hits .280/.350/.450 in 400 plate appearances next year, how would MLB be able to argue he is not at least a $150M player?

Three Yankees among top Eastern League prospects

Baseball America (subs. req’d) continued their look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league this week with the Double-A Eastern League. Red Sox 3B Rafael Devers sits in the top spot. Three Yankees farmhands made the list, not including Athletics SS Jorge Mateo, who placed eighth on the list based on his time with Trenton before the trade. Here are the three Yankees:

  • 10) 3B Miguel Andujar: “Andujar has above-average raw power and should have the bat to profile at third base … His hands are soft enough and his arm is strong enough, but he has a tendency to lower his arm slot, which leads his throws astray.”
  • 11) LHP Justus Sheffield: “He couples his fastball with a slider and changeup that waver in their consistency but project as plus for some scouts … Some see him as a No. 2 starter, while others see a back-end starter or a potentially dominant reliever based on his shorter stature and durability questions.”
  • 12) RHP Domingo Acevedo: “Opposing managers marveled at the way Acevedo can place his fastball, which parks in the mid-90s and can touch as high as 98 mph …He tends to throw mostly fastballs, so the Yankees mandated he go offspeed in certain counts, even against his instincts.”

That Acevedo mandate is pretty interesting. It’s certainly not uncommon for teams to mandate pitchers throw, say, a certain number of changeups per start. But go offspeed in specific counts? That’s a new one. I wonder whether that shows up in the stats at all. Acevedo had a 2.38 ERA (3.19 FIP) in 79.1 innings for Trenton, but did he get predictable because he was throwing offspeed in certain counts? Hitters could’ve keyed in on that.

Anyway, Sheffield and Acevedo are the two highest rated pitchers on the list. Also, SS Gleyber Torres was not eligible for this list because he only played 32 games with Trenton before being promoted, otherwise I’m sure he would’ve ranked first or second. The conflicting scouting reports on Andujar are kinda funny. This report says his hands are “soft enough” while the Triple-A International League list said his “hard hands could be too much to overcome.” Hmmm.

Also, in the chat, Josh Norris said SS Thairo Estrada was very close to making the list. “Managers around the league paid him plenty of compliments for his ability to get on base and play solid defense at both second and shortstop (once Torres left for Scranton) as well as his leadership abilities on the field and work ethic behind the scenes,” said the write-up.

Robertson a Marvin Miller Man of the Year award finalist

MLBPA announced this week that David Robertson is the AL East finalist for this year’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year award. Eduardo Escobar, Mike Trout, Steven Matz, Anthony Rizzo, and Buster Posey are the finalists for the other divisions. Each team nominates a player and the six finalists were chosen through fan voting. The winner will be decided by a player vote. The Marvin Miller Man of the Year award goes to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community most inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” MLBPA makes a $50,000 donation to charity on the winner’s behalf. Mariano Rivera won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award back in 2013, so Robertson is trying to follow in Mo’s footsteps (again).

Florial, Sheffield, Tate among Yankees prospects heading to the Arizona Fall League

Tate in the AzFL last year. (Presswire)
Tate in the AzFL last year. (Presswire)

The Arizona Fall League has released their rosters for the 2017 season, and six Yankees prospects are heading to the desert this year: SS Thairo Estrada, OF Estevan Florial, 1B Chris Gittens, SS Kyle Holder, LHP Justus Sheffield, and RHP Dillon Tate. This is the second AzFL assignment for the Tate. Everyone else is a first-timer. Here is the full Scottsdale Scorpions roster. The AzFL season begins October 10th and will wrap up November 18th.

Florial, Sheffield, and Tate are the headliners and three of the ten best prospects in the farm system. The 19-year-old Florial is in the middle of a breakout season, one in which he’s hit .294/.371/.469 (142 wRC+) with 12 home runs in 22 steals in 105 games split between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa. He represented the Yankees at the Futures Game and popped up on top 100 lists at midseason.

Both Sheffield (oblique) and Tate (shoulder) are going to the desert to make up for time lost to injury this season. The 21-year-old Sheffield threw 90.1 innings (3.09 ERA and 4.54 FIP) with Double-A Trenton before getting hurt. He’s pitching in rehab games in rookie ball right now. Tate, 23, has a 2.81 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 83.1 innings with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton since making his season debut in June.

Estrada will be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter and is on the 40-man roster bubble. The Yankees will be able to continue evaluating him during the AzFL season before deciding whether to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The 21-year-old is hitting .300/.354/.394 (108 wRC+) in 118 games with Double-A Trenton this year. If the Yankees don’t protect Estrada, I think the chances of a team taking a shot on him as a utility infielder are pretty darn high.

The 23-year-old Holder has hit .267/.312/.336 (89 wRC+) in 99 High-A games this season, though he’s been much better the last few weeks, hitting .358/.401/.450 (151 wRC+) in 36 games since returning from the disabled list on July 12th. Gittens, 23, is hitting .264/.373/.459 (146 wRC+) with eleven homers in 67 games for High-A Tampa this season. He had huge power, but it comes with a lot of swings and misses.

In addition to the six players heading to the AzFL, the Yankees also have two pitching spots listed as TBA, so two others are going too. I don’t think they’re going to be significant prospects, however. It’s not often teams send top pitching prospects to the AzFL. It’s very hitter friendly and most pitchers are bumping up against their innings limits. Sheffield and Tate will be there because they got hurt.

This is just a guess, but LHP James Reeves seems like a possible candidate for one of those final two roster spots. He missed time with an elbow sprain earlier this year and the Yankees like him enough to bring him to camp as a non-roster player this spring. The 24-year-old lefty reliever has a 1.99 ERA (2.22 FIP) with 26.5% strikeouts and 4.8% walks in 45.1 innings with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton since coming back from the elbow injury. Maybe he’ll get one of the last two roster spots. We’ll see.

DotF: Crawford homers, Tate dominates in Trenton’s win

Good news: LHP Justus Sheffield is on his way to Tampa, according to his Twitter feed. That suggests his oblique strain rehab is going well and he’s getting closer to pitching in games. The minor league season ends in two weeks, so getting back in time for the Double-A postseason might be tough.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (5-4 loss to Rochester) completion of yesterday’s game, which was suspended due to rain with one out in the top of the fourth

  • CF Jake Cave: 3-5, 1 R, , 1 2B, 2 K — he went 3-for-3 in the game yesterday and 0-for-2 today
  • 2B Starlin Castro: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K — here’s video of yesterday’s single
  • DH Greg Bird: 0-1, 1 RBI — he played in the game yesterday, but not the completion today
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 E (fielding)
  • RHP Brady Lail: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 42 of 69 pitches were strikes (61%) … he started the game yesterday
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/4 GB/FB — 49 of 72 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 14 of 22 pitches were strikes (64%)

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Sunday Links: Walker, Best Tools, Bullpen, Food Safety

Random photo is random. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Random photo is random. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox will wrap up their three-game weekend series with the ESPN Sunday Night Game later today. The game should end sometime Monday morning. Anyway, here are some bits of news and notes to check out.

Yankees, Mets had Walker deal

More Yankees-Mets trade deadline drama. According to Mike Puma, the Yankees and Mets agreed to a Neil Walker trade prior to the trade deadline, but the Yankees backed out due to medical concerns. Puma says the Mets believe the Yankees used the medical concerns as an excuse to back out after finishing the Sonny Gray trade. Hmmm. Walker returned from a partially torn hamstring a few days before the trade deadline and had back surgery late last year.

Walker, 31, was traded to the Brewers last night and is hitting .264/.339/.442 (107 wRC+) with ten home runs in 299 plate appearances this season. Although he’s primarily a second baseman, the Mets also used Walker at first and third bases. He’s an impending free agent and the Yankees would have presumably used Walker at second base until Starlin Castro returned, then shifted him into a utility role. Eh, whatever. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little sick of this Yankees-Mets drama.

Baseball America’s best tools survey

One of my favorite features of the year is Baseball America’s annual best tools survey. They poll managers and coaches and scouts about the best tools and players in their leagues, from MLB all the way down to Low-A. Here’s where the various Yankees ranked:

Bell, the longtime big leaguer, is in his first season managing High-A Tampa after spending 2013 as the Pirates hitting coach and 2014-15 as the Reds bench coach. I’m curious to see what the Yankees do with him going forward. If Bell is a highly regarded managerial prospect as the survey suggests, either the Yankees are going to have to move him up the ladder, or they’ll lose him to an organization that will move him up.

Also, must be a down year for relievers in the Sally League, huh? Lane, who has since been promoted to High-A Tampa, is a 23-year-old former tenth round pick, and a sinker/slider lefty with middling velocity and a low arm slot. A classic left-on-left matchup profile. He’s got really good numbers this year, throwing 57 innings with a 1.26 ERA (2.26 FIP) and strong strikeout (27.1%) and walk (6.7%) rates. Not sure he’s much of a prospect though.

Yankees top ZiPS bullpen projections

Not surprisingly, the Yankees sit atop the ZiPS bullpen projections for the rest of the season, so says Dan Szymborski. Projections don’t really mean anything, of course. They’re not predictions. They’re more like an estimate of talent level. Anyway, here’s what ZiPS has to say about New York’s new-look bullpen:

Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman was already one of the best, if not THE best, one-two relief punch in baseball. Now you add in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, the latter possibly the most underappreciated player acquired this deadline. Even Adam Warren has been lights-out, with a 1.97 ERA/2.69 FIP. Not to mention the team’s remaining big acquisition: Adding the complete absence of Tyler Clippard.

The bullpen before the Robertson/Kahnle trade: 3.39 ERA (3.33 FIP). The bullpen since the Robertson/Kahnle trade: 2.09 ERA (2.64 FIP). That 3.39 ERA (3.33 FIP) before the trade is a little deceiving too, because Jonathan Holder and especially Clippard had become wholly unreliable. They started the season well before crashing hard. The Yankees needed to fix their bullpen at the trade deadline, and they did exactly that. Too bad the starters are all getting hurt and the offense has since gone in the tank.

Yankees lagging in food safety rankings

Earlier this week Tanner Walters, using public inspection records, compiled ballpark food safety rankings. How clean are the facilities, is everything stored properly, so on and so forth. Yankee Stadium ranks 21st among the 28 parks in the rankings (data wasn’t available for Progressive Field or Comerica Park), and ranking 21st among 28 teams seems not good? From Walters:

Yankee Stadium led the league with critical violations (62% of its stands), and an infestation of flies highlighted the inspections from late July in the Bronx. Inspectors handed out citations at over a dozen food entities around the ballpark for observation of flies and improper vermin-proofing. The city doesn’t give detailed observations in its reports, but nearly a quarter of the stadium’s violations came from improper maintenance for non-food surfaces. Last year, even without a fly problem, Yankee Stadium would have finished in the same spot in our rankings. The ballpark had fewer overall violations but more that were critical, mostly from the restaurants and suites.

Kinda gross! Even with recent improvements, the concessions at Yankee Stadium lag big time in quality and selection behind the rest of the league — the concessions at Citi Field are so much better it’s not even funny, and it’s not just Shake Shack — and apparently they’re lacking in cleanliness and proper food safety too. Yuck.

DotF: Estevan Florial stays red hot in Tampa’s win

Got some links and notes to pass along:

  • RHP Domingo Acevedo ranked 18th on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Acevedo got hammered in the Futures Game and in his first start back, but since then, he’s posted a 2.16 ERA (3.02 FIP) with 29.5% strikeouts and 8.4% walks in five starts and 25 innings.
  • Make sure you don’t miss Randy Miller’s interview with LHP Justus Sheffield. They touched on a number of things, and Sheffield also provided an update on his oblique injury. He feels 100% physically and has resumed throwing, and there’s at least a chance he’ll be back before the end of the regular season.
  • Two articles worth checking out: Jim Callis on how the Yankees went from sellers to contenders in a year, and Jeff Passan on the best farm systems in baseball. Even after all the trades, the consensus in baseball is that the Yankees still have a top four farm system. Neat.

Triple-A Scranton (6-3 loss to Durham)

  • LF Mason Williams: 1-4
  • CF Jake Cave: 2-4, 1 R, 1 K — he’s hitting .360/.401/.603 in 37 games since July 1st
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 0-4, 2 K
  • RF Billy McKinney: 2-4, 1 RBI, 2 K — threw a runner out at third … 21-for-55 (.382) with five doubles, two triples, and six homers in his last 14 games
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 9/2 GB/FB — 53 of 84 pitches were strikes (63%)

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DotF: Austin hits walk-off homer in second rehab game

Here are the day’s notes:

  • LHP Justus Sheffield (oblique) has started throwing, reports Kyle Franko. He made 50 throws from 60 feet on flat ground. There is no timetable for Sheffield’s return, though the fact he’s throwing is good news. Maybe Sheffield will go to the Arizona Fall League to make up for the lost innings.
  • C Kyle Higashioka (back) has been throwing and the hope is he will get back into games within a week, according to Conor Foley and D.J. Eberle. Between the injuries and spending a month sitting on the big league bench, Higashioka has only 73 plate appearances this season. That’s not good.
  • Two Yankees on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet: OF Billy McKinney (14th ) and 3B Dermis Garcia (20th). Also, RHP Deivi Garcia was the Helium Watch player. “He’s a smaller righthander with a big arm. His fastball has touched as high as 96 mph in the past, and he’s shown feel to spin a curveball as well,” said the write-up.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Pawtucket, walk-off style)

  • LF-CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 K — now a 19-game hitting streak
  • CF Aaron Hicks: 0-3, 2 K — played seven innings in his third rehab game, as scheduled
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI — hitting streak is up to 17 games … I think the odds are pretty darn good he would outhit Matt Holliday from right now through the end of the season
  • DH Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — walk-off two-run homer
  • RF Billy McKinney & 1B Garrett Cooper: both 0-3
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 47 of 69 pitches were strikes (68%), and Conor Foley says he generated 19 (!) swings and misses
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 25 of 33 pitches were strikes (76%)
  • RHP Ben Heller: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 19 of 27 pitches were strikes (70%) … really wish all those big league innings that went to Holder earlier this year had gone to Heller instead

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DotF: Sensley crushes two homers in Pulaski’s loss

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the standings, so let’s do that today. The minor league regular season ends in roughly six weeks, so the affiliates are entering crunch time in the various postseason races. Here are the day’s notes:

  • LHP Justus Sheffield (oblique) has resumed some exercises but is still not throwing, reports Sean Miller. There’s a chance Sheffield will return before the end of the season, though the Yankees aren’t going to rush it. My guess is the Yankees will send him to Arizona Fall League to make up for the lost innings.
  • Also from Miller: RHP Domingo Acevedo is nearing his innings limit and will have his starts capped from here on out. “Acevedo can only go five from now on,” said Double-A Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell. Acevedo has thrown a 108 innings this year after throwing 93 last year.
  • C Kyle Higashioka (back) received a cortisone shot recently and is doing better, according to D.J. Eberle. He’s been out a month now. With Higashioka sidelined, veteran journeyman C Eddy Rodriguez is the No. 3 catcher by default. I wonder if the Yankees will make a small deal for a depth catcher at some point.
  • RHP Freicer Perez was in this week’s Monday Morning Ten Pack (subs. req’d). “While Perez does have the tools to be a potential starter, his lack of workable secondaries makes it more likely that his future lies as a high-leverage reliever … Perez has the ceiling of a quality middle reliever because of his ability to pump his fastball to plus-plus velo,” says the write-up.
  • OF Jake Cave was named the Triple-A International League Offensive Player of the Week. He went 15-for-26 (.577) with two doubles and two homers last week. I wonder whether Cave has played himself into some trade value this year. Usually the answer is no in these cases. Any team could have had Cave and kept him as a two-time Rule 5 Draft over the winter, but they all passed.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Norfolk) they’re 63-38 and have a 1.5 game lead in the North Division

  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 20-for-37 (.541) with two doubles and three homers during his ten-game hitting streak
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — first game as a dad
  • DH Billy McKinney: 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Domingo German: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 37 of 62 pitches were strikes (60%) … he spent a lot of time sitting in the big league bullpen as the eighth reliever, so they have to get him stretched back out now
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 38 of 62 pitches were strikes (61%) … 62 pitches? wonder if they’re stretching him out or something
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 20 of 30 pitches were strikes

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