Ty Hensley out for season following Tommy John surgery

(Robert Pimpsner)
(Robert Pimpsner)

Well this is awful. Alexis Brudnicki reports right-hander Ty Hensley had Tommy John surgery last month and will miss the 2015 season. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure. Hensley reported to Spring Training as a healthy player after being viciously attacked during the holidays.

Hensley told Brudnicki he hurt his elbow pitching in a minor league game. “I was throwing against the Pirates and I got two outs and then threw a pitch and my forearm starting getting really tight …. When I was warming up for the second inning it was really, really tight, but as the inning went on, it started getting better so I didn’t think too much of it,” he said. Here’s more:

“As far as one thing after the other, with the whole hip surgery thing and my ab surgery—call it what you want, but I call that a fluke because, it’s just weird,” Hensley said. “Now this on the other hand, it’s an elbow injury. I know it takes time and I’m going to have to learn how to throw again, but I’m confident.

“I’ve gone through some stuff and gotten through it already so at the end it’s going to be no big deal. I’m going to get through it just fine and I’m going to throw harder, my stuff is going to be better, and I’ll be stronger and better for it.”

The Yankees selected the 21-year-old Hensley with the 30th overall pick in the 2012 draft and injuries have limited him to only 42.1 pro innings. The Yankees reduced Hensley’s signing bonus from $1.6M to $1.2M after they found an “abnormality” in his shoulder during a physical, then he missed the entire 2013 season and the start of the 2014 season after having surgery to repair both hips as well as a hernia. Now he’ll miss all of 2015 after having his elbow rebuilt.

The minor league season doesn’t start until Thursday, yet the Yankees have already lost three top 30 prospects — three top 18 prospects, really — for the season. Domingo German (No. 11) and Hensley (No. 18) have both had Tommy John surgery and Luis Torrens (No. 6) had shoulder surgery. That’s brutal. The injury bug isn’t messing around this year. It bit hard and early.

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Minor League Notes: Assignments, Spring Reports, Judge, International Spending

Pace of play clocks are up at PNC Field in Scranton. (RailRiders)
The new pace of play clocks are up at PNC Field in Scranton. (RailRiders)

The Yankees open the 2015 regular season tomorrow, and a few days later the minor league season will get underway as well. Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, and Low-A Charleston all begin their seasons this coming Thursday. Here are some minor league notes to hold you over until then.

Opening Day assignments for top prospects

The full minor league rosters have not yet been released and won’t be a few days, though Josh Norris was able to get his hands on Opening Day assignments for most of the Yankees’ top prospects. The list:

Norris says the assignments could change slightly before the start of the season, but for the most part they’re set. Sanchez is going back to the Thunder to continue working on his defense with coaches and ex-catchers Michel Hernandez and P.J. Pilittere, which I don’t love, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I assume Avelino, Katoh, and Mateo will rotate between second, short, and DH like Avelino, Katoh, and Wade did last year before Avelino got hurt. I’m little surprised Mateo is going to Charleston — he’s played only games in 15 rookie ball, that’s it — but the Yankees have never been shy about aggressively promoting their best teenage players. Otherwise these assignments are fairly straight forward. No major surprises.

Notes from the backfields in Tampa

Both Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Jeff Moore (no subs. req’d) recently posted a collection of notes after watching minor league games on the backfields all around Florida. Law got a look at Mateo, saying he likes “how well he keeps his hands inside the ball” and added he “liked the potential of the hit tool but was hoping to see more polish on both sides of the ball.” The polish will come. It’s only Spring Training and Mateo is still just a 19-year-old kid.

Meanwhile, Moore saw Judge, Bird, and RHP Bryan Mitchell. “What’s impressive is (Judge) seems to get a little better each time I see him. The at-bats have gotten tougher and more advanced, with a better plan each time out,” wrote Moore. He also said he sees Bird as “a potential regular first baseman” and his “power is very real, more real than he gets credit for.” As for Mitchell, Moore says his fastball/curveball combination “screams reliever, and possibly a darn good one.”

Law still ranks Judge 23rd in latest Top 50 Prospects list

Last week, Law released an updated ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball (subs. req’d). There are only very minor changes from his top 100 list in February, with the most notable being the addition of Red Sox IF Yoan Moncada, who slots in at No. 16. Even with Moncada joining the list, Judge stays in the same No. 23 spot because he jumped over Rockies RHP Jon Gray, who hasn’t looked like himself this spring. Judge remains the third outfielder on the list behind Twins OF Byron Buxton and Cubs OF Jorge Soler. Law is the high man on Judge based on all this spring’s other top 100 lists. That’s cool with me.

Yankees spent $17.83M on international players in 2014

According to Ben Badler, the Yankees spent a ridiculous $17.83M on international prospects last year, easily the most in baseball. They spent more than the number two (Rays, $6.11M), three (Red Sox, $5.63M), and four (Astros, $5.42M) teams combined and more than the bottom ten teams combined ($16.9575M). Just to be clear, this is for the 2014 calendar year, not the 2014-15 signing period.

The Yankees handed out three of the five largest, six of the 14 largest, and 12 of the 40 largest signing bonuses to international prospects during the 2014 calendar year, according to Badler. We still don’t have a final number for the total bonuses the Yankees handed out during the 2014-15 signing period, but the total investment is clearly going to be north of $30M between bonuses and penalties. Most of that $17.83M last year was spent on July 2nd, the first day of the 2014-15 signing period. Now the Yankees just have to turn these kids into big leaguers and tradeable prospects.

Yankees release nine more minor leaguers

The Yankees have released seven more minor leaguers according to Matt Eddy: OF Yeicok Calderon, RHP Tim Giel, OF Robert Hernandez, RHP Stefan Lopez, RHP Matt Noteware, 1B Dalton Smith, and IF Graham Ramos. Dan Pfeiffer says OF Adonis Garcia was released as well, and OF Adam Silva announced on Facebook he was also released.

First things first: no more Yeicokshots!, sadly. Hernandez was signed in January, so his stint with the organization didn’t last long. Lopez led NCAA in saves in 2012 and had some potential, but he fell in love with his fastball so much in college that he lost all feel for his slider and became a one-pitch guy. The Yankees signed Giel, Noteware, and Ramos as undrafted free agents within the last two years to help fill out minor league rosters. That’s about it.

Old Timers’ Game coming to Triple-A Scranton

And finally, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre franchise is holding an Old Timers’ Game on June 21st, reports Donnie Collins. The event will raise money for Parkinson’s disease research. “I expect the ballpark to be sold out — and standing room only. That’s the goal,” said RailRiders’ co-managing partner to Grant Cagle to Collins. A bunch of ex-Yankees will be in attendance — not sure who, exactly — to play in the Old Timers’ Game and/or mingle with fans during a meet-and-greet and autograph session. That should be fun.

Farm System Offers Some Help Now, More Help Later [2015 Season Preview]

Severino. (Presswire)
Severino. (Presswire)

Two years ago, the Yankees had a miserable season down in the farm system, with several top prospects either getting hurt, underperforming, or simply failing to move forward in their development. When big leaguer after big leaguer went down with an injury, the farm system had little to no help to offer. It was bad enough that Hal Steinbrenner and his staff essentially audited the player development system after the season, though they only made procedural changes.

Things were not nearly as bad last year, though they weren’t as good as they could have been either. Having three first round picks in the 2013 draft helped infuse high-end talent, and several other young lower level players took quicker than expected steps forward in their development. That didn’t stop the team from replacing longtime VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman and farm director Pat Roessler, both of whom were let go last October. (Newman retired, but his contract was up and all indications are he wasn’t going to be brought back anyway.)

Gary Denbo, who has worn many hats with the Yankees over the years, was tabbed as Newman’s replacement and he now oversees the player development system. (His official title is vice president of player development.) Eric Schmitt dropped the “assistant” from his old assistant director of minor league operations title and was promoted this offseason. Several other coaching and development staff changes were made as well, including the return of Greg Colbrunn (Low-A hitting coach) and Eric Duncan (Short Season defensive coach).

The Yankees are hoping those changes lead to a more productive farm system and soon. Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, and Steinbrenner all said his past offseason that young players were going to play a big role in the franchise going forward, which makes sense given Hal’s plan to get under the luxury tax threshold in two years or so. The system isn’t quite ready to graduate impact talent to the big league level, but there are several of those types of prospects on the horizon for 2016. Time to look ahead to the coming year in the minors.

The Top Prospects: Bird, Clarkin, Judge, Sanchez, Severino

You can rank them in whatever order, but I think most will agree 1B Greg Bird, LHP Ian Clarkin, OF Aaron Judge, C Gary Sanchez, and RHP Luis Severino are the five best prospects in the system. Judge and Severino are a notch above the other three thanks to their sky high upside, though Cashman recently called Bird “by far the best hitter” in the organization and Clarkin might have the highest probability of the bunch. Sanchez has been around seemingly forever and I think people are getting sick of him, yet he just put up a 108 wRC+ at age 21 as an everyday catcher at Double-A. That’s pretty impressive.

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Severino is the sexy flame-throwing starter, but I consider Judge the more exciting and more polished prospect. He’s shown much better contact skills and a better approach than even the Yankees realized he had when they draft him 32nd overall in 2013, plus he also has huge raw power and is an asset defensively in right field. Judge needs to learn when to turn it loose so he can best tap into that power, but otherwise he’s a very complete prospect. Severino has big upside but still needs to improve his breaking ball and delivery.

With it looking more and more likely Sanchez will return to Double-A Trenton for yet another season, four of the Yankees’ top five prospects will be with the Thunder to start the 2015 season. Only Clarkin won’t be there — he’s slated to open the season with High-A Tampa, and while he could be promoted to Trenton later in the summer, the other four guys could be bumped up to Triple-A Scranton by then. Between Bird, Judge, Sanchez, Severino, and others like 3B Eric Jagielo and OF Jake Cave, Double-A is going to be a very fun affiliate to watch this summer.

Ready To Help Now: Flores, Lindgren, Pirela, Refsnyder

Inevitably, the Yankees will need help from within this year. Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to underperform, and the team will have to dip into the farm system for help. UTIL Jose Pirela suffered a concussion running into the outfield wall a week ago, but before that he was first in line to be called up whenever infield or outfield help is needed. His defense isn’t good anywhere; Pirela’s simply hit his way into the MLB picture.

With Pirela hurt, OF Ramon Flores figures to be first in line should outfield reinforcements be needed. I get the feeling Flores is going to spend about ten years in the league as a left-handed platoon outfielder, a Seth Smith type. He’s not a flashy prospect but he can hit, especially righties, and won’t kill his team in the field. 2B Rob Refsnyder isn’t ready for the big leagues defensively, but the Yankees could stick him at second base on an everyday basis this year and no one would think they’re crazy. He’s done nothing but hit since turning pro. Refsnyder just needs more reps on the infield after playing the outfield in college.

LHP Jacob Lindgren is New York’s best bullpen prospect and the most MLB ready, so much so that I think he should be on the Opening Day roster. Yeah, he could probably use a little more minor league time — Lindgren has yet to play at Triple-A, for what’s it worth — to work on his command, which is why he was sent to minor league camp yesterday, but Lindgren can get big leaguers out right now if the Yankees need him to. Pirela made his MLB debut last September and I expect Flores, Refsnyder, and Lindgren to make their debuts this year, sooner rather than later.

Ready To Help Soon: Austin, Bird, Judge, Rumbelow, Severino

As I mentioned earlier, much of the Yankees’ potential impact talent is likely to arrive in 2016, not 2015, including Bird, Judge, and Severino. I wouldn’t be surprised if Severino debuts this summer though. The Yankees have moved him very aggressively. RHP Nick Rumbelow is also likely to debut in 2015 as a strikeout heavy reliever, though he wasn’t as much of an Opening Day roster candidate as Lindgren. OF Tyler Austin figures to be a September call-up after spending the summer roaming the outfield with Triple-A Scranton.

Getting a cup of coffee and being ready to contribute are different things, however. Guys like Lindgren, Refsnyder, and Pirela are able to help the Yankees at the MLB level right away, at least in some aspects of the game. Others like Bird, Judge, Austin, and Severino aren’t big league ready and the Yankees shouldn’t plan on calling them up for help this year. They all need more seasoning in the minors. Next year we’ll be talking about them as players ready to help at the MLB level. They’re not ready at this very moment though.

Rumblin' Rumbelow. (Presswire)
Rumblin’ Rumbelow. (Presswire)

Breakout Candidates: DeCarr, Hensley, Mateo

You could make the case SS Jorge Mateo broke out last year, albeit in only 15 rookie ball games, but I think he has top 100 prospect in the game potential. Mateo, 19, is insanely fast with surprising power and a good approach at the plate to go with strong defensive chops at short. He received a ton of love last year and a full, healthy season in 2015 could have him atop New York’s prospect list and ranked among the best shortstop prospects in baseball.

RHP Ty Hensley‘s career has been slowed considerably by injuries, most notably two hip surgeries and a hernia that caused him to miss the entire 2013 season and the start of 2014 as well. He is healthy now and I get the sense the Yankees are ready to turn him loose with Low-A Charleston. Get him out there and let him pitch as much as possible early in the year just to make sure he gets those innings in, know what I mean? If they have to shut Hensley down in August to control his workload, so be it. He needs to make up for all the lost development time.

RHP Austin DeCarr was the Yankees’ third round pick last summer and is surprisingly refined for a kid just a year out of high school, throwing three good pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup) for strikes. It’s unclear where the club will send DeCarr to start the season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he opened the year alongside Hensley in Charleston’s rotation. Other potential breakout candidates include OF Mark Payton, RHP Gabe Encinas, OF Leonardo Molina, OF Alex Palma, and SS Angel Aguilar.

Sleepers: Acevedo, De La Rosa, Haynes

Over the last few weeks RHP Domingo Acevedo has generated some buzz for his imposing frame (listed at 6-foor-7 and 190 lbs.) and a fastball that has touched triple digits. Perhaps he’s more of a breakout candidate than a sleeper? Is there a difference? Who knows. Anyway, Acevedo’s size and stuff make him super interesting, though his full season debut is likely a year away. He’s a deep sleeper.

RHP Kyle Haynes is a more traditional sleeper. The 24-year-old reliever came over from the Pirates in the Chris Stewart trade and has good stuff, specifically a mid-90s fastball and an average-ish slider. Command holds him back, which along with his age and role is the reason you haven’t heard much about him. The Yankees have had some success getting these big stuff, bad command guys to throw strikes in recent years (Shane Greene most notably), and Haynes could be next.

The most intriguing sleeper — even moreso than Acevedo — in my opinion is RHP Simon De La Rosa. The 21-year-old is a late bloomer who didn’t sign until age 19 in 2013 — he received a measly $50,000 bonus at that — but he packs mid-90s heat into his 6-foot-3, 185 lb. frame and also throws a curveball and a changeup. Despite his age, I don’t think the Yankees will aggressively move De La Rosa up the ladder because he’s so raw. The tools are there for a quality pitching prospect though.

The New Batch: DeLeon, Emery, Garcia, Gomez

Last summer the Yankees went on an unprecedented spring spree and signed many of the top available international prospects. I haven’t seen a final number anywhere, but estimates have the club shelling out more than $30M between bonuses and penalties. The two best prospects the Yankees signed are OF Juan DeLeon and 3B Dermis Garcia, though 3B Nelson Gomez, OF Bryan Emery, OF Jonathan Amundary, and C Miguel Flames are among the other notables. These guys will all make their pro debuts this season. That’s a big talent infusion in such a short amount of time.

Slade. (Presswire)
Slade. (Presswire)

Last Chance?: Campos, Heathcott, Williams

As is the case every year, the Yankees have several former top prospects facing make or break seasons in 2015. RHP Vicente Campos is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and is only throwing bullpen sessions now, so he’s unlikely to return to the mound until midseason. He’s thrown just 111.2 innings over the last three years. OF Slade Heathcott played only nine games in 2014 due to a pair of knee surgeries. He’s looked healthy in camp and needs to finally have a full season in 2015. Both Campos and Heathcott were non-tendered this offseason and re-signed to minor league contracts.

Some have called this a make or break season for Sanchez but I don’t agree with that at all. His defense needs to progress, absolutely, but he’s consistently been an above-average hitter throughout his career despite being three-ish years young for the level each step of the way. OF Mason Williams is definitely facing a make or break year, on the other hand. He hasn’t hit and has had to be benched for lack of effort on multiple occasions. Williams certainly doesn’t lack tools, he just hasn’t displayed the makeup and work ethic needed to be a big leaguer. More of the same will end his time as a prospect. Talent is important, but it will only buy you so many chances if you don’t put he work in.

Sunday Links: Draft Combine, Hensley, Lopez, Alvarez

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are playing the Astros this afternoon (Nathan Eovaldi vs. Scott Feldman), but there will be no video broadcast, so we won’t have a game thread. Instead, here are some miscellaneous links and notes.

MLB, MLBPA considering pre-draft medical combine

According to Jeff Passan, MLB and the MLBPA are expected to discuss the idea of a medical combine for draft prospects during the next round of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. The current CBA expires after 2016. This comes after the Astros declined to sign California HS LHP Brady Aiken — the first overall pick in the 2014 draft — after an issue with his elbow popped up during a physical. Aiken had Tommy John surgery a few days ago.

It’s easy to understand why teams would be in favor of a medical combine, but the players have little to gain from this. Of course, draft prospects are not MLBPA members, so the union is free to negotiate away their rights, which they’ve been doing for decades. A medical combine would bring a ton of logistical issues — who is eligible/required to participate? who are the doctors? how will this impact college players given the clown show that is the NCAA? — though I fully expect one to implemented at some point, if not 2017. The MLBPA has shown time after time they will sell out amateur players for the betterment of union members.

Hensley healthy and participating in all workouts

After being viciously assaulted in December, RHP Ty Hensley reported to Spring Training this year as a healthy player and has been able to participate in all workouts, according to Brendan Kuty. “If you didn’t know something had happened, you wouldn’t know from watching him. He’s been working hard,” said minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson.

Hensley, 21, has had a lot of physical setbacks in his career. The Yankees found an “abnormality” in his shoulder during his pre-draft physical and reduced his bonus from $1.6M to $1.2M. Then he missed the entire 2013 season after having surgery on both hips and to correct a hernia, and then he was assaulted in December. Hensley is really easy to root for, he’s been very upbeat while dealing with all this adversity, though the fact of the matter is he has thrown only 42.1 innings since being the 30th pick in the 2012 draft. That’s a lot of missed development time. I expect Hensley to start the season with Low-A Charleston and hopefully he plays a full, healthy season.

Felix Lopez out of the picture due to “family issue”

Executive Vice President/Chief International Officer Felix Lopez is out of the picture now, reports Bill Madden. George King says Lopez was not fired, but he is no longer on the team’s masthead after being listed there as recently as March 16th. “It’s a ‘family issue,” said Madden’s source. Lopez is married to Jessica Steinbrenner (George’s daughter) and was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations at the club’s complex in Tampa, though reportedly he often overstepped his bounds and dabbled in the team’s Latin America operations.

Madden says Lopez had an “unauthorized heavy hand” in negotiations with Yoan Moncada and effectively ended the club’s chances of signing the Cuban infielder. Who knows if that’s true — David Hastings, Moncada’s agent, told Nick Cafardo he gave the Yankees a chance to match the $31.5M deal the Red Sox offered, for what it’s worth — it seems like everyone in the organization has tried to pass the Moncada blame onto someone else, but either way Lopez is out of the picture. It really seems like no one is on the same page at the top of the organization. Everyone is going in a different direction.

Yankees have scouted Yadier Alvarez

The Yankees are among the many teams that have scouted 18-year-old Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez, reports Jon Heyman. Alvarez has been working out for teams in the Dominican Republic and has consistently sat 94-97 mph during workouts while touching 99. He  can not sign until the 2015-16 signing period opens on July 2nd, though Heyman says Alvarez is petitioning MLB to allow him to sign before then.

New York exceeded their international bonus pool during the 2014-15 signing period, so they can’t sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. So if Alvarez can’t sign before July 2nd, the Yankees have no chance at him. They won’t be able to make a competitive bid. If MLB allows him Alvarez to sign before then though, the Yankees can get involved and offer him whatever they want, which I’m sure will be just enough to fall short.

Jeter looking to open restaurant in Tampa

According to Eric Snider, Derek Jeter is looking to open a restaurant in the Tampa International Airport, but faces stiff competition from more established brands for the 3,439 square foot space. The restaurant, which is tentatively named “The Players’ Tribune Bar & Grill,” was billed as having a “VIP atmosphere” in the bid documents. Here are some more details:

The Player’s Tribune menu skews upscale (no prices are listed), ranging from Buffalo Chicken Wings to Braised Porchetta, Spanish Garbanzo Bean soup to Roasted Pear Salad. There’s only one athlete-branded item, unusual for a sports-themed restaurant: the Jeter Burger. (Photographs of Jeter, (Blake) Griffin and (Chris) Paul decorate the menu.) The only other fame-named entree is the Salvador Dali Egg Breakfast.

iPads will be made available at “virtually every seat” so customers can peruse The Players’ Tribune website. High-def big screens will favor games by Tampa Bay teams.

Jeter made it no secret he wants to focus on his business ventures after retiring as a player, and, well, he’ll hardly be the first ex-athlete to open a restaurant. If he misses out on the airport space, I’m sure Derek and his people will continue to look for a location elsewhere in Tampa. Seems like The Player’s Tribune — the website, by the way, is about a million times more interesting than I (and many others) expected — is the brand Jeter is pushing.

Links: Tickets, Pace of Play, Trades, Travel, Hensley, Ichiro

I'm sick of the offseason too, Brett. (Presswire)
I’m sick of the offseason too, Brett. (Presswire)

Got a whole bunch of random links and notes to pass along, some more important than others. Here’s the latest:

Single game tickets on sale February 24th

Individual game tickets for the 2015 regular season go on sale online on Tuesday, February 24th at 10am ET, the Yankees announced. The Mastercard pre-sale runs from February 18th through the 23rd. You can walk up to the ticket window to purchase tickets starting February 25th. All the details are right here.

MLB, MLBPA making progress on pace of play changes

According to Jon Morosi, MLB and MLBPA are making progress towards rule modifications to speed up the pace of play, and they should have an agreement in place before Spring Training. Teams and players are going to want any changes in place relatively soon so they have all spring to adjust.

It’s unlikely a pitch clock will be added or hitters will be forced to keep at least one foot in the box, says Morosi. It’s more likely both sides will be required to begin play as soon as the television broadcast returns from commercial breaks. That’ll shave, what, a minute or two off each game? It’s something. MLB and MLBPA are expected to continue to look into speeding up games going forward.

Yankees settle all outstanding trades with cash

This stuff is easy to forget about, but the Yankees had several outstanding “player to be named or cash” trades to finalize this offseason. Specifically, they owed a player or cash to the Diamondbacks for Martin Prado, the Athletics for Jeff Francis, and the Indians for Josh Outman. Chad Jennings confirmed all of those trades were settled with cash this offseason, not a player. So there you have it.

2015 travel map

Yankees to travel 29,137 miles in 2015

Over at the indispensable Baseball Savant, Daren Willman posted travel maps for all 30 clubs for the upcoming 2015 season. The Yankees are set to travel 29,137 miles this summer, which is exactly middle of the road — 15th most out of the 30 teams. That is up slightly from 28,001 miles last year. The isolated Mariners will again travel the most miles this year (43,281) while the Reds will travel the fewest (20,612). Usually a more centrally located team like the Royals or Cardinals travels the fewest miles. Lucky for the Reds, I guess.

Preliminary hearing for Hensley attacker set for May

A preliminary hearing for Anthony Morales, the man who allegedly attacked RHP Ty Hensley over the holidays, has been set for May according to Brendan Kuty. Morales has been charged with felony aggravated assault and battery after attacking Hensley following an argument about signing bonuses. Hensley reportedly wouldn’t tell Morales, an ex-college football player who was in training camp with the Carolina Panthers last year, the size of his signing bonus, which is easily Googleable. Hensley suffered multiple facial fractures and lost a tooth in the attack but did not suffer a concussion or other neurological damage. He has resumed throwing bullpens even though his jaw had to be wired shut.

Minor League Ball’s top 20 Yankees prospects

Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels posted his annual top 20 Yankees prospects list. RHP Luis Severino and OF Aaron Judge predictably claim the top two spots and both received “B+/Borderline A-” grades. “While the Yankees farm system is not at the very top of the organization rankings, it has improved over the last couple of years, should continue to improve, and certainly rates as an upper-tier system,” wrote Sickels. “The large amount of Grade C+ talent gives depth and since much of that talent is quite young and projectable with potentially higher grades to come, there is a lot to look forward to.”

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

Ichiro‘s been looking for “enthusiasm” the last two years

A few weeks ago Ichiro Suzuki joined the Marlins on a one-year contract worth $2M. He’ll serve as the fourth outfielder behind a young group that includes Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna in addition to Giancarlo Stanton. At his introductory press conference, Ichiro told Jim Armstrong he felt “incredible enthusiasm” when meeting with the team, “so I wanted to respond to their enthusiasm and I believe that is something I have been looking for the last two years.”

So there’s a very subtle little jab at the Yankees there. Remember, at the end of last season, Ichiro cryptically told reporters that “obviously there’s a lot of things that go on that the fans and the media can’t see, that goes on inside (the clubhouse), but what I can say is that the experiences I had this year, those experiences are going to help me in the future.” Eh, whatever. Seems like Ichiro holds a bit of a grudge against the Yankees for whatever reason — dropping him into a fourth outfielder role last year? — but that’s in the past now. Onwards and upwards.

Injury Updates: Tanaka, Sabathia, Nova, Bailey, Heathcott, Barbato, Hensley

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Here are some injury updates with pitchers and catchers only ten days away from reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training 2015. The updates come courtesy of Brad Lefton, Dan Martin, Chad Jennings, and the Associated Press.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) adjusted his usual offseason program and has not been throwing with as much intensity as he had in the past. “Right from the beginning of camp last year, all the pitchers were throwing in the bullpen, but they were just easing into it, so there’s really no reason for me to push myself to throw full throttle before I even get there this time,” he said.
  • CC Sabathia (knee) is working out and throwing regularly at Yankee Stadium. “I don’t think we have anything to worry about how his arm works or how his knee works. Not anymore,” said Brian Cashman. Sabathia is expected to be a healthy player come the start of Spring Training.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) has been throwing on flat ground and recently said his elbow feels great. He should start throwing off a mound very soon if he hasn’t already. Nova is currently on track to rejoin the team in June after having surgery late last April.
  • Andrew Bailey (shoulder) is expected to be a healthy and active pitcher in Spring Training. He missed all of last season following shoulder capsule surgery. “He’s in a throwing program, and there’s been nothing adverse reported from him,” said assistant GM Billy Eppler.
  • Slade Heathcott (knee) is also expected to be fully healthy for Spring Training. He had knee surgery last offseason and another one in June. “His progressions are moving forward really positively. The last checkup we had, he’s able to do full baseball activities, it’s just (a question of) how regular and how long of a duration,” said Eppler.
  • Johnny Barbato (elbow) is healthy and will start the season on time after missing the second half of 2014 with an elbow strain. “He was cleared and good to go,” said Eppler while noting Barbato healed up in time to pitch in Instructional League for the Padres last fall. The Yankees acquired Barbato in the Shawn Kelley trade.
  • And finally, Ty Hensley (face) has already resumed throwing bullpen sessions after he was viciously attacked during the holidays, according to his Twitter feed. Hensley’s jaw had to be wired shut due to the attack so he’ll likely lose some weight. He might have to rebuild some strength before the Yankees turn him loose this summer.

Aaron Judge tops Keith Law’s top ten Yankees prospects

Judge in the Arizona Fall League. (Presswire)
Judge in the Arizona Fall League. (Presswire)

One day after releasing his top 100 prospects list, Keith Law published his top ten prospects for each team on Friday. Here is the index and here is the Yankees list. The individual team lists are Insider only. Here is New York’s top ten:

  1. OF Aaron Judge (No. 23 on the top 100)
  2. 1B Greg Bird (No. 80 on the top 100)
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. RHP Luis Severino
  5. OF Tyler Austin
  6. SS Jorge Mateo
  7. RHP Domingo German
  8. LHP Ian Clarkin
  9. C Luis Torrens
  10. 3B Eric Jagielo

Also, based on the write-up, we know 2B Rob Refsnyder, 3B Miguel Andujar, LHP Jacob Lindgren, SS Tyler Wade, RHP Brady Lail, and RHP Ty Hensley are prospects 11-16. Law is lower on Severino and higher on Austin than most, but otherwise the top ten (top 16, really) seems pretty straight forward. No major surprises. You could argue someone should be a spot higher or whatever, but it’s not worth it.

With Stephen Drew in Refsnyder’s way at second base, Law lists Lindgren as the mostly likely prospect to have an impact in 2015. OF Mason Williams is the “fallen” prospect, the guy who was once one of the best in the game but is now an afterthought. Law’s sleeper for the Yankees is Mateo, who he says is “so well-regarded in the industry that other teams have already targeted him in trade talks.” He adds that Mateo has “tremendous tools, is an 80 runner and plus fielder who shows above-average raw power in BP.”

The Yankees have a very position player heavy farm system right now — seven of Law’s top ten and nine of his top 12 are position players — and that’s a good thing because quality position players are hard to find these days. Even better, several of those position players will be at Double-A or higher this coming season, including Judge, Bird, Sanchez, Austin, Jagielo, and Refsnyder. There’s a clear path for some of those guys to get MLB at-bats in the next year or two, and the team’s apparent commitment to getting younger means they’re going to get a chance. That’s exciting.