Yankees designate Carter for assignment, call up Tyler Austin

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Following tonight’s win, the Yankees designated Chris Carter for assignment and called up Tyler Austin, the team announced. I guess Austin is ready now? A few days ago Brian Cashman called Carter the team’s best first base option. Austin has hit three homers since then and Carter has, well, struck out a bunch. Does he get cut if he gets a hit (or even a sac fly) in the tenth inning tonight? Probably not.

Carter hit .204/.286/.383 (76 wRC+) with eight home runs in 189 plate appearances for the Yankees, including Friday’s game. He’d been playing pretty much every day since Greg Bird went on the disabled list in early May, so it wasn’t a playing time issue. We’ll always have that homer in Pittsburgh, Chris.

Austin, meanwhile, hit .316/.388/.588 (145 wRC+) with four home runs in 32 minor league games after coming back from his broken ankle. He fouled a ball off the ankle very early in Spring Training and didn’t return until last month. Austin hit .241/.300/.458 (102 wRC+) in 90 plate appearances with the Yankees last season.

Bird is still working his way back from an ankle injury of his own — he received a cortisone shot a few days ago and will resume baseball activities soon — and there’s no real firm timetable for his return. He might not be back until after the All-Star break. Once he heals up, I assume he’s take over as the everyday first baseman again.

At this point Carter has enough service time to collect his entire $3M salary even if he elects free agency after clearing waivers, so stashing him in Triple-A for depth until Bird is healthy might not happen. Probably not. We’ll see. Either way, hopefully Austin is an upgrade at first base. It’ll be hard for him to be worse.

Let’s talk about Chris Carter and Tyler Austin

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Yankees lost their seventh straight game last night, and the biggest reason was the bullpen. Again. The offense didn’t light the world on fire, but Tyler Clippard and Jonathan Holder combined to allow five runs in three innings. That simply is not good enough. The bullpen has been a major sore spot for more than a week now.

Another reason the Yankees lost: Chris Carter. His second inning error on a routine ground ball contributed to two runs, and he also went 0-for-3 at the plate. Joe Girardi lifted him for pinch-hitter Austin Romine (!) in the ninth inning. When asked about Carter being his starting first baseman after the game, Girardi said, “That’s what we have.” Yikes. Not exactly a ringing endorsement!

Based on his tone over the last few days and weeks, it’s clear Girardi’s patience with Carter has run out. He doesn’t want to use him at first base but he has to because, well, there’s no one else. The Yankees could play Matt Holliday at first base more often, though I hate that idea given Holliday’s age, and the other option is Rob Refsnyder Eek. The first base depth chart looks like this while Greg Bird is out:

  1. Chris Carter
  2. Tyler Austin
  3. Rob Refsnyder
  4. Matt Holliday
  5. Ji-Man Choi

Austin is down in Triple-A, where he’s hitting .287/.357/.494 (132 wRC+) with two homers and a 28.6% strikeout rate in 24 games. The Yankees don’t think he’s ready to help at the MLB level, however. I know that because they haven’t called him up. Brian Cashman said yesterday Austin is striking out too much, which is true. Heck, Austin himself said the other day that his timing at the plate still isn’t right. From D.J. Eberle:

“I was trying to get a feel of staying inside the ball,” Austin tells the media that night. “It’s one of those things where I feel like my swing has been a little long for me the past few days and I feel like (Wednesday) was good for me to get some of that work done.”

“I feel good. I feel like I’m making strides every day at the plate and defensively,” he said. “I think its more of just getting reps, picking up spin of the ball and swinging at pitches in the zone. I feel like that’s the big thing for me right now and I’m trying to do every time I go up there.”

The Carter/Austin situation reminds me of the Stephen Drew/Refsnyder situation back in 2015. Drew was terrible that year — he hit .201/.271/.381 (76 wRC+) in 2015 — and we all wanted to see Refsnyder, the kid tearing the cover off the ball in the minors who happened to play the same position. I know I did. Why aren’t they calling him up? The Yankees obviously hate Refsnyder, right? Well, no. Refsnyder just wasn’t as good as we all thought.

I feel like the same thing is happening here, though Carter this year has been worse than Drew in 2015. (Drew at least played above-average defense at an up-the-middle position.) Austin isn’t being called up because the Yankees don’t think he’s an upgrade over Carter, the same way they didn’t think Refsnyder was an upgrade over the Drew, and the Yankees have more information than us. When it comes to minor league promotions and all that, the team knows better than we do. Always and forever. The Yankees are not stupid. They know what they’re doing.

A few things about the ongoing first base situation. One, Carter has been better of late. He’s hit .228/.290/.456 (95 wRC+) with four homers in 15 games in June. Still bad! But better than April and May. If Bird or Austin had done something like that after a terrible April and May, the internet would be abuzz with GIF-filled posts about adjustments and small sample size signs of life and blah blah blah. I know this because I’ve done it myself, and I hate myself for it. When it comes to a young guy, we microanalyze everything. When a veteran we don’t like does it, no one cares.

(Times Leader)
(Times Leader)

Two, the Yankees are not cutting Carter without feeling good about Bird’s health. And I don’t mean “okay he’s playing in rehab games again” feeling good. We’ve been there, done that. They don’t have the first base depth to cut a dude with legit 40-homer power. If they cut Carter and Bird needs more time to get ready, they’re looking at Austin and Refsnyder at first base. No. Just … no. And three, there’s no way to carry Austin and Carter on the roster. They’re basically the same player in that they’re right-handed hitters and provide no defensive flexibility. Can’t have two of those guys in the age of four-man (and often three-man) benches.

Like all of you, I’m at my wits’ end with Carter. I could live with all the empty at-bats if he were hitting more homers, but he’s not. He has eight homers in 181 plate appearances. Last season he had 13 homers in his first 181 plate appearances. A little bit behind that pace, he is. Add in some egregious errors and you’ve got a sub-replacement level player. Not the reason the Yankees have lost seven straight games. A reason though, undoubtedly.

As bad as Carter is though, I’m not convinced Austin is an upgrade. The guy himself said he still isn’t right at the plate. (If you’re into projections, ZiPS pegs Austin as a true talent .231/.291/.419 (98 OPS+) big league hitter.) I want to see the Yankees try Austin, though that has more to do with me not wanting to watch Carter than it does me believing Austin is an upgrade. Girardi seems to be in the same boat. He’s over Carter. You can see it every time he is asked about the guy.

The front office makes roster decisions, not Girardi (I’m certain Girardi has some input though), and they have to look at the big picture. And part of that big picture is the team’s thin first base depth chart, Austin admitting he still isn’t himself at the plate, and the potential reward each player offers. Carter is one of the most frustrating players I can remember wearing pinstripes. All things considered though, sticking with him is probably the best move right now, at least until Austin is where he needs to be and we know more about Bird’s injury.

Yankees activate Tyler Austin, option him to Triple-A

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have activated Tyler Austin off the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. They had an open 40-man roster spot, so no other move was required. The 40-man is now full.

Optioning Austin to Triple-A comes as a bit of a surprise, only because New York’s first basemen have been a disaster all season. You’d think they’d want to give Austin a shot rather than stick with Chris Carter, but apparently not. I guess they’re going to roll with Carter (and Rob Refsnyder) until Greg Bird returns, which could be in a few days.

Austin, 25, fouled a ball off his foot/ankle during batting practice early in Spring Training and suffered a fracture. He started a minor league rehab assignment two weeks ago and went gone 15-for-44 (.341) with two doubles, two triples, and one home run in 13 games.

DotF: Rutherford, Gilliam extend hitting streaks in Low-A win

Here are the day’s notes:

  • 1B Tyler Austin (foot) faced hitters in live batting practice for the first time today, according to his Twitter feed. He’s been out since fouling a ball off his foot very early in Spring Training. Farm system head Gary Denbo recently said Austin could begin a minor league rehab assignment later this week, as long as things go well the next few days.
  • 1B Ji-Man Choi (hamstring) and LHP Daniel Camarena (shoulder) are likely to miss a few weeks, Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique told Shane Hennigan. With Austin, Choi, and 1B Greg Bird all injured, I wouldn’t expect 1B Chris Carter to be cut loose anytime soon.
  • UTIL Rob Refsnyder was sent back to Triple-A Scranton following last night’s game, the Yankees announced. He was up as the 26th man for the doubleheader. By rule, he had to be sent back down immediately after the game.
  • OF Isiah Gilliam was named the Low-A South Atlantic League Offensive Player of the Week. He went 11-for-23 (.478) with four doubles and two homers last week.

Triple-A Scranton (8-4 win over Pawtucket in 12 innings, walk-off style)

  • 2B Tyler Wade: 2-4, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB — second homer of the season and second homer in the last three days
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 4-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 BB — tied the game with a two-out double in the ninth … had a chance to finish the cycle with a walk-off home run in the 11th — imagine doing that twice in the span of a month? — but they intentionally walked him … he’s up to .308/.353/.566 on the season
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-5, 1 BB, 1 K — snapped the bat over his knee after the strikeout (here’s a GIF)
  • RF Mason Williams: 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI
  • C Eddy Rodriguez: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 K — walk-off grand slam!
  • 2B Abi Avelino: 0-5, 1 K
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 6/2 GB/FB — 62 of 96 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 , 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 30 of 42 pitches were strikes (71%) … good Frieri showed up tonight

[Read more…]

DotF: Mateo homers twice in Tampa’s blowout win

Two quick notes to pass along:

  • RHP Chance Adams is being promoted to Triple-A Scranton, report Josh Norris and Joel Sherman. He’ll make his first start Monday. Dating back to last year, Adams had a 1.72 ERA (3.42 FIP) with 25.2% strikeouts and 9.5% walks in 18 starts and 104.2 innings at Double-A. The RailRiders, by the way, now have seven starters for five rotation spots.
  • 1B Tyler Austin is scheduled to begin playing minor league rehab games late next week “if all goes well,” farm system head Gary Denbo told Shane Hennigan. Last week we heard Austin had begun taking batting practice. He’s been out since a foul ball broke his foot very early in Spring Training.
  • OF Dustin Fowler made the Prospect Hot Sheet again. He placed 12th this week after ranking first last week. He went 8-for-27 (.296) with one double and three triples last week.

Triple-A Scranton (10-3 loss to Syracuse)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K
  • LF Dustin Fowler: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K — homered off Nationals righty Joe Ross, who is apparently in Triple-A these days
  • 2B Ron Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4, 1 K
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) — 4-for-15 (.267) with two doubles since being sent down
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 3 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 5/0 GB/FB — 47 of 77 pitches were strikes (61%) … 18/15 K/BB in 32.1 innings down here, and that ain’t gonna cut it, Luis
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — eleven of 14 pitches were strikes … 16/6 K/BB in 12 innings … I imagine he has an opt-out clause in his contract … those tend to come at some point in June, and June is only three weeks away now

[Read more…]

DotF: Frazier extends hitting streak in Scranton’s win

Two quick injury notes:

  • Tyler Austin update! Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty that Austin has started taking batting practice as he works his way back from a broken ankle. Austin got hurt in February, so he essentially has to go through Spring Training before returning. Progress, at least.
  • LHP Ian Clarkin was placed on the High-A Tampa disabled list, the team announced. No idea what’s wrong with him. He missed all of 2015 with an elbow injury and the second half of last season with a knee injury.

Triple-A Scranton (9-3 win over Syracuse) they’ve scored 42 runs in their last five games

  • 3B Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI — over the last week he’s played three games at short, one at second, one at third, and one in left field
  • DH Dustin Fowler: 2-5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 SB — that’s his fifth triple of the season and fourth in his last eight games
  • LF Clint Frazier: 2-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 10-for-24 (.417) with three doubles, two homers, eight walks, and six strikeouts during his little seven-game hitting streak
  • 1B Ji-Man Choi: 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — now hitting .369/.457/.523 on the season
  • SS Ruben Tejada: 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB — now hitting .319/.410/.580 with 12 walks and eight strikeouts … Pete Kozma being lost on waivers sure helps Tejada’s chances of a call-up should the Yankees need an infielder at some point
  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 2B Abi Avelino: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K — Triple-A debut … he’s here filling in for Rob Refsnyder, who is with the big league team
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 30 of 43 pitches were strikes (70%) … they’re going to stretch him out as a starter this season because why not?
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 7/3 GB/FB — 55 of 99 pitches were strikes (56%) … they have six starters for five spots at the moment … he can piggyback with Mitchell while Mitchell gets stretched out, but that won’t work forever

[Read more…]

Game One: Opening Day

For the first time in 185 days, the New York Yankees will play a meaningful baseball game today. It’s Opening Day, the first day of the 2017 regular season, when every team is tied for first place and thinking this is their year. The Yankees had a phenomenal Spring Training, an everything went right Spring Training, so we’re all feeling good right now. I know am.

This is very much the start of a new era for the Yankees. They’re transitioning away from older veterans to young up-and-comers, with even more youngsters on the way. The farm system is loaded. The old stalwarts, guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano, are all gone. The Yankees are trying to build a new core from within, moreso than at any point in the last two decades.

The Yankees are 63-50-1 all-time on Opening Day, but, believe it or not, they’ve actually lost their last five season openers. They’ve lost seven of their last eight too. Seriously. That’s pretty annoying. The Yankees have never once in their history lost six straight Opening Days. That is not the kind of record I want to see them break this year. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is Joe Girardi‘s first lineup of the new season:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. 1B Greg Bird
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is sunny and warm in St. Petersburg this afternoon. Pretty much perfect baseball weather, but alas, the Yankees and Rays will be playing indoors at Tropicana Field. The Yankees last opened in Tampa back in 2012, the first of these five straight Opening Day losses. That was the “hey let’s intentionally walk Sean Rodriguez to load the bases for Carlos Pena” game, not that I’m still bitter or anything. Anyway, this afternoon’s game will begin at 1:10pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the first of 162.

Roster Move: The Yankees officially announced their 25-man Opening Day roster and it is as expected. No surprises or last minute changes. Tyler Austin was placed on the 60-day disabled list to clear a 40-man spot for Pete Kozma. The Yankees are officially calling it a fractured left ankle for Austin, if you’re into specifics. Also, Didi Gregorius was placed on the 10-day DL with a right shoulder sprain. Yes, it’s the 10-day DL now. The 15-day DL is no more. Gregorius was placed on the DL retroactive to March 30th. The Yankees didn’t say anything about backdating Austin’s DL stint.