The Yankees will continue their Grapefruit League season with a road game against the Pirates this afternoon. Alas, it will not be televised. We haven’t seen the Yankees play since Monday. Fortunately, every game from tomorrow through next Saturday will be televised live. Hooray for that. Here are some notes to check out.
Boone doesn’t rule out using an opener
According to George King, Aaron Boone is willing to use an opener this year, though it doesn’t sound like he’s in a rush to do it. “I can see a scenario. Look, if we are healthy and have perfect health, you don’t envision that. I could see a handful of times where it could potentially be in play for us,” he said. Jonathan Holder started a game against the Rays last September 24th, though that was more of a traditional bullpen game than an opener situation.
The opener is a smart baseball strategy but also hideous to watch given all the pitching changes. For the Yankees, CC Sabathia is their best opener candidate, though he has a long warm-up routine related to his knee and that might not translate well to the bullpen. There’s no reason to use an opener for Luis Severino or James Paxton, which leaves Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ. I think the Yankees should leave the five starters alone and only use an opener for sixth starter types like Luis Cessa, Domingo German, and Jonathan Loaisiga. That’s the way to go.
Yankees rank 12th in BP’s farm system rankings
Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d) posted their annual farm system rankings last week and, like Baseball America and Keith Law, they ranked the Padres and Rays as the top two systems in the game, in that order. They have the Yankees 12th, higher than Law (19th) and Baseball America (20th), probably because BP’s lists always skew toward upside. Here is the Baseball Prospectus blurb:
The Yankees are in transition. They have their usual supply of diamond-in-the-rough pitching finds and toolsy IFAs, but haven’t turned this batch into their next generation of top prospects yet. And they traded two of their last generation for James Paxton. I’d expect them to be back among the top systems by next year’s org rankings.
This is not the first time we’ve heard the “I’d expect them to be back among the top systems by next year’s org rankings” thing this year. Six of the Yankees’ ten best prospects are highly talented teenagers (Anthony Seigler, Everson Pereira, Antonio Cabello, Deivi Garcia, Roansy Contreras, Luis Medina) and top prospect Estevan Florial turned only 21 a few weeks ago. Not everyone will work out, of course, but the sheer volume of very young high-upside prospects bodes well for the future of the farm system.
MLB, MLBPA still discussing rule changes
The MLB and MLBPA again traded rule change proposals this past week, report Jeff Passan and Ron Blum. For this season, the two sides are discussing a single July 31st trade deadline (so no August trade waivers) and reducing available mound visits from six to five. MLB is willing to discuss economic issues earlier than usual leading up to the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, as well as push the following rule changes back to 2020:
- Pitch clock (MLB is willing to push this back to 2022, apparently).
- Three-batter minimum for pitchers.
- Adding a 26th roster spot with a 13-pitcher maximum.
- 28-player limit in September with a 14-pitcher maximum.
- Increasing injured list and optional assignment minimum from ten days to 15 days.
- Restrictions on when position players can pitch.
Dellin Betances told Brendan Kuty he doesn’t like the three-batter minimum because it potentially puts guys at increased injury risk if they’re pitching back-to-back or back-to-back-to-back days, which is a perfectly valid concern. I am pro-pitch clock and all for adding a 26th roster spot. I don’t like anything that dictates how teams build (limit on pitcher spots) or use (three-batter minimum, eliminate shifts, etc.) use their roster. Anyway, commissioner Rob Manfred can unilaterally implement a pitch clock and reduce available mound visits to five this year, but he says he prefers to work out an agreement with the MLBPA. We’ll see.
Atlantic League agrees to be MLB’s testing ground
Earlier this week MLB and the independent Atlantic League announced a three-year partnership in which MLB will be allowed to test experimental rule and equipment changes in the Atlantic League. J.J. Cooper hears MLB will experiment with moving the mound back and using an automated strike zone, among other things. Those are seismic alterations to the game and MLB understandably wants plenty of in-game testing before subjecting their players and prospects to the rule changes.
As part of the agreement, MLB will install Trackman (i.e. Statcast) at all eight Atlantic League ballparks and take over as the league’s official stat services provider. Also, MLB will increase their scouting coverage of the league, which employs several former big leaguers each season. Independent leagues have long been viewed as rogue leagues and competition for affiliated baseball, so entering into a partnership with MLB and getting them to make the league state-of-the-art analytically is a historic achievement for the Atlantic League and independent baseball in general. Barriers have been broken.