The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


On the 40-man: Nick Rumbelow

John Ryan Murphy, Nick Rumbelow

Continuing to look through every player on the 40-man roster, up next is one of the many upper-level relievers in the Yankees’ system. Nick Rumbelow gets about as much prospect buzz as any of the right-handed relievers competing for big league opportunities, and his name has been mentioned a few times this season as a reliever who’s caught the eye of the coaching staff.

RumbelowNICK RUMBELOW

Age on Opening Day: 24
Acquired: Seventh round draft pick in 2013
Added to the 40-man: For his first big league call up on June 22

In the past: Selected out of LSU, Rumbelow was part of a recent wave of college relief pitchers the Yankees have drafted, signed and moved quickly through the minor league system. Rumbelow got to Triple-A in his first full season of pro ball, when he climbed for levels in a single season. He got to the big leagues basically two years after he was drafted. Although he’s not particularly big, Rumbelow has been one of the more highly touted relief prospects in the system, and at times he seemed to be winning Joe Girardi’s trust last season.

Role in 2016: With a couple of bullpen spots up for grabs, Rumbelow’s name has been mentioned a few times as a standout candidate. Girardi has at least once gone out of his way to bring up Rumbelow as a guy who could help out this season. It seems he will have a real chance to make the team out of spring training. At the very least he’s in a strong position to once again shuttle back and forth from Triple-A.

Best-case scenario: With good reason, all of the Yankees bullpen attention has been focused on the big guys handling the late innings. That’s an obvious strength, but Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller can’t do all the heavy lifting. Another reliable arm or two could make a big difference, and the best-case scenario for Rumbelow is that he emerges as that kind of go-to arm. He could help put out some middle-inning fires while also stepping into a late-game situation when one of the big three is unavailable. He’s shown an ability to get strikeouts without too many walks in the minors, and the best-case scenario is that he can carry that success to the big leagues.

Worst-case scenario: The Yankees have too many alternatives to think of Rumbelow’s worst-case scenario as a crippling blow to the system. If he falls flat when given a long look, the Yankees will simply move on to someone else. That’s more of a problem for Rumbelow than for the Yankees. His nightmare scenario is that he blows a couple of games, loses Girardi’s faith and falls to the bottom of the pecking order for call-ups and innings. Not that long ago, it seemed Jose Ramirez might be on the verge of big league staying power, and the Yankees basically just dumped him when he didn’t do much.

What the future holds: That’s up to Rumbelow, really. The Yankees are not going to keep paying big money for Miller-type relievers or giving up prospect packages for one year of guys like Chapman. They have a clear preference for developing a few relievers of their own — Betances and Dave Robertson are among the recent success stories — and surely Rumbelow will have an opportunity to make an impression and stick around for several years. He just has to perform well enough to earn that trust. If he doesn’t, there are plenty of alternatives waiting for similar opportunities.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Saturday, February 13th, 2016 at 5:58 pm. InNotes with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Baseball enthusiasts find holder of Babe Ruth home run ball

Ruth ball

It’s a Saturday. Not only that, it’s the last Saturday before spring training. So let’s get into something a little lighter in celebration of the weekend. But first…

I’m not sure I agree with this morning’s Pinch Hitter post — I think allowing all legal, medical enhancement encourages (and nearly forces) athletes to take whatever enhancements they can get their hands on, and also sends a message to kids that they need to also take anything and everything just to have a fighting chance — but I also think Joel made some good points, and I’ve said many times that it’s odd we celebrate a player who has surgery to repair an injury but frown on those who take something to help them recover. Not saying it’s one and the same, but it’s odd that there’s such a big divide.

Anyway, for something lighter — the Associated Press passed along a story from Boyd Huppert of KARE-TV in Minnesota. It’s the story of a group of friends who became obsessed with one particular game played by Babe Ruth. Check out video of the story over on the KARE-TV website.

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. (AP) — Three friends with a shared obsession with the most famous sporting event ever played in their town recently received the surprise of their lives.

An 11-year-old boy who attended a 1922 Babe Ruth exhibition game in Sleepy Eye, is not only alive, but fetched a Ruth home run ball he’s since given to his grandson, KARE-TV reported.

“My jaw about dropped onto the keyboard on the computer when I read that,” said Randy Krzmarzick, who received an email from the grandson. “I screamed to my wife, she was in the living room or something, and then immediately called these guys.”

Krzmarzick, Dean Brinkman and Scott Surprenant have studied the game for years, even gathering at the local baseball field to mark anniversaries of the local classic.

Ruth made his Sleepy Eye stop with Yankees teammate Bob Meusel during a 1922 barnstorming trip that mainly took him to larger cities.

“This is the biggest thing that ever happened here,” said Surprenant.

The three friends are unsure how local boosters convinced Ruth to make a stop in such a small town. According to a newspaper account at the time, about 700 people attended the game on a miserably brisk October day.

Krzmarzick, Brinkman and Surprenant believed the last attendee passed away five years ago at the age of 99.

But then the email arrived from Joel Youngman telling Krzmarzick about his 104-year-old grandfather, Len Youngman, who lives by himself in Virginia, volunteers at the local hospital and still drives a car. Len Youngmen grew up in Sleepy Eye and was 11 years old when Ruth and Meusel played the game with a group of local all-stars.

“Whenever I’d ask him about it or it just naturally came up, he would just talk and talk about it,” said Joel Youngman, who received Ruth’s homerun ball as a teenager. The gift from his grandpa represented one of two home runs Ruth is reported to have hit that day.

Len Youngman, who’ll turn 105 in March, says he was playing with his boyhood friends beyond the outfield fence when Ruth punched one out of the park.

“And here comes this baseball flying way over the center fielder’s head, he didn’t even chase it. I picked it up and ran with it,” Len Youngman said with a smile.

Len Youngman says he didn’t think to ask for Ruth’s signature on the ball and doubts anyone would have had a pen with them anyway. Ballpoints were not common at the time. Len Youngman did sneak himself into a photo with Ruth and Meusel. Youngman’s capped head can be seen peaking around Meusel’s back.

Brinkman says it’s “probably the most well-known photo in Sleepy Eye history.”

Up until Len Youngman emerged, the three amateur historians of the game had never been able to identify the boy in the photo.

“Having something now almost 100 years later does keep this story alive. And to be honest and real, I didn’t think we’d meet anybody alive anymore,” says Brinkman.

Late last month, the three friends drove five hours to Sleepy Eye to meet Joel and Len Youngman and see the ball.

“I can’t imagine anyone coming this far, just for a damn baseball,” Len Youngman joked upon their arrival.

After growing up in Sleepy Eye, Len Youngman moved to Virginia for work in the 1940s. Though he often shared his Babe Ruth story with family, somehow word never made it back to Sleepy Eye.

Photo from KARE

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Saturday, February 13th, 2016 at 12:34 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Pinch hitting: Joel Davis

Hall Of Fame Baseball

Today’s Pinch Hitter is Joel Davis, who lives in Boulder, CO building Festival Medical, a non-profit that provides “free emergency medical care integrated with alternative and holistic healing and harm reduction education at festivals, concerts and community gatherings worldwide.” Joel is a fourth-generation Yankees fan who grew up in Ohio cheering for Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and – he points out — three-time World Series Champion Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens as Columbus Clippers. Joel wrote that his favorite all-time Yankee is Paul O’Neill, who went to high school 15 minutes away from his hometown and “played right field like my dad.” His New Year’s resolution is “to spend less time reading about baseball and more time writing about baseball.”

In writing about baseball today, Joel presents a case that I certainly wasn’t expecting when I opened the Pinch Hitter series this year.

Roger Clemens, Rusty HardinThe case for PEDs

It’s been more than 10 years since Juiced and the subsequent congressional hearings exposed the extent of the Steroid Era in Major League Baseball. While the initial response from the league and the players association was to deny and defer, they have since implemented what Bud Selig proudly touts as, “the most comprehensive testing program in American sports history.”

Public response was predictably reactionary and indignant, and the BBWAA has conveyed its displeasure through four years of sub-50-percent votes for historically great and obvious inner-circle Hall of Famers Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. It is time to reassess our perception of performance enhancing drugs. Let’s allow properly researched and peer-reviewed medical judgment, rather than hyperbole, to dictate an athlete’s relationship with constantly advancing pharmacology.

It is highly unlikely that you or I would use illegal and potentially dangerous drugs to enhance our skills in the workplace, making it difficult to truly relate with those athletes we so publicly judge. Professional athletes are held to unreasonably high standards of ethics and conduct, incongruent with their role in society or their personal pace of emotional evolution. Athletes are entertainers. Their images and public personas are used to sell tickets and merchandise while their moral and political sentiments are vigorously suppressed. They are trained from childhood to give 110 percent to the team and to leave it all out on the field, so it really should come as no surprise that many have chosen to push the boundaries of modern medicine to prove their value.

Rodriguez 2009 PEDLove him or hate him, I guarantee that A-Rod’s primary motivation for using Cousin Yuri’s candy was to fulfill his potential to be the best baseball player in the world for 162 plus games each year. It’s impossible to justify a $252 million salary for playing a kid’s game, but the grueling pace and length of the season is leading athletes to make potentially dangerous choices in order to consistently perform at the highest level. It is widely known that baseball players ate amphetamines like Double Bubble for most of the 20th century, and since testing began, therapeutic use exemptions for ADHD drugs have skyrocketed to more than twice the national rate. These medications, along with dangerous concentrated caffeine drinks like Monster and Red Bull, have become the go-to pick-me-up in place of greenies. They are specifically intended to help the player improve focus and concentration while reducing fatigue (read: enhance performance), yet they are perfectly legal.

While I fully support a return to the 154-game schedule, it appears unlikely due to revenue concerns. We absolutely must find better ways to keep players off the DL and on the field. I’ll let former Angels closer and current World Series Champion Ryan Madson make the point for me:

“If HGH were legal,” Madson said in 2013, “just in the process of healing, under a doctor’s recommendation, in the right dosage, while you’re on the (disabled list), I don’t think that’s such a bad idea — as long as it doesn’t have any lasting side effects, negative side effects.

“But I will still believe, even if I get healthy without that, that it should be legal, in the right dosage, under supervision, with doctors, to help heal and get players back in the Major Leagues. Because people want to watch them, because of their talents, just to get them back on the field to play. I think it would be good for the game; I think it would be good for the fans. Fans want to see the best players play, and they want to see the players that they watch come back from injury and stay back. I think it would be a good thing.”

Pettitte HGHFollowing Tommy John surgery in 2012, Madson was unable to pitch for three full seasons while attempting to rehabilitate, and ultimately it wasn’t HGH that helped him heal, but a cutting-edge electroshock therapy called Accelerated Recovery Performance. Many fans and members of the media maintain a forgive-and-forget attitude when it comes to Andy Pettitte’s admission of HGH use, legitimizing the argument that using banned substances or techniques to recover from injury is substantially different from juicing to jack more dingers. And yet we still endure scandalous allegations and vehement denials over Peyton Manning allegedly using the very same naturally-occurring organic compound to (heaven forbid!) recover from a potentially career-ending neck injury. Why has it been left up to the media and the fans to determine where to draw this entirely arbitrary line between performance, recovery, and cheating?

Barreling over a catcher to score a run used to be viewed as hard-nosed baseball. It is now against the rules. Intentionally sliding outside the base paths to break up a double play is also likely to be outlawed. The hidden ball trick deliberately deceives the base runner in order to steal an out. These plays exploit holes in the rulebook to gain a competitive advantage, and it isn’t much of a stretch to see them as some form of cheating. Doctoring a ball or corking a bat seem obvious, as does throwing a game to make good on a bet, but I would argue that any bending of the rules to directly impact the final score qualifies. These all occur on the field, during the game. Is there anything besides PED use that occurs off the field that is widely regarded as cheating?

Pro athletes spend decades honing their craft, developing very specific skill sets through hundreds of thousands of repetitions. There is no pill or injection that can give someone a 95-mph fastball with cut or the hand-eye coordination to hit that ball 450 feet. As is the case with any potential PED, it is entirely dependent upon the innate skill of the player to successfully perform at the highest level. In my estimation, lysergic acid diethylamide is the only drug that has been shown to enhance a player’s performance to the extent that it should be banned.

Experimental treatments such as platelet-rich plasma injections are becoming a more prevalent part of injury recovery protocol. A non-anabolic steroid called cortisone is regularly injected into sore joints during the baseball season — again, perfectly legal. Although a surprisingly limited number of formal studies have been done on the efficacy of anabolic steroids or HGH for injury recovery, the results so far show promise. The social stigma we’ve attached to PEDs is impeding innovation and withholding potentially game-changing treatment options for the sake of an arbitrary distinction between laying it all on the line for your team and doping to gain a competitive advantage.

It is long past time that we shed these emotional judgments in favor of rational medical opinion.

Here’s an idea: Let’s allow professional athletes to utilize any FDA-approved medication or medical intervention their league-vetted and licensed team doctor or surgeon prescribes. This will allow athletes to play at the peak of their abilities, remain healthy, and recover more quickly when injuries do occur, in addition to demystifying the 134 or so currently banned substances. Athletes will have equal access to whatever treatment their doctor believes will help, and they will be empowered to make safer choices about their health and their career.

Professional sports is entertainment. Let’s give the performers access to whatever tools help them to do their job best — under the strict supervision of medical professionals.

Associated Press and Getty photos

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Saturday, February 13th, 2016 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

On the 40-man: Dustin Ackley

Dustin Ackley

Getting near the end of our look through every player on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, we’ll next turn to last year’s trade deadline acquisition. Once seen as a future everyday star, he’s played his way into a complementary role and should be a bench player this season. That said, his strong finish to last season surely spark at least some optimism that Dustin Ackley still has some upside. 

AckleyDUSTIN ACKLEY

Age on Opening Day: 28
Acquired: Traded from the Mariners at the 2015 trade deadline
Added to the 40-man: Made his Major League debut in 2011

In the past: Arguably the best college hitter in the country in 2009, Ackley was the second overall draft pick and made his big league debut with the Mariners two years later after a .421 on-base percentage in Triple-A. Although he’d played a lot of first base in college — he didn’t throw much because of a shoulder injury — Ackley was used primarily at second base when he got into pro ball. In the big leagues, though, he largely disappointed and wound up in the outfield after the Mariners signed Robinson Cano. His stock fell far enough that the Yankees were able to acquire him for Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez last season. He hit well for the Yankees down the stretch.

Role in 2016: With the outfield full and Starlin Castro in place at second base, Ackley is more of a utility man who will be the primary backup at first base while also factoring in at second base and perhaps a little bit of outfield. Injuries and performance should dictate just how much playing time he receives. With Greg Bird hurt, Ackley’s role at first base has taken on greater significance. Joe Girardi has suggested Ackley could play first fairly regularly as the team tries to keep Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez rested.

Best-case scenario: Although he’s not necessarily young, Ackley is still young enough for the Yankees to hold out some hope that his best days are ahead of him. Pie in the sky, he builds off that strong September to finally become a real impact hitter. Perhaps more reasonable is a hope that he can hit enough to play a decent amount against righties without the Yankees giving up a ton of offense. At one time, Ackley was considered one of the most promising young hitters in the game. Ideally, he’ll begin to tap into that potential a little bit more this year.

Worst-case scenario: Because of his background, it’s fun to dream about Ackley suddenly becoming the great hitter that scouts envisioned. But at this moment, there’s not much evidence to suggest such a thing is in the cards. The worst-case scenario is that the Yankees really need Ackley at either second base or first base, and he simply can’t hit enough to hold down the position on a regular basis. Ackley’s worst season he had a .622 OPS. The worst-case scenario is that this season is basically that bad, and that it comes at a time when the Yankees badly need him to fill in for Teixeira for much of the season.

What the future holds: With one more year or arbitration eligibility, Ackley remains under team control through next season. That means the Yankees can keep him if they want, or they can easily non-tender him next winter. The decision is up to the Yankees, but the ball is in Ackley’s court. If he performs, he’ll surely stick around and might even be a bargain next year. If he doesn’t, the Yankees can very easily cut ties and move on to someone else.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, February 12th, 2016 at 8:56 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Yankees agree to $11.325-million deal with Chapman

Aroldis Chapman

The Yankees have reached an agreement with this last remaining arbitration-eligible player, settling on a one-year deal with Aroldis Chapman. A source confirms the two sides agreed on an $11.325-million deal for this season. The agreement came one week before the two sides were to meet for an arbitration hearing.

Although the two sides were initially far apart in their offers — with the team well below Chapman’s projected total — the Yankees always seemed confident they would reach an agreement without going to trial.

Chapman made a little over $8 million last season and will be eligible for free agency at the end of this season.

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, February 12th, 2016 at 7:52 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Spring decision: What kind of player best fits the final bench spot?

Slade Heathcott, Brian McCann, Chris Young

We already know the Yankees plans for two bench spots. They traded for Dustin Ackley last year, traded for Aaron Hicks this winter, and those two most certainly are going to be pieces of the puzzle. As long as they’re healthy and not needed in the everyday lineup, Ackley and Hicks will be on the bench. There will be a backup catcher on the bench as well, we just don’t know for certain who that will be. But that still leaves one bench spot open, which means the Yankees have a choice to make.

What kind of player best fits as the 25th man on Opening Day.

It’s important to be specific about Opening Day, because the Yankees have been clear that they’d like to rotate that final bench spot throughout the season, even using it to carry an eighth reliever when workload calls for such a thing. It’s a roster spot that could be used for different things at different times: for speed one series, for left-right balance another series, for defensive versatility another series.

But the decision to make in spring training is who should fill that spot on April 4? A few different ways the Yankees could go:

Rob Refsnyder1. Rob Refsnyder

This one is specific for a reason: It’s viability depends entirely on Starlin Castro being able to play third base. If Castro can’t be the backup on the left side of the infield, the Yankees will probably have to carry someone who can play that role, which would rule out Refsnyder. If Castro can play third base, though, Refsnyder becomes an interesting possibility. His platoon success late last season surely caught the Yankees’ attention, and he could slide into second base whenever Castro is needed to spell either Didi Gregorius or Chase Headley. Refsnyder seems to be the best way to maximize Castro’s versatility. In some ways, carrying Refsnyder seems to be the best-case scenario if only because it suggests two things: That Castro is as versatile as the Yankees have hoped, and that Refsnyder has hit well enough for the Yankees to want him in New York.

2. True utility infielder

Even if Castro can play third base, there still could be value in choosing a true utility man. For one thing, it would let Castro focus on second base. For another thing, it would maximize the Yankees’ depth because Castro could still be a third-string option at third and short. Mostly, though, it would be the best way to maximize the Yankees’ defensive ability. Pete Kozma and Jonathan Diaz stand out as options for this role, and each one is a defensive standout. Donovan Solano and Ronald Torreyes also provide versatility, but perhaps not the same standout gloves. Ideally, this is the type of player the Yankees might want to add for a few games in the the middle of the season, but it seems they’d like to break camp without the need for a full-time utility man.

3. Speedy sixth outfielder

The Yankees have too many Triple-A outfielders. They also have a bunch of slow guys on the big league roster. The Astros were pretty bad at throwing out base runners last year, so maybe the Yankees could take advantage of that in the first week by carrying Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams or Lane Adams specifically to pinch run and steal some bases. Because the Yankees already have Hicks and Ackley capable of playing the outfield, a sixth outfielder isn’t necessarily a long-term luxury, but it might be useful out of the gate, especially if one of the regular outfielders has a nagging injury that needs a couple of days to calm down.

4. Third catcher

Not sure this is the sort of thing Joe Girardi is likely to try, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s technically a possibility. If the Yankees believed Brian McCann or one of the other catchers could be a serviceable first baseman — or if Alex Rodriguez were suddenly in the first base mix — they could carry three catchers out of camp with plans to use Gary Sanchez fairly often. Could DH either Sanchez or McCann and still have either Austin Romine or Carlos Corporan available off the bench. Seems like a long shot, but I suppose it’s worth mentioning as a vague possibility.

5. Extra reliever

Surely the Yankees won’t break camp with workload concerns, but they could break camp with a starting pitcher or two not quite stretched out beyond 100 pitches. If that’s the case, maybe they’d want an extra guy for the first turn through the rotation just so Girardi could be a little more aggressive in going to his pen after five innings. How often would a fourth bench player really play in the first three or four games anyway? If the Yankees have every position covered with a backup — again, meaning Castro can handle third — then an eighth reliever might be as useful as anyone, especially if the bullpen doesn’t have a true long man.

6. Best hitter available

To some extent, I guess this falls in line with the third catcher idea. Basically, if the Yankees don’t have a specific role for this fourth bench player, why not just carry the best bat available. If that’s Refsnyder, great. If Ben Gamel is crushing the ball all spring, bring him to New York. Whoever can hit might find a way to play a role. This idea would have been a lot easier to swallow if Greg Bird were healthy. The harder choice would be, what if Aaron Judge is the best hitter in spring training? Would the Yankees really break camp with him knowing it would start his service clock only to play a very minor role out of the gate?

Associated Press photos

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, February 12th, 2016 at 6:03 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Spring training awaits: What are we waiting for?

Brian Cashman

Pitchers and catchers report to Yankees camp in six days, and the first Steinbrenner Field workout is scheduled for a week from today. As we enter this final baseball-free weekend, what are we still waiting for?

Aroldis Chapman1. Aroldis Chapman’s arbitration hearing
Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the Yankees have an arbitration hearing with Chapman scheduled for February 19, the day of the first Yankees workout. Interesting timing. The Yankees filed at $9 million, while Chapman filed at $13.1 million. That’s a pretty significant gap, and Chapman is much closer to the MLB Trade Rumors estimate of $12.9 million (though, that estimate came before the domestic abuse accusation, and I’ve been told that sort of thing will impact Chapman’s arbitration case). Still time for the two sides to negotiate. When the numbers were filed, the Yankees were still confident they’d reach a middle ground without a hearing.

2. Resolution to the league’s Chapman investigation
Two big Chapman issues are still looming. Beyond his contract for this season, Chapman is also awaiting word from the league about its investigation into his domestic incident in October. No legal charges have been filed, but the league doesn’t need an arrest or any sort of legal finding. The league is conducting its own investigation and can issue its own punishment based on the league’s new domestic abuse policy. There’s no real precedent here, so it’s hard to know what to expect out of Rob Manfred. We’re just kind of stuck waiting.

3. Someone to fill the first base opening in Triple-A
Since Brian Cashman has basically dismissed the idea of Tyler Austin playing first base for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the team really doesn’t have anyone in-house to do the job, and Cashman has said he’d like to find someone to fill that role in the wake of Greg Bird’s injury. This seems to be a somewhat difficult role to fill, because any candidate good enough to serve as meaningful depth is surely going to look for an opportunity to make the big league roster, and right now the Yankees can’t offer that opportunity while Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are healthy. A guy like Ike Davis might be able to find better opportunity elsewhere. Maybe the Yankees will just wait and, if there’s another injury, then make a play for a guy like Davis, Justin Morneau or Pedro Alvarez.

4. Inevitable early injury and workout updates
You know these are coming. Already we’ve heard that Masahiro Tanaka has thrown off a mound, that Nathan Eovaldi is also throwing, that Ivan Nova thinks he’s a starting pitcher, that CC Sabathia feels good, and that Andrew Miller is fine with not being the closer this year. Before camp opens, there will be more mild updates like that coming from the Yankees’ minor league complex where players gather for early workouts and occasionally talk to reporters literally standing on the sidewalk outside of the Yankees minor league offices. Sometimes these things offer something enlightening.

5. Last remaining free agents find teams for this season
Howie Kendrick finally returned to the Dodgers, Mat Latos got a one-year deal with the White Sox, Tyler Clippard landed in Arizona, and Yovani Gallardo is reportedly close to a deal with the Orioles. Potential impact players have come off the board in the past few days, but there are still some pretty good players out there. Dexter Fowler has been linked to Baltimore, and Ian Desmond has been linked to the White Sox, but Juan Uribe, Austin Jackson and David Freese haven’t generated much buzz. Relievers Matt Thornton and Burke Badenhop are also still out there, as are wild-card former aces Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee. There could be a few more important signings before camp opens (though I assume the Yankees are hoping the first base market stays quiet, just in case).

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, February 12th, 2016 at 3:02 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Parrish, McGriff, Hayes and Mays: Meet your 2016 Yankees

Alex Rodriguez

When Alex wrote in this morning’s Pinch Hitter post that one of Starlin Castro’s strongest historical similarities has been Edgar Renteria, I went to look for myself. I was sure Alex was right, but I immediately wanted to know how Renteria did when he was Castro’s age.

For his age 26 through 30 seasons — the ages at which Castro will be under team control with the Yankees — Renteria hit .302/.360/.433 while only once playing fewer than 149 games in a season. During those five seasons, he made three All-Star teams while winning two Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves.

Yeah, that’ll do.

I don’t know the exact methodology that Baseball Reference uses to come up with its player similarity scores, but I know this: For Renteria’s age 23 and 24 seasons, Baseball Reference lists Castro as the single most similar player in baseball history. For Renteria’s age 25-29 seasons, it’s Robin Yount. For 30-34, it’s Alan Trammell.

CastroAgain, really impressive.

So just how well does Castro’s career line up with Renteria’s at this point? Well, here are their career numbers through age 25.

Renteria: 990 games, .283/.341/.388, 90 OPS+
Castro: 891 games, .281/.321/.404, 97 OPS+

Clearly the eras are different, but you also don’t have to dig too deep to see the similarities. Does that mean Castro is about to embark and a strong stretch of peak years like Renteria enjoyed in his late 20s? Certainly it’s no guarantee. Renteria entered those years coming off a resurgent season at age 25, and obviously Castro doesn’t have that same kind of momentum, but it’s interesting to see a point of comparison. This sort of thing is more of a thought exercise than anything else.

And with that in mind, I went looking for recent similarities scores for the other Yankees’ projected lineup regulars:

McGriffBrian McCann – Lance Parrish
McCann has compared favorable to Parrish throughout his late 20s and early 30s, and that’s a compliment. From age 26 to 32, Parrish was a six-time All-Star — in a span of seven years — with four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Glove awards. At age 32 through 34 — the ages at which McCann is still under contract with the Yankees — Parrish made two more All-Star teams, hit 56 home runs and averaged 127 games per year.

Mark Teixeira – Fred McGriff
Teixeira’s top comparison at age 35 is David Ortiz, but McGriff stands out to me because McGriff’s production also declined a little bit as he was getting into his mid-30s. His 22 homers at age 33 and 19 at age 34 were McGriff’s lowest totals since his rookie year, but much like Teixeira, he had a resurgent age-35 season with 32 homers and a .552 slugging percentage (numbers very similar to Teixeira last season). How did McGriff do at age 36? Not bad: 27 homers with a .277/.373/.452 slash line. McGriff was even better at age 37.

Didi Gregorius – Orlando Cabrera
Not a terrible comparison because, just like Gregorius, Cabrera got more than 400 big league at-bats for the first time at age 25, and his OPS that year was very similar to Gregorius’s last season (though Cabrera’s OPS+ was much lower). In his age 26 season, Cabrera won his first of two Gold Gloves. In his age 26-29 seasons — the years the Yankees have control of Gregorius — Cabrera hit .275/.325/.414.

Chase Headley – Charlie Hayes
The top comparison for Headley through age 31 is Brook Jacoby, who had an elbow injury and never played in the big leagues beyond age 32. The second comparison for Headley, though, is Hayes, who finished his age 31 season with the Yankees in 1996. At age 32, Hayes hit .258/.332/.397 in 100 games with the Yankees in 1997. His OPS+ and WAR were each significantly lower than Headley’s were last year. Hayes had one of the best seasons of his career at age 33.

Brett Gardner – Mookie Wilson
Through at 31, Gardner’s top comparison is actually Brady Anderson, who at age 32 had that absurd 50-homer season. Let’s assume Gardner’s not about to follow that path. The next two on his list of similarities are Pat Kelly and Barry Bonnell, but it’s Wilson who caught my attention as a relatively recent speed-based New York outfielder who came from a small college in South Carolina. Wilson wound up having the highest OPS+ of his career at age 32, but his career declined very quickly after that. Kelly is actually the more optimistic comparison. His numbers were good through his mid 30s, he just had a hard time staying on the field. Seems possible for Gardner as well.

Jacoby Ellsbury – Roberto Kelly/Steve Finley
Had to pick out two players for Ellsbury, because they represent two different directions. Kelly made back-to-back All-Star teams in his late 20s, the Yankees famously traded him for Paul O’Neill, but beyond the age of 30, he only once played more than 100 games in a season. Finley, on the other hand, became a home run hitter at age 31. He went from averaging about eight homers a year to routinely hitting 25 or more (he’s said he was not a steroids guy). At the ages that Ellsbury is still under contract with the Yankees, Finley actually became a much more productive hitter than he’d been before.

Winfield2Carlos Beltran – Dave Winfield
Because Beltran’s had a borderline Hall of Fame career, his similar players are inevitably really impressive. His top comparison, though, is a good one because — just like Beltran — Winfield was also still an All-Star at age 35 and 36, then got hurt at age 37 (the age at which Beltran had the elbow issue). At 38, Winfield had a 122 OPS+, which is exactly what Beltran had last season. So how did Winfield do at age 39? He played 150 games and hit .262/.326/.472 (very similar to what he’d hit the year before). Winfield was even better at age 40. That guy was a monster.

Alex Rodriguez – Willie Mays
Last season was considered Rodriguez’s age 39 season (he was 40 for the final two months). He’s reached the stage at which comparisons are nearly impossible, and given all the other issues in play, they’re probably meaningless. Mays is interesting, though, because he basically changed his offensive value at age 40. He slugged .506 at age 39, but he led the league in walks and had a .425 on-base percentage at age 40 while hitting more doubles but fewer homers. Maybe Rodriguez will shift that way as well?

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, February 12th, 2016 at 11:48 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Pinch hitting: Alex Khalifa

Castro2

Today’s Pinch Hitter is familiar to this season. It’s Alex Khalifa, a tile professional in Anaheim who learned to love the Yankees while growing up in Connecticut. Alex wrote that he was thrilled to attend Bernie Williams Night with his brother last season. He also makes it to some hockey games with his girlfriend and contributes to the basketball site The Committed Generation. You can follow him on Twitter: @goodguyinsports.

For his post, Alex takes a look at the Yankees’ new second baseman and finds a ready comparison in a long-time big league infielder who — like Castro — broke into the big leagues at a very young age and wound up having a strong career that included well over 2,000 hits with five All-Star appearances and two rings.

RenteriaStarlin Castro: Where Is His Production Headed?

One of my favorite aspects of the Baseball Reference website is a tool called “similarity scores.” Basically, it tells which historical players had comparable careers to the player you are currently researching.

When I looked up the Yankees’ recent acquisition Starlin Castro, the most similar recently active player at age 25 was Colombian shortstop Edgar Renteria, who retired in 2011. I remember him well after spending the summer of 1999 in St. Louis during my high school years. As a Cardinal, Renteria was an All-Star in 2000, 2003 and 2004. He also made the Midsummer Classic as a member of the Marlins and Braves.

Renteria might seem like an underwhelming comparison considering the way Castro’s career began, however, it will certainly help the Yankees win in 2016 if Castro can sustain the level of play Renteria demonstrated during much of his career.

Castro has not yet reached the level of Renteria’s peak production, which was probably Renteria’s age-26 season of 2003. That year, Renteria achieved a .330 batting average, .394 on-base percentage, 13 home runs, and 34 stolen bases. He also drove in 100 runs for the only time in his career. It was excellent production, especially for a middle infielder, and the .480 slugging he compiled that season was approached only by his 2007 season with Atlanta at age 30.

As a shortstop Castro has already made three All-Star teams, most recently in 2014. Adam Warren had a fine 2015 season, but Brian Cashman filled a position of need by dealing him to the Cubs. In the process, Cashman also acquired someone who has played at a high level in the past. Rob Refsnyder could still figure into the Yankees’ plans, but without Castro the Yankees had few proven alternatives at second base.

One of the difficulties in evaluating Castro is that he has been inconsistent offensively. He may well be the biggest wild card on the Yankees’ roster. The Dominican’s best statistical season came in 2014, but his two worst years with the bat were probably 2013 and 2015. In 2010, he placed fifth in Rookie of the Year voting for a season in which he hit .300, slugged .408, stole 10 bases, and got on base at a .347 clip. Over the next two seasons, Castro swiped 47 bases to go with 21 triples and 24 homers, while his slugging rose to .431. In 2012 a red flag surfaced when his OBP dropped slightly, but few saw the disappointing campaign to come.

In 2013, Castro’s ability to get on base cratered (.284) and so did his slugging (.347). In 2014, an ankle injury limited him to 134 games, but he managed to regain and even improve upon the productivity he had shown in 2011. After all, Castro finished with a career best .777 OPS. Last season, he managed to avoid 2013 level lows, but he still got on base less than 30 percent of the time. Castro was caught on 5 out of 10 steal attempts and slugged under .400 for only the second time in his career.

Starlin Castro, Juan PierreOn the bright side, he did lower his strikeouts and clubbed 11 homers as the Cubs made their run to the NLCS. More importantly, Castro ended the regular season strong by hitting .295 and slugging .463 during the second half. Didi Gregorius had a similarly strong last few months of 2015, and optimism about his future seems to abound.

Castro may not be a plus defender, but he’s no worse than Renteria who was basically replacement level in the field throughout his career. Castro did commit 24 errors last season, but he also made plenty of spectacular plays on Chicago’s North Side. His first-year manager Joe Maddon remarked: “I didn’t know he was this good on defense.”

Castro is also known for a strong arm, which came in handy even after his conversion to second baseman in August. Castro is also expected to be an option to back up Chase Headley at third. According to the Defensive Index created by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Castro ranked in the middle of the pack defensively among National League shortstops in 2015.

Here’s another factor in Castro’s favor: he is nine career hits short of 1,000 and still only 25 years of age. There is a long history of players going on to have great careers after reaching 1,000 so young. The list includes Mickey Mantle and Alex Rodriguez, after all.

The debate rages over whether Castro has already peaked offensively, but the second half of 2015 provides some real hope that Cashman pulled off a buy-low trade. He also boasts a line drive rate of 19.9% for his career, which indicates the ability to make hard contact particularly for someone at his position.

Furthermore, Castro has proven to be durable, missing few games during his career when you put aside the ankle issue in September 2014. If Castro hits even reasonably well, his contract looks favorable at around $7 million for 2016. That sure beats giving $5 million to Chris Capuano.

Associated Press photos

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, February 12th, 2016 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

On the 40-man: Jacoby Ellsbury

Jacoby Ellsbury, Tony Pena

Still looking at each player on the 40-man roster, we’ll next look at a massive free agent signing that fell flat last season. The Yankees are still committed to many more years of Jacoby Ellsbury, and they have little choice but to hope for a significant bounceback season. The Yankees signed him with expectations of keeping him in center field and in the leadoff spot for quite a while.

EllsburyJACOBY ELLSBURY

Age on Opening Day: 32
Acquired: Signed to a seven-year deal in December 2013
Added to the 40-man: Made his Major League debut on June 30, 2007

In the past: A first-round pick in that rich 2005 amateur draft — the Yankees took C.J. Henry six spots ahead of Ellsbury’s selection, one of their most serious draft mistakes of the past few decades — Ellsbury spent most of his career with the Red Sox and emerged as one of the game’s top center fielders and leadoff hitters. He’s had some fairly unusual injury problems in the past, but when he’s played, he’s generally been pretty productive (although that wasn’t the case late last year). His Yankees debut came in 2014, and his .271/.328/.419 slash line was close, but slightly worse, than his career numbers. Last season brought another injury, and it seemed to derail his season even beyond the DL stint. He simply wasn’t the same player when he returned to the active roster.

Role in 2016: Starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. There’s really no reason to expect anything else. The Yankees signed Ellsbury to be an impact player, and they’re going to keep him in a prominent role. Lingering knee issues might have contributed to his disappointing second half last season. Even if that’s not the case, the Yankees surely plan to stick with him until they have no choice but to accept that he’s declined beyond the point of being useful. Brett Gardner provides an in-house alternative, but Ellsbury remains on track to play center field and hit leadoff, even after the Yankees chose not to start him in last year’s Wild Card game.

Best-case scenario: Ellsbury’s been an All-Star only once, and that was an outlier season in which he hit 32 home runs with the Red Sox in 2011. Even with the short porch, there’s little reason to expect that sort of power this year. A more realistic best-case scenario — one that’s still awfully good — would be a season that matches his 16 homers from 2014, but also maintains the .412 on-base percentage he had before last year’s knee injury. Even if .412 is too lofty (which it surely is over the course of a full season), Ellsbury’s best-case scenario certainly involves an OBP of .350 or better. Getting on base, stealing 40-plus bases, hitting double-digit home runs and showing good range in center field. That’s the best of Ellsbury.

Worst-case scenario: From the time Ellsbury returned from the disabled list last season, he hit just .224/.269/.332 from July 8 through the end of the season. Over more than 300 at-bats, that’s a substantial and troubling sample size, and the worst-case scenario is that such results were not simply the result of a knee that hadn’t fully healed or that had caused bad mechanics. The nightmare scenario is that Ellsbury’s cumulative injuries have caught up to him and he’s no longer capable of being one of the game’s better leadoff hitters. Surely he’ll be better than a .601 OPS, but he’s had plenty of seasons with a sub-100 OPS+, so it’s entirely possible he could be a below average hitter.

What the future holds: When the Yankees knew they weren’t going to re-sign Robinson Cano, they reacted by giving Ellsbury a seven-year deal with a team option for 2021. Only two of those seasons have passed, which means the Yankees are still committed to Ellsbury for another five seasons. They added a fresh young outfielder in Aaron Hicks, and they have plenty of left-handed center fielders in the minor league system, but there’s absolutely no indication that Ellsbury is going to disappear. The Yankees made their commitment, and now they simply have to hope for more production than what they got last season.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, February 11th, 2016 at 10:00 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post


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