The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Archive for the ‘Misc’

Pinch hitting: Matt Lettieri02.09.16

Chase Wright

Today’s Pinch Hitter is Matt Lettieri, an e-book developer living in Philadelphia after being raised just outside Kingston, NY. His favorite player is Brett Gardner, who he first saw play in 2007 for the Trenton Thunder (a fact, he said, that he realized as he was researching this post). Matt wrote that he implores Brian Cashman not to trade Gardy.

For his post, Matt takes a look back on a prospect I hadn’t thought about in years, bringing back a reminder that baseball can take some unexpected twists and turns.

Wright 1In recent years, the Yankees have committed to giving more opportunities to some of their top prospects, especially with regard to the pitching staff. I welcome this change in philosophy. I want players on the team who have a chance to stick around for years to come.

Back in the early- to mid-2000s, such opportunities for young players were rare. Instead of replenishing the team with younger talent, the front office continually filled holes with overpriced free agents and aging veterans (Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Kei Igawa … need I say more?). Any time a young guy got a chance to contribute and performed even moderately well, there was an unreasonable optimism.

“Hey, maybe this is the guy we’ve been waiting for; the next Pettitte or Rivera.”

That’s the situation Chase Wright entered in April 2007. Mike Mussina had been placed on the DL, along with Carl Pavano (of course) and Chien-Ming Wang (the only successful arm the system had produced in years), and the Yankees turned to a youngster to fill the void. In his first start, Wright pitched five innings and gave up three runs to earn a win against Cleveland. After the game, Joe Torre said that “there was a lot of quality there” and that he had “a presence about him” — not necessarily glowing praise, but a pretty positive Major League review for a guy who had just reached Double-A for the first time a few weeks earlier after four years languishing in A ball.

The farm was simply so depleted at the time that the organization threw some wishful optimism behind a guy who really hadn’t proved much at all. In most other organizations, he would’ve been much lower on the totem pole of Major-League-ready players.

Wright-ballWright’s second start was the infamous Sunday night game in Boston, when he became a national headline by giving up four consecutive homers. In truth, his final line wasn’t atrocious: four earned runs in three innings. That’s not good by any means, but it’s also not the type of drubbing that puts the team in a completely unwinnable situation (they ended up losing 7-6). The fact that the game was in Boston and televised in primetime on ESPN, and the fact that the Red Sox completed their first sweep of the Yankees in Boston in 17 years, undoubtedly made Wright a bigger headline that he would’ve been otherwise.

Wright was sent back to Double-A Trenton after the game. At the same time, Mussina was scheduled to make a rehab start for Trenton the following Friday in Harrisburg, PA against the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate. I was in college just outside Harrisburg at the time, and some friends and I were excited at the chance to see Moose pitch in a smaller setting like that. Unfortunately for us, there was rain the in the forecast for that night, so Mussina ended up pitching a simulated game earlier in the day. The rain never came, though, so we went to the game anyway.

By about the third inning, we noticed that a group of people had crowded around a particular guy in the seats behind home plate, who we soon realized was Wright. He was sitting there wearing a hoodie, holding a clipboard and a pen, charting pitches for that night’s Trenton starter.

He’d been pitching in Fenway for the Yankees on Sunday, and relegated to pitch-chart duty in Harrisburg on Friday.

Wright 2We made our way down behind home plate to get his autograph. He might’ve been infamous, but infamy is still a form of fame, and we weren’t going to pass up a chance to meet a guy who could still go on to big things (or a chance to say we met the guy who gave up four home runs in a row). He handled the attention with class, even though he seemed understandably uncomfortable. I distinctly remember saying, as he signed my baseball, “Don’t worry, man. You’ll get another chance.” Sage advice from a 20-year-old.

As it turned out, Wright got exactly one more chance in the majors, and as fate would have it, I was at that game as well. It was the last game of the regular season in Baltimore. Wright pitched two innings, gave up one run, and earned the win. I remember feeling excited to see him pitch again after getting his autograph, vindicated that he had indeed gotten another shot as I had predicted, and hopeful that maybe his career would pan out after all.

But it should have been indicative of his future that his shot came in mop-up duty in a meaningless game when the Yankees wanted to save their arms for the postseason.

According to Baseball Reference, Wright last pitched in 2012 for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. Suffice it to say, his career didn’t turn out the way we hoped. Maybe his confidence was so shot after the Boston game that he could never recover. Maybe the Yankees did him a disservice by trotting him out there when he wasn’t ready for that big of a stage. If they had given him another season to develop before calling him up, would he have flourished? Maybe he simply wasn’t good enough. Maybe the Yankees gave this mostly unheralded prospect the chance of a lifetime on a national stage and he just wasn’t able to capitalize.

I wonder if Wright would say it’s better to be remembered, even for something negative, than not to be remembered at all. I certainly wouldn’t be writing this post if his second start had come in Tampa Bay instead of Boston, or if those four runs were surrendered on five straight doubles instead of four straight homers.

His story makes you realize how fickle minor league prospects can be, and how just the right mix of talent, opportunity, and circumstance are needed for most young players to find their niche. It also makes you all the more excited when your team is finally able to produce a bona fide star pitcher like Dellin Betances or (fingers crossed) Luis Severino.

Associated Press photos

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Lohud Yankees meet and greet in White Plains on Wednesday02.08.16

Masahiro Tanaka

The Super Bowl is over. It’s time to talk a little baseball.

Exactly one week before I head down to spring training, I’ll be joining a few Journal News colleagues for a meet and greet event in White Plains on Wednesday.

If you’re in the area, come by Bob Hyland’s Sports Page Pub on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. to grab some food and a drink and talk a little baseball with me, sports writer Vincent Mercogliano and sports editor Leif Skodnick. We’re going to be hanging out for a while, looking to talk all about the Yankees’ uneasy rotation, their potential youth movement, and this bizarre offseason when the Yankees have been the only team without a single Major League free agent signing.

Bob Hyland’s Sports Page Pub is at 200 Hamilton Ave., attached to the White Plains Mall near City Center. Stop by if you can. Pitchers and catchers will be at Steinbrenner Field before you know it.

Associated Press photo

 

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On the 40-man: Starlin Castro02.08.16

Starlin Castro

Moving on in our look through every member of the Yankees’ 40-man roster, we’ll next look into one of the team’s biggest offseason additions. Needing a right-handed bat, and clearly not convinced that their in-house second basemen were reliable, the Yankees bought low on Starlin Castro, a move that fits their recent trend of acquiring young, cost-controlled players who have fallen short of their potential. The Yankees are hoping Castro can take off again in New York. 

CastroSTARLIN CASTRO

Age on Opening Day: 26
Acquired: Traded from the Cubs on December 8
Added to the 40-man: Cubs put him on their 40-man for his big league debut May 7, 2010

In the past: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, Castro was still just 21 years old when he made the All-Star team and led the National League in hits in 2011. He was an All-Star again in 2012 and again in 2014, but his 2013 and 2015 seasons were largely disappointing. Last season, he once again opened as the Cubs’ starting shortstop, but he struggled through much of the season and lost the shortstop job to top prospect Addison Russell. Castro rebounded nicely late in the season, but he was still crowded out of the Cubs’ future plans — especially after they signed Ben Zobrist — and so the Cubs traded him to the Yankees for Adam Warren.

Role in 2016: Although the vast majority of his Major League experience has been at shortstop, the Yankees acquired Castro with full intention of using him as their everyday second baseman. Ideally, he’ll also serve as the backup at shortstop and perhaps even third base — the Yankees believe he can play there, despite having never done so since rookie ball — but primarily, Castro will be a second baseman bringing some right-handed balance to the lineup. Right now, he seems to fit best in the bottom third of the order, but a resurgent season could push him into a more prominent offensive role.

Best-case scenario: After six seasons in the big leagues, Castro has already been an All-Star three times, and at 25 years old, he’s already approaching 1,000 career hits. His past three years have been up and down — last year was mostly down — but at times, Castro has been one of the very best young middle infielders in the game. He also surged to a .335/.362/.555 slash line from August 1 through the end of last season, and the best-case scenario is that Castro maintains that level of offensive production while his athleticism leads to a seamless defensive adjustment. Ultimate best-case scenario: Castro and Didi Gregorius form a potent up-the-middle combination for years to come.

Worst-case scenario: Castro’s worst-case scenario isn’t really hypothetical; it’s quite tangible in the numbers he put up through most of last season when he hit just .237/.271/.304 through the end of July. Combined he’s had a .688 OPS the past three seasons. If Castro can’t hit and looks uncomfortable at second — he never really graded as a particularly great defensive shortstop — the Yankees will have sacrificed Warren to acquire an infielder perhaps no better than in-house alternative Rob Refsnyder. The worst-case scenario is that last season wasn’t simply a bump in the road; that Castro has regressed to be more of a utility man than a productive everyday player.

What the future holds: Signed through 2020, Castro has a chance to become a long-term piece of the Yankees’ infield, finally something more than a disappointing stopgap in the wake of Robinson Cano’s departure. The Yankees have other young infielders on the rise — most notably Refsnyder, then Tyler Wade, and eventually Jorge Mateo — but Castro is young enough, with enough lingering upside, that he could hold off young guys who might challenge for his everyday job. At the very least, he’s under contract for five more years, so he’s in position to stick around. As long as he bounces back, Castro will be a mainstay.

Associated Press photo

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Who’s playing for what in Yankees camp this spring02.08.16

Yankees Spring Baseball

Now that we know who’s coming to Yankees camp — which prospects are invited, which positions have significant depth, how many pitchers are going to fill the clubhouse — it’s easier to get a sense of what’s up for grabs and who has the best chance to make an impression and actually break camp on the big league roster. Not everyone who comes to big league camp is actually on the big league radar, and not everyone who’s on the big league radar has equal footing on the depth chart.

Here are the 64 players coming to camp — Greg Bird is out with an injury — broken down according to who’s actually in position to fight for something come Opening Day. Surely an injury or two will change things, and entire deck could re-shuffle by the middle of May, but for now, here’s some attempt to group players according to what they’re trying to prove before the season opener on April 4.

RodriguezBetancesLOCKED INTO BIG LEAGUE ROLES
Rotation: Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia
Bullpen: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller
Lineup: Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran
Bench: Dustin Ackley, Aaron Hicks

This is the “as long as they’re healthy” group. I suppose there’s some chance Sabathia could be healthy but pitching so poorly that he falls out of the rotation, but that’s not the plan heading into spring training. The Yankees have made it clear that they’re still thinking of him as a starter. Beyond that, the roles here are pretty well defined barring some sort of injury. There might be some batting order decisions to iron out, and it would be interesting to see the Yankees reverse course in their plans to have A-Rod be a DH only, but at this point, we have a pretty good idea what to expect from these 18 roster spots.

CastroNovaDEFINITELY ON THE BIG LEAGUE ROSTER; ROLE BEING DEFINED
Starter/reliever: Ivan Nova
Second baseman/infield depth: Starlin Castro

When camp opens, Nova will surely be treated as a starting pitcher. I would think several other potential relievers — Bryan Mitchell, Anthony Swarzak, etc. — will get the same treatment, being stretched out just in case they’re needed to plug holes in the rotation. For Nova, though, the process stands out because he’s clearly going to be on the big league roster, we just don’t know yet whether the Yankees will need him in the rotation or will try to use him as a long reliever (kind of filling the Adam Warren role). As for Castro, his primary role as starting second baseman is well defined. Spring training, though, should determine whether the Yankees idea of using him as a backup on the left side of the infield is viable. If he can do that, the final bench spot becomes wide open.

RefsnyderSanchezCOMPETING FOR THE BIG LEAGUE BENCH
Catchers: Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine, Carlos Corporan
Infielders: Rob Refsnyder, Ronald Torreyes, Donovan Solano, Pete Kozma

Two open bench spots, and two distinct groups vying for attention. I’m excluding outfielders from this discussion because the team already has Hicks and Ackley, and it just seems too redundant to expect yet another left-handed outfielder to break camp. Barring an injury, it makes more sense that the Yankees carry another infielder for that fourth bench role. Obviously they’ll carry a backup catcher, and the competition is pretty easily defined as a three-man race. The fourth bench spot is a little more open and might depend on how comfortable Castro looks at third. If he’s good there, the Yankees could certainly carry Refsnyder as another second baseman. If Castro can’t play the left side, though, the Yankees might need a more typical utility man. The front runners, in my mind, would be Solano and Kozma because of their experience. Have to includes Torreyes, though, because he’s already on the 40-man.

ShreveRumbelowCOMPETING FOR THE BIG LEAGUE BULLPEN
Long relievers: Bryan Mitchell, Anthony Swarzak
Right-handers: Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, Kyle Yates, Vinnie Pestano
Left-handers: Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos

Could make a case for a few other names in this discussion, but I’m heading into spring training with the assumption that guys like Luis Cessa, Nick Goody and Tyler Webb are relative long shots because they’re competing against guys who have more experience and seem to be — at the moment, anyway — a little higher on the big league depth chart. Assuming no injuries, the Yankees have three big league bullpen jobs available. Shreve is probably a heavy favorite for one of them because he pitched so well through most of last season. Beyond that, as long as Nova is available as a true long man, the Yankees wouldn’t have to fill any specific roles. They could simply look for the best arms and pick the top seven relievers to carry north.

WilliamsGoodyREADILY AVAILABLE TRIPLE-A DEPTH
Rotation: Luis Cessa, Richard Bleier, Tyler Cloyd, Brady Lail, Chad Green
Bullpen: Nick Goody, Johnny Barbato, Diego Moreno, Tyler Webb, Tyler Olson
Catchers: Sebastian Valle, Eddy Rodriguez
Infielders: Jonathan Diaz, Deibinson Romero
Outfielders: Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, Cesar Puello, Aaron Judge

Good chance not all of these guys will be in Triple-A, but they certainly could be, and that’s really the point. Because there are more established alternatives ahead of them, these 18 are not arriving in big league camp with clear paths to the Opening Day roster. It’s certainly possible for a few of them, but they’re not the most obvious candidates to be in New York on April 4. More likely, these players are competing for attention and call-ups. Rodriguez and Valle could factor heavily into the Yankees’ catching depth depending on whether Sanchez is optioned and whether Corporan can opt out. Goody and Barbato are in the mix for the bullpen, but they seem to be relative long shots compared some more experienced alternatives. Heathcott, Williams and Gamel stand out as strong big league bench candidates if there’s an injury in the outfield. Otherwise, they might be too redundant to break camp with the team.

MateoKaprielianPROSPECTS GETTING THEIR FEET WET
Pitchers: James Kaprielian, Domingo German, Vicente Campos
Position players: Tyler Wade, Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler
Extra catchers: Francisco Diaz, Kyle Higashioka, Santiago Nessy

Lower-level players with very limited experience beyond A-ball — or no experience beyond A-ball, as is the case with several of these guys — rarely get invited to big league camp. Two exceptions are high-end prospects and extra catchers. Kaprielian, Mateo, Fowler and Wade are certainly not on the radar for Opening Day, and they might not be on the radar all season — maybe September for Mateo — but they’re coming to camp because the Yankees are obviously drawn to their significant potential. Campos and German are trying to regain their footing after Tommy John surgery, but each has been a top 10 organizational prospect at some point. These are the guys farthest from the Opening Day roster, but in many cases, their future is brighter than many of the others in that spring clubhouse.

Associated Press photo

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Young, improved bench poised to play key role for Yankees02.08.16

Dustin Ackley

Chris Young got 318 at-bats last season. It was the most playing time of any Yankees bench player, with more than twice as many at-bats as Greg Bird (157) or John Ryan Murphy (155), who very nearly tied for the second-most at-bats of any Yankees reserve.

Rob Refsnyder, Hanley RamirezFor comparison, the Orioles had five different bench players who received at least 170 at-bats last season. The Rays had four such bench players (three of whom got more than 200 at-bats). The Red Sox had five bench players with at least 160 at-bats, and the Blue Jays had six bench players with at least 160 at-bats. The world champion Royals didn’t have such a deep bench, but they did have three go-to extras with at least 200 at-bats (and that was without a single regular position player older than 34).

Granted, not all of this analysis is cut-and-dry — it’s occasionally difficult to know who should be considered a bench player and who is simply a replacement — but the greater point is this: it wouldn’t be particularly unusual for the Yankees to lean a little more heavily on small but trusted group of reserves. Other teams have done it with some success. It doesn’t have to be a perfect rotation the way Ian envisioned in this morning’s Pinch Hitter post, but it makes sense to see some sort of increased bench usage this season.

A few reasons off the top of my head:

1. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann are a year older.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner need to avoid another second-half collapse.

3. Last season makes it harder to bank on Chase Headley as a true everyday player.

4. This remodeled bench has more versatility and upside than the Yankees have seen in a while.

“I think our bench has a chance to be deeper and a little bit more experienced with (Dustin) Ackley and (Aaron) Hicks,” Joe Girardi said earlier this winter on YES Network.

Heading into spring training, it seems the Yankees have changed every bit of their regular bench from last season.

2015 2016
John Ryan Murphy Sanchez/Corporan/Romine
Chris Young Aaron Hicks
Garrett Jones Dustin Ackley
Brendan Ryan Rob Refsnyder (and others)

Obviously Bird fit into that reserve system as well last season, but his increased playing time came because of an injury, and that sort of thing is hard to predict going forward (I suppose you could think of a guy like Slade Heathcott or even Aaron Judge as a potential injury replacement this year). Point is, none of the true bench guys from last season are back this season. In each case, they’ve been replaced by someone younger and with greater everyday potential.

HicksAnd Girardi seems as open as ever to actually using those bench players. That seems clear in most of his offseason interviews in which he’s raved about Sanchez’s improvements, openly planned to give Hicks four starts each week, and admitted that he’d like to use Ackley at first base with some regularity to keep Teixeira and Rodriguez rested.

It’s not particularly difficult for a bench player to reach 150 at-bats. Jones, who seemed never to play and wound up released for the final two months, finished with 144 at-bats last season, so 150 is a pretty modest threshold. Still, the Yankees had only one bench player who easily cleared that mark. It was a similar story in 2014 when the only non-regulars with more than 150 at-bats were Alfonso Soriano and Kelly Johnson (two guys who were gone by the end of the year) and Headley (a guy who was acquired mid-season).

The Yankees can and should change that this season.

There’s little chance the Yankees are going to carry a prospect like Sanchez unless they think he can get fairly meaningful playing time, and one of the reasons to acquire Hicks is that he’s a switch hitter who doesn’t have to be relegated to platoon work. Starlin Castro’s flexibility lets Ackley essentially serve as the backup infielder (with the ability to play the outfield), and that final bench spot can be a revolving door to plug some holes as needed (add Pete Kozma’s glove for a little bit, then Mason Williams for some speed, then Ronald Torreyes for some short-term versatility, then Ben Gamel against a right-leaning pitching staff). That last spot doesn’t have to be permanent, but it could be a way to get Refsnyder involved at second base when Castro plays some shortstop and third.

Even if that last spot rotates a little bit, the Yankees should have a bench made entirely of players in their 20s – and in most cases, players in their low to mid 20s.

This morning, Ian made the case for more bench playing time benefiting the Yankees’ older players. But a more bench at-bats might also benefit the young guys who are trying to either get their feet wet or prove that they can be more productive than they’ve been in the past.

Associated Press photos

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Pinch hitting: Ian Gallagher02.08.16

Aaron Hicks

Today’s Pinch Hitter, Ian Gallagher, is originally from New York, but his family moved to St. Louis when he was fairly young. With family still on the east coast, Ian tries to make annual visits and catch a Yankees game each time. “Living in St. Louis with Cardinal fans can be frustrating at times, most of the time actually,” he wrote, “however, I can keep up with the Yankees through MLB.TV. My favorite player was Derek Jeter. My favorite Yankee moment was Jeter’s walk-off single to end his career as a Yankee at Yankee Stadium.”

For his post, Ian takes almost a National League approach to the Yankees’ roster, seeing the potential for a strong bench to play a key role.

Carlos Beltran, Alex RodriguezThe Yankees have been able to stay competitive while rebuilding, and that’s a tough task for any organization to do. We see teams like the Astros and the Cubs do complete tear downs, and as a Yankees fan, I wouldn’t be able to take it. There are going to be some growing pains though rebuilding in this fashion. For example, the 2013 season was a growing pain filled with old aging players like Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells. The 2014 season was as well with the Brian Roberts experience, and even last year as Didi Gregorius struggled through the first couple of months on both sides of the ball.

Though looking at the Yankees going into the 2016 season, they are somehow filled with young, talented, cost-controlled players. Sprinkle in some veterans such as Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, and they have a great mix.

In my opinion, the Yankees have a good blend of young and old players, but I still believe that the Yankees are relying on more of the old than the young. I’m on board with this if they can keep them healthy, and I believe an effective way this can be done is by creating a creative rotation for the outfield as well as catcher and designated hitter.

Joe Girardi has been given a chance to create such a rotation this season by using newly acquired Aaron Hicks and top prospect Gary Sanchez.

To be successful in 2016, Girardi is going to have to manage his older players so precisely, so delicately, that they can stay healthy and productive throughout the whole year. This can be done by implementing an outfield rotation by using Hicks. Ideally, the opening day lineup will have Gardner in left, Ellsbury in center, and Beltran in right. The premise behind the outfield rotation is that Beltran never plays four games in a row. Every fourth game, Hicks is in right field; then the rotation begins as the next day when Hicks slides over to center, and then the next day to left.

Suddenly, Hicks has played three games in a row as Beltran, Ellsbury, and Gardner all received off days. For Girardi, he would need to begin this implementation on April 12, looking ahead at the 2016 schedule. With two off days in the first six games, there is no need to start this rotation sooner. If the rotation is started on the 12th, Hicks’ first career start as a Yankee will come on April 15 against the Mariners where he will play right field for Beltran, thus starting the rotation by sliding over for Ellsbury on the 16th, and sliding over once more for Gardner on the 17th.

The Yankees would have played their first 12 games and Beltran, Gardner, and Ellsbury would have already received one off day, playing in eleven of the twelve games. This is the process that Girardi can use in order to keep his outfield healthy and productive for the whole season. He can align it with off days and travel days; he can pick to leave a red-hot Ellsbury in for more than just four days; he can choose to let Gardner sit for a few games if he’s struggles. There are so many possibilities that Hicks and this rotation can bring to the Yankees.

The rotation is nothing permanent, however it should be a focus of Girardi’s to be implemented to get the veterans off their legs and give them a day off every week.

Gary Sanchez, Antoan RichardsonGirardi also has an opportunity to have a rotation for catcher and designated hitter by using Sanchez.

The premise behind this rotation is that McCann never catches five days in a row. Looking ahead at the 2016 schedule, the implementation process should begin on April 12 as well. If this is done and Sanchez plays for McCann after McCann’s fourth straight catching game, Sanchez will make his season debut on April 16 against the Mariners. McCann will get the day off. On April 17, the next day, Sanchez slides over to DH, giving Rodriguez a day off. With another day off on April 18, Rodriguez will have two days of rest back to back.

This rotation is simpler since it is only including three players. However, this rotation opens the door for Beltran and Teixeira also to get time at DH on Rodriguez’s scheduled off days. After Sanchez plays for McCann, Sanchez doesn’t have to play DH the next day. If Beltran or Teixeira is red-hot, Girardi can use Dustin Ackley or Hicks to let Beltran or Teixeira get a half day off while keeping their bats in the lineup.

Once again, going into the season with a rotation in place allows the Yankees to mix and match so many possibilities.

When looking ahead at 2016 and looking at the schedule, if Girardi implements both the outfield rotation and the designated hitter and catcher rotation, not including off days, starting on April 12, Girardi has an opportunity to create 123 off days for five positions during the year. It gives Beltran an extra 33 days off, Ellsbury 25 games off, and Gardner 20 games off. It gives McCann 25 extra days off, and Rodriguez 20 extra days off. It allows Hicks to be in at least 78 games and Sanchez in 45 games. The Yankees have just enough youth that Girardi can use these rotations to keep the “been there done that” players healthy deep into October and lead this team to another World Championship.

Associated Press photos

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On the 40-man: Tyler Olson02.07.16

Olson1

How many people are reading about a fringe left-handed reliever on Super Bowl Sunday? Just in case there are a few of you out there, we’ll move on in our series looking at every member of the Yankees’ 40-man roster to next focus on a guy acquired in one of the smallest deals of the offseason. Having been sold by the Mariners and then designated for assignment by the Dodgers, the Yankees acquired Tyler Olson as part of a three-player trade. He should be a little bit of extra left-handed depth.

OlsonTYLER OLSON

Age on Opening Day: 26
Acquired: Traded from the Dodgers on January 12
Added to the 40-man: On April 4 when he made the Mariners’ Opening Day roster

In the past: A seventh-round draft pick out of Gonzaga in 2013, Olson had worked as a starter throughout the minor leagues and had never pitched above Double-A when he made the Mariners’ Opening Day roster last season. He was knocked around for about a month by both lefties and righties and wound up back in Triple-A by the summer. Down there, he split time between the rotation and the bullpen. Seattle sold his contract to the Dodgers, who wound up trading him and utility man Ronald Torreyes to the Yankees in exchange for Rob Segedin.

Role in 2016: Every team looks for cheap depth on the margins of its 40-man roster, and the Yankees are certainly no different. Their existing left-handed depth should leave them with no need for Olson (though the fact he can start does add some flexibility that could be useful). Most likely, Olson will end up filling some sort of role in the minor leagues, and if he doesn’t show much, he could be an easy DFA candidate. The fact he’s on the 40-man and has a little big league experience suggests there’s at least some chance of him playing a role in the big leagues, but there are bigger names ahead of him in the current pecking order.

Best-case scenario: Rotation experience helps to set Olson apart from the other lefties in the upper levels of the Yankees’ system. Given the injury concerns in the rotation and the loss of Adam Warren as a go-to long man, the Yankees could rotate through several pitchers capable of delivering two or three innings at a time. Ideally, Olson can pitch his way into that mix. He doesn’t have a huge fastball and might never be a go-to late-inning arm, but he’s shown decent command in the minors and could find some sort of role as an extra lefty who can deliver long relief when necessary. That’s not flashy, but it could be useful given the current pitching staff.

Worst-case scenario: If the Yankees didn’t have open spots on their 40-man roster, they probably wouldn’t have acquired Olson in the first place. He was a seventh-round pick, so obviously there’s some talent that caught scouts’ attention, but his raw stuff doesn’t seem to have much “wow” factor. The worst-case scenario is that he’s just another guy who’s probably not good enough to start in the big leagues, and whose stuff doesn’t play up much very much when pushed into the bullpen. At worst, he blows a big league game before the Yankees decide to DFA him. The Yankees aren’t exactly banking on him, so it’s not going to hurt much if he falls flat.

What the future holds: Right now, it’s hard to picture Olson as a part of the Yankees’ future, but that’s mostly because they have so many other left-handed relievers standing in front of him. Most likely, he’s just a bit of short-term depth that was easily acquired and could be easily let go. That said, Olson has already made one Opening Day roster in his career, and he should have the versatility to play a few different roles on a pitching staff. He can be optioned at least this year and one more, so if the Yankees like what they see, they could keep him around to see if he exceeds expectations.

Associated Press photo

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Pinch hitting: Benjamin Patterson02.07.16

Powell

Today’s Pinch Hitter comes from Townsville, Australia. Benjamin Patterson is a 33-year-old married father of three boys. He also an aspiring writer and wrote that he’d like to like the U.S. some day. For now, he’s a big rugby, cricket and baseball fan in Australia. “I’ve followed the Yankees since the mid 2000′s and watch games on MLB.TV when I should actually be working,” Benjamin wrote. “I’ve been to Yankee stadium only once and sat in amongst the bleacher creatures during a narrow 2-1 loss to the Mets. It was one of the best nights of my life.” Benjamin wrote that his “favourite” player is Alex Rodriguez, and he asked not to be judged for that.

For his post, Benjamin connects our familiar sport to one that is perhaps not so familiar.

Recently, Kieran Powell, a Caribbean cricketer, announced his intention to pursue a career in Major League Baseball and held a workout for several MLB teams. Initial assessments of his baseball skills were not positive, but it got me thinking: is the transition from cricket to baseball – or vice versa — possible, and if so, which current Yankees could make an impact in the game that breaks for “tea” every afternoon?

I’ve analysed the three disciplines that are common to both games and selected which Yankees I think have what it takes to become a cricket star.

TanakaBetancesBOWLING (PITCHING)

Who might succeed: Dellin Betances

Height is a prized asset amongst cricket bowlers. The best fast bowlers hurl the cricket ball into the ground at over 90 mph without bending their elbow. You need height — and long arms — to do this effectively. I can imagine big Dellin intimidating batters with 95-mph-plus fastballs that bounce up around the ears, denting a few helmets. Fast bowlers also need to be fit and mobile, often running more than three miles per game, which could suit Betances (but kind of counts out CC Sabathia).

Who might struggle: Masahiro Tanaka

Though listed at 6-foot-2, Tanaka’s body shape does not match that of the modern bowler. He would struggle to generate the pace and bounce needed to trouble world-class batters. His best option would be to abandon the heater and turn to spin. A spin bowler throws nothing but eephus pitches, putting so much work on the ball that hitters can never be sure what it’s going to do. There are some very effective spinners around the world, but it’s a difficult art to master.

AckleyEllsburyBATTING

Who might succeed: Jacoby Ellsbury

Cricketers need to be able to hit the ball to all fields, even behind the catcher. They don’t take swings; they play strokes. Jacoby has a nice, compact swing that, with a few adjustments, could translate nicely. I’m not saying he would find the transition easy, but he might find it easier than most. It should also be said that Derek Jeter’s opposite-field swing is the closest thing to a cricket drive I’ve seen at the plate. Cricket is full of “Jeterian” singles (as John Sterling calls them). Maybe Derek missed his calling.

Who might struggle: Pull hitters

Anyone whose average is decimated by the shift is going to find it difficult in cricket. Dustin Ackley, Brian McCann, I’m looking at you. Don’t get me wrong, power is useful. In shorter forms of cricket, clearing the fence is a high priority, but without expert control of the bat head and a whole swathe of different shots in the arsenal, pull hitters are a quick out.

McCannTeixeiraFIELDING

Who might succeed: Mark Teixeira

Teixeira has great hands, as we’ve seen time and time again. There are a number of fielding positions in cricket that require a player to stand within 30 yards of the bat and catch balls moving 90 mph and faster. And a fielder has to do that bare-handed. Mark would fit one of these positions perfectly. He wouldn’t have to run much, just plant his feet and use his quick hands to snap those catches up.

Who might struggle: Brian McCann

The truth is, every baseballer is going to find it tough fielding without gloves. McCann, however, would be the fish most out of water at his natural position. Catchers in cricket are usually small and agile. They can be required to catch more than 500 pitches per day and run/walk more than five miles. To stay on the team, McCann might have to shift to a general fielding position where, again, his size would limit his effectiveness.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

On the 40-man: Nick Goody02.06.16

Nick Goody

Moving on in our look at each player on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, we’ll move back into the bullpen with one of the many relievers who bounced back and forth from Triple-A last season. The Yankees have had quite a bit of recent success drafting college relievers, and now quite a few of them are ready to make their case for a long-term spot in the big league bullpen. Nick Goody is one of those. 

GoodyNICK GOODY

Age on Opening Day: 24
Acquired: Sixth round draft pick in 2012
Added to the 40-man: For his first big league call-up on July 25

In the past: Beginning with a car accident during his first big league camp, followed by Tommy John surgery that same year, Goody’s career began with injury problems that knocked him off track. As a college reliever, he seemed poised to move quickly through the system, but it wasn’t until last year that he threw more than 32 innings in a season. From a slow start to a fast finish, Goody made up for lost time last year by pitching his way out of Double-A, quickly through Triple-A and onto the big league roster before the end of July. He didn’t get a lot of action in the big leagues, but his upper-level minor league numbers were terrific.

Role in 2016: Last season basically assured that Goody would not be lost in the shuffle. This season is really his first opportunity to stand out from the pack and put himself in a position to earn some staying power in New York. He’ll be among that large group of relievers vying for a bullpen spot out of spring training, but his relative lack of experience might make him somewhat of a long shot for the Opening Day roster. More likely, he’ll return to Triple-A to try to prove himself and earn a call-up. Whether he sticks in New York is all about opportunity and performance.

Best-case scenario: Remember Chasen Shreve last season? That’s basically Goody’s best-case scenario (minus the end-of-season collapse). A year ago, Shreve came into big league camp with limited Major League experience and not a ton of Triple-A experience, but the Yankees loved his arm, carried him on the Opening Day roster, and watched him pitch his way into a key role through most of the season. Goody could do something similar. Those early injuries made him fairly easy to overlook for a little while, but he can rack up the strikeouts. He could certainly make himself difficult to ignore.

Worst-case scenario: Goody’s minor league track record consists of fewer than 100 games. That’s not a huge sample, and his Triple-A experience is only 20.2 innings. He’s put up good strikeout numbers, but there’s not a huge body of work from which to proclaim Goody to be a particularly reliable bullpen prospect. The worst-case scenario is pretty simple: that he’s just not very good against big league hitters. The Yankees have a lot of redundancy built into the bullpen competition, and if Goody isn’t particularly good, he’ll simply be replaced by someone else.

What the future holds: Just like Nick Rumbelow. Just like James Pazos. Just like Branden Pinder. Just like Johnny Barbato. Just like Jacob Lindgren. Just like Chasen Shreve. Goody’s long-term future with the Yankees depends entirely on how well he performs. He seems to have a chance for legitimate staying power in New York, but the Yankees have plenty of alternatives. If Goody can set himself apart, the Yankees have team control for the next six years, meaning they could keep him in New York or trade him away. If he falls flat, Goody could be quickly overshadowed and forgotten as the Yankees move on to other options.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Not much has changed, but Yankees still have to replace what’s gone02.06.16

Adam Warren

This is the one reason I generally agreed with Jason’s premise in this morning’s Pinch Hitter post: Adam Warren is a really good pitcher.

That’s not to say Bryan Mitchell is a bad pitcher, but Warren has proven himself to be a viable — occasionally terrific — big league pitcher over the course of three seasons and multiple roles. There’s a a reason the Cubs traded a young middle infielder to get him. It’s hard to find a pitcher who can do what Warren did last season, and the Yankees are of course going to have a hard time replacing him.

MitchellBut here’s the reason I’m not as down on Mitchell as Jason seems to be: When Warren was Mitchell’s age, he’d thrown 2.1 innings in the big leagues and been knocked around for six earned runs.

Have to remember that Warren came from a strong college program and was pretty polished when he got into pro ball. Mitchell was drafted as a high school teenager. His ERA and WHIP have actually gotten better as he’s climbed level-to-level in the minor league system. Jason pointed out that Mitchell wasn’t as good when he was brought back to the big leagues in the second half of last season, but he’d actually put together a couple of good, three-inning appearances before he was hit by that comebacker. Before that ball hit him the face, he actually seemed to be coming into his own a little bit.

That’s not to say Mitchell deserves the benefit of the doubt, or that his down-the-stretch struggles should be ignored — or that his control issues aren’t a real problem — but it’s not all doom and gloom with him. Even his Triple-A numbers last season would have been quite a bit better if not for one particularly brutal outing in Norfolk.

We’ll see what happens with him. Mitchell certainly hasn’t done enough to bet the house on him, but it’s not necessarily time to give up on him either.

To me, the bigger issue from Jason’s post is that daunting task of replacing Warren. I don’t have a problem with trading him for Starlin Castro, but Warren’s impact and value can’t be ignored. And so far, the Yankees have sort of ignored it. Aside from unreliable Mitchell and inconsistent Ivan Nova, the Yankees don’t really have a strong candidate for that swingman role, and the only thing they’ve done to address it is trade for Luis Cessa and sign a minor league deal with Anthony Swarzak.

And it’s not only Warren who’s gone from last year.The Yankees have lost a total of 10 players who had at least 100 plate appearances or pitched 30 innings last season. Some will be easier to replace than others. Here’s the list:

Yankees Angels BaseballStephen Drew – The team’s regular second baseman through much of the season hit 17 home runs but notoriously struggled to get his batting average above .200 (he finished at .201). In theory, the Yankees have thoroughly replaced him with Castro as well as Dustin Ackley and possibly Rob Refsnyder.

Chris Young – One of the first things the Yankees did this offseason was address the loss of Young by trading for Aaron Hicks. In theory, Hicks is a younger and more versatile alternative, but Young’s value might be easy to underestimate. The Yankees badly needed help against left-handed pitching last season, and Young provided it with a .327/.397/.575. Matching that platoon output is a tall task.

John Ryan Murphy – To replace Young, the Yankees created an opening elsewhere. Right now, it looks and sounds as if Gary Sanchez is the favorite to take Murphy’s role off the bench, but the Yankees have Austin Romine and defense-first veteran Carlos Corporan coming to camp as alternatives. Murphy really seemed to come into his own in the second half of last season. Trading him was a significant gamble.

Garrett Jones (and Greg Bird) — A week ago, it would have been easy to dismiss the loss of Jones to free agency, but now that Bird is lost for the year, the Jones void feels quite a bit bigger. Ackley basically took Jones’ job last year, and he’ll have it again this year. Is that enough depth at first base? Can the Yankees add someone else on a minor league deal?

Brendan Ryan – With Ryan and Drew, the Yankees were essentially carrying two backup shortstops through much of last season. Right now, it seems they’ll only carry one, and that one will also be their everyday second baseman. Versatility and defensive depth was Ryan’s greatest value last year. The Yankees have attempted to replace that by signing high-end defenders Pete Kozma and Jonathan Diaz to minor league deal.

Adam Warren – The issue of replacing Warren is well documented in this post and the Pinch Hitter post from this morning. Can Nova handle a bullpen job well enough to fill the void? Can Mitchell handle a rotation job well enough to fill the void? Might require more than one pitcher to do what Warren did last season.

Justin Wilson – This role was vacant for a while, but when the Yankees traded for Aroldis Chapman, they essentially bumped Andrew Miller into the Wilson role. That should be an upgrade. If for some reason it’s not, the Yankees also have Chasen Shreven, Jacob Lindgren and James Pazos. Left-handed relief is not a problem.

Chris Capuano/Esmil Rogers – Two guys whose primary value was that they didn’t have a ton of value. The Yankees could use them to eat innings whenever necessary without worrying about development or long-term injury. Shouldn’t be too difficult to find someone to match this duo’s 6-plus ERA in that role.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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