The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Mid-day notes and links: Long, Hillman, draft class

A few mid-day notes and links:

Kevin Long, Curtis Granderson• The Mets are reportedly set to interview Kevin Long today. If Long were to move across town to become the hitting coach at Citi Field, it would setup an interesting reunion for Curtis Granderson, who had success with a mechanical change under Long’s guidance years ago.

• Good stuff from old friend Evan Drellich, who wrote about new Astros bench coach Trey Hillman. At 51 years old, Hillman decided to return to the field after working in the Yankees scouting department. According to Drellich: “Hillman said that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman asked if he wanted to take over control of the Yankees farm system from Mark Newman, who retired after staying with the club for 26 years. It’s a great job, but Hillman was steadfast: he wanted to be on a major league coaching staff if at all possible.”

• The crew over at Baseball America evaluated the Yankees 2014 draft class. The full report is behind a pay wall. No overwhelming surprises. Top two picks Jacob Lindgren and Austin DeCarr get quite a bit of praise. Ninth-rounder Vince Conde apparently has a glove that could be good enough to stick at shortstop (though, frankly, the lowest levels of the Yankees system are so crowded at shortstop that he might have to fall into a utility role).

• Remember power-hitting prospect Peter O’Brien? The Yankees shipped him to Arizona in the Martin Prado trade, and Nick Piecoro writes that O’Brien is facing familiar questions about whether he can stay behind the plate or might eventually move full time to a corner position. “He just needs to catch more,” Diamondbacks farm director Mike Bell said. “He needs more consistent reps behind the plate. With his bat, that would be a nice weapon to have (playing catcher).”

• On a personal note, an old friend and editor John Murphy — who laughed and told me I’d be alright in New York when I told him I’d accepted this job — passed away on Tuesday. He was an incredible man to work alongside. Having his approval on a story always made me feel like an overwhelming success. He was a powerful presence in that Scranton newsroom. I’m better for having known him.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 5:32 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Big Game Jon? Sabathia picks Lester as his must-win pitcher

CC Sabathia

On ESPN Radio this afternoon, CC Sabathia talked a lot about his repaired knee, his early throwing sessions, and his future in the Yankees rotation — all the stuff you’d expect him to discuss. Then Sabathia was asked who he’d want on the mound in a must-win, postseason game, and his answer was a bit unexpected.

Or maybe it was tactical.

“I think it would have to be, I guess, Jon Lester,” Sabathia said. “I like Lester.”

Interesting that Lester is going to be a free agent this winter.

“Yeah, well, it ain’t my money to spend,” Sabathia said. “I leave that up to the front office.”

CC Sabathia, David OrtizA few other things from Sabathia’s radio interview:

On his offseason recovery
“I’m actually feeling real good. I keep telling people I’m 100 percent. I feel great. I’ve been playing catch down at the stadium two times a week, just doing rehab and stuff. The other days, I’m here at my house working out. I feel good. I’ll definitely be ready to go come spring training and ready to have a healthy season. … I think I can definitely get back to being able to go out and dominate a game, and just be myself.”

On what kind of pitcher he needs to be
“Healthy, first of all. That’s the biggest thing is just getting back out there. For me, talking to Brian (McCann) last year during spring training, and getting the chance to work with him, I think we have a pretty good plan. Throwing the two-seamer now. Just trying to work both sides of the plate with all my pitches. That’s something we were getting accomplished and started getting going in spring training – I had a pretty good spring training – and I think certainly going forward that I can use and make myself a better pitcher.”

On what the Yankees will miss about Derek Jeter
“I think just jokes. I think a lot of people don’t realize how funny he is. Just having him around and some of the stuff he chimes in, I think people are going to miss. I’m happy for him that he’s retiring and getting a chance to move on his life, but he’ll definitely be missed. … He’s the captain. He’s won five championships. He’s played in New York for 20 years. That’s unmatched. Of course we will (miss him), but he left us with some good lessons and tools, and you use that to move forward.”

On (weirdly enough) the best Fantasy Football player in the clubhouse
“I have to say McCarthy. … But I think everybody in there thinks they’re a guru. Gardy thinks he’s definitely the best guy. Dellin Betances is pretty good. There are a lot of guys in there. We have fun.”

Associated Press photos

 
 
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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 4:48 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

How the Yankees stack up against the Royals and Giants

Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter

Last night, when I posted Mike Fitzpatrick’s position-by-position comparison of the Giants and Royals, I found myself thinking about how the Yankees compared at each spot. Where were the Yankees stronger? Where were they weaker? How did they matchup, position-by-position, with the two teams playing for a ring? Today I tried to find out.

The final analysis: It’s really no wonder the Yankees aren’t playing this week.

This is a position-by-position comparison of the Giants, Royals and Yankees. And for clarification, I’m basing my rankings on this very moment. Basically, if the Yankees were playing right now — with the players who likely would have been on the roster and in the lineup for the postseason — how would they have stacked up against the two teams currently playing in the World Series?

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TeixeiraFIRST BASE

Giants: Brandon Belt
Royals: Eric Hosmer
Yankees: Mark Teixeira

To Teixeira’s credit, when he was in his late 20s, he would have been seen as a better player than either of these two. But now that Teixiera’s in his mid 30s with steadily declining numbers, he’s fallen behind the kids. Belt was hurt this season, and Hosmer’s career has been pretty up-and-down, but Teixiera’s coming off such a bad second half that it would have been hard to rank him ahead of many first basemen heading into October.

Ranking: 1. Hosmer, 2. Belt, 3. Teixeira

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DrewSECOND BASE

Giants: Joe Panik
Royals: Omar Infante
Yankees: Stephen Drew

I’ve never had an appendectomy, but WebMD says patients generally return to normal activities within two or three weeks. I’m assuming that’s an estimate for non-athletes. Basically, Martin Prado might have been ready to play by now, but he finished the season on the 60-day disabled list, so I’m going to keep him out of this discussion. Without Prado, the Yankees are left with a strong defensive player who was drastically underperforming most of the year. In fact, if the Yankees were still playing — and if Prado weren’t available — it’s worth wondering whether Jose Pirela would have hit his way into the regular second base job by now. For whatever it’s worth, I would have been tempted to rank Prado at the top of this list, especially if he’s stayed hot through the end of the season.

Ranking: 1. Panik, 2. Infante, 3. Drew

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JeterSHORTSTOP

Giants: Brandon Crawford
Royals: Alcides Escobar
Yankees: Derek Jeter

Two young defense-first shortstops, and then a 40-year-old icon whose best days are certainly behind him. Let there be no doubt that Jeter’s career stands heads and shoulders ahead of anything Crawford or Escobar is ever going to accomplish, but right now, the two young guys are superior players in every aspect except perhaps clubhouse leadership.

Ranking: 1. Escobar, 2. Crawford, 3. Jeter

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HeadleyTHIRD BASE

Giants: Pablo Sandoval
Royals: Mike Moustakas
Yankees: Chase Headley

Pretty diverse group of players here. Some raw power. Some defensive ability. Some disappointment followed by big postseason at-bats. Moustakas has hit some big home runs in October, but I have hard time buying into his bat after yet another largely underwhelming season. Headley is a nice defender who did a nice job getting on base with the Yankees, but Sandoval’s bat has to be considered the cream of the crop here. Four positions in and the Yankees finally rank somewhere other than last.

Ranking: 1. Sandoval, 2. Headley, 3. Moustakas

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McCannCATCHER

Giants: Buster Posey
Royals: Salvador Perez
Yankees: Brian McCann

Clearly Posey is the best of the bunch here, but the decision between Perez and McCann might be closer than you’d expect. Perez has to be considered one of the better young catchers in baseball, and in the long-term, he’s clearly the one you’d want ahead of McCann. But those two actually put up fairly similar slash lines this season, and McCann was on a real roll at the end of the year (Perez, meanwhile, was going to the other direction and has been awful in the postseason). For the long-term future, I’d rather have Perez. Right now, I might prefer to have McCann.

Ranking: 1. Posey, 2. McCann, 3. Perez

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GardnerLEFT FIELD

Giants: Travis Ishikawa
Royals: Alex Gordon
Yankees: Brett Gardner

I don’t necessarily buy into Gordon’s impressive WAR. I think he’s a nice player, just don’t think he’s realistically one of the 10-or-so most valuable players in the game. That said, I do think he’s the best left fielder in this group. Gardner had a really nice year, and Ishikawa clinched the NLCS, but  Gordon’s mix of offense and defense still makes him the favorite here. Gardner, though, isn’t a bad consolation prize at the position.

Ranking: 1. Gordon, 2. Gardner, 3. Ishikawa

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EllsburyCENTER FIELD

Giants: Gregor Blanco
Royals: Lorenzo Cain
Yankees: Jacoby Ellsbury

Cain probably had the better year, and much like Ellsbury, he wound up being used as a bit of an unusual No. 3 hitter. But Cain has also been a little more erratic throughout his career, and I’m just not sold on the idea that you’d rather have Cain starting in center field ahead of Ellsbury at this point. Cain’s been really good, but if I had to pick one of these three to start in center field tomorrow, I’d still go with Ellsbury.

Ranking: 1. Ellsbury, 2. Cain, 3. Blanco

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SuzukiRIGHT FIELD

Giants: Hunter Pence
Royals: Nori Aoki
Yankees: Ichiro Suzuki

At the end of the season, Carlos Beltran was clearly finished playing right field. Even that idea that he might be able to DH a few more days seemed pie-in-the-sky at best. Ichiro was supposed to be a fifth outfielder — assuming Alfonso Soriano was supposed to be the fourth outfielder — and he wound up being the everyday right fielder. In that role, he was basically a lesser version of Aoki.

Ranking: 1. Pence, 2. Aoki, 3. Ichiro

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YoungDESIGNATED HITTER

Giants: Michael Morse
Royals: Billy Butler
Yankees: Chris Young

Who exactly were we considering the Yankees everyday designated hitter at the end of the year? Beltran was technically active, but his elbow was clearly shot. Francisco Cervelli was getting some at-bats and doing quite a bit with them. Pirela was getting some regular playing time, including some DH starts. I’ll go with Chris Young, who was mostly playing the outfield but seems like the best fit as a postseason DH. Morse barely played late in the season.

Edge: 1. Butler, 2. Young, 3. Morse

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TanakaROTATION

Giants: Madison Bumgarner
Royals: James Shields
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka

Just listing the ace of each staff. If you assume Tanaka would have been healthy to headline a rotation with Michael Pineda, Brandon McCarthy and Hiroki Kuroda, then the Yankees would have had a rotation fully capable of matching up favorably with both the Giants and the Royals. It’s kind of a tough call and all depends on Tanaka being both healthy and effective. Without Tanaka, the Yankees are clearly at the bottom of this list. With him…

Edge: 1. Giants, 2. Yankees, 3. Royals

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RobertsonBULLPEN

Giants: Santiago Casilla
Royals: Greg Holland
Yankees: Dave Robertson

Just listing the closer for each team, but just like the rotation, these are strengths for each team. There’s a reliable closer in place — Holland has to be considered the best of this bunch — along with legitimate depth. Consider the setup trio of Sergio Romo, Wade Davis and Dellin Betances. Those are three potent eighth-inning guys. I might keep the Yankees at the bottom of the list largely due to their lack of a go-to lefty, and because the Giants and Royals seem a bit deeper.

Ranking: 1. Royals, 2. Giants, 3. Yankees

Associated Press photo

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 11:50 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Scouts see Refsnyder resemblance in Giants’ 2B Panik

Joe Panik

For anyone wanting the Yankees to go with prospect Rob Refsnyder at second base next season, it might be worth keeping an eye on the kid playing second base for the Giants this week. Three different scouts, all from different organizations, said they saw pretty solid similarities between Refsnyder and San Francisco rookie Joe Panik.

“I think that’s a very good comparison,” one scout said. “Two guys making the most of their ability, and both have the knack of putting the barrel to the ball.”

Reading through most any scouting report on Panik feels almost exactly like reading a report on Refsnyder. At least, in terms of offensive ability and intangible makeup.

ph_605412Panik is a “fundamentally sound line drive hitter who makes contact but doesn’t have a ton of power.” Through the minor leagues he showed “an advanced approach with a lean toward patience.” Even if he doesn’t have a standout tool, Panik “rarely strikes out, draws walks and looks like he should be able to continue hitting for a high average.” One of his minor league hitting coaches said that Panik was “professional, came from a decent family, and a good school at St. John’s.”

But the favorable comparisons largely end when it comes to defensive ability. Refsnyder was a college outfielder who’s made progress at second base but remains a work in progress. Panik was a college shortstop, so his move to second base was from a harder position to an easier one. Panik is seen as a better defensive player.

“Offensively I would make that comparison,” another scout said, noting that he’s seen far more of Refsnyder. “(Panik) looks smoother at second base.”

Called up to the big leagues in mid June, 23-year-old Panik hit .305/.343/.368 in his rookie season. He was regularly batting eighth, then seventh, and by the end of August he was San Francisco’s No. 2 hitter. He’s stayed in that spot through the postseason. Panik hit only one home run and had no stolen bases, but the bat itself — ability to make contact and get on base — largely lived up to its billing.

RefsnyderRefsnyder is five months younger and he was drafted one year later (Panik was a first-rounder in 2011; Refsnyder went in the fifth round in 2012). It’s hard to perfectly compare their minor league careers — Panik moved one step at a time, one year at each level; Refsnyder got an early-season promotion in back-to-back years; there’s also no league overlap — but their career numbers are fairly similar.

Panik: .296/.365/.403 in 1,620 career at-bats
.321/.382/.447 in 74 Triple-A games

Refsnyder: .297/.389/.444 in 1,144 career at-bats
.300/.389/.456 in 77 Triple-A games

Overall, Refsnyder has the better numbers, and that’s with Panik playing in a more hitter-friendly Triple-A league. Refsnyder has struck out more frequently, but he’s also walked more often. He’s also stolen more bases as a better success rate, but ultimately, the numbers are too similar to pick out any overwhelming differences. Give Refsnyder an additional 500 at-bats, and his career slugging percentage might dip a bit.

“Solid baseball guys that find a way to get better,” one scout said.

It’s risky business to assume two players will handle the major leagues in the same way, but baseball is often a game of comparisons, especially when it comes to on-the-verge prospects. Right now the Yankees have a young second baseman on the verge of the big leagues, and at least on the offensive side, there might be a solid comparison currently playing in the World Series.

Associated Press photo

 

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 8:57 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

World Series gets started in Kansas City

Ned Yost

It’s time for the World Series. First pitch out in Kansas City is set for 8 p.m. From our Gannett friends over at USA Today, here’s a different way to look at the matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals.

Why the Giants:

1. Experience. The Giants are making their third Series appearance in the last five years after beating Texas in 2010 and Detroit in 2012. Ten players remain from the 2010 team: catcher Buster Posey, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, first baseman/outfielder Travis Ishikawa, left-handers Madison Bumgarner, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez and right-handers Matt Cain (DL), Santiago Casilla, Tim Lincecum and Sergio Romo.

2. Bumgarner. He has been the only dominant starting pitcher of the postseason, going 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in four starts. The 25-year-old left-hander has struck out 28 in 311/3 innings while walking five and allowing 19 hits. Bumgarner has pitched into the eighth inning in three starts and worked seven innings in the other. He is also 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 11 career postseason games, including 15 scoreless innings while winning his two World Series starts.

Why the Royals:

1. They’re hot. Hot might be too mild to describe the Royals. They are 8-0 in the postseason, rallying from four runs down in the eighth to beat the Oakland Athletics in the American League wild-card game then sweeping the Los Angeles Angels in three games in the division series and the Baltimore Orioles in four in the ALCS. It has been an amazing run for a franchise that last made a postseason appearance in 1985.

2. Defense. The Giants are very good defensively, but the Royals have been spectacular. Having home-field advantage is a plus for the Royals. Kauffman Stadium has the largest square footage of any outfield in the majors. That gives left fielder Alex Gordon, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, right fielder Nori Aoki and fourth outfielder Jarrod Dyson plenty of room to chase down fly balls.

Brandon CrawfordKeep an eye on:
Brandon Crawford. The Giants’ shortstop is noted more for defense but batted .365 with a .928 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) in 23 games in September. His grand slam helped sink the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL wild-card game.

Difference-maker:
Cain. He is the breakout star of the postseason, going 12-for-34 (.353) in eight games while making a number of spectacular catches and being named the MVP of the ALCS.

Close and late:
Both teams boast outstanding relief pitching. With set-up men Wade Davis (1.00) and Kelvin Herrera (1.41) and closer Greg Holland (1.44), the Royals became the first team in major league history to have three pitchers with at least 60 relief appearances and have an ERA under 1.50. The Giants’ quartet of Casilla, Romo, Affeldt and Lopez will be pitching together in their third Series. Affeldt has made 18 consecutive scoreless postseason appearances; Casilla has a 17-game streak, Lopez a 15-game streak.

In the end:
Sometimes things are just meant and maybe everyone should have seen it coming a few week before spring training when Lorde won the Grammy for Song of the Year with “Royals.”

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 8:00 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

World Series matchup: Position-by-position

World Series Baseball

From Associated Press sports writer Mike Fitzpatrick, here’s a position-by-position look at this year’s World Series matchup between the Royals and Giants. The Series starts tonight in Kansas City. I can only speak for myself, but I know that during the year I pay much more attention to the American League than the National League — for obvious reasons — and I’m always much less familiar with the N.L. rosters during the postseason.

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Eric HosmerFIRST BASE

Giants: Brandon Belt. After missing 96 games this year because of a broken thumb and concussion, Belt had the big hit that decided the longest postseason game in major league history. His 18th-inning homer sent San Francisco to a Game 2 win at Washington in the NL Division Series. He gives a good at-bat and provides some pop from the left side of the plate. Steady defense, too.

Royals: Eric Hosmer. Drafted third overall in 2008, Hosmer is talented but inconsistent so far. The 24-year-old cleanup hitter certainly has taken to October baseball, batting .448 in the playoffs with a crucial triple, eight RBIs and two homers, including an extra-inning shot against the Angels. A key piece of Kansas City’s rebuilding project, Hosmer has developed into a vocal cheerleader. The life of the party — with a Gold Glove on his mantel.

Edge: Royals.

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NLCS Cardinals Giants BaseballSECOND BASE

Giants: Joe Panik. The 23-year-old rookie rescued San Francisco at second base this season in the absence of injured Marco Scutaro, a 2012 postseason star. Panik’s strength is a short, compact swing that produces consistently solid contact. The line-drive hitter batted .305 with one home run this year, then went deep in the NLCS against St. Louis. When he’s under pressure, it seems Panik never does.

Royals: Omar Infante. Signed to a $30.25 million, four-year contract before the season, Infante was brought in to be a veteran solution at a trouble spot for Kansas City. The 2010 All-Star can handle the bat, and his playoff experience is a plus. Infante went 5 for 15 (.333) in the World Series for the Tigers two years ago, when they were swept by San Francisco.

Edge: Even.

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Alcides EscobarSHORTSTOP

Giants: Brandon Crawford. A player on the rise, Crawford is blossoming into more than just a slick fielder. He had 10 triples this season and became the first shortstop in history to hit a postseason grand slam when he connected in the NL wild-card game at Pittsburgh.

Royals: Alcides Escobar. Acquired when the Royals traded ace Zack Greinke to Milwaukee in a fruitful deal, Escobar is wiry and athletic with excellent range at shortstop. His bat is coming around, too, enough to land him in the leadoff spot for a Royals team that loves to run. He was 31 for 37 on stolen bases.

Edge: Royals.

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NLCS Giants Cardinals BaseballTHIRD BASE

Giants: Pablo Sandoval. The popular Kung Fu Panda, a switch-hitting cleanup man, is more dangerous from the left side of the plate. He’s been at his best in October, reaching base safely in a team-record 23 straight postseason games while batting .375 with six homers and 14 RBIs during that span. He hit three homers in the 2012 World Series opener on the way to MVP honors. Another clutch performance could help him cash in as a free agent this fall.

Royals: Mike Moustakas. Drafted second overall in 2007, “Moose” has yet to live up to lofty expectations. But he and Hosmer form the Kansas City cornerstones at the corners of the diamond, and both have delivered in their first trip to the postseason. After a brief demotion to the minors this year, Moustakas rediscovered his power stroke with four playoff homers — two in extra innings. He also made two spectacular defensive plays in one ALCS game against Baltimore.

Edge: Giants.

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Buster PoseyCATCHER

Giants: Buster Posey. Perhaps the closest thing to Derek Jeter the West Coast has to offer, Posey is chasing his third championship in five full seasons. Just about everything he does on the field comes right out of a textbook, and he’s already won awards for NL Rookie of the Year (2010) and NL MVP (2012). The Royals’ running game presents a challenge, though.

Royals: Salvador Perez. A two-time All-Star with a Gold Glove by age 24, Perez is already a respected backstop who adds thump to the lineup and keeps the clubhouse loose. He batted only .118 during the playoffs without an extra-base hit, but his 12th-inning single won an AL wild-card thriller against Oakland. One thing to watch: Perez is big for a catcher, and he keeps getting dinged in the head with backswings.

Edge: Giants.

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Alex GordonLEFT FIELD

Giants: Travis Ishikawa. The most unlikely star of this postseason, Ishikawa sent the Giants to the World Series with the first home run to end an NLCS in Game 5 against St. Louis. He batted .385 with seven RBIs in the series after beginning the season as Pittsburgh’s opening-day first baseman. A true journeyman, Ishikawa was a part-time role player on San Francisco’s title team in 2010. Now he’s back, carving out a spot in left field while Michael Morse was injured.

Royals: Alex Gordon. Drafted second overall in 2005 out of Nebraska, Gordon is probably the nearest Kansas City gets to having an MVP contender. The converted third baseman has three Gold Gloves, and his brilliant defense was on full display in the ALCS. A two-time All-Star, Gordon had a team-high nine RBIs in eight playoff games.

Edge: Royals.

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Lorenzo CainCENTER FIELD

Giants: Gregor Blanco. Filling in for injured Angel Pagan, Blanco is a fine defender who has struggled offensively in the leadoff spot. Following a pretty solid season, he went 7 for 44 (.159) in the playoffs with one extra-base hit. He does have a sharp eye, though.

Royals: Lorenzo Cain. A smooth glider in the outfield, Cain batted .301 with 28 steals this season and is just beginning to tap into his prodigious talent. He made a string of sensational playoff catches and hit .533 with five runs during the ALCS to earn MVP honors. Not bad for a guy who didn’t even know the rules or how to hold a bat when he first turned out for organized baseball as a sophomore in high school. Kansas City obtained him in the same trade that brought Escobar.

Edge: Royals.

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NLCS Cardinals Giants BaseballRIGHT FIELD

Giants: Hunter Pence. The durable Pence gets plenty of attention for his odd style and quirky ways, but don’t forget how good a player he is. Pence signed a $90 million, five-year contract last offseason to stay with San Francisco and made his third All-Star team. A health nut and vocal leader for the tried-and-tested Giants, he has played in 383 consecutive games.

Royals: Nori Aoki. A pesky contact hitter, Aoki has a .353 on-base percentage in three major league seasons since arriving from Japan. He was acquired last December in a trade with Milwaukee and can become a free agent after the World Series. Not much power this season, but he can still run and play defense.

Edge: Giants.

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ALCS Orioles Royals BaseballDESIGNATED HITTER

Giants: Michael Morse. In his first season with San Francisco, Morse got off to a strong start before fading and finished with 16 homers and 61 RBIs. He has only six at-bats since Aug. 31 because of a strained oblique, but he tied the NLCS clincher with a pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning. He offers legitimate right-handed power and seems a good fit for DH in Kansas City.

Royals: Billy Butler. Another first-round draft pick (2004) and homegrown fan favorite, Butler is a right-handed bopper in the middle of the lineup who knows how to knock in runs. His power and slugging numbers were down this season, but the 2012 All-Star remains dangerous. Butler probably will be relegated to the bench under National League rules in San Francisco.

Edge: Royals.

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NLCS Giants Cardinals BaseballSTARTING PITCHERS

Giants: After riding their splendid rotation to championships in 2010 and 2012, the Giants return this time with a much different group. Madison Bumgarner is now the workhorse ace, supplanting injured Matt Cain and inconsistent Tim Lincecum. Bumgarner, an 18-game winner and the NLCS MVP, gets the ball on regular rest in Game 1 after going 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in four playoff starts. He’ll try to extend his postseason streak of 26 2-3 scoreless innings on the road, a major league record. The big left-hander has thrown 15 shutout innings in World Series play, winning both his starts while allowing a total of five hits. Hard to believe he’s only 25. The other aging starters may not be asked to go as deep. Fired-up Jake Peavy, acquired in a late July trade, is back in the World Series after making it with Boston last year. Veteran newcomer Tim Hudson is set to pitch in his first Series at 39. Ryan Vogelsong is 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in six postseason outings, including a scoreless Series win in 2012. His only October blip came in the NLCS this year against St. Louis. The starters had a 2.40 ERA in 10 playoff games.

Royals: James Shields gave the staff an experienced No. 1 starter when he was obtained from Tampa Bay for several top prospects before the 2013 season. “Big Game James” will pitch the Series opener on 10 days’ rest, hoping to improve his postseason numbers. The right-hander, who can become a free agent this fall, went 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA in three playoff starts and is 3-4 with a 5.19 mark in nine career postseason games. He’s also the rare Royals player with World Series experience. Shields pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings for the Rays in a 2008 win over Philadelphia. Hard-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA this season. He had a 4.85 ERA in three playoff outings, though one of them came in an unfamiliar relief role. Ventura left his ALCS start with shoulder tightness, but he’s had plenty of time to rest. As expected, left-hander Jason Vargas was a steady presence after the Royals signed the free agent to a $32 million, four-year contract last offseason. Veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie has pitched only once all month, but he threw five effective innings in the ALCS.

Edge: Giants, barely, thanks to Bumgarner.

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Greg Holland, Salvador PerezBULLPEN

Giants: Many faces are the same from San Francisco’s two title runs this decade, but a couple of key roles have changed. Santiago Casilla was promoted from setup man to closer during the season when Sergio Romo struggled. Romo is now setting up Casilla, on a dominant roll dating to September. Casilla has four postseason saves and hasn’t permitted a run in 6 2-3 innings. Romo is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in seven games. Experienced southpaws Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez are very tough on lefties. Affeldt has made 18 consecutive scoreless appearances in the postseason, Casilla 17 and Lopez 15. Fireballing rookie Hunter Strickland has been prone to the home run ball. Lincecum, an October relief weapon two years ago, was bumped to the bullpen again this year but has not pitched in the postseason. Yusmeiro Petit provided a huge boost in long relief during the playoffs, going 2-0 with 11 strikeouts in nine shutout innings of two-hit ball.

Royals: The nasty 1-2-3 punch of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and All-Star closer Greg Holland (46/48 saves) in the final three innings gave Kansas City a winning formula all season. The playoffs were no different. Holland has six saves and a 1.13 ERA in eight postseason games. Davis is 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA, and Herrera has a 1.08 mark in seven appearances. All three have struck out 10. Jason Frasor also is effective and 21-year-old lefty Brandon Finnegan, who pitched for TCU in the College World Series in June, has showed poise out of the ‘pen. Danny Duffy, normally a starter, is ready in long relief if needed.

Edge: Royals, barely.

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Jarrod DysonBENCH

Giants: A relatively inexperienced group that includes Juan Perez, Matt Duffy and catcher Andrew Susac. Veteran infielder Joaquin Arias is still around, and Morse or Ishikawa would provide a power threat back home in San Francisco. There’s some speed here, but it would still be a stretch to call this unit a strength.

Royals: Speedy reserve Jarrod Dyson stole 36 bases this season and often subs in center field, shifting Cain to right. Dyson made a big throw in the AL Division Series against the Angels and had a huge steal in the wild-card game against Oakland. Watch out for him swiping third when he gets the chance. Lightning-fast track star Terrance Gore comes on as a pinch runner when the Royals play for one. Josh Willingham and Butler (in San Francisco) can supply right-handed power to counter those lefties in the Giants’ bullpen.

Edge: Royals.

___

Bruce BochyMANAGER

Giants: Bruce Bochy. Seeking his third World Series ring in five years, the unassuming Bochy is building a Hall of Fame resume. His masterful use of the bullpen has been a consistent theme throughout San Francisco’s run of 15 wins in its last 17 postseason games. Nobody has a better feel for his team.

Royals: Ned Yost. Once fired by Milwaukee in the middle of a September playoff race, Yost guided Kansas City to its first postseason berth in 29 years and the franchise’s third pennant overall. Must be pretty satisfying. Some of his puzzling moves have left Royals fans up in arms, but Yost pushed the right buttons against Baltimore in the ALCS and now he’s the toast of the town. We’ll see if it stays that way.

Edge: Giants.

___

PICK: Giants in 6.

Associated Press photos

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 6:21 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Teixeira to appear on Mike & Mike tomorrow morning

Mark Teixeira, Jonathan Schoop

This season, we all got a glimpse into Mark Teixeira’s personality — and possibly into his post-playing career — through the YES Network’s goofy but funny Foul Territory series. While Teixeira has a few years left on his Yankees contract, he seems to have some interest in pursuing some sort of broadcasting at some point, and tomorrow morning, he’s going to get another taste of the industry. For you morning radio listeners out there, Teixeira is going to be on Mike and Mike on Wednesday morning. I can weirdly remember listening to Mike and Mike during some early mornings driving a tractor many, many years ago. But I’m sure most folks have the same memory. Anyway, here’s the quick press release with details, including a pretty funny quote from Teixeira.

New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira will serve as a special in-studio contributor during ESPN Audio’s Mike & Mike on Wednesday, Oct. 22, from 6 – 10 a.m. Teixeira, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic will discuss Game One of the World Series, the Yankees and other sports news of the day.

“As a regular listener of Mike & Mike, I’m excited to join the Mikes to irrationally overreact to all of the day’s sports stories,” said Teixeira. “But seriously, I am very honored to join the show and can’t wait to have some fun.”

Teixeira began his Major League Baseball career in 2003 with the Texas Rangers and has spent the last six seasons with the Yankees. Mike & Mike is broadcast nationally from 6 – 10 a.m., Monday – Friday, on ESPN Radio, espnradio.com, ESPN Radio app, Sirius XM and simulcast on ESPN2.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 4:55 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Yankees 1B Bird named AFL Player of the Week

One of the top hitting prospects in the Yankees organization has been named Player of the Week in the Arizona Fall League. Here’s the announcement with details from the AFL (with bonus information about a Royals pitching prospect):

BirdPhoenix, Arizona — Scottsdale Scorpions 1B Greg Bird (Yankees) and Peoria Javelinas RHP Kyle Zimmer (Royals) are the Arizona Fall League’s week two player and pitcher of the week, respectively.

Bird — The 6-3, 215-pound first baseman continued his strong Fall League start by hitting .353 in week two with 2 homers, 5 RBI, 2 walks and 3 runs. He also posted a .421 on-base percentage, .706 slugging percentage and 1.130 OPS. Hitting .368 overall, good for fifth in the league, Bird entered week three leading the AFL in homers (3-tied), RBI (10-tied), extra-base hits (6-tied) and total bases (260). He also ranked second in slugging percentage (.684), runs (9-tied) and hits (14), fourth in at-bats (38), and fifth in OPS (1.127).

The Yankees selected the Aurora, CO native in the second round (61st overall) of the 2011 draft.
(actually, he was a fifth-rounder that year)

A .283 career hitter with 36 homers and 140 RBI in 264 games in four minor-league seasons, Bird split 2014 between Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.

Other Nominees for Player of the Week — Mesa OF Boog Powell (Athletics), Salt River IF Rio Ruiz (Astros), Glendale OF Scott Schebler (Dodgers) and Surprise OF Nick Williams (Rangers).

Zimmer — Right-hander Zimmer earned pitcher of the week honors on the strength of his five-inning, 11-strikeout performance on October 13 at Glendale when he allowed only two hits and walked one. For week two, he had no decisions in two starts covering six innings in which he allowed 2 hits, 0 runs and 2 walks while striking out 12 and sporting a WHIP of 0.67.

The 6-3, 215-pound San Francisco, CA and University of San Francisco product sported a 2.79 ERA through his first three starts and a miserly .156 opponent batting average. He led the league in strikeouts (15), strikeouts per nine innings (13.97) and ranked second in innings pitched (9.2).

Zimmer was Kansas City’s first-round (fifth overall) selection in the 2012 draft. He missed all but six games of the 2014 regular season due to injury. Following week two, he was replaced on the Peoria roster by Royals’ left-handed pitching prospect Daniel Stumpf.

Other Nominees for Pitcher of the Week — Glendale RHP Zach Davies (Orioles), Salt River RHP Kaleb Fleck (D-backs) and Scottsdale RHP Tyler Glasnow (Pirates).

 
 
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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 3:20 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Nixy’s going to the World Series (and other mid-day notes)

Jayson Nix

From The Associated Press — and various other outlets, but we’ll get the details from the AP — here’s a quick update on a familiar face.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Infielder Jayson Nix has been added to the Kansas City Royals’ active roster for the World Series against San Francisco in place of rookie Christian Colon.

The 32-year-old Nix hasn’t played since the wild-card playoff win over Oakland on Sept. 30, when he entered in the 10th inning and struck out in the 11th. Kansas City is his eighth major league team.

Colon sacrificed as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning of that game, then drove in the tying run with an infield single on a 12th-inning chopper as the Royals rallied to win 9-8. Colon’s only other postseason appearance was when he entered Game 2 of the AL Championship Series as a ninth-inning defensive replacement.

NLCS Cardinals Giants BaseballA few other quick notes from the World Series:

• Giants NLCS hero Travis Ishikawa was with the Yankees for only a few days, but he apparently has fond memories of the experience. “A first-class organization, they treated me great for the few days I was there,” Ishikawa told George King of the New York Post. “I remember the clubhouse being really big and I got lost there the first day.”

• You know how we were hit with a bunch of “The day the Yankees drafted Derek Jeter” stories this season? Well, here’s a Giants version of that story. It’s all about the day San Francisco drafted Buster Posey. Apparently the Giants had Posey at the very top of their board and got him with their fifth pick.

• A baseball clubhouse is a weird place, often caught between a work environment and a home-away-from-home. There’s a weird balance between work and play, and a clubhouse really has to have a little of both to keep the players from either getting lazy or going crazy. Our old friend Andy McCullough wrote a little bit about that balance within the Royals clubhouse, where players cut back on playing a video game mid-season, and that might actually have helped get their season on track.

• Oh, and sports make people do weird things. Two San Francisco radio stations have decided to stop playing Lorde’s song Royals during the World Series. Apparently Lorde actually wrote that song after seeing a picture of George Brett in a Royals uniform. The song’s a little bit old at this point anyway, right? Probably not that much demand to hear it for the next week and a half. But a nice little PR move for a couple of radio stations.

• Remember that Korean superfan who’s been following the Royals for years and showed up this season only to — as the story goes — help inspire a great stretch of winning in Kansas City? Well, whether you remember him or not, Sung Woo Lee is coming back to see the Royals in the World Series.

• Finally, here are the umpires for this series. Hunter Wendelstedt, Jerry Meals, Jim Reynolds and Eric Cooper will be working their first World Series. Jeff Kellogg will be the crew chief. Ted Barrett and Jeff Nelson will round out the crew.

Associated Press photos

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 2:22 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Sorting through Yankees arbitration and non-tender candidates

Michael Pineda

Yesterday, MLB Trade Rumors announced it’s typically reliable salary predictions for the seven Yankees who are arbitration eligible this winter. The MLBTR predictions aren’t fool-proof, and they aren’t necessarily exact, but over time we’ve learned that they tend to provide a pretty solid expectation for what an individual player stands to earn through offseason negotiations.

So with these figures in mind, which arbitration-eligible Yankees are most likely to be non-tendered this winter?

IVAN NOVA
This year: $3.3 million
Next year prediction: $3.3 million

No logical chance of a non-tender. Last year’s elbow injury cost the Yankees a full season from one of their top young starting pitchers, but it also made him significantly less expensive in his second year of arbitration. Despite the injury, the Yankees will gladly sign up for $3.3 million on a pitcher who could be at least a strong No. 3-4 starter with the potential to go on a run of near-ace-like production for several weeks at a time. The injury might keep them from considering a multi-year deal at this point, but one year at this price is surely a no-brainer.

Shawn KelleySHAWN KELLEY
This year: $1.765 million
Next year prediction: $2.5 million

A $3.5-million commitment was enough for the Yankees to cut ties with Matt Thornton back in August, so the possibility of a $2.5-million deal with Kelley shouldn’t be completely dismissed. It’s not pocket change. That said, Kelley’s been a nice find for the Yankees bullpen. A back injury slowed him down for a while this year, but his key numbers — strikeout rate, walk rate, WHIP, etc. — were actually better in 2014 than in 2013. He’s a pretty reliable strikeout pitcher, and a one-year commitment to a reliever like this seems just about perfect at this point. The Yankees have some solid arms on the way, and one more year of Kelley might perfectly bridge the gap. No compelling reason to non-tender him.

MICHAEL PINEDA
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $2.1 million

Pretty big salary jump for a guy who’s made 13 big league starts since 2011. But that’s the nature of the business with a player who’s coming back from a long-term injury and a bunch of time on the 60-day disabled list. Ultimately, a little more than $2 million should be a bargain as long as Pineda stays healthy. And if he doesn’t, it probably means another chance for a similar low-risk, one-year contract next winter. Again, this one is a no-brainer. Pineda will certainly be back, and even with the injury concern and time missed, there’s no reason to balk at $2.1 million for a pitcher with Pineda’s proven talent.

ESMIL ROGERS
This year: $1.85 million
Next year prediction: $1.9 million

Probably the strongest non-tender candidate of the bunch. Obviously the Yankees like Rogers’ arm — and at times they got terrific production out of him during his brief Yankees tenure last season — but he’s ultimately a 29-year-old with a 1.56 career WHIP, 5.54 career ERA, and a large enough sample size to suggest those numbers are a reasonable expectation for next year. Even if $1.9 million isn’t a ton of money, a one-year deal with Rogers probably isn’t the best way to spend it. Not with better options — or at least similar options — already in the system. The 40-man is going to be tight, money could be tight, and it’s probably not be worth using either a roster spot or a couple million bucks to retain Rogers. If the Yankees had less pitching depth, the situation might be different.

David PhelpsDAVID PHELPS
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $1.3 million

It seems Phelps just made it past the cutoff for early arbitration eligibility. I’m sure the Yankees would like one more year at the minimum, but I’m sure they also realize that Phelps is a really nice fit for them in the immediate future. He’s proven capable of filling any role, and this Yankees pitching staff should have a need for a long man who can either slide into the rotation or move into a late-inning role if necessary. That’s Phelps. As he more thoroughly defines himself one way or the other — and as his arbitration price goes up with each passing offseason — the Yankees will have a choice to make about how much he’s worth, but at slightly more than a million dollars, Phelps is still a good fit at a cheap price.

FRANCISCO CERVELLI
This year: $700,000
Next year prediction: $1.1 million

You know, Cervelli has really developed into a nice catcher. He’s played like a high-end backup or a low-end (with upside) starter. And $1.1 million isn’t too much to pay for a guy like that. Even as the Yankees surely need to make a decision behind the plate — makes sense to make a move with either Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine — it would be a waste to simply non-tender Cervelli. Surely there’s trade value there, and even if the Yankees decide to cut him in spring training, arbitration-eligible players are never given guaranteed contracts, so the Yankees could move on a fraction of the price. Certainly worth signing a new contract, even if it’s also worth immediately trying to trade him.

DAVID HUFF
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $700,000

Could be a non-tender candidate despite having a pretty nice year. Huff walks quite a few batters, and he doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, but he had a 1.31 WHIP and a 1.85 ERA during his stint with the Yankees (granted, with a much higher FIP and xFIP). Ultimately, he was fine. Nothing about his season suggests he’s not worth a modest raise to $700,000. That said, the Yankees always treated him like a last-man in the bullpen, and his career splits don’t suggest a reliable lefty specialist. Solid year, fairly cheap price, but could be non-tendered just to open a roster spot for someone else.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 12:12 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post


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