The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


State of the organization: Center field

Jacoby Ellsbury

Up next in our position-by-position look at the Yankees organization is a position that has a long-term solution already in place at the major-league level. It’s also a position with quite a bit of depth — and a good amount of both disappointment and production — within the minor league system. The Yankees have a lot of young center fielders who might or might not work out, but right now there’s not really a place to put them even if they do emerge as immediate big league options.

EllsburyJacoby Ellsbury
Signed through 2020
The Yankees lineup didn’t have much in 2013, but one thing it did have was a speedy, left-handed, leadoff-hitting center fielder. And so, of course, when the Yankees got into the offseason and needed to find a high-end position player, they gave seven years and more than $150 million to a speedy, left-handed, leadoff-hitting center fielder. For the most part, Ellsbury lived up to expectation in his first season with the Yankees. He had a 113 OPS+ in 2013, then a 111 in 2014. He had 246 total bases in 2013, 241 in 2014. Home runs were up, stolen bases were slightly down, but ultimately this was a reasonable and productive year for Ellsbury. Whether the contract will still be reasonable and productive at the end of the decade remains to be seen, but for the time being, the Yankees seem to have gotten the player they expected. And having Ellsbury in center field has allowed the Yankees to move Brett Gardner back into left field, giving them a ton of outfield range and a double-dose of speed near the top of the order.

Richardson1On the verge
Antoan Richardson
I’m using Richardson’s name here mostly to make a point about the uncertainty of all the organization’s upper-level center fielders. The Yankees have a lot of center fielders who could push themselves onto the big league roster early next season — Can Slade Heathcott get healthy? Mason Williams has the defense, what about the bat? Will Jake Cave keep moving up? Is Taylor Dugas for real? Are Adonis Garcia and Ramon Flores good enough in center? — but this September, when the Yankees wanted a speedy center field type to bring up in September, they called on the veteran Richardson. Even with a lot of center field talent in Double-A and Triple-A, Richardson was the choice. Ideally, one of the true center field prospects will push for that sort of call-up next year. Williams is Rule 5 eligible this offseason. Heathcott and Flores are already on the 40-man. Cave and Dugas had great 2014 seasons. Both Garcia and Flores are intriguing hitters who primarily play in the corners but have center field experience. With both Ellsbury and Gardner on the big league roster, the Yankees have ready-made depth in center field, so the development of a center fielder isn’t overwhelmingly important. But the Yankees have a lot of upper-level talent at the position, and they’ll surely need some of that talent to play some sort of role going forward.

CaveTop prospect
Jake Cave
Two things are at play here. The first is all about Cave himself. The 21-year-old missed all of 2012 with a knee injury, but he made a strong showing with Low-A Charleston in 2013, and he did so well with High-A Tampa this season that he forced a mid-July promotion to Double-A Trenton. When he got there, Cave’s power numbers actually spiked. He finished the year with a .294/.351/.414 slash line between the two levels. He can run, but he hasn’t stolen a ton of bases. He has some power, but it mostly plays out in a lot of doubles. He’s noted for a strong arm in the outfield. Good as Cave has been these past two years, though, some of his move to the top of the organizational pecking order at center field is because of the decline of both Williams and Heathcott. Williams hit just .223/.290/.304, which was another a step backwards after a disappointing 2013. His speed, defense and upside might be enough for a 40-man spot this winter, but Williams’ prospect stock is falling fast. Heathcott, on the other hand, remains one of the highest-potential players in the organization, but he had yet another surgery this season. He simply missed too much time and remains too injury prone to still consider him the top center field prospect in the system.

MiLB: AUG 06 - Brevard County Manatees at Tampa Yankees (LoMoglio)Deeper in the system
Mark Payton
The Yankees top five draft picks this year were all pitchers. The first position player they selected was Payton, a University of Texas center fielder who made a strong first impression by hitting .320/.418/.497 between Low-A and High-A. Just like almost all of the other center fielders in the system, Payton is a left-handed hitter, and most scouting reports suggest a fourth-outfielder upside. He seems to be one of those guys who does a lot of things pretty well but no one thing extremely well (could say that about a lot of the Yankees other center field prospects as well). Have to assume Payton will head back to Tampa next season, looking to basically follow Cave’s footsteps with a mid-season bump to Double-A. Also coming up from the lower levels, Dustin Fowler hit for some power in Charleston this year, but Leonardo Molina is the name to watch. He’s just 17 years old and put up bad numbers in rookie ball, but the Yankees see considerable potential. Needs time to develop.

HeathcottWorth considering
Getting things right
It’s not unusual or surprising to see a lot of left-handed center fielders in the organization. Most high school teams tend to stick their best players at shortstop, but if that best player is left-handed, center field seems to be the best alternative. And it seems the Yankees organization is seeing the trickle-down impact. Ellsbury, Gardner, Cave, Dugas, Flores, Heathcott, Williams and Payton are all left-handed hitters. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a redundant thing. With Ellsbury and Gardner locked into multi-year contracts, the Yankees most immediate opening for a young center fielder is in fourth outfielder role, and it would be convenient to have that fourth outfielder bat right-handed (if only to balance the two guys already in place). At some point the Yankees might have to trade away some of this center field depth to find a player who’s not so repetitive within their own system. Problem is, Heathcott and Williams have lost considerable trade value, and guys like Flores and Dugas (and probably even Cave) aren’t likely to headline a particularly significant deal.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 4:54 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

AL East shakeup: Friedman leaving Rays for Dodgers

Well this is a pretty significant change in the American League East.

From Marc Topkin down at the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays have lost their longtime general manager. Andrew Friedman is leaving the team to move into the Dodgers front office. Topkin says Rays team president Matt Silverman will take over the team’s baseball operations department.

Friedman became the Rays general manager in 2005 and played a key role in making them among the most relevant and consistent teams in the division.

UPDATE, 3:45 p.m.: Here’s an Associated Press story about the Friedman move.

Andrew FriedmanLOS ANGELES (AP) — Fresh off another early playoff exit, the Los Angeles Dodgers shook up their front office Tuesday.

They hired Andrew Friedman for the new position of president of baseball operations, while current general manger Ned Colletti will stay on in a new role as a senior adviser to team president and CEO Stan Kasten.

Friedman comes from the Tampa Bay Rays, where he was executive vice president of baseball operations for nine years after being hired at age 28.

Kasten called Friedman “one of the youngest and brightest minds in the game today.” Now 37, Friedman guided the Rays to four postseason appearances, including two division titles in 2009 and 2010 while overseeing one of the major leagues’ lowest payrolls.

In joining the Dodgers, Friedman will have baseball’s highest payroll of $256 million at his disposal.

Friedman is a former Wall Street analyst who joined the Rays in 2004 and worked as director of baseball development during his first two years. Under Friedman, the Rays posted the franchise’s first winning season and won the American League pennant in 2008.

The Rays finished under .500 in each of their first 10 years of existence before finishing above .500 under Friedman from 2008-13.

This season, however, the Rays finished fourth in the AL East with a 77-85 record after trading away ace David Price to the Detroit Tigers.

Colletti spent nine years as GM of the Dodgers. The team reached the postseason five times and won four division titles, but had early playoff exits the last two years, including last week when they lost their National League Division Series to St. Louis in four games, which triggered speculation that Colletti’s job was in jeopardy.

Kasten said Colletti’s knowledge and experience will be an asset as the Dodgers continue to build their farm system.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 2:21 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

A late morning Yankees links: Long, Wynegar, Minaya, Maeda

Francisco Cervelli, Butch Wynegar

The Yankees are holding their organizational meetings this week, which means they’re still putting their offseason game plan in place. Have to wait until after the World Series to make most major moves anyway, so the Yankees have some time to get things in order (that’s what happens when you miss the playoffs).

Here are a few early notes to have on your radar.

• Not only is Kevin Long out as big league hitting coach, but Butch Wynegar is out as Triple-A hitting coach. Wynegar has been with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre since 2007 and has plenty of success stories — when Shelley Duncan went from candidate for release to getting a big league call-up, he gave Wynegar a lot of credit — and even this year’s young Triple-A roster had the highest team batting average and third-highest team OPS in the International League. But the Yankees are clearly going a new direction with their hitting instruction. Double-A hitting coach Marcus Thames and High-A hitting coach P.J. Pilittere are each relatively new and seem popular within the organization. Pilittere in particular seemed to have a lot of success stories this season.

• Over at Newsday, Erik Boland reports that the Yankees have talked about hiring former Mets general manager Omar Minaya for a job within the organization. His reputation took a public hit when the Mets fell flat during his tenure as GM, but Minaya remains pretty well respected within the game, especially when it comes to scouting.

• Last week the Yankees announced that hitting coach Kevin Long had been fired following this season’s disappointment. No surprise that he’s already popped on the radar of several other teams (also no surprise that after years of emails saying Long should be fired, I immediately got emails worried it was a mistake to let him go). According to Mark Feinsand, Long has already been in contact with the Mets, Blue Jays and Braves about joining their coaching staffs. The Red Sox and others are also expected to reach out. There’s heavy speculation that Arizona could be a logical destination because Long lives in Arizona and is long-time friends with new manager Chip Hale.

• The Yankees will surely discuss Japanese starter Kenta Maeda during this week’s meetings, but recent reports in Japan indicate the Hiroshima Carp might not post him this offseason. That’s significant if only because Maeda was said to be interested in signing with either the Yankees or Red Sox.

Associated Press photo of Wynegar with Francisco Cervelli

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 11:45 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Setting Yankees priorities heading into the winter

Joe Girardi

Today marks the second day of the Yankees organizational meetings. Brian Cashman and his staff are mapping out free agent priorities and trade possibilities. Here’s an attempt to rank the positions in terms of offseason urgency. Which position should be the highest priority and which should be the lowest.

Yankees Cardinals Baseball1. Shortstop
For obvious reasons shortstop has to be at the top of the list. Doesn’t mean this is where the Yankees should spend the most money or make the biggest move, but they absolutely cannot ignore the shortstop position this winter. Not only do they not have a reliable everyday shortstop on the current big league roster, but the bulk of the organizational talent at the position is in the lowest levels and several years away from the making a big league impact. The Yankees need a shortstop for next year and probably for a few years beyond that.

2. Third base
In theory, the Yankees have a third baseman. And a very well-paid third baseman at that. But as Cashman said during last week’s conference call, the team can’t move forward under the assumption that Alex Rodriguez can play the position every day. They need reinforcements. Eventually Eric Jagielo or Dante Bichette Jr. might be able to take the job, but that’s not likely to be this season. It’s hard to imagine the Yankees making it through the winter without adding someone capable of playing third base on at least a part-time basis.

3. Rotation
If you’re into best-case scenarios, then the Yankees rotation is in terrific shape. If everything goes perfectly, a rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Shane Greene and (by early May or so) Ivan Nova should be plenty good enough. That’s to say nothing of David Phelps, Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley and Manny Banuelos providing depth. Problem is, there are injury concerns with almost every name listed here. Tanaka’s elbow is a ticking time bomb, Pineda hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2011, and who knows what to expect from Sabathia going forward? The rotation has to be a priority because the Yankees need additional depth, and because they need to determine whether to spend big on the major starting pitchers on the market.

4. Bullpen
Re-sign Dave Robertson and the bullpen becomes much less of an issue. Ultimately the Yankees know they have bullpen talent. With Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley under team control — plus rotation candidates who could shift into relief roles — the Yankees have solid bullpen depth, but bringing back Robertson would make the bullpen feel like a real strength again. The Yankees also need to sort through some lefties. Could be that the best lefty specialist is one of the in-house minor leaguers, but the Yankees need to check on what’s available because there’s no go-to lefty on the current roster.

Carlos Beltran5. Corner outfield
I’m not including a “designated hitter” position because the Yankees aren’t likely to go after a full-time DH. Instead, they might go looking for a big bat who could spend some time at DH and help out at other places as well. One option for such a role is a third baseman — as mentioned above — but the Yankees could also use some right field insurance given Carlos Beltran’s age and disappointing 2014 season. The Yankees have some young guys like Jose Pirela, Ramon Flores and Adonis Garcia who could push for outfield bench roles, but there are enough injury concerns up and down the lineup that the Yankees surely want some experienced outfield depth on the roster as well. Maybe not a position to spend big, but certainly a position worth adding some depth even if it’s on a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp.

6. First base
The Yankees largely ignored first base depth last winter, and it hurt them when Mark Teixeira kept going down with nagging injuries. Three reasons I don’t have first base higher on this list: 1. Brian McCann actually looked pretty decent at first base last season and could help out there (the Yankees young catching depth makes that possible). 2. The Yankees have talked to Rodriguez about spending some time at first base, so he could come into camp as the go-to backup plan at the position. 3. Can’t ignore how well Kyle Roller hit in Triple-A this season. If the Yankees have to make a move, there are much worse options to have in house.

7. Second base
Now we’re getting into the positions that should be low priorities. The only reason to go after a second baseman would be to put Martin Prado at third base. Ultimately, though, that’s more of a third base issue and not a second base issue. The Yankees have Prado in place to handle the position in the short term, and he’s flexible enough to change positions if the Yankees add different second baseman or decide to put Pirela or Rob Refsnyder into the big league lineup. Opportunities might dictate that the Yankees make a move at second base, but they don’t need to do so. They have short-term and long-term options in place.

8. Catcher
You could make a case that catcher should be a higher priority because of subtraction, not addition. The Yankees should seriously consider making a change at the position by trading away at least one of their young backups. It seems unlikely that McCann is going anywhere, but the Yankees have redundancy in Francisco Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine (plus Gary Sanchez is ready to open in Triple-A). The Yankees absolutely do not need more catching depth, but they might want to trade away some of the depth that’s already in place.

9. Center field
Jacoby Ellsbury is signed long term, Brett Gardner could slide into center field if Ellsbury gets hurt, and the upper-levels of the minor league system have grown crowded with legitimate center field prospects who have the potential to be at least fourth outfielders in the not-so-distant future. The Yankees have big league center fielders on multi-year deals, and they have minor league center fielders in the upper levels, so center field is the lowest of offseason priorities. The only way in which is might be a priority would be in the search for some right-handed balance off the bench.

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 8:58 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

The Flip: 13 years ago today

It was 13 years ago today that Derek Jeter made The Flip. I know there’s a lot to be said about The Dive, and I was there for No. 3,000 and the final at-bat walk-off, but I still think of The Flip as the quintessential Jeter moment.

This season, I asked one of the great defensive shortstops of this generation, Omar Vizquel, for his thoughts on The Flip.

“That’s the play that I always think (in) my mind because as a shortstop, we never practice a play like that,” Vizquel said. “He just came out of nowhere to make a great play, and the ball just happened to fall in his hand, and he made an unbelievable flip to home plate, and they got the guy out. That ended up being the play of the game. As a shortstop, I know how hard it is to go all the way from there to make that kind of play, so that would be the play that sticks in my mind the most.”

What in particular sticks out about it?

“Everything,” Vizquel said. “The whole thing. The whole situation of being right there at the right time, the right flip, the fact that it was a 1-0 game in the eighth inning or whatever. It just makes the whole thing huge and magnifies the whole thing. That’s a play, really, that I would think a lot of people that try to teach the game in the infield will mention when you talk about Derek Jeter.”

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 13th, 2014 at 7:00 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Austin back on the map after wrist recovery

AustinMaybe it was wishful thing, maybe it was youthful ignorance, or maybe a 22-year-old kid had a locker really close to Derek Jeter and felt like he was supposed to say that a nagging injury was a non-issue. For whatever reason, Tyler Austin spent most of spring training saying he was optimistic and healthy; that his right wrist would be good-as-new in no time.

It was perhaps more telling that the Yankees didn’t give him a single spring at-bat, preferring to continue a rehab process that started last season.

“It’s hard to hit when your hands hurt,” outgoing vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “So you lose bat speed. His bat speed and his ability to impact the ball improved over the course of the year, and the second half was like what it used to be.”

Having just turned 23, Austin has put himself back in the long-term right field conversation by getting back to the kind of production that put him on the map in the first place. He hit .322/.400/.559 during a dominant 2012 season, but 2013 was a disappointment cut short by the wrist injury, and 2014 started just as slowly. Austin was invited to big league camp, but he had to sit out, then he didn’t hit his first regular-season home run until May 27. He didn’t hit his third homer until June 28.

In July, though, Austin hit .301/.342/.437. In August, he was up to .304/.368/.551. This offseason he’s playing the Arizona Fall League — had to be pulled out of it last year because of the wrist — where he has four hits and three RBI through the first four games.

A good half season and a return to Arizona don’t prove much, but they’re enough to spark fresh optimism in a young hitter who’d gone quiet for a while.

“He made a little adjustment with where he sets up with his hands,” Newman said. “That seems to help, (but) I think he’s finally mentally over this hand/wrist thing. Those are (tough). They can take a while. … That’s all part of the rehab process is getting your brain out of your hand or elbow or whatever, being able to play freely without thinking about it.”

 
 
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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 13th, 2014 at 3:41 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

State of the orgnanization: Right field

Carlos Beltran

This week, we’ll move into the outfield in our position-by-position look at the state of the Yankees organization. We’re going to start in right field which is an interesting mix of short-term uncertainty — another multi-year contract with an aging and injured player — along with long-term optimism as some of the Yankees biggest bats rise through the system.

BeltranCarlos Beltran
Signed through 2016
Even entering his age-37 season, Beltran seemed to be a solid bet for short-term production this year. His health was a red flag — though not for the reason he actually wound up on the disabled list — but his bat had been steady. Through the previous two years in St. Louis, Beltran had been on the field for at-least 600 plate appearances a year, and he’d hit a combined .282/.343/.493. He was consistent — 128 OPS+ one year, 127 the next — and he was a proven postseason performer, and some DH at-bats would surely help him stay healthy. But in the first season of his three-year deal, Beltran put up the lowest OPS of his career. He got off to a strong start, but an elbow bone spur began to bother him in May, and he was never quite the same. Even when he came off the disabled list with multiple cortisone injections, Beltran was not productive. He had a good month of July, but that was it. Now the Yankees have to hope offseason surgery has repaired the problem, and that Beltran’s diminished bat was strictly the product of injury and not an irreversible decline due to age.

AustinOn the verge
Tyler Austin
For a few years, Zoilo Almonte was perpetually the corner outfielder who seemed most on the verge of a big league role. At the very least he’d proven he could hit minor league right-handed pitching, and that was enough for a 106-at-bat big league audition in 2013 when the Yankees needed a left fielder. Almonte hit just .236/.274/.302, which effectively left him on the outside looking in. Even this year, when he got a few call-ups, Almonte never got a real look in the big league lineup, and in September he was outrighted from the 40-man roster. It seems that next month his 40-man spot could essentially go to Austin, who needs to be protected from the Rule 5 draft and hit .336/.397/.557 in Double-A during the second half of this season. Have to assume Austin will be pushed to Triple-A next year, which puts him one injury away from a big league opportunity. There are others who could compete for a call-up — Adonis Garcia, Taylor Dugas, Ramon Flores, Zelous Wheeler and Jose Pirela all had some time in right field for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year — but Austin stands out with a mix of short-term possibility and long-term potential.

JudgeTop prospect
Aaron Judge
Arguably the top prospect in the entire system, Judge made his professional debut this season and impressed by proving he’s more than simply a giant human being with raw power. Between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, Judge drew 89 walks and slashed .308/.419/.486. He hit 17 home runs, but he was not the all-or-nothing slugger that his massive frame suggests. In ranking him among the top prospects in two different leagues, Baseball America noted that Judge has a true hit tool, not simply a power tool, and that he seems to be a capable right fielder (he doesn’t seem to be a guy who eventually will have to move to first base or designated hitter). Judge was drafted out of college in 2013, made his pro debut in 2014 and could conceivably hit his way to Triple-A in 2015. One big season is not nearly enough to declare a guy the future right fielder at Yankee Stadium, but there was little about Judge’s debut to suggest he can’t get there at some point. And it could happen relatively quickly.

AuneDeeper in the system
Austin Aune
In the second round of the 2012 draft — after they took high-school pitcher Ty Hensley and before they went for college bat Pete O’Brien — the Yankees selected a highly touted two-sport athlete who was supposed to play quarterback at Texas Christian. He instead signed a pro baseball contract and immediately had one of the worst debut seasons imaginable. Moved from shortstop to the outfield in 2013, Aune hit just .192/.230/.263 in rookie ball. He struck out a remarkable 72 times in 156 at-bats. He took just eight walks. Given that baseline, 2014 was a step forward. Aune struck out a lot again — 97 in 225 at-bats — but he showed improvement throughout the year. Playing for short-season Staten Island, Aune had a .315 slugging percentage in June, .374 in July and .429 in August. Perhaps the strikeouts are simply the growing pains of becoming a full-time baseball player. In no way does Aune qualify as one of the top prospects in the system, but he’s one of these dream-big guys that the Yankees seem to have taken a lot of chances on in recent years (without much success to show for it). Another name worth having vaguely on your radar: A kid named Juan De Leon was one of the highly touted teenagers the Yankees signed off the international market this year. Reportedly has significant hitting potential, but he’s not even 18 years old yet.

PirelaWorth consideration
Uncertainty and flexibility
The Yankees can’t bank on Alex Rodriguez playing third base, which means they almost have to pencil him in as their regular designated hitter next season. Doing that means the Yankees have pencil in Beltran as their regular right fielder. That’s a trickle-down effect that basically means the Yankees can’t head into next season planning to carry another full-time right fielder. Whoever backs up in right field is going to have to play elsewhere, and that might led to an unusual amount of versatility for the Yankees fourth outfielder. A guy like Jose Pirela wouldn’t seem to be a typical guy for the job, but even though he could come into camp fighting for a utility infield job or even the everyday second base job, Pirela could end up getting most of his at-bats in the outfield (if, for example, Rodriguez does show up able to play third, Martin Prado stays at second, and Beltran needs a lot of DH days). It’s also useful that guys like Austin, Garcia and Wheeler (if he stays on the 40-man) have corner infield experience. The Yankees definitely need some insurance in right field, but that insurance might have be capable of handling other positions as well. And the farm system actually has quite a few guys like that.

Associated Press photo

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 13th, 2014 at 12:43 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Back on the job, Brian Cashman has plenty of work to do

Tony Pena, Brian Cashman

After missing the playoffs two years in a row, Brian Cashman was given a vote of confidence last week in the form of a new three-year contract. He’ll be given an opportunity to get the Yankees back on track, and there’s a lot of work to be done. In no particular order, here are 10 things Cashman has to do between now and the start of spring training:

David RobertsonMake a decision on Dave Robertson – Qualifying offer? Multi-year contract? Transition to Dellin Betances in the ninth? One way or another, the Yankees have to make a Robertson decision fairly quickly. Qualifying offers have to be in place by the fifth day after the World Series. There’s really no one else who stands out as a qualifying offer candidate, but the Robertson decision is a big one.

Sort through the mid-season additions – The Yankees get the first crack at their own free agents. This winter, that means having the right to early discussions with a bunch of guys who weren’t around for very long last season but could be worthwhile targets this offseason. Brandon McCarthy was terrific after the mid-season trade from Arizona. Is he the kind of guy to stabilize a rotation full of uncertainty? What about bringing Chase Headley back to play third base, pushing Alex Rodriguez to designated hitter? Is Stephen Drew a buy-low option at shortstop? Could Chris Young be a right-handed fourth outfielder after his surprising month of September? He wasn’t a mid-season addition, but it’s also worth reaching out to Hiroki Kuroda to get a feel for his plans going forward. The Yankees get the first chance to talk to these guys. Might as well take advantage of it.

Trim the excess from the roster – Mostly this means finding a home for the Yankees catching depth. Essentially the Yankees are carrying three players — Francisco Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine — for one big league job and possibly a role as Triple-A depth. Would be better to flip that abundance for something more useful. Could do the same with some of the team’s solid young pitching. Might even be worth shopping around some of the team’s young left-handed outfielders.

Choose the next shortstop – Maybe this is an oversimplification, but to some extent this is what it comes down to: pick a guy and go get him. Maybe that’s a buy-low option on Drew. Maybe it’s a risk signing of Hanley Ramirez. Maybe it’s some free agent in between or a trade possibility that makes sense. Ultimately, weigh the cost and the production and make a choice. Someone gets to be the next shortstop of the New York Yankees. Go find him.

Pick your battles with roster openings – The everyday lineup really has only two holes: shortstop and designated hitter. If Rodriguez is going to be the designated hitter, then third base is open. Bottom line is, though, the Yankees aren’t going to go out and spend big money on a third baseman, and a right fielder and a designated hitter. They’re not going to put $10 million a year into a bench player. So they have to pick their battles when it comes to finding the right pieces. Same with the pitching staff. Is it worth going all in on a guy like Max Scherzer or is it more practical to sign rotation depth and trust that Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda can be the Nos. 1-2 starters next season?

Mark TeixeiraCheck on veteran players (then check again) – As a matter of course the Yankees will check in with guys like Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran to find out how they’re doing, but given the nagging injury problems that impacted the lineup last season, those routine status checks seem to carry significant meaning this offseason. Is Teixeira feeling stronger? Is Beltran back to his old self after surgery? How’s CC Sabathia’s knee (and how are his early bullpens going)? Is Tanaka feeling anything in that elbow? Is Ivan Nova still progressing as planned? What in the world is going on with A-Rod? The motto has to be: no surprises on the day spring training opens.

Fill out the coaching staff – The Yankees decided that Kevin Long was no longer the man for the job, and they decided to get rid of all-time nice guy Mick Kelleher to further change the dynamics of the staff. Clearly the Yankees did this with some alternatives in mind. Bring Mike Harkey back and adjust the staff accordingly? Reunite Joe Girardi with his old friend Dante Bichette (another hitting coach with a son in the minor league system)? Maybe get Frank Menechino back in the system? Push popular Triple-A manager Dave Miley into the mix? The Yankees decided to make a change. Firing guys was step one. Time for step two.

Build depth from the outside — There are key prospects who could break through into Triple-A either late next season or in early 2016, but for the time being, the Yankees might have to supplement their depth with smart low-risk signings. Cashman’s usually be very good at this — just this year he found some help from minor league free agents Yangervis Solarte and Zelous Wheeler — and he might have to do it again. Maybe a reunion with a Scott Sizemore-type who could add some experienced third base depth? Almost certainly going to need a Triple-A shortstop who could step into a big league bench role if need be.

Protect the Rule 5 eligible prospects – Quite often, the significant Rule 5 decisions are fairly easy. Top prospects are definitely protected, then the team picks and chooses among the more fringy players. This winter, though, the Yankees face a particularly curious choice about gifted but under-performing prospect Mason Williams. The team also has to choose among a fairly large group of upper level relievers that could follow Tommy Kahnle’s path out of the organization and into another team’s bullpen.

Put someone in charge of the minor leagues – Mark Newman, the Yankees longtime vice president of player development, is retiring this fall. That leaves the Yankees with a significant void in their front office, and Cashman will surely be involved in the search for the next executive to oversee the farm system. Things will roll along pretty smoothly for a while, but someone needs to step into that role pretty soon. It’s a big job for an organization that desperately needs to get more production out of its minor leaguers.

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 13th, 2014 at 8:59 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Week in review: Change and status quo

Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi

Just a few days after the Yankees season came to an end, Hal Steinbrenner went on the radio and made it clear he wanted to re-sign general manager Brian Cashman.

He said no such thing about the Yankees coaching staff.

On Friday, less than two weeks into a disappointingly long offseason, the Yankees signed Cashman to a new three-year contract. They also fired hitting coach Kevin Long and first-base coach Mick Kelleher.

“Being in my chair, I’m responsible for it all — offense, defense and pitching,” Cashman said. “I’ve got to find a way to get our fan base back to enjoying October sooner than later.”

While Cashman might take responsibility, it was Long and Kelleher who took the fall for the Yankees failure to reach the postseason for a second consecutive season. The Yankees offense finished 13th in the American League in runs scored. Cashman said the Yankees would look for a new “voice” at pitching coach. Replacing Kelleher, it seems, was more about opening a spot to change the dynamic of the staff as a whole.

“As you change the dynamic of the staff, it has to come at the expense of some personnel,” Cashman said. “In this case, it’s Mick. There are some individuals, I think, as we move forward, (who) will bring more for the global perspective of the coaching staff. That despite Mick’s high qualities, some of the people I’m interested in talking to will do the same.”

For Cashman, it’s a chance to stay in the role he’s held since 1998. A three-year extension could give him a full 20 years as Yankees general manager.

“Being in this chair for 17 years, I’d say every winter has got its challenges,” Cashman said. “I don’t feel that this one is any different in terms of challenges. The bottom line is, we want to maintain our strengths and attack our weaknesses. To be able to do that, you’ve got to go to the available player talent pool, both in the trade market, your farm system as well as the free agent market. From there, hopefully put things together that’s going to play well. Obviously we know from our fan base’s perspective that we need to do better than we’ve done for the past two years.”

Alex Rodriguez• While Joe Girardi has said he hopes to have Alex Rodriguez starting at third base next season, Cashman made it clear that he’s not banking on it. “I think it’s best to assume that we should have contingencies in place,” Cashman said. “I don’t think it’s safe to assume that he can play third base.”

• Cashman revealed that Girardi has talked to Rodriguez about getting some work at first base, presumably as a backup to Mark Teixeira. The Yankees lacked a true backup first baseman throughout this season, and it cost them when Teixeira missed time with nagging injuries.

• Cashman would not tip his hand regarding plans for free agent Dave Robertson. The Yankees have to decide whether to extend a qualifying offer to their closer. “What happens as we move forward with him and the qualifying offer is yet to be determined,” Cashman said.

• With all the other coaches still under contract, Cashman indicated that he does not expect to make any other coaching staff changes. “If we choose to make any other changes we’ll let you know,” Cashman said. “Otherwise everything is status quo until then.”

• The Yankees still need to find a new shortstop, and one option came off the table when the Orioles signed J.J. Hardy to a three-year contract extension with a option for a fourth year. The free agent market is still relatively deep at the position.

• Qualifying offers will be set at $15.3 million according to a report by The Associated Press. That’s a raise of almost a million from last year.

• World Series rings and MVP plaques were stolen from the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center. Not cool, people. Not cool at all.

• Forbes named the Yankees the most valuable team brand in all of sports. So that’s nice.

• YES Network announced that viewership was up this season. Specifically, game viewership jumped 15 percent from last year. Amazing the difference Derek Jeter can make.

• The Arizona Fall League got started, and Greg Bird got off to a terrific start.

Associated Press photos

 
 

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Posted by:Chad Jenningson Sunday, October 12th, 2014 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

National League Championship Series gets started tonight

Santiago Casilla, Tim Hudson

Again from the good people over at The Associated Press, here’s a breakdown of the National League Championship Series, which gets started tonight in St. Louis.

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Schedule (all times EDT)
Game 1, Today, at St. Louis (8:07 p.m.)
Game 2, Sunday, Oct. 12, at St. Louis (8:07 p.m.)
Game 3, Tuesday, Oct. 14, at San Francisco (4:07 p.m.)
Game 4, Wednesday, Oct. 15, at San Francisco (8:07 p.m.)
Game 5, Thursday, Oct. 16, at San Francisco (8:07 p.m.)
Game 6, Saturday, Oct. 18, at St. Louis (4:07 p.m.)
Game 7, Sunday, Oct. 19, at St. Louis (7:37 p.m.).
All games on Fox or FS1.

Season Series: Giants won 4-3.

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Matt AdamsProjected Lineup

Giants: CF Gregor Blanco (.260, 5 HRs, 38 RBIs), 2B Joe Panik (.305, 1, 18), C Buster Posey (.311, 22, 89), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.279, 16, 73), RF Hunter Pence (.277, 20, 74), 1B Brandon Belt (.243, 12, 27), LF Travis Ishikawa (.252, 3, 18 with Pirates and Giants) or Michael Morse (.279, 16, 61), SS Brandon Crawford (.246, 10, 69).

Cardinals: 3B Matt Carpenter (.272, 8, 59), CF Jon Jay (.303, 3, 46), LF Matt Holliday (.272, 20, 90), SS Jhonny Peralta (.263, 21, 75), 1B Matt Adams (.288, 15, 68), C Yadier Molina (.282, 7, 38), 2B Kolten Wong (.249, 12, 41, 20 SBs), RF Randal Grichuk (.245, 3, 8) or Oscar Taveras (.239, 3, 22).

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Projected Rotation

Giants: LH Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA, 219 Ks, 217 1-3 IP), RH Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73 ERA with Boston and San Francisco), RH Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57), RH Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00).

Cardinals: RH Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38, 227 IP, 3 shutouts, 5 CGs), RH Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.74), RH John Lackey (14-10, 3.82 with Red Sox and Cardinals), RH Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74).

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Bullpens

Giants: RH Santiago Casilla (3-3, 1.70, 19/23 saves), RH Sergio Romo (6-4, 3.72, 23/28 saves), LH Jeremy Affeldt (4-2, 2.28), LH Javier Lopez (1-1, 3.11), RH Jean Machi (7-1, 2.58, 2 saves), RH Hunter Strickland (1-0, 0.00 in 9 games), RH Yusmeiro Petit (5-5, 3.69 in 39 games, 12 starts), RH Tim Lincecum (12-9, 4.74, 1 save in 33 games, 26 starts).

Cardinals: RH Trevor Rosenthal (2-6, 3.20, 45/51 saves), RH Pat Neshek (7-2, 1.87, 6 saves), LH Marco Gonzales (4-2, 4.15 in 10 games, 5 starts), RH Seth Maness (6-4, 2.91, 3 saves), LH Sam Freeman (2-0, 2.61), RH Carlos Martinez (2-4, 4.03, 1 save), LH Randy Choate (2-2, 4.50), RH Michael Wacha (5-6, 3.20 in 19 starts).

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Matchups

These teams have dominated the National League this decade, combining for the past four pennants and three World Series titles. The Giants won it all in 2010 and 2012, and the Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 before losing to Boston last season. … St. Louis leads the majors with 30 postseason wins over the past five seasons, while San Francisco is second with 26. … This is the fourth NLCS meeting between these teams, with the Cardinals winning in seven games in 1987 and the Giants taking a five-game series in 2002 and a seven-gamer in 2012. San Francisco rallied from 3-1 down two years ago, outscoring St. Louis 20-1 over the final three games to spoil the Cardinals’ bid for a repeat title under first-year manager Mike Matheny. The Giants have six regulars, two starters and five relievers still on the roster from that series. … Posey and Pence struggled in the 2012 NLCS. Posey hit .154 with no extra-base hits and Pence batted .179. Vogelsong won both his starts, allowing two runs in 14 innings. … The Giants won three of four in St. Louis this year and lost two of three at home vs. the Cardinals. … Molina is 4 for 25 in his career against Vogelsong. … Bumgarner pitched seven scoreless innings in his first game vs. the Cardinals this season and allowed five runs over five innings in the rematch. … Molina threw out nearly half the runners (21 of 44) who tried to steal against him this year. … The 39-year-old Hudson has reached an LCS for the first time in his 16 major league seasons.

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NLDS Nationals Giants BaseballBig Picture

Giants: After winning the World Series in 2010 and 2012, the Giants (88-74) are hoping to make every other year a pattern. San Francisco missed the playoffs following each of those championships but got back this season as the second NL wild-card team. … The Giants advanced by beating Pittsburgh 8-0 in the wild-card game behind a four-hitter from Bumgarner and a grand slam by Crawford. San Francisco then knocked off NL East champion Washington in four games in the NLDS, winning three one-run games and an 18-inning epic during a low-scoring series that featured only 18 runs. … The Giants have won 11 of their past 12 postseason games under manager Bruce Bochy, including six straight on the road. … After relying on stellar pitching during those two title runs, the Giants are more balanced this year, finishing fifth in the NL in runs and seventh in ERA. But the starting pitching has stepped up in the playoffs, with a 1.04 ERA through five games. … Workhorse RHP Matt Cain made just 15 starts because of a season-ending elbow injury, and two-time Cy Young Award winner Lincecum was removed from the rotation and has not appeared in the playoffs. … Bumgarner is a threat at the plate, batting .258 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a .470 slugging percentage this season. The last pitcher to have more RBIs in a season was Mike Hampton with 16 in 2001 for Colorado. … Panik is hitting .345 since Aug. 4 and provided a big spark with his midseason call-up. … Posey batted .393 in September but was slowed during the final week of the season with a bad back. … Hudson will pitch in his first LCS at age 39 after being on teams that lost seven times in the Division Series. … Morse has just two at-bats since Aug. 31 because of a strained oblique but could be ready for this series.

Cardinals: Steady as can be, the Cardinals have reached the postseason four years in a row for the first time in franchise history. And they don’t stop there. This is St. Louis’ fourth consecutive trip to the NLCS and ninth in 15 seasons. … The Cardinals (90-72) held off Pittsburgh by two games to repeat as NL Central champs. Then they beat Clayton Kershaw twice in a playoff series for the second straight year and eliminated the Dodgers again, this time 3-1 in the NLDS. Last season, St. Louis defeated Los Angeles in an NLCS that lasted six games. … The final two wins against the Dodgers were low-scoring games, but there was just enough timely hitting — and some long-dormant power has finally emerged. Adams batted .190 against lefties but diligent work on the curveball machine sharpened him for his homer off Kershaw in the crucial at-bat of Game 4. … Wainwright is one of baseball’s elite starters and probably was the MVP of a team that was inconsistent offensively. He was well-rested for his Game 1 matchup with Kershaw at Dodger Stadium, but both aces faltered as St. Louis won 10-9 in a surprising slugfest. … The rotation is deep and the back end of the bullpen has been solid, too. The side-arming Neshek worked a perfect eighth in the last two games, rebounding from a spate of ineffectiveness at the end of the season and early in the Dodgers series. … Wacha struggled to regain his form following a two-month stint on the DL due to a shoulder injury. After taking home NLCS MVP honors as a rookie last season, he was parked in the bullpen during this year’s NLDS and did not pitch. … Gonzales, a 22-year-old rookie drafted in the first round out of Gonzaga last year, threw three scoreless innings against the Dodgers and went 2-0 in relief. … The 35-year-old Lackey came on strong down the stretch and showed his big-game bonafides with seven stingy innings in a Game 3 win over Los Angeles. … In his first full season as a closer, Rosenthal was among the game’s best, giving hitters more to worry about than just a fastball that tickles triple digits. He saved all three playoff wins against the Dodgers. … Molina’s return for the final month of the season from a torn thumb ligament was a plus, even though he wasn’t that productive at the plate. … Peralta is one of baseball’s best-hitting shortstops and had a big second half in his first season with St. Louis. … The Cardinals were 51-30 at home and 39-42 on the road.

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Watch For:

— Time Warp. Working on 10 days’ rest, Wainwright threw up a dud in the Division Series opener when he was tagged for six runs and 11 hits in 4 1-3 innings at Dodger Stadium. There’s some concern that he didn’t have much life on his pitches in that game, perhaps a result of fatigue from being such a reliable innings-eater all year. But he was 5-0 in September with a 1.38 ERA and two complete games. He lost twice to the Giants during the season, including his shakiest outing of the year in May when he was rocked for seven runs in 4 1-3 innings. Wainwright will have seven days off before facing Bumgarner in Game 1.

— Leadoff Loss. The Giants miss Angel Pagan’s bat at the top of the lineup. He batted .304 from the leadoff spot this season, fifth-highest in the majors. Blanco has struggled in his place, going 2 for 22 in the playoffs and batting just .213 from the No. 1 spot in the regular season, the second-lowest mark in the big leagues.

— Power Surge. After totaling a paltry 105 homers this season, second-fewest in the majors ahead of only Kansas City, the Cardinals finally flexed their muscles in the Division Series. They belted seven homers in four games, including five by left-handed hitters off Dodgers lefties. Carpenter, who had eight homers in the regular season, joined Albert Pujols (2004) as the only Cardinals players to homer in three consecutive postseason games. Carpenter made the most of his six hits, totaling seven RBIs.

— Potent Panda. Sandoval has keyed San Francisco’s postseason success during the past two trips, even after having his 14-game postseason hitting streak snapped in the clincher vs. the Nationals. Kung Fu Panda is batting .368 with six homers and 14 RBIs in his last 18 postseason games. That includes his three-homer performance in the 2012 World Series opener against Detroit on the way to MVP honors.

— Late-Night Lightning. The Cardinals scored eight runs in the seventh inning to stun Kershaw in the NLDS opener and totaled one hit before their rally in the seventh during the Game 4 clincher. In the 2011 World Series, they were down to their last strike before beating Texas in Game 6, and in the 2012 playoffs they shocked Washington late before falling short against the Giants.

— Vogel-Strong. Vogelsong started the clincher in the Division Series, allowing one run in 5 2-3 innings. That made him the only pitcher in MLB history to yield no more than one run in his first five postseason starts. Curt Schilling is the only pitcher to have a longer streak at any point in his career, going six straight postseason starts allowing one run or less from 1993-2001. The 37-year-old Vogelsong, a journeyman who was out of the majors from 2007-10, finally found his niche in 2011 with San Francisco, the team that originally drafted him. He has a 1.19 postseason ERA, and the Giants have won all five of his starts.

— Postseason Pedigree. Last fall, Lackey became the first pitcher to start and win a World Series clincher for two different teams when he pitched Boston past St. Louis. The other came as an Angels rookie in 2002. He has a 2.92 ERA in 20 postseason games and seven wins, one in each of his last four series.

Associated Press photos

 
 

Posted by:Chad Jenningson Saturday, October 11th, 2014 at 7:05 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post


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