A knee injury knocked Tyler Austin out of the Arizona Fall League a few days early, but it shouldn’t significantly impact the rest of his offseason.
On Saturday, Austin was chasing a foul ball and got the worst of a collision with fellow Yankees prospect Greg Bird. Austin was reportedly carted off the field and did not return during this final week of the season.
“He has been diagnosed with a bone bruise (in his left knee),” assistant general manager Billy Eppler said in an email. “There is no damage to his meniscus or any ligament issues. He will rest for the next 2-3 weeks.”
Last year, Austin had to leave the Fall League after just four games because of that wrist issue that bothered him through much of 2013 and again caused some problems early this season. The wrist seems to have healed, and concern about the knee seems minimal.
Thursday was the Fall League finale for the Yankees. Their Scottsdale team actually had the worst record in the league and will not play in tomorrow’s championship game, but that record is really through little fault of the Yankees hitters. In fact, of all the Scottsdale players with at least 50 at-bats, the Yankees ranked first, second and third — Bird, Judge, then Austin — in OPS. In Thursday’s finale, Judge, Bird and Dante Bichette combined for seven hits, four RBI and nine total bases. Alex Smith and Kyle Haynes each added a scoreless inning out of the bullpen.
The final Yankees stats from the Fall League:
Greg Bird: .313/.391/.556
Patience and power, Bird is a Fall League MVP candidate with the highest OPS among players with at least 70 at-bats. Led the league in runs, tied for the lead in homers, second in hits and RBI. Had 10 walks and seven strikeouts in final 10 games.
Aaron Judge: .278/.377/.467
Doubled in each of his last two games, but again showed he’s more than a pure slugger. Took some walks. Hit for a pretty good average. Played only in right field (clearly not being groomed for a bench role). Ken Davidoff wrote about him, so obviously he’s pretty big-time.
Tyler Austin: .304/.392/.449
Saw time in both left field and right field — had never played left field in the minors — but got no time at either infield corner. Struck out just four times and walked five times in his last 11 games.
Dante Bichette: .260/.317/.274
Sent to Arizona only after Eric Jagielo was injured and unable to attend, Bichette had just one extra-base hit and 18 strikeouts. Kind of a continuation of his final month in Trenton. Good year overall, but still has something to prove next season.
Kyle Higashioka: .409/.480/.682
Sent with the intention of getting very limited playing time, but he made the most of his 22 at-bats. Had a hit in each of his six starts, doubled in each of his last three games. Good catcher; needs to hit to gain prospect traction.
Caleb Cotham: 13.1 IP, 14 K, 2 BB, 6.08 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
The strikeouts were pretty good, but the .321 opponents batting average was not. It’s an offensive league, and obviously Cotham wasn’t walking many guys. Cotham’s a righty, and right-handers slugged .655 against him.
Kyle Haynes: 11.2 IP, 9 K, 8 BB, 2.31 ERA, 1.63 WHIP
The ERA looks really good, but the WHIP and walks tell a different story. Haynes allowed seven runs, but only three were earned. More than 2.5 groundball outs for every flyball out.
Alex Smith: 10.1 IP, 8 BB, 7 K, 10.45 ERA, 3.19 WHIP
Smith isn’t the first pitcher to have a rough time in the Arizona Fall League, and he certainly won’t be the last. Pitched a scoreless innings in the finale, but allowed five earned runs in his two outings before that. Ultimately allowed 25 hits (a .446 opponents batting average).
A few updates from winter ball:
• Signed to a major-league contract earlier this week, lefty Jose De Paula has made two starts in the Dominican Winter League. He went five innings with five strikeouts each time, and he’s allowed just one run. Each start, though, came last month. He hasn’t pitched since October 24.
• Seems like I’ve written this every week, but it’s still true: Ramon Flores is having a really good winter. Still earning regular playing time with Tigres de Aragua in Venezuela, Flores had three hits on Wednesday, two hits and three walks on Thursday, and his winter slash line is up to .403/.477/.481 through 77 at-bats. He has nearly as many walks (11) as strikeouts (13).
• Likely heading back to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfield with Flores next season, Adonis Garcia is starting to hit a little bit more in Venezuela. He hit his first winter home run last Friday, and he has seven hits — two for extra bases — in his past four games. Still not taking many walks or hitting for much power, his slash line is .299/.343/.361.
• Also factoring into the Triple-A outfield is Eury Perez, who’s played all three outfield positions in the Dominican Winter League. He’s still getting most of his time as the Escogido leadoff hitter, but he’s slashing just .212/.212/.308 with no walks and 12 strikeouts through 52 at-bats. He’s been thrown out the two times he’s tried to steal a bag.
• It seems unlikely, but if the Yankees can’t add a second baseman or third baseman this winter, then Jose Pirela could come to camp with a real shot to win the second base job. This winter, though, most of his playing time is coming in the outfield corners. Pirela’s played the infield just four times this winter, and for the past week and a half he’s been playing only left field and right field. He has a hit in his past two games, but he has yet to repeat that dazzling first week. He’s still hitting .286/.357/.571 through 63 at-bats.
• Still bouncing all over the field in Venezuela, utility man Ali Castillo had a slow week — one hit in his past 12 at-bats, hasn’t started the past two games — but he’s still hitting .318/.347/.427 through 110 at-bats, the most at-bats of any Yankees player in winter ball. Castillo has started at second base, third base, shortstop and left field.
• A Venezuelan teammate of Castillo and Pirela, Francisco Arcia isn’t playing much these days, but he does have three hits in his past two games. He basically lost regular at-bats after Nationals catcher Sandy Leon arrived and took over as the everyday guy behind the plate. Not that Arcia hit much when he was playing. He has a .217 average with 14 strikeouts through 15 games.
• Re-signed to a minor league deal earlier this offseason, Diego Moreno got another save in Venezuela on Saturday. It was his first since October 17, when he got his fourth save in five appearances. In his past four appearances, Moreno’s pitched 3.1 scoreless innings with four hits, no walks and a strikeout. The Yankees really don’t have many notable pitchers doing much this winter. Giovanny Gallegos got a win in Mexico on Monday, but that’s about it.