The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Spring countdown 5: How to configure the Yankees bench02.16.15

Chris Young

Five days before the Yankees’ first spring workout, we’ll keep counting down the key decisions to make in spring training. We’ve already looked at picking a backup catcher, setting a lineup, figuring out Triple-A depth, rounding out the bullpen and choosing a fifth starter. Today we’ll look at a decision that’s a combination of individual evaluation and full roster analysis.

What’s the best way to setup the Yankees bench?

The bench is all about role players. It’s about having backups at every position, about having some speed and defense in the late innings, and about using match-up hitters when necessary. It’s not about simply choosing which young catcher should play once a week; it’s about truly maximizing every spot on a 25-man roster.

Assuming a pretty standard roster construction — 12 pitchers, 13 position players — the Yankees have four bench spots to work with. Here are the projected reserves, their projected roles, and a few alternative ways of approaching each spot.

Young1. Chris Young
Role: Right-handed fourth outfielder
Similar option: Tyler Austin
Alternative approach: Right-handed utility man
Clearly the Yankees re-signed Young to be on the Opening Day roster. He brings right-handed balance to the outfield, and a bounce-back season would make him a real bargain. Ramon Flores would standout as a homegrown alternative, but he’s a lefty, which limits his value in an outfield that already has two lefties in Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner (and could have another in Garrett Jones). If being a right-handed hitter is a key aspect of this role, the alternative way of approaching it might involve thinking beyond the outfield. Both Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder have outfield experience, meaning they could bring Young’s right-handed balance, but also provide some infield utility. Young has decent speed and potential for impact at-bats against lefties, which will probably be tough to pass up.

Jones2. Garrett Jones
Role: Left-handed outfield and first base depth
Similar option: Ramon Flores
Alternative approach: Prioritize either the bat or the glove
A secondary piece of the Nathan Eovaldi trade, Jones has left-handed power that makes him a solid match-up hitter against certain right-handed pitchers. He also brings value because of his ability to backup a first base, right field and designated hitter, three spots where the Yankees have significant age, health and production concerns. Flores also hits left-handed and has some first base experience, but he doesn’t bring nearly the same amount of power. Austin could be a right-handed version of the same thing. To use this roster spot differently would be to prioritize one or the other: either the bat or the glove. Either give the spot to a true utility guy (someone like Pirela who adds more defensive flexibility than Jones) or give the spot to a pure hitter (someone like Kyle Roller, who barely plays a passable version of first base, but just might bring more offensive upside). Either of those alternatives seems unlikely. Jones has just enough flexibility and just enough platoon power to actually fit the roster pretty well.

Ryan3. Brendan Ryan
Role: Backup shortstop/infielder
Similar option: Nick Noonan
Alternative approach: Let Stephen Drew back up at shortstop
If Drew is strictly a second baseman, then Ryan stands out as the only experienced option as a backup shortstop. Minor league free agent Noonan is probably next in line — seems likely to play shortstop in Triple-A — largely because guys like Refsnyder and Pirela aren’t really shortstops (Pirela’s done it in the past, but not well enough to stick at the position). Thing is, the Yankees don’t have to think of Drew strictly as a second baseman. Even if Drew is playing second base regularly, he also serve as the No. 2 option at short (kind of like Brett Gardner plays left field, but is still the No. 2 option in center). By treating Drew as the backup shortstop, the Yankees could open Ryan’s roster spot for someone who’s a lesser defender but a better hitter. In that case, either Refsnyder or Pirela could be a strong fit. It’s worth noting that losing Ryan would cut into the Yankees shortstop depth should either Drew or Didi Gregorius get hurt. Basically, the Yankees would be an injury away from having either Noonan or Cito Culver on the big league roster.

Murphy (2)4. John Ryan Murphy
Role: Backup catcher
Similar option: Austin Romine
Alternate approach: Catcher as designated hitter
Every team needs a backup catcher, so there’s really no way to approach this roster spot with any sort of radical change. One way or another, the Yankees need two catchers. The only way to look at it differently would be to use the backup catcher as a regular designated hitter. If, for example, Alex Rodriguez looks lost at the plate and Murphy looks like one of the best right-handed bats in spring training, perhaps the Yankees could regularly put both Murphy and Brian McCann in the lineup. It would essentially open a spot on the bench for Rodriguez or someone else, while also opening the possibility of losing the DH if the starting catcher can’t finish a game. Seems unlikely as an everyday approach. More likely, the Yankees will simply choose a backup catcher and use him as such.

Associated Press photo

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Spring countdown 10: Choosing a backup catcher02.11.15

 

Yankees Spring Baseball

The Yankees first spring workout is 10 days away, so this seems like a good time to start a countdown looking at the major issues the Yankees have to figure out in spring training. I’ve picked 10 items and tried to put them in some sort of order from least important to most important.

We’ll start with a decision that seems pretty straight forward.

Who should be the Yankees backup catcher on Opening Day?

Brian McCann is locked in as the starter, and Francisco Cervelli is out of the mix following his trade to Pittsburgh. That leaves the Yankees with only two logical candidates: either John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine. Based on last season, Murphy seems to be the heavy favorite. He’s the one who played the role while Cervelli was hurt last season, and he’s the one who got a call-up when rosters expanded on September 1 (Romine didn’t get a September call-up until later in the month when Cervelli had migraine issues).

That said, it wasn’t so long ago that Romine was clearly considered a better catching prospect than Murphy. Romine is also out of options, while Murphy is not. This seems to be a fairly easy choice — which is why it ranks 10th on my list of spring decisions — but it might not be a slam dunk. A quick look at the two candidates:

John RMurphy (2)yan Murphy
23 years old
In the majors: .252/.286/.327 in 107 at-bats
In the minors: .263/.327/.406 in six seasons
In Triple-A last year: .246/.292/.397 in 179 at-bats

Early in his career, Murphy spent some time at third base while he battled some doubts about his ability to stay behind the plate. In recent years, those doubts have subsided, and the Yankees seem to like him defensively. Although last year’s Triple-A stats don’t really show it, Murphy’s bat has always been his calling card. He spent two months in the big leagues last season, and midway through that stint he was hitting .400/.419/.533 in part-time duty.

RomineAustin Romine
26 years old
In the majors: .204/.247/.281 in 167 at-bats
In the minors: .272/.330/.400 in eight seasons
In Triple-A last year: .242/.300/.365 in 285 at-bats

Unlike Murphy, Romine came into pro ball with a pretty good defensive reputation, and from the end of the 2008 season to the start of the 2012 season, he consistently ranked among the organization’s top 10 prospects. He was an emergency call-up in late 2011 and finally got his first extended big league opportunity in 2013 when he was up for most of the season and hit .271/.343/.407 after the All-Star break. His bat went through extreme highs and lows in Triple-A last season.

While the Yankees do have other catchers coming to camp — including Gary Sanchez, who’s on the 40-man, and Eddy Rodriguez, who has some big league time — the backup catcher decision really does seem to come down to these two. There’s no veteran, Bobby Wilson-type on the spring roster this time. As long as McCann stays healthy, the roster seems to have room for either Murphy or Romine, but not both.

Associated Press photo

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On the 40-man: John Ryan Murphy02.02.15

John Ryan Murphy

Continuing the day’s theme of youth, the next 40-man player we’ll look at is a catcher who seems to be the heavy favorite to win the backup job out of spring training. He’s been in the big leagues before, but this is his first real chance to have a lasting impact and prove he deserves to stick around.

Murphy (2)JOHN RYAN MURPHY

Age on Opening Day: 23 (turns 24 in May)
Acquired: Second-round draft pick in 2009
Added to the 40-man: Added as a September call-up in 2013

In the past: Part of a significant influx of catching talent into the organization, Murphy was somewhat overlooked for a while. The Yankees even dabbled in using him at third base for a while, giving him a few turns at the position in 2010, 2011 and 2012. After Jesus Montero was traded and Austin Romine put up underwhelming numbers, though, Murphy began to emerge as one of the system’s safer bets behind the plate. His defensive reviews improved in the upper levels, and he held his own offensively during a two-month call-up last season.

Role in 2015: Technically we don’t know what Murphy will do this season. Realistically, our expectations are set. Although Murphy’s going to compete with Romine for the backup role in New York, the Yankees have made it pretty clear that Murphy’s at the top of the pecking order. He has options remaining, but Murphy will almost certainly make the Opening Day roster and get some real playing time. He could start against some lefties, or he could be matched up with one particular starter (Joe Girardi seems to prefer the later for his No. 2 catcher).

Best case scenario: Although he rarely got much credit for it, Francisco Cervelli actually hit pretty well during his time as the backup catcher. If Murphy can match that production, the Yankees will have been easily justified in cutting ties with Cervelli. With Murphy, though, there should be some hope for more. Ideally, Murphy will hit well enough to make the Yankees — or some willing trade partner — believe he’s capable of being an everyday guy.

Worst case scenario: Essentially, going with Murphy could cost the Yankees both Cervelli (who was traded to open a job) and Romine (who’s out of options). If Murphy’s bat isn’t what the Yankees expect — remember, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire down in Triple-A last year — then the Yankees will have dumped a reliable backup catcher and a once promising prospect in favor of a young guy who can’t match the previous level of production. If Murphy’s not up to the task, the Yankees once overwhelming catching depth could suddenly be nothing more than Gary Sanchez (who might not stick at the position) and Luis Torrens (who’s a teenager with years of hurdles between himself and the big leagues).

What the future holds: Murphy’s best-case scenario seems more likely than his worst-case scenario. Last season’s call-up showed he should be capable of — at the very least — solid production in a part-time role. In that capacity alone he could stick around as the backup through the duration of Brian McCann’s contract. The greater threat to Murphy’s future might be Sanchez. If he takes off, the Yankees could once again have too many catchers, and this time Murphy could be the odd man out.

Associated Press photo

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Yankees youth movement is an ongoing process02.02.15

Refsnyder (Farmer)

As Jackson wrote this morning, the Yankees made an obvious effort to get younger this winter. They traded away one young starter, but added an even younger one. They went with a 24-year-old to fill their glaring hole at shortstop. They made two long-term commitments, neither was signed beyond his 34th birthday. They made a boatload of trades, but kept nearly all of their high-end prospects.

So just how overwhelming was this youth movement? It wasn’t universal — some positions are still tied to veteran contracts — but if this is a trend and not just a one-winter effort, the Yankees might have set themselves on a path to be younger still within a few years.

Murphy (2)CATCHER
In place: Brian McCann, 31 years old, signed through 2018
Getting younger: The Yankees commitment to McCann created a roadblock behind the plate (which might speak to the uncertainty about whether John Ryan Murphy or Gary Sanchez can be everyday catcher in the big leagues). The Yankees did, however, commit to either Murphy or Austin Romine being their backup, which is a clear attempt to give a young player a chance.
Next in line: Sanchez should be in Triple-A this season. He just turned 22 in December, so he’s still awfully young for his level. If his offensive numbers begin to match his raw talent, and if his receiving skills take a step forward, he could be pushing for a big league job next season and eventually force the Yankees to make a decision of Sanchez vs. McCann. Before then, Murphy should have an extended opportunity to show what he can do in the big leagues. Luis Torrens is very good, but he’s also way too young to be in the big league picture just yet.

BirdFIRST BASE
In place: Mark Teixeira, 34 years old, signed through 2016
Getting younger: The Yankees really made no effort to get younger at first base this winter. Their hands were essentially tied because of their ongoing commitment to Teixeira, who’s deal still has two more years. For a backup option, the the Yankees traded for Garrett Jones and suggested Alex Rodriguez getting some time at the position, all of which could block a brief window of opportunity for Kyle Roller, who had an .875 OPS in Triple-A last year.
Next in line: Roller is at the top of the minor league depth chart, but he’s not necessarily next in line for the position. The guy best poised to replace Teixeira in two years is Greg Bird. He’s coming off a standout regular season and the MVP award in the Arizona Fall League. Bird seems likely to open in Double-A, which puts him on a pretty good trajectory — as long as he keeps moving forward — to have a real shot at the first base position when Teixeira is gone in 2017.

RefsnyderSECOND BASE
In place: Stephen Drew, 32 years old, signed through 2015
Getting younger: In their own weird way, the Yankees kind of opened the door to getting younger at second base. The job would have been Martin Prado’s with no questions asked, but the Yankees traded Prado and signed Drew, who comes with a much smaller commitment and much higher chance of being dumped to the bench should Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela play well enough to win the second base job.
Next in line: One other thing about Drew: he’s only signed for one year; Prado had two years left. While the Yankees still believe Refsnyder has the potential to be an everyday second baseman — last year could have only reinforced that idea — his experience at the position is limited, and another turn at Triple-A could finish off his development. Pirela has taken an obvious step forward, but Refsnyder is still the top second base prospect in the system, one of the better second base prospects in baseball, and he could take the job — and keep it — sooner rather than later.

GregoriusSHORTSTOP
In place: Didi Gregorius, 25 years old, pre-arbitration
Getting younger: The Yankees could have signed Drew early in the offseason, put him at shortstop and been done with it for the time being. Or maybe they could have signed Jed Lowrie, or traded for Jimmy Rollins. Instead, they acquired Gregorius, a 25-year-old on Opening Day who has yet to really establish himself in the big leagues. His glove is strong and his bat is questionable, but he’ll get every opportunity to play shortstop regularly this season and beyond.
Next in line: Really, no one. Not in the immediate future, anyway. The Yankees have Jorge Mateo and others in the lowest levels of the minor league system, but that group is a long way from the big league radar. Unless Cito Culver’s bat finally takes a sudden leap forward, there’s really no shortstop in the system who’s remotely close to the big leagues. That’s one reason Gregorius seems likely to get multiple chances and a long leash. Aside from stopgaps Drew and Brendan Ryan — and minor league free agent Nick Noonan — there’s really no one else in the picture.

JagieloTHIRD BASE
In place: Chase Headley, 30 years old, signed through 2018
Getting younger: Compared to 39-year-old Alex Rodriguez, Headley does make the Yankees younger at third base. And compared to players signed into their late 30s, Headley will remain relatively young through the end of his contract. While the Yankees have some third base talent in the system, there wasn’t anyone ready to take a shot at the big league job.
Next in line: Pirela and Rob Segedin probably fit in this conversation somewhere, but it’s really the two guys who shared third base time in High-A Tampa last year who are next in line. Eric Jagielo and Dante Bichette Jr. are each first round picks with some uncertainty about whether they’ll be good enough — offensively and defensively — to eventually play third base regularly in the big leagues. Miguel Andujar is lurking lower in the system, but before he’s truly on the verge, a full year in Double-A should provide some clarity about what to expect from Jagielo and Bichette.

FloresLEFT FIELD
In place: Brett Gardner, 31 years old, signed through 2018
Getting younger: Instead of opening the door for a homegrown prospect, the Yankees committed to a homegrown big leaguer. Gardner is one of the farm system’s true success stories of the past decade; one of their very few position players to actually become an everyday guy in the majors. Last spring, the Yankees gave him a four-year extension plus a team option. With his speed and defense, he’s been a solid everyday guy his past four healthy seasons.
Next in line: Ramon Flores could be on the verge of a big league role, but he’s typically labeled more of a fourth outfielder than a future starter (granted, so was Gardner, but Flores hasn’t shown Gardner’s speed or defense). The upper levels of the Yankees system have several other left field candidates like that — Pirela, Taylor Dugas, Ben Gamel, a few guys who usually play center field — so it might be a matter of someone exceeding expectations, someone moving positions, or Gardner keeping his job for a while.

HeathcottCENTER FIELD
In place: Jacoby Ellsbury, 31 years old, signed through 2020
Getting younger: This is one spot where the Yankees seem fully committed. Even if Ellsbury were to get hurt, the center field job would likely transfer to Gardner before it went to one of the young guys in the minor league system. The Yankees have some center fielders close to the big leagues, but they’re all left-handed, and basically their best-case scenario is to eventually become lesser versions of Ellsbury himself.
Next in line: It will be interesting to see how the Yankees react if one of their center field prospects has a huge year in Double-A or Triple-A. If Slade Heathcott is healthy and productive, if Mason Williams starts to hit again, or if Jake Cave takes another leap forward, would the Yankees simply trade away the prospect or try to find a place for him in New York? Leonardo Molina is an interesting young player in the lower levels, but he’s far from the big league roster. First the Yankees have to figure out what they have in Heathcott, Williams and Cave (and what to do with them while Ellsbury’s in place).

JudgeRIGHT FIELD
In place: Carlos Beltran, 37 years old, signed through 2016
Getting younger: Basically the exact same situation that the Yankees are dealing with at first base. The organization has high-end right field talent entering the upper levels of the minor league system, but the team is also tied to a declining veteran for two more seasons. The Yankees added some short-term right field depth with Jones and Chris Young, which might block a young guy, but there’s also no guarantee a young guy will be ready to play right field this season.
Next in line: After last season’s strong second half, Tyler Austin seems ready for Triple-A, and his bat can’t be dismissed as a right field option. But the clear standout here is Aaron Judge, generally considered the top positive prospect in the system who had a standout professional debut and should open in Double-A. Just like Bird at first base, Judge seems to be on a good trajectory to have a shot at the right field job by the time Beltran is gone in 2017.

TanakaROTATION
Youth in place: Masahiro Tanaka, 26 years old; Michael Pineda, 26 years old; Nathan Eovaldi, 25 years old; Ivan Nova, 28 years old
Age in place: CC Sabathia, 34 years old; Chris Capuano, 36 years old
Getting younger: The youth movement has been a process in the rotation, and it was hard to notice until this winter when the trade for Eovaldi put the Yankees in line to eventually have four 20-somethings in their rotation this season. Signing Tanaka gave the Yankees the young ace they’ve been unable to develop internally, and Eovaldi gave them an experienced big leaguer who’s a month younger than prospect Jose Ramirez. As long as Nova gets healthy, the Yankees will have a pretty young big league rotation by mid-summer.
Next in line: How fast can Luis Severino make it to the big leagues? That’s the question. Are the dominant numbers he put up last season a true sign of his long-term potential, and can he jump on a fast track that leads to New York by late 2015 or early 2016? The Yankees have other upper level starters (Bryan Mitchell is the headliner) and they have intriguing lower-level talent (Ian Clarkin headlines that group), but Severino is the guy who immediately jumps out as the next impact arm for the rotation. He could easily be in Triple-A at some point this season, perhaps on Opening Day.

BetancesBULLPEN
In place: Andrew Miller, 29; Dellin Betances, 27; David Carpenter, 29; Adam Warren, 27; Justin Wilson, 27
Getting younger: Miller and Dave Robertson are basically the same age, so that swap was a wash in terms of youth in the bullpen. But the Yankees have gotten younger by transitioning from Shawn Kelley to Carpenter, and from Matt Thornton to Wilson. They’ve also found good young relievers in Betances and Warren. This winter, they also acquired several young bullpen arms, and last summer they drafted a high-rising reliever. The bullpen has added some youth without losing its reliable depth.
Next in line: The core of the Yankees bullpen has no one who will be older than 30 at the end of the year, and Miller’s the only one tied to a long-term contract. That’s a pretty young core as it is, but the Yankees have legitimate power arms on the way. Jacob Lindgren and Chasen Shreve stand out from the left side; Nick Rumbelow, Jose Ramirez and Branden Pinder have Triple-A experience from the right side. The bullpen is fairly young as it is, and there’s more young talent on the way.

Photo from the Scranton Times-Tribune

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Pinch hitting: Jackson Ward02.02.15

J.R. Murphy, Derek Jeter

Today’s Pinch Hitter is Jackson Ward, a high school senior from Wilton, Conn. Jackson plays three roles on his varsity baseball team: pitcher, middle infielder and captain. He also writes for the local paper and is considering a journalism degree once he figures out where to go to college (with his credentials, I’m thinking The Players’ Tribune might hire him). Jackson wrote that he’s been following the Yankees all his life – “used to fall asleep at night listening to John Sterling,” he said – but it was only in the past couple of years that he started really getting into the nuts and bolts of the organization.

For his post, a young baseball player wrote about the good and the bad of young baseball players – and the lasting value of the old veterans.

Luis SeverinoThis winter, the Yankees have shocked very many people by doing very little.

A year ago, they invested nearly half a billion dollars in new contracts. Before that, they signed guys like Mark Teixiera, CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez to multi-year, multi-million-dollar deals.

This winter they’ve stuck to smaller free agents and the trade market.

One of the reasons for this change is the front office’s stated goal of making the team younger. While it is not fair to say the Yankees are a “young” team – they’re still tied to those massive contracts of the past — it is undeniable that the Yankees have looked to add younger players while passing on long-term commitments to older players. They’ve achieved their goal of getting younger, however, this could go against the Yankees long-standing “win-now” policy.

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of having more youth on the roster?

The argument for youth is pretty simple. Younger players have more energy, should be less injury-prone, and provide long-term solutions without an immediate danger of decline. The downside is just as simple. Most young players are unproven, and aside from the Mike Trouts of the world, most young players cannot be consistently relied on to perform. They simply have not proven that they can get the job done.

And so, while Didi Gregorious, Nathan Eovaldi, Rob Refsnyder, Jose Pirela or even Luis Severino may have worlds of talent and outstanding minor league numbers, there is no guarantee that any of these players will perform at the big league level. Relying on them poses a risk. Just remember Yangervis Solarte, who looked like a saving grace last year until he stopped hitting after the month of April. While it would be nice to imagine another Core Four coming to the Bronx, can Gregorious, Eovaldi, John Ryan Murphy and Dellin Betances really be relied on as the future of the franchise? Certainly none of these players has done anything to prove otherwise, but they haven’t done anything to confirm it either. They’re question marks, with all their highs and lows coming in relatively small samples. Only time will tell what kind of impact they can have on the big league club.

While youth is unproven, older players bring experience and leadership essential to any club. One of the nice things about the Yankees roster is that it is filled with veteran players who have proven to be tremendous clubhouse presences. Sabathia, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and even Rodriguez have shown a willingness to help younger players adjust to big league life. The Yankees will have a plethora of young players who will need guidance, but they will also have an abundance of senior leaders, players who have been through entire 162-game seasons and postseasons. These players stepping up, not only on the field but also in the locker room, will be essential to the success of the team this year.

Something interesting to watch in the coming weeks will be the eventual bidding war for Cuban superstar Yoan Moncada. The Yankees have refused to pay heavily for older talent this winter (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Hanley Ramirez, Brandon McCarthy, etc.). Will they be willing to open the checkbooks for a younger talent? An unproven talent? A guy who might have All-Star potential but might also need time in the minor leagues?

It once again brings up the old vs. young, talent vs. experience, argument. We are still talking about the New York Yankees here, and while George Steinbrenner may no longer be in charge, the Yankees are still one of the most valuable franchises in sports. So, if the Yankees aren’t willing to spend big on older players, will they spend eight or nine figures on a 19-year old with worlds of potential?

The answer to this question may be an indication of the Yankees’ plan for the future.

Regardless, the Yankees still have to field a team and attempt to win in 2015. The Yankees could have the right mix of veteran and younger talent in the right places. Veteran infielders compliment the younger ones. A veteran backstop can help a young pitching staff and a younger backup. Beltran has long been an advocate for player’s rights and reached out to young Latin players in his first spring training with the Yankees.

Without a doubt, there are countless questions for the Yankees coming into the season, but solid veteran leadership just may be the answer to most of them.

Associated Press photos

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The Yankees 2014 rookie class11.10.14

Dellin Betances

Tonight the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will announce its choices for Rookie of the Year. We already know one Yankees player is going to finish in the top three — Dellin Betances was announced as a finalist — but this really was a pretty solid year for rookies in pinstripes. Here’s look back at a five-man ballot for an all-Yankees Rookie of the Year.

Betances1. Dellin Betances
By the numbers: 90 IP, 0.78 WHIP, 1.40 ERA, 135 K, 24 BB
What he meant: So good he earned Mariano Rivera comparisons
Coming into spring training, Betances didn’t have a big league job, and he had an extra option that meant the Yankees didn’t have to keep him on the roster. But he pitched well in big league camp, made the most of some early season opportunities, and emerged as one of the very best relief pitchers in baseball. The Yankees waited through a lot of minor league ups and downs, and the patience paid off. Betances looks like a bullpen mainstay, and quite possibly a near-future closer.

Tanaka2. Masahiro Tanaka
By the numbers: 136.1 IP, 1.06 WHIP, 2.77 ERA, 141 K, 21 BB
What he meant: Huge investment paid off in a big way before elbow injury
Angels rookie Matt Shoemaker was announced as a ROY finalists, but compare his numbers to Tanaka’s: Shoemaker had a 1.07 WHIP and 3.04 ERA through 136 innings. He had fewer strikeouts and more walks than Tanaka, but he was healthy in the second half and helped push the Angels to the top of the American League West. Shoemaker won seven of his last eight starts, which might have helped him finish higher in the ROY voting, but in the big picture, Tanaka was just as good if not better.

Greene3. Shane Greene
By the numbers: 78.2 IP, 1.40 WHIP, 3.78 ERA, 81 K, 29 BB
What he meant: Mid-season call-up helped solidify the short-handed rotation
Always kind of an on-the-verge prospect — one who got some attention, but never really emerged as a standout — Greene took a giant step forward last season, and he made he good impression this spring. By the time the Yankees desperately needed rotation help in early July, Greene was the top candidate. And he was terrific. Numbers would have been even better if not for two rough starts in September. In 14 starts, only twice allowed more than four earned runs (allowed three or fewer 11 times).

Murphy (2)4. John Ryan Murphy
By the numbers: 81 AB, .284/.318/.370
What he meant: Productive backup catcher while Francisco Cervelli was hurt
Fewer at-bats, but Murphy finished with a slash line pretty similar to that of Yangervis Solarte, who was one of the biggest surprises of the year before his mid-season trade. Murphy’s production was a bit inconsistent, but that might be a product of inconsistent playing time. For the most part, he looked like a productive young catcher who could fully replace Cervelli next season. Still determining whether Murphy is a long-term backup or a future starter. He was good in a limited role.

Whitley5. Chase Whitley
By the numbers: 75.2 IP, 1.48 WHIP, 5.23 ERA, 60 K, 18 BB
What he meant: Provided a temporary and unexpected boost for the rotation
After years of productive but not-quite-overwhelming relief work in Triple-A, Whitley went unselected in the Rule 5 draft. Then he broke camp as a full-time starter and saw his stock rise in a big way. Called up for a spot start in mid-May, Whitley’s first seven starts were terrific, then he stumbled, made one more really good start and moved into the bullpen where he was pretty good again late in the year. A year ago he was passed over in the Rule 5. Now he looks like a pretty good long-man, spot-start candidate.

SolarteHonorable mention: Yangervis Solarte
By the numbers: 252 AB, .254/.337/.381
What he meant: Surprise regular third baseman became key trade chip
The real point of looking back at the Yankees top rookies is to think about what these guys might do in the future. In that way, Solarte doesn’t exactly fit because he’s now in San Diego. But his rookie year was a pretty good one, and if this were a normal ROY ballot, he’d probably rank fourth ahead of Murphy and behind Greene (maybe even third ahead of Greene). His first two months were incredible. From June 10 through the trade, though, he hit just .078 without an extra-base hit.

Associated Press photo

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Cervelli, Murphy, Romine: It’s time to choose a backup catcher10.06.14

John Ryan Murphy

Last winter, the Yankees picked their everyday catcher. They signed Brian McCann, locked him into a long-term deal and basically cemented his spot in the regular lineup. It’s McCann’s job, and there was nothing about his slow start last season that put him at risk of losing that job, just like there was nothing about his strong month of September that helped him keep the job.

McCann’s the Yankees catcher. Going to be that way for the next several years.

This winter, the Yankees have to pick their backup. At the very least they need to trim the field from three to two. Carrying Francisco Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine was an overabundance during the season, and it’s pretty wasteful this winter.

Francisco CervelliGary Sanchez is going to need Triple-A at-bats next season, and there’s little sense in making both Murphy and Romine sit around. Pretty sure Romine’s out of options anyway, so sending him to Triple-A might not even be an option.

“I think they get frustrated up and down in Triple-A,” Mark Newman said. “At some point you’ve got to either put them up there or trade them because they’ll die (if you leave them in the minors). You’ll destroy their value and then you won’t get anything for them.”

Neither Murphy nor Romine hit a ton in the minors this season, but you have to wonder how much of that was due to frustration, uncertainty and maybe even a little boredom. Murphy certainly held his own when he was in the big leagues, and Romine did the same late in his big league stint during the 2013 season.

They’ve done enough to at least compete head-to-head for a big league job in spring training.

That said, Cervelli is looking more and more like a pretty nice player. At the very least I’d consider him a high-end reserve, and he just might be a lower-end regular. He’s hit pretty well and pitchers seem to like throwing to him. He’s done nothing to lose his job. In fact, it’s largely to his credit that Murphy and Romine were stuck in the minors most of the season. Cervelli played well when he was healthy, and he earned the gig.

So what to do this winter? If there’s a team out there that values Cervelli as a potential starter, and is willing to treat him as such on the trade market, that seems like the obvious way to go. Trading Cervelli lets the Yankees get younger and cheaper. That said, Cervelli is still not overly expensive or particularly old, and if there’s significant value in trading Murphy or Romine, that would make sense as well.

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “Go back to Jeter’s prime”09.06.14

Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury, Martin Prado, Chris Young

As I type this, there are No. 2 flags already flying over Yankee Stadium, and there’s some sort of crew in center field no doubt beginning to setup whatever the Yankees have planned for Derek Jeter tomorrow. There’s no one in this stadium or in this game who doesn’t know the significance of Jeter’s name, which means Brandon McCarthy was well aware of just how hefty a comparison he was making after tonight’s win against the Royals.

Martin Prado had returned from a hamstring injury to deliver three hits, two of them doubles and each of them in an inning when the Yankees scored. He’s been blistering hot for about three weeks now, and if the Yankees actually make a run into the postseason, it will surely be in no small part because of Prado’s arrival.

“Hitters like that, the biggest compliment you can give is that they’re just a pain in the (butt),” McCarthy said. “Go back to Jeter’s prime, that’s exactly (what Prado’s doing). He’s not knocking balls 20 rows deep. He’s not just driving the ball all over. But they’re just always on pitches. They’re hard to get out. It’s just line drive after line drive after line drive, and the weeks that those start to fall, it’s easy for a lineup to just kind of carry on his momentum.”

Since August 16, Prado has hit .403 with four home runs, 14 runs and 11 RBI. After slugging just .370 in Arizona, Prado has slugged .527 since coming to the Yankees at the trade deadline. He’s hitting .469 with eight RBI in his past eight games at Yankee Stadium.

No one would suggest he’s having a Jeter-like career, but in this little stretch, McCarthy sees a little of the captain in a guy who was his teammate in Arizona and now again in New York.

“It’s been awesome to see him back where he wants to be and where everyone wants to see him these last few weeks,” McCarthy said. “He’s really just starting to hit the ball well. Everything that I remember from Prado toward the end of last season and in Atlanta, today was just kind of an extension of that. Just come right in after missing a few days and just don’t skip a beat and just carry the team.”

The Yankees told Prado to take it easy today. He was healthy enough to play, but they didn’t want him to push it. That’s why he wasn’t moving very well around the bases. He was trying to do just enough to get the job done without taking the risk of further injury. For a player on this kind of roll — a player evoking at least one comparison to Jeter in his prime — even playing at 70 or 80 percent was enough to make a difference.

“It’s been killing me just to see everybody grind it out up there every single day and knowing that we got a pretty good chance to do something special here,” Prado said. “So I put myself in a spot where I’m just going up there (and play). I’m a guy to always go 100 percent, but in this case I got to just play a little bit smart. … I’m in a stage where I can not tell you if I’m 70 percent, 80 percent, but the way I’m playing right now, it feels normal.”

GardnerMild injury update on Brett Gardner.

Although Joe Girardi was trying to load the lineup with right-handed hitters to face Danny Duffy, Gardner was actually sidelined and unavailable because of a recurrence of that lower abdominal pain that bothered him in Cleveland earlier this season. He missed only one game in Cleveland and he’s hoping for the same in this situation.

“Yesterday during the game I didn’t really feel right,” he said. “Same thing maybe a couple months ago in Cleveland something going on like lower abdominal area. I don’t really know exactly what’s going on, but (there is) tightness. Something I feel if I push it I’m going to make it worse. I don’t feel like I’m 100 percent, so hopefully I’ll come in feeling better tomorrow, but right now I don’t have any test scheduled. Just got some treatment today and that’s it.”

Gardner said there wasn’t one particular play when he felt it happen, it was just bothering him yesterday and he finally said something about it after the game.

Brandon McCarthy• If the Yankees make the postseason, would they owe the Kevin Towers a playoff share? Not only is Prado on a roll, but McCarthy has been outstanding. The guy who had a 5.01 ERA in Arizona now has a 2.79 ERA since coming to the Yankees. The team has won seven of his 11 starts. “It’s nice just to contribute,” McCarthy said. “I spent the first half of the season being a hindrance on an organization, and that’s something that doesn’t sit well. To come somewhere where there’s a playoff race going on and you’re a positive influence and something that’s helping the team, that’s really all you can ask for when you’re playing.”

• McCarthy went 6.2 innings with six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. He got huge outs when he needed them but seemed mostly unimpressed with his stuff. “Battled,” he said. “Wasn’t really sharp, but I felt like Murphy did a good job getting me through it and making sure that I could kind of keep going deeper in the game and make those runs that they gave me early hold up.”

• Speaking of John Ryan Murphy, he’d never caught McCarthy outside of one bullpen. He based most of his decisions on what he’d learned from Francisco Cervelli, Brian McCann and Larry Rothschild. “As far as game planning, I got with Cervi and Mac, Larry and all them,” Murphy said. “As far as pitch-calling, I kind of just read that off the way his bullpen goes before the game.”

• Girardi on Murphy: “It’s not like he saw (McCarthy) in spring training or anything like that, so it is impressive. He had a great day for us, getting us started with a double in his first at-bat. Did a great job with McCarthy. Swung the bat extremely well. Kept the one inning going when they throw ball away and we get a run. He had a really impressive day.”

• With nine wins, McCarthy has actually matched a career high. Six of those have come with the Yankees, only three with Arizona. This was his first win since the complete-game shutout on August 21.

Jacoby Ellsbury• Having stacked the lineup with right-handers, Girardi’s plan kind of backfired when Duffy only lasted one pitch. “You figure you stay with (the lineup) a little bit, and then at a point you’re going to make some changes,” Girardi said. “I went through it twice, in a sense, and then I decided to make the changes, because if you make the changes too early, then you can get stacked left handers, I’m worried about Prado a little bit, how he’s going to make it through the game, so I had to be somewhat careful. I knew I didn’t have Gardy. So get through it twice and see where we’re at.”

• Of course, it’s worth noting that Duffy has been extremely good this season. He entered with a 2.42 ERA, so the Yankees went from facing one of the game’s better left-handers this season to facing a bunch of relievers. “My initial reaction is, you set your lineup up against a lefty and now they’re bringing in a righty,” Girardi said. “I’m like, OK. I started thinking about when do you turning it over, making your moves. But we took advantage of it today. Duffy’s been throwing the ball as well as anyone since about the middle of June.”

• Mark Teixeira got his 1,500th career hit in the American League. He has another 174 in the National League.

• Derek Jeter recorded his 40th RBI with a sacrifice fly in the third inning. He has now recorded 40-plus RBI in 18 seasons, surpassing Mickey Mantle for the most 40-plus RBI seasons in franchise history.

• Final word to McCarthy, speaking about himself and Prado coming over from Arizona: “For us and Chase (Headley) and the guys that came over, you’re getting out of situations where teams were out of it early. You weren’t playing as well as you wanted to play, and that kind of weighs on you. To come somewhere where you’re thrust into a playoff race, and for all of us to kind of get back to where we’d like to be, playing well, I think it’s a weight off all of our shoulders.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: “To single him out is not fair”09.02.14

Derek Jeter

Joe Girardi made a change at the top of the order today, just not the change so many have been suggesting. Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the leadoff spot, Brett Gardner is batting third for the first time, and Derek Jeter is still right in between them as the No. 2 hitter.

“For the first four months of the year, he was probably one of our most consistent hitters,” Girardi said. “One of the three most consistent hitters in our club. I consider us kind of to be in playoff mode right now, for us, because we obviously need to win games. Throughout his career, he’s been clutch in the playoffs, and we’re leaving him there. He’s a hot topic always just because of who he is, but there’s other issues that we have in our club that we have to get better at as well.”

Is there pressure to keep Jeter in that spot for his final month?

“No, not necessarily,” Girardi said. “… If I had eight other guys hitting .300, it probably wouldn’t be difficult (to move him down). When you look up and down at our numbers, we’ve had a number of guys that have had tough years. Years that we wouldn’t have projected. So (if) I move him, who am I going to put there? That’s my question. Who you going to move there that’s been more consistent during the course of the season. We haven’t hit collectively as a team, and to single him out is not fair. … (Rank) 13 out of 15 in runs scored. That’s not all Derek’s fault. That’s collectively we haven’t hit.”

Of course, it’s hard to know how much of Girardi’s persistence with Jeter is because of external pressure — because of who Jeter is and what his final season means — and how much is because of the disappointing hitters around him. The Yankees really haven’t had many consistent alternatives. Martin Prado is hot right now, but his first few weeks with the team were underwhelming. Gardner is coming off a bad month. Mark Teixeira is coming off a terrible month.

“(Jeter) could hit .600 and if the other guys don’t produce around him and through the lineup, then it’s not going to matter what he hits,” Girardi said. “So, as I said, it’s going to have to be a collection of all these guys that can swing the bat extremely well. And if one guy’s not, the other guy picks him up. That’s the bottom line.”

Masahiro Tanaka• Masahiro Tanaka has been examined by Dr. Chris Ahmad, who diagnosed him with nothing more than arm fatigue. “Every manual test that they did came out really well,” Girardi said. “They just said he had some arm fatigue. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen sometime this week and hopefully he’s ready to do it.” Tanaka played catch today and apparently had no issues.

• For those confused by the move: Putting Tanaka on the 60-day doesn’t really mean much. Those moves are always retroactive, and he’s missed close to 60 days already. He could still come back this season.

• David Phelps threw a 25-pitch bullpen this afternoon (fastballs and changeups), and he’s scheduled for a 35-pitch bullpen on Friday (all of his pitches). Phelps said he expects to throw a simulated game on Sunday, and that might be the final step toward getting him off the disabled list and into the bullpen. “I know that we’ve been going kind of conservative with it just to make sure everything comes back,” Phelps said. “All of the steps have been good along the way, so it shouldn’t be too long.”

• Of the Yankees eight September call-ups, five are relievers. Two of those — Whitley and Mitchell — are basically long men. “Obviously pitching is always important this time of year,” Girardi said. “It gives you more options, with a doubleheader coming up eventually here.”

• Why John Ryan Murphy but not Austin Romine? “The organization made the decision to go with (Murphy),” Girardi said. “Obviously I don’t get to see either one of them play a lot. So they went with Murphy.”

• Not much of a surprise that Chris Young got a call-up. I have to imagine that was a condition of any contract he was looking to sign after being released. “(He’s) been pretty productive in his career off left-handers,” Girardi said.

• If there’s a surprise among the call-ups, it’s certainly Antoan Richardson. “Speed off the bench,” Girardi said. Richardson played with Atlanta a little bit in 2011. He was 26-for-27 stealing bases with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he also had a .380 on-base percentage. Kind of a custom-made September call-up, just wasn’t sure the Yankees would actually make the move to get him on the 40-man.

• Zoilo Almonte was designated for assignment after leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in home runs and RBI this season. After Almonte struggled in New York last season, Girardi just never seemed to have much faith in his ability to hit big league right-handers the way he did in Triple-A. His splits are so extreme that, despite being a switch hitter, he’s likely a platoon player at best. Last year might have been his opportunity to show something, but he hit .236/.274/.302 (vRHP .250/.296/.342).

• Why Gardner batting third? “He’s probably been as good against right-handers as anyone in our lineup,” Girardi said. “I left Jake in the one hole. My concern in switching the guys when they both were going well was that they’re both going well, why move them. So I put Jake in the one hole when Gardy got hurt and he did extremely well. I’ll leave him there and just put Gardy third.”

• On Ellsbury’s health: “I saw him run on Sunday, which, I was really encouraged,” Girardi said. “He said he felt better yesterday and felt better today and that’s why I have him in center. In saying that, I told him, look, if you feel that it’s an issue out there you’ve got to let me know. If you feel you need to DH a day, you have to let me know.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Looking ahead to September08.18.14

Yankees Pirates Spring Baseball

This post contains way too many words about possible September call-ups.

Why is this way too many? Because aside from the possibility of a left-handed reliever, there really don’t seem to be any impact September call-ups on the horizon. A few guys will come up to provide pitching and bench depth, but that’s about it. There isn’t a ton of playing time up for grabs, and there aren’t many obvious auditions that could take place. A left-handed reliever might get into some key situations, but that’s about it. If the Yankees fall completely out of contention, I suppose they could give a guy like Bryan Mitchell a start or maybe give Zoilo Almonte a chance to make a fresh impression with some right field starts. Ultimately, though, I wouldn’t expect a ton out of the September additions.

But, I like minor league baseball and I think September call-ups are interesting, so here are a few thoughts and possibilities broken into four pretty typical September call-up categories.

Bryan MitchellBULLPEN DEPTH
Pretty standard September addition. The Yankees have been playing with an eight-man pitching staff for quite a while now, but even so, they’re still likely to add a few guys just to give them depth down the stretch.

Best bet: RHP Bryan Mitchell
He’s been up and down a few times, and he’s been pitching well out of the Triple-A rotation. He’s pretty much custom-made for providing innings, and there’s a real benefit to giving him some more big league experience. Seems like a strong candidate to be a rotation candidate at some point next season, even if he opens the year in Triple-A.

Keep in mind: RHP David Phelps
Worth remembering that Phelps is currently on the disabled list but due to be reevaluated today. Phelps was pitching pretty well before that mess of a start in Boston, and he could certainly move right back into the rotation once he’s healthy again. That could essentially push Chris Capuano into a bullpen role as another long man.

Uncertainty: RHP Preston Claiborne and RHP Matt Daley
Both are on the 40-man roster, but both are also on the Triple-A disabled list. If they’re healthy, it would be easy to call up both Claiborne and Daley to be extra middle-inning or extra-inning arms. Claiborne seems pretty close to coming off the disabled list. Another injured Triple-A reliever, Jose Ramirez, won’t be healthy in time to come up next month.

Worth mentioning: RHP Brandon Pinder, RHP Diego Moreno, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Danny Burawa
Montgomery and Burawa have been demoted to Double-A, which probably isn’t a good sign for them getting a call-up to the big leagues. Worth mentioning, though, because all four have been pretty good at times this season, and all four should be Rule 5 eligible this winter. If any of these pitchers are going to be protected in the offseason, might make sense to go ahead and add them to the roster now. My guess would be that Pinder is at the top of this particular pecking order right now. Veteran RHP Jim Miller could also be part of this discussion if the Yankees want a short-term roster addition just to provide some innings.

Probably not: RHP Nick Rumbelow
He’s moved quickly through the system and has been alright since getting to Triple-A, but he’s not Rule 5 eligible yet and there’s probably no reason to have him filling a 40-man spot all winter just so he can get a mopup inning or two in September.

Manuel BanuelosLEFT-HANDED RELIEVER
The Yankees might very well bring up a new lefty before September 1, but given the fact they’re not carrying a true left-on-left specialist, it seems like a solid bet that they’ll eventually give some young lefty a call-up. Might even try more than one.

Best bet: LHP Manny Banuelos
Can’t say for certain that Banuelos is the “best bet” to come up as a left-on-left reliever, but he’s the only option who’s currently on the 40-man roster. He’s also pitched pretty well lately, which is surely easing some of the concerns about his early season inconsistency. Whether a career starter — and a young one at that — would be a viable situational lefty, I have no idea. But having a spot on the 40-man makes him an easy call-up if the Yankees want to either get his feet wet or see what he can do in a fairly important role.

Keep in mind: LHP Jacob Lindgren
The Yankees first-round draft pick back in June was a college reliever who throws pretty hard from the left side, and the Yankees have already pushed him all the way to Double-A. Pitching in Trenton isn’t exactly knocking on the door, but Lindgren has a big arm and a bunch of strikeouts and it’s not unheard of for a team to push a college reliever all the way to the big leagues in his first pro season.

Uncertainty: LHP Chris Capuano
He won’t be a September call-up, but Capuano factors into this discussion because of David Phelps. If Phelps is ready to return to the rotation fairly quickly, he could takeover for Capuano, who could move into a left-on-left role out of the bullpen. A possibility if the Yankees aren’t sure any of the young guys can handle the job.

Worth mentioning: LHP Tyler Webb, LHP James Pazos, LHP Francisco Rondon, SHP Pat Venditte
My guess is that all of these except Webb should be considered real long shots. I mention Pazos because he has good numbers in Double-A and the Yankees seem to like his arm; Rondon because he was once on the 40-man and has had the Yankees attention at various points; and Venditte because he’s been a pretty solid reliever for years now and has generally been pretty good with that side-arm delivery against lefties. Webb, though, is the left-handed relief prospect who’s most on the radar. Doesn’t have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft yet, but the Yankees have been pretty aggressive with him and he’s probably their most advanced left-handed relief prospect.

Probably not: LHP Nik Turley
There are actually a ton of lefties on the Triple-A pitching staff right now, including Turley, Matt Tracy and Jeremy Bleich, all of whom would be capable of giving multiple innings and — in theory — matching up against a left-handed hitter. My thinking, though, is: If the Yankees are going to try a long-time starter in this role in September, why not just try Banuelos? That’s easier than putting some of the other non-traditional relievers onto the roster. Know who else is a probably not? Cesar Cabral. The guy was actually in the big leagues at one point this year, but he’s fallen completely off the radar. Double-A lefties are knocking him around.

Austin Romine, Adam WarrenEXTRA CATCHER
Happens basically every September that teams give themselves an extra catcher for the final month of the season. The question with the Yankees isn’t whether they’ll call up a third catcher, it’s whether they’ll call up a fourth catcher.

Best bet: C John Ryan Murphy
Even thought it was Austin Romine who came up when Brian McCann went on the disabled list, I’m still going to bet that Murphy is the best bet for a September call-up. I’m basing that almost entirely on the fact that Murphy played well during his extended big league call-up earlier this season, and based on the fact that Mark Newman has said Murphy is likely to come off the Triple-A disabled list pretty soon.

Keep in mind: C Austin Romine
These days, Murphy generates much more prospect buzz than Romine. But, down in Triple-A, it’s actually Romine who has better offensive numbers this season. He’s also played a decent amount of first base and could, in theory, fill in for Mark Teixeira in some late innings. Romine hasn’t played much in August, but he hit .342/.385/.466 in July, and it’s not like the big league staff is unfamiliar with him.

Uncertainty: Why not both?
Does it make sense to go ahead and bring both Murphy and Romine to the big leagues in September? Maybe leave one of them behind to play that last Triple-A game, and then just carry four catchers in the final month? In blowouts, one could get behind the plate and the other could rest Teixeira by playing first base.

Worth mentioning: C Francisco Cervelli
There’s only one other catcher call-up candidate worth mentioning, and we’ll get to him in a second. For now, it’s worth mentioning that the Yankees are facing an offseason decision about whether to bring back Cervelli — who’s been awfully good — or to give the backup catcher job fulltime to either Murphy or Romine. If the Yankees are out of it in September, one of these September call-up catchers could step into some serious playing time just to see what they’ve got.

Probably not: C Gary Sanchez
He’s on the 40-man roster, and he’s one of the biggest names in the Yankees minor league system, but it’s hard to predict a Sanchez call-up this year. He’s been alright this season, but he’s also been benched for disciplinary reasons, and it’s hard to imagine much playing time being available for him. Just doesn’t seem that he’s on the verge of getting his feet wet, but I guess you never know. If he’s sorted out his disciplinary issues, maybe he’s rewarded. My guess is that he won’t be.

Zoilo AlmonteVERSATILITY ON THE BENCH
There’s no one currently in the system who seems on the verge of a September call-up to play a significant role in the everyday lineup. Position players who come up are most likely going to be complimentary pieces given very occasional playing time.

Best bet: OF Zoilo Almonte
Joe Girardi hasn’t seemed sold on Almonte ever since his so-so performance last season, but he’s still a powerful left-handed hitter — technically switch hitter, but he’s significantly better from the left side — and he’s on the 40-man roster with some big league time already this season. Not sure he’ll actually get at-bats, but he seems like an obvious choice to bring up at least serve as an option for some pop as a pinch hitter or occasional platoon starter.

Keep in mind: UT Zelous Wheeler
In a lot of ways, Wheeler is an ideal September call-up. He’s already on the 40-man, he’s held his own in the big leagues already this season, and he can play almost any position on the field, which means he provides terrific versatility down the stretch. As long as Wheeler stays on the 40-man roster, there’s little reason not to give him a call-up.

Uncertainty: UT Jose Pirela
The one reason not to call up Wheeler would be to call up a somewhat similar but younger player in Pirela. Wheeler is probably the better defensive player, but they’re both versatile right-handed hitters who are putting up good numbers in Triple-A. If the Yankees aren’t planning to keep Wheeler through the offseason — but are interested in keeping Pirela — they could basically swap the two, putting Pirela on the roster in Wheeler’s place and giving Pirela the September call-up. Pirela can play second base and left field, and he could play third base, first base, right field and presumably shortstop in a pinch.

Worth mentioning: OF Ramon Flores, 1B Kyle Roller, OF Adonis Garcia, OF Taylor Dugas
Of these four, only Flores is on the 40-man, and he’s a nice fit for September. He can run, he can play all three outfield spots, he has some first base experience, and he was playing pretty well in Triple-A before an injury. Indications are that Flores could be off the DL and active by the time September rolls around, but would the Yankees call up a guy who’s hardly played since the start of June. The other three listed are not on the 40-man, and I’m not sure they’d play roles significant enough to find a way to get them on the roster. Dugas in particular has been terrific this year, but he’s not yet Rule 5 eligible, so there’s probably little sense having him take up a 40-man spot all winter. I would suggest OF Antoan Richardson as an interesting possibility as well — speed off the bench, ability to play all three outfield spots — but he’s currently on the temporarily inactive list, and I’m not sure what that’s about or how long he’ll be there. Could temporarily add him without worrying about a DFA this winter.

Probably not: 2B Rob Refsnyder
Arguably the most buzzworthy September call-up possibility. Probably is, Refsnyder is just like a handful of guys on this list in that he’s playing in Triple-A already but won’t be Rule 5 eligible this winter. If he’s only going to come up to sit the bench and maybe get his feet wet, is that really worth taking up an otherwise valuable 40-man spot all winter? If he were coming up to play every day, that would be one thing. But bringing him up to backup Stephen Drew probably isn’t worthwhile.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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