The Dog Days of Spring…
One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher. Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.
I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves. We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery. Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).
Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)
If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.
It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.
7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!
Looking Forward to Today’s Game…
Today’s Spring Game featuring the Miami Marlins at Steinbrenner Field is one I’ve been looking forward to all Spring. When the Yankees traveled to Jupiter, FL last Sunday, Giancarlo Stanton didn’t make the trip and the game was not televised. That’s not the case today. Stanton is in the lineup and the game will be on TV (YES Network).
For the game starting at 1:05 pm Eastern, here is the scheduled lineup:
Brett Gardner, CF
Aaron Judge, RF
Greg Bird, 1B
Giancarlo Stanton, LF
Gary Sanchez, C
Didi Gregorius, SS
Neil Walker, 2B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Tyler Austin, DH
The starting pitcher will be Luis Severino. The starter for the Marlins will be a familiar face (Caleb Smith). Another former Yankee (Garrett Cooper) will be the starting right fielder for the Fish. It’s always good to see the great Don Mattingly even if he is tasked to lead the Stanton/Ozuna/Yelich-less Marlins for CEO Derek Jeter.
It would be fun to see Stanton go yard against his old club today. It would have been nice to see old friend Starlin Castro but as with most veterans, he did not make the road trip. Nevertheless, as noted above, there is no shortage of former Yankees in the park.
By Order of Aaron Boone…
The Yankees announced the order of the starting rotation on Saturday. Luis Severino gets the Opening Day assignment at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada on March 29th against the Blue Jays. I thought the honor would go to Masahiro Tanaka as the recognized ace of the staff but there’s no disputing that Sevy was the Yankees’ best starter in 2017 when he finished third in the AL Cy Young voting behind elite starters Corey Kluber and Chris Sale.
1. Luis Severino
2. Masahiro Tanaka
3. CC Sabathia
4. Sonny Gray
5. Jordan Montgomery
At first, I was surprised when I saw that Gray was penciled in behind Sabathia but it does make sense to break up Sabathia and Montgomery. You can also insert short jokes about Sonny Gray here while stating he gives hitters a different look between the two left-handed six-foot-sixers. Admittedly, I am a little concerned about Sabathia pitching on the turf at Rogers Centre with his balky knee. Boone had better get the bullpen up early in that game.
Jordan Montgomery draws the assignment for the home opener at Yankee Stadium on Monday, April 2nd against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Congratulations to Severino for his anointment as the King of the Pitching staff. I suspect it will be many years before he is ready to relinquish the crown. Hard to believe the guy is only 24 years old. Unless the Yankees sign Clayton Kershaw next off-season (very unlikely), Severino should have an extended reign.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
The Rule 5 Draft Revisited…
2017 Rule 5 Draft – Major League Phase – Yankees Lost
Round 1, 7th Selection: RHP Anyelo Gomez, Atlanta Braves
Round 1, 9th Selection: LHP Nestor Cortes, Baltimore Orioles
Round 1, 11th Selection: 1B Mike Ford, Seattle Mariners
Round 3, 18th Selection: RHP Jose Mesa, Jr, Baltimore Orioles
Last year, the Yankees lost catcher Luis Torrens when he stuck on the MLB roster for the San Diego Padres all season long despite batting .163/.243/.203 with .446 OPS. He didn’t have any home runs and only 7 RBI’s in 56 games and 139 plate appearances. The Padres can now send the 21-year-old to the Minors for more seasoning with no fear of losing him.
As prospects continue to season in the Yankees farm system, there will be more significant losses in the years ahead. You cannot protect everyone on the 40-man roster when they become Rule 5 eligible and this figures to get more challenging over the course of the next few seasons.
Anyelo Gomez, Braves
1-1, 10.80 ERA, 7 games, 8.1 innings pitched, 10 hits, 10 runs (earned), 4 BB, 6 SO’s
Gomez was having a good Spring for the Braves until he got hammered by the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday, giving up four runs over two innings. However, MLB.com is still projecting that he’ll make the Braves Opening Day roster despite the hiccup. Expectations are low for the Braves this year so they can afford to take their chances with the talented young right-hander.
|Photo Credit: Atlanta Braves|
Nestor Cortes, Jr, Orioles
0-1, 4.35 ERA, 4 games (3 starts), 10.1 innings pitched, 12 hits, 5 runs (earned), 3 BB, 9 SO’s
Cortes is getting a long look in O’s camp as he is second on the team with most innings pitched. Given the dearth of pitching for the Orioles, it is a certainty that he’ll break camp with the big league club. He is under consideration for the rotation and even if he is not successful, he’ll be moved to the bullpen for now. I am not expecting Cortes to come back.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)|
Mike Ford, Mariners
.182/.321/.341, .662 OPS, 20 games, 44 at-bats, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 8 walks
When training camp first opened and Ford started strong for the Mariners, I thought he was a lock to make the Mariners (especially when it was announced that new starting first baseman Ryon Healy had surgery to remove a bone spur in his right hand). But Ford has cooled off and Healy is not expected to miss much time, if any. Daniel Vogelbach (.400, 4 HR, 10 RBI) has had a much stronger Spring than Ford and appears to be the leader for first base behind Healy. If Healy starts the season on the DL, Ford could make the Opening Day roster but I doubt he sticks for the entire season. Healy feels that he will be ready for Opening Day. He made his first appearance of the Spring yesterday against the Los Angeles Angels and was 1-for-3 with a RBI double. More than likely, Ford will be back to take his place as the starting first baseman for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
|Photo Credit: The Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)|
Jose Mesa, Jr, Orioles
3-1, 5.87 ERA, 5 games, 7.2 innings pitched, 10 hits, 5 runs (earned), 7 BB, 5 SO’s
Looking a pure numbers, it would seem unlikely that Mesa would stick on the Orioles roster but then again, we’re talking about the Orioles and their underwhelming cast of pitchers. While I think it’s unlikely they would carry two Rule 5 pitchers on the active roster, it is a strong possibility that both Cortes and Mesa will make the Opening Day roster. Whether Mesa remains there all season remains to be seen.
Of these players, I think Ford and Mesa are the players most likely to be returned to the Yankees. Dependent upon performance (or maybe not as Luis Torrens showed), I think that Gomez and Cortes are gone for good.
|Photo Credit: AP (Chris O’Meara)|
2017 Rule 5 Draft – Triple A Phase -Yankees Lost
These players were lost and will not be returning to the Yankees organization.
Round 1, 18th Selection: RHP Yancarlos Baez, Minnesota Twins
Round 2, 32nd Selection: C Sharif Othman, Miami Marlins
I guess it’s a good problem to have when your team has so many strong prospects that good players are lost (“the cup runneth over”) but it’s still painful to see these guys that we’ve cared for thrive in other uniforms with no return for the Yankees. I know, that’s a bit of a ‘prospect-hugging’ statement. Seriously, I do hope they find MLB success. I just hope it isn’t against the Yankees.
As we begin the last full week before the start of the regular season on Thursday, March 29th, the answers for the Yankees’ Opening Day Roster seem to be taking shape. However, the one question I am already tired of is ‘will Jacoby Ellsbury begin the season on the DL?’ Of course he will…next question. Regardless of whether or not Ellsbury is ready, I don’t really care. The guy has become an afterthought for me. If he helps the team this year, fantastic. But let’s just say that I am keeping expectations low…very low. A good player “when on the field”, but that’s not a bet I’d want to make. He becomes a greater injury risk with each passing year and he was already the King of the DL dating back to his Red Sox days (with no intended offense to Troy Tulowitzki who certainly has every right to lay claim to the throne).
Danny Espinosa was 4-for-4 with a RBI in his Spring debut with the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday. Where was that bat during his few weeks with the Yankees this month? That’s the right way to make a good impression for his new club. The odds are against him making the Blue Jays’ MLB roster to open the season but days like yesterday certainly help. Jake Cave’s debut for the Minnesota Twins didn’t go so well. He started in center field and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout in a game that saw former Yankee Phil Hughes get hammered for 9 runs (5 earned) in 3 1/3 innings.
It will soon be game time for Yankees-Marlins. Let’s Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
Astros win ALCS Rematch…
The headline of this post are Aaron Boone’s words, not mine.
I preface this by saying I know Spring games mean absolutely nothing. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say my fear of the Houston Astros is their starting pitching. I think the Yankees’ offense is equal to the World Champions. Some argue the Yankees are better while other put the Astros on top. Either way, both offenses will be among the very best in the game. Now, the starting pitching, at least in my opinion, is not quite so close.
Yesterday’s matchup featured the number five starters for both teams. For the Yankees, Jordan Montgomery gave up two solo home runs. Meanwhile, Houston’s Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees hitless until Miguel Andujar’s lead-off single in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Astros limited the Yankees to two hits, winning the game 2-0. The game felt like a microcosm of the difference between the Yankees and the Astros. Of course I didn’t actually get to “see” the game since it was not televised and I am not in Tampa. Manager Aaron Boone felt that Montgomery was “crisper” than earlier Spring starts. Giving up two runs is not the end of the World and in fact it fits within the definition of a quality start (outside of the shortened number of innings for Spring starts). A good start by Monty but a dominant one by the son of a former Yankee.
The top of the Yankees order (Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius) went 0-for-12, with five strikeouts.
I am not going to fret over a meaningless Spring game but it is the back end of the starting rotation that concerns me when you compare the Yankees to the Astros. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jordan Montgomery but seriously I’d rather have McCullers, Jr. The difference maker is the depth. The Astros have Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh, two very capable pitchers in reserve, if there are any injuries in the rotation. The Yankees have Luis Cessa and Domingo German. The top young prospects like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield have shown they are not quite ready to be a force at the MLB level, now, even if we know they eventually will.
Maybe I am unnecessarily concerned about the rotation and the young guys will rise to the challenge if the chips are on the line. But if it was my team, I’d be trying to find a way to sign Alex Cobb, a ‘tried and true’ AL East pitcher.
Is Tyler Austin bound for Scranton?…
I was wrong yesterday when I said that Ronald Torreyes might be the one most adversely impacted by Neil Walker’s presence on the roster. After hearing Boone’s words yesterday, it sounds like the guy who should be most concerned about making the Opening Day roster is Tyler Austin. Boonie sounds like he is comfortable with a second base tandem of Tyler Wade and Walker, finding regular at-bats for both, and indicated Walker is the one who could provide relief for Greg Bird at first base.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
I can’t really put my finger on it, but it has never seemed like the Yankees have fully embraced Austin despite his big hits. I know that health is part of it, but it just doesn’t seem like they want him on the MLB roster. I hope I am reading that wrong and Austin turns out to be a major contributor for the team this year.
Cave finds a home…
I have always liked Jake Cave but I recognized there was simply no room for the talented outfielder. I remember how excited he was to participate in Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds as a Rule 5 draftee a couple of years ago. He started the Spring off strongly and was drawing raves, but he cooled off and was subsequently returned to the Yankees.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Tringali)|
After Cave was designated for assignment earlier in the week to make room for Neil Walker, the Yankees shipped the 25-year-old outfielder to the Minnesota Twins for young Dominican RHP Luis Gil, 19. Gil was not rated among the Twins top prospects and has yet to play outside of the Dominican leagues. He continues the Yankees trend of stockpiling young power arms with tremendous upside. Cave was inserted at #26 for the best Twins prospects by MLB.com, ahead of Twins outfielder and New York native Zack Granite.
In Minnesota, Cave is expected to help at the Major League Level or provide depth at Triple A. For his sake, I hope it’s the former. The Twins made statements yesterday they’ve been interested in Cave since last year’s Jaime Garcia trade. They noticed the power surge and it is something that they want to “keep on track” in the words of Twins manager Paul Molitor.
We wish Cave the very best as he continues his journey to reach the Major Leagues.
Speaking of finding jobs…
The Toronto Blue Jays have signed infielder Danny Espinosa, recently released by the Yankees, to a minor league contract with an invite to camp. Espinosa will have a very short time to prove that he belongs on the field when the Blue Jays open Rogers Centre on March 29th against Espinosa’s old club. The best way for an infielder to play in the Major Leagues? Find the team that employs Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo owns the DL in a way that only Jacoby Ellsbury understands.
The odds are probably against Espinosa this late in March so he’ll probably toil in Triple A until injuries open up big league opportunities.
Well, it’s Saturday. For most of us, that’s a day off. Nothing better than sitting back to watch a Yankees game on a lazy afternoon. Fortunately for us, today’s Spring game between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida (1 pm Eastern) will be televised. Masahiro Tanaka on the mound and Estevan Florial in center field. It should be a fun day!
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
With the help of a Walker…
Neil Walker makes his much anticipated debut in a Yankees lineup today in the only Spring rematch of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros…and the game is not televised…ugh! With no offense to the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, this is one Spring game that could be a preview of coming attractions for October. Obviously, the outcome of this game decides nothing but I look forward to the Yankees-Astros battles over the course of the coming season. Hey, H-Town, we’re coming for you…
|Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)|
As it stands, based on the comments floating out of camp, it appears that Tyler Wade has the advantage to start at second base for the Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 29th. His at-bat yesterday against Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Rivero was epic. After Rivero sent Wade backwards into the dirt with a high and inside pitch, Wade battled back and worked a hard-fought walk. Last year, I have no doubt he would have struck out in that situation, allowing Rivero to get inside his head. Time and again, Wade is making the plays to show that he belongs. Given how much corporate executives raved about him over the winter and his subsequent performance this Spring, it’s easy to see why his name will be on the Opening Day roster. Walker’s flexibility to play multiple positions will most certainly keep his bat in the lineup even if Wade becomes the starter. Both Danny Espinosa and Adam Lind paid the price for the Walker signing as evidenced by their releases, but I think the remaining player most adversely impacted will be Ronald Torreyes. It is interesting and perhaps telling that Walker’s debut against the Astros will feature him at first base rather than second base. Have bat; will travel. Walker is ready to help wherever he is need in the infield except for shortstop and catcher. But something tells me he’d play those positions if they let him.
I remain very high on Brandon Drury. At the beginning of training camp, so many jumped on the Miguel Andujar bus after his series of home runs, but based on the signals I was reading, the organization feels that he needs more time to work on his defensive game. Also, given the many signs that there is mutual interest between the Yankees and Manny Machado, it makes you wonder about Andujar’s future in the organization. It seems like he is destined to be trade bait at some point. Nevertheless, for now, I am excited about Brandon Drury’s presence at third base even if Andujar or maybe Machado takes his job at some point in the future.
Joel Sherman of The New York Post recently ran an article which detailed how highly Drury is thought of by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They didn’t want to trade him but it was the only way they could land Steven Souza Jr from the Tampa Bay Rays to replace slugger J.D. Martinez who, as we know, left via free agency to sign with a certain team in Massachusetts. In his column, Sherman quotes D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo saying Drury might hit 30 home runs this year. Admittedly, that might be a bit too optimistic, but I like the potential of the player. The quote by Lovullo that stuck out with me is: “A great competitor, a great teammate. Cares on a pretty impressive level about being the absolute best he can be every single day. The Yankees got a special player. Very quiet. Very intense. But very attentive.” I feel strongly that Drury is going to be a significant contributor for the 2018 Yankees. Frankly, I’d love for him to play so well the Yankees decide they don’t need Machado.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)|
It was disappointing to see Chance Adams’ reassignment to Minor League Camp on a down note. It wasn’t a great spring for him. He pitched in three games for a total of 4 2/3 innings, departing with 0-1 record and 11.57 ERA. 9 hits…ouch…6 runs…ouch…3 walks…ouch. In my eyes, both Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu represent stronger future rotation possibilities. I am starting to side with those who believe that Adams’ future lies in the bullpen. It wasn’t only this Spring, there were signs last year in Triple A that started making me question his future as a starter. With all sincerity, I hope he proves me wrong. But that’s up to him, not me.
I like Jordan Montgomery but realistically, if the price is right, I’d still sign Alex Cobb. Pitching, pitching, pitching…you can never have enough.
Manager Aaron Boone is going to have so many options when he writes up his lineups depending upon matchups, but I really liked yesterday’s Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton-Gary Sanchez sequence against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sanchez, of course, killed it with 5 RBI’s. I am convinced that El Gary can be “the beast” in the batting order all season long. Best hitter on the team in my opinion. Then again, there are no weaknesses, top to bottom. Boone could use a Power Ball machine to determine his batting order and not be wrong. Okay, that approach might be a little too much, but how many first-time managers are handed the keys to a Lamborghini? Poor Ron Gardenhire was the most experienced manager hired in the off-season and he was given a Ford Pinto. For Boonie, life is good.
I’d take $84 million guaranteed too…
With my apologies to those of you who are Jets fans, I am glad that QB Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, I say that as a lifelong (long suffering?) Vikings fan. Perhaps Minnesota overpaid for a QB with a losing record, but I like Cousins as the team’s new field general. I have greater faith in him than I did the three Vikings quarterbacks who departed via free agency. Case Keenum. Great guy, but was it him or the system? Could be a one-season wonder. Maybe not, but I’d rather have the guy who is coming off three consecutive 4,000 yard seasons. Sam Bradford. Love the arm, but the dude can’t stay healthy. Teddy Bridgewater. He looked like the future star of the organization until the devastating knee injury. Do we really know if he can successfully make it back? For a team that is Super Bowl-caliber, the Vikings couldn’t take the chance. Bridgewater could blossom for the Jets and provide them with the QB they’ve been lacking. From a character standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better than Bridgewater. I think the Jets made the right move to sign him. I really hope that he realizes the greatness that seemed destined for him in Minnesota. There’s no doubt he has championship-quality drive and determination.
During the press conference yesterday in Minneapolis to announce the signing, Cousins sounded a bit like Brian Cashman talking about Aaron Boone in his description of how the city and team “checked all the boxes”. I kept anticipating some type of “expect to be great” line in Kirk’s speech but he did “check the boxes” for me by mentioning Super Bowls (plural). Works for me. Congratulations to Kirk and his family. I wish him much success and happiness in the Twin Cities. Now, just bring me the Super Bowl, I means Super Bowls, that I’ve waited all my life for!
|Photo Credit: Star Tribune (Elizabeth Flores)|
But, back to baseball. Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)
Walker, New York Yankee…
When I heard the news the Yankees had signed free agent infielder Neil Walker, I admit it did not excite me. I had thought Walker might be an infield possibility before the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks (in fact, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen called it out as a move the Yankees should make before Drury found himself in Tampa with our favorite team). But once Drury arrived, I didn’t give it another thought.
Credit: Pittsburgh Magazine
The reaction among the Yankees Universe has been very mixed. Countless fans feel that Walker blocks the very talented rookies, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. I don’t look at it that way. For a one-year contract at $4 million plus incentives, this is not a marriage. It is a dinner date at McDonald’s. Walker may break camp as the starting second baseman but there’s no doubt that Gleyber Torres will be the man when he is ready. Gleyber needs the additional time at Triple A as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He has shown this Spring that regardless of his MLB service time clock, he would greatly benefit from the added time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Torres is going to be a star and there is nothing that Neil Walker can do about it.
Brandon Drury is the starting third baseman. With no offense to Miguel Andujar, Drury was not acquired to be a backup. The Yankees see too much potential in the player and feel that they can convert a number of those Drury doubles into home runs. The Yankees gave up two talented prospects in second baseman Nick Solak and pitcher Taylor Widener. At that price, they weren’t paying to get Drury as a part-time player. Perhaps Andujar goes to Pennsylvania and crushes Triple A pitching. There’s nothing wrong with two players fighting for one position. It’s a very good problem to have. For now, Walker’s arrival most likely means that Andujar will be joining Torres in Scranton. But like Torres, Andujar will be back. When he proves his defensive game has caught up with his bat, only a major trade for a starting pitcher could keep Andujar from pulling on the pinstripes. Walker certainly won’t stop that from happening.
I felt and probably still feel that Tyler Wade will see significant starts at second base. Worst case, I can see him in a platoon role with Walker at the position until young Gleyber arrives to take control. Best case, he breaks camp as the starter with Walker on the bench.
To me, the potential losers with the Walker signing are utilityman Ronald Torreyes and non-roster first baseman Adam Lind. Torreyes may make the Opening Day roster. In fact, I think it’s almost a certainty. But, when Torres and Andujar arrive in the Bronx with their minor league assignments completed, Torreyes is the potential odd man out. I thought Lind might have a chance to make the roster since the Yankees, for whatever reason, do not seem enamored with Tyler Austin. But with Walker’s ability to play first base (not to mention Drury too), Austin brings more to the team than Lind does as a right-handed first baseman (nice complement to the lefty-swinging Greg Bird) who can also play corner outfield. Lind is strictly 1B/DH. But Austin’s spot is not a given as the Yankees could opt for Billy McKinney if Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier are unable to start the season. McKinney has limited experience at first base, but the presence of Walker helps offset his inexperience.
To make room for Walker, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment and released non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa. Shortstop Kyle Holder was also re-assigned to minor league camp. I’ve always liked Cave but he was squeezed by players ahead of him like Frazier and McKinney and was feeling the heat from hard charging younger prospects. Cave was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds a couple of years ago as a Rule 5 draftee. He opened some eyes although he proved he wasn’t quite ready for the Show. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman is able to flip Cave for a younger prospect rather than simply letting him go for nothing. I was never excited about the addition of Espinosa. He was a decent player for the Washington Nationals a few years ago, but he wasn’t going to scare anyone with his bat. His poor reaction when the Nats acquired outfielder Adam Eaton which pushed star Trea Turner from the outfield to shortstop, displacing Espinosa, always bothered me. So, for me, I’ll gladly take Walker over Espinosa. The switch-hitter still has some pop left in his bat, and he is a very versatile dude (health-permitting).
Walker was assigned Starlin Castro’s number 14 (most recently worn by Espinosa). For me, the number is forever associated with the great “Sweet Lou” Pinella.
Photo Credit: UPI
By now, I don’t think any Yankees fans are expecting the team to add a starting pitcher before the start of the season. My early favorites for trade deadline candidates are Chris Archer and Danny Duffy. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been interested in Archer, so I’d probably rate Duffy as the most likely choice if he can be pried from the Kansas City Royals. Personal preference, no doubt, is Archer. The health and performance of the existing starting five will obviously dictate what the Yankees do in July. It’s early, but I’ve been impressed with young right-hander Domingo German and would like to see him become the rotation’s sixth man in place of Luis Cessa.
Good times. I am ready for the season to start.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)|
The Battle of New York…
I am always the first to say that Spring games mean absolutely nothing but I have to admit it was fun beat the New York Mets on Saturday by 7 runs for the second time this year. The Yankees won 10-3 at Steinbrenner Field after beating the Mets 11-4 last Wednesday in Port St Lucie, FL.
Rumor has it the new guy, Giancarlo Stanton, can hit bombs. We were finally treated to the first Pinstriped home run by the big guy and man, did it feel good to see that one go out. It made me realize how much I like watching Aaron Judge and Stanton hit back-to-back, considering I have been an advocate for breaking them up with Greg Bird. It was exciting to see Judge reach base and then both guys celebrating at home plate after Stanton completed his home run trot, which included the faux football hand-off by third base coach Phil Nevin as Stanton rounded the base. John Sterling’s call of the home run was “a Stantonian blast”. Unclear if that’s just a temporary Spring call or if it will be the tagline for the season.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Another great moment in Saturday’s game was the first Spring appearance of David Robertson, who had recently been felled by food poisoning. Luis Cessa started the game and reaffirmed my concerns about his stature as the rotation’s sixth man when he got into trouble in the second inning. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with only one out. Enter D-Rob. Six pitches…two strikeouts…inning over. I really hope the Yankees do not allow Robertson to leave at the end of the season when he becomes a free agent. The guy was made to be a Yankee and it was hard enough to watch his years away in Chicago. Now that we have him back, I don’t want to lose him again.
There was a scare in the top of the 6th inning when Tyler Wade rolled his wrist while attempting to dive for an infield grounder by Jose Reyes. Wade left the game and although he iced the hand, no further tests were planned. It sounds as though Wade will be back out on the field by Monday. The current leader for Opening Day second baseman, it would have been tough to lose Wade for any extended period of time. I am glad he is okay. It was certainly a scary moment.
The game also featured a bit of miscommunication. Dellin Betances pitched the fourth inning and then went to the clubhouse. No one told Adam Warren that he was scheduled to pitch the fifth, so it became a scramble after the Yankees completed batting in the bottom of the fourth. There was some apparent confusion in the dugout, and Warren quickly got up in the bullpen. After a brief delay, Betances came back out to face one batter, giving up a single, before departing for good. Aaron Boone held his usual 5th inning in-game conversation with the YES Network broadcasters but clearly did not want to talk about the incident. “We had some issues there. We’ll just leave it at that.” Some on social media were crucifying Boone for the miscommunication but I’d rather see Boone make mistakes in Spring training and learn from them before the season starts.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)|
A fair amount of drama for a “meaningless” Saturday afternoon game.
The Yankees had a couple more cuts yesterday when flame-throwing RHP Domingo Acevedo was optioned to Double-A Trenton and RHP Brian Keller was reassigned to minor league camp.
The Minnesota Twins may have lost the Wild Card game to the Yankees last season, but they will be a stronger team when they take the field this year. Although top starting pitcher Ervin Santana will miss the start of the season after surgery on his finger last month, the Twins previously added Jake Odorizzi in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and yesterday they signed free-agent Lance Lynn (an innings-eater and a very good pickup) to a one-year, $12 million contract. The Lynn signing triggered today’s release of Anibal Sanchez (Lynn was clearly an upgrade, in a total statement of the obvious). I would have loved to have seen the Yankees sign Lynn. The Twins have also added former Rays first baseman Logan Morrison, who slugged 38 home runs in 2017, to be their primary DH. I haven’t really been keeping up with the Twins, but they are quietly getting stronger. They also added Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed to their bullpen. I’ve never been a big fan of Rodney but Reed was a great signing.
With Lynn signing for much less than anticipated, I can’t help but wonder what it would take to sign free agent righty Alex Cobb in this environment of falling prices. You can never have enough starting pitching. I know that he’d never do it, but it would be cool if Jake Arrieta came to the Yankees with an offer to play for a pillow contract so that he can test the free agent market again next year. He does know and trust the Yankees closer. I know, I am just dreaming but whatever it takes to bring the 28th World Championship to the Bronx.
Lefty Joe Mantiply, 27, who spent last season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds this year as a non-roster invitee underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Friday. We wish Joe the very best as he begins his journey on the road to recovery and hopefully fulfilling his dream of one day making it back to the Major Leagues (he pitched briefly for the Detroit Tigers in 2016).
|Photo Credit: Cheryl Pursell|
I am bummed that today’s game against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter, FL will not be televised. For the Yankees making the trip, be sure to say hello to our old friend, Starlin Castro.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Robbins)
No fear, Bird will fly…
Spring stats mean nothing. A few homers against mostly Double-A pitching and everyone felt that Miguel Andujar should be the starting third baseman. Now, I see that there are fans starting to grip about first baseman Greg Bird and his cold bat. Entering play today, Bird is batting .095 (2-for-21 with no home runs). Chill…when the season starts, Bird will be a competent and reliable bat in the Yankees batting order. If there is a certainty, Bird knows how to hit. Health is always questionable but when/if healthy, I fully expect Bird to get his share of big knocks.
|Photo Credit: MLB.com|
Poor Sonny Gray. He pitched great against the Atlanta Braves yesterday, going 3 2/3 innings and allowing only one hit and no runs. But the Yankees were held to one run on Gary Sanchez’s solo home run in the 6th inning and lost to the Braves, 3-1. No run support as usual for the Tennessean. I know, spring games are meaningless, but I did think it was humorous as the guy never seems to get any runs. Of course, the Yankees offense did not have its full arsenal since this was a road game. Honestly, with the benefit of training camp with the Yankees and time to adjust to being a New York Yankee and all that entails, I am expecting this to be a big year for Sonny Gray. I think he’ll pitch closer to the ace he was with the Oakland A’s and not the pitcher we saw at the end of last season (which was still very good). I am excited to see what a full season of Gray in the rotation will bring. I am very confident it will yield great results.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Abbie Parr)|
Speaking of starting pitching, Jordan Montgomery, as expected, has been announced as the team’s fifth starter by Manager Aaron Boone. Monty has looked very good this Spring. In 3 games covering 8 2/3 innings, he is 1-0 with 1.04 ERA. He has only allowed five hits and one run, while striking out eleven batters. He has walked four. Armed with his trusty change-up, a pitch missing for much of last year, we should see an improved Montgomery this season. I would not surprise me if Monty ends up with better stats than Houston’s Gerrit Cole by the time the post-season begins.
Ivan Nova, who probably couldn’t crack the Yankees top five, was recently named as the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day starter. There is much to like about the potential of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery.
The Yankees play the New York Mets today at Steinbrenner Field. The game is at 1:05 pm Eastern. The scheduled starters are:
Brett Gardner, CF
Aaron Judge, RF
Giancarlo Stanton, LF
Brandon Drury, 3B
Tyler Austin, 1B
Austin Romine, C
Jace Peterson, DH
Ronald Torreyes, SS
Tyler Wade, 2B
The starting pitcher will be former Mets prospect Luis Cessa. After the recent Twitter wars between the Yankees and Mets, I hope the Yankees send the Mets home on a disappointing bus ride back to Port St Lucie.
Today’s game will be televised by the YES Network but not tomorrow’s game when the Yankees travel to Jupiter, FL (Giancarlo Stanton’s old stomping grounds) to play the Miami Marlins. The Yankees who are making the trip (like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez) will see old friend Starlin Castro. Stanton is not expected to make the trip. If he had, I would have been really disappointed about Sunday’s game not being televised. The Marlins travel to Steinbrenner Field a week from Sunday so that should be a good game to watch as Stanton most likely will be in the lineup. Hopefully Starlin makes the trip so those of us not fortunate enough to be in Florida can see him again.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Robert Deutsch)|
The Yankees made a few more cuts yesterday. RHP Albert Abreu, slowed by recent appendectomy surgery, and Thairo Estrada, continuing to recover from the gunshot with bullet still lodged in his hip during a failed robbery attempt in late January, were reassigned to minor league camp. Johnny Lasagna aka Jonathan Loaisiga was also reassigned.
As I watch Shohei Otani attempt to both pitch and bat for the Los Angeles Angels, I am so glad that the Yankees are not dealing with the distraction. While I love Otani, the pitcher, I much prefer the bat of Giancarlo Stanton regardless of what the Japanese superstar is able to accomplish in Anaheim, CA this year.
Bummer…the Chicago White Sox eliminated the future possibility of their All-Garcia outfield when they released outfielder Willy Garcia. He had played a couple of times last year in a starting outfield that also featured fellow Garcia’s, Avisail and Leury. Willy was not expected to make this year’s White Sox squad. Thus endeth the All-Garcia outfield. I guess the Yankees need to acquire Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr so that they can feature an All-Aaron outfield. Ha, not really. Maybe Brett can just change his name to Aaron Gardner…