Tagged: Chad Green

High and Inside…or maybe a little Outside…

Here is a random wish list for pitching targets leading up to the trading deadline.  I know that a couple of the names are untouchable.  I guess if I am going without restriction, I should place Clayton Kershaw at the top of the list.  Nevertheless, this is fantasyland so here’s my list.  All of these pitchers are right-handers which really wasn’t by design.  I wouldn’t even say that these are my top five choices.  They are, however, five pitchers that I feel could provide an upgrade.

YU DARVISH – Texas Rangers

Darvish is 30 and will be an unrestricted free agent this fall.  He is 4-2 with 2.76 ERA and 1.091 WHIP.  With Tommy John surgery in his recent past, he’ll carry the injury risk tag for the res t7 of his career.  Darvish is still one of the best pitchers in the AL.  I loved the guy when he came over from Japan and wished at the time the Yankees had been more aggressive in pursuit of him.  

It’s been said that Darvish could be the key to the team eventually signing Japanese superstar  and two-way ace Shohei Otani, referred to as the Japanese Babe Ruth.  

The downside to Darvish is his age (at this point of the Yankees rebuild and potential off-season cost to re-sign.  You’ll obviously have to pay quality prospects for the potential short-term rental assuming the Texas Rangers are even motivated to trade him at the deadline.

CARLOS CARRASCO – Cleveland Indians

Carrasco is also 30.  This is total fantasy as the Indians, a World Series caliber contender, are not going to part with a critical rotation piece.  There’s no doubt the Yankees have long held interest in Carrasco.  The right-hander is 4-2 this season with 2.60 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.  He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

CHRIS ARCHER – Tampa Bay Rays

Archer is 28 and is a better fit age-wise.  But I think he’s untouchable for any AL team due to the heavy premium the Rays would attach to him to trade him inside the division.  But if the Yankees could get him, I would be ecstatic.  Archer is 3-2 this season with 3.70 ERA and 1.217 WHIP.  He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.  

JON GRAY – Colorado Rockies

If I could have my pick of any pitcher, it might be Gray.  I am convinced the 25-year-old Gray is an ace-in-the-making.  He’ll be held back from ever reaching his full potential as long as he calls the Mile High City his home.  In a very small body of work this season, Gray is 0-0 with 4.38 ERA and 1.459 WHIP.  He only pitched 12 1/3 innings before going on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left foot.  Gray has begun his bullpen sessions and will soon be back on the active roster for Colorado.  He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

Interestingly enough, Gray, like Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole, is a former Yankees draft pick.  The Yankees picked him in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Draft.  He didn’t sign and was subsequently a number one pick for the Rockies the next year.  

VINCE VELASQUEZ – Philadelphia Phillies

The youngest pitcher on my list (24), Velasquez is 2-3 this year with 5.63 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.  Forget the stats, the guy has the potential to be a long term fixture in any team’s rotation.  He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.  

This isn’t meant to be a ranking of desired pitchers.  I am just randomly throwing out some names.  Granted, if any team’s first request is Gleyber Torres and is unwilling to budge, it’s discussion over.  But Clint Frazier I am not as attached to.  With Aaron Judge in the Majors with an assist by Aaron Hicks, and the promise of outfielder Dustin Fowler, I think the Yankees have the necessary ingredients for a good outfield now and for the next few years particularly considering a potential costly run at Bryce Harper in a couple of years when he hits the free agent market.  My favorite outfield prospect, Blake Rutherford, is further away but he’ll be a ready replacement when the time comes.  So, if I could package Frazier in a deal to bring a quality starting pitcher and maybe a dependable bullpen arm, I’d do it.  Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole and Tony Watson represent a combo that would be worth the inclusion of a top prospect.  And, no, Gerrit Cole is not Ivan Nova.

I am sure that we’ll be hearing many names ad nauseam over the next two months.  But regardless of what happens, it will be much better to be a buyer at the trading deadline than a seller if the team keeps playing well.  Exciting times in the Bronx.

The Yankees are hopeful that first baseman Greg Bird will be able to begin baseball activities next week.  That’s good news to hear.  Hopefully Bird has fully recovered and is ready to recapture the form he showed during Spring Training when he led the Grapefruit League in home runs.  Bird has already started light running so it should be a sign that the ankle bone bruise has healed.  I am looking forward to seeing what a healthy Bird can do.

The Yankees concluded their three-game stay in Kansas City with a loss, falling to the Royals 5-1.  I knew they were in trouble when Danny Duffy struck out the first three batters of the game.  Duffy threw a scoreless three-hitter over seven innings and recorded his first career double-digit strikeout total with ten.  The Yankees scored their only run against KC closer Kelvin Herrera in the ninth inning on a Didi Gregorius single.  

Jordan Montgomery (2-3) lasted five innings in taking the loss.  He allowed four hits, five runs and three walks (with 4 K’s). The killer was a three-run homer by Mike Moustakis in the fifth inning.  His replacement, Chad Green, was stellar in pitching the final three innings.  He only gave up a meaningless single in the sixth, a runner subsequently erased by double play.  He struck out six.  It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Green could replace Montgomery in the rotation.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

The Yankees (24-14) maintained their lead in the AL East over the Baltimore Orioles (1 1/2 games) and Boston Red Sox (4 games) as all three teams lost on Thursday.  The Yankees did win the series, taking two of three, however, I always hate to see a loss on “Getaway Day” as that’s the game fresh on everyone’ mind for the flight to the next city.  

The Yankees begin a three-game series in St Petersburg, Florida tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays (21-22).  Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

FRIDAY

Yankees:  Luis Severino (2-2, 3.86 ERA)

Rays:  Erasmo Ramirez (2-0, 2.92 ERA)

SATURDAY

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-2, 5.80 ERA)

Rays:  Matt Andriese (3-1, 3.18 ERA)

SUNDAY

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (3-2, 4.93 ERA)

Rays:  Chris Archer (3-2, 3.70 ERA)

Have a great Friday!  Hopefully Sevy finds a way to slay the Rays!

Despite Jeter, Yankees Unable To Turn 2…

Credit:  John Munson/NJ Advance Media

It was a majestic day as the Yankees honored Derek Jeter and officially hung No. 2 among the Legends in Monument Park.  Sadly, the Yankees were unable “Turn 2” as they lost the second game of the doubleheader following the Jeter ceremony.

In the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, the pink Yankees rallied, after falling behind, to win the game.  The Yankees opened the scoring in the first inning on a run-scoring groundout by Matt Holliday.  Sadly, Luis Severino did not have it for Mother’s Day and he fell apart in the third inning.  He opened the inning by hitting George Springer with a pitch, and then gave up a single to Josh Reddick.  After Jose Altuve hit into a fielder’s choice that forced Reddick out at second, the Astros put together a string of four singles to score three runs, ending Severino’s day.  Chad Green, called up earlier in the day from AAA, got Alex Bregman to hit into an inning-ending double play.  

As bad as Severino was, Green was terrific.  He went 3 2/3 innings, holding the Astros to only one hit and no runs.  He walked one and struck out three.  In the 4th inning, the Yankee tied the game with a two-run homer by Starlin Castro and then took a 4-3 lead in the next at-bat when Aaron Judge finally went deep again with his 14th home run of the season.

Credit:  Seth Wenig/Associated Press

The game stayed 4-3 until the top of the 7th inning with Adam Warren pitching.  A couple of singles, a walk, a fielding error by Starlin Castro and a sac fly allowed the Astros to re-take the lead, 6-4.  Heading into the bottom of the 7th after Austin Romine grounded out, Brett Gardner singled and Jacoby Ellsbury doubled, moving Gardner to third.  Matt Holliday, in a gutsy at-bat after falling behind 0-2, fought off a few pitches and singled in a failed diving attempt by Astros shortstop Carlos Correa which scored Gardner.  At that point, the Astros brought in Chris Devenski who has been virtually unhittable this year.  Apparently, Starlin Castro hasn’t been listening to how dominant Devenski is and he doubled to score Ellsbury.  After an intentional walk to Aaron Judge and a strikeout of Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley came to bat with the bases loaded.  On the TV telecast, Michael Kay was making comments about how Headley is due.  Then, as if Headley heard Kay, he laced a triple to right to clear the bases, putting the Yankees up 9-6.  Chris Carter doubled to score Headley, and the Yankees held a 10-6 lead after pushing six runs across the plate in the inning.

Brett Gardner added an insurance run in the 8th with a solo shot to center.  In probably his worst outing of the season, Adam Warren (1-0) picked up the victory.  Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless 9th inning to close out the game in a non-save situation.  Yankees win, 11-6.

The second game started very badly for starter Masahiro Tanaka.  From the beginning, Tanaka was struggling with each batter, and by the time Alex Bregman hit a grand slam, the Astros were up 6-0 before the Yankees had even taken an at-bat. When Tanaka was pulled after 1 2/3 innings, he had given up two home runs to George Springer and was trailing 8-0. Tanaka has given up 16 runs in his last 15 innings. Still, this was Derek Jeter’s day so I felt no lead was too much.  The Yankees almost proved me right.  In the 5th, trailing 9-0, the Yanks scored four runs on an RBI single by Brett Gardner and a three-run homer by Matt Holliday.  

In the 9th inning, after a passed ball had allowed Marwin Gonzalez to score to put the Astros up 10-4, the Yankees tried valiantly to erase the deficit.  A two-run single by Starlin Castro and a run-scoring single by Aaron Judge brought the Yankees within three runs at 10-7.  With two outs and runners at the corners, the Yankees brought the tying run to the plate with Aaron Hicks.  It could have been a signature moment for Hicksey but unfortunately he grounded out to end the game.  

It was a good job by the bullpen to limit the damage after the Tanaka disaster.  The two runs charged to the bullpen were both unearned.  They gave the team a chance to win despite the overwhelming early Astros lead.  

The doubleheader split left the Yankees with a 22-13 record (losing three of four to Houston).  However, thanks to Tuesday’s opponent (the Kansas City Royals), the Baltimore Orioles lost their fourth in a row in a 9-8 loss.  The loss allowed the Yankees to re-take sole possession of first place in the AL East by a half-game.  The Boston Red Sox also lost, 11-2 to the Tampa Bay Rays. The hottest team in the division at the moment is the cellar-dwelling Toronto Blue Jays, winners of their fifth consecutive game.  

The Yankees were competitive with the Astros but unfortunately Houston proved the age-old adage, “good pitching beats good hitting”.  Things do not get any easier as the Yankees hit the road to Kansas City.  The Royals swept the O’s over the weekend with three one-run victories.  The Yankees will need better starting pitching than they received in the Astros series if they are to have any hope.  

Sunday morning started with disturbing news.  The Yankees announced they had placed closer Aroldis Chapman on the 10-Day Disabled List.  Clearly, something was not right with Chapman who failed to get out of the inning in his last two appearances.  A MRI showed no structural damage (whew!) so Chapman only needs rest.  He’ll avoid any baseball-related activities for two weeks and then he’ll resume throwing.  He’ll most likely need a rehab stint before he is activated so the current projection is that he’ll be out for a month.  In the interim, Dellin Betances will slide into the closer’s role with Warren, Holder and Tyler Clippard providing set-up.  There’s no doubt that Holder has been a Godsend this year and his presence helps ease the sting of losing Chapman.  Hopefully, the Betances that struggled last September was simply one that was tired after a long season.  Now, Betances has a chance for redemption.  If he proves successful, the Yankees need to take care of Betances financially this coming off-season and avoid penny-pinching him like they did during last year’s arbitration hearing.  

Recently, when top closers Zach Britton and Mark Melancon had been placed on the DL, I had expressed hope that the DL-epidemic would not impact the remaining elite closers, Chapman and Kenley Jansen.  Now, Jansen is the last man standing.  It definitely shows the value of having an elite set-up artist capable of filling in for a closing role.  

Chad Green was called up to replace Chapman.  Green is getting used to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to the Bronx commute.  If he keeps pitching like he did in yesterday’s first game, he’s making an argument for why he shouldn’t go back to Pennsylvania.  

Here’s hoping that Chapman is able to fully recover with rest and is able to return on schedule next month.  

Despite the mixed results from the doubleheader and the loss of our closer, it was a special day.  The Jeter ceremony was one of the greatest I’ve ever seen and it will be a long-time before we see such a memorable event again.  Congratulations to Derek as he awaits the arrival of his first child, a child who almost certainly felt the magic of the day in his mother’s womb.  It was a good day, a very good day…

Credit:  Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News

Have a great Monday!  Yesterday was Jeter’s Day, today is your day.  

There’s Time For Sleep in November…

Sleep?  Who needs stinkin’ Sleep!  The Yankees arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio at 5:08 a.m. yesterday following their 18-inning marathon win over the Chicago Cubs and by the end of the day, they had their sixth consecutive victory with the 10-4 pounding of the Reds.  The Yankees treated their former top prospect Rookie Davis, banished to Ohio in the Aroldis Chapman trade, like, well, a rookie.  Run-scoring singles by Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius put three runs on the board in the first inning and the sleepless Yanks were in charge early.

It was another okay, but not great, pitching performance by Masahiro Tanaka.  He definitely went the ‘bend but not break’ route in picking up his fifth win of the year.  The Reds had the bases loaded with no outs in the fourth inning, trailing the Yankees by three.  But a pop out and a double play ended the threat.  It was probably the game-defining moment.

Credit:  John Minchillo/AP

In the seventh inning with former Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen on the mound, three Yankees were hit by pitches.  It wasn’t intentional but that’s a lot for one inning.  The last one, a pitch that hit Chase Headley on the bone just below his knee (ouch!) with the bases loaded, scored a run.  Ronald Torreyes, after being knocked down by a high, inside pitch from the wild Storen, singled to put the Yankees up 7-2.  The second runner, Gary Sanchez, was easily thrown out at the plate, for the final out.   

In the bottom of the seventh inning, with Tanaka running on fumes after reaching the 100-pitch mark, he walked Zach Cozart and then gave up a no doubt-about-it home run to Reds slugger Joey Votto.  With his 112th pitch, Tanaka somehow got Adam Duvall on a swinging strikeout to end the inning.  As Tanaka walked off the mound, he was clearly upset about the Votto home run but his night was done with the Yankees leading 7-4.

The eighth inning featured another long home run to right by Brett Gardner, scoring two runs, and a solo shot by Matt Holliday, playing his second straight game at first base.  

From there, it was up to the depleted Yankees bullpen.  With most of the relievers unavailable, the Yankees went with Tyler Clippard for the eighth.  Clippard was his usual self with a quiet inning that saw three up and three down.  I have to admit that I got a sick feeling to my stomach when I saw lefty Tommy Layne warming up for the ninth inning.  A six-run lead should make one feel fairly secure, but if any Yankee could blow a large lead, it’s Layne.  It didn’t help when the first batter reached on an infield single.  The next batter hit into a ground out but the Yanks were unable to turn a double play, capturing only the lead runner.  That brought the speedy Billy Hamilton to the plate.  Layne fell behind in the count very quickly with three successive balls.  I started to have chills, knowing the heart of the Reds order was coming up.  After a couple of well-placed strikes, Hamilton hit a grounder to Didi Gregorius.  This time, the Yankees were successful in turning the double play and it was game over.  Yankees win, 10-4.

The Yankees (21-9) maintained their half-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles.  The O’s withstood a late challenge to beat their former catcher Matt Wieters and the Washington Nationals 6-4.  The O’s have won five in a row as they seemingly match the Yankees step-for-step on a nightly basis.  The Boston Red Sox had the night off.

Prior to yesterday’s game, there had been speculation the Yankees might send down Sunday night heroes Chasen Shreve and/or Jonathan Holder to bring up fresh arms.  But in the end, it was Rob Refsnyder who got the ticket to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  In his place, the Yankees recalled pitcher Chad Green.  

For the Reds, the loss cost them first place in the NL Central as they were overtaken by the St Louis Cardinals.  

The Yankees face a more challenging pitcher today in Tim Adleman (1-1, 4.22 ERA).  For the Yanks, CC Sabathia (2-1, 5.45 ERA), who hasn’t instilled confidence in anyone except opposing hitters in recent starts, takes the mound.  I expect to see a much stronger Reds team today so hopefully the Yankees offense can rise up to the challenge.  It will be good to see a rested Aaron Judge back in the lineup.  

Tomorrow is a day off so the Yankees will be able to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Have  a great Tuesday!  Let’s grab a W and head back to New York!

Warp Speed to Opening Day…

At the conclusion of the World Series, the off-season seems like it will be so long.  We wait for the opening of free agency, then the winter meetings  which generally brings a short frenzy with signings and trades.  Then we wait through the holidays, and go through a quiet January.  Finally, around Valentine’s Day, we are able to get our baseball fix as training camps begin to open.

3ad7c9ba7e8b991d8d64ea3f435575bb

Then, we blink, and here we are a week away from Opening Day.  Cubs fans are probably still trying to recover from the hangovers, but the rest of us are anxious to begin the new year and at this point, everyone is optimistic.

The Yankees’ off-season was relatively quiet.  The major move, aside from the return of Aroldis Chapman, was to sign free agent Matt Holliday, now the team’s starting DH.  Matt’s days in the field, at age 37, are over but the bat remains effective and so do the leadership abilities.  I’ve been very pleased this spring with the impact that Matt has had on the younger players, most notably Aaron Judge.  With only a one-year contract, it is possible that this is Matt’s only year in pinstripes.  Time will tell, but given what I’ve seen so far, I hope the team is able to find a way to bring him back next year.

Matt Holliday

Credit:  Matt Rourke, AP

I am not sure what can be said about Masahiro Tanaka other than he’s been amazing this spring.  Through five starts and 18 2/3 innings, he’s only surrendered six hits while striking out 22 to go with a sparkling 0.00 ERA.  I realize that spring stats do not mean a great deal but Tanaka appears to be setting himself up for a career year.  Of course that carries good news/bad news as Tanaka can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but that’s something to worry about after the season.  For now, let’s just enjoy what could be a tremendous year for the young right-hander.

Manager Joe Girardi has announced that CC Sabathia, rather than Michael Pineda, will slot in the rotation behind Tanaka.  It was something of a surprise given CC was fighting for the fifth spot last spring.  Girardi gave the ‘right-left’right’ strategy as his logic for the move, putting the left-handed Sabathia between two righties.  He also referenced Sabathia’s numbers last year…3.91 ERA in 30 starts.  His record was only 9-12 but wins and losses are deceiving for pitchers as they are dependent upon run support.

I am not sure how Pineda will react to the move back to third in the rotation.  If it motivates him to overcome his inconsistency, I am all for it.  The starting rotation needs a solid year from Pineda if it is going to be successful.

The fight for the last two spots in the rotation has been interesting.  At the start of training camp, I felt the favorites were Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  Severino started strong and then has struggled with starts recently (although he did throw three hitless innings in relief yesterday).  Mitchell has been good but not great.  Chad Green has probably pitched the best among the contenders but the dark horse that is emerging is tall left-hander Jordan Montgomery.  Luis Cessa, one of the early hopefuls, has already been sent to minor league camp for re-assignment.  At 6’6” with an ability to pitch inside, I am very intrigued by Montgomery. He has proven himself at both the AA and AAA levels, and I think the 24-year-old is ready for the major leagues.

22351539-mmmain

Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

In the right field competition, I think Aaron Judge has done enough to hold off Aaron Hicks.  The stats are fairly comparable.  Judge is batting .300 (15-for-50) with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Although he is still among the leaders in strikeouts (with 12), he is striking out less than he did last season in the Bronx.  Hicks is batting .279 (12-for-43), also with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Hicks has struck out seven times.  Judge has also displayed a terrific arm in right.  For me, Judge has done what he needs to this spring and deserves the opportunity to take right field.

Greg Bird has been named the starting first baseman to the surprise of no one.  Bird currently carries a .432 BA (19-for-44) with 6 HR and 11 RBI.  I don’t think there was any chance that Chris Carter was going to beat out Bird, but Carter has been almost non-existent during training camp.  He is currently batting .136 (6-for-44) which is actually up from where it was a few days ago.  He only has one home run to go with 22 strikeouts.  I think there’s a very strong argument for why Carter should be DFA’d when Tyler Austin returns from his foot injury.

With the final days of training camp winding down, the greatest uncertainty lies with shortstop.  Didi Gregorius is out for the next month after suffering the shoulder sprain in the World Baseball Classic, so the question is who will replace Didi at short.  The most logical move would be to slide Starlin Castro to short, and use a platoon of Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder at second.  For me, it’s not ideal because Castro is still learning the nuances of second base and it should remain his focus.  The only problem is there are no other true shortstops on the 40-man roster.  Prospect Tyler Wade is the most advanced shortstop in the system and he’s probably my favorite for the temporary replacement but he’s young (only 22).  He’s batting .342 in Grapefruit League action (13-for-38) but doesn’t have much power.  Other possibilites are non-roster invitees Pete Kozma and Ruben Tejada.  Didi’s bat will certainly be missed while he is away.

With the latest minor league re-assignments, the Yankees have 39 players remaining in camp.  This includes the injured players (Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius).  With Opening Day just a week away, there will be more cuts this week as the Yankees pare down to 25 for the trip to St Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays on April 2nd.

This has been a fun spring.  The Yankees have the best record in the Grapefruit League (or the Cactus League for that matter).  I know that spring stats mean nothing when the regular season starts but winning is always fun.  We’ve seen some great stuff from the talented super-prospects in the organization like Gleyber Torres and James Kaprielian.  Although they won’t be heading north with the big league club, they’ve given us glimpses of their incredible futures.  Gary Sanchez has continued to impress and Greg Bird has shown that last year’s shoulder injury is no longer an issue.  I am anxious and ready for the season to start.  The Cubs are yesterday’s news.

The March to Opening Day…

How will the Yankees “manage” potential change?…

Will Joe Girardi be the Yankees manager this time next year?  As the manager enters the final year of his contract, the expectation is that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees in October or November.  But anything is possible.  The Steinbrenner family might have a change of heart and decide that a change is needed.  Girardi has held the job for a long time (this will be his 10th season as Yankees skipper).

20895842-mmmain

Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

I get frustrated with Girardi at times.  He’s never been one of my favorite managers.  I had greater confidence in Joe Torre’s ability to lead.  Among current managers, I hold Don Mattingly and Terry “Tito” Francona in highest regard.

Mattingly was my favorite player so sentimentally that’s probably why he is my favorite manager.  In 2008, when the Yankees hired Girardi over Mattingly, I did think it was the right decision given Mattingly’s lack of managerial experience at the time.  Mattingly was not able to succeed in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, but I’ve felt he has continually improved each year.  Today, I’d easily take Mattingly over Girardi.  My only reservation with hiring Mattingly as Yankees manager (assuming the Yankees could pry him from Miami) is preservation of his Yankees legacy.  Managers are hired to be fired or so the saying goes.  I wouldn’t want my final memory of Mattingly in pinstripes to be him walking away after being fired.

I have admired Francona since he was manager of the Boston Red Sox.  I had great respect for the champions he built and of course he was responsible for ending The Curse of the Bambino, along with then general manager Theo Epstein.  I doubt that Francona would ever leave the Cleveland Indians (by his own choice).  The Yankees could have hired him after he was fired in Boston but they did not express any interest.  Francona has history with the Cleveland Indians franchise (pre-dating his time in Boston), and after taking the team to the World Series last year, he is very beloved in the city.

If the Yankees do decide to make a managerial change at the end of the season, I just don’t see any overwhelming candidates who could do a better job.  Mattingly would be great, but he is under contract, so it would take a trade to make it happen.  I am not enthused by simply elevating one of the coaches (Rob Thomson or Tony Pena).

This situation bears watching over the course of the season.  I think the odds are much better that GM Brian Cashman, also in the final year of a contract, re-signs with the Yankees than Girardi.  Time will tell.

Let the competition be Judged…

The Yankees have various degrees of competition at certain positions this spring.  The most obvious is the two open spots in the pitching rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.  The early leaders, in my opinion, are Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  But there is still time for Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and perhaps Adam Warren to state their case.  I am anxious and excited for Jordan Montgomery and James Kaprielian but it does not appear to be their times yet.  Kaprielian has the higher ceiling but he won’t make an appearance at Yankee Stadium, barring injuries, until September at the earliest.  Montgomery could show up sooner and might be the first or second option if someone gets hurt.

MONTGOMERY

The competition at first base evaporated somewhat when Tyler Austin broke his foot.  Greg Bird clearly holds the advantage over Chris Carter despite the latter’s 41 home runs last season.  Unlike Carter, Bird is good defensively (even if he’s not on par with former first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove) and hits for average.  As Bird has shown this spring, he still has his power following last year’s injury.

Right field was also a speculated position of competition.  Most assume that Aaron Judge will get the job, but technically, he is in competition with Aaron Hicks.  Judge has a much greater upside, but he did strike out 42 out of 84 times late last season.  If he is not able to make the necessary adjustments at the big league level, it could open the door for Hicks to take the job.  I personally hope it does not happen.  I am hopeful that Judge figures it out at this level like he has at every level thus far.

The flaming red hair is left on the barbershop floor…

Kudos to OF Clint Frazier for cutting his bushy red hair this week.  While I personally feel that the Yankees current hair policy is outdated, I thought it was a good move by Frazier to cut his hair after a talk with Manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi felt that the hair had become a distraction.  It was a mature statement by Frazier in saying that he loved playing for the organization more than his hair.

f279edaae007020d44f6aabff2d72acb

Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Frazier won’t break camp with the Yankees, but he’ll be there soon enough.  This is all part of his maturation into a dynamic young future star outfielder for the Pinstripers.

There’s other baseball on TV…

I should probably watch the WBC more but I’ve never been into it.  Still, I fully understand the importance of placing Baseball on the World Stage and should reconsider my complacency.  I guess I am just get tired of seeing the Dominican Republic or Japan always win the competition.

Regardless, it was fun to see the USA defeat Columbia, 3-2, on a run-scoring single by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.  Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard picked up the win.  The game featured a very strong start by Jose Quintana for Columbia.  The rumors continue to swirl about Quintana’s future and the Yankees remain one of the potential destinations.  His WBC performance yesterday did nothing to dispel those rumors.

USATSI_9931808

Credit:  Logan Bowles, USA TODAY Sports

Have a great weekend, everyone!

—Scott

A Preview of Coming Attractions?…

The Bryce is Right…

With Bryce Harper’s free agency still a few seasons away, I am surprised that there is so much discussion about his future (potentially) in pinstripes.  So much can happen between now and 2019.

harper-monument-park

While the Yankees do not have a true superstar at any position except maybe Closer, there’s a wealth of outfield prospects.  Aaron Judge has a history of first failing and then massively succeeding at each level.  With the initial underwhelming big league performance behind him, the expectation is that he’ll grab right field for years to come.  There’s other help on the way for the outfield.  With so many talented infield prospects headlined by shortstop (second baseman?) Gleyber Torres, it has been mentioned that shortstop Jorge Mateo’s future is in centerfield.  Clint Frazier, a centerfielder, will most likely be moved to a corner outfield position.  If each player performs to his respective potential, a trio of Judge, Mateo, and Frazier is very, very solid.

The Yankees also have other young talented outfield prospects.  Mason Williams, although injuries have not been his friend.  Dustin Fowler is aggressively raising his stock in prospect rankings.  Blake Rutherford was a steal in last year’s draft and seems destined for greatness.  Billy McKinney is an over-looked, unappreciated talent but he’s opened some eyes this spring.

At face value, Outfield does not appear that it will be a weakness for the team anytime soon.  Well, maybe as long as Jacoby Ellsbury is starting in center, but that’s another matter.

Over the last few years, Owner Hal Steinbrenner has evolved the organization from its free-spending ways to financial conservatism.  Although the Yankees consistently have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, the payroll has stayed fairly level for a number of years.  There’s a genuine opportunity for the Yankees to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.  Signing Harper is going to cost a lot of money.  Giancarlo Stanton may currently hold baseball’s most lucrative contract, but Harper will surpass Stanton and not by a close margin.  Harper could legitimately be baseball’s first $500 million man.  More than likely, it will be around $400 million but still, that’s a huge financial commitment for anyone.

Attendance has declined at Yankee Stadium the past few years.  With no true superstars in an every day role, the Yankees need players who can not only perform on the field, but can draw fans to the Bronx.  Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge may soon have that dual ability, if the former does not already have it.  But signing Bryce Harper, a childhood Yankees fan, would be huge for attendance.  His lefty bat, among a sea of righties, would be huge.  He’ll only be 26 when he hits free agency so a lengthy obligation would not look as ugly at the end as it did for Alex Rodriguez.

I am a proponent for the Yankees to sign Harper.  At some point, the Yankees will have to make a trade for a frontline starting pitcher (or two) and they’ll need to use talented top prospects to make it happen.  They can deal from outfield (and infield) strength and bring the necessary help for the rotation.  With Masahiro Tanaka’s looming opt-out after the season, the Yankees will need to make trades to supplement the infusion of youth if they are to achieve the championship dreams in a couple of years.

Harper in pinstripes would put the team closer to Championship #28 while boosting gate attendance to help subsidize his enormous contract.

The starting rotation competition…

As the battle for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation continue, there are some early favorites.  I think it’s a given that Luis Severino will take the fourth spot.  The team wants him to succeed as a starter.  Last year was a disappointment as Severino arrived at training camp in bulked up physical condition and was not able to effectively throw his change up with the same velocity.  He has worked this off-season to reduce bulk and to recapture the touch he previously had with the change-up, his third pitch.  He may have been winless in starts last year before finding success in the bullpen late in the season, but he deserves another chance.  If he is able to throw his three pitches effectively, the results this year will be much better.

Luis Severino

Most experts are predicting Chad Green as the other starting option.  I know that he had a few good starts last year, but I can’t say I am convinced.  I would prefer to see Bryan Mitchell in the rotation over Green.  I also like Luis Cessa, but I agree that his ceiling is not that great.  I’d love to see Jordan Montgomery excel but I think he needs at least another year in the minors before he is ready.  Jon Niese is certainly an option but it’s curious that he has yet to make a spring appearance.

Regardless of who wins the starting spots, it’s a certainty that more than two will have the opportunity to start over the course of the season.  I fully expect to see Chance Adams and Dietrich Enns at some point, and September will most likely see James Kaprielian’s first major league start (if it doesn’t happen sooner).

Mayans MC, Santo Padre Charter

Okay, this is a bit off-topic but I am excited about the upcoming Sons of Anarchy spinoff series, Mayans MC.

the-mayans-samcro-soa-fx-670x447-210420

The latest Kurt Sutter offering will film its pilot this month.  There has been no announcement that the FX Network has picked up the series for its fall lineup, but it’s hard to imagine that they would not.  The creative team has slowly been announcing its cast members.  With each announcement they give a little deeper insight into the show’s storyline.  Set in the same mythology as the Sons of Anarchy, the new show will pick up life post-Jax Teller and will be set on the Mexican-California border.

Here is the synopsis released by FX:

Set in the aftermath of Jax Teller’s death at the end of SOA’s seven-season run in 2014, Mayans MC will focus on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, a prospect in the Mayan MC charter on the California/Mexico border. EZ is the gifted son of a proud Latino family, whose American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape.

When I first heard about the potential new series, I had hoped that Emilio Rivera would be part of the project.  His character, Marcus Alvarez, President of the Northern California charter of the Mayans MC, was one of my favorite characters on Sons of Anarchy.  With the casting announcements, the character that will be President of the featured charter (Santo Padre) is cousins with Alvarez and the press release indicated that he lived, for a time, with Alvarez.  This gives a possible tie-in to Sons of Anarchy as the character most likely had some interaction with the rival MC.  A nice setup for possible flashbacks.

The casting choices have been exemplary.

  • Felipe Reyes (father of the protagonist):  Edward James Olmos
  • Angel Reyes (brother of the protagonist, full patch member of the MC):  Clayton Cardenas
  • Esai “Taino” Ossorio (President of the Mayans MC, Santo Padre charter):  John Ortiz
  • Michael “Riz” Ariza (Vice President of the Mayans MC):  Antonio Jaramillo
  • EZ Reyes (the protagonist, a prospect of the MC):  JD Pardo
  • Johnny “El Coco” Cruz (full patch member of the MC):  Richard Cabral

There are still critical roles to be announced.  The setup features conflict with the Cartel so villains will be needed, with through regular cast members or through guest starring roles.  There’s also a love interest that EZ Reyes seeks to protect so that will be a key hire.

I am looking forward to the show and hope it’s as successful as its predecessor but in its own right.  Marcus Alvarez, now credited as National President and Founder of the Mayans MC, (Emilio Rivera) will be an awesome bridge between the two series.

Have a great weekend!

If at First you don’t succeed…

He has swing and miss ability!…

My first thought hearing the news (allegedly, as there has been no official announcement yet) that the Yankees signed free agent first baseman Chris Carter was the team had captured last year’s strikeout leader.  Great if the signing was for a pitcher, but not so great when it is a hitter.

b99717029z-1_20160502225240_000_g6kffejj-1-1

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Still, for a team with questions at first base, the signing makes some sense.  It’s not a given that Greg Bird will pick up where he left off in 2015 given that he missed most of last year due to injury (playing only in the Arizona Fall League).

The other first base candidate (Tyler Austin) was completely off the Yankees’ radar last off-season.  He had a surprisingly good year to recapture prospect status and came up with some big hits in the Bronx at the end of the year.  But he is not the second coming of Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi or Mark Teixeira.

Carter will end many innings with strikeouts, but the potential for the big smash to win games is there.  He provides help from the bench if Bird captures first with a strong Spring performance or is there for a platoon if necessary.  He also provides insurance at DH for Matt Holliday who has spent a fair amount of time on the DL over the last few years.

For only $3.5 million (and one year), Carter is a good investment.  He can play his way into a new contract with the Yankees or the parties can decide to part ways at the end of the year which fits with Hal Steinbrenner’s desire to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.

We’ve been spoiled by great first basemen over the years, but I didn’t enjoy the various Teixeira ailments that plagued the team in recent years.  I am hopeful that Bird grabs the position and runs with it.  Carter will be there for insurance.

 

Wanted:  Starting Pitchers…

I had been hopeful the Yankees would sign a veteran pitcher to bring to camp but it doesn’t look like it will happen.  Jason Hammel had been my choice, but he recently signed with the Kansas City Royals as they attempt to recover from the devastating passing of Yordano Ventura.  Doug Fister is still out there, but I don’t think he’ll be coming in for the Yankees.  So, it looks like the Yankees will fill the two open spots in the rotation with in-house candidates.  Clearly, they have to be hoping for a rebound by Luis Severino who failed miserably as a starter last year (finding success only in the bullpen).  But with off-season work with Pedro Martinez, maybe Sevy can show he is capable of becoming a good starter at the major league level.

I would love for James Kaprielian to take the other spot, but I recognize that he is not ready yet.  He’ll need more time in the minors and might get a chance later in the year.  Luis Cessa and Chad Green will be given every opportunity, but Jordan Montgomery is quickly becoming my favorite.  Last year, he pitched to a 2.95 ERA in 19 starts with AA Trenton, and then 0.97 in just 6 starts with AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre.  At 6-6, he is a formidable presence on the mound with the pitches to match.  His time may be now.  Severino and Montgomery have the potential to make the back end of the Yankees rotation quite strong, which would certainly help the question marks that exist in the front end.

jordan-montgomery

Credit:  Jason Farmer/Scranton Times Tribune

It’s exciting that baseball is almost back.  Pitchers and catchers will report on Valentine’s Day (that must have made a bunch of wives and girlfriends very happy) so we’re only days away.  It seems like it wasn’t that long ago Aroldis Chapman was on the mound winning a World Series.  It will be good to see him back in blue (well, a darker shade of blue than we last saw him in).  The excitement of spring training and the limitless possibilities it brings is fun.

Welcome back, Yankees!

dscn0156

 

Sad Day for Detroit and all of Major League Baseball…

On a final note, my deepest sympathy and condolences to the Detroit Tigers, their fans, and the family of their late owner Mike Ilitch who passed away yesterday.  He was great for the Tigers and for the city of Detroit.  He will be missed.  It’s unfortunate that he was unable to see a Tigers championship or the opening of the new Little Caesars Arena for his other team, the Detroit Red Wings.

mlbf_532458083_th_45

Credit:  MLB.com

—Scott