Credit: Zach Bland/Charleston RiverDogs
With the news that James Kaprielian has elected Tommy John surgery, it is already being speculated that Albert Abreu moves to the top of the chart for right-handed prospects in the Yankees organization. At only 21 years of age, he is further away from the Major Leagues than Kaprielian is (was) and his status of the top righty would cause him to leap-frog over the more seasoned Chance Adams (and possibly Domingo Acevedo depending upon what prospect list you are looking at).
While I have high hopes for Chance Adams, I’ve been very intrigued by Abreu since he was acquired, along with pitcher Jorge Guzman, from the Houston Astros last November in the Brian McCann trade. At the time of the trade, I felt the Yankees did an outstanding job with their return for a player who longer fit. At the time of the trade, the only teams that you consistently heard connected to McCann were the Astros and his former team, the Atlanta Braves. It felt like a buyer’s market but GM Brian Cashman still came up with quality prospects.
In Abreu’s first start this year for the Single A Charles RiverDogs, he absolutely dominated. In 5 2/3 innings the other day, he held the Augusta GreenJackets to two hits and no runs, striking out eleven. He did not walk anyone. At one point, his pitches were hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. For the season, Abreu has pitched 9 2/3 innings, allowing only five hits and one run for an 0.93 ERA. He has struck out a total of 17 batters. I am sure the AA Trenton Thunder and High-A Tampa Yankees are already salivating over who gets their hands on Abreu next.
I am okay with the spotlight not being focused on Adams. My hope is his continued positive, upward climb in the organization. I have no problem with him slipping quietly into the rotation when it is time. Take a chance on Adams! If we do lose Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and/or CC Sabathia at the end of the year, we’ll need every quality (healthy) arm that we can get.
Credit: Martin Griff
Regarding Kaprielian, given this is the same injury that cost him the 2016 season, I think the decision to undergo TJ surgery is the best possible option. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. But as I’ve said before, he had to make the decision that was best for him and not necessarily what was best for the Yankees. Surgery probably means a reappearance in the minor leagues toward the end of the 2018 season since the standard recovery time is 12-18 months. More than anything, I hope he is able to rebound from this setback and return with the best health possible. It’s going to be a long journey for Kaprielian (basically, three lost seasons counting last year) but I hope that he is one day able to step foot on Yankee Stadium turf as a member of the New York Yankees. I am glad that he chose Dr Neal ElAttrache for the surgery given that he is one of the leading experts in the field.
Kaprielian’s surgery is scheduled for next Tuesday which coincides with Tax Day. So, I guess that day is going to be painful for all of us! Well, I suppose you could argue that Kaprielian is getting the pain from an orthopedic surgeon, whereas the rest of us are getting it from a proctologist.
The Cleveland Indians trade for Andrew Miller may have cost them more time without All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis. It seems odd that one would be connected to the other but Kipnis was hit by a pitch on his left hand the other day on a rehab assignment. Word is that Kipnis will give it go today so hopefully he won’t miss time. The irony is that the pitch was thrown by the Yankees’ Justus Sheffield, a former Indians prospect who arrived with Clint Frazier, among others, in the Miller trade.
After the second run through the rotation, which included a rookie, it’s hard to believe that the worst starting performance was courtesy of Masahiro Tanaka (last Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, which is also the last time the team has lost). After Micheal Pineda’s masterful performance on Opening Day, Luis Severino delivered a gem of his own. In getting his first starting victory since September 27, 2015, Sevy went seven strong innings and struck out eleven Rays batters. He only surrendered five hits, one walk and two runs. He did give up a fifth inning home run to Peter Bourjos but all things considered, he limited the damage and set the Yankees up for the win despite minimal offense. It’s the type of quality start that we consistently need from Severino and one that was so elusive last year when Sevy went 0-8 as a starter.
Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP Photo
The only offense was provided by Aaron Hicks and his two home runs. Thanks to Sevy’s great start, that’s all we needed for the 3-2 win. Dellin Betances did get into a bit of bind in the eighth inning when he had runners at the corners with no outs, but he worked out of trouble to escape the inning with no runs. The strikeouts for the first two outs of Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria on called third strikes were huge. I was a little worried when Brad Miller came to the plate but he was tagged out by Betances on a soft roller hit toward first base for the final out.
Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth and picked up his second save of the season. Man, I love having that guy back from the Chicago Cubs.
After sitting at 1-4 following Saturday’s loss, the Yankees are 5-4 with the sweep of the Rays. The Yankees now begin a three game set with the St Louis Cardinals at the Stadium. The Cards have gotten off to a slow start this year and are currently in last place in the NL East with a 3-6 record (tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates). They are capable of so much more but I hope they don’t wake up in this series. It’s a reunion for Yankees DH Matt Holliday who spent eight years in St Louis. Michael Wacha faces Masahiro Tanaka in what should be a great pitching matchup. It’s time for a dominant Tanaka performance like we saw during Spring Training.
Have a great Friday! Let’s keep this winning streak alive! Go for five!
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.
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.
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 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!
Waiting for Spring…
This is the time of year when there is not much activity in the way of baseball news.
Soon, MLB teams will be preparing for the journeys to Florida and Arizona (ala the Boston Red Sox infamous “Truck Day”). There is still a number of free agents searching for new homes, but the Yankees have not engaged any players in known, substantive talks.
I remain convinced the Yankees need to bring in a veteran arm to compete with the young talent that will be auditioning for the two open spots in the rotation. Jason Hammel remains available and that’s the arm I feel the Yankees should bring to camp. But there are others. I know that he’s not the pitcher he was earlier in the decade, but I liked San Diego’s move to sign Trevor Cahill. A reliever for the Chicago Cubs, Cahill will get an opportunity to start again for the Padres. Who knows if he’ll be successful or will ever be the starter that he once was, but the Padres are taking the chance.
Regardless of who the Yankees bring in, it’s a certainty that there will be a Scranton/Wilkes Barre shuttle for starters as well as relievers. I have no doubt that names like Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams will make their major league debuts in 2017. The likelihood of Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia staying healthy all season long is remote. This is why I feel that it is a very good idea to bring in a stable, consistent veteran influence like Hammel.
GM Brian Cashman would make the trade for Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox today if the price was right, but odds are it will be too high for the Yankees (leading to Cashman’s statement that it is 99% the Yankees will not be adding a pitcher before heading to Tampa). I still expect the Houston Astros to pony up the prospects necessary to pry Quintana from the White Sox. There’s no doubt Quintana would great in the Yankees rotation, but the time is not right.
There is a genuine concern that Masahiro Tanaka will have a great season and opt out of his deal next fall. Without Tanaka, the Yankees rotation is looking very scary unless the young arms make major advancements during the season.
Here’s how the Top 3 rotations currently stack up in the AL East:
Baltimore Orioles: Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy
Boston Red Sox: Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello
New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia
Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, and Jake Odorizzi
Toronto Blue Jays: Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman
Clearly, Boston is the class of the division, with the Blue Jays not far behind. There’s talent with the Orioles and Rays rotations. The Yankees clearly hold the most questions heading into the season. This is even more reason to shore up the back end of the rotation.
It’s tough thinking about giving up top prospects to bring in a much needed top starter. The Yankees need an ace to pair with, or potentially replace, Tanaka. 2B/SS prospect Gleyber Torres seems to have that “It” factor that separates the great players from the good ones. OF prospect Clint Frazier is guaranteed to be a hit in the Bronx if he gets the opportunity with a huge personality that matches the talent.
Hard decisions will need to be made as the team prepares for World Series contention within the next couple of years. For now, Cashman needs to ensure that he gives Manager Joe Girardi the best possible arms for 2017. It may be the best move is no move, or it may be bringing in a veteran arm or two to compete. Either decision is a hard one. It is time for the young guys to step up their game…