Tagged: Clint Frazier

Wanted: Good News For A Change…

Credit:  MLB.com

A Collective Groan in the Yankees Universe…

On the tail of a six-game losing streak, how can things go from bad to worse?  Losing top prospect Gleyber Torres to Tommy John surgery certainly qualifies.  Thought to have only a hyperextended elbow, consultation with Yankees team physician Christopher Ahmad revealed that Torres has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.  Many were expecting the July call-up of Torres to the Major Leagues as a potential replacement for third baseman Chase Headley.  Now, Torres will undergo surgery, with eyes for Spring Training 2018.  Ouch, this one hurts. Well, him more than me but still, losing both the top pitching and the top hitting prospects to Tommy John surgery in the same year is difficult.  I suppose the news would have been much worse if Torres had injured his throwing arm (longer recuperation and rehabilitation period).  So, we should be grateful that this was not worse than it was.  Good things never happen with headfirst slides.

Like the ascension of Chance Adams to top pitching prospect status, Clint Frazier becomes the de facto top prospect in the organization pending Gleyber’s successful return to good health.  As I try to comprehend this depressing news, I didn’t really think that Torres was ready for the Big Leagues yet.  I had already viewed his timetable as next Spring.  With immediate projections that he’ll be ready for Spring Training, nothing really changes except he’ll lose valuable time learning the nuances of third base over the course of the next few months.  Manager Joe Girardi is already on record saying that if there is an infield need at second/short on the MLB roster, Tyler Wade would be the guy.  

Where do we go from here?  With first base surfacing as the greatest need, this probably enhances the chances for Chase Headley to remain as the third base starter (regardless of the consequences) unless the Yankees swing a less expensive deal for a guy like Howie Kendrick of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Without Major League ready third basemen in the Minor Leagues and greater needs at first base and left-handed relief in the bullpen, there’s probably not much that can be done to upgrade third base at this point without costing an arm and leg (a few arms and legs, in fact).  Even the guy the Yankees traded to the San Diego Padres for Headley (Yangervis Solarte) would be a better option today in a side-by-side comparison. 

Credit:  Associated Press

The Yankees are competing against the Houston Astros in the pitching market and for third base, they face stiff competition from the Boston Red Sox who appear ready to flush the Pablo Sandoval disaster.  I believe this makes the possibility of Mike Moustakas calling Fenway Park “home” the more likely outcome.  This year’s July Trading Deadline figures to be a very expensive one for the many teams looking to upgrade. 

The Yankees elevated 3B Miguel Andujar to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Torres.  He was 1-for-4 last night in the RailRiders’ 6-1 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs.  He also scored two runs.  The heroes of the game were Dustin Fowler, who had a two-run home run, and Brady Lail, who pitched 6 2/3 innings, surrendering only the one run and four hits, for the win.  Andujar is probably the best true third baseman right now but he’s not close to taking his game to the next level yet.

In case you were sleeping last night…

Despite the day off, the Yankees are back in sole possession of first place in the AL East.  The Boston Red Sox lost to the Kansas City Royals, 4-2, to fall a 1/2 game off the pace.  Having played three more games than the Yankees, the Red Sox are two games behind in the loss column.  The third place Tampa Bay Rays slid to 4 games back, thanks to their loss to the Cincinnati Reds, 7-3.   The Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles sit 5 games back entering play today.  The Jays beat the Texas Rangers, 7-6, while the Orioles were de-feathered by the Cleveland Indians, 12-0.  

Preview of Upcoming Angels-Yankees Series:

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups for the series with the Los Angeles Angels which begins tonight at Yankee Stadium:

Tuesday, June 20th

Angels:  Parker Bridwell (1-0, 2.79 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (7-3, 3.71 ERA)

Wednesday, June 21st

Angels:  Ricky Nolasco (2-8, 5.01 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (4-4, 3.78 ERA)

Thursday, June 22nd

Angels:  Jesse Chavez (5-7, 4.85 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (5-2, 2.99 ERA)

Odds & Ends…

Yankees RHP Matt Marsh, 25, has been suspended for 50 games for a second violation of Baseball’s Minor League Drug Policy.  Marsh, a relief pitcher, has appeared in 15 games for High-A Tampa and AA-Trenton.  He is 3-2 with 2.49 ERA, and has held batters to .190 batting average while striking out 28 in 21 2/3 innings.  He did not allow a run in 7 innings pitched for Tampa.  Marsh was signed by the Yankees as an undrafted free agent in 2014.

Credit:  Josh Lefkowitz-Getty Images

Move over, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.  Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers is now the hottest young home run hitter in baseball.  Bellinger hit two more homers last night against Zack Wheeler and the New York Mets and now has 21 in 51 games.  It is the fifth multi-homer game for Bellinger.  He is just the fourth player 21 years or younger with 20 homers by the All-Star Break (joining Eddie Matthews, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera).  Do the Dodgers miss injured first baseman Adrian Gonzalez?  I think not…

Credit:  Harry How-Getty Images

Have a great Tuesday!  It’s time to put the losing streak in the rearview mirror!

Sevy and the Blazing Fast Goose Eggs…

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Yankees 3, Royals 0…

Luis Severino continued the recent albeit short trend of stellar pitching performances by Yankee starters.  Masahiro Tanaka excluded, the rotation has pitched to win the last four games.  Severino was tremendous, pitching eight innings.  He was still clicking the radar gun at 99 mph in the 8th.  By completing eight, Severino was able to pass the baton to Dellin Betances for the one inning save without relying on any of the tired arms in the pen. 

Severino (3-2) was incredible in the scoreless outing with a season high 114 pitches.  He allowed only one extra base hit (a double by Brandon Moss in the 5th inning) and did not allow any runners past second base.  Sevy only allowed four hits and walked one while striking out seven.  He lowered his season ERA to 3.11.

Jason Hammel kept the Yankees in check most of the night but the Pinstripers didn’t need much.  Didi Gregorius hit a solo homer in the third inning to give the Yanks an early 1-0 lead.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

In the 6th inning, the Yankees picked up another run through great-base running effort by Gary Sanchez.  Sanchez singled to open the inning and then stole second.  Thanks to a throwing error by Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Sanchez alertly raced on to third.  Matt Holliday brought him home with a sac fly.

The Yankees picked up their final run when Gregorius led off the 7th inning with a double.  A ground out by Chris Carter moved Gregorius to third, which brought Brett Gardner to the plate.  With two strikes, Gardner was the beneficiary of a called ball on a pitch by Royals reliever Matt Strahm that seemingly landed well within the strike zone.  It should have been the third strike for the second out of the inning but with the next pitch, Gardner singled to center to drive in the run.

Betances struck out the side in the 9th inning to earn his fourth save of the season, lowering his season ERA to 0.57.

The Yankees (27-17) moved 2 1/2 games up on the Baltimore Orioles.  Baltimore lost 4-3 to the Minnesota Twins and their fine rookie pitcher Jose Berrios.  The Boston Red Sox remained 3 1/2 games back with their 9-4 win over the Texas Rangers.

I want one of those guys…

Last night, Chris Sale of the Red Sox attempted to become the MLB pitcher in the Modern Era to record at least 10 strikeouts in nine straight games.  He failed but he is still the fifth pitcher since 1900 to reach 100 strikeouts in his first 10 starts.  It probably wasn’t one of his better games, but Sale still kept the game within reach for the Red Sox until their offense exploded for 7 runs in the 7th inning of their game against the Texas Rangers.  Sale finished the night with 7 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.  

Credit:  Christopher Evans

Sale has such a presence when he is on the mound.  I can’t think of any potential trade targets that can match Sale as a frontline ace.  I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will surprise me, but I think most of us know who the available trade suspects are.  

Gleyber Torres Watch (with a little Tyler Austin thrown in)…

It was another night at third base yesterday for Yankees top prospect Gleyber Torres as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Columbus Clippers, 5-0. 

Watching the RailRiders this closely shows me one thing.  Clint Frazier is on fire.  He hit his eighth home run (and 28th RBI) in the first inning of the RailRiders’ game against the Columbus Clippers on Wednesday.  He also had a two-run shot on Tuesday during Gleyber’s first game at the AAA Level.  But enough about ridiculously hot outfielders and how the Yankees like to keep them down while parading the $153 Million Man in center field at Yankee Stadium on a nightly basis.  Note:  To Jacoby Ellsbury’s defense, he was injured during last night’s game against the Royals when he collided into the outfield wall after making a catch.  He suffered a neck sprain and a concussion, and has been placed on the 7-Day DL.  I wish him no ill will and hope that he returns to the health sooner than later.  It does kind of make me wish that the padding on the outfield walls was a little more player-friendly.  Rob Refsnyder has been recalled to the Bronx to replace Ellsbury.  On performance alone, Frazier would have been the best option, but Refsnyder is already on the 40-Man Roster which was the difference-maker.  

Credit:  Andy Grosh/MiLB.com

Torres was a wee bit cooler than Frazier.  With an ‘O-fer’ night (0-for-3), he wasn’t really doing much with the bat but he did walk twice, stole a base, and avoided striking out.  All things considered, it was another game in the education and development of the Yankees premier prospect as he climbs the ladder for the eventual call to the Bronx.  

I thought Mike Ford did a good job for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the short time since his call-up.  In nine games, he hit 4 homers and 10 RBI’s, batting .306/.432/.750.  But he was returned to AA-Trenton yesterday when Ji-Man Choi was activated from the 7-Day DL for the RailRiders.  

Credit:  Cheryl Pursell

Maybe I should have re-named this section the Minor League Report.

As promised, here’s a little Tyler Austin…


Finally…

The Yankees conclude their four-game set against the Kansas City Royals this afternoon at 1:05 pm Eastern.  The Royals have announced a change in starters for the game as Miguel Almonte, called up on Tuesday from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Double-A), will replace Nathan Karns who was placed on the DL with forearm stiffness. He was 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 6 starts for the Naturals. For Almonte, the start at Yankee Stadium will be a treat.  “That was my favorite team growing up”, Almonte said yesterday through an interpreter.  No worries, Miguel, they are our favorite team too.
Masahiro Tanaka takes the hill for the Yankees in an outing that will probably have me watching the game between my fingers.  I really hope that he has rediscovered the touch and can continue the streak of solid pitching performances.  Otherwise, the fans in the outfield bleachers should receive hazard duty pay.
Have a great Thursday!  Why settle for two when you can take three??!!…

 

Looking Ahead to 14 Days in July…

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Team Prospect-Hugger could get a new look the last two weeks of July.  In an interview, Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner indicated that he’ll look at any deal that crosses his desk during the final two weeks of July.  He’ll read the scouting reports, talk to GM Brian Cashman and the Scouting Department and tap into other resources to determine the best moves for the Yankees organization moving forward.  He said that he’ll divert all of his attention to any one deal that comes across his desk as he has always done in the couple of weeks leading up to the trading deadline.  It doesn’t mean that he’ll approve a deal but he’ll certainly give more than a passing thought to any deal that makes sense.

Steinbrenner sees the value in holding onto the team’s prospects as they have done for the last three or four years.

With significant dollars coming off the payroll at the end of the year ($59 million alone with the expiring contracts of CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday, and Alex Rodriguez), Steinbrenner feels the Yankees will be active in the free agent market.  “To what degree, and in what areas remains to be seen”, said Steinbrenner, in talking with reporters.

I am probably somewhere in between Hal and his father, George.  I’d be more inclined to make moves to strengthen weaker areas.  But I’d also be trying to find ways to unload dead weight off the roster.  Spending $46 million for CC Sabathia’s unreliable performances and Alex Rodriguez’s “consulting services” is a bad return on investment in a statement of the obvious.  Why don’t they just increase it to $47 million and toss me the difference? I would certainly have a more company-aligned outlook and they would be no worse for the wear.  I am looking forward to next year when a greater percentage of the payroll goes to active, contributing members of the team’s 25-man roster.  

Even though Steinbrenner may not be open to considering any deals until mid-July, there’s no doubt that Cashman and Company have already begin dialing other teams to open dialogue for potential trades involving targeted players.  If the Yankees do prove that they are for real this year, it should be a very fun and active July.  I am certainly not expecting a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado type trade, but reinforcements to stay the upward course would be very much appreciated.  

I am glad to hear that one of my favorite prospects, pitcher Albert Abreu, will be coming off the DL for High-A Tampa on Friday.  Abreu has been on the DL since May 2nd with elbow inflammation.  Abreu will start in Friday’s game against the Dayton Tortugas in place of Domingo Acevedo, who was promoted to AA-Trenton.  

Last summer, the two best outfield prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization were Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer.  Zimmer received his call to join the Show this week, and looks to be a long-term fixture in Cleveland as an Andrew Miller teammate.  On Wednesday, with his parents in attendance, Zimmer had a run-scoring double and a home run.  Zimmer, two years older than Frazier, looks to be one of the game’s superior talents for years to come.  I know it’s not Yankees-related but it is great to see good young players flourish in the Major Leagues.  There’s no doubt he received a congratulatory text from Frazier.

The Yankees were victorious in baseball action last night with an 11-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals.  With the final game of the series to be played today, the Yankees have already taken the series by winning the first two games of the three-game set.  

Of the three Royals pitchers that we would be facing, I was most concerned about Jason Vargas.  The veteran pitcher had gotten off to a great start at 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA.  But four innings and six runs later, the ERA had more than doubled to 2.03.  Michael Pineda (4-2) was the winner, but he did give up two home runs.  For six innings of work, he gave up six hits, four runs (three earned), and two walks.  He also registered 5 K’s.  I would have liked to have seen better work but with the Yankees racing out to a 10-2 lead by the fifth inning, Pineda was guilty somewhat of letting up on the gas.  

Every Yankee in the starting lineup got a hit in the 16-hit attack.  Aaron Hicks, filling in for Jacoby Ellsbury, hit a three run homer in the fourth inning on a 2-for-4 night.

Credit:  John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS

The Royals scored three runs with two outs in the ninth inning against Yankees reliever Giovanny Gallegos.  With two runners on base and the potential tying run on deck, Dellin Betances came in for one out, a soft grounder back to the pitcher, to end the game, recording his first save of the season with just four pitches. 

The Yankees (24-13) took advantage of a loss by the Baltimore Orioles to move 1 1/2 games up in the AL East.  The O’s lost to the Detroit Tigers in a close game, 5-4.  Former Yankee Justin Wilson, recently named closer for the Tigers, picked up his third save.  It could have been a great night but the Boston Red Sox pulled out a 5-4 win in 13 innings against the St Louis Cardinals.  

Have a great Thursday!  Hopefully the Yankees grab another “W” before racing to Kansas City International Airport for the flight to Tampa later this evening.

To Trade A Gardner Is To Believe In Tomorrow…

Credit:  Presswire

Prior to the season, I was saying the Yankees should move veteran outfielder Brett Gardner.   Now, fourteen games into the 2017 season, I am more convinced than ever he should be moved.  Granted, it is not his fault that he turns 34 on August 24th (I personally blame his parents) but he does not fit into the long-term view for the new and improved New York Yankees. 

For the season, Gardner is batting .205 with no home runs or RBI’s.  He has stolen five bags but all things considered, his production is replaceable.  The Yankees need to find room to consistently start fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks.  Hicks, 27, has shown he can be a productive hitter when he regularly knows that he’ll be in the lineup.  For the season, Hicks has much better numbers than Gardner (outside of the total stolen bases).  Hicks has received 15 less at-bats than Gardner but only has two less hits.  Hicks has three home runs on the year, with eight RBI’s.  His two stolen base attempts ended in failure but regardless, Hicks has been the better player.  Even though he hasn’t put up the numbers for AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre-Barre this month, I think Mason Williams, 25, is a very capable fourth outfielder.

I would love to unload center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury but with his contract, he’s not going anywhere.  We’re four years into his 7-year, $153 million contract and at this point, there’s nothing he can do for redemption (at least not in my eyes).  He is what he is, and he’ll never be more, and he’ll never be that dude who tore up the league for the Boston Red Sox in 2011.  That was his Brady Anderson year.  Chained to Ellsbury for the foreseeable future, it means that Hicks would need to play either left or right.  Aaron Judge is the awakening Giant in right so he’s not going anywhere.  That only leaves left field.  It makes the most sense to move Gardner and begin the outfield youth movement with full intensity.  Gardner’s been a good Yankee so slap him on the back, give him a watch, and send him on his way. 

I suppose the opposing point of view is that Ellsbury will be hurt at some point and it will be necessary to slide Gardner to center, creating a left field opening.  At some point this season, the Yankees need to begin placing higher value in Dustin Fowler as the center fielder of the future unless they plan to discard Fowler (a mistake in my opinion) to make way for Jorge Mateo.  I wish Mateo was closer to the Majors so that he could force a competition but at this point, Fowler will be ready much sooner.  Since Mateo is still learning the position, he is much further behind Fowler than just levels in the Minor Leagues. 

I wouldn’t want to over-expose Matt Holliday but he could still play left occasionally in a pinch.  As former Yankee Lee Mazzilli once said (regrettably), “Left field is a position for idiots”.  Not trying to demean the position, but there are others in the organization that can play the position as back up for Hicks, Ellsbury, and Judge.  There always seems to be fourth outfielders readily available as free agents or ones that could easily (and cheaply) be had.  I am not worried about the outfield depth.  As we move deeper and deeper into the season, guys like Clint Frazier move closer to potential callups.  

It’s time to move Gardy.  Maybe not this exact minute but no later than July if not sooner.   

Now that I’ve ripped Gardner for the day, he will probably go on a hitting tear.

Why is it that the best Yankees beat writers always move on?  I remember loving the work of Peter Abraham on the LoHud Yankees Blog, and these days he is a Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe.  I get it, he’s a Boston guy so it was an opportunity to go home.  Then, I loved reading Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News and listening to his podcasts.  Now, he is a writer for MLB.com writing about, Egads!, other teams.  Or Marc Carig of The Star Ledger moving from the Yankees to the Mets.  Next, you’ll probably tell me that Brendan Kuty or Bryan Hoch have found other things they’d like to do.  Sorry, just my rant about losing Feinsand.  I enjoyed his time as the Yankees beat writer for the Daily News.

The win streak ends at eight.  Bummer.  Usually, when a starting pitcher goes eight innings and only allows three hits and strikes out ten, the end result is a win.  But on a night when the other team’s starter was a wee bit better and the Yankee bats were quiet, Luis Severino took the loss as the Yankees fell to the Chicago White Sox, 4-1.  The Yankees had a chance at the end with the winning run at the plate, but Aaron Judge grounded into a force out to end the game.  A grand slam would have been so cool at that moment.  

The Yanks still have the chance to take the series when the teams meet for the third and final time this evening.

Tuesday evening turned out to be a double loss as top prospect Gleyber Torres was scratched from the lineup for AA Trenton Thunder due to biceps tendonitis.  He will undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury.  Hopefully, the news will be favorable.  

James Kaprielian underwent successful Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, so now the long road to recovery begins.  

Have a great Wednesday!  I think it’s time to start a new winning streak!

Optimism fades to Pessimism?…

Where did the excitement of the new season go?…

Man-watching-the-sunset

The season began with so much optimism.  The Yankees had the best Spring of any team in Major League Baseball (24-9-1) which was their best Grapefruit League performance since the 2009 World Championship year.

The Yankees may not be World Series contenders this year, but I expected more than a 1-3 start through four games.  With 157 games to go, there’s still much baseball to be played.  But it’s important to see the team gel with a winning mindset sooner rather than later.  It’s not feasible or possible to win every game, but the attitude for expecting to win should be there.  With a downward spiral, it’s too easy to get caught up in the losses and the negativity spreads like wildfire.

My concern this month is the schedule.  It is not an easy path in April.  With two more games to go in Baltimore, the Yankees will play a total of eleven games this month against the AL rival Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.  The series against the Red Sox is at Fenway Park which isn’t exactly an inviting place for the Yankees (or their fans).  The Yankees also play the St Louis Cardinals in inter-league play.  Mike Matheny’s squad always comes to play.  The Yankees really need to get on top of this, and pull out a few stretches of two or three consecutive wins.

Despite Friday’s loss to the Orioles, it was good to see Gary Sanchez connect for his first home run on the season.  It is unrealistic to expect 20 home runs in 50 games again, but just getting the first one out of the way helps the mental approach to each at-bat.

sanchez1

Credit:  Ron Sachs, The New York Post

Right now, the young trio of Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Greg Bird are all hitting below the Mendoza Line.  Sanchez has the best batting average of the three (.167).  Judge stands at .133, while Bird, with one hit in 16 at-bats, is a pathetic .063.  You’d expect Judge to be the team’s strikeout leader (given Chris Carter is not an every day starter) but he trails Bird by two.  It’s sad when the team’s best hitter is Chase Headley (7-for-15).

Collectively, as a team, the Yankees need to start hitting.  The formula of a few hitters making contact with the majority of the bats being silent does not work.  A few more pitching performances like the one CC Sabathia delivered in the second game of the season would also be nice.  With no fifth starter needed until April 16th, the Yankees have cycled once through the rotation.  Sabathia gave the only defined quality start.  Tanaka’s start may have been the worst of his Yankees career.  As we proceed into the second run through the rotation, much better results are expected and needed.

Losing is like negativity.  It is very infectious.  If the Yankees can start running out a few stretches of consecutive wins, they can change the attitudes and mindset of the team (and its fans).

Let’s see what the second week of the young season will bring…

Tommy John was a good Yankee but I am tired of hearing his name…

The Yankees received bad news regarding top pitching prospect James Kaprielian this week.  He has been shut down and placed on the Minor League DL.  He underwent a MRI on his pitching elbow (which include dye-contrast).  The results have been shared with the Yankees team physician and Kaprielian will now head to Los Angeles to meet with noted Tommy John surgeon Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D.  Dr. ElAttrache is the team physician for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.  He also is on the Board of Directors for the famed Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic which was co-founded by Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered Tommy John surgery.

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If Kaprielian needs Tommy John surgery, it’s very possible that we won’t see him again until 2019.  With CC Sabathia’s contract up at the end of the year, I had hoped that Kaprielian would be in position to compete for his rotation spot next Spring.  Now, his career is in doubt.  This is starting to feel like the Andrew Brackman situation.  A pitcher with so much promise who was never able to overcome arm injuries, leading to his eventual release and exit from baseball.

With Kaprielian sidelined, the focus will shift to young pitching prospects like Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, and Justus Sheffield to lead the way for future rotation help.

I remain hopeful that Kaprielian receives the best possible medical opinion from Dr ElAttrache and if Tommy John surgery is the only answer, I wish him much success on the long journey to recovery and hope that the Major League dream is still within his grasp.

He said, she said…

This seems to be the week of fake news.  Two separate reports were leaked, only to be quickly shot down by the Yankees.  News reports spread quickly that Yankees prospect Clint Frazier had asked the Yankees to un-retire Mickey Mantle’s number.  Both the team and the player quickly denied the reports and Frazier stated that he was only concerned with the front of the jersey and not the back of it.  The story obviously got its start from somewhere, whether it was words take out of context or spoken in jest, but I do not believe that Frazier made the request.

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The other report was that the Yankees have no intention of re-signing starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka should he decide to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract at the end of the year.  Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner stated that no discussions have taken place.  The Yankees would be foolish not to consider all their options, and re-signing Tanaka to a new longer term deal does represent risk.  He’ll be 29 in November and the slight tear in his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) is not going to improve without eventual surgery.

Both stories sound like writers fishing for stories.  Finding a shred of truth it and then embellishing it for the sake of sensationalism.

Bad trade rising…

The Yankees have made their share of bad trades over the years, but one that doesn’t get much recognition is the trade of infielder Eduardo Nunez to the Minnesota Twins three years ago yesterday.  Nunez was subsequently traded to San Francisco and is now their starting third baseman (hitting .400, 8-for-20 so far this season).  Meanwhile, the prospect that the Yankees received from the Twins for Nunez (23-year-old lefty Miguel Sulbaran), currently with AA Trenton, has been suspended for 25 games due to a drug policy violation.

Miguel Sulbaran

Credit:  Jessica Kovalcin

While it has not been reported what Sulbaran did to lead to the suspension, it’s safe to say that the Yankees would not make this trade if they had a chance to do it over again.

A memorable Opening Day…

In all my years as a baseball fan, I’ve never attended an Opening Day game.  That changed yesterday when I saw the Colorado Rockies open Coors Field for the 2017 season against their division rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Although I am a Yankees fan, the Dodgers are my favorite National League team so I have to admit that I was wearing some Dodger blue yesterday.

But the day belonged to the Rockies and their young starting pitcher, Kyle Freeland, who made his Major League debut.  Freeland, who was born and raised in Denver, delivered a very solid performance while picking up his first Major League victory.  He went 6 innings, giving up only 4 hits and 1 run.  He walked 2 and struck out 6.  He was never on the ropes and seemed in command for the duration of the game.  The Rockies won, 2-1, in a pitcher’s duel (with Hyun-Jin Ryu) which is not something you ever expect to see at Coors Field.  The game’s only home run was delivered by backup catcher Dustin Garneau.  The Dodgers starting lineup was missing two regulars (Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez) although both made their way into the game in later innings.  But it wasn’t enough, and Freeland departed with the win.

Colorado Rockies vs Los Angels Dodgers

Credit:  The Denver Post

I remember seeing Jake Peavy make his Major League debut in San Diego years ago (against the Yankees) and it always stuck with me throughout Peavy’s career that I was there at the start.  I guess I can now say that about Freeland too.  Time will tell if he is as successful as Peavy.

Despite pulling for the Dodgers, it was a fun day in the Mile High city.  The weather was uncharacteristically warm for this time of year (mid 70’s) and the stadium was energized by its fans.  I expected to see more Dodger Blue but Purple was clearly the color of the day.

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!