The Dog Days of Spring…
One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher. Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.
I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves. We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery. Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).
Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)
If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.
It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.
7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!
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!