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!
Happy New Year!
This has been an odd off-season for Yankees fans. Quietly, the Yankees have made small deals to get younger. The only significant addition of a proven high level performer is lefty Andrew Miller. Didi Gregorius makes sense given the team’s need at short, but he’s hardly proven himself as a top flight shortstop to this point in his career.
It was difficult to see David Robertson leave to sign with the Chicago White Sox, particularly since there were no outward signs the team tried to keep him. Not sure what the team saw that we didn’t, but Robertson has proved he can pitch in the Bronx and that’s not an easy task…especially when you follow the footsteps of a Legend…
Despite the brevity of his Yankees career, I was disappointed when I heard the news that Martin Prado had been traded to the Miami Marlins. While I am hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training, there’s always the chance that neither he nor Jose Pirela will be successful. Prado provides great diversity to a roster. While I am not disappointed that Mark Teixeira will have a sorely needed legitimate backup in Garrett Jones, I am not quite sure what to think about starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. I understand the potential is there, but it’s yet to be proven.
Robert Mayer – USA Today Sports
But probably the biggest sadness of the off-season occurred with the New Year’s first trade which saw the Yankees send once top prospect Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. I can so remember when the “Killer B’s” (Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman) were so highly touted and viewed as the future of the Yankees. Betances failed as a starting pitcher, but obviously, he resurrected his promise with brilliance in the bullpen and now looms as the likely new closer. Brackman was released a couple of years ago and is now out of baseball. Nevertheless, I still had hope that Banuelos would finally arrive. After Tommy John surgery in 2012/13, I expected him to struggle in 2014. Few pitchers are able to come back at an immediate high level. It takes time. There is still time for Banuelos to blossom. To the Yankees’ defense, there is always the chance he’ll never be what he could have been. I will still root for Banuelos, the Brave, and I do hope that he becomes the pitcher we thought he would be.
Mike James – AP Photo
As a Yankees fan, there are certain guys in the farm system that you follow closely. Granted, there has been a shortage of high level talent in the system, but still, you hold out hope that certain guys will become the next core of the team. Yet, in recent years, it has usually just ended in disappointment, with Banuelos being the latest. I can think of Eric Duncan, Cito Culver, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott as a few who have failed. The successes of players like Dellin Betances have been few and far between. So, perhaps that’s why GM Brian Cashman is shuffling the deck. But it’s hard not to say that this feels like a rebuilding program, rather than re-tooling. So, the two year play-off drought threatens to be more. I know, I know, if CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and, eek!, Alex Rodriguez can return to form, the Yankees will be in the hunt. But that’s not a bet I would take. Of the players, I think, realistically, McCann is the only way who will bounce back. That means, with the roster as-is, the Yankee Stadium lights will be out in October.
I do have to add the usual caveat….I hope that I am WRONG!
So now, I look forward to the next wave of prospects making a difference. I am hopeful that guys like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin, and the aforementioned Rob Refsnyder are able to accomplish what so many in front of them have failed to do…wear the pride and pinstripes of baseball’s most storied franchise, the New York Yankees.
Here’s hoping for much happiness and success in 2015 for all!
With the current state of the Yankees’ infield, I remain worried if Plan A does not come to fruition. I still have not been able to wrap my head around Kelly Johnson being the everyday third baseman. I feel that he is so much more useful in a utility role. It would be great If Eduardo Nunez, Yangervis Solarte or Dean Anna could step it up to the next level, but that’s not something I am counting on. Maybe the source of my discomfort with the infield is that Stephen Drew is still available. I know, he costs money and maybe it’s too much for the Yankees given their huge off-season investments. However, Drew would secure third base (with a little help from his “friends”, i.e., Nunez, Johnson et al).
With questions about Mark Teixeira’s wrist and how that will impact his power, whether or not Brian Roberts can prove he is still the player of yesteryear, and Derek Jeter’s ability to bounce back from a severe ankle injury at an advanced age, we do not need third base to be a question too.
Catching is set. This is the best I’ve felt about the position since Jorge Posada was in his prime. I like Francisco Cervelli as the back-up, but if his trade value could help other areas of the team like the infield or the bullpen, then I’d be in favor of a trade. I feel that Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy are capable of supporting Brian McCann.
For a change, the outfield is not a question mark. It’s great to know that the outfield is so good that Alfonso Soriano is the fourth outfielder and Ichiro Suzuki, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, is essentially a man without a position. Of course, that could change quickly if injuries were to impact Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and/or Carlos Beltran. I am hopeful that this is a major move forward in the developmental progress of prospect Mason Williams so that he, along with Slade Heathcott, can be serious contenders for Soriano’s spot next year.
Nothing against David Phelps, but I am pulling for Michael Pineda to secure the fifth spot in the pitching rotation. I really like Phelps as the long man. He provides the consistency, support and flexibility that Ramiro Mendoza brought to the team years ago.
I am cautiously optimistic that the duo of Shawn Kelley and Dellin Betances will provide the level of set up support for David Robertson that Robertson provided for Mariano Rivera. That will go a long way toward determining how successful the 2014 Yankees can be.
There are not too many Plan B’s available on the current roster. As current set, the Yankees will need the cards to fall right for them to contend in October. This could be a 90-win team if all goes right, but conversely, it could just as easily be an 80-win team if it does not.
In my opinion, the Boston Red Sox remain the team to beat. They are the champions until proven otherwise. The AL East, perhaps baseball’s most competitive division, has improved. Tampa Bay, Toronto and Baltimore have all made solid off-season moves. The O’s were quiet for most of the off-season but their late signings of Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, and Johan Santana could pay dividends. Never underestimate a team managed by Buck Showalter. Tampa Bay has arguably baseball’s best manager so it’s a certainly that he’ll have his team in the race at the end.
This is my first prediction for the final season standings in the AL East:
- 1. Boston Red Sox
- 2. Tampa Bay Rays
- 3. New York Yankees
- 4. Toronto Blue Jays
- 5. Baltimore Orioles
But you could probably throw these team names into a hat and pull them out in random order and it could be the potential finish. I doubt Boston or Tampa finish anything worse than third, but the other three, including the Yankees, have the potential of finishing anywhere in the standings.
This should be a very fun and exciting year…