Tagged: Nick Solak

Painful Experience: TV Games Thru NESN-Colored Glasses…

However, the End Result is all that matters…

Despite fielding a team with primarily high numbers (on their jerseys; not their stats), the Yankees accomplished the objective on Saturday. Beat the Red Sox. The Yankees came away from their only visit to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL with a 5-3 victory. I know, it means nothing but as I said yesterday, I wanted to beat the Red Sox regardless of the significance of the game. Hanley Ramirez, who promised the Red Sox Nation that they’d “step on everybody’s neck” when the Sox signed J.D. Martinez, was 0-for-3, with a strikeout.

Since the game was televised by the MLB Network and it was at Boston’s ballpark, we were subjected to the NESN broadcast crew of Dave O’Brien, Tim Wakefield and Steve Lyons. Maybe it was just me, but I found their telecast to be one of the most myopic experiences that I’ve ever witnessed. If you believed what you heard (no worries, I did not), you would come away thinking the Red Sox are an extraordinary team, made more powerful with the presence of J.D. Martinez, while the Yankees have numerous questions and are a “one-dimensional team”. They also took shots at CC Sabathia for no reason, leaving you with the impression that CC is held together by duct tape. I didn’t mind the guests they featured regarding the Red Sox Foundation and other notable causes, but it seemed like they disregarded the game at times and it was as if the NESN broadcasters knew nothing about the Yankees players in the game. As Charles Barkley would say, “That’s turrible”. I am not impressed by NESN or the Red Sox.

Miguel Andujar continued his hot hitting. He didn’t start the game but entered later as a replacement for Brandon Drury. His eighth-inning single scored Jeff Hendrix with an insurance run after the Yankees had taken a one-run lead on the Sox. The day was an enjoyable experience for Andujar who got to meet one of his childhood heroes, former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. Although Andujar and Ortiz are both from the Dominican Republic, I was not aware they were from the same hometown.  No wonder Andujar emulates Big Papi’s swing.

The Yankees improved to 8-1, best in the Grapefruit League.  Today, they’ll face an old friend in Nathan “Nasty Nate” Eovaldi and the Tampa Bay Rays.  Nick Solak, one of the Yankees prospects involved in the trade for Brandon Drury, will start at second base for the Rays.

Here is the scheduled lineup for the Yankees at home in Tampa against the visiting Rays (sorry, I always find humor in that statement):

Brett Gardner, CF

Aaron Judge, RF

Giancarlo Stanton, LF

Gary Sanchez, C

Brandon Drury, DH

Danny Espinosa, 3B

Billy McKinney, 1B

Ronald Torreyes, 2B

Tyler Wade, SS

Chad Green will be the starting pitcher. Aroldis Chapman is also scheduled to pitch.

Russell Wilson left camp today but gave the players signed NFL footballs before his departure. Even though I am not a Seahawks fan, I knew that Wilson was a great guy. But his time in Training Camp and his words left me with the greater perception that his character exceeds his talent, which is no small task. I remain convinced that his time at Steinbrenner Field was a worthwhile experience although he struck out in his lone at-bat. His winning attitude and desire to be great is infectious. I think the Yankees players learned a great deal from the champion QB.

Clint Frazier was held out from workouts on Saturday but fortunately, his MRI on Friday came back clean. He’ll meet with a doctor today. Hopefully this not more serious than it appears to be and he’ll be back on the field in the not-so-distant future. Jacoby Ellsbury remains sidelined with the right oblique strain which is fine. That’s certainly one injury you don’t want to rush given the risk of further setback if you try to come back too soon.

Recent photos of Chase Headley and Dustin Fowler are the latest evidence the Yankees should revisit their facial hair policy.  I am not a fan of the wild Justin Turner look, but cleanly groomed beards should be acceptable.

 

Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com has a very nice write up this morning about my favorite Yankees pitching prospect (with no offense to Justus Sheffield or Chance Adams). Albert Abreu, recovering from recent emergency appendectomy surgery, should be able to resume his throwing program soon. It will be fun to watch this very talented right-hander continue his ascent through the Yankees farm system.  I am a huge Abreu fan and I look forward to the day he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Go Yankees!

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Booking a Flight from Phoenix to Tampa…

Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Michael Chow)

Please, stop with the Judge & Drury jokes…

Yankees fans were waiting for some news but Tuesday’s announcement that the Yankees had acquired 2B/3B Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks brought, surprisingly at least to me, mixed reactions.

The news first broke late afternoon that the Yankees had sent 2B prospect Nick Solak to the Tampa Bay Rays. There were a few minutes of no updates so I tried to speculate. I didn’t think Solak alone would be enough to entice the Rays to move starting pitcher Chris Archer so I figured it had to be a middle or corner infielder. The only players that came to mind were infielders Christian Arroyo, acquired in the trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco, and Matt Duffy, also a former Giant. Arroyo would have been a decent option but I didn’t think the Rays would move him so soon since he is the favorite to replace Longoria at third. While starting to worry that a potential trade might involve Duffy, word came that the Yankees had acquired Drury from Arizona, with Solak going to the Rays and reliever Taylor Widener headed to the Desert. The D-Backs acquired Steven Souza Jr from the Rays, while Arizona sent pitcher Anthony Banda and two players to be named later back to the Rays. To make room for Drury, the Yankees designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment. Blash, acquired from the San Diego Padres in the salary-dumping deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to Southern California, seemed like an odd fit from the start with a team full of talented outfielders.

Personally, I like the move. Nothing against the rookies (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) but I’ve felt all along the Yankees would bring in a veteran to help ease the transition for them. Earlier in the off-season, I had hoped that guy would be Todd Frazier but it was not meant to be as the Toddfather ended up in Queens with the Mets as their new third baseman. Many, including this blog, were starting to talk about free agent 2B Neil Walker as a possibility.

Although Drury played more second base last year (114 games versus only one at third), he is considered a natural third baseman who was blocked by D-Backs starting third baseman Jake Lamb. During his MLB career, the 25-year-old has played 41 games at third so he does have experience.

Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Tom Tingle)

Drury is not arbitration-eligible until next year and under team control for four years. He’ll make no more than $700,000 for the 2018 season. He played 135 games in 2017, hitting 13 home runs and 63 RBI’s. His batting line was .267/.317/.447 with an OPS of .764. He hit 16 dingers in 2016 so he clearly has some pop in that bat.

The nice thing about Drury is that he won’t block Andujar and/or Torres when they are ready. But he’ll help with the transition and will remove some of the pressure off the younger players. I can see the scenario where both Andujar and Torres start the year at Triple A, with Tyler Wade or Danny Espinosa heading north to the Bronx as the starting second baseman while Drury takes third. But regardless of what happens, we will see both Andujar and Torres in the Bronx this year and at least one (or both) of those guys will be the starter at some point in the not so distant future. I think Torres is closer to the bigs than Andujar but the gap is probably not that great.

Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com (Chris Pedota)

Eventually, I think the odd man out could be Ronald Torreyes. Drury is incredibly versatile. During his short three season MLB career, he’s played every position except center field, catcher and pitcher. The Grants Pass, OR native is very excited about the opportunity that awaits him. Drury told the New York Post on Tuesday night, “Oh man, I am pumped and can’t wait to get there.  I am thinking about the opportunity I have.  Playing for the New York Yankees is a dream and I have to take advantage of it. I was a Yankee fan (as a kid).”  He is expected to arrive in Tampa today.

I saw free agent Neil Walker as the most obvious choice for veteran help after Frazier signed with the Mets. But Walker’s age (32), and limited experience at third, concerned me. The Yankees have multiple options at second behind Torres.  Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Danny Espinosa, and Jace Peterson are the most notable. At third, there really wasn’t much standing behind Andujar. Torreyes was probably the most experienced but he’s not an ideal starter. For me, I’d much rather have the youth and upside with Drury who knows how to play third versus an aging middle sacker. Alright, 32 is not old but Walker, at least to me, is starting to show signs of decline with his recurring back problems.

I will admit that there was a part of me that wanted the Yankees to find a way to sign free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. I really wanted to see one year of Moose Tacos taking his shots at the short right porch in Yankee Stadium. I loved the idea of mixing his lefty bat into the lineup with fellow lefties Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird to break up the right-handed hitters. But signing Moustakas would have required a trade (most likely either Brett Gardner or David Robertson) if the Yankees are committed to staying under the $197 million luxury tax threshold as we’ve been led to believe. It also would have eliminated the possibility of adding a quality starter to the rotation. There was one Kansas City Royals blog yesterday (before the Drury trade) that pitched a trade idea to acquire Jacoby Ellsbury (along with Miguel Andujar and $27 million in cash) for a Royals prospect as a way to open up salary space for the Yankees to add Moustakas.  No idea if Ellsbury would consider waiving his no-trade clause for that idea but the Royals do train in Arizona and he would have to clear path to the starting center field job since last year’s starter, Lorenzo Cain, recently signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.

I know, every time the issue of trading for or signing a free agent starting pitcher is mentioned, many of you get defensive. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery represent a quality staff, I know. But, I am concerned about the depth. At this point, we simply do not know if Chance Adams is ready and capable for the Major Leagues. We think he is but we don’t really know for sure until he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium. Justus Sheffield is perhaps the best arm in the system but he’s never played above Double A. At the moment, neither Adams nor Sheffield are on the 40-man roster. I like Luis Cessa but he does not excite me as a starter. We’ve been down that road enough to tell me that I don’t want to pin replacement rotation hopes on Cessa. I certainly would not want to pull Chad Green from his valuable bullpen role to start. I’d prefer to add a quality starter and push Montgomery to Triple A for a few starts. Even adding a starter, Monty is almost certain to get more than 20 starts for the big league team this year. I like Monty as the insurance card so much better than Cessa. Later in the year, perhaps Adams or even Sheffield can become options. The likelihood that all of the starters remain healthy this year is slim. The Yankees are in position to add either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn now if the price is right or wait until the trading deadline to add reinforcements. Options, I love options.

Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Chris Lee)

At the end of the day, the Drury trade simply shows us that GM Brian Cashman has a plan (as if we needed to be reminded). He is not going to overpay and is not afraid to walk away from “his” guy if necessary. But, he will be diligent to ensure that the moves he does make will improve the team. He understands that the stakes now are as high as they’ve been during his 20-year career as the team’s GM. He has a very talented Major League team, backed by a tremendously strong farm system. Rare is the organization that has that deadly combination.

The Yankees chief rival significantly improved themselves over the weekend when the Boston Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez (Drury’s former teammate). The Red Sox Nation were back to puffing out their chests this week after a winter of feeling inferior. So, I really like the timing of the “we’re not done” message that Cashman sent out to American League competitors. Going back to TV/Radio personality Casey Stern’s words, “Prospects are cool, parades are cooler”. Brian Cashman is not done nor should we expect him to be. He has his sights set on the 28th World Championship in franchise history. Trust the Master.

Go Yankees!

Gray’s “Errorable” Yankees Debut…

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

Indians 5, Yankees 1…

Actually, Sonny Gray pitched very well.  Sadly, he had no support from Yankees team offense or defense.  Todd Frazier made his Yankee Stadium debut by hitting into a triple play, but Gray topped him, admittedly through no fault of his own, as three first inning defensive errors led to an early 2-0 Indians lead as the Tribe sailed to the easy victory.  

Credit:  Getty Images
Facing one of the AL’s best pitchers in Corey Kluber, there was no margin for error.  Unfortunately, the first inning looked like Keystone Cops.  Bradley Zimmer hit a grounder to first that should have been the first out, but Chase Headley was unable to field it cleanly which allowed Zimmer to reach base.  Francisco Lindor grounded out with Zimmer moving to second.  Michael Brantley hit a grounder to Tyler Wade that should have been the second out, but the ball got away from Wade and Brantley was safe at first.  Zimmer to third.  Jose Ramirez hit a liner to right that Clint Frazier stopped cleanly but then he must have been throwing to the fans in the first or second row of the third base stands as the threw sailed over the head of third baseman Ronald Torreyes into the camera well for the third error, which allowed both Zimmer and Brantley to score.
Meanwhile, the Yankees could barely touch Kluber, mustering just three hits off the Indians’ ace.  Clint Frazier picked up the Yankees first hit in the fourth inning with a double to right.  He made it to third on a subsequent fly out, but like any Yankee on third base these days, he was left stranded.
The Indians picked up a couple of insurance runs in the sixth.  With two outs, Carlos Santana walked on four straight balls.  Brandon Guyer lined a single to right, moving Santana to second.  Yan Gomes doubled off the left field wall, scoring both Santana and Guyer.  It was 4-0 Indians.  Gray got the final out of the 6th, but it was the end of his debut.  His final line was 6.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO.  If he continues to pitch like that, he’ll pick up his share of wins for the Yankees.
Credit:  Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The Yankees finally scored their one and only run in the top of the 7th when Gary Sanchez blasted a home run to center.  Unfortunately, it would be the last hit off Kluber who went the distance.  With Chasen Shreve pitching in the bottom of the 7th, Francisco Lindor answered El Gary’s home run with a shot of his own over the left field wall.  From there, the Yankees went quietly.  Kluber picked up his ninth victory of the season.  He struck out 11 Yankees, the 9th time in his last 10 games he has struck out 10 or more batters.  Gray (6-6) took the loss.  The only other Yankee to get a hit, besides Clint Frazier and Gary Sanchez, was Ronald Torreyes who singled in the 5th inning.
Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer
The Yankees (57-50) fell two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.  Boston beat the Chicago White Sox, 9-5.  The Tampa Bay Rays moved 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees with a 5-3 victory over the Houston Astros.  The Detroit Tigers stopped the Baltimore Orioles’ winning streak, 7-5, so the O’s remain 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
Brett Gardner was hitless in four at-bats to snap his 14-game hitting streak.  It had been the longest current streak in MLB.  He also struck out twice.
Manager Joe Girardi took heat for benching Aaron Judge, Todd Frazier and Matt Holliday but I had no issue with the rest days for those guys.  They haven’t been hitting and it was unlikely they would have had any better results against Kluber.  Hopefully, the rest day helps them today when they return to the lineup.  Jaime Garcia could use the run support (and defense) that Sonny Gray failed to get.  On the bright side, the Yankees won’t see Kluber again this series.
Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer
Odds & Ends…

According to MLB.com, OF Dustin Fowler ranks as the Oakland A’s third best top prospect, while SS/OF Jorge Mateo is #5 and RHP James Kaprielian is #11.  Fowler will be given every opportunity to break camp next Spring with the A’s as their starting center fielder. I guess we are going to be “Ben Gameled” quite often in the future.  

Credit:  John Shea

Speaking of top prospects, 2B Nick Solak is now in the Top 10 for the Yankees (according to MLB.com) and seems to be shooting through the system.  He was called up to the Double A Trenton Thunder a couple of days ago from the High A Tampa Yankees.  For Tampa, the 22 year old Solak hit .301/.397/.460 with 10 HR’s and 44 RBI’s.  He also had 17 doubles and 13 steals.  Solak was the Yankees’ 2nd round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.   

Credit:  Mark LoMoglio

The Yankees should be getting some help soon.  Aaron Hicks is currently on rehab assignment at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  He is 2-for-6 in two games, with an extra base hit and a run scored.  Greg Bird is traveling with the team and slowly beginning baseball activities.  There’s hope that he can return by early September.  Starlin Castro will soon begin a running program as he recovers from the hamstring strain that landed him on the DL.

Have a great Friday!  Here’s hoping for better results with Jaime Garcia’s Yankees debut.  Go Yankees!