It seems like we were just getting excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp. Now, here we are at the end of the Grapefruit League season and awaiting the first pitch to start the 2017 MLB season.
It was a very successful Spring for the Yankees. It was far better than I could have imagined. Heading into Spring, we were concerned about Greg Bird. He hit well late in the 2015 season but missed most of last year due to his shoulder injury. There was doubt about how he would perform and if the shoulder would hold him back like, say, the way Mark Teixeira’s wrist did. Bird smashed any concerns that he is ready. I know that Spring stats do not really mean much, but Bird led the Yankees with 8 home runs and was second on the team behind Gary Sanchez with 15 RBI’s. He played first base like a veteran and by all accounts, he is posed to be a future star in New York. I’ve always thought of Bird as a professional hitter and not one who will be susceptible to prolonged slumps. I am very glad to see that he is ready to fly (no pun intended).
Credit: John Raoux, AP
What can you say about Gary Sanchez? He continued the great success from last Fall without missing a beat. His bat delivered (5 homers and 16 RBI’s), and do did his arm (.983 fielding percentage in 102 innings worked, with a sub .500 stolen base percentage against him as he threw out 6 runners while only allow 4 SB’s). He is arguably the most exciting Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada or to place him higher, Thurman Munson. Good times ahead for the catching position, no doubt.
Aaron Judge held off Aaron Hicks to win right field in the Battle of Aarons. I feel bad for Hicks because I know that he needs to play every day to be successful. It’s hard to get into rhythm with limited, spot starts. But I would have been very disappointed to see Hicks get the right field job over Judge. At this point, sending Judge down to Triple A serves no purpose. He has proven himself at that level. He needs to master the Major Leagues and he can only do that by being here and playing every day. His ceiling, if successful, is so much greater than Hicks. Dating back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, I love powerful right fielders at Yankee Stadium.
If I was the General Manager of the Yankees, Brett Gardner would be living in a different zip code. Nothing against Gardner, he’s been a good Yankee but his best days are behind him. He needs to open the way for younger guys. I’d prefer to start Hicks in left over Gardner, so I’d find a way to move Gardy even if the return is not ideal. The perfect scenario would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and move Gardner to center, but that’s not going to happen with nearly $90 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.
In the starting rotation, Luis Severino won the fourth spot but it was not an overpowering Spring performance. Last year, Severino chased his first win as a starter without success (he picked up a few wins in the bullpen but was 0-8 in his starts). I really hopeful that we do not go weeks or months trying to get that elusive first win this year. Severino has so much potential but he still leaves so many wondering if his stuff plays better out of the pen. It would be nice if he could prove those naysayers wrong (including me) to become a vital part of the rotation.
Manager Joe Girardi has delayed his decision for a fifth starter. With three scheduled off days during April including two days in the first week, a fifth starter is not needed until Sunday, April 16th at home against the St Louis Cardinals. Of the competitors for the fifth spot, only Bryan Mitchell made the Opening Day roster as a reliever. Chad Green will go down to AA Trenton while Jordan Montgomery will go to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Both Green and Montgomery will have early April starts in the minors for further auditions. I am sure that Mitchell will get some audition opportunities through long relief. Mitchell had been my favorite for the rotation but Jordan Montgomery changed my mind. So, I am hopeful that Montgomery gets the call-up when it is time for the fifth starter.
Credit: Associated Press
I was glad to see Chasen Shreve make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Tommy Layne. Well, technically the third but Aroldis Chapman doesn’t really count since he’s on the mound at the end of games regardless of who is at the plate. When the Yankees toyed with the minor league signings of Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese, I was fearful that Shreve would be one of the odd men out. Perhaps he still is given the Yankees’ propensity for the using the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle to keep the bullpen fresh. Another young reliever I am happy for is Jonathan Holder.
Utility player Ronald Torreyes won the interim shortstop role while Didi Gregorius begins the year on the Disabled List. I am not excited about Torreyes in an every day role, but there were limited internal options. The Yankees will make room on the 40-man roster to bring up Pete Kozma to back up Torreyes, but Kozma has no bat. It did not make sense for the Yankees to trade for a shortstop since Didi will be back by the end of April or early May, and, unfortunately, prospect Tyler Wade is not quite ready. I also didn’t want to see the Yankees slide Starlin Castro back to short. He is still relatively inexperienced at second and needs to continue his work at the position. The Yankees obviously agreed as they never played Castro at short during training camp. Many thought the Yankees should have slid Castro to short to allow Rob Refsnyder to start at second. I am not sure that Refsnyder, for whatever reason, will ever get a legitimate chance in the Bronx. He was sent down to AAA for the start of the season with earlier reports that he was on the trading block.
I am not expecting this to be a playoff year for the Yankees. They could surprise and nab a Wild Card spot but I don’t think this is their year to unseat the Boston Red Sox as AL East Champions. They are still a year or two away from being a legitimate World Series contender. I do think this will be a more exciting team than last year’s team from beginning to end. The Baby Bombers proved that last year when the deadline deals moved Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, and Alex Rodriguez was released. It was only a preview of the excitement and energy the younger players can bring, which is further enhanced by the presence of Greg Bird this year.
Despite the quick arrival of the regular season, I am ready. Play ball!…
After some thought, I’ve come around…
Now that I’ve had time to digest the Friday night whirlwind that brought pitchers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to the Bronx, my initial disappointment was evaporated. Don’t get me wrong, I love the power potential of Jesus Montero, and I know full well that he’ll be as devastating against the Yankees as Jay Buhner was if not more. But I recognize that from a position of need, a top of the rotation starter is better than a player without a position.
Ever since I first heard Jesus Montero’s name, it always included a statement that he’d eventually have to find a new position because he would outgrow catcher. The obvious moves would be to either first base or left field, but last time I checked, both of those positions were occupied by long-term tenants. Putting an offensive juggernaut at DH is great for offense but it does nothing to help with the defensive aspects of catching or learning a new position. With Russell Martin in the fold for the foreseeable future, there was no way that Montero would gain the starting position at catcher. Martin’s ability to handle the pitching staff is simply too important to the team even if his bat is nothing remotely close to Montero.
With Montero, I was always worried about the other young Yankee catchers. Of course, there’s Francisco Cervelli on the active roster. If Montero were to take the backup catching job, where would that leave Cervelli? Most likely playing for the Twins, backing up oft-injured Joe Mauer or someone like that. I like the defensive reports that I’ve heard about both Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez, but if their path was clogged by Martin and Montero, where did that leave them? Sanchez needs more time in the minors, but Romine is nearing major league ready status. With an injury or two, I fully expect him to get his chance to make an impression at Yankee Stadium in 2012. The trade of Montero ensures that Romine will get his major league opportunity with the Yankees so that’s a good thing. He doesn’t have Montero’s bat (who does?) but good defense is essential for championships.
Maybe just tell us who the Yankees haven’t talked to…
As for the DH slot, it seems like the Yankees have expressed interest in about everyone. There have been reports they’ve spoken to the agents for Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. There are pros and cons with all three players, but whoever the Yankees bring on board will have to share time at DH with Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, and Derek Jeter so I’d be okay with any of the three. I’ve always liked the clutch bats of Damon and Matsui, and the swing for the fences power of Pena is nice even if the average is hovering slightly above the Mendoza line. With all the reports that the Yankees only have a $1 million or two to spend on a DH, I half expect a report that they’ve talked to Reggie Jackson! Okay, that might be a stretch, but I’d consider letting ‘all or nothing’ slugger Jorge Vazquez. He does deserve a shot. If not, the Yanks should cut him loose and let him pursue a team that will.
If Jorge Posada had embraced the DH role last year, he’d be on his way back to the Bronx for an encore performance…
Upon second thought…
As for the pitching staff, my initial prediction about the rotation order was flawed. I recognize that Micheal Pineda is the clear #2 in the rotation. I’ve seen Ivan Nova slotted at #4, but I’d still keep him at #3 at least until he gives reason to drop him in the order. I think Kuroda is a great addition, but he has to adjust to the American League in the most difficult division, while moving from a pitcher’s ballpark to a park that is less forgiving. So, I’d give Nova time for pinstripes served and put him ahead of Kuroda. After the former Dodger, it’s anybody’s guess who will win out…Phil Hughes, my personal favorite; Freddy Garcia, probably the better choice among the pitchers in terms of consistency; and A.J. Burnett, the candidate for most likely to depart the Bronx if the Yanks can find a willing trade partner that wants Burnett…and a boatload of cash to pay that ridiculous salary. What happens if either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances pitches “lights out” in training camp? This is going to be an interesting battle.
He’s really a cousin of Alcides and Kelvim Escobar?…
Back to Friday night’s trade, I was a bit dismayed when I saw that pitcher Hector Noesi had been included in the trade. I kept hearing that his ceiling was the back end of the rotation but there was something that I liked about the pitcher. At first, I didn’t know anything about the “other” Mariner included in the deal, Jose Campos. But since the initial report of the trade, I’ve come to realize that he has great potential. At 19, he’s 6’4” and throws in the mid 90’s. He’ll more than make up for Noesi and fits a better timeline in terms of being major league ready given the high level pitching prospects already in the organization (Banuelos and Betances, for example). The Curtis Granderson trade has been labeled as a ‘win-win-win’ for all concerned. Hopefully, this M’s-Yankees trade will meet a similar fate.
What would I expect Bobby V to say?…
Contrary to what Bobby Valentine may think, the Yankees are a better team today than they were last Thursday. But, I recognize the Boston Red Sox are not done yet. They signed former Dodger pitcher Vicente Padilla today (a guy I loathe personally) and there’s rumors they could go after Roy Oswalt if they can move payroll. I still think Boston could be a player for Cubs starter Matt Garza given Theo Epstein’s knowledge of the Red Sox minor league prospects. Whether Ben Cherington or rather Larry Lucchino would trade with Epstein is another matter. Still, I think there are changes to be made on both the Yankees and Red Sox between now and training camp. Last year, I saw a Red Sox friend predict 118 or 119 wins for Boston. Teams look great on paper, but as they say, the ‘proof is in the pudding’!
Moneyball II, starring Jorge Garcia…
It’s hard to think of the Oakland A’s signing former Yankees starter Bartolo Colon as a low-cost, high reward “Moneyball” kind of move. At 39, I don’t think there’s really any upside to Colon at this point and in my opinion, he’s not capable of sustaining a full season of starts. I’d rather have Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill in the rotation, but I guess since those are no longer options, they have to look at the scrap heap that served the Yankees so well last season.
Yes, I know the way to San Jose!…
Speaking of Oakland, I do hope they are successful in their desire to move to San Jose. As a former San Jose resident, I think it’s very exciting for the city and its metro area to be on the verge of landing both the A’s and the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, to go with the NHL’s Sharks. I saw that A’s owner bought the famed Hotel Sainte Claire in downtown San Jose. He already owns one hotel in San Jose so I guess you can’t read too much into it, but he’s definitely positioning himself for the growth and excitement that San Jose could see in the coming years. I’d be happy with a Stanley Cup Championship this year, but that’s a little off-topic…
I really don’t forsee another 99 losses when you place character first…
I was a little surprised to see the Minnesota Twins sign former Detroit Tigers flamethrower Joel Zumaya. He suffered his devastating arm injury at Target Field in 2010. So, in terms of Karma, you’d think that he’d avoid Target Field like the plague. But I read comments in this morning’s paper about how he was touched by the reception he received from the Twins fans as he left the field that fateful day. Stories like that certainly make me feel honored to be a Minneapolis resident, but I was still surprised by Zumaya’s decision. I wish him the best as he begins the Comeback Trail. Hopefully he can get back to the level he was before. For the Twins, with Joe Nathan in Texas and Matt Capps scheduled to close games, they need Zumaya as the pitcher he once was and hopefully will be again.
When it’s tough being the son of Donnie Baseball, come home to the Bronx!…
Before I go, I want to say that I am really hopeful that the Yankees organization proves to be a blessing for former Dodgers prospect Preston Mattingly. I’ve always heard what a great athlete he is/was when he was younger. I don’t know what happened through his time in the Dodgers and Indians organizations and I realize that he is getting a bit long in tooth for a prospect, but I really hope that he can find some level of success with the Yankees. It would be very cool to see Mattingly make a debut at Yankee Stadium at some point in the future. Who knows if it is in the cards, but being a late bloomer is not outside of the realm of possibility when it comes to someone with his bloodline.
It’s hard to believe that we are just a month away from training camp. I’m excited and looking forward to a great season.
It may be brief, but the view from the top is magnificent…
After tonight’s games, the Yankees may or may not be in first place, but at least they started the day that way. Of course, the last time I was excited about this was at the start of the last series with the Boston Red Sox. That didn’t end so well for me, and a pink hat and a Red Sox shirt later; the Yanks were back chasing the Sox in the standings.
Once again, thanks to a series sweep of the Minnesota Twins, combined with a Red Sox loss last night, the Yankees were once again tied atop the AL East Standings with Boston (despite the 0-8 mark against same).
The Yankees open a weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim tonight. Of all the teams I want to face right now, the Angels aren’t one of them. For whatever reason, the Yankees have historically not done very well against the Angels. I don’t know the exact stats off the top of my head, but it seems that the team loses more than it wins against those pesky Halos. I’d like to say that this dates back to the 2002 play-offs, but it has been much longer than that. I remember teams with Bobby Grich, Rod Carew, and Reggie Jackson giving the Yankees fits.
You can’t say that the Angels’ mastery over the Yankees is because the team doesn’t match up very well against the Angels. If you compare the starters of Game 4 of the 2002 American League Division Series in Anaheim on October 5, 2002, only Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada remain with their original team (you could consider Juan Rivera but he has switched sides). The Yankees lost that night, 9-5, effectively ending the Yankees’ most recent World Series run. But despite the roster turnover, the Angels’ domination continues.
I wish I understood the reason, but the Yankees did to figure out the Angels if they want a chance to return to the World Series.
I know, they also need to figure out Baltimore and Boston. But one thing’s for sure, they know Minnesota!
For the record, the Red Sox won tonight, so pending the Yankees game against the Angels (which starts shortly), the Sox are up by a ½ game. Why is it that Boston gets the Royals while the Yankees get the Angels? It’s so not fair! 😉
I thought the New York Mets’ acquisition of Jeff Francoeur from the Atlanta Braves for Ryan Church was a solid move. I realize that Francoeur has struggled the last couple of years, but I still think that the “light bulb” will eventually come on and he’ll be every bit the productive player that he showed in Atlanta when he first came up.
I still think that there’s no way that either the Red Sox or the Yankees will trade for Roy Halladay. Both teams have done such a great job protecting their young talent in recent years, and it would “break the bank” to bring Doc to Boston or New York. They’ve mentioned the Philadelphia Phillies as the front-runner and I agree with that, or perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals. I’d like to see the San Francisco Giants become a player but I don’t think they have what it takes to make a deal. A starting rotation led by Tim Lincecum and Halladay would be incredible, and would definitely be a major roadblock in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ attempt to crush the NL West.
Luc Leclerc/US Presswire
I am definitely in agreement that the question is ‘when’ Brett Favre joins the Minnesota Vikings, not ‘if’. He has apparently placed a $30,000 deposit on a condo in Edina, Minnesota. I am sure that he didn’t do it just so he could go ice fishing this winter. The Vikings’ single-game tickets go on sale July 20th, so an announcement could be forthcoming prior to that date. I don’t think it is the right move and I think that Vikings coach Brad Childress will be forced to play Favre the entire season regardless of how he performs. There would be a huge stigma attached to the coach who “sat” Brett Favre. It’s really shaping up to be a ‘lose-lose’ scenario…
Well, it’s time to go check in to see how Mr. Chamberlain is doing…