Getting ready for 2017…
This has been an interesting week for the Yankees.
Credit: Butch Dill, USA TODAY Sports
Masahiro Tanaka, Chasen Shreve, and Jordan Montgomery combined to threw a no-hitter on St Patrick’s Day as the Yankees defeated the Detroit Tigers, 3-0. Tanaka has been stellar this spring, and looks to be a potential Cy Young candidate if he keeps it up. Jordan Montgomery had some early struggles in camp, but he has been coming on strong lately and might have inserted his name into the competition for the last two rotation spots. It was a great game for the Yankees even if spring games do not really matter.
Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird have continued to show that they will be a big part of the Yankees offense this year. It’s great to see that Bird has rebounded from last year’s injury. With former Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira’s knack for ice-cold starts to new seasons, I am anxious to see if Bird can fly early in the new season.
Credit: Matt Rourke, AP
James Kaprielian gave a great performance in his only spring appearance before being sent down to minor league camp for re-assignment. He pitched two scoreless innings in Thursday’s game. I know that Kaprielian still has much work ahead of him, but I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll see him at the major league level in September. It would help set him up as a prime candidate to replace CC Sabathia in the rotation next year.
Gleyber Torres is another that has really impressed me. He has shown leadership and ability beyond his years and despite never having played above High A ball, he has stood shoulder to shoulder with his major league peers. He is only a year or two away. The team will be substantially improved once he is ready.
I really feel bad for Robert Refsnyder. All things considered, I’d choose him over Ronald Torreyes for the utility spot on the team. But Refsnyder just doesn’t have the necessary defensive skills. The Yankees have Ref on the trading block so it’s possible that a move could be made within the next couple of weeks. While I would hate to see him go, I would be very excited for him if a trade opens up a starting role for him.
I feel bad for manager Joe Girardi. He has some very difficult decisions ahead. Too many talented guys to narrow the list to just 25 but he has to do it anyway. Deserving guys will be on the outside looking in.
Here’s my prediction for the Opening Day roster:
C: Gary Sanchez
1B: Greg Bird
2B: Starlin Castro
SS: Didi Gregorius
3B: Chase Headley
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Aaron Judge
DH: Matt Holliday
1B: Chris Carter
OF: Aaron Hicks
UTILITY: Ronald Torreyes
C: Austin Romine
1-RHP: Masahiro Tanaka
2-RHP: Michael Pineda
3-LHP: CC Sabathia
4-RHP: Luis Severino
5-LHP: Bryan Mitchell
LHP: Tommy Layne
RHP: Ben Heller
RHP: Chad Green
RHP: Adam Warren
RHP: Tyler Clippard-Setup
RHP: Dellin Betances-Setup
LHP: Aroldis Chapman-Closer
For my roster, I couldn’t find room for Jon Niese. He has not pitched badly, but I feel other guys have proven themselves. To add Niese to the roster would require dropping someone from the 40-man roster. Given the Yankees just signed Ernesto Frieri to a minor league deal with invite to major league camp, it would make more sense to open the spot on the 40-man for Frieri if/when he proves that he can still be an effective major league reliever. Niese wasn’t going to start for the Yankees so relief is his only opportunity. To me, there are too many equal arms or better.
I would love to remove Jacoby Ellsbury from the roster, but I don’t have $90 million to burn so it looks like we’re stuck with him and can only hope for the best. I am also looking forward to Chase Headley’s future as an ex-Yankee whenever that day may be. I will be paying very careful attention to the development of prospect Dustin Fowler (center field) and Miguel Andujar (third base). When those guys are ready, it will be time to find a way to unload Ellsbury and Headley.
It has been very exciting to watch the Yankees perform this spring. As I type this post, they are 16-5, the best spring mark in the MLB. The Baby Bombers have excelled, time and again. There’s a strong sense of excitement and energy that did not exist at this point last year. I am not predicting a World Series championship or even an AL East title, but the Yankees should be very fun to watch this year. Better days are truly ahead.
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!