The Yankees lost to the Blue Jays as only one starter has an ERA below 4.50


i

Luis Severino – Jim McIsaac – Getty Images

 

The Yankees lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2, on Thursday night in Toronto to even their record at 4-4. The Yankees had a  2-0 lead in the fourth on a fielder’s choice by Carlos Beltran that scored Alex Rodriguez and then a a wild pitch by Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman that sent Mark Teixeira home, but the Blue Jays would take the lead for good when the fearsome Josh Donaldson hit a three-run homer to deep center in the fifth.

Stroman, who is a Long Island native and one of the best starting pitchers in the American League, threw 106 pitches  and only allowed three hits and two runs in a dominant eight innings pitched. Further proving the Yankees offensive ineptness during Thursday’s game was that the only hits they had all game were singles by Teixeira, Brian McCann and Beltran.

The first three hitters in the lineup – Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Rodriguez – were a combined 0-10 with one run scored and a walk. It is a plus that they didn’t strikeout at all, which means that it could partly be due to bad luck since they put the ball in play every at-bat, but they have to be able to get on base at the top of the lineup. Gardner and Rodriguez have really struggled to begin the season as Gardner has a .174 average with only one steal and three runs scored in 23 at-bats and Rodriguez has only three hits in 25 at-bats (.120 average) with one homer and two RBIs.

The Yankees need Gardner to get on base often and steal bases from the two spot in the lineup and they need Rodriguez to have a similar statistical season as last season when he slugged 33 homers and drove in 86 runs. The issue could be that they haven’t really found their swing yet and will have better production by the end of the month. Sometimes established major league players have a slow start to the season like Beltran did last April, but they both need to show some signs of progress.

Nate Eovaldi, who made his second start of the season, only allowed a single, a walk and a double in the first four innings. However, his effectiveness ended in the fifth as he gave up a two-out three-run homer to Donaldson to give Toronto a 3-2 lead. Eovaldi needs to be a better pitcher with two outs and be more careful with hitters like Donaldson, who led the American League with 123 RBIs last season.

Eovaldi also allowed a solo homer to Troy Tulowitzki with one out in the sixth inning, which took away his quality start. He needs to prove that he can be successful pitching five and more importantly six innings and not fade after the fourth inning. Eovaldi ended up throwing 98 pitches in 6.2 innings while allowing four earned runs, seven hits, two walks and two homers. The only positive from Eovaldi’s performance was that he recorded eight strikeouts.

The bullpen has not surprisingly by far been the strength of the pitching staff so far. Rookie Johnny Barbato, Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller all have 0.00 ERAs. Barbato, who is from Miami and came to the Yankees from the Padres in the Shawn Kelley trade in December of 2014, appears that he will be able to help the bullpen the whole season after getting outs in clutch situations.

However, Masahiro Tanaka is the only Yankees starter with less than a 4.50 ERA. It is a small sample size, but Tanaka has a 3.38 ERA in two starts, CC Sabathia has a 4.50 ERA in his one start, Luis Severino has a 5.40 ERA in his one start, Michael Pineda has a 6.55 ERA in his two starts and Eovaldi has a 6.94 ERA in his 11.2 innings pitched.

It will be important for the rotation to be more effective so that the bullpen will not have to be overworked. The bullpen will have more depth once Aroldis Chapman returns from his suspension, but the team will win a lot more games when the starters can effectively throw six or seven innings. The Yankees need Severino, who is in his first full season, to be similar to the pitcher he was in the final two months of last season when he had a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts.

For the Yankees to live up to their potential Pineda and Eovaldi will need to be consistent and pitch like they are capable of and Tanaka will need to step up and be the ace of the staff for the duration of the season. Proving Pineda’s inconsistency he allowed six earned runs in his first start and then two runs in his second outing.

Severino will look to regain his form from last season during today’s start against the Seattle Mariners. Based on how the starting pitching and some of the hitters have underwhelmed so far this season it is somewhat impressive that the Yankees are 4-4.

Gary Sanchez was optioned to Triple-A, which means that Austin Romine will likely be the backup catcher


i (21)

Gary Sanchez – ESPN

The backup catcher competition was one of the major position battles of spring training for the Yankees. It seems like with the 23-year-old Gary Sanchez being sent to Triple-A late last week  that the 27-year-old Austin Romine will start the season in the Bronx.

Sanchez, who only had one hit in 21 at-bats in 13 spring training games before being sent to minor league camp, was likely putting too much pressure on himself. He has been in the Yankees minor league system since he was drafted when he was 17 out of the Dominican Republic and is thought of as being the next Yankees starting catcher after Brian McCann‘s contract is finished after the 2018 season.

Sanchez played well at Triple-A and in the Arizona Fall League (AZFL). He had a .295 (132 at-bats) average with six homers, 17 runs scored, 26 RBI and a .500 slugging percentage in 35 games with Triple-A Scranton to end last season. Also, as one of the team’s top prospects, he played in the AZFL, and he had a .295 average (88 at-bats) with seven homers, six doubles, four steals, 21 RBI and a .625 slugging percentage in 22 games for the Surprise Saguaros. He hit the most homers on his AZFL team and his RBI total was tied for the team lead.

However, even though he performed well offensively with Scranton and in Arizona, it makes sense that he will be starting the 2016 season with Triple-A. His weakness is his defense and Sanchez will be able to better improve his mechanics behind the plate by playing everyday with the RailRiders than once a week with the Yankees.

Another factor that has caused his development to take longer is that in the 2014 season the Double-A Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin benched him multiple times to discipline him because of his behavior.

“That benching was the low point of his career, it was his rock-bottom,” a team executive told Pinstriped Prospects. “He has come a long way in the last year and a half, his attitude has seen a drastic improvement and it has allowed him to grow as a player and a person.” It is a plus that his attitude has drastically improve but it can only help for him to continue to improve his leadership abilities as a catcher at Triple-A.

Sanchez has greatly improved defensively in the last few years but there is still some room to grow. He allowed a very high career-worst 26 passed balls in 2011 for Single-A Charleston, but with determination he was able to bring that number down to only two in 2015.

Sanchez, who is 6-2 and 230 pounds, allowed fewer errors last season than he did in 2014, proving his defense is getting better, but his skills behind the plate still need some more refining. He had 17 for Double-A Trenton in 2014, but with Double-A and Triple-A combined in 2015 he had 10 errors. In comparison, John Ryan Murphy, who was the Yankees backup catcher last season, only had three errors in 2015 and in 46 starts for Triple-A in 2014, he only had two errors.

Another benefit of Sanchez beginning the season at the Triple-A level is that 35 days in the minors this season will delay Sanchez’s free agency by another year. That is significant because five weeks with the RailRiders could equal control of Sanchez’s age 29 season in 2022.

Romine, on the other hand, performed better in spring training than Sanchez did. Romine had seven hits in 27 at-bats (.259) with five RBI and four doubles. He had two and 13 at-bats respectively the last two seasons, but in 2013, Romine had a .207 average in 135 at-bats with only one homer, 10 RBI and a .296 slugging percentage. He had 37 strikeouts and eight walks.

However, the California native who was drafted by the Yankees in 2007 is more known for his defense and if he can hit about .240 or .250 then he can be serviceable as the backup catcher. He has experience being the backup from his 60 games in 2013 and will be a catcher that most of the pitchers have experience with. Romine was out of options and couldn’t be sent to Triple-A out of spring training, which means that the team’s depth at the catcher position would have been hurt if Sanchez had opened the year in the Bronx.

Sanchez will likely serve an important role at some point this season once his defense improves. His bat is likely already ready and when the Yankees feel that his skills behind the plate are on par he could be able to win some games with his offense, and there are not many backup catchers who are potent offensively as he is. Sanchez slugged 25 homers in 119 minor league games last season, which proves how much power he has.

 

 

 

Aaron Judge could have a similar impact to the one that Greg Bird had last season


judge8s-9-web (1)

Aaron Judge – Corey Sipkin – NY Daily News

On Sunday, the Yankees announced that top prospects, including outfielder Aaron Judge, shortstop Jorge Mateo, right-hander James Kaprielian and relief pitcher Jacob Lindgren, were sent to minor-league camp. None of those highly regarded players were expected to make the Opening Day roster, but it is somewhat surprising that the Yankees decided to send them to minor-league spring training this early.

Judge had only one hit in his 14 at-bats in spring training before being sent down, Mateo had only three hits in 15 at-bats (with a homer and a steal) before being demoted, Kaprielian had a 4.91 ERA after allowing two earned runs and four hits in his 3.2 innings pitched and Lindgren had a sky high 15.43 ERA after allowing four earned runs on four walks and a hit in 2.1 innings pitched. None of these four prospects performed like they are capable of in this small sample size and proved that they need more seasoning in the minors. However, it might have made sense for them to learn from and be mentored by the established major leaguers on the Yankees roster for about one more week.

All of these players will likely make some kind of an impact in the Bronx this season or next season, but the player who is most likely to make a major impact in August or September is Judge. His size (6-7, 275 lbs) can be compared to former Yankee Dave Winfield and current Marlin Giancarlo Stanton and he hit a homer during batting practice in February that cleared the massive left field scoreboard at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

“Did you see the balls he hit today? [I’ve] never had that,” Brian McCann said. “It’s super impressive. Then you meet the guy, and he’s actually, he’s top of the line.”

Judge (23 years old), who is from Linden, California and was drafted with the 32nd pick in the 1st round out of California State University Fresno in 2013, performed well at Double-A Trenton last season but struggled when he was called up to Triple-A Scranton. In 63 games with the Trenton Thunder last season (250 at bats), Judge had a solid .284 average with 12 homers, 44 RBIs, 16 doubles, 36 runs scored and a .516 slugging percentage.

However, Judge’s productivity decreased once he was promoted to the Scranton RailRiders, who face many pitchers who have previously pitched in the majors and have better command and off-speed pitches. In 61 games with the RailRiders last season (228 at bats), Judge had a sub-par .224 average with eight homers, 28 RBIs, six steals, 10 doubles and a .373 slugging percentage. He hit a similar amount of homers at Double-A and Triple-A, but he needs to improve in every other category to prove he is ready.

According to Meredith Marakovits, Judge reported early to spring training and the biggest thing that he worked on during the offseason was his approach and patience at the plate. Another positive sign is that Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson believes that Judge’s issues at Triple-A were mental and not physical. Marcus Thames, who was the RailRiders hitting coach and is now the Yankees’ assistant hitting coach said that Judge was having trouble with the advanced breaking pitches that the Triple-A pitchers were throwing to him.

Judge said that he spent part of the offseason working on pitch recognition and hitting the breaking ball. He has the work ethic to improve on hitting that pitch and if he can do that his stats should greatly improve in April, May and June. He has the most upside of any Yankees outfield prospect, and if Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner gets injured or if Beltran underperforms in August then Judge could make a similar impact this season as the one that Greg Bird made last season.

Bird made his major league debut on August 13 and went 0-5, but in the fourth game that Bird started after replacing the injured Mark Teixeira, Bird hit two homers and drove in four runs. He finished the season with a .261 average with 11 homers, 31 RBIs and an impressive .529 slugging percentage. The Yankees might not have made it to the wild card playoff game without him.

Judge said that he has to better adjust to the Triple-A pitchers and he realizes that he has to improve on the little things.

“It’s a learning process, and just making adjustments,” Judge said. “I really didn’t make enough adjustments that I needed to. Pitchers made adjustments. That’s what the game of baseball is, just little adjustments to fine tune your swing, your approach, and I’m still trying to get ready for the 2016 season.”

The mammoth outfielder can cover a lot ground in right field and has a strong arm will now get to improve on his weakness in minor league camp, which has less pressure. He is capable of doing well against Triple-A pitchers because from June 25 through July 2 he had 15 hits in 27 at-bats (.625 average) with one homer, three RBIs and six runs scored. However, he needs to be more consistent because from July 29 through August 6, Judge only had two hits in 30 at-bats. Further proving his inconsistency was that he ended the season with no hits in 11 at-bats over two games, but previously had three multi-hit games in his previous five games.

Lindgren could get called up at some point in the middle of the season and have a minor impact in the bullpen after the big three, Mateo could get called up in September for his speed and be able to win the Yankees a game or two with his speed on the base-paths. However, it is most important for Judge to improve mentally and prove that he can hit above .280 for three or four months at Triple-A so that he can be called up as a replacement if an outfielder gets injured.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched effectively in his first start of spring training


i (20)

Masahiro Tanaka – ESPN

The Yankees lost their spring training game on Sunday in Clearwater against the Philadelphia Phillies, 6-5, but Masahiro Tanaka pitched well in his first game action of the exhibition season.

Tanaka was not perfect but was effective against the Phillies. In his two innings pitched, Tanaka did not allow a run, recorded two strikeouts while allowing two hits and a walk. He was still finding his control based on his two walks, but he was able to use his movement and his array of plus pitches to not allow any of the three runners to score.

A scout who was in the stands during Sunday’s game said that Tanaka’s fastball was 87-88 in the first inning, got up to 90-91 in the second inning and his slider and splitter were both effective. It is a positive that he was able to increase his velocity in the second inning and that his slider and splitter showed good movement.

“His feel for pitching, command and control were excellent,” the scout said.

In the second inning, with runners on first and third, Rob Refsnyder, who is learning how to play third so that he can back-up the position, made an outstanding play to start a double play. With runners on first and third and two outs, Tanaka was able to throw a slider to strikeout David Lough. The righty was pleased with his performance.

“Pretty satisfied (with) how I pitched out there,” Tanaka said. “… For me also, just to see how I feel the next day (is) important. Other than that, mechanics is one of things I’m aware of. Also, just being able to hit my spots.”

In 2015, according to Brooks Baseball, he relied primarily on his (elite) splitter (88mph) and slider (84mph), while also mixing in his four-seam fastball (93mph), cutter (90mph) and curve (77mph). His splitter is his most effective pitch. His splitter generates more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ splitters. His slider has a 12-6 movement, which leads to more fly balls than other pitchers’ sliders and his cutter results in more flyballs than that of other cutters and has slight above average velocity, according to Brooks Baseball.

It was an important sign that he was able to hold the Phillies scoreless because two weeks after after he pitched for the Yankees during their loss to the Houston Astros in the American League Wild Card Game, Tanaka underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow. This was his first major step towards proving that he is recovered from the surgery. Going into Sunday’s game, manager Joe Girardi wanted to see how Tanaka would command the strike zone.

After finishing last season, which was his second season with the Yankees after coming over from Japan, having pitched 154 innings (24 starts) with a 3.51 ERA, an outstanding 0.99 WHIP, 139 strikeouts, only 27 walks, 12 wins and a .221 opponents batting average, his goal is to be able to significantly increase his workload this season.

“The goal is to go 200 innings, and I think that the important part is to be healthy enough to pitch throughout the season,” Tanaka said.

In his rookie season, in 2014, Tanaka was the first Yankees rookie to win 12 games by the All-Star break, which helped lead to him being selected to the All-Star Game as a reserve. Tanaka and Dellin Betances were the first Yankee rookie pitchers to be selected to the All-Star Game since Spec Shea in 1947. He made 20 starts in 2014 (136.1 innings) and finished the season with an excellent 2.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3.3 WAR, 141 strikeouts, 21 walks, 13 wins, three complete games and one shutout.

The 27-year-old, like other members of the Yankees rotation, needs to prove that he can stay healthy the whole season. In his rookie season, he experienced discomfort in his right arm after his loss to the Cleveland Indians on July 8. This led to him being placed on the disabled list the next day due to elbow inflammation. An MRI revealed that he had a partially torn UCL, and doctors recommended that he get a PRP shot and rest for six weeks instead of having Tommy John surgery.

After Tanaka’s six weeks of rest and rehab, he would only make two more starts that season. He returned on September 21 winning his 13th game of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays, and in his final start of the season he allowed seven runs in 1.2 innings against the Boston Red Sox. On April 28 of last season, Tanaka was placed on the disabled list due to forearm and wrist soreness, and would make his next start on June 3 against the Seattle Mariners. He pitched seven innings and recorded nine strikeouts while leading the team to a 3-1 win.

The Yankees need him to be a workhorse at the top of the rotation this season. When he is using his splitter with confidence to go along with the rest of his pitches he is one of the best pitchers in the American League. Tanaka pitched well to end last season as he allowed three runs or less in eight of his last 10 starts and allowed two runs or less in three of his last five starts.

Girardi will likely be very gradual in increasing his pitches per outing during spring training to try to keep him healthy and durable. There is no need for him to be overworked during exhibition games, and he just needs to be able to have command of all of his pitches so that he can dominate the opposition during the regular season. If he does indeed throw 200 innings then that will increase the team’s chances of making it back to the postseason and it will put less pressure on the rest of the rotation.

The Yankees have signed Chris Denorfia to a minor league deal


i (19)

Chris Denorfia – ESPN

The Yankees announced this morning that they have signed Chris Denorfia, who is a 35-year-old outfielder, to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp. He will give the team depth in the outfield and has experience playing left field, centerfield and right field, which means that he can be a versatile asset off of the bench.

Denorfia, who is from Connecticut and entering his 11th MLB season, spent last season with the Chicago Cubs and before that he played with the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds. He has played in at least 103 games in each of the last five seasons, and his best season of his career was in 2013 when he had a solid .279 average in 144 games with 132 hits, 10 homers, 47 RBIs and 11 steals.

Last season with the Cubs, Denorfia had .269 average in his 212 at-bats with three homers, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored and a .319 on-base percentage. In his career, he has 587 hits, 41 homers, 196 RBIs, 56 steals, a .272 average and a .330 on-base percentage. He is very reliable defensively as he has only made 14 errors in his career and didn’t make a single error in his 431 innings in the outfield last season.

It is not a guarantee that he will make the team after spring training, but if he does, he will be fifth on the depth chart behind center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, right fielder Carlos Beltran, left fielder Brett Gardner and athletic back-up outfielder Aaron Hicks. He has mainly served as a back-up outfielder in his career and that is what he would be if he made the team.

He has an opt-out clause in his contract should he not make the MLB roster after spring training in order to be able to be signed to another team’s MLB roster instead of being sent to Triple-A Scranton. Denorfia was brought in to help bolster the right-hand-hitting outfield depth in the Yankees system.

Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott are two other candidates to be the fifth outfielder after Hicks. If Denorfia performs very well in March it could make sense to have him on the roster so that Williams and Heathcott can play everyday at Scranton. However, Williams and Heathcott both played well last season when replacing injured Yankee outfielders and will likely serve a role at some point this season as well.

Heathcott, who is 25 and made his MLB debut last season, was 10-25 (.400) with two homers, six runs scored and eight RBIs. He also has a lot of range in center field and right field. Williams, who is 24 and also made his MLB debut last season, was 6-21 (.286) with one homer, three RBIs and three runs scored. Williams hit a homer during his first MLB game on June 12.

The Yankees now have a grand total of 70 players in big league camp. That number will go down gradually as the days get closer to April and the beginning of the season.

Denorfia would be the option if Girardi decides to go with experience and Williams or Heathcott would be the option if he thinks they would not benefit from anymore time in the minors. However, it is possible that neither Denorfia or the young outfielders will make the opening roster since Dustin Ackley can be a back-up in the outfield as well as in the infield.

The Yankees announced that Severino will get the start in the team’s 1st spring training game


The Yankees announced on Sunday that Luis Severino, who allowed more than two earned runs in only three of his 11 starts during his rookie season last year, will get the start during the team’s first spring training game on Wednesday at home against the Detroit Tigers. The game will begin at 1:05 p.m. at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

After Severino, Ivan Nova will get the start against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday and Bryan Mitchell will be the starter for the Yankees during Friday’s road game against the Tigers. This has nothing to do with the rotation that will begin the season and just has to do with when the various starters are ready to pitch in a game.

Severino threw a live batting practice on Friday, Mitchell threw a bullpen on Saturday and Nova threw live batting practice on Sunday. This is why they are the first three to pitch in games. Severino is slatted to be one of the five starters after his impressive final two months of the season after being called up, and Nova and Mitchell will likely be relievers in the bullpen.

Joe Girardi does not know yet who will start a game after Nova because Michael Pineda is the only one that has thrown a live batting practice so far. Based on the pattern outlined above, this could mean that Pineda will start the fourth spring training game. Girardi did add that Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka will throw a live batting practice soon.

“It’s more just determining when exactly we think that they’re ready to go,” Girardi said. “The other guys should start throwing BPs pretty soon, and then that will get them close.”

Severino finished last season with a very impressive 2.89 ERA in his 11 starts. He also had a solid 1.20 ERA with 56 strikeouts, 22 walks and a 2.0 WAR. The 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic recorded a season-high of nine strikeouts against the powerful Blue Jays lineup on August 16 and struck out five or more batters in seven of his 11 starts.

He is an important piece of the rotation because he had a lot of success last season and he is the only one who does not have an injury question mark. The Yankees were basically forced to call him up based Pineda going on the disabled list and Severino’s dominance at Triple-A Scranton. Severino can be favorably compared to Yordano Ventura based on his size and pitch repertoire.

Pineda went on the disabled list on July 30 with a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm. He would return to the rotation on August 26, and he ended up pitching worse after coming off of the DL (he allowed four runs or more in five of eight starts) than he had in the first four months of the season.

He finished the season with a 4.37 ERA, 156 strikeouts and only 21 walks, but he is capable of finishing this season with a much better ERA based on his overpowering stuff and pinpoint control. The highlight of his season was when he struck out a career-high 16 batters in seven innings while not walking anyone in seven innings against the Baltimore Orioles on May 10. Pineda will have to prove this season that he can stay healthy the whole season after spending time on the DL last season and the season before.

According to Brooks Baseball, Severino primarily threw a four-seam fastball (96 mph) and  slider (90 mph) while also mixing in an effective changeup (89 mph).

“His fourseam fastball generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers and has well above average velo. His slider is thrown extremely hard and generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders. His change is thrown extremely hard and has slight armside fade.”

Severino will need to continue utilize his change because he will need to be able to throw his three pitches in any count since other teams will have more of a scouting report on him. If he can come close to duplicating the success he had last season after facing teams for a second and third time he will be a very valuable member of the rotation and he definitely has the stuff to do so.

CC Sabathia feels the best that he has felt in three years


ccweb30s-1-web

CC Sabathia – Andrew Theodorakis – NY Daily News

CC Sabathia, who at 35 will likely be the Yankees No. 5 starter after struggling the last two seasons, recently said “I feel the best I have in three years.” That could be a sign that the former ace will produce much closer to how he did in 2012, when he finished with a 3.38 ERA, a 1.140 WHIP, 197 strikeouts and 15 wins, than he did last season.

Sabathia, who went on the disabled list on August 23 with right knee soreness and then had to miss the team’s wild-card playoff game due to checking himself into alcohol rehab, finished the 2015 season with a 4.73 and a 1.422 WHIP in his 29 starts. However, he pitched much better after returning from the DL than he did before and a factor that led to his improved results was that he started wearing a knee brace on September 9.

In his five starts while wearing the brace, the former Cy Young winner had an outstanding 2.17 ERA, which included winning the game that clinched the team a birth in the wild-card playoff game. Sabathia allowed one earned run or less in four of his five starts after coming off of the disabled list and the opposition only hit two homers off of him in those five games.

If he can stay healthy like he did in 2013 and have an ERA mid way between the ERA he had in 2012 (3.38) and in 2013 (4.78) then he will be a valuable pitcher at the backend of the rotation. The brace combined with being out of rehab could lead to him allowing fewer homers and having a much more respectable ERA this season. The 28 homers that he allowed last season were the second most in the American League.

Sabathia also said in a text to the NY Post that he is excited to get to Tampa with a clear head and a healthy body. Sabathia said in December that he had been sober since his stay in rehab when he checked in the day before the wild-card game, but also added that he is in the early stages of his recovery from alcohol abuse.

“I’m definitely in a good place,” Sabathia said in an interview with the Daily News. “You’ve never got this think beat; it’s always there and I’m always going to be a recovering alcoholic, but I’m in a good place. I’m excited about what’s coming ahead, not only in the season, but personally. I’m ready to go.”

Another positive development is that the big lefty said that his knee feels much better and his upper body feels stronger than it was when he had a 4.73 ERA last season. Sabathia was an All-Star in 2012 and then his velocity decline began in 2013. However, his struggles the last three seasons might have been due alcohol issues, undergoing arthroscopic surgery in his left elbow to remove a bone spur in lat October of 2012, losing 40 pounds in 2013 and then being put on the DL on May 12 of 2014 due to right knee inflammation, which ended up leading to a stem-cell shot in his knee.

Sabathia experienced swelling in his right knee in a rehab appearance for Double-A Trenton and ended up only making eight starts in the 2014 season. His renewed health in his elbow and knee combined with his stay in rehab could lead to him being a reliable workhorse similar to what he was a few seasons ago. He was able to locate his pitches where he wanted them, which included using his changeup very effectively, after coming off of the DL last season, and that could be a preview of what is to come in 2016.

The Yankees will need Sabathia, who has the PitCChIn Foundation that supports inner city youth, to be a better pitcher than he was in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons if they are going to make the playoffs again this season.

The Yankees have announced that Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian will be in big-league camp


judge8s-9-web

Aaron Judge – Corey Sipkin – NY Daily News

The Yankees play their first game of spring training on March 2 against the Detroit Tigers in Tampa, which is in only 22 days. About three weeks before spring training officially begins, the Yankees announced on Friday that outfielder Aaron Judge, shortstop Jorge Mateo and starting pitcher James Kaprielian will be in big-league camp.

Mateo (20) and Kaprielian (21) are young highly rated prospects but still both need at least one more year in the minors, with Kaprielian needing at least two since he was drafted last season. They are worth keeping an eye on based on what Kaprielian did in college at UCLA and with the Staten Island Yankees during his few appearances with them and based on what Mateo did last season with Single-A Charleston and Single-A Advanced Tampa.

Mateo, who was ranked the team’s No. 3 prospect after the 2014 season and has been labeled untouchable by the organization, had a .278 average with two homers, 40 RBIs, 82 steals, 98 strikeouts and 43 walks in his 117 games across two levels. He also made 30 errors in his 99 starts at shortstop last season. He will be valuable if he can continue to steal bases at the rate that he is, cut down on his strikeouts and not commit errors as frequently.

Mateo is the prospect in the Yankees organization with the best ability to steal bases, which is something that either the Yankees will benefit from or another team will benefit from in a trade. It is a positive that he was able to have a .321 average in 84 at-bats with Single-A Advanced Tampa, which is the highest average he has had in his four seasons in the minors.

His defense needs improvement, but it is not unfixable, according to a report on Fangraphs. The report said that Mateo “isn’t the super-smooth Gold Glove type, so he’ll need to continue to hone his instinct and footwork, but the tools are there to be a solid defender.” Mateo will likely improve defensively with repetition, and not to compare Mateo to Derek Jeter, but when Jeter was in Single-A Greensboro he made 56 errors in 1993.

Kaprielian, who the Yankees drafted with the 16th pick of the first round in 2015, pitched in seven games in the rookie league in 2015 and then was called up towards the end of the season to pitch with the short season Single-A Staten Island Yankees. In his three starts with Staten Island he dominated the New York Penn League competition as he had a 2.00 ERA in 9 innings pitched with a 1.111 WHIP, 12 strikeouts and only two walks. The possible future No. 3 starter for the Yankees will likely begin the season with Staten Island.

The 6’4″ righty was drafted after his junior season at UCLA, and in his three seasons as a Bruin he went 16-10 with an outstanding 2.06 ERA over 66 appearances (31 starts). He was named to the All Pac-12 first team in his sophomore and junior seasons. In his stellar junior campaign, he was named a second team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, he led the Pac-12 in strikeouts (114) and wins (10), pitched seven or more innings in seven of his 15 starts and to top it off he impressively threw nine no-hit innings while striking out 10 against Arizona.

Judge is the player out of the three who is most likely to have an impact in the Bronx during the 2016 season. Judge, who at 6’7″ and 275 pounds looks like a defensive lineman and has been compared to Giancarlo Stanton, was drafted with the 32nd pick of the first round out of California State University Fresno in 2013.

The outfielder hit .255 with 20 homers, 72 RBIs, 63 runs scored and a .448 slugging percentage combined in 63 games with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He struggled once being called up to Scranton since his stats at that level were a .224 average with eight homers, 28 RBIs and a low .373 slugging percentage. This proves that he needs more time at Triple-A to figure out the pitching that is close to major league caliber. However, he has a lot of upside and should be ready to be called up as an injury replacement or to give Carlos Beltran or Alex Rodriguez a few days off in June or July.

This is what MLB.COM said about Aaron Judge: “He scuffled (in Triple-A), but even though he profiles as a potential slugging run producer, he’s also shown an ability in the past to make adjustments. Once Judge does that, he should be ready for his New York debut,” said the write-up. “Built along the lines of Giancarlo Stanton, Judge has similar strength, leverage and huge raw power. He focused on working counts and the middle of the field during his 2014 pro debut, but he started to turn his right-handed swing loose more often last season … An excellent athlete for his size, Judge has average speed and a strong arm.”

He will need to figure out the improved off speed pitchers that the starters throw at Triple-A, and once he does that he should be ready to contribute. He has so much power from his massive frame that he should be able to help the Yankees win some games this year. Judge is currently the eighth best outfield prospect in baseball and he will get to prove that lofty ranking starting on March 2.

Judge is one of the prospects that Brian Cashman has deemed untouchable as the Yankees have valued their minor league system more recently, and the others were Mateo, Luis Severino and Greg Bird. Judge could play an important role at some point with his bat and Severino will be significant as he will be one of the starters in the pitching staff to begin the season. Judge, Mateo and Kaprielian will get valuable experience with the Yankees veterans as well as against major league competition during spring training.

Dustin Ackley’s role will be even more important with the loss of Greg Bird


554429

Dustin Ackley

The Yankees depth took a hit since Greg Bird will miss the season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder. This will mean that back-up first baseman, second baseman and outfielder Dustin Ackley will be more important than the Yankees initially thought he would be.

Bird was slated to begin the season at Triple-A Scranton even before his torn labrum, but he would have been a valuable bat to bring up in the likely scenario of a Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez injury, or to give Teixeira a few days off against a right-handed pitching. The Yankees will now not have a proven offensive and defensive first baseman (and DH) who they can call-up when Teixeira or Rodriguez go through a slump.

Bird hit very well once he made his major league debut on August 13 as he had a .261 average with 11 homers, 31 RBIs and a .529 slugging percentage in 46 games (147 at-bats). He also had a .343 on-base percentage and hit .270 with nine homers against righties vs. .238 with two homers against lefties. He came through in the clutch a number of times to win a game for the Yankees and played very reliable defense at first base.

Ackley, who has the ability to play second base, left field and first base, will be the primary back-up to Teixeira and the Yankees will now not have a player with a lot of offensive ability to bring up at first base. Brian Cashman has said that he will not sign a notable free agent who can play first and will continue the trend of only adding players through trade. If this holds true, the Yankees will be able to bring up a player like Tyler Austin in case of an injury.

If Ackley can stay healthy the whole season and produce like he did while he was with the Yankees last season then the Yankees might not need to acquire another first baseman. However, it isn’t known if that will happen based on how he performed while with the Mariners last season.

In 85 games with the Mariners last season (207 at-bats), he had a .215 average with a .270 on-base percentage, six homers and only 19 RBIs. After being traded to the Yankees, he had a .288 average in 23 games (57 at-bats) with four homers, 11 RBIs, two triples and a .654 slugging percentage. His 57 at-bats were obviously a small sample size, but he obviously showed that he can be productive while giving the team versatility. Ackley missed 33 games after his second game with the team due to a lumbar strain.

The 27-year-old Winston-Salem, North Carolina native who played on the University of North Carolina baseball team with former Yankee Adam Warren was the second overall selection of the 2009 draft by the Mariners. In his last season in the minors with Triple-A Tacoma in 2011, Ackley had a .303 average in 66 games (331 at-bats) with nine homers, 35 RBIs, 17 doubles, seven steals and .421 on-base percentage. After he was called up to the Mariners that season he had a solid .273 average in 376 at-bats.

He has the potential to hit above .270 in the at-bats that he gets and to have a solid on-base percentage. He should also be able to hit for more power than he did at Safeco Field because his swing is built for Yankee Stadium, which is much more hitter friendly than Safeco is.

Ackley, who is signed through this season on a one-year, $3.2 million contract, has made one error in his 22 games at first in his career. He played four games including three starts at first while with the Yankees last season and made 28 put outs and had two assists. He has primarily played the outfield and second base in his five-year career, but he should be reliable enough while improving with increased opportunity at first base.

Ackley proved that he can be a productive offensive player while with the Yankees last season, but Cashman will need to sign a player or make a trade in June if he produces like he did while with the Mariners last season.

Ivan Nova could be a valuable piece of the bullpen after Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances


Ivan Nova Spring

Ivan Nova in spring training.

Unless there is an injury during spring training the starting rotation is pretty much set for the Yankees. It’s not known what order the rotation will be, but the five starters in the rotation will most likely be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nate Eovaldi, CC Sabathia and Luis Severino. There are some injury question marks with three of those five starters, but that rotation has the potential to be a very reliable one if they all stay healthy and pitch how they are capable of.

Severino is the wild card of the five and the one who might have the most upside. The 21-year-old Dominican, who was the team’s #1 prospect after the 2014 season according to Baseball America, made his major-league debut on August 5 and in his 11 starts he had a 2.89 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 56 strikeouts. He only allowed more than two earned runs in three of his 11 starts and if he can pitch with that kind of effectiveness for the majority of the 2016 season, after other teams have more of a scouting report on him, the rotation could be better than it was last season.

Ivan Nova, who had a below average 5.07 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in his 17 starts last season, recently avoided salary arbitration by signing a one-year, $4.1 million contract. The 29-year-old righthander will be headed to the bullpen due to the emergence of Severino. He is an intriguing option as a long-reliever and sixth inning option before the flame-throwing trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

Nova made four starts in April of 2014 before having to leave his start on April 19 with an elbow injury that led to him needing Tommy John surgery. He had a 8.27 ERA in those four starts and hasn’t been able to perform like he did in the 2013 season. In the 2013 season, Nova showed what he is capable of as he had an impressive 3.10 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) to go along with two shutouts and a career-low 1.28 WHIP.

Last season Nova proved that he can still be productive since he had six starts where he pitched five innings or more and allowed less than three runs. He is far too inconsistent to start games consistently this season, but based on the ability he showed at times last season it would make sense for him to be the top candidate to make a spot start.

Relievers only need two pitches that they can count on to be successful, which makes Nova an ideal candidate for the bullpen. Nova has 12-6 curveball that can be un-hittable at times and a slider that he throws between 85-89mph that can be also be a strikeout pitch for him when it is on. If Nova is restricted to one or two innings besides occasional spot starts then his pitches should be more reliable than they have been the last two seasons as a starter.

The Yankees bullpen likely will be the most dominant backend of a bullpen of all-time because of the last two seasons that Chapman, Betances and Miller have had. However, the bullpen will need depth and Nova can provide another quality pitcher with experience that Joe Girardi can have pitch in the sixth or seventh inning when one of the “Big Three” need a day off.

Chapman, who has been an All-Star in each of the last four seasons and throws the fastest fastball in baseball, will likely be suspended to begin the season because of his serious domestic abuse allegations. The league could suspend him under its new domestic violence policy. According to John Heyman, the league might not have enough evidence to give him a long suspension.

Other pitchers who will likely come north with the Yankees after spring training are Branden Pinder, Chasen Shreve, James Pazos and Bryan Mitchell. Pazos, Shreve and Pinder are all pitchers who had success last season and are used to pitching in the bullpen but they don’t nearly have the experience of pitching in the big leagues that Nova does.

NBA.com | Hang Time Blog

The official news blog of NBA.com with commentary and analysis from NBA.com's staff of writers.

Alysha Tsuji

ATsuji@gmail.com

On Cloud Conine

From Charlie Hough to The Clevelander… a blog for the #DiehardFish fans living the #LinsLife!

Another Day In The Office

I run around and pick up baseball bats for the Oakland Athletics

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45 other followers

%d bloggers like this: