Category: Masahiro Tanaka

Tanaka has been the best Yankees starting pitcher and could be in contention for the Cy Young

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Masahiro Tanaka – ESPN 

Masahiro Tanaka pitched very well in five of his six starts in August and there is a chance that he could win the Cy Young if the can continue pitching like he has recently.

In Tanaka’s last three starts of August he allowed two, zero and zero runs, which lowered his ERA from 3.40 to 3.12. In his two starts before that outstanding three game stretch, he gave up one run in six innings and then four runs in seven innings. He was hurt by the long ball as the Rays hit two homers off of him leading to his four runs, but the Rays only had five hits against him and Tanaka recorded eight strikeouts and no walks, which is a great strikeout to walk ratio.

His ERA during August would have been even better if not for the Mets scoring six earned runs against him on August 2 but his ERA for the month was still a very good 3.00. He had a 3.40 ERA after that start at Citi Field against the Mets and it’s now a much improved 3.12. Also, showing his dominance during the month is that he had 38 strikeouts and only one walk. Only allowing one walk in the span of six starts is outstanding control and rarely seen in major league baseball.

Overall this season, Tanaka is seventh in the American League in ERA (3.12), sixth in the AL in WHIP (1.06) and third in the league in K/BB ratio (5.21). His 4.5 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is the seventh highest among qualified starters in the league, the .268 on-base percentage that opponents have against him is the second best in the league and the .360 slugging percentage that opponents have against him is fifth best in the league.

After the All-Star break this season, Tanaka has really excelled as he allowed two runs or less in six of his nine starts. He allowed zero runs in three of those starts and one run twice.

He will definitely be considered for the Cy Young if he can continue pitching at the success rate that he has after the All-Star break. (He will have to not have another start where he allows six runs.) Tanaka currently is not far from being first in ERA in the AL as Aaron Sanchez, who has made 25 starts this season to Tanaka’s 27, has a 2.88 ERA. Tanaka is also close to the pitchers immediately ahead of him as Chris Sale has a 3.10 ERA and Corey Klueber is in 5th place with a 3.09 ERA.

Tanaka has been by far the Yankees best starting pitcher this season. His 11 wins are most on the team by three, his 3.12 ERA is much lower than any other starting pitcher, his 1.06 WHIP is much better than the other starting pitchers, his 16 quality starts are four more than CC Sabathia who is in second place and he has been able to throw 29 more innings that any other pitcher on the team.

Tanaka, who is 27 and in his third season since coming over from Japan, is also on his way to having his best season in pinstripes since he is on track to pitch the whole campaign. In 2014, his rookie season, he had an excellent 2.77 ERA but that was after pitching only 136.1 innings and 20 starts. He has already made 27 starts this season and thrown 173.0 innings, which makes his performance up until now in this season more impressive than 2014.

He signed a 7-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees before the 2014 season and he is pitching this season like he deserved that contract and is beyond the injury he suffered in 2014. In his rookie season, Tanaka was placed on the disabled list in the beginning of July due to right elbow inflammation and an MRI revealed a partially torn UCL. He ended up returning at the end of September after multiple doctors said that Tommy John surgery was not necessary.

The rookie campaign was very impressive for Tanaka and he has been able to dominate even more this season based on the array of plus pitches that he has. He relies primarily on his sinker (90mph), slider (84mph) and splitter (87mph) while also throwing a four-seam fastball, cutter and curve.

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The Yankees won the first game in the series against the Giants as Chapman had a strikeout on a 103 mph fastball to end the game

The Yankees edged the San Francisco Giants, 2-1, on Friday night. They have now won seven of their last 10 games and are 4.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the second wild card spot.

Chapman threw a few 104 mph fastballs in the ninth and then threw a 93 mph slider Brandon Belt and then struck out Belt on a a 103 mph fastball to end the game. He recorded his 20th save of the season. Gregor Blanco doubled to left to leadoff the inning but Chapman was able to come through in the clutch by getting three outs in a row.

Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller struggled more than normal but the Yankees still escaped with a win over the Giants, who are in first place in the NL West. The impressive 31-inning scoreless streak by the bullpen ended when Betances allowed a run in the seventh on a wild pitch. Andrew Miller, who picked up his sixth win, allowed three hits and one run in the 8th to tie the score at two.

The Yankees scored the winning run in the bottom of the 8th as Austin Romine grounded into a fielder’s choice and Chase Headley scored on a throwing error by Brandon Crawford. That was the normally very reliable shortstop’s third error of the game.

Carlos Beltran drove in the team’s second run of the game as his double in the second scored Ronald Torreyes. That was his team-leading 61st RBI of the season and he could definitely be traded before the trade deadline because the 39-year-old will be able to get back quality prospect and the Yankees likely would not resign him after the season.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched very well on regular rest after struggling in some of his starts that were not on extra rest earlier in the season. He gave up one run in his previous start so he was able to continue his momentum and he has been by far the team’s best starting pitcher since 3.00 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Against the Giants, he didn’t allow a run, recorded four strikeouts and only gave up four hits.

Beltran made a perfect throw in the third to get Blanco out at home to prevent a run from scoring and complete a double play. Blanco missed home and Romine was able to tag him out. In the sixth inning, Beltran, who has lost much of his speed, was also able to make a running catch near the warning track to prevent a double from happening.

“It helped me a lot,” Tanaka said in reference to Beltran’s throw home. “That double play made it really easy for me.”

Didi Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann were all not in the lineup to start the game because Madison Bumgarner was pitching but the offense was still able to do enough off of them. The Yankees will have a good chance at winning the next two games because Saturday and Sunday’s starters for the Giants are not nearly as good as Bumgarner, who is one of the best starting pitchers in baseball.

The Yankees had a season-high 20 hits in their 9-0 win over the White Sox

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Masahiro Tanaka – ESPN

The Yankees played well in all phases of the game on Tuesday night in Chicago in beating the White Sox 9-0. Masahiro Tanaka had a bounce back performance as he did not allow a run in 7.2 innings pitched after giving up six runs in six innings in his previous start.

Tanaka allowed six hits, one walk and struck out six batters. He recorded nine ground ball outs, 13 fly ball outs and was taken out of the game after throwing 103 pitches. He pitched like an ace against the White Sox and was taken out after recording two outs in the 8th because Joe Girardi said that about 100 pitches was his limit. His ERA is now down to a solid 3.12 and he probably needed a few more one or two run games to be an All-Star like 2014.

The Yankees offense did most of their damage off of White Sox starter Carlos Rodon, who saw his ERA rise from 4.24 to 4.50 after allowing six runs (five earned) on 12 hits and two walks. Carlos Beltran, who is 39 years old and was selected to his ninth All-Star team on Tuesday night, hit a single to right to drive in Rob Refsnyder in the second for the team’s first run. Later in the second inning Brett Gardner scored on an error by White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.

It is a great accomplishment for Beltran to be selected to another All-Star team especially after the way he started last season. Beltran has been the team’s best offensive player in the first half, and the Yankees would not nearly have the 41-42 record without his .302 average, 17 doubles, 19 homers, 54 RBIs and .571 slugging percentage.

He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame after he retires based on his postseason success and the fact that he has more than 400 homers (411), almost 1,500 RBIs (1,497), 2,537 hits and 311 steals. Also, when he hit his 400th homer earlier this season he became only the fourth switch-hitter to hit that many homers. (Mark Teixeira recently became the 5th  switch-hitter to hit 400 homers.)

In the third inning, Chase Headley hit a homer to drive in Starlin Castro for his seventh round-tripper of the season. He has really turned it around at the plate in the 1.5 months. In the fourth inning, Teixeira’s double scored Beltran, and in the fifth, the Yankees hit their second homer of the game. Austin Romine’s blast to left center made the score 6-0 and was what led to a relief pitcher coming in for Rodon.

The Yankees added two insurance runs in the eighth as Refsnyder’s double scored Headley and Aaron Hicks‘s double to deep center scored Refsnyder. Refsnyder continued his impressive season at the plate as his two hits increased his average to .288 and he now has nine RBIs and a .354 on-base percentage in 73 at-bats.

Hicks went 1-4 and has improved in the last three games after struggling before that. He has four hits in his last 11 at-bats after previously not having a hit in 19 at-bats. Hicks’s defense is much better than his offense but this recent stretch could be a sign of him being more consistent and showing his ability.

The Bronx Bombers recorded a season-high 20 hits, which helped them move to within one-game of .500. According to James Smyth, the only two other times since 1940 that the Yankees have had 20 hits and pitched a shutout were in 1977 against Toronto Blue Jays and in 1997 against the Minnesota Twins.

Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were the two other All-Star selections for the Yankees. This will be Betances’s third consecutive season going to the All-Star Game, and it is Miller’s first time being named an All-Star.

Betances said after yesterday’s game that he thought that Miller deserved to be an All-Star last season when he had a 100 strikeouts, only 20 walks and an impressive 2.04 ERA. Miller added after the game that he is looking forward to having Betances with him so that they can soak it in together and so that he will be able to ask him questions about the experience.

They both deserved to be selected after their outstanding first three months, and Betances has the most strikeouts among relievers and Miller is in second place. Miller has a 1.47 ERA with 66 strikeouts and only six walks in 36.2 innings while Betances has a 2.63 ERA with 74 strikeouts and only nine walks in 41 innings.

Chicago is currently 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees in the race for the second wild card spot. With a win tonight the Yankees will get back to .500 again and win the series against the White Sox before closing out the first half in Cleveland against the Indians. The Yankees will have to hit well and pitch well if they are going to win the series against the red-hot Indians.

Betances, Miller and Chapman pitched three perfect innings as the Yankees beat the Twins

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Masahiro Tanaka – ESPN

The Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins, 5-3, at Yankee Stadium on Friday night to get back to .500 (36-36). They have gone 2-2 in their last four games but the previous time that they were .500 before they were 34-34 the Yankees went on to lose four out of five games.

The Yankees will look to win the next two games against the Twins to extend the winning streak to four games and give them momentum heading into the series against the Texas Rangers. Minnesota has the worst record in all of baseball so it is important that the Bronx Bombers take advantage of playing an opponent that they are better than.

Joe Girardi’s ideal scenario happened in this game as Masahiro Tanaka pitched six innings and kept the Yankees in the game, which led to the Big Three of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman closing out the game while not allowing a hit.

Minnesota committed three errors, which helped Tanaka leave the game with a 4-3 lead. Carlos Beltran hit a double to left to score Brett Gardner and then Alex Rodriguez singled to left to score Beltran to tie the score at two. The Yankees scored two more runs in the fourth off of a sacrifice fly by Austin Romine and a RBI single to left by Rob Refsnyder.

Refsnyder, who will likely not be playing first as much with Mark Teixeira coming off the disabled list on Saturday, is hitting 6 for 17 (.353 with four runs scored, two doubles and two RBIs in his last five games. His average is an impressive .286 in 56 at-bats this season, which proves that he really knows how to produce offensively when given the opportunity.

Tanaka ended his start with his sixth quality start in his past seven. He allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out seven. He also had a higher swing and miss percentage than most starting pitchers. Tanaka had allowed two runs or less in five of his previous six starts, but he was able to make pitches when he needed to in this one.

“Tanaka has the ability to pitch and get big outs when he needs them,” Joe Girardi said.

Aaron Hicks, who was playing against his former team, hit a solo home run with one out in the 8th to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. His homer landed in about the second row in left field. That was his first right-handed homer of the year and third homer overall. He now has a .310 average with two RBIs in his last 11 games.

“I am feeling good on both sides,” Hicks said. “I feel like as the season goes on my at-bats are getting better.” He was hitting .205 on June 12 and his average is now up to .217 and he has at least one hit in six of the last seven games he has started.

Tanaka got Kurt Suzuki to ground into a double play to end the sixth inning in what ended up being his last batter because Betances was ready to come into the came with the Yankees leading. Betances had a 10-pitch inning in the seventh, and he got Robbie Grossman to strike out on a nasty curve that bounced before getting to the plate.

Miller pitched the 8th inning and came into the game having struck out 50 percent of the batters he had faced. That is an outstanding ratio and only two relief pitchers have done that before. His fastball and slider combo worked to perfection in the eighth as he retired the side in order and struck out the dangerous Brian Dozier to lower his ERA to 1.14.

Aroldis Chapman struck out the first two batters on six pitches and all of the pitches were above 100 mph. He would strikeout out the side on a 90 mph off speed pitch. He threw a circle change that completely froze Suzuki to end the game.

In the ninth inning, Chapman threw 10 pitches that were 101 mph or faster and then his 11th pitch was 90 mph. There is basically not another relief pitcher in baseball who could have 11 consecutive pitches like the ones that Chapman had.

“They are going to have their lumps but I feel pretty good about them,” Girardi said about the Big Three.

In 10 games Betances, Miller and Chapman have appeared in together before this game they had a combined 1.48 ERA and 52 strikeouts. Those numbers are even more impressive after Friday’s game.

The Yankees play their next 16 games until the All-Star break against teams outside of the AL East, which is a positive for the Yankees since they are 10-17 against AL East opponents this season. Saturday’s game will be at 1:05 p.m., and Michael Pineda will get the start for the Yankees. He will look to rebound from allowing three runs on one homer and six hits in 5.1 innings in his last start.

With Saturday’s win the Yankees are now on a season-high four-game winning streak

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Masahiro Tanaka – ESPN

After beating the Oakland Athletics, 5-1, on Saturday in Oakland, the Yankees are not in last place in the American League East for the first time since April 23. That was their longest stretch in last place since the last four weeks of the 1990 season. They have gone 11-5 in their last 16 games and have really turned their season around, as they are now 20-22 and 6.5 games out of first place.

This was their fourth consecutive win and in each of those wins their starting pitchers have pitched six innings or more and have impressively allowed only one run. CC Sabathia came off of the disabled list on Friday and showed the same dominance that he did in his start before going on the DL as he allowed one run on three hits and a walk. He struck out a season-high eight batters, and it appears that his knee brace has really been helping him.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in Saturday’s game and allowed one run on five hits and two walks in seven very effective innings. In the fifth inning, with the Yankees leading 4-0, Danny Valencia hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored catcher Matt McBride, who walked to lead off the inning. Tanaka, who has been the team’s best starting pitcher this season, has a 3.24 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 50 strikeouts. This was a big bounce back game for Tanaka because he was able to rebound after allowing four and six runs in his last two starts, respectively.

The fifth run that the Yankees scored, a double by Starlin Castro in the seventh that scored Ronald Torreyes, was able to allow Nick Goody to pitch the last two innings and give the team’s big three of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman the game off. Goody, who was pitching in his seventh game this season and made his debut in 2015, allowed one hit and no walks in his two innings pitched. He has a 1.64 ERA (two earned runs) and 12 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched this season. Girardi might rely on Goody more as some of the other middle relievers before the big three haven’t been very reliable.

Entering the bottom of the fourth the score was still 0-0, but then the Yankees would score all the runs they would need off of Oakland starter Sean Manaea for the win. The Yankees, who scored five runs off of Manaea, capitalized off of a pitcher who had been struggling this season since he had allowed 8, 4, and 4 and three of his four other starts this season.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Carlos Beltran hit a single to left center that scored Jacoby Ellsbury for the team’s first run. Then, with one out, Aaron Hicks hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored Castro. To make the score 4-0, Rob Refsnyder hit a double to deep right that scored Beltran and Mark Teixeira. Refsnyder, who was playing right field, appeared in a game for the first time since being called up from Triple-A with Luis Cessa and James Pazos on May 17.

Refsnyder has really mastered Triple-A pitching since he had a .293 average with two homers and 10 RBIs in 133 at-bats this season, but from April 26 until May 12 he had a 16-game hitting streak with six multi-hit games and nine runs scored. He also slugged his first two homers of the season in his second to last game before being called up. He will be able to provide offense off of the bench while being able to play right field, third and second.

Castro, who has the highest batting average of any regular on the team, was 3-5 to improve his average to .277. He has adapted well to playing with the Yankees after being traded from the Cubs in the offseason and he forms a solid young middle of the infield with Didi Gregorius. Castro was able to break out of his mini slump since he had only one hit in 13 at-bats before Saturday’s game.

Beltran, who leads the team in RBIs with 26, was two for four to improve his average to .268. After finishing April of 2015 with a very low .162 average, Beltran has been able to continue the improved production that he had during the last five months of last season. He has been a major part of the team going 5-2 in the last week as he has .385 average (10-26) with four runs scored, four doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs in the last seven days.

With a win Sunday afternoon against Oakland (4:05 p.m. EST) they will have swept the Athletics and will have finished the road trip with a 5-2 record. After this series in the Bay Area the Yankees will return for three games against the last place Toronto Blue Jays and then go on a 10-game road trip. Those 10 games will be important because nine of those 10 games will be against AL East teams.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched effectively in his first start of spring training

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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.

Lineup for the third game of the series against the Red Sox

Masahiro Tanaka.

Masahiro Tanaka.

Masahiro Tanaka will get the start for the Yankees (86-71) tonight in Game 3 of their four-game series against the Boston Red Sox (77-80). In three starts against the Red Sox this year, Tanaka has gone 3-0 and held Boston to a .234 average. However, Tanaka will look for better results tonight since he has allowed four, three and three runs in his starts this season against Boston.

Tanaka is currently lined up to start the wild card game for the Yankees. He is the logical choice because he has allowed three runs combined in his last three starts while not giving up more than two runs in any of them and besides Luis Severino is the most reliable pitcher in the rotation right now. He held the powerful Blue Jays lineup to zero runs in seven innings on September 13, which proves that he is capable of shutting down the Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros or Minnesota Twins.

The Yankees have a three-game lead with five games left to play for the right to have home field in the wild card game. The Angels are currently in sole possession of the second wild card spot and the Astros are half a game behind. The Twins are only half a game behind the Astros after their win today over the Cleveland Indians, and Minnesota would be the best matchup for the Yankees in the one-game playoff.

If the Angels stay in second that would be better for the Yankees because they have really struggled against Houston’s ace Dallas Keuchel this season. However, if they are going to keep the top spot and win the wild card game their offense will have to improve. The Yankees have gone 3-4 in their last seven games and have averaged only 2.57 runs per game. They have scored less than three runs in four of those games.

One player who has been hitting very well recently has been Jacoby Ellsbury. In Ellsbury’s last 13 games, he has a .347 average (17-49), a .429 slugging percentage, three steals, four doubles and eight runs scored. The Yankees need him to continue to hit well at the top of the lineup.

The Yankees can clinch a wild card spot if they win tonight and if they get help from the teams below them. The Yankees will also have won their 10,000th game in franchise history with a victory tonight over their rivals. Wade Miley, who has a high 4.39 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, will take the mound for the Red Sox and he allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk in his last start.

The lineup that the Joe Girardi is sending out tonight is the one that will likely be on the field for the wild card game if a lefty is pitching. Rob Refsnyder is getting another start at second against a lefty and he has a .417 average (5-12) in his four starts against lefties this month. Here is the lineup for tonight’s game against the Red Sox.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Chris Young LF
Greg Bird 1B
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Didi Gregorius SS