We are now in the last few days of 2016 and it is likely that the Yankees will not acquire any new players before the first day of the new year. There is a rumor that David Robertson and Jose Quintana could be traded to the Yankees from the White Sox, but that possible trade would take a lot of top prospects from the Yankees and is probably not close to happening.
Looking back on the last year of Yankees baseball, when the team missed the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons, the number one highlight was the emergence and historic performance from Gary Sanchez.
The last time the Yankees had a position player prospect come on to the scene from their minor league system and make an impact anywhere close to the one Sanchez did was Greg Bird in 2015. However, the only reason he was called up was because Mark Teixeira was injured for the last two months of the season.
After making his debut on August 13, Bird was very productive as he had 11 homers, 31 RBI, a .261 average and a .526 slugging percentage while playing very good defense at first. Bird had to miss the 2016 season because of surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, but his performance in 2015 has led to him going into spring training as the regular first baseman.
Bird should be able to be a productive first baseman in his first full season but his future is somewhat of an unknown since he is coming off of surgery and has only played two months. The last rookie Yankees position player who progressed from the Yankees minor league system to play a close to a full season and make a real impact before Bird and Sanchez was Brett Gardner back in 2009.
In 2009, Gardner played in 108 games, drove in 23 runs, stole 23 bases and had a solid .270 average. He made his debut in 2008 but only played in 48 games. He has been a productive outfielder for the Yankees since then and was named an All-Star in 2015 and his career high in steals is 49.
Before Gardner, Robinson Cano came up through the minor league system after being signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent as a 17-year-old and made his debut when he was 22 in 2005. When he was a rookie, Cano finished second in Rookie of the Year voting with 14 homers, 34 doubles, 62 RBI and a .297 average. Cano was an All-Star and received a Silver Slugger award in his second campaign after finishing with an outstanding .342 average with 15 homers, 78 RBI and a .525 slugging percentage.
Francisco Cervelli, who signed as an amateur free agent in 2003 out of Venezuela and made his debut as a 22-year-old in 2008, was solid and essentially split time with Jorge Posada in 2010 and had some decent years as a backup. Besides those three, the Yankees haven’t had significant production from a position player that they have developed in the last 10 years. This is what makes Sanchez’s production all the more important and significant.
Sanchez made his debut in September of 2015 when he was 0-2 in two at-bats in two games but would exceed his rookie limit in the 2016 season after playing regularly after being called up on August 3. He lost a competition with Austin Romine to be the backup in spring training but it was for the best because he was able to work on his defensive weaknesses with the Triple-A Scranton RailRiders.
Sanchez was called up for one game in May when he went 0-4 but during that game on August 3 he got his first MLB hit off of Hansel Robles in a game against the Mets. He ended the 2016 season with an very impressive stat line of a .299 average with 60 hits, 12 doubles, 34 runs scored, 20 homers, 42 RBI and a .657 slugging percentage.
He finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting to Michael Fulmer and surely would have finished first if he would have been called up a month and a half to two months sooner. However, very few players in baseball history have put up the kind of stats that he had in only two months of the season, which makes him finishing second in the voting very impressive and noteworthy and makes him the story of the year for the Yankees.
After becoming the everyday catcher on the 3rd he went on a four-game hitting streak, which included three doubles, and in the seven games after being called up he went 10 for 29 (.345) with one homer, four RBI and seven runs scored.
On August 10, in the middle of one of his hot streaks, he went 4-5 with his first MLB home run. On August 16 against the Blue Jays, Sanchez had his first of three two homer games. On August 22, Sanchez was named AL Player of the Week after hitting four home runs with a .523 average (12-21). After playing his 23rd career game on August 27, he became the first player in MLB history with at least 11 homers and 31 hits in that many games.
Another milestone that he set was on August 29 was winning his second consecutive Player of the Week, and on September 3 MLB named the Yankees prized catcher the Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month. He is the only Yankees catcher to ever named Rookie of the Month or Player of the Month.
“It feels great to win the award, but the reality is that the focus is to keep winning games right now,” Sanchez said through a translator. He had a team first attitude through all of his success, which is a positive.
He has always been known for his hitting ability but he has been able to improve his skills behind the plate and his success at throwing out runners at second. He had a 41 percent caught stealing percentage, which is a very solid number and was much better than what Brian McCann had.
He was always a highly rated prospect but he admittedly had some struggles earlier in his minor league career because of attitude issues, which he has overcome. He credits the birth of his daughter for his transformation from a player “going through the motions” to one who is now praised for his work ethic.
On September 21, in a game against the Rays when he was 3-4 with 5 RBI, he slugged his 18th and 19th homers in his 45th career game, which made him the fastest player to reach that mark in the modern era. His ability to improve his mindset, work ethic and overall skill set and to not go through the motions anymore has caused him to improve all around and the give the Yankees a potential All-Star at the catcher position.
On Sunday, the Yankees signed veteran outfielder Matt Holliday to a one-year and $13 million contract. They did this after not signing a single Major League free agent in the offseason last year.
Holliday will primarily be the designated hitter in the 2017 season but could also see time in the corner outfield spots as a backup to as of now Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner. Holliday will essentially be replacing the spot Brian McCann had on the roster before he was traded to the Houston Astros for two pitching prospects.
There are many positives to signing the 36-year-old native of Stillwater, Oklahoma, who made his debut in 2004, to a one-year contract for next season. The first obvious positive is that it is for only one more year and he shouldn’t have much of a drawback from last season since he was able to hit 20 homers and drive in 62 runs at 36 years old.
It wouldn’t make sense to sign a player like him to a multi-year contract because it is not known when his stats will really start to decline. There were rumors of signing Edwin Encarnacion, which wouldn’t have made sense because even though he is coming off of an excellent 42 homer and 127 RBI season, he is already 33 and wanted a five-year contract. The Yankees are looking to stay young with short term contracts for older players until the offseason of 2018 when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (among others) are free agents.
Another plus is that his swing is made for Yankee Stadium, so playing in the Bronx could help improve his power numbers. He can be counted on to provide veteran leadership and can also be relied on to get on base at a consistent rate since he has a career .382 on-base percentage.
Holliday had a low .322 on-base percentage last season, but had a remarkable .394 on-base percentage in 73 games in 2015 when he was an All-Star and in 2014, when he was 34, he had a .272 average with 20 homers 90 RBI and a .370 on-base percentage.
Ever since trading McCann the Yankees were likely going to sign someone in their 30s to be the designated hitter, and it would have been a mistake for the Yankees to sign a primary designated hitter to a multi-year contract, which is why this one-year contract is ideal. Holliday will be able to possibly help the Yankees reach the playoffs this season after the team missed the postseason in 2016. He also might be able to help Judge become a more patient hitter at the plate, which could help the team for years to come.
Holliday is a seven-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger winner and finished second in MVP voting in 2007 when he was 27. He has previously played for the Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals. He was traded from Oakland to St. Louis in the middle of the 2009 season and had been with the Cardinals ever since.
In 2007, he led the National League with his .340 average. In 2013, Holliday finished third in the National League with his 103 runs scored. In 2012, the last time he was an All-Star before the 2015 campaign, he had a great all-around season with a .295 average, .379 ob-base percentage, 27 homers, 102 RBI, 36 doubles and 75 walks.
For his career, the slugger has a very good .303 average with 295 homers, 1153 RBI, 448 doubles, 1,995 hits, 744 walks, 1,104 runs scored and a .515 slugging percentage. He will have hit his 300th homer and 2000th hit in the early part of next season. His 295 homers are the 12th most among active players, and his 1,995 hits are 11th most among active players.
The Yankees (76-66) lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, on Sunday, September 11, and ended their seven-game winning streak. They are now four games behind the Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League East and tied with the Detroit Tigers for two games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card spot.
“Every loss at this point stings just because of how few games are left,” manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees have won seven of their last 10 games but could have really benefited from winning on Sunday because their schedule is about to get much more challenging than the 60-82 Rays. In their next three games, they will closeout their home stand with the Dodgers, who are 80-62 and in first place in the NL West and then will play the rest of their games against teams ahead of them in the AL East, except for three games in Tampa Bay from September 20-22. This will give them opportunity to directly gain ground in the division and wildcard but will also automatically lose ground with any losses.
Rookie Luis Cessa, who had allowed three runs or less in his four starts this season before Sunday, was hurt by the home run as the Rays slugged three round trippers against him in 5.2 innings. He ended up allowing four runs on five hits while striking out five in 78 pitches. Cessa has been a reliable starter so far as his array of pitches helped him have a 4.07 ERA going into yesterday’s game, but he needs to prevent so many homers since the opposition has hit eight homers in his 29 innings as a starter, and in his 47.2 innings overall the opposition has hit 13 homers.
A positive to yesterday’s start is that Logan Forsythe and Brad Miller both hit solo homers in the sixth. If they would have hit two or three-run homers then the game would have been out of reach and much more difficult to make a comeback.
Chase Headley hit his 14th homer of the season in the fifth inning, but the Yankees were only able to score one more run after that. In the seventh inning, Brett Gardner singled to right to drive in Headley for the team’s second and final run. During Sunday’s afternoon game, the Yankee had a total of seven hits but were only 1-5 with runners in scoring position (RISP). Jacoby Ellsbury was 0-2 with RISP, Mark Teixeira was 0-1 with RISP and Gary Sanchez was 0-1 with RISP.
Ellsbury flied out with Gardner on second to end the seventh inning and he also flied out to left after Gardner doubled to deep left in the third inning. To end the third, Sanchez struck out with Gardner still on second. The Yankees were not able to do anything in the last two innings since the Rays retired the side in order in the 8th and 9th innings with Brad Boxberger and Alex Colome pitching. The Rays closer, Colome, picked up his 32nd save of the season and lowered his ERA to an impressive 2.01.
Luis Severino pitched well once again but will unfortunately likely not be available for two or three days because he threw 2.1 innings in the loss. He held the Rays scoreless while allowing only two his and a walk while striking out three. Severino, who was sent to Triple-A earlier in the season due to ineffectiveness as a starting pitcher, has now not allowed an earned run in his 16.2 innings pitched as a reliever this season and has only given up four hits in those seven games out of the bullpen.
The Yankees will now play three important games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. LA is coming off of a series where they lost two of three to the Marlins in Miami and former manager Don Mattingly. The Dodgers will send out rookies Jose De Leon and then Julio Urias in the first two games and then 2014 Cy Young winner and likely the best lefty in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, will make his second start since coming off of the disabled list on Wednesday.
It’s important that the Yankees win two out of three games to keep pace or possibly gain ground on the teams ahead of them in the standings.
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.
The Yankees (77-60) play the final game of their three-game set against the Orioles tonight before their important three-game weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees have split the first two games with the Bronx Bombers winning the series opener 8-6, as a result of Greg Bird‘s 3-run homer, and the Orioles winning the second game, as a result of Chris Davis’s homer off of reliever Chasen Shreve. The Yankees are currently 1.5 games behind the Blue Jays in the AL East.
CC Sabathia will get the start tonight after not having pitched in a game since August 23. He was put on the disabled list on August 24 due to knee inflammation after feeling pain in his surgically repaired knee. He had to leave his start on the 23rd after allowing two runs on four hits and four walks in only 2.2 innings pitched.
Before that start against the Cleveland Indians, Sabathia had pitched six or more innings in three straight starts and allowed two runs or fewer in two of them. That is an improvement from earlier in the season, and the Yankees will be looking for him to give them a least six innings tonight against the Orioles. They can use length out of him because the Blue Jays offense that they will be facing in the upcoming series is more powerful than what the Orioles have, so it will be helpful to save the bullpen.
“I am looking forward to it and excited about it,’’ said Sabathia. “These games are big and I want to perform well. We control our own destiny. It’s sitting in our lap and that’s all you can ask for.’’
Since their two most effective weapons out of the bullpen will be available tonight after they needed Tuesday off, it will be ideal if Sabathia can pitch 7.0 innings, Dellin Betances can pitch the eighth inning and then Andrew Miller can come in for the save in the ninth. That is provided that the Yankees offense can score more than the one run that they scored on Tuesday night.
The Yankees were 0-3 with runners in scoring position last night and left seven runners on base. That will have to improve against Ubaldo Jimenez. A recipe for success offensively will be to take advantage of when runners are in scoring position and hit one or more homers because they are 42-11 when they hit two or more homers in a game this season.
Tonight against Jimenez, Brett Gardner is out of the lineup for the third consecutive game because his shoulder is not fully healed. Gardner jammed his shoulder after diving for a ball at the outfield fence during Saturday’s game. He was optimistic that he would play today when interviewed on Tuesday, but Joe Girardi is cautious because Gardner is often diving on the base-paths and in the outfield.
Gardner only has one hit in his last 13 at-bats and has a 3-17 average in his career against Jimenez. Dustin Ackley, who the Yankees acquired from the Mariners at the trade deadline on July 31, will get the start in right field. Ackley is 6-11 against Jimenez, which means that he has had a lot of success in a small sample size.
Here is the rest of the lineup for tonight’s game against the Orioles:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Chase Headley 3B
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Alex Rodriguez DH
Greg Bird 1B
Dustin Ackley LF
Didi Gregorius SS
Stephen Drew 2B
The Yankees lost the middle game of their series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium by the score of 3-2. This was a crushing loss since they had many chances as they were 0-5 with runners in scoring position and the loss combined with the Toronto Blue Jays win over the Baltimore Orioles pushed the Yankees deficit in the AL East back down to 1.5 games.
Nathan Eovaldi, who lost his first game since June 16 and is now 14-3, allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in 5.1 innings pitched. It was his second consecutive start that he struggled with his command and effectiveness since in his previous start he allowed five runs in five innings pitched, but was able to get the win because the Yankees had scored eight runs when he left the game.
John Jaso hit a single to right off of Eovaldi to leadoff the game and he continued to struggle as eight of the first 15 batters that he faced reached base. He was able to get Evan Longoria to hit into a double play to end the first, but the second and third innings were his downfall.
In the second inning, Kevin Kiermaier, who is more known for his defense, singled to right to score Logan Forsythe, who had doubled earlier in the inning. In the third inning, Eovaldi couldn’t locate his pitches at all as he allowed a walk, a hit by pitch and then another walk to Grady Sizemore to load the bases. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a single to right to score Daniel Nava and Longoria to give the Rays their third run of the game. He would retire seven of the next nine batters that he faced, but had to leave the game after 5.1 innings because he had thrown 102 pitches (seven strikeouts).
“I didn’t have good command of my fastball and my splitter was inconsistent,” Eovaldi said. The splitter is the pitch that has transformed Eovaldi into a more complete and at times dominant starter this season, and he will have to throw it with more consistency in his next start.
“He struggled with his command a little bit,” Joe Girardi said in reference to Eovaldi. “It’s part of the game. Even though he struggled, he made big pitches when he had to. We have got to bounce back tomorrow. That is the bottom line.”
Matt Moore, who had an 8.78 ERA in his six starts this season coming into the game, allowed two runs on three hits and two walks in his 4.2 innings. In the fifth inning, Didi Gregorius hit a double to deep center to score John Ryan Murphy who showed his speed as he was able to score all the way from first base. Murphy is likely the fastest back-up catcher in baseball. Later in the fifth inning, Brett Gardner’s ground out to the shortstop scored Gregorius.
The Yankees had the bases loaded in the eighth inning after pinch hitter Brian McCann walked with two outs, but Gregorius hit a hard line drive to the second baseman. The Yankees had the hitter they wanted at the plate since in his last eight games Gregorius has 15 hits in his last 29 at-bats (.517) with eight runs scored, two homers and 11 RBIs, but he unfortunately hit it right to Forsythe.
Four pitchers from the Rays bullpen combined to pitch 4.1 scoreless innings while only allowing two hits. That was another reason that Tampa Bay won the game.
The Yankees would have won the game if they had more success with runners in scoring position and if they left fewer than nine runners on base. Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, who were the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 hitters in the lineup, combined to go 1-12 with three strikeouts. The offense didn’t homer and the team is now 11-25 this season when not hitting a round tripper.
An opportunity that the team should have taken advantage of was missed on Saturday because the Yankees will now face the challenging Chris Archer in the series finale at 1:05 p.m. Archer is one of the best starters in the league as he has an impressive 2.78 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP and 223 strikeouts. He didn’t allow an earned run in six innings in his previous start, and in six starts against the Yankees between the 2012 and 2014 seasons he had a 1.93 ERA.
The Yankees will have to hope that Archer is not able to command his pitches like he normally does. Ivan Nova, who allowed three runs in six innings in his last start, has a 4.50 ERA in 12 starts this season. He needs to locate his sinker, curve and four-seam fastball better than he has in his previous two starts.
The Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians, 4-3, on Sunday in the series finale at Yankee Stadium. They ended up losing three out of four games in the series and have now lost five out of seven games this season to the last place Indians. The loss combined with the Toronto Blue Jays win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim put the Yankees back in second place by half a game.
Dellin Betances allowed the game-winning run to the Indians in the 8th inning as Francisco Lindor blasted a homer to right on a fastball. Lindor went 3-5 and Betances allowed a run for the second straight game after not giving up a run in his previous 18 games. “Every once in a while it is going to happen,” Joe Girardi said. “He got in a 3-2 count, he left a fastball up and Lindor jumped on it.”
Lindor was the first left handed better to hit a round tripper against Betances. “I felt like I was missing glove handed side,” Betances said. “I fell behind again and Lindor hit a home run. I don’t want to walk him there so I am just trying to go after him. It was up and he put a good swing on it.” Lindor hit his homer to right after a great throw by Brian McCann got Jose Ramirez out as he was trying to steal second.
The Yankees scored their first run of the game in the third inning when Jacoby Ellsbury crossed home plate and Brett Gardner was safe at second on throwing error by Indians catcher Yan Gomes. The Yankees tied the score at three in the seventh inning on Carlos Beltran’s ground rule double that bounced into the stands in foul territory in left. Stephen Drew and Ellsbury scored.
In the fifth inning, the Indians almost had their third run, but Mike Aviles was thrown out trying to tag from third after a perfect short hop throw by Gardner and tag by John Ryan Murphy. The Indians would score their third run later in the inning when Branden Pinder walked Abraham Almonte with the bases loaded.
The Yankees pitchers combined to walk 10 batters against the Indians, which included four by CC Sabathia and three by Pinder. “I think there were a lot of walks on both sides,” Girardi said. “You are going to have those days too. You have got some young kids out there. That is not really a concern.”
CC Sabathia threw an 88 mph outside fastball to Carlos Santana in the first inning that he easily hit a home run on. Sabathia has a 5.80 ERA on regular rest this season (12 starts). He had to leave the game after 2.2 innings with a right knee injury after allowing two runs on four hits and four walks.
Brian Cashman said that he assumed that Sabathia will have to go on the disabled list based on how he had to leave the game. If he does go on the disabled list it is possible that he will not rejoin the rotation when he returns based on his 5.27 ERA.
Indians closer Cody Allen came into the game with two outs in the eighth inning and he recorded his sixth save of four or more outs of the season. That is the most of any closer in baseball.
The Yankees were only 1-8 with runners in scoring position and the No. 2-5 hitters combined to go 2-14. Greg Bird’s ground ball up the middle on the first pitch he saw in the sixth was the second hit of the game for the Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury was the only player on the team with a multi-hit game.
Trevor Bauer, who had allowed 11 earned runs in his previous two starts combined, only allowed one earned run in his 6.1 innings pitched. He was able to repeatedly pitch out of trouble as he walked six batters.
The Yankees will conclude their homestand with a three-game series from Monday-Wednesday against the Houston Astros, who are in first place in the AL Central. Nathan Eovaldi will get the start on Monday night, and he had an excellent splitter and threw 25 pitches that were 100 mph or faster in his previous start.