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.
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.
Masahiro Tanaka allowed his first runs of spring training and the Yankees lost to the Mets, 7-2, at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.
This was Tanaka’s final line against the Mets: 4.2 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned runs, 1 BB, 7 Ks and 1 homer. Forty seven out of the 59 pitches that Tanaka threw were strikes. Tanaka allowed a homer to John Mayberry Jr. in the fourth inning. In the fifth inning, Tanaka allowed a ground rule double to center to Nick Castellanos and then Juan Lagares hit a homer to center off of Dellin Betances for Tanaka’s second earned run.
Tanaka now has a 1.74 ERA in three starts (10.1 innings) during spring training with 12 strikeouts, six hits and only one walk. After the unearned run scored off of him in the first, Tanaka really improved his effectiveness until Mayberry’s homer. Also, after allowing his first walk of the exhibition season in the first, he then bounced back to strike out Mayberry on a swinging slider and then struck out Kirk Nieuwenhuis looking to end the first. His seven Ks and only walk proves that he is ready for the regular season.
Cole Figueroa and Didi Gregorius scored the only Yankees’ runs. Chase Headley, who is now hitting .316 in spring training, hit a two-out double in the third to drive in Gregorius for the first run. Gregorius has proven that he deserves to not platoon since he has been able to hit lefties and righties.
Alex Rodriguez went 1-3 with a single and gave praise to Gregorius in a story by Ken Rosenthal. Brian Cashman said on Wednesday that A-Rod has proven that he deserves to be the everyday DH. According to Bryan Hoch, Cashman said that “A-Rod has shown enough to be trusted as the full-time DH. Cashman had no expectations coming in.” Given Rodriguez’s two homers and .290 average in 31 at-bats he definitely appears ready to be the full-time DH.
Also on Wednesday, Cashman announced that Adam Warren is the favorite to be the No. 5 starter. Warren, who has a 2.77 ERA in four starts (13 innings), has pitched better than his competition for the final spot in the rotation.
“There’s a Secretariat right now in this race for me that’s got a number of lengths ahead of the field,” Cashman said. “Warren has certainly got a big lead in this.” Warren, who dominated in 69 appearances in the bullpen last season and has only made three major league starts, will get his fifth start of the spring on Thursday when the Yankees play in Port Charlotte against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Warren will return to the bullpen when Ivan Nova comes off of the disabled list most likely in the end of May or beginning of June. Warren proved that he is definitely valuable out of the bullpen, but he also could be more effective as a starter than the other options that the Yankees have based on his performance in spring training and his stats in the minors.
In 2012, with Triple-A Scranton, Warren had a solid season with a 3.71 ERA in 26 starts, while striking 107 batters and walking 46.
The Yankees lost 4-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday, but a few positives can be taken out of this game. CC Sabathia made his first start of the exhibition season, Mark Teixeira hit his first home run and Jose Pirela continued to make his case to be the back-up middle infielder.
After only making eight starts last season and missing the final 5.5 months as a result of having a stem-cell shot in his right knee, Sabathia came away from his first competitive innings since last May pain free. He allowed four hits, two runs, zero walks and had two strikeouts in his two innings. Also, 22 of his 31 pitches were strikes.
According to Mark Feinsand, a scout’s radar gun in the first inning clocked Sabathia’s fastball at 90-92, with an average of 91. A YES Network radar gun even clocked him a 96 mph in the first inning. That average fastball is a few mph faster than it was last season, and it also means that he could get up to an average of 93-94 mph by the regular season.
These are Sabathia’s two strikeouts. One came in the first inning against Josh Donaldson and the other was in the second. He retired the side in order in the first stanza and allowed all of his hits in the second. Sabathia came away pleased with his performance overall based on being able to throw his fastball with some velocity.
“Obviously you don’t want to give up runs, but its spring training, it is what it is,” he said. “Just being able to command the baseball, let it go, throw it hard, it feels good.” His strikeouts came on a change to (former All-Star) Donaldson, which he will be throwing a of this season, and a letter-high inside fastball to Dalton Pompey.
He might have allowed no damage in the second if Chase Headley was playing third instead of A-Rod. Rodriguez barely moved on a hard grounder hit near him to leadoff the second and then the two runs scored with two outs. If Headley was playing third it could have been an out instead of a single.
It’s a positive sign that Sabathia had no pain after his 31 pitches and seems optimistic about the season. Sabathia has pitched 200 innings eight times in his career, and GM Brian Cashman said that he expects that again from him this season.
The first run that the Yankees had came when Stephen Drew hit a single that scored Garrett Jones. That was Drew’s first RBI and he is now only hitting .143. The Yankees need him to find his swing during spring training so that he will be the hitter he was during the 2013 season.
Two innings later, Teixeira hit an impressive opposite field homer for his first round tripper since September 21. The Yankees need Teixeira to slug 25-30 homers this season.
Dellin Betances gave up a run on two hits in his inning pitched, and Kyle Davies, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, allowed the fourth Blue Jays run in his inning pitched. Justin Wilson, who will likely primarily pitch in the seventh inning, allowed a hit and a strikeout in his inning pitched.
Pirela continued to be the offensive standout of spring training as he hit a triple in his only at-bat after replacing Drew. That was his second triple of the exhibition season and he now has nine hits in 20 at-bats (.450). Brendan Ryan is getting close to being ready to play in a game again, but Pirela is much better on offense than Ryan is, which means that he should be able to show what he can do in the beginning of the season as the back-up middle infielder.
As of last night, every starter has made (at least) one exhibition start and has either dominated or in the case of Sabathia showed more velocity than expected. Sabathia will look to build on this in his next start while continuing to threw his change and locate and command his fastball with similar velocity.
It might not feel like it in New York City, but spring training has officially begun for the Yankees in Tampa, Florida.
Pitchers and catchers officially reported for their physicals at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa this morning. The Yankees will have their first full squad workout on Feb. 26 and will play their first spring training game on March 3 in Clearwater against the Philadelphia Phillies.
One pitcher that the Yankees will need to keep healthy the whole season is Masahiro Tanaka. He was outstanding when healthy last season, as he had 2.77 ERA, 141 strikeouts and only 21 walks in his 20 starts, but he missed 2.5 months because of a partially torn UCL in his right elbow. Tankaka also allowed five earned runs in only 1.2 innings in his final start of the 2014 season.
However, there is positive news from Tanaka as he threw his first bullpen session yesterday and came away feeling normal. He threw 21 pitches with pitching coach Larry Rothschild watching. A lot can’t be taken out of bullpen session at the minor league complex, but it is a good sign that he came out of it without any pain and “smiled and waved” after it was finished. Tanaka also added that he is confident that he will be able to make it through the whole season.
During Joe Girardi’s start-of-spring-training press conference, Girardi answered questions about distractions that A-Rod might cause, the injury question marks in the rotation (CC and Tanaka), the increased youth on the roster, the competition for various spots, the possibility of a six-man rotation and the possibility of co-closers. He said that they could decide to have a six-man rotation when they play 18 games in a row without an off day early in the season.
Here is Girardi’s response when he was asked about Alex-Rodriguez’s recent hand-written apology: