The moves and roster decisions that the Yankees made before the trade deadline and shortly after have been a benefit to the team for the rest of the season in addition to helping the team for years to come.
Their farm system, which was middle of the pack before the end of July is now regarded second best in baseball by MLBPipeline.Com. Brian Cashman was able to get the approval from Hal Steinbrenner to trade away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran and the Yankees are still about as far back in the wild card race as they were before. In return for those impact players, the Yankees received a total of 11 players (and Adam Warren) including a few elite prospects.
Gleyber Torres and Billy McKinney were the most highly rated prospects received in the Chapman trade. Torres is a shortstop who was recently ranked the 27th best prospect by Baseball America. Torres, who is only 19, is younger than most High-A players. He was hitting an impressive .275 with nine homers in 356 at-bats with the Cubs affiliate before the trade.
McKinney is an outfielder who was drafted in the first round by the Athletics in 2013 before being included in the trade to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija in July of 2014. He was the Cubs #7 ranked prospect after the 2015 season and at Double-A he was hitting .252 with 31 RBIs before the trade. McKinney might be able to contribute next season or be included in a trade.
An impact player that the Yankees got back in the Andrew Miller trade is Clint Frazier. He is also the player who will likely be called up to the Yankees faster than any of the others they received. The outfielder was the 5th overall pick by the Indians in 2014 and was the 44th ranked prospect in all of baseball after 2015.
Ben Heller is a lower ranked prospect that the Yankees received before the deadline who was called up earlier this month for two games because they needed more pitchers on the roster. He did not make an appearance and could get called up again in September but is not nearly at the level of Frazier.
Frazier has top of the line bat speed and has improved his pitch recognition. He is only 21 and is hitting .250 in his 15 games at Triple-A Scranton. He will likely be called up when the rosters expand in September and is another player who will give the team options going forward because if they trade him he could help get a top starting pitcher.
Another highly rated prospect that the Yankees got back in the Miller trade is Justus Sheffield. He has an above average fastball, but his best pitch is his curveball, and he also had a solid change. He is a 20-year-old pitcher who was drafted with the 31st pick of the first round in 2014 and was the Indians #4 prospect after 2015. He had a 3.59 ERA in 19 starts before the trade and for the Yankees High-A Tampa affiliate he has an excellent 1.04 ERA with 17 strikeouts and four walks in three starts.
Dillon Tate was the major piece that came back to the Yankees in the Beltran trade. The Yankees also got back Nick Green, who is now with Single-A Charleston, and Erik Swanson. Tate was the 4th overall pick in the 2015 draft, who was the best pitching prospect in college baseball last year.
Before he was drafted he had a plus fastball and a reliable slider. He didn’t have much success with Low-A Hickory, the Rangers affiliate, as he had a 5.12 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). It appears that the Yankees will be using him as a reliever, which is what he primarily was in college at UC Santa Barbara. In his two games for Charleston so far he has pitched six innings and allowed one earned run (1.50 ERA) to go with four strikeouts and three walks. He hasn’t showed the success he had in college, but he could turn into a lockdown 8th or 9th inning type of reliever.
In addition to all of the prospects that the Yankees got back, trading away Beltran, releasing Alex Rodriguez and deciding to essentially make Brian McCann the back-up catcher has opened up space for three of the best producing minor leaguers in the Yankees system.
Gary Sanchez was called up on August 3 and was the fist of the Baby Bombers to get called up for good. He signed with the Yankees as an international free agent when he was 16 and had always been more known for his hitting. He is now 23 and has really improved his defense behind the plate.
He was ranked the #2 Yankees prospect after the 2015 season. He deserved to be called up because he had a .339 average, .468 on-base percentage with 10 homers and 50 RBIs for Triple-A Scranton. He has not had a difficult adjustment at all to major league pitching since he has a .360 average in 13 games (50 at-bats) with five homers and 11 RBIs since being called up. He has also impressively thrown out three of the five runners who have attempted to steal on him.
The two Yankees prospects who were drafted by the team that have been called up recently were Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin. Judge and Austin, who are both 24, made their debuts on August 13 and they made history during the second inning. Austin hit a homer just over the wall in right on a 2-2 pitch and then Judge blasted a homer that went off the railing above the sports bar in center and landed on the netting above Monument Park.
On Judge’s first major league at-bat, he became only the third player to homer over the batter’s eye at new Yankee Stadium. (Judge is a mammoth of a human and can be compared to Giancarlo Stanton since Judge is 6-7 and 275 pounds.) The two 24 year olds did something that had not been done in the 120+ year history of major league baseball since teammates had never before homered in their first major league at-bats in the same game.
In Judge’s five games, 18 at-bats, he has seven hits (.389 average), one double, two homers and four RBIs. He has done very well at the plate so far after displaying his power with Triple-A Scranton as he had 19 homers and 65 RBIs and a .489 slugging percentage in 93 games (352 at-bats). Judge, who went to Fresno State, has also made a few impressive defensive plays since being called up. It seems like he is poised to be a middle of the order outfielder for years to come for the Yankees.
Austin is a great story of overcoming adversity because he was a top prospect a few years ago and then had to battle through injuries and underperformance to get back on the map this year. Austin even went unclaimed after being designated for assignment after the 2015 season. The Yankees then claimed him and sent him back down to Double-A Trenton.
The Georgia native was chosen to represent the Yankees in the All-Star Futures Game in 2012 but had to miss it due to an ankle injury. However, he was referred to by Brian Cashman as a mega-prospect in August of 2012, and in three levels, the top being Double-A Trenton, he hit .322 and had a .400 on-base percentage with 17 homers and 80 RBI.
In the 2013 season, Austin had to miss 60 games due to a wrist injury in July. He didn’t really regain his top prospect status until this season as he hit a combined .240 with six homers and 35 RBIs across two levels in 2015. However, everything clicked for him this season at Triple-A, as slowing the game down helped him have a .323 average with 13 homers and 49 RBI and regain his top prospect status.
The first baseman and outfielder has not been impressive as he other two but has still held his own so far. He has a .250 average in his 12 at-bats so far with his one homer. Greg Bird, who had to miss this season due to a shoulder injury, hit so well in the final two months of last season that he will likely be the starting first baseman next season. In 46 games (157 at-bats) he had a .261 average with an impressive .529 slugging percentage after hitting 11 homers and driving in 31 runs. Austin could be a solid back-up first baseman and outfielder.
Bird was a big part in the Yankees making it to the wild card game last season and at 23 next season he will be another key young piece of the lineup. Austin and especially Judge and Sanchez have showed promising signs and look very comfortable in the big leagues. The Yankees made the right decisions in trading the players they did and calling up the Triple-A prospects and many of these players could be part of the next Yankees team that goes deep into the playoffs.
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.
The Yankees will play their wild card playoff game tonight at 8:00 p.m. against the Astros at Yankee Stadium. If the Yankees win then they will play the Kansas City Royals (95-67) in the American League Division Series since the Royals had the best record in the American League.
Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP), who allowed four runs in five innings against the Red Sox in his last start on September 30, will take the mound for the Yankees to begin tonight’s crucial game. Tanaka’s sub-par performance during his previous start might have been because he was rusty after not having pitched in the previous 12 days. Tanaka will have to keep the ball down in the zone and have his plus splitter tonight against the Astros.
Tanaka is the team’s ace and in his three starts before September 30, he allowed three runs combined while striking out 21 and only walking one batter. On September 13 against the powerful Toronto Blue Jays lineup, who scored the most runs in all of baseball, he threw a shutout in seven innings while recording seven strikeouts and no walks. The Yankees will need Tanaka to pitch with that kind of effectiveness tonight and not pitch like he did during his previous start against the Astros when Houston scored six runs (three homers) off of him in five innings.
The Yankees need a solid start from Tanaka because the Astros starter, Dallas Keuchel, has had a Cy Young caliber campaign. Keuchel, who finished the regular season with 20 wins and an outstanding 2.48 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and 216 strikeouts, dominated the Yankees in his two starts against them during the season. In two starts against the Bronx Bombers, he did not allow a run in 16 innings while striking out 19 batters.
Keuchel throws a sinker (90 mph), slider (80 mph), change (80 mph), cutter (87 mph) and a four-seam fastball (90 mph). He can command all of his pitches for strikes, which makes him hard to hit. Keuchel is coming into tonight’s start with momentum as he gave up four runs combined in his previous three starts and on September 27 he allowed one run in seven innings while recording 10 strikeouts. That was the fifth time this season that he struck out 10 or more batters.
However, one advantage that the Yankees could have against Keuchel is that he will be pitching on short rest for the first time in tonight’s game. Also, Keuchel and all of the Astros position players except Carlos Gomez, Jed Lowrie and Colby Rasmus will be playing in the postseason for the first time.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Keuchel said Monday at Yankee Stadium. “I think a lot of the guys do in there as well. And we’ll always carry that.”
The Yankees will need the same kind of offensive production from rookies Rob Refnsyder and Greg Bird that they received during the last few weeks of the season. In Bird’s last 13 games of the season, he had 14 hits in 48 at-bats (.292) with three doubles, four homers, eight runs scored and 10 RBIs. That is very good production from a rookie who is playing in place of the injured Mark Teixeira.
In Refsnyder’s eight starts at second base in the last 11 games of the season, he had 11 hits in 28 at-bats (.393) with three doubles, one homer and three RBIs. He has had the majority of his starts against lefties and has hit them very well.
The Astros, who were 53-28 at home this season, were only 33-48 in away games. That has to do with Houston being a young team. Keuchel has also been much better at Minute Maid Park than in away games this season since he had a 1.46 ERA at home and a much higher 3.77 ERA away from Houston. Keuchel pitching on short rest and the game being at Yankee Stadium could be factors in this wild card game.
Here is the roster that the Yankees will use for tonight’s game against Houston:
John Ryan Murphy
The Yankees, who lost two out of three games in their series at the Rogers Centre to the Blue Jays, will start a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. Losing the series to the Blue Jays gave the Yankees a 3.5-game deficit in the AL East with 11 games left, which means that their chance of winning the division is highly unlikely. (The Yankees would have to get help from Toronto and would have to win about eight of their games.)
The Yankees (83-68) currently have a 4-game lead for the first wild card spot, which means they are on track to hosting the Houston Astros, the Minnesota Twins or the Anaheim Angels in a one-game playoff for the right to play in the ALDS. Houston is currently the second wild card with an 80-73 record, the Minnesota Twins are one-game behind the Astros and the Anaheim Angels are 1.5 games behind the Astros.
The best matchup for the Yankees would be if they end up playing the Twins in the wild card game. The Twins No. 1 starter is not nearly as good as the No. 1 starters on the Angels or Astros, and the Yankees had a lot of success when playing against Minnesota. However, the Yankees need to win three or four games during this upcoming series against Chicago to keep their slim chance of winning the AL East alive.
In tonight’s game, hyped prospect Rob Refsnyder will get his first start since he went 0-3 against the Mariners on July 18. He was sent back down to Triple-A Scranton after that game and before tonight’s game has only had two at-bats this month. Refsnyder will try to live up to the offensive success he has had in the minor leagues the last few years, but he will be getting a challenging matchup tonight as he will be facing Chris Sale, who is one of the best pitchers in the American League.
Back-up catcher John Ryan Murphy will get the start for Brian McCann, Chris Young will get the start in left field because Sale is a lefty and Young has performed very well against lefties this season, Brendan Ryan will get the start at shortstop for Didi Gregorius and Dustin Ackley will get the start at first. Greg Bird, who is on an 8-game hitting streak, has started at first in the last nine games. Gregorius has started every game at shortstop since July 25, when Ryan got the start at short.
Michael Pineda, who will start tonight’s game, allowed zero runs and struck out four in 5.1 innings in his last start against the Mets. That was his third time this season that he hasn’t allowed a run and his first since July 4 against the Rays. He bounced back well since he had given up four runs in each of his last two starts before that start against the Mets.
Pineda is a very effective pitcher when he throws his slider where he wants it to go and the Yankees need him to locate that pitch tonight. Here are the pitching matchups for the series against the White Sox:
RHP Michael Pineda (11-8, 4.10)
LHP Chris Sale (12-10, 3.47)
7:05 p.m. YES Network and MLB Network
LHP CC Sabathia (5-9, 4.80)
LHP Carlos Rodon (8-6, 3.78)
7:05 p.m., YES Network
RHP Adam Warren (6-7, 3.46)
LHP John Danks (7-13, 4.59)
4:05 p.m., WPIX
RHP Luis Severino (4-3, 3.10)
RHP Jeff Samardzija (10-13, 5.04)
1:05 p.m., YES Network
The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, 3-1, in the final game of their series at Tropicana Field. It was a big win for the Yankees because they were able to stay three games behind Toronto in the AL East since the Blue Jays routed the last place Atlanta Braves 9-1. After last night’s win, the Yankees are now only seven wins away from 10,000 in franchise history.
Luis Severino only allowed one run in 5.2 innings pitched while striking out seven in what was his most important start as a Yankee. The Yankees still have a chance in the AL East partly because they have won four of the last five games that he has started. The team could not have asked for anything more from their highly regarded rookie as he has a 3.12 ERA and 45 strikeouts in his eight starts and has allowed two runs or less in six of those starts.
“It’s great to help the team win,” Severino said after the game.
He has only allowed more than two runs twice, and both of those starts came against the Blue Jays. He allowed three runs in six innings in his first start against Toronto, which means that nine of the 15 runs that he has allowed have come against Toronto. That is not surprising because the Blue Jays have scored 102 runs more than the the Yankees, who have scored the second most runs in baseball.
In his previous start, on September 11 against the Blue Jays, Severino gave up six runs on six hits and three walks in only 2.1 innings, which means that he was able to rebound very well after that sub-par performance. Severino had not allowed a run until the sixth inning when Steven Souza Jr. doubled to center with one out to score James Loney. He struck out Nick Franklin swinging with two outs and then Justin Wilson came on in relief as Severino had thrown 94 pitches.
“He bounced back extremely well, which is good to see,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. Some rookies will struggle after performing like Severino did against Toronto, but he was impressively able to pitch like he previously had.
Chase Headley had what ended up being the game-winning RBI in the top of the sixth inning with his single to shallow left that sent Brian McCann home to make the score 2-0. That was Headley’s only hit of the game and that hit snapped his 10 at-bat hitless streak.
Greg Bird, who was 2-4, drove in the first and third runs that the Yankees scored. He was once again a critical part in a Yankees win. In the second inning, to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead, Bird hit a double to right center to score Carlos Beltran. In the ninth inning, to give the team an insurance run, Bird hit his seventh homer in his 29 game played of the season. Seven homers and 21 RBIs are very productive power numbers for a rookie who has not even played in 30 games.
The bullpen pitched 3.1 combined innings and only allowed one hit. Wilson only need 12 pitches to strike out two in his inning, Dellin Betances threw 1.1 innings and had to get out of trouble as he walked the bases loaded in the seventh and Souza Jr. hit a single off of him in the eighth, but he was able to get a key double play and strike out. Andrew Miller (1.80 ERA) struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth to record his impressive 34th save of the season in his first year as a closer.
Chris Archer, who pitched well against the Yankees once again, allowed the first two runs that the Yankees scored. He pitched six innings and allowed four hits and four walks. He broke the Rays’ single season strikeout record with his third inning strikeout of Brett Gardner. That was his 240th strikeouts, which broke Scott Kazmir’s record.
The other positive offensively was that Jacoby Ellsbury, who had not had a hit in his previous 22 at-bats, went 2-5 in what was his first multi-hit game since September 6. The Yankees need this to be a sign of him hitting with more consistency.
The Yankees have their last off day of the season today before playing 17 games in 17 days to end the season. The Yankees play three games against the Mets at Citi Field starting on Friday and after that series will play an important three-game series at the Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays. Those six games will go a long way towards deciding if the Yankees win the division or get one of two wild card spots.
The news on Mark Teixeira is much worse than originally thought. It was announced today that what was initially a deep bone bruise is now a broken right leg. He will not return during the regular season or the postseason. The recovery time will be three months.
“With the way he’s been throughout this process, it’s clearly no surprise,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “It just makes sense why he ran down the first-base line the way he did; why he couldn’t do anything beyond walking.” Since Teixeira fouled a ball off his leg on August 17, the Yankees have gone 12-9.
The Yankees have missed his Gold Glove caliber defense at first base and the impressive power numbers that he has displayed this season. He has 31 homers, 79 RBIs, a 3.4 Offensive WAR, a .548 slugging percentage and a .906 OPS. His 31 homers, 3.5 Offensive WAR, .548 slugging percentage and .906 OPS are all best on the team.
Greg Bird, who was thought to be the temporary first baseman until today, will now know that he will be the everyday first baseman for the rest of the season and in the playoffs. He has performed well at the plate and if you prorate his power numbers for a full season they would be similar to Teixeira’s, but he is still a rookie. However, his defense is not nearly on the level that Teixeira’s is because he does not know when to get a grounder and when to leave it for the second baseman.
Bird, who is a 22-year-old rookie that was called up from Triple-A on August 13, has played in 25 games and has five homers, three doubles, 15 runs scored and 17 RBIs. He will have to continue to handle the pressure of playing games that matter the rest of the season, including in this weekend’s series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The series that the Yankees play this weekend is their biggest one since the 2012 season, which is when they last made the playoffs. As of before Friday night’s game, the Yankees are 1.5 games behind the first place Blue Jays in the American League East. These four games will go a long way towards determining who wins the division. The Yankees need to win two or more games to ensure that it will be a race the rest of the season.
The Yankees and Blue Jays have both gone 6-4 in their last 10 games, but the Yankees missed an opportunity to gain ground since they lost the last two games of their series to the Orioles and Blue Jays lost their last game of their series to the Red Sox.
The Yankees will play a doubleheader on Saturday since Thursday night’s game was rained out. Here are the pitching matchups for this pivotal series:
Luis Severino (3-2, 2.04 ERA in seven starts)
David Price (14-5, 2.43 ERA)
Saturday Game One
Michael Pineda (10-8, 4.15 ERA)
Marco Estrada (12-8, 3.18 ERA)
Saturday Game Two
Ivan Nova (6-7, 4.50 ERA)
Marcus Stroman (it will be his season debut after having ACL surgery in March)
Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Masahiro Tanaka (11-6, 3.57 ERA)
R.A. Dickey (10-10, 4.01 ERA)
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