On Thursday, the Yankees traded veteran catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Astros for right-handed pitching prospects Albert Abreu, 21, and Jorge Guzman, 20. The opening day roster will look much different and younger than it did last July as the Yankees now not have veterans Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and McCann. (The Yankees have interest in reacquiring Beltran to be their designated hitter.)
The Yankees traded McCann because Gary Sanchez will now be the starting catcher next season as a result of his historic beginning of his career when he hit 20 homers in the last two months of the season and play very good defense. That would have left McCann as the DH, which could have worked, but the Yankees will now likely be able to have a DH with a higher average with possibly as many homers as McCann would have had. The defensive shifts have really lowered his average because he basically always pulls the ball to the left side.
Abreu is the more well known prospect who could be in the Bronx sooner than Guzman. Before the trade, Abreu was the Astros’ No. 7 ranked prospect after spending 2015 at Single-A Quad Cities and High-A Lancaster. The 6-2, 175 pound right hander pitched in 24 games last season and made 16 starts, but 21 of those games and 14 of the starts were with Quad Cities.
He had a 3.72 ERA overall with 115 strikeouts and 58 walks with a 1.298 WHIP but his two starts and one relief appearance at the end of the season with High-A brought up his ERA and WHIP. In 90 innings with Quad Cities, he pitched out of the bullpen and as a starter. He had two wins, four saves, a 3.50 ERA, a solid 1.233 WHIP, 104 strikeouts and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Abreu’s ERA was a little high for a top prospect like him, but he has shown signs of developing into a reliable starter. His fastball topped out at 99 mph last season, which is a real improvement from the 87 – 91 that he threw when he first signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.
He has three pitches besides his fastball and once he can consistently improve those secondary pitches he will improve even more. Abreu is still young and might be able to have more success developing his off speed pitches with the pitching coaches that the Yankees have in their minor league system than the ones that the Astros had.
Guzman is a year younger than Abreu and is a 6-2, 182-pound righty who was born in Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic. In his second pro season, he threw in seven games in the Gulf Coast League and six games with Greenville of the Appalachian League, which is one level below Single-A.
He is a flame-thrower just like Abreu as his fastball tops out at 101-103 mph, but he has better control when his fastball is between 97 and 99, according to JJ Cooper. With the Astros Gulf Coast League affiliate he had a 3.12 ERA in seven games (four starts) with 25 strikeouts, 10 walks and an excellent 0.808 WHIP.
His ERA was higher in the Appalachian League, but ERA doesn’t tell that much in rookie level. With Greenville, he had a 4.76 ERA in six games (four starts) after striking out 29, walking seven and allowing 25 hits. The 25 hits that he surrendered in 22.2 innings are far too many, but on the other hand he did really improve his control from 2015.
In 2015, Guzman walked 30 batters in 55.1 innings pitched in his first season as a pro and had a very high 1.681 WHIP. However, this past season, he walked 17 batters in 40 innings pitched and had a much improved 1.150 WHIP.
He might be a better relief pitcher than starter since his two best pitches are his fastball and slider and his change is only developing. He has time to improve his change, but since he has two plus pitches and wasn’t able to throw more than five innings in a game last season he will likely be more effective in the bullpen.
In the 2017 season, he will probably either begin in the Appalachian League with the Pulaski Yankees or step up a level with the Low-A short season Staten Island Yankees. In 2017, Abreu will likely be sent to the High-A Tampa Yankees after proving that he can pitch well against Single-A competition last season.
It already makes that the Yankees made this trade based on the emergence of Sanchez, but the one downside is that McCann has hit 20 homers or more in nine consecutive seasons, and it is possible that being the DH would have helped him improve on his power numbers. However, his caught stealing percentage last season was very low and his decline in average and RBIs from earlier in his career is likely due to how baseball has changed with shifts in recent years.
If the two prospects that the Yankees received can blossom into one member of the rotation in Abreu and one seventh or eighth inning reliever in Guzman then this trade will be a win for the Yankees in many ways.
The Yankees will also now not have to pay the $23 million that is left of McCann’s contract over the next two years. McCann would have been an expensive back up catcher and part-time designated hitter.
“Getting the additional money to play with on our end gives us a lot of choices in the trade and free agent market,” Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. Cashman will now concentrate on improving the rotation, adding a designated hitter who can also play another position and getting an impact relief pitcher.
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
Brett Gardner, who is in his eighth year with the Yankees, was the AL Player of the Week for the week of June 22-28. He had an outstanding .500 (13/26)/.581/.885 slash line with two homers, four doubles, six RBIs and nine runs scored during the previous week. In the last six games, his average has improved from .279 to .300. The Yankees went 3-3 in those six games.
He has been a catalyst at the top of the lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list. Ellbury, who completed one final running test before the game on Sunday in front of Joe Girardi and Yankees personnel, was to begin a minor league rehab assignment today. He had a .324 average with a homer, six RBIs and 14 steals in 37 games as of May 19 when he went on the disabled list due to right knee sprain.
Gardner will likely go back to hitting second in the lineup when Ellsbury finishes his minor league rehab at the end of the week. When Ellsbury is healthy, the Yankees will have two players capable of wreaking havoc at the top of the order who can steal bases, get on base at a high rate and score a lot of runs.
Gardner, who went to the College of Charleston and is from South Carolina, has been hitting very well for all of June and especially the previous 10 games. Gardner has an outstanding seven multi-hit games in his his previous 10 games, and in the month of June he has a higher than normal .343 (35-102) average with two homers, nine doubles, 18 RBIs and 27 runs scored.
He has only missed six out of the 76 games this season, which proves how durable he has been. Besides Sunday’s game when he let a ball drop between him and Garrett Jones, he has played outstanding defense the whole season. He is locked in at the plate right now and his 19 doubles are tied for fifth in the American League, his 58 runs scored are tied for first in the AL, his .373 on-base percentage is 12th in the AL and his 15 steals are tied for second in the league.
He will be batting leadoff once again tonight in the series opener against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. During their series in Houston against the Astros the Yankees (41-35) won two games and lost two games. Jose Pirela will play second with Stephen Drew getting the night off and John Ryan Murphy will be behind the plate with Brian McCann getting the game off due to a lefty pitching.
The Yankees lost the series finale to the Houston Astros, 3-1, to split their series at Minute Maid Park. The Yankees had previously won two of the first three games in Houston. Michael Pineda pitched eight dominant innings with Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve and Dellin Betances not available, but the offense was not able to score enough runs to get him a win.
Pineda pitched eight innings while allowing two earned runs on seven hits while striking out seven. He bounced back well from his last start when he allowed eight runs in only 3.1 innings.
“I thought Pineda had good stuff from the beginning,” Joe Girardi said. “It is unfortunate because he pitched a really good game. It helps our bullpen, but the bottom line is that we wanted to win the game.”
The offense did nothing to support Pineda as they only had two hits the whole game. Brett Gardner hit a single with Stephen Drew on second in the third to score their only run and then Alex Rodriguez hit a single in the sixth.
The Yankees really struggled off of Collin McHugh as all of his pitches were working leading him to retire the side in order in the second, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth innings. Drew was the only Yankee who advanced to second the whole game, which proves how effective McHugh was. McHugh had eight strikeouts and only that one earned run and Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira both went 0-4 with two strikeouts against him.
McCugh has a 12-6 curveball and his cut fastball, according to David Cone, worked for him all day.
Pineda had an excellent fastball and had a great slider for most of the game, but the Astros did damage against it in the seventh. Pineda left a slider up in the zone to Evan Gattis in the seventh inning. Gattis slugged a triple to the wall in left center to drive in Carlos Correa in what was the game winning run. Astros catcher Jason Castro, who was 0-2, hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth to score Preston Tucker for Houston’s third run.
“I try to do the best today and this is the game,” Pineda said about not getting the win. “It’s a little surprising but Jones and Gardner got a little confused. Today, I’m feeling good and I tried to do my best on the mound.” Pineda threw 39 sliders out of his 107 pitches.
The Astros first run was unearned because Correa hit a fly ball to left center and the ball dropped right between Brett Gardner and Garrett Jones. Gardner should have caught the ball since he is the center fielder and his miscue could have happened because Jones doesn’t have much experience in left. Correa scored on the play and it was ruled a double and an error because Gardner didn’t pick up the ball.
“Jones was saying I got it, I got it. They said that they couldn’t hear each other,” Girardi said.
“It was loud and neither of us heard each other,” Gardner said. “As the center fielder, I’ve got to go after it. It frustrating as good as big Mike pitched that we couldn’t get the win for him.”
Luke Gregerson, who is in his first year as the Astros closer, retired all three batters he faced in the ninth for his 18th save of the year.
After splitting the series in Houston, the Yankees (41-35) are half a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays (42-35) and the Baltimore Orioles (41-34) in the tightly bunched AL East. The American League East is the most competitive division in baseball as the top four teams are separated by only one game, and it is the only division that has four teams above .500 (Toronto is the fourth).
The Yankees will now fly to Anaheim to play a three-game series against the Angels. The Angels are only a game above .500, but Mike Trout (.300, 19 homers and 42 RBIs) and Albert Pujols (23 homers and 47 RBIs) are both putting up impressive stats.
After winning Game 3 of their series against the Astros, 9-6, the Yankees play the Astros at Minute Maid Park at 2:10 p.m. EST in the series finale. In Saturday’s game, the Yankees had a 6-0 lead and then Masahiro Tanaka allowed two runs in the second, one in the fourth and then three in the fourth including a two-run homer by rookie Carlos Correa to tie the game. Tanaka had his second consecutive subpar performance to raise his ERA to 3.88 and is not being consistent enough right now to be considered the No. 1 starter.
The Yankees won the game as a result of Mark Teixeira’s two-run double to deep left center in the eighth to score Brett Gardner and Chris Young. Chase Headley hit a solo homer in the ninth to give the Yankees an insurance run. Teixeira’s two RBIs in the eighth gave him 53 for the season, which puts him in a three-way tie for first in the American League.
In today’s game Michael Pineda will get the start for the Yankees. He will look to rebound from his previous start as he allowed eight runs on 11 hits in only 3.1 innings. He did not have command of his slider during that start against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Carlos Beltran, who has a .320 average with four doubles in his last six games, will get the day off. He needs more rest days than some players because he is 38 years old. With Beltran out of the lineup, Alex Rodriguez will be the DH and Garrett Jones will get the start in right field.
The Yankees will look to win the series 3-1 before going to Anaheim to play the Angels. Here is the lineup against the Astros:
Brett Gardner CF
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Garrett Jones LF
Chris Young RF
Didi Gregorius SS
Stephen Drew 2B
With the Yankees losing 2-0 in the seventh inning, Young hit a three-run homer off of Will Harris over the 19-foot wall in left field at Minute Maid Park to give the visitors a 3-2 lead. Young’s game-winning homer, which was his ninth of the season, drove in Carlos Beltran and Garrett Jones.
“That is huge,” Joe Girardi said. “We had not done much up until that point. He (Young) has been really hot and that is why he is playing everyday.”
He is from Houston and always enjoys playing at Minute Park based on how well he plays and that his friends and family can watch him person.
Young said after the game that he left 50 tickets for friends and family to attend the game. He began his career back in 2006 and has been playing games as a visitor in Houston ever since. In 105 at-bats at Minute Maid Park he has hit nine homers with a remarkable .409 average.
“I’m sure it’s something to it,” he said of playing in his home park. “I mean it definitely doesn’t hurt to have some extra support behind your back, a little extra little fire when you to the plate.”
Young, who struggled in May after his hot start to the season, is on a nine-game hitting streak with four consecutive multi-hit games to raise his average to .271. He has been playing very well the previous seven games with Jacoby Ellsbury still on the disabled list and if he continues hitting like this he will deserve to split time with Beltran when Ellsbury returns.
“To be able to do it in front of your family, your home town, and the city you grew up coming to baseball games in and now you’re one of the players on the field, it’s a little special for me,” Young said.
The Yankees were only 1-5 with runners in scoring position, but Young came through when it counted as he hit his third homer in June.
Eovaldi (7-2, 4.81 ERA) is from nearby Alvin, Texas, which is well known as the hometown of Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Eovaldi looked up to Ryan growing up and said that he didn’t know that the all-time leader in strikeouts was sitting behind home plate until the fifth inning.
“Growing up, for me, I connected baseball with him,” Eovaldi said of Ryan.
He allowed two earned runs in six innings and this was his second consecutive start limiting the opposition to two runs scored. This means that he has bounced back very well from allowing nine runs in two thirds of an inning to the Miami Marlins on June 16.
Eovaldi, who had six strikeouts, used his splitter very effectively against the Astros according to Girardi. “I think his curveball was important for him tonight and the command of his fastball,” Giradi said. “He was able to elevate it at times and go down and away at times. I thought they mixed the pitches very well and kept them off balance.”
He has improved his stuff and has kept hitters off balance a lot more in his last two starts since he has allowed five and three hits respectively in his last two starts after allowing a combined 17 hits in his previous two starts.
“Tonight I was just trying to take it pitch by pitch,” Eovaldi said.
According to the Yankees PR Department and Fangraphs, Eovaldi’s fastball has the highest average velocity (95.9) in the Majors this season. He can be an effective starter when he locates his secondary pitches and throws his fastball at the right time, but he just needs to avoid starts when he completely loses his command.
After Eovaldi was taken out of the game after throwing 100 pitches, Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances combined to throw three innings and not allow a hit. Shreve, who has not allowed a run in his last 13 games to lower his ERA to an impressive 1.76, had three strikeouts in his inning pitched, and Betances struck out two of the four batters he faced.
After winning the game on Friday in Houston with big contributions from hometown players, the Yankees will play the Astros at 4:10 EST and will try for their first winning streak since they won straight from June 17-20. Masahiro Tanaka will make his first start against the Astros and will hit for the second game this season.
In the first game of their four-game series in Houston against the Astros, the Yankees were shutout 4-0 after a gem by Dallas Keuchel. The Astros ace pitched his third complete game of the season and recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts.
Keuchel lowered his ERA to 2.17, which is third best in the American League, and he lowered his WHIP to 0.96, which is the second best WHIP in the AL. His command of all four of his pitches, in addition to changing speeds, kept the Yankees off balance during the whole game. He only allowed six hits and one walk & retired the side in order in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th innings.
The ninth inning was the only inning that the Yankees were able to get a runner into scoring position against Keuchel. After Keuchel retired Chris Young and Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez singled, Mark Teixeira walked & then Carlos Beltran hit a single past third baseman Luis Valbuena’s glove to load the bases. However, with the bases loaded and a chance to drive in two or more runs, Jose Pirela grounded out to third to end the game.
“He (Keuchel) stays done in the zone, attacks all night, he just pitched well,” Joe Girardi said. “The guys were looking for a pitch and if they got a pitch early they were trying to hit it, and that didn’t work too well. I thought he might make a change but he is their ace so they let him go.”
Adam Warren pitched well overall in what was likely his last start before being moved to the bullpen. Warren allowed two earned runs (three overall) in 5.2 innings before Chris Capuano came on in relief. However, it did not help that Stephen Drew and John Ryan Murphy both had an error while Warren was pitching. Warren had a throwing error that allowed Evan Gattis to advance to third before being taken out of the game, but Capuano got Preston Tucker out to end the sixth.
“He (Warren) pitched really well again tonight,” Girardi said. “He has been consistent and it’s too bad we didn’t score him some runs tonight.”
For the Astros, Jose Altuve was 3-3 with three runs scored, Gattis was 2-4 with two RBIs, Colby Rasmus was 1-2 with an RBI and Tucker’s opposite field double to the wall off of Warren in the second drove in the Astros first run. The only run that the Astros scored off of Capuano was Gattis’s double that sent Altuve home in the eighth.
The Yankees hit zero extra-base hits for the fifth time this season. Brett Gardner (.292 with 55 runs scored), who was out of the lineup on Thursday after having gone 16-32 in his previous seven games, is back in center field tonight. Gardner has scored six runs over his last three games and will look to be the same spark at the top of the lineup that he has been the past few weeks.
Brian McCann is also back in the lineup after getting a routing game off like Gardner on Thursday. McCann has a .328 average with three homers and 12 RBIs in June and has had a much better start to the season than he did in his first season as a Yankee. McCann is also coming into the game with a five-game hitting streak with five RBIs in that span, so he will be one of the hitters that the Yankees will count on to drive in runs.
Nathan Eovaldi (4.95 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees tonight and Vincent Valasquez will take the mound for Houston. Valasquez (4.15 ERA), whose three starts in June were the first three of his career, didn’t pitch more than five innings in any of those starts. He allowed five earned runs in his second start but threw a shutout in five innings against the White Sox in his third start.
Eovaldi pitched very well in his previous start against the Detroit Tigers as he limited them to two earned runs on three hits in 6 innings. He had success because he commanded and located his secondary pitches.
Beltran will be the DH tonight since Rodriguez will be getting the night off. Rodriguez, who could come into the game as a pinch hitter, is on a nine-game hitting streak with five multi-hit games in that span.
His average was .267 before the hitting streak started and it is now a solid .289. A-Rod has performed better than anyone could have expected to this point and the Yankees would not be 1.5 games out of first in the AL East without him. He is tied for 13th in the AL with his 44 RBIs, is tied for eighth in the AL with his 15 homers and is tied for 12 in the league with 42 runs scored.
Tonight’s game will begin at 8:10 EST and can be seen on the YES Network.