Tagged: Justin Wilson

Jacob Lindgren’s arrival can help the struggling bullpen

Jacob Lindgren

Jacob Lindgren

Jacob Lindgren, the relief pitcher that the Yankees drafted with their second round draft pick in 2014 out of Mississippi State University, was called up to the Yankees from Triple-A Scranton before the game on Sunday. Branden Pinder, who had a 2.16 ERA in his 8.1 innings pitched, was sent back down to the Triple-A Scranton RailRiders. (Pinder had thrown 48 pitches in the blowout loss on Saturday.)

Lindgren was the rare draft pick who excelled so much in his first season that he was able to play in the rookie league, Single-A Charleston, Single-A (Advanced) Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Across those four levels in 2014, the lefty pitched in 24.2 innings, had a 2.19 ERA, a 1.014 WHIP, allowed 12 hits, and had 48 strikeouts and only 13 walks. He went from being the team’s top draft pick to the majors in only 353 days.

This season at Triple-A Scranton, Lindgren has pitched 22 innings (15 games) and had a 1.23 ERA (1.92 FIP), 1.182 WHIP, 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, 29 strikeouts and only 10 walks. Lindgren’s numbers in his 48 games as a pro are unbelievable: 39.3 K% and 75.6 GB% in 46.2 innings across five different levels. He didn’t have anything else to prove in the minors.

His fastball is in the low-to-mid-90s, which is a plus pitch for a lefty. His fastball also has a lot of movement, which will help him when he faces big-league hitters. Lindgren’s strikeout pitch is a hard, diving slider, which could help him have success if he can continue to locate it.

It makes sense that the Yankees called him up when they did because the bullpen outside of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller has struggled recently. According to Ryan Hatch, since the 10 of 11 losses started on May 12, the Yankees’ bullpen owns the worst ERA in the major leagues (6.23 ERA).

Two relief pitchers that have struggled recently are Justin Wilson and David Carpenter. Wilson, who has a high 5.79 ERA this season, has allowed six earned runs in his last 4.1 innings (7 games). Carpenter, who also a has a high 5.19 ERA this season, has allowed three earned runs including a homer in his 3.2 innings (4 games). Lindgren will be able to pitch in some of the spots that Joe Girardi was putting Wilson or Carpenter into the game.

The Yankees, who lost 5-2 last night to the Texas Rangers on Sunday Night Baseball to move 1.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays after having a four-game lead in the division over the Rays on May 11, need more to turn around besides the bullpen but Lindgren’s addition should help. While losing 10 of their last 11 games the Yankees have averaged only 3.1 runs a game, the starters have a very high 6.42 ERA and the team has made 10 errors.

The MLB Network profiled Lindgren after he was drafted by the Yankees:

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The Yankees will look to win the series against Tampa after losing their first three of the season

Carlos Beltran hitting during a game at Yankee Stadium.

Carlos Beltran hitting during a game at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees had an off day on Thursday before continuing their road trip. Their final seven games of their road trip will be against the Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers.

To begin the season they have lost two of their three games in each of their first three series, which means that they have lost their first three series of the season to AL East opponents.

“It’s frustrating,” Girardi said. “It’s not the way you want to start. We get an off day (on Thursday), and we need to turn it around. Obviously we need to start winning series, or it becomes a long year.”

During Wednesday’s game, Nathan Eovaldi pitched five innings while allowing two runs, eight hits, three walks and a homer to Manny Machado. It was an improvement on his first start since he had nine strikeouts against the Orioles on Wednesday and allowed two runs but allowed three earned runs and only had one strikeout against the Boston Red Sox.

Eovaldi will still want to limit the hits that he allows since eight are too many. However, it is a positive sign that he was able to collect nine strikeouts since that means he was living up to what he is capable of doing. He is the No. 4 starter in the rotation right now, but based on Eovaldi’s stuff and velocity he has the ability to be a No. 3 or No. 2 starter.

Carlos Beltran doubled to deep right center in the third inning to score Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley. Beltran could be coming out of his slump as he now has three RBIs and two extra-base hits in his last two games. However, he should move lower in the lineup if his average doesn’t improve soon as he is only hitting .171.

In the fourth inning, Alex Rodriguez hit a towering 433-foot homer to left to give a Yankees a 3-1 lead. His 656th homer of his career was the 13th-furtherst hit ball in the majors this season.

In the eighth inning, the Yankees added two more runs but they weren’t enough to tie the game. Brian McCann hit a sac fly to center to score Headley and move Mark Teixiera to third, and then Teixeira scored on Tommy Hunter’s wild pitch while Rodriguez was batting to make the score 7-5.

The Yankees lost this game because of their bullpen, which as of now is the strongest and deepest unit on the team. Besides this game it has been more reliable than the offense, starting pitching and defense. David Carpenter and Justin Wilson, who had pitched well previously this season, allowed a total of five earned runs in the sixth inning. Carpenter allowed three runs while only recording one out and Wilson surrendered two runs off of two outs while not getting an out.

Baltimore scored two other runs in the fourth and first innings respectively. The homer that Machado hit was his first of the season.

The Yankees can’t seem to have their offense, defense, starting pitching and bullpen all perform well during the same game. They would have won this game if Carpenter had performed like he had in the games prior to this one. This series that they have coming up against the Rays (6-4) is close to a must win one because they don’t want to have a 4-8 record going into the series against the surging Tigers (8-1).

Adam Warren will get his second start of the season during the 7:10 p.m. game and Nathan Karns (1-1, 4.97 ERA) will get his third start of the season for the Rays. Warren had an encouraging first start of the season as he allowed only one earned run and five hits (two overall) in his 5.1 innings pitched. This was his first start since the 2013 season when he made two. Warren will want to be more economical with his pitches since he threw 98 pitches in only 5.1 innings.

Sabathia had an encouraging first start of spring training even though he allowed two runs

CC Sabathia during spring training last season.

CC Sabathia during spring training last season.

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.

Yankees 2015 Preview: Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson pitching for the Pirates.

Justin Wilson pitching for the Pirates.

Justin Wilson, who is a relief pitcher that played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first three seasons of his career, was traded to the Yankees on November 12 for back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli. The 27-year-old has a 2.99 ERA, 1.229 WHIP, 127 strikeouts and 61 walks in his 138.1 innings pitched (136 games).

In 2012, he made his major league debut on August 20 and would make seven more appearances the rest of the season. He only pitched 4.2 innings in those eight games, but Wilson was able to record seven strikeouts and only one run.

This successful stint at the end of the season led to him having a prominent role in the bullpen in 2013. During his age 25 season, he had a 6-1 record, 15 holds, a dominating 2.08 ERA, 1.059 WHIP, 59 strikeouts, a career-low 3.4 walks/9 innings and held lefties to a .501 OPS in 73.2 innings pitched (58 games). His very low WHIP and ERA gave him one of the best seasons in baseball among set-up men.

He was not as successful last season as he finished with a 4.20 ERA after allowing 28 earned runs, but he was able to improve his strikeouts/9 innings from 7.2 to 9.2. He had three wins, three blown saves and 16 holds in 60 innings (70 games). His ERA was higher last season because he allowed 11 more runs in 13.2 fewer innings. Wilson is due for a bounce back season because many players go through a “sophomore slump” after playing well as a rookie.

Last season, Wilson relied on his four-seam fastball (96mph), sinker (96mph), cutter (91mph) and curve (80mph). The rising action on his four-seamer results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers. His sinker also results in more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers.

Wilson is entering his fourth season, and third full season, which means that he still has room for improvement. His main weakness is that he has some control issues, as he has 4.0 walks per nine innings for his career. The strikeout pitcher will give the Yankees a second reliable lefty in the bullpen. Another positive is that he isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2016.

He will combine with Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, David Carpenter, Esmil Rogers and Adam Warren to give the Yankees one of the best bullpens in baseball. Another positive to having Wilson is that he will combine with Betances, Miller and Carpenter to give the bullpen four flame-throwers. He will likely primarily pitch in the seventh inning along with Carpenter.

Prediction:

2.98 ERA

1.210 WHIP

60 Strikeouts

17 holds

65 Games

Why Betances and Miller sharing the closer spot could make sense to start the 2015 season

Dellin Betances throwing a pitch at Yankee Stadium

Dellin Betances throwing a pitch at Yankee Stadium

The Yankees have a deep and imposing bullpen with Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, David Carpenter, Justin Wilson, Esmil Rogers, Adam Warren and eventually Chasen Shreve and Jacob Lindgren. However, since none of them have more than Carpenter’s four career saves it would make sense for the Yankees to employ a closer by committee approach, at least for the first two months of the season.

In 2014, David Robertson saved 39 games for the Yankees after taking over from the retired Mariano Rivera, but he made sense to be the full-time closer because he had been the top set up man for Rivera for the previous four seasons and even had experience closing. The Yankees rightfully decided to not bring him back on a four-year contract, which has helped give the bullpen more options. However, it does not have a pitcher who has been a top set up man for more than three seasons, which means that the closer position should be earned by Betances or Miller.

Betances would be a logical and sentimental choice because he was an All-Star last season with the Yankees and grew up in the Lower East Side, but last season was his first full season as a relief pitcher. He could not have been better as he used his four-seam fastball that averaged 96 MPH, a devastating slurve (which is a mixture between a curve ball and slider and often freezes hitters) and a changeup to record an outstanding 135 strikeouts and a 1.40 ERA in 90 innings (70 games). He broke Mariano Rivera’s record for strikeouts in a season by a Yankee.

However, even though Betances proved that he has the stuff to be an effective closer as Robertson’s set up man last season, he still likely needs more time to prove himself. This is because before last season the only bullpen work he had was 32 innings for Triple-A Scranton during the 2013 season after being converted from being a starter. He was once a top starter prospect in the organization, as he was the fifth best prospect in 2009 and had an ERA of 2.11 in 17 minor league starts in 2010, but it was downhill from there for him as a starter.

Miller is similar to Betances in that they were both starters earlier in their career before being moved to the bullpen because of ineffectiveness. Miller was in the rotation for the Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox before being sent to the bullpen because he never had an ERA below 4.84, but Miller has been in the bullpen for the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles for the last three seasons.

Miller had an impressive 2.64 ERA while only pitching in 30.2 innings in 2013. He season was cut short in 2013 because of torn ligaments in the lisfranc zone of his foot. His 48 strikeouts led to an outstanding 14.1 strikeouts/nine innings, and he limited the opposition to three homers. One drawback of his productive 2013 season is that he walked 17 batters in those 30.2 innings, which led to a high 5.0 walks/9 innings.

Another similarity between Betances and Miller is that – even though Miller pitched well in 2013 and was one of the top relievers when healthy – they have both truly had one elite season. In 2014, while pitching in 50 games for the Red Sox and 23 games for the Orioles, Miller had a 2.02 ERA in 62.1 innings, a dominating 103 strikeouts, only 17 walks and a phenomenal .802 WHIP. His 2.5 walks/9 innings and 14.9 strikeouts/9 innings were also by far the best of his career. In 2014, Miller threw a fourseam fastball (95 MPH), a slider (85 MPH) and very rarely a changeup (91 MPH). His slider generates a higher amount of swings and misses compared to that of other pitchers.

Since they are both capable of closing based on their stuff and overall effectiveness last season, but can both pitch multiple innings, it would make sense if Joe Girardi went based on match-ups the first two months of the season since Miller is a lefty and Betances is a righty. Whoever proves to get better results in the ninth inning while limiting the walks could get the closer position for the long haul. The Yankees are shaping up to have a bullpen to be reckoned with a top four of Betances, Miller, David Carpenter and Justin Wilson.

They are both coming into their own, which is a definite positive, but have both only shown the ability to perform for a full season at an elite level once. This means that neither of them has earned the closer spot going into the season and since they can both pitch more than one inning it would make sense to utilize them in that way. They could handle the eighth and ninth innings, and Justin Wilson, David Carpenter, Esmil Rogers, Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve etc. can look to execute and be counted on in long relief and in the sixth and seventh innings.

Miller was given a four-year, $36 million contract earlier in the offseason, which means that he should get an opportunity to close just like Betances. Based on how Betances and Miller pitched last season, and if Carpenter pitches like he did in 2013, the Yankees bullpen could be just as potent as last year’s Royals bullpen that helped them essentially end games after six innings. In 1996, the Yankees had one of the best closer & set-up man combos in John Wetteland (2.83 ERA/43 saves) and Mariano Rivera (2.09 ERA/130 strikeouts/107.2 innings). However, in 1997, the Yankees had one obvious candidate to close but they now have two.

Teams definitely benefit from having defined roles, but Betances and Miller are both unselfish players, so Girardi should have them share the role to see who is better suited for the pressure of the ninth inning.

The Yankees signed Andrew Miller and acquired Didi Gregorius in a three-team trade.

Didi Gregorius making a play for the Diamondbacks in 2013.

Didi Gregorius making a play for the Diamondbacks in 2013.

On Friday morning, the Yankees acquired Didi Gregorius, a 24-year-old shortstop from the Netherlands, in a three-way trade with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks. The relief pitcher prospect Robbie Ray went from the Tigers to the Diamondbacks, and the Yankees sent starter Shane Greene to the Tigers.

The Yankees only had to give up Greene, who is already 26 and started 14 games last season only because the Yankees had many injuries in their rotation, to get their shortstop who will take over for Derek Jeter. The Yankees have depth in their rotation, which means that this is a deal that they had to make.

Gregorius is coming off of a season where played in 80 games with the Dbacks and hit only .226 with six homers and 27 RBIs. However, he played more games in 2013 (103) and his offensive production was better as he had 16 doubles versus nine in 2014, a .252 average, seven homers and 28 RBIs. He had a .310 average in 57 games in 2014 while playing for the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate in Reno, which proves that he has the ability to hit for a higher average.

(Stats in the Pacific Coast League are usually inflated based on the ballparks since it is known as a hitter friendly league, but it was only his average that was higher and not his power numbers.)

Gregorius, who is known for his defense, might not have the ability to hit 15 homers in a season like Derek Jeter did nine times in his career, but he is a plus defender with the ability to go to his left and right. Jeter wasn’t able to have much range during his last few seasons, which means Gregorius will be an upgrade in that regard. In 67 games at shortstop in 2014, Gregorius had five errors, had a .983 fielding percentage, turned 39 double plays and had 189 assists.

In the minors, he had six errors in 19 games during the 2014 season at shortstop. He is athletic and has shown promise while playing for Arizona, which means that he has the ability to improve. Gregorious came out of left field because the Yankees would usually have acquired a higher profiled shortstop, but since they only had to give up Greene to get this young shortstop with promise the deal makes sense.

Former Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers had very complementary words to say about Gregorius in 2012. “When I first saw him he reminded me of a young Derek Jeter,” Towers said. The test will come in April when he will have to show if he can handle the media scrutiny in New York City after previously playing in Cincinnati and Phoenix.

The Yankees offense needs a bounce back this season, but in order for it to do so Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira will have to perform better than they did las season. It will be a successful first season offensively if Gregorius can hit .255 with eight homers and about 55 RBIs.

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On Friday afternoon, the Yankees continued their busy day with the signing of relief pitcher Andrew Miller. On Wednesday, Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees were a finalist to land him along with the Astros, and he ended up being correct. The Yankees signed the dominating lefty reliever to a four-year, $36 million contract.

The 29-year-old is coming off of a season where he pitched in 50 games for the Boston Red Sox and 23 for the Baltimore Orioles while recording an ERA of 2.02, 62.1 innings, 103 strikeouts, five wins and only 17 walks. David Robertson might not return because he also wants a four-year contract, but the Yankees should have a hard-throwing shutdown bullpen with Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley, Jacob Lindgren and Esmil Rogers.

Lindgren was a second-round pick in June out of Mississippi State who is projected to make an impact. He had a 2.16 ERA across four levels of the minors this season.

Miller and Betances both have the ability to close, and they could be the closer by committee this season so they can both pitch in high leverage situations. Miller faced 64 batters in save situations last season and held them to a .070 average with 36 strikeouts. Miller (42.6%) and Betances (39.6%) ranked second and fourth among all relievers last season in strikeout rate. That’s a dominating and imposing lefty-righty combo at the back of the bullpen.

Miller has a career ERA of 4.91, but that is inflated because he struggled early in his career. From 2006 until 2011 his season ERA was never under 4.84, but he never pitched in more than 29 games in any of those seasons. He has proved to be much more successful the past three seasons with an increased work load in the prime of his career. He had a 3.35 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 2012, and in 2013, Miller had a 2.64 ERA with 48 strikeouts.

If Miller has a season similar to the one he had last season, and if Lindgren, Wilson or Warren can emerge as a reliable seventh-inning option, the Yankees bullpen could turn out to be similar to the one that helped the Kansas City Royals advance to the World Series in 2014. However, this bullpen dominance and comparison to that of the Royals last season would be even more comparable and if David Robertson returns.

Yankees traded Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates for a reliever who can have an impact

Francisco Cervelli

Francisco Cervelli

On Wednesday, 11/12, the Yankees traded back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Justin Wilson, who is a left-handed reliever.

After acquiring Chris Stewart and Russell Martin, Cervelli is now the third catcher that the Pirates have received who previously played for the Yankees since November of 2012. This trade makes a lot of sense for the Yankees because they receive a lefty who can have the role out of the bullpen that Boone Logan had from 2010-2012, Wilson is a lefty who throws in the mid 90s and struck out 61 batters in 60 innings last season for the Pirates.

Wilson, who is 27 and in the prime of his career, had a 4.20 ERA in 70 appearances. He has actually held right-handed hitters to an average of only .206 in his career. Wilson is 9-5 with a 2.99 ERA in 136 appearances during his three seasons. He played college baseball at Fresno State University and was named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team in his junior season.

It makes sense that the Yankees traded Francisco Cervelli because they had an excess of back-up catchers with him on the roster. Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy both have experience being the back-up catcher with the Yankees for periods of time, and Cervelli was able to get back more in a trade than Romine or Murphy would have been able to. The Yankees were able to deal from a deep position and get back a potentially reliable lefty reliever, which they lacked since Logan signed with the Colorado Rockies.

Briann McCann’s contract with the Yankees lasts for the next four seasons, so there was no point in having a more expensive back-up catcher in Cervelli. He is second-year arbitration eligible and has a career average of .278 after hitting .301 with two homers last season. Cervelli is already 28, so it makes much more sense to have a cheaper and younger back-up catcher.

Murphy has proven to be more talented than Romine, who is more known for his defense. It is not known which way the Yankees will go, and it is still possible one of them could be included in a trade for a shortstop, but Murphy would make sense to start the year behind McCann. Murphy, who is 23 years old, was drafted in 2009, and made his debut with the Yankees as a September call up in 2013. He hit .154 in 26 at-bats in 2013, but played performed a lot better this past season.

In 2014, many of the 32 games that he appeared in were a result of Cervelli’s hamstring injury, and he played well offensively and defensively. In 81 plate appearances, which does not include his four walks, he hit .284, with four doubles, had one homer and drove in nine runs. Defensively, he caught 201 innings behind the plate, had 10 assists and only one error. He needs to work on throwing out base runners since he only retired two out of 12 runners, but that could improve since he threw out half of them in 2013.

Murphy’s claim to fame in his career so far has been being the catcher during Mariano Rivera’s final appearance with the Yankees. He was on the mound when Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came out to take Rivera out of the game for the last time. This past season on April 26, the catcher formerly known as J.R., hit his first career home run against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium. He also had his first multi-RBI game as he combined to drive in three runs.

He has a caught stealing percentage of 26 percent in the minors, and the league average in the majors for this past season was 27 percent. This is a good sign for Murphy, and he should be able to improve on his caught stealing percentage from this past season. The Yankees still have to get the David Robertson situation resolved and acquire a shortstop, among other needs, but this trade got rid of a player who wasn’t needed and added one who could have an impact next season.