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5 months ago  ::  Mar 22, 2019 - 10:42AM #17291
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The Yankees’ outfield depth is being tested early

The logjam was quickly called to action.

A few weeks ago we were trying to figure out how the Yankees would manage the “logjam” in the outfield. It was one of the reasons some people didn’t want the team to sign Bryce Harper. They employ six players who could make a legitimate claim to a major league roster spot in Aaron JudgeGiancarlo StantonAaron HicksBrett GardnerClint Frazier, and Jacoby Ellsbury. Obviously, the case is a bit murkier for the latter two.

Still though, the team’s problem was figuring out how they would manage this many bodies. There’s an old saying, however, that, “these things have a way of figuring themselves out.” Well, they did.

The Yankees intended to have an outfield of GardnerHicks, and Judge from left-to-right with Stanton being the primary designated hitter. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury isn’t expected to play until the Avengers save him from Thanos’ snap, and Clint Frazier was likely ticketed for Triple-A.

Then Hicks got hurt. Putting the pen to the paper on his extension took a lot out of him as within a week of the announcement, Hicks started dealing with back stiffness. He hasn’t played since and was officially ruled out from the Opening Day roster this past weekend. There were a few ideas on how the Yankees could proceed without Hicks, but the most-likely solution was also the simplest — shift Gardner to center, let Stanton play left field, and then let Greg Bird and Luke Voit split the first base/designated hitter duties. Tyler Wade would act as the fourth outfielder.

Letting Wade go north with the team would allow Frazier to play everyday in Triple-A and get up to speed. Then on Wednesday the team got a scare.

So much for the logjam. Suddenly, there existed a non-zero possibility that Billy Burns could make the Opening Day roster. Clint Frazier would have been the fourth outfielder in the best-case scenario, but looked way too rusty this spring. Burns, Trey Amburgey, or Matt Lipka could have filled that role. However, none of them are on the 40-man roster.

Fortunately, the Yankees didn’t have to figure that out:

Looks like they avoided a problem this time, but things could turn ugly really quickly. The Yankees have been hit with a lot of injuries this year. Hicks, Luis Severino, and Dellin Betances are all going to miss Opening Day. Fortunately the Yankees did collect enough depth that they could withstand some of these injuries, but it’s terrifying that they’re going through all this and the season hasn’t even started yet. They’re one injury away from answering who will be this year’s Shane Robinson.

The Yankees lucked out with Wade being okay, but there’s no guarantee they’re going to come out of this last week the way they are right now. Their depth was always going to be tested, but no one anticipated it being tested this early. Hopefully this is it for now and nothing major comes up. Then again...

5 months ago  ::  Mar 22, 2019 - 10:44AM #17292
Posts: 32,868

Yankees’ Luke Voit-Greg Bird battle will go into the season

Luke Voit and Greg Bird AP; Charles Wenzelberg

JUPITER, Fla. — No player needs spring training to be five weeks rather than six more than Greg Bird.

He just can’t seem to get out of Dodge — or the Grapefruit League — without incurring a late-March injury. Bird was hit on his right elbow Wednesday, joking afterward that somehow with him the ball always misses the protective pad.

No laughs Thursday when he reported he was still aching. Bird was removed from the lineup against the Cardinals. He returned to Tampa for X-rays and a CT scan. Aaron Boone said both came back negative. The Yankees manager thinks Bird could play as early as Saturday and that this does not imperil his making the Opening Day roster.

But betting on Bird’s health has been a bad play. As Brian Cashman noted, “In Bird’s case most of his service time has been on the disabled list.” The general manager was illustrating that neither Bird nor Luke Voit has a full season of major league success. Bird had the great finish to 2015, Voit the breakout late last season.

Both have impressed this spring training and the Yankees project high ceilings for both. Cashman, though, said, “I don’t think you can declare an absolute on both of them. We believe both of them are [above-average performers]. But that is what you play the games for. You have to stay healthy and continue to perform.”

Since Mark Teixeira’s plummeting final year in 2016, first base has been a black hole for the Yankees. From the beginning of 2016 through the July 31 trade deadline last year, the Yanks had a .713 OPS from their first baseman. Only the Angels (.709) have been worse.

Remember 2016 when Teixeira wobbled and the Yanks tried Dustin Ackley, Rob Refsnyder and even briefly Ike Davis? How about 2017 and Chris Carter, Chase Headley and Garrett Cooper? Tyler Austin and Neil Walker took the position of Gehrig and Mattingly for a whirl last season.

Throughout it all Bird failed to stay healthy or productive enough to make the job his. Voit was obtained from the Cardinals last July 29 in what seemed a minor depth move with Bird again hurt. Voit had two minor league stints before hitting two homers for the Yankees on Aug. 24. He had 14 from there until the end of the season, only NL MVP Christian Yelich (15) hit more.

That made Voit the man to beat for the job this spring. He has not been beaten. Voit has four homers and a 1.053 OPS. But Bird sure has pushed. He has three homers a 1.131 OPS, and 11 walks to 10 strikeouts, his .490 on-base percentage a reminder of the hitting eye that is among the strongest reasons the Yankees have stayed patient through his long injury absences.

“It is nice that both are having success and allowing us to dream,” Cashman said. “It is a position that has underperformed for us the past few years because we placed bets on guys since Tex retired that have not worked out, because of injuries mainly. When the dust settles, I feel going in with these two guys and the ceilings that we have a chance to be something special. I think that position has a chance to be taken care of, get out of the way and by doing so we won’t have to worry about first. It has been a problem the last few years. Voit came in last year and solved the problem significantly. Hopefully that is who he is and Bird is who we think he is and when the dust settles, boom.”

And the battle for the position will stretch into the season. With Aaron Hicks to begin on the injured list and not eligible to return before the seventh game, Brett Gardner will mainly play center, Giancarlo Stanton left and Bird and Voit will share first base and DH.

Bird’s lefty bat early should be valuable with the switch-hitting Hicks and lefty-swinging Didi Gregorius both out, leaving Gardner as the lone lefty-hitting regular.

But he will have to be more than promise. Bird must remain healthy, must carry over to the season his penchant for good spring stats.

Cashman said he still envisions Bird as having a “high on-base percentage with 25-plus homers.” If that player shows up in April and Voit carries over late 2018 to early 2019 the Yanks will have tabled a tough choice, but ultimately will have to make it. Because Cashman said at full strength the plan is still to carry one first baseman.

“I don’t know that anyone has won it or lost [the first-base job],” Boone said. “Both guys are good players in my mind. At a certain point we may be up against making a very difficult decision and that is part of sports. When you have a lot of good players like we do you have to make difficult, hard decisions, that is part of it.”

5 months ago  ::  Mar 23, 2019 - 8:58AM #17293
Posts: 32,868

Mark Sanchez | NY Post: According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Red Sox have locked up lefty ace Chris Sale for the next five years, extending the soon-to-be 30-year-old for $150 million. Given Sale’s dominance against the Yankees since his days with the White Sox, this isn’t the best of news for Yankees fans, unless Sale’s second-half struggles and injuries are the start of a trend.

Mark Sanchez | NY Post: Also from Sanchez, the Cardinals have designated former Yankee legend Chasen Shreve for assignment, while fellow former Yankee Giovanny Gallegos has struggled in camp for the Cards, posting an ERA of just under 10. As the two pieces of the Luke Voit trade labor through spring, Brian Cashman’s deal for the husky first baseman seems even more like a steal than it did at the end of last season.

Randy Miller | Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild told reporters that Gio Gonzalez is “pretty close to ready right now” on Thursday morning, suggesting that the newly acquired starter has been doing plenty of throwing this offseason, and maybe that new cutter is impressing the coaching staff. Should Gonzalez be ahead of schedule, he could slide in the rotation earlier than expected and spare the team should either Domingo German or Luis Cessastruggle early on.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 23, 2019 - 9:00AM #17294
Posts: 32,868

March 22nd Spring Training Notes: Severino, Betances, Bird, Hicks, Sabathia, Roster Cuts

The Yankees beat the Phillies in their penultimate Spring Training home game tonight. Giancarlo Stanton led the way offensively with two loud homers. One left George M. Steinbrenner Field entirely. DJ LeMahieu had two singles and Aaron Judge had two walks. Most importantly, no one got hurt.

On the mound, Jonathan Loaisiga struck out seven and allowed two solo homers in four innings to close out his Grapefruit League season. He allowed 13 runs in 16 innings this spring. Zack Britton tossed 1.2 scoreless innings and Adam Ottavino struck out one in a scoreless frame Here are the box score and video highlights, and here are the day’s Spring Training notes:

  • Luis Severino (shoulder) will stretch out his throwing out to 90 feet tomorrow. He played catch at 60 feet the last two days and rested today. Dellin Betances (shoulder) will start throwing in the next few days. Greg Bird (elbow) will return to the lineup tomorrow after getting hit by a pitch Wednesday. “I’m just glad it’s good,” he said.  [Associated Press]
  • Aaron Hicks (back) has yet to resume baseball activities and Aaron Boone said it is “too ambitious” to expect him back on April 4th, the first day he’ll be eligible to be activated off the disabled list. The Yankees are taking it slow because they don’t want Hicks suffering a setback. [Bryan Hoch]
  • Boone reiterated the Yankees are leaning toward carrying CC Sabathia on the Opening Day roster to get his five-game suspension out of the way. That makes the most sense. Five-day suspension then ten-day injured list means the earliest Sabathia can return is April 13th. [Bryan Hoch]
  • Rex Brothers, Danny Coulombe, Phil Diehl, Clint Frazier, and Drew Hutchison were all sent to minor league camp, the Yankees announced. There are 42 players still in big league camp, but with eight guys ticketed for the injured list (or suspended) on Opening Day, there are really 34 players still in camp. Ten more cuts to get down to a 24-man roster.
  • Masahiro Tanaka is starting tomorrow and James Paxton is starting Sunday. I assume J.A. Happ will start the exhibition finale Monday. Those will be shorter tune-up starts. Gio Gonzalez is expected to pitch somewhere tomorrow. Maybe in a minor league game [Pete Caldera]

The Yankees will play their final Grapefruit League home game tomorrow afternoon. Tanaka’s starting and maybe we’ll see Gonzalez piggyback. Tomorrow’s game will be televised.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 23, 2019 - 9:03AM #17295
Posts: 32,868

The short but necessary bench [2019 Season Preview]

Romine. (Presswire)

In today’s day and age, the bench on an American League team just isn’t very important. What traditionally hindered bench usefulness in the junior circuit was the advent of the designated hitter, but the more recent emphasis on the bullpen has become a factor too. Over the last decade or so, we’ve gone from teams typically fielding eleven pitchers to now including up to a baker’s dozen. It’s pretty clear the Yankees will carry thirteen pitchers, meaning that there are only three bench jobs to go around. One obviously needs to go to a reserve catcher, while the other two spots are a tad more flexible.

The venerable backup catcher

It seems like people either love or loathe Austin Romine. Many of those in the former category prefer him to Gary Sanchez because they’re irrational. Those who don’t like Romine have been hoping for a different backup for years, even though he’s perfectly fine in his role. Sure, it would be nice to have a better hitter behind Sanchez, but that would be a luxury, not a necessity.

Romine had his best offensive season last year, setting career highs across the board. His first half was particularly strong (122 wRC+), but he reverted back to his usual self to finish the year. It would be dandy if he’s anything remotely near his first half performance this year. That said, his historical performance would also be tolerable. It only becomes untenable if Sanchez needs to miss significant time.

The 30 year-old backstop shines in areas that casual observers can’t easily glean. Advanced metrics peg him as an above average defender, which also includes solid pitch framing. It seems like he has a good rapport with the coaching staff and pitchers, too. Those things are valuable even if they’re not as easy to read as a batter’s triple-slash. Hence the Yankees sticking with him as a reserve the past few years.

Understandably, the projections are underwhelming. PECOTA (83 DRC+), ZiPS (77 wRC+), and Steamer (76 wRC+) all foresee a poor offensive output. But if you keep in mind that the typical catcher posted a 84 wRC+ last season, it’s really not so bad. Once you layer on Romine’s value as a receiver and his bond with the pitchers, it’s clear that he makes for a respectable backup.

The hopeful super-utility player

2019 will be Tyler Wade’s second chance to secure a roster spot in the big leagues. After making the opening day roster last season, he faltered. His -25 wRC+ last April got him demoted to Triple-A for most of the season, before returning for a July cameo and September call ups. Wade still has options, so this year isn’t necessarily a make or break season, but there’s going to be some pressure on him to show he can at least be a tolerable bat in the majors.

It’s one thing to be speedy and have a solid glove, which are Wade’s calling cards. But no matter how good anyone is with those skills, they won’t be rostered for long if they post a .161/.218/.250 batting line (those are Wade’s career marks). The challenge for Wade will be making the most of sporadic plate appearances. With guys like DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres having versatility in the infield, Wade probably won’t get too many starts. Wade has been working out in the outfield for a couple of years now, including some time in center this spring because of Aaron Hicks’s injury, but again, he’s low on the depth chart to play frequently out there.

Perhaps Wade starts once a week, but most of his time will come as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. Thanks to his versatility, Aaron Boone can be pretty aggressive with Wade in high leverage situations. He could pinch run for just about anyone and have a spot in the field in the next half inning. Or, he could substitute defensively for either Miguel Andujar or Luke Voit/Greg Bird late in games. That would allow LeMahieu to take the corner infield spot while Wade slides to second.

Wade. (Presswire)

This spring, Wade has a .907 OPS in Grapefruit League play. Not that spring training stats are meaningful or predictive, but I’d rather see that than a lackluster March performance. There’s no way he’ll hit that well in the regular season, but if he can be Romine-like (think 75 – 80 wRC+), he’d be just fine. He may not get more than 150 plate appearances all season, which is difficult for someone who’s used to playing daily in the minors. It’s a learning experience to become a solid role player, but that’s what Wade will have to prove. Fortunately for him, the team’s offense is so good that his bat won’t necessarily be needed. He just can’t be equivalent to a pitcher at the dish.

The likely to change 25th man

Injuries have clouded who will take the final bench spot. It could be Greg Bird, though we already previewed him. Maybe it’ll be Jacoby Ellsbury, but certainly not immediately. Maybe a non-roster invitee will sneak on to start the year. What we do know for sure is that it’ll be a fluid situation depending on who’s healthy. Clint Frazier, who we’ve yet to preview, will probably spend some time filling in on the bench, especially if Hicks’s back woes linger or Brett Gardner struggles.

Frazier is probably bound for Scranton once spring training ends. He’s had a rough go of it in game action this month, but that’s not surprising for someone who missed significant time last season. Some time in the minors will allow him to get back up to speed. The most important thing is that he’s free and clear of the concussion problems that plagued him last season. As he shakes the rust off, 2019 will be a chance for him to carve out a role with the Yankees.

If the 24 year-old outfielder hits anything like he did in limited time with Scranton last year (170 wRC+ in 216 plate appearances), the Yankees won’t be able to keep him down for long. There’s a balance that the club must strike when they decide promote him. Riding the pine in the majors would be wasteful. However, he can’t just usurp playing time without an opening.

Most projections have Frazier as a slightly above average big league hitter already (i.e. ZiPS and Steamer), though the one pessimistic outlier is PECOTA (89 DRC+). I’m on the optimistic side, personally. I expect Frazier to carve out some sort of hybrid bench/starter role by the season’s end.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 23, 2019 - 9:07AM #17296
Posts: 32,868

Buster Olney

RT @lindseyadler: Jordan Montgomery says mid-August is the target for his return. He's now throwing off a half-mound (not at full effort) and is expected to start throwing fastballs (not full effort) off a full mound in about a week.
5 months ago  ::  Mar 23, 2019 - 10:51AM #17297
Posts: 32,868

The Red Sox will repeat as 100-game winners. And they’ll lose the AL East.


It’s tough to repeat as a 100-game winner, but the Red Sox will pull it off, with the help of a Rafael Devers breakout, and sold seasons from Price, Porcello, and Eovaldi. But the Yankees are just as good as their rivals up I-95, and they’ll be a little better than Boston this year.
5 months ago  ::  Mar 24, 2019 - 9:21AM #17298
Posts: 32,868

New York Daily News | Kristie Ackert: The Yankees and Rockies got together for a last-minute trade on Saturday, sending Phillip Diehl to Colorado in exchange for outfielder Mike Tauchman. The 28-year-old is a career .153/.265/.203 hitter in 69 major-league at-bats. The outfielder did, however, hit to a 153 wRC+ in Triple-A last season. He may break camp with the Yankees, giving them outfield depth as Aaron Hicks sits on the injured list, and Brett Gardner is on the wrong side of 30.

ESPN | Coley Harvey: As for Diehl, he thought the whole trade was an elaborate practical joke. The 24-year-old impressed early in camp, with a 4.50 ERA being a product of the small sample size. “I just love the way this kid competes, and he threw the ball incredibly well,” said Aaron Boone of Diehl. | Brendan Kuty: The Yankees raised eyebrows on Saturday afternoon when the team made a late scratch of Greg Bird in the lineup. Thankfully it was just a precautionary move, with Boone wanting to give the first baseman an extra of day rest. The 26-year-old got hit on the elbow by an errant pitch earlier in the week, and the organization doesn’t want a repeat of the 2017 season’s late-spring injury fiasco. The end of spring training must be the bane of Bird’s existence.

New York Post | George A. King III: Lastly, some housekeeping: CC Sabathia may begin serving his five-game suspension on Opening Day. Major League Baseball suspended Sabathia last September after he retaliated against the Rays in a beanball war, complete with a profanity-laced message. The Yankees may want to have the suspension come early because the first few series feature rebuilding clubs.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 24, 2019 - 9:22AM #17299
Posts: 32,868

Roster Move: Prior to today’s game, the Yankees optioned INF/OF Tyler Wade to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
5 months ago  ::  Mar 24, 2019 - 9:24AM #17300
Posts: 32,868

March 23rd Spring Training Notes: Severino, Bird, Loaisiga, Montgomery, Roster Cuts, Tarpley

The Yankees dropped this afternoon’s game to the Blue Jays. Gleyber Torres provided the only offense with a three-run home run. Miguel Andujar doubled while Brett Gardner, Austin Romine, and Tyler Wade had singles. Masahiro Tanaka was sharp in his two scoreless innings. Next time we see him will be Opening Day. Aroldis Chapman faced four batters and retired one. It was ugly. Better he gets it out of his system now than next week.

Gio Gonzalez made his Yankees debut and gave up five runs (four earned) in two innings. Gonzalez told Coley Harvey he is “just a tick off” right now but woof, he did not look big league ready. He looked like a guy who hasn’t gone through a proper Spring Training. Based on today, Gonzalez will need to some Triple-A time before potentially helping the Yankees. Here are the box score and video highlights, and here are the day’s notes from Tampa:

  • In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees traded lefty reliever Phil Diehl to the Rockies for outfielder Mike Tauchman. There’s a chance Tauchman will make the Opening Day roster, which would seem to be bad news for Greg Bird or Tyler Wade.
  • According to a report during the YES Network broadcast, Luis Severino (shoulder) played catch at 90 feet today as scheduled, and everything went well. He’s doing better mechanically after feeling a bit off during his first day of throwing. Not sure what the next step is for Severino.
  • Greg Bird (elbow) was scratched from the lineup after taking batting practice today. Aaron Boone said Bird is “fine,” but he wanted to sit him one more day so the swelling can go away completely. Bird is tentatively scheduled to play tomorrow afternoon. [Erik BolandLindsey Adler]
  • Jordan Montgomery (Tommy John surgery) is targeting mid-August for his return. Right now he is throwing fastballs only and at less than full effort from a half-mound. He’s about a week away from graduating to a full mound, though offspeed pitches are still a ways off. [Lindsey Adler]
  • Jonathan Loaisiga was sent to minor league camp today and Boone said he will rejoin the Yankees after CC Sabathia’s five-game suspension ends. Domingo German (or an opener) will start the fourth game of the regular season, Masahiro Tanaka the fifth game (on normal rest), and Loaisiga the sixth game. Luis Cessa will pitch in long relief. Didn’t see that coming! [Bryan Hoch]
  • Following last night’s game Gio Urshela and Kyle Holder were reassigned to minor league camp, the Yankees announced. Nestor Cortes, Estevan Florial, and David Hale were sent down today. The Yankees will begin the regular season with a 24-man roster while Sabathia serves his suspension, so there are still five more cuts coming following the Tauchman trade.
  • And finally, Stephen Tarpley was named the James P. Dawson Award winner as the best rookie in camp prior to today’s game. Congrats to him. Tarpley threw 11.1 scoreless innings during Grapefruit League play. Andujar and Torres won it the last two years.

The Yankees wrap up their Grapefruit League season on the road against the Twins tomorrow. Unlike Tanaka today, James Paxton will make a full start tomorrow because he won’t pitch again until the second game of the regular season next Saturday. Lindsey Adler says Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Tyler Wade, Clint Frazier, and Austin Romine are making the trip. Tomorrow’s game will be televised live.

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