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5 months ago  ::  Mar 27, 2019 - 10:41AM #17321
Posts: 32,868
5 months ago  ::  Mar 27, 2019 - 10:47AM #17322
Posts: 32,868

New York Yankees: Three quick Opening Day predictions for the Yanks in 2019

As the 2019 MLB season kicks off, the New York Yankees’ expectations couldn’t be higher. Now, with a few new faces on the roster, let’s look at which players will help the Yanks get back on top and bring home number 28.

Following a disappointing season finish to rival Boston Red Sox, New York YankeesGeneral Manager Brian Cashman and the front office did what they had to do in free agency and through trades to improve the roster for Opening Day. While there wasn’t many flashy George Steinbrenner-era moves made, they certainly did get better.

Adding James Paxton to round out the rotation, and grabbing Adam Ottavino, the best relief pitcher on the market, were huge moves to bolster the pitching staff. Cashman also found infield depth in DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki. In addition to the free agent signees, the Yanks also invested in their homegrown talent by signing Luis Severino to a 4-year deal.

Now that the roster is set for Opening Day, let’s make some way-too-early predictions for the highly anticipated 2019 season.

Giancarlo Stanton will lead the team in home runs for a second straight year.

While this certainly isn’t a hot take considering Giancarlo Stanton belted a combined 97 home runs over the past two seasons, including a team-high 38 last year, he will have stiff competition with a myriad of fellow sluggers on the roster. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are the two most likely candidates to compete with Stanton in this category, but I believe Stanton comes back with a vengeance this year.

After struggling to adjust to New York during the start of the season, Stanton adjusted well when the weather heated up, and was a snub for the All-Star team. Even with a healthy Judge and a refocused Sanchez, Stanton will just edge out his teammates in this category.

James Paxton emerges as the team’s ace.

For the Yankees to have a shot at winning the World Series, they need more production from their starting pitching. With Luis Severino shelved for at least a month, they need their newly acquired pitcher to step up.

James Paxton didn’t put up gaudy numbers in his six seasons with Seattle, in fact he was a model of inconsistency with a mediocre 3.42 ERA in six seasons with the Mariners. However, looking deeper into the numbers, you can see that Paxton’s strikeout rate since 2016 equals Clayton Kershaw’s, his walk rate is better than Jacob deGrom’s, and his per-pitch whiff rate has risen in each of the past three seasons, according to The Ringer.

The Yankees shipped off a few prospects in order to get Paxton in pinstripes, including highly-touted Justus Sheffield. So the fans and organization are expecting big things from the 6’6″ Canadian. For as much skill as Paxton possesses, I believe his best baseball is in front of him and should thrive as the Yankees ace in 2019.

The Yankees win the division race with Boston. 

Last season, Boston basically locked up the AL East by early August. Even with 100 wins, the Yankees had no shot to match Boston’s historic season that was capped with a World Series title. To add insult to injury, Boston steamrolled the Yankees in the ALDS on route to their championship.

Despite all that, Boston did little to improve their roster in the offseason and the Yanks did many things to improve theirs. The Red Sox lost Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel to deplete their already depleted bullpen. While they still have one of the best starters in the game in Chris Sale, and some of the game’s best offensive weapons in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, it’s highly unlikely Boston can match what they did in 2018.

The Bronx Bombers got embarrassed by Boston last year, so now with a reloaded roster, they should be more than than ready to come back stronger than ever this year.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 27, 2019 - 7:31PM #17323
Posts: 32,868

The Rest of the AL East [2019 Season Preview]

The AL East has changed quite a bit the last few years. As recently as 2016, preseason projections had the five AL East teams separated by only nine games in the standings. All five teams were talented and they were all a headache to play against. It was the toughest division in baseball, rather easily.

This year FanGraphs projects the gap between the best team (Yankees!) and worst team (Orioles) in the AL East at 35 games. PECOTA has the gap at 28 games. No other division has a gap that large. The AL East should again be a two-team race this summer, maybe a three-team race if some things break right. Point is, this is no longer the toughest division in MLB. Let’s preview the other four AL East clubs.

Baltimore Orioles

Notable Additions: Richie Martin, Rio Ruiz, Dwight Smith Jr.
Notable Losses: Tim Beckham, Adam Jones

Their Story: The Orioles lost 115 games last season, the fifth most in baseball history, and they did that while having Manny Machado, Zack Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, and Brad Brach half the season and Adam Jones all season. All those guys are gone now, and the Orioles did nothing this winter other than make a pair of Rule 5 Draft picks and a few waiver claims. It was a quiet winter in Baltimore.

The biggest changes the O’s made this offseason were organizational. Manager Buck Showalter and GM Dan Duquette were let go — how could you keep them after 115 losses? — and Mike Elias was hired away from the Astros to become the new GM. He’s since overhauled the front office, upgraded the scouting departments, and brought the team’s analytics group out of the Stone Age.

The Orioles are very early in a long-term rebuild and it’ll take a while for those core organizational changes to lead to results on the field. Elias has them moving in the right direction, which is a start. This is essentially a ground up rebuild though. I’m not sure there’s a single player on the MLB roster who will be part of the next contending Orioles team. Maybe Cedric Mullins? That’s about it. It’s going to be another loss-filled season for the O’s.

Random Player Who Will Annoy The Yankees: Dwight Smith Jr. is my pick. The Orioles got him from the Blue Jays in a minor trade earlier this month and the 26-year-old socked three homers in limited Spring Training action. He’s hit everywhere he’s played (career 120 wRC+ in the minors) and the left-handed hitter poking a few homers into the short porch feels inevitable.

Boston Red Sox

Notable Additions: Colten Brewer?
Notable Losses: Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel

Their Story: The defending World Series champions didn’t have a good offseason or a bad offseason. They just didn’t have an offseason. They re-signed Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce, and that’s it. I suppose they could still re-sign Kimbrel at some point. It seems really, really unlikely though. Like, if it were going to happen, it probably would’ve happened already. The Red Sox have the exact same roster as last year, minus Kelly and Kimbrel.

Clearly, the Red Sox are going to score a lot of runs, and their rotation is strong as well, assuming no one shows ill-effects from the deep postseason run. The outfield defense is great too. (The infield defense? Not so much.) Boston’s weakness, if they have one, is the bullpen. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier went from their No. 3 and 4 relievers last year to their No. 1 and 2 relievers this year. Tyler Thornburg and Brandon Workman will assume high-leverage roles.

Brewer has been getting talked up as the bullpen breakout star. He’s a high spin cutter guy who spent 2017 in the Yankees’ farm system as a minor league Rule 5 Draft pick. Brewer signed with the Padres last winter, allowed ten runs in 9.2 big league innings, then went to the Red Sox as a scrap heap addition this winter. Should the defending champs, with the highest payroll in the sport, be relying on a scrap heap guy to save the bullpen? Hey, it worked with Brasier last year. Why not?

Anyway, the Red Sox are going to be very good again this season. Maybe the bullpen will be their downfall. My guess is they’ll figure it out throughout the summer. The offense is great and the rotation is very good, and if you’re hoping for a collapse, you’ll probably be disappointed. No, they won’t win 108 games again. No one does that in back-to-back years. The Red Sox are going to be really good again though. Hate to break it to you.

Random Player Who Will Annoy The Yankees: Steve Pearce isn’t random enough. I’ll go with light-hitting catcher Christian Vazquez. His short porch solo home run against Zack Britton in the fourth inning of Game Four proved to be the ALDS winning run last year. Vazquez hit .207/.257/.283 (42 wRC+) overall last year. Prepare for him to hit .360/.420/.500 against the Yankees this year.

Tampa Bay Rays

Notable Additions: Yandy Diaz, Avisail Garcia, Guillermo Heredia, Charlie Morton, Mike Zunino
Notable Losses: Jake Bauers, C.J. Cron, Sergio Romo, Mallex Smith

Their Story: After four straight losing seasons, the Rays emerged to win 90 games last season, sixth most in a league that had seven winning teams. They responded by cutting their Opening Day payroll from $76.4M last year to an MLB low $50.4M this year. Sincere attempts to land Paul Goldschmidt (trade) and Nelson Cruz (free agent) fell short, then, a few weeks ago, Buster Olney (subs. req’d) wrote this when ranking the divisions (emphasis mine):

It’s possible that this division has baseball’s two best teams in the Red Sox and Yankees, and folks with those teams view the Tampa Bay Rays warily after their nearly perfect series of transactions strengthened an already deep well of talent.

No team in baseball gets the benefit of the doubt more than the Rays. It’s incredible, really. Imagine any other team in baseball winning 90 games, cutting their payroll 35% (!), falling short on two big ticket players, and have it be called a “nearly perfect series of transactions.” May we all one day be graded on the Rays curve, where mediocrity passes for greatness, and you don’t have to actually contend to be considered a contender.

Tampa added Morton to Cy Young winner Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow to give them three actual starting pitchers. They’ll use openers for the other two rotation spots. A full season of Tommy Pham will help the offense more than Garcia or Diaz or Zunino, and it’s about time Meadows gets a chance to play. That kid should’ve been been in the big leagues full-time two years ago. Service time manipulation is a hell of a thing.

The Rays are quite clearly the third best team in the five-team AL East. They’ll be annoying to play against, as always, but it’ll take a lot going right for them and a lot going wrong for the Yankees (and Red Sox) for them to have a realistic shot at the division title. They’ll finish about 15 games out and then move on to their next “nearly perfect series of transactions” that reduce payroll and don’t make them materially better.

Random Player Who Will Annoy The Yankees: Gotta be Avisail Garcia. His high ground ball rate (52.2%) and average-ish hard contact rate (33.3%) make him a good candidate to BABIP the Yankees to death with their sketchy infield defense. I’m ready for all the seeing-eye grounders pulled juuust out of Troy Tulowitzki’s reach.

Toronto Blue Jays

Notable Additions: Freddy Galvis, Elvis Luciano, Daniel Norris, Bud Norris, Matt Shoemaker
Notable Losses: Marco Estrada, Russell Martin

Their Story: The Blue Jays went from a nightmare to play against (or at least pitch against) to a non-factor so quickly that I hardly even noticed. They still have Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales and, uh, Kevin Pillar? That’s about it. Vlad Guerrero Jr. will be up at some point this season (I think), but he’s nursing an oblique injury right now, which gives the team an excuse to manipulate his service timemeans he’s a few weeks away from getting called up.

I’m not quite sure what Toronto’s plan is right now. It is clearly not “win now.” They also haven’t completely torn it down, so it’s not a full rebuild either. Maybe they’ll commit to a rebuild and trade Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Ken Giles at the deadline. It doesn’t seem like this team will do anything well this year. Pitch well, hit well, defend well, nothing. What’s the opposite of a triple threat?

The only thing keeping the Blue Jays from being the least interesting team in the AL East — that isn’t easy to do when you share a division with a 115-loss team! — is Luciano. Toronto plucked him from the Royals in the Rule 5 Draft. He turned 19 (!) last month and has never pitched above rookie ball, but he will be on the Opening Day roster. Luciano has a chance to become the first player to play an entire big league season (Opening Day through Game 162) as a teenager since Ken Griffey Jr.

Random Player Who Will Annoy The Yankees: Brandon Drury. Take it to the bank. There will be a game this season where Drury hits a double and a homer against J.A. Happ, and Miguel Andujar makes a goofy throwing error, and the “shoulda kept Drury!!!” takes come out of the woodwork. They say you can’t predict baseball, but folks, Drury giving the Yanks headaches this year is as predictable as it gets.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 27, 2019 - 7:34PM #17324
Posts: 32,868

MLB moves into new era: No players left from 20th century

Adrian Beltre and Bartolo Colon were the last, the Elias Sports Bureau said. And with all 30 teams set to play Thursday — from Bryce Harper’s home debut at Citizens Bank Park to Mookie Betts and the champion Boston Red Sox visiting Seattle — this year MLB becomes the first of the four major sports without someone still around who played in the 1900s.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 28, 2019 - 10:27AM #17325
Posts: 32,868

Newsday | Erik Boland: The Yankees won 100 games in 2018’s regular season. They could not make it past the vile, evil, heinous Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. That was 2018 though. The 2019 Yankees feel ready to pounce on the rest of the league. They are hungry and confident. Who wouldn’t be after two seasons of excellence and disappointment? Aaron Boone has a whole year under his belt, as does Stanton. Yes, Giancarlo Stanton is still a Yankee.

New York Daily News | Kristie Ackert: Oh yeah, Aaron Judge is also still a Yankee. That’s pretty cool if you ask me. Judge is focused and ready to go and his goal is for the Yankees to win the AL East. After two straight years of dealing with the Wild Card one game elimination death match, I tend to agree with his honor. Win the division so we can avoid that heartache. | Mark Feinsand: Troy Tulowitzki will be on the Opening Day roster today. He has waited for this moment for a long time. A long time. It’s also worth mentioning that after a year of injuries, Tulo is hoping to re-ignite his career by remaining healthy. With Didi Gregorius on the IL, it will be Tulo’s time to shine in the Bronx.

Cut4 | Chris Landers: Speaking of the world’s best human, Sir Didi Gregorius will make sure to have his knightly presence be known while recovering. Hopefully he will be bringing his clubhouse photographer hobby from Tampa to the Bronx. Most importantly, Didi’s Victory Tweets will be back. In my opinion, the Yankees should win today so we can get one as soon as possible. Happy Opening Day everyone.

Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge enter season with MLB's most popular jerseys

5 months ago  ::  Mar 28, 2019 - 10:31AM #17326
Posts: 32,868

Thoughts on Opening Day 2019

At long last, the offseason and Spring Training are over. The 2019 regular season begins today with the Yankees hosting the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. I know it’s only one of 162, but Opening Day is always a blast, even when it’s 50-something degrees outside. Anyway, let’s get to some thoughts before the new season opens.

1. It completely stinks that it is happening because of injuries (Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius), but it looks to me Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will hit back-to-back this year. At least for the time being. I suppose Greg Bird could hit between them to split up the strikeout prone righties, though I don’t think that’ll happen yet. Bird has to show he can hit Major League pitching first, and I don’t mean in Spring Training either. My guess at today’s starting lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. LF Giancarlo Stanton
  4. DH Luke Voit
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. 3B Miguel Andujar
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. SS Troy Tulowitzki
  9. 2B Gleyber Torres

(Update: So close! Jack Curry says that is today’s lineup, only with Sanchez and Andujar flipped, and Tulowitzki and Torres flipped.)

That’s my guess at today’s lineup, not how I would order them. Assuming it happens, I’m pretty thrilled Judge and Stanton will hit back-to-back, even against righties. It is long overdue. Judge second and Stanton third ensures they both hit in the first inning and have a chance to do so with a man on base. Also, batting Stanton third instead rather than fourth increases his chances of getting that one last at-bat in the ninth inning of a close game. The Yankees are playing the Orioles, the Tigers, and then the Orioles again these next ten days. Against those pitching staffs, bat the big guys back-to-back and let ’em eat. Don’t worry about late-inning matchup situations against teams like that. If things go according to plan, those late-inning matchup situations will be irrelevant. We’ll see what today’s lineup is when it comes out. I’m really hoping Judge and Stanton back-to-back is a regular thing.

2. Speaking of Bird, the Hicks injury gives him yet another chance to show he can contribute to the Yankees. Forget about carving out a long-term role for the moment. Let’s see him do something more than nothing first. I have no idea what to expect. I really don’t. Bird had another great Spring Training (.333/.500/.643) but we’ve seen that before and there’s no chance I’m falling for it again. (For what it’s worth, Baseball Reference’s opponent quality metric says Bird faced mostly Double-A caliber hitters this spring.) The Yankees could really use another left-handed bat, especially while Hicks is sidelined, and Bird will get to feast on some crummy pitching staffs in April. The Yankees play 16 of their first 21 games against the Orioles, Tigers, White Sox, and Royals. Everything is set up for Bird to have success. He’s going to play pretty much everyday, the Yankees have a ton of lefty hitter friendly Yankee Stadium home games the first three weeks (15 of their first 21 games are at home), and they play like two good teams in April. Things couldn’t possibly be set up better for Bird and the Yankees. Hopefully he mashes and forces the Yankees to make a tough roster decision once Hicks returns, whenever that happens. Bird has been a productive big leaguer for maybe six weeks over the last three seasons, and, in a perfect world, he would be on his way to Scranton right now. That isn’t the case though. The Yankees need him now more than they did six weeks ago, but that doesn’t make him any less of an unknown.

3. As for Hicks, he isn’t coming back anytime soon, right? As of Monday’s update Hicks was only going through core strengthened exercises and had not yet resumed baseball activities, one week after receiving his second cortisone shot. “I think it has been a little disappointing that it is something that was supposed to be a day-to-day situation and it lingered on and had to get him the shots and all that,” said Aaron Boone to George King earlier this week. Hicks has been down close to a full month now. He played his final Grapefruit League game on March 1st. So, whenever he is cleared for baseball activities, he’ll basically have to go through an entire Spring Training. Playing catch and hitting off a tee, then hitting in the cage, then batting practice, then rehab games, so on and so forth. That stuff takes time. Extended Spring Training will help speed up the process — Hicks can go lead off every inning in ExST games to get a bunch of at-bats in a short period of time — but only so much. Coming back on April 4th, the first day he’s eligible to be activated off the injured list, clearly will not happen. Maybe he can make it back for April 12th, the first day of the second homestand? If not then, what about April 22nd, the first day of the nine-game, ten-day West Coast trip? Not being back in time for that West Coast trip would be rough. Back issues are tricky because they can linger and they’re easy to reaggravate. Carlos Correa received a cortisone shot for his lower back soreness last year and didn’t hit a lick after coming off the disabled list (.180/.261/.256 in 145 plate appearances). That’s the worst case scenario here. Hicks misses a bunch of time and then doesn’t hit after returning. Yuck.

4. Given how little Hicks has progressed these last few weeks, the Yankees had to get a true backup outfielder, and they did exactly that with Mike Tauchman. Clint Frazier needs regular at-bats in Triple-A (and shouldn’t play center field anyway), and, while I like Tyler Wade, there’s no way the Yankees could rely on him as the full-time backup outfielder for more than a week or so. Billy Burns? Matt Lipka? Nah. The Yankees can do better. Tauchman addresses a need and you can talk yourself into believing he has some untapped potential given his 2017 swing changes and the corresponding uptick in power. He has speed, he’s solid defensively, and last year’s Triple-A spray chart shows he’s not a dead pull left-handed hitter. Tauchman can hit the ball out to all fields.

The Yankees have been great at identifying undervalued talent in other organizations these last few years. That doesn’t mean Tauchman is the next Aaron Hicks or Luke Voit. It just means I no longer dismiss these seemingly minor moves out of hand. Let’s see what happens. Anyway, my guess is Tauchman will play a decent amount in the early going. I don’t think the Yankees want to run Brett Gardner out there in center field day after day after day, and I’m sure Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge will get their DH days as well. Tauchman could wind up starting three times a week. Both ZiPS and PECOTA have him as a slightly below league average hitter (96 wRC+ and 98 DRC+) and a +2 WAR player per 600 plate appearances, and hot damn. I’d take that in a heartbeat. The Yankees needed a true fourth outfielder and they might’ve found a pretty good one.

5. I feel like we haven’t talked about Gleyber Torres enough these last few weeks. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton get plenty of attention and understandably so. Gary Sanchez bouncing back from a miserable 2018 season is a hot topic. Miguel Andujar’s defense is a daily talking point. Even Troy Tulowitzki gets his fair share of headlines. Torres though? I feel like he’s flying under the radar. He hit the quietest .289/.373/.644 during Grapefruit League play you’ll ever see, and he’s a just turned 22-year-old middle infielder who already has an All-Star Game selection to his credit. And he plays for the Yankees! Three or four years ago, this kid would’ve been the talk of the league. Now he’s somehow flying under the radar. I don’t think you faithful RAB readers need me to remind you, but folks, Gleyber is a budding superstar. I think he’s no more than two years away from settling in as the Yankees’ best player, and not because I expect Judge or Stanton to decline. Those guys will be great. It’s just that Torres will be better. His raw talent and feel for the game are top of the line, and he’s only going to get better as he gains experience and matures. I’m excited to see Judge and Sanchez and everyone else on the roster. I think I’m looking forward to Gleyber’s sophomore season more than anything.

6. I am surprised the Yankees will use Luis Cessa as a long reliever while Luis Severino and CC Sabathia are on the injured list. He’s been their go-to spot sixth starter the last two years and Cessa had a great Spring Training, so I assumed he would be one of the fill-in starters. Seems like this might’ve been one of those rigged Spring Training competitions, where the Yankees decided ahead of time that Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga would be the fill-in starters. I don’t have a problem with that. It just caught me off guard, is all. Anyway, I still want to see Cessa as a short reliever at some point. I get needing him in long relief and to maybe spot start right now, but I feel like he’s best suited for a one inning air-it-out role. Maybe they’ll do it once everyone is healthy, and they can bump German to long relief and use Cessa in short relief. Cessa can not be sent to the minors without passing through waivers, so there’s a decent chance he won’t last the season with the Yankees. I just hope they try him out in short relief at some point and see what they have there before cutting ties. If a guy with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a slider with a whiffs-per-swing rate north around 40% isn’t having success in extended outings, don’t you have to see what he does in one-inning bursts before moving on? We’ll see. Cessa not getting a starting spot despite two injured starters and the Grapefruit League season he just had tells me he’s closer to being out the door than getting a chance to carve out a long-term role.

7. Earlier this month pitching coach Larry Rothschild said it would be the big league rotation or Triple-A rotation for Jonathan Loaisiga, not the bullpen, and the big league rotation it is. Loaisiga did not have a good Spring Training statistically (13 runs in 16 innings), and there were times he ran some really long counts and couldn’t put hitters away, which is a problem we saw when he was first called up last year. The Yankees really like him though, so he’s going to start while CC Sabathia is sidelined. (To be clear, the plan is to start Masahiro Tanaka on normal rest in the fifth game of the regular season, then, when Sabathia’s five-game suspension ends, use his injured list stint to recall Loaisiga before his ten days in the minors are up. Exactly what I laid out last week.) With any luck they’ll only need Loaisiga to make two or three starts before Sabathia returns, and they could always pair him with an opener (does that go against using him as a starter only?) and have a quick hook given their deep bullpen, plus Cessa’s available for long relief should things go wrong. I am firmly in the “get whatever you can from Loaisiga before he gets hurt again” camp and this is a way to do it. It’s not what I expected to happen — I thought it would Cessa and German in the MLB rotation with Loaisiga in Triple-A to start the season — but it works for me. For all intents and purposes, German and Loaisiga are now locked in a mini-competition to remain in the rotation once Sabathia returns. Whoever performs the best will stay in the rotation to cover for Luis Severino.

8. I’m going to direct you over to CBS for my season predictions. Feel free to call me dumb and curse my name for picking the Red Sox to win the AL East again. I was planning to pick the Yankees before Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks, and Dellin Betances went down with injuries that could linger all season. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a pitcher(s) was never quite right after shoulder inflammation, or that a hitter couldn’t get himself on track following a back issue. It these were pulled hamstrings or something more minor, I’d feel much better about things. Right now, the AL East race is too close (on paper) and the Yankees have too many core players dealing with notable injuries for me to pick them to win the division. I will happily eat crow if I’m wrong. I mean, I picked the Mariners — the Mariners! — to go to the World Series two years ago. Maybe don’t worry about my predictions. If Hicks, Betances, and Severino return reasonably soon and show no lingering effects from their injuries, the Yankees will win the division. Right now, I’d be lying if I said I weren’t concerned. These are important players and worrisome injuries. The Yankees have enough offensive firepower and pitching depth to win a lot of games in a league where like seven teams are trying to contend, so I think another Wild Card spot is their floor. They need to be at full strength to have their best chance at winning the division though, and they’re not at full strength right now.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 28, 2019 - 10:33AM #17327
Posts: 32,868

Aaron Judge looks past Opening Day: ‘goal is to win division first’


The losses hurt. In 2017, Aaron Judge was a game away from the World Series. Last year, he had to watch the Red Sox celebrate on his Yankee Stadium Field. They also taught the Yankees’ young slugger a thing or two.

So heading into the 2019 season, Judge isn’t talking about home run records or World Series titles. He has tunnel vision on one thing right now: winning the American League East.

“Both those years sting a little bit. So our goal is to win the division first off, line ourselves up for the playoffs,” Judge said Wednesday after the Yankees worked out at the Stadium.. “It’s a huge advantage going into a playoffs; a chance to set up lineup and your rotation, rest your players if they need it going into a series. You need it, because when your backs are against the wall all season into September, battling down the wire, it’s not only physically draining, but mentally draining.”

So while, Opening Day at Yankee Stadium may not be the sexiest matchup with the rebuilding Orioles, it’s a big series. Last season, the Yankees struggled against the Orioles early on and finished 12-7 against them. The Red Sox went 16-3 against Baltimore.

The Red Sox helped themselves win the AL East last season by beating up on the leasts of baseball. They went 66-19 against teams that finished with a losing record. The Yankees went 57-31.

Judge said this year, the Yankees are in a better position to battle the Red Sox. He cites a healthy lineup and a bullpen that will include a healthy Zack Britton for a full season and the addition of Adam Ottavino.

“Getting Britton back, obviously adding the Big O, it’s always huge,” Judge said. “Also our lineup, I was looking at it the other day, you can go one through nine they can leave the park. Move guys over. I think (Gary Sanchez) is hitting sixth. When you you got a guy like that hitting sixth, you got a potent lineup. Going to be fun competing with those guys.”


Masahiro Tanaka admitted to having butterflies Wednesday, even if it is the fourth time he has taken the ball on Opening Day.

Masahiro Tanaka. (Mark Brown/Getty)

“The tension is building,” Tanaka said via his interpreter.

With him on the mound for the first game in 2015, ‘16 and ‘17, the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays, Astros and Rays. He has an 0-2 record with a 9.49 ERA in those three Opening Day starts.

The fourth Opening Day start, however, is a record. It is the most Opening Day starts by a Japanese-born pitcher.

After a spring training battle that was hyped all winter, your Opening Day first baseman is…..Greg Bird. Because of the injury to Aaron Hicks, the Yankees kept both Bird and Luke Voit on the roster. Voit will be the designated hitter.

While Bird is universally thought of as the better defensive first baseman, Aaron Boone said don’t read too much into his decision to start Bird at first.

“I kind of envision Voit playing first in game 2. With D.J. (LeMahieu) on the bench, it gives me a little more flexibility to move him into a situation I can keep him on the field if there is a lefty scenario in a spot we like,” the Yankee manager explained.

After LeMahieu spent all spring taking reps around the infield, he will be on the bench Opening Day.

Aaron Hicks has not begun baseball activities, Boone said Wednesday. The center fielder has not done baseball activities since he received the first of two cortisone shots on March 7 for chronic lower back pain.

Still, Boone said he thinks things are moving in the right direction.

“Everything is going well. I talked to Hicks yesterday. I don’t know how it went today or what he did today. (He was) on the treadmill yesterday, (and doing) core work. Hasn’t started baseball activities yet, not sure if it’s in a couple days or over the weekend,” Boone said. “We feel like he’s moving ... through the pain that was holding him back.”

Hicks would need to begin a program that starts with swinging, throwing and progresses through hitting off a tee, batting cage work, and batting practice before he could even begin taking live at-bats in minor league rehab games.

The Yankees signed the 29-year-old to a seven-year, $70 million extension last month. They did it knowing the risk that he had a long history of injuries.

Luis Severino (right shoulder inflammation) had a rest day on Wednesday, but is expected to be able to work off a mound sometime this weekend, Boone said.

Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement) “is doing really well, feels really good,” and is also expected to be working off a mound this weekend.

CC Sabathia (knee/heart surgery) pitched three innings in a minor league game Tuesday, Boone said. Sabathia will begin the season by serving a five-game suspension for a retaliatory pitch he threw in a game in Tampa last season.

In a non-injury update, Domingo German, who will be on the Opening Day roster, and is scheduled to pitch in the fourth game, threw five innings in a minor league game in Florida to keep sharp and “pitched well.”


Former Yankee closer Mariano Rivera will start on Thursday. Rivera, who will go into the Hall of Fame this summer, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game against the Orioles.

Mariano Rivera. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Rivera is the first player to ever receive 100 percent of the vote.

[More Yankees] Troy Tulowitzki makes it all the way back, but new Yankee shortstop has bigger goals in mind »
He racked up 652 saves and finished 952 games, both are major league records. Rivera’s best came on the biggest stage. He nailed down 42 saves and had a 0.70 ERA in the postseason en route to his five World Series championships.

Let that sink in. Rivera pitched 141 postseason innings over 96 games, and allowed just 11 earned runs.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 28, 2019 - 10:34AM #17328
Posts: 32,868

Yankees facing Boss-style, World Series-or-bust mandate

The late George Steinbrenner, in 1999, and Hal Steinbrenner, in 2019 N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg (2)

These days George Steinbrenner is the name on a stadium in Tampa, a looming picture beyond where the Bleacher Creatures stand in The Bronx and a figment of many imaginations.

The number of folks who speak authoritatively about what actions Steinbrenner would take or how he must be rolling over in his grave about fill-in-the-blank not being signed or fired far outstrips those who actually ever covered or talked to the man.

For the record, there were times Steinbrenner pulled back payroll to make a statement. Troy Tulowitzki is hardly the first famous player returning from injury the Yankees tried to regenerate on the cheap. For example, I was there at spring training in 1990 when the Yanks attempted to get something out of Britt Burns and his degenerative hip. They nearly signed Bo Jackson to try the same thing.

It is conveniently forgotten when sainting Steinbrenner that from 1982-93 the Yankees were non-playoff laughingstocks. The dynasty was incubated when Steinbrenner was suspended and his impetuous, impatient nature was largely absent from the day-to-day running of the team. The caricature that he was a persistent winner and had some genius for getting the best out of folks is a lovely “Yankeeography,” but not reality.

If there is anything Steinbrenner-esque that has revived for the 2019 team, it is The Boss’ “championship or bust” doctrine.

“We have World Series aspirations for sure,” said Brett Gardner, longest serving Yankee and link to a George-ian past. “Anything short of that is disappointment.”

A few permutations have been traversed to get here. There were the ebbing days of the Core Four. There was the start-and-stop apprenticeship of Hal Steinbrenner as he ricocheted between trying to get under the luxury tax and honoring his father’s legacy by spending to try to problem solve — hello, Jacoby Ellsbury. There was finally a direction set with the 2016 deadline trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, followed by a surprisingly precocious ALCS run in 2017 and a full commitment to sink below the threshold in 2018 that coincided with a historic Red Sox season.

Brett Gardner (right, huddling with manager Aaron Boone at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday), says the Yankees have title aspirations, and that “anything short of that is disappointment.”N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

“The season they [the Red Sox] had last year, it almost didn’t matter what we did, we weren’t going to catch them or beat them,” Gardner said. “They had a really, really, really good team. And I know they will have a good team again this year. But I expect us to play better against them and I expect us to play better over the course of the season. It is definitely our goal to win the division. … That wild-card game is not something we want to do again. It is important to win the division and be the best team in baseball all year and win it all.”

They chase rings having shunned Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, which brought out yet another chorus of “if George were alive.” When George was alive, he championship-chased with Jason Giambi and Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield, which brought lots of regular-season wins and dysfunction. The best free agents on the dynasty teams — Chili Davis, Mike Stanton and David Wells — were more supplementary at the time of their signings.

These Yankees fixated on pitching and a long roster to augment their best young core since a side trip to the Canyon of Heroes was near annual. We begin to find out about this roster shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday when Masahiro Tanaka unleashes his first pitch toward the Long Island Duck-ish Orioles.

The season begins with Yankee personnel having harped on two words since gathering in mid-February: “hunger” and “depth.” The hunger is borne from having been eliminated by the World Series champs the past two years, particularly biting that it was the Red Sox last year. The depth is reflective of how much the world has changed from George’s heyday.

More players are used than ever before. Bullpens need volume in good arms. That leaves fewer positional reserves and, thus, the need for greater flexibility. The Yanks invested $34 million annually in Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and DJ LeMahieu to address these areas — or about the yearly cost of Harper.

“We won 100 games last year and we’re even better than we were last year,” Giancarlo Stanton said.

Gardner added: “The last two years we have had good seasons, but obviously came up short of our ultimate goal and lost to the eventual World Series winners. Hopefully, this year that will be us. I think all around we have a better team this year. … I think it will be a special year.”

It has to be. Hal’s apprenticeship and the rebuild are over. The Boss’ doctrine is back. For the 2019 Yankees, it is again championship or bust, by George.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 28, 2019 - 10:39AM #17329
Posts: 32,868

Yankees officially place Aaron Hicks, others on IL

Gregorius, Severino and Ellsbury all start season on IL

The Yankees officially placed outfielder Aaron Hicks, starting pitcher Luis Severino and several others on the injured list to start the season.

New York placed six players on the IL, including Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement), Jacoby Ellsbury (left hip surgery recovery), shortstop Didi Gregorius (Tommy John surgery recovery) and RHP Ben Heller (Tommy John surgery recovery).

Hicks suffered a lower back injury and has not yet started baseball activities. He has been out since March 2, and manager Aaron Boone said he does not have a definitive timetable for Hicks' return.

Severino, meanwhile, has been dealing with right shoulder inflammation but resumed throwing last week since being shut down on March 5.

Both Hicks and Severino signed contract extensions with the team in spring training: Hicks a seven-year, $70 million deal, Severino a four-year, $40 million contract.

All the injuries are retroactive to March 25.

LHP CC Sabathia will also begin serving his five-game suspension stemming from a HBP in a September 2018 game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

5 months ago  ::  Mar 29, 2019 - 10:55AM #17330
Posts: 32,868

Mailbag: Tanaka, Paxton, Extensions Judge, Rendon, Sanchez

Billy asks: With deGrom, Sale, Verlander and other starters getting extensions, would it be wise for the Yankees to extend Tanaka and Paxton now? What would be a fair extension for them?

It wouldn’t be a bad idea. An extension with Masahiro Tanaka might be tough because he’ll presumably have to take a pay cut with his next deal, and who wants to agree to a pay cut two years in advance? Including this season, Tanaka has two years and $45M coming his way. Would he take, say, two years and $34M (the J.A. Happ deal) on top of that? If yes, the Yankees would be able to announce it right away and reduce his luxury tax hit from $22.14M to $19.75M (average value of four years and $79M). I dunno. That one seems unlikely.

A James Paxton extension seems much more realistic. He’ll make $8.575M this year and will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player next year. The Cubs just gave Kyle Hendricks four years and $55M at the same service time level as Paxton. That deal begins in 2020, so include his $7.405M salary for 2019, and it is effectively a five-year deal worth $62.405M. Hendricks is a year younger than Paxton and he’s been healthier in his career to date, though that seems like a good reference point for an extension.

Given the Sonny Gray fiasco, I wouldn’t blame the Yankees for waiting it out just to make sure Paxton is someone they want to keep long-term. Then again, the Yankees signed Javier Vazquez long-term before he ever threw a pitch in pinstripes, and they had no trouble trading him. An extension for Tanaka might be tough now because it would presumably include a pay cut. A Paxton deal along the lines of the Hendricks deal? I’m down with that.

Pete asks: I don’t know if there’s any way to track/validate this, but it sure seems like contract extensions are being handed out more frequently now than ever before. Or are we just talking about them more?

Extensions are being handed out more frequently this year. Courtesy of the MLBTR Extension Tracker, here are the number of extensions signed from January 1st through April 1st (roughly Opening Day) the last few years:

  • 2019: 22 (eight by impending free agents)
  • 2018: 8 (none by an impending free agent, but Charlie Blackmon missed the cutoff by three days)
  • 2017: 14 (two by impending free agents)
  • 2016: 13 (two by impending free agents)
  • 2015: 13 (one by an impending free agent)

More impending free agents took themselves off the market with extensions since January 1st this year than did during the same time period from 2015-18 combined. Teams have weaponized free agency. Drive salaries down — the MLB average salary is on pace to decline for the second straight season, which is unprecedented — and make free agency as undesirable as possible, then leverage it into below-market contract extensions. This was the endgame.

Ross asks: Given the Yankees’ ability to increase value and turn low-level draft pitchers into prospects, should the Yankees’ draft as many pitchers as they reasonably can with the intent of using many of them to swap later, once their value is increased?

Roster spots are a finite resource. It’s a good plan, in theory, though they have to stash these guys somewhere. Extended Spring Training doesn’t last forever — whoever doesn’t get assigned to a roster at the end of ExST gets released — so there are only so many places to stash pitchers. Drafting pitchers and hoping they increase their trade value and can be moved before you run out of roster spots in mid-June is tough. The Yankees, like every other team, draft more pitchers than position players each year because there’s always a greater need on the mound. Realistically, I’m not sure they could go even heavier on arms without screwing up their minor league rosters. The Yankees have been pretty good at turning late round picks into tradeable commodities (Phil Diehl, Cody Carroll, Josh Rogers, Taylor Widener) the last few seasons. They could try to do it more, though roster limits are an obstacle.

Juan asks: The Yankees optioned Wade to AAA. If they trade him before the season starts and his new team puts him on the MLB roster, did he lose an option? Or does the option only get triggered if a played is demoted once the season begins?

A player has to spend 20 days in the minors to burn an option. They don’t have to be 20 consecutive days. Just 20 days throughout the season. In Juan’s scenario, Tyler Wade would keep his final option year, which is not necessarily good news for him. He’d presumably rather burn through his final option year and force the team to either keep him on the big league roster going forward, or expose him to other teams willing to put him on their big league roster.

Bill asks: To me, the trade for Tauchman is a real slap in the face to Wade. Wade played 6 positions in ST, hit well, and runs well. Isn’t Wade capable of playing CF if needed? Yankees should do him a favor and trade him. Thoughts?

No to doing Wade a favor and trading him. It is harsh but that is the business. I agree Wade could use a fresh start in an organization better able to give him a greater opportunity for consistent playing time. The Yankees are under no obligation to give him that fresh start though. He has a collectively bargained minor league option remaining and the Yankees are free to stash him in Triple-A as depth. Wade’s not the first player to have the rug pulled out from under him at the end of Spring Training — remember Francisco Cervelli after the Chris Stewart trade? also, the Orioles unexpectedly sent Chance Sisco to Triple-A after claiming Pedro Severino last week — and he won’t be the last. It sucks, but that’s the business.

Kyle asks: Why do Aaron Judge’s projections look awfully low? Fangraphs piece on right fielder power rankings had him second, but with a .255 average and a .517 slugging percentage, despite much better marks in over 1200 PA.

It’s the strikeouts. Aaron Judge is entering unicorn territory. Basically no one has been a true talent 30% strikeout guy and been this productive, especially this early in his career. Chris Davis had MVP caliber seasons in 2013 and 2014, though those were his fifth and sixth big league seasons. He didn’t arrive in the big leagues as that type of player like Judge. Projections are (largely) based on historical comparisons and Judge is short on comparable players. Most guys who strike out like Judge hit for a lower average with lots of power, which is how you get .255 AVG and a .517 SLG. Add in projections being inherently conservative and there you go.

Rendon. (Presswire)

Ian asks: So given Arenado signed his mega-deal, and the Yankees “may” have passed on Harper and Machado to make a run at him prior to his new contract, what do you think the chances are the Yankees are going to make a run at Anthony Rendon when he (maybe) hits FA after this season?

Not great, honestly. I thought Anthony Rendon was more likely to test free agency than Nolan Arenado was before his extension, mostly because Rendon is a Scott Boras client, and Boras usually pushes his top clients to free agency. My guess — and this is a total guess — is the Nationals will push hard to get a Rendon extension done (or push hard to re-sign him) after losing Bryce Harper. Letting MVP caliber guys walk in back-to-back offseasons seems pretty dumb for a win-now team, especially since they’re in position to reset their luxury tax rate this year, and Ryan Zimmerman’s contract will come off the books after the season. The Yankees would have to increase their payroll quite a bit to make Rendon work. Either that or skimp elsewhere and I’m not sure that’ll happen. Maybe Miguel Andujar settles in nicely at third base and the Yankees don’t need Rendon, but yeah, in theory, the Yankees should go after him. I’m skeptical it’ll happen at this point in time.

Emiliano asks: I wonder if minor league GM’s work for their team or for the franchise and what is their job considering that the franchise “owns” the players. Also, do they move up the ladder and land jobs and the big league level?

Minor league general managers work for their minor league team, not their MLB parent club. Triple-A Scranton’s general manager is Josh Olerud (no relation to John, I think). Double-A Trenton’s general manager is Jeff Hurley. Minor league general managers do what general managers in other industries do. They run the business. Marketing, ticket sales, stadium operations, public and media relations, all that. The general manager oversees it all. I’m sure minor league general managers move up the ladder. I mean, if you’re good at the job, teams at other levels are bound to notice. If you’re looking to become a big league general manager and make baseball decisions though, becoming a minor league general manager probably isn’t the best way to go. It’s the same title but minor league and Major League general managers have different job requirements and require different skills.

Ryan asks: If you could lock one Yankee starter in for say 180 IP and 3.00 ERA this season which one and why? Also- same for hitters but with 115 wRC+? No possibility to do better, but no possibility to be worse.

Gotta be CC Sabathia and Troy Tulowitzki, right? Sabathia’s the man and he is #ActuallyGood, though there’s no chance he’ll give the Yankees 180 innings this year. Sabathia as the 180 IP/3.00 ERA gives you a shot at three aces with Luis Severino and James Paxton. When your fourth and fifth guys are Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ, you’re in great shape. As for Tulowitzki, I think he is clearly the worst hitter in the lineup right now. It seems like he’s hit maybe three balls hard since those two home runs early in Spring Training. What do you do with Tulowitzki and his locked in 115 wRC+ when Didi Gregorius returns? Beats me. Worry about it when the time comes.

Dan asks: The Padres dfa of Bryan Mitchell and the cardinals of chasen shreve made me think, the Yankees are very good at passing along guys they’re done with. I’m thinking moving guys like Tyler Austin, Garrett cooper, ty clippard, even if for very little the Yankees get something. What are some recent examples of players that the Yankees couldn’t get anything for and had to straighten up release?

Not including journeymen who opted out of a minor league contract, the last Major League player the Yankees released was Chris Carter two years ago. Before him it was Tommy Layne a week earlier. They released Ike Davis in 2016 and Esmil Rogers in 2015. There were a lot of releases in the hell season of 2013. Ben Francisco, Clay Rapada, Brennan Boesch, Luis Cruz, guys like that. The last big name player the Yankees flat out released was Alfonso Soriano in 2014. Soriano was cooked and the Yankees couldn’t find a trade partner. Guys like Mitchell, Shreve, and Austin were at least young enough and interesting enough to drum up trade suitors. The Yankees are really good and also pretty deep, so inevitably the guys who don’t fit their roster tend to be better than the typical 24th or 25th man on other rosters, hence the trades.

Eric asks: This isn’t a real question, but I hope you’ll oblige! I don’t know how to make gifs, but I’m fairly sure you guys do. Can you post a gif of Gary watering that plant from the Yard Work commercial? I think all of the RAB faithful would love to save this to their phone.

I am a man of the people, so here is said GIF:

We’re going to get a lot of use out of that this season. The GIF comes from the team’s “Bronx Yard Work” promo commercial. It’s pretty funny. “Ottavino’s Nightmare” and “America’s Perchtime” were good too. Adam Ottavino’s a cool dude. Making fun of himself for the Babe Ruth comments rather than ducking the questions or giving cliched answers was a good way to go.

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