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Sticky: Offseason Outlook: New York Yankees
2 weeks ago  ::  Jan 03, 2018 - 9:17PM #371
Posts: 23,754

Inbox: How will Sanchez, Boone work together?

How do you think Gary Sanchez and Aaron Boone will work together?
-- Ronnie A., New York

Everything so far indicates that Boone is intent upon having a friendly relationship with all of his players. It spoke volumes that Boone prioritized his relationship with Sanchez, setting up a December date in New York to get to know him. General manager Brian Cashman was clear about a warmer touch being a prerequisite when he said that former manager Joe Girardi's "communication and connectivity" were lacking. Though Sanchez never publicly complained about Girardi (to the contrary, Sanchez thanked Girardi for making him a better player), there did appear to be friction.

"Catcher in Major League Baseball, it's a demanding position," Boone said. "It's a chance to impact like no other position on the field, with things that don't necessarily show up in the stat column. Obviously, he's a tremendous talent. He's already had massive success as a young player. So [I'm] just building that relationship, gaining that trust and letting him know that he's going to be very well supported by me and our coaching staff."

With Aaron Judge coming back from shoulder surgery, is it 100 percent certain that he will be ready for the beginning of Spring Training?
-- Jacqueline J., San Jose, Calif.

There are never any absolute certainties when it comes to surgery, but the good news is that Judge's Nov. 21 procedure in Los Angeles was relatively non-invasive, involving a loose body cleanup and a cartilage cleanup. The Yankees' statement said that "the anticipated recovery time will be completed in advance of the start of Spring Training."

Cashman said that Judge may not resume hitting as early in the offseason as he usually does, but that shouldn't affect his readiness for early camp workouts or the Feb. 23 Grapefruit League opener against the Tigers.

• Yankees' 2018 Spring Training schedule

"In terms of hitting the ground in Spring Training, he should be fine," Cashman said. "In terms of his normal cage work that he would have started picking up a bat at a certain point, I think that gets delayed for a period of time. In terms of the recovery and rehab, that puts him well in advance of Spring Training."

We know that the Yankees have been talking to the Pirates about Gerrit Cole. What are the chances the deal gets done?
-- John M., Elkin, N.C.

It's still possible, though not imminent. The Yankees have been casting a wide net as they look to add another starting pitcher to their mix of Luis SeverinoMasahiro TanakaSonny GrayCC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery. That's the same group that got them within one win of the World Series this past October, so they have the luxury of playing it cool even though other teams have reportedly also expressed interest in Cole.

The Yanks have been linked to other pitchers, such as the D-backs' Patrick Corbin and the Tigers' Michael Fulmer, so it's not a case of Cole or bust. From everything we've heard, the Yankees are refusing to move infielder Gleyber Torres or outfielder Estevan Florial at this juncture, but others are in play. That includes Clint Frazier; the talent is undeniable, but Frazier's path to the Bronx was blocked even before the Giancarlo Stanton trade.

Cole is an intriguing fit for this Yankees rotation. He's 27 years old, and he fired 203 innings in 2017, more than any Bombers hurler, while striking out 8.7 batters per nine innings. The Yanks have liked him for a while; Cole was their first-round Draft pick in 2008, but he decided to attend UCLA. His 31 home runs allowed present a concern, which would create an issue if he were to make half of his starts at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.

Will Torres be on the Opening Day roster?
-- Clayton S., Rochelle Park, N.J.

Quite possibly. If it were up to some members of the Yankees' coaching staff, Torres, the club's top prospectaccording to MLB Pipeline, would have broken camp with the team last year following the injury to shortstop Didi Gregorius, making the jump from Class A ball to the Majors. Cashman resisted that temptation, saying that Torres had still yet to play in cold weather and that he didn't want Torres "drinking from a fire hose in April," but they won't be able to hold him back in 2018.

It's also realistic to think that Torres will begin the year back at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he had just 96 plate appearances before sustaining a season-ending left elbow injury this past June, but make no mistake: Torres is coming to New York, and it's going to happen soon.

How does Jacoby Ellsbury fit on the roster for 2018? It seems to me that he would want to be somewhere that he could play every day.
-- Tania P., Corona, N.Y.

At present, Ellsbury is in a position where he needs to come into Spring Training and reclaim his starting center-field job from Aaron Hicks. There have been reports that Ellsbury would consider waiving his no-trade clause for the Giants, but agent Scott Boras recently said that Ellsbury enjoys playing in New York and with the Yankees. Ellsbury is still owed $68.4 million over the next three years, complicating any possible trade.

Boras has also mentioned that Ellsbury came back too quickly from the concussion he sustained on May 24 against the Royals. Ellsbury was hitting .281 with a .771 OPS when he ran into the center-field wall, and he missed 29 of the Yanks' games before being activated in late June. He was one of the team's best players in September, hitting .337 with a .912 OPS, but he had just nine at-bats in the postseason.

Any chance of a reunion with Todd Frazier? The Toddfather seemed like a good fit for the Yankees last year.
-- James W., Charlotte, N.C.

There was early contact between the Yankees and Frazier's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, though those discussions took a back seat to the long-shot possibility of trading for the Orioles' Manny Machado. Now that Machado appears to be off the table, maybe Frazier re-enters the picture. Frazier loved his time in pinstripes, but the stumbling block is that he surely is looking for a multiyear commitment.

With so much young talent coming, that may not be something that the Yanks are willing to offer at this time. The Yankees believe there are in-house options to play both second and third, with Cashman having listed Miguel AndujarThairo Estrada, Torres, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade in the mix.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

2 weeks ago  ::  Jan 04, 2018 - 2:43PM #372
Posts: 23,754

Prospect Profile: Chance Adams

(Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Chance Adams | RHP


The 23-year-old Chance Adams was born and raised in Scottsdale, AZ, where he attended Chaparral High School, winning back-to-back state championships in his final two seasons. That small school, whose graduating classes are generally around 300 students, also produced Brian Bannister, Ike Davis, and Paul Konerko (as well as Brie and Nikki Bella, but I digress). Adams spent two years at Yavapai College, a junior college, before transferring to Dallas Baptist University for his junior year in 2015. He was excellent there, posting a 1.98 ERA and striking out 83 (against just 13 walks) in 59 IP – though, he did so pitching exclusively out of the bullpen in a set-up role.

While it would be inaccurate to say that there was no hype for Adams heading into the 2015 draft, his name was not well-known to most. Baseball America had him ranked as the 245th best prospect in the class, and that represented the high water mark for his pre-draft stock. The Yankees saw something they liked, though, and snagged him with their fifth round pick, 153rd overall. Adams signed to a below-slot $330,000 bonus shortly thereafter.

Pro Career

Adams made his professional debut less than two weeks after being drafted, and he pitched at three levels – Short Season Staten Island, Low-A Charleston, and High-A Tampa – before season’s end. He continued to work out of the bullpen, and his numbers weren’t too dissimilar from his production at Dallas Baptist; in 35.1 IP, 24 H, 9 BB, 45 K, 1.78 ERA. Rumblings that the Yankees would convert Adams to a starter for the 2016 season began in earnest before the season was over, and it was confirmed by the team before the end of the calendar year.

With a new course charted, Adams made his first professional start at Tampa on April 9, 2016; it didn’t go too well, as he allowed 6 hits (including 2 home runs) and 6 runs (5 earned) in just 3.1 IP. He struggled mightily in three of his first five starts, but he righted the ship when the calendar turned to May, and he was utterly dominant from that point forward. Over his last 20 games (19 starts), Adams pitched to the following line – 107.2 IP, 56 H, 31 BB, 119 K, 1.67 ERA, 45% GB. And that included a mid-season promotion to Double-A, where he ranked among the top-three in ERA, K%, and K-BB% among pitchers who started at least 10 games.

Despite his excellent season, Adams didn’t get much love on prospect lists heading into 2017. He didn’t make the top-100s of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law, or MLB.com, which are oftentimes the go-to lists for baseball writers and fans. He did, however, have a fan in John Sickels of Minor League Ball, who ranked him as the 78th best prospect. And Adams made him look like something of a genius.

Adams opened 2017 back at Trenton, making six dominant starts (35.0 IP, 1.03 ERA) before earning his promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a May 14 start. He proved to be right at home in the highest level of the minors, with two scoreless outings in his first four times out, including a what may be his most dominant performance to-date – 6 innings of one-hit, no run ball, with 12 strikeouts and 2 walks against the Columbus Clippers. All told, Adams made 21 starts at Triple-A, tossing 115.1 IP of 2.89 ERA ball, with a 22.3% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate.

Prospect outlets got in on the action this time around, with Baseball Prospectus ranking Adams 37th on their midseason top-50, and Baseball America placing him 56th on their list. In fact, the BP staff went as far as to say that “[h]e’s probably a MLB fourth starter already.”

Scouting Report

Adams is short for a pitcher, checking in at right around 6′ tall, and he’s a solidly-built 215ish pounds. He works quickly on the mound, drawing praise for both his smooth, compact delivery and the natural deception in his mechanics. And – TINSTAAPP be damned – many believe that those clean mechanics have played a huge role in his ability to stay healthy.

Stuff-wise, Adams has two pitches that grade out as plus: his mid-90s fastball with “rising” action, and a diving, mid-80s slider. Those are the two pitches that helped him dominate as a reliever in college, and they’ve only improved as he has worked with professional coaches. He also features a couple of fringe-average to average offerings in his mid-80s change-up and a curveball in the upper-70s. The curveball is probably the better of the two right now, if only because he repeats his delivery so well, and it has a similar shape to his slider with much less velocity.

Adams is one of those pitchers that falls prey to the “control versus command” argument, as he has plenty of the former, but sometimes lacks the latter. The 2017 season was the first time that Adams struggled a bit with the free pass, though, and his walk rate has been trending up each year; that goes hand in hand with a slip in strikeouts, as well. That is not unexpected, given that each year represents a move up the organizational ladder, and his walks did drop back down at Triple-A – but it’s something to keep an eye on nonetheless.

2018 Outlook

It feels almost inevitable that Adams is going to serve as trade bait for the Yankees. He is just about as ready as a prospect can be for the show, but the big league team already has a full rotation, and they’ve been consistently linked to young, controllable pitchers. Joel Sherman reported that the Yankees don’t want to deal Gleyber Torres, Estevan Florial, or Justus Sheffield in such a deal, which leaves Adams and Clint Frazier as the most attractive young pieces in the organization.

Should the Yankees stay the course, Adams will probably be the team’s sixth starter – and that could be a substantial role. Eight different pitchers made at least five starts for the team last year, and he could be first in line for that overflow. Moreover, Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery both set career-highs in innings pitched last year, and their workloads are sure to be monitored as a result.

My Take

Adams has more than earned a shot at the majors, and I am confident that he has all of the makings of solid starting pitcher. He has stayed healthy and productive under increasing workloads, and he has stuff that belies his size. I do think that he is more likely to be a fourth starter than his statistical profile suggests, given his size and modest groundball rates, but there’s a ton of value in that – especially when the player is under team control for six years.

2 weeks ago  ::  Jan 04, 2018 - 2:45PM #373
Posts: 23,754

Aaron Boone and the recent history of rookie managers

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(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Aside from the Giancarlo Stanton trade, the biggest move the Yankees have made this offseason is replacing Joe Girardi with new manager Aaron BooneBrian Cashman and the rest of the higher ups felt the team needed a fresh voice in the clubhouse, and a fresh voice they will get. This is Boone’s first managerial gig.

Hiring a manager with no prior managerial experience — Boone doesn’t even have any coaching experience, he’d been an analyst with ESPN since his playing career ended — is far from unprecedented. In fact, it is business as usual these days. Six teams changed managers this year. Five hired first-timers.

  • Mets: Mickey Callaway
  • Nationals: Dave Martinez
  • Phillies: Gabe Kapler
  • Red Sox: Alex Cora
  • Tigers: Rob Gardenhire
  • Yankees: Aaron Boone

Three of those teams made the postseason this past season and four of them can go into 2018 with a reasonable expectation of competing for a postseason spot, at worst. And yet, they hired rookie managers. The average MLB payroll was just north of $150M in 2017. Teams are putting their nine-figure rosters in the hands of inexperienced managers. Pretty wild.

Why are they doing this? Two reasons, I think. One, front offices are always looking for the next big thing. Hiring Joe Maddon or Terry Francona is the sexy move, but hiring the next Joe Maddon or Terry Francona is the real goal. And two, managers with no experience are essentially a clean slate. Front offices can mold them into the type of manager they want. I’m sure that applies to the Yankees and Boone to some degree.

Of course, hiring a no experience manager comes with a lot of risk. You simply have no idea what you’re going to get until the person is put in the position of being a manager. Everyone loved Matt Williams as a player and a coach, then, as soon as he became Nationals manager, he was a disaster. An experienced manager is a known commodity, and the team could help him improve on the things that got him fired from his previous managerial job.

Eighteen teams hired a rookie manager between the end of the 2011 season and the start of the 2017 season. That’s a six-year window and it does not include interim managers who were later hired full-time, like Mike Quade and Ryne Sandberg. They took over the Cubs and Phillies, respectively, as interim rookie managers at midseason and were hired full-time after the season. Those 18 teams gave the keys to a first year manager in the offseason.

My original plan was to look at those 18 teams and rookie managers to see how they performed and how the rookie manager’s tenured played out, and maybe a pattern would emerge or something. A pattern did emerge, for sure.

Combined actual winning percentage in final year under old manager: .468
Combined PECOTA projected winning percentage in final year under old manager: .513

Combined actual winning percentage in first year under rookie manager: .480
Combined PECOTA projected winning percentage in first year under rookie manager: .488

Here’s my spreadsheet. I used PECOTA projections to get an estimate of each team’s talent level because that’s kinda important. For all intents and purposes, the teams with rookie managers met their PECOTA projection. The difference between the actual .480 winning percentage and projected .488 winning percentage is roughly one win per 162 games, which is nothing.

In the previous year, those same teams under their old manager collectively unperformed their projected winning percentage by more than seven wins per 162 games. That’s why the managerial change was made, right? The team underperformed and the front office wanted to shake things up. Among our 18-team sample, eight underperformed their projection by at least ten wins and 15 underperformed their projection in general. The 2011 Cardinals were the only team to beat their projection by more than two wins. They beat it by five wins in Tony La Russa’s final season, and he retired after winning the World Series. He wasn’t fired.

The teams underperformed under their old manager for whatever reason. The 2014 Rangers were decimated by injuries under Ron Washington. The 2013 Cubs were picked apart at the trade deadline under Dale Sveum. The 2012 Rockies were so thin on the mound they went to a four-man rotation and used tandem starters under Walt Weiss. A team that underperformed replaced their manager, in this case with a rookie skipper, and met projections the next year. That was the pattern. Underperform with the old manager, meet expectations with the rookie. A few more observations.

1. Most rookie managers had a prior history with their team. Click on my spreadsheet and go down the list of rookie managers. Almost all of them had some prior connection to their new team. Mike Matheny played five years with the Cardinals before they hired him in 2012. Sveum was the Red Sox third base coach under Theo Epstein before Epstein hired him with the Cubs. Robin Ventura played for the White Sox. Mike Redmond played for the Marlins. Weiss played for the Rockies. So on and so forth.

Boone, of course, played for the Yankees back in the day, albeit briefly. He hit a big home run and was honest when he blew out his knee playing basketball. Boone could’ve made up some story about hurting the knee during an offseason workout to keep his contract, but he was honest, and I think the Yankees appreciated that. It says something about his character. That prior connection undoubtedly helped Boone — and the other rookie managers in our little 18-team sample — get their job. They had their foot in the door already.

2. Bo Porter is the cautionary tale. When the mid-tank Astros named Porter their new manager in September 2012, GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

“People know Bo is going to be here for a long time. He could be one of those guys who is an Astros manager for decades, not just years. The players knowing that this is the group that’s going to be here — it begins to lay the foundation for stability, which is really what we’re looking for.”

Clearly, Luhnow was very high on Porter. And less than two years later, he fired him. “I made this decision because I believe we need a new direction in our clubhouse,” said Luhnow after letting Porter go. The two reportedly had some communication problems leading up to the firing. Their relationship went south quick.

To me, this looks very much like a case of Porter not being the guy Luhnow expected. Luhnow thought he was hiring the next great manager, someone who could take all the fancy ideas the Astros have and implement them on the field, and it didn’t play out like that. The two couldn’t get on the same page. Porter had no prior managerial experience — he had plenty of coaching experience, but not managerial experience — so as much as Luhnow liked him, he was going in blind. He expected one thing and got another. That’s the risk that comes with an inexperienced manager.

3. True zero experience managers are rare. As you know, Boone has no coaching or front office experience whatsoever. He retired as a player, headed to the ESPN broadcast booth, and remained there until being hired by the Yankees a few weeks ago. Pretty crazy. Here’s the breakdown of our 18-manager sample:

  • Coaching experience: 12 (Jeff Banister, Kevin Cash, Andy Green, Chip Hale, Paul Molitor, Porter, Bryan Price, Redmond, Rick Renteria, Dave Roberts, Sveum, Williams)
  • Front office experience: 5 (Brad Ausmus, Craig Counsell, Scott Servais, Ventura, Weiss)
  • No front office or coaching experience: 1 (Matheny)

Like Matheny, Boone is going into his new managerial gig blind. He’s never coached and he’s never worked in a front office. Matheny is the only other guy to do that since the end of the 2011 season, and he’s still in the dugout for the Cardinals, so I guess that means he’s doing okay? (I know plenty of Cardinals fans who are sick of him, for what it’s worth.) The Yankees are asking Boone to do something that is very rare, and they’re asking him to do it in the game’s largest market. A bold decision, this is.

* * *

I didn’t expect to learn much from recent rookie managers, though I did think it was interesting teams more or less met projections with their rookie skipper after underperforming with their previous manager. In that sense, replacing Girardi with Boone is a huge outlier. PECOTA pegged the Yankees as an 82-win team last year, and they wound up winning 91. No other team since 2011 has replaced a manager after that much success (aside from La Russa retiring).

Can a bad manager sink a talented roster? Absolutely. Look at Williams and the Nationals a few years ago. The players were damn near the point of mutiny in the clubhouse. Can a good manager contend with a not so talented roster? Eh, maybe. I’m of the belief managers can do more harm than good. At the end of the day, talent wins out. The players play. I think the most likely outcome this coming season is the Yankees win a lot of games because they’re talented, and Boone looks smart because of the players.

2 weeks ago  ::  Jan 04, 2018 - 2:51PM #374
Posts: 23,754

The Yankees have become good without help from their rebuild

The Yankees rebuilt two seasons ago to much critical acclaim. The scary part is that they have yet to even benefit from it.

In 2016, the Yankees rebuilt. In 2017, the Yankees emerged from their flash retool as a contender before anyone expected. That's been the storyline of the Yankees' recent years. They reached their nadir, they committed to rebuilding, and they came out on the other side not just unscathed, but in position to terrorize the league once again.

Tons of ink has been spilled regarding the Yankees' first sell-off in ages, and with good reason. The Yankees trading away the likes of Andrew MillerAroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltranmidseason, during a season in which they were still above .500, felt jarring. Still, those moves were the right moves, as they took apart a team that was merely hanging on the fringes of contention and help set up the organization for a brighter future.

It has become abundantly clear that the Yankees have one of the league’s brightest outlooks going forward. Selling in 2016 brought along hauls of talent, and prospects like Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, and others still highlight one of the best farm systems in baseball. Yet the most terrifying part of the Yankees' rebuild might be that, in spite of their status as contenders, they haven't even begun to reap the benefits.

The Yankees are a clear threat to win it all this year. Projections are not fail-safe, and it's very early, but FanGraphs currently ranks the Yankees fourth in MLB in projected WAR, and second in the AL. They could yet make more additions to their team, and are already among the league's elite in terms of raw talent.

This is no surprise. The only significant difference between the roster that won 91 games and nearly the AL pennant last season and the roster right now is the presence of Giancarlo Stanton. Some of their 2017 breakouts could regress (though maybe not by a whole lot), but any regression should be more than cancelled out by the acquisition of literally the National League MVP.

What's interesting about the Yankees' 2017 breakouts, as well as their additions via trade, is that none of them were the result of their rebuild of 2016. For the most part, the players involved all were with the organization well before. In theory, the Yankees could have fielded the major league team they have now without even having rebuilt.

Aaron Judge was drafted in 2013 and has figured to be part of the Yankees' plans for ages. Luis Severino signed in 2011. Gary Sanchez has been populating prospect lists for nearly a decade. The Yankees acquired the core of the team that finished second in baseball in run differential last year long before they ever decided to actually sell assets.

Moreover, the big trades they've executed since re-opening their window of contention could've also happened without a rebuild. Longtime farmhands like Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowlerheadlined the deal for Sonny Gray at last year's trade deadline. The best prospect in the deal that brought Stanton, Jorge Guzman, was acquired in a rebuilding move (the one that sent Brian McCAnn to Houston). However, Guzman's value easily could have been replicated by any number of the Yankees power pitching prospects (Domingo AcevedoDomingo German, the list goes on).

The Yankees haven't even begun to spend the way they are capable of, as they've mostly showed restraint on the free agent market in recent years as the team retooled. Now, there's nothing particularly admirable about the Steinbrenners saving money in the name of rebuilding, but as the Yankees’ payroll becomes less and less cluttered with free agent albatrosses, they become more and more likely to secure another superstar in next season's epic free agent class.

Now, it's certainly not perfect to say that the Yankees' major league roster would definitely be in the shape it is currently in regardless of if they rebuilt. The numerous trades they underwent in 2016 certainly cleared the path for the likes of Judge, Sanchez, and others to make their mark. There’s no way to exactly tell how things would have played out if the Yankees hadn’t sold at the deadline in 2016, or had even acted as buyers that year.

Even so, the fact that the Yankees very possibly could have assembled their current major league team, a team that well may enter 2018 as AL East favorites, without having done their partial tear-down, simply underscores the position of strength they are in. The Yankees reaped genuine benefits from rebuilding, securing elite prospects and clearing payroll room (hopefully) for future free agent escapades. They have essentially not even begun to cash in those benefits, and yet they are World Series contenders.

That the Yankees are already good, have hardly begun to feel the positive effects of their rebuild, and didn't even have to endure an actually painful rebuilding process to get there? That starts to sound a little unfair. The Yankees “bottomed out” at 84 wins, quickly retooled back towards the top of the league, and haven’t promoted the top prospects they gained from selling and haven’t re-entered the free agent waters. That’s a terrifying prospect for the rest of the league, but a mouth-watering one for the rest of us.

2 weeks ago  ::  Jan 04, 2018 - 2:53PM #375
Posts: 23,754

Yankees hope table setters such as Gleyber Torres arrive for 2018

by Cory Claus


The Yankees have moved from a team of, if, to a team of, when. That last question cannot be answered, however, until Judge and Stanton have teammates to drive in.

The Yankees front office has to be ecstatic. Whatever plans they had for 2017 must have been eclipsed, as were the Red Sox as the presumptive favorites in the division.

Now, as every article that is not about Gerrit Cole can tell you, the team dreams of bigger things. And goals such as a division title, a deeper playoff run—even a World Series title—are all realistic, if not exactly written in the stars.

But for those plans to come to fruition, Cashman has to hope a few more prospects get ripe before the 2018 baseball season.

That’s partially true because of the price of Giancarlo Stanton: 2B Starlin Castro. The trade was without question a net gain for the Yankees, but, still, it was a trade-off. Castro was the only Yankee to hit at least .300 last season; next was part-timer Ronald Torreyes (.292).

The Price You Pay
Of course, OBP is the real stat line that delineates table setters. Here, Castro was only seventh (.338). That’s still better than Didi Gregorius (.318) and Torreyes (.314), though.

The bad news is who was above him.

Chase Headley was third on that list (.352); he has been returned to San Diego with a thanks for his service. Jacoby Ellsbury was fifth at .348. But it’ll be a bad day at black rock if Ellsbury gets another 356 at-bats this year.

And at four was forever Yankee Brett Gardner, with an even .350. That tied Brett for 60th in baseball. Plus, his age for the upcoming season—34—suggests a further diminution of his skills.

That still leaves two of the highest on-base guys in the majors on the roster. Giancarlo Stanton came in at number 23 with a .376, while Judge’s .422 made him third. Also, although he did not get enough AB’s to qualify for an official listing, Aaron Hicks ended with a .372.

Hicks, however, is still a maybe player, while Stanton and Judge can best serve the team by hitting home runs. With men on base, preferably. And these are the men that Cash hopes are on base in 2018.

2 weeks ago  ::  Jan 04, 2018 - 2:54PM #376
Posts: 23,754

Sonny Gray should forgo the fastball to limit home runs

If Gray wants to manage his dingers, he should adopt a breaking ball-heavy pitching style.

By Kento Mizuno Jan 4, 2018


Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Fact #1: Sonny Gray is a good pitcher. Since his debut in 2013, he's accrued 12.0 fWAR in 770.1 innings pitched, and his career ERA and FIP are both around one standard deviation above league average. Add in the fact that he's still in his arbitration years, and the Yankees were very, very fortunate to get him for the price that they did.

Fact #2: Sonny Gray has developed a dinger problem. As PSA's own Tyler Norton has noted, Gray, previously known for generating ground balls and limiting home runs, has found that difficult since coming over to Yankee Stadium. In 11 starts and 65.1 innings with the Yankees, Gray has recorded a FIP of 4.87 and a HR/9 of 1.52, both well above his career averages. It's still a small sample size, but given the much more friendly confines of Yankee Stadium III compared to the Oakland Coliseum, Gray's dinger-itis probably can't be chalked up to mere bad luck.

Has Gray tried to adapt to his new home ballpark by changing his pitching style? If he has, it isn't showing in the data. Tyler notes that Gray's heatmaps and release points haven't really changed from his Oakland days. In addition, Gray's pitch mix has generally remained the same over the course of his transition to the Bronx. According to Pitch Info's pitch type classifications, he's reduced his curveball usage while upping his slider usage, but his fastball/breaking ball ratio hasn't really changed. Gray's bread and butter is still his four-seam and his sinker, and the two pitches amassed nearly two-thirds of his total pitches in 2017.

It's hard to fault a guy for sticking to his guns, but this author believes that Gray could benefit from a change in his pitch usage. While his sinker used to kill gophers in past years, it hasn't found the same success in the Bronx, as it allowed an ISO of .187 and a HR/FB rate of 30.6% in 2017. Likewise for his fourseam, which generated a HR/FB rate of 13.6%. What were once Gray's most reliable weapons have become his most homer-prone pitches, which is never a good sign for a pitcher.

Fortunately for Gray, he has other quality offerings to make up for his diminishing fastballs. His slider is his piece de resistance, having been worth 7.9 runs in 2017 and 5.6 runs with the Yankees. Batters managed just a .141/.168/.212 slash line against it in 2017. It's a terrific pitch that misses bats about a fifth of the time, and Gray should probably be using it much more than the 19.6% he recorded in his time with the Yanks. Gray also has a solid curveball which generated a swinging-strike rate of 12.9% in 2017, yet he only threw it 13.0% of the time in the Bronx. All of this seems like inefficient usage of good pitches. The solution seems simple: why not throw less fastballs and throw more sliders/curveballs?

Leading with breaking balls has become the pitching fad of progressive MLB teams in recent years, and the Yankees are no strangers to this strategy, with followers such as Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery. In an age where everyone hits 20 homers, and in a park where cheapies happen on the daily, the most obvious way to limit homers is to limit contact and generate whiffs. Gray's magnificent slider and quality curveball should help him to do just that. All he has to do is throw them a bit more.

2 weeks ago  ::  Jan 04, 2018 - 7:36PM #377
Posts: 23,754

Hot Stove Links: Darvish, Cobb, Machado, Choi

Lefty? (Tom Pennington/Getty)

Pitchers and catchers report in less than six weeks and there are a whole bunch of free agents who have to sign between now and then. Good free agents too. I wonder how many will be stuck looking for work in mid-March? We’ll see. Here’s the latest Yankees-related hot stove news.

Yankees still in on Darvish and Cobb
The Yankees remain interested in Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb, though they are unlikely to get seriously involved unless they can free up more payroll space under the $197M luxury tax threshold, reports Jon Heyman. We first heard about the team’s interest in Darvish and Cobb last month. Aside from Tyler Chatwood and CC Sabathia, every significant free agent starting pitcher remains unsigned at this point, with Spring Training less than six weeks away.

Clearly the Yankees want another starting pitcher, and not just a depth arm. They want an impact guy. Just look at their rumored targets: Darvish, Cobb, Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, Chris Archer, etc. That said, I don’t think they’re all that serious about the free agents — unless they get a sweetheart deal — because of the luxury tax plan. I think Plan A is dipping into the farm system and trading excess prospects for a younger, controllable starter. The Yankees already have five starters, so they can afford to sit back and let the market play out, and see if anything falls into their lap before Spring Training.

Yankees remain interested in Machado
Manny Machado’s name continues popping up in trade rumors, and according to Nick Cafardo, the Yankees remain interested in the Orioles third baseman. They have not yet “discussed names that have moved the needle for Baltimore,” however. The Yankees have a great big opening at third base, an opening Machado would fill more than capably, though the intra-division/Peter Angelos dynamic makes a trade very unlikely.

Maybe I’m wrong, but trading top prospects for one year of Machado doesn’t strike me as something the Yankees would do. Does it improve the 2018 Yankees? Without a doubt. I don’t think the Yankees want to pay twice for him, so to speak. They’d have to trade top prospects to get him, then give him a market rate contract to retain him after the season. I’ve seen the rumors that Machado wants to play in New York, but I think it would be foolish to expect him to take some kind of discount. I don’t see the Yankees trading prospects for Machado now when they could simply sign him in a year, even though that doesn’t help them in 2018.

Yankees made offer to Choi
According to Jee-Ho Yoo, the Yankees are one of several teams to make an offer to free agent first baseman Ji-Man Choi. I assume it was a minor league contract offer. Choi, 26, spent most of last season with Triple-A Scranton, though he did make a six-game cameo with the Yankees, going 4-for-15 (.267) with two homers. He hit .288/.373/.538 (149 wRC+) with 15 homers in 87 games with the RailRiders.

The Yankees are going to need a pretty good Triple-A first baseman this coming season. Greg Bird is locked into the big league job, but he’s had trouble staying healthy the last few years, and backup plan Chase Headley has been traded. Right now Tyler Austin is No. 2 on the first base depth chart and he’s had his own health/production issues in recent years. Mike Ford was taken in the Rule 5 Draft, leaving Ryan McBroom as No. 3 on the depth chart. Expect a Choi-esque signing before Spring Training.

2 weeks ago  ::  Jan 04, 2018 - 7:40PM #378
Posts: 23,754

Brian Cashman ready to go all-in with two-rookie infield

Pitchers and catchers are set to report to Tampa in a little more than six weeks, and the Yankees are still prepared to go with the possibility of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar in the infield, according to general manager Brian Cashman.

“If the market changes, we’re prepared to adjust,” Cashman said. “But right now, we’re still treading water. This is what we’ve got, in addition to other guys like Tyler Wade and [Thairo] Estrada. I’m excited with what we have.”

Torres — coming off Tommy John surgery to his non-throwing elbow last year — spent the offseason at the team’s facility in Tampa, where the club could monitor his rehab, instead of playing winter ball in his native Venezuela. Cashman said the 21-year-old is “ready to go” physically.

“We might be careful with him this spring regardless because of the injury, but we wanted him in Tampa so we would be able to control how much he did,” Cashman said. “Now that he’s fully healthy, we want to see more of what he can do.”

Andujar spent his offseason playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and at least for now, has a chance to be the everyday third baseman in the wake of Chase Headley’s trade to San Diego.

Andujar, who turns 23 in March, struggled in the Dominican, where he hit just .185 in 18 games, but he was also charged with just one error.

“We know the player he is,’’ Cashman said. “We saw him go from Double-A to Triple-A to the big leagues last year. He played third base at Yankee Stadium. He’ll compete. He’s earned the right to bang on the door, and he has a chance to knock it down. If he needs more time, he’ll get it.”

eam president Randy Levine said last week the Yankees were “hopeful” there were more moves to be made before Opening Day. In this glacially paced offseason, Cashman remains engaged.

“Each market has a life of its own,’’ Cashman said. “But I like our team as it stands. That doesn’t mean we’re a finished product or that we’re perfect or that there aren’t teams that are better than us.”

That’s among the reasons the Yankees have engaged in trade talks with the Pirates about Gerrit Cole and Arizona about Patrick Corbin, in addition to upgrades in the infield.

And they’ve checked in with free agent right-hander Yu Darvish, another significant name who remains available despite the relatively late date in the offseason.

With the Yankees still determined to keep their payroll under the $197 million luxury-tax threshold this season, the addition of Darvish would be difficult, as would any of the other big-ticket names still on the market.

For now, they will rely on the rotation they have, as well as players far less experienced than Headley, Todd Frazier and Starlin Castro in the infield.

Asked his level of concern with the possibility of having two untested rookies at such important positions heading into a season with such high expectations, Cashman said: “My job is to be concerned with everyone, whether it’s experienced players like Greg Bird and CC Sabathia staying healthy and playing all year or seeing how younger players adjust to the majors. We’ve know what Andujar is capable of and we know the talent of Torres.”

2 weeks ago  ::  Jan 04, 2018 - 7:41PM #379
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