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Spring Training Notes: 2018
1 year ago  ::  Feb 25, 2018 - 7:41PM #61
MajorYankFan
Posts: 32,868

February 25th Camp Notes


Three games, three wins for the Yankees this spring. They picked up an 8-3 win over the Phillies this afternoon. Danny Espinosa had the big blow with a three-run double against Aaron Nola. Gleyber Torres went 1-for-3 and doubled against Nola. The video is above. Aaron Hicks went 2-for-3 and Kyle Higashioka went 3-for-3 off the bench. Can he stay healthy? That’s always the question with Higgy.



On the mound, Jordan Montgomery started and cruised through two workmanlike innings. Threw a couple good changeups too, the pitch he’s working on. “Just something I’ll keep concentrating on, tossing it every day, and get back to what I used to have in college and the minors,” he said to Bryan Hoch after the game. Justus Sheffield was electric in his first inning — check out his slider — but got rocked in his second inning, including allowing a two-run homer to Maikel Franco. He’ll do that. Here are the box score and video highlights, and here’s the rest of the day’s news from Spring Training:

  • Aaron Boone more or less shot down the idea of signing Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. “(Brian Cashman) is always kicking the tires and always looking for ways to improve the club and monitoring every situation, but as we sit here today it’s my understanding that those guys aren’t really in play for us,” said Boone. [Sweeny Murti]
  • Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia threw live batting practice today while Luis Cessa, Chasen Shreve, and Chad Green threw bullpen sessions. Here’s video of Tanaka pitching to Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Giancarlo StantonHere’s video of Sabathia facing Judge. [Bryan Hoch]
  • The Yankees will play their first night game of the spring tomorrow, at home against the Phillies. The game will not be televised. Sanchez, Brett Gardner, and Sonny Gray are slated to make their spring debuts in that one. Green will start Tuesday and Cessa will start Wednesday. [Hoch]
1 year ago  ::  Feb 25, 2018 - 7:43PM #62
MajorYankFan
Posts: 32,868

How Yankees' Justus Sheffield went from 'special' to sputtering

Image
New York Yankees pitcher Justus Sheffield plays for the East during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. (Mark J. Rebilas | USA Today Sports)

By Brendan Kuty bkuty@njadvancemedia.com,
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Justus Sheffield pounded his glove before he walked off the field. Not long ago, a Yankees manager might have said, "It's not what you want," about the top pitching prospect's first outing of the spring.

Still, Sheffield said, he had his eyes on the regular season and making his big-league debut -- and not on the fact that he didn't last his planned two innings in Sunday's 8-3 win over the Phillies at Spectrum Field before an announced crowd of 7,951.

"I want to show them that I can pitch at this level," Sheffield said. "I know that I can. It's just a matter of me producing and showing these guys."

A three-run blast courtesy of Philliess slugger Maikel Franco ended Sheffield's afternoon with two outs in the fourth inning.

Franco blasted Sheffield's 93-mph fastball that was belt high. It landed well over the wall in left-center field, caroming off the bottom of bullpen's cement wall.

Immediately, Sheffield was taken out of the game. He lasted 1 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs, all earned, a walk, a hit, a hit by pitch and two strikeouts. He was much better in the second inning, when he struck out Tommy Joseph and Dylan Cozeris swinging in consecutive at-bats before notching a ground out to end the frame.

Sheffield, the Yankees' No. 3 overall prospect and No. 41 in the game, according to Baseball America, hopes to crack the big leagues early in the season and the team's emergency sixth starter. The rest of the rotation seems set.

Sheffield could start the season at Double-A Trenton or Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Last year, he went 7-6 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts at Double-A. An oblique injury forced him to miss most of the second half. Then he impressed in the Arizona Fall League, going 2-2 with a 3.10 ERA in five starts.

Manager Aaron Boone mostly liked what he saw.

"It was really important to me that he walks out of there with a lot of positives because, I think, the way I put it, if you had never seen him pitch before and you saw that first inning, he'd open your eyes," Boone said. "It was special. I think he gets going a little bit too fast at times there."

Said Sheffield, "I saw some positives out there (Sunday) but I also saw some things that I need to continue to work on. Just get back at it and get ready for the next outing."

Sheffield, who was in big-league camp last spring too, said he thought he was "rushing" in the second inning.

"Not catching my breath," he said. "Just rushing a little bit and my arm was dragging."

He said he understood when Boone pulled him and that, overall, the outing "felt good."

"It was good to get out there early in the game while these big-league hitters are still out there. Kind of a test to see where I need to be and what I need to keep working on," he said.

1 year ago  ::  Feb 26, 2018 - 1:26AM #63
davis2
Posts: 16,269

Feb 25, 2018 -- 7:43PM, MajorYankFan wrote:


How Yankees' Justus Sheffield went from 'special' to sputtering


New York Yankees pitcher Justus Sheffield plays for the East during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. (Mark J. Rebilas | USA Today Sports)

By Brendan Kuty bkuty@njadvancemedia.com,
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Justus Sheffield pounded his glove before he walked off the field. Not long ago, a Yankees manager might have said, "It's not what you want," about the top pitching prospect's first outing of the spring.

Still, Sheffield said, he had his eyes on the regular season and making his big-league debut -- and not on the fact that he didn't last his planned two innings in Sunday's 8-3 win over the Phillies at Spectrum Field before an announced crowd of 7,951.

"I want to show them that I can pitch at this level," Sheffield said. "I know that I can. It's just a matter of me producing and showing these guys."

A three-run blast courtesy of Philliess slugger Maikel Franco ended Sheffield's afternoon with two outs in the fourth inning.

Franco blasted Sheffield's 93-mph fastball that was belt high. It landed well over the wall in left-center field, caroming off the bottom of bullpen's cement wall.

Immediately, Sheffield was taken out of the game. He lasted 1 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs, all earned, a walk, a hit, a hit by pitch and two strikeouts. He was much better in the second inning, when he struck out Tommy Joseph and Dylan Cozeris swinging in consecutive at-bats before notching a ground out to end the frame.

Sheffield, the Yankees' No. 3 overall prospect and No. 41 in the game, according to Baseball America, hopes to crack the big leagues early in the season and the team's emergency sixth starter. The rest of the rotation seems set.

Sheffield could start the season at Double-A Trenton or Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Last year, he went 7-6 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts at Double-A. An oblique injury forced him to miss most of the second half. Then he impressed in the Arizona Fall League, going 2-2 with a 3.10 ERA in five starts.

Manager Aaron Boone mostly liked what he saw.

"It was really important to me that he walks out of there with a lot of positives because, I think, the way I put it, if you had never seen him pitch before and you saw that first inning, he'd open your eyes," Boone said. "It was special. I think he gets going a little bit too fast at times there."

Said Sheffield, "I saw some positives out there (Sunday) but I also saw some things that I need to continue to work on. Just get back at it and get ready for the next outing."

Sheffield, who was in big-league camp last spring too, said he thought he was "rushing" in the second inning.

"Not catching my breath," he said. "Just rushing a little bit and my arm was dragging."

He said he understood when Boone pulled him and that, overall, the outing "felt good."

"It was good to get out there early in the game while these big-league hitters are still out there. Kind of a test to see where I need to be and what I need to keep working on," he said.



This serves as a lesson for Sheffield. He still has work to do. He's progressing, but Franco is a big league hitter, and they crush mistakes.

1 year ago  ::  Feb 26, 2018 - 10:38AM #64
MajorYankFan
Posts: 32,868

New York Daily News | Mike Mazzeo: It’s no secret that the Yankees had been searching for starting pitching help this offseason, but they seem to feel good enough with what they have that they want to get help at their price only. Aaron Boone came out and said that the team isn’t really “in play” for Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn, two of the top remaining free agent starters. If the Yankees need help, they can turn to Justus Sheffield, who has big league stuff but still needs to work on his command, as he showed in yesterday’s outing.


New York Post | Ken Davidoff: If the Yankees do find themselves needing some outside pitching help during the season, don’t expect them to flex their financial muscle. Instead of using dollars to get help, they’ll probably look to get more help at the trade deadline in July. They have a plethora of prospects and a deep farm system that they could use for trades if they need to, similar to how they got Sonny Gray last year.


ESPN | Cole Harvey: A-Rod is back(ish)! The Yankees announced yesterday that they brought Alex Rodriguez back as a special adviser to the team along with Reggie Jackson, Hideki Matsui, and Nick Swisher, who will serve in that role for the first time. Swisher and Jackson are already down with the team in Tampa, while Rodriguez will join the team at some point.


New York Post | George A. King III: Newly acquired Brandon Drury narrowly avoided a scare in his first game as a Yankee on Saturday. He made his Yankee debut with a solid one-out single and then two innings later got hit in his left hand by a Clay Holmes fastball. Fortunately, nothing was broken and Drury says he’s 100 percent.

1 year ago  ::  Feb 26, 2018 - 10:42AM #65
MajorYankFan
Posts: 32,868

Why leaner Yankees' Gary Sanchez will be better defender, catching coach says


Gary Sanchez hit 33 home runs last year. He was an All-Star. He was in the Home Run Derby. A case could be made that he was the team's MVP runner-up to Aaron Judge.


Still, then-manager Joe Girardi benched Sanchez two games midseason, disappointed in the catcher's strides in blocking balls. Sanchez tied for the league-lead in passed balls in 2017.


So, the 25-year-old made it a priority in the offseason to shed bulk, improve his flexibility and add ball blocking to his defensive strengths that include one of the best throwing arms of a catcher in the game.


Sanchez is set to make his spring training debut against the Philliesat George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday night.


NJ Advance Media spoke with catching coach Jason Brown about Sanchez's defensive work recently. 


Q: Have you liked what you've seen so far out of Sanchez this spring?


Brown: Yeah. Work's been great. Of course, he hasn't started playing games yet, which is ultimately the test. But his work and what he's been doing up until this point has been tremendous.


Q: A lot was made about his ball blocking last year. Joe Girardi even sat him because of it. Have you noticed improvement? Or is it too early to see it?


Brown: Yeah. He's working on it. That was something that he did in the offseason, before he got into spring training and since he's been here he's been working on that.


Q: Did you two work together in the offseason?


Brown: No, we communicated, mostly through text. But I didn't get to the (Dominican Republic) to do any work with him this offseason.


Q: He's come in looking leaner, much lighter than he was last spring training. How do you think that can help him?


Brown: Obviously, being in shape, being lighter is going to help him move around better behind the plate, doing what he needs to do as a catcher back there. It's kind of self-explanatory, but the lower half, the flexibility, his stability, his mobility -- I would say that, as a catcher, is where it shows up the most. Your legs are under you and you have this solid base, a solid foundation that's going to help everything else -- receiving, blocking, throwing. Everything we do as a catcher starts from that, starts from our foundation. 


Q: Is he athletic enough to truly improve and make strides in blocking balls?


Brown: The arm is what really jumps out at you. But there's of course other things you do as a catcher, including the receiving, which you do more than anything else in the game behind the plate. He's been working and focused on improving back there as far as the receiving goes, the blocking, yes. He's athletic. He can do it. The ones that get talked about or the ones that have gotten the most attention in the past are the balls that have gotten by him. But if you go back, it's not something he can't do, it's something he just needs to do more consistently as far as getting down and squaring balls up. One thing to keep in mind with this is the staff of pitchers he's catching. Guys out there on the mound are getting the ball to you in a hurry and it's doing different stuff. Hard to hit, hard to catch. (Masahiro) Tanaka with the split. Sonny (Gray) with the power changeup. Those aren't the only two, but those are two examples of guys that throw it in the dirt with some velocity. So that reaction time of getting down and being in position, yeah, the degree of difficulty goes up.

1 year ago  ::  Feb 26, 2018 - 8:38PM #66
MajorYankFan
Posts: 32,868

The Year The Best Hitting Catcher In Baseball Becomes The Best Catcher In Baseball [2018 Season Preview]


(Presswire)

A year ago at this time, the Yankees were preparing to find out whether the Baby Bombers would develop into a championship caliber core. That question was answered emphatically last season, as the Yankees made it to within one game of the World Series thanks largely to their young players, almost all of whom exceeded expectations.


Gary Sanchez is an OG Baby Bomber at this point, and last year he showed his 2016 breakout was no fluke. No, he didn’t maintain that home run pace, but Sanchez still hit .278/.345/.531 (130 wRC+) with 33 homers in 525 plate appearances. He led all catchers in homers, wRC+, and both versions of WAR despite missing about a month with a biceps issue. Gary is a star, plain and simple.


This season the Yankees will again count on Sanchez to not only drive their offense, but also take control behind the plate and lead the pitching staff. The Yankees had a pretty darn good pitching staff last season — they were top ten in basically every meaningful pitching statistic — and when a catcher doesn’t hit, he gets credit for working with pitchers. When they hit like Gary, the work with pitchers gets overlooked.


Last season the relationship between Sanchez and Joe Girardi seemed strained at times — Sanchez, for what it’s worth, denied a riff with Girardi and said all the tough love made him a better catcher — and this year he’ll have a fresh start with Aaron Boone and the rest of the new coaching staff. Is that a good thing? The Yankees obviously think so given the fact they made the managerial change. Let’s look ahead to Gary’s season.


The best third wheel in baseball?


As good as Sanchez is — and he is great — he figures to be no better than the third best player on the Yankees this season. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are just that damn good. And if Sanchez is the team’s best or second best player, I hope it’s because he has a monster season and not because Judge or Stanton get hurt or decline.


Anyway, I was curious to see where the Yankees and Sanchez fit in the world of the best third best players in baseball, if that makes sense. Do any teams have a better third best player than Gary? Some projections can help point us in the direction of an answer. Here are the five best players who are third on their team in various projection categories.

ZIPS WOBAZIPS WARSTEAMER WRC+STEAMER WAR
1. Springer, HOU (.362) Springer, HOU (+4.4) Altuve, HOU (129) Altuve, HOU (+4.4)
2. Seager, LAD (.359) Bellinger, LAD (+4.1) Seager, LAD (125) Turner, WAS (+4.1)
3. Murphy, WAS (.355) Sanchez, NYY (+3.3) Ramirez, CLE (123) Sanchez, NYY (+3.8)
4. Alonso, CLE (.355) Bogaerts, BOS (+3.3) Sanchez, NYY (122) Cozart, LAA (+3.2)
5. Sanchez, NYY (.350) Turner, WAS (+3.1) Murphy, WAS (121) Belt, SF (+3.1)

Sanchez is the only player to appear in the top five in all four categories, though I wouldn’t think much of that. It’s not George Springer’s fault ZiPS projects him behind Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve while Steamer has Altuve behind Correa and Springer. Focus more on the teams. The Astros, Nationals, and the Yankees are the only teams to appear in all four lists. It just so happens the same player represents the Yankees.


This reflects well on both Sanchez and the Yankees. The Yankees are deep — by Steamer WAR, New York’s third best player projects better than the best player of eleven other teams — and Sanchez is really freaking good, projecting as well above-average offensively and better than +3 WAR. (I think ZiPS is low on Gary. I think he’s closer to +4 WAR than +3 WAR.)


I truly believe Sanchez has the potential to be even better at the plate going forward. It is not uncommon for catchers to bloom later in their careers given all the defensive responsibilities, and Sanchez has great power and a good plan at the plate. A little more patience — his 33.7% chase rate on pitches out of the zone last year was higher than the 29.9% league average, but not outrageously so — will get him to another level. This is a just turned 25-year-old, kid remember.


Sanchez is great as he is. We saw it last season when he was arguably the most productive catcher in baseball despite missing a month. I still believe the best is yet to come. Catching is hard, those bumps and bruises add up during the season, but the talent is there. Last season was the just to start for Gary.


Does less weight equal fewer passed balls?


At the end of last season the Yankees told Sanchez to drop some weight with the belief it will help his defense. Depending who you believe, Gary either did or did not lose 20 pounds over the winter. He says he’s the same weight. Everyone with eyes has says he’s noticeably slimmer. I suppose both could be true? Sanchez is the same weight but leaner? Whatever.


Gary’s weight is a secondary issue. The bigger issue is his defense, specifically blocking pitches in the dirt. He’s a great thrower and rates as a good pitch-framer. But you know about the passed balls. Sanchez could hit 50 home runs this season and all we’d hear about are the handful of times he let a pitch get away. In the court of public opinion, Sanchez is a terrible defender and it’s tough to shake that reputation. In reality, he’s pretty good.


“Last year he got bigger and I think it affected his athleticism,” said Brian Cashman to John Harper. “That’s something we’ve tried to attack and address. He didn’t gain fat, he gained muscle. Gaining muscle is important, but he’s a big catcher, so maintaining flexibility is important for him … He’s a worker. He cares, he wants to be great. You’ve just got to set up the program and tell him to go.”


(Presswire)

I am skeptical Sanchez losing weight will improve his blocking. That doesn’t mean I think his blocking won’t improve. I just think there’s a lot more to it than losing weight. Players lose weight all the damn time and it often means nothing. Sanchez works hard and I think any improvement will likely come from improved technique and awareness. Losing weight and regaining athleticism won’t hurt. There’s more that goes into this though.


“Obviously, being in shape, being lighter is going to help him move around better behind the plate, doing what he needs to do as a catcher back there,” said catching coach Jason Brown to Brendan Kuty. “It’s kind of self-explanatory, but the lower half, the flexibility, his stability, his mobility — I would say that, as a catcher, is where it shows up the most. Your legs are under you and you have this solid base, a solid foundation that’s going to help everything else — receiving, blocking, throwing. Everything we do as a catcher starts from that, starts from our foundation.”


Personally, I’ll survive if Sanchez leads the league in passed balls again as long as he continues putting up great offensive numbers. Would it be nice if Gary cut his passed balls total from 16 to, say, ten? Sure. But that’s one fewer passed ball a month. Not a huge difference. As long as Sanchez works at it, which he does constantly, it’s enough for me. Focus on all the great things Gary does rather than obsessing over the one thing he doesn’t do well.


More rest may be in the cards in 2018


Later tonight Sanchez will make his Grapefruit League debut, in the Yankees’ fourth game of the spring. Boone said they’re taking it easy on Gary at the moment because he’s been in camp a while and has already done a ton of catching, and they don’t want to overload him early. The season is long. Sitting out games in February and March in an effort to be fresher in September and October is a no-brainer.


Last season Sanchez started 99 of 137 eligible games at catcher — he missed 25 games with the biceps injury — which is a healthy pace. It’s 117 starts per 162 games. From the sound of things this spring, the plan may be to scale back on Sanchez’s catching workload and get him more DH games in 2018. The Yankees might turn him into a 100-110 game catcher rather than a 120-game catcher. That’s the impression I’ve gotten from various press conferences.


On one hand, more DH games could help keep Sanchez healthy and productive deeper into the season. They’re planning to play deep into October, remember. On the other hand, the Yankees are planning to rotate players through the DH spot, and every game Sanchez spends at DH means one of Judge, Stanton, and Brett Gardner isn’t in the lineup. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, those guys could use rest too, but the less Gary catches, the more it gums up the rest of the lineup.


“Catcher in Major League Baseball, it’s a demanding position,” said Boone during his start of spring press conference. “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 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.”


* * *


If he were on pretty much any other projected contender, we’d be talking about Sanchez as a potential MVP candidate going into the 2018 season. Catchers who hit like him are exceedingly rare. But because Stanton and Judge are on the roster — that is the reigning NL MVP and the reigning AL MVP runner-up — Gary is getting overlooked. Make no mistake though, he’s a great player and an important part of the Yankees.


In fact, I’d argue Sanchez is the most indispensable Yankee. The drop off from Sanchez to his replacement (Austin Romine) is larger than any other position on the Yankees. If Judge or Stanton gets hurt, the Yankees plug the serviceable Jacoby Ellsbury into the lineup or call-up Clint Frazier. If Didi Gregorius gets hurt, there’s Ronald Torreyes and Gleyber Torres and Tyler Wade. Going from Greg Bird to Tyler Austin isn’t as devastating as going from Sanchez to Romine.


The history of the Yankees is littered with great catchers, from Bill Dickey to Yogi Berra to Elston Howard to Thurman Munson to Jorge Posada. Sanchez is next in line. With all due respect to the great Buster Posey, Gary has a chance to establish himself as the unquestioned best catcher in baseball this season. Yes, he needs to improve his blocking. But even if he doesn’t, Sanchez is still great, and this season he might only be the third best player on his own team.


“Gary rakes, that’s what I think,” said Boone to Dan Martin and George King. “He gets into that box and I do think he gets overlooked. I can’t wait to see what he is going to do again this year. We are going to work really hard in aiding him and hopefully allow him to continue to get better on both sides of the ball.”


1 year ago  ::  Feb 26, 2018 - 8:39PM #67
MajorYankFan
Posts: 32,868

February 26th Camp Notes


The Yankees are playing their first night game of the Grapefruit League season tonight, but alas, it will not be televised. You’re going to have to follow on Gameday instead. Brett Gardner, Gary Sanchez, and Sonny Gray are all making their first spring appearances tonight. Here’s all the other news from Tampa:


  • Aaron Judge will make his spring debut on Wednesday, Aaron Boone said. That game will be televised. The Yankees are easing Judge into things following shoulder surgery. [Sweeny Murti]
  • Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was in camp for the first time today. He took batting practice — he was in a hitting group with Sanchez, Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Greg Bird — and also fielded ground balls at second. Here’s video of BP and his infield work. [Coley Harvey]
  • “There is a chance” the Yankees will use a spot sixth starter as early as April to give the regular five starters extra rest, said Boone. The Yankees will play 18 games in 18 days starting April 19th, only 19 games into the season, so they’ll probably use that spot sixth starter early. [George King]
  • Aroldis Chapman, Luis Severino, Tommy Kahnle, and Jonathan Loaisiga threw simulated games, which means they’re at least a few days away from pitching in games. Dellin Betances and Adam Warren threw bullpen sessions. [Brendan Kuty]
  • Clint Frazier suffered a concussion crashing into the outfield wall to make a catch Saturday. “I would say it will be a few days, but I’m also pretty optimistic,” said Boone. [Bryan Hoch]
  • Albert Abreu has resumed throwing following his emergency appendectomy. “I think he is progressing exactly as we hoped,” said Boone. [King]
1 year ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:33AM #68
MajorYankFan
Posts: 32,868

Brandon Drury and the Fly Ball Revolution



(Presswire)

A record number of home runs were hit last season, and you needn’t be a hardcore fan to know what launch angle is these days. Players talk about it, broadcasters talk about it, and dumb bloggists like me talk about it. More home runs are being hit now than ever before, partly because hitters are increasing their launch angle. They’re trying to get the ball in the air and, by and large, it’s working.


Last week the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade, and in his first days with the team, he talked about wanting to improve his launch angle. Drury hit a solid .275/.323/.453 (97 wRC+) with 29 homers in 979 plate appearances the last two seasons. He also slugged 68 (!) doubles. Drury wants to turn some of those doubles into homers going forward.


“I would always really swing steep and downhill. I’d hit a single up the middle or a double in the right-center gap, which was great, but that’s not what I want,” said Drury to Ronald Blum. “The homers, you can’t force them. But I feel like naturally they’re going to come more since I’ve put so much work into getting the ball in the air more. If I could take — easy to say — 10-15 of those doubles and turn them into homers, power numbers are going to be decent.”


Drury said he worked with hitting guru Robert Van Scoyoc during the offseason, the same instructor who helped turn J.D. Martinez into a top power hitter and Chris Taylor into one of the game’s breakout stars. (Martinez referred Drury to Van Scoyoc when the two were teammates in Arizona last year.) Brian Cashman spoke about Drury’s untapped power potential last week, and Marc Carig spoke to scouts who feel the same way.


Simply put, launch angle is the angle the ball leaves the bat relative to the ground. The ideal launch angle is somewhere in the 10° to 30° range, though exit velocity is important too. The last two seasons Drury had an 8.2° average launch angle, below the 10.9° league average and well south of the ideal range. Drury’s launch angle the last two years was similar to Brett Gardner’s (7.7°) and Billy Hamilton’s (7.9°), two speed guys.


As a result of the lack of launch angle, Drury had a 49.5% ground ball rate the last two seasons, 20th highest in baseball among the 155 hitters with at least 900 plate appearances. Again, that’s similar to speed guys like Eduardo Nunez (51.4%) and Denard Span (49.1%). That Drury managed 68 doubles, 29 homers, and a .178 ISO the last two years despite that ground ball rate is pretty impressive. I mean:



Not many players with a better than league average ISO once you get above a 48% ground ball rate or so. Drury is one of the few. In fact, among the 19 players with a higher ground ball rate than Drury the last two seasons, the only one with a higher ISO is Ryan Braun. Braun managed a .227 ISO despite a 52.9% ground ball rate. Point is, players who hit as many grounders as Drury usually don’t show even league average power.


Hitting the ball in the air is much easier said than done, of course. Drury listed two reasons to believe he’ll be able to do it. One, he adjusted his swing path. I mean, duh. That’s why he went to Van Scoyoc. “It’s a simple move I’m making that’s getting the ball in the air more. Actually, my (swing) path is more level up through it than down,” explained Drury to Brendan Kuty. He added a bit of an uppercut, basically. Here’s more from Billy Witz:



The changes have resulted in Drury’s getting the bat head into the hitting zone early and carrying it through longer so that he has greater margin for error, and also changing the plane of his swing, so it has an upward tilt, which he hopes will result in more fly balls that carry over the fence.



And two, Drury has a better understanding of how to attack certain pitches, specifically in hitter’s counts. He explained that when he got count leverage, such as a 2-0 count or 3-1 count, he’d load up and take a bigger than usual hack. Some players can get away with that — Raul Ibanez sold out for power in those counts more than anyone I can remember — but it didn’t work for Drury.


“I’ll take a line drive up the middle all day. But when I’m getting a 3-1 fastball or looking for a certain pitch, I don’t want that to be what I’m settling for. I want to drive the ball and be able to hit some home runs,” said Drury to Witz. “I didn’t understand how to hit certain pitches that I was trying to get. I was just trying to get big with my swing, and that doesn’t work. It’s got to be your natural swing.”


For all intents and purposes, Drury’s ability to make hard contact is league average. Over the last two seasons his 32.3% hard contact rate, 88.4 mph average exit velocity, and 93.2 mph average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives are a tick better than the MLB averages (31.6%, 87.2 mph, 92.2 mph). League average is okay! There’s nothing sexy about it, but it’s not like Dee Gordon is trying to turn himself into a power hitter here. Drury has some thump.


Combining that league average hard contact ability with an increase in fly balls will inevitably lead to more homers. Yankee Stadium is more homer friendly than Chase Field, at least according to the park factors at FanGraphs, and going from intra-division road games at Petco Park, AT&T Park, and Dodger Stadium to Fenway Park, Camden Yards, and Rogers Centre will be quite the change.


Drury is moving into a more homer friendly environment, so he has that going for him. Ultimately, it’s up to him to use that adjusted swing to hit more fly balls in games. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. If it does work, great! If it doesn’t work, hopefully he doesn’t become a pop-up machine, because pop-ups are easy outs. Drury is young and he has some natural pop. That he knows he needs more fly balls is the first step in becoming a better player. Actually hitting those fly balls is the hard part.


“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything like I’m capable of the last couple of years,” said Drury to Kuty. “Both (years) have been kind of a grind. The numbers are okay, I would say. But I don’t think those past two seasons are half of the player I am. I truly don’t believe it. But I’ve got to go out and do it.”


1 year ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:36AM #69
MajorYankFan
Posts: 32,868

Yankees' Chance Adams' struggles, but Gary Sanchez has 'no doubt' righty will live up to billing

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Yankees right-hander Chance Adams walked two batters, allowed a hit and gave up a run in his only inning of work Monday night against the Phillies. (Elsa | Getty Images)


TAMPA -- Darn near every pitch that Yankees right-hander Chance Adams threw in his one inning of work missed the target Monday night.

Long before Miguel Andujar made the Yankees 4-3 winners by hitting a walk-off homer in the ninth inning, Adams was unhappy with his fastball erratic and bummed about his changeup, which remains a work in progress.

He felt good about his slider and curve, but most were off the plate and the Phillies were laying off them while using two walks and a hit to score a third-inning run in a rally that ended with catcher Gary Sanchez picking off a runner at second base.

"It was everything," Adams said while summing up his command issues, which sabotaged his 2018 spring-training debut.

It was everything, but a silver lining here was Sanchez boasting about the organization's No. 1 or No. 2 pitching prospect, the order depending on whether you have 21-year-old left-hander Justus Sheffield first or second.

In his first game of the year, Sanchez was behind the plate catching Adams, and he noticed a lot of promise amid the command problems.

"He's a great talent," Sanchez said of Adams. "He's a good pitcher. I'm sure at some point he's going to help us. I don't know when. It's a matter of commanding pitches and stuff like that. But he's a great talent and there's no doubt in my mind that at some point he'll help us."

Adams, 23, is coming off two sensational seasons in a row. The 2015 fifth-round draft pick was 13-1 with a 2.33 ERA pitching for high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2016, then just as good going 15-5 with a 2.33 ERA last season while making six starts for Trenton and then 21 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

This season, Adams is probably ticketed to start out back in Scranton, but he'll have a chance to pitch his way to the bigs for the first time.

Who knows? Perhaps a great spring combined with an injury to a starter or struggles by second-year left-hander Jordan Montgomery could lead to him pulling off a big upset by winning a rotation spot.

Adams and all of the Yankees prospects surely are aware of what happened last spring when Montgomery came out of nowhere to steal a rotation spot in spring training and then keep it pretty much all year long.

"What Jordan did last year was excellent," Adams said. "He came out and did his thing and won a spot. For me, I'm just trying to go out there and prove that I can be here. Tonight wasn't a very good example of that, but I'm going to work on it throughout the week and try to improve for my next outing."

The Yankees are eager to see Adams get back out on the mound and be himself.

"He struggled a little bit on the command," manager Aaron Boone said. "He was maybe a little quick with his pace also. But he did some good things as well. First time out, it's a turn-the-page one, and I'm glad he got that out of his belt. Look forward to his next time around."

So does Sanchez.

"His breaking pitches were very good, but they weren't swinging," the catcher said. "Maybe next time, we'll try to be more aggressive with the fastball. I think that'll be the plan."

1 year ago  ::  Feb 27, 2018 - 10:39AM #70
MajorYankFan
Posts: 32,868

Aaron Judge injury update: Yankees slugger won’t be fully healthy until Opening Day


Yankees star Aaron Judge will see his first action of the spring Wednesday, but won’t be at 100 percent until the games truly matter.


Judge told ESPN.com on Monday his surgically repaired left shoulder is a “work in progress until Opening Day.” He's taken part in practice and live BP sessions, but sat out the team's first four games of spring training.


Judge said the pain in his shoulder began in July, but refused to blame his dip in production after the All-Star break on the injury. He underwent arthroscopic surgery earlier this offseason.


The reigning AL Rookie of the Year and newly acquired Giancarlo Stanton will likely split time at DH and a corner outfield spot once the season begins.

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