ST Game # 29 -- SS Blue Jays vs Yanks

Jays                                                      Yanks

Travis, DH                                             Gardner, LF

Tulowitzki, SS                                       Ellsbury, CF

Donaldson, 3B                                      Holliday, DH

Bautista, RF                                          Bird, 1B

Morales, 1B                                           Castro, 2B

Pillar, CF                                               Headley, 3B

Saltalamacchia, C                                 Hicks, RF

Ceciliani, LF                                          Romine, C

Goins, 2B                                              Wade, SS

Latos, P                                                 Warren, P

Games is on YES

Gregorius Silver Linings

Let's start with the obvious, everyone loves Didi. The Yanks are a better team with him playing short stop. It's not a far reach to imagine him as an All-Star this year though Perry Port of Mytopsportsbooks.com is only giving him 14/1 odds. Fangraphs has Didi as a 3 win player. Personally, I'll take the over on that projection, but either way, the Yanks will miss him in April, and left handed bats in this lineup are an increasingly valuable commodity.

Having said that, the Yanks have run into another in their organization, too many prospects, and Didi's down time provides the team an opportunity to vet the potential of the system. According to ESPN's Keith Law, the Yanks have six prospects in the Top 100, and mlb.com has four of the Yanks' top prospects as infielders. This system has clear potential, but it also needs to realize that potential beyond AAA.

Since Robbie's departure and Arod's decline, the Yankees have suffered from predictable and average production at second and third base. In 2016, ZiPS projected Castro and Headley at 2.2 and 2.7 wins, respectively. Castro finished 2016 with 1.1 WAR, and Headley wrapped up his campaign at 2.6 wins. Neither player really undermined the team in 2016, but it is equally clear that neither player is demonstrating the type of upside that championship teams possess in the infield.

Gary Sanchez is a perfect example of the types of chances the Yankees, now that they have a farm system capable of bearing fruit, are equipped to take. 2016 ZiPS projected Gary at 1.9 wins in over 440 plate appearances. When given the opportunity, though, Sanchez actually contributed 3.2 WAR in 2016 in nearly half the project plate appearances. As a prospect, ESPN didn't even have Sanchez in the top 50 in 2016, but as a player, Sanchez nearly won the Rookie of the Year with two months of effort. 2016 Gary Sanchez is the perfect example of meaningful upside waiting for this organization within its own farm system.

Projecting prospects is inherently tricky, but existing major league players have years of statistics to characterize and predict their performance, with each additional year increasing the accuracy of the next year's projection. Headley and Castro are solid major league players, but the Yankees also have enough data at this point to know what to expect from them moving forward, and they are also occupying two positions typically expected to contribute offense on championship teams.

Come May, Didi will be back in pinstripes. In the mean time, though, the Yanks can use his absence as an opportunity for young athletes to demonstrate their potential at the big league level. If the Yankees are going to pursue some deep playoff runs in the future, they're going to need at least one player of the Torres-Wade-Monteo-Andujar grouping to mimic Sanchez's ascent and produce above the production the team has at second and third base, and this April would be a great time for this team to take a step towards understanding what their future infield can look like.

ST Game # 28 -- Phillies vs Yanks

Phillies                                                       Yankees

Hernandez, 2B                               Gardner, LF

Kendrick, LF                                   Sanchez, C

Herrera, CF                                      Castro, 2B

Franco, 3B                                       Holliday, DH

Saunders, RF                                   Carter, 1B

Joseph, 1B                                        Headley, 3B

Hanigan, C                                       Hicks, CF

Galvis, SS                                        Judge, RF

Knapp, DH                                      Torreyes, SS

Hellickson, P                                   Sabathia, P

The game is on YES.

 

 

Podcast Episode 80: Gregorius Injury, Jordan Montgomery

EJ, Derek and Andy talk about the Didi Gregorius injury, Jordan Montgomery, and the position battle between Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge.

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ST Game # 27 -- Yanks vs Rays

here may well be more fans at this game than at most games at the Trop!

Yankees                                                                Rays

Ellsbury, CF                                           Beckham, SS

Hicks, LF                                                Kiermaier, CF

Bird, 1B                                                   Longoria, 3B

Carter,. DH                                              Weeks, Jr, 1B

Judge, RF                                               Sousza, Jr., RF

Romine, C                                                Rasmus, DH

Torreyes, 3B                                            Soucre, C

Solano, 2B                                                Franklin, 2B

Kozma, SS                                                Smith, LF

Montgomery, P                                         Pruitt, P

No known (to me) TV coverage.

                  

ST Game # 26 -- Yanks vs Phillies

Yankees                                                                 Phillies

Gardner, LF                                                            Hernandez, 2B

Sanchez, C                                                             Kendrik, LF

Bird, 1B                                                                   Nava, 1B

Castro, 2B                                                               Franco, 3B

Carter, DH                                                               Saunders, RF     

Headley, 3B                                                             Altherr, CF

Wade, SS                                                                  Hanigan, C

Refsnyder, LF                                                           Florimon, SS

McKinney, RF                                                            Velasquez, P

Tanaka, P   

 

Game is on MLBN                                                                                                                  

Following up: What about Jordan Montgomery in the bullpen?

On Monday, I wrote about the possibility of Jordan Montgomery landing a spot on the opening roster. However, I failed to tell the whole story by ignoring his candidacy as a reliever. After all, there are a few uncertain roles up for the taking in the bullpen. While it's pretty clear that Montgomery is doubtful to crack the rotation at the beginning of the season, there is a chance that he breaks camp as a reliever.

If the Yankees only carry four starters to begin the season (as discussed in the precursor to this piece), they'll have an eight man bullpen come the opener against the Rays. Of the 12 pitchers on the staff, only seven spots can be penciled in: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia as starters; Adam Warren in an undetermined role; and Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Tyler Clippard in the bullpen. That leaves five open spots for the taking. There's no shortage of competition for them.

The fallout of the rotation competition will likely yield two relievers for those five available spots. Hypothetically, Luis Severino could be the fourth starter while Bryan Mitchell and Adam Warren join the bullpen. With Warren already accounted for, adding Severino and Mitchell whittle the pool down to three.

Joe Girardi will probably have a situational lefty in his bullpen too. I considered putting Tommy Layne in the guaranteed to make the team group, but I wouldn't say he's a slam dunk. I'm comfortable saying he's more likely than not to be with the team come opening day, so let's say he wins this spot. That brings us down to two openings.

The last two spots come down to roster construction philosophy. In my example, the bullpen already has its late inning relievers (Chapman, Betances, and Clippard), a specialist (Layne), and two swingmen (Warren and Mitchell). The front office could add another lefty and a long reliever or include another middle reliever or two. The last two spots can be quite flexible. 

One of those final two vacancies could go to the fifth starter, who could be used strictly as a long reliever until making a start on the 16th. This could be a role for someone like Severino or Green, who have experience in the bullpen, though I don't love the idea. The fifth starter should get a turn or two in Triple-A before debuting on the 16th under a normal routine. Regardless of my opinion, I don't see how a long relief role fits Montgomery. He should be getting regular work on normal turns in Triple-A (same goes for Severino, Green, and others) if not in the rotation to start the season. Long relief simply doesn't seem like the best use of his ability.

What about a second lefty? Perhaps this is where Montgomery comes in. That being said, is he certain to be an upgrade over Chasen Shreve? Hard to say, but I can't see much upside in using Montgomery in one inning stints (or as a second specialist). First of all, opportunities would be infrequent given the other options for middle and late game relief. Second, he's a starter by trade. He should continue in that role in the minors until a need arises with the Yankees.

One thing is clear: there's no immediate need for Montgomery in the bullpen. He's not going to step into a late inning role as that's already covered. Using him as a second lefty in the ‘pen probably is a waste of time, and there are other pitchers who can cover the swingman/long relief jobs. The best plan is to let him remain built up as a starter and get regular work in Scranton. There's no promise for regular work out of the bullpen to start the season, so Montgomery should spend some more time in the minors. This is no knock on Montgomery, as his performance this spring and last season has opened some eyes. As I wrote Monday, it's only a matter of time until we see him in Yankee Stadium. It's just for the best that it isn't immediately. 

ST Game # 25 -- Boston vs Yanks

Boston                                                                            New York

Hernandez, SS                                                               Ellsbury, CF

Benintendi, LF                                                                Sanchez, C

Travis, 1B                                                                         Castro, 2B

Bradley, Jr, CF                                                                 Holliday, DH

Leon, C                                                                            Carter, 1B

Brentz, RF                                                                        Hicks, LF

Dominquez, 2B                                                                Judge, RF

Bogusevic, DH                                                                  Torreyes, SS

Miller 2B                                                                           Tejada, 3B

Sale, P                                                                               Mitchell, P

 

DD -- will miss Opening Day, maybe the 1st month

 

Replacing the injured Didi Gregorius

Yesterday, news broke that Didi Gregorius left the World Baseball Classic and returned to the Yankees due to a shoulder injury. Tests to determine the time he will be sidelined have yet to provide a verdict, but understandably, there is concern. Gregorius is one of the team’s indispensable players, and for a club that is a borderline playoff contender, losing him for a long period of time would be a blow to the Yankees’ playoff hopes.

In sheer numbers, the Yankees have no shortage of options to replace Didi. The bad news is that no readily available replacements are nearly as good as Gregorius. He's been a three-win player each of the past two seasons, and shortstops of that ilk aren't abundant. Other clubs don't give away shortstops like that, and unless a prospect is near ready for the big leagues, internal options of that quality don't usually exist. The Yankees will have to settle for less, but hopefully not for long. Let's take a look at who could step in during Gregorius’ absence.

Starlin Castro was a shortstop for the Cubs before joining the Yankees, but that doesn't mean plugging him into Didi’s void is ideal. For one, he's hardly played the position since leaving his former ballclub. Furthermore, sliding him over would leave second base open. That means that Castro wouldn't be a complete replacement, as there would still be an infield vacancy if Castro moved over.

Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder are the other 40-man options for the infield, though the latter is not an option for shortstop (meaning Castro would take over). Though Refsnyder’s bat might be serviceable, his defense is so poor that even his ability to play second base is questionable. Torreyes could play either spot up the middle, but his offense lacks any punch.

The non-roster invitees aren't pretty. Whether it's Ruben Tejada, Donovan Solano, or Pete Kozma, the choices are thin. All have some Major League experience, which I suppose is nice, but they're on minor league contracts for a reason at this stage of their careers.

The idea of using prospects to step in is tantalizing, but haphazard. Gleyber Torres has been magnificent this spring, but we must remember that he hasn't reached Double-A yet. Tyler Wade is closer to the big leagues, having topped out at Double-A, but skipping Triple-A is still a daunting task. It's not like Wade is a can't miss prospect in the mold of Torres, either. Jorge Mateo, who is already on the 40-man roster, has already been sent to minor league camp and has yet to reach Double-A anyway.

Externally, it's not like two or three win shortstops grow on trees and the Yankees can just go out and trade for one. A shortstop of that caliber would cost the Yankees a fortune. If the front office does choose to seek a replacement from outside the organization, it won't be anything exciting. Odds are that Brian Cashman would have a hard time finding much available that is better than the internal options.

Any way you slice it, Didi’s shoulder will have a huge effect on the team’s performance this season. If it's significant, something like Greg Bird’s torn labrum from last year, we won't see Didi again until 2018. That means a step down of perhaps three wins on the season's projection, a hit that would be difficult to absorb. Hopefully, this is just a minor injury that costs Didi little regular season time, if any.