Series preview: Four-game set with the Indians starts tonight

[caption id="attachment_77821" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Yanks vs CLE Here’s hoping this series goes better than the last. Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption]

The Yankees current winning ways started in Cleveland last week. New York has won six of its last seven, and hope to keep adding numbers to that ‘W’ column when the Indians start a four-game series at Yankee Stadium today.

Here’s a glance at each game in the series:

Thursday, August 20: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Josh Tomlin

Nova has shown signs of improvement recently, having one real tough outing in his last five. For many of the Indians batters, this is their first look at Nova. The only Cleveland player with any amount of significant at-bats against him is Mike Aviles, and he has only had eight appearances against Nova.

Tomlin is making just his second start of the season. He’s gone through a series of injuries and rehab assignments in the last couple of years.

Matchup to watch:
Ryan Raburn vs. Nova: 3-for-5, 1.200 OPS.
Mark Teixeira (if he can play) vs. Tomlin: 4-for-13 with two home runs.

Friday, August 21: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco

Tanaka’s arm did not fall off this season despite what the doctors at the local papers were telling you. In fact, Tanaka is having a fine season and is coming off his best performance of the year having thrown a complete game and striking out eight against the Blue Jays on August 15.

Carrasco has pitched very well as of late. He has a 1.36 ERA in his last four games with 29 strikeouts in 33 innings. Continue reading Series preview: Four-game set with the Indians starts tonight

Half-Hearted Game Preview: 8/11

Luis Severino pitches today! That will be fun. Carlos Carrasco pitching for the Indians will surely not be fun, though.

Let’s think about this, regarding the Yankees’ offense. A-Rod is hitting .185 in August. Jacoby Ellsbury is under .200 since returning from the Disabled List. I have confidence in this changing, and I have the feeling you do as well – given how consistent Rodriguez was up to this point, and how good Ellsbury was last season, and before the DL.

Plus, Yankees starters are on an absolute tear this past week or so, and Severino pitched well enough his last time out to give you confidence that will continue. The Indians have been very weak at the plate. When it comes down to it, the offense should only need a few runs to put this one away.

Carrasco has actually been better on lefties this season (.222 vs .252 BAA) which might make you fearful, but here’s a split that’s way more lopsided: Carrasco’s BAA jumps from .180 to .304 at home versus on the road. Even though he’s been superb over his last seven starts, he has a weakness at home.

Outside of newly-acquired Chris Johnson, who was 4-for-4 Sunday with two doubles, there’s not too much that’s exciting about the Indians. Michael Brantley is red hot, and Jason Kipnis is Jason Kipnis, but Brandon Moss and Carlos Santana probably aren’t going to burn you.

Bottom line? Severino was tremendous at missing bats in his start last week against Boston, who have struck out the third-fewest times in baseball. Cleveland is three spots worse. If he can prove his ability to do that against these two clubs, his immediate impact could continue to be incredibly useful. Continue reading Half-Hearted Game Preview: 8/11

2015 Minor League Preview

Though there is still snow that hasn’t quite melted away outside my window, like many of you, nothing says spring more to me than the start of baseball season. The Yankees got their first game of 2015 under their belt yesterday, and by the end of the week the Minor Leagues will have begun as well. With that in mind, here is a quick reminder of how the minor league affiliates ended last season, along with some of the prospects to watch.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders:
Last Year: For the second season in a row, the RailRiders ended with a lackluster 68-76 record. Despite this disappointing record, there were some positive signs, not the least of which was their offense. The RailRiders had the best team batting average in the International League and they owned team slash line of .273/.337/.413. Pitching was less successful for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with their numbers putting them squarely in the middle of the pack.

Prospects to Watch: There are a few familiar faces in Scranton this season, including some intriguing prospects who should get a chance in the Bronx at some point. Slade Heathcott, the former first round draft pick for the Yankees whose journey to the majors has been curtailed by various injuries, appears to be healthy and made a lot of noise in the big league club’s Spring Training. Robert Refsnyder has continued his quick ascension through the farm system. There is no doubt he can hit, but he will need to resume his work on defense if he is going to become an everyday second baseman in the majors. Top prospects like Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores will also start the season with the RailRiders. On the mound, Scranton will see familiar hurlers like Chase Whitley, Matt Tracy, Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez.

Trenton Thunder:
Last Year: Much like their Triple-A counterparts, Trenton had a disappointing 2014 campaign, ending 67-75. Unlike Scranton, however, it was Trenton’s pitching that was their strong point, while their offense was mediocre. As a team, the Thunder had a 3.84 ERA and had the second-most Ks in the league with 1093. Their .256/.323/.385 slash line put them right in the middle of the Eastern League, while their 75 stolen bases were the second-least in the EL. Luckily, Trenton is poised to have a very different season, featuring some of the most exciting prospects in the Yankees’ system.

Prospects to Watch: Honestly, there are plenty of players to choose from in Trenton this year. Top catching prospect, Gary Sanchez, will return to Trenton to continue his work. He put together a solid season with Trenton last year, but his defense is still a major concern. Prospects such as Eric Jagielo, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Jacob Lindren and Luis Severino promise to make Trenton a team to watch in the EL this season. Meanwhile, players like Mason Williams, Dante Bichette, Jr. and Cito Culver, who have struggled quite a bit the last few seasons, will also be taking their swings in Trenton. Also returning to the Thunder is Mark Montgomery. He looked like he was going to fly through the minors in his first couple seasons, but he was slowed down by injury.

Tampa Yankees:
Last Year: The Yankees managed to put together a winning season, going 71-68. As their record dictates, the Yankees were fairly unexceptional in 2014, despite some exciting performances by Judge, Bird and Severino. Tampa pitchers managed to combine to throw 1089 Ks, which was the second most in the league, along with holding opposing batters to just 52 homers, the least in the Florida State League. Otherwise, their pitching stats primarily put them in the middle of the pack. On offense, Tampa put together a line of .256/.325/.377 and struck out a league-leading 1154 times. They also weren’t too much of a threat on the bases, swiping just 70 bases for the second-lowest total in the FSL. Power was the key to the Yankees’ offense, as they smashed 87 homers, second only to Clearwater’s 91.

Prospects to Watch: Honestly, so far there aren’t many prospects that have me particularly excited for Tampa this season. Ian Clarkin, the pitcher the Yankees took in the first round of the 2013 draft, had a strong start to 2014 in Charleston and threw a strong five innings for Tampa. He is easily the most intriguing active prospect on the Tampa roster now. Domingo German would have joined him on the mound, but it looks like he will be having Tommy John surgery instead. Rookie Davis, Gabe Encinas and Brady Lail will all be on the mound for Tampa at some point this year, while Miguel Andujar, Angelo Gumbs, Mike Ford and Tyler Wade will be trying to provide the offense.

Charleston RiverDogs:
Last Year: The RiverDogs went 71-69, just barely managing a winning record. They had some impressive performances on both sides of the field. Charleston’s batting statistics were rather average, but there were some good signs. Considering the lack of speed in Tampa last year, Charleston’s 159 stolen bases (good for third in the Sally League) was one of their highlights. They also managed to draw an impressive 511 walks, which was also the third most in the SAL. Pitching, however, seemed to be the RiverDogs’ strength. They had a team ERA of 3.66 and managed to put together eleven shut-outs. Their 1140 Ks were second only to Greensboro, while keeping their walks to a respectable 427. Charleston also didn’t allow too many long balls, as opposing hitters only connected with 65 homers.

Prospects to Watch: This is a pretty young looking crew with a lot of question marks, as usual when you are looking at Low-A ball. The most intriguing player that will see time in Charleston is Jorge Mateo, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic. The young prospect is only 19 and has garnered a lot of attention ever since making his US debut last season. Abiatal Avelino will get his first taste of full season baseball, looking to build on the 53 games he spent in Charleston in 2014. Domingo Acevedo, Tyler Wade and Gosuke Katoh will also be in Charleston this year. Continue reading 2015 Minor League Preview

Previewing The Spring Training Roster Battles

[caption id="attachment_72326" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Miller ST 2015 The new closer? Maybe, maybe not… Courtesy of the AP[/caption]

The dust is still settling from yesterday’s Yoan Moncada decision, and to be perfectly honest I can’t figure out how I feel about it or how I should respond to it.  The Yankees’ entire process leading up to the decision and their explanation after the fact aren’t adding up to me, they have me in a mental pretzel, so I’m just going to back burner that for a second and move forward with normal Spring Training activity.

Roster battles are always one of the more fun ST storylines.  Something about the spirit of competition and the possibility of an unsung player performing well enough to earn himself a shot at the big time, it’s classic sports storytelling.  The Yankees don’t have a ton of really exciting roster battles on tap this spring, but there are a few that are worth following.  Here’s a quick roundup of the key ones to watch. Continue reading Previewing The Spring Training Roster Battles

Minor League Preview: Scranton RailRiders

Entering their second season as the “RailRiders,” Scranton looks to better their performance in 2013 when they went 68-76. With an interesting mix of veteran players and some intriguing prospects, the RailRiders have some strong players on both sides of the field. Of course, the RailRiders have already lost one of their big players for at least the next  as Austin Romine was called up when Mark Teixeira went to the DL. The Scranton outfield will be a lot of fun to watch, as players like Zoilo Almonte, Ramon Flores, Adonis Garcia, Ronnier Mustelier, Antoan Richardson and Slade Heathcott will Continue reading Minor League Preview: Scranton RailRiders

Minor League Preview: Trenton Thunder

trentonThis year’s Trenton Thunder have a lot to live up to after they not only won the Eastern League Championship last year, but swept their way through the playoffs after winning the last nine games of the regular season. While Ramon Flores, Ali Castillo and Ben Gamel put together big offensive performances in the postseason, it was Trenton’s pitching that gave them success during the season, giving up the second least hits in the EL and the third least runs.

If there ever was a group to propel Trenton to a repeat Championship, this may be it.  As Brad mentioned yesterday, the top of the Thunder lineup will be Mason Williams, Rob Refsnyder, Rob Segedin and Gary Sanchez. That is a lineup that should give EL pitchers some nightmares. Sanchez, of course, has been at or near the top of most Yankee prospect lists the last couple years. He ended 2013 in Trenton, after playing most of the year in Tampa. With Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy ahead of him in Scranton, its likely he will spend the year in Trenton. Refsnyder and Segedin will join Sanchez in the infield, playing second base and third base respectively. Refsnyder has moved quickly through the system since signing with the Yankees in 2012. The Yankees started him in Charleston in 2012 and he crushed the ball there for the first thirteen games of the 2013 season before being promoted to Tampa. He hit .293/.413/.413 and stole 23 bases.

Williams is another top prospect, but after ending 2012 early with a torn labrum he seemed to have a down season in 2013, not helped by his DUI arrest. The outfielder spent most of 2012 in Tampa, hitting .261/.327/.350 before playing seventeen games in Trenton. The Yankees sent him to Arizona in the fall, where he picked up AFL Rising Star honors. Ben Gamel will join Williams in the outfield. Like Segedin, Gamel’s not seen as a strong prospect, but both should contribute to Trenton’s offense this season.

Pitching helped Trenton find success last season, but it is hard to know what to expect from them this year. There are a few interesting arms in the Trenton lineup, particularly Bryan Mitchell. He throws hard, but struggles with consistency and control. If Mitchell can start to put it together this year it could be something truly exciting to watch. Matt Tracey, Branden Pinder, Zach Nuding and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte will also be seeing time on the Trenton mound. Continue reading Minor League Preview: Trenton Thunder

Minor League Preview: Tampa Yankees

The Tampa Yankees had an abysmal 2013 season, finishing the first half of the season in the basement of the Florida State League North Division. They had a better second half, but still ended the year with a 58-78 record. While the Yankees were one of the more successful FSL teams in getting on base, they struggled to bring runs home and had very little power in their bats. Yankees pitchers put together the most strikeouts in the league, but they also owned the highest ERA. Their opening day roster boasts a few prospects who could help in those areas, Continue reading Minor League Preview: Tampa Yankees

Minor League Preview: Charleston RiverDogs

After a mediocre season last year, the Charleston RiverDogs will look to rebound with a new and exciting crop of prospects in 2014. Behind strong performances by Greg Bird, Jake Cave and Rafael De Paula, the RiverDogs went 75-63, putting them in third place in the Southern Division of the Sally League and seven and a half games behind the Augusta GreenJackets. This year there will be plenty of new faces in Charleston looking to give RiverDogs fans a lot to cheer about as they work towards the majors, so here are a few to keep an eye on as Continue reading Minor League Preview: Charleston RiverDogs