Checking in on the IIATMS Top 30

With the Yankees season having ended with a whimper, it is officially the time to look to the future – in terms of both the team that will take the field in 2016, and the farm system that will (hopefully) keep it competitive for the rest of the decade (and beyond). And what better place to start than with our pre-season prospect rankings?

30. Hoy Jun Park, SS
Pulaski (Rk) – .239/.351/.383, 5 HR, 12 SB (7 CS), 109 wRC+, 262 PA

Every report about Park has been positively glowing. The 19-year-old South Korean flashed above-average power at times, demonstrated patience at the plate, and played excellent defense at short. His overall numbers may not jump off of the page, but his overall skillset is enticing, and despite his distance from the Majors he may be the closest thing to a pure shortstop in the system.

29. Gosuke Katoh, 2B
Pulaski (Rk) – .287/.426/.416, 5 HR, 9 SB (0 CS), 143 wRC+, 254 PA
Charleston (A) – .161/.264/.202, 1 HR, 8 SB (2 CS), 42 wRC+, 149 PA

Katoh was solid but unspectacular with Charleston in 2014, posting a 96 wRC+ in his full-season debut. Unfortunately, he struggled mightily in his second go at the level before being demoted in late June. He was excellent at Pulaski, though, and he just turned 21 this week, so it isn’t necessarily a reason to fret. 2016 will be a big year for him, for better or worse.

28. Jose Pirela, UT
SWB (AAA) – .325/.390/.433, 3 HR, 5 SB (2 CS), 142 wRC+, 259 PA
Yankees (MLB) – .230/.247/.311, 1 HR, 1 SB (0 CS), 47 wRC+, 78 PA

I’m excluding Pirela’s stats at High-A and Double-A, as they were merely rehab stints and are not indicative of anything. That being said, Pirela has the look of a Quad-A type – he raked at Double-A, raked at Triple-A, but he’s nearly 26 and looked mostly lost with the Yankees this year. It was a small sample size, to be fair, but he’s always been a prospect without a true carrying tool, so performance is everything. His flexibility and minor league success will give him plenty of opportunities going forward.

27. Angel Aguilar, SS
Charleston (A) – .229/.283/.330, 3 HR, 14 SB (3 CS), 75 wRC+, 376 PA

Aguilar made his stateside debut this year, and it was … underwhelming, in all respects. The Venezuelan shortstop raked in short-season ball in 2014, and drew rave reviews for his bat speed and power potential. He struggled with contact (27.1 K%), and failed to show the pop that put him on the map. Moreover, he bounced between second, third, and short, and seems best-suited to play at the keystone. He’s only 20 (age will be a common theme here), though, and despite the big splashes made by rookies this year, there’s still plenty of time for him to develop.

26. Jordan Montgomery, SP
Charleston (A) – 43.2 IP, 36 H, 12 BB, 55 K, 2.68, 2.09 FIP
Tampa (A+) – 90.2 IP, 82 H, 24 BB, 77 K, 3.08 ERA, 2.87 FIP

When Montgomery was drafted last year, he was viewed as a classic command/control lefty, working with a low-90s fastball, a change-up, and a couple of breaking balls. As a product of the SEC, he was expected to dominate the low minors. And he did, by limiting walks, striking out a healthy number of batters, and keeping the ball on the ground (his groundball to flyball ratio was right around 2.3:1). His ultimate ceiling may be that of a 4th starter, but he seems a safe bet to contribute at the MLB-level; think Adam Warren and David Phelps.

25. Alexander Palma, OF
Charleston (A) – .202/.248/.256, 1 HR, 8 SB (4 CS), 43 wRC+, 303 PA

Much of what was said about Aguilar can be said about Palma – stateside debut, disappointment, only 20 (or will be, in 10 days) etc. Palma’s a corner-outfield prospect with plus power potential (despite a scant 9 XBH in 2015), and he’ll likely get a do over at Charleston in 2016.

24. Chasen Shreve, RP
Yankees (MLB) – 58.1 IP, 49 H, 33 BB, 64 K, 3.09 ERA, 4.92 FIP

It was a tale of two seasons for Shreve. Through August 19, he had a 2.05 ERA and 2.75 K/BB, and allowed only 12% of inherited runners to score (which represents 48.1 IP). He was well within Girardi’s Circle of Trust for the vast majority of the season. Over the last six weeks, however, he completely fell apart, to the tune of an 8.10 ERA and more walks (13) than strikeouts (9). He failed to record more than one out in any of his last four appearances, and allowed a staggering 67% of inherited runners to score. Awful is not a strong enough word here. Given the team’s bullpen woes down the stretch, Shreve’s ability to bounce back (and re-earn Girardi’s trust) will bear watching.

22(t). Daniel Camarena, SP

Camarena did not pitch this season … but I couldn’t quite figure out why. His Twitter feed indicates that he had a setback in April, and that’s about it. I went to the source, and ended up speaking to the prospect via DM. He told me that he spent the season rehabbing from arthroscopic surgery. His arm and elbow feel great now, and he’ll be ready in time for Spring Training. He’s a command/control prospect who has taken quite well to pitching full-time (which only happened when he joined the Yankees organization), with a change-up that belies his age and relative inexperience.

22(t). Abiatal Avelino, SS
Charleston (A) – .301/.341/.398, 0 HR, 16 SB (3 CS), 111 wRC+, 90 PA
Tampa (A+) – .252/.309/.321, 4 HR, 38 SB (15 CS), 95 wRC+, 446 PA

Avelino performed quite well at Charleston, and then held his own at Tampa as a 20-year-old. He’s a safe bet to stick at shortstop, making up for average range with solid instincts and a strong arm, and he has a fairly advanced approach at the plate. He doesn’t have much power, as evidenced by his .084 ISO across two levels, but he makes a great deal of contact and sprays the ball all over the field.

21. Austin DeCarr, SP

DeCarr did not pitch this season, and underwent Tommy John Surgery … sometime in the late Spring or early Summer.

20. Leonardo Molina, OF
GCL Yankees (Rk) – .247/.290/.364, 2 HR, 6 SB (5 CS), 96 wRC+, 178 PA

Molina spent half of the 2015 season as a 17-year-old, and the numbers reflect that. He is a reasonable approximation of a five-tool prospect (though he added quite a bit of weight between 2014 and 2015, and the impact of that on his speed/defense remains to be seen), and is several years away from being a factor in the Majors.

19. Mason Williams, OF
Trenton (AA) – .317/.407/.375, 0 HR, 11 SB (6 CS), 131 wRC+, 144 PA
SWB (AAA) – .321/.382/.432, 0 HR, 2 SB (1 CS), 136 wRC+, 91 PA
Yankees (MLB) – .286/.318/.571, 1 HR, 0 SB (0 CS), 139 wRC+, 22 PA

The former top-50 prospect bounced back in a big way this season, after a mediocre 2013 and a horrendous 2014, regaining much of the luster that made folk fawn over him two short years ago. He hit a home run in his Major League debut, and played excellent defense every step of the way. Par the course for the 2015 Yankees, however, he suffered a shoulder injury in his 8th big league game, and had season-ending surgery in August.

18. Jose Ramirez, RP

Ramirez and Ramon Flores were traded to the Seattle Mariners for Dustin Ackley.

17. Ty Hensley, SP

Hensley had Tommy John Surgery in March and missed the entire season.

16. Bryan Mitchell, SP
SWB (AAA) – 75.0 IP, 63 H, 37 BB, 61 K, 3.12 ERA, 3.18 FIP
Yankees (MLB) – 29.2 IP, 37 H, 16 BB, 29 K, 6.37 ERA, 4.75 FIP

Through his first 10 appearances, Mitchell was pitching quite well for the Yankees. He had a 3.86 ERA, 22 K, and only 6 BB in 21 IP, pumping his fastball into the upper-90s at times. Mitchell was even better in relieve over that time, with allowing only 10 H and 4 BB in 15.1, striking out 15 and posting a 2.35 ERA (obligatory small sample size disclaimer). On August 17, however, he was struck in the face with a line drive, and he wasn’t the same when he returned 11 days later. In those last 8.2 IP, he allowed 23 baserunners and 12 ER, never finding his groove. I think it’s fair to chalk much of that up to the injury, as he threw fewer fastballs and was noticeably jittery at times. If he can regain his confidence, I believe that he could be a poor man’s David Robertson out of the bullpen, give his terrific fastball, big breaking ball, and general approach.

15. Ramon Flores, OF

Dealt to the Mariners on July 30.

14. Jacob Lindgren, RP
SWB (AAA) – 22.0 IP, 16 H, 10 BB, 29 K, 1.23 ERA, 1.88 FIP
Yankees (MLB) – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 8 K, 5.14 ERA, 8.13 FIP

Lindgren had surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in late June, and missed the rest of the season. His stuff was flat when he reached the Majors, and his fastball sat in the high-80s, which may be a result of said bone spurs. He struggled to find the plate (a common theme in his professional career thus far), and allowed three home runs in just seven innings. He should be ready for Spring Training next year.

12(t). Jake Cave, OF
Trenton (AA) – .269/.330/.345, 2 HR, 17 SB (3 CS), 97 wRC+, 563 PA
SWB (AAA) – .458/.517/.667, 0 HR, 0 SB (0 CS), 239 wRC+, 29 PA

2015 was more of the same for Cave, with steady offense and strong defense in center-field. His lack on in-game power continues to be an issue, but he did improve his baserunning noticeably this season (based on both his success rate and reports). Without more pop he’s probably a fourth outfielder, but he has some semblance of a Brett Gardner starter kit.

12(t). Miguel Andujar, 3B
Tampa (A+) – .243/.288/.363, 8 HR, 12 SB (1 CS), 98 wRC+, 520 PA

As was the case in 2014, Andujar struggled in the first half (.208/.252/.319, 73 wRC+ through June 30), made adjustments, and excelled in the second half (.291/.338/.422, 132 wRC+). He spent the entire season as a 20-year-old, a couple of years below the average age for the Florida State League, and his body of work thus far has been reflective of his age. If he can put it all together, he seems as good a bet as any player to break out in 2016 as he advances to Double-A.

Check out this excellent MLB.com Prospect Watch from July for more information.

11. Jorge Mateo, SS
Charleston (A) – .268/.338/.378, 2 HR, 71 SB (15 CS), 106 wRC+, 409 PA
Tampa (A+) – .321/.374/.452, 0 HR, 11 SB (2 CS), 152 wRC+, 91 PA

Mateo was the breakout prospect of the Yankees system this season, and was recently ranked as the second-best prospect in the South Atlantic League by Baseball America. He led all of professional baseball in steals this year, putting his legitimate 80-grade speed on display all season long. Mateo isn’t all about speed, though – he has a good approach at the plate, and an above-average hit tool. His power potential is lacking, but he’s not going to have the bat knocked out of his hands, either. Reports of his shortstop play are mixed, due to his occasionally shaky hands, but he has excellent range and a strong arm, and will stay up the middle in some capacity. He’ll be on every top-100 list this Winter.

10. Tyler Austin, OF
Trenton (AA) – .260/.337/.455, 2 HR, 3 SB (2 CS), 128 wRC+, 86 PA
SWB (AAA) – .235/.309/.311, 4 HR, 8 SB (1 CS), 82 wRC+, 299 PA

Austin struggled in his first taste of Triple-A, and was demoted to Double-A in August as a result. With so many opportunities at the Major League level, it is somewhat telling that Austin ended up out-righted off of the 40-man roster this Summer, as he should have been poised to fill the four corner role that he’s been groomed for. He’ll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this off-season, and will also be playing in the Arizona Fall League.

08(t). Domingo German, SP

German had Tommy John Surgery this Spring and missed the entire season.

08(t). Luis Torrens, C

Torrens had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder this Spring, and missed the entire season.

07. Eric Jagielo, 3B
Trenton (AA) – .284/.347/.495, 9 HR, 0 SB (0 CS), 141 wRC+, 248 PA

Prior to having season-ending arthroscopic knee surgery in August, Jagielo was showing the offensive potential that made him a first round pick a couple of years ago. His defense at third base is still a work in progress (at best), but he has the chops to stick there without being a liability. He was originally set to play in the Arizona Fall League, but the team held him out to ensure that he would be fully healthy for the 2016 season.

06. Rob Refsnyder, 2B
SWB (AAA) – .271/.359/.402, 9 HR, 12 SB (2 CS), 123 wRC+, 522 PA
Yankees (MLB) – .302/.348/.512, 2 HR, 2 SB (0 CS), 130 wRC+, 47 PA

It was a frustrating season for Refsnyder, who continued to showcase legitimate offensive potential in Triple-A while the Yankees trotted out a pu pu platter at second base. He raked in his cup of coffee with the team, but his defense was incredibly shaky – and the team has made its desire to have above-average defenders up the middle a priority these last few seasons. His production at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was not jaw-dropping, to be fair, but it’s difficult to see how he fits into the team’s plans when his only real shot came after rosters expanded.

04(t). Ian Clarkin, SP

Clarkin missed the entire season with what was classified as “elbow inflammation,” but he’s slated to pitch in the Arizona Fall League.

04(t). Greg Bird, 1B
Trenton (AA) – .258/.358/.445, 6 HR, 1 SB (1 CS), 133 wRC+, 212 PA
SWB (AAA) – .301/.353/.500, 6 HR, 0 SB (0 CS), 146 wRC+, 150 PA
Yankees (MLB) – .261/.343/.529, 11 HR, 0 SB (0 CS), 137 wRC+, 178 PA

#GREGBIRD was everything the Yankees could have hoped for in 2015, and then some. He blew through Double-A and Triple-A, and did his best Mark Texeira impression in the Majors. In fact, he ranked 5th in wRC+ among first basemen in September, behind only Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto, and Paul Goldschmidt. He’s a fringe-average defender at first and he had platoon issues as LHP made adjustments, but you can’t ask for much more from a 22-year-old that wasn’t expected to contribute this season.

03. Gary Sanchez, C
Trenton (AA) – .262/.319/.476, 12 HR, 6 SB (0 CS), 127 wRC+, 254 PA
SWB (AAA) – .295/.349/.500, 6 HR, 1 SB (2 CS), 145 wRC+, 146 PA

2015 represents the best professional season of Sanchez’s career, as the 22-year-old (yes, he’s still only 22) put together a 134 wRC+ between Double-A and Triple-A. Rumors of his demise were largely unfounded, as his offense has never been subpar – it’s a simple matter of prospect fatigue that has sullied many opinions. His defense will likely never be better than fringe-average, but he’s shown enough that it is clear that he can stick behind the plate. He’s heading to the Arizona Fall League to focus on his defense … and I suspect to showcase his abilities to other teams, given the presence of Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy.

02. Luis Severino, SP
Trenton (AA) – 38.0 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 48 K, 3.32 ERA, 2.37 FIP
SWB (AAA) – 61.1 IP, 40 H, 17 BB, 50 K, 1.91 ERA, 2.50 FIP
Yankees (MLB) – 62.1 IP, 53 H, 22 BB, 56 K, 2.89 ERA, 4.37 FIP

Severino rose from Double-A to the front of the Yankees rotation in a few short months, as one can make the argument that he was the team’s best starter for the last two months of the season. The only real blemish on his Major League resume is a bit of gopheritis, as he struck out batters at a slightly above-average rate, kept the ball on the ground at a well above-average rate, and mostly limited walks. If he is not in the Yankees rotation on Opening Day, something fairly dramatic will have happened.

01. Aaron Judge, OF
Trenton (AA) – .284/.350/.516, 12 HR, 1 SB (0 CS), 147 wRC+, 280 PA
SWB (AAA) – .224/.308/.373, 8 HR, 6 SB (2 CS), 98 wRC+, 260 PA

Judge cemented his status as a top-50 prospect at Double-A, rising in most every mid-season prospect ranking due to his continued excellence with the bat (and surprisingly strong defense in right). And then, for the first time as a professional, he struggled. Judge looked over-matched at times in Triple-A, as better pitchers were able to exploit the holes in his swing (and his immense strike zone). He was never able to adjust, either, posting a 62 wRC+ in the last ten games of the season. It is not surprising to see a 23-year-old power hitter struggle in his first taste of Triple-A, and so there is no reason to be apprehensive – but his ability to adjust in his second trip through Triple-A will be one of the biggest storylines for the Yankees farm system in 2016. Continue reading Checking in on the IIATMS Top 30

Wild Card Game Recap: Astros 3 Yankees 0

[caption id="attachment_78892" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Yankees WC Loss vs HOU Courtesy of the AP[/caption]

Well that was a huge bummer.  The Yankees went out of the postseason as sadly and quietly as they entered it, getting shut out and 3-hit at home in the Wild Card game by Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros.  The bats never showed up, Tanaka’s home run problem was front and center again, and the Astros will advance to play Kansas City in the ALDS while the Yankees will go home and start preparing for next year.

This was the biggest start to date for Masahiro Tanaka and he came out looking pretty good.  His fastball was lively and popping the glove and he threw a lot of good, tight sliders in a 1-2-3 1st inning with 2 strikeouts.  Colby Rasmus came up to lead off the top of the 2nd and hit the first pitch he saw DEEP into right for a solo home run.  It was a fastball meant for the outside corner that ended up about thigh high on the inside corner and Rasmus was all over it.  1-0 Houston.

That homer seemed to rattle Tanaka a bit, and he labored through a busy 2nd.  George Springer doubled to start the 3rd, but Tanaka stranded him with 3 big outs and appeared to be settling back in.  Then Carlos Gomez came up to lead off the top of the 4th and he hit the first pitch he saw out to left center field for a solo home run.  It was a classic cement mixer slider, starter belt high, middle and stayed there.  Terrible pitch, 2-0 Houston.

Those 2 runs were all Houston would get against Tanaka, who was finished after 5, but it was more than enough for their ace Dallas Keuchel.  He put the Yankee hitters in a diaper for the third time this season, twirling 6 shutout innings with 1 walk and 3 strikeouts.  Where Tanaka missed way off the corners and left meatballs out over the plate, Keuchel nicked the corners for called strikes and kept the ball out of the good parts of the hitting zone.  He got some help from home plate umpire Eric Cooper, which was to be expected, but Keuchel didn’t need any help.  He absolutely overwhelmed the Yankee lineup.

The one time he did get into a bit of potential trouble was the 6th, when Didi Gregorius hit a leadoff single and Carlos Beltran singled with 2 outs to bring Alex Rodriguez to the plate for a third time.  Houston manager AJ Hinch came out to talk to Keuchel, who said what his manager needed to hear to stay in the game and rewarded that faith by getting A-Rod to fly out harmlessly to center on a first-pitch cutter.  That was the best and only real good scoring chance the Yankees had all night and it lasted about 75 seconds, including mound visit.

Joe went with his best bullpen arms after pulling Tanaka, which was the only decision to make in what should have been a close 2-run game.  Justin Wilson got all 3 in the 6th and Luis Valbuena to ground out to start the 7th and that was it for him.  Joe went to Dellin Betances for the real heavy lifting and Betances responded by walking Chris Carter on 5 pitches.  The Astros put their bench to work, pinch running Jonathan Villar and having him steal second base to put a runner in scoring position.  With 2 outs, Jose Altuve came up and just put the bat on an 0-1 curveball enough to dink it out into left field and score Villar.  It was a big insurance run and there was nothing Betances’ followup 3-K 8th inning could do to change that.

The bats went weakly in the 8th and 9th.  6 up, 6 down, no balls out of the infield.  At least Jacoby Ellsbury got to pinch hit.  You wouldn’t want to waste that bullet after letting Gardner put up a silver sombrero.  Bah. Continue reading Wild Card Game Recap: Astros 3 Yankees 0

The Wild-Card Game: Tanaka vs. Keuchel

This is it – the most important game of the season. That’s a line that has been utilized over and over again this season (and in most every season), but it is true in the purest sense of the phrase tonight. If the Yankees win, they advance to play the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS. If they lose, their off-season begins, as does planning for 2016.

Do or die. Win or go home. Put up or shut up. Here’s your game thread for this evening. Tonight’s lineups are:

Houston Astros New York Yankees
Jose Altuve, 2B Brett Gardner, CF
George Springer, RF Chris Young, LF
Carlos Correa, SS Carlos Beltran, RF
Colby Rasmus, LF Alex Rodriguez, DH
Evan Gattis, DH Brian McCann, C
Carlos Gomez, CF Chase Headley, 3B
Luis Valbuena, 3B Greg Bird, 1B
Chris Carter, 1B Rob Refsnyder, 2B
Jason Castro, C Didi Gregorius, SS
Dallas Keuchel, SP Masahiro Tanaka, SP

Enjoy the game! Continue reading The Wild-Card Game: Tanaka vs. Keuchel

Breaking down how the Yankees have fared against Dallas Keuchel in 2015

Here’s a look at how the Yankees have done against tonight’s Astros starter, Dallas Keuchel, so far in 2015:

As a team, they batted .161/.175/.179/.354 in two games against Keuchel with a strikeout rate of 36.8% and a walk rate of just 1.8% (Yikes).

Here’s their spray chart:

export (71)

Nine hits – eight singles and one double. The double came off an 87 mph cutter, six of the singles came off fastballs that ranged between 88 – 90 mph and the other two singles were off an 87 mph cutter and an 80 mph changeup.

Here’s their heat map against him:

trumedia_baseball_grid (29)

As you can see, they can get to his stuff when he throws it over the plate because he doesn’t have traditionally overpowering stuff.

And as you will see below, Keuchel thrives on his sinker.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (11)

This chart breaks down each pitch in his arsenal by percentage used. The sinker is far and away, his most reliable and most thrown pitch.

keuchelpitchchart

This chart shows the difference in velocity. As I already said, his fastball isn’t overpowering with averages at just around 90 mph but his sinker also averages around the same velocity. There’s a 10 mph difference between his fourseamer/sinker and his slider/changeup. He also has that cutter but if it floats over the plate, it can be hit.
keuchelvelo

In the two games the Yankees faced Keuchel (6/25 in Houston and 8/25 in New York), this is what Keuchel’s called strike percentage looked like against Yankee lefties:

trumedia_baseball_grid (30)

And what it looked like against righties:

trumedia_baseball_grid (31)

Fun fact: Yankee righthanded batters hit .174 against Keuchel while lefties hit .100.

Overall this is where Keuchel’s pitches go:

plot_profileKeuchel

He likes the bottom corners or shall I say, his sinker likes the bottom corners of the zone.

This is where he pitches lefties:

plot_profilekeuchellefties

And this is where he pitches righties:

plot_profilekeuchelrighties

He likes to bust righties inside and/or low. And he also likes to get them to chase balls low and away.

So what do the Yankee batters (lefty and righty) need to do in order to get to Dallas Keuchel and somehow win tonight’s Wild Card game? You know, short of praying and/or resorting to voodoo? Laying off the sinker which is easier said than done.

Everyone just cross your fingers…

[Information courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info and Brooks Baseball] Continue reading Breaking down how the Yankees have fared against Dallas Keuchel in 2015

IIATMS Podcast Episode 41: CC Sabathia, Wild Card Game & Season End Awards

Good morning!

Domenic, E.J. and yours truly recorded a podcast last night. We originally scheduled it for last night but figured we’d discuss the Wild Card game, the possible roster and other stuff, and then the CC Sabathia news happened and we started off with that instead – and with good reason. We also gave out our season end awards for the Yankees’ Most and Least Valuable Players and went through our candidates for American League and National League M.V.P., Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.

Oh, and we also announced the winner of the $100 Steiner Sports Gift Card that we were giving away on Episode 40.

Enjoy!

Continue reading IIATMS Podcast Episode 41: CC Sabathia, Wild Card Game & Season End Awards

Tuesday Morning Musings On The Day Of The AL Wild Card Game

The Yankees will play their first postseason game since October 18, 2012 tonight, hosting the Houston Astros at The Stadium in the American League Wild Card game.  For an organization with the Yankees’ history that has failed to reach the postseason the previous 2 years, I feel like that should be a bigger deal, but the Yankees have seemingly been written off heading into this game.  They staggered to the finish of the regular season, losing 6 of 7 and needing a Houston loss to secure the home field advantage for this game.  Then they got hit with the weight of yesterday’s announcement by CC Sabathia that he will be entering rehab for alcohol abuse immediately and will not be pitching in the postseason.

It’s not the happy place I remember it being when the Bombers were in the dance, but it is the postseason in Yankeeland and that’s always a good thing in my book.  With the game a little less than 14 hours away as of me writing this sentence, let’s talk about some stuff heading into the game.

– First the CC news.  I was as shocked as anybody when it first broke.  That’s never something you expect to find out on your average sports day, and certainly not at the time that CC announced it.  Good for him for recognizing that it had become such a huge problem in his life and deciding that fixing that problem was more important than playing baseball.

I said it on Twitter yesterday after the story had been out for a few hours, that we as a society still forget from time to time that professional athletes are human beings first and foremost.  They can and often do have the same problems that us “regular” people have.  It sounds like alcohol has been a problem for CC for a while now and there’s nothing wrong with him making the decision he made to fix it.  The timing of it sucks for the Yankees and CC Sabathia the baseball player, but it’s the right thing to do for CC Sabathia the person.  Everybody needs to understand, accept, and respect that.

– Now onto the baseball.  I have no clue what to expect tonight.  I don’t think anybody does and I think that’s pretty typical for this still kinda new 1-game Wild Card format.  The Yankees as a whole have looked bad for a while now.  All of their best and most important hitters are slumping badly, Masahiro Tanaka looked shaky at best in his first start post-hammy strain, and the bullpen is basically a 3-man unit.  Even with the home field advantage, it feels like the Yankees are the underdog tonight.  Who would have thought that would be the case against the Astros in a playoff game in 2015?

Dallas Keuchel has a lot to do with that.  He’s owned the Yankees in his 2 starts against them this season, I mean really owned.  16 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 21 K.  That’s pure, utter dominance, and while I don’t expect him to be that dominant on short rest tonight, I do expect him to be very good and I expect he’s going at least 7 innings.

– Because of that, I hope Joe doesn’t let veteran loyalty decide the lineup card tonight.  Keuchel eats lefties alive and the Yankees have a lot of slumping lefties in their lineup right now.  I’d start Refsnyder at second, JRM behind the plate, and Chris Young in left field.  McCann, Gardner, and Ackley would be my first lefty pinch hitters off the bench once Keuchel was out.

– My full starting lineup would look like this: Ellsbury, Young, A-Rod, Beltran, Greg Bird, Headley, JRM, Refs, Didi.  Make of that what you will. Continue reading Tuesday Morning Musings On The Day Of The AL Wild Card Game

End of the Season Returns on Some Former Yankees

Early returns.
Mid-season returns.

Manny Banuelos, Atlanta Braves
26.1 IP, 30 H, 12 BB, 19 K, 5.13 ERA, 5.37 FIP, -0.2 fWAR

It seems as though an eternity has passed since Banuelos was the Golden Goose to be of the Yankees farm system. Since being ranked as the 29th best prospect by Baseball America heading into the 2012 season, Banuelos missed half a season with a lat strain, had Tommy John Surgery, was dealt to the Braves for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve, made his Major League debut, missed time with elbow soreness, and eventually had his rookie season cut short due to surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow (he will be ready for Spring Training). And yet it is somehow still only 24. He struggled mightily this season, and his fastball sat around 89 MPH across six starts, but he’s young enough and the Braves are bad enough that he should be in the mix to see plenty of action next season.

Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
.287/.334/.446, 82 R, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 2 SB, 116 wRC+, 2.3 fWAR (674 PA)

When we last checked in on Cano, he was slashing .253/.292/.373, with an 86 wRC+, making him one of the worst everyday players in the American League. From that point on, however, he batted .325/.381/.529, good for a 152 wRC+. In short, he was Bizarro Jacoby Ellsbury. While his final numbers remain a far cry from the player the Mariners hoped to be signing, his turnaround does represent a silver lining, at the very least. And, considering the horror show that has been the team’s offense for what seems like forever, perhaps the change in administration will help Cano, as well.

Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates
.295/.370/.401, 56 R, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB, 119 wRC+, 3.9 fWAR (510 PA)

Cervelli had a 119 wRC+ and 3.9 fWAR. Russell Martin posted a 114 wRC+ and 3.5 fWAR. And Brian McCann struggled in the second-half, and finished the year with a 109 wRC+ and 2.9 fWAR. Ain’t life grand?

Curtis Granderson, New York Mets
.259/.364/.457, 98 R, 26 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB, 132 wRC+, 5.1 fWAR (682 PA)

2015 represents Granderson’s best season since 2011 (by both wRC+ and fWAR), and the third best season of his career. And he was a big part of the Mets’ resurgence, hitting .266/.386/.488 (147 wRC+) after the trade deadline. Perhaps some of his turnaround is due to growing more comfortable in a new league and at a new position – his defense improved markedly, by both DRS (0 to 12) and UZR (-8.1 to 5.1).

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
83.2 IP, 103 H, 27 BB, 50 K, 6.88 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 0.1 fWAR

In 2015, 159 starting pitcher threw at least 80 IP. Greene’s 6.88 ERA ranked dead last among those starters, and his FIP ranked 155th – to call it a disastrous season would be an understatement.

David Huff, Los Angeles Dodgers
6.0 IP, 11 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 9.00 ERA, 7.08 FIP, -0.2 fWAR

Huff spent the majority of the season in Triple-A, having last pitched for the Dodgers on June 2. He last pitched on August 30, when he allowed 7 H and 4 ER in 3.2 IP against the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins
155.1 IP, 184 H, 16 BB, 94 K, 4.40 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 1.0 fWAR

Hughes missed about a month late in the Summer, due to back issues that would require at least one epidural (it was said to be the same injury that kept him out of action for a couple of months back in 2011). He backslid significantly in 2015, posting career-worst marks in K/9, HR/9, FIP, HR/FB, and H/9, and was extremely limited after returning from injury. That being said, he did post a 3.27 ERA in September (albeit in 11 IP), and reportedly looked more like the Hughes of 2014.

Shawn Kelley, San Diego Padres
51.1 IP, 41 H, 15 BB, 63 K, 2.45 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 0.9 fWAR

Kelley was excellent this season, but particularly so after his stint on the DL in late April/early May. From May 12 forward, he posted a 1.57 ERA, with 11.2 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. He did spend more time on the DL in September, with a forearm issue, but otherwise this season was nothing less than a revelation for Kelley.

Hiroki Kuroda, Hiroshima Karp
169.2 IP, 158 H, 29 BB, 106 K, 2.55 ERA

By ERA, Kuroda had the second-best season of his career in Japan, at the ripe old age of 40. He became just the sixth pitcher in NPB to win double-digit games at 40 or older, as well. I wonder what he’s doing in 2016…

Brandon McCarthy, Los Angeles Dodgers
23.0 IP, 24 H, 4 BB, 29 K, 5.87 ERA, 6.23 FIP, -0.3 fWAR

It was a lost season for McCarthy – but on the bright side, he did this excellent podcast with Lana Berry.

David Phelps, Miami Marlins
112 IP, 119 H, 33 BB, 77 K, 4.50 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 1.0 fWAR

Phelps was essentially the definitive league-average pitcher in the first half of the season, serving as the nominal ace of the subpar Marlins squad. Unfortunately, he fell off a cliff after the All-Star break, pitching to a 6.94 ERA and allowing a slash-line of .337/.389/.505. His season ended early due to a stress fracture in his right forearm, which may explain his struggles.

Martin Prado, Miami Marlins
.288/.338/.394, 52 R, 9 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB, 100 wRC+, 3.1 fWAR (551 PA)

An excellent September (.352/.417/.489, 145 wRC+) pushed Prado’s final line up to his career norms, allowing him to continue his trend of being Mr. Average. Defensive metrics loved his play at third base this season, as well, with his 11.0 UZR/150 placing fourth among third baseman – ahead of Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, and Nolan Arenado, among others. While those metrics are notoriously volatile, it seems clear that he is still a reliable player.

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox
63.1 IP, 46 H, 13 BB, 86 K, 3.41 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 1.9 fWAR

Despite posting career-bests in BB/9, BB%, K/BB, K-BB%, and BABIP, Robertson posted his worst ERA since 2010. The White Sox spotty defense has garnered some of the blame, but Robertson also allowed a career-worst 0.99 HR/9, as well as the worst FB% and second-worst LOB% of his career. Most of the damage came in September, where he allowed 3 HR and a 7.15 ERA in 11.1 IP. Robertson’s ERA was a tidier 2.60 through the end of August.

Ichiro Suzuki, Miami Marlins
.229/.282/.279, 45 R, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 11 SB, 53 wRC+, -0.7 fWAR (438 PA)
1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K, 9.00 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 0.0 fWAR

Forget the fact that this was Ichiro’s worst season by a comfortable margin. Instead, embrace the fact that he remains one of the most aggressive base-runners in the game, and pray that we get to see him throw a few more wicked sliders. Continue reading End of the Season Returns on Some Former Yankees

Breaking News: CC Sabathia to miss the playoffs, checking into rehab for alcohol abuse

So this is the sort of news no one expected this afternoon.

CC Sabathia released a statement saying that he will be entering alcohol rehab and will be missing the playoffs:

ccstatement2

Our best wishes go out to CC and his family during this time. Continue reading Breaking News: CC Sabathia to miss the playoffs, checking into rehab for alcohol abuse