Sunday, March 2, 2014
If you missed the game, don’t worry. We’ve Gif’d up every single pitch her threw so you can experience his first public outing just like you were there.
Before we begin, let’s quickly summarize the current scouting reports for the Japanese import:
- His primary pitches are a Fastball, Slider, Split-Finger, while he also mixes in a Curveball and Cutter, and is working on a Changeup.
- His Fastball often sits in the low-to-mid 90s, but can rear back and hit 97+ when he needs to. Not a whole bunch of movement.
- The Split-Finger is the special pitch that sets him apart. It’s his bread-and-butter, and he will find success if he’s commanding it effectively. It’s the pitch everyone is dying to see.
- His best breaking pitch is his Slider, with his Curveball acting more as a ‘show me’ pitch. The Slider isn’t the most consistent pitch, but can be devastating when mixed properly with his Splitter and Fastball.
What a neat resource! Tanaka definitely looked good. The splitter he threw to Revere was amazing. It would be like porn if you were turned on by really good pitches.
Tip of the hat to Snuggles, who gave us the head’s up of this awesome article.
CC Sabathia has grown tired of discussing the diminished velocity of his fastball, so the Yankees left-hander shrugged when he was informed that it had topped out at 88 mph in his first start of the spring.
“My fastball is what it is. If it gets better, it will,” Sabathia said. “If it’s not, it won’t. I can pitch. I’m fine. As long as I’m healthy, I’ll be good.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that any chatter about Sabathia’s velocity does not concern him.
“I don’t make much of it,” Girardi said. “That was something people wanted to make a ton about last year, and I’m not going to make much of it. To me, if he’s downhill and locating, I don’t care what his velocity is. He’s going to get people out.”
My issue with these quotes is not that I think that CC throwing 88 right now is a major deal, as I do not. He has plenty of time to add some speed to the fastball. But this notion that it doesn’t matter how fast CC’s fastball is is just not accurate. It is an issue if CC’s fastball tops off at 88 MPH. Is it as significant as CC not locating the fastball? No, I would agree with Girardi that that is a bigger concern, and obviously plenty of pitchers used better locating to make up for their reduced fastballs as they got older and CC could easily be one of those pitchers. But reduced velocity on your fastball not only makes the fastball easier to hit but it also hurts CC’s excellent change-up, since there is less of a difference in speed between the changeup and the fastball. I do not believe that it was a coincidence that last year, with his fastball velocity at the lowest it has ever been (just over 91 MPH), that not only did hitters drive his fastball more than ever before (an ISO of .194 - up from .184 the year before and .144 the year before) but right-handed batters also crushed his change-up (an ISO of .187 after being under .100 for the previous six seasons).
So while I don’t think anyone should be freaking out or anything like that, as we have to see how CC will adjust to his new velocity (not to mention the possibility that he will gain MPH the more he pitches), I also don’t think anyone should be blowing it off as if the velocity of his fastball is not an issue at all.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
When Masahiro Tanaka tried on his Yankees pinstripes earlier this month, he said that there was no particular team or player that he was looking forward to facing. They’d all be new, and so each assignment would be a terrific challenge.
Tanaka is preparing for the first of those tests. The right-hander is scheduled to make his highly anticipated spring debut on Saturday against the Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field (1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV), entering in relief to begin the fifth inning.
“I understand there’s going to be a lot of attention on the results, the numbers of what I do out there,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “But for me, I’m not looking at it at all. I just want to go out there and pitch my style out there and see how it is on the mound.”
I am pumped!
Girardi also hinted as to when Tanaka would pitch in the rotation during the season:
While Girardi has not yet locked in his rotation for the regular season, he revealed on Friday that it is “pretty safe to say” that Tanaka’s first start is lining up for the third or fourth game of the year—either April 3 in Houston or April 4 in Toronto.
I think that that is very smart. Anyone know how that lines up with the Yankees’ first game against Boston?
Thursday, February 27, 2014
These 2014 Yankees have more ground to make up than you might realize. The good news for those of you who root for this team is the team’s decision-makers know it.
“Our team over-performed last year,” general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday, before the Yankees defeated Florida State, 8-3, at Steinbrenner Field. “It’s a credit to everybody involved in that process. But the record didn’t reflect the talent. And so when you take a sledgehammer to the roster like we did this winter and spend the money we did, it’s more reflective of recognizing. Of not being fooled.”
While this should be obvious to any professional baseball general manager, it is still nice to hear Cashman say it outright. I also liked the part in the article where, while praising Joe Girardi’s managing skills, he still says that the Yankees’ record was mostly due to luck:
“I’d say Joe, our coaches, our players worked their tail off and fought every step of the way, and they earned that record,” Cashman said. “But if we repeated last year’s season 100 times, that [85-77 record] would’ve been the low end of probability.”
The run differential, Cashman added, is “more reflective of the talent on the field. When you over-perform, like the Orioles did [in 2012], you realize that’s more of an anomaly. And last year was a market correction.”
Of course, if Cashman realizes that he was starting with a 79-win team and he lost Robinson Cano’s six or so wins, you would have to imagine that he realizes that the Yankees still don’t project extremely well, no? So it is interesting that they seem more or less okay with going into the season with their current infield of Kelly Johnson, Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts and Mark Teixeira (better known as Kelly and the Ready-for-the-60-Day Disabled List Players). Although in another article by the Post they did note that the Yankees will be closely monitoring other teams during Spring Training to see if any interesting infielders become available, sort of like how they got Lyle Overbay to play first base last season.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
An issue we’ve debated for a while in the comments is about whether collisions at home plate are good for baseball or not. Baseball recently announced that they were adding a new rule that would ban many collisions at the plate. Here’s Joe Girardi on the rule change (courtesy of Adam Berry):
“I think the way the rule was originally written, players weren’t sure if they’d be able to adapt quick enough to it, so they made some tweaks to it. I think it’s a pretty good rule. The biggest thing is, if you have a place to slide, you really need to slide,” he said. “We don’t want any of these unnecessary collisions because we want our players on the field, and we don’t want the health issues to come back and haunt players 10, 20, 30 years from now. We just don’t. Some of it’s right away.
“I think it’s a good rule, and I think it’s a really good step in the right direction.”
The new rule seems a bit confusing as to what collisions are still allowed, but in general I think that this is a great step forward.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
The Yankees normally don’t do extension signings in the midst of a players contract, but the Yankees made the exception for Brett Gardner.
According to Jack Curry of YES Network, the Yankees and Gardner agreed to a four-year, $52 Million deal which will start in 2015.
Well, that came out of nowhere.
So Brett Gardner is now locked in for the next five seasons. And at $13 million a year for 2015-2018, the Yankees sure seemed to get a decent value on Gardner, although with Gardner’s injury history, you could certainly understand Gardner’s willingness to lock in the big payday now (plus he might just legitimately want to remain a Yankee long term).
Good job, Cashman!
UPDATE #1: Apparently Gardner pushed hard to get a no-trade clause added to the deal and the Yankees wouldn’t budge, so I think Gardner just really wants to be a Yankee. Sadly for him, this deal is still very tradeable, so I wouldn’t necessarily presume he’s still a Yankee in 2018.
UPDATE #2: Some great quotes courtesy of Wallace Matthews at ESPN from Gardner:
“Free agency is something that, it kind of intrigued me, and it also kind of scared me,” Gardner said. “It’s probably the biggest decision I ever had to make in my life. I put a lot of thought into it, but at the end of the day, it’s a lot of money.
“Where I come from, that money or twice that much money, I’m not going to change the way I live my life.”
In addition, he had some choice words about wanting to remain a Yankee…
“It’s meaningful being able to play for New York, and hopefully one day I can retire and say that I didn’t play for another team,” Gardner said. “I think that would be awesome. There’s definitely a lot more media to deal with on a daily basis, and it seems like a lot more on the line day in and day out, but it’s something that I enjoy and it’s something that I take a lot of pride in. I love putting on these pinstripes every day.”
You’re awesome, too, Gardy!
UPDATE #3: More Gardner quotes. This time courtesy of Mark Feinsand and the New York Daily News:
“It’s something that’s been in the works for a little while. I made it known to them that I wanted to stay here and be a part of this. I learned from guys that come from other places that there’s no better place to play, so I look forward to staying here and helping the team win.”
Awwww…Gardy!!! How can you not love this guy?!
The New York Yankees have agreed to terms with reliever Andrew Bailey on a minor-league deal, according to a source.
Bailey is recovering from shoulder surgery, and as a result, the contract starts on minor-league deal.
The major-league side of the deal is worth $2.5 million and includes a 2015 option and buyout as well as incentives, according to a source. Should Bailey reach the majors, he’ll make a prorated base salary of $1.975 million, plus the incentives, the source said.
I love these types of deals. It tends to only be the big market teams that can afford to pay a guy basically on the chance that he returns to his former level of performance. Bailey has been essentially hot garbage since the Red Sox traded him and he began having shoulder problems and he will likely not be a major contributor for the Yankees in 2014, but for “only” $2 million the Yankees can get the benefit if he somehow does revert to his Oakland form and they also have a 2015 option if he doesn’t turns things around until late in the season. Smart use of the Yankee coffers.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
“Jeter Is Getting Pretty Old, Isn’t He?” under 25 edition: SS
Next up on our list of players not good enough for independent ball Yankee top 25 and under, are SS. Like the other positions so far, there isn’t much in the upper levels who could help the Yankees anytime soon. Unlike 1B (Bird) and 2B (Refsnyder, Katoh), there aren’t any young prospects to get really excited about. However, there are several younger players who have enough going for them that they should still be on our radar, and will certainly be players I’m watching this year.
Carmen Angelini (25): Bats: R Throws: R. 133 wRC+ in 132PA at A+, but only 73 wRC+ in 262 PA at AA.
Angelini was once a toolsy 10th round pick by the Yankees. It was thought he would grow into some power, steal a few bases, and play above average defense. His first few years with the team, the bat never took off (high wRC+ was 73 as a 19 year old in Charleston), but then he was injured and missed all of 2010. He came back in 2011 and started in Tampa…and was injured 9 games into the season and missed all of 2012 as well. Last year a good start in Tampa led to a promotion to Trenton. He didn’t hit there – even for a SS – but that was driven largely by a .265 BABIP. Angelini isn’t much of a prospect, but depending on where Anna plays (both level and position), he may open the season as the starting SS in Scranton, and be only a step away from the big leagues. I’m stretching it for Angelini, but I wanted someone above A ball on this list, and it isn’t out of the question that Angelini improves enough to be an occasional callup.
Snuggles: Angelini was given a really nice bonus for being taken in the 10th round back in 2007. But like Mike pointed out, he’s never lived up to any of his promise. He was drafted as an excellent defensive SS with good offensive potential, initially both looked bad, since he debuted with 42 errors in 131 games his first season, however since then his errors have dropped off significantly. He’s still a solid defender, but he really needs to hit as he moves into the higher levels to have any chance of making the ML. Angelini might have been a decent prospect if he could stay on the field, but in 5 years in the Yankees system he only managed to play 328 games. His age belies his lack of experience, but unfortunately them’s the breaks and Angelini is basically not a prospect anymore.
Cito Culver(21): Bats: R Throws R, wRC+ of 92 in 466 PA of A, 153 in 66 PA of A+.
Culver is of course a player that is often tossed out as an example of how the Yankees’ drafting is broken, their player development is broken, and how he isn’t even a prospect. There is some truth to that, but part of the problem is also expectations, and part is not appreciating how young he is. Culver started 2013 repeating low-A. But he started the year differently, as he gave up switch hitting in Spring Training. For the season, his BB% went down slightly (to 10.3%, still very good), power went up a lot (from .069 isoP to .112), and BABIP from .268 to .312. His wRC+ of 92 certainly isn’t good – especially repeating a level – but for a (supposedly) slick fielding SS, it actually isn’t bad. Also, other than a big dip in May, his numbers got better as the season went on. He reported feeling more comfortable as well. Culver adds some on the basepaths, but not much. He stole 13 bases last year, but in 18 attempts (after going 22 of 33 the previous year). He clearly needs some work on stealing bases. It will probably never be a big part of his game, but if he improves a little will still be an asset.
The big thing w/ Culver is his defense. It’s pretty unanimous that he has an excellent arm, possibly even elite. After that it’s a mixed bag of reports. Some reports I’ve read have him as a smooth fielder with a lot of range, and he just needs some mechanical cleanup to be an elite defender. Others have him as so-so range, a bit clumsy, and needs a lot of work. They still feel he’s major-league SS quality, but more of acceptable than excellent.
Though his success was middling, the Yankees deemed it enough to promote him. He rewarded them by doing very well in A+, though with all the usual SSS caveats. I think he’ll start 2014 at A+. If his late season success was a result of getting comfortable hitting righties from the right side of the plate, I could see him getting a mid-season promotion to AA (as there isn’t much ahead of him), and he’s suddenly on the 2016 radar. If his defense is just average, he’s probably about an average SS w/ a wRC+ of 90. If of course either his defense is closer to elite like some think (+10), and/or he can get that wRC+ up around 100, you’re looking at a 3-4 win player. Can he do these things? Can he justify the Yankees’ investment in him? My best is…sort of. He’ll probably be an above average defender, and I think he’ll probably hit enough to be a starter in his prime, like 1.5-2.5 wins. I think that easily justifies the Yankee investment, but that he’ll still be looked at as a disappointment. I’m certainly anxious to see if he can take the next steps this season.
Snuggles: Culver is a weird topic. Outside of Brackman, he’s the obvious poster-child for poor Yankees drafting in recent years (I think this is quite overblown). However, he is from upstate NY and the colder climates are generally under-scouted and undervalued (Trout went at the end of the 1st round!), so there’s a chance the Yankees saw something in Culver. and given his explosion in Tampa, maybe they were right. I’ve never heard anything bad about Culver’s defense, although he range isn’t anything special, his arm makes up for it. Tool-wise Culver could end up as a good average, good OBP SS with great defense. Obviously, the 3+ years of terrible performance in the 3 lowest leagues indicate this is unlikely, but the possibility is there - I’m not a huge fan, but it’s too early to write him off and ditching switch hitting may have fixed him
John Murphy (23): 6th round of the 2013 draft, Bats: L Throws: R wRC+ of 38 in 137PA at Staten Island.
Murphy is just above an “other”. First full year of pro ball he didn’t walk much, didn’t hit for much power, and didn’t really do anything to make you think he’ll start the year anywhere other than Extended ST. But already 23 (or will be at beginning of April), they may just throw him to the wolves and see what happens. Whether that’s Charleston right off the bat, or after short-season ball starts, I don’t know. Never want to discount first year pro guys too quickly, but it is unlikely Murphy is anything more than a career minor leaguer.
Snuggles: I don’t really have anything to say about John Murphy, he was a cheap college senior sign and isn’t anything more than an org player
Abiatal Avelino (19): Bats: R Throws: R wRC+ 108 in 67 GCL (Yankees 1) PA, 79 in 76 SI Yankees PA.
FanGraphs isn’t reporting his time with the Yankees 2 GCL team, but there he hit for a 1.067 OPS. and stole 17 of 18 bases. Overall stole 28 of 32 bases in 51 games; that’s an 80SB clip over a full season. He was also in Marc Hulet’s “next five” of the Yankees top 10 prospects. Avelino is reported as a solid defender. He takes a walk (10.4%, 11.1%, and 5.3% at three levels) and barely strikes out (10.4, 4.9, and 7.9). Not much power so far - though he had 9XBH in only 81PA in Yankees 2 - but has a little room to grown, and he’s only 19. I imagine ExST and a return to SI – another reason Murphy may go to Charleston to start the year. Not out of the question a very slight improvement on offense (wRC+ north of 90) could get him to Charleston early in the year. Avelino is still a long ways away from the majors, but at only 19 they have time to let him grow.
Snuggles: Avelino is probably the best SS prospect the Yankees have at this point, at least tool-wise. It helps that he had a pretty successful state-side debut. He has the tools to do just about anything well, except for power at this point, but it is believed that he will develop some power as he develops. My new rule is to not get excited about a player until they’ve hit A+, but I’ll definitely be following Avelino closely this year.
Tyler Wade (19): 4th round Bats: L Throws: R. 147 wRC+ in 198PA of GCL. 16.2% BB%. 11 of 12 SB.
Like Murphy, don’t want to discount first year pros. Unlike Murphy, a HS SS taken in the 4th round is someone you can get excited about. At 6-1 (officially), Wade is a guy you can project to grow into some power, but still have the chops to stick at SS. He struck out a bit much for a guy with so little power (21.2% K, .062 ISO). But he’s still very young. Yankees were impressed enough to give him a cup of coffee in SI, which is rare for a first-year HS player. I imagine Wade is another guy who will start the year in ExST. I’d bet he goes back to GCL to start the year, with Avelino in SI and Murphy in Charleston. Mid-season I could see each moving up a level. Wade has some tools, and may be the most well rounded of the current SS prospects. At the same time, none of his tools (other than maybe patience) stands out.
Snuggles: Wade isn’t as potentially exciting as Avelino, but he has one ability in spades - patience. As long as he can continue to hit decently, his ability to take a walk will carry him pretty far. He’ll likely never hit for power, and he’s probably not going to be a .300 guy, but he’ll likely hold his own with the bat and walk enough to allow his very good baserunning to accrue value. Defensively he’s good but not spectacular. He’s the kind of guy who will plug along quietly and perform decently at each level.
Others: Ali Castillo (25), Jose Toussen (24), Jose Rosario (22)
In summary, the upper levels (like 1B and 2B) are barren for SS prospects. However, once you get to the lower levels, you have some nice players, and you can see a clear path where each starts at a level, and could be promoted up by year’s end. None of these guys will knock your socks off, but each has enough going for them where improving on one or two things could vault them from borderline prospect, to a guy you expect to be in the majors. I think we’d be happy if just one of them could do that.
Snuggles: Katoh has been taking reps at SS and reportedly is only missing the arm to man the position. He could definitely strengthen the Yankees depth at SS if he continues to hit and can improve his arm strength enough to move to SS.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Romine was one of four Yankees—Ramon Flores, Antoan Richardson and Adonis Garcia, a non-roster infielder and outfielders, respectively—to “hit” against Tanaka in his first live batting practice session, and his first impression of Tanaka’s stuff could be summed up not in a word, but in a sound.
Watching Tanaka throw a split to Flores as he awaited his turn, Romine let out a “Wooo!” that was clearly audible to reporters standing behind the batting cage.
“I think he threw a split and I had to turn around and ask what the pitch was,” Romine said. “I’ve never seen a ball move like that before. I haven’t had the chance to catch him yet, but from a hitting standpoint, like I said, I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Tanaka seemed surprised by Romine’s assessment. “I don’t recall anyone saying that they’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said. “But some people have told me that it’s a really, really good pitch.”
Well, that’s good to hear at least!