July 13 Yankee Camp Notes: Aroldis Chapman and the 2020 Season, Aaron Judge’s Neck, & Other News

Happy Monday, everyone. The Yankees are just practicing today – they’re not doing another intrasquad game. That will come tomorrow, and hopefully Aaron Judge will be in it. I haven’t done one of these since Friday (sorry about that), so this one might get a little long. Let’s get right into this one today, as there’s quite a bit to cover.

The Big Story: Aroldis Chapman, COVID-19, and the Season

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(Via Yankees)

I would like for there to be a baseball season. My life is better with baseball in it, and, given the fact you’re reading this blog, my guess is that yours is, too. It’s been cathartic to think about on-field stuff over the last two weeks and I am looking forward to the games counting. However, with that said, this weekend’s Aroldis Chapman news really underscores how challenging and risky this entire exercise really is.

Chapman tested positive for COVID, of course. He is the third Yankee, after DJ LeMahieu and Luis Cessa, to do so – but he is the first to do so after arriving at camp. Chapman has been working out with the team and has presumably been in close contact with his teammates. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Chapman unwittingly spread it to other Yankees (and their families) but it does mean it’s a real possibility. That’s just how it is.

The news came on Saturday, just a few hours after Royals catcher Cam Gallagher also tested positive. Gallagher was asymptomatic and even played in Friday night’s intrasquad game, saying he “felt great” and then he learned that his “most recent test had come back positive.” Like with Chapman, that means the entire Royals team has been exposed.

That news came just a few hours after the Astros cancelled their Saturday workout because a staff member tested positive. Another team, in a third state, all exposed within 24 hours of one another. It is worth remembering that this also includes the players’ families, ballpark workers, taxi drivers, and countless others.

This all brings us to today. Like last weekend, the weekend proved problematic for MLB’s testing infrastructure. The Astros and Cubs, potentially among others, have delayed or cancelled workouts today due to delays in test results. Different teams, in different states, all have different local protocols guiding their workouts. (subs req’d.) It is all going to be tremendously, tremendously challenging.

And, frankly, challenging is the kindest way to put it. It’s only been 13 days since MLB teams have reported to camp and the cracks in the league’s COVID infrastructure is already showing. Once we inject travel, broadcast teams, and other factors in a few weeks, it may only get worse – and more dangerous. I really, really want it to work. I really hope it can work. If it’s going to, though, MLB is going to have to clean this up, and fast.

Leftovers

  • Saturday’s Starters: J.A. Happ and Clarke Schmidt went at it again on Saturday and both of them looked pretty good. Schmidt was a bit more wild than I’d like – 3 walks in 2.2 innings – but both only gave up 1 run. I’m not going to get too tied up in any results these days, at least not until exhibition games, but it’s nice to see both of these guys looking good so far.
  • Mike King and Gerrit Cole: Mike King was yesterday’s other pitcher he is apparently learning from the new ace. This is yet another example of Cole’s impacting extending even beyond the on-field stuff. Check it out:
  • Young Arms on the Bump: A bunch of prospects threw BP today according to the Yanks, including Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Brooks Kriske, and Nick Nelson. Pretty cool. Relatedly, Boone said over the weekend that the Yanks’ secondary training site (in Moosic, PA) will be operational this week.
  • Rosell Herrera is Banged Up: Boone said today that former Spring Training darling Rosell Herrera is dealing with some “heel issues” that have prevented him from going at full speed so far. That’s too bad for him, honestly, as he looked like he had won the job a few months ago. We’ll see what it means for him.

Believe it or not, Opening Day is a week from Thursday. Remember, the Yanks have exhibition games against the Mets on Saturday and Sunday and against the Phillies on Monday. Today’s “off” day will be one of their only remaining such days until October, if all goes well. They’ll take the diamond again tomorrow, with Jordan Montgomery and Chad Green starting that one.

Enjoy your night, everyone.

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The fallout from Chapman’s COVID-19 results

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Aroldis Chapman tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. He’s experiencing “mild” symptoms, though “mild” often is a misnomer when it comes to this illness. In any case, it’s incredibly unlikely that the Yankees’ closer will be ready for Opening Day next Thursday. He’ll need two negative tests within a 24-hour period to return, not to mention getting his arm back to full strength. The Yankees wisely aren’t speculating when Chapman will return, but rather, Aaron Boone has noted that the lefty will be out for the foreseeable future. That means changes are coming to the team’s bullpen.

Earlier this month, I cobbled together a 30-man roster. Obviously, things are going to look different without Chapman (and potentially Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Cessa, and DJ LeMahieu). Whichever way the team decides to go in terms of filling out the roster, it’ll also have to reassign bullpen roles. Boone didn’t waste much time indicating that Zack Britton will take the reign as the team’s closer, which makes sense. The lefty sinkerballer has plenty of closer experience (145 career saves) and is an excellent reliever in his own right. There’s really not much more to it, though I’ll add some rationale to why he makes more sense over other options.

Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and Adam Ottavino are all arguably better relievers than Britton, but that doesn’t necessarily make them better fits as the team’s interim closer. And it’s not just about Britton’s closer experience, either.

PitcherK%BB%
Britton21.613.1
Green31.35.2
Kahnle35.58.1
Ottavino31.114.1
2019 Season

Britton has the lowest strikeout rate of the group by far, though he did fan 28.7 percent of opponents in the second half of 2019. Still, he hasn’t had a full season punchout rate north of 21.6 percent since 2016 when he was with Baltimore. So, what’s my point? I’d rather have Britton start with a clean ninth inning rather than needing to be a potential escape artist in the mid-to-late innings. He walks too many and strikes out too few for that sort of role to work for him.

Obviously, clean innings will be available in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings at times. It’s just that I’d rather not have one of the team’s elite strikeout relievers pigeon-holed into the closer role. It wouldn’t be ideal to, say, not use Kahnle in a strikeout situation in the seventh because he’s needed for the save in ninth.

What about closer by committee? That’s one of those things that works well in theory, but isn’t necessarily easy to implement. Baseball players, particularly relievers, tend to be creatures of habit. Certain pitchers can handle not knowing exactly when they’ll be needed, but many others like to have a better idea of when to be ready. Plus, with such a deep bullpen, are we really that concerned about deploying the best reliever possible in the highest leverage situations? I don’t think so. Boone really can do no wrong with all the options he has at his disposal, so assigning innings to certain pitchers is fine to do.

Ultimately, it’s no surprise that the Yankees will go with Britton for saves while Chapman is down. Not only does he have the most experience in the closer role, but he’s also better off entering without baserunners. It’s not that he can’t work out of trouble — ground balls for double plays are Britton’s best friend, of course — it’s just that the others seem to be better bets to do so in earlier innings. In any case, this is only temporary. Britton may only get three or four save opportunities before Chapman is healthy again.

July 10 Yankees Camp Notes: Bullpen Advantage, Deivi and Montgomery, Thairo Estrada

It is disgusting outside, so it was a good idea for the Yankees to hold off their next intrasquad game until tomorrow. The Yanks will take the field again at 5:15 pm for another intrasquad game. It’s a rematch of the first one, with camp darling Clarke Schmidt taking on J.A. Happ.

The gross weather means it’s a quiet day for news, so I’ll keep this short. However, we did get this video today, which you should watch before we get into the news and notes from today:

The Big Story: Bullpen, Bullpen, Bullpen

Soon!

The bullpen and its usage is really worthy of its own post, so I’m going to keep this brief, but I wanted to bring it up today because I haven’t yet. The Yankee bullpen is extremely good – and they’ve looked extremely good so far. It’s going to be a huge factor in a short sprint of a season, and I think you could argue it already is playing a huge role.

“Pitchers are always going to have an advantage early [on in a season],” Mike Tauchman told reporters yesterday. “One of the advantages to facing our pitching is that they’re just running out All-Star after All-Star, elite arm after elite arm. I think that that’s going to help us adjust pretty quickly when competition starts”

I think that’s a great point from Tauchman, who also noted that pitchers have an easier time reaching game speed and intensity while working out on their own. The Yanks batters will face one of the premier bullpens in baseball day-in and day-out during this camp. Will that help them round into form quicker than it would if they had a trash bullpen? I’m not sure, but it feels like a good point from Tauchman so I’m going to roll with it. Why not?

Anyway, it sure does feel like the Yankee pen is looking about as good as we’d expect it to. Zack Britton agrees:

Seems about right to me. They’ve all looked really good. And while the starters have shown an ability to throw a lot recently, the Yanks are still going to be relying heavily on their pen, especially out of the gate. This is a good sign for the Yanks. I’m curious how they’ll manage workloads and leverage, but it’s going to be fun to watch. The first step is getting these guys consistent reps and up-to-speed, though. The good news is that it seems like they’re already there. Next step: July 23.

Leftovers

  • Deivi García With A Limited Appearance: Everyone’s favorite Yankee prospect Deivi García took the hill last night and he looked good – albeit in limited action. He retired the side 1-2-3 in the first “inning”, getting Mike Tauchman to fly out and Miguel Andújar to ground out to third before retiring Gary Sánchez on strikes (video below). As Aaron Boone said, it was “good” for Deivi to get action in the Bronx, but I’m interested by the length. He only threw 12 pitches. Maybe he’s just being eased into action – or maybe the Yanks are prepping him for the bullpen. His stuff would certainly play there in the short season before returning to the rotation in 2021. I’m good with that, personally. Don’t let the Joba memory scare you.
(Via Brendan Kuty)
  • Jordan Montgomery Goes 4 Innings: Yesterday’s big story, I argued, was the return of Jordan Montgomery to the mound. Gumby looked pretty good out there, lasting 4 innings and throwing 58 pitches. He got 3 strikeouts against 2 walks (62% strike rate). I’ll take it. Montgomery himself said his arm feels about as “the best it has in a long time“, which is the most important thing. He’s healthy, and hopefully that means he’ll be able to contribute like it’s 2017. Here’s some video of him striking out Aaron Judge:
(Via Max Goodman)
  • Summer of Thairo: Another game, another homer for Thairo Estrada, who has two so far. The 24-year-old infielder is a favorite of mine. I hope he can keep it up.
  • Tommy Kahnle’s Changeup Usage: Check out this analysis from Ben Clemens over at FanGraphs on Tommy Kahnle and the innovative way he uses his changeup. It’s worth the read.
  • Notes from Up North: Future nemesis Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is no longer a third baseman. Reports are that he will focus on 1B and DH, with third as a backup option. This move makes sense for a lot of reasons. I think people sleep on the Blue Jays as a potential pain in the ass.
  • COVID Issues: Surprise surprise, it’s becoming clear that the testing infrastructure MLB promised is very difficult to deliver. There was a really embarrassing display from the league not testing folks arriving from the Dominican Republic yesterday on top of just general logistical concerns. I’ve kept it very baseball-heavy lately (this is, after all, a baseball blog) but this is 100% the biggest story out there. This all falls apart if they can’t keep this up.

We’ll keep you posted if anything else interesting happens before tomorrow’s game, but I doubt there will be anything. Enjoy your rainy Friday night, everyone. We’ll see you tomorrow.

Mailbag: Judge and Stanton HR Record, Yankees vs. Dodgers, Stadium Ambiance, Jasson Dominguez, J.A. Happ, Rule 5 Draft

Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees have returned to the Bronx and that means it’s time for the return of our mailbag. Exciting! It’s been a while, but it is good to have baseball to talk about again. I’m sure everyone else feels the same way.

If you have any questions, please send them to our gmail at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We choose our favorites each week and answer them on Friday. Today, we have six good questions. Let’s get right to it.

Iron Mike Asks: In a 60 game series, what statistical records would the this Yankees  roster be most likely to beat, i.e. DJ batting over .400 or most K/9 over a full season for a bullpen?

Yankees at Orioles 4/4/19

This is a good but tough question. We’re going to have to really change our point-of-view for a “dominant season” this year. Just check out this list of 60-game or fewer season “records” to get a sense of that. So, whatever record we’ll see will probably be something “boring” like K% or at-bats per home run. Something where a short, torrid stretch can really make a difference. I’m going to go with AB per HR. Barry Bonds, of course, holds the single-season record with a HR every 6.52 ABs in his record-setting 2001 season. The Yankees have two prime candidates to beat this mark in Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

Let’s start with Giancarlo, who ranks 5th all-time in this category (minimum 3000 PA), hitting a home run once every 13.81 at-bats. The only players better are Jim Thome (13.76), Barry Bonds (12.92), Babe Ruth (11.76), and Mark McGwire (10.61). Wild, right? This makes him a natural fit to break this record.

Not to mention, we’ve already seen Stanton rip off an incredible, Bonds-esque 60-game stretch. It happened in 2017, during his 59 HR season. From June 22 through August 29 of that season, Giancarlo hit .317/.422/.824 (212 wRC+) with an absurd 33 home runs in just 60 games. He had 221 at-bats over that period, meaning he hit one HR every 6.42 at-bats. That’s disgusting, and that mark be the single season record. He’d just eek out ahead of Bonds. Of course, it’s unlikely Stanton will ever be this good again, but he did do it before. It’s at least possible.

The other option, of course, is Judge. He has a HR every 12.9 at-bats in his career (he obviously doesn’t qualify for the list above), which is even better than Stanton. It’s the same as Bonds (!), believe it or not. Also in 2017, Judge hit a HR every 10.4 at-bats, leading the league. An insane stretch from Judge might make a run at this at this record. I’d like to see it!

It’s extremely, extremely unlikely, to be fair. It’s almost certainly not going to happen. But this is the record I think we might see a Yankee break this year. An ideal world has both Judge and Stanton repeating their 2017s, but let’s not get greedy. Just one will do.

Andrew H. Asks: If the most exciting World Series matchup actually happens (Dodgers vs Yankees), who benefits more from the universal DH? Is it the Dodgers who can throw another bat into their loaded lineup or is it the Yankees who don’t need to waste their 9th slot with inexperienced AL pitchers trying to hit?

The correct answer here is both teams. Pitchers hitting is dumb and I will die on this hill. Both the Yankees and the Dodgers benefit from having a real hitter in that slot. Therefore, we win as fans. Everyone’s happy, except for cranks who can’t accept change that first began when [checks notes] Richard Nixon was President of the United States.

It’s tempting to say the Dodgers here – do they need another bat? – but I’m going to say the Yankees. The Dodgers didn’t construct their roster with a DH in mind. The Yankees did. Letting the Yanks go to Chavez Ravine with their normal lineup instead of a handicapped one feels like advantage Yankees, but I’m possibly viewing this through my pinstriped glasses. In any case, though, I don’t think it matters that much. I’d just like to see the Yanks and Dodgers in the World Series. That’d be nice.

Paul Asks: Any idea what the atmosphere is going to be like for games without fans? Organ music, CHARGE calls, etc. Empty seats or some kind of filler (the A’s are letting fans pay to have a cardboard cutout of themselves be in the stands?). It’s going to be weird, but, like, how weird are we talking?

It’s going to be super weird. Dystopian, even. I am excited to watch the Yanks take on other teams and for the games to count again, but I really don’t know what they’re going to feel like. Watching the simulated games, fun as it has been, is extremely weird. It’s the only applicable word. I imagine that those practices are going to be treated differently than real games, at least, but I’m really not sure.

I hope the Yankees don’t do organ music or charge calls, though. That seems to invite a whole new level of dystopia. At the same time, so does playing in a totally empty park, where players would likely hear the announcers calling the games, so who knows? I really don’t know what to expect, but I’m also very ambivalent to the idea of cutout fans in Yankee Stadium. Too weird, even if I get why it’s happening in some places.

For what it’s worth, the Yankees have begun to play music during the scrimmages now, according to Lindsey Adler. That feels like a happy medium. Play some music in the background to fill the Stadium for the players while we still hear the announcers.

James Asks: Do you know how contract incentives will be applied to the shortened season? Doesn’t Happ have an option that vests if he hits a certain number of innings or something? Does that get prorated or is it impossible for him to hit it in 60 games?

J.A. Happ is the big one, as noted here. Under normal circumstances, Happ would need to make 27 starts or throw 165 innings for his 2021 option to vest. That, obviously, is not going to happen in 2020 – but, fortunately for Happ, it doesn’t need to. This is all prorated now: Happ just needs to start 10 games or throw 61.1 innings for his option to vest.

As Derek noted here, this actually feels like a better deal for Happ. He just needs to make one start every six games for the option to vest, which feels very much like it could happen. As with so much else this season, we don’t know how it will play out, but let’s hope that 2020 Happ looks more like 2018 Happ than the 2019 version. (I do think there’s a chance of that happening, believe it or not.)

Bill Asks: Are you surprised Jasson Dominguez, Austin Wells, or any of other valuable prospects who are still far away from the majors didn’t make the satellite team? It seems we have a few guys on the expanded roster who won’t be expected to play for the big club this year, and it’s a shame that the Martian and some other kids won’t be getting hands-on development time. 

I’m not surprised at all. That’s because of some of the technical rules at play that are easy to miss. The big one: removing a player from the 60-man roster has actual consequences. Teams can remove players from the 60-man, but any removed player has to clear waivers. That’s true even for non-40-man players like Jasson. If there are a slew of injuries and/or a COVID outbreak, the Yankees would either have to call up Dominguez (or Wells) or lose them entirely. That’s a level of risk the Yankees just won’t take to get a guy a few extra weeks of development. They want to win the World Series, which means only including impact players on the roster.

So, there are real incentives in place that encourages contender teams to roster only players who can help at the MLB level this season. In other words, the Yankees’ 60-man roster makes a lot of sense. I’m sure Dominguez, Wells, and other lower-level prospects will have some sort of development plan in place. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it exists. We’ll find out more soon, if I had to guess.

Eric Asks: My question is about the Rule 5 Draft, do you think there will be any changes to it with the minor league season being canceled or if it isn’t changed do you expect a greater amount of prospects taken in the draft?

As far as we know, there aren’t any substantive changes to the Rule 5 Draft yet. Each December, teams without a full 40-man roster draft non-40-man players from other organizations in the Rule 5 Draft. Eligible players include anyone who signed while 18 or younger who is not on the 40-man roster within five seasons of signing or any player who signed while 19 or older who is not on the 40-man within four seasons of signing.

There are two things important to know about this year’s draft. The first is that there are no changes yet. It will proceed as it normally does in December. The second is players will accumulate service time in 2020 even though they won’t be playing. That’s good news for players, as anyone who would have been Rule 5 eligible in normal circumstances still will be eligible.

As for how it will impact teams’ strategies, I really have no idea. We’ve already seen owners say that they’re not going to spend a lot in the offseason on free agents, so in theory they should be even more interested in securing marginal advantages at the edges to round out rosters. But, at the same time, that same tendency may mean fewer real prospects are even left unprotected. I see both sides here, and I ultimately have no idea. Time will tell.

The Views From 314ft Podcast Episode 18: Summer Camp

This episode marks the triumphant return of Bobby to the podcast. He joins Randy and Derek to discuss the first few days of Yankees Summer Camp. We get into Gerrit Cole’s intense intrasquad performance, Clarke Schmidt, the importance of Miguel Andújar, and the Yankees overall depth. Despite the very real virus concerns, it is nice to talk about stuff on the field. We also want to send an early congratulations to Matt and his wife Steph on the birth of their new baby.

Despite New York City remaining in Phase 3, we are still recording remotely. We are operating over Skype so we apologize in advance for any sound quality issues. We hope you continue to bear with us as internet connections can always be tricky during recording.

The podcast is now available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher so please subscribe, drop a five-star rating, and spread the word. We hope this gives you some distraction from all the craziness in the world right now. 

Again, we apologize for any sound quality issues. We’re making the most of an inconvenient situation as all of you are. Please don’t forget to subscribe to the pod and spread the word.

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