Snakes in the grass. Diamondbacks to be specific. The Yankees host a two-game interleague series just before the trade deadline.
Their Story Thus Far
At 53-54, the D-backs are one of many teams caught in the middle. They’re too good to sell off a ton of pieces, yet not good enough nor do they have a strong enough farm system to buy. They’re far behind the Dodgers in the division race and are 4.0 games back of the second wild card, and they’d have to leapfrog four teams to reach that WC spot.
They’re middle-of-the-pack offensively with a 97 wRC+, though they make up for some of that on the bases, coming in second to the Rangers’ in Fangraphs’ baserunning metric. Arizona steals at an efficient rate and could take advantage against the Yankees’ slow-to-the-plate relievers, let alone their non-Sanchez throwing arms behind the plate.
The D-backs have a similarly OK pitching staff, placing 12th in ERA at 4.32 (and 10th with 4.27 FIP). As a staff, they’re good at limiting walks and home runs. They have Zack Greinke to head their rotation and no one who stands out as an elite reliever, though they aren’t weighed down by anyone dreadful in big spots.
They’ve been tied to the Yankees in trade rumors, centering around starter Robbie Ray. Peter Gammons also mentioned reliever Archie Bradley.
The D-backs’ pitching has been limited by injuries with starters Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery) and Luke Weaver (UCL sprain, flexor strain) are the key players missing for Arizona.
Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. is out for the season with knee surgery, as is reliever Silvino Bracho (Tommy John). Former Red Sox C/OF Blake Swihart is on a rehab assignment for his oblique injury while reliever Matt Andriese is on the IL with a foot contusion.
Player Spotlight: Ketel Marte
Who leads the National League in hits? Well, it’s first-time All-Star Ketel Marte, who has been a breakout star for the D-backs at age-25. The second baseman/center fielder has both benefitted from the new ball and changed his approach to hit more home runs this season (23) than he had in his career (22) beforehand.
Overall, Marte is hitting .320/.378/.576 with 23 home runs and 25 doubles. Unique for this age of power hitters, he still hits for a lot of contact and strikes out in just 15 percent of appearances. Locked up to a cheap extension before his breakout, he’s under contract through 2024 (including team options) and could anchor Arizona’s core.
As mentioned above, the Arizona star handles both second and center for the D-backs depending on the matchup as he’s learned the outfield this year. His above-average speed has made him a natural with 11 defensive runs saved and a 7.2 UZR already this year.
He hurt the Yankees in the two-game series in Arizona three months ago, taking Masahiro Tanaka deep.
- Jarrod Dyson, CF (.251/.336/.358, 84 wRC+)
- Ketel Marte, 2B ( .320/.378/.576 , 143 wRC+)
- Eduardo Escobar, 3B (.284/.342/.535, 121 wRC+)
- David Peralta, LF (.281/.346/.461, 107 wRC+)
- Adam Jones, RF (.266/.316/.425, 90 wRC+)
- Christian Walker, 1B (.251/.333/.476, 107 wRC+)
- Jake Lamb, DH (.235/.380/.444, 116 wRC+)
- Nick Ahmed, SS (.266/.325/.425, 91 wRC+)
- Carson Kelly, C (.268/.357/.541, 123 wRC+)
Off the bench, Arizona has backup catcher/potential DH this series Alex Avila (107 wRC+), speedy fourth outfielder Tim Locastro (90 wRC+, 9-for-9 SB attempts), OF Yasmany Tomas (0-for-3 this year) and INF Wilmer Flores (86 wRC+).
Tuesday (7:05 PM ET) J.A. Happ (vs. D-Backs) vs. Taylor Clarke (Never faced NYY)
A rookie right-hander, Clarke has struggled when he’s been pressed into duty this season. Over 51.2 IP, he has an ERA of 6.10 and an even-worse FIP of 6.33. He has a below-average strikeout rate and allows 69 percent more home runs than average. He has thrown five or fewer innings in all but three of his 11 starts and hasn’t had homer-less start in his last seven outings.
Clarke attacks with a plethora of pitches, though none of them have gotten him results. He has a 93 mph fastball which he throws about 40 percent of the time while mixing in a slider, changeup, sinker and curveball each at least 10 percent of the time.
Greinke is an ace and the type of pitcher the Yankees would be wise to pursue at the trade deadline, though his large contract makes that unlikely. His 2.87 ERA is ninth in baseball and his 3.15 FIP is 11th. The veteran righty avoids walks like the plague and gets strikeouts when he wants, soft contact otherwise.
Greinke often goes deep into games, as the Yankees already saw when he limited them to one run over 7.2 IP in April. He has thrown at least six innings in each of his last nine outings and his 141 innings overall are tied for fifth in baseball.
Though his fastball tops out in the low-90s, the wizard uses it effectively and plays off of it with a slider, changeup and a slow curveball. Oh, that slow curveball. It’s the closest thing to an eephus that anyone throws these days and it’s a beauty. Therefore, I’m going to subject you to two minutes of Greinke curveballs to prepare you for Wednesday afternoon.
As a final note, he’s also the best fielding pitcher in baseball by my estimation and is the 5-time reigning Gold Glove winner in the NL.
Veteran Greg Holland lost his closer job in recent days after a blown save/loss to the Marlins before allowing four runs in 1/3 inning yesterday. Manager Torey Lovullo indicated that he’ll play matchups at the back-end, which leaves him plenty of options.
Archie Bradley emerged as a top option two years ago, though he’s taken a step back and isn’t always their fireman option this year. Righties Yoan Lopez and Yoshihisa Hirano get some high-leverage work, while Andrew Chafin is of a dying breed among LOOGYs.
Behind them stands Zack Godley, a swingman who lost his rotation spot early in the season. You may remember left-hander T.J. McFarland from his Oriole days. He’ll likely see lower-leverage work after getting five outs Monday.
Locastro, a speedy fourth outfielder, was on the Yankees’ roster two months this offseason. They traded Single-A pitcher Drew Finley to get him from the Dodgers, then traded him for 17-year-old pitcher Ronald Roman.
On the coaching side, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske won the 2009 World Series with the Yankees while bench coach Jerry Narron made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 1979. Manager Torey Lovullo played all of 22 games on the 1991 Yankees.