Author: Derek Page 2 of 49

Catching up with where the Yankees left off in March

Baseball is coming back, but the stands will remain like this. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Playing baseball seems pretty reckless right now, but things will move full steam ahead starting this week. The Yankees already announced their initial player pool yesterday, which I broke down here. Most of those players will report to “summer camp” by Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. The rest, i.e. the taxi squad, will head to another location.

Since it’s been a long time since spring training was cut short, now’s a good time to refresh our memories of where the Yankees stand today. But first, let’s run down some of the new rules for this season:

  • Universal designated-hitter
  • 30-man roster for first two weeks of season, followed by 28 players for the next two weeks, and lastly 26 players the rest of the way
  • August 31st trade deadline
  • Postseason eligibility: player must be added to Major League roster by September 15th
  • Teams can have three players on their taxi-squad for road games, one of three must be a catcher
  • Extra-innings will begin with a runner on second base (batter who made final our in previous inning or a pinch runner)
  • 10-day injured list for pitchers and hitters
  • 60-day injured list is now 45-days
  • Separate injured list for players who test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19 with no minimum or maximum days for list

With that out of the way, here’s how the Yankees shape up at the moment.

Aaron Judge could be ready for Opening Day

The saga continues, three months later. Newsday’s Erik Boland reported on the right fielder’s status over the weekend, and while its good news that Judge is hitting off a tee, it’s not as much progress as one might have hoped since March.

As a reminder, Judge suffered a rib stress fracture and collapsed lung late last season, though nobody found out until this spring. His lung is healthy, but his rib is another story. We learned that Judge was set to have a CT scan to check his progress in mid-May, and perhaps another one not long after. However, we’ve been in the dark ever since.

Boland quotes one club insider who said that Judge “didn’t seem to be holding anything back”. That’s good and all, but tee work is still a long ways away from game action. Hopefully, the three week tune up is enough time for him to ramp up from the tee to game-ready. The Yankees really need as much of Judge as possible in this shortened season, so hopefully we get better news when the players report to camp this week. For now though, “could” doesn’t leave me particularly optimistic.

Stanton, Hicks, and Paxton are healthy

In better injury news: Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and James Paxton are healthy.

Stanton, who lost nearly all of 2019 to a myriad of injuries, suffered a calf strain back in February. It’s not new news that Stanton’s ready, though. Manager Aaron Boone said so back in March, as Bobby reminded us in a post a few weeks ago.

Last week, Hicks told the New York Post he’s ready to play. So that’s that. I think we all anticipated this, particularly after seeing how long it took Didi Gregorius to rehab offseason Tommy John surgery last season.

Finally, Paxton’s surgically repaired herniated disc is a non-issue at this point. This is old news, but positive nonetheless. Having a healthy Paxton piggy back Gerrit Cole during the 60 game sprint will be key, especially if the southpaw is as good as he was down the stretch last summer. Remember, the Yankees were undefeated in his final eleven starts of 2019 when he posted a 2.51 ERA. Not only would a repeat performance obviously propel the Yankees, but it would help Paxton land a big contract this winter when he hits free agency.

Domingo Germán’s suspension

The shortened season has guaranteed that the Yankees won’t have Domingo Germán in 2020. The 27 year-old right hander was suspended at the end of 2019 after MLB’s investigated a domestic violence altercation between Germán and his girlfriend.

Entering this year, there were 63 games remaining on his suspension which would have put him on track for a return in June under normal circumstances. Instead, the remainder of his suspension will keep him on the sidelines for all of the regular season and three postseason games should the Yankees make it. I can’t imagine the Yankees bringing him back for the postseason, though.

About JA Happ’s Vesting Option

I doubt that the Yankees want to bring JA Happ back in 2021. Over a full 162 game season, it wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the Yankees to prevent his $17 million option from vesting. Was he really going to make 27 starts or throw 165 innings over a full season this year? Probably not. But now, under the terms of the March agreement, things get trickier for the Yankees. Take a look:

Each player signed to a major league contract at the start of the season shall have his salary determined by multiplying his full-season salary by the number of games scheduled (not adjusting for weather-related postponements or cancellations) divided by 162, minus any advanced salary. In the event of an additional interruption or delay, the salary shall be determined by multiplying his full-season salary by the games played by the player’s club divided by 162. Thresholds and amounts for bonuses, escalators and vesting options would be reduced by using the same formula.

In a 60 game schedule, Happ needs to make 10 starts or throw at least 61 1/3 innings to return to the Yankees in 2021. I wouldn’t fret about the innings threshold. However, limiting Happ to just nine starts during that span won’t be so simple. It’ll take an injury or a demotion to the bullpen to fall short. I guess we can’t rule out contraction of COVID-19 either, sadly. What a world we live in.

What if the pandemic interrupts or ends the 60 game season prematurely? Happ’s thresholds would be recalculated based on the amount of games the Yankees play. Since Happ will only need to make one start every six games, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where the season ends after just 10 games and Happ’s already made two starts, thereby guaranteeing his 2021 option.

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Yankees announce player pool

Today’s 4pm 60-man roster submission deadline has come and gone. Above is the group the Yankees will play with this season, though things can change depending on trades (they can only trade from this group, by the way) and injuries. Additionally the Yankees made a couple of roster moves today.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a breakdown between who will be at Yankee Stadium for “summer camp” vs. who’ll be at the satellite camp.

Previous non-roster invitees absent

A number of players who were in camp in March are not listed. This includes Chad Bettis, who announced his retirement a few days ago. So, no surprise there.

The remainder of those who are absent are all position players. Two catchers in Kellin Deglan and Wysnton Sawyer, power-hitting Chris Gittens, and outfielders Trey Amburgey and Thomas Milone. It’s not clear why these players were left off, though it’s also possible that they will be added later as the Yankees still have two open spots.

From a catching standpoint, my guess would be that Deglan and Sawyer simply were the odd men out with six already chosen. If you squint, maybe Sawyer is a suprise snub given his connection to Tanner Swanson. But of course, he may have no wanted to play given the global pandemic and all.

Gittens, last year’s Eastern League MVP, has big power but the Yankees are already pretty set at first base and designated hitter. I’m very mildly surprised Amburgey isn’t around considering he hit a respectable .274/.329/.494 (106 wRC+) in Triple-A lat year. Milone doesn’t have much experience at higher minor league levels so his absence is understandable.

New names to the mix

You probably have heard of Matt Duffy but not Max McDowell.

Duffy, who was with the Rangers in the spring, has had an up-and-down big league career but solid lifetime numbers. He’s hit .282/.338/.380 (101 wRC+) and recorded 7.6 fWAR. Most of that production came with the Giants in 2015 (4.4 fWAR), but he also had a strong 2018 with Tampa Bay (2.5 fWAR). He’s had a hard time staying healthy, though he does provide some sorely needed infield depth. He’s mainly a third baseman, but has experience at every position on the infield dirt.

McDowell is a 26 year-old catcher who’s spent his career in the Brewers’ organization. He was their 13th rounder back in 2015. The backstop has reached as high as Double-A, but hasn’t hit much in the minors. Presumably he’s a solid defender because the Yankees seem to favor that behind the plate. Mainly though, he serves as emergency depth.

Other notes

  • Miguel Andújar, listed as an infielder/outfielder, obviously is going to continue getting reps in the outfield. I was curious to see how the Yankees would handle this after the long layoff. I’m sure Miggy was working on the new position even with the league on hold, but I can’t imagine it was quite the same not under the organization’s eye entirely.
  • Didn’t take long for the Yankees to re-issue Didi Gregorius’s number. Newcomer Duffy has taken it. This really isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things, but that the Yankees didn’t issue it back in the spring seemed semi-noteworthy.
  • Nobody pivotal players opted out of playing for the Yankees this year. I can only imagine what the reaction would have been like had Gerrit Cole decided to stay home with his pregnant wife in order to protect her from the virus.

Yankees Draft Profile: Trevor Hauver

@NYYPlayerDev

After taking a college hitter with the organization’s first round pick, the Yankees did the same with its next selection. With no second round pick (thanks, Gerrit Cole!), the Yankees waited a long time to choose again after Austin Wells. Finally, in the third round, the Yankees drafted Arizona State outfielder Trevor Hauver with the 99th overall pick. Hauver was actually announced a second baseman, but we’ll get more into that in a bit. Let’s dive in to Hauver, who thankfully isn’t Trevor Bauer.

Background

Hauver, a 21 year-old junior draftee, swings from the left side and throws from the right. This isn’t his first draft rodeo: the Royals took him in the 37th round back in 2017 following a strong high school career at Perry in Gilbert, Arizona. Perfect Game pegged Hauver as the state’s top shortstop, fourth-best prospect in Arizona, and 169th nationally. Rather than sign, Hauver chose to remain close to home and headed to Arizona State.

It took some time for Hauver to adjust to the collegiate ranks. As a freshman, he hit just .227/.344/.293 in 90 plate appearances. Perhaps some of his struggles can be linked to his positional switch, as he moved off of shortstop to play the outfield.

His freshman slump didn’t carry over to his sophomore season. Hauver spent most of the season in the leadoff spot and recorded an impressive .339/.433/.574 triple-slash along with 13 dingers in 289 plate appearances. Then, in his brief junior year, the left-handed hitter socked 5 homers in 83 trips to the dish while hitting .339/.494/.695.

Even though Hauver had a very good finish to his Arizona State career, he wasn’t close to being the Sun Devils’ best professional prospect. Spencer Torkelson (1st overall) and Alika Williams (37th) were off the board before Hauver’s name was called. Even Gage Workman, taken three picks after Hauver, probably is a better prospect depending on the publication of your choice. That said, for what it’s worth, Hauver was a better performer than Williams and Workman. Torkelson, of course, was on another level.

What the scouts say

From a big board perspective, Hauver could be considered a reach for pick number 99. Fangraphs, MLB Pipeline, and Baseball America ranked Hauver the 107th, 130th, and 201st best prospect in the 2020 draft. Those sites ranked the Yankees’ fourth rounder, Beck Way, higher than Hauver. Of course, the draft isn’t always about picking the best available given the bonus pool rules.

Hauver has some similarities to the Yankees’ first rounder, Wells. Now, the bat isn’t up to par with Wells, but Hauver is a bat-first prospect with defensive uncertainty. Moving off the infield as a freshman is already strike one. Strike two: Baseball America calls Hauver “an average defender or a tick below, with not enough range for center field or enough arm for right field”. If the infield is his end game, MLB Pipeline indicates that second base is the most likely landing spot. Hence the Yankees’ announcement of his position.

Fortunately, things look better for Hauver in the batters’ box. Scouts laud Hauver’s approach and barrel control. Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline project him to have average game power or better, while Fangraphs adds that his swing has a lot of lift. That sort of offensive profile works well at second base, but would make him fringy in left field. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees want to give Hauver every opportunity to stick in the infield dirt. Damon Opponheimer elaborates:

“The idea is if he can play in the middle of the field and we can get that to be something that’s a doable thing, then you add his bat to the middle of the field,” Oppenheimer said. “It can make him even that more valuable. He’s got a desire to move back to the infield.”

On top of the keystone, the Yankees will give Hauver some reps at third base. Considering Baseball America’s note about his arm strength, it’s hard to envision him at the hot corner. Either way, second base seems to align best with Hauver’s defensive capabilities and offensive potential. The good news is that he still has plenty of time to fend off the third strike defensively.

Will he sign?

There’s little incentive for Hauver to return for a senior season, so I’d expect him to go pro. The 99th pick’s slot value is $587,400, but an underslot deal seems plausible considering his draft stock.

My take

There’s a Nick Solak and Josh Smith vibe to this Hauver pick. Both Solak (2016) and Smith (2019) are recent collegiate bat-first middle infielders that the Yankees took in an early round (both Solak and Smith were second rounders). Solak, now with the Rangers, has hit well in his brief big league career while Smith raked in his professional debut with Staten Island last summer.

The Yankees seemingly have done well with this type of selection in recent years. That said, it’s somewhat concerning that Hauver is a tweener. He played just one game in the infield at Arizona State over three years, so the Yankees have some work to do to get him comfortable on the dirt again. And really, he’ll have to stick at second base for his bat to be playable.

Players and League may or may not be near deal for 2020 season

Just a couple of days after Rob Manfred showed his duplicity, it looks like we will have Major League Baseball in 2020 after all.

More details to come on the amount of games to be played, but it’s evident that the players will get what they’ve been owed since the initial March agreement: full prorated pay. Meanwhile, the owners get the benefit of expanded playoff revenue.

Of course, the big mystery is how baseball will be played amidst a global pandemic. Frankly, there probably shouldn’t be any baseball or any sports this summer! Alas, an attempt will be made.

Again, more to come.


Update, 2:47pm: Here’s some cold water for ya:


Update, 3:02pm: The MLBPA has weighed in.


Update, 3:11pm: Here are the details of MLB’s offer:

Quick take: that’s not that great of an offer. There are 22 off days in a typical 162 game season. 10 in 70 days, while a nice reprieve for players in theory, leaves money on the table. And as Baseball Prospectus’s Craig Goldstein tweets, it’s essentially offering three more games worth of pay compared to the previous offer.


Update, 3:48pm: The commissioner has weighed in.

Yankees Draft Profile: Austin Wells

Before this year, the Yankees hadn’t taken a collegiate bat in the first round since 2015. Austin Wells, this year’s first rounder and 28th overall selection, broke the mold. The last college hitter was Kyle Holder, the 30th selection back in 2015. Of course, Holder was and still is a glove-first prospect. Wells is the polar opposite.

MLB’s draft is always volatile, but it’s especially so after the first handful of picks. So unsurprisingly, Wells comes with warts. The big one: his defense behind the plate. Sure, Wells can really hit and his offensive profile could work elsewhere. For now though, he’s a catcher and the Yankees should exhaust that possibility until it’s no longer feasible. With that, let’s dig deeper into the soon-to-be 21 year-old’s profile.

Background

Wells first caught the Yankees’ eye during his high school years at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. As you likely know by now, the Yankees selected him in the 35th round of the 2018 draft, but didn’t sign him. Don’t let his draft position deceive you: Wells was the 206th ranked draft prospect by Baseball America that year. Further, BA noted that “He would have been significantly higher up the board if healthy”, alluding to an elbow injury that precluded Wells from throwing much in front of scouts for almost a year.

Instead of going pro, the six-foot-one, 200 pound catcher followed his parents footsteps and went to Arizona University. As a freshman, the catcher started all 56 team games and hit .353/.462/.552, walked more than he struck out, and earned PAC-12 Freshman of the Year honors.

Wells didn’t miss a beat after his freshman season ended. He transitioned from metal to wood bats at the Cape Cod League and continued to turn heads. At the season’s conclusion, the catcher was awarded the league’s Outstanding Prospect award.

Even though COVID-19 wrecked 2020 baseball, Wells made the most of his limited sophomore season. In 13 games, Wells added more power and more walks, all the while striking out less often than taking a free pass. He posted an impressive .354/.516/.604 triple-slash in the curtailed season.

What the scouts say

Wells is unquestionably a bat-first prospect. Each and every publication basically says a variation of this: Wells can really hit, but where will he fit defensively?

Baseball America boasted Wells’s outstanding approach and plus raw power, but knocked his ability to receive. The Athletic’s Keith Law stated that he can hit well to all fields (even though he’s pull oriented), but also called him a below-average defender. Further, Law relayed that scouts don’t think he has any chance to remain behind the dish. MLB Pipeline praised his power to all fields, good timing, and simplicity at the plate but has concerns about his inconsistent throwing. As we learned in our draft preview, Wells has a history of arm trouble.

On the bright side, it sounds like Wells could play elsewhere in the field competently. We often see bat-first catchers switch to first base or designated hitter. However, Wells actually may not be limited to those spots thanks to his athleticism. Other possibilities include either of the outfield corners. Still, those positions are less forgiving offensively than catcher, so he’ll really need to live up to his offensive billing to make any of those positions work.

Of course, the Yankees should and will give him every opportunity to catch. In an interview with the YES Network’s Jack Curry, Yankees’ Director of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer had this to say about Wells’s future in the field:

“He can probably play another position besides catcher…but he’s really turning himself into a good catcher and we had our catching people look at him and really spend a lot of time on it. Player development looked at a lot of video and they just think they can clean it up and make him tremendous behind the plate.”

Look, nobody expected Opponheimer or the Yankees to concede that its prized draftee probably can’t catch. It’s still the right approach to work with him and give him every chance to catch, of course. Wells will be most valuable if he can stick behind the plate.

Will he sign?

The 28th pick’s slot value is $2,493,000, though all but $100,000 of whatever bonus Wells signs for will be deferred for a couple of years. The draft-eligible sophomore could gamble and return to Tuscon, but all indications are that he’s ready to sign. I don’t anticipate his bonus varying much from the allotment.

My take

The Yankees have made a habit of whiffing on first rounders, so I have to admit I’m typically skeptical of the player the team chooses first — especially when drafting a bat-first prospect whose defensive future is uncertain. I can’t say I was thrilled to find this out about him either, but hey, I guess he’ll fit in with his new organization.

On the bright side, the Wells selection isn’t necessarily a head-scratcher like we’ve come accustomed to. Unlike Anthony Seigler or Cito Culver, the fact that Wells wasn’t a surprise is a positive. Wells was mocked to the Yankees by various sites and was a strong collegiate performer.

Left-handed power and Yankee Stadium go hand in hand, so it’s easy to dream on Wells’s offensive future. If you’re optimistic, maybe there’s a glimmer of hope he sticks behind the plate too. Given everything we’ve read, I can’t help but be doubtful, but there is a reason for some hope in catching guru Tanner Swanson. Maybe Swanson’s wit will rub off on the entire organization and benefit Wells. Should that be the case, Wells could blossom into quite the prospect.

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