Category: Notes Page 1 of 4

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.

News & Notes: Red Sox Discipline, Minor League Contraction, & Some Old Friends

Embed from Getty Images

Red Sox Sign Stealing Penalties

Rob Manfred handed down discipline related to the league’s investigation into the Red Sox organization’s behavior during the 2018 season. The commissioner placed the onus on the team’s replay system operator, JT Watkins. That said, some players clearly had to be involved for the scheme to work. Manfred also noted that the team’s transgressions were not at the level of what the Astros did previously. Essentially, Watkins decoded the signals for the players to use when they were on second base and could share the information with the hitter.

As a result, these are the penalties:

  • Watkins has been suspended for all of 2020, including the postseason. He cannot serve in that position in 2021, though he can return in another capacity.
  • The Red Sox must forfeit their 2nd round draft pick this year.
  • Alex Cora is suspended for 2020, but not for his conduct as Red Sox manager. Rather, for his conduct while Houston’s bench coach in 2017.

State of the Minor League structure

According to Baseball America’s JJ Cooper, the MiLB is prepared to concede 40 affiliates in a new Professional Baseball Agreement with the MLB. There was quite a bit of public pushback when we first heard this rumored months ago, but to hear that MiLB is willing to accept this is a bit of a shock. For what it’s worth MiLB released a statement countering Cooper’s report.

There’s been some concern about the future of the Staten Island Yankees with regard to the new PBA. Pinstriped Prospects’ Robert Pimpsner wrote about what this means for the Yankees’ short-season A-ball affiliate.

A-Rod and J-Lo to bid for the Mets?

My first reaction to the Variety report: this would be so weird. I know A-Rod grew up a Mets fan, but it’s just weird to envision him becoming the face of the club after being with the Yankees for so long. And J-Lo is from the Bronx, of course. But hey, money talks if they can accumulate enough of it. The power couple needs to raise a good deal of money in order to purchase the Mets from the Wilpon family. They’ve enlisted the help of JPMorgan Chase to do so.

The Mets were nearly sold to Steve Cohen just months ago before negotiations fell apart near the finish line. Nothing ever comes easy with the Wilpons, so one would have to imagine things won’t be much different this time around.

In any case, should this actually come to fruition, we could have A-Rod vs. Derek Jeter in the same division!

Checking in on an old friend

Brendan Kuty of NJ.com caught up with ex-Yankee Tyler Austin, who signed with the DeNA BayStars of Yokohama for the 2020 season. Gotta be honest, I totally missed that Austin was headed to the NPB this year. I knew he had bounced around with a few MLB clubs after the Yankees dealt him to Minnesota and figured he was still around. Anyway, playing in Japan would be a nice opportunity for Austin to re-establish himself. Unfortunately, like for everyone else, the coronavirus has gotten in the way.

Checking in on another old friend

The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler caught up with Aaron Small of 2005 Yankees’ fame. The journeyman righty provided that 2005 club a shot in the arm when he pitched to a 3.20 ERA in 15 games (9 starts) and went 10-0. Then 33 years-old, it was the only real success Small had at the big league level. But wow, was it an incredible run and story at the time.

News & Notes: Hank Steinbrenner, Dr. Fauci on resuming sports, Jackie Robinson Day, and more

We’re a bit overdue for a news and notes post, are we not? Of course, not much is going on in the baseball world these days. A few things have come about in recent days though, so let’s get to it.

Rest In Peace Hank Steinbrenner

Sad news yesterday: Hank Steinbrenner passed away at the age of 63. Hank has been out of the public eye for a few years now, though his health issues weren’t known.

Hank had a little bit of his father in him, occasionally popping up with a blustering quote about the state of the Yankees or a player on the team. He seemed like the obvious successor to George, though as was made clear in a terrific obituary today by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, Hank never had much interest in taking over. Though Hank clearly loved the Yankees, he had plenty of other passions in life. Kepner’s piece gives us good insight into the person Hank was. Rest in peace.

Empty stadium sports? Dr. Anthony Fauci is on board.

Here’s what Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says about Major League Baseball and other sports resuming in 2020:

“Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”

I’ll save my opinion on this for now since we just discussed it on the podcast earlier this week. Rather, I take this as a sign that the leagues really are going to try to resume play this year. Now that federal officials are essentially on board, it seems inevitable. I’d certainly welcome baseball with open arms, but I’d be lying if I told you that I had absolutely no concerns about it.

A Different Jackie Robinson Day

Obviously, with no baseball to be played at the moment, Jackie Robinson is a little different this year. Here’s what’s on the slate today instead:

An update from Kyle Higashioka

Presumed backup catcher Kyle Higashioka has been keeping a diary in partnership with the New York Post. In his latest entry, he covers a myriad of topics although the highlight is, unsurprisingly, that he’d like to play baseball this year.

Higgy mentions the Arizona Plan, though he doesn’t give his opinion on it other than emphasizing his desire to play. Who can blame him? As he writes in his piece, Higgy has been in the minors since 2008 and this year was going to be his first real opportunity. He’s worked hard to get to this point and hit a number of lows along the way, so it’s easy to understand why Higashioka wants this chance so badly. I feel for him.

A review of defensive metrics

It’s really difficult to get an understanding of how advanced defensive metrics evaluate players. There are a number of statistics, all with varying degrees of difficulty to understand. From UZR to DRS to FRAA to OAA, what’s the best metric? Baseball Prospectus’ Jonathan Judge and Sean O’Rourke did the research.

For infield defense, Statcast’s Outs Above Average is easily the best metric out there. This stat was just released a few months ago after previously only being available for outfielders. Bobby wrote an overview of OAA and the Yankees’ infielders while I took a deeper look at its assessment of Gleyber Torres.

Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) shines for outfield defense, which came as a surprise to the piece’s authors. FRAA is BP’s defensive metric du jour, by the way. So, what does FRAA think of Yankees’ outfielders?

  • Aaron Judge is a terrific outfielder with 22.1 career FRAA.
  • After three straight years of elite defense per FRAA from 2016 through 2018 (no season lower than 11.8), Brett Gardner dipped to -0.2 last season.
  • Giancarlo Stanton posted strong numbers in right field for the Marlins, but has been very slightly below average in left field for the Yankees.
  • Aaron Hicks has -17.2 FRAA with the Yankees, which is quite bad and a bit unexpected.
  • Mike Tauchman was pretty good out there last year (4.0 FRAA). Clint Frazier is below average per the system (-4.7 career FRAA), but perhaps not as bad as anticipated.

I can’t say I really know how FRAA works, but it’s interesting as one data point. I think we’re better off looking at an array of metrics along with the traditional eye test to get a sense of who’s good and who’s bad in the field.


Friendly reminder: the Views From 314ft podcast is available wherever you get your podcasts. Please subscribe, rate, and review whenever you have a chance. This week, we spoke to Sophia Chang about her interpretation of the 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera Rookie Card and also discussed a few of the league’s plans to resume play.

News & Notes: Fallout from COVID-19 and season delay

River Avenue is going to be much quieter than usual. (Steven Pisano – CC BY 2.0)

Life is absolutely upside down right now. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, rapidly refreshing Twitter, to find out the latest about the pandemic that is COVID-19. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, though I definitely don’t recommend it for one’s mental health. Take some time to step away, unplug, and distract yourself if you can.

Of course, it’s gotten a whole lot harder to decompress now that baseball is on hiatus. There are no games to watch, no injury updates, no Opening Day roster discussions, etc. The only baseball related news right now relates to COVID-19, as one would expect. With that, let’s take a look at some of the latest Yankees-related news pertaining to the outbreak.

Impact on Restaurants and shops around Yankee Stadium

How many of you have had pre- or post-game meals and drinks at Yankee Tavern, Billy’s, or Stan’s? Ever bought a shirt or hat from one of the shops or street vendors outside the Stadium? Like many of you, I have as well. And well, there’s no easy way to put this: these small businesses and its employees are in a lot of trouble with the season delayed.

The Daily News’ Bradford William Davis illustrated the sort of concerns the folks running these businesses understandably have right now. Bradford spoke to a couple of shop and restaurant owners who explained the predicament they’re in and how any significant delay could cause those businesses to shutter.

This is just anther example of how the COVID-19 is wreaking havoc. Small businesses around the country, not just Yankee Stadium, are going to suffer. Hopefully, the Yankees can do something in good faith to help these people in the neighborhood, from owners to employees, stay afloat. As Bradford wrote: “[The Yankees] will lose money, but with a $4.6 billion valuation, they’re all but certain to weather the storm. Other shops will follow the Yankees [by closing its doors], but it might not be temporary and it won’t be by choice”.

Yankees minor leaguer has COVID-19

General Manager Brian Cashman announced that a player in the Yankees’ system has tested positive for COVID-19. The player’s name has not been disclosed.

The good news is that the minor leaguer is already feeling better after he reported fever and fatigue on Friday. He’s still in isolation though, as per protocol. Further, Cashman stated that the is “younger” and thus was not in contact with anyone in big league camp.

As a result of the positive test, all Yankees’ minor leaguers will be in quarantine until March 25th along with some coaches and personnel. The team is providing this group meals as well. Finally, to no surprise, the team’s Minor League facilities have undergone a deep clean.

It was only a matter of time until someone in some MLB organization contracted the virus, unfortunately. This illnesses is spreading rapidly as it is, and tight knit locker rooms, clubhouses, and other baseball facilities are a breeding ground for these sorts of things.

About that two week delay…

Last night, the CDC recommended no large events or mass gatherings consisting of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. That recommendation puts us out until May 10th, well beyond the two week delay MLB initially noted last week. Granted, it was qualified with “at least”, but this latest recommendation paints a clearer picture. It’s going to be a long time until we see baseball.

Keep in mind that everyone is going to need another version of spring training to get ready once again, though perhaps it can be a brief miniature version. If, and this is a big if, things can get going again after that May 10th date, maybe the league can get its regular season going again come June. In any event, it’s pretty darn clear that the season will be delayed by more than two weeks.

Yankees’ players voted to stay in Tampa amid delay, but looks to be shortlived

Even though players were free to leave spring training following the announcement of the season’s delay, the Yankees unanimously voted to stick around and hold informal workouts.

The players decision is well intended as winning World Series is still on the forefront of the Yankees’ minds. Yet, as hopeful as they may have been, any sort of group workouts will be halted in short order:

More to come here, but I suspect that we’ll see the team depart to their homes (provided it’s safe to do so). Winning the World Series is great and all, but right now, the place to be with one’s family or loved ones. Now, I’m sure a lot of players keep homes locally in Tampa and may continue to work out individually, but that can’t be expected of everyone.

Spring Training News & Notes: Gary Battles The Flu, Monty Remains Sharp, Injury Updates

We’ve hit the doldrums of Yankees spring training. We’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not yet close enough to feel its warmth. The pitchers continue to prepare for the season and the position players continue to get their reps in. The injuries have settled some potential position battles so the main focus is keeping the roster as healthy as possible heading into Opening Day. To that end, let’s jump into today’s news and notes.

Gary Sánchez Diagnosed With The Flu

Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez has missed the last few days of spring training with lower back issues. He was scheduled to resume batting practice activities this morning. Sánchez wasn’t seen with his assigned group during batting practice. It was announced later on that Sánchez was sent home with a “little fever.”

With the coronavirus global pandemic, there was immediate concern that Gary contracted the illness. After the game, the Yankees provided this update:

The Yankees avert a serious crisis for now. Can you imagine what would happen if a player contracted coronavirus? It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for that team to immediately halt their spring training camp. MLB has removed media from team locker rooms in a controversial step to curtail close interaction with the players. The flu isn’t a pleasant experience, but at least there are measures to treat it compared to the coronavirus.

To that end, Yankees players and personnel have met with the team doctor to address COVID-19. Zack Britton told reporters that the team has been in contact with the company in charge of their air travel to ensure their charter plane is properly sanitized. Britton, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gerrit Cole all agreed that precautions were necessary to help curtail the spread of the virus.

This is a problem that MLB will have to address in the immediate future. Multiple sporting events have been canceled, postponed or played in front of empty arenas. With Opening Day a couple weeks away, MLB is closing in on a potentially dangerous scenario. There is also the very real possibility of a player contracting the virus. We’ll be reading about this in the coming days. Hopefully, there were won’t be any significant bad news moving forward.

Jordan Montgomery Continues To Impress

Amidst all of the injury news, Jordan Montgomery is posting an impressive camp. We’ve covered the uptick in velocity, but today’s relief outing also showcased efficiency with a couple three up and three down innings. Yankees manager Aaron Boone is really happy with the tall lefty:

Been really excited from the git-go with him. Bullpens, to the uptick in velocity . . . He did a lot of things really good. The curveball was good. The changeup was really good. You saw even a couple of the at-bats where he was behind in the count, just not real comfortable swings even on his fastball, and he finished off the outing with that cutter on his last strikeout. There’s a lot there to be excited about.

Aaron Boone Courtesy of Anthony Reiber

Monty had a line of 4IP, 0H, 0BB, 0ER, 5Ks. He was effective in and around the zone all afternoon. Here is one example:

Montgomery is a crucial piece for the Yankees rotation. There should be a high level of confidence in Cole and Tanaka. J.A. Happ’s spring offers encouragement, but we need to see it translate into the season. The fifth rotation spot is going to an unproven young pitcher or an opener. The Yankees need a consistent and stable Jordan Montgomery. It will make a world of difference in navigating through the early part of the season. Montgomery entered this season as an interesting option for the team. Now, the Yankees will rely upon him to immediately deliver. His spring is very encouraging.

Finally Some Positive Injury Updates

The Yankees gave positive updates on two players currently out of action. James Paxton, who underwent back surgery last month, will play catch tomorrow. This is a relatively minor step forward, but a necessary one. The team has been hopeful that Paxton would return on the shorter end of his timeline. Obviously, the sooner he can get on the mound the better. The rotation certainly needs him.

Giancarlo Stanton will begin running outside shortly. Here is an update from the man himself courtesy of Bryan Hoch:

Stanton is already resuming baseball activities. That is a great sign. The team didn’t announce any timeline for a return, but once Giancarlo begins running on the field a return to games shouldn’t be too far behind. The lineup depth is facing a real test early on. A Stanton return in early April would be a huge boost. Of course, we have to take these things one step at a time given the neverending injury bug. This recent Stanton news is a good sign though.

Leftovers

  • Gerrit Cole returned to his normal dominant self. He finished his start today with a line of 3 1/3IP, 2H, 1ER, 0BB, 6K, 1WP. Ho hum.
  • Aaron Boone told the media that both Miguel Andújar and Clint Frazier will each get work in left and right field in the next few games.
  • We launched the first episode of The Views From 314FT Podcast this morning. Bobby, Derek and I discussed all the injuries and potential roster machinations. Please give it a listen and share it with your networks. The podcast will be available on all podcast platforms once the approval process is complete.

Have a great night everyone!

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