Tag: Breyvic Valera

A revolving door of backups [2019 Season Review]

(David B. King – CC BY-S.A. 2.0)

As a result of the never-ending injuries at the big league level, the Yankees had to cycle through a number of players from Triple-A and the waiver wire in order to plug holes. Below is a group of players who received sporadic playing time with the Bombers in 2019, though some of them could emerge for a larger role in 2020.

Tyler Wade

The numbers don’t depict a strong season for Wade. He was strong in Triple-A (.296/.352/.425, 99 wRC+), but we already knew he had a handle on that level. In the majors, Wade hit just .245/.330/.362 (88 wRC+) in 108 plate appearances. It certainly was a significant improvement compared to his 24 wRC+ in 133 plate appearances at the big league level entering this season. That said, the start of 2019 looked like more of the same for Tyler, who was recalled on three separate occasions this year:

  1. April 1 – May 3: .204/.316/.204, 0 HR, 5/5 SB, 51 wRC+ in 51 plate appearances
  2. July 30: 1-for-2, home run
  3. August 21 – September 29: .279/.340/.465, 1 HR, 2/2 SB, 112 wRC+ in 47 plate appearances

Clearly, it was a tale of two seasons. First, more of the same in April when he took the injured Miguel Andújar’s roster spot. Then, mired in Triple-A until making the most of one more opportunity late in the campaign.

The Yankees have given Wade numerous opportunities to grab a utility role at the big league level, but it wasn’t until the very end of this season that he looked like it was deserved. Next year, Wade could take on a bigger role from the get go depending on Didi Gregorius’s fate. If Gregorius departs, the Yankees will need another shortstop on the big league roster. Wade could be an option.

Thairo Estrada

Estrada made a nice impression debuting at the major league level this year. He was first up for a couple of days in early April before the Yankees turned to Gio Urshela, but was recalled once more before the end of the month. He hung around until early June by outplaying the just discussed Wade.

From the 21st through June 6th, Estrada received 54 trips to the plate and recorded a strong 118 wRC+. He offered some power, hitting three homers and three doubles during that period. Estrada notched his first hit while on the west coast against the Angels and his first career home run about two weeks later at Yankee Stadium. It was a special one, as it was against his fellow countryman King Felix:

Estrada played less and less as May went on because or Urshela’s emergence. Then, once Gregorius returned, Estrada was shipped back to Scranton.

The Yankees recalled the infielder for a few days around the trade deadline, but he didn’t get into game action before going back down. Later in August, Estrada was recalled for a third time and went hitless in three games before the Bombers put him on the injured list with a hamstring strain. He too wasn’t immune to the injury bug. Thairo made it back for a few chances in September, but nothing to write home about. Overall, he finished with a 91 wRC+ in 69 plate appearances for the Yankees. He had the same mark for Scranton in 60 games.

So, there was a time earlier this season that Estrada leapfrogged Wade on the deth chart. Like Wade, Estrada is capable of filling a utility role as he can cover every position on the diamond. The difference is that Estrada is 23, two years younger than Wade, and has more options remaining. What that may mean is that Wade will get priority next season as a last chance for a reserve role in the Bronx. Plus, Wade did come on strong by the end of the season.

Breyvic Valera

The Yankees grabbed Valera off waivers from the Giants in May and immediately stashed him in Scranton for most of the year. He raked for the Railriders to the tune of a .315/.388/.515 (130 wRC+) in 83 games filling in for Wade and Estrada while they were with the Yankees.

Valera did get a few brief looks in New York, though. He scattered 37 plate appearances across three call-ups, but didn’t hit much (76 wRC+). Eventually, the Yankees designated him for assignment in September and lost him on waivers to Toronto. He could see some time off the bench for the Blue Jays next year.

Kyle Higashioka

For the third straight season, Higashioka served as the Yankees’ third catcher stashed away in Triple-A. He was summoned to the Bronx for a couple of Gary Sánchez’s pre-September injuries and once more for expanded rosters. In his cameos, Higashioka hit three homers in 57 trips to the dish and recorded a .214/.211/.464 (57 wRC+) batting line. Yes, his OBP was lower than his batting average.

Though Higashioka didn’t offer much bat other than occasional power, he raked while in Scranton. The 29 year-old backstop hit 20 dingers in only 270 plate appearances in Triple-A. That ridiculous power output resulted in a 129 wRC+ at the level. This isn’t the first time he’s shown hitting chops in the minors, but he’s yet to capitalize in his limited big league chances.

Next year should be a different story, at least in terms of opportunity. Higgy could take the backup catcher gig from incumbent Austin Romine, who’s a free agent. It’s convenient timing for Higashioka, who has no more minor league options. That means he’d have to clear waivers in order for the Yankees to send him down in 2020. So if Romine returns, there’s a decent chance Higashioka could call a new organization home next season.

Kendrys Morales

This is an experiment that went on too long. The Yankees acquired Morales from Oakland. The A’s had DFA’d the 1B/DH in May after he didn’t hit whatsoever. The Yankees ostensibly bet on Morales catching up to his xwOBA. That never happened.

Morales finished the season with a wOBA underperforming his xwOBA by .100. The Yankees saw his high exit velocity (91.3 MPH average) and 53.1 percent ground ball rate hoping that he could just start lifting the ball. But 19 games and 75 plate appearances in, enough was enough. He hit .177/.320/.242 (63 wRC+) in pinstripes before the Bombers cut him loose.

No team signed the 36 year-old after the Yankees released him, so he’s still in free agency. At this point of his career, it’s hard to envision Morales getting anything more than a minor league deal to start 2020.

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Yankees activate Urshela, Estrada from IL

Welcome back, Gio! (MLB.tv)

The Yankees’ pool of position players deepened as they activated Gio Urshela and Thairo Estrada in addition to two call-ups.

Urshela missed the minimum 10 days with a groin strain while Estrada was out since Aug. 17 with a hamstring injury and played two rehab games in the Minors. Meanwhile, the Yankees recalled Kyle Higashioka and Breyvic Valera with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s season ending yesterday.

Joel Sherman reported that reliever Ben Heller will be activated from the 60-day IL. Since that move will require a 40-man roster decision, the Yankees have yet to announce it.

Urshela leads the Yankees with a .331 batting average. However, the third baseman is unlikely to qualify for the batting title. At 414 plate appearances, he would need 86 more this season, a tall task with 19 games to go.

Higashioka hit three homers in 10 games for the Yankees this season, including two in his last appearance on Aug. 7 in Baltimore. The third-string catcher hit for a 129 wRC+ with a career-high 20 home runs in Triple-A. This will likely be his final season as Bombers’ third catcher as he’s out of options following the season.

Valera hit .315/.388/.515 with a 130 wRC+ in Scranton, serving the team at multiple infield positions. He has seven hits in 11 games with the Yankees.

Game 120: Please, put the Orioles out of their misery

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Another game against the Orioles, another shellacking. The Yankees bashed their way to a 11-8 victory against Baltimore, who mercifully have just two more games against the Bombers this year. Here are tonight’s takeaways:

Brett Gardner is still kicking

I must admit that I didn’t think Brett Gardner would be very good this season. He finished last year in a terrible rut, has a history of tailing off in the second half, and can’t hit lefties. And yet, Gardner is in the midst of a revival at 35 years of age.

Tonight, Gardy gave the Yankees an early lead with this:

Just like that, the Yankees were up 3-zip on Gardner’s triple. He’s now up to a 116 wRC+ this year, far better than anyone could have anticipated. Remember, he was supposed to be a role player. Instead, he’s been forced into playing nearly everyday because of the myriad of outfield injuries the Yankees have suffered.

How does anyone watch the Orioles?

Look, I love watching the Yankees win, but good grief is it difficult to watch the Orioles. They’re an embarrassment. I don’t think you needed tonight’s game to figure that out, but in case you needed a reminder, let’s dig in.

The Yankees plated their fourth run with plenty of help from Baltimore. With Breyvic Valera on second, O’s starter Ty Blach spiked a pitch that bounded away from Chance Cisco. It should have been a wild pitch, nothing more. Instead, Cisco decided to try and throw out Valera at third. Here’s what happened:

Of course that wasn’t the only fielding mishap. Earlier, Gardner’s triple was sort of a misplay by Anthony Santander:

(Baseball Savant)

I guess you could call it a valiant effort, but the odds of him ever catching that were incredibly slim. That should have been played to a double, not a triple, especially with just one out. Fortunately for him, Blach bailed him out and didn’t let Gardner score.

And then, you know, there’s the whole Gleyber Torres thing. He blasted his 13th dinger against the Birds this year. In case you aren’t keeping track, that’s half of his 26 homers this season.

Finally, FINALLY, they intentionally walked Torres in the eighth. Down five with runners on first and second and two outs, Baltimore gave him a free pass. Unconventional, sure. I’m not sure if that’s more or less embarrassing than Gleyber taking them deep one more time. It did work out though, as Gardner grounded out to end the jam.

Lastly, the Yankees basically disrespected the Orioles by throwing Joe Mantiply and Brady Lail out there. Nothing against either of those two, but obviously the Yankees weren’t concerned about outslugging the Orioles tonight.

Is it Orioles pitching, or is Gleyber’s core feeling better?

Whatever the answer may be, it’s good to see Torres raking like this after concern about his mysterious core injury. As mentioned, Gleyber blasted two more homers in the nightcap after hitting one in this afternoon’s affair. Again, half of his homers are against Baltimore this year! Just ridiculous how much he’s tormented them. Some numbers:

One record down, one more to go:

Decent chance the Iron Horse’s record doesn’t stand after this series ends, no? Unless they intentionally walk him every opportunity they get the rest of the way, of course. Tomorrow and Wednesday are the Yankees last two games vs. Baltimore this year.

One last thing on Gleyber: he did make a lackadaisical fielding play in the seventh inning by trying to play a would-be double play grounder off to his side. Mike Axisa touched on this over in his RAB Thoughts Patreon recently, and that play perfectly exemplified it. After that, the O’s struck for three runs on Hanser Alberto’s dinger.

To their credit, the Orioles made this interesting in the ninth

Mantiply and Lail did yeoman’s work in relief of Green. They combined for 5.2 innings and allowed 6 runs. On the surface, that sounds pretty crummy. But, Aaron Boone had to work his bullpen harder than he probably would have liked in game one of the doubleheader, so those two’s contribution didn’t go unnoticed.

The skipper certainly intended to have Nestor Cortes pitch the final two innings with a five run lead, but no dice. With the bases full and one out in the ninth, Boone called on Adam Ottavino for the save. Rio Ruiz greeted him with a two-run single to make it 11-8, but that was all the Orioles could muster. After that, Ottavino struck out Jonathan Villar and induced a fly out from Trey Mancini to end it.

It’s a little frustrating that Ottavino had to come in, to be honest. It was his 56th appearance of the season which puts him on pace for 75 outings this season. That’s too much. Fortunately, with this division lead, the Yankees can afford to utilize him less often down the stretch. Perhaps tonight would have been a good time to try and steal another two outs from Cortes, even at the risk of letting the Orioles creep even closer.

Leftovers:

  • Mike Ford hit his fourth homer of the season. The burly lefty hit it against Blach in the fourth inning to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead at the time.
  • Chad Green excelled in the opener role once again. He faced four batters and retired all of them, including one via strikeout. The Yankees are now 12-0 when using an opener this season.
  • Tonight was Lail’s major league debut. Though his pitching line wasn’t overly impressive, he did exactly what the Yankees needed. Nice story for a guy who was the Yankees’ 18th rounder in 2012.
  • Mantiply hadn’t pitched in the bigs since 2016. Although his results weren’t pretty, he got his first major league win. Good for him.

These two sides are back at it again tomorrow at 7:05 pm. Have a good night everyone.

Game 112: The Yanks Slug Their Way to Victory, Defeat Orioles 9-6

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It is August 5th, folks. Why does that matter? Because the Yankees have now hit more home runs at Camden Yards in 2019 than any visiting team has ever hit in any ballpark in Major League history. From the irreplaceable Katie Sharp:

Does that really matter? No, it does not. The baseball is juiced, the Yankees are awesome and the Orioles are the very definition of trash. Their pitching staff is historically atrocious. They are so bad. The Yankees should demolish them, and they have. But come on. It is August 5th, and the Yankees have hit more home runs in Camden Yards than any team has ever hit in MLB history. That’s nuts.

Anyway, the Yankees defeated the Orioles 9-6, improving to 73-39 on the season. They have a commanding lead in the American League East. Let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. A Frustrating Start for Tanaka: That was an extremely 2019 Masahiro Tanaka start, wasn’t it? He looked pretty good for a while (60 of his 92 pitches, or 65%, went for strikes) and he limited the damage despite allowing some hits in the early innings. He did throw some nice splitters in the early going, too, right on cue. Overall, though, that was not the step forward we wanted to see. Here’s how his pitch did tonight: 22 pitches (2nd most thrown pitch), 12 strikes, 11 swings, 2 whiffs. That’s only an 18% whiff-per-swing rate, which is about half of where he was in his last start. Oh well.

In any event, much like it has gone with Tanaka for a while now, once everything unraveled, it was impossible to stop. That’s not unusual. Check out his splits throughout games in 2019, with his career in parentheses:

  • 1st time through the order: .255/.294/.348 (.236/.276/.381)
  • 2nd time through the order: .222/.275/.438 (.240/.288/.421)
  • 3rd time through the order: .312/.363/.616 (.251/.288/.461)

So, as is expected, batters have historically fared better against Tanaka the more they’ve seen him throughout his career, but yeesh, nothing like 2019. That is a stark, stark difference. Batters have a .979 OPS against Tanaka the 3rd time through the order! Good grief, that is bad. Capital-B Bad. Those numbers are only going to get worse once they update with tonight, too. Check it out.

Tanaka took a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the 5th inning, which was led off by Renato Nunez. Here’s what happened after that:

  • Renato Nunez double
  • Jace Peterson home run
  • Hanser Alberto single
  • Chance Sisco double
  • Mound visit
  • Chris Davis sac fly
  • Tanaka replaced by Tommy Kahnle

Were any of those cheap, you might ask yourself. No. No, they were not. Here is that same list, put differently:

Yikes! That is not what you want. A rare home run off Tommy Kahnle two batters later would tie the game. Not what you want, folks. Not what you want. It was looking like Tanaka would tough it through not his best night. It did not end up that way. There’s always next time, Masahiro.

2. Please Extend Didi Gregorius: I have been very fortunate to root for some truly incredible Yankees during my fandom. Seriously. There have been absolute studs donning the pinstripes basically my entire life. My fiancée and named our cat after one of them! And yet, here I am, in 2019, struggling to think of Yankees I have loved more than Didi Gregorius. There are candidates, obviously, but my goodness is the man lovable, easy to root for, and, of course, extremely talented.

Let’s start with the offense. In his last 50 at-bats, Gregorius is hitting .311/.360/.600 (144 wRC+) 8 extra-base hits (14 total), 15 RBI and exactly as many walks as strikeouts. He is putting that injury and the post-rehab rust all the way over there, thank you very much. Tonight, he went 1-4 with a single, which isn’t exactly something to write home about…

…but his defense sure was. Here is his throw on a perfect relay from Brett Gardner (more on him later):

Beautiful. Just beautiful right there. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, Didi saved another run at the plate that Austin Romine tried his damn near hardest to give away (yes, Didi should have just tagged him out at 2nd but this is a Didi Appreciation Takeaway so we’ll leave take for my Twitter):

My man. I wish we had the Statcast numbers on those throws. But yeah. In other words, this is all a very wordy way of saying to the Yankees: extend Didi Gregorius. Please.

3. LOL Mike Tauchman: What more can you say about the dude? I basically said everything I have to say about Tauchman a few weeks ago when I explored him in-depth, but I mean. This is just getting ridiculous now. The Sock Man is now hitting .294/.368/.541 (138 wRC+) with 9 HR in 190 plate appearances with New York. He plays great defense, too. What the hell?

He hit two home runs tonight, because of course he did. Here’s the first one, which was his first road home run and also has a cool thumbnail of Brett Gardner:

And here is the second home run, which extended the Yankee lead to 3:

Every time I say “wow Mike Tauchman came out of nowhere” someone says this to me “but he was good with Colorado!” That’s kind of true. He had good Triple-A stats in 2017 and 2018 but was horrible in the Majors. I think we can all recognize how absurd it is that Mike Tauchman has been 40% better than the average MLB player in 2019, though, no matter where you stood on him. What a ride the 2019 Yanks are.

4. Brett Gardner For How Long? Forever: Finally, let’s just appreciate ol’ Brett Gardner, why don’t we? Our guy is hitting .253/.332/.473 (110 wRC+) on the season, which is pretty damn great! That’s about everything you could reasonably assume Brett Gardner could do in his best case 2019. Tonight, he went 3-4 with a home run and 3 runs scored. Here is the video of the home run:

Love it. He also added two singles to his line, and he just continues to rake. The longest-tenured Yankee is doing his part on a revolving door team in 2019, and his performance is a lot to do with why the Yanks sit among the very best teams in the league.

But he also performs on defense, too. You saw the relay above, but I want to highlight this play:

Gardy had to really hustle to get that one, traveling over 74 feet to get it, per the YES broadcast. He traveled 28.7 feet per second. That was not a guaranteed catch, and while Kahnle gave up the tying run, Gardy saved it right there. That would have probably made it 6-5 with the tying run on 2nd, but instead, it was one out and a guy on second with a 6-4 lead. In baseball, that can really, really matter, even if it didn’t tonight. As River Ave Blues used to say: Brett Gardner Forever.

Leftovers

  • Breyvic Valera, Because Why Not: It is 2019, which means that an unheralded Yankee had to step up in a big way. Tonight it was Breyvic Valera, he of .328/.402/.532 in Triple-A fame, because of course it was. The former Oriole, who hit his first career triple against the Yankees in the Bronx last year, came up to bat with the score knotted up at 1 in the 5th after Gardner and Tauchman both singled. Breyvic ripped a triple down the line, and 2 runs would score. The Yankees now had the lead. Check out the video:
  • A Rare Mistake From Judge, Who Picked Himself Up: You know, I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but so what: Aaron Judge’s defense is really underrated. The man does so much more than just hit home runs…which is exactly why it was so weird to watch him haphazardly go after a weak Jonathan Villar single in the bottom of the 5th. His lazy play and throw in allowed Villar to take 2nd. Now, let’s be clear: when I say lazy, I really just mean routine. And to Villar’s credit, he really, really hustled and took 2nd. He took advantage every bit as much as Judge was complacent. Still, it was weird to see Judge involved in a play like that, so to cancel it out, he made a spectacular play two batters later because he’s Aaron Judge. Here’s the video:
  • Ruocco with Yankee Positioning Insight: Ryan Ruocco, who is mercifully back calling Yankee games, had a really interesting insight during the bottom of the 5th (I think). He mentioned to Ken Singleton–seriously, can every Yankee game be called by Singleton and Ruocco??– that he spoke to Mike Tauchman the other day about the Yankee defensive positioning, which Tauchman called “freaky.” This is just another example of the Yankees analytics department doing the damn job. Defensive positioning is a critical component of preventing runs from scoring–as beneficial as scoring them!–so it is nice to hear players rave about it like this. It’s a good sign.
  • Tommy Kahnle Struggles: Wow did I not expect to see Tommy Kahnle give up a massive game-tying, 2-run home run tonight. He looked so good, and of course, he’s been so good in 2019 overall. He gave up the home run. Whatever. It happens. The Yankees won. I’m only putting this in here because I feel like I have to. Still love ya, Tommy.
  • Rakin’ Romine Goes Yard: In addition to playing some atrocious defense, Austin Romine hit a home run. Here is the video, in case you need to see it to believe it:
  • Built Ford Tough: Mike Ford, obviously, had the go-ahead home run tonight. Who else would it have been? One of the Yankees’ All-Stars? Of course not! It’s 2019, folks. Here’s the home run, which came in the top of the 8th and put the Yankees up for good:
  • A Cycle for Baltimore: Jonathan Villar hit for the cycle! Aaron Judge’s aforementioned lazy play helped, but that’s a cool accomplishment. Good for you, Jonathan. It’s only the 5th time in Orioles history that this has happened, which is nuts. Pretty cool, since the Yankees still won.

Up Next

The Yankees will take on the Orioles for the second game of this three-game set. The Yankees haven’t announced their starter yet (hello Chad Green) but he will take on Asher Wojciechowski (2-4, 4.15 ERA). The game will begin at 7:05 pm in Baltimore. You can catch it on YES and/or WFAN, as usual. Enjoy your night, everyone. Things are good in Yankeeland right now.

The Yankees Have Called Up INF Breyvic Valera from Triple-A

Prior to today’s 1:10pm game against the Rays, the Yankees called up INF Breyvic Valera from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Here’s the official announcement, per the team:

Valera is a 27-year-old utility infielder from Venezuela. He has only 86 MLB at-bats, spread across three brief stints with the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Orioles. He’s hit .216/.286/.243 (43 wRC+) in those at-bats.

He’s always been known for making contact as a minor leaguer, and for good reason: from 2012-2017, across multiple MiLB levels, he never struck out more than 10% of the time. Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues once called him “a rich man’s Ronald Torreyes” and Baseball America (subs req’d) called him “compellingly average at everything.” He replaces Daniel Camenara, who was optioned back to Triple-A after last night’s game.

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