Tag: Luis Medina

Thoughts after the Yankees’ 40-man roster shakeup

A blast from the past.

The Yankees make the 40-man roster protection deadline an event last night by adding over a half-dozen players and jettisoning some big names to make room for them. ICYMI, here’s the summary of their moves:

Added: Deivi García, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Estevan Florial, Nick Nelson, Miguel Yajure, Brooks Kriske
DFA’d: Nestor Cortes Jr., Greg Bird
Released: Jacoby Ellsbury

Here are my thoughts on the whole sequence of moves, starting with who the Yankees added:

1. The Easy Adds: As Derek so eloquently detailed Tuesday, the Yankees had four players perceived as locks to add by Wednesday’s deadline: García, Gil, Medina and Florial.

It’s well-known how electrifying Deivi can be, and he nearly earned a spot on the roster last September. With the 40-man spot secured, he could get strong consideration for the Opening Day roster in 2020, though it’s more likely he gets further reps in Triple-A after he struggled with the MLB ball and tired down the stretch in 2019.

Meanwhile, Gil, Medina and Florial are further away from the Majors. Gil and Medina raised their profiles with strikeout-laden 2019 seasons for Single-A Charleston, followed by brief stints with Single-A Tampa. Gil, funny enough, was acquired via trade in March 2018 when the Yankees needed to clear room on the 40-man roster. Medina doesn’t turn 21 until May while Gil will be 22 in June.

Florial had his second consecutive down year, both hampered by wrist/hand injuries in Spring Training. That’s part of why he didn’t make Baseball America’s top 10 Yankee prospects. His chances of reaching the Majors in 2020 are slim (as they are for Gil and Medina), but the outfielder would have easy to keep on a 26-man roster for a rebuilding team. Now, he has to find a way to cut down on strikeouts and tap into his potential before it’s too late.

2. The borderline additions: Yajure and Nelson were mentioned by most outlets as bubble players with some favoring Yajure as a “must add.” Kriske, though, came as a surprise even if his name was mentioned.

All three are right-handed pitchers who spent time in Double-A last season, but that’s where the similarities end. Yajure specializes in control, issuing just 30 walks in 138 2/3 innings across High-A and Double-A last season. Though just 21, he has missed development time with Tommy John surgery that knocked out his 2017 season, but he’s fully recovered and has hit 97 on the gun.

However, unlike the four locks, Yajure didn’t make either Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10s. He should start in Trenton after making two starts there in 2019 and could rise from there.

Nelson, meanwhile, reached Triple-A briefly after excelling in the Eastern League. High strikeout rate, high walk rate, the 2016 fourth-rounder has potential to make the Majors in 2020, though that would most likely come in relief as he’s behind García and Michael King for now.

Kriske was the lone full-time reliever of the bunch. Another pitcher who has gone under the knife for TJ, he’s the oldest player added at 25 and is a former sixth-round pick as a senior sign from USC. He could be the latest homegrown college reliever to find his way up the Yankees pipeline. The Bombers wouldn’t have added him to the 40-man as a 25-year-old reliever if he weren’t MLB ready in the near future.

The right-hander added a splitter after joining Trenton, and it appears to have worked wonders for him. Look at his funky motion (and the swings and misses).

3. Yankees not nearly done: So the Yankees are now at 40 men exactly with their 40-man roster. That leaves them no room for Domingo Germán when he’s eventually reinstated from the Commissioner’s exempt list, nor for retaining free agents like Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances, Cameron Maybin or Austin Romine. Or, if this is your cup of tea, Gerrit Cole.

The Yankees had to add the seven players above by Wednesday or else they would have been ripe for the Rule 5 draft in a couple of weeks. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be used as trade bait between now and the start of 2020. In fact, the Bombers might have added one or two players to maintain leverage in ongoing trade talks.

As mentioned above, the Yankees acquired Gil in March 2018. They did so after adding Jake Cave to the 40-man roster the previous fall, only to need room for Brandon Drury in Spring Training. A similar fate could befall Nelson, Kriske or one of the other recent additions, or one of the higher-end prospects (Deivi, Gil, Medina Florial) could be packaged in a larger deal.

I thought the Yankees were going to swing a trade, hence why they went up until the 8 p.m. deadline. They could have been working on one and just didn’t find one that made sense. The Rays, meanwhile, dealt Jose De Leon and Christopher Sanchez to alleviate their own logjam, though they also DFA’d Matt Duffy.

4. Current 40-man roster composition: The Yankees are far from done and they’ll need to excise players currently on their 40-man to make any further MLB moves. But as they stand right now, they have 24 pitchers and just 16 hitters on the roster, with Germán still in the organization as a de facto 41st man while awaiting suspension. While that split remains lopsided, it’s because the Yankees like their pitching prospects. They had enough good ones that other teams would have snapped up, and now they’ll have to sort them out.

Chances are, not all 24 pitchers will make it through the next three months until pitchers and catchers report. Here’s how I see the current chopping block, in order:

  1. Stephen Tarpley
  2. Jonathan Holder
  3. Chance Adams
  4. Brooks Kriske
  5. Albert Abreu

Holder and Tarpley are each fine up-and-down arms, but they haven’t proven themselves more than OK middle relievers in a team full of pitchers. Holder is arb eligible for the first time and is projected to make $800K in 2020, but he also had a 6.31 ERA over 41 1/3 innings last year. Even with a strong 2018, he might struggle to make it through, as could Tarpley. Both had injuries that hampered their 2019 seasons.

Adams hasn’t taken as a starter, so it’s probably time to move him to relief full time and see if a healthy version of him can make it as a reliever. Kriske and Abreu, though both in Double-A and near the Majors, each have an injury history and could be expendable.

Luis Cessa, meanwhile, could fit on that list as he’s out of options, and the Yankees have that glut of pitchers on the roster. If J.A. Happ, Jonathan Loaisiga or Germán are moved to long relief in 2020, Cessa’s spot becomes tenuous, as it does if Adams breaks through.

Key date to watch out for: Dec. 2. That’s the non-tender deadline, which could be Holder, Cessa or Tarpley’s last stand.

5. Bird’s likely exit: Though the Yankees could potentially retain Bird after designating him for assignment Wednesday, I wouldn’t count on it. As he has more than three years of service time, he can elect free agency if he clears waivers.

With Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu and Mike Ford all on the roster, the Yankees scarcely have room for a first base-only player like Bird that can barely stay on the field. His one-week stint in the Dominican Winter League was encouraging but not enough to save his roster spot.

If he hits free agency, maybe New York could work a Minor League deal with their erstwhile first baseman. The organization has certainly believed in him enough to keep him through a laundry list of injuries, and they were rewarded briefly in the 2017 postseason.

Ah, well. At this point, Bird is better off seeking greener pastures with an organization that has more of an opening at first. The talent has always been there, so hopefully his body can hold up wherever he ends up in 2020.

6. The end of the Ellsbury Era: It was time for the Yankees to move on from the veteran outfielder, even if it meant eating $26 million in the process. It’s been 25 months since Ellsbury donned Yankee pinstripes and Brian Cashman didn’t seem confident in Ellsbury’s renewed health during the GM’s end-of-year press conference.

“It’s hard to say based on how things have played out,” Cashman said of Ellsbury’s availability after Aaron Hicks’ surgery. “Right now he’s not someone in a position health-wise where I can answer anything in the affirmative.”

Ellsbury had $21 million due his way in 2020, though the New York Post reported that was uninsured. The Yankees had previously been able to insure his contract, so they weren’t on the hook for all of his 2018 and ’19 salaries. (To clarify, Ellsbury got all the money owed to him, but an insurance company partially compensated the Bombers.) He also is due $5 million to buy out his option for 2021.

The seven-year, $153 million contract is a notable blemish on Cashman’s strong history of signing position players in free agency. In the same offseason, Shin-Soo Choo earned a similar seven-year deal from the Rangers and was an All-Star in 2018. He was worth 14.1 WAR to Ellsbury’s 9.5 ove the last six seasons, and he still has another year to go.

Meanwhile, the Ellsbury signing came on the heels of Robinson Cano’s exit to Seattle. The Yankees reportedly offered him $175 million over seven years, but the second baseman signed for less AAV ($24 million) over 10 seasons. After a lackluster 2013 season where the Bombers’ offense cratered, the team might have felt it needed to make a splash on offense when they signed Ellsbury in addition to Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.

Ultimately, the signing did not work out at all, outside of Ellsbury’s single-season, career and postseason catcher’s interference records, all set with the Yankees. OK, I guess I’m the only one who cares about that last part. It was time for the Yankees to close this chapter.

7. Bye to Nasty Nestor: Lastly, the Yankees removed Cortes from the 40-man roster. He doesn’t have as big a name as Ellsbury or Bird, but baseball’s Mr. 305 should be remembered fondly for his contributions to the 2019 Yankees.

The final numbers are ugly. He had a 5.67 ERA/5.57 FIP and a 79 ERA+, allowing 16 home runs over 66 2/3 innings. The soft-tossing left-hander rarely topped 90 mph, but he got by on guile and an advanced pitching acumen.

Cortes was the bulk guy to form an impressive tandem with opener Chad Green from May well into the summer. The duo helped the Yankees stave off rotation armageddon. Green obviously deserves more of the accolades when it comes to the Yankees’ opener success, but Cortes kept it going. As the bulk pitcher, he helped the Yankees get wins over the Rays (x2), Indians, Astros and Twins, among others.

As the Yankees have previously DFA’d him and the Orioles sent him back in the 2018 Rule 5 draft, I’m pretty certain he can elect free agency. Another team could use him in a bulk/opener role. For whatever reason, I feel as if he’d fit the Seattle Mariners well.

Yankees add Florial, six others to 40-man roster; DFA Bird, Cortes and release Ellsbury

Deivi García

The Yankees added OF Estevan Florial and RHPs Deivi García, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Brooks Kriske, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure to the 40-man roster Wednesday. To make additional room on the roster, New York designated Greg Bird and Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment while Jacoby Ellsbury was released.

After today’s moves, the Yankees now have a full 40-man roster before making any free agent moves. Assuming they don’t make further room, they won’t be able to select a player in next month’s Rule 5 draft.

While the Yankees were expected to add many of those seven players to the roster, it was surprising that they fit all of them, including Kriske, Nelson and Yajure, who weren’t locks. Meanwhile, the moves to jettison both Bird and Ellsbury alongside Cortes comes as a shock. Bird made just 41 plate appearances last season while Cortes pitched to a 5.67 ERA.

The Bombers kept Ellsbury on their roster for the last two seasons despite him last playing during the 2017 ALCS. He is owed a $21 million salary in 2020 as well as a $5 million buyout of his 2021 option. The New York Post reported that his final season was not insured, unlike his 2018 and 2019 salaries.

Oswaldo Cabrera, Chris Gittens, Hoy Jun Park and Rony García are among the players the Yankees left unprotected. For more on those names and others, check out Derek’s Rule 5 primer from Tuesday.

In the past, the Yankees have lost plenty of players in the Rule 5 draft, though players are often returned. Cortes, Mike Ford, Caleb Smith and Iván Nova were each selected then returned in recent seasons. The Yankees weren’t so fortunate with Tommy Kahnle and Luis Torrens, each of whom stuck in their new locales.

The last time New York selected a player in the Rule 5 draft was 2011, when the Bombers chose Brad Meyers and purchased the contract of Cesar Cabral, though neither ultimately lasted long in the Bronx.

While the Pinstripers made the aforementioned moves Wednesday, they had previously culled their system of players who they would have needed to add Wednesday. OF Blake Rutherford (White Sox, Robertson/Kahnle/Frazier deal), RHPs Taylor Widener (D-backs, Drury deal) and J.P. Feyereisen (Brewers) were all added to their respective 40-man rosters.

INF Nick Solak, also part of the Brandon Drury deal, was dealt from Tampa Bay to Texas at the deadline last year due to the Rays’ own roster crunch. The Yankees also dealt 1B Ryan McBroom to Kansas City last August and he has remained on the Royals’ 40-man roster. Dom Thompson-Williams (Paxton trade) was not added to the Mariners’ 40-man roster.

News & Notes: Hicks update, Paxton, Medina, Adams, Germán

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Aaron Hicks gets a second opinion

After having an MRI a few days ago that showed no ligament damage, Aaron Hicks was still not feeling right. So, Hicks sought out a second opinion from Dr. Neil ElAttrache in California. Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Hicks was recommended a few weeks of rest before a re-evaluation, which all but ends his 2019 season. Maybe there’s some slim chance he’ll be available in the playoffs, but don’t count on it. And definitely don’t expect to see him before the regular season ends.

Most jarring about this news is that Tommy John surgery is on the table. Although it wasn’t prescribed now, Sherman notes that it could be required if there are no improvements from rest. Seems odd considering the Yankees said there’s no structural damage, but what do I know.

There are all sorts of ramifications from not having Hicks this year and potentially a chunk of next season should he go under the knife. In the present, it means counting on Brett Gardner in center field the rest of the way. I’m comfortable with that, but the Yankees have no depth at the position thereafter. Mike Tauchman is out for the year too, which basically leaves the Yankees with Cameron Maybin. Of course, Maybin has been banged up of late as well. Hopefully, Gardner can stay on the field because it would be difficult to try much else in center field this season.

James Paxton’s resurgence is not just about his curveball

Over at the Athletic (subs. required), Lindsey Adler wrote about James Paxton has gotten things on track. This has been covered quite a bit over the last few weeks, including on this very blog, but the part I found most interesting in Adler’s piece was this:

But it’s not just the knuckle-curve that’s made Paxton’s fastball find better results toward the end of the season. The knee injury Paxton suffered in May, he said, kept him from driving his delivery toward the plate, but he is not feeling the effects of that now.

“There was a time when I was really struggling with my knee,” Paxton said. “I don’t think I had the life on (the fastball) that I wanted. I wasn’t using my legs the right way, but now I feel I’m able to get into my legs and I have no problem with that knee and I can really drive through the fastball.”

That makes plenty of sense, right? Look, there’s no doubt his refined pitch mix has helped, but health is also something we may have discounted when he was having a hard time. It could have been part of his issue with allowing first inning runs — perhaps getting his knee good and loose took him longer than usual at the expense of his first inning of work.

Luis Medina is poised to climb prospect rankings

The Baseball Prospectus prospect staff called out a few breakout candidates next season (subs. required). Pitcher Luis Medina is one of them. Though Medina is still somewhat of an enigma, he finished the season really strong and has an incredible skillset. And, after a slow start to 2019, he closed it out on fire. In his last 8 starts, here’s what Medina did: 45 2/3 innings, 63 strikeouts, 29 hits, 15 walks, and 1 home run allowed. All that was good for a 1.77 ERA. Most promising, though, had to be his reduced walk rate.

Chance Adams and Domingo Germán on their curveballs

If you want to nerd out a little bit on pitch grips, Fangraphs’ David Laurila collected some insights on how Chance Adams and Domingo Germán developed their curveballs. In college, Adams moved from a more traditional curveball grip to a knucklecurve. Germán’s grip is unconventional too, apparently.

One thing that really stood out from the pictures within are just how long Germán’s fingers are. He makes the baseball look like a golf ball, especially in comparison to the photos of Adams’s grip.

Adams has yet to break through in the big leagues just yet, but he does have elite curveball spin going for him (93rd percentile). And, as he notes in Laurila’s post, his breaking ball is a little more slurvy which jibes with the movement numbers. His curve’s horizontal movement is 7.1 inches more than average. That’s a top ten mark in the majors.

Germán’s curveball doesn’t light up Statcast, but it’s gotten some pretty impressive results. His whiff rate on his yakker is near the top of the league.

Mailbag: Sánchez’s defense, injuries, Medina, Cole

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Four good questions to address in this week’s mailbag. As a reminder, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com for a chance to be included in a future mailbag. Let’s get to it:

Midwest Yankee asks: The NY Post has a story questioning Sánchez’s D and pointing out he has bad numbers vs base stealers. But obviously Sánchez rakes. So how much so-so D is acceptable if your catcher can really hit?

Teams don’t really tolerate abysmal defense behind the plate anymore. The days of Ryan Doumit catching regularly are long gone. There’s simply too much information available now, particularly with the growth of framing metrics, for teams not to realize someone is untenable behind the dish.

So, I don’t think it’s a matter of tolerating so-so or bad defense anymore. Rather, it’s more about finding a catcher whose offense is passable. League-wide, catchers have an 85 wRC+ this season and have hovered around there since 2015. In the years before that, the average catcher had a low-90s wRC+. Priorities seem to have shifted.

Considering that Sánchez has a 111 wRC+, he’s already one step ahead of the rest. Let’s take a look at how much he gives back in the field, if anything. Assuming that this is the article this question referenced, the main concern raised is indeed Sánchez’s caught stealing percentage. But as manager Aaron Boone pointed out, it’s really not all Gary’s fault. From Baseball Savant:

  • Pop time: 1.95 seconds (T-4th)
  • Arm strength: 87.9 MPH (3rd)

In other words, the 26 year-old is doing everything right. The Yankees’ staff has a number of pitchers who are slow to the plate, which makes things harder for Sánchez.

Of course, throwing is just one facet of catcher defense. Receiving is an important aspect as well, and it’s historically been the larger concern with Sánchez. Funny how we haven’t heard about him struggling to block balls this year, right? That’s because he has only six passed balls in 621.1 innings this season. He led the league with 18 in 653 innings last year.

Then there’s framing, where he’s previously thrived per metrics on Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, and Baseball Savant. This year, the consensus is that Sánchez has been below average. As Steven wrote about earlier this season, it’s quite possible that improved blocking has come at the expense of framing.

One other odd thing about Sánchez’s defensive season is that he leads the league with 14 errors. However, he already had 8 before the calendar turned to June, so that problem has settled down. As you may recall, he had a bunch of un-Gary-like throwing errors early in 2019.

With all this in mind, I don’t think Sánchez’s defense is anywhere near the point of offsetting his bat. I wouldn’t say he’s a good defensive catcher, but I don’t think he’s actively hurting the team whatsoever. In reality, he’s probably an average-ish defender in an era full of good glovework behind the plate. Meanwhile, he’s the rare elite bat at the position. Ultimately, the fact that his defense hasn’t been a constant topic this season tells us all we need to know.

AJ asks: [Steven’s] piece this week on injuries to the Yankee core raises an important question: when a team suffers so many injuries to so many players in a single season, should we question the training staff and the team’s training practices? Although each injury is individual, at a certain point they add up to a pattern. And if a player is prone to a particular kind of injury, it seems reasonable to rethink his particular training regimen. Is there any sign the Yankees themselves are asking these questions?  

At the minimum, there’s no question that the optics are bad for the team’s training staff. I don’t think its unreasonable to question what’s going on under the hood.

Now, some injuries are certainly either bad luck or not the fault of anyone on the training staff. For instance, CC Sabathia’s knee has been a long-running issue. Edwin Encarnación’s fractured wrist was a freak thing. However, there have been a number of muscle strains and pulls this season, too. Those sort of injuries make me worry about conditioning.

Aside from the frequency of injuries, the handling of timetables and rehab work has been troubling as well. Luis Severino suffered significant setback when he strained his lat while rehabbing from shoulder inflammation in April. As Randy wrote, the vagaries around Giancarlo Stanton’s maladies has been bizarre too. Going back further, the Yankees overpromised and underdelivered when Aaron Judge fractured his wrist last summer.

Our concerns are good and fine, but all we can do is speculate from the outside. The good news is that yes, the Yankees are looking inward. Brian Cashman made it clear that they tried to figure out what went awry with Severino:

With Severino asserting that this condition was connected to the shoulder problem and Cashman contending it was an entirely new injury, Cashman promised an internal investigation.

“I have gone through that process,” Cashman said on Sunday. “I’ve engaged with the player. I’ve engaged with all of our team. And I called it ‘CSI: The Bronx.’ But I’m not going to go through our process. I (said) back then, I’m not going to have a Robert Mueller report that I’m going to be revealing from that.”

Asked if he was satisfied with what he learned, Cashman tap danced: “I’ve gone through the process and I’ll leave it at that. We always evaluate our processes. If there (are) gaps or problems or mistakes made by us, then they are dealt with.”

Eric asks: I have a question about the 40 man crunch after the season. Do you see the Yankees adding Luis Medina after the season after his recent run? Although the overall results are poor and he’s still really young, it’s not hard to see a tanking team like the Orioles take him and stash him in the pen for a year.

It would really surprise me if the Yankees left Medina exposed to the Rule 5 draft. Though he’s just been promoted to Tampa (High-A), his ability and recent hot stretch almost certainly will land him a spot on the Yankees 40-man this winter. In his last 40 innings, Medina has a 2.03 ERA, 59 strikeouts, and just 13 walks. As Eric noted, some team with no shot next year certainly would take a flyer and stash the 20 year-old Medina on the roster all season.

This just happened with Blue Jays’ righty 19 year-old Elvis Luciano. To be fair, Luciano’s elbow issues have allowed Toronto to stash him on the injured list for most of the season, but it still seemed like they had no intention to waive him even if healthy.

Additionally, The Yankees lost catcher Luis Torrens in similar fashion in 2017. The Padres carried him as their backup catcher all season before. SInce then, Torrens has been in the minors the last two years and has begun to put things together in Double-A this season. The backstop owns a 132 wRC+ in 87 games at the level this season. I don’t think the Yankees want to take a chance like that again.

Mark asks: We all want Gerrit Cole this off-season, but given Hal’s fiscal discipline it could come down to a choice between signing Cole or Didi Gregorius. If getting Cole means letting Didi walk, would you do it?

I really hope this doesn’t come down to an either/or decision. But, considering how adamant ownership has been about winning without blowing past the luxury tax threshold, it’s possible. As Matt explored recently, the Yankees face the possibility of letting one or both of Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances go this winter.

As badly as I want Gregorius and Betances back in pinstripes next year, I do think this winter’s top priority has to be signing Cole. The Yankees need a starting pitcher of his caliber and shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to get one for just money. So yes, I’d sign Cole even if it means Didi would not return. Ugh, it pains me to say that, but we should be prepared for such a scenario.

My answer might have been different if the Yankees’ infield depth wasn’t already in good shape for next season. Gleyber Torres could slide over to short which would allow DJ LeMahieu to play at second full-time.

Ultimately, my belief is that the Yankees should go all-in and sign Cole, Didi, and Dellin. Doing so would be the optimal route for the 2020 squad. But, I think we’ve been preconditioned to not expect all three in the Bronx next year.

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