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Yankees Spring Training News & Notes: March 11, 2021

The Yankees topped Philadelphia 6-1 in Clearwater earlier today. Aaron Hicks homered, Gerrit Cole was dealing, and everyone’s favorite non-roster invitee Lucas Luetge did his thing again. Here’s Hicks’s excuse-me-wind-aided dinger:



More on the game in a bit, but first, some important rehab news.

The Big Story: Luis Severino

As anticipated, Luis Severino threw off a mound this week. It’s the first time he’s been on the bump since he underwent Tommy John surgery last February. This session happened Tuesday, though it wasn’t public knowledge until today.

Sevy threw 20 pitches, all fastballs, and it went well according to Aaron Boone:

“It was a lot of fun for me to get over there on Tuesday morning to be there to see that first one and just to see how he’s moving around,” Boone said before Thursday’s exhibition against Philadelphia in Clearwater.

“There’s just a confidence in that he’s kind of exuding in his health, just watching him play catch, the way his body is, the kind of shape he’s in and the free and easy way in which he’s throwing,” Boone said. “He was really efficient the other day — it really kind of throwing it exactly where he wanted. He was coming out hot. We almost said, ‘Hey, back off a little bit. It’s coming out a little too well.’ And he wasn’t working for it necessarily. So really encouraged about where he’s at to this point.”

Obviously, it’s great to hear that Severino looked great and came away from this step healthy. If all goes well, Sevy will be a huge boost to the Yankees’ rotation in the second half of the season. And I know, I know: you’re not going to like hearing Brian Cashman say that he’s the best acquisition the team could make when the trade deadline comes around. But honestly, will he really be wrong about that?

There’s still a long way for Severino to go, of course. He needs to start mixing in breaking balls, face hitters, build up arm strength, etc. But every step he takes without an issue is a big plus.

Looking forward to seeing this again.

Starting pitching: Significant depth and prospects in the pipeline [2021 Season Preview]

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If you read my piece on the Yankees’ pitching depth last week, you know that the team is pretty deep in starting pitching. Sure, some of those pitchers have their warts, but there are also a number of viable options to pitch out of the rotation. Pitchers break — they always do — so it’s best to have a lot of them. By midsummer, the Yanks may have nearly a dozen major league caliber starters. Yes, some far better than others, but that’s a lot of insurance.

Today, it’s time to preview the organization’s starters. Not just those who’ll see major league time, either. Like my catcher preview or Dom’s corner infield breakdown, I’ll dive into the starters down the rungs of the minors.

A formidable front four

It’s awfully exciting to have a full season of Gerrit Cole ahead of us. In that sense, he still feels like a new addition to this team. I know we saw him for 12 regular season and 3 postseason starts in 2020, but there’s nothing quite like having a bona fide ace for 30-plus starts and 200 innings. And that’s what we can expect from Gerrit this season: a workhorse who could easily win the American League Cy Young award.

If there’s any uncertainty regarding Cole in 2021, it’s his battery mate. As you know, Kyle Higashioka became Cole’s personal catcher by last September. Cole had better numbers with Higgy behind the plate, and given Gary Sánchez’s struggles offensively, it was an easy decision at the time. This year, the Yankees are hoping to pair Cole and Sánchez, and understandably so. Ideally, the two mesh and Gary mashes once again.

After Cole is when folks start getting nervous, which I can understand. What’s a soon-to-be 35 year-old Corey Kluber going to look like after two injury-riddled seasons? How will Jameson Taillon rebound from his second Tommy John surgery? Will Jordan Montgomery‘s results catch up to his peripherals? And so it goes. No, this isn’t a rotation for the risk-averse. But at the same time, how many other big league rotations are full of sure things?

Yankees Spring Training News & Notes: February 28, 2021

The Big Story: They played a real game

No need to settle for live BP or simulated game videos today. The Yankees and Blue Jays squared off at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa this afternoon. Toronto was victorious, 6-4. Here’s the box score. Some notes:

  • DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andújar were the only starters with hits. LeMahieu knocked a single to center field and Torres doubled in the fourth inning. Miggy single to right in the fifth.
  • The first spring training homer for the Yankees belonged to Rob Brantly. Mike Tauchman made it back-to-back dingers.
  • Michael King threw 42 pitches in two innings and allowed three runs. His fastball hit 96.9 on the radar gun, though. If we’re to trust the calibration of Statcast in Grapefruit League parks, that’s 1.6 MPH faster than he’s ever maxed out at before.
  • After King, a parade of non-roster invitees pitched: Asher Wojciechowski, Kyle Barraclough, Adam Warren, Lucas Luetge, and Nick Goody. Aside from it being nice to see Warren again, this wasn’t a particularly exciting bunch. Tomorrow’s game will be more exciting to watch from a pitching perspective as Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon will take the mound.

A Yankee Holiday Wish List

‘Tis the season, isn’t it, folks? Whether you’re in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah or gearing up for Christmas or Kwanza, or the Winter Solstice, or whatever you celebrate, it’s the holiday season. In that spirit–and in the spirit of keeping safe and healthy in our celebrations this holiday season–here’s a list of my holiday wishes for some Yankees.

Gary Sanchez: For Gary, I wish a year of no tinkering and no tampering with his approach behind the plate. We’ve heard via Luke Voit that Gary is already working to correct his poor hitting in 2020 and that’s what he needs. What I think he doesn’t need–and I’ve expressed this before–is another round of fiddling with his catching. Sanchez will likely never be a great blocker, maybe not even a good one, but even without the tampering last year, he was a decent framer. He also calls a good game and has a rocket arm. Let him focus on what he’s good at behind the plate so that his struggles and adjustments there don’t carry over to the plate like they did in 2020.

Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, and Luke Voit: For these three, I wish for fully healthy and productive seasons. The former is asking a lot, especially so of Hicks and Judge, but I so badly want these three to play 140+ games in 2021 to show off what they can really do. Given their levels of talent and previous levels of production, all three could be MVP candidates with full seasons under their belts.

Reviewing the Yankees’ 2021 Projections: ZiPS

If it feels incredibly early to start thinking about 2021 projections, that’s because it is. Last year, we started this series in January. This year, we get an early start merely as a result of the ZiPS projections for the Yankees last week. It just so happens that the Yankees were on the early end of FanGraphs’ release schedule this time around. Of course, the roster will change by spring training. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t peek at how things stand right now.

The graphic adds up to +49 WAR. That’s a 97 to 99 win team, keeping in mind that a replacement level club is said to win between 48 and 50 games. Adding up the WAR is incredibly dumb far more often than not, and I must say that calling the current Yankees club a near-100 win team seems like a stretch. That’s without DJ LeMahieu, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton, after all. I guess it speaks to this team’s high-end talent.

Similar to last year, I’m going to call out some notable projections. Ones that I think sell the player short, ones that are too aggressive for my taste, ones that feel just right, and some surprises. Let’s get to it:

Betting the over

Hitter: Gio Urshela has hit .310/.358/.523 (133 OPS+) with 27 homers in 650 plate appearances since joining the Yankees. ZiPS, however, doesn’t seem quite ready to fully buy in on the 29 year-old third baseman. The system projects a triple-slash of .283/.331/.459 (110 OPS+) and 18 homers in 508 plate appearances. A good offensive projection, but I presume that ZiPS is scarred by Urshela’s pre-Yankees offensive performance. Urshela might regress a little bit, but there’s nothing that indicates him taking as big of a step back as ZiPS estimates. Not only have Urshela’s results been good, but he’s made mechnical adjustments and is a Statcast darling. This is an easy over for me.

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