April Rotation Report

Folks, we are nearing the end of April and we have seen some encouraging and discouraging things throughout the rotation.

Luis Severino looks like he might be developing into one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and he has been very consistent in 2017.

CC Sabathia appears to have turned a corner into a full-on Jamie Moyer type of pitcher, granted his fastball still is a bit better. He consistently induces soft contact, and though he rarely will put up big strikout numbers, he seems to be on track to becoming a consistent and reliable pitcher – as long as he can stay healthy.

Jordan Montgomery, though a small sample size, appears to be for real. He will likely not dominate the way that Severino can, but he throws strikes, keeps the ball down, and has several pitches to choose from. Again, if he stays healthy he can keep the team in the game and give the nasty bullpen a chance if the Yankees can put some runs on the board.

Masahiro Tanaka was terrible his first few times out, and has shown to be streaky in his career – not just in the MLB, but in Japan as well. When he goes on hot streaks, he tends to stay on them for a while. His cold streaks generally last 2-4 starts. He appears to be putting it together and the results have improved. A great start against the Red Sox tonight would be a sign that he has turned the corner and is about to go on a run for 4-5 more starts.

Michael Pineda has been slightly more consistent in 2017. He appears to be commanding his pitches a little better and using his changeup a little more. I am not personally sold that it will last, because we have seen this before. I think the best case scenario for Pineda is to have 3.5 really good months, and then to deal him at the deadline and call up Chad Greene or Luis Cessa. I think that if he is dealing at the level he is now for the next few months, he can bring back a decent prospect or two and a bullpen arm.

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Thoughts on one week’s worth of games

The Yankees have played seven games and have won only three of them, but with a little luck could have won five.

What’s gone right? What’s gone wrong?

What’s gone right?

Aaron Judge appears to be improving right before our eyes. Much as Didi Gregorious showed steady and noticeable improvement after his first 100 or so games with the Yankees, Judge appears to be making all of the right adjustments.  Not only has he cut back on his strikeouts (so far), but he is punishing the ball when he makes contact – having hit 4 of the 9 hardest balls in MLB this season.  He has two homers, 4 RBI, and is batting a respectable .261 – and playing great defense.  Stay healthy, your honor.

Chase Headley is off to a hot start.  Last season, Headley, despite making $13,000,000 per season, could not buy a hit.  This season he is 9-for-24 (.375), with 5 walks (.483 OBP), 2 homers, and he has played well at 3B.

Jacoby Ellsbury also seems to have gotten off to a positive start.  With 8 hits in his first 23 at bats, including a homer, Ellsbury seems to be thriving in the five hole.  He has only stolen one bag, and that is sure to improve.  Gardner also has 8 hits in seven games, and has swiped five bags.

Ronald Torreyes is on pace for nearly 200 RBI.  Filling in for popular Didi Gregorious was sure to be a tough task, but Ronald has risen to the challenge.  Though he has yet to draw a walk, despite having a strike zone the size of a cell phone, he has gone 6-for-24 with a homer, a triple, and 8 RBI. He has also looked solid on defense.

Honorable mentions to Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks who have all played well.

What has gone wrong?

Masahiro Tanaka has been terrible.  After two starts, he is still sporting a double-digit ERA, and though he is likely to straighten things out, his sub-par performance has essentially cost the Yankees two games.  His arm looks healthy and strong, but his command has been off.

The rest of the starting rotation has been so-so.  Severino had four good innings before being beaten with a Machado longball.  Sabathia looked great in his first outing, but struggled through a second outing in which the Yankees eventually won.  Pineda had a terrible first start, and absolutely dominated in his second outing.

Injuries and illness.  Gary Sanchez is out for a month, and will return around the same time as Didi Gregorious.  Greg Bird fouled a ball off of his foot which cost him two games, before missing another two due to the flu.

Honorable mention to the bullpen which blew leads of 5-4 on consecutive nights.

 

 

 

Gleyber Torres – on the fast track?

Gleyber Torres was the key piece acquired last season for Aroldis Chapman, a deal that was essential in bringing the Cubs their first World Series in over 100 years. Torres showed immediate dividends by becoming the youngest player ever to win the Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player Award (side note, Greg Bird also won this award in 2014).

Torres is interesting because he is a shortstop with good hands, a strong arm, and off-the-charts hitting ability. His ability to drive the ball to right field should help him in Yankee stadium and he is versatile enough to play second or even third (though management wants to keep him in the middle of the field). He also is said to have a great makeup, especially for a 20 year old.

How soon could he be in the Bronx? The most likely scenario is 2018, but if he dominates AA and AAA there is a chance the Yankees could bring him up in 2017. Would he be a candidate should something happen to Didi or Castro? Time will tell, but he has all of the tools and his arrival in the Bronx appears to be inevitable.

How many HR can the Yankees hit in 2017?

In 2016, the Yankees finished 11th in the American League in home runs with 183 and 12th in runs with 680. Their anemic offense was partially due to abysmal seasons from Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera, neither of whom is an active MLB player in 2017, who were statistically the worst two hitters in the American League.

How will the 2017 offense fare in comparison? Rarely does an entire lineup remain healthy for an entire season, but here are some optimistic projections for home run totals from their everyday lineup in 2017:

Gardner: 10
Didi: 18
Sanchez: 30
Bird: 27
Judge: 25
Holiday: 22
Castro: 18
Headley: 14
Ellsbury: 9

Bench:
Hicks: 7
Carter: 15
Romine: 2
Torreyes: 1
Others: ~5

If these numbers hold true, that will add up to 203 homers in 2017, or roughly between what the Twins (200) and Red Sox (208) featured in 2016 when each of which significantly outscored the Yankees.

If the Yankees can get this production and at least live up to last year’s pitching, which wasn’t great either, they should improve in 2017.

2017 Lineup Projections

The 2016 – 2017 offseason will be over in five days, and it appears as though the Yankees are finished making moves.  Their most recent acquisition of 2016 NL HR champion Chris Carter caps off a decent offseason for the Yankees.

Though they failed to bolster their rotation, and appear to be settled on going with young arms like Luis Cessa and Chad Green, they did bring back World Series Champion Aroldis Chapman and bolstered their lineup with Matt Holliday and the aforementioned Chris Carter.

Here is a look at the projected lineups and rotation for the 2017 Yankees:

Lineup vs. RHP:
The Yankees have publicly mentioned that they are not set on batting the light-hitting Ellsbury in the leadoff spot in 2017.  Here’s my projection –

  1. Gardner LF
  2. Gregorius SS
  3. Sanchez C
  4. Holliday / Carter DH
  5. Bird 1B
  6. Judge RF
  7. Castro 2B
  8. Headley  3B
  9. Ellsbury  CF

 

Vs. LHP

  1. Gardner CF
  2. Hicks / Austin LF
  3. Sanchez C.
  4. Carter 1B
  5. Holliday DH
  6. Judge RF
  7. Castro 2B
  8. Gregorius SS
  9. Headley 3b

 

Rotation:

  1. Masahiro Tanaka
  2. Michael Pineda
  3. CC Sabathia
  4. Luis Severino
  5. Luis Cessa

Waiting in the wings to fill in the rotation: Chad Green, Brian Mitchell, Adam Warren, Chance Adams, James Kaprielian

The 2016 Yankees Autopsy

The 2016 Yankees were not very good, but the season was not a total loss.  Here’s what went right and what went wrong

What Went Wrong:

The Offense
Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez had great seasons in 2015, each hitting over 30 home runs.  They were being counted on to replicate those numbers in 2016, but instead, each was so bad that they ended up retiring from baseball.

Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, the two men who are supposed to be catalysts for the offense, batted .261 and .263 respectively, each with zero power and combining for just 36 stolen bases.  Getting almost no offense out of the top two spots of the order led to the Yankees being one of the worst 1st inning teams in the major leagues.

Aaron Hicks was brought on to replace Chris Young.  And while he showed a good arm in the field, his fly ball routes were often wacky and he failed to contribute at the plate – batting just .217 with 8 HR and 31 RBI.

Brian McCann had a down year, driving in just 58 runs despite hitting 20 HR.

The Pitching
Michael Pineda and Luis Severino began the season pitching HR derby.  Severino was eventually demoted to AAA before emerging as a bullpen threat late in the season. Pineda pitched to a 6-12 record with a 4.82 ERA, despite strong whiff numbers (he struck out 207 batters in just 175 innings).

Nathan Eovaldi, coming off of a strong 2015, went just 9-8 and pitched to a 4.76 ERA before blowing out his elbow, requiring two surgeries and likely ending his Yankee career.

 

What Went Right?

The Offense
Didi Gregorius had a breakout season, batting .276 with 20 HR and 70 RBI.  New acquisition Starlin Castro also had a great year, batting .270 with 21 HR and 70 RBI.  Neither member of the keystone combo got on base very much, however, posting on-base percantages of .304 and .300 respectively.

Gary Sanchez has emerged as one of the game’s bright young stars.  Sanchez just missed batting .300 (finished at .299) with 20 HR and 42 RBI in just 53 games.  He also was outstanding behind the plate and posted a 3.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) – good enough for 3rd on the team, despite playing in less than 1/3 of the team’s games.

Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin both contributed after being called up, though Judge got hurt and missed much of September.

The Pitching
Tanaka stayed healthy.  The Japanese import posted a 14-4 record with a 3.07 ERA in a career high 199.2 innings pitched and will get some Cy Young votes.  The bullpen trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances was terrific, until Chapman and Miller were traded for prospects.

Luis Cessa and Chad Green, the two pitchers acquired from Detroit in the offseason, both contributed and showed flashes of excellence.  Adam Warren was great after a mid-season acquisition, as was Tyler Clippard.

Outlook:
The 2017 team may look very similar to the 2016 season, or it may look vastly different. Despite a weak free agent market, GM Brian Cashman will likely try to make moves to bolster the team’s starting pitching and offense. With super prospect Clint Frazier in AAA to start 2017, it would make sense to clear a spot for him in left field, meaning Gardner could be moved for relief pitching depth or more prospects.  Greg Bird will be back from injury and will likely be manning first base, while Austin and Judge are sure to improve in their second big league seasons.

 

Only two games from elimination, the Yankees should play the kids

The season, which started with frequent losing, culminated with a fire sale at the trade deadline, and raised hopes with a hot August, is nearly over. The Yankees are two games from being eliminated with six to play.  Their season could very well end tonight.

If that is the case, it is in the Yankees best interest to see what the kids can do over the last week. Judge is injured, Austin has struggled, and Severino might very well be suspended, but that shouldn’t stop the Yankees from putting fans out of their misery of watching Jacoby Age-berry and Brett should-retire-to-become-a Gardner.

Let the fans watch the final few games played by those who may have somewhat of a future with the team – Mason Williams, Rob Refsnyder, Austin, and even Torreyas.

Then, bring on the hot stove.