The Yankees are 5-7. Let’s Not Panic.

The 2019 season in Major League Baseball is two weeks old (except for the Mariners and Oakland A’s, who began a week earlier in Japan). The New York Yankees have started off winning only five of their first dozen games, and Yankees Twitter is already ablaze with a lot of bad takes interspersed with several others being much needed voices of reason.

I’m not sure what’s more disturbing. Is it people blaming manager Aaron Boone or Twitter GM’s creating polls asking whether this is Boone’s fault or GM Brian Cashman for creating the roster? WE’RE TWELVE GAMES IN, PEOPLE! The Yankees have played 12 damn games! Get a grip on reality.

Listen. There are several players injured. The team has Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andújar and Aaron Hicks among others on the injured list. Sure there have been some players not performing well, most notably Zack Britton and James Paxton after last night’s loss and sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros. I’ve had some wingnut tweet me during each of Paxton’s three Yankees making sure he tells me how bad he is.

Thank God for the mute button. I can’t think it’s an exercise in good judgement to write a guy off after his first three appearances in Pinstripes, but there are people out there doing that.

Rest assured, Yankees players, coaches and front office don’t want to have a record of 5-7, but it’s EARLY. We’re not even halfway through April. So please, hang in there. When players get healthy and the temperatures warm up, these Yankees will be the Bronx Bombers we all know and love.

Didi admiring Judge 495

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Yankees Bullpen Forecast – Opening Day

In 16 days, the New York Yankees will play their first game of the 2019 season. A couple days ago, I gave my thoughts on how the Yankees rotation might look on Opening Day. Today I’ll dive into their bullpen and give my thoughts on who will be there.

Manager Aaron Boone will probably carry 13 pitchers from the get-go. The Yankees will have their usual cast: Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green and Dellin Betances, plus newly acquired Adam Ottavino. That leaves three spots to fill.

Tommy Kahnle – 2018 was basically a washout for Tommy. He never had the same velocity he carried after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox in 2017, and was injured in an early appearance in April, which he didn’t disclose. Tommy kept pitching with a sore arm, fairing so poorly he ended up back in AAA. Kahnle says he is feeling much better this spring and says “the ball is coming out of his hand better”. He is out of options and would require passing through waivers unclaimed to stay with the Yankees organization if sent down. Therefore, Tommy will get every opportunity to make the club and bring the heat.

Kahnle cranks up heat

Stephen Tarpley – The 26 year old Tarpley came to the Yankees in August 2016 as part of the deal that sent Ivan Nova to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He rose quickly through the system in 2018, progressing from Double-A Trenton to Scranton Wilkes Barre, posting a composite ERA of 2.20 at both levels. He was rewarded with a September 1 call-up, and made his big-league debut at Yankee Stadium the next day. Tarpley pitched so well in September that Aaron Boone added him to the postseason roster for the ALDS against the Red Sox. “Tarp” is able to pitch multiple innings and is effective against both lefties and righties, making him all the more valuable.

Jonathan Holder – Jonathan’s overall ERA (3.14) in 2018 isn’t bad in itself, but it IS deceiving. Four rough outings in his 60 appearances skewed his numbers. Back to back appearances in early April and another pair of outings at the beginning of August were enough to make his ERA balloon more than 2.5 times it’s size. In his other 56 games, Holder’s ERA was 1.29 and WHIP was 0.88.

Chance Adams – In a way, Chance’s 2018 season was kind of similar to Kahnle’s because of injury. In an article by NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty, Adams had surgery after the 2017 season to remove bone chips from his right elbow, and it took longer to recover than expected. He didn’t have the mid-90’s velocity when he did return, nor the results to match. Chance will probably begin his 2019 season in Triple-A Scranton where he can start every fifth day, stay stretched-out and is only a phone call away if needed in New York.

Ben Heller – Ben missed all of 2018 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and will hopefully contribute during the second half of 2019. Heller and Jordan Montgomery are pretty much on the same timetable.

Yankees Starting Rotation Taking Form

Yesterday, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced that Masahiro Tanaka will be their Opening Day starter when they face off against the Baltimore Orioles on March 28 at Yankee Stadium.

With Luis Severino not expected back from shoulder inflammation for roughly a month, Boone had to make new plans for the Yankees’ first game. Tanaka made it an easy choice because he’s thrown the ball well in each of his starts this spring.

James Paxton and J.A. Happ will follow Tanaka in the rotation, but who will follow them still remains to be seen. Domingo Germán has pitched well in Florida, allowing two runs over 7.1 innings with 12 K’s in the early going. Yesterday, Luis Cessa started against the Tigers, retiring the first 11 batters before allowing a hit. He has surrendered one run on five hits in his nine innings in his three appearances. Both Cessa and Germán are candidates to for the back end of the rotation with Sevy and CC Sabathia both unlikely to begin their seasons until late April.

What about Jonathan Loaisiga you ask? It’s a fair question. He has looked very good this spring, and he’s not ruled out by any stretch. But the Yankees are going to want to take it easy with him, especially after some injury problems limited him to 80 innings in 2018. Over Loaisiga’s professional career, he has thrown only 196 total innings in his four years. Chances are Jonathan will continue to hone his craft in Triple-A Scranton by starting every five days, building up his innings in a carefully controlled environment.

Cessa is out of options, and would require clearing waivers if the team tried sending him back to Scranton-Wilkes Barre, so he’s going to get every opportunity to make the team. Aaron Boone may decide to go with a five-man rotation right out of the gate. I see the rotation something like this until Severino and Sabathia return:

  1. Tanaka
  2. Paxton
  3. J.A. Happ
  4. Germán
  5. Cessa

 

Of course after Sevy and CC join the rotation, some decisions will have to be made for Germán and possibly Cessa, but I think both righties can hold down the fort in the meantime.

Stop Worrying, Gary Will Be Fine…..

 

Gary Sanchez returned to the Yankees lineup last night in their 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Manager Aaron Boone gave the 25 year old catcher had a three day break designed to rest his nicked-up body and maybe to reset his mind a bit. Sanchez is batting .188 this season and is mired in a 2-31 slump since June began. In his All-Star season in 2017, Gary slugged 33 home runs, most of them every bit as majestic as teammate Aaron Judge’s blasts. However, Sanchez has not homered in almost a month. His last ones came in a May 19 game against Kansas City, in which he had four hits and a pair of homers in an 8-3 Yankees win.

We’re about a month away from the All Star Break, but it’s still too early to panic and think Gary is past “the point of no return”. Yes his slash-line is ugly (.188/.295/.426), but it’s also a time to point out that Sanchez got red-hot in the second halves of the past two seasons, especially in the months of August. In 2016, he burst on the scene with an eleven homer month that everyone in the baseball world noticed.

 

 

It didn’t take long for Yankees Twitter to “Release the Kraken”, with his eye-popping .389/.458/.832 slash-line for August 2016. Last season, Sanchez had another hot August with a dozen homers to go with a .287 average. He followed that up with a .303 September average.

It’s no secret Sanchez has struggled with some facets of his defense behind the plate, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t add to it. That said, I want to voice praise over many things Gary does well. He is one of the best at framing pitches in Major League Baseball. Good framing can get his pitchers more called strikes, even if they are borderline. We all know Gary has a bazooka and throws out a ton of would-be base-stealers. Fans and broadcast crews lamented the amount of mound visits he took in 2017, which helped MLB implement a new rule limiting mound-visits as part of Commissioner Manfred’s plan to improve pace-of-play. In my opinion, all those mound visits tells me Sanchez cares deeply about making sure he and his pitchers stay on the same page.

Does Gary have more work to do to become a well-rounded catcher? Absolutely. But we also have to remember he’s still only 25 years of age, and he still hasn’t reached his prime. The weather will continue to heat up, and I will bet on Gary Sanchez heating up along with it.

The Yankees’ 3rd Base “Problem”

We’re barely two weeks into Spring Training, and the New York Yankees are creating a buzz in the baseball world. While the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge take on the majority of discussion about the Bronx Bombers, Miguel Andujar‘s bat is making folks take notice of the young 3rd baseman.

This afternoon, the Yankees took on the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla. On the first pitch of his 1st at-bat of the afternoon, Andujar lifted a 91 mph two-seam fastball from Nick Pivetta over the fence in left-center field.

 

But Andujar wasn’t done there. In his next at bat against Pedro Beato, he cranked another home-run over the fence in left, not all that far from where his first blast landed. Andujar now has four HR’s on the spring, which is amazing since it’s only the 1st day of March.

It remains to be seen whether the Yankees will go with Andujar as the Opening Day 3rd baseman or if they will go with newly acquired Brandon Drury. If Andujar keeps raking, he will make this an easy “problem” to solve for Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman.