Yankees Progress Report – 60 Games

When we left off after the Yankees 50 game report, the team was playing much better. The offense was still lagging but they were getting good pitching and just enough offense to win seven of their ten games from May 17 through the 27th. To quote a worn-out cliché from manager Aaron Boone, it looked like the Yankees were turning the corner.

Fast forward another ten games later, and the team is back where they were three weeks ago, treading water and playing barely over .500 ball. The Yankees played three games against the Tigers in Detroit and got swept. They returned home to play a four-game set against the Rays, which they split, followed by three games at home against the Boston Red Sox. In any case, it ended in a demoralizing sweep in front of the Yankee Stadium faithful.

Let’s go over the carnage.

The offense – let’s just say it was offensive. To save the aggravation of re-living it, I’ll just summarize. Yankees hitters need to be better. When they weren’t striking out, which was often, they were hitting into double plays. When they weren’t hitting into double plays, they were making dumb outs on the base-paths. And that’s only when they were finding ways to get on base. 

Yankees beat-writer Sweeny Murti summed it up well.

Honestly, it’s been painful. To save space, I’ll just say that Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela are really the only hitters that are performing as expected. The rest are spinning their wheels in the mud. 

Pitching – the rotation and pitching staff as a whole suffered a tremendous blow when Corey Kluber went on the injured list. He left his start against the Blue Jays after three innings on May 25. Just six days prior, he pitched a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Diagnosed as a shoulder strain, Kluber has reportedly sought 2nd and 3rd opinions.  Kluber played catch on June 4 and felt good, which is encouraging.

Gerrit Cole was roughed up at home against the Rays on June 3, giving up five runs in five innings. Uncharacteristically, a pair of lead-off walks in the 4th and 5th innings ended up scoring. Additionally, his spin-rates were down, which made some ask if he was curtailing his supposed use of sticky substances in the wake of MLB’s announcement that they are going start randomly checking pitchers for illegal use.

The bullpen is beginning to show signs of wear, with Chad Green and Justin Wilson suffering poor recent outings. Green let in four runs against the Red Sox while recording just a pair of outs in a 7-3 loss on June 5. Wilson was walked off in the 10th inning in Detroit on May 28, when Robbie Grossman hit a two run shot. In essence, Wilson should have been out of the inning with a save and a Yankees win. Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza had other ideas. According to MLB Gameday, Wilson hit his spot which should have been called strike three. Carapazza called it a ball.

Murphy’s law took over and Grossman ended the game on the very next pitch. 

To be sure, it was a tough 10-game stretch, with the Yankees losing five out of seven at home. The Yankees started an eight game road trip with an 8-4 win against the Twins, with the offense looking much more like themselves. By and large, it’s a good head start for the next ten game stretch. Like YES Network broadcaster David Cone says, “Home runs are a great deodorant”. So is winning!

See ya next time!

Yankees Progress Report – 50 Games

It feels like I just published the New York Yankees 40 game report, but here we are again to cover the team’s first fifty games. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? 

It is fun when the team is winning, and the Yankees have done this quite a bit lately. Their record sits at 29-21 after a 5-10 start. They continued their road trip into Texas, dropping the first game of a four-game set on Monday, May 18. Gerrit Cole struggled, allowing five runs to the Rangers in a 5-2 loss. Jameson Taillon struggled the next night. His teammates spotted him five runs, but the Rangers got to him for four runs in just 4.1 innings. The Yankees went on to win, 7-4.

The following night, Corey Kluber was dialed in from the beginning. The offense scored just a pair of runs, but that was all he needed. Kluber looked like his Cy Young self, mastering the Rangers on his way to a no-hitter. He breezed through 101 pitches, 71 of them for strikes. After getting 14 outs the night before, Kluber gave the bullpen a needed night off.

 

The rest of the rotation followed Kluber’s lead, pitching a total of 37 scoreless innings before allowing another run. Domingo Germán and Jordan Montgomery each hurled seven scoreless innings, with Monty notching a career-high eleven strikeouts against the Chicago White Sox on Friday, May 21. The next night, Cole returned to form with seven scoreless of his own, frustrating Chicago hitters to the tune of seven punch-outs and only four hits.

Taillon redeemed himself a bit on Sunday, May 23 with five scoreless innings against the same White Sox. Trouble came after an off day, when Kluber left his start against the Toronto Blue Jays after just three innings. He reported his arm feeling heavy and unable to get really loose. An MRI showed a slight strain, but nothing truly serious.

With the starters going deep into games, it gave the Yankees bullpen a needed breather.  Aroldis Chapman had the nerve to be human and give up a run on May 23, but it didn’t matter in the end as the team won. He now has a 0.47 ERA to go with 11 saves and a 2-0 record. 

Jonathan Loáisiga has struggled a bit in his last four appearances. He only allowed one run, but allowed a few hits and just isn’t quite as dominating. His stuff is so good, though. He and Chapman, along with Chad Green have formed a really good set ’em up and shut ’em down bullpen squad. 

More good news, as Zack Britton (right elbow surgery) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment tomorrow with Double-A Somerset.

On the other side of the ball, the Yankees offense has been up and down. Aaron Judge has caught fire at the right time, hitting .434 with 6 HR and 11 RBI in his last 15 starts. Last night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Blue Jays, he smoked a blast to center that doinked off the windows above Monument Park.

Gleyber Torres came back after a battle with COVID-19, and promptly raked. He recorded 11 hits in 18 at bats against Texas and Chicago. However, Gleyber didn’t record a hit against the Blue Jays in all three games. Luke Voit, who made his season debut on May 11, went back on the injured list with a strained oblique muscle. He struggled in his time back with the Yankees, hitting .182 with just one home run. Voit will be out until some time in July.

Gio Urshela is cooling off a bit, but still managed seven hits in 32 at bats and 5 RBI over the past ten games. Gary Sánchez is never going to hit well, I think that’s a given at this point. But he did hit a needed home run last night, a solo blast in the 3rd inning off Robbie Ray. He added another hit in the 6th inning. We’ll take what we can get from Gary.

And I need to show some love to Tyler Wade. He’s been getting more playing time, out of necessity with the team being banged up. He has two hits in ten at bats, but made a really good running catch in the 9th inning of Corey Kluber‘s no-hitter. This is relevant because Wade has hardly played any outfield in his career. He discussed it in the postgame Zoom room with Yankees beat writers.

Last but not least, Giancarlo Stanton makes his return tonight after recovering from a quad strain. He last played on May 13.

The Yankees begin a three game set in Detroit for a weekend series against the Tigers before returning home next week for a pair of important series against the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. Both teams are currently ahead of the Yankees in the AL East.

What a week for this Baseball-holic!

When the calendar flipped to 2021 leaving 2020 behind, I had a feeling things would get better. After COVID-19 ravaged our lives, everyone looks ahead to the normalcy that COVID took from us. That better life includes a full season of baseball after Major League Baseball played only sixty games in 2020. Consequently, Minor League Baseball didn’t play a game, as the season was cancelled completely.

On Tuesday, May 18, Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull pitched MLB’s fifth no-hitter of the young 2021 season. The 28 year old righty held the Mariners hitless in a 117 pitch masterpiece. Two years ago, Turnbull suffered through a 3-17 season, but owns a 2.88 ERA this year. Meanwhile, Seattle has been no hit twice this year after Orioles lefty John Means mastered them exactly one week before.

In addition to Turnbull’s effort, the next evening Corey Kluber locked in from the beginning. The Klubot had every weapon in his arsenal working. Coupled with his marksman control, he carved his way through the Texas Rangers, for a no-no in a tidy 101 pitch effort in a 2-0 New York Yankees win.

With that, MLB has six no-hitters less than two months into the season. If you include Madison Bumgarner‘s seven inning performance in Atlanta, there’s seven (yes, it should count).

Friday night, the Yankees turned a triple-play in the top of the 9th inning, snuffing out a White Sox rally. The game was tied at one apiece, and swung the momentum in the Yankees’ favor. They won on a walk-off hit by Gleyber Torres, giving the Yankees 21 wins in their last 30 games.

On a personal level, I took in a few minor league games in Rochester, where I live. In light of the cancelled minor league season, the Rochester Red Wings played in their home ballpark, Frontier Field, for the first time in 624 days. They hosted the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Yankees Triple-A affiliate.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders CF Estevan Florial steps in as Rochester’s Ben Braymer checks his fielders before first pitch. It had been 624 days since the last Red Wings game was played at Frontier Field. (Author’s photo)

 

It’s an incredible feeling to have Minor League Baseball back. Please support your local minor league team. So much fun at an affordable price. See ya next time! 😎

Yankees 40 Game Report

The New York Yankees and Major League Baseball are through forty games, roughly the first quarter of the 2021 season. After starting out 5-10, the Yankees have won 17 of their last 25 games. The bats have warmed along with the weather, and the team has gotten good pitching more often than not.

In this installment of “Yankees xx Game Report”, we’re going to cover games 32 through 40. We got a little off kilter the last couple times, and I want to get back on track covering games by full ten game increments. So let’s get started!

The Yankees won all three series against the Nationals, Rays, and Baltimore Orioles, for a 6-3 record in those games. Yankees fans tend to be a greedy bunch (in a GOOD WAY), so there was some disappointment when the team failed to complete the sweeps against Tampa Bay and Baltimore.

  • Pitching

Gerrit Cole started only one game during this span of games, but he made it a beauty. On May 12, the unquestioned rotation leader delivered eight scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and a dozen punchies. He threw 73 strikes over 106 pitches.

Jordan Montgomery has been uneven, and his two most recent starts has been more of the same. Six innings of one-run ball in Tampa on May 11, and yesterday he went just three innings (76 pitches) and let in five runs in Baltimore. On the season, Monty is sporting an ERA of 4.75 and hasn’t gone past six innings in his eight starts. 

Corey Kluber has also made eight starts in 2021. His first four starts were less than impressive, but I will chalk it up to rustiness after pitching one inning last year. The Klubot locked it in since, reeling off 26.1 (7 ER) innings reminiscent of his Cy Young years. The Yankees won all four starts, and Kluber has lowered his season ERA to 3.48.

Domingo Germán pitched well in his two starts against the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees won both games and Germán got his team to the seventh inning each time (3 runs over 12.1 total innings). He’s throwing strikes and seems to be back to form after missing all of 2020 under suspension for his role in a domestic abuse incident.

Jameson Taillon, the Yankees fifth starter and newest addition to the rotation, has struggled. He missed most of the past two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Many pitchers who have had this surgery say command is the last thing to return to normal, so this isn’t unexpected. The stuff is there, as Taillon has struck out 43 in his 33.1 innings. What’s hurt Jamo is not being able to put hitters away, resulting in getting into deep counts and raising his pitch totals. Taillon also seems to have one bad inning where things start to go sideways. Patience is going to be key, but I believe it will be rewarded in the long run. For now, Taillon sports a 5.40 ERA and a record of 1-3.

As for the bullpen, the guys are still getting the job done. Aroldis Chapman has converted all nine save opportunities, striking out 31 in his 15 innings and allowing only one unearned run. Jonathan Loaísiga has two saves of his own, filling in when Chapman was unavailable while touching 100 mph. Chad Green has been dependable, while lefties Lucas Luetge, Justin Wilson and Wandy Peralta have been excellent. On the injury front, Zack Britton is throwing simulated games with Triple-A Scranton, and should be ready to begin a rehab assignment any day now.

**UPDATE** Yankees clubhouse reporter Meredith Marakovits reports Britton has some “general soreness” after the simulated game. The plan was to have him make a rehab appearance with Somerset on Wednesday, but will push that back for now.

  • Position Players 

Aaron Judge is getting hot, and it’s coming at a great time. In the Baltimore series, Judge swung his gavel to the tune of six hits and 4 HR’s in ten at bats. He’s 13-29 with five bombs over the past nine games. With Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton hitting the injured list, the Yankees need him. 

Luke Voit is back after finishing a week-long rehab assignment with Scranton Wilkes-Barre. It took a few days for him to get going, but Voit drove home a pair of runs in Baltimore while collecting four hits in nine AB’s.

Gio Urshela returned he sat out a few games with a sore knee. He’s back to hitting the ball (7-22 – .318) and being his dependable self, including a clutch three-run HR in Baltimore that proved to be the winning runs.

After DJ LeMahieu carried the Yankees in 2019 and 2020, we became used to him raking like a man-possessed. He’s not hitting .350, but he’s been extremely dependable. On the season, LeMahieu’s slash-line is .272/.364/.364. Over the past nine games, it’s .286/.375/.457 – which is more indicative of the hitter he is.

Gleyber Torres has been out since May 11 after testing positive for COVID-19. The diagnosis came at a tough time, as Gleyber was starting to hit after a slow start to the season. Torres was 13 for his last 43, including his first home run of the year on Mother’s Day. The Yankees are hoping he will be back soon.

In the catching department, Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sánchez are holding their own. They each have five home-runs, but are also hitting under .200. I can live with it, as long as the guys are handling the pitching staff and defense.

And I have to give Tyler Wade some love. When Torres went down, Wade stepped in with six starts at shortstop. He has 5 hits in his 16 at bats, and drew a pair of walks. Everyone seems to hate on the guy, myself included at times. He deserves credit for some good at bats.

It’s hard to believe we’re a quarter of the way through the 2021 season. The Yankees play four games in Texas against the Rangers before heading back to the Bronx to face the White Sox and Blue Jays.

Yankees Ten Game Report – Games 22-31

The New York Yankees have blown through another ten game chunk of the 2021 season, so here we are again. The Bronx Bombers finished series vs. the Orioles, Tigers, and those lovable Houston Astros. The Yankees split a four-game set with the O’s, swept three against the Detroit and took two of three against Houston. All in all, they won seven of ten, so things are looking up in the Bronx.

Often the object of Yankees fans’ wrath, no one has been hotter than Giancarlo Stanton the past two weeks. His numbers for the past twelve games are mind-numbing. His slash line – .481/.509/.904 for an OPS of 1.413. Over that span, Stanton has gone 25-52, with 6 HR and 4 doubles. He sent another missile into the Yankees bullpen yesterday.

Aaron Judge isn’t hitting at the same clip as Stanton (I mean, who can?), but he contributed three home runs of his own to go with ten RBI over the past ten games. By the same token, he played in nine of those games. Staying healthy is important.

Speaking of health, there’s cause for concern. Third baseman Gio Urshela came up gimpy in yesterday’s series finale against the Astros. Gio banged up his knee in on a diving play late in the game. The team is awaiting results of an MRI as of this writing. The timing is unfortunate, as Urshela went 12 for his last 33 AB’s while bringing home seven baserunners.

Second baseman Rougned Odor was fortunate to not have any structural damage in his left knee after a scary home plate collision with Astros catcher Martín Maldonado. Still, Odor went on the 10 day IL.

Gleyber Torres has picked up the pace over these three series. He has 10 hits in his last 30 AB’s, with three doubles and seven RBI. Even better, he walked five times and only struck out three. His at bats have been quality. No HR’s yet, but this approach is better. Really, Gleyber doesn’t need to be a power bat. This is good.

Gerrit Cole and Corey Kluber each delivered a pair of strong starts. Kluber especially opened eyes with a dominating performance against the Tigers. In that game, he gave eight innings of two-hit shutout ball, punching tickets for ten Detroit hitters. Domingo Germán shut out the Orioles over seven innings and gave five effective innings vs. the Astros (2.25 ERA, 12 IP). In the second game, Jordan Montgomery ground out six innings of three-run ball against Houston, not having his best stuff. At the same time, he’s growing as a pitcher, and those games are character builders.

The bullpen has been lights out, and Aroldis Chapman is putting up video game numbers. Over his eleven appearances (11 innings), the Yankees closer has allowed five baserunners (two hits, 3 BB) and struck out 26. His FIP is -0.81 (yes, MINUS).

Chad Green has done his job well, but the Astros got to him yesterday with Jose Altuve hitting a three-run HR that was the difference in the game. These things happen. We don’t like it, but “that’s baseball, Suzyn”. Just have to turn the page and move on.

Darren O’Day went on the injured list with a right rotator cuff strain, necessitating Michael King‘s return from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. From the left side, Lucas Luetge and newcomer Wandy Peralta (obtained from the Giants for OF Mike Tauchman) have done the job. Justin Wilson has not pitched well in his return to the team, with an overall ERA of 7.04 – and 16.88 over his past three games. To be honest, the Yankees need more from him.

But reinforcements are coming. Luke Voit played a pair of games in Syracuse for Triple-A Scranton, scorching the ball. Him and Miguel Andújar had quite the game on May 6 against the Triple-A Mets.

Voit was expected to play again in Syracuse last night, but when I scanned the field during batting practice, he was noticeably absent. Of course, given the uncertainty for the injury to Urshela, I suspect he was scratched and is on his way to New York. However, we’re still waiting for official word.

Andújar DID play last night for and only went 4-5 with a pair of home-runs in a 17-11 win for the RailRiders. There was some confusion last night, after he was moved mid-game from first base to third. This created a false alarm, thinking he may have been pulled. He’s making his own case for a return to the Yankees.

So that’s it for this Yankees Ten Game Report. The Bombers are looking better, more like the team we expect to see. See ya next time! 😎👋🏽

**UPDATE**

Luke Voit was not recalled from his rehab assignment, and yesterday was a scheduled day off as part of the plan. However, Miguel Andújar was called up after his big performance in Syracuse.

 

Yankees 20 Game – Plus one – Report

The last time we covered the Yankees “Ten Game Report”, the team was 5-5 and they were coming off a pair of wins. They salvaged an 8-4 win in St. Petersburg against the Rays, and beat the Blue Jays in the first game of a three-game set in nearby Dunedin, FL. Things were beginning to look up, right?

Wrong. The Yankees proceeded to lose six of their next seven games, the wheels fell off and now the Yankees are 9-12 after twenty-one games. The offense continued to be offensive. Gerrit Cole has been himself (3-1, 1.71 ERA), but the rest of the starting rotation has continually came up short, leaving the bullpen to cover several innings most games. In the sixteen games Cole didn’t start, Yankees starters are averaging 4.25 innings. Jordan Montgomery has provided the most innings behind their ace, while Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Domingo Germán have struggled to give length.

Yankees relief corps are still giving excellent innings, led by Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga. Lucas Luetge, who has been a wonderful story since spring training, notched his first win since 2013 in relief of Montgomery in a 5-3 win on April 23. The collective workload the bullpen has taken on in the early going is a concern, however. Green and Loaisiga have already appeared in ten and nine games, respectively. Luis Cessa and Darren O’Day have appeared in eight games each, and Luetge seven. This kind of workload isn’t conducive to success, and the overwork can lead to injuries. This is reason to worry, especially to a guy like Loaisiga, who’s had injury problems in the past.

On offense, the Yankees as a team are hitting .206 with a collective on base percentage of .302. Aaron Judge has overall been the team’s most reliable everyday hitter, with a slash-line of .246/.366/.449 and 4 HR’s. Giancarlo Stanton has been mostly cold, but did smoke a pair of blasts in the aforementioned 5-3 win in Cleveland. A positive spin – Stanton does lead the team with 14 RBI. Kyle Higashioka has seen increased playing time, a big reason is hitting almost 100 points higher than Gary Sánchez, with just as much pop in his bat. The other reason is his overall catching abilities, which frankly are much better than Sanchez. Yankees manager won’t say it, but Higgy is Cole’s personal catcher for most intents and purposes.

The last eleven games have been ugly. There’s no sugarcoating it. But the weather has been brutally cold, especially so in the game I went to at Yankee Stadium on April 21. The Atlanta Braves were in town for a two-game series and Wednesday’s game was frigid, with temperatures hovering in the low 40’s with sustained 20 mph winds. When the calendar turns to May in a few days, the weather should soon warm up. Getting Luke Voit back will only help, and he’s currently at the Alternate site in Scranton ramping up his rehab.

It’s hard to stay patient, especially for Yankees fans who expect wins, runs and homers. Sensing fans frustrations, General Manager Brian Cashman called a Zoom meeting/press conference on Monday, April 19 to attempt to calm the masses. It didn’t really work, but the right thing to do is continue to stay the course. For now.

Fans didn’t really buy it, but something had to be done even for the sake of doing something. Time will tell, but I feel confident the Yankees bats will warm up. Hopefully the rotation will pick things up and ease the burden on the relievers.

See ya next time! 😎👋🏽

Yankees 10 Game Report – 2021 Season

It’s that time again! Last year, I broke down the Yankees season in chunks, ten game increments. I am going to do the same thing in 2021, because it’s simply more manageable. I don’t want the reports to be super long, and I can better detail what’s happening with the team this way.

The Yankees are 5-5 after ten games. They lost two of three at home against the Blue Jays to kick things off. They followed that by taking two out of three against the Orioles. The Bronx Bombers went to St. Petersburg and promptly lost the first two of a three-game set against the Rays. The Yankees avoided the sweep by winning the final game of the series, and won again last night against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL.

  • Pitching

Gerrit Cole has been as-advertised, racking up 29 strikeouts over 18.1 innings. His ERA is a scant 1.47 and WHIP is 0.82. Cole is a pitching savant, and guys flock to him. On April 11, YES Network cameras captured Jordan Montgomery talking to Cole shortly after Monty was removed from the game. A reporter asked him about it after the game.

 

Montgomery wasn’t as sharp in his start against Tampa Bay as he was in his first start, but kept his team in the game. In his two starts, “Gumby” has a 3.27 ERA in eleven innings. Corey Kluber‘s first pair of starts (7 runs, 6.1 innings) leave something to be desired, but he’s a professional. Despite early troubles, I think Kluber will be ok in the end. Domingo German stunk it up in his two starts (12 hits/7 runs over seven total innings) and was optioned to the Alternate site (AAA Scranton Wilkes Barre) account of several off days. Jameson Taillon‘s first start in Pinstripes went well. Despite not pitching in a major league game since 2019, he wasn’t rusty, giving up only two runs in 4.2 innings (he was on a pitch count).

Yankees relievers have been very dependable in the early going. Aroldis Chapman, Darren O’Day, Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga have all provided valuable scoreless relief. Chad Green suffered a pair of “Rob Manfred runs” (including an extra-innings loss), thanks to his stupid extra innings runner on 2nd base rule. Otherwise, Green has been money. Youngster Nick Nelson was flogged by the Rays in a mop-up outing. Lucas Luetge gave up a few runs in his three appearances. Without a doubt, the bullpen has been valuable.

  • Position Players

The bats have been lagging, which isn’t unusual early in the year. It’s April and it’s cold. Yankees hitters have left a not-so-nice 69 runners on base. Overall, the team is hitting .232 with 41 runs scored in ten games. Gary Sanchez has hit quite well, with a pair of home runs, four RBI and a slash-line of .296/.406/.556. D.J. LeMahieu has been his usual steady self (.268/.362/.415), with at least one hit in eight of ten games. Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton struggled at times, but still have found a way to drive in a combined twelve runs. Gleyber Torres has an anemic slash-line of .205/.295/.231, and is also struggling in the field. He already has a pair of errors and just seems shaky out there. Also, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge have contributed with their bats and outfield glovework. Clint Frazier has lagged, but I’m confident he will shake it.

Rougned Odor made his Yankees debut at Tropicana Field and quickly made his mark, driving in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning.

I like the move, trading for the 27 year old second baseman. No question, Odor has more upside than Tyler Wade (who was optioned to AAA Scranton). With his soft hands, I can eventually see him getting work at 3rd base and perhaps even shortstop.

Ok that’s it for the Yankees ten game report. We’ll see you again after the next set of 10 games!

 

2021 MLB Season Preview – The AL East

Happy Opening Day! After an miserable year in 2020, including an abbreviated sixty game schedule, fans are looking forward to a full 162 game season. Best of all, fans will be allowed in MLB ballparks. The stadiums will not be sellouts at first, but as COVID vaccinations continue, capacities will increase. Normalcy is slowly returning.

The AL East Division is always competitive, and will continue to be in 2021. Today, we’ll take brief looks at each team in the East and assess their chances of winning the division. Let’s get started!

  • Boston Red Sox – After last year’s disaster, there’s nowhere to go but up. Alex Cora is back to manage the team after a year away from baseball account the much publicized Astros sign stealing scandal. Over the winter, the Red Sox added Kike Hernandez, Franchy Cordero, and Marwin Gonzalez to their lineup. They brought in former Yankee Adam Ottavino to their bullpen and Garrett Richards for the rotation. This team will hit, but their success will ride on pitching. Nathan Eovaldi is back throwing 100 mph seeds and Eduardo Rodriguez is back after missing 2020 with post-COVID related heart issues. Chris Sale (recovery from Tommy John surgery) is slated to re-join the team after the All Star break. If their bullpen holds up and does the job, the Sox will be much better in 2021. However, they’re still behind upper-echelon teams like the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays.
  • New York Yankees – Last year’s Yankees finished 2nd behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Injuries are a big reason why, as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each missed more than half the season. Remaining healthy is the biggest concern for manager Aaron Boone and the Bronx Bombers. If the bodies hold up, the Yankees are the most talented team in the division. The Yankees lineup is basically unchanged from last year. Good health also goes for pitching – if newcomers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon make all their starts, good things will happen.
  • Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays are for real. Sure, things change every year because the team’s salary structure dictates they must. Kevin Cash is a top-notch manager (other than that Blake Snell World Series thingy) and gets the most from his players. Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau, Randy Arozarena and Tyler Glasnow make up a formidable core. They have the lineup to compete and score a lot of runs. As with most teams, pitching well – especially in relief – is key to success. Beyond Glasnow, the Rays rotation is a patchwork quilt of recycled and older starters. Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks and Chaz Roe are good at shutting teams down. They’ll be at or near the top the entire way.
  • Toronto Blue Jays – What a lineup. After the Yankees, these Baby Jays have the best lineup in the AL East, and maybe the entire league. Over the winter, GM Ross Atkins brought in CF George Springer, 2B Marcus Semien and starting pitcher Steven Matz. The Jays and manager Charlie Montoyo have young flamethrower Nate Pearson slotted in behind Hyun-Jin Ryu in the rotation. Again, pitching well will be important – especially in this loaded division.

Enjoy the games today and the entire season! There’s no day quite like Opening Day. For me, it’s better than Christmas.

What a Relief? Yankees Hurlers Looking for Roster Spots

A few days ago, we looked at position players looking to find a spot on the Yankees bench on the Opening Day roster. This time, we will focus on the back end of the starting rotation and relievers searching for spots in the team’s bullpen. Let’s get after it!

  • Rotation

The top four spots of the Yankees rotation are accounted for. Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery are cemented in the starting rotation. That leaves Deivi Garcia, Michael King and Domingo German to vie for the fifth spot until Luis Severino returns. All three are having very solid springs to this point. Based on performance in spring games so far, I would give Germán the early edge in this competition. However, with a full 162 game schedule on deck, the Yankees may go with a six-man rotation for the bulk of 2021. With a 60 game schedule, nobody reached close to 100 innings last year. The team will not overwork their valued arms. We will see if the team wants to hang on to the embattled Germán. He missed the 2020 season while suspended for a highly publicized domestic violence incident.

    • Bullpen

Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson have solid footing. Also established is Zack Britton, who will miss most, if not all, of the season’s first half while recovering from elbow surgery. This leaves three spots to fight for, plus Britton’s spot for the first few months. Let’s reveal the candidates.

Luis Cessa – The soon to be 29 year old Cessa is a nice guy most Yankees fans seem to hate. Not because he’s a bad guy, but because he always seems to give up runs. In reality, Cessa had a pretty good 2020 season. Over his sixteen appearances, he allowed runs in only four. But when he’s bad, he’s BAD. In his lousy four outings, he gave up a total of ten runs. He’s probably not going anywhere. Every team needs a guy to mop-up, and Cessa is out of options.

Jonathan Loaisiga – “Johnny Lasagna” is having himself a spring so far. Six scoreless innings, two hits allowed and 5 K’s. The stuff has always been there for the 26 year old Loaisiga. It’s been a matter of harnessing it. I have always seen a bit of 1996 Mariano Rivera in Loaisiga, especially with the rising fastball. I think it’s time to focus on keeping him in the bullpen because his stuff plays better in relief. He can give multiple innings, which gives him even more valuable.

Lucas Luetge – The lefthanded Luetge hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2015, but seems to be opening eyes this spring. In four exhibition game appearances, the soon to be 34 year old, has struck out ten hitters over 4 innings. With Zack Britton sidelined, the Yankees could use another lefty to step in. Luetge is a guy to keep watch of.

Nestor Cortes, Jr. – I’ll admit it, I’m a fan of Nestor. His fastball MAYBE touches 90-91, but the life it has on it makes it look closer to 95. Cortes has proven himself in Triple-A, but the success hasn’t translated in the majors in any way. As a member of the Mariners, he was hammered to the tune of a 15.26 ERA (13 ER in 7.2 innings) in 2020. If the Yankees have him on their roster during the regular season, it’s not a good sign. He’s filler for Triple-A.

Albert Abreu – It’s hard to believe the 25 year old Abreu has only one option year remaining, and the Yankees are surely taking a long look at him this spring. It’s been rocky going so far (5 ER over 1.2 innings), but there’s still plenty of time to assess. I am guessing the Yankees will use that last option to let him get reps and stretched out in Scranton. If injuries hit like last year, he could be an option for the rotation.

Nick Nelson – Nelson, also 25 years old, made his big league debut in last year’s tire-fire of an abbreviated season. He made it into eleven games, mostly in mop-up duty. Still, these reps are valuable. Nelson posted a 4.79 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 20.2 innings. Like Abreu, Nelson are destined be a member of the RailRiders rotation to get experience and stretched-out as a starter.

Kyle Barraclough (R), Tyler Lyons (L), and Nick Goody (R) are options for the Yankees if everything goes to hell in a handbasket. All are better suited as Triple-A filler.

Thanks for reading, have a great day! 😎

 

What Will Santa Bring Yankees for Christmas?

It’s the first full day of Winter, Christmas is almost here, and everyone is excited in anticipation of gifts they will soon be receiving. Fans of Major League Baseball are also excited to see who their favorite teams will sign as a free agent or make a trade to solidify their lineups or pitching staffs.

Of course, the New York Yankees are in the market to add to their team, as they are every Winter. The big name in play is D.J. LeMahieu, who’s spent the last two seasons with the Bronx Bombers. Bringing him back is imperative, as I wrote back in November. Over his pair of seasons with the Yankees, LeMahieu put up a slash-line of .336/.386/.536 with 36 HR’s and 129 RBI in 195 games. Brian Cashman, the Yankees GM, maintains he is doing everything he can to retain the popular and surehanded 2nd baseman.

YES Network’s Jack Curry thinks LeMahieu will return. Certainly, this would bring a collective exhale from Yankees fans strong enough to qualify as a gale wind.

If LeMahieu leaves, the wise move would be to move Gleyber Torres back to second base, and sign a shortstop. Old friend Didi Gregorius could be an option. Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow late in 2018, Sir Didi played all 60 games for the Phillies in 2020. He put up decent numbers (.284/.339/.488 with 10 HR’s and 40 RBI) and should have no problem securing a multi-year deal. It’s hard to say if Cashman is willing to re-commit to Gregorius after letting him leave after 2019. Would Didi even be willing to return?

With Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ hitting the free agent market, the Yankees have a few holes to fill in their starting rotation. Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery are the two main holdovers from the 2020 season. Luis Severino is expected to return from Tommy John Surgery, but unlikely to be ready by Opening Day 2021. Deivi García seems ready to contribute after a number of good starts late in the summer. No one knows what to expect from Domingo Germán. He missed the 2020 season while suspended for his role in a domestic violence incident in September 2019.

Trevor Bauer is the big, high profile name in free agency and he would instantly upgrade the Yankees rotation. However, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has repeatedly said he does not want the team’s budget to be above the luxury tax threshold (210M for 2021). Adding Bauer would most certainly push them above 210 million. It’s more likely Cashman will look to lower priced options such as Corey Kluber or Jake Odorizzi (both missed virtually the entire season) or bringing back Paxton on one year deals to prove they are healthy.

Other than adding pitching and trying to bring back LeMahieu, the Yankees are in good shape, roster-wise. Hopefully Santa will deliver Yankees fans with some nice gifts to celebrate over Christmas.

And I want to wish all of you a safe, happy and healthy Merry Christmas! 🎄🎁