Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Catchers

As I sit here on Wednesday morning, I’m sipping my second cup of coffee and thinking back on what an entertaining World Series we just watched between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. Game Three’s 18 inning marathon won by LA and Saturday night’s back and forth see-saw game in Game Four, eventually won by Boston have made this series a classic — the many antics by Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado not withstanding.

While the city of Boston watched the Red Sox victory parade today, the rest of Major League Baseball teams are sorting out what went wrong in 2018 and planning ahead for 2019. The New York Yankees and their front office are doing the same thing.

In the third installment of “Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em”, we will take a look at the team’s catchers. Let’s get started!

Gary Sanchez – (.186, 18 HR, 53 RBI) Good Lord. Sanchez went from runner up for AL Rookie of the Year (in less than half a season, no less), to All Star in 2017 to the outhouse in 2018. If you are looking for a positive, the Kraken walked six more times than he did in 2017 despite 150 less plate appearances. I guess that’s a good thing, considering his average dropped 90 points to an anemic .186 on the season. Gary just never seemed to get into a groove as he did in 2016 and ’17. His defense behind the plate went from bad in 2017 to worse in ’18. He allowed two more passed balls (league leading 18) than he did in 2017, despite playing in 28 less games. Sanchez threw out 30% of base stealers, down from 38% and 41% from 2017 and ’16, respectively. He got crossed up with his pitcher more times than I could count because he couldn’t remember what pitch he called and basically seemed disinterested back there. Sanchez missed a bunch of time on two different occasions with right groin strains, which may have played a small role in his regression.

This game-ending play from July stands out. Yankees were down a run in Tampa, and Gary loafed down the line and was easily thrown out. Although he ended up on the disabled list the next day, he admitted he needed to run harder.

I think a change of scenery would be good for both Sanchez and the Yankees both. I think he needs some kind of wake-up call. The Miami Marlins are always looking to shed payroll. With New York possibly thinking of offering the aforementioned Manny Machado a contract, it’s not optimal to have two players known for loafing in the same lineup. Perhaps Yankees GM Brian Cashman could whip together a package to land fellow catcher JT Realmuto, who wants to be traded? Sanchez has more team control at a lower price, which would suit Marlins owner Derek Jeter.

Trash him (Meaning trade him).

Austin Romine – (.244, 10 HR, 42 RBI) Romine played quite a bit in 2018, with starter Gary Sanchez sidelined two separate times with a strained groin. He did what he always does, bringing his lunch-pail and goes to work. In 265 total plate appearances (close to half a season’s worth for a full-time starter), Romine knocked ten balls over the fence and drove in 42 runs. He had four games of three hits and several other games here he had two hits. As the season wore on (hey, catchers get banged-up), his average started dropping through August and September. Romine earns his money off the field and on, being a very good defensive catcher and mentoring Gary Sanchez and most importantly, working with and having the respect of the pitching staff. Dollar for dollar, the Yankees are getting their money’s worth.

Take him.

Kyle Higashioka – (.167, 3 HR, 6 RBI) Drafted by the Yankees way back in 2008, the 28 year old Higashioka was recalled by New York on both occasions when Sanchez was injured. He got his first major league hit on July 1 at Yankee Stadium, when he hammered a no-doubter down the left-field line into the second deck off Red Sox starter David Price in the bottom of the 4th inning.

That was probably his most memorable moment of 2018, as he ended the season with more strikeouts (16) than hits (12). Historically, the “Higster” has never been a good hitter (.202 average at Triple-A Scranton in 2018), and is minor league filler. I wish for him to do well, but spots on the “40 man” are valuable and I think the Yankees are better suited to move on with younger talent.

Trash him.

In our next installment of Yankees “Take ’em or Trash ’em”, we will whip it around the horn, covering the infielders. See you then! 👋🏼

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Gary Sanchez for Chris Archer? Do it.

**This story was written this morning, and updated late this afternoon. See below for update.**

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The non-waiver trade deadline is a week away, and teams across Major League Baseball are trying to make deals, whether they are buyers or sellers. The New York Yankees are still seeking a starting pitcher to help shore up the rotation, as it’s their biggest need.

Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays could be a very viable candidate to fill this need. The perpetually selling Rays are always looking for ways to shed payroll and pinch pennies, and dealing him would remove over six million dollars from their books.

The Yankees would do well to trade catcher Gary Sanchez to the Rays for Archer. There’s no question Sanchez has the tools and ability to be a star in this league year after year, but his laziness and lack of hustle is wearing thin with the media in New York and across the country, as well as Yankees fans everywhere.

Last night, there were two plays that stood out regarding Sanchez. The first one came in the bottom of the second inning when a Severino pitch bounced in the dirt and kicked into foul territory near third base. At first Gary didn’t see it, and when he did, he half-heartedly ran to the ball, allowing Jake Bauers to score from second base on the play.

 

That play got Yankees Twitter riled up because it was obvious Sanchez wasn’t hustling, but the final play of the game took the cake. With the Rays ahead 7-6, the Yankees had the bases loaded with two outs and Gary at the plate. He grounded out sharply to second baseman Daniel Robertson, who quickly got the ball to shortstop Willy Adames covering 2nd base — Aaron Hicks beat the throw and was safe, BECAUSE HE RAN ALL OUT — Adames, realizing he had time, pegged it to first baseman Jake Bauers for the final out. The problem here for the Yankees is Sanchez half-assed it out of the batter’s box and halfway down the line before he decided he better run full speed.

 

It took about 0.3 seconds for folks on Twitter to recognize that was the second time Gary Sanchez loafed it, and people were SCREAMING, your writer included. I won’t include any tweets here because (1.) I want to keep intense profanity out of my stories, and (2.) there were too many to include that were highly accurate. Moments after the game ended, John Flaherty of the YES Network noted that the lack of hustle was inexcusable and can’t happen. Flaherty made a career of sticking in the big leagues purely from hustling and a strong work ethic, therefore he knows of what he speaks. Also, the Yankees Twitter account sent this tweet as I was compiling info for this piece.

Timing is everything, isn’t it?

But let’s go back to the basis of this article, why I would trade Sanchez for Archer. Both players are currently struggling and could possibly do well with a change of scenery. Sanchez is under team control for several years, still making a low salary ($620,400), and Tampa is always looking to shed payroll. The Yankees need a starter and could afford Archer’s salary (6.4 million in ’18), and he could potentially be under team control until 2022 (his contract has two team options for 2020 and 2021). If necessary, Brian Cashman could toss in a couple mid-level prospects, as the Yankees have an abundance of talent in the farm system.

Wait! But now the Yankees would need a catcher to replace Gary, right? Not an issue. Tampa has an All Star catcher of their own — soon to be free agent Wilson Ramos could be easily thrown in. His salary is 8.5 million dollars, and getting that off their payroll might help entice Rays GM Erik Neander. Seeing that he would be a rental, adding him into the trade might not cost Cashman and the Yankees much more, if anything.

I would be surprised if this trade came to fruition, but it also isn’t something off the wall, either. It remains to be be seen what transpires with the Sanchez situation, but it’s something that might keep Yankees fans and all baseball fans buzzing.

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**UPDATE**

Gary Sanchez was placed on the disabled list, after he re-injured his groin on the wild pitch that got away in the the 2nd inning of last night’s game. An MRI revealed the injury was in the same spot as before. I’m sure more will be revealed before tonight’s game in St. Petersburg. It definitely sheds light as to why he was moving at less than full speed.

 

However, Yankees manager Aaron Boone sheds some light on his own thoughts on the situation and the conversation he had with Sanchez after the game last night.

 

 

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.

It’s a Long Season, Yankees Fans

After yesterday’s 14-1 shellacking that the Boston Red Sox laid on the New York Yankees, I saw a lot of folks on Twitter in despair over the team’s 5-6 start.

I agree with half of Mr. Dunham’s tweet. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. There are 26.2 miles in a marathon. If you divide 162 by 26.2, you get 6.18. 6.18 games are the equivalent to a mile of the baseball season. Tonight’s Yankees game is the 12th game of the season, and with that we are just a hair under two miles of the 26.2 mile “marathon” of the 2018 season.

In 2009, the Yankees won the World Series, but that team also started the season 15-17 before they jelled and started winning regularly. In the year 2000, the Yankees won it all, but they were 38-36 at the end of June. The 1996 team started slowly, winning six of their first 13 games in Joe Torre‘s first season as Yankees skipper.

Don’t despair, Yankees Universe — this team will be fine. The weather will warm up (I hope!) and so will this team. Then we will see the balls of the bats of Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and yes, Giancarlo Stanton carrying deep over the walls at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees 1st Half Report Card: Position Players

The first half of the season is over in Major League Baseball. Players not included in the All Star Game festivities are resting up, spending time with their families and taking a break in the middle of what is always a grueling season.

It’s also a time for fans to reflect on the first halves of their favorite teams and media to assess teams they cover.

With that, let’s break down the first half of 2017 for the New York Yankees. Today, we will grade position players. Next time, we will grade the pitchers. Let’s begin!

Catchers

Gary Sanchez – (.276, 13 HR, 40 RBI) Gary Sanchez, a 2017 All Star, has been a key part of the Yankees lineup. He’s not slugging to the beat of the ridiculous pace he put on in the 2nd half of 2016, but his .491 slugging percentage is very respectable. His defensive stats are a bit lacking in comparison to last year. Sanchez had three errors and six passed balls in his abbreviated 2016. In 2017, he already has nine errors and seven passed balls. He is throwing out close to the same amount of would-be base-stealers; in 2016, Gary gunned-down 13 of 19, in 2017 he’s nabbed 11 of 19.

Grade: B

Austin Romine – (.231, 2 HR, 17 RBI) Romine is a career backup who does a respectable job behind the plate on the occasions Gary Sanchez needs a breather and also can play 1st base in a pinch.

Grade: C


1st Base

Greg Bird – (.100, 1 HR, 3 RBI) 2017 was supposed to be the year of Greg Bird’s resurgence. Instead, it’s been a mess. He fouled a ball off his right ankle at the end of March, and started the season hoping his ankle would heal as he played. After 19 games, he won’t on the DL and hasn’t played since. Six days ago, a member of Yankees management questioned Bird’s desire to play. Stay tuned.

Grade: Incomplete

Chris Carter – (.201, 8 HR, 26 RBI) Oy. Chris Carter‘s time in the Bronx was a disaster, both with the bat and his glove. Brian Cashman pulled the plug on Carter for good, DFA’ing him for the 2nd (and last) time after the Yankees’ game on July 4th, and releasing him on July 11.

Grade: F (if there was a lower grade, I would give it)


2nd Base

Starlin Castro – (.313, 12 HR, 45 RBI) Castro began the season hitting like a man-possessed and carried an average hovering around the .350 mark three weeks into May, including a 9 game stretch from April 27-May 6 where he was a blistering 18-39 (.461). Since then, his average has slowly trended down until he went on the disabled list after pulling his hamstring on June 26. He’s scheduled to be activated from the DL for tomorrow’s game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway.

Grade: A-


3rd Base

Chase Headley – (.251, 4 HR, 36 RBI) Ever since Stephen Drew left, it seems Headley has become #YankeesTwitter’s favorite scapegoat, with the exception of Chris Carter in his short stay. In ’16, he cut his errors by more than half (10) compared with 2015 (23 errors). This season he already has eleven. In the batter’s box, Headley is striking out more frequently with each passing year. In ’15, he K’ed in 23% of his at bats. In ’16, it rose to 25%. So far this year, it’s 29%. Before Gleyber Torres went down with Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, there was talk of him taking over at third by the end of July. Now it seems Headley will continue on as the Yankees as the third baseman through at least the end of the season.

Grade: D+


Shortstop

Didi Gregorius – (.291, 10 HR, 38 RBI) Didi missed the first month of the season while he let his right shoulder heal after straining it in the WBC. Upon his return, he promptly recorded seven hits in his first fifteen at-bats. He never missed a beat. In mid-June, Gregorius’ average stood at .344. He’s tailed off in the last month, but his .291 average is still very good. In the field, Didi’s fielding has vastly improved. In his first two seasons, he recorded 28 errors between the two seasons. In 2017, he has two errors total, and he fields the ball cleanly 99.2% of the time, up from 97.5%. Each year, Didi gets better and better.

Grade: A


Utility Infielder

Ronald Torreyes – (.278, 2 HR, 20 RBI) – “Toe” has become a fan favorite, with his ability to play almost anywhere on the field and produce. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has plugged Torreyes in everywhere on the field except first base, catcher and CF. Torreyes has one error on the season, testimony to him being prepared to play almost anywhere. At bat, Ronnie hits well enough that there isn’t no real drop-off in production if he needs to fill in long-term, as he did when Didi and Starlin Castro were out with injuries.

Grade: B+


Outfielders

Brett Gardner – (.256, 15 HR, 40 RBI) Gardy started slow out of the gate in April, but raised his average gradually through the end of May, where his average stood at .280 on May 24. His average has dropped steadily since, as seems to happen with Gardner as the season wears on. It’s possible the beating he takes with his hard-nosed style of play takes it’s toll on his body, lowering his productivity as the season progresses. Fielding is never a problem with Brett. He has yet to make an error this season.

Grade: B

Jacoby Ellsbury – (.266, 4 HR, 17 RBI) Ellsbury’s season was off to a good start, hitting .281 through May 24, when he crashed into the wall making a running catch in a game against the Royals, sustaining a concussion. After missing a month, Ellsbury’s average dropped 15 points during the eleven games since his return (9 for 42). In the field, he is generally sure-handed and can run down most balls in the gaps.

Grade: B

Aaron Hicks – (.290, 10 HR, 37 RBI) Until his season was rudely disrupted by a strained oblique muscle, Aaron Hicks was busy making Yankees fans forget his forgettable 2016. In 200 at-bats, he has already out-produced most of his numbers from last season. His OBP is over 100 points higher and he’s taking as many walks as strikeouts, while his walk to K ratio was 1:2 in 2016. In the outfield, he can play anywhere with no drop-off in defense. Hopefully Hicks will return around the middle of August.

Grade: A

Aaron Judge – (.329, 30 HR, 66 RBI) Hey, this guy is pretty good! Needless to say, Aaron has opened eyes everywhere in the world of baseball with his mammoth home-runs and ability to hit every baseball with authority. Don’t overlook his defense, though. He’s made several great plays in the field this season, including the diving catch against the Blue Jays.

Grade: A+


Designated Hitter

Matt Holliday – (.262, 15 HR, 47 RBI) Holliday’s first season as the Yankees’ DH has been solid. Before going down with an illness later diagnosed as Epstein-Barr virus, known to cause Mononucleosis, he was producing as well as ever. His days in the field are most likely done, but Holliday’s bat still has plenty of pop. Along with Starlin Castro, plans are to have Holliday return for Friday’s game in Boston.

Grade: B

In the next entry, we will take a look at Yankees pitchers and their grades for the first half of the 2017 season.

See ya next time!

Charlie

The Tables Have Turned

What an amazing difference ten days makes.

On June 11, I wrote about how the Yankees were spoiling us. After they finished mopping the floor with the Orioles and headed for California, they failed to bring two important things with them: Their mojo and their good health.

After winning the first game of their west coast trip in Anaheim, they lost the next two games to the Angels, followed by a four game sweep to the Oakland A’s. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. When Yankees pitchers pitched well, they didn’t hit. When the Yankees scored runs, their pitchers got lit up.

Worst of all was the injury bug making it’s ugly return. CC Sabathia, who has pitched so well this season, suffered a grade 2 hamstring strain in Anaheim and is probably out a month or more.

Sabathia tweak hammy

Adam Warren is also on the 10 day DL with right shoulder inflammation, but is expected to throw a bullpen on Friday. Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez are nicked up a little, but still in the lineup. Gleyber Torres isn’t on the Yankees major league roster, but he was on the fast track toward a major league debut until he suffered an injured left (non-throwing) elbow in a head-first slide in a game for the SWB Railriders in Buffalo.

 

The Yankees are now back home, and although they lost their first game of the series against the Angels, here’s hoping the Bronx Bombers can get back to their winning ways.

See ya next time!

Charlie