Archives for posts with tag: Aaron Hicks

We are still a little over ten games away from the Sparky Mark (40 games), but this year’s New York Yankees show no signs of slowing down or going away quietly – best exemplified by Sunday night’s 18 inning marathon victory over last year’s World Series champion Cubs. Even the most optimistic fan, which I am often accused of being, didn’t see foresee this squad playing .690 ball and making a legitimate claim at being the best team in baseball. This team is far from perfect and yet is finding ways to excel and make a case for World Series talk this year, not next.

Biggest Surprise: Aaron Judge/The Bench (tie) – Following a brief 2016 campaign that saw this Baby Bomber K in 42 of 84 at-bats, Aaron Judge is attempting to lay claim to both the A.L. Rookie of the Year and MVP – and he may just succeed in both. After a slow start, Judge has left little doubt as to who should be the Yankees starting RF for the near future with 13 HRs (tied for MLB league) and surprisingly good defense. I doubt he will keep this pace up with pitchers either making adjustments or dolling out free passes, but Aaron Judge has shown an early knack for overcoming 1-2 counts and deflecting any praise with Derek Jeter-like humility.

While Judge looks like he can carry the team, both figuratively and literally, he has plenty of help from surprising contributors. Injuries to Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, allowed both Ronald Torreyes and Austin Romine a chance to step up and produce. Torreyes has hit .311 with a once team-leading 13 RBIs and Romine has a .281 BA to go with stellar game calling to ease along a young staff highlighted by Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery. And with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury needing the occasional spell in the field, Aaron Hicks has finally justified his #1 draft selection by the Minnesota Twins in 2012. Hicks is showing 5-tool ability with a slash-line of .338/.459/.662 to go with 5 SBs. No telling how long this Yankee 4th OF will need a chance to be a #1 somewhere else, for the right compensation.

Biggest Disappointment: Greg Bird – After a monster spring where he looked like the heir apparent to Mark Teixeira, Greg Bird is looking more like the next Nick Johnson. Hitting only .100 through 19 games, Bird is currently on the DL dealing with a bone bruise in his leg. Apparently the injury happened at the end of spring training and its severity is still unknown. What is known is the faith and commitment that Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have in the young Yankee 1B. In the meantime, Chris Carter and Matt Holliday will split time in his absence.

No Surprise: The Bullpen – Sunday night’s 3-run hiccup aside, the Yankees lay claim to the best bullpen in the game, and the sky is still the limit. The new three-headed monster of Tyler Clippard/Dellin Betances/Aroldis Chapman is beastly to say the least. Throw in impressive early work from Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, and the ever-reliable Adam Warren and the Yanks have little to worry about protecting a lead or giving their team a chance at a comeback as demonstrated in the 8-run rally against the Baltimore Orioles on April 28th.

Honorable Mention: Starlin Castro – In his 2nd year in pinstripes, the Yankees 2nd baseman is providing the type of offensive production that is making Yankee fans ponder, “Robinson who?” Surprisingly, Castro is flying under radar with his league leading .355 average along with 6 HRs and is 2nd to Judge in RBIs with 21. Despite a crowded field at 2nd with the aforementioned Cano, as well as Brian Dozier and Jose Altuve, Starlin Castro should garner serious All-Star consideration and I plan to do my part.

 

Depending on your point of view this year’s Yankees are either ahead of schedule or right on time. No longer being billed as a “re-building year” this team is ready to win now and is. Will they continue at this torrid pace? Most likely not. But they have shown they are adaptable to adversity and still have plenty of gems to deal in the farm system for any in-season adjustments (“Paging, Gerritt Cole”). In March, I had this team competing for a Wild Card slot but I see no reason they shouldn’t be jockeying for 1st in the AL East – especially once the Sawx inevitably get going.

Another great season of Yankee baseball lay ahead, along with the promise of a future filled with October baseball.

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The youth movement in the Bronx is continuing to pay winning dividends. The New York Yankees have won seven games in a row and show no signs of slowing down as they play themselves back into serious playoff contention. Not only are they jockeying for position in the Wild Card standings, where they are currently one game out of the 2nd spot, but are now only three games back of the rival Sawx in the race for the AL East. Yep, this is the same team that held an early “Back to School” sale at the trade deadline. And the result? A record of 24-13 and a month long display of what the future may hold in the Bronx.

After a ten game homerless streak where more than a few commentators starting squawking about Kevin Maas, Gary Sanchez returned to early August form with HRs in each of the last two games. The big hitting catcher also pulled a Kelly Leak when he whacked an intentional ball to deep left center, which was good enough to merit a sacrifice fly. Seriously, good luck pitching around this guy. Brian McCann seems to have adjusted to his new role as DH and back-up catcher with a .313 week highlighted by 3 HRs. McCann should easily eclipse the 20 HR mark for the ninth straight season with one more blast. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are back to early season form hitting .391 and .318, respectively, over the last week. Gardner in particular saved Tuesday night’s 7-6 win against the Blue Jays when he tracked down Justin Smoak’s line drive to end the game. And Tyler Austin is making a serious case to be the Yankees new full-time first baseman. Next spring, he will have to complete with Greg Bird, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery that has sidelined him this year, but Austin is garnering plenty of favor after Thursday night’s game winning HR over the Rays. At the very least, Austin should be the new 4th OF with Aaron Hicks now thankfully dispensable.

Despite my reservations, Masahiro Tanaka continues to impress as the much needed Yankee ace. Tanaka has won two games during the current win streak and has lowered his ERA to just above 3.00. Most importantly, he has proved to very effective against the explosive line up of the Toronto Blue Jays. Over three starts this season, he has a 2.60 ERA which will be counted on again as the Yanks have one more trip planned north of the border. Bryan Mitchell’s first start of the year was fruitful as he held the aforementioned Jays scoreless over five innings. And while Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are having their recurring struggles, Joe Girardi is having no issues using his newly expanded September bullpen to get outs. Luis Severino has blossomed in his new middle relief role. Tommy Layne and Chasen Shreve have found success in their recent outings. And even Blake Parker came up big when he found himself in the unfamiliar role of having to get Dellin Betances out of a jam in Tuesday night’s heart-attack inducing 9th inning. Despite the hiccup, Betances should be fine especially with fellow relief ace Tyler Clippard along for back-up.

Another September and the Yankees are playing meaningful baseball. More importantly, they are hot at the right time and not stumbling to the finish line. Not sure they will challenge the 2007 Colorado Rockies 21-1 run but the Yankees are finding many ways to win with a new hero almost every night. There’s plenty of baseball and plenty of hope left in the season.

It’s nice when things start falling into place. It’s been almost a month since a trade deadline that saw the Yankees uncharacteristically trading off their established stars for farm talent and the Yankees are actually fighting their way back into relevance and possibly the AL East. Of course, it helps to have a rookie Phenom like Gary Sanchez carrying the team with his historic start. The Yankees have an AL East best record of 15-9 in the month of August and are definitely giving Yankee fans reason for hope here in 2016….not to mention 2017 and beyond.

In his first 21 games in pinstripes, Gary Sanchez, aka The Sanchize, is living up to and exceeding expectations. Sanchez is off to a juggernaut rookie campaign with a slashline of .400/.467/.900 highlighted by 11 HRs and 23 RBIs. He is quickly galvanizing the joy of Yankee fans and garnering respect from the league as well as demonstrated by his pair of intentional BBs in the Seattle series. It’s still too soon to tell if this just a small sample size but it’s hard to not be excited by such an impressive debut. And while he may see the majority of starts behind the plate this season, the Yankees would be smart to give the lion’s share of DH at-bats to Brian McCann, who is still on pace for another 20 HR season.

While Gary Sanchez is the current straw stirring the drink, at least offensively, there are plenty of other Yanks who have contributed to this August run that most recently has produced 64 runs in the last 10 games. Starlin Castro is on another hot streak with 3 HRs over this past .444 week. Didi Gregorius is only hitting .258 over August but has 6 HRs in the month. The Yankee middle infield of Castro/Gregorius has combined for a very impressive 35 HRs this year. Ronald Torreyes is campaigning for regular playing time with his .414 August. And even Aaron Hicks is starting to silence the boos at New Yankee Stadium with 4 HRs in 71 August at-bats while hitting .310.

Yankee starting pitching is finally being anchored by Masahiro Tanaka’s ace-like August. Tanaka holds a 2.91 ERA in the month to go with 34Ks and a single BB. Luis Cessa has won back-to-back starts with a 1.50 ERA to go with 10Ks/2 BBs. And despite not being able to qualify for the win in yesterday’s dominance of the Orioles, Chad Green has made great strides in the last few weeks. Green has a 2.51 ERA in his last 28.2 innings, which includes an 11K, 6-inning, no-run gem against the mighty Blue Jays.

The Yankees have plenty of season left and hopefully enough young talent to keep them in the hunt for October. Their current 5 ½ game deficit in the division may seem daunting but they still have time and plenty of opportunities with 28 of their final 34 games against the AL East. They may fall short but Yankee fans are getting a glimpse of the future, and it’s a bright one at that. #TheSanchize.

It’s taken 35 games, but Yankee fans are finally getting a full display of what’s possible from this year’s squad. After the season debut of Aroldis Chapman on Monday, yesterday saw Joe Girardi get to unleash the three headed beast that is Betances-Miller-Chapman and the result was dominating to say the least. BMC (I need to think of a better nickname) shut down the ChiSox to the tune of 3 and 1/3 scoreless innings with 8 Ks. Not sure how long before Girardi starts to overuse his shining new toy but for now the Yanks may have just what they need to get back into the AL East race. This new bullpen equation is dependent on two necessary variables: early leads from the offense and solid starting pitching. Thankfully, both have been on display this past week which has seen the Yankees win four of their last six games.

Offensively, the Yankees came to life against the visiting Kansas City Royals. The Yanks took advantage of the defending World Champs to the tune of 26 runs over the four game series, of which the Yanks won three. The month of May has been a welcome sight to Brian McCann, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Hicks who are hitting .278, .275. and .282 respectively. Sir Didi has been especially timely with a team-high 11 RBIs at the halfway point of the month. Carlos Beltran continues to embrace his new role as DH with 3 HRs in the KC series. And Chase Headley has finally gotten off the schneid, with 2 HRs this week giving him well, 2 XBHs for the season.

The starting pitching continues to be a patchwork job. Luis Severino was placed on 15 Day DL with an elbow issue, but considering his 7.46 ERA it’s a much needed break. He may need to see extended rehab time for both his elbow and mechanics, in general. Masahiro Tananka got roughed up to the tune of 6 runs in Tuesday night’s win but is still the team’s best starting option with a 3.11 ERA. Nathan Eovaldi was only able to last 5 innings in his win on Thursday but is still showing progress in developing his split-fingered fastball. And Ivan Nova has been reliable, only allowing two ERs (both solo HRs) in his two spot starts totaling 10 1/3 innings of much needed work.

The Yankees are hoping to close out today’s series with another win against the AL Central-leading White Sox, as they start a 7 game West Coast road trip manana against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A’s. The Yanks don’t need much for their bullpen equation to work. But when the first two necessary variables fall into place, say hello BMC and look out AL East. Any suggestions for a better nickname?

A new baseball season starts today. Well, technically it started yesterday with three contests but the rest of the baseball world begins their quest for a ring today. And with the start at hand, here are a few thoughts about the upcoming season where I see the Yankees winning the AL East. It’s not the best Yankee team I have seen but I do believe they have just enough to win a very evenly matched division. Here’s my breakdown on the Yanks using DefCon ratings because I am a geek for WarGames, and please know that DefCon 5 mean “no worries” and DefCon 1 means “Buy, Buy, Buy at the Trade Deadline:”

 

Offense: Last year the Yankees had the 2nd best offense in the bigs. I may have mentioned it before, and often. The Yankees have the same lineup in place led by the final contracted years of Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, HR hitting backstop Brian McCann, an older but still productive A-Roid, and a healthy 1-2 punch of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. Throw in the addition of 2B sparkplug Starlin Castro and there’s no reason for the Bronx Bombers to not keep churning out runs. Age may be a factor late in the year but expect offense to be a staple in victory. DefCon=4

 

Defense: The Yanks suffered in the field in 2015, at least during the 1st half. The 2nd half saw Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley workout their early season issues. I expect Sir Didi to compete for a Gold Glove at SS this season. Didi will be helped up the middle by the newly acquired Castro. The OF may be aging but the combo of Garnder, Ellsbury, and Beltran, being aided by Aaron Hicks and Dustin Ackley should be more than enough to stay competitive. DefCon=4

 

Bench/Pipeline: Austin Romine is more than adequate to backup Brian McCann but at some point big hitting catching prospect Gary Sanchez will find himself with the big club this season. Aaron Hicks will provide plenty of late-inning OF relief and the occasional day off for the Yankee veterans. Dustin Ackley hit .288 after his late season acquisition from the Seattle last year and is available to play 1B, 2B, and OF. Former Astro prospect Ronald Torreyes will backup Chase Headley at 3B, as well as 2B and SS. And even Starlin Castro will get in the mix as the recently converted SS can backup Sir Didi at SS.

What Yankee fans can be truly excited about is the wealth of prospects that include Ben Gamel, Slade Heathcott, Rob Refsnyder, Nick Goody, James Pazos, and slugger in-the-making- Aaron Judge. Each of these players will be seeing playing time in the Bronx this year and may be the key to the Yanks making a playoff run. DefCon=5

 

Starting Pitching: Last season saw Yankee pitching hover around league average, which was good enough to lock up the 1st Wild Card slot. All the same arms return with the exception being that we can look forward to an entire season of rookie phenom Luis Severino. The rest of the rotation includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and C.C. Sabathia, with Ivan Nova on ready alert 5. Each starter has the potential to dominate for any portion of the season, but may also be hindered by their own respective recent injury history (with the exception of Severino). But Joe Girardi should have just enough leeway to get the 800-900 innings he will need to compete this year. Besides it’s all about the Bullpen….. DefCon=3

 

Bullpen: Just like last year, the best part of this Yankee squad is the lights out bullpen. And the addition of Alroldis Chapman just made the games even shorter. Chapman won’t be available until May 9th but there are still plenty of options for Girardi to choose from, be it the proven Chasen Shreve, spring training standouts Johnny Barbato and Kirby Yates or Ivan Nova, who will be available for long relief until he is needed to aid the rotation. In the end, AL hitters will have to get through the indomitable super duo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Very simply, if the Yanks have a lead after 6 innings, they will keep it. DefCon=5

 

Hope I don’t sound like too much of a homer but I see the Yankees winning the division. I don’t necessarily see them making a deep playoff run, or even making it out of the 1st round, but the Yanks can win enough to take the AL East. And with the youth movement at hand things are just looking up for 2017. Go Yanks!

With spring training entering its’ last leg, opening day is fast approaching. And as a Yankee fan I have to admit that I like what I am seeing from this year’s squad. The Yankees shocked many, especially their fans, by making plenty of trades this offseason but not a single free agent signing. The Yankee front office continues to practice the policy that I dubbed “Romneyball,” which means doing everything you can to avoid paying taxes. In the Yanks case it is trying to descend their payroll below the Luxury Tax ceiling that is $189 million. It obviously won’t happen this year but the team is on track with Mark Teixeira in the final year of his 8-year stint and A-Roid and C.C. Sabathia’s deals due to run out after 2017.

So, what are we seeing? We are seeing a Yankee squad that learned some lessons from last year, the key one being, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The 2015 Yankees won 87 games which was good enough to secure the 1st Wild Card slot. They were as successful as they were thanks to the 2nd best offense in the game and one of the most dominant bullpens around. This year’s Yanks are a simple re-tooling, with a few notable upgrades.

Starlin Castro was acquired from the Cubs in exchange for the valuable but expendable Adam Warren. Castro lacked consistent playing time the last two seasons in the Windy City and has made the best of his new starting gig by hitting .400 this spring and leading the team with 10 RBIs. He also brings a shortstop’s arm to 2B making plenty of defensive gems early on. Aaron Hicks was acquired from the Minnesota Twins for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy and looks to be the 4th OF, taking over for Chris Young who has moved on to the rival Sawx. Hicks looks up to the challenge showing power and solid defensive skills.

And the acquisition of Alrodis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds may be the “piece de resistance.” Chapman will not be available until May 9th because of his suspension due to a domestic violence allegation but he displayed some initial integrity by owning up to the situation and accepting his punishment. When he is available the Yankees will have the best 7/8/9 bullpen combo in baseball with Chapman joining proven super relief aces Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Just like last year, when the Yanks get a lead, they will win.

The only big question facing Manager Joe Girardi is how to make Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, Luis Severino, and C. C. Sabathia fit into a 5-man rotation. My answer is simple: go to a 6-man rotation. The Yankees have an abundance of pitching, all with varying degrees of fragile health (with the exception of Severino). This is the perfect opportunity for Girardi to go 6-man deep to not only ensure the best chance of getting 26/27 starts from everyone but also easing the young Severino into his first full season in the bigs. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

As for now, the Yankees look to be ending their spring campaign in the Grapefruit league at about .500. But spring training records are about as important as being Valedictorian in summer school. Later this week I will go a little more in-depth with what I feel are reasonable expectations for the 2016 Yankees. But suffice to say I’m excited. Hope you are too!