Archives for posts with tag: Aaron Judge

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.

When this past off-season saw the usually big spending Yanks only make waves by re-acquiring Aroldis Chapman and giving Matt Holliday a 1-year flyer, most fans and analysts didn’t know what to think. This was not the Yanks of old. This was not the M.O. of a big-spending team that missed the playoffs for three of the last four seasons. This was definitely keeping with the new plan implemented by Brian Cashman at last year’s trade deadline. The Yankees are getting younger as we watch and the future is now…maybe a year off.

This year’s spring training was an introduction of new names and high double-digit numbers to a fan base desperate for a return to October baseball. And it was a very encouraging introduction with the Yankees playing .700 ball in the Grapefruit League. True, spring training is not a highly accurate predictor of the future, like Nate Silver’s election algorithms, but there was definitely something new and exciting on display.

The biggest surprise was the return of Greg Bird. After a 2015 mini-campaign that had him prepared to displace Mark Teixeira immediately, Bird was sidelined for all of 2016 with shoulder surgery. This spring saw him return with a vengeance, hitting .451 with a team leading 8 HRs. Displaying an ability to hit to all fields against righties and lefties, coupled with solid defense at 1B, Greg Bird may be the answer at 1B, this season and beyond.

Gary Sanchez picked up from where his 2nd place Rookie of the Year campaign left off, hitting .373 with 5 HRs and showing plenty of arm strength from behind the plate. I was a big fan of Brian McCann and sad to see him depart to Houston but Gary Sanchez’s talent at and behind the plate will not be denied and will be on display post haste.

Tyler Wade, Billy McKinney, Ruben Tejada, Clint Frazier, and Gleyber Torres all showed glimpses of future days in the Bronx. Torres in particular may see an early call-up, especially if Chase Headley continues to underwhelm in the 3rd year of his four-year deal. The jettisoning of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman bore many fruits that the Yankee organization is eager to pluck when fully ripe.

And the addition of 7-time All Star Matt Holliday should easily fill the void left when Carlos Beltran was sent to Texas. Holliday had a banged up 2016 campaign, but as a F/T DH should be plenty healthy to provide much-needed power and veteran leadership.

Starting pitching continues to be the biggest Achilles heel. But considering that an almost identical staff in 2016, minus the recently released Nathan Eovaldi, was good enough for 84 wins anything is possible. The right elbow of Masahiro Tanaka continues to be under more scrutiny than Price Waterhouse’s Oscar night decorum. If Tanaka finally gets to 200 innings this season, there will only be four remaining pitching questions marks. CC Sabathia will most likely end up in the bullpen by June and Michael Pineda has yet to find anything mirroring consistency – both will not be around for 2018. Thankfully, this means plenty of opportunities for Luis Cessa, Chad Green and Bryan Mitchell who have all had success in limited MLB exposure. And Luis Severino continues to be the wild card of them all. Will he return to ROY-esque form from 2015 or only be effective from the bullpen as in 2016? I do hope it’s the former but the latter works just as well.

More than likely, the Yankees will not make the playoffs this season. At best they will be in the run for a Wild Card slot, and anything can happen in that play-in game. I would give this year’s squad about a 15% chance of making it to the divisional round. I expect this year to be a repeat of last year, in the mix but not a true contender. I expect the young talent of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge (who also had an impressive spring) and Luis Severino to gain another year of big league experience in preparation for 2018. 2017 is the new 1995. The future is bright, shining with young talent and hungry veterans prepared to deliver new World Series rings to the Bronx and forcing Joe Girardi to change his uniform number into the 30’s.

The future is bright, Yankee fans, and we may be lucky enough to see Yankee championship history repeat over and over in the next decade….as long as $400 million are not wasted on Bryce Harper. #HeadCase

The 2016 New York Yankees continue to perform just well enough to be considered relevant. Not exactly what fans of the highly priced Bronx Bombers want to hear but we should take what we can get. After taking three straight series from the playoff contending Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, and Kansas City Royals, the Yanks faltered this past weekend in another series against the O’s. The Yankees salvaged the weekend by winning yesterday’s finale 5-2 after being shut out in back-to-back losses to start the weekend. Technically, the Yankees still have enough time and opportunities to get in the game for October but mostly we are watching a team playing for 2017 and beyond.

Despite a .174 week, Gary Sanchez continues to impress and intimidate with 11 HRs and a .355 average to start his career. He will not qualify for this year’s AL Rookie of the Year but is definitely making a case for serious consideration next season. Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro have cooled off after their early August starts but are still a formidable DP combo in the AL. Speaking of cooling off, Aaron Judge has turned ice cold after his great start. He is only hitting .177 and looks a bit lost at plate with 32Ks in 62 ABs. Perhaps it’s a good thing the Yankees aren’t playing for October as it will give the young slugger some time to develop. On the bright side, he is not the defensive liability that Carlos Beltran was in RF. And somehow Chase Headley is stepping up his game with a .368 week, though Joe Girardi would still be smart to get regular at-bats for Ronald Torreyes.

Pitching was dealt a considerable blow with the loss of Chad Green for this season, and most likely next season. Not sure what the plan is with the Yankees already short on starting arms after losing Nathan Eovaldi earlier this season. Perhaps we will see more “bullpen games” like in yesterday’s win. Luis Severino is slated to return to the rotation at some point and yet as been his most effective in relief as highlighted by yesterday’s two scoreless frames. With September call-ups in hand, Girardi should take this opportunity to use as many arms as possible to get through games and see who shows potential for future use. And C.C. Sabathia continues to battle and eat up some innings but at this point his days in NY are numbered and his huge salary coming off the books next season should be more than enough to lure a decent free agent signing.

The Yankees have 27 games left, and 24 are against AL East opponents. Unless the Yanks go on historic run, I do not see October baseball. The Yanks are on pace for 83-85 wins which may seem to be a major disappointment but I see as a serious reclamation considering they started the season at 8-16. There’s a month of baseball left in the Bronx and I for one am excited to see what lays ahead this season and next.

At the start of the season I had the Yankees winning the AL East. Call me a fanatic, call me delusional, I just saw something special happening this year. And it turns that I may just be right, about the special part, not the division. After going into sell mode at the trade deadline, a tactic that no Yankee fan or front office rep has ever been familiar with, the Yankees are slowly but surely moving in the right direction for future championship runs, and playing actual winning baseball in the meantime. After unloading Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova, the Yanks are flush with prospects. And the recent/timely release A-Roid means Aaron Judge his finally getting his shot this year. It’s an exciting time to be a Yankee fan.

The Yankees have won 7 of their last 10, which includes winning two of three from the contending Sawx and back-to-back wins over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yanks are back to a season-high four games over .500 and while they still lack the pitching for a serious AL East run they are currently giving fans a glimpse of the future. Gary Sanchez has gotten off to a .278 start in his career including a mammoth HR at Fenway that highlighted a 4-hit night. I do hope the Yanks hold onto Brian McCann so that Sanchez has a chance to develop behind the plate, with two years left on McCann’s deal. Yesterday’s 8-4 win was highlighted by Tyler Austin and the previously mentioned Aaron Judge both making the MLB debuts and both homering in their first at-bats, going back to back no less. I’m not saying we need to start the coronation of the next Core Four but I also wouldn’t be too hasty to write off any of these young hopefuls as the next Kevin Maas or Shane Spencer.

This new young trio of everyday Yankees are being aided in their early playing days by other young, more seasoned players like Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius. Castro seems to be in the midst of another hot streak with HRs in the last two games as well as 13 RBIs in 12 August games. And with the departure of Carlos Beltran, Didi Gregorius is now the most talented and MVP-worthy star the Yanks have. Hard to believe that just a year ago he was being doubted as he stepped into the shoes of a legend, now he’s flashing 5-tool potential and should garner serious All-Star consideration next year.

As far as pitching no word if any of the recently acquired prospects will be developed or be used as trade bait for traded targets like Chris Sale. In the meantime, last year’s phenom Luis Severino continues to show some progress. After returning from an extended minor league assignment, Severino responded with 8 1/3 scoreless innings over three relief appearances. Unfortunately, this was followed up by a 5-run outing courtesy of the Boston Red Sox. Severino may best be served working out of the bullpen for the short term. Speaking of the bullpen, the recent acquisition of former Yankee prospect Tyler Clippard and re-acquisition of Adam Warren have made up for the losses of Miler and Chapman. Not exactly No Runs DMC but they’ve been more than effective getting the ball to the new closer Dellin Betances.

There’s still plenty of baseball left and while I don’t see the Yanks making a playoff run I am encouraged by seeing young talent getting a chance to play. In the coming weeks, I will speak on A-Roid as well as the imminent departures of Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. In the meantime, I’m feeling something I haven’t felt in a while as a Yankee fan: hope. It’s hope for a winning season, hope for a winning future, hope for a return to championship form. Like I said, it’s an exciting time to be a Yankee fan.

Another week of Yankee baseball, another week occupying the cellar in the AL East. But all is not lost for the Bronx Bombers just yet here in early May. After dropping two of three to the Baltimore Orioles, the Yanks have reeled off back-to-back wins against the rival Sawx- even if Friday night’s win was a gift. Personally, I thought both controversial pitches to Big Papi were strikes because it’s not where they land, it’s where they cross the plate. And if Ortiz wants to go all George Brett about it, huffing and puffing, fine by me.

The most pleasant surprise of late has been Yankee starting pitching, which has posted an ERA of 1.29 over the last 29 innings. I’m not saying this is a trend that can we can count on, especially with C.C. Sabathia back on the DL, but there’s always hope. Most importantly, Masahiro Tanaka and Nathan Eovaldi are emerging as the best bets in the staff. Tanaka was masterful in blanking the O’s for 8 innings in Thursday’s loss, his only downfall being zero run support. And Eovaldi was heaven sent in yesterday’s game, giving much needed rest to an overworked bullpen by keep the hot-hitting Sawx in check for 8 strong innings. We can only hope that Ivan Nova can take advantage of his opportunity in Sabathia’s slot and remind us why he was a ROY candidate back in 2011.

The offense continues to sputter, but thankfully is no longer the worst in baseball (We’re 26th! Woo Hoo!). The loss of A-Roid to the 15 Day DL may not be that much of a loss considering he is hitting .194, even if he leads the team with 5 HRs. This allows Carlos Beltran time at DH and time away from looking very old in RF. And the recent hip strain suffered by Jacoby Ellsbury aka Mr. Glass means more time for Aaron Hicks and hopefully Dustin Ackley. But at some point the Yanks need to bring up Slade Heathcott or Aaron Judge, says the broken record. Starlin Castro continues to be the most consistent hitter (.295/.333/.457) even if Girardi can’t find a consistent place for him in the lineup. And fingers-crossed, Didi Gregorius’s 2-3 performance with 3 RBIs in yesterday’s win to cap off a .278 week is a sign of things to come.

The big news this week is the activation of Alrodis Chapman, who will be available starting tomorrow after the conclusion of his 30 game suspension by MLB for a domestic violence incident. Along with Dellin Betanaces and Andrew Miller, the Yanks will have the most lethal 7-8-9 bullpen combo in baseball. That is, if they can get the leads to use it.  Then again, perhaps Joe Girardi will get equal parts creative/desperate and bring in any of these big guns into high leverage situations in the 4th, 5th, or 6th innings. I’m not saying things are that desperate yet but as Yogi used to say, “It gets late out there early.”

Tonight’s series finale with the Sawx sees Luis Severino face off against Steven Wright. A sweep would nice. But I would be more encouraged to find Severino pitching into the 7th inning. Besides the Yankee offense, this young fireballer has been the biggest disappointment of 2016 and the Yanks need him to step up, especially on a night like tonight against the mighty Sawx.

Welcome to rock bottom, Yankee fans. After an offseason that some (including myself) believed would be a pre-cursor to another 85+ win season, the Yankees start May 1 with a record of 8-14 and own the AL East cellar. So much for picking up where last season left off. Then again, maybe this is just a continuation of last September’s slide and no-show in AL Wild Card game against the Houston Astros. The Yankees are showing every characteristic of an aging squad: offensively flailing, defensively lethargic, and no fight whatsoever in late innings where 1-2 run deficits look like insurmountable odds. The Yanks are currently last in all of baseball in offense and don’t seem able to buy runs, even if they were in abundant supple at the local Dollar Tree. This is bad, and I’m not sure how much longer any of us can keeping saying, “Well, it’s only April.”

So, what to do? Here’s a few ideas:

1.       Bench Chase Headley – No one has been a bigger fan of the Yankee 3rd baseman than me since he came over from San Diego in 2014. Headley was a breath of fresh air when he arrived providing early stellar defense and professional high pitch at-bats. But as of today, Headley is off to a .150 start in April without a single extra base hit. Much like the rival Sawx did with high-priced Pablo Sandoval, the Yankees need to swallow their pride and let someone else take a turn. I would recommend using Ronald Torreyes at 3B against lefties and using Starlin Castro at 3B against righties, with Dustin Ackley getting time at 2B. Torreyes is hitting .381 in limited use and Ackley deserves a chance to pick up on his .288 Pinstripe debut from last year.

2.       Use the Farm – Just about every other team has seen flourishing results from bringing up talent in May, like Mike Trout with the Angels in 2012 or Kris Bryant and Carlos Correia with the Cubs and Astros respectively last year. The Yanks need a jolt, and while they may not have any Rookie of the Year candidates on deck there’s still plenty to choose from. My vote goes to Slade Heathcott who showed plenty of promise hitting .400 in 25 games last season. He can easily man RF while Beltran and A-Roid split DH duties. Also, it’s time to give Aaron Judge a shot. He may have had a dreadful spring but at this point the Yankee offense ain’t getting any worse. Try something new.

3.       Put Severino in the Pen and Start Nova – I hate given up on anyone this quickly but Severino looks like a shell of the player who pitched to a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts last year. Maybe it’s just the weather and he needs time to warm-up like fellow slow-starter Michael Pineda, but I would tap Nova for his rotation spot. Nova isn’t much of an upgrade but at least he has had good outings this year and he can eat up some innings while Severino re-gains some confidence when called upon in relief.

 

Aside from Starlin Castro’s solid start, Nathan Eovalidi returning to July form, and a monster bullpen that is of little use with no leads to protect there is nothing else to report at this time. The Yankees are in trouble. And that starts with a T and that rhymes with G and that stands for Girardi, who may want to start polishing up his resume. He may not have the horses but he’s got find a way to make something happen: light a fire, pick the lineup from a hat, blame A-Roid for everything. Something. Anything. Otherwise we might as well just become Rob Schneider’s Cajun character from The Waterboy proclaiming, “Oh, No! We Suck Again!”  Cause right now, we do.

The 2016 Yankees are continuing to find their legs, along with some runs, in the young season. After being embarrassingly swept at home by the visiting Oakland Athletics, the Yanks have rebounded nicely by taking the last two against the Tampa Bay Rays and now have a chance to complete their own sweep today when Michael Pineda takes the hill. 7-9 may not be a good start but right now it’s good enough to sit a ½ game back of 2nd place in the tight AL East. Just think how good they good be with some offense.

On the bright side, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are giving another glimpse of what can be the most potent 1-2 combo in baseball. Ellsbury is hitting .421 over the last week and seemed to spur his Yankee teammates onto victory Friday night with his game-tying straight steal of home, which he followed up with a 2-run double in the 8th. Gardner is hitting .412 over the same time and single-handedly won yesterday’s game with a game-tying single in the 7th inning and game-winning solo shot in the 9th. Just imagine what the Yanks could have if these two can produce consistently over the course of a season. I know I am.

Masahiro Tanaka is starting to cement his status as team ace with back-to-back 7 inning efforts. He may not have the same 94 mph heat from 2014 be he still has enough to fool AL hitters with 23 Ks over 24.2 innings. The rest of the starting staff is hovering around 5.00 ERA-wise but has also not been helped by a lack of run support. And the bullpen is still a beast with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller still unable to allow an earned run so far, not to mention very few baserunners as well. They have combined for only 2 BBs over 17 innings and both have sub 1.00 WHIPs. What a nightmare for late-inning hitters.

A-Roid is still struggling, and perhaps it is time to bench him. Chase Headley is also struggling but at least he has the luxury of making up for his BA with some nice plays in the field, especially in yesterday’s win.  The same could be said for Starlin Castro who has cooled down to a more pedestrian .258 but still looks impressive at 2B. I do wonder at what point Joe Girardi brings up Slade Heathcott or Aaron Judge to inject a spark into this, at times, lifeless group of veterans.

After today’s game, the Yanks head to Texas for three and then over to Beantown for their first showdown of the season with the Sawx. Next weekend will definitely be an early season test for both squads. The Yankees have shown flashes of excellence. I’m just waiting for a full blown display. Then again, it’s only April.