Archives for posts with tag: Bryan Mitchell

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

So much the playoffs. While it looks like the Houston Astros ended the Yankees season with a 3-0 shutout in last Tuesday night’s AL Wild Card game, the Yankees season really ended in September with a 15-17 record. The Yankees essentially hit the wall in the marathon known as the major league baseball season. As for the Wild Card game itself, it served as a microcosm for the 2015 New York Yankees: adequate starting pitching supported by hot/cold offense.

There’s plenty to gloss over from 2015 and plenty to look forward to in the Bronx in 2016. We can gloss over the second half scuffling of star players like Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, and A-Roid. And don’t even get me started on Jacoby Ellsbury, whose contract is turning into the latest albatross. As for optimism, that comes in the form of a youth movement led by pitching ace in the works, Luis Severino, and homerun hitting first baseman, Greg Bird.

Despite the disappointing end to the 2015 season, it can be seen as the groundwork for a future sustained playoff run. GM Brian Cashman refused to mortgage the future at the trade deadline. Because of this risky/reasoned decision Yankee fans were treated to a glimpse of the future from the aforementioned Severino and Bird, as well as Rob Refsnyder, Slade Heathcott, Rico Noel and Bryan Mitchell. And at some point future super slugging Aaron Judge will find his way to the Bronx. Next season will be the start of a time of transition with Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran in the final years of their deals and A-Roid’s contract set to expire in 2017. The only other stroke of luck needed would be if teams developed interest in C.C. Sabathia and Jacoby Ellsbury, with the Yankees willing to eat a significant amount of money.

As for pitching, Joe Girardi became dependent on the bullpen because he had no other options. Not a single starting pitcher reached 180 innings, with Sabathia topping out at 167.1. There were plenty of flashes of brilliance from Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Masahiro Tanaka but nothing overly reliable. Toward the end the only consistent arm belonged to 21 year old Luis Severino, who shined with a 2.89 ERA in 62.1 innings. No idea if the Yankees are in the market for a free agent arm this offseason but they may want to give this batch another season, especially with Chase Whitley due to return from Tommy John surgery this upcoming season and Adam Warren available to return to the rotation when needed.

The bullpen did get a chance to succeed but like most bullpens eventually showed its’ cracks. Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve became that rare pair of lefties able to retire hitters from both sides of the plate. Andrew Miller joined the ranks of dominant Yankee closers with his solid year. And Dellin Betances escaped many a jam, many of his own creating with 40BBs in 80+ innings, but like the rest of team faltered down the stretch.

And while the majority of the team slumped in the season’s 2nd half, Didi Gregorius played the kind of SS desperately needed in the post-Derek Jeter world. Gregorius had a 2nd half slash line of .294/.345/.417 and played flawless defense that helped him finish the season with the best defensive WAR among AL shortstops. The Yankees would be smart to lock him long-term this off season. They should also give Dustin Ackley another year based on his .288 stint with the team since he also provides versatility by being able to play 1B and LF along with his natural position of 2B.

Overall, I see the Yankees early exit from this year’s October Merry-Go-Round as being very similar to their 1995 divisional round loss to the Seattle Mariners. Not saying that Yankee fans can look forward to another run of dominance like the late 1990’s but anything is possible and there is plenty to be positive about.

It’s still August, and there’s still time left in the season but the Yankees keep finding ways to make the race in the AL East interesting. That’s not a good thing. After starting last week with a timely sweep of the Minnesota Twins, the Bronx Bombers proceeded to lost three out four to the lowly Cleveland Indians. I’m guessing this Indian squad has been invigorated by the recent dealing of Nick Swisher to Atlanta. Just a theory. Anyway, the Yankees lost their 1 and ½ game lead over Toronto and are back to looking up at the Bashing Blue Jays by a ½ game. All is not lost in the Bronx, it just feels that way, a lot.

The Yankee offense is still the second best in all of baseball, even if it only seems to come in waves followed by stretches of low tide. The impending loss of Mark Teixeira to the DL would be catastrophic news but the debut of rookie Greg Bird has been a great consolation. Bird is off to a .273 start in his big league career highlighted by a 2HR/4 RBI performance in last Wednesday’s win over the Twins. Jacoby Ellsbury has gotten back on track by hitting .379 over the past week. It’s taken a season and a half but Carlos Beltran is finally justifying his three year deal with a .317 August and 5HRs. And Brian McCann has 22 HRS and 75 RBIs through 102 games this year. It took him all of 2014 to amass those numbers. McCann is money.

The Yankee pitching has been effective, only hampered by a lack of consistent offense. Luis Severino earned his first MLB win and might be the key to the Yankees reaching October with his 2.73 ERA over four starts. Nathan Eovaldi has steadily improved over the course of the season, and despite his penchant for high pitch counts has been the one of only two Yankees starters to make every scheduled start. The other one is C.C. Sabathia, who will no longer hold that distinction after yesterday’s knee injury has him DL bound. I know there is a lot of piling on Mr. Sabathia and I will not join those who think his injury was a “blessing.” Truth be told, he was pitching better as of late and having him around could have facilitated a six-man rotation with the imminent return of Michael Pineda. In the meantime, Bryan Mitchell should be able to pick up the slack in the rotation, as long as he doesn’t have any residual effects from being hit by Eduardo Nunez’s liner in last Monday’s Yankee win.

The Yankees face another gut test with the arrival of the super-hot Houston Astros. The Yankees need to find a way to generate offense against the team with the best pitching in the AL. Oh, and the Astros can hit as well, just ask the recently swept Dodgers. The Yankees have plenty of games and chances ahead. Taking two of three from the Astros is not just a pipedream but a necessity here at the end of August.

No one, not even I could have seen this, and for once it’s a good thing. No one saw the Yankees playing this well, let alone entering the All-Star break on top of the AL East with a 3 ½ game lead. True, the AL East is playing more like the AL Least nowadays but as a team you just have to play the games on your schedule and see what shakes out. And while the rest of the teams in the division currently seem to have their flaws all exposed at once, the Yankees seem be hitting their stride thanks to health, depth and a little bit of luck.

Starting pitching, C+: Doing just enough to get the job done should probably be the slogan of the Yankees’ pitching staff. There have been flashes of brilliance, mostly provided by Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, but overall Yankee pitching ranks 11th in ERA in the AL helped generously by the stellar bullpen. The Yankees need consistency from this staff, as well as length to keep their bullpen occasionally rested. Nathan Eovaldi has been the beneficiary of ample run support, which explains his 9-2 record with a 4.50 ERA. Ivan Nova has been solid since returning from TJ surgery and may want to try wearing Eovaldi’s #30 next time he takes the mound in hopes of sharing in the run support. And C.C. Sabathia continues to be the anchor weighing down the ship, and no, that’s not a crack about his weight. Sabathia will continue to be run out there every fifth game if for no other reason than he’s too expensive for the mop-up duty he’s more suited for. But Tanaka and Pineda should have just enough at top of this rotation to keep the ship right.

Offense, A-: The most pleasant surprise of the season has been the abundance of offense. It does come in bunches at time interrupted by the occasional drought, but the Yankees are currently 2nd in all of baseball in runs scored mostly thankful to being 2nd in all of baseball in HRs. The Bronx Bombers are living up to their moniker again. Recently honored (and long overdue) All Star Brett Gardner continues to be the sparkplug for this lineup whether he’s hitting 2nd behind Jacoby Ellsbury or batting leadoff in his absence. The healthy return of Jacoby Ellsbury bodes well for the 2nd half and gives the Yankees the best 1-2 punch in the game. Speaking of healthy, Mark Teixeira’s gluten free diet hasn’t prohibited him from feasting on American League pitching. Tex leads the team in HRs (22) and RBIs (62) and is back to his 2009 form. Brian McCann just missed an All Star selection by seguing last year’s resurgent 2nd half into this year’s 1st half. He also seems to find himself coming up with the biggest hits in the 7th inning and later. And I guess it’s about time I throw some praise to A-Roid. His long storied history of jackassery is hard to overlook. But even harder to overlook has been his All Star worthy 1st half. He’s accepted his DH assignment and providing the most offense at that position since the days of another Yankee comeback story, Daryl Strawberry.

Defense, D+: What was supposed to be a non-issue has been the biggest thorn in the Yankees’ side. The Yankees are 12th in the AL in fielding best represented by Chase Headley, who leads all 3B with 16 errors. All is not lost, especially with Mark Teixeira playing his usual Gold Glove 1B, and who is the reason Headley has 16 errors and not 26. The first two months were not kind to Didi Gregorius either. But he has been a work in progress. Didi is still showing better range and a stronger arm than a certain Pinstripe God. Despite 9 errors, Gregorius is currently tied for 3rd among AL shortstops in defensive WAR. And Brian McCann is keeping the basepaths in check, throwing out 40% of potential basestealers.

Bullpen, A: The offense has been plentiful but the number one reason the Yankees have persevered to first place in the division has been the bullpen. At times overworked and at times overmatched, they seem to be falling into place at the season’s mid-mark. Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve and Bryan Mitchell give Joe Girardi plenty of set-up options since they are all equally effective against righties and lefties. The return of Adam Warren from the starting rotation gives the Yanks another right-handed option, as well as a reliable spot starter. And despite the occasional hiccup, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are the definition of formidable in the back end. They are both striking out hitters at a rate of 14K/9 innings with sub 2.00 ERAs. The Yankees are winning the games they are supposed to win because of this tandem.

Bench, B: The Yankees have been mercilessly stricken by the injury bug over the past few seasons, and thankfully learned their lesson. Chris Young has been a find as their 4th OF, providing 10 HRs in limited duty. Garrett Jones has been useful as a left-handed bat, as well as OF and back-up to Tex at 1B. And John Ryan Murphy may not be replacing Brian McCann anytime soon, but he’s excelled in his back-up duty.

Manager, B+: Joe Girardi continues to be the calm head that keeps this Yankee team focused during their most trying times. He’s also adept, like his predecessor Joe Torre, at handling the media and keeping them at bay when necessary. This is has been most evident with his handling of the return of A-Roid. He’s done a first-rate job of juggling an aging lineup as well as shaking things up, like when he slotted Chase Headley 2nd during Jacoby Ellsbury’s DL stint. The only qualm I would have would be his overuse of the bullpen at times. Perhaps it’s a by-product of the modern day game with more pitching changes than Katy Perry costume changes at the Super Bowl halftime show. I would just like to see Girardi as being a little more old school and having a little more faith in his starters at times to get out of jams themselves. Otherwise, Girardi has proven time and time again to be the right fit for this team.

Outlook: The Yankees are right where they need to be, having won 7 of their last 10 and getting healthy at the right time. There was talk of trading for a starting pitcher or middle infielder but the recent success of Tanaka and Pineda as well as the impressive debut of 2B Rob Refsnyder may put that plan on hold. The Yankees are primed to win the AL East. They aren’t close to being a championship caliber team but they are playing their best ball since 2012 and ready to make some noise in October.

With just a week to go before the All-Star break the New York Yankees continue to defy expectations as they find themselves atop the highly contested AL East. After going 3-4 on a road trip to Houston and Anaheim, the Yankees returned home to take two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays along with the Blue Jays and Orioles keep jockeying for position but the Yankees keep finding a way to stay one step ahead.

The Yankee pitching staff continues to be a work in progress. Michael Pineda and Mashahiro Tanaka alternate brilliant starts with pedestrian ones. Nathan Eovaldi is iffy at best and has been the beneficiary of the buoyant Yankee offense which explains his 8-2 record with a 4.52 ERA. Ivan Nova has shown some progress in his TJ return and may be the key to the rotation succeeding. And C.C. Sabathia continues to falter. He would be best suited for long work out of the bullpen but is not a possibility because of his $24 million salary.

The Yankee offense is currently tied for 2nd best in all of baseball along with the Houston Astros. Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira and A-Roid have been the main cogs and show no signs of slowing down. Brett Gardner is playing All-Star quality baseball and is on pace to be the first Yankee to score 100 runs since Robinson Cano in 2011. Carlos Beltran is back on the DL and may not be a reliable RF option for the long haul. And the sooner the Stephen Drew experiment ends, the better. Not sure if Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder is the answer at 2B but either can do better than Drew’s .178 batting average.

The bullpen is still the most reliable weapon in the Yankee arsenal, and the options will just get better with the imminent return of Andrew Miller. Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve have improved as the season has gone on and Bryan Mitchell is developing into a depending long relief arm. And despite a recent blown save against the Rays, Dellin Betances flourishes in both the set-up and closer roles.

But the key to an AL East title is the return of a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury. Brett Gardner and Chase Headley have been able to tread water for now but the combination of Ellsbury and Gardner at the top of the Yankee lineup is formidable and necessary for October baseball in the Bronx.

The only other suggestion I would make to the organization is take notice of Chris Young’s success in Houston and trade him to the Astros. Houston needs a bat for their playoff run and the Yankees could use either Collin McHugh or Lance McCullers in the starting rotation. It would be a win-win.

The Yankees finish the first half with a pair of last-place opponents: three at home against the Oakland A’s and three in Boston against the Sawx. At some point this Yankees squad needs to open a lead in the division and there’s no time like the present, especially against these two disappointing teams.