Well folks, this is it. The final RAB mailbag. Our archives tell me I’ve written 538 mailbag posts over the years. Figure eight questions per mailbag and that’s a little over 4,000 questions. I have 12 questions for you this week. As a reminder, I am putting together a “Guide to life after RAB” post, so if you have any suggested sites to check out for Yankees analysis, send ’em to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.
Michael asks: Is it safe to start being concerned that Judge is a little injury prone? He’s not Bird, but 2 oblique strains in four years and a shoulder problem that required surgery in another season (discounting the freak hbp).
Aaron Judge also missed a few weeks with Triple-A Scranton back in 2016 after he banged up his knee diving for a ball on the warning track. So, to recap:
- 2016: Knee injury in Triple-A and oblique strain in MLB.
- 2017: Shoulder injury that required offseason surgery.
- 2018: Broken wrist after hit-by-pitch.
- 2019: Oblique strain.
The thing is, does it really matter if we label Judge injury prone? What difference does it make? He’s still an incredible player and 130 games of Judge is better than 150 games of most others. Two oblique strains in four years is not a red flag for me. The hit-by-pitch last year was a fluke thing, and if you dive for balls or crash into the wall, you’re at risk of injury. That’s baseball.
Greg Bird had three surgeries in three years from 2016-18, including two on the same ankle, and now he has a torn plantar fascia. The’s had serious non-contact injuries. He didn’t crash into a wall or get hit by a pitch. That’s just his body giving out. Judge’s knee, shoulder, and wrist injuries were kinda dumb baseball things. He’s an outlier because he’s so big and we have no idea how he’ll age with that frame. I’m not worried about him being injury prone right now though. I’ll worry when random non-contact injuries start piling up. Right now it’s two four years apart.
Caleb asks: How far back can a player be put on the IL to start the season? I was curious if someone like Hicks got put on the 60 day IL would the clock start the day he got hurt or the first game of the season?
When a player is transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list, his 60-day clock begins the first day he was put on the 10-day injured list. It doesn’t reset. The Yankees placed Luis Severino on the 10-day injured list on Opening Day, so, after being transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room for Cameron Maybin yesterday, he is eligible to return 60 days from Opening Day (May 27th). His 60-day clock didn’t start yesterday. Players get credit for time served, so to speak.
Ed asks: Should the Yanks keep three catchers and play Sanchez & Romine most days? Romine’s bat is certainly better than some of the options they have on hand.
The Yankees sent down Kyle Higashioka when Gary Sanchez returned, so they are carrying two catchers. Hypothetically, they would’ve had to send down Mike Ford to carry three catchers — carrying three catchers and two first basemen with a three-man bench ain’t happening — so the question is essentially Sanchez at DH and Austin Romine at catcher, or Sanchez at catcher and Ford at DH. I’d go with the latter. With a healthy roster, the Yankees could sacrifice some offense to improve their defense. They can’t do it now. They have to generate as much offense as possible and Romine isn’t solving any offensive problems. Ford might with his lefty power and patience. The defensive upgrade behind the plate doesn’t make up for the offensive downgrade. Carrying three catchers when you have one of the best catchers in the game seems crazy to me. Sanchez should be playing as much as possible behind the plate. He gives the Yankees the best chance to win.
Rob asks: Domingo Acevedo = Dellin Betances 2.0? Seriously, the Yankees seem to have a never-ending supply of good relievers. I think it’s because they’re obsessed with hard throwers who, more often than not, have a natural tendency to have arm problems and low durability is the number 1 symptom of that. So they rarely develop solid starters successfully. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Good relievers are valuable especially as trade chips. But at some point, shouldn’t they learn their lesson and search out pitchers with high IQ and high durability instead?
Acevedo isn’t the next Betances. Dellin has a better fastball and a much better secondary pitch. They aren’t all that comparable aside from being really tall (Acevedo is 6-foot-7) and command challenged, as far as I’m concerned. I assume the high IQ thing refers to command because at some point long ago command became a proxy for intelligence (million dollar arm and ten cent head, blah blah blah), which is the dumbest thing ever. Throwing strikes and commanding the baseball are hard. The league average zone rate is 47.3% this year. We are currently watching the best and most talented pitchers in baseball history, and, collectively, they throw the ball in the strike zone less than half the time. Throwing strikes is hard. Commanding the ball is even harder. Every team looks for pitchers with command and the Yankees are no exception. There just aren’t very many great command — sorry, high IQ — pitchers out there. As for high durability, good luck figuring out who will and will not stay healthy. Teams have been trying to crack that code for decades.
Zach asks: Give the plethora of injuries, does Aaron Boone get legitimate Manager of the Year consideration if the Yankees win the AL East this year? He’d have to be the favorite — even if the Yankees are healthy by September — right?
Normally I would say no. The Yankees came into the season as the consensus favorites to win the AL East, and the game’s biggest market team winning the division when pretty much everyone expected them to win the division usually doesn’t equal Manager of the Year votes. The injuries have changed the calculus though. The Yankees have had nothing close to a full strength roster this season and, given the timetables on their injured guys, it doesn’t sound like they will have a full strength roster anytime soon. Every team deals with injuries, they are part of the game, but this is well beyond normal injury rates. We’ll see what happens with the other American League races — I have to think Rocco Baldelli would get Manager of the Year love if the Twins win the AL Central — but yes, the Yankees winning the division despite all these injuries should equal serious Manager of the Year consideration for Aaron Boone. Joe Girardi would be getting praised to no end for keeping this group together and competitive. Boone deserves the same love.
Paul asks: Can we talk about how the Yankees have a pretty good Pythagorean record despite sending an entire major league team to the IL? Sure, crummy competition so far, but pretty incredible right?
Going into last night’s game the Yankees had the second best run differential in the American League and the third best run differential in baseball overall. The leaderboard:
- Rays: +40 (16-9 actual record vs. 17-8 expected record)
- Cardinals: +33 (15-9 vs. 15-9)
- Yankees: +31 (14-10 vs. 15-9)
- Astros: +28 (15-9 vs. 15-9)
- Mariners: +28 (16-11 vs. 16-11)
It is way way way too early in the season to begin drawing conclusions from run differential. I don’t buy the Mariners as the fifth best team in baseball. I also don’t buy the Red Sox as the third worst team in baseball despite their -36 run differential. Run differential is descriptive more than predictive. It tells you what happened, not what will happen next.
As I write this Thursday evening, the Yankees have two one-run losses, four two-run losses, three three-run losses, and one five-run loss. They have not been blown out at all this year. In fact, they are 4-1 in games decided by at least five runs, and that’s the bulk of the run differential right there. Yes, it is crazy impressive the Yankees have outscored their opponents by roughly 1.3 runs per game despite their depleted roster. I’m not sure how sustainable it is without some guys getting healthy.
Justin asks: You’ve mentioned a number of times that even when unsigned free agents are signed, they’ll need to see a fair amount of game action before they’re ready to be put on an MLB roster. I’m wondering why free agents who are biding their time don’t sign on with a club in one of the higher-tier independent leagues instead of just working out in a facility somewhere. It seems like a low-risk way to get into games, showcase for MLB clubs, and have a more immediate major-league impact when eventually signed.
No established big leaguer is going to bide his time in an independent league. The travel is terrible, the ballparks are nice (some of them) but they’re far from MLB caliber, the pay is horrible, the postgame spreads are terrible, so on and so forth. If you’re Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel, and you are an established above-average big leaguer, do you work out close to home and spend time with your family, or go spend a few weeks with the Long Island Ducks? I’d stay home too. Nothing those players do in an independent league will improve their free agent stock — the level of competition would render stats meaningless, and if a team wants to put a radar gun on someone, they’re welcome to attend a workout — and if a team decides to pass because the player will need a few minor league games to prepare, then that’s their loss. They’re not serious about winning if waiting two or three weeks is enough of a reason to pass on the player entirely.
Michael asks: Gio Urshela. This may be a very small sample size, but as of now both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference rate him as a poor defender thus far. Would you happen to know the reason behind that?
I do not and it is almost certainly small sample size. Defensive stats are updated every two weeks or so, and the first 2019 update was released recently. It is a very tiny little bit of data and I would not sweat it at all. To the eye test, Urshela looks very good at third base, and the eye test matches all the scouting reports throughout his career. Give it time and the numbers will likely reflect that. Of course, Urshela might not be around long enough for the numbers to correct. If Miguel Andujar comes back in a few weeks, that’s probably it for Urshela. I don’t have a good answer for why Urshela is rated as a negative defensively right now. Why was Jose Ramirez batting .150 on April 15th? There’s no good reason. Weird things happen in small samples and they don’t always mean the player’s true talent level has changed.
Michael asks: Just checked and found out Ian Happ is in the minors and has been for all of 2019. Last year he was a league-average hitter and he has upside beyond that. Could a Chad Green for Ian Happ swap be a starting point for a trade discussion? Or if not that, what would it take to interest the Cubs in parting with their out-of-favor young player?
That would be interesting. It wouldn’t be fair to call Green-for-Happ a damaged goods for damaged goods trade — when I think damaged goods, I think player with an injury — but it is definitely two guys whose stock is down. Green got hit around this year and was sent to Triple-A this week. Happ was squeezed off the roster in Spring Training and he went into last night’s game hitting .225/.313/.408 (77 wRC+) with two homers and a 31.3% strikeout rate in 19 Triple-A games. A year ago these were important players on contending teams. Now they’re afterthoughts.
I don’t like Happ all that much — his swing is so long and robotic that it seems like it’ll take a not insignificant mechanical overhaul to cut down on his strikeout and swing-and-miss rates — but I’d trade Green for him in a heartbeat. A reliever for a potential everyday player, or at least a “tenth man” type who can switch-hit and play both the infield and outfield? A player like that is mighty useful in the three-man bench era. (Well, it becomes the four-man bench era next season with the 26-man/13-pitcher roster, but the point stands.) My guess is the Cubs would want quite a bit more than Green to part with Happ and I don’t blame them. Maybe Green and Jonathan Loaisiga for Happ? Not saying I would do it, but that might be what it would take.
Christian asks: My question for the mailbag is about the bullpen – or rather an observation… I like the “concept” of two sets of starters for a game. CC for 5 innings and Loaisiga for 3 innings are a great combo because it gives a breather to the other members of the bullpen. Should teams use second tier starters in that role more often if you were GM and/or manager?
That is kinda sorta what’s happening right now. Most notably, the Rays are sheltering their back-end starters by pairing them with an opener. It keeps them away from the other team’s best hitters one time through the lineup. Using piggyback starters — that is essentially what CC Sabathia for five innings and Jonathan Loaisiga for three innings every five days would be, piggybacking — is great in theory but has proven difficult to put into practice. Matchups and bullpen needs on other days tend to throw things out of whack. Teams are still figuring out the best way to do this and keep everyone healthy and productive, but yeah, baseball is moving in this direction. Teams are coming up with ways to maximize the effectiveness of their second and third tier starters, usually by reducing how often they go through the lineup a third time, or face the other team’s best hitters.
Brad asks: if he had not injured his wrist in ST, would Florial have been considered for ML time given all the OF injuries, or would they have stayed the course in his development?
Nah. The Yankees would not have rushed Estevan Florial to cover for the injuries. For starters, Florial is almost certainly not ready for the big leagues given his pitch recognition issues. He could play defense and run, but I don’t see any way he could hang in at the plate. Secondly, Florial is their best prospect and they’re not going to alter his development plan and risk stunting his development. The jump from High-A or Double-A to MLB is huge. And third, there are 40-man roster considerations. The Yankees can designate Cameron Maybin for assignment when the time comes and not think twice about it. Once Florial’s on the 40-man though, he’s not coming off. It limits flexibility. Florial is expected to resume baseball activities in the coming days and that’s good. I don’t think the injury kept him out of the big leagues though. He wouldn’t have been a serious call-up candidate.
Several asked: At what point do we start the question the training staff given all the injuries?
People have been questioning the training staff since Spring Training. Aaron Boone is asked about them pretty much every day and Brian Cashman is absolutely asked about them whenever he meets with the media. Believe me, the Yankees are asked about the training staff all the time. I totally get why the training staff is being questioned and it’s not unfair given these injuries. This just strikes me as a freakishly bad year. Luis Severino coming down with an achy shoulder after his workload the last two years isn’t the most surprising thing in the world. Same with Dellin Betances. Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier hurting themselves diving into bases is dumb luck. The absolute last thing you can say about Giancarlo Stanton is that he’s not in peak physical condition, yet he hurt his biceps. These days players all have personal trainers, and that makes it tough to blame the team’s training staff for everything. I have no doubt the Yankees are looking into this. From the outside, I don’t see how we could blame anyone in particular. We don’t have enough information at all.
For the first time in nearly two weeks, the Yankees looked very much like a team of injury replacements Thursday night. A seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead quickly vanished in the middle innings and turned into an 11-5 loss. The winning streak was going to end eventually. Seeing it end like that smarts.
Building A Four-Run Lead
The Yankees really worked Trevor Cahill hard Thursday. Ninety-three pitches in four innings plus three batters, and by my unofficial count, he threw 70 of those 93 pitches with a runner on base. The Yankees had Cahill working from the stretch all night. His final line: 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HR. They scored four runs against Cahill in four very different ways.
The First Run: Speed Kills. Tyler Wade created his team’s first run with his legs. He beat out an infield single to start the third inning, bringing DJ LeMahieu up to the plate. Wade stole second on the first pitch, stole third on the second pitch, and scored on LeMahieu’s single back up the middle on the third pitch. Efficient! Between his final at-bat Wednesday night and his first at-bat Thursday night, that was a hell-raising two-at-bat stretch for Wade.
The Second Run: The Long Ball. Not a whole lot to say about this one. Cahill hung a curveball to Gio Urshela and Urshela did not miss it. Solo home run to left field. First home run of the season and the ninth of his MLB career. Wade and Urshela gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead through four innings.
The Third Run: The Gift Run. Luke Voit and Brett Gardner opened the fifth inning with back-to-back singles, then Gary Sanchez worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases with no outs, ending Cahill’s night. Reliever Justin Anderson and catcher Jonathan Lucroy gifted the Yankees their third run when Anderson bounced a breaking ball and it snuck through Lucroy’s legs and went to the backstop. It was scored a wild pitch but looked more like a passed ball to me. Lucroy was squared up perfectly but still let it get through his legs. Whatever.
The Fourth Run: The Nice Piece of Hitting. The
passed ball wild pitch scored a run and also moved the runners up to second and third with one out. Gleyber Torres battled Anderson for six pitches, then lined a two-strike single over the second baseman’s head to give the Yankees a 4-0. It was low enough that Sanchez had to freeze at second base to make sure it wasn’t caught, though I’m not sure he would’ve scored on that hit anyway. Love Gary, but he is not fleet of foot. Although he was not on the mound, the third and fourth runs were changed to Cahill.
The Wheels Come Off
This went from another very good Masahiro Tanaka start to tied at four real quick. Quick as in five batters. Tanaka retired eleven of the first 14 batters he faced, then, in the fifth inning, he went single, homer, ground out, single, homer. Just like that, the lead was gone. Lucroy poked a ground ball single up the middle, then Tommy La Stella ambushed an elevated fastball for a two-run homer. Luis Rengifo shot a ground ball single up the middle, then Kole Calhoun put a hanging splitter in the bleachers. Fell apart quick.
After retiring eleven of the first 14 batters he faced, six of the final eleven batters Tanaka faced reached base. In the sixth inning he walked Goodwin with one out and La Stella with two outs, ending his night. Tanaka has now walked three batters in three consecutive starts for the first time in his big league career. Those sixth inning walks eventually came around to score (more on that in a bit) though the homers were the problem. Tanaka let the bottom of the order beat him in that fifth inning.
Tanaka’s line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 2 HR on 89 pitches. One swing-and-miss, and it came on his 83rd pitch. The Angels have the lowest strikeout (16.1%) and swing-and-miss (7.4%) rates in baseball, and it showed. (The Angels are also a pretty good reminder that more contact doesn’t automatically equal better results. They went into the game 21st in runs per game and their non-Mike Trouts were hitting .229/.294/.378. But I digress.)
Death By Bullpen
I just do not understand why Jonathan Holder is consistently seeing such high-leverage situations. Two on with two outs in the sixth inning of a tie game? Get someone in there who can overpower the hitter and get an out without a ball being put in play. That is not Holder. The bullpen leverage leaderboard:
- Aroldis Chapman: 1.75
- Adam Ottavino: 1.54
- Jonathan Holder: 1.43
- Zack Britton: 1.19
Those are the right two guys at the top! But Holder third? Goodness. He replaced Tanaka and immediately got crossed up with Sanchez, allowing the runners to move to second and third. Holder then left a two-strike 92 mph fastball up in the zone to David Fletcher, and Fletcher pulled it through the left side for a two-run single and a 6-4 lead. Holder trying to throw a fastball by a hitter is adorable.
But wait! The bullpen weirdness didn’t end there. Stephen Tarpley was brought in to face the top of the lineup in the seventh inning. He walked the first two batters, then Joe Harvey put gas on the fire. Andrelton Simmons pulled a single to left to score one run and Urshela let Wade’s throw back to the infield get under his glove and scoot away, allowing the second run to score. Mike Tauchman misplayed a bloop single into a bases-clearing triple and that was all she wrote.
Holder allowed the two inherited runners to score in the sixth inning and Tarpley and Harvey conspired to allow five more runs in the seventh. Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle, and Adam Ottavino did not pitch Tuesday or Wednesday, yet they were nowhere to be found in the sixth inning of a tie game (or the seventh inning down two). Good news though! Kahnle pitched with the Yankees down six in the eighth inning. Impossibly stupid. I have a headache now.
Two walks and a single loaded the bases against the extremely broken Cody Allen in the eighth inning. Had the 2-3-4 hitters up too. The Yankees weren’t going to get a better chance to make it ballgame than that. Voit struck out, Gardner drew a bases loaded walk to force in a run, and Sanchez flew out. Nine hits and seven walks. The Yankees had plenty of baserunners, but they went 3-for-15 (.200) with runners in scoring position. (Kinda weird it was ignored they hit .270/.372/.446 with runners in scoring position during 8-1 stretch.)
The Yankees ran wild on Lucroy all series. They stole five bases in this game — it was their first five-steal game since September 2013 — and nine in the series. In nine attempts too. Also, all things considered, the Yankees handled Trout well in the four games. He went 2-for-12 (.167) with seven walks and three strikeouts. Only scored two runs too, so the walks didn’t bite them. Many of them were of the unintentional intentional variety.
And finally, Voit’s MLB leading on-base streak is now up to 36 games. It is the longest by a Yankee since Derek Jeter also had a 36-gamer spanning 2012-13. The last Yankees with an on-base streak longer than Voit’s (and Jeter’s)? Mark Teixeira. He had a 42-game streak in 2010.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. Here is our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the loss probability graph:
Interleague play! Pitchers hitting! Routine baseball decisions people call strategy! The Yankees have a three-game series with the Giants next. It is their first trip to San Francisco since 2007 and only their second trip to San Francisco during interleague play. Huh. Didn’t realize that. James Paxton vs. Madison Bumgarner will be the pitching matchup Friday night. That is a 10:15pm ET start.
Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (4-3 loss to Rochester in ten innings, walk-off style)
- SS Cliff Pennington: 3-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB — took old pal Twins RHP Zack Littell deep … two homers in 18 games, which is usually a full season’s worth for him
- 2B Brad Miller: 1-4, 1 K — 1-for-9 (.111) with three strikeouts in two games
- DH Ryan McBroom: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 K
- 1B Gosuke Katoh: 2-3, 1 BB — .319/.396/.681 through 14 games
- RHP David Hale: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 7/2 GB/FB — 72 of 109 pitches were strikes (66%) … 2.12 ERA with an 18/3 K/BB in 17 innings … I mentioned this earlier today but it’s worth repeating: Hale has supposedly taken well to some suggested adjustments from the analytics group and has increased his velocity and spin rate this year … it probably won’t lead to anything, but maybe?
Every day I look at the lineup and wonder how in the world the Yankees will score runs, yet they’ve now won six straight games and eight of their last nine. It’s been fun. They close out their four-game series in Anaheim tonight — this is the endgame, if you will — looking for the four-game sweep.
“We don’t have our big dogs, but we’re finding a way, and it feels good,” DJ LeMahieu told Greg Beacham following last night’s win. “We’ve got a lot of good players. That speaks to this organization. It’s not how we drew it up in Spring Training, but we’re getting wins and having fun.”
Masahiro Tanaka has been excellent in four of his five starts this season and, on paper, the Angels are a bad matchup for him. They have the sixth lowest swing rate (44.1%) and ninth lowest chase rate (27.6%) in baseball. Tanaka’s thing is getting hitters to expand the zone. Here are tonight’s lineups:
New York Yankees
1. 2B DJ LeMahieu
2. DH Luke Voit
3. CF Brett Gardner
4. C Gary Sanchez
5. RF Mike Tauchman
6. SS Gleyber Torres
7. 1B Mike Ford
8. 3B Gio Urshela
9. LF Tyler Wade
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
Los Angeles Angels
1. RF Kole Calhoun
2. CF Mike Trout
3. 1B Justin Bour
4. DH Andrelton Simmons
5. LF Brian Goodwin
6. C Jonathan Lucroy
7. 3B Tommy La Stella
8. SS David Fletcher
9. 2B Luis Rengifo
RHP Trevor Cahill
Another great weather night in Anaheim, I assume. Tonight’s series finale will begin at 9:07pm ET and the YES Network will have the broadcast. Enjoy the ballgame.
Injury Update: Miguel Andujar (shoulder) is tentatively scheduled to play four or five innings in an Extended Spring Training game tomorrow. If all goes well, the Yankees will continue to build him up, and he could be ready to rejoin the team in about a week … Troy Tulowitzki (calf) is a day or two away from playing ExST games and is about a week away as well … Giancarlo Stanton (biceps, shoulder) is shut down for a few days following his cortisone shot but is expected to “ramp up quickly” next week.
Roster Moves: In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees acquired Cameron Maybin in a cash trade with the Indians. He is expected to arrive in time to be in uniform for the game tonight, and Aaron Boone said Maybin will be in the starting lineup the next two days because the Yankees are facing lefty pitchers (Madison Bumgarner and Derek Holland). Clint Frazier (ankle) was placed on the 10-day injured list and Jonathan Loaisiga was sent down. Maybin and Joe Harvey were added to the roster in corresponding moves. Also, Luis Severino was transferred to the 60-day injured list to clear a 40-man roster spot for Maybin.
The Yankees continue their nine-game, three-city West Coast trip with the series finale in Anaheim later tonight. Until then, here are some miscellaneous links and notes to check out.
Yankees again ranked MLB’s most valuable franchise
Once again, Forbes has ranked the Yankees as the most valuable franchise in baseball. The franchise is valued at $4.6 billion right now, up from $4 billion last year. The Dodgers are a distant second at $3.2 billion. The gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is the same as the gap between No. 2 and No. 8. Here’s part of the write-up:
The New York Yankees are the most valuable team ($4.6 billion) and had local revenue of $712 million last year, the most in MLB and more than the bottom six teams (Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles) had combined. The Dodgers ($3.3 billion), Boston Red Sox ($3.2 billion), Chicago Cubs ($3.1 billion) and San Francisco Giants ($3 billion) round out the list of teams worth at least $3 billion.
Forbes estimates the Yankees’ revenue at $668M and operating income at $28M last year. If you believe the Yankees (or pretty much any team, for that matter) only made $28M in profit last year, I have a few bridges for sale in Brooklyn. Forbes has been compiling their estimated franchise values more than 20 years now, and the Yankees have topped the list every single year. If they ever slip into second place, someone’s doing something wrong.
Yankees among team scouting Roki Sasaki
According to Yahoo! Japan (via NPB on Reddit), the Yankees are among the many MLB teams scouting hard-throwing Japanese high schooler Roki Sasaki. Sasaki’s fastball was recently clocked at 101 mph, according to Dylan Hernandez, which broke Shohei Ohtani’s national high school record. Here’s some not great video of the kid in action. Sasaki reportedly throws a slider, curveball, and splitter. No word on the quality of his secondaries or his command.
Japanese high school players can sign with MLB teams as international free agents after they graduate, though it never happens because Nippon Pro Baseball would freak out. They want the best Japanese players to play in Japan before coming to MLB. MLB goes along with it to help maintain a good working relationship between the two leagues. Will Sasaki change that? Who knows. Is he even good? Who knows! Teams are already scouting him though. They’re starting to build the information bank.
Baseball America’s mock draft v1.0 and v2.0
Anyway, both mock drafts have the Orioles taking Oregon State C Adley Rutschman with the top selection. He’s such a stud. Switch-hitting catcher with a .420/.584/.821 batting line who projects to be an above-average defender. Baseball America had the Yankees taking New Jersey HS RHP Jack Leiter in their first mock draft and Florida HS 3B Rece Hinds in their second mock draft.
Imagining Hinds playing in Yankee Stadium in a few years is fun, and New York’s gamble on a previous large, righthanded-hitting power hitter with swing-and-miss concerns paid off nicely—RE: Aaron Judge.
Leiter is indeed Al’s son and he’s arguably the best prep pitcher in the country. Not huge velocity, but great secondaries and excellent command. The question is signability. Leiter is strongly committed to Vanderbilt and he and his family presumably do not need the money. The Yankees have a big bonus pool and can offer a huge overslot bonus, but it may not matter. Leiter may be an impossible sign.
I have no real opinion on Hinds at this point. He does fit the Yankees’ profile as a very athletic and very toolsy high schooler with unteachable power though. It’s a little too early to start matching teams and targets, especially late in the first round. Instead, I recommend sifting through MLB.com’s top 50 draft prospects list. Southern California kids are always a good place to start with the Yankees.
MLB wants to gain control of local broadcast rights
According to Ron Blum, Major League Baseball has put in a bid to purchase regional sports networks from Disney in an effort to gain control of local broadcasting rights. The Yankees have right of first refusal and already have a deal in place to buy back controlling interest in the YES Network. MLB is trying to purchase the remaining networks. From Blum:
“There’s tremendous revenue disparity in our game, and I think that if we had more of a national model closer to where the NFL is it would solve a lot of those competitive issues for us, kind of level the playing field.” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday. “I think that all of the difficult issues for baseball, if you took that revenue disparity out of the picture, would be easier.”
Long story short, MLB wants to pool all the local television money together, then distribute it evenly among the 30 teams. That’s how the various national television contracts (FOX, ESPN, etc.) work and that is the long-term goal locally. Doesn’t seem all that close to happening, but MLB is working on it. The good news? Such a broadcast model would likely mean the end of local blackouts. That would be a huge plus for
We’re well into April now and the weather is starting to heat up, which means we’re approaching draft season and the annual international signing period. I don’t anticipate much draft or international free agency coverage here given our looming shutdown (sorry), but here is this summer’s amateur bonus pool information, via Carlos Collazo and Ben Badler.
2019 Draft Pool: $7,455,300
Despite finishing with the third best record in baseball last year and thus picking near the end of the first round, the Yankees have the 20th largest draft bonus pool this summer after adding a pick in the Sonny Gray trade. Going from the 27th largest pool to the 20th largest pool with the trade ain’t too bad. Last year the Yankees had no extra picks and the sixth smallest pool at $6,115,100.
As always, the bonus pool money is spread across picks in the top ten rounds. Here is slot bonus value assigned to each of the Yankees’ picks this year:
30. $2,365,500 (first round)
38. $1,952,300 (Competitive Balance Round A — pick from Sonny Gray trade)
67. $976,700 (second round)
105. $554,300 (third round)
135. $414,000 (fourth round)
165. $309,500 (fifth round)
195. $241,000 (sixth round)
225. $190,100 (seventh round)
255. $160,800 (eighth round)
285. $148,900 (ninth round)
315. $142,000 (tenth round)
Teams can take money from one pick and spend it on another, and the Yankees (and pretty much every team) have done that aggressively the last few years. They take college seniors with no negotiating leverage in rounds 6-10, pay them small bonuses ($10,000 or so), and use the savings on other players. Fail to sign a player and you lose the slot money associated with the pick, however.
Penalties for exceeding the draft pool are pretty harsh. Exceed your pool by 5% or more and you have to give up next year’s first round pick, and the penalties only get worse from there. The Yankees have routinely exceeded their draft pool right up to that 5% threshold (last year they exceeded their pool by 4.8%) which incurs a 75% tax on the overage. Their “maximum” pool this year (bonus pool plus 4.9% overage) is $7,820,609.
The Diamondbacks have the largest pool this year at $16,093,700. That is more than $2M more than any other team. Arizona gained extra picks for losing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock to free agency, and also for failing to sign last year’s first rounder. The Red Sox have the smallest draft pool at $4,788,100.
2019-20 International Bonus Pool: $5,398,300
Unlike the draft pool, international bonus polls are based on market size. Teams get dropped into one of three buckets (small market, medium market, large market) and each bucket carries its own bonus pool size. The Yankees are of course in the large market bucket, so they get the smallest bonus pool. The international pool is a hard cap, though bonuses no larger than $10,000 do not count against the bonus pool.
Teams can trade for additional bonus pool space — they used to be able to add an additional 75% of their bonus pool, though this year it drops to 60% — and the Yankees have aggressively traded for international bonus pool space the last few years. They traded for the maximum and I expect them to do the same this year. The additional 60% means the Yankees can max their bonus pool out at $8,637,280 this signing period.
The 2019-20 international signing period opens July 2nd and the Yankees have already been connected to two high-profile prospects: Dominican OF Jasson Dominguez and Dominican OF Jhon Diaz. Dominguez is said to be a significant prospect, so much so that the Yankees are expected to give him a $5M bonus. That would be the largest international bonus they’ve ever given out, and also the largest bonus of the hard cap era overall.
Small market teams have a $6,841,200 pool this year. The Phillies, Dodgers, and Nationals have smaller pools than the Yankees because they forfeited bonus money to sign qualified free agents over the winter. Also, the Braves are limited to $10,000 bonuses the next two signings periods as part of the penalties for past international signing period violations.