All that offseason work with Albert Pujols has paid off for Yankees’ Swiss army knife Tyler Wade, who will make the team’s Opening Day roster in Toronto. Manager Aaron Boone made the announcement to reporters after Tuesday’s 6-to-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland.
Wade is maintaining a scorching-hot .316/.438/.447 line through 18 games so far this spring, appearing at second base, shortstop and third base. As we saw last season, Wade is also capable of playing all three outfield positions. Boone did say, however, that the team has no plans to put Wade in the outfield in a Spring Training game.
The 23-year-old aims to put a disappointing MLB stint in 2017 behind him, where he hit just .155/.222/.224 (17 wRC+) in 30 games. He got just 63 plate appearances, though, because his poor hitting forced him to the bench in favor of Ronald Torreyes when Starlin Castro went down with hamstring issues.
The big story with Wade continues to be the offseason work he put in to overhaul his swing. Marc Carig of The Athletic profiled Wade’s decision to move up his offseason workout plan, and how private hitting coach Dan Koosed and Pujols helped him out.
“Try this along with that,” Wade said, recalling the exchanges, per Carig. “I kept my mouth shut and then I just sat there and I absorbed it all. Then, I asked questions. I asked why.”
So far, the results have been quite remarkable. Wade’s left-handed bat and speed provide stark contrast in a lineup packed full of right-handed power hitters. Despite the Yankees’ signing of Neil Walker, Wade will likely begin the season as the team’s starting second baseman, while also providing insurance at shortstop, third base and in the outfield.
“He’s got good talent, man,” Pujols told The Athletic’s Carig. “He has a lot of promise. He’s a good young little player. He works hard and I like that he asks a lot of questions. He wants to learn. He wants to get better. It’s pretty good to see that. You don’t see that in a lot of young players. Really good approach (with) what he has at the plate, what he wants to do. Really nice work ethic.”
That is high praise coming from a future Hall-of-Famer. Don’t expect Wade to put up Pujols-esque power numbers, but the changes from the past offseason are clearly paying dividends in Tampa.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: Jacoby Ellsbury is injured. Reported March 2 as a “mild oblique strain,” the 34-year-old outfielder has not played since March 1 at the Philadelphia Phillies because of the nagging injury.
Ellsbury was 1-for-10 in four Spring Training games before suffering the injury. He missed 29 games in 2017 because of a concussion suffered May 24 at Yankee Stadium. He was hitting .281/.349/.422 at the time of the injury, but finished the season with a .264/.348/.402 line.
With the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton and the ascendance of Aaron Hicks in the eyes of the Yankees, Ellsbury looked to be the team’s fifth outfielder in 2018.
The Yankees have not decided whether to fill Ellsbury’s roster spot with another bench player or a 13th pitcher. Aaron Boone mentioned Luis Cessa, Domingo Germán, Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder as potential candidates if the Yankees decided to go with a 13th pitcher.
The additional bench spot could go to someone like Tyler Austin, who has had a fantastic spring but has no clear path to playing time. Austin was looking to break camp as the team’s backup first baseman, but the signing of Neil Walker cut those chances significantly.
Boone mentioned that the Yankees would not necessarily take another outfielder if Ellsbury is on the disabled list, which would also harm Billy McKinney‘s chances of heading north with the Yankees.
Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported Monday that Boone will have the team’s 25-man roster for the opening series against the Blue Jays in Toronto set for the team’s March 26 exhibition game against the Braves in Atlanta.
The Yankees sent two Top 10 prospects down to minor league camp Sunday, as No. 4 third baseman Miguel Andújar and No. 2 outfielder Estevan Florial were reassigned to minor league camp.
Andújar, who is a member of the 40-man roster, was optioned to Triple-A Scranton. Prior to the Yankees’ trade for Brandon Drury, Andújar was the local favorite to break camp as the team’s third baseman. He is currently tied with outfielder Billy McKinney for the team lead in home runs this spring with four. He slashed .262/.273/.643 in 14 games prior to his demotion. The knock on Andújar is his defense, where his scouting report says “he still needs to polish some rough edges”.
Interestingly enough, the Yankees decided to expand Andújar’s defensive portfolio by having him play first base now that he is in minor league camp.
Florial, who is not Rule 5 Draft eligible until December 2019, was simply reassigned to minor league camp. He will likely open the season with Class-A Advanced Tampa or Double-A Trenton. The speedy outfielder impressed with his maturity for a player who just turned 20 this past November. He slashed .231/.333/.462 with three triples, three RBIs and two stolen bases in his 18 games in big league camp.
The Yankees are looking for Florial to work on making more consistent contact, given that he struck out at a 31% rate in the low minors last season. He has a plus arm, and the speed to stick in center field.
Jake Cave has found a new home in Minnesota, as the Yankees dealt him to the Twins for pitcher Luis Gil Friday. Cave had been designated for assignment March 12 to clear a 40-man roster spot for newly-signed infielder Neil Walker.
Cave found himself on the chopping block after a strong 2017 in the minors because of the Yankees’ outfield depth. He put up career highs in home runs (20) and RBIs (56), while slashing .305/.351/.542 in 103 games between Double-A and Triple-A. The 25-year-old, who is capable of playing all three outfield positions, was hitting just .158/.304/.211 through 10 games with the big league club in Spring Training.
The Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton and the emergence of Billy McKinney in Spring Training made Cave expendable. While the Yankees’ next true center fielder, Estevan Florial, is still a few years from the Bronx, they were clearly comfortable dealing Cave because of their belief in the upside of Aaron Hicks and in the consistency of Brett Gardner to back him up.
The return for the Yankees is 19-year-old right-hander Luis Gil. Gil signed with the Twins in 2015, and pitched for their Dominican Summer League team in 2015 and 2017. It is unclear why he did not pitch in 2016. Between those two seasons, Gil posted a 3.32 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in 30 games (14 starts).
Gil is the second pitcher the Yankees have acquired with only Dominican Summer League experience under their belt. The Bombers traded Nick Rumbelow to the Seattle Mariners in November 2017 during their 40-man roster crunch for RHP Juan Then, who is now ranked as the Yankees’ No. 25 prospect.
The Twins designated 1B/DH Kennys Vargas for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Cave. Vargas was out of options, while Cave still has three remaining. Cave likely begins the season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.
After coming into MLB camp as a highly regarded non-roster invitee, No. 6 prospect Chance Adams was reassigned to minor league camp Thursday after giving up six earned runs in just 4⅔ innings pitched.
“It hasn’t been too great of a spring for me,” Adams said, per Bryan Hoch. “Just got to let it go, and I have to get better as the season goes on. Nothing really happens too good if you just dwell on what happens. Just got to be focused on the future and let the past go.”
Adams had a fantastic year in 2017 with both Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, posting an overall 15-5 record and 2.45 ERA in 27 total starts. The former college reliever has the upside to become a No. 3 starter, but needs to focus on harnessing his fastball command, per MLB Pipeline.
The 23-year-old’s time in camp ended with an unpleasant 11.57 ERA, with hitters batting .474 against him. Adams will now focus on returning to the RailRiders rotation in Triple-A, and being prepared if there is a need in the big league rotation or bullpen due to injury.
Many clamored for Adams to make his debut last season amid injury- and performance-related uncertainty in the Yankees’ rotation. The midseason acquisitions of Jaime García and Sonny Gray allowed the Yankees to keep Adams in the minors, however.
While the Yankees’ starting rotation may seem settled for the 2018 season, one baseball source told Newsday’s Anthony Rieber that the Yankees are continuing to monitor the market of right-handed pitcher Alex Cobb.
Rieber said that Cobb would fit with the Yankees “if his price drops enough and the Yankees can continue their quest to stay under the luxury-tax threshold”. He then cited the Yankees’ signing of Neil Walker to a $4 million one-year deal as an example of how low Cobb’s market would have to go for him to fit under the $197 million luxury tax number.
Cobb is the best starting pitcher remaining on the market after a remarkably cold offseason for players expecting high-value contracts. Lance Lynn recently agreed to a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins, while Jake Arrieta inked a three-year, $75 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The issue with Cobb is that he declined the qualifying offer from the Tampa Bay Rays, so the Yankees would have to “lose its second- and fifth-highest selections in the following year’s Draft as well $1 million from its international bonus pool” because the Yankees exceeded the luxury tax threshold in 2017.
The righty fits with the Yankees because he is a ground ball pitcher. In 2017, batters had a 47.8% ground ball rate against Cobb. That number, however, is a significant drop from Cobb’s last full season in the big leagues. Cobb had a 56.2% ground ball rate in 2014. Injuries prevented him from pitching in 2015 and he only made 13 starts (including rehab appearances) in 2016.
Behind incumbent fifth starter Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees do not have much starting pitching depth that is MLB-ready. Domingo Germán has impressed so far in Spring Training, and Aaron Boone mentioned him in the same sentence as Luis Cessa, Chance Adams and David Hale as potential sixth starters. The Yankees do not yet believe that Justus Sheffield or Domingo Acevedo are able to fill in just yet.
Adding Cobb would create an interesting situation in the Yankee rotation. The team could, conceivably, use an option year on Montgomery and have him spot start with the big league club to limit his innings and provide starting depth. But, you’re keeping an effective lefty starter who had a promising rookie year in the minors for part of the season to allow Cobb, who pitched his first full season since 2014 last year, to have a full-time rotation spot.
With the draft pick compensation and the fact that the Yankees have five starters already, I think adding Alex Cobb would create more headaches for the team than is necessary.
Adam Lind‘s time in pinstripes has reportedly come to an end. Randy J. Miller of NJ Advanced Media reported this morning that the Yankees have released the 34-year-old first baseman/outfielder.
The club confirmed Lind’s release in a tweet from their official PR Twitter account.
Lind signed a minor-league deal with an invitation to MLB Spring Training March 2, and he slashed .200/.250/.200 in five games with the Yankees. The contract he signed reportedly had an opt-out for March 22 if he was not on the major league roster by that point. It seems the Yankees have jumped that gun by releasing Lind, which shows that they prefer the skills of Neil Walker and/or Tyler Austin backing up Greg Bird at first base.
In 2017, Lind performed well as a part-time player off the bench. The veteran slashed .303/.362/.513 in 116 games for the Washington Nationals. Even more impressively, Lind put up a .356/.396/.644 line with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 48 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.
Now, Lind re-enters a market that has been quite cold for 1B/OF/DH types like him. I expect him to latch on with another National League club that will value his skills off the bench.
The Yankees made two more cuts Tuesday, sending the presumed third-string catcher Kyle Higashioka and No. 1 prospect infielder Gleyber Torres to minor league camp. Each player is on the 40-man roster, so the team used an option year on each player.
Higashioka impressed with the bat this spring. But, it was not enough to take the backup catcher job away from Austin Romine, who has shown a similarly hot bat. Higashioka hit .333/.444/.467 in nine games before his demotion. As the third catcher on the 40-man, he’s only an injury away from coming back to the big leagues. He made a nine-game cameo last season when Gary Sánchez went down with a bicep injury, going hitless in 20 plate appearances. Higashioka, barring any injuries of his own, will be the starting catcher at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Torres struggled at the plate in his return from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow. Many expected Torres to run away with the second base job, but the rust that comes with missing an entire half a season reared its ugly head. That resulted in a slash-line of .160/.250/.240 in 11 games. Torres also looked like he was trying to do too much both at the plate and in the field, where he had some miscues typical of a player trying too hard.
Plus, the Yankees gain an extra year of control over Torres if he remains in the minor leagues for at least 16 days. I think the Yankees would have demoted Torres for those 16 days regardless of his performance in the spring. One extra year of control over a player MLB Pipeline says “has the tools to be a star” could make a ton of difference in the future. In the minors, Torres will likely continue his rotation of playing at third base, shortstop and second base.
The Yankees’ matchup with the Detroit Tigers today ended locked in a 2-to-2 tie after Giovanny Gallegos blew a one-run lead after just two batters in the ninth inning.
It was a low-scoring game from the start, with the Tigers scoring first on a Leonys Martín solo shot off CC Sabathia in the third inning. That was all the offense that the Tigers got until the ninth inning.
The Bronx Bombers did not look like themselves until their two-run rally in the eighth inning. Didi Gregorius launched his third home run of the spring to cut the lead in half. Aaron Hicks followed with a single, Miguel Andújar moved him to second on a ground out, Adam Lind walked, Gleyber Torres walked to load the bases, then Shane Robinson beat out a double play ground ball to score Hicks and tie the game.
The Tigers came right back in the ninth. JaCoby Jones singled off Gallegos then moved to second on a wild pitch. Victor Reyes promptly singled to center field, and Jones beat Estevan Florial’s throw to the plate.
The Yankees threatened in the bottom of the ninth after Jeff Hendrix made it to third after a leadoff walk. But, strikeouts from Jace Peterson and Kyle Higashioka set the stage for Estevan Florial to ground out to second base. Hendrix was stranded on third, and that ended the game in Tampa.
- Neil Walker is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut in pinstripes (at least the pants) for Friday’s evening matchup with the Houston Astros. He had been working out at the free agent camp setup by the MLBPA in Bradenton, Fla., and is scheduled to workout at the Yankees’ minor league complex over the next few days to prepare for full game activity.
The Yankees send Chance Adams to the hill to take on Miguel Castro of the Baltimore Orioles at their complex in Sarasota, Fla.
With just 17 days on the calendar until the Yankees open in Toronto, Brian Cashman made one last free agent splash. The team inked infielder Neil Walker to a one-year major-league deal worth to $4 million plus $500K in incentives for plate appearances.
Walker, who slashed .265/.362/.439 (114 wRC+) in 111 games between the Mets and the Brewers, found himself unemployed deep into the offseason after a 2017 that saw him place 15th in fWAR amongst second basemen with at least 400 plate appearances. He did miss 36 games in 2017 after suffering a partial tear in his left hamstring suffered June 14.
“We had some talks early in the winter that didn’t quite work out, and we went down different avenues of what else might be out there after that, but fortunately, things circled back here, and I’m just happy to be here on a contending team,” Walker told reporters prior to Monday’s tilt with the Minnesota Twins in Tampa.
The 32-year-old looks to fit in a couple different places for the Yankees. As a switch-hitter, he provides balance to a lineup that is mostly dominated by right-handed batters. His defensive versatility is also quite useful, given that he suited up at third base, second base and first base last season. Walker’s contract also allows the Yankees to move on from him if youngsters like Miguel Andújar or Gleyber Torres start knocking down the door to the big leagues.
Walker likely opens the season rotating between third, second and first depending on platoon splits and how the rest of the team is performing. His stats showed a huge disadvantage against lefties last season, though his career splits show just a 10-point difference between his skills from both sides of the plate.
The veteran had been working out at “Camp Jobless,” the Spring Training camp for free agents created by the MLBPA in Bradenton, Fla., for the time that it was open. Aaron Boone told reporters that Walker could appear in a Grapefruit League game as early as Thursday.
The beginning of Walker’s Yankees career could mark the end for outfielder Jake Cave. Cave, who was slashing .158/.304/.211 in 19 at-bats this spring, was designated for assignment to open a 40-man roster spot for the Yankees’ incoming signing. Cave had been added to the 40-man after the 2017 season to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent. He had hit .305/.351/.542 with 20 homers and 56 RBIs, both career-highs, between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2017.
Cave fell out of favor in Yankees camp because of the team’s outfield glut and the success of Billy McKinney in camp. The Yankees have 10 days to trade, release or outright Cave to the minors if he clears waivers. He has never been outrighted before, so he will not have the right to decline the assignment if he clears waivers.
Walker’s signing also affected the spring of Danny Espinosa. The Yankees released the veteran infielder, and immediately gave his No. 14 jersey to Walker. Espinosa, who was trying to catch on as a veteran stopgap infielder or bench player, was hitting .160/.276/.320 in 12 spring games for the Bombers. He did hit one home run, and drove in four. The move is likely to allow the 30-year-old to pursue an opportunity with a club that has more playing time available at the big league level.
In his career, Espinosa has a .221/.297/.378 slash line with 98 home runs and 316 RBIs since he debuted for Washington in 2010. He struggled badly in 2017, however, bouncing between three teams and slashing a meager .173/.245/.278 with six home runs and 31 RBIs.
Lastly, the Yankees reassigned infielder Kyle Holder to minor league camp. Nothing out of the ordinary here, as the 23-year-old is projected to begin the season at Double-A Trenton. Known for his glove mostly, the Yankees’ first round pick from 2015 showed some promise at the plate in 10 games in camp. In 17 at-bats, he slashed .471/.500/.647 with three doubles and three RBIs.
Holder hit .271/.317/.350 in 104 games with Class-A Advanced Tampa, then put up strong numbers (.333/.367/.511) in 11 Arizona Fall League games.