The Baby Bombers Give Me Hope for 2017
It’s mid March, the fucking first day of Spring has arrived, March Madness is heating up, but more importantly we’re less than two weeks away from New York Yankees baseball. The last four seasons have been absolutely brutal to sit through, there’s no way around it, but this may be the most exciting team we’ve had to look forward to since the Robbie Cano years. Before we get into what’s happening down in Florida these days, let’s refresh our memory on who Cashman added/brought back to the Bronx for 2017.
The biggest splash made by New York this winter was bringing the Cuban Missile Aroldis Chapman back to the tune of five years $86 million, making him the richest closer in MLB history. Does it concern me a little that the Cubs absolutely abused the fuck out of Chapman in the playoffs knowing he wasn’t coming back the following year? Yeah, pitching in 13 of a possible 17 games doesn’t sit well with me. Throwing 5.1 innings in a three game span over the final four days is not fantastic for a relievers arm, but maybe Chapman is an alien? To my knowledge he’s never had any serious arm injuries to date, but over time throwing that hard that many times it’s not a question of if, but likely when. For now we hold our collective breath and hope Betances and Chapman become the most dominant 1-2 punch in all of baseball. Once Chapman left for Chicago, the Yanks boasted the second worst bullpen ERA in the AL, which prior to his departure was third best. It’s clear Betances doesn’t have the closer mentality and is way more comfortable being the 8th inning guy that’s put him in the All Star game the last three years. This was simply a move that had to be done and the money had to be spent. Matt Holliday was brought in to be the everyday DH adding a strong, much needed veteran presence to a locker room that will sure be filled with budding young phenoms. The now 37 year old was brought on for a one year, $13 million deal which is a harmless contract in my mind. Coming off a very down year where he only hit .246 with 20 homers and 62 RBIs, Holliday is having a great Spring. Listen I’m not going to read too much into a veteran’s spring training numbers but through 35 at bats he’s mashing at a .306/.359/1.026 split with three bombs (he crushed one today) and 8 RBIs. Holliday will be fresher being the every day DH, thus avoiding the field, and he still has something left in the tan. Plus he doesn’t have to worry about the hair trimming policy!
Other adds that could impact the season: Chris Carter 1B/DH (big pop, strikes out a ton, insurance to Bird), Ernesto Frieri RP (veteran reliever out to prove he can still get important outs), and Jon Niese SP/RP(God help us all)
So let’s get into some Spring Training story lines because there’s a lot to be excited about.
Gleyber The GOD
It’s still laugh out loud hilarious we traded Aroldis Chapman for Torres, Billy McKinney, Adam Warren, and Rashad Crawford and currently have all of those players. So how has our number one son Gleyber doing these days? Well, as a 19 year old he won the Arizona Fall League MVP after hitting a league high .403 and becoming the youngest batting champ in league history. Not bad huh? But how would Torres fair against big league pitching this Spring for the first time? He’s hit a huge wall…HA Just kidding! Through 27 at bats he’s hitting .444 with two homers and seven runs batted in. Now the 20 year old, ranked in the top 5 of all MLB prospects, has yet to play above high-A ball, but he’s has also caught everyone’s eye. Many have begged the question how you can send him down to begin the year with how effortless he’s made his first sniff at the big leagues look.
Take a look at Torres first homer of the Spring a few days back. Notice that he’s not trying to do too much, taking an outside pitch to the opposite field with ease. Not something you typically see from a 20 year old.
So this begs the question, with the apparent log jam at shortstops within the Yankees organization (Didi, Mateo, Torres), where would Torres play if/when he is promoted? Second base appears to be the answer. Moving the defensive stud (and now offensive machine) Didi off of short is not in the Yankees best interest at this point, so the next realistic move would be second. Starlin Castro’s glove will continue to be an issue wherever you put him on the field, so shifting him to third has been discussed so that Torres can eventually slide in up the middle. You don’t want to take Castro’s bat out of the lineup because of this crazy stat of most hits by 26 year olds in their careers.
1. Miguel Cabrera, with 1,220 through 2009.
2. Albert Pujols, with 1,159 through 2006.
3. Starlin Castro, with 1,147 through 2016.
Absurd. Anyways, despite everyone’s dream scenario Torres simply hasn’t gotten enough minor league at bats to make the opening day roster. He’ll get sent down to Double A Trenton soon enough and work his way up from there. If he continues this level of production, then it will only be a matter of time before the phenom is promoted. No one thought this was going to happen this quickly, and it’s so fucking exciting the New York Yankees have a phenom talent making this kind of noise as a 20 year old. He’s close.
The Other Baby Bombers Have Been Awesome
The best part of all the hype this Spring is that it’s so much more than Gleyber Torres. Welcome back Greg Bird! With Tex out of the mix finally, first base is all for the Birdman’s taking and boy oh boy has he seized the opportunity. Through 35 at bats he’s absolutely mashing with splits of .400/.488/1.431 with four bombs and six RBIs. After missing all of last year with a torn labrum in his shoulder, Bird is on absolute mission to build on the promising numbers he put up in his first stint in the big leagues.
Coming into this Spring, Bird was under the microscope to see how he would bounce back from being out all year. He seems to have answered every question. Bird struggled in the Arizona Fall League hitting just over .200, so this Spring has been a big confidence booster for the youngster. Our first baseman of the future is going to be a monster. El Gary is out to prove last year wasn’t a fluke by getting his average up to .361 with four homers and 13 RBIs in just 36 at bats. He’s actually not a real person and it’s going to suck when the MLB figures out he’s an alien. Both Bird and Sanchez can be comfortably inserted into the opening day lineup on April 2nd.
Aaron Judge Improvements
After making his loud MLB debut last year, opening with a home run in his first at bat, Judge went on to have a poor 2016. Instead of the home run machine we expected with Giancarlo Stanton-type power, we got Chris Carter level strikeout numbers. In 27 games Judge struck out 42 times while only clubbing four homers. He suffered a strained oblique and closed out the 2016 campaign on the DL. Through 40 at bats so far this Spring, the hopeful opening day starting right fielder is hitting .275 with only four strikeouts. He’s crediting the uptick in his numbers to stabilizing his right hip which is allowing his bat to stay in the zone longer, instead of pulling out early (insert sex joke). Girardi came into the Spring expecting Judge to win the starting right field job and it appears we’re headed that way.
The Bullpen Will Not Be An Issue
So far to this point in Spring the trio of Tyler Clippard-Dellin Betances-Aroldis Chapman have yet to surrender a run. With the rotation expected to be a question mark all year, it’ll be nice to have the 7th inning and on to be a big time strength.
Clint Frazier’s Play Not His Hair
Yeah we’ve heard about Clint Frazier’s hair and how he eliminated the distraction by getting it cut, but how does he look? So far, so good. The power hasn’t shown up yet in Spring (one homer seven RBIs), but there’s nothing wrong with a .343 average in 35 at bats. It’s tough when you compare him to the likes of what Torres, Bird, and El Gary have been doing, but it’s nothing to get discouraged by. He’ll likely start the year in AAA and get a call up some time around July. It’s possible he waits longer depending on the status of the team, but we’ll just have to wait and see. All in all, I’m fucking stoked Clint is a New York Yankee.
The Starting Rotation Will Be A Mystery
The strikeouts have returned for Masahiro Tanaka, having already compiled 19 in just 13.1 innings of work.
He’s been stellar, but Spring Training is fairly irrelevant for veteran pitchers. Last year Tanaka’s ERA in March was above seven and he went on to be the unquestioned ace of the staff. Tanaka is the one guy we don’t have to worry about. I’m still absolutely stunned he opted to rehab his arm a while back instead of having Tommy John and we’ve been smooth sailin’ ever since (knocks on wood a billion times). The man who rattles my cage in this staff is Michael Pineda. The dude pitched five no-hit innings last week with eight strikeouts. He was beyond stellar, but consistency will always be the issue with Big Mike.
Here’s Pineda’s May last year…
Followed by a fantastic June…
He’s the real life version of Jekyll and Hyde and I don’t believe he’ll ever find the consistency to be a top of line guy, despite having premier stuff in his arsenal. Quick update today Pineda got roughed up for three runs in just an inning and two-thirds. This guy is our number two…fuck. Luis Severino was an interesting man last season. He struggled mightily as a starter in 2016, but as a reliever he was nothing short of lights out (0.39 ERA in 11 appearances). Ideally, we want Sevy to become the #2 of the staff, but an inconsistent Spring has caused some to question if he deserves a spot in the rotation at all. There’s no question he has the stuff to be a top of the line starter on this team, but the mental side of the game parlayed with command of his fastball are key in his success. He’s only 23 years old so there’s still plenty of hope he’ll put it all together soon enough. His most recent outing had him give up three runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Astros where his command was badly off. At this point I expect him to start the season in AAA unfortunately. CC Sabathia continues to bother me and question why he’s still a Yankee making $25 million in the final year of his contract. On March 12th he gave up six runs on six his in just 2/3 of an inning. In his most recent outing Sabathia cruised through a hit-less opening three innings only to suffer a blowup fourth giving up three runs. His ERA for the Spring sits at 9.40 which isn’t encouraging at all. The difference between this year and last is that he isn’t fighting for a rotation spot. Considering the ugly fight for the 4th and 5th spots, CC is locked in as the #3 pitcher in the Bronx this year which scares the shit out of me. My blood boils when he takes the mound. At this point in his career he’s become a guy who cannot make a single mistake. His stuff isn’t good enough at 36 years old to hide mistake pitches, he’ll simply pay for them every time. I believe the opening day rotation will be Tanaka-Pineda-Sabathia-Chad Green-Warren, but the last two spots could go to Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, or Sevy as well. Either way you slice it, it’s not good. I’m most excited about Jordan Montgomery (2016: 14-5 2.13 ERA between AA and AAA) possibly entering the conversation sooner rather than later. The 6’6″ southpaw most recently tossed four no hit inning in the Yankees combined no-hitter against the Tigers last week. That outing lowered his Spring ERA to 3.48 and caught the attention of Girardi who said Montgomery will get a start sometime this week. He’ll be the Yankee to keep an eye on this coming week.
So what’s opening day looking like?
1. Brett Gardner LF (ugh)
2. Jacoby Ellsbury CF (double ugh)
3. El Gary C
4. Matt Holliday DH
5. Starlin Castro 2B
6. Greg Bird 1B
7. Didi Gregorious SS (pending injury news)
8. Aaron Judge RF
9. Chase Headley 3B (triple ugh)
The season is super promising with all of the young talent waiting in the system to come up. It’s only a matter of time before they become too good to be down in the minors and that is a time we should all be excited for. It’s going to be a season with low expectations, but with the potential to make some serious noise considering the explosive lineup and dynamite relievers we have. There’s hope in the Bronx again, let’s have some fun.
P.S. This shoulder injury Didi suffered in the World Baseball Classic sounds serious and he’s on his way back to Tampa today. If he’s going to be sidelined for Opening Day then expect to see Tyler Wade out at short on April 2nd.
Let’s fucking talk Yankees baseball. @ehubbs13 is where you’ll find me