Wednesday, February 22, 2017

YANKEE PROSPECT WATCH: JUDGE & MATEO

(Photo: Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News)
The spring is finally upon us and with this segment of Yankee Prospect Watch, we take a look at two guys who have something to prove this summer. Aaron Judge will seemingly get his first full season opportunity in the Bronx after a stint late last summer, while Jorge Mateo is looking for a bounce back year following a disappointing 2016.

Aaron Judge got the call last August and proceeded to blast a moonshot into the black in centerfield at Yankees Stadium in his first Major League at-bat. Following that monster blast though, not a whole lot went right for the big man.


Judge finished his 27 game stint with the Bombers slashing just .179/.263/.345 with four home runs. Most concerning was the 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats though. Judge, as we know, is a monster of a man which creates a huge strike zone that he has to work on protecting.

But all is not lost with Judge. Like many big power hitting types, he will strike out a lot, but he should also hit plenty of long balls for the Bombers as well. Judge struggled in his first stint in Triple-A, but bounced back nicely before his promotion to the Bronx, so a history of rebounding after a promotion is there.

Photo: Presswire
Judge was dominate in 2014 in his first year in the minor leagues after being drafted in the first round by the Yankees in 2013, belting a combined 21 home runs (including four in the AFL) that year. In 2015, Judge began the year in Trenton and was promptly promoted to Scranton where he struggled and slashed .224/.308/.373 with eight home runs before settling down at that level in 2016, where he belted 19 home runs in 410 at-bats while slashing .270/.366/.489.

This spring he will look to make late last year be his adjustment to the big leagues and cement himself in right field for the Yankees.

(Photo: Kathy Willens/AP)
As we know, Judge possesses plenty of raw power within his 6’ 7”, 275 pound frame. We also know he will strike out a lot. He needs to cut his strikeout rate down to 20-23% or so and belt 20+ home runs for many people to see him as a success this season, depending on the number of at-bats though of course. A slash line of .240/.330/.450 or so would be solid if he can produce the long ball and limit the strikeouts.

Some don’t see Judge amounting to much but I am excited to see what kind of adjustment he makes this season after his history of making adjustments. If he can produce the kind of numbers just mentioned, I think all Yankees fans will be happy with that! If he struggles mightily, there will be some grumblings about what kind of big leaguer he really can be.

Photo: Charles Wenzelberg
Jorge Mateo entered 2016 as one of the most heralded prospects in baseball following his breakout season in 2015. Over 117 games in A-ball and high-A ball, Mateo stole a whopping 82 bases and slashed a very respectable .278/.345/.392. After playing just 15 total games in the States prior to that season, the shortstop gained instant notice and became a top prospect essentially overnight.

But 2016 was a different story as Mateo didn’t have quite the same season as he slashed .254/.306/.379 in high-A Tampa again. After batting .374 over the first 27 games, Mateo batted just .218 the rest of the season. His career high eight home runs did show a little added pop though.

Photo: Bryan Green
One of the biggest headlines of the season for Jorge though was when he was suspended for two weeks by the Yankees for allegedly mouthing off to Yankees executives over his displeasure of not being promoted to Double-A. This caused Mateo to miss the All-Star Futures game.

His disappointing 2016 season caused Mateo to drop from the 18th overall prospect on MLB.com to 47th, while Keith Law dropped him completely out of the Top 100. Law states that Mateo just doesn’t make hard enough contact often enough and although he did belt eight home runs and added nine triples, he had just 16 doubles. Too many weak ground balls is said to be a problem for Mateo.



While Mateo possesses a grade of 80 in the speed department (the highest possible grade), his .937 fielding percentage at shortstop in 2016 and his increase in caught stealing has drawn some attention along with his less than favorable soft contact rate.

It’s been speculated that with the Yankees abundance of talent at shortstop, Mateo could very well find himself at second base and center field much more often this season as the Yankees try and balance their depth.

Everyone was high on Mateo, and much like Judge, he has a lot of question marks coming into this season. Mateo says he has been working hard and he is looking to put 2016 behind while embracing the opportunity to play whatever position the Yankees determine is the best for the organization.

Photo: USA Today
Many, including myself, expect Mateo to find his way to Trenton this spring as he works on rebounding from 2016, and at just 21 years-old, he has time to still develop. If he can make more consistent hard contact this season and prove to be effective wherever the Yankees choose to play him, he could be back in the talks of one of the best prospects in baseball.

These two young men have a lot to prove this season and each face their own unique challenges. With another poor showing this year, both of these guys could hear the bust word come out, or simply with an improved season, the Yankees have two potentially long-term solutions on their hands.

It’ll be fun keeping tabs on Aaron Judge and Jorge Mateo this season.




--Dan Lucia

BYB 'Series' Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @DManLucia






Tuesday, February 21, 2017

MATT WIETERS GOT A 2 YEAR DEAL

(Aug. 1, 2016 - Source: Greg Fiume/Getty Images North America)
While this isn't a Yankee thing, I think it's important to report this.  Matt Wieters was one of the bigger free agents this off season and it took until now for him to be signed.  That's pretty interesting as teams are not jumping immediately to sign big time players to big deals as much anymore.  I mean, look at Jose Bautista for crying out loud.

Photo: Getty Images
The Washington Post as the story about Wieters:

"The Washington Nationals agreed to terms with catcher Matt Wieters on a two-year deal on Tuesday, one that allows the 30-year-old to opt out after this season and hit free agency again next winter, and therefore amounts to a one-year deal with the possibility for a second.

The deal is not official, as it is pending a physical to be held Wednesday, but would include $5 million in deferred money, a recent staple of the Nationals’ more high-profile free agent signings."

(July 15, 2016 - Source: Joseph Garnett, Jr./Getty Images North America)
The Nationals have a great group of talent and are always on the brink of making the World Series only to don't.  Maybe a few more extra players can do it.  The Wieters signing is significant in my opinion.

Anyway, just wanted to keep you in the loop.  Good Stuff.


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AN OPEN LETTER TO A RELIEVER IN A JAM

(April 25, 2014 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)
Dear Dellin,

You're our setup man. One of the best and you're getting paid like you should be, but you're no closer.

Maybe someday, somewhere, sure. But not yet, not here and not for the remainder of your rookie contract. We've got Aroldis for that, and you're no Aroldis. Or Miller. Or Mo.

Your record in that role is mixed at best. Remember that stretch run last year when you ran out of gas? Sure, you can turn it around, but it's not happening right now. 

So now you've missed the start of spring  training because you chose to play a long shot in the Arbitration Derby on the advice of your agent, and soon you'll be missing even more time at the World Baseball Classic playing for the Dominican Republic  -- a team packing three current MLB closers, so you won't be doing much closing there either. But you'll probably be doing a lot of hard throwing to set those guys up. Trust me, we'll need that this fall too. 


Remember those seven long years in the minors we waited for you while you struggled as a starter with your control, injuries and setbacks? Seven years on the farm is a long time. Another organization might have given up on you. I'd wager almost any other organization would have. Fortunately for all of us, they didn't and we found a role you could excel in. Have you forgotten? I haven't.

I'm very sorry you didn't become the starter we all wanted you to be. I'm also sorry you didn't like what you heard about your value as a closer in the arbitration hearing, Dellin.  Many players' agents advise their clients not to attend for that reason. Business is business, and it was you and your agent who together chose to make a test case out of the process. He should have advised you it wouldn't be pretty. Your agent was clearly remiss in preparing you for it, as well as for the aftermath when the media baited you into your emotional response of implying you may no longer answer the call to the pen before the 8th inning.

(April 27, 2013 - Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America)    
Don't forget, Mo went through the exact same arbitration process you did more than once and he came out the other side as both a winner and a loser -- and his reaction was the same regardless of the outcome and his true personal feelings; happy to make what he makes doing what he loves and looking forward to getting ready for the season. Sure it's cliche, but it's the smart mature answer. It closes the conversation and ends it. That's what closers do.

Why vent to the media? That's what your family and agent are for. You had nothing to gain by doing so except perhaps lashing out for instant gratification, and now you've thrown gas on a fire and thrown suspicion on yourself every time you're called on to come into a game before the 8th inning -- and every time you're not.  


Each time you're available before the 8th now and Joe doesn't call on you, the media will want to know why and your commitment will be questioned. Each time you do come out before the 8th and fail, your level of effort will be put under a microscope.  Joe and Larry Rothschild will be regularly grilled about whether you declined to warm up early, and when you do come in early, they'll be asked  if you said or did anything to indicate you were unhappy about being asked. 

Congratulations. You're now officially a team distraction. By telling the world you didn't have the stomach for the process and lashing out with what we can only hope is an idle threat of withholding your best effort, you unzipped your fly and told everyone why you weren't ready to be the Yankees closer.  


It's my opinion that you need to apologize and take back what you said about limiting your role and effort. About holding it against the team when you become a free agent. All of it.  Otherwise, the media that's on your side today will make you a bigger pinata than Alex Rodriguez, just for sport once the games begin and it won't stop. Guaranteed. And you're obviously not built to take that kind of brutality like he was.


When you spoke with Carlos Beltran on Saturday he told you: "I was part of that process also in my career. It got me to understand a lot of things in baseball, it’s a business, but at the end of the day, the organization is not going to wish him wrong. They want him to be as good and they have to wish him well because he is so valuable to that ball club. The process is tough because you hear so many negative things about you and you start asking yourself, ‘Man, these people are on my side?’ It’s good that you go through it early in your career, though, so you understand it more.’’

Listen to Carlos, Dellin. Randy Levine was just doing his job, both during the hearing and afterward when he made himself available to the press to answer questions and explain the team's side of the first arbitration hearing the team's been forced into in nine years -- by you and your agent.  He didn't burn you at all and he didn't even really burn your agent either except to explain why he never had a chance and why the hearing was basically a waste of everyone's time. Which is true under the current formula. 

(July 11, 2016 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)
So here's a piece of advice from a true fan and someone that understands the process; Suck it up and start earning that record-breaking new salary you're making by doing a mea culpa and take the next step toward being one of the leaders of our  next dynasty just like Hal, Brian, Joe and yes, even Randy have hoped and planned you would be.

And if you feel you absolutely must limit your innings this season, you can always tell Team Dominican you're a New York City native whose first allegiance is to a team in the Bronx. 

My opinion...but do what you want.

Yours truly,



 --Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore
  




Monday, February 20, 2017

VIDAL NUNO'S MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF

Photo: Elaine Thompson The Associated Press
I always like Vidal Nuno.  I love a lefty most of the time, but I liked and appreciated Nuno when he was with the Yankees back in 2013 and 2014, even though he only pitched 22 games in pinstripes, I always felt like he would develop into something special.

Photo: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports
Nuno went to the Diamondbacks, then Seattle, then the Dodgers.  Now, he's on the move again.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles have acquired Nuno from the Dodgers.


"Orioles added another piece to their pitching depth Sunday, acquiring left-handed reliever Vidal Nuño in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers

The Orioles will send minor league right-hander Ryan Moseley, who pitched at short-season Class-A Aberdeen last season, to the Dodgers in the deal."

And just like that, another former Yankee kid gets a boost going somewhere, this time to a division rival.

I wish the guy luck.

Anyway, just keeping you in the loop.


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WHICH NUMBER DOESN'T BELONG HERE?

Photo: Getty Images
Educators have an interesting way of demonstrating, showcasing and defending their passions for baseball.  I spend my days with the best educators in the nation and from time to time we get to talking about the sport that's deep within our hearts.


Twice within this week I had the opportunity to chat with administrators and teachers informally about baseball and in particular the Yankees.  Now let me preface that all three educators are Met fans but their passion and commitment to their team did not leave them uneducated about the Yankees and even respectful of them.



Our first administrator and I were talking about Bleeding Yankee Blue, our very own fan blog, which he appears to read despite being a Met fan.  When I asked him why he was a Met fan and not a Yankee fan, he had a very good answer, which I could not debate.  "I'm a Met fan because the Yankees fired Yogi Berra in 1964."  Educators are passionate people and this fan was no different.


Then there was the principal who is a Met fan because he was a Brooklyn Dodger fan.  And we know what happened there. Again, I accepted his argument because of his convincing evidence.

Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

Finally, an assistant principal and I took part in a workshop on Friday where the question posed was "Which number does not belong here?"  The numbers were 8, 9 and 12.  I was thinking solely from a mathematics perspective since this was a math professional development session and I figured out proudly that 9 is an odd number whereas both 8 and 12 are even, so 9 didn't belong.  But I was shamed by this assistant principal who said simply, "12 doesn't belong because it's the only number of the group that has not been retired by the Yankees."  After my awe of his answer, I confirmed that Chase Headley currently wears 12 and told him how much I loved his answer.  I think he is going to be a fan of our site despite being a Met fan.


Educators are passionate about the sport of baseball and often are able to make connections to baseball and their roles in schools.  Whether using players' batting averages as engagement incentives for kids or adorning their offices with baseball pictures, educators communicate about baseball.  With all of the distasteful conversations happening in the public eye across the country, it is nice to have conversations about America's favorite past time and hear the strong convictions educators have about the sport they love.



--Suzie Pinstripe
BYB Managing Editor
Twitter: @suzieprof





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