New York Yankees: James Paxton First Starter to Feature in Spring Training

Game three of the Yankees 2019 Grapefruit League season happens today and features James Paxton on the mound – Yankees fans first look at the Big Maple in pinstripes.  The game will start at 1:05 on YES from George M. Steinbrenner field.

The Yankees throw out this lineup against the Blue Jays and RHP Marcus Stroman:

The 30 year old left-hander went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA for the Mariners last season, striking out 208 in only 160.1 innings.  While he had some injury issues in ’18:

Mel Stottlemyre Jr., Paxton’s pitching coach for the past three seasons, notes that some of the injuries — a bruised left forearm thanks to a comebacker last August, for example — were simply out of the pitcher’s control. Others were the result of Paxton pushing too hard. “He’s a tireless, relentless worker,” says Stottlemyre. “We had to tame it. If he didn’t throw 45 to 50 pitches on the side at 90- to 100-per cent effort level, in his mind, he didn’t feel like he prepared himself.”

Paxton is healthy this spring and fans are eager to see the results of his relentless preparation.

What to expect?  The 6’4, 235 pound southpaw throws his mid-90s four-seamer roughly 60% of the time and his 88-90 mph cutter around 20% of the time, along with a long 80s curveball.  He throws fastballs 80% of the time, which BrooksBaseball.com describes as “blazing fast.”  

Mike Axisa of riveraveblues.com writes that Paxton is second only to Lance Lynn in fastball usage in the league and he generates a high number of swings and misses in the zone.  Unfortunately, his home run totals are high as he generates a high number of fly balls as well.  Fans will be eager to see how this plays out in Yankee Stadium.

Paxton’s comparables, according to Baseball Reference.com are players such as Corey Kluber, J.A. Happ and Luis Severino – all hard throwers who rely primarily on their fastballs.

Rotographs released their Top 100 Pitchers for 2019 and this is how the Yankee pitchers fared: Paxton #19, Luis Severino #12, J.A. Happ #32, Masahiro Tanaka #33 and CC Sabathia #74.

I love this rotation with it’s mix of styles and talents, it’s going to be exciting to see their success as a unit and to see how Paxton fares in the midst of it.

Paxton will share his debut with Tulowitzki, who missed the entire 2018 season for the Blue Jays.  Paxton and Tulowitzki are two important players in the Yankees plans this season for attaining #28.

 

 

 

New York Yankees: Top Darkhorse Candidate for the 2019 Season

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks

When you look to point to one player who will be the New York Yankees MVP this season, the options are endless. The 2019 lineup is loaded with talent.

They have the big names of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious and they have the kids, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Yes, these players are all beyond talented, but I have a different player winning the team MVP this year: Aaron Hicks. 

I will start by saying that I was never a big fan of Hicks. Maybe in part because he was very inconsistent to start his Yankee tenure, dealing with injuries and a lackluster bat. And maybe in part because when Clint Frazier was healthy, I blamed Aaron Hicks as the reason Clint wasn’t seeing time on the field (as a redhead, I am a big Clint Frazier supporter). Those points are neither here nor there as I have fully come around on Hicks as being a damn good player.

Yankees’ Aaron Hicks’s 2018 season:

137 Games Played, 480 AB, 90 Runs Scored, 119 Hits, 79 RBI, 90 BB, 27 HR, .247 AVG

On the surface, these numbers are solid, but again Hicks missed some time with injuries. He clearly has all the tools to produce at a high level when he is on the field consistently. At one point last season, he was the Yankees most consistent player and on a team with this much talent, that is no easy feat. His play in center field was gold glove worthy and he has a rocket for an arm.

2019 Season Outlook and Predictions:

Hicks should, and most likely will be the Yankees leadoff hitter. He seemingly is always working his counts full and making the pitcher work. He has a great eye and is not afraid to take a walk (everything you want in a leadoff hitter).

When he does get on base, he scores runs. Hicks has sneaky good speed and a terrific base running IQ. He also bats from both sides of the plate, which gives the team more lineup flexibility if they so choose. The question with Hicks will be his durability. One thing I had seen people speculate with Hicks is his motivation and his motor. That does not seem to be an issue anymore:

2019 Stat Predictions:

148 Games Played, 573 AB, 101 Runs Scored, 138 Hits, 87 RBI, 98 BB, 32 HR, .263 AVG

New York Giants: Ex-Running Back Stewart On Saquon Barkley

Jonathan Stewart didn’t have a good time with the New York Giants. Some predicted Stewart to take the starting job while Saquon Barkley adjusted to the NFL, but things turned out very differently and Barkley became a dominant player while Stewart was put out of the season entirely by injury early on. The Giants didn’t pick up the option on Stewart’s contract, meaning that Stewart will soon be a free agent.

But despite that status, the former Giants and Panthers running back still has some things to say about Saquon Barkley, after having plenty of time to observe Barkley during his rookie year. While talking to WFNZ, Stewart compared Barkley to current Panthers back Christian McCaffrey, claiming that both players are the future of the position.

“You have a guy that everyone overlooks because of whatever the reasons are. He’s put up the numbers, he’s played every single down pretty much this past year, he can do everything on the field. Such as passing, catching, running, running routes, and breaking tackles. And you find those same things in Saquon Barkley. I think these two guys are a staple of what the NFL running back is and what it’s going to become.”

Barkley was involved in the passing game this year in addition to the ground game, finishing the season with 721 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns on top of 1,307 rushing yards. His 5.7 receptions per game was the second most in the league at the running back position, with only McCaffrey finishing with a higher number in that category. It’s also a higher number than some notable receivers registered, including Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton, and Jarvis Landry.

“The game’s changing, and it’s changing for the good for that position being more involved in the passing game. Seeing guys coming out there running in the slot, running routes like receivers. That’s an important thing that’s needed in the game now from the running back position.”

Barkley was snubbed from the All-Pro teams last season despite finishing second in total rushing yards, but there’s no reason to believe that Barkley can’t compete for that status in 2019 if given some more help in the form of a better offensive line. Surely, pass catching will play a big role if Barkley does achieve even greater success this year.

While Stewart didn’t have a successful season, it’s hard to knock his take on this matter. The league is indeed changing. The versatility of Saquon Barkley only helps the Giants when it comes to adapting to that, and keeping up with the latest trends.

New York Jets: The Pros and Cons of Signing Le’Veon Bell In Free Agency

New York Jets, LeVeon Bell

The New York Jets’ rushing attack was rolling downhill for the first 6-weeks of the 2018 season. In week 7 against the Vikings, Bilal Powell suffered a devastating injury that derailed his career.

In the penultimate game of the season, Isaiah Crowell sustained a foot injury that prevented him from returning to his former glory. Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon both showed some flashes of talent, but neither stood out as a pass-catching back.

All of this begs the question:

Is Le’Veon Bell a Good Fit For the New York Jets?

Bell’s numbers are otherworldly. When he’s been on the field, he’s averaged 86 yards on the ground and 43 yards through the air. If you added that to the Jets’ current offense, Sam Darnold could throw for 200 yards to his receivers, and not have to worry about anything else. Jets fans have been waiting for that situation since 2010.

Conversely, Bell brings a lot of baggage with him. He’s been suspended for the first 3 games of consecutive seasons, and he’s missed 18 games in his career. Most notably, he held out the entirety of last year, and going a year without football takes a toll on a player’s overall athleticism.

What Will The Jets Have To Give Up?

That holdout actually hurt Bell’s value more than anything. Last summer, he wanted quarterback money: rumored to be $30 million a year. The breakout of James Connor brought about questions if Le’Veon is a ‘system’ running back. Nobody denies that Bell is an elite receiver at running back. However, he’s going to want Todd Gurley money, almost $15 million per year. Oddly enough, that’s only $500k more than his franchise tender last year.

Why Bell Should Not Be A Jet:

Le’Veon Bell is a stellar talent with a poor attitude. This may be old-fashioned, but he does not put the team before himself. You can look past the holdout; the drug suspensions and the contract dispute went on for multiple years. The Jets brass dealt with Darrelle Revis in a sub-par manner, and he didn’t even have any character issues. For a rebuilding team with a cornerstone, franchise quarterback, establishing the right culture in the locker room is imperative.

BREAKING: New York Yankees Extend Aaron Hicks – 7 Year Deal

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks

The New York Yankees have extended center fielder Aaron Hicks on a seven-year, $70 million deal.

Hicks is the starting center fielder and expected lead off hitter for the Bombers in 2019. His influence has been impactful for a team in search of a consistent outfielder and leadoff hitter after the degradation of Brett Gardner.

The veteran hit .248 with 24 homers in 2018, proving his power. Hicks is a switch hitter, which is essential for a Yankees lineup lacking diversity on both sides of the plate.

Moving forward, it’s expected that he will remain as a starter on the team, and his experience offers value for the younger players on the team.

The 29-year-old was scheduled to become a free agent after the upcoming season, but manager Aaron Boone’s public instillation of confidence in Hicks foreshadowed a potential extension.

New York Yankees Underdog Relief Pitcher Could Make Significant Impact In 2019

The New York Yankees have one of the best bullpens in major league baseball, featuring Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Aroldis Chapman…the list goes on. Their dominance can be predicted on paper, as their collective skill sets can match up against any opposing batting order.

But, one of the players not listed is Danny Farquhar, a player that’s returning from a significant brain injury that nearly cost him his baseball career, not to mention his life.

The New York Yankees offer a second chance:

Last April, the relief pitcher was in the dugout when he suffered a serious brain hemorrhage, which was the result of a ruptured aneurysm. There were concerns that he would never walk again, let alone pitch in a professional game, but several months later he’s back on the mound.

“Huge for me,” Farquhar told reporters in Tampa after a simulating game “I find it a huge stepping stone every time. My family [his wife and three children] was out there in the stands, enjoying it, watching it. They wanted to be part of it and I want them part of it. So I’m just thankful that they’re here to watch me.”

The pitcher struck out two of four batters, one swinging and the other looking. He looked sharp and capable while wearing a specially designed baseball cap that protects the left side of his head.

He continued by saying:

“Obviously it’s still early and there are a few kinks to work out but overall I felt great. Extraordinarily successful being the fact that I wasn’t thinking about anything besides striking everybody out. I wasn’t thinking about my helmet hat, I wasn’t thinking about anything else. I was just, my focus was what it’s been in the past. Just create swings and misses, that’s what I call normal.”

The Yankees invested in the relief pitcher in hopes that he could return and make an impact on the 2019 season. Farquhar earned a collective 3.93 ERA over seven seasons in the big-leagues, proving he can be an effective force when on the mound. I expect him to play a rotational/reserve role in case of injury in his first season back from a life-threatening injury.

 

New York Jets: 3 Free Agent Options That Would Fit Perfectly In NY

New York Jets potential free agency target Tevin Coleman.

Having rounded out their coaching staff, the New York Jets head into free agency with several holes to fill. Armed with the second highest cap space, the pressure is on GM Mike Maccagnan to spend the money wisely.

While there will be some high-profile names available, the Jets should focus on getting younger, hungrier players who can aid the team’s needs and help them grow as a unit. Three players who fit the bill would provide quarterback Sam Darnold two weapons on offense and help fill the pass-rushing void the Jets have had for the longest time.

Taking a look at three options the New York Jets should consider in FA:

Tevin Coleman:

 Assuming the Jets cut ties with Isaiah Crowell, they will need a new running back that can do it all to give the offense additional firepower. The big, sexy name on the free agent market right now is, of course, Le’Veon Bell. After sitting out the 2018 season, the 3-time Pro Bowler is looking for a huge payday. While Jet fans and Jamal Adams alike would love to add Bell, he isn’t the best fit for the team. Given their multiple needs, the Jets would be better off not breaking the bank for a potential locker room headache.

Enter Tevin Coleman, who has the potential to be a valuable consolation prize. While filling in for Falcons star Devonta Freeman, Coleman posted multiple career highs last year. These included rushing yards (800), receptions (32), and receiving touchdowns (5).

Only 25, Coleman has yet to hit his prime and would complement fellow running back Elijah McGuire well. His size (6’1”, 210 pounds) and versatility would make him a dynamic Swiss-army-knife in Adam Gase’s offense. Plus, he’s sure to come at a much cheaper price than Bell would.

Trey Flowers:

The Jets have not had a quality pass rusher, or really any kind of pass rush since John Abraham was on the squad. Mike Maccagnan should be driven to find one or two of them for his team. While it would be great to pry away a potential star like Demarcus Lawrence from the Cowboys or a familiar face like Jadeveon Clowney from the Texans, both are likely to receive the franchise tag and never make it to free agency.

However, the Jets could, and should, turn to another familiar face to give them an edge: Trey Flowers. The 25-year-old has spent the past few seasons wreaking havoc for the New England Patriots. He posted 57 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles while leading the Patriots defense to another Super Bowl run.

Trey would be a fantastic addition for the Jets and Gregg Williams’ 4-3 defense. He can move around the defense and also plays the run very well. PFF graded him the 8th best run-stopper among edge rushers last season. With Leonard Williams at the other end, the Jets could have two young players that can dominate in the future and help turn the tables on the Patriots.

Devin Funchess:

Another task on the Jets’ do-to-list is to pick up a #1 wide receiver for Sam Darnold. There are a few, rumored big names that could be available via trade, including Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. It would be smart for the Jets not to go down the trade route though. Having given away several picks to secure their franchise quarterback last year, they should hold on to the picks they have, or even trade down for more draft capital. Odds are that the Steelers wouldn’t trade Brown to an AFC team anyway, and he’d be yet another distraction in the Jets locker room. The same could be said for Beckham Jr., and a Giants-Jets trade would be shocking, to say the least.

While the options are slim in free agency, one player the Jets should kick the tires on is Devin Funchess. After having a breakout year in 2017 with 8 touchdowns, he seemed ready to become the Panthers’ #1 receiver. However, injuries to Funchess and his quarterback, Cam Newton, played a role in a lackluster season for the former. The Panthers even made him a healthy scratch in Week 17.

In spite of that, the Jets should give Funchess a shot. At 6’4” and 236 pounds, he could give Sam Darnold a big red zone target. He would have a shot to prove himself in greener pastures, and he’d contribute to a solid receiving trio with Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. In addition, he’ll only be turning 25 this year, so he has time to rebound and grow before reaching his prime.

This will be a huge offseason for the Jets. They have an opportunity to reshape their team and get some quality players with their massive cap space. The key for them is to further develop their young core and attempting to sign the three players listed above will go a long way towards accomplishing that goal.

New York Yankees: The First Base Competition Just Got Interesting

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

Over the weekend the New York Yankees began spring training simulation games, first against the Boston Red Sox and then the Tampa Bay Rays.

In 2018, the first base position was filled with concern due to Greg Bird’s struggles and inability to regain his form after a foot injury derailed his development. Despite his ailment, GM Brian Cashman refused to give up hope in Bird, and he will once again battle for the starting job in the season ahead.

Greg Bird and Luke Voit prepared to battle it out at first base:

In his first game of 2019, Bird went 2-for-2 with a double into center field and an infield single. He looked sharp and confident at the plate, showing why Cashman has yet to call it quits on the promising first baseman.

Cashman stated that the starting job was Voit’s to lose, but clearly, the alternative wants to prove his worth after two seasons batting under .200 Voit smacked 14 homers and 33 RBIs last season finishing with a .333 batting average. His impact made the decision easy for manager Aaron Boone, who subsequently left Bird off the post-season roster to ensure they had the best chance at winning.

“We are a long way between now and the end of March. Luke Voit has earned the right to be that guy, but as I have said all along, I believe Greg Bird can be an impact player,’’ manager Aaron Boone said before the Yankees’ first Grapefruit League game. “I never lost sight of that even at his lowest point last year.’’

The New York Yankees have themselves a great situation:

But, while Bird had an impressive first outing, Voit followed it up with an absolute monster day – he hit an RBI single and launched a moon shot that scored three runs. Competition always brings the best out of professional players, and we are in for a treat with these two players.

Just look at this absolute unit of a human smack this ball back to the facility that made it. The launch angle of that ball wasn’t very high, which indicates his immense power. The ball seemed to be rising the moment it hit the bat. That’s the player we saw in 2018 and hope can remain consistent in the months ahead.

While it’s far too early to make a judgment on who will win the battle, Voit is looking fresh and prepared to make a significant impact on a potential World Series caliber team.

New York Giants Will Focus On These 3 Players During NFL Combine

The New York Giants head into the 2019 NFL draft process with several positions in dire need of assistance. One of which is obviously the quarterback position that is expected to be addressed despite the team sticking with Eli Manning for at least the next season.

If the Giants choose to add another signal caller to the roster, it will indicate the likely departure of Manning in 2020. With the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, they have the choice of bolstering several different positions – QB would make the most sense, but other available options offer immense value.

Three players the New York Giants will look at during the NFL combine:

1.) QB Dwayne Haskins

Tossing 50 touchdown passes in 14 games often gets you high profile attention, and Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins is getting a ton of it. The elite passer is being considered the best quarterback option in a weak class, but that shouldn’t scare you away. The class that saw Patrick Mahomes and Mitchell Trubisky drafted was also considered one of the weaker classes in the last decade.

One of the most enticing aspects of Haskins is that he improved as the season progressed, which is exactly what you want to see in a young passer. His potential is sky-high and the Giants surely would have a great successor waiting in the wings.

2.) OT Jonah Williams

With Chad Wheeler likely to be replaced this offseason, the right tackle spot is wide open for the taking. Whether it be a rookie or a seasoned veteran that fills the role, an upgraded is needed. Alabama tackle Jonah Williams, who is regarded as arguably the top tackle in the draft would be a perfect fit.

He could slide right into the open spot and provide athleticism, intelligence, and power to the position.

3.) LB Devin White

I can’t imagine the Giants using the No. 6 pick on a linebacker, but White is on another level when it comes to quality. His athleticism and speed in the open field are unparalleled. He would be the perfect compliment to Alec Ogletree, but his presence would put B.J. Goodson on the backburners.

His sideline-to-sideline speed is fantastic – he often chases down runners on the opposite side of the field. I’m most ‘enticed by his ability in the run game. He’s impressive when picking holes and shooting the gap. He seems to always know where the runner is going and fills the hole appropriately.