New York Mets: Luis Rojas Quickly Earning Respect

Luis Rojas has no easy job as he quickly stepped into the role of manager for the New York Mets. After the Carlos Beltran regime suddenly died within the first 100 days, Rojas is the man in charge. The rookie manager has impressed those inside and out of the organization through the first couple weeks of Spring Training.

Rojas spoke to the entire team for the first time on Monday. He asked the players to show how many of them played for him in the minor leagues. About three-quarters of the players put their hands up, which showed how close of a relationship Rojas has with the organization. Rojas spent eight seasons managing throughout the Mets minor league system before earing the quality control job in 2019.

New Role, New Rojas

His responsibility as the new manager is daunting, especially with the pressure to win in 2020. Rojas spoke to the players along with dozens of executives, which included team owner Fred Wilpon. With Mickey Callaway in charge, Rojas was reserved and quiet on the bench. As a manager, he brings confidence and energy that lacked when the inexperienced Callaway was in charge.

Rojas also has respect from the veterans in the clubhouse, including Wilson Ramos and Dellin Betances. Beltran would have commanded the same respect, but there is a certain trust players have in someone when they have gone through the trenches with them. Rojas has worked himself from the bottom and made it to the big leagues. He has not managed a game yet and already has more credibility than Mickey Callaway ever had during his two years with the Mets.

Rojas comes from a baseball family and carries plenty of managing experience and success in the minor leagues. The Mets may have found themselves a diamond in the rough after the Beltran fiasco.

What each Yankees player needs to prove heading into the 2020 season part 2

New York Yankees, Luis Severino

In my previous article, I took a look at each of the New York Yankees position players and gave a rundown of what they need to prove going into this upcoming season.  In this article, I will highlight the pitchers instead. I’ll start with the starting rotation and finish with the relievers.

Gerrit Cole:  Cole is an interesting player to watch.  Over the last two seasons, we have seen him grow into one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.  He has very few flaws in his game which is why the Yankees handed him the largest contract for a pitcher ever.  That will be his battle over the next season and the ones that follow. Cole needs to prove that he’s worth the big money that he’s being paid.  If he can be anything close to what he’s been the last couple seasons and maybe win a World Series or two, I think he will be worth it.

Luis Severino:  Severino lost almost all of the 2019 season to injury.  He came back just in time to contribute to the playoff run.  In 2020, he needs to prove that the injury concerns are behind him and that he can continue to build on his young career.  Becoming the Co-Ace of the Yankees rotation would be a nice spot for him.

James Paxton:  This one is fairly obvious.  First and foremost, Paxton needs to stay healthy, something he has yet to do over his major league career.  If I had to pick a second, I would say he needs to find a way to be consistent like when he put together a string of 10 starts to end the season that showed he could carry a rotation.  Getting past the first inning was a struggle at times throughout the season but I think Paxton found success in the second half of the season that he can carry over to the 2020 season once he returns from his back surgery.

Masahiro Tanaka:  Tanaka is the poster child for inconsistency in the regular season.  He can put together an incredible outing one day and completely falter the next. I think part of that this past season was due to the “juiced balls” causing him to abandon the splitter grip that has brought him so much success.  If he can get more comfortable with his new grip that should still be a useful weapon in his arsenal. However, postseason Tanaka is all that really matters. When the big games come, there are very few pitchers that can match his success.  Next season is his the last of his contract so he needs to prove that he can be counted on moving forward if he wishes to remain a Yankee after 2020. I have no doubt he’s up to the task.

JA Happ/Jordan Montgomery:  Happ delivered one of the worst seasons in his long career, ultimately being relegated to long relief duty by its end.  Due to Paxton’s injury, Brian Cashman has said that Happ will be the starter who fills in for him to start the year. Happ needs to prove that last year was not an age-related decline.  No one is asking him to lead the rotation like he used to. He just needs to go out every fifth day and deliver some stability to the back end of the rotation. Montgomery has an opportunity this year to reclaim his spot in the rotation that he lost due to Tommy John elbow surgery.  Prior to the injury, he was quietly becoming a real weapon for the Yankees. In 2020, he needs to prove that he’s healthy and that he’s trustworthy to potentially take over when Tanaka and Paxton reach free agency season’s end.

Chad Green/Tommy Kahnle/Zack Britton/Adam Ottavino/Aroldis Chapman: I’ve only included the core group of the bullpen as the rest are generally a revolving door known as the “Scranton Shuttle” who pitch in here and there.  Green needs to prove that he can still get hitters out at a high level given his lack of a true secondary pitch. Kahnle needs to show that he’s consistent enough to trust in high leverage situations as he was this past postseason.  Britton needs to prove that he’s still one of the elite relievers in the game. Limiting walks was a big issue for him this past season so that would go a long way for him as hitters still had trouble putting a good bat on the sinker balls he was throwing.  Ottavino needs to carry over his regular season success into the postseason. He was dominant in the regular season of 2019 but was barely used in the postseason due to his inability to get important outs. As with most of the bullpen, I will attribute a lot of that to the fact that he was overused.  The starters didn’t go very deep into games and the bullpen was constantly being called on early to finish the games out. Chapman is pretty interesting in that each year one of two things happen. He loses some velocity off that once 105 mph fastball, and he utilizes his slider more frequently to make up for the loss.  The last couple of seasons have seen Chapman become a more complete pitcher as he learns he can no longer blow a fastball by a hitter but instead keeps them guessing with a slider that has turned into a legitimate weapon for him. In 2020, he needs to prove that he is still one of the best closers in the game and one of the most difficult at-bats for a hitter. 

All the pitchers on the Yankees team have unique skills that they bring to the table.  If they can put them all together on a regular basis, they very well could be bringing home their next World Series trophy!

New York Yankees 2020 Season Preview: Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman was arguably the New York Yankees best reliever in 2019. Primarily the closer, he racked up 37 saves and had a 3-2 record with a 2.21 ERA. In 57 innings, he struck out 85 and had a 1.105 WHIP.

What he accomplished over the 2019 season often gets overlooked due to how the season ended. He gave up the walk-off home run to Jose Altuve in the ALCS that sent the Astros to the World Series. For all we know, the Astros could’ve been cheating, but it wasn’t a good pitch by any means.

However, it happens to all relievers. There are always times where even the best of pitchers give up a big hit. In 2019, Chapman was actually named the reliever of the year. You can’t overlook what he accomplished that season as he was a massive part of the Yankees 103 wins.

2020 Expectations:

The Yankees need Chapman to be just as good in 2020 as he was in 2019. It’s so important these days for all teams to have a good reliever.

I guess it’s a good problem to have, but there have been times over the past few seasons where he doesn’t pitch much because the Yankees are frequently winning and by a lot. Chapman does better in a rhythm, and long rests often lead to him struggling when he finally pitches again. If they could find ways to throw him more, even in blowouts, that would be beneficial for all parties. He only pitched in 60 games last season.

The team needs him to go in there and throw gas, then keep batters guessing with the offspeed. If he can keep his ERA around 2.20, that would be great.

The Yankees are expecting big things out of Chapman again in 2020.

Chris Kreider’s Good Play is Making It Difficult for the New York Rangers to Trade Him Away

New York Rangers, Chris Kreider

The New York Rangers are in a tough position. As the Feb 24 trade deadline approaches, they must make a decision as to what players, if any, will be dealt to other teams. Usually, trade decisions are easier if you are a team firmly entrenched in the playoffs, or a team well out of the playoff race. The Rangers are in no man’s land. They are still not one of the teams that currently qualify for a playoff spot, but are close enough to not do a wholesale sell-off. This is making the decision on what to do with Chris Kreider even more difficult.

Will the New York Rangers keep Chris Kreider?

Another that would help with a trade was if Kreider was not playing well. That is not the case. For example, in Friday nights game in Columbus, Kreider scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:11 left in the third period, and the New York Rangers extended their season-long winning streak to four games with a 3-1 win. He has 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in his past 15 games. Not only does this make the Rangers consider keeping him, but it also makes him the number one trade target for firmly entrenched playoff teams. Leading contenders include the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues, and Colorado Avalanche. To a lesser extent, the Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, and the Washington Capitals could also be suitors. The interest is high.

Why doesn’t the New York Rangers just sign him?

Unfortunately, the salary cap does not allow the Rangers to sign him, and keep everyone currently on their roster. The price for Kreider is reportedly going for 7 million dollars for seven years. If they do sign him, that means that they will not be able to keep restricted free agents such as Tony DeAngelo and/or Pavel Buchnevich, among others. That is the balancing act that the Rangers must deal with. If they trade him, the reported asking price is a first-round pick, or multiple conditional second-round picks, or legit young players or prospects. All of this may be impacted by how well the Rangers do in the games leading up to the Feb 24 trade deadline. They are home Sunday against Boston, before traveling to games in Chicago and Carolina. Their final game before the trade deadline is a home tilt against the San Jose Sharks. The results of these games may go a long way in determining what happens at the trade deadline.

 

Jay Wright the next coach of the New York Knicks?

You can add Jay Wright to the short list of possible candidates to be the next head coach of the New York Knicks.  A league source says, according to Forbes Adam Zagoria.

Others that have been linked to the Knicks are Jeff Van Gundy, of course, Mark Jackson and Tom Thibodeau.

Wright didn’t comment this time around when asked about the Knicks job.  However, he did when being linked to the job when the team went with with Jeff Hornacek in 2016.  Ultimately, Wright just didn’t want to leave Villanova.

While Wright is an above-average college coach, transitioning to the NBA will be difficult.  Last season John Beilein, went from Michigan, a top program, to Cleveland.  The Cavaliers are in the processing of rebuilding so Beilein has a tough task at hand.

If Wright were to be chosen by the Knicks, his path will be similar to Beilein.  It won’t be easy since the Knicks are also rebuilding.  Plus, the Knicks are in a worse spot than the Cavailers.

The New York Knicks need a coach with experience.  Not saying Wright doesn’t have experience but it’s at the college level. The NBA is a different animal.  Coaching professionals is a lot harder and complicated than teenagers.

The 3 coaches, Van Gundy, Jackson and Thibodeau, all have the experience with professionals that the Knicks need.  They need a non non-sense coach with the ability to control the locker room and hold players accountable.

Mike Miller has done that to an extent and has done well with the talent available to him. While he may be doing an above-average with the Knicks, they need someone who’s going to command more of the team.

New York Giants could lose defensive coach to college football

New York Giants, Bret Bielema

It’s always interesting when a coach, who seemingly signs on with a team, continues to look for new opportunities elsewhere. Usually, when you sign a contract and agree to work for an employer, the job-hunt ends there, but not for New York Giants’ OLB coach, Bret Bielema, who’s seeking a head coaching gig at the collegiate level.

Bielema was passed over for the Michigan State job, which allowed the Giants to continue forward with their original plan that would feature the former New England man on defense. However, opportunities begin to unveil themselves as Colorado now has an opening, and there’s “mutual interest.”

What did New York Giants’ Joe Judge have to say about Bret Bielema:

Giants’ new head coach, Joe Judge, has been nothing but advocational for Bielema, who brings positivity and relatability.

“There’s a lot of things (to like) about Bret,” Judge said. “I think Bret brings a great personality to the group, brings a great perspective on how he sees the game, he’s coached the front for some time, he’s coordinated defenses at a high level. Players respond to Bret in a positive way. He has a great way of teaching, he has a great way of getting the guys motivated, and he gets the most out of his players.

“He brings experience from the NFL, as well as college, so not only does he understand what’s going on in the league now, he understands what the players coming from college are used to and how to better translate the trends they’re going to see.”

Ideally, Bielema would stay put with Big Blue and help form a new defensive unit for years to come, but Judge must have a backup plan in place if he wishes to develop his outside linebackers successfully. As of now, Bret is still set to feature as the OLB coach, but things can change very quickly as colleges plug new HCs into position.

Yankees skipper Aaron Boone details how Giancarlo Stanton will be used in 2020

New York Yankees, Giancarlo Santon

Nobody imagined New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton would record just 59 at-bats in 2019, and due to a variety of different injuries, he was unable to make an impact on their 103-win conquest towards an ALCS appearance.

However, Stanton is preparing to make a significant return for the 2020 season and contribute more than just three homers after recording more than 50 three years ago with the Miami Marlins.

Yankees skipper Aaron Boone commented on the return of Stanton and how he plans to utilize him moving forward:

“Yeah, he’s fully healthy,” Boone told reporters.

Stanton bounced around from Tampa up to the Bronx but ultimately couldn’t regain his full health to help the team in any way.

“I felt like he was in a great spot, in a great frame of mind and the little sample that we saw I thought he was in position to have a tremendous season and I expect that this year,” he said.

How the New York Yankees should use Miggy and Stanton:

I’ve been saying for quite some time that the Yankees should find a way to feature both Stanton and Miguel Andujar on both offense and defense, and the perfect plan stands true.

If Andujar can find himself in left field, Boone can rotate the two to mitigate injury concerns and utilize their offensive production simultaneously. If Andujar remains sitting on the bench as a reserve, the Yankees were better off trading him away for talent that can contribute regularly. Finding a way to incorporate his bat is a necessity, especially after a stellar rookie season that saw him compile 27 homers, 47 doubles, and a .297 batting average.

Stanton, on the other hand, can be even more influential, especially if he cranks more than 40 homers. The Yankees still managed to land second-place in total homers last season without both offensive threats. Factor in the loss of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez for chunks of the season, and it’s mind-blowing that Boone didn’t win coach of the year.

PFF: New York Giants In “Bad Spot” Due To Leonard Williams Deal

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

Aside from the upcoming Draft, free agency is the best chance the New York Giants have right now at improving their team and moving to better results for the 2020 season than they had in the previous two years. However, not everything is fine and well on the free agency front this year. The Giants finally have cap space to target new additions with, but it doesn’t come without at least one downside.

According to PFF, the worst thing about the Giants’ free agency situation in 2020 is Leonard Williams. The Giants have to keep Williams if they want to get value out of him after making a risky deal with the Jets to bring him to the team in the first place – a deal that many experts believed would put the team in this very situation come free agency.

This is what PFF had to say about that situation in their 2020 preview of free agency.

None of the Giants’ impending free agents were key pieces to the team in 2019. They kind of put themselves in a bad spot with Leonard Williams, as they traded a third-round and fifth-round pick for him midseason and now have to pay a projected price of five years, $75 million with $43 million guaranteed. That’s the ninth largest contract for a non-quarterback this free agency, and he’s not even among the 20 best non-quarterback free agents, as he has failed to crack the top 25 in grade in each of his last three seasons.

PFF also admits that the Giants may have to make some cuts if they want to have more cap space to spend on improvements to the multiple areas that need to step up this year, including the much maligned secondary and the lackadaisical pass rush.

It’s unclear what the Giants will do with Williams but General Manager Dave Gettleman is going to look quite bad if Williams does end up leave after being rented to play part of a lost season at the expense of an above average price which the Giants acquired him for.

Regardless, one can expect the Giants to make improvements in free agency this year – there’s a lot of pressure after all to get better results out of Joe Judge’s first season as head coach, and winning in this area will be necessary to do that.