New York Giants could land second-round linebacker to pair with Ryan Connelly

New York Giants, Zack Baun, Ryan Connelly

One position the New York Giants desperately need to address this off-season is linebacker. Last year, they featured Alec Ogletree and Ryan Connelly to start the season, but Connelly quickly went down with a torn ACL against the Washington Redskins, prematurely ending his season and an impressive development up to that point.

With several premium options in free agency and the NFL draft, the Giants have the resources to bolster the position exponentially, finally plugging in a player to cover tight ends and stop the run. Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson has been the frequent flyer for the Giants regarding projection in the draft, but one other option has me intrigued, and he is also from Wisconsin, just like Connelly.

Linebacker Zack Baun, who is a projected second-round pick in the upcoming draft, has elite instinctual attributes but is also a solid pass rusher. Logging 12.5 sacks as a senior for Wisconsin, he can attack quarterbacks as an edge rusher, but he truly stands out in the middle of the field. During Senior Bowl practices, Baun played weakside linebacker, and he also tallied 19 tackles for loss in 2019, earning the playmaker accolade for Wisconsin.

The most exciting thing about Baun is that he made the transition from quarterback to linebacker coming out of high school.

Already having Connolly with the New York Giants makes his potential light landing spot a lot more attractive.

“Yeah, that would be awesome,’’ Zack Baun said Tuesday before the first Senior Bowl practice of the week. “I think if I go to a team with any other Wisconsin linebacker, it’s automatically going to help me pick up the defense. We have a strong bond, connection, being from essentially the same bloodline.’’

Baun expressed his confidence in Wisconsin for producing quality linebackers:

“I think every linebacker that started at Wisconsin since I’ve been there is in the league and doing very well,’’ Baun said. “I think we’re the new Linebacker U.’’

If the Giants decide they don’t want to allocate too much capital in a linebacker in free agency, or find better value with the 4th overall pick and pass on Simmons, Baun is an exciting prospect with tons of potential.

Report: Jack Conklin expected to sign with the Jets

New York Giants, Tennessee Titans, Jack Conklin

The New York Jets are in sore need of quality players all over the field this offseason with offensive tackle at the top of the list. You can cross that off if the report that Tennessee Titans right tackle Jack Conklin is committing to signing with the Jets once free agency begins on March 18:

From Mike Florio of PFT:

Per a league source, one NFL team has been informed that Conklin plans to sign with the Jets when free agency opens on March 18.

 

The report is just that, and nothing more. It doesn’t mean that the Jets and Conklin’s representation have struck a wink-nod deal. It doesn’t mean that they’ve even talked, although tampering is rampant in Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine.

 

All it means is that one NFL team has been informed that Conklin plans to sign with the Jets. Within the next 18 days, we’ll find out whether that happens.

Conklin was the eighth overall selection out of Michigan State in the 2016 NFL Draft and started every game in first two seasons for the Titans. Injuries limited him to nine games in 2018 but he was right back on the horse in 2019, starring all 16 games at right tackle. Last May, the Titans declined the fifth-year option on Conklin’s rookie contract making him eligible for free agency this year.

The Jets have $52.6 million in available cap space to sign free agents this offseason and general manager Joe Douglas has his work cut out for him. The Jets’ two starters at tackle last season  – Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell – are headed for free agency themselves in a few weeks, so expect Douglas to drive hard to the hoop on Conklin and maybe one other tackle.

Rotoworld believes Conklin could top the $18 million Lane Johnson got from the Philadelphia Eagles last season. For the Jets, who have one of the lowest-rated and shallow offensive lines, it would be well worth the investment.

 

Yankees: Aaron Judge undergoing more tests for nagging muscle discomfort

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

As each day of spring training passes, frustration builds as the New York Yankees organization deals with injuries, both small and large.

The most significant blow to the team is that Luis Severino has undergone Tommy John Surgery, which will keep him away from the field again for the entire season.  James Paxton had back surgery and will miss at least the first month or so of the season.  The injuries are not limited to pitchers, centerfielder Aaron Hicks is still recovering from his own Tommy John surgery and outfielder, and DH Giancarlo Stanton suffered a calf strain last week.  Also of concern is discomfort that Aaron Judge is feeling that has kept him for taking outdoor batting practice.

Judge has been having nagging discomfort near his right pectoral muscle.  Judge arrived days ahead of the reporting date and has said that the discomfort has lingered since then.  Last week it seemed better, and Manager Aaron Boone said he expected  Judge to take batting practice with the team over the weekend.  However, on Friday after indoor hitting, Judge again experienced the discomfort.  Boone said that he was then sent for more tests, including an MRI, all of which came back negative.

“I’m a little frustrated for him, just not being able to get our arms around exactly what’s going on and why it’s been slow moving,” Boone said. “The biggest thing right now is trying to get answers.”

Boone will be sending Judge for even more tests on Monday, as they need to get to the bottom of what is preventing Judge from taking part in spring training conditioning and taking part in the team’s spring training games.  Judge is still throwing and performing conditioning and defensive drills.  When Boone was questioned yesterday at George M. Steinbrenner field about what is holding Judge back; “It was more when he went to hit again yesterday; throwing wasn’t an issue,” Boone said. “It was more getting through a second day of cage BP yesterday. It just wasn’t quite right.”

Boone was drilled on whether Aaron Judge would be ready for opening day when the Yankees face the Baltimore Orioles at Orioles Park at Camden Yards.  Boone responded that he said that he continued to believe that Judge would be ready.

“Time-wise, we’re still fine,” Boone said. “I don’t know what we’re dealing with here in the next several days. If he starts playing in games a week or 10 days out, he’d be technically fine, but first things first is getting up to that point. And I don’t know when that is.”

Both General Manager Brain Cashman and Field Manager Aaron Boone hope that the Yankees will be limited to the injuries they already have and have taken steps to that goal, by completely revamping their Medical/strength and conditioning departments in the offseason. Hopefully, they will prevent the unprecedented number of injuries to the team during the last season.

With the questionable reliability of both Judge and Stanton, and while they await the return of Aaron Hicks, the team will rely on their depth.  Brett Gardner will be solid in the centerfield.

For the other outfield positions, they will have Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, along with Tyler Wade and Zack Granite, while still hoping Judge and Stanton will be ready for the regular-season start.  So far, early in spring training Clint Frazier is showing great offense at the plate and appears to have improved his outfield performance as he worked on his footwork during the offseason.   Manager Boone is also impressed with the fieldwork of Miguel Andujar, who may also be used in the outfield if they choose to put him there.  Andujar also has impressed at the plate after a year recovering from shoulder surgery.

 

 

New York Yankee Player Profiles: Tyler Wade’s life on his journey to the majors!

New York Yankees, Tyler Wade

Tyler Wade’s journey to the majors:

Tyler Dean Wade was born on November 24, 1994, in San Diego, California. He played baseball as a boy and from the age of ten was a New York Yankee and Derek Jeter fan. He played ball for Murrieta Valley High School in California, where he developed into a shortstop who played several times at second base. New York Yankee scouts took notice of Wade and particularly liked his athleticism. They thought so much of him that they selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB draft when he was just eighteen.

He had committed to play college baseball for San Diego State University but chose to forgo his commitment and sign with the Yankees; Tyler Wade made his pro debut in the rookie Gulf Coast League. At the end of the season, he was batting .309 with 12 RBI’s and the Yankees promoted him to the Staten Island Yankees. In the same year, he also played at the Charleston River Dogs and for the Trenton Thunder. He ended playing in 129 games for an average of .273 with 51 RBI’s.

He started 2015 with the Tampa A team but ended the season back with the Thunder. Between the two teams, he played in 127 games for an average of .262 with 31 RBI’s and with three home runs. He was an invitee to 2016 spring training but spend the season with the Thunder. He began the 2017 season with Scranton Wilkes/Bare but was called up to the Stadium on June 27. He ended up taking the shuttle between the Rail Riders and the Yankees multiple times. He was finally called up for the rest of the season on the 4th of September. He was batting .310 for the Rail Riders but .155 for the Yankees in just 30 games. During the 2018 season, he was back and forth between the teams again. During the winter, he played in the Arizona fall league, where he worked on his outfield skills.

This year he started his season with the Rail Riders but has been up and down again. While at Scranton, Wade has been honing his outfield skills while his natural position is as a shortstop. As it turns out, Wade is a pretty good utility player even playing second base, although he isn’t the greatest hitter. He is still young and still developing. Wade was again called up when the roster expanded and has made some exciting catches in left field. As the postseason approached, he was in competition to make the postseason roster with Clint Frazier. Frazier wasn’t hitting well and still lacked outfield skills, so Wade’s fieldwork gives him a slight edge. Last season in the majors, he was hitting .247 with 9 RBI’s. In his short time up, he had six stolen bases. The Yankees like his best on the team speed. He can pinch-run and cover vast areas of the outfield.

In an interesting point, as he hopes to play full time at the Stadium, Wade has increased his batting average by about 20% each of the last three years.  If he follows that trend, he should well exceed a .260 average this year, that should impress the Yankee brass.  With his abilities anywhere in the outfield, plus the ability to play second base, and his natural position as a shortstop and backup to first-year shortstop Gleyber Torres should make him valuable.  The Yankees can certainly use this “Super Utility Player.”  His hitting at the plate during spring training will have a lot to do with if he makes the team or finds himself back with Rail Riders. So far this spring training he has an OPS of .556, with one monster home run and two stolen bases over nine plate appearances.

In the past three seasons, Tyler Wade has had only two injuries; he was hit on the wrist in 2018 and had minor hip tightness in March of 2019, neither of which caused him to miss significant playing time.

Wade is not married, and there are no scandals attached to his name. In the offseason, he lives in southern California. He has an older brother Kyle. Tyler attributes his hard-working style to his military father. He became a Yankee fan at the age of ten when going on a family trip to Cooperstown, he got to see a Yankee game at the Old Stadium. In that game, he got to see Derek Jeter do his famous jump throw. When he returned home, he practiced that throw in backyard Whiffle ball games. Wade carries a tattoo behind his left wrist the says “Confidence is key” For female fans, he is a bit of a heartthrob with his good looks. Hopefully, if he is selected for the 26 man roster he will shine as one of the next great Yankee stars.

Matz Strong Outing Helps Give the New York Mets a Win

All of Steven Matz’s Spring Training starts for the New York Mets will be watched with heavy scrutiny. Matz took the mound for his second start against the Houston Astros and pitched very well. The offense was quiet once again but the pitchers delivered in the seven innings following Matz.

For good reason, Matz sees himself as a starter and its proving why so far. Over two innings of work, he allowed one hit and struck out one. Another promising sign for Matz is the other five outs recorded all came on ground balls. Compared to Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello, Matz has the upper advantage as the calendar turns to March.

Polar Bear in Hibernation

Pete Alonso continued his slow start to Spring Training. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and dropped his average to .067 for the Spring. There is still plenty of time to get himself right but as each day passes the struggles grow more and more concerning.

Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto both mixed in hits and stolen bases in their efforts. The third stolen base came from Dominic Smith as the Mets continue to push their initiative of being more aggressive on the bases.

The minor leaguers got the job done to secure a victory. Will Toffey started the ninth-inning rally with a walk and it was followed by a Jake Hager double to tie the game. Max Moroff traded places with Hager to tie the game and steal the lead from the Astros.

The minor league relievers cost the Mets some games early in the Spring but they were dominant on Saturday. The six pitchers combined to pitch seven innings, allowing five hits, two walks, one run and struck out seven batters. Jordan Humphreys and Adonis Uceta combined for 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth to secure the win and save respectively.

Split Squad Sunday

Jacob deGrom makes his Spring debut at Port St. Lucie against the Washington Nationals. Michael Wacha makes his second start of the Spring against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter.

New York Yankees: Andujar, Tauchman, or Frazier?

Mike Tauchman, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are going to be in very interesting position when opening day comes. Who is going to be the starter in left field? Giancarlo Stanton was expected to bounce between left and the DH spot, but was likely going to be the opening day starter in left. Well, Stanton now has a calf strain and will miss significant time including opening day.  Last year, Mike Tauchman stepped up big time in the outfield when the Yankees were littered with injuries. Tauchman was one of the better defenders in the outfield and posted a pretty impressive line at the plate hitting .277 while driving in 47 runs. Miguel Andujar saw his first game action in left field this week. I wrote about the possibility of Andujar transitioning to the outfield a few weeks ago which still makes perfect sense. I know he is young, but Andujar projects better in the outfield than he does at third. Andujar missed virtually all of last season but, is looking to build off of his incredible 2018 campaign where he broke Joe DiMaggio’s rookie doubles record. Then of course there is Clint Frazier. Frazier was acquired a few years ago and everyone, including myself, thought Frazier would be a permanent staple in the outfield. Well, that hasn’t happened. We have heard about his incredible bat speed and we’ve seen flashes of his ability, but Frazier has been stuck in AAA for the majority of the last two seasons. Frazier was pretty good last year at the plate, but displayed some pretty poor defense in the outfield. So, what do the Yankees do?

What do the Yankees do?

I think if you had to handicap the race, Tauchman is the favorite to start in left once the season gets underway. Out of the three options, he’s the best outfield defender, and his left handed bat will bring some balance to the lineup. Miguel Andujar is likely going to start the season as the DH/Utility man for the Yankees. He will likely be the opening day designated hitter, but will float wherever he’s needed. If the Yankees need him in the outfield, he will be out there. If the Yankees need him to cover third, he will cover third. I don’t think Andujar will have a set position all year, but I expect him to be in the lineup every day. Now that leaves Clint Frazier, who once again appears to be the odd man out. I think Frazier will obviously be on the major league roster to start the season with the Stanton injury, but I’m not sure if he stays on it after that. Upon returning, Stanton will likely be the primary DH as he tries to stay healthy. Tauchman will start in left and Miguel Andujar will likely be the backup at that point. I don’t see Frazier playing over Tauchman or Andujar which is really unfortunate for him. I could be wrong though, and he could have an unbelievable spring which forces the Yankees hand, but as of now, I just don’t see it. Expect Mike Tauchman to start in left for the New York Yankees on opening day.

New York Yankees: Why we can remain confident in the starting pitching rotation

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

The injuries to Luis Severino and James Paxton have dampened the mood for the New York Yankees fan-base, and rightfully so, as losing your No. 2-3 starters for any amount of time can be detrimental.

However, the Yankees are versed in the reality of injures and have prepared accordingly. Retaining J.A. Happ was part of the master plan to supplement any concerns, and the concerns continue to mount ahead of the March 26 Opening Day matchup against the Baltimore Orioles.

Adding Gerrit Cole as the team’s bonafide ace is now looking more significant with every passing day, and his performance this spring has been right on track with our exaptations.

The New York Yankees can remain confident in the rotation:

The No. 4 arm in the rotation, Jordan Montgomery, who’s coming off Tommy John surgery, has been stellar this Grapefruit League season, posting four strikeouts in two innings against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday afternoon. His 0.00 ERA has proven to manager Aaron Boone that he can be a regular starter moving forward, a massive sign of relief for the Yanks and their managerial staff.

“He has good stuff, he battles out there and attacks the strike zone,’’ an NL scout said of Montgomery, as per the NY Post. “Pre-surgery he and King had the best command. They throw a lot of strikes.’’

A few weeks ago Boone was already high on Jordan’s return and what he brings to the mound:

“I think he has proven himself at this level. For him to get back last year was big, just for his frame of mind,’’ Boone said. “The fact he was able to make it back and get some work done, get into some games, I think was big for him and his mindset moving forward.’’

We mustn’t forget about Domingo German either, who will return at some point, likely after Paxton, who’s projected to make a May return. Montgomery, though, seems to be capable of holding down the fort in the meantime, and the 5th spot will be a rotational bevy consisting of Michael King, Jonatha Holder, and Jonathan Loaisiga.

New York Giants could pursue premium linebacker in free agency if they miss out on Isaiah Simmons

New York Giants, Isaiah Simmons, Clemson, Cory Littleton

The eye test was enough to detail how poor Alec Ogletree’s performance for the New York Giants over the past two seasons, but it isn’t until you see his 15.8% missed tackle rate that you genuinely understand how inefficient he was against the run and in coverage.

Factor in his 83% completion percentage allowed in coverage, and you can make the argument that he might have been the worst defender on the team. Finding his replacement will be easy this offseason, as the Giants acquire the No. 4 overall pick in the draft and could look to Isaiah Simmons to fill the void.

The New York Giants can target one top tier linebacker in FA:

However, another talented option comes by free agency, and his name is Cory Littleton. The former Los Angeles Ram has never missed a game in four years and posted fantastic numbers in 2019. His 134 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks, nine passes defended, two forced fumbles, and astonishing 3.6% missed tackle rate should justify his worth.

While Littleton will be pricey in free agency, he’s a fantastic alternative to Simmons. While his coverage numbers weren’t stellar, allowing a 71.8% completion percentage, he graded out in the top 10 of all linebacker in solo tackles, assists, interceptions, and forced fumbles, according to PFF.

The Giants having about $80 million in free agency allows them to invest in premium players like Littleton to help overhaul a youthful defense. Alternatively, they can bring in a strong player like Simmons, who can play multiple positions on defense and act as a jack of all trades.

Simmons was a menace for Clemson in 2019, logging 104 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 8.0 sacks, and eight passes defended. The Giants can easily continue with their youth agenda on defense and sign veteran players to increase the average age. Still, they seem to be in a good place at the linebacker position with plenty of cap space and draft capital to allocate. They also have Ryan Connelly recovering from a torn ACL injury. After climbing the roster in his rookie season, effectively overtaking Ogletree as the MIC linebacker, the hope is that he can build upon his minimal success.