New York Yankees Player Profiles: Luis Severino, when will he return to save the Yankees?

New York Yankees, Luis Severino

This morning, I was thinking about the New York Yankees‘ pitching situation and the Yankees’ lack of addressing it as they wait to find out if they can re-sign slugger DJ LeMahieu. If they can sign him, they will likely not spend for a major starting pitcher upgrade; instead, they will rely on the young and upcoming prospects. It reminded me that Luis Severino’s return from Tommy John’s surgery would become an important part of the Yankees’ success in 2021. The two big questions are when will he return, and when he does, how effective he will be. We know more about the first question than the second. Industry insiders and the Yankees seem to think he will be back before the All-Star Break, possibly in June.

With him not pitching in nearly two years, it’s time for Yankee fans to reexamine how Severino got to this point in his career. Luis Severino was born on February 20, 1994, in Sabana de la Mar, Dominican Republic. As a boy, he played baseball in the sand fields of the Republic, he played most infield positions, but as he aged, he preferred pitching. He loved baseball and grew up idolizing fellow Dominican and former New York Yankees player Robinson Cano. He hoped to play professionally and hoped to someday throw for the New York Yankees, his favorite childhood team.

Yankee scouts in the Dominican Republic took notice of Severino and invited him to the Yankee training academy.  The Yankee Academy is a state of the art training facility in Boca Chica, the Dominican Republic. When he was just seventeen, the Yankees signed him as an international free agent. He was offered a signing bonus of $225k, which the Colorado Rockies matched, but Severino wanted to pitch for his childhood favorite Yankees. When he was scouted, he could throw a fastball in the low 90’s. He made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League for the Yankees, where he went 4-2 with an ERA of 1.68 in fourteen games. He stayed in the Dominican League until 2013, when the Yankees promoted him to the Charleston River Dogs. During his time with the Dogs, Severino gained strength and increased his fastball to the high nineties; he finished his first season with the River Dogs going again 4-2, this time in ten games with an ERA 2.45.

Severino again started the 2014 season with the River Dogs but was quickly promoted to the Tampa A team. The same year he was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game. Severino was propelling his way up the Yankee organization and was sent to the Trenton Thunder. Between the three teams, he went 6-5 with an ERA of 2.45 and with 127 strikeouts in 24 games. He started the 2015 season with Trenton but was again promoted to Scranton Wilkes/Barre. Before leaving Trenton, he was 2-2 across eight games. Severino went 7-0 with an ERA of 1.68 for the Rail Riders.

In 2015 due to Michael Pineda’s injury, Sevy was called up in August to pitch in his first major league game against the Red Sox; he pitched five innings allowing two hits and one earned run with seven strikeouts. At the time, he was the youngest starting pitcher in the major leagues at age 21. He ended his rookie season having started 11 games, pitching 63 innings with a 5–3 record, 2.89 ERA, and 56 strikeouts. 2016 was a rough year for Sevy; he had injuries and was optioned back to the Scranton Wilkes/Barre Rail Riders.  Later being called back up but only as a reliever. In 2017 he started the season back in the rotation. Sevy impressed big time as he went a season-high in innings pitched and achieved a record of 14-6 with an ERA of 2.98. He tied CC Sabathia for most strikeouts in a season by a Yankee pitcher. He was chosen to start the All-Star game but was removed after giving up three runs. He ended the season being voted 3rd in the Cy Young voting.

In the first half of the 2018 season, he recorded 14 wins before the All-Star Game, the first Pitcher to that since 1969, when Mel Stottlemyre did it. He was again selected to pitch in the All-Star game. Severino started the AL Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics in a game the Yankees won 7-2. Severino finished the season 19-8 with an ERA of 3.39. He led all major league pitchers with an average fastball velocity of 97.6 miles per hour for the second consecutive year. At the end of the season, Severino signed a $40 million contract for four years with a Yankee option for a fifth year.

In Luis Severino’s short career, he earned Pitcher of the Week in the Florida League for the week of June 30. He was a AAA All-Star in 2015 for the Scranton Wilkes/Barre Rail Riders and an AL All-Star in 2017 and 2018. In 2018 he also won the most games for a 24-year-old pitcher in Yankee history. Sevy also holds the Yankee record for the most strikeouts per nine innings on average.

During spring training in Tampa in 2019, he suffered a rotator cuff inflammation and then suffered a strained lat muscle during his initial rehab. After much delay, he pitched in several simulated and minor league games.  On September 17, after missing most of the entire season, he felt good and started his first game of the year against the Los Angeles Angels.  In his first outing, he pitched well, going four innings in the Yankees 8-0 victory over the Angels.  On September 22, he had another win against the Toronto Blue Jays, followed by a loss to the Rangers for a regular-season ERA of 1.50.  While still being stretched out, he pitched two games in the postseason with an ERA of 2.16.

When the 2019/2020 postseason turned into spring training, Severino reported early to begin his workouts.  As the first week of training started, Severino was glad to be ready for a comeback season and feel healthy.  As he tossed fastballs and sliders, he felt good but noticed that he was developing soreness in his elbow and forearm when throwing the changeup.  As it continued to bother him, Manager Aaron Boone shut him down.  Severino spoke about the problem:

“I just want to play baseball. I just want to pitch,” Severino said. “I’ve been doing all the things that they want me to do in the offseason to come here healthy. I was pretty good, I was feeling healthy until yesterday. I was watching TV and I was starting to stand up, I was doing something that wasn’t right. Something happens, you have to just deal with it.”

Severino underwent tests in Tampa with Yankee team Doctor Chris Ahmad.  The tests could not determine the cause of the soreness.  The physician ruled out an elbow or shoulder injury.  It was thought that there might be a muscle or nerve injury that would require more intensive tests.  The Yankees shipped him back to New York City, where he will go through a battery of tests with Dr. Ahman at New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Monday.  After the Yankees acquired one of the best pitchers in baseball, Gerrit Cole counted on a healthy #2 ace in Severino in the offseason.  Now with this problem, his season could be in doubt again, at least at the start.

After postseason MRIs and CAT scans showed no problems with his arm, Severino was hopeful that he would be pitching during spring training.  Upon learning he would have to leave camp and go back to New York, Severino said:

“It’s definitely frustrating to hear this stuff again,” Severino said. “We’re dealing with it. We’re seeing what we can do to get me healthy. I think we have the right people here to figure out what is the issue and fix it.”

As we all know, it turned out that Severino had to have Tommy John surgery making him miss the entire 2020 shortened season and the postseason. The New York Yankees sorely missed not having Severino in the rotation during the season, and his absence from the postseason may very well have cost them a trip to the World Series.

General Manager Brian Cashman gave an update on his recovery. He said Severino was in approximately week six of his throwing program and had progressed to about 90 feet at the team’s facility in Tampa. Cashman said Severino’s rehab Is “going well.” Cashman said Tommy John rehabs are “anywhere between 14 to 15 months sometimes. So, I’ve got to give myself and therefore our fans a few safety rails in terms of the expectation of when would be the appropriate time to expect him to be reintroduced to the major-league club.” Most scouts believe he will return to the Yankees in June, but no later than July, giving the Yankees new hope for a successful 2021 season.

Now we get back to question two: How successful will he be upon his return? That is a question that can only be answered when he returns and has a few games under his belt. In addition to him returning for form, the Yankees have to be cautious with him because of his multiple arm issues. But the reality is that anything he can do will be a bonus to the Yankees with such a questionable starting rotation. If healthy and can return to form, he can be one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Here are his career stats: 3.46 career ERA (125 ERA+) -3.35 career FIP -10 Ks Per 9 Innings -Strikeout to walk ratio of ≈ 4:1 -1.09 WHIP since 2017. If the New York Yankees can get close to that from Severino, they will be happy campers. But like so many things with the Yankees, this is to wait and see as well. Severino seems healthy and happy, posting several recent photos of himself with his daughter, even teaching her a golf swing on Twitter.

New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has not given a rehab update on Severino since October.

Just how much better did the New York Giants’ defense get in 2020 compared to 2019?

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

If you recall the New York Giants’ defense from 2019, you probably remember them giving up an astronomical amount of points per game. Under James Bettcher, the defense ranked 30th in the NFL in points allowed per game at 28.2. When it came to stopping the run, they allowed 113.3 yards on the ground and 264.1 yards through the air. Thanks to a bevy of inadequate free agent signings and draft selections that didn’t pan out, they were far below average.

However, coaching is often times the difference between good and bad teams, despite the personnel. The Giants saw a massive upgrade on defense this season under Patrick Graham, as their unit allowed just 22.3 points per game, a six-point decrease compared to 2019. That is a significant difference and one that must be celebrated after just one off-season. It is also fair to mention the factors that played against the Giants this past year, including injuries, COVID-19, and new faces across the board. What Graham and the coaching staff accomplished is simply remarkable and something that hopefully rolls over into the 2021 campaign.

Graham was so impressive, the New York Jets even inquired about him for their head-coaching vacancy, but he declined to interview, remaining loyal to the Giants as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator under Joe Judge.

However, without several key players, the defense would’ve struggled immensely. The free-agent signings of James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and hitting Leonard Williams with a franchise tag ultimately pay dividends. All three were integral to the success on defense, with Bradberry and Williams earning Pro Bowl nods. This was Bradberry’s first and Williams’ second, as the big interior defender recorded a career-high 11.5 sacks.

The New York Giants have some difficult decision to make:

This off-season presents a few difficult situations, though, as Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson are both free agents and require extensions. Due to Covid, the salary cap is expected to drop as much as $23 million, as Dave Gettleman mentioned during his press conference, $175 million seems to be a realistic number, down from $198.2 million.

Retaining both will be difficult, but they represent the foundation of this defense. Building through the trenches, Gettleman has focused on an interior pass rush that intimidates opposing teams. They could use a little bit more help at outside linebacker, but the return of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines should provide that if they elect not to draft or sign a player in free agency.

Despite the Giants starting off the 2020 campaign with five consecutive losses, by the season’s end, they had held nine teams to 20 points or less, an impressive feat given the circumstances and injuries on the defensive front.

It is quite interesting to think that without Graham, the Giants would be an entirely different team, and Gettleman might be without a job at the moment. Because of their growth and the promise of Saquon Barkley returning and more offensive weaponry being added, John Mara spared Gettleman for at least one more season.

While I do believe this team is trending upward and 2021 could prove to be successful, there’s a lot of work to be done on both sides of the ball, but the defense is one unit that could be a top-five group moving forward.

New York Mets Claim Stephen Tarpley Off Waivers From Miami Marlins

The New York Mets continue to add to their minor league depth by claiming left-handed reliever Stephen Tarpley off waivers. Tarpley spent the abbreviated 2020 season with the Miami Marlins after starting his career with the New York Yankees.

The 27-year old struggled and put up a 9.00 ERA over 12 games with the Marlins. Tarpley sharp breaking ball is his trademark pitch to neutralize left-handed hitters. In 2020, lefties actually hit better against him than righties, but throughout his career, Tarpley has typically won those matchups.

Despite a 6.65 career ERA, the Mets needed Tarpley to fill out their bullpen depth. At the moment, Daniel Zamora is the only left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster and is a similar pitcher to Tarpley. Both are long shots at making the roster out of spring training. Tarpley will compete minor league acquisition Jerry Blevins in the Spring as well.

Tarpley, Blevens, and Zamora are all insurance for the possibility of Brad Hand signing elsewhere.

Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman inks veteran starting pitcher to deal, what should we expect?

Jhoulys Chacin, New York Yankees

It is no secret that the New York Yankees need more depth in their starting pitching rotation, however, I wouldn’t except any aggressive moves by GM Brian Cashman in the coming days.

As fans quickly become restless over the Yankees’ lack of moves this off-season, it is important to note that due to COVID-19, the market is slow developing. Players are waiting as long as possible to ensure they don’t make pennies on the dollar. Ultimately, the players who sign too quickly could lose out on real market value as teams recover from the financial disaster of 2020.

Nonetheless, the Bombers have been making minor-league deals left and right, adding depth to various positions as they prepare for the 2021 season. Ownership is against overspending this off-season, and they have given Cashman the green light to pursue DJ LeMahieu, and not much more. A big starting pitcher will likely have to wait another year, as the Yankees continue to roll with Gerrit Cole and hope to gain back Luis Severino and Domingo German in 2021.

The New York Yankees did ink one struggling veteran arm:

Cashman landed Jhoulys Chacin on a one-year deal worth 800K and an additional 200K in incentives. It will be difficult for him to crack the starting rotation, especially after several inadequate seasons. In 2019, he logged 103.1 innings, recording a 6.01 ERA and 8.80 strikeouts per nine.

That was really his last larger sample size of work, as he only pitched in five innings this past year with the Atlanta Braves. However, in 2018 with the Milwaukee Brewers, Chacin logged a 3.50 ERA with a 42.2% ground-ball rate and 7.29 strikeouts per nine. It seems as if he’s had quality seasons in the past but simply hasn’t been consistent. Cashman is looking for cost-efficient deals that he can maximize, so Chacin could turn out to be a nice find if they need him for any given reason.

Chacin primarily utilizes a fastball, and slider, throwing in a bit of change up and offspeed pitches. To be specific, in 2019, he threw his fastball 43.7% and slide or 49.6% of the time.

He doesn’t have a high-velocity arm, averaging about 90 mph on his fastball. Ultimately, this isn’t a luxurious signing but rather a last-choice option for the Yankees, who once again are moving forward with a limited amount of financial flexibility.

Will the Trouba-DeAngelo pairing work for the New York Rangers?

Even by his own admission, New York Ranger defenseman Jacob Trouba did not have the season as he wanted in 2019-20. This came on the heels of his seven-year, $56 million contract extension that has already been considered as the worst contract in the league category just after one year. This season, Trouba is hoping to change this and the Rangers have provided him with a new D-line pairing in Tony DeAngelo.

This will be Trouba’s fourth different regular partner after Brady Skjei, Libor Hajek, and Brendan Smith all took turns playing on his left side last season. This also means that D’Angelo will be playing on his off-side, something he says will not impact his play.

It’s more responsibility, more ice time obviously, and bigger responsibility to the team and myself.” DeAngelo told the media.  “So I’m happy about that. Me and Troubs have been talking about anything you would talk about with a partner – I told him I’m comfortable on the left side; pass it to me on my backhand, pass it to me on the forehand, make all the plays he would make to a left-handed shot. So I’m going to be comfortable and I have to make sure I’m doing a good job for him.”

DeAngelo also has a little extra motivation coming into this season.

“Personally, I’m kind of tired of hearing of all the defensive woes of mine,” DeAngelo told the media after the third day of training camp. “So my main goal this year is to be as good as I can defensively. I think the offense is going to take care of itself, so my first goal this year is to be real good defensively. I think I’m going to keep up with the point production and the puck movement, power play, and all that stuff is going to come. So it’s a big goal of mine to become real solid defensively and be relied on in situations.”

As for Trouba, he said that took him a little time to adapt to everything. There were different systems he had to learn, in particular in the Ranger’s own defensive’ zone. He did feel that he got better as the year went on.

At the very least, this tandem should be a difficult physical matchup for opposing forwards. It will also be interesting to see the feisty DeAngelo take on some of the top forwards in their new division, especially the always annoying Brad Marchand.

It is the hope that this tandem can lead a defensive group that at least on paper, is not as good or experienced as they were last year. Both players seem motivated for that task.

 

Lofty expectations, Thunder knock down Knicks

The weight of expectations has slowed down the rampaging New York Knicks.

Following a three-game win streak and a surprising 5-3 start, the Knicks enjoyed the national spotlight. They entered Friday night’s game against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder as odds-on favorites for the first time this season.

The result was a disastrous 101-89 loss, a growing pain reminder, as the Thunder caught the Knicks’ defense napping after shaking off a sluggish start.

The Knicks led at the start, but there were ominous signs early on that it would be a long night.

Julius Randle, who is playing like an All-NBA player to start the season, ran into early foul trouble. He was held scoreless in the opening half.

Without Randle, whom Thibodeau referred to as their engine, their offense became stagnant.

The Knicks had only 19 assists and shot just 36 percent from the field.

The Thunder exploited the the Knicks’ woes and took the lead for good in the third quarter.

The Knicks, though, teased another fourth-quarter comeback when Austin Rivers beat the buzzer with a triple to cut the Thunder’s lead to six after 36 minutes of action.

But there were no Rivers heroics nor Knicks comeback this time. Only a hard slap in the face.

“Once we gave up the lead and we got behind, I think we tried to get out of it individually. I think the intentions were good, but we just went about it the wrong way,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said postgame.

Thibodeau pulled out Mitchell Robinson (6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 blocks) in the fourth quarter, who he said was not feeling great. His plan to go small ball and generate some offense backfired as the Thunder repeatedly attacked the paint.

After a horrible 21 percent start from the field, the Thunder took command by shooting 63 percent in the next three quarters.

As the game wore on, the Knicks’ defense continued to loosen up with their every miss.

The pair of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (25 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists) and Hamidou Diallo (23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists) led the Thunder. They were the better ex-Kentucky players on Friday night at The Garden.

The Knicks’ own Kentucky alumni played sub-par with Randle limited to just 18 points while Kevin Knox (3-9), rookie Immanuel Quickley (1-9), and the returning Nerlens Noel (0-1) struggled to find their rhythm all night. Even RJ Barrett’s shooting struggles from the perimeter continued. He had 19 points on 21 shots.

The Knicks appeared poise to coast to an easy win at home when they built an early 17-7 lead. But the Thunder quickly erased their lead. And the Knicks played with fire.

“In this league, as soon as you start feeling too good about yourself, you’re going to get knocked down,” Thibodeau said.

The Friday night beatdown at The Garden was a cautionary tale for these Knicks after a fairy tale start to this season.

There will be more challenges ahead, far more formidable than this one, but Thibodeau hopes his young team will continue to grow and treat this as a wake-up call.

“From top to bottom, we didn’t get it done. We’re capable of doing much better than we did,” Thibodeau said.

We’ll soon find out when the Knicks play three games in the next four days, beginning Sunday against the Denver Nuggets, last season’s Western Conference finalist.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo