Yankees’ assign uber-prospect Jasson Dominguez to extended spring training; Austin Wells to Low-A

New York Yankees, Jasson Dominguez

New York Yankees’ uber-prospect Jasson Dominguez, the best-ranked young player in the Bombers’ system according to MLB Pipeline, will begin the year in extended spring training at the club’s player development complex in Tampa, Fla. That doesn’t mean he can’t and won’t be assigned to one of the minor league affiliates down the road, but for now, that’s the plan.

Meanwhile, Austin Wells, the Yankees’ first pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, is slated to begin the season, the first one of his professional career, with Low-A Tampa this week. Those two are perhaps the Yanks’ most exciting prospects.

Dominguez is a physical specimen like no other, with enormous raw power, a great arm, and good speed before bulking up in the last year or so. However, he just turned 18 and has never played a professional game in his career, so the Yankees’ approach seems to be the right one.

The Yankees have high hopes for Dominguez

And that way, they can evaluate him in person and, after assessing where his tools currently are, and then assign him to the appropriate affiliate.

“Everything that we’ve seen from this kid, he’s super talented, but he hasn’t played a game here yet,” Kevin Reese, the Yankees’ senior director of player development, said this spring according to the team’s official site. “It’s hard to help him manage those expectations, because he’s not going to show up tomorrow and perform like Mike Trout or Aaron Judge or Brett Gardner.

“We’ll keep him working; our goal is to get the best Jasson Dominguez that’s possible. Hopefully, that’s a really good player that helps us win games and win championships.”

The Yankees published the minor league affiliates rosters to open the 2021 minor league season, the first one since 2019. They announced camp rosters in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Double-A Somerset, High-A Hudson Valley and Low-A Tampa on Sunday.

Other notable assignments are Deivi Garcia to Triple-A, Oswald Peraza to High-A, Luis Gil to Double-A, and Luis Medina to High-A.

After TKO loss at UFC Vegas 25, what’s next for Cub Swanson?

In the co-main event of UFC Vegas 25, we saw Cub Swanson (27-12) take on Giga Chikadze (13-2). Chikadze was looking to remain unbeaten inside the octagon while Cub Swanson was looking to pick up his third straight victory.

A couple of years ago, the UFC future for Cub Swanson looked extremely cloudy. Swanson had taken on some of the best in the sport, but he had lost four fights in a row. Regardless of competition, that’s not a good look within the UFC.

With his back against the wall, Swanson took on Kron Gracie and pulled off a decision win. Then, at UFC 256, he stopped Daniel Pineda and looked sensational. The two wins put him back in the rankings for this matchup against Chikadze.

Going into this fight, I didn’t like the matchup for Swanson. Chikadze is one of the best pure strikers in the promotion and I wasn’t sure if Swanson could get the fight to the mat. Well, he didn’t even have the chance to on Saturday night.

The UFC Vegas 25 co-main event was over almost as soon as it started. Immediately, Chikadze came out and was throwing heat. Just about a minute into the first round, a devastating body kick put Swanson down and Chikadze followed up with a few shots for the TKO win.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 25?

As mentioned, this was a very tough matchup for Swanson stylistically. For the UFC it was a great win to vault Chikadze into a fight with better competition, but it’s a tough loss for the veteran Cub Swanson.

Despite the loss, I think Cub Swanson still has plenty to give in the UFC’s featherweight division. With that, what should the promotion do with Swanson next? Well, they might put him in a similar position for his next fight.

In thinking about the featherweight division, I think a fight that makes sense is one with Charles Jourdain (11-3-1). Jourdain had a lot of hype coming into the UFC and the 25 year old has struggled a bit.

Since making the switch, he’s gone 2-2-1 in his five fights inside the octagon. Now, in March he got a TKO win over Marcelo Rojo. A quick way to build his momentum back would be defeating a guy like Cub Swanson.

On the flip side, if Swanson is able to turn away someone like Jourdain, we might see him inch closer to the rankings once again. Any non-ranked contender would work, but I personally like the matchup with Jourdain.

Starting rotation is carrying the New York Yankees

New York Yankees, Domingo German

After scuffling to start the season, to the point that they were 6-11 at one stage before last week, the New York Yankees are back to their winning ways, taking eight of their last eleven games. The team as a whole has been playing better, which was the expectation at the beginning, but it’s clear it took them a couple of weeks to get going.

The offense has been a big reason why the New York Yankees are winning again. For a period in early April, it seemed like the team couldn’t score more than two or three runs per game, and most of the high profile bats were dormant. That definitely changed, and now the Bombers are back among the league leaders in home runs.

The bullpen has been outstanding, as well. The Yankees’ relievers comfortably lead Major League Baseball in fWAR, with 2.4 (the second-ranked New York Mets have 1.6) and are also second in ERA, with 2.39.

The Yankees’ starters are trending up

But the rotation has been the primary driving factor behind the team’s resurgence in the last couple of weeks. For the season, the Yankees’ starting pitchers have a 3.3 fWAR mark, the fifth best in MLB and the top register in the American League.

The slow starts by Corey Kluber and Domingo German seem like a distant memory: the former had an eight-inning, ten-strikeout gem on Sunday, and the latter has only allowed two earned runs in his last two starts.

Here are the Yankees starters’ numbers:

Gerrit Cole: 1.43 ERA, 0.48 FIP, 44.3 K%

Corey Kluber: 3.03 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 22.7 K%

Jameson Taillon: 5.24 ERA, 4.23 ERA, 30.5 K%

Domingo German: 4.05 ERA, 4.41 FIP, 21.6 K%

Jordan Montgomery: 4.39 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 22.0 K%

All of those pitchers, expect for maybe Montgomery, are trending up and have been lowering their ERAs in a hurry. Even Monty should start pitching better in no time, making the unit an extremely effective one.

Yankees: Good news and bad news after victory over Detroit

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

When the New York Yankees signed form or Cy Young award-winning pitcher Corey Kluber, they were hoping to get the best version of the veteran starter. He started off the campaign poorly, but bounced back on Sunday with one of his best performances in years, lasting 8.0 innings, allowing just two hits, and struck out 10 batters.

Kluber tallied 103 pitches and currently hosts a 3.03 ERA on the season. This was an extremely motivating performance for the Yankees, who desperately need him to be their number two behind Gerrit Cole. Having two ace-level starters in the postseason goes a long way, the Yankees have felt that desire in recent years.

“It felt good to go out there and execute, for the most part, from start to finish,” Kluber said. “That’s always the goal, but it’s not always smooth sailing. So when you do have them, it’s fun to go out there and have that feeling.”

Good news and bad news for the Yankees:

While Yankees did beat up on Detroit thanks to Kluber‘s stellar outing, they only scored two runs in the contest, thanks to Kyle Higashioka and a Brett Gardner sacrifice fly to right field. Both runs came in the second inning, but the team is coming off a few solid offensive performances against Detroit. To open the series, they plastered 10 runs on the Tigers, thanks to five home runs from their sluggers.

However, Detroit is not a team worth bragging about when it comes to victory, as they currently sit at 8-21 on the season, and the Yankees have finally pulled themselves to .500. The Yankees are only 2.5 games out of first place in the American League, as the Boston Red Sox have taken the early lead this season. However, they’re well within range to retake the top of the division, having a +14 point differential and currently enjoying a three-game win streak.

The Yankees are preparing to take on the Houston Astros on Tuesday, who are 15-13 on the year and have won five of their last seven games, falling to the Tampa Bay Rays in their most recent.

While Houston offers a formidable opponent, the Yankees are finally hitting their stride and feeling better about themselves after a tough start in 2021. Their top three hitters are finally climbing in the BA category and are getting on base more efficiently. In addition, the Yankees might want to continue rolling with Higashioka rather than Gary Sánchez, who has struggled offensively for the third consecutive season.

Is the UFC revisiting Jon Jones – Francis Ngannou or have they moved on?

UFC, Jon Jones

At UFC 260, Francis Ngannou (16-3) became the heavyweight champion of the world when he knocked out Stipe Miocic (20-4). After the fight was over, people immediately started talking about the potential matchup with Ngannou and Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC).

Jones is widely considered to be the greatest of all time while Ngannou is considered to be the scariest UFC heavyweight of all time. It would truly be a fun matchup where anything could happen.

However, making the fight hasn’t proved to be easy. Jones and the UFC have had some verbal back-and-forths over how much Jones should get paid for the fight. Negotiations have never had momentum and as a result, the UFC has started to move on.

Derrick Lewis (25-7, 1 NC) is the heavyweight who should be next in line all things considered. Lewis is the top heavyweight contender and holds a victory over the current heavyweight champion.

If Jones wasn’t in the picture, Lewis – Ngannou 2 would already be signed. The Black Beast talked with Ariel Helwani last week and said that August was looking great for his rematch with Francis Ngannou. 

By all indicators, it appeared that the UFC was moving in that direction. However, there has been a ton of recent trash talk online between Jones and Ngannou. Perhaps the promotion might try one last time to get the Jones – Ngannou fight booked.

What will the UFC do?

Derrick Lewis is a massive fan favorite and he’s already on board to fight Ngannou. Lewis said that his part of the negotiations is done with the UFC and he’s just waiting for the next steps.

With that, the promotion has Lewis in their back pocket. With the recent online trash talk, I could definitely see the promotion going back to Jones one last time to try and get this fight done.

An interesting development before the Twitter battle started was the fact that Jones parted ways with his managers. With that, it could pave the road to the fight getting done or it could have provided another roadblock.

Time will tell, but as of now, it looks like the UFC heavyweight title will be defended in August. Lewis is ready to go and he’s told the promotion he’s down. Ngannou will likely be on board as well. I can see the promotion taking the next couple of weeks to negotiate with Jones.

If they can get Jones on board, Jones is getting the fight. However, if it starts to drag again, I can see them having a quick trigger in switching to Lewis. Expect Ngannou to defend his title in August and before May is over, we will know who he’s fighting.

Knicks: 3 keys to beating the Memphis Grizzlies to start tough road stretch

new york knicks, tom thibodeau

The New York Knicks embarrassed the Houston Rockets on Sunday evening, outscoring them by 25 points, having a bit of fun at the end of the contest, and playing more relaxed basketball. Julius Randle posted 31 points, shooting nearly 50% from the field and three-point range. He also contributed seven rebounds and six assists on his way to another stand-out performance, and the Knicks clearly rallied around him.

With only eight games left in the regular season, the Knicks are currently sitting at 36-28, having won 11 of their last 12 games, with their only loss coming against the Phoenix Suns thanks to a little Chris Paul magic.

Winning at this rate is incredibly difficult to sustain, but the Knicks might’ve figured out the perfect equation to curate a successful mentality and peek at the right time. As they head into a difficult West Coast stretch, the Knicks have their biggest challenge of the season, playing Phoenix, the Clippers, and Lakers consecutively. That string of three games will really prove to fans and analysts whether the Knicks are the real deal or not.

Nonetheless, it starts with one game at a time, and veteran point guard Derrick Rose understands that even though Houston was the worst team in the NBA, remaining competitive and in the right mindset can be the difference.

“We’re fighting for something,” Rose said. “We know that down the stretch we want to be playing our best basketball, giving our best effort and playing with urgency. It’s all about picking the other person up. We need to know it’s going to be a grinding game.”

Three keys to beating Memphis for the Knicks:

1.) Elite defense

Memphis is coming off a tough stretch of games, losing three of their last four and falling to the Orlando Magic by just one point in their latest defeat. The Grizzlies are one game over .500 and host a few talented players like Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas, and Dillon Brooks.

They are capable of scoring adequately on any given night, so the Knicks must utilize their league-best defense, as they are currently allowing just 104.6 points per game. As long as they are aggressive and attack Morant in the paint, they can easily walk away with a victory on Monday evening.

2.) Strong center play without Nerlens Noel

While the Knicks did demolish the Houston Rockets on Sunday, they did suffer one major blow. Center Nerlens Noel suffered a left ankle sprain after clashing knees with Christian Woods. This could prove to be a significant issue, and the Knicks desperately need their depth centers to step up in his absence. That will mean Taj Gibson and Norvel Pelle will be earning more playing time.

3.) Good Ole’ Julius Randle

The catalyst on any given night is Julius Randle, and while everyone seems to be waiting for him to stop producing, he continues to prove everybody wrong. Most fans were ready to get rid of him after the 2020 campaign, but this year has been entirely different, as he is averaging 24.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 10.3 rebounds per game, all career highs.

Again, as long as Randle is playing well, players like RJ Barrett continue to thrive. Barrett has experienced an astronomical leap in efficiency from the field end downtown, which has sparked the Knicks’ offense regularly during this winning stretch. Consistency on that end remains a catalyst for success.

New York Yankee Player Profiles: Gio Urshela, talented shortstop?

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

In 2019 the New York Yankees had a “newfound 3rd baseman,” Gio Urshela. When Miguel Andujar was injured, the Yankees were forced to bring up Ushela from Scranton by necessity. No one knew what to expect. They weren’t left wondering for long; he excelled at the hot corner. 2020 was no different, proving that his 2019 season was no fluke. He is continuing his excellent play now in his third season with the Yankees. But could he be even better?

Manager Aaron Boone thinks so. Boone is now transferring his excellent defense to shortstop. So far this season Boone has moved Urshela to play at short twice. Both times with excellent results. In last night’s game, he got no action until the seventh inning but then handled all balls sent his way. If he can continue his excellent play at both positions, he becomes even more valuable to the team.

This season he is batting .275 with the third most hits only behind DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton; he has 4 home runs and is tied with Aaron Judge for the most extra best hits. Aaron Boone has said that he is now comfortable having Gio play at short from time to time.

Here is Urshela’s path to the New York Yankees: 29-year-old Giovanny Urshela is a Columbian baseball player for our Yankees. He has previously played for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians. Urshela signed with the Cleveland Indians as an international free agent in July 2008. He made his professional debut in 2009, playing for the Dominican Summer League Indians and the Arizona League Indians. He spent 2010-2013 in single-A. He started the 2014 season with Akron and was promoted to the Columbus Clippers of the Class AAA International League during the season.

After the 2014 season, the Indians added Urshela to their 40-man roster. He was named the Indians’ fourth-best prospect by MLB.com in 2015. He batted .227 for the Indians before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Urshela batted .233 with one home run and three RBIs in 19 games for Toronto before he was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on June 26. During his time with the Jays, he was noted for his timely hitting and competent play on the 3rd. Base.

On August 4, 2018, the Blue Jays traded Urshela to the New York Yankees in exchange for cash considerations. The Yankees assigned him to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Urshela was called up by the Yankees to the bigs on April 6, 2019, as a fill-in for Miguel Andujar at third base. Urshela has been an out-making specialist in the big leagues and has certainly shown his worth at the hot corner.

In his brief stay with the Yankees, he has played well at 3rd, even making spectacular plays that many wondered if Andujar could have made, considering that Miguel’s play at third has been questioned. Gio is well-liked in the clubhouse and fits in quite well. Some of this may be his not so young age and experience. So far, although not a home run hitter, he is a timely hitter. He played so well he has received praise from manager Aaron Boone and a tweet of support from the Columbian President.

The New York Yankees expected that he would be able to handle third base.  What they didn’t expect was his discipline, timely and powerful hitting behind the plate.  It was a win-win situation for the Yankees as they got Glove Glove-like defense at third base and a powerful bat at the plate. When Gio would make near impossible plays at third, he became an immediately loved Yankee player.

As the season progressed, Urshela just got better and better.  He ended the season with the second-highest batting average, only second to MVP DJ LeMahieu. Gio’s average was .314 with a .889 OPS and a career-high 21 home runs in just 132 games. In the shortened 2020, he started where he left off in 2019. He didn’t miss a beat. He ended the season hitting .298 with 6 home runs that basically translate to the same number in 2019.

Personals:

Gio Urshela is pretty secretive about his private life. Scouring his Twitter and Instagram accounts, you find little that doesn’t relate to his baseball life. We do know he is in a long time relationship with Danna Delgado, a fellow Columbian. There is no news of an impending marriage.

After brutal knockout loss at UFC Vegas 25, what’s next for Dominick Reyes?

Dominick Reyes

In the main event of UFC Vegas 25, we got to see a matchup between top light heavyweight contenders. Former two-time title challenger Dominick Reyes (12-3) was taking on Jiri Prochazka (28-3-1).

In early 2020, Reyes fought Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title. The fight was incredibly close and many people believe Reyes won. However, all three judges gave the fight to Jones.

Had Reyes had won that decision, he would’ve been 13-0 having just knocked off the greatest of all time. Instead, he was left in frustration as he waited what was next. After Jones vacated the title, the UFC put Reyes in the next title fight.

At UFC 253, Reyes fought Jan Blachowicz for the vacant title. Reyes was a sizeable favorite going into the matchup, but he had no answer for the Polish Power. Blachowicz was able to stop Reyes to become the light heavyweight champion.

Now, Reyes has gone from being potentially 13-0 to looking at a three-fight losing streak if he was to lose to Prochazka at UFC Vegas 25. Well, that’s exactly what happened on Saturday night.

Prochazka was an animal in attacking Reyes on the feet. He hurt Dominick Reyes multiple times badly, however, Reyes wouldn’t back down. In the second round, Reyes actually hurt Prochazka badly enough to force him to shoot for a takedown.

However, Prochazka was still getting the better of the exchanges. Then, near the end of the second round, Prochazka landed a beautiful spinning elbow that put Reyes out cold. Reyes has now gone from his greatest high at UFC 247 to losing three straight.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 25?

In reality, having Reyes fight Prochazka at UFC Vegas 25 was a really tough ask. In my opinion, Reyes should have fought someone a little lower to get back in the swing of things having lost two in a row.

However, that’s not the way the UFC does business. Yes, Reyes is on a three-fight losing streak, but given the caliber of opponents, I’m not expecting a big drop in the rankings tomorrow.

So who should the UFC pair him with next? In my opinion, the perfect fight for Reyes would be a rematch with Volkan Oezdemir (17-5). Oezdemir and Reyes fought back in 2019 with Reyes taking a split decision.

However, many believe that Oezdemir won the fight. Like Reyes, Oezdemir is also coming off a knockout loss to Jiri Prochazka. Reyes is going to need some time off, but when he is ready to return, I like Oezdemir as a matchup.

Knicks News: Nerlens Noel could miss time with injury, Rockets offer massive confidence boost

nerlens noel, new york knicks

The New York Knicks didn’t miss a beat after spending the last few days resting on a short break. They easily dismantled a bad Houston Rockets team, and like all great teams should do, they dominated the contest.

The Knicks won by a score of 122-96, controlling the game throughout and allowing some of their bench players to earn minutes. Julius Randle once again was unstoppable, posting 31 points and shooting 13-of-22 from the field. RJ Barrett, who played 40 minutes, had 21, with seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals in the victory. Off the bench, Derrick Rose contributed 24 and Immanuel Quickley 13, showcasing their ability to produce consistently and adequate depth.

While this victory was simple and put the Knicks on the right track as they head into a more competitive game with the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday evening, there was a bit of bad news against Houston.

Nerlens Noel injury update for the Knicks:

After clashing knees with Christian Wood, Nerlens Noel left the game with a left ankle sprain, which could keep them out for several days. With Noel’s height and lanky frame, returning from an ankle issue can sometimes be strenuous, and it is best to rest up before the postseason commences in a few weeks.

Of course, this wasn’t an ideal situation considering the Knicks are coming off a resting period. Noel is currently on a one-year, $5 million deal with New York, averaging 5.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 23.9 minutes per game. He has been one of the Knicks’ best defenders this year and a player they cannot stand to lose during playoff games.

Hopefully, the ankle injury is a low sprain, which would keep them out for a few weeks rather than months if it was a high sprain. As soon as more information is available, we will provide an update.

In more positive news, the NBA will announce its Coach of the Month for April soon, and after going 11-4, Tom Thibodeau has a solid chance of earning the accolade. It’s about time the Knicks start to gain some recognition for their performance this season.

New York Yankees reach .500 in time for tough stretch ahead

New York Yankees, NYY, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton

After a brutal stretch that saw the team open up the season 6-11, the New York Yankees have reached the .500 mark for the first time since April 7th. In trying times like the first few weeks of the season, it almost feels as if the team will never turn things around and keep playing poorly forever. However, the Yankees have managed to win 9 of their last 13 games, all of which were in consecutive days to catapult the team to third in the AL East.

When the Yankees split a four-game series with the Baltimore Orioles last week, things weren’t dominant like they were this weekend against the Detroit Tigers. New York took needed to take care of business this weekend against a team they needed to sweep, and that’s exactly what they did.

The Yankees were led by three stellar pitching performances, starting with six masterful innings from Gerrit Cole on Friday. Cole struck out 12 and surrendered just four hits in his dominant showing, throwing 87 pitches in an outing that almost seems light for him at this point. New York also hit the ball the best they have all season, scoring 10 runs mainly in part to Aaron Judge’s two home runs.

Saturday featured another strong outing from Jameson Taillon, who lasted five innings and allowed just three hits. He surrendered just one run, a home run hit by Jeimer Candelario, and was credited with a win for the first time in exactly two years. Seven of the Yankees’ eight hits were between DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Gleyber Torres, and the latter two drove in three runs apiece.

Sunday was a quieter day for the bats, just three hits, but Corey Kluber’s eight-inning gem paved the way for another Yankee victory. Kluber struck out 10 batters and gave up just two weakly hit singles in his 103-pitch beauty. He’s known to improve as the season progresses, and that reputation is showing once again as he’s given up just one run in his last 14.2 innings.

Overall, the Yankees are playing significantly better baseball. All of the starters except for Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier have seemingly found their rhythm, as those two seem that they could be close. Kyle Higashioka has proven that he’s the starting catcher as his OPS is still well over 1.000 with pitchers having a sub-2.00 ERA with him catching. The Yankees have allowed just one run in Higashioka’s last 36 innings caught, and his last three starts have been shutouts for the opponent.

However, the Yankees are going to have to put their improved play to the test. New York has a tough stretch ahead, beginning with a three-game set against the Astros on Tuesday. Houston makes their first trip to the Bronx since their 2017 cheating allegations, meaning the Yankee Stadium crown should be a little extra rowdy. The Astros have won 8 of their last 11 and are one of the few AL teams firing on all cylinders.

Following the Astros is the team who beat them in the 2019 World Series: The Washington Nationals. The Nats come to the Bronx for the first time since 2018 and are atop the NL East after a sweep of the Miami Marlins. After the Nationals are the pesky Tampa Bay Rays, who have taken 18 of their last 23 games against the Yankees.

The Yankees have a tough stretch ahead and are going to need to play their best baseball to keep winning games. It’s no longer the Orioles and Tigers who they are playing as quality teams lie ahead, and the Yankees need wins to cut into Boston’s divisional lead more.