New York Yankees: Four prospects to watch as Minor League Baseball begins

New York Yankees, Austin Wells

After taking the 2020 season off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minor League Baseball is finally set to resume play. In the 18+ months since the last MiLB action, the entire farm system structure has changed, including a few affiliates being swapped for the New York Yankees. Scranton remains the Triple-A affiliate for the team, however, the Double-A affiliate is now the Somerset Patriots. Tampa has dropped down to Low-A, while the Hudson Valley Renegades have filled their spot as the High-A affiliate.

With Minor League Baseball resuming, that means that there will be plenty of prospects to keep an eye on throughout the season. Here is one prospect to watch for on each Yankees’ affiliate.

Low-A: Austin Wells (C)

2021 1st round draft pick Austin Wells will make his minor league debut with the Tampa Tarpons this week. Wells, 21, impressed throughout Spring Training and is a likely candidate to replace Gary Sanchez in the future.

That being said, Wells’s progression is something to keep an eye on throughout the season. If Wells performs well in 2021, he could potentially make it to Double-A come September, putting him in a position where he could be MLB ready by the end of the 2022 or the beginning of 2023.

High-A: Luis Medina (RHP)

Ranked 7th in the Yankees orgamization, Luis Medina is looking for a breakout season in the minors in 2021. He struggled in 2018 and 2019 in A-Ball, however, he’s two years older now and has had a ton of time to develop. The Yankees are very high on him and he could be an arm in the MLB rotation in a few seasons.

With prospects Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia already proving themselves as MLB quality pitchers, Medina is essentially the No. 2 pitching prospect in the organization, only behind Luis Gil. If Medina starts off strong in 2021, he could quickly see a promotion to Double-A.

Double-A: Estevan Florial (CF)

Despite making his MLB debut in 2020, Estevan Florial finds himself in Double-A to begin the 2021 season. Currently the Yankees No. 2 outfield prospect behind Jasson Dominguez, Florial could potentially be an impact player for the Yankees this season. The team hasn’t had much production out of outfielders Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner, meaning Florial could potentially be in the mix.

If Florial were to make the MLB roster at some point, a strong performance for him is key to his Yankee future. With Dominguez likely MLB ready in 2023, Florial would like to show that he belongs on the Yankees’ roster and that Dominguez’s route to the majors isn’t as easy as it’s hyped to be.

Triple-A: Deivi Garcia (RP)

Picking Deivi Garcia as the player to watch for this season in Triple-A is a difficult one. Many players on the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Railriders are either MLB veterans or lower-ranked prospects who have already made MLB appearances. However, with the expectation that Garcia will start games next season with the Yankees, we’ll go with Garcia.

2021 will likely see Garcia jump back-and-forth between the Triple-A and MLB roster, but he should hopefully get 25ish starts between the two teams. If Garcia can succeed at both levels this season, then it’ll put him in great shape to have a permanent MLB roster spot in 2022.

Mets Offense Hits New Low and Wastes deGrom’s Start in 1-0 Loss

Just when you think the New York Mets offense cannot get any worse, they laugh in your face and waste another three hours of your time. To make matters worse, they wasted another terrific start from Jacob deGrom to allow the Boston Red Sox to steal a 1-0 victory.

By no means should this discredit the great Red Sox pitching but every hitter in the lineup looks like they barely belong at the big league level. From the flailing swings to barely hitting the ball out of the infield, it looks like deGrom is pitching against them every night. Red Sox pitching held the Mets to just two hits after their best scoring opportunity in the first inning.

Nick Pivetta struggled with walks to start the season and continued the trend by walking Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor to start the game. In usual fashion, the following three batters all made outs without driving in a run. For the rest of the game, they were lucky to put the bat on the ball. Pivetta hurled five, one-hit innings with seven strikeouts. Garrett Whitlock followed with a very impressive two innings and struck out four. Adam Ottavino made it look easy in the eighth, and Matt Barnes struck out the side in the ninth to put the Mets to bed.

Same Old S…..

deGrom relived the nightmare scenario he has become so accustomed to. He was not at his best but still managed to strike out nine in six innings and hold the Red Sox to one run. Unfortunately, deGrom was just as cold as the rest of the offense as he went 0-for-2. Lately, the rest of the pitching staff has gotten the same treatment, and at some point, it needs to end.

From the beginning, it looks like the Mets are a team lacking the energy needed to win. It makes it tough to get going when Lindor cannot get himself going either. The Mets will move how he does, and as long as he remains cold, the rest of the team will. There may be the light at the end of the tunnel as Lindor lined out on a terrific leaping play by Marwin Gonzalez in his last at-bat. Hopefully, this is something Lindor can build upon as he moves forward.

After an off-day Thursday, the Mets head to Philadelphia to begin a three-game weekend series with the Phillies. Marcus Stroman will face off against Chase Anderson in game one of the series from Citizens Bank Park.

 

 

Mets Game Preview: (4/22/21) @ Chicago Cubs (8-9)

New York Mets, Luis Rojas

The New York Mets look to rebound from their 16-4 loss against the Chicago Cubs and take the final game of the three-game series at Wrigley Field. After making four errors on Wednesday, manager Luis Rojas opts to add defense into the lineup for Thursday night’s game.

Luis Guillorme takes over the leadoff spot as Brandon Nimmo is still nursing a hip injury. Guillorme also gets the start at third base, which is a major upgrade from the defense of J.D. Davis. Jeff McNeil also gets a night off for the switch-hitting Jonathan Villar, who is playing second base. With Kevin Pillar in center field, this is a major upgrade for their team defense, especially with a contact pitcher on the mound.

The Mets also made a move before the game to bring up Sean Reid-Foley and send Trevor Hildenberger to the alternate site. Hildenberger allowed a grand slam to Javier Baez during last night’s loss. We should not expect to see Reid-Foley unless another blowout occurs in tonight’s game.

Pitching Matchups

Joey Lucchesi makes his second start with the Mets after a bumpy first start in Colorado. Lucchesi allowed three runs in the same amount of innings and was limited in the number of pitches he was allowed to throw. After burning through their bullpen in the first two games, Lucchesi should get more of a leash from Rojas tonight.

Trevor Williams takes the mound for the Cubs and has sandwiched one bad start between two good ones. He held the Atlanta Braves to just one run in five innings pitched and worked around seven base runners. Williams comes into the night with a 5.02 ERA in 14.1 innings during the young season.

Matchups To Lookout For

Joey Lucchesi vs. Javier Baez: 5-for-6 (.833), 2 Doubles, 2 Home Runs

Joey Lucchesi vs. David Bote: 4-for-5 (.800), 2 Doubles, Strikeout

Trevor Williams vs. Michael Conforto: 4-for-11 (.364), Double, Home Run, Walk, Strikeout

Yankees: Good news and bad news in disappointing loss to Toronto

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

The New York Yankees have started off the 2021 season by failing to produce in categories they normally dominate in. For example, they have only hit 13 home runs, while the Cincinnati Reds have hit 20 and ranked first in the MLB. Normally, the Yankees get off to a hard start, especially with the long ball, which is a big part of their run production.

However, the starting pitching has also been problematic, as Corey Kluber gave up three earned runs and two homers over just four innings of work on Wednesday afternoon. He currently hosts a 6.10 ERA, and while the bullpen has been solid for the most part, Chad Green blew a tie game in the ninth inning, allowing a walk-off home run by Bo Bichette.

Good news and bad news for the Yankees:

The Yankees have a long road ahead of them to break out of this current funk, but there are a few positives to harp on, including Aaron Judge hitting two home runs against Toronto in the loss. He is currently hitting .308 on the season. He was the only Yankee to have more than one hit on the afternoon, he simply can’t win games alone, despite his best efforts.

The only other Yankees to get on base via a hit were Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez. Currently, the batting order is inconsistent, as the Yankees miss the presence of Luke Voit at first base. Bruce has been a liability defensively and has been awful in the batter’s box, striking out twice in the defeat.

Aaron Judge said it best, the Yankees’ situational hitting is awful, and it’s something they need to work on together.

“Just inconsistent. That’s the word that I keep coming back to,” Judge said after the game. “Just not consistently having quality at-bats, putting the ball in play when we need to, situational hitting. Tie all that together and it isn’t a good recipe.”

Despite Judge earning his second three-hit performance of the season, the offense is flat, and the defense has been inconsistent as well. Torres remains a liability at shortstop, and Jay Bruce has had his fair share of struggles filling it at first base. Add in Clint Frazier and his inability to hit lately, and the Yankees have a recipe for disaster.

Stroman’s Six Shutout Innings Leads Mets to 4-0 Victory Over Phillies

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

The New York Mets carried over the momentum from their walk-off win in game one to a 4-0 victory and a doubleheader sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies. Marcus Stroman was a man on a mission after his nine-pitch, rain ruined cameo on Sunday against the Miami Marlins. Stroman pitched six shutout innings but did not get the opportunity to finish the game after spending an extended period of time on the bases.

Stroman did not record as many groundouts as he did in his first start but barely allowed any hard contact. He struck out just three but did a tremendous job of pinpointing his sinker on the inside corner to right-handed hitters. Stroman also had impeccable control with no walks, and only two three-ball counts. In 12 innings to start the season, Stroman has allowed just one run equaling a 0.75 ERA.

Nola? No Problem

The Mets offense gave Phillies starter Aaron Nola fits again but this time managed to drive in the runners they put on base. All the scoring against Nola came in the fourth inning from Jonathan Villar‘s two-run double and Brandon Nimmo‘s first of two RBI singles. Nimmo recorded another two hits in the game to push his average above .400 and his on-base percentage over .500. On the other hand, Nola did strike out seven in five innings but allowed seven hits. His velocity also dipped from 91-92 to 89-90 during his second time through the order.

Believe it or not, the doubleheader sweep pushes the Mets into a first-place tie in the NL East. It certainly is a change in the feeling over the last 48 hours for Mets fans. It is a lesson to the pessimistic Mets fans who were already flailing in disappointment before they even put a digit in the tens column for games played. The Mets also went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position, moving their average in those situations to a respectable number.

The Mets face a familiar foe in Zack Wheeler for the third game of their four-game series. David Peterson looked to rebound from an awful first start of the season against the Phillies, where he allowed six runs in a losing effort. The first pitch from Citi Field is the usual 7:10 p.m. ET start.

New York Yankees: Jordan Montgomery on the hill in an important series finale with the Tampa Bay Rays

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

After losing the first two contests with the Tampa Bay Rays 10-5 and 4-0, the New York Yankees look to salvage the series on Sunday at Tropicana Field. The Yankees plan to start Jordan Montgomery in the finale after coming off one of his best career starts as the team looks to build some early season momentum.

On Monday against the Orioles, Montgomery pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and striking out seven. With exception to Gerrit Cole’s start against the Orioles, Montgomery’s outing was the best of all pitchers through the Yankees’ first eight games.

New York could very much use another strong outing from Montgomery on Sunday. The Yankees have used their bullpen for 9.2 innings through two games against the Rays, and could use a lengthy start from their lefty to rest relievers for the impending Blue Jays series.

Another good start from Montgomery could be what gets the Yankees finally firing on all cylinders. The team looks lost through eight games as they’ve struggled to get consistent hitting and timely pitching. A win could build momentum for the Yankees in the midst of their six game road trip.

However, a loss for New York would put the team at 3-6 on the season. It’s certainly very early in the season and the team will have plenty of time to recover, but you never want to fall into an early hole. Also, a win on Sunday turns the rotation over to Gerrit Cole for Monday’s opener against the Blue Jays. Pitching to a win the day before your ace pitches is often a big booster for team morale.

With a sweep looming, Sunday’s game is an important one for the Yankees. The team could use a strong start from Montgomery to gain momentum and turn their early season misfortunes around.

Mets, Steve Cohen excited for tonight’s season opener

Days after the team was supposed to open their season in Washington, the New York Mets are finally set to hit the field against the Phillies. The series in Philidephia will mark the beginning of a season in which the team has some fairly high expectations.

Newly acquired shortstop Francisco Lindor recently signed a 10-year, $341 million contract extension with the team, keeping him in town for the next decade. The Mets’ owner, Steve Cohen, spoke Monday during a video conference about the possible extension of Michael Conforto as well, among other players.

Cohen was more focused on the team’s goals and expectations for this season, however.

“I’m not going to predict a World Series out of the gate,” Cohen said. “But what I do think is we’re going to be really competitive. I do believe we’re going to make the playoffs, and then once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen, right?”

Fans are excited about this season, and Cohen’s choice of words certainly added to that.

“Everyone’s excited about the Mets this year,” he said. “The outpouring of people – friends, acquaintances and fans – has been extraordinary and they’re all excited. So, that gets me excited too.”

Along with being the first game of the season, the game will also mark Steve Cohen’s first as the owner of the Mets. He acknowledged that he, along with the players, is ready to go.

“I know the players are probably raring to go,” Cohen said. “I’m sure they’re pretty excited to get going… so, let’s get going already. I’m looking forward to tonight.”

New York Yankees: Corey Kluber set to make highly anticipated first start on Saturday

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

It’s finally happening. On Saturday, Corey Kluber makes his highly anticipated debut for the New York Yankees.

After a few seasons of up-and-down performances from the starting rotation, the Yankees needed to find a way to bolster their pitching staff over the winter. They decided to take a flyer on Kluber, a former Cy Young Award winner despite making just eight starts since the beginning of the 2019 season.

His velocity isn’t what it once was, now topping off around 90 mph, but scouts believe his stuff is as good as ever. The Yankees needed experience in their young rotation — a veteran to fill the void of the departing Masahiro Tanaka. And that’s exactly what they got, but the question is, will Kluber pan out the way the team hopes?

We’ll get our first taste of Kluber on Saturday afternoon against a talented Blue Jays squad. Toronto knocked off the Yankees in game one of the season on Thursday, and now it’ll be up to Kluber to put New York in the win column for the first time in 2021.

Kluber pitched relatively well in Spring Training, but his stats are taken with a grain of salt. In four starts, Kluber gave up four earned runs across 13 innings. Not bad, but again, it’s Spring Training. Pitchers are often working on different parts of their game in spring starts, so it’s hard to translate what Kluber did in March to what he’ll do when he climbs the Yankee Stadium mound on Saturday afternoon.

With Deivi Garcia waiting in the wings, 2021 will likely be Kluber’s only in pinstripes. His goal for this season is to stay healthy and give the team quality starts. However, a Cy Young Award caliber season could keep the almost 35-year-old around longer. Kluber’s comeback campaign begins Saturday, and Yankee fans are expecting big things from their No. 2 pitcher.

 

Religion of Sports New “Crushed” Podcast on Baseball’s Steroid Era

Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is set for April 1st, and Religion of Sports has baseball fans covered with a brand new podcast. “Crushed” takes a deep dive into the controversial steroid ERA, the infamous 1998 home run chase, and the lasting legacy.

Longtime sportswriter Joan Niesen hosts the seven-part narrative series. She was one of many people who became enamored with baseball as she watched Mark McGwire break records in her home city of St. Louis. Niesen’s experiences and expertise in baseball brings a very unique voice to a compelling topic. Niesen brings to life the high and lows of a period that changed the game forever.

“It’s been fascinating to dig in deeper to the steroid era and its enduring legacy,” Niesen said. “I’ve learned a lot, and I
think this podcast will help listeners separate the truth of that time from the myths.”

“Crushed” features plenty of notable guests and illustrious names from the era. Former MLB All-Stars Rick Honeycutt and Royce Clayton provide the unique perspective of players who live competed during this period. The chairman of the 2005 Congressional steroid hearings and former U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich joins the series. Roger Maris Jr., of course, the son of former single-season home run record holder Roger Maris, are just a few of the tremendous guests for the series.

“Crushed” is free and available to all listeners on April 1st. Fans can stream all episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can listen to a the trailer for the series here!

New York Yankees: Kyle Higashioka dealing “side soreness”

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka

New York Yankees backup catcher Kyle Higashioka was scratched from Tuesday’s Spring Training game with what the team labeled “side soreness”.

“We didn’t want to mess with anything too much,” Yankees skipper Aaron Boone said.

Although this seems to be nothing serious, this could potentially be an interesting test of the Yankees catching depth. Higashioka has had some oblique issues in the past, so it’s definitely something to watch for.

Robinson Chirinos, who was expected to contend for the back-up catcher spot, is headed to the IL with a wrist injury. Chirinos fractured his wrist when he was hit by a pitch and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Along with Higashioka and Chirinos, Adam Warren (shoulder), Miguel Andujar (hand/wrist), Zack Britton (elbow), and Clarke Schmidt (elbow) are all dealing with injuries.

If Higashioka were to head to the IL, it would take him out of contention for a spot on the Opening Day roster. In that case, the Yankees would likely turn to Rob Brantly, who’s put together a nice Spring Training. He’s gotten hits in three of seven at-bats; two of which were home runs. Brantley has driven in five and has an OPS of 1.786.

Right now, Higashioka doesn’t have a return timeline, but Aaron Boone said that he felt fine. If for some reason Higashioka isn’t okay by Opening Day, the Yankees have Brantly and starting catcher Gary Sanchez to fill the void. Fortunately, things don’t seem to be too serious for Higashioka, and he should be back in the Spring Training lineup soon.