New York Yankees: What will Tyler Wade’s role look like in 2021?

New York Yankees, Tyler Wade

Since his debut in 2017, Tyler Wade has been a household name for the New York Yankees. Although he’s seen his fair share of struggles, he’s managed to find himself on the Yankees roster for at least parts of last four seasons, even seeing action in 52 of 60 games in 2020. What will his role look like in 2021?

Wade’s 2021 role is highly dependent on whether the Yankees re-sign DJ LeMahieu, and whether they acquire someone like Francisco Lindor. If neither of those happen, there’s a chance he could start games unless the team manages to sign someone else.

However, the chances of Wade becoming a starting middle-infielder are slim to none, but that would be the best case scenario for him. The most realistic scenario for him is if the Yankees keep the same starting infield as they did in 2020. That would make him the back-up middle infielder, getting occasional starts. He’d have a similar role if the team acquires Lindor but fails to retain LeMahieu.

In those scenarios, we’d likely see him the most in late game scenarios. Wade is one of the fastest players in all of baseball, making him a valuable option as a pinch-runner. Additionally, we could see Wade as a defensive replacement for Gleyber Torres. Wade’s 0.2 dWar is better than Torres’s at -0.3, as Torres isn’t a natural shortstop unlike Wade.

Wade is also very versatile, as his abilities allow him to play second-base, third-base, and all three outfield positions in addition to shortstop.

If the Yankees re-sign LeMahieu and manage to land Francisco Lindor, his role would likely shrink. Gio Urshela would play third, Lindor would take shortstop, Torres would slide back to second with LeMahieu moving over to first. Lindor and LeMahieu are workhorses, and rarely miss any games. Urshela and Torres do occasionally get injured, but when they are healthy, they don’t need much rest.

With a more well-rounded infield, Wade’s situational appearances along with starts would shrink.

Regardless of how the Yankees organize their infield, Tyler Wade is likely to see some time on the field in 2021. The moves they make will depend on how much he plays, but he should be a roster lock next season.

 

New York Yankees: Does Domingo German deserve a second chance?

New York Yankees, Domingo German

With the MLB off-season now in full-swing, the New York Yankees have yet to make any significant moves. They declined a couple options (Brett Gardner and JA Happ), and added a few players to their 40-man roster. However, the team is expected to make some big decisions this winter regarding their starting rotation.

In addition to Happ, incumbent starters Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are free-agents. Both players careers in pinstripes are at risk, as the Yankees have some serious talent in-house. Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, and Clarke Schmidt are all young stars with high ceilings looking for a starting spot. They have Gerrit Cole locked up for eight more years, and will have Luis Severino off the IL towards the middle of the season.

The other pitcher in the picture is Domingo German. After seeing brief stints in 2017 and 2018, he had the opportunity to start games in 2019 and took full advantage of it. He pitched to an 18-4 record with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.147 WHIP, striking out 153 over 143 innings.

However, German’s impressive 2019 season came to a halt when a domestic abuse case against his wife surfaced, suspending him through the 2020 season.

A lot of teams would move on from a pitcher like that right away, but over a year later, he’s still a member of the Yankees. Does he deserve a second chance?

According to NorthJersey.com, German donated to domestic assault non-profits and completed a MLB associated training and evaluation since the incident. He accepts full responsibility for the incident and no charges resulted from the incident.

On the baseball side of things, German has been playing in the Dominican Republic winter league along with teammates Gary Sanchez and Miguel Andujar. He pitched four no-hit innings in his first start, while tossing five, one-run innings his second start.

It all seems like positive news for Domingo German. But the question is, do the Yankees trust him enough to bring him back?

New York Yankees: Buck Showalter recommends that the rotation should “go young”

New York Yankees, Deivi Garcia

On YES Network’s “Hot Stove”, analyst Buck Showalter suggested that the New York Yankees rotation should “go young”. The Yankees rotation is in a roster turnover, with many of their arms from 2020 hitting the free agency market this winter. They could choose to go to free agency to staff the rotation, or focus on in-house options.

Some of those in-house options include Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, and Clarke Schmidt. All three of these guys have had opportunities in the majors, with Montgomery being on the roster since 2017.

Montgomery pitched to a 9-7 in 2017, his rookie season. He had a 3.88 ERA 144 strikeouts and a 1.230 WHIP over 155.1 innings, finishing sixth in Rookie of the Year voting.

He would make six starts in 2018 before injuring his arm and being forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, sidelining him until the end of the 2019 season. Montgomery appeared twice leading up to the 2019 postseason to shake-off the rust, beginning his 2020 comeback.

His first full-season back saw him finish with a 2-3 record and a 5.11 ERA in 10 starts, slowly returning back to his normal self and showing glimmers of success.

Garcia and Schmidt, on the other hand, have far less experience. While Garcia made six starts in 2020, Schmidt appeared just three times. Garcia posted a 4.98 ERA, while Schmidt held a 7.11 ERA to his name.

If the Yankees were to focus on in-house options filling the rotation, it would be a high risk, high reward scenario. The team would save a lot of money by pitching young guys who have a lot of potential. On the other hand, the Yankees are one of the best teams in all of baseball, and not going after veterans could hurt their postseason chances.

Veterans provide experience with proven talent, something you won’t see in young pitchers. For the Yankees to have the most success, they may be better off mixing in-house guys with veteran free-agents.

Showalter’s proposal of the Yankees rotation going young sounds like a good idea, but won’t work. With how competitive the Yankees are, the can’t afford to stay away from high-profile, proven veterans. Having a mix of young pitchers may help the team, but focusing solely on young-guns will hurt the Yankees.

New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox to meet in 2021 “Field of Dreams” game

Major League Baseball announced in a press release on Monday that the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox will meet in the 2021 “Field of Dreams” game in Dyersville, Iowa. The game had been scheduled for the 2020 season between the two teams, but the matchup was postponed due to COVID-19.

In the release, the MLB stated that “plans will remain contingent upon the status of public health next summer, and the feasibility of ticket availability will be evaluated in the months ahead.”

An 8,000 seat temporary ballpark will play host the game in the cornfields of Iowa, where the movie Field of Dreams took place. The stadium finished construction last year, but was reportedly torn down after the cancelation of last year’s game.

The matchup between the two teams will take place on Thursday, August 12th, 2021 while televised nationally on FOX.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: What we don’t know about the 2021 season could fill volumes

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Boone

The New York Yankees, like all MLB teams, will go into the 2021 season with many unknowns. The only thing we know is that we know nothing! After a spring training cut short, a summer camp, and a season reduced to just 60 games, what effect will that have on pitchers and players as we advance into the 2021 season? It will be most difficult for pitchers to go into the season not having a regular routine for the past 16 months.

Getting away from players for a moment. How do you plan for a season that you aren’t sure will even take place?  The coronavirus right now is ravaging the country unchecked and doesn’t appear to be relenting. It appears that a vaccine is in the future, but will it be available widespread in time for spring training? Many experts say no. The average person may not be able to go through the two shots by July 4th. It may be over 90% effective, but without long term trials, we really have no guarantee that will be true, and if it is, how long immunity will last.

With so many health questions to be answered, it will be difficult for strength and conditioning coaches to plan to have players ready, particularly pitchers.  Last year, Eric Cressey was hired by Brian Cashman to be the New York Yankees director of performance (including all facets of conditioning), gets it. Cressey is a coach for Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu, along with seven Cy Young Award-winning pitchers.

“Because these athletes are so competitive and care so much, they tried to maintain their best throwing programs,” says Cressey. “But while the innings are a way to see what we’re encountering from one year to the next, we really don’t know how much serious throwing each pitcher did between the March shutdown and the July reopening. I know of pitchers who bought pitching mounds and threw off of them. I know one pitcher who bought a mound, set up a screen and threw into the screen as if it were a game. I have a feeling that’s one of the reasons there were so many injuries. Now we don’t know how much each pitcher really threw from February to October.

“So,” Cressey advises, “be prepared to calibrate and recalibrate several times in the next few months. The industry cannot afford a rash of injuries.”

Another consideration is the bullpen; baseball managers won’t be able to use the bullpen like they did this season if we do, in fact have a 162 game season upcoming. The bullpens will be burnt out before the All-Star break, here again, if there is one. The means that pitching coaches will have to condition their starters to go much deeper into games, risking even more injuries.

“Most teams will probably go into the spring with caution,” says Yankee pitching coach Matt Blake. “We all will probably have to make adjustments. We have to be prepared for injuries, hopefully minor. But that is going to entail developing a lot of starting depth.”

For hitters, it is less of a problem as they can ramp up more quickly. But considering what happened this year in spring training with Severino, Paxton, Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez, the Yankees will have no idea what shape players will be after only playing 60 games this year. After so little work this season, it is not out of the question that all teams may face more injuries than ever as they go deeper into the 2021 baseball season. For the New York Yankees, that’s hard to imagine having so many injury-prone players.

The other aspect of what to expect for the 2021 season is what actions the teams will take with free agents during this offseason. How much will they be willing to give up, and how much money they will spend on players that may or may not play a 162 season. This is especially true of the New York Yankees, who lost more money than any other team this past season.

So, what we do know is that we know little about what the 2021 season will bring. We also know it will have a dramatic effect on this offseason. Although the hot stove is heating up, most decision-makers will likely not make many decisions early, waiting to get a clearer picture of what 2021 might hold later in the offseason.

 

 

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Could Javier Baez be a trade target?

New York Yankees

With the MLB offseason now in full swing, trade rumors are continuing to swirl around the New York Yankees. One of the biggest rumors entails the possibility of Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor coming over to New York. However, another rumor beginning to develop is that Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez could be on the trading block with the Yankees as a potential destination.

The Cubs have struggled to advance in the postseason over the past few seasons, and may be headed into a minor rebuild. On Tuesday, Cubs GM Theo Epstein stepped down, hinting that more changes within the organization could come.

Baez, 27, has spent his entire career with the Cubs. He was drafted 9th overall in the 2011 draft, directly out of high school. He rose through the ranks of the minor league relatively quickly, and made his MLB debut in August of 2014. He struggled that year, batting .169 in 52 games.

Baez would spend most of the 2015 season in AAA, but made the most of his time in the MLB. In 28 games, he hit .289 with one home run, four runs batted in, and .733 OPS.

It wouldn’t be until 2016 when Baez would finally hit his stride. In the season of the Cubs’ World Series run, Baez bat .273 with 14 home runs, 59 RBIs, and a .737 OPS.

He’d improve each year, and found himself as a 2018 MVP finalist. Baez would bat .290 with 34 home runs and a league leading 111 RBIs. He had an .881 OPS with a 129 OPS+, winning a Silver Slugger award.

Baez saw some IL time in 2019, but put up similar numbers. He made it to the all-star game for the second time in as many years, but failed to rank in MVP voting.

Unfortunately for Baez, 2020 was a step backwards for him. He never really got it going, batting just .203 with a sub-.600 OPS. However, with the shortened season, it doesn’t mean much. Baez is still a phenomenal player with a high ceiling.

If the Yankees could get Baez without giving up a whole lot, it would be an enormous acquisition for the team. It’d allow Gleyber Torres to shift back to second-base, and DJ LeMahieu could slide over to first if re-signed.

The 2021 season is a contract year for Baez, and he could be looking for a new home before he becomes a free agent.

New York Yankees: Gio Urshela has proven he belongs

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

After opportunities with the Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Blue Jays, Gio Urshela was shipped off to the New York Yankees for cash considerations. Little did those teams know that Urshela would turn into a star in New York.

The Yankees started off the 2019 season injury-plagued, and it included third-baseman Miguel Andujar going on the IL. They turned to Urshela in mid-April, and he immediately made a massive impact. He hit .345 in April with one home run, six runs batted in, and a .909 OPS.

Urshela’s hot April led to him batting .314 on the season with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs. He added an .889 OPS and 132 OPS+.

Since he hadn’t ever had that good of a season before, many people figured his success was a fluke. He’d always been known as a defensive player, but never held an average above .233 before.

In 2020, he proved the haters wrong.

Playing 43 games in the COVID-19 shortened season, Urshela bat .298 with 6 home runs and 30 RBIs. He added an .858 OPS as well as a 136 OPS+. Urshela also provided heroics, hitting a grand slam in game two of the Wild Card Series to send the Yankees to the ALDS. Additionally, he was a Gold Glove award finalist at third-base.

With his fantastic play over the past two seasons, Urshela has proven that he’s no fluke. His play has put Miguel Andujar out of a job. Right now, Andujar is playing in the Dominican Republic to try and get his game back on track. But, Urshela may have played Andujar out of New York.

Hopefully, Urshela will continue to be the Yankees third-baseman for a long time and keep up his strong performance.

New York Yankees: Can Mike Ford have a role in 2021?

New York Yankees, Mike Ford

New York Yankees first-baseman Mike Ford had a breakout 2019 season. He hit .259 with 12 home runs and 25 RBIs in his first major-league season, adding a .909 OPS. However, 2020 was a completely different story, finding himself at the alternate site at times. With the Yankees potentially adding multiple infielders this off-season, it leads questions as to whether Ford will have a role on the team in 2021.

Potential Reinforcements

Mike Ford provides a lefty spark off the bench, but may not be an option down the road. He struggles against righties with just a .205 average and his defense lacks.

That being said, the Yankees are looking to add infielders this off-season. The main priority is to retain DJ LeMahieu, but are also in the mix to trade for Francisco Lindor and to sign other free agents, such as Andrelton Simmons or Tommy La Stella.

If the Yankees were to re-sign LeMahieu and acquire one more infielder, it could potentially risk Ford being out of a spot. It could potentially also put current first-baseman Luke Voit out of a spot if LeMahieu were to move over to first-base.

But, since Ford is a lefty, it could help his case for staying if LeMahieu switches to first. There’s almost a greater chance that Ford stays over Voit in many situations, as lefty power is very valuable, especially at Yankee Stadium.

If the Yankees can return Mike Ford back to 2019 form, there’s a very real chance that he keeps a role with the Yankees. Him being a lefty helps his chances of staying in New York.

MLB News/Rumors: Did Shane Bieber or Trevor Bauer cheat their way to Cy Young Awards? (video)

MLB has gotten through with a truly unusual baseball season beset by the coronavirus. But the teams went through it mostly untouched all the way to the World Series, and it is now the offseason, and the season’s awards are being given out. Last night Trevor Bauer of the National League and Shane Bieber of the American League won the Cy Young Awards for both leagues. But could they have cheated during the season to achieve those awards? I’m not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole. I will leave that up to you to decide.

If either of them did cheat, it was probably using different types of foreign substances to increase the spin rate and ball movement. I should add that if they did, they most likely didn’t do anything that nearly every other pitcher in baseball didn’t do at some point in the season. The use of foreign substances by pitchers is widespread and nearly unenforceable.

Trevor Bauer is well known for speaking his mind and often controversially so. Bauer has been very upfront about experimenting with tar-like substances. The fact is that using tar-like substances or “grip enhancement” is illegal in baseball  and violates Official Baseball Rule 6.02, which states that the pitcher may not “apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball” or “have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance” or “attach anything to his hand, any finger, or either wrist.” The paradox is that some coaches believe that 99.9% of pitchers use something.

Your favorite pitcher most likely is using something. One player development executive said, “it’s better than steroids.” Trevor Bauer actually did a very public demonstration of how grip enhancement improved spin rate during an inning when he was with the Cleveland Indians.

In 2018 Bauer took to Twitter to accuse Gerrit Cole who is now with the New York Yankees of using grip enhancement substances.

Bauer took to Twitter insinuating Gerrit Cole and his fellow Astros pitchers are using foreign substances to enhance their grips and, thus, enjoying increased spin rates as a result.

“For eight years I’ve been trying to figure out how to increase the spin on my fastball because I’d identified it way back then as such a massive advantage,” Bauer himself wrote in a piece for The Players’ Tribune. “I knew that if I could learn to increase it through training and technique, it would be huge. But eight years later, I haven’t found any other way except using foreign substances.”

“I’ve tested all sorts of different stuff in the lab up at Driveline,” Bauer told Jordan Bastian in 2018. “I sat down with a chemical engineer to understand it. At 70 mph, when we were doing the tests, spin rates jumped between 300-400 rpm while using various different sticky substances. The effect is slightly less pronounced at higher velocities — more game-like velocities — but still between 200-300 rpm increase. So, that’s a lot of the research we’ve done. We’ve done it with multiple test subjects. … And those are the results we found.”

This may be the first time Gerrit Cole was accused of using a substance, in 2020 after the New York Yankees acquired Cole, in a doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays, Cole looked like the ace the Yanks were looking for, striking out 10 batters through 4.2 innings of work. Then, as the ace labored through the 5th inning, remote video editor for Driveline Baseball Lance Brozdowski dropped a gem on the Twitterverse (above). As Cole adjusted his cap on the mound, his fingers seem to stick to the bill of his cap, leaving us wondering why? The obvious answer is that Cole was using an illegal sticky substance.

The sticky substance situation is not like the steroid use situation over a decade ago. During that mark on baseball, some or many hitters and pitchers were using steroids to disadvantage those that weren’t. This situation is a case were not only many, but most pitchers are breaking the rules. And because the situation is so unenforceable due to the multiple applications used, including sunscreen, some have suggested that it be made legal, ending the rule-breaking.

There is no question that the “sticky ball” is putting hitters at a disadvantage. Strikeout rates across baseball have increased dramatically since 1974. When facing fastballs where the spin rate is so important, hitters were striking out 13% of the time; this year the strikeout rate has risen to just over 23%.

Although player development people, coaches, and even team managers have acknowledged the use of enhanced grip aids, no one is doing anything about it. Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has admitted that some of his pitchers have used substances. The only way to enforce non-use is for the umpire to check the pitcher each game, each inning, and each thrown pitch, that is just not practical. Game managers don’t want to alert the umpire that the opponent’s pitcher may be using something because they know turns about is fair play, so they just stay quiet.

Not a single case in the 2020 season was a pitcher called out for using illegal substances. It is only when it becomes obvious, such as when the New York Yankees’ Michael Pineda practically covered the entire side of his neck in pine tar in a 2014 game or when the Orioles’ Brian Matusz was caught with a foreign substance on his arm in Miami in 2015, that MLB acts.

Possibly the most surprising thing is that many or most hitters are okay with it. They understand that the balls after being ruffed up by umpires are very slippery; slippery balls cause wild pitches and lack of control. Basically hitters would rather see pitchers use something to get a better grip on the ball so they don’t get hit in the head by a pitcher, that has a lack of control, and if most or all pitchers are using it doesn’t put any team at a disadvantage.  Brice Harper of the Phillies has said:

“Absolutely,” Harper says. “I’m all in favor of it. If there’s a guy out there that needs it, I’m all for it. I don’t want to get hit in the head or the face. So whatever they need out there, I’ll let them have it.”

However, all hitters are not in agreement with Harper. The New York Met’s Todd Frazier has this to say:

“I don’t like pitchers to put anything on the ball,” New York Mets third baseman Todd Frazier says. “To be honest with you, I think it helps them out in the long run. That’s why [baseballs] get rubbed up before the game. You don’t know exactly what the pitchers are using. You don’t know where they’re putting it. You’ve seen guys with it on their hat, you’ve seen guys rubbing their arms to get some stickum, you’ve seen guys with it on their cleats.”

Regardless of how many in baseball are talking about this issue, it seems that Trevor Bauer has been most articulate in the subject. During the Astros fiasco last season, during an interview, Bauer in part said this:

“There is a problem in baseball right now that has to do with sticky substances and spin rates. We might not have had the technology before to measure how sticky stuff affects the ball, how it spins, how it moves. But, all that research is clear now. We know how it affects spin rate and we know how spin rate affects outcomes and pitches and movements that have a big difference in a game, a season and each individual player’s career.”

In the same interview, he was asked what Major League Baseball should do about the use of sticky substances. This is how he answered:

“Allow it. I don’t see that there’s a way to enforce it, because you can’t go check a pitcher every single inning, every single pitch, and that’s currently how it is. You can get thrown out of a game and suspended for it if an umpire comes out and checks and finds out. But, it doesn’t happen. So, pick a substance that’s sticky, that gives you all the performance benefits, and just put it on the back of the mound. That way, if you want to use it you can and everybody knows it’s being used. And, if you want to use other substances and skirt the rule, whatever. Have a certain amount of outlawed substances — vaseline or whatever. But, if you want to use sticky stuff, it’s right there on the mound. Put your fingers on it and throw.”

Indians manager Terry Francona echoed nearly the same thing in his own way when interviewed about the subject.

“I actually do. I think we were one of the test teams this spring with the other ball. Anybody, the guys that are here all the time, like in Spring Training we talk about it, if you ever open a ball that the Japanese League uses, they pull it right out of the foil and it’s real tacky. Supple, is probably a good word. I know sometimes when I will take a ball from a pitcher and give it to the next guy, it feels like a cue ball sometime. Not all the time, but sometimes. I was just so impressed when you pull that ball out of a box, you can grab it. I think there’s something to that. I hope, and I don’t know the ins and outs of — I just hope that at some point, maybe we can morph into that, because I think maybe it could be really helpful.”

With all the things Major League Baseball is going to have to navigate this offseason when they don’t know what a 2021 season is going to look like, with the coronavirus spiraling out of control, it is doubtful that any action will be taken regarding grip enhancements or the stopping of rubbed up balls. However, in this writer’s opinion, it should be made legal, so all pitchers and hitter are on the same page.

The bottom line on this subject is these and other types of grip enhancements have been used forever in baseball. MLB outlawed the “spitball” in 1920. Two of the best pitchers in baseball Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry were widely known for using substances. As with everything in our lives, we constantly try to improve things through innovation and technology. Baseball grip enhancement is no different.

Some information and quotes for the article were taken from an in-depth article by Jordan Bastian of MLB.com and Eno Sarris of The Athletic and other researched sources.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

 

New York Yankees’ LeMahieu finalist for tonight’s AL MVP reveal

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

Tonight, the MLB Network in collaboration with the BBWAA will release the winner of the AL MVP. DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees is a finalist, but is facing some tough competition for the award. Meet the three finalists:

DJ LeMahieu

DJ LeMahieu’s second season in pinstripes was a stellar one. After finishing fourth in 2019 MVP voting, LeMahieu would like to follow it up by winning the award in 2020.

In 195 at-bats, LeMahieu bat .364, winning the league batting title. He hit 10 home runs and drove in 27. Additionally, his OPS was a whopping 1.011 with an OPS+ of 177. LeMahieu also won the AL second-base Silver Slugger award for the second consecutive season.

José Abreu

Jose Abreu’s stellar 2020 season helped his Chicago White Sox squad capture their first postseason birth in 12 years.

Over 240 at-bats, Abreu drove in 60 and slugged 19 home home runs, finishing first and second across the majors, respectively. He hit .317 and had a .987 OPS with a 166 OPS+. As expected, he also won a Silver Slugger award, but for firs-base.

José Ramirez

After a rough 2019 season, Jose Ramirez bounced back nicely and has found himself as an MVP award finalist.

Ramirez bat .292 with 17 homers and 46 runs batted in over 219 at-bats. He added a .993 OPS with a 163 OPS+. Additionally, Ramirez swiped 10 bags and led the AL in runs scored. Like the other two candidates, Ramirez won a Silver Slugger award for his spectacular season.

This year’s AL MVP race is wide-open, and it wouldn’t really be a surprise if any of the three candidates won. However, according to stats, it seems as if LeMahieu and Abreu have a slight advantage over Ramirez.

Regardless of the outcome, all three players had phenomenal seasons and deserve recognition for it.