Spring Training 2.0 Has Arrived and The New York Mets Are Back

New York Mets, Pete Alonso

Throughout all of the back and forth of a difficult negotiation, Major League Baseball can finally open up Spring Training 2.0. The New York Mets and their pool of players embark on their restarted journey towards a World Series championship.

There are not many details based on how camp will operate, but health is their priority. Brodie Van Wagenen said the designed workouts keep players as socially distant as possible. Luckily only one player on the 40-man roster tested positive for the COVID-19 and is recovering fine. Holding their Spring Training at Citi Field allows them to train in a safer area compared to the COVID-19 epicenter that Florida has become.

One Field, For 50-Plus Players

The Mets have to make use out of their limited space at Citi Field. Unlike their Port St. Lucie facility, they only have one field to use. Outside of the main field in the stadium, the Mets have four mounds in the bullpens along with the home/away hitting tunnels. Extra mounds could set up in the outfield and foul territory as well. If the Mets needed additional space for pitchers, they could also use the walkways and parking lost of Citi Field as well.

MCU Park in Brooklyn is another option for the Mets to transport players. Any thought of that is just talk right now and would only happen if things became too hectic at Citi Field. The Mets have stayed quiet on the topic of how things will run, but we will get a good idea of it within the first few days. Simulated games could happen as soon as this week for pitchers who were throwing before July 1.

Exhibition games are a tougher question for the Mets. The only local team is the crosstown Yankees, who they will see during the regular season. To prevent extra travel, the Mets might be better off with intersquads before the season beginning.

The top things Mets fans want to see are a healthy Yoenis Cespedes, Dellin Betances, Michael Conforto, and hopefully Jed Lowrie. On the pitching side, there is Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, along with how Edwin Diaz looks in a potential rebound season. Hopefully, the Mets answer most of the questions regarding the restarted Spring Training during day one and if not during week one.

New York Yankees Spring Training Recap 2/24-3/1

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

So the New York Yankees made it through their first full week of Spring Training. While much has been made of Giancarlo Stanton’s calf strain, and Aaron Judge still being bothered by that shoulder/pectoral of his, some good came out of last week.

Montgomery Makes His Case

With the Yankees needing to patch things together in their starting rotation until James Paxton and Domingo German come back in June, there’s added pressure being put on the young potential starters called to Spring Training. Jordan Montgomery is putting himself head and shoulders above the rest.

With 6 K’s over 6 innings pitched, Monty is currently outperforming our $300+ million aces, Gerrit Cole (who has 4 over 4.4 innings pitched).

Yank’s Getting Back to Winning Ways

After dropping the first 2 games of exhibition, it’s cool to see the Yankees fire off 6 straight wins after the draw against the Pirates. While a 6-3-1 record of purely exhibition matches aren’t anything to get too excited about (as exhibition games don’t count toward the 162 game regular season), it’s cool to see this happen after the brew-ha-ha surrounding the ALCS.


Higgy Feeling the Heat?

As I suspected, Kyle Higashioka is floundering this spring. Iannetta, Thole, and Kratz are all outperforming Higashioka this spring, performing better defensively than Higashioka (who does have an error charged against him), and are on base more than Higashioka. The only catcher performing more poorly than Higashioka is projected starting catcher Gary Sanchez.

Now, again, it’s Spring Training. The New York Yankees are not going to be sending Sanchez down to the minors because of a bad spring performance. But someone like Higashioka, a career minor leaguer aspiring to be a backup, maybe feeling the pressure if he can’t turn it around sooner rather than later. Iannetta is currently in possession of the best batting average on the team this spring.

A New Path for Andujar?

Depending on how bad Judge’s shoulder is, the New York Yankees may need to find replacements for BOTH corner outfield spots for some time to start the 2020 campaign. While still getting used to the outfield, Andujar is looking competent in the outfield. And, depending on how bad Stanton’s calf ends up being, and whether or not it is a recurring season-long fiasco, Andujar may see most of his playing time coming out in the left field.

Garcia Looks Good in Spring Performance

Giving up 2 runs in 2 innings pitched against the Braves, Deivi Garcia still looked impressive for someone not legally old enough to drink in the states yet. The battle for the 5th spot in the rotation is sure to heat up over the next couple of weeks. Especially with the rumors about Steven Matz.

Let’s look forward to the next week of games for our boys in pinstripes.

New York Yankees Ask Domingo German to Stay Away From Spring Training

New York Yankees, Domingo German

With the first Spring Training games set to take part next Saturday, one notable face will be missing from the New York Yankees. And that’s suspended pitcher, Domingo German.

German Asked to Stay in the Dominican Republic

In a piece from Brendan Kuty for NJ.com, Aaron Boone was asked about Domingo German:

“I went over there a few weeks ago with a few of our staff members and got to see a few of the guys, and Domingo is one of the guys who came to the complex. I got to see him for the first time since all of this has gone down, and talk to him. The plan is for him not to be here for spring training, as of now. That could change, but right now we’re not planning on him being here.”

I think this is, personally, an intelligent decision by the Yankees. Yes, German hasn’t been convicted of a crime. But the specter of domestic abuse still lingers over German in the court of public opinion. Keeping him at a Yankee facility in the Dominican, where he can get his work in that he’d get in Tampa under surveillance from New York Yankees officials, it’s strictly damage control for the team as they make sure everyone gets on the same page before Opening Day.

When asked about if German would be a distraction in the clubhouse when he comes back, Boone said this:

“Not worried about the distraction part. I think as an organization, we kind of decided for him it’s best for him to be there right now.”

German will be serving the final 63 games of an 81 game suspension when the season begins at the end of March. With a few tune-up games, German should be back on the Yankees late June or early July.

New York Yankees: Key Position Battles for Spring Training

New York Yankees, Tyler Wade

New York Yankees fans can rejoice. Spring training is… well, pretty much here. Pitchers and catchers report today. It’s now interesting to see just how many position battles are brewing before the Spring Training season officially begins. Here’s a quick rundown:

Number 5 Starter

With James Paxton out until May/June, and Happ sliding in for Domingo German until his suspension is over, there’s an opening in the rotation for the next couple of months. Jordan Montgomery is the odds on favorite, but Luis Cessa and Johnathan Loaisiga have a distinct edge. That edge being… they aren’t coming back from Tommy John Surgery. Devi Garcia is also coming to camp for the first time and can make a legitimate claim for the spot, leapfrogging over the three veterans.

Third Base

Rightfully, third base is Gio Urshela’s to lose. However, Miguel Andujar, who will be tried out at several other positions, will have a chance to take it back. His rehab for his labrum tear began in earnest in September and has more on his side than Urshela. Urshela has to prove that his subpar defensive statistics for 2019 were an anomaly and that his offensive output can be maintained throughout the 2020 campaign.

4th Outfielder

Until Aaron Hicks can come back from Tommy John surgery, the likely outfield configuration will be Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, and Giancarlo Stanton. Countless Yankee fans want to see Clint Frazier given his opportunity, that his bat is worth the chance in the outfield. But if he can’t improve his defensive capabilities, why would the Yankees need him? Urshela and Andujar will see some time in the outfield, Tyler Wade can play outfield in a pinch, and you’ll have Stanton, Andujar, Voit, and Sanchez all seeing regular time in the DH slot. Where does Frazier fit in if his defense is just as sloppy as it was in 2019?

Backup Catcher

The Yankees have been STOCKPILING on backup catchers in the past few months. This is after Brian Cashman admitted that he’d be comfortable with Kyle Higashioka as the backup after Austin Romine left for the Detroit Tigers. You just signed 3 veteran catchers, all of whom could easily be backups for Gary Sanchez. If they REALLY were feeling comfortable with Higashioka at the backup role, you wouldn’t go out of your way to sign three catchers. I am seriously beginning to question if Higashioka will make it out of Tampa.

These are just some of the position battles to keep an eye on as Spring Training progresses. New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka feels Astros cheated them out of World Series

New York Mets prepare for spring training as Marte comes off the market

New York Mets interested in trading for Starling Marte.

The New York Mets will have to look elsewhere to improve their outfield as the Pittsburgh Pirates trade outfielder Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks in exchange for top prospects Brennan Malone and Liover Peguero.

The Mets and Pirates have been discussing a trade that circled around Marte for Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo. When reports came out Mets fans were not happy about the news, considering Nimmo has become a fan favorite in Flushing.

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen came out Friday to comment on the rumors of a possible Marte deal. “I don’t see a deal that is going to disrupt that environment and there is an opportunity to continue to improve our roster we’ll explore it, but our aggressiveness right now is focusing on getting ready for spring training with the players that we have.”

Marte, 31, is coming a season hitting .295 with a career-high 23 home runs and 83 RBIs. Mets seemed interested in acquiring Marte but perhaps the asking price from the Pirates may have been too steep for the Mets. Even though Brodie Van Wagenen claims they are not focusing on trading right now, the Mets have still been linked to rumors for a potential trades for star players Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, and Kris Bryant.

Whether or not the New York Mets are actually pursuing a trade to bring another all-star player to Flushing, the Mets still have room for improvement as other division rivals still continue to make roster moves. As spring training approaches I believe we aren’t done seeing the Mets make moves this offseason. With recently hired Mets’ manager Luis Rojas it is hard the believe that Rojas won’t have some say in bringing in more talent.

New York Yankees: Why Tyler Wade Will Make the Roster Over Clint Frazier

With camp breaking on Sunday for an exhibition in Washington on Monday, the New York Yankees will likely be forced to decide on a final position player spot in the coming days. Aaron Hicks going down with the injury makes it look as if both Luke Voit and Greg Bird will be on the opening day roster, but nothing is 100% yet. However, two players are fighting for a roster spot indirectly, in Tyler Wade and Clint Frazier.

Tyler Wade has had a way better spring, and has a lot more versatility, making him a better fit on the roster. Frazier still has some work to do on the little things, but should still see time in the big leagues as the 26th man, for injuries, and come the roster expansion in September if healthy.

What Wade brings to the table

Tyler Wade is a very versatile infielder that can play some outfield who has been raking this spring. He has bat .333 with a home run, and his slugging percentage is at .571. Wade is also very speedy and has stolen three bags so far. His fielding skills are above average, and is primarily a middle infielder but played centerfield for the Yankees last season on a few occasions.

His versatility is what the Yankees love, knowing they can plug him into the lineup in several different positions. Plus, his speed is something the team wants to use for pinch running when he doesn’t start.

What Frazier brings to the table

Clint Frazier has struggled mightily this spring, but some may be from rust. He has just six hits in 40 at-bats. However, he has had more success at the major league level and cracked a walk-off home run in 2017. Frazier has a lot of power, good speed, and a good glove. But because of his struggles so far, it would be best to start him in AAA to polish up mechanics and work off the rust. The more he plays, the better he should too and the better his stats will be.

If Tyler Wade starts this season like he did last season, his time in the MLB may be short and Frazier could come up fast. But, something to watch out for is that Wade is starting to run low on options, and the team needs to limit how freely they send him up and down.

New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka Dominant in Spring Debut

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka had is spring debut on Sunday at home against the Tigers, and boy he sure looked good.

In the first inning, Tigers centerfielder Daz Cameron rocketed a double deep into center field, but Tanaka stranded him on third by striking out the next two batters and forcing a fly out to center for the third out.

Tanaka’s second inning was flawless, working three groundouts to the left side, two of them to Miguel Andujar at third. The first one, Andujar took a few steps right to field a backhanded, hard-hit ground ball, and threw a two-hopper to first. The second was a routine ground ball that he put away with ease.

The third inning was just as good for Tanaka, getting the leadoff hitter to groundout to Kyle Holder at short, then two easy flyouts to Estevan Florial in center.

His final stat line: three innings, one hit, two strikeouts, and one runner stranded at third.

He also got a little run support in the first two innings, Brett Gardner hit two homeruns to right field for his first two hits of the spring, Aaron Judge lined his first homerun of the spring to right, and Gary Sanchez hit a screamer down the left field line that barely stayed fair.

Yankees feature two squads in two-game Sunday:

The Yankees are actually playing as a split squad today, the other team is playing the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin. Luke Voit is leading the way down there with a solo homerun, making the fight for first base even more interesting.

New York Yankees: Highlighting the biggest position battles entering Spring Training

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks

With Spring Training beginning and position players reporting just days from now, a lot of questions remain for the New York Yankees on how the 25 man roster may play out, and on who may start where. Today we dive into the four biggest position battles the Yankees face this spring.

Left field and the extra outfielder:

It remains very obvious that Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks will start in right field and center field, assuming Brian Cashman doesn’t sign Bryce Harper. After Brett Gardner had a rather poor season and Clint Frazier is healthy again, we have ourselves a rookie vs. veteran for a starting outfield position.

Clint Frazier reported on twitter a few weeks ago that he is “cleared to participate in spring training”. Red Thunder has overall had success in his time called-up from AAA, and had a walk-off home run in 2017. Frazier often served as the Yankees “26th man” on doubleheader days last year, without using a minor league option. Frazier bat .265 last season in the majors in 34 at-bats.

Brett Gardner bat just .236 last season, well below his .261 career average. By the end of last season, it seemed that he couldn’t really hit a thing, and with the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen, he saw his playing time go way down in September. In Game 1 of the ALDS, Aaron Hicks went down with a pulled hamstring, forcing Gardner to start games two and three. He ended up going 0-for-8.

You also have Jacoby Ellsbury. He would be more of an option to be the “extra outfielder”, but with him playing poorly over the years and him already having injury issues this season, he is already behind and prone to get hurt again and struggle.

First Base:

The Yankees have a two-man race for the first base position, and from what we saw last season, Yankees fans assume that it will be Luke Voit starting at first base over Greg Bird.

In all of 2018 (Cardinals and Yankees), Luke Voit bat .322 with 15 home runs in 143 at-bats. His incredible strength and power helped fill the slack of the injured Aaron Judge when he joined, but the success didn’t stop once Judge returned. Having Voit in the lineup gives the Yankees three players who can hit the ball all the way into downtown Manhattan.

Greg Bird has been, well……. playing rather poor in his MLB career. He is batting a career .214 in 576 at-bats, and bat just .199 last season. Voit had double the stats of Bird last season in about half as many at-bats. If Bird has a poor spring, could this finally be the end for Bird with the Yankees? Sending him down may be a bad option, the Yankees actually have two great first basemen at the AAA level in Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom, Ford being invited to the major league camp. It’s always possible that the super-underdog could steal the show.

DJ Lemahieu does remain a viable option, but he will focus more on the middle infield. Aaron Boone did say in his first press conference something along the lines of Andujar learning first base a bit, but it isn’t a focus for him or the team. Any way in which the Yankees choose to go; there will be depth.

The middle-infield cluster

The Yankees have four middle infielders for just two starting spots. Those players are Troy Tulowitzki, DJ Lemahieu, Gleybar Torres, and Tyler Wade.

The Yankees kinda shocked the baseball world and signed Troy Tulowitzki for a one year deal, to help fill-in for the injured Didi Gregorius, who appears to be making great progress in his recovery. But Tulo himself has had injury problems, and his stats have been on a decline over the last four years. His fielding, however, remains one of the best in the league. Could he maybe start at shortstop this season? Anything is possible.

Then there is last years starting second base sensation, Gleybar Torres. Remember, he came up as a shortstop and moved to second base due to Didi Gregorius. So with that, he may be the Yankees opening day shortstop with Lemahieu or possibly Wade at second.

Lemahieu remains the most likely option for the opening day second base spot, as that’s where he played with the Rockies for the most part. The only concern in the play of Lemahieu is his struggles away from Coors Field, where he hit so well it. But many Yankees players who can deal with the New York pressure hit well at Yankees Stadium with the short porches making the stadium extremely hitter-friendly.

Tyler Wade will likely not be a starter for the Yankees but should find his way onto the team and the field. He has a pretty solid glove, is a great base-runner, and his versatility can take him out of the infield and into the outfield when need be. His hitting has struggled big time in the majors, but he should be a solid non-offensive option.

A middle relief spot or two is still available

The Yankees have a lot of power guys that are known to help in the final innings but still lack a few middle relief options. Your power relievers are Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino. Chad Green and Jonathan holder are high leverage, middle relief guys. You have one or two spots available for low leverage situations, let’s see what they have:

In 2017, the Yankees acquired Tommy Kahnle in a trade with the White Sox. He was great in 2017, but an early-season injury in 2018 derailed his season. Once he returned, he never got his high 90s velocity back and spent most of the season in AAA. This season would be a perfect time for a comeback season.

Danny Farquhar missed most of the 2018 season with the White Sox with a brain aneurysm. The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal this Winter with an invite to camp. His career ERA is 3.93, and is pitching with a chip on his shoulder this season. He could be a valuable asset for the Yankees bullpen, too.

Chance Adams pitched just one game last season: an emergency start against the Red Sox, and struggled as presumed. He had ups and downs last season at AAA, but I don’t think he is MLB ready yet. He would be used however as a long reliever if he made the club.

Stephen Tarpley started last season in AA, but made it up all the way come September. Once he got adjusted, he was actually really good, especially against lefties. He would be a great lefty specialist option. If he pitched like he did last season, he should have a good shot at the MLB club.

My 25 man roster prediction:

SP: Severino, Tanaka, Paxton, Happ, CC

RP: Chapman, Betances, Britton, Ottavino, Green, Holder, Tarpley

C: Sanchez, Romine

INF: Voit, Torres, DJ, Wade, Tulo, Andujar

OF/DH: Judge, Stanton, Hicks, Gardner, Frazier

26th man: Ellsbury? Kahnle?

New York Mets 40-Man Roster Overview: Anthony Swarzak

One of the newest New York Mets, Anthony Swarzak, looks to be a reliever the team can depend on. The Mets signed him to a two year, $14 million deal in the offseason to rebuild the bullpen.

The Minnesota Twins drafted Swarzak in the 2nd round of the 2004 MLB Draft. He waited until 2009 to finally get a call-up to the big leagues. Swarzak struggled with the Twins, putting up a 6.25 ERA in 12 starts. His entire 2010 season was spent in the minor leagues, but returned in 2011 to put up a 4.32 ERA.

His ERA rose to 5.03 in 2012 and spent a majority of the year in the bullpen. Swarzak’s 2013 season started on the DL after fracturing his rips after “wrestling around a little bit”. He returned to have a very strong season with a 2.91 ERA in 96 innings.

Swarzak Has Been a Journeyman Since He Left the Twins:

He regressed in 2014 with his ERA up to 4.60 and his strikeout numbers going down. The Twins announced that Swarzak was out-righted off the 40-man roster after the season ended. The Cleveland Indians signed him to a minor league contract in 2015 but released him after he pitched 10 games.

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Upon his release, Swarzak signed with the Doosan Bears of the Korea Baseball Organization where he finished the rest of the 2015 season.  Swarzak signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees in February of 2016. He started the season with in Triple-A and but finished the season with a 5.52 ERA in 26 games. Swarzak was granted free agency instead of accepting a demotion to Triple-A at the end of the season.

The Chicago White Sox brought in Swarzak on a minor league deal for the 2017 season and he went on to have a terrific season. In late July he became a trade piece for the Sox and they sent him to the Milwaukee Brewers for a minor league outfielder. He had the lowest ERA (2.33) and most strikeouts (91) he has had in his long career and he was able to parlay it into a good deal in a slow free agent market.

Swarzak has always struggled with putting back to back strong seasons but the Mets believe that Swarzak is a different pitcher now than earlier in his career. Swarzak bring a mid-90s fastball, a high-80s tight slider and will pound the strike zone. He has only pitched three innings this spring, allowing one run, but will be ready to pitch on Opening Day.

New York Mets Injury Report

This week’s New York Mets  injury report features their first major injury of 2018, but other Mets are making great strides in their recoveries.

Rafael Montero (right elbow) will undergo Tommy John Surgery and will miss the entire 2018 season. Montero said he had a “weird” feeling in his elbow in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals last week. It is an unfortunate early ending to Montero’s season and he likely was going to make the team even after a dreadful Spring Training. The Mets could choose to part ways with Montero before he recovers from the operation.

Jason Vargas (right hand) is progressing from his hand surgery very nicely and threw a bullpen session on Sunday. His arm is fine and he is on his way to making sure that he can use his glove effectively again.

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The Mets will have Vargas throw a couple more bullpens then send him to the minors with an emphasis on not rushing him back. His return is set for mid-April and if all five starters are pitching well the team will have a tough decision to make on who they are sending to the bullpen.

deGrom Seems to be Injury Free:

Jacob deGrom (back) has made every scheduled start this Spring and made another one in Monday’s split squad game. He will be ready for opening day and has been strong in his starts this spring. He is scheduled to pitched the Mets second game of the season on Saturday.

Dominic Smith (quad) will not play another Grapefruit League game this year. He will remain in extended spring training at the start of the season. Smith has only played in one game this spring.

After he will head to Triple-A while Adrian Gonzalez plays first base. Smith had an opportunity to start at first base but will have to hope Gonzalez struggles if he wants a chance to play with the Mets in 2018. Smith will likely return to game action in mid-April.

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Michael Conforto (shoulder) will open the season on the disabled list but can return before May. Conforto has been swinging the bat well and homered in the split squad the Mets played on Monday. Conforto’s return is now mid-April and will bolster the Mets offense and elevate their talented outfield.

T.J. Rivera (right elbow) and David Wright (shoulder and back) remain injured and there has been no update on their recoveries.