It All Starts Here

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Yankees’ Opening Day Starter Masahiro Tanaka

Tomorrow, the Yankees will open the season on the road for the first time since 2014, when they visited Minute Maid Park to kick off that season- and the Astros’ American League existence.

Three years later, the entire country will be fixated on the Yankees. New York will kick off the 2017 schedule by visiting American League east foe Tampa Bay in their home park, Tropicana Field. A new era of young Yankee stars will be wrung in by dim lights and deafening cowbells.

Alright, I won’t throw any more shade at the Rays’ stadium. All kidding aside, Sunday should be a very good game. The Rays will send out energetic right hander Chris Archer, who will be making his third straight Opening Day start with the club. Last April 3, he struck out twelve over five frames, but still took a loss to the Blue Jays, a perfect microcosm of a career that’s been devoid of healthy run support. After finishing third in the AL CY Young voting in 2015, Archer seemed poised to take the next step last year. He got off to a rough start, posting a 7+ ERA in April and finishing the year with 19 losses- but 233 strikeouts. What never changed throughout Archer’s up-and-down campaign was his utter dominance of the Yankees. His 0-3 2016 record against them is misleading, as it includes one outing of 8 IP/1R and another that totaled 7 IP/3ER. He’s made 13 starts against the Yankees in his career, holding them to a sharp 2.63 ERA and a WHIP under one.

While most of the Yankees have limited success against Archer, some have the flamethrower’s number. Jacoby Ellsbury has a scorching .559 average against him over 34 games, and since Joe Girardi loves to play matchups, Ellsbury will probably get a top spot in the lineup. By contrast ,Brett Gardner has been held to a .235 clip against him over the same number of at bats.

On the other bump, the Yankees will trot out Masahiro Tanaka for his third straight Opening Day try. Unlike his counterpart, Tanaka entered 2016 with mild expectations and was able to take that next step. After showing flashes of dominance as a rookie in 2014, Tanaka was able to find consistency in 2016. Surrounded by injury concern, Tanaka held up well, firing 199.2 innings last season. He finished with a stellar 3.07 ERA, second best in the American League behind the Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez. His 165 strikeout total is admittedly low, but it shows that Tanaka was able to reinvent himself after multiple procedures on his throwing arm. He dominated the Rays in 2016, going 3-0 in five starts. Tanaka struck out 34 batters in 34.1 frames against them, pitching to a miniscule .78 WHIP.

In the end, this game will not mean much. But we’ll remember 2017 as the beginning of something new and exciting for the Yankees.

Entering his Fourth Season, Masahiro Tanaka is Already a Battle-Tested Veteran

imageIt seemed too easy at first. Masahiro Tanaka began his Major League career in 2014 by posting a 12-4 record with an exceptional 2.51 ERA in the first half. He had already tossed three complete games and collected 135 strikeouts. Tanaka seemed like a runaway candidate for Rookie of the Year and was certainly in the CY Young conversation.

Alas, the Japanese ace’s years of overuse in Japan finally caught up to him. In early July, Tanaka experienced elbow discomfort and was immediately rushed to a doctor. One thing led to another, and soon he had spent the majority of the second half on the disabled list, starting in just two games after the break.

Yankee fans were clamoring that the star hurler needed Tommy John surgery, and fast, but the Yankees elected to take it slowly- a decision that has turned out to be the right one.

In the offseason, he refused to opt for surgery on the pained arm, instead opting to rehabilitate it. Just a couple starts into his 2015 campaign, Tanaka was once again put on the shelf with what was described as “minor tendinitis.” Yankees GM Brian Cashman admitted that it “could be” a precursor to Tommy John surgery.

That was the low point in Tanaka’s career. He finished 2015 with 24 pedestrian starts, striking out fewer batters than he had in his rookie season and posting a league-average 3.51 ERA. Tanaka did gain valuable experience that year, pitching in the 2015 AL Wild Card game, when he allowed a pair over five frames in a Yankee loss to the Houston Astros.

During the 2015-16 offseason, Tanaka decided it was time to get surgery- but not Tommy John. As advised by top team officials, Tanaka went under the knife to remove a bone spur from his right (pitching) elbow.

Coming into 2016, he was looking to finally establish his presence as a big league ace with the Yankees. The dip in velocity was evident- Tanaka’s fastball had sat in the high 90s in his rookie year; now it was in the 91-93.

But, Masahiro Tanaka showed why he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball by adapting to his unique circumstance, and making the most of it. 2016 was the best year of the young righty’s career, as he posted a 14-4 record with a 3.07 ERA over 199 stellar frames.

Tanaka learned how to use all of his pitches more effectively. The basic four-seam fastball was used far less, as the former Rakuten Golden Eagle instead opted for heavy reliance on his devastating splitter. He also has an above-average changeup and can hook a breaking ball every once in a while.

In 2014, it seemed to good to be true. It was. Heading into 2017, excellence has become the norm for Masahiro Tanaka, a true ace and top 10 pitcher in the American League.

What can we Realistically Expect from Gary Sanchez?

The 2016 Yankee team that was supposed to free fall after the trade deadline saw Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman leave for playoff-bound clubs. Instead, the Bombers surged in August and September, eventually falling just a few late blown leads away from a playoff berth.

The main reason for this surprising streak was  Gary Sanchez. After the deadline, Yankee fans were probably more excited to see the likes of Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin than Sanchez, who made a cameo in 2015, going 0-4 against Chris Sale in his Major League debut.

But it was Sanchez who caught fire and captivated a fanbase that was in desperate need of a homegrown star to rally around.

A Yankee farmhand since 2010, Sanchez impressed in both major facets of the game. His most noticeable contribution was the catcher’s incredible 20 home runs in 53 games. In one torrid week in August, he smashed seven home runs. Fans and broadcasters alike were doling out one of the greatest compliments a player can receive, claiming that the ball just sounded different off his bat.

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Gary Sanchez

Sanchez’s signature moment of 2016 was when he shot an intentional ball some 390 feet into the deepest part of Yankee Stadium. This brought back memories of Vladimir Guerrero, who would hit literally anything in his sight. The ball was caught at the warning track, but Sanchez had made his mark. Everyone was quick to give Sanchez’ free-swinging attitude a free pass; we were all caught up in a unprecented debut.

He also wowed on the other side of the ball, adjusting quickly to the Yankee pitchers. Sanchez soon became  Michael Pineda‘s personal catcher. His throws to second base were undoubtedly more accurate than Pineda’s fastball. Opposing runners were nabbed 13 times by Sanchez, out of a total 29 attempts. That’s a .598 clip, better than Buster Posey’s .627 and Matt Wieters’ .652.

While many were enthralled with Sanchez’s all-around talents, there were others warning of Kevin Maas. Maas, who caught for the Yankees in the early 90’s, hit 21 homers in 79 games during his debut season in 1990. Over his next three seasons, Mass managed only 23 home runs while catching 308 games.

Zooming out from the madness, one can find some flaws in Sanchez’s game.S anchez was fed a steady diet of fastballs and hanging curveballs in his first month, but pitchers soon adjusted and treated him like a veteran at the plate. After hitting .389 in August, he managed a meager .225 mark for the rest of the season. His on-base percentage dropped more than 100 points to a below league average .314 mark.

As for defense, there’s no reason to believe he will not be an above-average defender in his second year. Sanchez’s six passed balls are a bit high, but it’s likely a product of having to learn a new rotation of hurlers on the fly. Catching a  Dellin Betances, who can follow up a 99 MPH fastball with an 83 MPH curveball, is not an easy task.

In 2017, Sanchez faces much more pressure. In 2016, the Yankees were playing with house money, not expecting much from Sanchez, or any of their young prospects, for that matter.

Now, the skates are higher. Veteran catcher  Brian McCann is gone, leaving Sanchez alone in the bright New York City lights.

If anyone can handle the pressure, it’s Sanchez. He’s been raised for seven years in a Yankee organization that promotes humility and teaches patience.

Does Gary Sanchez have flaws? Certainly. But, that won’t stop him from improving and being an above-average receiver for years to come. Enjoy the ride, Yankee fans.

Venue Changes, but Sloppy Play Does Not

Venue Changes, but Sloppy Play Does Not

By Adam Shemesh

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Tyler Wade looked more like someone stranded on a desert island, as opposed to a centerfielder

Like Friday’s 9-2 victory that featured three Yankee homers, Saturday’s affair also featured excitement. Unfortunately, this time the Phillies laid claim to most of it.

Scott Kingery’s second base hit of the day scored the speedster Roman Quinn to give the Phillies a 6-5 win in their home opener this spring.

After not getting a hit until the 7th inning on Friday, the Phillies’ lineup featured some more star power in their spring home opener on Saturday.

One example of added star power, Maikel Franco made his 2017 debut on Saturday. In the 6th, with young righty Daniel Camarena on the mound, Franco drove a ball into the left-center field gap. Centerfielder Tyler Wade threw his hands up, asking for a ground-rule double call. Franco kept running, and he crossed the plate with his second home run of the day- an inside-the-park job.

Ealier, Franco drove a home run into dead center field with Camarena on the bump. In 2015, he put his name on the map by driving in 10 runs in three games against the Yankees.

After Franco’s inside the parker, the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins took Camarena deep. The 6’4″, 225 LB first base prospect used an effortless swing that provided a perfect sound off the bat and landed well into the right-center field seats. The unusual combo of back to back home runs gave Philadelphia a 5-3 lead. They would go on to win 5-4.

Wade’s miscue would not be the only costly one of the day. In the third, Miguel Andujar made a throwing error that would lead to the Phillies’ first run of the ballgame.

Outside of Camarena’s rocky outing, the Yankee pitchers held their own until the 9th, when Kyle Holder served up the fateful base knock. Adam Warren opened the game with a pair of scoreless frames, and fellow rotation candidate Dietrich Enns posted a pair of solid innings as well. Ben Heller struck out the side in the 7th.

In a losing effort, the Yankees recieved a good dosage of luck. Down to their last out in the 9th, the Yankees scored after a bloop double by Ji Man Choi and an RBI single by Pete Kozma. Three New York runs scored on a pair of Mark Appel wild pitches, in the second and fifth innings, respectively. The latter scored a pair of runs, as Gleyber Torres came around all the way from second, beating Appel’s tag at the plate.

Appel pitched two innings, allowing a pair and striking out three. Six additional pitchers pieced together the victory for the Phillies.

Gleyber Torres had a productive day at the plate, doubling twice and scoring those two runs on wild pitches. Here’s more info about his ride from international free agent to top prospect.

In their opening Spring Training act, the Yankees commited two errors. Unlike yesterday, the offense could not bail out costly defensive miscues on Saturday.

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Tracking Gleyber Torres’ Rapid Progression

Tracking Gleyber Torres’ Rapid Progression

By Adam Shemesh

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Torres looking ridiculously Jeter-esque as he locks in during the Arizona Fall League

A little over three years ago, Gleyber Torres was a 17-year old kid living in Venezuela. Now, he’s one of the top prospects in the big leagues.

In 2013, Gleyber’s professional career started when the Cubs signed him out of the International free agent pool. For the subsequent three years, Torres moved from instructional league to rookie ball with Chicago. He was ranked as a consensus top 40 prospect heading into 2016.

In July of 2016, Torres was traded to the Yankees as the main piece in the Aroldis Chapman swap that sent the flame throwing lefty closer to Chicago. For the Cubs, this was an easy decision to make, as their farm system has been notoriously full of great minor league talent for years now.

For the Yankees, the trade for Torres represented a seismic shift in philosophy. Always viewed as the team to go for it no matter what, the mighty Yankees finally succumbed to a harsh reality, agreeing to sell off the present in exchange for the future. Having a great minor league talent to look forward to was warmly welcomed by most educated Yankee fans.

Torres was sent to play for the Tampa Yankees, the Bombers’ Single-A affiliate. Over 31 games, he garnered 31 hits, and showed impressive plate discipline 16 walks to 23 strikeouts. But, Torres’ prospect status exploded when the middle infield prospect appeared in the Arizona Fall League.

Coming into the Fall League, most Yankee eyes were on rehabbing first baseman Greg Bird and 2015 first round pick James Kaprielian. Torres forced his way into the spotlight by winning the AFL League MVP award.

Torres, just 19 years old, became the youngest MVP of the Arizona Fall League, which is a hotbed for top prospects. In 18 games, he posting an eye-popping .403 average, easily the best in the league, which featured names like consensus #1 overall prospect Yoan Moncada. Torres also carried over his impressive plate approach, walking 14 times en route to an unheard of .513 on base percentage. All the meanwhile, scouts were lauding his impressive glove work at shortstop. (The Bombers already have a great one in Didi Gregorius, and they’re trying to push Torres to play more second base.)

That performance really put Torres on the map. He was ranked as the best prospect in the Yankees’ deep farm system by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com. This after he was ranked between 35th and 40th on those respective sites at this time last year. MLB.com gave Torres his highest ranking, at #3 overall. The last position player to crack #3 overall on their list was Kris Bryant, in 2014. Does that mean Torres will be as good as Bryant?

Probably not, but he’s certainly enjoying some good company.

2/24- Solo Shots, Great Pitching Define Spring Training Opening Day

Solo Shots, Great Pitching Define Spring Training Opening Day

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Clint Fraizer, acquired for Andrew Miller at last year’s Trade Deadline, tripled in a pair during the Yankees’ 9-4 win

Remember to follow @BomberBaseball_ on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Yankees updates

After a four-month hiatus, the Yankees took to the field on Friday to play the Phillies in their opening Spring Training affair. Didi Gregorius set the tone right away. The Yankee shortstop clubbed a first-pitch offering from Phillies starter Alec Asher into the right field stands to give the Yankees a lightning quick 1-0 lead.

Bryan Mitchell held his own on the mound, retiring the Phillies in order for two consecutive frames. Mitchell struck out one Phillie before handing the ball over to Tyler Clippard. The Yankees did not allow a baserunner until the 7th inning, when Scott Kingery reached on an error. It was a very good day for Yankee pitching, who held the Phillies to two earned runs as a group. Like Mitchell, Luis Cessa and Jordan Montgomery also fired two scoreless frames in the winning effort.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Aaron Judge stepped up to the plate and reminded us of his enormous potential. Judge clubbed an Elniery Garciaoffering that penetrated the left field scoreboard. Just like that, the Yankee lead was doubled.

In the sixth frame, the Bombers brought in their second string squad, chock-full of top prospects like Arizona Fall League MVP Gleyber Torres, outfielder Clint Frazier, and third baseman Miguel Andujar.

With a runner on and one out, Andujar laced a ball into the right field corner that was misplayed by Chris Coghlan, and he circled the bases after Coghlan’s throw nailed the dugout.In the eighth, Andujar nailed a double to go along with his three bagger. He would later score on a two-run triple by Clint Frazier. Frazier’s rip put the score at 8-2. The Yankees would go on to win 9-4 after the Phillies cranked two solo shots in the 9th.

Earlier, catcher Kyle Higashioka launched the third and final Yankee solo shot of the afternoon, plating their 6th run. Higashioka has been in the Yankees system since 2008, and is now appearing in his first Spring Training with the big league club.

Preceding the Yankee backup catcher, Gleyber Torres sent one for a ride, driving home Dustin Fowler with a sac fly that reached the right field warning track. Fowler, drafted in 2013, led off the frame with a triple, showcasing his stellar speed.

A familiar face to baseball, but a new one to the Yankees, Matt Holliday started off his pinstripe career on a high note. He squared up two balls perfectly, but Holliday’s 37 year old legs would only permit a pair of singles. He was signed by the Yankees to a 1-year, $13,000,000 contract this offseason.

Despite their great pitching and offensive prowess, the Yankee defense faltered, nearly costing them the lead at one point. Starting the 7th inning with a 4-0 lead and Jordan Montgomery on the mound, shortstop Gleyber Torres threw wide, allowing the Phillies’ first baserunner of the game to reach. Following a couple of hits, first baseman Ji-man Choi botched what looked to be a routine double-play ball, allowing Philadelphia’s second run of the inning to cross home.

They say that the most exciting play in baseball is a triple. Today, the Yankees had three. It is safe to say this youth movement will be full of excitement. However, their shaky defense proves that it will take time for this group to produce a winner.

-By Adam Shemesh

 

Levine’s Comments May Cost Yankees a Native Son

One of the easily distinguishable characteristics of a bully is their lack of humility. Yankees President Randy Levine has succeeded in bullying one of the team’s brightest young stars.

Throughout the week, the Yankees and Dellin Betances were in dispute over the reliever’s 2017 salary. On Saturday, arbiters ruled in the team’s favor and ordered that Betances be paid $3,000,000 this upcoming season, saving the Bombers two million.

After the Yankees had already won the hearing, Levine was not afraid to hold back on Betances and his agents. He exclaimed, “Dellin Betances is not an elite closer (but)… he was still asking to be paid like one.” Betances converted on just 12 of 17 save opportunities in 2016, a 70% success clip that pales in comparison to Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman’s 89% career mark. The brash exec also pointed to Betances’ poor ability to hold runners on- 27 runners attempted to steal off of him in 2016, and all 27 succeeded. His ability, or lack thereof, to throw to the bases is known by many a Yankee fan.

While Levine may have some solid points of contention, it is not his place to criticize a player on the team, especially in public. For a Yankee squad usually so devoid of scandal (this was just their second arbitration hearing of the century), this was a rare mishap.

Betances was very shocked by the comments, as imagined. When asked about the situation, he responded seriously, “When free agency comes around, the decision just became a little easier.”

Betances possesses great talent, but that is not the most important aspect to his marketability as a Yankee. Betances is a native New Yorker, born in Staten Island and raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He can be seen on numerous billboards across the city, and serves as a role model for many of the city’s aspiring young ballplayers.

Betances is also one of the most exciting late-inning pitchers in the game. Standing at 6’ 8” tall, he possesses a fastball that can reach into the triple digits and a knee-buckling knuckle curveball. He has been named to the American League All-Star squad in three consecutive seasons, striking out a trio of National League sluggers in this year’s Midsummer Classic.

Only two New York-born players, Whitey Ford and Lou Gehrig, have played in multiple All-Star Games representing the Yankees in the modern era. Randy Levine’s bully tactics have likely cost the Yankees a unique, generational talent.

8/26 Editorial: Checking in on Deadline Dealings

It’s been almost a month since the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, and acquired Tyler Clippard in the span of a little over one week. Since then, they are a shocking 13-9, just three victories away from their monthly high of 16 set in May. Today, we’re checking in on the players involved each of those four trades.

AROLDIS CHAPMAN, Closer, Cubs

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Chapman went to the playoffs in 2010 and ’11 with the Reds, but never appeared in a save situation

Chapman was the first domino to fall when he was traded July 25. After converting 20 of 21 saves with the Bombers, Chapman has already blew two chances in 11 tries with the Cubs. He does hold a minuscule .79 WHIP and 21 Ks in 15 frames with Chicago.

 

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In return, the Yankees received a package headlined by Gleyber Torres (pictured). While it is very hard to take stock in High-A stats, Torres’ 14 walks and 20 strikeouts show his good discipline. If you look at his stat page, you’ll notice Torres has made a bunch of errors in the minors- that’s totally normal for a fairly raw and very young talent like he is. Another player the Yankees recieved was outfielder Billy McKinney, who came to Chicago in the same trade that brought Addison Russell there. Scouts were very high on him, but they’ll admit that his bat (his only real asset) has looked considerably slower this year. McKinney seemed to be on a fast track to the bigs, but he’s remained in Double-A with the Yanks. The last prospect received, Rashad Crawford is probably the most athletic of the group. He is currently in high A Tampa, an outfielder whose trademark is his great speed. The final piece of the trade has been the most important in terms of the here and now. I’m talking about former Yankee Adam Warren, who was acquired in the Starlin Castro trade this offseason. After posting horrendous numbers for the Cubs, he has been great with the Yankees, settling in nicely into the 7th inning role. While his 5 ER in 12.2 IP might not look great, 4 of those runs came in one dud outing in Toronto.

ANDREW MILLER, Closer, Indians

Miller was the other dominant arm dealt in late July. Miller has saved two games while hurling 10.2 frames with a great 16/1 K/BB. Headlining the package of a quartet of Cleveland prospects is 2013 #5 overall pick Clint Frazier (pictured), who was immediately anointed the distinction of Yankees’ #1 prospect following the trade.

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He already has three triples in only 22 games in Scranton, and homered 13 times in 89 games for Cleveland’s Triple-A squad. Frazier should break the big league squad out of camp next year and is a true center fielder with an above-average arm. The Yankees also recieved lefty starter Justus Sheffield, who’s impressed in High A Tampa, posting 22 Ks in 21 innings during 4 starts with the Bombers’ affiliate. He was drafted in the first round by the Tribe in 2014, but has been knocked for his “small” 5′ 10″, 195 lbs. frame. Along with those two, the Yankees received two minor league relievers. One of those, Ben Heller (AAA/MLB), has already been called up and has warned up in-game a few times despite never being called to the major league mound.Out of all the prospects the Yankees got at the deadline, Heller is the safest bet to stay on the club for the remainder of 2016, especially with September callups on deck.

CARLOS BELTRAN, Of/DH, Rangers

The next domino to fall is still the Yankees’ 2016 leader in AVG, RBI, HR and OPS. Beltran was sent to Texas on deadline day. He’s struggling a bit for his new club, batting under .220 with just two homers. In return, the Yankees bought low on last year’s #4 pick Dillon Tate (HIGH A TAMPA). In 2016, he endured a strange zap in velocity that saw his fastball drop from high 90s to low 90s. However, he has consistently hit 94 + for the Yankees, making people wonder if the Rangers had hindered his development in some manner. Some believe that Tate could be converted to a bullpen arm due to his limited offspeed offerings. The Yanks also received hurlers Erik Swanson and Nick Green, who was recently promoted to High A Charleston.

The final trade the Yankees made was acquiring TYLER CLIPPARD (MLB) in a move in which many, including this author, found to be questionable. In return for the homegrown Yankee, New York sent the D-Backs Vicente Campos, a solid starter who just recently got the call. The Yankees recognized his talent but were worried due to multiple surgeries and the fact that Campos had used an alias at the time he was drafted. For the Bombers, Clippard has settled into the set up role nicely, striking out better than a batter per inning in 11 appearances.

 

Digging Deeper into the Rotation

The Yankees’ rotation has been a question mark all year. On this day, it is comprised of once ace in Masahiro Tanaka, two rookies in Luis Cessa and Chad Green, and one member who is crumbling by the day, C. C. Sabathia.

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Staff ace Masahiro Tanaka pumps his fist in the midst of his 7.2 inning shutout of the Angels

Tanaka has been excellent. He has three starts this year where he gave up 6 runs. Take those three out and he has a 2.6 ERA. In his last three starts, Masahiro has three wins and has gone at least 6 frames and struck out at least 6. Tanaka is the Yankees’ bona fide ace. But after him? It gets a bit murky.

Joe Girardi does not pitch his starters in any real specific order, but I’d venture to say Michael Pineda is a #2. On most teams, Michael would be a #3 or in some cases a #4. In 2014 he posted an exceptional 1.89 ERA in 13 starts, but has not shown that dominance-or consistency, for that matter-since then. Let me show you what I mean by inconsistent. Pineda posted a 7.52 ERA in May, but a 2.75 mark the very next month. One could argue that isn’t even his biggest problem, though. He owns a sub-2.7 ERA with none out or one out, but that number spikes up to 10 with two out. However, he has looked better recently. Mike’s last two starts were against two potent offenses in Boston and Toronto. He hurled a quality start in Boston and then pitch 5 scoreless against the Jays before being yanked due to the rain.

It’s hard to believe this next guy was once a CY Young Award Winner. C. C. Sabathia has not looked his old self in a while. Forced to reinvent with lesser velocity, he shocked the world by posting a sparkling 1.04 ERA in May. He followed that up with a solid June and all of a sudden he was actually looking like a reliable starter for the first time in years. From the end of April into early June, C. C. rattled off 7 quality starts in 8 tries. He has not thrown a quality start since then and has allowed 5 or more runs 6 times. In his most recent start, Sabathia allowed 7 in 6 frames to the Jays. However, that very easily could have been three or four runs, but Chase Headley made some questionable (to say the least) plays in the field. Sabathia also struck out 12 in that start. Next year, he will earn $25 million and will probably retire at the end of 2017.

And finally, we have the two rookies. Chad Green had really struggled until recentley, but he has rebounded quite nicely, allowing only 7 hits while striking out 16 in his last two starts. He figures to make a push for a rotation spot next year.

Luis Cessa has made only one big league start. He hurled 6 scoreless frames against the Angels. But he was very solid in Triple-A, posting a 3.03 ERA in more than a dozen starts.

While I would be lying if I told you the Yankees had a bright future at SP, it may not be as bad as you think.

7 Superstar-Level Talents that You’ve Never Heard of

Ok, fine, maybe you’ve heard of a few of these guys, but they aren’t getting nearly as much coverage as they deserve. A quick note- the “Dare to Compare” is applicable for this season, I’m not judging a player’s entire body of work in this piece.

READERS REACT- Who are your favorite unsung stars? Let us know in the comments!

Catcher Wilson Ramos , Nationals DARE TO COMPARE- Salvador Perez, Royals

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (3)

 

Wilson’s .997 fielding percentage ranks second in the MLB, tied with Buster Posey and ahead of Salvador Perez. This year, he has a higher batting average (.326- 1st among all catchers), home run total (19-tied 2nd), and RBI count (67- 1st) than either of those two catchers. Why has he suddenly burst onto the scene? Well, Ramos was dealing with a vision problem for the last few years, and this offseason he finally decided to get that fixed up. While Wilson’s entire body of work falls a little short of Perez, he is outperforming the Kansas City backstop on both sides of the ball in 2016, providing the best all-around contribution any catcher has offered to their team this year.

 

First BaseWil Myers, Padres DARE TO COMPARE- PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, D-Backs520688086-0

Myers won the Rookie of the Year in 2011 with 13 homers and 5 steals. In 2015, Myers homered 8 times and stole 5 bags. This year, he is the only first baseman, and one of two players overall, to have 20 homers and 20 steals. I picked Goldy as a comp for him this year because both players would not fit the mold of your prototypical bag swiper, but they are smart baserunners. Goldschmidt is on pace to reach 20/20 as well, and he has just three more HRs and RBIs than Wil. Even though he came up as a catcher, and was moved to the outfield, Myers has a league-leading .998 fielding pct., committing just 2 errors in 981 chances, a testament to how great an athlete he is. The one thing that he needs to work on is cutting down on strikeouts, as he already has 117.

Second Base DJ LeMahieu, Rockies DARE TO COMPARE- DANIEL MURPHY, Nationals

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In the Rockies’ recent series against the Nationals, LeMahieu recorded a hit in 8 straight times up to the plate, among those his 7th triple and 9th home run.

That last name is pronounced, Luh-may-who, for those wondering. “Who?” was probably the reaction of most of you upon reading this article. But DJ has transformed himself into an All-Star player. This year, he is hitting a robust .342, yeah- .342. That is third in the majors behind fellow second baseman Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve. He is a benificiary of Coors Field, hitting .399 at home. Still, there is no excuse for someone hitting over .340 who has a Gold Glove to his name to be swept under the rug like he is. Well, it sure doesn’t help that he is sandwiched between Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, and Nolan Arenado at the top of the Rockies’ lineup. DJ is also a tough out, as he is hitting .383 when behind in the count, something that translates to any altitude. And, unlike Murphy, he plays a stellar second base. The only thing holding DJ LeMahieu back from superstar status is the same thing that catapulted Daniel Murphy into it- a power stroke.

ShortstopJonathan Villar, Brewers

Villar, who was acquired from Houston as part of the Carlos Gomez trade last year, has blossomed in 2016. He is hitting .296 with 28 doubles and an amazing 46 stolen bases. There is not any type of power/speed combo like that at shortstop, so it was difficult coming up with a comp. A possible comparison could be Giants’ shortstop Eduardo Nunez, who like Villar is a subpar fielder, but has 30 swipes on the year and 22 extra base knocks. Villar looks to be a building block around the Brewers’ rebuild, as he is only 25.

Third Base – Kyle Seager, Mariners DARE TO COMPARE- KRIS BRYANT, Cubs

Seager is about as close as you can be to a sure bet. He has homered at least 20 times in 5 straight seasons while playing in spacious Safeco Park, yet does not seem to be getting anywhere near the attention of the Cubs’ second-year phenom Kris Bryant. Bryant enjoys the luxury of playing in Wrigley Field. He has 8 more bombs than Seager’s 22, but actually one less RBI than Kyle’s 79. Also, Seager strikes out as a much lower clip than Kris does, and the defensive comparison doesn’t even merit an argument. While Seager has already won a Gold Glove at the position, Bryant has been shuttled around between third and left field as the Cubs look for a position for their superstar.

OutfieldStarling Marte, Pirates DARE TO COMPARE- ANDREW MCCUTCHEN, Pirates

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Marte has burst onto the scene in 2016, starting in his first ever All Star game. His power numbers- 7 HR, 40 RBI, are admittedly a little low, but where he wows is with his speed. Marte has matched a career-high with 41 stolen bases; Cutch’s career high was 33, achieved in 2010. Starling plays great defense, as well. He was the recipient of an NL Gold Glove award last year, and paces the NL with 14 assists in 2016. Like his teammate, Marte also brings energy and fun onto the field every day.

 

Starting Pitcher –Kyle Hendricks, Cubs DARE TO COMPARE: Jake Arrieta, Cubs

For all the attention the Cubs have been receiving this year, this guy seems to be missing the boat. Kyle Hendricks has a sparkling MLB-best 2.17 ERA in 2016. While he only has 124 punchouts, he recorded 12 in his most recent start. 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta has posted a 2.75 ERA this year, but has allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his last 7 starts, including yesterday, when he gave up 5 runs to the Brewers while walking a career-high 7. As Arrieta is reeling down the stretch, Hendricks has appeared to take the reins of this Cubs staff.