Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Afternoon Food For Thought: The Quad-A Replacement Brigade

From this morning, we know that the Yankees have a ton of guys hitting at well below-average rates this month.  From watching the season in its entirety, we know they've had plenty of guys struggling to produce since Opening Day.  There's been no indication that any new "shakeup" roster moves are coming as a means to jump start the offense, but there is a bounty of potentially interesting call-up candidates in Triple-A right now:
And that's not including guys like Zoilo Almonte and Scott Sizemore who've already spent some time on the Major League roster, and Ramon Flores, who's on DL presently but was hitting .261/.352/.447 before getting hurt.  If he were healthy, there's a non-zero chance he'd be on the Yankee bench by now.

Among the 4 guys mentioned above, only 1 of them is young enough to be truly considered a "prospect" and that's Pirela at age 24.  The other 3 are classic Quad-A 'tweener types and none of the 4 are currently on the 40-man roster, which is surely a major determining factor in why the Yankees haven't made a move to call any of them up.  Another is expectations, which are tough to accurately set for players like this.  None of these guys is even close to a sure bet to replicate his current production at the Major League level or even match what underperforming 25-man guys like Alfonso Soriano or Brian Roberts are doing.  I suppose it couldn't hurt to give someone like Roller or Garcia a look, but at the same time they really haven't dominated Triple-A to the point where it's clearly worth it to cut bait on a more established, albeit mostly terrible, option.

I'll say this, I'm glad that's not my decision to make.  Classic "damned if you, damned if you don't" scenario.

What Is Soriano's Role Now?

It's been a little over a week since Alfonso Soriano was removed from an everyday role in the lineup.  An 0-4 day against Oakland on June 14th bottomed his season slash line out at .224/.249/.388 and since then Soriano has gotten 6 plate appearances in the last 7 games.  3 of those 6 PA have come as a pinch hitter, 3 came in the lone start he got against Mark Buehrle last Wednesday, and in the other 3 games Soriano stayed glued to the bench.

Going back to the start of the month, when Soriano's slump was at its worst and his playing time started to decrease, he has now not played in the same number of games that he has played (10).  His production in June (.214/.214/.286, 12 K in 28 PA) is as unproductive as it's been all year, which raises the question of what, exactly, is Soriano's role at this point?  He's the de facto 4th outfielder with Ichiro starting and Beltran DH'ing, but Joe is never going to use him for defensive purposes.  And even though he does have 3 hits in his 6 PA since 6/14, all 3 of them have been singles, so he's not exactly filling the role of late-game masher option off the bench.

Soriano serves almost no purpose to Joe and the team right now with what he's contributing.  If and when Beltran is able to return to the field and get back in the outfield rotation, Soriano's usefulness will shrink even more.  He's been almost completely phased out as it is, and it may only be a matter of time before he's removed from the active roster completely.

Sabathia Graduating To Live BP This Week

The rehab process for CC Sabathia and his degenerative right knee took another step forward over the weekend and could take another step or 2 forward this week.  Sabathia threw a 36-pitch bullpen session at The Stadium before Saturday's game, at what sounds like full strength.  Sabathia said he "got after it a little bit" when he was throwing and that he was trying to really test the strength of his knee to make sure it will hold up.  For what it's worth, he said the knee felt good after he finished.

From there, Sabathia is heading to the team facility in Tampa this week, where he will move to throwing live batting practice tomorrow.  If he comes through that well, the tentative plan is to have him pitch in a MiL game on Saturday.  The decision on what level won't come until later in the week, but I wouldn't be surprised if the team tries to get creative and get him in a few unofficial games so as not to start his 20-day MiL clock early.  We're still 3 weeks away from the All-Star break and the plan was to bring him through a full ST simulation to get him stretched back out.  Regardless of how good he feels and how poorly Vidal Nuno is pitching, there's no reason to rush that.

Monday Morning Food For Thought: Offense Is Still Offensive

2 weeks ago, I declared it time for a change in response to the Yankees losing 2-1 to the Royals.  That game marked the 10th straight in which they failed to score more than 4 runs, a stretch that saw them go 3-7 and fall back to .500.

Over the last 2 weeks, the Yanks have gone 8-4 on the strength of 2 separate 4-game winning streaks.  The latest ended on Friday night with the walk-off victory over the Orioles, as the Yanks managed to score a single run in the final 2 games and dropped both easily.  The offensive blackout brought the issues of 2 weeks ago back to the forefront and a quick check of the numbers shows that not much has changed since June 9th despite the W-L record.
That's two-thirds of the lineup hitting well below-average this month.  Kelly Johnson and Alfonso Soriano have also hit below the .300 wOBA in limited PA.  When that's what you're getting from the bulk of your major offensive contributors, and the above-average production you're getting from the other 3 (Gardner, Ellsbury, Teix) isn't great enough to carry a team, that's not good.  The halfway point of the regular season is 1 week away and the offense remains stuck in the mud.  That change I talked about 2 weeks ago?  It's still needed in a big way.