Friday, February 15, 2019

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Kyle Higashioka

Every team has three catchers, whether they are all on the 40-man roster or whether they stash one down in Triple-A just to be sure, and that is especially true for the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers actually have some serious depth at the catcher position and that depth begins and ends with the man that will likely begin the season receiving down in Triple-A Scranton with the RailRiders, Mr. Kyle Higashioka. Let’s meet the Yankees 3rd catcher that has arrived with their spring training pitchers and catchers this week down in Tampa.

Kyle Higashioka, 28-years old, is a right-handed hitting and throwing catcher from the New York Yankees system. Higashioka stands 6’1” tall and weighs in at 205 lbs. Higashioka is a steady hitter that doesn’t have a huge swing and miss ratio, but he doesn’t make enough contact to ever progress from a backup catcher at the Major League level in my opinion.

Kyle Harris Higashioka was born on April 20, 1990 in Huntington Beach, California where he attended Edison High School. Higashioka played for the school’s baseball team and committed to the University of California, Berkley to play college baseball for the California Golden Bears. Before playing for the Cal Golden Bears he caught the attention of the New York Yankees and their scouts, who subsequently selected Higashioka in the seventh round of the 2008 MLB First Year Players Draft. Higashioka signed with the Yankees for $500,000 rather than attend college and immediately began his professional career.

Higashioka’s climb through the Yankees system was a slow one, especially after missing all but 13 games combined in 2013 and 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and suffering a broken thumb. Higashioka became a minor league free agent after the 2015 season, but ultimately decided to re-sign with the organization for the 2016 season. Kyle started the 2016 season in Double-A Trenton and finished the season in Triple-A with the RailRiders, finding himself just one step away from the Major League level. The Yankees added Higashioka to their 40-man roster following the 2016 season and optioned him to AAA to begin the 2017 season.

Following an injury to Gary Sanchez in 2017 the New York Yankees selected the contract of Higashioka and promoted him to the Major League level. Higashioka started his MLB career 0-for-18 before being optioned back down to Triple-A when Sanchez was activated off of the disabled list. Kyle was back in the majors by June 16, again following an injury to Gary Sanchez, and was returned to Scranton once the Yankees starting catcher returned from the DL. Higashioka suffered an injury of his own once returning to the minors in 2017, limiting the Yankees catcher to just eight comes during the months of August and September.

Higashioka got called back up to the Major Leagues on June 27 of 2018, following another injury to Sanchez, and had another sluggish start with the bat. After starting his MLB career 0-for-22, he had his first major league hit, a home run off Boston Red Sox starter David Price. His next two MLB hits, one on July 3rd and another on July 4th, were also home runs, making him the ninth player since 1920 to have three home runs for their first three hits of their career.

Kyle will likely start the 2019 season, barring injuries, back in Scranton, but the New York Yankees know that he is just one phone call (and a Scranton Shuttle) away from being back in the Bronx. We look forward to seeing you this season, Kyle. Good luck!

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Aroldis Chapman

The New York Yankees have their ace, but what good is an ace without a solid bullpen, and especially a lockdown closer? Not very good, ask the Boston Red Sox this season (wishful thinking, maybe). The good news for the New York Yankees is that they have that lockdown closer, a couple of them actually, in Aroldis Chapman. Let’s get reacquainted with him before the start of the 2019 season.

Aroldis Chapman, 30-years old for a few more days, is a left-handed throwing closer for the New York Yankees that possesses absolute gas with his left arm. Chapman throws a four-seam fastball that averages out at about 99 MPH, but has gone as high as 105 MPH, an 87 MPH slider, a 102 MPH sinker, and a rarely thrown 91 MPH changeup. All of Chapman’s pitches results in either swings and misses or hard ground balls that are easily fielded by his defense behind him, making him the best closer the Yankees could have pitching inside their home field of Yankee Stadium. If a 105 MPH fastball and a `102 MPH sinker wasn’t intimidating enough, Chapman does this with a 6’4” and 212 lb. frame and borderline violent mechanics.

Albertin Aroldis Chapman de la Cruz was born on February 28, 1988 in Holguin, Cuba. While Chapman and his family were raised in Cuba, it is only because of his grandparents emigrating from Jamaica in order to get a better education for the future generations. Chapman, at just 15-years old, was a first baseman for a local baseball team when a coach noticed how hard Chapman could throw, pushing him to become a pitcher in 2003. Chapman joined the Holguin Sabuesos of the Cuban National Series League in 2006 and was used mainly as a starting pitcher. Chapman was also part of the Cuban national team at the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2009 World Baseball Classic before defecting from Cuba.

Chapman has attempted to defect once in 2008, but he was caught and given a condition reprieve from Raul Castro. Chapman’s second attempt was successful while in Rotterdam, Netherlands where the Cuban national team was participating in the World Port Tournament on July 1, 2009. Chapman established residency in Andorra and petitioned MLB to be granted free agent status. Chapman was declared a free agent by MLB and was quickly snatched up by the Cincinnati Reds who signed him to a six-year contract worth $30.25 million on January 10, 2010. Chapman made his MLB debut that same season, on August 31, 2010, and the young lefty was also added to the Reds postseason roster. Chapman was a reliever for Cincinnati in 2011 but the Reds introduced Chapman as a starter out of the spring in 2012. Injuries to key members of the Reds bullpen didn’t allow that to happen and by May of 2012, Chapman was named the team’s closer by manager Dusty Baker. Chapman was named an All-Star in 2012 and 2013, but during the 2014 season tragedy would strike Chapman, literally.

Chapman was struck by a line drive off the bat of Salvador Perez on March 19, 2014, a spring training game between the Reds and the Kansas City Royals. Chapman had to undergo a surgery to fix a skull fracture above his left eye and a metal plate was inserted into his head to stabilize the fracture. Chapman began the season on the 15-day disabled list but would return on May 10th of that year. Chapman was once again named an NL All-Star in 2015 before being traded to the New York Yankees on December 28, 2015. The Yankees gave up Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda in the deal after the Reds learned that Chapman was involved, and subsequently suspended, for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. Chapman was suspended for the first 30 games of the 2016 season before the Yankees, who were falling out of contention, traded their closer to the Chicago Cubs for Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Adam Warren and Rashad Crawford. Chapman would lead the Cubs to the 2016 World Series and eventually their first World Series championship in over 100 seasons.

Chapman hit the free agent market before the 2017 season and was quickly signed by the Yankees on December 15, 2016 for his second stint with the club. Chapman received a five-year deal worth $86 million, at the time the richest deal for a relief pitcher as of 2017. Chapman has been closing games for the Yankees for two seasons now and has led the team to two straight Wild Card berths, but not yet a World Series. Not until the 2019 season, anyway.

Welcome back, Aroldis. I hope the knee inflammation and tendinitis you battled last season is behind you, because we have a lot of work to do here in 2019. No pressure but make us proud. Go Yankees!!

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Luis Severino

You’ve met the newest additions and you’ve met some of the catchers that have been put in place to catch their heat, but no team goes to the playoffs without an ace. No playoff team makes the postseason and goes far into October without a top-of-the-rotation type guy, and for the New York Yankees that guy is Luis Severino. Let’s get reacquainted with the Yankees ace (yes… ace, whether you agree with it or not), Mr. Luis Severino!

Luis Severino, 24-years old, is a right-handed starting pitcher for the New York Yankees that will likely take the ball for the club on Opening Day 2019. Severino, all 6’2” and 215 lbs. of him, possesses a 98 MPH four-seam fastball, an 88 MPH slider, an 89 MPH changeup and a 92 MPH cutter that he rarely uses. Maybe Mariano Rivera, who vows to teach the Yankees arms how to “pitch” after being inducted into the Hall of Fame this season, can help Severino throw that cutter not only more often, but more effectively as well.

Luis Severino was born on February 20, 1994 in Sabana de la Mar, Dominican Republic. It has been reported that Severino grew up as a fan of the New York Yankees, most notably of fellow Dominican-born player Robinson Cano, in the small Hato Mayor province of the DR. It was there that the Yankees found him and signed him as an international free agent on December 26, 2011. Severino signed a $225,000 signing bonus, spurning the Colorado Rockies who also offered him the same deal that the Yankees later matched. Severino worked his way through the Yankees system and up the ladder in the Yankees organization, earning a trip to the 2014 All-Star Futures Game. It was the 2015 season that the Yankees finally had seen enough of Severino in their minor league system and called the flame throwing right-hander up to the Major Leagues after an injury to Michael Pineda made the Yankees short a starter.

Severino’s MLB debut came against the Boston Red Sox on August 5, 2015 at just 21-years of age. Severino started 11 games for the Yankees in 2015, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.89 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 62.1 innings pitched. Severino looked to build on that success the next season, but a trip to the disabled list for right triceps inflammation, along with struggles finding the strike zone, forced Severino into the Yankees bullpen for much of the season. Severino’s stat line was ugly overall for the 2016 season, but his 3-0 record and 0.39 ERA and 0.77 WHIP as a reliever gave the Yankees some hope, and Severino some confidence, going forward towards the 2017 season.

Severino won the Yankees 4th starter job out of spring training in 2017 and led the team to the postseason as the American League Wild Card winner. Severino was given the ball to start against the Minnesota Twins, but the Yankees young right-hander struggled early as nerves got the best of him on the big stage. Severino gave up three earned runs in the first inning against the Twins and left just one-third of an inning. Severino looked better overall in the postseason, helping the Yankees to a Game 7 of the ALCS before ultimately losing to the Houston Astros, but was never able to find that dominance that he saw during the regular season. Severino finished the 2017 season with a 14-6 record, a 2.98 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and 230 strikeouts, which was good for a third-place finish in the American League Cy Young Award vote.

Severino was named the Yankees Opening Day starter in 2018 and he came out blazing in the first half. Severino was named to his second consecutive All-Star Game in 2018 after finishing the first half with a 14-2 record and a 2.31 ERA in 20 starts with 144 strikeouts, but the second half was not as kind to Luis as the first. Severino struggled for much of the second half and finished the season with a 19-8 record and a 3.39 ERA overall. Severino once again started the Wild Card game for the Yankees, but this time he pitched much better in a Yankees victory over the Oakland Athletics.

Severino will look to not only build on a 19-win season in 2018, but also look to pitch better in the postseason here in 2019. The Yankees will be there, but they won’t go very far without their workhorse at the top of the rotation. No pressure, Luis, but everything rests on your right shoulder and arm. Let’s do this.

TGP Trivia and Fact of the Day for February 15th, 2019

Good morning Yankees family! Trivia on a Friday, let's go!!

Who was the first Yankees pitcher to throw an immaculate inning, striking out the side on nine pitches? Hint: Later on on his career, he gave up a very famous home run while pitching elsewhere.

Highlight below, no cheating :) , to see the answer... but leave your guesses in the comments section below. Thank you!

Al Downing in the second inning on August 11, 1967 against the Cleveland Indians. Downing also allowed Hank Aaron's 715th home run of his career as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

And a special good morning to my amazing wife, Kari. I love you more than words can describe and I always have... and I always, always will.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Yankees 25-man Roster Predictions

Spring training has finally arrived! Catchers and pitchers have reported to camp, and I reassure you: baseball will be back before you know it. Here are my pre-spring-training predictions for how the Yankees 25-man roster will turn out:

C (2)

Starter: Gary Sanchez
There is no doubt that 2018 was a struggle for Yankees injury-ridden backstop Gary Sanchez, whose batting line certainly left a lot to be desired…
  • PA: 374
  • HR: 18 
  • AVG: .186
  • OBP: .291
FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projects Sanchez to rebound big time in 2019 (31 HRs and .245 AVG in 131 games).
Backup: Austin Romine
While Romine’s offensive output (.244 AVG and .295 OBP but did hit for some power — 10 HRs) was unspectacular in 2019, he played very well defensively; Romine was 6 defensive runs saved above average (6 DRS per FanGraphs). 

1B (2)

Starter: Luke Voit 
Luke Voit was one of the biggest surprises in the 2018 season. He was involved in a trade (from the Cardinals) that was initially deemed a minor move, but boy did it pay off for the Yanks. Voit put up video-game numbers…
  • PA: 148
  • AVG: .333
  • OBP: .405
  • HR: 14
  • RBI: 33
Strikeouts remained an issue (26.4% K rate), but it didn’t seem to hinder Voit at all. 
Backup: Greg Bird
Greg Bird has struggled mightily the last two seasons; in both of which he was was heavily plagued with a variety of injuries. In 2018, he hit for a .199 AVG and had an OBP of .286. Bird still offers above average power (11 HRs in 311 PAs) and will provide Aaron Boone with a power bat off the bench.

2B (1)

Starter: Gleyber Torres
Torres’ much anticipated 2018 rookie campaign couldn’t have gone any better. He hit 24 HRs and put up a .271 AVG and a .340 OBP in 484 PAs. His defense at 2B was a tab below average (-1 DRS). 

SS (1)

Starter: Troy Tulowitzki
With Gregorious missing the first few months of the season due to TJ surgery, Tulo is penciled in as the starting SS, assuming he can stay healthy (and that is a big “if”), something he has never been able to do. 

3B (1)

Starter: Miguel Andujar
Andujar had a huge breakout last year, putting up ridiculous numbers as a rookie…
  • PA: 606
  • AVG: .297
  • OBP: .328
  • HR: 27
  • RBI: 92
  • 2B: 47
Unfortunately, his fielding stats were on the opposite end of the spectrum…
  • DRS: -25
  • UZR/150: -24.5
  • E (errors): 15

RF (1)

Starter: Aaron Judge
Photo: Bill Kostroun/AP Images
Although Judge regressed in nearly every category in 2018, he was still an extremely valuable player (5.0 WAR)…
  • Games – 2017: 155; 2018: 112
  • AVG – 2017: .284; 2018: .278
  • OBP – 2017: .422; 2018: .392
  • HR – 2017: 52; 2018: 27
  • RBI: 2017: 114; 2018: 67
Judge is not only the face of this franchise; he is arguably one of the faces of the MLB.

CF (1)

Starter: Aaron Hicks
Aaron Hicks is one of the most under-appreciated players in all of baseball. Despite hitting for an average south of .250, Hicks generated a lot of walks (15.5%) and power (27 HRs), and he even stole 11 bags. Historically, he’s been a very good defender in CF (in 2018, he put up a -3 DRS, atypical of his past performance in CF). Hicks accrued nearly 5 WAR (4.9).

LF (2)

Starter: Brett Gardner
Veteran outfielder Brett Gardner continues to perform at an adequate level. His average was down quite a bit last year (went from .264 to .236), but he still stole 11 bases and added 12 big flies. He remains a tough out (10.7% BB rate and 17.6% K rate) and should get the majority of ABs at LF (vs RHP).
Backup: Clint Frazier
Clint Frazier was sidelined with a concussion, which caused him to miss a large duration of the season. He hit really well when he was healthy…
  • AAA
    • PA: 216
    • AVG: .311
    • OBP: .389
    • HR: 10
  • MLB
    • PA: 41
    • AVG: .265
    • OBP: .390
    • HR: 0
Though his AAA strikeout rate was high (24.1% in AAA), he frequently drew walks (10.6% BB rate in AAA).
As of right now, I see Brett Gardner as the starter; it’s hard to know what to expect from Frazier when he hasn’t played in so long. I suspect Frazier will start against LHPs, and he could play his way to a starting spot if he performs well.

DH (1)

Starter: Giancarlo Stanton
Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Stanton’s first year with the Yanks was solid but did not come anywhere near his spectacular 2017 season (59 HRs and .281 AVG) with the Marlins. Stanton slugged 38 HRs and hit only .266, accumulating 4+ WAR last year.

UTL (1)

DJ LeMahieu 
Free-agent acquisition DJ LeMahieu will likely see a fair share of time all around the diamond. Last year, he hit a career-high 15 HRs and put up a .276 AVG and .321 OBP, also adding 6 SBs. LeMahieu is more renowned for his phenomenal defense; he was 18 defensive runs saved above average (18 DRS per FanGraphs). DJ will surely be an upgrade over what Neil Walker accomplished last season.

SP (5)

No. 1: Luis Severino
Photo: Elsa/Getty Images
Though Severino’s performance deteriorated in the 2nd half, he still put up excellent numbers, and he is the clear ace of this staff…
  • IP: 191.1
  • W: 19
  • K/9: 10.35
  • BB/9: 2.16
  • ERA: 3.39
  • WAR: 5.7
No. 2: James Paxton
The Yankees acquired southpaw James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners early in the offseason. His biggest issue in the past couple years has been his inability to stay healthy. His numbers last year were very good, and he even pitched a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays…
  • IP: 160.1
  • K/9: 11.68
  • BB/9: 2.36
  • ERA: 3.76
  • WAR: 3.8
No. 3: Masahiro Tanaka
Starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka bounced back from a rough 2017 campaign. His ERA dropped from 4.74 to to 3.75. He continued to generate plenty of swings and misses (K/9: 9.17), and he yielded very few free passes (BB/9: 2.02). HRs were still an issue (HR/9: 1.44) and are likely to be a problem going forward.
No. 4: J.A. Happ
After trading for Happ at the trade deadline in 2018, the Yanks have must have liked what they had seen, as they signed him as FA this offseason. He was a very dependable and productive pitcher last year…
  • IP: 177.2
  • K/9: 9.78
  • BB/9: 2.58
  • ERA: 3.65
  • WAR: 3.2
No. 5: CC Sabathia
Sabathia continues to pitch at a high level (which is quite frankly remarkable considering he is 38), as conveyed by his 2018 stat-line…
  • IP: 153
  • K/9: 8.24
  • BB/9: 3.00
  • ERA: 3.65
  • WAR: 2.5

RP (7)

CL: Aroldis Chapman
Chapman struck out over 16 batters per 9 IP, the highest rate in the majors. His walk rate took a step back however, as Aroldis gave up over 5 walks per 9 IP. Overall, he was very effective in 2018, posting a 2.45 ERA and 1.9 WAR.
SU: Dellin Betances
Photo: N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg
Dellin Betandes was arguably the Yankees best reliever in 2018 and one of the best relievers in baseball from June on…
March 29 – May 29
  • IP: 23
  • K/9: 15.65
  • BB/9: 3.52
  • HR/9: 1.57
  • ERA: 4.30
June 1 – September 28
  • IP: 43.2
  • K/9: 15.46
  • BB/9: 3.50
  • HR/9: 0.62
  • ERA: 1.85
RP: Zack Britton
The Yankees brought back Zack Britton in hopes of further bolstering there all-mighty bullpen. He is looking to rebound from a tough 2018 season in which he was recovering from an injury. He walked around 4.6 batters / 9 IP and his strikeout rate was only 7.5 (K/9).
RP: Chad Green
Chad Green’s success from 2017 carried over into 2018. He struck out over 11 batters per 9 IP and he walked under 2 batters per 9 IP. His ERA was 2.5 and he pitched 75.2 innings. One possible area of concern going forward for Green is his susceptibility to the long ball. His HR/9 doubled from 2017 to 2018 (2017 HR/9: 0.52; 2018 HR/9: 1.07). On a positive note, Green has the ability to last multiple innings, something that sets him apart from his peers.
RP: Adam Ottavino
Ottavino is undoubtedly a fantastic addition to the Yanks pen. He improved in every single statistical category in 2018 (after a super rough 2017 season)…
  • IP: 53.1
  • K/9: 10.63
  • BB/9: 6.58
  • HR/9: 1.35
  • ERA: 5.06
  • WAR: -0.1
  • IP: 77.2
  • K/9: 12.98
  • BB/9: 4.17
  • HR/9: 0.58
  • ERA: 2.43
  • WAR: 2.0
RP: Jonathan Holder
Holder broke out in 2018, posting solid numbers across the board. He struck out over 8 batters per 9 IP and walked 2.59 batters per 9 IP. His ERA was a smidge over 3.00, and he accrued 1.3 WAR in 2018. Like Chad Green, Holder is capable of going multiple innings.
RP: Jonathan Loaisiga
Loaisiga performed exceptionally well in 2018, especially in the minors…
  • A+: 20 IP, 11.7 K/9, 0.45 BB/9, 0 HR/9, 52% GBs, and 1.35 ERA
  • AA: 34.1 IP, 10.49 K/9, 1.57 BB/9, 1.57 HR/9, 38.7% GBs, and 3.93 ERA
Although Loaisiga had an ERA over 5.00 in 24.2 IP in the majors, other metrics suggest he may have been misfortunate to some degree…
  • FIP: 3.53
  • xFIP: 2.95
His strikeout rate was very high (12.04 K/9), as was his walk rate (4.38 BB/9). Loaisiga will be best utilized as a multi-inning reliever.
Other candidates to make 25-man roster…
  • Jacoby Ellsbury: due to plantar fasciitis, he will not be reporting to ST until March. Ellsbury missed all of last season due to injury and I suspect that one of two things happen…
    1. Ellsbury will start 2019 on the IL, OR
    2. Ellsbury will demonstrate he is healthy and the Yankees will look to trade him (no room for him with Judge in RF, Hicks in CF, and Gardner + Frazier are superior over him)
  • Tommy Kahnle: he was incredible in 2017 (K/9: 13.79; BB/9: 2.44; ERA: 2.59), but he was atrocious in 2018 (K/9: 11.57; BB/9: 5.79; ERA: 6.56). He is out of minor league options, so if he pitches well in ST, I suspect the Yankees will look to move him
  • Domingo German: his 5.57 ERA sends off a distorted message. He really did well in some areas of the game (K/9: 10.72; BB/9: 3.47; FIP: 4.39; xFIP: 3.94) but struggled in others (BB/9: 3.47 and HR/9: 1.58).
  • Stephen Tarpley: he had a 3.00 ERA in 9 MLB IP. His AAA numbers were very good as well…
    • IP: 34
    • K/9: 10.06
    • BB/9: 2.91
    • GB%: 66.3
    • ERA: 2.65

Projected Lineups 

vs LHP

  1. CF Aaron Hicks
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. DH Giancarlo Stanton
  4. 3B Miguel Andujar
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. 1B Luke Voit
  7. 2B Gleyber Torres
  8. LF Clint Frazier
  9. SS Troy Tulowitzki

vs RHP

  1. CF Aaron Hicks
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. DH Giancarlo Stanton
  4. 3B Miguel Andujar
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. 2B Gleyber Torres
  7. 1B Luke Voit
  8. SS Troy Tulowtizki
  9. LF Brett Gardner
Thanks for reading. Feel free to copy and paste the lineup and roster slots/spots below and make your own predictions… and be sure to follow me @MaxGold81356590
  • C
  • 1B
  • 2B
  • SS
  • 3B
  • LF
  • CF
  • RF
  • DH
  • SP
  • RP

vs LHP

vs RHP

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Austin Romine

Pitchers and catchers are in full swing right now down in Tampa, Florida and George M. Steinbrenner Field and one of those catchers is named Austin Romine. Romine has been the Yankees backup catcher for parts of four seasons and for each of the last three seasons. Let’s get reacquainted with him as we continue meeting our 2019 Yankees, Mr. Austin Romine.

Austin Romine, 30-years old, is a right-handed hitting and throwing catcher that stands 6’1” and weighs in at 220 lbs. Romine is considered an aggressive hitter on fast balls that is prone to swing and miss a lot. Romine will likely never hit .300 or win a batting title, but his home run power has grown every year that he has been in the league. Brooks Baseball also points out that Romine has a slight arm-side run and some added backspin to his fastball, so that’s fun.

Austin Allen Romine was born on November 22, 1988 in Lake Forest, California where he attended El Toro High School. While with the school, Romine played baseball with the school’s team along with Nolan Arenado. Romine was drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 2007 MLB First Year Players Draft and immediately signed, thus beginning his professional career.

Romine toiled around with the Yankees minor league system and was ranked as high as the Yankees fourth-best prospect in 2009 and their second-best prospect in 2010. Romine also participated in the All-Star Futures Game in 2010 before competing for the backup catcher’s job in 2011. Romine ultimately was assigned to Double-A to begin the 2011 season and quickly found himself in Triple-A before injuries to Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli propelled him to the Major Leagues on September 10th. Romine looked to build on that success in 2012, but two bulging discs in his back forced the young catcher to miss most of the season. Romine bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the Yankees big league squad from 2013 – 2015 before finally winning the backup catcher’s job in 2016, beating out Gary Sanchez.

Romine appeared in 62 games in 2016 for the Yankees hitting .242 with four home runs and 26 RBI before injuries flushed Romine into a starting catching job in 2017. Sanchez was hurt in April of 2017, forcing Romine into the starter’s role for a month. Sanchez was injured again for a lot of the 2018 season giving Romine another opportunity to start, and Romine took full advantage putting forth his best statistical season of his MLB career. Romine showed he could hold his own with the bat in 2018, .244/.295/.417/.713 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI, but he also showed that he could pitch as well. Romine was brought into pitch in an eventual 16-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Romine gave up the home run to Brock Holt that allowed him to become the first player to ever hit for the cycle in an MLB postseason game, so again, that’s fun.

Romine, welcome back to the team and we look forward to another productive season from you behind the plate and at the dish (and not so much on the mound). You have baseball blood coursing through your veins (Romine’s father, Kevin, played for the Boston Red Sox from 1985 to 1991 while his brother, Andrew, plays in the Seattle Mariners organization) and we know you will do us proud here in 2019. Wishing you well!

Meet the 2019 Yankees: James Paxton

The New York Yankees had one mission this offseason, to improve their starting rotation, and they did just that on November 19, 2018 when the team acquired left-handed starter James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees sent LHP prospect Justus Sheffield back to Seattle along with right-hander Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams. While Paxton doesn’t come without at least some concerns, most notably his ability to stay on the field, if healthy he gives the Yankees one of the best rotations not only in the American League, but in all of baseball. Let’s meet likely the Yankees #2 starter this season, Mr. James Paxton.

James Paxton, 30-years old, is 6’4” tall and 235 lbs. and has earned the nickname “Big Maple” for his birthplace and his intimidating presence on the mound. Paxton, a left-handed starting pitcher, will enter the field inside Yankee Stadium with a 96 MPH four-seam fastball, an 82 MPH knuckle curve, a 90 MPH cutter and a 96 MPH sinker strapped to his left side. Paxton also rarely throws a changeup that touches around 87 MPH. Paxton generates a lot of swings and misses with his fastball, but on the flip side he also has stats trending in the wrong direction as far as fly balls go with his heater. Fly balls inside Yankee Stadium is never a good thing, ever. Paxton’s curve ball generates a 12-6 movement while his cutter has a natural sinking motion to it when he throw it. Paxton generates a lot of swings and misses as well as ground balls with his sinker while his changeup is an extreme flyball pitch compared to others changeup’s around the league. Paxton only threw 10 changeup’s all season long in 2018, thank goodness for the Yankees.

James Alston Paxton was born on November 6, 1988 in Ladner, Canada. Eh. Paxton attended Delta Secondary School in Ladner, British Columbia before playing for the North Delta Blue Jays of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League (PBL) and for Team Canada at the Junior National level. After graduating High School, Paxton attended the University of Kentucky and played baseball for the Kentucky Wildcats baseball team. Paxton began his collegiate career as a reliever, but quickly worked his way into the Wildcats starting rotation as a sophomore. Paxton was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2009 MLB First Year Players Draft in the first round, 37th overall, but opted to return to school for his senior season. After returning to school the NCAA ruled him ineligible for his senior season, stemming from his contact with agent Scott Boras. This led Paxton to pitch with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the Independent American Association in 2010, passing the time until the Seattle Mariners drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft. Paxton signed immediately and began his professional career in Single-A with the Clinton LumberKings.

By the 2013 season Paxton was already in Triple-A and by September of that year he was called up to the major leagues. Paxton began the 2014 season in the Mariners rotation, but injuries cut his 2014 season to just 13 starts. The injury bug would hit Paxton once again in 2015 as he was limited to just 13 starts for a second consecutive season. Paxton began the 2016 season back in Triple-A before an injury to Felix Hernandez brought the big lefty back to the majors and back to the Mariners starting rotation. Paxton began the 2017 back in the Mariners rotation, but once again Big Maple saw his season cut short due to a pair of arm-related injuries.

Paxton hoped to finally put it all together in 2018, and that he finally did for the Mariners. Paxton threw a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 8, 2018 throwing just 99 pitches in a 5-0 victory. Paxton finished a healthy and productive 2018 season with an 11-6 record and a 3.76 ERA. In the winter before the 2019 season the New York Yankees acquired Paxton from the Mariners for three minor league pitchers, thus beginning his tenure in the Yankees pinstripes. Welcome to the team, welcome to the organization, and most importantly… welcome to the family!!

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Zack Britton

The New York Yankees went out and traded for Zack (no longer Zach) Britton during the summer of the 2018 season not only to bring his immense talent to their own ball club, but to also keep his left-handed throwing arm away from rivals like the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros. The Yankees liked what Britton brought to the table so much, and vice versa obviously, that on January 6, 2019 the team brought him back on a somewhat complicated three-year (maybe four…. maybe two) deal worth $39 million (or $50 million… or $26 million). Let’s meet the man that will likely be pitching the 8th inning (or the 7th inning… or the 6th inning… or the 9th inning) out of the bullpen this season for the 2019 New York Yankees, Zack Britton.

Zack Britton, 31-years old, is a left-handed throwing relief pitcher that stands 6’3” and weighs in at 195 lbs. Britton possesses a 95 MPH sinker, an 82 MPH curve ball, and a rarely thrown 95 MPH four-seam fastball. Britton’s sinker generates an extremely high number of swings and misses as well as an extreme number of ground balls, both of which work well inside Yankee Stadium. Britton also misses a ton of bats with his curve ball as well, although his fastball leaves much to be desired statistically.

Zachary Grant Britton was born on December 22, 1987 in Panorama City, California. Britton was raised by his family in Santa Clarita, California along with two older brothers. Britton attended Canyon High School for his freshman year where he sustained fractures of the skull and clavicle as well as bleeding in the brain as a result of diving headfirst into a concrete wall while attempting to catch a foul popup furing baseball practice with the team. Britton spent two days in intensive care due to the injuries. Britton was then moved by his family to Texas where he transferred to Weatherford High School. While at the school, Britton was an all-state outfielder for the team and also doubled as a pitcher. Britton was offered an athletic scholarship to attend Texas A&M University. Britton never took advantage of that scholarship from the Aggies, instead choosing to sign with the Baltimore Orioles who drafted him in the third round, 85th overall, in the 2006 MLB First Year Players Draft. Britton signed a $200,000 signing bonus and immediately began his professional career with the club. 

Britton worked his way through the Orioles minor league system from 2006 – 2011 before getting his MLB call up on April 3, 2011. Britton, then a starter, was called up to replace the injured Brian Matusz in the starting rotation for the Orioles. Britton was ultimately sent down on July 9th of that season after losing six of his last seven decisions after winning his MLB debut, some would speculate so that the Orioles could delay his free agency by a season by manipulating his service time, and finished his rookie campaign with a 4.61 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and an 11-11 record in a total of 28 games. Britton returned in 2012 to make 11 starts, but had his season cut short because of a left shoulder impingement that landed him on the disabled list until July. Britton made another seven starts for the Orioles in 2013 over 40 innings of work before the team ultimately decided to move the left-hander to the bullpen.

The 2014 season was the first season that Britton worked solely as a reliever for the Baltimore Orioles after winning a spot on the club’s Opening Day roster. Britton would assume the closer’s role for the team and finished his first season as a closer converting 37 of 41 save opportunities with a 1.65 ERA. Britton also helped the Orioles sweep the Detroit Tigers in the 2014 ALDS, picking up a pair of saves, before losing to the Kansas City Royals. Britton would be selected to his first career All-Star Game in 2015 after saving 23 of 24 games in the first half and would finish the year with 36 saves and a 1.92 ERA. Britton would continue his string of success as a closer in 2016, opening the season with 19th consecutive saves, setting a new Orioles franchise record. Britton stretched that streak to 29 games to close out the first half of the 2016 season and made the All-Star team for the second consecutive season. Britton saved his 33rd straight game on August 3rd, setting an MLB record for most consecutive saves to start a season by a left-handed pitcher, while he also set an MLB record for most consecutive relief appearances without allowing an earned run, 39 at that point, on August 11th of 2016. Britton finished the season with 0.54 ERA in 67 innings (69 games) along with 74 strikeouts and a 0.84 WHIP. Britton saved all 47 of his save chances in 2016 en route to winning the Mariano Rivera Award and a fourth-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award balloting, receiving five first-place votes.

Britton would open up the 2017 season with a save, the 50th consecutive save dating back to October 1, 2015, becoming just the fifth pitcher in MLB history to convert at least 50 consecutive save opportunities. Britton would reach 54 consecutive saves before being added to the 15-day disabled list with left forearm tightness. Britton would convert his 55th consecutive save after two separate stints on the DL with the forearm and would stretch the streak up to 60 games before the Oakland Athletics broke the streak after an impressive 704 days. Britton would end the 2017 season making only 38 appearances out of the bullpen. It was later revealed that Britton had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, ruling him out of play for at least six months. Britton opened the 2018 season on the 60-day disabled list and would not make his debut until June 12th of that season. Britton spent a month with the Orioles before Baltimore shipped him to the New York Yankees in exchange for Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers.

Now the Yankees and their fans get to see what a full, healthy season of Zack Britton really looks like here in 2019. Welcome back to the team, Zack, and welcome back to the family!!

TGP Trivia and Fact of the Day for February 14th, 2019

Happy Valentines Day everyone! What better way to celebrate the day than with this crazy Yankees fact of the day.

In 1920, Babe Ruth slammed 54 home runs for the New York Yankees, which was more than the total of every other team in Major League Baseball that season with the exception of one, the Philadelphia Phillies who hit 64 as a team. Good thing for the Babe that Adam Ottavino wasn't pitching back in 1920, huh?

Image result for yankees valentines day

And a very special Happy Valentines Day to my wife, Kari Ann Burch. This will be our third Valentines Day together, and our first as a married couple. I love you, admire you, adore you, appreciate you, and acknowledge the ever-so important role you play in my life and making me the person that I am more today than ever, and it grows every day. Without you, there is no me... and it doesn't matter what day is on the calendar, that will never change. I love you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Gary Sanchez

Pitchers and catchers report today down in Tampa, Florida at George M. Steinbrenner Field and while we have already met two pitchers from the 2019 Yankees, we have yet to meet a catcher. Why not start it off by meeting THE catcher for the New York Yankees this season, Gary Sanchez. Meet the 2019 Yankees: The Gary is definitely not lazy Edition.

Gary Sanchez, 26-years old, is a right-handed batting and throwing catcher for the New York Yankees. With his 6’2” and 230 lb. frame (according to Baseball Reference, he looks much thinner this offseason) the Yankees have potentially one of the best hitting catchers in all of baseball, assuming health and assuming that his poor production in 2018 was injury related or a sophomore slump of a fluke.

Gary Sanchez was born on December 2, 1992 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Sanchez grew up in La Victoria, Dominican Republic where he was raised predominantly by his mother, Orquidia Hererra, and his grandmother, Agustina Pena, along with his three brothers and one sister. Sanchez was signed by the New York Yankees out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year old in July of 2009. Sanchez received $3 million in a signing bonus and began his season with the Gulf Coast Yankees. By the 2011 season Sanchez was already considered to be one of the best prospects in all of Major League Baseball according to Baseball America. Sanchez was widely considered the Yankees best prospect by the 2012 season according to Baseball America and the fourth best prospect in all of baseball. Sanchez bounced around and worked his way through the Yankees system until the 2015 season when the young catcher, fresh off an appearance at the 2015 All-Star Futures Game, was promoted to the Major Leagues.

Sanchez made his MLB debut as a pinch hitter on October 3, 2015 and was included on the Yankees 25-man roster for the 2015 American League Wild Card Game in the postseason. The Yankees were eliminated by the Houston Astros in the Wild Card Game, prematurely ending their season, leading the team to send Sanchez to the Arizona Fall League for the winter. Sanchez would lead the AFL in home runs that season and was named the Fall Stars Game MVP as well as being named the second-best prospect in the AFL by Baseball America. After a strong winter the Yankees decided to trade catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Minnesota Twins for Aaron Hicks, thus opening the door for Sanchez in the Bronx.

Sanchez dueled Austin Romine for the back up job to Brian McCann in 2016, but ultimately began the season back in Triple-A. Sanchez was called up once in May during that season before coming back to the Bronx on August 3rd, this time to stay. Sanchez began assaulting MLB hitters after his call up and ended the season with a .299 average with 20 home runs and 42 RBI in just 53 games played. Gary finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year Award vote behind the Detroit Tigers starter Michael Fulmer and looked to be the Yankees starting catcher for the 2017 season.

Sanchez was named an AL All-Star in 2017 as a reserve and he participated in the 2017 Home Run Derby. Prior to the competition Sanchez’s spot in the Derby was questioned by then Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Logan Morrison, who stated that Sanchez did not deserve an invitation to the Derby, having hit only 13 home runs compared to Morrison’s 24 home runs. Sanchez went on to hit his 31st home run in 2017 on September 14, breaking the record for most home runs in a single season by a Yankees catcher, passing Yogi Berra who hit 30 in 1952 and 1956, and Jorge Posada who did it in 2003. Sanchez helped the Yankees get within one game of the World Series in 2017, losing to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Sanchez struggled in 2018 before news of a shoulder injury that required surgery popped up during the offseason. Sanchez finished the 2018 season, his worst season statistically, with a .168 average, 18 home runs and 53 RBI in just 89 games played. Gary also led the league in passed balls with 18 while also making two separate trips to the disabled list with a pair of groin injuries after being criticized for a lack of hustle.

Gary isn’t lazy. He may have been during his minor league years with the Yankees, he himself even credited the birth of his daughter for the transformation from a player “going through the motions” to a player lauded for his work ethic, but now Gary is scary… and he will be in 2019 as well. Write it down.