Tuesday, March 7, 2017

USA Today’s First Set of Preseason MLB Power Rankings

You know the 2017 Major League Baseball season is inching closer and closer when the USA Today releases the first of their weekly MLB Power Rankings. Now while they won’t be weekly for a month or so the preseason rankings are usually a good indicator of what is to come as we get closer to Opening Day. These rankings are subject to change and as we know they will change but here they are as everything stands today.

1.       Chicago Cubs
2.       Cleveland Indians
3.       Boston Red Sox
4.       Los Angeles Dodgers
5.       San Francisco Giants
6.       Washington Nationals
7.       Houston Astros
8.       Texas Rangers
9.       New York Mets
10.   Toronto Blue Jays
11.   St. Louis Cardinals
12.   Baltimore Orioles
13.   Detroit Tigers
14.   Seattle Mariners
15.   Kansas City Royals
16.   Pittsburgh Pirates
17.   Colorado Rockies
18.   New York Yankees
19.   Miami Marlins
20.   Tampa Bay Rays
21.   Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
22.   Philadelphia Phillies,
23.   Atlanta Braves
24.   Milwaukee Brewers
25.   Arizona Diamondbacks
26.   Chicago White Sox
27.   Oakland Athletics
28.   Minnesota Twins
29.   Cincinnati Reds
San Diego Padres 

FYI: World Baseball Classic 2017 Schedule

The United States and Team USA begin their World Baseball Classic schedule against Team Columbia on March 10th, three short days away, while the defending champions Team Dominican Republic start their schedule the next day. For the entire Team USA, Team Dominican Republic or any other team’s schedule for this year’s WBC see our handy schedule below. Bookmark it and check back often if necessary. Enjoy.

All times are Eastern Standard Time. The first and second rounds are a Round Robin style tournament.


Pool A
Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea

Monday, March 6
Israel vs. South Korea, 5 a.m.

Tuesday, March 7
Taiwan vs. Israel, 10:30 p.m. Monday
South Korea vs. Netherlands, 5 a.m.

Wednesday, March 8
Taiwan vs. Netherlands, 5 a.m.

Thursday, March 9
Israel vs. Netherlands, 10:30 p.m. Wednesday
Taiwan vs. South Korea, 5 a.m

Friday, March 10
Tiebreaker game, 4 a.m., if necessary

Pool B
Tokyo Dome

Tuesday, March 7
Cuba vs. Japan, 5 a.m.

Wednesday, March 8
China vs. Cuba, 10 p.m. Tuesday
Australia vs. Japan, 5 a.m.

Thursday, March 9
Australia vs. China, 5 a.m.

Friday, March 10
Australia vs. Cuba, 10 p.m. Thursday
China vs. Japan, 5 a.m.

Saturday, March 11
Tiebreaker game, 5 a.m., if necessary

Pool C
Marlins Park – Miami

Thursday, March 9
Canada vs. Dominican Republic, 6 p.m.

Friday, March 10
Colombia vs. United States, 6 p.m.

Saturday, March 11
Canada vs. Colombia, Noon
Dominican Republic vs. United States, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 12
Colombia vs. Dominican Republic, 12:30 p.m.
Canada vs. United States, 7 p.m.

Monday, March 13
Tiebreaker game, 6 p.m., if necessary

Pool D
Estadio Charros de Jalisco - Guadalajara, Mexico

Thursday, March 9
Italy vs. Mexico, 9 p.m.

Friday, March 10
Puerto Rico vs. Venezuela, 9 p.m.

Saturday, March 11
Italy vs. Venezuela, 3 p.m.
Mexico vs.Puerto Rico, 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 12
Italy vs. Puerto Rico, 3:30 p.m.
Mexico vs. Venezuela, 10 p.m.

Monday, March 13
Tiebreaker game, 9 p.m., if necessary


Pool E

Tokyo Dome

Sunday, March 12
Pool A winner vs. Pool B, 10 p.m. Saturday
Pool A runner-up vs. Pool B, 6 a.m.

Monday, March 13
Pool A winner vs. Pool A runner-up, 6 a.m.

Tuesday, March 14
Pool B vs. Pool B, 6 a.m.

Wednesday, March 15
Pool A runner-up vs. Pool B, 11 p.m. Tuesday
Pool A winner vs. Pool B, 6 a.m.

Thursday, March 16
Tiebreaker game, 6 a.m., if necessary

Pool F
Petco Park - San Diego

Tuesday, March 14
Pool C winner vs. Pool D winner, 9 p.m.

Wednesday, March 15
Pool C runner-up vs. Pool D runner-up, 9 p.m.

Thursday, March 16
Pool C winner vs. Pool D runner-up, 10 p.m.

Friday, March 17
Pool C runner-up vs. Pool D winner, 10 p.m.

Saturday, March 18
Pool D winner vs. Pool D runner-up, 3:30 p.m.
Pool C winner vs. Pool C runner-up, 10 p.m.

Sunday, March 19
Tiebreaker game, 8 p.m., if necessary

Dodger Stadium - Los Angeles

Monday, March 20
Pool E runner-up vs. Pool F winner, 9 p.m.

Tuesday, March 21
Pool E winner vs. Pool F runner-up, 9 p.m.


Wednesday, March 22
Semifinal winners, 9 p.m.

Players to Watch While Key Yankees Are Gone to WBC

Ladies and gentleman the World Baseball Classic is right around the corner. If you didn’t know that by looking at the schedule or staying up to date you can see it by looking at who is in spring training camps right now and who isn’t and the Yankees camp is no exception. With many Yankees regulars gone to represent their respective countries in the WBC these men are now officially on the clock and on the watch list. It’s time to prove yourselves gentleman and here is the list of men I am speaking to directly when I say that.

Jordan Montgomery. Yes I cannot talk Yankees prospects this spring without mentioning Jordan Montgomery, it’s a problem, but that’s only because I truly believe that he has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. With the Yankees fourth and fifth starting spots in their rotation wide open now why couldn’t Montgomery slip in and steal a spot like Johnny Barbato did in the Yankees bullpen last year? I’m certainly not going to be the one to count him out and you shouldn’t either. Montgomery doesn’t have the upside of a James Kaprielian or a Justus Sheffield but he misses enough bats to survive, which is evident by his 8.8 K/9 ratio in the minor leagues, he limits his walks, see his 2,2 BB/9 ratio, and he simply knows how to get hitters out with a great consistency. Montgomery posted a 2.61 ERA last season across Double-A and Triple-A and will not likely gain much by returning to Scranton/Wilkes Barre to start 2017 in my opinion. He’s ready, unleash him. The Yankees won’t because of the 40 man roster crunch and the numbers game, we all know that by now, but they should because winning should, and used to, trump all.

Like the Yankees fourth and fifth spots in the rotation the Yankees bullpen and specifically their middle relief seems to be wide open right now. With that said arms like Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder could slip in and make the team with strong and impressive springs. Both men are already on the 40 man roster and will use their minor league options, presumably, anyway this season so why not? Heller did not impress in his 10 game stint in the Major Leagues last season but that is not indicative of what he did in the minor leagues last season and what he could do in the Yankees bullpen going forward. Heller owns a career 2.72 ERA in the minor leagues with an impressive 11.7 K/9 ratio as a reliever which would fit the mold of what the Yankees currently are filling their bullpen with, big guys with huge frames and even bigger strikeout numbers. Heller’s fastball sits at 96 MPH but he has been known to reach back and throw 100 MPH when he has to which simply cannot be taught, and to think he was a mere throw-in player in the Andrew Miller trade that brought back Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier. Holder on the other hand was drafted by the Yankees in the same draft that brought the team Jacob Lindgren. Holder has been used as a starter since he was drafted in 2014 by the Yankees but made the transition back to the bullpen in 2016 where he took off. Holder struck out 101 batters in 65.1 innings while only walking seven across three levels including Triple-A Scranton. Holder pounds the zone and lives off a ton of movement and deception when he pitches which more than makes up for his “slow” 93 MPH fastball that he brings to the table.

Rob Refsnyder is a player that we discussed earlier this morning in trade rumors but is also a player that could make it impossible for the team to trade him. Refsnyder was drafted as an outfielder but was quickly converted to second base where he struggled defensively as a minor league player. Since coming up to the Yankees he has dabbled in both positions as well as first base and third base in a pinch making him a super utility player that any team would like and be lucky to have. A line drive hitter by nature, and admittedly my favorite Yankees prospect so there may be a tad bit of bias written into these words, that makes contact, can play all over the field and can hit close to .300 over the course of a season if given regular at-bats are hard to find. Again though, this is a numbers game and the Yankees are in the midst of a 40-man roster crunch and a roster crunch in general which could still make Refsnyder expendable. Refsnyder could still be traded but he’s also just one bad spring or injury from Ronald Torreyes away from being right in the thick of things once again in the Bronx, so stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled on this one.

The final piece is an unlikely player to make the team but I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention him anyway. Kyle Higashioka opened up a lot of eyes inside the Yankees organization last year, enough eyes to warrant a 40 man roster spot and roster protection from the team this winter despite having two young catchers in Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez on the roster at the time as well as a veteran backstop in Brian McCann. McCann has since been traded to the Houston Astros obviously and all signs point to Romine being the backup but it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities to see Higashioka grab the job with an impressive spring. Higashioka may be a prospect by all definitions of the word and he may lack MLB experience but at age 27 he is far from being raw or not ready for the big stage. Higashioka seems to be a late bloomer, I know this because I’ve watched him in the Yankees organization since they signed him back in 2008, and after a breakout 2016 season that included 21 home runs and a .847 OPS he may be ready to finally take that huge step to the Major Leagues. His defense his ready and if the adjustments he made to his swing stick the Yankees may have struck gold with this one thus making Romine expendable once again on the Yankees roster.

Report: Yankees Looking to Trade Rob Refsnyder and the Sky is Officially Falling in the Burch Household

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! No really though guys, the sky is falling. While I may be exaggerating just a tad I feel like it is in my little world that I call the Burch Household. Why? Well George A. King of the New York Post reported over the weekend that the New York Yankees have told teams that they are listening to offers for utility man, and my absolute favorite prospect in all the land, Robert Refsnyder. While this doesn’t mean a transaction is imminent by any means it means the Yankees are at least entertaining the idea of moving him and that, in a nutshell, breaks my heart.

I can’t help it. I’m a fan. I’ve been a fan of Refsnyder since the Yankees took the outfielder out of the University of Arizona back in 2012 and I am a fan today. I was a fan when Refsnyder was transferred to second base and I was a fan when Stephen Drew (Sucks) was clogging up the second base position while Refsnyder was hitting .300 in Triple-A. I was a fan during Refsnyder’s first 16 games of his Major League career when he slashed .302/.348/.512 with five extra-base hits, five RBI and two stolen bases and I was a fan when he started at second base in the team’s Wild Card playoff game against the Houston Astros and Dallas Keuchel.

If I am being 100% honest, while I will admittedly be crushed, I would be happy if Refsnyder were to be traded only because it means he could potentially get the playing time that he not only needs but also deserves in my obviously bias and yet humble opinion. Refsnyder should have been called up at least a year earlier than he was and was slated to be the team’s starting second baseman until the Starlin Castro acquisition from the Chicago Cubs. Refsnyder has been looked over and passed over ever since he was drafted and it seems unlikely he will ever get a true shot here in the Bronx so no one would or should begrudge him for going elsewhere to get that shot. This sport isn’t the NBA, you have to play your entire life just to get a 15-minute cup of coffee in the show and if that cup of Joe isn’t in the Bronx I’ll just be glad that he got it at all, regardless of where it is.

What the Yankees could be getting back for Refsnyder is anyone’s guess, not a game changer or a huge name in my opinion although there is always that Jose Quintana rumor still hanging around Yankee Land, but at this point anything is better than nothing. At least in Refsnyder’s case. Good luck to the soon-to-be 26-year old no matter what happens and where he ends up. Just know I am going to terribly upset if that isn’t with the Yankees in some capacity for the 2017 season. 

So it Seems with Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

The title says it all. With great power comes great responsibility and that is something that we have always taken very seriously here at the blog. Now that isn’t meant to sound cocky or anything like that, power is used basically for the lack of a better term, but there is true power in the internet and the freedom of speech that comes along with it. While some may simply scoff at what we have to say on a daily basis others may take it as the gospel, that’s the beauty of being a human being with the ability and freedom to choose what they want for their lives.

So why the theme for today? Well, without giving too much away, we here at the blog have had something dropped in our laps that has the potential of not only stirring the pot but breaking the pot, the stand the pot is on and the mold holding whatever is holding the pot together and up with. It has the potential to be huge if done right so we are taking our time with it and we are going to make sure it’s done right. You will know the post when you see it, and clear your schedule when you do because this could be big.

I have a few things to work on for the blog before this comes out that I hope to get done today or tonight so if I am a bit quiet, especially in the comments section of the blog, that’s why. That and the very best distractions in the world that is. But that’s okay because this may bring us all what we have always wanted with this blog. Or maybe it won’t and that’s fine too.  I still love you to the moon and back.

I don’t plug and tease future endeavors often, I think the last time I did it was when we had the exclusive interview with Zack Hample who caught the Alex Rodriguez 3000 hit ball, but when I do it’s usually big…. So stay tuned.

Is there Kryptonite at 161st and River?…

Credit:  Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY Sports

Why do struggling Yankees achieve success when they are traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates?  I am sure that it’s not the case for every former Yankee, but in recent years, it has felt that way.

Ivan Nova, facing his former teammates for the first time yesterday, picked up his first win of the spring with three innings of scoreless work.  He gave up two hits and walked a batter, while striking out two, so it wasn’t a flawless performance, but a win is a win.

In 2016, Nova was 7-6 for the Yanks, with a 4.90 ERA in 21 starts.  Moving over to Pittsburgh at the trading deadline, he started 11 games for the Pirates, going 5-2, with a much better 3.06 ERA.  

He’ll never be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but still, the results are markedly different between the two cities.  A free agent in the off-season, Nova scored a 3-year, $26 million deal to return to the Pirates.  Like A.J. Burnett before him, Nova changed from a very inconsistent pitcher in the Bronx to a dependable starter in the Steel City.  Another example is current San Francisco closer Mark Melancon.  Admittedly, Melancon never got much of an opportunity in New York where he was once touted as the eventual successor for Mariano Rivera, but he struggled in other pressure cities like Boston before finding success in Pittsburgh.  Today, he is paid among the elite closers in baseball, trailing only Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen in total dollars.  

Russell Martin was not finished as a catcher when he left New York, but he rejuvenated his career in Pittsburgh.  He was able to parlay that performance into a 5-year, $82 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Former Yankees backup catcher Francisco Cervelli is the starting catcher in Pittsburgh these days.  If Austin Romine were to lose his backup job to Kyle Higashioka, he’d be wise to go ahead and buy a condo in Pittsburgh.

Rule 5 Draftee pitcher Tyler Webb, a Yankees farmhand, has pitched three innings for the Pirates this spring and has yet to give up a run.  I don’t know his chances of making the Pirates opening day roster, but if he keeps pitching like he has, there’s no chance he’ll be offered back to the Yanks.

There’s no question the environment is more relaxed in Pittsburgh.  Nova showing up at yesterday’s game with blonde hair was a solid indication that he no longer calls Yankee Stadium home.  

Maybe Rob Refsnyder should push for a trade to Pittsburgh.  He’d probably make the All-Star team next year. 

I think if you put Nova back in pinstripes, he’d revert to the unreliable pitcher that he had become.  Some guys just weren’t meant for the Main Stage.  Still, you always wonder what could have been if they had only pitched or played like that for the Yankees.

Back to the spring game and Nova’s win, the Yankees got hammered by the Pirates, 13-1.  My favorite for the #5 spot in the rotation, Bryan Mitchell, looked like Ed Whitson in a Yankees uniform.  It wasn’t pretty.  Evan Rutckyj, and his spring 19.29 ERA, ensured that he’ll be banished to the minors soon.  Mitchell gave up 4 runs in 2 1/2 innings, while Rutckyj gave up 6 runs (4 earned) without recording an out.  

It was just one of those games that it is best to quickly forget.  With the loss, the Yankees fell to 9-3 for the spring.

This Day in New York Yankees History 3/7: Me Just Griping

There wasn’t any history or news to bring you on this day in New York Yankees history so instead I will use this opportunity to gripe just a little. It’s 5:00 AM and no one is reading this right now anyway so I should be good. I applied for media credentials with the Trenton Thunder, Staten Island Yankees, Tampa Yankees and others and have been denied. Why you ask? Because we’re just a blog, not a news gathering site.

What a load of, whatever. Their loss. Have a great day everybody!