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.

Meet the 2019 Yankees: JA Happ

The New York Yankees got everything they could have asked for, well… almost everything, from JA Happ last season after acquiring him from the Toronto Blue Jays for a package made up of Brandon Drury and others. New York liked him so much, in fact, that on December 17, 2018 the team decided to bring him back on a two-year deal worth $34 million with an option for a third season. Yankees fans are already pretty familiar with Happ after his 7-0 record with the team in 2018, and his subsequent “let down” for lack of a better word in the postseason against the Boston Red Sox, but for those who aren’t, let’s meet him. Your 2019 New York Yankees, here is lefty JA Happ.

JA Happ, 36-years old, is a left-handed starting pitcher that handles himself well on the mound with his 6’5” and 205 lb. frame. Happ possesses a 93 MPH four-seam fastball, a 91 MPH sinker, an 86 MPH slider, an 86 MPH changeup, and a curveball that he rarely throws at 76 MPH.

James Anthony Happ was born on October 19, 1982 in Peru, Illinois with two older sisters. Happ attended High School at St. Bede Academy, where the lefty was a four-year letter winner in both basketball and baseball. Happ graduated from St. Bede in 2001 and continued his amateur baseball career at Northwestern University where he majored in history. Happ also played for the Northwestern Wildcats where he was named All-Big Ten Conference First Team in his freshman, sophomore, and junior years while attending the university. After his junior season the Philadelphia Phillies drafted the lefty in the third round, 92nd overall, of the 2004 MLB First Year Players Draft. Happ signed immediately and was assigned to the Phillies minor league system.

Happ toiled in the Phillies minor league system and the Arizona Fall League through the 2007 season until Philadelphia called up the lefty to make his major league debut on June 30, 2007. Happ made one start against the New York Mets before being sent back to Triple-A for the remainder of the 2007 season. Happ started the 2008 season back in Triple-A as well, but he was back in the majors again starting against the Mets again on July 4th. Happ was up and down between Triple-A and the majors for the remainder of the 2008 season until he became a mainstay in the Phillies rotation in 2009. Happ, with a World Series ring after the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, entered the rotation in 2009 and led Philadelphia back to the World Series in 2009, this time against the New York Yankees. The Yankees would win the series in six games, sending Happ and the Phillies home with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Happ was back in the Phillies rotation in 2010 until the team traded him to the Houston Astros on July 29th along with Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar in exchange for Roy Oswalt. Happ remained in Houston until the 2012 season when he was traded again, this time to the Toronto Blue Jays along with Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter for Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco, Asher Wojciechowski, David Rollins, Joe Musgrove, Carlos Perez, and Kevin Comer. Happ pitched primarily out of the bullpen with the Blue Jays through the 2014 season before he was once again traded, this time to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Saunders. Happ was used primarily as a starter for the Mariners in 2015 before being shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31, 2015, Happ hit free agency after the 2015 season and could finally decide his own landing spot after being traded so many times before, and the lefty decided that Toronto was where he wanted to pitch after signing a three-year deal worth $36 million with the Blue Jays keeping him in Toronto through the 2018 season.

Happ lasted in Toronto until July 26, 2018 when the Blue Jays shipped him to the New York Yankees for outfielder Billy McKinney and third baseman Brandon Drury. Happ remained with the Yankees for the remainder of the 2018 season posting a 7-0 record, helping propel New York to the postseason as a Wild Card winner for the second consecutive season. The Yankees finished the season with 100 victories, but their season ended prematurely at the hand of the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. Happ returned to the Yankees on a free agent deal after the 2018 season, this time for two-years and $34 million including an option for a third season.

Not that I have to again, but welcome back to the team, welcome back to the organization, and welcome back to the family JA.

Happy Reporting Day for Yankee Pitchers and Catchers...

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram
The Dawn of the 2019 MLB Season…

After a painfully long off-season filled with too many rumors and rampant speculation, Yankee pitchers and catchers officially report to training camp in Tampa, FL today to begin preparations for the upcoming season. Granted, many of the Yankee players are already in Tampa, working out informally, but Spring Training officially gets underway today with the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, position players can spend Valentine’s Day with their loved ones although many, like Aaron Judge, Troy Tulowitzki, Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier and others, are already in camp in advance of Monday’s reporting date. The first full team workout will be next Tuesday.

I really thought there would be movement with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this week. Of course, I’ve been thinking that every week since the start of the new year.  At this point, I don’t really know when they’ll sign. I still think they’ll be in some team’s camp, either in Florida or Arizona, before Opening Day but who knows. I feel so bad for the other guys. The free agents not named Machado or Harper. So many guys who can make a difference on a Major League roster, like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and they can’t find work. Clearly something has to change. For the Yankees, they appear to have the guys who will compete for the Opening Day roster barring any last-minute additions. Even if the Yankees didn’t sign Machado or Harper, they’ve been one of the more active teams this off-season. 

The biggest battle to watch this Spring is the first base competition between Luke Voit and Greg Bird. By the way, Happy Birthday to Luke!  He is 28 years old today. DJ LeMahieu will apparently also see time at first in his role as the utility player for the team (which makes no sense to me). I’d like to see Voit win the job outright, continuing his late season run from last year.  I like his energy and excitement.  It’s infectious and spreads to his teammates. I would love to see Greg Bird hit the way we know he can but, like many people, I am tired of waiting. My guess is Bird goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to find himself if Voit wins the job. Bird’s sweet left-handed swing would look beautiful in Yankee Stadium but I am losing confidence we’ll ever see it consistently. For as much as I want Voit to win the job, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Bird killed it this Spring to reclaim the position for himself. That would be a great problem to have. 

I just can’t wrap my head around the thought that Troy Tulowitzki is the starting shortstop. In my mind, he’s done. If he shows anything in camp, great, but realistically, I am not expecting anything from him. Team defense, in my opinion, is better served with Gleyber Torres at short and DJ LeMahieu, and his gold glove, at second until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Tulo is such a Wild Card at the moment. He could make the Opening Day roster and be the starting shortstop or he could by cut by the end of March when the team identifies its best 25 players. Honestly, neither would surprise me. But I think LeMahieu is the better player at this point and the Yankees have a greater investment in him. I find it very hard to believe that LeMahieu is simply the new Ronald Torreyes. He is better and deserves better. 

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
Out in left field, dependence on Brett Gardner as the starter is flawed logic. A fourth outfielder at best at this stage of his career, it would be better for Clint Frazier to win the job (unlikely) or put Giancarlo Stanton in left more often which is always a risk since he carried the injury-risk label until his monster 2017 season when he won the NL MVP Award for the Miami Marlins. DH is the best way to keep Stanton healthy and hitting the way he did during his MVP year. Jacoby Ellsbury, if healthy, looms as a threat to take a roster spot away from Frazier for Opening Day. I anxiously look forward to the day when Ellsbury and the Yankees part ways. While I don’t expect him on the field Opening Day, the possibility exists he is there if healthy.  The problem with Ellsbury is even if he is healthy, it won’t stay that way. The King of the DL will become the King of the new IL (“Injured List”). Let those insurance checks keep rolling in for Team Hal. 

The only other real competition will be the last spots in the bullpen. Tommy Kahnle is expected to take one of the jobs, assuming he can pitch like he did in 2017. I really hope that the last man in the pen is not Luis Cessa. That’s another guy I’d like to see leave. I would prefer the last spot go to either Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga as the swing man/spot starter assuming the Yankees do not bring anyone else into Camp.  Let German and Lasagna duke it out in the Spring with the best arm heading north to the Bronx in late March. Danny Farquhar probably looms as a sentimental favorite for many after last year’s brain hemorrhage. If Kahnle fails to win a job and Farquhar proves he should be one of the bullpen finalists, I’d like to see him get it. 

It’s an exciting time in the Yankees Universe. We have one of the best teams in Baseball right now. If this team can perform to its expectations, we should be watching Yankees baseball deep into October. Hopefully, this season will not see the Boston Red Sox spilling champagne on Yankee Stadium soil. It would be much better for the Yankees to return the favor with celebrations at Fenway Park while sounds of New York, New York reverberate through its halls. I know, it would be better for the Yankees to celebrate at home, in front of Yankee fans, but there’s a part of me that wants to see the Yankees in googles and bubbly in the very heart of the Red Sox Nation. 

I was a little disappointed to see Jorge Posada is joining the Miami Marlins organization as a special adviser.  I know, it was destined to be considering Jorge’s close relationship with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter but it’s still tough now that it is actually happening. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
It’s difficult to watch 50% of the Core Four representing another MLB organization. Plus, a third Yankees retired number currently manages the team. I guess we should be thankful the Marlins are in the National League so the Yankees do not play them very often. Credit to Alex Rodriguez for maintaining his alliance with the Yankees after the end of his playing career.  I know part of it was the renegotiation of his playing contract into special services for Hal Steinbrenner, but A-Rod could have severed ties as he pursued his broadcast career with FOX and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Posada’s move makes me very thankful for Mariano Rivera, my favorite member of the Core Four. Rivera recently announced his intention to be a pitching consultant for the Yankees (teaching pitching in the organization in a to-be-determined role).  I’d really like to see the Yankees get Andy Pettitte back in the family. I’ve always thought he’d be a tremendous pitching coach and I’d love to see him transition back into pro coaching as an eventual successor for Larry Rothschild. We may have lost Jeter and Posada for now, but I don’t want to lose either Rivera or Pettitte. Eventually Don Mattingly will get fired.  Not that I want him to lose his job, but when the inevitable parting of the ways occurs, I am hopeful that Mattingly can find his way home.  Maybe not as a manager, but I look forward to the day when Donnie Baseball is a frequent visitor to Yankee Stadium again even if it is only for Spring Training and Old Timer’s Day.    

It’s exciting to see the images of Spring Training. I am glad we’re getting the band together again and look forward to the first exhibition game a week from Saturday in Fort Myers, FL against the hated Boston Red Sox. This is the year we take them down. AL East Championship, American League Championship, World Series Championship. The time is now. Let’s end Boston’s reign.

As always, Go Yankees!

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Adam Ottavino

The New York Yankees completed their super bullpen this offseason when they signed a right-hander originally out of New York named Adam Ottavino. Ottavino was signed to a three-year deal worth $27 million by the Yankees on January 24, 2019 to essentially replace the recently departed David Robertson in the pen. Ottavino was the first ever Yankee to be awarded the “0” uniform number, which is essentially the last single digit uniform number in the Yankee’s history. Let’s meet the man that should be giving Gary Sanchez absolute fits all season long. Let’s meet your 2019 Yankees. Let’s meet Brooklyn-native Adam Ottavino.

Adam Ottavino, 33-years old, is a right-handed pitcher that will stroll in from the Yankees bullpen with his 6’5” and 220 lb. frame all season long in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. Ottavino’s pitching sequence includes an 82 MPH slider, a 95 MPH sinker, an 88 MPH cutter, a 94 MPH four-seam fastball and a 90 MPH changeup that he uses from time-to-time. Ottavino is all movement and deception and will give Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez a nice challenge behind the dish with this repertoire. For what it’s worth, not that I think Ottavino will see much of the plate for the Yankees, Adam is also a switch-hitter, which may explain why the Yankees didn’t sign more left-handed hitters this winter. Ottavino can balance the lineup!

image credit Elite Sports NY

Adam Robert Ottavino was born on November 22, 1985 in Brooklyn, New York where he attended P.S. 39, The Henry Bristow School in the Park Slope neighborhood. Ottavino remained in Brooklyn throughout his High School years where he graduated from Berkley Carroll School. While at Berkley Carroll the right-handed pitcher caught the eye of the Tampa Bay Rays who selected Ottavino in the 30th round of the 2003 MLB First Year Players Draft. Ottavino did not sign with Tampa and instead headed to Northeastern University to play college baseball for the Northeastern Huskies. While at Northeastern, Ottavino was able to compile both the single-season and all-time strikeouts records for the school while also earning the honor of being named American’s East Conference’s Pitcher of the Year in 2005.

After the 2005 season the St. Louis Cardinals came calling in the first round, 30th overall, of the 2006 MLB First Year Players Draft. Ottavino signed quickly and was immediately assigned to the Cardinals minor league system. Ottavino toiled around in the minor league system for St. Louis before making his MLB debut for the team as a starting pitcher in 2010. Ottavino was re-assigned off the team’s 40-man roster after five appearances but was ultimately added back to the team’s 40-man roster after the 2011 season. The Cardinals ultimately placed Ottavino on waivers before the 2012 season and the Colorado Rockies came calling, claiming the right-hander off waivers on April 3, 2012 and immediately assigned him to their minor league system.

Ottavino also represented Team Italy in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Ottavino made one appearance during the tournament, pitching three scoreless innings against Team Venezuela. 

It was the 2012 season that saw the Rockies begin developing Ottavino as a relief pitcher. It was during the 2013 season that Ottavino changed his number on his uniform to 0, an ode to the “O” in Ottavino. Ottavino struggled mightily during his transition from starter to the bullpen in 2013 and 2014, but the right-hander was moved to the Rockies closers role in 2015 after Colorado learned that closer LaTroy Hawkins struggled early on. Ottavino was not in the closer’s role for long though, unfortunately, after a scan determined that Adam had torn his ulnar collateral ligament. The UCL injury required Tommy John surgery and it ended his 2015 campaign prematurely. Despite the injury the Colorado Rockies showed their commitment to Ottavino, signing him to three-year deal worth $10.4 million. Ottavino spent the first part of the 2016 season on the disabled list before coming back completely healthy in 2017. Ottavino broke out in his contract season of 2018 and headed into free agency off the heels of easily his best season in the Majors.

The Yankees came calling and snatched up Ottavino off the free agent market to solidify and complete their bullpen. Welcome back to the great state of New York, welcome to the greatest organization in all of professional sports, and welcome to the family, Adam.

TGP Trivia and Fact of the Day for February 13th, 2019

Good morning Yankees family and welcome to, officially, the first day of spring training for the New York Yankees. Pitchers and catchers officially report to George M. Steinbrenner Field today, if they haven't already, signifying that baseball season is officially right around the corner. It also marks the beginning of the return of me as a daily (or as close as I can) writer here on the blog. Welcome back to me as well, did you miss me?

I have done a few different things here in the 7:00 am ET slot and this year will be no different. I will be posting either a Yankees fact or asking a trivia question that can be answered down in the comments section below. Let's have some fun with this and have some fun this season.

What player for the New York Yankees holds the MLB postseason record for most games, at-bats, runs, hits, singles, and doubles - and is tied for the most ever triples in postseason play?

Highlight below, no cheating!!, for the answer.

Derek Jeter

And a huge thank you and vow of appreciation to my amazing WIFE, Mrs. Kari Ann Burch. Without
you this, and nothing I do in this world, would be possible. I love you.