Saturday, February 23, 2019

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Tommy Kahnle

The New York Yankees have an amazing bullpen on paper, but could you imagine just how good this bullpen could be if the team were to get back a healthy and effective Tommy Kahnle here in 2019? It’s already borderline unfair for the rest of the league as is, but with Kahnle mowing down batters like he did in 2017… well that’s just filthy. Let’s meet the man that has a lot to prove, but the man that could be a key piece for the New York Yankees this season.

Tommy Kahnle, 29-years old, is a right-handed relief pitcher that was originally drafted by the Yankees, only to see him selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Fate, and a well-timed July acquisition, brought Kahnle back to the Bronx to show off his 95 MPH four-seam fastball, 89 MPH changeup, and 83 MPH slider. Kahnle strikes out a lot of guys when he is effective and generates a ton of swings and misses, although last season the right-hander struggled a lot with his command and control, as well as various injuries.

Tommy Kahnle was born on August 7, 1989 in Latham, New York where he attended Shaker High School. After High School, Kahnle attended Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida where he caught the attention of the New York Yankees who drafted the right-hander in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB First Year Players Draft. Kahnle pitched well in his professional debut with the Staten Island Yankees and earned a promotion to the Charleston Riverdogs for the 2011 season. Kahnle continued his climb through the Yankees system in 2012, reaching Double-A with the Trenton Thunder, and earned an invitation to Yankees spring training camp in 2013. Kahnle was an Eastern League All-Star in 2013 and finished the season with a 2.85 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched.

The Yankees chose to leave Kahnle unprotected and off of the team’s 40-man roster before the 2014 season and the Colorado Rockies selected him in the Rule 5 Draft. The Rockies stashed Kahnle on their Opening Day roster and allowed him to appear in 54 games and 68+ innings, posting a 4.19 ERA as a rookie. Kahnle spent almost half the season in Triple-A in 2015 and was designated for assignment following the 2015 campaign. The Rockies traded Kahnle to the Chicago White Sox for Yency Almonte on November 24, 2014.

Kahnle rejuvenated his career while with Chicago posting a 2.63 ERA in 2016, although pitching in just 29 games, before truly breaking out in 2017 with the White Sox. Through the first half of the 2017 season, Kahnle posted a 2.50 ERA while striking out 60 batters in just 36 innings of work, while also lowering his overall walk total as well. This led Chicago to sell-high on Kahnle, sending him along with David Robertson and Todd Frazier to the New York Yankees for Blake Rutherford, Tyler Clippard, Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo.

Kahnle was lights out for the Yankees for the remainder of the 2017 season but was up-and-down for the New York for much of the 2018 campaign. Kahnle battled through injuries and inconsistencies as well as trips to-and-from Triple-A. Kahnle will look to be much better for New York in 2019 while sticking with the big-league club as much as possible.

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Ben Heller

The New York Yankees were without potentially one of their up-and-coming arms in their bullpen last season after Ben Heller had to undergo Tommy John surgery on April 6, 2018. Heller is expected to be back sometime here in 2019, so let’s get acquainted with him. Yankees #61, Ben Heller.

Ben Heller, 27-years old, is a right-handed relief pitcher in the New York Yankees organization that came over via trade from the Cleveland Indians system. Heller throws a 95 MPH four-seam fastball, an 83 MPH slider, and an 85 MPH changeup that he throws to keep hitters off-balance on his fastball. Heller fits the stereotypical mold that the Yankees like to employ in their bullpen, standing 6’3” and weighing in at 205 lbs. while throwing hard.

Benjamin Heller was born on August 5, 1991 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attended Whitewater High School in Whitewater, Wisconsin. While at the school Heller set the team record for saves, pitched a pair of no-hitters, and had a 1.14 ERA during his senior season. Heller went on to play college baseball at Olivet Nazarene University where he caught the attention of the Cleveland Indians who drafted him in the 22nd round of the 2013 MLB First Year Players Draft.

Heller bounced around the Indians organization until July 31, 2016 when he was traded alongside Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, and J.P. Feyereisen to the New York Yankees for Andrew Miller. Heller was called up a pair of times during that 2016 season and made his MLB on August 26, pitching a scoreless 8th inning against the Baltimore Orioles. Heller spent another nine games with the Yankees big league club in 2017 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the entire 2018 season.

Heller should be back around June of this season, if all goes well, and should be right back in the thick of things for a spot in the Yankees bullpen. Heller, a member of the team’s 40-man roster, should be one of the first arms on the Scranton Shuttle this season when needed. Good luck on the rehab, Ben, and we can’t wait to see you back in the Bronx this season.

And So It Begins, Yankees-Red Sox...

Photo Credit: Jim Davis-The Boston Globe
First Tune-up Between the AL East Elite…

Finally, the Yankees are playing today! It might just be a meaningless exhibition game and the biggest of the team’s stars stayed behind in Tampa, but the Yankees take the field later today (1 pm EST) at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Woohoo! Let’s get this party started!

Here are the scheduled lineups for today’s game.


CF Aaron Hicks
2B Gleyber Torres
3B Miguel Andujar
1B Greg Bird
LF Clint Frazier
DH Mike Ford
C Kyle Higashioka
SS Tyler Wade
RF Matt Lipka

SP Nestor Cortes, Jr


LF Gorkys Hernandez
C Sandy Leon  
DH Rafael Devers 
CF  Rusney Castillo
RF Bryce Brentz
3B Michael Chavis
2B Tzu-Wei Lin
1B Josh Ockimey
SS C.J Chatham

SP Josh A. Smith

Who will be the next Yankees Captain? I’ve seen more than a few people say that Aaron Judge needs to win a few championships before he is appointed as the next Captain. Why? I think the guy is the clear leader of this team and he sets the standard both on and off the field. If you are a proponent for the role of a Captain, there is no one more deserving than Judge.    

Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
When Thurman Munson was named the Yankees Captain in 1976, it was the first captain of the team since Lou Gehrig. At the time, the Yankees had not won a championship during Munson’s tenure with the team. They won the 1976 American League Championship in his first year as Captain but fell to the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game sweep in the World Series despite Captain Munson’s heroic efforts. Under Munson’s leadership, the Yankees won the next two World Series in 1977 and 1978. His captaincy was ended prematurely with his tragic death on August 2, 1979.  

The next Captains were products of those 1977-78 World Champions. Graig Nettles held the title from 1982 until March 1984 when he was traded to the San Diego Padres. Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry served as Co-Captains from 1986 to 1988.  Randolph left the Yankees in December 1988 through free agency, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Guidry retired.  

Don Mattingly, with no championships on his resume, was appointed the Captain in 1991 and he held it until his retirement following the 1995 season after the disappointing loss to Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners in the playoffs. Still, he helped usher in the new era of Yankees baseball which collected multiple championships in the late 1990’s and 2000.  

When Derek Jeter was appointed Captain in 2003, he held four championships. This was more than any of his predecessors since Lou Gehrig who had four under his belt at the time of his appointment in 1935.  

I guess you could argue the Yankees don’t need a Captain. I think it is a good honorary role that has served the Yankees well over the years. I really wish Mattingly could have enjoyed winning a World Series in New York but his back was not cooperative. Yet, I still view Mattingly as a champion even if he didn’t get the ring.

I do know that Aaron Judge has earned the right to stand in the same conversation with the previous Captains. He sets the example for his teammates and he represents the Yankees as well as anyone has since Jeter retired. He is worthy of being the Captain and probably for the most part he is currently recognized as the team’s unofficial Captain. Maybe eventually the honor will come to Judge but I believe it should happen sooner rather than later. He’s a great Yankee despite his youth. If the Yankees win the World Series in the next couple of years, there’s no doubt Judge will be at the forefront, leading the charge.

Bryan Hoch of reported yesterday that among his various positions on the field, D.J. LeMahieu could also serve as the backup first baseman. This leads to the conclusion that either Luke Voit or Greg Bird will head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the start of the season depending upon who wins the job this Spring. It seems odd to put such a great defensive middle infielder at first base, but he’s athletic enough to make the transition. Still, it seems to carry risk since LeMahieu has only played four games in first base in his Major League career with no appearances there since 2014. I had really wanted someone who could play both left field and first base which is why I liked Marwin Gonzalez so much. I think the Minnesota Twins grabbed a good player at a decent price when they signed Gonzalez this week for two years at $21 million ($3 million less than the Yankees are paying LeMahieu over the same time frame). But I do recognize that if LeMahieu can successfully add first base to accompany his skills at second and third bases, it helps to potentially open the door for Clint Frazier which is not a bad thing if Frazier has a good Spring.  

I remain concerned about going into the season with Brett Gardner as the starting left fielder. If Aaron Hicks gets hurt, then Gardy is the starting center fielder. This seems like such a huge risk to me.  I am not trying to diminish what Gardy has meant to the Yankees but he seems best suited for part-time duty as the team’s fourth outfielder at this stage of his career. Frazier seems ticketed for Triple A given how much time he lost last year, but I really hope he is ready soon. Meanwhile, we really need Brett Gardner to have a career renaissance. I think the 2019 Yankees are an improved team over the one that lost to the Boston Red Sox last October, but I am concerned about how left field will play out. Giancarlo Stanton made 72 starts in the outfield last year. As it stands, he’ll need to make more this season.  The team’s physical trainers had better take special care of the big guy. We really need him to stay healthy. 

Today’s game will be a battle of no-names after the first couple of innings but at least baseball is here. Beating the Red Sox under any circumstances always feels good. Bring home the “W”, guys!  

As always, Go Yankees!

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Chance Adams

One of my favorite Yankees prospects coming through the system was and is Chance Adams. Adams was drafted as a relief pitcher and was converted to the starting role down in the Minor Leagues with varying degrees of success. Chance took off as a starter but fell on hard times at the end of the 2017 season and throughout the 2018 campaign as well. I, personally, am not ready to give up on such a promising arm and I fully expect him to bounce back here in 2019 as a starter for the Yankees. Let’s meet him, Mr. Chance Adams.

Chance Adams, 24-years old, is a right-handed starting pitcher out of the New York Yankees organization. Adams’s repertoire consists of a 93 MPH four-same fastball, a 79 MPH curveball, an 85 MPH slider, and a rarely thrown 85 MPH changeup. Adams’ fastball is considered to be average, with little movement, and is used as a pitch-to-contact pitch rather than to strike out opposing batters. Adams uses his slider to generate groundballs to get the majority of his outs. Adams is 6’1” and weighs in at 220 lbs., unless of course he is sporting that impressive beard that he was seen with during the offseason. That has to add a pound or two, you would think.

Chance Adams, no middle name like myself, was born on August 10, 1994 in Scottsdale, Arizona where he attended Chaparral High School. Adams played college baseball at Yavapai College for two years before transferring to Dallas Baptist University. After one year there, the New York Yankees drafted the right-hander in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB First Year Players Draft. Adams made his professional debut with the Staten Island Yankees and finished his first professional season with the High-A Tampa Yankees.

Adams was converted into a starting pitcher beginning in 2016 and saw immediate results from the conversion. Adams started the 2016 season with a 5-0 record with a 2.65 ERA in 12 games before being promoted to Double-A with the Trenton Thunder. Adams finished the season in Trenton with an 8-1 record and a 2.07 ERA. Adams continued to destroy AA pitching in 2017 and quickly earned a promotion to Triple-A before finishing the season with a combined 15-5 record and a 2.45 ERA in 150.1 innings pitched.

Adams would struggle for a lot of the 2018 season, but he was called up to make his MLB debut against the Boston Red Sox inside Fenway Park on August 4. Now, Adams will look to build on the positives from last season and move forward in his path back towards the big-league level. I’m not ready to give up on you Chance, and I’m sure there’s plenty of fans backing you that feel the exact same way as I do. Good luck to you this season and I look forward to seeing you back in the Bronx at some point here in 2019.

TGP Trivia and Fact of the Day for February 23rd, 2019

Good morning Yankees family and Happy Saturday!

New York City May, Fiorello LaGuardia, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at seven consecutive openers at Yankee Stadium from 1939-45. LaGuardia also did it from 1934-37, giving him a run of 11 times in 12 years. Maybe that one year they were planning to name an airport after him? I don't know, I wasn't there.

And a special good morning to my amazing wife. It sucks that you have to work today, but you will be home to me soon enough. I love you.