Tag Archives: Higashioka

Yanks fire a coach, get catching depth.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

From the NY Post (edited):

The Post has learned Matt Krause, the Yankees’ director of strength and conditioning, has been relieved of his duties after six years with the club.

It is believed Krause had two years remaining on his contract. He follows pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who had a year left on his contract, and bench coach Josh Bard out the door.

Krause’s ouster follows a season in which 30 Yankees made a total of 39 appearances on the injured list. That is believed to be the most in major league history. Twenty Yankees made a total of 23 trips to the IL in 2018.

Even so, the Yankees won the AL East for the first time since 2012, beat the Twins in the ALDS and lost to the Astros in six ALCS games.

How much the injuries played a role in Krause’s dismissal hasn’t been revealed. But the fact that high-profile players missed major chunks of the season because of injuries couldn’t be ignored, even if some of the injuries surfaced when pitchers Luis Severino (inflamed right rotator cuff and lat strain) and Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement and lat strain) were in Tampa rehabbing other ailments suffered during spring training. Severino appeared in three games in September and made two postseason starts. Betances pitched two-thirds of an inning in September and suffered a left Achilles tendon injury.

They weren’t the only high-profile Yankees to go on the IL.

Giancarlo Stanton played in 18 games due to a strained left biceps and a sprained right knee. Aaron Judge missed 54 games from April 21 to June 20 with a strained left oblique. Gary Sanchez was on the IL twice with lower-body injuries. Aaron Hicks played in 59 games due to a lower back issue and a flexor tendon injury in his right elbow that required surgery after the season and will keep him out until at least June. Miguel Andujar played in 12 games at the start of the season and underwent season-ending right shoulder surgery. Luke Voit wasn’t the same after suffering an abdominal strain in late June that was later called a sports hernia.


It looks like the Yanks will be going with Kyle Higashioka as the backup C to Gary Sanchez. Higashioka is out of options. While he does have some pop (20 HR in 70 AAA games last year, and 6 in 146 MLB at bats) he has hit only .164 in those MLB at bats with 48 strikeouts. You do wonder if he can hit at the MLB level. We’ll find out. Higashioka isn’t young. The righty hitter is 29.

Remember the character Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) in the movie Bull Durham? A career minor leaguer who had a touch of the majors but late in his career is in the minors to teach pitchers? Maybe Erik Kratz, age 40, is like Crash Davis. The Yanks signed him to a minor league deal.

From MLBTR.com: Kratz [hit]  .299/.375/.500 slash in 176 plate appearances with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate in Scranton last year. Given that Kratz and his family live close to the Scranton area, he’ll have the opportunity to continue playing close to home even if he doesn’t break camp with the Yankees’ Major League club.

He provides catching depth behind Sanchez and Higashioka. He went 2 for 2 as a Yankee in 2017. For his career, he is a .205 hitter.

So there is the worry. With Romine gone, can Higashioka and/or Kratz hit enough, especially if Sanchez (who has had injuries the last two seasons) goes down?

UPDATE: Martin Maldanado re-upped with Houston, killing those Maldonado to the Yankees to team with with Cole rumors.

Gardy back, Romine gone.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Brett Gardner is back, as expected, especially with Aaron Hicks on the 2020 shelf for half the year or more. Gardy signed a deal where he gets a $2 MM signing bonus for 2020 and a contract of $8MM. 2021 has a $10 MM deal but the Yankees have a $2.5 MM buyout. So he is guaranteed at least $12.5 even if bought out for 2021.

The Yanks have to be careful with his time in 2020 however. Even though he set career highs in HR and RBI in 2019, Gardner will turn 37 next August.

Meanwhile, Austin Romine is gone, going to Detroit on a 1 yr, $4.15MM deal. It gives him the chance to be a starting catcher.

The Yanks could go with Kyle Higashioka as a backup, or they could turn to Martin Maldonado, who played for three teams last season. Maldonado got along well with Gerrit Cole. Cole had a 2.82 ERA under other catchers, but with 10 games with Maldonado, had a 1.57 ERA. Maldonado has a poor batting average in his career, but does have some pop, and did win a Gold Glove two years ago.

I don’t know about these rumors about the Yanks being hot on the trail for Josh Hader. Hader would cost PLENTY. He is a lefty, only turns 26 in April, and is 11-9, 2.42, ERA+ 178 in his brief MLB career with 49 saves. In 204.2 IP, he has 349 K. He would cost PLENTY. (Think Andujar, Frazier, Deivi Garcia, and possibly another top pitching prospect). He would be a FABULOUS addition, but at a very high cost.

The winter meetings ended with the Rule 5 draft and here is who the Yanks lost. The player must stay with the big club for the whole year or they go back. Here are 2019 minor league numbers for each.

Rony Garcia P to Detroit.

The first pick.

From MLB.com:

1. Rony Garcia, RHP, Tigers (from Yankees) 22 next week.
Garcia raised his prospect profile by boosting his stuff in 2019. He now operates with a 91-95 mph fastball that touches 97, an improved low-80s slider that shows flashes of becoming a solid pitch, a new cutter and an effective changeup. He throws strikes but must continue to refine his command in order to succeed as a starter.

He was 4-13, 4.01 High A/AA 24 starts, 1 relief, 130 IP, 129 K.

AAA Phase: Different than with Rony Garcia.

Blue Jays: RHP Hobie Harris (Yankees) , 26. High A. 3-4, 4.62. 1 save. 48.2 IP, 59 K.
White Sox: RHP Will Carter (Yankees) 26, AA/AAA 2-3, 5.45
Red Sox: RHP Raynel Espinal (Yankees), 28, AAA 5-7, 4.32.
Braves: 2B Wendell Rijo (Yankees) 24. Righty bat. A+/AA/AAA combined. .258-13-44. 103 g.

 

Some Yankees’ offseason decisions.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Besides exploring the free agent market (Cole, Strasburg, Bumgarner, Wheeler), the Yanks have decisions to make on their OWN players, some of whom are free agents themselves.

Do they bring back Didi or are they fine with Gleyber at SS and D.J. at 2B?

What about backup C? Romine is a free agent. Meanwhile, Higashioka is out of options. The Yanks say they are fine with Higashioka, but he’ll have to prove he can hit. Higashioka does have some power, but a .164 career batting average. In 146 MLB at bats, Higashioka is .164-6-17, OPS+ just 45. He’s not young. He turns 30 next April.

Romine could start for some teams, and the Yanks could lose him if Romine does want to start. Romine hit .281-8-35 as a backup last year, OPS+ 97 in probably his best season in the majors. He has done much better with the bat the last two seasons. His 162 game average is .239-11-59, OPS+ 73, but the OPS+ the last two seasons have been 93 and 97, so a big improvement from before.

Brian Cashman, as of now, states that the 3B job is Gio Urshela’s to lose after Urshela hit .314-21-74, OPS+ 133 in 2019. But was it a fluke? Urshela’s defense was significantly better than that of Miguel Andujar’s in 2018.

As for Andujar, his defense hurts what is a solid bat. He finished runnerup for ROY in 2018, hitting .297-27-92, OPS+ 130, but 2019 was wasted because of an injury. In 12 games he was 6 for 47. Where will Andujar be in 2020? Did he get “Wally Pipp”ed and lose his job to Urshela? There are rumors that the Yanks may try him at 1B and maybe LF to try to make him versatile and keep his bat in the lineup.

He also may be trade bait. He and Clint Frazier, and both because of their defense. Frazier hit .267-12-38 in 69 games last season, OPS+ 111 and in his career has 16 HR in 393 at bats with a .254 batting average.

Frazier is 25. Andujar will be 25 in March. Both are not sure things to start the season with the Yanks because of their defensive liabilities and also a crowded roster. They could be traded —one, or both— in a deal for a starting pitcher if the Yanks feel the price tags on Cole, Strasburg, Bumgarner and/or Wheeler are too high.

Then there is Dellin Betances, who hurt his value by only pitching 2/3 of an inning this year (shoulder) and getting hurt again (Achilles) at the end of the year. He is a free agent.

Decisions, decisions. …. It’ll be an interesting offseason.

Game 156. Good days for Paxton and Stanton in Yanks’ 7-2 win. Gleyber OK.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Gleyber Torres’ MRI came back negative, and the Yanks (101-55) got great performances from James Paxton and Giancarlo Stanton in a 7-2 win over Toronto Saturday afternoon.

Torres slipped on the outfield grass Friday night and at first appeared seriously injured. This was good news for a team that has had to overcome so many injuries this season.

Paxton won his tenth straight decision and Stanton, just off the IL, doubled and homered in the victory.

With the win, the Yanks have won more games in one season (101) since they last won the WS in 2009.

Houston lost, so the Yanks are 1/2 game behind them for the best record in baseball (Houston has the tiebreaker). Should the Yankees make the WS, they have a 1 1/2 game lead over the Dodgers, and the Yanks also own the tiebreaker against LA.

With Stanton’s HR, the Yanks have 295 on the season, one ahead of the Twins in the race for the new team HR record. The Twins have played one less game, however.

Toronto scored first, getting an unearned run in the second.

The Yanks scored two in the fourth. Aaron Judge led off the inning with a double and one out later Stanton doubled him home. An out after that, Mike Ford (good day for him too) singled in Stanton to make it 2-1.

The Yanks put the game away in the sixth when they scored four runs. Stanton led off the inning with his second HR of the season. After an out, Ford doubled. Clint Frazier doubled in Ford to make it 4-1. Tyler Wade singled and moved up on the throw, Frazier holding at third. Kyle Higashioka singled in two runs to make it 6-1.

Toronto got a run in the top of the seventh to cut it to 6-2, but the Yanks came right back in the bottom of the seventh with a run of their own. With one out, Cameron Maybin walked and moved up on a groundout. He scored on a Ford single. 7-2.

Aaron Boone and hitting coach Marcus Thames were both ejected early in the game for arguing about the strike zone. A carryover from Cowboy Joe West’s bad call Friday night. West, 66, has an arrogance about him. He’s also getting up in years, and isn’t in the best shape to umpire anymore. It’s time to retire, Joe.

Hopefully the umpires don’t carry grudges though. The Yanks’ problems with umpires’ strike zones (and the umps are wrong, they don’t adjust the zone as they should for tall guys like Judge and Stanton) could bite them in the playoffs if there is a close call.

Stanton 2 hits, 2 RBI, solo HR (2)
Ford 3 hits, 2 RBI
Wade 2 hits (hot lately)
Higashioka 2 RBI

Paxton (W, 15-6; 3.73) 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 W, 7 K.
Loaisiga 2 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 0 W, 5 K.  4.25 (Wouldn’t mind him on postseason roster)
Green 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 3 K.   4.36  (2.78 since recalled from AAA in mid-May).

 

Game 144. Yanks beat Boston 10-5 behind HRs by Gleyber and Judge. Tauchman also HRs, but gets hurt.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Before the game, the Yanks activated Gio Urshela off the IL and brought up Thairo Estrada (who was on rehab), Kyle Higashioka and Breyvic Valera.

The Yanks then beat Boston 10-5 behind Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Mike Tauchman, but Tauchman got hurt during the game.

With the win, the 94-50 Yankees maintain an 8 1/2 game lead over Tampa Bay with 18 games to go. The magic # to reach the playoffs is 8 and the magic # to clinch the division is 10.

They remain tied with Houston for the best record in baseball but Houston has the tiebreaker. Both teams are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers.

In the second inning, Torres gave the Yanks a 2-0 lead with his 35th HR of the season after Edwin Encarnacion singled in front of him.

In the third, Tauchman singled, and D.J. LeMahieu reached on an infield single. Judge singled in a run, sending LeMahieu to third. After Didi Gregorius popped out, Gary Sanchez’ RBI groundout made it 4-0.

Staked to a four-run lead, Masahiro Tanaka couldn’t go five innings for the win. He gave up a two-run HR to Jackie Bradley in the bottom of the third that cut the Yanks’ lead to 4-2.

In the top of the fourth, Torres singled and scored two outs later on a 2-run HR by Tauchman (13) who had to leave the game later with a calf injury. He’ll be getting an MRI. Ugh. 6-2, Yanks.

With two out in the fourth, Tanaka gave up a single and two doubles and that cut the lead to 6-4. Tanaka didn’t come out for the fifth, so couldn’t get the win.

Chad Green was superb in his three innings of scoreless relief and did pick up the W. His ERA of 4.60 doesn’t look good because of those horrendous first three weeks of the season where his ERA was 16.43 and he had to be sent to the minors. Since returning, the ERA is 2.89.

In the fifth, Judge led off the inning with a HR (21) to make it 7-4, then Didi reached on an error. After a walk, Encarnacion singled Didi to third, and Didi scored on an RBI forceout by Torres. 8-4.

Judge’s HR was the Yanks’ 268th of the season, topping the mark set last year when they set a MLB record. They are eight behind the Twins (who set a new record) this season. Could they (or the Twins) hit 300?

Mookie Betts homered in the bottom of the eighth to make it 8-5.

The Yanks scored two in the ninth when Didi walked, and Rafael Devers made two errors on the same play (one fielding, one throwing) to put runners on second and third. Devers had three errors in the game and was saved from a couple others. Encarnacion singled in one run, then Torres doubled in another to make it 10-5, the final score.

Judge 2 hits, 2 RBI, solo HR (21)
Encarnacion 3 hits, RBI
Torres 3 hits, 4 RBI, 2-run HR (35)
Tauchman 2 hits, 2 RBI. 2-run HR (13). Injured, left game.

Tanaka 4 IP, 4 R, 8 H, 0 W, 2 K. Gave up 1 HR.  4.53
Green (W, 3-4, 4.60) 3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 5 K.
Ottavino 1 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 0 W, 0 K. Gave up 1 HR.   1.76
Loaisiga 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 2 K.  4.63

In the minors, Trenton (AA) will face Bowie for the Eastern League Championship. The best-of-five series begins in Trenton on Tuesday.

OF/1B Chris Duncan, ex-Cardinal and brother of one-time Yankee Shelley Duncan and son of former MLB catcher and pitching coach Dave Duncan, died of brain cancer
September 6 at the age of 38. He hit 22 HR as a part-time player for the 2006 WS Champion Cardinals and 21 the following year. In 389 MLB games, he hit .257 with 55 HR and an OPS+ of 109. He played for the Cardinals 2005-2009.

Tom Phoebus, RHP, died Sept. 5, age 77. Born in Baltimore, he pitched for his hometown Orioles 1966-1970, and was a part of two WS Champs (1966, 1970) and one AL Pennant winner (1969). He won 14, 15 and 14 games from 1967-1969. His only postseason appearance was in one game during the 1970 WS, where he got the win in Game 2. He pitched for the Padres (1971-1972) and Cubs (1972). His career MLB record was 56-52, 3.33, ERA+ 100.

A DYK: Aaron Boone now has 194 wins (and counting) in his first two seasons as Yankees’ manager. The record? Ralph Houk with 205 (1961 and 1962).

Lastly, a tip of the cap to Brian Cashman’s longevity with the Yankees. Not even a year after winning the World Series, the Red Sox fire Dave Dombrowski.

 

Minor League Report. SWB done after being swept.

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AAA: SWB got crushed, 17-2, and as a result, got swept three straight in their playoff series against Durham. Their season is now over.

C Erik Kratz both RBI.

Players I now expect to join the Yankees: C Kyle Higashioka, INF Thairo Estrada, OF Terrance Gore (for pinch-running). I don’t know if they need four catchers, so I don’t know about Kratz.

Top prospect Deivi Garcia had a bad game. 1 IP, 5 R, 2 H, 4 W, 0 K. Gave up 1 HR.

Ben Heller could be called up. 2 scoreless IP, 5 K.

AA: Trenton will play Bowie for the Eastern League title. Game 1 will be at Trenton Tuesday night. There is a possibility Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery and Dellin Betances will all still be rehabbing for Trenton at that time.

Minor League Report. Trenton sweeps, but SWB down 0-2 in postseason series. Severino, Betances pitch on rehab stints.

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AAA: SWB has their backs against the wall. They are heading home, but are down 2 games to none in their best of five series against Durham after losing 4-2 tonight.

C Kyle Higashioka 2 hits, solo HR. RF Zach Zehner 2 hits, rbi.

Michael King gave up two 2-run HRs in the second and took the loss.

AA: Trenton advances to the Eastern League finals after sweeping Reading in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs with a 12-2 win.

Because of Hurricane Dorian, both Luis Severino and Dellin Betances got rehab work in with Trenton instead of SWB (who was in the Carolinas).

2B Thairo Estrada 3 hits, 5 RBI. Yes, I was surprised here instead of with SWB.
LF Ben Ruta 2 hits, 2 RBI.
DH Isiah Gilliam 2 hits.
RF Alexander Palma 3 hits, RBI
3B Max Burt 2 hits, RBI

Luis Severino (on rehab) 3 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 0 W, 5 K. Gave up 1 HR.
Dellin Betances (on rehab) 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 W, 1 K.

Albert Abreu two scoreless innings, 4 K.