Disaster

We don’t know the full extent of it, but Aaron Judge has a “significant” oblique strain and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. That probably means the best case scenario is a June 1st return, but I wouldn’t count on it.

At this point the injuries have become a joke. I really can’t recall seeing anything like this. The Yankees have lost their starting catcher, first baseman, two shortstops, third baseman, and three outfielders, not to mention their ace and one of their best bullpen arms. But Judge is really the player this team revolves around. Last year when he missed 46 games after getting hit by a pitch, the Yankees went from a team on an 104-win pace to a team on a 91-win pace. But, as the saying goes, “there’s no crying in baseball”. Someone will have to step up. Frazier has done a great job so far and Tauchman is hitting well too. The Yankees will have to hope that continues.

Can This Be A Spark?

If you were looking for signs of life from the Yankees, this series showed some. Tuesday they beat the Red Sox ace, while their new acquisition dominated. Tonight they came from behind with a huge grand slam off the bat of Brett Gardner.

And now they get 13 games against teams that were projected to be bad before the season started and haven’t done anything to change that perception. True, 9 of those games come as part of a west coast trip, but the fact remains the Yankees should be able to do some damage no matter where these games are played or who is and isn’t in the lineup.

And that’s what I will look for when this stretch ends on May 1st. Did the Yankees take advantage of the schedule and push their record above .500? Or did they play down to inferior competition like they have done so far this season? We shall see.

Greg Bird is Hurt!

I know, it’s not exactly a man bites dog story, but Greg Bird has resumed his Nick Johnson imitation landing on the IL with a torn plantar fascia. In a move that turns the irony dial all the way up, the Yankees have moved Jacoby Ellsbury to the 60-day DL in order to put Mike Ford on the active roster. Ford is also a lefty-hitting first baseman born in 1992, so this could be the last we hear of Greg Bird. If Ford comes in and does a credible job, the Yankees will move on from Bird, a sentence which seemed impossible 3 years ago.

But look what happened since Bird became the original baby bomber of this particular generation. He missed all of 2016 with an injury and since he got back on the field in 2017, he hasn’t been very healthy and he hasn’t hit much at all. That opened the door last year for Luke Voit, and it may open the door this year for Ford; a player the Yankees lost in the Rule 5 draft of 2017 only to get him back when Seattle decided not to keep him in the bigs. There’s playing time to be had right now and firstbase isn’t a settled position by any means. Voit sent Bird to the bench. Can Ford return the favor?

A Battle For Last?

Remember that year when the Yankees and Red Sox both won 100 games? I’m pretty sure it was last year, but looking at these two teams today, I can’t really believe it.

Boston is 6-11 and Eduardo Nunez has the same ERA as Chris Sale and a better one that Rick Porcello. The Yankees are 6-9 and about half the team is on the DL. Meanwhile, the Tampa Rays are quickly out of the gate at 12-4. This series, on paper, should be a good one. The Red Sox are sending their big trade acquisition of a few years ago, Chris Sale, to face the Yankees big trade acquisition of this past off season, James Paxton. On Wednesday, the teams are set to send their trade/ free agent resigning, Eovaldi and Haps to the mound. Unfortunately, this quartet has a record of 1-7 with an ERA of about 8 combined.

Who wins? Who knows, but at this point I think that is less important, at least for New York, as seeing the Yankees play two-consecutive solid ballgames. Show some fight and stop making so many mistakes that lead to big innings and more losses. Being under .500 at this point of the season isn’t the end of the world, but it does mean you need to fix something. Perhaps one of these two teams will do that over the next few days.

Another One Bites the Dust

Troy Tulowitzki joined the injury parade today with a calf strain that Boone said, “would almost certainly require a trip to the IL”. That’s 12 players on the IL for you counting at home.

The tricky thing for the Yankees is how they want to manipulate the roster now. Thairo Estrada is the only healthy infielder left on the 40-man roster, but he lost most of last year recovering from a gun shot wound and barely has played above AA. The Yankees could bring someone else in, but that would require either cutting someone off the 40-man, or moving someone to the 60-day DL, which means the are out until May 25th at least. I wonder if the Yankees will reach out to the Twins and see if they can get Ronald Torreyes back? We should find out before they play Baltimore tomorrow afternoon.

Get The Bubblewrap!

The Yankees are getting hurt in bunches. Today we learned that they have two more regulars headed to the IL (no longer the dL) as Stanton and Andujar are headed to the DL. That makes ten, TEN players on the IL- Betances, Severino, Sabathia, Gregorious, Heller, Ellsbury, Hicks, and Montgomery, rounding out the list.

And the timetables are not promising. Andujar might be lost for the season. Stanton is probably out for at best three weeks. Hicks hasn’t started baseball activities yet. Only Sabathia and Betances seems likely to return “soon”.

The good news is the Yankees signed LeMahieu this offseason and he gives them a good option at 3B. Clint Frazier is back from his concussion problems and will get the next few weeks to show that he can add value. Tyler Wade will also get a chance to contribute. The Yankees just have to hope they don’t test their depth any further.

The Crystal Ball

We’ve made it kids to the greatest day of the year- Opening Day. Baseball is back, and I feel like I’m ten again.

As usual, I will foolishly attempt to predict the season. I think this is going to be a tough year as you could reasonably predict four teams to win the NL East and at least three to win the NL Central. So, here it goes and it starts with a shock.

AL East
1- Tampa Bay- There’s an old horse racing tip that when the money is split between the favorites, take the long shot. The Yankees and Red Sox consume all the oxygen in this division, but Tampa deserves some notice. They added some nice pieces to a team that won 90 games last year and I think they sneak away with a division title.

2- Yankees- the rotation prevents me from picking them for first and the Red Sox bullpen does the same. The way baseball is played in 2019 leads me to give the Yankees the slight edge.

3- Boston- See above

4- Toronto- I still don’t get what they are doing.

5- Baltimore- They could lose 120 this year.

Central

1- Minnesota- Lots of young talent and an emerging ace in Berrios

2- Cleveland- Not as good as in years past, but that rotation is very, very good

3- White Sox- The tank plan is complete and now the results will start to show. Eloy Jimenez is set for a big year.

4- Kansas City- Nothing about them particularly stands out.

5- Detroit- Going to take some time to turn this around.

West

1-Houston- Clearly the class of the division.

2- Oakland- Billy Beane is underappreciated in so many ways.

3- Angels- Now that Mike Trout has committed to them, will they figure out a way to win with the greatest player of this era?

4-Texas- I think you could flip a coin between them and Seattle for last.

5- Seattle- See above.

NL East
1-Atlanta- This could be the greatest four-way division race in history, but I think Atlanta pulls it out.

2- Philadelphia- I know Harper has his detractors, but I think he earns his pay this year with a monster season.

3- WASHINGTON- Hard not to notice the player they lost and where he went.

4- Mets- Can’t count them out with that pitching and Alonso looks to be the big bopper they need.

5- Florida- Still can’t believe what MLB allowed them to do to this team.

NL Central

1- Milwaukee- They won’t surprise anyone this year, but I think they edge out the other two clubs on their heels.

2- Chicago- How can it be that Madden is on the hot seat? Shouldn’t winning the first title is 108 years get you lifetime employment?

3- St. Louis- I’m fascinated to see Goldchmidt as a Cardinal.

4- Cincinnati- Sonny Gray and Yuusil Puig will thrive in their new homes.

5- Pittsburgh- Rebuilding again.

NL West

1- Dodgers- the class of the division.

2- Colorado- Gkad to see them lock up their young star.

3- San Diego- Machado and lots of young talent point to better things.

4- Arizona- Taking a step back.

5- San Francisco- The Giants will do well at the trade deadline if they dangle their ace for a prospect haul.

Playoffs

AL Wild Card- Yankees over Boston on a Judge homer in the 17th.

NL Wild Card- Colorado over Philly

AL Playiffs- Houston over Yankees and Twins over Tampa with Houston taking the pennant.

NL Playiffs- Milwaukee over Philly and Dodgers over Atlanta with Dodgers winning the pennant.

And Dodgers finally win the Series in 6 games over Houston.

PLAY BALL!

Red Sox 2019 Preview

Coming off a world championship, it would be OK if you think nothing needs to be changed for the 2019 Red Sox, but let’s be real.  The main concerns are the bullpen, second base, the catcher situation and the 2020 season which will see major changes.

Bullpen:

Gone are Craig Kimbrall and Joe Kelly.

Adds are Colten Brewer.  There are some minor leaguers too that might be in the mix as well.

That means we have Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, Hector Velasquez, Tyler Thornburg, Stephen Wright, Bobby Poyner and Brian Johnson as returning bullpen candidates.  That really doesn’t strike fear in anyone’s heart.  And considering the 2018 team supposedly had a weak bullpen, this could spell disaster.   This all falls on David Dombrowski.   His cavalier attitude towards the bullpen could come back and haunt him and really has in his years as a GM. 2018 as perhaps the only exception.

While Craig Kimbrel remains a free agent and Joe Kelly didn’t exactly light the world on fire during the regular season, both guys throw hard and can sometimes throw strikes and Kelly was other worldly in the postseason.

At catcher, I’m not completely worried about this position but there are three catchers for what is traditionally to 2 catcher allocation.  Christian Vazquez is signed to a long-term deal, starters love throwing to Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart is running out of options.  Swihart is really the trick here, he’s been kept around because of his potential offense of production but he’s never truly shown it at the MLB level.   My guess is he will be down during spring training. Leaving Vasquez and Leon is your primary catchers.

-update on catcher.  Leon was designated fo assignment, shows you what I know.  That means Vasquez and Swihart are the tandem.

Second base, Justin Pedroia is back and the team hopes he can play 120 games at second base. Given his recent health history, I think that’s a longshot. Then again the Red Sox used spit and bubble gum to fill the position last year rotating between Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez.  As it turns out, Pedroia is starting the season on the IL.  So you’ll get your fill of The Brock Star at least early on.

I implore Red Sox fans to enjoy 2019 and 2020 as so many core players are coming up on free agency: After 19 and 20: Xander, Mookie, Porcello and JBJ.  Mookie is the real key.  With Trout signing a $430m deal, the Red Sox will have to give Mookie, what, at least $300m?  $400m?  They already have two $30m per year players on the team, just how many can one team have?

This is my problem with Dombrowski, I’ll admit he is a good talent evaluator but has zero interest in long term planning.  He runs up the payroll to epic levels, while ignoring the bullpen and draining the farm system.  Is there a front line starter in the minors?  Is there a 30 home run threat who hasn’t been pinched for PED’s in the minors?  Invest in the future Dave otherwise there won’t be one.

I’ll try to post more as the season gets under way.

Why Not?

The Yankees have agreed to a minor league deal with Gio Gonzalez. The contract will pay him $3-million if he is in the majors and includes incentives for starts made. It also has an opt-out of April 20th.

Start with the opt-out, essentially a month from now. That’s aggressive as Gonzalez hasn’t done any work in a major league camp to date. Will he even be ready by then? Beyond that, it’s a legitimate concern to wonder if a guy who tops out around 90-mph can survive in the AL East?

But, that’s why the minor league part of this deal is so important. Gonzalez will report to camp and make a few minor league starts before April 20th. If the Yankees like what they see, they can bring him to the bigs. If not, they can let him go, at a cost of essentially nothing.

Rotation Deflation

The good news is that Luis Severino appears to have avoided a long-term injury. The bad news is that he is going to start Spring Training over again next week. That means he won’t be in the Bronx until May at the earliest. Add in a delayed start for CC Sabathia, and the Yankees are going to go into the season down two starters.

Based on spring training to date, that probably means that Luis Cessa and Domingo German go north in the rotation. Cessa, who is out of options, was probably the favorite to pitch in long relief. German has been electric with 18k’s in 11 innings. Considering the fragility of the other members of the rotation, I suspect both will be starting at various times throughout the season even when/if Severino and Sabathia return. And, I still don’t expect Dallas Keuchel in pinstripes this year, though I am wondering where he and Kimbrel are going to land? It’s pretty amazing that they are unsigned still.

What we do know is the makeup of almost the whole roster. The starter at first is still unknown, but since both Bird and Voit have options, expect the loser of that competition to start in the minors. Romine will be the backup catcher, and I suspect Tyler Wade makes it as a guy they can plug in almost anywhere leaving the Yankees with four true OF’s in Judge, Hicks, Gardner, and Stanton. Supposedly, Ellsbury is reporting to camp tomorrow, but he is miles away from being ready and might not pass his physical.

The pitching staff is pretty much set- Betances, Chapman, Green, Britton, Ottavino, Holder, Tanaka, Happ, Paxton, leaves four spots. Cessa gets one and German does too. That leaves 1 or 2 spots based on CC’s availability, and you have to figure those come down to Kahnle and Tarpley.

12 days to go!