2016 Season-in-Review: Tampa Yankees Part One

James Kaprielian (©Mark LoMoglio/Yankees)

The most consistent part of the Tampa Yankees 2016 season was by far their pitching.Tampa started the season with all very young arms in their rotation, and they would just continue to get better and better.

The four primary starting pitchers in the rotation were Vicente Campos, Ian Clarkin, Chance Adams, and James Kaprielian. Only one of them ended the season healthy and pitching for Tampa, but by no means was it a lost season for any. Clarkin and Kaprielian would both be shut down before seasons’ end.

Kap’ only pitched three games in the season before being shut down due to elbow inflammation. Though it was a possibility he’d return in September; some setbacks would have him shut down for the rest of the season and have his sights set on 2017. His three starts were still stunning, and a great preview of what was to come for the first-round draft pick. In three games he threw 18 innings, giving up three runs and striking out 22.

Clarkin was in for the Yankees up until mid-July, he also got better as the season went on, but the 21-year-old would be shut down as well. He hit 98 innings and finished with a 3.31 ERA; the injury did hinder Tampa, though. Clarkin was an arm the Yankees very well could’ve used in the playoffs, and it was likely he’d be their number one pitcher to start the Dunedin series.

Vicente Campos and Chance Adams would go on to have two of the best 2016 campaigns in all of the Yankees’ system. Campos was traded after being promoted to Double-A, then Triple-A ball. The Yankees received former Tampa Yankees pitcher Tyler Clippard in return from the Diamondbacks, and trading Campos was a bit of a head-scratcher to some fans who saw just how solid he was this season, but the Yankees still needed bullpen arms after trading Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. Campos pitched 59 1/3 innings for High-A Tampa, in that time he held a 3.49 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.

As for Chance Adams, he’d be promoted to Trenton just about two weeks after Campos, and he’d stun Trenton the same as Tampa. Before Josh Rogers and James Reeves, Adams was the Yankees’ automatic arm from the rotation. Adams pitched a similar 57 2/3 innings for Tampa and sported a 2.65 ERA, paired with a .96 WHIP. He also totaled 73 strikeouts and gave up just 17 earned runs in his time as a Tampa Yankee. Adams would give up more than two runs in a start just twice on the season and those two starts came in two of the first three games. In fact in his last month and a half at High-A, he didn’t give up more than a run in each of his last seven starts before continuing his success in Trenton.

After promotions and injuries, Josh Rogers and James Reeves would lead the Yankees to a majority of their second half success. After 22 2/3 innings in Low-A Charleston, he’d contribute 113 2/3 for High-A, finishing the season with a 2.53 ERA. At one point, Rogers would go 27 2/3 innings with giving up just a run in that five-game span. Rogers was up for promotion throughout the second half, but there was always just one other guy ahead in line. Rogers was another player who headlined the Yankees 2016 top-farm-performance-list. He did end the season somewhat sluggish, but he was just about as his innings limit come to the last couple of weeks. Rogers will be a name to follow throughout the fall as he could very well start in Trenton come 2017.

Not only did Rogers have a huge part in Tampa’s second half pitching success, but James Reeves was probably the biggest shocker in the Yankees’ farm this season. He started 12 games for Tampa this season and pitched in 25 games overall. His 2.27 ERA might be somewhat of a blemish on how strong he was. He allowed more than two earned runs in a start just once, and it was his last start of the season before he was moved back to the bullpen.

Reeves still has much to work on if the Yankees choose to move him back into a rotation, he pitched over 80 pitches just four times, and perhaps having him work this offseason as a starting pitcher was the reason for moving him back in Tampa. Reeves spent most of the last season doing that, trying to evolve his slider into an above average finishing pitch. Reeves will most likely start next season in Tampa, but I feel he could be up in Trenton after a couple of dominant starts. He struck out eight in his four innings he pitched for Trenton during the playoffs.

Supporting arms for the Yankees came in Domingo Acevedo, Domingo German, and Nestor Cortes.The trio finished with a 3.22, 3.04, and 3.21 ERA for Tampa this season. Injuries hindered Acevedo and German’s season as both were on and off the DL. German would be able to come back and make two more starts to finish the season, which wouldn’t be the case for Acevedo.

Before Acevedo’s injury struggles, it was confirmed he was set to be promoted to Trenton as it was, at the tail-end of the season after pitching 50 1/3 innings for the Yankees. With this in mind it means he’ll most likely start the 2017 season in Trenton should his off-season plan take its correct course. As for Cortes, he’d play from Low-A Charleston all the way up to Triple-A SWB. He helped the Yankees immensely in the little time he was there and was quite the pitcher to watch. Cortes has a lot of tools to work with, and none will necessarily blow by batters as he works with more off-speed variations. His fastball is mainly from 85-90 mph, but he also carries a changeup, curveball, and slider. Cortes is likely to start with Tampa or Trenton next season; he’ll be just 22 in December.

It all comes down to Philly

philly phanaticThe Philadelphia Phillies may be playing out the string of a transition season, but don’t expect this division rival to lie down for us to waltz into the playoffs. There’s a long history of Phillies players, announcers, and fans wanting to stick it to the blue and orange. This is a bad team for sure, but also a young team with nothing to lose and plenty to prove.

Of note, this will almost certainly be the last time we’ll see Ryan Howard in a Phillies uniform. The team is certainly not going to pick up the fading slugger’s $23 million option for 2017. Some AL team will scoop him up to DH and live to regret it. Howard is the last holdover from the Phillies teams that made life hell for us six to eight years ago. Who knows if Howard’s swan song will offer his team any additional motivation, but for us, it will be nice to say good-bye to a long time nemesis.

The pitching match-ups for the three-game set at Citizens Bank Park are far from set in stone. For the Mets, it largely will be determined by the standings and outcomes in St. Louis and San Francisco. If, through Mets wins and Cardinals and Giants losses, we can clinch the top wild card spot by Saturday, then heck, we could throw the bullpen batting practice pitcher out on the hill come Sunday.

The opening game will feature righty Robert Gsellman (3-2, 2.56 ERA) against rookie right hander Alec Asher (2-0, 1.66 ERA), who beat the Mets last week. Now with our lefty power hitters all seemingly getting on track, we should be able to put up some runs against Asher, especially with so much on the line. In game two, on Saturday afternoon, we’ll likely see Bartolo Colon (14-8, 3.42 ERA) in a bid to get his 15th win at age 43. The Phillies have not yet announced their starter, but suffice it to say it won’t be prime Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee. Given days off and the wild card games, the NLDS isn’t scheduled to start until next Friday, so Colon would have enough rest to be our game one starter, should when we get there.

If the wild card spot is still undecided come Sunday, then it will be Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA) taking the mound with the season on the line against Jared Eickhoff (11-14, 3.72 ERA). If anyone is prepared for the big moment, it’s Syndergaard. Hopefully, we won’t need him and will have him ready to go with extra rest for the NL wild card game on Wednesday. If that’s the case, look for a silly end of regular season game featuring all the pitchers and players with little chance of making the post season roster. Think Matt Reynolds leading off and Kevin Plawecki or Eric Campbell batting cleanup.

Knowing this crowd, most of you reading this will tune in to watch just the same. Let’s go Mets!

 

 

Speculation on the Mets’ Wild Card roster

MetsLogoDifferentAccording to ESPN, the Mets have a 98.6% chance of making the playoffs as a Wild Card team. A quick Google search appears to show that the Wild Card play-in game is its own separate round, meaning you can have a 25-man roster for that game and, if you win, immediately turn around and adjust it for the division series. Assuming this is still the case, how will the Mets put together their roster for the Wild Card game? Here’s how I’d do it:

SP – Noah Syndergaard
RP – Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Fernando Salas, Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker
C – Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki, Rene Rivera
1B – Lucas Duda, James Loney
2B – Kelly Johnson, T.J. Rivera
3B – Jose Reyes, Ty Kelly
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, Matt Reynolds
OF – Jay Bruce, Yoneis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo

That’s 24 players. The final roster spot needs to go to a pitcher, in case the game goes extra innings. The rotation appears to be set up for Seth Lugo to be the best-rested starter. The other choice would be Sean Gilmartin, who theoretically could go multiple innings and would also give another lefty in the bullpen. But Gilmartin’s last appearance was less than good. And if they clinch before Sunday, Gilmartin may very well get the start in that game. So, Lugo it is.

That’s just an eight-man pitching staff. You have to ask which players are going to help you win a game. You want three catchers so you can double-switch or pinch-hit and still have an emergency replacement available. There’s a backup for every position and adequate pinch hitters from each side of the plate.

And if the Mets win, you’d need to add two starting pitchers and a reliever to the squad. Kelly, Nimmo and Plawecki would appear to be the most vulnerable to being removed. Bartolo Colon and Robert Gsellman would be the two definite pitching additions. And then it would come down to Jim Henderson or Logan Verrett for the final spot. And that might depend on how much the bullpen was used in the Wild Card game.

If the pen is in good shape, Henderson would get the nod. But if the pen was used heavily, Verrett’s ability to bounce back quicker might be a bigger advantage. Let’s hope Syndergaard turns in a dominating performance in the Wild Card game and Henderson gets the final spot.

Gut Reaction: Mets 5, Marlins 2 (9/28/16)

The Mets defeated the Marlins 5-2 in Miami tonight, taking the rubber game of the series.

  • Seth Lugo got the start in this one, and he was very Lugo-like again. He gave up two runs on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts. He worked in and out of trouble all night, living up to his .163 BA against with RISP heading into the game. In the heat of the Wild Card race, Terry Collins was aggressive in getting him out of the game early. He pitched 5.1 innings on 82 pitches, with his only real mistake being a two-run homer in the first inning.
  • The Mets leveraged the long ball for most of their scoring tonight. James Loney, who replaced the sore Lucas Duda in the lineup, hit a two-run homer in the second to tie it up at two. Jay Bruce matched that feat with a two-run homer of his own in the fifth inning, his second in as many nights.
  • Curtis Granderson had himself a night, going 4-4 with four singles and a walk. He’s now reached base in eight straight at bats. Having he and Bruce (and possibly Duda) hot down the stretch and (hopefully) into the playoffs would be a huge plus.
  • The Mets bullpen continues to shine of late, with Hansel Robles, Fernando Salas, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia tossing 3.2 innings of scoreless ball. Familia secured his 50th save of the season, putting him in an exclusive club.
  • After the off day tomorrow, the Mets will start their final series of the regular season in Philadelphia with the Giants and Cardinals still breathing down their necks in the Wild Card race.

Game Chatter: Seth Lugo vs Jose Urena (9/28/16)

Mets nearing a goal via crazy circuitous route

PasswordOur older readers may fondly remember the TV game show “Password”. It was very popular during the 1960s and 70s. For those who do not know how it is played basically a contestant and a celebrity (often Betty White) team up with one giving the other one word clues until the partner says the given password.

As a semi-retired optometrist here’s the exchange that has always stayed with me over the decades. This really happened.

Host Allen Ludden gives the contestant the password and we’re told at home, “The password is Optometrist

contestant: “foot”
celebrity: “ankle”
contestant: “doctor”
celebrity: “Optometrist

This mind numbing route to the password tells me that sometimes you can get where you want to be in the most unlikely and unpredictable manner.

The 2016 Mets had as a regular season goal the winning of the National League East division, repeating as its champion. The secondary goal was to at least make the playoffs even if it meant participating in the dreaded play-in wild card game.

We know the Mets won’t reach that primary goal but the secondary one is surely in their grasp if they do not spit the bit in the final two series of the season.

But how this team has gotten to where it is can be filed in the truth being stranger than fiction department. After all, the master plan had the four young stud starting pitchers doing the heavy lifting. Bartolo Colon was resigned with the idea that he would be the fifth starter for half a season and move to the bullpen when Zach Wheeler was finished rehabbing from his Tommy John surgery.

The plan included power from Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, and David Wright. Travis d’Arnaud, assuming he could remain healthy, would step up and be the better than average offensive catcher that the club expected.

How much of all that actually happened? Right, not much. Wright’s early injury could have been predicted but not the fates of Lucas Duda, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Stephen Matz. And who has been the iron man of the pitching staff? 43 year old Bartolo Colon the master of the 91 mph fastball which he throws over 80% of the time.

Instead the team has gotten mileage and contributions from the likes of Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Gabriel Ynoa, Josh Smoker, and T.J. Rivera.

I pride myself on knowing a lot about the Mets and their organization but must confess that five months ago I could recognize only two of those names.

Meanwhile when the team went big for help it brought in Jay Bruce at the cost of a top prospect, Dilson Herrera. Suffice it to say that that swap has been a total disaster.

This brings us to one more oddity of this season. An area of ongoing debate is how good a manager is Terry Collins. If one spends any time on Twitter while the Mets games are on the lion’s share of comments are destroying Collins. His strategies are second guessed and he’s accused of being the worst bullpen manager in the game today. My personal knock on him is his willingness to utilize players that in my opinion do not even belong in the majors. Naming names: James Loney, Eric Campbell, and Sean Gilmartin.

Yet on a macro scale one has to wonder how despite all the injuries the team has incurred it can be right in the hunt for a wild card berth.

Of course, Addison Reed, Jeurys Familia, and Asdrubal Cabrera have saved the bacon all year long. Neil Walker, before his season ending injury, was also terrific.

One has to conclude that Manager Collins has kept the ship afloat despite taking on thousands of gallons of water. How bad a manager could he possibly be? Who could have gotten more out of this motley crew?

The password is “playoffs” and somehow this Mets team just might make them.

John Franco At Empire City Casino’s Dan Rooney’s Sports Bar Friday

franco-head-shotFormer Mets hurler John Franco, one of baseball’s all-time great relief pitchers, will meet and great fans at Dan Rooney’s Sports Bar at Empire City Casino on Friday night, September 30, when the Mets play the Phillies in what is expected to be a pivotal game in the National League wildcard race.

The Brooklyn native who ranks fifth on the all-time saves list with 424 and is first among lefties, will be on hand from 7:00 to 9:00 PM to pose for pictures and sign autographs for the first 100 fans, and then watch the game with Mets zealots.

Food and drink specials will be on the menu, and fans will have a perfect view of the game on Dan Rooney’s large-screen TVs.

During a 21-year major league career with the Mets, Reds and Astros, Franco appeared in 1,119 games in his career to rank third all-time, and first in National League history. He played college baseball at St. John’s University before being drafted by the LA Dodgers in 1981. He was traded to the Reds in 1983 and was called up to the big leagues the following year. The four-time All Star and three-time NL saves leader, Franco was honored with the National League Relief Man award twice. He became the third Mets captain in history, from 2001-2004, and was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 2012.

Colon, Young Yankees Boost TOPPS NOW Rookie Season

Bartolo-HR-CardTOPPS launched its NOW baseball platform in April to highlight individual and team achievements each day of the season. Nearly 500 moments have been captured on cardboard to date, with the Yankees and Mets well represented throughout the year.

Bartolo Colon‘s first career home run on May 7 in San Diego is one of the highlights of the season, and Mets fans responded by purchasing more than 8,000 copies of the card, depicting the 40-year-old mid-swing. Colon has been featured four other times, joining several Mets who appeared on multiple cards, including Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, Wilmer Flores and Jay Bruce (!).

Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin have been part of the Yankees’ youth movement since the August 1 trading deadline; their August 13 back-to-back homers in consecutive at bats sold more than 5,000 . Judge has appeared on two other cards since his debut, and the Yankees’ total of 28 cards to date is third in MLB behind the Cubs (38) and Red Sox (36).

Overall, the program has surpassed 300,000 cards.

Nick Green Looks Forward To 2017 After Successful 2016

Nick Green (James Snook/ Spokane Indians)

Nick Green was a pitcher the New York Yankees had on their radar for a long time. Green was originally drafted by the Yankees in the 35th round of the 2013 Amateur Draft. Green felt he wasn’t ready for professional baseball and chose to go to Indian Hills Community College in Iowa instead.

“I didn’t think I was ready to start a career. I wanted to be more mature, more developed physically I would say,” Green said of the decision to play college baseball rather than accept the Yankees offer at the time.

The time at Indian Hills turned out to be invaluable and helped prepare him for his pro career. “They were actually an international scouting team as well. I played with a lot of Latin guys on that team. I played with older guys. I got to travel, go to a different state, so it was good,” Green said.

That year at Indian Hills helped catch the attention of scouts and once again, Green was drafted. This time, the Texas Rangers came calling in the seventh round. Green felt more ready to start his career by this point. “I did not know (the Rangers) would take me but I was really excited. I knew they were interested, but I wasn’t really sure how interested,” Green said.

The Rangers assigned him to their Rookie Arizona League team where he got his feet wet. Green went 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 14 games, five of which were starts. For 2015, the Rangers bumped him up to class A short-season Spokane. Green struggled going 0-3 with a 7.11 ERA. His struggles though were in part due to an injury that slowed him down. “I went through an injury and I came back not as confident really. I had a really good first half and then after my injury, I kind of went downhill after that and my confidence went down after that,” Green said.

For 2016, Texas sent Green back to Spokane where he went 2-2 in 12 starts with a 4.98 ERA in seven starts striking out 65 batters in 62 innings pitched. Then on August 1, Green received a call he wasn’t expecting. “(Rangers Assistant Director of Player Development) Paul Kruger called me and just said he’s happy with what I’ve been doing with them, he said I had been traded. I was pretty excited for the new experience, but I knew I was going to miss some guys with the Rangers of course,” Green recalled.

The Yankees received Green, along with Dillon Tate and Erik Swanson, in return for Carlos Beltran. Green was happy not only about the trade but about who he was traded for, as Beltran may someday be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. “That was pretty exciting, that was awesome. I was pretty excited about that,” Green said.

The Yankees assigned to Staten Island where Green got off to an excellent start. He was 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA with the Baby Bombers. Those numbers earned him a quick promotion to Charleston, where Green kept up his momentum. “I was really excited just to get started and meet everybody. I was really excited to start with another team (Staten Island) as well because that’s just another group of guys I got to know. The guys down there were awesome, so I was really happy to move up and start here with the new guys and get to know them,” Green said. With the RiverDogs, Green’s numbers were even more impressive going 3-0 with a 1.06 ERA, striking out 14 batters in 17 innings. Those numbers earned him the game one start for Charleston in the South Atlantic League playoffs. “I mean all these guys here are unbelievable, so to get that was a really really big blessing and an honor. I was excited to go out there and I gave them my best.”

Green struggled in the first inning of that start in a 3-1 RiverDogs loss. The Rome Braves ended up putting up two runs in the first inning. They would tack on another run in the third to make it 3-0. Green went five innings and took the loss. “It was exciting, it was really fun. I had a great time even though I didn’t produce what I should have, but I had a really fun time. The guys out there were unbelievable, they had my back. They swung the sticks the best they could and it was great,” Green said of his start. “I went out there and I just pitched my game. I’ve been working on a couple of things. Going out there and just continuing to do what I’ve been doing and trying to continue. That’s what I went out there with that mindset. Nothing really changed, it was just a bad outing.”

Green throws a fastball, curveball and changeup. He ends up striking out a lot of hitters and tries to pitch aggressively, throwing lots of strikes. “I just try to stay aggressive. I usually like when hitters are aggressive because they’re swinging. I like to throw my curveball out there, mix in a changeup every couple of times. I really like when they’re aggressive and I really like to just attack,” Green said.

One of the things the Yankees are looking for Green to work on is having a consistent throwing motion. “I guess like any other pitcher, more consistent mechanics. Continuing the same mindset every game. Just trying to be consistent over all, just like what any other pitcher would do,” Green said. “I’ve been working with Popey (pitching coach Justin Pope) and a couple of the coordinators around here. They’ve talked to me a little bit, but nothing too specific. I’ll be going to instructs so we’ll see what they have for me there.”

As for 2017, Green has a game plan in mind. “Getting bigger, stronger, obviously those are the two great things. Continuing my mental preparation every day and just getting better, confidently. I guess just to continuing to keep consistent mechanics. Make sure I don’t fall out of my every day routine,” Green said. “I’m going to go in and just obviously do my best, just like I do every year. I’m just going to go in with a plan and I’m going to go prepared.”

Green’s effort is what drives him to be successful, “I’m going to give my best every time I go out on the mound so you’re going to get what you came for.”

Parmelee, Montgomery Help RailRiders Rule Triple-A

Chris Parmelee's three-run homer got the RailRiders started in Memphis Tuesday night. (Photo by Martin Griff).

Memphis, Tenn. – Chris Parmelee blasted a first-inning homer and four pitchers took it from there as the SWB RailRiders (International League/New York Yankees) defeated the El Paso Chihuahuas (Pacific Coast League/San Diego Padres) for the 2016 Gildan Triple-A National Championship at AutoZone Park on Tuesday night. SWB’s first-ever overall Triple-A crown proved the first for the International League since the Columbus Clippers in 2011.

Three straight hits started the home first for the RailRiders, who enjoyed home field by virtue of the IL’s victory over the PCL in the Triple-A All-Star Game. Mark Payton singled, Clint Frazier followed with a single of his own and Parmelee sent them all home with a blast to right field off starter Walker Lockett (0-1).

SWB starter Jordan Montgomery fired a pair of perfect innings before a Jose Rondon double and a single by former RailRider Nick Noonan started the third. Montgomery retired the next three in order to quell the threat.

Montgomery (1-0) was lifted after three straight El Paso hits sparked the sixth, successive singles by Michael Margot, Carlos Asuaje and an RBI blow by Austin Hedges. Former San Diego prospect Johnny Barbato entered from the bullpen and started a string of 12 straight retired down the stretch by SWB relievers.

Phil Coke was perfect in the seventh and eighth while Giovanny Gallegos fired a 1-2-3 ninth to cement the hardware and record the save.

Season tickets for the 2017 season are now on sale. PNC Field in Moosic, home of the RailRiders, will be the place to be for the 2017 Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game on Sept. 19. The Mohegan Sun Pocono Hotel and Casino and PNC Field will serve as hosts of the two-day event. To purchase tickets or to find out more information, call 570-969-BALL (2255) or visit swbrailriders.com.