A Gotham Baseball Editorial: Yankees Should Pull Support Of Puerto Rican Day Parade

FALN terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera — whose sentence was commuted by President Obama — is going to be celebrated in the streets of New York City during this year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade.
 
Goya Foods — which has sponsored the Parade since its inception — has withdrawn its sponsorship. The New York Yankees should do the same.
 
Joe Conner in the NY Post:
 
On Jan. 24, 1975, the FALN launched its most deadly attack, the infamous lunchtime bombing of Fraunces Tavern — murdering my father and three other innocent men. It was supposed to be the day we would celebrate my brother’s 11th birthday, and my 9th.
 
An FALN communique that day took credit for the attack, calling it a blow against “reactionary corporate executives.” In fact, my dad was born to immigrants and raised in working-class Washington Heights, very near where several of the FALN members were from.
 
In the early ’80s, 11 FALN members were arrested, tried and convicted of (among other serious felonies) weapons possession and seditious conspiracy. Lopez was convicted in 1981 and sentenced for crimes including seditious conspiracy, interference with interstate commerce by threats or violence, carrying firearms during the commission of those two crimes and interstate transportation of stolen vehicles.
 
There was testimony by a cooperating FALN insider that Lopez was personally involved in bombing and incendiary attacks, trained members in bomb-making techniques and had been a prime recruiter for the FALN.
 
Some claim he is a “freedom fighter” for Puerto Rican independence against US colonialism of the island. But aside from being a terrorist, what has he done to support “freedom” in Puerto Rico?
 
The FALN’s first attack, in December 1974, targeted the NYPD, severely maiming Angel Poggi, a young NYPD officer of Puerto Rican descent on his first day on the job. Is this the act of a hero of the Puerto Rican people? Lopez has never represented Puerto Ricans. Never more than 5 percent of them have ever voted for independence from America, and in 2012 fully 60 percent voted for statehood.
 
Lopez never expressed regret nor sought forgiveness, not even in his 2013 autobiography. Nor did he ever cooperate with authorities to bring closure to unsolved.
 
“Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda advocated for Oscar Lopez Rivera’s release, “sobbing with gratitude” about the news Obama commuted Rivera’s sentence. He said he would play Alexander Hamilton at a Chicago performance for Lopez Rivera.  
 
I am sorry, but this is just plain wrong. On so many levels.
 
NBC had to publicly apologize for this:
http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/09/nyregion/nbc-apologizes-for-seinfeld-episode-on-the-puerto-rican-day-parade.html
 
In a city that has seen more than its share of terror, the New York Yankees should step up and refuse to support a parade that will celebrate a terrorist.

A Conversation With ESPN’s Dan Szymborski

“Armies of academics going forward, measuring poetry. No, we will not have that here. No more of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard.” – Dead Poets Society

I started writing about baseball in 1996 and my passion for baseball stems from a nostalgic view of the game as well as the current day-to-day debates of each game as it unfolds.

I also have longtime aversion to math and math-related subjects, so my first reaction to the world of sabermetrics, analytic data like WAR, PECOTA and spray charts was not a warm one.

Once I started working the fantasy baseball industry, I started to utilize some of the more advanced stats in order to evaluate players, but having been brought up in the “see the ball, hit the ball catch the call” era, it’s still an alien process  in many ways.

Recently, I was watching “Dead Poets Society,” with my wife and kids, and it occurred to me that Welton Academy English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) might as well have been talking about sabermetrics as he stated his abject rejection of ‘Understanding Poetry,’ by Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D.

In his memorable speech, Keating objects to the use of metrics to quantify great poetry. As one of the students reads from the book, “If the poem’s score for perfection is plotted on the horizontal of a graph and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness,” Keating instructs his students to rip out the entire introduction to the book.

This is how Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D. rates poetry.

 

This is how Fangraphs.com measures baseball.

 

 

To me, the narrative and the drama are a big part of baseball . Numbers are important, sure, but some folks are taking things a little too far.

I recently spoke with Dan Szymborski, ESPN baseball analyst — and a sabermetrician of the highest order — about my disconnect.

“I think it comes down to the individual person,” said Szymborski, “Some people like sunsets and beer and tacos.  Some people like finding out why the sunset is specific colors, how to make a lager or tacos al pastor. Some people like both sets of things.  I believe it to be a mistake to consider aesthetic enjoyment and analysis to necessarily be mutually exclusive things.”

Wins Above Replacement or WAR has become a go-to stat for a new generation of baseball writers and fans, and I often get into debates on social media with folks who say the traditional Triple Crown stats like batting average (BA), home runs (HRs) and runs batted in (RBIs), aren’t a true measuring stick. So I asked Dan where he stood on this.

“On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Average (SLG) are the essential building block of WAR, and has been used in serious analysis going back to Branch Rickey for two reasons,”  said Szymborski. “One, it models offense very well without knowing any of the team-dependent stats that describe runs (RBI, R).  Essentially, if all you knew about a team was its OBP and SLG and how many ABs they had, you can predict how many runs a team scores in a season with a 4 percent margin of error.  If RBI was a real ability, then it may make more sense, but isolated power (SLG-BA) and times up at bat with runners on is a far better predictive of *future* RBI than actual RBI are.  BA and HR are already in OBP and SLG, of course, it’s just that there’s other stuff too.”

Maybe it’s because I hate math, but when Dan tries to explain this stuff to me, my eyes glaze over. But I’m trying!

“As for replacement level, it’s a common concept in many fields, such as insurance. A player value in baseball is essentially only relative to a team’s other options,” said Szymborski. “Average doesn’t make sense as a baseline, unless you believe an average player has no value, which I think we have strong reasons to not believe. Zero doesn’t make sense either; a random guy off the street would have positive value. So it the ‘true’ baseline, if you can use that word for an abstract concept, necessarily falls somewhere in the middle. From study of minor league free agents and the waiver wire, around where you see WAR has become the consensus.”

When I began working in the Fantasy Baseball, I started usuing advanced metrics a little bit more to evaluate pitchers, especially starters. For some reasons, stats like Fixed Independent Pitching (FIP) seem more accessible. I asked Dan which pitching metrics he trusted most?

“It always depends on what you’re trying to measure,” he said.  “Over a season, peripheral-based stats make most sense to evaluate a pitcher I feel. When you’re talking careers, I think the more actual runs allowed+known team D measures that baseball-reference uses work better than WAR that’s based on FIP (over a long-term, you can believe in a pitcher like Glavine that can exceed his peripherals. In a single season, not so much). I believe in using the simplest stat that gets the job done, generally speaking – something simple like ERA+ (ERA relative to league and park) works just fine 98 percent of the time.”

I also asked him what the best stats to use for evaluating relievers he uses.

“We’re still working on that,” he said.  “I’m not sure there’s a ‘best’ way because there’s still a philosophical debate on the best way to utilize relievers.”

After the discussion, I realized maybe we are both trying to get to the same thing; break down the game to its simplest elements.

So I then asked Dan what was the most important thing that us folks who aren’t saber-metrically inclined, what do we need to understand about analytics that he feels we don’t get?

“We understand the limitations of our data more than people who don’t work with the data though,” said Szymborski.  “Knowing what a tool doesn’t do is as important as knowing what a tool does; knowing a hammer can hit a nail isn’t that valuable if you don’t also understand that you don’t use a hammer to open a jar.   Though I guess you could if it’s really stuck and there’s like a wad of $20 bills inside that you really want, but even in that case, why are you storing dollars in jars?”

I may never get to the place where I can agree with Szymborski on a lot of this stuff, but I do appreciate the fact that he’s willing to try to explain his point of view, rather than simply dismiss mine.

As I told him privately, there’s plenty of arrogance on both sides of the aisle, and it’s always better to try to make sense of what we don’t understand.

Mark Healey is the Founder and Executive Editor of Gotham Baseball. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appel’s “Stengel” Is A Masterpiece

Full-length shot of New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel, 1960

Only one man in baseball history has worn the jersey of the New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees and New York Mets in his career. That man is Hall of Famer Casey Stengel, and as Casey used to say, “You can look it up!”

There’s a new book out about the legendary Stengel, and it’s written by Marty Appel, the former Yankees public relations guru and best-selling author – and Gotham Baseball alumnus. When I first heard Marty was writing a book about Casey Stengel, I knew couldn’t wait to read it.

Appel has written some incredibly good books: Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss; Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain; and my personal favorite, Now Pitching for the Yankees: Spinning the News for Mickey, Billy and George.

Well, as per his usual, Marty’s Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character (published on March 28 and available at Amazon.com), is superb on just about every level.

The combination of Appel’s prose, his impeccable research and access to a never-before published memoir by Edna Stengel, Casey’s wife, this biography of baseball’s greatest manager is truly a masterwork.

From his early days as a outfielder with the Brooklyn Dodgers, spanning a 14-year career as a player before being named manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1934. Appel spins of a tale of a player who clashed with his legendary managers and as a manager clashed with some of his legendary players, including Joe DiMaggio. Through it all, Stengel always enjoyed a love affair with the press (“his writers”) and the fans.

Also incredibly interesting are the chapters on the latter stages of Stengel’s Yankees career, how he and general manager George Weiss were pushed out by the Yankees, and how they wound up with the Mets.
I read the great Richard Creamer’s Stengel: His Life and Times in 1981, and loved it. As Appel did with his own original Munson biography – he has improved on and added so much to what was already a wonderful existing book.

I’ve already placed it on my special books shelf; you will too.

Yankees Will Lose Prospects in Rule 5

We are just about at the deadline. The Yankees have to set their 40-man roster for next month’s Rule 5 Draft Friday.

With the system possessing more talent than ever before, there is no way the Yankees have room on that 40-man roster to protect outfielder Jake Cave, right-hander Brady Lail, left-hander Dietrich Enns, catcher Luis Torrens and right-hander Ronald Herrera among others.

“Each and every one of those guys has a chance of being selected if not protected,” said a scout from a National League East team. “There are a few we are interested in taking a chance on.

“With the talent the Yankees now have in their system, they are certain to lose a few.”

We agree with that prediction. With catcher Kyle Higashioka already added to the 40, along with right-hander Domingo German, we can see the Yankees leaving Torrens, coming back from a rotator-cuff injury and subsequent surgery, unprotected. With Gary Sanchez established and Higashioka, an excellent defensive catcher and sound handler of pitchers, coming off a breakout offensive season, Torrens will likely not be protected.

Expect the Yankees to find spots for infielders Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar, who has much potential at third base, With  the acquisition and display put on by infielder Gleyber Torres in the Arizona Fall League, it would not be surprising if the Yankees moved Mateo in a trade, but it is doubtful they would give him up in Rule 5.

As far as Cave, who is just 23, it is time for him to get a chance with another organization. Frankly, we were somewhat surprised  the Cincinnati Reds did not keep him after his selection in last year’s Rule 5. He’s a good guy and a good player who certainly could make a big-league roster in 2017.

Lail and Enns also could slot as back-of-the-rotation starters – or bullpen operatives – on a big-league roster within the next few  years, but they are kind of lost in the shuffle right now. Expect both to be unprotected and quite possibly selected.

Also, do not expect right-hander Mark Montgomery, who has regressed and fought injury over the last few years, or left-hander Tyler Webb, who has the stuff, but also not the command, to be protected. There also may be no room for right-hander Ronald Herrera, who was obtained from the San Diego Padres last year and participated in a combined Double-A Trenton Thunder no-hitter in 2016.

Former first-round pick Cito Culver has already declared Minor League Free Agency.

A player is eligible for Rule 5 if they:

A – Were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming

B – Were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.

Players can be drafted for $50,000 and, if not kept on the selected team’s 25-man active roster  (active for at last 90 days) the following season, must be offered back to their original team, as Cave last year and Ivan Nova a few years ago.

Expect the waive goodbye to a prospect favorite our two. There are simply not enough spaces, even with the Yankees non-tendering pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and likely infielder Dustin Ackley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mantiply Ignites Pilot Light of Yankees Hot Stove

The Yankees gave up on Branden Pinder and his command issues.

The Yankees’ first Hot Stove League move came the other day, and, like your furnace in this fall’s mild weather so far, it was luke-warm at best.

Righty reliever Branden Pinder, who threw cheese but never had the command to be consistent in the majors, was designated for assignment, with lefty reliever Joe Mantiply picked up on waivers from the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees took a flyer on the 25-year-old Mantiply because, while he hardly throws as hard as Pinder – topping out at 91-92 mph – has the command the former Yankees reliever lacks.

He gets strikeouts with his corners-of-the-plate array. At Erie int 2016, he was 3-1, 2.47 ERA in 49 appearances at Double-A Erie. His strikeout/walk ratio was 62-11 in 51 innings. That impressed the Tigers, who called up the former Virginia Tech star n September, where he recorded an 0-0, 16.88 mark in five appearances covering 2.2 innings.

Mantiply occupies a spot on the Yankees’ 40-man roster. Whether he stays there or not is a legitimate question, mainly because there are others who seemingly need to be protected before December’s Rule 5 Draft, led by infielders Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar.

Both Mateo and Andujar had their issues in 2016. Mateo served a suspension, forfeiting a spot in the 2016 Futures Game when he demanded to know why he wasn’t promoted t9 Double-A Trenton, which he never saw last summer. Andujar showed some power and hustle at Trenton, but, earn with soft hands, had struggles fielding.

One would expect, since Mateo is multi-talented and a top prospect, and Andujar, a great guy to deal with and a fun player who is the club’s best third-base prospect, will be protected. Two more moves would have to be made on the Yankees’ 40-man.

Two who likely will be exposed to being taken in Rule 5 are outfielder Jake Cave, who nearly earned a spot on the Cincinnati Reds last spring, and emerging left-hander Dietrich Enns, who was 14-4, 1.73 between Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in his first year as a starter.

With Cave, the arrival of outfielder Clint Frazier from Cleveland. along with the strong Double-A season put up by Dustin Fowler in Trenton this past summer, Cave is expendable, and likely will be selected again. Fowler, who is a better all-around player, does not have to be exposed to Rule 5.

With Enns, who has battled back from injury to baffle upper-minors batters with control and changing speeds, and can start or relieve, is lower on the totem pole than lefty starter J0rdan Montgomery and righty reliever Jonathan Holder. The pickup of Mantiply just might close the door on Enns with the Yankees unless things change with the 40-man.

The Yankees system’s talent level is to the point where some pretty solid minor-league players will be available to other clubs, whether  through Rule 5 or as Minor League Free Agents. Infielder Cito Culver, a former first-roumd pick, who could land on a big-league roster as a utility player in the mold of Brendan Ryan, leads that group.

With Rule 5 coming sooner rather than later, and the weather getting colder as December nears, there very well could be more movement with the Yankees and their 40-man. Why Mantipy? The Yankees had good luck with pitchers Chad Green and Luis Cessa, who came from that Detroit system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Interview] Zack Zehner Working on Defense, Talks Break-Out Season

New York Yankees minor leaguer Zach Zehner with the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League (Bryan Green)

Zack Zehner is only one of two players who was a starter on Opening Day for the High-A Tampa Yankees and finished as a starter once the season was over. Zehner, an 18th-round-pick in 2015, played all of 2015 in Staten Island, and was moved straight to Tampa in 2016 this last season. Zehn’ was much of an unknown coming in, he has size, a good bat, and good speed once he gets going, but it needed to come to life at a level he hadn’t been near before. To say he started to put everything together was a bit of an understatement.

Zehner started off slow hitting-wise, from what he’d call a ‘learning-curve’ jumping from Staten Island to Tampa, but he’d then play a huge part in the Yankees success through the first half and second. Even without the hits, Zehner was getting on base despite his slower start. He’d finish the season sixth in the FSL in walks. Eventually Zehner started complimenting his plate discipline with solid contact hitting and became one of many stronger assets in the Yankees’ lineup.

Tell me about how your season came along, despite a slow start you were still successful, how did your game come together in the first half?

“I think it took a few months to work on my swing a little bit and just make the adjustments. Guys are throwing more strikes with their off-speed and just kind of getting a feel for my zone and how these guys are pitching me in the first half.”

When things are going well at the plate is there anything you feel like you shouldn’t change? 

“I think when things are going well you have the simplest of approaches and your eyes, bat, and everything is working together in unison. If I’m going well I try to stay middle or opposite field, I don’t try to think very much I try to stick to the pitches that I feel I can control really well. If i can stay in that rhythm and that approach it ends up doing pretty well for me.” 

I noted how Zehner was staying on base even when he didn’t hit and he talked on that aspect of his game as well.

“Even when I’m not hitting, getting on base a bunch, if I’m not feeling well at the plate, I’m trying to be a tough out, I’m trying to work and see as many pitches as I can to help me if I’m not in my rhythm.” 

When thinking about your rookie season to last season, what do you think you’ve improved on the most?

“I think knowing myself, understanding my strengths and weaknesses, you obviously have to work on your weaknesses, but when it comes to game time you have to stick to what you’re good at. I think not trying to do as much this year and sticking at what I’m good at really helped me to be consistent where as in my first year I was trying to make a million adjustments in-game and you’re not gonna be successful trying to do that.”

Moving to the playoffs, how did you feel going in? 

“Going into it that was our goal from day one, Os’ (Pat Osborn) comes in and says ‘hey were getting to the playoffs’. The team we had was completely different from the team we ended with but I think that goal stuck around in the clubhouse and that’s all we were focused on was getting to the championship. I was with Os’ in Staten Island the year before and we made it to the championship but we didn’t win, we lost to the Pirates actually the first time and this time so I knew Os’ really wanted to get there and everyone else wanted to get there and so that was the goal the whole year.”

You slowed down the last couple of weeks, what did you think you were struggling with at the plate? Was it fatigue?

“I think my timing was definitely off like you said the last two weeks of the season I definitely slumped a bit. It was definitely a timing thing for sure. I was consistent the whole year with my workout, you know you’re beat up at the end of the year, but so is everyone else. It’s not an excuse to be tired it’s the playoffs you got to be ready to roll and it’s baseball, you get in a slump sometimes and it’s unfortunate that it happened the last two weeks of the season. You want to end on a high note but it is what it is.”

Even if you didn’t play as much as you wanted, what did the playoffs teach you at this level? Was anything different?

“The thing I took away from it is it’s still the same game, it’s just another game. My first year I think I got pretty hyped up for the playoffs and you kind of try to leave your approach, everyone’s trying to do something to make something big happen trying to hit that go-ahead home run and you just have to stay within yourself and treat it like another game.”

Take me through the days after the series, what did you do when you got home to relax? When did you start off-season workouts? Any change from last season?

“I came home to San Diego, I took a trip pretty quick after I got back to see my girlfriend, got to see the whole family, everyone who didn’t get the chance to come out and see me. Took a couple weeks off, you know you got to get away from it a little bit, and then get back to the grind pretty much. I took some time off this year, last year I don’t think I took a day off I went straight into my hitting and my running. I didn’t play a whole season yet so I didn’t know what to expect, so i took a couple weeks off from lifting. But A typical day I get a lift in, I just started my hitting last week, try to get my speed up and do some sprints in at the end of the day. It pretty low-key right now, pretty much just hitting the weights and getting back in shape for next season.”

Heading into next season what’s something you want to work on? 

“I think defense is big, I think its an easy way to separate yourself from others it something you can work on everyday. You have 100% control in your defense. Speed is always a focus, trying to become faster, I’d like to be better on the bases, you know I’m not going to steal a lot of bags but there’s other things you can do running the bases to help your team win, being better 1st to 3rd, 2nd to home, dirt ball reads, so getting better with the small things will help push my game forward.”

Zack Zehner will most likely start the season at High-A Tampa, but depending on who stays and goes from Trenton, he could very well be taking his trip up north sooner than you think. After his performance last season, expectation will be high for him. He’ll need to show a more consistent bat, and better speed as he mentioned. His plate discipline will be tested as it was in the second half, but for a lengthy body he sees pitches well. Coming from behind in the count will still be an issue for him as well, which means he’ll need to make those same adjustments in-game through the weeks. Overall Zehner is a solid guy to look forward to, his size and speed for his size makes him an interesting asset in the outfield for Tampa or Trenton.

 

2016 Season in Review: Eduardo Rivera

Eduardo Rivera in the fall instructional league. (Bryan Green)

Eduardo Rivera debuted with the Yankees in 2011, and has always been known as a pitcher with a big arm. However, his lack of control made him a complete non-prospect. He might’ve been throwing upper 90’s, but It’s hard to get that excited over a prospect that had an 8.06 BB/9 through the first four season of his career. It was only until 2015, that he started to look like a decent pitcher. However, most ignored his solid numbers, which is certainly understandable considering his track record, and the fact that he was a 22-year-old playing in the APPY league.

Which brings us to 2016 where we could say he finally started to ascend through the Yankees system, and actually ended his season playing against age-appropriate competition.

Rivera’s season began with the Staten Island Yankees of the NYPL, where he pitched 12.1 innings and gave up zero runs. His walk rate was still high (4.4 per 9), but for the first time in his career he was pitching well despite his overall poor control.

His performance led to a quick promotion to Class-A Charleston. Rivera pitched 14.1 innings at this level, and did even better than he had in the NYPL. Most notably he got his BB/9 down to just 3.1, and only allowed 4.4 H/9. His improved control helped him achieve greatness in A-ball as he put up the following numbers: 1.26 ERA, 1.73 FIP, 13.2 K/9, .837 WHIP.

While the above numbers are impressive, it should be noted that Rivera posted them as a 23-year-old in A-ball. Which would make him about a year too old for the level. Once the Yankees pushed him to an age-appropriate league (High-A), his control did once again waver.

In those 7 innings Rivera seemed to revert back to his old-self. He walked 8 batters, and gave up 7 hits. It’s not like he one bad appearance either, he consistently had bad games in High-A. The only positive stat was that he struck out 13 batters. While it was only 7 innings, I do feel that it shows that Rivera still needs to work on his control. With that said his overall season was very impressive, and it’s clear that he’s finally beginning to make progress.

Rivera’s fastball and curveball combination, could make him a solid bullpen piece in the future, but he wants to be a true back-end reliever he has to learn how to throw strikes on a consistent basis. He’s certainly a name to watch out for in 2017. Assuming the Yankees don’t lose him in the rule-5 draft—which is probable—he should begin the 2017 season in Tampa, and if he can continue to improve he should move through the system pretty quickly.

Off-Season Interview: Kevin Cornelius

Kevin Cornelius with the Tampa Yankees in 2016 (Bryan Green)

Kevin Cornelius is one of many Yankees prospects on the move. After starting the season in Pulaski, he was then promoted to High-A Tampa after taking the Appalachian League by storm. In 13 games, Cornelius posted five doubles, six homers, and 21 RBIs. He then would have a solid season for Tampa, contributing to their huge offensive season. With a .277 average, he’d add on nine doubles, seven home runs, and 27 RBIs. Cornelius did have some things to improve on from last season, fielding and size being some. I talked to Cornelius about his time in Tampa last season, playoffs, and how he’s preparing for whatever may come in 2017.

Starting in the playoffs, what was it like heading in? What was your mindset?

“I think I’ve been in the playoffs every year since becoming a Yankees; I think two or three of them have been with Pat Osborn. I was comfortable; Pat’s an awesome manager, and he takes it pretty seriously, but he has the same managing approach he has the whole season. So he stays consistent, and that keep us consistent. Although the outcome of the actual Championship series wasn’t what we wanted, I feel like all throughout the team did well, and I think everybody was happy with this season, we just didn’t get the outcome we wanted.

Did you know before the playoffs that there would be no games at Steinbrenner? Did you feel being on the road for two series hindered the team at all physically or mentally?

“No, we had no clue. It was a little bit of a shock at first, but then once we found out, we were okay with it. I don’t think the home-field advantage mattered to us especially since our stadium plays so big. I think a lot of the hitters were a little happy we were going to be playing at the Jays and Pirates park because they’re more hitters’ parks. I don’t think that (travel) affected us too much, maybe the traveling every day may have had a response from us because we didn’t have that chill-out time. We didn’t have that time to relax and prepare mentally as well as we could if we could sit in the clubhouse at home, you know? We were trying to get to the field, trying to get to the bus on time, and trying to get to the field on time. So I think that might have had a little bit of an effect, but that’s no excuse. I don’t think it affected us so much that that’s why we didn’t win.”

What did you specifically feel you needed to work on heading into the playoff series?

“At third base, I’d have some troubles defensively; I got into a throwing slump at third. Going into Bradenton I thought that was going to be an issue, but I only played first base and DH so that kind of subsided. Pat brought me into his office and sat me down and told me you’re not going to be playing third at all, so that took off some pressure.”

Did Pat have you as a player again give you a sense of comfort on where you’d be or where he’d want you to be?

“Absolutely, I mean Tampa’s the highest level I played at by far and never playing at that level I had some back-of-the-mind insecurities about how I would possibly perform, but when I got there and talked to Pat he said ‘No man, you’re going to be fine, you can do it’. So having Pat there to tell me that, and my level could play at High-A really relaxed me.”

Cornelius had seven hits and four RBIs combined in the two playoff series.

What are some takeaways from 2016 for you compared to 2015? Have your off-season workouts changed because of what you’ve learned?

“From 2015-2016 I learned a lot about myself as a player and what I need to do to help a team and be successful. In 2015, I had a small injury and didn’t know how to cope with my body as well, and in 2016 at the end, I feel like I know what I need to do as a player and what I need to do to prepare myself every day to compete. I think that got a lot better from 2015-2016. I’m focusing more in transferring bad weight I used to have to good weight. Not carrying as much fat and turning that into muscle is going to help me stay healthier through the season. I don’t need to bulk up so much as I need to focus on workouts that are going to lean me out and focus more on fast twitch muscles rather than larger muscles. And so I’m focusing more on agility stuff and leg strength and hip strength rather than all-around body-bulking.”

What do you want the Yankees organization to see in you moving forward? 

“I want them to see that I’ve had a lot of ups and downs injury wise and playing wise, that I’ve earned everything that I’ve gotten, that nothings been handed to me and I’m not just going to give up, and I’m here until they tell me I’m not good enough to play anymore.”

Cornelius spoke on all he needed to work on and was. His fielding was something he mentioned further, and working on his body and agility will transfer to the field in 2017. We also asked what coaches were working on with him in 2016, and he mentioned the same. “Footwork at third and all-around defense. I had some troubles there once I got to Tampa. It’ll be something I focus on in the off-season“. Expect to see just that from Cornelius next season, a leaner and agile player in the field and at the plate.

When we asked him about what his ‘next step’ needs to be, he noted health and consistency. “The preparation pregame, preparing for the pitcher and the hitters, defensive placement, what pitches are thrown in counts, my preparation for both of those is what’s going to help me stay consistent and reach those levels.” Cornelius will start next season with High-A Tampa more than likely, whether he’ll be playing third or not is the question. If he continues to struggle defensively his future may be at first or DH, but he clearly knows what he needs to do to stay at third, and continue success at the plate.

 

 

 

 

Five Yankees MiLB Pitchers to Watch in 2017

5pitcherstowatch

The New York Yankees have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, if not the best.  With that comes a lot of top-level talent that becomes household names in the fan base.  But aside from the big names the fans already know there are several players throughout the system that they should also keep an eye on in 2017.

While fans know the likes of James Kaprielian, Domingo Acevedo and Ian Clarkin we wanted to look at five lesser-known Yankees prospects who fans should keep an eye on in 2017.

Jose Mesa Jr.

Mesa was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 2012 draft but did not make his professional debut until 2014 due to Tommy John surgery.  After a solid 2015 season, he was held back in Extended to start 2016 but we would go on to play for the Charleston RiverDogs and Tampa Yankees before an arm injury cost him the rest of the season.  Read the full profile here.

Adonis Rosa

Right-handed pitcher Adonis Rosa was signed by the New York Yankees in December 2013 as an international free agent.  After strong performances in the Dominican Summer League in 2014 and the Appalachian League in 2015 he found himself in Class-A for the first time in 2016.  Rosa impressed with the Staten Island Yankees, earning a promotion to the Charleston RiverDogs during the season.  Read the full profile here.

Luis Cedeno

Signed as a minor league free agent in May of 2012 Luis Cedeno recently completed his fifth season in the organization.  He has proven to be a strike thrower, showcasing strong command of his fastball and improving his curveball and changeup.  On the mound, he has an aggressive approach, going after hitters to get the out. Read the full profile here.

Erik Swanson

The Yankees acquired Erik Swanson on August 1, 2016 in the trade for Carlos Beltran.  Originally the eighth round draft of the Texas Rangers in 2014 he spent this season in the South Atlantic League. Read the full profile here.

Stephen Tarpley

Tarpley, 23, was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 2013 First-Year-Player Draft out of Scottsdale Community College.  In 2015 he was traded to the Pirates for Travis Snider.  The Yankees acquired him on August 30 as a player to be named later in the Ivan Nova deal.  Read the full profile here.

Pitchers to Watch in 2017: Stephen Tarpley

Stephen Tarpley (Bryan Green)

The New York Yankees have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, if not the best.  With that comes a lot of top-level talent that becomes household names in the fan base.  But aside from the big names the fans already know there are several players throughout the system that they should also keep an eye on in 2017.

When the Yankees traded Ivan Nova to the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 1 for players to be named later, no one knew what kind of caliber of prospect the Bronx Bombers would get back.  But on August 30 we found out when the Pirates sent Tito Polo and left-handed pitcher Stephen Tarpley to the Yankees to complete the trade.

Tarpley, 23, was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 2013 First-Year-Player Draft out of Scottsdale Community College.  The Los Angeles, CA native made his professional debut later that year in the Gulf Coast League, starting seven games for the GCL Orioles striking out 25 batters in 21 innings.  After 2013 season had ended Tarpley was named the #21 prospect in the Orioles organization by Baseball America.

The 2014 season was him get a promotion to the NY-Penn League where he was a regular in the rotation of the Aberdeen IronBirds.  Tarpley earned a 3-5 record with a 3.66 ERA in 13 games, 12 starts, striking out 60 batters over 66 1/3 innings.  His strong performance earned him a spot in the organization’s top 20, being named the #16 prospect in the system by Baseball America.

In January 2015, the Orioles traded Stephen Tarpley to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Travis Snider.  In his first season in the Pirates organization, he started 20 games for the West Virginia Power, striking out 105 batters in 116 innings and winning 11 games while earning a 2.48 ERA.  His success earned him pitcher of the week honors as well as a spot-on Baseball America’s Low Class-A All-Star team as well as being named by BA as the #17 prospect in the Pirates organization.

The 2016 season saw Tarpley start the season on the disabled list due to an oblique injury, but after he had returned from injury, he started 20 games for the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League.  With the Marauders, he was 6-4 with a 4.32 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 100 innings.  After being traded to the Yankees, he would appear in only one game for the Tampa Yankees, allowing five runs on seven hits and two walks in 5 innings against the Lakeland Tigers on September 4.  After a few days, he went on the disabled list after experiencing some soreness.

Tarpley is a rare talent, a left-handed pitcher that usually sits in the mid-90s with his fastball.  He backs it up with a curveball, changeup, and slider.  His repertoire allows him to keep hitters guessing what is coming next.