By Andy Singer
It’s been a rough week for Yankee fans. Kluber, Hicks, and Voit all went down and the Yankees lost their first series in weeks. Particularly after what’s happened to the Yankees the last couple of years on the injury front, it’s natural if you’re sitting at home saying, “here we go again.” However, I don’t think that’s fair in this scenario. Many baseball insiders predicted that injuries would be up this year after all of the stopping and starting last year combined with a shortened season and mixed training protocols due to the pandemic. Lo and behold, those concerns were well-founded. Injuries are up significantly throughout the league, so I don’t think it would be fair to blame the new Yankee training staff for what’s happened in the Yankee Universe the last 2 weeks. It stinks, but the Yanks are going to have to grit their teeth through it and play “next man up” again.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week’s SSTN Mailbag, we’ll talk about one under-the-radar prospect, internal options to replace Aaron Hicks, more about substances on the baseball, and Mike King! Let’s get at it:
Chris asks: When I read about Yankees prospects, I normally see a lot about all of the top guys in the farm system, but not a lot about some under the radar guys who can make an MLB roster eventually. Watching some early performances this year, is there anyone that’s caught your eye?
Obviously, we’re still talking about really small sample sizes down at the minor leagues, but some trends crystalize pretty early. I keep a running list of guys that I keep my eye on that fit Chris’ description of prospects who won’t make any top prospect lists, but still have some interesting attributes that might make them notable down the line. I wrote about one such guy last year after the Yankees signed him as an undrafted free agent: Trevor Holloway. I would recommend reading that article as a primer on who Holloway is as a pitcher, but I’ll give you a bit of background below.
Holloway is not your typical undrafted free agent. Last year’s draft was only 5 rounds in length, and in a normal sized draft (say 20+ rounds), Holloway almost certainly would have been drafted despite some flaws. He was old for a prospect (23 years old at the time of last year’s draft), suffered previous arm injuries, and really didn’t have a usable third pitch. I couldn’t find great angles of Holloway pitching, but it also appeared that his delivery could use some clean-up, as I didn’t see enough drive with his legs to take some pressure of his arm. On the flip side, Holloway had publicly posted some of his Rapsodo numbers, and the data was really strong. Holloway brings a mid-90s fastball and sharp slider with high spin rates to the table, and video evidence shows that the pitches played in games. I had some hope for progression even, due to the aforementioned issues with Holloway’s delivery that would surely be cleaned up in pro ball. Holloway is a guy that I’ve been quietly excited about.
Thus far, Holloway has made me look smart. In Low-A Tampa, Holloway has dominated in multi-inning appearances out of the bullpen. In 15.2 innings pitched, Holloway has struck out 30(!) batters while walking 7 and allowing just 9 hits. Holloway is old for the league, but he’s pushing for a promotion in the early going. Most importantly, it really does appear that Holloway has the strikeout stuff I thought he had when the Yankees signed him last year.
Holloway has a long way to go before he makes an impact at the big leagues, but I’m cautiously optimistic that he can rise quickly through the minors, given his age and stuff. I’m particularly interested in the fact that the Yankees have chosen to use Holloway exclusively in a multi-inning role. That allows him to stretch out a bit, and might even mean that by the time he gets to the upper levels, he remains a multi-inning threat capable of throwing multiple innings out of a big league bullpen. That would make him even more valuable than I projected. It’s too early to assume that this will be the case, but Holloway is allowing us to dream big.
Dave R. asks: There really don’t seem to be any impact outfielders available right now at least for the Yankees to replace Hicks with. Is there anyone internal that can be used? Gardner and Frazier worry me.
I fully expect to be shouted down when I put this in writing (though I mentioned it on the Bronx Beat Podcast earlier this week), but I am very interested to see Tyler Wade get some regular at-bats as a starting center fielder. Wade has been better at the plate this year, can really run, and has played great defense everywhere that the Yankees have put him. I think that if Wade can prove that he is a slightly below average bat (think a 90 OPS+), but a very good defender in center field, the Yankees will have a solid option to fill-in. I have long liked Wade, and with his defensive profile and speed, he doesn’t need to hit much to be a very valuable asset. He’s playing more freely thus far this year, and with more at-bats, I think he might finally capitalize on his promise.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the Yankees shouldn’t be looking for a big trade this summer – now that the offense has struggled for 1/4 of the season and the outfield minus Judge has been bad, finding a suitable center fielder, even with multiple years on his deal, should be on the table, even as a slight overpay. The Yankees’ window for championship contention with this core is really only open for this year and next, so moves should be made to add where necessary. Center field may be one of those spots.
Mikey asks: Did you see Joe West force Gio Gallegos to remove his hat for substances? Is MLB cracking down the way they should now? Did West do the right thing?
Generally speaking, I am not a Joe West fan…I’m not sure any baseball fan is a Joe West fan. However, I actually felt really bad for him in this scenario. For those of you that didn’t see, Joe West asked Giovanny Gallegos (former Yankee) to remove his hat prior to the start of an inning because he saw excessive substance on the brim of the hat. Gallegos eventually changed caps, but the Cardinals’ manager got tossed in the process and made a pretty passionate speech about substances on pitchers and their effect on baseball games during his postgame speech.
In any event, I applaud the way Joe West handled the situation. He could have waited until Gallegos threw his first pitch, then made a show out of tossing him and the Cardinals’ manager. Instead, but asking Gallegos to change his hat before he threw a pitch, there was no harm to the Cardinals’ pitching plan in a tight game.
Here’s my issue: Joe West (or any umpire, for that matter) shouldn’t be put in that situation at all right now. So many pitchers are breaking the rules with regularity and without shame that it is really hard for umpires to crack down without making a show out of the exercise. MLB needs to come down publicly with a strong policy yesterday on this issue. It’s reached the point of ridiculousness, and the integrity of the game is truly at stake.
Dave V. asks: Everyone is talking about Deivi Garcia for Kluber’s spot – is Mike King more deserving?
I never thought I’d say this, but maybe! I’ve been the low man at SSTN on Mike King for awhile, but he’s pitched really well in a variety of roles this year, while Garcia has struggled with control this year at AAA. Now, Garcia may be struggling with control due to something the Yankees have him working on, but either way, the results haven’t been there.
Realistically, I think both guys are going to get a shot in the rotation over the next couple of months. Time will tell how this shakes out, but Mike King has earned a shot to cement a spot in either the rotation or bullpen. I hope he proves me wrong, as he’s done thus far in 2021.