I wrote an Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag post on Friday, but there were some more good Yankees questions to address. So it’s Ask PSA 2: Electric Boogaloo. Away we go!
Driftcat28 asked: I’ve heard Tyler Austin can play all corner positions, including 3B. With Greg Bird back next season (and assuming he is the starting 1B) any chance Austin gets looks at 3B and potentially sticks there permanently? That could open up a Chase Headley trade for pitching help.
That scenario would be nice but unfortunately, it’s not quite realistic. Austin was drafted as a catcher and spent most of his 2011 stint between the GCL and Staten Island at third base. However, there’s a reason the team gave up on that project so early in a system starved for third basemen. Future Astros pro scouting director Kevin Goldstein wrote for Baseball Prospectus in 2012 that Austin “struggled” at the infield corners that year, and evidently, the Yankees agreed.
Austin has played just 11 games at third since then and while Scranton did give him three starts there this year, he is simply not a viable defender there. He could fill in there in a pinch like Rob Refsnyder, but that’s about it. There’s no need to put a square peg in a round hole; it’s just not a fit.
Matthew Mocarsky asked: Why does Luis Severino enjoy success in the upper minors but continue to get bombed in the big leagues? Are there any differences in his approach at the AAA level and ML level?
Down in Scranton, Severino was able to dominate minor leaguers on his fastball and slider alone. That’s not terribly surprising, given the life to those two pitches. Major leaguers aren’t as easily fooled though, and there is of course a very large gap between average talent at the major-league level and Triple-A. He needs to further his changeup to give him a viable third option; otherwise, major leaguers can just guess what he might throw between two pitches.
Severino knows this and has to remind himself on the mound in Triple-A that even though he can mow down hitters there with his primary pitches, his changeup and mechanics are the focus right now. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said one of the main reasons he found MLB success late last year was the hitters’ unfamiliarity with Severino. Given a winter to study him, advance scouts figured out his tics, and those same hitters were ready in 2016.
Rothschild also said that Severino allowed his adrenaline to speed the game up, and that same adrenaline probably bubbles up less often in, say, Rochester and Lehigh Valley, than in Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. These are all growing pains and are to be expected from a 22-year-old. Although he could probably dominate in a bullpen role, the Yankees are going to make every effort to keep him a starter. Remember that they didn’t bump Dellin Betances to a relief role until he was 25. Severino certainly has time on his side.
David Matuozzi asked: When will we see Clint Frazier? What could we expect from him in the majors at this point?
Frazier was only promoted to Triple-A days before being traded to the Yankees, so he is still new to the level. At this point, he is very much at level that Aaron Judge was at shortly after his promotion last year. Frazier strikes out a lot and hasn’t walked as much as he did in Double-A, and in the majors, he would likely be exposed. He is hitting .247/.286/.384 with a 90 wRC+ in 18 games with Scranton, so while a September call-up is possible, expect the Yankees to pass on adding him to their 40-man roster just yet (the same way they handled Judge last year).
The Yankees also aren’t hurting for reserve outfield help in September. Ben Gamel and Mason Williams will both be likely call-ups, and Jake Cave has a good case for a promotion too. They can take their time on Frazier, even if they decide to trade Brett Gardner in the off-season to open up a future spot. Ideally, he will make like Judge and start pounding the ball to press the issue early next year. “Red Thunder” certainly has the talent to do so:
Kevin Christman asked: Nathan Eovaldi had Tommy John surgery and is out next year. He was arbitration eligible in 2017. Do the Yankees have to pay him anything in 2017? Or is he considered a free agent?
Eovaldi is only under control through the end of 2017, and since he’s already gone for next year, the Yankees can just non-tender him during the off-season. Letting arb-eligible players go in that manner takes the team off the hook for any remaining years. It’s possible that since the Yankees like Eovaldi and his work ethic, they work out a cheap Jon Lieber-like contract as he rehabs to keep him within the organization beyond next year. Otherwise, yes, non-tendering him would make him a free agent.
Siriusrooney asked: We have seen Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge all have good starts to their careers in pinstripes. The road is a long one for these guys and we can’t call them superstars just yet. The league is going to adjust to them as more and more videos are available of them. So my question is, among the three who is most likely to be a Yankees player for a long time?
If I were to bet among these three players, I would say Sanchez would stay the longest. He is the most complete product at this point and he plays an incredibly valuable position. Sanchez has made great strides behind the plate, and teams don’t stumble across receivers with his bat very often. A team would have to make the Yankees a simply irresistible offer to pry him from Brian Cashman’s hands at this point.
Furthermore, Judge and Austin are predominantly outfielders. It’s tough finding young talent, but it’s not hard to find outfielders. Although Austin’s versatility with first base helps out here, his ceiling is not nearly as high as those of Sanchez and Judge. The Yankees will have other talented outfielders rise through their system like Frazier and Blake Rutherford, but they do not have any catchers with Sanchez’s potential. Brian McCann is already behind Sanchez on the depth chart, Austin Romine and the surprising Kyle Higashioka project as major-league backups, and Luis Torrens is very far away (in addition to already having shoulder surgery).
In conclusion: #GaryGood.