Earlier this week, we sent out a call for Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag questions. You delivered in a big way, as we received more than a dozen questions! I’m going to take a shot at a few of them this morning. If I don’t get to yours today, don’t worry, another editor might take it up down the line. They aren’t bad questions; I just want to spare you a lengthy article.
John Beer asks: What’s the latest on Tyler Austin’s fractured foot? When is he expected to start rehab?
The Yankees announced that Austin broke his foot on February 17th. The club placed him on the 60-day disabled list to start the season. Initial reports suggested he would miss approximately six weeks with the injury. That was 11 weeks ago, though, and there are no signs of an imminent return for the backup first baseman.
According to Reuters, Austin is hitting in the cage, running, and focusing on lower-body strength. That article pegs July as a likely return date, which is a far stretch from the original six week estimate. Fractures are tricky, especially ones in the foot or ankle. Given the range of exercises, it’s clear that he’s essentially reconstructing himself from the ground up.
Last season Austin hit .241/.300/.458 across 90 plate appearances with the Yankees. He also hit five home runs, which gave him a 102 wRC+. The Chris Carter signing signaled that Austin was bound to start the season in Triple-A, but the Greg Bird injury could have opened up some playing time. His opposite field power would fit into the lineup just fine. The Yankees are firing on all cylinders right now, but a compliment to Carter would be nice.
Alas, it appears to be some time before he returns to game action. In the meantime, however, it never hurts to re-visit his first career home run.
Get well soon, buddy.
SUalum2002 asks: Dillon Tate. What’s his status? How hurt is he? Is he just in extended spring training or what? It’s too soon to label him a bust, as he was only drafted in 2015, and seemed to be bounced around in Texas. Is [he] a future Yankee, a trade piece, or a Gordon Bombay (a never-was)?
Tate, as you might remember, was the centerpiece of the Carlos Beltran trade. The Texas Rangers selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, hoping he would develop into a front-line starting pitcher. After a shaky start to his professional career, however, the Yankees acquired Tate and immediately placed him in the bullpen. The goal was to straighten out his mechanics before returning him to the rotation.
After the season, Tate pitched in the Arizona Fall League. He did well, too! Over 9.1 innings, he owned a 3.86 ERA with 11 strikeouts. Keith Law commended his improved velocity and breaking pitches. Things were looking good for Tate as the Yankees arrived to spring training. Then he disappeared into the night, or so it seemed at least.
Following the Gary Sanchez injury April 8th, Baseball America’s Josh Norris indicated that Tate was also injured. Having not seen anything about Tate since the AFL, I asked Norris for the news. As always, he delivered.
He's dealing with a balky shoulder. https://t.co/4hYLIXvNN7— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) April 8, 2017
Yikes. Shoulder injuries are always scary for young pitchers. They can derail development and alter a player’s entire career path. It remains to be seen when Tate will be activated off the disabled list, and what plans the Yankees have in store for him. They could play it conservative with his innings again, or keep him in the bullpen permanently.
Given his frame and funky delivery, Tate will always be an injury risk. If he does get healthy, however, I think it’s worth another try in the rotation. All reports indicated that his stuff returned to its pre-draft levels. Those tools provide the making of a starting pitcher. If that doesn’t work, though, he profiles as a high-leverage reliever.
Health will be always be the key with Tate. It will determine whether he’s a starter or a reliever, a success or a bust. I’d wager that no matter the outcome, he’ll do that with the Yankees organization. For now it’s still too early to tell. Depending on how his health checks out, I say proceed with cautious optimism.
Imranet asks: Let’s suppose [Michael] Pineda actually continues to pitch this way (please do it, Mike) all season. What do you do regarding him as GM?
Following his start at Wrigley Field, Pineda is sitting on a 3.12 ERA (3.71 FIP) across 34.2 innings. His strikeout (11.6 K/9) and walk (1.30 BB/9) rates are both above average. For the first time since 2014, Pineda looks really good. If he keeps this up, he’s looking at a nice little payday at the end of the season.
If I were general manager and he pitched to roughly those numbers , I would look to re-sign Pineda. That’s an unpopular opinion around some circles, but the Yankees desperately need pitching after the season. Pineda doesn’t figure to be as expensive as Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish, and he’s more effective than say Andrew Cashner or Jeremy Hellickson.
What would it take to lock in Pineda? Does 4 years and $52 million sound reasonable? That’s a patented Yankees contract, and eclipses the marks of some free agent pitchers from last season. Adjusted for inflation, that’s in the ballpark of the Brandon McCarthy deal. I’d say that sounds about right.
For what it’s worth, a qualifying offer doesn’t have the same benefits as it used to. The Yankees are over the luxury tax threshold, which means that under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they would receive a compensation draft pick after the fourth round. That’s not particularly enticing. I would extend one to Pineda on the off-chance he accepts. In that case, you get your man on a one-year deal. I think I would explore a long-term deal with the enigmatic right-hander, though.
Michael Newman asks: Holiday has played a bit of first with the Cards. If Bird and Carter remain cold, will Girardi give Holiday time there to help free up the DH spot more for Ellsbury, Sanchez, Headley, or whoever needs rest?
We received this question before Bird went on the 10-day disabled list, but the heart of the message is still fair game. Saying Matt Holliday only has “a bit” of experience at first base might undersell it. He’s played the position just 10 times. This leads me to believe that the Yankees wouldn’t move him to first base to free up the designated hitter spot.
That said, what if there isn’t the designated hitter spot available? The Yankees are visiting the Cubs this weekend, which means National League rules apply. Without a designated hitter, the Yankees would lose a powerful bat in the middle of their line up. Or would they?
Girardi indicated Holliday will see time at 1B this series— Erik Boland (@eboland11) May 5, 2017
It looks like the Holliday first base experiment will continue. I’m okay with this under these circumstances. He’s hitting .266/.385/.519 with five home runs. That’s worth 152 wRC+. It’s tough to take that bat out of the lineup, so first base makes sense. Let’s leave that for National League parks only though.