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Ask Pinstripe Alley 7/30/17: Jacoby Ellsbury, Caleb Smith, and a plethora of Tylers

The answers to your Yankees’ questions are in.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

On Monday, I put out a request for Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag questions. In that time, we received over a dozen submissions. I’m going to take a swing at a few this afternoon. Don’t feel bad if I didn’t answer yours. Another editor could always revisit it later in the week!

russell1256 asks: If everyone is healthy, does Ellsbury make the postseason roster?

The Yankees sure have themselves something of an outfield crunch, don’t they? Assuming everyone is healthy, the Bombers have five big league quality outfielders. At this moment, Jacoby Ellsbury stands out as the weakest link. That could change of course. For example, Aaron Hicks might return from the disabled list and find out he’s no longer a 145 wRC+ hitter. Prior to this season, he’s never been a league average batter. It’s always possible Ellsbury outperforms down the stretch.

Even if his performance remains stagnant, though, I don’t see the Yankees leaving Ellsbury off the postseason roster. The team will probably opt for all five outfielders. I would imagine Ellsbury serves as the designated pinch runner. Every playoff team needs one, and he’s still a speed threat. That said, Joe Girardi had no qualms benching him in the 2015 Wild Card Game. Perhaps the club finds it better to leave him off entirely. It’s a messy situation with no easy answers.

Larry asks: Do you think Ellsbury's recent hitting problems can be related to his concussion?

Another Ellsbury question this afternoon. It’s worth looking on his splits before and after the concussion he suffered on May 24th.

Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2017 Splits

Dates PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+
Dates PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+
April 2 - May 24 153 .281 .349 .422 8.5% 16.3% 109
June 26 - July 29 78 .176 .273 .235 9.0% 17.9% 41

That’s a notable difference! Ellsbury hit well prior to the injury. He wasn’t tearing the cover off the ball, but he was hitting at an above-average clip. Following the concussion, he just flat out stopped hitting. The walk rate has remained constant, which shows he still has an eye for the ball. He hasn’t been able to do any damage though.

For what it’s worth, Jon Heyman indicates that some close to Ellsbury believe the concussion is responsible for his struggles. There’s no proof to this of course. He hasn’t expressed any lingering effects, so I’m going to take his word. That said, head injuries are scary and it can take a long time to shake that off.

Pinstripe Alley’s own Greg Kirkland asks: With Tyler Clippard and Tyler Webb gone, do the Yankees need more Tylers?

Absolutely. I, for one, believe the Yankees can never have too many Tylers.

rpstoner asks: The Yankees never seemed to give any love to Caleb Smith prior to this July. Is he a real prospect or is this a short audition to keep his 40 man spot this winter?

This question came in before the Jaime Garcia trade forced Smith back to Triple-A. At 26 years old, he isn’t exactly a prospect. Drafted in the 13th round in 2013, he never cracked the Yankees’ top-30 list. Smith received some attention after landing with the Cubs following the 2016 Rule 5 Draft, but he basically spent his minor league career going unnoticed. While now in the company of Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, and other swingmen, he doesn’t have their pedigree. Here’s Jim Callis’ scouting report from last December:

“Smith has a low-90s fastball and is actually more effective against right-handers because his best secondary offering is his changeup. He saw action as both a starter and reliever in Double-A, posting a 3.96 ERA and 70/20 K/BB ratio in 63 2/3 innings.”

Nothing exactly jumps off the page with his stuff, but give him credit for the results. He pitched to a 2.05 ERA over 87 innings at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. That proved good enough to earn a cup of coffee. In 10 innings with the Yankees, Smith owns a sky-high 7.20 ERA, but a respectable 3.75 FIP.

Is that good enough to convince management to keep him around? I think it ultimately depends on his role. At present, Smith doesn’t have the tools to start. He can’t turn over a lineup. His stuff diminishes too much over the course of a game. Take yesterday’s outing for example. His fastball faded notably over the course of just 3.1 innings.

Credit: Brooks Baseball

That’s been the story of Smith’s big league career to date. He usually gets off to a strong start before the wheels fall off. His future probably plays out as reliever. If that’s the case, the Yankees could keep an eye on him for next year. Smith’s not a flashy prospect, but he might have a nice little run in a big league bullpen.