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Yankees mailbag: MLB Draft, Thairo Estrada’s success, upcoming roster crunch

The answers to this week’s mailbag has arrived.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

Since the last mailbag ran short because of the Miguel Andujar surgery news, I decided to make it up to you this week. We have nine questions this morning. I won’t be able to go too in-depth with them, but I’ll give you my best answers.

Timrohan asks: What is the difference in effectiveness between Chad Green in his first inning of work and his second?

Green has made 14 appearances this season, with only two of them covering multiple innings. He logged two innings in relief against Detroit on April 3, allowing one run on a homer to Gordon Beckham. That came in his second inning of work.

His other multi-inning appearance took place last week, when Green opened against the Rays. He allowed two runs on a pair of homers, both also coming in the second frame he pitched.

The most noticeable difference appears to be a loss in command in the second inning. Green pounds zone in the first inning he pitches, then loses it completely in the next. As a result, he has to steal a strike and batters square those pitches up. This probably deserves a full post, and with Green opening today, we should have more data with which to work.

thedozen asks: Are you surprised at how well Thairo Estrada is hitting, albeit in limited action?

Absolutely. Consider what I wrote about Estrada when the Yankees called him up for the first time on April 4:

The Yankees don’t necessarily need Estrada to come up and rake. The team would probably be happy if he stays healthy, plays fine off the bench, and isn’t an automatic out. They just need to tread water until the big league reinforcements arrive. Hopefully that’s sooner rather than later.

Over 43 plate appearances the 23-year-old has hit .300/.333/.575 with three home runs (138 wRC+). Not only is he not an automatic out, he’s an asset on both sides of the ball. Estrada is giving the Yankees everything they thought they’d receive from Tyler Wade. I am not only surprised, but I am thrilled.

Larry asks: Is it time to put J.A. Happ in the bullpen to work out problems rather than have him keep putting the Yankees behind in all his games?

Happ, 36, has struggled mightily this season. The southpaw owns a 5.16 ERA (5.70 FIP) and a comically bad 2.24 HR/9 over 52.1 innings. His ERA-, which adjusts for park factors and uses 100 as league average, stands at 115, or 15 points worse than average. For ERA-, a pitcher wants a score lower than 100.

The left-hander has been, by far, the worst pitcher in the rotation and among the worst qualified starters in all of baseball. That said, don’t expect him to head to the bullpen any time soon. In fact, there are two key reasons why.

First, the Yankees give their struggling starters a long leash. It took Sonny Gray 103.2 innings of 128 ERA- ball to get demoted last year. In 2016, the Yankees sent Nathan Eovaldi to the bullpen, but only after 91 innings and a 130 ERA-. Happ will need to essentially double his innings total, and pitch worse than he is right now, to get a performance-based jettison based on recent Yankees history.

Also, the Yankees don’t exactly have starting pitching depth right now. If they sent Happ to the bullpen, who would take his spot in the rotation? Chance Adams? David Hale? Demoting Happ doesn’t seem like a realistic option until Luis Severino, James Paxton, and CC Sabathia return.

Ahep2 asks: When is Luis Severino expected to be back?

On a related note, it sounds like Severino may begin throwing when the Yankees make it back to the Bronx. Their next homestand stretches from May 27 through June 3. If he begins a throwing program in that span, a reasonable return date could be after the All-Star break. The Yankees like to play things conservatively, so maybe the end of July.

abewoodson asks: Please show a clip of Gary Sanchez’s triple from Sunday.

I aim to please. Here’s a link to the video as well.

EasyRider28 asks: What do you think the Yankees’ focus will be in this year’s draft? Could it be more “best-talent-available” than “needs” focused than has been in years past? From top to bottom, is there any lack of depth at one position that stands out like a sore thumb, like catching did last year, or pitching did a few years before that?

Teams don’t draft for needs, at least not in the first few rounds. Those picks go, in theory, to the best available talent. Clubs may use late round selections to shore up organizational depth, but definitely not early in the draft.

Now is also a good time to mention that Pinstripe Alley will run wall-to-wall draft coverage next week. System strengths, weaknesses, and areas of need will get full posts from Monday through Wednesday.

Bernie asks: It seems that over the past several years the Yankees have vastly improved both their player development and their evaluation of trade targets. What is the background for this? Staff changes? Expansion of scouting and analytics? Change of philosophy? Other?

Pinpointing the exact moment an organizational culture changes typically proves a difficult — if not impossible — task. With the Yankees, however, it plays out a little easier. Hal Steinbrenner conducted an audit of the team’s farm system on August 20, 2013. Mark Newman, the team’s minor league director, retired shortly thereafter and Gary Denbo replaced him.

The Yankees basically spent the entirety of the mid-2000s without the ability to produce quality in-house players. Robinson Cano and David Robertson are the exceptions, not the rules. Few organizations do it better now. And while always a master of the trade market, Brian Cashman has taken that to the next level with several under-the-radar moves.

Inside the Empire by Bob Klapisch and Paul Solotaroff actually does a nice job of explaining this evolution in detail. It reads like an apology for the front office, but if you trim out the fluff, you get a neat look under the hood of the organization.

SJComic asks: Do you think the Yankees try to move Kendrys Morales and Troy Tulowitzki at the deadline, or just DFA them?

Tulowitzki has a no-trade clause, so the Yankees can’t deal him without his consent. Given his vocal admiration for the team, and the fact he’s reportedly taking groundballs at third base, I don’t see that happening. The Yankees also appear to have a near-stubborn confidence in him, so I could see them optioning Estrada before designating Tulowitzki.

Morales, on the other hand, he strikes me strictly as a fill-in. The Yankees took a flier on him, as explained by Brian Cashman himself, so they probably will have no qualms about designating him when a roster crunch manifests. These things have a way of sorting themselves out, though, so a situation could arise where both Tulowitzki and Morales crack the starting lineup. This season has taught me to not rule that possibility out.

Israel asks: Where is Tim Lincecum? I mean this kid was awesome in his years with San Francisco until his velocity went down. I still think he has something left to prove. If he can become a finesse pitcher he might be good again.

The last entry in Lincecum’s MLB Trade Rumors page dates back to June 5, 2018. That’s when the Texas Rangers released him from his one-year contract. Since then there have been no updates on the right-hander.

Last year’s brief comeback attempt likely signaled the end of the road for Lincecum, but the question got me thinking: What pitcher from 2009 would best serve the 2019 Yankees? The idea being that the Yankees could go back in time and transport a starter from 10 years ago onto the current roster. I polled the PSA staff and got a few interesting answers, including Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Cliff Lee, and the 2009 version of CC Sabathia.