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Yankees mailbag: Astros cheating, Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole

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The first mailbag of spring training has arrived!

Houston Astros Media Availability Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Good morning, everyone! Fridays always rock, but today’s even sweeter because it’s the first Friday of spring training. I answered five questions today, and let me tell you, they’re a lot of fun. I seriously had a good time writing them. I hope you’ll enjoy them as well.

Remember, you can submit questions via our weekly mailbag call or by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks all!

Chipper asks: How many pitchers made their debuts against the Astros (from 2017-2019), got rocked, and never pitched again in the big leagues?

From 2017 through 2019, 18 pitchers made their major-league debuts against the Astros. The list features 17 relievers and one starter, Blue Jays southpaw Ryan Borucki. While all technically made subsequent appearances—none were one and done—Twins reliever Jason Wheeler comes the closet.

The left-handed reliever appeared in back-to-back games on May 30 and May 31, 2017 at Target Field. In his debut, Wheeler logged two full innings, allowing one run on three hits and two walks. While that line doesn’t stand out as spectacular, it’s not career-ending bad. The next day, however, the 27-year-old southpaw allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits and two walks. The decisive blow came in the form of an Evan Gattis home run.

The Twins designated Wheeler for assignment after the game, and he has never appeared in big leagues since. An eighth round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Wheeler wasn’t a top prospect, so that he even made the big leagues stands out as an accomplishment on its own.

“The 2017 Twins were a competitive team, and Wheeler wasn’t ever a highly thought of prospect, so I wouldn’t say its exclusively related to the Astros,” says TJ Gorsegner, managing editor of Twinkie Town, SB Nation’s Twins community. “FanGraphs data backs up my memory that he didn’t have anything special; he throws an 88 mph fastball and a slider and changeup. With as good as that Astros lineup is even without cheating, he probably would have been rocked anyway.”

Earlier this week, reports emerged that former Dodgers and Blue Jays pitcher Mike Bolsinger is suing the Astros for effectively ending his major-league career as a result of the sign-stealing scandal. Bolsinger alleges that a shellacking at the hands of the Astros on August 4, 2017—a relief appearance where he faced eight batters, recorded just one out, allowed four reasons, issued three walks, and served up a hone run.

Wheeler most closely resembles the profile of a pitcher who only got shelled by the Astros in his career, but Bolsinger has a more compelling argument to make.

SJComic asks: Has there been any word on who the Yankees are bringing in as special instructors this year?

The Yankees announced this spring’s special instructors as pitchers and catchers reported.

CC Sabathia makes his debut as an instructor, plus several familiar faces return. Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph have been fixtures in camp for ages.

Colleen asks: Why do scouts use a 20-80 scale to evaluate players? That seems so non-intuitive. Why not 10-100 or 1-10?

Kiley McDaniel, prospect evaluator extraordinaire, explained the 20-80 scale at length during one of his earlier stints with FanGraphs. He goes through the history, including the story of how Branch Rickey reportedly devised of the scale, and what each point means. You can thank the Normal Distribution for the variables.

Taking all that together, here’s what the 20-80 scale looks like, using our friends Taylor Widener, Deivi Garcia, and Wander Franco.

AjayN asks: I recently saw a post on twitter about PECOTA’s 99th percentile outcomes for Mike Trout, and it was absolutely bonkers. Would it be possible if we could see some of the craziest 99th percentile projections for the 2020 Yankees?

I absolutely love this question. PECOTA is such a fun projection tool; I highly recommend exploring it yourself if you have a Baseball Prospectus subscription. For this exercise, I picked Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton, one pitcher and one batter, and went to their 99th percentile projection.

Cole: 19-3, 200 IP, 1.35 ERA, 2.06 FIP, 321 K, 14.4 K/9, 6.3 WARP
Stanton: .357/.468/.787, 595 PA, 58 HR, 182 DRC+, 159 K, 6.6 WARP

Could you even imagine? I think I would faint at the chance to cover a season as spectacular as those.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: What players still have minor-league options available? And where can I find this information? I have only been able to find information on last year’s team.

On the projected 26-man roster, the following players have minor-league options:

Aaron Judge (3)
Ben Heller (2)
Gleyber Torres (2)
Jordan Montgomery (2)
Luis Severino (2)
Luke Voit (2)
Miguel Andujar (2)
Chad Green (1)
Clint Frazier (1)
Domingo German (1)
Jonathan Holder (1)
Tyler Wade (1)

Roster Resources is my go-to site for all things options and service time. It’s a user-friendly database that has loads of great information.