Morning, everyone, hope you all had a fine week! We have four questions to go over today, and they’re all pretty interesting. As always, give us your mailbag submissions in our weekly calling, or by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.
The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: Rosell Hererra is having a great spring thus far. Is there any chance he could be another Gio Urshela-type find that blossoms in the Yankees’ organization?
Herrera, 27, has impressed so far in camp, going 9-for-16 with three doubles and four RBI. Aaron Boone had good things to say about the switch hitter, too. “Just a lot of good at-bats,” the manager told Brendan Kuty earlier this week. “A couple more good at-bats from both sides of the plate. He’s played well in the infield. He’s a guy that can play a lot of different positions. He’s had a good camp.”
As one of the most analytically-advanced teams in the league, it’s quite possible that they could unlock a potent bat in Herrera. It’s possible that under the guidance of Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere, he will embrace the fly-ball philosophy that proved so successful for the likes of Gio Urshela and Cameron Maybin. He once ranked on Baseball America’s top-100 list, so he would fit right in with the list of former prospects who broke through with the Yankees.
Scouting the stat line during spring training, however, is a fool’s errand. The sample sizes are so small; there’s a bunch of noise and not much signal. It’s just as possible that Herrera is just another in the line of spring-training stars, like Ronnier Mustelier or Zelous Wheeler. I can’t doubt the works of Thames and Pilittere, but again, I’ll need more info.
Tampa Fred asks: Luis Severino could miss 2.5 years or more between facing MLB hitters, save the 12.1 innings he pitched last season (regular and postseason). Presumably Sevy’s first full season back will be his age-28 season. I can’t think of a pitcher who has missed that much time and returned to be an effective starting pitcher (say middling or better). Give us a reason to be optimistic.
I can give you 118 million reasons to be optimistic, and his name is Zack Wheeler. The Phillies right-hander missed the entirety of the 2015 season, then logged exactly one inning in 2016. When he returned to the mound for the Mets in 2017, arm injuries limited him to just 86.1 innings, none after July 22.
Wheeler, of course, bounced back marvelously, pitching to a 3.65 ERA (3.37 FIP) over 377.2 innings between 2018 and 2019. That performance led to his lucrative, five-year pact with Philadelphia. Severino’s injury history bites, and these are crucial years he will never get back. But he’s not a bust yet. Recent history suggests that the best-case scenario is indeed possible.
Christopher asks: Giancarlo Stanton has averaged only 113 games per season for the past seven seasons. Do you think he’ll go over or under that number in 2020?
Stanton, 30, unfortunately has earned the injury-prone reputation. A few fluke injuries make up that list, such as a broken hamate bone and a broken jaw in 2015. Since joining the Yankees ahead of the 2018 season, however, he suffered a number of soft-tissue and muscle injuries. He had a balky calf in 2018, then last year there was a biceps tear, shoulder strain, calf strain, quad strain, and PCL sprain, to name a few. This year he started camp with a Grade 1 calf strain. Jeez.
Even so, I’m an optimist, and I love Stanton. Give me the over!
Greg asks: I was a big believer in Tony Pena’s setup behind the plate, and I recall Gary Sanchez using that stance occasionally when Pena and Girardi were still here. Now, suddenly, a new coach appears and Sanchez is using that stance to cut down on passed balls. Are the Yankees trying to re-invent the wheel?
Sanchez indeed revamped his catching stance under the guidance of Tanner Swanson, the team’s new catching coordinator. Tom recently wrote about it, as did PSA alumnus Jay Jaffe over at FanGraphs. Both pieces are worth your time.
As for him previously using that stance, it’s entirely possible, but I don’t remember him doing it in 2016 or 2017. I’ll have to go through the archives some time and check. It sure sounds like this is a new development, though.
“It is a little hard because this is something new you have to adjust to,’’ Sanchez told George A. King III. “I can tell you that now I feel much better than Day 1. It is a learning process and any time you try something new, you need to make that adjustment.’’
Something tells me this will stick, too. Spring training comes with tons of stories of players learning new pitches or making slight tweaks, but this represents a major adjustment. Swanson had great success with Mitch Garver, so this is worth monitoring moving forward.