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Yankees Mailbag: The Wild Card race, Anthony Volpe, young arms, and hope

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This week’s mailbag features plenty of discussion on what the Yankees have to accomplish in the next month-plus, and whether they can do it,

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, let’s open up the mailbag for more of your Yankees questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

OLDY MOLDY asks: How many wins to get into the wild card? Is there an over/under?

FanGraphs currently projects the Athletics and Red Sox to finish with 92 wins, a game ahead of where they place the Yankees at 91 wins and two ahead of the Blue Jays at 90. The next closest team is the Mariners at 83, so it’s safe to say that their algorithm sees these four teams as the only true contenders for the wild card, with the Astros, Rays, and White Sox all holding onto their division leads.

This fits with the feeling we’ve had in PSA discussions recently about this team — they’re roughly a 90-win team in a race where the division winner could also be in the low 90s as well. There’s plenty of room for variance in this projection, meaning every game against the Sox and Blue Jays will be crucial to gaining separation for the final tally. They’ve also still got a series remaining with the A’s and Rays, though the latter is the final opponent of the season, so who knows if those games will matter or not by the time they arrive.

Henry K. asks: With Volpe tearing the cover off of Low and High-A, I want to see him fast tracked to AA so we get a fair sample size before the end of the season. Keep him moving until he shows he is having issues! Thoughts?

I share the enthusiasm for Volpe, but I want to play it safe at the same time. The Yankees had Volpe play 54 games at Low-A Tampa before promoting him to High-A Hudson Valley, and he’s only played 24 games at this level. We’re already talking about a small sample size for this stretch of play, so throwing Double-A into the mix isn’t likely to produce results that you could extrapolate anything from. I’d rather Volpe finish the year strong with the Renegades, potentially earning a starting spot in Somerset to start next year.

It’s important to remember that Volpe isn’t the only talented shortstop prospect in the system, either. Oswald Peraza currently holds the starting spot with the Patriots, and the Yankees likely want both of them to be ready to move up a level before moving either of them. Peraza’s gotten less of the spotlight, but he could be prepped for a 2022 ETA if all continues to go well, paving a path for Volpe to follow in his stead.

Anthony M. asks: How good are the young arms like Luis Gil, Stephen Ridings, and Albert Abreu on which the Yankees have been relying recently?

Gil stands out from this bunch as the arm that could be a starter long-term, though obviously he’s a long way from establishing himself at the major-league level. His arrival this year came earlier than expected at the beginning of the season, but a mixture of need at the position and a fantastic push through the minors coordinated his rise. I hesitate to declare anyone the next fixture in the rotation, but he’ll be in the conversation going forward and could gain a major foothold for next year with his performance in the spot starts he’s getting right now.

Ridings and Abreu are fulfilling the roles that they’re likely to be capped at progression-wise — they’re giving the bullpen a couple of reliable arms during a stretch of turmoil. Ridings was a find that came through pure luck, while Abreu has always had promise but failed to put it together until this season. Pedigree favors Abreu’s odds of sticking around, but performance will be the main factor — if Ridings can prove he’s not a flash in the pan, he may just be the better option.

Frank G. asks: The acquisitions of Gallo and Rizzo gave this lineup some much needed balance, as well as upgrading the defense, yet we continue to leave men on base, score few runs, and make costly errors. Is there any hope for this 2021 team with two months remaining?

Absolutely. I know that this team can be frustrating to watch at times, and they do still make some of the same mistakes that they’ve made throughout the year — they’ve been retooled but not remade — but there’s no doubt that they’re in the pack now. Gaining the separation to win out will be a challenge, but most of their competition awaits them and their destiny is undoubtedly in their control still. If they have to play as a wild card team again instead of winning the division outright like they were expected to at the start of the year that would be a bummer, but if they play well enough to earn that spot then I would have faith in their matchup against any of the playoff contenders.