Good morning everyone, it’s time for another edition of the mailbag. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.
Gregory S. asks: Is there a realistic path for the Yankees getting past the Astros in the playoffs? They’re 2-3 against them and they needed late inning comebacks to beat them in both of their wins.
There definitely is, for several reasons. First, while the Yankees’ main series against the Astros didn’t exactly showcase their strengths well, I’m not willing to put a ton of stock into it yet. They were ‘exposed’ in the sense that Houston’s starting pitching decimated them, but their last-minute survival in the games that they won is a feature that isn’t unique to facing Houston. The Yankees have truly minimized the amount of games where it feels hopeless or decided — they’re never out of it, even if they don’t ultimately win. This offense can get going at a moment’s notice, and they seemingly don’t have a problem playing from a deficit. There are still games where they look lifeless, but they are few and far between.
Also, even if you take the results at face value and argue that Houston is better than the Yankees at the moment, it doesn’t hold water to how their matchups have played in the past. New York outperformed Houston head-to-head in the 2019 regular season, but the script was flipped in the postseason. It’s difficult to define a good baseball team to how they performed in a small sample size, whether that’s a stretch in June or October. It’s part of the frustration of the sport, but the latter ones matter a lot more, and we haven’t seen how this team will perform there yet. If the larger body of work is any indication, I think they’re built to bend but not break, and that should give them an optimistic chance to exercise their demons against the Astros.
Whiskey Slick asks: Is there a better chance Estevan Florial will replace Joey Gallo as a starter in the OF this year, Peraza or Volpe will replace IKF as the starter at SS, or neither?
I would strongly lean towards neither, but if you made me pick then I would say Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Gallo’s struggles are deeper and Florial has gotten good results in Triple-A, but the peripherals and the evidence that Florial has shown in making a leap to another level of play have me concerned. I simply don’t think his success will transfer over to the majors at this point in time, and it would be a roster headache to try and get him that chance without outright giving up on Gallo — something the team isn’t going to do just yet.
On the other side, Kiner-Falefa entered this year knowing that he is a short-term solution at shortstop. He hasn’t fielded the position as well as was hoped, and his bat is a bit of a liability — though he does manage to compile hits, there’s no threat for even doubles power in his game. It would still probably be too early to pull the trigger on this switch, because Peraza is closer to the majors than Volpe but hasn’t had a good enough extended stretch to warrant a call-up. If things line up in the second half though, there’s a world where it is possible.
The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: Which of the three big Yankee prospects is most likely to be moving away at the deadline? I’m sure the Yankees might be looking to keep all of them, but to get a major addition, which one would be most expendable in their eyes?
Speaking of some of them, I think that Volpe has demonstrated over the past couple of months that he’s still the team’s top prospect and has adjusted to upper-level pitching. That’s a great sign for the team, and should signal that he’s in line to make it to the Bronx sooner rather than later, so he’ll remain untouchable. Jasson Dominguez has also shown a lot of growth this year, heating up at Low-A Tampa and displaying some of the skills that warranted all of the hype around him.
Peraza has begun to turn a corner as well, but it’s clear that Volpe has ranked above him consistently. That alone isn’t enough to say that he’s likely to move, but the Yankees’ situation with the big league club also factors into this. Entering the year, the Yankees not only had a stopgap at shortstop but a major question mark in Gleyber Torres. The two-time All-Star has surged back into the long-term future however, leaving one less spot that could reasonably be filled soon. If it comes down to it, the Yankees could be persuaded to include Peraza in trade talks with the confidence that Volpe is right behind him in terms of development and possesses a higher ceiling.
NJYankeeFan asks: With all the talk of trading for Castillo, if we do, who do you demote from the starting rotation and what do you do with them?
Whether it’s Luis Castillo or another pitcher, the Yankees might want to seriously consider adding an arm. Their current rotation has been one of the best in baseball, but it has its flaws and that’s become apparent over the last couple of weeks. They’re running a lot of pitchers with little durability built up in their arms, whether you’re looking at the injuries that plagued Luis Severino and Jameson Taillon or the lack of opportunities for Nestor Cortes prior to last year.
Several of the Yankees’ starters hit a bit of a wall in June, with a bad stretch of performances from Taillon and Cortes in particular. Severino and Jordan Montgomery also had some hiccups, but Montgomery has been fairly consistent and Severino has managed to display dominant stuff even when the results weren’t there. Cortes is a finesse pitcher who needs his command to be on point to avoid bats though, and Taillon is in a major funk. The Yankees would probably avoid going to a six-man rotation if they acquired an arm (and everyone else stayed healthy), but they could cycle starts from Taillon and Cortes to maintain their health and give them a chance to get a breather.
One of them would line up to get a start in the rotation while the other is on hand in the bullpen, and then swap roles for the next time through. If it becomes apparent that either of them is struggling to adapt, a full-time stint in the bullpen could be the solution. This team has showcased a willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, whether that’s Aroldis Chapman accepting a demotion from the closer’s role or Matt Carpenter accepting a bench role after a scorching-hot stretch just to continue contributing. It’s possible that one of the Yankees’ current starters will have to take the same approach if the front office finds an improvement to make, and I think they’d be willing to do so.