Although the Yankees have been playing good baseball of late, some leaks have sprung in the team's major league roster. Ivan Nova had a 1.65 ERA in his first three starts, but has had a 6.88 mark since (in six starts). Alex Rodriguez is hitting a bit better in June, but still has a .222/.264/.401 line on the season—unacceptable for a designated hitter. Mark Teixeira is back, but he was worth -1.1 fWAR before a stint on the disabled list and it's hard to count on much production from him. Dustin Ackley is out for the season, Chris Parmelee is out for a month, and Chasen Shreve and Luis Severino have been banished to Triple-A.
Maybe the Yankees aren't quite falling apart at the seams, but they need reinforcements to manage what would be a remarkable comeback to sneak into the playoffs. Help probably won't be coming by way of trade, so the team will need to look within for support. Brian Cashman has already called up Rob Refsnyder from the minor leagues, and he's hit a perfectly fine .286/.339/.393 since the promotion. It's not a question of whether more help will be on the way, because the Yankees will, and do, need backup. Instead, what we should be wondering is who will be next up to the big leagues. Here are some possibilities:
Judge is doing some ridiculous things right now in Triple-A, as he's hit six home runs in the past seven games and is showing no signs of slowing down. The home run binge has pushed his line on the season to .259/.344/.459, though this may be a bit depressed considering he had a slow month of May, hitting just .183. That rough stretch can safely be ignored because it sounds like much of it was fueled by bad luck, as evidenced by a .205 BABIP and decent strikeout rates. Judge has vastly improved since his first chance at Triple-A last season, and his strikeout rate is lower than it's been since A-Ball in 2014.
Concerns still remain—particularly Judge's low batting average and (still relatively high) strikeout rate, and he has some trouble in certain locations around the strike zone. Still, after this week's power binge, Judge is closer than he's ever been before to a major league call-up. That doesn't mean one is imminent, though, since he has no place in the Yankees' outfield right now. To justify a call up, Judge would need to play near-full time, and that would probably only come from a Carlos Beltran trade or injury. So although Judge might be near-big league ready, it's not Hammer Time just yet in the Bronx.
The top four pitchers by K-BB% in the International League (Triple-A) this season are as follows: Jameson Taillon, Blake Snell, Austin Pruitt, and...Chad Green. For the uninformed, Taillon and Snell are elite prospects, so this is lofty company for Green. He was a bit of a mess in his major league debut (six runs, four earned in four innings), but it's impossible to ignore the 25-year-old's huge season in Triple-A. Greene has a 1.67 ERA and 9.04 K/9 in 13 starts, which is made all the more impressive considering he spent all of 2015 in Double-A.
Green isn't all smoke and mirrors, as he's armed with a mid-90s fastball, but fringy secondaries suggest the righty won't be able to carry over his performance to the big leagues. That said, Green could be on the shortlist for a big league call up, since Nova has been struggling. It's hard to say how the former Tiger might do in another audition, but he's worth a shot considering the Nova experiment has gone sour.
After a huge bounce-back year in 2015, the Yankees' top catching prospect has been doing more of the same this season. Sanchez is hitting .271/.314/.486 on the season, which is a slight downgrade from last season's performance in Triple-A, but still nothing to complain about. The 23-year-old has cut down on his strikeout rate from about 19% to 14.4%, which is exciting though it's a bit offset by the fall in walk rate that has come with it. Sanchez has probably been more aggressive at the plate, leading to these two changes.
The biggest news for Sanchez this season has been a cracked thumb, which led to a 19-day absence. Although he returned on June 12th, a .229 average since suggests he may be a bit rusty or still injured. Sanchez is probably just about big league ready, though a promotion isn't yet necessary with Austin Romine doing fine as the backup catcher. Sanchez could come up and serve as a backup designated hitter/first baseman, though affording him some more time in Triple-A is probably a better idea.
2015 put Gamel on the prospect map, with projections leaping from a future fourth or fifth outfielder ceiling to a potential second-division regular. Although he hasn't been able to live up to the power uptick of last season, Gamel is continuing to hit in Triple-A. The 24-year-old has cut his strikeout rate and raised his walk rate, while also being more active on the basepaths.
Gamel could certainly come up to the big leagues now and provide defensive flexibility, some speed, and a respectable bat off the bench. He probably wouldn't see much playing time, though, with Aaron Hicks able to play all three outfield spots as well. That said, using him as a fifth outfielder isn't such a bad idea. While the biggest obstacle would be clearing a roster spot for Gamel, it wouldn't at all be surprising to see him being an unspectacular yet useful player in the near future. It's worth noting that Jake Cave could theoretically fill the same spot on the Yankees' roster, but Gamel is likely more big league ready.
After an exciting rookie season in 2015, Severino was lit up by the opposition to start the year. A 7.46 ERA and scary arm injury (which hopefully won't cause further issues) got him demoted to Triple-A where he's pitched well, but not well enough to be brought back to the big leagues. In this case, Severino's statline doesn't tell the full story, as despite solid strikeout and walk totals (complete with a 2.52 ERA), the Yankees have been quite bearish on his performance.
Severino's biggest problem in the big leagues was an inability to locate pitches within the strikezone with consistency. His stuff was also a bit flat, which could have been the product of a mechanical issue. Evidently, neither problem has improved enough following his time on the disabled list and Triple-A stint, and Joe Girardi didn't seem to consider Severino a realistic option to be called up to the big league rotation.
It's important to keep in mind that Severino's stuff alone is enough to overpower most Triple-A hitters, so he can get away with leaving pitches over the plate in the minor leagues, but not in the majors. It may be frustrating to Yankees fans when they see Severino find success in Triple-A and Nova getting hit in the big leagues, but the organization is prioritizing the 22-year-old's long term development. He should get called up later in the season, but there are better options to help out the Yankees' rotation (like Chad Green) right now.