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MiLB: Five outfielders poised to make an impact in 2017 — October 27, 2016

MiLB: Five outfielders poised to make an impact in 2017

By Wayne Cavadi

clint-frazier

We continue our look around the minor leagues at which prospects could provide an impact to their big league club in the coming season. Today, we focus on Part One of the outfielders. Projecting outfielders by position once they reach the majors proves somewhat difficult as often times, they will fill a hole that wasn’t necessarily where they expected to be. So we will look at the outfield as a collective whole, looking first at the bigger names ready to move and then some under-the-radar guys who may be ready.

Again, this isn’t a ranking or list of best prospects. You won’t see Victor Robles or Eloy Jiminez’s names on here because they have some years to mature. You also won’t see Andrew Benintendi on this list. This kid hit a home run in the playoffs this offseason. He has poise beyond his years and has already made his impact felt.

So who can we expect to see in 2017?

JESSE WINKER, CINCINNATI REDS

16 June 2014: California League All-Star Jesse Winker (23) receives a trophy after winning the "Backwards" Home Run Derby at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, De.

Here’s what we know about Winker: He can hit for average at every level that he’s played at, evidence by his .296 career batting average. He is an on base machine, backed by an advanced feel for the strike zone — striking out 63 times and walking 61 times in 2016 — which all equates to a very impressive .396 career on-base percentage. His home run power is maddening as many think he has a 25+ home run bat, but he has been up and down throughout his career.

Simply put, Winker has little left to prove in the minors after yet another solid campaign in his Triple-A debut. His left-handed swing is major league-ready, especially in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American, and he has been a solid outfielder his entire career, averaging 7.5 assists per season and usually playing near error-free defense. The question is where he will fit.

A left fielder by trade, Adam Duvall had a monster breakout season at the position in 2016. Winker is a far superior defensive left fielder, but Duvall’s bat is too valuable to replace with Winker’s. He has played over 100 games at each corner outfield position in his career, so perhaps Scott Schebler could be the odd man out in right.

It will be interesting to see the Reds approach. They could leave him in Triple-A for the early part of 2017 and get him everyday at bats, but at some point, Winker is going to have to get big league at bats. It’s only a matter of time before he contributes in 2017.

CLINT FRAZIER, NEW YORK YANKEES

U.S. Team's Clint Frazier, of the Cleveland Indians, follows through on an RBI-base hit during the third inning of the All-Star Futures baseball game against the World Team, Sunday, July 10, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

One of the two big pieces acquired for Andrew Miller, Frazier had somewhat of a down 2016, but that doesn’t change who he is. Frazier is an elite athlete who has nice gap power and 20/20 potential. He also plays a solid centerfield, which means the Yankees are in the same situation with Frazier that the Reds find themselves in with Winker.

Moving Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract will be a difficult task, but left fielder Brett Gardner has long been the center of trade rumors. With right field seemingly already handed over to the youth rebellion in the Bronx, Frazier should be the next move. The 22-year-old right-handed hitter has played all three outfield positions, but has made a home in center field. Should the Yankees be able to move Gardner, perhaps they shift Ellsbury to left and begin the Frazier Era in center, for Frazier’s biggest struggles defensively have been in left.

Split between two organizations, Frazier’s down year was still pretty solid. He slashed .263/.335/.447 with 27 doubles, 16 home runs and 13 doubles. He is a special talent who many have pegged as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The Yankees won’t be able to hold him back for long, no matter who is in their starting outfield come 2017.

LEWIS BRINSON, MILWAUKEE BREWERS

(John Rivera/Icon Sportswire)

Speaking of trade rumors, enter Ryan Braun. Should Braun be dealt this offseason, that could make Brinson the best outfielder on the Brewers 40-man roster… and he hasn’t even seen a big league pitch yet.

Brinson was acquired in the Jonathan Lucroy deal at the deadline. Though a small sample size, Brinson lit it up once he arrived with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, slashing .382/.387/.618 with nine doubles, four home runs and four stolen bases. The 22-year-old right-handed-hitting centerfielder is certainly in the 2017 plans.

Keon Broxton was just getting things going when his season ended a bit prematurely due to a fractured wrist, so he will certainly be in the conversation for centerfield. Brinson, however, is special. He has well-above-average hit, power, speed and fielding tools and is the kind of prospect that could make an impact from day one. New to the system, perhaps the Brewers start him back in Triple-A to begin the season, but it won’t be long until he has a spot in Milwaukee.

BRADLEY ZIMMER, CLEVELAND INDIANS

zimmer-interview-cle

It would be odd for a World Series team to tinker with the success that got them there, especially with so much young talent on the roster. Zimmer, however, is a special talent and the Indians are going to have to make room soon. He and Frazier were supposed to be the outfield of the Indians future, but after the Miller trade, the show appears to be his for the taking.

This season, Zimmer did what Zimmer does, and that is a little bit of everything well. He strikes out a lot (171 times in 2016), but walks a ton as well (71 times). He can hit it over the fence (15 home runs) or into the gaps (25 doubles). And he can fly, swiping 38 bases in 52 attempts. If he could begin to hit for average like he did earlier in his career, Zimmer would be your traditional five-tool player.

The Indians seem to be a team of interchangeable parts. It shouldn’t be a problem to make room for Zimmer and the thought of he and 2016 AL Rookie of the Year candidate Tyler Naquin in the same outfield should be exciting for any Indians fan.

AUSTIN MEADOWS, PITTSBURGH PIRATES

26 JUL 2015: 2014 first round pick Austin Meadows of the Marauders during the Florida State League game between the Bradenton Marauders and the Clearwater Threshers at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida.

Did somebody say trade rumors earlier? The Pirates have an overcrowded, young outfield, but you would have to be living under a rock to have not heard an Andrew McCutchen trade rumor by now. Should McCutchen — coming off of his worst statistical season in five years — be traded, it opens centerfield for Meadows’ big league career to begin.

Meadows does a lot of everything extremely well. His only setback has been he tends to get injured all too frequently, including rare injuries like when he fractured his orbital bone taking a ball off the face. If you look at his last full season of play in 2015, though, there is a lot to like.

Meadows was again limited this season to 87 games over three levels due to a hammy strain. Last season, however, was sensational and showed why he is one of the top prospects in the game. He slashed .310/.360/.420 with 24 doubles and seven home runs, while stealing 21 of 28 stolen base attempts. This season he got more into the extra-base hits, with 25 doubles, 11 triples and 12 home runs, but it came at the expense of his average, especially when he hit .214 in his 37-game Triple-A 2016 debut.

There is still plenty to like about Meadows despite the injury history. Should McCutchen not be traded, the Pirates have the luxury of giving 21-year-old Meadows some more time for fine-tuning in Triple-A. But if McCutchen goes and Meadows gets through a successful and healthy spring training, it could be his time to shine.

 

Top 2016 Regular Season Award Candidates – And a Bit of History — October 21, 2016

Top 2016 Regular Season Award Candidates – And a Bit of History

By Baseball Round Table

First, a disclaimer.  Baseball Roundtable has never claimed to be the best prognosticator – although this year I did get seven of the ten playoffs teams correct in a February 8 post. I missed the Indians and Orioles in the AL (had the Astros and Tigers) and the Nationals in the NL (had the Cardinals).  My predictions for the post season, made October 3, were less accurate – although I still have a chance to be right on the World Series winner.  I have the Cubs winning the Series (just against the Red Sox). Surprises for me?  After an offensive slump in September/October, I did not expect the Blue Jays to get past the Rangers. (Note: the Jays scored the fewest runs in the AL after Aguste 31.) I also underestimated Terry Francona’s ability to manage a pitching staff.

So now, I intend to sit back and enjoy the rest of the post-season – and root for a Cubs/Indians World Series – and (in this post) present BBRT’s selections (and predictions) for MLB’s major 2016 regular season awards.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

National League ROY – Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers

Corey Seager photo

Photo by apardavila

The competition for NL Rookie of the Year comes down to a pair of young, power-hitting shortstops – Corey Seager of the Dodgers and Trevor Story of the Rockies.  Seager gets the edge, largely because Story’s season was interrupted by injury.

Seager, the Dodgers’ 22-year-old shortstop was a 2015 September call up and – while not getting enough playing time to lose his rookie status – hit .337, with four home runs and 17 RBI in 27 games.  (In four minor league seasons, Seager put up a stat line of .312-62-278 in 390 games.)  In 2016, Seager proved his late-season 2015 performance was no fluke, playing in 157 games, and hitting .308, with 26 home runs, 105 runs scored, and 72 RBI. He made the 2016 NL All Star team and played a key role in getting the Dodgers to the post-season. He is the real deal.

Seager’s main competition for the ROY Award comes from the early-season rookie “story” of the year – Colorado’s 23-year-old shortstop Trevor Story. After hitting .340 in Spring Training, Story started the season with a bang (several bangs, in fact).  He homered in his first four regular season games (six home runs in those four contests).  Story went on to tie the MLB record for rookie home runs in April with ten long balls – finishing the month with a .261 average, ten homers, 19 runs scored and  20 RBI in 22 games. Unfortunately, in early August, Story suffered a thumb injury that required season-ending surgery. He ended 2016 with a .272 average, 27 home runs, 72 RBI and eight steals in just 97 games.

BBRT Selection:  Corey Seager    

BBRT Prediction:  Corey Seager

Brotherly Love (of the long ball)

The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Dodgers’ SS Corey Seager and Mariners’ 3B Kyle Seager are the first brothers to hit 25 or more home runs in the same MLB season. Corey finished 2016 with 26 round trippers, Kyle with 30.      

American League ROY – Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees

Gary Sanchez Yankees photo

Photo by apardavila

Timing may prove to be everything when the votes are counted for AL Rookie of the Year.  BBRT expects a very close vote and gives the nod to Yankees’ 23-year-old catcher Gary Sanchez – although the fact that he played in only 53 games may work against him. The stats, however, back up his candidacy: a .299 average, 20 home runs, 34 runs scored, 42 RBI and 24 walks drawn (again, in just 53 games) – with virtually all of the damage done after August 1.  Couple that with his praiseworthy work behind the plate and you have a deserving Rookie of the Year candidate. Before his August call up, Sanchez hit .282-10-50 in 71 games at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  BBRT side note: Sanchez was called up to the Yankees late in 2015 – made his major league debut on October 3 –  and (few fans may realize) was included on the Yankees’ 2015 post-season roster.

The fewest games ever played by a non-pitcher in a Rookie of the Year season is 52 by Giants’ 1B Willie McCovey in 1959. He played his first game on July 30 and went to post a .354 average, with 13 home runs and 38 RBI.

BBRT sees Sanchez’ main competition coming from Tigers’ RHP Michael Fulmer (acquired by the Tigers from the Mets in the July 2015 trade for Yeonis Cespedes). The 23-year-old Fulmer went 11-7 (26 starts – 159 innings), with a 3.06 ERA.  Timing may be important here. Fulmer, who got his first start April 29, was 9-2, with a 2.50 ERA at the end of July. In August and September, Fulmer went 2-5, 3.59. Fulmer needs to hope the voters remember his May performance – when he went 3-1 with a 0.61 ERA (two earned runs in 29 2/3 innings).

BBRT Selection:  Gary Sanchez    

BBRT Prediction:  Gary Sanchez (in a very close vote)

From 1992 through 1996, the LA Dodgers had a record five consecutive Rookie of the Year Award winners: 1B Eric Karros (1992); C Mike Piazza (1993); OF Raul Mondesi (1994); SP Hideo Nomo (1995); OF Todd Hollandsworth (1996).  

________________________________________________________

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD

American League MVP – Mookie Betts, RF, Red Sox

Mookie Betts photo

Photo by Keith Allison

This is a tough one to call – Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout and, perhaps, Josh Donaldson can all make a good case.  However, there is a need to narrow it down.  As BBRT considers these candidates, I remind myself that this is not the award for best player of the season – but, rather (by its own definition) for most valuable player (to his team).  So, despite another stellar season by the Angels’ CF Mike Trout (.315-29-100, with 30 steals), the Angels’ fourth-place finish becomes a factor.  Then there is David Ortiz’ unbelievable season – in which he pretty much demolished the record book for accomplishments at age 40 or over with a .315-38-127 line. Big Papi slips a bit on my ballot because of his role as DH, but he is likely to get an emotional boost in the actual balloting based on his career, age and attitude.  His leadership – on and off the field – has long meant a lot to this team. Then there is Josh Donaldson, a key element in Toronto’s 2016 success, who put up a .284-37-99 line, with 122 runs.  Still, BBRT sees his impact a bit short of either of the two players on my list I haven’t touched upon yet – Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve.

Altuve led the AL in batting average at .338 and base hits at 216, while also smacking 24 home runs, scoring 108 runs, driving in 96 and stealing 30 bases – all the time serving as the spark plug for the Astros’ offense. Just 26-years-old, the 5’6”, 165-pound Astros’ 2B already has two batting crowns, two stolen base titles, three consecutive 200-hit seasons, a Gold Glove and four All Star selections – and he seems to just keep getting better.  What he doesn’t have is an MVP Award – and I don’t think it’s coming this year. (It might have, if the Astros had made the playoffs.)  BBRT’s choice for AL MVP is Red Sox’ RF Mookie Betts – who did a little bit (a lot, actually) of everything. Betts hit .318 on the season, launched 31 home runs, scored 122, drove in 113 and stole 26 bases.  How does all that flesh out?  He was second in the AL in average, runs scored and base hits; third in doubles, fourth in RBI, sixth in stolen bases.  Betts is just 24-years-old and, like Altuve, just seems to keep improving.  Betts would get BBRT’s vote (if I had one) for AL MVP.  If he doesn’t win it, I expect it will end up as a career-topping tribute to the performance and presence of David Ortiz.

BBRT Selection:  Mookie Betts   

BBRT Prediction: David Ortiz

 You could make a pretty good All Star team of players who have won two or more consecutive MVP Awards:

        C –    Yogi Berra, Yankees (1954-55)

        1B – Albert Pujols (2008-09)

        2B – Joe Morgan, Reds (1975-76)

        3B – Mike Schmidt, Phillies (1980-81)

         SS – Ernie Banks, Cubs (1958-59)

         OF – Barry Bonds/ Pirates (1992), Giants (1993); Giants (2001-04)

         OF – Mickey Mantle, Yankees (1956-57)

         OF – Dale Murphy, Braves (1982-83)

           P –    Hal Newhouser, Tigers (1944-45)

           Bench:    Roger Maris, OF, Yankees (1960-61)

                             Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers (2012- 13)

National League MVP – Kris Bryant, 3B-plus, Cubs

Kris Bryant photo

Photo by apardavila

Really not much of a race here.  Yes, there will be votes cast for Nationals’ 2B Daniel Murphy (.347-25-104), Dodgers’ SS Corey Seager (although the votes cast for Rookie of the Year may work against him) and Rockies’ master of leather and lumber 3B Nolan Arenado (who led the NL in home runs and RBI for the second straight season and is likely to pick up his fourth Gold Glove).  However, Kris Bryant should win the NL MVP Award hands down – he was the most valuable player on MLB’s winningest team.  The 24-year-old Bryant, the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year, played in 155 games, hitting .292, with a league-leading 121 runs scored, 39 home runs and 102 RBI (not to mention eight steals).  In the process, he started games at 3B, LF, RF, 1B and SS. Bryant’s contributions – at the plate and all around the diamond – pretty much define the term “MVP”.  His presence made manager Joe Maddon’s job a whole lot easier.

 

BBRT Selection; Kris Bryant   

BBRT Prediction:  Kris Bryant

BBRT RANT

Here’s a BBRT rant you have heard before, but BBRT is nothing if not consistent.  I believe we need another major award in MLB – recognizing each season’s best position player (to include the DH position).  Pitchers have the Cy Young Award – recognizing each season’s best pitcher.  There is, however, no equivalent award reserved for the best performance by a position player. While some would argue the MVP Award serves that purpose, the fact that numerous pitchers have won the MVP over the years argues against that contention. I believe we need a position player award equivalent to the Cy Young, as well as the MVP Award (based on contributions to team success).

 

Andrew Miller’s excellence puts heat on two Yankees prospects — October 20, 2016

Andrew Miller’s excellence puts heat on two Yankees prospects

By Ken Davidoff

b-bubgtu

TORONTO — No pressure or anything, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield.

Though the guy the Yankees gave up to acquire the two of you has pitched the Indians into the World Series before either one of you has so much as played in a major-league game.

If Andrew Miller, your ALCS MVP, can keep going all the way to securing Cleveland’s first World Series title since 1948 and second championship of 2016, following the lead of LeBron James and the Cavaliers? That will be some kind of head start for the opposition.

The lanky lefty Miller and the Indians wrapped up the AL pennant Wednesday afternoon with a 3-0 Game 5 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, thereby wrapping this series up by a 4-1 margin. They await the winner of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Cubs and host Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Tuesday at Progressive Field.

“It’s so fun to be a part of this team,” Miller said. “I really enjoyed my time with the Yankees. It’s tough when you leave a comfort zone and a place that you like. But I knew I was coming to a team that had won a lot and had expectations to win more. I was coming to play for Tito [Francona]. I couldn’t have dreamt it up any better.”

Miller pitched a remarkable 2 ²/₃ shutout innings of relief, entering with one out in the sixth and going through the eighth, and his one strikeout gave him 14 in 7 ²/₃ innings for the series, tying him with Brad Lidge (with Houston in the 2004 NLCS) for the most whiffs in an LCS. For the postseason so far, Miller has tallied 11 ²/₃ shutout innings and struck out 21.

“The way he was able to impact both series in such an extraordinary way, there’s no way we’d be standing here without him,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “It’s been a collective effort by every guy in here to be able to turn the ball over to him, but Andrew made an impact beyond even what we could have expected.”

The unexpected has defined this Indians season. A slew of injuries and absences stood in their way, yet they displayed enough promise that Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff made the aggressive decision to trade the highly regarded outfielder Frazier and southpaw Sheffield, plus two other players, to the Yankees on July 31.

On Wednesday, Miller looked the least sharp he has this month— Edwin Encarnacion powered a blast that Rajai Davis caught at the left-field wall — yet by generating a Josh Donaldson double play on his first pitch to end the sixth, he set a tone of efficiency.

“Tonight, he was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to get some groundballs and conserve my pitches,’ ” Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. “That guy can do whatever he wants.”

“Yeah, I trusted my defense,” Miller said. “Maybe a little bit their approach. Maybe just the situation. But all that matters are outs. All that matters are wins. It honestly does not matter how we get there.”

You can’t help but wonder how large an October weapon Miller could have been for manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees. Alas, Miller made just one postseason appearance in a Yankees uniform, a scoreless inning in last year’s wild-card loss to the Astros, before his departure.

It goes down as a sensible call for Brian Cashman and the Yankees, who were mired in mediocrity and needed to upgrade their foundation of young talent. The baseball community generally agrees Frazier and Sheffield possess high ceilings and can make the Yankees look plenty smart themselves sooner than later.

For now, though, it’s Miller on baseball’s biggest stage. Ready to keep slinging sliders at the Cubs or Dodgers. And to remind Frazier and Sheffield the bar has been set mighty high.

Scout’s mysterious concerns over Yankees’ hyped prospect — October 19, 2016

Scout’s mysterious concerns over Yankees’ hyped prospect

By Hannah Withlam

dillon-tate

Let’s get this straight. Pitching prospect Dillon Tate, a No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft whom the Yankees acquired Aug. 1 from the Rangers in the Carlos Beltran deal, is a “nice kid” with a good arm and a strong work ethic, but he also “can’t pitch,” according to one scout.

Huh?

The veteran scout, who — according to NJ.com — has deep knowledge of the Yankees farm system, understands why teams marvel at the 22-year-old’s rocket arm, but he’s not convinced the right-hander has what it takes to match their high expectations.

“I can’t get into too much of why I know this, but if Tate doesn’t change his pre-game and if he doesn’t change how he goes about his work, he’ll never succeed … period,” the scout told the website before a Yankees’ Arizona Fall League game.

“He works hard. It’s not his work ethic. It’s how he works. It’s what he does and his stubbornness in it. If he doesn’t change that, he won’t succeed.”

While general manager Brian Cashman feels the rebuilding Yankees struck gold with Tate, they started him off slowly in the bullpen after 16 of his 17 appearances for Texas’ Single-A affiliate came as a starter.

The 6-foot-2 flamethrower struck out 16 in his first two starts of the minor-league season, but after a hamstring injury sidelined him for three weeks, Tate’s return to the mound was a disaster. His velocity dropped from high 90s to low 90s, and he went 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA in 17 outings.

Those alarming numbers sent Tate to the bullpen, where the scout says he belongs.

“The Yankees didn’t make out on the Beltran trade,” he said. “The Rangers absolutely thought Tate was going to be a starter when they drafted him, and I could see why. Tate has a great arm. And he’s a nice kid. A great kid. But Tate’s a guy who’s stubborn in the way that he goes about it, and unless he changes that, it ain’t going to happen for him.”

Tate’s numbers with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Fall League have mirrored his minor-league struggles — allowing four runs in three innings over two appearances.

Attitude aside, the scout largely blames Tate’s mechanics for his poor results.

“You can either spin the ball or you can’t,” the scout said.

“He is too fastball reliant,” he added.

And with that, this scout showed his reviews are as circuitous as the Yankees’ starting-pitching carousel.

Miller, Chapman continue to thrive after Yankees trades — October 17, 2016

Miller, Chapman continue to thrive after Yankees trades

By Chad Jennings

miller

Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller delivers in Game 3 of baseball’s American League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Boston.

Baseball’s postseason has served as a reminder of many things we already knew.

It’s helped cement Clayton Kershaw as a generational talent, further established Francisco Lindor as one of the game’s elite young players, showcased the defensive wonder of Javier Baez, and given the Blue Jays another opportunity to complain about the many boogiemen out to get them.

And for those of us who spent the year focused on the Yankees, it’s been a reminder of the electricity of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.

Chapman saved all three wins of the Cubs’ division series, and he was an Adrian Gonzalez single away from escaping a next-to-impossible jam with no outs and the bases loaded in Game 1 of the NLCS. Chapman’s been flawed, but man, he’s been fun to watch and a potent late-inning weapon.

Miller, of course, has been the secret weapon for an Indians pitching staff that lost key starters to late-season injuries. Playing a fireman role — Terry Francona basically uses Miller to get the game’s most important middle-innings outs as early as the fifth — Miller has pitched 7.2 innings with three hits, two walks and 17 strikeouts. Seventeen!

For the Yankees, it’s all too familiar.

“I want the teams that stepped up and made those trades to be rewarded for doing so,” Brian Cashman told John Harper. “It would justify the action they took. I have absolutely no regrets about the deals we made — other than being in the position we were in. We did what we had to do, and hopefully everybody wins.”

Should Cashman have any regrets about those trades?

In the end, the Yankees finished five games out of the second wild card, needing to pass four teams to get there. Hard to definitively say Miller and Chapman would have made up that ground. After the trade deadline, the Yankees were held to one run or less 12 times (and they won one of those games). Replacement relievers Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren and Tommy Phelps each pitched pretty well (though, obviously, not nearly at the level of Chapman and Miller). Would the late-season collapse of Dellin Betances have happened or been as devastating if he were in the seventh inning? Would the Yankees have even tried Luis Severino in the bullpen if Miller and Chapman were still on the roster?

Ultimately, uncertainty was at the root of the Yankees’ deadline deals. The Yankees knew the talent they were giving up, but they also knew they’d dug a deep hole with little chance of escape. With little reason to believe they could make a real postseason run, the Yankees gave up two sure things to add some potential for the future. Check out Harper’s story for Cashman’s explanation of the leg work that went into setting high standards for the Miller and Chapman trades.

What will ultimately determine the success of those trades will be the performance beyond this season.

In Gleyber Torres and Justus Sheffield, the Yankees got two of the youngest players in the Carolina League (and two of the league’s top performers). In Clint Frazier, the Yankees gotarguably the top prospect in their entire farm system. In Ben Heller, J.P. Feyereisen, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford the Yankees added depth in their long-term bullpen and outfield with players who could have an impact as early as next season.

Seeing Chapman and Miller continue to perform in October really has no impact on the Yankees. The value of those trades will depend far more on the added prospects than the lost relievers.

What Yankees’ Mark Teixeira said to heir apparent Greg Bird before retiring — October 16, 2016

What Yankees’ Mark Teixeira said to heir apparent Greg Bird before retiring

greg-bird

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird is greeted at home plate by a teammate after hitting a two-run home run against the Minnesota Twins on Aug. 19, 2015 at Yankee Stadium.

By Randy Miller

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Yankees first baseman Greg Bird would have loved spending the whole 2016 baseball season shadowing Mark Teixeira. There’s so much he could have learned … everything from talking hitting to talking first-base play to talking playing in New York.

And all of that would have come in handy come 2017 with Teixeira now a former player and Bird being a strong favorite to take over as the Yankees’ starting first baseman because he was Gary Sanchez before Gary Sanchez hitting a bunch of homers after an August 2015 call-up from the minors.

Bird’s nagging shoulder injury last winter turning into a torn labrum just before spring training screwed things up because he ended up having season-ending surgery before the start of the Grapefruit League.

That forced Bird to take what he could get from Teixeira, which wasn’t much until Bird relocated his rehab from Yankees spring training headquarters in Tampa to New York in September.

Bird didn’t locker next to Teixeira at Yankee Stadium — he was given Carlos Beltran’s old area on the other end of the clubhouse — but there was some mentoring going on.

Bird spent time closely watching Teixeira, who hit 409 homers, won five Gold Gloves and won a World Series during his 14-year career.

Teixeira did some talking, Bird did some listening.

“I was always trying to learn from him,” Bird told NJ Advance Media after his Fall League game on Friday night.

Before Teixeira retired on the final day of the season, he offered a simple message to Bird about going to Florida Instructional League in September and then the Arizona Fall League after that.

What was said?

Bird still not 100 percent

Bird still not 100 percent

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird is still recovering from February shoulder surgery and isn’t yet ready to play the field in Arizona Fall League games. (Randy Miller | NJ Advance Media)

“He just told me before this to take it easy, get your at-bats and get ready for next year,” Bird said.

That doesn’t sound like much, but this simple advice is meaningful and valuable. The hidden message there was, “Don’t do anything stupid to get hurt again.”

And so, Bird has gone about his business this first week of AFL play in a way in which he’s concentrating on having good at-bats without pushing himself too much too soon.

Bird was the Scottsdale Scorpions’ designated hitter for three of their first five games and fared well with a .357 average and four hits, all doubles in 13 at-bats. He was just 1-for-5 on Friday night, but he put the turkey on the table during a game-winning rally in the ninth by following a leadoff walk with a double into the right-field corner to give the Scorpions runners second and third with nobody out.

Following an intentional walk, Yankees super prospect Gleyber Torres laced a bases-loaded, walk-off single for an 8-7 win.

“I’m all about quality at-bats … seeing the ball good and staying healthy,” Bird said.

That “staying healthy” line is a little misleading because Bird still hasn’t been medically cleared to play first base and he still gets occasional reminders which shoulder was hurt after some at-bats.

“I feel it less and less,” Bird said. “Sometimes I get maybe sore in one spot or feel something in another spot, but in general it feels pretty smooth.”

Bird’s early fall ball success is no surprise because, as scouts watching have been saying, Bird is overqualified as a 23-year-old with 11 homers, 157 at-bats and 46 games on his big-league resume.

No matter, Bird is in Arizona to make up 100 or so of the plate appearances that he lost this season, and that should take him into spring training with a better shot to be at his best by opening day.

“This is a great steppingstone for guys that are trying to work to get to the big leagues and progress their career,” said Bird, who was the 2015 Fall League MVP. “For me, it’s about progressing my career in a different way than it was last time … staying healthy, getting the reps, just playing again. It’s exciting for me.

Five weeks from now, Bird hopes to be feeling better and knock all the rust off his swing and hitting approach.

“I feel surprisingly good,” Bird said. “I feel on time. I’m seeing the ball well. My shoulder feels good. So it’s a start.”

MLB rumors: Yankees going after top relief pitchers? — October 12, 2016

MLB rumors: Yankees going after top relief pitchers?

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Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen (74) delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals during game four of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium

By Joe Giglio

If the Yankees have their way, a big-time bullpen will exist in the Bronx again next season.

According to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, the Yankees are expected to try to land one of the top two relief pitchers on the open market this coming winter:

Word is, the Yankees will target one of the two best free agent closers–ex-Yankee Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen–this winter, and also look to bolster their rotation, perhaps via the trade market.

If general manager Brian Cashman can sign one of the top two closers available, a devastating bullpen could be reformed for the start of the 2017 season.

Chapman comes with familiarity to the organization. The left-handed flame thrower dominated for the Yankees (2.01 ERA, 20 saves) before a July trade sent him to the Chicago Cubs. The idea of New York eventually reuniting with the Cuban star had legs even before he left the Bronx during the season. It could cost a record deal to bring Chapman back.

Jansen is less known to many fans on this coast, but a dominant relief pitcher for the Dodgers. Since debuting in 2010, the big righty owns a 2.20 ERA, 189 saves, 13.9 SO/9 and 5.31 SO/BB rate. Over the last two years, Jansen has posted a 9.68 SO/BB ratio while harnessing a cutter that’s been compared to Mariano Rivera’s dominant pitch.

Dellin Betances will be in tow to join any top-notch reliever the Yankees acquire this winter.

Yankees re-sign pitching coach Larry Rothschild: What it means — October 8, 2016

Yankees re-sign pitching coach Larry Rothschild: What it means

By Brendan Kuty

NEW YORK — The Yankees re-signed pitching coach Larry Rothschild to a one-year deal, the team said Friday.

Let’s break it down:

1.) Short-term: The length of the deal is interesting. The contracts of manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman each expire next year, too. Coincidence? Me thinks not. Then again, he’s also 62 years old. Maybe he wants just one more year before calling it quits.

2.) Cashman: The GM said in his year-end press conference Wednesday that he didn’t want to make changes to the coaching staff. So Rothschild has Cashman’s confidence. This wasn’t strictly an ownership move.

3.) Successes: You could call Rothschild’s work with several pitchers success stories. The ones that stand out? The recent CC Sabathia; Nathan Eovaldi’s splitter, Adam Warren’s versatility, Brandon McCarthy in late 2014 and getting through Andy Pettitte’s velo drop. Yankees pitchers have often credited Rothschild’s encyclopedic knowledge of them the moment they even join the team, with the coach often immediately having an impact on them mechanically.

4.) Failures: For whatever reasons, Rothschild wasn’t able to unlock the mystery of Michael Pineda or get Luis Severino comfortable with his changeup again. On one hand, that’s his job — to fix pitchers. On the other hand, Severino seemed to simply refuse to throw his changeup while Pineda’s long-time command issues clearly don’t suggest that there’s a quick fix out there for him. Ivan Nova seemed to find it once he left the Yankees, too, but that could also be a product of pitching the National League and in a bigger park.

5.) Final thoughts: Girardi leans heavily on Rothschild. It shows in how often he references needing to check with Rothschild on various pitching matters in spring training and throughout the season. It’s likely that Girardi wanted him back, too. With Cashman, Rothschild and Girardi each in the final years of their contracts, if things torpedo early in 2017, there could be many different faces in important places in the Bronx.

Yankees prospect takes Twitter cockiness to next level — October 7, 2016

Yankees prospect takes Twitter cockiness to next level

By Jonathan Lehman

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Clint Frazier isn’t lacking for confidence.

The Yankees minor leaguer, acquired in the midseason trade of relief ace Andrew Miller, boasted on Twitter on Thursday night — as Miller was dominating Game 1 of the ALDS for the Indians — he would be an impact rookie in The Bronx “starting next year.”

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That’s a cocky timeline for the recently turned 22-year-old. After a season in which he put up decent numbers — 16 homers, 55 RBIs and 122 strikeouts in 119 games (slash line: .263/.335/.447) — as a relative youngster at Double-A and Triple-A, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said this week not to expect Frazier in the big leaguesuntil the midseason 2017 at the earliest. There also isn’t a logical spot for him in the outfield.

“He has more developing to do,” Cashman said. “But players with tools like his can come fast. I don’t anticipate him coming out of spring training making the major league club, but I would not deny anybody the opportunity.”

The kid with the untamed ginger mane has been passing the time by taking his hacks in the dating field. Soon after arriving to the Yankees, Frazier used social media to ask out Instagram fitness model Jen Selter.

“@JenSelter now that both of us are in New York, I think it’s only fair you let me take you on a date! #SelterFrazierDate,” he wrote.

No word on whether Frazier and Selter have made a connection. Perhaps that romance is “starting next year” as well.

Even with Sanchez catching, McCann wants to stay with Yankees — October 5, 2016

Even with Sanchez catching, McCann wants to stay with Yankees

By Chad Jennings

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New York Yankees’ Brian McCann greets Gary Sanchez (24) after scoring on Sanchez’s fourth-inning home run in a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016

On the day he did what only baseball’s greatest offensive catchers had ever done, Brian McCann was actually a designated hitter.

With his home run on Sunday, McCann became only the fourth player ever to hit 20 home runs in 10 different seasons in which his primary position was behind the plate. The others: Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza.

That’s the company McCann keeps. But give Gary Sanchez nine more years, and he might be there as well. He also hit 20 home runs this season, except he did it in 53 games, and everyone knows what that means.

“Listen,” McCann said. “Gary is the starting catcher here. He’s going to be that for a long, long time. Just have to kind of see where my role fits in; see where everything fits.”

Three years into a five-year contract, McCann is not necessarily on his way out of Yankee Stadium. His name will certainly pop up in trade rumors this offseason – he was connected at the trade deadline to his hometown Braves – but McCann has a full no-trade clause, and the Yankees still have a need for a left-handed power bat in the middle of the order.

“I hope I’m back,” McCann said. “I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, but the future is extremely bright here. … I love it here. I love everything about it. Bright future. And I hope I’m a part of it.”

McCann turns 33 in February. He won a Silver Slugger award last season and had an .809 OPS with 14 homers in the first half of this year. Defensive shifts might have wrecked his ability to hit for average, but McCann’s hit at least 20 homers nine years in a row, and his left-handed swing has played well with Yankee Stadium’s short porch.

He had a disappointing second half, but ended with a flourish in the final month. Even with Sanchez in the everyday lineup, the Yankees kept giving McCann regular playing time as a designated hitter against righties and as the personal catcher for CC Sabathia, who had a resurgent season.

“He (played) a huge role,” Sabathia said. “We sat and talked most of the time and used the cutter in different situations and talked during the games a lot, and even away from the game. He’s been a huge help for me in making this transition.”

The Yankees’ offense is also transitioning to a year without Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira, all of whom joined McCann in the middle of the order most of this season. Five different Yankees reached 20 home runs this season, but McCann is the only one coming back who’s done it with any regularity. Sanchez never even did that in the minors.

Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin have combined for a total of 20 big-league home runs.

“I’m hoping to use (McCann) in a lot of different ways,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Getting his bat into the lineup, his ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, having him catch. This is a guy that takes a lot of pride in that. Understands how to work young pitchers, old pitchers. He understands that. So, this is a guy that’s in our plans. He might move around and do different things, but we want his bat.”

Designated hitter. Part-time catcher. Perhaps even an option at first base. McCann might not have the role he’s used to next season, but he’s not convinced he doesn’t have a place in the clubhouse.

Ultimately, the decision will be up to him. If he doesn’t want to be traded, he can keep it from happening.

“There’s a lot of variables that go into a decision,” McCann said. “So we’ll see how the winter plays out. But again, this place is special.”