A New Core For The Big Apple

I am thrilled to bring BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD to Doug Hall and his staff at Clubhouse Corner.  Doug is an outstanding, passionate and creative leader in the challenging and growing world of baseball blogs.  I am pleased to be part of this.

In this space, I will try to provide baseball analysis and commentary from the eyes of a professional scout.  If nothing else, I will provide plenty of opinions.

The world of scouting is based upon opinions.  Two scouts from the same team may have totally different evaluations of the same player they see on the same day, at the same game on the same field.  But that’s why they make vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Different people have different tastes.  Different scouts have different opinions.

While I value sabermetrics, I am more comfortable with a blend of statistics and what I see with my own eyes.

I trust what I learned in Scout School and my experience in the game.  But like any scout in the business, I have my misses as well as my successes.  I’ll discuss that in another edition of BBW.

I want to begin my new venture with Clubhouse Corner sharing my thoughts about the New York Yankees.

I am trying hard to moderate my enthusiasm for the team’s future.  I like everything about the way the team is executing a well-devised plan.  Mixing in exciting and talented rookies and young players with veteran players that can help mentor their progress is a very wise approach.  What team can boast a core future of position players like Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Judge?  Each of those young men has something in common.  They can manipulate the barrel of the bat to their swing.  They make hard contact.  They can hit the gaps in any park.  And they can drive the ball over the fence.  Yes, even Didi.  Will there be some swings and misses?  You bet.  But I have come to accept strikeouts as part of today’s game.  A pop out is just as bad, but we dwell on strikeouts.  Strikeouts and pop outs are both worthless, empty at-bats. However, big hitters will strike out and pop up in this era.  Pitchers in the game today are just that good.  The numbers one, two and three starters are especially tough on most clubs. Many are gentle giants. They’re huge.  They throw 95 miles per hour with little to no effort.

The Yankees can be special by the year 2019. If.  If the Yankees mix in some good college age pitching in their upcoming drafts and perhaps sign a quality free agent pitcher like Jake Arrieta to anchor the staff, they will position themselves for sustained success.  For me, the core of the pitching future could rest with lefty Jordan Montgomery and right-hander Luis Severino.  When I saw Montgomery pitch in spring training I wrote glowingly and projected a  very solid future. I was, and I am, effusive in my praise.  If Severino commands his fastball, he will form a very credible duo with Montgomery.

Aaron Judge may look like a dead pull hitter, but he can take an outside pitch to the opposite field, as he did against the Boston Red Sox Rick Porcello April 26.  He has terrific bat control, fine pitch recognition and advanced plate discipline for a young hitter.  He is skilled in his approach at the plate.  He will continue to crush pitcher’s mistakes. And yes, he’ll strike out.  The good times will outweigh the bad.

Judge is a mammoth human being and the damage he can provide can be almost limitless. People will speak of Aaron Judge as they did Giancarlo Stanton when he was still Mike Stanton.  He could hit some monster home runs for years to come.

Gary Sanchez has an awesome line drive stroke.  When I saw him for extended periods in the Arizona Fall League the ball just zoomed off his bat.  His home runs will be accompanied by gap doubles.  And yes, he’ll strike out.

Since I first scouted him, Sanchez has made tremendous strides as a catcher. He blocks balls in the dirt so much better now. He’s a very good shepherd of his pitcher, calling a good game and earning their trust. And his arm is an absolute cannon.  His pop time (the time it takes him to transfer the ball from glove to throwing hand, get out of the crouch and throw the ball) is a tad below major-league average most times. Average is 2.0 seconds. He has a tremendous future as a hitter and as a defensive catcher. He could soon be the best catcher in the game. Yes, better than Posey and Lucroy at some point in time. And some people feel he’s better already. Again, that’s subject to individual opinion.

Like many left-handed hitters, Bird simply crushes low fastballs.  He is a wrist hitter. He has very strong wrists and quick hands through the ball.  Bird gets extension on his swing that results in backspin and loft.  Be patient with him. He’s the type of hitter that will press when he isn’t succeeding. He needs to relax and look for his pitch.  Right now he is jumping and lunging at the ball a bit in his anxiety to hit a five-run homer.  Which he’ll never do. At least I’ve never seen a five-run homer.

Simply put, Didi Gregorius is an amazing defensive shortstop. From the time I first saw him in the Fall League, I marvel at his smooth approach, quick feet, great range and his strong arm from all areas in and around the shortstop area code.  Didi has to be watched day in and day out to be appreciated. He gets to everything on both sides and in front of him. The ball disappears in his glove.  When he was still with the Reds before being traded to the Diamondbacks I felt he would be like both Omar Vizquel and Brandon Crawford. Both were great fielders when they began and then they made themselves into hitters. That’s what’s happening to Didi.  He’ll hit.  The injury may set him back a bit.  Once he regains confidence, Didi can power the ball to the short porch in Yankee Stadium.  And if they ever let him run, he’s fast enough to steal bases.

So think of it as a new core of position players arriving in New York. A new core for the Big Apple, if you will Masahiro. They should be playing together for years. Add the pitching upside of Montgomery and Severino to the mix and I’m very bullish on the Yankees to once again be a dominant force in the AL East. But maybe not quite yet.

BUNTS:

Masahiro Tanaka is a medical marvel. I have waited now for three years for his arm to fall off and his elbow to bark loud enough for him to be shut down for a year or maybe more.  They haven’t. All he does is throw that sinker and split-finger and get hitters out.

Matt Holiday is a perfect mentor for the young Yankees. If he hits, that would be great.  If he’s mediocre, he’ll still be a presence in the clubhouse helping the young Yankees.

The best player I saw in this past Arizona Fall League was infielder Gleyber Torres.  He was the No. 1 prospect on my Top 50 Prospect list.  However, he isn’t quite ready. Once he is promoted he will join the core.  Torres is as smooth as silk. He does everything well. And he can run.  He has a terrific arm. His balance is special. His athletic prowess is special.  He’s special.  Where will he play?  If I were making the decisions, Torres would play second and Didi would play short.  Or it could certainly work the other way. Those two will be interchangeable parts up the middle for years to come.

C C Sabathia is now only so-so, but he has reinvented himself. Knowing his fastball is a thing of the yesteryear. He is throwing whatever he can to get the hitter out. I admire his tenacity, but the results will be spotty.

In my view, it remains to be seen how long Michael Pineda can pitch without his shoulder acting up again. When healthy, the guy can really dominate a game.

“Knock knock”

“Who’s there?”

“Jesus Montero”

“ Jesus Montero who?”

I learned long ago to never anoint a prospect as a superstar until he has played three seasons against the best players in the big leagues.  Montero was unfairly labeled a star during his development. It was unfair.

Then he was traded to Seattle for…Michael Pineda.

And then Jesus Montero was converted to a first baseman/designated hitter.  And now…I can’t find Jesus Montero anywhere with any major-league organization.

And I find that very sad.

Next: The New York Mets appear at BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD

Please follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff

About The Author

Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Bernie's work has been featured on MLB Pipeline, MLB.com and FanRag Sports, among others. In addition to his BERNIE'S BASEBALL WORLD column, he's a scout/analyst for FanRag Sports.com. You can follow Bernie Pleskoff on Twitter @BerniePleskoff