New York Yankees: Full Scouting Report on Each September Call-Up
Five games back of the second wild card with 26 games remaining, the New York Yankees (70-66) need all the help they can get—especially after going 3-4 on the most recent road trip. On Labor Day, MLB roster sizes expanded to 40, granting playoff-hunting teams the ability to add reinforcements down the stretch and others the opportunity to run out some of their young talent.
With a day off Monday, the Yankees announced their moves late Tuesday afternoon—eight September call-ups in total—just prior to their series opener with Boston (they lost, 9-4). It was the first of a nine-game, 11-day homestand that kicks off, but very well could portend, their final month of the regular season.
Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman certainly made their intentions clear, creating roster space for five additional pitchers, two speedy outfielders and an extra catcher. Here's a look at those eight names:
- John Ryan Murphy, C
- Chris Young, OF
- Antoan Richardson, OF
- Chase Whitley, RHP
- Preston Claiborne, RHP
- Bryan Mitchell, RHP
- Chaz Roe, RHP
- Rich Hill, LHP
John Ryan Murphy, right-handers Chase Whitely, Preston Claiborne and Bryan Mitchell, and left-hander Rich Hill had previously seen time with the major league club in 2014, while the other three had never worn pinstripes (Young and Roe made their Yankee debuts Tuesday).
Outfielder Antoan Richardson spent the year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Outfielder Chris Young was signed to a minor league contract on August 27 after the Mets released him in the middle of the month; and New York acquired Triple-A righty Chaz Roe from the Marlins on Sunday in exchange for cash.
Read on for an in-depth breakdown of these roster additions, with full scouting reports on each player. We'll also keep an eye toward October and consider where this octet could factor in as the Yanks look to keep pace in the wild-card race.
John Ryan Murphy, C
John Ryan Murphy, the 2009 second-round pick, typifies the all-around, solid option behind the plate. With no plus tools, the 5'11", 195-pound catcher has improved in his primary area of strength—defense—every step of the way in the minors, and his line-drive bat has been coming along.
Baseball America notes (subscription required) that "his line-drive bat produces consistent solid contact to the gaps with fringe-average power."
He made his major league debut in September 2013, going 4-for-26 (.154) with a double, RBI and walk in 16 games. Baseball America called 2013 his best offensive season to date, as Murphy hit .270 (117 wRC+, per FanGraphs) with 19 doubles and six homers. He also caught 105 games, which led the minor leagues.
On his catching, Baseball America adds: "After years of hard work, he improved his footwork and his release and gunned down 37 percent of basestealers at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre [in 2013]. He has become a much better, quieter receiver, though he can get a little stabby behind the plate at times."
After losing the backup job (Brian McCann) to Francisco Cervelli this spring, Murphy began the year at Scranton with fellow catcher Austin Romine. With Cervelli injured early, however, Murphy was in the Bronx by April 16 and stayed through mid-June, where he hit .286 (18-for-63), including his first big league homer, two doubles and eight RBI.
In Scranton, Murphy hit .246 with six home runs and 28 RBI prior to his call-up. He'll provide insurance at catcher, should the Yankees desire to use McCann as a designated hitter more down the stretch, and he could jump in for Cervelli, who has cooled off in August, going 11-for-48 (.229).
Chris Young, OF
Chris Young spent the better part of 2014 roaming the outfield with the Mets. The career .233 hitter slashed a cringeworthy .205/.283/.346 (80 wRC+) in 88 games to go along with eight homers, 12 doubles, 28 RBI and seven stolen bags.
The White Sox drafted the 6'2", 200-pound outfielder in the 16th round of the 2001 draft, and for several years he was considered among the best prospects. He was praised for his top-flight athleticism, speed and defense. This season, for example, he posted 2.2 DRS and above-average 7.2 UZR/150.
Young's best season came in 2010 with Arizona, where he spent his first seven years before moving to Oakland for 2013; he batted .257/.341/.452 (109 wRC+) with 27 homers, 33 doubles, 91 RBI and 28 stolen bases.
The biggest flaws for the 30-year-old, for all his speed and athleticism, come at the plate, where he owns below-average strikeout and walk rates for his career. The good news is his 18.8 strikeout rate with the Mets was his best since his 30-game rookie stint in 2006, but the bad news is his walk rate was the second worst of his career.
The Yankees signed him on August 27 after the Mets released him on August 15, and he went 3-for-15 (.200) in four games with Scranton; though he homered during that span, he struck out an ugly six times. He made his Yankee debut Tuesday night in a pinch-hit appearance in the bottom of the ninth, but he struck out looking on three straight pitches from Koji Uehara.
Never touted for his bat, Young is insurance for an aging, defensively limited outfield, and his speed could benefit the Yankees on the bases or as a defensive substitution.
Antoan Richardson, OF
Speed on the basepaths is obviously a premium in September (and beyond), and minor league veteran Antoan Richardson stole 26 of 27 bases in 93 games in Scranton this season.
The 5'8", 165-pound 30-year-old was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the 35th round of the 2005 draft, and he's bounced around all levels of the minors with five different ballclubs. He received just one nine-game cup of coffee from the Atlanta Braves in 2011 (2-for-4, one SB). In 10 minor league seasons, he's hit .277/.397/.348 with 344 stolen bases—including a whopping 66 in 2006, 43 in '07 and, most recently, 39 last season.
Playing the full season with the Yankees affiliate RailRaiders, Richardson batted .271/.380/.364 (114 wRC+) with three homers, seven doubles and three triples (see him fly around the bases for one of them in the video above) and drove in 22.
Baseball America noted in its 2005 draft report that "Richardson's unconventional swing [prompted] Vanderbilt to bat him in the lower half of the order," which "[had] scouts thinking [he'd] never be more than a fifth outfielder."
Though the prediction proved true by 2014, he provides solid depth in the Yankees outfield, which has likely trotted out Carlos Beltran and Ichiro Suzuki too often. When you consider the importance of every extra run in September, this call-up appears to be an extremely pragmatic move given that Richardson brings tremendous speed (think late-game pinch runner). It doesn't hurt to add a switch-hitting bat and plus defense to this lineup, either—just check out this catch from June 7.
Chase Whitley, RHP
The 6'3", 215-pound right-hander was selected by the Yankees in the 15th round of the 2010 draft out of Troy University, where he mostly played third base and closed out ballgames. If you've watched Chase Whitley pitch in 2014, you've probably noticed his unorthodox delivery.
Baseball America writes: "His position-player background is part of the reason for his funky, high-elbow arm action, which gives him some deception."
His fastball tops out at an underwhelming 90-91 mph, but, as Baseball America notes, "His secondary stuff sets him apart." He has a plus changeup (thrown 24 percent of the time in 2014) and slider (31 percent).
Of the former, Baseball America highlights his tricky arm speed, late sink and, above all, confidence throwing the pitch. Of the latter, it's the swings and misses—though it's his change that has generated the highest SwStr (swinging strike) percentage at 22.5 this season.
Whitley, prior to his return to Scranton, posted a slightly above-average ground-ball rate in pinstripes (46 percent), and in a dozen starts, he put up a 4.76 while going 3-3. From April to mid-May, he appeared in seven games at Triple-A and returned for three more this past month. He went 3-2 in six total starts, and in his 10 games overall, he had an excellent 2.01 ERA, 1.76 FIP and 10.63 K/9 and didn't allow one long ball.
Whitley offers spot starts to a very depleted rotation, and he could factor in a big way by both lengthening the bullpen in middle relief or by coming in for a few outs with his experience on the back end of a staff.
Preston Claiborne, RHP
Preston Claiborne, the Yankees' 2010 17th-rounder, established his late-inning role in 2013, his first season in the bigs, but fell out of favor quickly in 2014. In 50.1 innings last season—30.1 of which came in the seventh inning or later—he pitched to a 4.11 ERA (3.88 xFIP) with 42 strikeouts and 14 walks. He did struggle with the long ball, though, surrendering seven of them for a paltry 12.3 HR/FB.
He stumbled in a large way in camp this year, allowing 14 hits and nine earned runs in only 5.2 innings over seven games (14.29 ERA) and slotting himself down to Triple-A for the start to his sophomore season. He was recalled on April 20 and remained in the Bronx until early June, where he found some solace with a 3.57 ERA and 1.528 WHIP, but he allowed more than a hit per inning and walked nine in just more than 17 innings of work (4.6 BB/9).
Claiborne pitched 20.1 innings in Scranton this season, posting a 3.01 FIP and decent 8.85 K/9 (20 K), but he still struggled with his command (4.87 BB/9, 11 BB) and was knocked around a bit (8.9 H/9, 20 H).
The 26-year-old throws a fastball around 89-92 mph, a hard slider touching 84 and solid changeup. He generates the highest strikeout rate with his changeup (33 percent in 2014) and the best SwStr with his slider (21.2 percent).
If there's a bright spot, it's that Claiborne has allowed just one homer this year (with the Yankees), which could benefit him and the pen in a stopgap role—especially in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. Perhaps the Texas native will regain his footing and confidence with this recent call-up and eat a few innings for the trio of Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances.
Bryan Mitchell, RHP
After the 2013 season, Baseball America said the 6'3", 205-pounder "may be the system's biggest tease, with tremendous stuff paired with mediocre results." Bryan Mitchell, the Yankees' 16th-round pick in 2009, led the Florida State League (A+) in wild pitches last season (23), and his 5.12 ERA was among the worst.
MLB.com ranked the 23-year-old Reidsville, North Carolina, native the No. 20 Yankees prospect for 2014, writing that "the Yankees have waited for his production to catch up with his potential" but pointing out that "he's still not missing as many bats as his stuff suggests he should."
A fastball touching 97 mph and a power curve at 84 are his two go-to pitches, and he adds a low-90s cutter and work-in-progress changeup.
He finished the 2013 season with a promotion and three starts for Double-A Trenton, going 18.2 innings with a 1.93 ERA and 16 strikeouts. He seems to have figured it out this season, beginning the year in Trenton (61.1 IP, 60 K, 4.09 FIP) and earning a promotion to Scranton, where he's totaled 41.2 innings over eight starts (4-2, 3.67 ERA, 34 K). He could still use improvement in his command and control—the main knocks on Mitchell—as he has allowed 16 walks for a 3.46 BB/9.
It's likely why Baseball America cautioned: "Mitchell invites questions about his mental toughness and wrinkles that need to be ironed out in his delivery, namely finding a more consistent release point."
In his big league debut on August 10, a loss to Cleveland, Mitchell went two innings of relief on no hits, two strikeouts and one walk. MLB.com concludes: "Mitchell often is compared to former Yankee A.J. Burnett for his build and his stuff. Burnett also developed slowly in the Minors, lending hope that Mitchell eventually will figure things out."
Perhaps his first extended time in the majors this September will see the young right-hander carve out a nice niche in the final month of the regular season. Depending on how Girardi wants to utilize him, we could see a start or two for Mitchell in the final month.
Chaz Roe, RHP
Chaz Roe is a 27-year-old, 6'5" right-hander who has bounced around the minors—and even independent ball for one season—for 10 years. He worked 22.1 innings of relief for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013 (4.03 ERA, 3.68 xFIP, 9.67 K/9).
The Texas Rangers claimed him on waivers last November, and he became a free agent in February, when the Miami Marlins signed him. He appeared in 47 games for their Triple-A New Orleans club, totaling 64 innings of relief with a 3.66 ERA (3.73 FIP) and stellar 10.13 K/9 while picking up 14 saves.
The Yankees acquired him on August 31 and selected his contract from Triple-A on Tuesday. He made his Yankees, and 2014 big league, debut Tuesday night, though it was a shaky one: He struck out two, walked two and allowed two hits and two runs—one of them earned—in one inning.
He was the 32nd overall pick of the Rockies in 2005 and has a low-90s fastball to go along with a swing-and-miss curveball. He also rarely serves up the long ball, with a 0.8 HR/9 in his decade of minor league ball and a 0.7 HR/9 this year.
He's likely nothing more than added depth in the bullpen, though he could be a dark-horse weapon and strikeout complement to 6'8" Betances if he can shore up his command and continue to miss bats. Remember, he hasn't been in the majors since last season, and the pressure cooker of the Bronx is an entirely different animal than Chase Field or the minors.
Rich Hill, LHP
The only left-hander called up Tuesday, Rich Hill is another 6'5", 10-year journeyman. A 2002 fourth-round pick of the Cubs, the 34-year-old Ann Arbor native has bounced around five prior major league teams since 2005.
His sixth team, the Yankees, signed him on July 16; the Angels released him on July 10 after acquiring him from the Red Sox on the first of the month. He didn't record an out or a strikeout in two appearances for the Angels, allowing one run on one hit and three walks.
Hill pitched 2.1 innings in six August appearances for the Yankees (three H, four BB, two K, one ER) before they designated him for assignment (he was outrighted to Scranton Monday before they brought him back).
Back in 2006, he led the minors with a 13.4 K/9; his coach Mike Quade had said, via Baseball America, that he's "as fine a left-handed prospect as you'll see."
In 2007, he posted a 3.92 ERA across 32 starts and was an 11-game winner. He last started big league games in 2009, going 3-3 in 13 starts with the Orioles (7.80 ERA, 5.21 FIP). He tossed just four major league innings in 2010, with the majority of his work coming for the Red Sox's and Cardinals' Triple-A affiliates.
He underwent Tommy John for a torn ulnar collateral ligament in 2011, and in 2012 he pitched just 19.2 innings for Boston (1.83 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 9.61 K/9) and struggled with his command (5.03 BB/9). Last season, he logged 38.2 innings for the Indians, posting a 3.82 FIP and very good 11.87 K/9.
If nothing else, Hill's lefty arm will be of use to a pitching staff waterlogged with righties (13 of them)—Josh Outman and David Huff are the only other southpaws outside of starter Chris Capuano—and he's yet another strikeout weapon for a staff that has continually bailed out a historically bad offense.