Author Archives: jimmytoucan

2013 First Round Picks

This year the Yankees sported three first round picks thanks to qualifying offers made to Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano, who both left for longer and more lucrative commitments. First taken in the draft was Eric Jagielo, who some were surprised fell so low followed by the towering Aaron Judge and southpaw Ian Clarkin. Overall the Yanks had a pretty strong draft…and hey, they drafted a kid named Ty Webb! For those of you who don’t get the reference, shame on you. Today we’ll take a quick look at our first three picks, starting at the top.

Eric Jagielo

Eric-Jagielo-perfectgame.com_Eric raked in the fifth highest bonus handed out to a draftee at 1.8394M, which was right at slot money. A former Notre Dame third baseman, he stands in at 6’3″, 215 lbs and hits from the left side. In his three years at ND, Eric hit .321, slugged .432 and hit 27 home runs. He’s also proven he can handle the wood bats, as he went deep 13 times in the Cape Cod league, walking away with the MVP. In the box Jagielo has quick hands that allow him to get in on the inside pitch. His swing is built for power, with good loft and backspin, but could lead to him making less contact. His coach from ND praised him as the most talented hitters he’s ever seen, now keep in mind Eric is only the third position player drafted from his school, but it has been noted that he is disciplined at the plate and could see an OBP in the mid 3′s. His defense at the hot corner isn’t exactly inspiring; think a fringy defender with limited range. In the event that he is unable to remain at the hot corner, his bat could carry him over to first. He’s not by any means a speedster, but he isn’t bad on the bases and his arm is quite enough to get the job done but isn’t amazing, which would have been a bonus. At 21 years old and having some college experience behind him, he should be able to move quickly which is something the Yankees could use in the near future with the Ow My Hip Alex spending less and less time on the field. If he manages to put in the work and make the adjustments he’ll need to make, he could be getting a cup of joe next September. That’s on the aggressive side, but possible.

Jagielo has begun his Yankee career in the minor league system, first starting in rookie ball for a single game and then on to Charleston. In 52 plate appearances he’s both walked and struck out five times, good for a 9.6%. *small sample noted With his profile i’ll take all the walks I can get. His slash line is at .364/.462/.477, but this is riding a torrid .395 babip. For the Fangraphs friendly fans, it adds up to a .446wOBA, 187wRC+. Pretty great start so far, but without batted ball profiles it’s hard to say how much he’ll fall off when when “luck” runs out and regression sets in. If he does continue to tear it up he’ll be in Tampa by years end.

Aaron Judge

thAaron Judge is huge. Really huge. At 6’7″ 255lbs. there’s something like a handful of guys near his size ever to play the OF; he’ll be the second tallest ever. Previously drafted by Oakland, Aaron opted to attend Fresno State where in his junior year he hit .369 with 12 HR’s, 36 RBI’s and 12 stolen bases. Judge is athletic considering his size, and while he has been playing center, will probably profile more as a right fielder due to his strong and accurate arm. He has to rely on his athleticism as his routes nor his first step are much to speak of. RF in Yankee Stadium is a perfect fit for a guy like him. For a guy his size you would expect big power, and he has it but only in batting practice. His swing doesn’t give him enough loft to get out of the park, but he’ll hit a lot of line drives. His swing is not without its warts for sure. For one his size makes for a lot of long moving parts and makes it difficult for him to repeat his swing consistently. He has some issues with pitch recognition, making him susceptible to breaking and offspeed stuff. Overall he has tons of power that could be tapped in to with a respectable average to back it up. Judge was the last to sign, and pulled off an above slot bonus of 1.8M. Both he and Clarkin have yet to start in the minors yet as they both came up injured (surprised?) before they got rolling.

Ian Clarkin

th-1Ian Clarkin does not hate the Yankees. Apparently. I still haven’t read the actual story about all that, and damn does that feel good. As soon as I heard the ruckus I filed it away in the don’t give a spit bin and moved on, which leads us to our third pick, courtesy of #untuck. Clarkin is the baby of the group as a HS senior out of Madison High School in San Diego. The southpaw measures up at 6’2″ and runs his fastball in the low to mid 90′s on a downward plane. His butter pitch is his curveball, which was talked about as the best of all HS pitchers in the 2013 draft and could be a plus plus offering at the ML level. His changeup is a work in progress, sitting around 78 but could be average or better. Baseball America had him going quite a bit higher at 17th, and Keith Law had him as the second best HS lefty in the draft. It seems as there were some signability questions, but he who hates the Yankees signed for 1.65M, right at slot. Ian’s greatest hurdle will be to turn his show me change into a real pitch he can go to when he doesn’t have one of his primary pitches. If he gets caught without his big bad curveball he’s going to need another offering to keep hitters off of number one. I suppose at worst you have a late inning reliever with a filthy strikeout pitch, at best he’s a number two if he’s got a handle on all three pitches and can command the zone. At 18 there’s always room to add a tick or two to that fastball and so long as he’s still commanding it it only makes him that much stronger. Another victim to the injury plague throughout Yankeeland, Clarkin has yet to get into a game. There is one player I will mention who is alive and pitching, and that’s Ty Webb…na na na na na na na na na na na na na na. Be the ball.

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Baby Bombers In Action

Last week we took a look at where a few of our top prospects are currently at in the system and how they’re performing. This week i’ve dug up some videos of these guys. Here’s a look at some of them via various youtube sources:

First up is Gary Sanchez, who is looking more and more like he’ll be ready to join Trenton this year.

Gary facing RA Dickey:

At the 2013 AS Game:

YES magazine discusses the Yankees catching prospects:

Next up is Mason Williams, who has struggled a bit in Tampa this year but has shown signs of life. Hopefully he’ll get it figured out and start producing.

Mason in ST vs. the Jays

Mason vs. RA Dickey

Some coverage from Prospect Team

This from Mike Newman

On to Slade Heatchott, who is in much the same boat as Mason, having been promoted a level but is still adjusting to the league. In Slade’s defense, he’s missed a ton of time to injury over the last several years and has made the biggest leap in the minors. He’s shown signs of getting used to the pitching in AA, but has yet to sustain success.

Slade in the AFL last year

Slade getting some work in

Mike Ashmore, who has tons of videos with a piece on Slade

Tyler Austin follows up Slade as fellow Thunder teammate. He started slow as well but looks like he’s settling in to life in AA ball.

Here’s Mike with some austin footage

And from Mike Newman

And Baseball Instinct

Last but not least here is some footage on rising hurler Jose Ramirez, who caught my attention last year and has continued to impress in 2013. Here’s Mike Ashmore with some video:

That’s it this week for info on the farm. Been a crazy week out here for sure, everyone enjoy the holiday and i’ll see you all again next week. Cheers.

Rising Star: JR Murphy

murphy

Once upon a time, when the Yankees farm was ripe with catching prospects headed by The Chosen One™ and followed by the likes of Austin Romine, JR Murphy and Gary Sanchez. We won’t speak of the first…it’s a touchy subject. Austin got the call this year after yet another injury bit the team and through limited playing time is making it pretty obvious he wasn’t ready. It’s been ugly for sure. Sanchez is mashing away for Tampa and could very well make his way north to Trenton this year.

This leaves JR Murphy, who just two years ago was spending time at the hot corner. He was in Charleston with Sanchez in 2011 so it allowed him to get more AB’s in while splitting time behind the dish with the 18 year old prospect. He moved on later that year to get a taste of Tampa and started back with the Yankees in 2012 and again advanced a level after the halfway point of the season. Aside from rookie ball and his second year in Charleston his numbers had always been merely average; the bat would play for the position but at the time there was still a question as to whether or not he would be a future catcher. Despite the numbers I read great things about his swing, and this may have been a case of the numbers don’t represent the talent. He finished 2012 with an OPS barely above .700, and while the bump to AA to play his final 43 games did see a slight downtick, his .257/.322/.374/.696 slash in Tampa before the promotion wasn’t pretty. It was during this time the club was confident that he could stick at catcher but it would require the bulk of his focus which took away from putting time in with his hitting, so maybe an allowance can be made for his more pedestrian numbers. The move has paid off for the Yankees, as JR has developed into an excellent backstop.

Fast forward to 2013. Murphy begins the year in Trenton and was putting up pretty respectable numbers. He posted a .773 OPS and clubbed six homers in just 183 AB’s. Considering his previous season high was seven in nearly twice as many AB’s that’s a nice uptick. It also put him in twenty home run territory playing in a spacious park. The Yankees must have liked what they saw, as after just 49 games he was bumped to AAA, a step away from the show. I don’t think they’d rush him in the hopes that he’d be in line for a call to the BX, they have and would pick up another castaway to fill a spot in Scranton. Again the numbers weren’t amazing but he got their attention and responded to the promotion with aplomb. First…he’s only logged 17 games, so the sample size thing needs to be taken into consideration. After 64 AB’s JR has bit .297/.392/.516/.908 including 5 doubles, 3 HR’s and 9 walks vs. 11 strikeouts. Now I don’t expect this to continue as pitchers get the digs on him, but it is exciting to see.

A quick scouting report on Murphy: Possibly a victim of the babip flu, his low averages in 2012 didn’t do him justice. JR is a line drive hitter with average power, but as we’ve seen that may be on it’s way up a bit. He has great plate discipline and has a tendency to drive more balls up the middle and to the opposite field using a short quick swing. Not a speedster, but he fares well going station to station and could nab a few bags here and there. Defensively there is nothing that he does amazingly, but he does everything well; receiving, blocking, throwing, he does it all at an above average level. He’s also known to be very good with his pitching staff as a strong leader type. Overall he’s just a solid player all the way around. His hitting, power and defense all grade out very well. He isn’t in superstar territory for sure, but very solid.

Moving forward what to expect? Well he’s not going to keep up this pace in AAA for sure. Pitchers will adjust, and then he’ll have to figure it out all over again. Even so, it’s great to see him get off to a hot start at a new level and maybe, just maybe have a more viable solution to the catcher question as we head into 2014. My take is while we may end up with someone even better at the position he can be a much better answer than Chris Stewart. Best case scenario is he ends up caddying for Gary in 2016 but that’s a galaxy away…

Where are they now?

A while back Fish and I put together our top prospects lists, ranking the farm kids on their current status within the system. Now that we’re halfway through the minor league season it’s time to revisit that list and see how some of these guys are doing. Our list was 40 deep, so i’ll put this out in a couple of articles. Taking it from the top:

Mason Williams – Mason got himself off to a slow start this year; in addition to his DUI and some apparent attitude issues, Williams struggled in the early goings. He, like a few others have turned it on as of late. In his last ten games he’s hit a .333/.381/.538/.919 quad slash. His season OPS still sits under .700 but the signs of life are encouraging. Mason is facing a pretty hefty platoon split thus far, hitting just .194 against lefties and his over the wall power is lacking a bit this year. Many of us were expecting to see that come up a few ticks but we’ve yet to see him develop that pop. Still just 21 there’s time for him to progress, but after an impressive 2012 campaign it leaves us anting more.

Gary Sanchez – Since the departure of the chosen one to Seattle, Sanchez has slotted in as the systems best catching prospect. I spite of JR Murphy’s work this year i’d say that’s still true. Sanchez is hitting to the tune of a .276/.338/.486/.824 slash, having already sent 12 of his 71 hits out of the park for round trippers. While the raw numbers aren’t ridiculous, he’s worked his BB/K ration down to nearly two to one, and even more importantly his defense behind the plate has continued to take steps forward. Once questioned as to whether or not he could stick behind the dish as a catcher, those worries are becoming a thing of the past as Sanchez puts in the work it will take to realize him as a ML catcher.

Slade Heathcott – After tearing up the AFL last year, teeth were gnashing over what Heathcott might do this season in the minors. Like Williams he’s been a bit of a disappointment this year overall; he’s had some little hot streaks tossed in there, but a .666 OPS isn’t anything to write home about. He’s stolen a few bags (7) but has been caught nearly as many times (6). The good news is that he’s still on the field. Being one of those full tilt players Slade has had little regard for his body over the years and it tends to cost him playing time in the form of trips to the DL. He has amazing tools, but like everyone else it’s a matter of realizing those gifts he has and making the most out of them. After only ~200 AB’s in Tampa and having his path obstructed by injuries i’m not too worried about Slade struggling in AA ball; it’s a big leap to make going to Trenton so some adjustment time is certainly in order.

Tyler Austin – Another one of our OF prospects sent to Trenton, Tyler blazed through the system and emerged as one of our top overall prospects of 2012. Tyler as well has had his struggles in the bump to Trenton, but has come on the last few weeks, raising his batting line to .273/.365/.393/.758. Like Sanchez, his walks are up a bit this year but more noticeably is his lack of power at this point. It should be noted that the Thunder host one of the bigger ballparks in their division and that 4 of his 5 HR’s have come on the road. That brings him a little closer to his 2012 pace, and at 21 years old there’s plenty of room for growth in that area. He also has more of a line drive swing without a ton of loft in it which puts a bit of a damper on getting the ball over the wall with any frequency. Tyler admitted to getting out of tune early on, and like Heathcott struggled with the advanced pitching sequences the AA hurlers approach them with.

Manny Banuelos – With the emergence of both Rafael DePaula and Jose Ramirez Manny’s position as top pitcher in the system may take a hit by the end of the year due to his lost season after undergoing TJS. The procedure is hardly a kiss of death these days with a over 90% success rate so he could easily make his way back up in 2014. Manny took a lot of flak for losing his command a bit the last year or so, but considerations must be taken to him working on a fourth pitch and in general just growing into his body and adding a bit of velocity to his FB. His size (or lack thereof) is used as a strike against him, bringing his durability into question. He has the abilities to be a top half of the rotation guy, and we really need to get some upper level pitching out of this system with the Stein’s and their self imposed salary cap, and Banuelos would be a great start.

Jose Campos – Another lost year for a prospect, Campos was part of the 2012 revolving DL door. He started the season brilliantly and went down with elbow fatigue, which turned out to be a fractured elbow relieving him from any further duties in 2012. This season has seen Campos struggle to get back to form, but could be in the process of getting the bugs worked out. Keith Law had a quick report on some of the youngsters a few weeks back and had really nothing good to say, which included a quip on Campos. He did however preface his report by saying that he hadn’t really seen him pitch much so the lack of enthusiasm could be off the mark. Personally I don’t know why one would even comment on a kid who was just getting back on the mound after a near year long layoff, but it is what it is. They have him on a regulated pitch count this year which keeps him around 4 innings per appearance; from what I gather they want to stretch out his innings across as much of the season as possible. Possibly another result of the Gil Patterson regime, which I am fine with. I expected a bit more from him at this stage of the season, but his last two games were more of what we saw last year before his injury so if thius is what we are in for moving forward then he’s on track and doing well in his return.

That’s it for this time…. i’ll get back to you shortly with another episode of where are they now, moving further down the prospect list as we examine the state of the farm prospects.

Minor League Week In Review

A lot of movement this week between the big club and the affiliates… we saw both Austin Romine and my personal favorite Vidal Nuno get the call to the BX, Corban Joseph get the yo-yo treatment coming up and then getting sent back down without a single AB, and then just recently Preston Claiborne get the nod out of the pen to replace the Joba monster. Many were pining for the debut of one Mark Montgomery, but Claiborne has been pretty solid himself, and has a bit more experience at the upper levels. As much as I’m looking forward to getting Monty up, I can’t say I’m too broken up about the choice. It gives Monty a bit more seasoning time and could keep him from reaching super two status. Not that the salary of a reliever should be that much concern, but until we see Hal loosen the purse strings on the future it’s not a bad idea. On with the show…

SWB RailRiders 5-0 on the week

Scranton finished off the week perfect going 5-0, led by Ziolo Almonte who went 9-23 with a pair of doubles, a HR and 5 RBI’s. He cut his K’s to 5 these last few games but didn’t manage any walks. Fellow free swinger Melky Mesa chipped in six hits of his own in 18 AB’s, including a double and a homer. He drove in two but struck out six times with zero free passes. The Yanks continue their search for a right-handed bat, indicating the OF’ers give them little reprieve with their hacktastic ways. Speaking of which, Ronnier Mustelier completed his rehab stint and made his first appearance for the Railriders. He went 0-3 but managed a walk and then came around to score. Austin Romine got in all of one AB before getting pulled in response to Cervelli getting hit with a pitch and joining half the team on the DL. With Cerv looking reborn it’s a shame to lose him, but it gives Romine a chance at some time with the big boys. David Adams went 4-15 this week, clubbing a HR and driving in a pair.

As mentioned earlier Nuno got the call and didn’t log any innings in PA this week. Good news on the reclamation front though, as Chien-Ming Wang continues to put up solid innings. He went 7 innings, giving up a run on 6 hits, walking one and striking out a pair. On the down side, for those of you awaiting the return of the Wanger you’ll have to wait. News from the FO is that they want to see him working more on his secondary stuff, as his sinker isn’t what it used to be. They feel for him to be successful he’ll have to sharpen up his off speed stuff and learn to work with reduced velocity. Torn capsules are a death sentence, so the fact that he’s doing what he has is pretty remarkable. Dellin Betances threw a ton of pitches to get just 3.1 innings deep, giving up a pair of runs in the process. He walked three and struck out six. I’m still in the Dellin-to-the-pen camp, but the upside to him starting is that he’ll log more time on the hill. Brett Marshall has picked things up though, tossing 12.1 innings of 9 hit, 1 run ball. He’s still struggling with control a bit as he walked 8 and registered 9 K’s. Mark Montgomery threw two innings in relief, giving up a run and a walk while striking out just one. Preston Claiborne chipped in 2.2 innings of his own, giving up two runs on four hits before getting the nod to the BX. He might not be able to step into Joba’s shoes right away, but anything that keeps shawn Kelley off the mound right? Read the rest of this entry

Minor League Week In Review

SWB RailRiders  4-3 on the week

Corban Joseph kicks it off for Scranton this week, as he went 9-26 with four doubles and a pair of home runs driving in three. He did get away from his usual patient approach as he struck out eight times while only walking three. For some that might be a good K/BB but for Joseph it’s a little off pace. 3B David Adams continued to put the ball in play collecting 5 hits in 17 AB’s. He hit a double, struck out five times and walked twice. With Mustelier still making his way back to SWB, Adams is the odds on fan favorite for a callup in the hopes that Francisco gets his walking papers. Catcher Austin romine fell off pace a bit this past week, chipping in only four hits in his 17 AB’s, but he did take one out of the park for his first of the year. Zoilo Almonte had a rough go of it, going 3-22. He did however manage to   hit a pair of doubles and drive in three, as well as work four walks against six strikeouts. 

On the pitching side, Vidal Nuno keeps on rolling. He threw another 5.2 innings of one run ball on three hits. He issued just one free pass while striking out six. Like Adams, he’s my pick for first guy called up here. This isn’t anything new for Nuno, and even the doubters are starting to come around on the soft tossing lefty. Chien-Ming Wang made his debut this past week throwing 12 solid innings. He gave up just one run and scattered ten hits, walking a pair and striking out five. On the downside he was sitting in the mid to high 80′s, so he may have some building up of his arm strength to do yet. Dellin Betances turned in his first dominant outing of the year, tossing seven innings of one run ball on three hits. He walked a pair and struck out seven. As much as we can hope that this is him turning a corner, he’s teased us like this before so i’ll be waiting with baited breath. On the down side of the starting pitching, Brett Marshall got tuned up again, allowing four earned on eight hits  over 5 innings. He walked only one and struck out five but wow…. he’s looked dreadful since his promotion to Scranton. Lefty Juan Cedeno threw 3.1 innings in relief, allowing an unearned run on two hits. He walked three and struck out one. Mark Montgomery kept up his excellent work this week; he threw three no hit innings, walking four and striking out four. He can’t be far away from a major league assignment at this point. 

Trenton Thunder  3-3 on the week

After JR Murphy’s 3 HR game last week he’s taken a bit of a dive the last few games. He went 1-14 with a double and no RBI’s. Slade Heathcott is still stuck in a rut since coming to AA. He went 2-15 with a lone RBI. On the bright side he walked as many times as he struck out (four) which was an issue out of the gate. Ramon Flores has been a bright spot in the Thunder lineup all along. He chipped in seven hits in his last twenty-six AB’s, including a triple and four RBI’s. He struck out three times while drawing four walks. Tyler Austin has broken out of his early slump, going 6-18 this past week, knocking in a pair of doubles and RBI’s while working a season high seven walks while only striking out five times. He noted in an interview that he was a bit too excited and needed to just relax and let it happen. 

Zach Nuding led the Trenton pitchers, tossing six innings of one run ball on six hits. He walked just one and struck out four. Nik Turley seems to be getting his adjustments made, after struggling early he managed 5.2 innings of one run ball on four hits. He walked a pair and struck out five. Matt Tracy went down in flames in his only outing; he gave up five earned on ten hits while both walking and striking out a pair. Kelvin Perez came out of the bullpen to throw 1.2 innings of one run ball on two hits, and Tommy Kahnle continued his outstanding work this year tossing a one hit inning in which he struck out the side. Jose Ramirez has been getting his throwing in and i would expect to see him soon. After his spring training performance many of us are looking forward to seeing him prove himself at the AA level, which would go a long way to projecting him as a major league contributor. 

Tampa Yankees   5-2 on the week

Kicking off the lineup in Tampa this week is Gary Sanchez. He went deep for his fourth time this year, putting him ahead of his pace last year where he led the organization for HR’s from a catcher. He did fall off a bit in the average department, going 3-19 but is still north of .300 on the season. He drew a pair of walks and struck out five times. Since Robert Refsnyder’s promotion he hasn’t missed a beat. He went 9-23 this week with a pair of doubles and driving in seven. He worked five walks against just two strikeouts. He was expected to move quickly, coming from a major college program so he’s right on pace. At this point a move to Ben Gamel chipped in four hits of his own over 15 AB’s, hitting a double, driving in four runs and both walking and striking out five times each. Mason Williams also had four hits this week including a double, driving in one, walking four times and striking out on three occasions. Up and coming 2B Angelo Gumbs remains on the DL with a wrist injury. 

Bryan Mitchell starts off the review for Tampa pitchers this wee. He went five innings, allowing one run on four hits. He was a bit wild though, allowing four free passes while striking out seven. Shane Greene also turned in a one run performance, this one over six innings. He allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out seven batters of his own. Corey Black got tuned up this past week; allowing seven runs (four earned) on eleven hits, walking none and striking out three. Manny Barreda pitched a pair of innings in relief, allowing a run on two hits. He gave up zero walks and struck out one. Sean Black pitched a pair of innings in relief as well, allowing just a single hit while giving up a walk and striking out none. 

Charleston RiverDogs  2-4 on the week

It was an ugly week for the Dogs, as many of the bats are struggling right now. Cito Culver, who had himself a nice little run of XBH’s, went 6-22 with an RBI, 5 BB’s and 8 K’s. Dante Bichette Jr. had one less hit in as many AB’s including a double and a pair of RBI’s. Not what we were hoping for with their new mechanics that seemingly would allow them to get things going at the plate. Greg Bird has been in a rut since his hot start, going 4-12 this week, although he did drive in four, work four walks and strike out seven times. Jake Cave made his return to the field after missing last year with a knee injury. He opened with four hits in twelve AB’s, including two doubles. He both walked and struck out twice. 

On the pitching side Rafael DePaula had himself a nice outing, pitching five innings of no hit baseball. He walked three but struck out ten. Gabe Encinas also turned in another solid outing of his own, tossing six innings of two run ball on four hits, He walked just one and struck out five. Jose Campos made another limited appearance, going three innings (he did pitch to a few in the fourth but failed to record an out) and allowing three runs on four hits. Let’s hope he kicks the rust off soon. Daniel Camarena had a Jeckyl and Hyde week, throwing a pair of five inning games. He allowed just two runs in the first, but five in the second. Taylor Garrison came in from the pen to pitch 3.1 innings of shutout ball on just one hit. He struck out four and gave up just one free pass. 

Minor League Week In Review

SWB RailRiders images

The RailRiders ended up with four straight rainouts, but caught up a bit with a doubleheader on Sunday and finished up at 4-2 the last seven days. David Adams led the charge this week for Scranton, going 8-16 with a HR and an RBI. He raised his season batting average top .355 and his OPS to .976. With a lack of right handed bats and the news of Jeter being out until after the All Star break, there may be an opening for David to get some cuts in the majors. Corban Joseph got things rolling in the last few days, getting 8 hits in the last 26 AB’s including a pair of doubles and a homer. He drove in three while walking once and striking out three times. Zoilo Almonte also had a strong showing, going 10-21 with three doubles and a home run. The standout part of his performance this week was his lone strikeout while taking six free passes. That’s been his achilles heel, and if he can show some plate discipline while still hitting for power and not sacrificing hits he’ll make a much better case for getting himself a job with the big club. Melky Mesa went just the opposite, taking only one walk while striking out six times.

On the pitching front, Nuno continued his excellent work on the mound tossing 6 scoreless. He allowed just four hits, walked one and struck out eight. Nuno would be number one on my AAA depth chart right now as Brett Marshall (4.1 IP, 6H, 5R, 4BB, 3K) has been getting knocked around a bit while returning Chien Ming Wang will make his AAA debut tonight, and it’s yet to be seen how he will fare. Chris Bootcheck chipped in another solid stand-in performance throwing six scoreless of his own. Graham Stoneburner stepped in with a spot start and had his own scoreless outing of six innings, allowing just four hits while walking none and striking out a pair. Dellin Betances made two starts this week, opening with a pathetic outing that lasted just .2 IP, allowing six earned on four hits and two walks. His next outing wasn’t much better, although he managed to last four innings while allowing five earned runs. This is Dellin’s last chance to make something of himself before he becomes a FA, and so far it’s more of the same. Here’s to hoping that the change in his stride eventually pays off, because his time is running out. On the relief end Mark Montgomery continues to throw zeroes, going two innings, allowing a single hit, zero walks while striking out three. Codey Eppley and Craig Claiborne combined with 5.1 scoreless innings of their own while lefty Juan Cedeno tossed 2.1 innings of scoreless ball on three hits. He walked one and struck out a pair.

Trenton Thunder DownloadedFile

The Thunder offense had a heyday this week, finishing up at 4-3. Their record could have been a lot better if it were not for the pitching. JR Murphy continued to raise his line, going 10-21 with a pair of doubles and a three home run performance last night that should have been the nail in the coffin were it not for ten earned runs given up by Matt Tracy. Murphy got his average up to .375 and his OPS to 1.097 after his own personal derby. Rob Segedin chipped in a pair of bombs of his own, and together drove in 18 runs on the week. Tyler Austin may be coming around a bit, as he went 8-27 with a double and 7 RBI’s. He also took 6 walks to go with 7 strikeouts. Ramon Flores pulled off nine hits of his own, including three doubles and a triple while driving in seven. He walked and struck out three times each. Slade Heathcott made his way back from a stiff neck, but is in limbo still, chipping in just a single hit in eleven AB’s. His OPS stands at .573, a far cry from his fall league performance.

As mentioned earlier, Matt Tracy got lit up in his last performance, allowing ten runs over three innings. His previous start was far better, as he went 5 scoreless on three hits. He struck out four and walked four in that appearance. Nik Turley made some more steps to a solid performance tossing 4 innings of 2 run ball, allowing three free passes while striking out seven. He’s gotten a bit better each time out, so here’s to a quality start next time around. Francisco Rondon as a starter experiment continued as he had two outings combining for 9 innings of five run ball. Walks are a bit of an issue and the righties are eating him alive… in fact he’s yet to allow an earned run to a left handed hitter yet. If anything this gives him plenty of innings to pitch and a move to the pen won’t require any stretching out, so if/when they decide to ditch this idea he could step in and help the big club rather soon if needed. Tommy Kahnle came out of the pen to pitch three scoreless on two hits, allowing three walks and racing up six K’s. Zach Nuding worked four innings resulting in 5 runs, two of them earned. Danny Burawa was Jeckyl and Hyde, tossing 2 scoreless and then getting tuned up for four runs in just a single inning. While there were a couple of highlights and things to look forward to, the pitching overall was the downfall this week. With all the runs scored they could have gone 7-0.

Tampa Yankees DownloadedFile-1

Tampa had it’s share of offense this week as well. Gary Sanchez turned on the lights knocking three over the wall along with a double to go 8-23 on the week driving in ten runs and working his OPS up to 1.113. Mason Williams also went 8-23 including a pair of doubles and a triple. He got his batting average up to .289 on the season and his OPS to .860. Ben Gamel continues to spray the ball all over the field, going 9-28 with a pair of doubles and a pair of triples that he knocked in just last night. He’s yet to go deep, but 9 of his 20 hits thus far have gone for extras. The long ball power could be just around the corner. Carmen Angelini… yes… that guy, is hitting .308 on the year. In fairness he’s 24 so don’t take this as being a late bloomer, just way too old for his level. Matt Snyder is in the dark so far, posting a .088/.139/.147/.286 line. Yikes. Angelo Gumbs was placed on the DL and replaced on the roster with Robert Refsnyder. I have an unconfirmed report that he’s suffering from a strained tendon, and I wonder if it had any effect on his performance thus far, which has been pretty dismal.

Bryan Mitchell got straightened around his last time out, throwing 5 innings of 4 hit ball. He walked two but also only struck out two. With his kind of stuff you’d think we see more knockouts. Shane Greene made two starts; his first he gave up 5 runs over six innings, walking one and striking out four. In his second outing he went 6.1 IP and allowed a pair of runs, giving away zero free passes and struck out six. Corey Black made another start this past week, going 5 innings while allowing 4 earned. He walked a pair and struck out eight. The thing to watch with him is his velocity, as last year in his first go around in the pros he tended to lose his FB in the latter innings. He’s a guy that can run it up to triple digits, but falls considerably as he tires. Manuel Barreda appeared in two games and pitched four innings of one hit ball. He walked a pair and struck out five.

Charleston RiverDogs robert-refsnyder

Robert Refsnyder led the Dogs this week to go 3-3 before getting promoted to the Tampa club. He parted with a .370/.452/.481/.933 slash line, and went 1-6 in his high-A debut. That was about it for the highlights of the greater known prospects. Greg Bird has been in a major funk as of late. He went 4-22 with zero XBH’s this past week, although he did drive in three. Dante Bichette Jr. also drove in three but had one fewer hit. Cito culver, after starting out on a good note, had just three hits himself including a double. He’s making K Law’s limited look at him earlier this week appear pretty spot on. As noted earlier, Gumbs was sent to the DL with what is supposedly a strained tendon after posting an anemic .286 OPS. Pretty fugly all the way around, save for Refsnyder who is now in Tampa, and Peter O’Brien who went 6-18 with 5! doubles and a HR. He struck out five times, walked twice and has his OPS up to 1.041 on the year.

The pitching end was a bit brighter, led by Gabe Encinas who tossed 11 innings of one run ball. He allowed six hits, three walks and struck out eleven in the process. He’s sporting a sub one ERA right now and is the unsung star of the show. Rafael DePaula took another trip to the mound and tossed six innings of 3 run ball. He had some yips his previous start and couldn’t find the zone but bounced back a bit this time out, allowing just a single walk while striking out seven. For those of you interested, he’s leading the SAL with a K/9 north of 18. Jose Campos made his third start after spending most of last year on the DL. He was limited to just three innings again, allowing one earned run while walking three and striking out five. His command and control should continue to come around as he works his way back and continues to build his arm strength. Looks like they’re taking it easy on the younger guys; wondering if it’s the Patterson effect in play. Ceasar Vargas chipped in 5.1 innings of two run ball, striking out four and allowing three free passes. Daniel Camarena continued to struggle, throwing three unfortunate innings of five run ball. He struck out two and walked two.

Minor League Week In Review

Following a long awaited start to major league games that count, the minor leagues kicked off last week with opening series against the Red Sox affiliates. Over the past months we at YFU have brought you numerous prospect profiles along with our top 40 in the system list, so many of you will be familiar with the names thrown around here in the regularly scheduled recaps. Each week we’ll highlight performances and keep you updated on some of the bigger names in the system, along with some who should be on the radar soon. Without further ado, let’s get rolling. 

SWB RailRiders:

The newly coined RailRiders kicked off the season with a thud, losing 4 straight and going 1-5 in what was a dismal, rainy start to the season. Like the parent club, SWB missed their last two games due to inclement weather, and luckily so. There’s been a bit of good news though, and that starts with budding catcher Austin Romine who went 7/18 with 3BB’s and 8K’s. No extra base hits yet, but it’s ggod to see him out there and making a bit of contact. Addison Maruszak stepped in at short and drew 5 walks to one strikeout while going 4/11. Melky Mesa is busy doing his best windmill impression, hitting .250 while whiffing 13! times. Newly re-signed Mike Adams is struggling to get going with just three hits in 15 AB’s, but has walked as many times as he’s struck out (4). 2B Corban Joseph is also off to a sluggish start going 5/23 with 5BB’s and 4K’s. Good to see at the least his plate discipline is holding fast. 

On the pitching end Vidal Nuno continues to shine. He went from an impressive 2012 campaign to shining in winter ball, carried that opver to major league spring training and he still hasn’t stopped. The soft tosser didn’t pick up a win, but threw 11.2 IP of 3 run ball on 6 hits, walking none and striking out twelve. Aside from the guys already in the BX, Nuno is making a strong case to be the next in line for a spot in the rotation or that of long man. I iamgine he could serve as a lefty reliever, but he shouldn’t be limited to short bursts and lefties only. Dellin Betances also made his debut and threw 4 innings of 2 run ball on three hits and two walks, striking out four. He started off a bit shaky and then settled in. Normally a stat line like this wouldn’t be much to speak of, but considering the drubbing he took last year this is actually a good sign. Sinkerballer Brett Marshall was toasted in his outing, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits over 3.2 innings. He walked and struck out four. Mark Montgomery got in five innings of work and gave up a home run….the second of his professional career spanning over 100 innings. I suppose he’s allowed. He conceded only one run and four hits, walking none and knocking out nine. Left Juan Cedeno has been solid, going 3.1 innings, allowing a lone run on one walk and four K’s. Craig Claiborne also had a good week, throwing 3.1 innings of two hit ball, walking none and striking out four. 

Trenton Thunder:

The Thunder have quite a team this year, sporting several players in the top 20 of the system, with a few more likely to join them later this year. They ended the week 4-3 backed by Neil Medchill, who went 9/23 with three 2B’s and 2 HR’s, driving in 8 runs. Catcher JR Muprphy is focusing more on his bat this year now that his defense is well on it’s way, going 6/23 with a HR, driving in 4, taking 4 walks and striking out 4 times. Ramon Flores is sputtering a bit with only 8 hits in 33 AB’s including a double and three RBI’s. The notable part of his line is that he’s only taken 2 walks while striking out 9 times. He’s considered one of the better disciplined hitters in the system so let’s hope he gets himself adjusted to AA ball. Fellow outfielders Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin are having their struggles getting used to a new level as well. Slade has gone 7/29, albeit with a pair of doubles and a triple, but had some early strikeout woes ending the week with 8 K’s and 3 BB’s. Austin went 6/31 with three doubles and a HR, driving in three while striking out 11 times. Let’s hope he can get his feet under him as he adjusts to life in Trenton. 1B Kyle Roller chipped in 6 RBI’s this week including a HR. 

The Thunder pitching has gotten knocked around a bit, namely southpaw Nik Turley who made two starts this week, going 8.2 innings, allowing 9 runs on 14 hits. He walked four and struck out 6. Matt Tracy made his brief debut, recording a single out before getting yanked for giving up 5 runs. He walked the park (4) and recorded a K in his only out. Zach Nuding had the best debut, allowing just a single run in his two starts totaling 9.2 innings and 11 hits. He walked four and struck out eight. Newly converted starter Francisco Rondon threw 5 innings of 3 run ball, all on HR’s, and all to right handers. We’ll see how long this experiment lasts, as he could be a very effective guy out of the bullpen for the Bombers. Kelvin Perez, who may be a victim of the numbers game finds himself back in Trenton after making his way to AAA last year, went 5 IP, allowing just two hits while striking out five. Branden Pinder has gotten kicked around thus far, allowing 8ER over just 4.2IP. Tommy Kahnle is also off to a shaky start, albeit not as ugly as Pinder’s. He’s allowed a pair of runs to cross the plate in his two innings pitched, walking two and striking out a pair. Jeremy Bleich….yep, that Jeremy Bleich has returned to the fray pitching in relief. He’s tossed 5.1 scoreless innings on 5 hits, walking three and striking out four. 

Tampa Yankees:

Tampa sports the other half of our top four prospects in Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams. Gary has picked up where he left off, going 11/30 with four 2B’s and four RBI’s. He’s taken one free pass and struck out four times. Mason is getting back into the swing of things after having season ending shoulder surgery last year. He went 7/27 with a pair of doubles, walking 6 times and striking out 7. New to the Tampa club is Angelo Gumbs, who is struggling as of now in a 3/30 slump, a triple his only XBH. He’s walked once while striking out five times and swiping a pair of bases. Another outfielder to keep an eye on is Ben Gamel, who I spoke with Matt about earlier in the offseason, regarding why he was left off the top 40 list. It was for the most part a matter of too many players and not enough chairs, and at that point in the list you could re-write it a dozen times and make a case for a myriad of endings. Gamel is one to watch though, and from all accounts he added some mass to his frame over the winter and should see a power spike this year. If that comes to fruition he’ll be making his way up the best of sheets in no time. The kid can hit, but for a corner outfielder he’s going to have to add some pop. He’s had a nice start to the year showing some gap power with 5 of his 11 hits going for doubles. He’s walked twice, struck out four times and stolen two bases. 

Bryan Mitchell led the team in innings this week, tossing 12 while allowing 4 runs on 8 hits. He walked five and struck out ten. Corey Black added 11 innings of his own, giving up 3 runs on 9 hits. He walked four and struck out ten. He was also noted to be in the low to mid 90′s, touching 96 at times. He has no problem getting it up there, but maintaining that velocity through the latter innings has been his issue. He’ll need to show he can build up some stamina or he could be off to the pen. Nothing wrong wit ha late inning guy that can dial it up to triple digits, but you can’t blame them for trying to get as many innings out of him as they can. Scottie Allen and Shane Green combined for 11 innings of two run ball, Mikey O’brien pitched 4.2 innings allowing 3 runs on five hits. He walked none and struck out four. Nick Goody, who was invited to big league camp but missed most of it due to a sprained ankle as the result of a car accident returned to action, pitching 3 innings of one run ball on two hits. He walked two and struck out three. Once he gets rolling he could be a quick mover, and a trip to Trenton is not out of the question later this season. Manny Barreda chipped in 2 innings of one hit ball while Sean Black added 3 innings of 3 hit ball. 

Charleston RiverDogs:

Cito Culver is the big news this week for the RiverDogs. Over the winter he decided to ditch the whole swithc hitting thing and go solely as a right hander. He also gave up the high leg kick for one more abbreviated and so far the results have been outstanding. He kicked off opening week going 11/37, which included three 2B’s, a 3B, and 2 HR’s. No…that’s not a typo. Cito went deep twice in the same game and has amassed about a third as many XBH/s in the first 8 games as he did all of last year. Small sample size admitted, but he looks damn good at the plate. Robert Refsnyder rolled in with nine hits of his own, including three doubles. He drove in one, took four walks, struck out five times and stole four bags. He’s getting used to life at second base and could give Gumbs a run for his money as best in the system at that spot. Greg Bird, who is now a 1B after back problems moved him away from catcher, started off the year going 10/30 with a double a HR and 4 RBI’s. He’s walked eight times while striking out ten. Taylor Dugas is also off to a good start, going 9/26 with a double. He’s driven in a pair, walked four times, struck out twice and stolen two bases. Dante Bichette was getting it going later in the week and finished 6/33 with a pair of HR’s (one a grandy) and 11 RBI’s. He also adjusted his swing over the winter, so keep an eye on him even if last year soured you on his future. 

Two of our more interesting pitching prospects currently reside here, first in Jose Campos, the other piece in “The Trade” who went down with elbow inflammation early last year. He made his first start in 11 months, and was a little rusty, He allowed 4 ER on 4 hits including a HR, while walking one and striking out three. Cobwebs i’m sure…he has great stuff and is pretty polished for his age. Expect a lot more from him moving forward. Rafael DePaula was the big story this week. He rang in his stateside debut with a bang…er, K. Eleven of them actually. He went about 70 pitches in his opener and knocked out eleven of the nineteen batters he faced. He made another start later in the week and was a little wild, giving up four free passes. He finished off with 6.1 IP, 6H, 4ER, 5BB, 16K and 2 HB. There’s a lot to look forward to with this guy as he has some great stuff coming from a good sized frame and free and easy delivery. Gabe Encinas had a nice little game of his own, going 6 innings and allowing just one hit. He walked three and struck out four. Even Rutckyj pitched five shutout innings of his own, allowing 3 hits and two walks against one K. Daniel Camarena had a rough first week, allowing 5ER on 11H, walking one and recording not a single strikeout. Charlie Short, Ben Paullus and Alex Smith pitched a combined 13.2 innings of eight hit ball, striking out 20 while walking just five. 

That’s it for our first week in review, tune in every Friday for the rundowns of all our minor league action, and keep an eye out for more prospect profiles, as well as some articles detailing the upcoming 2013 first year player draft. 

Farm Team Intros

 

Scranton RailRiders 

Kicking off the rotation, Vidal Nuno took the ball as the RailRiders’ Opening Day starter with Brett Marshall, Dellin Betances, and CM Wang  rounding out the staff. Warren will begin the season with the Yankees, serving as their long reliever until Phil Hughes comes off the Disabled List, and then he’ll return to the Scranton rotation. With the injury to Kuroda he may end up making a spot start if Hirok! can’t go. 

The Rail Riders bullpen looks to be a strength for the team and could funnel on the the Bronx, starting the season off with Chase Whitley, Jim Miller, Preston Claiborne, Josh Spence and Josh Romanski. Bootcheck will start off in the rotation filling in for Warren, and of course Mark Montgomery rounds out the staff. Montgomery may end up being an early season callup if someone stumbles in the Bronx. He’s been a fast mover and impressed in the fall leagues, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in a few short weeks.

Corban Joseph, Luke Murton, Ronnier Mustelier,  Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte, David Adams, Austin Romine, Dan Johnson, Addison Maruszak and Thomas Neal amke up the lineup for the RailRiders. Adams makes his return after a short leave of absence on the roster, having signed a new MiL contract. Z Almonte will spend his first full year in Scranton while Mesa gets another chance at cutting his K’s down and possibly pushing his way to the big club. 

Double-A Trenton Thunder:

Trenton is the team to watch this year, with some of the systems best to start the year and a couple more with a chance to get promoted there. Top prospects Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin will be starting in the outfield with underdog Ramon Flores rounding out the OF. JR Murphy will be the Thunder’s starting catcher with Kyle Higashioka playing backup. Kyle Roller makes the jump up from High-A to serve as the everyday first baseman with big league Spring Training participants Jose Pirela, Walter Ibarra, and Rob Segedin also making the roster. One of the better pitchers in camp, Jose Ramirez will step in to the rotation shortly, joining Nik Turley, Zach Nuding, Matt Tracy and Francisco Rondon. Tom Kahnle, and Branden Pinder will be coming out of the pen. Graham Stoneburner will be returning to Trenton after an injury plagued 2012. 

Trenton has an excellent all-around pitching staff and combined with their offense look to be a formidable group. The outfield is one of the best in the minors, headed by Austin and Heathcott, but don’t forget about Flores, who is an excellent hitter in his pown right, and could really climb the prospect ladder if he develops some power. At his age it’s not at all out of the question, so keep an eye on the 21 year old in his first year in AA ball. 

High-A Tampa Yankees:

The Tampa squad will be headlined by outfielder Mason Williams and catcher Gary Sanchez. Williams and Sanchez both got the call to Tampa in 2012 along with Tyler Austin, but Williams’ season ended early after tearing his labrum and requiring surgery. Neither player is likely to remain in High-A all season, but that will largely depend on the result of their play during the first part of the year, as well as whether or not they will be able to get in regular playing time. The Trenton outfield is rather full with prospects, as is the catcher spot. Williams will be joined in the outfield by Ben Gamel, who put together a strong season in Charleston last year and is also looking to add some power. He supposedly bulked up a bit over the winter, so he could be one to make a move. Second basemen Angelo Gumbs and Anderson Feliz, catcher Francisco Arcia, first baseman Matt Snyder, and infielder Ali Castillo will make up the remainder of the lineup.

Pitching for Tampa has some well known names along with some quick movers in the system. Bryan Mitchell, Shane Greene, and Rigoberto Arrebato all begin the season in High-A, along with fast movers Corey Black and Nick Goody. Goody pitched across three different levels last year after being drafted in 2011. Black will start out in the rotation, but unless he can prove he can maintain his stuff throughout the long haul of a start he’ll be relegated to the pen. Both could be on a fast track to reach the majors and continue the trend of excellent relievers to move through the system. Bryan Mitchell might be the biggest name on the pitching side for Tampa, possessing some of the best stuff of any of our young pitchers. He pitched 120 innings for Charleston a year ago and will try to gain some consistency and make yet another move forward. Baseball America considers his curveball to be the best in the Yankees’ system, as well as earning praise from Jim Callis.

Low-A Charleston RiverDogs:

Charleston’s pitching rotation will be led by newly stateside Rafael DePaula and Jose Campos, in addition to Gabe Encinas, Evan Rutckyj, Brett Gerritse, Cesar Vargas, and Derek Varnadore. The latter three will be used on an as needed basis with the former more set into their starting roles. Charlie Short will also be returning to the Charleston bullpen this season with last year’s Staten Island closer, Taylor Garrison.

Campos started off hot in 2012, but a bout of elbow inflammation cost him the rest of his season. He attempted to pitch through what turned out to be unusual soreness, but not wanting to disappoint he trudged on and ended up further injuring himself. A rookie mistake, and one he’s more mindful of moving forward. DePaula will be pitching in the United States for the first time after a suspension and then some visa issues that cost him two years. Both pitchers are some of the best in the low levels of the farm, and we’re looking forward to see what they can do in a full season for Campos and against better hitters for DePaula. Rutckyj doesn’t quite have the name yet that Campos, or DePaula, but he has a lot of potential and could make his name known this year. 

The RiverDogs’ offense will be led by Dante Bichette Jr. and Cito Culver, who will be repeating the level to start the season; Bichetter looking to bounce back from an ugly first year in full season ball, and Culver ditching his switch hitting ways in hopes of gaining some consistency from the right side of the plate. They will be joined by catchers Wes Wilson, and Peter O’Brien, hard hitting first baseman Greg Bird, newly reappointed second baseman Rob Refsnyder, and infielders Claudio Custodio, Saxon Butler, and Fu Lin Kuo. Outfielders Yeicok Calderon, Taylor Dugas, and Danny Oh are the projected starting outfielders for the RiverDogs. Bird looks to get settled in at first base after back issues forced him off the catcher spot, and he’ll need to keep up his work at the plate if he’s going to be a major league first baseman. So far his bat has not disappointed. Refsnyder is still getting settled in at second, but has adjusted nicely and has a great stick for the position. 

Other affiliates:

The short season leagues don’t start until later this summer, and will be filled with mostly draftees and those who are rehabbing their way back to the lower levels. These staffs will be filled out following the draft, but keep an eye out for some of the Dominican Summer League guys to make their debuts, namely catcher Luis Torrens and shortstop Abiatal Abelino, who are two of the best from that group. Also pitcher Luis Severino is making waves in camp, and has beend compared to Jose Ramirez, with a big big fastball and some good offspeed stuff for such a young arm. 

Trenton Rotation Takes Shape

Just yesterday Josh Norris clued us in as to who will be taking the ball this year in Trenton. Some will come as no surprise, with lefties Nuk Turley and Matt Tracy getting the nod along with Zach Nuding. In an unexpected turn. Francisco Rondon, who had some eyes on him in spring training for his work out of the pen will be the third lefty with Caleb Cotham rounding out the rotation. The notable exception here is Jose Ramirez, who everybody talking, including Mariano Rivera. There’s been mention of an injury to Ramirez but I haven’t seen any specifics. In his second to last start in big league camp he was examined for what was believed to be a blister forming, and then proceeded to tank his following start. The blister theory would make sense. As we’ve seen this several times over the last few years, Nik Turley falling victim last year and missing time to a balky digit. Nardi Contreras, who is in charge of the international pitching scene pointed to the cold weather expected for the Trenton opener where they take on the Sea Dogs, Boston’s AA affiliate. Many of us can attest to the shoddy weather up here in the northeast, so keeping him away from the cold might not be a bad idea. Last year Manny Banuelos had difficulties acclimating, and he ended up with a pulled muscle. Whether or not you can directly attribute the injury to the temperatures could certainly be argued, but you can’t blame them for being cautious. We’ll take a quick look at the starting five that are breaking camp and on their way up north.

Nik Turley

With a solid year under his belt Turley could be looked at as the staff ace. He did miss a bit of time due to a nagging blister on his pitching hand, but the 50th rounder continued to impress on the mound. Nik spent the year in Tampa, with one lone start in Trenton to cap off the year. He tossed 112 innings for the Yanks, posting a 2.89 ERA and solid peripherals in a 9.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. Turley gained a couple of ticks on both his curve and fastball last season, and maintained his changeup, which has some good fade and depth to it and like his fastball he can command it well. He also added a slider to his mix that flashes plus potential. For the last Yankee picked in the draft, you can’t expect much more.

Matt Tracy

Another lefty, Tracy made his move from the pen last year and threw 99 innings for the Tampa club. He finished the year with a 3.27 ERA and decent strikeout totals with a 7.2 K/9 but his control wavered a bit, walking 5.4 every 9. Nik will throw both a four and two seamer with above average command in the low to mid 90’s. His two seam doesn’t have enormous movement, but he does control it well. Tracy’s secondary stuff (changeup, curveball) still needs polish, but he’s not afraid to throw them in any count. Further work on them would put him in another tier, so look for him to focus on commanding them this year. Tracy is adept at pounding the lower half of the zone with all of his pitches and keeps the ball in the yard, so he’s got some potential to make his way to the big leagues.

Zach Nuding

Zach logged 85.2 innings in Tampa last year and will get his shot at AA Trenton. Nuding pitched to a 3.89 ERA and limited the walks to 2.7/9, but his strikeouts were a bit lacking, knocking out fewer than 7 batters every 9. He’s always had a big fastball, sitting low to mid 90’s but reaching 98 at times. It’s a heavy ball that batters have a hard time getting the barrel on, and he generally keeps it in the lower half of the zone. Zach’s second best pitch is his slider, which he’s been working on to get a bit more movement on. It’s not yet a swing and miss type pitch but it has potential. He backs that up with a changeup, which again needs work, and if he is to be a successful starter he’s going to need it.

Francisco Rondon

Rondon hasn’t started a game since 2009, but the crew likes him enough that they’re going to see what they can get out of him. With Rapada on the DL and Logan coming off of a season where he led the league in appearances you’d think they might push Rondon on to AAA to serve as a possible backup, but they do have Nuno in the fold and Cabral on the way back. Rondon spent time across three levels, pitching to a 3.93 ERA over 71 total innings. His strikeouts were outstanding, at 10.1/9, but he walks way too many, giving up 5.3 free passes every 9. He’s a fastball/slider guy, hitting the mid 90’s with his fastball that gets good glove side run to it but is also a bit harder to command. His power slider is also a plus pitch when he’s commanding it. His changeup has made some big strides lately, showing good depth and fade, and will play a big part in him succeeding as a starter.

Caleb Cotham

Cotham is more or less a place holder until the weather warms up and Ramirez is ready. He’ll head back to the pen upon Jose’s return so they can better manage his innings. Caleb’s fastball sits in the low 90’s, but can ramp it up to 95 at times. His command of the pitch took a step forward last year as he got in a full seasons worth of work. His secondary stuff hasn’t quite returned to form yet, as his slider velocity is there but the movement isn’t. Cotham also sports an average to above average changeup that sits around 80, and should help him get through the lineups until Ramirez returns.

Minor League Camp Updates

With the ML spring training roster dwindling, we’re left wondering how the prospects who have been shipped off to their respective groups are doing. Here’s a few updates on some of the more familiar names in the Yankee farm system:

Angelo Gumbs

Gumbs was on a tear last year just as he went down with a triceps injury that ended his season. He’s jumped right back into the swing of things, collecting a couple of XBH’s including a rope shot over the left field wall, a stolen base and some pretty handy defense. Gumbs just missed my predictions list, but make no mistake this kid has the stuff to make an early play for a spot on the Tampa roster. 

Gary Sanchez 

Sanchez has also rung in a couple of XBH’s, hitting a two run bomb of his own to left center to go along with a run scoring double. In a recent interview Gary expressed his desire to improve on all facets of his game; his defense took some pretty big strides forward last year with many scouts starting to believe he can stick at the position. Further improvement and the skill to remain a catcher would be a huge boon to the system, making a possible tandem with JR Murphy a formidable pair behind the plate. 

Bryan Mitchell 

Bryan made my prediction list this year, so let’s hope he makes me look smart for doing so. He went four innings the other day, allowing four hits of which only one, a leadoff double was a solid hit. He gave up a couple of infield singles and only one run on the outing and struck out three. Bryan went another five innings on Wednesday and pitched his way through a rough inning where he gave up a trio of hits and a free pass, but got back on point the following inning. He’s been in the mid 90′s this spring with his fastball and is throwing plenty of strikes. His consistency was suspect last year but he did have a tremendous finish to the season. If that carries over he’ll be making top ten lists by the end of the year. Part of his issues last year were due to him going max effort, which sapped his command a bit. He eventually got into a more free and easy delivery that allowed him to not only bring the velocity but stay on target. With some of the best raw stuff in the system a big year for him would be great for NY. 

Jose Campos 

Campos was off to a great start last year before hitting the DL with elbow soreness. He tried to pitch through some not so usual pain and it ended up sidelining him for the rest of the year. He arrived in camp ready to go and started out with just a lone inning since last throwing in April. He surrendered a long home run to Gary Sanchez, but then settled in striking out two to end the frame. He then went on to pitch 1 2/3 striking out three straight and giving up one earned. His velocity isn’t quite there yet but he has shown plenty of movement and an excellent breaking ball. Health is the key issue with Campos, and if he can stay on the field and his elbow keeps from barking then we’ll have another high ceiling guy to root for on his way to the BX. 

Rafael DePaula

For a guy that has yet to appear in a game stateside he’s gotten a lot of press. Not surprising, as he has a couple of big league pitches in his pocket and has made mincemeat of his competition. Rafael did more of the same in his debut, pitching against his teammates and rolling through two innings of work so quickly that they threw two more batters at him to get his pitch count up. He tossed three innings in his next outing serving up a solo home run along with two more hits. Aside from the tater he was impressive, working on his delivery he wasn’t at max effort but still rang in the low 90′s and showed his slurve along with a changeup that flashed plus potential. It’s great to see him finally get some work in over here, but he has some pretty big expectations to live up to considering his stuff and age for the level. Blasting his way to Tampa this year would be a good sign and get him on his way to the majors. 

Greg Bird 

Bird was moved off from the catcher position over to first base, so his bat is going to have to carry him if he’s to make it to the big time. So far he hasn’t disappointed. He’s hit the ball hard all week, going opposite field, driving in runs and making all around good contact. Even when he makes outs they’re productive; moving runners over or drilling the ball and succumbing to babip luck. Last night he sent a towering home run to right field, and the out he did make was a hard hit grounder. That’s exactly what he’ll need to do to stay in the mix and so far he’s been aces. 

Mason Williams

Coming off of shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder Mason missed a chance at big league camp but is hitting his stride now that he’s back in action. He appears to have put on some muscle over the winter thanks to a his workout/rehab program and it’s shown in the box. He started off slow but had some good at bats, then the hits started falling. He finished up yesterday with a pair of doubles, a RBI and a run scored, using the whole field and stinging the ball. It will be interesting to see how the extra mass plays into his power game; at first thought of as a minimal power type, he looks like he could get himself into 15-20 HR territory, especially with the help of the short right field porch in YS3. 

Rob Refsnyder 

Making the move to second base Rob took a bit to get used to his new digs, but is looking more comfortable by the day. He made a couple of outstanding plays the other night with the glove, showing of his range and arm. He hasn’t looked too bad at the plate either, rounding out his day with a 2-4 performance knocking in two runs that included a double down the left field line. 

Cito Culver 

Quick note on Culver… he ditched the switch hitting and will be going at it solely from the right side from now on. It was something he came to a decision on and approached the team about, which they embraced immediately. He says he’s more comfortable from that side, and so far the reports are he looks pretty good. He laced a double to left center off Josh Johnson earlier in the week and has retained his plate discipline drawing a walk later on that day. He followed that up with another hard hit double, driving in two and scoring a pair. Even his outs have been impressive. His defense has never been in question, so if he can get his bat in line he’ll be back on the radar.  

 

The Prospect Hype Machine

Often times when it comes to prospects there lies the real possibility that eventually the chatter surrounding them will exceed their talent, at least for the time being. For those of us who follow the up and coming players closely and reserve our excitement with guarded optimism avoiding the hyper machine is second nature. We are however, outnumbered. Over the years the hype machine has steamrolled its way through the organization leaving fans sour when the prospects fail to fill the bill. Some of the more recent players to fall victim to this were those that were regrettably tagged as the “killer B’s”; a monicker that invited ridicule from the get go and had miscarriage written all over it. Looking back at the trio of Brackman, Betances and Banuelos, they all enjoyed some steps forward and successes during that summer of 2010 when they burst on to the radar, but was any of that reason to completely ignore what the evaluators had been saying all along? Let’s revisit those reports and see how close they came to fruition… Brackman sported a decent fastball and a very good breaking pitch, both with plus potential. The rub with Brackman was no doubt, his size. The kid was nearly 7 foot tall and all arms and legs. While his potential was amazing, the chances that he could get al his parts in order and consistent was merely a dream. The thought of him ending up as an upper tier starter was far outweighed by his chances of becoming an insurance salesman. Brackman was jettisoned from NY and has yet to break in to the big leagues. Betances is quite similar to the former, in that he also sports a big fastball that has plus potential and an excellent breaking ball to complement it. Dellin also sports a fairly enormous frame, standing 6’8″ and in excess of 250 lbs., which is also a concern when it comes to harnessing and repeating mechanics. With such a large frame and some incredible stuff Dellin’s ceiling is immense, but with an injury history and the struggles that pitchers his size go through, that ceiling was going to be quite difficult to realize. While a top of the rotation spot was considered possible, a middle to late inning relief role was a likelier landing point. Right now Betances is trying to prove he can stick in a rotation, but a bullpen spot may very well be his landing point. He did have a slight adjustment to his delivery that showed up in ST, but it remains to be seen if it will contribute to his consistency issues from inning to inning. Banuleos is basically the antithesis of the former, as a slight framed lefty with a good mix of pitches that relies more on command and poise than raw power. Manny possesses one of the systems best changeups, and his fastball rode up a couple of ticks to reach 96. Before adding a fourth pitch, Banuelos was seen as a guy with the potential of a #2 or 3 starter, although his modest size was under scrutiny for being suspect to injury. Late in 2012 it was determined that rehab from an early season trip to the DL was to result in Tommy John surgery. There’s still a lot of hope for Manny, who was the youngest player in AAA, and has a free and easy delivery that doesn’t look to put too much stress on his frame. Tommy John isn’t uncommon nor the end of the world these days, so the concern is there but on a minor level. In the end, none of the three thus far are very far off the initial reports; one off the team, one looking more suited to a BP role and the other still in play to be a quality starting pitcher. Where it gets convoluted is when people read about a players potential and run with just that as it’s the most likely scenario. It’s not. As much as we would love for all our players to reach their utmost, that stuff just doesn’t happen but in a blue moon. Expecting it is going to leave you disappointed, and quite often at that.

Enter Jose Ramirez. The shiny new toy. The next in line to be devoured by the hype machine. Someone shoot me. Ramirez caught my interest last season when he finally harnessed a breaking pitch that felt comfortable to him and after a rough start pitched very well to finish the season. He rocks a fastball/changeup combo that has plus-plus potential. His velocity climbs as he goes along, climbing into the high 90′s and his change features good depth and fade to it. He does have a bit of an injury history, and has had some issues commanding the zone on a consistent basis, but his stuff is big league. Adding a third pitch that flashes above average to plus potential and you have a big league starter in the making. Key word ladies and gentlemen….potential. I wrote Jose up last year with a mind on keeping a close eye on him in 2013, and boy did he make me look smart. He started off spring training with three appearances, pitching 9 innings striking out 5 and walking none. He showed tremendous command, excellent arm side run on his fastball, a swing and miss changeup and his slider that had finally come to him last season. He was outstanding, and for those of which had yet to see him pitch or knew little about him, he was the next big thing. Before you knew it, fans had a guy who has yet to pitch above A+ ball and exceed 115 innings as making a play for the Bronx in 2013. Fire up the hype machine. Someone shoot me. Somewhat luckily enough, the wheels came off the machine yesterday as Ramirez couldn’t find the zone to save his life and he recorded just one out before getting yanked. In his previous outing he was looked at for a blister that was forming on his pitching hand, so it looks to be something minor, but it did help quench some of the rattling among the fanbase. Whew. I like Ramirez as much as the next guy, but let’s pump the breaks a little here people. I get it, the announcers like him, the coaches and managers like him and of course the fans are along for the ride, but let’s all take a deep breath and relax. I’d like to see him for one stay on the field this year, and for two stay consistent like he did in 2012 after his shaky start. We’ll see him soon enough if he’s for real, in the meantime temper the expectations and relax a little.

There’s plenty of complaints about the Yankees and their overhyped prospects, but is it exclusive to just the Yanks, or do prospects all over baseball fall into the hype machine? I hardly think that this is solely a problem in NY; try following some of the other teams and their youngsters and see if all of their top guys pan out to be all that they could be. When you consider that only 30% of the top ten draftees end up as major leaguers, and the fact that NY hasn’t seen a top ten pick in a long long time, it’s pretty obvious that failure is commonplace, and the hype machine chews then up and spits them out from coast to coast. So who’s to blame? I tend to think it’s a bit of a snowball effect. It starts with the organization talking up their guys but what else do you expect? They’re trying to generate some interest amongst their farm clubs and for good reason…those ballparks need to draw fans too. Then we move on to publications like Baseball America, ESPN, Baseball Prospectus or one of the other numerous publications that talk about prospects. It’s not about touting one teams players over another, and the ML clubs certainly have no control over what gets published, but there is certainly a level of excitement generated by the various prospect lists and rankings that abound. Now we move to the fans, who take all of this and run with it, and sometimes too far as in the early case of Ramirez. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s fun to dream on what some of these guys can become, but in the end we have to realize just how difficult it is to reach that potential and how rarely it happens. The good news is that for every player that breaks your heart, there’s a handful more ready to try and take their place.

Prospect Predictions: 2013 Edition

New home of the SWB Rail Riders

New home of the SWB Rail Riders

With spring training under way and a pretty good view of what’s to come, let’s get into a little fortune telling for the 2013 season. I’ve singled out a few categories to focus on concerning our young up and comers and have chosen a position player and pitcher to highlight in each one, so without further nonsense let’s get started….

Returning from Injury:

Jose Campos

Here’s the obvious choice for a rebound season after spending much of 2012 on the DL. The sometimes referred to “spare part” in The Trade, Campos broke out of the gate and did exactly what he was projected to have done. Through his first four starts consisting of 22 innings, he allowed three earned runs, walked five and struck out 23. In spite of only allowing 2 runs in that fourth start, he allowed twice as many hits (8) as he had in any other game, indicating a bit of an issue. In his following outing the wheels came off and he gave up a staggering 8 earned in just 2.2 innings. He was pulled from that game and shut down for what ended up being the remainder of the season. It later came out that he was experiencing some elbow discomfort, and not just the usual aches and pains that pitchers go through but something more serious. He admitted that he tried to look past the pain in order to stay on the mound, not wanting to disappoint his new team. Armed with some plus stuff, excellent command and polish not usually found in players his age, Jose has an excellent chance to make his way up the prospect lists. His health is obviously a question mark right now, but if he can stay off the DL he will be an important part of the depth of pitchers in the system.

Ravel Santana

Santana made his way back to the diamond last year, but it was on the tail of a devastating ankle injury, much like that suffered by David Adams. Reports were that he was not operating at full tilt, and was tentative in many respects. It wasn’t surprising to see as the injury was fairly severe and a full recovery wasn’t expected to come in his first year back. After a stint in the DSL, Ravel made his stateside debut in the GCL in 2011 and put up a .929 OPS. His season ended in ugly fashion, and he spent the winter and into the following summer rehabbing his way back to the field. Before the injury, Santana was a five tool player that was one of the most exciting in the system. Since his recovery he’s held back in the field and on the bases, as well as getting antsy at the plate. He also experienced some issues seeing the ball in his first ever night games, which was addressed and supposedly he began to adjust to. It remains to be seen how he’s going to come back once he’s had a full recovery and he gains his confidence back, so this prediction has a few caveats but I’ll take the gamble. Ravel has major upside to his game and can make an impact in a number of ways; the kind of player you’d love to dream on.

Other notables: Danny Burawa, Angelo Gumbs, Jake Cave, Anderson Feliz

Bounce-back Season:

Dante Bichette Jr.

Dante’s first year of full season ball was well, a disaster on paper. A former first round pick, DBJ tore up his debut in short season leagues hitting to the tune of a .947 OPS across both the GCL and NYPL. Dante earned a promotion to play in low A at Charleston and that’s when he hit a wall. Both his power and patience at the plate took a hiatus, and his average fell nearly a hundred points, bringing his OPS down to .653. What you won’t find on any of the stat sheets are the things behind the scenes; mainly the changes in his approach that he went through in his quest to make it to the big leagues. While Dante has always been a bat first guy, there were some things about his swing that concerned the team with him moving forward. While it wasn’t something that would hinder him in the lower levels, his swing was a bit long and would be subject to exposure against advanced pitching. Better to address it now then to wait until he was already over his head. DBJ went through a few different approaches at the plate, making slight alterations to his mechanics throughout the year. He finally settled in to something that was comfortable to him, and reports were that it finally paid off, although it was quite late in the season for it to make any significant change in his overall numbers. With his swing working the way they want it to, look for Dante to bounce back in 2013 and show the prowess at the plate we saw in his debut.

Bryan Mitchell

Mitchell is regarded as having some of the best raw stuff in the system, but has yet to put it all together in a consistent season long run. He has the strike out numbers you want to see, knocking out a batter per inning, but his walk totals tell the story of his inconsistencies around the zone. Looking at his game logs you’ll see him go from one run games to an ERA north of 9, further exemplifying his issues with staying on track. He’ll be heading into his age 22 season and a trip to Tampa this year, so he’s not exactly behind the curve, but with his raw stuff and pitchability you want to see better results. He did end the season on a high note, throwing two scoreless 6 inning outings to cap off an up and down year. If he can stay within himself and not revert to the max-effort approach on every pitch he might just start to live up to his potential. When he’s free and easy he’s a force to be reckoned with, it’s a matter of getting that guy on the mound each night.

Other rebounders: Cito Culver, Taylor Morton, Graham Stoneburner

Breakout Year:

Jose Ramirez

I did a profile on Jose last year, as I really liked what I was seeing out of him and his finally putting it all together. The rub with Jose was his issues in staying on the field, and is still a concern but the questions about his stuff have been put to rest. He’s always had potential as a reliever, with two offerings that are easily a plus grade if not higher. He throws a heavy FB with good arm side run to it that sits in the mid 90′s and gains a few ticks as he gets warmed up. He was reported to have hit a legit 100 mph last year and can get just below that with regularity. His changeup is one of the two or three best in the system beside Banuelos and Kahnle giving him a great jump-off point. What he struggled with for so long was his breaking ball, changing it numerous times trying to find something he was comfortable with. He eventually settled on a slider, which shows being anywhere from average to plus depending on the outing. It’s this third pitch that will help keep him in the rotation and keep his value at a maximum. We’ve gotten to see him a few times during this years spring training, and so far he’s showing that potential. He’s garnered some praise from the staff and stood out on the mound flashing his plus pitches. One area that was questionable about him, his poise and makeup, has been put to the test thus far as he’s gotten himself in a few jams but managed to work his way out of them. A good sign for sure, and hopefully he’ll continue in that vein. He’ll be part of a pretty solid rotation in Trenton and with a solid year could make a play for time in the BX in 2014.

Greg Bird

Bird could have been also fit into the bounce back from injury category, just Ravel could have been pegged into this one, but so be it. Bird is all bat; he started out as a catcher but injury concerns have pushed him to first base. He has plenty of stick to remain there though, as he displays plus power to the pull side and above average to the opposite field. A short stroke, tremendous bat speed and an eye for the plate could easily have him hitting for average as well. He’s also showed to have above average defense playing first base. A healthy season in Charleston could have him putting his middle of the order potential on display for us all in 2013.

Also on the rise: Rafael DePaula, Matt Snyder, Gabe Encinas, Corey Black

Dark Horse:

Vidal Nuno

I’ve mentioned Nuno in the past, and probably have a bit of bias towards the guy but he’s earned a mention here as a dark horse candidate. Vidal went through some growing pains as a young player and ended up getting cut from Cleveland’s system and looking for work in the Indy Leagues. Through all that he’s come a long way as both a person and a player, committing himself to his craft and further developing his repertoire. He worked on his changeup and cleaned up his mechanics, giving him a nice pitch mix and a consistent solid delivery that saw him handing out very few free passes and leading the system in K’s last year. He’s not an overpowering pitcher, sitting around 88-91 with his FB, but he has a fair amount of deception to his delivery and very good command of the zone. He’ll always have to rely on his accuracy as he won’t be able to simply muscle his way through a lineup, but being left handed and keeping runners off the basepaths is a good thing in YS. He will come to SWB to start the year, and likely sits behind Warren in the pecking order but i’d really like to see him get his shot in the BX, wether it’s for a few spot starts or as a left handed long man in the event that Phelps gets bumped up to the rotation. Nuno is a bit of an underdog here, and I like that about him.

Ben Gamel

Gamel got the snub on our prospect list this year, but when you consider how close those guys are at the bottom of that list it’s not as bad as it first seems. When you get to that point, you could exchange several of them and they all could make a claim for making the cut. Gamel, like Flores a year ago gets lost in the fray a bit with all of the big name OF prospects that have made their way to center stage the last two years. Flying under the radar isn’t a bad thing though, but it may not be for long. Gamel can flat out hit, showing excellent plate recognition, the ability to hit to all fields and get the barrel on the ball. Right now his power is mainly to the gaps, but from what we’ve heard he’s packed on a bit of muscle this past winter and that gap power could translate into over the fence power. Gamel can cover any spot in the OF, playing up a bit more to the plus side in the corners. In a system wrought with center fielders his best chance to make a name for himself may be a corner spot, so his power will have to evolve as he moves along. If he did indeed bulk up and it carries over to game time Ben could make his bones as a regular corner guy. Everything else is there, it’s all about the long ball now.

Deeper in the shadows: Chris Breen, Rookie Davis, Jordan Cote

The baseball world is no doubt abuzz today with the news that one Mariano Rivera will announce his retirement upon the conclusion of the 2013 season in a press conference being held tomorrow. I just want to take a quick moment to tip my cap to not just the greatest closer the game has ever seen, but one of the greatest pitchers, mentors, role models and all around human beings to ever grace the diamond. It’s been nothing short of a thrill to have spent the better part of the last two decades watching him confound hitters, breaking their bats and sending them on their way. He is as ageless as he is beguiling, and I look forward in relishing every last time he takes the stage this final season. Thanks for all of the great memories Mo… words that hardly seem adequate.

Prospect Profile: Slade Heathcott

Vitals: th-1

DOB: 09/28/1990
Height: 6′ 0″ Weight: 195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Signed 1st Round 2009 Draft

Numbers:

Slade made his very brief debut in the GCL for a handful of AB’s, and then moved on to SI in 2010 where he put up a .258/.359/.352/.712 quad slash over 298 AB’s, good for a .335 wOBA and 108 wRC+. He worked 42 walks, struck out 101 times and stole 15 bases in 25 attempts. He also assaulted a catcher after a HBP, a move that sparked the blogosphere to revisit his past. Slade injured his shoulder that year and underwent his first of two shoulder surgeries to repair the damage. He returned to Charleston in 2011 and hit .271/.342/.419/.761 (.346 wOBA, 110 wRC+) working 19 walks and striking out 57 times. His base stealing sunk even further, getting caught in 7 of 13 attempts. Slade saw a promotion to Tampa mid season, but played one game and ended up back under the knife for his shoulder. After two years of injury laden baseball, Slade broke out in 2012. After a delayed start to the season due to a cautious bout of rehab, Slade appeared in the FSL and hit .307/.378/.470/.848, a .389 wOBA and 142 wRC+. He worked 20 walks and struck out 66 times. His base stealing improved dramatically, stealing 17 of 21 bags. After an abbreviated stint in regular season ball the Yanks sent Slade to Arizona to play in the Fall Leagues. Slade went postal, putting up a .388/.494/.612/.1.106 quad slash, good for a .499 wOBA and 192 wRC+ over 67 AB’s. Not only did he tear the cover off the ball, but he put up a near 1:1 K/BB ratio (14/12) and stole 5 bags in 8 attempts. The performance got him ranked 6th best in the league, with at least one evaluator giving him top honors.

Tools:

Slade has quick strong hands and exceptional bat speed. He’s able to pull his hands in on inside pitches and hit them with authority. He can also extend on outside pitches, covering the outer half of the plate. Line drive hitter that can spray the ball to all fields. Has had a tendency to press in the batters box, possibly due to his lost time from injuries and tries to make up for it by rushing himself at the plate. He can also get overly aggressive making his swing longer than it needs to be. Pitch recognition needs work as well, and his K rate north of 22% indicates just that. His numbers in the AFL saw a bit of a turnaround in the patience department; Slade spoke about his altered approach in the fall leagues during a YES interview, and if he can keep it up it will mean a big step forward in his hitting.

Slade’s hitting all around has come around and that includes the power department. He has the strength to turn on the inside pitch and drive the ball, and what has been power to the gaps could lead to balls leaving the park. Some of that will depend on him being able to pick his pitch and let his swing do the rest. He shows power to all fields and the ability to get under the ball and get some lift to it. Being a left hander in Yankee Stadium never hurts either. Overall he grades out as above average power to all fields and some plus power to the pull side. Baseball America gives Slade a 60 potential on the 20-80 scale, putting him in the ~25+ range on the high end.

On defense Heathcott shines. Plus defender whose speed takes him gap to gap with ease. An aggressive all out style of play in the field, he foes back on the ball well and will charge hard on the plays in front of him laying out to make the big play. He shows some good instincts reading balls, gives max effort and his incredible athleticism carries him in spite of some loopy routes on certain plays. Despite a pair of shoulder surgeries, his arm is still a plus tool which will allow him to play any position in the OF. Accuracy an issue on occasion as he let’s the ball get away from him from time to time, but easily corrected through repetition. He’s shown some decent improvement in the short time he’s spent in the pro’s and could compete for a fielding award so long as he doesn’t run through the OF wall chasing down a fly ball. Slade’s plus speed has him launching out of the batters box and gives him a chance to steal 20-25 bases. His reads on the paths were worlds better after returning from his last surgery which should keep his SB% at an acceptable clip.

Makeup:

As many are aware, Heathcott had a bit of a rough upbringing; he bounced around a bit, lived in his car at one point and turned to alcohol as an escape/coping mechanism. This manifested while Slade was a new prospect and the Yankees nipped it in the bud, giving him a mentor that helped him get back on track. No one could ever accuse the kid of not giving it his all, and from what I can gather from various interviews, he’s focused on baseball and improving on his craft every day. His max effort approach to the sport will serve him well and take him far as long as his body holds up.

Overview:

An outstanding athlete; physically gifted with explosive athletic ability. Tools are incredible and the ones that aren’t there yet have the potential to be a plus grade. Has the tools to stay in center field in spite of the shoulder injuries. His defense is already enough for the position but is still improving. His hit tool has the potential to be a plus grade if he can get his patience at the plate under wraps. If what we saw in the AFL is for real, the hit tool has taken a big step forward. Plenty of pop to both gaps, and has the bat speed and enough projected power to play at a corner spot with plenty of glove to field it. There’s no lack of hustle to his game; Keith Law described him as “playing like his hair is on fire”. This could actually be a bit of a drawback for him, as he holds nothing back on the diamond which has led to his injuries and sending him to the DL. Toning it down by just a bit wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Projection/ETA:

It’s really up to him. He ended the year knocking on the door to Trenton and then tore up the AFL. With that said things could move even more quickly….he’ve heard comments from Mark Newman about how he might make his way up later this year, and Cashman just yesterday indicated that he could be in the Bronx shortly. His biggest obstacle is staying healthy, so if he can do just that we’ll be seeing him sooner than later. In summation, Slade is a balls to the wall do or die type of player that is full of tools and ambition. He’s the kind of guy that brings people to the ballpark. He has one of the highest ceilings in the entire system, but at the same time due to the aforementioned high risk profile, also has a pretty low floor. He could end up a perennial All Star, or broken down and out of baseball entirely. He’s the kind of guy you want to root for because he’s going to leave it all on the field trying to win.

Prospect Profile: Mason Williams

Vitals: courtesy daily news

DOB 08//21/1991

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 165

Bats/Throws L/R

2010 4th Round, W Orange HS

Numbers:

Mason made a short debut back in the Gulf Coast League after being taken in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. He then moved on to Staten Island in 2011 where he hit for a .349/.395/.468/.863 quad slash, with 20 walks and 41 strikeouts in 269 AB’s. That works out to a .404 wOBA and 148 wRC+. He swiped 28 bags while getting caught a dozen times. 2012 found Mason in Charleston with several other of NY’s big prospects. Before getting promoted to Tampa Williams logged 276 AB’s, sporting a .304/.359/.489/.848 line, (.381 wOBA, 131 wRC+) with 21 walks and 33 K’s. His SB% fell a bit, getting caught 9 times while stealing 19 bases. His power started to come around though, going deep 8 times as opposed to only 3 in SI in a similar number of AB’s. His doubles power increased as well, from 11 in 2011 to 19. Mason, along with Sanchez and Austin earned himself a mid season promotion to High A Tampa. His stint in the FSL was short lived however, as Mason injured an already aggravated left shoulder and ended up having a torn labrum repaired, ending his 2012 campaign. He finished up in Tampa with 83 AB’s in which he hit .277/.302/.422/.724, a .331 wOBa and 104 wRC+. He suffered from a bit of a reverse platoon split in the second half, so those numbers and the smallish sample size, combined with him adjusting to a new level are likely a poor representation. In his roughly two years in the minors Williams was named to the SAL AS team, the MiL Org AS team, a Topps short season/rookie AS, BA short season AS, NYPL AS as well as a couple of player of the week awards.

Tools:

Mason’s hit tool is easily his best asset. Strong forearms and wrists, simple swing that can get a little long at times but generally consistent. To this point he’s shown an innate ability to make contact, which has cut into his walks some. He’ll be challenged more as he sees better and better pitching and guys start to tempt him out of the zone, so he’ll have to adjust. He has a smooth swing with plus bat speed that he can keep in the zone, but can take a nit to get there. He does on occasion get an uppercut path going, possibly selling out in attempts to go deep. He can sometimes get ahead of himself at the plate, pulling his head and front shoulder off the ball as well as well as getting a little aggressive early in counts and going after some ugly pitches, but his flaws are easily correctable. All in all he has a nice loose easy swing and a great ability to barrel up the ball. He can hit line drives to all fields, as well as lay down a bunt for an infield single. Can handle breaking and offspeed pitches as well the fastball.

Power has been the question when referring to Mason’s bat, but that appears to be becoming less of an issue these days. When he was first brought in to the system, he was a rail thin kid that didn’t have much projection in him in the slugging department. That’s changed over the last season and rolling in to 2013, as he’s reportedly added about 30 pounds over that time and could add a bit more muscle yet. Combine some added raw strength with his bat speed and contact ability and you can see those power numbers going up as he moves along. Ultimately his potential lies in him getting stronger and refining his pitch selection, and from what we hear that’s beginning to unfold. Evaluators have him pegged anywhere from a 10-15 HR guy, to one that could top 20+ every year. As far as center fielders go that would be a nice addition to the lineup.

Williams shows plus to plus-plus speed in the outfield and on the bases, although his instincts and ability to get good jumps need a bit of refinement. On some plays in the field he’ll look like he’s knocking on the door of a fielding bible award, but he’ll sprinkle in a blooper reel play as well. Mason has excellent range and the ability to track balls, but is hampered by some inconsistent routes and trouble with balls hit straight over him. He also tends to go all out on plays that can lead to either a visit to the highlight reel or unnecessary extra bases. Over time his decision making should sharpen up, but I can’t say I don’t like a guy that will lay out to make the big play, so long as he’s not completely reckless in doing it. His baserunning is under aggressive at times and he needs to work on his jumps, but with work he could see SB totals in the 25-30 range at the ML level. Of all his tools, his arm is the least impressive. It currently grades out as average, having a long release, a ball that doesn’t carry well and throwing from a lower arm slot that tends to impart a natural run on his throws. Accuracy is not an issue, and adding some strength and getting on top of the ball more will help to correct that and get him into the above average realm. As it is he’s got enough for to play center, anything more is just gravy. Both his base stealing and defense rely more on his raw speed right now than technique, but he shows the plus side and simply needs to be more consistent. He has the potential to become a plus plus defender at a premium position and the ability to steal 25+ bags a year. The arm could use some improvement, but it not detrimental to him staying in center.

Makeup:

While Mason is advanced for his level, he still has some maturing to do. In scouring various articles and reports on him I ran into an account of him being cocky. Being the only source this came from i’m not sure if I buy it. What I have seen repeated by various sources is Mason’s tendency to get down on himself when things aren’t going well. Wether it’s acting out over frustration or failing to run out a routine pop out behind the plate, it’s something he needs to address. Being his own worst critic is one thing, but if it causes any sort of distraction or derails his focus then it becomes an issue. Again, we’re talking about a 19-20 year old, but the sooner he gets his emotions under wraps the better. He worked hard to get back in line following his surgery last year and is supposedly ready to start the season on time in the FSL, so his work ethic isn’t in question. He certainly has a good group of prospects around him, and a few who he’s come up through the system with so there’s the whole camaraderie and familiarity element with his teammates and some friendly competition amongst the teams best prospects that doesn’t hurt either.

Overview:

Impressive young player. His combination of athleticism and advanced skills at a young age profile well. The fact that he has certain drawbacks yet still performs at the level he does is a good thing as it leaves ample room for further projection. A natural contact hitter that uses the whole field, hits for average and decent power while fielding an award capable glove at a premium position is something any club would sign up for. While he has some mechanical and maturity issues to correct, all of them are attainable fixes. Something along the lines of hitting .290-.300 with 20 HR’s and 40 doubles seems fair. With impressive contact skills but a yet to realize walk rate he may not be a top of the order high OBP guy, but might profile as a #2 or #5 type when all is said and done.

Projection/ETA:

OK so any time anyone mentions comps it opens up the flood gates for scrutiny, but let’s go there anyway. At his best Mason could wind up being in Andrew McCutchen territory. If his body catches up to his physical skills it’s not insane to see him as that toolsy centerfield guy that can hit for average, has pop, can steal bases and play outstanding defense. On the low end you’re looking at a Brett Gardner type profile albeit with more power. Mason has a while to go, but has a pretty good chance to contribute to a major league ball club. His ceiling may fall a bit short of fellow CF’er Slade Heathcott, but his chances of achieving that potential are greater. If all goes well and Mason stays on the field, you could expect him to make a play for Trenton later this year, a cup of coffee in 2014, and a regular on the big club some time in 2015.

Prospect Profile: Mark Montgomery

montgomery

Vitals:
RHRP
DOB 8/30/1990 Williamsburg, VA
School: Longwood University
5’ 11” 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws R/R
Drafted in 11th round of the 2011 draft by NYY

The Numbers: Montgomery has put up outstanding numbers since making his debut in Staten Island back in 2011. He pitched a total of 28.1IP between SI and Charleston to he tune of a 1.91 ERA and 1.165 WHIP. He racked up 15 saves while allowing 6.4 H/9, 4.1 BB/9, a .185 batting average against and struck out 16.2 per 9 innings, which resulted in 13 BB’s and 51 K’s on the season. In his first game in Charleston he proceeded to strike out five batters in one inning due to a couple of errant pitches. Mark continued his success in the 2012 season and even cut his walks down a little in the process. He started out the year with a promotion to Tampa and after 40.1 innings got his ticket to Trenton. His season totals resulted in 64.1 IP, good for a 1.54 ERA and .886 WHIP. Once again he saved 15 games, and in the process allowed 4.9 H/9, cut his walks down to 3.1/9, and a .157 average against. His 13.8 K/9 dropped slightly, but his K/BB improved to 4.5 in 2012. After a stellar 2012 regular season, Mark was ticketed to Scottsdale to pitch in the AFL. In what is generally considered a hitters league he continued to pitch well, throwing 10.1 innings of 2.61 ERA baseball. He allowed 5 hits and 3 earned runs in his 9 appearances, of which in his last outing he allowed 3 hits and 2 of those runs. He allowed his only other run and two hits in his first two games, the rest were zeroes. His trip to the fall leagues is a pretty good hint that he is not long for the minor leagues. That, and his numbers that rival that of fellow Yankee David Robertson and 2011 ROY Craig Kimbrel. Pretty good company I’d say.

The Stuff:

Montgomery, like the two aforementioned pitchers, doesn’t have the stature of a big power pitcher, but uses a combination of a long stride and deceptive delivery to allow his FB to play up a bit. He generally sits in the low 90’s with it, and can hit 95-96 at times and it has a bit of late movement to it when he’s on. He delivers from a low three-quarter arm slot and has a bit of whipping action to it that keeps hitters off guard. Like Robertson, his FB gets in on batters quicker than his velocity suggests. In his second season of pro ball his command of the fastball got decidedly better, boosting his K/BB ratio and kept more runners off the bases. He can move his FB around the plate a bit setting up his best offering.

Mark’s knockout pitch, as most are aware of at this point is his slider. Mark spoke on YES network with Mark Curry about how he toyed with numerous different grips during catch and long toss before he settled in to what he’s throwing now and it’s paid off. It’s already been described as a major league ready pitch and is the reason he can strike out a batter and a half per inning. It’s a plus-plus pitch that is flat out nasty to right handers, who have a difficult time even getting the barrel on the ball and seldom lay off the pitch to begin with. Experimenting with all those different grips also lends to his ability to throw his slider a couple of different ways depending on the situation and which side of the plate the batter hits from. He can throw a hard late breaking ball for strikes in the mid 80’s as well as a more looping pitch with a more sweeping break that he can place out of the zone in an attempt to get hitters to chase. He also sports a changeup which is more of a show me pitch, but it does gives hitters one more thing to think about in the box. His focus fell away from the change as he moved to Trenton and into the playoffs, which is understandable. At that point it’s about getting outs and winning games. He hasn’t shelved it completely though and will continue to work on it, as it will only make him more dangerous.

Overall:

Montgomery straight up attacks hitters. They have no choice but to stay back and wait for the slider which lets him get early calls with the four seam. His improved command gets him ahead in counts which allows him to go to one of his two sliders. It really isn’t fair; once he gets two strikes on a hitter they don’t stand much of a chance as he can take them out of the zone or hit the corners with a slider or come right back at them with a fastball. Having the changeup tossed in there every once in a while only adds to his effectiveness. Add to his pure stuff a deceptive delivery that keeps hitters off his fastball and an aggressive approach gives you a guy that could push his way to the back of the bullpen in a hurry. He may not be the 6’ 4” power pitcher that hits the high nineties all day, but his newly improved command, possession of a plus-plus pitch and feel for variations on his breaking ball and you have elite potential. From floor to ceiling you have a guy that gets injured and flames out to one who closes out All Star games. Such is the life of a ML pitcher, but who wouldn’t want that kind of chance?

Moving Forward:

Already named a FSL All Star, a MiL Organizational All Star and an AFL Rising Star Montgomery is on his way up, and quickly. He’s another one of Oppenheimer’s middle of the draft picks that has shined and it won’t be long before he’s striking out batters in the majors. Despite all his recent successes, Mark stays humble and while a ML debut is imminent, he continues to work hard every day to improve on his already impressive skill set. His confidence right now is at an all time high and he’s ready to take it to the next level. As much as I’m excited to see him in the BX, I wouldn’t mind seeing him get some AAA guys out before making his way up, and hey, keeping him in the minors for a few weeks keeps that service clock from ticking away and would give the Yanks a few more months of cost controlled time out of him. There are a couple of guys (Whitley, Perez) that could get a callup before him, but none so far have his potential.

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