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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.

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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.

2013 Top 40 Prospects

Austin jumped all the way to AA Trenton (flickr photo by slgckgc used through (Commons license)

Austin improved his stock more than any other player and isn’t far from N.Y. now in AA Trenton (flickr photo by slgckgc used through (Commons license)

The Yankees Minor league system had an up and down year in 2012.   Several of their older and upper-tier prospects had injuries (Banuelos, Romine, Campos) or setbacks (Betances).  Add to that the trade of #1 prospect Jesus Montero and it left the upper levels of the system without much impact talent ready to help in the Bronx.  However,  it wasn’t all bad news as  the organization saw the continued positive development from a wave of strong young players who began the year at the A-ball level.  What the system loses in not having much in the way of near MLB-ready talent, it makes up for with a deep well of quality players in the lower rungs.  These players, led by M.Williams, Sanchez, Austin & Heathcott, will start in High A or AA this year and could make this a Top 5 system by next year.  Most of the main Prospect Writers have the Yankee system rated in the #10-14 range right now.

As we have seen this offseason, Yankees ownership is serious about cutting payroll to get below the Competitive Balance Tax Threshold in 2014 and beyond.  The only way the team can remain a playoff contender is to start getting major contributions from their Farm System.  Unfortunately, the high-end talent likely won’t be ready to make a major impact until 2015-2016 but some of these guys may get an opportunity to play in the majors sooner rather than later.  And for the first time in years, the team may start to give legitimate opportunities  to their prospects in New York.

Following is a breakdown of the organizations Top 40 prospects as chosen by myself (Jamie or Fish) and fellow-writer Rob (jimmytoucan).  We tried to talk to some minor-lg coaches and writers to get their input on certain players and have included some quotes from those we have spoken to personally.

1) Mason Williams – CF, 21 – AA, 2015

Mason has literally grown into the team’s best prospect.  No one questioned his amazing defense in CF, plus speed or quality hitting & bunting skills but many wondered if he’d ever be more than a slap-hitting singles hitter.  He responded by adding 30 pounds last offseason and delivering 11 HRs with a .474 SLG% in 359 ABs before  shoulder surgery cut his season short in July.

Fish: I ranked him 1st because I think he’ll continue to gain strength and become a solid 2-way CF.  I see his floor as no worse than a Brett Gardner-type player in the majors. He doesn’t walk as much as Gardner but he has great contact skills and could very well develop into a much stronger offensive player.

Rob: Toolsy CF’er with tremendous contact ability. Hits for average with room to add some power. Potential plus defender and 30 SB capability. I had him ranked #2 on my list simply because I value the catcher position a bit more in a system with three outfielders in the top 4.

2) Gary Sanchez – C, 20 – HiA, 2015

Sanchez earned a reputation as an immature kid with questionable work ethic in 2011 and his ability to remain a Catcher was in question as he had 26 Passed Balls in just 60 games. But he was a new man in 2012, showcasing much improved defensive skills and the leadership required to guide a pitching staff.  His ability to crush a baseball was never in question and his plus power to all fields makes him one of the top Catching prospects in the game.

Fish:  2011 was his first full season in the U.S. so I give him a pass for his struggles as an 18 year old kid. I love Sanchez’ bat and I think it will be MLB-ready well before his ability to catch is.  With the Yanks’ preference for defense at the Catcher spot, I wonder if Sanchez will want to make the sacrifices needed to become a Catcher, but worse case scenario I think he’ll hit enough to support a switch to 1B down the road.

Rob: My number one overall pick, due to playing a more difficult position. Defense was in question rolling into 2012 but from various accounts has taken steps forward. Rated best power hitter in the system, plus arm and hit tool. Ranked the #3 catching prospect in baseball.

Kiley McDaniel:  We asked him if Sanchez has the ability to catch for the Yankees with their emphasis on defense, “Could. Will take lots of work, up to him.”

Slade may be the most talented player in the system

Slade may be the most talented player in the system

3) Slade Heathcott – CF 22 – AA, 2014

Slade has the most ability in the entire system and is the closest thing they have to a 5-tool player.  His short career has been filled with shoulder injuries and some character questions but he was finally healthy and put it all together last year. Hit .307/.378/.470 in Tampa and then hit .388 with 10 XBH’s in 18 games in the Arizona Fall Lg where he was ranked as the #6 prospect.

Fish: Slade jumps out at you when you watch a game.  His immense talent is obvious and he plays the game with a fervor and intensity that is a joy to watch.  Because of that zeal and aggressiveness, he may be more prone to injuries but if he can stay healthy, he could be a star and fan favorite in NY. He’ll need to turn it down a notch to withstand the rigors of a 162-game season.

Rob: Had people buzzing after his performance in the AFL this year. Potential five tool player in spite of his second shoulder surgery. Brings a level of intensity to the field that could actually be his downfall. Huge ceiling with a pretty low floor.

Former Charleston Hitting Coach & current Boston Red Sox Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn : “He has ability to adjust his swing, we call it “Adjustability” with his swing – he can be fooled and still get the bat head to the ball. He definitely has the power, has the bat speed, can run, put the ball in play, get on base…..so he has all the things you look for in a Major League player”

Taken from ESPN.com…..Keith Law: “I do think he has star potential if he stays healthy, which is a huge if. He plays like his hair’s on fire (and) that’s not a great thing for a player who’s injury-prone … the star potential is from the athleticism – plus runner, really good swing, strong hands. Just needs to dial it down one notch.”

4) Tyler Austin – RF, 21 – AA, 2014

No Yankee prospect was more productive in 2012.  He has hit at every level and his .322/.400/.559/.960 season vaulted him from a #13th round pick in 2010 to a Top 100 prospect who was chosen to play in the Futures Game. He changed positions with ease from 3B to RF and shows ability to be an above-average OF.

Fish:  I’ve always admired Austin’s baseball instincts and smarts. He’s solid in all aspects and despite being an average runner, he has stolen 41 of 43 bases the last 2 years by picking the right pitches and situations. He’s a gamer and will rise quickly – don’t be surprised to see him in the Bronx next year.

Rob: Solid defender that whose bat should play well in RF. High baseball IQ, high floor. Solid bet to be a slightly above average everyday player with room for a bit more.

5) Manny Banuelos – LHP, 22, AAA/INJ – 2014

The elbow injury essentially sets Manny back 2 years in his development but it is not a death sentence by any means. He’ll still be only 23 in 2014 and recovered from TJS. He was the #13 prospect in all of MLB this time last year and showed command improvements in May before he was shutdown.  He has great makeup & pitchability to go along with a plus Changeup, plus low to mid-90s FB and average or better Curve.

Fish: I really like Banuelos for his poise and confidence on the mound.  That mound presence from a lefty with 3 plus piches make him an attractive starter.  The big question with him will be his durability.

Rob: Manny is still my top pitching prospect due to him being a left hander that can get into the mid 90’s, the best changeup in the system and two more secondary offerings that give him #2 potential. His size is the biggest knock against him but he has an easy delivery that does not require max effort every pitch.

6) Jose Campos – RHP, 20, HiA – 2015

Was extremley impressive in his first 4 starts at Charleston but missed almost the entire year with elbow problems. It didn’t require surgery and he’s healthy and throwing now. Campos is 6’4″ with long arms and has front of the rotation potential. Could be a very fast mover up the ladder if 100% as he has both the stuff and the pitchability to succeed.

Rob: Tremendous polish for a pitcher his age, he throws in the mid 90’s with solid command. Secondary stuff needs work but he has plenty of time to get it under wraps.  Great projectable frame with upper rotation potential. For me he was a real coup in “The Trade” and could swing it handily in the Yankees’ favor.

Fish:  I agree with Rob, Campos is the guy who could salvage the Montero trade but it will take a few years to see. When I spoke to his pitching coach in Charleston, Danny Borrell,  he raved about him.

Danny Borrell, Charleston RiverDogs Pitching Coach:   “Kid really knows how to pitch and to back it up he has plus stuff across the board. His intangibles are very impressive. He pitches in well, the pace of the game in which he pitches makes hitters uncomfortable, he can pitch his way through a lineup.  For someone his age to know how to do that is impressive.”

“He was 90-95, a Curveball he can throw for a strike in any count and a Change up that is developing – but something that will be a very good pitch for him as he gets older.  He’s been throwing and by all accounts he’s healthy now.”

7) Angelo Gumbs – 2B, 20 – HiA – 2015

Tremendous athlete with incredible bat speed.  Stole 26 bases and hit 7 HRs in just 67 games before his season ended with a triceps injury. He plays hard and has had complements on his work ethic.  Reviews are mixed on his defense but he has a strong arm and great athleticism so could move to the OF down the road if needed.

Rob: Incredible bat speed out of Gumbs, he’ll be a bat first second baseman. While Cano has us fans spoiled a guy like Gumbs could make losing Robbie to FA sting a bit less, although he’s a couple of years away yet. His defense isn’t quite as flashy as our current 2B, but it’s plenty good that his bat could bridge some of that gap. Overall he’s got above average potential that’s 3 years away.

Fish: Reminds me a little of Austin Jackson. They were both drafted for their incredible athletic ability knowing it would take them a while to develop their baseball skills. It worked with Jackson and Gumbs is coming along nicely. He gets overshadowed by mason Williams but Gumbs was drafted 2 rounds before him and he is every bit as talented as Mason.

8) Brett Marshall – RHP – 23, AAA -  2014

Marshall doesn’t have the upside of the guys in front of him but falls in the Top 10 because he’s looks like a lock to be a back-end of the rotation MLB starter.  Showed potential in Yankee  Spring Training then went 13-7 with a 3.52 ERA in AA so he’s on the doorstep of NY.  He’s got a big time Changeup and features a hard sinking Fastball that sits 91-93 MPH.  His Slider was more of a show-me pitch last year until something clicked in the 2nd Half and he began unleashing a nasty one. His K per 9 went from 6.0 in the 1st half to 9.0 with the improved Slider.

Fish: Marshall reminds me of David Phelps with his poise and the way he attacks hitters. His Change is a weapon vs LH hitters and if his Slider is for real he now has an equal weapon vs RH hitters. Eats innings because he keeps his pitch counts low by challenging hitters and getting easy outs with his Sinker.

Rob: Steady Eddie. Mentioning his name might not raise too many eyebrows, but he continues to move along at a steady pace and chew up innings. He’s got a heavy sinker/slider combo that may not miss a ton of bats but he induces enough weak contact to make up for it. I like any guy that can keep the ball down, especially pitching in YS3.

Marshall is doorstep to the Bronx (flickr photo by paul.hadsall used through Creative Commons license)

Marshall is doorstep to the Bronx (flickr photo by paul.hadsall used through Creative Commons license)

9) Ramon Flores – OF, 21 HiA/AA -  2015

Flores is overshadowed by the big 3 OF’s in the system but he is a quality prospect in his own right. Has perhaps the sweetest, most natural swing in the system and his strikezone awarness his excellent. Hit .303/.370/.425 in Tampa and homered in his one game in AA. He’s solid defensively and has average speed, the only question mark is will he hit for power. He’s getting stronger each year and many think his power will develop later similar to Cano.

Rob: I had him slightly lower on my list, and I’ll admit it has something to do with the positional plethora in the OF, and his slightly lower ceiling than those that outranked him. He makes great contact, has hit everywhere he goes and can hold his own in the field. Amongst a group filled with the likes of Williams, Heathcott and Austin he looks more like the odd man out/4th outfielder

Fish: His swing is a hitting coach’s dream and has been compared to Cano when he was in the minors. His stroke and great patience/strikezone recognition remind me  more of fellow Venezuelan Bobby Abreu. Flores hits breaking balls well and may be a guy who hits better against stronger pitching at higher levels.

Former Charleston Hitting Coach & current Boston Red Sox Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn:  “He picks up pitches as well as anyone I’ve seen come through here. He picks up pitches right out of the pitcher’s hands and has real good strike zone discipline and pitch recognition – and he recognizes it real early. The biggest thing with him was getting him to be more aggressive in counts where he could take advantage of it and let some of his natural ability take off more.  He has one of the most natural swings we’ve had come through here. And he does have some power. The difference between 2 years ago when I first saw him and last year when his body filled out and the strength he had was big.”

10) Ty Hensley – RHP, 19 LoA – 2017

2012′s 1st round pick is a big (6’5 215 pounds) kid with a power repertoire and huge ceiling.  He’s been sitting at 92-95 with a knee-buckling 12-6 Curve.  has makings of a good Change too but only has 12 pro innings so far so he has a lon way to go.  MRI after Draft found a shoulder “abnormality” but he continues to pitch without pain or limitations.

Fish:  Difficult to rank a kid just drafted who I’ve never seen but he makes but he has the pedigree, size and arm you look for in the 1st round.

Rob: Like many pitchers his age he’s got work to do on his secondary stuff, but he’s got upper rotation potential and seems very driven to get to the BX as soon as possible.

Ty Hensley in interview with Fish in July: “The picture (MRI) has nothing to do with ability and until something hurts or there are symptoms or until there is instability there is no reason to be concerned.  I’m healthy, I’m gonna be healthy and will keep working to stay healthy.” Read the rest of this entry

Farm hands & MLB’s top 100

MiLB: JUL 08 Class A Advanced - Tampa Yankees at Dunedin Blue Jays

Last night MLB, led by draft and prospect expert Jonathon Mayo released their top 100 prospects list. Three Yankees made the cut: Gary Sanchez came in at #36, Mason williams at #41 and newcomer to the top 100 Tyler Austin came in at #75. If not for injury setbacks Manny Banuelos and Jose campos were both likely to make the list as well. Here’s MLB.com’s take on the guys from the NY farm system, all of whom will look to take their cuts in Trenton this coming season and propel themselves even further up the rankings:

“Gary Sanchez
Rank: 36
ETA: 2015
Position: C
Age: 20, DOB: 12/02/1992
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6′ 2″, Weight: 220
Signed: July 2, 2009 – NYY
Twitter: @ElGarySanchez
Scouting Grades (present/future): Hit: 3/5 | Power: 5/7 | Run: 2/2 | Arm: 7/7 | Field: 3/5 | Overall: 4/6
Sanchez has been on radars since the Yankees gave him $3 million to sign out of the Dominican Republic. Hitting .353 in his United States debut didn’t hurt and he’s tantalized with his skills since. Sanchez appears to have put some of the attitude issues he had during his full-season debut in 2011 behind him and it should be noted he’ll still be just 20 years old for all of the 2013 season. Sanchez earned a promotion in 2012 and his bat should help him continue to move up the ladder. He has above-average raw power and his approach at the plate has improved, giving him the chance to be an outstanding all-around hitter. He’s always had a plus arm behind the plate, but there had been questions about his ability to handle the defensive rigors of the position in the past. He did seem to make some strides with the glove, though he needs to continue to work on his receiving skills, and the Yankees hope that can continue.

Mason Williams
Rank: 41
ETA: 2015
Position: OF
Age: 21, DOB: 08/21/1991
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6′ 0″, Weight: 150
Drafted: 2010, 4th (145) – NYY
Twitter: @MjordanW9
Scouting Grades (present/future): Hit: 3/5 | Power: 3/4 | Run: 7/7 | Arm: 5/5 | Field: 5/6 | Overall: 5/6
From a raw tools perspective, Williams is one of the more intriguing prospects in baseball. In 2012, he started to really use his skills more consistently on the field and earned a promotion up a level as a result. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury cut his season short. Williams has some definite ability with the bat, with a solid approach and a handsy swing that allows him to cover the plate well. It’s more of a slap/slash approach right now, but some feel there’s power to come as he matures. Williams can go get the ball in center field with good range and a solid arm. As he hones his skills on the basepaths, he should become a more consistent basestealing threat. All he needs is time and he’ll be ready for center field in the big leagues. If the bat develops, he has the chance to be an elite-level player.

Tyler Austin
Rank: 75
ETA: 2014
Position: OF
Age: 21, DOB: 09/06/1991
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6′ 2″, Weight: 200
Drafted: 2010, 13th (415) – NYY
Twitter: @t_austin21
Scouting Grades* (present/future): Hit: 5/6 | Power: 4/5 | Run: 5/5 | Arm: 5/5 | Field: 5/5 | Overall: 5/6
Austin burst on the scene in 2011 when he hit .354 in two short-season stops. Despite missing time with a concussion that forced him out of the Futures Game in 2012, he showed that his previous season was no mirage. He reached Double-A, even homering in the playoffs, while topping the organization in batting average and slugging percentage while finishing second in on-base percentage and third in RBIs. A former infielder, Austin made a smooth transition to right field and should profile well there, though perhaps without the plus power some like to see from the position. Still, he has a very good approach at the plate and a quick swing that should allow him to continue to hit for average. He’s a good baserunner with average speed, and has the arm and range to be a good defensive outfielder. It’s not often 13th-round picks turn into big league regulars, but this one has a chance to do just that.”

Per Mayo, here is his breakdown of the grading system:

“For the first time, there are scouting reports with each player on Prospect Watch. Players are given present and future grades on a 2-8 scale — 2-3 is well below average, 4 is below average, 5 is average, 6 is above average, 7-8 is plus — for each individual tool, along with an overall grade. Obviously subjective, perhaps the most important grade is the future overall grade — this number signifies what each player will ultimately be in the big leagues.

A future “7″ is a player who could develop into a perennial All-Star. There are only 10 future 7s on the list. Five of them are right-handers: Bundy, Taijuan Walker, Jose Fernandez, Zack Wheeler and Gerrit Cole. There’s one lefty in Tyler Skaggs, three shortstops (Profar, Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez) and one outfielder (Taveras).”

Trenton Projections

Last month John Norris from Minor Matters wrote up his projections of the 2013 Trenton Thunder roster. John, along with Mike Ashmore serve as beat writers for the Yanks’ AA affiliate and do an excellent job of relaying information to us fans. With the 2013 roster likely to be a pretty exciting one with all four of our top prospects having a shot at making an appearance in Jersey this year I thought an article was in order. It really doesn’t get any better than what these guys do as far as keeping us in tune with Trenton, so I’ll refer to their take on the upcoming season. Below is John’s projected roster:

1 – J.R. Murphy – C
2 – Jeff Farnham – C
3 – Kyle Roller – 1B
4 – Jose Pirela – 2B
5 – Jose Mojica – SS
6 – Kevin Mahoney – 3B
7 – Slade Heathcott – OF
8 – Ramon Flores – OF
9 – Tyler Austin – OF
10 – Rob Segedin – OF
11 – Jose Toussen – IF
12 – Adonis Garcia – OF
13 – Jose Ramirez – SP
14 – Nik Turley – SP
15 – Zach Nuding – SP
16 – Mikey O’Brien – SP
17 – Shane Greene SP
18 – Tommy Kahnle – RP
19 – Branden Pinder – RP
20 – Dan Burawa – RP
21 – Kramer Sneed – RP
22 – Graham Stoneburner – RP
23 – Cory Arbiso – RP
24 – Rigoberto Arrebato – RP
25 – Manny Barreda – RP

I can’t really disagree with much here at all. Aside from some minor issues that are dependant on where the rosters of other teams end up I think he’s pretty spot on. JR Murphy made his way to AA last year and got off to a slow start. This is nothing new for him, so some more time in Trenton could very well see him take a step forward from last years performance. Both Heathcott and Flores are all but sure bets to start the year in Trenton; they both put up very good numbers in 2012 and Heathcott, as everyone is probably aware by now tore it up in the AFL and got people talking about him again. Kyle Roller and Jose Pirela, who had a bit of a breakout last year are also shoo-ins for the right side of the infield. Relievers Kahnle, Pinder and Sneed are a safe bet, along with Barreda and Arrebato. Danny Burawa is coming off a season long injury but should be ready to go come spring, and could join recently converted Graham Stoneburner in the bullpen. The starting five all look to be locked in as well, and it looks pretty good for the Thunder. YFU favorite Nik Turley will take the hill in 2013 after a nice 2012 campaign. He’ll be joined by Jose Ramirez who had a rebound season and with a breaking ball that he’s finally comfortable with and two plus to plus plus pitches they look to be a very good 1-2 combo. Zach Nuding looks to get back on track after a bit of an up and down season, and he’ll be followed by Mikey O’Brien and Shane Greene, who both had their share of inconsistencies but have some upside.

There are a few question marks however; both Rob Segedin and Abe Almonte could end up getting the initial nod in left field pushing Tyler Austin back to Tampa. I’m not really opposed to this, as I don’t think he’d be there long. He held his own in Tampa but was missing a bit of power. He did look good in his limited AB’s at the AA level last season and in the playoffs but getting him going in Tampa and then turning him loose for the Thunder wouldn’t be the worst thing. So long as he’s not wasting away down there I have no problems with that. The shortstop position could also change by the time they hit the field. Walter Ibarra spent a bunch of time on the DL last year and is a MiL FA this year, but if he gets re-signed he’d slot right in at short.

The Thunder made a great run last year, helping manager Tony Franklin win the manager of the year award and making a playoff run. Much like the Charleston and Tampa rosters of 2012 Trenton looks to feature quite a few future major league candidates and take another stab at the post season.

The New Wave of Relief

Are relief pitchers the new market efficiency? As new minds and fresh ideas invade traditional, or better put, current baseball sensibility, old customs are tossed aside in favor of statistic driven approaches that are these days less and less taboo. Once oft used batting average has fallen to the wayside in favor of stats that encompass more aspects of offensive production than just “hits”, fielding percentage has been all but forgotten and catchers have been scrutinized recently for their ability (or failure) to create strikes on the fringe of the zone.

This brings us to today’s look at relievers, and a possible trend that could have teams digging through the farm teams, rule 5 draft and even the scrap heap for viable late inning arms. Tampa Bay, who is considered one of the top teams in evaluating and developing pitchers is a great example of executing a low cost revolving door of relievers. We all know Kyle Farnsworth, who fell out of favor in NY only to land down south and give the Rays some quality innings. One of the very best relievers of 2012, 35 year old Fernando Rodney, was by some accounts found in a dumpster somewhere in southern California looking for a job when the Rays pulled him from the abyss and resurrected, nay, created a career for him as a closer. The reigning champion San Francisco Giants lost their 9th inning man to Tommy John surgery, but instead of hitting the panic button they reached from within and rode Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo’s arms all the way to a title.

On to the Yankees, who by every evaluation has had the benefit of having the absolute best closer of all time shutting the door for the last decade and a half. That has, however come at a cost, topping out at 15M per season the last several years. Now I’m not going to make the case that Mariano hasn’t been worth his weight in gold… no one has ever put up the kind of numbers he has over such a period of time, and none of us are likely to see it again. Paying for past performance is not uncommon in MLB, and for quite some time Mo was locking down games for a penance, so coughing up the cash these last few years for both present and past accomplishments is not by any stretch a raw deal. Mo will make at least one last run at a title after taking a small pay cut but still a sizeable amount. Moving forward however, and with a budget minded front office at the helm the team will need to look within to help hit that self imposed mark. Gone will be the days of having 25 million or more tied up in a pair of relievers; when Mo retires, so shall shelling out starter money for one inning thrills. Don’t get me wrong…I’d pay to have another Mariano, but that isn’t going to happen lest Mo Jr. can channel his old man’s greatness. Relievers are the most volatile in the business, and you have to ride the hot hand and know when to fold. With the future of the bullpen in mind let’s take a quick look at who could be sewing up the latter innings over the next few years.

Chase Whitley is probably the closest to landing a job in the Bronx bullpen, as he’s got some significant innings at SWB in 2012 and some solid numbers to go along with it. He started off in Trenton but only hung around for a handful of innings, and then moved on to the traveling circus that was our AAA team. He ended the season with a 3.09 ERA, striking out 66 on the year while walking 25. He held batters to a .207 average as a solid piece to their pen all year. He’s not the flashiest guy in the pen but he’s consistent and can chew up a fair amount of innings. A fairly fast riser, Branden Pinder, skipped Charleston and went right to Tampa in 2012, finishing the year throwing a few innings for Trenton. He threw 69 innings with a 67/29 K/BB, a 2.74 ERA and a .260 average against. Pinder combined with Jose Ramirez for a no hitter earlier this year, and will be looking to push his way to AAA in 2013. He’s another guy that could soak up some middle relief innings if he stays on pace and could be a part of the 2014 bullpen that will no doubt be on a tight budget. Another right handed pitcher that finished his year in Trenton is Tommy Kahnle, who has been reported to light the radar up to triple digits and can rack up the K’s about as well as anyone in the system. He had a bit of a rough go in 2011; while he struck out 112 batters, he walked 49 and got touched up to the tune of a 4.22 ERA. He harnessed a bit more control in 2012 pitching to a 2,37 ERA over 57 innings, walking 24 hitters while striking out 74 and holding them to a .162 average against. Kahnle will be in his age 23 season in 2013 and could well get himself a callup in September and a shot at the ML pen in ’14.

With Boone Logan in his last year of arbitration, now might be the time to sell on him. With a career high in appearances and innings in 2012 and a mix of lefties to choose from for 2013 I’d be looking to include him in any packages that might come up in the coming weeks. Cesar Cabral, impressed in ST earlier this year but ended up on the DL. If he can return to his spring form he might get himself a look. Another option is Juan Cedeno, who has played all over baseball for a number of parent clubs the last ten years put in 64 innings of work and pitched to a 2.81 ERA with a 57/21 K/BB, and a .273 BAA. He got touched up a little during fall/winter leagues dropping to a 3.49 ERA, but to his credit he pitched a lot of innings during the stretch of the year. Last but certainly not least is right hander Mark Montgomery, who has drawn numerous comps to David Robertson. Not only are their K rates both in 14/9 range, but his release point is similar to D-Robs in that his stride brings him closer to the mound, making his low 90’s FB play up a bit in the eyes of the batters. He features a slider that he can change the grip on slightly depending on the handedness of the batter, making it dive away from right handers and sink more like a curveball against lefties. He’s been a fast mover and I know a lot of people are really looking forward to seeing him as soon as possible, but I think he’ll stay stashed away for at least part of 2013. I have Whitley as one of the early callups in case of injury or ineffectiveness, but Montgomery could be soon to follow. This is just a handful of the arms that look to be part of the future NY Yankees bullpen; some will fade and other stars will rise, but the horizon looks pretty good for having the late innings protected, and at a fraction of what we are used to paying.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees change their name

After throwing a big party on Wednesday evening, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees unvieled their new name which will take place effective immediately. Say hello to the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders! Their mascot is none other than a porcupine. Yes, a porcupine. Not very frightening, is it?

Anyway, the SWB conducted a contest to choose their new name and even conducted an online poll to choose the name. However, even though ‘RailRiders’ had the most votes, ‘Porcupines’ was the name that appeared mostly on the ballots.

During the 2012 season the SWB were infamously (and unofficially) known as ‘The Empire State Yankees’ after being out of their beloved PNC Field due to renovations that are set to be completed later this year. The RailRiders will also get a change to their uniforms, black pinstripes instead of the famous blue pinstripes that made the Yankees organization so iconic. The caps will be maroon (for road games) and have the words “SWB” interlocking on the front.

So, I guess it was a good thing that Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano had their jersey’s retired last year. Now no one ever really can wear their jersey’s (and numbers) again.

Fall Leagues Review

The Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game held at the beginning of the month featured three kids from our farm system. Austin Romine, David Adams and Mark Montgomery all made a showing during the AFL’s version of the futures game, and each chipped in in their own way. Adams only had one hit on the night but drove in two on a booming double to start a rally and take the lead in the fourth. He later came around to score in what resulted in a six run outburst by the East. Romine allowed speedster Billy Hamilton to steal second in the opening frame, although he threw a pea that may very well have beaten him to the bag. Hamilton also took third on a delayed steal during the throw back to the mound and would later score, but Romine would even that score by smoking a triple in his first AB and then coming home on a wild pitch.

photo by Jordan Meganhardt

Montgomery came in to pitch the eighth and showed everyone what all the fuss has been about. He did allow a better to reach, although it was on an error at first but aside from that he was perfect. Mark proceeded to strike out the side showing off the devastating slider that has been talked about for many weeks now. He also showed good command of his fastball which he throws to both sides to both lefties and righties. The slider he threw for strikes or buried it off the plate inducing weak contact or embarrassing hacks at thin air. I really can’t see him toiling away in the minors for too much longer looking like this.

Here’s some updates from around the various winter leagues from our more notable prospects:

AFL:

Slade Heathcott – .333/.457/.526/.983  Slade took the player of the week honors after catching on fire and hitting three triples in two games. He then went 6-13 this past week and may possibly take a run at the season MVP. He also showed his tenacity when he went hard into the plate on Saturday for his second collision at home during the fall season.

Austin Romine –  .236/.338/.309/.648 Austin is still shaking the rust off but has shown a bit of patience at the plate, working as many BB’s (9) as K’s.

David Adams – .261/.363/.507/.870 More than half of David’s hits have gone for extra bases thus far, hitting a triple, six doubles and three long balls this fall. He’s spent time playing both second and third.

Mark Montgomery – Has had a couple of fugly games but could be due to his playing time being a bit sporadic. He has a 2.61 ERA over 10.1 IP, has walked 5 and struck out 19, leaving him a WHIP of 0.97

DWL:

Abe Almonte has gotten 15 AB’s but only hit .133/.188/.133/.321 that leaves no extra base hits and one walk. Fellow Almonte Zoilo has only had a single AB having been dogged by injury.
Melky Mesa – .261/.346/.565/.911  A pair of homers, a double and a 3:1 K/BB ratio
Juan Cedeno – Over 13 IP he’s pitched to a 2.08 giving up 4 BB’s while striking out 10.
Kelvin Perez – 5.1 IP 5.06 ERA 0 BB 2 K
Jose Ramirez – 4.50 ERA 8 IP 4 ER, 5 BB, 7 K

VWL:

Ramon Flores – .200/.333/.200/.533  over 10 AB’s
Jose Pirela – .293/.377/.402/.780  over 92 AB’s with a HR, 3B, 5 2B
Vidal Nuno – 1.50 ERA  12 IP, 2 ER, 0 BB, 12 K  0.42 WHIP
Pedro Guerra – 7.50 ERA  6 IP, 5 ER, 6 BB, 3 K

PWL:

Adonis Garcia – .313/.389/.688/.1.076  over 16 AB’s with a pair of home runs
Preston Claiborne – 0 ERA  3 IP, 0ER, 0 BB, 2 K 0 WHIP
Manuel Barreda – 0 ERA  1 IP, 0 ER, BB, k

LMP:

Ronnier Mustelier – .273/.315/.424/.739  4 HR, 3 2B, 13 RBI’s
Jose Figueroa – .278/.350/.278/.628  over 18 AB’s, 2 BB, 5K
Luis Niebla – 2.35 ERA  15.1 IP, 4 ER, 5 BB, 10 K, 1.37 WHIP
Giovanny Gallegos – 6 ERA  3 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1.67 WHIP
Cesar Vargas – 1 ERA  9 IP, 1 ER, 3 BB, 14 K, 1.22 WHIP

Winter Ball Review

Arizona Fall League:
The AFL has been rolling for a couple of weeks now with seven of the requisite Yankees taking part. The AzFL rising stars showcase will feature two of the baby bombers in Mike Adams and hurler Mark Montgomery. The showcase game isn’t so much about the hot hands as it is big names, and the omittion of Slade Heathcott could likely be due to a flush outfield situation.

Dellin Betances, who had fallen from grace earlier this year with a demotion to AA due to a horror show of command may be finding himself pitching into a new role. Dellin was one of those guys who possessed an enormous ceiling, but a low chance of achieving his potential. A move to the pen would put him right where he was pegged to wind up; a lesson for those who set their expectations at the height of possibility and hang from the rafters screaming when it doesn’t happen. Dellin opened the AFL with shades of his MiL performance allowing two runs in 1.2 IP with 2 BB’s and a K, but bounced back in his next two games to pitch 3.2 scoreless innings with 6 K’s while walking only one. If Dellin could find success pitching out of the pen he may just have a future in the BX after all. Fellow right hander Mark Montgomery has continued his dominating of hitters; after allowing a run in his first game Mark has gone on to throw zeroes, totaling 13 K’s in 7.1IP and walking 4. Mark will supposedly get a long look during ST next year and is a strong candidate to join the team at some point in 2013. Zach Nuding and Dan Burawa, who suffered from back issues all year have not fared so well. Zach has allowed 9 runs over 10.2IP, while Burawa has struggled to the tune of a 14+ ERA, allowing 10 runs over 6.1IP. Burawa has some major cobwebs to clear out so maybe this is just a result of not pitching this year.

This brings us to the position players. Both Slade Heathcott and David Adams have gotten off to a rather slow start. Slade is putting up a .200/.364/.200/.564 slash while David a .220/.333/.317/.650 line. The bright points are their defense thus far and the propensity to take their walks; Slade leads the team with 9 free passes (11 K’s) while Adams has taken 7 (4 K’s) so far. Austin Romine has had a nice start to the short season. After missing nearly all of the year for SWB, Romine leads the Scorpions in both OBP and BA (minimum 20 PA) while commiting zero errors along with a 6/7 K/BB rate. We’re talking 41 or fewer AB’s for these guys so the small sample size warning is in full effect.

Quick rundowns of the other action:

Domican Winter League:

Relievers Juan Cedeno and Kelvin Perez have gotten off to a good start in the DR; Cedeno throwing 4.1IP and allowing zero runs on four hits with a pair of K’s and a BB. Perez has gone 2.1IP while giving up zero runs on 2 hits. He also has a pair of K’s and a BB. Jose Ramirez has only gotten into one game pitching 2 scoreless innings giving up two hits with a BB and a K. Lefty Francisco Rondon has recorded two outs thus far yielding a hit with no ER’s, BB’s or K’s. Zoilo Almonte has seen next to no playing time appearing in one game recording a strikeout in one AB. I haven’t seen anything about an injury but I update if anything comes up. Melky Mesa is our other position player in the Dominican, going 6-23 with 5 runs scored, a double, two HR’s, 3 BB’s and 9 K’s. Still hacking away but at least he’s producing.

Mexican League:
This has been, and still is Ramiro Pena’s world for the last few years. The kid always seem to mash down here. Granted it’s generally considered a hitters league, but it’s still a kick to see Pena put up video game numbers. So far he’s 13-36 on the year with 5 doubles, 2 HR, 5 RBI’s with 7 BB’s and a SB, and this is a down year for him. Mustelier joined Ramiro in the Mexi League and has gone 13-50 hitting 3 doubles, a pair of homers and drove in 7. He’s also K’d ten times while walking only twice. Not the average you’d expect but it’s still a small sample we’re looking at here. Walt Ibarra rounds out the bats and has been a bit chilly thus far. He’s 6-28 with a home run and a RBI.

On the pitching side, Gio Gallegos got a scoreless inning in, allowing one hit, striking out one and walking nobody. Felipe Gonzalez has pitched and ugly 3.1 innings allowing 3 runs on 3 hits with 4 BB’s and 2 K’s.  Luis Niebla has gotten the most work; 9 innings of two run ball over 4 games. He’s struck out 4 and walked 3. Cesar Vargas rounds out the arms pitching 3.2 innings allowing zero runs on three hits. He’s racked up 7 K’s while walking only one.

 Venezuelan Winter League:
Utility man Jose Pirela leads the hitters in the VWL, so far he’s at 17-54 scoring 9 runs with 4 doubles and a HR. He’s drawn 9 BB’s and K’d 9 times. He also has a pair of stolen bags and two HBP. Gus Molina has gone 8-37 with 6 runs scored along with a double and five! HR’s, driving in eight. Lot’s of taters. Fellow catcher Jose Gil has played in 6 games hitting a stone cold 3-17 with a run, an RBI and 4K’s. Ramon Flores has also seen a bit of action, playing in 6 games so far going 2-9 with 2 runs scores, a BB, a K and a HBP. Francisco Arcia and Ali Castillo have seen very limited action with a lone hit between them.

Left hander Vidal Nuno has made it to the hill in 5 games, pitching 8.2 innings of 0ER ball on 2 hits with zero walks and nine K’s. Jon Meloan has seen 5.2 innings of work, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, walking a pair and striking out six. Pedro Guerra has 6IP under his belt thus far and allowed 5 runs on 9 hits, walking 6 and striking out only 3, as well as giving up a pair of HR’s. Not exactly characteristic of Guerra.

The Puerto Rican League will be under way in just over a week; it sounds like both Angelo Gumbs, who missed significant time with an elbow injury earlier this year will be joined by Adonis Garcia. We should have some further roster updates by next weeks reviews of the Winter Leagues.

Prospect Profile: 2B Corban Joseph

Vitals: Born 10/28/1988  Ht/Wt: 6′ 0″  180 lbs.  Bats: Left  Throws: Right  Drafted in the 4th round (140th overall) in 2008 and signed for a $207,000 bonus

Numbers: Corban made his debut in 2008 in the Gulf Coast League and got off to a rocky start, but managed to finish the year with 159 AB’s and hitting to the tune of a .277/.359/.434/.793 line, good for a .359 wOBA and 118 wRC+. His plate discipline was already apparent as he walked 10.9% of the time while striking out at a 13.1% clip. The following year he played for the RiverDogs, and saw his isolated power (ISO) take a slight dip, but increased his batting average to .300. This brought his wOBA up to .368 and his wRC+ up to 130 despite the drop-off in HR’s. After another promotion in 2010 Jospeh maintained his batting line in Tampa which prompted another bump up the ladder, landing him in Trenton at the age of 21. He scuffled a bit in his first 130 PA’s in Trenton, and hit to the tune of .216/.305/.342 with a .298 wOBA and 79 wRC+.

In his first full season playing for the Thunder Corban turned his performance around settling in to hit for a .277/.353/.415/.768 batting line with a .346 wOBA and 113 wRC+. While his average dropped a bit in AA from his previous highs in A-ball, his walk rate remained solid at a 10.5% clip, and his BB/K rate was very similar to his previous season where he walked 58 times and struck out in 107 AB’s. He started out the 2012 season repeating AA, but that didn’t last long; after just 23 games he was sent to AAA where he continued to show off his ability to control the zone as well as realize a spike in power. He put up his best overall numbers, a .374 wOBA and 133 wRC+ along with a 13.7% walk rate and 14.8% K rate. His ISO took a big leap, going from a ~.130 over his previous 4 seasons to a .208, hitting 25 doubles and 13 home runs, both career highs.

Skills: After reviewing the raw data, the thing that jumps out the most is his ability to work the count and look for a pitch to drive. If it’s not there Joseph will gladly take his base. I’ve seen it mentioned that Corban is one of the systems best pure hitters; between his plate discipline and his quick compact swing and his ability to drive the ball to the gaps, the only thing that was missing was a power stroke. That became apparent in his 2012 campaign as he bested his career power numbers. He wasn’t hitting the “just enough” home runs either; this kid can put a hurt on the ball. Earlier this season he recorded one of the longest home runs playing in LeHigh Valley. He also hits a ton of line drives, ranging between 19-22% in his minor league career. The onset of power, his already excellent ability to choose his pitch and make solid contact along with a high line drive rate bode well for a major league career.

On the other side of the plate is where Joseph falls short. While he does have good athleticism and arm strength for the position, he lacks that quick first step and reaction times for a second baseman. He’s spent the majority of his tenure at second, but has also been positioned at 3B, as well as LF, possibly in the hopes that he can be used as a utility player for the big club as second base is currently occupied in the BX. While he may never be an above average defender, his bat could more than make up for an up the middle guy. Corban doesn’t possess incredible speed and will never be a stolen base threat, but he’s good enough on the bags that he isn’t a liability either.

Overall: Drafted as a shortstop and quickly moved to second base, Co-Jo will never amaze anyone with his glove; it’s his bat that will carry him to the majors and from what i’ve seen so far that’s a real possibility. One of the things I noted in researching Corban was his work ethic and his neverending pursuit of improving himself at the plate. It’s one of those “skills” i’ve come to value rather highly; you can’t teach certain things, and #want is one of them. He’s been known to spend hours in the video room looking for ways to improve at the plate, and preparing for his next matchup.

With second base likely locked up for several seasons by some guy named Robinson Joseph will end up a utility player or trade bait in the next year or two, barring injury or the slight chance that the Yankees let Cano walk. If by rare chance Cano does leave the Bronx, Joseph could find himself manning the position alone, or as a dangerous end of a platoon split with David Adams. He absolutely raked against righties this past season, posting a .299/.401/.560/.961 line hitting all of his HR’s (13) against opposite handed pitchers. He also walked more than he struck out (43/38), which is pretty awesome. A five time All Star between the MiL org. lists, EAS, FSL and SAL, Corban made a big step forward by adding power to his already impressive work at the plate. He likely won’t be in line for any Gold Gloves or turning heads over at The Fielding Bible awards, but his stick should be enough to carry him through a big league career. Afull time future in the Bronx would certainly be dictated by what happens with Cano, but a possible utility role is not out of the question. If not the hope is that he could bring a decent return in trade, as his skill set could net him a sarting job elsewhere.

Year in Review: SWB Yankees

“Change” was the theme of 2012 for the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Aside from the usual roster changes a minor league club goes through, the AAA affiliate to the Bronx Bombers underwent a change of scenery, their president/general manager as well as ownership, and are going to announce a new name for the club which was chosen by the fans. For the team without a home in a state of flux, the results were not at all disappointing. They shrugged off the obstacles of traveling constantly, losing their two top hitters and watching their pitching get decimated by promotions, failures and injuries.

For starters, Kristen Rose, team president of the SWB Yankees resigned in April, accepting a job with Mandalay Baseball Properties to be closer to family. Mandalay is part of the Yankee conglomerate, so it was somewhat of a lateral move for Kristen. As the season got rolling the team searched for a new leader and in July they named Rob Crain as the new president/general manager. Crain is an import from the Omaha Storm Chasers, an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals where he served as the assistant GM for four years. Crain however, grew up in enemy territory; “As a kid growing up 20 minutes away from Fenway Park, never in my wildest dreams did I think i’d thank the New York Yankees for anything”. Jeremy Ruby, former GM, will be joining Crain as part of the new leadership team. He’d been itching to get back with the club, and with a rebuilt stadium in the works this was the perfect time. The two are focused on engaging the community and bringing the fans back to the park.

Also announced this April, the sale of the SWB Yankees was made official. Negotiations had gone on for nearly two years, as the Lackawana County Multipurpose Stadium Authority finally signed off on a $14.6M sale to SWB Yankees LLC. A little strange seeing as how they will no longer be the “Yankees” but no less official. SWB LLC is a division of mandalay Baseball Properties which is a part of the Steinbrenner family holdings. The proceeds of the sale will be put towards the $43.3M renovation of PNC park, which was long overdue and should breathe some new life into the AAA club.

This brings us to the ballpark. The Yankees spent the entire 144 game season on the road, playing many of their “home” games in Rochester. They attempted to call Riverfront Stadium in Newark their temporary home, but the plan was corrupted by the Mets, who share territorial rights to the metropolitan area. Thanks for nothing guys, enjoy wallowing in mediocrity. The 12 month construction plan is a bit tight, but they are moving quickly and so far are on schedule for opening day. “The fans, when they walk in the door, are going to be inundated with the sights, the sounds, the smells, the entire fan experience” Crain said. “It’s going to be very, very minor league and when I say that, it’s going to be all about the fans and all about what they want”. The Yankees will pay $750,000 annually over the 30 year lease, which could extend to 50 years. Ownership has also agreed to contribute to maintanance and ballpark repairs. The official MiL site of the SWB Yankees has a link that directs to a live webcam to catch a peek of the construction; check it out if you get a chance.

Performance wise, the Yankees held their own despite the roster being picked apart by trades, promotions and poor performance. On the hitting side the Yankees released Jorge Vasquez, the AAA version of Adam Dunn who went back to the Mexican League. They lost another bat due to “The Trade”, as the chosen one Jesus Montero was shipped off to Seattle along with starter Hector Noesi. Austin Romine was also a no-show, spending the majority of the season with an ailing back. Like the big club, SWB had some side pieces step up and contribute; veterans Jack Cust and Russell Branyan did their share, while Chris Dickerson and Steve Pearce (both now rocking the pinstripes) filled out the run producers. Dickerson ended the year with a .316/.417/.515/.932 slash line, along with 24 doubles, 4 triples, 7 HR’s and 17 SB’s. Not be left unnoticed, Ronnier Mustelier hit his way through the system, parking himself in Scranton and opening the eyes of the higher ups in the organization. He put up a .303/.359/.455.815 line with 21 doubles, a triple, 10 HR’s, and 7 SB in SWB. Ronnier could make a play for a utility role in the Bronx next year so keep an eye out for him. Corban Joseph has also come along this year showing some excellent patience at the plate. He pushed his way to Scranton half way through the season and hit .266/.366/.474/.840 with 13 bombs and 25 doubles win AAA. His 53/57 BB/K ratio was the best on the team and is a great sign for a big league hopeful. As a team they finished off the year with a .260/.344/.403 slash line which led the league in OBP, and coincidentally led in walks with 598. They  hit 128 home runs and stole a fair amount of bases, 101, which was good for fourth in the IL.

The pitching was also picked apart; David Phelps made his impression in spring training and broke camp with the big club. Hector Noesi was shipped off to Seattle in an attempt to balance the trade after Jose Campos was tossed into the mix and DJ Mitchell later joined Hector as he was traded for some guy named Ichiro!. Dellin Betances continued to fall after his 2010 breakout and now has completely forgotten how to throw strikes. He’s going to the AFL later this year, and hopefully it’s to learn to pitch one inning at a time out of the bullpen. His concentration over several innings is said to be lacking, so maybe he can excell out of the pen. If he can’t, it will be all but goodbye Dellin. Adam Warren ended up as the last of the young guns in the rotation. He had a rocky start, and an ugly debut with the parent club but finished the season at 7-8 with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. He struck out 107 batters and walked 46. Veterans Ramon Ortiz and John Maine filled out the roster. Chase Whitley pitched well out of the pen, appearing in 41 games putting up a 3.25 ERA over 80.1 innings with a 1.07 WHIP, striking out 66 and walking 25. As a team, the Yankees ended up with a 3.86 ERA and 1052 strikeouts, both good for sixth in the International League. They were in the middle of the pack in WHIP and HR’s allowed posting a 1.35 team mark and giving up 112 long balls, and were near the bottom in walks, allowing 486 free passes.

The big story was Manny Banuelos, ranked the second best lefty prospect in baseball and the youngest player in AAA, who had a rough go of it this season. As the team moved north he suffered a pulled muscle that manager Dave Miley attributed to the horrid weather they faced; at one point he was noted as sitting in the stands shivering and miserable. He’s going to have to get used to the weather and possibly take the precautions to be more prepared/stretched out before he throws. After coming back from the lat injury Manny found his command and threw 14.2 innings without  issuing a walk while striking out 15. Miley noted that Manny had been nibbling the year before and was working on a fourth pitch (a slider/cutter) while seeing a slight uptick in velocity, so the lack of  command was neither surprising nor alarming. His next start would be his last, as he went on the DL with elbow inflammation. While “change” was the theme of the SWB Yankees, “injury” was the theme of the entire organization in 2012. Let’s hope next year plays out a bit differently eh?

The Yankees ended up with a record of 84-60, good enough to take the North Division and head to the playoffs. Manager Dave Miley did an outstanding job holding the club together, as they traveled over 16,000 miles this season; the nomadic tribe took it in stride and according to various twitter accounts, morale was not an issue. While they fell to the Pawtucket red Sox in the first round of playoffs, the season was still a success. I’ll be looking forward to the new digs and some new faces in 2013. Stay tuned this winter as we here at YFU bring you more coverage on the SWB Yankees and the rest of the MiL affiliate clubs.

Prospect Profile: 2B Angelo Gumbs

Image

Vitals: 6′ 1″ 185 lbs. Bats/Throws R/R  Born 10/13/92 2010 2nd round draft pick

Numbers: Gumbs made his brief debut in 2010 in short season ball for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, logging 26 PA’s after being selected in the second round and signing for a 750,000 bonus as one of the youngest players to get drafted. He got off to a slow pro career posting a .192/.222/.231/.453 slash line. The following season found him in Staten Island where he was a bit overshadowed by fellow teammates Mason Williams and Dante Bichette Jr., and put up a respectable .272/.320/.432/.752 slash, good for a wRC+ of 109 and a .341 wOBA. He struggled on the basepaths however, getting nabbed 7 times out of 18 attempts for a 61% success rate. He managed 11 doubles, 4 triples and 3 home runs over his 197 AB’s, taking 20 walks and striking out 57 times. 2012 marked his debut in full season ball at the rip old age of 19. He upped his production a bit and posted a .272/.320/.432/.752 line along with a .352 wOBA and 113 wRC+ over 257 AB’s. He showed a bit more power, hitting 7 HR’s, but the big improvement was in his baserunning as he stole 26 of 29 bags, good for a 89.7% success rate. His walk rate tumbled a bit, walking only 18 times on the season, as did his K rate ever so slightly striking out 60 times.

Skills: Originally signed as a CF’er, Gumbs has tools, but is very raw which you would expect from a kid that was drafted at 17 years old. His biggest asset is his bat speed, which Mike Newman over at Fangraphs compared with that of Bryce Harper and Mike/Giancarlo Stanton. Newman went on to say that although Gumbs can easily get his bat head through the strike zone, his high leg kick and excessive waggle in his timing mechanism keeps him from barreling the ball as well as you would expect with someone with his bat speed. He also has some work to do on his pitch recognition, as he has been noted to flail at breaking pitches out of the zone. Considering his ability to get through the zone and his quick hands, these kinds of deficiencies can be improved upon as he continues to gain experience.

Considered an above average athlete, Gumbs has moved around the field a bit before settling into second base. If he were to stick at the position he’d be considered a bat first guy, but he does have good range and a strong enough arm so as not to embarrass himself out there. He needs to work on his reaction to the ball and his somewhat stiff hands, but to be fair he hasn’t exactly spent a ton of time at second base and his athleticism and potential will allow him time to get it worked out. Speed wise, he’s looking at a 50/80 rating and has improved on his base-stealing skills at low A ball. He’s not as advanced as those who are natural to the position, but with good range, a solid arm and a smooth turn on the double play he has a good base to work with and could make big steps forward given the commitment.

Makeup: Angelo has drawn raves over his work ethic and desire; over the 2011 offseason Gumbs spent the winter adding some mass to his wiry frame and hit the batting cage to try and improve his swing. His coaches took note of this when he showed up to spring training, and it showed in his batting practice sessions as well as in the field. He still has a ways to go, but if he takes strides like this each year he may just find his way to the major leagues. As reported by Dayne Huber over at Bronx Baseball Daily, Gumbs drew praise from none other than Reggie Jackson. “Mr. October noted that he played with a lot of maturity, and was humble and appreciative of the opportunities and instruction he was getting. Jackson also went on to state that he saw potential in Gumbs on both sides of the ball.” Reggie went on to praise his approach and believes he has a great body type for a second baseman.

Overview: Like pretty much every prospect out there, Gumbs is all about dreaming on potential, but there’s plenty of it. He does have a lack of polish, but considering his age vs. level, he has plenty of projection. He could end up anywhere from an above average second baseman to a AA flameout; welcome to the world of prospects. Mike Newman drew comps of Ricky Weeks as they posted a similar OPS and shared a bit of a plate discipline issue early on, and entertained some comparisons to a young Alfonso Soriano albeit with a bit less power. These are at the top of the list though, so take them with a grain of salt. He’ll have to continue to spend time on his glove work and quiet his swing down in order to take advantage of his quick hands. The good news is that you can develop plate discipline and pitch recognition, but you can’t teach bat speed. Having the luxury of allowing the ball to travel deep into the zone is a huge bonus for him, so if he can get his leg kick down and his swing a bit more simplified he could be a real force at the plate. His lack of polish would be troublesome if it weren’t for the fact that he’s young for his level and has finally settled into a position.

Overall I believe Gumbs is one to keep an eye on. Aside from the physical tools, which are there but need to be refined, he shows a level of maturity and dedication that bode well for someone trying to climb the ladder to the majors. He’s young for his level and has yet to spend a significant amount of time at his current position so there is plenty of ceiling for him to realize. Having garnered rave reviews from his coaching staff and the likes of Mr. October himself is always a bonus, and if his future is realized by his determination and raw talent we could hear him knocking on the door behind some of our other more highly touted prospects.

If he were to roll through Tampa next season and spend a year per level from here on out he would be making a ML debut in late 2015/spring 2016 which would have him taking big level swings at age 22/23. It may seem like he’d be in the system forever, but remember, when he took his first cuts as a professional he wasn’t even allowed to buy tobacco.

MiL Week in Review: Championship Edition

The minor leagues wrapped up for the Yankee affiliates this week culminating in the championship series between the Trenton Thunder and the Akron Aeros. All of the the other farm clubs are done for the season, SWB being the only other team to make a bid in the playoffs. The week started with Trenton on the road; here’s a rundown of the weeks action.

Game one: Brett Marshall took the ball for the opener, and while he did a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground, he surrendered three runs on six hits; walking none and striking out five. The pen delivered two innings of one hit ball thanks to the efforts of Tommy Kahnle and David Aardsma to keep the scoring to the three runs allowed by Marshall. The offense would sputter however; the only hits delivered were singles by Adonis Garcia and Addison Maruszak, and a double by David Adams, which didn’t produce any runs and left the Aeros with a 3-0 victory.

Game 2: Shaeffer Hall took the hill for the second game and it wasn’t exactly his best outing; not by far in fact. Hall gave up seven runs over three innings on six hits. Only five of those runs went earned as Adams shuffled a ball to allow the inning to continue, plating two more. Craig Hyer, Branden Pinder and Mark Montgomery once again shut the door allowing just three hits over the next five innings. The bats would not go quietly in this one however as David Adams and Zoilo Almonte each chipped in a pair of hits, one of Zoilo’s being a three run bomb that got the Thunder back in the game after being down by seven. Ramon Flores, Tyler Austin, JR Murphy and Kevin Mahoney each had a hit of their own but the deficit proved to be too much. Trenton ended up dropping game 2 by a score of 7-5.

Game 3:  It was do or die from here on out, as Trenton sent Mikey O’Brien out to keep them in the series. Mikey had struggled a bit to end off the season, and as it continued into the championship series Tony Franklin had the hook out early. O’Brien lasted only two innings after giving up five earned on eight hits. Graham Stoneburner came into the third and pitched three innings of two run ball and then turned it over to Kahnle who spit the bit and walked the bases loaded. Branden Pinder played the role of Houdini as he came in to end the inning unscathed. A strikeout, a shallow pop-out and a ground-out were all it took as the inning ended without a run scoring. Aardsma and Montgomery would finish of the trio’s hitless effort. The bats answered the call in game 3, as Adams and Garcia each had a pair of hits and scored twice. Zoilo Almonte and Ramon Flores were the big bats though, and have been two of the best hitters in the playoffs. They combined to go 5-9 while driving in seven of the eleven runs on the night. The Thunder took the game 11-7.

Game 4: Nike Turley got the ball to try and extend the season and send the Thunder to a final game in the series. He ended with a decent outing of three runs on seven hits over six innings. He walked a pair and struck out eight. All in all Nik had a solid season and has a lot to build on for next year. The big lefty could very well find his way to the Bronx if he can keep up his development. Ryan Pope stumbled in relief, allowing three runs on two walks and two hits; his most disappointing outing of the post-season. Aardsma and Lee Hyde combined for 1.2 innings of scoreless ball. Unfortunately the offense would go back into hiding for game 4, JR Murphy and Adonis Garcia would each get a hit and Maruszak would chip in a pair but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep Trenton in the series. They dropped the game 6-1 as the Areos walked away champions.

Overall: It was a rough year for the farm with injuries to a couple of major players; one of which could have made a bid to take a rotation spot, and another that projects as a power arm with a huge ceiling. A couple of our more prominent position players also got banged up; Tyler Austin got beat up several times and ended up having to sit out the final game of the series with a nagging ankle injury, Mason Williams had his labrum (non-throwing shoulder) operated on to prevent his arm from popping out of joint and Angelo Gumbs, a promising second baseman in Charleston also ended the season on the DL. Sounds a bit like the big club eh? With that said, Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams both shot up the rankings in the top 100 (BA, KLaw’s list) and Tyler Austin went from a no show to making the bottom third of the list. Both Banuelos and Campos were said to have made the list if not for being injured, and former prospects David Adams and Slade Heathcott regained some traction by staying on the field and producing for their teams. Both of them will get to extend their seasons along with Austin Romine in the Arizona Fall League. All in all we ended up with two playoff bids and some promising movement from some guys in the lower levels. With any luck we’ll be looking for them to break through in the next couple years.

That’s it for the recaps this year, but stay tuned for prospect profiles, our positional rankings and an overall top prospects list from now through the hot stove season.

Prospect Profile: Jose Ramirez

J-Ram courtesy of RAB

Here comes the heat

Vitals

Drafted: RHP; Taken as an IFA out of Yaguate, Dominican Republic, June 10th 2007    bonus unknown

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 155  (no updates that i’ve seen on his stat pages but it looks as if he’s filled out a bit)

Overview

Many fans will remember Jose Ramirez as the guy who we “should have traded” back in 2009; instead we sent Arodys Vizcaino off to Atlanta for Javier Vasquez v2.0. Of course Vizcaino continued on the path to becoming a legit ML pitcher and Ramirez took a step back in his development while the angry villagers were out in full force, torches and pitchforks in hand. Over the following two seasons the tides didn’t just turn, they did a total 180. Vizcaino was moved to the pen for an August callup in 2011 and threw straight gas and aside from a 5ER outing he was quite stellar. Hopes were high coming into 2012 when it was learned that a previously torn UCL had finally given in and an appointment was scheduled with Dr. Andrews. Meanwhile, Ramirez was busy finding a breaking pitch he could get get a feel for and showed up in instructs in the fall of 2011 hitting triple digits and sporting a shiny new slider. He stumbled a bit out of the gate this year but righted the ship and had a succesful campaign. Let’s take a closer look…

The Numbers

Ramirez broke out onto the U.S. scene after pitching in the Dominican to roast the GCL League in 2009. He posted a 1.41 ERA while striking out 55 and walking 16 in 61 innings. That’s good for a 7.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, .781 WHIP and a .156 BAA. He then got a sip of coffee in Tampa to cap off the year with three scoreless innings. Smokin’. 2010 was rolling along as he posted a 3.6 ERA/3.04 FIP and solid peripherals; 8.2 K/9 3.3 BB/9, .239 BAA despite an injury setback. In 2011 the wheels came off as he couldn’t stay on the field for the duration, limited to 103.1 innings. His ERA/FIP rose to 5.66/4.2 along with a 1.568 WHIP, a rising BB rate and .292 BAA. Injuries weren’t his only concern however. While he sported two very good offerings, his breaking pitch left a lot to be desired. He toyed with a slurve and then sported a 1-7 curve, neither of which he could consistently find a feel for. Late in 2011 he began working on a slider which he brought to camp with him in 2012 and turned some heads. 2012 brought great things for the struggling pitcher; his ERA/FIP splits fell to 3.19/3.28, while his peripherals improved as well. His K rate stayed the same as 2011 but he walked a batter less per 9, shaved 332 points off his WHIP and got his BAA down to .239. This all with a shaky start to the year where he allowed 18ER in the first five games and 26IP. The highlight of his season came when he and fellow Tampa pitcher Branden Pinder combined for a 7 inning no hitter where Jose struck out 7 over 6 innings and walked one. His pitch count kept him from finishing what he started but a great start none-the-less. He was also the first Tampa pitcher to hit double digit K’s on the year. All in all a big step forward, and we’ll be looking for more as he enters his age 23 season.

The Stuff

Fastball: He’s got a serious power arm. His FB sits in the mid 90′s with late breaking action that he can command to both sides of the plate. He’s not afraid to bust hitters inside with it, inducing some weak pop-ups and roll-over grounders. He was reportedly running it up to 100 during instructs and got it up there again later this year as confirmed on the twitter-verse as “the first legit 100″ that an attending scout had seen in Tampa. In short, the kid has a big-time FB that is easily a plus pitch.

Changeup: With as good as his fastball is, the change might be even better. Yes…better. He runs it in the mid 80′s and the deception to it is ridiculous. Coming out of his hand batters have no choice but to suspect it’s the heat until they find themselves way ahead of it. The pitch has nice depth and fade to it, he can command it quite well and is not afraid to unleash it in any count. Reports are that his power change rivals Manny Banuelos as the best in the system. That’s says a lot. It’s a plus offering that flashes plus-plus. Deadly.

Slider: Here’s what could possibly bring him to another level. He’s struggled to settle on a breaking pitch over the years, and if he can command the slider the sky is the limit. It’s a legit swing and miss pitch when it’s on and gives him a real weapon to attack right handed hitters with. He gets it up around 85-88 and when he’s on he can throw it for strikes or run it off the plate. It is anywhere from an average to above average pitch that shows plus potential and will be the difference between being a starter and reliever.

Summary

After some ups and downs Ramirez looks as if he can make a charge at the upper levels. While he’s listed at 155 the videos that i’ve seen looks as if he’s packed on a few pounds to his svelte frame. With command of two plus to plus-plus pitches his floor is that of a solid reliever. Add in a solid breaking ball and we’re talking a ceiling of a #2 in an elite rotation. He has a free and easy motion with not too many moving parts and a strong finish to his delivery. He has good command and will throw his best two offerings in any count. He’s still a couple years away and has time to continue to develop his slider but right now he’s getting himself back on track and on the move. He’s been talked up by the likes of John Sickels and Kiley McDaniel as well as making Baseball America’s helium list. Barring any injury/developmental setbacks we could see him knocking on the ML door as early as 2015, and joining the likes of some of our other power arms such as Campos, Henseley and DePaula in a bid for a shot at the rotation in the Bronx. Since falling from grace Ramirez is getting himself back on the radar of the prospect watchers; he should be on yours too.

Here’s a couple of viddy’s of Jose fanning some batters; you might recognize these guys:

Minor League Week in Review

As we enter September the rosters tend to get jumbled a bit between feeding the expanding major league club; the following players have been promoted to AAA: Matt Tracy, Yadil Mujica, Vidal Nuno, Jon Meloan, Francisco Rondon and Jose Gil. Both Doug Bernier and RJ Baker were activated from the DL.

The following players have been bumped up to AA Trenton; Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, Nik Turley, Zach Nuding, Tommy Kahnle and Branden Pinder.

In corresponding moves in order to clear slots on the 40 man roster, both Ramiro Pena and Brandon Laird have been released. Laird has been picked up by Houston where he may actually get a chance to make the big team. He had a monster season in 2010 and then failed to impress from then on. Good luck Brandon.

SWB Yankees finished off the season at 84-60, they won the Northern division and will play the Pawsox for a best of five starting wednesday.

Ronnier Mustelier was the big ticket in Scranton this week going 13-25 with a double, a homer and three RBI’s. Corban Joseph fell off a bit down the stretch and ended up going 3-16 on the week including a pair of doubles. Melky Mesa has also tanked a bit the last week finishing with a 4-25 week and far too many K’s. That’s his most glaring issue and not an easy fix at this stage. Adam Warren turned in a shaky start throwing 6.2 innings of four run ball, walking one and striking out six. Matt Tracy made his AAA debut going 5 innings of three hit, one run ball. Reliever Juan Cedeno came in for 4IP of relief work allowing a single run on two hits. He K’d three and walked none. Chase Whitley contributed with 5 scoreless innings on two hits. He’s had himself a nice season and I wouldn’t mind him send Mr. Lowe packing from the BX.

Trenton Thunder ended the year at 78-64 and won the Eastern League. They kick off a five gamer against Reading tomorrow.

Adonis Garcia led the charge for the Thunder this week going 10-25 including three doubles and two long balls. He drove in six for the week. David Adams on the other hand spit the bit down the stretch chipping in a lousy three hits on the week. Tyler Austin made his AA debut and went 2-7 scoring twice and driving in another. Zoilo Almonte ended the week at 8-25 with a HR and 2 RBI. Vidal Nuno was the man on the hill for Trenton making two starts and ending with a line of 11IP, 12H, 3ER, 1BB and 10K’s. Mikey O’Brien went 8.2 IP allowing 12 hits, 3 runs whiole striking out 3. Brett Marshall got kicked around to the tune of seven runs over five innings. Mark Montgomery has returned to form and went another three scoreless innings on the week while walking no one and striking out four.

Tampa Yankees currently 65-70 on the year with a pair left to play but no hope for the playoffs.

Tyler Austin said adios to Tampa and left the FSL with a .321/.385/.478/.863 quad slash. Ramon Flores also got the call and left A-ball with a .302/.370/.420/.790 line. Not bad fellas; good luck in Trenton. Nik Turley also got the call to AA and ended with a 2.89 ERA over 112IP in Tampa. He allowed 3 runs over 5 innings in his debut for Trenton. Jose Ramirez made one start and allowed a single run over six innings. He walked three and struck out four. Nick Goody continues to throw well; he added 3 innings of one run ball, allowing a walk while striking out seven. He should be a fast mover and be a season or so behind Montgomery. Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott and Kyle Roller sputtered a bit this past week, combining for 21 hits over 78 AB’s; not horrific by any means but not quite what we’ve seen this year.

Charleston RiverDogs went 73-63 on the year and missed a playoff appearance.

Dante Bichette Jr. finished strong going 10-25 including a pair of doubles while driving in three. Robert Refsnyder also finished strong by going 9-23 with a HR, two doubles and two RBI’s. Cito Culver was fairly anemic this week with only three hits in 27 AB’s. Yikes. He still walks a bunch, but his contact rate leaves much to be desired. He’s not an old man for the level but we may see him converted back to a pitcher if he doesn’t start putting the ball in play. Ben Gamel went out swinging and picked up 9 hits in 19 AB’s with none double. Out on the mound Bryan Mitchell made two starts and finished with a line of 12IP, 3H, 0ER, 2BB’s and 9K’s. Evan Rutckyj (root-ski) also made a pair of appearances and tossed 10 innings of one run ball on five hits. He both K’d and walked five. Corey Black tossed five innings of shutout ball while Pedro Guerra threw two shutout innings in relief.

SI Yankees are at 28-45 on the season and will finish it up on Wednesday.

It’s been a pretty rough year for the baby bombers in Staten Island to say the least. It is just short season ball though, so nothing to get to worked up over. Taylor Dugas fell off a bit and went 5-21 with a pair of doubles and RBI’s each. Greg Bird ended up going 5-24 with a pair of doubles and a lone RBI. Peter O’Brien had eight hits in thirty AB’s with a pair of doubles, two HR’s while driving in six. On the pitching side Andrew Benak threw 10 innings of one run ball on four hits. He walked three and struck out four. James Pazos tossed three scorless innings on one hit while striking out two. Derek Varnadore on the other hand got smacked around for 4 runs in 4.1 innings.

The GCL Yanks are done for the year; they finished at 35-25.

Minor League Week in Review

Notables:

Jose Pirela was placed on the DL with a broken hand; his season is now finished. Ryan Flannery will take his place,

Nick Goody has been promoted to Tampa; he’ll join the rehabbing Jeremy Bleich in the pen.

Greg Bird and Angel Rincon have both been promoted to Staten Island to get a few more reps in.

Zoilo Almonte was named to the EL All Star team.

Ronnier Mustelier was activated off the DL, while Dellin Betances was placed on the DL with shoulder tendinitis.

SWB Yankees  6-1 on the week, 80-57 overall

Corban Joseph led the charge for Scranton going 9-30 with two doubles, a HR and 7 RBI’s. Chris Dickerson could be making a push for a September callup as he continues to rack up hits. He went 12-31 on the week with 5 doubles and a pair of RBI’s. Ronnier Mustelier made his return with five hit week in thirteen AB’s. Melky Mesa added 7 hits of his own; he drove in four with the help of a pair of doubles and a pair of homers. Adam Warren turned in a nice start this week going 5IP, 2H, 0ER, BB, 4K. On the relief end Chase Whitley gave up a run over 3.2 on 2 hits. Juan Cedeno tossed three scoreless on two hits. He walked none and struck out three. Kelvin Perez started off with two no-hit innings, and then get hit around in his next outing. He gave up two runs in 1.2IP on three hits.

Trenton Thunder  3-4 on the week,  76-58 overall

The Thunder have been on a bit of a slide lately, but started to turn it around on the back of some solid starting pitching. Shaeffer Hall and Brett Marshall both started two games this week, and both had Jeckyl and Hyde type weeks. First they combined for 12IP, 15H, 8ER, 4BB, 7K’s and then came back with a combined line of 12.2IP 6H, 3ER, 2BB, 15K’s. Vidal Nuno bounced back for a 6IP, 4H, 0ER, BB, 3K outing while Mikey O’Brien threw a one hitter over 6.2IP. John Brebbia added 4.1 innings of his own, giving up a single run on four hits. He walked on and struck out five. Zoilo Almonte has cooled right off; aside from a 3-4 night Thursday, he’s 1-23. Yikes. David Adams continues to hit turning in a 7-20 performance where he drove in four, including two doubles and a long ball. JR Murphy drove in one of his own and had two doubles on seven hits.

Tampa Yankees  2-4, 33-27 in the second half

The OF provided the pop again this week for Tampa, led by Slade Heathcott who went 8-18 withthree doubles and a pair of RBI’s. Ramon Flores had 9 hits in 17 AB’s with two doubles and an RBI. Tyler Austin went 6-17 with a pair of doubles while driving in three. Nik Turley got roughed up a bit in his start; he gave up four runs on 7 hits; two of which went over the fence. Branden Pinder threw 2.2 innings of one hit ball, while Mark Montgomery got back on track with four one hit innings of his own. He walked one and struck ouit six. Nick Goody made his High-A debut with a hitless inning, walking one and striking out zero.

Charleston RiverDogs  5-2 on the week and 67-62 on the season

Saxon Butler kicks off the Dogs this week going 6-22 with two doubles and three RBI’s. Dante Bichette Jr. is getting it rolling; he went 7-22 on the week with a pair of doubles and four RBI’s. Robert Refsnyder didn’t hit for average this week but 3 of his five hits were for extra bases; a double and two HR’s which drove in five runs on the week. Scottie Allen threw a total of 8.2IP, 10H, 3ER, 1BB, 11K’s.

SI Yankees  6-1 on the week (wow!) 24-41 on the season

Big debut for Greg Bird in SI this week; he went 5-8 with a 2B, HR and 4 RBI’s. Taylor Dugas went 7-16 with a 2B and 2 RBI’s. Ravel Sanatan has been underwhelming this year; 5-30 on the week but he did drive in four and hit a HR. Tim Flight tossed three scoreless on two hits and five K’s. James Pazos tossed three scoreless of his own, yielding one hit, allowing a walk and striking out one. Derek Varnadore had a rough week; he ended with a line of 9IP, 10H, 5ER, 3BB, 5K’s.

GCL Yankees 4-3 on the week and 35-25 overall

This marks the end of the GCL; some will move on for some work in the Penn League or higher. Yeicok Calderon cooled right off to cap the season; he finished going 2-16 with a HR and 2 RBI’s. Christopher Breen had an ugly week… 0-fer. Nuff’ said. Miieson Oliberto finished strong going 6-20 with three doubles and a pair of RBI’s. Kenedy Agramonte threw 3.1 innings of one run ball walking none and striking out four. Giovanny Gallegos tossed five innings of two hit ball and Rony Bautista threw 1.2 innings of zeroes.

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