Minor League Month in Review: April

Cano just unlucky in cards
Roster moves, bullpen management leaves system needing arms

April’s a wacky month. It’s the only time of the year that Nate McLouth can sport a 1.047 OPS, or when Mike Mussina can boast better numbers than Roy Oswalt. Christian Lara played for two teams in a single game and Jay Johnson hit a walk-off double to make himself the winning pitcher, and I can’t help but think that only April can contain that kind of madness.

April has been an interesting month in the Yankees’ farm system, full of surprises and disappointments. You had Eric Hacker’s pitch count ruined perfect game and Brett Gardner launching no-doubt homers. While April doesn’t provide enough info to draw accurate conclusions, it does start to paint a picture of what’s ahead.

Triple-A Scranton
Other than Darrell Rasner, who is now a big leaguer, the story of the month for Scranton has been none other than Eric Duncan. The 27th overall pick in the 2003 draft has had a … let’s say, “rocky” career so far, but it looks like the light bulb may finally be coming on a bit. Even though he’s been forced to play second fiddle to Shelley Duncan and Juan Miranda for playing time, Duncan’s off to a .279-.384-.508 start. I pulling for him and I hope he can sustain it.

Double-A Trenton
The early story in Trenton is one of two top notch prospects whose career paths are going in opposite directions. Austin Jackson hasn’t flashed any over-the-fence power yet, but his plate discipline has improved considerably (22-16 K/BB in 28 games) suggesting last year’s breakout was legit. He’s in a little 1 for 13 rut, but prior to that he hit safely in 18 of his previous 20 games. Look for the power numbers to increase as the weather warms up.

Jose Tabata on the other hand is all sorts of messed up. After seeing him on a recent scouting trip, RAB fave Keith Law had this to say about the 19-yr old Venezuelan: “fat, swing is a mess, head is way off the ball, trying to pull everything including pitches off the outside corner, gliding, swinging and missing at fastballs middle-in and playing like he doesn’t care.” Eek. The Yanks are giving a chance to work out his issues in Double-A, although a demotion could be in his future if he keeps getting suspended for throwing tantrums.

High-A Tampa
The Yanks’ home base squad has been ground zero for the biggest storyline of the system in 2008: the Tommy John rehabbers. After combining to allow 13 baserunners and 8 earned runs in their first 6.2 IP back, Mark Melancon and JB Cox settled down and held opponents to 24 baserunners and 1 earned run in their next 18.1 IP before Cox was shipped up to Trenton. The stats in the TJ Rehab watch get better by the day, and should include some more names as Humberto Sanchez and Chris Garcia start pitching in games again.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the performances of fringy prospects Edwar Gonzalez and Eric Hacker. Edwar’s 18 extra base hits paces the organization, while Hacker’s 0.63 WHIP is the second lowest in all of baseball, trailing only Cliff Lee and his 0.56 mark. That’s impressive stuff, even though it’s almost entirely unsustainable.

Low-A Charleston
Charleston has easily been the most exciting affiliate to follow this year. You’ve got Dellin Betances (41 K in 31.1 IP) and Zach McAllister (25-4 K/BB, 3.12 GB/FB in 32 IP) in the rotation, and a lineup that features four regulars hitting at least .320. Bradley Suttle is rocking a .882 OPS (between injuries) after a dreadful pro debut last year, Justin Snyder has been on-base 45 times in 26 games, Abe Almonte is tormenting pitchers both at the plate (17 RBI) and on the bases (9 steals) out of the leadoff spot, and then, of course, there is Jesus Montero.

The second youngest player in the Sally League, Montero leads the league in doubles (12), and is second in RBI (20) and total bases (61). He’s had more than four times as many multi-hit games (13) than hitless games (3), two separate streaks of at least 4 consecutive games with an extra base hit, and a stretch in which he drove in the game winning run in 5 of 6 games. The only thing he hasn’t done at the plate is walk (2 BB). He’s far and away the best hitting prospect in the system at this point, and it’s going to be interesting to see how he follows this up in May.

Jesus Montero pic by Flickr user largodeb.

Cano just unlucky in cards
Roster moves, bullpen management leaves system needing arms
  • xkevinx

    Its easy to forget that Eric Duncan is still just 23. I have to believe that he was rushed through the system. Hopefully, he can still keep this going. Jason Bay never hit 20 homers until he was 25 at AAA, and Ryan Howard didn’t get to AA until he was almost 25, so there is still time to develop into a legit major leaguer. (Obviously, he will not be Ryan Howard) Here is to his continued success.

  • Tripp

    Almost 20 innings pitched for Melancon in April. They are really working him hard. They don’t plan to pitch him that many innings per month going forward do they?

  • A.D.

    David Robertson has been promoted to AAA

  • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

    Thanks, Mike — great recap for those of us who don’t follow the farm teams all that closely…

    ..other than what’s posted here, of course.

    Does anyone think Duncan will have any shot of seeing the bigs anytime soon? I’m curious, though, if the Yanks won’t press their luck and trade him while he’s hot in the minors…

  • Phil McCracken

    Of course Duncan is playing well now. Its his last year under contract. He’s playing hard so someone will throw some money at him.

    • Jon

      Why so cynical?

  • http://www.myspace.com/j_panama Jamal G.

    Jesus Montero is 8th in the Sally League in SLG%. Of the seven players who are ahead of Montero, only two is are under the age of 22, Michael Burgess (OF-WAS).


  • http://www.myspace.com/j_panama Jamal G.

    I think the bullpen of SWB has been a top storyline in the Yankees’ organization. To the victor go the spoils as Jose Veras has been called up to New York according to Chad Jennings.


  • http://ibleedblueandwhite.blogspot.com Jamie

    Whats the deal with Robertson.. why do i feel like yes I’ve heard of him but I really don’t know anything else about him..

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Not much of a deal really, low-90’s fastball and a good breaking ball. Short guy (5’10” or so) with a bit of violent delivery, wouldn’t be surprised if he gets hurt eventually. The numbers are better than the stuff.

  • Mike R.

    I asked this over at Pending Pinstripes but i want the opinion of people here. (Especially you Mike)

    If Eric Duncan has a breakout year and ends up with a .300+ BA and a .900+ OPS do you still want the Yankees to go hard after Teixeira this off season?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      I doubt anything Eric Duncan can realistically do this year would affect the Yanks offseason plans. Teixeira scares me a bit, I can totally see him being a bust. He’s never been one to enjoy the limelight. I think it’d prefer signing Adam Dunn to play first.

    • inyk

      I never got why we want to go after Teixeira. Posada won’t be a catcher by the end of his contract. Eventually Jeter will move from SS, and even further down the line A-Rod will probably move to first. In the meantime there’s a possibility that Montero moves to first. Where is the room for a 6+ year deal with Teixeria?

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos

        When Jeter moves off of SS, it would be to LF. His lack of power would make him a bad fit for 1B.
        When Posada moves off of C, it would be to DH/1B. There’s two spots in the order, so Teixiera and Posada can give each other days off from the field.
        And I don’t see ARod moving off 3B anytime soon. He’s still league average or better defensively, and as long as we are replacing Jeter at SS with a good defender (plus, getting the defensive boost that Jeet should be in LF over the Damon/Matsui combo), we’ll be fine defensively. ARod is a great athlete and should be able to sustain his play at 3B for the majority of his 10-year deal.

        The point is that Teixiera is a switch hitting power bat who would strengthen our lineup immeasurably, and he’s a much better hitter than everyone on our team (outside of ARod). So, we should make Jeter/Tex/ARod/Cano/Posada our core and build the other positions, defensively, around them.

  • Patrick

    Why couldn’t the Riverdogs be a Yankees affiliate when I was in college? Ugh…it was the Rays for me. Man, I got the short end on that one.