2010 Minor League Awards

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(Photo Credit: The Scranton Times-Tribune)

There’s no question that 2010 was a banner year for the Yankees’ farm system. Not only did their top prospects perform very well and continue along their development path, but numerous players broke out and several others returned from injury and exceeded every reasonable expectation. The system had been trending downward over the last few seasons due to graduation, trades, and normal attrition, but this year has re-established the system as one deep in both high end talent and role players, exactly what the Yankees need.

The Yanks’ six domestic affiliates went a combined 368-318 (.536) in 2010, at least the 28th consecutive season the affiliates have combined for an above-.500 record. Triple-A Scranton (right), Double-A Trenton, and High-A Tampa all won their division and qualified for postseason play. A large part of that success can be attributed to all of the top shelf pitching prospects the Yanks have at the upper levels. It really is an impressive group.

This post is not intended to be any kind of prospect ranking. It’s quite the opposite. It’s a recognition of those who had great statistical years regardless of their future potential. Sometimes, we just have to step and say damn, that guy was awesome without obsessing over the underlying data and whether or not it’s sustainable.

Here are my 2007, 2008, and 2009 awards posts. If you’re unfamiliar with how I do these things, I disqualify the Player of the Year from the other major awards just to mix things up. Variety is the spice of life, as they say.

Minor League Player of the Year: Brandon Laird, 3B, AA/AAA
Following a 2009 season in which he started off slowly before turning things around in the second half, Laird dominated the Double-A Eastern League right from the get go in 2010. He clubbed four homers with a .334 wOBA in April, then improved to six homers and a .408 wOBA in June, nine and .382 in July, and then four and .346 in August before being promoted to Triple-A Scranton. Overall, Laird hit .281/.336/.482 with a system leading 25 homers and 102 RBI, but his performance with Trenton is what really solidified this award for him. He hit .291/.355/.523 (.371 wOBA) for the Thunder, enough to win him the league MVP and Rookie of the Year awards. Of course, the RAB Minor League Player of the Year Award trumps all.
Honorable Mention: Jesus Montero, C, AAA; Graham Stoneburner, RHSP, A-/A+

Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Graham Stoneburner, RHSP, A-/A+
This was a tough, tough call. There are four or five legitimate candidates for this award, and in a normal year any one of those guys would have won in a landslide. That’s the kind of year the system had, basically everyone hit on the best case scenario. Stoneburner gets the nod for a few reasons. One, opponents hit just .209 off him, the fifth best mark in all of minor league baseball and easily the best in the system. Two, his 8.7 K/9 led all full-time starters in organization while his 4.03 K/BB ratio was third best. Three, he generated groundballs an absurd 57.1% of the time, again the best mark among full-time starters in the system. Stoneburner went 42 days between earned runs at one point, and only once all season did he allow more than three earned runs in a start (all of the other candidates did it at least three times). Eighteen of his 26 starts featured two earned runs or fewer. He didn’t miss a beat following a promotion to the High-A Florida State League, and all of that adds up to my Minor League Pitcher of the Year award. Make no mistake about it, several others were very deserving as well, but only one could take the award home.
Honorable Mention: Hector Noesi, RHSP, A+/AA/AAA; David Phelps, RHSP, AA/AAA; Adam Warren, RHSP, A+/AA

Minor League Hitter of the Year: Jesus Montero, C, AAA
Last season’s Minor League Player of the Year had an up-and-down season (well, really down than up), but his overall performance was fantastic for a 20-year-old at the Triple-A level. He hit .289/.353/.517 (.366 wOBA) and set new career highs with 34 doubles, three triples, 21 homers, and 46 walks. Montero became the first catcher in Scranton history to club 20 homers, and just the ninth player overall to accomplish that feat. Considering how poorly his season started (more on that later), the fact that his season numbers are as strong as they are is a testament to how dominant of a hitter he can be.
Honorable Mention: Juan Miranda, 1B, AAA; Melky Mesa, CF, A+

Minor League Manager of the Year: Tony Franklin, AA
For the first time ever, someone not named Dave Miley took home my manager of the year award. Franklin lost his Opening Day starter (Chris Garcia) to Tommy John surgery after one start, and his number three starter (Jeremy Bleich) was largely ineffective before going down with a shoulder injury shortly thereafter. The entire rotation turned over during the course of the year, and at one point Franklin had to run relievers Cory Arbiso and Wilkin DeLaRosa out there as starters every five days. His offense, despite having the league MVP in the middle of the lineup, was unspectacular after the season’s first two months, and he didn’t have a set closer until July. And yet despite all that, the Thunder had the best record in the Eastern League at 83-59.
Honorable Mention: Dave Miley, AAA; Torre Tyson, A+

The Edwar Ramirez Award (Breakout Player of the Year): Melky Mesa, CF, A+
The second coming of the Melkman has been in the system for half-a-decade, and while he always had the physical gifts to be an exciting player, he had yet to deliver on that promise. This season, he delivered. Mesa’s .260/.338/.475 batting line represents career bests across the board, and his 19 homers were just one shy of his previous career high set last season in 57 more plate appearances. He was named the Florida State League Player of the Year for his efforts, and his breakout was just one of many exciting developments in the farm system this year.
Honorable Mention: Rob Lyerly, 3B, A-; Eduardo Sosa, CF, SS

Best Pro Debut: Gary Sanchez, C, Rk/SS
Montero isn’t the only Latin American bonus baby catcher in the farm system, Sanchez took $3M from the Yanks last year and looked to be worth every penny this season. As a 17-year-old he hit .329/.392/.543 with eight homers in just 47 games overall, splitting time between rookie ball and the more advanced New York-Penn League. Although he was promoted out of the GCL with more than two weeks left in the season, Sanchez still finished second in the circuit in homers (six) and RBI (36), and if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, he would have topped the league in SLG (.587) and OPS (1.004). It’s not often we see a teenage hitter dominate in his first professional season like this.
Honorable Mention: Anderson Feliz, 2B, Rk/A+; Zach Varce, RHSP, SS

Comeback Player of the Year: Dellin Betances, RHSP, A+/AA
Betances is no stranger to the infirmary, and as you know he missed most of 2009 and the start of 2010 after have a procedure on his elbow. Inconsistency and some early struggles are expected after a major surgery like that, but Betances showed no ill effects and put up his most dominant season to date. He struck out 39 and walked just six while allowing a pair of earned runs in his first 34 innings back (six starts), and finished the season with a 2.11 ERA and a 108-22 K/BB ratio in 85.1 innings. No player in the farm system threw as many innings as Betances this year and topped his 11.4 K/9. This goes back to what we said before; Betances’ season was the best case scenario coming off elbow surgery.
Honorable Mention: Bradley Suttle, 3B, A+; J.B. Cox, RHRP, A+/AA

Bounceback Player of the Year (started slow before rebounding): Jesus Montero
To say that the start of Montero’s season was a disappointment would be an understatement. Arguably the best hitter in the minors coming into the season, he hit just .229/.306/.357 with three measly homeruns during the season’s first two months before he finally adjusted to the Triple-A level. Montero hit .321/.380/.601 with 18 longballs the rest of the way, including a monster .351/.396/.684 performance following the All Star break. Coincidentally, the turn around came right around the time the Cliff Lee trade with Seattle fell through. Maybe he just got a little mad. It was the kind of season this award was made to highlight.
Honorable Mention: Bradley Suttle, 3B, A+; Manny Banuelos, LHSP, Rk/A+/AA

Most Disappointing Player of the Year: Neil Medchill, LF, A+/A-
One year after leading the NY-Penn League and setting a new Staten Island franchise record with 14 homers, Medchill managed to go deep just a dozen times despite coming to the plate nearly twice as often. No one believed (or should have, anyway) that his 2009 performance was indicative of his true talent level, but the crash back to Earth was even rougher than expected. Medchill hit just .199/.280/.331 on the year, leading the system with 154 strikeouts, or one every three plate appearances almost on the nose.
Dishonorable Mention: Kyle Higashioka, C, A-; Wilkin DeLaRosa, LHRP, AA

Individual Level Awards (click for a larger view)

All-Minor League Teams

Lifetime Achievement Award

This year’s recipient is a former top prospect hurt by the aggressive promotions that plagued the farm system in the middle of last decade. Signed out of Venezuela way back in 2002, the organization thought so highly of him that his professional debut came as a 17-year-old with the High-A Tampa Yankees as an injury fill-in. After starring with the Rookie GCL Yanks later that year (.336/.392/.511), he was named the seventh best prospect in the system by Baseball America and as promoted to Low-A Charleston the following year but struggled to find consistency. He hit just .252/.314/.348 on the season.

Sent back to Charleston the following year after Baseball America again considered him the seventh best prospect in the system, this player hit a more respectable .255/.357/.386 as a 19-year-old before being bumped up to Tampa for a disastrous late season cameo (.223 wOBA). Assigned to Tampa to start the 2007, he hit .266/.327/.366 in a forgettable season, yet it earned him a promotion to Double-A Trenton the following season. An injury ended his 2008 season barely more than a month in, naturally after a hot start that saw him hit .302/.387/.396.

Fully healed and back with Trenton last year, our hero had his worst season as a professional, a .213/.278/.332 campaign that all but wiped his face off the prospect landscape. As a 23-year-old in 2010, he surprisingly enjoyed the best season of his career, free from the pressures of being one of the Yanks’ few legit prospects that plagued his early career. A position change and a return engagement with the Thunder saw him hit .283/.350/.421 with a career high ten homers that forced his name into the everyday lineup.

It’s not enough to get him back on he prospect map, but it’s enough to earn him this award. Spending the better part of a decade struggling to find any kind of success can really weigh on a person, so this year’s recipient is being recognized not necessarily for his on-the-field accomplishments, but for his perseverance and willingness to stick out the bad times in hope of better days ahead. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award goes to …. drum roll please … Marcos Vechionacci.

Photo Credit: Mike Ashmore
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  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime-Jesus & Maquinito FTW

    “Coincidentally, the turn around came right around the time the Cliff Lee trade with Seattle fell through. Maybe he just got a little mad.”

    Muahahahahha

    Also, the first-second-third team grid is amazing because it really shows how deep (…) the system has become

    • Chip

      DEEP AND THICK

      /had to be done’d

  • Thomas

    I am very disappointed in DeLeon not being worthy enough to make even the 3rd team. I expect much better from him.

    • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime-Jesus & Maquinito FTW

      There is nothing he won’t swing at. Seriously. Nothing.

      • Thomas

        That’s not his fault. The pitchers should give him pitches in the zone.

        Seriously though, his IsoD is .052, which is OK (but not great), so he must have some plate recognition and maybe he can improve. However, he just make contact so rarely with the pitches he does swing at.

        • http://www.teamnerdrage.com dr mrs the yankee

          That’s pretty much it. He does have some pitch recognition issues (has a particular issue with sliders, but what 18-20 year old doesn’t) but the real problem is contact. When he does make contact it’s usually solid but who knows if that will come together.

        • Pharryn

          I watched him quite a few games late this year and was pleasantly surprised by his pitch selection. I had previously written him off as a prospect based on his reported poor pitch selection, but I wouldn’t close the book on him yet.

      • A.D.

        A young Geronimo Berroa?

  • Gonzo

    Yeah, what is the deal with DeLuca? I was really, really psyched about him.

  • Son of Sekhmet

    Why exactly has Yeicok Calderon not been brought state-side since signing in 2008. I notice that Flores Sosa DeLeon and a couple others have been here but not Calderon, even though he seem to have put up better numbers than any of them. And now this year Jorge Alcantara has played some games in the GCL.
    Is Yeicok Calderon just not ready to play in the US or is it character issues?

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Alcantara was more versatile. He was able to make errors all over the diamond instead of just the outfield. Don’t worry, I’m sure Calderon will be here next year.

    • zs190

      Haven’t heard about character issue but he’s a big guy that doesn’t run well so he’s restricted to LF/RF/1B/DH and maybe the Yankees just don’t think he deserves to play over the guys they had in GCL. He’s 18 now and if they don’t bring him over next year (he’ll be about 19 and half for start of GCL season next year) then his prospect status takes a big dive.

      One thing to keep in mind is DSL numbers mean even less than short season ball stats and those don’t mean a whole lot to begin with, so it’s quite possible that he’s just not that good despite those gaudy numbers in DSL.

      • http://www.wordpress.heresthepitch.com MP

        Can’t say I blame him. Dude’s been more rejected than Chris Britton.

        • http://www.wordpress.heresthepitch.com MP

          woops, reply fail. meant to go somewhere else, my bad.

      • Son of Sekhmet

        That’s what I have been thinking about him, if he was deserving then they would have found a place for him. I believe he was one of the top signees for 2008. I guess that why the yanks no longer just rush to sign players down there.

  • http://www.wordpress.heresthepitch.com MP

    Dude, did Melvin not win any awards this year? I haven’t seen much of him lately…

    • Thomas

      He had easily his worst season this year: 2.91 ERA (previous high of 1.61), fewest inning 21.2 (previous low 28), fewests Ks 24 (previous low of 45 in 28 IP), and most walks (16) since 2007 (25).

      He has grown annoyed of being passed over. I think he might retire this year and pursue his other callings astrophysicist and medical doctor full-time (rather than part time as he is doing now).

  • larryf

    Jesus and Albie hugging with that sign in the background. Will we ever see that in the Bronx?

  • Pete

    Am I crazy for thinking that Melky Mesa has -dare I say – Grandersonian potential?

    • vin

      Speed, power, lots of Ks? Sounds like a start. I don’t know much about his defensive abilities, or his platoon splits.

      • pat

        Mesa reportedly plays a very good CF and has a cannon for an arm.

    • zs190

      In a perfect world, yeah, he has that kind of tools. Chance of reaching that when he won’t be in AA until his age 24 season at the earliest? Not good at all.

  • http://janeheller.mlblogs.com/yank_c.jpg T-Dubs

    Best individual performance: Warren’s 15 Ks?

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

      J.R. Murphy had that 2 HR, 9 RBI game.

      • http://janeheller.mlblogs.com/yank_c.jpg T-Dubs

        True dat.

        • Joe

          warren’s is more impressive for a non-K pitcher

      • Cecala

        Who was the player that had the 5 runs in a game?

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

          Dan Brewer, like a week ago. He had all those runs by the 4th inning.

    • Am I the only Kevin?

      No way, Laird’s cycle/walkoff GS?

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

        Oh yeah, totally. That wins.

        • zs190

          Laird’s AAA debut was all kind of awesome too.

  • Rob

    Brandon Laird = Mike Lowell?

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

      Lowell was far, far better defensively.

      • Rob

        I don’t see that. Lowell had 31 errors at age 22 and 19 errors at age 23. Laird had 22 errors in about 20 more games.

    • zs190

      Casey Blake-lite

  • Am I the only Kevin?

    No way, what about the cycle/walkoff grand slam game for Laird?

    • Am I the only Kevin?

      reply fail, see above

  • vin

    Holy Schnikes, Melky Mesa struck out 168 times in ’09 in 564 PAs (29%). He was slightly better this year – 129 k’s in 507 PAs (25%).

    The combination of raw speed and power is tantalizing though. I know Romine won MVP of the FSL last year with similar numbers.

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Mesa might be the type of hitter that gets better as he faces better pitching.

      • pat

        Or demonstrably worse as the breaking balls get better.

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona

          He has shown the opposite so far.

  • pat

    Ramon Flores should get the Anytime Anywhere award. He played 6 different positions for three different affiliates. He even played some 3B for a game, which is fun, because he’s a lefty.

    • Rebecca from phone

      Also Flores is a fan of my blog on facebook

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        Don’t be shy, tell everyone all of the players that are a fan of your blog on Facebook.

        • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime-Jesus & Maquinito FTW

          Flores and Mesa would be the only ones RABers actually know… =P

          And it’s all your fault, too!

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    I think Brett Marshall deserves an honorable mention for “Comeback Player of the Year”.

  • vin

    I wonder how everyone views Romine’s season. Disappointing or as-expected? Started off well, then cooled off as the season grinded on. It was his first full-season as the everyday catcher. And, for what its worth, his pitchers had some really good season (that’s never a bad thing).

    My crystal ball tells me:
    The Yanks don’t plan on Montero joining the team out of ST, so they find an established DH solution. Jesus tears up ST, putting the Yanks in a good conundrum. He starts the year in AAA, with Romine back in AA. When Jesus gets promoted, so does Romine. And the rest will hopefully be history.

    Hopefully Austin can get the SLG up a bit. He had a healthy drop in SLG from last season.

    • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime-Jesus & Maquinito FTW

      I think the problem is that we keep comparing Romine to Montero and Sanchez, who have been flat out other worldly…

    • MattG

      Disappointing? Hell no. That was Romine’s first season as full-time catcher, in a very tough hitting environment. As I read right here, when evaluating minor leaguers, you look for the short bursts as signs a player has the stuff to move. Romine’s extended hot streak, which preceded his reaching career highs in innings caught, has me really jazzed.

      Look past the final numbers–that was a huge success.

      I strongly feel Romine needs a promotion, so if the Yankees are not planning on bringing Montero north to serve as C/DH, they should explore the trade market for either player this off-season.

    • zs190

      And where do you play them all? Jorge is still on the roster and not going anywhere. I think Cervelli is tolerable as a backup C and unless they trade him, I think he’ll be on the roster too. If you are promoting Montero and Romine, they need to play more or less full time, using either guy as a strictly backup C is probably not good for their development.

      I can see Montero for sure but I think Romine will be in the minors all year next year. His bat is not ready and he could use more reps to refine his excellent defensive tools.

      • vin

        I’m not really sure how it will happen.

        Something will have to give if they don’t assume Jesus makes the team out of ST.

        1) The DH gets injured, opening a spot for Jorge and Montero to share DH/C duties

        2) They don’t acquire a DH (unlikely) and use Jorge there, with Cervelli and Moeller (or someone of his ilk) to catch. When they disappoint, Jesus gets the call. Of maybe they go with Cervelli and Jesus out of ST.

        3) Either Jorge or Cervelli gets injured. This would probably be the path of least resistance.

        I can’t see Cervelli getting traded because I think Girardi and Cashman really value his defense (for what its worth).

        I think this situation will be the most interesting this off-season… more so than Jeter’s contract.

        • whozat

          Eh. Cervelli can be sent to AAA without breaking a sweat.

          I assume they get some kind of DH bat, start the year with Jorge/Cervelli again. Either something gives on the injury front, opening a spot for Jesus if he deserves it, or he’s just so good that they demote Cervelli and bring up Montero. Or trade the DH bat.

        • MattG

          I got it figured out. Assuming Montero’s D at C is passable:

          Posada and Montero get 81 starts apiece at C/DH

          Cervelli rides the bench, and you hope he starts less than 40 times due to injury.

          With no DH on the roster, there is enough room to carry all three.

          • kosmo

            I think you´re on to something.
            Posada will catch as much as his brittle body allows.
            Montero will be in the Bronx out of ST.Montero is no worse a defensive catcher than Cervelli.Cervelli could be optioned or traded.
            Romine will begin the season at Scranton and could be in the Bronx earlier than a Sept. callup.

            • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK

              I’m no fan of Cervelli but…

              Montero will be in the Bronx out of ST.Montero is no worse a defensive catcher than Cervelli.

              [Citation needed]

      • Jobu

        A promotion for Romine would put him in AAA.

  • MattG

    Cito Culver’s position as second team shortstop: legitimately earned for this season’s performance, based on future projection, or due to lack of competition? In what combination?

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

      Complete lack of competition, mostly. The SS depth in the minors is atrocious.

      • Jerome S

        That’s it. Right now, I’m going to learn how to play short. I’ll see you in Tampa next year!!!!

  • Ban Bud

    How good is the system when Andrew Brackman doesn’t even warrant a single mention?

  • tbord

    Bounceback Player Award – Honorable Mention – Dan Brewer had a solid second half. Key member of the Trenton first place team.

  • vin

    One disappointment I had was David Adams. Damn shame that his injury turned out to be worse than anyone expected. He was off to a really nice start. Hopefully this didn’t set his development back too far.

    • Bobby D

      Blessing in disguise. If Adams doesn’t get hurt, Montero is mashing for the Mariners and we’re stuck with a high-priced pitcher with a bad back….

  • Ted Nelson

    Great stuff!

    • Ted Nelson

      Kind of funny/sad that Juan Miranda has been an Honorable Mention Hitter of the Year 4 straight seasons…

  • art vandelay

    what ever happened to Carmen Angelini …. can anyone fill me in on him ? i forgot about him.

    • H. E. Pennypacker

      Vandalay….He was out for the year with an injury.

  • https://twitter.com/Carcillo_ Carcillo

    Kinda off the topic of this thread, but am I the only one who see’s the pitcher in the picture as IPK?

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    OK with the catching talent so deep and overflowing, who do we keep, trade, move to another position?