Jul
12

Taking stock of the farm system

By

Joe has been/will be reviewing the big league roster at the observed midpoint of the season, so let’s do the same thing with the farm system. Three familiar categories (and a fourth for good measure) will be our measuring sticks…

Exceeding Expectations

(Tom Priddy/MiLB.com)

This section is really all about three guys: J.R. Murphy, Corban Joseph, and Nik Turley. We all knew that Murphy could hit and he’s done nothing to disappoint offensively (.293/.333/.453 with just 43 strikeouts in 336 plate appearances), but the major improvement has come on defense, improvement that has been reported by several outlets. The Yankees had him playing primarily third base and outfield as recently as Instructional League last fall, but Murphy’s looking more like a long-term catcher than ever before, improving his stock dramatically.

All CoJo does is hit, and this year he’s walking more than ever before (11.7 BB%) and hitting for the most power of his career (.160 ISO). His defense at second will continue to be a question going forward, but the bat is real and the reason he has a chance to contribute to the big league team in the future. It took Turley more than two seasons to get to a full season league, but he’s taken a big step forward this year. The southpaw posted a 3.90 K/BB with almost exactly a strikeout an inning in 82.1 IP with Low-A Charleston before being bumped up to High-A Tampa a few weeks ago. Turley’s a big kid (6-foot-6, 230 lbs.) but he’s all about the secondary stuff.

A few others worth mentioning: Rob Lyerly, Kyle Roller, Zoilo Almonte, and Tyler Austin. Lyerly crushed the High-A Florida State League (.373 wOBA) and is almost like a poor man’s Eric Hinske, he’s just missing the plate discipline. Roller is a college guy beating up on Single-A pitching, but it’s above-average power from the left side, and that always has value. Almonte’s been kicking around the system for a while but he’s still only 22, and his recent performance is off the charts good. The switch-hitter is probably due for a promotion to Double-A. It’s tough to get excited about 70-something rookie ball plate appearances, but Austin was one of the organization’s biggest sleepers coming into the year and has overwhelmed the league (.377/.434/.623). Long-term position is the question there.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Meeting Expectations

The bulk of the farm system sits here this year, and I guess the natural place to start is with the top prospects. Dellin Betances is consistently inconsistent, showing high-90′s stuff and blowing hitters away one start, walking the farm the next. His walk rate (4.76 BB/9) is right back in line with his 2006-2009 mark (4.74), up from last year’s (possibly fluke) 2.32 BB/9. The good news is that aside from a measly little blister in April, he’s been healthy and hasn’t missed a start, which has been a problem in the past. Betances is still striking out more than ten men per nine innings and it’s still frontline stuff, but he hasn’t made much progress in the control department over the last few years. The guy he is this year is the guy he’s been pretty much his entire career.

Austin Romine is having the best season of his career in many ways (walks and strikeouts, mostly), but he’s also repeating Double-A and you’d expect his performance to improve. He’s basically doing what was expected of him coming into the year, and he really needs to get to Triple-A. Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell are pitching well in Triple-A (3.91 FIP and 3.64 FIP, respectively), and Brett Marshall (3.70 FIP) has come back strong in his first full year off Tommy John surgery. Ramon Flores went from sleeper to legit, showing off his trademark plate discipline (13.5 BB%, 17.6% K%) and gap power (.147 ISO) from the last side. Still just 19, Flores has star potential if he has a growth spurt (just 5-foot-10, 150 lbs. at the moment) and develops some over-the-fence power in his early-20′s, but right now he projects as more of a gap-to-gap doubles hitters that gets on base a decent amount and holds his own defensively in an outfield corner. Lots and lots of other players fall into this category as well, like Josh Romanski, Chase Whitley, Brandon Laird, Tommy Kahnle, and Rob Segedin.

Falling Short of Expectations

No one wants to be here, and certainly no one wants to headline the disappointments, but unfortunately that’s where Andrew Brackman finds himself. The big right-hander was so unfathomably bad as a starter (52 IP, 40 R, 40 BB, 39 K) that the team moved him into the bullpen in early June, and the results haven’t been any better: 13.1 IP, 17 R, 12 BB, 14 K. The worst part is that his stuff has reportedly regressing, with his fastball sitting in the high-80′s on some nights and the curveball being the only pitch he can consistently throw for strikes. The Yankees have just one more option year remaining for the now 25-year-old Brackman, so something has to give and soon.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Jesus Montero certainly hasn’t been the kind of disappointment that Brackman has been, but we were all expecting something better than a .129 ISO and a 7.0% walk rate his second time through Triple-A. At least he has age on his side; Montero’s always been young for his league and at 21 years old, he’s the third youngest player in the International League. He’d been performing much better of late before a minor back injury sent him to the disabled list as a precaution.

Further down the ladder, another slugging catcher hasn’t lived up to admittedly ridiculous preseason expectations. The Gary Sanchez hype machine got out of control this offseason, which is why we all think a 18-year-old kid (who had heart surgery in the offseason) with a .345 wOBA in an extremely pitcher friendly park has been a letdown this year. In reality, Sanchez’s performance is not the issue, it’s that he had to be sent back down to Extended Spring Training earlier this year because refused to pinch-hit and catch a bullpen session. Eighteen-year-old kids make stupid mistakes, that’s what they do, but that’s still disappointing.

On much smaller scales, we have the re-emergence of Melky Mesa‘s inability to hit breaking balls (32.6 K%, .283 wOBA), Jose Ramirez‘s demotion (8.14 ERA and 4.23 FIP with High-A Tampa), Manny Banuelos‘ sudden walk problems (4.56 BB/9 this year, 2.76 from 2008-2010), and Kelvin DeLeon’s lack of pretty much everything (plate discipline, namely). Slade Heathcott‘s brawl was pretty uncool too.

Incomplete

Some players just don’t fit into any of the above categories because of injuries. Heathcott started out absurdly hot, slowed down, then hurt his shoulder and could miss the rest of the season. Graham Stoneburner apparently had the neck strain from hell, because it kept him on the shelf from late-April through late-June. David Phelps was having a fine season (3.75 FIP) before a shoulder injury sent him to the sidelines. Tim Norton was a god amongst men (46 K and eight walks in 30 IP), then got hurt with what was initially reported as a career-threatening shoulder injury. Apparently it was much less serious and he’ll be back in a week or so.

Overall, it’s been a decidedly average year for the farm system, though compared to last year it looks like a total disaster. I assure you it hasn’t been, this is a pretty normal year. Some breakouts, some flops, most guys right in the middle. Injuries did hit a little hard, but that’s life. The Yankees still have a number of big league ready (or close to it) arms in Triple-A to use in the second half for whatever it may be (fill a rotation spot, bullpen role, trade, whatever), and Montero looked to be on his annual second half tear before the back issue. Other than Brackman, none of my preseason top ten prospects have taken a major step back, and that right there is a win.

Categories : Minors
  • Frank

    Mike,

    Just curious. What became of Justin Snyder? Is he no longer with the organization or is he just buried on Trenton’s bench?

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

      They released him last year (or the year before, I forget). He’s playing in an independent league somewhere.

  • Dennis

    Deluca and Williams can go into breakout season category.

    • K.B.D.

      25 innings and 106 plate appearances does not a breakout make.

      • Ted Nelson

        Tyler Austin is listed and he has all of 76 PAs in GCL…

        “Taking stock of the farm” as of right now… Gumbs, Williams, Culver are pretty big pluses. 100 PAs is over a third way through these guys’ seasons. For as much heat as the 2010 draft has taken, early returns are strong. DeLuca’s been strong, too. Though his ERA is probably a mirage… still a strong performance by a LHP.

        • K.B.D.

          I didn’t tacitly agree somehow that Tyler Austin’s placement on the list was appropriate.

          I agree that the strong starts for the Staten Island trio are encouraging, but “breakout” isn’t appropriate. Two or three bad games and their stats looks drastically different just because they’re so volatile in a small sample.

          Maybe I’m just arguing semantics, and if I am, I apologize.

          • Ted Nelson

            You didn’t write the article at all. Mike did include a guy with 76 PAs in Rookie Ball and not those 3 or 4 guys from Short Season. I’m pretty sure that by “breakout category” the commenter was referring to the first “exceeding expectations” category. Considering how much crap the Yankees have been taking about their drafting… those picks seem to be exceeding expectations.

            Was Gary Sanchez’ 2010 a “breakout” season? With short season leagues you’re always talking about small samples.

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, it’s been small samples in Short Season but the Yankees have three teenage up-the-middle prospects with wOBAs of .388, .365, and .341. Definitely exciting.

      • CP

        Where are the wOBA’s for minor league players?

        • Ted Nelson

          fangraphs

        • Levi

          Fangraphs

  • Jay T

    I’m as big a fan of the farm system as anyone. However, to say that Brackman is “falling short” of expectations is a gross understatement! He has been horrible. And, I’ve been rooting so hard for him.

    On the flip, I know it’s only short season A ball and only 22 games, but Mason Williams would have to fall into the most certainly exceeds expectations. The 4th rounder is hitting .337, .874 OPS. Maybe his biggest ding would be CS 5 of 11 times or 18 K/ 6 BB in 95 AB.

    • Reggie C.

      No point in kicking a man who’s had nothing go his way this season. Dotf was down right painful to scan those nights Brackman started.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      However, to say that Brackman is “falling short” of expectations is a gross understatement! He has been horrible.

      “Horrible” is a subset of “Failing to meet expectations”.

  • Cuso

    Nice read, Mike.

    Looks like this might be the end of the Pinstriped Road for Brackman, huh?

    • jsbrendog

      one more year.at this point next yr if things haven’t changed we could very well see him released and in the pirates starting rotation in 2013

  • CP

    I think my new prospect crush is for Mark Mongomery. Was he considered a real prospect in the draft (I assume he is now – 21K in 8 IP should help your stock)? Any idea when he’ll be moved up another level?

  • Phil

    Where is Stafford (our second round pick) currently? It surprises me that we haven’t seen him with Staten Island yet.

    • Reggie C.

      Could be his workload in UT is delaying Stafford’s debut. He’s probably on some kind of throwing pgm. I think we’d know if he was hurt.

    • Ted Nelson

      Total speculation, but he wasn’t able to crack the UT rotation as a starter… so perhaps the Yankees want to re-work his mechanics/work on his control before setting him lose in games to give him the best shot to make it as a starter.

      • K.B.D.

        Stafford started for them all season and opened their last Super Regional game versus Arizona State. I just don’t think he was sharp enough in that game to get the call in the College World Series.

        • Ted Nelson

          Yeah, I was incorrect there. What I meant is that he wasn’t one of their weekend starters, and was 5th on the team in IP in conference play.

          My point wasn’t really about UT’s rotation, but about his rawness: that the Yankees might want to iron out his mechanics and control before letting him loose in real games. Which as I said is total speculation on my part based on no real evidence.

          • K.B.D.

            Total speculation on my part:

            Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s their 30 day thing, where they just let you throw for a month without changing anything and then they implement everything they want to see. Might just keep him at the Tampa complex for that period.

  • I Voted 4 Kodos

    I hope Norton comes back strong. I was hoping we’d have the chance to see him in the pen this year.

  • IRF

    I’m surprised Bradley Suttle isn’t in the “falling short” category. The walk rate and ISO rate are encouraging, but the strikeouts and batting average are thoroughly disappointing for a 25 year old in AA.

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t think anyone expected much from him entering the season.

  • Monteroisdinero

    A poor man’s Eric Hinske. Now there’s something to get excited about.

    Melky Mesa needs some time with KLong. Ridiculous upside.

    • Money Mike

      KLong can’t help a guy who swings and misses at almost everything… you can see even with the great progress Swisher and Granderson have made they are still striking out and walking near their career avgerages

  • Ted Nelson

    I’m not sure Flores really needs a growth spurt. I doubt there’s nearly as much correlation between height and MLB success as scouts seem to think.

    Bautista is listed at 6’0″, Cano is 6’0″, Manny is/was 6’0″, Pedroia is 5’7″, McCutchen is 5’10, Prince Fielder is 5’11, Victorino is 5’9″, Shin-Soo Choo is 5’11″, Sandoval is 5’11″, Ichiro is 5’11″, Sheffield is/was 5’11″, Swisher is 5’11″…

    • IRF

      All of those guys weight a lot more than 150 pounds though. Flores needs to add some muscle.

      • Ted Nelson

        A growth spurt usually refers to height… so that’s the issue I was addressing. Height, not muscle. You can add bulk in the gym, but not height.

        Most guys in the low minors need to/will bulk up. Mason Williams is listed at 150 too. Some of those guys (not Prince Fielder and Sandoval probably) might not have been much bigger than 150 at 18, 19 years old.

      • YankeesJunkie

        150 pounds is really skinny for 5’11”, but still room to grow physically so not to worried.

        • Ted Nelson

          Those aren’t exact measurements I don’t think, just whatever the team wants to list the player as. They’re not usually up to date. Flores might have been 150 at 16, 17 and already gained 20, 30 lbs or something. Barry Bonds, for example, is still listed on baseball-reference at 6’1″ 185. His head weighed 185 by the time he retired.

          I wouldn’t say it’s ridiculously skinny, though, at 5’10″. Mason Williams is listed 6’0″ 150. Gumbs at 6’0″ 175. The #8 and 9 picks in 2011 were listed at 175 and 180. #70 pick Jorge Lopez was listed at 6’4″ 165. Flores was only 16 or 17 when he signed.

      • Samuel

        One of the issues I have with the DotF writings is that it appears none of the RAB writers have ever seen these kids play, nor have most of the commenters.

        Ramon Flores is not 150 lbs. anymore. His legs are much thicker and his upper body is pretty strong, too. I would say he is more in the 170 lb. range now, if not higher.

        The 150 lb. mark is likely what he was when he signed with the Yankees a few years ago, and has not been updated since Day 1.

        There is no need to muscle up Flores when his natural growth spurt is developing very well naturally.

  • David, Jr.

    A great read. I would rank Betances in the “Exceeding” column. You list the walks, which is true, but the other numbers show that he is very hard to hit. Also, he has stayed healthy. I see nice progress toward realizing a huge upside.

    • Reggie C.

      It’s been a weird sason for Betances. I can see why he’s a difficult guy to rank. There are nights when he’ll K 9 in 6 innings and then follow that up with a 5 walk, 5.2 inning performance.

      Does that merit a promotion to AAA next month? Not sure it does. Front line stuff indeed but that walk rate has got to get shaved if he wants to stick as a starter.

    • Ted Nelson

      The expectations were very high entering the season, so I wouldn’t say he’s exceeded them.

      • David, Jr.

        I believe that he is more highly regarded now than before, most of all because he is proving that he can stay healthy, and also because he remains extremely difficult to hit. It isn’t a major point. He may have only met expectations, but I thought that when you take a longterm look at his development he has exceeded them.

        • Ted Nelson

          If you asked me before the season whether Dellin would be exceeding my expectations with a 3.69 FIP still in AA at this point in the season… I would have said no.

          Being a 23 year old AA hitters can’t hit and a guy MLB hitters can’t hit are also different things. Maybe it does go too far at times, but that’s why people focus so much on the walks. MiLB hitters are putting up a BABIP against Dellin in the .250s for the 2nd straight year… but doing that in the bigs is a lot harder. And a lot of the guys who do have low BABIP in the bigs are lefties. If he starts getting hit harder by MLB hitters, he can’t get away with walking guys as easily.

    • bottom line

      Agreed on Betances. Much too much emphasis on walks, when the man allows so few hits and has been piling up K’s too. Also, wouldn’t Kontos qualify as exceeding expectations, which were apparently quite low. Or perhaps his age counts against him. Even money on which comes first: he gets called up or his arm falls off.

  • Brian S.

    Why do you say that the fight was un-cool? I think it’s a good thing that he establish dominance over Red Sox players at such a young age.

    • http://twitter.com/astrophunq Dax J.

      I don’t think the fight was uncool. It’s clear he was provoked. He shouldn’t have acted, because he’s a professional baseball player.

      I think it’s a good thing that he establish dominance over Red Sox players at such a young age.

      That’s just wrong. If you want to establish dominance, do it by playing hard and showing off your talent. Not fighting. That’s kinda stupid.

      • Brian S.

        Don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful.

        • Zangief

          +1
          thumbs up

  • DERP

    It looks like something is wrong with Murphy’s nose.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Get rid of him.

  • infernoscurse

    brackman was the worst draft ever, though the only decent player after he got picked was brett cecil who should have been a yankee since he idolized andy

    • Brian S.

      BRETT CECAHL IS A STAHTING PITCHAH!

    • jsbrendog

      bo? is that you?

    • Jorge

      Todd Van Poppel would like a word with you.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM??!?!? F$%#ING EAST COUNTY!!!!!!!!!

    • CP

      Of the 47 players in history drafted 30th overall, here are the ones that have generated more WAR than Brackman’s zero:

      Mike Schmidt 
      David Wells 
      Brian Jordan 
      Jerry Reuss 
      Travis Fryman 
      Terry Forster 
      Moose Haas 
      Chris Sabo 
      Noah Lowry 
      Jack Cust 
      Keith Atherton 
      Russ Johnson 
      Mitch Maier 
      Kevin Wickander 
      Tyler Greene 
      Mike Bell 
      Eric Hurley 

      So, he ranks in a tie for 18th out of 47. That’s hardly the worst draft pick at 30th overall, let alone the worst ever.

  • YankeesJunkie

    Honestly I have not been dissapointed in either Betances or Banuelos thus far this season. When it comes down to it, neither of these guys have a lot professional innings and both are still relatively young. The most important thing for these guys right now is to get innings (both should surpass career high in innings) and maintain stuff (both are striking out more than a batter an inning in AA). While their control has been poor that is just the growing pains to be expected with pitchers as they are now just beginning to face elite hitters in the minor league levels. It would be nice to see some improvement down the stretch, but as long as they get to 120 innings or so by years end they both have shown that they have the capability of pitching in Scranton in 2012.

  • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    “Overall, it’s been a decidedly average year for the farm system, though compared to last year it looks like a total disaster. I assure you it hasn’t been, this is a pretty normal year.”

    I just hope all the people who make comments in DOTF every day about this being an awful year for the system read that part.

  • JD

    I agree with the assessment that it is an average year. I think Betances has been better than you say, but I agree everywhere else. I was a big George Kontos fan before the injury and hope that he gets a shot. He is a good news story. I also think Romine has done well and some of the others kids are moving sideways more than backwards. No major arm injuries so far and that, in and of itself, is a major victory.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    The Yankees have just one more option year remaining for the now 25-year-old Brackman, so something has to give and soon.

    2007: Signed post-draft and then placed on the DL with TJS (no option)
    2008: Recovering from TJS on the major league 60-day DL (no option)
    2009: Optioned to Low-A (Option #1)
    2010: Optioned to Hi-A, promoted to AA midseason (Option #2)
    2011: Optioned to AAA (Option #3)
    2012: Eligible for a fourth option year since he will have less than 5 full years of professional service
    2013: Out of options, must stick on ML roster

    Did I get that right?

    • jsbrendog

      so 2013, pirates opening day starter

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

      Bingo.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        (extends hand for receipt of prize)

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

          Bitch please.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            (extends hand for receipt of bitch)

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Sanchez’s performance is not the issue, it’s that he had to be sent back down to Extended Spring Training earlier this year because refused to pinch-hit and catch a bullpen session. Eighteen-year-old kids make stupid mistakes, that’s what they do, but that’s still disappointing.

    39 year old adults also make stupid mistakes.

    Sincerely,
    Hip Hip

    • jsbrendog

      living organisms make mistakes

  • Tom Swift

    Does anyone know why Bichette is struggling at the plate? Are they trying to straighten out his swing?

    • SDM

      probably not, the yankees don’t like to make changes until they see guys play with there current mechanics. I heard they wait a month or so before tweaking pitchers mechanics, and they give their fielders the rest of the season (depending on when they sign)and make the tweaks next season.

  • JD

    Sanchez is doing very well.

    • Money Mike

      Agreed… a OBP/SLG: May .379/.527, June .354/.471, July .359/.424 from a catcher is pretty damn good considering his age, his dreadful April really makes everything look worse: .250/.299

  • Avi

    Nova, Noesi, and Nunez can easily be put in the “exceeded expectations” category.

  • Oscar Gamble’s ‘Fro

    Wait, Murphy is a catcher? So, there’s Montero, Romine, Sanchez and Murphy? One of them has to get moved fairly soon, no. Isn’t that almost too much and not enough room at one position?

    (I’m not as up to speed on the farm as a lot of you, so apologies if I’m off-base or that’s a stupid question.)

    • Money Mike

      Murphy is looking like the next Inge with the versatility he is showing, so the fact that he moves so well for a catcher and the dapth they have, I feel he will most likely being playing elsewhere by the time he makes it higher in the system

  • Money Mike

    So which CF prospect has the higher ceiling: Heathcott or Z-Almonte?