Minors Notes: Top Triple-A & Breakout Prospects, Rodriguez

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The 2017 minor league season is officially over. Durham beat Memphis in the Triple-A Championship Game at PNC Field in Scranton last night. The Triple-A Championship Game rotates sites each year like an All-Star Game, and it just so happened to be played in Scranton this year. Too bad the RailRiders didn’t make it. Anyway, here are some minor league notes to check out.

Three Yankees among top International League prospects

Earlier this week Baseball America started their annual series looking at the top 20 prospects in each minor league. They covered the Triple-A International League (subs. req’d) yesterday, with Braves OF Ronald Acuna claiming the top spot. Three Yankees made the list (four if you count OF Dustin Fowler, who was traded away but makes the list at No. 17 due to his time with Scranton):

  • 9) RHP Chance Adams: “One evaluator said that between Adams’ four offerings, he has a chance for three above-average pitches with above-average control … He drew comparisons with Bud Norris and Jordan Zimmermann.”
  • 15) 3B Miguel Andujar: “Andujar drew rave reviews from managers and scouts for his uncanny ability to barrel baseballs with authority as well as his energetic nature on the field … He has a plus arm, quick-twitch actions and a strong work ethic at third base, but below-average footwork and hard hands could be too much to overcome.”
  • 16) OF Clint Frazier: “(Some) evaluators think he always will pair home runs with strikeouts and low batting averages because of a limiting, rigid swing. With sufficient pitch recognition, though, he can be an impact power hitter.”

Hmmm. I’m pretty sure I’m the biggest Andujar fan out there, but even I wouldn’t rank him above Frazier on a prospect list. Frazier seems like one of those prospects people look for reasons not to like. The kid has insane bat speed, the ball explodes off his bat, he works the count well, and he’s fine in either corner outfield spot. What’s the problem here? Anyway, in the chat Carlos Collazo said SS Gleyber Torres would’ve ranked in the top three had he not gotten hurt and fallen short of the playing time minimum. SS Tyler Wade was a consideration for the list as well.

McKinney to begin working out at first base

OF Billy McKinney, who will be added to the 40-man roster after the season, is going to begin working out at first base in Instructional League, reports Robert Pimpsner. Sounds like an assignment to the Arizona Fall League in possible as well, though the Yankees already have a first baseman going to the desert (1B Chris Gittens) and their position player spots are full. Someone could get be getting pulled though. We’ll see.

McKinney, 23, came over from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade and hit .277/.338/.483 (124 wRC+) with a career high 16 home runs in 124 games between Double-A and Triple-A this summer. He’s a bat first prospect — his defense in the corner outfield is not great — so it makes sense to increase his versatility and get him time at first base. We still don’t know whether Greg Bird can stay healthy and/or produce consistently. Given the team’s outfield glut, getting McKinney familiar with first base seems like a no-brainer.

Loaisiga, Widener among top 2018 breakout candidates


The crew at Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d) posted a list of ten breakout candidates for the 2018 season, and two of the ten are Yankees: RHP Jonathan Loaisiga and RHP Taylor Widener. Keith Law had good things to say about Loaisiga last week. Widener was a reliever in the college before the Yankees moved him into the rotation, Chance Adams style. A quick recap of the write-ups:

  • Loaisiga: “(He) features a potentially plus fastball-curveball combination with the ability to throw either pitch for strikes in any count. The fastball consistently hovers around 95 (t97) with late movement … expect him to start shooting up prospect lists.”
  • Widener: “Widener was in the low-to-mid-90s with the fastball, topping out at 96, and it was moving around pretty good … Widener commanded it like a good Double-A starting prospect, not a guy making his first Double-A appearance … Widener projects as an interesting mid-rotation prospect at the upside, with a more likely outcome as a good reliever.”

So I guess Johnny Lasagna being a prospect is a thing now? He originally signed with the Giants out of Nicaragua back in 2013, but they released him a year later after some injury issues. The Yankees picked him up, he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery last year, and came back looking good this year. Loaisiga turns 23 in November, and he’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 lbs., plus he has an injury history, so there are some things working against him. Still, the Yankees picked him up off the scrap heap, and now he’s being written up as a breakout prospect. Pretty cool.

Rodriguez is “99%” sure he’s retiring

C Eddy Rodriguez, who spent the last three seasons with Triple-A Scranton (and part of one season with Double-A Trenton) is “99%” sure he’s retiring, reports D.J. Eberle. For much of this year Rodriguez was third on the catcher depth chart while C Kyle Higashioka was hurt, though he never did get a call-up. His one MLB cameo came with the Padres in 2012. He took Johnny Cueto deep in his first at-bat.

Rodriguez, who defected from Cuba with his family when he was a kid, is still only 31 years old. He’s not much of a hitter — he hit .189/.240/.308 (51 wRC+) in 446 plate appearances with the RailRiders the last two years — but he’s long been regarded as a great defender and clubhouse guy. Rodriguez wouldn’t reveal his post-playing days plan to Eberle, but he seems like the kind of guy we’ll see on a Yankees minor league coaching staff/instructor list in the near future. Either way, the Yankees need a new veteran good guy backup catcher for Scranton next year.

Saturday Links: Cave, McKinney, Gardner, Robertson, Top Tools

McKinney. (Times Leader)
McKinney. (Times Leader)

The Yankees and Orioles will continue their four-game series with the third game later this afternoon. That’s a 4pm ET start for whatever reason. Here’s some notes and links to check out in the meantime.

Yankees planning to add Cave, McKinney to 40-man

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees plan to add outfielders Jake Cave and Billy McKinney to the 40-man roster this offseason. Unless they trade them first, of course. McKinney, who came over in last year’s Aroldis Chapman trade, will be Rule 5 Draft eligible this December. Cave is due to become a minor league free agent, so he’ll have to be added to the 40-man pretty much right after the World Series. McKinney doesn’t have to be added until late-November.

Cave, 24, hit .305/.351/.542 (145 wRC+) with a career high 20 home runs this season. He reportedly made some swing changes in an effort to get the ball airborne more often, which explains the career high home run total, career low ground ball rate (43.1%), and career high strikeout rate (26.3%). The 23-year-old McKinney hit .277/.338/.483 (124 wRC+) with 16 homers this year. Both he and Cave split the season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. I’m not sure either guy is a long-term piece for the Yankees, but you can’t lose them for nothing either, so on the 40-man they will reportedly go.

Several Yankees among Law’s best tools

Last month Keith Law published his rankings of the best tools in baseball (hitting, fielding, pitching). Best hit tool, best power, best fastball, so on and so forth. I always enjoy lists like this. Anyway, several Yankees pop up in the various categories, so let’s round ’em up:

  • Best Power: Aaron Judge (second to Joey Gallo)
  • Best Fastball: Aroldis Chapman (second to Chris Sale)
  • Best Splitter: Masahiro Tanaka (first)
  • Best Curveball: David Robertson (fourth behind Corey Kluber, Lance McCullers Jr., Aaron Nola)
  • Best Catcher Arm: Gary Sanchez (fourth behind Willson Contreras, Jorge Alfaro, Yadier Molina)
  • Best Outfield Arm: Aaron Hicks (second to Bryce Harper)

The only real surprise to me is no Luis Severino in the best fastball category. (The top five was Sale, Chapman, James Paxton, Joe Kelly, and Justin Verlander.) Nothing else seems out of place to me. Sorta bold prediction: Chad Green tops the best fastball list next year, unless the only criteria is velocity. Green’s fastball is ridiculous.

Gardner, Robertson nominated for awards

Within the last few weeks MLB and the MLBPA announced nominees for two prestigious awards. Brett Gardner is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award while Robertson has been nominated for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award. Both awards are decided by fan voting, which seems ridiculous, but whatever. Here is the Marvin Miller Man of the Year ballot. Voting for the Roberto Clemente Award doesn’t begin until October. Here are the nominees.

The Roberto Clemente Award is giving annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Curtis Granderson won the award last year and Derek Jeter won in 2009. As for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, that one goes to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” Granderson won that last year too. Mariano Rivera won it in 2013. Congrats to Gardner and Robertson. Just getting nominated for these awards is an honor.

MLB, NPB negotiating new posting agreement

Before Shohei Otani can come over to the big leagues, Major League Baseball and Nippon Pro Baseball must first agree to a new posting system. The release fee system, which brought Tanaka to MLB four years ago, had to be renewed each year, and earlier this year MLB requested a renegotiation. There’s technically no posting system in place right now, so there’s no official way for Otani to leave Japan for MLB.

Anyway, Jim Allen recently broke down the latest posting system proposals. In both proposals, the compensation paid to the player’s former NPB team would be a percentage of the money he receives from an MLB team. It’s basically 15% up to a maximum of $20M. So, for example, if the Yankee were to sign Otani for $2M, they’d pay the Nippon Ham Fighters a $300,000 release fee. Needless to say, NPB teams are not having it. Under the now expired system, the NPB team sets the release fee ($20M max) and the MLB tam pays it when they sign the player.

DotF: Scranton’s season ends with Championship Series loss

Triple-A Scranton (6-4 loss to Durham) they lost the best-of-five International League Championship Series three games to one, so they will not repeat as Triple-A champs … their season is over

  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 1-5 — went 13-for-33 (.394) n the postseason
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 K
  • DH Mike Ford: 3-5, 1 R, 2 2B — he did his part
  • 1B Garrett Cooper: 1-4, 1 HBP
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 0-3, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch) — the missed catch on a play at the plate allowed a run to score
  • LF Jake Cave: 0-5, 1 RBI, 3 K — went 1-for-23 (.043) with 12 strikeouts in the postseason
  • SS Jonathan Diaz: 1-1, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP
  • RHP Brady Lail: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 49 of 76 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 26 of 38 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eight pitches, eleven strikes

The season is over for Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, Low-A Charleston, Short Season Staten Island, Rookie Pulaski, and the two Rookie GCL Yanks affiliates. GCL East won their league championship while GCL West did not qualify for the postseason. Every other affiliate has been knocked out of the postseason.

Two things now that the minor league season is over for the Yankees affiliates. One, I imagine there will be a few September call-ups tomorrow. Holder, Andujar, Higashioka, and Cooper seem likely. Domingo German too. And two, no more DotF. Season’s over. The minor league updates will return once the Arizona Fall League begins in October, though I usually only do those weekly or bi-weekly. Not every night. Thanks for sticking around and reading for another season, folks.

Update: Andujar and Holder will join the Yankees tomorrow, according to Conor Foley. Higashioka and German are going to Tampa to continue working, to stay sharp in case they’re needed later. No idea what’s up with Cooper. If he doesn’t get called up … yikes. Doesn’t bode well for his future in the organization.

DotF: Adams and Carter struggle in postseason losses

A couple notes before we get to the games:

  • Baseball America posted the Yankees’ Instructional League roster, if you’re interested. As always, it is mostly lower level kids and recent draftees, as well as Arizona Fall League players who need to stay sharp the next few weeks. Instructs should be starting any day, if they haven’t already.
  • Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted a bunch of scouting notes on Yankees prospects. He reiterated RHP Dillon Tate was back to where he was at the time of the 2015 draft — which means he still needs to improve his command — and also praised RHP Jonathan Loaisiga. “He has quickly established himself as one of the system’s best starting pitching prospects. Loaisiga was 92-96 that evening with a power two-plane curveball at 80-84 and some feel for a changeup at 85-87 … I like his chances to remain a starter given the potential for three pitches and the way he repeats his delivery,” said Law of Johnny Lasagna.

Triple-A Scranton (6-2 loss to Durham) they trail the best-of-five International League Championship Series two games to one

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 2-5, 1 RBI — he’s been their best player all postseason
  • RF Billy McKinney: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K — 4-for-28 (.143) in the postseason and hitless in this series
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-4, 3 K
  • 1B Garrett Cooper: 2-3, 1 BB, 1 K — 13-for-40 (.325) in his last ten games overall
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K
  • RHP Chance Adams: 4 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1/5 GB/FB — 47 of 80 pitches were strikes (59%) … shortest start of the season (that didn’t involve a rain delay)
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — ten of 14 pitches were strikes (71%)

[Read more…]

DotF: German dominates, Scranton evens championship series

Triple-A Scranton (4-0 win over Durham) the best-of-five International League Championship Series is now tied at a game apiece

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB — he’s been a beast all postseason
  • RF Billy McKinney: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • DH Garrett Cooper: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — got a hit against former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, who threw an inning out of the bullpen this game … Eovaldi’s rehabbing from his second career Tommy John surgery
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-4
  • RHP Domingo German: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 9/3 GB/FB — 62 of 103 pitches were strikes (60%) … huge final start of the season for Domingo … I imagine he’ll get called up as soon as this series is over, though who knows whether he’ll actually pitch
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — eleven of 17 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

DotF: Scranton and Trenton drop championship series openers

Some quick notes to get us started:

  • OF Estevan Florial has been added to the Double-A Trenton roster for the Eastern League Championship Series, reports Josh Norris. He effectively replaces Clint Frazier on the roster. Matt Kardos says Florial may not start, however. He may only pinch-run or come in for defense, or serve as an injury replacement.
  • Randy Miller spoke to a scout about a whole bunch of Yankees prospects, so make sure you check it out. “(He) can play in multiple All-Star Games. I’ll put my neck out on the line for that one … This kid for me has a chance to be special,” said the scout of Florial. Also, SS Gleyber Torres got a Miguel Cabrera comp. Huh.
  • Baseball America released their Classification All-Stars this week. The Yankees have prospects on the Short Season (RHP Jorge Guzman), Low-A (Florial), and Triple-A (RHP Chance Adams) teams.
  • The Tampa complex suffered “minimal damage” during Hurricane Irma, farm system head Gary Denbo confirmed to George King. The Tampa offices reopen tomorrow, the team announced.

Triple-A Scranton (6-0 loss to Durham) they trail the best-of-five International League Championship Series one game to none

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-4, 1 K — 7-for–20 (.350) in the postseason so far
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 1-4, 2 K — 8-for-20 (.400) in the postseason so far
  • LF Billy McKinney, 3B Miguel Andujar, DH Mike Ford, C Kyle Higashioka & RF Jake Cave: all 0-3 — McKinney and Higashioka struck out
  • 1B Garrett Cooper: 0-2, 1 K, 1 HBP
  • RHP Ronald Herrera: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 7/3 GB/FB — 55 of 77 pitches were strikes (71%) … allowed three runs in the first, so they were playing catch-up right from the start
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — half of his 22 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 143: A Road Series in New York

(Bruce Bennett/Getty)
(Bruce Bennett/Getty)

The Yankees are back home in New York but are still technically on a road trip. They’ll play the next three games against the Rays as the visiting team at Citi Field. Hurricane Irma forced MLB to move the series to a neutral site, and Citi Field was the best option. The crowd figures to be small and decidedly pro-Yankees. On one hand, it’s good the Yankees are back in New York. On the other, no one wanted this to be the reason. Hope everyone down in Florida is safe.

Thanks to a strong trip through Baltimore and Texas, the Yankees have created some breathing room in the wildcard race. They’re 3.5 games up on the Twins for the second wildcard spot and 4.5 games up on the Angels for a wildcard spot in general. They’re also only 3.5 games back of the Red Sox, though I’ve sorta given up on the division. If it happens, great. I’m focused on the wildcard for the time being. The Yankees have won three straight series. How about making it four? Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Matt Holliday
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is cool and cloudy in New York this evening, and the tiny little bit of rain in the forecast isn’t supposed to arrive for another few hours. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:10pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Aaron Hicks (oblique) has not yet started swinging a bat, but he hopes to return before the end of the regular season. His ten days on the disabled list end Wednesday, though that doesn’t really matter if he hasn’t even started swinging a bat … Greg Bird was a late scratch from the lineup with lower back tightness.

Roster Move: The Yankees activated Clint Frazier off the 10-day DL, the team announced. They now have 33 players on the active roster. Frazier went 2-for-17 (.118) with ten strikeouts in four rehab games with Double-A Trenton following the oblique injury. I’m a bit surprised the Yankees activated him, but they were also carrying only three true outfielders on the roster, so I guess I shouldn’t be.

Minor League Update: There will be no DotF tonight, folks. There are no games. Tomorrow Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton begin their league’s championship series, and Short Season Staten Island will resume their first round postseason series. They have off-days today and the season is over for the other affiliates.