Dietrich Enns pitching his way on to the prospect map

(Martin Griff/Pinstriped Prospects)
(Martin Griff/Pinstriped Prospects)

Over the last few seasons the Yankees have had some success turning late round draft picks into useful big league arms. Most notably, David Robertson went from 17th rounder to shutdown reliever. Others like David Phelps (14th), Chase Whitley (15th), and Shane Greene (15th) have proven to be valuable in different ways. Getting value from those late picks is pretty cool.

Back in 2012 the Yankees used their 19th round pick on Central Michigan southpaw Dietrich Enns, who, like Phelps and Whitley and Greene, was an unheralded college arm. Of course the Yankees liked his ability and believed there was something interesting there, that’s true of every pick, but it was easy to overlook Enns and assume he was minor league fodder. Just a guy to soak up some innings, basically.

Enns, now 24, opened this season with Double-A Trenton, though his rise through the minors hit a bump in the road two years when he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. Here’s a really quick rundown of his career stats:

Level G/GS IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB%
2012 Short Season 22/0 42.2 2.11 2.84 18.9% 8.6% not avail.
2013 Low-A, High-A 28/8 82.2 2.94 2.74 32.7% 10.2% 40.3%
2014 High-A 13/1 25.1 1.42 3.15 26.3% 10.1% 45.2%
2015 Rookie, High-A 13/12 58.2 0.61 2.39 23.7% 8.6% 48.3%
2016 Double-A 3/3 16.2  0.00 3.03 26.6% 17.2% 41.2%

I’ve mentioned this stat before but it bears repeating: last season 1,902 pitchers threw at least 50 innings in the minors, and none had a lower ERA than Enns. Ryan Dull, who we just saw in the A’s bullpen last week, was second with a 0.74 ERA. Pretty big gap between him and Enns.

As always, minor league stats come with a lot of caveats. First and foremost, the further away you get from the big leagues, the less they mean. There’s just too much noise. In the low minors many hitters have no real plan at the plate and lots of pitchers are control challenged. Enns has only 16.2 career innings above Single-A, and Baseball Reference tells me he is 0.4 years older than the average Eastern League player this year. Context is important.

At the same time, a player like Enns is going to have to perform very well to get any attention. He was an unheralded late round pick — Baseball America didn’t even have a pre-draft scouting report on Enns, and they seem to write up everyone — out of a school not really known for baseball. (Central Michigan has had four players drafted in the single digit rounds in the last 20 years, one of which was Yankees’ 2014 fifth rounder Jordan Foley.)

Enns owns a 0.48 ERA (2.53 FIP) with a very good strikeout rate (24.3%) in 75.1 innings since Tommy John surgery, and in his most recent start, and he fanned a career high eleven in six innings. He did that with farm system head Gary Denbo and special advisor Gene Michael in attendance, as noted by Jon Mozes. The heavy hitters were there.

The scouting report is pretty basic and it’s not something that will jump out at you. Enns lives in the 89-92 mph range as a starter — he’s a tick above that when working in relief — and he backs his fastball up with a low-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and rudimentary curveball. There are lots of those guys kicking around in the minors. That’s why Enns has to perform so well to get noticed.

As good as his ERA and strikeout rate have been over the years, they do not paint a complete picture. Enns has consistently run high walk rates throughout the minors — surely the elbow reconstruction contributed to that somewhat — and his ground ball rates aren’t any good. Almost all pitching prospects worth a damn have high ground ball rates because they overwhelm less talented hitters.

There’s also this: Enns went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft last December. That’s telling. Here you have a 24-year-old left-hander with unreal numbers and three pitches, yet no team took a shot at him. No one bothered to bring him to camp for an extended look or anything. Maybe they were scared away by the recent Tommy John surgery, but boy, any half-decent lefty tends to get scooped up in the Rule 5 Draft. No one felt he was ready.

If nothing else, Enns has put himself on the prospect map with his performance since last year. It’s tough to ignore basically zero runs allowed with an above-average strikeout rate. Those numbers alone do not make Enns a prospect, but they do get people to pay attention. Enns is now in Double-A and performing well, and if he continues to do so, he’ll soon find himself in Triple-A.

The Yankees are already down three key shuttle relievers (Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, Jacob Lindgren) thanks to elbow problems, and they showed last year they’re willing to dip deep into the farm system for bullpen help. That’s how guys Joel De La Cruz and Matt Tracy wound up with affordable healthcare for life. Enns is cut from a similar cloth. He’s that guy you don’t necessarily expect to get called up who ends up getting called up, know what I mean?

On an individual level, Enns wants to put himself in position to either land a 40-man roster spot with the Yankees after the season, or be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Continuing to perform this well at Double-A and maybe Triple-A figures to accomplish that goal. Enns is the classic example of a player who has done a lot with the small opportunity usually affording to late round picks. He’s been really good since being drafted and especially so since elbow reconstruction.

DotF: Swisher plays right field, goes deep in Scranton’s win

Some notes:

  • In case you missed it earlier, RHP James Kaprielian is going on the High-A Tampa DL with elbow inflammation. He will be “treated conservatively” and there’s no timetable for his return. Bummer.
  • In other in case you missed it earlier news, the Yankees have acquired LHP Phil Coke from the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. He’s heading to Triple-A Scranton.
  • The Yankees have signed RHP Luis Rodriguez, reports Matt Eddy. There are like a dozen Luis Rodriguezes playing baseball, so I have no idea which one they signed. The teenager from Mexico? The 33-year-old minor league journeyman? We’ll find out soon enough. Suspense!

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 R, 1 K — 11-for-26 (.423) in his last seven games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — 9-for-24 (.375) with four doubles, a triple, and a homer in his last six games
  • RF Nick Swisher: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — the homer was his third homer in ten games with the RailRiders, and Shane Hennigan says it was an opposite field job … this was his first game in right field, and Dave Rosengrant says Swisher made a leaping catch at the wall to end the game … it’s not a coincidence he is playing right field with Aaron Hicks and Alex Rodriguez banged up
  • LF Jose Rosario: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 5/6 GB/FB — 63 of 90 pitches were strikes (70%) … best start of the season for the RailRiders
  • RHP Vinnie Pestano: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — eleven of 18 pitches were strikes
  • LHP James Pazos: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — seven of eleven pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

James Kaprielian heading to DL with elbow inflammation

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

Bad news: right-hander and top pitching prospect James Kaprielian is heading to the High-A Tampa DL, the Yankees announced. The team says he will be “treated conservatively” with rest and a throwing program, and there is no timetable for his return. The MRI showed no structural damage in his elbow, so that’s good.

Kaprielian, 22, has a 1.50 ERA (1.97 FIP) with 22 strike outs and three walks in 18 total innings this season. He’s been marvelous. Reports have indicated his fastball has jumped into the 94-96 mph range and even as high as 99 at times. It’s not uncommon for big velocity spikes to be followed by elbow problems, unfortunately.

The elbow injury and conservative rehab approach could very well erase any chance Kaprielian had at pitching in the big leagues this year. He was going to have to fly though the minors, and even then he would have been on some sort of innings limitation. Bah.

DotF: Swisher & Lane have big games in Scranton’s loss

Very sad news to pass along: IF Sandy Acevedo was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic last night, the Yankees announced. He was only 18. The Yankees signed him as an international free agent last year. Our condolences go out to Acevedo’s family and friends.

Here’s some minor league news and notes I have lying around from the weekend:

  • LHP Jacob Lindgren has been placed on the High-A DL with an elbow injury, reports Dan Martin. No word on the nature of the injury. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in the middle of last season. The injury could (and hopefully does) explain Lindgren’s bouts of extreme wildness this year.
  • RHP James Kaprielian was No. 8 on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Erik Boland spoke to a scout recently who said Kaprielian has been “consistently” hitting 99 mph this year. That seems too good to be true. Clearly Kaprielian’s velocity is up since the draft, but now he’s regularly pumping 99? Sounds a little fishy.
  • The new site 20-80 Baseball has a pair of firsthand scouting reports on OF Ben Gamel and OF Aaron Judge from a recent Triple-A Scranton series. “All in all, he appears to be a guy with potential five average tools across the board that can do a little bit of everything; despite no plus tool,” said the report on Gamel.

Triple-A Scranton (7-4 loss to Syracuse)

  • 2B Donovan Solano: 2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-4
  • DH Nick Swisher: 3-4, 1 R — if he were with any other team, I’m pretty sure no one would be clamoring to call him up because of two good weeks in Triple-A after two awful years in MLB
  • C Gary Sanchez & 3B Rob Refsnyder: both 0-3, 1 BB — Refsnyder committed a throwing error
  • CF Lane Adams: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • RHP Tyler Cloyd: 4 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 2/7 GB/FB — 51 of 92 pitches were strikes (55.4%)
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 4 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 39 of 64 pitches were strikes (61%) … started the season on the DL, then was miraculously stretched out and ready to go (despite zero rehab outings) when the RailRiders needed an arm … smells like a phantom DL stint to me

[Read more…]

DotF: Sanchez goes deep; Kaprielian strikes out nine

OF Slade Heathcott is day-to-day with a contusion after taking a pitch to the hand last night, reports Shane Hennigan. X-rays came back negative, so that’s good.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Buffalo)

  • CF Ben Gamel & RF Aaron Judge: both 1-5 — Gamel struck out
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — second homer of the year
  • DH Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-2, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 37 of 57 pitches were strikes (65%) … first start here after one tune-up relief appearance
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 28 of 45 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • LHP James Pazos: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — half of his 22 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

2016 Draft: Nolan Jones

Nolan Jones | SS

Background
Jones attends Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, which is about halfway between Trenton and Philadelphia, so he’s kinda sorta local to the Yankees. He is 10-for-14 (.714) with a double, a triple, two home runs, and ten walks through six games this spring. Jones impressed with his ability to handle advanced prep arms from warm weather states in showcase events last summer. He’s slated to attend Virginia in the fall.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 185 lbs., most expect Jones to outgrow shortstop and move to either second or third base down the line. His bat will play anywhere, however. The left-handed hitter has a drool worthy offensive skill set. Jones has very strong hands and good raw power, yet his swing is simple and controlled, allowing him to barrel up the ball consistently. He knows the strike zone and looks very much like a player with the potential to hit for a high average with power and on-base ability down the line. The kid can even run a little. Defensively, Jones has a strong arm — he’s been clocked at 88-91 mph off the mound — and good hands, so third base won’t be an issue if that’s where he ends up.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’) and Baseball America ranked Jones as the 14th and 16th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. MLB.com had him further down at No. 29. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick. I’m just an idiot with a blog, so take the following with a grain of salt: Jones strikes me as an underrated draft prospect who would be getting much more attention if he were playing year round in California or Texas. I get that he hasn’t faced great competition as a high schooler, but he did rake against the best of the best in showcases last year, and the tools are very impressive. Virginia commitments can be tough to break, and if Jones winds up going to college, he has a chance to come out as potential No. 1 pick in three years.

DotF: Wade and Amburgey stay hot in losses

IF Thairo Estrada earned a write-up in Baseball America’s daily prospect report today following last night’s two-homer game. It’s not behind the paywall, so check it out. Estrada now has six dingers in 146 career games.

Triple-A Scranton (8-1 loss to Buffalo)

  • LF-CF Ben Gamel & 2B Rob Refsnyder: both 0-4 — Gamel struck out once and threw a runner (Jesus Montero!) out at the plate
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 2 K
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-1, 1 R, 1 HBP — left the game two innings after taking a pitch to the hand … manager Al Pedrique told Shane Hennigan that Heathcott’s hand stiffened up, and he will be re-evaluated tomorrow
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 2-3, 1 BB
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 5 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 64 of 91 pitches were strikes (70%)
  • LHP Tyler Olson: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 2/2 GB/FB — 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine of 12 pitches were strikes … allowed another homer, so that’s eight in 16.1 innings between the regular season and Spring Training

[Read more…]