Archive for Minors
Late last night, word came down from Hal Steinbrenner that the Yankees will not be making any changes to their player development system this winter. No major personnel changes, anyway. Damon Oppenheimer will remain amateur scouting director, Mark Newman will remain VP of Baseball Ops, and Pat Roessler will remain director of player development. This comes after nearly three months of auditing the farm system and trying to figure out why it was so unproductive this past season and has been over the last several years.
“Yeah, we have. We’ve made some changes,” said Hal to Andy McCullough yesterday when asked about the development staff. “The vast majority of the changes will be procedural. We’ve changed a few coaches, and we’ve brought in a few people. But [Brian Cashman] spent a lot of time, a good two months, looking at process: How we do things, how people communicate with each other. And we found some things that we were not happy with. So we changed them.”
“Procedural” changes. They’re going to change the way they communicate. They’re going to rearrange some furniture, slap some lipstick on the organizational pig, and go about business as usual. The problems were big enough to swap out some coaches and improve communication but not make wholesale changes. The guys in charge are on the right path, they just need to tweak some things and everything will be good. Change some procedures and ¯\_(:-/)_/¯. That’s one way to take that quote.
Now, let’s be serious for a second. Over the last few years, the Yankees have seen many prospects either stall out or go down with a major injury, especially pitchers. The last top pitching prospect, a “hey this guy could be really special” guy, to not blow out his arm in the minors was Joba Chamberlain in 2007. Andrew Brackman blew out his arm, Dellin Betances blew out his arm, Manny Banuelos blew out his arm, Alan Horne blew out his arm, Jose Campos blew out his arm, and Christian Garcia blew out his arm twice. Ty Hensley blew out his hip, so I guess he’s the exception right now.
There are always going to injuries (especially to pitchers) and there will always be some level of attrition. It’s completely unavoidable. But I think we’re beyond the point of blaming it on attrition or bad luck. The Yankees admitted to feeling the same way when Hal launched his investigation into the team’s farm system a few months ago. That was an admission on his part that something is going wrong somewhere, that things are not turning out the way they should be. Simply put, New York has not been able to turn their prospects into productive big leaguers. They fart out some relievers every so often but so does every other club, they aren’t anything special in that regard.
Now here’s the thing: I think the Yankees actually do a pretty good job of acquiring high-end talent, both internationally (before the spending restrictions were put into place, anyway) and in the draft. Yes, it could be better (it could always be better), they have made some questionable high picks in recent years (Cito Culver and Dante Bichette Jr., most notably), but they still walked away with top shelf guys like Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Greg Bird in the later rounds, for example. Williams has underperformed, Bird has dealt with injury, and Austin has battled both. The talent is there, they just can’t get these guys over the developmental hump.
As an outsider, evaluating a farm system and a development system is close to impossible because so much of it happens away from cameras and reporters. All we see is the results and, let’s be real here, the results stink. They’ve stunk for a few years now. The Yankees are in the middle of this weird transitional period where payroll is coming down and the last remnants of the dynasty years are fading away, so support from homegrown young players is vital. They haven’t been getting it though, the results are obvious. In the five years since Brett Gardner and David Robertson came up, the team’s best homegrown player has been Ivan Nova (104 ERA+ in 504 innings), and that’s just not good enough.
“It’s really easy to say, ‘Get rid of this guy. Get rid of this guy. And get rid of that guy,’” said Steinbrenner. “But that doesn’t always solve the problem. Sometimes it’s procedural or process, the way scouts influence each other because they’re talking too much to each other — somebody has a preconception about a player they haven’t even seen yet because they’ve talked to two scouts about them and they go in to go see the player with those preconceptions. So those are the kind of things we’re working on, communication. We’re teaching the scouts. We’re going to teach them to look for different things, maybe things they haven’t looked at before.”
I was being a jerk and downplaying the value of procedural changes before but they are important. Something had to change and something did. We don’t know the scope or extent of those changes but something is being done behind the scenes unless Hal is lying. It’s possible these adjustments will fix everything, get the position players on track and stop the top pitchers from visiting Dr. Andrews once a year. But I think the track record of developmental failure is too long to only make procedural changes. New sets of eyes and new voices could help the club crack the player development riddle no one in the organization seems to be able to solve. The Yankees had a chance to make meaningful changes to their farm system these last few weeks, but they opted for the half-measure instead.
Via George King: MLB and NPB are still negotiating changes to the posting system and remain “several weeks” away from reaching an agreement. We heard the two sides were discussing changes in September and finalizing an agreement last month, but apparently recent progress has been slow. There has been talk about giving the player some more input into the process while MLB wants to cut posting fees.
Meanwhile, Jeff Passan reiterates that the Yankees are “going to be bold” in their pursuit of Rakuten Golden Eagles right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. Re-signing Robinson Cano and landing Tanaka are considered priorities 1 and 1a, he says. The team’s scouts — the same ones who declared Yu Darvish unfit for New York — compared Tanaka’s temperament and makeup to Hideki Matsui‘s. The luxury tax-exempt posting fee is expected to climb north of $75M, but Tanaka can not be posted until MLB and NPB reach an agreement. Between this and the Alex Rodriguez ruling, it seems like everything on New York’s plate this winter is being delayed as long as possible. Hopefully the offseason doesn’t pass them by.
Gosuke Katoh | 2B
Katoh was born but not raised in Tokyo — his family moved from Japan to Southern California when he was a child. He got into baseball when his parents enrolled him in Little League to help him learn English and socialize. Katoh starred at Rancho Bernardo High School — he hit .451 with 12 doubles and eight homers as a senior — and really jumped onto the prospect map during the Area Code Games last year. He was a very good student with a strong commitment to UCLA.
Prior to the 2013 draft, Baseball America (no subs. req’d) ranked Katoh as the 39th best draft prospect in California and the 189th best draft prospect overall. The commitment to UCLA had many clubs thinking he was going to be a tough sign, but the Yankees rolled the dice and selected Katoh with their second round pick, the 66th overall selection. He signed within two weeks of the draft for a straight slot $845,700 bonus.
First, some notes:
- MLB is testing their expanded replay system in the Arizona Fall League next week, the league announced. This includes the manager’s challenges and all that. All of the necessary cameras have been installed (I assume) and the games will be televised live next week, from Tuesday to Saturday.
- Congrats to the Double-A Trenton Thunder for winning three minor league awards. In addition to being named Team of the Year, they also received awards for Promotion of the Year and Mascot Clip of the Year. The latter two relate to the retirement party for Chase, the team’s long-time bat dog. He passed away a few days later following a bout with cancer.
Second, the updates:
Arizona Fall League
- OF Tyler Austin: 4 G, 4-12, 2 R, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP (.333/.438/.500) – left the desert two weeks ago when the bone bruise in his right wrist flared up
- UTIL Addison Maruszak: 3 G, 2-11, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K (.182/.250/.273) — replaced Austin on the roster
- 3B/C Peter O’Brien: 11 G, 9-44, 5 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 15 K (.205/.239/.500) — fun slash line
- OF Mason Williams: 14 G, 16-59, 6 R, 4 2B, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 9 K, 3 SB, 1 CS (.271/.328/.339)
- RHP Brett Gerritse: 6 G, 7.2 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 7 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 1 HB, 1 WP (9.39 ERA, 1.96 WHIP)
- LHP Fred Lewis: 7 G, 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, 1 WP (0.00 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)
- LHP Vidal Nuno: 4 G, 4 GS, 15.2 IP, 16 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 1 HR (3.45 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) – it’s early, but you have to think he’ll have a decent chance to win a job (either starter or reliever) in Spring Training next year
- LHP James Pazos: 7 G, 6.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 8 K, 2 WP (2.84 ERA, 2.21 WHIP)
For the first time since August 2012, Masahiro Tanaka took a loss on Saturday. The Rakuten Golden Eagles ace allowed four runs on 12 hits and one walk while striking out seven against the Yomiuri Giants in the biggest game of his career — it forced a Game Seven in the Japan Series. Tanaka threw 160 pitches in his fourth complete game in five postseason starts. Those workloads are fairly common in Japan, where they pitch once a week rather than once every five days. His 30-start unbeaten streak came to an end and is the longest in the professional baseball history (by six!).
Update: Tanaka came out of the bullpen and threw 15 pitches to get the save in Game Seven on Sunday. It’s considered an honor for the team’s best pitcher to record the final out of the series in Japan, which is why he was used on zero days’ rest.
The Golden Eagles are expected to post Tanaka after the postseason and the Yankees “are going to be serious players” for the right-hander, who turned 25 on Friday. Jeff Passan posted an update on Tanaka and the reportedly forthcoming revisions to the posting system, so let’s round it up:
- With teams having few places to spend money, Tanaka is expected to be the most expensive international import in baseball history. Several executives said they expect the posting fee, which won’t count towards the luxury tax, the be in the $75-100M range. The $51.7M posting fee the Rangers paid for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish is the current record.
- Tanaka doesn’t have an agent right now. He’s been focused on the playoffs and isn’t sorting through candidates. The timetable for picking a representative is unclear but it’s been speculated he has an agreement with an agent already in place. Obviously he needs to get that figured out before being posted.
- Progress regarding the posting system changes has been slow because MLB wants to figure out a way to keep down posting fees. Haggling will delay the agreement, which means Tanaka may not be posted anytime soon even though the postseason is a few days from ending.
- One proposal suggested the winning team would not have to pay the full amount of their bid. Instead, they would find a point midway between the high bid and second highest bid and instead pay that. The Rangers outbid everyone by roughly $20M for Darvish and clubs want some protection in case something like that happens again.
Now that Baseball America has wrapped up their look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league, Matt Eddy (both no subs. req’d) used the lists to put together a ranking of all 30 farm systems based on their ability to provide immediate help. It’s basically a look at how each organization is equipped to provide MLB value in 2014 and 2015. Eddy used a points system that is rather complicated, so click the link for an explanation.
The Red Sox (122.2 points) top the rankings and are followed by the Astros (111.2) and Padres (110.8). The Brewers (26.6) are dead last. The Yankees are right smack in the middle of the pack — they rank 16th with 74.1 points. The average score is 76.4. “New York hopes this class of catching prospects develops more effectively than the last one,” wrote Eddy, referring to the Jesus Montero/Austin Romine era.
I’m actually surprised the Yankees ranked as highly as they did since their only near-MLB-ready prospect of note is C J.R. Murphy. They have some interesting outfielders at Double-A Trenton, but no one who is expected to make an impact next year. They really need some of those guys — as well as some lower level prospects — to raise their stock next summer. The team also needs to figure out why the farm system is so spectacularly unproductive, but that’s another matter.
Via Susan Latham Carr: The Yankees have reached an agreement to relocate their High-A Florida State League affiliate out of Tampa and up the road a hundred miles or so to Ocala. We first heard the team was in talks with the city of Ocala last December, after plans with Orlando fell through. “I think it makes a lot of sense. It’s a good quality-of-life-type venue,” said Ocala mayor Kent Guinn.
The agreement is in place but the deal is not yet final. Staff will present the agreement to the Ocala City Council tomorrow, where they will also discuss plans for a new $45 million facility. The new building will be used for more than just baseball and will be paid for by a half-cent sales tax increase over the next ten years. The tax hike and several other things must be voted on before the deal is finalized. Preliminary polls show the public is in favor of the deal. If everything goes smoothly, the relocation could be complete in time for Opening Day 2016.
Josh Leventhal says the relocation of the High-A squad will not change anything regarding Spring Training. The Yankees still have 12 years remaining on a 30-year contract that locks them into Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for Spring Training. The Yankees are looking to move their High-A affiliate out of Tampa to improve the market. They currently have to compete with the Rays, the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, and various collegiate sports. High-A Tampa averaged 1,827 fans per game this past season, fourth highest in the historically attendance-starved FSL.
First, two quick notes courtesy of Matt Eddy:
- UTIL Addison Maruszak has been sent to the Arizona Fall League to replace OF Tyler Austin, who was pulled from the league after his wrist starting flaring up again. It was originally reported a player from another organization would replace Austin, but I guess not.
- The Yankees have re-signing IF Carmen Angelini to a minor league contract. Injuries limited the former $1M bonus baby to only nine games from 2010-2012. He resurfaced to post a 133 wRC+ in 32 games for High-A Tampa this year, but only managed a 73 wRC+ following a promotion to Double-A Trenton.
Now, updates on the various winter ball action:
Arizona Fall League
- OF Tyler Austin: 4 G, 4-12, 2 R, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP (.333/.438/.500) — he is indeed done for the year
- C/3B Peter O’Brien: 9 G, 6-36, 4 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 13 K (.167/.211/.417) — between the regular season and AzFL, he’s at 147 strikeouts in 483 plate appearances (30.4%)
- OF Mason Williams: 11 G, 12-46, 6 R, 3 2B, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 7 K, 2 SB, 1 CS (.261/.333/.326)
- RHP Brett Gerritse: 5 G, 7.1 IP, 6 G, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 9 K, 1 WP (6.14 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
- LHP Fred Lewis: 6 G, 6.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, 1 WP (0.00 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)
- LHP Vidal Nuno: 3 G, 3 GS, 10.2 IP, 14 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HR (5.06 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) — results aren’t terribly important, he just needs to make up some of the innings he lost due to groin injury
- LHP James Pazos: 5 G, 4.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K (0.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
Via Jorge Ebro (translated article): The Yankees were one of several teams to scout Cuban right-hander Ordisamer Despaigne during a recent workout in Barcelona. He will participate in some more formal showcase events in Mexico in the coming weeks. Despaigne defected at an airport in Paris and has not yet been cleared to sign by the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The internet has almost nothing on Despaigne. He’s 27 years old and he had a 3.27 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 53 walks in 143 innings last year before defecting. He has also never pitched in the World Baseball Classic, though his father Francisco did play ten years in Cuba, so at least there’s some baseball blood in the family. Ben Badler calls him “very fringy” and there isn’t even a grainy video on YouTube. So yeah, here’s the scouting report we have on Despaigne: he’s right-handed. Sign ‘em up.
Via George King: The Yankees are among the teams scouting South Korean right-hander Seung-Hwan Oh. He will not be a free agent this winter but is expected to be made available through the posting process. The Yankees are said to have interest in Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka and Korean righty Suk-Min Yoon as well.
Oh, 31, has spent the last nine years with the Samsung Lions and, aside from injury-riddled 2009 and 2010 seasons, has more or less been the best closer in the Korea Baseball Organization during that time. He had a 1.74 ERA with 54 strikeouts and only ten walks in 51 2/3 innings this summer. His career stats are right here. As for a scouting report, King says Oh’s fastball is “between 94 and 96 mph and he has a splitter that disappears,” which is pretty much all the internet has to offer. There’s some video on YouTube.
Only two Asian relievers (Akinori Otsuka and Shinji Mori) have successfully gone through the posting process and both required six-figure bids. That was a long time ago though (2003 and 2005, respectively), so I’m guessing it’ll cost a couple million to talk to an established dominant closer these days. The track record of relievers coming over from Asia is actually really good and the Yankees need bullpen help, plus it would be neat to see them go outside the box for help with a guy like Oh. Assuming he’s good, of course.