DotF: Florial triples and homers in Charleston debut

As always, we begin with the notes:

  • OF Zack Zehner was named to the High-A Florida State League end of season All-Star Team. Also, Pat Osborn was named the league’s Manager of the Year, so congrats to both. Zehner, last year’s 18th round pick, hit .282/.382/.379 (129 wRC+) with three homers in 107 games for Tampa.
  • OF Alex Palma was placed on the Low-A DL with a lower body injury, the team announced. His regular season is over but he could return for the postseason, depending on the severity of the injury. The 20-year-old hit .265/.292/.420 (101 wRC+) with six homers in 64 games this year.
  • OF Estevan Florial was bumped up from rookie Pulaski to replace Palma, the team announced. Pulaski’s season ends today, so Florial is getting a late-season cameo in full season ball. Neat.

Triple-A Scranton (6-1 win over Buffalo) the win clinches at least a tie of the division title

  • CF Mason Williams: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — he’s locked in right now
  • RF Cesar Puello: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP — another hit-by-pitch … he’s a magnet
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding) — ten homers in 61 games for the RailRiders
  • DH Kyle Higashioka: 1-5, 2 K
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB
  • LHP Phil Coke: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 5/5 GB/FB — 68 of 93 pitches were strikes (73%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 12 of 16 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eleven of 16 pitches were strikes (69%) … pitching tonight is a pretty good indication he won’t be called up tomorrow

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DotF: Solano and Higashioka have big games in AAA win

Got some notes to pass long, as usual:

  • In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees are sending SS Gleyber Torres, SS Tyler Wade, 3B Miguel Andujar, 1B Greg Bird, and RHP Brody Koerner to the Arizona Fall League. They still have three pitching spots to fill. Farm system head Gary Denbo told Chad Jennings that Torres will play some second base and Wade will play some outfield in the desert. Intrigue!
  • Another in case you missed it earlier: OF Ben Gamel was traded for the Mariners for teenage pitching prospects RHP Juan DePaula and RHP Jio Orozco. Gamel was named MVP of the Triple-A International League just yesterday. It was only a matter of time until the Yankees traded one of their upper level lefty hitting outfielders.
  • Some injury updates from Randy Miller: RHP James Kaprielian (flexor) is still on his throwing program and will get back on a mound soon. The Yankees want to send him to the AzFL but won’t push it. Also, RHP Drew Finley is out with elbow fatigue, but tests showed no structural damage.
  • LHP Justus Sheffield and LHP James Reeves have been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, report Matt Kardos and Nick Flammia. Nice little late season promotions for those two. LHP Nestor Cortes, meanwhile, was sent from Triple-A to High-A, the team announced. He threw 5.2 hitless innings in his spot start with the RailRiders.
  • RHP Dillon Tate has been hitting 96 mph out of the bullpen with Low-A Charleston, reports Brendan Kuty. Tate’s velocity had been fluctuating all year with the Rangers, and it looks like it’s starting to come back. The next step is seeing whether he can hold that velocity as a starter.

Triple-A Scranton (14-2 win over Buffalo)

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-6, 1 R, 4 RBI, 1 K — hitting .330/.333/.418 in his last 23 games … you’d like to see more walks, but the shoulder seems a-okay
  • LF Cesar Puello: 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 1 E (fielding) — that’s his 16th hit-by-pitch of the season and it’s not even close to a career high … he has seasons with 20, 21, and 22 hit-by-pitches, plus two others 16 … dude’s a pitch magnet
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-6, 2 RBI, 3 K
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-6, 1 R, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • DH Donovan Solano: 4-5, 5 R, 3 2B — hitting .317/.345/.434 on the season
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 3-4, 4 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB — that’s his 21st homer of the season … his previous career high was eight back in 2011
  • RF Jake Cave: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Jordan Montgomery: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 62 of 86 pitches were strikes (72%) … set a franchise record with a 29.2 innings scoreless streak
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 17 of 20 pitches were strikes (85%) … 20 pitches in three innings? huh … guessing this was a tune-up appearance ahead of a call-up Friday

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Update: Yankees sending Andujar, Bird, Torres, Wade, and Koerner to the Arizona Fall League

Bird is the word. (Presswire)
Bird is the word. (Presswire)

4:28pm: The rosters have been officially announced. The Yankees are sending RHP Brody Koerner to the AzFL in addition to Bird, Torres, Andujar, and Wade. They have three pitching spots listed as TBA. Wade is listed as an outfielder, so that’s interesting.

2:30pm: According to Josh Norris, the Yankees are sending first baseman Greg Bird to the Arizona Fall League this season. I imagine this is still a tentative assignment, but it does suggest Bird’s rehab from shoulder surgery is going well. The Yankees wouldn’t plan on sending him to the AzFL if there was serious concern he wouldn’t be ready in time.

Bird, 23, has missed the entire season after having shoulder surgery in February. He had a shoulder injury in the minors last year, raked during his second half cameo with the Yankees, then re-injured the shoulder during an offseason workout. Given how poorly Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez hit this year, the Yankees really missed Bird this summer.

This will be Bird’s second AzFL stint, though the circumstances are very different. He’s a rehabbing player now. Two years ago he was a prospect getting extra at-bats. Bird hit .313/.391/.556 (176 wRC+) with six homers in 26 games during his first AzFL stint. He was named the league’s 2014 Most Valuable Player, then made his MLB debut a few months later.

Norris says the Yankees are also sending third baseman Miguel Andujar and shortstops Gleyber Torres and Tyler Wade to the desert as well. All three are among the clubs better prospects and the Yankees are sending them to the desert for extra at-bats. Andujar is Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season and I imagine the team will use the AzFL stint to further evaluate him and make their 40-man roster decision.

The Yankees still have 3-4 pitching spots to fill and it could be a while before those are announced. James Kaprielian would be an ideal candidate if he gets healthy in time, though I doubt the Yankees will rush him back from a flexor injury. AzFL pitching assignments tend to be boring. Most top pitching prospects are already bumping up against their innings limit, so there are a lot of third and four tier pitching prospects in the league.

The AzFL season begins on Tuesday, October 11th, and runs through Thursday, November 17th. Yankees prospects will suit up for the Scottsdale Scorpions this year. They’ll be on a team with Phillies, Angels, Giants, and Mets prospects. There will be days Scottsdale has an all-Yankees infield. Pretty cool.

Sherman: Yankees not planning to call up any prospects before they’re Rule 5 Draft eligible

Frazier. (@Kelsie_Heneghan)
Frazier. (@Kelsie_Heneghan)

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees are not planning to call up any prospects this week who are a year away from Rule 5 Draft eligibility. This applies mostly to two players: outfielder Clint Frazier and righty reliever Jonathan Holder. It also applies to guys like Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams.

Rosters expand tomorrow and right now we know with near certainty Luis Severino will be among the first wave of call-ups. I’d expect other prominent shuttle riders to come up this week as well, namely Nick Goody and Rob Refsnyder. There will be many more additions in September too. Don’t worry. Anyway, I have some quick thoughts on this.

1. The Yankees are facing a severe 40-man roster crunch this offseason. The Yankees got a head start on their Rule 5 Draft protection by calling up Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Ben Heller earlier this month. Other notable prospects like Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar are Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, ditto countless other second and third tier prospects.

When I wrote our September call-up preview, I said I think the Yankees will protect five more prospects after the season: Mateo, Andujar, Dietrich Enns, Tyler Webb, and Kyle Higashioka. On top of that, the Yankees will need to clear four 40-man spots for 60-day DL players the day after the World Series ends: Greg Bird, Branden Pinder, Conor Mullee, and Dustin Ackley. Chances are Nathan Eovaldi will land on the 60-day DL soon enough too.

Based on all of that, the Yankees will need to clear ten 40-man spots after the season, assuming Eovaldi finds himself on the 60-day DL. They only have one impending free agent too: Mark Teixeira. That’s it. Nine guys are losing their 40-man spots after the season. Nine! Some are obvious (Anthony Swarzak, J.R. Graham, Blake Parker, Richard Bleier, etc.) but many of them won’t be. The Yankees are going to have some tough decisions to make*.

* My guess is the Yankees will get a head start on non-tendering Eovaldi and Ackley by releasing them the day after the end of the World Series to clear 40-man space. They won’t have the luxury of waiting until the December 2nd tender deadline. That’s still only two extra spots.

Point is, the Yankees don’t have the luxury of adding players like Holder and Frazier to the 40-man early. Roster spots are going to be at a premium. (It would also unnecessarily burn an option, unless they both make the 2017 Opening Day roster.) I know we all want to see prospects in September. Who doesn’t? But the Yankees have to think big picture here. Roster spots are finite resource. They can’t call up the prospect flavor of the week just because.

2. The Holder hype is getting a little out of control. Earlier this week Holder turned in one of the most dominant pitching performances I’ve seen in all my time following the minors. He struck out 12 of 13 batters faced en route to a four-out postseason berth clinching save with Triple-A Scranton. It was incredible. Sheer dominance.

Holder has had a phenomenal season this year, pitching to a 1.65 ERA (1.30 FIP) in 65.1 innings while climbing from High-A to Triple-A. He’s struck out 101 and walked only seven. That works out to a 42.4 K% and 2.9 BB%. Insanity. Holder’s been as good as any reliever in the minors this season, and because of that, he’s viewed as a potential late-inning option in the near future.

While I’m certain Holder will get a big league opportunity soon, likely early next year, I think maybe he’s getting a little too much prospect love thanks to his minor league numbers. Holder’s a 92-94 mph fastball guy with a good but occasionally loopy curveball. He thrives by getting minor league batters to chase heaters up and out of the zone, as you can see in the video of his eleven straight strikeouts.

I’m not sure how well that strategy will work in the show, because big leaguers will do a better job laying off those pitches than minor leaguers. That said, Holder is still a quality relief prospect and the Yankees should be happy to have him. I just feel that, on the team’s righty relief prospect depth chart, Holder definitely falls behind Heller, and also Goody, Johnny Barbato, and even healthy Nick Rumbelow as well. Goody has a much better breaking ball and his minor league numbers are off the charts too (40.2 K% and 4.6 BB% in Triple-A in 2016).

It seems like every season we fall in love with a different minor league reliever who is carving up two or three levels. I could be completely wrong about Holder. Maybe he is a future relief ace. I was dead wrong about David Robertson, after all. (I thought his minor league control issues would keep him out of high-leverage work.) I’m just always skeptical of dominant minor league bullpeners. These guys are all over the place.

3. The Frazier hypothetical sure is fun. Frazier is currently on the Triple-A DL with a hamstring problem and isn’t a call-up candidate right now anyway. Also, he hasn’t exactly torn up Triple-A. He’s hitting only .229/.282/.375 (85 wRC+) since the trade and .231/.274/.368 (80 wRC+) in 29 Triple-A games overall. Frazier hasn’t forced the issue. He’s a top prospect because his tools are off the charts, not because his numbers are good.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees would have gone all-in on youth and called up Frazier in September had be been performing better in Triple-A. They could have stuck him in left field everyday and taken playing time away from Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury the same way they’ve taken playing time away from Teixeira and Brian McCann. Gary Sanchez has been a smashing success and Judge has had his moments too. Frazier is a potential impact bat who might have helped. Fun hypothetical, I think.

DotF: Molina homers twice in Pulaski’s win

Got a bunch of notes to pass along:

Triple-A Scranton (4-0 win over Buffalo) that’s their 24th (!) shutout of the season, which is insane … the 1992 Braves were the last MLB team with 24 shutouts in a season

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 2 R, 1 K
  • RF Mason Williams: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 28-for-85 (.329) in his last 22 games, so I guess the shoulder’s feeling good … I still think the Yankees are going to leave him down here through the Triple-A postseason so he can continue to play everyday and make up for all those lost at-bats … they did that with Slade Heathcott following his quad injury last year
  • DH Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • LF Jake Cave: 0-4, 2 K
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 0-4, 1 K
  • LHP Nestor Cortes: 5.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 5/2 GB/FB — 63 of 99 pitches were strikes (64%), plus he picked a runner off first … heck of a Triple-A debut … he’s pitched for all four full season affiliates this year, and they’re all going to the postseason, so I guess he has a chance to win four championship rings
  • RHP Luis Severino: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 21 of 34 pitches were strikes (62%) … safe to say he’s being prepped for relief work in September
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine of 12 pitches were strikes … he’s in the bullpen right now to keep his innings in check … I wonder if they’ll put him back in the rotation for the postseason

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DotF: Bichette homers twice in Trenton’s win

The video above is RHP Jonathan Holder striking out eleven straight batters as part of his four-inning save yesterday. J.J. Cooper wrote about Holder’s incredible performance. Here are the day’s notes:

Triple-A Scranton (6-2 loss to Rochester)

  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4, 1 K
  • RF Cesar Puello: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R — 22-for-58 (.379) in 16 games since being sent down
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 0-2, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 2.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 2/4 GB/FB — 47 of 91 pitches were strikes (52%) … he has a 5.09 ERA in 122.1 career Triple-A innings
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 24 of 43 pitches were strikes (56%)
  • LHP James Pazos: 1.2 IP, zeroes, 5 K — 19 of 26 pitches were strikes (73%) … 44/20 K/BB in 29.1 innings
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — 15 of 23 pitches were strikes (52%)

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DotF: Holder fans 12 in relief as Scranton clinches playoff spot

The minor league season is winding down, so let’s update the standings. But first, some notes:

  • OF Blake Rutherford is done for the season with a minor hamstring injury, reports Bryan Hoch. He should be good to go for Instructional League next month though. Pulaski’s season ends Thursday and there’s no reason to push it. Seems like the Pulaski social media person was sick of being asked about Rutherford’s status though. Rutherford finishes his pro debut with a .351/.415/.570 (169 wRC+) batting line and three homers in 33 games.
  • OF Clint Frazier has been placed on the 7-day DL with a hamstring strain, reports Kelsie Heneghan. That explains why he was lifted for a pinch-hitter last night. Hopefully it’s minor and Frazier can come back after the seven days and play in the postseason.
  • RHP Chance Adams has been shut down for the season, Double-A Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell told Matt Kardos. He reached his innings limit. Adams finishes the year with a 2.33 ERA (2.96 FIP) and a 29.1% strikeout rate in 127.1 total innings. He was a reliever before this season, remember. They don’t want to push him too far. Big loss for Trenton’s playoff rotation.
  • And finally, OF Jhalan Jackson made an appearance in today’s Prospect Report following last night’s five-hit performance, so make sure you check that out.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Rochester) the win clinches a postseason spot, which is cool … they’re 84-49 and have the best record in all of Triple-A … their regular season ends a week from tomorrow

  • LF Ben Gamel: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 BB
  • DH Chris Parmelee: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — tied the game with a solo homer, then gave them the lead with an RBI single
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-4
  • RF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 K
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1/0 GB/FB, 1 E (pickoff) — 53 of 84 pitches were strikes (63%) … I suppose he could come up when rosters expand on Thursday, though I’m guessing he’ll stay in Triple-A and pitch through the postseason to make up for all those innings he missed with the toe injury
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 19 of 28 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K — 41 of 53 pitches were strikes (77%) … holy crap what a game … Holder struck out eleven straight batters at one point … the one hit was a pop-up that fell in because none of the infielders called for it too, so the one guy who did make contact (John Ryan Murphy!) didn’t square it up … the three pitchers combined for 22 strikeouts in nine innings

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