Archive for Minors
The 2014 draft is still seven months away, but this is as good a time as any to start familiarizing yourself with the draft class. Baseball America published their first top 50 draft rankings yesterday, and best of all, you don’t need a subscription to read it. Fifty players with a little blurb on each. Pretty cool. NC State LHP Carlos Rodon predictably tops the list — he’s the best draft prospect since at least Gerrit Cole in 2011, maybe even Bryce Harper in 2010.
“After a below-average 2013 draft, the 2014 class has potential to be the best class since 2011’s banner crop,” says the very first line in the write-up. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick at the moment — they could lose that for signing a qualified free agent, obviously — and are in position to add a supplemental first round pick or two if their own qualified free agents head elsewhere. Keep in mind that is is mid-October. The high school and college seasons are still weeks away from starting, so those rankings will change a lot between now and the draft. A lot. In all likelihood, someone not on that top 50 list will wind up going in the top ten next June. These rankings are just a snapshot of what’s going on right now, that’s all. They aren’t intended to be some kind of prediction.
Baseball America wrapped up the Yankees-relevant portion of their league top 20 prospects series yesterday, posting the Double-A Eastern League (no subs. req’d). SS Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), 3B Miguel Sano (Twins), and RHP Noah Syndergaard (Mets) make up the top three of a generally star-studded list.
C J.R. Murphy was the only Yankees farmhand to make the cut, and he ranked 18th. The 22-year-old hit .268/.352/.451 (116 wRC+) with six homers in 211 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton this summer before being bumped up to Triple-A Scranton (117 wRC+ in 257 plate appearances) and eventually finishing the season in the big leagues.
“Scouts now seen him as a potential regular catcher as his defensive chops have improved,” said the subscriber-only write-up. “He has a line-drive stroke that he uses to spray balls to all fields …. Managers around the league noted how well Murphy handled Trenton’s pitching staff and consistently ranked him as one of the better catch-and-throw guys in the circuit … His solid-average arm is accurate and aided by a quick transfer.”
Neither OF Slade Heathcott and OF Tyler Austin did not make the list, obviously. In the subscriber-only chat, Josh Norris said “there were significant questions about [Heathcott's] plate discipline, makeup and being injury-prone,” while “most evaluators I surveyed only thought of [Austin] as a fourth-outfielder type.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. OF Ramon Flores simply doesn’t have enough power to be considered a top prospect, Norris added.
All of the Yankees-relevant lists have now been posted: Rookie Gulf Coast League (six players ranked), Short Season NY-Penn League (one), Low-A South Atlantic League (one), High-A Florida State League (two), and Triple-A Intentional League (zero). The rankings actually do a pretty good job of summarizing the state of the team’s farm system. Lots of interesting talent at the lower levels but nothing at the upper levels to help the team in the immediate future, either as trade bait or by stepping into the roster. System in a nutshell.
- VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed C Gary Sanchez is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter. I thought he had at least one more year to go, but it’s always tough to pin down the international guys. Obviously Sanchez will be added to the 40-man roster and protected from the draft.
- RHP Chase Whitley may remain a starter in the future. The career reliever has made a handful of spot starts the last two years, and he’s the rare reliever who used three pitches fairly regularly. “He’s got a great changeup, so it was, let’s see if he can do this,” said Newman. “His velocity picked up over the last two years, he’s always had a very good changeup, we’re working on his breaking ball. We had some innings in the rotation, and he’s got starter stuff, so he may get a look in that way in the future.”
- Newman confirmed RHP Jose Campos will again have his workload controlled next season. He was limited to three or four inning outings all summer. He’ll throw more innings overall, but they’re not yet ready to turn him loose just yet. Campos missed pretty much all of last season with an elbow injury.
- Apparently OF Ravel Santana broke his arm at some point. That’s on top of the brutal ankle injury that completely derailed his career two years ago. “He’s had two really tough injuries,” said Newman. “He’s had a tough go.”
- The Yankees re-signed UTIL Jose Pirela to a minor league contract. He became a six-year minor league free agent after the season. The 23-year-old has spent the last few years with Double-A Trenton, putting up a ~120 wRC+ in 888 plate appearances the last two seasons. Pirela’s not much of a prospect, but he can play all over the field. He’s the kind of guy who could sneak a call-up at some point.
Baseball America continued their look at the top 20 prospects in each of the 16 minor leagues leagues with the Triple-A International League today (no. subs. req’d). SS Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox) topped the list and was followed by big leaguers OF Wil Myers (Rays) and former Yankee first rounder RHP Gerrit Cole (Pirates). The top six is really, really strong, but it drops off after that.
The Yankees didn’t land a single player on the list and that’s not surprising at all. The best prospect to start the year with the Triple-A Scranton squad was C Austin Romine, and he spent most of the season in the big leagues. RHP Brett Marshall had a poor year, C J.R. Murphy and OF Zoilo Almonte didn’t play many games for the RailRiders, and relievers like RHP Dellin Betances and RHP Mark Montgomery rarely crack these lists for obvious reasons. There wasn’t even a Yankees-related question in the subscriber-only chat.
The Rookie Gulf Coast League (six Yankees farmhands), Short Season NY-Penn League (one), Low-A South Atlantic League (one), and High-A Florida State League (two) lists have all been released. Baseball America went out of sequence, so the Double-A Eastern League is still to come. That is scheduled to be released on Tuesday. OF Slade Heathcott and OF Tyler Austin are the best bets from Double-A Trenton.
Via George King: Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka “is a priority” for the Yankees this winter, and they “are going to be serious players” in the posting process. “He is better than [Yu Darvish] because he is a strike thrower,’’ said one overly-enthusiastic scout. “Overall, Darvish’s stuff might be a little bit better, but this guy knows how to pitch. He is like [Hiroki Kuroda], he has a lot of guts. He throws four pitches but when it gets to [stone]-cutting time, it’s fastball and splitter.’’
Tanaka, 25 next month, had a 1.24 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 181 innings for the Rakuten Golden Eagles this year. He is indeed expected to be posted this winter. The Yankees have been scouting him quite a bit in recent weeks, most notably sending assistant GM Billy Eppler and special assignment scout Don Wakamatsu to see him. King spoke to several executives who expect the bidding to approach $60M, which would be a record. Only the contract, not the posting fee, would count against the luxury tax. The Yankees have shied away from Japanese players (via the posting process) since the Kei Igawa disaster, so bidding big on Tanaka would be a big chance of pace.
A few winter ball assignments have started to trickle in, but remember, just because someone is on the roster doesn’t mean he’ll actually play. The team controls the player’s winter ball rights but his big league team may ask him not to play, something like that. Guys who are coming off injuries or pitchers nearing their workload limit usually don’t see much playing over the winter. Here are the few names we have so far.
- Mexican Pacific League: OF Jose Figueroa, IF Walt Ibarra, and UTIL Ronnie Mustelier.
- Venezuelan Winter League: C Francisco Arcia, IF Ali Castillo, C Frankie Cervelli, C Jose Gil, and UTIL Jose Pirela.
Obviously Cervelli is the big name there. He plays winter ball most years anyway, but he missed a bunch of time to injury/suspension this summer and could use the extra at-bats. Now for the updates from the desert:
AzFL Scottsdale (12-2 loss to Salt River) Wednesday’s game
- 3B Peter O’Brien: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — 23rd homer of the year … I imagine he’ll hit a few more out here before it’s all said and done
- LHP Fred Lewis: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — only ten of 22 pitches were strikes (45%) … he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter and I wonder if the team sent him out here just to get one last look before deciding whether he can help them out of the bullpen next year
- RHP Brett Gerritse: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1/1 GB/FB — only 16 of 33 pitches were strikes (48%) … fun fact: his 2.42 FIP this year was the fifth lowest in minor league baseball among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched (538 qualifiers)
AzFL Scottsdale (6-3 loss to Peoria) Thursday’s game
- 1B Tyler Austin: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 K
- CF Mason Williams: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — threw a runner out at second
Ian Clarkin | LHP
A Southern California kid from San Diego, Clarkin struck out 133 batters and posted a 0.95 ERA as a senior at James Madison High School this spring, which earned him a third consecutive All-California Interscholastic Federation Baseball Player of the Year selection. Clarkin led USA Baseball’s 18-and-under team to the International Baseball Federation 18U World Championship in South Korea last year with six strong innings in the gold medal game. He committed to the University of San Diego.
Prior to the draft, Baseball America (no subs. req’d) ranked Clarkin as the fifth best draft prospect in California and the 17th best draft prospect overall. The Yankees selected him with the third of their three first round picks, the 33rd overall selection. That’s the pick the team received as compensation for losing Rafael Soriano as a free agent. Clarkin infamously said he hated the Yankees in a pre-recorded video aired during the draft broadcast, but the team changed his mind with a $1,650,100 signing bonus. He took exactly slot money roughly two weeks after the draft.
RHP Ty Hensley threw off a mound today for the first time since hip(s) surgery, according to his Twitter feed. He recently completely his rehab program and should be 100% good to go come Spring Training.
- CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB — Norris says the hit was a bloop
- 1B Tyler Austin: 2-3, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB — the hits came on a hard grounder to third and a line drive to center … he’s playing first base here because, well I don’t know why
- LHP James Pazos: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K — half of his 18 pitches were strikes
Baseball America continued their look at the top 20 prospects in each of the 16 minor leagues with the High-A Florida State League today (no subs. req’d). The list was topped by OF Byron Buxton (Twins), the consensus top prospect in all of baseball. 3B Miguel Sano (Twins) and SS Javier Baez (Cubs) round out the top three and complete the holy trinity of position player prospects. They’re three of the very best in the game.
The Yankees had two players make the list, starting with C Gary Sanchez at #7. He was sandwiched between two brand names: RHP Noah Syndergaard (Mets) and OF Jorge Soler (Cubs). “Sanchez’s best tools are his plus-plus raw power and his throwing arm, which rates at least as a 70 [on the 20-80 scouting scale] … His blocking and receiving remain suspect, however,” said the subscriber-only write-up. “[He] should produce .260 averages and 20-25 homers annually.”
OF Mason Williams, who had a poor year overall, was further down the list at #19. “Scouts report his swing looked good in batting practice but changed in games to a more slashing approach, costing him power … When he played with energy, he turned in plus running times and showed the easy range to be an asset defensively in center field, with a strong throwing arm,” said the write-up. That whole “played with energy” part has reportedly been a bit of an issue for Williams in recent years.
The Yankees landed six players on the Rookie Gulf Coast League list but only one apiece on Short Season NY-Penn League and Low-A South Atlantic League lists. The Double-A Eastern League is scheduled to be posted next Monday and the league champion Trenton Thunder should be represented by a few players, specifically OF Slade Heathcott and OF Tyler Austin. Sanchez definitely wasn’t with the team long enough to qualify for the list. LHP Nik Turley has a (very) outside chance of making it as well.
The Arizona Fall League season begins on Tuesday — the Yankees are sending seven players (roster), most notably OF Mason Williams, OF Tyler Austin, and LHP Vidal Nuno — while the various Caribbean winter leagues are still about a week away. Those rosters have not yet been released. Here’s a smattering of minor league notes for the time being:
- In a subscriber-only piece, Matt Eddy looked at the best defensive players in the minors at the four up-the-middle positions. OF Mason Williams ranked 12th (out of 20) among center fielders by Eddy’s method while OF Slade Heathcott was an honorable mention. C Gary Sanchez was eighth among catchers thanks in part to his 45.9% success rate at throwing out attempted base-stealers. He “receives 80 throwing grades [on the 20-80 scale] from some scouts.”
- LHP Mike Zagurski was removed from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, reports Andy McCullough. He refused the assignment and elected free agency. The Yankees have one open 40-man spot now. Zagurski, 30, spent most of the year in Triple-A but was actually with the team in September. He appeared in one game and allowed two runs.
- RHP Jim Miller, IF Alberto Gonzalez, and UTIL Brent Lillibridge all elected free agency, according to Eddy. None of the three were on the 40-man roster but they all played for the big league team at one point or another this summer. Gonzalez appeared in 13 games, the most of the bunch.
- The Yankees have re-signed C Jose Gil, RHP Diego Moreno, and LHP Francisco Rondon, among others, to minor league contracts, reports Eddy. They became minor league free agents after the season. Moreno came over in the A.J. Burnett trade and Rondon, while still fringy, is the best prospect of the bunch.