Archive for Minors
According to multiple reports, the Cardinals have agreed to a four-year contract with Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz. The deal is reportedly worth a little less than $20M. The Yankees had interest in Diaz and even had him in camp for a private workout a few weeks ago, but they ultimately decided not to make a contract offer. Oh well.
Last year, the Yankees got close to zero help from their farm system. The only player to come up from the minors and establish himself as a big leaguer was Adam Warren, who spent the year as the swingman. Guys like David Adams, Preston Claiborne, and Zoilo Almonte got off to hot starts, but they all tailed off once they were pressed into regular playing time. Austin Romine also failed to impress as the backup catcher. The system offered close to no help as the injuries mounted and the poor stretches turned into poor seasons.
The Yankees were not oblivious to this — Hal Steinbrenner called a staff meeting and essentially had the scouting and player development staff audited to figure out why there were no internal solution. No major personnel changes were made, but some procedural changes were implemented and the minor league complex in Tampa was renovated. Turning around the system probably won’t happen overnight, but the team did take some steps in the right direction these last few months.
At some point this season, the Yankees will have to dip into their farm system for help. It’s inevitable. Injuries will strike and fringe players will play their way off the roster. When that happens, the first attempt at fixing the problem will come from within. The Yankees have shown they will be patient and not jump right into the trade market when they need help these last few years and I have no reason to think that will change in 2014. Here are the prospects who could come up and help the MLB team this summer.
Catcher: John Ryan Murphy
Murphy, 22, got his first taste of the big leagues late last year, but that was nothing more than a September cup of coffee following a breakout season in Double-A and Triple-A. He hit .269/.347/.426 with 29 doubles and 12 homers between the two levels and has improved so much defensively that he is now viewed as a no doubt catcher long-term. Had the Yankees not signed Brian McCann, the temptation to start Murphy in 2014 would have been be great. Instead, he figures to bide his time in Triple-A and await an injury after jumping Romine on the depth chart. Of course, he might be nothing more than trade bait. Sleeper: Eh, there really isn’t a sleeper behind the plate for 2014.
Infield: Dean Anna
Similar to Murphy, Anna figures to be the first called up whenever injury strikes the infield. The Yankees acquired the 27-year-old from the Padres in a minor offseason deal and he can do a little of everything except hit for power. He can get on base and play both second and short, where the offensive bar is pretty low. I’d say the chances of Anna coming up and being an impact player this summer are remote, but he does enough to potentially help the team both at the plate and in the field if pressed into duty. Sleeper: Jose Pirela, who’s hit .264/.334/.401 and played four positions (second, short, third, left) at Double-A the last three years.
Outfield: Zoilo Almonte
Technically, Almonte had his chance to help the MLB team last year. He came up in mid-June and had five pretty great games to start his career, but it went downhill fast and he finished the year with a .236/.274/.302 batting line in 113 big league plate appearances around an ankle injury. Almonte, 24, offers sound corner outfield defense and a switch-hitting bat, and there’s a case to be made that he’s a better fit for the bench than Ichiro Suzuki right now. Instead of making the Opening Day roster, Zoilo will have to settle for a trip to Triple-A, where he will be the first called up whenever an extra outfield body is needed. He’s the clear first in line. Sleeper: Ronnie Mustelier, who didn’t get a shot last year but could hit his way into the conversation again.
Right-handers: Dellin Betances, Mark Montgomery, Jose Ramirez
Of everyone in this post, the 25-year-old Betances probably has the best chance to crack the Opening Day roster. He finally found something resembling sustained success in the bullpen last year, pitching to a 2.06 ERA with a 93/28 K/BB in 65.2 innings after shifting into a relief role. It feels like a foregone conclusion that Betances will get a chance to not only stick in the big leagues this year, but also assume a high-profile, late-inning role. The time is now for Dellin.
Had Montgomery not gotten hurt last year, he probably would have been called up instead of Claiborne. Instead, the 23-year-old struggled to throw strikes while missing time with shoulder problems. Montgomery will likely have to show he’s back to being the guy he was from 2011-12 before getting a chance to help the MLB team with his wipeout slider. Ramirez, 24, has had trouble staying healthy over the years and sure enough, he’s already been sidelined with an oblique problem in camp. When right, his fastball-changeup combination is electric and could have a huge impact out of the bullpen, assuming the Yankees are ready to give up on him as a starter given his career-long lack of durability. Sleeper: Danny Burawa, assuming he can figure out how consistently throw strikes.
Left-handers: Cesar Cabral, Vidal Nuno
I wouldn’t be a complete shock if either Cabral or Nuno made the Opening Day roster, but, more likely, they figure to serve as up and down arms this season. The 25-year-old Cabral is a pure lefty specialist with a low-90s fastball and a sweepy slider, and his late-season cameo was impressive (nine lefties faced, six strikeouts). Nuno, 26, has a deep enough repertoire to start and we saw him do that last summer before his groin injury. In a perfect world, he’d turn into a left-handed 2009 Al Aceves, a rubber-armed swingman who could come in for one batter or four innings without much of a problem. Sleeper: Fred Lewis, who lacks sexy numbers but has the fastball-slider combination to help as a specialist.
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The Yankees do not have a Xander Bogaerts or a Gregory Polanco in their farm system, that super high upside MLB ready prospect with a clear path to big league playing time in 2014. Any help they get from within this summer figures to come in small doses, from bench players or relievers. Sure, Murphy could take over as the starter if McCann gets hurt or Nuno could grab the fifth starter’s spot and run with it, but that would be a surprise. The system is not a position to provide an immediate impact right now unless it involves trading prospects for a big leaguer.
The Yankees relied on international free agents as the backbone of their farm system for years and years, but the new spending restrictions severely limit the team’s ability to build through Latin America. Two years ago they were capped at $2.9M — a touch less than they gave C Gary Sanchez alone back in 2009 — and last summer it was only $1.88M, the third smallest bonus pool in the game. Tough to stick to that number and add impact players.
According to Ben Badler (subs. req’d), the Yankees used that $1.88M pool to sign 45 (!) players last year. Well, kinda. All of that money and then some went to Dominican OF Leonardo Molina ($1.4M) and Dominican SS Yonauris Rodriguez ($570k). The Yankees exceeded their pool by roughly $93k on those two players alone, almost exactly a 5% overage. That results in a $70k tax, or 75% of the overage. Four other players signed for the $50k exemption (each team gets six) and the other 39 signed for no more than the $7,500 exemption (unlimited). Most of those guys are roster fillers and not serious prospects.
The 16-year-old Molina (no relation to the catching brothers) is now listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 lbs. and was one of the top available players on the international market. “Molina set himself apart with some of the best raw tools and athleticism in Latin America last year,” wrote Badler while noting Molina’s strong arm and defensive skills. “He has plus bat speed and a level stroke with good swing path, but he has an unorthodox load that causes his hands to get started a little early. Molina showed the ability to backspin a ball with gap power when he signed, but with added weight and strength since then, his power has already started to tick up significantly, taking balls over the center-field batter’s eye in batting practice.”
Rodriguez, 16, is considered a no doubt shortstop who has some work to be before becoming a real threat at the plate. “With a wiry 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame, Rodriguez projects to stay at the position with good hands and an above-average arm … (his) defense is ahead of his righthanded bat. He will hit some doubles but doesn’t have much power, so he’ll have to focus on line drives and getting on base,” wrote Badler. Here’s video. Both Rodriguez and Molina have a chance to make their pro debuts with one of the team’s two Rookie Gulf Coast League affiliates later this year.
In addition to their two big money signings, the Yankees also landed 19-year-old Dominican LHP Orby Taveras, who signed for one of the $50k exemptions. He already stands 6-foot-4 and 225 lbs. and “throws 88-91 mph, scrapes 92 and complements it with feel for a changeup that’s ahead of his three-quarters breaking ball,” according to Balder, who says Taveras also has a good plan on the mound despite his lack of experience. Dominican OF Frank Frias ($7,500) and Dominican RHP Jhon Morban ($3,000) both stood out for their performances in the Dominican Summer League after signing.
The Yankees are said to be planning a huge international spending spree this year, one that may reportedly cost upwards of $30M between signing bonuses and the taxes excised for exceeding their spending pool. That would help cover for the three top draft picks the team surrendered as free agent compensation this winter. The Yankees will face spending restrictions in future years if they go on such a spree, but the general belief is that an international draft is on the horizon. If so, this summer may be New York’s last chance to target and sign any available international player.
Via the AP: Orlando Hernandez has joined the Yankees as a Spring Training minor league pitching instructor. The 48-year-old retired in 2011 and last pitched in the big leagues in 2007. This will be El Duque’s first coaching gig as far as I can tell and he’s slated to remain in Tampa for several weeks. Since he’s working with minor leaguers, I wonder if Hernandez will stick around for all or part of Extended Spring Training as well.
Baseball Prospectus published their annual organizational rankings today and, best of all, you don’t need a subscription to read the piece. The entire thing is free. The Twins, led by elite prospects OF Byron Buxton and 3B Miguel Sano, sit at the top of the list and are followed by the Cubs and Pirates. The Angels predictably sit in the basement.
The Yankees rank 23rd and the write-up says they “have talent in the minors—which helps separate them from the poorer systems in baseball—but down years from key prospects caused the system to yo-yo from middle of the pack to the bottom third … In a talented yet schizophrenic system, all it takes is a return to form from some of the more heralded names on the farm and the Yankees will shoot back up the org rankings.” That sums it up pretty well, no?
Via El Heraldo (translated article): The Yankees have signed 17-year-old Colombian right-hander Juan Escorcia. He was one of 60 players they scouted at a recent workout. No word on the bonus but chances are it’s relatively small. The news would be everywhere if it was substantial.
“Escorcia is a right-hander who was highlighted in the evaluation process for the ease of his arm strength and pitching consistency,” said Luis Sierra Llamas, one of the team’s scouts in Colombia. Escorcia is said to stand 5-foot-11 with a fastball that sits around 90 mph, so yeah, he’s got quite a bit of development ahead of him before becoming a serious prospect.
Baseball America published their list of the top 100 prospects in baseball tonight (no subs. req’d), a list that was predictably topped by Twins OF Byron Buxton. He’s been on top of every top prospect list this spring. Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts and Cardinals OF Oscar Taveras round out the top three.
The Yankees landed two players on the top 100: RHP Masahiro Tanaka at #4 and C Gary Sanchez at #35. It’s silly that Tanaka is considered a prospect considering all his time in Japan, but Baseball America has always stuck with the Rookie of the Year rules and that makes him eligible for their list. Whatever. Sanchez, the team’s real top prospect, ranks second among catchers, behind only Padres C Austin Hedges. OF Mason Williams, OF Tyler Austin, and OF Slade Heathcott all dropped off last year’s top 100.
By the Yankees’ own admission, last season was a terrible year for the farm system. Many top prospects either got hurt or underperformed (some did both), so much so that the Yankees’ drafting and development strategy and personnel were re-evaluated. No one was fired, but several new instructors were added to the staff, including former big league managers Trey Hillman and Mike Quade. Procedural changes were made as well.
As a result of that down year, the Yankees have a lean system with almost no immediate help on the way. No impact players, anyway. Having three first round picks in last summer’s draft helped keep them from the bottom of the various organizational rankings, plus the team is said to be planning a huge international spending spree this summer, so there figures to be a lot of talent added to the system during this 12-13 month span. They need it, that’s for sure.
This is my eighth Preseason Top 30 Prospects List and the other seven can be found right here. As a reminder, this is my personal list and I am not an expert. I’m just a dude with a blog and some opinions. I have my own preferences and therefore I’m high on some players and low on others, compared to consensus. You’re welcome to disagree with my rankings. We all value certain things (upside, performance, probability, etc.) differently and that’s why there is no right way to rank prospects.
I use the rookie limits (50 innings or 130 at-bats) to determine prospect eligibility without any regard for service time because that’s easiest. Service time is too much of a hassle to track. Preston Claiborne threw 50.1 innings last season, so he wasn’t eligible. There has been a ton of turnover from last year’s list, with seven players either graduating to the big leagues (Austin Romine, Adam Warren), leaving the organization (Brett Marshall, Corey Black, Melky Mesa, Ravel Santana), or both (David Adams). Another nine players dropped off the list due to injury, poor performance, or the numbers crunch as well. That means 16 players (!) on this year’s Top 30 were not on last year’s. Ridiculous.
As for sources, it’s pretty much everything. Baseball America, Keith Law, and Baseball Prospectus, of course, plus smaller profiles from hometown newspapers and stuff like that. You can learn quite a bit about a pitcher from a random interview since they tend to talk about their repertoires and all that. There’s also video as well. I’m no scout, but it doesn’t take a genius to see if a guy has a long swing or a nasty slider. The list starts after the jump. Enjoy.
Pitchers and catchers are due to report on Friday, so between now and then we’re going to look at the best prospects in the Yankees’ system heading into the new season. My annual Preseason Top 30 Prospects List will be posted tomorrow morning, but first we’re going to look at some players on the outside looking in. These are the guys with a chance to jump into the Top 30 next year.
Only one of last year’s Not Top 30 Prospects made the actual Top 30 this year, but another was among the final cuts. As a reminder, these five prospects should not be considered prospects 31-35. The are simply five prospects who I believe have a chance to make next year’s Top 30 with a healthy and strong 2014 season. That’s all.
RHSP Domingo Acevedo, 19
Signed to unknown bonus during the 2012-13 international signing period, Acevedo pitched to a 2.63 ERA (2.05 FIP) with 43 strikeouts (24.2%) and eleven walks (6.2%) in 41 innings down in the Dominican Summer League last year, and he’s poised to come stateside in 2014. He is a massive kid, listed at 6-foot-7 and 242 lbs. despite not turning 20 years old until this June. His fastball cashes the check that big frame writes, sitting in the mid-90s and running as high as 99 on occasion. Acevedo’s top secondary pitch is a changeup, which at this point is just okay and still a work in progress. His breaking ball needs work as well. Yes, he’s very raw and he has a lot of development ahead of him, but Acevedo has a huge ceiling and could soon rank among the system’s best arms.
RHSP Rookie Davis, 20
Davis, the team’s 14th round pick in the 2011 draft, dominated with Short Season Staten Island last year, posting a 2.36 ERA (2.72 FIP) with 39 strikeouts (20.6%) and 13 walks (6.9%) in 42 innings. That performance earned him a late-season promotion to Low-A Charleston, where he threw ten scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and zero walks in two spot starts. Davis is another big guy, listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 lbs., and these days his fastball sits 91-93 mph after sitting 89-90 in high school. His big breaking curveball has developed into a reliable secondary pitch and his changeup has made some progress as well. With that big frame and the makings of a three-pitch mix, Davis has all the look of a mid-rotation workhorse. He’ll likely rejoin the River Dogs to start the season.
RHSP David Palladino, 20
As big as Acevedo is, he’s no Palladino. The Bergen Country raised right-hander is listed at 6-foot-9 and 235 lbs., but unlike other pitchers that size, he does a good job of repeating his delivery. Palladino’s fastball is an easy 90-93 mph, occasionally touching 96-97. A mid-70s curveball is his top secondary offering but also throws both a slider and a changeup. His mechanics can fall apart from time to time, but Palladino has a good fastball and three distinct offspeed pitches. There’s little doubt he can remain a starter long-term thanks to his strong frame and deep repertoire, and if either his slider or changeup develops into a reliable third pitch, he could shoot up the minor league ladder in a hurry. Palladino pitched to a 4.67 ERA (3.85 FIP) with Short Season Staten Island after being drafted in fifth round last year and is likely to join Davis in the Low-A Charleston rotation when the 2014 season opens in a few weeks.
SS Thairo Estrada, 17
The Yankees signed Estrada for only $49k back in 2012 and they aggressively pushed him to the U.S. last year, but he more than held his own in the Rookie Gulf Coast League: .278/.350/.432 (~130 wRC+) with eleven doubles, five triples, two homers, and seven steals in 50 games. Thairo is right-handed hitter with a real quick swing and the ability to consistently get the fat part of the bat on the ball. He’s a speedy runner and a slick fielder who showed the Yankees he could play both second base and shortstop during his GCL stint last summer. There are questions about how much power Estrada will have in the future because his swing is so level and he’s on the small side (listed at 5-foot-11 and 155 lbs.), but he also has plenty of development left ahead of him. Thairo could return to the GCL for another year not only because he’s so young, but because both 2B Gosuke Katoh and SS Abi Avelino (and SS Tyler Wade) are likely heading to Short Season Staten Island.
LHSP Omar Luis, 21
Luis was New York’s last big international signing before the new spending restrictions were put into place, agreeing to a $4M bonus that was reduced to $2.5M after something popped up in his pre-signing physical. His pro debut with the Rookie GCL Yanks was uneven — 5.68 ERA (~3.10 FIP) with 43 strikeouts (26.2%) and 29 walks (17.7%) in 31.2 innings — but somewhat expected after he spent eight months waiting for his visa. There was quite a bit of rust to shake off. When at his best, the 6-foot-0, 210 lb. southpaw sits anywhere from 90-95 mph with his fastball while showing two swing-and-miss pitches in his changeup and curveball. Some herky jerky-ness in his delivery affects his command. Luis will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next winter due to a contract snafu, but he hasn’t exactly made a strong first impression between the poor showing in the GCL and a recent DUI arrest. Still, as a three-pitch lefty who received a sizable bonus, the Yankees will have their eyes on Luis this summer and strongly consider him for a 40-man roster spot after the season. I expect him to start the year with a full season team, possibly High-A Tampa.
After auditing their unproductive player development system, the Yankees implemented some procedural changes earlier this offseason but did not make any significant personnel changes to their minor league staff. Long-time VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman was one of those expected to come under fire if changes were made. Anthony McCarron spoke to Newman and got some details about those procedural changes. Here’s the skinny:
- A new building has been added to the minor league complex in Tampa. It houses meeting rooms and a cafeteria, which I assume will help players with nutrition. A dormitory for prospects is currently being discussed and may be added as well.
- The four diamonds at the minor league complex are all being refurbished. “These fields have been here since Johnny Bench was an 18-year-old,” said Newman, referring back to when the Reds owned the complex.
- The Yankees have added a statistical analyst to work exclusively with the player development staff. Newman called that person a “PhD in advanced math and statistics” and said they have “some bright dudes here … (the system) is going to go back up, odds are.”
- Among the other staff additions are former Cubs manager Mike Quade, who will serve as an outfield/base-running coordinator, something Newman says they haven’t had “in a while.” Ex-minor league coach Jody Reed has rejoined the organization and will handle individual development plans for prospects.
- And finally, after fielding two teams in the Rookie Gulf Coast League last summer, the Yankees will again field two teams in the league in 2014. Nothing but good can come from that.