Archive for Minors
Baseball America published their 2014 Draft Report Card for the Yankees earlier this week, though it is behind the paywall. It’s fairly straight forward anyway. LHP Jacob Lindgren (2nd round) has the best secondary pitch (his slider) and is closest to the big leagues. RHP Austin DeCarr (3) has the best fastball, OF Mark Payton (7) is the best pure hitter, and 1B Chris Gittens (12) is the best power hitter. No real surprises there.
In a free companion piece, Clint Longenecker broke down some recent draft spending trends from around the league. The Yankees exceeded their $3.2M pool and were only $70k away from a 5% overage this summer, which would have forced them to forfeit their first round pick in 2015. Thankfully that didn’t happen. They were also one of three teams to sign just one high school player (DeCarr). The Astros and Phillies did it as well. You can see all of New York’s draft picks right here and their draft pool situation right here. (My numbers are approximate.)
In yesterday’s Season Review post, I noted Shane Greene was a big player development success for the Yankees, who turned an under-scouted (due to Tommy John surgery) right-hander into a bonafide Major Leaguer with a 15th round pick, a $100k bonus, and patience. They haven’t had enough success stories like that, so much so that director of player development Pat Roessler was recently let go. I’m pretty sure VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman would have been cut loose as well if he wasn’t retiring.
The Yankees do, however, get just enough from their farm system each year to fill out their roster and make trades. This past season it was Greene in the rotation, Dellin Betances in the bullpen, and Vidal Nuno on the trade market. Last year it was Adam Warren and Preston Claiborne in the bullpen and Corey Black in a trade. They seem to crank out a few supporting players and trade chips every year despite the overall lack of production from the system. Spare parts aren’t a problem. Getting regulars and above-average contributors is.
Anyway, both Joe Girardi and Hal Steinbrenner recently indicated the Yankees will get younger going forward. “At times we ran out four guys, five guys over 35 years old. I don’t think that will happen next year,” said Girardi during his end-of-season press conference. Hal said “there’s no doubt, young players, player development, that’s going to play a big part (going forward)” during a radio interview. They could both be blowing smoke, but I do think they’re sincere.
Incorporating more young players into the roster going forward is a wonderful idea but it’s not easy to pull off. If it was, every team would be doing it. They try, but many fail. That’s baseball. The Yankees are also at a disadvantage because most of their top prospects are in the lower minors and aren’t big league ready, so they’re still a year or two away from the show. Which prospects could help next year, a la Greene or Betances or Black? Let’s look.
The Obvious Candidates
As always, the Yankees have some upper level relievers who are knocking on the door and figure to get an opportunity in 2015. Top 2014 draft pick LHP Jacob Lindgren is the most notable bullpener while others like RHP Nick Rumbelow, LHP Tyler Webb, RHP Nick Goody, and LHP James Pazos could force the issue and get called up at some point. Every team winds up dipping into their farm system for bullpen help at some point and these guys are at the front of the line for the Yankees.
Elsewhere on the roster, both RHP Bryan Mitchell and C John Ryan Murphy have already gotten a taste of the show and are primed for bigger roles if the need arises. Same with RHP Jose Ramirez. I think we’ll finally get to see LHP Manny Banuelos next season as well. He missed just about all of 2012-13 with elbow problems and had an up-and-down 2014, which wasn’t entirely unexpected after the long layoff. With the rust shaken off, Banuelos is finally in position to help the Yankees next summer, either in the rotation or out of the bullpen.
And then there’s 2B Rob Refsnyder, who is very likely to get an extended trial at second base in 2015. It might not happen right away, he might have to spend a few weeks in Triple-A, but I’m very confident it’ll happen at some point. Refsnyder has hit his way into big league consideration but his defense might be what keeps him in the minors a little longer. He’s still rough around the edges at second base after playing the outfield in college. Aside from the relievers, Refsnyder seems like the safest bet to be called up next year.
New York’s two best prospects are OF Aaron Judge and RHP Luis Severino. If you want to debate the order, fine. It doesn’t really matter though. Both are Yankees. Both are also likely to start next season with Double-A Trenton, and any time a top prospect starts a season in Double-A, he’s a candidate to be called up at midseason. The Yankees were very aggressive with the 20-year-old Severino this year in particular, so I’d be less surprised if he debuted in 2015 than I would with Judge.
Defensively-challenged C Gary Sanchez is expected to move up to Triple-A next season, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team distributes playing time between him, Murphy, and C Austin Romine. Sanchez’s climb up the ladder has been deliberate — he’s spent parts of two seasons in Low-A, High-A, and Double-A — and a full year at Scranton is probably in the cards next season. I do think he’ll end up getting a September callup since he’s already on the 40-man roster though.
Other possible call-ups include OF Ramon Flores and OF Taylor Dugas, both of whom spent part of last season with the RailRiders and will return there in 2015. 1B Kyle Roller is in the same boat. 1B/OF Tyler Austin is expected to join them next year and because he plays two positions where the Yankees will need backup (right field and first base), the chances of him making his debut next season are very good. Even if it’s only as a September call-up. Austin will be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
Among the pitchers who could pitch their way into a big league callup are RHP Jaron Long, RHP Zach Nuding, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Danny Burawa, and LHP Matt Tracy. Long is the son of recently dismissed hitting coach Kevin Long but I don’t think that will have any impact on his standing in the organization. This is a business. Jaron knows it, Kevin knows it, the Yankees know it. If he’s the best option to help the team at some point next year, Jaron will get a chance and both he and his father will be thrilled.
The Long Shots
In all likelihood 3B Eric Jagielo, 1B Greg Bird, and DH Dante Bichette Jr. will open next year with Double-A Trenton, though I think they’re further behind Judge and Severino. Jagielo probably has the best chance of debuting in 2015 among these three and that’s only because he plays third base (not well, apparently). If the team needs a first baseman or DH, Austin and/or Roller are head of Bird and Bichette on the depth chart.
OF Jake Cave is in the same situation as those guys — starting the year at Double-A but unlikely to see the show in 2015. If the Yankees need an outfielder, both Austin and Flores will already be on the 40-man roster and in Triple-A. We won’t see young guys like LHP Ian Clarkin, RHP Brady Lail, OF Miguel Andujar, and LHP Daniel Camarena next year. It’s too early for them. We can talk about them more seriously next offseason and even more seriously the offseason after that.
The Trade Chips
Everyone. Seriously. I don’t think the Yankees have any prospects worthy of being deemed untouchable. But, to use an old Brian Cashman phrase, some are more touchable than others. I mean, if the Marlins come calling and say they’re willing to deal Giancarlo Stanton as long as the package starts with Judge and Severino, how do the Yankees say no to that? They shouldn’t give anyone away but everyone should be available in the right situation. Cashman did a great job getting a lot for a little at the trade deadline this year and I’m sure that’s the approach he’ll take going forward.
* * *
The Yankees say they plan to incorporate more youth going forward, and for 2015 that means Refsnyder and a bunch of relievers. That’s really it. The 2016 season is when others like Judge, Severino, Jagielo, and Bird become realistic big league options. It will probably take them a year or three before they have a real impact, but that’s true of every prospect. The process has to start sometime though, and for the Yankees, next season means better late than never.
According to Nick Cafardo, the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization will make star shortstop Jung-Ho Kang available to MLB teams via the posting process this offseason. The posting agreement with KBO is different than the posting agreement with Nippon Pro Baseball in Japan. The posting system for Korean players is the same as the old posting system for Japanese players, meaning MLB teams will make blind bids for the right to negotiate with the player for 30 days.
Kang, 27, had a monster season this year, hitting .360/.463/.756 with 33 doubles, 38 homers, 62 walks, and 98 strikeouts in only 107 games. He’s had other very good years for the Heroes but nothing like this. Here are his stats since becoming a regular:
After a monster season like that, Kang’s value is unlikely to get any higher. I doubt he’ll improve on that performance at any point in the future. Kang is two years away from international free agency, so it makes sense for Nexen to post him now, when his value is at its absolutely highest. Otherwise they’ll loose him for nothing after the 2016 season or get stuck with a smaller posting fee next winter.
Cafardo says there is “some pushback from scouts who have seen (Kang) play on whether he translates to major league baseball,” mostly because of a very high leg kick that may leave him vulnerable against better than KBO pitching. Here’s more on Kang from one of my recent mailbags:
Kang is said to be a true shortstop with strong defense, and his best offensive tool is his big power from the right side. Supposedly he’s a dead fastball hitter who struggles against good breaking pitches, which would be a major concern if true. Remember, Kang is playing in Korea, where the level of competition is even lower than Japan.
I remember reading something a few years ago that pointed it almost all the successful position players to come over from Asia were outfielders because the game on the infield is simply too fast and too big of an adjustment. Akinori Iwamura is the most notable recent Asian import to make it work on the infield in MLB, and he was nothing more than a league average player for two and a half years. Others like Kaz Matsui and Tsuyoshi Nishioka flopped despite being high-profile pickups and stars in Japan. That doesn’t mean Kang will be a bust, but it’s something to keep in mind.
The only Korean-born position players in MLB history are Hee-Seop Choi and Shin-Soo Choo, both of whom signed as amateurs and came up through the minors like every other player. Kang will be the first position player to come over from KBO via the posting system and second star player overall, joining Dodgers southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu. Los Angeles bid $25.7M for Ryu and signed him to a six-year deal worth $36M.
The Yankees need both a short and long-term shortstop after Derek Jeter‘s retirement, and with J.J. Hardy recently signing an extension with the Orioles, Stephen Drew is the only true shortstop set to hit free agency this offseason. Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera are all second or third basemen masquerading as shortstops. I’m not sure how many people are eager to see Drew back in pinstripes, even on a cheap one-year contract.
There have not yet been any reports saying the Yankees or any other team has interest in Kang, though it’s probably a little too early for that. I’m sure it’ll pick up after the World Series. I don’t know enough about Kang to say whether the Yankees should look into signing him. All I know is they need a shortstop and he’ll be available this offseason. This isn’t a Masahiro Tanaka situation though, where every report indicates he will be an impact player right away. Not even close, really.
The video above, which comes courtesy of Kiley McDaniel, is OF Juan De Leon at Instructional League a few weeks go. The Yankees signed the 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic for $2M back in July and he’s arguably the best prospect they signed during their international spending spree. The video isn’t much, but it’s more than we get to see from many of these guys. Here are some more minor league notes before the weekly fall/winter ball recaps:
- Keith Law (subs. req’d) recently saw several Yankees farmhands in the Arizona Fall League. He said 1B Greg Bird‘s “swing is very short to the ball, with great hand acceleration to produce that hard contact,” but notes Bird has issues defensively. OF Tyler Austin “looks better in BP than he has in a while” due to his nagging wrist injury while 3B Dante Bichette Jr. “looks the same as ever: He possesses a huge, out-of-control swing with a big backside collapse, and poor defense at third.”
- Jeff Moore (subs. req’d) provided a firsthand scouting report on OF Aaron Judge recently. “While others his size tend to sell out for the power that is expected of them, Judge employs an up-the-middle approach, using the whole field and looking for line drives … His bat stays through the strike zone for a long time, giving him good plate coverage and the ability to handle pitches on the outer half that selling out for power would leave him exposed to,” he wrote.
- Zeke Fine recently wrote up a firsthand scouting report on SS Jorge Mateo. “His projectable frame, elite speed, and natural hitting ability suggest that he could become an above average shortstop at the major league level. How he develops physically will help to determine his ultimate ceiling,” he said.
- John Manuel went back and handed out grades for the 2009 draft. The Angels, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and Nationals all received A’s while the Dodgers, Orioles, and Rays received F’s. The Yankees received a C. With of OF Slade Heathcott unable to stay healthy, this class boils down to RHP Adam Warren, RHP Shane Greene, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and C John Ryan Murphy.
According to Jon Morosi, 26-year-old Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez has defected and will soon look to sign a big league contract. He must first establish residency in another country, be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and be declared a free agent by MLB before that can happen. That’s usually a lengthy process and it figures to carry over in early-2015, if not next summer.
Fernandez, who is not related to the Marlins pitcher of the same name, hit .315/.415/.426 in 65 plate appearances in the Cuban league this season before defecting last week, according to Ben Badler. He hit .326/.482/.456 in 314 plate appearances last year. Fernandez is a left-handed hitter who Badler says has “excellent bat control and plate discipline with occasional power.”
In another piece, Badler (subs. req’d) ranked Fernandez as the third best prospect left in Cuba and called him a below-average fielder at second. He’s played some third base but is best suited for second because of his weak arm. Point is, Fernandez’s value will come mostly from his offense, specifically his on-base skills.
Out of curiosity, I ran a Play Index search for second basemen who qualified for the batting title with a .350+ OBP, ten or fewer homers, and negative defensive WAR in a single season, which is what it sounds like Fernandez will become. It spit out names like Luis Castillo, Skip Schumaker, Jeff Keppinger, and late-career Craig Biggio. It’s definitely a unique profile.
The Yankees do need a long-term second baseman, but they have Martin Prado at the MLB and Rob Refsnyder knocking on the door at Triple-A. Prado could play elsewhere because he’s so versatile but Fernandez (and Refsnyder, really) can’t. Yasmany Tomas fits the Yankees better because he’s a power hitter and is still only 23. I don’t think a one-tool guy like Fernandez makes much sense for New York. Not with Refsnyder so close and deserving of a look.
Via Kyodo: The Hiroshima Carp are still undecided whether they will post ace right-hander Kenta Maeda this offseason. “We have the right. We would like to let him go, but based on his production this year it will be difficult,” said owner Hajime Matsuda, referring to Maeda’s disappointing year. Maeda recently told reporters in Japan that he would prefer to play for the Yankees or Red Sox next year.
Maeda, 26, had a 2.56 ERA and a 154/40 K/BB in 179 innings this past season, and all reports indicate he is not on par with guys like Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish. He’s more of a mid-to-back of the rotation arm. This could be posturing on Matsuda’s part — remember, the Rakuten Golden Eagles said they were unsure they would post Tanaka last winter — though I’m not sure what they’ll gain. The maximum release fee is $20M and it seems they’ll get that easily despite Maeda’s substandard year. Either way, I don’t expect the Yankees to get involved if the bidding reaches $100M to $120M as speculated.
Baseball America’s look at the top prospects in each minor league continued on Wednesday with the Triple-A Intentional League, the last list relevant to the Yankees. The list is free, the scouting reports are not. Pirates OF Gregory Polanco, Red Sox IF/OF Mookie Betts, and Indians SS Francisco Lindor fill the top three spots. Triple-A Scranton didn’t have a ton of top prospects this year, though 2B Rob Refsnyder did made the list at No. 13.
“Refsnyder’s short, powerful stroke from the right side is polished, and when combined with a keen batting eye, he projects to hit for average and get on base at a high rate,” said the write-up while noting Refsnyder “lacks fluidity and must improve his double-play pivot skills.” One scout said he is “a work in progress, but the bottom line is he can hit.” The 23-year-old Refsnyder hit .300/.389/.456 (137 wRC+) with 19 doubles and eight homers in 77 games for the RailRiders after a midseason promotion from Double-A Trenton. I’m pretty confident we’ll see him at second base sometime next year.
Baseball America continued their breakdown of the top 20 prospects in each minor league with the Double-A Eastern League today. As usual, the list is free but the scouting reports are subscriber only. Nationals OF Michael Taylor, Red Sox IF/OF Mookie Betts, and Indians SS Francisco Lindor claim the top three spots. C Gary Sanchez (No. 11) and 2B Rob Refsnyder (No. 13) represent the Yankees. RHP Luis Severino didn’t throw enough innings with Double-A Trenton to qualify for the list.
“On the field, Sanchez still draws raves for his bat, which shows the potential for both a high average and lots of power. He can get his hands in and turn on the inside pitch with power, but evaluators did note that he struggled with both breaking pitches and changeups this season,” said the scouting report, which also noted Sanchez has a top notch arm but still has a lot of work to do defensively. They also say his maturity continues to be an issue. Sanchez, 21, hit .270/.338/.406 (108 wRC+) with 13 homers in 110 games for Double-A Trenton this summer.
The 23-year-old Refsnyder hit .342/.385/.548 (159 wRC+) with 19 doubles and six homers in 60 games with the Thunder this year before being promoted to Triple-A Scranton. “Refsnyder drew raves from evaluators for his ability to hit line drives to all sectors and also for possessing premium bat speed. He’s got pop, but it’s more of the gap-to-gap, doubles variety than true home run power,” said the scouting report. It also says Refsnyder is “still crude technically” in the field but he has improved at second base.
The Eastern League list is probably the most impressive list I’ve seen so far. There was a ton of top talent in the league this summer. Severino didn’t qualify for the list and others like OF Tyler Austin, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and LHP Manny Banuelos simply didn’t make the cut. The last list relevant to the Yankees is the Triple-A International League, which is due out tomorrow or the next day. The RailRiders were devoid of prospects for most of the summer. Refsnyder should make the list but others like RHP Shane Greene and C John Ryan Murphy will probably fall short.
The video above, courtesy of Kiley McDaniel, is SS Jorge Mateo running down the line a few times in Instructional League. McDaniel says he clocked him at 4.0 seconds down the line from the right side of the plate, which is basically 80 speed. Kid’s fast.
In other video news, Josh Norris posted some Arizona Fall League footage the other day. It’s not embeddable, but just click the link to watch. It includes clips of both OF Tyler Austin (2:17 to 2:36) and 1B Greg Bird (2:36 to 3:27). The video is from the first game of the AzFL season, when Bird hit two doubles and a homer. Austin singled twice. Check it out.
AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (6-3 loss to Salt River) Wednesday’s game
- 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
- RF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
- RHP Kyle Haynes: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 15 of 28 pitches were strikes (54%) … looks like he replaced RHP Branden Pinder on the roster for whatever reason … Norris says Haynes sat 93-95 mph with a hard slider and changeup both in the mid-80s … he’s the guy they got from the PirateS for Chris Stewart last winter
- RHP Caleb Cotham: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 2/0 GB/FB — 17 of 29 pitches were strikes (59%) … both hits were solo homers
- RHP Alex Smith: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 1/0 GB/FB — 16 of 32 pitches were strikes (50%) … he plunked ex-battery mate Peter O’Brien
AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (11-2 loss to Peoria) Thursday’s game
- 1B Greg Bird: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
- RF Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K
- 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 E (fielding) — replaced 3B Eric Jagielo on the roster after Jagielo had his face broken by an errant pitch in Instructional League a few weeks back
AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (6-5 win over Glendale) Friday’s game
- RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
- 1B Greg Bird: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — got picked off first … 7-for-16 (.438) with three doubles in a dinger in his first three games out in the desert
- DH Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 K — got picked off second … Judge, Bird, and DBJ hit 3-4-5 in the lineup
- RHP Alex Smith: 1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 18 of 29 pitches were strikes (62%)
- RHP Kyle Haynes: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — nine pitches, six strikes
AzFL Scottsdale Scorpions (7-6 win over Surprise in ten innings) Saturday’s game
- 1B Greg Bird: 1-5, 1 R, 2 K
- 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 CS — 2-for-11 (.182) in the early going
- RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 BB
- C Kyle Higashioka: 3-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
- RHO Caleb Cotham: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 18 of 28 pitches were strikes (64%)
The Dominican Winter League season begins next Friday. The rosters have not yet been released but don’t worry, there will be more than a few Yankees’ farmhands playing here this winter.
The Mexican Pacific League just started Friday and no one’s gotten into a game yet. RHP Luis Niebla, RHP Gio Gallegos, and OF Jose Figueroa are all listed on rosters.
The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) doesn’t begin play until October 30th. No rosters yet.
Venezuelan Winter League
- C Francisco Arcia: 3 G, 3-11, 1 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 K (.273/.273/.455)
- UTIL Ali Castillo: 3 G, 2-9, 1 R, 2 K, 1 CS (.222/.222/.222)
- OF Ramon Flores: 2 G, 2-6, 2 R, 1 K (.333/.333/.333)
- UTIL Adonis Garcia: 3 G, 3-12, 2 R (.250/.250/.250)
- C Jose Gil: 1 G, 0-2, 1 BB, 1 K (.000/.333/.000)
- RHP Diego Moreno: 2 G, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HB (0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP)
The VWL season just started Thursday, so obviously there hasn’t been much action. In addition to the six guys who have already appeared in games, OF Ericson Leonora, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Wilking Rodriguez, SS Angel Aguilar, and C Frankie Cervelli are all listed on rosters. Remember, just because a player is listed on a roster, it doesn’t mean he will play. That just means the team controls his winter ball rights.
Via Nick Cafardo: Hiroshima Carp right-hander Kenta Maeda told the media in Japan he would prefer to play for either the Yankees or the Red Sox next season. He is expected to be posted this offseason and early speculation has him in line for a five or six-year contract in the $100-120M neighborhood. The 26-year-old had a 2.56 ERA with a 154 strikeouts in 179 innings this season. Here are his career stats.
Ben Badler (subs. req’d) recently gave a scouting report on Maeda, saying he “doesn’t have overpowering stuff of a frontline starter like we’ve seen from fellow Japanese righthanders Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish, (but his) ability to command his fastball and mix his pitches allows him to keep hitters off-balance.” Badler said Maeda sits anywhere from 87-94 with his fastball and his go-to pitch in a low-80s slider. He also throws a mid-80s changeup, an upper-80s cutter, and a slow low-70s curveball. Here’s video. The Yankees need pitching and I’ll sure they’ll kick the tires on Maeda, but I think they’d go after a known commodity like Jon Lester or James Shields if the price is $20M+ per year.