Archive for Minors

One thing is very clear with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season: the Yankees need to improve their offense this offseason. They tried to do it last winter by signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann to big free agent contracts (while simultaneously letting one of the best hitters in world leave) but it didn’t work. They’re on pace to score only 627 runs this year, 23 fewer than last year.

The Yankees are locked into players at catcher, first base, left field, center field, maybe third base, and either right field or DH already, so their options to fix the offense are limited. Martin Prado is going to play somewhere — I’d prefer second base until the inevitable Alex Rodriguez injury, but that’s just me — leaving shortstop and either right field or DH as the most obvious places to add an impact bat. There are slated to be plenty of free agent shortstops but not as many impact outfielders outside of Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz.

The free agent market is likely to add another potential impact outfield bat in the coming weeks, when MLB officially declares Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas a free agent. (It’s Yasmany, not Yasmani, apparently.) Jesse Sanchez and Ben Balder report that Tomas has already established residency in Haiti and has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, an important step needed to become a free agent. Badler says MLB should declare him a free to sign relatively soon.

Tomas, 23, defected back in June and he is scheduled to hold a showcase for scouts in the Dominican Republic this Saturday, according to Badler and Tomas. There’s no word on whether the Yankees (or any other team, for that matter) will be in attendance, but they’ve gone to see every other notable Cuban free agent at their workouts, so I expect them to be there just to do due diligence, at the very least. Here’s what we know about Tomas, first from Sanchez:

Tomas is known for his power and he has a reputation for launching long home runs, but he’s also prone to big swing and misses. He’s agile for his size, and he has a strong arm, but there is room for improvement on defense. As a result, he’s characterized as “high-risk, high-reward” type of player in some international scouting circles. He is said to be in much better physical shape and has worked on his approach at the plate since leaving the island.

And now from Badler:

At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Tomas is a righthanded hitter with plus-plus raw power, although with some swing-and-miss tendencies, and a strong arm that should fit in right field. A standout on Cuba’s 2013 World Baseball Classic team, Tomas hit .290/.346/.450 with six home runs, 21 walks and 46 strikeouts in 257 plate appearances this past season in Cuba’s Serie Nacional.

One scout told Nick Cafardo that Tomas will likely command upwards of $100M while Jay Alou, Tomas’ agent, told Jorge Ebro (translated article) he is shooting for a record deal this winter. The contracts for big name Cuban free agents are only getting bigger and bigger, going from Yoenis Cespedes ($36M) to Yasiel Puig ($42M) to Jose Abreu ($68M) to Rusney Castillo ($72M, the current record for an international position player), so I can totally buy the $100M number, especially since Tomas is several years younger than Abreu and Castillo. It doesn’t sound far-fetched.

The Yankees have an obvious need for a big right-handed power bat and they have room on the roster for right field-type heading into next season. They’ve begun showing more interest in Cuban players this year, reportedly spending much more time scouting Aledmys Diaz and Castillo than they did Cespedes and Puig, even inviting them down to Tampa for private workouts. They didn’t sign either guy but it wasn’t because they didn’t take the time to evaluate them. Like I said, I expect them to do the same with Tomas out of due diligence if nothing else.

The jury is still out on Castillo and Diaz (and Jorge Soler and Alex Guerrero), but Cespedes, Puig, and especially Abreu have all exceeded expectations so far. Alexei Ramirez, Leonys Martin, Jose Iglesias, and Adeiny Hechavarria have all been pretty much exactly what they were expected to be. Dayan Viciedo is the only notable disappointment among the current crop of Cuban big leaguers. We’re talking position players only here, not pitchers. This small sample of players suggests Cuban players have a pretty high success rate when it comes to being at least serviceable big leaguers.

Tomas at the 2013 WBC. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

Does that mean Tomas will work out? Of course not. His propensity to swing-and-miss is a concern, especially since the pitching in Cuba is pretty weak, but 70 power (which is what Badler said Tomas has back in June) is an unteachable skill. Unteachable like Cespedes’ and Abreu’s power or Puig’s freakish athleticism. It’s also a very rare and valuable skill in this era where the entire league seems to have forgotten how to hit. If you want to dream, maybe the big righty pop and swing-and-miss-ability means he’s Alfonso Soriano without the steals. That would be pretty great, actually. Soriano was awesome in his 20s.

I think one of the reasons the Yankees passed on Castillo was because he is an imperfect fit for the roster. (Whether that’s right or wrong is another matter.) He was billed as a leadoff hitter type with strong defense, and, well, the Yankees already have two of those guys in Brett Gardner and Ellsbury. A third isn’t necessary. Tomas profiles more as a middle of the order hitter and that’s something the Yankees desperately need. Add in the fact that he is only 23 (four years younger than Castillo), has a strong right field-caliber arm, and plays a position of need, and you’ve got a player who makes a lot more sense for New York going forward.

As always, information about these Cuban players is very limited. Everything I know about the guy is in this post. The number of teams that pursue Tomas when he becomes a free agent — Cespedes, Abreu, and Castillo (and Masahiro Tanaka, he was in a similar situation) all had multiple top dollar suitors while the Dodgers reportedly blew everyone out of the water for Puig — will tell us more about how teams view him than anything Baseball America publishes. Teams don’t go hard after nobodies. The Yankees went all-in on Tanaka because he was an ace in his mid-20s. If Tomas is a middle of the order hitter in his early-20s, then they need to go all-in on him as well.

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A few days ago we learned the Pulaski Yankees of the rookie Appalachian League will be joining the organization as the Yankees’ eighth domestic minor league affiliate starting next season. The club will serve as a stepping stone between the two rookie Gulf Coast League affiliates and Short Season Staten Island. Here are some more minor league notes with the Arizona Fall League still more than three weeks away.

  • According to George King, the Yankees have known about the impending retirement of VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman since February. He’s been with the team since 1988 and has been running for the running the farm system for the last 15 years now. King adds that special assistant Trey Hillman, who was tabbed as Newman’s likely replacement, may not be interested in the job. Hal Steinbrenner will conduct a “total evaluation” of the player development system after the season and it may result in a “complete overhaul.”
  • C Kyle Higashioka has been re-signed after becoming a six-year minor league free agent, according to Matt Eddy. Josh Norris adds Higashioka has been assigned to the Arizona Fall League as the team’s last position player. He missed most of these season following Tommy John surgery. The Yankees are sending several top prospects to the desert this year, including OF Aaron Judge, 3B Eric Jagielo, 1B Greg Bird, and OF Tyler Austin.
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder was named the second baseman for Baseball America’s Triple-A International League All-Star Team. No other Yankees’ farmhands made their classification All-Star Teams. SS Angel Aguilar, UTIL Bryan Cuevas, and OF Alex Palma all made the official GCL postseason All-Star Team.
  • Marc Hulet of FanGraphs reviewed the year the was in the team’s farm system. RHP Shane Greene and RHP Luis Severino understandably earned praise for their rises this season, albeit at very different levels.
  • And finally, Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs put together a super early look at the 2015 draft class. Lots of names and lots of information. Make sure you check it out. The Yankees are currently slated to have the 18th overall pick.
Categories : Minors
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(MiLB.com)

Once a Mariners affiliate, now a Yankees affiliate. (MiLB.com)

The Yankees have added another minor league affiliate to the organization. Yesterday afternoon the team announced the addition of the Pulaski Yankees, a rookie level affiliate in the Appalachian League. The franchise had been affiliated with the Mariners from 2008-14. The team will play in 2,500-seat Calfee Park in Pulaski, Virginia.

“We are excited to add an Appalachian League team to our affiliation. Obviously baseball is our business and in that business you try to find the best ways to develop your talents,” said Brian Cashman in the team’s statement. The Yankees and Pulaski still have not finalized the length of their player development contract but that is only a formality. They wouldn’t have announced the affiliation if they weren’t close to a deal.

The Appalachian League is a short season league — they begin play in late-June every summer — and although it is technically classified as a rookie league, the quality of competition is generally better than what you’ll find in the rookie level Gulf Coast League but not quite as good as the Short Season NY-Penn League. Consider it a stepping stone between the GCL Yanks and the Staten Island Yankees.

The press release called the Pulaski franchise the Yankees’ tenth minor league affiliate, indicating they will still continue to field two GCL squads in the future. Pulaski joins the organization’s four full season affiliates (Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, Low-A Charleston), one short season affiliate (SI Yanks), two rookie ball affiliates (GCL Yanks1 and 2), and two Dominican Summer League affiliates.

There is nothing but good that can come from adding another minor league club to the organization. Anything that allows prospects to get more playing time that early in their careers — the Appy League average age was approximately 19.5 this summer — is a positive. The Yankees went bonkers on the international market this summer and they’re going to need places to play all of those kids in the near future, and the new Pulaski affiliate will help accomplish that. Good news all around.

Categories : Minors
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Sep
04

2014 Minor League Awards

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Judge. (MiLB.com)

Judge. (MiLB.com)

After the nightmare that was 2013, the Yankees’ farm system rebounded to have a strong but not really great year in 2014. It was more of a normal season than anything. There were a few surprises, a few disappointments, a bunch of injuries, and several comebacks. Pretty typical year for a minor league system, and, for the Yankees, a typical year meant a huge step up from last season.

The team’s seven domestic minor league affiliates combined to go 387-373 (.509) this summer, so after having their consecutive winning season streak snapped at 30+ years last year, they got turned things around quickly. None of the four full season affiliates qualified for the postseason, however. Only the two Rookie GCL Yankees squads did. The system did not have at least one league champion for only the third time in the last eight years.

As a reminder, this annual awards post has nothing to do with prospect status. This is all about recognizing 2014′s notable performances in the farm system. Pure production with future outlook taking a backseat. These are also my awards and my opinions, so you’re welcome to disagree. There is no right answer with stuff like this. Here are my 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 awards posts. So, without further delay:

Minor League Player of the Year: 2B Rob Refsnyder
From start to finish, the best and most consistent player in the system this year was Refsnyder. The 23-year-old opened the year with Double-A Trenton, hit .342/.385/.548 (159 wRC+) with 19 doubles and six homers in 60 games, then was promoted up to Triple-A Scranton. Refsnyder hit .296/.386/.453 (135 wRC+) with 19 doubles and eight homers in 77 games with the RailRiders, giving him an overall .317/.385/.495 (~145 wRC+) batting line. The team’s fifth round pick in the 2012 draft led the farm system in batting average (min. 400 PA), doubles (38), and total bases (255) while placing second in hits (163). He also cut his error total from 25 in 108 games last season to 12 in 122 games this season. Refsnyder put himself on the map a year ago and this year he proved he was no fluke. He’s played his way into big league consideration just two years after being drafted and asked to change positions.

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Categories : Minors
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This is the final DotF of the year, folks. The 2014 minor league season is over for all six of the Yankees’ affiliates. The Arizona Fall League season starts on October 7th — the Yankees are sending several high-profile prospects to the desert this year — and the other winter leagues start, well, in the winter, but we’ll keep you updated along the way. Until then, DotF is on hiatus until the AzFL.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (2-1 win over Lehigh Valley, walk-off style) completion of yesterday’s game, which was suspended due to rain in the top of the eighth

  • 2B-SS Jose Pirela: 0-4, 1 K — hit .305/.351/.442 with 21 doubles, eleven triples, ten homers, 15 steals, 37 walks, and 73 strikeouts in 130 games
  • DH Chris Young: 0-3, 1 K — played yesterday, not today
  • PH-DH Scott Sizemore: 0-1, 1 K — played today, not yesterday
  • CF Zoilo Almonte: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • RF Ramon Flores: 0-4, 1 K
  • C John Ryan Murphy: 2-3, 1 2B – played yesterday, not today … finishes the season with a .246/.292/.397 batting line and nine doubles, six homers, 13 walks, and 42 strikeouts in 51 Triple-A games, a disappointing follow-up to last year’s breakout
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-1, 1 2B, 1 RBI — took Murphy’s spot in the lineup today and hit a walk-off double
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 5/2 GB/FB — 30 of 50 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1/1 GB/FB – 26 of 44 pitches were strikes (59%) … back up from Trenton for the final weekend of the season … finishes the year with a 79/30 K/BB in 62 innings after a 66/42 K/BB in 66 innings last year
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 24 of 39 pitches for strikes (62%) … last year’s seventh rounder climbed four levels this year and posted a 2.67 ERA with a 83/18 K/BB in 60.2 innings
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — eleven of 18 pitches were strikes (61%) … last year’s tenth rounder climbed three levels this summer and had a 97/22 K/BB in 69.2 innings

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Just as a heads up, tomorrow will be the final DotF of the season since none of the full season affiliates nor Short Season Staten Island made the postseason. The Arizona Fall League begins in early-October.

Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended due to rain in the top of the eighth inning. They’ll finish it tomorrow. Here’s the box score if you can’t wait that long.

Double-A Trenton (4-2 loss to Reading)

  • RF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 2 K — had been in a 4-for-37 (.108) slump
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • DH Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 3-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — great game, but a little too late to turn his season around
  • RHP Jaron Long: 6.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 10/0 GB/FB — 66 of 100 pitches were strikes … finishes the year with a 2.18 ERA and a 122/22 K/BB in 144.1 innings, third most in the system behind RHP Zach Nuding (153) and LHP Matt Tracy (149) … not bad at all for an undrafted free agent
  • LHP James Pazos: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%) … finishes the year with a 75/25 K/BB in 67 innings

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees are unlikely to call up left-handed reliever and 2014 second round pick Jacob Lindgren in September due to workload and 40-man roster concerns. The team acquired Josh Outman on Thursday to upgrade over Rich Hill and add more lefty depth. Outman joins David Huff as Joe Girardi‘s two southpaw options in the bullpen.

Lindgren, 21, has already thrown 80 innings this year between college and pro ball. He’s reached Double-A and struck out 48 batters in 25 innings since signing, and a scout recently told John DeMarza that Lindgren could get big leaguers out right now. You don’t draft a reliever with your top pick unless you think he can get to the big leagues in a hurry, but Lindgren has already pitched a ton this year and the Yankees are facing a big 40-man crunch after the season. It would be disappointing if he isn’t called up when rosters expand but also understandable. I’d still expect Lindgren to come to big league camp next spring with a chance to win a bullpen job.

Categories : Asides, Minors
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Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Lehigh Valley in eleven innings, walk-off style) their season ends Monday and they’ve already been eliminated from postseason contention

  • LF Chris Young: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — if Jacoby Ellsbury‘s ankle injury turns out to anything more than a minor nuisance, Young might play more than originally expected come September
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-5, 2 K
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 0-4, 1 BB, 3 K
  • RF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS
  • DH Adonis Garcia: 1-5, 1 R, 2 K — quietest 21-game hitting streak ever thanks to a stint on the disabled list
  • 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • C Austin Romine: 0-4, 2 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • RHP Zach Nuding: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 8/3 GB/FB — 63 of 93 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) — 23 of 38 pitches were strikes (61%) … finishes the minor league season with 94/45 K/BB in 103 innings … I assume he came out of the bullpen as a prep for that role come September
  • RHP Chase Whitley: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 15 of 26 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • LHP Taylor Dugas: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1/1 GB/FB — seven pitches, six strikes … always rough when a position player takes a loss

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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OF Jake Cave placed eighth on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet while 2B Gosuke Katoh made the No So Hot section.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • SS Jose Pirela: 0-2, 1 K — left the game in the fourth for an unknown reason
  • RF Chris Young: 1-4, 1 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-4, 1 K
  • LF Ramon Flores: 0-2, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 1 E (fielding) — left the game in the eighth, a few innings after getting hit by the pitch
  • 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • C John Ryan Murphy: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — second homer in his last six games
  • LHP Manny Banuelos: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 2/4 GB/FB — 48 of 73 pitches were strikes (66%) … finishes the minor league season with a 71/31 K/BB in 76.2 innings
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 14 of 19 pitches were strikes (74%)
  • RHP Preston Claiborne: 1 IP, zeroes, 0 K, 2/0 GB/FB — six pitches, three strikes

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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The Yankees have released both RHP Alfredo Aceves and IF Corban Joseph from Triple-A Scranton, according to Chad Jennings. Aceves was serving a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse and was released as soon as he was eligible to be activated. Matt Eddy says they also released the just signed RHP Wilking Rodriguez. Maybe he was hiding an injury or something.

Triple-A Scranton (11-3 loss to Buffalo)

  • SS Jose Pirela: 2-5, 1 K — 15-for-41 (.366) in his last ten games
  • RF Chris Young: 1-4, 1 RBI, 2 K – first game since signing a minor league deal, and it’s no coincidence he’s playing right field
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder & CF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4, 2 K
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 1-2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — 9-for-14 (.643) in his last five games
  • DH Ramon Flores: 0-3, 1 BB
  • C John Ryan Murphy: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Chris Leroux: 2 IP, 9 H, 11 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 2/2 GB/FB – 46 of 77 pitches were strikes (60%) … egads
  • SwP Pat Venditte: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1/3 GB/FB — 34 of 49 pitches were strikes (69%)
  • RHP Chase Whitley: 1 IP, zeroes, 2/1 GB/FB – eight pitches six strikes
  • RHP Preston Claiborne: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 11 of 17 pitches were strikes (65%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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