Archive for Minors

Castillo at the 2011 Pan-Am Games. (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty)

Castillo at the 2011 Pan-Am Games. (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty)

Late last week, the Red Sox signed free agent Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year contract worth $72.5M. He’ll play in some minor league games this week and make his MLB debut in September. The Yankees were connected to Castillo — they reportedly liked him more as a second baseman — but opted to “end any pursuit” of him a few days before he wound up in Boston. Here are some notes on the international market, including some more details on New York’s pursuit of Castillo.

Yankees never made offer to Castillo

Both Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman report the Yankees did like Castillo — they saw him as a potential 20-homer player — but balked for luxury tax reasons once the bidding got up to $40M. They didn’t even make a contract offer. The Yankees are taxed 50% on every dollar they spend over the $189M threshold, so $72.5M for Castillo would have meant a $108.75M total investment, and they didn’t view him as that type of player. They considered him to be similar to trade deadline pickup Martin Prado. One thing is clear: the price for Cuban free agents is only going up with each new player who arrives.

The Next Big Thing

Isn’t it amazing how as soon as one high-profile Cuban player signs, the next one pops up? Ben Badler puts on a name on that next big thing, and it is 19-year-old Yoan Moncada. He is described as a “a 6-foot, 210-pound switch-hitting infielder who’s the best teenager to leave Cuba since Jorge Soler, a player with exciting tools and dominance of the Cuban junior leagues on par with what Yasiel Puig did at the same age.” Here’s the obligatory video The video was removed from YouTube for whatever reason.

Now here’s the catch: no one seems to know where Moncada is at the moment. Badler says it doesn’t appear he is in Cuba but other reports say he is still on the island. If he is still in Cuba, it will obviously be a long time before Moncada is able to sign with a big league team, if ever. If he has defected, teams still have to wait for MLB to declare him a free agent and for the Office of the Foreign Assets Control to unblock him.

Because he is only 19, Moncada will be subject to the international spending restrictions clubs deal with each summer. The Yankees are unable to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods as a result of this year’s international spending spree, so they won’t be able to make a serious play for Moncada if he becomes the available anytime soon. That’s the risk with going big in one signing period, taking yourself out of the running for the top talent in future years.

Tomas establishes residency

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

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

Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas has established residency in Haiti, according to Jesse Sanchez. That is a big and necessary step towards being unblocked by the OFAC and declared a free agent by MLB. It’s still likely he will not be able to sign with teams until the offseason, if not sometime in 2015. Because of his age (23) and service time in Cuba, Tomas will not be held to the international spending restrictions.

Back in June, Badler described Tomas as a “righthanded-hitting corner outfielder” who can “hit towering home runs thanks to the strength from his thickly-built 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame,” though he cautioned Tomas has “some swing-and-miss tendencies” and an “uppercut stroke and trouble handling good breaking pitches.” Tomas is also described as a below-average runner who will be a corner outfielder in the big leagues. Here’s video. Jim Salisbury says the Phillies intend to be major players, for what it’s worth.

MLB implements new rules to curb pre-July 2nd deals

Last week, MLB sent teams a memo detailing new rules for how they are allowed to evaluate international amateurs, according to Badler. Players are now no longer allowed to be at a team facility until they are 16 years old or until six months before they are eligible to sign, whatever comes first. Before that, players can go to team facilities for MLB sanctioned league games and showcases only. The rule change is effective immediately.

Under the old rules, teams would bring players to their complex and have them work out. If they liked what they saw, they would make an offer and often agree to a contract in advance of the signing deadline. Teams would “hide” players they like at their complex so other clubs couldn’t scout them. That isn’t possible anymore. Long story short, MLB is trying to crack down on pre-July 2nd deals, and limiting how long players can spend at team complex is a big step towards doing that.

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It’s been a while since I’ve updated the standings, so let’s do that now. The minor league season is over in about a week anyway.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Rochester) 65-71 and they’ve already been eliminated from postseason contention

  • CF Jose Pirela: 2-5, 1 R
  • RF Ramon Flores: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI – five homers in his last five games … nine homers in only 60 games this year, his career high is eleven in 125 games back in 2011
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — 14-for-37 (.379) in his last ten games
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4, 3 K
  • C John Ryan Murphy: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Zach Nuding: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 7/3 GB/FB — 51 of 85 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • RHP Chase Whitley: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 27 of 38 pitches were strikes (71%) … first outing since being sent down
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 0.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 15 of 28 pitches were strikes (54%) … blew the lead in the eighth

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Got some notes:

  • Both RHP Preston Claiborne (shoulder) and OF Ramon Flores (ankle) have been activated off the Triple-A Scranton DL, according to Chad Jennings and Donnie Collins. Claiborne will certainly be up when rosters expand in nine days.
  • RHP Branden Pinder was placed on the Triple-A DL with an unknown injury, reports Jennings. He missed a bunch of time with a groin problem earlier this year. Also, RHP Jim Miller has been released.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (3-2 loss to Rochester in seven innings) makeup of the July 13th rainout

  • SS Jose Pirela: 2-4, 2 SB
  • RF Ramon Flores: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-1, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 K — five walks and two strikeouts in his last three games
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 0-3, 2 K
  • 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – fifth homer in 72 games
  • DH Zoilo Almonte: 1-2, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • C John Ryan Murphy: 0-3
  • LHP Manny Banuelos: 3 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 5/1 GB/FB — 39 of 72 pitches were strikes (54%) … 32/19 K/BB in his last 37.1 innings
  • SwP Pat Venditte: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 3/1 GB/FB — 34 of 50 pitches were strikes (68%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Source: FanGraphs

The start of Friday night’s series opener against the White Sox was not so good, but the ending was arguably the best of the season. Thanks to Martin Prado‘s big night, the Yankees walked off with a much-needed 4-3 win over Chicago’s south-siders. That’s two straight wins and four in the last six games overall. It’s going to take a lot more than that to get the Bombers back into the postseason race, but hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere.

Three batters into the game, the ChiSox had a 3-0 lead thanks to two singles and a Jose Abreu three-run homer. Shane Greene hung a slider — though not too badly — and Abreu went down and golfed it out to left field. Given the Yankees’ offensive struggles, there was definitely a feeling that the game was already over after the homer. Give Greene credit though, he settled down and was very good the rest of the way, striking out seven and allowing just those three runs in five innings. Impressive bounce back.

The comeback started in the third inning, when Prado whacked a hanging John Danks changeup out of the park for a two-run homer. The Yankees tied the game on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s double in the fifth, which also gave them runners at second and third with no outs. Mark Teixeira (ground out), Prado (strikeout), and Brian McCann (fly out) couldn’t get any more runs home. Shawn Kelley did the bullpen heavy lifting, inheriting a first and second with no outs jam from Greene and escaped the inning. He had help when Brett Gardner threw a runner out at the plate for the third out.

Kelley (four outs), Dellin Betances (five outs), and David Robertson (three outs) combined for four innings of work in relief of Greene, giving the offense a chance to win it. Ichiro Suzuki‘s leadoff single in the ninth set the winning rally up, and eventually the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs on Ichiro‘s single, Gardner’s bunt, Derek Jeter‘s line out, Ellsbury’s intentional walk, and Teixeira’s unintentional walk. Righty Daniel Webb got ahead in the count 0-2 to Prado, followed that with three straight balls to run the count full, then allowed the walk-off ground ball single back up the middle. It was the Yankees’ fourth walk-off win of the season.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. The Mariners won but both the Tigers and Orioles lost, so the Yankees are eight games back in the AL East and 3.5 games back of the second wildcard spot. FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 6.5%. Hiroki Kuroda and Scott Carroll will meet in the middle game of this three-game series on Saturday afternoon, but first the Yankees will retire Joe Torre’s No. 6. The ceremony is scheduled to start a little after 12pm ET. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch it live.

Minor League Update: No time for a full recap tonight, folks. Here is the system wrap-up from MLB Farm instead. Every game in one place. Jose Pirela was a single short of the cycle, John Ryan Murphy and Dante Bichette Jr. both homered, Jacob Lindgren struck out three in two innings, and both Aaron Judge and Abi Avelino doubled.

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According to multiple reports, the Red Sox will sign Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo to a record six-year contract in the $72M range. The Yankees had Castillo in Tampa for a private workout and were said to have interest in him as a second baseman, but the other day we heard they “ended any pursuit” of him. Commence complaining.

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Some notes, including a few roster moves courtesy of Nicholas Flammia, Nick Peruffo, and Donnie Collins.

  • Baseball Prospectus posted a bunch of (free!) firsthand scouting reports of Yankees prospects today, including LHP Jacob Lindgren, C Gary Sanchez, OF Tyler Austin, and OF Mason Williams. Williams got absolutely crushed, which isn’t all that surprising, sadly.
  • C John Ryan Murphy was activated off the Triple-A DL. He missed a little more than a week after taking a foul tip to the face mask. C Jose Gil was placed on the phantom DL to clear a roster spot. Also, Sanchez was activated off the Double-A paternity list.
  • 2B Angelo Gumbs was placed on the High-A Tampa DL with an unknown injury and RHP Caleb Cotham was bumped from the rookie Gulf Coast League up to High-A Tampa to continue rehabbing from whatever his injury was.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 loss to Buffalo)

  • LF Jose Pirela: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 SB
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-2, 2 BB, 2 K — 95/49 K/BB this year after 82/84 K/BB last year
  • RF Zoilo Almonte & DH Kyle Roller: both 0-4, 2 K
  • 3B Scott Sizemore: 0-2, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • 1B Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K
  • C John Ryan Murphy: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 PB, 1 E (throwing) –
  • LHP Nik Turley: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 7/2 GB/FB — 58 of 101 pitches were strikes (57%) … 43/40 K/BB in 55 innings
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 2/2 GB/FB — 20 of 28 pitches were strikes (71%) … 75/17 K/BB in 53.2 innings across four levels

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Triple-A Scranton (11-2 loss to Syracuse)

  • CF Jose Pirela: 1-3, 1 RBI
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder, RF Zoilo Almonte & 1B Kyle Roller: all 0-4 — Refsnyder and Zoilo each struck out once
  • 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-4, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • C Austin Romine: 0-3, 2 K – 0-for-7 with four strikeouts since being sent down, which will happen after you sat around doing nothing for eight days
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 6/4 GB/FB — 48 of 81 pitches were strikes (59%)
  • SwP Pat Venditte: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1/3 GB/FB – 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 24 of 37 pitches were strikes (65%) … rough
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 11 of 19 pitches were strikes (58%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Lindgren. (Martin Griff/The Times of Trenton)

Lindgren. (Martin Griff/The Times of Trenton)

Over the last six or seven years, basically the entire Joe Girardi era, the Yankees have done a nice job of building the bulk of their bullpen on the cheap. Oh sure, there still is the occasional Rafael Soriano or Matt Thornton signing, but the days of handing out big money multi-year contracts to (occasionally multiple) relievers every offseason are over. That has allowed the club to maintain some semblance of payroll and roster flexibility.

Low-profile pickups like Boone Logan, Luis Ayala, Cory Wade, Brian Bruney, and Shawn Kelley have contributed over the years, even if only for a short period of time — not everyone needs to be around forever to qualify as a success, getting 50-60 good innings out of a scrap heap pickup is a win — but for the most part the farm system has provided the bullpen core. David Robertson and Dellin Betances are the standouts, with others like Adam Warren, Preston Claiborne, Phil Coke, Joba Chamberlain, Edwar Ramirez, and Alfredo Aceves playing important roles at various times.

There are no indications the Yankees will stray from this approach, nor should they. They’ve been successful at cobbling together bullpens this way for several years, and it saves money to use elsewhere on the roster. They could have easily signed a veteran closer over the winter to replace Mariano Rivera, that would have been a very Yankees move, but no, they went with Robertson. (They were connected to Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour at different points, though I think that was just due diligence.) It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Robertson is a free agent after the season.

Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, bullpens have a way of getting overhauled during the course of the summer. Already this year we’ve seen Betances go from interesting wildcard to arguably the best reliever in the game. Warren went from long man to setup man and back to … something. His role is kinda undefined at this moment. Thornton was signed to be the primary lefty specialist but was literally given away for nothing. Robertson in the ninth inning has been the one constant, so in a sense this year has been no different than the last few, only with Robertson playing the role of Rivera.

Coming out of Spring Training, the Yankees had three young relievers who were slated to serve as depth in Triple-A in Mark Montgomery, Danny Burawa, and Fred Lewis. All three impressed in camp and put themselves in position to be called up if a need arose. Instead, all three pitched their way into demotions down the Double-A before the end of July. All three of them! Lewis almost made the team out of Spring Training and now he’s currently on the Double-A disabled list after pitching to a 6.89 ERA with the same number of walks as strikeouts (31) in 32.2 innings. We shouldn’t forget Jose Ramirez either. He was part of that next bullpen wave but has been alternately hurt and ineffective in 2014.

Rumbelow. (Robert Pimpsner)

Rumbelow. (Robert Pimpsner)

Such is the life of a reliever though, especially reliever prospects. They just start sucking without warning and sometimes for no apparent reason. That’s why you need a lot of them, which the Yankees have. As Lewis, Montgomery, Burawa, and Ramirez took steps back this year, other relievers have taken steps forward and put themselves on the big league map. Specifically, I’m talking about righty Nick Rumbelow and lefties Tyler Webb and Jacob Lindgren. Lindgren you all know by now. Rumbelow (seventh) and Webb (tenth) are both 2013 draftees who have climbed from Single-A to Triple-A this summer. Rumbelow started all the way down at Low-A Charleston, Webb with High-A Tampa.

The Yankees have emphasized one singular trait these last six or seven years while building their bullpen: the ability to miss bats. They don’t care how the guy does it — blow a fastball by hitters, nasty breaking ball, filthy changeup, whatever — but that is clearly their top priority out of the bullpen. In fact, the Yankees have the highest bullpen strikeout rate in baseball this year (26.7%) and the second highest since the start of the Girardi era in 2008 (23.0%). Only the Braves (23.3%) have been better. It makes sense, right? Late in the game you want to miss as many bats as possible. The other team can’t hurt you if they can’t put the ball in play, after all.

Lindgren, as you know, has a wipeout slider that has allowed him to pile up 41 strikeouts in only 20.2 pro innings (17.9 K/9 and 49.4 K%). Rumbelow has 72 strikeouts in 51.1 innings this year (12.6 K/9 and 35.0 K%) thanks to his big breaking curveball. Webb is another curveball guy. He’s struck out 89 in 64.1 innings (12.5 K/9 and 33.1 K%) during his meteoric rise this year. That’s the trademark right there. Strikeouts. The Yankees do as good a job as any team of digging up pitchers with present or future out pitches in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, whether it be Rumbelow or Montgomery or Robertson. If you have one swing-and-miss pitch, you have a chance to help out of the bullpen. If you have two, you can dominate like Robertson and Betances.

“We’ve got some arms, no doubt about it,” said Brian Cashman to Nick Peruffo yesterday. “We had Webb here (at Double-A), and now he’s at Triple-A. Rumbelow is at Triple-A. These guys are pretty interesting characters in themselves, and we have some guys who could be moving up to Triple-A soon enough. I think a lot of the guys that you are seeing that have been here or are currently here, you have a chance to see as early as next year, and in some cases you can never rule anything out. We do have some left and right side arms that get asked a lot about, and that I’d certainly ask about a lot.”

Like the big league bullpen, the Yankees’ pool of minor league relief prospects has changed as the season as progressed. Montgomery and Ramirez in particular where expected to help at some point — Ramirez got a chance but it didn’t go well, it happens — while guys like Rumbelow and Webb were little more than interesting arms in Single-A back in April. I didn’t even know who Lindgren was in April and now he’s on the cusp of being a Yankee. Their rises combined with the fall of some upper level arms have given the Yankees a new-look crop of bullpen prospects these last four months.

Categories : Death by Bullpen, Minors
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The notes:

  • RHP Luis Severino (oblique) was activated off the Double-A Trenton disabled list, the team announced. How about that? A minor injury that actually turned out to be minor. C Gary Sanchez was placed on the paternity list to clear a roster spot, according to the team. Congrats to him.
  • 1B Mike Ford was promoted from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa, says Nicholas Flammia. 1B Bubba Jones was bumped from Short Seasons Staten Island to Charleston in a corresponding move, according to the team.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 win over Syracuse, walk-off style)

  • CF Jose Pirela: 3-5, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 K — walk-off three-run triple … hot damn
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 2 K
  • RF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 0-4, 1 K
  • SS Zelous Wheeler: 0-2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K
  • C Austin  Romine: 0-4, 2 K
  • RHP Zach Nuding: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 WP, 2/6 GB/FB — 59 of 93 pitches were strikes (63%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Via Pete Caldera: The Yankees have “ended any pursuit” of Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo. For what it’s worth, George King says the Phillies are the favorite to sign him while Jim Salisbury says Philadelphia is not the front-runner, so believe these reports at your own risk. Caldera also notes Castillo is having visa issues and is unlikely to sign before August 31st, meaning he will not be postseason eligible this year.

The Yankees reportedly like Castillo as a second baseman more than as an outfielder, which goes against the consensus. They had him in Tampa for a private workout two weeks ago. Castillo is said to be sifting through several offers — it’s unknown if the Yankees made one — and he was initially expected to sign within a few days, but I guess the visa issues put an end to that. It’s unclear why the Yankees are passing on the 27-year-old Castillo. In all likelihood they think he’s not worth the money he’s going to get.

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