Archive for Minors
First base is a weird position. Teams expect huge offensive production from first base and it’s at the bottom of the defensive spectrum despite being involved in more total plays than any position other than pitcher and catcher. You can’t just stick anyone there either. We’ve seen enough of that firsthand this year. You need offense from first but defense isn’t a huge deal, except for all those times the first baseman handles the ball.
You also rarely hear people talk about a team’s “first baseman of the future” too. There’s plenty of “this guy will be our shortstop for the next ten years,” but first base? Nope. The history of first base prospects is pretty awful as well. Baseball America ranked 37 full-time first baseman among their top 100 prospects from 1995-2005 and only five became bonafide stars: Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Todd Helton, Paul Konerko, and David Ortiz, who made his name at DH.
More recent elite first base prospects like Eric Hosmer and Justin Smoak have been disappointments. Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo are the best of the top first base prospect crop since Fielder while others like Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt were never top prospects. It has historically been a tough position to project and I think that’s because it’s so offense-focused. Hitting is generally considered to be tougher to scout and evaluate than pitching because there is no “textbook” swing. A fastball is a fastball and a slider is a slider. But a swing? Good luck cracking that code.
Anyway, the Yankees are at a point now where the future of first base in the Bronx is up in the air. Mark Teixeira is under contract for another two seasons but he is becoming more and more injury prone with each passing year. His playing time at first base will only go down through injuries and time spent at DH in an effort to keep him healthy. The Yankees have gotten by (barely) with fill-in first basemen during Teixeira’s injuries this season, though I hope that isn’t the plan going forward. To just wing it whenever Teixeira gets hurt.
The Yankees currently have two first base prospect at Double-A Trenton … well, one first base and one kinda sorta first base prospect. The true first base prospect is Greg Bird, who was just promoted and has gone 9-for-30 (.300) with three doubles and three homers during his first week with the Thunder. He had a monster 2013 season (170 wRC+) with Low-A Charleston and offers the kind of left-handed power and patience the Yankees crave. Bird is a recently converted catcher though, so his defense at first can be generously described as a work in progress.
The kinda sorta first base prospect is Tyler Austin, another ex-catcher who has bounced from third to first to right field over the years. He’s spent most of this year playing right in deference to Peter O’Brien and now to Bird. Austin had an outstanding 2012 campaign (~160 wRC+) before a wrist injury marred his 2013 season (103 wRC+). The wrist problem lingered into this season and caused him to miss the start of the year, and after a few slow weeks, he’s hit .319/.362/.518 with six homers since July 1st. It appears 2012 Austin is starting to return as he gets further away from the wrist injury.
Neither Bird nor Austin is a top first base prospect like Hosmer or Fielder — Austin did rank 77th on Baseball America’s top 100 in 2013 — though they are solid prospects expected to be average or better contributors at the MLB level, assuming things work out. League average is valuable, especially when the players are making close to the league minimum in their pre-arbitration years. Austin in particular fits the roster very well as a right-handed hitter with some power who can play both right and first. Bird, as a pure first baseman, is a less perfect fit.
It’s clear at this point the Yankees will need some kind of viable backup for Teixeira going forward just because he gets hurt all the time. It’s not necessarily the 15-day DL stuff either. He’s shown a knack for those 6-7 day injuries, the ones that are short enough to avoid the DL but long enough to force the team to play a man short. The problem is that “backup first baseman” really isn’t a position anymore. No team carries a player specifically for that. They tend to carry, well, someone like Austin, who can play first in addition to the corner outfield, third base, or even catch. Think Mike Carp or Steve Pearce or Scott Van Slyke.
The assumption has been that Brian McCann will eventually have to move to first base, though continues to rate very well defensively in terms of pitching framing, throwing out runners, and blocking balls in the dirt. His bat has been a huge disappointment this season but there is no reason to move him out from behind the plate yet. Since Austin is further along in his development thank Bird and figures to start next season at Triple-A Scranton, he’ll be in position to help the Yankees as soon as next season, perhaps getting his opportunity when Teixeira gets hurt. Bird is still a year or two away and his lack of flexibility hurts his chances. If Austin hits, the Yankees will have some different ways to get him into the lineup. They can’t really do that with Bird.
Until his contract is off the books, Teixeira will be New York’s primary first baseman and that’s just the way it’s going to be. There is no reason to think they’ll bench him or relegate him to DH duty on a regular basis. It would be a drastic change from the way they’ve done business for the last, I dunno, 15-20 years. Teixeira’s injuries will give Austin and later Bird a chance to get into the big league lineup — assuming they’re worth calling up, of course — though staying there is the hard part. The Yankees have had four primary first baseman over the last 30 years and they usually go for stars at the position. The opportunity will come for both Austin and Bird in the next two years, but being a good but not great prospect with the Yankees is a not ideal. They may only be stopgaps until the next big name comes along.
- LF Jose Pirela: 1-3, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K — threw a runner out at the plate
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
- CF Zoilo Almonte: 3-5, 1 RBI
- 1B Kyle Roller: 2-3, 2 2B, 1 RBI — 14-for-37 (.378) with four doubles and four homers in his last ten games
- SS Zelous Wheeler: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K, 1 E (throwing)
- LHP Manny Banuelos: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 4/3 GB/FB — 42 of 67 pitches were strikes (63%) and he was sitting around 91 … first Triple-A start since May 2012 … he’s strung together some really good starts lately, good to see him finishing the year on a high note
- RHP Branden Pinder: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 0/2 GB/FB — 20 of 36 pitches were strikes (56%)
- LHP Tyler Webb: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 15 of 24 pitches were strikes (63%)
Via George King: The Yankees have until the end of the week to submit a contract offer to Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo. Several teams have already made him an offer, though it’s unknown if the Yankees are one of those teams. Castillo is expected to sort through the offers in the coming days and could sign next week.
The Yankees had Castillo in Tampa for a private workout last week, and they reportedly like him more at second base than in the outfield. Most teams like him in the outfield. Castillo has had private workouts with several teams and King says he still has a few more scheduled this week. I have no idea whether signing Castillo is a smart move — reports indicate he could get as much as $50M — though the Yankees certainly have a long-term need at second. If that doesn’t work, the outfield is always a fallback option.
- LHP Manny Banuelos has been promoted from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, according to Josh Norris. Banuelos has been much better of late and if things go well with the RailRiders these next few weeks, I think he’ll join the Yankees when rosters expand in September.
- 1B Greg Bird was named the International League Offensive Player of the Week, the Thunder announced. Pretty awesome considering he was just promoted and this was his first week in the league.
Triple-A Scranton (8-4 loss to Louisville)
- LF Jose Pirela: 0-5, 1 K
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 12-for-40 (.300) in his last ten games
- RF Zoilo Almonte: 2-5, 1 R
- DH Kyle Roller: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — second straight game with a homer, third in his last four games, and fifth in his last ten games
- 3B Zelous Wheeler: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
- LHP Matt Tracy: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 9/2 GB/FB — 54 of 85 pitches were strikes (64%)
- RHP Matt Daley: 1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 2/0 GB/FB — 17 of 27 pitches were strikes (63%)
- RHP Diego Moreno: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — six of ten pitches were strikes
- C John Ryan Murphy was placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL, according to Donnie Collins. Collins notes Murphy left last night’s game an inning after taking a foul pitch to the face mask, though it’s unclear if that’s why he was put on the DL. With Murphy out and Brian McCann landing on the 7-day concussion disabled list, the Yankees are suddenly a bit thin behind the plate.
- RHP Luis Severino was placed on the Double-A Trenton DL with an oblique strain, the team announced. He’s been out for roughly two weeks now and they needed a roster spot. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman called it a “very slight” strain but I wouldn’t be surprised if Severino is done for the year. Trenton’s season ends in three weeks and Newman always downplays injuries.
- LHP Caleb Smith has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, according to Nicholas Flammia. I assume he’s replacing Severino. Smith started for Tampa yesterday, faced one batter, gave up a hit, and was pulled. That was weird, but I guess the promotion kinda explains hit.
- The Yankees have re-signed IF Scott Sizemore to a minor league contract, says Bryan Hoch. They released him last month. He’s been out with some kind of injury for a few weeks now and has been placed on Scranton’s DL.
- C Luis Torrens, 1B Connor Spencer, IF Ty McFarland, and DH Isaias Tejeda have all been selected for the Short Season NY-Penn League All-Star Game. The game is in Brooklyn next Tuesday (Aug. 19th), if you’re interested in attending.
Triple-A Scranton (5-1 win over Columbus)
- SS Jose Pirela: 0-3, 1 BB
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4
- DH Kyle Roller: 2-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 23rd homer of the year leads the system now that Peter O’Brien has been traded away
- LHP Nik Turley: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 9/1 GB/FB — 51 of 85 pitches were strikes (60%) … 35/31 K/BB in 45 innings after missing the start of the year with an unknown arm injury
- RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/3 GB/FB — only 12 of 26 pitches were strikes (46%) … 68/16 K/BB in 47.1 innings
- LHP Tyler Webb: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten pitches, six strikes … 86/19 K/BB in 60.1 innings
Via George King: Following Friday’s private workout at the team’s complex in Tampa, the Yankees want to talk about a contract with Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo. They like him more at second base than in the outfield, which puts them in the minority. Castillo has experience both on the middle infield and in the outfield. The Yankees had scouts from several different departments at the workout.
“This guy could get $35M to $50M because of what (Jose) Abreu, (Yoenis) Cespedes and (Yasiel) Puig have done, but eventually somebody is going to be wrong about one of these guys,” said a scout to King. Another pointed out “the league he played in Cuba wasn’t great but there is momentum, who knows?”
Castillo, who hit against the rehabbing Preston Claiborne (shoulder) during the workout, has already been declared a free agent by MLB and unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, so he is free to sign at any time. He has also had private workouts with Phillies, Red Sox, and Cubs, plus the Tigers, Giants, White Sox, and Mariners have shown interest as well. Castillo has been billed a speedy leadoff hitter type with surprising pop.
As always, the notes come first:
- SS Yonauris Rodriguez made the Helium Watch section of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. The Yankees signed him for $570k last year and he’s currently hitting .324/.444/.438 (159 wRC+) in the Dominican Summer League. After being billed as a glove-first player when he signed, Baseball America says “Rodriguez is a more advanced, more complete player than scouts were projecting him to be at this time a year ago.”
- Apparently I missed this at some point recently, but the Yankees have released RHP Bruce Billings. I know this because Eric Stephen says he signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers yesterday. Well then. Carry on.
- Baseball America published their best tools surgery for both High Class-A and Low Class-A today. OF Aaron Judge appeared on both, grabbing Best Outfield Arm (High-A) and Best Power Prospect (Low-A). No other Yankees’ farmhands appeared in the surveys.
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 loss to Columbus) tonight’s promotion was “What If” night, so they played as the Trolley Frogs instead of the RailRiders … Trolley Frogs lost the fan voting when the team changed named a few years ago
- DH Jose Pirela, RF Zoilo Almonte & 3B Zelous Wheeler: all 0-4 — Pirela and Wheeler each struck out once
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 BB
- 1B Kyle Roller: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
- C John Ryan Murphy: 2-4
- RHP Michael Pineda: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 52 of 72 pitches were strikes (72%) … had more on his rehab outing earlier
- RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — 14 of 21 pitches were strikes (66%)
- RHP Branden Pinder: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K — 12 of 18 pitches were strikes (66%)
Baseball America published their best Double-A tools survey today, though no Yankees farmhands made the cut. I thought OF Mason Williams might take home Best Defensive Outfielder honors, but I guess not. Oh well.
Triple-A Scranton (7-0 loss to Columbus)
- RF Jose Pirela, 1B Austin Romine & DH Kyle Roller: all 0-4 — Pirela and roller each struck out once
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 3-4, 1 2B, 1 K — 14-for-41 (.341) in his last ten games
- CF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K
- C John Ryan Murphy: 0-2, 1 BB
- RHP Chris Leroux: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 6/3 GB/FB — 48 of 73 pitches were strikes (66%)
- RHP Brandon Pinder: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K — nine pitches, eight strikes
- LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 24 of 33 pitches were strikes (73%) … with a lefty bullpen spot there for the taking on the MLB team, this wasn’t to good time to have a dud
Let’s start with some notes:
- 3B Dante Bichette Jr. has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, according to Eric Morlock. He’ll finish the season there as the everyday third baseman. After two poor years with Low-A Charleston from 2012-13, DBJ hit .271/.352/.410 (120 wRC+) with nine homers for Tampa this summer.
- MLB.com posted top 20 Yankees prospects list a few weeks ago, and today Jim Callis released his list of five bonus prospects. No. 21-25, basically. No real surprises, though I’m surprised to see OF Dustin Fowler get so much love.
- Baseball America published their best tools surveys for MLB and Triple-A. The Yankees didn’t have anyone on the Triple-A list, but Brett Gardner (second best AL bunter, wtf?), Jacoby Ellsbury (second best AL base-runner), Masahiro Tanaka (second best AL pitcher), Dellin Betances (best AL curveball, second best AL reliever), Mark Teixeira (third best AL defensive first baseman), and Martin Prado (second best AL hit-and-run artist) all appear on the MLB survey.
Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day.
Double-A Trenton (7-3 win over Altoona)
- CF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 K – 15-for-43 (.349) in his last ten games
- LF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 RBI
- DH Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — 13-for-42 (.310) in his last ten games
- RF Tyler Austin: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- 1B Greg Bird: 4-4, 3 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 2 RBI — that’s three homers in his last two games
- LHP Manny Banuelos: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1/4 GB/FB – 49 of 79 pitches were strikes (62%) … little bump in the road after allowing only two runs total in his last 14 innings
- LHP Jacob Lindgren: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K – 12 of 20 pitches were strikes (60 %) in his Double-A debut … now has a 33/4 K/BB in 14.1 pro innings, which works out to a 20.73 K/9 and 55.9 K%
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB – nine of 16 pitches were strikes (56%)
Quick note to pass along: Double-A Trenton’s bat dog Rookie is up for a Minor League Best Mascot Award. You might remember that Rookie’s grandfather Chase passed away last summer. You can vote right here or by using the hashtag #VoteRookieThunder on Twitter. There are 14 finalists and Rookie is the only living, breathing animal. The rest are dudes in mascot suits. Voting closes on August 11th. Take a second and go vote because bat dogs are awesome.