Mailbag: Minor League Parks

(Photo Credit: Flickr user paul.hadsall via Creative Commons license)

Will asks: I’ve read in past years that several of the Yankees minor league complexes are pitcher friendly. Are they? If so do they skew the numbers of some pitching/position player prospects?

Oh yes, absolutely. Some of the parks in the minors are extreme too, though not necessarily the ones in the Yankees’ system. With some help from StatCorner, we have park factors for each of the four full season affiliates. Let’s tabulate…

The park factors are expressed like ERA+/OPS+, so 100 is league average. Anything below that is below average, anything above it is above average. StatCorner has factors for frickin’ everything (we’re talking singles, doubles, strikeouts, grounders, etc.), but I went with homers and wOBA because they’re what we most commonly reference.

Overall, all four parks are close to neutral in terms of wOBA, slightly on the pitcher’s side with the exception of the stadium formerly known as Legends Field. The homerun factors are much more interesting though, because a number of them are rather extreme. Left-handed batters at Waterfront Park in Trenton are roughly half as likely to hit a homer there than in other parks, which makes the 19 homers Eric Duncan hit with Thunder in 2005 look pretty impressive. Similarly, the 17 homers Jesus Montero whacked with Low-A Charleston back in 2008 looks damn good as well since that park holds righties to 68% of the homers a neutral park would.

It’s easy to forget about park effects when talking about minor leaguers because we rarely watch the games and see the actual parks. Given the factors of the four parks above, I wouldn’t concern myself too much with their impact on Yankees farmhands overall, but the power numbers are worth monitoring. If a pitcher is giving up an exorbitant number of homers in Low-A, then that’s a problem. If a lefty bat in Trenton isn’t hitting for as much power as we’d like, well now we know why. Here are aerial views of PNC Field, Waterfront, GMS Field, and JPR Park, just for a visual.

Turley & Higashioka give Charleston a win

Yesterday it was Josh Romanski, today it’s Chase Whitley. The righty reliever has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton. Romanski, by the way, will pitch in relief. That’s probably his ultimate destination anyway. As for the bad news, Carlos Silva was placed on the disabled list for an unknown reason. Fernando Hernandez was bumped up from Trenton to Triple-A Scranton to take his place, which is hilarious. He’s put 70 men on base and allowed 24 runs to score in 35 innings this year, numbers that usually get you released and not promoted.

Also, make sure you check out Penn League Report’s interview with Dellin Betances.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Durham in ten innings)
Austin Krum, CF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 K – threw a runner out at second
Luis Nunez, 2B: 3 for 5, 2 2B, 3 RBI – had been in an 0-for-16 drought
Mike Lamb, 3B: 2 for 4, 1 2B
Greg Golson, LF: 0 for 1, 1 K, 1 SB – pinch-ran for Lamb late
Jesus Montero, DH: 1 for 4, 1 K – he fouled a ball off both his knee and foot, but shook it off and stayed in the game
Terry Tiffee, 1B & Jordan Parraz, RF: both 0 for 4, 2 K
Brandon Laird, LF-3B: 1 for 4, 1 K – made a nice running catch in the outfield
Gus Molina, C: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K
Doug Bernier, SS: 0 for 2, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 6-5 GB/FB – 51 of 95 pitches were strikes (53.7%) … the two runs didn’t come to the sixth, when he’s typically run into trouble
George Kontos, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – just eleven pitches, eight strikes
Randy Flores, LHP: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-2 GB/FB – a dozen of his 20 pitches went for strikes
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 17 of 28 pitches were strikes (60.7%)

[Read more…]

Yankees interested in Roberto Osuna

Via Roberto Espinoza (link in Spanish), the Yankees are one of several teams with serious interest in 15-year-old Mexican right-hander Roberto Osuna, who they watched throw last week. He will turn 16 on July 2nd, so he will be eligible to sign this year. Osuna is the nephew of former Yankee Antonio Osuna and a 6-foot-0, 198 lb. hurler with an idea of how to use three pitches: a low-90’s fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. He’s currently pitching in the Mexican League (5.49 ERA in 19.2 IP), which is somewhere between Double-A and Triple-A in terms of competition.

Osuna is one of the top pitching prospects available on the international market this year, and he’s expected to command a seven-figure bonus. The Yankees have never given an international pitcher seven-figures (not counting vets Jose Contreras or Hideki Irabu), but they tried to with Michael Ynoa. Because he is property of a Mexican League club, Osuna will only receive 25% of his bonus. The rest goes to his team. The Yankees have a very strong presence in Mexico thanks to scout Lee Sigman, who helped broker deals for Manny Banuelos and Al Aceves in the not too distant past.

Open Thread: Missing Bartolo

It’s been exactly 15 days since Bartolo Colon was placed on the disabled list, and I have to say I legitimately miss watching the guy pitch. At the end of the day, baseball is just a branch of the entertainment industry, and watching some fat guy in his late-30’s slime out to the mound and throw mid-90’s gas on the corners entertains me. Bartolo threw 60 pitches in a simulated game down in Tampa today, facing Slade Heathcott among others. It’s unclear if he’ll go on a rehab assignment or start next weekend against the Mets. Either way, I miss watching Colon take the mound every five days, his starts had become must see TV. I hope he comes back soon for more than one reason.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Reds and Rays will be on ESPN2 (Leake vs. Hellickson), and that’s pretty much it. Use this thread to talk about whatever, so have at it.

Site News: Got some good news to share: we have a new weekend writer for you all to hate enjoy. His name is Matt Warden, and you’ve seen his stuff on both The Yankee Analysts and (before that) Yankeeist. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Matt_Warden. We’re happy to have Matt aboard and I’m certain you’ll enjoy his posts.

Injury Updates: Jeter, Colon, Feliciano, Chavez

The latest from the infirmary…

  • Derek Jeter‘s rehab from a calf strain was interrupted by rain and wet grounds both yesterday and today. He did manage to take full batting practice (30 swings), field a few ground balls, and begin a running program once the weather cooperated this morning/afternoon. “Everything‚Äôs good,” said the Cap’n. “Steps in the right direction.”
  • Bartolo Colon threw 60 pitches in a simulated game against minor leaguers (including the injured Slade Heathcott), broken down into four “innings” of 15 pitches. It’s unclear if he’ll make a minor league rehab start to jump right back to the bigs and face the Mets this weekend.
  • Pedro Feliciano made 15 minimum effort throws off a mound, the first time he’s done that.
  • Eric Chavez also took batting practice and played long toss with Jeter.
  • Mark Prior will throw off a mound tomorrow, the second time he’ll do that in the span of four days as he works his way back from the groin strain from hell.

The Yankees also confirmed that Phil Hughes‘ next rehab start will come with Double-A Trenton this Wednesday. After throwing 71 pitches last time out, I suspect he’ll be scheduled for 85-90 pitches. Trenton will be at home against New Hampshire, but it’s a day game (12:05pm ET start). You can get tickets here.

New design added to the RAB Shop

Now that a certain right fielder has re-learned how to hit left-handed, I figured it was time to break out the SwishHawk design for the RAB Shop. We have ten other designs as well, so make sure you check them all out. They look great on shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, clocks, you name it, plus you can customize the color and style of almost anything in the shop.

(h/t to Tyler Wilkinson for the design, as always)

Scouting The Trade Market: Heath Bell

(Photo Credit: Flickr user SD Dirk via Creative Commons license)

Although Rafael Soriano is expected back from his elbow injury reasonably soon (he’s eligible to come off the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break), Joba Chamberlain‘s injury leaves a rather sizable hole in the back of the Yankees’ bullpen. David Robertson has stepped up and performed better than expected, but there’s no such thing as too many quality bullpen arms.

One quality bullpen arm that will almost certainly be available this summer is Heath Bell of the Padres, a team that is eleven games back in the loss column of the top spot in the NL West and ten games back of the wildcard. They’ve won four of their last five games but lost six in a row and nine of ten immediately prior to that. San Diego also sports one of the very worst offenses in baseball (.291 wOBA) and they don’t exactly have the wherewithal (or motivation, given their deficit) to go out at the deadline and add the bat or three they need to contend. Let’s break down the good and the bad…

The Pros

  • With no significant platoon split and a four-plus year track record of excellence (2.59 FIP from 2007-2010), Bell is about as safe as relievers come. He misses bats with a 92-95 mph fastball, low-80’s curveball combination, and has been very consistent when it comes to his walk rate (between 3.10 and 3.60 BB/9 from 2007-2010) and ground ball rate (44% to 48% over those four years) since getting to San Diego.
  • He’s not just a product of spacious Petco Park, for those wondering. Since the start of the 2009 season, Bell has held opponents to a .220/.301/.289 batting line at home and .211/.273/.268 on the road. Of the four homers he’s given up in that time, three have actually come in Petco.
  • Bell is very durable, having never visited the disabled list in his big league career and throwing no fewer than 69.2 IP in any season since getting to San Diego. His fastball velocity is holding up fine as well. I guess 6-foot-3, 260 lb. right-handers are built for innings.
  • He’s done it all for the Padres. Bell started out as a low leverage middle relief guy before working his way into Trevor Hoffman’s top setup man, then he took over for the likely Hall of Famer three years ago. I’m not sure the whole “he needs to get used to not having the adrenaline rush of the ninth inning” argument would hold water here.
  • Bell is just a rental and won’t eat up 2012 payroll. He projects to be a Type-A free agent (rather comfortably) at the moment, so he could bring two draft picks after the season.

The Cons

  • Bell’s strikeouts are down considerably this year. After whiffing 11.06 batters per nine innings last year (10.21 K/9 in 2010), he’s dropped down to just 6.97 K/9 this year. His swing-and-miss rate is still above average at 9.1%, but that is down from double digits in the last few years.
  • He doesn’t have any traditional playoff experience, the closest thing is 2.2 IP in Game 163 against the Rockies back in 2007. Bell did pitch in each of the Padres’ last four games last season (and in six of their final ten), which were essentially playoff games as they tried to hold off the Giants. I don’t put much stock into this stuff, but some October experience is better than none.
  • Bell is not cheap, at least not on the reliever pay scale. His $7.5M salary this year is broken down into $1.25M per month, give or take a few hundred thousand.

The Yankees could use one more late game reliever and Bell is as good as they come, but I can’t help feel like the cost will greatly outweigh the production. Some similar (and recent) trades that come to mind include Eric Gagne (Rangers to Red Sox), Matt Capps, and Brandon League, though none of them are perfect comparisons. Gagne was the only other rental, plus Bell was straight up better than all three of those guys. Regardless, they all required at least one premium piece going the other way, and I can’t see why the Padres would expect something less for what amounts to the best reliever in the National League over the last four or so seasons.

Ken Davidoff reported yesterday that the Yankees have called the Padres to discuss Bell’s availability, but they haven’t been as aggressive as some other clubs. That sounds like due diligence more than anything. Another bullpen arm would certainly be a welcome addition, especially one of Bell’s caliber, but the Yankees have bigger fish to fry at the trade deadline, namely a starter that can legitimately pass for a number two. Bell’s just a luxury at the moment.