Judge ranks 15th among Baseball America’s top 20 FSL prospects

Baseball America published their list of the top 20 prospects in the Florida State League today as they continue looking at the best players in each minor league in 2014. As always, the list is free but the scouting reports are not. Pirates RHP Tyler Glasnow, Phillies SS J.P. Crawford, and Blue Jays LHP Daniel Norris make up the top three. OF Aaron Judge ranked 15th and is the only Yankees’ farmhand on the list. RHP Luis Severino didn’t throw enough innings with High-A Tampa to qualify.

Judge, 22, hit .283/.411/.442 (149 wRC+) with eight homers in 66 games for Tampa this summer after a midseason promotion from Low-A Charleston. “He has prodigious tools to go with his jumbo frame, yet the separating factor in his success may be his short swing for a man his size … Judge works with a swing geared for the gaps, so his huge raw power may not necessarily translate into future 30-homer seasons … He fits the right-field profile, running well enough for the spot and flashing double-plus arm strength, with improved arm accuracy,” said the scouting report.

The write-up also notes 3B Eric Jagielo had support from league personnel but fell short off the top 20. Others like OF Jake Cave and 1B Greg Bird are good prospects but not top 20 in the entire league material. The Double-A Eastern League is next up, and C Gary Sanchez should make the list while 2B Rob Refsnyder is a good bet as well. Other possibilities include OF Tyler Austin, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and LHP Manny Banuelos. Severino didn’t throw enough innings with Double-A Trenton to qualify.

Other League Top 20s: Low-A South Atlantic League, Short Season NY-Penn League, Rookie Gulf Coast League.

Fan Confidence Poll: October 6th, 2014

2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for postseason

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Weekend Open Thread

Since it’s the offseason, it’s time to start sharing my collection of stray links every Friday again. I try to stick to baseball but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I stumble across some really awesome non-baseball stuff that’s worth passing along. Anyway, here are this weekend’s links:

  • In a really fascinating piece, Brian Costa wrote about baseball’s covert experiment to re-wire hitters’ brains and help them recognizable the spin of the ball and judge the strike zone better, stuff like that. The Red Sox, Rays, and Cubs are a few of the teams doing it. Players are evaluated and given training assignments (video game-esque work) to help develop different parts of their brains. It’s pretty amazing.
  • Cuban players are taking over MLB these days, but for every Yasiel Puig or Jose Abreu, there are a bunch of players who defected but do not make it. Jorge Arangure wrote about a few of those players. They get stuck away from their families in a foreign country, and usually wind with low-paying jobs that don’t leave then enough free time to play baseball. We only see the success stories in the show, but those guys are only a small percentage of the players who come over.
  • Ken Davidoff as a story up looking at how the Royals missed out on signing Mariano Rivera as an amateur out of Panama all those years ago. Long story short: the scout who found Rivera left the Royals for the Yankees after Kansas City declined to give him a raise. Mo (and Ramiro Mendoza) were part of a group players the scout had “in the bushes,” and they essentially went with him to New York.
  • And finally, for all my fellow hockey fans out there, I highly recommend The Score’s 2014-15 season preview, specifically the Unique Team Traits series. It’s exactly what it sounds like, an analysis of each team’s unique style, which can be either good or bad. Here’s their piece on the Rangers and how they use their team speed. Really, really great stuff.

Friday: This is your open thread for Friday night and eventually the rest of the weekend as well. If you flip over to FOX Sports 1, you can catch the end of NLDS Game One between the Giants and Nationals. The Dodgers and Cardinals play their NLDS Game One in a little bit (6:30pm ET on FOX Sports 1, Kershaw vs. Wainwright), then the Royals and Angels play their ALDS Game Two later on (9:30pm ET on TBS, Ventura vs. Shoemaker). Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Saturday: Once again, this is your open thread for the night. The Giants and Nationals are playing Game Two of their NLDS (on FOX Sports1) and later tonight the Dodgers and Cardinals will play Game Two of their NLDS (9:30pm ET on MLB Network). It’s a travel day for both ALDSes. There’s also a bunch of college football on. Have at it.

Sunday: Here is your open thread for the rest of the week. Game Three of both ALDSes will be played — Orioles-Tigers at 3:30pm ET, Angels-Royals at 7:30pm ET, both on TBS — plus there’s football on all day. Talk about any of that stuff or whatever else is on your mind right here.

Jeter declines to play in MLB’s November exhibition series in Japan

Via Steven Marcus: Derek Jeter has declined an invitation to play for a team of MLB All-Stars heading to Japan to play a five-game exhibition series against the Japanese national team in November. Robinson Cano, Adam Jones, Albert Pujols, Yasiel Puig, Jose Altuve, Bryce Harper, and Justin Morneau are the only players committed to play so far. Red Sox skipper John Farrell will manage the team.

Since this is an international promotional event, I’m guessing MLB will want to include someone from the Yankees. I’m just not sure who it will be. I don’t think it’ll be a pitcher since they will have had several weeks off by time the series takes place, which leaves position players like Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann as the likely candidates. Ellsbury (hamstring) and Teixeira (wrist) ended the year hurt. So I guess that leaves Gardner and McCann? I’d be very surprised if MLB sent a team to Japan without a Yankees representative. The pinstripes are way too marketable.

King: Long-time scout Gordon Blakeley leaves Yankees for Braves

Via George King: Long-time pro scout Gordon Blakeley has left the Yankees for a position with the Braves. He will be a special assistant to their new GM whenever they hire a permanent replacement for the recently fired Frank Wren. King says Blakeley’s contract was up later this month. “I was with the Yankees a long time. But this is a new challenge, and I am looking forward to it,” he said.

Blakeley held a few different positions during his 21 years with the Yankees, including VP of Baseball Ops and head of pro and international scouting. Blakeley had been working in the pro scouting department since 2004, focusing mostly on Latin American prospects. He was the scout who originally signed Robinson Cano, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras, and Phil Hughes, among others. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman is retiring and some other player development folks are said to be on the chopping block, so there will be a lot of turnover among the head farm system honchos this winter.

Minor League Notes: Bichette, Campos, Hensley

In case you missed it, 3B Eric Jagielo will miss the Arizona Fall League after taking a fastball to the face in Instructional League over the weekend. He will be out 4-6 weeks after having surgery. Jim Callis confirmed Jagielo suffered slight fracture in his zygomatic arch near his left eye. “He should be fine. His vision is A-OK and we don’t anticipate any lingering issues. He’ll be back for Spring Training,” said director of player personnel John Kremer to Callis. Scary. Here are some more minor league notes.

  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr. has replaced Jagielo on the Scottsdale Scorpions roster in the AzFL, according to Chad Jennings. Bichette rebuilt his prospect value some this year by hitting .264/.345/.397 (~113 wRC+) with nine homers between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year. The AzFL is a great place to hit, so Bichette could put up some nice numbers there.
  • RHP Jose Campos is currently throwing from 90 feet as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Josh Norris. That puts him right on schedule with the usual rehab timetable. It’ll be interesting to see what the Yankees do with Campos once healthy. Bullpen time after two serious elbow injuries in three years?
  • C Luis Torrens was recently named the fourth best prospect in the short season NY-Penn League. In the chat, Aaron Fitt (subs. req’d) said RHP Ty Hensley was “up to 96 at Staten Island, pitched at 90-93, and showed a plus curveball. When he had his fastball command, he looked very good, from what I heard.” Hensley, who was coming off surgery on both hips and a hernia this year, didn’t throw enough innings to qualify for the top 20 list.
  • Jagielo was named one of the most disappointing prospects of the season by Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d). “He has a gaping hole on the outer half of the plate … His plate coverage was quite poor and will be exposed at higher levels unless he makes a major adjustment,” said the write-up. “Because of his size and strength, he’s still going to run into his share of home runs and should hit for moderate power …. Jagielo profiles as a second-division regular at best.”
  • The Yankees have re-signed RHP Joel De La Cruz and RHP Wilking Rodriguez, according to Matt Eddy. De La Cruz, 25, had a 4.44 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 121.2 innings split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year. He’s the guy Brian Cashman tried to send to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano instead of Corey Black. The Yankees signed the 24-year-old Rodriguez a few weeks ago, released him a few days later, and now have brought him back.
  • Also according to Eddy, the Yankees have also signed RHP Yoel Espinal. The 21-year-old has not pitched since 2012 due to injury and was released by the Tigers in May. He had a 6.89 ERA (6.18 FIP) with nearly as many walks (24) as strikeouts (26) in the rookie Gulf Coast League back in 2012. Doesn’t sound like much, but every so often someone like this turns into Jose Quintana.
  • J.J. Cooper compiled a verified list of pitching prospects who have hit 100+ mph in the minor leagues this year. The only Yankees’ farmhand listed is 20-year-old RHP Domingo Acevedo. The 6-foot-7, 242-pounder had a 4.11 ERA (2.42 FIP) in 15.1 rookie ball innings this year. I wrote him up as a prospect to watch back in February.

And finally, in honor of his final season, Baseball America re-published their story naming Derek Jeter their 1994 Minor League Player of the Year. It’s free, you don’t need a subscription. “He’s a level-headed kid who would be able to handle the bad with the good. Being under the microscope in New York, I think with his makeup he would be able to handle that. He seems unflappable as far as what surrounds him,” said then Double-A Albany manager Bill Evers. Yup.

Mailbag: Jeter, A-Rod, Sabathia, Pirela, Ex-Yanks

Got six questions for you this week, the first week of the offseason. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime, mailbag comments or otherwise.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Terri asks: What do you think the chances are for Derek Jeter to go into the Hall of Fame as a unanimous choice?

Very small, but better than they would be in 2015 because there will be some turnover in the voting body before Jeter is eligible for induction in five years. Greg Maddux, whose Hall of Fame case was unimpeachable, did not appear on 20 (!) of the 575 ballots this year. Jeter may get a higher percentage of the vote — Tom Seaver still holds the record after appearing on 98.8% of the ballots — than Maddux because he won more titles and was simply more popular, but I’ll continue to bet against a player getting in unanimously until it actually happens. Too many older voters still send in blank ballots in an attempt to make some kind of statement. It’s silly, but that’s life. Don’t worry, Jeter will still get in on the first ballot.

Dan asks: Would it hurt the Yankees brand if Alex Rodriguez, given what we know about his connections with PEDs, broke Babe Ruth’s home run record? Also, is it financially responsible to allow A-Rod to reach the $6 million bonuses from the incentive clauses in his contract that was signed under the pretenses of marketing these achievements from a then “clean” athlete?

On the contrary, I think it will help the team’s #brand. They’re going to make a ton of money if Alex Rodriguez manages to get close to Babe Ruth’s Barry Bonds’ homerun record. People are still going to pay oodles of money to see history and boo the everloving crap out of him. Yeah, the bonuses were signed under the pretense that A-Rod was clean, but CC Sabathia‘s contract was signed under the pretense he would be a 200+ inning workhorse. It didn’t work out, that’s the risk you take when entering into a contract with a player. If the Yankees try to get out of those bonuses, A-Rod and the union will file a grievance and probably win given the contract language. They’re not going to let the team weasel out of that money. It’s a precedent the MLBPA won’t allow to be set.

Daniel asks: Given the new regime entering the MLB offices, how important is it for the Yankees’ financial freedom that this year’s playoff picture includes lower budget teams like Royals, Pirates, and Athletics? Obviously spending money doesn’t win you championships per se but more often than not it puts you in contention and the Wild Card has proven that’s all you need. Will these lower budget teams getting a chance have an impact on the CBA? Will it prevent MLB from considering a salary cap?

A salary cap won’t happen because the union won’t allow it to happen. The luxury tax system is a compromise. Baseball is way too strong financially right now to start putting limits on payroll. The owners would love one, sure, but the MLBPA will fight this tooth and nail. I think they would strike before accepting a salary cap and no one wants a work stoppage. The game is too healthy. Maybe seeing those smaller payroll teams get into the postseason both this year and the last few years (Rays!) will help keep the salary cap conversation at bay, but I don’t think it will have a big impact. The biggest argument against a salary cap is the league’s revenue.

Jack asks: CC’s days of going 200+ innings per year are over. The knee can’t take the pounding, especially over the course of a season. On the other hand, if he is only needed for say 100 innings a year he might be able to play out his contract. What do you think of putting him in the bullpen? It’ll be less strain on the arm (and knee) and will allow him to air it out for each of the one or two innings he pitches, so instead of maxing at say 90 mph he can get back to say maybe 93/94?

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

I think it’s worth it to find if Sabathia can still start first. He’ll almost certainly never be an ace again, but maybe he can be what Hiroki Kuroda was this year following knee surgery, even if it’s only for one year. If Sabathia can’t start, either physically or because his performance is terrible, then stick him in the bullpen and see what happens. I don’t think they’re at that point yet. Give him a chance to start following surgery and see where he’s at. We all just might be pleasantly surprised.

Dustin asks: How playable do you think Jose Pirela is at SS? Could the Yanks save a little cash and maybe even slightly upgrade offensively and in terms of defensive flexibility by bringing Pirela off the bench as a super utility guy? That’s assuming they have a rock-solid everyday SS like Hardy.

The Yankees moved Pirela off shortstop permanently following the 2011 season — he’s played only eight games at the position since, all this year with Triple-A Scranton. He’s been a second baseman and left fielder more than anything these last few years, though he’s seen time pretty much everywhere other than pitcher or catcher. Pirela could probably play shortstop the way Yangervis Solarte did earlier this year, a spot start here or there but not everyday. If the Yankees signed J.J. Hardy or whoever and he got hurt, they’d have to play Brendan Ryan at short everyday, not Pirela. He can hit though, and there’s a decent chance he’ll force the team’s hand in Spring Training the way Solarte did this year. His versatility and right-handed bat would be nice to have on the bench.

JPK asks: Using just players that came through the Yankee system, who are no longer Yankees, and were active in MLB this past season, make your best starting lineup…. Mine is Jackson CF, Melky RF, Cano 2B, Soriano DH, Montero 1B, Navarro C, Nunez 3B, R Pena SS, A. Almonte LF… Did I miss anyone?

I’ll do you one better. Here’s an entire roster of former Yankees’ farmhands who played in MLB this season.

Catcher Infielders Outfielders Rotation Bullpen
Dioner Navarro 1B Jesus Montero LF Melky Cabrera RH Phil Hughes RH John Axford
2B Robinson Cano CF Austin Jackson RH Ian Kennedy RH J. Chamberlain
DH SS Ramiro Pena RF Jose Tabata RH Zach McAllister RH Tyler Clippard
Alfonso Soriano 3B E. Nunez LH Vidal Nuno LH Mike Dunn
LH Jose Quintana RH D. Farquhar
Bench RH George Kontos
C Eric Fryer IF Dean Anna RH Mark Melancon
UTIL J. Paredes OF Abe Almonte

The roster would look quite a bit better if I could include players the Yankees drafted but did not sign, specifically Gerrit Cole, Doug Fister, Drew Storen, and Chris Davis. The notable omissions are all pitchers: Hector Noesi, Tommy Kahnle, Phil Coke, and Randy Choate. The Yankees have produced a bunch of decent arms recently but not many bats — Fryer and Anna are really stretching the definition of “coming up through the system.” My lineup one through nine would be similar to JPK’s:

  1. Jackson
  2. Melky
  3. Cano
  4. Soriano
  5. Navarro
  6. Montero
  7. Tabata
  8. Nunez
  9. Rakin’ Ramiro

The pitchers are listed alphabetically but my rotation would be Quintana followed in order by Hughes and Kennedy, with Nuno and McAllister in whatever order in the fourth and fifth spots. Pick ‘em out of a hat. Melancon would close with Clippard and Farquhar setting him up. I don’t really have a long man but whatever. Just spit-balling it, that roster would win what, maybe 70-75 games? It would rely (heavily) on the pitching and Cano driving in Jackson and Melky. That’s pretty much it. Maybe some trademark Yankees Magic™ would get them to 81 wins.