Minor League Notes: Assignments, Spring Reports, Judge, International Spending

Pace of play clocks are up at PNC Field in Scranton. (RailRiders)
The new pace of play clocks are up at PNC Field in Scranton. (RailRiders)

The Yankees open the 2015 regular season tomorrow, and a few days later the minor league season will get underway as well. Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, and Low-A Charleston all begin their seasons this coming Thursday. Here are some minor league notes to hold you over until then.

Opening Day assignments for top prospects

The full minor league rosters have not yet been released and won’t be a few days, though Josh Norris was able to get his hands on Opening Day assignments for most of the Yankees’ top prospects. The list:

Norris says the assignments could change slightly before the start of the season, but for the most part they’re set. Sanchez is going back to the Thunder to continue working on his defense with coaches and ex-catchers Michel Hernandez and P.J. Pilittere, which I don’t love, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I assume Avelino, Katoh, and Mateo will rotate between second, short, and DH like Avelino, Katoh, and Wade did last year before Avelino got hurt. I’m little surprised Mateo is going to Charleston — he’s played only games in 15 rookie ball, that’s it — but the Yankees have never been shy about aggressively promoting their best teenage players. Otherwise these assignments are fairly straight forward. No major surprises.

Notes from the backfields in Tampa

Both Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Jeff Moore (no subs. req’d) recently posted a collection of notes after watching minor league games on the backfields all around Florida. Law got a look at Mateo, saying he likes “how well he keeps his hands inside the ball” and added he “liked the potential of the hit tool but was hoping to see more polish on both sides of the ball.” The polish will come. It’s only Spring Training and Mateo is still just a 19-year-old kid.

Meanwhile, Moore saw Judge, Bird, and RHP Bryan Mitchell. “What’s impressive is (Judge) seems to get a little better each time I see him. The at-bats have gotten tougher and more advanced, with a better plan each time out,” wrote Moore. He also said he sees Bird as “a potential regular first baseman” and his “power is very real, more real than he gets credit for.” As for Mitchell, Moore says his fastball/curveball combination “screams reliever, and possibly a darn good one.”

Law still ranks Judge 23rd in latest Top 50 Prospects list

Last week, Law released an updated ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball (subs. req’d). There are only very minor changes from his top 100 list in February, with the most notable being the addition of Red Sox IF Yoan Moncada, who slots in at No. 16. Even with Moncada joining the list, Judge stays in the same No. 23 spot because he jumped over Rockies RHP Jon Gray, who hasn’t looked like himself this spring. Judge remains the third outfielder on the list behind Twins OF Byron Buxton and Cubs OF Jorge Soler. Law is the high man on Judge based on all this spring’s other top 100 lists. That’s cool with me.

Yankees spent $17.83M on international players in 2014

According to Ben Badler, the Yankees spent a ridiculous $17.83M on international prospects last year, easily the most in baseball. They spent more than the number two (Rays, $6.11M), three (Red Sox, $5.63M), and four (Astros, $5.42M) teams combined and more than the bottom ten teams combined ($16.9575M). Just to be clear, this is for the 2014 calendar year, not the 2014-15 signing period.

The Yankees handed out three of the five largest, six of the 14 largest, and 12 of the 40 largest signing bonuses to international prospects during the 2014 calendar year, according to Badler. We still don’t have a final number for the total bonuses the Yankees handed out during the 2014-15 signing period, but the total investment is clearly going to be north of $30M between bonuses and penalties. Most of that $17.83M last year was spent on July 2nd, the first day of the 2014-15 signing period. Now the Yankees just have to turn these kids into big leaguers and tradeable prospects.

Yankees release nine more minor leaguers

The Yankees have released seven more minor leaguers according to Matt Eddy: OF Yeicok Calderon, RHP Tim Giel, OF Robert Hernandez, RHP Stefan Lopez, RHP Matt Noteware, 1B Dalton Smith, and IF Graham Ramos. Dan Pfeiffer says OF Adonis Garcia was released as well, and OF Adam Silva announced on Facebook he was also released.

First things first: no more Yeicokshots!, sadly. Hernandez was signed in January, so his stint with the organization didn’t last long. Lopez led NCAA in saves in 2012 and had some potential, but he fell in love with his fastball so much in college that he lost all feel for his slider and became a one-pitch guy. The Yankees signed Giel, Noteware, and Ramos as undrafted free agents within the last two years to help fill out minor league rosters. That’s about it.

Old Timers’ Game coming to Triple-A Scranton

And finally, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre franchise is holding an Old Timers’ Game on June 21st, reports Donnie Collins. The event will raise money for Parkinson’s disease research. “I expect the ballpark to be sold out — and standing room only. That’s the goal,” said RailRiders’ co-managing partner to Grant Cagle to Collins. A bunch of ex-Yankees will be in attendance — not sure who, exactly — to play in the Old Timers’ Game and/or mingle with fans during a meet-and-greet and autograph session. That should be fun.

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Three notable Spring Training invitees and three notable omissions

Jagielo. (MiLB.com)
Jagielo. (MiLB.com)

A few days ago the Yankees announced their list of 26 non-roster Spring Training invitees, so they’ll have a whopping 66 players in big league camp this year when you include the guys on the 40-man roster. The crop of non-roster invitees is pretty standard in the sense that some are top prospects, some are journeymen on minor league contracts, and some are spare bodies who will help carry the workload in March. Extra arms, extra catchers to catch bullpens, that sort of thing.

Some of the non-roster invitees are more interesting than others, of course, and there are several other players who are notable because they did not receive an invitation to big league camp this year. We’re all jonesin’ to see OF Aaron Judge and 1B Greg Bird and RHP Luis Severino in action in the coming weeks, but here are three other non-roster invitees I’m looking forward to seeing. And, on the flip side, here are three guys we somewhat surprisingly won’t get to see in camp.

Notable Invitee: RHP Andrew Bailey

The Yankees signed Bailey to a minor league contract last offseason knowing he likely wouldn’t pitch in 2014 following shoulder capsule surgery. The move was geared towards 2015, and, after Bailey suffered a few setbacks last summer, the Yankees opted to decline is 2015 club option (reportedly worth $2.5M or so) and instead re-signed him to another minor league contract.

Bailey is supposedly healthy now — “He’s in a throwing program, and there’s been nothing adverse reported from him,” said assistant GM Billy Eppler to Chad Jennings recently — and will get a chance to show what he can do post-capsule surgery in camp. Torn shoulder capsules are very serious and there’s a really good chance Bailey will never get back to where he was from 2009-13 (2.64 ERA and 3.13 FIP), but that doesn’t man he can’t help. Instead of being a shutdown late-inning guy, maybe he’s only a serviceable reliever. That’s still useful. Spring Training will give us a chance to see if Bailey has anything left.

Notable Omission: 3B Eric Jagielo

Jagielo, the team’s first of three first round picks in the 2013 draft, did not get an invitation to Spring Training. Judge, the team’s second first rounder that year, did get the invite. (The third first rounder, LHP Ian Clarkin, is a Single-A pitcher less than two years removed from high school, so he understandably didn’t get an invite to camp.) Judge has obviously passed Jagielo as a prospect but it’s still surprising the team didn’t give a recent first rounder — a polished college hitter at that — an invitation to big league camp.

Now, it’s important to note this could be health related. Jagielo took an errant pitch to the face in Instructional League back in late-September and suffered fractures that required surgery. He didn’t suffer a concussion and there was no other neurological damage. Jagielo was expected to need 4-6 weeks to heal from the injury, but, since it’s a head injury, the Yankees could never be too careful. Jagielo’s recovery might be going slower than expected and that could be why he didn’t get the invite to camp.

If that’s not the case, Jagielo was simply the victim of a number’s crunch. Not only will Chase Headley and yes, Alex Rodriguez, get work at third base in camp, so will Brendan Ryan, Jose Pirela, Nick Noonan, Jonathan Galvez, and Cole Figueroa as well. Maybe even Stephen Drew. “There’s a limited number of at-bats and innings to hand out in Spring Training. You don’t want to water it down,” said Eppler to Jennings. It’s understandable yet still a bit of a bummer Jagielo wasn’t invited to camp if he is indeed healthy and over his facial injuries.

Notable Invitee: RHP Nick Goody

Goody. (AP)
Goody. (AP)

The Yankees have built quite a bit of bullpen depth this offseason, and that’s all on top of the bullpen prospects they have in the minors. RHP Nick Rumbelow, LHP Tyler Webb, RHP Wilking Rodriguez, RHP Diego Moreno, and LHP Jacob Lindgren are all Triple-A relievers coming to camp as non-roster players. Goody has been lost in the minor league bullpen shuffle so to speak because he’s only thrown 66 innings since being the team’s sixth rounder in 2012. You can blame Tommy John surgery for that.

Goody, 23, returned with his new elbow in the middle of last season and had a 4.60 ERA (3.63 FIP) in 31.1 innings with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, showing the control problems (10.7 BB%) that typically plague a pitcher soon after having his elbow rebuilt. He still missed bats though (32.9 K%), and he was dynamite before getting hurt, putting up a 1.29 ERA (1.76 FIP) with excellent strikeout (40.4 K%) and good walk (8.2 BB%) rates in 35 innings from 2012-13.

Goody is a short little righty (listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 lbs.) with a low-to-mid-90s heater and a sharp low-80s slider, and he was projected to be a quick moving strikeout artist before blowing out his elbow. All the bullpen depth means he may not get to MLB this summer — I expect Goody to start the season with Double-A Trenton — but he’s someone who could be on the map for 2016. He’s a nice little relief prospect and I think he’ll sneak up on some people and open eyes during Grapefruit League play in March.

Notable Omission: RHP Johnny Barbato

Acquired from the Padres for Shawn Kelley a few weeks ago, the 22-year-old Barbato had a 2.87 ERA (3.31 FIP) with a 25.6 K% and 7.8 BB% in 31.1 innings for San Diego’s Double-A affiliate last season. He missed the second half with an elbow strain that did not require surgery. Eppler told Jennings that Barbato is healthy and even pitched in Instructional League for the Padres in the fall, so it doesn’t seem like he was excluded from camp for health reasons. It appears he was another victim of the numbers crunch.

Despite his strong performance last year, Barbato will likely return to Double-A this season because there doesn’t figure to be any room for him at Triple-A. At least on Opening Day. Like Goody, he is probably looked at as more of a 2016 bullpen candidate than a 2015 bullpen candidate, yet one is going to big league camp and one isn’t. Weird. I just figured the Yankees would invite Barbato to camp after getting him in a trade for a real live big leaguer. But I suppose there just aren’t enough innings to go around.

Pazos. (Robert Pimpsner)
Pazos. (Robert Pimpsner)

Notable Invitee: LHP James Pazos

Even before signing Andrew Miller and trading for Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve, the Yankees had built up a healthy amount of left-handed bullpen depth. Lindgren is the most notable as last year’s top draft pick, and Webb put up unignoreable numbers at three levels last year, but Pazos shouldn’t be overlooked either. In fact, after the Yankees let Matt Thornton go on waivers last August, both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi mentioned Pazos by name when discussing the club’s lefty bullpen depth.

The 23-year-old Pazos was New York’s 13th round pick in 2012 and he had a 2.42 ERA (2.38 FIP) with a ton of strikeouts (27.4 K%) and perhaps a few too many walks (9.1 BB%) in 67 innings split between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last year. According to PitchFX data from the Arizona Fall League, he averages 94 mph with his fastball and the low-80s with his slider, so he’s not some soft-tosser. A hard-throwing lefty who has had success at the Double-A level is always worth keeping an eye on.

Notable Omission: RHP Mark Montgomery

Three years ago, Montgomery was the top relief prospect in the organization after a ridiculous 2012 season in which he posted 1.41 ERA (1.56 FIP) with a 40.2 K% and 9.1 BB% in 70.1 innings with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Then he suffered a shoulder injury in the middle of the 2013 season and hasn’t been the same guy since, mostly because his once low-90s fastball is now more mid-80s, and his trademark slider simply isn’t as effective.

Montgomery was invited to big league camp in both 2013 and 2014, but he didn’t get an invite this year because he’s not nearly the same level of prospect anymore. Jagielo and Barbato appear to have been squeezed out by the numbers crunch. That’s not the case here. Montgomery’s stuff hasn’t been the same since the shoulder injury and he’s not much of a prospect anymore. That’s baseball. And that’s why you need a deep reserve of relievers.

Aaron Judge tops Keith Law’s top ten Yankees prospects

Judge in the Arizona Fall League. (Presswire)
Judge in the Arizona Fall League. (Presswire)

One day after releasing his top 100 prospects list, Keith Law published his top ten prospects for each team on Friday. Here is the index and here is the Yankees list. The individual team lists are Insider only. Here is New York’s top ten:

  1. OF Aaron Judge (No. 23 on the top 100)
  2. 1B Greg Bird (No. 80 on the top 100)
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. RHP Luis Severino
  5. OF Tyler Austin
  6. SS Jorge Mateo
  7. RHP Domingo German
  8. LHP Ian Clarkin
  9. C Luis Torrens
  10. 3B Eric Jagielo

Also, based on the write-up, we know 2B Rob Refsnyder, 3B Miguel Andujar, LHP Jacob Lindgren, SS Tyler Wade, RHP Brady Lail, and RHP Ty Hensley are prospects 11-16. Law is lower on Severino and higher on Austin than most, but otherwise the top ten (top 16, really) seems pretty straight forward. No major surprises. You could argue someone should be a spot higher or whatever, but it’s not worth it.

With Stephen Drew in Refsnyder’s way at second base, Law lists Lindgren as the mostly likely prospect to have an impact in 2015. OF Mason Williams is the “fallen” prospect, the guy who was once one of the best in the game but is now an afterthought. Law’s sleeper for the Yankees is Mateo, who he says is “so well-regarded in the industry that other teams have already targeted him in trade talks.” He adds that Mateo has “tremendous tools, is an 80 runner and plus fielder who shows above-average raw power in BP.”

The Yankees have a very position player heavy farm system right now — seven of Law’s top ten and nine of his top 12 are position players — and that’s a good thing because quality position players are hard to find these days. Even better, several of those position players will be at Double-A or higher this coming season, including Judge, Bird, Sanchez, Austin, Jagielo, and Refsnyder. There’s a clear path for some of those guys to get MLB at-bats in the next year or two, and the team’s apparent commitment to getting younger means they’re going to get a chance. That’s exciting.

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.

Jagielo out 4-6 weeks with broken bone in face following hit-by-pitch

3:44pm: Jagielo had to undergo surgery to repair the fracture, he announced on Instagram. (The picture isn’t gross.) Everything went well.

1:01pm: Third base prospect Eric Jagielo is out 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his face, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Josh Norris. Jagielo took a fastball to the face during an Instructional League game over the weekend. He will be replaced on the Arizona Fall League roster, according to Newman.

Jagielo, 22, was the Yankees’ first round pick in the 2013 draft. He hit .259/.354/.460 (132 wRC+) with 16 homers in 85 games around an oblique injury with High-A Tampa this year. The broken bone stinks but that seems like the best case scenario whenever you talk about a pitch up around the head. Jagielo could have suffered a concussion or serious eye damage. All things considered, this is good news. Heal up and get ready for 2015.

Update: Eric Jagielo takes fastball to the face in Instructional League

Sunday, 2:30pm: Kiley McDaniel says it sounds like Jagielo escaped major injury and is going to be okay. There has not been any sort of official word yet, however. Scouts at the game said he was on the ground for 20 minutes waiting for the ambulance.

Saturday, 12:41pm: Sherman says Jagielo’s helmet absorbed some of the blow but the ball did partially hit his face. He is heading for concussion tests and I’m sure much more.

12:14pm: Via Joel Sherman: Third base prospect Eric Jagielo took an 87 mph fastball to the face in Instructional League earlier today. He was down on the ground for an extended period of time and had to be taken away in an ambulance. No word on the severity of his injuries or anything like that. It’s too early to know. Make sure you check back for updates.

Jagielo, 22, was the Yankees’ first round pick in the 2013 draft. He hit .259/.354/.460 (132 wRC+) with 16 homers in 85 games around an oblique injury with High-A Tampa this year. Jagielo was slated to play in the Arizona Fall League starting next month, but obviously this incident could change plans. Hopefully everything is okay and he escapes with relatively little damage, like Chase Headley did when he took a fastball to the chin a few weeks ago.

Austin, Bird, Jagielo, Judge among Yankees prospects heading to Arizona Fall League

4:43pm: Norris says the Yankees are also sending a catcher to be named later to the AzFL. Maybe Kyle Higashioka after he missed the first half of the season following Tommy John surgery?

4:17pm: According to Josh Norris, the Yankees are sending OF Tyler Austin, 1B Greg Bird, 3B Eric Jagielo, OF Aaron Judge, RHP Caleb Cotham, RHP Branden Pinder, and RHP Alex Smith to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League after the season. I thought they might send LHP Manny Banuelos to continue pitching following Tommy John surgery, but it’s already been a long season for him. The AzFL season begins October 7th.

The Yankees are sending more top prospects to the desert this year than I can ever remember. Usually they only send one or two top prospects. Austin (wrist, groin), Bird (back), Jagielo (oblique), Pinder (groin), and Cotham (unknown) all missed several weeks due to injury this summer and will be making up for lost time. Pinder is Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter and the club probably wants some more time to evaluate him. Judge is the team’s best prospect and Smith has had a nice year out of the bullpen for High-A Tampa (2.40 ERA and 3.29 FIP). Great crop of players going to the AzFL this year.