Minors Notes: Anderson, Sanchez, Injuries, More

Got a bunch of minor league notes today, so let’s round them all up in one post. Everything comes from Mike Ashmore or Chad Jennings

  • Right-hander Brian Anderson has been released. He had been on the Double-A Trenton disabled list with a biceps issue, though his performance when he did pitch was pretty good: nine strikeouts and just one walk in 7.1 IP.
  • Mark Newman again said that Gary Sanchez is out with a “stiff lower back,” though he’s playing in Extended Spring Training. He is on the Low-A Charleston disabled list at the moment, and he’ll return there when healthy.
  • Both Slade Heathcott (.376 wOBA) and J.R. Murphy (.385) will “probably” move up to High-A Tampa this summer. That’s a yes, though I was wondering if Heathcott’s brawl would slow down his schedule somewhat.
  • Mark Prior is not throwing off a mound and is dealing with some kind of oblique/hip issue. Alan Horne (remember him?) is throwing in ExST, as is Brad Halsey. Graham Stoneburner, Jeremy Bleich, and Steve Garrison aren’t close to returning yet.
  • David Adams is still having leg issues. It might be related to last year’s broken ankle, but the leg started bothering him after his one game played this year.
  • When asked about who’s impressed in ExST, Newman responded with personal fave Bryan Mitchell. “He’s got electric stuff,” said Newman. “He’s got the stuff to be the next Banuelos, Betances. The high-end guy. That’s Mitchell.”
  • Carlos Silva can opt out of his minor league deal in mid-June, so he could probably make another two or three or maybe even four starts for Triple-A Scranton before the Yankees have to make a decision about whether or not to call him up.

Murphy improving behind the plate, Sanchez not so much

J.J Cooper had a little something about Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy today, writing about their defense behind the plate. You need a Baseball America subscription to read the whole article, but the important thing is that Sanchez’s struggles (league leading 13 passed balls in just 19 games at catcher) seem to have more to do with focus than physical tools. “He often will block a difficult breaking ball in the dirt, then clank a well-placed fastball on the corner off his mitt that rolls to the backstop,” says Cooper, who also spoke to a scout that said Sanchez has “bad form” and stabs at the ball. Focus can be fixed, lacking the tools to catch can’t. Remember, the kid is still seven months away from his 19th birthday.

Murphy, on the other hand, has shown “significant improvement as a backstop” and “enough diligence and desire to catch [that] the organization gave him another shot.” The Yankees had him work out at third base and in the outfield during Instructional League last year, and he still plays there on occasion now. “Murphy has shown significant improvement in his receiving and his throwing, to the point where he is clearly more advanced on defense than Sanchez is right now,” says Cooper.

Mailbag: Jurrjens, Catchers, Extensions, Shortstops

Hooray for mailbag day. Four questions, four topics, including one about contract extensions and two about the futures of two up-the-middle positions. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send your questions in.

That would be Mr. Gardner at the plate. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Daniel asks: So I’ve heard on the RAB Radio Show that you guys aren’t huge fans of Jair Jurrjens, personally I have been. He has shown some serious signs of life … what would it take to acquire him, and would it be worth it?

I always try to find comparable pitchers when dealing with questions like this. We’ve got a 25-year-old right-hander with a career 3.41 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 6.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 45.5% ground ball rate, and two-and-a-half years of team control left (assuming a midseason trade). Jurrjens also has an injury history (including offseason knee surgery and shoulder tightness three years ago), so we can’t forget that. So who’s the comparable?

Matt Garza doesn’t fit, he had better numbers and a better track record of health, so go adjust down from there. Brandon Morrow isn’t a great match, neither is Scott Kazmir or Dan Haren. Edwin Jackson? That might work, when he went to the Tigers for Matt Joyce. Joe Blanton to the Phillies also works well, and he cost them one really good prospect (Adrian Cardenas), a decent big league ready pitching prospect (Josh Outman), and another throw-in prospect (Matt Spencer). Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena happened so long ago, but it’s still along the lines of Jackson-for-Joyce. You know what might work best? Tom Gorzelanny to the Nationals for three good prospects (A.J. Morris, Michael Burgess, and Graham Hicks).

The Blanton and Gorzelanny blueprints say three good (but not any of them great) prospects is enough, though one above-average, young big leaguer could get it done. Atlanta reportedly had interest in Eduardo Nunez, so maybe you built a package around him and one of the Triple-A arms (preferably D.J. Mitchell) is a good starting point. Fill in from there. I’m not a Jurrjens fan, but I’d almost certainly pull the trigger if that’s the cost.

Romine's probably the Yankees best chance for a long-term, homegrown backstop. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Anonymous asks: People often mention Yankees as a team with great depth at catching prospects but do you think any of them can actually stick at catcher? Montero’s struggles at C has been chronicled extensively but KLaw reiterated in his chat last week that he doesn’t think Romine can stay at catcher. Sanchez supposedly has the tools to catch but is obviously struggling to field right now. J.R. Murphy‘s ability to handle catching is also doubtful from various scouting reports. So do you guys think any of them will catch in the big leagues? How would you rate each of their chances?

I don’t think Jesus Montero can catch long-term in the majors, but I think he could fake it for two or three years before he really fills out in his mid-20’s. Austin Romine is better, and Keith Law has always been the low man on his defense. Most other publications see him as average behind the dish, which is good enough. Gary Sanchez has been a defensive disaster early in his career (25 passed balls and 11 errors in 42 games behind the plate), and Murphy is spending more time in the outfield and at DH than at catcher. Those two have a long time to improve, but the early returns are not good.

Montero’s bat is so special that I’d make it work behind the plate for as long as possible, then figure things out once he’s completely unplayable. Romine almost certainly has the best chance to catch in the show when it comes to long-term staying power, though Kyle Higashioka is the best defender out of all of ’em. Too bad the kid can’t hit.

Paul asks: With the shift across the league towards locking up young players for the majority of their productive years, do you see the Yankees rethinking their strategy of not handing out extensions to their own guys? It seems with less premium players hitting free agency, this may be something to look at in the near future for the Yanks.

Yes and no. I don’t see any reason for the Yankees to take on that risk with pitchers since all we have to do is look at Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes to see the potential downside. Position players are a different story since they’re generally safer bets to remain productive. They locked up Robinson Cano just as he entered his arbitration years and that contract (four years, $30M guaranteed) turned out to be a steal regardless of what happens from here on out. I don’t who would be a candidate for such a contract now, certainly not Brett Gardner or Frankie Cervelli. Maybe Montero if he comes up and kills it for two years or so. So yeah, they should at least consider such deals, but I don’t really blame them for not wanting to assume the risk when they can afford big arbitration raises.

Bill asks: What is the FA situation next year and the year after at SS? Jeter cannot be a realistic option for the next two years (hopefully) and after watch Nunez sail throw after throw against Detroit it’s safe to say he is out too.

After this season you have Jose Reyes, Yuniesky Betancourt (nope), Ronny Cedeno (also nope), and aging Jimmy Rollins (no way), and personal fave J.J. Hardy on the free agent market. The post-2012 class offers Erick Aybar and Stephen Drew, who are both legit options based on what we know right now. Jason Bartlett would be an okay stopgap at best. For better or worse, the Yankees are stuck with Jeter (or Eduardo Nunez) at short for the foreseeable future. Troy Tulowitzki or Hanley Ramirez ain’t walking the door, sorry folks.

Youngest players by league

Via J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, he have a list of the youngest player in each professional baseball league. The two youngest big leaguers are Starlin Castro of the Cubs and Mike Stanton of the Marlins, two of just six players younger than 22. Jesus Montero is the sixth youngest player in Triple-A this year at 21 years and four months, trailing only Julio Teheran, Jose Iglesias, Jordan Lyles, Brett Lawrie, and Tyler Chatwood (who was called up the big leagues today).

Manny Banuelos is the fourth youngest player in Double-A, Scottie Allen is the sixth youngest in High-A, and Gary Sanchez is the second youngest in Low-A. The Yankees have a tendency to promote their top prospects aggressively, but in the cases of Montero and Banuelos, it’s certainly warranted.

Consensus Top 50 Prospects List

I missed this at the end of last month, but Project Prospect compiled a consensus top 50 prospects list by averaging out the top 100 lists published by Baseball America, Keith Law, Kevin Goldstein, and Frankie Piliere, plus their own. Jesus Montero comes in at number three (average score of 3.4) behind Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, in that order. Manny Banuelos places 22nd with an average score of 25.4, and Gary Sanchez checks in at number43 thanks to a 46.8 average score. Dellin Betances and/or Andrew Brackman didn’t make the cut.

Those rankings sound about right to me, I’m glad someone finally went ahead and put something like this together.

Link Dump: Org. Rankings, Int’l Money, Sanchez

Earlier today we pointed you in the direction of John Sickels’ interview with Mark Newman, but here’s a few more minor league links to pass along…

Goldstein’s Organizational Rankings

A few days after releasing his top 101 prospects list, Kevin Goldstein released his farm system rankings today, placing the Yankees fourth overall behind the Royals, Rays, and Braves. You don’t need a subscription to view the whole thing. Instead of posting a generic paragraph on each system, KG added a haiku, and I give him points for originality. His Yankees’ offering: “Slugger with no glove. The B’s need to prove themselves. Yankees or trade bait?” Pretty much everything you need to know right there.

International Free Agent Clearing House

Baseball America posted a trio of great charts regarding international free agency today, one looking at the top 30 signing bonuses from 2010, another with each team’s spending in 2010, and the last with the top 20 bonuses of all-time. None of them require a subscription. The Yankees gave Wilmer Romero and Christopher Tamarez $656,500 and $650,000, respectively, the 19th and 20th largest bonuses of the year. Rafael DePaula got just $500,000 (26th), and some kid named Eduardo Rivera got $475,000 (30th). The $5.27M they spent overall was the second most by any team, so everyone complaining that the team wasn’t spending enough internationally, just stop.

As for the all-time records, Gary Sanchez‘s $3M is the third largest ever, behind Michael Ynoa and Miguel Sano. Wily Mo Pena ($2.44MM) is the ninth largest of all time, and for a while was a record. I still can’t believe the Yankees gave Wify Mo a big league contract as a teenager.

KLaw on Sanchez

Jesus Montero is the cream of the Yankees’ position player prospect crop and rightfully so, but further down the later resides Sanchez, who has to potential to be every bit as good as Hey-Zeus. Keith Law looked at six prospects yesterday (Insider req’d), six guys with the potential to jump into the top ten prospects in all of baseball next year, and Sanchez was among them. “Sanchez can hit, and looks like he’ll hit for power,” said KLaw. “A full year behind the plate and another year of physical development will go a long way toward answering the question of his defensive future, but there aren’t many questions about his offensive potential.”

Law says he believes Sanchez can catch long-term, and at the very least he has a better chance to do so than Montero. It’s unfair to compare Sanchez to Montero but it’ll inevitably happen. If he’s 75% of Jesus, that would be amazing.

Yankees sign Nick Ebert

The Yankees have signed former South Carolina first baseman Nick Ebert as an undrafted free agent, reports Matt Eddy. The 23-year-old hit .302/.448/.638 with 30 homers in 440 plate appearances with the Game Cocks over the last two years, before which he was at a junior college. Baseball America ranked Ebert as the 36th best prospect in the state before last year’s draft, just saying that he was a solid college senior with some power. The right-handed hitter is probably nothing more than minor league depth, a guy that can mash Single-A pitching and help keep the pressure off the youngsters.

Kevin Goldstein’s Top 101 Prospects List

Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein posted his list of the top 101 prospects in baseball today, with Jesus Montero checking in at number three. He trails only Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, in that order. Domonic Brown and Julio Teheran round out the top three. The trio of Manny Banuelos, Gary Sanchez, and Dellin Betances are all scrunched together at numbers 27, 29, and 32, respectively. That’s it for the Yankees though, just four players on the list, though all of them are among the top 32 prospects in the game.  That’s pretty dang good.

As far as I can tell, the list is free for all to see.