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.

Draft Signing Updates: Judge, Palladino, Giel

The Yankees signed eighth rounder Georgia Tech OF Brandon Thomas to a below-slot bonus on Friday, now here are some more updates on various other draft deals (draft round in parenthesis):

  • Both California HS LHP Ian Clarkin (1s) and California HS 2B Gosuke Katoh (2) worked out with the Yankees before last night’s game. Doesn’t mean they’re close to signing; high picks typically come in for a dog and pony show soon after the draft.
  • Fresno State OF Aaron Judge (1s) is still negotiating with the team, according to K. Levine-Flandrup. He’s slotted for just under $1.68M, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was under contract by this time next week. Hard to think this will be a prolonged negotiation.
  • Howard JuCo RHP David Palladino (5) signed for $371k, reports KL-F. He agreed to terms earlier this week. The big (listed at 6-foot-9) righty was slotted for just about $278k, so he got almost a hundred grand over-slot. Good for him. They must really like his arm.
  • Texas HS OF Kendall Coleman (11) signed for $150k, reports KL-F. Like Palladino, he agreed to terms a few days ago. Any money paid to a player drafted after the tenth round in excess of $100k counts against the draft pool, so Coleman chips $50k off the ledger.
  • Missouri HS 3B Drew Bridges (20) received a call from the Orioles gauging his price in the third round and from the Yankees in the sixth round, reports Anvil Welch. “The Yankees are coming in this week or next to talk contract … I’ll make a decision after the meeting. If I get the money I’m asking, I’ll sign. If not, I’ll go to Missouri State,” he said. I’m guessing Bridges is just a backup plan in case the team winds up with some extra draft pool cash.
  • Florida HS LHP Nestor Cortes (36) hopes to sign and will pitch in a summer league in the coming weeks, reports KL-F. Sounds like a typical summer follow situation, where the Bombers scout him further in the coming weeks before deciding whether to make an offer.
  • According to Baseball America, the Yankees have signed UNLV RHP Andy Beresford (19), Western Oklahoma JuCo RHP Alex Polanco (23), Adelphi RHP Dillon McNamara (27), and Hawaii Pacific 3B Chaunsey Sumner (32). No word on the bonuses, but I doubt they’ll impact the draft pool. Polanco is Placido’s nephew and McNamara is a local kid from Staten Island.
  • The Yankees have signed Columbia RHP Tim Giel as an undrafted free agent according to his Twitter feed. He was the top prospect in the Ivy League coming into the spring. No word on his bonus, but anything in excess of $100k counts against the draft pool. An undrafted free agent getting that big a bonus is unheard of, however. He’s a four-pitch righty who relies more on location than pure stuff. Here’s some video.

All of the team’s draft selections can be seen at Baseball America, and you can keep track of the draft pool situation with our 2013 Draft Pool page.