About Brad Vietrogoski

Born in Dover, Delaware and raised in Danbury, Connecticut, Brad now resides in Wisconsin, where he regularly goes out of his way to remind Brewers fans that their team will never be as good as the Yankees. When he’s not writing for IIATMS, he likes to spend his time incorporating “Seinfeld” quotes into everyday conversation, critiquing WWE storylines, and drinking enough beer to be good at darts.

Sunday News And Notes: 2/14/16

Gotta play a little catchup on stories we missed last week while we were prospecting.  Here goes…

– Baseball America released their 2016 top prospects yesterday, and like most major lists before theirs they featured Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, and Gary Sanchez as the Yankee representatives.  Unlike most other lists, however, they had Mateo as the highest ranked Yankee (26th) and Judge as the lowest (76th), with Sanchez getting his highest ranking that I can recall seeing at 36.  Maybe BA is more concerned about those Triple-A strikeouts than the rest of us.

As first reported by Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees and Aroldis Chapman agreed to terms on a 1-year deal on Friday, scrapping plans to head to an arbitration hearing next Friday.  They met just slightly above the middle of their submitted figures at $11.325 million, and the Yankees now have all their players under contract for this season.

– Via Mark Feinsand, CC Sabathia is feeling good physically heading into this spring training and is ahead of his usual pitching schedule.  Sabathia hasn’t thrown off a mound until camp the last few years, but he told Feinsand he’s been throwing bullpens for the last 3 weeks.  I’m not foolish enough to buy back into CC as an above-average starter, but I will say that if he’s feeling good enough physically to be throwing bullpens already and feeling better mentally after his stint in rehab, those are both good things.

Lane Adams, recently acquired and then designated for assignment when the team reacquired Ronald Torreyes, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A SWB.  He was also invited to big league camp, giving the Yankees 26 non-roster players in ST.

– And perhaps the coolest news of the week, the Yankees announced plans for a big weekend in August to honor both the 1996 championship team and Mariano Rivera.  There will be a ceremony celebrating the ’96 team’s 20th anniversary on Saturday, August 13th and a ceremony the following Sunday to dedicate a plaque to Rivera in Monument Park.  You have to think all the big names from ’96 will be back for that, which is going to be must-see.  Start saving your extra nickels now if you want to go to either of those games.  Those tickets aren’t going to come cheap, folks. Continue reading Sunday News And Notes: 2/14/16

The 2016 IIATMS Top 30: Prospects 10-1

[caption id="attachment_80248" align="aligncenter" width="575"]Gary Sanchez AZFL 2015 The next great Yankee catcher? The top IIATMS prospect?? Courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY[/caption]

I’ve commented twice already on the mixed bag nature of the first 2 groups of prospects in this year’s top 30 and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.  If anything, it shows how unpredictable the whole prospect ranking system because of the nature of prospects, and that’s what makes stuff like this fun.  But the top 10 this year aren’t as mixed.  In my evaluation, I see 2 very distinct groups of prospects that make up this highest tier.  I see a group of 5 players who can and likely will contribute at the Major League level in 2016, including a few more who are expected to take over regular starting spots in the lineup.  I also see a group of 5 players who have that same kind of ceiling but are about 2 years away from reaching that point.  The next wave, if you will.

That’s a pretty good place to be from an organizational standpoint, especially when ownership is on a cost cutting crusade, and I think the makeup of this year’s top 10 speaks volumes about the current state of the Yankee farm system and the positive trend it’s been on over the last few years.  And now here they are, the top 10 prospects in the 2016 IIATMS Top 30:

10) Jacob Lindgren- LHRP, Triple-A SWB
Age: 22, Throws: L
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014
2015 Stats: 1.23 ERA, 29 K in 22.0 AAA IP/4 ER, 8 K/4 BB in 7.0 MLB IP
ETA: 2016

William’s Take- There were mixed reactions when the Yankees drafted Lindgren in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft. Some were surprised the team would take a relief pitcher with their first pick and others were excited by the idea of a guy who could help right away.  After breezing through the minors and striking out 77 in 46.2 IP, Lindgren made his MLB debut on May 25th and pitched two strong innings against the Royals. He ultimately looked overmatched in his limited work, however. After not allowing a HR in any MiL appearance, he gave up 3 in just 7 innings of big league work. More alarming was that he was throwing 89-90 MPH after always being featured as a 92-94 MPH guy.  It all made sense when he went under the knife for the removal of bone spurs in his elbow, shelving him for the rest of the year.  Lindgren is never going to be a Chris Sale and probably not going to be Andrew Miller. But if he can regain his fastball after surgery and cut down on his walks, he can be very useful in the bullpen.

9) Dustin Fowler- OF, High-A Tampa
Age: 21, Bats: L, Throws: L
Drafted: 18th Round, 2013
2015 Stats: .298/.334/.394, 31 XBH, 64 R, 70 RBI in 518 PA (A-, A+)
ETA: 2018

Brad’s Take- I don’t know what it is about the 18th round, but the Yankees know how to find talent there.  Brady Lail in 2012, Fowler in 2013, it’s been a money round.  Fowler has already come a long way in his pro development after being drafted out of HS as a 2-sport athlete.  It’s still probably too early to accurately gauge his true ceiling simply because he’s making major improvements across the board, but 2015 was definitely a coming out party for him as a legitimate prospect.  He’s got a little bit of everything to his game, with his hitting approach and power potential making strides and his speed and athleticism good enough to make him at least an average defensive outfielder and a threat on the basepaths.  It’s worth noting that the Yankees sent him to the AZFL as a 20-year-old and invited him to Spring Training this year, so he’s already got the attention of the organizational shot callers.  He can garner more national attention if his offensive game continues to blossom as he moves up the ladder. Continue reading The 2016 IIATMS Top 30: Prospects 10-1

Friday Morning Links: 2/12/16

I haven’t done a lot of reading this week, certainly not as much as I usually do.  But here’s some of the other good stuff that’s been going on in the Yankosphere while we’ve been prospecting.

– On Monday, Andrew Mearns of Pinstripe Alley profiled the 10 non-roster invitee pitchers coming to camp.

– On Tuesday, Chad Jennings broke down the backup catcher competition and the factors that may influence the final decision.

– On Wednesday, Kenny Ducey of BP Bronx explained the one major downside to having A-Rod on the roster.

– On Thursday, Mike Axisa analyzed how the Yankees could be more successful at the plate if they broke tradition and swung more at the first pitch.  It wouldn’t be “The Yankee Way”, but it makes sense.

– In case you missed any of the previous IIATMS Top 30 posts, here they are: Honorable Mentions, Players 30-21, Players 20-11.  The top 10 is coming up at 11:30.

Continue reading Friday Morning Links: 2/12/16

The 2016 IIATMS Top 30: Prospects 20-11

[caption id="attachment_80241" align="aligncenter" width="575"]Gamel 2015 “Dude, you made it into the top 20.” “Thanks, skip.” Courtesy of The TImes Leader[/caption]

Yesterday’s first 10 was an eclectic mix of prospect talent, a jumbled combination of MLB-readiness, high-ceiling projection, and reliable floor.  Positions 20-11 on the 2016 IIATMS Top 30 are very similar.  We’ve got pitchers knocking on the door to the big leagues, pitchers who’ve just started their pro careers, and pitchers who are switching roles.  We’ve got a 6-year MiL veteran who never popped up much on the prospect radar until breaking out last year and a former blue chip international signing who may have already flamed out in A-ball.  If you haven’t seen positions 30-21, you should probably go back and read that first.  But if you’re ready to move on, here’s the middle 10 of our 2016 top 30:

20) Cale Coshow– RHSP, Double-A Trenton
Age: 23, Throws: R
Drafted: 13th Round, 2013
2015 Stats: 2.45 ERA,85 H, 97 K/28 BB in 114.0 IP (A-, A+, AA)
ETA: 2017-2018

Scott’s Take- His 33 IP as a starter at AA were just OK (3.51 ERA; 3.5 BB & 5.7 K/9), but there’s more. He’d been among a faceless horde of hard-throwing righty relievers before being converted to starting. You relieve rather than start mainly if you lack a third pitch, durability, talent, and/or composure – so among many relievers, the Yankees clearly liked his 4-pitch arsenal and durability (he’s 6’5”/260) best. Starting also requires more strategy and growth mindset than relieving, and check out how Coshow’s 2015 recap showed more mental horsepower than most have:

“I’m working on my changeup and slider. I’ve seen success with both … because the coaches have really guided me well.… My cutter has come a long way. It’s become a high quality and high strikeout pitch for me that I can command against righties and lefties. … Mechanically I’ve been sound. … [F]inetuning, like not stepping too closed, thus making it harder to throw down and away to righties. … No big changes this offseason. Just clean up my eating and get in better shape … I always strive to be the hardest worker.”

Compare man-child CC Sabathia, who wasted his God-given talent early by disintegrating the knee he kept plopping his 300-pound tub of a body onto. That contrast is why I never liked old CC but am pulling for Coshow – the new CC – who doesn’t have Hall-of-Fame talent, yet is a terrific bet to max out what he does have.

19) Miguel Andujar– 3B, High-A Tampa
Age: 20, Bats: R, Throws: R
Signed as international FA, 2011
2015 Stats: .244/.288/.363, 24 2B, 8 HR, 57 RBI, 54 R, 12 SB in 520 A+ PA
ETA: 2018

Tamar’s Take- Another young Yankee infield prospect, Andujar turns 21 next month and just wrapped up a decent year in Tampa, where he hit .243/.288/.363. A strong defensive player with a lot of as offensive potential, Andujar projects to stay at third base down the road thanks to a strong throwing arm and good hand.  Speed is not his strong suit on either side of the field, however, despite his improved footwork at third. Often one of the youngest players in the league he is playing in, Andujar has typically been slow to adjust as he is promoted each year, so don’t be concerned if he starts his eventual bump to Trenton off a bit cold.

18) Kyle Holder- SS, Low-A Charleston
Age: 21, Bats: L, Throws: R
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015
2015 Stats: .213/.273/.253, 8 XBH, 23 R, 12 RBI in 250 SS SI PA
ETA: 2018-2019

EJ’s Take- Sometimes, you wonder if the Yankees learn their lesson. Kyle Holder looks a lot like Cito Culver. The 21-year-old shortstop has elite defense skills, but very little offensive ceiling. If he’s lucky, he’ll put up an empty batting average that keeps him in the major leagues. Think Alcides Escobar. But if his offensive skills sink just a little bit, he won’t be a major league starter regardless of how good his glove his. For a (late) first round pick, that’s not a lot of value. Continue reading The 2016 IIATMS Top 30: Prospects 20-11

The 2016 IIATMS Top 30: Prospects 30-21

[caption id="attachment_80233" align="aligncenter" width="600"]HoyJunPark Potential breakout prospect in 2016? Courtesy of Bryan Green/Pinstriped Prospects[/caption]

Well, we’ve covered the sizable list of players who fell off the top 30 from last year to this year and we’ve covered the shorter list of players who just missed the cut this year.  Nothing left to do now but get into the actual top 30 countdown.

Before we do that, a quick recap of our ranking system and format.  We tried to keep it as simple as possible, assigning a points system for every spot in the top 30.  The 1st ranked player gets 30 points, 2nd gets 29, all the way down to 1 point for the 30th spot.  Individual staff members filled out their personal rankings and the points totals from all individual rankings were tallied up for each player.  Dom, EJ, Scott, and myself did individual rankings to create this composite top 30.

For the individual player write-ups, we divvied them up among even more of the staff to give you different perspectives and different writing styles on each player.  Some of us like certain guys more than others and I think that will definitely come through as you read each player’s capsule.  We tried to put a little more into each one than just stats, tools, and potential, especially with this first batch of lower third guys.  For some of these players it’s more about why you should care about them as a prospect than what things combine to make them a prospect and we tried to convey that.

The MiL level listed for each player is my best guess at where I think they will open this season, so don’t read too much into that.  I’ll definitely be hanging around in the comments and on Twitter over the next few days to discuss the rankings and my thoughts on certain players, and I’m sure we’ll have the rest of the team pop in as time allows.  Without further ado, here are the first 10 spots in the 2016 IIATMS Top 30:

30) Jhalan Jackson– OF, Low-A Charleston
Age: 22, Bats: R, Throws: R
Drafted: 7th Round, 2015
2015 Stats: .266/.338/.452, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 35 R, 4-4 SB in 198 PA (SS SI)
ETA: 2017-2018

Dom’s Take- With the new draft system, signability issues are essentially a thing of the past, and the number of legitimate, high-ceiling prospects slipping into the later rounds has dwindled. As such, it seems almost counterintuitive that a nearly 23-year-old 7th rounder from this past draft would find his way onto this list and into my heart – but Jackson deserves this spot. Jackson has a prototypical right field profile, with plus or better power, a strong arm, and surprising athleticism for his size. The right-handed hitter has a great deal of swing and miss in his game (he struck out in 29.8% of his PA in his pro debut), but he has a solid approach at the plate and doesn’t get fooled too often. He’s Aaron Judge lite, and he’s my sleeper in this system (Editor’s Note- Dom had Jackson ranked 20th in his top 30).

29) Chance Adams– RHRP, Double-A Trenton
Age: 21, Throws: R
Drafted: 5th Round, 2015
2015 Stats: 1.78 ERA, 45 K/9 BB, 0 HR allowed in 35.1 IP (SS SI, A-, A+)
ETA: 2017

Dom’s Take- I debated calling Adams a right-handed Jacob Lindgren and moving on. They are similarly talented pitchers who feature big-time fastballs and wipeout sliders, and both were drafted with the hope that they would rocket through the minors. Lindgren’s stuff may be half a grade better, but I don’t think the gap is all that staggering (particularly if the uptick in velocity Adams found in his professional debut is legitimate). The key difference (aside from handedness) is that Adams has at least average command and control, and is far less prone to bouts of wildness. Is he the better prospect right now? It’s difficult to say with so little professional information – but it’s a fair question to ask. Continue reading The 2016 IIATMS Top 30: Prospects 30-21

Report: Yanks Have “Expressed Interest” In Carlos Torres

We’re a shade over a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting and the Yankees might not be done adding pieces to bring to camp.  According to a report by Brendan Kuty, the Yankees are among 20 teams who have contacted right-handed reliever Carlos Torres after he elected free agency on Monday.  He was designated for assignment by the Mets a few weeks ago to open a 40-man roster spot for Antonio Bastardo.

Torres, 33, was a late-blooming pro after scrapping starting and converting to a reliever in 2012.  He was a useful piece of the Met bullpen for the last 3 seasons, soaking up innings, working in a variety of different middle relief roles, and posting some decent numbers.  He posted a 4.68 ERA/3.53 FIP with a 19.8% K rate in 57.2 IP last season, his lowest IP total as a Met.  His flexibility would be valuable to the Yankees, who have a wide open competition for middle relief spots behind their big 3.  I don’t think they would experiment with Torres as a starter at this stage in his career.  But as a multi-inning, middle-leverage reliever capable of getting a big out every now and then?  Sure.

If nothing else, signing Torres would put an end to the tired “the Yankees haven’t signed a single Major League free agent this offseason” talking point that has crept into almost everybody’s narrative over the last few weeks.  And in a large group of mostly unproven candidates, his track record would bring a little more sense of reliability to the middle relief competition.  But the Yankees are so deep in unproven candidates and seemingly committed to using that depth as the way to build a bridge to the big 3 that I don’t think we’ll see them sign Torres.  If there are 20 teams interested, one of them has to be more interested and more in need of Torres’ services than the Yanks. Continue reading Report: Yanks Have “Expressed Interest” In Carlos Torres

Quick Hit: Tanaka Throws Off A Mound For The First Time Since Surgery

A quick pause on the Prospect Week festivities to touch on something noteworthy.  Per an AP report earlier today, Masahiro Tanaka threw off a mound for the first time since having surgery in October to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow.  The bullpen session took place in New York, where Tanaka was presumably getting looked at by team doctors in preparation for his reporting to spring camp next week.  From the sounds of it, pitching coach Larry Rothschild was in attendance for the bullpen session, although no quotes were given and there was no report on the specifics of the throwing session that I saw.

Tanaka is the most important part of what could be a very volatile rotation mix again in 2016.  When he’s been healthy, he’s proven to be a very good starting pitcher capable of being unhittable when he has everything working.  The problem has been his inability to stay healthy and the rash of different arm injuries that have limited his workload in each of his first 2 seasons.  Even though there have been no reports of setbacks from the offseason surgery and he is on schedule for his rehab/offseason work according to the team, finding out that he just threw off a mound again for the first time less than 10 days from pitchers and catchers reporting doesn’t exactly give you a warm fuzzy.

I was already expecting Joe to take it easy on Tanaka this spring and actively seek out ways to manage his workload early in the season again.  Knowing this new bit of information, I’m curious to see how careful the Yankees are with him.  I admittedly don’t know enough about Tanaka’s normal offseason routine to know if he doesn’t throw off a mound until early February anyway, but knowing he hasn’t since the surgery makes me think the Yankees might err even more on the side of caution during ST. Continue reading Quick Hit: Tanaka Throws Off A Mound For The First Time Since Surgery

The 2016 IIATMS Top 30: The Honorable Mentions

[caption id="attachment_80213" align="aligncenter" width="575"]Heathcott HR vs TB II When you’re still on the radar. Courtesy of the AP[/caption]

One last piece of pregame business before we get into this year’s top 30.  The guys who didn’t make the cut.  We do a composite ranking based on all our individual rankings, and when you’re making a 30-player list you’re bound to get more than 30 different players.  These are the guys who made at least one individual list but didn’t accumulate enough points to make the final composite top 30.  it’s an interesting group of players too.  There’s some under-valued lower level guys, a couple 2015 draft picks, and a former longstanding top prospect list member who was one of many to make his MLB debut in pinstripes last year.  Here are the six 2016 IIATMS Top 30 honorable mentions:

31) Thairo Estrada– SS, Low-A Charleston
Age: 19, Bats: R, Throws: R
Ranked #21 on Brad’s list

In an organization that’s deep in up-the-middle prospects, it’s easy for a player like Thairo to get overlooked.  He doesn’t possess a single tool that stands out as individually impressive and his greatest strength at the moment is his defensive ability.  But that ability is legitimate, and Estrada is already acknowledged by scouts as having the arm and the range to stick at shortstop long-term.  And for all that he doesn’t offer in terms of power, Estrada has shown the ability to put the bat on the ball and he’s taken steps forward with his approach.  His .267/.338/.360 line at SS Staten Island wasn’t bad and was hurt by a slow finish, and if he can continue to develop as a contact hitter with speed he should start to get some more recognition.

32) Jeff Degano- LHSP, Low-A Charleston
Age: 23, Throws: L
Ranked #29 on Brad’s list, #27 on Dom’s list

Sandwiched between the flashier Kaprielian and Finley picks, Degano was mostly unheralded as the 2nd rounder.  He hardly pitched at all in 2013 and 2014 after blowing out his elbow, but he was pretty good in his redshirt junior year at Indiana State in 2015.  He pitched to a 2.53 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 10.2 IP over 4 appearances with SS Staten Island after being drafted, and the general consensus is that his stuff has gotten much better as he’s gotten further away from TJS.  If he can develop a reliable changeup to go with his fastball-curveball combo, Degano could profile as a mid-rotation starter.  Expect the Yankees to take it easy on him despite his age with a full season of A-ball in 2016.

33) Slade Heathcott– OF, Triple-A SWB
Age: 25, Bats: L, Throws: L
Ranked #28 on EJ’s list

Calling Heathcott a prospect in the year 2016 is a rarity, and that’s understandable given how long he’s been around in the Yankee system and how impossible it’s been for him to stay healthy.  But there’s no denying that the talent that made Heathcott a top prospect as recently as a few years ago is still there.  He showed flashes of that talent in 64 games at Triple-A last season and even brighter flashes when he got his call up to the big league squad in late May.  All in all, Heathcott hit .400/.429/.720 in 30 big league plate appearances with 2 homers, 6 runs scored, 8 RBI, and one of the team’s most memorable home runs of the season.  He’ll be in the mix for a call up again this year as long as his body holds together. Continue reading The 2016 IIATMS Top 30: The Honorable Mentions