About Tamar Chalker

Tamar has written for IIATMS since July 2009, having started off writing game recaps before shifting to the minor leagues. Born in Connecticut and having lived all over the country and in South Korea, Tamar now finds herself "temporarily misplaced" in New Hampshire. Please send help - I can pay you in maple syrup.

Familiar faces make BA’s Top 20 Florida State League prospect list

Last week we saw Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams get a nod from Baseball America on their top 20 prospects list for the SAL. Today they released their list for the FSL, which included Austin and Sanchez again, at numbers eight and nine respectively. Slade Heathcott (seventeenth) and Nik Turley (eighteenth) joined their Tampa Yankees teammates on the list as well. Marlins pitching prospect Jose Fernandez got the top spot on the list with Gerrit Cole coming in second.

Austin has been praised for his 2012 season, which is well-deserved as he started the year strong in Charleston and didn’t let up until he was finally sidelined with an injury in the Eastern League playoffs. The list and scouting reports were put together by J.J. Cooper, who had some different perspectives than Bill Ballew did on the SAL list. While Ballew focused on Austin’s makeup and “gamer mentality,” Cooper focuses on the outfielder’s ability to make adjustments between at-bats and his smart baserunning abilities, considering Austin has average speed. He also notes that Austin appears to have found his stride in the outfield, having started as a catcher.

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Three Yankee prospects break BA’s Top 10 SAL Prospects list

After the Yankees failed to have any prospects make Baseball America’s Gulf Coast League or NY-Penn League Top 20 Prospects lists, they made up for it in the South Atlantic League. Of course, this is hardly surprising as we started the season talking about how exciting the RiverDogs were going to be in 2012. The Yankees were led by Tyler Austin, whose breakout season has been well-documented and gave him a couple games with Trenton during the playoffs. Austin came in fourth, while Gary Sanchez was right behind him at fifth. Mason Williams rounded out the list at ninth.

I thought it was interesting Williams, who has stronger tools than Austin, was as far down as he was. I saw some scouts this season who still view Austin as a bench player, while others think he could be in the Bronx by 2014 and has the potential to be a real force in the majors. The difference for the writers at Baseball America appears to come down to the makeup of both players. They quote Greenville manager Carlos Febles saying “[Austin] has a great approach at the plate. He’s a gamer. This is the kind of kid you want on your team. He has the ability and the desire, and that’s a great combination.” No doubt, Austin put together an incredible run this season and it should be pretty exciting to see how he does over the next two years.

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Banuelos to get Tommy John surgery

Just because the Minor League season is over doesn’t mean the injury hits can’t keep coming. Today, via Josh Norris, we hear that Manny Banuelos is scheduled to have Tommy John surgery on October 4th. Banuelos barely played this season, getting into a few Triple-A games between two stints on the DL. The injury that ended his season, before it really seemed to get started, was originally described as a bone bruise in his elbow. In a year where the Yankees watched many of those top prospects closest to the majors go down with injuries or struggle to produce, this is another big blow. It is certain to result in continued discussion about the way the Yankees develop pitchers – or don’t develop pitchers. Banuelos’ prospect status seems to have taken a hit after this season, as some people have been concerned about him battling injuries. He is still just 21, but with him out for a while it will be interesting to see how he comes back from this. Continue reading Banuelos to get Tommy John surgery

Yankees’ offense quiet as their AL East lead falls back to one

While the Orioles had the day off, the Yankees had a chance to get a little more breathing room in the AL East. Instead, Ivan Nova put forth another uninspiring start, while the Yankees struggled to find their offense. Brandon Morrow gave the Blue Jays a nice start, giving up just four hits and three walks over seven innings of work. Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie provided plenty of offense for Toronto who took the win.

Both teams struggled to get hits early in the game, but the Blue Jays took the lead in the third. With one out, Ivan Nova walked Anthony Gose and on the next pitch gave up a two-run homer to Lawrie, giving Toronto a 2-0 lead. The Blue Jays doubled their lead in the fifth. Gose lined a single to center and moved to second on a ground out by Lawrie. Colby Rasmus bunted for a single, putting runners on the corners and Encarnacion lined a double to right and Toronto took a 4-0 edge.

The Yankee had a chance to get on the board in the top of the seventh. Robinson Cano grounded a double to left to start the inning and Nick Swisher drew a walk. Unfortunately, Curtis Granderson struck out and Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez both flew out, failing to bring a run across the plate. Toronto quickly took advantage, as Lawrie and Rasmus hit back-to-back singles and Lawrie scored on a ground out by Encarnacion. J.P. Arencibia hit a solo homer in the eighth, putting the Blue Jays ahead 6-0. Once again, the Yankees had an opportunity to score in the top of the ninth. Alex Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and Cano singled, putting two on with no outs. Swisher, Granderson and Martin each flew out in order, however, ending the game with the Yankees losing 6-0.

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Game 156: Rodriguez back in lineup at DH

Apologies for the late post, between some last minute meetings and an uncooperative computer/phone I was just able to get this posted. Here are the lineups for the game, Rodriguez is batting third at DH and Jayson Nix is playing third and batting ninth.

New York Yankees
Derek Jeter SS
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Russell Martin C
Raul Ibanez LF
Jayson Nix 3B

SP Ivan Nova

Toronto Blue Jays
Brett Lawrie 3B
Colby Rasmus CF
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Yunel Escobar SS
Adam Lind 1B
J.P. Arencibia C
Kelly Johnson 2B
Moises Sierra RF
Anthony Gose LF

SP Brandon Morrow

  Continue reading Game 156: Rodriguez back in lineup at DH

Sloppy game brings the Yankees’ win streak to an end

Looking to sweep what had so far been a rather crazy series against Oakland, the Yankees sent Hiroki Kuroda to the mound. After two games of extra innings, Kuroda’s usual ability to go deep into a game would have been very welcome to New York, however, that is not how the game panned out. Kuroda struggled and bad plays in the field and at the plate led to a 5-4 Oakland win.

Kuroda got in trouble early, though he escaped what could have been a disasterous start. Stephen Drew hit a leadoff single to third, as Alex Rodriguez couldn’t make the throw in time. Kuroda came back and got the next two batters, but a double by Brandon Moss put two runners in scoing position. Jonny Gomes drew a walk and a wild pitch to Josh Reddick allowed Drew to score, giving the Athletics a 1-0 lead. He struggled again in the top of the second, when Josh Donaldson “singled” to short. Nunez made a great play on the ball and replays showed the throw beat the runner, but the umpire called him safe. A homer by Cliff Pennington put the A’s ahead 3-0.

The Yankees finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Robinson Cano drove the ball to left on what called a single due to a bobble by the Oakland left fiedler, though I thought they could have given Robbie the double. Nick Swisher followed with a bomb to right for the first Yankee runs of the afternoon. The Bombers kept the rally going, as Curtis Granderson hit a hard single off the right field walk and Russell Martin followed with a single on a soft grounder down the third baseline. Raul Ibanez then drove a fly ball that bounced on the right field line and got stuck in the corner and Granderson came around to tie the game. A groundout by Eduardo Nunez scored Martin and the Yankees took a 4-3 advantage. Oakland got a run back on a RBI single by Yoenis Cespedes in the top of the fifth, tying the game.

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Looking back at the 2012 Empire State Yankees

 

The story of the 2012 Empire State Yankees was interesting right from the start. Much like the Trenton Thunder, I was surprised a bit by the success of the Yankees this season. After a disappointing 2011 season, the Yankees were returning a very similar roster, but missing their two biggest power bats. The fact that they spent the entire season on the road was looked at as another major obstacle for the Yankees’ Triple-A squad, however, this did not appear to affect what may be one of the best road teams in the minors. As I pointed out in their preview, the 2011 Yankees had a losing record at PNC Field and a winning record on the road. Playing all of 2012 on the road seemed to continue that trend, as the Yankees went 84-60, winning the North Division on the International League. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep their good fortune going through the playoffs, where they lost to the eventual IL Champion Pawtucket Red Sox.

Pitching was supposed to be the Yankees biggest weapon in 2012. The overabundance of pitching in the Bronx gave Empire State what looked like a dream starting rotation. It did not turn out that way at all. Manuel Banuelos and Dellin Betances were to highlight this rotation, as two of the Yankees’ top prospects. Banuelos appeared in just six games (24 innings), spending the bulk of the season on the DL with an elbow injury. Betances looked nothing like the top prospect he was expected to be, eventually getting demoted back to Double-A, where he continued to struggle before ending the year (mercifully?) on the DL. He will try to right the ship with some time in the Arizona Fall League. The Yankees also lost D.J. Mitchell to Seattle in a trade and saw David Phelps spend most of the season in the Bronx, leaving Adam Warren as the lone person left from that original rotation. In the end, the Yankees’ highly touted pitching instead put them squarely in the middle of the league, with an overall ERA of 3.86 and a WHIP of 1.35. Warren was a strong arm for the Yankees and Ramon Ortiz stepped up.

Meanwhile, the questions about the Yankees’ offense without Jesus Montero or Jorge Vazquez were quickly put aside. The absence of Austin Romine for much of the season due to a back injury made this all the more impressive. As a team the Yankees had a slashline of .260/.344/.403. Their onbase percentage was the highest in the league, in part due to their taking the most walks (598) of any team in the IL. They did strike out quite a bit (1113), but they seemed to make up for it in other ways. They stole 101 bases (fourth in the league) and knocked 128 homers. Players like Steve Pearce, Chris Dickerson and Russell Branyan gave the Yankees a lot to be happy about. Ronnier Mustelier also put together a nice stint with Empire State.

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Yankees sweep Jays behind another big night for Ichiro

After taking both games of the doubleheader on Wednesday behind the bat of Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees sent Phil Hughes to the mound searching for the sweep. Hughes did not have his best stuff, but managed to keep the Toronto damage to a minimum. While the Bombers’ bats were silent early on, they woke up in a big way, which was refreshing after they failed to hit Henderson Alvarez or Ricky Romero very hard. The Yankees scored seven runs in the bottom of the fourth and held off a late inning run by the Blue Jays, taking the 10-7 victory as they get ready to host Oakland this weekend.

Hughes looked strong in the first, pitching a 1-2-3 inning, but had some trouble in the next couple innings. The Blue Jays drew first blood when Adam Lind started the second with a double to center and Kelly Johnson hit a one-out double to left for the 1-0 lead. He started to look very shaky in the third, walking Anthony Gose to start the inning. Brett Lawrie grounded out to Hughes and Russell Martin gunned down Gose trying to steal third, but Hughes’ trouble wouldn’t end there. He hit Colby Rasmus with a pitch and gave up a single to Edwin Encarnacion, whose grounder took a weird hop past Jayson Nix at third and into left. A walk to Lind loaded the bases. A fastball got away from Hughes, hitting Moises Sierra in the side and bringing Rasmus across the plate. At the end of three innings, the Yankees’ starter had already tossed 63 pitches.

Ichiro picked up the Yankees first hit of the day, driving a solo shot over the wall in right and cutting the Blue Jays’ lead in half. Aaron Laffey gave the Yankees a chance to take their first lead of the day in the bottom of the fourth. He walked Russell Martin, who stole second base. Curtis Granderson reached on an error by Kelly Johnson and Casey McGehee drew a walk to load the bases for the incredibly hot-hitting Ichiro. After fouling a couple pitches off (including one that was inches away from being caught by a sliding Lawrie), the veteran hitter smacked a double to right, plating two runs, knocking Laffey out of the game and giving the Bombers a 3-2 edge. Nix took a free pass, loading the bases again and Derek Jeter lined a single to right for another Yankee run with Toronto still searching for an out. Swisher then crushed a ball into the Bleachers, opening up the game with an 8-2 Yankee lead.

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Looking back at the 2012 Trenton Thunder

 

When the 2012 season was just opening, you may remember I thought the outlook for the Trenton Thunder was not particularly good. After a disappointing 2011, Trenton looked to have many of the same faces, with the bulk of the Yankees’ best prospects slated to spend the year in Single-A and the loss of some of their big pitchers to Empire State. Boy was I wrong. Trenton put together a very strong 2012 season, and as those key prospects will be working their way up the next couple years, they could be in for a few good years. The Thunder went 79-63, winning the Eastern Division in the Eastern League and securing a playoff spot. They beat the Reading Phillies in the first round, but lost to the strong pitching of the Akron Aeros in the Finals.

Interestingly, few aspects of Trenton’s play really stood out in the EL. They had some decent pitching, owning a 3.74 ERA, good for fourth in the EL but well below Akron’s 3.03 ERA. Meanwhile, Trention had a 1.39 WHIP, one of the highest in the league. Trenton could strike out batters, getting 1030 Ks and walking 463. Brett Marshall, Shaeffer Hall and Vidal Nuno were crucial in the starting rotation, while various pitchers came through out of the bullpen for the Thunder. Trenton was the only team without a complete game this season, though they came close on a couple occasions.

Trenton’s overall offensive numbers generally put them in the middle of the pack this season, but they were virtually untouchable when it came to power. Their team slash line of .260/.327/.423 showed the disparity, as their average and on base percentage were decent, but their slugging percentage was the best in the league. They hit 162 homers, far more than the 125 Bowie hit for second in the league. Of course, as is often the case with power hitting teams, the Thunder often fell victim to the strikeout, with 1050 Ks on the season. They were also not particularly adept at drawing walks, taking just 445 free passes. Zoilo Almonte and Luke Murton were a big part of the Thunder power surge, with the latter hitting a system-leading 25 homers. Addison Maruszak had a strong year for Trenton, despite widely being considered nothing more than an organization guy.

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